“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!” Christmas
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 have NO MORE TWIST.”
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–“