Complete Poetical Works

A Question of Privilege

Reported by Truthful James

Bret Harte

IT WAS Andrew Jackson Sutter who, despising Mr. Cutter for remarks
     he heard him utter in debate upon the floor,
Swung him up into the skylight, in the peaceful, pensive twilight,
     and then keerlessly proceeded, makin’ no account what we did—
To wipe up with his person casual dust upon the floor.

Now a square fight never frets me, nor unpleasantness upsets me, but
     the simple thing that gets me—now the job is done and gone,
And we’ve come home free and merry from the peaceful cemetery,
     leavin’ Cutter there with Sutter—that mebbee just a stutter
On the part of Mr. Cutter caused the loss we deeply mourn.

Some bashful hesitation, just like spellin’ punctooation—might have
     worked an aggravation on to Sutter’s mournful mind,
For the witnesses all vary ez to wot was said and nary a galoot will
     toot his horn except the way he is inclined.

But they all allow that Sutter had begun a kind of mutter, when
     uprose Mr. Cutter with a sickening kind of ease,
And proceeded then to wade in to the subject then prevadin’: “Is
     Profanity degradin’?” in words like unto these:

“Onlike the previous speaker, Mr. Sutter of Yreka, he was but a
     humble seeker—and not like him—a cuss”—
It was here that Mr. Sutter softly reached for Mr. Cutter, when the
     latter with a stutter said: “ac-customed to discuss.”

Then Sutter he rose grimly, and sorter smilin’ dimly bowed onto the
     Chairman primly—(just like Cutter ez could be!)
Drawled “he guessed he must fall—back—as—Mr. Cutter owned the
     pack—as—he just had played the—Jack—as—” (here Cutter’s gun
     went crack! as Mr. Sutter gasped and ended) “every man can see!”

But William Henry Pryor—just in range of Sutter’s fire—here
     evinced a wild desire to do somebody harm,
And in the general scrimmage no one thought if Sutter’s “image” was
     a misplaced punctooation—like the hole in Pryor’s arm.

For we all waltzed in together, never carin’ to ask whether it was
     Sutter or was Cutter we woz tryin’ to abate.
But we couldn’t help perceivin’, when we took to inkstand heavin’,
     that the process was relievin’ to the sharpness of debate,

So we’ve come home free and merry from the peaceful cemetery, and I
     make no commentary on these simple childish games;
Things is various and human—and the man ain’t born of woman who is
     free to intermeddle with his pal’s intents and aims.

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