By Frank R. Stockton

i flourishIn the very olden time there lived a semibarbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat polished and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, elaborate, and unrestrained, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of lively fancy, and of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his fancies into facts.

He enjoyed self-consulting, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done. When everything moved smoothly, his nature was bland and genial; but, whenever there was a little problem, 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 ideas that his barbarism had become fixed was that of the public arena, with exhibitions of manly and beastly valor.

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 to widen and develop the mental energies of the people.

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