"Riddle me this-and guess him if you can." - Dryden
I suppose no great effort has ever been made for the improvement of conditions, for the advancement of the human race, that has not been met with bitter opposition, ridicule, and abuse from the people at large; but when the heroic reformer with a spark of Christ-like patience says: "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do," and holding steadily, unswervingly to his course, reaches the goal, and though weary and exhausted, establishes firmly the new and better condition of affairs, the people are apt to accept the benefits accruing, as a mere matter of course, and give no thought to the price paid by the reformer for his success.
Today the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a recognized power for good throughout the land. The most prominent, the most powerful men, the most gracious and influential women are proud to serve it; while the bright-eyed, observant babies of the entire country are its eager little agents and flying messengers.
It has offices everywhere, paid officials, agents, lawyers, doctors, workmen, ambulances, shelters, machinery for rescue, and the merciful lifting and lowering of fallen beasts of burden. Today, all such work is done before approving and admiring eyes, but once it was a different story. For this society came into existence amid a very storm of disapprobation, with rumbling jeers and imprecations from the vulgar and debased, flashing with the sarcastic and malicious mockeries of the thoughtlessly indifferent. Infamous cruelty stalked rampant through the city. The brutalities familiarly witnessed on every hand were coarsening the fiber and hardening the hearts of the people, and thus lowering their spiritual standard. For so closely interwoven are the interests of man - made in God's image - and the gentle dumb creatures given to his service and his care, that cruelty and brutality to the patient beast of burden result in the debasing of the guilty man himself. Therefore this Society, in constituting itself the defense of the defenseless, truly served man as well as beast, in teaching him to control if not conquer his savage instincts - his senseless furies.
In that splendid library, the Bible, one reads: "A grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed into a great tree." Yes, verily this Society has grown and waxed a great tree. One cannot imagine any storm uprooting or overturning it now. But how many of those who find rest and shelter beneath its giant branches give a thought to the man who cast the mustard-seed into his garden; who watched for the first slim lance of green thrust upward from the earth; who nursed, tended, sheltered, and defended its slow, weak growth, who cultivated it with bleeding fingers, and watered it with his tears? How many give a thought today to the founder of this Society, so thoroughly approved by all classes?
I suppose every one knows that Mr. Henry Bergh cast the mustard-seed into the garden, but how many people know anything about the personality of the man? How many know the moving cause of his great undertaking? How many, indeed! Better ask, does any one know what moved him to enter the lists as the sole defender of suffering animals? I shall wait long, I fancy, for my answer, for truly the man was a riddle, so let us guess him if we can.
Somewhere about 1605 or 1607 there was born into the world, through the brain of the Spanish soldier-poet Cervantes, the famous Don Quixote, that belated knight-errant who should have lived a hundred years before, and whose grotesque tilts and ludicrous encounters, in defending the oppressed and avenging imaginary wrongs, have sent laughter ringing through palace, camp, and home alike for nearly three hundred years. Laughter that is half denied by the sympathetic moisture of the eye; for this poor, transposed knight-errant is a very grave and honorable gentleman, trusted by his friends and loved by his dependants; and the purity of his motives lends to his utter inability to see things as they really are so distinct a touch of pathos that Sancho Panza is really needed to tip the balance to the comic side.
Who has not seen, who cannot recall the picture of the Don - Tall, gaunt, grave, hollow-eyed, and scant of hair, in ancient and imperfect armor, sitting astride bony Rosinate, and ready bravely to charge upon the windmill, - the humble and protesting Sancho Panza, broad as he is long, looking on from the back of the donkey, whose wisdom seems greater than that of both men combined? Now this Don Quixote was a friend of my childhood. I used to walk at his side in fancy, and wonder quite piteously why he could not see what a dreadful mistake he was about to make - I being a very practical young person indeed, this dear, blundering, high-flown old Spanish gentleman of gallant spirit was a great care to me, and therefore, small woman that I was, I loved him much, and I - well, I think I care a great deal for the old Don yet.
One day, then, when I had been so long married that not more than two or three repetitions of my new last name were required to attract my surprised attention, my cockney parlor-maid, whose face flushed and whose tongue thickened curiously every afternoon, brought to me a card that startled me into reading aloud the name of "Mr. Henry Bergh."
