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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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How wondrous are God's secret ways!
The chastening furnace of affliction
Taught this young maiden's heart to praise
Her Lord in streams of benediction!
Sorrow, and poverty, and pain,
Might hide from sight the blessing streaming
From Heaven on her fair head; but plain
Unto the eye of faith 'twas gleaming.
E. L. Night Watches.

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Leaving Mabel to the soothing influence of youthful slumber,
let us follow one of equal years, but of far different fortunes,
who, at a somewhat earlier hour in the evening, might be seen,
alone, unprotected, and on foot, hastening down a neighboring

The duties of the day fulfilled, the children sunk in sleep,
and her mistress' evening toilette completed, the weary Lydia
sought Mrs. Vannecker's apartments, and having persuaded
that lady's good-natured maid to take her place in Mrs. Leroy's
nursery, threw on a well-worn bonnet and shawl, and promising
to return in an hour, passed down a back stair-case and
left the hotel at a quick pace.

The night was dark, and the walking bad, being in some
places wet, and in others slippery with the half-congealed rain.
Lydia was thinly shod, and had not walked many rods before
her feet were thoroughly soaked, and her whole frame shivering
with the cold. She felt timid, too, at being alone in the
streets at so late an hour, and as she ventured into the narrower
and darker lanes of the city, cast more and more anxious
glances around her. Once, in her haste, she slipped, and
would have fallen, but a rude, though kindly hand, was suddenly
stretched forth for her safety, and before she could see

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whence came the friendly aid which had abruptly restored her
to her feet, her beggarly-looking benefactor had passed on.
Still more alarmed at the attention which this little circumstance
attracted, and disturbed at the quick, and as the overexcited
girl imagined, the curious glances bestowed upon her
by one or two passers-by, she now commenced running, and
had proceeded some paces without looking to the right or left,
when, as she gained a street corner, a hand was suddenly laid
upon her shoulder. She gave a quick and nervous start,
but, re-assured by the sound of a familiar laugh, checked herself
in her rapid progress, and exclaimed, quite out of breath,
but in a tone of evident relief, “Why Jack, is that you? How
you frightened me?”

“What are you afraid of?” asked the other, in a rough, but
boyish tone.

“Afraid of everything,” said Lydia. “I am not used to being
out in the night, and you ought not to be either; who is
that with you?” added she, in an undertone, as she caught
sight of a figure lingering near them.

Jack hesitated, and then replied, somewhat reluctantly,
“Bob Martin.”

“Oh, Jack!” was the only response the girl made, but the
tone of her voice conveyed reproof.

Her brother, for such was the relation between the two,
looked down, marked a little circle on the snow with his foot,
and was silent.

“Come,” said Lydia, “I am going home, and I am in a
hurry. I have only an hour to stay. Come with me, Jack.”

The boy made a reluctant movement to accompany her, at
the same time whistling significantly to his companion, a youth
much taller than himself, and who, with an independent and
swaggering air, had sauntered down the street in the direction
the brother and sister were pursuing.

“Hush!” whispered Lydia; “don't call that boy,—I don't
want him.”

“Well, come along, then,” said Jack, roughly, and he moved
in the direction of home. They had not proceeded far,

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however, before they overtook Bob Martin, who was purposely
loitering under the shadow of a building, and as they passed
him, Jack spoke, under his breath, but loud enough to be distinctly
heard by Lydia, “You wait here, Bob,—I'll be back
in a jiffy.”

The two walked on for a few moment in silence, then Lydia
exclaimed, with considerable irritation of manner, “I wonder
what mother would say, Jack, if she knew you were out with
Bob Martin at this time of night!”

“Mother doesn't know anything about him,” replied the
boy, “nor you either. Bob's a real good fellow!”

“Why Jack,” cried Lydia, “how can you say so? You
know he is the most idle, profane boy in the neighborhood; I
should think you had had warning enough to keep out of his

“I don't care,” said Jack, “he is a real good-hearted fellow,

“I should think you would be ashamed of yourself, Jack,”
said Lydia, vehemently, “to be standing up for such a fellow
as he is!”

“Didn't he stand up for me, I should like to know?” retorted
Jack, angrily.

A glance of scorn shot from Lydia's eyes, as she replied in
a contemptuous tone of voice, “Well, if I were in your place, I
wouldn't say much about that.”

“Why not?” asked Jack, turning almost fiercely upon her.

“Because,” answered she, with temper, “if you like to talk
about it, I don't.”

“Poh!” exclaimed Jack, attempting a braggart tone, in
spite of the evident mortification which overspread his face at
his sister's words.

