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?"

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.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 59

Mark Twain

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