Bartholomew Dobbins and the 100 Face Masks, June 2020 by Louise Capon©

Once there was a tailor, named Bartholomew Dobbins, who lived in a small shop on the edge of town.  All day he sewed for the town’s people.  He hemmed pants and dresses, replaced buttons, and fixed jackets to fit like they were custom made.  He made dresses and hats and all manner of clothing.  He even made the bridesmaid dresses when the Mayor’s daughter got married.  It was a fine and fancy wedding and Bartholomew Dobbins was proud to have helped.

But one year, in the spring, there was trouble.  That winter, a wicked virus came to the town and was spreading among the town’s people.  Many folks were sick.  Some had died.  No one knew how to make it go away or how to protect themselves.  The Mayor was very worried and upset.  His job was to take care of the town and the people in it.  So, the Mayor made a proclamation that all people, young and old, should wear masks to cover their noses and mouths when they went out of their homes.  This way, they could slow down the spread of the virus and maybe stop people from getting sick.

Bartholomew Dobbins did not live in the busy part of town.  His little shop was on a quiet street, on the edge of town.  He did not worry too much about the sickness.  When he was by himself, working, it seemed that nothing was any different than usual.

The morning that the Mayor made his proclamation, Bartholomew Dobbins woke up and realized he had nothing to eat for breakfast.  In fact, all the food in his small pantry had been used up. Bartholomew Dobbins would have to go into town and go to the market for supplies.

“Well,” he said, to himself, “I will have to make a face mask, then.  The mayor says everyone must wear one to go outside.” So, he found a piece of black fabric left over from shortening some trousers and set to making a tidy little face mask for himself. Just as he was finishing, a businessman came into the shop.

“Please,” said the businessman, “you must help me.  I have an important meeting in town and have torn my pants!”

Well, this was just the sort of thing Bartholomew Dobbins did best.  The man gave Bartholomew his trousers and started looking around the shop.  Bartholomew Dobbins set to work at his sewing machine.  In no time at all, he had the man’s trousers mended as good as new.  When Bartholomew Dobbins went to the man with his mended trousers, the man was looking at the little black face mask which was sitting on the counter where Bartholomew had left it when the man came in.

“This is a very nice face mask,” said the man.  “Can I buy it?  I must have one for my meeting in town.”  The man paid for the face mask and his trouser repair and left the shop, very happy.  

Bartholomew Dobbins smiled and sat down to make another face mask from a piece of blue broadcloth.  He was very hungry and needed to get to the market.

“But,” he said to himself, “I will make two this time – just in case.”

And it was a good thing he did, because, as he was finishing the second mask, in walked a woman and her daughter.

“My daughter has popped the buttons off her sweater,” she said.  “Can you sew them back on for us, please?”  Then she looked over at Bartholomew’s work table.  “Oooh!  Are you making face masks?  What a pretty blue color! I need one for myself and one for my daughter.  We need to take the bus to music lessons this afternoon.”  So, Bartholomew Dobbins sold her the two new masks on his sewing machine.

Bartholomew Dobbins went to look in his scrap bin for another piece of fabric.  Before he got started, in walked a tall woman with six little girls.  They were all dressed in green dresses with sashes across their chests.  The woman marched purposefully up to the counter.

“You are a tailor,” she said, very loudly.  “Do you make face masks?  I need masks for all my Adventure Girls, right away!  We are going to the museum this afternoon, and they won’t let us in without them!”

Bartholomew jumped slightly.  The woman had a very direct way of speaking!  But he found a large piece of green twill shirting, and in a very short time, made seven lovely face masks for the little girls and their leader.

“Come along, girls,” shouted the Adventure Girls’ leader.  They all called out thank you and marched out of the shop.

Bartholomew Dobbins wiped his brow.  This was becoming a very interesting morning.  And he still had not gotten any breakfast.  He was about to turn back to his scrap bin, when a familiar face popped around the doorway of his shop.

“Hello, Bartholomew!” called out Mary, the baker.  Here was a face Bartholomew Dobbins was always glad to see.  “I wonder if I could ask a favor.  I need ten face masks for my bakers and assistants at the bakery.  Can you make them for me?”

“Can I?” thought Bartholomew.  But he smiled and said, “Of course!  But I haven’t had any breakfast yet!”

“No problem,” replied Mary.  “I’ll just run and get you a nice bun while you work.”  And off she went.

When she returned, Bartholomew Dobbins had a neat pile of ten masks made from striped shirting scraps.

“These are perfect,” said Mary, and she hurried back to the bakery.

As Bartholomew Dobbins munched on his fresh bun, he thought about the morning–
One black mask for the businessman.
Two blue masks for the mother and daughter going to music lessons.
Seven green masks for the Adventure Girls troop.
Ten striped masks for the bakery shop workers.
That makes twenty face masks.

1 + 2 + 7 + 10 = 20 face masks.

It had been a very busy morning.  Bartholomew went back to his scrap bin.  The black, green, and blue fabrics were gone, but there were still lots of other scraps.

