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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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I have seen one, whose eloquence commanding
Roused the rich echoes of the human breast,
The blandishments of wealth and case withstanding,
That hope might reach the suffering and oppressed
And by his side there moved a form of beauty,
Strewing sweet flowers along his path of life,
And looking up with meek and love-lent duty;
I called her angel, but he called her, wife.

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It was near the close of a December day. Mr. Vaughan
and his family had been now for some weeks re-established in
their home, and Mabel, who, amid manifold cares and occupations,
had secured one half hour of leisure, had seated herself
for the last time at her little desk, in front of the familiar
window which commanded a view of the wide-spreading prairie.
The light busy foot of Helen was astir in the house, the
voice of Melissa might be heard now and then in the adjoining
kitchen, in the elated and authoritative tone of one who magnified
her office. The boys were passing to and from the
barn, taking a final look at their favorites among the flocks
and herds, and giving their parting charges to farmer James.
Everything gave token of some great event near at hand,
some thorough breaking up of old ties, some grand migration
among the household. The little sitting-room, however, was
quiet and peaceful; business and preparation might prevail
outside, but neither were permitted to intrude into this domestic
sanctuary, where Mr. Vaughan and his sister sat in their
accustomed arm-chairs, before the fire, while the old house-dog
was asleep on the rug. For a moment or two Mabel
retained a thoughtful attitude, with her head resting on her
hand, her eyes now straying over the wide wintry landscape

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without, now fixed with tender interest upon the picture of
serene repose within the room; then taking up a pen, she bent
over her desk and wrote the following letter:—

Dear Mrs. Herbert:—When I look back to the days
of my childhood, there ever arises before me the image of one
dear friend, whose tender love and devoted care made it a
blessed and happy portion of my life, on which memory loves
to dwell. When I consider the years which have since intervened,
I can not fail to be reminded, that at every step I have
been counselled, strengthened and cheered, by the advice, the
warnings, and the lessons of this same dear friend; and now
that I am about to enter upon a new sphere of duty, I feel an
instinctive yearning to still claim a place in her good wishes,
her affection, and her prayers. You have cherished the child,
encouraged the woman—let me bespeak your loving sympathy
for the wife. It does not become me to say much of him to
whom, to-morrow, I expect to stand in this new and near
relation. Some day, I trust, you will see and know Mr.
Percival, and be enabled to judge for yourself. But if genuine
simplicity and true manliness of heart and life entitle a man to
honor, I may well be proud of the station which he holds, both
independently, and in the world's opinion; and if strength of
Christian principle is the surest foundation for confidence and
trust, I may well believe that the sentiments which he now
professes are sincere, and will be lasting. I trust I have not
said too much; but indeed, dear Mrs. Herbert, my only fear is
that I am not worthy to be the object of his choice; and it is
that I may become so, that I chiefly beg an interest in your
prayers. Bayard (for you will wish to know him by his Christian
name also) is the son of Counsellor Percival, as he was
usually called, a lawyer, formerly of high standing in New
York city, but now for some years deceased. His widow is
still living, vigorous and active, although nearly seventy-six
years of age. She, too, is well known in New York and elsewhere,
for the active part she has taken in every philanthropic
and benevolent scheme; nor does she, even at her present

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advanced period of life, feel herself excused from exertion, or
unfitted for active duty. You will realize this, when I tell you
that she has recently taken a house in Cambridge, with the
view of furnishing a home for two of her grandsons, now students
at Harvard, and that she has invited Alick and Murray
also to become members of her family. No proposition could
have been more opportune, so far as the boys are concerned;
for Alick hopes to be prepared for admission to the University
at the commencement of the next collegiate year, and Murray
could nowhere pursue, to such advantage, the mathematical
studies which are to fit him for his chosen profession—that
of an engineer. At first, we all opposed the plan, fearing
Madam Percival was assuming too much care; but she over-persuaded
my father and Harry, convinced me that she anticipated
only pleasure from the charge, and finally carried her