"'Eavens!" cried the flushed Abigail, "I 'ope our 'Ennery hasn't done nothink to the 'osses! But 'e's an 'ard man, 's our 'Ennery, ma'am." And with a manner flatly contradicting her expressed hope, delightedly anticipating an immediate arrest, she proceeded to "show the gentleman up."
Advancing to meet my caller, I stopped short. I held the card of Henry Bergh, but I saw the tall, gaunt form, the grave dignity of bearing, the hollow cheeks, the austere mouth, the piled-up brow - full two stories high - and the gentle eyes, sad to melancholy, of Cervantes' Don Quixote! I heard my own voice say low, "An incarnation."
He paused in his grave obeisance, sensitive as mirror to a breath, and said, inquiringly, "I remind you of some one, then?"
And, my jesting devil being ever at my elbow, I swiftly answered, "Yes, you remind me of a friend, dear and valued, a certain country gentleman from la Mancha."
At first he listened blankly, but at the word la Mancha pained recognition sprang into his eyes, and a slow, dull color crept into the hollow of his cheeks. Terrified by what I had done, I rushed on: "But you are a Don Quixote whose courage and enthusiasm are not wasted upon windmills. You have the happiness of really defending the oppressed and avenging the cruelly wronged, instead of only dreaming of it." And, absolute sincerity being easily recognized, he took my offered hand, and we were at peace.
"Ah," he said, "you take a kinder and more gracious view of my resemblance to the absurd old Don than do the caricaturists of our papers."
And I laughed back: "My good sir, do you really imagine the millennium has begun, that you expect a jest without malice, sarcasm without venom, the light, swift stroke of a keen rapier from the fist that only knows how to wield a bludgeon?"
From the last word he shrank uncomfortably, saying: "He wished the 'bludgeon' of the caricaturist were the only one in active use in the city"; but when he gravelly and carefully explained to me that "he was not a millenialist, could not, in fact, comprehend that peculiar form of belief," I understood that a sense of the ludicrous would never endanger his life through excessive laughter.
I was a hero-worshiper from away back, and to my mind this man, who was making such a fine fight for the helpless, was a hero. Therefore I was filled with a sort of reverent curiosity, and both eyes and ears were set wide open for the catching of any scrap of information anent the "why" and "how" of that fight; and behold, the first item I obtained was, that Mr. Bergh would talk of almost anything under heaven - admitting a strong preference for the theater - save and except Mr. Bergh.
That being the case, I carefully hoarded every casual remark, every stately compliment, every critical comment, every small confidence, every expressed hope of his, while my eager eyes were photographing features, poses, gestures, expressions, even half expressions. And now adding to these memories two or three anecdotes from one who knew and loved him well, I have my sole material for building up that trusted, honored, ridiculed, hated, and abused bundle of contradictions known as Henry Bergh.
To begin with, he was by birth and breeding a gentleman, and that rare creature, an exceptionally tall man who, calmly unconscious of his height, moves with natural ease. A well-dressed man, too, showing a quiet, unostentatious taste in color and ornament, but such careful attention to good fitting and the small details of costume as made him seem especially well dressed. In his manner of grave and gentle dignity he could not have been excelled by any Spanish Don - the most courtly of men. His voice was gentle and low, his face, Quixote's face, long, pale, often immovable as a graven image, the piled-up brow crossed by a sort of dividing line; his eyes light, clear, blue, and sad, while his brows had a trick of slowly lifting, now and then, that gave an inexpressible weariness to the face. Refined, intellectual, and cold, that was what he looked; and to myself I said, how deceptive must be the human face, for we are apt to associate self-sacrifice, generous devotion to another's welfare, with a certain warmth of heart, even of manner and expression, just as we associate a round, smiling face with good humor, and more or less unconsciously we are given to the habit of judging others by ourselves.
