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clangor of rushing wheels and harsh gongs stopped, the dull rumble of unseen engines ceased, and in the crowded streets, where multitudes of men and women stood watching the solemn pageantry, a stillness so profound and perfect fell that the city seemed dead and ghostly, its smokeless buildings and its voiceless pavements, like the towers and vistas of a lost Atlantis.
The pause was so brief and utter that it is not possible to describe or forget it. Nature was at the moment in one of those moods that is eloquent of silence. The clouds hung low and gray. No breeze murmured in the high places, and from tower and spire and staff the flags drooped sullen and listless. The floor of the lake was leaden and still.
When the moment of silence came, great steamers bound for port or pointed toward the further shore stopped their throbbing engines and lay adrift. Fast trains rushing toward the city paused and stood still. Street cables stopped, electric currents were shut off from flying trolleys, and rumbling elevated trains became fixed and soundless.
Even the voice of funeral bells tolling in the residence districts of Chicago fell faint and far during that five minutes of silence. There was no breeze to bear the dull thunder across the city, and so it was heard in the downtown streets vaguely as an echo.
But it was the silence of the million people who surged in the street that was most eloquent. Pushing in counter currents in every thoroughfare within the loop, jostling and murmuring, calling to friends among the marchers and spectators, crooning the sad measures of funeral march or hymn, the swarming sea of humanity made a murmur that rose dully even above the blare of bands and the tramp of marching feet. At Michigan avenue and Van Buren street, as the parade swept slowly past, there was almost a bedlam of unpremeditated disorder. The streets were choked from wall to wall. A tide of new spectators was rushing in from the tributary streets, the line of march was clogged again and again. In vain the mounted police and patrolmen -charged upen the throng. Women shrieked and grew faint in the maelstrom and men seemed to be fighting for place of escape. It was in the midst of this bedlam that a tall horseman in the parade suddenly reined his horse.
He doffed his helmet and, waving it above the turbulent crowd, shouted “Hats off !"
At once the sea of struggling men and women became calm. They stood transfixed and silent in their places. Hats withdrawn were held across hearts, and women bowed their heads in silent prayer. The murmurs died away. The cannon that was booming a President's salute spoke no more. The trumpets hushed the funeral fanfare, the niuffled drums were still. The men with arms stood at salute like statues. The long column halted. And the wordless panegyric which then became eloquent for five full minutes seemed to have more meaning in it than all the rhetoric, and all the music, and all the black and purple mourning trappings that the world had lavished upon the memory of the great dead. As by some incomparable sympathy the multitude seemed to know that at that moment the grave at Canton was closing forever upon the murdered President, that the ultimate time had come for memory, and tears and prayers.
When the clock showed that the half-hour was five minutes old, the sound of singing voices coming from the balcony of the Chicago Club intoned the first line of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Quavering at first and thin, the chant arose. One by one the men and women in the streets took up the chorus, till the volume of song, piercing and strong by very contrast with the late silence, rose into mighty diapasou of melody that was vocal with sorrow, worship and hope. Along the marching column the bands caught the spirit of the stately hymn, and the wave of music that swelled in unison then was like the sound of a great “Amen."
The whole character of the day's ceremonial in Chicago was marked by the most extraordinary decorum. It spoke in the subdued voices of the people, and shone in the grave little faces of the children. The lowering skies added to the somber aspect of the city, and the sad or spiritual motive of the music enhanced the meaning of the demonstration with a rare and exquisite tenderness.
An hour before the funeral pageant had passed away a gentle rain began to fall in fitful showers. The wind sprang up again and whistled dismally among the wires. But the crowds, steadfast in their quiet sorrow, remained in their places till the last rank had passed. INCIDENTS ILLUSTRATING THE DEPTH OF FEELING THAT MARKED THE
DAY AS OBSERVED IN CHICAGO. When the moment for silence came the vacant presidential carriage halted under the windows of the Chicago Club. When the word was given to move forward again and the carriage started on the journey through the lane of loving hearts the thousands about the starting point gazed on a spectacle that in its significance and wonderful lesson can never be forgotten by any who saw it. The Eighth regiment of the Illinois National Guard, consisting of colored troops, was preceded by its own band, the members of which were only a few feet away from the empty carriage. All about and behind them in process of formation were the old warriors of the Confederacy and the Union. The band had been ordered to play "Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Instead these black men, guided by some inspiration that seemed to seize them and catch up in its embrace the tens of thousands within their hearing, swung forward to the strains of “Dixie." It was too much for hearts already full to overflowing, and the pent-up feeling found vent in a long subdued cheer, a cheer of blent pain and delight, an ungraven epitaph flung out to heaven in memory of the martyr whose acts had made such an incident possible. It was the only moment of all that long march that a cheer was heard from the hundreds of thousands in the down-town streets. But it was a cheer and a prayer blended, a benediction and not a sacrilege.
In a secluded little spot in the southeast cornor of the federal building square is perched a small silk flag at half-mast. It floats from the spot where President William McKinley stood more than a year ago when with fitting words he laid the cornerstone of that immense structure. It is a lonely little spot and entirely hidden from view of the street by the high board fence which incloses the grounds. The only thing that marks it is the little block of masonry upon which the dead President stood when he made his brief address. Yet this event remained fast in the memories of a little group of workmen who listened with intense interest to his sincere words at that time and marveled that such a man should not be the choice of the whole people.
