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Louise Herrick Wall set out on foot to walk the burning city. Her acute observations leave one of the best records about what refugees thought, felt, and reacted to in the disaster around them. This account appeared in the August 1906 "The New Century Magazine."

Wall, in 1922, edited "The Letters of Franklin K. Lane, Personal and Political," published by Houghton Mifflin. Lane (1864-1921), a Progressive and ardent conservationist, was San Francisco's City Attorney, and then Secretary of the Interior during the Wilson administration.



Horror panic, dread, terror are the words that have been most by the local and Eastern press in describing the effect of the extraordinary disasters that have rushed upon us here in San Francisco during the last two weeks, filling every hour since the great earthquake shock of the morning of April 18--and the vastly more disastrous succeeding days of the fire--with a tempest of hurrying events. And yet to the thousands who have been caught within the whirlpool of intense activity the words seem unreal, crude, and essentially false to the spirit that animates the whole mass of the people who are living with passionate energy through this time. The truth is that despair is not to be seen on any face, nor the droop of it weighing upon any shoulder, nor the ring of it heard in any voice, except where extreme old age or habitual self-indulgence has already set its mark.

Early in the morning of April 19, twenty-four hours after the heaviest shocks, when the earth still quaked at short intervals and the walls of wrecked buildings crumbled in at a puff of wind; when the fire had swept the Mission and most of the water-front bare, and was rushing against and overwhelming the great business blocks of the main thoroughfares, at that moment attacking the heart of San Francisco itself; when Market street was the fuel through which the fire sucked its air from the bay; when marble and brick and concrete business blocks crashed in on themselves or, in the weak of the breakers of fire, glowed down into heaps of lime and stick and ash and wire-draped junk; when the incessant explosions of dynamite of the fire-fighters, who strove to save by destruction, came in rushes of sound on each wave of ash laden air that burned the face and dimmed the sight, I walked the whole length of San Francisco from the ferry to army headquarters in the Presidio and back again, and made a number of detours into the burning city, as far as the bayonets of the fire-line of guards would permit, over hot debris and under festoons of half-melted, fallen wires, where the city in its first hot haste was vomited out upon these ruined streets; and yet I saw no despair upon any human face.

In that day's tramp of twenty blistering miles I saw only four faces that showed the trace of tears and heard fewer shaken voices, and yet for miles my way lay among those who had just lost their homes and had burned but then from seeing the complete destruction of all their material wealth. I was close to the people, often wedged in among them for twenty minutes at a time, I must have spoken to several hundred refugees, so could not have failed to know the temper of the crowd, even if it had interested me less profoundly.

For hours as I walked I was combating the fatal but almost universal belief that the ferries had stopped running, that the wharves were all burned, and that the only hope of safety lay in reaching the west side of Van Ness Avenue and, if driven from there, to seek final refuge in the sand-dunes of Golden gate Park and the Presidio. If the people who lived in the down-town district had known on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of April that they could escape from San Francisco into the country by way of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and the Marin County towns, an inestimable amount of suffering would have been spared, but they firmly believed themselves hemmed in by the fire. The city, to them, was a trap with only one possible egress, miles and miles to the west. Day after day and all night long, without regular food, drink, rest, or respite from intense anxiety, thousands of families of women and little children dragged themselves from place to place in front of the flames, lying without shelter in vacant lots, exposed to fog and chilling rain. Premature childbirth and death to the feeblest of the old people resulted from the fatal misconception. In many cases families were walking and dragging their few rescued possessions away from the reach of the flames for four or five successive days and nights, going from one place of temporary shelter to another without the commonest necessities of life and without sleep.

Color was given to the rumor of the destruction of the ferries by the fact that the fire, which did sweep away most of the buildings on lower Market street except the ferry buildings, had for some hours on the 18th prevented transit by boat to and from town. Moreover, the ferry building had been seriously injured by the earthquake and many of the roofs of adjacent boat-landings had collapsed upon the staggering pier. The metal flag-staff on top of the ferry tower, whipped back and forth by the violence of the oscillation at that height, had been bent at a sharp angle, giving a look of greater insecurity to the whole building. All this was more than enough to confirm the reports of a complete blockading of the port.

