Fanny Fern.

Fern leaves from Fanny's port-folio, Volume 1 online

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JULY 10. 1940

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and
fifty-three, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Northern District of New-York.

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I never had the slightest intention of writing a
book. Had such a thought entered my mind, I
should not long have entertained it. It would have
seemed presumptuous. What ! 7", Fanny Fern, write
a book 1 I never could have believed it possible.

How, then, came the book to be written ? some one
may ask. Well, that 's just what puzzles me. I can
only answer in the dialect of the immortal " Topsy,"
" I 'spect it growed !" And, such as it is, it must go
forth; for "what is written, is written" and — ster-

So, dear readers (for I certainly number some
warm, friendly hearts among you), here is my book,
which I sincerely wish were worthier of your regard.
But I can only offer you a few " Fern leaves,' ' gath-
ered at random, in shady spots, where sunbeams sel-
dom play, and which I little thought ever to press
for your keeping.

Many of the articles submitted were written for

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71 PR1FA01.

and published in the Boston Olive Branch, Boston
True Flag, and the New York Musical World and
Times, while many are now here published for the
first time.

. Some of the articles are sad, some are gay ; each
is independent of all the others, and the work is
consequently disconnected and fragmentary; but, if
the reader will imagine me peeping over his shoulder,
quite happy should he pay me the impromptu com-
pliment of a smile or a tear, it is possible we may
come to a good understanding by the time the book
shall have been perused.

Fanny Fern.

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"The Still Small Voice," 11

Look on this Picture, and then on that, 16

The Widow's Trials, 17

My Little Sunbeam, 25

Self-Conquest, 26

" Our Hatty," 88

Two in Heaven, 40

" Summer Days;" or, The Young Wife's Affliction, .... 41

Comfort for the Widow, • 47

Thorns for the Rose, 49

Thanksgiving Story, 69

Summer Friends ; or, Will is Might, 61

" Nil Desperandum," 67

Cecile Grey, 69

Childhood's Trust, 74

EliseDeVaux, 75

The Wail of a Broken Heart, 81

Mary Lee, . . 83

A Talk about Babies, 89

Elsie's First Trial, 91

A Night-Watch with a Bead Infant, 98

A Practical Blue-Stocking, 100

The Little Pauper, 105

Edith May; or, The Mistake of a Life-Time, 108

Mabel's Soliloquy, 114

How Husbands may Rule, 116

Little Charley, 120

The Lost and the Lhing, 122

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On a Little Child who had crept before a Looking-Glass that

was left upon the Sidewalk, 126

Kitty's Resolve, 128

Woman 133

The Passionate Father, . . \ 135

The Partial Mother, 139

The Ball-Room and the Nursery, 141

AlTsWell, 146

How Woman Loves, 149

A Mother's Soliloquy, 157

The Invalid Wife 159

The Stray Lamb 163

Lena May ; or, Darkness and Light, 166

Thoughts Born of a Caress, 178

A Chapter on Literary Women, 175

He who has most of Heart, 180

Dark Days, . . •. 182

Night, 186

Children's Rights, 188

Sorrow's Teachings, 192

" An Infidel Mother," 194

Little Charlie, the Child-Angel, 197

The Cross and the Crown, 202

LUla, the Orphan, 204

Observing the Sabbath, 210

The Prophet's Chamber, 214

Lilies of the Valley, 219

Grandfather Glen, 221

The Widow's Prayer, . 227

The Step-Mother, 230

A Word to Mothers, 234

The Test of Love 236

Child-Life, 240

"The Old House," 243

"Seeing the Folly of it," 246

The Transplanted Lily, * . 250

No Fiction, . . . . 257

Incident at Mount Auburn. f 260

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A Sunday Morning Soliloquy, 263

