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The Memorable Assassination
by [?]

She was so blameless, the Empress; and so beautiful, in mind and heart, in person and spirit; and whether with a crown upon her head or without it and nameless, a grace to the human race, and almost a justification of its creation; WOULD be, indeed, but that the animal that struck her down re-establishes the doubt.

In her character was every quality that in woman invites and engages respect, esteem, affection, and homage. Her tastes, her instincts, and her aspirations were all high and fine and all her life her heart and brain were busy with activities of a noble sort. She had had bitter griefs, but they did not sour her spirit, and she had had the highest honors in the world’s gift, but she went her simple way unspoiled. She knew all ranks, and won them all, and made them her friends. An English fisherman’s wife said, “When a body was in trouble she didn’t send her help, she brought it herself.” Crowns have adorned others, but she adorned her crowns.

It was a swift celebrity the assassin achieved. And it is marked by some curious contrasts. At noon last, Saturday there was no one in the world who would have considered acquaintanceship with him a thing worth claiming or mentioning; no one would have been vain of such an acquaintanceship; the humblest honest boot-black would not have valued the fact that he had met him or seen him at some time or other; he was sunk in abysmal obscurity, he was away beneath the notice of the bottom grades of officialdom. Three hours later he was the one subject of conversation in the world, the gilded generals and admirals and governors were discussing him, all the kings and queens and emperors had put aside their other interests to talk about him. And wherever there was a man, at the summit of the world or the bottom of it, who by chance had at some time or other come across that creature, he remembered it with a secret satisfaction, and MENTIONED it–for it was a distinction, now! It brings human dignity pretty low, and for a moment the thing is not quite realizable–but it is perfectly true. If there is a king who can remember, now, that he once saw that creature in a time past, he has let that fact out, in a more or less studiedly casual and indifferent way, some dozens of times during the past week. For a king is merely human; the inside of him is exactly like the inside of any other person; and it is human to find satisfaction in being in a kind of personal way connected with amazing events. We are all privately vain of such a thing; we are all alike; a king is a king by accident; the reason the rest of us are not kings is merely due to another accident; we are all made out of the same clay, and it is a sufficient poor quality.

Below the kings, these remarks are in the air these days; I know it well as if I were hearing them:

THE COMMANDER: “He was in my army.”

THE GENERAL: “He was in my corps.”

THE COLONEL: “He was in my regiment. A brute. I remember him well.”

THE CAPTAIN: “He was in my company. A troublesome scoundrel. I remember him well.”

THE SERGEANT: “Did I know him? As well as I know you. Why, every morning I used to–” etc., etc.; a glad, long story, told to devouring ears.

THE LANDLADY: “Many’s the time he boarded with me. I can show you his very room, and the very bed he slept in. And the charcoal mark there on the wall–he made that. My little Johnny saw him do it with his own eyes. Didn’t you, Johnny?”