Class 12 Reading Comprehension Chapter 2 The Magic Mirror

The Magic Mirror

The following story (not a true one) is very cleverly written and make interesting reading. It points out a moral which we should all bear in mind.

King Bardolph was probably the most handsome monarch who had ever ruled over the fine and prosperous country of Cracovia. He was tall and dark and broad and upright. His black hair was thick and curly, his eyes blue, his teeth white, his complexion ruddy and his strong legs were as straight as fir trees.

In his throne-room, facing the throne, was a very bright, clear mirror; and although he was by no means vain, King Bardolph would often stand in front of this mirror and regard, with much satisfaction, his very comely reflection.

But as the years rolled on the king grew lazy. He gave up his hunting and his riding; he walked no more; he breakfasted in bed, and then turned over and took a nap until noon. When he did go out, he lolled back in his fine carriage and yawned.

After leading this indolent life for some time, Bardolph came one morning, and stood before his splendid mirror. As he gazed at his reflection, he started back with horror. What could be wrong with the mirror? Looking back at him from its smooth, polished surface was a fat, blotchy, red-faced man with puffy eyes, a mottled nose and a rounded stomach.

“Bless my buttons!” gasped Bardolph, “what a horrid looking fellow! The mirror must be bewitched, for I’m sure that can’t be me. I may be a trifle plump, but that creature is hideously fat, and certainly eats too much. Now, I don’t eat too much. Let me see, what did I have for breakfast? Dear, dear, dear what was it now? Er – six eggs, seven sausages, half a chicken, four rolls, some butter, some honey and a couple of flagons of canary wine. Now that’s not too much for a king. No, it certainly can not be me. Some wizard has bewitched the thing.” And pulling a little doubtfully at his lips, he rang a bell.

When a footman entered, King Bardolph said, “Take this mirror up to the storeroom, and bring another to put in its place.”

After breakfast next morning, the king strolled over to the new mirror, and looked eagerly in it. To his anger and surprise, the same unwholesome fat-looking personage stared back at him. Bardolph rang the bell furiously, and when the footman entered timidly, he roared, “Take this mirror away, and see that a good one is in its place by morning.” Upon the morrow, King Bardolph hurried over his breakfast, and then walked up to the new mirror, as quickly as his breathlessness would allow. As he saw the same horrid-looking fellow gazing back at him, he raised his clenched fists above his head and bellowed madly.

At that moment, Diplo, his wisest and most trusted counselor, entered the throne room. The king beckoned him, and when he had reached the mirror, King Bardolph said, pointing at the image in the glass, “Diplo, is that me?”

“Is that I, Your Majesty means,” ventured Diplo. The king stared at him in angry puzzlement for a moment, and then he smiled and said, “Yes, of course, my wise Diplo, but kings make their own grammar. What I wish to know is Am I like that?” And he flicked an impatient finger towards the mirror.

Diplo smiled. “Certainly not, Your Majesty,” he replied. “Then what in the name of thunder is the matter with the thing?” asked the angry monarch.

“The glass is faulty,” replied Diplo. “Come with me, Your Majesty,” he continued, and taking the king by the arm, he led him to a little window in the topmost turret of the palace. Diplo pointed out over the blue distant hills. “Over there, O King,” he said, “the sorcerer Mohrab, long ago, hid the Mirror of Truth. The man who wishes to see himself as he really is, must seek this magic mirror himself, and having found it, may look within and learn the truth.” “I will set off in my carriage tomorrow, after breakfast,” said Bardolph.

“That would be useless,” replied Diplo. “He who seeks the Mirror of Truth must seek it afoot. Moreover,” went on Diplo, “it is only to be found one hour after dawn. Thereafter, for the remainder of the day and night, it is invisible.”

The king sighed deeply. “Ah, well,” he said presently, “what must be, must be. Tomorrow I will arise betimes and seek this magic glass.” And so, upon the morrow, King Bardolph arose from his silken bed before dawn, and upon unaccustomed feet searched the hills. But he sought in vain, and returned wearily homeward.

