San Francisco Letter

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 13, 1865

“Christian Spectator”

REV. O. P. FITZGERALD, of the Minna Street Methodist Church South, is fairly under way, now, with his new Christian Spectator. The second number is before me. I believe I can venture to recommend it to the people of Nevada, of both Northern and Southern proclivities. It is not jammed full of incendiary religious matter about hell-fire, and brimstone, and wicked young men knocked endways by a streak of lightning while in the act of going fishing on Sunday. Its contents are not exciting or calculated to make people set up all night to read them. I like the Spectator a great deal better than I expected to, and I think you ought to cheerfully spare room for a short review of it. The leading editorial says: “A journal of the character of the Spectator is always to a great extent the reflex of the editor’s individuality.” Then follows a pleasant moral homily entitled “That Nubbin;” then puffs of a religious college and a Presbyterian church; then some poetical reflections on the happy fact “The War is Over;” then a “hyste” of some old slow coach of a preacher for not getting subscribers for the Spectator fast enough; then a confidential hint to the reader that he turn out and gather subscriptions – and forward the money; then a puff of the Oakland Female Seminary; then a remark that the Spectator’s terms are cash; then a suggestion that the paper would make a gorgeous Christmas present – the only joke in the whole paper, and even this one is written with a fine show of seriousness; then a complimentary blast for Bishop Pierce; then a column of “Personal Items” concerning distinguished Confederates, chiefly; then something about “Our New Dress” – not one of Ward’s shirts for the editor, but the paper’s new dress; then a word about “our publishing house at Nashville, Tenn.;” then a repetition of the fact that “our terms are cash;” then something concerning “our head” – not the editor’s, which is “level,” but the paper’s; then follow two columns of religious news not of a nature to drive one into a frenzy of excitement. On the outside is one of those entertaining novelettes, so popular among credulous Sabbath-school children, about a lone woman silently praying a desperate and blood-thirsty robber out of his boots – he looking on and fingering his clasp-knife and wiping it on his hand, and she calmly praying, till at last he “blanched beneath her fixed gaze, a panic appeared to seize him, and he closed his knife and went out.” Oh, that won’t do, you know. That is rather too steep. I guess she must have scalded him a little. There is also a column about a “remarkable police officer,” and praising him up to the skies, and showing, by facts, sufficient to convince me that if he belonged to our force, Mr. Fitzgerald was drawing it rather strong. I read it with avidity, because I wished to know whether it was Chief Burke, or Blitz, or Lees, the parson was trying to curry favor with. But it was only an allegory, after all; the impossible police man was “Conscience.” It was one of those fine moral humbugs, like some advertisements which seduce you down a column of stuff about General Washington and wind up with a recommendation to “try Peterson’s aromatic soap.”

Subscribe for the vivacious Christian Spectator; C. A. Klose is financial agent.

More Romance

The pretty waiter girls are always getting people into trouble. But I beg pardon – I should say “ladies,” not “girls.” I learned this lesson “in the days when I went gypsying,” which was a long time ago. I said to one of these self-important hags, “Mary, or Julia, or whatever your name may be, who is that old slab singing at the piano – the girl with the ‘bile’ on her nose?” Her eyes snapped. “You call her girl! – you shall find out yourself – she is a lady, if you please!” They are all “ladies,” and they take it as an insult when they are called anything else. It was one of these charming ladies who got shot, by an ass of a lover from the wilds of Arizona, yesterday in the Thunderboldt Saloon, but unhappily not killed. The fellow had enjoyed so long the society of ill-favored squaws who have to be scraped before one can tell the color of their complexions, that he was easily carried away with the well seasoned charms of “French Mary” of the Thunderbolt Saloon, and got so “spooney” in his attentions that he hung around her night after night, and breathed her garlicky sighs with ecstasy. But no man can be honored with a beer girl’s society without paying for it. French Mary made this man Vernon buy basket after basket of cheap champagne and got a heavy commission, which is usually their privilege; in the saloon her company always cost him five or ten dollars an hour, and she was doubtless a still more expensive luxury out of it.

It is said that he was always insisting upon her marrying him, and threatening to leave and go back to Arizona if she did not. She could not afford to let the goose go until he was completely plucked, and so she would consent, and set the day, and then the, poor devil, in a burst of generosity, would celebrate the happy event with a heavy outlay of cash. This ruse was played until it was worn out, until Vernon’s patience was worn out, until Vernon’s purse was worn out also. Then there was no use in humbugging the poor numskull any longer, of course; and so French Mary deserted him, to wait on customers who had cash – the unfeeling practice always observed by lager beer ladies under similar circumstances. She told him she would not marry him or have anything more to do with him, and he very properly tried to blow her brains out. But he was awkward, and only wounded her dangerously. He killed himself, though, effectually, and let us hope that it was the wisest thing he could have done, and that he is better off now, poor fellow.


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