Page's Short Stories HTML version

My Cousin Fanny
We do not keep Christmas now as we used to do in old Hanover. We have not time for it,
and it does not seem like the same thing. Christmas, however, always brings up to me my
cousin Fanny; I suppose because she always was so foolish about Christmas.
My cousin Fanny was an old maid; indeed, to follow St. Paul's turn of phrase, she was an
old maid of the old maids. No one who saw her a moment could have doubted it. Old
maids have from most people a feeling rather akin to pity -- a hard heritage. They very
often have this feeling from the young. This must be the hardest part of all -- to see
around them friends, each "a happy mother of children," little ones responding to
affection with the sweet caresses of childhood, whilst any advances that they, their aunts
or cousins, may make are met with indifference or condescension. My cousin Fanny was
no exception. She was as proud as Lucifer; yet she went through life -- the part that I
knew of -- bearing the pity of the great majority of the people who knew her.
She lived at an old place called "Woodside", which had been in the family for a great
many years; indeed, ever since before the Revolution. The neighborhood dated back to
the time of the colony, and Woodside was one of the old places. My cousin Fanny's
grandmother had stood in the door of her chamber with her large scissors in her hand, and
defied Tarleton's red-coated troopers to touch the basket of old communion-plate which
she had hung on her arm.
The house was a large brick edifice, with a pyramidal roof, covered with moss, small
windows, porticos with pillars somewhat out of repair, a big, high hall, and a staircase
wide enough to drive a gig up it if it could have turned the corners. A grove of great
forest oaks and poplars densely shaded it, and made it look rather gloomy; and the
garden, with the old graveyard covered with periwinkle at one end, was almost in front,
while the side of the wood -- a primeval forest, from which the place took its name --
came up so close as to form a strong, dark background. During the war the place, like
most others in that neighborhood, suffered greatly, and only a sudden exhibition of spirit
on Cousin Fanny's part saved it from a worse fate. After the war it went down; the fields
were poor, and grew up in briers and sassafras, and the house was too large and out of
repair to keep from decay, the ownership of it being divided between Cousin Fanny and
other members of the family. Cousin Fanny had no means whatever, so that it soon was
in a bad condition. The rest of the family, as they grew up, went off, compelled by
necessity to seek some means of livelihood, and would have taken Cousin Fanny too if
she would have gone; but she would not go. They did all they could for her, but she
preferred to hang around the old place, and to do what she could with her "mammy", and
"old Stephen", her mammy's husband, who alone remained in the quarters. She lived in a
part of the house, locking up the rest, and from time to time visited among her friends and
relatives, who always received her hospitably. She had an old piece of a mare (which I
think she had bought from Stephen), with one eye, three legs, and no mane or tail to
speak of, and on which she lavished, without the least perceptible result, care enough to