Now, my love for animals is a veritable passion - crank and monomaniac are terms oft heard behind my back. Not merely is my love for my horse or my dog, but for everybody's horse or anybody's dog. My heart is a sort of Noah's ark where every conceivable four-footed thing is welcome with his mate. This must be true, else why does the lost dog spy me out even in a Broadway crowd, and ask me sobbing questions as to his missing friends and future fate? Why does the shamed, mangy cur creep forth to rub himself against my best gown, when he would not dare approach within a quarter of a mile of any other woman's gown? Therefore I said, in my wisdom, how great must be the love of Mr. Bergh for animals! I pictured him as the owner of satin-coated horses, well-cared-for cattle, and with dogs galore, watching eagerly for his recognition and kind caress.
Then Mr. Bergh, making a second call, came upon me at the close of a romp with my two small canine idols. That he did not notice their extreme rarity and beauty surprised me somewhat, but when the largest - a three-pounder in weight - sprang upon the sofa, and laid a small, inquiring paw upon his knee, the man's whole body shrank away, and unmistakable repulsion showed in every feature.
Swiftly recalling that this man was striving earnestly to establish drinking places through the city for the heat-tortured dogs of the streets, I thought, "Oh, maybe, like many other men, he simply dislikes toys." So catching the little beast up in my arms, I said, "You don't like him. It is, then because he is so small?"
"No, no," he nervously replied, "it's not that, not its size at all, but I - I don't like dogs, Miss Morris!"
Dumb with amazement, I stared a moment, then grabbed the other monster from her cushion, and carrying both to the next room, left them there, saying to myself the while, "Riddle me this, and guess him if you can." And let me say right here, that one who knew Mr. Bergh years to my days, who saw his sacrifices, saw his sufferings born in heroic defense of horses, tells me that never in his life did he see Mr. Bergh lay his hand upon a horse, in caress however slight - never saw him come to closer touch than by the taking hold of a bridle.
It is hard for the people of to-day to realize to what lengths the people of that day went in their furious opposition to the Bergh Crusade; and, strange as it may seem, the better classes were as bitterly intolerant as were the vindictive and cruel classes. Jeers, maledictions, threats of personal violence, of appeals to law, insults both veiled and open, he bore calmly, steadily, without outward sign of suffering or resentment; but there was another weapon turned against him, one difficult to parry, whose wound being poisoned rankles long - that weapon was ridicule.
Oh, small wonder that the poor French king cowered before the lampoon's cruel mockery; for just as trained solders, blood drunk and in full fighting frenzy, will halt before the cold steel of fixed bayonets, waver and break, so will even ordinary men waver before derision. And this man, sagacious, sober, sound, was sensitive as any girl to mockery. The jibes, the jeers, the satire that made of him a laughing-stock were very hard to bear. Long after the power of the decent press was at his back in full strength, a snapping, snarling crowd of lesser publications pursued him with ribald jest and coarse lampoon, while at theaters he was often alluded to in the most farcical and grotesque way.
To show you how deeply it wounds a brave man to be made the butt of a city's ridicule, let me, with reverent hand, draw back the curtain upon the picture of the private den of Mr. Bergh, where, with head bowed upon his bent arm in boy fashion, he sheds the slow, blistering tears of disappointed manhood, strained almost to the breaking-point - almost, but not quite, thank God! For he rose to go forth to his first triumph, to win a first sign of approval from the people, who, through misunderstanding, detested him.
It was winter - the snow, generously sprinkled with sooty blacks, had suggested a city in half-mourning. At some street corners the soiled, mud-stained mass had been heaped in banks. With insolent disregard of the law, salt had been lavishly used on the car-tracks. The great arteries of the city were congested - traffic was delayed by dangerous footing and narrowed roadways. The only thing that moved on at regulation speed, in perfect security, was the profanity of the veteran horse-driver, whether enthroned on truck or car.
As Mr. Bergh came from his office, he found a radiant white city, bursting into blossom with a million lights. All harsh sounds were muffled by the snow-filled air. As he passed through the small park that seemed like a fairly land of snow and fire, his heart sank low, for he knew his city well - knew it was hungry now and hurrying to its dinner, and he was sure he'd soon find what he was looking for - trouble.