Diplo met him and said, “Do not lose heart, O King; you will find, if you seek well; try again.” And so upon the morrow, and for many morrows, for weeks indeed and months, King Bardolph sought and sought among the distant hills, in the fresh cool dawns for the magic mirror. At the end of six months he was once again fine, slim, handsome, straight and ruddy.

Diplo came to him and said, “Your Majesty, I dreamed a dream last night, and in it I thought that the sorcerer Mohrab came to me and told me where the Mirror of Truth lies hidden. Tomorrow I shall come with you and show you the place.”

And so upon the morrow the two set off together. Diplo found it difficult to keep pace with the king’s swift strides, but at last they reached the hills, just as the red face of the sun climbed over the misty peaks. The king stood staring at the beauty of the dawn, and seemed to have forgotten his errand, forgotten Diplo, forgotten everything.

A cry from the ground startled him to awareness. He looked down and there at his feet crouched Diplo, pulling from under the bushes a fine shining mirror. Diplo sprang to his feet, and crying triumphantly, “The Mirror of Truth!” held it in front of the king.

The king stared into its smooth polished surface. He saw within it the loveliness of the eastern sky, and the splendor of the newcome sun. But he saw also a fine, handsome face, with ruddy complexion and crisp, curly, black hair.

“At last!” he cried, “the Mirror of Truth. I knew I was like that.” Then, taking the mirror from Diplo, he turned it around and looked at its back. In the middle of the ebony was a long, jagged scratch.

King Bardolph looked wonderingly at the scratch for a long time, and then he said slowly, “Why, Diplo, my old mirror had a scratch on its back like that.”

Diplo laughed softly. “No doubt, Your Majesty,” he said; and then after a little pause he went on, “for this is your old mirror.”

“Then how did it get here?” asked the astonished King.

“I got it from the storeroom before we started,” replied Diplo, “and carried it here secretly.”

“You sly dog!” cried Bardolph, not knowing whether to be angry or to laugh. “Then there is no such thing as a Mirror of Truth?”

“On the contrary, Your Majesty,” replied Diplo with a wise smile, “all mirrors are Mirrors of Truth; and mirrors now will show you the same reflection as the one you are holding.”

“Diplo,” said the king, as they made their way back to the palace, “you deserve a reward for your cleverness. What shall it be?”

“A walk with Your Majesty,” replied Diplo, “to the hills each dawn, as long as we both shall live.”

“Granted!” cried King Bardolph with a great laugh.

From Forty More Tales by Stephen Southwold

Questions on the Story

  1. Name the characters in the story.
  2. What was the name of the kingdom ruled by King Bardolph? 
  3. Describe the king’s appearance.
  4. What object in the king’s throne room gave him great satisfaction?
  5. How did the king’s appearance change over time?
  6. Why was the king shocked when he looked at the mirror?
  7. Why did the king think that the mirror was bewitched?
  8. Whom did the king blame for bewitching the mirror? 
  9. What did the king order his footman to do?
  10. Did the new mirror help the king look better?
  11. What did the king ask his counselor Diplo? 
  12. (a) What was wrong with the question the king asked?

(b) How did the counselor correct him?

  1. How did the king justify the mistake he made?
  2. Why do you think Diplo said that the glass was faulty? 
  3. What story did he cook up to convince the king that his mirror image was faulty?
  4. How did the king initially plan to search for the Mirror of Truth? 
  5. Why did Diplo insist that the king should start his journey at the dawn and afoot?
  6. Did Diplo’s trick work? How?
  7. (a) Did the sorcerer Mohrab actually appear in Diplo’s dream?

(b) Why did he say so?

  1. How did the king change in six months?
  2. How did Diplo produce the mirror in front of the king?
  3. Why was the king surprised to see the scratch on the back of the mirror?
  4. What was the king’s reaction when he realized that he was outwitted by the counselor?
  5. What did Diplo mean when he said that all mirrors were Mirrors of Truth?
  6. What reward did Diplo ask for?


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