Little Allie, 265

The Flirt ; or, the Unfaithful Lover, 271

Fern Glen, ...» 277

Minnie, 282

Sweet-Briar Farm, 284

"The Angel-Child,' » 290

Not a "Model Minister," 293

" Merry Christmas ! — Happy Christmas ! " 295

Leta, 298

The Model Step-Mother, 801

A Page from a Woman's Heart ; or, Female Heroism, . . . 303

Little May, 811


Nicodemus Ney, 815

Advice to Ladies, 817

The Model Widow, 820

The Model Widower * 322

The Tear of a Wife, 824

Editors, , 826

Bachelor Housekeeping, 829

Borrowed Light, 881

Mistaken Philanthropy, 833

The Model Minister, 335

The Weaker Vessel, 837

A Tempest in a ThimMe, 839

The Quiet Mr. Smith 841

Prudence Prim, 843

Men's Dickeys never fit exactly, 845

A Little Bunker Hill, 846

Soliloquy of Rev. Mr. Parish 848

Tim Treadwell, 850

The Model Lady, .851

Important for Married Men 352

Mr. Clapp's Soliloquy;- 854

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10 OONT1NT8.


What Mrs. Smith said, 856

Everybody's Vacation except Editors', 857

Old Jeremiah ; or, Sonny Days, , . . . . 859

"I can't," 862

A Chapter on Clergymen 864

Uncle Jabe, 867

An Interesting Husband, 869

Indulgent Husbands, 878

A Fern Soliloquy . 875

Aunt Hetty on Matrimony, 877

Was n't you caught Napping ? 880

A Lady on Money Matters, 882

Mrs. Croaker, 884

To the Empress Eugenia, 886

Empress Eugenia's Maids of Honor, 889

Fast Day, 891

The Bore of the Sanctum, . 892

.Owls kill Humming-Birds 897

" The Best of Men have their Failings," . 899

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Poor, tired little Frank ! He had gazed at that stereo-
typed street panorama, till his eyelids were drooping with
weariness. Omnibuses, carts, cabs, wheelbarrows, men,
women, horses, and children ; the same old story. There
is a little beggar-boy driving hoop. Franky never drives
hoop ; — no, he is dressed too nicely for that. Once in a
while he takes the air ; but Peter the serving-man, or
Bridget the nurse, holds his hand very tightly, lest he
should soil his embroidered frock. Now little Frank
changes from one foot to the other, and then he creeps
up to his young mamma, who lies half-buried in those
satin cushions, reading the last new novel, and lays his
hand on her soft curls ; but she shakes him off with an
impatient " Don't Franky ;" and he creeps back agaii| to
the window.

There winds a funeral slowly past. How sad the
mourners look, clad in sable, with their handkerchiefs to
their eyes ! It is a child's funeral, too ; for there is no
hearse, and the black pall floats from the first carriage
window, like a signal of distress. A sudden thought
strikes Franky, — the tears spring to his eyes, and,

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12 "THl 0TILL 8MALL Y0I01."

creeping again to his mother's side, he says, " Mamma,
must Jdie, too?"

The young mother says, abstractedly, without raising
her blue eyes from the novel she is reading, " What did
you say, Frank ? "

" Mamma, must I die, too ? "

" Yes — no ! What an odd question ! Pull the bell,
Charley. Here, Peter, take Frank up stairs to the nurs-
ery, and coax Bruno along to play tricks for him ;" and
Frank's mamma settles herself down again upon her
luxurious cushions.

The room is very quiet, now that Franky is banished ;
nobody is in it but herself and the canary. Her position
is quite easy ; her favorite book between her fingers, —
why not yield herself again to the author's witching
spell ? Why do the words, " Must I die, too," stare at
her from every page ? They were but a child's words.
She is childish to heed them ; and she rises, lays aside
the book, and sweeps her white hand across her harp-
Btagjngs, while her rich voice floats musically upon the
air. One stanza only she sings, then her hands fall by
her side ; for still that little, plaintive voice keeps ring-
ing in her ear, u Must I die, too, mamma ? "

Death ! — why, it is a thing she has never thought of;
— and she walks up to the long mirror. Death for her,
with that beaming eye, and scarlet lip, and rosy cheek,
and sunny tress, and rounded limb, and springing step ?

