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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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In her deep, melancholy eye,
Life's brilliant hues no longer lie,
And love itself, its sweetest light,
Has left behind a starless night.
A night? Ah, no! 'T is early dawn—
The long, dark, hopeless hours are gone;
And Faith, the day-spring from on high,
Is beaming through her heavenward eye.
Mrs. S. C. E. Mayo.

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If the exaltation of soul under which a high resolve is
usually formed could be maintained during the period required
for its fulfilment, the battle would be fought and the victory
achieved almost without an effort. But who has not experienced
the reaction, weakness, and self-distrust which are the
natural consequence of an unwonted strain upon the physical
and mental powers. Then, indeed, do we learn how little we
can depend upon our own feeble efforts, unless sustained and
strengthened by help and guidance from on high.

So it was with Mabel, when she awoke the morning after
her supposed self-conquest, oppressed with a painful sense of
lassitude and despondency, which made it an effort to rise and
dress, and a still greater effort to look back upon the past with
composure, and forward into the future with cheerfulness. She
fully realized the unexpected truth, that not by one spasmodic
effort can the soul achieve the sublime heights of self-denying
virtue, but only by continual and persevering struggles, and a
patient resting upon Him whose promise is steadfast,—“I will
never leave you nor forsake you.”

Fortunately, her little Bible was close at hand, with its
blessed words of encouragement and peace; and after resorting
to its pages for counsel, and commending herself to Heaven in

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prayer, she felt in some degree prepared to meet the events of
the day. In the hall leading to the dining-room she met Robert,
who reported the departure of the pleasure-party, all, according
to his account, in high spirits except Alick and Murray,
both of whom were crying with disappointment at her absence.

Mabel felt a rising in the throat, and a painful sinking of
the spirits, as she thought of the dear children's grief and the
still greater void which would be felt in the company by one
who would join them at noon, would look for her amid the
party, and, astonished at her absence, perhaps misconstruing
its cause, would vainly seek from Louise a satisfactory solution
of the mystery. Her drooping courage revived, however, at
the unmistakable satisfaction which succeeded her father's
first glance of surprise, as she entered the dining-room and
approached the table where he was seated at breakfast. He
had seen Robert return with the carriage, and supposed her
already on her way to Albany; but listened with evident
pleasure to her assurance that she had concluded, since she
parted from him the previous day, to abandon the scheme altogether.

Attributing this change in her plans to some trifling disagreement
with Louise, or dissatisfaction with the proposed
arrangements, he forbore questioning her as to the cause of
her apparently fickle conduct, but quite contented with the
result, expressed himself with more than his ordinary decision
in the words, “I am glad of it, my dear,—very glad. I have
not approved, from the first, of your travelling with so large a
party. Now, I trust, there is nothing to interfere with your
visit to your aunt Margaret.” So much was he gratified, indeed,
that as he rose to leave the room, having finished his
early breakfast, he laid his hand upon her head in an affectionate
and paternal manner, which, considering his usual undemonstrative
and reserved character, might almost be termed a
caress, and at least signified a marked degree of approval.

Light as was the touch, it drew tears from Mabel's eyes, and
left its impress on her heart for many a long day afterward.
It seemed to reward her sacrifice with a father's blessing.

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Harry's views and feelings, as he entered a moment after,
were not so easy to determine.

“You see I have not gone,” said Mabel, with an attempt at
playfulness, as he made his appearance in the door-way and
stopped short at sight of her.

“So I perceive,” said he, advancing into the room and seating
himself at the table with a languid air.

“We women have such a blessed privilege of changing our
minds, you know,” added she in the same tone.

“Yes, I should think so; you seem to have veered about
with as much ease as a weather-cock. It is not many hours
ago that I saw you plumed and winged for flight.”

“My plumes drooped and my wings refused to soar, when
it came to the trial!”

“Aren't you well?” asked he quickly, at the same time
looking her anxiously and inquiringly in the face.

“Oh, yes, quite well, but I concluded to stay at home and
make tea and coffee for father and you; taste and see if that
is sweet enough,” continued she, as she handed him a cup of
steaming Mocha which she had been preparing.

