come to see me.
TO MR. MICHAEL ANAGNOS, DIRECTOR OF THE PERKINS INSTITUTION [Tuscumbia, November, 1887.]
dear mr. anagnos I will write you a letter. I and teacher did have pictures. teacher will send it to you. photographer does make pictures. carpenter does build new houses. gardener does dig and hoe ground and plant vegetables. my doll nancy is sleeping. she is sick. mildred is well uncle frank has gone hunting deer. we will have venison for breakfast when he comes home. I did ride in wheel barrow and teacher did push it. simpson did give me popcorn and walnuts. cousin rosa has gone to see her mother. people do go to church sunday. I did read in my book about fox and box. fox can sit in the box. I do like to read in my book. you do love me. I do love you.
TO DR. ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL
[Tuscumbia, November, 1887.]
Dear Mr. Bell.
I am glad to write you a letter, Father will send you picture. I and Father and aunt did go to see you in Washington. I did play with your watch. I do love you. I saw doctor in Washington. He looked at my eyes. I can read stories in my book. I can write and spell and count. good girl. My sister can walk and run. We do have fun with Jumbo. Prince is not good dog. He can not get birds. Rat did kill baby pigeons. I am sorry. Rat does not know wrong. I and mother and teacher will go to Boston in June. I will see little blind girls. Nancy will go with me. She is a good doll. Father will buy me lovely new watch. Cousin Anna gave me a pretty doll. Her name is Allie.
By the beginning of the next year her idioms are firmer. More adjectives appear, including adjectives of colour. Although she can have no sensuous knowledge of colour, she can use the words, as we use most of our vocabulary, intellectually, with truth, not to impression, but to fact. This letter is to a school-mate at the Perkins Institution.
TO MISS SARAH TOMLINSON
Tuscumbia, Ala. Jan. 2nd 1888.
I am happy to write to you this morning. I hope Mr. Anagnos is coming to see me soon. I will go to Boston in June and I will buy father gloves, and James nice collar, and Simpson cuffs. I saw Miss Betty and her scholars. They had a pretty Christmas-tree, and there were many pretty presents on it for little children. I had a mug, and little bird and candy. I had many lovely things for Christmas. Aunt gave me a trunk for Nancy and clothes. I went to party with teacher and mother. We did dance and play and eat nuts and candy and cakes and oranges and I did have fun with little boys and girls. Mrs. Hopkins did send me lovely ring, I do love her and little blind girls.
Men and boys do make carpets in mills. Wool grows on sheep. Men do cut sheep’s wool off with large shears, and send it to the mill. Men and women do make wool cloth in mills.
Cotton grows on large stalks in fields. Men and boys and girls and women do pick cotton. We do make thread and cotton dresses of cotton. Cotton has pretty white and red flowers on it. Teacher did tear her dress. Mildred does cry. I will nurse Nancy. Mother will buy me lovely new aprons and dress to take to Boston. I went to Knoxville with father and aunt. Bessie is weak and little. Mrs. Thompson’s chickens killed Leila’s chickens. Eva does sleep in my bed. I do love good girls.
The next two letters mention her visit in January to her relatives in Memphis, Tennessee. She was taken to the cotton exchange. When she felt the maps and blackboards she asked, “Do men go to school?” She wrote on the blackboard the names of all the gentlemen present. While at Memphis she went over one of the large Mississippi steamers.
TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE
Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 15th .
Dear Mr. Hale,
I am happy to write you a letter this morning. Teacher told me about kind gentleman I shall be glad to read pretty story I do read stories in my book about tigers and lions and sheep.
I am coming to Boston in June to see little blind girls and I will come to see you. I went to Memphis to see grandmother and Aunt Nannie. Teacher bought me lovely new dress and cap and aprons. Little Natalie is a very weak and small baby. Father took us to see steamboat. It was on a large river. Boat is like house. Mildred is a good baby. I do love to play with little sister. Nancy was not a good child when I went to Memphis. She did cry loud. I will not write more to-day. I am tired.
TO MR. MICHAEL ANAGNOS
Tuscumbia, Ala., Feb. 24th, 1888.
My dear Mr. Anagnos,–I am glad to write you a letter in Braille. This morning Lucien Thompson sent me a beautiful bouquet of violets and crocuses and jonquils. Sunday Adeline Moses brought me a lovely doll. It came from New York. Her name is Adeline Keller. She can shut her eyes and bend her arms and sit down and stand up straight. She has on a pretty red dress. She is Nancy’s sister and I am their mother. Allie is their cousin. Nancy was a bad child when I went to Memphis she cried loud, I whipped her with a stick.
Mildred does feed little chickens with crumbs. I love to play with little sister.
Teacher and I went to Memphis to see aunt Nannie and grandmother. Louise is aunt Nannie’s child. Teacher bought me a lovely new dress and gloves and stockings and collars and grandmother made me warm flannels, and aunt Nannie made me aprons. Lady made me a pretty cap. I went to see Robert and Mr. Graves and Mrs. Graves and little Natalie, and Mr. Farris and Mr. Mayo and Mary and everyone. I do love Robert and teacher. She does not want me to write more today. I feel tired.
I found box of candy in Mr. Grave’s pocket. Father took us to see steam boat it is like house. Boat was on very large river. Yates plowed yard today to plant grass. Mule pulled plow. Mother will make garden of vegetables. Father will plant melons and peas and beans.
Cousin Bell will come to see us Saturday. Mother will make ice-cream for dinner, we will have ice-cream and cake for dinner. Lucien Thompson is sick. I am sorry for him.
Teacher and I went to walk in the yard, and I learned about how flowers and trees grow. Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Sheffield is north and Tuscumbia is south. We will go to Boston in June. I will have fun with little blind girls.
“Uncle Morrie” of the next letter is Mr. Morrison Heady, of Normandy, Kentucky, who lost his sight and hearing when he was a boy. He is the author of some commendable verses.
TO MR. MORRISON HEADY
Tuscumbia, Ala., March 1st 1888.
My dear uncle Morrie,–I am happy to write you a letter, I do love you, and I will hug and kiss you when I see you.
Mr. Anagnos is coming to see me Monday. I do love to run and hop and skip with Robert in bright warm sun. I do know little girl in Lexington Ky. her name is Katherine Hobson.
I am going to Boston in June with mother and teacher, I will have fun with little blind girls, and Mr. Hale will send me pretty story. I do read stories in my book about lions and tigers and bears.
Mildred will not go to Boston, she does cry. I love to play with little sister, she is weak and small baby. Eva is better.
Yates killed ants, ants stung Yates. Yates is digging in garden. Mr. Anagnos did see oranges, they look like golden apples.
Robert will come to see me Sunday when sun shines and I will have fun with him. My cousin Frank lives in Louisville. I will come to Memphis again to see Mr. Farris and Mrs. Graves and Mr. Mayo and Mr. Graves. Natalie is a good girl and does not cry, and she will be big and Mrs. Graves is making short dresses for her. Natalie has a little carriage. Mr. Mayo has been to Duck Hill and he brought sweet flowers home.
With much love and a kiss
HELEN A. KELLER.
In this account of the picnic we get an illuminating glimpse of Miss Sullivan’s skill in teaching her pupil during play hours. This was a day when the child’s vocabulary grew.
TO MR. MICHAEL ANAGNOS
Tuscumbia, Ala., May 3rd 1888.
Dear Mr. Anagnos.–I am glad to write to you this morning, because I love you very much. I was very happy to receive pretty book and nice candy and two letters from you. I will come to see you soon and will ask you many questions about countries and you will love good child.
Mother is making me pretty new dresses to wear in Boston and I will look lovely to see little girls and boys and you. Friday teacher and I went to a picnic with little children. We played games and ate dinner under the trees, and we found ferns and wild flowers. I walked in the woods and learned names of many trees. There are poplar and cedar and pine and oak and ash and hickory and maple trees. They make a pleasant shade and the little birds love to swing to and fro and sing sweetly up in the trees. Rabbits hop and squirrels run and ugly snakes do crawl in the woods. Geraniums and roses jasamines and japonicas are cultivated flowers. I help mother and teacher water them every night before supper.
Cousin Arthur made me a swing in the ash tree. Aunt Ev. has gone to Memphis. Uncle Frank is here. He is picking strawberries for dinner. Nancy is sick again, new teeth do make her ill. Adeline is well and she can go to Cincinnati Monday with me. Aunt Ev. will send me a boy doll, Harry will be Nancy’s and Adeline’s brother. Wee sister is a good girl. I am tired now and I do want to go down stairs. I send many kisses and hugs with letter.
Your darling child
Toward the end of May Mrs. Keller, Helen, and Miss Sullivan started for Boston. On the way they spent a few days in Washington, where they saw Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and called on President Cleveland. On May 26th they arrived in Boston and went to the Perkins Institution; here Helen met the little blind girls with whom she had corresponded the year before.
Early in July she went to Brewster, Massachusetts, and spent the rest of the summer. Here occurred her first encounter with the sea, of which she has since written.
TO MISS MARY C. MOORE
So. Boston, Mass. Sept. 1888
My dear Miss Moore
Are you very glad to receive a nice letter from your darling little friend? I love you very dearly because you are my friend. My precious little sister is quite well now. She likes to sit in my little rocking-chair and put her kitty to sleep. Would you like to see darling little Mildred? She is a very pretty baby. Her eyes are very big and blue, and her cheeks are soft and round and rosy and her hair is very bright and golden. She is very good and sweet when she does not cry loud. Next summer Mildred will go out in the garden with me and pick the big sweet strawberries and then she will be very happy. I hope she will not eat too many of the delicious fruit for they will make her very ill.
