21 June 1856
FRESH FERN LEAVES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by R. BONNER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
OURS; OR, A LOOK BACKWARD.
Yes, Swissdale was ours! The title deeds were "without a flaw," so lawyer Nix informed us. Ours—the money was paid down that very day. Those glorious old trees were ours; tossing their branches hither and thither, as if oppressed with exuberant animal life; or stooping to caresss the green earth, as if grateful for its life-sustaining power. Ours were the broad sloping meadows, dotted with daisies and clover, waving responsive to every whisper of the soft west wind; ours were the dense woods, which skirted it, where the sentinel squirrel cocked up his saucy eye, then darted away to the decayed tree-trunk, with his smuggled mouthful of acorns; ours the pretty scarlet berries, nestled under the tiny leaves at our feet; ours the rose-tinted and purple anemones, whose tell-tale breath betrayed their hidden loveliness; ours the wild rose, fair as fleeting; ours the green moss-patches, richer than courtly carpet, trod by kingly feet; ours the wondrously fretted roof, of oak and maple, pine and chestnut, now jealously excluding the sun-rays, now by one magic touch of their neighborly leaves, making way that their bright beams might crimson the heart of some pale and tremulous flower, languishing like a lone maiden for the warm breath of Love. Ours were the robins and orioles, sparrows and katy-dids; ours the whip-poor-will, wailing ever amid marshy sedge, where the crimson lobelia, more gorgeous than kingly robes, defied the covetous eye, and timorous foot. Ours the hedges, tangled with wild grape, snowy with blossoming clematis, woven with sweet briar, guarded by its protecting thorns. Ours the hill-side; where the creeping myrtle charily hid under the tall grass its cherished blue-eyed blossoms; ours the gray old rocks, whose clefts, and fissures, the golden moss made bright with verdure; ours the valley lillies, ringing ever their snowwhite bells for the maidens' bridal. Ours the bower-crowned, vine-wreathed, hill-summit, whence with rapt vision we drank in that broad expanse of earth, and sea, and sky, in all its waving, glowing, sparkling, changing, glorious beauty!—one perpetual anthem to Him, who hath neither beginning nor end of days.
Ours was the little blue-eyed one, who, though of infant stature, measured thought with angels; and with finger on hushed lip and lambent eyes, listened to voices, alas! all unheard by us, that were wooing her fragile form away.
"Ours—" was she? God rest thee Mary—naught is left us now, but this sweet memory, and our falling tears!
But we were not the only ones who had exultingly said, "Swissdale is ours." One fine morning, I stood upon the lawn, under the broad spreading trees, watching the mist, as it slowly rolled off the valleys, and up the hill sides. The air was laden with fragrance and music, and the earth bright with beauty. I heard a stifled sob near me! Oh who could sorrow on such an Eden morning? I turned my head. Three young sisters, clad in sable, with their arms about each other, were looking at a luxuriant rose-vine whose drooping clusters hung above my door.
"Our mother planted it," they sobbed—"she died in that room," pointing to the second window, over which the rose-vine—her rose-vine had clambered up.
"Could they roam over the old place?" I pressed a hand of each, and nodded affirmatively, for their tears were infectious.
There are sorrows with which a stranger may not intermeddle; but hour after hour passed, and still those sable-clad sisters sat, on the hill summit, with their arms about each other, mingling with tears. Oh how plaintive to them the blithe song of the bird of the unrifled nest, the musical murmur of the careless brook! Every twig, every tree, every flower, had its sorrowful history!
Ah! how little I thought as I looked at that weeping group—that years hence—I too, should make to that very spot, the same sorrowing pilgrimage! That strange eyes should moisten for me, when I asked leave to roam over the "old place;'" that I too with streaming eyes, and tremulous finger should point to the trees and vines which my dead had planted.
Wise as merciful is the Hand which draws before our questioning eyes the veil of the future!
Fanny Fern, "Ours; Or, A Look Backward," The New-York Ledger (21 June 1856): 4
To cite this project:
Fanny Fern, "Ours; Or, A Look Backward," Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2018) http://fannyfern.org.