A BLIND GIRL AND HER BIBLE
Many years ago, when a student of the University of Geneva, I was accustomed to spend the long summer vacations travelling from village to village in my native France, preaching in the open squares the Kingdom of God, and distributing the Bible to such as would accept it. On such an excursion, in the summer of 183Â—, I entered a little vine-home cabin in the environs of Dijon. In its low wide kitchen, I saw a middle-aged woman ironing, a boy yet too young for labour, and a girl of some seventeen or eighteen years, of a sweet serious aspect, platting straw. She did not raise her eyes as I entered, and on a nearer approach I perceived that she was blind. Poor sightless Marie! how she was affected when I told her of Him who opened the eyes of the blind, and read to her how blind Bartimeus sat by the wayside begging, when he cried unto Jesus of Nazareth passing by, and received his sight. Then an irrepressible longing, such as she had never known before, a longing for God’s blessed gift of vision, seized upon the poor blind girlÂ—not that she sighed to see the blue heavens, or the golden light, or to look upon her mother’s sweet smile, or to gaze in her young brother’s laughing eyes; no, not these, but she longed to read the blessed Word of Jesus.
There lived at Dijon a man of God, who had gathered around him a few blind, whom he had taught to read and work. I sought him out, told him of Marie, interested him in her, and soon made arrangements that she should come every morning and receive an hour’s instruction. I also procured for her a Bible with raised letters for the blind. You should have seen her delight as she started off next morning, a warm, bright August morning, one hand locked in her little brother’s, and the other fondly grasping the precious Bible, to take her first lesson. Alas, poor Marie! it requires a delicate touch to distinguish the slightly-raised surface and nice outline of the letters, her fingers were hard and callous with the constant platting of straw. Again and again was the effort made, but to no purpose.
One day as she sat alone, sorrowfully chipping with her little knife the rough edge of the straw, a happy thought occurred to her. Could she not cut away the thick, hard skin from her fingers, and then it would grow anew, smooth and soft, like the fingers of a child? And so she whittled the hard skin from her fingers, heeding not the pain. When the reading lesson was tried again, warm drops trickled from the bleeding fingers along the sacred line. It would not do. After the first bitterness of her disappointment, Marie strove hard to be cheerful. “God had opened the eyes of her soul,” she said, ‘and ought she not to praise Him?” And the Bible, surely she must carry that back; some happier blind girl might pluck the fruit from this Tree of Life, and find healing in its blessed leaves. And holding the dear Volume near to her beating heart, she knelt by her bed to pray: “Dear and blessed Jesus, who lovest the poor,
and openest the eyes of the blind, I thank Thee that Thou has not hidden Thyself from a poor blind girl. And since I cannot read THY HEAVENLY WORDS, I pray that Thou wilt whisper them into my soul, that my spirit may not be dark like my poor eyes. I can see Thee with my heart, dear Jesus, and Thou knowest that I love Thee, and I love Thy Book;” and she touched the open Bible with her lips. O, joy! To the soft lips the slight indentations of the raised surface are clearly perceptible. With a low cry of joy she passes line after line across her eager lips. She turns the leaf; the lips lose not their power. It is all clear, all easy now; the lips can do what the toil-hardened fingers could not: she now can read God’s Holy Word!
After twelve months, I visited Dijon. The old kitchen bore its old look, but what a beaming happy face was Marie’s, as she sat in her rude chair, her basket of straw at her feet, reading her beloved Bible. O, it was full of light to her! “Is it not blessed to kiss the sweet Words as I read?”