Tailor by T. S. Arthur
An Extract From
Married Life, Its Shadows and Sunshine
"KATE, Kate!" said Aunt Prudence, shaking her head and finger at
the giddy girl.
"It's true, aunt. What! marry a tailor? The ninth part of a man,
that doubles itself down upon a board, with thimble, scissors, and
"I've heard girls talk before now, Kate; and I've seen them act,
too; and, if I am to judge from what I've seen, I should say that you
were as likely to marry a tailor as anybody else."
"I'd hang myself first!"
"Yes, or jump into the river. Do any thing, in fact, before I'd
marry a tailor."
"Perhaps you would not object to a merchant tailor?"
"Perhaps I would, though! A tailor's a tailor, and that is all you
can make of him. 'Merchant tailor!' Why not say merchant shoemaker,
or merchant boot-black? Isn't it ridiculous?"
"Ah well, Kate," said Aunt Prudence, "you may be thankful if you
get an honest, industrious, kind-hearted man for a husband, be he a
tailor or a shoemaker. I've seen many a heart-broken wife in my day
whose husband was not a tailor. It isn't in the calling, child, that
you must look for honour or excellence, but in the man. As Burns
says—'The man's the goud for a' that.'"
"But a man wouldn't stoop to be a tailor."
"You talk like a thoughtless, silly girl, as you are, Kate. But
time will take all this nonsense out of you, or I am very much
mistaken. I could tell you a story about marrying a tailor, that would
surprise you a little."
"I should like, above all things in the world, to hear a story of
any interest, in which a tailor was introduced."
"I think I could tell you one."
"Please do, aunt. It would be such a novelty. A very rara avis
, as brother Tom says. I shall laugh until my sides ache."
"If you don't cry, Kate, I shall wonder," said Aunt Prudence,
"Cry? oh, dear! And all about a tailor! But tell the story, aunt."
"Some other time, dear."
"Oh, no. I'm just in the humour to hear it now. I'm as full of fun
as I can stick, and shall need all this overflow of spirits to keep
me up while listening to the pathetic story of a tailor."
"Perhaps you are right, Kate. It may require all the spirits you
can muster," returned Aunt Prudence, in a voice that was quite
serious. "So I will tell you the story now."
And Aunt Prudence thus began:
A good many years ago,—I was quite a young girl then,—two
children were left orphans, at the age of eleven years. They were
twins—brother and sister. Their names I will call Joseph and Agnes
Fletcher. The death of their parents left them without friends or
relatives; but a kind-hearted tailor and his wife, who lived
neighbours, took pity on the children and gave them a home. Joseph
was a smart, intelligent lad, and the tailor thought he could do no
better by him than to teach him his trade. So he set him to work with
the needle, occasionally sent him about on errands, and let him go to
school during the slack season. Joseph was a willing boy, as well as
attentive, industrious, and apt to learn. He applied himself to his
books and also to his work, and thereby gave great satisfaction to the
good tailor. Agnes was employed about the house by the tailor's wife,
who treated her kindly.
As Joseph grew older, he became more useful to his master, for he
rapidly acquired a knowledge of his trade, and did his work
remarkably well. At the same time, a desire to improve his mind made
him studious and thoughtful. While other boys were amusing
themselves, Joseph was alone with his book. At the age of eighteen he
had grown quite tall, and was manly in his appearance. He had already
acquired a large amount of information on various subjects, and was
accounted by those who knew him a very intelligent young man. About
this time, a circumstance occurred that influenced his whole
after-life. He had been introduced by a friend to several pleasant
families, which he visited regularly. In one of these visits, he met a
young lady, the daughter of a dry-goods dealer, toward whom he felt,
from the beginning, a strong attachment. Her name was Mary Dielman.
Led on by his feelings, he could not help showing her some attention,
which she evidently received with satisfaction. One evening, he was
sitting near where she was chatting away at a lively rate, in the
midst of a gay circle of young girls, and, to his surprise, chagrin,
and mortification, heard her ridiculing, as you too often do, the
business at which he was serving an apprenticeship.
"Marry a tailor!" he heard her say, in a tone of contempt. "I would
drown myself first."
This was enough. Joseph's feelings were like the leaves of a
sensitive plant. He did not venture near the thoughtless girl during
the evening, and whenever they again met, he was distant and formal.
Still, the thought of her made the blood flow quicker through his
veins, and the sight of her made his heart throb with a sudden bound.