He received the cup with an unsteady hand, rattled the
spoon nervously, added several lumps of sugar in an absent
way, then ladled them out carefully into his saucer, helped
himself to a piece of steak, ate voraciously for a minute or two,
and, finally, laying down his knife and fork, pushed back his
chair and seized the newspaper, which had fallen on the floor
beside him.

Mabel could not be sure whether he were suspicious or not
that her journey had been abandoned on his account; but she
was pained at the evident annoyance which her presence and
attentions occasioned him. So manifest was his desire to escape
her observations, that she strayed to the window, busied herself
in feeding a canary, whose cage was suspended there, and
when Harry suddenly and impatiently started up and left the
room, forbore to question or follow him. She knew very well
that the recovery of her influence over her brother must be

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the work of time and patience, and that he would not endure
to be either watched or catechised.

So this day proved no exception to the ordinary rule, and,
as usual, he strolled from home soon after breakfast, without
giving her any hint of his destination, or the probable time
of his return.

It was hard to see him walk away so indifferent to her newly
roused affection, her anxiety, her prayers in his behalf, and to
be left alone to reflect on the seeming uselessness of the
sacrifice she had made. Had this sacrifice involved some
active labor, some constant employment for head and hands, it
would have been comparatively easy to one of Mabel's energetic
temperament. But passive endurance, patient waiting,
hoping against hope, heroic virtues as they are, offer little
stimulus to resolution, and require the severest exercise of selfdenying

Thus it was not strange that her spirits flagged, as she
wandered listlessly from room to room; that her thoughts
strayed to the pleasure-bound company of whom she had hoped
to make one; and that as the remembrance of a still dearer
hope agitated her heart, she could not resist the obtruding
regret or check the rising tear.

But Mabel by nature was neither weak nor desponding;
uncertainty and doubt had, it is true, to some degree paralyzed
her powers, and while halting between two opinions her irresolute
conduct had betrayed the indecision of her mind.

The path of rightt made plain, however, and conscientiously
adopted, there was a firmness, stability, and self-respect in her
character which, with the aid of Christian principle, gave
promise that, cost her what it might, she would pursue it faithfully
to the end. “I have made my choice,” thought she, as,
starting up from an indolent and meditative posture, she seemed
at the same time to shake off the morbid and disciuraging fancies
which were gradually settling down upon her mind. “If
Dudley loves me truly, he can trust me; if not,—but I will
not suppose that possible,—he knows how much I depended
on the journey, he will believe that no slight cause has detained

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me here,—he will return and assure himself of the truth. In
the mean time I will not waste my energies in useless repining.”

So, resorting to the well-remembered remedy always recommended
by Mrs. Herbert in cases of home-sickness and other
mental maladies, she at once sought employment, and commenced,
reluctantly, the task of answering numerous letters
from her school-mates. She made every effort to write in a
cheerful strain, and her young friends saw nothing in her communications
to indicate the circumstances under which they
were written; but as Mrs. Herbert, who was permitted to
peruse them, observed that her once glowing descriptions of
city life were wholly superseded by tender and touching reminiscences
of her school days, she inwardly suspected that the
former had already palled upon her taste, and that she yearned
once more for the simple joys of her childhod and her country

Mabel made more than one attempt to thank this long-tried
friend for her recently discovered and precious gift, to express
some sense of the earnest gratitude she felt for all her love and
counsel, and rejoice her heart with the assurance that the lessons
so faithfully imparted to her in youth were destined to be
the guide of her womanhood; but each time she shrunk from
the difficulties involved in such an attempt, and at length laid
down her pen in despair of succeeding to her own satisfaction.
She dared not boast of resolutions not yet confirmed by practice;
she feared to betray the secret of her disquiet and unhappiness,
nor could she compromise Harry by replying truthfully
to the many inquiries concerning him, which Mrs. Herbert's
affectionate interest in his welfare had suggested. So the difficult
duty was for the present abandoned altogether.

At two o'clock Mr. Vaughan came home to an early dinner,
as had been his custom since the weather became warm. Harry
did not make his appearance, however, and Mabel, as she sat
opposite her father at table, was struck with his extremely
anxious and haggard countenance. He was more than usually
taciturn, only rousing himself from his abstraction once during

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the meal, and then to remark, rather abruptly, “You are all
alone, my dear,—it is very dull for you,—I hope we shall
break up here before many days.'

