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The Blue Suit
by [?]

I was just going into my tailor’s in Sackville Street, when who should be coming out of the same establishment but Mrs Ellis! I was startled, as any man might well have been, to see a lady emerging from my tailor’s. Of course a lady might have been to a tailor’s to order a tailor-made costume. Such an excursion would be perfectly legal and not at all shocking. But then my tailor did not “make” for ladies. And moreover, Mrs Ellis was not what I should call a tailor-made woman. She belonged to the other variety–the fluffy, lacy, flowing variety. I had made her acquaintance on one of my visits to the Five Towns. She was indubitably elegant, but in rather a Midland manner. She was a fine specimen of the provincial woman, and that was one of the reasons why I liked her. Her husband was a successful earthenware manufacturer. Occasionally he had to make long journeys–to Canada, to Australia and New Zealand–in the interests of his business; so that she was sometimes a grass-widow, with plenty of money to spend. Her age was about thirty-five; bright, agreeable, shrewd, downright, energetic; a little short and a little plump. Wherever she was, she was a centre of interest! In default of children of her own she amused herself with the children of her husband’s sister, Mrs Carter. Mr Carter was another successful earthenware manufacturer. Her favourite among nephews and nieces was young Ellis Carter, a considerable local dandy and “dog.” Such was Mrs Ellis.

“Are you a widow just now?” I asked her, after we had shaken hands.

“Yes,” she said. “But my husband touched at Port Said yesterday, thank Heaven.”

“Are you ordering clothes for him to wear on his arrival?” I adopted a teasing tone.

“Can you picture Henry in a Sackville Street suit?” she laughed.

I could not. Henry’s clothes usually had the appearance of having been picked up at a Jew’s.

“Then what are you doing here?” I insisted.

“I came here because I remembered you saying once that this was your tailor’s,” she said, “so I thought it would be a pretty good place.”

Now I would not class my tailor with the half-dozen great tailors of the world, but all the same he is indeed a, pretty good tailor.

“That’s immensely flattering,” I said. “But what have you been doing with him?”

“Business,” said she. “And if you want to satisfy your extraordinary inquisitiveness any further, don’t you think you’d better come right away now and offer me some tea somewhere?”

“Splendid,” I said. “Where?”

“Oh! The Hanover, of course!” she answered.

“Where’s that?” I inquired.

“Don’t you know the Hanover Tea-rooms in Regent Street?” she exclaimed, staggered.

I have often noticed that metropolitan resorts which are regarded by provincials as the very latest word of London style, are perfectly unknown to Londoners themselves. She led me along Vigo Street to the Hanover. It was a huge white place, with a number of little alcoves and a large band. We installed ourselves in one of the alcoves, with supplies of China tea and multitudinous cakes, and grew piquantly intimate, and then she explained her visit to my tailor’s. I propose to give it here as nearly in her own words as I can.


I wouldn’t tell you anything about it (she said) if I didn’t know from the way you talk sometimes that you are interested in people. I mean any people, anywhere. Human nature! Everybody that I come across is frightfully interesting to me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve got so many friends–and enemies. I have, you know. I just like watching people to see what they do, and then what they’ll do next. I don’t seem to mind so much whether they’re good or naughty–with me it’s their interestingness that comes first. Now I suppose you don’t know very much about my nephew, Ellis Carter. Just met him once, I think, and that’s all. Don’t you think he’s handsome? Oh! I do. I think he’s very handsome. But then a man and a woman never do agree about what being handsome is in a man. Ellis is only twenty, too. He has such nice curly hair, and his eyes–haven’t you noticed his eyes? His father says he’s idle. But all fathers say that of their sons. I suppose you’ll admit anyhow that he’s one of the best-dressed youths in the Five Towns. Anyone might think he got his clothes in London, but he doesn’t. It seems there’s a simply marvellous tailor in Bursley, and Ellis and all his friends go to him. His father is always grumbling at the bills, so his mother told me. Well, when I was at their house in July, there happened to come for Ellis one of those fiat boxes that men’s tailors always pack suits in, and so I thought I might as well show a great deal of curiosity about it, and I did. And Ellis undid it in the breakfast-room (his father wasn’t there) and showed me a lovely blue suit. I asked him to go upstairs and put it on. He wouldn’t at first, but his sisters and I worried him till he gave way.