San Francisco Letter

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 22, 1865

The New Swimming Bath

The new swimming bath in South Park is attracting large crowds of curious visitors, who are anxious to test its virtues, but as yet it is not quite ready to be thrown open to the public. The great bath-house is finished, however, and this morning they are ornamenting its ample front with an immense painting, representing men swimming in all manner of impossible attitudes. It is as full of gorgeous coloring as a Presbyterian picture of hell, and is as good as a panorama to look at. It promises to be a very popular institution. The North Beach and South Park cars pass directly in front of it.

The “Eccentrics”

The eccentric Fourteenth Regulars is the gayest crowd of lads that any war ever did produce, I suppose. It is funny to read the accounts of their doings in the papers every day. They are so supremely indifferent to consequences– or public opinion– or law, or gospel, the police, the devil, or anything else! Each happy Fourteener sallies forth in a gang by himself, like Baxter’s hog, and in the course of an hour he has captured a horse, or waylaid a stage coach, or carried off a showcase, or devastated a dwelling, or snatched a policeman, or got a hundred and fifty people corraled in a narrow court, where he guards the sole exit, and entertains himself by charging on them with his bowie-knife from time to time, and laughing in his hoarse, stormy way when they stampede. Oh, they are gay!

I am really sorry to see that Col. Drumn is about to tone down the exuberance of the Fourteeners, and I am satisfied that my grief is shared by every reporter in town, for three months ago the press oozed columns of the most insipid and resultless run-away beer-wagon items; whereas lately it has scintillated with the most thrilling and readable exploits and adventures of the Fourteeners. Col. Drumn recommends to the Commander of the Department the limiting of passes to the issuance of not more than two at a time– and Chief Burke, I have no doubt, will take care that the whole police force turns out, armed to the teeth, to look after these two. The Fourteeners have been accustomed to carnage and battle in the Eastern wars so long, that they don’t mind a small squad of police at all– look upon such as only a trouble some interruption to their amusements, but not a positive obstruction.

Macdougall vs. Maquire

The talk occasioned by Maguire’s unseemly castigation of Macdougall, while the latter was engaged in conversation with a lady, was dying out, happily for both parties, but Mr. Macdougall has set it going again by bringing that suit of his for $5,000 for the assault and battery. If he can get the money, I suppose that is at least the most profitable method of settling the matter. But then, will he? Maybe so, and maybe not. But if he feels badly – feels hurt – feels disgraced at being chastised, will $5,000 entirely soothe him and put an end to the comments and criticisms of the public? It is questionable. If he would pitch in and whale Maguire, though, it would afford him real, genuine satisfaction, and would also furnish me with a great deal more pleasing material for a paragraph than I can get out of the regular routine of events that transpire in San Francisco – which is a matter of still greater importance. If the plaintiff in this suit of damages were to intimate that he would like to have a word from me on this subject, I would immediately sit down and pour out my soul to him in verse. I would tune up my muse and sing to him the following pretty

Nursery Rhyme

Come, now, Macdougall!
Say –
Can lucre pay
For thy dismembered coat –
Thy strangulated throat –
Thy busted bugle?

Speak thou! poor W. J.!
And say –
I pray –
If gold can soothe your woes,
Or mend your tattered clothes,
Or heal your battered nose,
Oh bunged-up lump of clay!

No! – arise!
Be wise!
Macdougall, d–n your eyes!
Don’t legal quips devise
To mend your reputation,
And efface the degradation
Of a blow that’s struck in ire!
But ‘ware of execration,
Unless you take your station
In a strategic location,
In mood of desperation,
And “lam” like all creation
This infernal Tom Maguire!


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