In the early nineties, PG had too much free time. On March 25 of one year, he looked in the fishwrapper, and found a list of famous people with birthdays.
There was an unlikely trio celebrating that day. This would be (in order of appearance) Anita Bryant (1940), Aretha Franklin (1942), and Elton John (1947). All three have been paid for singing. The three have a total of five husbands, with Miss Bryant and Mr. John currently attached (Not to each other). Miss Franklin has good taste in hats.
Several other people have arrived on planet earth on March 25. They include , in 1911, Jack Ruby, the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald (d. 1967) (They don’t say alleged when it was on live TV). 1918 produced Howard Cosell, American sports reporter (d. 1995). Flannery O’Connor (d. 1964) arrived in 1925. 1934 gave us Gloria Steinem. In 1937 Tom Monaghan, founder of Dominos pizza, arrived. (The delivery was nine months, and twenty nine minutes, after the order was placed.) To make room for all this talent, Buck Owens died March 25, 2006.
March 25 is after the spring equinox, and has been Easter. A few noteworthy events have gone down on this day. In 1894, Coxey’s Army departed Massillon, Ohio for Washington D.C. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 garment workers in New York City. In 1939 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII, to the delight of Adolph Hitler. 1955 saw the United States Customs seizes copies of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” as obscene. In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono began their first Bed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.
HT and applause to wikipedia. This is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.
Towards the end of his Booknotes chat, Nat Hentoff talked about censorship. As a journalist, his views were predictable.
Mr. HENTOFF: Any words at all. Words are–I mean, there is a great–there was a great scene in New York once when Lenny Bruce, who was a friend of mine, was on trial for his words. And Richard Cue, the assistant district attorney, was making a name for himself trying to blast all of the witnesses for the defense. And he got Dorothy Kilgallen, who was a very famous then syndicated columnist, a devout Catholic, a conservative and a great admirer of Lenny Bruce. And he con–he strung together, Cue did, all of the words in Lenny’s monologues that could be considered terribly offensive, and he hit her with them. It was a barrage. `What do you think then, Ms. Kilgallen?’ `Well,’ she said, `they’re words. They’re words. That’s all. Words.’ That’s the way I feel.
When PG heard this, he remembered reading about this trial. With the aid of Mr. Google, a transcript turned up. If you like to read about lawyers saying dirty words, this is the place for you.
Dorothy Kilgallen was, to put it mildly, a piece of work. She wrote for the N. Y. Journal American, and stepped on more than a few toes. A biography, Kilgallen, tells a few of the tales. Today, Miss Kilgallen is best known as one of the original panelists on “Whats My Line?”
The People v Lenny Bruce (Cafe Au Go Go Trial) was tried June 16, 1964 to July 28, 1964 in New York City. The Per Curium Opinion of Judge John Murtagh sets the tone. “All three performances of the defendant, Lenny Bruce, were obscene, indecent, immoral and impure within the meaning of Section 1l40-a of the Penal Law. While no tape is available as to the first performance [past midnight, March 31-April 1], this monologue, according to the testimony, was essentially the same as that of the second [April 1, after 10:00 p.m.] and third [April 7, after 10:00 p.m.] performances. In the latter two performances, words such as “ass,” “balls,” “cock-sucker,” “cunt,” “fuck,” “mother-fucker,” “piss,” “screw,” “shit,” and “tits” were used about one hundred times in utter obscenity. The monologues also contained anecdotes and reflections that were similarly obscene.
Dorothy Kilgallen was called as an “expert witness”. In lawyerly fashion, the prosecutor claimed she was not a genuine expert. After her credentials were established, there were questions like “Will you tell us what the artistry, or the social value, or the merit, or the good is, in the Bruce story of sexual intercourse with a chicken?” After the testimony described by Mr. Hentoff, Miss Kilgallen talks about something that does offend her.