At the sound of the bell over the door, Bartholomew Dobbins sighed and went to the front of his shop.  There was a very large and important looking man standing by the counter, wearing a red coat with black sleeves and gold buttons.

“The Order of the Scarlet Tanagers is in town for its annual meeting,” said the man.  “I heard you were making face masks.  We need thirty important red masks for our convention.  Can you do that?  We need them right away!” Then he flapped his arms and squawked like a bird. 

“Let me see what I have for fabric,” replied the startled tailor.  And he rushed back to his scrap bin to have a look.  Fortunately, the church had needed costumes for their pageant last Christmas, and there was a large piece of red with gold stripes left over from Joseph’s robe.

“Perfect,” said Bartholomew, and he sat down to sew.

The large man in the red coat stood and thumped his foot impatiently, never taking his eyes off the sewing machine.  At last the thirty masks were done, and, much to Bartholomew Dobbins’ relief, the man left the shop.  

“Well,” said Bartholomew Dobbins, “twenty masks and thirty masks, that makes fifty! What a busy morning. Now I will make one for me.”

1 + 2 + 7 + 10 + 30 = 50 face masks.

But, before he could get to the scrap bin, the door opened again.  In came all six librarians from the town library, then four lawyers, two rabbis, seven members of the town council, and Granny Watkins.  Bartholomew was out of black fabric scraps, out of shirting and out of gray pinstripe, and had used up a lovely bit of lavender pique.  Everyone was very happy with their face masks, but the scrap bin was getting emptier and emptier.

1 + 2 + 7 + 10 + 30 + 6 + 4 + 2 + 7 + 1 = 70 face masks.

The shop was suddenly very quiet, but not for long.  A school bus pulled up in front of the shop.  Out poured the entire first and second grades from the Main Street School.  Into the little shop filed the children and their teachers.

“We’re going on a field trip!” the children cried, jumping up and down.

“Quiet!” said the two teachers.

“Excuse me, Mr. Dobbins,” began Mrs. Thorne, the first-grade teacher.  “Could you possibly make face masks for these children, and Mrs. Brown, and myself?  We need them for our outing to the Water Filtration Plant tomorrow.”

Bartholomew Dobbins counted the children.  Twenty-seven first and second graders and two teachers.  Next, he went to his scrap box.  The pile of fabric was getting very low.  All the cottons and wool- suiting were gone.  All that was left were silks and taffetas from bridesmaid and opera gowns.

“Well….”  said Bartholomew Dobbins, thoughtfully.  “Perhaps the children will like something different and special.”

And Bartholomew Dobbins set to and sewed up a very fine bunch of face masks, indeed.  There was scarlet red satin with lace and pearls.  There was deep purple velvet and mysterious black chiffon.  There was a shiny blue taffeta with gold stars. And last, but not least, a colorful turquoise beaded net overlay for the teachers.

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mrs. Thorne and Mrs. Brown, admiring their masks in the shop mirror.

“Yeah! Yeah! Mine’s the best!” shouted each of the children.

“Thank goodness!”  whispered Bartholomew Dobbins as they all bounced back on the school bus. “One black mask for the businessman.
Two blue masks for the mother and daughter going to music lessons.
Seven green masks for the Adventure Girl troop.
Ten striped masks for the bakery shop workers.
Thirty red and gold masks for the Scarlet Tanagers’ convention.
Six calico flowered masks for the librarians.
Four pinstriped masks for the lawyers.
Two masks of black wool-suiting for the rabbis.
Seven brown flannel masks for the town council.
One lovely lavender pique mask for Granny Watkins.
Twenty-nine fancy masks for the Main Street School.
That makes ninety-nine masks!”

1 + 2 + 7 + 10 + 30 + 6 + 4 + 2 + 7 + 1 + 29 = 99 face masks.

But still there was one more face mask Bartholomew Dobbins needed to sew.  In the bottom of his scrap bin there was only one piece of fabric left.  It was from a wedding dress of white satin with lace, sequins, and pearls all sewn in beautiful flowers, swirls, and feathers.  It made the grandest and fanciest face mask of them all.

And Bartholomew Dobbins finally went to the market.

100 Face Masks–
One black mask for the businessman.
Two blue masks for the mother and daughter going to music lessons.
Seven green masks for the Adventure Girl troop.
Ten striped masks for the bakery shop workers.
Thirty red and gold masks for the Scarlet Tanagers’ convention.
Six calico flowered masks for the librarians.
Four pinstriped masks for the lawyers.
Two masks of black wool-suiting for the rabbis.
Seven brown flannel masks for the town council.
One lovely lavender pique mask for Granny Watkins.
Twenty-nine fancy masks for the Main Street School.
One extra fancy, very special mask for Bartholomew Dobbins.

1 + 2 + 7 + 10 + 30 + 6 + 4 + 2 + 7 + 1 + 29 + 1 = 100 face masks.

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