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The Lady or the Tiger?

The Lady, or the Tiger?
In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat
polished and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large,
florid, and untrammeled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of
exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his
varied fancies into facts. He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and
himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done. When every member of his domestic
and political systems moved smoothly in its appointed course, his nature was bland and
genial; but, whenever there was a little hitch, and some of his orbs got out of their orbits,
he was blander and more genial still, for nothing pleased him so much as to make the
crooked straight and crush down uneven places.
Among the borrowed notions by which his barbarism had become semified was that of
the public arena, in which, by exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his
subjects were refined and cultured.
But even here the exuberant and barbaric fancy asserted itself The arena of the king was
built, not to give the people an opportunity of hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators,
nor to enable them to view the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between religious
opinions and hungry jaws, but for purposes far better adapted to widen and develop the
mental energies of the people. This vast amphitheater, with its encircling galleries, its
mysterious vaults, and its unseen passages, was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime
was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible
chance.
When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to interest the king,
public notice was given that on an appointed day the fate of the accused person would be
decided in the king's arena, a structure which well deserved its name, for, although its
form and plan were borrowed from afar, its purpose emanated solely from the brain of
this man, who, every barleycorn a king, knew no tradition to which he owed more
allegiance than pleased his fancy, and who ingrafted on every adopted form of human
thought and action the rich growth of his barbaric idealism.
When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king, surrounded by his court,
sat high up on his throne of royal state on one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door
beneath him opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheater. Directly
opposite him, on the other side of the inclosed space, were two doors, exactly alike and
side by side. It was the duty and the privilege of the person on trial to walk directly to
these doors and open one of them. He could open either door he pleased; he was subject
to no guidance or influence but that of the aforementioned impartial and incorruptible
chance. If he opened the one, there came out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most
cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon him and tore him to pieces
as a punishment for his guilt. The moment that the case of the criminal was thus decided,
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