I wrote this story about Giles the tailor, his faithful dog Caleb, Anna, and Crow some years ago, and the characters (particularly Caleb) are all becoming indignant that I haven't yet found a readership for them. Somehow, I keep doing this--writing stories that are too short to be middle-grade books, but too long to be magazine stories.
Perhaps you've noticed--I tend to be wordy. These days one of the highest compliments a reviewer can give is to mention the writer's "spare" prose. I am unlikely ever to receive that particular compliment. This morning when I heard Caleb's bark and pulled the story out of my file drawer, I realized that it wouldn't be hard to make it significantly shorter. To tell the truth, through some drastic revising, it might be made marketable.
The problem is, I don't have any incentive to change it. Other stories are dancing in my imagination these days; THE TAILOR WHO WANTED A WIFE will have to remain imperfect, all nineteen pages of it.
So here I am with another story that will probably never be published. It's "quiet," it's "old-fashioned," it has an "adult protagonist," all negative labels in editorial parlance, and it's LONG. (Did I mention that?) Still, it was fun to write, and my heart tells me that somewhere there is a child (or an adult with a childlike heart) who will find it fun to read. Maybe you know someone like that, and if you can reader and story, the characters, particularly Caleb, will be happy.
So will I.
towards the door, Caleb hurried after him. As Giles released the latch,
Caleb said softly, "Tell me, Master, what is it you search for night after
companion to me for many a long year. But a man reaches a time when a
dog is not enough. I am searching for a wife."
roaming the countryside late at night. Why don't we go back to bed now
and look tomorrow?"
must sew the Lord Mayor's new britches. And the day after that, the colonel
is coming to pick up his uniform jacket. As long as there is light I must
measure and baste, cut and sew. I've no time to look for a wife during the
reached the front gate he had begun to snore. Caleb followed unhappily.
His keen ears could hear Mother Rabbit saying in vexation, "There, now,
that tailor's gone and waked the baby again."
tried to think how he could help Giles find a wife. "We should live closer to
town," he muttered. "Giles never sees anyone but his customers. And if he
did somehow meet a young woman, is it likely she'd want to live out in the
country with no neighbors around? The problem is to find a woman who
fancies both Giles and living in the country, not to mention a woman whom
Giles will fancy." Caleb decided that there was nothing he could do by
himself. In the morning he would explain the problem to Crow. Perhaps
Crow could help.
must be plenty of women ready and willing to marry an industrious tailor
with a snug little house, even if the house is way out in the country."
never meets them," fumed Caleb. "How do we get prospective brides out
human language, and I have mastered a word or two. Listen to this!" He
cleared his throat, opened his bill, and puffed up his chest feathers. Taking
a deep breath he cried "Caw! Caw!" At the end of each "Caw" he closed his
bill and hummed a little "mmm" sound, so that if you listened carefully, you
will attract young women. What would do the job?"
are wild flowers in the fields, and Giles has a gold pocket watch, but I can't
see that either will be of any use."
I have in my nest.. .. wait here!" Crow flew up into the hickory and in a
second was back with a shiny gold chain swinging from his beak. "Always
like a bit of gold in the nest, gives it a touch of distinction. I found this on
the road late last winter and brought it home to Mrs. Crow. She won't part
with it, of course, but in the interests of sleep she'll let us use it as bait, so to
speak. Now here's what we'll do. I'll fly into town and perch near the house
of some likely young woman. I'll caw, "Come, Come," and when she opens
the door I'll fly down near her with the chain in my beak. Naturally, she'll
follow me, and I'll lead her out here to Giles' house. The rest is up to him."
to be truthful -- his table scraps aren't all that tasty. Can't make a decent
gravy, to save his soul."
fancies Giles, that's good enough for me."
