The Silver Mirror

The Estrela do Oriente creaked and groaned and as she pitched into the deep, dark vales before the ocean forced her once more to climb to the crests of its mountainous waves. The cries of the boatswain were drowned by the roar of the wind and waves, and the helmsman's hands were numb as he gripped the wheel, his eyes stinging from the salty spray as he fought to keep the ship's bows windward.
Sky and sea were one, and as if possessed by a terrible force. The howling wind rent the last unfurled sails as the ocean pounded the vessel.
Only the captain with the staunchest of his crew fought on, yet they knew that all was lost.

Deep below reigned a dismal calm. The dolphins signalled amongst themselves the fate of the ship. They were following its final course as Delphia had bid them, and were to do what they could to help.

Delphia was a mermaid queen of part the southern seas. Mermaids and mermen were few even then. They were ordained by the Divinities, and their nobility and power were greatly respected by the larger creatures of the seas.
They never aged. Only Tangaroa could reveal their secret.
They knew of the mortals who breathe the air and sail in the wooden ships.

Of these magical beings Delphia was exquisite. She was a perfect queen adored by her loyal subjects. Her courtiers were dolphins, but there were other sea creatures including the largest whales that would heed her call without hesitation.

When the sea seemed in gay humour, the sun beaming down and the wind playing with the waves, Delphia would swim with the dolphins, leap through the surf and sing. Her voice was such that on hearing her all creatures were charmed.

But now the sea was angry. She had no power over such tempests, and no desire to sing.

After the storm, before the moon had risen, the dolphins returned. Delphia then learnt how the ship had broken up on the reef just before The Island of the Sun. The drowned mortals had been given seabed graves.
Delphia would go with the dolphins the following day to see for herself.

Mermaids and mermen never assert their influence beyond their own domains. Should they allow themselves to be seen by any human mortal, they cease to exist. As divine beings, they do not share the sentiments of human mortals, yet there are still untold things of great mystery, power and wonder.

When Delphia found the wreck of the Estrela' she saw the sea-bed graves of the perished mortals. As she looked further, a mysterious light where the sun reflected from the coral bed, attracted her attention. There she found a heavy chest that had broken open spilling its contents.
She had seen such mortal-made things before: various coloured stones, some almost transparent, prettily shaped and set in gold and silver metals, intricate gold coloured chains, and masses of little round pieces of the same metals with signs and images marked on them. But the only object that intrigued and troubled Delphia was a silver hand-mirror that she found half hidden, all by itself, amongst the coral.

When the currents were gentle she would often gaze into the silver mirror, and try to understand what she felt.

Not long after the wreck of the Estrela', the most venerable of her entourage returned with news from The Island of the Sun where the old dolphin had been basking in the lagoon. He had seen a human mortal, alone on the beach.

The Island of the Sun was a narrow, crescent shaped islet. The bay of its crescent faced West. It measured half a league in length and not even a stone's throw wide in some places. It was uninhabited and isolated, many leagues from neighbouring islands and many more from inhabited lands.
Below a range of three hills grew coconut palms and bamboo. There was wild life and a source of fresh water. It was possible to survive there, but with little hope at that time, of ever being found.

Sebastos had sailed as cabin boy. They were eastward bound to lands where the Estrela' would have taken on valuable cargoes of spices and silk. Strange currents had dragged the ship off course and into the violent storm.
He had been sheltering in the foredeck, clinging to the shrouds when the foremast split. He tried to free a shipmate trapped under the fallen mast, but when the vessel struck the reef, he was flung overboard. The currents miraculously carried him into the lagoon, where, although exhausted, he managed to swim to the shore.
When the storm had passed he soon realised that he was the only survivor. During the following days he salvaged all he could from the wreck that might prove useful. Even a case of books had somehow remained undamaged.

When nothing was left of the Estrela' above the reef, Sebastos felt even more lonely. From then on he tried to organise himself as best as he could.
With cane, reeds and mud he made a simple cabin. On the highest hill he hoisted one of the ship's flags. He also kept a fire signal alight for some weeks before abandoning it. He was resourceful and had a healthy respect for life, but the love he had for his family made it difficult for him to accept that he might never see them again.

In time he grew to love his little island. The beautiful flowers and birds were there uniquely for him, it seemed. Yet he was often sad. In the evenings he would sit on the beach and watch the sun set. Bathed in the warm light he would half close his eyes and try to remember.

Delphia often sent her dolphins to the island's lagoon to see how the young man was. This unusual concern grew, as if she seemed aware that the boy was suffering from his loneliness.
On the dolphins' return she would learn from them of how he would sit on the white beach and gaze with such melancholy as the sun set. Delphia had never felt such concern for mortals, and the silver mirror wrought by them bewildered her as if it held some strange secret.
She was aware of the risk, but her disquiet and strange curiosity made her decide to go to see the young man herself. Her dolphins tried to dissuade her but she was determined and unattainable, almost as if she were in another world.

And so, one soft evening when the sky was deep blue, the early stars glittering as though they were within reach and the sun's glowing embers lit the horizon, Delphia swam silently into the lagoon. Carefully from behind a rock she looked towards the beach where she knew the boy would be.