Early in the morning of the 19th the extreme down-town section of Sin Francisco was wiped out. For the short way that the eye could penetrate the more one could make out only the shattered walls and columns of wrecked buildings sending up vast plume of exquisitely tinted smoke,–mauve, pink, white, and gray–with explosive bursts of orange flames tearing the obscurity beyond. The fragments of buildings near at hand were already mere pale monuments of ruin.

Market street was a trough of flame; and the only way up-town was to skirt the fire to the north and follow the streets least obstructed by fallen poles, fire, and wreckage. This had been a section of warehouses, factories, and canneries that had been shaken down and burned over some hours before. Thousands of tins of peach and apricot, their once gaudy labels roasted into blackness, were scattered among the bricks and rubbish of the fallen buildings, Now and then a can exploded with trivial ferocity and bespattered the passengers with scalding fruit. Thrifty, black-bearded Italians from the fishermen's quarter were making packs of the cans and slinging them over their shoulders. Street Arabs, themselves blackened past any racial classification, broke into the tins, and squatting among the smoking debris, freely feasted on the twice-cooked fruit. Every part of these streets was encumbered with wreckage; the pavement, torn and ruptured here more than elsewhere by the shock, was blocked by sliding piles of brick, in places as high as a man's head, that had to be climbed through and over, while everywhere leaning poles, draped with ensnaring wreaths of half-melted electric wires, made progress a mere crawl. As I worked my way through this smoking quarter, where the stones were hot beneath the feet, I began to overtake refugees fleeing toward the Presidio.

The sidewalks, already almost impassable with wreckage, were filled for miles, from this point onward, with household goods of every known variety,–sewing-machines, wads of bedding, pans, dishes, mirrors, crayon portraits enlarged from photographs of the dear, ugly dead, no doubt, –bureaus, beds, pianos, banjo, soup tureens, and every object that ever helped to complicate existence under a roof, were set upon legs that day. Everything that moved on wheel or castor became a wagon. Baby-carriages, piled high with clothes and bedding, sometimes running upon a single wheel, and trunks with castors, or two or three trunks a-tandem, were drawn through the streets by ropes of torn sheets. Women with lap-dogs and hundreds of men and women with bird cages–parrots, canaries, and love-birds hurried with the hurrying caravan.

In a clear space I saw a well-dressed old gentleman of about sixty, with a white mustache and imperial and a well-brushed high silk hat, trotting along briskly with a large new trunk, fastened by a new trunk strap, trundling and bumping at his heels as a toy sheep bumps and trundles at the heels of a two-year-old. A wealthy and well-known dry-goods merchant of San Francisco had turned his trunk over and was nailing a pair of roller-skates to the bottom, to give speed to this ark of his fallen fortune.

In the confusion people met your gaze abstractedly; if questioned, they would answer, and return instantly to their interrupted tasks. All were intent on some immediate furious effort to save from the approaching fire what was left to them of family and possessions. The broken anthill, with its myriad escaping ants each carrying pupae, grub, or some burden greater than himself, is neither less nor more tragic to look upon than these eager human creatures in their determined effort to save their own. In many you saw the tightening of the will that is a strong joy to the strong, and the fight for life quickened by the near rumble and jar of dynamite and fanned by the flame-beaten air laden with ash and cinder. The breeze swept scorching from the south, where the fire was swallowing a fresh block of houses every ten or fifteen minutes. The whole sky in that quarter was steam and smoke, torn by wallowing bursts of flame.

In certain of the streets even downtown one came upon back-waters of comparative quiet where the people, who had left their houses the night of the earthquake, still sat or lay upon their possessions outside of their own doorways half asleep from the fatigue and exciting vigil of the day and night. Among these groups there was no excited talk nor consultation: they seemed to have received their orders and to be awaiting drowsily the prod of the flames to set them on the march.