Mabel declared herself ready to go or remain, as he thought
best, and no more was said on the subject; but after a hurried
repast, he rose to repair to his office.

The weather was tempting, there was no prospect of Harry's
return for some hours, and Mabel proposed to accompany her
father a part of the way.

He assented to the proposition in an absent manner, and
paced the hall impatiently until she appeared ready for the
walk. So silent and self-engrossed was he, that Mabel walked
beside him for the distance of several squares, without his
addressing a syllable to her, nor could she fail to observe with
pain an increased stoop in his figure, and tremulousness in his
gait. She left him at the corner of the street leading to the
widow Hope's dwelling; and as she proceeded thither to inquire
after Rose, her sadness at these symptoms of old age and debility
in her recently strong and vigorous parent, was mingled
with a fresh glow of self-gratulation that she had not suffered
herself to act in direct opposition to his wishes.

Rosy was overjoyed at seeing her, and Lydia, who stood
behind the counter waiting upon a customer, was so excited
with pleasure that she could scarcely command sufficient arithmetic
to make the simple calculations which her office involved.
None of the family had seen her since Rosy's never-to-be-forgotten
drive; and of all the kindnesses she had rendered them,
none had ever called forth so warm an expression of gratitude.

“She's been brighter and better ever since,” exclaimed the
mother, with tears in her eyes, “and so happy!”

“Miss Mabel,” cried the excited Lydia, “it was splendid;
how came you to think of it? it has half cured her! and those
dear boys,—they were as pleased as if they'd never had a
ride before, and all on Rosy's account, too,—look at her, Miss
Mabel, see how she has brightened up.”

She did, indeed, seem changed; there was an expression on
the little face such as Mabel had never seen there before; it

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seemed to tell of some inward rapture, some foretaste of coming

“Miss Mabel,” said Rose, in her little quiet voice, when her
mother had walked away, and Lydia had returned to the
counter, “it isn't that I am any better, but it has given me
such beautiful thoughts all day, and such beautiful dreams all
night. I know I shan't be here long, but I am not afraid to
go. Oh, Miss Mabel, if God's earth is so glorious, what must
his Heaven be!”

“Earth is but a sad place, after all, Rosy,” said Mabel, with
a sigh.

The child's ear, tuned to that plaintive minor chord which
reveals the suffering of the heart, recognized as by intuition
the mood of Mabel's mind, and turning upon her a face full of
tender anxiety, she said, “Do you call it sad? are you a weary
pilgrim, too? and is your path ever dark? I thought it was
always as bright as sunshine.”

“Oh, Rosy,” said Mabel, glancing up at the engraving from
which, as usual, Rose's figure was drawn, “I cannot see my
way at all, there is such a thick cloud over head.”

She had not calculated upon the effect of this acknowledgment,
which she would have shrunk from making to one less
simple-hearted and innocent than Rose. It seemed to establish
at once the only bond of sympathy ever wanting between
herself and the suffering child, who seized her hand, pressed it
to her thin lips, and exclaimed, fervently, “God will show the
way, Miss Mabel; he will lighten your path as he has lightened

The child's solemn and prophetic assurance of heavenly
guidance, both awed and touched the soul that yearned for
encouragement and strength. Mabel could not answer, except
by the tears which started to her eyes. Rose went on.

“There used to be long days and nights, Miss Mabel, when
I lay on my little bed in great pain, worrying to think how
much trouble I gave, how poor we were, and, more than all,
about Jack, and what would become of him. I could not see
God always then. I could not understand how so many

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sorrows could be sent in love. I tried to be patient. I tried to
be hopeful and believing; but I could not understand. I see
it all now, though,” she added, a glow overspreading and
irradiating her pale face, while the eyes that had lost their
strained appearance seemed calmly to contemplate a near and
visible joy. “The pain is all gone. I am not anxious now,
not even about Jack; the picture promised truly,—the end
has almost come, and the light I see is that which streams
from the Paradise of God.”

She looked, indeed, like one already half translated, as, borne
on the wings of faith, she saw all her past sufferings merged
in the fulness of joy.

