The Lady and the Tiger
Once, in a kingdom long ago where ancient customs prevailed, a gardener's son dared to love the King's only daughter, the Princess Royal. That was bad enough. But as luck would have it, the princess loved the boy in return. And that was worse. Of course, the two never had a chance to actually speak to each other, but they exchanged many glances, and occasionally blew each other a surreptitious kiss when they hoped nobody was looking. They both knew that loving each other was not right. But they loved each other all the same.
Oh, how they longed to speak to each other, to whisper loving things to each other, or even -- but this hardly bore ...view middle of the document...
Justice in this kingdom was swift and, in the eyes of this most just of kings, was always fair. There was but one method of dealing with all serious offenses, and it was used on all, rich or poor, minister or gardener's son. The king had had a large arena built right on the palace grounds. Prisoners were led into the center of the arena, where they were faced with two large doors. The prisoner was then to choose one of the doors, and open it. Behind one door was always a lovely lady, and behind the other was always a fearsome tiger. The doors were well padded, so there was no way to hear the roars or rumblings of the ferocious beast behind one door. And nobody but the king himself ever knew behind which door was concealed the lady and behind which the tiger.
If the prisoner opened the door with the lady, he was married on the spot and immediately rose to prominence in the kingdom. If he opened the door with the tiger, he would be eaten by the fierce beast. Thus, felt the king, the fates alone would determine the guilt or innocence of the prisoner.
Daring to love the king's daughter was, of course, a serious crime. And being loved in return only compounded the offense. The gardener's son was arrested on the spot, and led to prison to await his turn in the arena. But as he was led away, he saw the princess form a few words with her lips: 'trust me,' she breathed. So he retained a glimmer of hope.
As he waited, however, his hopes faded. At the same time, the king grew more and more pleased with himself and his system of justice. Both had the same thoughts: whatever the outcome, the boy would be forever separated from the princess. For if he chose the lady, he would of course be married on the spot, and thus forfeit forever his chances of marrying anybody else. And if he chose the tiger, he would...