The Tailor of Gloucester


The Tailor of Gloucester

"I'll be at charges for a looking-glass;
And entertain a score or two of tailors."

My Dear Freda:

Because you are fond of fairytales, and have been ill, I
have made you a story all for yourself--a new one that
nobody has read before.

And the queerest thing about it is--that I heard it in
Gloucestershire, and that it is true--at least about the
tailor, the waistcoat, and the

"No more twist!"

In the time of swords and peri wigs
and full-skirted coats with flowered
lappets--when gentlemen wore
ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of
paduasoy and taffeta--there lived a
tailor in Gloucester.

He sat in the window of a little
shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged
on a table from morning till dark.

All day long while the light lasted
he sewed and snippetted, piecing out
his satin, and pompadour, and
lutestring; stuffs had strange names,
and were very expensive in the days of
the Tailor of Gloucester.

But although he sewed fine silk for
his neighbours, he himself was very,
very poor. He cut his coats without
waste; according to his embroidered
cloth, they were very small ends and
snippets that lay about upon the
table--"Too narrow breadths for
nought--except waistcoats for mice,"
said the tailor.

One bitter cold day near
Christmastime the tailor began to
make a coat (a coat of cherry-
coloured corded silk embroidered
with pansies and roses) and a cream-
coloured satin waistcoat for the
Mayor of Gloucester.

The tailor worked and worked, and
he talked to himself: "No breadth at
all, and cut on the cross; it is no
breadth at all; tippets for mice and
ribbons for mobs! for mice!" said the
Tailor of Gloucester.

When the snow-flakes came down
against the small leaded window-
panes and shut out the light, the tailor
had done his day's work; all the silk
and satin lay cut out upon the table.

There were twelve pieces for the
coat and four pieces for the waistcoat;
and there were pocket-flaps and cuffs
and buttons, all in order. For the
lining of the coat there was fine
yellow taffeta, and for the button-
holes of the waistcoat there was
cherry-coloured twist. And everything
was ready to sew together in the
morning, all measured and
sufficient--except that there was
wanting just one single skein of
cherry-coloured twisted silk.

The tailor came out of his shop at
dark. No one lived there at nights but
little brown mice, and THEY ran in and
out without any keys!

For behind the wooden wainscots
of all the old houses in Gloucester,
there are little mouse staircases and
secret trap-doors; and the mice run
from house to house through those
long, narrow passages.

But the tailor came out of his shop
and shuffled home through the snow.
And although it was not a big house,
the tailor was so poor he only rented
the kitchen.

He lived alone with his cat; it was
called Simpkin.

"Miaw?" said the cat when the
tailor opened the door, "miaw?"

The tailor replied: "Simpkin, we
shall make our fortune, but I am
worn to a ravelling. Take this groat
(which is our last fourpence), and,
Simpkin, take a china pipkin, but a
penn'orth of bread, a penn'orth of
milk, and a penn'orth of sausages.
And oh, Simpkin, with the last penny
of our fourpence but me one
penn'orth of cherry-coloured silk. But
do not lose the last penny of the
fourpence, Simpkin, or I am undone
and worn to a thread-paper, for I

Then Simpkin again said "Miaw!"
and took the groat and the pipkin,
and went out into the dark.

The tailor was very tired and
beginning to be ill. He sat down by the
hearth and talked to himself about
that wonderful coat.

"I shall make my fortune--to be
cut bias--the Mayor of Gloucester is
to be married on Christmas Day in the
morning, and he hath ordered a coat
and an embroidered waistcoat--"

Then the tailor started; for
suddenly, interrupting him, from the
dresser at the other side of the kitchen
came a number of little noises--

Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!

"Now what can that be?" said the
Tailor of Gloucester, jumping up from
his chair. The tailor crossed the
kitchen, and stood quite still beside
the dresser, listening, and peering
through his spectacles.

"This is very peculiar," said the
Tailor of Gloucester, and he lifted up
the tea-cup which was upside down.

Out stepped a little live lady mouse,
and made a courtesy to the tailor!
Then she hopped away down off the
dresser, and under the wainscot.

The tailor sat down again by the
fire, warming his poor cold hands.
But all at once, from the dresser, there
came other little noises--

Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!

"This is passing extraordinary!"
said the Tailor of Gloucester, and
turned over another tea-cup, which
was upside down.

Out stepped a little gentleman
mouse, and made a bow to the tailor!

And out from under tea-cups and
from under bowls and basins, stepped
other and more little mice, who
hopped away down off the dresser
and under the wainscot.

The tailor sat down, close over the
fire, lamenting: "One-and-twenty
buttonholes of cherry-coloured silk!
To be finished by noon of Saturday:
and this is Tuesday evening. Was it
right to let loose those mice,
undoubtedly the property of Simpkin?
Alack, I am undone, for I have no
more twist!"

The little mice came out again and
listened to the tailor; they took notice
of the pattern of that wonderful coat.
They whispered to one another about
the taffeta lining and about little
mouse tippets.

And then suddenly they all ran
away together down the passage
behind the wainscot, squeaking and
calling to one another as they ran
from house to house.

Not one mouse was left in the
tailor's kitchen when Simpkin came
back. He set down the pipkin of milk
upon the dresser, and looked
suspiciously at the tea-cups. He
wanted his supper of little fat mouse!

