In the Dark, Alone
BY KATHRYNE MARY FRICK
I AM asked often how my education was begun, but I have always refrained from answering for fear that I should not do justice to a question that involves so much. However, after careful consultation with my different teachers, I shall now endeavor to explain how the fundamental principles were laid which made it possible for me to take up a regular course of study.
Strictly speaking, my education began, not with my first cry, as educators usually say, but with my inheritance. My paternal grandparents were born in Germany, my maternal grandparents in Pennsylvania, of French and English descent. From the German stock I probably inherited an industrious nature and a love of neatness, law, and order. From the French, no doubt, I derived the lively imagination, the taste for what is artistic and choice, and the sense of propriety and economy with which my first teacher has always said I was naturally endowed.
I was born in Harrisburg, on December 2, 1899, a normal child with all my senses. 1 began to talk when I was one year old and to walk at sixteen months. My speech was considered very good for my age, but, in spite of the fact that my fond parents and grandparents regarded me as a prodigy, I gained no concept of the meaning of numbers, printed words, or letters.
If I had only learned something of this, half of my first teacher’s earliest struggles with me would have been unnecessary. I loved picture books, and my parents told me about the pictures and read to me, but I did not know that the funny-looking lines called print meant anything of importance.
During the summer of 1905, a few months after my fifth birthday, my parents and I visited for one week my mother’s cousin in Atlantic City. While there I spent most of the time playing on the beach, in the strong rays of the sun reflected from the water and sand.
I had never been accustomed to the glare of city pavements, but to green trees and fields, and the white light of the water and sand affected my eyes and entire nervous system to such an extent that after my return home my sight began to fail. I became deaf, too, and gradually lost the power to walk and to talk. All this happened in a short period of lime, and no amount of medical skill or care of devoted parents could restore my sight or hearing.1
Copyright 1930, by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
It is interesting that when I realized I could not see I recalled having noticed blind people on the streets, begging. I always loved pretty things, especially clothes, and when I thought of these shabby blind people I feared that I should become like them, so I made Mother promise me that she would always dress me nicely. She kept that promise faithfully. The sacrifice in time and effort that it has cost her I only now realize.
Before I lost the ability to talk I told Mother that I could not hear her voice; but I would put my hand on her chin as I asked her what I wanted to know and she would shake her head ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in answer. In this way we got along fairly well until the power of expressing myself by speech left me.
After two years of helplessness, I regained the power to walk, but continued to dwell in darkness and silence. My memory of many things had slipped from me, especially the knowledge I had gained through hearing. It was like beginning life anew in a strange sightless and soundless world. Of the two, deafness was the greater educational handicap; for it is deafness and not blindness that blocks the intellectual growth of the child, making him restless, unmanageable, and eager to do some mischief whereby he may receive attention, to break the monotony of his existence.
My parents undertook nobly the task of trying to keep my mind active, of helping me to retain old and establish new contacts with the outside world. They did their best to make me understand by gestures and by such signs as they could invent. I would place my hands on Father’s or Mother’s face to see whether he or she was pleased with anything I did. After I was able to walk again, I rummaged through everything, leading Mother quite a dance. However, she bore it all very patiently, buoyed up by the fact that I was getting stronger. Because I had regained the use of my limbs, she hoped against hope that in time I should regain my sight and my hearing, though physicians did not hold out any encouragement.
Mother allowed me to touch everything, while Father invented signs to enable me to talk with him. One sign he made by drawing his finger around my wrist to indicate his brother Charles, of whom I was very fond, and who had given me a bracelet. When my parents would give me something and then draw a ring around my wrist, I understood that it was from Uncle Charlie. Whenever Father drew the ring, touched me, and then waved his hand while I held it, I understood that we were going to Uncle Charlie’s house, and would run to Mother, draw my finger around my wrist, touch my dress, wave my hand toward the front door, and try to say ‘Papa’ and ‘Uncle Charlie.’ This meant that I wanted to be dressed to go to Uncle Charlie’s.
