[The Lion of the Day] [excerpt]
It was on such an occasion
that Uncle Hank was attracted to the animals on parade. As the camels
passed he remarked:
“By crackee, what a lesson them camels
teach human bein’s. They kin go seven days without er drink.”
“Yes,” replied a bystander, “but what
satisfaction they get out of a drink when they do get one; it has
such a long way to travel through their long throats that it well
repays them for their long abstinence. By the way, speaking of animals,
did you know there was a lion roaming about the grounds, loose?”
“A lion?” exclaimed Uncle Hank in
“Yes; the Lion of the day, President
“Is ther President here?”
“Yes, over on the Plaza.”
“Wall, I won’t miss Mac ef I know
et!” and he strode off in the direction of the Plaza. When he arrived
there he found the “Lion” in the shape of the President, who was
surrounded by an enthusiastic multitude.
Uncle Hank worked his way to the center
of the group where the Chief Magistrate was holding a levee, and,
with true Yankee modesty, made himself the spokesman of the occasion:
“Mr. Preserdent, yer th’ most Democratic
Preserdent we’ve had since Linken.”
The crowd cheered the old man, and
the President smiled broadly as he replied diplomatically:
“Well, gentlemen, I thank you for
“Speech! Speech!” called out several
voices in the assemblage, which had now augmented considerably,
and the President was compelled to get up on the steps of the Music
Stand and speak to them before they would consent to let him go.
An American crowd always likes to
be talked to. It will hover around a stump speaker or a street-corner
fakir like flies around a molasses barrel. Wm. J. Bryan gathered
them by thousands in his memorable campaigns, and you would naturally
think that he would carry the country by storm on Elec- 
tion Day, judging by the enthusiastic gatherings that greeted him,
but the American citizen, while very careful in bestowing his ballot,
is very lavish in his applause, as he deems some reward is due to
the one who has entertained him.
“O! as a bee upon the flower, I hang
Upon the honey of thy eloquent tongue.”
Uncle Hank saw the crowd
surging into Music Temple, and, yielding to his impulse to follow,
he soon found himself inside the portals of the Temple consecrated
to melody which was so soon to become transformed by the discordant
sounds of the assassin’s pistol. President McKinley stood right
in front of the Majestic Organ, surrounded by eager citizens striving
to express their love and admiration of the Chief Magistrate of
the Republic through the medium of a handshake. The President stood
erect, with head bare and face radiant with kindliness and good
The crowd kept passing by in rapid
style, and Mr. McKinley was in high spirits.
No one noticed in the crowd a fairly
thick-set young man, with curly brownish hair, who kept moving slowly
with the rest.
He had a cap under his arm. His left
hand was bound up in a white handkerchief.
But there was nothing suspicious—nothing
but the clean silk handkerchief, that looked as if the young man
had hurt his hand and bound it up. Not a soul guessed that, concealed
in the folds of the handkerchief was an ugly little revolver—a 32-calibre
derringer, carrying five short cartridges.
The President reached out his right
hand; the man reached out quickly. The President smiled.
For an answer the man reached his
left hand around, just as a pugilist might try to give his opponent
a quick jab in the  ribs.
He pressed his hand against the black frock coat of the President
and pulled the trigger.
Suddenly there was a great commotion
around the President, and a second later a pistol report rang out,
and immediately after another. The sharp crack of the revolver echoed
against the pipes of the big organ, and the fine acoustic qualities
of the hall caused the shots to reverberate back and forth until
it appeared as if a dozen assassins were at work.
Like an electric flash the cry spread:
“The President is shot!” and wild
confusion reigned in the Auditorium. People rushed hither and thither;
everyone seemed panic-stricken.
Suddenly there was a deep roar: “Lynch
him! Lynch the assassin!”
Ever and again some man’s voice would
cry out: “Don’t let him get away!” and there would be a score of
answering shouts of “Kill him! Hang him! Take him up on the arch
and burn him! Burn him at the stake!”
During all the tumult Uncle Hank stood
mutely by, awestricken at the terrible spectacle he had been an
involuntary witness of.
But he came to his senses when he
heard the cry for Lynch Law.
“Thar ye go!” he exclaimed, “show
yer disrespect fer the law by breakin’ it. Thet’s what breeds Anarchists.
If ye’d show the misguided lunatics the awful power ov th’ law ye’d
terrorize ’em more than ye will by usin’ brute force. Show ’em th’
true majesty ov th’ law and th’ red devils’l slink inter ther holes
an’ tremble with fear.”
The entire Exposition was now in a
turmoil. All was consternation. A strange atmosphere enveloped everything.
On the Midway the Ballyhoos were stilled, the clowns, with serious
faces, asked the barkers for additional particulars of the tragedy.
Ki-ki, the imitation monkey at the “House Upside 
Down,” grew serious, and his face took on a solemn aspect as he
asked a hurrying guard if the President still lived.
Within the big Exposition buildings
similar scenes were enacted. Booths were hastily covered up and
closed, and the exhibitors hastened to the scene of the shooting.
The Music Temple was soon surrounded
by an immense throng, and universal sympathy was expressed for the
unfortunate President. There was no mistaking McKinley’s popularity.
Having assumed the Presidency at a time of industrial depression,
the country had progressed during his administration to most marvelous
prosperity. He was identified in the public mind with contentment,
happiness, pecuniary independence and remunerative employment of
labor and capital, unprecedented in the history of the country.
McKinley and the American home had become synonymous terms. His
beautiful and chivalric devotion to his invalid wife had endeared
him to every family.
As for the assassin, the most bitter
denunciation of him and of the Anarchistic fanatics who had inspired
him in his atrocious deed, was heard on every side. Uncle Hank voiced
the sentiment of the majority of people when he said to a bystander:
“Them Anarchists is like rattlesnakes;
fust they rattle dangerous warnin’s and then they strike a deadly
blow. No civilized community ez safe while they’re about. It’s high
time they waz exterminated; jes’ make it high treason when they
rattle on’ about removin’ rulers; an’ let ther strong arm of ther
law grasp ’em around th’ neck an’ strangle ’em tew death before
they hev time tew coil an’ strike. Naow ye see th’ danger ov ’lowin’
ther scum of Europe tew cum inter th’ country. Yer quarantine yaller
fever, but ye never think ov quarantinin red anarchy, which
is a sight more dangerous diseese,” and Uncle Hank moved off very
much depressed at the terrible scenes he had witnessed that day.
The President is Dead.
After a week of cheering
bulletins from the sick chamber this was the message that greeted
the nation on the morning of the Fourteenth of September.
After Hope had been enthroned, and
there seemed to be no possibility of a fatal termination to the
cowardly assassin’s work, there came the direful message—DEAD.
It was hard to realize.
Its full import failed to impress
all because of its awful significance.
The President was Dead, and with his
death came a fuller realization of his sterling qualities, his noble
patriotism, his perfect manhood, and his inherent kindliness of
heart, which had endeared him to his fellow-countrymen.
There was no North, no South, no East,
no West; and all partisanship was sunk in a common grief, and the
hand of good-fellowship was extended in this hour of national calamity.
The tears welled up in Uncle Hank’s
eyes as he softly murmured the dying words of the stricken President:
“It is God’s will; God’s will be done.”
in his life
Became him like the leaving it; he died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he owned,
As ’twere a careless trifle.
The nation deeply mourned
in its great affliction, and business halted. The Exposition closed
its gates for two days, and when it resumed its life again it was
draped with sombre tokens of mourning but little in keeping with
its gay mission.