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Eighteenth Annual Report Of The Trustees Of The Perkins Institution And Massachusetts Asylum For The Blind

Creator: Samuel Gridley Howe (author)
Date: 1850
Source: Perkins School for the Blind

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Her lessons now begin, and continue through the morning simultaneously with the lessons for the classes in the Institution, being each three quarters of an hour, with a recess of a quarter of an hour between them.


At this time she is studying algebra, geography, and history. She is very intent upon her lessons; she continually asks questions upon various subjects connected with them, and is willing at any time to forego a recess rather than break off.


She is acquiring a fondness for works of fancy, the nature of which she begins to understand. She is at this time much interested in "The Neighbours," which her teacher is reading to her.


The lessons over, she dresses for dinner. She is careful and painstaking with her toilette, but never in a fluster. She is considerate about her appearance, but never anxious. She is fond of dress, but, with a tact that seems incomprehensible, she avoids every thing gaudy, odd, or in bad taste. There may be, and probably is, some thought with her about the impression which her appearance makes upon others, -- something of that natural and proper desire which women have of improving the gifts of grace and beauty, -- but she is hardly conscious of it. She would dress herself just as neatly and tastefully as usual in the morning, if she were sure that no one would see her during the day. Indeed, what to her is seeing, -- she who lives in total darkness, and comprehends not what light is? The direct and instant motive with her is the gratification of a natural love of order, and sense of ideality, which have been cultivated until such gratification has become a necessity.


It is difficult to forego the pleasure of dwelling upon this pleasing trait, -- this love of beauty for beauty's sake, -- this lesser but essential virtue of the female character, without which other charms have no lasting power. The love of being graceful and beautiful is not an offshoot of selfish vanity; it is not a weed springing up in the shallow soil of artificial society, and which can live only in the light of the human eye; it is a plant whose roots are far down in the depths of the human heart, and it can be made to grow, and bear goodly fruits, even in the darkness and stillness of an isolation as great as that in which Laura lives.


But to return to the simple story of her usual daily occupation. She takes dinner at one o'clock, at the table with the blind, and generally contrives to exchange words frequently with whoever is sitting within her reach. She eats as sparingly and slowly at dinner as at breakfast; indeed, she is always a "dainty eater."


After dinner she takes her work and sews, or knits, or makes purses, bags, or chains, as the case may be, and works very busily and very neatly. She is a good needle-woman, and is very expert and dexterous at making various articles of female handicraft. If her teacher, or any one of her friends, sits within her reach, she frequently holds out her hand to exchange a word; but, notwithstanding this interruption, she is so diligent and nimble at her work, that she performs a good task.


This over, she goes out to walk with her teacher, and spends two or three hours in exercise, either taking a long stroll into the country, or through the streets. Sometimes she takes a few pennies or some fruit, and requests her teacher to give them to any poor woman or child she may meet. She is fond of going into town "shopping." She is expert at examining patterns, and chaffering about bargains, though she is too guileless to think of "beating down" the seller.


She takes this time to make calls upon her friends and acquaintance, of whom she has many. She gossips good-naturedly about every-day trifles, and gravely about the weightier matters of births, deaths, and marriages. Of what is called "scandal," she is still in blessed ignorance. She must feel of any new caps or bonnets, examine any new dresses or ornaments, and note any novelty in the fashion thereof. She must greet all the guests, make them all shake hands with her teacher, fondle the children, and dandle the baby. Such intercourse gives her great pleasure and some profit, and would give her more, were it not that most people reverse the ordinary rule, and desire to have her talk, rather than to talk themselves. In intercourse with others, they wish to give all and take nothing; with her, they incline to take all and give nothing. This is not fair, and is not profitable to Laura. In the commerce of ideas at least, there should be free trade and entire reciprocity, else half its benefits are lost.


She returns home to supper, after which she writes in her diary, or attends to some correspondence, for an hour or so. She then takes her work and occupies herself busily. She seems perfectly cheerful when by herself and unnoticed; she is better pleased, however, to have any one sit near her, even if they do not speak together. But she is most happy when her teacher sits within her reach, so that she can occasionally exchange a word and a laugh with her, and, when any emotion arises, can throw her arms around her neck and kiss her, which she often does, in the most earnest and touching manner. Usually, however, she is interrupted in the evening by some "callers"; -- a neighbour, one of the blind scholars, or a domestic.

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