"Simpkin," said the tailor, "where is
my TWIST?"

But Simpkin hid a little parcel
privately in the tea-pot, and spit and
growled at the tailor; and if Simpkin
had been able to talk, he would have
asked: "Where is my MOUSE?"

"Alack, I am undone!" said the
Tailor of Gloucester, and went sadly
to bed.

All that night long Simpkin hunted
and searched through the kitchen,
peeping into cupboards and under the
wainscot, and into the tea-pot where
he had hidden that twist; but still he
found never a mouse!

The poor old tailor was very ill with
a fever, tossing and turning in his
four-post bed; and still in his dreams
he mumbled: "No more twist! no
more twist!"

What should become of the cherry-
coloured coat? Who should come to
sew it, when the window was barred,
and the door was fast locked?

Out-of-doors the market folks went
trudging through the snow to buy
their geese and turkeys, and to bake
their Christmas pies; but there would
be no dinner for Simpkin and the poor
old tailor of Gloucester.

The tailor lay ill for three days and
nights; and then it was Christmas Eve,
and very late at night. And still
Simpkin wanted his mice, and mewed
as he stood beside the four-post bed.

But it is in the old story that all the
beasts can talk in the night between
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in
the morning (though there are very
few folk that can hear them, or know
what it is that they say).

When the Cathedral clock struck
twelve there was an answer--like an
echo of the chimes--and Simpkin
heard it, and came out of the tailor's
door, and wandered about in the

From all the roofs and gables and
old wooden houses in Gloucester
came a thousand merry voices singing
the old Christmas rhymes--all the old
songs that ever I heard of, and some
that I don't know, like Whittington's

Under the wooden eaves the
starlings and sparrows sang of
Christmas pies; the jackdaws woke up
in the Cathedral tower; and although
it was the middle of the night the
throstles and robins sang; and air was
quite full of little twittering tunes.

But it was all rather provoking to
poor hungry Simpkin.

From the tailor's ship in Westgate
came a glow of light; and when
Simpkin crept up to peep in at the
window it was full of candles. There
was a snippeting of scissors, and
snappeting of thread; and little mouse
voices sang loudly and gaily:

"Four-and-twenty tailors
Went to catch a snail,
The best man amongst them
Durst not touch her tail;
She put out her horns
Like a little kyloe cow.
Run, tailors, run!
Or she'll have you all e'en now!"

Then without a pause the little
mouse voices went on again:

"Sieve my lady's oatmeal,
Grind my lady's flour,
Put it in a chestnut,
Let it stand an hour--"

"Mew! Mew!" interrupted Simpkin,
and he scratched at the door. But the
key was under the tailor's pillow; he
could not get in.

The little mice only laughed, and
tried another tune--

"Three little mice sat down to spin,
Pussy passed by and she peeped in.
What are you at, my fine little men?
Making coats for gentlemen.
Shall I come in and cut off yours threads?
Oh, no, Miss Pussy,
You'd bite off our heads!"

"Mew! scratch! scratch!" scuffled
Simpkin on the window-sill; while the
little mice inside sprang to their feet,
and all began to shout all at once in
little twittering voices: "No more
twist! No more twist!" And they
barred up the window-shutters and
shut out Simpkin.

Simpkin came away from the shop
and went home considering in his
mind. He found the poor old tailor
without fever, sleeping peacefully.

Then Simpkin went on tip-toe and
took a little parcel of silk out of the
tea-pot; and looked at it in the
moonlight; and he felt quite ashamed
of his badness compared with those
good little mice!

When the tailor awoke in the
morning, the first thing which he saw,
upon the patchwork quilt, was a skein
of cherry-coloured twisted silk, and
beside his bed stood the repentant

The sun was shining on the snow
when the tailor got up and dressed,
and came out into the street with
Simpkin running before him.

"Alack," said the tailor, "I have my
twist; but no more strength--nor
time--than will serve to make me one
single buttonhole; for this is
Christmas Day in the Morning! The
Mayor of Gloucester shall be married
by noon--and where is his cherry-
coloured coat?"

He unlocked the door of the little
shop in Westgate Street, and Simpkin
ran in, like a cat that expects

But there was no one there! Not
even one little brown mouse!

But upon the table--oh joy! the
tailor gave a shout--there, where he
had left plain cuttings of silk--there
lay the most beautiful coat and
embroidered satin waistcoat that ever
were worn by a Mayor of Gloucester!

Everything was finished except just
one single cherry-coloured buttonhole,
and where that buttonhole was
wanting there was pinned a scrap of
paper with these words--in little
teeny weeny writing--


And from then began the luck of
the Tailor of Gloucester; he grew quite
stout, and he grew quite rich.

He made the most wonderful
waistcoats for all the rich merchants
of Gloucester, and for all the fine
gentlemen of the country round.

Never were seen such ruffles, or
such embroidered cuffs and lappets!
But his buttonholes were the greatest
triumph of it all.

The stitches of those buttonholes
were so neat--SO neat--I wonder
how they could be stitched by an old
man in spectacles, with crooked old
fingers, and a tailor's thimble.

The stitches of those buttonholes
were so small--SO small--they looked
as if they had been made by little


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