The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/July 3, 1869

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

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


“What shall we have who killed the deer?” We shall have, simply, the proud consciousness that we killed it, and that is ample reward. The approaching celebration is bound to be a magnificent fizzle, but need not be a total failure. It is not yet too late to scrape together a few hundred patriots from the Barbary Coast, who may be willing to celebrate General Winn, and although the organizations which have withdrawn their consent to participate probably cannot be induced to reconsider their action, the Eight-Hour Carpenters and the Iron Moulders, who discharged themselves from H. J. Booth & Co.’s foundry because he employed an American apprentice, will turn out enthusiastically. They are not a sweet lot to follow against the wind on a warm day, but there are plenty of fools who will be delighted to do it. Gentlemen, gentlemen! You cannot celebrate the Fifth of July without the concurrence of News Letter, but you can make prodigious jacks of yourselves by simply drawing upon your own native talent. You can squeeze the American Eagle, and he will scream, but you will befoul yourselves by the operations, and we shall laugh at you. This may not impede your digestion, but it will vastly accelerate our own.

The clerical idiot who pleads guilty to the name of H. A. Sawtelle, and who has the misfortune to edit a religious sheet called the Spare Hour, which reflects no credit upon himself and is a burlesque upon journalism, has the assurance to review the last number of the Overland Monthly. In itself this is nothing phenomenal (your quill-driving parson is equal to anything), but here is what he says: “We believe the Overland would gain in popular [Baptist] estimation if a judicious religious element had freer access to its pages. We should deprecate a literature from which all evangelical [Baptist] religion is eliminated.” To characterize this as merely cheeky would be weak; it ascends to the highest heaven of parsonical impertinence. It is doubtless to be deplored that the editor of the Overland persists in running his magazine without consulting the Rev. Mr. Sawtelle [Baptist], but inasmuch as he seems determined to do so, we would suggest to the ordained donkey that he at once proceed to deprecate with all his might and main. If this do not quite extinguish the Overland, it will at least afford us the edifying spectacle of a parson in a rage, which is at any time as good as a cock-fight, and calculated to throw the secular mind into a state of hilarity equal to that induced by witnessing the assault of a ram upon a pendant grindstone. Lay back your pious ears Mr. Sawtelle, elevate your evangelical tail, and let us have a good, lusty bray of Baptist deprecation.

It is with unspeakable delight that we record the knocking down of a man, on last Wednesday, by a person armed with a billet of wood. We have not been apprised of the immediate cause of the assault, nor is it necessary to seek for further justification than the fact that the victim is a drayman. That the instrument of justice is a gentleman is evident from the fact that he knocked him down. We feel confident his course will meet with the hearty approval of every old woman and child who has been run over by a dray within the last week. We point out that gentleman’s conduct to the youth of San Francisco, as an example worthy of the closest imitation; and if we shall succeed in inducing the rising generation to desist from caving in the heads of Chinamen long enough to give us a nobler test of their skill by beating out the brains of a few draymen, we shall consider ourselves amply rewarded for our labor in the cause of humanity. To parents and guardians we would say: Train up a child in the way of knocking down draymen, and when he is old he will not depart this life by being run over at the street-crossing.

On Monday evening a handsome flag was presented to the National Guard. The presentation speech was made by Mrs. Wilson, and was substantially as follows: “Officers and members of the National Guard—Upon me devolves the honor of presenting this flag, which is the offering of a number of your admirers, and kindly paid for by yourselves. Permit me to hope that it will be received in the same spirit that it is presented; namely, as a practical joke. I trust that upon all future campaigns to Alameda it will remain untarnished by cold chicken and unsullied by lager beer. Under its protecting folds may you always be bloody bold and resolute, and keep your warlike noses clean. Without any further fooling, I entrust the sacred emblem to your lily white hands. Let’s take a drink.” They took a drink. The flag was then received by Lieutenant Vaughn, who said it was highly proper that the ties of friendship should be strong between the brave and the fair; a remark the truth of which we are not inclined to dispute, but the applicability of which to that occasion we do not exactly see.