A long silence ensued, broken only by an occasional whistle
from the boy, who walked at Lydia's side with a shuffling gait
and a forced air of unconcern. At length, the latter asked, with
some abruptness, “How is Rosy?”

The question seemed to have a magical effect upon the boy.
He ceased whistling, and the careless, blustering tone in which

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he had previously spoken, became subdued and tremulous as
he replied, “She aint any better; I don't believe, Lyddy, she
ever will be.”

Lydia did not answer, and they reached their destination
without another word being spoken. Jack, having accompanied
her to the door, now drew back, as if he had no thought
of entering, and she, seeing the movement, paused and looked
in his face with eager scrutiny, while she said, “You don't
mean to go back to him to-night?”

“But I do, though,” was the defiant reply.

Lydia expostulated with injudicious warmth, and a short
and somewhat sharp dialogue between the two, resulted
finally in the irritation of both parties, and a resolve in the
mind of the self-willed boy to enjoy the society of his friend
whenever he pleased, in spite of his sister's well-meant but
unavailing interference.

The truth of the case was this. The Hope family, of which
Lydia and Jack were members, had, a few weeks before, been
subjected to agitation and alarm by the sudden tidings that the
latter, with a party of rude companions, had been engaged in
a street brawl, and was shut up in the watch-house for the night,
with the prospect of being next day committed to jail. From
this situation he had only been rescued upon the payment of a
heavy fine, which consumed the hard-earned savings of his
mother, and compelled his hitherto indulged sister to seek the
service she now fulfilled at Mrs. Leroy's.

The poor widow, already nearly weighed down by misfortune,
bowed her head in silence at this new stroke, uttered few
complaints, greeted her son on his return home with few reproaches,
save those which were conveyed in every line of her
despairing countenance, and pursued her daily labor with a
slow step and apathetic air, which spoke of a weary, care-worn
frame, and a heart grown old and seared amid anxiety and

But Lydia had not yet reached that degree of hopeless submission,
nor had she learned in the school of hardship and disappointment
that meek forbearance which has its source in

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Christian faith. Moreover, her spirit could not easily brook
the mortification and distress which Jack's misconduct had entailed
upon them all, and she assumed more than an elder sister's
privilege in the harsh rebukes which she bestowed upon
the offender, and the bitter scorn which she heaped upon his
idle and profligate companions, especially Bob Martin, a recent
and most unprofitable associate.

Jack could not deny the fact that Bob had led him into difficulty,
but he still insisted, with grateful warmth, on the debt
he owed him for the ability and shrewdness with which he had
conducted their mutual defence, obtaining their liberation after
a single night's imprisonment at the police station.

To every accusation brought against his new friend by the
incensed Lydia, he was ready, as we have seen, with the prompt
rejoinder, “He's a good-hearted fellow, any way, and stood up
for me when all the rest were only thinking how they should
get clear of the scrape themselves.”

Thus, this mortifying adventure served, on the whole, to
confirm rather than weaken the influence which the experienced
offender had gained over his young and unsophisticated companion,
who, long since emancipated from his mother's control,
and still less disposed to submit to Lydia's dictation, now appeared
to acknowledge no authority save that of the city magistrates,
of which his recent experience still held him in awe.

But, although blind to the silent woe painted on his mother's
features, deaf to the unsparing rebukes of the injured Lydia,
and steeled against the ill-opinion of the neighborhood, there
was one gentle influence against which the boy's rebellious
spirit was not proof. There was one eye which followed him,
even when absent from its presence,—one voice which never
spoke to his ear unheard,—one little hand whose restraining
pressure had power to check him in his headlong career.
Gently and noiselessly had the spell been cast around him; but
the boy's rude nature softened, and his heart bowed down with
something like holy awe, when he listened to the sweet, loving
words, or gazed upon the little withered form of his invalid
sister, Rosy.

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She alone had received him after his disgrace, in that spirit
which at once whispers to the contrite heart of sorrow, forgiveness,
love, and hope. She had extended her little trembling
hand, and while the tear started to her large blue eye, had
pressed it to her fevered cheek, and murmured, in broken
accents, “you will not stay away from Rosy another night?”
and he had laid his head on her pillow and wept, though no
one but Rosy knew it.

There was a chord in his heart, the secret spring of which
this sick little sufferer alone had power to touch. Often, amid
noisy and contentious scenes, did this one tender and plaintive
note break in upon the discord; and thus it happened that, on
the evening in question, when Lydia, in the tumult of excited
feeling, was about to lay an impetuous hand upon the latch of
her mother's door, she was checked by a sudden and hasty caution
from Jack, who, immediately after a storm of angry
invective, exclaimed, in a more gentle tone, “Hush! Lyd,—
don't make a noise,—like enough Rosy's asleep,—she was
when I came away.”

