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Cummins, Maria Susanna, 1827-1866 [1857], Mabel Vaughan. By the author of The lamplighter. (John P. Jewett and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf533].
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Buoyant, cheerful, happy, bright,—
I see thee with a quiet grace,
“Make sunlight in a shady place.”
W. Story.

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Mabel's emotions on bidding farewell to the home of her
girlhood were of a mingled character, pain alternating with
pleasure, according as memory dwelt upon past joys, or anticipation
pictured forth a brilliant future. Had she foreseen the
length of time that would elapse ere she would again set foot
in a spot endeared to her by a thousand associations, and had
imagination hinted to her the changes which that time would
effect, both in herself and in those she left behind, the fond
whisperings of hope would have been silenced, and sorrow
and regret would alone have filled her heart. But she had a
happy, buoyant nature, and in planning schemes for many a
summer excursion which should restore her to the old homestead,
and many a winter vacation which should bring Mrs.
Herbert and her children to share the hospitalities of her father's
roof, she forgot the possibility of the separation's being otherwise
than temporary.

The moment of parting was indeed a trying one to her affectionate
nature, and long after the intervening hills had shut
even the village spire from her sight, her thoughts lingered with
the beloved teacher and companions, whom she still seemed to
see grouped together on the doorstep, where they had assembled
to bid her a sad and tender farewell. But, although her
travelling companions gave one day only to a trip which is
usually performed in two, it afforded her ample tim to rally
from her grief, and long before the journey drew to its

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termination her busy fancy had taken another direction, and gone
forth to rehearse the joys attendant upon her welcome home.

She pictured to herself the reception she should probably
meet from her father, whom she had not seen for months.
Mabel had but little knowledge of him who stood to her in this
tender relation, save from his occasional visits and periodical
letters; and the former had often been suspended for years,
owing to his absence from the country. He was, therefore,
imaged to her mind as the tall, gray-haired gentleman, whom,
some dozen times during her school life, she had been hastily
summoned to Mrs. Herbert's parlor to see; each of which
occasions was associated in her recollection with a holiday, a
rich gift, and a drive to the railroad station, some six miles
distant, to which she always accompanied him on his departure.

That he was the most indulgent of men she had not a doubt,
since she could remember no instance in which he had ever
denied her requests, or refused to gratify her whims. Of his
liberality, her gold watch, her jewelled rings, her well-stocked
wardrobe, and ample allowance, had long since furnished evidence;
nor, though he seldom gave expression to his feelings,
could she be unconscious of the love and pride with which he
watched the development of her intellect and her beauty, and
triumphed in every added accomplishment and grace. Her
intercourse with him, however, had been wanting in that familiarity
which leads to confidence, and, being wholly unacquainted
with his habits of life and mode of thought, her spirits always
received a slight check, and her freedom a slight restraint, in
his presence. His letters had been even less indicative of
character than his visits; for, although kind, they were brief
and somewhat formal, and, on the whole, he inspired in Mabel
more of the respect and gratitude due to a thoughtful guardian,
than the trusting love which is wont to subsist between a father
and child.

She felt conscious, however, that this restraint was unnatural,
and as the time had now come when she was to make her
father's house her permanent abode, busy fancy suggested that

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the warmth with which he would welcome her to his heart
and home would at once break down every barrier of reserve.

Of her sister Louise, now Mrs. Leroy, she had still less
knowledge. She had seen her but twice since her marriage,
and on each occasion for a few hours only. Once she had received
a hasty note, informing her that a party, including the
Leroys, were travelling in the vicinity of her school and would
dine the following day at a neighboring town, where they
begged that she would come and meet them. It was about a
year after Louise's marriage, and Mabel, then a child, obtained
Mrs. Herbert's consent to the plan, and returned in ecstacies
with the whole party, especially her beautiful sister. Nor was
this impression weakened when, a few years later, Louise accompanied
her father on one of his periodical visits, and came,
richly clad, to pass a day at Mrs. Herbert's; a day which served
to heighten the young school-girl's enthusiasm with regard to
the surpassing charms of her sister, an enthusiasm which was
kept alive, inasmuch as it was, to a great degree, shared by all
her young companions. She looked forward, therefore, to daily
companionship with one so lovely, accomplished and fascinating,
as scarcely less an honor than a happiness.

