The Town Crier

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/March 6, 1869

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

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

Can nothing be done with Canavan? Allow us to iterate: Cannot that Canavan party be in some way got rid of? The wretch takes a fiendish delight in snaking out every pet swindle of the Ring, even as What’s-his-name dragged the three-mouthed dog to upper day. He has gratified his malice upon the immaculate Smythe, wreaked his vengeance upon the obscure Clement, and administered the condign to Cavallier the Good. We do not believe he would hesitate a moment to trip up Stanyan, or incarcerate Nunan. Cavallier has had trouble before. At divers times we have ourselves been betrayed into a looseness of expression in regard to him. Our dog Jack has barked at him upon the street; our office-boy has made mouths at him as he passed into and out of the Bank Exchange; and we mocked, scoffed and sneered when this same Canavan—Canavan the Irrepressible—the Painful, made him back down at the smell of powder. Now he’s “presented.” Anon he will be deposed from the Board. Then he will fall into general disgrace; whereupon we suppose Canavan will open his mouth and laugh. Cavallier, we sympathize with thee; give us thy hand—not that one, please; it is worn smooth, and hard, and shiny, by the friction of dishonest gold. No; we’ll not shake hands with thee. Here, put it behind thee—thus. Now listen: Pat—chink. That will do; you are used to it. Now go thy ways, Cavallier. Get thee to Stanyan’s chamber, and tell him though he paint an inch thick, yet to thy complexion must he come at last. Out!

The Commissioners of Lunacy have declared Ann Monahan insane, and have ordered her to Stockton. She declares that the house in which Archbishop Alemany lives belongs to her, and that the Archbishop has also a large amount of her money, of which he keeps possession. Of course, this woman may be insane; we do not assert the contrary. The charges she makes against the Reverend Archbishop are perhaps untrue. It is not absolutely impossible that he does not live in her house and keep her money. We are not Commissioners of Lunacy, and cannot decide these questions. It is not our business. We leave such matters to the Church. All that we can say, being laymen, is that we have a strong suspicion that Archbishop Alemany lives in a house and has a sum of money. We have been told so, and we believe it. If this be libel, let Archbishop Alemany make the most of it. We defy him.

Twenty years ago a steamer entered the Golden Gate. Don’t be frightened, dear reader; we would not proceed further in this strain for the world; we care not one short bit for the musty past. Suffice it to say that the occasion was duly celebrated on last Monday evening by a feed at the Lick House, with attendant horrors of speech and toast. As a specimen of the latter we ask pardon for presenting the following: “San Francisco—A transit center of the world’s commerce; international magnet of all countries. Let her radiate enlightened principles of national freedom, as she diffuses the products of human industry.” [There; we just wish that steamer with its load of Pioneers had gone to the bottom! May we ask if this celebration is to be an annual visitation, or only an occasional scourge?]

We publish in another column a communication from an esteemed correspondent, in which he takes the ground that bachelors ought not to be allowed a vote; thus at one sweep of his pen disfranchising all the sensible men in the community—men who have the sagacity to voluntarily decline the deceptive “sweets of matrimony.” By the by, he also says: “Why should you [we], who are only ‘half a one’ (perhaps the worser half), be entitled to the privileges which belong to the entire man, when so many blooming mates only await your [our] proposition to make yourself [ourself] a whole man?” Will our correspondent kindly hand in a few dozen of the names and addresses of these multitudinous and willin’ female Barkises? This is in strict confidence.

There seems to be just now a fine opening for a vigilance committee at San Jose. The eight-hour philanthropists in that vicinity, who burn churches because Chinese are taught therein, and distilleries because they are there employed, would, we think, make very handsome and attractive corpses. This matter may not have suggested itself to the natives, but perhaps General Winn might be induced to go down and attend to it. If the actual incendiaries could not be found the crime might still be satisfactorily expiated by the General in person.