Like a well-dressed, somber ghost he went striding down the snowy street, and at University Place he found the thing he had expected - a car packed inside, almost to suffocation; both platforms packed outside, with men clinging like big burrs to bottom steps and dashboard rails; and before it, within a cloud of steam, to ill-fed, bony horses, with blood-shot eyes and wide red nostrils flaring, in their effort to fill laboring lungs with air - with heaving sides and straining backs and flanks - while their madly scrambling feet struck fire from the slippery stones, as they strove in vain to start again the awful weight behind them. Curses, oft-jerked bell, and assisting yells of passengers failed of effect. The driver's whip was raised ready for the stinging blow, when suddenly the straining effort ceased, the horses' heads drooped low, and through the thick air their loomed up before them a tall, dark form, with hand upraised, commandingly. And calm and distinct, two laconic words reached all ears, "Stop! Unload!"
"Who the hell are you?" furiously demanded the driver. "And where's your authority for interfering with this trip?"
He knew well enough who he was talking to, so silently Mr. Bergh turned back the lapel of his coat to show his badge (for in those days he had to do constabulary work as well as official), then repeated, "Unload!"
But being tired, hungry, and mad, the flood-gates gave way, and the passengers' wrath burst forth. Abuse, satirical comment, threats filled the air. To a few, who remonstrated decently with him, he expressed regret, but with grave politeness insisted on lightening the load, telling them they could see for themselves the utter inability of the horses to get them to the end of the line, and gently urged them hereafter to note the condition of crowding before taking a place on a car.
The conductor was especially ugly, and became unpleasantly demonstrative. His example worked like a leaven on the rest, and a spirit of riot began to show distinctly in the crowd closing about the tall, calm, self-possessed man. All faces scowled, evil names were tossed upon the air. He had just said, "You are yourselves increasing this delay; you might have moved two minutes and a half ago," when a scurrilous, great brute came close up to him and, with an unspeakable epithet, shook a dirty fist directly in his face. Without the flash of an eye or the quiver of a muscle in his quiet face, Mr. Bergh caught the ruffian by the shoulder, whirled him round, grabbed the seat of his breeches and the nape of his neck, and with a splendid "now all together!" sort of a swing, he fired him straight across the street, head-on, into the snowbank.
A silence of utter amazement was suddenly broken by one great swelling laugh, and then followed the always thrilling sound of three gloriously hearty American cheers. Many men shook hands with Mr. Bergh before beginning their long tramp homeward; some admitted their error in aiding the overloading.
The carmen sheepishly resumed their places and the horses started the lightened car, and the friend who had witnessed the incident here joined him, walking silently by his side, until at last in a low, moved tone, he said: "It's coming - Yes, I have faith to believe now that it is coming - the public recognition and endorsement of our efforts. Those people understood I was not interfering with them from mere love of meddling. Yes, I think they understood." And beneath his mustache the nervous quiver of his lips betrayed his agitation.
They understood, yes; but not what he thought they did. They understood that the man who had courage and also the physical strength to back it and make it interesting, and who could yet hold both in the leash of good breeding and self-control, was a man to listen to, and New York began to listen to him from that very night. Toute ame rencontre en ce monde unoasis; c'etait l'heure marquee pour lui!
The same friend who walked by his side that snowy night has seen Mr. Bergh in passing through Fulton Market receive fair in the face the uncleansed lights of a slaughtered animal - flung deliberately by one of the furious butchers, the act receiving guffaws of laughter from the other butchers looking on - and Mr. Bergh wiped his face, which was immovable as a graven image, and passed on calm and cold and silent. Sometimes a visit to the chemist's show was needed to have stains removed from his coat, but he made no remonstrance, and never used his power to arrest for malicious mischief, disorderly conduct, or for hideous profanty and vile language used in a public place. Only steadily, unflinchingly he arrested all the butchers who made the moving of living animals to the abattoir a slow progress of sickening horror and anguuish. I only mention this feature of his hard struggle for the pleasure of saying that the time came whenever he passed the same butcher stalls, every man of whom declared that "what the old man said stood, and if it couldn't stand alone, why, they were behind it - d'ye see?"
