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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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The heart's affection—secret thing!
Is like the cleft rock's ceaseless spring,
Which free and independent flows
Of summer rains or winter snows.
The fox-glove from its side may fall,
The heath-bloom fade, or moss flower white;
But still its runlet, bright though small,
Will issue sweetly to the light.
Joanna Baillie.

[figure description] Page 397.[end figure description]

Of Mabel Vaughan, the brilliant ball-room beauty, we have
given no detailed description; merely hinting at the peculiar
charms which characterized her, and leaving it to the reader's
fancy to fill out the picture, since beauty is the same all the
world over, subject only to differences of taste. Mabel Vaughan
at twenty-five, however, merits a less brief introduction; for
time, without robbing her of youthful bloom, has developed in
her traits which are less universally recognized, which are felt
rather than acknowledged, and which are but the outward sign
and expression of an inward truth. The face, doubtless, is the
same. The complexion has lost nothing of its fairness; the
full brown eye glows with as soft a light; the smile which plays
around the mouth is as spontaneous and attractive; and the
chestnut hair, on which Cecilia had been proud to lavish all her
skill, is as rich and glossy as ever, though far less elaborately
arranged. But the face is the mirror of the soul, and as such
it unconsciously reveals the emotions that are passing within,
and borrows from the chastened heart a serene and holy radiance,
which illuminates every feature, like a halo on the brow
of a saint. Thus, the light which now beams from her eye is
not excited by gratified vanity, nor by flattering tongues, but by
the quick fire of earnest purpose and of ardent truth the smile

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upon her countenance springs not from the mere effervescence
of girlish spirits, but from unfailing cheerfulness and sympathy
with other's joy; the serene peace which enfolds her like a
mantle, has not its source in the promise of pleasure, or luxurious
ease, but in calm, confiding trust, and in the reflection of
each day's duty done.

It is a balmy summer's evening, and, with her head resting
on her hand, she sits on the door-step of her father's house,
looking out upon the wide prairie, on which the moonlight falls
in an unbroken sheet of silver light, giving to the long grass, as
it waves to and fro in the gentle breeze, a strange likeness to
the rolling swell of ocean. The prospect is vast, grand, and
unbroken; the hour is a quiet one, and Mabel is lost in meditation,—
not in a meditation proportioned to the sublimity of the
scene, though she now and then gazes into the dim distance,
with reverential awe, but in simple, loving thoughts, concerning
her home and its various members—wondering where the
boys can be, for they went fishing early in the afternoon, and
whether her father may not be spending the evening with Mr.
Gracie, and if it is not probable that her aunt, in the inner
room, has fallen asleep in her chair, and what can have become
of Harry, who is at home for a day, but has been out of sight
for some hours. The latter subject of self-inquiry is presently
set at rest, as, looking in the direction of the grove by the river
bank, she sees him approaching, and some one with him.
“Yes—no—yes, to be sure, it is Helen.” But she does not
wonder at that; they are walking slowly and talking confidentially,
too—but neither does she wonder at that. She does
wonder, however, as, on drawing near the house, Harry leaves
his companion and goes off to speak with farmer James, while
Helen, seeing her on the door-step, springs towards her, throws
her arms around her neck, hides her cheek against hers, and
sobs like a child.

“Why Helen, dear Helen,” cries Mabel, in alarm, “what is
the matter? Have you and Harry had a quarrel?”

“No. Oh, no, we never had a quarrel in our lives,” exclaims

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Helen. “Dear Mabel, how I love you. I never knew until
now, how much reason I had to love you!”

“What! for Harry's sake?”

“Yes, and for mine, and for everybody's that loves him, and
is proud of him; he has been telling me,” said she, lowering
her voice to the softest whisper, “what he never told me before,—
how he struggled and fell, and never could have risen again
but for you; how you followed him and prayed for him, and
loved him, and saved him.”

Helen's tones were broken, as she uttered these few words.
Mabel tried to speak, but her voice also failed her, and, for a
few moments, the two girls mingled their tears.

