[Portion of Letter from San Francisco]
THE CRUEL EARTHQUAKE
SINGULAR EFFECTS OF THE SHOCK ON THE REV. MR. STEBBINS.
Now the Rev. Mr. Stebbins acted like a sensible man - a man with his presence of mind about him - he did precisely what I thought of doing myself at the time of the earthquake, but had no opportunity - he came down out of his pulpit and embraced a woman. Some say it was his wife. Well, and so it might have been his wife - I'm not saying it wasn't, am I? I am not going to intimate anything of that kind - because how do I know but what it was his wife? I say it might have been his wife - and so it might - I was not there, and I do not consider that I have any right to say it was not his wife. In reality I am satisfied it was his wife - but I am sorry, though, because it would have been so much better presence of mind to have embraced some other woman. I was in Third street. I looked around for some woman to embrace, but there was none in sight. I could have expected no better fortune, though, so I said, "O certainly - just my luck."
A SINGULAR ILLUSTRATION.
When the earthquake arrived in Oakland, the commanding officer of the Congregational Sabbath School was reading these words, by way of text: "And the earth shook and trembled!" In an instant the earthquake seized the text and preached a powerful sermon on it. I do not know whether the commanding officer resumed the subject again where the earthquake left off or not, I but if he did I am satisfied that he has got a good deal of "cheek." I do not consider that any modest man would try to improve on a topic that had already been treated by an earthquake.
A MODEL ARTIST STRIKES AN ATTITUDE.
A young gentleman who lives in Sacramento street, rushed down stairs and appeared in public with no raiment on save a knit undershirt, which concealed his person about as much as its tin foil cap conceals a champagne bottle. He struck an attitude such as a man assumes when he is looking up, expecting danger from above, and bends his arm and holds it aloft to ward off possible missiles - and standing thus he glared fiercely up at the fire-wall of a tall building opposite, from which a few bricks had fallen. Men shouted at him to go in the house, people seized him by the arm and tried to drag him away - even tender-hearted women, (O, Woman! - O ever noble, unselfish, angelic woman! - O, Woman, in our hours of ease uncertain, coy, and hard to please - when anything happens to go wrong with our harness, a ministering angel thou), women, I say, averted their faces, and nudging the paralyzed and impassible statue in the ribs with their elbows beseeched him to take their aprons - to take their shawls - to take their hoop-skirts - anything, anything, so that he would not stand there longer in such a plight and distract people's attention from the earthquake. But he wouldn't budge - he stood there in his naked majesty till the last tremor died away from the earth, and then looked around on the multitude - and stupidly enough, too, until his dull eye fell upon himself. He went back upstairs, then. He went up lively.
WHAT HAPPENED TO A FEW VIRGINIANS - CHARLEY BRYAN CLIMBS A TELEGRAPH POLE.
But where is the use in dwelling on these incidents? There are enough of them to make a book. Joe Noques, of your city, was playing billiards in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. He went through a window into the court and then jumped over an iron gate eighteen feet high, and took his billiard cue with him. Sam Witgenstein took refuge in a church - probably the first time he was ever in one in his life. Judge Bryan climbed a telegraph pole. Pete Hopkins narrowly escaped injury. He was shaken abruptly from the summit of Telegraph Hill and fell on a three-story brick house ten feet below. I see that the morning papers (always ready to smooth over things), attribute the destruction of the house to the earthquake. That is newspaper magnanimity - but an earthquake has no friends. Extraordinary things happened to everybody except me. No one even spoke to me - at least only one man did, I believe - a man named Robinson- - from Salt Lake, I think - who asked me to take a drink. I refused.
The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 2 1864-1865,
(Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp. 291-93.]
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