Scene at Station Not to Be Forgotten
Multitudes That Surged the Surrounding Streets Lifted
Their Hats in
Respectful Silence as the Train Pulled Into the Depot
The scenes about the
bridges, the crowds that thronged the streets in the vicinity of
the station, made a picture not to be forgotten. It is not likely
that one of twenty of the men, women or children that went to the
depot expected to see anything except a train draped in black, with
here and there a bordered bit of bunting nailed down against the
sides of the cars as a matter of national respect. Even in that
the crowd was disappointed.
The train pulled into the station
without a sign of mourning about it, and the crowds were in doubt
as to whether or not it even had the remains of the late President
aboard. Nothing more unostentatious in the way of a railway train
ever pulled into a station. The only sign that might distinguish
it from any other train was the care and reverence with which the
locomotive driver drove it into the yard. The conversations in the
crowd were more than passing strange.
“That’s it,” said a girl who could
not have appeared more concerned if her sweetheart standing by had
been lying cold in the casket in the train below.
“Nonsense,” was the indignant escort’s
reply; “that’s the train bringing back the dancers from Pen-Mar.”
It wasn’t, though. The car, curiously
enough, in the shadow of the dozen or more lights of the black hours—the
lights that bespeak so much of anarchy—contained all that remains
of the third President of the United States to meet his death after
a fashion that is a national disgrace.
WAS ALWAYS SO KIND
Curiously puffed the
engines with almost human respiration under the bridge. The white
lights of electricity did not illumine the cars with sufficient
brightness that one might even so much as read the Pullman signs.
The line of letter carriers, the most
remarkable temporary escort ever, perhaps, assigned to do honor
on such an occasion, stood at attention with the same respect that
they would have assumed had they been delivering, as the law requires,
a special delivery letter to the Chief Executive.
He was always so kind, always so thoughtful
of that particular class of public servants that it was particularly
odd and perhaps accidental that they should have been selected for
such duty. Yet nothing could have been more appropriate.
It was McKinley, it will be recalled,
that made such a fight for those men away back in the Fiftieth Congress
to get them respectable working hours. It was McKinley who declared
that there was no class of public servant who deserved more sympathy,
who should have better hours than the letter carrier.
“Why is it,” asked Congressman Samuel
Randall, of Pennsylvania, long since departed, “that you are always
so anxious about the letter carriers? They can’t furnish you with
“I am not anxious about their votes,”
was the serious answer of President, then Congressman McKinley’s
jesting query, “what is troubling me is their common equity.”
Randall’s almost beautiful face, so
often distorted with the sarcasm, satire and irony of a disappointed
nature, grew serious in a moment, and whether or not the remark
had any effect is not recorded, but it is a fact that many public
men may awaken to now—that he never after that opposed any measure
looking to the welfare of Uncle Sam’s postmen.
It was not that, however, that made
the long line of gray figures, defiled against the blue of the Grand
Army men, look serious. It is doubtful if one out of five of them
knew that he had ever been their friend.
What prompted their reverence was
the simple feeling born in the heart of every American who took
part in that ever-to-be-remembered scene, of simple, honest respect
and almost personal shame that a man true to his oaths, devoid of
malice and free from the slime of machine politics, had gone to
his death in such a shameful manner in a land that is free and brave,
founded on the schemes, ideas, inspirations, ground plans and national
principles of men of the caliber of Washington, Clay, Jefferson,
Lincoln and Garfield, to avoid assassination.
A LOVED MAN IN DEATH
The muffled drums sounding
their weird, oriental tattoo—a strange custom that has come down
through the ages to this effete civilization—did not interrupt such
thoughts as those. There was only one idea uppermost in all minds—that
a President deared [sic] to the people and more loving in his small
family never lived; that a man of God and a man of the people lay
cold and stark in the black coach in the station below.
The passing thoughts and fancies of
the heterogeneous throngs that crowded the highway could not have
been anything but solemn.
The writer recalls with disgust the
boyish horror that filled his soul as he stood on Broadway, in New
York, years ago and watched the drunken orgies of 10,000 inebriates
as the remains of Grant, one of the greatest generals of modern
times, passed down the beautiful thoroughfare to the martial strains
of 50 bands; the scenes about the Garfield obsequies, and, worse
than all, the fateful scenes following his assassination.
But there was naught of that with
the crowds in the vicinity of the station yesterday.
The groups of beautiful women in gowns
of multi-colored hues, of men in summer raiment, of commonplace
women and children and negroes were as quiet and respectful as if
the train below them contained some near relative of their own.
“They make an awful lot of trouble
about him,” said a negro of desperate mien. “He ain’t no better
than any other man—even a negro.”
In 10 seconds or less, it seemed to
the reporter, a dozen—most of them Southerners—had shown a spirit
which is pretty strongly indicative of what the average American
thinks about the President, be he republican or democrat.
Three of them grabbed the negro. It
would have been a serious time, but for a cool-headed drummer, who
saw something serious was brooding.
“Wait a minute!” he said, as he pushed
back two or three men, “I’ll fix him.”
Then, turning to the negro, he asked
him which he would do, jump off the bridge or be lynched.
“Jump!” said the negro, in less time
than it takes to write it.
The drummer released him, the crowd
made a lane and down he rushed, every man giving him a kick as he
passed. It was a small incident, but it showed the spirit of the
country. He is a daring man who speaks disparagingly of the President
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS
Roughly estimating there
were between 20,000 and 30,000 persons in the vicinity of the station.
It is impossible to give with any degree of accuracy the number,
as the crowd was so scattered, but it is a safe thing to say that
no city through which the train passed was regarded with more respect
or reverence. It is a credit to the city to say that there was not
a suggestion of trouble, a statement of fact that cannot be said
of some other cities. It is unfortunate to be forced to record.
The police arrangements about the station were admirable. There
was no occasion to control the crowd; it controlled itself as if
the body in the train was that of some dear relative. The train
remained in the station but a few minutes, and during that time
the railroad officials and their hands were full. Hundreds of people
managed to get through the gates without passes, but once in they
in no way made disorder.