But before that time arrived there came a dark, dark hour. The powerful press had taken up his cause - success seemed to smile into his eyes, when the money gave out. As yet no great support had come to the Society from the wealthy. Bequests were unknown, and the work he was doing required money, and a good deal of it. Shelter, food, care, medicine for the suffering creatures rescued from brutal taskmasters, had all to be paid for, to say nothing of salaries to lawyer, doctor, agents, etc. Without money the Society could not live. And then happened one of those things that we sneer at in stories for their unlikelihood. In a hospital, here in New York, a man lay near to death - a Frenchman he was, whose business had been for many years that of trapper and fur-trader. Living among and dealing with the Indians, he had seen such cruelties practiced upon animals that memory was a horror to him. Either he had no family, or he had drifted away from it, for he was quite alone in his keen watch of approaching death.
To lighten the heavy hours he looked at the pictures in magazine or paper, and noting the many so-called "comics" that Mr. Bergh was both subject and object of, he remarked one day that "a white man with a pencil could be meaner than an Indian with a tomahawk," which led the attendant to speak of Mr. Bergh and his crusade at length to his interested listener, closing with a sigh and the remark that rumor said his work was greatly hampered by lack of funds.
A night of thought, and then a note went forth from the hospital asking if Mr. Bergh would call upon a patient there, by name M. Bonnard. Surprised, but ever courteous, he went. The sick man described the horrors he had seen, and then expressed his joy that some one had risen up to show the world that animals had some rights that determined recognition and respect.
"You are cool and wise and determined. You will go far!" he cried.
And Mr. Bergh quite frankly answered, "he could not go much farther without help."
"But," excitedly replied the trader, "I shall help you! I have not chased the dollar all these years without catching him - now and then. Mon Ami, I am a lonely man. What is mine, I mine alone, to do with as I please, and raise outcry from no one. Only promise me that if you ever have the power to reach so far, you will extend your protection to the tormented wild things of the forest and plain, and what I shall be at your service." And Mr. Bergh, thinking of some modest little sum from this lonely hospital patient, thanked him cordially, more for his words of appreciation and encouragement than for the possible future gift, which would probalby come too late to be of much service to the Society, and went his worried, anxious way.
A few days passed, then, dazed and dazzled, he sat staring at a scrap of paper that held the trader's gift to him. M. Bonnard was dead, but he had kept his word, and had helped the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the extent of nearly $115, 000, or every cent he owned - a noble gift to a noble cause, with a touch of poetic justice about it, for from animals it came and to animals it returned.
Since that first saving bequest, many have honored themselves in honoring the claims of the dumb and helpless creatures left to man's mercy; and when one thinks that in New York alone in one single year nearly 4,000 animals were suspended from labor and cared for, 552 disabled horses removed from the stony streets in ambulances, and 98,000 animals of all kinds, small and large, were humanely destroyed, while 56,000 cases were investigated, and 510 prosecutions were made, one begins to understand how vast is the labor of the Society and how great the need for help.
Mr. Bergh's sense of the ludicrous was conspicuous by its absence. If you have to dissect a joke to explain it, it is apt to bleed to death in the operation, and dead things are never funny. I never saw Mr. Bergh recognize a joke, and he was too honest to pretend to see the point he was blind to; but after careful search I have found a man who will swear that Mr. Bergh did see a joke once, one directed against himself, and malicious though it was, he laughed right heartily.
A certain driver working for a wholesale firm in Vesey Street gave much trouble by extravagantly overloading his horse. At last, finding himself to be so persistently watched, he began to behave better, and the espionage was lightened, when lo, Mr. Bergh coming down town met this man with a load of boxes so high that heads were turning all along the line of pedestrians to stare at it. Instantly the long arm was raised and the familiar "Stop! You're overloaded!" was heard.
"Why do you take advantage of my supposed absence to pile such a weight as that behind a horse?" asked Mr. Bergh sternly.
"It ain't too much for him!" growled the driver.