From that time, Joseph, who had looked forward with pleasure to the
period when, as a man, he could commence his business, and prosecute
it with energy and success, became dissatisfied with the trade he was
learning. The contemptuous words of Mary Dielman made him feel that
there was something low in the calling of a tailor—something beneath
the dignity of a man. He did not reason on the subject; he only felt.
Gradually he withdrew himself from society, and shut himself up at
home, devoting all his leisure to reading and study. This was
continued until he attained the age of manhood, soon after which he
procured the situation of clerk in a dry-goods store. At his trade he
could easily earn twelve dollars a week; but he left it, because he
was silly enough to be ashamed of it, and went into a dry-goods store
at a salary of four hundred dollars a year. As a clerk he felt more
like a man. Why he should, is more than I can comprehend. But so it
As for Mary Dielman, she was not aware, at the time when she felt
so pleased with the attentions of Joseph Fletcher, that he was a
tailor—a calling for which she always expressed the most supreme
contempt. Her thoughtless words were not, therefore, meant for his
ears. The fact that she had uttered them was not remembered ten
minutes after they were spoken. Why she no longer met the
fine-looking, attentive and intelligent young man, she did not know.
Often she thought of him, and often searched the room for him, with
her eyes, when in company.
Nearly four years passed before they again met. Then Joseph was
greatly improved, and so was the beautiful maiden. The
half-extinguished fire of love, that had been smouldering in their
bosoms, rekindled, and now burned with a steady flame. They saw each
other frequently, and it was not long before the young man told her
all that was in his heart, and she heard the story with tremulous
The father of Mary, although a merchant, was not nearly so well off
in the world as many tailors. His family was expensive and drew too
heavily upon his income. The capital employed in trade was therefore
kept low, and his operations were often crippled for want of adequate
means. He had nothing, therefore, to settle upon his daughter. When
young Fletcher applied for her hand, his salary was five hundred
dollars. Mr. Dielman thought his prospects not over flattering, but
still gave his consent; at the same time advising him not to think of
marriage for a year or two, when he would no doubt be in a better
condition to take a wife.
The young couple, like most young couples, were impatient to be
married; and Joseph Fletcher, in order to be in a condition that
would justify him in talking a wife, was impatient to go into
business. Somehow or other, it had entered his mind that any young
man of business capacity and enterprise could do well in the West;
and he finally made up his mind to take a stock of goods, which he
found no difficulty in obtaining, and go to Madison, in Indiana.
Before starting, however, he engaged to return in six months, or so
soon as he was fairly under way, and make Mary his wife. At the time
named, he was back, when the marriage took place, and he returned
with his bride to Madison.
At the trade of a tailor, the young man had served an
apprenticeship of seven years. He was a good workman, and had, during
the last two years of his apprenticeship, assisted his master in
cutting; so that in the art to which he was educated he was thoroughly
at home; and, in setting it up, would have been sure of success. But
success was by no means so certain a thing in the new pursuit unwisely
adopted. He had been familiar with it for only about two years; in
that time he had performed his part as a clerk to the entire
satisfaction of his employers; but he had not gained sufficient
knowledge of the principles of trade, nor was his experience enlarged
enough to justify his entering into business, especially as he did not
possess a dollar of real capital. The result was as might have been
expected. A year and a half of great difficulty and anxiety was all
the time required to bring his experiment to a close.
Finding that he was in difficulty, two or three of his principal
eastern creditors, whose claims were due, sent out their accounts to
a lawyer, With directions to put them in suit immediately. This
brought his affairs to a crisis. An arrangement was made for the
benefit of all the creditors, and the young man thrown out of
business, with less than a hundred dollars in his pocket. Nearly
about the same time, Mr. Dielman, the father of his wife, failed
As a serious loss has been sustained by his eastern creditors on
account of the unfortunate termination of his business, Fletcher
could not think of going back. He therefore sought to obtain
employment as a clerk in Madison. Failing in this, he visited
Louisville and Cincinnati, but with no better success. He was unknown
in the two last-named cities, and therefore his failure to obtain
employment there was no matter of surprise.
Things now wore a very serious aspect. A few weeks found the
unhappy young man reduced to the extremity of breaking up and selling
his furniture by auction in order to get money to live upon. There was
scarcely a store in Madison at which he had not sought for
employment. But all his efforts proved vain. He had a good trade;
why, you will ask, did he not endeavour to get work at that? You
forget. It was the trade of a tailor!—the calling so despised by his
wife. How could he own to her that he was but a tailor! How could he
break to her the disgraceful truth that she had married a tailor!