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Death for her, with broad lands, and full coffers, and the
world of fashion at her feet ? Death for her, with the
love of that princely husband, who covets even the kiss
of the breeze as it fens her white brow ? Darkness,
decay — oblivion? (No, not oblivion! There is a fa-
ture, bat she has never looked into it.)

" Well, which is it, my pet, the opera, the concert, or
Madame B.'s soirie ? I am yours to command."

" Neither, I believe, Walter. I am out of tune to-
night; or, as Madame B. would say, 'Vaporish;' so I
shall inflict myself on nobody. But — "

" 0, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Base ; I am fond of a
merry face, too. Smile, now, or I 'm off to the club, or
the billiard room; or, as husbands say when they are
'hard up' for an excuse, I have 'a- business engage-
ment.' What ! a tear ? What grief can you have, little
Rose ? "

" You know, Walter, what a strange child our Frink
is. Well, he asked me such an odd, old-fashioned ques-
tion to-day, * Must I die, too, mamma ? ' in that little flute-
like voice of his, and it set me thinking, that 's all. I
can't rid myself of it ; and, dear Walter," said she, lay-
ing her tearful cheek upon his shoulder, " I don't know
that I ought to try."

" 0, nonsense, Rose ! " said the gay husband, " don't

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turn Methodist, if you love me. Aunt Charity has relig-
ion enough for the whole nation. You can't ask her
which way the wind is, but you have a description of
'Canaan.' Religion is well enough for priests; it is
their stock in trade ; — well enough for children and old
people ; — well enough for ancient virgins, who like vestry
meetings to pass away a long evening; but for you,
Rose, the very queen of love and beauty, in the first
flush of youth and health — pshaw! Call Camille to
arrange your hair, and let 's to the opera. Time enough,
my pet, to think of religion, when you see your first gray

Say you so, man of the sinewy limb and flashing eye ?
See! — up Calvary's rugged steep a slender form bends
wearily beneath its heavy cross ! That sinless side,
those hands, those feet are pierced — for you. Tortured,
athirst, faint, agonized, — the dark cloud hiding the
Father's face, — that mournful wail rings out on the still
air, " My God ! my God ! why hast thou forsaken me ? "

The dregs of life, our offering for all this priceless
love, O sinless Son of God ! The palsied hand, and
clouded brain, and stammering tongue, and leaden foot
of age, thy trophies ? God forbid ! And yet, alas !
amid dance, and song, and revel, that " still small voice "
was hushed. The winged hours, mis-spent and wasted,
flew quickly past. No tear of repentance fell ; no sup-

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pliant knee was bent ; no household altar flame sent up
its gratefbl incense.

"Must I die, too?"

Sweet child ! — but as the sun dies ; but as the stars
fade out ; but as the flowers die, for a resurrection morn *
Close the searching eye beneath the prisoning lid ; cross
the busy hands oyer the pulseless heart. Life — life eter-
nal ! for thee, thou young immortal !

Joy to thee, young mother ! From that little grave, so
tear-bedewed, the flower of repentance springs, at last
No tares shall choke it ; no blight or mildew blast it !
God's smile shall be its sunshine, and heaven thy. reward.

Dear reader; so the good Shepherd hides the little
lamb in his arms, that she who gave it life may hear its
voice and follow.

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"Father is coming!" and little, round faces grow
long, and merry voices are hashed, and toys are hustled
into the closet; and mamma glances nervously at the
door ; and baby is bribed with a lump of sugar to keep
the peace; and father's business face relaxes not a
muscle ; and the little group huddle like timid sheep in
a corner, and tea is despatched as silently as if speak-
ing were prohibited by the statute book ; and the chil-
dren creep like culprits to bed, marvelling that baby dare
crow so loud, now that " Father has come."