The dead body of a Chinaman was found the other day in an alley leading off Pacific Street. Deceased was apparently about as old as he will ever get, rather good-looking under the circumstances, dark hair, braided so tight he couldn’t shut his eyes, teeth all knocked out, figure somewhat “squashed” by the heap of brickbats under which he lay, and to all intents and purposes without a family. A portion of his head had been skillfully removed with a policeman’s club, and awaits identification in the gutter at the corner of the street. One leg seems to have been accidentally broken in six places, and the other one to have been stolen from its socket while the owner was asleep. If the person who has it will leave it at the coroner’s office no questions will be asked. The flesh of the body is mostly gone, and the marks of teeth upon the bones seem to have been made by a bull-pup under strong provocation. Cause of death unknown, and unimportant.

In his proclamation to the Eight-Hour Men, General Winn says: “Every man who has been in the least degree benefited by the Eight-Hour system should be in line on the fifth of July, and show to our citizens the length and strength of the chain that binds us together.” As General Winn is himself the only man who has been benefited by the Eight-Hour system, it is permitted to all others to wholly disregard this frantic appeal; and even the general would make himself a more edifying spectacle by showing the length and strength of his chain upon some useful public work. We hope someday to have the pleasure of seeing this miserable impostor heading a procession in which the chain metaphorical shall be wholly superseded by the chain metallic.

On last Monday a poor shoemaker committed suicide by hanging. He left a badly written letter behind, addressed to his friends. The dailies have been having rare sport publishing that letter. It is really delicious, the way they have tortured and twisted that orthography. Their improvements upon the punctuation are screamingly funny. Haw-haw! We burst with laughter as we think of this poor hungry wretch sitting at his pine table, with tears staining his ridiculous cheeks and the ink putting his awkward fingers into cheap mourning, as with tongue thrust out and wagging in sympathy with his pen he scrawls the following ludicrous sentence: “I forgiv all my enemys and hope god will forgiv me.” O but this is fearfully and wonderfully funny. Te-he!

Sir Henry Rawlinson, the distinguished archaeologist, maintains that Babylon is the site of the Garden of Eden. Nonsense; recent explorations in Central America prove conclusively that it was situated in Alaska. We regard the claims of Oakland as wholly unfounded. With their peculiar costume, our first parents couldn’t have lived there amongst the poison oak long enough to despoil an apple-tree of a year’s growth.

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday evening, Dr. Cole (Ring) was excused from voting on the hospital contract business. Dr. Cole has the Town Crier’s permission to refrain from voting as long as he likes, and it is not clear that the city would be a loser by purchasing his inaction at a round rate. We don’t believe in giving votes to doctors as black as a Cole.

The Examiner quotes the following passage from the speech of a colored preacher at a meeting of his colored brethren, “in order to show how full his Christian heart is of rank fanaticism, and how potent for evil men of his stamp are”: “Take from the Irishman the ballot, and these Democrats will not care whether he turns out in their Fourth of July procession or not. Give to you the ballot, and the Grand Marshal will come to you hat in hand, and will take a seat beside you, Mr. President, and be ‘hail fellow, well met,’ if he came.” This darkey’s heart may or may not be full of rank fanaticism, but it is tolerably evident that his curly pate is replete with hard sense.

Speaking of the Squires concert on Monday evening, the Herald is mildly enthusiastic over the horn quartette, by Messrs. Schlott, Stoehr, Muller and Yunker, and the Bulletin executes a conniption fit over the oboe solo of Mr. Stoehr. Owing to a disagreement as to terms, the former gentlemen did not perform that particular quartette, nor any other; and in consequence of the indisposition of Mr. Stoehr the oboe solo was unavoidably omitted. Both omissions, it will be observed, were owing to circumstances over which the newspapers in question had no control. This, of course, absolves them from the responsibility of their error.

The inventor of the Avitor, will, we understand, at once proceed to construct an aerial carriage for the purpose of conveying the five editorial notists of the Alta to their natural habitation in the moon. The carriage in question will combine none of the features of the model now constructed. It will be simply a washtub of great capacity. The notists will seat themselves upon the rim with the most comely parts of their persons over the side, and each holding a stolen umbrella over his head, all shall be lifted by the sulphuretted hydrogen of their conversation.

The owners of valuable dogs are hereby cautioned to keep them muzzled. We learn the Chinamen have determined to anoint their skins with strychina, and unless they can be prevented by the strong Irish arm of the law from carrying out their hellish design, some valuable animals will get poisoned. Until something be done to checkmate these vindictive Orientals we advise all Christians to put their trust solely in clubs and brickbats. We must not allow our zeal for the conversion of these heathen to jeopardize our property in dogs.