Such a clear discerning of God's providence in one who had
groped her way through a sea of suffering, was like a light
shining in a dark place. The cloud seemed lifted from Mabel's
future, as she listened to the child's grateful tribute to the love
which had crowned her days.

“Dear Rose, dear child,” said she, “it does me good to see
you so happy. You certainly have a heaven in your heart,—
I must try and learn some of your secrets.”

The child smiled at the last word, then with mingled sweetness
and gravity, whispered, drawing Mabel down so that her
mouth came close to her ear, “God will send his blessed angels
to teach you all my secrets, and I will pray to Him every
night to take away your cloud.”

From this time, the relations hitherto subsisting between
Mabel and Rose seemed totally reversed. Until now, the former
had acted the part of the elder, stronger, wiser friend, but
in this, and in all their future interviews, the strength, the wisdom,
and the riper years, which had constituted her superiority,
instinctively gave place to that experience in Heavenly
truth, that knowledge of things divine, in which Rose was the
thoroughly-gifted teacher, and she but the humble disciple. It
is true there was no outward and visible token of their altered
position. Beauty, wealth, and a high place in the social scale,
all combined to render Mabel, as she had ever been, the object
of the sick girl's respectful admiration; and the infirmities of

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Rose, more than ever, claimed the tenderest compassion in return;
but a shadow had fallen on the path of the one, while
the other had reached the point where all shadows flee away;
and the maiden who had but just begun to meet the battle of
life, gladly caught up the sacred weapons with which the child
had achieved her victory.

Thus, almost daily, she found herself drawn to that little
sanctuary of holy hopes, devout meditations, and serene joy,
where not she alone, but many a troubled heart besides, learned
a true and lasting lesson from the unconscious glow of piety
which illumined the face of the wasted and now dying girl.

Almost to the last, she occupied her little flag-bottomed arm-chair,
in the window of her mother's shop, reluctant to give up
her daily and loving intercourse with the numerous friends
who looked to see her there, and so much was Mabel with her
during the last fortnight of her life, that her face, too, became
familiar to the neighborhood, which seemed animated by a
grateful affection for Rosy's beautiful friend.

They knew how unsparing she had been in attentions and
gifts to the little invalid; they had measured with their eyes
many a parcel of books, fruit, and wholesome food, which they
had seen carried into the widow's dwelling, and they had rejoiced
in Rosy's joy on the eventful day of the drive.

But they did not know the precious blessings she had carried
away, they could not measure the refreshing nourishment her
soul had imbibed from this fountain of childish wisdom, they
could not rejoice in the holy and penitent emotions there
awakened—emotions such as make joy in Heaven.

Only in after years did Mabel herself fully realize the source
whence most of her holy aspirations were drawn; only when
she had proved the fallacy of more presumptuous teachers, and
learned that the sublimest truths are often those which God has
hid from the wise and prudent, and has revealed unto babes!

On the day of the conversation with Rose, some portion of
which has been related in detail, she left the widow Hope's
shop to return home, with a heart wonderfully cheered and
lightened of its burthen. It was nearly dark, when, as she

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crossed the little park in the direction leading to her father's
house, she overtook Harry. He had entered the square from
a different street, and seeing her hastening towards him, stopped
and waited for her.

“You have been walking fast,” said he, as she came up.

“Yes,” she answered, a little out of breath, “I saw it was
getting dark.”

He did not ask where she had been, but walked beside her
in silence, and when they reached the house, accompanied her
up the steps and rang the bell.

As Robert appeared, however, and opened the door, he
turned to walk away.

“Oh, don't go, Harry!” exclaimed she, adding with womanly
tact, “I shall be all alone.” She knew how much more
readily in his present mood he would confer than receive a
favor. “Father has not come in, has he?” asked she, turning
quickly to Robert.

“No, Miss.”

“Oh, do stay then, Harry, and take tea with me.”

“Tea,” muttered he, as he reluctantly followed her into the
hall, “who wants tea such a warm evening?”

“Aunt Sabiah says one is always cooler after tea in summer,”
replied she playfully, leading the way as she spoke to
her little treasure apartment.

“Because the sun has gone down,” replied he, with a smile,
almost with a laugh.