Nor in her visions of a joyous welcome did Mabel fail to
give a prominent place to her little nephews, two beautiful
boys, whom she had never yet seen; and, naturally warm of
heart, extravagantly fond of children, and eminently qualified
to excite affection on their part, it was no slight addition to her
looked-for happiness that fancy pictured these little ones bounding
to embrace an aunt whom they had doubtless already been
taught to love.

But, although father, sister, and nephews all figured in the
vision which Mabel mentally formed of her future home, not
one of them stood in the foreground of her imagination—for
memory furnished no link which associated them with the home
of her infancy. Bright and joyous as her anticipations were
of what these relatives might become to her in the future, there
were no sweet, childish recollections connected with them, to
awaken the tender thoughts which cling around a parent's

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hearth. They were all, in truth, more or less strangers to her,
and her conjectures concerning them, however pleasing, were
necessarily vague and indistinct.

But there was one member of her family whose very name
was suggestive to Mabel's heart of happiness, kindred, and
home. There was one whose relation to herself was natural
and true; who, from the cradle upwards, had shared her interests,
her sorrows, and her joys; who had been the playmate of
her infancy and the confidant and companion of her girlhood.
Her dutiful affection for her father and her admiring love for
her sister were of comparatively recent growth, but memory
could recall no time when she had not dearly loved her brother.
With him was connected every association of that early age
when, shut out from the sympathy of the rest of the household,
they were all in all to each other. Her mother's neglect and
her sister's indifference were either unnoticed at the time or
had long since been forgotten by Mabel; so, too, had the brilliant
and richly furnished rooms from which she had often been
banished in disgrace; but there still rose, fresh and clear to her
recollection, the nursery where she and Harry played, the little
hopes which they had mutually shared, and the little disappointments
over which they had wept together. Nor were
these tender memories all that had hallowed their affection;
for, while time, separation, and absence, had built barriers between
the other members of the family, Harry and Mabel had
been in the habit of yearly intercourse, often passing many
weeks in the enjoyment of each other's society. Not only did
they usually meet on occasion of the annual visit to old Mrs.
Vaughan, but nearly all Harry's school vacations were passed
at Mrs. Herbert's, or at a boarding-place in the neighborhood,
so that the happy home which Mabel had found with her kind
instructress came to be considered scarcely less a home by
Harry, who voluntarily went there for the holidays.

A longer separation than usual intervened during two years
which the latter passed at West Point; but this was atoned for
by the happiness with which Mabel welcomed the young cadet
on occasion of his short leave of absence, and the mingled pride

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and delight with which she listened to her schoolmates' whispered
encomiums of her soldier-brother.

And when, a few months later, he engaged in a boyish frolic,
and was suddenly dismissed from the Military Academy, whose
strict rules he had infringed, Mabel readily accepted his apologies,
allowed herself to be convinced that he was the most
injured of mortals, and loved him all the more for the injustice
he had suffered.

Mr. Vaughan then sent him abroad to spend two years at a
German University, since which time he had been permitted to
make the tour of Europe, a tour which the son had protracted
beyond the original intentions of the father, but from which he
had now unexpectedly returned.

This long absence from Mabel, however, had only served to
unite him more closely to her in interest and in heart. Their
correspondence had been constant. It was, moreover, full, free
and unrestrained, being not only a faithful communication of
facts and events, a familiar interchange of thoughts and ideas,
but an affectionate outpouring of mutual love.

There was no corner of the old world which Harry's foot had
trod to which Mabel had not in spirit followed himl; no city,
river, or mountain which was not enshrined in her memory as
the spot which had furnished Harry with some gay adventure,
some historic musing, or some vision of glory; and there was
no partner in his winter studies or summer wanderings who did
not henceforth stand high in her regard, because he was her
brother's friend.

