There was a pause, and then a very mischievous ring in the voice that replied: “It certainly is a personal question, and it is another blessing of this invention that you’ll never know whether I am blushing or not; but I forgive you, for I never before spoke to any one I had never seen—and I suppose it’s confusion. But do you really think you would know me—the real one—any better? It is the real person who thinks and speaks, not the outward semblance that we see, which very often unfairly either attracts or repels us? We can always show ourselves at our best, but we must, at last, reveal our true colors through our thoughts and speech. Isn’t it better to begin with the real thing first?”
“I hope, at least, to have the privilege of judging by myself,” said Paul gallantly. “You will not be so cruel as not to let me see you elsewhere, otherwise I shall feel as if I were in some dream, and will certainly be opposed to your preference for realities.”
“I am not certain if the dream would not be more interesting to you,” said the voice laughingly. “But I think your hostess is already saying ‘good-by.’ You know everybody goes at once at this kind of party; the ladies don’t retire first, and the gentlemen join them afterwards. In another moment we’ll all be switched off; but Sir William wants me to tell you that his coachman will drive you to your uncle’s, unless you prefer to try and make yourself comfortable for the night here. Good-by!”
The voices around him seemed to grow fainter, and then utterly cease. The lights suddenly leaped up, went out, and left him in complete darkness. He attempted to rise, but in doing so overset the dishes before him, which slid to the floor. A cold air seemed to blow across his feet. The “good-by” was still ringing in his ears as he straightened himself to find he was in his railway carriage, whose door had just been opened for a young lady who was entering the compartment from a wayside station. “Good-by,” she repeated to the friend who was seeing her off. The Writer of Stories hurriedly straightened himself, gathered up the magazines and papers that had fallen from his lap, and glanced at the station walls. The old illustrations glanced back at him! He looked at his watch; he had been asleep just ten minutes!
It is but just to the respectable memory of San Francisco that in these vagrant recollections I should deprecate at once any suggestion that the levity of my title described its dominant tone at any period of my early experiences. On the contrary, it was a singular fact that while the rest of California was swayed by an easy, careless unconventionalism, or swept over by waves of emotion and sentiment, San Francisco preserved an intensely material and practical attitude, and even a certain austere morality. I do not, of course, allude to the brief days of ’49, when it was