Q. I wouldn’t take much time, but we did discuss before Lenny Bruce’s use of the words ‘mother fucker’ at his audience. Can you tell me when James Jones or Norman Mailer or Arthur Miller has called his audience ‘mother fucker?’
Mr. Garbus: Your Honor, may I object? We are talking about books against monologue. It’s completely an irrelevant question.
Judge Murtagh: We will allow it. Objection overruled.
A. I can’t tell you anything verbatim from the books, because I read them a couple of years ago or more. I would imagine–this would be my best guess–that they did not call their audiences anything. There’s another book called The Naked Lunch which I couldn’t even finish reading, but it’s published, and I think the author should be in jail and he used–
Q. Unfortunately we can’t do everything at once, Miss Kilgallen. Are you judging the non-obscene quality and the artistic quality of Bruce by the fact that The Naked Lunch is a book which, as of this date, is sold in the community?
A. No, I’m not. I just mentioned it because you asked me for some books.
Q. And The Naked Lunch is a book you found impossible to read, is that correct?
A. Yes, I found it revolting.
Q. What was revolting about it?
A. Just the way it was written.
Mr.Garbus: Objection, your Honor.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. It seemed to use words for shock value, not for any valid reason, and I object to that.
Q. And when Lenny Bruce–I ask you to turn to the April 1st tape . . . and read the portion starting–’tits and ass, that’s what is the attraction, is just tits and ass and tits and ass’–and goes on all through the page, and ask you if you find some shock value in that?
A. No, I don’t think it’s particularly shocking, it’s just a word.. . .
Q.. Do you, in your column, use the words tits and ass?
Q. You know exactly what Lenny Bruce was talking about?
A. Yes. . . . I think there he’s being critical of the monotony of what is on view in Las Vegas.
Dorothy Kilgallen died November 8, 1965. Lenny Bruce died August 3, 1966. Kilgallen biographer Lee Israel was convicted of selling forged celebrity letters. Nat Hentoff was laid off from the Village Voice. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. These images are Union soldiers from the War Between the States. The spell check suggestion for Kilgallen: Millennial. This is a repost.
It is a truism that history is written by the winner of the war. This seems to apply to the naming of a horrific armed struggle in North America between 1861 and 1865. The most common name is Civil War. To many in the South, it is the War Between The States. To PG, WBTS is a better name.
In fifth grade, PG had to write an essay about the Battle of Atlanta. The essay was a device for teaching grammar. The contest was sponsored by the Daughters of the Confederacy . The phrase “Civil War” was not permitted. The acceepted name for this conflict was War Between the States.
In many ways, this conflict started as soon as the United States became independent from Great Britain. The South was an agrarian society, with slaves to work the fields. The north was becoming an industrial society, with a need for an independent work force. The north wanted high tariffs to protect her industries, while the south wanted to sell it’s cotton to Europe. There were plenty of ways for this conflict to manifest.
Slavery was an important issue. The south wanted to keep “the peculiar institution,” while many in the north were horrified. There were numerous compromises over the years, as Congress struggled to keep the Union intact. This ties in with a central dilemma of the american experience … how much power to give to the states, and how much power to give to the federal government.
In 1861, eleven states left the United States of America. These eleven states formed a Confederacy, of more or less independent states. Between 1861 and 1865, the Confederate States of America fought a brutal war with the the United States of America. Very little about the conflict was civil.
Pictures, of Union soldiers, are from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.
The story below is a repost from 2011. The Dawgs had a bad season, and will be going somewhere. They have a large, wealthy, fan base, which is greatly loved by bowl game organizers. The pictures are from The Library of Congress .
The Georgia Bulldogs beat somebody’s Aggies in Shreveport, Louisiana last night. The affair is something called the Independence Bowl. The Fishwrapper has an ad for a casino-hotel-spa. The link no longer works. Athens can go back to creating a school the football team can be proud of.