The money obtained by selling their furniture did not last a very
"I will make another effort to obtain employment in Cincinnati,"
said the young man, after they were reduced almost to their last
dollar. "It is useless to try any longer in this place. I have waited
and hoped for some favourable turn of fortune, until my heart is
His wife made no objection, for she had none to make.
On the next day, Fletcher left for Cincinnati. He arrived there in
the night. On the following morning, he left the hotel at which he
had stopped, and, going into Main street, entered the first
merchant-tailor's shop that came in his way.
"Have you any work?" he asked.
"We have room for a journeyman, and are in want of one. Can you do
the best work?"
"Did you serve your time in the city?"
"No. I am from the East."
"Very well. Here is a job all ready. You can go to work at once."
The young man did not hesitate. He took the bundle of work that was
given him, and was shown into the back shop. He wrote home
immediately that he had obtained employment, which he hoped would be
permanent, and that he would be in Madison, Saturday about midnight,
and leave again on Sunday evening. He did not say, however, what kind
of employment he had procured. That was a secret he meant, if
possible, to conceal. When he met his wife, he evaded her direct
questions as to the kind of employment he was engaged in, somewhat to
For a month, Fletcher went and returned from Cincinnati, weekly,
bringing home about eight dollars each week, after paying all his
expenses. By that time, his wife insisted so strongly upon going to
Cincinnati with him, and taking boarding, that he could make no
reasonable objection to the step. And so they removed, Fletcher
feeling many serious misgivings at heart, lest his wife should make a
discovery of the truth that she had married only a tailor!
"Where did you say the store was at which you are employed?" she
asked, a day or two after they were comfortably settled at a very
pleasant boarding-house in Cincinnati.
"On Main street," replied Fletcher, a little coldly.
"What is the name of the firm? I forget."
Fletcher could not lie outright to his wife, so he told her the
truth, but with great reluctance.
No more was said then on the subject. About a week afterward, Mrs.
Fletcher said to her husband, "I was along Main street to-day, and
looked at the signs over every dry-goods store that I passed, but I
did not see that of Carter Cassard."
In spite of all he could do, the blood rushed to the face of the
young man, and his eyes fell under the steady look directed toward
him by his wife.
"The store is there, nevertheless," said he. His manner and the
tone in which he spoke excited in the mind of his wife a feeling of
For the next four days, there was a strong conflict in Fletcher's
mind between false pride and duty. It grieves me to say that, in the
end, the former conquered. On Saturday night, he came home with a
troubled look, and told his wife that he had lost his situation,
which he said had only been a temporary one. In this he certainly
went beyond the truth, for he had given it up voluntarily.
The poor young creature's heart sank in her. They had only been in
Cincinnati about two weeks; were among entire strangers, and all
means of subsistence were again taken from them. It is no wonder that
she wept bitterly upon receiving this sudden and distressing
intelligence. To see his wife in tears filled the heart of Fletcher
with the severest pangs. He more than half repented of what he had
done. But the thought of confessing that he was only a tailor made
him firm in his resolution to meet any consequence rather than that.
"He was a fool!" exclaimed Kate, no longer able to restrain her
indignation against the young man, and thus breaking in upon her
"But remember, Kate, how contemptuously he had heard her speak of
his trade, and even vow that she would rather drown herself than
marry a tailor."
"Suppose she did say this, when a thoughtless girl"—
"As you are, Kate."
"Don't bring me into the matter, aunt. But suppose she did say so,
is that any reason for his starving her? He was bound to use his best
efforts for the support of his family, and ought to have been
thankful, under the circumstances, that he was a tailor."
"So I think. And his wife ought to have been thankful too."
"And I suppose she would have been if he had possessed the
manliness to tell her the truth."
"No doubt in the world of that," returned Aunt Prudence, and then
resumed her narrative:
A week was spent by the young man in another vain effort to find
employment as a clerk. Then he avowed his intention to go to
Louisville, and see if nothing could be done there.
"Try longer here, Joseph. Don't go away yet, earnestly and
tearfully pleaded his wife. "You don't know how hard it is for me to
be separated from you. I am lonely through the day, and the nights
pass, oh! so heavily. Something may turn up for you here. Try for a
"But our money is nearly all gone. If I don't go now, I shall have
no means of getting away from this place. I feel sure that I can find
something to do there."