Sometime will you please come to Alabama and visit me? My uncle James is going to buy me a very gentle pony and a pretty cart and I shall be very happy to take you and Harry to ride. I hope Harry will not be afraid of my pony. I think my father will buy me a beautiful little brother some day. I shall be very gentle and patient to my new little brother. When I visit many strange countries my brother and Mildred will stay with grandmother because they will be too small to see a great many people and I think they would cry loud on the great rough ocean.
When Capt. Baker gets well he will take me in his big ship to Africa. Then I shall see lions and tigers and monkeys. I will get a baby lion and a white monkey and a mild bear to bring home. I had a very pleasant time at Brewster. I went in bathing almost every day and Carrie and Frank and little Helen and I had fun. We splashed and jumped and waded in the deep water. I am not afraid to float now. Can Harry float and swim? We came to Boston last Thursday, and Mr. Anagnos was delighted to see me, and he hugged and kissed me. The little girls are coming back to school next Wednesday.
Will you please tell Harry to write me a very long letter soon? When you come to Tuscumbia to see me I hope my father will have many sweet apples and juicy peaches and fine pears and delicious grapes and large water melons.
I hope you think about me and love me because I am a good little child.
With much love and two kisses
From your little friend
HELEN A. KELLER.
In this account of a visit to some friends, Helen’s thought is much what one would expect from an ordinary child of eight, except perhaps her naive satisfaction in the boldness of the young gentlemen.
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
So. Boston, Mass, Sept. 24th .
My dear Mother,
I think you will be very glad to know all about my visit to West Newton. Teacher and I had a lovely time with many kind friends. West Newton is not far from Boston and we went there in the steam cars very quickly.
Mrs. Freeman and Carrie and Ethel and Frank and Helen came to station to meet us in a huge carriage. I was delighted to see my dear little friends and I hugged and kissed them. Then we rode for a long time to see all the beautiful things in West Newton. Many very handsome houses and large soft green lawns around them and trees and bright flowers and fountains. The horse’s name was Prince and he was gentle and liked to trot very fast. When we went home we saw eight rabbits and two fat puppies, and a nice little white pony, and two wee kittens and a pretty curly dog named Don. Pony’s name was Mollie and I had a nice ride on her back; I was not afraid, I hope my uncle will get me a dear little pony and a little cart very soon.
Clifton did not kiss me because he does not like to kiss little girls. He is shy. I am very glad that Frank and Clarence and Robbie and Eddie and Charles and George were not very shy. I played with many little girls and we had fun. I rode on Carrie’s tricicle and picked flowers and ate fruit and hopped and skipped and danced and went to ride. Many ladies and gentlemen came to see us. Lucy and Dora and Charles were born in China. I was born in America, and Mr. Anagnos was born in Greece. Mr. Drew says little girls in China cannot talk on their fingers but I think when I go to China I will teach them. Chinese nurse came to see me, her name was Asu. She showed me a tiny atze that very rich ladies in China wear because their feet never grow large. Amah means a nurse. We came home in horse cars because it was Sunday and steam cars do not go often on Sunday. Conductors and engineers do get very tired and go home to rest. I saw little Willie Swan in the car and he gave me a juicy pear. He was six years old. What did I do when I was six years old? Will you please ask my father to come to train to meet teacher and me? I am very sorry that Eva and Bessie are sick. I hope I can have a nice party my birthday, and I do want Carrie and Ethel and Frank and Helen to come to Alabama to visit me. Will Mildred sleep with me when I come home.
With much love and thousand kisses.
From your dear little daughter.
HELEN A. KELLER.
Her visit to Plymouth was in July. This letter, written three months later, shows how well she remembered her first lesson in history.
TO MR. MORRISON HEADY
South Boston, Mass. October 1st, 1888.
My dear uncle Morrie,–I think you will be very glad to receive a letter from your dear little friend Helen. I am very happy to write to you because I think of you and love you. I read pretty stories in the book you sent me, about Charles and his boat, and Arthur and his dream, and Rosa and the sheep.
I have been in a large boat. It was like a ship. Mother and teacher and Mrs. Hopkins and Mr. Anagnos and Mr. Rodocanachi and many other friends went to Plymouth to see many old things. I will tell you a little story about Plymouth.
Many years ago there lived in England many good people, but the king and his friends were not kind and gentle and patient with good people, because the king did not like to have the people disobey him. People did not like to go to church with the king; but they did like to build very nice little churches for themselves.
The king was very angry with the people and they were sorry and they said, we will go away to a strange country to live and leave very dear home and friends and naughty king. So, they put all their things into big boxes, and said, Good-bye. I am sorry for them because they cried much. When they went to Holland they did not know anyone; and they could not know what the people were talking about because they did not know Dutch. But soon they learned some Dutch words; but they loved their own language and they did not want little boys and girls to forget it and learn to talk funny Dutch. So they said, We must go to a new country far away and build schools and houses and churches and make new cities. So they put all their things in boxes and said, Good-bye to their new friends and sailed away in a large boat to find a new country. Poor people were not happy for their hearts were full of sad thoughts because they did not know much about America. I think little children must have been afraid of a great ocean for it is very strong and it makes a large boat rock and then the little children would fall down and hurt their heads. After they had been many weeks on the deep ocean where they could not see trees or flowers or grass, but just water and the beautiful sky, for ships could not sail quickly then because men did not know about engines and steam. One day a dear little baby-boy was born. His name was Peregrine White. I am very sorry that poor little Peregrine is dead now. Every day the people went upon deck to look out for land. One day there was a great shout on the ship for the people saw the land and they were full of joy because they had reached a new country safely. Little girls and boys jumped and clapped their hands. They were all glad when they stepped upon a huge rock. I did see the rock in Plymouth and a little ship like the Mayflower and the cradle that dear little Peregrine slept in and many old things that came in the Mayflower. Would you like to visit Plymouth some time and see many old things.
Now I am very tired and I will rest.
With much love and many kisses, from your little friend. HELEN A. KELLER.
The foreign words in these two letters, the first of which was written during a visit to the kindergarten for the blind, she had been told months before, and had stowed them away in her memory. She assimilated words and practised with them, sometimes using them intelligently, sometimes repeating them in a parrot-like fashion. Even when she did not fully understand words or ideas, she liked to set them down as though she did. It was in this way that she learned to use correctly words of sound and vision which express ideas outside of her experience. “Edith” is Edith Thomas.
TO MR. MICHAEL ANAGNOS
Roxbury, Mass. Oct. 17th, 1888.
Mon cher Monsieur Anagnos,
I am sitting by the window and the beautiful sun is shining on me Teacher and I came to the kindergarten yesterday. There are twenty seven little children here and they are all blind. I am sorry because they cannot see much. Sometime will they have very well eyes? Poor Edith is blind and deaf and dumb. Are you very sad for Edith and me? Soon I shall go home to see my mother and my father and my dear good and sweet little sister. I hope you will come to Alabama to visit me and I will take you to ride in my little cart and I think you will like to see me on my dear little pony’s back. I shall wear my lovely cap and my new riding dress. If the sun shines brightly I will take you to see Leila and Eva and Bessie. When I am thirteen years old I am going to travel in many strange and beautiful countries. I shall climb very high mountains in Norway and see much ice and snow. I hope I will not fall and hurt my head I shall visit little Lord Fauntleroy in England and he will be glad to show me his grand and very ancient castle. And we will run with the deer and feed the rabbits and catch the squirrels. I shall not be afraid of Fauntleroy’s great dog Dougal. I hope Fauntleroy take me to see a very kind queen. When I go to France I will take French. A little French boy will say, Parlez-vous Francais? and I will say, Oui, Monsieur, vous avez un joli chapeau. Donnez moi un baiser. I hope you will go with me to Athens to see the maid of Athens. She was very lovely lady and I will talk Greek to her. I will say, se agapo and, pos echete and I think she will say, kalos, and then I will say chaere. Will you please come to see me soon and take me to the theater? When you come I will say, Kale emera, and when you go home I will say, Kale nykta. Now I am too tired to write more. Je vous aime. Au revoir
From your darling little friend
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MISS EVELINA H. KELLER
[So. Boston, Mass. October 29, 1888.]
My dearest Aunt,–I am coming home very soon and I think you and every one will be very glad to see my teacher and me. I am very happy because I have learned much about many things. I am studying French and German and Latin and Greek. Se agapo is Greek, and it means I love thee. J’ai une bonne petite soeur is French, and it means I have a good little sister. Nous avons un bon pere et une bonne mere means, we have a good father and a good mother. Puer is boy in Latin, and Mutter is mother in German. I will teach Mildred many languages when I come home. HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MRS. SOPHIA C. HOPKINS
Tuscumbia, Ala. Dec. 11th, 1888.
My dear Mrs. Hopkins:–
I have just fed my dear little pigeon. My brother Simpson gave it to me last Sunday. I named it Annie, for my teacher. My puppy has had his supper and gone to bed. My rabbits are sleeping, too; and very soon I shall go to bed. Teacher is writing letters to her friends. Mother and father and their friends have gone to see a huge furnace. The furnace is to make iron. The iron ore is found in the ground; but it cannot be used until it has been brought to the furnace and melted, and all the dirt taken out, and just the pure iron left. Then it is all ready to be manufactured into engines, stoves, kettles and many other things.
Coal is found in the ground, too. Many years ago, before people came to live on the earth, great trees and tall grasses and huge ferns and all the beautiful flowers cover the earth. When the leaves and the trees fell, the water and the soil covered them; and then more trees grew and fell also, and were buried under water and soil. After they had all been pressed together for many thousands of years, the wood grew very hard, like rock, and then it was all ready for people to burn. Can you see leaves and ferns and bark on the coal? Men go down into the ground and dig out the coal, and steam-cars take it to the large cities, and sell it to people to burn, to make them warm and happy when it is cold out of doors.
