Now this mirror was no ordinary mirror, but fashioned in the deepest of the seven seas. It was a magic mirror, and so hypnotic was its gaze that the fish looked at their own reflections for days and nights on end and forgot to swim.
“What a marvelously clever fellow I am!” said the man, who was very precise and rather excitable. “I don’t need anyone else around to look at me as I have found this wondrous mirror that will always be my friend. I will keep it before me always, and I will look into the glass to see who I am.”
One day while he was busy looking into the mirror it fell from the high turret window and sank into the black waters beneath.
“My soul!” He gasped, with the appropriate punctuation, and he ran down the ninety- nine silver stairs that kissed his boots with every step, and he knelt beside the river in great despair.
“How will anyone ever know me!” he cried, but the waters were smooth and silent, and since he always preferred his mirror to people nobody came. He took up a long stick and dipped the end into the river in search of his lost treasure, but the stick lodged in the bottom and slipped from his fingers never to be seen again.
“What is this?” asked the fishes as the stick sank, and they followed it to the midnight depths where it came to rest on something very strange. They pulled the strange thing from the mud, which was where they lived, so that it could float up to the light. Then they would be able to see what the strange thing was.
“We have never seen anything so beautiful!” they said as they looked into the mirror, which kept floating ever upwards, and they followed it ever higher. The light began to pour down from the sunlit world above. Soon the glass came to the surface and bobbed beside the man who still lay weeping by the banks of the river. The sun hit the glass of the mirror, and in a flash the fishes saw themselves clearly and they forgot to swim.
The weeping man had always been very particular and in his grief he had gone to count and recount the ninety-nine stairs. He had looked at them for some sign of his own reflected radiance as he had with the mirror, but the steps were only made of stone, not glass. They were not magic stairs and he could see nothing but silver stone. The stairs kissed his boots in love as they had always done but he was angry and ground his heel into the stone because he had lost his looking glass.
All of a sudden on the bank of the river there was a mighty crash. The man looked down to see his beloved mirror had been washed up by the river and his heart soared with sudden joy. As he bent to claim it he heard a great lament and he looked to the river where the fish were weeping.
“Why are you crying, little fish?” he asked as he grasped hold of the precious mirror and clutched it to his chest.
“For the beautiful mirror!” said the fish, but they had forgotten it already and dived back to the muddy depths leaving the man alone.
And after they had spoken, he felt the glass move in his arms. As his boot had stamped upon the stairs so the pieces fell in great silver shards, each like a phase of the moon.
And as they lay at his feet he saw his own face shattered into a thousand pieces.