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The Magician’s Little Joke
by [?]

When the gazelle saw Simprella approach, he arose, and, beckoning with his tail, made off slowly into the wood. Then Simprella perceived this was a supernatural gazelle–a variety now extinct, but which then pervaded the Schwarzwald in considerable quantity–sent by some good magician, who owed the giant a grudge, to pilot her out of the forest. Nothing could exceed her joy at this discovery: she whistled a dirge, sang a Latin hymn, and preached a funeral discourse all in one breath. Such were the artless methods by which the full heart in the fifteenth century was compelled to express its gratitute for benefits; the advertising columns of the daily papers were not then open to the benefactor’s pen.

All would now have been well, but for the fact that it was not. In following her deliverer, Simprella observed that his golden collar was inscribed with the mystic words–HANDS OFF! She tried hard to obey the injunction; she did her level best; she–but why amplify? Simprella was a woman.

No sooner had her fingers touched the slender chain depending from the magic collar, than the poor animal’s eyes emitted twin tears, which coursed silently but firmly down his nose, vacating it more in sorrow than in anger. Then he looked up reproachfully into her face. Those were his first tears–this was his last look. In two minutes by the watch he was blind as a mole!

There is but little more to tell. The giant ate himself to death; the castle mouldered and crumbled into pig-pens; empires rose and fell; kings ascended their thrones, and got down again; mountains grew grey, and rivers bald-headed; suits in chancery were brought and decided, and those from the tailor were paid for; the ages came, like maiden aunts, uninvited, and lingered till they became a bore–and still Simprella, with the magician’s curse upon her, conducted her sightless guide through the interminable wilderness!

To all others the labyrinth had yielded up its clue. The hunter threaded its maze; the woodman plunged confidently into its innermost depths; the peasant child gathered ferns unscared in its sunless dells. But often the child abandoned his botany in terror, the woodman bolted for home, and the hunter’s heart went down into his boots, at the sight of a fair young spectre leading a blind phantom through the silent glades. I saw them there in 1860, while I was gunning. I shot them.