We are pleased to observe that an entire brigade of our gallant play-at soldiers will leave the city on Monday, to assist Oakland in bringing our national anniversary into contempt. You can have the other brigade also, Oakland, and as many loose independent organizations as you can induce to join you. We will cheerfully surrender a few Eight-Hour Leagues, and if you have hemp enough to treat him as his virtues merit you can take our Grand Marshal.

A few nights since, two men were arrested by our efficient police for tampering with the lock of a jewelry store. After being kept in prison a day or two it was fortunately discovered that they were the proprietors of the premises in question, and the court discharged them with an admonition. Thus is San Quentin defrauded of its rightful prey; thus crime goes unpunished in a Christian city.

The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher says some people have an idea “that heaven is, for the most part, a great singing school, and that everybody stands about the great white throne and sings and sings and sings.” Then “some people” have a very exalted idea of the powers of endurance of the divine tympanum, and an equally phenomenal faith in the flexors and extensors of the divine leg.

Some of our streets along the water front appear to be in as bad a condition as the municipal government itself. The other morning a large hole was discovered in the planking of one of them with a valuable horse snugly ensconced in it. The animal was promptly boarded over, and the owner can obtain him by rattling a box of oats at the mouth of the sewer outside the sea-wall.

On last Saturday night a man named William Gill returned home late at night, and finding a stranger in his bed, stabbed him four or five times. It strikes us this was rather severe punishment for so trifling an offense as being in the wrong bed. Mr. Gill’s wife, who witnessed the assault from under the blankets, describes the assailant’s conduct as wholly indefensible.

A correspondent of the Times thinks the state should assume one-third of the debt of each county. So do we; and that each county so favored should assume an equal amount of the indebtedness of the state. This would be a perfectly fair arrangement and would illustrate the wisdom of a philosopher counteracting the mischief of a fool.

The infant son of the Countess of Flanders is to be called Baudouin-Leopold-Philippe-Marie-Charles-Antoine-Joseph Louis. After he has become accustomed to this he will be given a name. Fancy the Town Crier calling that child to dinner, or a parson calling him to repentance!

A scientific lunatic, who is making a study of the Nineveh records, asserts positively that they will clear up the Book of Genesis. He will confer a favor by unearthing some more old towns, to clear up the rest of the scriptures. It is about time there was a general clearing up, cleaning up and cleaning out in that quarter.

Last evening, at the California Theater, the public was treated to a representation of the Morning Call. The Daily Herald will be put upon the boards as soon as the scene painter can complete the graveyard scene in Romeo and Juliet. News Letter, in active rehearsal.

Our Methodist neighbor, the Spectator, says, “the lukewarm Christian is disgusting to God, and the scorn of men.” It is pleasant to reflect, however, that he cannot continue lukewarm; he’ll be grilled into a holy warmth after death. Lord, how they’ll make him sizzle!

El Cronista, noticing the marriage of Gen. Tom Thumb to Miss Minnie Warren, says: “It was a very pleasant affair, and both bride and bridegroom concur in the sentiment that ‘Man wants but little here below.’” Just so; “Nor wants that little long.”

There is a disgraceful resolution before the Board of Supervisors, the object of which is to suppress the Chinese theatres. It will doubtless pass, but there is one consolation: it is so worded that it will also put a quietus upon piano playing in private residences.

Francisco Serrano y Dominguez, Duke de la Torre, Regent of Spain, is now in his fifty-ninth year.—Herald. [Keep still, neighbor, and let’s see if he will complete that other year, without your assistance.]

At a recent meeting of that cheerful society, the Dictionary Club of London, the principal topic was the definition of the word “Sacrilege.” So far as it applies to language, it means talking hard sense in the wrong crowd.

A correspondent of the Sacramento Record says Belle Boyd is in town, and intends shooting her former husband, S. Wylde Hardinge. It is unnecessary; let her employ a man to step on him.

A Fenian military company will give a ball at Platt’s Hall to-night. Tickets, admitting a gentleman and ladies, two dollars; admitting a Fenian and servant girls, fifty cents.

The wicked outside world is cold and dead with regard to religion.—Spectator. [And the pious inside world is alive and hot with regard to insanity.]

The Queen of Portugal is dying fast.—Court Journal. [Well, she lived fast. Anything else?]

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

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