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at self-deception was futile. They had flown
away long ago, in an opposite direction.
Perhaps the mate of this one was near at
hand, and to meet with two pairs of magpies in
one morning was only doubly to assure the
good fortune in store for me. Vain fallacy!
there was nothing before me but the
macadamised roadnothing on either side of me
but the canal and flat unfenced corn-fields. I
could have detected a tomtit within a quarter
of a mile. And the worst of it was, the
abominable bird refused to move out of my
path. He stood hopping about and pecking
at something, occasionally looking up to caw
at me, like the concentrated essence of
Hecate, the Three Witches, and Edgar Poe's
Raven, combined. I stood looking at the
magpie, and the magpie stood cawing, or
rather screeching at me.

I tried sophistry. I said, to myself, how
ridiculous it was to be affected by superstitions,
whose simple origin was so easy of
demonstration. But I felt there was some
meanness in this, as, having previously turned
the two magpies to my hopeful advantage, I
had no right to repudiate the evil powers
of one. Why should I insult this magpie,
by assuming that he didn't know his particular
branch of the prophetic business, as well as
the two others did theirs? At any rate, I wished
he would get out of the way, but he wouldn't.

Then I asked myself whether the good
luck, promised by the two first magpies, were
not sufficiently assured by their combined
influence to defy the subsequent malignity of
this single bird's interference? Surely if two
heads were better than one, in a general
sense, why not in the particular case of
magpies? But, then I reflected that, if I had
met this magpie first and the pair afterwards,
I should certainly have accepted the latter
omen. It was clearly my business to believe
in this magpie. It was all up with the
tragedy, the articles, and Julia! Humm
was right. The inflammation of the gastric
organs was doomed to be chronic. I even felt
the ill-effects of my early breakfast, then.
Still I saw no necessity for submitting,
tamely, to the magpie's insolence; so I
threw a stone at him. He flew on a few
yards, and alighted on a heap of rubbish,
cawing at me more viciously than ever. I
threw another stone; he flew a little further,
but steadily refused to diverge from the high
road. There must be something in the
superstition after all (which, in the other instance
I merely pretended to believe for the fun
of the thing). This bird, contrary to the
habits of furtive cowardice, for which his
species is renowned, dogs my footsteps, will
not be intimidated, but attends me even to
the threshold of a human dwelling, to taunt
me with an impending fate that is to crush

Surely I shall get rid of him when he
approaches that house. It is a road-side
cabaret. I can hear the voices of noisy topers
within, from this distance. Their tumult
must certainly scare him to the fields. It will
be some relief to lose sight of him, and forget
the absurd forebodings that it would be
useless to deny he has given rise to.

Horror! he stops before the door of the
cabaret, and perches on a horse-trough!

A little more of this will drive me mad. I
am close to him, and the inmates of the
cabaret are more noisy than ever. Still the
bird will not move. In two steps I shall be
able to brain him with my thick walking-
stick, and I'll be hanged if I don't do it.

I make a furious but unsuccessful lunge at
the magpie. He screeches a little, apparently
as a mere matter of form, and not at all as
though he felt seriously alarmed; hops off his
perch majestically; and, with the utmost
deliberation, enters the cabaret.

I am seized with a slight vertigo, the most
proximate cause of which is a consciousness
of extreme foolishness. A new light has
broken upon me, too humiliating in its
tendencies to be endured, if avoidable. I would
rather not believe the evidence of my senses
if possible. I enter the cabaret in the
forlorn hope of hearing them contradicted.

"Pardon," I demand, in a faltering voice,
andas I can feelblushing horribly; "but
pray excuse medoes it happen that a
Magpie has lately entered here?"

"A magpie ? Yes, monsieur. Behold that

Behold him! sure enough seated majestically
at the entrance of a wicker-cage. I
wish the earth would open and swallow me,
more especially when the landlady, in a mocking
voice, adds the inquiry,

"Possibly he has a little frightened you,
monsieur? You have rather the air of it."

"Frighten me?" If she had only known
how much!

"Not at all," I falter abjectly, and, as I
am aware, with a thoroughly criminal aspect.
It is a relief, however, to find that they did
not see me trying to murder their pet.
"That is to say, if I had any fear at all, it
was that you might lose him."

"Not at all, monsieur! He is exactly like
one of the family. He walks about, alone,
wherever he will, and everybody knows him
hereabouts. My husband let him out just
now, to play with this little boy here."

"Bien! une chope de biere, s'il vous

"L' voilà, m'sieu"

I walk rapidly for about three miles, but
do not recover my equanimity, till I find
a busy townful of people looking at me and
wondering what has happened to disturb me.
The town is Guines.