The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/May 1, 1869

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

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



In this city, on Sunday, the 25th of April, Delinda Cook, aged eighteen, from a dose of arsenic, taken to improve her complexion.


O, a beauteous maid was Delinda Cook,

But her forehead like salmon shone;

To correct the defect she arsenic took,

With sagacity all her own.


The experiment proved a complete success,

For the ruby forsook her face,

And, stung with desire for a loving caress,

Death hastened the lass to embrace.


Take warning by this, every rubicund maid.

With passion for “toning” oppressed;

Fair Carthage in ruins completely was laid,

And Delinda delenda est.


In an address to the Methodist mass-meeting last Sunday the Rev. A. E. Rich said: “The Methodist Church is, of all others, the church God looks to for the spread of his word and the salvation of the world.” It must be very gratifying to be in a position to speak with authority upon this matter, and to give the facts in a case upon which there has hitherto been so much needless dispute. We presume the Rev. A. E. Rich is in that position, and we devoutly acquiesce in his dictum; simply remarking that if God looks for anything of the kind from these cattle, he will be very much disappointed, and if he selected the Rev. A. E. Rich as the divine mouth-piece to make known his hopes to an incredulous world, he made a still graver mistake. But as God is pretty generally known not to make any grave mistakes, we can only conclude that the Rev. A. E. Rich is not only a presumptuous dolt but a most empty-headed ass; and this has been our opinion from the start; our modest show of logic being intended only as a polished setting to this jewel of assertion. Our congregation will now pay for the benediction and pass to the next sermon.


We don’t believe Father Wildey, the founder of Odd Fellowship, ever had that dream which Brother Rhoades ascribes to him in his poem, read at the semi-centennial celebration last Monday. There are no records to show that he was accustomed to either water his whisky or swallow his anvil for supper, and unless he committed one of these atrocities he could not possibly have had that frightful case of nightmare. We do believe, however, that the poet is given to both iniquities, else we should not have had the poem. Furthermore, we do not think that however eager the good blacksmith may have been “With hammer and tongs to right the wrongs That environ the human soul,” the thing can be done in that way; and Mr. Rhoades’ small measure of success in whatever may have been his aim in this hammer-and-tongs style of poetry, has confirmed us in this opinion. Pythagoras is said to have invented the musical scale from hearing a smith beating upon his anvil, but it is clear that “Caxton” has contributed very little to rhythm by pounding so vigorously at this own.


It is, and always has been, the object of the leaders of the order of Odd Fellows, to elevate it to such a standard that the membership of a man shall be accepted as a pledge of his good character anywhere.—Times. [Wait a bit; we are going a little too fast in this thing. The order already numbers three hundred and seventy-five thousand members “in good standing” in this country. Now, after a hundred thousand men of good character have been counted, labeled and set apart from the common herd, we should require something more than a certificate of membership in the Odd Fellows to satisfy our scruples as to any of the remainder. Fact is, it would require something like omniscience to discover more than that number of good characters in the United States, and as for the three or four thousand members of the order in California, their claim is simply ridiculous. It leaves no margin for the Church and the Press, and for our part we don’t propose to be swindled out of our claim to some of the virtue extant. Down with monopoly!]


The meeting last Wednesday evening at the Mechanics’ Institute, to arrange the preliminaries for a grand celebration of the opening of the Pacific Railroad, seems not to have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Among the societies represented, were the following: Grand Army of the Republic, Red Men, Bricklayers, House Carpenters, Iron Moulders, Cabinet Makers, Knights of St. Crispin, Plumbers and Gas Fitters, Druids, and Sons of Temperance. Besides these there were only a bare half-dozen of others. Now, we should vastly like to know if this matter is to be “manipulated” by Eight-Hour Leagues and idiotic secret societies. If so we shall not attend, and the celebration will be robbed of its chiefest charm. Why, confound it, even our dog Jack shall not go. Another meeting was called for last evening, however, and we do trust that the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Chinese Sunday School, and the Independent Order of Scavengers were roped in.