His wife pleaded with him, but in vain. To Louisville he went, and
there got work at the first shop to which he made application. At the
end of a week he sent his wife money, and told her that he had
procured temporary employment. She wrote back asking if she might not
join him immediately. But to this he objected, on the score that, as
his situation was not a permanent one, he might, in a few weeks, be
obliged to leave Louisville and go somewhere else. This, to his wife,
was by no means satisfactory. But she could do no less than submit.
Thus separated, they lived for the next three months, Fletcher
visiting his wife and child once every two weeks, and spending Sunday
with them. During the time, he made good wages. But both himself and
wife were very unhappy. Earnestly did the latter plead with her
husband to be allowed to remove to Louisville. To this however, he
steadily objected. Daily he lived in the hope of securing a clerkship
in some store, and thus, being able to rise above the low condition in
which he was placed. The moment he reached that consummation, so much
desired, he would instantly remove his family.
At length, it happened that Fletcher did not write once, instead of
several times, during one of the periods of two weeks that he was
regularly absent. The Sunday morning when he was expected home
arrived, but it did not bring, as usual, his anxiously looked-for
presence. His wife was almost beside herself with alarm. No letter
coming on Monday, she took her child and started for Louisville in
the first boat. She arrived at daylight, on Tuesday morning, in a
strange city, herself a total stranger to all therein, except her
husband, and perfectly ignorant as to where he was to be found. The
captain of the steamboat kindly attended her to a boarding-house, and
there she was left, without a single clue in her mind as to the means
of finding her husband. Inquiries were made of all in the
boarding-house, but no one had heard even the name of Joseph
Fletcher. As soon as she could make arrangements to get out, Mrs.
Fletcher visited all the dry-goods stores in the city, for in some
one of these she supposed her husband to be employed, although he had
never stated particularly the kind of business in which he was
engaged. This search, after being continued for a greater part of the
day, turned out fruitless. Night found the unhappy wife in an agony of
suspense and alarm. Some one at the boarding-house advised her to have
an advertisement for her husband inserted in a morning paper. She did
not hesitate long about this course. In the morning, a brief
advertisement appeared; and about nine o'clock a man called and asked
to see her.
She descended from her room to the parlour with a wildly throbbing
heart, but staggered forward and sank into a chair, weak almost as an
infant, when she saw that the man was a stranger, instead of her
husband, whom she had expected to meet.
"Are you Mrs. Fletcher?" he asked.
"I am," she faintly replied.
"You advertised for information in regard to your husband?"
"I did. Where is he? Oh, sir, has any thing happened to him?"
"No, ma'am, nothing serious. He has only been sick for a week or
ten days; that is, the man I refer to has. Your husband is a tailor?"
"Is the man you speak of a tailor?" eagerly asked Mrs. Fletcher.
"He is, ma'am; and has been working for me at No.—Fourth street."
"Then he is not my husband," replied the poor wife, bursting into
tears. "My husband is a clerk." In the bitterness of a keen
disappointment, rendered sharper by doubt and fear, Mrs. Fletcher
wept for some minutes. When she could command her feelings to some
extent, she thanked the tailor for calling, and repeated what she had
said, that the man at his house could not be her husband.
"He is from Cincinnati, ma'am; and goes there once in every two
weeks. I know that he has wife and child there," said the man.
"Still he cannot be my husband," replied Mrs. Fletcher; "for my
husband is not a tailor."
"No, not in that case, certainly." And the man owed and withdrew.
All day long the wife waited for some more satisfactory reply to
her advertisement, but no farther response to it was made. The call of
the tailor seemed like a mockery of her unhappy condition.
Night came, and all remained in doubt and darkness; and then the
mind of Mrs. Fletcher turned to the visit of the tailor, half
despairingly, in order to find some feeble gleam of hope. Perhaps,
she said to herself, as she thought about it, there is some mistake.
Perhaps it is my husband after all, and the man is in some error
about his being a tailor. As she thought, it suddenly flashed through
her mind that there had been a good deal of mystery made by her
husband about his situation in Cincinnati as well as in Louisville,
which always struck her as a little strange. Could it be possible that
his real business was that of a tailor? All at once she remembered
that her husband had been particularly silent in regard to his early
history. Trembling with excitement, she left the house about eight
o'clock in the evening, and started for the place where she remembered
that the tailor said he lived. He was in his shop, and recollected her
the moment she entered.
