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Someone was telling me of an old couple who lost everything they owned at the time of the fire, and that they were very brave about it and never broke down, and even helped others, but that when someone came running up and said: "The Palace is on fire," they both sat down on the curb and gave way completely to grief.
And they say that after the fire the first piece of publicity which was given to the world as a proof that San Francisco would come back, was that the Palace would be rebuilt immediately. And a man from Virginia City, a descendant of the Comstock days, told me that in Nevada they speak of "The Palace" as Russians speak of the Kremlin as a pivot of destiny. What I am trying to say, of course, is that the Palace is a tradition just as the Waldorf-Astoria is a tradition, only not at all in the same way.
The Palace is a great place for women who are alone and a place where a man may bring "the missus" with impunity. The Palace is stylish, perhaps, but principally it is select. It suggests to me women who wear suits of clothes, mostly dark gray, all wool and a yard wide, women who wear two petticoats and Hanan shoes and Knox hats and who carry suit cases covered with foreign express tags, and whom porters run to meet because they know that these women may not be so stylish as they are generous tippers. And the Palace suggests to me afternoon teas, and that peculiar composite chatter of women's voices which is more like the sound of birds in a flock, and which Powys speaks of as a strange inarticulate chitter chatter which isn't really speech at all.
The other day a well groomed young official from the hotel took me out to see the famous old Palace bar and the beautiful Maxfield Parrish painting above it. They have taken the rail away, and around the edge of the bar they have built a nicely finished woodwork wall which looks exactly like a great coffin, the coffin of John Barleycorn. After the manner of my species I wanted to see over the edge and the young man, thinking that I might be suspecting a blind pig, boosted me up to peck over. I asked him why they didn't remove the bar entirely and he said with unsmiling naivete that they were waiting "to see" and that they had saved the rail, "in case."
If I were a reformer I should agitate and have that remarkably joyous and beautiful Parrish painting placed where it could be seen. I'd take it out to some San Francisco school so that the dear Pied Piper and all the little round kiddies running after should be a delight to school children.
And now I have come to the end and all that I have said is that the Palace Hotel is the San Francisco tradition and everyone in the United States knew that long ago.