The Magic Mirror
Men then only studied the arts, but now is science added to their studies.”
“You mean, then,” asked the king, “that an increase in knowledge has done no good?”
“I mean more than that,” continued the barber; “I mean that people are worse than they used to be.”
“‘God is great!’ is what these walls proclaim; to know is to be wise,” urged the king.
“Not always, sir,” said the barber; “for the majority of men and women in the present know too much and are not too wise, although some deem them wise for being cunning. There is as great a distance between wisdom and cunning as there is between the heavens and the earth.”
“Barber,” shouted the king, “thou shalt get me a wife bright as the day, pure as dew, and good as gold—one who shall not be afraid to look into thy magic mirror!”
“Sir,” replied the barber, “the only magic about my mirror is that which the evil consciences of the ladies of Granada conjure up. The simple shepherdess on the mountain side would brave the magic power of any mirror, strong in the consciousness of innocence; but would you marry such a lowly one?”
“Such a woman is worthy to be a queen, for she is a pearl without price,” answered the king. “Go, bid her come here; and, in the presence of my assembled court, let the gentle shepherdess look into the mirror, after thou hast told her of the danger of so doing.”
The barber was not long in bringing the shepherdess to court with him; and it having been proclaimed throughout the city that the trial was going to be made, the principal hall was soon filled with all the grand ladies and knights of the king’s household.
When the shepherdess entered the royal presence she felt very shy at being surrounded by so much grandeur; but she knew enough about her own sex to understand that they inwardly considered her not quite so ugly as they audibly expressed her to be.
The king was very much pleased with her appearance, and received her very kindly, telling her that if she desired to be his wife she would have to gaze into the magic mirror, and if she had done aught which was not consistent with her maidenly character, the mirror would show as many stains on its surface as there might be blemishes on her heart.