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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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So forth she sallied, blithe and gay,
And met dame Fashion by the way;
And many a kind and friendly greeting
Passed on their meeting:
Nor let the fact your wonder move,
Fashion and she are hand and glove.
Mrs. Barbauld.

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Mrs. Leroy's home was on the second floor of a fashionable
hotel. The cares of housekeeping were so irksome to
Louise, and so ill-fulfilled, that her husband at length acceded
to her often-repeated entreaty that she might be promoted to
the independence and luxury of hotel-life; and she had now
been for two successive winters the occupant of an elegant
suite of rooms, in close proximity to the apartments of her
friend, Mrs. Vannecker, whose example had stimulated the
fickle Louise, and encouraged her inherent love of change.

Mr. Leroy, who at first opposed this arrangement, had now
become its warmest advocate; for, while his natural indolence
had prevented his exercising any efficient check upon his
wife's domestic mismanagement, he had been the chief sufferer
from the anarchy and confusion which pervaded his establishment;
and he found under the present system, if not an increase
of actual happiness, a release from many petty annoyances,
and a marked lessening of his yearly expenditure.
And whatever accustomed comforts his new home failed to
supply, were amply compensated for at his club, of which he
was a constant frequenter.

Louise found here, as she had elsewhere, continual sources
of discontent, and was often restless and dissatisfied; especially
did she murmur at the peeuliar misfortune and

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hardship which restricted her in her present mode of life from
many social privileges to which she had been accustomed in
her own house, and it was, therefore, with proportionate joy
that she received the first intimation of her father's intentions
and plans.

The reception of guests under his roof would be less onerous
and far more agreeable than furnishing entertainments of her
own. Mabel, being but a school-girl, must be properly introduced
into society, and who could be so capable as herself of
superintending the festivities attendant upon her entrance into
city life? What, indeed, was to prevent the rooms of her
wealthy parent from becoming the scene of all those fashionable
and social gatherings, over which Louise felt herself well
fitted to preside?

Certainly not any opposition on her father's part,—for Mr.
Vaughan, while he dreaded to see Mabel become a mere fine
lady, or Harry an idle fop, was, nevertheless, too easy-tempered
and yielding to oppose any schemes which would tend to his
children's gratification and happiness, and, in matters of expense,
it was neither his nature nor habit to place restrictions
upon the extravagance of his family,—certainly not any want
of energy on the part of Mrs. Leroy, whose capacities were
never so thoroughly called out as on an occasion like the present,
when she was actuated by the three-fold motive of establishing
her young relative in the gay world, promoting her
own enjoyment, and strengthening her influence in her father's

Nor was she destined to disappointment. It was the universal
voice among the leaders of fashion, that nothing could be in
better taste than Mr. Vaughan's house and equipage, nothing
more successful than the grand reception, held in honor of
Mabel and gracefully conducted by Louise, nothing more certain
than the fact, that the former would rank as the unrivalled
belle of the season, and the latter continue one of its choicest

Thus, borne on the tide of happy fortunes, and launched into
gay life under the most flattering auspices, our young

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school-girl achieved, almost without conscious effort, the position to
which nature and circumstances seemed to destine her.

“Let me see!” exclaimed Harry one morning, looking up
from a daily journal and glancing mischievously at Mabel, “it
is a week to-day since your arrival in this great city,—yes,
just a week,” added he, “and my prediction fulfilled already!”

“What prediction?” asked Miss Sabiah, lifting her eyes
from an intricate piece of knitting work and fixing them somewhat
anxiously upon Harry, who, lounging over a late breakfast,
was, at the same time, carelessly scanning the morning

“A piece of shrewd foresight on my part, aunt, which informed
me, that seven days and seven nights only would be
required for the transformation of a chrysalis into a butterfly.”

Aunt Sabiah, to whom Harry's vague and ironical replies
were often unintelligible, moved no further inquiry, but looked
down at her work, with the vexed and injured expression of
one who has failed to obtain a satisfactory answer.

Mabel, who better understood the allusion, continued to occupy
herself with feeding Harry's great dog, holding high
above the head of her huge playfellow the dainty bits she had
taken from the table, and obstinately refusing to meet the eye
of her brother, which she knew to be fixed upon her.

“Two wedding receptions, and an evening concert, on Tuesday,”
reckoned Harry, counting with his fingers; “fashionable
promenade, opera, and ball, on Wednesday.”

“Let me disentangle that worsted for you, aunt,” exclaimed
Mabel, still feigning inattention, and taking a low seat near
Miss Vaughan.

“Three magnificent parties on Thursday,” continued Harry,
“and the grand ball of the season on Friday! Well done,
Mabel! well done! I said one week would make a fine lady
of you; what a pity I did n't take a bet on it.”