This is the season of bowl games. A few years ago, any town with a stadium, and a chamber of commerce, could get a bowl game. Any school with .500 season could go to a bowl, many of whom now had grafted on corporate names. There was, literally, the poulon weedeater bowl holiday classic.
What follows is a story PG read in Sports Illustrated when he was a kid. There is no source, and there is a slight possibility that it is not true.
In the sixties, NBC had a new years day triple header of bowl games. The sugar bowl was followed by the rose bowl was followed by the orange bowl. Hangovers and national championships were fixed in one day. NBC made handsome profits.
An Olympic committee had a meeting one day, to determine who would telecast the upcoming games. The man from NBC went in, with charts, and promises of money for the amateur athletes. The presentation from NBC centered on the january first triple header, the sugar bowl, the rose bowl, and the orange bowl.
Another network won the bid to telecast the games. After the meeting, an Olympics official had a private conversation with the NBC man. The committee felt that their emphasis on the bowel games was in bad taste.
The story below is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. There is an appearance by Gerald Rudolph Ford, and his women. Betty was a merry soul.
Someone posted a bit of revisionism about a holiday classic. As he sees it, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is about racism.
In a bit of yuletime synchronicity, the urban mythbusters at Snopes posted a piece about Rudolph the same day. It seems as though the Rudolph story was originally written for the Montgomery Ward Stores. The idea was to print a Christmas booklet to give to customers. A staff writer named Robert L. May was picked for the job.
Originally, there were concerns about the red nose, and the connection to heavy drinking. At the time, the original meaning of “merry christmas” had been forgotten. Merry meant intoxicated, and a merry christmas was a drunken one. The booklet was released. It was a big hit with shoppers.
Mr. May had a brother in law named Johnny Marks, who was musically gifted. Mr. Marks wrote the song, and somehow or another Gene Autry came to sing it. A story (which PG heard once, but cannot find a source for) had Mr. Autry doing a recording session. The session went very smoothly, and the sides scheduled to be recorded were finished early. There was a half hour of studio time paid for. Someone produced copies of “Rudolph”, gave them to the musicians, and the recording was knocked out. It became a very big hit.
Gene Autry had a radio show, “Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch”. He created the “cowboy code”. Number five gets our attention today. Under this code, the cowboy must:
1. never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. always tell the truth.
4. be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.
5. not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. help people in distress.
7. be a good worker.
8. keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.
9. respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.
10. be a patriot.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” has become a beloved standard, without the troubling religious implications of many holiday songs. It is the second biggest selling record of all time. The only song to sell more is “White Christmas”. You just can’t get away from race.
Fifty years ago, John Kennedy went to the oval office in the sky. Did Marilyn Monroe greet him?
The bullets hit Mr.Kennedy at 12:30. He arrived at the hospital at 12:37. He had a faint heartbeat on arrival, but quickly succumbed to his wounds.
In Georgia, PG was nine years old. He was in Miss Mckenzie’s fourth grade class. There was going to be an assembly soon, and the class was going to perform. There was a rehearsal in the cafetorium, and some of the kids were acting up. They went back to the class, and PG thought they were going to be chewed out about the misbehavior in the cafetorium. Instead, Miss Mckenzie came into the room, and told the kids that President Kennedy had been shot during a parade in Dallas Texas. She did not say anything about his condition. One kid cheered the news.
School let out at the regular time, and PG walked home. His mother and brother were crying. He was told that the president had died. The cub scouts meeting that afternoon was canceled.
Later that night, a plane arrived in Washington. The tv cameras showed a gruesome looking man walk up to a microphone. He was introduced as President Lyndon Johnson. This may have been the worst moment of that day. Pictures by “Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
“Do you know more about science and technology than the average American?” Mephitic scholars at the Pew Research Center want to know. They have a 13 question test for your amusement.
The first 4 are true false. All radioactivity is man-made. ~ Electrons are smaller than atoms. ~ Lasers work by focusing sound waves. ~ The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future. 5 is multiple choice. The first 9 are easy.