The flight of the people in these first hours of the great fire was so like what everyone has read and heard about such flights that it had the familiarity, combined with grotesque strangeness, of a recurrent delirium, or one of those double mental impressions in which each phase of unfolding events is half-anticipated by the tired mind, when one is ready to say, "If this is Hell, I have been there before." The traditional bird-cages, the inevitable parrot only unexpected in repeating each one his own little set of phrases, one crying in a harshly irritable voice, What is it? What is it?" and another, sunk among his plumage, imitating the broken sobs of a woman's voice and stammering out, "Poor, poor Polly!"

From a hundred heaps of rescued treasure gramophones lifted their foolish, brazen mouths. Invalids rode in baby-carriages or across the locked hands of men or on shutters, or on mattresses of woven wire. One sick woman, whose hip had been injured before the disaster was pushed from near the City Hall to the ferry on two bicycles lashed together, catamaran fashion, and steadied over the debris by her sons. She was four days on the bed they had improvised for her of a chair tied to the wheels before she reached a place of safety. Babies were born on doorsteps, and mothers delivered before their time by those who were kind enough to stop and help. There is no way to exaggerate the extraordinary pain, hardship, and, above all, the killing suspense suffered during the flight, but at every point it was met and matched by heroism, ingenuity, family tenderness, and disinterested devotion.

"This awful time may not be worth the suffering it has cost," cried a young soldier, himself pallid with nights of work and watching, "but it is worth all the money it has cost–all, and more." It has been wonderful and stirring to see the kindness, the magnanimity, the absolute absence of greed in taking advantage of one another's misfortunes. It takes more than pain or loss to make a tragedy when the spirit of a free people burns up strong and clear to meet its fate as it has burned in stricken San Francisco. Everywhere that American spirit that

"..Turns a keen untroubled face
Home, to the instant need of things,"
everywhere the spirit that dares
"To shake the iron hand of Fate
And match with Destiny for beers"
lifted its dauntless, impudent front, and with half satanic humor has lightened the load of hardship with a jest.

"I got to California just before the earthquake," said a comely young woman, who had saved her best hat by wearing it. "I sure never was so warmly received or got such a shake of welcome." She was living between two street cars in the middle of the street. A woman of seventy, white, wrinkled, but erect, said, "I am a miner's wife. We came out in the fifties, and I saw quite some hardships then. It would be queer if this should faze me. I've still got the clothes I stand in."

But of all the calm, unruffled people, the Chinese were by far the most self-contained. As the fire reached the squalid, gorgeous, ever-delightful streets of old Chinatown and ran like a swift blade into its sheaf, through their long, low, wooden shanties and into the great tiled and gilded bazaars turning to dross old Satsuma, carved ivories, polished teak, and tender porcelain of feather-weight, and all that world of beauty and strangeness wrought by the patient oriental knife and brush and needle out of insensate wood, brass, gold, silver, and silk to stir the senses of an alien race with wonder and delight–the grave, sad merchants of Chinatown gathered a few portable treasures into packs and long pole- swung baskets, and, with wives and children, coolies and slaves, poured out of their city into the unfamiliar reaches of North Beach. Their women and children, dressed in green and rose and gold, came in family groups, walking softly on padded, embroidered shoes through the debris of wrecked buildings, still with smooth, unwritten faces and calm eyes.

The small-foot, Number One wife of some great merchant tottered on her three-inch soles and clung to the shoulder of a plebeian maid. She walked for the first time in her life in broad day beside her lord, like a fearless American, over the torn cobbles of the streets. In each group of these richly dressed Chinese refugees there was at least one lacquered and pearl-inlaid treasure-chest slung across a pole borne by two bearers. These chests were like tiny ornate coffins, locked with heavy, hanging padlocks of elaborately wrought metal–brass and gold In all my former prowlings in Chinatown I had never before seen one of these jewel-cases; but on this day, when the secrets of all hearts were open and all desires known, I saw dozens of them carried between pole-bearers. The seed of a new Chinese city lay in their burnished pods.

