The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/April 17, 1869

“Hear the Crier!” “What the devil art thou?”

“One that will play the devil, sir, with you.”


The following pleasing narratives illustrative of the efficacy of tracts are from the report of the Rev. J. P. Moore, City Missionary, read before the Society at the meeting on last Sunday evening: “The other day I saw a little boy on Dupont Street swearing with hunger. Gave him a Come to Jesus-er of double extra power. The little sufferer was so delighted therewith that he immediately turned off the profanity, and with touching simplicity, asked how much he could stick it up for. He died that night, and went straight to Abraham’s bosom, which necessitated a change of linen on the part of the latter. Upon another occasion I presented a bundle of New Jerusalems to the ungodly proprietor of a corner grocery, and I soon after had the pleasure of receiving one of them around a roll of butter. By this kind of pious fraud, he informed me, he had been able to scatter them surreptitiously among his unregenerate customers, and so zealous was this new convert that he pleaded for another package of the living truth. God knows how many souls were thus snatched from the eternal burning. Truly the Spirit employs humble means. Butter may work conversion and soap be an instrument of salvation. At another time a sinful mother had her innocent babe across her knee, and was apparently upon the point of inflicting a cruel punishment. She seemed a very child of wrath, and I hesitated to offer her a tract; but upon receiving one, she smiled, thanked me kindly and said it was just the thing. Verily this is a noble work.”


The Temperance Legion had a celebration last Sunday, and we heard some more about the water-drinking proclivities of their president, Chief Whitney, of the Fire Department. The subject is somewhat threadbare, and we tire of it. If Chief Whitney should have the nozzle of an engine hose inserted in his esophagus, and be thereby pumped full of his favorite element every time he ventilates his temperance, it would exactly accord with our ideas of poetic justice. This man’s passion for cold water seems to be something like a mania, and we commend his case to the attention of the Spring Valley Company. If we cannot be allowed to sprinkle the streets in front of our dwellings, we insist that he shall be put upon short allowance also. Besides, the spectacle of a Chief Engineer, seated upon the pave with his legs embracing a hydrant, as with distended cheek and starting eyes he guzzles at the spout, is calculated to bring the Department into contempt. It is not nice.


The Herald with becoming imbecility thinks that Grant was unacquainted with the real character of Longstreet at the time of his nomination. Perhaps the genius who gravely penned this opinion, and who, doubtless, fought Longstreet month after month during the rebellion, as of course Grant did not, will condescend to enlighten the President as to the character of the military officer whom he—the genius—accuses of levying blackmail upon a conquered town. Great Scott! Shall we never have an end of editorial blather about military affairs? A short time since the Alta seriously objected to the transfer of regiments between the eastern and western departments, on account of the “needless expense;” wholly unconscious of the fixed policy of our own and other nations not to permit regiments to become “sectionalized” by remaining long in one part of the country. The Alta’s military lore being derived from the veteran McComb, the question remains: Who furnishes that of the Herald?


A correspondent wishes to invest a few hundred dollars in White Pine mining shares, and would like to know if we have an opinion as to which is the best mine for his purpose. We have an opinion, and that opinion is as thusly: The Carrington offers superior inducements. The paper upon which it is situated is remarkably easy to work, and assays something like twenty-four sheets to the quire. The title is indisputable, and neatly printed in German text. As this claim is situated principally in San Francisco, there is no difficulty in finding it, and its value must be seen to be appreciated. It can only be “jumped” by buying up all the stationery in the market—and that’s the way the cat jumps.


The bark H. A. Banks, in attempting to put to sea the other day, collided with another vessel and lost her spanker. Upon hearing his fond parent reading this item, Townie Crier, Jr. was overheard to mutter a wish that his mamma had been on board; probably from a confused belief that she would have been involved in the same calamity. (This information is confidently expected to carry dismay to the hearts of the rising generation of offenders, who will see in it an indication that the Town Crier dynasty is in no danger of becoming extinct, and that their hopes of future immunity are without foundation.