" Father is coming ! " and bright eyes sparkle for joy,
and tiny feet dance with glee, and eager faces press
against the window-pane ; and a bevy of rosy lips claim
kisses at the door ; and picture-books lie unrebuked on
the table ; and tops, and balls, and dolls, and kites are
discussed ; and little Susy lays her soft check against the
paternal whiskers with the most fearless "abandon;"
and Charley gets a love-pat for his " medal ;" and mam-
ma's face grows radiant ; and the evening paper is read,
— not silently, but aloud, — and tea, and toast, and time
vanish with equal celerity, for jubilee has arrived, and
" Father has come ! "

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The funeral was oyer, and Janie Grey came back to
her desolate home. There were the useless drugs, the
tempting fruits and flowers, which came all too late for the
sinking sufferer. Wherever her eye fell, there was some
sad reminiscence to torture her. They, whose life had
been all sunshine, came in from cheerful homes, whose
threshold death's shadow had never darkened, to offer
consolation. All the usual phrases of stereotyped con-
dolence had fallen upon her ear ; and now they had all
gone, and the world would move on just the same that
there was one more broken heart in it. She must bear
her weary weight of woe alone. She knew that her star
had set. Earth, sea and sky had no beauty now, since
the eye that worshipped them with her was closed and

" Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth," said Uncle

John, joining the tips of the fingers of either hand, and

settling himself in a vestry attitude, to say his lesson.

" Afflictions come not out of the ground. Man is cut


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down like a flower. God is the God of the widow and
the fatherless. I suppose you find it so ? " said he, look-
ing into the widow's face.

" I can scarcely tell," said Janie. " This was a light-
ning flash from a summer cloud. My eyes are blinded ;
I cannot see the bow of promise."

" Wrong ; all wrong," said Uncle John. " The Lord
gave, and the Lord has taken away. You ought to be
resigned. I 'm afraid you don't enjoy religion. Afflic-
tions are mercies in disguise. I '11 lend you this volume
of * Dew-Drops' to read. You must get submissive,
somehow, or you will have some other trouble sent upon
you. Good morning."

Uncle John was a rigid sectarian, of the bluest school
of divinity ; enjoyed an immense reputation for sanctity,
than which nothing was dearer to him, save the contents
of his pocket-book. It was his glory to be the Alpha and
Omega of parish gatherings and committees ; to be con-
sulted on the expediency of sending tracts to the Kan-
garoo Islands ; to be present at the laying of corner-
stones for embryo churches; to shine conspicuously at
ordinations, donation visits, Sabbath-school celebrations,
colporteur meetings, — in short, anything that smacked
of a church-steeple, or added one inch to the length and
breadth of his pharisaical skirt. He pitied the poor, as
every good Christian should ; but he never allowed them
to put their hands in his pocket ; — that was a territory

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over which the church had no control, — it belonged
entirely to the other side of the fence.

Uncle John sat in his counting-room, looking very
satisfactorily at the proof-sheets of " The Morning Star,"
of which he was editor. He had just glanced over his
long list of subscribers, and congratulated himself that
matters were in such a prosperous condition. Then he
took out a large roll of bank bills, and fingered them
most affectionately ; then he frowned ominously at a poor
beggar child, who peeped in at the door ; smoothed his
chin, and settled himself comfortably in his rocking-chair.

A rap at the door of the counting-room. "May I
come in, uncle ?" and Janie's long, black veil was thrown
back from her sad face.

" Y-e-s," said Uncle John, rather frigidly. " Pretty
busy, — 'spose you won't stay long ? " and he pushed his
porte-monnaie further down in his pocket.

" I came to ask," said Janie, timidly, " if you would
employ me to write for your paper. Matters are more
desperate with me than I thought, and there is a neces-
sity for my doing something immediately. I believe I
have talents that I might turn to account as a writer. I
have literally nothing, Uncle John, to depend upon."

