The Best Mystery and Detective Stories
LUIGI CAPUANA (1839-00)
"I know nothing at all about it, your honor!"
"Nothing at all? How can that be? It all happened within fifty yards of your shop."
"'Nothing at all,' I said, ... in an off-hand way; but really, next to nothing. I am a barber,
your honor, and Heaven be praised! I have custom enough to keep me busy from morning
till night. There are three of us in the shop, and what with shaving and combing and hair-
cutting, not one of the three has the time to stop and scratch his head, and I least of all.
Many of my customers are so kind as to prefer my services to those of my two young
men; perhaps because I amuse them with my little jokes. And, what with lathering and
shaving this face and that, and combing the hair on so many heads—how does your honor
expect me to pay attention to other people's affairs? And the morning that I read about it
in the paper, why, I stood there with my mouth wide open, and I said, 'Well, that was the
way it was bound to end!'"
"Why did you say, 'That was the way it was bound to end'?"
"Why—because it had ended that way! You see—on the instant, I called to mind the ugly
face of the husband. Every time I saw him pass up or down the street—one of those
impressions that no one can account for—I used to think, 'That fellow has the face of a
convict!' But of course that proves nothing. There are plenty who have the bad luck to be
uglier than mortal sin, but very worthy people all the same. But in this case I didn't think
that I was mistaken."
"But you were friends. He used to come very often and sit down at the entrance to your
"Very often? Only once in a while, your honor! 'By your leave, neighbor,' he would say.
He always called me 'neighbor'; that was his name for everyone. And I would say, 'Why,
certainly.' The chair stood there, empty. Your honor understands that I could hardly be so
uncivil as to say to him, 'No, you can't sit down.' A barber shop is a public place, like a
café or a beer saloon. At all events, one may sit down without paying for it, and no need
to have a shave or hair-cut, either! 'By your leave, neighbor,' and there he would sit, in
silence, smoking and scowling, with his eyes half shut. He would loaf there for half an
hour, an hour, sometimes longer. He annoyed me, I don't deny it, from the very start.
There was a good deal of talk."
"What sort of talk?"