“I could have wept, as on my last visit to Lake Farm, Mr.
Percival's residence, she half playfully, half solemnly, resigned
to me all her responsibilities there, at the same time assuring
me that nothing but her unwillingness to leave Bayard alone,
prevented her from carrying into operation, nearly a year before,
this cherished plan for the benefit of her grandsons. My
capacity for filling her honored place at Lake Farm is not at
present to be put to the test, as Mr. Percival has recently been
elected member of Congress from this district, and we are to
set out for Washington immediately after the marriage cere-mony.
My dear father will accompany us. I could not endure
the thought of being separated from him; and he, on his part,
seems to find pleasure in the prospect of a winter at the seat
of government, where I hope that the milder climate will
strengthen his constitution, and that the interest which he
already begins to feel in the debates will employ his mind
agreeably. You will be glad to hear that he has quite relinquished
all business and pecuniary cares, and is in the enjoyment
of a contentment and serenity which it is delightful to
witness. Aunt Sabiah is to spend the winter with Harry and
Helen; but next summer will, I trust, restore her to me; for

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I shall never relinquish my claim to this beloved member of
our family. It is a fortunate circumstance for us, that, after
half a dozen years of persevering effort, Melissa has at last
succeeded in bringing farmer James to the point. They were
married, with no little parade and ceremony, during our absence
at Thanksgiving time, and will probably continue to
occupy the house and the adjacent land for as many years as
they see fit.

“To-morrow, therefore, will be an eventful day to us all; a
day when, not I alone, but all the rest of the household, will
be called upon to bid farewell to that Western home, which,
humble as it is, has become to us a dear and honored spot, and
will be cherished in years to come, as the blessed haven of rest,
which afforded us a safe and welcome shelter from the storm of
adversity and trial. Blessings on its bare white walls, its plain
brick hearth, its low-roofed rooms! they have taught us that
happiness is independent of ornament; that contentment brings
joy to the humblest fireside; and that love knows no limits and
often expands the widest in the narrowest space. We may go
the world over, and view with admiration its monuments of
grandeur and pride; but our grateful hearts can never forget
what we owe to our prairie home.

“I take great pleasure in the thought, that in the approaching
spring or summer, the claims of love and duty will probably
call us to New England. I shall then hope to see you once
more, my dear and honored friend. Meanwhile, believe me
now, as ever, your tenderly attached.

Mabel Vaughan.

In that hour of sweet anticipation and happy imagining,
fancy might well robe the future in its fairest colorings, but the
hope expressed in the latter clause of Mabel's letter, was,
nevertheless, destined to disappointment. Not many weeks
after the receipt of these welcome tidings from her beloved
pupil, Mrs. Herbert met the great summons which awaits all
the living, and when Mabel, at length, visited the home of her
childhood, it was but to weep over the grave of this early

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Not less vain too, was her fond trust, that change of climate
and scene might tend to strengthen and prolong the life of her
venerable parent. Mr. Vaughan's health was too much enfeebled
to admit of anything more than a temporary improvement,
and, although he rallied during the winter, and evidently
reaped both pleasure and benefit from his residence in Washington,
spring found him wasting under a slow disease, and
when summer came he was like a shock of corn fully ripe.
Serenely, quietly, peacefully, however, his long life drew to a
close; and in his daughter's beautiful Western home, surrounded
by those whom he loved, soothed by their tender
offices, and sustained and cheered by a calm and heavenly
hope, he gently passed away.

“Harry,” said Percival, one evening when the two friends
were sitting on the verandah at Lake Farm, “I think I have
heard you say that you formerly knew Lincoln Dudley.”

“Yes, I knew him well,” replied Harry; “what of him?”

“I saw to-day, in looking over the passenger list, that he
had sailed for Liverpool in the Canada. Poor fellow! he is
still restlessly striving, I suppose, to get away from that worst

“As if it were possible,” responded Harry, “to break loose
at last from the object of nearly forty years assiduous devotion!
Or, if he could succeed, what a void the world would
necessarily present to the man who never had a hope, or an
aim, which had not ultimate reference to his own benefit.”

