A Better Man

Robinson de Montfort stared intently into the mirror. “Can you see it?” he hissed.
“I can’t see anything.” replied Henry, his butler and closest friend, shaking his head in bemusement.
“Exactly!” Robinson spun round and grabbed Henry tightly by the shoulders, his eyes wide with fear. “It’s exactly as I thought! My reflection has gone! Vanished! What can I do? Tell me, I implore you! Tell me what to do!”
Henry sighed, and calmly patted his master’s hand, gently extricating himself from his grip.
“Let’s think about this situation logically.” He reasoned. “Reflections don’t just vanish, so it can’t have gone far. Tell me sir, do you recall the last time you saw your reflection?”
Robinson pondered that question for a short while, and then answered “Yes, I believe it was yesterday morning, when I visited the tailor’s on Saville Row for my suit fitting. Yes, it must be there! It must be!” Robinson’s face beamed with immense relief at the thought of regaining his mirror image, and he ordered Henry to fetch the carriage so that they might immediately sojourn to Saville Row.
It was late afternoon by the time they arrived, and the tailor was closing up his shop for the day. Without waiting for Henry to do his duty, Robinson flung open the carriage door and leapt down into the street at the tailor’s feet. “Stop!” he cried. “I demand to enter your dressing room and regain what is rightfully mine!”
The tailor was clearly taken aback by the man's abruptness, and his face flushed a deep shade of purple. “Why, how dare you come up to me in the street and cause such a disturbance outside my shop?” he blustered. “Just who do you think you are? I’ve a good mind to call the constabulary and have you arrested!”
It fell to Henry to calm the angered tailor, and rescue the situation. He took the tailor to one side, leaving Robinson to pace on tenterhooks while he explained their unfortunate predicament, and beseeched the tailor’s assistance in the matter.
“So if we could just take a quick look in your dressing room mirror, to put my master’s mind at ease, we would greatly appreciate it.” he finished, his fingertips resting against each other in a prayer position.
To Robinson’s great surprise, the tailor let out a huge roar of laughter. “Oh, not another one!” he chortled, tears streaming down his apple cheeks. “You know, you’re the third person I’ve heard about who’s lost their reflection in the past month alone. You city people, you’re all so tied up in your own lives, you don’t notice what’s going on around you! That’s your problem!”
Robinson opened his mouth to object, but Henry held up a hand to stop him, and the tailor continued, “I’m going to tell you what I’ve told all the others: Your reflection is a sensitive thing, and it knows when it’s not being appreciated. Every time you look in a mirror, you see what you want to see, and not what the reflection really is. After a while, the reflection gets tired of this, and goes off to find a better person to look like. So the only way you have a chance of getting it back…” he paused for effect, “is to mend your ways! You have to become a better person, one the reflection would be proud of showing in a mirror. Otherwise you’re never going to see yourself again! I should know - I’ve worked with a lot of reflections in my time!” With that, the tailor cocked his hat at the two gentlemen, turned and walked into his shop, slamming the door behind him.
Robinson and Henry remained standing in the street, their jaws agape in disbelief.

Over the next few weeks, Robinson visited a variety of experts, from medical practitioners and lawyers to astrologers and palm readers, in an obsession to find a cure for his affliction. But none could offer a solution, and they all wanted to take his money or put him in a mental institution, or both. Eventually, he had to concede that perhaps the tailor on Saville Row had been right after all.
So Robinson began to reflect upon his behaviour and actions, and he discovered some uncomfortable truths about himself. Ever since his arrival in London, he had strived to beat off competition to set up his own company. On the path to success, he had freely walked over, trodden on and stabbed numerous people in the back. It had been a long time since he had been able to call anyone a friend, other than Henry, who was paid very little for his troubles.
Over the years, Robinson had amassed a considerable fortune, which he kept hidden in a safe in the cellar. If anyone ever had need of financial aid, he was the last person they should approach. He had fostered a reputation for being a skin-flint within the entire society of London, and he was rarely invited to parties because everyone knew there would be no chance of a reciprocal invitation.
“Well, that’s one thing that I can change!” he said to Henry later that night, as they began to plot how he could become a better person and redeem his reflection. “First thing tomorrow, you are to go out and invite everyone you meet to a grand gathering of friends here next Saturday eve. Tell them it will be the largest and most welcoming party they will ever attend, and invite them to bring their friends too. Oh, and if you hear of any charities who are in need of a donation, let them know that their worries are over. Sir Robinson de Montfort is at hand. I will become the most philanthropic individual who has ever lived!”

