The Little Mice Came Out
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 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.
"Simpkin," 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 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!
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 more twist!"
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 any 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 Christmas 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.
And still 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 snow.
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 bells.
First and loudest the cocks cried out: "Dame, get up, and bake your pies!"
"Oh, dilly, dilly, dilly!" sighed Simpkin.
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.