San Francisco Letter - [dated Jan. 28, 1866]
Bearding the Fenian in His Lair
Card from the Volunteers - text not available
This is the Sabbath to-day. This is the day set apart by a benignant Creator for rest -- for repose from the wearying toils of the week, and for calm and serious (Brown's dog has commenced to howl again -- I wonder why Brown persists in keeping that dog chained up?) meditation upon those tremendous subjects pertaining to our future existence. How thankful we ought to be (There goes that rooster, now.) for this sweet respite; how fervently we ought to lift up our voice and (Confound that old hen -- lays an egg every forty minutes, and then cackles until she lays the next one.) testify our gratitude. How sadly, how soothingly the music of that deep toned bell floats up from the distant church! How gratefully we murmur (Scat ! -- that old gray tom-cat is always bully-ragging that other one -- got him down now, and digging the hair out of him by the handful.) thanksgiving for these Sabbath blessings. How lovely the day is! ("Buy a broom! buy a broom! ") How wild and beautiful the ("Golden Era 'n' Sund' Mercry, two for a bit apiece!") sun smites upon the tranquil ("Alta, Mon' Call, an' Merican Flag!") city! ("Po-ta-to-o-o-es, ten pounds for two bits -- po-ta-to o-o-es, ten pounds for quart-va dollar!" )
However, never mind these Sunday reflections -- there are too many distracting influences abroad. This people have forgotten that San Francisco is not a ranch -- or rather, that it ought not properly to be a ranch. It has got all the disagreeable features of a ranch, though. Every citizen keeps from ten to five hundred chickens, and these crow and cackle all day and all night; they stand watches, and the watch on duty makes a racket while the off-watch sleeps. Let a stranger get outside of Montgomery and Kearny from Pacific to Second, and close his eyes, and he can imagine himself on a well-stocked farm, without an effort, for his ears will be assailed by such a vile din of gobbling of turkeys, and crowing of hoarse-voiced roosters, and cackling of hens, and howling of cows, and whinnying of horses, and braying of jackasses, and yowling of cats, that he will be driven to frenzy, and may look to perform prodigies of blasphemy such as he never knew himself capable of before.
Sunday reflections! A man might as well try to reflect in Bedlam as in San
Francisco when her millions of livestock are in tune. Being calm, now, I will
call down no curse upon these dumb brutes (as they are called by courtesy),
but I will go so far as to say I wish they may all die without issue, and that
a sudden and violent death may overtake any person who afterwards attempts to
reinstate the fowl and brute nuisance.
[reprinted Mark Twain's San Francisco, edited by Bernard Taper, (McGraw Hill, 1963), pp. 199-200.]
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