Are you very lonely and sad now? I hope you will come to see me soon, and stay a long time.
With much love from your little friend HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MISS DELLA BENNETT
Tuscumbia, Ala., Jan. 29, 1889.
My dear Miss Bennett:–I am delighted to write to you this morning. We have just eaten our breakfast. Mildred is running about downstairs. I have been reading in my book about astronomers. Astronomer comes from the Latin word astra, which means stars; and astronomers are men who study the stars, and tell us about them. When we are sleeping quietly in our beds, they are watching the beautiful sky through the telescope. A telescope is like a very strong eye. The stars are so far away that people cannot tell much about them, without very excellent instruments. Do you like to look out of your window, and see little stars? Teacher says she can see Venus from our window, and it is a large and beautiful star. The stars are called the earth’s brothers and sisters.
There are a great many instruments besides those which the astronomers use. A knife is an instrument to cut with. I think the bell is an instrument, too. I will tell you what I know about bells.
Some bells are musical and others are unmusical. Some are very tiny and some are very large. I saw a very large bell at Wellesley. It came from Japan. Bells are used for many purposes. They tell us when breakfast is ready, when to go to school, when it is time for church, and when there is a fire. They tell people when to go to work, and when to go home and rest. The engine-bell tells the passengers that they are coming to a station, and it tells the people to keep out of the way. Sometimes very terrible accidents happen, and many people are burned and drowned and injured. The other day I broke my doll’s head off; but that was not a dreadful accident, because dolls do not live and feel, like people. My little pigeons are well, and so is my little bird. I would like to have some clay. Teacher says it is time for me to study now. Good-bye.
With much love, and many kisses,
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE
Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 21st, 1889.
My dear Mr. Hale,
I am very much afraid that you are thinking in your mind that little Helen has forgotten all about you and her dear cousins. But I think you will be delighted to receive this letter because then you will know that I of[ten] think about you and I love you dearly for you are my dear cousin. I have been at home a great many weeks now. It made me feel very sad to leave Boston and I missed all of my friends greatly, but of course I was glad to get back to my lovely home once more. My darling little sister is growing very fast. Sometimes she tries to spell very short words on her small [fingers] but she is too young to remember hard words. When she is older I will teach her many things if she is patient and obedient. My teacher says, if children learn to be patient and gentle while they are little, that when they grow to be young ladies and gentlemen they will not forget to be kind and loving and brave. I hope I shall be courageous always. A little girl in a story was not courageous. She thought she saw little elves with tall pointed [hats] peeping from between the bushes and dancing down the long alleys, and the poor little girl was terrified. Did you have a pleasant Christmas? I had many lovely presents given to me. The other day I had a fine party. All of my dear little friends came to see me. We played games, and ate ice-cream and cake and fruit. Then we had great fun. The sun is shining brightly to-day and I hope we shall go to ride if the roads are dry. In a few days the beautiful spring will be here. I am very glad because I love the warm sunshine and the fragrant flowers. I think Flowers grow to make people happy and good. I have four dolls now. Cedric is my little boy, he is named for Lord Fauntleroy. He has big brown eyes and long golden hair and pretty round cheeks. Ida is my baby. A lady brought her to me from Paris. She can drink milk like a real baby. Lucy is a fine young lady. She has on a dainty lace dress and satin slippers. Poor old Nancy is growing old and very feeble. She is almost an invalid. I have two tame pigeons and a tiny canary bird. Jumbo is very strong and faithful. He will not let anything harm us at night. I go to school every day I am studying reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and language. My Mother and teacher send you and Mrs. Hale their kind greetings and Mildred sends you a kiss.
With much love and kisses, from your Affectionate cousin
HELEN A. KELLER.
During the winter Miss Sullivan and her pupil were working at Helen’s home in Tuscumbia, and to good purpose, for by spring Helen had learned to write idiomatic English. After May, 1889, I find almost no inaccuracies, except some evident slips of the pencil. She uses words precisely and makes easy, fluent sentences.
TO MR. MICHAEL ANAGNOS
Tuscumbia, Ala., May 18, 1889.
My Dear Mr. Anagnos:–You cannot imagine how delighted I was to receive a letter from you last evening. I am very sorry that you are going so far away. We shall miss you very, very much. I would love to visit many beautiful cities with you. When I was in Huntsville I saw Dr. Bryson, and he told me that he had been to Rome and Athens and Paris and London. He had climbed the high mountains in Switzerland and visited beautiful churches in Italy and France, and he saw a great many ancient castles. I hope you will please write to me from all the cities you visit. When you go to Holland please give my love to the lovely princess Wilhelmina. She is a dear little girl, and when she is old enough she will be the queen of Holland. If you go to Roumania please ask the good queen Elizabeth about her little invalid brother, and tell her that I am very sorry that her darling little girl died. I should like to send a kiss to Vittorio, the little prince of Naples, but teacher says she is afraid you will not remember so many messages. When I am thirteen years old I shall visit them all myself.
I thank you very much for the beautiful story about Lord Fauntleroy, and so does teacher.
I am so glad that Eva is coming to stay with me this summer. We will have fine times together. Give Howard my love, and tell him to answer my letter. Thursday we had a picnic. It was very pleasant out in the shady woods, and we all enjoyed the picnic very much.
Mildred is out in the yard playing, and mother is picking the delicious strawberries. Father and Uncle Frank are down town. Simpson is coming home soon. Mildred and I had our pictures taken while we were in Huntsville. I will send you one.
The roses have been beautiful. Mother has a great many fine roses. The La France and the Lamarque are the most fragrant; but the Marechal Neil, Solfaterre, Jacqueminot, Nipheots, Etoile de Lyon, Papa Gontier, Gabrielle Drevet and the Perle des Jardines are all lovely roses.
Please give the little boys and girls my love. I think of them every day and I love them dearly in my heart. When you come home from Europe I hope you will be all well and very happy to get home again. Do not forget to give my love to Miss Calliope Kehayia and Mr. Francis Demetrios Kalopothakes. Lovingly, your little friend,
HELEN ADAMS KELLER.
Like a good many of Helen Keller’s early letters, this to her French teacher is her re-phrasing of a story. It shows how much the gift of writing is, in the early stages of its development, the gift of mimicry.
TO MISS FANNIE S. MARRETT
Tuscumbia, Ala., May 17, 1889.
My Dear Miss Marrett–I am thinking about a dear little girl, who wept very hard. She wept because her brother teased her very much. I will tell you what he did, and I think you will feel very sorry for the little child. She had a most beautiful doll given her. Oh, it was a lovely and delicate doll! but the little girl’s brother, a tall lad, had taken the doll, and set it up in a high tree in the garden, and had run away. The little girl could not reach the doll, and could not help it down, and therefore she cried. The doll cried, too, and stretched out its arms from among the green branches, and looked distressed. Soon the dismal night would come–and was the doll to sit up in the tree all night, and by herself? The little girl could not endure that thought. “I will stay with you,” said she to the doll, although she was not at all courageous. Already she began to see quite plainly the little elves in their tall pointed hats, dancing down the dusky alleys, and peeping from between the bushes, and they seemed to come nearer and nearer; and she stretched her hands up towards the tree in which the doll sat and they laughed, and pointed their fingers at her. How terrified was the little girl; but if one has not done anything wrong, these strange little elves cannot harm one. “Have I done anything wrong? Ah, yes!” said the little girl. “I have laughed at the poor duck, with the red rag tied round its leg. It hobbled, and that made me laugh; but it is wrong to laugh at the poor animals!”
Is it not a pitiful story? I hope the father punished the naughty little boy. Shall you be very glad to see my teacher next Thursday? She is going home to rest, but she will come back to me next autumn.
Lovingly, your little friend,
HELEN ADAMS KELLER.
TO MISS MARY E. RILEY
Tuscumbia, Ala., May 27, 1889.
My Dear Miss Riley:–I wish you were here in the warm, sunny south today. Little sister and I would take you out into the garden, and pick the delicious raspberries and a few strawberries for you. How would you like that? The strawberries are nearly all gone. In the evening, when it is cool and pleasant, we would walk in the yard, and catch the grasshoppers and butterflies. We would talk about the birds and flowers and grass and Jumbo and Pearl. If you liked, we would run and jump and hop and dance, and be very happy. I think you would enjoy hearing the mocking-birds sing. One sits on the twig of a tree, just beneath our window, and he fills the air with his glad songs. But I am afraid you cannot come to Tuscumbia; so I will write to you, and send you a sweet kiss and my love. How is Dick? Daisy is happy, but she would be happy ever if she had a little mate. My little children are all well except Nancy, and she is quite feeble. My grandmother and aunt Corinne are here. Grandmother is going to make me two new dresses. Give my love to all the little girls, and tell them that Helen loves them very, very much. Eva sends love to all.
With much love and many kisses, from your affectionate little friend,
HELEN ADAMS KELLER.
During the summer Miss Sullivan was away from Helen for three months and a half, the first separation of teacher and pupil. Only once afterward in fifteen years was their constant companionship broken for more than a few days at a time.
TO MISS ANNE MANSFIELD SULLIVAN
Tuscumbia, Ala., August 7, 1889.
Dearest Teacher–I am very glad to write to you this evening, for I have been thinking much about you all day. I am sitting on the piazza, and my little white pigeon is perched on the back of my chair, watching me write. Her little brown mate has flown away with the other birds; but Annie is not sad, for she likes to stay with me. Fauntleroy is asleep upstairs, and Nancy is putting Lucy to bed. Perhaps the mocking bird is singing them to sleep. All the beautiful flowers are in bloom now. The air is sweet with the perfume of jasmines, heliotropes and roses. It is getting warm here now, so father is going to take us to the Quarry on the 20th of August. I think we shall have a beautiful time out in the cool, pleasant woods. I will write and tell you all the pleasant things we do. I am so glad that Lester and Henry are good little infants. Give them many sweet kisses for me.
