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Source: The Convert
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “A National Tragedy” [chapter 34]
Author(s): Hudgins, Charles Buckner
Publisher: Neale Publishing Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication:
Pagination: 307-13

Hudgins, Charles Buckner. “A National Tragedy” [chapter 34]. The Convert. New York: Neale Publishing, 1908: pp. 307-13.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
McKinley assassination (fictionalization).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Jesus Christ; William McKinley; Ruth Rex Reinhardt.


A National Tragedy

     While the people of Rome were wondering how she could ever have renounced Christianity for Judaism, Mrs. Reinhardt and the Judge were enjoying their bridal trip. They went from Rome directly to the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, where they were on the day of the awful tragedy, the assassination of President McKinley. For two days the Judge and his wife had been leisurely enjoying the exposition and the great beauty of the “Rainbow City.” They had taken trips through the canals and over the lakes in electric boats in the picturesque Venetian gondolas, propelled by the singing gondoliers; they had been pulled over the beautiful grounds by the sturdy little Japs—those human horses of the Japanese buggy, the Jinriksha; had been amazed at the glorious electric illumination, as they stood high up in the tall electric tower looking down on the magnificent “Court of Fountains” and across the “Triumphant Bridge”; they had gone through the streets of the “Midway,” and laughed with the good-natured, easily imposed-upon multitude at the catch-penny fakes [307][308] which beguiled them of so much good money and time.
     Friday afternoon, the sixth of September, they went into the beautiful Temple of Music, where the good President McKinley was holding a public reception; and as the pressure of his friendly hand-shake was still felt, and his happy smile lingered in their vision and his kind greeting still sounded in their ears, the two sharp, quick reports of a pistol were heard, and they saw the noble form of the President reel and fall into the arms of a strong man, while others were struggling with the assassin who still held his pistol from which thin curls of smoke were ascending to record on high the foul deed of murder. Above the awful wave of horror and revenge that swept over the vast crowd was wafted the forgiving Christ-like words of the wounded man, “Don’t harm that boy.”
     It must have been only that unselfish, forgiving request of the Christian ruler of our nation that held the awe-stricken crowd in check long enough for the officers of the secret detective service to get their prisoner away without harm; for as soon as his horrible deed was known, under the natural first impulse of righteous indignation, vengeful cries were heard all over the great hall, and from the vast crowds outside, in wrathful, thunderous voices, “Lynch the wretch!” “Tear him [308][309] to pieces!” “Burn him!” “Hang him!” But he was hurried off under the protection of the law, and the assassin, Leon Czolgosz, member of that satanic society, the Anarchists, at enmity with God and man, was as safe from harm as the most innocent citizen of our great country, till he could be duly and fairly tried and condemned by twelve honest jurors and put to death by the lawful executioner.
     “Oh, dear,” Mrs. Reinhardt said, as she clung tightly to her husband’s arm, “please take me out of this terrible place!”
     “Yes, my darling,” the Judge replied, “just as soon as we can get through this crowd; but don’t be afraid. Did you hear those brave, unselfish words of the President for that wretch?”
     “Yes, dear, and under such circumstances they could come from none other than a Christian hero!”
     The Judge affectionately pressed her arm against his side, and gave her a quizzical glance, as if to say, “You seem to forget that you are now a Jewess.” But he kept silent, and at first she didn’t seem to realize that she had made a speech so inconsistent to her new confession of faith. She had spoken from her heart, for it flashed through her mind how the Christ, whom she apparently had denied, prayed for His murderers: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they [309][310] do.” And she darted up this silent mental prayer: “Oh, Lord God, most merciful Father, forgive the murderer of President McKinley, through Jesus Christ, who forgave and prayed for His murderous enemies.”
