But the two young lovers knew that they must meet again. They started to meet every day, at times when no one could see them. Every day, their love was stronger and stronger. They were very happy. Then one day the King found them together, there in the city gardens. His daughter was in the young man’s arms. The King was very, very angry. He called his men. Immediately, they took the young man away and shut him in a dark, dirty room. They gave him only bread and water to eat. Now the King’s daughter could not see her lover any more. The young man lay in the dark. He knew that he was a wrongdoer and in much danger from the King. Now, we know that the King’s daughter was a strong young woman and that she was very clever. When her father’s men took her lover away, she too saw the danger immediately. She knew very well what was going to happen next. So, early in the morning, she went to the stadium. No one saw her go. She spoke to the workers there and gave them some money.
‘Which room is the tiger in?’ she asked.
They told her.
‘And which girl is going to be behind the other door?’
The workers did not want to answer. They were afraid.
‘I must know,’ said the King’s daughter. ‘Who is she?’
‘She is the daughter of your father’s driver’, the workers answered.
The King’s daughter knew her well: a young and beautiful girl with rich brown hair. But the King’s daughter did not like her. She began to think hard. ‘If my lover chooses the wrong door, he dies. But if he chooses the right door, he marries this cheap little thing, this driver’s child. And I lose him — to her! So I too must choose…»
That afternoon, the King called all his people back to the stadium again. His men brought the young man from the dark room. There he stood, in the middle of the stadium, tired, hungry and afraid. The King sat in his place above the people and his daughter sat next to him. She did not move. Her face showed nothing.
Then the King stood and spoke to his people. ‘You all know this gardener, my friends. And you know why he is here. He was the lover of my daughter. For many weeks, I did not know that, but I know it now. What happens to a wrongdoer in our country? That too we know. He must choose: the lady or the tiger. If he opens the wrong door, he must fight the tiger. If he opens the right door, he must marry the lady. So now choose, young man. Choose very carefully if you want to live and not die.’
The young man stood quietly and listened to the King’s words. But his eyes were not on the King. They were on the face of the King’s daughter. She had no smile for him today. But he looked at her eyes. Her eyes told him something. She looked down quickly at her hand. Then she looked up again. He saw her smallest finger move a little to the left. And immediately he knew: the door to open was the door on the left! He turned and walked very slowly to the left-hand door. All the people watched him, without a sound. He put out his hand and opened the door…
But here the story ends. Remember that the King’s daughter was a clever young woman. She was in love but she was angry too. Did she want her lover to meet the tiger — a fight that he must lose? Did she want him to die? Or did she want him to live and have another beautiful woman for his wife? To give him this other woman, in place of her? We do not know what ideas were at work inside her beautiful head.
Tell me, what do you think? Which did she choose? What was behind that door: the lady or the tiger?