Now, the VOA Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.
We present the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton. Here is Barbara Klein with the story. (MUSIC)
Long ago, in the very olden time, there lived a powerful king. Some of his ideas were progressive. But others caused people to suffer. One of the king's ideas was a public arena as an agent of poetic justice. Crime was punished, or innocence was decided, by the result of chance. When a person was accused of a crime, his future would be judged in the public arena. All the people would gather in this building. The king sat high up on his ceremonial chair. He gave a sign. A door under him opened. The accused person stepped out into the arena. Directly opposite the king were two doors. They were side by side, exactly alike. The person on trial had to walk directly to these doors and open one of them. He could open whichever door he pleased. If the accused man opened one door, out came a hungry tiger, the fiercest in the land. The tiger immediately jumped on him and tore him to pieces as punishment for his guilt. The case of the suspect was thus decided. Iron bells rang sadly. Great cries went up from the paid mourners. And the people, with heads hanging low and sad hearts, slowly made their way home. They mourned greatly that one so young and fair, or so old and respected, should have died this way. But, if the accused opened the other door, there came forth from it a woman, chosen especially for the person. To this lady he was immediately married, in honor of his innocence. It was not a problem that he might already have a wife and family, or that he might have chosen to marry another woman. The king permitted nothing to interfere with his great method of punishment and reward. Another door opened under the king, and a clergyman, singers, dancers and musicians joined the man and the lady. The marriage ceremony was quickly completed. ...
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