I worked my wavy up-town on the lower levels of the north water- front until I was about in line with the hotel district, then, turning south, I climbed one of the sharp ascents that still sheltered the north side from the flames. As I mounted the Taylor street hill, the crowd lessened, until I found myself almost alone and the way barred by the ready bayonet of one of the young soldiers of the fire-line guard. These men were stationed at every street entrance within a block or two of the fire and performed their military duties with the enthusiastic bloodiness of word of the peaceful citizen in uniform.

I reached the crest of California street at about half past ten o'clock, just in time to see the roof of the Bella Vista, one of the oldest and best-known family hotels of San Francisco, sink in upon its dissolving sides. The Pleasanton, the Colonial, the Cecil, the Buckingham, the Renton, and at least threescore others of the great caravansaries of this quarter, were then hung with final doom, and all were burned to the ground in a few hours. It was just there, in the Bella Vista, and the Cecil that those that had lived a few hours before, but now there was absolutely no way to trace man or woman in the rout.

On the highest levels of this quarter stood the old show-houses of San Francisco, products of the seventies. Here the Crockers, Fairs, Floods, Stanfords, and Mark Hopkins had erected huge family altars to wealth, to be this day claimed and preempted from them by fire.

By the marked physiognomy of San Francisco, where the over steep hill-sides–the "hog-backs" of the pioneer–and drop down socially with every drop of physical level, to rise again with each succeeding elevation, you found every hilltop of the of the city that commanded a view of the bay crowded by the richest of the city's homes. California street was the best illustration of these variations of altitude and fortune. It rose humbly in a shabby wholesale quarter of the town, on "made ground," to climb gently toward the broking and banking Center near Montgomery street and the Merchants' Exchange, and then hastily skirting Chinatown, climbed on to its culmination on Nob Hill, where the houses of the millionaires of the old regime looked off over the whole city and harbor at their feet. All her rising and falling greatness, for miles from the ferry was that day lapped up and leveled to a gray uniformity in the democracy of ruin.

Edging along the fire-line, it was still possible to enter Van Ness Avenue by way of Sutter street. All the morning I had been hearing the repeated assertion that the fire would be stopped when it came to Van Ness Avenue. It was said that it could not cross the chasm of that widest thoroughfare of the city when its width had been augmented by blowing up the buildings on the east and south sides of the street. As I hurried along Sutter street, in and out of several of the abandoned hospitals of this doctors' quarter, I noticed that the street in front of Dr. McNutt's hospital, near the corner of Van Ness avenue and Sutter street, and just opposite the beautiful white pile of the St. Dunstan, looking radiant against a near back-ground of flame and smoke, was almost clear of people. I ran into the hospital, thinking that some sick person might have been left behind, to find the place absolutely deserted. The rooms were exquisitely clean, but wildly disordered with the surface litter of the flight. Absorbent cotton, bandages, and instruments had been torn from drawers; open bottles of drugs evaporated their odors into the emptiness; and on the floors of the silent lower suites, occupied the day before by wealthy private patients, many beautiful oriental rugs, bits of good furniture, brass, and carved teak stood awaiting destruction. In one room a huge bunch of dewy-fresh scarlet carnations–as many as a woman could carry–were tossed upon a table.

It was a strange sight, this rich, silent, flower-perfumed place, the flames less than a block away, and, though I did not know it until a moment later, with gun-cotton already laid under the building. There was no answer to the call I gave once or twice in the corridors. As I left the building and came out upon the empty street a soldier shouted to me: "You are here at your risk. Dynamite!" Then I saw why the street was empty about the building. I had somehow slipped in between the lines, and my useless errand was the last futile thing that would be done under that hospital's roof. I pressed along Van Ness. On the west side of the avenue miles of luggage and seated people attested a general faith that the fire would not cross that street. Families were doing a little cooking, people were lying, deeply sleeping, on bedding laid upon the sidewalk, weak from their long race for safety. For a moment the fierce game was suspended as the players paused for breath with one foot on the home base.