A Sacramento journal urges that all locomotives, steamboats, and in fact everything possible that hath whistle, should assemble at that place and unite in a pucker-lip chorus on the receipt of the grand tidings of the completion of the Railroad. While highly approving of this arrangement, we would suggest that the melody might be gently toned by the aid of a large number of jackasses obtained here; but many are in service and could not spared. But we think large numbers might be secured in Stockton and Marysville. Some of our stockbrokers who have interests in Bashan might perhaps furnish a little bass—and thus, altogether, produce one grand harmonious strain of exquisite delight.


We sincerely congratulate the Times and Alta upon their display of an unwonted sagacity, in making use of our ideas upon the Pacific Railroad. It is, likewise, much to their credit that they had the bold good sense to preserve them in the very language in which they found them decently draped. In fact, it is difficult to believe that they could have better expressed them in their own tongue. It is so seldom we have an opportunity to frankly commend these papers, that our pleasure in doing so now is equaled only by our willingness to serve them, as heretofore. Thankful for the encouragement already extended, we hope, by a careful attention to the needs of our patrons, to merit a continuance of their favors. Parties furnished with ideas at their residences, and the trade supplied.


The town of You Bet has been almost wholly destroyed by fire. Last week our special bard sang how that the gentle Molly Plumper had applied her incendiary torch to one of its palatial mansions, but as the fate of the city in nowise concerned the subsequent career of his fair heroine, he omitted to state that the conflagration spread to the adjoining buildings and involved all in a melancholy ruin. The true poet deals with life only in its special and romantic phases, and leaves to the sordid telegraph operator the task of depicting the common-place events of general conflagrations. Poetic fire is too precious to be wasted upon a whole town.


The Cabinet-Maker’s League has decided to celebrate the completion of the Pacific Railroad. We should be pleased to learn what these fellows have contributed toward building it. It strikes us that mechanics’ eight-hour and anti-coolie leagues would better escape public attention by keeping quiet in this matter; and to escape public attention ought to be their chief aim. If the Chinese should unite to celebrate the great event which but for them would not have been, there would be a palpable consistency in the movement. But these hewers of wood and burners of factories—bah!


That red-hot woman’s rights organ, the Revolution, asks President Grant to send women instead of Quakers into the Indian country, as substitutes for the present “Agents.” By all means; the Agents need them, and most of the strong minded are already at least two-thirds qualified for sub-sti-tutes.


At a mass-meeting of Methodists, last Sunday evening, the City Missionary of the sect recommended that each homestead association in the city should set apart a lot for church purposes. We refer this keen, practical and business-like suggestion to Mr. A. S. Gould, merely promising the reverend gentleman who originated it that when it is acted upon we will preach, gratis, in every church so established, at every hour in the day, from a text which shall be decided upon by a game of seven-up with the nearest parson. If this be not a liberal offer we’re an ’Ebrew Jew.


A few days since, a little boy twelve years old had his arm broken while playing in the streets. Previously to this he had been run over twice; getting his skull fractured and his shoulder blade broken the first time, and a leg and arm broken the second. Still later he had his arm broken again, and afterward had the small-pox. We think we detect in this a mild desire upon the part of Him who doeth all things well to get rid of this boy, and we counsel the little fellow to throw up the sponge before he gets a homestead association after him.


The superintendent of the Market Street Railroad, seeing a moving house upon his track, very reasonably concluded that it might interfere with running his cars, and stopped it right where it was. We are happy to state, that after keeping it twenty-four hours upon the track, he found his apprehensions fully realized, and, having verified his judgment, allowed the building to proceed. This sagacious superintendent is supposed to be remotely descended from the legendary individual who cut off his nose to spite his face.


We are desirous of believing that the Board of Supervisors intend to stand up for the interests of the city.—Painful Contemporary. [Stand before a blackboard until you can believe it a marble tomb-stone. Eat red herrings and practice a belief that they are sugared pine-apples. Rub tar into your hair until you are convinced it is bear’s oil. Roll naked upon a bed of cinders till you can swear it is a spring mattress with swan’s-down. Any of these preparatory exercises will help you to the faith you covet.]


