FORMERLY there was a man named John Cigarron (or the Great Cigar), who gained money by pretending to be a magician. He played his part to perfection; gave himself such airs and graces that he quite deceived everybody; for you must know, fair readers, that people have an unfortunate propensity for believing what they should not believe, and doubting what they ought not to doubt. Thus it was that John Cigarron at that time acquired a fame similar to what in our days is acquired by other impostors of his style.
It so happened that a great quantity of plate was stolen from, the king’s palace, and notwithstanding the most diligent search it was impossible to find out who were the perpetrators of the robbery. As a last resource the king was counselled to order the famous magician to be brought to him, as nothing could be hidden from this man, although, it was remarked, he would not always display his power save only when he was in the humour to do so.
The king ordered the magician to be brought into his presence; and the man, as may be imagined, when he came before his Majesty, was nearly dead from fright. The king informed him that he was to be shut up in prison for three days, and that if at the end of those three days he had not discovered the authors of the robbery, he would have him hanged as a liar and an impostor.
“I may as well prepare myself for death,” thought John Cigarron, when he found himself in prison. “Never would I have held myself forth as a magician if I had known what it would cost me. Only three days of life left to me; not one more nor one less! A nice scrape you’ve got into, John Cigarron!”
The truth was, that the plate had been stolen by three of the king’s pages, who were the very youths charged to take the prisoner his food. When the first of them took his evening meal to the cell, John Cigarron, alluding to the three days to which his existence was limited by the king, exclaimed:—
“Ah, my lord Saint Bruno,
Of the three there goes uno” (one).
As the page’s conscience was bad, and as he had heard it reported that nothing could be concealed from this magician, he was startled, and said to his companions:—
“We are lost! the magician knows that we are the thieves.”
The others would not believe it; but on the second day, when another of the three pages entered the cell with the food, and heard John Cigarron exclaiming sadly:—
“Ah lord Saint John de Dios,
Of the three I have seen dos!” (two),
he went out more alarmed than the first.
“You are right,” he said to his companions, “he knows, and we are lost!”
So when it came to pass on the following day that the third had to take the food in, and heard J ohn Cigarron saying in despair:—
“Ah, Saint Andres,
Now I’ve seen the tres!” (three)
he fell on his knees, confessed the crime, and offered to restore all the stolen plate, and give John Cigarron a great present, if he would not betray them.
The three days having passed, the king commanded the magician to be brought into his presence, and the man entered with much pomposity.
“Well,” said the king, “do you bring me news of my lost property?”
“Sire,” responded John Cigarron, with great bombast, “I am too noble and too philanthropic to betray any one, but I confide in your Majesty being contented with my skill and power if the stolen plate be restored.”
“Yes, yes,” replied the king, “I shall be satisfied if the plate be given up. Where is it?”
John Cigarron drew himself up and responded, as he made a majestic gesture:—
“Let some one go to the cell in which I was confined, and it will be found there.”
This was done, and the plate, which had been carried there by the pages, was found.
The king was struck with admiration, and took such interest in John Cigarron’s fate, that he appointed him chief Magician, royal Diviner, and Soothsayer in ordinary. But all this was far from gratifying to the office-bearer, who trembled with dread at the thought of what might present itself upon the next occasion when his Majesty should require his scientific services, and when, he feared, he might not emerge with such flying colours. And his fears were not quite groundless; for one day when the king was walking in his gardens he thought he would like another proof of his chief magician’s skill, so he presented himself to him suddenly, with his hand closed, and asked him what he had in it. On hearing this unexpected question, the poor fellow was quite stupefied, and exclaimed:—
“Sire, the game is up, Cigarron is in your hands now!”
A cry of admiration escaped from the king, who opened his hand and displayed what was in it; it was a large cigar! (cigarron). In his enthusiasm the king told the lucky conjurer to ask whatever he wished for; and whatever it should be, he gave him his royal word that he would grant it In reply, John Cigarron said,—
“Then, sire, I beg that you will never again put my powers of divination to the test!”