" Your husband was an extravagant man ; — lived too
fast, — that's the trouble, — lived too fast. Ought to
have been economical as I was, when I was a young man.
Can't have your cake and eat it, too. Can't expect me to

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20 thi widow's trials.

make up for other people's deficiencies. You must take
care of yoursdf"

" Certainly, that 's just what I wish to do," said Janie,
straggling to restrain her tears. "I — I — " but she
only finished the sentence with sobs ; the contrast between
the sunny past and the gloomy present was too strong
for her troubled heart.

Now, if there was anything Uncle John mortally
hated, it was to see a woman cry. In all such cases
he irritated the victim till she took a speedy and fren-
zied leave. So he remarked again that " Mr. May was
extravagant, else there would have been something left.
He was sorry he was dead ; but that was a thing he
was n't to blame for, — and he did n't know any reason
why he should be bothered about it. The world was full
of widows ; — they all went to work, he supposed, and
took care of themselves."

" If you will tell me whether you can employ me to
write for you," said the widow, " I will not trouble you

" I have plenty who will write for nothing," said the
old man. " Market is overstocked with that sort of thing.
Can't afford to pay contributors, specially new beginners.
Don't think you have any talent that way, either. Bet-
ter take in sewing, or something," said he, taking out his
watch, by way of a reminder that she had better be

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The young widow could scarcely see her way out
through her fast-falling tears. It was her first bitter
lesson in the world's selfishness. She, whose tender feet
had been so love-guided, to walk life's thorny path alone ;
she, for whom no gift was rich, or rare, or costly enough ;
she, who had leaned so trustingly on the dear arm now so
powerless to shield her ; she, to whom love was life,
breath, being, to meet only careless glances, — nay, more,
harsh and taunting words. O, where should that stricken
heart find rest, this side heaven ?

Yet she might not yield to despair ; there was a little,
innocent, helpless one, for whom she must live on, and
toil, and struggle. Was the world all darkness ? Bent
every knee at Mammon's shrine? Beat every human
heart only for its own joys and sorrows ?

Days and months rolled on. Uncle John said his
prayers, and went to church, and counted over his dear
bank bills; and the widow sat up till the stars grew
pale, and bent wearily over long pages of manuscript ;
and little Rudolph lay with his rosy cheek nestled to the
pillow, crushing his bright ringlets, all unconscious of the
weary vigil the young mother was keeping. And now it
was New-Year's night ; and, as she laid aside her pen,
memory called her back to rich, sunny days, — to a lux-
urious home. Again she was leaning on that broad, true
breast Troops of friends were about them. 0, where
were they now ? Then she looked upon her small, plainly

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22 THE widow's trials.

furnished room, so unattractive to the eye of taste and
refinement; — then it fell upon her child, too young to
remember that father, whose last act was to kiss his baby
' brow.

Still the child slumbered on, — his red lips parted with
a smile, — and, for the first time, she noted the little
stocking, yet warm from the dimpled foot, hung close by
the pillow, with childhood's beautiful trust in angel hands
to fill it ; and, covering her face with her hands, she wept
aloud, that this simple luxury must be denied a mother's
heart. Then, extinguishing her small lamp, she laid
her tearful cheek against the rosy little sleeper, with
that instinctive yearning for sympathy, which only the
wretched know. In slumber there is, at least, forgetful-
ness. Kind angels whisper hope in dreams.

The golden light of New- Year's morning streamed
through the partially opened shutters upon the curly
head that already nestled uneasily on its pillow. The
blue eyes opened slowly, like violets kissed by the
sun, and the little hand was outstretched to grasp the
empty stocking. His lip quivered, and tears of disap-
pointment forced themselves through his tiny fingers;
while his mother rose, sad and unrefreshed, to meet
another day of toil. And Uncle John, oblivious of

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Online LibraryFanny FernFern leaves from Fanny's port-folio, Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 19)