Tiger Tales - "The Mysterious Door"

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"The Mysterious Door"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, King Kojo, etc.

This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 5, 1916

There was once a Prince who had the misfortune to be in love with two Princesses at the same time. They were both so lovely and so charming that, try as he would, he could not decide which to marry. When he was with Princess Helene he felt sure that she was the one, but no sooner had he decided this definitely in his mind than he would encounter Princess Daphne, and her beauty immediately set his heart in a whirl and the whole matter would be at a standstill again. Matters went on in this unsatisfactory manner for some time, till finally the Prince in his perplexity consulted with the chiefest of his wise men.

The old wise man bade the Prince to cease from worrying. "Return in one day and three hours from now and I shall have thought the matter over," said he. So, in one day and three hours the Prince again mounted to the old fellow's tower, They talked together for possibly ten minutes, saying this, that and the other. Then the Prince clapped the old gentleman upon the back and clattered down the stairs in a high good humor.

Next day both Princesses and their mothers received invitations to visit the Prince's palace, and what clipping, stitching, shopping time there was getting them ready, for, needless to say, each Queen mother desired her daughter to marry the Prince. And the Prince's palace, too, was in a whirl of preparation, for entertaining two Princesses and two Queens is a terribly important matter.

The Prince welcomed his two Princesses with a burst of magnificence, with feastings and entertainments of every description. After a week had slipped pleasantly away, the Prince found himself no nearer a decision than before. Pretending to receive an urgent letter from a neighboring kingdom, he took an affectionate leave of his guests, begging them to make themselves at home in his absence. "There is but one thing I request of you"--(this he whispered to each Princess before leaving)--"upon NO condition venture into the north passageway."

Princess Daphne heard the injunction with a thrill of pleasure. "It is a test!" said she over and over. "And I shall win it, for Helene is the most curious creature in the world!" So she promptly imparted the information to her mama and the two began at once to make preparations for the wedding and were so taken up with silks, satins, embroideries and laces that they gave the matter hardly thought. To be really truthful, these matters were extremely important to Princess Daphne anyway, and she was never so happy as when choosing new dresses. Princess Helene was, as Daphne had said, "very curious!" and though she did everything in her power to keep from thinking of the north passageway, it seemed as if her feet carried her in that direction every day without her conscious consent. She had mentioned the matter to nobody, for surely if the Prince had wanted them to know he would have told them, she concluded sensibly. She rode in the mornings and went swimming in the afternoons in the royal pool and danced in the evenings with the polite gentlemen of the court, for she was a very lively and merry little Princess. But all the time she kept wondering and wondering about that passageway till finally she could endure it no longer.

Meanwhile, Princess Daphne grew more and more engrossed with her wedding preparations.

In all of her walks and dreams she thought of how she would conduct herself once she was married to the Prince. And, as is often the case with folks who think a deal upon one subject, she often spoke aloud, never dreaming that any one heard her.

"I will do this and that," quoth the Princess. "I will obey his slightest wish, for 'twould be madness to do otherwise and surely more is to be gained in this way. I will dress more grandly than any Princess in the world and no mean or common person shall approach me!" Thus she schemed and planned how she should wheedle the greatest amount of gold from the Prince, and whenever she met Princess Helene would shake her head pityingly, for she felt quite sure the poor dear thing could never pass the Prince's test.

And quite right she was, for one day, not long after the Prince's departure, Princes Helene went tiptoeing down the forbidden passage. At the very end was a great black door with a golden knob. "Do not open!" read a large sign nailed on the door.

"Oh, dear!" sighed the Princess, trying to peep through the keyhole. "Oh, dear!" Then she began reasoning half aloud. "Whatever made the Prince tell me about it if he did not want me to go in? I've just GOT to know what's in there.

"But I DO love the Prince!" she murmured softly, pausing with her hand upon the knob, "but if he doesn't love me enough to forgive me, then I'd better not marry him!" she finished breathlessly. Open went the door and in rushed the impetuous Princess, right into the arms of--well, whom to you s'pose?--the Prince himself.

"You dear, little, human sweetheart!" chuckled the Prince. "You--" Well, what more he said was entirely too much for me to repeat or you to listen to, but it all amounted to one thing, "Would she marry him?"

"And, indeed, she would!" And so they were--er--married, of course. For it seemed that the Prince wanted just a natural, human sort of a Princess, not a Princess who was always doing what she though he wanted her to do. And, for my part, I think the old wise man was a sly fox in the matter, don't you?

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
A puzzle from the Phildelphia Public Ledger, August 27, 1916

The Forgetful Poet must be home from his vacation judging from the poem he has sent you:

I s'pose you're all going
Skip-lickety HOP
As fast as you can
To the stationer's ____!

To buy some new pens
And some books and some pads--
Eh, lassies, MY lassies?
Eh, laddies, my ____

Oh, 'tis fun to go 'way
But it's fine to come back
And hang up your hat
On the homey old ____!

I hope you can fill in the spaces, for, as usual, the dear fellow has forgotten to finish his verses.

Copyright © 2001 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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