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given to her on detached bits of paper: they were arranged side by
side so as to spell BOOK, KEY, &c.; then they were mixed up in a
heap and a sign was made for her to arrange them herself so as to
express the words BOOK, KEY, &c.; and she did so.
'Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about
as great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks. The
poor child had sat in mute amazement, and patiently imitated
everything her teacher did; but now the truth began to flash upon
her: her intellect began to work: she perceived that here was a
way by which she could herself make up a sign of anything that was
in her own mind, and show it to another mind; and at once her
countenance lighted up with a human expression: it was no longer a
dog, or parrot: it was an immortal spirit, eagerly seizing upon a
new link of union with other spirits! I could almost fix upon the
moment when this truth dawned upon her mind, and spread its light
to her countenance; I saw that the great obstacle was overcome; and
that henceforward nothing but patient and persevering, but plain
and straightforward, efforts were to be used.
'The result thus far, is quickly related, and easily conceived; but
not so was the process; for many weeks of apparently unprofitable
labour were passed before it was effected.
'When it was said above that a sign was made, it was intended to
say, that the action was performed by her teacher, she feeling his
hands, and then imitating the motion.
'The next step was to procure a set of metal types, with the
different letters of the alphabet cast upon their ends; also a
board, in which were square holes, into which holes she could set
the types; so that the letters on their ends could alone be felt
above the surface.
'Then, on any article being handed to her, for instance, a pencil,
or a watch, she would select the component letters, and arrange
them on her board, and read them with apparent pleasure.
'She was exercised for several weeks in this way, until her
vocabulary became extensive; and then the important step was taken
of teaching her how to represent the different letters by the
position of her fingers, instead of the cumbrous apparatus of the
board and types. She accomplished this speedily and easily, for
her intellect had begun to work in aid of her teacher, and her
progress was rapid.
'This was the period, about three months after she had commenced,
that the first report of her case was made, in which it was stated
that "she has just learned the manual alphabet, as used by the deaf
mutes, and it is a subject of delight and wonder to see how
rapidly, correctly, and eagerly, she goes on with her labours. Her
teacher gives her a new object, for instance, a pencil, first lets
her examine it, and get an idea of its use, then teaches her how to
spell it by making the signs for the letters with her own fingers:
the child grasps her hand, and feels her fingers, as the different
letters are formed; she turns her head a little on one side like a
person listening closely; her lips are apart; she seems scarcely to
breathe; and her countenance, at first anxious, gradually changes
to a smile, as she comprehends the lesson. She then holds up her
tiny fingers, and spells the word in the manual alphabet; next, she
takes her types and arranges her letters; and last, to make sure
that she is right, she takes the whole of the types composing the
word, and places them upon or in contact with the pencil, or
whatever the object may be."
'The whole of the succeeding year was passed in gratifying her
eager inquiries for the names of every object which she could
possibly handle; in exercising her in the use of the manual
alphabet; in extending in every possible way her knowledge of the
physical relations of things; and in proper care of her health.
'At the end of the year a report of her case was made, from which
the following is an extract.
'"It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt, that she
cannot see a ray of light, cannot hear the least sound, and never
exercises her sense of smell, if she have any. Thus her mind
dwells in darkness and stillness, as profound as that of a closed
tomb at midnight. Of beautiful sights, and sweet sounds, and
pleasant odours, she has no conception; nevertheless, she seems as
happy and playful as a bird or a lamb; and the employment of her
intellectual faculties, or the acquirement of a new idea, gives her
a vivid pleasure, which is plainly marked in her expressive
features. She never seems to repine, but has all the buoyancy and
gaiety of childhood. She is fond of fun and frolic, and when
playing with the rest of the children, her shrill laugh sounds
loudest of the group.
'"When left alone, she seems very happy if she have her knitting or
sewing, and will busy herself for hours; if she have no occupation,
she evidently amuses herself by imaginary dialogues, or by
recalling past impressions; she counts with her fingers, or spells
out names of things which she has recently learned, in the manual
alphabet of the deaf mutes. In this lonely self-communion she
seems to reason, reflect, and argue; if she spell a word wrong with
the fingers of her right hand, she instantly strikes it with her
left, as her teacher does, in sign of disapprobation; if right,
then she pats herself upon the head, and looks pleased. She
sometimes purposely spells a word wrong with the left hand, looks
roguish for a moment and laughs, and then with the right hand
strikes the left, as if to correct it.