Mother always insisted on my talking to her, whether the sounds I made meant anything or not. She hoped that if I kept on trying to speak my speech would come back to me. Father took a larger view of life than Mother, while she paid more attention to little things. This seems to me now to have been a good combination to help me overcome my handicap.
Another of Father’s signs was to take both of my hands and hold them parallel, palms inward, make a circular motion with them, and then wave one hand toward the street. I understood by this that we were going somewhere in the train, and would be delighted. I would wave my hand two or three times to ask how far we were going. If not far, Father would take my hand and wave it only once. Otherwise he would wave several times, according to the distance.
I am curious to know how my mind received those impressions. Did I see imaginary pictures? I recall that when my father waved my hand several times I could see, in imagination, the train stop at one station and then at another, and so on until we came to the end of the journey. Having satisfied myself as to the distance we were going, I would proceed to ask where we were bound — or rather, ‘Whom shall we see when we get out of the train?’ I thought of the act of getting out and meeting someone who would hug and kiss me. I would get something that had been given to me by somebody who lived far away and show it to my parents, waving my hand toward the street, then put my hand on Father’s or Mother’s face. If we were going to the place from which that article came, he or she would nod ‘Yes.’ If to some other place, they would try to find something that came from that place and let me touch it.
We used a few other signs. The act of putting on a pointed belt stood for Grandma Frick, because she generally wore a belt that was pointed in the front. Touching the lobe of the ear with the thumb and forefinger indicated my maternal grandmother, for she wore earrings.
It is considered the correct thing in educational circles to despise signs. ‘No normal person uses them and few understand them.’ I can only say, in their favor, that such crude attempts at communication not only kept me out of mischief, but also kept my mind alert and active. I loved action, new things, and being among people.
I am an only child, but I had a few playmates, near and dear neighbors of ours. My fox terrier, Bessie, was another playmate. I used to make Bessie sit in my little armchair at my dolls’ table and pretend to be having tea with my dolls and me. Of course I could not see them, but by feeling I could imagine how they looked, and I loved them.
My parents, recognizing my right to participation in human affairs, took me out as much as possible and told me about as many things as they could. Naturally they must have suffered greatly when people stared at me, but they braved it all for my sake.
Meanwhile, I was growing to be of school age, with no school to attend. The institutions for the blind would not take me on account of my deafness, for they had no teachers who knew how to reach the mind of an uneducated deaf child. The schools for the deaf would not take me either, because I could not be taught with deaf children who could see. My parents did not know which way to turn. All they could do was to care for me and amuse me as well as they knew how, although my mother tried to keep me profitably occupied.
In spite of all her efforts, I grew more and more restless every day. I wanted to hear and to see; I wanted to go to school like other children. I used to sit on the steps of our porch while the children were passing on I heir way to school. They would stop to touch me, and when I discovered they were carrying books I knew where they were going. I had no idea of what they did at school, except what Father had tried to tell me by putting a pencil in my hand and pretending to write on a paper. It meant making pictures to me. I thought it would be great fun to go to school and draw pictures all day, with no one to tell me to stop or to take the pencil from me.
Every morning Mother left the back gate open for the iceman, and I managed to keep near her in order that I might know when she went to open it. Then, when I thought she was too busy in the house to notice what I was doing, I would dart out through the open gate and run around to the front street to find some of the school children. I thought I could run away to school with them, but I never succeeded in going far, for Mother was always on guard.
When I found it was impossible to elude or hoodwink my mother, I decided to be as troublesome as I could, so that she would have to let me go to school if she desired any peace. I would often leave the table before I had finished my meal and go into the sitting room and pound on the piano keys. I knew that my mother could not stand noise, as I had already ruined her nerves. When she took me away from the piano, I would invent a thousand or more ways to annoy her. All the time I loved her dearly, and I knew that she loved me. In fact, I knew that my parents would love me no matter what I did; so I would push and pull, bite and kick, with the desire to receive attention and to keep in action.
It is plain that my brain was active; I could think and reason to a certain extent like a normal child. My mind craved food, and those spells of mischief were executed in a state of nervousness bordering on madness. Somehow I knew that one should always be polite, not only in public, but in the privacy of one’s family; but just the same I would stir up a fuss at any time and place, because my poor little mind craved excitement and even a whipping was more endurable than that monotonous calmness.
