Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/Mark Interviewed the Barber about Harry Thaw


During his last visit to London, Mark called me up one morning and said: "My arm aches and I can't do it myself, so for God's sake, take me to a barber who can scrape one's face without taking half the hide off. I am getting mighty tired of being flayed alive in this here burg."

Accordingly we drove down to the Cecil in the Strand.

"I understand you are the man who treats a delicate skin like an American beauty rose," said Mark to the barber.

"I will treat yours, Mr. Clemens, as if it were a butterfly. For I have read what you have said about Italian barbers," was answered. And the things that happened to Mark's face, head, hands and feet while in the chair would fill a column of "The Times" to enumerate. He remained two hours in the chair, and was not allowed to pay a red penny for the accommodation.

Later, at a well-known grillroom, we saw the massage artist alone at a table, and seated ourselves at the same board. The barber talked about other American celebrities and notorieties he had treated and mentioned Thaw.

"Oh, you shaved Harry—tell me about it," said Mark.

When the barber had finished, Mark insisted, looking fiercely at me: "Not a word of this in New York, or there will be another dozen Thaw trials."

As Harry Thaw is now disposed of, temporarily, at least, it won't do any harm to print Mark's interview with the barber.

It seems that Harry and Evelyn occupied a suite at the Cecil before they made that notorious exhibition of themselves in New York. Harry was an early riser and Evelyn was not, and when the barber called at eight, as ordered, Evelyn either had to be put out of bed forcibly by Harry or remained under the covers (for a time at least).

"And could you do your barbering and currycombing with that pretty thing within arm's length?" asked Mark.

"I had to," said the barber. "I was paid for it; besides, there was a terrible horsewhip on the bed and a revolver in an open drawer.

"Harry insisted upon smoking while I wielded the razor, and I had the greatest difficulty in the world not to cut him. He also insisted upon quarreling with Evelyn or lauding her beauty while my knife played around his mouth. This sort of thing went on for a week or more, when one fine morning I saw that Harry had rigged up a shooting stand in the hall of the apartment.

"'Close the door,' he cried, 'and pull the curtains across. I don't want the servants to hear.' Then he began firing at the target. Evelyn had been asleep, and hearing shots, jumped out of bed and began crying: 'My God!' and 'Mamma;' likewise promised 'never to do it again.'

"Never to do what again?" asked Mark.

"I don't know, sir."

"But you were right next to her; why didn't you ask her?" insisted Mark.

"But it was her private business," said the barber.

"Sure it was, but that was so much more reason for worming it out of her. You are a good barber, but a h—— of a reporter."

"Of course, the floor attendants came trooping to Thaw's door and the house telephone and speaking tubes emitted a volley of questions.

"Harry was prepared to give an impertinent though truthful answer. But Evelyn took the phone in hand and swore that it was an accident, due to her carelessness—Harry had nothing to do with it, and she was going to apologize to the management. When things had quieted down. Thaw told me on the d. q. that he would transfer his revolver practice to a certain shooting gallery. 'I want to be an A No. 1 shot when I return to New York,' he said. 'There is a fellow who has deeply wronged my girl and I am going to have it out with him.'"