Another bit of Knights Out

More from the WIP novella:

Two weeks earlier, Gwynn had paid a visit to his tailor. If a cavalier of Ashamoil suffered from occupational hazards, his wardrobe suffered with him, so that even more than the civilian beau of fashion he required new outfits on a frequent schedule, and the appointment was for the fitting of several works in progress.

The tailor’s name was Aubrin Sill. His shop was in a small street above Fountains Bridge, in that old, trim, sedate quarter, cupped between two rugged hills, whose dominant species was the bespoke clothier. Most of the ateliers in the wooden shophouses affected an ouward simplicity, from which it might be gathered that they offered no more than the most basic correction of nakedness, and Sill’s establishment was no exception. Inside, however, one trod on plush fir-green carpets and sat on velvet seats within a grove of carved teak shelving, under a panelled ceiling with bronze gasoliers and water-powered fans: genius might be modest, but it charged an appropriate price for its works. At the side of the shop was a stall with a young groom in livery of the same green as the carpet, into whose care Gwynn delivered his horse before going inside, looking forward both to the indulgence of vanity and the pleasure of the tailor’s company.

He thought highly of Sill, which of course was nothing out of the ordinary. A tailor is the only infallible being that most people will ever encounter. A man without religion may still be moved to a worshipful state by many things, among them the sight of himself in a looking glass, kitted out in splendour, and view the one who kits him as something of an angel. But even in the sartorial heavenly orders Aubrin Sill ranked among the great ones of many wings and eyes. He was made for his work and was a master of it. He knew everything about flattering a figure and displayed the mind of a philosopher of art when he spoke of cut and fabric; and if on the one hand he found inspiration in a mandate to go a mile beyond the mode, the adventurous and conservative impulses were balanced in his character and he forbade a rabble of infelicities in dress, and thus had the dignity of a lawgiver, and to the man who had run off to join a circus he could give assurance that he would never appear as a clown.

But he was even more than this. If some gracious personalities are obviously false, his seemed obviously true; one would expect to find at the core of him the same refinement that characterised the surface. He possessed a quality above the usual benign dignity of tailors, a soulful radiance that nourished the spirits of all who came in contact with him, as though he were, if not an angel, then at least the human incarnation of some uncommonly effective tonic. Gwynn regarded him as one of the city’s very best features.

On that day, however, Aubrin Sill’s aura was scarcely in evidence.

4 thoughts on “Another bit of Knights Out

  1. Really wonderful to read this excerpt! Absolutely loved this and the ensuing descriptions: “A tailor is the only infallible being that most people will ever encounter.”

  2. Exquisite – “no more than the most basic correction of nakedness” !

    A few hours after this, I happened to reread a bit of Anaïs Nin that presented a comrade-in-arms of Sill’s, the Parisian hairdresser –
    “The contour of a shoe, the sleekness of a glove, these give the Parisian woman a trimness, an audacity, that far surpasses the seductiveness of other women. Centuries of coquetry have produced a kind of perfection that is apparent not only in the rich women but in the little shop girls. And the hairdresser is the priest of this cult for perfection. He tutors the women who come from the provinces. He refines vulgar women; he brightens pale women; he gives them all new personalities.
    Linda was fortunate enough to fall into the hands of Michel, whose salon was near the Champs Elysées. Michel was a man of forty, slender, elegant and rather feminine. He spoke suavely, had beautiful salon manners, kissed her hand like an aristocrat, kept his little mustache pointed and glazed. His talk was bright and alive. He was a philosopher and a creator of women. When Linda came in, he cocked his head like a painter who is about to begin a work of art…”

    • That rings a bell! I have a bit of Anais Nin at home — maybe that part’s in it? It’s all delightful, except for the slightly ominous ‘he gives them all new personalities’. Every day I think about changing my hair, but I never do, out of the fear that I’ll end up not only looking like someone else, but in some sense *being* someone else. At least, I think that’s the fear. Anyway, I love the stylish economy with which Nin creates Marcel.

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