There was more talk, relaxation; neighborliness than I had seen before. Some comfortably dressed men were telling amusing stories of the earthquake. They were of the sorts who had "known defeat, and mocked it as they ran."

"My brother Sam," one was saying, "had been out on the night shift and turned in at about five o'clock. He'd just about gotten off when the earthquake struck him. He jumped up swearing mad and poked his head out of his door. 'I say, who is this blankety-blank fool shaking my bed? How do you expect a man to sleep? '" But most of the refugees were too worn out to talk. A happy few, on "inverted four-posters,"–a table spread with a mattress,--slept profoundly, and others drowsed on the curbstone, leaning against the empty hydrants, that mocked the city's drought.

There was one more hospital that I had known,–Lane's,–about a mile beyond the present fire-line. When I reached the shattered pile of red masonry it was to be told by the doctor in charge that only a few of the patients remained and that there were more doctors and nurses to care for the sick than patients. It was just one more case of the good management of those in charge of the sick. Although private individuals, with nothing to think of but their own needs, escaped from the hotels in the same localities with only a handful of clothes, every hospital in the city removed its loads of sick and surgical cases, and a large quantity of necessary medical stores, to places of safety. The courage and trained intelligence of doctors and nurses showed in this, and the humanity of a civilized world that served the need of the weakest first. One large Jones street hospital managed to transfer patients, nurses, and a good equipment, to a ship in the harbor hours before the fire reached Jones street. As I turned from the Lane Hospital, I thought of a possible clue to finding one of those I had come to find. There were army officers in my friend's family, and what more natural than at a time when all were turning to military protection she should seek shelter at the Presidio post? I dropped again to the level of the north side, to avoid the hills of the fashionable quarter, greatly fortified by a gill of cream that I had bought from a vendor of milk on the street, and drunk from a bottle. As I joined the throng pushing and dragging their loads toward the Presidio, or resting in exhaustion in the dust of the road, I once more tried to convince members of the crowd that behind them, toward the ferry, lay the road of greatest safety. Here and there groups of men and women were convinced and turned back, intensely relieved to learn of a way of escape.

"They make you pay two dollars to cross the bay," I heard a score of times.

"I paid ten cents this morning," I protested. "The ferry tower has fallen in," insisted others. "I walked under the tower five hours ago, and there has been no earthquake since," I replied. "They won't let us pass," "They will turn us back," "No one could walk so far, after last night," were some of the answers. The fire seemed to hold them as it holds a moth. It had taken everything; why should they leave it?

On that day there was scarcely an automobile to be seen on the main road to the Presidio. I afterward learned that all private cars had been impressed for public service, some to carry the sick and dying from the burning Mechanics' Pavilion, where the victims of the earthquake had been at first taken for safety, and many over the wreckage of the street with their perilous loads of dynamite from Fort Mason to the dynamiters on the fire-line. These gallant little toys of the rich ran almost into the fire, rocking and tottering over the wreckage of the street with their perilous loads of dynamite, and back again to safety. They were the only effective means of locomotion left in the city, where every street car was paralyzed. The automobile is the unquestioned hero of the San Francisco fire. The story has not been and probably never can be told of what a few hundred of these machines have done toward saving life and property. Their value was too immense for private use, and the government early in the day seized all cars for imperative needs. Two weeks after the fire one hundred dollars a day was still the hiring price of a two-seated runabout, at a time when the hire of a sound horse and buggy was five dollars a day. This illustrates the ratio between horse and gasoline power.