Thus, from childhood upwards they had been united in each
other's love, and every year had but served to strengthen the
bonds of mutual dependence and mutual trust. Isolated as
both had been from any other strong family tie, the repose, the
sympathy, the confiding love which are the most hallowed influences
of home had been more fully perfected in their relation
to each other, and ready as Mabel was to acknowledge the
claims of the rest of her family, her heart assured her, as she
drew near her father's house, that it was Harry's presence there
which alone entitled it, in her estimation, to the name of home.

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The first intimation she had received of her brother's return
from his foreign tour, was contained in the recent letter from
her father, which had summoned her to meet Harry in New
York and preside over the festivities attendant upon the reunion
of the long scattered family.

“I cannot arrange matters,” wrote he, “so as to join you at
any point on your journey; you will be rejoiced, however, to
hear that not only Louise, the children and myself will be in
New York to welcome you, but your brother Harry is on board
the steamer which was yesterday reported at Halifax, and he
will arrive here by to-morrow at the latest.”

It was a dismal autumn afternoon when Mabel reached the
city. She had travelled in company with a party of Mr.
Vaughan's friends, of whose proffered attendance he had
gladly availed himself, and, unfortunately for her hopes of a
cordial greeting, she arrived one day sooner than had been
anticipated. A less gay and joyous spirit than hers would
perhaps have received a sudden check, at the air of soberness
and gloom which the paternal mansion wore on her first
entrance, at the utter silence which pervaded the hall and parlors,
and the stately formality with which she was received by
the grave and elderly footman. At first, indeed, she looked
round in some anxiety, lest she had mistaken the house, especially,
as the tall, stiff figure of a lady dressed in black was just
disappearing, at the head of the staircase, with the air of one
who is hastily retreating from the sight of visitors. Mabel
knew of no such person in the family, and in order to quiet
her doubts turned to the footman, and exclaimed inquiringly,
“This is Mr. Vaughan's, my father's?” “Certainly, Miss,”
replied the man, “but you were not expected until to-morrow.”

A pretty waiting-maid now advanced from the end of the
hall, to offer her services to her new mistress, and at the same
moment, the tall, stiff lady who had been leaning over the
bannisters to listen, began slowly and cautiously to descend the
stairs. Mabel looked up, and to her astonishment, perceived
her aunt, Miss Sabiah Vaughan, the last person in the world
whom she had expected to see. Rejoiced, however, at

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recognising a familiar face, she sprung to meet her, embracing her
with more than her usual warm-heartedness, and exclaiming
as she did so—“Aunt Sabiah! How glad I am to see you!”

Miss Vaughan partially returned the salutation, although
awkwardly, and with evident effort, for she was unaccustomed
to such hearty demonstrations of feeling, and putting up her
hands, she began nervously to smooth down her collar, which
Mabel, in her joy, had slightly disarranged. But although her
manner was thus constrained, her face betrayed symptoms of
satisfaction which were easily detected by Mabel, who was
accustomed to every variation of which her aunt's features
were capable. Her nervous agitation, too, Mabel knew to be
only the effect of pleasurable excitement, and holding her affecttionately
by the hand, the young girl accompanied her up
stairs, the pretty waiting-maid preceding them, and throwing
open the doors of the chamber and dressing-room which Mr.
Vaughan intended for his daughter's use.

“But where are all the rest? where is Harry?” inquired
Mabel eagerly, when she had drawn her aunt into the room,
and with some difficulty persuaded her to be seated.

“Why you were not expected until to-morrow, child,” replied
Miss Vaughan,” and Harry has gone up the river with a party
of young fellows, and will not be back until late.”

“He is come then? he is safe and well?”

“Yes, indeed; and altered so I hardly knew him.”

“Oh, how I long to see him!” exclaimed Mabel; and then
followed questions and replies concerning the different members
of the family. There was no one at home, however, nor
any prospect of an arrival until Mr. Vaughan should return,
at six, the usual dinner hour. So, with some difficulty composing
her excited feelings, Mabel resolved to occupy the
intervening time in making those changes in her dress which
the dust and smoke of travelling had rendered necessary, stipulating
that her aunt should remain where she was, and
gratify her curiosity on many points, concerning which she was
far from being satisfied.

