In The Back Rooms Of These Saloons South Sea
Island Traders And Captains, Fresh From The Lands Of Romance, Whaling
Masters, People Who Were Trying To Get Up Treasure Expeditions,
Filibusters, Alaskan Miners, Used To Meet And Trade Adventures.
There was another element, less picturesque and equally characteristic,
along the waterfront.
San Francisco was the back eddy of European
civilization - one end of the world. The drifters came there and
stopped, lingered a while to live by their wits in a country where
living after a fashion has always been marvellously cheap. These people
haunted the waterfront and the Barbary Coast by night, and lay by day on
the grass in Portsmouth Square.
The square, the old plaza about which the city was built, Spanish
fashion, had seen many things. There in the first burst of the early
days the vigilance committee used to hold its hangings. There, in the
time of the sand lot troubles, Dennis Kearney, who nearly pulled the
town down about his ears, used to make his orations which set the unruly
to rioting. In later years Chinatown lay on one side of it and the Latin
quarter and the "Barbary Coast" on the other.
On this square the drifters lay all day long and told strange yams.
Stevenson lounged there with them in his time and learned the things
which he wove into "The Wrecker" and his South Sea stories; and now in
the centre of the square there stands the beautiful Stevenson monument.
In later years the authorities put up a municipal building on one side
of this square and prevented the loungers, for decency's sake, from
lying on the grass.
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