The Mysteries and Miseries of San Francisco Showing up all the various characters and notabilities, (both in high and low life) that have figured in San Franciso since its settlement.
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
THE MYSTERIES AND MISERIES OF SAN FRANCISCO.
The Alarm—The Flames—The Ladder.
San Francisco, on the marge of thesea, with towering hills behind her, laybasking in the sun like a serpent by theside of a rock.
The dwellings of the more fortunateclasses loomed pleasantly on the side ofthe large round hills in the distance, andmight with the aid of a little fancy, havebeen metamorphosed into the castellateddomains of the feudal barons whosereign succeeded that of absolute barbarismin Europe. Those quiet dwellingsamid the solitude of nature, present avivid contrast to the stirring scenes ofthe town below, and accordingly all whopossess taste and the means of gratifyingit, rear a building among the hillsto which they can retire, after the fatiguesof the day, and solace themselveswith the comforts of domestic retiracy,and the grand simplicity of nature.
In giving a coup d’œil at the scene,from the city itself, one is struck by thepointed roof rising above a range of hillswhich lie to the south west of the nobleharbor, and which crowns a dark pilethat, on a nearer approach, seems tolean against the side of a mountain uponwhose peak linger the last beams of thesetting sun. This extensive edifice isthe dwelling or homestead of the wealthyand far-famed Senor de Castro, an oldresident of the country, and one of theproudest of the ancient lords of the soil.His horses are the best, his table themost sumptuous, and his servants themost numerous of any ranchero in theregions round about California.
It was early on one afternoon in June,18—, that several young men, mostlyAmericans, were conversing around atable in one of the principle Cafes inthe young city of San Francisco; a stoutrobust man nearly forty years of age,and dressed partly in the English styleand partly in that of the country, withleggings and heavy blunt spurs, and ared sash about his middle, was discussingthe merit of the auguadent sold inSantiago, a city of Chile, and havingbecome very eloquent on this importanttopic, he set down his glass upon thetable so violently as to shatter it toatoms.
‘Give me your good old-fashionedhorn tumbler,’ cried he, with an oath,‘and leave these baby-toys to the womenand children!’
‘You like to take your liquor in ahorn?’ said a young American clerk toa provision dealer, ‘now I prefer a glass,if it were only for the cleanliness of thething,
‘You married men!’ exclaimed thestouter disputant, laughing.
‘A marriage extempore,’ muttered asaturnine young American, with anenormous head of black hair. ‘Whenare you going to send that little girlback to her mother?’
‘Silence, Pothook!’ cried the other,‘you know that you would have givenall the old shoes in your locker to havegot one smile from her, yourself—’
‘Yes, envious Pothook,’ cried anotheryouth, whose accent betrayed theCockney, ‘if Cardwell has a notion tosettle down in the calm of domestic life,and—’
‘Settle! Ten thousand blunderbusses!’laughed the stout man, ‘When didyou ever know Cardwell to settle anythingbut his grog bills—them’s the settlementshe is most accustomed to.’
‘But I mean,’ added the Cockney;‘that he is not running around afterevery pretty face like—like some people,always excepting the present honorablecompany, as a matter of course.’
‘Oh! of course!’ said Pothook feelingly.
‘Yet,’ remarked a tall, pale youngman, who seemed to have recovered fromsome dangerous illness—‘Yet, let metell you that Cardwell is not so innocentafter all, as he seems to be. I saw him,the other day, stand for half an hour,looking up at a certain house in Claystreet with all the eyes in his head, andmeaning no offence to the gentleman, Idon’t by any manner of means disputehis taste.’
‘Oh! the young villain!’ cried thestout man, roaring with laughter.
In the midst of his jollity and noisyvociferations, a young fellow from ‘theStates’ who had been silent until then,demurely asked—‘Do any of you knowwhat is good for rats?’
This made the stout man laugh stilllouder—‘You had better inquire whatis bad for rats,’ said he at length; ‘forto judge by their sleek hides and plumpbellies, I should think they had alreadyhad enough that was good and wholesome—perditioncatch the born devils! Lastnight, about an hour before morning—’ thespeaker stopped, as the sound of a bellrang violently, and the cry of ‘fire’ atonce arose in the streets.
‘Never mind, go on!’ said the Cockney.
‘Never mind the bell,’ said Cardwell.‘We can’t be disturbed in our pleasuresby these domestic affairs.’
‘Why, by the noise,’ said the stoutman, ‘it would appear that there was apolite invitation given to all citizens thattheir presence might be required in theadjoining streets, and as the wind is comingup fresh—’
‘There is no time to be lost, my goodfellows!’ cried a tall, elegantly formedyouth, rushing into the apartment froman adjoining room. ‘Half the city is inflames!’
So saying, the youth hastened away,followed by the revellers.