Finally the Honorable Edwin S. Stuart, who was then Governor of Pennsylvania, heard about my handicap and the lack of educational provision for the blind-deaf. Through his kindness, largely, the matter of my schooling was brought before the Legislature when officials of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf made it known that a special teacher would be necessary for me. After the Committee on Appropriations in Harrisburg had seen me and considered my plight, they kindly appropriated funds for my education.
Then the serious problem of securing a teacher for me confronted the superintendent of the Institution. Where was he to get a teacher who knew how and who would be willing to undertake the problem of preparing a deaf and blind child to take up school work? Many teachers knew how to teach the blind, and as many others how to teach the deaf, but among the teachers in the Institution only one, Miss Julia A. Foley, had had experience in instructing the deaf-blind. Miss Foley herself is deaf. She was chosen by the board of directors and the superintendent to undertake the difficult task of instructing me.
Therefore, on June 2, 1909, Miss Foley — whom I always speak of as ‘my teacher,’ although I had several other teachers later — came to Harrisburg to observe me in my own home preparatory to taking me to school. After she had been only half an hour in our house she announced that she would take me with her to Philadelphia that day. I often pondered over her refusal to stay overnight; I feared that she thought my house was not good enough for her to stay in. So one day long afterward I confided my fears to her. She stilled them at once by telling me that when she saw how rejoiced I was at the prospect of going to school, knowing that it is not in the power of a child to keep at a high tension long, she decided to take me that day. Then, too, though my mother was trying to be cheerful, it was plain that the grief over the parting with me would be greater if the parting were prolonged.
In the few minutes while Mother was placing luncheon on the table, my alert, experienced teacher took in everything, and was no doubt already laying in her mind a foundation on which to base her teaching method. She has told me since that the first thing that attracted her attention on entering my home was the cleanness and neatness of everything, my mother and myself included. The following statement from her notes about me indicates the educational significance of her observation: ‘There is one point with which I shall not have to battle: Kathryne is and will continue to be neat and clean in her habits.’
Then she observed that I was friendly with my parents and not afraid to approach them, as many poor deaf children are whose parents make little or no attempt to communicate with them and who slap and punish them when they get into mischief.
While we were at luncheon she remarked to my parents that 1 had good table manners, a rare accomplishment in young deaf children. She has since told me that when she made the remark my mother looked at my father and he smiled. She immediately understood that there were times when I, like other children, flung all rules and regulations aside, even at mealtimes. Her notes on the subject say: ‘Since the child knows that there is some merit in behaving properly in company, she has pride, on which I can work.’
Miss Foley asked my parents many questionsand observed closely how they communicated with me. After luncheon there was much hustle and bustle. They telephoned to Uncle Charlie and he came very soon, bringing a brand-new trunk for me. How happy I was, fussing around the trunk and touching everything Mother packed into it, to make sure that all my pretty dresses were there and that not one of my toilet articles was forgotten. Our family doctor came to say goodbye to me and to assure my teacher that I was in good health.
At last we started for the train. At the station I clung to my mother and felt her eyes to see if she was weeping. I was sorry for her and tried to comfort her by keeping my arms around her while we were waiting for the train, but I was glad when I found tears rolling down her cheeks, because I wanted to feel that she loved me and was very sorry to part with me.
After many hugs and kisses I was taken by Father through the gate and put on the train for Philadelphia with my teacher. I asked my father if he would miss me, touching him with one finger and then holding it up in front of him and then rubbing my eyes. In reply he nodded his head and rubbed his eyes. I laughed and rejoiced on being assured that my parents would miss me. I never thought then about how I should feel when I missed them.