This door, the upper part of which consisted of glass, and
thus answered the purpose also of a window, led directly into
a low, dimly lighted, and ill-furnished shop; and notwithstanding
Lydia's precautions, a little bell attached to the entrance tinkled
loudly as she entered. She paused a moment, until the sound
should have died away, and was then advancing into an inner
room, when she was met by her mother, whose quick ear had
caught the ever-welcome sound of the bell, and who was eagerly
hastening to wait upon the supposed customer.

“Why, Lyddy, is that you?” she exclaimed, her sober face
relieved by a sickly smile, as the parent prevailed over the
shop-keeper, and her disappointed hopes of a purchaser for her
goods gave place to maternal satisfaction at the sight of her

Then, bestowing on her a more careful glance, she added, in
an anxious tone, the smile at the same time dying away from
her pale face, “What is the matter, child? How wet you are!
here, come into the back room—I've got a fire in the stove;”

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and she stepped into a small apartment behind the stop, Lydia
following her with a languid step and quivering lip. It was a
mere box of a place, uncarpeted, scantily furnished, and with a
close, unwholesome atmosphere. The flames which were crackling
in the stove had evidently been but recently kindled, for
the mixture contained in a large kettle, placed directly over
them, had not commenced boiling, and the air in the room was
chilly. Lydia threw her bonnet on a table, seated herself in a
chair beside it, and fixed her eyes moodily in the direction of
the stove. Her mother stirred the mixture. Neither of them
spoke. At length a long sigh from Lydia broke the silence.
“Do tell me what has happened,” said Mrs. Hope; “something
has gone wrong, and I may as well know first as last;”
and as she spoke she stretched out her hand and gently closed
the door which led into a little sleeping-room beyond. Then,
as Lydia still continued silent, she added, “have you left your

“Not yet,” exclaimed Lydia, the self-control which had been
but ill-maintained before, now giving way entirely, and her
voice half-choked with sobs; “nothing so dreadful is the matter,
and I wish I had n't come here to-night; I don't see what
I did for,—only—only—” and here she covered her face with
her hands, and fell to weeping so bitterly that she found it
impossible to utter another word.

The poor mother looked distressed, and continued her operations
at the stove with a vacant air, her eye resting on her
child. A somewhat commonplace and practical character, and
constant familiarity with trouble, forbade any more marked
demonstration of anxiety. Her sympathy was none the less
keen, however, and from time to time she uttered interjectional
phrases, designed to call forth an explanation of this new sorrow,
and subdue its effects.

Not until the girl had indulged in a short but hearty fit of
weeping, did she pay any regard to the “Come, Lyddy!—now
don't Lyddy!” with which her mother from time to time addressed
her. At length, however, she lifted up her head, shook
it with a determined air, wiped the tears from her stained face,

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and drawing near the stove, took off her shoes and placed her
wet feet upon the hearth. Encouraged by these favorable
symptoms, Mrs. Hope seated herself in an opposite chair, and
soon had the satisfaction of hearing from the now loosened and
voluble tongue of Lydia an explanation of her agitated state of
mind. Greatly relieved was she, also, to become assured
that this unusual agitation had sprung from causes far less
serious than her imagination had pictured.

Still the poor woman could not listen unmoved to a detailed
account of the injustice and abuse which her child had suffered,
nor could she fail to share the suspicion and dread which had
been excited in Lydia's mind by Jack's recent display of obstinacy
and self-will, a full report of which was unhesitatingly
poured into her ear.

Had Lydia been a heroine, had she even been a girl of
spirit, she would not have fled to her mother with this long list
of troubles. She would either have staid away from the abode
of poverty and sickness, or would have come hither with a
cheerful countenance. She would have drawn a veil over her
own grievances, and pondered deeply upon Jack's disposition
for bad company, before she had saddened her mother's heart,
and perhaps caused her a sleepless night, by expatiating upon
his violence and folly.

But Lydia was no heroine; she was only a tired, irritated
servant girl, whose fortunes and spirits were both under a
cloud; and so she came—as hundreds of us have done in our
turn—to pour all her grievances into a mother's ear, and lay
her weight of sorrows on a heart already sufficiently burdened
with its own.

“Well,” said Mrs. Hope, with a deep groan, “if you can't
stay at your place you must come home—that's all. We
can't be much worse off than we have been; and as to Jack,
why—if he will go to ruin, he will, and its no use to worry
about it.”