What was the name of the little boy who fell in love with the beautiful star? Eva has been telling me a story about a lovely little girl named Heidi. Will you please send it to me? I shall be delighted to have a typewriter.
Little Arthur is growing very fast. He has on short dresses now. Cousin Leila thinks he will walk in a little while. Then I will take his soft chubby hand in mine, and go out in the bright sunshine with him. He will pull the largest roses, and chase the gayest butterflies. I will take very good care of him, and not let him fall and hurt himself. Father and some other gentlemen went hunting yesterday. Father killed thirty-eight birds. We had some of them for supper, and they were very nice. Last Monday Simpson shot a pretty crane. The crane is a large and strong bird. His wings are as long as my arm, and his bill is as long as my foot. He eats little fishes, and other small animals. Father says he can fly nearly all day without stopping.
Mildred is the dearest and sweetest little maiden in the world. She is very roguish, too. Sometimes, when mother does not know it, she goes out into the vineyard, and gets her apron full of delicious grapes. I think she would like to put her two soft arms around your neck and hug you.
Sunday I went to church. I love to go to church, because I like to see my friends.
A gentleman gave me a beautiful card. It was a picture of a mill, near a beautiful brook. There was a boat floating on the water, and the fragrant lilies were growing all around the boat. Not far from the mill there was an old house, with many trees growing close to it. There were eight pigeons on the roof of the house, and a great dog on the step. Pearl is a very proud mother-dog now. She has eight puppies, and she thinks there never were such fine puppies as hers.
I read in my books every day. I love them very, very, very much. I do want you to come back to me soon. I miss you so very, very much. I cannot know about many things, when my dear teacher is not here. I send you five thousand kisses, and more love than I can tell. I send Mrs. H. much love and a kiss. From your affectionate little pupil,
HELEN A. KELLER.
In the fall Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to Perkins Institution at South Boston.
TO MISS MILDRED KELLER
South Boston, Oct. 24, 1889.
My Precious Little Sister:–Good morning. I am going to send you a birthday gift with this letter. I hope it will please you very much, because it makes me happy to send it. The dress is blue like your eyes, and candy is sweet just like your dear little self. I think mother will be glad to make the dress for you, and when you wear it you will look as pretty as a rose. The picture-book will tell you all about many strange and wild animals. You must not be afraid of them. They cannot come out of the picture to harm you.
I go to school every day, and I learn many new things. At eight I study arithmetic. I like that. At nine I go to the gymnasium with the little girls and we have great fun. I wish you could be here to play three little squirrels, and two gentle doves, and to make a pretty nest for a dear little robin. The mocking bird does not live in the cold north. At ten I study about the earth on which we all live. At eleven I talk with teacher and at twelve I study zoology. I do not know what I shall do in the afternoon yet.
Now, my darling little Mildred, good bye. Give father and mother a great deal of love and many hugs and kisses for me. Teacher sends her love too.
From your loving sister,
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MR. WILLIAM WADE
South Boston, Mass., Nov. 20, 1889.
My Dear Mr. Wade:–I have just received a letter from my mother, telling me that the beautiful mastiff puppy you sent me had arrived in Tuscumbia safely. Thank you very much for the nice gift. I am very sorry that I was not at home to welcome her; but my mother and my baby sister will be very kind to her while her mistress is away. I hope she is not lonely and unhappy. I think puppies can feel very home-sick, as well as little girls. I should like to call her Lioness, for your dog. May I? I hope she will be very faithful,–and brave, too.
I am studying in Boston, with my dear teacher. I learn a great many new and wonderful things. I study about the earth, and the animals, and I like arithmetic exceedingly. I learn many new words, too. EXCEEDINGLY is one that I learned yesterday. When I see Lioness I will tell her many things which will surprise her greatly. I think she will laugh when I tell her she is a vertebrate, a mammal, a quadruped; and I shall be very sorry to tell her that she belongs to the order Carnivora. I study French, too. When I talk French to Lioness I will call her mon beau chien. Please tell Lion that I will take good care of Lioness. I shall be happy to have a letter from you when you like to write to me.
From your loving little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
P.S. I am studying at the Institution for the Blind. H. A. K.
This letter is indorsed in Whittier’s hand, “Helen A. Keller–deaf dumb and blind–aged nine years.” “Browns” is a lapse of the pencil for “brown eyes.”
TO JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Inst. for the Blind, So. Boston, Mass., Nov. 27, 1889.
I think you will be surprised to receive a letter from a little girl whom you do not know, but I thought you would be glad to hear that your beautiful poems make me very happy. Yesterday I read “In School Days” and “My Playmate,” and I enjoyed them greatly. I was very sorry that the poor little girl with the browns and the “tangled golden curls” died. It is very pleasant to live here in our beautiful world. I cannot see the lovely things with my eyes, but my mind can see them all, and so I am joyful all the day long.
When I walk out in my garden I cannot see the beautiful flowers but I know that they are all around me; for is not the air sweet with their fragrance? I know too that the tiny lily-bells are whispering pretty secrets to their companions else they would not look so happy. I love you very dearly, because you have taught me so many lovely things about flowers, and birds, and people. Now I must say, good-bye. I hope [you] will enjoy the Thanksgiving very much.
From your loving little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
To Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier.
Whittier’s reply, to which there is a reference in the following letter, has been lost.
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
South Boston, Mass., Dec. 3, 1889.
My Dear Mother:–Your little daughter is very happy to write to you this beautiful morning. It is cold and rainy here to-day. Yesterday the Countess of Meath came again to see me. She gave me a beautiful bunch of violets. Her little girls are named Violet and May. The Earl said he should be delighted to visit Tuscumbia the next time he comes to America. Lady Meath said she would like to see your flowers, and hear the mocking-birds sing. When I visit England they want me to come to see them, and stay a few weeks. They will take me to see the Queen.
I had a lovely letter from the poet Whittier. He loves me. Mr. Wade wants teacher and me to come and see him next spring. May we go? He said you must feed Lioness from your hand, because she will be more gentle if she does not eat with other dogs.
Mr. Wilson came to call on us one Thursday. I was delighted to receive the flowers from home. They came while we were eating breakfast, and my friends enjoyed them with me. We had a very nice dinner on Thanksgiving day,–turkey and plum-pudding. Last week I visited a beautiful art store. I saw a great many statues, and the gentleman gave me an angel.
Sunday I went to church on board a great warship. After the services were over the soldier-sailors showed us around. There were four hundred and sixty sailors. They were very kind to me. One carried me in his arms so that my feet would not touch the water. They wore blue uniforms and queer little caps. There was a terrible fire Thursday. Many stores were burned, and four men were killed. I am very sorry for them. Tell father, please, to write to me. How is dear little sister? Give her many kisses for me. Now I must close. With much love, from your darling child, HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
So. Boston, Mass., Dec. 24, 1889
My dear Mother,
Yesterday I sent you a little Christmas box. I am very sorry that I could not send it before so that you would receive it tomorrow, but I could not finish the watch-case any sooner. I made all of the gifts myself, excepting father’s handkerchief. I wish I could have made father a gift too, but I did not have sufficient time. I hope you will like your watch-case, for it made me very happy to make it for you. You must keep your lovely new montre in it. If it is too warm in Tuscumbia for little sister to wear her pretty mittens, she can keep them because her sister made them for her. I imagine she will have fun with the little toy man. Tell her to shake him, and then he will blow his trumpet. I thank my dear kind father for sending me some money, to buy gifts for my friends. I love to make everybody happy. I should like to be at home on Christmas day. We would be very happy together. I think of my beautiful home every day. Please do not forget to send me some pretty presents to hang on my tree. I am going to have a Christmas tree, in the parlor and teacher will hang all of my gifts upon it. It will be a funny tree. All of the girls have gone home to spend Christmas. Teacher and I are the only babies left for Mrs. Hopkins to care for. Teacher has been sick in bed for many days. Her throat was very sore and the doctor thought she would have to go away to the hospital, but she is better now. I have not been sick at all. The little girls are well too. Friday I am going to spend the day with my little friends Carrie, Ethel, Frank and Helen Freeman. We will have great fun I am sure.
Mr. and Miss Endicott came to see me, and I went to ride in the carriage. They are going to give me a lovely present, but I cannot guess what it will be. Sammy has a dear new brother. He is very soft and delicate yet. Mr. Anagnos is in Athens now. He is delighted because I am here. Now I must say, good-bye. I hope I have written my letter nicely, but it is very difficult to write on this paper and teacher is not here to give me better. Give many kisses to little sister and much love to all. Lovingly HELEN.
TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE
South Boston, Jan. 8, 1890.
My dear Mr. Hale:
The beautiful shells came last night. I thank you very much for them. I shall always keep them, and it will make me very happy to think that you found them, on that far away island, from which Columbus sailed to discover our dear country. When I am eleven years old it will be four hundred years since he started with the three small ships to cross the great strange ocean. He was very brave. The little girls were delighted to see the lovely shells. I told them all I knew about them. Are you very glad that you could make so many happy? I am. I should be very happy to come and teach you the Braille sometime, if you have time to learn, but I am afraid you are too busy. A few days ago I received a little box of English violets from Lady Meath. The flowers were wilted, but the kind thought which came with them was as sweet and as fresh as newly pulled violets.