She could not conceal her astonishment at finding Miss

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Vaughan apparently domesticated in her father's house, no
mention having been made of her in his recent letter. It
seemed that Miss Sabiah had reached New York, only the
previous day, and had spent the entire morning, unpacking her
trunks in an upper chamber, which, being in the most retired
part of the house, she had chosen for herself in preference to
the room which had first been allotted to her. Since the death
of the old lady Vaughan, which took place about a year previous,
Sabiah had boarded in her native village, and had now
come by special invitation from her brother to pass the winter
in his family. She appeared deeply hurt on learning Mabel's
utter ignorance of the plan, having supposed that it would be
communicated to her niece as a fact of some importance. The
poor lady had experienced her share of neglect in this world,
but was none the less sensitive on that account. She looked
discontented, too, and ill at ease, and so far from contributing
to the cheerfulness of the house, and giving it a home-like
aspect, her presence seemed to reflect a far more sombre
shadow upon the room than those which were cast by the now
gradually deepening twilight. Mabel's quick eye and ready
sympathies, saw and understood her aunt's state of mind at a
glance; but, although disappointed herself at her father's and
brother's absence, and the chilly nature of her reception, her
buoyant nature was far from indulging useless regrets, or dismal
forebodings. Her spirits, on the contrary, rose with the
necessity of exerting herself to please and cheer one whom she
was really delighted to find an inmate of the household, and
she hastened to complete her toilet, and divert her aunt's
thoughts by a proposition that she should accompany her on a
tour through the house, which the young girl was eager to
inspect. All was new to Mabel. Mr. Vaughan's residence
had recently been subjected to a thorough course of repair
and enlargement. Old rooms had been converted into others
of far different size and construction, and even the well-remembered
nursery, to which Mabel had fancied that instinct
would guide her at once, had given place to an octagon apartment,
lit from the ceiling, and evidently intended for a picture

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cabinet. Miss Sabiah, who was even more unaccustomed than
Mabel to the display of luxury and elegance which met them
at every turn, and who was overawed and oppressed by the
magnificence of her brother's house and furniture, felt a sense of
relief as she observed the easy and careless step with which
her niece trod the velvet carpets, and the confident and unconcerned
air with which, as they passed through different rooms,
she threw open the blinds, raised the curtains, and altered the
position of light articles of furniture and adornment. Darkness,
silence, and gloom, seemed to flee before her, and the
shadow upon Miss Sabiah's feelings being proportionately dispelled,
she at length gave vent to her sentiments in the sudden
excalmation—“Well Mabel, I am glad you have come to make
some of these improvements. Everything is beautiful, to be
sure, but it has looked very dull to me, and I believe my
brother finds it so too, for he lives entirely in the library, below
stairs, and he told me yesterday, that he had not sat in the
drawing-room since it was furnished. As for Harry, he has
scarcely been at home since I came. Your father asked him
at breakfast how he liked the house. I was shocked at the
answer he made, and yet I could not wonder much.”

“What did he say?” questioned Mabel.

“Why, that it seemed to him pretty much like any other old
tomb; and your father laughed and said `Oh, well, when Mabel
comes she will manage to brighten it up a little.' ”

And Mr. Vaughan prophesied truly. Already had his daughter's
fresh young spirit begun to exert its magic influence.
Already had the rooms assumed the air of cheerfulness, which
youth and taste know so well how to impart. Already had the
halls and parlors resounded more than once with her free and
joyous peals of laughter. And, stranger still, Miss Sabiah's
rigid and indifferent expression had begun to soften into an
occasional smile, while her dull eye had caught something of
the animation which danced and sparkled in that of her niece.
Even the servants, as they heard her merry voice while she
passed from room to room, seemed to catch the inspiration of
her presence. The neat waiting-maid might be seen tripping

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through the chambers with a freer step and a lighter heart, and
even the grave footman, as he took the plate from the sideboard
and spread the table for dinner, found himself humming
a tune which he had not heard since he was a boy.