The first one where PG had to think was 10. Which is an example of a chemical reaction? Water boiling ~ Sugar dissolving ~ Nails rusting. The demographics were gender, age, and amount of education. It did not take long to complete the test.
PG got 13 of 13 correct. “You scored better than 93% of the public and the same as 7%.” If you have too much free time, you can see a report.
The survey was conducted over the phone, using randomly generated phone numbers. Half the calls were on land lines, and half were on cell phones. In land lines, the interviewer asked for the youngest person, over 18, in the house. In cell phone interviews, the person answering the phone was interviewed. Quotas were used for gender, age, and education groups.
There was a feature in the NY Daily News about the death of cursive writing. HT to JoemyG-d. It seems like cursive is no longer being taught. PG says good riddance. This is a repost.
Cursive refers to the flowing style of handwriting, where the letters are joined. It is from the French word cursif. This is derived from Medieval Latin cursivus, literally, running, from Latin cursus, past participle of currere to run
Cursive sounds like curse, or using bad language. Many people trying to read cursive will curse. The synonym for cuss, however, is from the middle english word curs.
At Ashford Park , print writing was taught in the first grade, and cursive in the third grade. PG learned cursive, and then promptly forgot. He prints when he needs to write, except for a signature. Printing is much, much easier to read.
Some say that with the decline of cursive, that old handwritten letters will be impossible to read. With many cursive writers, they already are. Some people have the patience to write beautifully, but many others scrawl. There is a cliche about doctor’s handwriting on prescriptions. One wonders how many lives have been lost because the pharmacist is not a mind reader.
There is a quote, attributed to an ancient Greek. “When we start to write, we will lose our ability to remember”. There was grumbling when the printing press replaced hand copied scrolls, and when the typewriter came onto the scene.
Man fancies himself as being an animal who can think. Sometimes, when you replace the legend with knowledge, people like to hang onto the legend. This seems to be a point on the species cusp. On the one side is a rational, thinking creature. On the other side is a superstitious animal that runs on instinct. This is one possible reason that cursive writing lasted as long as it did.
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”.
A few weeks ago, this blog published a feature, James Baldwin And The Six Letter Word. At the center was selection of James Baldwin talking about the n word. There was a transcript available, which makes today’s exercise a lot easier. Pictures for this adventure are from The Library of Congress.
Mr. Baldwin was discussing this nasty word, and offered an insight into who the user of this nasty word was really talking about. Now, there is another nasty word being casually tossed about these days. This other nasty word is racist. What would happen if you took Mr. Baldwin’s talk, and substituted racist for nasty? It is an interesting way to look at things.
Who is the racist? Well i know this…and anybody who has tried to live knows this. What you say about somebody else (you know) anybody else, reveals you. What I think of you as being is dictated by my own necessities, my own psychology, my own uhm fears…and desires. I’m not describing you when I talk about you…I’m describing me.
Now, here in this country we got somebody called a racist. It doesn’t in such terms, I beg you to remark, exist in any other country in the world. We have invented the racist. I didn’t invent him, white people invented him. I’ve always known, I had to know by the time I was seventeen years old, what you were describing was not me and what you were afraid of was not me. It had to be something else. You had invented it so it had to be something you were afraid of and you invested me with it.
Now if that’s so, no matter what you’ve done to me I can say to you this, and I mean it…I know you can’t do any more and I’ve got nothing to lose…and I know and I have always known you know and really always..…I have always known that I am not a racist…but if I am not the racist…and if it is true that your invention reveals you…then who is the racist?
I am not the victim here. I know one thing from another. I know that I was born, am gonna suffer and gonna die. And the only way that you can get through life is to know the worst things about it. I know that a person is more important than anything else. Anything else. I’ve learned this because I’ve had to learn it. But you still think, I gather, that the racist is necessary. Well he’s not necessary to me, so he must be necessary to you. So I give you your problem back. You’re the racist baby, it isn’t me.
