Letter From Mud Springs

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/August 21, 1869

EDITOR NEWS LETTER:–Since my last letter—which in a moment of forgetfulness I sent to the New York Herald—several events have transpired in this city in addition to those recorded in the epistle alluded to. I will begin where that left off:

No sooner had she arrived and put up at the Bludgeon House than she was beset by some twenty widowers and bachelors with offers to marry, more or less honorable. After hesitating some time, she called for a pack of cards to decide the question by turning Jacks; but as twenty-five packs were instantly thrust under her nose, and she dared not precipitate a battle by accepting any one of them, the matter was only made worse. Finally old Joe Borum (Whisky Joe) swore he wasn’t a-going to stand any such d—d nonsense no longer, and set the example by cutting into the interior of Missouri Pete with a long knife. That was enough. The next morning the coroner held an inquest upon ten heads, three arms, a pair of legs—rights and lefts—a bowel, a number of assorted features, half a peck of fingers and toes, a pint of suspender buttons and a chignon.

A nice bit of scandal has just transpired here, and as it has got into the Mud Springs Meat-Axe, I copy from that lively sheet: “Last Thursday a man came over from Red Dog with a couple of mules, and after they had been stolen he went back. It now turns out that the mules did not belong to the man at all, but were the property of Mrs. H—of this place. She had sent them over to Red Dog to bet them upon a dog fight, but as the owners of the animals had killed each other before the fight could come off, the mules were brought back. Now comes the romantic part of the story. No sooner did Mrs. H—see Judge Brown driving her mules to his wagon than she went up to him, and calling him a thief, hit him across the head with a crowbar, knocking him down. He jumped up and caught her in his arms and began kissing her as a punishment. Suddenly he stopped and exclaimed, ‘By hookey I’ve smelled that breath before!’ Well, it turned out that twenty years ago Mrs. H—had been the judge’s wife in Kentucky, and he had left her to come to California in ’49. She tracked him to this place in ’51, and spotted him at once, but as the judge’s claim was not paying much at the time, and she had struck a better thing, she just laid low for eighteen years, waiting for him to make his pile. Everything has now been forgiven, the mules remain quietly in the possession of both parties, and Mr. William Hardy, the woman’s other husband, has been decently buried. We wish the happy pair, reunited under such peculiar circumstances, all the joy in Mud Springs, and would respectfully suggest that our price for noticing people by name is half an ounce and we employ no collector.”

You may expect another letter like this next week.


(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)