Caste of Cloth Workers
Here are relevant references from the Books where the Caste of Cloth Workers is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
The Initiates had their way of life, their ancient traditions, their given livelihood, the prestige of their caste, which they claimed to be the highest on the planet, their teachings, their holy books, their services, their role to play in the culture. Suppose that even now if they knew the truth - what would change? Would I really expect them - at least on the whole - to burn their robes, to surrender their claims to secret knowledge and powers, to pick up the hoes of Peasants, the needles of the Cloth Workers, to bend their energies to the humble tasks of honest work?
I heard someone ask, "Was she of High Caste?"
"I was the daughter of a Cloth Worker," said Melanie.
Of the two hundred remaining double tarns from the victory in the Ubar's race I gave all but one to free Melanie, who had served in the kitchens of Cernus, and arrange a livelihood for her. With the money remaining over from her purchase price, which was negligible, she, who had been of the Cloth Workers, could open a shop in Ar, purchase materials, and hire men of her caste to aid her in the work.
The carders and the dyers, incidentally, are subcastes separate from the weavers. All are subcastes of the rug makers, which, itself, interestingly, perhaps surprisingly, is accounted generally as a subcaste of the cloth workers.
Rug makers themselves, however, usually regard themselves, in their various subcastes, as being independent of the cloth workers. A rug maker would not care to be confused with a maker of kaftans, turbans or djellabas.
I looked up at skeins of wool hanging from the wooden poles between the flat roofs. They were quite colorful. The finest wool, however, is sheared in the spring from the bellies of the verr and hurt, and would, accordingly, not be available until later in the season. The wool market, as was to be expected, was now slow.
Cloth is measured in the ah-il, which is the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and the ah-ral, which is ten ah-ils,
Centius of Cos, in his tent, it was said, seemed unconcerned with the match. He was lost in his thoughts, studying a position which had once occurred a generation ago in a match between the minor masters Ossius of Tabor, exiled from Teletus, and Philemon of Aspericht, not even of the players, but only a cloth worker.
It is, too, recognized that all, or most, of the castes perform necessary, commendable or useful functions. The Leatherworker, accordingly, does not spend much time envying the Metalworker, or the Metalworker the Leatherworker, or either the Clothworker, and so on. All need sandals and wallets, and clothes, and metal tools. Each does, however, tend to think of his own caste as something special, and, somehow, I suspect, as being perhaps a little bit preferable to the others. Most Goreans are quite content with their castes; this is probably a function of caste pride.
"I am a rich woman," she said, angrily. "I have status and position. In Brundisium I hold high station, being a member of the household of Belnar, her Ubar. I am highly intelligent. I am educated and refined. I have exquisite taste. I am accustomed to the finest silks, the most expensive materials. I have my gowns, my robes, even my veils, especially made for me by high cloth workers!"
"I am not a high cloth worker," I said, "but I did make it especially for you."
"Your skills leave something to be desired," she said.
"You are probably right," I said.
Because of the caste of thieves there is probably much less thievery in Port Kar than in most cities of comparable size. They regulate their numbers and craft in much the same way that, in many cities, the various castes, such as those of the metal workers or cloth workers, do theirs.
We heard a noise and the proprietor lifted his lamp. A slave girl was illuminated, on the landing. She was barefoot. She wore an extremely brief tunic, one which was divided to her navel. It was awry. Her hair was in disarray. In the light of the lamp her collar glinted. She flung herself to her belly before us, fearfully yielding slave obeisance.
"I doubt that you sewed these yourself," I said. "They were probably done by a Cloth Worker. Consider the stitching, the tightness of the stitches, its regularity and fineness. It seems very professional. Doubtless though it was done according to your directions. The outfit is calculated to give the appearance of rags but, upon close examination, we discover it is more in the nature of a costume."
Because there are many Goreans who cannot read, many stores, shops, and such, will utilize various signs and devices to identify their place of business. For example, a large, wooden image of a paga goblet may hang outside a tavern, a representation of a hammer and anvil outside a metal-worker's shop, one of a needle and thread outside a cloth-worker's shop, and so on.