By two o'clock in the afternoon of the 19th only a few refugees had arrived at the Presidio, and they were being housed in some poor little quarters in Tennessee Hollow, once used for bachelor quarters for junior officers. In front of one of the bare little shanties a carriage with liveried coachman and footman awaited orders. Again, in the Presidio, my search was useless; but I was able to carry back with me some letters and messages from the silenced city from which no word could travel by post or telegram, written by refugees to relatives or friends outside I posted several notices of inquiry, and turned to walk the seven devious miles back to the ferry.

The fire at this time could be mounting the hills toward the south, and there seemed little reason to suppose that it would be stopped so long as a fat eucalyptus-tree remained to be burned a wooden house stood upon its foundations.

On my return walk I had one "lift" of about twenty blocks in an Italian drayman's wagon. We talked together on the high front seat, he in his seven words of English and I in my five of Italian; but we understood and liked each other, though he refused to let me carry home and take care of the least of his four bambini who lived with their mother, it seemed, in a wooden shanty, at that hour still unburned, that we passed on the road.

He parted from me, gently asking only "foura bita" for my ride; "no charga for the fire," deprecatingly.

We had spoken of beautiful Venezia, safe from fire on her blue canals, and of unhappy Napoli. We rode in Italy far out of the dust of the Presidio road, with its straining throngs of refugees beating a weary way to safety, and we breathed sweet Italian air, cleared of dust and cinder and smoke, for that short, pleasant while. It was a wonderful lift for me.

I reached the ferry at about four o'clock and found a large but not an overwhelming crowd turned toward Berkeley. I was scarcely seated in the ferry-boat before a woman was half-carried in by two young Relief-Corps men and deposited with two large bags beside me. At once she began, in a quiet way, to speak of her adventures. Pressed in close on my other side was a family group of an en elderly woman, her daughter, and a young man. They were half-submerged beneath their belongings, which were neatly tied up in sheets and quilts. The older woman of this group told me that they had been hurrying for thirty-six hours ahead of the fire. Suddenly she broke into tears; in a muffled voice she said that her young daughter, the girl who sat huddled together in her seat with a look of curious pallor on her face, was about to be delivered of her first child. For a moment the mother's old face worked pitifully, as she spoke of her child's condition; but the eyes of the mother-who-was-to-be were fixed steadily ahead–her hour bad not yet come.

My companion of the bags, a woman of about sixty, leaned across me and said firmly to the weeping woman:

It is not goot to cry, already."

And who should know the use of tears better than this brave old soul? She had just told me that fifteen days before she had come, as a stranger, to San Francisco from a small interior town, brought to "the" city by her four children to undergo a serious surgical operation in a private hospital. They were "goot childer" and they had stayed with her until a tumor had been removed and she had been pronounced out of danger. As she spoke on, in serene acceptance of events, I looked into the broad, old face, with its habitual weathered ruddiness spread like a film over the pallor of illness and fatigue beneath, and once more I felt how good it is to be alive in a world where such a woman in such an hour smiles at you with the confidence of an obedient child.

"No, I wasn't scairt at de eart'quake. It was the night my girl [I interpreted this as being her private nurse] left me. I yust laid dere as still as I could for de rollins round, an' I helt on goot to my wound. Dis mornin' dey say we 'd had to leaf de hospital, de fire was a'most there already. So dey gived us some milk and a piece o' bread, and I comed avay."

It was then after four in the afternoon; she had eaten nothing since early morning. She had been all those hours on the blockaded streets with about forty pounds of hand-baggage–and a fresh wound.

"How did you carry your bags?" I demanded. "No, I didn't carry no bags," she said. "Efery time somebody dey carried my bags. De young men dey helped me goot. And now," she smiled, "you help me goot. Is it not so? I goin' to my childer on de night train." When we reached Berkeley I put her in the hands of a university student who wore the Relief Corps badge.

The old, the sick, the feeble are the people who are rightly supposed to have been the greatest sufferers in this disaster, and yet nowhere have I heard the note of fearless energy struck more surely than by these weak ones.