Chief Whitney, at a recent meeting of the Temperance Legion, asserted that the firemen under his command never get drunk. Now if Chief Whitney happened to be in the vicinity of the great fire at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, he must know that this statement of his is false. Not only were a goodly number of the firemen drunk, but they really fought one another with greater spirit than they would otherwise have done. A fair deduction from this is that the Temperance Legion is a humbug. At least we choose to draw that inference.

The Stockton Gazette says of the recent constitutional amendment: “Its enforcement in California will be resisted by four times fifty thousand bayonets.” The enforcement of measures for preserving the integrity of the Union was resisted by a considerably greater number of these pretty weapons. We will wager a complete file of the News Letter that when the resistance begins, not one of the four times fifty thousand will be found in the hands of the Stockton editor. Not a bayonet.

A Leipzig paper cautions the public against a certain pomade which, it asserts, is “made of human fat from the Paris dissecting rooms.” Well, why should not this fat be utilized? Why should not the ladies anoint their locks with human oils? They have long used the oil for pork, under the title of bear’s grease, and we know several men whose tissues would furnish a fine and unmistakable article of the same. They are not yet dead, but that difficulty we hope may be speedily overcome.

In his Inaugural Address, President Grant says of the Indians: “I will favor any course toward them which tends to their civilization, Christianization and ultimate citizenship.” We respectfully urge that he place those practical Christian civilizers, Mr. Peter Cooper, Mr. Henry Bergh, and Mr. Henry Ward Beecher, in his Cabinet, at once. If this blessed trio cannot ultimately citizenize the Noble Red, there is little hope of Sheridan accomplishing anything.

We have received the new woman’s paper, the El Dorado. We will make a single extract and a single remark: “Everyone who has the good fortune to be acquainted with Major John Stratman, must allow that he is a ‘trump,’ and just the man to turn a heart among the ladies.” If the El Dorado is conducted by the class of ladies whose hearts Jack Stratman is accustomed to turn, the sooner they retire from journalism the sooner they will escape public observation.

A man bit off another man’s finger, walked to his room, and went to bed. His residence was pointed out to the police, and officers Fuller, Lees, Stone, Ansbro and Dunn, went there and arrested him. Too much credit cannot be awarded to these indefatigable and efficient officers for their untiring ingenuity in working up this case. (Dailies please copy and send bill to officers Fuller, Lees, Stone, Ansbro and Dunn.)

The Pacific says the inhabitants of Salem, Oregon, had the pleasure of listening to the Rev. Mr. Knight’s lecture upon the Melodies of Mother Goose. We should suppose they would take pleasure in that sort of thing—being web-feet themselves. If they would take the Pacific they could have the far higher pleasure of listening to the melodies direct from the original bird.

We regret to hear of the sad accident that befell Jesse, the happy parent of U. S. G. It appears that when he fell off the steps of the Capitol, the seat of his unmentionables was badly torn; whereupon a rush was made by the seventy-nine California patriots, headed by our distinguished townsman, Major-General John Stratman, who succeeded in capturing the entire seat. A portion of the sacred relic will be sent to the Alta’s Museum. It is not true, however, that the grateful President appointed Jack to a foreign mission on the spot.

The Nevada Assembly has inaugurated a reform. It has passed a bill providing for making a new county out of the White Pine district, and allowing the towns of Hamilton, Treasure City and Silver Springs to compete for the privilege of being the county seat. The highest bidder takes it. This is only an extension of the old Nevada system of electing to the United States Senate.

The leading article in the Herald of Monday was so insufferably long that the foreman very judiciously cut it in two. Having done so, however, he was unable to decide which half should come first, and he got the thing wrong. Our fortunate possession of a Philadelphia lawyer upon our editorial staff enabled us to detect the transposition.

“A humble man, who quietly follows his occupation and would not rush into print, nor trouble the public with his business,” writes to the Bulletin a long letter about his private affairs. That’s right, Humble-Bee; no considerable portion of the public will be troubled with your business if you confide it only to the Bulletin.

