It was only when I
had tangled myself up in a hopeless maze of small wooden houses,
dust, street refuse, and children who played with empty kerosene
tins, that I discovered the difference of speech.
"You want to go to the Palace Hotel?" said an affable youth on a
dray. "What in hell are you doing here, then? This is about the
lowest ward in the city. Go six blocks north to corner of Geary
and Markey, then walk around till you strike corner of Gutter and
Sixteenth, and that brings you there."
I do not vouch for the literal accuracy of these directions,
quoting but from a disordered memory.
"Amen," I said. "But who am I that I should strike the corners
of such as you name? Peradventure they be gentlemen of repute,
and might hit back. Bring it down to dots, my son."
I thought he would have smitten me, but he didn't. He explained
that no one ever used the word "street," and that every one was
supposed to know how the streets ran, for sometimes the names
were upon the lamps and sometimes they weren't. Fortified with
these directions, I proceeded till I found a mighty street, full
of sumptuous buildings four and five stories high, but paved with
rude cobblestones, after the fashion of the year 1.