With loving greeting to the little cousins, and Mrs. Hale and a sweet kiss for yourself,
From your little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
This, the first of Helen’s letters to Dr. Holmes, written soon after a visit to him, he published in “Over the Teacups.” [Atlantic Monthly, May, 1890]
TO DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
South Boston, Mass., March 1, 1890.
Dear, Kind Poet:–I have thought of you many times since that bright Sunday when I bade you good-bye; and I am going to write you a letter, because I love you. I am sorry that you have no little children to play with you sometimes; but I think you are very happy with your books, and your many, many friends. On Washington’s birthday a great many people came here to see the blind children; and I read for them from your poems, and showed them some beautiful shells, which came from a little island near Palos.
I am reading a very sad story, called “Little Jakey.” Jakey was the sweetest little fellow you can imagine, but he was poor and blind. I used to think–when I was small, and before I could read–that everybody was always happy, and at first it made me very sad to know about pain and great sorrow; but now I know that we could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.
I am studying about insects in zoology, and I have learned many things about butterflies. They do not make honey for us, like the bees, but many of them are as beautiful as the flowers they light upon, and they always delight the hearts of little children. They live a gay life, flitting from flower to flower, sipping the drops of honeydew, without a thought for the morrow. They are just like little boys and girls when they forget books and studies, and run away to the woods and the fields, to gather wild flowers, or wade in the ponds for fragrant lilies, happy in the bright sunshine.
If my little sister comes to Boston next June, will you let me bring her to see you? She is a lovely baby, and I am sure you will love her.
Now I must tell my gentle poet good-bye, for I have a letter to write home before I go to bed.
From your loving little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO MISS SARAH FULLER [Miss Fuller gave Helen Keller her first lesson in articulation. See Chapter IV, Speech.] South Boston, Mass., April 3, 1890.
My dear Miss Fuller,
My heart is full of joy this beautiful morning, because I have learned to speak many new words, and I can make a few sentences. Last evening I went out in the yard and spoke to the moon. I said, “O! moon come to me!” Do you think the lovely moon was glad that I could speak to her? How glad my mother will be. I can hardly wait for June to come I am so eager to speak to her and to my precious little sister. Mildred could not understand me when I spelled with my fingers, but now she will sit in my lap and I will tell her many things to please her, and we shall be so happy together. Are you very, very happy because you can make so many people happy? I think you are very kind and patient, and I love you very dearly. My teacher told me Tuesday that you wanted to know how I came to wish to talk with my mouth. I will tell you all about it, for I remember my thoughts perfectly. When I was a very little child I used to sit in my mother’s lap all the time, because I was very timid, and did not like to be left by myself. And I would keep my little hand on her face all the while, because it amused me to feel her face and lips move when she talked with people. I did not know then what she was doing, for I was quite ignorant of all things. Then when I was older I learned to play with my nurse and the little negro children and I noticed that they kept moving their lips just like my mother, so I moved mine too, but sometimes it made me angry and I would hold my playmates’ mouths very hard. I did not know then that it was very naughty to do so. After a long time my dear teacher came to me, and taught me to communicate with my fingers and I was satisfied and happy. But when I came to school in Boston I met some deaf people who talked with their mouths like all other people, and one day a lady who had been to Norway came to see me, and told me of a blind and deaf girl [Ragnhild Kaata] she had seen in that far away land who had been taught to speak and understand others when they spoke to her. This good and happy news delighted me exceedingly, for then I was sure that I should learn also. I tried to make sounds like my little playmates, but teacher told me that the voice was very delicate and sensitive and that it would injure it to make incorrect sounds, and promised to take me to see a kind and wise lady who would teach me rightly. That lady was yourself. Now I am as happy as the little birds, because I can speak and perhaps I shall sing too. All of my friends will be so surprised and glad.
Your loving little pupil,
HELEN A. KELLER.
When the Perkins Institution closed for the summer, Helen and Miss Sullivan went to Tuscumbia. This was the first home-going after she had learned to “talk with her mouth.”
TO REV. PHILLIPS BROOKS
Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 14, 1890.
My dear Mr. Brooks, I am very glad to write to you this beautiful day because you are my kind friend and I love you, and because I wish to know many things. I have been at home three weeks, and Oh, how happy I have been with dear mother and father and precious little sister. I was very, very sad to part with all of my friends in Boston, but I was so eager to see my baby sister I could hardly wait for the train to take me home. But I tried very hard to be patient for teacher’s sake. Mildred has grown much taller and stronger than she was when I went to Boston, and she is the sweetest and dearest little child in the world. My parents were delighted to hear me speak, and I was overjoyed to give them such a happy surprise. I think it is so pleasant to make everybody happy. Why does the dear Father in heaven think it best for us to have very great sorrow sometimes? I am always happy and so was Little Lord Fauntleroy, but dear Little Jakey’s life was full of sadness. God did not put the light in Jakey’s eyes and he was blind, and his father was not gentle and loving. Do you think poor Jakey loved his Father in heaven more because his other father was unkind to him? How did God tell people that his home was in heaven? When people do very wrong and hurt animals and treat children unkindly God is grieved, but what will he do to them to teach them to be pitiful and loving? I think he will tell them how dearly He loves them and that He wants them to be good and happy, and they will not wish to grieve their father who loves them so much, and they will want to please him in everything they do, so they will love each other and do good to everyone, and be kind to animals.
Please tell me something that you know about God. It makes me happy to know much about my loving Father, who is good and wise. I hope you will write to your little friend when you have time. I should like very much to see you to-day Is the sun very hot in Boston now? this afternoon if it is cool enough I shall take Mildred for a ride on my donkey. Mr. Wade sent Neddy to me, and he is the prettiest donkey you can imagine. My great dog Lioness goes with us when we ride to protect us. Simpson, that is my brother, brought me some beautiful pond lilies yesterday–he is a very brother to me.
Teacher sends you her kind remembrances, and father and mother also send their regards.
From your loving little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
DR. BROOKS’S REPLY
London, August 3, 1890.
My Dear Helen–I was very glad indeed to get your letter. It has followed me across the ocean and found me in this magnificent great city which I should like to tell you all about if I could take time for it and make my letter long enough. Some time when you come and see me in my study in Boston I shall be glad to talk to you about it all if you care to hear.
But now I want to tell you how glad I am that you are so happy and enjoying your home so very much. I can almost think I see you with your father and mother and little sister, with all the brightness of the beautiful country about you, and it makes me very glad to know how glad you are.
I am glad also to know, from the questions which you ask me, what you are thinking about. I do not see how we can help thinking about God when He is so good to us all the time. Let me tell you how it seems to me that we come to know about our heavenly Father. It is from the power of love which is in our own hearts. Love is at the soul of everything. Whatever has not the power of loving must have a very dreary life indeed. We like to think that the sunshine and the winds and the trees are able to love in some way of their own, for it would make us know that they were happy if we knew that they could love. And so God who is the greatest and happiest of all beings is the most loving too. All the love that is in our hearts comes from him, as all the light which is in the flowers comes from the sun. And the more we love the more near we are to God and His Love.
I told you that I was very happy because of your happiness. Indeed I am. So are your Father and your Mother and your Teacher and all your friends. But do you not think that God is happy too because you are happy? I am sure He is. And He is happier than any of us because He is greater than any of us, and also because He not merely SEES your happiness as we do, but He also MADE it. He gives it to you as the sun gives light and color to the rose. And we are always most glad of what we not merely see our friends enjoy, but of what we give them to enjoy. Are we not?
But God does not only want us to be HAPPY; He wants us to be good. He wants that most of all. He knows that we can be really happy only when we are good. A great deal of the trouble that is in the world is medicine which is very bad to take, but which it is good to take because it makes us better. We see how good people may be in great trouble when we think of Jesus who was the greatest sufferer that ever lived and yet was the best Being and so, I am sure, the happiest Being that the world has ever seen.
I love to tell you about God. But He will tell you Himself by the love which He will put into your heart if you ask Him. And Jesus, who is His Son, but is nearer to Him than all of us His other Children, came into the world on purpose to tell us all about our Father’s Love. If you read His words, you will see how full His heart is of the love of God. “We KNOW that He loves us,” He says. And so He loved men Himself and though they were very cruel to Him and at last killed Him, He was willing to die for them because He loved them so. And, Helen, He loves men still, and He loves us, and He tells us that we may love Him.
And so love is everything. And if anybody asks you, or if you ask yourself what God is, answer, “God is Love.” That is the beautiful answer which the Bible gives.
All this is what you are to think of and to understand more and more as you grow older. Think of it now, and let it make every blessing brighter because your dear Father sends it to you.
You will come back to Boston I hope soon after I do. I shall be there by the middle of September. I shall want you to tell me all about everything, and not forget the Donkey.
I send my kind remembrance to your father and mother, and to your teacher. I wish I could see your little sister.
Good Bye, dear Helen. Do write to me soon again, directing your letter to Boston.
Your affectionate friend
DR. HOLMES’S REPLY
To a letter which has been lost.
Beverly Farms, Mass., August 1, 1890. My Dear Little Friend Helen:
I received your welcome letter several days ago, but I have so much writing to do that I am apt to make my letters wait a good while before they get answered.
It gratifies me very much to find that you remember me so kindly. Your letter is charming, and I am greatly pleased with it. I rejoice to know that you are well and happy. I am very much delighted to hear of your new acquisition–that you “talk with your mouth” as well as with your fingers. What a curious thing SPEECH is! The tongue is so serviceable a member (taking all sorts of shapes, just as is wanted),–the teeth, the lips, the roof of the mouth, all ready to help, and so heap up the sound of the voice into the solid bits which we call consonants, and make room for the curiously shaped breathings which we call vowels! You have studied all this, I don’t doubt, since you have practised vocal speaking.
