DURING the days when the splendid battle for life was going on
in the sick-room at Buffalo, the thoughts of the American people
swung back and forth between the stricken President and the wife
who was watching by his side.
“How is the President?” was the first
question; and quickly following it came the second, “How is Mrs.
McKinley bearing the strain?”
To-day every one knows how well she
bore it. In its way, the heroism of the delicate woman who watched
and waited was as great as that of the dying man who made his magnificent
fight in vain. What Mrs. McKinley suffered when she was alone we
can only surmise. At her post by her husband’s side she was strong,
calm, supremely and superbly confident. Her faith strengthened him,
as well it might. Again and again we are told by the bulletins,
“the President was greatly cheered by the presence and the hopefulness
of Mrs. McKinley.”
In past years Mrs. McKinley has suffered
keenly from her enforced invalidism and her inability to be, in
her exalted position, all she would have been had she been stronger.
The black days just ended should wipe out the memory of that regret.
When the supreme crisis came in her husband’s life Mrs. McKinley
rose to meet it in a manner that touched the hearts of all nations.
He needed her and she was with him. No woman could have done more,
none would have been permitted to do more, than she did; few, very
few, would have had the unselfishness and the courage to do it so
well. In those days she revealed the qualities which have held the
love of a great man all these years. His duties, his vast responsibilities,
his triumphs, she could not always share; but in all his suffering
and his death she stood beside him and unflinchingly shared every
President McKinley gave to the American
people as his final legacy the memory of a death as quietly heroic
as any in history. He made a good fight while there was hope; and
when there was none he surrendered like a brave man and a Christian.
To have had his love, to have been with him all these years, to
have gone with him to the very gate of death and lightened that
dark journey—all this would fill the cup of life for any woman.
She could ask no more.
Mrs. McKinley would say, if she spoke
now, that here life, like the President’s, is ended. It is inevitable
that she should feel thus. The American people have lost a President,
a statesman; a vast power for the nation’s good has gone out of
the world. Other hands will take up the work that was dropped; other
minds will deal with the issues that remain unsettled.
The course is clear. But on the woman
left alone blackness fell when America’s President closed his eyes
for the last time. Everything in her life will be put away when
he is laid to rest. From every part of the civilized world sympathy
flows out to her—but who in all the breadth of it can find words
to comfort her now, knowing what she has lost? For the present she
must bear her burden alone.
Later the light will come with its
attendants—hope, with its prayer for future reunion; philosophy,
with its lesson of the insignificance of this little life; memory,
with its pictures of the years that are gone. One of these pictures
should be Mrs. McKinley’s comforter—the one which shall show her
in the days to come how magnificently and unselfishly she supported
her dying husband in the last great scene of his life.