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Letter to Anne Sullivan Macy from Miss Keller (February 7, 1917)

Transcription of Letter

Montgomery, February 7, 1917.

Dearest Teacher:

We have just had the most terrible excitement; but, thank God, every one is safe and well. So don't be worried by the news in this letter.

A fire broke out in my room Monday night. Fortunately I wasn't asleep. At first I noticed a strange odor; but it was exactly like the odor of steam in the kitchen-pipe; so I paid no attention to it. Then came a light odor like smoke from out-of-doors. I had noticed it so frequently in our house and elsewhere, it didn't disturb me. But suddenly I smelt tar and burning wood. I sprang up, threw a window open and rushed to mother's room. She found a flame six feet high in my room and called Warren. Mildred telephoned to the fire-department, and in an incredibly short time they arrived. I felt the men hacking away at the floor, we had gone down into Mildred's bedroom. A moment later we were all ordered out of the house. They said they couldn't tell where the fire would spread. So out we went bundled up in blankets and quilts, and went down the street to grandma Tyson's. It was after one; we sat by the fire awhile and tried to calm down a little. Just as we were getting in bed, we got word that the fire was caused by a defective flue. It had started right under my bed! The firemen said that they had come just in time. Five or ten minutes more, and the house would have been demolished.

None of us got to sleep until four o'clock. We came home after breakfast. The firemen had made a great hole under my bed, and the chemicals which they used got on some of Mildred's furniture in the sitting-room. In the parlor the smoke had been so dense that the wallpaper was black. But otherwise the house isn't badly damaged. We've lost nothing, the house is insured. But I suppose we shall be living with carpenters, painters and plumbers for a week or so. We're having trouble with the pipes too. It has been, so cold--from nine to twenty above--that we've kept the water turned off; but two of the pipes burst last week.

I think Mildred had the only cool head in the family. She didn't try to put out the fire, she looked after the children and saw to it that we were all wrapped up. The fright affected mother more than any of us. She doesn't seem to be herself at all.

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It distresses me to think that my lack of sight might have proved fatal to my loved ones. It seems as if I could never sleep quietly here again without putting my face down close to the floor and hunting all over for an odor or a hidden spark.

When are you coming back to America, Teacher? I hate to have you so far away while we're on the verge of war, and those dread submarines are scouring the ocean for whatever they can destroy.

The other night, when I returned from a call on Annie Keller, I found a telegram from the Enterprise Association asking for a short statement of my opinion of the plan to urge Congress to appropriate a hundred million dollars for the relief of non-combatants in all occupied territory. It was too late to reply, and I am not especially interested in that sort of philanthropy. So I didn't bother about it. I suppose that would be a good thing for our government to do. We have criminally made millions upon millions out of the War, and ought to give back all we can.

I'll write later when there is more cheerful news. I don't want to tax your dear eyes. I enclose a sort of journal letter from Mrs. Thaw. How dear, brave and patient she is!

With love to Polly, and with the hope that she is keeping watch over your welfare like a Sherlock Holmes, I am,

Your affectionate (sic)

Helen.

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