Helen was the first to recover herself. “Think how noble
he has been, Mabel!” exclaimed she. “He never asked me to
be his wife before. I do not believe he would have now,

“I know,” exclaimed Mabel, with a soothing tenderness of
tone; “dear child, I know!”

“Papa spoke in his hearing, this afternoon, of leaving me all
alone in the world,” said Helen, “and I could not bear to hear
him talk so; and Harry could not bear it,—and so it gave him
courage to say to me to-night what he never dared say before.
Oh, the coward, to think I would not trust him!”

“Poor fellow, he has undergone a long probation,” said

“Five whole years,” said Helen. “Think of it! It has
been so different for me; I knew all the time that he loved me,
and I had so much to do for father and the people, and we have
all been so happy together, hearing from Harry, and enjoying
his little visits, and the time has seemed so short; and I never
looked forward to the future—but he, living all alone, serving
out an apprenticeship to his conscience, with nobody to cheer
him, and all the while dwelling on the past, and doubtful for the
future—O Mabel, he has proved himself a hero!”

“You do not love him any the less then, Helen, for his confessions?”

“No, indeed! but far, far better; he has gained a victory

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over himself, and is greater in my eyes than if he were the
conqueror of nations.”

“He has his reward,” said Mabel; “he will be able to boast
of the best little wife in the world, and I of the dearest of sisters,”
and she kissed her affectionately.

“We ought to love one another, all of us,” said Helen, with
deep feeling, as she returned Mabel's embrace, “and the more
so, because we do not know how soon it may be God's will to
part us. Oh, how our best blessings and bitterest sorrows are
mingled together in this world. My dear, dear papa! I must
go home to him now;” and, as Harry made his appearance
round the corner of the house, she bade Mabel good night,
joined him, and, putting her arm confidingly in his, walked
away in the direction of the parsonage.

Mabel was still sitting on the steps when Harry returned,
although he had been gone an hour, for he staid to receive an
old man's blessing and the free gift of his only child. It was
now his turn to claim her loving sympathy. “Mabel,” said he,
as he took a seat beside her, and put his arm around her waist,
“have I done wrong?”

“Wrong in waiting so long, Harry, and enduring so much
unnecessary suspense?”

“No, in claiming Helen at last. What right have I to such
a blessing?”

“The right of a man who has proved himself worthy of it.”

“But, ought I thus to take advantage of Helen's guileless,
simple-hearted nature? Would a less unworldly woman confide
in me as she does, knowing all?”

“A less unworldly woman could not appreciate your self-conquest,
Harry; it is only the humble, Christian heart which
can sympathize with human weakness, and rightly estimate
human victories. I should not think Helen worthy of you,
if she undervalued the firm and noble effort by which you
have overcome evil with good. It is because she knows how
to prize the hero of such a hard-fought battle, that I feel
sure she can be trusted with the future happiness of my

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“There are few who have such encouragements for effort,
and such motives for perseverance as I have had,” said Harry.
“Helen's love may be my reward, but it is yours, Mabel,
which has saved me. God bless you for it! There would be
more such victories among men, if there were more such sisters
as mine in the world.”

The failure in the health of the village pastor, and the prophetic
warning of his approaching death, which had brought
about the mutual acknowledgment of a five years attachment
between his daughter and Harry, were followed by still more
alarming signs of physical prostration, and it soon became evident
that this faithful servant of God must soon be called from
the sphere of his earthly usefulness. He had for many weeks
ceased to officiate in his church—a neat edifice recently erected
by his now prosperous congregation—and though his interest
in the people of his affections was undiminished, his labors
among them were at an end, and his duties were about to be
assumed by another. This immediate choice of a successor
had been made at Mr. Gracie's urgent request, as it was his
wish, before his departure, to see one fitted for the sacred office
installed in his place; and, although now reduced to excessive
feebleness, he listened with eager attention as, from Sabbath to
Sabbath, he was cheered with accounts of the success with
which the new laborer wrought in the vineyard of his planting.

