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ride within a curtained car across New York State he devoted to the most intensely careful examination, and to solemn, no doubt prayerful, consideration of the part he was to take, and the manner in which he was to take it.”
It was immediately after his return that Roosevelt refused to allow a guard to be around him, friends saying he was the one man who could afford to consent to be carefully guarded; but his better judgment prevailed, and he rebuked, so far as in his power, those who hailed him demonstratively on the streets when they knew he had taken the oath of office. He was waited upon at Buffalo, in the matter of an alleged vacancy in the White House staff. Appointments upon that staff, which might be called the official family of the President, are always left entirely to him. When President Roosevelt had this matter referred to him, he said, with some asperity: “Don't bother me with anything of that character now.”
When the fatal crisis came in McKinley's case, the Vice-President had taken all precautions to be instantly informed if there was an unfavorable turn, but all safeguards against surprise failed. The dreadful news of imminent danger flashed forth unexpectedly. It was the custom of the country for those hastening from Mt. Marcy to the railroad to drive in dizzy whirls around the edges of steep places, taking such luck as comes with rapid movement, along roads that are narrow notches unguarded beside steep places. The important passenger, called in the night and the wilderness to make this journey with the utmost speed, was held by the whip to be a man who should have particular care bestowed upon him. Therefore, when the ticklish turns were approached, the man for whose presence far away there was urgency, was warned that it might be well to “hold up” a little, calling attention to the presence of a precarious bit of road; but got for answer only the reply, “push on," with further notice that the hurried traveler was satisfied with the driver, and desired no precautions. The quick, firm “push on” took the nervousness out of the whip, and the saying was that the Rough Rider Colonel “had his nerves with him," and was not bothered in the least by the drive, which was as dangerous as dismal.
At the termination of the giddy race down and around the mountain, on emerging from the deep shadows, there was a shrill locomotive and glittering car waiting. Here the Vice-President was told the news that the President was dead, having passed away in the early hours of that memorable morning.
One of the most trying of the experiences of President Roosevelt, was the lonesome hours after he took the dark ride through the Northern forest along the central slope of the highest mountain in the State. He entered his car at sunrise, having suddenly faced the certainty that the President had seen the last of earth. The car ride was eight hours, and he had them for communion with himself. Those who met him at Buffalo said he was as one who had been "tried by fire," and come to a full understanding with himself. He had
in meditation measured his task and would not swerve from his conclusions, but pursue with fixed resolution the course marked out. The ride in the darkness had been a season of thoughtfulness, in which he was forgetful of surround. ings. This was repeated at greater length in the closely curtained car. He had the day from morning until afternoon to himself; and in the silences saw along the dim vistas the shadows we are and pursue, unheeding the haunting voices of the wheels. Emerging with self-command from solitude he silently accepted the uncertainties. There was soon evident the maturity of formulated purpose in his acts, but no tentative suggestiveness. There was no wavering in word or deed, but the clear accent of the "high resolve" of which Abraham Lincoln spoke in the oration at Gettysburg. There were dramatic features that will thrill those who study the mimic stage, for generations, in the ride of Roosevelt across the State of New York to do his duty.
It fell to the lot of a correspondent of the New York Herald, to write a description of the wild ride worthy to live in literature. His letter is a picture that has a wierd fascination, and must always have a place in the history of the Heroic Life of the President:
"Saratoga Springs, Saturday, September 15, 1901.—To charge at the head of troopers up San Juan Hill, glory certain whether the death he tempted awaited him or not—that was, of course, a courageous thing.
“Yet many men have done the same before and until war ends many will do the same again. To sit miserably cooped up in a covered mountain buckboard, with none save a silent driver for witness, to whirl dizzily through inky darkness along frightful precipices, where a single misstep of the maddened horses meant death as surely as a Spanish bullet; honor, the highest in his country's power, waiting also at the end of the journey, yet in this case counselling caution rather than courage; to do this not for five intoxicating minutes, but for hour after weary hour, and all the time, instead of faltering, urge his reckless driver on to still higher speed, proves President Theodore Roosevelt's title to being a man of iron will and nerve.
"The full story of that ride will never be written. Save a few frightened deer, roused by the splashing hoofs and peering wide-eyed at the swaying lantern through the fog, there was no spectator of the journey. The drivers, trained hunters from their youth, have learned silence as the first lesson of their calling, and questions elicit naught save the barest outline of the trip.
“Well, I knew, by feel of the wagon, we were off the road once or twice, and I told Mr. Roosevelt we might be a hundred feet below the next moment for all I could tell, but he just told me to “Go ahead!" ' said Driver Kellogg.
“'Yes, the horses stumbled badly once, and I wanted to slow up; but he said, “Keep right on!”' admitted Cronin.
"Many years ago an Indian appeared at Albany bearing samples of a wonderfully rich iron ore. But few deposits were known in this country at that time, and the ore samples created excitement. A party of exploration was organized, and for a sufficient quantity of ‘firewater' the red man conducted them far into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, where a vein of unusually fine ore was discovered. A company was formed, in which Joseph Bonaparte, the former King of Spain, was largely interested, and preparations were made to open a mine. Transporting the ore itself was out of the question, so smelters were built on the spot, and the pig iron was carted down the rudest of mountain roads to civilization. A hamlet of five hundred souls sprang up in the midst of the forest, and the roar of the blast was never silent until, one gray afternoon, William Henderson, the manager, shot himself, whether accidentally or not no one will ever know, on a little island in the middle of Calamity Pond. Like magic all work ceased immediately upon the news of his death. The iron company collapsed, the five hundred busy workers vanished, and to-day the visitor to the Upper Tahawas Club house is shown the tawny brick cupolas, with damper still in place, and the company houses so strangely and suddenly deserted sixty years ago. The land owned by the company lay unmolested until 1875, when a party of New Yorkers, Dr. Wheelock among them, leased the whole ninety-six thousand acres for hunting and fishing purposes. This was the start of the Adirondack Club, one of the most exclusive and conservative organizations in the country.
"When Mrs. Roosevelt concluded that her two children, just from the hospital, would thrive better in pure mountain air, the suggestion of Mr. McNaughton, an old friend of the family, that they should occupy his cottage at the club, was gladly accepted. Here, at the root of Mount Marcy, the giant of the Adirondacks, Mr. Roosevelt's family were quietly living, while in the busy world below great and terrible events were happening, and the first strands of the invisible, yet irresistible, web of fate were cast around them, to drag them-most unwillingly, all accounts agree-out into the brightest limelight of publicity.
"How Mr. Roosevelt hastened to Buffalo at the first news of the murderous attack on President McKinley's life is current history. It was only after he had been positively assured by three of the President's physicians that Mr. McKinley would almost certainly recover that he felt he might safely leave to visit his family. There is something cruelly unjust in the stories that Mr. Roosevelt went on a hunting trip while the stricken President battled bravely against death. It is a fact beyond dispute that not once during his stay at the Tahawas Club did he suggest hunting. His grief at the assassin's deed was as sincere and outspoken as all his other acts, and he was in no mood for even his favorite sport.