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THE TAILOR OF GLOUCESTER
N the time of swords and periwigs
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 snippeted, 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—a little old man in
spectacles, with a pinched face, old crooked fingers,
and a suit of thread-bare clothes.
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—trimmed
with gauze and green
 worsted chenille—for the
Mayor of Gloucester.
The tailor worked and worked, and
he talked to himself.
He measured the silk, and turned it round
and round, and trimmed it into shape
with his shears; the table was all littered with
"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, for he did not sleep there at nights;
he fastened the window and locked the door,
and took away the key. No one lived there at night but
little brown mice, and they run 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; they can run
all over the town without going into
But the tailor came out of his shop,
and shuffled home through the snow.
He lived quite near by in College Court,
nextthe doorway to College Green; and
although it was not a big house,
the tailor was so poor he only rented
He lived alone with his cat; it was
Now all day long while the tailor was out at work, Simpkin kept house
 by himself; and he also was fond of the mice, though he gave them no
satin for coats!
"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; buy 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 buy 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—to be lined
with yellow taffeta—and the taffeta sufficeth;
there is no more left over in snippets than will
serve to make tippets for mice——"
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 dresser was covered with
crockery and pipkins, willow pattern plates,
and tea-cups and mugs.
The tailor crossed the
kitchen, and stood quite still beside
the dresser, listening, and peering
through his spectacles.
Again from under a tea-cup, came those funny little noises—
Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!
"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 curtsey 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, and
mumbling to himself——
"The waistcoat is cut out from
peach-coloured satin—tambour stitch
and rose-buds in beautiful floss silk.
Was I wise to entrust my last fourpence
to Simpkin? One-and-twenty button-holes
of cherry-coloured twist!"
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 then from all over the dresser came a
chorus of little tappings, all sounding
together, and answering one another, like
watch-beetles in an old worm-eaten window-shutter—
Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!
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
button-holes 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
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
And then all at once they all ran
away together down the passage
behind the wainscot, squeaking and
calling to one another, as they ran
from house to house; and not one mouse
was left in the tailor's kitchen
 when Simpkin came
back with the pipkin of milk!
Simpkin opened the door and bounced in,
with an angry "G-r-r-miaw!" like a cat that
is vexed: for he hated the snow, and there was
snow in his ears, and snow in his collar at
the back of his neck. He put down
the loaf and the sausages upon the dresser, and sniffed.
"Simppkin," said the tailor, "where is my twist?"
But Simpkin 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
 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
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!
Whenever the tailor muttered and talked
in his sleep, Simpkin said "Miaw-ger-r-w-s-s-ch!"
and made strange horrid noises, as cats do at night.
 For 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
All that day he was ill, and the next
day, and the next; and what should become
of the cherry-coloured coat?
In the tailor's shop in Westgate Street the
embroidered silk and satin lay cut out upon
the table—one-and-twenty button-holes—and
who should come to
sew them, when the window was barred,
and the door was fast locked?
But that does not hinder the little brown mice;
they run in and out without and keys through all
the old houses in Gloucester!
 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.
The moon climbed up over the roofs and
chimneys, and looked down over the gateway
into College Court. There were no lights
in the windows, nor any sound in the houses;
all the city of Gloucester was fast asleep
under the snow.
Simpkin wanted his mice, and he 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
 First and loudest the cocks cried out:
"Dame, get up, and bake your pies!"
"Oh, dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly!" sighed
And now in a garret there were lights and sounds of
dancing, and cats came from over the way.
"Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle! All the
cats in Gloucester—except me," said Simpkin.
Under the wooden eaves the
starlings and sparrows sang of
Christmas pies; the jack-daws woke up
in the Cathedral tower; and although
it was the middle of the night the
throstles and robins sang; the air was
quite full of little twittering tunes.
But it was all rather provoking to
poor hungry Simpkin.
Particularly he was vexed with some little
shrill voices from behind a wooden lattice.
I think that they were bats, because they
always have very small voices—especially
in a black frost, when they talk in their sleep,
like the Tailor of Gloucester.
They said something mysterious that sounded like—
"Buz, quoth the blue fly; hum, quoth the bee;
Buz and hum they cry, and so do we!"
and Simpkin went away shaking his ears as if he had a bee
in his bonnet.
From the tailor's shop in Westgate
came a glow of light; and when
Simpkin crept up to peep in at the
 it was full of candles. There
was a snippeting of scissors, and
snappeting of thread; and little mouse
voices sang loudly and gaily—
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 your threads?
Oh, no, Miss Pussy,
You'd bite off our heads!"
"Mew! Mew!" cried Simpkin.
"Hey diddle dinketty?" answered the little mice—
"Hey diddle dinketty, poppetty pet!
The merhcants of London they wear scarlet;
Silk in the collar, and gold in the hem,
So merrily march the merchantmen!"
They clicked their thimbles to mark the time,
but none of the songs pleased Simpkin; he sniffed and
mewed at the door of the shop.
"And then I bought
A pipkin and a popkin,
A slipkin and a slopkin,
All for one farthing——
and upon the kitchen dresser!" added the rude little mice.
"Mew! scratch! scratch!" scuffled
Simpkin on the window-sill; while the
little mice inside sprang to their feet,
and all began to shout at once in
little twittering voices: "No more
twist! No more twist!" And they
barred up the window shutters and
shut out Simpkin.
But still through the nicks in the shutters
he could hear the click of
 thimbles, and little mouse voices singing—
"No more twist! No more twist!"
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
 "Alack, I am worn to a ravelling," said the
Tailor of Gloucester, "but I have my twist!"
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.
The starlings whistled on the chimney stacks,
and the throstles and robins sang—but they
sang their own little noises, not with words they
had sung in the night.
"Alack," said the tailor, "I have my
twist; but no more strength—nor
time—than will serve to make me one
single button-hole; 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!
The boards were swept clean;
the little ends of thread and the little
silk snippets were all tidied away, and
gone from off the floor.
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!
 There were roses and pansies upon the
facings of the coat; and the waistcoat
was worked with poppies and corn-flowers.
Everything was finished except just
one single cherry-coloured buttonhole,
and where that button-hole 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 button-holes were the greatest
triumph of it all.
The stitches of those button-holes
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 button-holes
were so small—so small—they looked
as if they had been made by little