After a month at the blind school, Mary was beginning to get her bearings. Adam had been a bit of a martinet at first, but they were getting along much better. And there was a new boy—Reckness Cardew, and he had flaxen curls—Mary had touched them. Reckness was like no one she'd even met in Walnut Grove…he was from New York City.
One afternoon, as they were practicing with their canes, Reckness was telling Mary how impatient he was. "You see, the problem is, I've never used a cane. I was born sightless, and my folks were fairly comfortable, and I spent much of my time in Gramercy Park, which was closed in with a gate, and they knew I wouldn't go into the street, because it was closed in, you know? So by the time I was twelve, I could navigate around the city and it wasn't too scary."
"Comfortable? What does that mean, you were comfortable?" Mary thought she knew what it meant, but…
"You know. Well fixed. Father is a bond trader."
"Oh, you mean you're wealthy." Mary smiled. She enjoyed talking with Reckness. She kept trying to picture what he must look like. She loved the feeling of her arm in his, though Adam had advised that all cane travelers walk apart, so they could get the feel of things on their own.
"No, we're not wealthy, really." Reckness snorted. "We're not like the Astors or the Cabots. But we don't miss too many meals. Father sent me to school here, because he wants me to travel in Europe with my mother, and he's afraid of me doing that without a cane, not to mention this tiresome Braille thing. I don't mind being read to, but I think carrying around a huge volume, and paging through it is so—er…"
"It's a challenge, and it's fun if you've read before. I always loved reading, and so I am kind of eager to learn the Braille method." Mary said as she ran her fingers on Reckness's bicep. "And your father may want you to help him one day in his business and you can learn to read, you know."
Reckness laughed. "I find I'll always have someone to read to me, even if it's something I don't want read. Are you not familiar with people of means, Miss Ingalls?"
"Well, back home there's a family that owns a mercantile—it's milliner's, food, dry goods, all that, and the man who owns it, Nels Olsen is very nice, but his wife and kids aren't so great. But I don't know if that's because of the money, or just because it's the way they are."
"Well, I've met some nice rich people, and then a few that weren't so nice. But the Bible says it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. But I think Hell might be a more interesting place anyway."
"You are so bad, Reckness!"
Mary heard voices around her twangy Midwestern voices, and lilting feminine tones. She wondered where Adam was. Adam had severely reprimanded Reckness for smoking, and he'd told Mary that she should stay away from the New Yorker. Mary wondered if Adam would be mad that they were tapping around together.
After Adam fixed little Hiram's Braille slate, he stood up and left the classroom, trailing his fingers along the wall. I guess I should go outside, see how things are going out there. Perhaps Mary—no, no. Mary is a pupil. How is this happening? Adam was proud of his status as one of the youngest teachers here at the blind school. At fifteen, after only five years of attendance, Adam had graduated from high school (he'd skipped second and fifth grades while still a seeing kid) and become a teacher.
And there was a propriety there. Adam was feeling some strange stuff, though. First he'd found Mary Ingalls to be a brat, angry about her new blindness and expecting that Adam would somehow restore her life as it was.
Then he'd been able to explain the world around her, and how much more there was than sight—hearing robins chirp, smelling honeysuckle and tasting the odd blueberry. Mary had begun to thrive here at the school, and then he'd made the horrible mistake of feeling her face—and what a glorious experience that had been—and he'd bumped into her once or twice, and Mary had some curves. But she was his pupil!
Adam opened the door to go out in the school yard. He felt the warm spring air. God, I miss sunshine. He couldn't complain about this too much, because of course he had to tell the kids that there was so much more to life than sight, and in fact, his life had grown more interesting since the creek accident that had left him blind.
He'd been a bookish kid, and his father a busy lawyer, and he'd had tutors, and not met a great deal of people, except for lawyers and their children. And then after the accident, and coming to the blind school, Adam had met people from all walks of life, and it fascinated him…and he'd gotten "good" at being blind. He had a sort of facial vision that enabled him to get around largely without a cane, although he encouraged it's use in the people he taught—and he felt useful in a way he'd never felt as a spoiled attorney's son.
Perhaps that was why Adam had little patience with Reckness Cardew—the kid only wanted to learn how to use Braille playing cards, so he could gamble. He had little interest in learning much of anything, and all he liked to do was bother the girls.
Adam had caught Reckness with a housemaid already. She'd been discharged, and Adam had wanted to expel Reckness, but old Mr. Cardew had contributed quite a bit to the school's coffers. And now he heard Reckness's voice chiming in with Mary's…this was much to the bad, Adam thought. But what could he do?