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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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Her love is firme, her care continuall,
So oft as he, through his own foolish pride
Or weaknes, is to sinful bands made thrall.

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My daughter Margaret takes after me,” was a favorite
exclamation of the old lady Vaughan. “She has more shrewdness
in her little finger than Sabiah has in her whole body.”

This was very true; for Mrs., now the widow, Ridgway, was
preëminent for nearly all the qualities which were conspicuous
in her mother, and in which Sabiah was totally deficient. Thus
she was proud, ambitious, calculating, and selfish. Money was
in her eyes the chief good; and the social standing and distinction
which it helped to purchase were among the most precious
consequences of its possession. Keen and far-seeing in her
observation of men and things, she rarely failed to gain her
point, and no one was ever known to win the advantage of her
in an argument or a bargain. She prided herself upon being a
good manager and upon conducting her household on the most
thorough, economical and saving principles. The neighborhood
always gave her the credit, also, of managing her husband,
a patient, plodding man, who set an exalted estimate upon her
capacity, and practically acknowledged her as his better half.

Hospitality was a virtue to which she had no claim; for,
unless prompted by some ulterior motive, she was seldom
known to throw open her doors for the entertainment of guests.
After the death of Mr. Ridgway, indeed, her utter solitude
might seem sufficient to render her sister's society desirable;
but this was by no means the prominent cause of her extending
an invitation to Sabiah. In the first place, her brother John
had set her the example, and she would not be outdone by him

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in patronizing their destitute relative; and secondly, her sagacious
mind saw various ways and means by which Sabiah
might be made a useful auxiliary in her household. It was
pride and policy, therefore, rather than natural affection, which
induced her to offer her sister a home.

Nor was the apparent cordiality with which she begged a
visit from her nephew and niece due to any more disinterested
motives. Though Mrs. Ridgway would never have acknowledged
the fact, she did not feel quite satisfied with her social
position in L—; and as the town of L—was to her the
world, the attainment of this desirable position was her highest
earthly ambition. It was true, her husband had long been the
moneyed man of the place, and so had his father before him.
There was scarcely a family of standing in the neighborhood
which had not, in some remote generation, or in the person of
some one of its members, been brought into close business relations,
or even under personal obligations, to the elder or younger
Ridgway; and the widow of the latter could boast an acquaintance
with every onward and retrograde step of their affairs,
every intermarriage they had made, every inch of their pedigree.

This intimate knowledge of the aristocracy of L—, however,
had never ripened into that actual intimacy with them
which Mrs. Margaret Ridgway coveted. The member of
Congress for the district had been in the habit of talking freely
with Mr. Ridgway on the church steps; the handsome daughters
of Judge Paradox bowed politely to his widow, when they
met her in the street or the shops; and all subscription papers
and charity petitions were promptly handed to her door.

Still there was an easy, every-day intercourse prevailing in
this choice circle, which existed quite independently of the
loud-spoken, bustling, and not over-refined woman of wealth,
who eagerly sought admittance within its pale; and it was with
the view of breaking down this nicely-defined line of separation,
that she now proposed to add to her own claims those of her
nephew and niece.

Though her sphere of action and observation had been

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limited, Mrs. Ridgway understood the world and was not deceived
in her calculations. Mr. John Vaughan was known by repute
in this his native county. New York was not so far distant
but that reports of his wealth, standing, and fashionable alliance
had reached the ears of those who remembered him in his boy-hood,
and the busy tongue of Mrs. Ridgway was not needed to
circulate the beauty of his daughter or the accomplishments of
his foreign-bred son.

Thus, when the aunt, presuming upon the attractions of her
expected visitors, ventured to stop the carriage of the member
of Congress, converse somewhat more familiarly than usual
with his wife, and close with “I expect my nephew and niece
next week—your young people must call,” a girlish face on
the front seat looked very bright and animated, and the lady
herself replied without hesitation, “They will do so, certainly;
what day did you say you expected them?”

And when, too, she joined Mrs. Paradox, coming down
the church aisle, and remarked somewhat abruptly, “So my
nephew is to study law with your husband, I hear!” the stately
Mrs. Paradox pressed Mrs. Ridgway's hand with rather more
warmth than usual, saying, “Yes, a very agreeable addition to
our circle,” and thinking, “a capital chance for one of my
handsome daughters.”

Thus the arrival of the judge's student, and his sister, the
New York belle, imparted no little excitement to the place.
Mabel's first appearance with Mrs. Ridgway at church, was
the realization of a long delayed hope, and it was with proportionate
disappointment that many an eye looked in vain for
her brother, who, in spite of his aunt's offended looks and
protestations, lay stretched on a sofa at home. It was well,
perhaps, that he staid away on this occasion, for the presence
of Mabel alone proved sufficient to turn the heads of all the
young girls in the congregation. Her height, her dress, her
complexion, were duly studied, and more than one little piece
of vanity spent the whole of the sermon time mentally endeavoring
to cut the pattern of a graceful fall of lace, which
gave Miss Vaughan's straw bonnet such a genteel air.

