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Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Part 8 out of 8

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lurked in the dark earth, was latent in the tiny seed we planted?
Beautiful flower, you have taught me to see a little way into the
hidden heart of things. Now I understand that the darkness
everywhere may hold possibilities better even than my hopes.


I am not one of those on whom fortune deigns to smile. My house
is not resplendent with ivory and gold; nor is it adorned with
marble arches, resting on graceful columns brought from the
quarries of distant Africa. For me no thrifty spinners weave
purple garments. I have not unexpectedly fallen heir to princely
estates, titles or power; but I have something more to be desired
than all the world's treasures--the love of my friends, and
honorable fame, won by my own industry and talents. Despite my
poverty, it is my privilege to be the companion of the rich and
mighty. I am too grateful for all these blessings to wish for
more from princes, or from the gods. My little Sabine farm is
dear to me; for here I spend my happiest days, far from the noise
and strife of the world.

O, ye who live in the midst of luxury, who seek beautiful marbles
for new villas, that shall surpass the old in splendor, you never
dream that the shadow of death is hanging over your halls.
Forgetful of the tomb, you lay the foundation of your palaces. In
your mad pursuit of pleasure you rob the sea of its beach and
desecrate hallowed ground. More even than this, in your
wickedness you destroy the peaceful homes of your clients!
Without a touch of remorse you drive the father from his land,
clasping to his bosom his household gods and his half-naked

You forget that death comes to the rich and the poor alike, and
comes once for all; but remember, Acheron could not be bribed by
gold to ferry the crafty Prometheus back to the sunlit world.
Tantalus, too, great as he was above all mortals, went down to
the kingdom of the dead, never to return. Remember, too, that,
although death is inexorable, yet he is just; for he brings
retribution to the rich for their wickedness, and gives the poor
eternal rest from their toil and sorrow.

Ah, the pranks that the nixies of Dreamland play on us while we
sleep! Methinks "they are jesters at the Court of Heaven." They
frequently take the shape of daily themes to mock me; they strut
about on the stage of Sleep like foolish virgins, only they carry
well-trimmed note-books in their hands instead of empty lamps. At
other times they examine and cross-examine me in all the studies
I have ever had, and invariably ask me questions as easy to
answer as this: "What was the name of the first mouse that
worried Hippopotamus, satrap of Cambridge under Astyagas,
grandfather of Cyrus the Great?" I wake terror-stricken with the
words ringing in my ears, "An answer or your life!"

Such are the distorted fancies that flit through the mind of one
who is at college and lives as I do in an atmosphere of ideas,
conceptions and half-thoughts, half-feelings which tumble and
jostle each other until one is almost crazy. I rarely have dreams
that are not in keeping with what I really think and feel, but
one night my very nature seemed to change, and I stood in the eye
of the world a mighty man and a terrible. Naturally I love peace
and hate war and all that pertains to war; I see nothing
admirable in the ruthless career of Napoleon, save its finish.
Nevertheless, in that dream the spirit of that pitiless slayer of
men entered me! I shall never forget how the fury of battle
throbbed in my veins--it seemed as if the tumultuous beating of
my heart would stop my breath. I rode a fiery hunter--I can feel
the impatient toss of his head now and the quiver that ran
through him at the first roar of the cannon.

From the top of the hill where I stood I saw my army surging over
a sunlit plain like angry breakers, and as they moved, I saw the
green of fields, like the cool hollows between billows. Trumpet
answered trumpet above the steady beat of drums and the rhythm of
marching feet. I spurred my panting steed and waving my sword on
high and shouting, "I come! Behold me, warriors--Europe!" I
plunged into the oncoming billows, as a strong swimmer dives into
breakers, and struck, alas, 'tis true, the bedpost!

Now I rarely sleep without dreaming; but before Miss Sullivan
came to me, my dreams were few and far between, devoid of thought
or coherency, except those of a purely physical nature. In my
dreams something was always falling suddenly and heavily, and at
times my nurse seemed to punish me for my unkind treatment of her
in the daytime and return at an usurer's rate of interest my
kickings and pinchings. I would wake with a start or struggle
frantically to escape from my tormentor. I was very fond of
bananas, and one night I dreamed that I found a long string of
them in the dining-room, near the cupboard, all peeled and
deliciously ripe, and all I had to do was to stand under the
string and eat as long as I could eat.

After Miss Sullivan came to me, the more I learned, the oftener I
dreamed; but with the waking of my mind there came many dreary
fancies and vague terrors which troubled my sleep for a long
time. I dreaded the darkness and loved the woodfire. Its warm
touch seemed so like a human caress, I really thought it was a
sentient being, capable of loving and protecting me. One cold
winter night I was alone in my room. Miss Sullivan had put out
the light and gone away, thinking I was sound asleep. Suddenly I
felt my bed shake, and a wolf seemed to spring on me and snarl in
my face. It was only a dream, but I thought it real, and my heart
sank within me. I dared not scream, and I dared not stay in bed.
Perhaps this was a confused recollection of the story I had heard
not long before about Red Riding Hood. At all events, I slipped
down from the bed and nestled close to the fire which had not
flickered out. The instant I felt its warmth I was reassured, and
I sat a long time watching it climb higher and higher in shining
waves. At last sleep surprised me, and when Miss Sullivan
returned she found me wrapped in a blanket by the hearth.

Often when I dream, thoughts pass through my mind like cowled
shadows, silent and remote, and disappear. Perhaps they are the
ghosts of thoughts that once inhabited the mind of an ancestor.
At other times the things I have learned and the things I have
been taught, drop away, as the lizard sheds its skin, and I see
my soul as God sees it. There are also rare and beautiful moments
when I see and hear in Dreamland. What if in my waking hours a
sound should ring through the silent halls of hearing? What if a
ray of light should flash through the darkened chambers of my
soul? What would happen, I ask many and many a time. Would the
bow-and-string tension of life snap? Would the heart,
overweighted with sudden joy, stop beating for very excess of


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