|Table of Contents|
Story of My Life, by Helen Keller
I: Chapter III
the desire to express myself grew. The few signs I used became less and
less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably
followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were
holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself. I struggled--not
that struggling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was strong
within me; I generally broke down in tears and physical exhaustion. If my
mother happened to be near I crept into her arms, too miserable even to
remember the cause of the tempest. After awhile the need of some means of
communication became so urgent that these outbursts occurred daily,
parents were deeply grieved and perplexed. We lived a long way from any
school for the blind or the deaf, and it seemed unlikely that any one
would come to such an out-of-the-way place as Tuscumbia to teach a child
who was both deaf and blind. Indeed, my friends and relatives sometimes
doubted whether I could be taught. My mother's only ray of hope came from
Dickens's "American Notes." She had read his account of Laura
Bridgman, and remembered vaguely that she was deaf and blind, yet had been
educated. But she also remembered with a hopeless pang that Dr. Howe, who
had discovered the way to teach the deaf and blind, had been dead many
years. His methods had probably died with him; and if they had not, how
was a little girl in a far-off town in Alabama to receive the benefit of
I was about six years old, my father heard of an eminent oculist in
Baltimore, who had been successful in many cases that had seemed hopeless.
My parents at once determined to take me to Baltimore to see if anything
could be done for my eyes.
journey, which I remember well was very pleasant. I made friends with many
people on the train. One lady gave me a box of shells. My father made holes
in these so that I could string them, and for a long time they kept me happy
and contented. The conductor, too, was kind. Often when he went his rounds I
clung to his coat tails while he collected and punched the tickets. His
punch, with which he let me play, was a delightful toy. Curled up in a
corner of the seat I amused myself for hours making funny little holes in
bits of cardboard.
aunt made me a big doll out of towels. It was the most comical shapeless
thing, this improvised doll, with no nose, mouth, ears or eyes--nothing that
even the imagination of a child could convert into a face. Curiously enough,
the absence of eyes struck me more than all the other defects put together.
I pointed this out to everybody with provoking persistency, but no one
seemed equal to the task of providing the doll with eyes. A bright idea,
however, shot into my mind, and the problem was solved. I tumbled off the
seat and searched under it until I found my aunt's cape, which was trimmed
with large beads. I pulled two beads off and indicated to her that I wanted
her to sew them on my doll. She raised my hand to her eyes in a questioning
way, and I nodded energetically. The beads were sewed in the right place and
I could not contain myself for joy; but immediately I lost all interest in
the doll. During the whole trip I did not have one fit of temper, there were
so many things to keep my mind and fingers busy.
we arrived in Baltimore, Dr. Chisholm received us kindly: but he could do
nothing. He said, however, that I could be educated, and advised my father
to consult Dr. Alexander Graham Bell of Washington, who would be able to
give him information about schools and teachers of deaf or blind children.
Acting on the doctor's advice, we went immediately to Washington to see Dr.
Bell, my father with a sad heart and many misgivings, I wholly unconscious
of his anguish, finding pleasure in the excitement of moving from place to
place. Child as I was, I at once felt the tenderness and sympathy which
endeared Dr. Bell to so many hearts, as his wonderful achievements enlist
their admiration. He held me on his knee while I examined his watch, and he
made it strike for me. He understood my signs, and I knew it and loved him
at once. But I did not dream that that interview would be the door through
which I should pass from darkness into light, from isolation to friendship,
companionship, knowledge, love.
Bell advised my father to write to Mr. Anagnos, director of the Perkins
Institution in Boston, the scene of Dr. Howe's great labours for the blind,
and ask him if he had a teacher competent to begin my education. This my
father did at once, and in a few weeks there came a kind letter from Mr.
Anagnos with the comforting assurance that a teacher had been found. This
was in the summer of 1886. But Miss Sullivan did not arrive until the
I came up out of Egypt and stood before Sinai, and a power divine touched my
spirit and gave it sight, so that I beheld many wonders. And from the sacred
mountain I heard a voice which said, "Knowledge is love and light and
|Table of Contents|