I took the seat near the window, because with one eye I could see dark shadows moving in the sunlight on the platform before the train started. I felt the air moving around me as people entered and took their seats. Though I knew very well that I was in some way detached, yet I could derive pleasure from the knowledge that many people were riding to the same place to which I was going. I sat up very straight, trying to be a polite, sociable little lady. Father had explained to me that there would be many stops before we reached the Institution, so I was prepared for a long trip. Mother had given us a delicious lunch; I knew what was in each sandwich, because I had stood close by her as she packed it. After the train passed Lancaster I decided it was time to eat. My teacher has told me since that I served her first each time, giving her a chicken sandwich, then one of cheese, and leaving the cake and fruit until last.
After we had finished our sandwiches, I folded my arms, rested them on the window sill, and dropped my head on them. I wore a hat with a large brim and my teacher wanted me to take it off, but I would not, although it was in my way and made me uncomfortable. I was surprised at her. Had she no manners? Did she not know that a lady-girl should not take off her hat in public like a boy? The best I could do then was to point the forefinger of my left hand at her and rub my right forefinger over it in a vigorous manner toward her. Later, when I was able to communicate with her freely, I explained the real reason for my seeming disobedience in the train. How she laughed when I said I thought it disgraceful to ride in the train without a hat, and that she had no right to class me with poor street urchins!
I had my nap, in spite of the big hat. Afterward I was ready to chat in my own way and was pleased to find that my teacher could understand my crude signs. I asked her how much farther we had to go. She held my hands in front of me about one foot apart and then waved one of my hands in the act of saying farewell to the train. Then I asked if we should go directly from the train to the Institution. She shook her head, held up two fingers for me to touch, and then went through Father’s signs for going on a train and the action of carrying a bag, placed my hands on her knees and indicated the action of going upstairs, held up one finger again and made the sign of the train. All this told me that we should leave the train in a little while and then take another. I held out my hands far apart to ask if we had to go far in the next train, and was delighted when she held them less than a foot apart.
After arriving at Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, we took a Chestnut Hill train. When only one station from Allen Lane, my teacher held up one finger and then picked up my bag. I knew immediately that the next stop was ours. I put her hands on my knees, moved my knees up and down, and put one foot before the other to ask if we should walk after we got off the train. I placed my hand on her chin and she nodded her head to signify ‘Yes,’ and showed me by signs that it was only a short distance from the station to the Institution for the Deaf — or ‘write-book-house,’ as I understood it then in gestures.
It was about seven o’clock in the evening when we arrived at the Institution. The matron received us very kindly, led us to the officers’ dining room in the basement of Wissinoming Hall, and gave us a fine supper. There was no one in the dining room except my teacher and myself. I wanted to know why. My teacher led me around the table to let me feel the chairs, at the same time letting me put my hands on the table to feel that there was a napkin in front of each chair, but no plate. I understood that the others had finished their supper. I shall never forget my delight on seeing the electric lights that were up near the ceiling in the dining room. Before I entered the Institution, I could see very light objects on a dark background — the moon outlined against the dark sky, for instance, and the outline of the sun when it was low in the west and the sky around it was rather dark. The fights near the ceiling were so bright that I thought the Institution was already helping my sight.
A short time after supper I was led to the matron’s room, where I proceeded to get ready for bed. The matron was surprised to see how I could undress myself and make my toilet for the night. My Argus-eyed teacher stayed with me all the while, taking mental note of everything I did.
In her journal she says: ‘Kathryne undressed, hung her clothes on the back of a chair, put on her bedroom slippers, gave her stockings a good shake, and hung them on a lower rung of the chair. When I asked her by actions why she did not put her stockings on top of her clothes, she said in gestures and actions that stockings get dusty when worn; they are near the dusty floor and ground, and she did not want to put them near her other clothes.’
My teacher kept asking me about everything I did. That is her way of developing the power of expression in her pupils and testing their reasoning ability. She always tries to find out whether a child does things from mere imitation and force of habit, or if the child has any idea that there is or should be a reason for everything he or she does.
That first night at the Institution I slept in the matron’s bed, because she wanted to see what manner of child I was and how much care I should need before she selected a supervisor who would take charge of me when my teacher was not with me. The bed was large and I thought that the matron would occupy it too, so I tried to find the centre of it before I got in. My teacher and the matron were greatly amused to see me trying to find a seam in the middle of the sheet, for there was none. Then it occurred to me to move a rocker that was near the foot of the bed and to walk the width of the bed. In this way I got a fairly good idea of its size.