I am surprised at the mastery of language which your letter shows. It almost makes me think the world would get along as well without seeing and hearing as with them. Perhaps people would be better in a great many ways, for they could not fight as they do now. Just think of an army of blind people, with guns and cannon! Think of the poor drummers! Of what use would they and their drumsticks be? You are spared the pain of many sights and sounds, which you are only too happy in escaping. Then think how much kindness you are sure of as long as you live. Everybody will feel an interest in dear little Helen; everybody will want to do something for her; and, if she becomes an ancient, gray-haired woman, she is still sure of being thoughtfully cared for.
Your parents and friends must take great satisfaction in your progress. It does great credit, not only to you, but to your instructors, who have so broken down the walls that seemed to shut you in that now your outlook seems more bright and cheerful than that of many seeing and hearing children.
Good-bye, dear little Helen! With every kind wish from your friend,
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
This letter was written to some gentlemen in Gardiner, Maine, who named a lumber vessel after her.
TO MESSRS. BRADSTREET
Tuscumbia, Ala., July 14, 1890.
My Dear, Kind Friends:–I thank you very, very much for naming your beautiful new ship for me. It makes me very happy to know that I have kind and loving friends in the far-away State of Maine. I did not imagine, when I studied about the forests of Maine, that a strong and beautiful ship would go sailing all over the world, carrying wood from those rich forests, to build pleasant homes and schools and churches in distant countries. I hope the great ocean will love the new Helen, and let her sail over its blue waves peacefully. Please tell the brave sailors, who have charge of the HELEN KELLER, that little Helen who stays at home will often think of them with loving thoughts. I hope I shall see you and my beautiful namesake some time.
With much love, from your little friend, HELEN A. KELLER.
To the Messrs. Bradstreet.
Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to the Perkins Institution early in November.
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
South Boston, Nov. 10, 1890.
My Dearest Mother:–My heart has been full of thoughts of you and my beautiful home ever since we parted so sadly on Wednesday night. How I wish I could see you this lovely morning, and tell you all that has happened since I left home! And my darling little sister, how I wish I could give her a hundred kisses! And my dear father, how he would like to hear about our journey! But I cannot see you and talk to you, so I will write and tell you all that I can think of.
We did not reach Boston until Saturday morning. I am sorry to say that our train was delayed in several places, which made us late in reaching New York. When we got to Jersey City at six o’clock Friday evening we were obliged to cross the Harlem River in a ferry-boat. We found the boat and the transfer carriage with much less difficulty than teacher expected. When we arrived at the station they told us that the train did not leave for Boston until eleven o’clock, but that we could take the sleeper at nine, which we did. We went to bed and slept until morning. When we awoke we were in Boston. I was delighted to get there, though I was much disappointed because we did not arrive on Mr. Anagnos’ birthday. We surprised our dear friends, however, for they did not expect us Saturday; but when the bell rung Miss Marrett guessed who was at the door, and Mrs. Hopkins jumped up from the breakfast table and ran to the door to meet us; she was indeed much astonished to see us. After we had had some breakfast we went up to see Mr. Anagnos. I was overjoyed to see my dearest and kindest friend once more. He gave me a beautiful watch. I have it pinned to my dress. I tell everybody the time when they ask me. I have only seen Mr. Anagnos twice. I have many questions to ask him about the countries he has been travelling in. But I suppose he is very busy now.
The hills in Virginia were very lovely. Jack Frost had dressed them in gold and crimson. The view was most charmingly picturesque. Pennsylvania is a very beautiful State. The grass was as green as though it was springtime, and the golden ears of corn gathered together in heaps in the great fields looked very pretty. In Harrisburg we saw a donkey like Neddy. How I wish I could see my own donkey and my dear Lioness! Do they miss their mistress very much? Tell Mildred she must be kind to them for my sake.
Our room is pleasant and comfortable.
My typewriter was much injured coming. The case was broken and the keys are nearly all out. Teacher is going to see if it can be fixed.
There are many new books in the library. What a nice time I shall have reading them! I have already read Sara Crewe. It is a very pretty story, and I will tell it to you some time. Now, sweet mother, your little girl must say good-bye.
With much love to father, Mildred, you and all the dear friends, lovingly your little daughter,
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
South Boston, Dec. 17, 1890.
Dear Kind Poet,
This is your birthday; that was the first thought which came into my mind when I awoke this morning; and it made me glad to think I could write you a letter and tell you how much your little friends love their sweet poet and his birthday. This evening they are going to entertain their friends with readings from your poems and music. I hope the swift winged messengers of love will be here to carry some of the sweet melody to you, in your little study by the Merrimac. At first I was very sorry when I found that the sun had hidden his shining face behind dull clouds, but afterwards I thought why he did it, and then I was happy. The sun knows that you like to see the world covered with beautiful white snow and so he kept back all his brightness, and let the little crystals form in the sky. When they are ready, they will softly fall and tenderly cover every object. Then the sun will appear in all his radiance and fill the world with light. If I were with you to-day I would give you eighty-three kisses, one for each year you have lived. Eighty-three years seems very long to me. Does it seem long to you? I wonder how many years there will be in eternity. I am afraid I cannot think about so much time. I received the letter which you wrote to me last summer, and I thank you for it. I am staying in Boston now at the Institution for the Blind, but I have not commenced my studies yet, because my dearest friend, Mr. Anagnos wants me to rest and play a great deal.
Teacher is well and sends her kind remembrance to you. The happy Christmas time is almost here! I can hardly wait for the fun to begin! I hope your Christmas Day will be a very happy one and that the New Year will be full of brightness and joy for you and every one.
From your little friend
HELEN A. KELLER.
My Dear Young Friend–I was very glad to have such a pleasant letter on my birthday. I had two or three hundred others and thine was one of the most welcome of all. I must tell thee about how the day passed at Oak Knoll. Of course the sun did not shine, but we had great open wood fires in the rooms, which were all very sweet with roses and other flowers, which were sent to me from distant friends; and fruits of all kinds from California and other places. Some relatives and dear old friends were with me through the day. I do not wonder thee thinks eighty three years a long time, but to me it seems but a very little while since I was a boy no older than thee, playing on the old farm at Haverhill. I thank thee for all thy good wishes, and wish thee as many. I am glad thee is at the Institution; it is an excellent place. Give my best regards to Miss Sullivan, and with a great deal of love I am
Thy old friend,
JOHN G. WHITTIER.
Tommy Stringer, who appears in several of the following letters, became blind and deaf when he was four years old. His mother was dead and his father was too poor to take care of him. For a while he was kept in the general hospital at Allegheny. From here he was to be sent to an almshouse, for at that time there was no other place for him in Pennsylvania. Helen heard of him through Mr. J. G. Brown of Pittsburgh, who wrote her that he had failed to secure a tutor for Tommy. She wanted him brought to Boston, and when she was told that money would be needed to get him a teacher, she answered, “We will raise it.” She began to solicit contributions from her friends, and saved her pennies.
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell advised Tommy’s friends to send him to Boston, and the trustees of the Perkins Institution agreed to admit him to the kindergarten for the blind.
Meanwhile opportunity came to Helen to make a considerable contribution to Tommy’s education. The winter before, her dog Lioness had been killed, and friends set to work to raise money to buy Helen another dog. Helen asked that the contributions, which people were sending from all over America and England, be devoted to Tommy’s education. Turned to this new use, the fund grew fast, and Tommy was provided for. He was admitted to the kindergarten on the sixth of April.
Miss Keller wrote lately, “I shall never forget the pennies sent by many a poor child who could ill spare them, ‘for little Tommy,’ or the swift sympathy with which people from far and near, whom I had never seen, responded to the dumb cry of a little captive soul for aid.”
TO MR. GEORGE R. KREHL
Institution for the Blind,
South Boston, Mass., March 20, 1891.
My Dear Friend, Mr. Krehl:–I have just heard, through Mr. Wade, of your kind offer to buy me a gentle dog, and I want to thank you for the kind thought. It makes me very happy indeed to know that I have such dear friends in other lands. It makes me think that all people are good and loving. I have read that the English and Americans are cousins; but I am sure it would be much truer to say that we are brothers and sisters. My friends have told me about your great and magnificent city, and I have read a great deal that wise Englishmen have written. I have begun to read “Enoch Arden,” and I know several of the great poet’s poems by heart. I am eager to cross the ocean, for I want to see my English friends and their good and wise queen. Once the Earl of Meath came to see me, and he told me that the queen was much beloved by her people, because of her gentleness and wisdom. Some day you will be surprised to see a little strange girl coming into your office; but when you know it is the little girl who loves dogs and all other animals, you will laugh, and I hope you will give her a kiss, just as Mr. Wade does. He has another dog for me, and he thinks she will be as brave and faithful as my beautiful Lioness. And now I want to tell you what the dog lovers in America are going to do. They are going to send me some money for a poor little deaf and dumb and blind child. His name is Tommy, and he is five years old. His parents are too poor to pay to have the little fellow sent to school; so, instead of giving me a dog, the gentlemen are going to help make Tommy’s life as bright and joyous as mine. Is it not a beautiful plan? Education will bring light and music into Tommy’s soul, and then he cannot help being happy.
From your loving little friend,
HELEN A. KELLER.
TO DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
[South Boston, Mass., April, 1891.]
Dear Dr. Holmes:–Your beautiful words about spring have been making music in my heart, these bright April days. I love every word of “Spring” and “Spring Has Come.” I think you will be glad to hear that these poems have taught me to enjoy and love the beautiful springtime, even though I cannot see the fair, frail blossoms which proclaim its approach, or hear the joyous warbling of the home-coming birds. But when I read “Spring Has Come,” lo! I am not blind any longer, for I see with your eyes and hear with your ears. Sweet Mother Nature can have no secrets from me when my poet is near. I have chosen this paper because I want the spray of violets in the corner to tell you of my grateful love. I want you to see baby Tom, the little blind and deaf and dumb child who has just come to our pretty garden. He is poor and helpless and lonely now, but before another April education will have brought light and gladness into Tommy’s life. If you do come, you will want to ask the kind people of Boston to help brighten Tommy’s whole life. Your loving friend, HELEN KELLER.