"Can I see the man you told me was named Fletcher?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am; and I sincerely hope there has been some mistake, and
that you will find him to be your husband; for he is very ill, and
needs to be nursed by a careful hand."
Mrs. Fletcher followed the tailor up stairs, her heart scarcely
beating under the pressure of suspense. In a small chamber in the
third story, the atmosphere of which was close, oppressive, and
filled with an offensive odour, she was shown a man lying upon a bed.
She needed not a second glance, as the dim light fell upon his pale,
emaciated face, to decide her doubts. Her husband lay before her.
Eagerly she called his name, but his eyes did not open. She spoke to
him again and again, but he did not recognise, even if he heard her
On inquiring, she found that he was ill with a violent fever, which
the doctor said was about at its crisis. This had been brought on by
too long continued labour—he having worked, often, sixteen and
seventeen hours out of the twenty-four—by that means earning a third
more wages than any journeyman in the shop.
Alarmed and troubled as she was, Mrs. Fletcher was utterly
confounded by all this. She could not comprehend it. All night she
hovered over the pillow of her husband, giving him medicine at the
proper times, placing the cooling draught to his lips or bathing his
hot forehead. Frequently she called his name, earnestly and tenderly,
but the sound awoke no motions in his sluggish mind. Toward morning,
she was sitting with her face resting against a pillow, when his
voice, speaking distinctly, aroused her from a half slumber into which
she had, momentarily, lost herself. In an instant she was leaning over
him, with his name upon her lips. His eyes were opens and he looked
steadily into her face. But it was evident that he did not know her.
"Joseph! Joseph! don't you know me?" said she. "I am your wife. I
am here with you."
"Poor Mary!" he murmured, sadly, not understanding what was said.
"If she knew all, it would break her heart."
"What would break her heart?" quickly asked his wife.
"Poor Mary! She said she would never marry"—here the sick man's
voice became inarticulate.
But all was clear to the mind of Mrs. Fletcher. She remembered how
often she had made the thoughtless remark to which her husband
evidently referred. The tears again fell over her cheeks, until they
dropped even upon the face of her husband, who, after he had said
this, muttered for a while, inarticulately, and then, closing his
eyes, went off into sleep.
Toward morning a slight moisture broke out all over him, and his
sleep that was heavy, became soft and tranquil. The crisis was past!
In order not to disturb the quiet slumberer, Mrs. Fletcher sat down
by the bedside perfectly still. It was not very long before,
over-wearied as she was, sleep likewise stole over her senses. It was
daylight when she was awakened by hearing her name called. Starting
up, she met the face of her husband turned earnestly toward her.
"Dear husband!" she exclaimed, "do you know me?"
"Yes, Mary. But how came you here?" he said, in a feeble voice.
"We will speak of that at some other time," she replied. "Enough
that I am here, where I ought to have been ten days ago. But that was
not my fault."
Fletcher was about to make some farther remark, when his wife
placed her finger upon his lips, and said—
"You must not talk, dear; your disease has just made a favourable
change, and your life depends upon your being perfectly quiet. Enough
for me to say that I know all, and love you just as well, perhaps
better. You are a weak, foolish man, Joseph," she added, with a smile,
"or else thought me a weak and foolish woman. But all that we can
settle hereafter. Thank God that I have found you; and that you are,
to all appearances, out of danger."
Aunt Prudence looked into Kate's face, and saw that tears were on
"Would you have loved him less, Kate," she asked, "if he had been
"He would have been the same to me whatever might have been his
calling. That could not have changed him."
"No, certainly not. But I have a word or two more to add. As soon
as Fletcher was well enough to go to work, he took his place again
upon the shop-board, his wife feeling happier than she had felt for a
long time. In about six months he rose to be foreman of the shop, and
a year after that became a partner in the business At the end of ten
years he sold out his interest in the business, and returned to the
East with thirty thousand dollars in cash. This handsome capital
enabled him to get into an old and well-established mercantile house
as partner, where he remained until his death. About the time of his
return to the East, you, Kate, were born."
"I!" ejaculated the astonished girl.
"Yes. Their two older children died while they were in Louisville,
and you, their third child, were born about six months before they
"I!" repeat Kate, in the same surprised tone of voice.
"Yes, dear, you! I have given you a history of your own father and
mother. So, as you're the daughter of a tailor, you must not object
to a tailor for a husband, if he be the right kind of a man."
It may very naturally be supposed that Kate had but little to say
against tailors after that, although we are by no means sure that she
had any intention of becoming the bride of one.