Next I took off my hair ribbons, folded them carefully, put them on the bureau beside my comb and brush, tied my hair with my night ribbons, washed my face and hands, kissed everyone in the room good-night, dropped on my knees by the side of the bed for a minute, and then hopped into bed. I moved as near the wall as possible in order to give the matron plenty of room. I was tired, but contented, and was soon asleep. I was surprised on awakening the next morning to find that no one had slept in the bed with me.
I am writing all this to show that, although I had lost my sight and hearing and the power to talk, I could still think and reason. Many persons have said that there is no thought without language. I was over nine years of age and without language, but I could think and reason about matters involving no verbal memories probably as well as the average educated child. My parents never for a moment doubted my ability to reason, and my teacher knew from experience that spoken or written language is not necessary for clear thinking and mental development, although a great aid in abstract thought.
My teacher did not make any fuss when I made signs and gestured to her, although her teacher friends kept warning her against the danger of this. All my signs, actions, and gestures showed her the mental state of my mind, and opened the quickest way to introduce me to written and manually spelled words.
The next morning I washed and dressed myself. Someone braided my hair, tied on my hair ribbons, and buttoned my dress and apron. I refused to put on the dress I had worn from home, showing the matron that I had in my bag a morning dress.
This incident must have been communicated to my teacher, because her notes say: ‘Kathryne showed by preparation for bed and by the method followed in the making of her morning toilet that she has received careful home training, also that she is affectionate and unselfish, a rare trait in a small, deaf child.’
My breakfast was served in the matron’s silting room, and I was told to stay there until my teacher should arrive at 7.45. Everyone was busy and I waited alone. It was then that a great rush of homesickness came over me and I wept a bit.
As soon as my teacher arrived she took me around, allowing me to touch and examine everything within reach. For a few days I had no schoolroom and she stayed with me until five o’clock, showing me how to observe by touching everything, while she kept near, noting all I attempted to say and do.
The grass in front of Wissinoming Hall was high, and there were daisies and clover blossoms there. My teacher let me walk about and pick the flowers. I discovered that there were no stones or fences over which I might fall, and therefore decided it would be safe for me to run around alone. I loved to run, and did not like to be led. So I tried to get away from my teacher, but she was careful not to let me go far from her.
Then I made a plan to fool my teacher. I pointed away off and pushed her a little, which told her that there were flowers over there that I wanted; then I patted the ground on which I stood to tell her I would stay where I was while she picked the flowers for me. I thought she would see that it would be better for one of us to go for the flowers instead of both, since less of the grass would be trampled down. One of my uncles was a farmer; I used to visit his place and had learned there that tall grass should not be trampled down, because it was wanted for hay. I tried to be very polite about it, because even at that early age I knew that nice manners are a power and can be used to deceive.
I could tell by the flash of sunlight reflected from the white dress which my teacher was wearing that she had fallen into my trap and had moved away to get the flowers, and when I could no longer see the flash of light I felt sure she was at a distance. I knew that she was a good-sized woman, and, since she wore a pointed belt like my grandma’s, I took it for granted that she was not young or overactive. My mother was slender and often ran after me when I slipped out of the back gate and ran away, but here, in front of this big, big house where many gentlemen and ladies were, I thought that my teacher would not dare to run like a boy. So I darted away in the opposite direction.
I had not gone far before I felt her grasp my apron and try to hold me. Since the day was hot, I thought I could outrun her, so I jerked away and ran faster. Oh, what a good time I had! I thought I should find her puffing, with perspiration rolling down her face, and felt it would serve her right because she would not let me run around alone. (I did not know then that she taught physical culture in the evenings and that she enjoyed running almost as much as I did.) It was not long before she caught me and held me fast. She put my hand on her chin and shook her head vigorously, to tell me in a most emphatic way that I must not run away. I knew that already, but I tried to look as if I had not done anything wrong.