“I have left papa alone,” said Helen, one Sunday afternoon
at midsummer, as she presented herself at Mr. Vaughan's door,
“but he insisted upon it; he is so anxious I should hear the
continuation of this morning's discourse. Come Mabel! Alick,
you are going too, I hope; your memories are better than mine,
and papa will depend upon a full report of the sermon.”

Mabel and both the boys at once rose to accompany her;
Mr. Vaughan took his hat and cane, and, in an absent way,
offered Helen his arm—he was such a gentleman still in spite
of cares and years; but Sabiah, contrary to custom,—for
she was usually a regular attendant at church,—expressed
no wish to go, even resisted a little persuasion, and was left at
home alone.

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She sat listening until the last sound of the church bell had
died away into silence, then rose, went to the door, and watched
until the last straggler had entered the church, which was just
within sight; and finally, when all was still, calm, and peaceful,
put on her black bonnet, took her old-fashioned parasol,
and prepared for a walk. First, however, she crept quietly
into the milk cellar, lifted from under a cover a little cottage
cheese, which her own hands had made the day before, and
covering it with a snowy napkin, carried it carefully in her
hand. To whom could she be going? and for whom could
the choice and delicate preparation be intended?

It was one of those rare summer days when all nature
seems wrapt in the luxury of repose. There was scarcely a
breath stirring in the air, the wild flowers scarcely bent on
their slender stalks, the grass could not be seen to wave. The
birds in the thicket by the river had forgotten to sing; even
the hum of the insects under foot seemed an almost unconscious
murmur. All around was quiet and beautiful, wrapt
in the holy hush of a summer Sabbath; why, then, was there
such a restless beating, such an impatient flutter, in the heart
of the lonely woman, who, with an unequal step, was pursuing
the narrow path across the village green? Perhaps she was
thinking of such Sabbath days, long, long ago,—of such
pleasant strolls across a village green, when she was not
alone; perhaps, as she carefully handled the plate which held
the little cheese, she was reminded of some loved friend who
had been wont, in times long past, to esteem this work of her
hands a luxury; or perhaps she was recalling the words with
which beloved lips had been heard to praise her skill. Whatever
might be the thought, it was one so all-engrossing, that
she heeded not the heat of the burning sun beating down upon
her head, and was unaware of the trembling of her aged
limbs, until at length she stood hesitating in the shade of a
blooming locust tree in front of the minister's dwelling.

The open door led directly into the principal room of the
house, a cheerful, pleasant apartment, at once the study of the

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father, the sitting-room of his child, and the favorite resort of
the young and old of his parish.

Now, for the first time, however, Sabiah stood upon its
threshold, and looking in, beheld the form of the feeble invalid,
wrapped in a calico dressing-gown, and seated in an arm-chair,
his head carefully propped up by pillows. His back
was towards her, his eye fixed upon the window opposite
which he sat, and his thoughts soaring into those blue heavens,
at which he gazed through a net-work of woodbine and fragrant
roses now in full bloom. Beside him lay a number of holy
books, and a volume of sacred hymns was open on his knee.

Sabiah knew not how long she had stood silently within the
room, when the rustling of her dress, the reflection of her
shadow, the sigh which escaped her, or, possibly, only the
instinctive consciousness of human presence, caused the invalid
to turn his head slowly round, and their eyes met. A
look of sweet benignity overspread the pale face; he held out
his thin, transparent hand; she laid her burden gently on the
table, and, coming forward, took the offered hand in her own
withered palm, murmuring, “Reuben!”

“Sabiah!” said the aged man with a glance of touching
tenderness, “this is kind.”

Not another word was spoken,—but he lifted the pile of
books from the chair close beside him, and Sabiah, comprehending
the action, sat down, with her hand still locked in

“I have been thinking all day,” said he, at last breaking the
expressive silence, “of a Sabbath like this, many years ago
when we both were young. Do you remember that July
afternoon when you wore the bonnet trimmed with blue, and
we sat together in the choir, and the last tune sung was `Arlington.'?
We walked home, I know, through the meadows,
and sat down under the walnut tree, and spoke but little, and
yet were very happy; we loved one another then, Sabiah.”