“By direction of the Navy Department, you will see that no person hostile to the present administration will be employed in the yard department under your control. Preference should in all cases be given to those who have belonged to the Union Party. The Secretary of the Navy particularly desires this should be done.” We can only repeat what we have before so persistently urged: Grant is not a party president, and that he will make no removals for political opinion.


The opinion that President Grant ought to settle the Cuban difficulty by taking possession of the island, is making great progress in England.—Times. [It is unnecessary to state that the great progress thus far made has been wholly among the thieves. On this side the Atlantic, however, the opinion finds equal favor among the lunatics and fools.]


It has been decided by the Board of Education to pay Messrs. Wigmore and Palmer three hundred and eighty dollars of the city’s money, for furniture destroyed by fire before it had left their shop. We have no comments to make upon this, further than to say that we and Mr. Wigmore consider it a first-rate precedent, and that Mr. Palmer concurs.


The superintendents of several White Pine mines have, through Fitz Smythe, presented to the members of Gov. Haight’s staff, two hundred and forty ounces of silver bullion to decorate their horse’s bridles withal. Why not their own bridles; is it not written “A ship for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for Fitz Smythe’s back?”


Why news-lovers should take the Bulletin, Times or Alta on account of their dispatches, when they can get the same in the Herald, and, in addition thereto, an equal number of ingeniously constructed special enigmas, is a matter which it is sorely difficult for to comprehend.


The press is congratulating itself upon the fact that the editorial profession is largely represented in Congress. Will not someone kindly flatter us by telling how many editors are confined in the various penitentiaries. If we must be buttered, let it be laid on thick.


President Grant says he has been imposed upon in the matter of appointments, and will recall all bad ones. If he continues this policy, the principle of rotation in office will be pretty generally adhered to during the next four years.


In a speech the other evening, Mr. Thos. Mooney said that if the people who come here from Europe were furnished with homes, religion and virtue would certainly follow. Does Mr. Mooney mean to affirm that they do not accompany?


Senator Sprague says that capital is cowardly. The Town Crier has not observed this in his own case. His entire capital is accustomed to boldly expose itself daily upon the counters of the most dangerous restaurants.


A man living on Mission street, named Tyler, expressed his contempt for President Grant by calling his pig Ulysses S. If the pig should die he can perpetuate and improve the sarcasm by assuming the name himself.


A Mr. Kennedy has arrived, and will give a series of entertainment at one of our theaters, entitled “Three Nights in Scotland.” Mr. Kennedy is an accomplished vocalist, and will doubtless accompany himself upon the Scotch fiddle.


A man named John Johnson fell dead upon the street. He was a native of Schleswig-Holstein, and was doubtless pondering deeply upon the celebrated Question, when death came to his relief by a rush of confusion to the head.


Mr. Thomas Mooney and Father Gallagher have organized a “Celtic and Teutonic Farm and Homestead Association.” Och, the divil, and what will not the spalpeens be afther mit der boor beebles’ monish?


The Rev. J. A. Benton, last Sunday evening, delivered a lecture upon the “Dictates of Common Sense.” Had these been generally heeded, the lecturer would have talked to empty benches.


Sacramento has invited our Board of Supervisors to participate in the railroad celebration in that city. This speak well for Sacramento’s hospitality, but is not extraordinarily creditable to her taste.


The Bulletin declared that Judge Provines unlawfully excluded the testimony of a negro. This being untrue, we shall hereafter exclude the testimony of the Bulletin.


A company of Cuban patriots is to be raised in Grass Valley.—Ex. [And a company of cows to crop them. Query: Will they be armed with spears?]


“Vast numbers of people—governed more by warm and generous impulses than calm reflection”—is Morning Call for “Irish.”


Bulletin publishes interesting news from Montana, under the head of Pacific Slope Brevities.


A correspondent of a country paper signs himself “Amiacus.” We believe you are.


We will not speak of aerial navigation.—Herald. For this relief, much thanks.

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

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