Judge Sawyer has refused the application of a woman to become a sole trader, because she wanted to sell liquor. Of course he had to submit to the inevitable thanks of the Sons and Daughters of Temperance. The question is: Did he feel sufficient gratification from having done a good thing to counterbalance the mortification of being thanked by these incurables? Also: who commissioned Pappy Sawyer to look after the morals of the petticoats, and bring them up with a round turn when they propose to start an opposition to the whisky-mills already established upon a pantaloon basis?


For a good sterling article of drivel, weakly spiced with malignity, commend us to the Herald’s remarks about the appointment of F. M. Pixley as District Attorney. What private griefs Johnny Nugent hath, alas, we know not, that made him do it; but this we do know: that to imply, nay assert, that Frank Pixley would use his official power to “take it out” upon the small fry who call him enemy, is to assert that he is actuated by no higher motives than pinch the heart that works the brain that guides the hand that moves the pen that writes the bosh that fills the paper that Jack built.


The Town Crier takes this opportunity of informing the universe, and thereby carrying dismay to the hearts of public speakers, that he is tired to hearing about vox populi. Sum up the intelligence of the country and divide it by the number of inhabitants: the quotient represents the intelligence of the average man. It will be found to be considerably greater than that of a soft-shelled crab, and considerably less than that of a hippopotamus. Its expression in bad English, is vox populi, and calling this vox Dei is its besetting blasphemy.


The good people of Oakland still labor under the singular hallucination that they have a lake, and are expending untold millions in constructing a carriage drive around it. The delusion is a pretty one—which the puddle is not—but it strikes us the money might to more advantageously expended for educational purposes. We understand there is a learned pig up country, in every way qualified for principal of the Female College, which may be purchased for a song. But then, Oaklanders can’t sing.


The Times having asserted that the Rev. Dr. Eells had resigned, that his resignation had been accepted, and that he was about to go East, the Alta denies all these statements seriatim, and adds: “That is all.” No, it is not. The Rev. Doctor is not only going to remain, but he will continue to contribute contradictory statements about his movements to the press, as heretofore, and with the same object—to advertise himself. That is all.


What would be thought of the man who should advise the Hidden Treasure Mining Company to abandon their mine, or the Pacific Mail Company to stop running steamers? We hardly know; probably about the same that is thought of the Alta, which counsels our farmers to stop raising wheat for exportation. O, for the vocabulary of an Examiner, that we might call this proposition by its true designation; that we might brand its author with a Name! But we cannot be weak, and we will not be vulgar. Ee-jiot!


A man in Ohio being sued for breach of promise undertook to prove that plaintiff had negro blood in her veins. We recommend this course in all cases. The female savages of the Reed stripe, who levy tribute upon every wealthy gentleman who has the misfortune to make their acquaintance, care nothing for proofs of their unchastity, but would shrink from having their Caucasian origin called in question. Let these Arabs be branded as niggers, and we shall have done with them.


The congregation of the First Baptist Church in this city has telegraphed to a public broker in Boston to send them a parson. Must be a first-class article, with no foolishness about him; have a good pair of lungs, strong constitution, serious aspect and curly hair. A commission of ten per cent on first year’s salary will be paid, and broker will defray traveling expenses. If not received within eight weeks, application will be made to keeper of the Cattle Pound.


A prescient contemporary informs us that in the immediate future we are to have the Canadas to satisfy the Alabama claims, but adds: “We do not pretend to be able to indicate the precise instrumentality by which the change is to be effected.” We do; it is to be effected by the same instrumentality by which we have obtained a high regard for our contemporary’s common sense—by the imagination.


The Hon. George Barstow, in his speech to the Gilroy excursionists last week, said that next to being wedded to a wife, the best thing a man could do was to get wedded to the soil of his country. A walk in the vicinity of North Beach, and a series of careful observations of the good matrons of that locality, have convinced us that many of our citizens obtain both wife and soil at a single operation.


The dailies are in ecstasies about Professor Hartz’s “Cherub,” which is what the late lamented Fitz-Smythe would call “a decapitated head, gyrating in aerial suspension.” We see no utility in this head, but anxiously inquire: Where is the body? That would indeed be an acquisition—to the Board of Supervisors. Dear Hartz, can you not corral this natural member from the Tenth?