Truly there is no sunshine so refreshing as that which beams
from a happy youthful heart.

“Now for your favorite song, aunt Sabiah,” exclaimed Mabel,
as she threw open the grand piano-forte and seated herself
before it. “No one praises my singing as you do,” and the
young girl commenced playing a simple air which she had
found, many years before, in an old music-book at her grandmother's,
and often sung, to the accompaniment of a cracked
and worn-out instrument, for her aunt's especial benefit. To
sing was as natural to Mabel as to laugh, nor was it any wonderful
proof of thoughtful love that she should select the song
which would be sure to please her listener best. The appeal
to Miss Sabiah's feelings, however, was irresistible; and, as a
moment before, her niece's playful sallies had called a smile to
her sunken cheek, so now, at this simple proof of loving remembrance,
a solitary tear started to her eye and was wiped
away unseen. What wonder-working power there must have
been in the girl, who could thus summon both smiles and tears
from out the withered and wasted heart which had long seemed
callous to any strong emotion!

Mabel, however, quite unconscious of the effect of her music,
had sung but a few lines, when she started from her seat, exclaiming,
“I hear my father's voice,” and in an instant more
she had bounded down the stair-case to meet him. He was not
in the hall, but the familiar tones proceeded from the library,
the door of which stood open. An eager word of greeting escaped
Mabel's lips at the threshold of the room, but her step was
suddenly arrested by the presence of a stranger, who stood
near the door, while her father, with his back towards her, was
engaged in unlocking a secretary at the opposite end of the
library. Mr. Vaughan turned, however, at the sound of her
voice, and throwing on the table a large roll of papers which
he had just taken from the shelf of his cabinet, he came towards

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her with an air of surprise, lifting his spectacles from his nose as
if to make sure that the glasses were not deceiving him, and exclaiming,
as he stretched out a welcoming hand, “Mabel? my
daughter? is it possible? Why, where did you come from?”

Mabel answered only by a glad smile; for, before she could
proceed to make any explanation of her unlooked-for arrival,
she caught the sudden glance of embarrassment which (the
first surprise being past) overspread the countenance of her
reserved parent, at the conciousness of the stranger's presence.
Mabel, too, shared this sensation of awkwardness, for
her father did not introduce the individual, who appeared to be
a business-agent, as he had by this time unfolded the papers
and spread upon the table a number of maps and charts,
which he was diligently studying.

“You are busy,” said Mabel, in an undertone. “I will go
back to my aunt.”

Her father hesitated, glanced toward his visitor, but still retained
her hand in his.

At the same moment, the stranger, who was handling the
charts in a hurried manner, and seemed to be in haste, made
an abrupt inquiry as to the extent and value of certain landed
property, and as Mr. Vaughan turned to reply, Mabel slipped
quietly out of the room.

Miss Sabiah had but just determined to follow her niece
down stairs when she met her returning.

“Father is busy now,” said Mabel, in explanation, “let us
go back and finish the song.”

The song was finished, and several others had been successively
sung, when Mabel, who had paused between each to
listen for the stranger's departure, at length announced that
he had gone, and now at her persuasion her aunt accompanied
her to the library. She was once more, however, doomed to
disappointment, and to the mortification of feeling herself an
intruder. The papers were still spread on the table, and on
entering, Mabel thought her ears must have deceived her, for
Mr. Vaughan was still attentively engaged in examining them,
with the aid of another person, whose head was bent down so

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as to conceal his face, and whom, at a first glance, Mabel concluded
to be the man whom she had heard a few moments before
bidding her father good-night.

It proved, however, to be her brother-in-law, Mr. Leroy,
who had come in unheard, and who rose on her entrance and
greeted her cordially, although with an absent air; so abstracted
was he that he did not observe Miss Sabiah, until Mr.
Vaughan had twice introduced her as his sister, and even then
he failed to notice the icy stiffness with which she returned his
forced and indifferent bow. His manner was restless and uneasy,
and after a few words of inquiry as to Mabel's health
and journey, he was evidently anxious to resume the subject
in which he and Mr. Vaughan appeared to be mutually interested.

