The Story of My Life

Part II. Letters (1887–1901)

DR. HOLMES'S REPLY

To a letter which has been lost.


My Dear Little Friend Helen:

I received your welcome letter several days ago, but I have so much writing to do that I am apt to make my letters wait a good while before they get answered.

It gratifies me very much to find that you remember me so kindly. Your letter is charming, and I am greatly pleased with it. I rejoice to know that you are well and happy. I am very much delighted to hear of your new acquisition--that you "talk with your mouth" as well as with your fingers. What a curious thing speech is! The tongue is so serviceable a member (taking all sorts of shapes, just as is wanted),--the teeth, the lips, the roof of the mouth, all ready to help, and so heap up the sound of the voice into the solid bits which we call consonants, and make room for the curiously shaped breathings which we call vowels! You have studied all this, I don't doubt, since you have practised vocal speaking.

I am surprised at the mastery of language which your letter shows. It almost makes me think the world would get along as well without seeing and hearing as with them. Perhaps people would be better in a great many ways, for they could not fight as they do now. Just think of an army of blind people, with guns and cannon! Think of the poor drummers! Of what use would they and their drumsticks be? You are spared the pain of many sights and sounds, which you are only too happy in escaping. Then think how much kindness you are sure of as long as you live. Everybody will feel an interest in dear little Helen; everybody will want to do something for her; and, if she becomes an ancient, gray-haired woman, she is still sure of being thoughtfully cared for.

Your parents and friends must take great satisfaction in your progress. It does great credit, not only to you, but to your instructors, who have so broken down the walls that seemed to shut you in that now your outlook seems more bright and cheerful than that of many seeing and hearing children.

Good-bye, dear little Helen! With every kind wish from your friend,
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.

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