The Fiend's Delight, by Ambrose Bierce

Obituary Notices.


. . . . It is with a feeling of professional regret that we record the death of Mr. Jacob Pigwidgeon. Deceased was one of our earliest pioneers, who came to this State long before he was needed. His age is a matter of mere conjecture; probably he was less advanced in years than Methuselah would have been had he practised a reasonable temperance in eating and drinking. Mr. Pigwidgeon was a gentleman of sincere but modest piety, profoundly respected by all who fancied themselves like him. Probably no man of his day exercised so peculiar an influence upon society. Ever, foremost in every good work out of which there was anything to be made, an unstinted dispenser of every species of charity that paid a commission to the disburser, Mr. Pigwidgeon was a model of generosity; but so modestly did he lavish his favours that his left hand seldom knew what pocket his right hand was relieving. During the troubles of ‘56 he was closely identified with the Vigilance Committee, being entrusted by that body with the important mission of going into Nevada and remaining there. In 1863 he was elected an honorary member of the Society for the Prevention of Humanity to the Chinese, and there is little doubt but he might have been anything, so active was the esteem with which he inspired those for whom it was desired that he should vote.

Originally born in Massachusetts, but for twenty-one years a native of California and partially bald, possessing a cosmopolitan nature that loved an English shilling as well, in proportion to its value, as a Mexican dollar, the subject of our memoir was one whom it was an honour to know, and whose close friendship was a luxury that only the affluent could afford. It shall even be the writer’s proudest boast that he enjoyed it at less than half the usual rates.

The circumstances attending his taking off were most mournful. He had been for some time very much depressed in spirits of one kind and another, and on last Wednesday morning was observed to be foaming at the mouth. No attention was paid to this; his family believing it to be a symptom of hydrophobia, with which he had been afflicted from the cradle. Suddenly a dark-eyed stranger entered the house, took the patient’s neck between his thumb and forefinger, threw the body across his shoulder, winked respectfully to the bereaved widow, and withdrew by way of the kitchen cellar. Farewell, pure soul! we shall meet again.


. . . . We are reluctantly compelled to relate the untimely death of Mrs. Margaret Ann Picklefinch, which occurred about one o’clock yesterday morning. The circumstances attending the melancholy event were these:—

Just before the hour named, her husband, the well-known temperance lecturer, and less generally known temperance lecturee, came home from an adjourned meeting of the Cold–Water Legion, and retired very drunk. His estimable lady got up and pulled off his boots, as usual. He got into bed and she lay down beside him. She uttered a mild preliminary oath of endearment and suddenly ceased speaking. It must have been about this time she died. About daylight he invited her to get up and make a fire. Detecting no movement in her body he enforced family discipline. The peculiar hard sound of his wife striking the floor first aroused his suspicions of the bereavement he had sustained, and upon rising later in the day he found his first fears realized; the lady had waived her claim to his further protection.

We extend to Mr. P. our sincere sympathy in the greatest calamity that can befall an unmarriageable man. The inconsolable survivor called at our office last evening, conversed feelingly some moments about the virtues of the dear departed, and left with the air of a dog that has had his tail abbreviated and is forced to begin life anew. Truly the decrees of Providence appear sometimes absurd.


. . . . Mr. Bildad Gorcas, whose death has cast a wet blanket of gloom over our community, was a man comparatively unknown, but his life furnishes an instructive lesson to fast livers. Mr. Gorcas never in his life tasted ardent spirits, ate spiced meats, or sat up later than nine o’clock in the evening. He rose, summer and winter, at two A. M., and passed an hour and three quarters immersed in ice water. For the last twenty years he has walked fifteen miles daily before breakfast, and then gone without breakfast. During his waking hours he was never a moment idle; when not hard at work he was trying to think. Up to the time of his death, which occurred last Sunday, he had never spoken to a doctor, never had occasion to curse a dentist, had a luxurious growth of variegated hair, and there was not a wrinkle upon any part of his body. If he had not been cut off by falling across a circular saw at the early age of thirty-two, there is no telling how long he might have weathered it through.

