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The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller

 

Part II: Letters (1887 - 1901)

 

1895

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TO  MISS CAROLINE DERBY

The Wright-Humason School.

New York, March 15, 1895.

 

...I think I have improved a little in lip-reading, though I still find it very difficult to read rapid speech; but I am sure I shall succeed some day if I only persevere. Dr. Humason is still trying to improve my speech. Oh, Carrie, how I should like to speak like other people! I should be willing to work night and day if it could only be accomplished. Think what a joy it would be to all of my friends to hear me speak naturally!! I wonder why it is so difficult and perplexing for a deaf child to learn to speak when it is so easy for other people; but I am sure I shall speak perfectly some time if I am only patient....

 

Although I have been so busy, I have found time to read a good deal.... I have lately read "Wilhelm Tell" by Schiller, and "The Lost Vestal."... Now I am reading "Nathan the Wise" by Lessing and "King Arthur" by Miss Mulock.

 

...You know our kind teachers take us to see everything which they think will interest us, and we learn a great deal in that delightful way. On George Washington's birthday we all went to the Dog Show, and although there was a great crowd in the Madison Square Garden, and despite the bewilderment caused by the variety of sounds made by the dog-orchestra, which was very confusing to those who could hear them, we enjoyed the afternoon very much. Among the dogs which received the most attention were the bulldogs. They permitted themselves startling liberties when any one caressed them, crowding themselves almost into one's arms and helping themselves without ceremony to kisses, apparently unconscious of the impropriety of their conduct. Dear me, what unbeautiful little beasts they are! But they are so good natured and friendly, one cannot help liking them.

 

Dr. Humason, Teacher, and I left the others at the Dog Show and went to a reception given by the "Metropolitan Club."... It is sometimes called the "Millionaires' Club." The building is magnificent, being built of white marble; the rooms are large and splendidly furnished; but I must confess, so much splendor is rather oppressive to me; and I didn't envy the millionaires in the least all the happiness their gorgeous surroundings are supposed to bring them....

   

TO  MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER

New York, March 31, 1895.

 

...Teacher and I spent the afternoon at Mr. Hutton's, and had a most delightful time!... We met Mr. Clemens and Mr. Howells there! I had known about them for a long time; but I had never thought that I should see them, and talk to them; and I can scarcely realize now that this great pleasure has been mine! But, much as I wonder that I, only a little girl of fourteen, should come in contact with so many distinguished people, I do realize that I am a very happy child, and very grateful for the many beautiful privileges I have enjoyed. The two distinguished authors were very gentle and kind, and I could not tell which of them I loved best. Mr. Clemens told us many entertaining stories, and made us laugh till we cried. I only wish you could have seen and heard him! He told us that he would go to Europe in a few days to bring his wife and his daughter, Jeanne, back to America, because Jeanne, who is studying in Paris, has learned so much in three years and a half that if he did not bring her home, she would soon know more than he did. I think Mark Twain is a very appropriate nom de plume for Mr. Clemens because it has a funny and quaint sound, and goes well with his amusing writings, and its nautical significance suggests the deep and beautiful things that he has written. I think he is very handsome indeed.... Teacher said she thought he looked something like Paradeuski. (If that is the way to spell the name.) Mr. Howells told me a little about Venice, which is one of his favorite cities, and spoke very tenderly of his dear little girl, Winnifred, who is now with God. He has another daughter, named Mildred, who knows Carrie. I might have seen Mrs. Wiggin, the sweet author of "Birds' Christmas Carol," but she had a dangerous cough and could not come. I was much disappointed not to see her, but I hope I shall have that pleasure some other time. Mr. Hutton gave me a lovely little glass, shaped like a thistle, which belonged to his dear mother, as a souvenir of my delightful visit. We also met Mr. Rogers... who kindly left his carriage to bring us home.

 

When the Wright-Humason School closed for the summer, Miss Sullivan and Helen went South.

TO  MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON

Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 29, 1895.

