Another Ashley Sterne Punch article.
Punch, v149, p.176
August 25, 1915
Yesterday morning I overslept myself, a thing I very rarely do unintentionally. I was much annoyed, as I had an important appointment in the City at mid-day; and a glance at my watch showed me that I had barely twenty minutes in which to make my toilet and reach the station. Breakfast was entirely out of the question, and most likely out of the breakfast room, too.
I calculated that — even forgoing my bath — I had not sufficient time to shave, wash and dress, but that I had just time enough to wash and dress, or shave and dress, or wash and shave. The last combination, though undoubtedly tho most hygienic of the three, would not have been thoroughly understood in my neighbourhood, and consequently I bad to reject it in favour of one of the others. The middle one seemed to offer alluring possibilities so far as the shave implied a partial washing of my face, but unfortunately it required concentration. The first, therefore, appeared to be the most reasonable course to pursue; indeed, when I again looked at my watch I found that I had been so long deciding that there was no practicable alternative available.
I eventually caught the guard's van just as it was disappearing through the exit. A close scrutiny of the guard's features revealed the fact that he too was unshaven. In fact he could not have used a razor for at least fifteen years, for his beard practically ended where his whistle began. He was otherwise an intelligent fellow, and repeated the names of the stations quite prettily.
On arrival at the terminus I found that I had a quarter-of-an-hour to spare, so I determined to sample a hitherto unexplored luxury. I would have a professional shave. Close to the station I saw the sign of a barber, who professed to perform the operation for threepence; so I entered, and a brigand of doubtful nationality at once took my bat away from me. Another invited me into a chair and recited the bill of fare from memory.
"Shave," I said briefly, and the revels commenced.
"Ever shave yourself, Sir?" asked the man as be paused to put more desiccated soap on the brush.
Now, I thought to myself, this is where he is trying to have me. If I say "Yes" he'll want me to buy a patent non-skid razor or a safety shaving-brush. If I say "No" he'll try to sell me a ticket for the establishment's Toilet Club. So then and there I engaged a purely hypothetical valet.
"My man usually shaves me," I answered.
"Then, Sir," persisted the fellow, "I am sure he could not get a better result than with one of our celebrated — "
"All, I'm afraid that is his department entirely," I interposed. " I never interfere with my servants — not now. I remember how annoyed my cook once was when I brought home an automatic rolling-pin."
Then the barber began to relather me, and while my mouth was still incapable of self-defence he did his utmost to sell me, successively, a bottle of hair-wash, a face-lotion, a sanitary hair-brush and a shampoo-powder.
"Look hero," I said at length, "I have an important appointment in exactly five minutes. Will it facilitate matters if I buy something?"
The man assured me that it would do all that and make him happy for the whole day besides.
"Then," said I, "you may sell me a half-crown bottle of moustache-pomade."
"Certainly, Sir," he said, mollified; "but I thought you shaved the upper lip?"
"It's not for myself," I explained, "it's for a friend who has never experienced the boon of a shave by an expert. To be exact he's a railway-guard endowed by nature with luxuriant vegetation. Shall we get on?"
We got on.
"Brush your hair, Sir?"
I surveyed it.
"Since you've rumpled it," I replied, "I think it is the least you can do."
He proceeded to do the least he could do.
"Pay at the desk, please. Next gentleman! Take three shillings, Miss."
"Er two-and-nine, surely?" I demurred, lifting my eyebrows a notch higher.
"Hair-brush, threepence," was his answer.
The lady, an adept at high finance, successfully negotiated the two half-crowns I gave her. Then I turned and handed my man a penny and a bright smile. He said nothing to either. There flashed across my mind the thought that, like a waiter, he only expected ten per cent of the threepence. (The hair-brushing he had himself incurred, and of course he received commission on the sale of the pomade; therefore he was only entitled to expect a tip for actual work done on my behalf.) I concluded that he was in doubt as to whether I expected seven centimes change.
"That 's for you — to keep," I said.
He controlled his emotion so well that I increased the bonus to twopence. Then at last he said, "Thank you, Sir."
The hatter next approached and, to avoid any unpleasantness, I gave him twopence straight off.
"Much obliged, Sir," he said. "Take fourpence, please, Miss."
This was unexpected.
"I never told you to iron my hat," I burst out. "You never asked me if you might. I consider it a great impertinence for anyone I don't care who it is to play fast and loose with my hat without permission. I will overlook it this time, but — "
As he was no longer listening I considered it futile to go on. I gave the lady at the desk the additional fourpence and was making my way to the door when a third assistant rushed at me with a brush and swept me all over. When he had finished he was panting with satisfaction.
"Don't you call out 'Take fourpence, please, Miss,' like that other man? "
"Oh, no, Sir. I do the brushing quite on my own."
"Tell me," I continued, "what you expect for the unnecessary and unsolicited brushing of an entirely new suit of clothes?"
Under pressure he admitted that most gents gave him twopence. So I gave him what he suggested and mentally calculated that he earned, on the average, a penny a minute, or, in an eight hours' day, a matter of two pounds. In other words, some ₤600 a year.
Then, as nobody else seemed to want anything, I walked out.
I was late for my appointment, and my friend, I was informed, had waited a quarter-of-an-hour and then gone off. The consequence was that I had to play dominoes with an almost entire stranger.
When I arrived home in the afternoon I made out the following account:
1 Premeditated shave 3d
1 Diplomatic pommade hongroise 2s 6d
1 Compulsory hair-brush 3d
1 Tip to barber 2d
1 Unsolicited hat-iron 4d
1 Gratuity to hatter 2d
1 Largesse to brush-brandisher 2d
Loss at dominoes (due to delay at barber's) 5s 7d
Total 9s 5d