Then my teacher led me to the pond that is at the foot of the hill in front of Wissinoming Hall. She dipped my hand into the water and gave me a stick to hold in the water while I walked around the pond, to give me an idea of its size. Then by gestures she showed me how I should have fallen into the pond and how the water would have covered my head had I run much farther.
I took warning then and there, and never again attempted to run away from her when we were anywhere near the pond.
That afternoon I refused to leave the daisies and clover blooms, and when five o’clock came and my teacher wanted to go home I cried and screamed and she had to half-drag me up the hill to the main entrance to Wissinoming Hall.
The next few days passed pretty much as the first, except that on the second day Miss Weston, a reporter, came to see me while I was in my first fit of real anger after arriving at the Institution.
Uncle Charlie had given me a box of candy, and I had left it in the matron’s room the day before, since my mother would not allow me to eat candy in the morning. As we did not go to the matron’s room again until bedtime, I was without candy all day. On the morning of the second day I wanted to take the box of candy with me, but the matron, evidently fearing that I should eat too much, allowed me to take only a few pieces, which I carried in my hand. After we reached the girls’ sitting room, my teacher gave me an envelope in which to put my candy. She wanted me to put the envelope on the window sill by my chair, but I would not, because there were many girls in the room, and I had had experience with my little cousins.
After a while the girls went to school and my teacher took me around to show me that there was no one in the room except ourselves. Then I was willing to put the candy on the window sill. My teacher had a box with one-inch cubes and large wooden beads in it, all mixed up. She had another box which was empty, and she showed me how to put the cubes in an even row in the empty box. The wooden beads were in my way, so she gave me a shoe string to string them on, but I had a sore finger and could not hold the string very well. My teacher took me upstairs and down, from one room to another, until she found someone who gave her a long bodkin, or tape needle. Then we did some more hustling around until she obtained a long piece of string.
When we returned to the sitting room, I found that my candy was still safe. Therefore I turned my whole attent ion to helping my teacher straighten out that mix-up in the box. I was greatly pleased with the task, for I thought I was making myself useful; I had no idea that I was doing school work. I thought she was some sort of ‘fussy mixy-up’ person not at all like my mother. She did not know where the needles or strings were kept, and she was a borrower, too. I tried to tell her in signs that my mother always knew where to find things, which was my way of saying, ‘One should have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.’ She seemed to understand me and was not offended, but on the contrary seemed much amused. She did not seem to care whether I thought my mother superior to her or not. I wished she were more like my mother, who had a wonderful appreciation of time value, because even then I saw no use in wasting time looking for things. I wanted to do everything in the shortest possible time, and I hoped that my teacher would learn something from me. I did not know until long afterward that by taking me all over the house, and having me run my fingers over everything we passed, she was training my memory of place and form in order that later I might find it easier to remember how words should be formed and where a word should be placed in a sentence.
However, the doings of this teacher were certainly strange to me at that time, especially the way she kept wiggling her fingers in the palm of my hand. The only thing that kept me from biting her hand was curiosity as to what she would do next., or the hope that the wiggling would lead to something interesting. She kept it up, repeating the performance every time we touched a new object. I was making up my mind to tell my parents, Uncle Charlie, and Grandma Frick all about the queer meaningless way she insisted upon wiggling her fingers. I knew they would talk to her, and I should be glad to feel them shake their heads at her. My love for my people made them, to me, very superior to others, and a frown from any of them I thought a sufficient punishment for any foolishness whatsoever.
In spite of all my misgivings about my teacher, however, I liked to be near her, as she could make me understand and talk to me as no one else could. Then, too, she understood me. What it is to be able to understand and to be understood only the deaf can truly know.
