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Territorial Enterprise, November 18, 1865

[portion of letter from San Francisco]


As usual, the Alta reporter fastens the mysterious What Cheer robbery on the same horrible person who knocked young Meyers in the head with a slung-shot a year ago and robbed his father's pawnbroker shop of some brass jewelry and crippled revolvers, in broad daylight; and he laid that exploit on the horrible wretch who robbed the Mayor's Clerk, who half-murdered detective officer Rose in a lonely spot below Santa Clara; and he proved that this same monster killed the lone woman in a secluded house up a dark alley with a carpenter's chisel, months before; and he demonstrated by inspired argument that the same villain who chiselled the woman tomahawked a couple of defenceless women in the most mysterious manner up another dark alley a few months before that. Now, the perpetrator of these veiled crimes has never been discovered, yet this wicked reporter has taken the whole batch and piled them coolly and relentlessly upon the shoulders of one imaginary scoundrel, with a comfortable, "Here, these are yours," and with an air that says plainly that no denial, and no argument in the case, will be entertained. And every time any thing happens that is unlawful and dreadful, and has a spice of mystery about it, this reporter, without waiting to see if maybe somebody else didn't do it, goes off at once and jams it on top of the old pile, as much as to say, "Here - here's some more of your work." Now this isn't right, you know. It is all well enough for Mr. Smythe to divert suspicion from himself - nobody objects to that - but it is not right for him to lay every solitary thing on this mysterious stranger, whoever he is - it is not right, you know. He ought to give the poor devil a show. The idea of accusing "The Mysterious" of the What Cheer burglary, considering who was the last boarder to bed and the first one up!

Smythe is endeavoring to get on the detective police force. I think it will be wronging the community to give this man such a position as that - now you know that yourself, don't you? He would settle down on some particular fellow, and every time there was a rape committed, or a steamship stolen, or an oyster cellar rifled, or a church burned down, or a family massacred, or a black-and-tan pup stolen, he would march off with portentous mien and snatch that fellow and say, "Here, you are at it again, you know," and snake him off to the Station House.

[reprinted in The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 2 1864-1865, (Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp. 334-35.]
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