“I deny the charge,” said Mabel, warmly, “it is n't true, is
it, Tartar?” and she patted the head of the dog; “fine ladies
do n't play with great dogs, nor understand the mysteries of
knitting work either,” and, as she spoke, she drew the needles

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from the entangled worsted, unravelled a piece of the work, and
began patiently to take up the stitches.

“Ah! but I have the proof,” said Harry triumphantly, rising
from the table; “here we have it in black and white, and what
the newspaper says must be true,” and he laid before her the
paragraph in question.

It was a description of last night's brilliant ball, and among
the noted beauties of the evening, Mabel's name stood first.
As she read the flattering description of her own personal and
mental charms, an indignant flush overspread her face. “An
impertinent paragraph like that proves nothing!” exclaimed
she, with spirit.

“It merely affixes a seal to the fact,” rejoined Harry, “that
our school-girl of a week ago has ripened into the woman of
fashion,” and he pointed to the heading of the article, “Our
Fashionable World.”

“Then you meant Mabel,” said Miss Sabiah sharply, “when
you talked about the chrysalis and the butterfly. A mighty
civil speech, I must say. You may think it a compliment to
call her a butterfly now, but I've never seen the time yet when
she deserved the name of a chrysalis,—an ugly chrysalis. For
my part I liked her quite as well last week as this. I expect
you will spoil her among you,” muttered she in an under tone.

“Why, Aunt Sabiah,” said Harry, with animation, and in a
voice whose irony was lost upon Miss Sabiah, “you do n't mean
so! Do you really pretend to say that you were as fond and
as proud of Mabel, when she was fresh from Mrs. Herbert's,
as now that she has the dress, the polish, and the homage of a
city? She was a very good girl, and one of the family, and of
course, we felt a regard for her. But just think what she is
now. The belle of the metropolis, the queen of fashion, with
dozens of brainless coxcombs at her beck and call, and hundreds
of intimate friends, who live upon her smiles! Think
what a transformation, what a victory!”

“Do n't be so absurd, Harry,” interrupted Mabel, amused
herself, but dreading lest her aunt should take her brother in
earnest, or worse still, be offended at his playful sarcasms; “we

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butterflies, for you are one no less than myself, will fold our
wings for awhile; this promises to be my first rainy day in
New York, and we will have a charming sociable time at home,
to make amends for a week's gaiety.”

“A rainy day!” cried Harry, walking to the window, and
looking anxiously at the clouds; “no, I hope not, our Jersey
excursion is to come off this afternoon, and fine weather is indispensable;
but, Mabel, how does it happen that you are disengaged?
where is the arch enemy?”

“How should I know what you mean, Harry? What strange
titles you do bestow on people!”

“No more than is deserved in this instance. Who is the
chief enemy of our domestic peace, the ringleader in all these
fashionable plots, despoiling us of your society, and inflicting
upon us her own at will? If you can't guess who I mean, my
aunt can. She is no more friendly to the Vannecker influence
than I am.”

“O, Harry,” said Mabel, laughing, “how ungrateful, when
Mrs. Vannecker and Victoria both admire you so much.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders. “You are safe for to-day,”
continued Mabel; Mrs. Vannecker and Louise are going to
make visits, at some distance out of town; happily I am off
duty. What a pity you are engaged on that excursion party;
we might have commenced studying our German!”

“Hear her!” exclaimed Harry, with mock gravity, “the devoted
and ardent student, only debarred from indulging her
intellectual tastes by the unavoidable absence of her tutor!”

“Indeed, Harry!” replied Mabel, “I assure you I have
looked at those books again and again, with longing eyes; but
I can't find a moment's time for anything but what Mrs. Vannecker
calls the claims of society.”

“Oh, hang Mrs. Vannecker!” retorted Harry, warmly.

“And her accomplices too?” questioned Mabel, archly.

“No, spare the innocent,” said Harry, yawning; “give our
soft-headed Louise the privileges of youth, and a chance under
another leader; by the way, what a languishing little piece of
nonsense—” then, meeting Mabel's astonished and reproachful

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glance, he hesitated, laughed, and interrupted himself with, “Oh,
she's our sister, is n't she? mum's the word.”

The quick and emphatic nodding of Miss Sabiah's head
manifested her approval of Harry's half uttered sentiments, and
it was with something like animation that she said, in a partial
soliloquy, “So, at last, we are going to have a quiet day!”

“Yes,” responded Mabel. “It will be a fine chance for me
to read those old letters of Grandma Vaughan's, and to pin up
the bows for your new cap. We'll have luncheon up stairs,
aunt, and not come down until dinner time.”

Miss Sabiah's face lighted up with unmistakable satisfaction
at this proposition, but became proportionably overshadowed
with disappointment when, a moment after, the impulsive Mabel
exclaimed to her brother, “Harry, I have a great mind—”

“Well,” replied he, stepping into the hall and returning with
his overcoat on his arm, “we know you have a great mind,
what does it suggest?”

“That I should walk down town with you as far as—

Harry lifted his eyebrows expressively, saying, “but I
thought my lady Finery had driven six miles out of town.”

