As you stand on the wharf again, and listen to the cries of itinerant fruit venders, you wonder why it is that grief at parting and the unpleasant novelties of travel are supposed to be assuaged by oranges and apples, even at ruinously low prices. Perhaps it may be, figuratively, the last offering of the fruitful earth, as the passenger commits himself to the bosom of the sterile and unproductive ocean. Even while the wheels are moving and the lines are cast off, some hardy apple merchant, mounted on the top of a pile, concludes a trade with a steerage passenger,—twenty feet interposing between buyer and seller,—and achieves, under these difficulties, the delivery of his wares. Handkerchiefs wave, hurried orders mingle with parting blessings, and the steamer is “off.” As you turn your face cityward, and glance hurriedly around at the retreating crowd, you will see a reflection of your own wistful face in theirs, and read the solution of one of the problems which perplex the California enthusiast. Before you lies San Francisco, with her hard angular outlines, her brisk, invigorating breezes, her bright, but unsympathetic sunshine, her restless and energetic population; behind you fades the recollection of changeful, but honest skies; of extremes of heat and cold, modified and made enjoyable through social and physical laws, of pastoral landscapes, of accessible Nature in her kindliest forms, of inherited virtues, of long-tested customs and habits, of old friends and old faces,—in a word of home!
A bay-window once settled the choice of my house and compensated for many of its inconveniences. When the chimney smoked, or the doors alternately shrunk and swelled, resisting any forcible attempt to open them, or opening of themselves with ghostly deliberation, or when suspicious blotches appeared on the ceiling in rainy weather, there was always the bay-window to turn to for comfort. And the view was a fine one. Alcatraz, Lime Point, Fort Point, and Saucelito were plainly visible over a restless expanse of water that changed continually, glittering in the sunlight, darkening in rocky shadow, or sweeping in mimic waves on a miniature beach below.
Although at first the bay-window was supposed to be sacred to myself and my writing materials, in obedience to some organic law, it by and by became a general lounging-place. A rocking-chair and crochet basket one day found their way there. Then the baby invaded its recesses, fortifying himself behind intrenchments of colored worsteds and spools of cotton, from which he was only dislodged by concerted assault, and carried lamenting into captivity. A subtle glamour crept over all who came within its influence. To apply one’s self to serious work there was an absurdity. An incoming ship, a gleam on the water, a cloud lingering about Tamalpais, were enough to distract the attention. Reading or writing, the bay-window was always showing something to be looked at. Unfortunately, these views were not always pleasant, but the window gave equal prominence and importance to all, without respect to quality.