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In the course of the week everybody called, and various
festivities, purposely postponed until now, began to be talked
of and prepared for. The young strangers, meanwhile, were
the universal subjects of notice and conversation. Mabel's manners,
beauty, and becoming attire, furnished no small source of
novelty and interest, but the innovations and surprises which
Harry introduced, were of a still more startling and original
nature in the eyes of the quiet towns people. His English
gig was of a style never before seen in L.; his long-tailed
gray ponies were not to be surpassed in the country; but these
wonders were eclipsed by the arrival of his famous trotting
mare, Mad Sallie, which he had ordered to be sent after him,
and which, with its fancy blanket and braided tail, was talked
of and canvassed for ten miles round.

Thus the town of L., so far from proving a place of summer
retirement and repose, had been suddenly thrown into a ferment,
and Mabel and Harry found themselves in the very
centre of a whirl and excitement of their own creating.

“Why need I go down, Aunt Sabiah?” Mabel would say,
when morning visitors were announced. “They do not
come to see me, and it is so pleasant to be quiet and at leisure
in the country.”

“Oh, do n't call it country, dear,” Sabiah would reply, in a
deprecating voice; “she wo n't like it,—besides, you must go
down. Why, they have called on purpose to see you,—she'll
be dreadfully put out”—she, with Sabiah, always meaning
her sister Margaret.

In a moment more the bustling, flurried, impatient Mrs.
Ridgway would put her head inside the door, exclaiming,
“Make haste, Mabel. O child, I wish you had on your
lilac dress! It's the So and So's; do hurry down, they're
such pleasant people,—been so attentive to me since Mr.
Ridgway died,” and Mabel, dressing her face in the smile which
masked a heavy heart, would go down and do her best to give

As for Harry, he soon found his level in this new sphere.
There is a freemasonry among fast young men, and, go where

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they will, they speedily find their compeers, and are recognized
in their turn. Change of scene, and relief from the embarrassments
he had woven around himself in New York, for a
time checked him in his self-indulgent course, and Mabel
began to hope that her never-ceasing care and influence, the
restraints of her aunt's house, and interest in the study of his
profession, would prove efficient and salutary safeguards, and
finally restore him to himself. It happened unfortunately,
however, that a neighboring university had just released its
students for a summer vacation, and among the idle young
men thus thrown upon the community, Harry found more congenial
minds than those which were embalmed on the walls of
Judge Paradox's office. The dashing city blade, whose fast
horses were the admiration of the neighborhood, and whose
attractive manners and generous habits won him universal
popularity, could not resist the temptation to forsake the musty
study of the law, and engage in those excursions, drives, sporting
and fishing parties, which would have been harmless, but
for the loss of time they involved, and the imprudence, folly,
and extravagance to which they eventually led.

Whatever good resolutions he might have formed, whatever
efforts at self-control he might have made, it soon became evident
that the former had become undermined by temptation,
and the latter had proved insufficient to resist it. With aching
heart, Mabel saw her short-lived hopes extinguished, and trembled
more than ever for the consequences of her brother's
reckless and wild career. She had but two rules for her own
conduct regarding him,—there were but two agents which
she employed for his salvation, and these were love and prayer.
Not by word or look did she censure or blame him. She well
knew that judgment belongeth unto God, and can only be
rashly assumed by any,—least of all by a sister. But she understood
in all its force the right which that sweet relationship
implies, and, counselled by her tender affection alone, she
patiently strove to be true to its faithful dictates.

Not less gentle, beneficent, and self-sacrificing, were these
loving counsels, from the fact that they had their source in the

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secret depths of a humble and contrite, as well as deceived,
forsaken, and disappointed heart. Though forbearing to reproach
her brother, bitterly did Mabel now reproach herself
for the many wasted and misspent hours which had robbed her
of his society and confidence, and given her in return only
blighted hopes, wasted affections, and a grieved and wounded
spirit. Shrink from it as she might, disown, as she long did,
the cruel thought, the conviction gradually forced itself upon
her, that her heart had been perseveringly sought to be lightly
discarded, that it had garnered up its treasures in one who
prized not the gift, and that the friendship which to her had
seemed the crowning circumstance of life, had been to him
but a winter's pastime.

Had this conjecture still admitted of a doubt, that doubt
would have been effectually removed by a letter received from
Mrs. Leroy about a fortnight after Mabel's arrival in L.

