Autobiography of Mark Twain (Excerpt)


文/马克•吐温  译/孟洁冰
By Mark Twain[1]



[5] I remember the first time I ever had the privilege of seeing her. She was fourteen years old then. She was to be at Laurence Hutton’s house on a Sunday afternoon, and twelve or fifteen men and women had been invited to come and see her. Henry Rogers and I went together. The company had all assembled and had been waiting a while. The wonderful child arrived now, with her about equally wonderful teacher, Miss Sullivan. The girl began to deliver happy ejaculations, in her broken speech. Without touching anything, and without seeing anything, of course, and without hearing anything, she seemed to quite well recognize the character of her surroundings. She said “Oh the books, the books, so many, many books. How lovely!”

[6] The guests were brought one after another and introduced to her. As she shook hands with each she took her hand away and laid her fingers lightly against Miss Sullivan’s lips, who spoke against them the person’s name. When a name was difficult, Miss Sullivan not only spoke it against Helen’s fingers but spelled it upon Helen’s hand with her own fingers—stenographically, apparently, for the swiftness of the operation was suggestive of that.

[7] Mr. Howells seated himself by Helen on the sofa and she put her fingers against his lips and he told her a story of considerable length, and you could see each detail of it pass into her mind and strike fire there and throw the flash of it into her face. Then I told her a long story, which she interrupted all along and in the right places, with cackles, chuckles, and care-free bursts of laughter. Then Miss Sullivan put one of Helen’s hands against her lips and spoke against it the question “What is Mr. Clemens distinguished for?” Helen answered, in her crippled speech, “For his humor.” I spoke up modestly and said “And for his wisdom.” Helen said the same words instantly—“And for his wisdom.” I suppose it was a case of mental telegraphy, since there was no way for her to know what it was I had said.

[8] After a couple of hours spent very pleasantly, some one asked if Helen would remember the feel of the hands of the company after this considerable interval of time, and be able to discriminate the hands and name the possessors of them. Miss Sullivan said “Oh she will have no difficulty about that.” So the company filed past, shook hands in turn, and with each handshake Helen greeted the owner of the hand pleasantly and spoke the name that belonged to it without hesitation, until she encountered Mr. Rogers, toward the end of the procession. She shook hands with him, then paused, and a reflecting expression came into her face. Then she said “I am glad to meet you now, I have not met you before.” Miss Sullivan told her she was mistaken, this gentleman was introduced to her when she first arrived in the room. But Helen was not affected by that. She said no, she never had met this gentleman before. Then Mr. Rogers said that perhaps the confusion might be explained by the fact that he had his glove on when he was introduced to Helen. Of course that explained the matter.

[9] This was not in the afternoon, as I have mis-stated. It was in the forenoon, and by and by the assemblage proceeded to the dining room and sat down to the luncheon. I had to go away before it was over, and as I passed by Helen I patted her lightly on the head and passed on. Miss Sullivan called to me and said “Stop, Mr. Clemens, Helen is distressed because she did not recognize your hand. Won’t you come back and do that again?” I went back and patted her lightly on the head, and she said at once “Oh, it’s Mr. Clemens.”

[10] Perhaps some one can explain this miracle, but I have never been able to do it. Could she feel the wrinkles in my hand through her hair? Some one else must answer this. I am not competent.


[1](1835—1910),美国著名的幽默讽刺作家和演说家,19世纪后期美国现实主义文学的杰出代表,主要作品有《竞选州长》(Running for Governor, 1870)、《汤姆•索亚历险记》(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876)、《哈克贝里•芬恩历险记》(Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885)、《百万英镑》(The Million Pound Bank Note, 1893)等。原文选自 Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1,译文选自《马克 •吐温自传:第1卷》(法律出版社,2012)。选文出自马克 •吐温 1906年的日记,内容是对海伦•凯勒的回忆。海伦•凯勒(1880—1968),美国著名的视听残障作家和教育家,代表作包括自传《我的生活》( The Story of My Life, 1903)和散文《假如给我三天光明》(Three Days to See, 1933)。