Early in the morning from the windows of adjoining buildings these same men could be seen trailing to this memorable spot to plant their last emblem of true love to the memory of their beloved President. Later in the afternoon, when Chicago was as silent as a new village and the remains of William McKinley were being borne to their last earthly resting place in Canton, they knelt around the little flag in silent prayer and for minutes not a word was spoken aloud by any of them. Then they arose and left the yard in different directions.
An incident of the five minutes of silence was the cessation of all business by the Postal and Western Union Telegraph companies during that time. At 2:30 o'clock, as the last march to the grave was started at Canton, word was sent to the central offices of the companies in Chicago and to all branch offices, and the great systems, became silent. No message was sent or received for five minutes, and the throbbing wires were as dumb as if the motive power had been destroyed. Operators who a few minutes before were working the telegraph keys to send messages of great or minor importance to all parts of the country sat motionless in their chairs. It was the first time in the history of telegraphy that business had been stopped so generally and so suddenly. When the hands of the clock pointed to 2:35 the operators bent over their instruments again and the busy clicking of keys was resumed...
In front of the new postoffice building on the Dearborn street side sat a woman garbed in deep mourning. Her little son stood beside her. During the entire parade she did not raise her eyes to watch the marchers. She sobbed as though her heart would break. The marchers had no charms for her, and her grief was shared by those who surrounded her. When the parade was done she walked away, leading her boy by the hand, never uttering a word. As she went the big policeman who had made a place for her remarked: “That woman must have known some great sorrow. IIer grief was pitiful." .
Acting under the general order issued by President Cassatt of the Pennsylvania railroad, Conductor 11. O. Ginty of the New York and Chicago express brought his train to a standstill at 2:30 o'clock. As it happened the train was four hours late, and at that time was about to cross the Ohio line into Indiana. Upon Ohio soil, however, and on the edge of a great cornfield far from any station, the passengers gathered to do reverence to the memory of President McKinley. Rev. Mr. Bell, of Dayton, O., was present and conducted a short but impressive religious service. There were about 100 people in the audience, representing many different states. Some of the women wept at the eloquent words of the impromptu prayer, and the men, including the train crew from engineer to flagman, stood with uncovered heads. The sky was clear from horizon to horizon and the wind rustling in the drying corn stalks was the only accompaniment to the speaker's words.
Labor paid its last tribute to the late President in the parade. Mr. McKinley had been an honorary member of Bricklayers and Stone Mason's Union, No. 21, of Chicago. Nearly the full membership of the organization turned out to honor his memory. Following the banners of the organization in carriages came the union bricklayers, each with a black and purple rosette on his left shoulder and a red carnation in his buttonhole. Headed by President Gubbins of their national union, they marched almost the entire line with bowed heads.
The crowds waiting for the parade at the corner of Michigan avenue and Jackson boulevard saw all the representatives of the foreign countries stationed in Chicago, as they were conspicuous by their uniforms and gold braid. These were heavily draped in crepe. Perhaps the foreign representative most admired was Dr. W. Wever, the German consul. Dr. Wever was dressed in the full uniform of the German Hussars. As the Deutscher Kriegerverin and the other German
societies came along the consul took up a position where he could see the faces of each one of the old veterans. The doctor stood at attention while all passed, and was saluted by each of the former residents of the Vaterland. His erect military figure and the uniform made famous by the grandfather of the present emperor of Germany was recognized by the old German soldiers long before they reached the boulevard.
As the strains of Chopin's funeral march pealed forth from the great pipe organ in the Great Northern hotel at 2:30 o'clock every guest in the crowded lobby with uncovered head bowed reverently to do honor to the dead. With the opening notes of the march every light in the big hotel ceased to shine, and the dismal surroundings made the music all the more impressive. All business was suspended during the playing of the dirge, the doors being closed for the first time since the hotel was opened, and not one of the hundreds of guests moved till the organ was stilled.
As the G. A. R. section of the parade was turning the corner of Washington and La Salle streets two gray-haired old veterans dropped out of line. One was more feeble than the other, and both painfully cognizant their marching days were over.
"John, I can't go any farther."
“All right, William, let's sit right down here on the curbstone. Fixed comfortable? There goes a fellow used to be major of an Indiana regiment. He was brigaded with us. Boys don't walk as spry as they used to. Lincoln, Garfield, and now McKinley. Pretty hard, ain't it, John? Guess we've seen, and the country, too, the last of our soldier Presidents. Yet, Roosevelt's all right. I know he's a soldier President, but you know what I mean. He wasn't with Grant or Pap” Thomas, ‘Old Man' Sherman or 'Black Jack’ Logan. That's what I mean by soldiers. Yet, sir, I'm afraid McKinley's the last of our kind. Let's go home, William. I can't stand any more of this.”
A tear stole out of the corner of the speaker's eye and trickled down his cheek, but it ran its course, no move was made to check it. And there were tears in other folks' eyes.
A man with a package of crepe badges for sale was shouting his wares loudly in the streets around Haymarket Square while the West Side division was being formed when he was summoned by one who stood looking on.
"Ilow many badges have you?" the vender was asked.
The badges were counted out. The man then said: “I will buy them all. Here is your money.” And then he added: “Now give them away with less noise than you have been making. This is not the time and place for such aggressive business methods.”