I’m told that your Stalin, when he was ill several months ago, summoned two likely successors to his side. He also summoned two birds. The first candidate, terrified that the bird would fly free, squeezed the poor creature so tightly that he killed it. The second, seeing the displeasure cloud over Stalin’s face, was so frightened that he hardly held the bird at all, and, of course, it escaped.
“Bring me a bird!” thundered Stalin. He held this bird by the legs and slowly, one by one, plucked each feather of this poor creature from his tiny little body. Stalin then opened his palm and there lay this bird, helpless, naked, shivering. And he looked up, and smiled gently, and said, “You see, this little bird is thankful for the human warmth of my palm.”
Timothy Hutton in Nero Wolfe
Black Orchids is a Nero Wolfe double mystery by Rex Stout published in 1942 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. Stout’s first short story collection, the volume is composed of two novellas that had appeared in abridged form in The American Magazine:
*”Black Orchids” (August 1941, abridged as “Death Wears an Orchid”)
*”Cordially Invited to Meet Death” (April 1942, abridged as “Invitation to Murder”)