Back when he trolled Jesus worship blogs, PG saw many of his helpful comments being deleted. He learned to keep a word document open on his desktop, and to compose his comments there before going live. When facebook happened, this habit came in very handy. Often, what seemed like a good idea, upon reflection, looks like something best left unsaid. What follows is a collection of these comments. Some were posted. Some were not. They might not make much sense in this format. You can always skip over them and look at the pictures. These pictures are from The Library of Congress. They are Union Soldiers from the War Between the States. They did not get a chance to see if their actions were appropriate before taking them. ~ All three labels are useless and misleading. I try not to let the labels of others describe me, but sometimes it happens. It is a bit of poetic license. ~ That food has so many preservatives that it does not matter. ~ I remember the drought of 2007. This is a blessing. It would be best if we had the reservoir capacity to keep some of this water. I am afraid we are little better at managing water than we have been in the past. The powers that be are more concerned with building football stadiums, and divide and conquer race baiting, than they are with providing for our water needs. This surplus will not last. ~ Originally known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, still later British Petroleum) ~ The only DC thing I have ever done is the parade. After the nightmare of 2012, I learned to stay in Brookhaven that weekend. ~ “even those whose hearts have grown cold” That is unfair. Many people have had a tough time with religion. Often, it is because of the “person in a family who truly prays”. Often, when this prayer makes a person “feel it”, what they feel is pain and despair. ~ 1-I have been checking the list on the site for the past two weeks. I did not know about the layers that could be turned off. 2- There ore only six walls shown for 2013. 3- The condescension in your comment is neither appropriate nor helpful. ~ 1-I know how to use the zoom tool. This, however, is the first time I have seen the parallel lines for layers. Actually, this interactive popup thing is not that great. Last year I made a list of the walls, and I had to click on every wall to get the address. I then pasted this list into the side of a map. Of course, I had a list of all the walls, and the conference was still going on. I did not go to the goat farm party, so I cannot comment. I realize that this is a volunteer effort. Still, it shouldn’t be that complicated to post a list of the walls. And sarcasm from the producers does not make up for a lack of basic competence. 2- My offer to help stands. I can call someone and have the list dictated to me over the phone. ~ I don’t think that is a good idea. They have some privacy issues, and they are probably valid. ~ Don’t forget Metastatic memes ~ You can turn the TV off and ignore her. ~ It is not just celebrities. Many nobodies seem to feel that rude behavior somehow makes them a somebody. This applies to both poc and pwoc. ~ Lilly Von Schtup ~ porpoise tv show ~ commercial hustle treasure ~ spring pollen tree seed ~ ~ yellow lemon peel ~ slurp down florida orange juice ~ grapefruit is left out ~ ~ As if the ban on gay donors wasn’t enough, there is the reality of the blood business. ~ reheated leftover pancakes are almost as good as the fresh variety ~ The VPOTUS is supposed to go to funerals and dedicate buildings. The fact that Mr. Cheney had the power that he did is a significant failing of the Bush43 administration. The good news is that Laura Bush kept a low profile. ~ You could always wear a wig. It works for Dolly Parton. ~ Except make money for political patrons. ~ I have only made it to number three. I might finish, and I might not. The rant about perceived racism is a reason to not finish this piece. It is ironic to see this anti racist pearl clutching combined with snark about alcoholism. Many of the extreme anti racists I have known are heavy drinkers. ~ “…talking smarter and showing more leadership than any of the disappointments we have had since he left office. ” You might say that about Ronald Reagan. ~ Which is why he should not do jokes about comedy. ~ There is a popular saying that uses the three words everyone, opinion, and asshole. An especially obnoxious sort of opinions/beliefs are those about G-d, or lack thereof. ~ There is a space to the left of anus, just wide enough for another letter. ~ There comes a time when silence is betrayal Dr. M.L. King ~ What about making noise when you don’t know what you are talking about? ~ Not everyone who motivates you to action has good intentions. It takes wisdom to tell the difference. The problem is that when you are angry you are not as smart. ~ just as awesome as Iraq ~ the reality of the blood business. ~ Not responding to a facebook post should not be mistaken for lack of concern. ~ Which makes it rather offensive when people invoke his legacy for selfish reasons. ~ Georgia is not going to fall into the Pacific Ocean. ~ One problem is when one of the haters talks to someone. It can be an unpleasant surprise to see who has been infected. ~ Were any of those site run by law enforcement to entrap users? If so, were these people busted? It is tough to know what is going on here. Child pornography is the reddest of red herrings. ~ was that the video with a cow flying upside down? Could this be why? ~ I found this meme last march. Do you notice how they don’t have a date for Mental Health Awareness Week? ~ That is a nice looking image. So many memes are graphically challenged. ~ I guess you had to be there. BTW, the “racist” joke was about Indians. ~ Selah.