“We did, Reuben.”

“It seemed good in the sight of God that our earthly paths
should lie widely apart; it has seemed good to Him, also, that

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we who rejoiced in each other's affection in the morning of
our days, should clasp hands once more in friendship at life's
solemn close. How precious the thought, that there shall
dawn for us both a brighter morning, when those who have
truly loved one another shall be once more united where there
are no more partings.”

“Life is a hard journey, Reuben,” said Sabiah; then added
with a half-complaining sigh, “I trust it leads to rest.”

“It is hard, my dear friend,” said the good elergyman,
bestowing on her a look of half-anxious, half-pitying interest,
“but the soul's true rest may yet begin below. Our painful
discipline is lost upon us, unless it teaches meek submission to
God's will; but a patient confidence in His love is rest, and
joy, and peace to the burdened soul.”

“You have found that rest, Reuben?”

“I have, Sabiah, but only through the struggle of a bitter
and early disappointment; without the trial, comes not victory,
nor without the cross, the crown. Once found, however,
it is an all-sufficient balm, and let every other consolation
perish, that precious love will atone.”

“I will seek it,” said Sabiah.

“Do so,” exclaimed the old man, “and I pray God,” he
added fervently, “that His peace may descend upon you like
the heavenly dew.”

There was another long pause, like the first; then Sabiah
made a movement to rise.

“Must you go?” said the sick man quietly. “It is very
sweet and pleasant to feel that you are here beside me. I
even forget to speak, my mind is so busy with the past.”

Sabiah, even more hesitating and irresolute than usual, sank
back into her seat.

“Time has laid his hand on both our heads, Sabiah,” said
the old man, “but the heart is true to its tender memories. I
have loved and lost a good and faithful wife since our youthful
days; but now, in the evening of my life, the thought of her
has been strangely mingled with the memory of an earlier
love. A few days more, and one of us shall depart and be
no more seen; but true affection is not a thing of time, and I

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cannot but hope this renewal of sacred ties may be sanctified
to us both. God bless you, Sabiah! You were very kind to

“I am very glad I came, Reuben,” said Sabiah; “I felt I
must see you once more.”

“Farewell, dear friend,” said he, for she had again risen to
go, “we shall meet again beyond yonder blue vault of heaven.”
He pressed her withered hand to his thin, sunken lips,—they
exchanged one more farewell—and she passed slowly out of
the house.

Turning in his arm chair, he watched her retreating figure
as she re-crossed the green, then looked upward, and breathed
a silent prayer. She entered the door of her home, wiped a
tear from each dim eye, and sat down in her accustomed seat.

The romance of her life was over, but not so its mighty
influence. Thenceforth her heart, already softened towards
humanity, was subdued towards God, and from the solitary
rock in the desert there gushed forth a fountain of calm, religious

All around her felt it, but none knew the source of this well-spring
of heavenly peace, for the ancient lovers passed away,
and no one shared their secret.

Not until Helen came to bring back the plate and napkin,
was Sabiah reminded of the cottage cheese which, without a
word of explanation, she had left on the pastor's table.

“Papa enjoyed your cheese so much, Aunt Sabiah,” said the
unconscious girl; “it is the only thing he has relished for a
week past.”

Mabel lifted her large, brown eyes inquiringly to her aunt,
but Sabiah made no reply, and the circumstance was forgotten,
save that the thought passed through the mind of Mabel, “how
illness excites one's sympathy,—even Aunt Sabiah, it seems,
has done her part in ministering to dear Mr. Gracie, whom she
always used to avoid in his healthier days.”

A few weeks more, and the good pastor was laid in the
village church-yard; and, shortly after, a weeping-willow was
planted above his grave; but it was never suspected whose
trembling hands had placed it there.

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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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