Towards the end of the last century, Alister Matthews, a young Englishman from Chichester, left his father’s home, leaving behind his parents and only sister, and boarded a ship that would take him to the Indian Ocean.

When he returned to his native village after an absence of almost forty years, Matthews had become rich, and he found his childhood home in ruins and his parents dead. His sole sister had married and emigrated to Australia.

After restoring the home, Matthews, despite his wealth, shut himself up in almost complete isolation.

Seeing him sitting every day on the cliffs with the telescope pointed towards the horizon, people began to tell a strange story: when the sailor was young, he had been shipwrecked and his raft took him to a desert island, where he was enraptured by the beauty of a mermaid, with whom he had fallen desperately in love.

After having been rescued from the desert island, Matthews remained enchanted by his love for the mermaid for the rest of his life.

One day, during a visit to the Leeds Museum, he was struck by a picture of a beautiful mermaid by the English painter Charles Napier Kennedy.

From that time on, Matthews, obsessed by his memories, returned to the museum more and more, until one day he realized that he could no longer live without that painting.

He went to the museum’s director and offered him any sum to buy the painting.

He was told that the regulations forbid this unless he could replace the mermaid with a painting by a great painter such as a Rembrandt.

Not in the least discouraged, Alister asked a London gallery to procure him a painting by Rembrandt, and he had to sell most of his assets to purchase it.

So he could spend the rest of his life, poor but happy, with his mermaid.

Upon his death, his heirs from Australia sold all his possessions, including the Mermaid, in July 1967 at a Tunbridge Wells Public Auction in Kent in England.