Letter from Scoundrel Gulch

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/October 23, 1869

EDITOR NEWS LETTER:–You will doubtless be very much delighted to learn of my safe arrival at Scoundrel Gulch. My own delight at this unexpected circumstance is only exceeded by my surprise, for on my way I was three times shot, knocked down twice, ad robbed as often as I met an inhabitant of these parts The last one did not make living wages out of me, for the first had taken my watch and money, and the intermediate ones had despoiled me of my raiment piece by piece, until my costume consisted only of the bandages on my gunshot wounds, and my jewelry of thee court-plaster upon my bruises. In this condition I entered the town of Scoundrel Gulch—so named from its early settlement by a Presbyterian minister who could read and write, and was suspected of having been implicated in a missionary scheme. The inhabitants turned out en masse to receive me, and the women showed considerable interest in my unique costume and wanted to swap. I declined as gratefully as possible, and was rewarded by a slap on the ear that recalled the joys of childhood so vividly to my mind that my eyes were suffused with tears. The hearty hospitality of these honest miners is inexpressibly touching. No sooner had they learned that I was from Red Dog, and seen the utter inadequacy of my clothing, than one of them ran for a blanket. Words cannot describe my gratitude. When the blanket arrived it was laid on the ground, and I was tenderly spread upon it. The strong men then laid hold of the sides, and at a given signal I began to take exercise. Since that eventful hour I have lived quietly and unostentatiously in the suburbs about ten miles from town. I seldom cross my threshold—a very modest one, the mouth of an old drift—to appear in public, but I shall be happy at all times to receive my friends. I am very busily engaged upon my new work, “The Progress of Foot-Hill Morality,” and occasionally write letters from China for the Alta. Your last remittance reached me at Red Dog just previous to my departure, and was immediately afterwards reposing placidly between the thumb and forefinger of a curious observer with nine small revolvers and one at the breast—my breast. It is useless to divert specie from the metropolis to the interior, but if you have a few shirts for which you have no present use, I should like much to receive them by return voyage of the bearer. You need not be afraid to remit them by his hand, as he has one of his own which he took from the body of a mining engineer who had the misfortune to disagree with him as to the dip of a ledge.


(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)