The latter interfered, however, greatly to the relief of Mabel,
who was beginning to look with an almost jealous eye upon
these important charts, which seemed so many barriers between
herself and her father, so many rival claims to his notice
and interest. “Not now, Leroy,” said he, in a decided tone,
thrusting the papers aside and removing his spectacles. “Mabel
has but just come,—I have scarcely seen her. I shall be
at leisure to-morrow, and we can then come to a decision; but
about those eastern stocks—” and then followed a few hasty
words in a low tone, to which Mr. Leroy assented by a quick
but earnest nodding of the head, after which he immediately
took his hat to depart. Mabel asked after her sister. “I think
it probable she is under the hair-dresser's hands,” was the reply.
“I believe she is going to Mrs. D.'s ball to-night.” Mabel
expressed a hope that she would come to see her the next
day, if not too much fatigued, and Mr. Leroy, having declined
an invitation to dinner, took his leave.

Mr. Vaughan gathered up the scattered papers, placed them
in the secretary, closed and locked the door, and, as he put the
key in his pocket, his face assumed a relieved and satisfied expression,
which seemed to say that for the present he had done
with business and was free to enjoy the society of his sister and
child. He was not naturally a talkative man, and Mabel had

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never been in his company without experiencing a consciousness
of his inability to maintain an animated conversation. He
was one of that large class of individuals whose characters unbend
most fully under their own roof, and who never appear to
such advantage as in the privacy of their domestic circle. He
had also many inquiries to make concerning Mabel's journey,
her travelling companions, and the hour of her arrival, and, as
he drew a chair to the fire, bestowing upon her at the same
time a pleased and affectionate glance, she felt emboldened to
address him with something of the ease and familiarity of a
privileged child. She also by degrees beguiled her aunt into
the conversation which was fast assuming a lively tone, and
before long, the little group so suddenly brought together, presented
the air of a home-circle engaged in familiar fireside

There was no mistaking the proud satisfaction with which
Mr. Vaughan presided at his dinner-table that day, realizing at
once the comforts, the freedom, and the retirement of home,
from which he had so long been debarred, and which his increasing
age now rendered more than ever desirable. The
quiet dignity and precision which were his striking characteristics
could not wholly hide the pleasurable emotions with which
he once more felt himself a family man. Beneath the veil of
strict courtesy towards Miss Sabiah might be detected no small
degree of brotherly kindness, and although his voice dwelt with
evident pleasure upon the words “my daughter,” his mild eye,
as it turned upon Mabel, bespoke a deeper well-spring of
fatherly love than any words which his lips knew how to utter.

Nor was the gleam of pleasure any less evident which overspread
Miss Sabiah's features when Mabel insisted upon her
occupying the seat of honor opposite her father, which the
elder lady with an awkward show of humility was disposed to
resign, but which Mabel disclaimed the possibility of filling,
assuring her aunt that she alone was entitled to preside there.
Whatever might have been Mr. Vaughan's preference in the
matter he was too well-bred to interfere, and the deference with
which Mabel thus yielded to her aunt's superior claims gratified

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her sensitive and watchful pride, and was a soothing balm to
feelings which had been roughly chafed by her past experience.

Harry's absence was the only drawback to the happiness of
the party. “Do not sit up for him Mabel,” said Mr. Vaughan,
as, dinner concluded, he prepared to leave the house. “Nor
for me either,” continued he; “I have an appointment at nine
o'clock, and shall not be in until late. You must be fatigued
with your journey, and you will find enough to do to-morrow.
Louise will want to take you on a grand shopping expedition,
and Harry, I have no doubt, has his head full of plans.”

Once more left to themselves, Mabel and Miss Sabiah returned
to the cheerful and well-lit library; and soon the former,
taking a low seat near her aunt, begged to hear some account
of her solitary journey to town, the particulars of which she
had not yet learned.

Miss Sabiah, pleased and gratified at having so ready an
audience to several little misadventures of the previous day,
proceeded to relate them at length, and found in Mabel an
attentive listener.