It was dated from Trenton, where the party, after spending
four weeks in travelling, had agreed to pass a few days before
finally separating. After giving a general account of the
journey, Louise added, “It has not been so very pleasant after
all,—there has been so much disagreement about our route,
and as to who were entitled to the best rooms in the hotels.
Fan Broadhead seemed to think the world was made for her.
Mrs. Vannecker manœuvered, as she always does, to get the
best of everything, and I stood up for my rights now and then,
for I had no idea of being trampled on by anybody. Fan and
the Colonel quarrel so, it's perfectly scandalous; and Mrs.
Earle has given a great deal of trouble too;—she has been
ill ever since we left Niagara; and my boys have plagued me
to death,—Cecilia can't manage them at all. Nobody has
seemed to enjoy it much but Mr. Dudley and a Mrs. Wolfe, the
English widow who was at Fan's wedding, and joined her and
the Colonel on the trip. She is young, and pretty, and sentimental,—
talks poetry and so on, and Mr. Dudley is perfectly
devoted to her. They take moonlight walks, and sit on
the rocks and compose sonnets. It is a regular flirtation.
Mr. Earle calls her Mr. Dudley's last. I can't see what he

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finds to fancy in her; she makes herself very disagreeable to
every body else. I shall go from here to Newport, and advise
you to join me there; if you have been at Aunt Ridgway's a
fortnight, you must need change of air and scene. I made her
a visit once when I was a little girl, and I never shall forget it.
I have n't heard from Mr. Leroy for a month. I suppose
there are letters for me in New York. Tell Harry he had
better come to Newport and bring his horses.”

Mabel had read and re-read this letter some half dozen
times; had thought and wept over its contents, and it still lay
open on her lap, when her solitude was broken in upon by
the entrance of her aunt Sabiah; it was one of her trials now,
that she seldom had an hour which she could enjoy without
interruption. Sabiah was rarely the intruder, however, it
being usually the bustling Mrs. Ridgway, who robbed her of
all peace and quiet. She tried to look a welcome, therefore,
as her aunt came cautiously in, glanced around, and then carefully
shut the door behind her.

“Seems to me I would go to the party to-night, Mabel,”
said she in a subdued voice, as if she believed some one were
listening at the key-hole, “she's got her heart so set on it.”

“Oh, do n't ask me to do that, aunt,” replied Mabel, a little
impatiently, rising abruptly from her seat, and thrusting her
letter into her pocket. “I can't go,—I do not feel like it,—
I'm out of spirits. Every body is at times,” added she, as
Sabiah glanced from the letter to her face.

“Well, I dare say you've got a letter from Louise; no
wonder it has put you out of sorts—it would me. But, la!
you'd feel better to go to the party and see all the young
people, and have a good time. She did n't like what you said
yesterday about not going.”

“It can't make any difference to her,” said Mabel. “She
thinks I enjoy these things, but I do not in the least, Aunt. I
can't bear to see so many people. She does not go to such
places herself, and I had rather stay at home with her and

“Well, but you see, my dear, this is n't a common occasion.

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Mrs. Bloodgood, who gives this party, is wife to the member
of Congress from this district. They're a very fine family—
one of the oldest families anywhere round. I used to hear of
them and of all their fine doings when I lived at home. She
never knew them much before you came, and she counts on
your going and making a fine show and all that. 'T would be
a pity to put her out; you don't know how set she is about a
thing, when she has made up her mind to it.” Sabiah spoke
rapidly, urging her sister's cause as if it had been her own,
and betraying at the same time her dread of that displeasure
of which she had early learned to stand in awe.

Under ordinary circumstances Mabel would have felt bound
to comply with the wishes of either of her aunts, even at some
sacrifice to herself; but her present state of mind rendered the
thought of appearing among a crowd of strangers harrowing in
the extreme; and she endeavored to parry Sabiah's arguments
with the words, “But I should not make a fine show. I
couldn't do any credit to myself or Aunt Margaret either—I
do not feel well—I am sad, unhappy, miserable.”

She spoke the last words almost at random; but Sabiah,
putting a very natural interpretation upon them, replied in a
half sympathizing, half expostulatory tone, “Well, child, I
suppose you are—a part of the time, at least. It's not strange
you should be. No doubt you are worrying about Harry, and
thinking he has come here to run the same rig he did in New
York. But, la, you can't help the matter, and it's no use to
think any thing about it. He won't go to the party, you may
depend, so it isn't worth while to be troubled about that. It is
a beautiful ride out to Mr. Bloodgood's place, and a beautiful
place when you get there. Mrs. Paradox just sent round to
invite you to go in her carriage, and you can send back word
that you will, and so it will be all settled, and you'll have a
nice time, and Margaret will be suited, and—”

Sabiah's enumeration of the happy results of Mabel's compliance
was here interrupted by the loud voice of Mrs. Ridgway,
calling to her on some household matter, and she was
compelled to hurry away, Mabel saying to her as she went, “I

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can not go, Aunt Sabiah; indeed, I can not. I wish you would
tell Aunt Margaret so.”