"Not too much?" cried Mr. Bergh. "Why, that load is almost two stories high! Lighten it at once!" And somewhat to his surprise, without the usual blasphemous offers to fight before yielding, the man turned slowly, the boxes swaying dangerously at their giddy height, and, with the following crowd, drew up in front of the firm's building. Now, had Mr. Bergh been a closely observant man, he would have noted the malicious sparkle in the fellow's eye and the pucker of his tobacco-stained lips, but he noted nothing save the frightful height of the load. So the crowd looking on, hoping for a scrimmage, saw the man drop the restraining ropes and remove box after box. He paused, but Mr. Bergh, after a critical walk about the outfit, motioned him to go on and still further lessen the load. With a grin the man obeyed. The sidewalk was nearly covered with piled-up great cases, when Mr. Bergh called a halt, saying, "That will do; the horse can move that load with safety."
"He can that," replied the grinning driver. "He can move it widout strainin' hissel' inside or our, for every dom box is impty!"
Every soul in the crowd broke into laughter. As the Irishman climbed to his place, the guardian of animals looked at the empty boxes and then at the sturdy horse, saw the joke, and joined right heartily in the laugh against himself.
But he that laughs last laughs best, and the fun was not yet over; for Mr. Irishman, gathering up his reins, gave his cluck and loud "Git-up there!" all in vain. The horse turned his head, and giving Mr. Bergh one long, steady look, switched his tail, and stood stock still. The refusal to move that trifling load was utterly ludicrous, and some one yelled, "Look at de horse standin' in wid Bergh!" while another shouted, "Well, what kind of a beast would he be if he didn't lie to back up a friend?" and amid peals of laughter Mr. Bergh himself took the animal's bridle and gave him a lead to start him, while the driver was pelted with hoots and jests till clear out of sight.
But it was in a certain incident occurring on Fourth Avenue and Twenty-second Street one morning that Mr. Bergh's conduct was the most like the conduct of the gentle and dignified Don from la Mancha, whom he so resembled in face and figure. Gloved, caned, perfectly gotten up, with flowering buttonhole and all, he was walking briskly to his office, when from behind him he heard such frantic mooing from a cow as told plainly of suffering and wild excitement, and now and again the weaker sound of the half-bleat, half bawl of a very young calf.
He stopped, faced about, and saw a thick-set, sturdy man who, with the aid of a rope, resounding blows, and many oaths, dragged a struggling, protesting cow down the avenue, while, hunger-crazed and thirsty, a weakened little calf stumbled along trying to keep up with the frantic mother. Nor was the cow's misery merely maternal excitement - she was suffering cruelly. She was fevered, overweighted, her bag and udder so swollen, so distended that the milk dripped and trickled to the pavement as she moved, a condition, according to those who understand cattle, of excruciating pain. Hence Mr. Bergh to the rescue.
He halted the man and asked "Why he did not allow the cow relief?"
The man glowered stupidly, then sullenly repeated, "Relafe? Relafe? Relafe from what? I've druv' no finder cow thin that these five year!"
"You know she suffers," went on Mr. Bergh, "and so does that calf - it's weak with hunger."
The sulky drover was all the time keeping the small creature away from the tempting milk. "Hungry, is it?" he grunted. "Well, what if it? Sure, its nothin' but a calf - it's no good!"
"Well, the cow's some good, isn't she?" went on the interfering gentleman. "Why don't you ease her pain? Just look at those dripping udders! It's shameful. Let the calf go to her!"
But fairly dancing with rage the man refused, crying out that the condition would bring him a better bargain in selling the animal. Then Mr. Bergh declared officially, "This calf is going to- to-" Perhaps he did not know the technical term, or perhaps its sound was offensive - at all events, what he said was, "This calf is going to breakfast right here and now! Tie the cow to this hydrant! You won't? Do you wish, then, to be arrested?" and he showed his badge, and taking at the same moment the rope from the ugly, but now stupefied man, he himself led the cow to the corner and tied her with his own neatly gloved hands; and as the frantic moos had brought the neighbors to their windows, there were many laughing lookers-on at the unusual picture of an elegant and stately gentleman standing guard over a red cow with brass buttons on her horns, while her spotted baby calf began the milk-storage business with such reckless haste that the white fluid drizzled from either side of its soft, pink mouth, and the mother meantime, not to waste the blessed opportunity, hastily but tenderly made its toilet. And though to the human eye she licked the hairs mostly the wrong way, the two most interested seemed to be satisfied with the result.
