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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/97

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THE HORACE MANN SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF.

When the child enters the school he is usually provided with a language of natural pantomime which is practical and very entertaining. The sign of "mother" is putting the hand to the back of the head, as if a coil of hair were there, while for "father" the hand is drawn over the face in the manner in which he wears his beard. A cow is represented with the thumbs at the ears and the fingers extended; a donkey the same, with the fingers together and hands slowly opening and closing.

Some of the gestures are very pretty. A child tells his teacher that his father was asleep when he came to school, by making the sign for father and inclining his head to one side with closed eyes upon his open palm, and shows his anticipation of some pleasure he is to have, by making the gesture for to-morrow, over and over again; with one forefinger he closes his eye, and, lifting it quickly, makes it a figure one (opening his eyes, of course, at the same time), meaning that he will sleep once before the time comes.

It is strange that all children, coming from whatever place or condition, have these natural gestures alike when they enter the school. The quick motions of the little fingers, as they tell a long story in this way, remind one of humming-birds.

The children are as different from one another as hearing children are. Some are so pretty that artists might covet them, little ones who have not yet learned to speak, but who look up at you silently, statues in which the soul is to awake; others, dwarfed and distorted in figure, have a look of dull despair, too old for childhood. The heart is sad and tender for them all.

Every gesture is vigilantly suppressed as soon as the written or spoken word can be used in its place, but in the youngest class these signs are naturally most used. An animated group the eleven pupils make, several of them mere babies of four and five years. They ask very personal questions about the visitor, which the teacher readily interprets if she sees fit. There are some inquiries concerning the age of the stranger, for instance, or innocent comments on the size of his feet, or the shape of his hat, which she may think best to ignore. In this class is Charley, whose teacher spelled his name in the more common way until he intimated to her that he objected to having a lie on the end of his name! Constant association with one of the girls in the class, who had a prejudice against the unvarnished truth, had early familiarized the eleven with the word. This girl has a lively imagination and a strong vein of romance, which cause her, perhaps, to seem unreliable to slower intellects. She never, for example, sees a companion with a new necklace or dress, but she carelessly signs to her that she herself possesses such articles by the barrel and bale; while her own home, which she describes to open-eyed listeners, as built of gold with a diamond door and silver steps, has long been known by reputation throughout the school. This pupil, in her one interview with the