Quite a new turn was given to the affair, however, when at
dinner Harry unexpectedly declared his intention of accepting
the invitation.

“That's right, Harry!” cried his aunt Margaret, who, having
heard him express his contempt for parties of this description,
had scarcely expected he would be prevailed upon to
attend. “You won't be the loser by improving your acquaintance
with the Bloodgoods, I'll venture to say; there's nobody
in this part of the country entertains as they do.”

“It is a pleasant drive out there, at any rate,” said Harry,
with a somewhat indifferent air. “Every body seems to be
going. I was introduced to young Bloodgood at the Lake
House, this morning, where I went fishing, and he's a right fine
fellow. He urged my coming to his father's this evening, and
I told him I would. It seems there's a young man in town—
I've forgotten his name—some one that has visited here in
college vacations and is very popular in the neighborhood,—
this affair is got up on his account. He's been somewhere at
the other end of the world, and is to start again to-morrow;—
just here to have a peep at his friends and then be off.”

“Who can it be?” exclaimed Mrs. Ridgway; “Can't you
remember his name, Harry? Did you say he was a relation
of the family?”

But Harry could tell nothing more; and the curiosity and
speculative wonder of his aunt being excited to the utmost, she
now rehearsed the Bloodgood pedigree in all its branches,
enumerating the ages of all the male members, and endeavoring
to fix upon the identical individual whom the family were
so eager to honor. The fortune and merits of some half dozen
having been fully discussed, and each in turn pronounced the
undoubted object of so much attention, she at length arrived at
the satisfactory conclusion that, if it was not one of these, it
must be somebody else—at all events, somebody of wealth,
family, and distinction. “There, Miss, think what you will

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lose!” said she sharply, turning upon Mabel, whose interest
she had evidently been striving to awaken all the while.

Mabel, who, lost in a reverie, had been conscious of nothing
beyond Harry's announcement of his intentions, looked up with
an absent air, and when he immediately added, “Why, you
mean to go, don't you, May?” she faltered out, “Yes, if you
will take me with you.”

“Ah, ah!” exclaimed her aunt, in a manner at once taunting
and self-gratulatory, “So you can not resist this handsome
young stranger. I thought that was all that was wanting—
some distinguished guest for whom it was worth while to
put on your best smiles.”

With only a dim conception of her aunt's meaning, but willing
that her change of purpose should be attributed to any
thing rather than the real motive, Mabel allowed the remark
to pass unchallenged, and even submitted patiently to a succession
of similar petty sarcasms, which were coarse rather than
ill-natured, for Mrs. Ridgway was too well satisfied with the
triumph she had achieved to be intentionally severe. She
little suspected, meanwhile, the far greater triumph Mabel had
gained over her own feelings in thus consenting to accompany
Harry, for whom she dreaded some less desirable companionship
if she should indulge her own wishes by remaining at

“Now wear something handsome,” was the eager and almost
imperative remark with which poor Mabel was assailed a few
hours later, when, seated alone in her room, with Louise's
letter once more in her hand, she had for the moment forgotten
the cruel ordeal in store for her that evening. “Come, let me
see your dresses;” and, without ceremony, her pertinacious
aunt lifted the lid of a travelling-box which contained the
richer articles of her wardrobe, and one after another spread
them out for inspection.

As might have been expected, she at once made choice of
the gayest and richest ball dress among them all, and Mabel
could have cried with vexation at the persevering energy with
which she insisted upon her niece's appearing in a costume as

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ill-suited to the occasion as to her painfully depressed state of
mind. A compromise was at length effected, by which an
exquisite flounced muslin was substituted for the gay silken
fabric; and although the delicate texture of the former, and
its choice trimming and embroidery, rendered it unsuitable in
Mabel's eyes for a six miles' drive, she was thankful to have
in some degree overruled her aunt's bad taste, and to be allowed
to indulge the hope that, clothed in spotless white, she should,
at least, fail to be conspicuous.

It was a proud moment for Mrs. Ridgway when Harry's
little phaeton drove to the door; when her handsome niece
came down stairs, attired in the newest fashion—though she
did wish she had put on a gayer sash—when Harry appeared
with such beautiful little shirt-frills as she had no idea young
gentlemen wore now-a-days; when she accompanied them down
to the gate, to tuck in Mabel's dress and spread a shawl across
her lap; when Judge Paradox passed by at the moment and
bowed; when the neighbors ran to the window to see the young
New Yorkers start; and when, finally, the intractable mare,
after many vain attempts to get away, dashed furiously down
the street,—Sabiah in the meantime standing in the doorway,
vexing her poor heart lest Mad Sallie should break Mabel's
neck, and she never forgive herself for having persuaded the
dear child to run such an awful risk.

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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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