Simpkin in the snow
The Tailor of Gloucester has been called ‘Beatrix Potter’s King Lear’. I’d give that accolade to The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, but the tale of the poor old tailor, his cat Simpkin and hundreds of stitching mice is a wonderful Christmas story.
‘the Mayor of Gloucester is to be married on Christmas day in the morning’ and the tailor is making his wedding coat and waistcoat. All is cut out ready to sew, the only thing lacking ‘one single skein of cherry-coloured twisted silk’ for the buttonholes. Then the tailor becomes ill and Simpkin spitefully hides the twist he has been sent to buy. How will the suit be ready by Christmas morning, when there’s ‘no more twist’? It is finished, of course, in the most magical way. Here is Christmas Eve in Gloucester:
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. …
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 snow.
From all the roofs and gables and old wooden houses in Gloucester came a thousand merry voices singing the old Christmas rhymes …
First and loudest the cocks cried out –‘Dame get up and bake your pies!’ …
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 jackdaws 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.
Poor old Simpkin has a miserable night, especially when he sees the mice at work in the tailor’s shop but then ‘Simpkin felt quite ashamed of his badness’, and all ends happily. I absolutely loved re-reading this; it repays any number of readings.
No more twist