I would not enter on my list of friends,
(Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility), the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
“Nero!” Crushed, baffled, blinded, and, like Samson, shorn of his strength, prostrate in his cage lay the great tawny monarch of the forest. Heedless of the curious crowds passing to and fro, he seemed deaf as well as blind to everything going on around him. Perhaps he was dreaming of the jungle. Perhaps he was longing to roam the wilds once more in his native strength. Perhaps memories of a happy past even in captivity stirred him. Perhaps—But what is this? What change has come o’er the spirit of his dreams? No one has touched him. Apparently, nothing has happened to arouse him. Only a woman’s voice, soft, caressing, full of love, has uttered the name, “Nero.” But there was magic in the sound. In an instant the huge animal was on his feet. Quivering with emotion, he rushed to the side of the cage from whence the voice proceeded, and threw himself against the bars with such violence that he fell back half stunned. As he fell he uttered the peculiar note of welcome with which, in happier days, he was wont to greet his loved and long-lost mistress.
Touched with the devotion of her dumb friend, Rosa Bonheur—for it was she who had spoken—released from bondage the faithful animal whom, years before, she had bought from a keeper who declared him untamable.
“In order to secure the affections of wild animals,” said the great-hearted painter, “you must love them,” and by love she had subdued the ferocious beast whom even the lion-tamers had given up as hopeless.
When about to travel for two years, it being impossible to take her pet with her, Mademoiselle Bonheur sold him to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where she found him on her return, totally blind, owing, it is said, to the ill treatment of the attendant.
Grieved beyond measure at the condition of poor Nero, she had him removed to her chateau, where everything was done for his comfort that love could suggest. Often in her leisure moments, when she had laid aside her painting garb, the artist would have him taken to her studio, where she would play with and fondle the enormous creature as if he were a kitten. And there, at last, he died happily, his great paws clinging fondly to the mistress who loved him so well, his sightless eyes turned upon her to the end, as if beseeching that she would not again leave him.
“There is room enough at the top”
These words ere uttered many years ago by a youth who had no other means by which to reach the top than work and will. They have since become the watchword of every poor boy whose ambition is backed by energy and a determination to make the most possible of himself.