8 August 1857
FRESH FERN LEAVES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by ROBERT BONNER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
VISITING AND VISITORS.
"When are you coming to spend the day with us?" asked a lady of my acquaintance of another. "Spend the day with you, my dear!" replied the latter; I should be tired to death spending the day with you; may be I'll take tea with you sometime."
I have often pleased myself imagining how the wheels of society would creak greased with such honesty as that! and and yet how many, if they but dared to speak their real sentiments, would make a similar response. Now, I respect that old lady; she had made good use of her years; she probably knew what it was to talk at a mark for hours on the stretch, to some one-idea-d statue, who, with crossed hands and starched attitude, seemed remorselessly exacting of her weary tongue—Give—Give! She knew what it was to long for dinner to reprieve her aching jaws, or, a least, afford them a diversion of labor. She knew what it was to be gladder to see one's husband home on such a day, than on any other day in the year; and she knew what it was to have those hopes dashed to earth by that inglorious sneak selfishly retreating behind his newspaper, instead of shouldering the conversation as he ought. She knew what it was to have the hour arrive for her afternoon nap, (I wont call it "siesta,") instead of which, with leaden lids, and a great goneness of brain and diaphragm, she must still keep on ringing changes on the alphabet, for the edification of the monosyllabic statue, who—horro of horrors!—had "concluded to stay to tea." She knew what it was in a fit of despair to present a book of engravings to the statue, and to hear that interesting functionary remark as she returned it, that "her eyes were weak." She knew what it was to send in for a merry little chaterbox of a neighbor to relieve guard, and receive for answer, "that she had gone out of town!" She knew what it was to wish that she had forty babies up stairs, with forty pains under their aprons, if need be, that she might have an excuse for leaving the statue for at least one blessed half-hour. She knew what it was to have the inglorious sneak later to tea on that wearisome day than ever before; and on his entrance, blandly and coolly to unfurl a business-letter, which, with a Chesterfieldian bow, he hoped the statue would escuse him for retiring to answer; and she knew what it was, five minutes later, to spy the wretch on the back piazza revelling in solitude and a cigar. She knew what it was, when the statue finally—(for everything comes to an end sometime, thank heaven)—took protracted leave—to cry hysterically from sheer weariness, and a recollection of pressing family duties indefinitely postponed, and to think for the forty-eleventh time, what propriety there was in calling her the weaker sex, who had daily to shoulder burdens which the strongest man either couldn't or—wouldn't bear. And so again, I say—sensible old lady—would there were more like her!
And yet we would fain hope that, like ours, this is but one side of her experience. We would hope that she knew what it was to throw her arms about the neck of a friend from whom she had no disguises; whose loving eyes scanned—not the wall for possible cobwebs, nor yet the carpet for darns, nor yet the mirror for fly-specks; but her face, to see what sorrow time in his flight had registered there, which by sympathy she could lighten; what joy, which, by sharing, she could increase. We hope she knew what it was to sit side by side with the stalled ox, for the love that seasoned it. We hope she knew what it was to lounge, or sit, or stand, or walk, or read, or sew, or doze even, in that friend's presence, with that perfect love which casteth out fear. We hope she knew what it was to count the hours as they passed, not for their irksomeness, but as a miser tells his hoarded gold; jealous, lest even the smallest fraction should escape. We hope she knew what it was when she unwillingly closed the door upon her retreating form, that shutting it never so securely, kind words, good deeds, loving looks and tones, came flocking in to people the voiceless solitude as with shining troops of white-robed angels.
And we hope she knew what it was to give the cup of cold water to the humble disciple for the Master's sake. We hope that the door of her house and heart were opened as widely for the destitute orphan, in whose veins her own blood flowed—who could repay it only with a tearful thanks—as for those who could return feast for feast, and whose tongues were as smooth as their wine. And finally and lastly, lest we ourselves should be making too long a visit—we hope the old lady had no "best chamber," with closed blinds; pillows as ruffled as the chamber-maid's temper; forbiddingly polished sheets; smothering canopy; counterpane all too dainty for tumbling; and pincushion, whose lettered words one must not invade, even at the most buttonless extremity! Blessings on the old lady: we trust her carpets were made to be trod on—her chairs to sit down upon—and her windows to open. We hope her house was too small to hold half of her friends, and too hot to hold one of her enemies.
Fanny Fern, "Visiting and Visitors," The New-York Ledger (8 August 1857): 4
To cite this project:
Fanny Fern, "Visiting and Visitors," Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2023) http://fannyfern.org.
Contributors to the digital file:
Jordan Harper and Kevin McMullen