Saturday evening arrived, and Robinson’s townhouse was alive with twittering ladies in bright dresses and refined gentlemen in their finest attire. All were eager to discover what lay behind this incredible transformation of the mysterious Mr. de Montfort, but not one of them noticed the fact that all mirrors and reflective surfaces had been removed from the house. The aforementioned gentleman found that he was having a surprisingly good time. He charmed the other men with his quick wit, and had the ladies swooning with tall tales of his heroic younger days, and his recent charitable gestures.
One woman in particular caught Robinson’s eye. Miss Fairfield was a pretty young thing, of age eighteen or thereabouts, and she was evidently captivated by his every word. She had a delightfully sparkling smile, and beautiful sunbeam hair. The fact that she had not spoken a word to him through the entire party was irrelevant to Robinson. Her mere presence fascinated him, and his sole priority for the remainder of the evening became the endeavour to make her stunning blue eyes twinkle with happiness.
By their third meeting, Robinson was smitten. As they walked through the park on a sunny spring morning, he was overcome by a sudden impulse to take her hand. Taking a deep breath, he knelt on one knee beside her and began to speak, “Miss Fairfield, it has been such an honour to meet you and get to know you. Although you have been in my life for just a short time, you have had a profound effect on me, and it feels as though we have known each other for many years.”
A lump began to form in his throat, and he had to struggle to continue his speech. “My lady, you have made me a better person than I ever thought I could be, and my one wish is to spend the rest of my life making you as happy as I possibly can. Therefore I would be truly delighted if you would do me the great honour of becoming Mrs Robinson de Montfort.”
Miss Fairfield was clearly deeply touched by the honesty and romance of his proposal, and her eyes sparkled with tears of joy as she nodded her acceptance.
Robinson rushed home that afternoon, anxious to see if he had been successful in his quest. Bounding up the stairs two at a time, he dashed across the landing, flung open the door to his private dressing room and… Nothing. The mirror was empty, as usual.
Robinson slumped to the floor in despair. “I give up.” He sighed heavily. “I have tried everything I can think of. I’ve become a nicer person, I’ve given most of my money away to charity, and I’ve got more friends than ever before. By heaven, I’ve even fallen in love! But even that has not been sufficient. I think I might as well face up to it. I will never get my reflection back. I am destined to live the rest of my life without ever seeing myself in a mirror. I am incomplete!”
Henry entered the dressing room a short while later, and was dismayed to find his friend so downhearted. In an effort to cheer him up, he brought up the subject of a family wedding which Robinson had recently been invited to, at his ancestral home in Herefordshire.
“No, no no!” Robinson shook his head vehemently. He straightened up and looked Henry right in the eye. “I have told you before; I will not return there. That place holds too many memories for me. You know how much of a struggle it was for me growing up surrounded by so many sisters, and not able to afford all the things I wanted. I had to work so hard to make it to London and to where I am today. I made the decision all those years ago to leave all that hardship behind me, and I really don’t see any point in going back there now. I have no desire to see my family, and I don’t expect that they’d want to see me either.”
The butler took advantage of a brief pause in Robinson’s rant to interject. “But surely your niece would love to have her only uncle with her on her wedding day. She wouldn’t have invited you otherwise. I remember you once told me what a sweet child she was, and how fond you were of her. She’d be so disappointed if you reject her invitation.”
So it was that Robinson de Montfort arrived in Herefordshire on the eve of his niece’s wedding, accompanied by his ever loyal servant Henry. As they stepped off the train, they were met by a torrent of squeals and wails of joy, as a gaggle of ladies flooded the platform to greet them, all handkerchiefs and scarves aflutter.
Robinson was quite taken aback to see so many of his sisters, cousins and extended family members all at once. He had not expected such a warm reception, and the hugs and kisses from long-lost loved ones filled him with emotion.
Once all of the introductions and re-acquaintances were made, the ensemble made their way to Oak Roots House, the de Montfort family home, which Robinson had not set eyes upon for almost twenty years. Just as he entered the familiar hallway, his attention was caught by a mirror hanging on the wall. As he approached the mirror hesitantly, Robinson was greeted by an amazing sight. The breath caught in his throat as he watched the reflection materialise before his eyes. His mirror image smiled, winked cheekily at him, and nodded in approval. Robinson was complete once again. He had come home.

Hazel Martin

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