The whole town was in an uproar. Asthey gained the street, they were met bythe strong sea breeze that filled the airwith dust, and betokened no good tothose whose property was at that momentencircled by the flames.
The Sansome Truck Company, withtheir hooks and ladders, were rushingby, their scarlet coats powdered withdust, and making the welkin ring withtheir shouts. The elegant youth of whomwe have spoken was one of the first thatreached the fire. Already was the houseof Senor del Castro completely envelopedby sheets of flame, and from the windowsof some of the adjoining buildings thestreams of fire darted forth, and movedswiftly off toward the South on the wingsof the gale.
Several persons, among whom wereCardwell, and the stout man of the cafe,busied themselves in tearing up theplanks in the immediate vicinity of theconflagration, for the streets being laiddown with plank, instead of stones, aidgreatly in the spread of the flames. Thefiremen had brought streams of waterto bear on the principal building, whensuddenly there appeared at an upperwindow, a fair and youthful female form,evidently belonging to one of the higherclasses of the country, whose dark hairfell in rich masses about her shoulders,and partly concealed a face in which thesnow and the rose contended for mastery.
For an instant every one paused inastonishment, nor was her overmasteringbeauty unheeded in that moment offearful excitement; for the cry that awoman was in the house now rose shrillyon the air, and was echoed in everystreet in the city. The ladders werehurried to the spot by men frantic intheir haste to save so fair a specimen ofmortality from a dreadful death, whilethe object of all this interest, the lovelycause of the wild confusion that pervadedthe masses below, simply placed onelittle white hand to her eyes as if to shutout the sight of the surrounding horrors,and steadied herself with the other byplacing it on the sill of the window.
In the moment that the ladder wasplaced against the side of the house, ashrill cry was heard in the rear of thefiremen, and a stately form was seen forcingitself through the throng with giantstrides, and thrusting aside everybodyand everything which opposed its progress.One glance was sufficient to convincethe spectators that the father ofthe imperilled girl was rushing to herrescue. His hat was gone, and his darkbut silvered locks floated on the breeze,the sweat stood in beads upon his broadforehead, and his face, though beardedand mustachioed according to the customof the country, was pale with anxietyand horror.
‘Oh, for the love of God!’ cried he,‘my daughter! my daughter!’
As he reached the front of the building,the flames gushing from the lowerwindows drove back the brave men whohad charge of the ladder. The Senordel Castro clasped his hands, and utteringa cry of despair, would have rushedinto the house, the lower part of whichwas completely filled with flames. Thestout man of the cafe threw himselfupon the distracted father, and by thetimely aid of Cardwell and the Cockney,succeeded in dragging him out of thereach of danger. But the fire companieshad not been idle while theseevents were transpiring. They hadbrought the ladder to the building atanother place. They had placed it firmlyagainst the side of the house, when aman, addressing an officer of the FireDepartment, exclaimed in a tone of despair,‘Oh, my God! Charley, the ladderis too short. It don’t reach anywherenear the window!’
Quicker than thought, Charley placedhimself in front of the window at whichthe girl stood, and bade them place thefeet of the ladder on his shoulders. Inan instant, this was done, one foot of theladder resting on each of his shoulders.The elegant youth of the cafe thensprang forward—
‘That’s right, Monteagle,’ cried Charley,‘climb right up by me and then onthe ladder; bring down the young ladyor never live to tell of your failure.’
But before these words had been fairlyuttered, the daring youth was halfway up the ladder. All eyes were nowfixed on the adventurer. For a momentall seemed silent except the hystericwailings of the anguished father, andthe awful roaring of the flames, as thewind swept through every aperture ofthe building, and added ten-fold to thefury of the conflagration.
Before Monteagle had reached thelower sill of the window, he was discoveredto be on fire; but at almost thesame instant, a stream of water fromthe pipe of an engine drenched him tothe skin. Then both the youth and thegirl were entirely hidden from view bythe rolling forth of a dense volume ofsmoke streaked with flame. One cry—onegeneral cry of despair burst fromthe throng below, and the Senor, notdoubting that both his daughter and herdeliverer had perished, gave a deep groanand sunk senseless to the earth. Butloud rose the voice of Charley upon theair at the awful crisis—‘They are aliveyet! Don’t be frightened, man, I feel theweight of both of them on my shoulders,now—now—the ladder shakes! they arecoming down!’
Several men with large ponchos werecrowded around the bottom of the ladderto smother the flames, in case theyoung lady should be on fire, by wrappingher tightly in these ample garments,and they looked up on hearing the cheerfulexclamations of Charley. The feetand legs of a man were discerned belowthe smoke that had enveloped the upperpart of the ladder, then the bottom of alady’s robe, and finally the face of Monteaglebegrimed and blistered lookeddown upon the trembling expectants.The head of the girl reclined on theshoulder of the gallant youth, her blackhair flowing down his back, while herarms hung listless by his sides—she wasin a state of