plan was to afford blind people the means of writing directly

Published on 2023-12-02 22:15:46 source:Spring Breeze and Summer Rain

When I came to a realization of what I was leaving, when good-bys had to be said, I began to feel very sorrowful, and to wish it was not to be. I said positively that I should soon return, but underneath my protestations I was afraid that I might not. The West was very far off then, a full week's journey. It would be hard getting back. Those I loved might die; I might die myself. These thoughts passed through my mind, though not through my lips. My eyes would sometimes tell the story, however, and I fancy that my tearful farewells must have seemed ridiculous to many of my friends, since my going was of my own cheerful choice.

plan was to afford blind people the means of writing directly

The last meeting of the Improvement Circle before I went away was a kind of surprise party to me. Several original poems were read, addressed to me personally. I am afraid that I received it all in a dumb, undemonstrative way, for I could not make it seem real that I was the person meant, or that I was going away at all. But I treasured those tributes of sympathy afterwards, under the strange, spacious skies where I sometimes felt so alone.

plan was to afford blind people the means of writing directly

The editors of the "Offering" left with me a testimonial in money, accompanied by an acknowledgment of my contributions during several years; but I had never dreamed of pay, and did not know how to look upon it so. I took it gratefully, however, as a token of their appreciation, and twenty dollars was no small help toward my outfit. Friends brought me books and other keepsakes. Our minister, gave me D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation" as a parting gift. It was quite a circumstance to be "going out West."

plan was to afford blind people the means of writing directly

The exhilaration of starting off on one's first long journey, young, ignorant, buoyant, expectant, is unlike anything else, unless it be youth itself, the real beginning of the real journey-- life. Annoyances are overlooked. Everything seems romantic and dreamlike.

We went by a southerly route, on account of starting so early in the season there was snow on the ground the day we left. On the second day, after a moonlight night on Long Island Sound, we were floating down the Delaware, between shores misty-green with buidding willows; then (most of us seasick, though I was not) we were tossed across Chesapeake Bay; then there was a railway ride to the Alleghanies, which gave us glimpses of the Potomac and the Blue Ridge, and of the lovely scenery around Harper's Ferry; then followed a stifling night on the mountains, when we were packed like sardines into a stagecoach, without a breath of air, and the passengers were cross because the baby cried, while I felt inwardly glad that one voice among us could give utterance to the general discomfort, my own part of which I could have borne if I could only have had an occasional peep out at the mountain-side. After that it was all river-voyaging, down the Monongahela into the Ohio, and up the Mississippi.

As I recall this part of it, I should say that it was the perfection of a Western journey to travel in early spring by an Ohio River steamboat,--such steamboats as they had forty years ago, comfortable, roomy, and well ordered. The company was social, as Western emigrants were wont to be when there were not so very many of them, and the shores of the river, then only thinly populated, were a constantly shifting panorama of wilderness beauty. I have never since seen a combination of spring colors so delicate as those shown by the uplifted forests of the Ohio, where the pure white of the dogwood and the peach- bloom tint of the red-bud (Judas tree) were contrasted with soft shades of green, almost endlessly various, on the unfolding leafage.

Contrasted with the Ohio, the Mississippi had nothing to show but breadth and muddiness. More than one of us glanced at its level shores, edged with a monotonous growth of cottonwood, and sent back a sigh towards the banks of the Merrimack. But we did not let each other know what the sigh was for, until long after. The breaking-up of our little company when the steamboat landed at Saint Louis was like the ending of a pleasant dream. We had to wake up to the fact that by striking due east thirty or forty miles across that monotonous Greenness, we should reach our destination, and must accept whatever we should find there, with such grace as we could.

What we did find, and did not find, there is not room fully to relate here. Ours was at first the roughest kind of pioneering experience; such as persons brought up in our well-to-do New England could not be in the least prepared for, though they might imagine they were, as we did. We were dropped down finally upon a vast green expense, extending hundreds of miles north and south through the State of Illinois, then known as Looking-Glass Prairie. The nearest cabin to our own was about a mile away, and so small that at that distance it looked like a shingle set up endwise in the grass. Nothing else was in sight, not even a tree, although we could see miles and miles in every direction. There were only the hollow blue heavens above us and the level green prairie around us,--an immensity of intense loneliness. We seldom saw a cloud in the sky, and never a pebble beneath our feet. If we could have picked up the commonest one, we should have treasured it like a diamond. Nothing in nature now seemed so beautiful to us as rocks. We had never dreamed of a world without them; it seemed like living on a floor without walls or foundations.

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