And there the tall man stood in patient, dignified waiting, while the enraged owner, with a few sympathizing male and female compatriots, made the air blue about them - stood, until at last baby-bossy let go and faced about, when two long, contentented sighs, and the calmed glances of two pairs of big soft eyes told their protector his work was done and to their complete satisfaction. Then he loosed the rope, gave it into the owner's hand, and having in a public avenue superintended a young calf's breakfast and toilet, he calmly resumed his way, and all unrumpled entered his office, the whole thing being like a page torn from Don Quixote.
That Mr. Bergh was fond of the theater seems natural enough - it rests and amuses many busy men; but it did not seem so natural that a man of such marked executive ability, of such courage, tenacity, and endurance, should burn with an ambition to write plays. Nevertheless, that was the dear desire of his heart, and in spite of his cold reserve and stately dignity he was willing - nay, eager - to sit as pupil at the knee of any earnest actress who would listen to his hopes and look at his work. For, much against my will, I must admit that the plays produced by that zealous and sincere student of the drama might well have been the lucubrations of a clever girl of sixteen years. For, believe me if you can, their one and only motive was ever - love. They were five act raptures - not of strong, moving passion, mind you, but of mere sentiment. A dramatization of "The Children of the Abbey" would have been strong and turbulent by the side of any one of those plays I read.
And it was the work of the man who had faced a nation's ridicule, had bent the legislature to his will, and was educating a people to serve God and themselves by granting mercy to the dumbly suffering creatures about them.
Though my knowledge of Mr. Berg came only from what I call a "parlor friendship," which, no matter how long, never equals a "working friendship," yet it must be remembered that I was studying him from the first with one object in view, to learn why he undertook the labor of his life. And I learned just what everybody else had learned: that the unspeakable cruelty of a Russian driver in a St. Petersburg street had first aroused his resentment. The gendarme had refused to arrest the brutal fellow. A crowd had threatened Mr. Bergh, and he had barely escaped maltreatment. Next day - he was Secretary of Legation there - he had donned some court dress and ribbons and orders, and going alone, back to the dangerous quarter, had picked out his man, who, groveling at the display of supposed official power, was arrested and taken before the proper authorities. This opera-bouffe incident amused him not at all, and his description of the sickening brutality was given in the cold, even, undisturbed voice of disapproving justice.
And there I was - and here I am.
I have inquired from t hose who worked at his side, of those who to-day splendidly head the now powerful Society, and they know no more of that mysterious "why" than I do.
He was a cool, calm man. He did not love horses; he disliked dogs. Affection, then was not the moving cause. He was a healthy, clean-living man, whose perfect self-control showed steady nerves that did not shrink sickeningly from sights of physical pain; therefore he was not moved by self-pity or hysterical sympathy. One can only conclude that he was born for his work. He was meant to be the Moses of the domestic animal, meant to receive the "table of the law" of their protection, and to coax, drive, or teach the people to respect and obey those laws.
How else can you explain that large, calm, impersonal sort of justice, that far-seeing pity that was not confined to the sufferers of the city's streets, but sent forth agents to protect the tormented mules and horses of the tow-path; to search out the ignorant cruelties of the rustic, whose neglect of stock caused animal martyrdom - the incredible horrors of stabling in cellars and roofless shanties. Good God! The hair raises at the thought of the flood of anguish that man tried to stem and stop.
No warm, loving, tender, nervous nature could have borne to face it for an hour, and he faced and fought it for a lifetime. His coldness was his armor, and its protection was sorely needed.
"A grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and cast into his garden." How glad I am that God let this man see the tree waxing and growing from the mustard-seed of his casting ere he departed and left his great work to others. And happy has Mr. Bergh been in having his work carried forward by brave and loyal men, who while loving and honoring h is memory yet do this labor for its own sake.
Leaving bequests and giving great gifts, like automobiling, are the joys of the rich. I am a bread-winner only, but if I were a rich woman, how swiftly would I benefit this Society, whose work is so great, so far-reaching, and so continually needed. I would do it for pity's sake, for the beasts God has left dumb, and for sweet friendship's sake for Don Quixote II. - Mr. Henry Bergh. And after all, I end as I began, "Riddle me this - and guess him if you can," for I confess I cannot.