Frank Richard Stockton.

The novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 15) online

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LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
DAVIS



FRANK R. STOCKTON

VOLUME XV

STORIES
I



THE NOVELS AND STORIES OF
FRANK R. STOCKTON

STORIES
I




NEW YORK

CI AM ;S 8CR1BS ER'S SONS
1900







" Which came out of the opened door the Lady
or the Tiger ? ' '

From a drawing by ALBER T HER TER.



THE NOVELS AND STORIES OF
FRANK R. STOCKTON

STORIES
I




NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1900



OF CALIFORNIA
DAVIS



Copyright, 1884, 1886, 1891, 1893, 1900,
by CHARLES SCBIBNEB'S SONS



THE DEViNNE PRESS.



CONTENTS



PAGE

THE LADY OK THE TIGER? 3



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY . 16
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST ... 27
THE SPECTRAL MORTGAGE ... 47
EVERY MAN HIS OWN LETTER-WRITER 73
THAT SAME OLD COON .... 83

OUR STORY 109

DERELICT 129

ON THE TRAINING OF PARENTS . 185
A BORROWED MONTH . . . . .199
THE BAKER OF BARNBURY ... 247
THE WATCHMAKER'S WIFE . 259



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?



THE LADY OR THE TIGER 4 ?

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 untrammelled,
as became the half of him which was barbaric. He
was a man of exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an au
thority 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 barbar
ism 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 rhap-

3



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

sodies of dying gladiators, nor to enable them to view
the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between reli
gious opinions and hungry jaws, but for purposes far
better adapted to widen and develop the mental en
ergies of the people. This vast amphitheatre, 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 struc
ture 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 amphitheatre.
Directly opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed
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

4



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

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 home
ward 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 im
mediately 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 exer
cises, 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.

5



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

This was the king's s.emibarbaric method of admin
istering 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 ac
cused person was instantly punished if he found him
self 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 ele
ment 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,

6



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

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 re
gard to his duty in the premises. The youth was im
mediately 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 be
fore had such a case occurred never before had a sub
ject dared to love the daughter of a king. In after
years such things became commonplace enough, but
then they were, in no slight degree, novel and star
tling.

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 sesthetic
pleasure in watching the course of events which

7



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

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, while 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 be
neath 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 admira
tion 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

8



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

had possessed herself of the secret of the doors. She
knew in which of the two rooms 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.

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 in
nocent 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

9



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

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 be
hind 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.

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 but his 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

10



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

it is to answer. It involves a study of the human
heart which leads us through devious mazes of pas
sion, 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 jeal
ousy. 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 j
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-bar
baric futurity?

11



THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

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 up
myself as the one person able to answer it. So I
leave it with all of you : Which came out of the
opened door the lady or the tiger?



12



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

A CONTINUATION OF "THE LADY OR THE
TIGER?"



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

A CONTINUATION OF "THE LADY OK THE
TIGER?"

IT was nearly a year after the occurrence of that
event in the arena of the semi-barbaric king, known
as the incident of the lady or the tiger, that there
came to the palace of this monarch a deputation
of five strangers from a far country. These men, of
venerable and dignified aspect and demeanor, were
received by a high officer of the court, and to him
they made known their errand.

"Most noble officer," said the speaker of the depu
tation, "it so happened that one of our countrymen
was present here, in your capital city, on that mo
mentous occasion when a young man who had dared
to aspire to the hand of your king's daughter had
been placed in the arena, in the midst of the as
sembled multitude, and ordered to open one of two
doors, not knowing whether a ferocious tiger would
spring out upon him, or a beauteous lady would ad
vance, ready to become his bride. Our fellow-citizen
who was then present was a man of supersensitive
feelings, and at the moment when the youth was

15



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

about to open the door he was so fearful lest he should
behold a horrible spectacle that his nerves failed him,
and he fled,preeipitteLy: from the arena, and, mount
ing his camel, rode homeward as fast as he could go.

"We were all very much interested in the story
which our countryman told us, and we were extremely
sorry that he did not wait to see the end of the affair.
We hoped, however, that in a few weeks some travel
ler from your city would come among us and bring us
further news, but up to the day when we left our
country no such traveller had arrived. At last it
was determined that the only thing to be done was to
send a deputation to this country, and to ask the
question : i Which came out of the open door, the
lady or the tiger? 7 "

When the high officer had heard the mission of this
most respectable deputation, he led the five strangers
into an inner room, where they were seated upon soft
cushions, and where he ordered coffee, pipes, sherbet,
and other semi-barbaric refreshments to be served to
them. Then, taking his seat before them, he thus
addressed the visitors :

"Most noble strangers, before answering the ques
tion you have come so far to ask, I will relate to you
an incident which occurred not very long after that
to which you have referred. It is well known in all
regions hereabout that our great king is very fond
of the presence of beautiful women about his court.
All the ladies in waiting upon the queen and royal
family are most lovely maidens, brought here from
every part of the kingdom. The fame of this con
course of beauty, unequalled in any other royal court,
has spread far and wide, and had it not been for the

16



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

equally wide-spread fame of the systems of impetuous
justice adopted by our king, many foreigners would
doubtless have visited our court.

