When Edward Temple was about eight or nine years old he was
afflicted with a disorder of the eyes. It was so severe, and his
sight was naturally so delicate, that the surgeon felt some
apprehensions lest the boy should become totally blind. He
therefore gave strict directions to keep him in a darkened chamber,
with a bandage over his eyes. Not a ray of the blessed light of
heaven could be suffered to visit the poor lad.
This was a sad thing for Edward. It was just the same as if
there were to be no more sunshine, nor moonlight, nor glow of the
cheerful fire, nor light of lamps. A night had begun which was to
continue perhaps for months,—a longer and drearier night than that
which voyagers are compelled to endure when their ship is icebound,
throughout the winter, in the Arctic Ocean. His dear father and
mother, his brother George, and the sweet face of little Emily
Robinson must all vanish and leave him in utter darkness and
solitude. Their voices and footsteps, it is true, would be heard
around him; he would feel his mother's embrace and the kind
pressure of all their hands; but still it would seem as if they
were a thousand miles away.
And then his studies,—they were to be entirely given up. This
was another grievous trial; for Edward's memory hardly went back to
the period when he had not known how to read. Many and many a
holiday had he spent at his hook, poring over its pages until the
deepening twilight confused the print and made all the letters run
into long words. Then, would he press his hands across his eyes and
wonder why they pained him so; and when the candles were lighted,
what was the reason that they burned so dimly, like the moon in a
foggy night? Poor little fellow! So far as his eyes were concerned
he was already an old man, and needed a pair of spectacles almost
as much as his own grandfather did.
And now, alas! the time was come when even grandfather's
spectacles could not have assisted Edward to read. After a few
bitter tears, which only pained his eyes the more, the poor boy
submitted to the surgeon's orders. His eyes were bandaged, and,
with his mother on one side and his little friend Emily on the
other, he was led into a darkened chamber.
"Mother, I shall be very miserable!" said Edward, sobbing.
"O no, my dear child!" replied his mother, elicerfully. "Your
eyesight was a precious gift of Heaven, it is true; but you would
do wrong to be miserable for its loss, even if there were no hope
of regaining it. There are other enjoyments besides what come to us
through our eyes."
"None that are worth having," said Edward.
"Ah, but you will not think so long," rejoined Mrs. Temple, with
tenderness. "All of us—your father, and myself, and George, and our
sweet Emily—will try to find occupation and amusement for you. We
will use all our eyes to make you happy. Will they not be better
than a single pair?"
"I will sit, by you all day long," said Emily, in her low, sweet
voice, putting her hand into that of Edward.
"And so will I, Ned," said George, his elder brother, "school
time and all, if my father will permit me."
Edward's brother George was three or four years older than
himself,—a fine, hardy lad, of a bold and ardent temper. He was the
leader of his comrades in all their enterprises and amusements. As
to his proficiency at study there was not much to be said. He had
sense and ability enough to have made himself a scholar, but found
so many pleasanter things to do that he seldom took hold of a book
with his whole heart. So fond was George of boisterous sports and
exercises that it was really a great token of affection and
sympathy when he offered to sit all day long in a dark chamber with
his poor brother Edward.
As for little Emily Robinson, she was the daughter of one of Mr.
Temple's dearest friends. Ever since her mother went to heaven
(which was soon after Emily's birth) the little girl had dwelt in
the household where we now find her. Mr. and Mrs. Temple seemed to
love her as well as their own children; for they had no daughter
except Emily; nor would the boys have known the blessing of a
sister had not this gentle stranger come to teach them what it was.
If I could show you Emily's face, with her dark hair smoothed away
from her forehead, you would be pleased with her look of simplicity
and loving kindness, but might think that she was somewhat too
grave for a child of seven years old. But you would not love her
the less for that.
So brother George and this loving little girl were to be
Edward's companions and playmates while he should be kept prisoner
in the dark chamber. When the first bitterness of his grief was
over he began to feel that, there might be some comforts and
enjoyments in life even for a boy whose eyes were covered with a
"I thank you, dear mother," said he, with only a few sobs; "and
you, Emily; and you too, George. You will all be very kind to me, I
know. And my father,—will not he come and see me every day?"
"Yes, my dear boy," said Mr. Temple; for, though invisible to
Edward, he was standing close beside him. "I will spend some hours
of every day with you. And as I have often amused you by relating
stories and adventures while you had the use of your eves, I can do
the same now that you are unable to read. Will this please you,
"O, very much," replied Edward.
"Well, then," said his father, "this evening we will begin the
series of Biographical Stories which I promised you some time