I was walking along a rather lonely road, humming a tune to myself – a most indefensible habit, which I only name as it accounted for my being suddenly stopped by a civil voice –
“Ma’am, if you please”
I turned, and now first noticed a young man who had just passed me by, stepping out quickly and decisively, with a stick in his hand and a bundle on his shoulder.
“Ma’am, if you please, would you direct me to …?” naming a gentleman’s house close by, which I was proceeding to point out to him, when I perceived he had no eyes. It was a well-featured and highly intelligent countenance, with that peculiarly peaceful expression that one often sees on the faces of the blind; but of his calamity there could be no doubt: the eyes, as I said, were gone: the eyelids closed tightly over nothing. Yet his step was firm, and his general appearance so active and bright, that a careless passenger would scarcely have detected that he was blind.
Of course I went back with him to the door he named – in spite of his polite protestations that there was not the least necessity – “he could find it easily” – how, Heaven knows: also, I had the curiosity to lies in wait a few minutes, until I watched him come cheerily out, shoulder his big bundle, plant his stick on the ground and walk briskly back – whistling a lively tune, and marching as fast and fearlessly as though he saw every step of the road.
“Have you done your business?”
My friend started, but immediately recognised the voice. “Oh yes thank you, Ma’am. I’m all right. Very much obliged. Good Morning.”
He recommenced his stopped tune, and pursued his way with such determined independence, that I felt as if more notice of him would be taking an unwarrantable liberty with his misfortune. But his cheerful face quite haunted me, and I speculated for a long time what ‘business’ he could be about, and how he dared trust himself alone, in the great wilderness of London and its environs, with no guide except his stick. At last I remembered he might be one of the ‘travellers’ belonging to an institution I had heard of (and the foundress of which, by coincidence, I was going that day to meet) – the ‘Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind.’
 Sealing the eyelids over the sockets suggests this man may have lost his eyesight as a result of an ophthalmic infection which caused the eyeballs to rupture. See Mary Wilson Carpenter, Health, Medicine and Society in Victorian England (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2010): 128-148 for further information on blindness.
 The Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind continues today under the name ‘Clarity’. A video clip, made by Clarity, to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Charles Dickens is available at www.claritymatters.org/blog/charles-dickens-and-clarity/. Here Clarity staff members discuss Dickens’ essay and the degree to which things have changed or remained the same since the nineteenth century.