"But not very long ago there arrived here from a
distant land a prince of distinguished appearance and
undoubted rank. To such an one, of course, a royal
audience was granted, and our king met him very
graciously, and begged him to make known the object
of his visit. Thereupon the prince informed his Royal
Highness that, having heard of the superior beauty of
the ladies of his court, he had come to ask permission
to make one of them his wife.

"When our king heard this bold announcement,
his face reddened, he turned uneasily on his throne,
and we were all in dread lest some quick words of
furious condemnation should leap from out his quiver
ing lips. But by a mighty effort he controlled him
self, and after a moment's silence he turned to the
prince and said : ' Your request is granted. To-mor
row at noon you shall wed one of the fairest damsels
of our court.' Then turning to his officers, he said :
t Give orders that everything be prepared for a wed
ding in this palace at high noon to-morrow. Convey
this royal prince to suitable apartments. Send to
him tailors, bootmakers, hatters, jewellers, armorers,
men of every craft whose services he may need.
Whatever he asks, provide. And let all be ready for
the ceremony to-morrow.'

"'But, your Majesty,' exclaimed the prince, ( before
we make these preparations, I would like'

"'Say no more!' roared the king. 'My royal
orders have been given, and nothing more is needed
to be said. You asked a boon. I granted it, and I

17



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

will hear no more on the subject. Farewell, my
prince, until to-morrow noon.'

"At this the king arose and left the audience-
chamber, while the prince was hurried away to the
apartments selected for him. Here came to him
tailors, hatters, jewellers, and every one who was
needed to fit him out in grand attire for the wedding.
But the mind of the prince was much troubled and
perplexed.

"'I do not understand/ he said to his attendants,
'this precipitancy of action. When am I to see the
ladies, that I may choose among them? I wish op
portunity, not only to gaze upon their forms and
faces, but to become acquainted with their relative
intellectual development.'

" ' We can tell you nothing, 7 was the answer. ' What
our king thinks right, that will he do. More than
this we know not.'

"'His Majesty's notions seem to be very peculiar,'
said the prince, 'and, so far as I can see, they do not
at all agree with mine.'

"At that moment an attendant whom the prince
had not before noticed came and stood beside him.
This was a broad-shouldered man of cheery aspect,
who carried, its hilt in his right hand, and its broad
back resting on his broad arm, an enormous cimeter,
the upturned edge of which was keen and bright as
any razor. Holding this formidable weapon as ten
derly as though it had been a sleeping infant, this
man drew closer to the prince and bowed.

"'Who are you?' exclaimed his Highness, starting
back at the sight of the frightful weapon.

"'I,' said the other, with a courteous smile, 'am the
18



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

Discourager of Hesitancy. When our king makes
known his wishes to any one, a subject or visitor,
whose disposition in some little points may be sup
posed not wholly to coincide with that of his Majesty,
I am appointed to attend him closely, that, should he
think of pausing in the path of obedience to the royal
will*, he may look at me, and proceed. 7

"The prince looked at him, and proceeded to be
measured for a coat.

"The tailors and shoemakers and hatters worked
all night, and the next morning, when everything
was ready, and the hour of noon was drawing nigh,
the prince again anxiously inquired of his attendants
when he might expect to be introduced to the ladies.

"'The king will attend to that/ they said. 'We
know nothing of the matter.'

"'Your Highness/ said the Discourager of Hesi
tancy, approaching with a courtly bow, ' will observe
the excellent quality of this edge. 7 And drawing a
hair from his head, he dropped it upon the upturned
edge of his cimeter, upon which it was cut in two at
the moment of touching.

"The prince glanced, and turned upon his heel.

"Now came officers to conduct him to the grand
hall of the palace, in which the ceremony was to be
performed. Here the prince found the king seated
on the throne, with his nobles, his courtiers, and his
officers standing about him in magnificent array.
The prince was led to a position in 'front of the king,
to whom he made obeisance, and then said :

"'Your Majesty, before I proceed further 7

"At this moment an attendant, who had approached
with a long scarf of delicate silk, wound it about the

19



THE DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY

lower part of the prince's face so quickly and adroitly
that he was obliged to cease speaking. Then, with
wonderful dexterity, the rest of the scarf was wound
around the prince's head, so that he was completely
blindfolded. Thereupon the attendant quickly made
openings in the scarf over the mouth and ears, so that
the prince might breathe and hear, and fastening the
ends of the scarf securely, he retired.

"The first impulse of the prince was to snatch the
silken folds from his head and face, but, as he raised
his hands to do so, he heard beside him the voice of
the Discourager of Hesitancy, who gently whispered :
'I am here, your Highness.' And, with a shudder,
the arms of the prince fell down by his side.


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