Outside of one of the Japanese missions, where the matron sat on the curbstone preparing some food on one of the street-ovens in universal use since the chimneys of the town have been condemned, I noticed a little Japanese baby boy playing gaily. He was a spirited, charming boy of about three or four years.

"When the shock came," said the matron, "I was alone with this boy and ten other Japanese babies. This little fellow was wakened by the violent rocking of his bed and the crash of falling chimneys. He sat up an called out to me: 'never mind! Never mind! Soon stop.' "

The tunic of the plump philosopher was less than a man's hand.

"It must be the courage of excitement. Wait for the reaction," I said to myself incredulously as the ferry drew from drunken wharves and the smoke of the wasting city hung over the place where San Francisco had been.


The next ten days and nights were filled so full of work that there was no time to think of the destroyed city. Ten thousand refugees reached Berkeley from San Francisco. Over forty of the sick were laid on mattresses on the floor of one of the university gymnasiums that was converted into an emergency hospital between night and day.

In the lull of work, on the morning of April 28 just ten days after the beginning of the fire, a valiant relief-worker took me in her automobile for a three-days' trip through the ruins of San Francisco. As we entered the intensely congested street from the Oakland ferry, most of the fires were mere feebly smoking ash-heaps, and certain streets had been partly cleared of overhanging poles and wires. The eyes, unveiled of smoke, could now range across the wasted city from one notable ruin of house or church or hotel, with a growing sense of the dignity and majesty of the ruins set in space. Strange and terrible as is the destruction, San Francisco was never so nearly beautiful. There is no blackening of the ruins; the heat seems to have been so intense that it consumed all its own smoke charcoal. leaving faintly colored surfaces of crumbled iron, marble, and brick. The ruins stretch out in the softest pastel shades of pink and fawn and mauve, making the wasted districts look like a beautiful city a thousand years dead–an elder Troy or Babylon. The streets so recently thronged with violently active refugees seeking for any place of safety were lined with tents and shanties, The ingenuity of the home-building instinct is astonishing. There are hundreds of decent shelters made of fire-warped corrugated iron, of window- shutters, of wooden doors torn from wrecked buildings. One especially complete little nook was built between the ends of two adjacent Pacific-Avenue cars and fitted with stove and seats. Tents were made of coats and bed-comfortables. Down near the old fish- market were some piratical-looking tents made by the fisher-folk, of old sail-cloths and spars, with a rakish list to leeward, as though ready to ship a crew and set sail in any of the elements.

On this tenth day from the fire the park showed hundreds of acres of lawn covered with well-arranged tents set among the blooming roses and flowering shrubs of the park's conventional flower beds. The shadow of leaves plays on clean canvas, and rescued canaries hat at the tent-peaks chirping contentment. Here and there a hurrying load of furniture or a laden foot-passenger recalls the exodus of a few days before, but these grow hourly more unusual.

The most foreign element in the park is the great crowd that collects about the Relief Camps, where thousands stand in the bread-line three times each day to be fed. The Los Angeles Relief Camp is especially complete in its equipment. In front of its great cooking tents tables are spread with shining rows of tins. They chose a sheltered cove of green sward, an acre or so in extent, surrounded by trees, and nothing could be more orderly or pleasant to look upon than the arrangement of their work.

New buildings of redwood, depots to receive a part of the 27,000 tons of food supplies sent in by neighboring cities and States, have been run up and completed in a week. Here food is handled and distributed to the homeless refugees by the military. The generosity and good-will of every State in the Union has reached out and touched and given its healing virtue to California. San Francisco has been borne up in safety on the goodness of the of the world, as a sea-gull, at sea, sleeps safely on the wing.

A young doctor who was hurrying through Utah to offer his services in San Francisco says that he could not buy bread to eat in Ogden. The bakers had cut down the local supply: Ogden had to wait, they were baking bread by the car-load for San Francisco. All the schools in Ogden were closed on that day that the children might collect food supplies to carry to the waiting relief cars.

