Simon was bewildered by his first week at the blind school. One minute he'd been carrying a bale of hay, and then a mule had kicked him in the back of the head…twenty-three years old, and farming was out, and he was in a black world.
Si liked Mr. Kendall, and was grateful at the young teacher's patience with the fact that his pupil barely knew how to read and write the regular way, he'd been plowing since he was seven….
"Best not to have to re-teach you anything, Simon." Mr. Kendall had told Si as they'd bent over the Braille stylus. "Your coordination is good, and you seem to have a mathematical mind."
Mary Ingalls, who had recently been promoted from student to student teacher, was helping Simon a bit, and her hair sure smelled pretty. She was real patient with him, too. By the end of the first month, Si could write his name and a whole string of words, and could read short paragraphs in some of the Braille children's books.
After class one day, Mary suggested they practice their cane travel by going to Alpert's Drugstore for a frappe, and Simon was pleased at this. He was still a little terrified of the big wide world, but Mary's hand was on his arm, and Si tapped around hesitantly and then gradually with more confidence.
"I really miss the sunshine, y'know?" Simon said to Mary as she guided him along. "Pa and I really loved workin' out there in the fields, and then we'd go swimmin' in the river with my brothers…and it was all so beautiful."
"You know, Adam and also Reckness have told me that you can be a blind swimmer." Mary said, evading the sunshine lament.
"He's a rich type that Reckness." Simon said doubtfully. "Kinda puts on airs."
Simon didn't mention to Mary that during the time that they'd been dormitory mates, he'd heard Reckness sneak out several nights, and once a girl had knocked on Reckness's door, crying…because Reckness didn't want to court her no more.
"You know, after losing my sight, I actually began enjoying ice cream and tasting things more" Mary said as they sat at the counter and ordered the sodas. "It's been an interesting change in life. I'm not saying of course, that I enjoy being blind, but it's had some surprising alternatives."
Simon felt Mary's little hand next to his big roughened one, and abstractly he put his hand on hers, and happily, she left it there as they talked. This was real nice. Simon had been courting Eulalie Scrope, they'd gone to soda counters, and little dances, and he'd been real sweet on 'Lalie. But when he'd lost his sight, she'd sent a note. It was over.
A lot of things were going to be over. Farming was over, and any work where Simon would be using the skills he'd had—but Mr. Kendall had told Si that possibly, since he was good at mechanical stuff, he might continue doing a little repairing, or, if he had a musical ear, he might tune pianos.
But the best part of his new life was enjoying his new friendship with Mary Ingalls.
What the hell was Adam going to do about Reckness Cardew? Another housemaid had quit, and poor, bumbling Marjorie Blundell was now locked in her room. Marjorie had been born blind and half deaf, with a club foot, and wasn't very attractive and Adam wondered that she'd attracted Reckness's attention at all.
Apparently, Reckness had convinced the earnest Baptist Marjorie that she should succumb to his attentions, and now that her virginity was gone, Reckness had told her she was a whore, and would not see her again.
Adam wanted Reckness expelled, but had just learned from Fitzie, the bursar and a good friend, that Reckness's father had lent the school a great deal of money…because one of the directors was a gambler. Reckness was here to stay.
Adam and Fitzie shook their heads over it. They'd been boys together in the school, and Fitz had such a great memory for mental arithmetic, that he'd been working at the school as long as Adam did, and knew everything about the money situation.
"It might be better to move to another school than try to get rid of one of the Cardews." Fitzie said, glumly.
"But the problem is, I know Reckness is trying to besmirch more reputations, for instance that of Mary Ingalls, who is one of our most promising pupils. I just know it."
"Much as you'd like to do, eh, Kendall" Fitzie said, and Adam felt his friend smile.
"I am rather taken with Mary, Fitz, but I haven't behaved badly, or at least I hope I haven't."
"I'm sure of that, Adam. You're an earnest young man." Fitzie laughed, and Adam with him, as they were both the same age. "You know, Adam, perhaps you should tell Mary how you feel about her. It might distract her from Reckness, who is mostly all fluff, you know."
"But don't you see, Fitz. If I told Mary that I wanted to court her, she'd just think I had my own interests in mind when I discouraged her from her friendship with Reckness. And much as I like her, I feel for her—I must do the right thing, and that means not mentioning—"
"Good God you think too much" Fitzie said, smiling. "Talk, talk talk"
And Adam threw a cushion at him.
He was in her room again. Reaching out, she felt that curly hair. He was mumbling, but he stroked Marjorie's arm. She pulled away. She'd gotten two letters from Momma and the Reverend and Mr. Kendall had all told Marjorie to stay away from Reckie…
But he was stroking her face. No one touched Marjorie. The boys had always said she had a hairy jaw. Marjorie had been at the school for eleven years—since she was three, but she still hadn't gotten out of sixth grade, and the girls laughed at her, and the boys just walked away. Maybe Recki was sorry.
There! She barely heard it, but he said he was sorry. Recki felt him moving his hand under her dress. She knew if she let him do too much, he'd be mean and go away again.
But Recki liked Marjorie a little and she was so lonesome…ugly old Marjorie!
Leaving old Marjorie's room, Reckness felt a little better. He had to drain the dragon sometime. But of course he didn't want her telling people, in that scratchy voice of hers, that Reckness liked her. What did she call him…Recki? Mother would faint if she knew the depths that Reckness had fallen to.
Back in New York, Reckness went to brothels late at night, and in the early evenings he'd gone to debutante parties. Even as a blind nine year old, Reckness had been one of the best pupils in Monsieur Sagesse's class! The girls clamored for him.
What had rankled Reckness about later on was…none of the girls in his class were interested in marrying him. Some of his seeing friends said Reckness was lucky—he could squire whoever he liked. But it enraged him that being blind was some sort of defect. It was just a world without eyes. Reckness of course had never seen anything, so perhaps he didn't have the right perspective, but he could do all sorts of things that these blinks here at the school couldn't—he'd played tennis, ridden a bicycle, and gone on fox hunts where he could've been shot.
And here at the school, Reckness was still quite taken with Mary Ingalls. She was funny and smart, and he'd touched a bit of her, and done some kissing. She was nice. Perhaps Reckness could marry Mary Ingalls, and bring her back to New York, and have his brothels on the side. She really needed to stop being a magnet for all these lower trash types like Kendall, and that oaf that she'd gone to the ice-cream counter with, Simon.
Reckness would assuredly work on this.