LETTER FROM DAYTON
[TRAVELING WITH ADOLPH SUTRO. -] Eight left Virginia yesterday and came down to Dayton with Mr. Sutro. Time 30 minutes - distance 8 or 9 miles. There is nothing very slow about that kind of travel. We found Dayton the same old place but taking up a good deal more room than it did the last time I saw it, and looking more brisk and lively with its increase of business, and more handsome on account of the beautiful dressed stone buildings with which it is being embellished of late.
Just as we got fairly under way, and were approaching Ball Robert's bridge, Sutro's dog, "Carlo," got to skirmishing around in the extravagant exuberance of his breakfast, and shipped up a fight with six or seven other dogs whom he was entirely unacquainted with, had never met before and probably has no desire to meet again. He waltzed into them right gallantly and right gallantly waltzed out again.
We also left at about this time and trotted briskly across Ball Robert's bridge. I remarked that Ball Robert's bridge was a good one and a credit to that bald gentleman. I said it in a fine burst of humor and more on account of the joke than anything else, but Sutro is insensible to the more delicate touches of American wit, and the effort was entirely lost on him. I don't think Sutro minds a joke of mild character any more than a dead man would. However, I repeated it once or twice without producing any visible effect, and finally derived what comfort I could by laughing at it myself.
Mr. Sutro being a confirmed business man, replied in a practical and businesslike way. He said the bridge was a good one, and so were all public blessings of a similar nature when entrusted to the hands of private individuals. He said if the county had built the bridge it would have cost an extravagant sum of money, and would have been eternally out of repair. He also said the only way to get public work well and properly done was to let it out by contract.
"For instance," says he, "they have fooled away two or three years trying to capture Richmond, whereas if they had let the job by contract to some sensible business man, the thing would have been accomplished and forgotten long ago." It was a novel and original idea and I forgot my joke for the next half hour in speculating upon its feasibility....
The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1 1851-1864,
(Univ. of California Press, 1979), pp. 418-19.]
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