felt his departure should be impressive) he mounted to the sky and headed
mayor's new trousers. After a while he found he was having trouble
keeping his eyes open. "Maybe a cup of tea will help me stay awake," he
thought." Going to the stove he put on the tea kettle, and while the water
was coming to a boil he stood looking out the window to where the road
towards town wound over the hillside.
was streaming down upon her, setting her red hair aglow as if it were on
fire. As she walked she seemed to toss her head angrily, and every so often
she raised her fist and shook it towards the sky. "Hello, what's this?" said
Giles. When the young woman reached his garden gate, she opened it and
started up the path to the house. Giles went to the door to meet her. He
didn't notice Crow flying up to the rooftop.
his tail at the visitor. She gave him scarcely a glance. "I'm Anna Ericson,"
she said to Giles. "Do you know anything about that crow?"
makes you think I would?"
cawing and cawing, and swinging that bit of jewelry. I was up half the
night with a toothache, just got back from the dentist and settled myself in
for a bit of a nap when that crow came cawing. Not a wink of sleep could I
interrupted the young woman, "but ifhe knows what's good for him, he'll
stay out here where he belongs. I'm getting a pocketful of stones on the way
home, and if he comes bothering me again, he'll wish he hadn't."
the path. At the gate, she paused and turned. "By the way," she called back,
"Gretel Henson's spring coat could have done with a kick pleat in back."
advice on tailoring?" He turned and went back to his sewing. After a
a bad idea." He laid down the garment he was working on and looked out
the open door. "What do you think, old boy?" he asked Caleb. "Didn't she
have a temper? Pretty, though." He set to work again.
we'd better add a qualification," he said, when Crow flapped down among
the onions. "The likely young woman needs have a pleasant disposition."
the right one."
came marching to his door. One after the other they explained that they had
been summoned by a crow that cawed "Come, Come," and swung a gold
chain from his beak. Giles was courteous and attentive, but though he was
friendly to all, he seemed uninterested in getting to know any of his visitors
perched on a branch of the hickory while Caleb drowsed in the shade below.
"I said I would get prospective brides out here and after that it would be up
to Giles, but he hardly talks to any of them. I'll tell you frankly, all this
flying back and forth to town is wearing me out."
and dreamy, and he walks around the house sighing. When he sees a young
woman approaching on the path from town he brightens up for a minute or
two, but as soon as she gets close enough for him to see her clearly, he
slumps and sighs again. It seems as if he's expecting someone special, but
who it might be I don't know."
said to Caleb. "Do you want to come along?"
Caleb's sore paws bothered him exceedingly as he and Giles went their way.
Giles, though, had a spring in his step and hummed a cheerful tune as he
walked. As they were passing a small field, Giles left the roadway and
wandered among the tall grasses where he gathered a bouquet of wild
flowers, purple and yellow and white. He was humming again as he came
back to the road. "Isn't it a beautiful day!" he said.
head. "Now, then, old fellow," he said. "I want you to be on your best
behavior. We're going visiting." In only a few minutes they came to a small
cottage with bright blue shutters and window boxes brimming with
begonias. Giles opened the garden gate and motioned for Caleb to lie down
by the fence. Then he strode up the path and knocked on the door. It swung
open. "Well, if it isn't the tailor with the noisy crow," said a pleasant voice.
Caleb's head swung up. He remembered that voice! Standing in the
doorway was the redheaded young woman who had been so angry at Crow.
must be your house. How is your tooth?"
the flowers. They're lovely."
way, your suggestion about a kick pleat in Gretel Jensen's coat was a good
taught me. If I'd been a boy he'd have trained me to take over his business."
She said the last words with some bitterness, and Giles realized that a
woman might think it unfair that tailoring was considered a profession only
much or as little as you please. As a matter of fact, recently business has
been so good I can hardly keep ahead of the work."
and Caleb sped out, his departure hastened by a broom to his hindquarters. "Shame on you, Sir!" cried Anna's voice. "Your place is before the fire, not
upon your master's bed."
house into the garden where Crow was inspecting Giles's ripening tomatoes.