TO SIR JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS
Perkins Institution for the Blind,
South Boston, Mass., April 30, 1891.
My Dear Mr. Millais:–Your little American sister is going to write you a letter, because she wants you to know how pleased she was to hear you were interested in our poor little Tommy, and had sent some money to help educate him. It is very beautiful to think that people far away in England feel sorry for a little helpless child in America. I used to think, when I read in my books about your great city, that when I visited it the people would be strangers to me, but now I feel differently. It seems to me that all people who have loving, pitying hearts, are not strangers to each other. I can hardly wait patiently for the time to come when I shall see my dear English friends, and their beautiful island home. My favourite poet has written some lines about England which I love very much. I think you will like them too, so I will try to write them for you.
“Hugged in the clinging billow’s clasp, From seaweed fringe to mountain heather, The British oak with rooted grasp
Her slender handful holds together, With cliffs of white and bowers of green, And ocean narrowing to caress her,
And hills and threaded streams between, Our little mother isle, God bless her!”
You will be glad to hear that Tommy has a kind lady to teach him, and that he is a pretty, active little fellow. He loves to climb much better than to spell, but that is because he does not know yet what a wonderful thing language is. He cannot imagine how very, very happy he will be when he can tell us his thoughts, and we can tell him how we have loved him so long.
Tomorrow April will hide her tears and blushes beneath the flowers of lovely May. I wonder if the May-days in England are as beautiful as they are here.
Now I must say good-bye. Please think of me always as your loving little sister,
TO REV. PHILLIPS BROOKS
So. Boston, May 1, 1891.
My Dear Mr. Brooks:
Helen sends you a loving greeting this bright May-day. My teacher has just told me that you have been made a bishop, and that your friends everywhere are rejoicing because one whom they love has been greatly honored. I do not understand very well what a bishop’s work is, but I am sure it must be good and helpful, and I am glad that my dear friend is brave, and wise, and loving enough to do it. It is very beautiful to think that you can tell so many people of the heavenly Father’s tender love for all His children even when they are not gentle and noble as He wishes them to be. I hope the glad news which you will tell them will make their hearts beat fast with joy and love. I hope too, that Bishop Brooks’ whole life will be as rich in happiness as the month of May is full of blossoms and singing birds. From your loving little friend,
Before a teacher was found for Tommy and while he was still in the care of Helen and Miss Sullivan, a reception was held for him at the kindergarten. At Helen’s request Bishop Brooks made an address. Helen wrote letters to the newspapers which brought many generous replies. All of these she answered herself, and she made public acknowledgment in letters to the newspapers. This letter is to the editor of the Boston Herald, enclosing a complete list of the subscribers. The contributions amounted to more than sixteen hundred dollars.
TO MR. JOHN H. HOLMES
South Boston, May 13, 1891.
Editor of the Boston Herald:
My Dear Mr. Holmes:–Will you kindly print in the Herald, the enclosed list? I think the readers of your paper will be glad to know that so much has been done for dear little Tommy, and that they will all wish to share in the pleasure of helping him. He is very happy indeed at the kindergarten, and is learning something every day. He has found out that doors have locks, and that little sticks and bits of paper can be got into the key-hole quite easily; but he does not seem very eager to get them out after they are in. He loves to climb the bed-posts and unscrew the steam valves much better than to spell, but that is because he does not understand that words would help him to make new and interesting discoveries. I hope that good people will continue to work for Tommy until his fund is completed, and education has brought light and music into his little life. From your little friend,
TO DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
South Boston, May 27, 1891.
Dear, Gentle Poet:–I fear that you will think Helen a very troublesome little girl if she writes to you too often; but how is she to help sending you loving and grateful messages, when you do so much to make her glad? I cannot begin to tell you how delighted I was when Mr. Anagnos told me that you had sent him some money to help educate “Baby Tom.” Then I knew that you had not forgotten the dear little child, for the gift brought with it the thought of tender sympathy. I am very sorry to say that Tommy has not learned any words yet. He is the same restless little creature he was when you saw him. But it is pleasant to think that he is happy and playful in his bright new home, and by and by that strange, wonderful thing teacher calls MIND, will begin to spread its beautiful wings and fly away in search of knowledge-land. Words are the mind’s wings, are they not?
I have been to Andover since I saw you, and I was greatly interested in all that my friends told me about Phillips Academy, because I knew you had been there, and I felt it was a place dear to you. I tried to imagine my gentle poet when he was a school-boy, and I wondered if it was in Andover he learned the songs of the birds and the secrets of the shy little woodland children. I am sure his heart was always full of music, and in God’s beautiful world he must have heard love’s sweet replying. When I came home teacher read to me “The School-boy,” for it is not in our print.
Did you know that the blind children are going to have their commencement exercises in Tremont Temple, next Tuesday afternoon? I enclose a ticket, hoping that you will come. We shall all be proud and happy to welcome our poet friend. I shall recite about the beautiful cities of sunny Italy. I hope our kind friend Dr. Ellis will come too, and take Tom in his arms.
With much love and a kiss, from your little friend, HELEN A. KELLER.
TO REV. PHILLIPS BROOKS
South Boston, June 8, 1891.
My dear Mr. Brooks,
I send you my picture as I promised, and I hope when you look at it this summer your thoughts will fly southward to your happy little friend. I used to wish that I could see pictures with my hands as I do statues, but now I do not often think about it because my dear Father has filled my mind with beautiful pictures, even of things I cannot see. If the light were not in your eyes, dear Mr. Brooks, you would understand better how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart. Every day I find out something which makes me glad. Yesterday I thought for the first time what a beautiful thing motion was, and it seemed to me that everything was trying to get near to God, does it seem that way to you? It is Sunday morning, and while I sit here in the library writing this letter you are teaching hundreds of people some of the grand and beautiful things about their heavenly Father. Are you not very, very happy? and when you are a Bishop you will preach to more people and more and more will be made glad. Teacher sends her kind remembrances, and I send you with my picture my dear love.
From your little friend
When the Perkins Institution closed in June, Helen and her teacher went south to Tuscumbia, where they remained until December. There is a hiatus of several months in the letters, caused by the depressing effect on Helen and Miss Sullivan of the “Frost King” episode. At the time this trouble seemed very grave and brought them much unhappiness. An analysis of the case has been made elsewhere, and Miss Keller has written her account of it.
TO MR. ALBERT H. MUNSELL
Brewster, Mar. 10, 1892.
My dear Mr. Munsell,
Surely I need not tell you that your letter was very welcome. I enjoyed every word of it and wished that it was longer. I laughed when you spoke of old Neptune’s wild moods. He has, in truth, behaved very strangely ever since we came to Brewster. It is evident that something has displeased his Majesty but I cannot imagine what it can be. His expression has been so turbulent that I have feared to give him your kind message. Who knows! Perhaps the Old Sea God as he lay asleep upon the shore, heard the soft music of growing things–the stir of life in the earth’s bosom, and his stormy heart was angry, because he knew that his and Winter’s reign was almost at an end. So together the unhappy monarch[s] fought most despairingly, thinking that gentle Spring would turn and fly at the very sight of the havoc caused by their forces. But lo! the lovely maiden only smiles more sweetly, and breathes upon the icy battlements of her enemies, and in a moment they vanish, and the glad Earth gives her a royal welcome. But I must put away these idle fancies until we meet again. Please give your dear mother my love. Teacher wishes me to say that she liked the photograph very much and she will see about having some when we return. Now, dear friend, Please accept these few words because of the love that is linked with them. Lovingly yours
This letter was reproduced in facsimile in St. Nicholas, June, 1892. It is undated, but must have been written two or three months before it was published.
To St. Nicholas
Dear St. Nicholas:
It gives me very great pleasure to send you my autograph because I want the boys and girls who read St. Nicholas to know how blind children write. I suppose some of them wonder how we keep the lines so straight so I will try to tell them how it is done. We have a grooved board which we put between the pages when we wish to write. The parallel grooves correspond to lines and when we have pressed the paper into them by means of the blunt end of the pencil it is very easy to keep the words even. The small letters are all made in the grooves, while the long ones extend above and below them. We guide the pencil with the right hand, and feel carefully with the forefinger of the left hand to see that we shape and space the letters correctly. It is very difficult at first to form them plainly, but if we keep on trying it gradually becomes easier, and after a great deal of practice we can write legible letters to our friends. Then we are very, very happy. Sometime they may visit a school for the blind. If they do, I am sure they will wish to see the pupils write. Very sincerely your little friend
In May, 1892, Helen gave a tea in aid of the kindergarten for the blind. It was quite her own idea, and was given in the house of Mrs. Mahlon D. Spaulding, sister of Mr. John P. Spaulding, one of Helen’s kindest and most liberal friends. The tea brought more than two thousand dollars for the blind children.
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
South Boston, May 9, 1892.
My dear Miss Carrie:–I was much pleased to receive your kind letter. Need I tell you that I was more than delighted to hear that you are really interested in the “tea”? Of course we must not give it up. Very soon I am going far away, to my own dear home, in the sunny south, and it would always make me happy to think that the last thing which my dear friends in Boston did for my pleasure was to help make the lives of many little sightless children good and happy. I know that kind people cannot help feeling a tender sympathy for the little ones, who cannot see the beautiful light, or any of the wonderful things which give them pleasure; and it seems to me that all loving sympathy must express itself in acts of kindness; and when the friends of little helpless blind children understand that we are working for their happiness, they will come and make our “tea” a success, and I am sure I shall be the happiest little girl in all the world. Please let Bishop Brooks know our plans, so that he may arrange to be with us. I am glad Miss Eleanor is interested. Please give her my love. I will see you to-morrow and then we can make the rest of our plans. Please give your dear aunt teacher’s and my love and tell her that we enjoyed our little visit very much indeed.
