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  • The Imp in the Mirror
    A Fable for Mary
    Page 4
    Continued from page 3

    "But, gentlemen," interrupted the countess, "you have explained to me that it must have been the soap, it must have been the ink, it must have been this, it must have been that! But now I should very much like to hear how you all happened to discover those stains on your faces, and why you did not discover them until after you left home."

    There followed a rather lengthy silence.

    "A friend—" began the poet, with some embarrassment. But at this moment, the general made up his mind to explain frankly.

    "Let us own up! For my part, countess, I confess that I looked at myself in the mirror, in the De Cristoforis Gallery!"

    "Well, I never!"—"Oh, the deuce!"—"Why, by Jove!" were the involuntary exclamations of the composer, the lieutenant, and one of the young men of fashion. "Aha!" exclaimed the ladies in their turn, as the truth dawned upon them; and they compelled these three to confess that they also had looked at themselves in the mirror. Then the ladies and the four acknowledged culprits joined in a vociferous attack upon the others, to force them also to make confession; and everyone, excepting the poet, who obstinately adhered to his story of a friend, ended by owning up to that confounded mirror in the gallery.

    "Say, rather, gentlemen, that blessed mirror!" observed the countess, with a laugh. "Because I understand that without it you would all have cut a pretty figure before me to-night!"

    "Much too pretty!" rejoined the general, "as Frederico will bear witness."

    Frederico, the butler, entered at that moment to announce dinner.

    "Isn't it true, Frederico," the general asked him, "that I had my face badly smirched? And all the others, too, didn't we?"

    "To tell the truth," replied Frederico, "as for their excellencies, the general, the judge, and the lieutenant, I cannot say, since they kept their faces covered. But as for the other gentlemen, I saw quite plainly that they had not a spot upon them!"

    All the men protested, but the butler adhered to his statement, and let it be plainly seen that he suspected the same to be true of the general and the lieutenant.

    "Why, how is this?" exclaimed the countess. "There is magic at work! We shall not go in to dinner until we have solved this mystery!"

    "The planchette, countess!" said the English lady, who was a spiritualist, and had often made experiments, together with her hostess. "We must question the planchette!"

    No sooner said than done. The little board was brought in, and straightway started in to spin around, scratching and squeaking as though shaking with laughter; and upon being questioned as to the when, the how, and the wherefore of those enigmatic stains, it gave answer in due form:

    Behind each mirror I may dwell;
    Those stains,—the sort of lies I tell.
    But all the lies you've heard since then
    Were uttered by these gentlemen.
    The Imp of the Gallery.

    The gentlemen scarcely waited for the planchette to finish, before they broke forth in a hilarious uproar. "Come to dinner! Come to dinner! Hurry up! Hurry up! Fiddlesticks! Stuff and nonsense! Come to dinner! Come to dinner!" And bearing off with them the ladies, who were convulsed with laughter at their expense, and chiefly at the poet, his duchess, and his friend, they flung themselves into the dining-room like a hurricane.

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    Spanish, Italian & Oriental Tales: Including Stories by I. M. Palmarini, Camillo Boito Antonio Fogazzaro and Pedro De Alarcon. New York: Harper & Brothers Publisher, 1909. 98-104


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