Prologue

Princess Ariadne entered the tent and received the applause due to any other-worldly carrier of delight.

"Her beauty causes men to throw flowers at her feet," said the ringmaster. "And inspires women to buy plates with her picture on them. Her horse, Bucephalus, has killed a barber, a tax collector, and a Gypsy palm reader. He was an untamable killer of men, until the princess soothed him with her touch."

Princess Ariadne performed her stunts on horseback, such as acrobatics, trick shots, card tricks. As she weaved her spell, however, as she commanded every eye, as her charm pervaded the big top, Princess Ariadne was interrupted by, of all things, a goose honk.

"I am King Tuffy," said the villain. "I will marry the beautiful princess. Anyone tries to stop me, and me and my hoard of cut-throats will grab his wrists, beat him with his own fists, and ask him why he hits himself. I know that makes you cry."

"Mumble mumble," said a priest carried into the ring. "Mumble mumble mumble."

"Skip that part," said King Tuffy. "Get to the part where you marry us."

"Mumble mumble, mumble mumble," said the priest. "Mumble mumble mumble."

"Marry us, or else," said King Tuffy who then pulled the gag from the priest.

"If anyone knows a reason why this couple should not marry," said the priest, "please speak now or forever hold your peace."

"Mademoiselle Princess," hailed a reply from the darkness that maroons us in the world. "I halt your wedding, with much dashing."

"And who are you?" said King Tuffy.

"It is Spot," said a becrowned little dog. "I am the King of the World."

Stooges pounced, stooges swung their wooden boards, stooges reached out, all to land on their faces, to hit each other, to wonder where the dog even was.

At last, Spot pulled the largest fool to the ground and the crowd cheered the little dog's triumph.

Then the crowd erupted in outrage. The little dog leaped, took the last bullet, and fell at the feet of Princess Ariadne.

The princess kissed the little dog. A flash burst from the ring. The smoke cleared to show, in the arms of each other, Princess Ariadne and a regal young man. Slim and handsome they were, the gaudiest and prettiest ever seen. While the crowd cheered their pleasure and astonishment, however, a drama spilled unseen into the darkness that hid them.

"—stop it," said Tuffy. "Quit struggling."

"—the cuckoo prince," said the little dog. "He shares the light with Mademoiselle Princess. The place by her he takes belongs to me."


Spot often needed the entire night to dry out from a dunking. So damp Spot was, when a stranger approached and unlatched the little dog's cage.

"You can stay here for the rest of your life," said the stranger. "To live stranded at the edges of the light. To wait for your brief tease of glory in the big top. Or are you instead ready to go?" The two figures then cast off from the hard, stony reef of the little dog's hopes and broken heart, and drifted into the darkness of the night.