What has become of Father Eagan? He was last seen on the road to White Pine, with the wreck of his fortune tied up in a Mission blanket, seeking either an investment or a vestry, and wondering who severed the last tie between himself and his lambs. We cannot tell a lie, Father, you know we cannot tell a lie. We cut it with our hatchet.


That scoundrel, Josselyn the abolitionist, has escaped, just as we said he would when Judge McKinstry admitted him to bail, against our earnest protest. We do sincerely trust the judge may not be troubled, like Macbeth, with the vision of a bloody child. We are not vindictive; we wish him the undisturbed repose of a callous conscience.


Professor Hartz has added two more “Cherubim in the Air” to his already interesting collection. They can converse fluently upon a limited range of subjects, and answer readily to the names of Chawles and Mike. They pay one thousand dollars each for the privilege of being exhibited. May be seen, for a few days only, at the Barnacle office.


The Times having thoughtlessly published an article eulogistic of Congress, the Examiner’s spleen is greatly excited thereat, and it threatens that body with the direst vengeance. It says “the calmest sea is sometimes upturned by a hurricane,” and might have added that the most stagnant Democratic pool is often agitated by the sickliest Radical puff.


There seems to be in certain quarters a desire to institute proceedings against the grand jury which presented Mr. Cavallier, on the ground of injury done to that gentleman’s character. It would be useless. The men, who are equal to the task of injuring that article, would certainly be able to elude any known punishment.


A few days since the Rev. H. H. Dobbin of Amador was relieved of his valuables by a Mexican road agent. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit heaven. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Get up, Dobbin!


There are places which should alone be conferred upon the intellectual who have devoted themselves to the diffusion of knowledge and the interests of education—Alta. [The places alluded to must be exceedingly undesirable ones, inasmuch as the editors of the Alta so explicitly renounce all claim to them.]


An attempt is making in the Fourth District Court to set aside a marriage, upon the ground that the man was insane at the time of its consummation. Nonsense; this would invalidate half the marriages in the state; and the only evidence required would be the production of the wife in court.


A convict under sentence of imprisonment for life, having announced an intention to commit suicide, is kept chained to a wall. Question By an Idiot—“Why not let him commit?” Answer By A Politician—“He is reserved for pardon whenever we need the votes of his friends. Dry up!”


Some of the dailies are making a fuss because a bill for papers was presented for payment to the Board of Supervisors at the rate of twenty-one dollars per ream, when the best quality of the same is worth but twelve. Exactly, but the twelve does not include commissions to the Ring.


Five persons lately joined Dr. Eells’ church, among them a young lady born in this city.—Occident. [Now, Smarty, what has this young lady’s nativity to do with it? Is not mild insanity as likely to be of native growth as otherwise? You are ridiculous.]


After a prolonged investigation we have discovered why outside sinners persist in regarding the Rev. Dr. Scudder as ridiculous. It is owing solely to the logical acuteness of the secular mind, for which, clearly, the Doctor is not responsible.


The squaw who bit officer Dunn’s thumb was discharged. Magnanimous and chivalric Dunn would not prosecute a female. Was it not rather because he knew she got the worst of it? Cagh-gh-gh!


The citizen Sam. Platt has been fined for contempt of court. We ought to be fined for the same offense. We have a lofty contempt of any court that can stoop to this thing.


The Examiner speaks of a prominent segment of the Supervisorial Ring as a high-minded and honorable man. “So they are all honorable men.”—Shakespeare (who knew ’em).


A correspondent writes to a religious weekly that he is unable to fully comprehend the miracles of our Saviour. We commend his case to the Rev. Robert Heller.


Our knowledge of railroad matters is necessarily limited.—Call. [Not more limited, we suspect, than the railroad companies’ knowledge of you.


Senator Ross is reported to have told President Grant to go to hell. As the President is already at Washington we do not see the necessity.


Cavallier has been acquitted of an attempt to bribe Nunan. Does this acquit Nunan of an attempt to be bribed?

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

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