Page:Mexico, California and Arizona - 1900.djvu/352

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332
OLD MEXICO AND HER LOST PROVINCES.

ities, the hardihood and good looks of all, while eliminating their defects. Certainly the bright, intelligent aspect of the children of San Francisco does nothing as yet to discredit such a theory.

Such vestiges of '49 as yet remain are extremely few. I confess to surprise as well at the slightness of the historic records at the Pioneer Society. I make little doubt that they could be easily paralleled in many other libraries of the country. "North Beach," under Telegraph Hill, may be visited both for its memories and present aspect of picturesque ruin. It is where the pioneer ships landed. Hence, also, the ill-fated Ralston swam out into the bay, and here are the remains of "Harry Meigs's Wharf." Harry Meigs was a famous prototype of Ralston's in the Fifties. Defeated in brilliant financial schemes, and having endeavored to save his defeat by forgery, he was obliged to take flight. He chartered a schooner to take him to the South Sea Islands, which lay off the wharf for him at midnight.

"This is hell," he is reported to have said as he stepped on board, expressing thus his Lucifer-like sense of humiliation and downfall.

He did not remain long at the South Sea Islands, but sailed for Peru. There he began the world again, built all the railways of that republic, became a great millionaire, sent back and paid all his debts, and was divested, by act of Legislature, so far as legislation could do it, of the stigma of his crimes. His story is by no means a good one to hold up to the emulation of youth, but it is romantic, and in some sense characteristic of California.

The blackened old pier is a dumping-place for city refuse now, and swarms of chiffoniers gather around it to pick out such scraps of value as they may before they are washed away by the daily tides.