Reifsnyder's assistant had gone to his supper, and the owner of the shop was trying to placate four men who wished to be shaved at once. Reifsnyder was very garrulous—a fact which made him rather remarkable among barbers, who, as a class, are austerely speechless, having been taught silence by the hammering reiteration of a tradition. It is the customers who talk in the ordinary event.
As Reifsnyder waved his razor down the cheek of a man in the chair, he turned often to cool the impatience of the others with pleasant talk, which they did not particularly heed.
"Oh, he should have let him die," said Bainbridge, a railway engineer, finally replying to one of the barber's orations. "Shut up, Reif, and go on with your business!"
Instead, Reifsnyder paused shaving entirely, and turned to front the speaker. "Let him die?" he demanded. "How vas that? How can you let a man die?"
"By letting him die, you chump," said the engineer. The others laughed a little, and Reifsnyder turned at once to his work, sullenly, as a man overwhelmed by the derision of numbers.
"How vas that?" he grumbled later. "How can you let a man die when he vas done so much for you?"
"'When he vas done so much for you?'" repeated Bainbridge. "You better shave some people. How vas that? Maybe this ain't a barber shop?"
A man hitherto silent now said, "If I had been the doctor, I would have done the same thing."
"Of course," said Reifsnyder. "Any man vould do it. Any man that vas not like you, you—old—flint-hearted—fish." He had sought the final words with painful care, and he delivered the collection triumphantly at Bainbridge. The engineer laughed.
The man in the chair now lifted himself higher, while Reifsnyder began an elaborate ceremony of anointing and combing his hair. Now free to join comfortably in the talk, the man said: "They say he is the most terrible thing in the world. Young Johnnie Bernard—that drives the grocery wagon—saw him up at Alek Williams's shanty, and he says he couldn't eat anything for two days."
"Chee!" said Reifsnyder.
"Well, what makes him so terrible?" asked another.
"Because he hasn't got any face," replied the barber and the engineer in duct.
"Hasn't got any face!" repeated the man. "How can he do without any face?"
"He has no face in the front of his head.
In the place where his face ought to grow."
Bainbridge sang these lines pathetically as he arose and hung his hat on a hook. The man in the chair was about to abdicate in his favor. "Get a gait on you now," he said to Reifsnyder. "I go out at 7.31."
As the barber foamed the lather on the cheeks of the engineer he seemed to be thinking heavily. Then suddenly he burst out. "How would you like to be with no face?" he cried to the assemblage.
"Oh, if I had to have a face like yours—" answered one customer.
Bainbridge's voice came from a sea of lather. "You're kicking because if losing faces became popular, you'd have to go out of business."
"I don't think it will become so much popular," said Reifsnyder.
"Not if it's got to be taken off in the way his was taken off," said another man. "I'd rather keep mine, if you don't mind."
"I guess so!" cried the barber. "Just think!"
The shaving of Bainbridge had arrived at a time of comparative liberty for him. "I wonder what the doctor says to himself?" he observed. "He may be sorry he made him live."
"It was the only thing he could do," replied a man. The others seemed to agree with him.
"Supposing you were in his place," said one, "and Johnson had saved your kid. What would you do?"
"Of course! You would do anything on earth for him. You'd take all the trouble in the world for him. And spend your last dollar on him. Well, then?"
"I wonder how it feels to be without any face?" said Reifsnyder, musingly.
The man who had previously spoken, feeling that he had expressed himself well, repeated the whole thing. "You would do anything on earth for him. You'd take all the trouble in the world for him. And spend your last dollar on him. Well, then?"
"No, but look," said Reifsnyder; "supposing you don't got a face!"