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The Memorable Assassination
by [?]

It is easy to see, by the papers, that the magistrate and the constables and the jailer treasure up the assassin’s daily remarks and doings as precious things, and as wallowing this week in seas of blissful distinction. The interviewer, too; he tried to let on that he is not vain of his privilege of contact with this man whom few others are allowed to gaze upon, but he is human, like the rest, and can no more keep his vanity corked in than could you or I.

Some think that this murder is a frenzied revolt against the criminal militarism which is impoverishing Europe and driving the starving poor mad. That has many crimes to answer for, but not this one, I think. One may not attribute to this man a generous indignation against the wrongs done the poor; one may not dignify him with a generous impulse of any kind. When he saw his photograph and said, “I shall be celebrated,” he laid bare the impulse that prompted him. It was a mere hunger for notoriety. There is another confessed case of the kind which is as old as history–the burning of the temple of Ephesus.

Among the inadequate attempts to account for the assassination we must concede high rank to the many which have described it as a “peculiarly brutal crime” and then added that it was “ordained from above.” I think this verdict will not be popular “above.” If the deed was ordained from above, there is no rational way of making this prisoner even partially responsible for it, and the Genevan court cannot condemn him without manifestly committing a crime. Logic is logic, and by disregarding its laws even the most pious and showy theologian may be beguiled into preferring charges which should not be ventured upon except in the shelter of plenty of lightning-rods.

I witnessed the funeral procession, in company with friends, from the windows of the Krantz, Vienna’s sumptuous new hotel. We came into town in the middle of the forenoon, and I went on foot from the station. Black flags hung down from all the houses; the aspects were Sunday-like; the crowds on the sidewalks were quiet and moved slowly; very few people were smoking; many ladies wore deep mourning, gentlemen were in black as a rule; carriages were speeding in all directions, with footmen and coachmen in black clothes and wearing black cocked hats; the shops were closed; in many windows were pictures of the Empress: as a beautiful young bride of seventeen; as a serene and majestic lady with added years; and finally in deep black and without ornaments–the costume she always wore after the tragic death of her son nine years ago, for her heart broke then, and life lost almost all its value for her. The people stood grouped before these pictures, and now and then one saw women and girls turn away wiping the tears from their eyes.

In front of the Krantz is an open square; over the way was the church where the funeral services would be held. It is small and old and severely plain, plastered outside and whitewashed or painted, and with no ornament but a statue of a monk in a niche over the door, and above that a small black flag. But in its crypt lie several of the great dead of the House of Habsburg, among them Maria Theresa and Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. Hereabouts was a Roman camp, once, and in it the Emperor Marcus Aurelius died a thousand years before the first Habsburg ruled in Vienna, which was six hundred years ago and more.

The little church is packed in among great modern stores and houses, and the windows of them were full of people. Behind the vast plate-glass windows of the upper floors of the house on the corner one glimpsed terraced masses of fine-clothed men and women, dim and shimmery, like people under water. Under us the square was noiseless, but it was full of citizens; officials in fine uniforms were flitting about on errands, and in a doorstep sat a figure in the uttermost raggedness of poverty, the feet bare, the head bent humbly down; a youth of eighteen or twenty, he was, and through the field-glass one could see that he was tearing apart and munching riffraff that he had gathered somewhere. Blazing uniforms flashed by him, making a sparkling contrast with his drooping ruin of moldy rags, but he took not notice; he was not there to grieve for a nation’s disaster; he had his own cares, and deeper. From two directions two long files of infantry came plowing through the pack and press in silence; there was a low, crisp order and the crowd vanished, the square save the sidewalks was empty, the private mourner was gone. Another order, the soldiers fell apart and enclosed the square in a double-ranked human fence. It was all so swift, noiseless, exact–like a beautifully ordered machine.