In less time than Miss Sabiah occupied in narrating her travels
we will take a glance at the history of her life.

The life of an old maid! A desert, a blank, an unwritten
page to the careless, the thoughtless, the unobservant mind.
But to the initiated eye which faithfully scans its past, its present,
and its future experience, may it not prove a world of
strong affections, conflicting duties, anxious cares, and busy
memories, whose only register is hidden in one human heart?

Sabiah Vaughan was the youngest of three children, having
besides her brother a sister who was a few years her senior.
Their father was a man of good standing in his own town, a
respectable country trader, and, during the latter years of his
life, president of the village bank. Their mother was a notable
housewife, somewhat imperious in her temper and ambitious in
her views. This ambition centred principally upon her children's
success in life, and was proportionately gratified when
her son became a successful merchant, and her eldest daughter
married a man of property and went to reside in a neighboring

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town. Sabiah was still young and could afford to wait awhile;
or, as her mother used occasionally to say to her neighbors,
“Now that John is doing so well, and Margaret is settled so
much to my mind, I feel quite easy about my family. I am
not particular about Sabiah's marrying at all, or, if she does,
there is plenty of time yet for her to look about and make as
good a match as her sister has done.”

But, unfortunately, a barrier had already arisen to Sabiah's
ever making what her mother considered a good match. During
those years when Mrs. Vaughan's mind had been chiefly
occupied with the welfare of her other children, Sabiah's affections
had become fixed upon one whose poverty was his only
unworthiness. But he was a good scholar, and although his
father was a farmer in narrow circumstances, the son aspired
to one day studying for the ministry; and in looking forward
to becoming a clergyman's wife, Sabiah never dreamed of insulting
the dignity of her family. So, when the simple-hearted
girl made a confidant of her mother, she was as much astonished
as grieved at the torrent of reproach which her communication
called forth. She was reminded of her brother's wealth,
her sister's high position, and asked if she were willing to bring
disgrace upon her father's house by connecting herself with
beggars. She was reluctantly compelled to admit that it would
be years before her lover and herself could reasonably hope to
marry, and was at length commanded by both her parents to
break at once an engagement to which they would never give
their consent.

Sabiah was a gentle-spirited girl. She had been taught from
her childhood to yield strict obedience to parental government.
She dared not listen to those secret whisperings which termed
it, in this instance, parental tyranny, and after a few months of
what was, by the united voice of the family, termed obstinate
persistence in folly, she at length reluctantly consented to abide
by their decision.

That her heart, however, was not unfaithful, the sorrow of
years bore witness.

Her lover left their village soon after his mortifying

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dismission, studied for the ministry, and eventually married another.
Sabiah remained in her father's house, patiently fulfilling a
daughter's duties and struggling with a life-long regret.

Nor did the filial obedience and filial respect which had
prompted this greatest of sacrifices, diminish or falter during
many years of severe privation and trial. So long as her
father lived, her devotion to him was most exemplary; a devotion
which was painfully tested during the months of distressing
illness which preceded his death, when Sabiah's face grew pale,
and her figure wasted with constant care and watching.

His affairs in the meantime suffered some disorder, and at his
death the widow and her daughter were quite cut off from their
usual means of subsistence, their only property consisting in
the house and a few acres of unproductive land. “They will
be very well off, however,” said the neighbors. “John will
settle something upon his mother, and Margaret is rich.” And
when, in the course of years, Sabiah's health became feeble and
her hair turned gray, and the village gossips remarked that her
temper was getting sadly soured, they said one to another,
“Now what can Sabiah Vaughan have to vex or wear upon
her, with such a comfortable home and such a quiet life as she
leads? If she had a husband that was hard to please, and
children that were sick and fretful, and a great dairy like mine
to attend to, I could conceive of her being irritable now and
then, and looking old and careworn, but really there is no excuse
for her with nothing in the world to trouble her.”