There were, of course, the pans, pots, utensils, lamps, pails, and such, which, on shelves and dangling from poles, she supposed might have suggested the name of the market, but there were also stalls, as well, specializing in many other forms of goods, for example, stalls of fruits and vegetables, and produce of various sorts, and sausages and dried meats, and stalls of tunics, cloaks, robes, veils, scarves, and simple cloth, and of leatherwork, belts and wallets, and such, and of footwear, oils, instruments of the bath, cosmetics and perfumes, and mats and coarse rugs, and such. She saw no stall that seemed to specialize in silk, or gold, or silver, or precious stones, or in weaponry, even simple cutlery. It impressed her as a crowded, dirty, low market, presumably frequented primarily by the poor, or by those of the lower castes, individuals who must carefully guard even their smallest coins.
Rep-cloth, like slave silk, leaves few of a slave's charms to the imagination.
In the festival camp there were many forms of merchandise, other than the flesh loot, such as she, of Cosian conquests, merchandise such as produce, meat, leather and metal work, cloth, cabinetry, artifacts, tools, weapons, remedies, wagons, carts, precious stones, and such.
Whereas all natural societies are characterized by rank, distance, and hierarchy, acknowledged or not, I think there is no Gorean caste, from the highest to the lowest, which does not regard itself as the equal or superior, in one way or another, to that of every other. Where would society be without the Builders, the Merchants, the Metal Workers, the Cloth Workers, the Wood Workers, the Leather Workers, the Peasant, with the great bow, the ox on whom the Home Stone rests?
Some masters, too, of course, will take their slave to one of the Cloth Workers, and have one or more tunics altered to, or even made for, the particular slave.
"But," said Eve, "if we are of low caste, of the Metal Workers, the Cloth Workers, the Workers in Wood, the Leather Workers, the Bakers, the Tarnsters, or such, we would have to be placed lower at the tables."
The house tunics, incidentally, those worn in the house, were commonly drab, usually being brown or gray. There are fashions in such things, of course, for both the free and the slaves, with respect to colors, textures, materials, cuts, hemlines, and so on. How and when fashions changed, and why they changed, was not clear. Doubtless there were setters of trends, say, highly placed officials, wealthy Merchants, Actors, Singers, and Poets, certain women of noble family and high caste, and such, but why should one option rather than another succeed in being adopted, however transiently? Perhaps the higher, better fixed, more established or influential members of the Cloth Workers had something to do with it, with hints, with words dropped now and then, with boulevard posters, with some judiciously distributed free garmenture, here and there, and so on. Doubtless each time a fashion changed at least the high Cloth Workers, masters of the foremost garment houses, would sell more garmenture, at least to the fashion conscious, to those who were concerned to keep up with the times, to those who feared to be pitied or ridiculed for being out of style, and such.
"I do not even know the caste of my Master," I said.
"It is what I wish it to be," he said, "a Metal Worker a Forester, a Poet, or Singer, a Cloth Worker, a Peasant, a Scribe, such things."
"It is sometimes convenient to be of one caste, sometimes of another."
"It is a disguise," I said.
I supposed that one or another of the cloth workers' shops would be open, or soon open.
I had arranged with the cloth worker that it be "slave short."
Clearly colder weather was anticipated. We had been issued woolen materials, woven from the fleece of the bounding hurt, with awls and string, from which we were to fashion winter garmenture for ourselves. The nature of this projected garmenture, as might have been anticipated, was clearly specified. A cloth worker measured us and cut the patterns, as we were not permitted scissors. Under his supervision we sewed the garments. The awls were allotted, counted, and returned. Our work must be approved by the cloth worker. I had to remove stitches twice, and resew them. In any event we, though slaves, would be well bundled. When we were finished we each had trousers and a jacket. The jackets, belted, came to our thighs, and had hoods. We also had a shawl and blanket. Our feet were wrapped in thick cloths, and our legs, over the trousers, boot-like were similarly swathed.
"Look at me," I had laughed, so clad, the cloth worker not about, and had said to Janina, turning about "I am a free woman!"
"There was a wagon," he said, "that soon followed us from Ar, a fine brown wagon, long-bedded and wide, lacquered, with two lanterns, drawn by two fine tharlarion, displaying the selling banner of itinerant cloth workers."