Sebastos didn't see her.
A seagull cried as if insulted by the presence of his forlorn, dishevelled figure. His breeches were tattered, a worn grey coat covered his shoulders, and losely tied about his neck hung a white scarf that was once part of his blouse. The light breeze lifted his dark hair as he sadly gazed at the horizon.

When Delphia saw Sebastos the extraordinary feelings that had so troubled her before, became limpid clear, as still water in the sun. She felt aware and serene.

In her caves she arranged the most beautiful shells and anemones. In her hair she tied sea flowers and ribbons of bright coloured sea plants. She sung delightful songs as she looked, no longer with uncertainty, into the silver mirror.
Her dolphins were happy to see her so contented, yet the change they observed also troubled them. Delphia was so charming however, that they too were enchanted.

That same night, when the moon was full and clear, and its soft light blest her domain, Delphia sang a strange and lovely song. It was a moment of magic, and it seemed that all the creatures of the ocean paused to listen.

And time will bring alliance
Between the Earth and Sea,
As wind doth blow
And currents flow
This will surely be

To this we swear allegiance
As truth is plain to see,
And it will show
Its sweetest glow
For all eternity
From then onwards Delphia would often swim to the lagoon when she knew that Sebastos would be there, on the beach at sunset. She took great care not to be seen and her dolphins grew accustomed to her visits, if not less concerned for her safety. Sometimes she came when she knew Sebastos would not be there, and then she left gifts of beautiful shells and sea flowers.

One evening when Delphia expected to see Sebastos, she waited much longer than usual, but he never came. This vexed her and when she returned to her caves she summoned the dolphins to do what they could to try to find him. This they did, but each day they reported that Sebastos was nowhere to be seen.

Sebastos was not well. For some time he had been more listless than usual, eating with no appetite and going through his daily routines without conviction. Finally he had thrown himself onto his bed resolving to die.
In his delirium he had a dream.
He dreamt that a large, mysterious fish came as the sun sent its last rays across the sea. The fish called to him, promising to take him home.
It was this dream that stirred him from his bed. Weakly he raised himself up, and as if in a trance, he made his way slowly to the beach.

Sensing something was wrong, Delphia had done everything she could to try to help Sebastos. She sent her dolphins to find a ship and signal to the crew to follow them to the island. But when the dolphins eventually found a ship many leagues away, her crew only laughed at their strange antics.
She then ordered a great blue whale to find another vessel and to persuade the crew as gently as possible to steer their ship to the island. But when the whale finally succeeded in finding one, the captain ordered that the cannon be fired, and the whale had to sound.

Each evening during this period Delphia swam to the lagoon.
It was the end of the ninth day when Sebastos came to the beach.
When Delphia saw him her relief and joy were such that she leapt out of the water.
Sebastos hearing this, turned and was astonished by what he saw. Never had he seen anything so beautiful. He thought he was still dreaming, or that his delirium was causing him to have hallucinations. Yet strangely, despite his physical weakness, he felt as if he had been freed. He was fully conscious of his being, as though he was observing himself from far above.
Whatever this wonderful vision had been, it had made him feel whole.
He vowed to never again allow himself to even think of giving up the greatest gift which is life itself.

Delphia was so happy, so blissfully oblivious to her spiritual state. In ecstasy she was elevated, transported through infinite worlds of non-existence, dimensions of time, vacuums of space.
Through rainbows of light and dark, through air and substance, fire and water Delphia was carried weightless and free.
She had made herself visible to a mortal, yet she was wrapped within the warmth, the soft, eternal aura of love.

From that magical evening onwards Sebastos worked with new enthusiasm. He loved to read the leather bound books salvaged from the wreck, so long ago it then seemed. He took more interest in his little island, minutely studying the plant and animal life. He was at peace, in harmony with his little island, and he was content.

In this way he lived his secluded but long and fulfilled life. He had companionship from many animals that no longer feared him. As he aged his hair and beard became white silver, and he carried a long staff wherever he went. He seemed able to talk to birds and charm all kinds of fish. Wisdom and goodness emanated from him.

And as the sun sets gently after a fine day, heralding the secret world of night, so can it sometimes be with life.
The evening when Sebastos wearily but thankfully lowered himself onto his old cane bed for the last time, he dreamt once more that strange dream of the beautiful, mysterious fish.
She called to him, promising to take him home.
He was a young man and he walked with light step to the beach.
The soft breeze played with his dark hair.

Delphia swam into the lagoon beneath the deep blue sky lit by many stars. She called softly to Sebastos who turned and smiled. Gently Delphia took his hand and together, in perfect harmony they left.

And far above shining like a silver mirror, a star was born within a lovely aureole that would last for ever.


The Silver Mirror, was another of those written quite a long time ago, just after the Rainbow series. 
It was also written for the author's amusement, as well as for children (which in certain ways we all still are, or perhaps should be). Like the others it was never published. It would probably have also been judged non-conform to the established children's book requirements.
Yet he once told the story to a little French girl of eight or nine years old. When he came to the end, he was moved to see that her eyes were full of tears.
Although the story might be judged a bit too 'sweet', and maybe long winded in parts, there is at least one little girl for whom it apparently meant something. So let's dedicate The Silver Mirror to her.

Text and illustrations © Mirino (PW) June, 2011

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