Was it nothing, then, that for ten long years Sabiah's monotonous
existence had been varied only by the petty and vexatious
cares and economies which dependence and a narrow
income entail? Was it nothing, that during all that time she
had experienced constant trials of spirit in consequence of her
mother's arbitrary temper, which, since her husband's death,
was deprived of its only check? Was it nothing, that all her
dutiful efforts and habitual sacrifices called forth no praise,
while for every omission or neglect she was reproved as if she
had still been a child? Was it nothing that, while the ostentatious
gifts of her wealthy brother and purse-proud sister

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called forth grateful acknowledgements quite disproportioned to
their value, her life-long services were received with coldness
and indifference, and that while the wealth and position of these
more favored relatives were a constant theme for the old lady's
self-congratulation the prospects of Sabiah were seldom referred
to saving for the sake of contrast?

If with simple faith and childish trust the solitary heart could
have found repose in Him who suffereth not these things in
vain, such outward trials might not have had power to mar her
inward peace; but as, while she yielded submission to her
earthly parents, she had been debarred from that great solace
and sweetener of existence which is found in human love, so,
while she made no outward rebellion to the lot apportioned to
her by a Heavenly Father, she failed to recognize in it the
hand of love divine.

Was it strange, then, that her heart grew cold? Or who
can wonder that, with affections chilled, and sympathies blunted,
she became at last irritable, distrustful, and reserved? She
had drank from a bitter cup, and the gall had penetrated into
her heart.

That heart was not wholly callous, however. Its sensibilities
were not wholly destroyed. There was one little oasis
in the desert, one little spring of life and hope amid the wilderness.
It was the only one, but its source lay deep, and its
power might be made sufficient to fertilize the whole; for there
was one being in the world in whose welfare Sabiah still felt a
tender and affectionate interest. And that was Mabel.

Strangely enough, this affection for her brother's child was
closely associated with that deep parental respect and reverence
which formed so strong a trait in Sabiah's character, and which
years of injustice had not power to efface. For it was the fact
that the child was named for her grandmother Vaughan, which
first gave her a claim to Sabiah's love. It seemed to ally her
more closely to their side of the house, and distinguish her
from her mother's fashionable connections, for whom Sabiah
felt a mingled awe and dislike. Moreover, the circumstances
of her childhood and school life kept her entirely aloof from

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family ties and prejudices, thus giving to her maiden aunt a
tolerable chance to win some share of the little girl's affections.

Nor was this strong predisposition in Mabel's favor in any
degree lessened during those periodical visits to her grandmother,
to which we have already alluded. She was then
thrown wholly upon the care of her aunt, and was in a great
degree dependent upon her companionship, especially during
those later years in which Harry had ceased to accompany his
sister. And Sabiah welcomed the care, which was her only
labor of love throughout the year, and rejoiced in the companionship
which cheered and enlivened her otherwise dull and
monotonous life, while with every succeeding summer her
heart became more and more closely linked to the child.

Nor did Mabel fail to appreciate this kindness, and reciprocate
this love. It was true she often wearied of her visits,
and was impatient to return to her schoolmates, for Mrs.
Vaughan's house furnished but little diversion for youth. But
Sabiah, nevertheless, had the satisfaction of seeing that she
had found a place in the heart of her niece; and this happy
conviction was confirmed by the fact, that as Mabel grew into
womanhood, she seemed to find not only contentment, but
pleasure in her society, and gave still further evidence of her
gratitude and affection by many a word, letter, and token of
remembrance. How those words sank into Sabiah's heart,
how those letters were read and re-read, and with what fondness
those gifts were treasured up, Mabel little knew. As
little did she guess that a deep love for herself was the one
green spot in a withered heart; that it rested with her to let
that heart remain a wilderness, or bid it blossom like the rose.

How lightly the responsibility rests upon her now; and yet
she is unconsciously fulfilling it in part, while she sits with
upturned and attentive face, lending a ready ear to a story of
misadventure and alarm, her beautiful and expressive features,
as seen in the flickering fire-light, proclaiming her warm-hearted
sympathy in the tale.

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Cummins, Maria Susanna, 1827-1866 [1857], Mabel Vaughan. By the author of The lamplighter. (John P. Jewett and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf533].
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