“Oh, it must be hideous for him!” she quavered to the empty room; “simply hideous!”
And she opened her eyes, thankful to see even good candle-light on bare walls, and the green, star-hung slip of sky outside the window. But somehow the seeing of it had made her cry again.
Next day she had swallowed her pride and asked Kirk to explain to her a few of the mysteries of the embossed letters. He was delighted, and picked the alphabet, here and there, from a page chosen at random in the big book. The dots slunk at once into quite sensibly ordered ranks, and Felicia perceived a reason, an excuse for their existence.
She learned half the alphabet in an hour, and picked out b and h and l joyfully from page after page. Three days later she was reading, “The cat can catch the mouse”—as thrilled as a scientist would be to discover a new principle of physics. Kirk was thrilled, also, and applauded her vigorously.
“But you’re looking at it, and that’s easier,” he said. “And you’re growner-up than me.”
Felicia confessed that this was so.
And now what a stern task-mistress she had become! She knew all the long words in the hardest lessons, and more too. There was no escaping school-time; it was as bad as Miss Bolton. Except that she was Felicia—and that made all the difference in the world. Kirk labored for her as he had never done for Miss Bolton, who had been wont to say, “If only he would work—” The unfinished sentence always implied untold possibilities for Kirk.
But Felicia was not content that Kirk could read the hardest lessons now. They plunged into oral arithmetic and geography and history, to which last he would listen indefinitely while Phil read aloud. And Felicia, whose ambition was unbounded,—as, fortunately, his own was,—turned her attention to the question of writing. He could write Braille, with a punch and a Braille slate,—yes, indeed!—but who of the seeing world could read it when he had done? And he had no conception of our printed letters; they might as well have been Chinese symbols. He would some day have a typewriter, of course, but that was impossible now. Phil, nothing daunted by statements that the blind never could write satisfactorily, sent for the simplest of the appliances which make it possible for them to write ordinary characters, and she and Kirk set to work with a will.
On the whole, those were very happy mornings. For the schoolroom was in the orchard—the orchard, just beginning to sift scented petals over the lesson papers; beginning to be astir with the boom of bees, and the fluttering journeys of those busy householders, the robins. The high, soft grass made the most comfortable of school benches; an upturned box served excellently for a desk; and here Kirk struggled with the elusive, unseen shapes of A. B. C.—and conquered them! His first completed manuscript was a letter to his mother, and Phil, looking at it, thought all the toil worth while. The letter had taken long, but Felicia had not helped him with it.