“I know it,” said Mabel, “but I want so much to see the
children, and they would be at home this morning.”

“Very well,” said Harry, “I am going directly by there, and
shall be charmed with your company; but it may rain; why
not take the carriage?”

“Louise has our carriage.”

“Our carriage!” exclaimed he, in a half provoked tone;
“there's a plot for you! what has become of her own?”

“One of Mr. Leroy's horses is lame, and he has sent them
both into the country for the winter.”

Harry whistled expressively, and Mabel, with unfeigned
alacrity, declared a preference for walking; she was not at all
afraid of the rain—was accustomed to brave all sorts of weather,
and did not choose to become a hot-house plant.

“I hope you'll be paid for your trouble,” said Miss Sabiah,

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in a tone of characteristic tartness, “It'll be one while before I
put myself in the way of those children again.”

“How so, aunt?” questioned Harry, in a tone of lively interest.
Harry took a mischievous pleasure in encouraging
Sabiah's occasional outbursts of antipathy and pique.

Mabel, who was just leaving the room to prepare for her
walk, did not hear her aunt's reply, but on returning, equipped
for the excursion, she found Harry convulsed with half suppressed
laughter, and was greeted with the exclamation on his

“Ah, Mabel, you are prepared for an encounter with wild
beasts, I hope; according to good authority you are going to
face a monkey and a bear this morning; both are dangerous,
but one is open and frequent in his mischievous attacks, while
the other sucks his claws and meditates deeper injury; that is
a fair state of the case, as proved by melancholy experience;”
and again Harry laughed immoderately.

Miss Sabiah's face wore the half-vexed, half-puzzled expression
which was invariably called up by Harry's raillery, and
Mabel, who was always a little apprehensive when he thus
ventured to sharpen his wit on the flat surface of her aunt's
obtuseness, hurried him away, playfully remarking, that thus
warned she should certainly be on her guard.

Miss Sabiah gathered up her work, and, with the customary
cloud on her countenance, was proceeding up stairs to the
retirement of her own room, when Mabel paused at the hall
door to assure her that she should soon return, and while in
Broadway would avail herself of the opportunity to purchase a
few yards of ribbon which would be required for the cap she
proposed to trim.

Miss Sabiah looked gratified at Mabel's thoughtfulness, and
the latter good-naturedly waited, while her aunt counted out
from an old-fashioned purse the precise sum required for the
purchase, and gave the most minute instructions concerning
the quantity and quality of the article,—Harry, meantime,
impatiently shaking the door-lock with his hand.

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“So you have not seen these wonderful boys yet?” said
Harry to Mabel, as they walked down the street.

Mabel recounted several disappointments she had experienced,
with regard to seeing her little nephews, and declared
herself quite excited with curiosity and interest concerning

“They must have made a riotous invasion into Aunt Sabiah's
room yesterday,” said Harry, again giving way to merriment,
as he recalled Miss Vaughan's description of the scene. “She's
down on them this morning. She's too hard upon that little
Murray, though; he's a splendid fellow—the other, to be
sure, has rather a hang-dog look.”

Some passing object here diverted Harry's attention, and,
amid various subjects of conversation and interest, the youthful
couple ceased to speak or even think of their young relatives.

Indeed, Mabel's girlish spirits were so elated by the keen
morning air, and the lively sallies of Harry, that in the pleasure
of the walk she half forgot its object, and was fairly taken by
surprise when she found herself at the entrance of the hotel,
and her companion pausing to bid her good-morning. Exercise
had imparted a more than wonted glow to her cheeks, and
her face wore its most beaming expression, as, standing for a
moment with her hand in Harry's, she gayly urged him to
return home in season to make one of their family circle in the
evening. He readily promised to do so, and as she disappeared
within the doorway, the affectionate glance which followed her
for an instant, bespoke a marked degree of brotherly tenderness
and pride.

“Have you turned astronomer, Vaughan?” asked a well-known
voice, close at his side, “you appear to be watching the
disappearance of a star of the first magnitude.”

“Dudley, my dear fellow!” was Harry's quick and eager
exclamation, and in the cordial greeting which followed, the latter
paid no heed to his friend's first inquiry. Having satisfied
Harry's astonishment with regard to his sudden arrival, Dudley
again glanced in the direction in which Mabel had

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disappeared, and asked, with evident interest, “Who is yonder brilliant

“A new arrival, almost a stranger in the city,” answered
Harry, with feigned indifference; “you will soon see her, I
have no doubt, moving in her orbit.”

“Not I,” responded Dudley, carelessly; “I start for Washington
this afternoon, and there is no knowing when I shall

Harry felt disappointed, for he was really impatient to introduce
his friend to Mabel.

“I have half an hour to spare,” said Dudley, looking at his
watch, “and a hundred things to say to you, Vaughan,” and
putting his arm within Harry's, he accompanied him down

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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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