A life like his is so bright and shining an example that we are almost sorry he died.


. . . . During the week just rolled into eternity, our city has been plunged into the deepest grief. He who doeth all things well, though to our weak human understanding His acts may sometimes seen to savour of injustice, has seen fit to remove from amongst us one whose genius and blameless life had endeared him to friend and foe alike.

In saying that Mr. Jowler was a dog of preeminent abilities and exceptional virtues, we but faintly echo the verdict of a bereaved Universe. Endowed with a gigantic intellect and a warm heart, modest in his demeanour genial in his intercourse with friends and acquaintances, and forbearing towards strangers (with whom he ever maintained the most cordial relations, unmarred by the gross familiarity-too common among dogs of inferior breeds), inoffensive in his daily walk and conversation, the deceased was universally respected and his loss will be even more generally deplored.

It would be a work of supererogation to give a résumé of the public career of one so well known-one whose name has become a household word. In private life his character was equally estimable. He had ever a wag of encouragement for the young, the ill-favoured, the belaboured, and the mangy. Though his gentle spirit has passed away, he has left with us the record of his virtues as a shining example for all puppies; and the writer is pleased to admit that so far as in him lay he has himself endeavoured to profit by it.


. . . . Yo Hop is dead! He was last seen alive about three o’clock yesterday morning by a white labourer who was returning home after an elongated orgie at a Barbary Coast inn, and at the time seemed to be in undisputed possession of all his faculties; the remainder of his personal property having been transferred to the white labourer aforesaid. At the moment alluded to, Mr. Hop was in the act of throwing up his arms, as if to ward off some impending danger in the hands of the sole spectator. An instant later he experienced one of those sudden deaths which have made this city popularly famous and surgically interesting.

The lamented was forty years of age; how much longer he might have lived, in his own country, it is impossible to determine; but it is to be remarked that the climate of California is a very trying one to people of his peculiar organization. The body was kindly taken in charge by a resident of the vicinity, and now lies in state in his back yard, where it is being carefully prepared for burial by those skilful meathounds, Messrs. Lassirator, Mangler, and Chure, whose names are a sufficient guarantee that the mournful rites will be attended to in a manner befitting the solemn occasion.

We tender the bereaved widow our sincere sympathy at the regular rates. The cause of Mr. Hop’s demise is unknown. It is unimportant.


. . . . A dead Asian was recently found in a ditch in Nevada county. His head, like that of a toad, had a precious jewel imbedded in it, about the size of an ordinary watermelon, and a clear majority of his fingers, toes, and features had received Christian burial in the stomachs of several contiguous hogs with roving commissions. As he seemed unwilling to state who he was, or how he got his deserts, he was tenderly replaced in his last ditch, and his discoverers proceeded leisurely for the coroner. Upon the arrival of that public functionary some days later, a pile of nice clean bones was discovered, with this touching epitaph inscribed with a lead pencil upon a segment of the skull:

“Yur lize wot cant be chawd of Chineece jaik; xekewted bi me fur a plitikle awfens, and et bi mi starven hogs, wich aint hed nuthin afore sence jaix boss stoal mi korn. BIL ROPER, and ov sich is Kingdem cum.”


. . . . The following report of an autopsy is of peculiar interest to physicians and Christians:— Case 81st. — Felo de se. Yow Kow, yellow, male, Chinese, aged 94; found dead on the street; addicted to opium. Autopsy-sixteen hours after death. Slobbering at the mouth; head caved in; immense rigor mortis; eyes dilated and gouged out; abdomen lacerated; hemorrhage from left ear. Head. Water on the brain; scalp congested, rather; when burst with a mallet interior of head resembled a war map. Thorax. Charge of buckshot in left lung; diaphragm suffused; heart wanting-finger marks in that vicinity; traces of hobnails outside. Abdomen. Lacerated as aforesaid; small intestines cumbered with brick dust; slingshot in duodenum; boot-heel imbedded in pelvis; butcher’s knife fixed rigidly in right kidney.

Remarks: Chinese immigration will ruin any country in the world.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51