FRATERNITY - BY JOHN GALSWORTHY
FRATERNITY - BY JOHN GALSWORTHY
In the afternoon of the last day of April 190- a billowy sea of
little broken clouds crowned the thin air above High Street
Kensington. This soft tumult of vapours covering nearly all the
firmament was in onslaught round a patch of blue sky shaped
somewhat like a star which still gleamed--a single gentian flower
amongst innumerable grass. Each of these small clouds seemed fitted
with a pair of unseen wings and as insects flight on their too
constant journeys they were setting forth all ways round this starry
blossom which burned so clear with the colour of its far fixity. On
one side they were massed in fleecy congeries so crowding each other
that no edge or outline was preserved; on the other higher
stronger emergent from their fellow-clouds they seemed leading the
attack on that surviving gleam of the ineffable. Infinite was the
variety of those million separate vapours infinite the unchanging
unity of that fixed blue star.
Down in the street beneath this eternal warring of the various soft-
winged clouds on the unmisted ether men women children and their
familiars--horses dogs and cats--were pursuing their occupations
with the sweet zest of the Spring. They streamed along and the
noise of their frequenting rose in an unbroken roar: "I I-I I!"
The crowd was perhaps thickest outside the premises of Messrs. Rose
and Thorn. Every kind of being from the highest to the lowest
passed in front of the hundred doors of this establishment; and
before the costume window a rather tall slight graceful woman stood
thinking: "It really is gentian blue! But I don't know whether I
ought to buy it with all this distress about!"
Her eyes which were greenish-grey and often ironical lest they
should reveal her soul seemed probing a blue gown displayed in that
window to the very heart of its desirability.
"And suppose Stephen doesn't like me in it!" This doubt set her
gloved fingers pleating the bosom of her frock. Into that little
pleat she folded the essence of herself the wish to have and the
fear of having the wish to be and the fear of being and her veil
falling from the edge of her hat three inches from her face
shrouded with its tissue her half-decided little features her rather
too high cheek-bones her cheeks which were slightly hollowed as
though Time had kissed them just too much.
The old man with a long face eyes rimmed like a parrot's and
discoloured nose who so long as he did not sit down was permitted
to frequent the pavement just there and sell the 'Westminster
Gazette' marked her and took his empty pipe out of his mouth.
It was his business to know all the passers-by and his pleasure too;
his mind was thus distracted from the condition of his feet. He knew
this particular lady with the delicate face and found her puzzling;
she sometimes bought the paper which Fate condemned him against his
politics to sell. The Tory journals were undoubtedly those which
her class of person ought to purchase. He knew a lady when he saw
one. In fact before Life threw him into the streets by giving him
a disease in curing which his savings had disappeared he had been a
butler and for the gentry had a respect as incurable as was his
distrust of "all that class of people" who bought their things at
"these 'ere large establishments" and attended "these 'ere
subscription dances at the Town 'All over there." He watched her
with special interest not indeed attempting to attract attention
though conscious in every fibre that he had only sold five copies of
his early issues. And he was sorry and surprised when she passed
from his sight through one of the hundred doors.
The thought which spurred her into Messrs. Rose and Thorn's was this:
"I am thirty-eight; I have a daughter of seventeen. I cannot afford
to lose my husband's admiration. The time is on me when I really
must make myself look nice!"
Before a long mirror in whose bright pool there yearly bathed
hundreds of women's bodies divested of skirts and bodices whose
unruffled surface reflected daily a dozen women's souls divested of
everything her eyes became as bright as steel; but having
ascertained the need of taking two inches off the chest of the
gentian frock one off its waist three off its hips and of adding
one to its skirt they clouded again with doubt as though prepared
to fly from the decision she had come to. Resuming her bodice she
"When could you let me have it?"
"At the end of the week madam."
"Not till then?"
"We are very pressed madam."
"Oh but you must let me have it by Thursday at the latest please."
The fitter sighed: "I will do my best."
"I shall rely on you. Mrs. Stephen Dallison 76 The Old Square."
Going downstairs she thought: "That poor girl looked very tired; it's
a shame they give them such long hours!" and she passed into the
A voice said timidly behind her: "Westminister marm?"
"That's the poor old creature" thought Cecilia Dallison "whose nose
is so unpleasant. I don't really think I--" and she felt for a penny
in her little bag. Standing beside the "poor old creature" was a
woman clothed in worn but neat black clothes and an ancient toque
which had once known a better head. The wan remains of a little bit
of fur lay round her throat. She had a thin face not without
refinement mild very clear brown eyes and a twist of smooth black
hair. Beside her was a skimpy little boy and in her arms a baby.
Mrs. Dallison held out two-pence for the paper but it was at the
woman that she looked.
"Oh Mrs. Hughs" she said "we've been expecting you to hem the
The woman slightly pressed the baby.
"I am very sorry ma'am. I knew I was expected but I've had such
Cecilia winced. "Oh really?"
"Yes m'm; it's my husband."
"Oh dear!" Cecilia murmured. "But why didn't you come to us?"
"I didn't feel up to it ma'am; I didn't really--"