Far as it was from being a genuine, hearty laugh, Mabel
hailed it as of good omen, and flinging her bonnet upon the
table, and throwing open the blinds of a wide window extending
to the floor, she at once gave admittance to the breeze, and
imparted an attractive air to the little apartment. Harry drew
an arm chair to the window, threw himself into it, and looked
out. Mabel sat down on the window-sill resting her feet on a
little balcony outside. The moon presently began to shine on
the little park, and the trees to cast long shadows. It was a
pleasant scene, presented by this June evening, even in the
city. It reminded Mabel of similar evenings at her

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grandmother's, or Mrs. Herbert's, when she and Harry had sat together
for hours on the door-step in the moon-light. She ventured
some reference to those bygone days, and Harry, falling
in with her train of thought, listened without impatience to her
reminiscences, and even called up incidents in their childhood
which had quite escaped her recollection.

Tremblingly rejoicing in the success which was attending
her efforts, Mabel spared no pains to render the occasion
agreeable. She ordered tea to be brought to them instead of
descending to the dining-room, and bade Robert light the alabaster
lamp, which threw a scarcely less soft and pleasant
glow of light through the room than that which prevailed out-side.

Now and then Harry rose and paced the room nervously, as
if on the point of leaving her; then, seeming to think she
would be lonely,—possibly timid,—for there was an unusual
noise of voices in the street below, he sat down again, and so
the evening passed away. Mabel could not but suspect that
he had staid with her reluctantly, but it was no slight triumph
that he had remained on any terms, and it was an inexpressible
satisfaction to bid him good-night, and see him ascend to
his own room, like the Harry of former times.

Taught by this instance of success, she afterwards made frequent
appeals to his kind and brotherly feeling, and occasionally
with a similar result. She needed exercise,—would he
take a walk with her? she longed for the country air,—would
he not drive her out? selfish pleas, which she might reasonably
urge, for her life was one of unusual restraint and monotony.
She chose for her constant occupancy a seat in her little room,
where Harry was almost sure to find her whenever he felt the
disposition, and it soon became evident that his desire to avoid
her society was somewhat abated, as he often lounged in for a
few moments at a time, either after breakfast, or when he
chanced to return home to dinner. But though he no longer
seemed to look upon her as one seeking occasion to watch and
censure him, and though now and then she succeeded in engrossing
a short interval of his time, these grounds of hope were slight

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and infrequent, while her discouragements were continual and
pressing. Day by day his countenance grew more unnatural,
his step more unsteady, while his expression of nervous distress
and uneasiness had become fixed and habitual. Midnight
and the early morning hours often found Mabel at her solitary
window, awaiting his return; and the disappointment of his
failing to come at all was less bitter than the coarse jokes, angry
oaths, or wild, wandering glances, which at times betrayed
his sad condition.

Her father, too, was evidently the subject of more than one
harassing anxiety. Those fatal charts over which he had
pored all winter, engrossed his time whenever he chanced to
be at home, and, frequently, when he left the house, he rolled
them up and took them under his arm, while Mabel watched
him as he came and went every time with a deeper shadow on
his brow.

And there was still another for whom she watched and
waited, who came not at all; another footstep whose fancied echo
now and then caused her a sudden start; another form which
haunted her by day and stole into her dreams at night; but step
and form were alike imaginary. Had there been a letter, or a
message simply, it might have afforded some solace to her
aching heart—had Louise even written, and incidentally alluded
to the companions of her journey; but no, all was blank
silence, and Mabel was forced to the conclusion—he does not
trust, perhaps he never loved.

All her faith, indeed, was needed to sustain her drooping
spirits in the many lonely hours to which she was condemned.
As she wandered through the solitary rooms of her father's
spacious house, she sometimes longed for the idle rattle of
Louise, the merry voices of the boys, or even the light foot and
busy tongue of Cecilia, to break the dreary silence and monotony.

But in these seasons of sad and solitary reflection, deprived
of all human sympathy, Mabel began to experience how sweet
it is to draw near to the ever-present friend, who has bid His
children cast all their cares upon Him, for He careth for them;

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she learned to realize in these bitter hours of life, that there is
one eye that never sleepeth, one ear that is ever open to the
suppliant's cry; and often, rising above her sorrows and forgetting
her solitude, she was ready to exclaim, “I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.”

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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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