'"During the year she has attained great dexterity in the use of
the manual alphabet of the deaf mutes; and she spells out the words
and sentences which she knows, so fast and so deftly, that only
those accustomed to this language can follow with the eye the rapid
motions of her fingers.
'"But wonderful as is the rapidity with which she writes her
thoughts upon the air, still more so is the ease and accuracy with
which she reads the words thus written by another; grasping their
hands in hers, and following every movement of their fingers, as
letter after letter conveys their meaning to her mind. It is in
this way that she converses with her blind playmates, and nothing
can more forcibly show the power of mind in forcing matter to its
purpose than a meeting between them. For if great talent and skill
are necessary for two pantomimes to paint their thoughts and
feelings by the movements of the body, and the expression of the
countenance, how much greater the difficulty when darkness shrouds
them both, and the one can hear no sound.
'"When Laura is walking through a passage-way, with her hands
spread before her, she knows instantly every one she meets, and
passes them with a sign of recognition: but if it be a girl of her
own age, and especially if it be one of her favourites, there is
instantly a bright smile of recognition, a twining of arms, a
grasping of hands, and a swift telegraphing upon the tiny fingers;
whose rapid evolutions convey the thoughts and feelings from the
outposts of one mind to those of the other. There are questions
and answers, exchanges of joy or sorrow, there are kissings and
partings, just as between little children with all their senses."
'During this year, and six months after she had left home, her
mother came to visit her, and the scene of their meeting was an
'The mother stood some time, gazing with overflowing eyes upon her
unfortunate child, who, all unconscious of her presence, was
playing about the room. Presently Laura ran against her, and at
once began feeling her hands, examining her dress, and trying to
find out if she knew her; but not succeeding in this, she turned
away as from a stranger, and the poor woman could not conceal the
pang she felt, at finding that her beloved child did not know her.
'She then gave Laura a string of beads which she used to wear at
home, which were recognised by the child at once, who, with much
joy, put them around her neck, and sought me eagerly to say she
understood the string was from her home.
'The mother now sought to caress her, but poor Laura repelled her,
preferring to be with her acquaintances.
'Another article from home was now given her, and she began to look
much interested; she examined the stranger much closer, and gave me
to understand that she knew she came from Hanover; she even endured
her caresses, but would leave her with indifference at the
slightest signal. The distress of the mother was now painful to
behold; for, although she had feared that she should not be
recognised, the painful reality of being treated with cold
indifference by a darling child, was too much for woman's nature to
'After a while, on the mother taking hold of her again, a vague
idea seemed to flit across Laura's mind, that this could not be a
stranger; she therefore felt her hands very eagerly, while her
countenance assumed an expression of intense interest; she became
very pale; and then suddenly red; hope seemed struggling with doubt
and anxiety, and never were contending emotions more strongly
painted upon the human face: at this moment of painful
uncertainty, the mother drew her close to her side, and kissed her
fondly, when at once the truth flashed upon the child, and all
mistrust and anxiety disappeared from her face, as with an
expression of exceeding joy she eagerly nestled to the bosom of her
parent, and yielded herself to her fond embraces.
'After this, the beads were all unheeded; the playthings which were
offered to her were utterly disregarded; her playmates, for whom
but a moment before she gladly left the stranger, now vainly strove
to pull her from her mother; and though she yielded her usual
instantaneous obedience to my signal to follow me, it was evidently
with painful reluctance. She clung close to me, as if bewildered
and fearful; and when, after a moment, I took her to her mother,
she sprang to her arms, and clung to her with eager joy.
'The subsequent parting between them, showed alike the affection,
the intelligence, and the resolution of the child.
'Laura accompanied her mother to the door, clinging close to her
all the way, until they arrived at the threshold, where she paused,
and felt around, to ascertain who was near her. Perceiving the
matron, of whom she is very fond, she grasped her with one hand,
holding on convulsively to her mother with the other; and thus she
stood for a moment: then she dropped her mother's hand; put her
handkerchief to her eyes; and turning round, clung sobbing to the
matron; while her mother departed, with emotions as deep as those
of her child.
* * * * * *
'It has been remarked in former reports, that she can distinguish