The ship's agent-cum-barman gestured at the few bottles of whiskey he had placed on the table.
'Take yore pick, Mistuh.'
I grasped the nearest bottle to hand, as the man sneered,
'Dime a glass, quarter a bottle.'
Being undecided as to which choice would inconvenience the fellow most, I threw the first coin encountered in my pocket upon the deal surface. It was a dollar.
One of the owners of the discommoding elbows approached that end of the long room bearing a chair before him, this ensured safe passage through the crowd of those who had recently broken their fast. All seemed disinclined to leave for the decks: perhaps because there was limited space thereon, so far as I had been able to tell. The man placed his chair determinedly in any central thoroughfare that the multitude might have allowed from the entrance to the stove. Thereupon he sat down in it and promptly fell to snoring. I caught the barman's eye: he threw his head back, raised his eyebrows and managed the feat of appearing to look down a prodigiously long nose at myself, though he was the smaller by a foot.
'Peculiar fellow,' I said, motioning towards the sleeping brute.
'Feller's jest makin' shore,' the man behind the table grunted.
'Sure of what?'
'Gittin' a shave afore the razor's blunt,' he began a fit of laughter which soon deteriorated into raucous and phlegmy coughing, to which he put an end with a hideous jet of tobacco juice fired to the left of my own right boot. As if this were some kind of signal, the entire company of passengers in the long saloon - excluding rather less of the women than might have been imagined – began a symphony of expectoration which made me quite glad that I had missed breaking my fast. How I longed for the presence of a single spittoon; I thought with fond nostalgia of the Grand Turk, which - for all its faults - was possessed of a cuspidor even in the pilot's house.
The barber arrived. He was not a Negro, as I had expected, but a man of extremely tall stature. Long and thin of shank, he had a cadaverous look belied by the still bleeding cuts caused by his own barbering. He carried a copper bowl and a mug with a grimy brush-handle peeping above the rim. I stood aside to let him approach his customer. Rather than disturb his slumbers, the long fellow began applying soap dextrously during the shortest of pauses between the inhalations and exhalations of the snorer. No cloth was draped around the slumberer's neck, but not a stain appeared on the man's clothes. I watched, fascinated. The barman stifled a yawn, the conversation continued all around, punctuated only by the slap of sputum on the wooden floorboards. The barber stepped back at last to leave a skin on view, that was quite as unblemished and smooth as a cherub's and the customer immediately awoke and paid his fee.
I waited to see the miracle repeated twice more and was on the point of taking the chair, when a a man with particularly bristle-darkened jowls shoved me aside. The man behind the bar gave a great sigh. Choosing to make nothing of the affront, I resolved to wait my turn. I decided against a shave at all, shortly after the first of the yelps and curses emanated from the chair.
'Blunt now, ain't it?' The barman said.
I shook my head, but certainly not in disagreement.