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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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She receives every one, however simple or humble, with an earnest welcome, and busies herself equally for all in getting them seats, and seeing that they are pleasantly occupied.


A humble domestic sometimes comes up to take lessons in reading, which Miss Wight is kind enough to give her, and Laura is as glad to meet her, and as ready and happy to aid her, as though she were the richest lady in the land.


She retires to bed at nine o'clock, as a matter of habit and of duty, but never from a sense of drowsiness, for she never seems sleepy. She is wide awake, bright, and cheerful, to the last.


Sunday brings some change. Her work is laid aside, and her regular lessons are omitted. But the day brings no gloom or austerity. She regards it as a pleasant day, -- a day of relaxation from ordinary labor, -- a day devoted more than others to thoughtful self-communion; to a consideration and enjoyment of the blessings and pleasures of life; to social relations, and duties, and joys. She would no more think of suppressing a hearty laugh, or repressing any outbreak of mirthfulness, on Sunday, than on any other day; it is truly a day of thanksgiving, and surely the most acceptable worship that she or any one can pay is that of a glad and grateful heart.


This reminds me that upon one of the visits of Governor Briggs, just after he had issued a proclamation for the annual "Fast Day," Laura asked him earnestly why he did not rather make a proclamation for two Thanksgiving Days in the year, rather than for a Thanksgiving in the autumn, and a Fast in the spring.


On Sunday she writes letters to her relatives and friends. She takes great interest in her brothers, particularly in the youngest, who is still a boy at school. She writes him long letters, filled with kind and good advice, touching his health, and his improvement in his studies, and his conduct generally. Such is the daily course of her life, which is seldom interrupted.


It may seem strange to some to hear of a girl who is blind, and deaf, and dumb, and shorn of half the other senses, being cheerful, and even gay and frolicsome. Nevertheless, so it is. There are few persons so light-hearted, so cheery, so full of mirth, so ready at any moment to laugh at a joke, or join in a game at romps, as Laura Bridgman.


But what is her idea of fun? Precisely that of any other young person who has a like mental constitution, -- who has the sentiment or the disposition to mirthfulness. Given this natural disposition, and the opportunities for its gratification are found in any circumstances of life. The intellect has nothing to do with it. There need be no thought or idea about it; the sentiment or disposition will manifest itself somehow, irrespective of circumstances, and even in spite of circumstances. It leads one to laugh, as it seems to others, ill-timedly, and to say, "Well, I could not help it; I should have laughed if I had had to die for it."


Laura by nature has this disposition so strong, that her infirmities cannot repress it. Her education has never tended to lessen it; on the contrary, I have always tried to draw it out and to increase and strengthen it. It is a gift of God, precious indeed to any one, but to her beyond all price, because it gives what men could never give her, though they should pour the wealth of the world into her lap, and place its sceptre in her hands.


But be the philosophy of the matter what it may, Laura has a sprightly, cheerful disposition, and is given to merriment and hilarity. When she is in good health, and surrounded by her friends, her disposition manifests itself plainly in all her natural language. Smiles accompany every word and action; her spirits animate her, and make her lively in her looks and movements, the slightest manifestation of mirthfulness in others excites it in her instantly; she catches their good-humor by a sort of instinct, almost as quickly as we catch it in their smiles; she laughs at their pleasant remarks; she is ready to join them in any merriment; she makes some extravagant comparison, or some burlesque upon their words, and then bursts into laughter. It is with her as with others of the like disposition, -- the occasion does not create the cheerfulness, but the cheerfulness creates the occasion. Sometimes when sitting alone, sewing or communing with herself, a merry thought comes over her, and makes her laugh aloud; or if she is crossing the room, and stumbles over a chair, she laughs, and calls herself "very blind."


Natural cheerfulness, however, though it is an essential part of the character, and can hardly be obscured, -- though it illumines the pathway of life from the cradle to the grave, and breaks through the thickest clouds of sorrow and adversity, -- nevertheless manifests itself in different moods in different stages of our progress; the merry laugh of the boy is gradually softened into the cheerful smile of the old man.


I have spoken of Laura rather as she has been during the time since she was last mentioned, than as she actually is; for now, as she increases in years, the flowing tide of animal spirits subsides a little; the swelling waves of joy are seen, but they break not so often into boisterous mirth. Without being less cheerful and happy, she is in her usual mode more quiet and subdued. Life is to her a boon, and she so considers it, for often, in the fulness of her heart, she says, "I am so glad I have been created! "

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