“I have seldom known a more complete instance of perverted
and wasted powers than may be witnessed in Dudley,”
said Percival. “J—, an old class-mate of his, gave Mabel
and myself, last winter, a truly pitiable account of his condition.
It seems he has become a most wretched dyspetic;
weighs his food with scrupulous exactness, limits himself in
respect to exercise and fresh air, and analyzes his physical
symptoms with morbid accuracy. His once brilliant intellect
is thought to be seriously impaired, and there is every prospect
of his becoming a complete hypochondriac.”

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“Indeed!” exclaimed Harry; “what a melancholy picture
his case presents! What an object of compassion he has become;
and what a warning!”

“Yes,” replied Percival, “there could be no more striking
proof of the fact, that refinement, self-culture, and polished
address, are worse than useless, unless accompanied by earnest
faith, manly purpose, and generosity of heart. Dudley was
at one time my father's ward, and an occasional inmate of his
house. I well remember the admiration which his talents and
accomplishments excited in me as a boy; and I have often
heard my mother regret the selfishness and vanity which had
been early encouraged in him, and which were so fostered in
succeeding years as effectually to steel him against her own
and my father's counsels. He is an example of a class, unfortunately
too common in the world, who with the fairest prospects
before them, nevertheless make shipwreck of their own
fortunes, and exert an influence upon others as disastrous and
fatal as it is fascinating and insidious.”

“How he would once have ridiculed such a specimen of
humanity as he now presents!” said Harry, musingly.

“Yes,” said Bayard; “but `where fools may laugh, wise
men can only weep.' ”

As if to prove the fallacy of earthly longings, and manifest
the mysterious working of God's providence, in less than a
year after Mr. Vaughan's death, the long-talked-of road—to
which the old man's thoughts had in vain turned, as the ironbound
link between his past and his present fortunes, the pathway
to better days, the only hope for his own and his children's
future—ceased to be the vision of soaring imaginations, and
became a solid reality. The schemes and plans which had
wearied the brain of the hoary man, and the failure of which
had well-nigh broken his heart, were at length brought to a
successful fulfilment, without the aid of his mediation; and the
waste lands of the wilderness became, in time, a noble patrimony
to Harry, the young Leroys, and Mabel. Not, however,
until Harry's good resolutions, his firm self-control, his patient

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industry, had been tested by years of privation and labor; not
until Alick and Murray, one in classical pursuits, and the other
in more practical studies, had won their meed of praise, nobly
resisting the temptations of youth and laboring with the ardor
inspired by necessity and self-dependence; not until Mabel,
amid the cares which she assumed as a wife, and the responsibilities
attendant upon a new scene of action, had proved herself
worthy of a man whose aims were as exalted as his life
was useful; and not until her noble husband had found, amid
competence and frugality, a happiness to which money could
bring no increase, and had earned among his fellow-men a high
and honorable position to which wealth could add no dignity.

To follow Mabel in her after career would be to anticipate
the future. Her lot is but that of humanity; and time, while it
serves to ripen and perfect her joys, must bring with it changes,
anxieties, and sorrows. It may lead her through pleasant and
flowery paths; it may call her to mount the hill of difficulty,
and drink the bitter waters of afflication; but may we not have
faith to believe, that every circumstance and every change will
serve to minister to her final peace, and that earth's short pilgrimage
will prove the pathway to an eternal rest? Yes, to
her, as to all who early learn life's holiest lesson, pleasure is
hencefoth sanctified, anxiety relieved, and pain and disappointment
robbed of their bitterest sting; while, alike amid the sunshine
and the storm, the purifled heart sees God,—sees Him
not only as the Almighty Judge, but as the Infinite Father, the
source whence all those sweet affections flow which illume, and
strengthen, and redeem the world: and seeing Him, believes
that all the varied dispensations of His providence are alike
good, since all flow from the hands of One who afflicts but in
mercy, who wounds but to heal, and who, amid all life's varied
discipline, is ever proving to the eye of Faith that His banner
over us is Love.

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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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