This is a story that I will tell you, one which you may tell your children, have you any, and one which they may someday tell their children, because that is what one does with stories; one tells them. And this story is a fairy tale, and fairy tales are to be enjoyed by little children.
This story is about a little boy, a pretty little boy with golden hair and rosy cheeks, and this pretty little boy's name was Billy. Little Billy had a mother who loved him very much because he was so pretty, and he had a sister who was just sad because she was ugly and no one loved her as much as they loved Billy.
Everyone liked little Billy in school, both the teachers and the other boys and girls, and perhaps the girls even more so than the boys, although some of the boys liked little Billy just as much as the girls did, and some of the teachers liked little Billy a little bit too much for their own good.
Little Billy liked himself very much indeed, and at home he would always stare at himself in the mirror in his room. Little Billy would do this because he liked being so pretty, and because he liked being liked.
One day, little Billy was in his room, staring at himself in the mirror, and his mother was tending to the roses on the balcony, and his sister was in her room, crying her eyes out because she was so ugly. It was a wonderfully pretty day outside; the sky was blue and the sun shining, but it seemed ever so slightly queer to little Billy, as if the sunlight were too sharp or too bright, and the sky too deep and too blue.
Little Billy was growing bored; after all, he could not spend the whole day looking at himself in the mirror. So he decided to go out and down to the Fun Fair that was in town. He could hear the noises of the crowds and attractions at the carnival blown in on the breeze from the open windows. He could hear merry little melodies played by steam organs, and he could hear gasps and laughter from the audience in the circus.
So little Billy went out onto the balcony and asked his mother: "I wish to go the fun fair, mother; please, mother, can I? Can I have some money for the fun fair, please, mother?"
And his mother smiled and gave him some money, because she loved her little boy Billy so very much indeed, and he was ever so pretty today, and so were the roses on the balcony and the view of the town and the weather and the day itself.
Little Billy put the coins in his pocket, thanked his mother and went skipping down to the street. And down the street he skipped, towards the fun fair.
A man was walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction, towards Billy. This was a most curious man, and he caught Billy's eye as he approached, for little Billy had never seen such a strange-looking man before, and he wondered if the man would find him pretty and like him as much as everyone else did.
The man was tall and thin, much taller and thinner than Billy and much taller and thinner than any tall and thin grown-up Billy had ever seen. The man wore a long black robe that covered his feet and covered his neck and chin and mouth. His arms were long and spindly like spider's legs, and his whole body bent and swayed and swivelled like a tree or a worm. His head was bald and smooth and white, and his eyes were little dark moist slits that glittered in the sunlight, like glass, or like a prism. He had no nose, just two nostrils that were little round black quivering holes.
Little Billy stopped in front of the man, and the man stopped in front of little Billy and looked down at little Billy and spoke to little Billy. This is what he said: "Hello little boy," he said, and his voice was soft and gentle and ever so slightly sad. "Why, I have never seen you around town before. What is your name?"
"I'm little Billy," said little Billy, "what is your name?"
"I am the Mirrormaker," said the Mirrormaker. "I make mirrors."
"Why, that is the silliest thing I have ever heard!" exclaimed little Billy with a laugh. "Mirrors are not made; they just are. You can't make a mirror."
"Oh but I can."
"I don't believe you, Mister Mirrormaker!"
"Then I shall have to make you believe me. Say, would you like me to show you how I make a mirror?"
Little Billy thought for a second about the fun fair, and he thought about the money in his pocket, and he thought about his mother at home and the blue sky above and the distant melodies played by steam organs. Then he said: "Yes, I should like that very much, Mister Mirrormaker."
"Then you will have to follow me down into my workshop, little Billy," said the Mirrormaker, and off he went through a door and down a narrow stairway and into a big and dark and dusty cellar.
And little Billy followed the Mirrormaker into the big and dark and dusty cellar, which was lit by lots and lots of big and little candles and lanterns. The workshop was filled with strange, metallic tools and cages and blank slates of marble and stone and glass. It was very messy, but the Mirrormaker just pushed the piles of rubbish aside as he walked very quickly through the very long and very shadowy room, down to the very far end of it. And little Billy followed the Mirrormaker.
Little Billy thought that the Mirrormaker was quite a strange man, because usually grown-ups would be happy when they saw little Billy and talked to little Billy, because little Billy was such a good boy and such a pretty one, too. But the Mirrormaker only seemed quiet and cold and ever so slightly sad. He only seemed concerned about proving to little Billy that he was a Mirrormaker and that he could indeed make a mirror.
The Mirrormaker stopped at the far end of the workshop, where a slate of black marble was positioned against the stone wall, and little Billy stopped here too and looked at the slate of black marble.
"Go on then, make a mirror," said little Billy to the Mirrormaker. "Or tell me how to do it. What are mirrors made of?"
And the Mirrormaker said: "Why, they are made of little children like you, little Billy."
And as little Billy looked at the black marble, it turned into a mirror; and it began to reflect the room, and it began to reflect little Billy's body, and it began to reflect little Billy's head, but the face on that head was not little Billy's face, for it was quite a terrible face, and it made Billy scream quite a terrible scream.
Now at home in little Billy's house, little Billy's mother was cleaning up around the house, and little Billy's sister was in her room crying her eyes out because she was not as pretty as little Billy. And the day went on, and the day turned to twilight, and the twilight turned to evening, and the evening turned to night. And little Billy did not come home.
For a long time, little Billy's mother and little Billy's sister searched for little Billy, and they got the police to search for him too, and they got his friends and his teachers and everyone in the neighbourhood to search for him too, but no one would ever find little Billy. Little Billy was gone.
And one day, little Billy's mother and little Billy's sister bought a new mirror in a shop, and the new mirror was placed in little Billy's sister's room. And little Billy's sister began to look at herself in the mirror, and as she did, she realized that her reflection was quite pretty, and soon she realized that she herself was quite pretty, and soon everyone else realized that she was quite a pretty little girl, almost even prettier than little Billy had ever been when he was around.
And little Billy's sister liked being so pretty, and she liked herself, and she liked that everyone else liked her, and she liked being liked.
And one day, little Billy's sister would meet the Mirrormaker too, and she would follow him down into his workshop too, and he would show her, too, how he makes a mirror.
And the Mirrormaker would continue to do what he does, and the story would continue, because that is what stories do, after all; they do not end, and they do not begin, but they do continue to do what they do.