I knew nothing about a selling banner of cloth workers, itinerant or otherwise, but I knew the wagon, for Paula and I, earlier in the day, had noted its presence, with some concern.
"It matched its pace to ours, despite the traffic. This was easily determined, from the back of the wagon. When we rested, it ceased to move, and so on."
"Paula and I noticed such a wagon," I said. "But these congruences were a matter of coincidence."
"Cloth workers do not sell from such a wagon," said Kurik. "Itinerant cloth workers are peddlers. They would have a smaller wagon, or, more likely, a cart, not so fine a wagon. It would be unusual peddlers, indeed, who could afford so splendid a wagon and such a brace of prime tharlarion."
One of the pleasures of this particular walk was the number and variety of shops and offices one passed, particularly on the Thieves' Way South. There were shops for clothing and footwear for the free; the robings and veilings for free women were particularly rich, abundant, luxurious, and colorful;
there was a leather worker's shop and a cloth worker's shop, some weavers in view, at their looms, and two metal worker's shops. Outside the cloth worker's shop was a bin for irregular cloths, discarded patches, strips, shreds, and such; some masters, doubtless of a thrifty sort, avail themselves of such a trove to outfit their slaves; patches, even small patches, may be sewn together, to repair, or even form, a garment, say, a tunic;
"You have heard?" queried a Cloth Worker.
"Yes," I said.
"Glory to Ar!" he said.
"Glory to Ar," I said.
I arrived at the tall, heavy gate of the Garden of the Hinrabians. To my dismay, I saw several individuals leaving the grounds, and few, if any, entering.
"Hold, noble citizen," I said, detaining a Cloth Worker. "I have come to view veminiums. But men leave. Why? Is something amiss
"The garden is open," he said. "Walk about, as you will. View veminiums as much as you please."
"Something is going on," I said. "I would know what."
"It is nothing," he said.
"Speak," I urged him.
"You know the garden's public board?" he asked.
"I have heard there is one within," I said.
"It is commonly one of the first boards in Ar to be inscribed," he said. "Men often come here to learn the news, before it appears on the larger, more popular boards, those in the plazas and markets, those raised near the juncture of major avenues and boulevards, and so on."
"And what is the news?" I asked.
"Who knows what it is to be," he said.
"I do not understand," I said.
"The board was sponged," he said.
"What was news is no longer news," I said.
"Do not despair," he said. "New news, more appropriate news, more fitting news, will soon appear."
"I see," I said.
"I have seen such things before," he said.
"The responses of citizens to the news were being monitored," I said.
"And recorded by attendant scribes," he said.
"Glory to an objective, free press," I said.
"What?" he said.
"Nothing," I said. "I was thinking of something else, somewhere else."
I wondered if people really wanted an objective, free press. If so, why did they not have it? Perhaps such a press would be boring. Aren't presses more popular which tell you what you want to hear? Perhaps it is not difficult to conjure up alternate realities, each with its own clientele? Does not he who owns the boards decide what will appear on them, or perhaps he who pays the guardsmen, or he who owns the weapons? Is not truth the most praised of all things, and the least sought?
"What do you remember of the news?" I asked.
"Why should one remember what was on a sponged board?" he said. "Is not memory notoriously fallible? Perhaps it is well to forget what was on a sponged board."
"At least the Home Stone is safe," I said.
"The sky rejoices," he said.
"But presumably not the thieves," I said.
"It is to be expected that the same fortune may favor one while not another," he said.
"As the fall of the stones," I said.
"Others now enter the gate," he said. "Perhaps the board will be inscribed anew. Enter with them, if you wish. Question the scribes of the boards, if you dare. Or best, inspect your veminiums, and leave the boards to others. It is sometimes hard to know what you should know, and what you should not know. I must be on my way. This conversation weaves me no cloth."
"I wish you well," I said.
"I wish you well," he said.
I watched him leave, and then turned toward the gate.
I saw a pale, bearded face. The man was unarmed, save for a belt knife. He carried a now-shuttered dark lantern which had probably served him well in the dark streets. We could here, however, well enough make out one another, given the flames about the plaza. I took him for a worker in wood or a cloth worker.