 

...I am spending my vacation very quietly and pleasantly at my beautiful, sunny home, with my loving parents, my darling little sister and my small brother, Phillips   My precious teacher is with me too, and so of course I am happy I read a little, walk a little, write a little and play with the children a great deal, and the days slip by delightfully!...

 

My friends are so pleased with the improvement which I made in speech and lip-reading last year, that it has been decided best for me to continue my studies in New York another year I am delighted at the prospect, of spending another year in your great city I used to think that I should never feel "at home" in New York, but since I have made the acquaintance of so many people, and can look back to such a bright and successful winter there, I find myself looking forward to next year, and anticipating still brighter and better times in the Metropolis

 

Please give my kindest love to Mr Hutton, and Mrs Riggs and Mr Warner too, although I have never had the pleasure of knowing him personally As I listen Venicewards, I hear Mr Hutton's pen dancing over the pages of his new book It is a pleasant sound because it is full of promise How much I shall enjoy reading it!

 

Please pardon me, my dear Mrs Hutton, for sending you a typewritten letter across the ocean  I have tried several times to write with a pencil on my little writing machine since I came home; but I have found it very difficult to do so on account of the heat  The moisture of my hand soils and blurs the paper so dreadfully, that I am compelled to use my typewriter altogether And it is not my "Remington" either, but a naughty little thing that gets out of order on the slightest provocation, and cannot be induced to make a period...

 

TO MRS. WILLIAM THAW

New York, October 16, 1895.

 

Here we are once more in the great metropolis! We left Hulton Friday night and arrived here Saturday morning. Our friends were greatly surprised to see us, as they had not expected us before the last of this month. I rested Saturday afternoon, for I was very tired, and Sunday I visited with my schoolmates, and now that I feel quite rested, I am going to write to you; for I know you will want to hear that we reached New York safely. We had to change cars at Philadelphia; but we did not mind it much. After we had had our breakfast, Teacher asked one of the train-men in the station if the New York train was made up. He said no, it would not be called for about fifteen minutes; so we sat down to wait; but in a moment the man came back and asked Teacher if we would like to go to the train at once. She said we would, and he took us way out on the track and put us on board our train. Thus we avoided the rush and had a nice quiet visit before the train started. Was that not very kind? So it always is. Some one is ever ready to scatter little acts of kindness along our pathway, making it smooth and pleasant...

 

We had a quiet but very pleasant time in Hulton. Mr. Wade is just as dear and good as ever! He has lately had several books printed in England for me, "Old Mortality," "The Castle of Otranto" and "King of No-land."...

 

TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY

New York, December 29, 1895.

 

...Teacher and I have been very gay of late. We have seen our kind friends, Mrs. Dodge, Mr. and Mrs. Hutton, Mrs. Riggs and her husband, and met many distinguished people, among whom were Miss Ellen Terry, Sir Henry Irving and Mr. Stockton! Weren't we very fortunate? Miss Terry was lovely. She kissed Teacher and said, "I do not know whether I am glad to see you or not; for I feel so ashamed of myself when I think of how much you have done for the little girl." We also met Mr. and Mrs. Terry, Miss Terry's brother and his wife. I thought her beauty angellic, and oh, what a clear, beautiful voice she had! We saw Miss Terry again with Sir Henry in "King Charles the First," a week ago last Friday, and after the play they kindly let me feel of them and get an idea of how they looked. How noble and kingly the King was, especially in his misfortunes! And how pretty and faithful the poor Queen was! The play seemed so real, we almost forgot where we were, and believed we were watching the genuine scenes as they were acted so long ago. The last act affected us most deeply, and we all wept, wondering how the executioner could have the heart to tear the King from his loving wife's arms.

 

I have just finished reading "Ivanhoe." It was very exciting; but I must say I did not enjoy it very much. Sweet Rebecca, with her strong, brave spirit, and her pure, generous nature, was the only character which thoroughly won my admiration. Now I am reading "Stories from Scottish History," and they are very thrilling and absorbing!...

   

 


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