Sixteen short stories by the author of The Once and Future King, written from the Thirties through the Fifties, now collected for the first time--and quite a treat. For those eager to find the White who captured young Arthur on the threshold of kingship, there are similarly ingratiating peeks at the eleven-year-old Richard II on the eve of his coronation . . . and at the 17-year-old ""determined little armful of femininity"" who'll very soon be Queen Victoria. And for those who prefer White-the-fantasist, there are wry stories--generally told in the rather dusty form of monologue reminiscence--of a violent troll, ghosts, werewolves, and a Pan. But the more surprising, perhaps most appealing pieces here show White as a collector of grotesque or pathetic behavior, a dealer in very dry psychological suspense, a writer clearly influenced by Saki as well as Maugham: the seductive title story takes a Scottish doctor from 1938 Bombay to the palace of a smarmy, clichÃ‰-spouting Maharajah, whose pregnant Maharanee (nÃ‰e Joyce Neuberger from Seattle)is probably being poisoned; ""Success or Failure""--about a couple who invent an imaginary child--might have been written by Ruth Rendell; there's nasty delight in the tale of Charles II's attempt to fred a mate for the nobleman who, from childhood, behaved as a dog (""There can seldom have been a better spaniel than the second Earl""); and the ironies are sharp and icy in the story of a proud 19th-century dwarf who gets into a duel with his six-foot-tall nemesis. True, other entries here seem quite dated in viewpoint or style--with some crude psychology and a bit of Hollywood-sentimental corn. But, for the most part, this is a happily fresh and spirited gathering of minor White: varied, unpretentious, sly, and vigorous.