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Story of My Life, by Helen Keller
summer and winter following the "Frost King" incident I spent
with my family in Alabama. I recall with delight that home-going.
Everything had budded and blossomed. I was happy. "The Frost
King" was forgotten.
the ground was strewn with the crimson and golden leaves of autumn, and
the musk-scented grapes that covered the arbour at the end of the garden
were turning golden brown in the sunshine, I began to write a sketch of my
life--a year after I had written "The Frost King."
was still excessively scrupulous about everything I wrote. The thought
that what I wrote might not be absolutely my own tormented me. No one knew
of these fears except my teacher. A strange sensitiveness prevented me
from referring to the "Frost King"; and often when an idea
flashed out in the course of conversation I would spell softly to her,
"I am not sure it is mine." At other times, in the midst of a
paragraph I was writing, I said to myself, "Suppose it should be
found that all this was written by some one long ago!" An impish fear
clutched my hand, so that I could not write any more that day. And even
now I sometimes feel the same uneasiness and disquietude. Miss Sullivan
consoled and helped me in every way she could think of; but the terrible
experience I had passed through left a lasting impression on my mind, the
significance of which I am only just beginning to understand. It was with
the hope of restoring my self-confidence that she persuaded me to write
for the Youth's Companion a brief account of my life. I was then twelve
years old. As I look back on my struggle to write that little story, it
seems to me that I must have had a prophetic vision of the good that would
come of the undertaking, or I should surely have failed.
wrote timidly, fearfully, but resolutely, urged on by my teacher, who knew
that if I persevered, I should find my mental foothold again and get a grip
on my faculties. Up to the time of the "Frost King" episode, I had
lived the unconscious life of a little child; now my thoughts were turned
inward, and I beheld things invisible. Gradually I emerged from the penumbra
of that experience with a mind made clearer by trial and with a truer
knowledge of life.
chief events of the year 1893 were my trip to Washington during the
inauguration of President Cleveland, and visits to Niagara and the World's
Fair. Under such circumstances my studies were constantly interrupted and
often put aside for many weeks, so that it is impossible for me to give a
connected account of them.
went to Niagara in March, 1893. It is difficult to describe my emotions when
I stood on the point which overhangs the American Falls and felt the air
vibrate and the earth tremble.
seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and
beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: "What does this beauty or
that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or
hear their roar. What do they mean to you?" In the most evident sense
they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than
I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.
the summer of 1893, Miss Sullivan and I visited the World's Fair with Dr.
Alexander Graham Bell. I recall with unmixed delight those days when a
thousand childish fancies became beautiful realities. Every day in
imagination I made a trip round the world, and I saw many wonders from the
uttermost parts of the earth--marvels of invention, treasuries of industry
and skill and all the activities of human life actually passed under my
liked to visit the Midway Plaisance. It seemed like the "Arabian
Nights," it was crammed so full of novelty and interest. Here was the
India of my books in the curious bazaar with its Shivas and elephant-gods;
there was the land of the Pyramids concentrated in a model Cairo with its
mosques and its long processions of camels; yonder were the lagoons of
Venice, where we sailed every evening when the city and the fountains were
illuminated. I also went on board a Viking ship which lay a short distance
from the little craft. I had been on a man-of-war before, in Boston, and it
interested me to see, on this Viking ship, how the seaman was once all in
all--how he sailed and took storm and calm alike with undaunted heart, and
gave chase to whosoever reechoed his cry, "We are of the sea!" and
fought with brains and sinews, self-reliant, self-sufficient, instead of
being thrust into the background by unintelligent machinery, as Jack is
to-day. So it always is--"man only is interesting to man."
a little distance from this ship there was a model of the Santa Maria, which
I also examined. The captain showed me Columbus's cabin and the desk with an
hour-glass on it. This small instrument impressed me most because it made me
think how weary the heroic navigator must have felt as he saw the sand
dropping grain by grain while desperate men were plotting against his life.
Higinbotham, President of the World's Fair, kindly gave me permission to
touch the exhibits, and with an eagerness as insatiable as that with which
Pizarro seized the treasures of Peru, I took in the glories of the Fair with
my fingers. It was a sort of tangible kaleidoscope, this white city of the
West. Everything fascinated me, especially the French bronzes. They were so
lifelike, I thought they were angel visions which the artist had caught and
bound in earthly forms.
the Cape of Good Hope exhibit, I learned much about the processes of mining
diamonds. Whenever it was possible, I touched the machinery while it was in
motion, so as to get a clearer idea how the stones were weighed, cut, and
polished. I searched in the washings for a diamond and found it myself--the
only true diamond, they said, that was ever found in the United States.
Bell went everywhere with us and in his own delightful way described to me
the objects of greatest interest. In the electrical building we examined the
telephones, autophones, phonographs, and other inventions, and he made me
understand how it is possible to send a message on wires that mock space and
outrun time, and, like Prometheus, to draw fire from the sky. We also
visited the anthropological department, and I was much interested in the
relics of ancient Mexico, in the rude stone implements that are so often the
only record of an age--the simple monuments of nature's unlettered children
(so I thought as I fingered them) that seem bound to last while the
memorials of kings and sages crumble in dust away--and in the Egyptian
mummies, which I shrank from touching. From these relics I learned more
about the progress of man than I have heard or read since.
these experiences added a great many new terms to my vocabulary, and in the
three weeks I spent at the Fair I took a long leap from the little child's
interest in fairy tales and toys to the appreciation of the real and the
earnest in the workaday world.
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