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, doleful iron bells were clanged, great wails went up from the hired mourners posted on the outer rim of the arena, and the vast audience, with bowed heads and downcast hearts, wended slowly their homeward way, mourning greatly that one so young and fair, or so old and respected, should have merited so dire a fate.
But, if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth from it a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects, and to this lady he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered not that he might already possess a wife and family, or that his affections might be engaged upon an object of his own selection; the king allowed no such subordinate arrangements to interfere with his great scheme of retribution and reward. The exercises, as in the other instance, took place immediately, and in the arena. Another door opened beneath the king, and a priest, followed by a band of choristers, and dancing maidens blowing joyous airs on golden horns and treading an epithalamic measure, advanced to where the pair stood, side by side, and the wedding was promptly and cheerily solemnized. Then the gay brass bells rang forth their merry peals, the people shouted glad hurrahs, and the innocent man, preceded by children strewing flowers on his path, led his bride to his home.
This was the king’s semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either he pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door, and on some out of the other. The decisions of this tribunal were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person was instantly punished if he found himself guilty, and, if innocent, he was rewarded on the spot, whether he liked it or not. There was no escape from the judgments of the king’s arena.
The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained. Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?
This semi-barbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid fancies, and with a soul as fervent and imperious as his own. As is usual in such cases, she was the apple of his eye, and was loved by him above all humanity. Among his courtiers was a young man of that fineness of blood and lowness of station common to the conventional heroes of romance who love royal maidens. This royal maiden was well satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave to a degree unsurpassed in all this kingdom, and she loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong. This love affair moved on happily for many months, until one day the king happened to discover its existence. He did not hesitate nor waver in regard to his duty in the premises. The youth was immediately cast into prison, and a day was appointed for his trial in the king’s arena. This, of course, was an especially important occasion, and his majesty, as well as all the people, was greatly interested in the workings and development of this trial. Never before had such a case occurred; never before had a subject dared to love the daughter of the king. In after years such things became commonplace enough, but then they were in no slight degree novel and startling.
The tiger-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and relentless beasts, from which the fiercest monster might be selected for the arena; and the ranks of maiden youth and beauty throughout the land were carefully surveyed by competent judges in order that the young man might have a fitting bride in case fate did not determine for him a different destiny. Of course, everybody knew that the deed with which the accused was charged had been done. He had loved the princess, and neither he, she, nor any one else, thought of denying the fact; but the king would not think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere with the workings of the tribunal, in which he took such great delight and satisfaction. No matter how the affair turned out, the youth would be disposed of, and the king would take an aesthetic pleasure in watching the course of events, which would determine whether or not the young man had done wrong in allowing himself to love the princess.