     On getting out in the open air they breathed more freely, and rejoiced to hear that the President was not dead, as had been thought. They, with the thousands of other visitors and the employees, had no heart for the attractions of the Exposition during the remainder of that day. All interest was centered on the wounded President. As the sorrowful news rapidly passed over the grounds and into every building, a pall-like gloom spread over the horrified people; no one spoke above a whisper as the multitude waited in prayerful expectation for news from the doctors. Only the distinguished patient kept up a cheerful spirit; till, as he gradually lost consciousness, under the influence of anaesthetics, the attending physicians heard him softly repeating some lines from his favorite hymn, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.”
     The ball that struck his breast was easily found, as it lodged against his breast-bone, but the one that pierced his abdomen could not be found; yet the surgeons gave out the welcome news that the wounds were not necessarily mortal. The Judge and his wife waited with many others around for news, [310][311] and, hearing it, left the Exposition grounds for their hotel, where they remained till after an early breakfast the next morning. They eagerly read in the local papers everything published about the tragedy and obtained throughout the day the latest news in the bulletin sent out from the President’s bedside at the Milburn residence, where he had been removed from the Exposition Hospital.
     After attending the Synagogue service in Buffalo,—it being Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath,—at seven o’clock, after the end of the day of rest, they started for Niagara. There they spent the night and devoted the next day, Sunday, to seeing the Falls from all vantage points,—not omitting the thrilling trip through the whirlpool rapids on the little daring steamer The Maid of the Mist, to within a few feet of where the immense body of water reaches the river 160 feet below its upper rocky bed. On the electric railway their trip was extended down upon the banks of the whirling, rushing Niagara to Lewistown [sic]. From thence they crossed Lake Ontario to Toronto, where, after a couple of days of sightseeing, they took the palatial steamer Toronto down the Lake and St. Lawrence River through the thrilling Rapids, and on the “dark and mysterious deep waters” of the Saguenay. They stopped over long enough for sightseeing in Montreal and Quebec, and [311][312] other places of interest, and returned by way of Lake Champlain, Lake George, Saratoga, and an all-day boat trip down the picturesque Hudson River from Albany to New York. There they spent a few days, and from thence took the Old Dominion steamship Jefferson for Norfolk, to stop over at “dear old Virginia Beach” for a few days on their return home. While in New York the sad news came to them of the President’s death, and about his last words, “God’s will be done.”
     The terrible scene they had witnessed in the Temple of Music and the President’s unselfish words they had heard him speak on behalf of his murderer, and his brave, Christian resignation to his fate, and the affectionate concern he manifested to the last for his delicate wife—all made a deep impression upon them both. Mrs. Reinhardt was particularly affected by it all, and many were the earnest prayers in her secret devotions to the Christ, whom she was supposed to have denied, that the submissive Christian example of the President might open the eyes of her husband to the fact that a religion which could produce such a noble character was surely divine.
     The consciousness of her double spiritual life pressed more and more heavily upon her mind—notwithstanding the good motive which she persuaded herself justified the [312][313] means. After all, thought she, “I am just as bad as any other hypocrite.” If her devoted husband knew the whole truth about her wouldn’t he lose his respect for her? Wouldn’t Christ, Himself, reprove her for her hypocrisy with withering scorn, as He did those “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites” of Jerusalem?
     Alas, she had gone too far to undo what she had done. But didn’t she persuade herself before her apostasy and marriage that she would willingly run the risk of losing her own soul to save his—but what if both should be lost? God forbid.
     The Judge, throughout their bridal trip, had proved himself all that she or any one could expect; yet her happiness in having him all her own, and the pleasure of such a delightful and interesting trip, was greatly marred, in spite of all her self-control, by her uncomfortable thoughts of self-accusation. So absorbing were these unhappy moods that she became absent-minded, and her sighs began to be noticed by her husband, who seemed not a little troubled by them. Though he reasoned to himself that perhaps it was nothing but the fatigue of travel, and weariness of so much sight-seeing, yet he was more than glad to get home, for he comforted himself with the belief that all would be well there.



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