"This is a sad day!" Caleb sighed.
good night's sleep to make the morning seem fresh and full of promise. I
tell you, since Giles's sleepwalking is a thing of the past I feel like a new
these years Giles and I have lived together peacefully, respecting each
other's ways, and now this upstart girl comes in and starts changing
everything. And Giles is so taken with her she'll be Mrs. Giles before we
morning she's bustling about the cottage picking up, dusting, sweeping, and
talking, talking, talking. Always complaining about dog hair. You'd think
she'd never heard of shedding. How can a fellow stop his shedding, I ask
you? She doesn't want me on Giles's bed or near his worktable. Doesn't
like bones lying around. She's always throwing away the nicely-aged ones.
And this morning she told Giles she thought I'd better go on a diet! The
only bearable thing about having her here was her gravy -- quite tasty -- and
now I'm not even to have that. She's only supposed to be an assistant, but she acts more like a wife every day. Oh, Crow, how I wish she'd never come!"
beady eye. "I might be able to do something about that," he said.
suppose you've learned how to say Go, Go?"
"With all my heart," declared Caleb.
contrive to have him leave the cottage for a short time. Do you think you
can do that?"
and full in the black night sky. His fur rippled slightly as a fall breeze
stirred the curtains. His eyes were luminous with longing. Giles looked at
Caleb, then looked at his turned-down bed. He patted the bed invitingly.
"Bedtime, old fellow," he said. Caleb glanced at Giles, then turned his head
back towards the window. Giles looked too. How full and bright the moon was! How soft the night air! "You're right, boy," Giles said. "It's too pretty
a night to ignore. Okay, we'll take a walk. But just a short one."
fluttered in through the window. He flew over to a low table by the bed and
snatched up Giles' pocket watch. It swung from his beak, gleaming in the
moonlight, as he carried it out into the night.
out the light, and sleep descended on the tailor's little cottage.
sun had risen. Now that he had Anna as an assistant he found his days
busier than ever. His fingers would fly as he sat sewing and listening to
Anna's entertaining accounts of the comings and goings of people in town.
She had proved herself to be an accomplished seamstress with an eye for
line and color that drew new customers to his doorway.
Anna was late this morning. He reached for his watch and frowned when he
discovered it wasn't in his pocket. He looked at the bedside table, where he
sometimes laid it, but it wasn't there either.
search, with growing irritation, for the watch was his only legacy from his
father, and he valued it highly. By the time Anna was approaching the
cottage, Giles was in a fury.
cleaning the way you do, you must have mislaid my watch. Do you know
straightening things, you know. Think what you might have done with it."
me for your own carelessness?" she asked.
not there, it's in my pocket. Now, I know you mean well, but.. .. "
won't stay here and be insulted," she said. "You can find another assistant.
You can look for her while you're looking for your watch. I don't care if
you never find either one." She strode to the door, yanked it open, and
slammed it behind her.
in gloom. He hardly attended to his work, just sat with his chin in his hand,
gazing out the window. At first he tried looking for his watch, but he soon
quit looking and gave the watch up for lost. "I don't know, Caleb," he said. "I'm sure Anna's not a thief, but the watch is gone, and who besides Anna
could have mislaid it?"
walked and snored. His work began to suffer. He even neglected Caleb,
sometimes forgetting to fill the water bowl, and sometimes letting the
mastiff go for days without a brushing.
said. "And I do need an assistant. I'll go tell Anna it was all a
misunderstanding and ask her to come back to work."
his hair, put on a clean shirt and whistled for Caleb. "Come on, old man.
Let's go make amends," he said.
see how unhappy she looked. Her eyes were red-rimmed, as if she had been
weeping, and her hair had lost some of its sheen. Giles was so dismayed he
said the first words which came into his mind, "There, there now, Anna.
