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April 7, 1866

On Linden, etc.

And speaking of steamboats reminds me of an incident of my late trip to Sacramento. I want to publish it as showing how going north on the river gradually enfeebles one's mind, and accounts for the strange imbecility of legislators who leave here sensible men, and become the reverse, to the astonishment of their constituents, by the time they reach their seats in the Capitol at Sacramento. John Paul, Lieutenant Ellis, and myself went up with Captain Poole to his room on the Antelope at ten o'clock last Saturday night, and by way of amusement, John Paul instituted an intellectual game. He recited the first line of Hohenlinden: "

"On Linden, when the sun was low,"

I recited the second:
"All bloodless lay th' untrodden snow,"

Lieutenant Ellis the third:
"And dark as winter was the flow"

John Paul the fourth:
"Of Iser, rolling rapidly."

Lieutenant Ellis began the next verse, and we went through it regularly, as before.

Bill Stevenson was umpire. He held the watch, allowed a man ten seconds to recollect his line, and if he couldn't, called " Time!" and " passed the deal" to the next, and the delinquent had to send for the whisky. Or if a man misquoted a word, Bill checked the mistake on his memorandum, and it was good for four drinks. Well., we went clear through the whole poem, and only one mistake, of a single little word, was made. The drinks were ordered. We went through it again; result, one mistake, and the drinks. We went through it again; result, one mistake, and whisky. We repeated the operation; result, three misquotations, and three whiskies all round. We stayed with that poem all the way to Sacramento, arriving there at 3 in the morning, and here is the way the first verse of "Hohenlinden " stood the last time we recited it:

Myself - "On London when the tray was low - "

John Paul - "The curfew tolled the knell of parting day;"

Lieut. Ellis - "This world is but a fleeting show - "

Myself - ("Hic!) Berrer dog'n ole dog Tray!"

Bill Stevenson said: "Texas, bring four quarts of whisky and charge to these gentlemen - such stupidity as this must be severely punished."

Now just see the effect that travelling in a northerly direction has on a man. The further you go the more idiotic you become. I don't wonder that those legislators give such frequent evidences of decaying intellect. Most of them go north, you know.

[text from Sketches of the Sixties, John Howell, 1927]

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