Go where you will in San Francisco to-day, you find yourself inevitably drawn back to the great battle-field of Van Ness Avenue. Here the last desperate fight was made by the half-dead firemen, the professional and amateur dynamiters, the blackened engineers, and military and civil chiefs of the city. It was here that the automobiles loaded with dynamite rushed in their perilous loads. Van Ness Avenue, with the anguished Western Addition behind it, was the last stand of hope. The history of the struggle is written in the ashes and complete ruin of the eastern and southern sides of the avenue and in the partly burned lines of houses, with their shattered windows and the dynamited gaps between houses, of the western side. Here and there the fire leaped the avenue and dynamite snatched from the flames the twice-doomed houses of those rich merchants and financiers who had built to themselves a "house upon the sand." Books, pictures, rare Japanese art collections, and the treasures of two generations of wealthy San Franciscans, were sacrificed that night by dynamite to save what was left of the city.

On the west side of Van Ness stands the Catholic cathedral of St. Mary's. The big brick building was too shaken by the earthquake to be safe for worship, but three times on Sunday, the 29th, mass was celebrated by hundreds of worshipers, who knelt with bared heads on the steps of the cathedral. At their back stretched for miles the wasted city, raising broken shafts of delicately tinted ruin against the even grayness of the morning sky, while in front the people bowed before the unseen altar of their unseen God.

No quarter of the whole town is more strangely altered than what was once the congested picturesqueness of Chinatown. Where the wooden buildings have melted into ash a stout property-line of heavy wire, reinforced by an armed guard, has be stretched across to prevent any further looting of the heathen by the Christian hordes. To one who has loved this Chinese quarter, which exercised upon some minds a fascination undimmed by familiarity, the destruction of Chinatown is the most poignant loss of the San Francisco fire. The faults of dirty, smelly, delightful old Chinatown will prevent its ever being what it has been.

As I sat on a little embankment, where a bazaar had stood, amid the hot ashes of Chinatown, a tingling in the throat from the acrid smoke that curled up from the burrowing little fires about me, I could think of no more joyful consolation than that Robert Louis Stevenson had not lived to feel the pang of this desolation. Just below me the shaken house where be had lived and the little golden galleon of his monument outlived the ruin of the quarter that he had loved.

Against the property-line, looking in on the ruins, several Chinese merchants stood and talked in low voices.

I went up to one tall Cantonese with an impulse to say something of the sorrow I felt in the blow to his honest, loyal people in the loss of their homes and trade.

"Bye and bye," he said slowly and without swagger, "we build all new." Yes, they might build it new,--I thought of the coffin-shaped treasure chests,--but the old haunt of opium dreams was gone. The contrast between old Chinatown, or even what remains of it now, and the new Chinese encampment at Fort Point is absolute. The tent city of the Chinese, after one or two removals, has finally been concentrated in an open, rolling stretch of country near the bay, with the purple Marin bills beyond. Just now the green fields are washed with the yellow, white, violet, and orange of mustard, lupine, and poppy flowers. A sweet, breezy empty, salubrious place, it must seem most strangely unhomelike to its new dwellers. I heard the meadow-larks calling across the swales above the sound of "tent-peg that answered to hammer-nose." Under close military inspection, soldiers in khaki and Chinamen in black broadcloth were raising scores of clean, new tents, in ordered rows, over the bruised meadow flowers of yesterday. The whole equipment here was noticeably good; from tents and ropes to stoves and shining refuse-cans, the material was new and sound, the best I had seen issued by the government to refugees. Behind the newly rising city of khaki tents was the big white tent of the medical department, with its red cross insignia winding and unwinding itself on the staff. Cows were browsing in the meadows and the earth lay innocently blooming, as if there had been no harm intended by those few seconds when the hide of our great mastodon-earth twinkled away the fly-like vexation of man and his little works.

The Century Magazine
August 1906
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