Genial John, what were you doing at the Lick House Banquet with your old Shamus O’Brien? Thought it was Saint Patrick’s Day, eh? Well, it was not; but if Saint P. had been there he would have given some of those snakes and toads twist that would have spared us a repetition of this anniversary nonsense.

The sentence of Dr. Josselyn has been again postponed. That man will escape yet, and we shall have our work to do all over again. Next time we shall remove obstructions in advance; beginning in the County Court. Have a care, Judge if you don’t sentence that man today we shall sentence thee.

Supervisor Cavallier has been presented by the Grand Jury and arrested for an attempt to bribe Supervisor Nunan. We do not believe the charge. Had the bribe been offered we think it would have been immediately and quietly accepted and we should have heard nothing more about it.

Berkeley is to be the permanent seat of the State University; so the Board of Regents decide. We heartily approve for several reasons, the principal one which is that it will be a sad disappointment to the members of the City Council of Oakland, most of whose mothers keep boarding houses.

Considering the character of the cases that will come before the next Grand Jury, it is gratifying to learn that the names of our distinguished townsmen, Fredrick MacCrellish and Michael Reese, have been drawn for duty thereon. The name of Mr. Norton will probably be added.

A great sigh of relief is breathed from all the people as his burly figure appears, and an honest spasm of pity passes over the popular heart as his magnificent opportunities misspent, and exalted station disgraced, are recalled to mind—Alta. [Have we lost MacC—h?]

Washington letters state that “Zeke Vreeland is after the San Francisco Branch Mint.” If our memory is not a fault, and it never is, Zeke was after Mint upon a former occasion; and if fifteen hundred dollars may be termed success, he succeeded.

Oh! for a hundred thousand Minnie muskets, with as many stout heart behind them, to wipe from the fair isle of our birth every trace of England and her cursed. “West Britons.”—Monitor. [Will some other boy please hold the Monitors’ jacket?]

The Oregon Postmaster, Randall, who was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for robbing the mails, has been pardoned by President Johnson. President Johnson will not be pardoned by the people. Happily, he is no longer in a position to care.

Why was the order for the sale of gold known to brokers on the street four days before it was made known to the Sub-Treasurer?—Herald. [How do you know that it was? It is quite possible that Chawles is by no means the fool you take him for.]

The extension of Montgomery street has caused a frightful exodus of land-marks. Fortunately, however, White Pine has caused a compensating exodus of their valedictorian, Fitz Smythe. We can endure both calamities.

A colored man, named Palmer, discharged a rifle over the head of a quarrelsome neighbor to frighten him away. The experiment was an unqualified success but the recoil of the piece lodged Mr. Palmer in jail.

A contributor to the Monitor begins thus: “I am just after reading an article in a late issue of your journal,” etc. We should really like to know the writer’s nationality. His diction is peculiar.

Senator Cole has finally distinguished himself. He spoke against the bill to strengthen the public credit; which accordingly passed the Senate. We believe Senator Cole to be a wise man. Pity he drools.

Upon disinterring the remains of the notorious Wirz at Washington, the head, spine, and right hand only were found to be missing. Such negligence up the part of the devil is inexcusable.

The critic of the Morning Call says: “The ‘Portia’ of Miss Ince was entirely too sepulchral.” We suppose she was bound in grave-clothes. The critic is himself in swaddling clothes.

A British trooper was killed by the Afghans in Central Asia. “There is this affair the bare possibility of a war between the realms of Alexander and Victoria.”—Alta.

Two Stockton gentleman were accosted by a robber with a demand “money or brains.” Being unprovided with the latter, they handed over former.

A man from San Joaquin county has been sent to the penitentiary “for life,” that is, until pardoned by some retiring Governor. Life is short in these days of swift pardons.

The Board of Education failed to meet last Tuesday evening, as required by law. We trust this may be considered a precedent.

The editor of the Times gravely speaks of Alaska as “The Sleeping Beauty” If the Times circulates in that region its babble will soon wake her.

The inaugural address of President Grant does not possess sufficient literary merit to be suitable for our columns. We think he can do better.

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)