Don't look so unhappy. It was just an old watch. I forgive you."
ever forgives him," he thought. "I wonder what did happen to Giles's
watch?" Suddenly, Caleb remembered his conversation with Crow. Could
Crow know anything about the watch?
know where Giles's pocket watch is?"
Anna left, and she looked miserable this morning. Now that I think of it, it
wasn't so bad having her around the house. Oh dear, what can I do to
straighten things out?"
Mrs. Crow has been complaining that it takes up too much room in the
the watch. Once Giles discovers that Anna had nothing to do with its
disappearance, he'll go apologize, and everything will be fine. I'll tell you
what. Today while Giles and I are in town burying provisions, you return
the watch. Drop it into Giles's basket of fabric scraps. He's looked there, of
course, but he'll just think he missed it among all the scraps. That's the best
I can think of."
the trip into town, Caleb padded across the floor and flopped down next to the scrap basket. He began scratching his ear. Harder and harder he scratched, until the violent motion of his hind leg knocked the basket over
on its side. There was a clank as the scraps tumbled out. "Hey, old fellow,
take it easy!" protested Giles. He began stuffing scraps back into the basket
when a gleam of metal caught his eye. "What?" Brushing aside the scraps,
he snatched up his watch. "Oh, my! I thought sure I'd checked this basket,"
he said. "Somehow the watch must have fallen in. Anna probably had
nothing to do with it. And look how I accused her! Unforgiveable, that's
what it was. Unforgiveable."
I do? What shall I do?" he muttered. Finally he stopped pacing and went
over to a small table. Drawing out paper, pen and ink, he told Caleb, "I'll
write out my apology. I'll slip the letter under her door early tomorrow.
That way I won't have to face her."
continue to be miserable," thought Caleb. "How can humans make such a
mess of things?"
envelope, turned out the light and crawled into bed with a weary sigh.
Caleb lay awake, unhappy and ashamed. He wasn't a bit surprised when
Giles shortly threw off the covers and headed towards the door, snoring
heavily. All night long, as he followed Giles up hill and down, Caleb
worried at the problem. How could he make amends? How could he bring
Giles and Anna together again?
seemed to him he had hardly slept at all when Giles sat up in bed and
stretched. "I have to take the letter to Anna now," he said. "Do you want to
go along, old fellow?"
where his duty lay. Today Giles' step was heavy, and he made no side trips
into the fields to pick wild flowers. As he and Caleb drew near town, sleep
still lay heavily on the houses. The sky was now early-morning gray, and
no lights shone from the windows of the cottages they passed.
Giles tiptoed up the path to the house, but Caleb could contain
himself no more. This was just too sad! Caleb raised his head to the sky
and howled. Giles spun around, astonished, but Caleb continued. He
wailed out his sorrow for his selfishness, his frustration at Giles'
stubbornness, his shame at the unhappiness he had caused Anna. His cry
rose and fell, ringing on the morning air. "Quiet, old boy! Quiet!"
at Caleb's side, running her hands up and down his sides, patting and
soothing him. "Carry him into the house," she said to Giles. "We can get a
better look at him under the light."
later. He was lying in front of Anna's fireplace, a blanket tucked round him,
an empty gravy bowl on the floor beside him. Giles and Anna, having
assured themselves that Caleb was going to be all right, were having a
companionable cup of tea at Anna's kitchen table.
watch. He laid it on the table in front of Anna. "I found it last night," he
said simply. "In the scrap basket. Can you forgive me, Anna?"
helped you look for the watch! Can you forgive me?"
satisfaction. "Ah, Love!" he thought. Anna would soon be Mrs. Giles, if he
wasn't mistaken. She would fuss about dog hair, and try to put Caleb on a
diet, but now he knew that Anna was as fond of him as she was of Giles.
Perhaps she'll let me have gravy every once in a while, thought Caleb. And
even if she doesn't, at least I won't be walking the hills each night. I do
believe Giles's sleep walking days are over at last.