Journal by Alexander Graham Bell, from September 2, 1901 to October 29, 1901
Boston Transcript, Oct 5, 1901
HELEN KELLER'S SUMMER
ENJOYMENT IN THE LAND OF EVANGELINE
“Under the Shadow of His Majesty's Ships” at Halifax—The Famous Blind, Deaf and Dumb Girl Gave Alexander Bell Points About Flying Kites
Members of the royal family could have no more flattering reception than did Helen Keller on her visit to Halifax this summer. It was the first time she had ever been out of the United States, and the freshness of it all made keen impressions on a mind that is filled with imagination. She was quick to detect the change of atmosphere in a far land and spoke of its coolness—so refreshing and bracing! The journey was taken shortly after Radcliffe College closed and Miss Keller hurried away without finding out whether she had passed her examinations or not. It was the end of her first year in college, and many a girl would have wondered and worried about her fate all summer. Not so Helen, however, for she is a philosopher, and never worries about anything. Nevertheless, she was delighted upon her return home to receive the long belated letter telling that she had passed in everything.
It has been a summer of activity, and books have been left unopened. The effect of the outdoor life is easily apparent in Miss Keller's appearance, for she has returned strong and brown and enthusiastic. A greater part of the days were spent upon the water, and in her own words: “It was delightful to sail in the shadow of his majesty's ships.” It was the realization of long-cherished hopes to go to Evangeline land, and Grand-Pré was one of the first places visited. In recalling the memorable scenes she impulsively used the words of Longfellow, for while she can neither see nor hear she has been taught to articulate, repeating, as she made an outward gesture, “Vast meadows stretched to the eastward, Giving the village its name, and pastures to flock without number,”
and then she spoke of the ancient dykes, and added in the words of the poem,
“Dykes that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant, shut out the turbulent tide.” Once, at a reception, someone heard her speak of the poem—“Evangeline”—and asked her who wrote it. Instantly she answered, straight to the point, “Why, a man who is as well known as your own King Edward himself.” Who could have made a keener thrust?
The official people of the land vied with each other in showing Miss Keller attention. She was the honored guest at the commencement exercises of the Halifax Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, and made the occasion memorable with a little speech that was as bright as it was sweet. In reviewing this part of her visit she said.
“The institutions in Halifax are fine, and that shows that the people of Halifax are generous and public spirited.” The public gardens especially pleased her, for she is a true lover of nature, and she smiled as she clasped her hands and remembered. “They were beautiful for they had natural brooks, splendid beds of carnations and roses, and grand trees.” No girl in the land is more patriotic than this one who never truly saw the flag, and when the Fourth of July came she, as she expresses it, “simply made her Halifax friends buy some American flags and fling them to the breeze.” A brilliant bit of description was her recital of a storm, the worst she was ever out in on the ocean. She began with, “I spent much time on the water, rowing and sailing, and drinking in the fresh, salt, air, and it was a joy to bound over the great waves” and with the words, “Great waves” her shapely white hands swept a graceful curve with forceful abandon. Then sitting alertly erect and freely gesturing she told how one Saturday she sailed down the Halifax harbor to witness a regatta. “The harbor was jammed full of yachts and small crafts in the beginning,” she said, “and we had great difficulty in getting around. When the storm broke all the little boats except ours scudded home. The waves were so high that we slid straight down into the trough, the boat lay way over on one side”—Miss Keller suited the action to the word—“and the water lifted itself over the gunwale and came into the boat.” At this point the pitch of her voice was raised, and there was great excitement pictured on her face. “I was sorry to see them take down the sail and go home under the jib, for I exulted in the storm. A Viking could not have been happier.”
Miss Sullivan, her companion, said that Miss Keller was tense with excitement that day, and that when the waves tossed the boat the highest she laughed with all her heart and gave herself to the wild spirit of the hour. “Ours was the only little boat on the water,” Miss Keller said exultantly, and it is no wonder that all the big craft, and even the gunboat. Destroyer, saluted the fearless girl, as she tossed on the waves and laughed. She was not unmindful of the danger of what was going on, for she knew by the mighty vibrations of the waves and the booming guns that she was living no common experience. A picture for a painter, the girl must have been, dressed all in white, with a dash of red on her hat, sitting as proudly erect and watching the battle of the elements as triumphantly as ever Undine could have done.
This poetical maiden found much to interest her on every side this summer, and she loves to tell about what charmed her in Halifax. “The chief glory of the city,” she said, “is its harbor, but it has many other attractions—there is a beautiful wooded park, long drives and walks through the trees where I enjoyed the soft green light that came streaming through the branches, and the splendid view of the harbor and the rock islands.” One unacquainted with the girl would ask, “How could she see the soft, green light and the harbor view?” When she walks in the woods she stretches out her hands and feels the warmth of the sunshine, and to her the light of the woods is always soft and green, and the harbor view is real to her, for she lived her life into it. When asked what she did at a picnic that she attended at York, where there is one of the strongest fortifications on the continent, she quickly