The appointed day arrived. From far and near the people gathered, and thronged the great galleries of the arena, and crowds, unable to gain admittance, massed themselves against its outside walls. The king and his court were in their places, opposite the twin doors, those fateful portals, so terrible in their similarity.All was ready. The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party opened, and the lover of the princess walked into the arena. Tall, beautiful, fair, his appearance was greeted with a low hum of admiration and anxiety. Half the audience had not known so grand a youth had lived among them. No wonder the princess loved him! What a terrible thing for him to be there!
As the youth advanced into the arena he turned, as the custom was, to bow to the king, but he did not think at all of that royal personage. His eyes were fixed upon the princess, who sat to the right of her father. Had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in her nature it is probable that lady would not have been there, but her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an occasion in which she was so terribly interested. From the moment that the decree had gone forth that her lover should decide his fate in the king’s arena, she had thought of nothing, night or day, but this great event and the various subjects connected with it. Possessed of more power, influence, and force of character than any one who had ever before been interested in such a case, she had done what no other person had done,—she had possessed herself of the secret of the doors. She knew in which of the two rooms, that lay behind those doors, stood the cage of the tiger, with its open front, and in which waited the lady. Through these thick doors, heavily curtained with skins on the inside, it was impossible that any noise or suggestion should come from within to the person who should approach to raise the latch of one of them. But gold, and the power of a woman’s will, had brought the secret to the princess.
And not only did she know in which room stood the lady ready to emerge, all blushing and radiant, should her door be opened, but she knew who the lady was. It was one of the fairest and loveliest of the damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the accused youth, should he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring to one so far above him; and the princess hated her. Often had she seen, or imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing glances of admiration upon the person of her lover, and sometimes she thought these glances were perceived, and even returned. Now and then she had seen them talking together; it was but for a moment or two, but much can be said in a brief space; it may have been on most unimportant topics, but how could she know that? The girl was lovely, but she had dared to raise her eyes to the loved one of the princess; and, with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors, she hated the woman who blushed and trembled behind that silent door.
When her lover turned and looked at her, and his eye met hers as she sat there, paler and whiter than any one in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her, he saw, by that power of quick perception which is given to those whose souls are one, that she knew behind which door crouched the tiger, and behind which stood the lady. He had expected her to know it. He understood her nature, and his soul was assured that she would never rest until she had made plain to herself this thing, hidden to all other lookers-on, even to the king. The only hope for the youth in which there was any element of certainty was based upon the success of the princess in discovering this mystery; and the moment he looked upon her, he saw she had succeeded, as in his soul he knew she would succeed.
Then it was that his quick and anxious glance asked the question: “Which?” It was as plain to her as if he shouted it from where he stood. There was not an instant to be lost. The question was asked in a flash; it must be answered in another.
Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised her hand, and made a slight, quick movement toward the right. No one but her lover saw her. Every eye was fixed on the man in the arena.
He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty space. Every heart stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye was fixed immovably upon that man. Without the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it.
Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady? The more we reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer. It involves a study of the human heart which leads us through devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our way. Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended upon yourself, but upon that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?
How often, in her waking hours and in her dreams, had she started in wild horror, and covered her face with her hands as she thought of her lover opening the door on the other side of which waited the cruel fangs of the tiger!
But how much oftener had she seen him at the other door! How in her grievous reveries had she gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair, when she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the door of the lady! How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to meet that woman, with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of triumph; when she had seen him lead her forth, his whole frame kindled with the joy of recovered life; when she had heard the glad shouts from the multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells; when she had seen the priest, with his joyous followers, advance to the couple, and make them man and wife before her very eyes; and when she had seen them walk away together upon their path of flowers, followed by the tremendous shouts of the hilarious multitude, in which her one despairing shriek was lost and drowned!
Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for her in the blessed regions of semi-barbaric futurity?And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood!
Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of anguished deliberation. She had known she would be asked, she had decided what she would answer, and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.
The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door,—the lady, or the tiger?
The Lady, Or The Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton The text today is from Project Gutenberg. This is a repost. Pictures are by Chamblee54.