While thoughts like these kept flitting through my poor little undeveloped mind, my teacher threaded the bodkin with the string she had procured, and I proceeded to string the beads and put the cubes in order in the box. While I was thus occupied, a boy of about my own age came into the room and stood looking at me. I did not know he was there until he touched me. Then I felt for my candy and drew it near me. After a while I put my hand out and found that he was not around. Then I put my mind on my work and thought no more of the candy until I felt what I thought were steps in the room. Then I reached for my candy, but to my horror it was gone. I felt around over the window sill and on the floor near the window, but there was no trace of it. Since the boy apparently had gone, I felt that no one except my teacher could have taken the candy. This was to me the greatest of offenses. So, without ceremony, I seized her hand and bit it to the bone, kicking her at the same time on the shins. She pushed my head away from her hand, took both my hands in hers, placed one on each of her cheeks and shook her head vigorously, while she stamped her foot repeatedly on the floor to show me that I must not bite or kick.
I accused her of having eaten my candy. This she denied by repeating the above performances slowly and solemnly. This impressed me greatly; still, I screamed at the top of my voice and showed her by holding my hands out and waving them around that there was no one to take the candy except her. I did not know that the guilty boy was standing away off near the back door of the girls’ sitting room, peeping in at us. She called to him to come to me, to show that he was still in the room, for she did not want me to think that she was capable of such an offense. Instead, he ran downstairs and out into the yard. Fearing to leave me alone, my teacher did not follow him.
While I was still screaming and she was tying her handkerchief around her wounded hand, the superintendent entered the room with a camera man and Miss Weston, a reporter. I knew by the way my teacher stood up that she was going to greet visitors. Then, in a flash, some inborn pride or vanity came to my rescue, urging me to dry my eyes and put on company manners. When I discovered that it was the superintendent, I certainly tried to look innocent of any wrongdoing, for I knew perfectly well that, though my teacher might have eaten my candy, I was not justified in biting her hand. I had met the superintendent the day before and imagined that he was the father of the big house, and the matron the mother. I had no idea how a school was managed, especially such a large one. I knew that everybody should obey the father and mother of the house in which he lives. I knew also that when children went to school there was a mother (teacher) whom parents insisted that their children should obey.
A few minutes elapsed while the superintendent and my teacher explained to the reporter something of the problem that confronted them in starting me on the road to learning. To me those minutes were hours, for I feared my teacher would show her injured hand. When we went into the yard I insisted upon walking with the reporter, to show my teacher that I wanted to shun her for taking my candy.
I recall distinctly my impressions at the time. I had in some way learned at home that it was wrong to take without permission what did not belong to one, and I imagined that, although a child might commit such an offense and be pardoned, a grown-up person never could.
On our way to the yard a cat rubbed against me. I grabbed it and held it in my arms while my picture was being taken. In my joy at having the cat and being near a newspaper person, I forgot about my candy for the time being. I just idolized anyone who had anything to do with a newspaper, because my father was connected in some way with one in Harrisburg, and I knew that he got money from the newspaper office and that the money he got bought us food and many other nice things.
I knew Miss Weston was a reporter because Miss Foley took my hand and had me touch Miss Weston, then touch a newspaper. Next she went through the action of writing, and touched the newspaper again. I was already familiar with the sign ‘write men’ (reporters), as they had flocked to my home as soon as it was given out that the state had passed a bill to provide for my education and that Governor Stuart had signed the bill. I thought that anyone connected with a newspaper was surely my father’s friend. I did not know that there were many different newspapers, or that the world was such a large place. Harrisburg was my world and Philadelphia another world, though I firmly believed that the latter was not half so important as Harrisburg; but of course it could be endured if one wanted to go to school like other children, as I did.
When we returned to the sitting room after my picture had been taken, I began to worry again about my candy. Then my teacher showed me how the boy had hidden behind my chair and had taken my candy and run away with it.
(To be continued)
- Dr. Elbert A. Gruver, Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf, Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, and Miss Julia A. Foley, Kathryne’s first teacher, with whom we are in correspondence, assure us that Kathryne’s account of the results of her illness are correct. Miss Foley writes: ‘There is no record of the exact cause of the illness that deprived Kathryne of her sight, hearing, and memory of speech and language. What Kathryne has written about the cause of her blindness and deafness she obtained from a quotation of the late Dr. Crouter, who was superintendent of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf while Kathryne was a pupil there, the quotation having been recorded in my notes.’ — EDITOR↩