TO MR. JOHN P. SPAULDING
South Boston, May 11th, 1892.
My dear Mr. Spaulding:–I am afraid you will think your little friend, Helen, very troublesome when you read this letter; but I am sure you will not blame me when I tell you that I am very anxious about something. You remember teacher and I told you Sunday that I wanted to have a little tea in aid of the kindergarten. We thought everything was arranged: but we found Monday that Mrs. Elliott would not be willing to let us invite more than fifty people, because Mrs. Howe’s house is quite small. I am sure that a great many people would like to come to the tea, and help me do something to brighten the lives of little blind children; but some of my friends say that I shall have to give up the idea of having a tea unless we can find another house. Teacher said yesterday, that perhaps Mrs. Spaulding would be willing to let us have her beautiful house, and [I] thought I would ask you about it. Do you think Mrs. Spaulding would help me, if I wrote to her? I shall be so disappointed if my little plans fail, because I have wanted for a long time to do something for the poor little ones who are waiting to enter the kindergarten. Please let me know what you think about the house, and try to forgive me for troubling you so much. Lovingly your little friend,
TO MR. EDWARD H. CLEMENT
South Boston, May 18th, 1892.
My dear Mr. Clement:–I am going to write to you this beautiful morning because my heart is brimful of happiness and I want you and all my dear friends in the Transcript office to rejoice with me. The preparations for my tea are nearly completed, and I am looking forward joyfully to the event. I know I shall not fail. Kind people will not disappoint me, when they know that I plead for helpless little children who live in darkness and ignorance. They will come to my tea and buy light,–the beautiful light of knowledge and love for many little ones who are blind and friendless. I remember perfectly when my dear teacher came to me. Then I was like the little blind children who are waiting to enter the kindergarten. There was no light in my soul. This wonderful world with all its sunlight and beauty was hidden from me, and I had never dreamed of its loveliness. But teacher came to me and taught my little fingers to use the beautiful key that has unlocked the door of my dark prison and set my spirit free.
It is my earnest wish to share my happiness with others, and I ask the kind people of Boston to help me make the lives of little blind children brighter and happier.
Lovingly your little friend,
At the end of June Miss Sullivan and Helen went home to Tuscumbia.
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 9th 1892.
My dear Carrie–You are to look upon it as a most positive proof of my love that I write to you to-day. For a whole week it has been “cold and dark and dreary” in Tuscumbia, and I must confess the continuous rain and dismalness of the weather fills me with gloomy thoughts and makes the writing of letters, or any pleasant employment, seem quite impossible. Nevertheless, I must tell you that we are alive,–that we reached home safely, and that we speak of you daily, and enjoy your interesting letters very much. I had a beautiful visit at Hulton. Everything was fresh and spring-like, and we stayed out of doors all day. We even ate our breakfast out on the piazza. Sometimes we sat in the hammock, and teacher read to me. I rode horseback nearly every evening and once I rode five miles at a fast gallop. O, it was great fun! Do you like to ride? I have a very pretty little cart now, and if it ever stops raining teacher and I are going to drive every evening. And I have another beautiful Mastiff- the largest one I ever saw–and he will go along to protect us. His name is Eumer. A queer name, is it not? I think it is Saxon. We expect to go to the mountains next week. My little brother, Phillips, is not well, and we think the clear mountain air will benefit him. Mildred is a sweet little sister and I am sure you would love her. I thank you very much for your photograph. I like to have my friends’ pictures even though I cannot see them. I was greatly amused at the idea of your writing the square hand. I do not write on a Braille tablet, as you suppose, but on a grooved board like the piece which I enclose. You could not read Braille; for it is written in dots, not at all like ordinary letters. Please give my love to Miss Derby and tell her that I hope she gave my sweetest love to Baby Ruth. What was the book you sent me for my birthday? I received several, and I do not know which was from you. I had one gift which especially pleased me. It was a lovely cape crocheted, for me, by an old gentleman, seventy-five years of age. And every stitch, he writes, represents a kind wish for my health and happiness. Tell your little cousins I think they had better get upon the fence with me until after the election; for there are so many parties and candidates that I doubt if such youthful politicians would make a wise selection. Please give my love to Rosy when you write, and believe me, Your loving friend
P.S. How do you like this type-written letter? H. K.
TO MRS. GROVER CLEVELAND
My dear Mrs. Cleveland,
I am going to write you a little letter this beautiful morning because I love you and dear little Ruth very much indeed, and also because I wish to thank you for the loving message which you sent me through Miss Derby. I am glad, very glad that such a kind, beautiful lady loves me. I have loved you for a long time, but I did not think you had ever heard of me until your sweet message came. Please kiss your dear little baby for me, and tell her I have a little brother nearly sixteen months old. His name is Phillips Brooks. I named him myself after my dear friend Phillips Brooks. I send you with this letter a pretty book which my teacher thinks will interest you, and my picture. Please accept them with the love and good wishes of your friend, HELEN KELLER.
November fourth. [1892.]
Hitherto the letters have been given in full; from this point on passages are omitted and the omissions are indicated.
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
Tuscumbia, Alabama, Dec. 19, 1892.
My Dear Mr. Hitz,
I hardly know how to begin a letter to you, it has been such a long time since your kind letter reached me, and there is so much that I would like to write if I could. You must have wondered why your letter has not had an answer, and perhaps you have thought Teacher and me very naughty indeed. If so, you will be very sorry when I tell you something. Teacher’s eyes have been hurting her so that she could not write to any one, and I have been trying to fulfil a promise which I made last summer. Before I left Boston, I was asked to write a sketch of my life for the Youth’s Companion. I had intended to write the sketch during my vacation: but I was not well, and I did not feel able to write even to my friends. But when the bright, pleasant autumn days came, and I felt strong again I began to think about the sketch. It was some time before I could plan it to suit me. You see, it is not very pleasant to write all about one’s self. At last, however, I got something bit by bit that Teacher thought would do, and I set about putting the scraps together, which was not an easy task: for, although I worked some on it every day, I did not finish it until a week ago Saturday. I sent the sketch to the Companion as soon as it was finished; but I do not know that they will accept it. Since then, I have not been well, and I have been obliged to keep very quiet, and rest; but to-day I am better, and to-morrow I shall be well again, I hope.
The reports which you have read in the paper about me are not true at all. We received the Silent Worker which you sent, and I wrote right away to the editor to tell him that it was a mistake. Sometimes I am not well; but I am not a “wreck,” and there is nothing “distressing” about my condition.
I enjoyed your dear letter so much! I am always delighted when anyone writes me a beautiful thought which I can treasure in my memory forever. It is because my books are full of the riches of which Mr. Ruskin speaks that I love them so dearly. I did not realize until I began to write the sketch for the Companion, what precious companions books have been to me, and how blessed even my life has been: and now I am happier than ever because I do realize the happiness that has come to me. I hope you will write to me as often as you can. Teacher and I are always delighted to hear from you. I want to write to Mr. Bell and send him my picture. I suppose he has been too busy to write to his little friend. I often think of the pleasant time we had all together in Boston last spring.
Now I am going to tell you a secret. I think we, Teacher, and my father and little sister, and myself, will visit Washington next March!!! Then I shall see you, and dear Mr. Bell, and Elsie and Daisy again! Would not it be lovely if Mrs. Pratt could meet us there? I think I will write to her and tell her the secret too….
Lovingly your little friend,
P.S. Teacher says you want to know what kind of a pet I would like to have. I love all living things,–I suppose everyone does; but of course I cannot have a menagerie. I have a beautiful pony, and a large dog. And I would like a little dog to hold in my lap, or a big pussy (there are no fine cats in Tuscumbia) or a parrot. I would like to feel a parrot talk, it would be so much fun! but I would be pleased with, and love any little creature you send me.
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 18, 1893. …You have often been in my thoughts during these sad days, while my heart has been grieving over the loss of my beloved friend [Phillips Brooks died January 23, 1893], and I have wished many times that I was in Boston with those who knew and loved him as I did… he was so much of a friend to me! so tender and loving always! I do try not to mourn his death too sadly. I do try to think that he is still near, very near; but sometimes the thought that he is not here, that I shall not see him when I go to Boston,–that he is gone,–rushes over my soul like a great wave of sorrow. But at other times, when I am happier, I do feel his beautiful presence, and his loving hand leading me in pleasant ways. Do you remember the happy hour we spent with him last June when he held my hand, as he always did, and talked to us about his friend Tennyson, and our own dear poet Dr. Holmes, and I tried to teach him the manual alphabet, and he laughed so gaily over his mistakes, and afterward I told him about my tea, and he promised to come? I can hear him now, saying in his cheerful, decided way, in reply to my wish that my tea might be a success, “Of course it will, Helen. Put your whole heart in the good work, my child, and it cannot fail.” I am glad the people are going to raise a monument to his memory….
In March Helen and Miss Sullivan went North, and spent the next few months traveling and visiting friends.
In reading this letter about Niagara one should remember that Miss Keller knows distance and shape, and that the size of Niagara is within her experience after she has explored it, crossed the bridge and gone down in the elevator. Especially important are such details as her feeling the rush of the water by putting her hand on the window. Dr. Bell gave her a down pillow, which she held against her to increase the vibrations.