A hum of tolling bells makes itself heard, but not sharply. At three-fifty-eight a waiting interval. Presently a long procession of gentlemen in evening dress comes in sight and approaches until it is near to the square, then falls back against the wall of soldiers at the sidewalk, and the white shirt-fronts show like snowflakes and are very conspicuous where so much warm color is all about.

A waiting pause. At four-twelve the head of the funeral procession comes into view at last. First, a body of cavalry, four abreast, to widen the path. Next, a great body of lancers, in blue, with gilt helmets. Next, three six-horse mourning- coaches; outriders and coachmen in black, with cocked hats and white wigs. Next, troops in splendid uniforms, red, gold, and white, exceedingly showy.

Now the multitude uncover. The soldiers present arms; there is a low rumble of drums; the sumptuous great hearse approaches, drawn at a walk by eight black horses plumed with black bunches of nodding ostrich feathers; the coffin is borne into the church, the doors are closed.

The multitude cover their heads, and the rest of the procession moves by; first the Hungarian Guard in their indescribably brilliant and picturesque and beautiful uniform, inherited from the ages of barbaric splendor, and after them other mounted forces, a long and showy array.

Then the shining crown in the square crumbled apart, a wrecked rainbow, and melted away in radiant streams, and in the turn of a wrist the three dirtiest and raggedest and cheerfulest little slum-girls in Austria were capering about in the spacious vacancy. It was a day of contrasts.

Twice the Empress entered Vienna in state. The first time was in 1854, when she was a bride of seventeen, and then she rode in measureless pomp and with blare of music through a fluttering world of gay flags and decorations, down streets walled on both hands with a press of shouting and welcoming subjects; and the second time was last Wednesday, when she entered the city in her coffin and moved down the same streets in the dead of the night under swaying black flags, between packed human walls again; but everywhere was a deep stillness, now--a stillness emphasized, rather than broken, by the muffled hoofbeats of the long cavalcade over pavements cushioned with sand, and the low sobbing of gray-headed women who had witnessed the first entry forty-four years before, when she and they were young--and unaware!

A character in Baron von Berger's recent fairy drama "Habsburg" tells about the first coming of the girlish Empress- Queen, and in his history draws a fine picture: I cannot make a close translation of it, but will try to convey the spirit of the verses:

I saw the stately pageant pass: In her high place I saw the Empress-Queen: I could not take my eyes away From that fair vision, spirit-like and pure, That rose serene, sublime, and figured to my sense A noble Alp far lighted in the blue, That in the flood of morning rends its veil of cloud And stands a dream of glory to the gaze Of them that in the Valley toil and plod. ------------------------------------------------------------------

A SCRAP OF CURIOUS HISTORY

Marion City, on the Mississippi River, in the State of Missouri--a village; time, 1845. La Bourboule-les-Bains, France --a village; time, the end of June, 1894. I was in the one village in that early time; I am in the other now. These times and places are sufficiently wide apart, yet today I have the strange sense of being thrust back into that Missourian village and of reliving certain stirring days that I lived there so long ago.

Last Saturday night the life of the President of the French Republic was taken by an Italian assassin. Last night a mob surrounded our hotel, shouting, howling, singing the "Marseillaise," and pelting our windows with sticks and stones; for we have Italian waiters, and the mob demanded that they be turned out of the house instantly--to be drubbed, and then driven out of the village.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 61

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book