Such philosophy was not very consoling; still Lydia's load
of care seemed lighter, now that her mother had taken up the
burden; and recalling the one bright feature in her day's

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experience, she proceeded to relate the incident of Mabel's interference,
at the same time drawing from her pocket the price of
her painful services, advanced to her from such an unexpected
quarter. But, greatly to her surprise and grief, her mother
refused to receive the money. “You will find plenty of use
for it yourself, before you get another place,” said the poor
widow, who inwardly shrunk from appropriating the wages of
Lydia's daily slavery. “You have n't a decent pair of shoes
to your feet,” added she, glancing at the worn and almost useless
slippers now drying on the stove.

“Oh, take it, mother, do take it!” exclaimed the mortified
and repentant Lydia, at once perceiving the effect of her own
selfish murmurings.

“Hark!” said Mrs. Hope, softly, without seeming to notice
her extended hand. They both listened. A low sound was
distinctly audible through the closed door of the bed-room.
Mrs. Hope made a motion to rise, and at the same instant
the shop-bell was heard to ring. Lydia started forward, saying,
eagerly, “I will see if Rosy wants anything, mother, while
you mind the shop.”

Let us follow Lydia into the bed-room. There is a taper
dimly burning there, an indulgence always craved by the sick
child, who propped up by pillows is reclining on the bed. It
would be difficult to guess her age; for though her little
wasted limbs and tiny hands would seem those of a young
child, there is no youthful glow in the pale and sunken face
resting on the pillow. Her hair is light, and has a golden
tinge; her transparent forehead is marked with deep blue
veins; there is a dark circle beneath her eyes; her features are
narrow and contracted; her thin lips pressed close together as
if sealed in that position by long and persevering efforts to
repress every indication of the pain which has, nevertheless,
set its seal on each line of her expressive face. There is no
beauty, no loveliness, no childish promise in that pinched and
narrow countenance, on which disease has stamped itself for
years. Only in the deep blue eyes, which like brilliant jewels
seem starting from their withered settings can one read aught

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of hope; nor is it any earthly hope with which the soul seems
ever looking forth from those bright windows, on—on through
the mists of time, to some happy, though unknown land, where
the patient little sufferer may hope to rest.

Lydia opened the door so noiselessly, that the sound was
unheard by her sister, who had awaked from sleep with the
moan which had been heard in the next room, but who now
commenced singing, if that could be termed singing which consisted
merely of a low, warbling sound,—a few soft syllables,
chanted again and again,—to a tune of her own composing.
Her eyes were fixed on the opposite wall, and she did not observe
Lydia's entrance, until the latter stood close beside her.
She then turned her head slightly, unclasped her thin hands
and laid one of them on the hand of her sister, saying softly,

Lydia sat down on the side of the bed. Who would have
believed, to see the pretty, well-grown young woman, and the
puny, sickly child, that there was a difference of but five years
in their ages! but so it was, for Rosy's little withered form
had already numbered thirteen summers.

“Have you been very sick to-day, Rose?” asked Lydia in
a low voice.

“O Lyddy,” said the child “I've had to sing all the time
when I have been awake.”

Lydia sighed, for Rose had told her in confidence, just
before she left home, that she never sang except when in
great pain.

“O, poor Rosy!” she exclaimed, in a tone of deep compassion.

“No, not poor,” said Rose, thoughtfully, “not poor;” and
fixing her eyes upon the opposite wall with that earnest gaze
which seemed to look far off into the future, she added—
“little pilgrim and I have kept each other company all day,—
the path is dark, Lyddy, but God's blessed angels keep watch
above the clouds, and the way grows brighter at the end, you

As Rosy spoke, Lydia's eyes unconsciously sought the

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object to which the child's attention seemed riveted, as if striving
to discern in it the source of that rapt and serene joy,
which now lent a momentary glow to her sister's sunken features.
The feeble light of the taper shone directly upon a
small, but exquisite engraving, which, neatly and even richly
framed, was strangely incongruous with the meagre furniture
and time-stained walls of the apartment, being the only object
of taste or luxury which the room afforded. A portion of the
picture was in shadow, but the figure of a youthful traveller
was discernible in the foreground, above whose head rolled
many a dark and threatening cloud, while the path beneath
his feet was obscure and narrow. He trod with an assured
step, however, and an eye uplifted to the spot where, in the
clearer firmament, three cherub heads might be distinctly seen,
looking forth from above the silvery summits of those very
clouds, which at their base were so dark and fearful.

It was no new appeal which this little fellow pilgrim made
to the sympathizing heart of Rosy,—no fresh lesson of encouragement
and hope which she drew from the sight of the angelguard,
set above life's dreary pathway. For many a year, the
picture had accompanied her from one room to another, hanging
always opposite her bed, during the long weeks of illness
that had often confined her to her pillow. But its eloquence
was not exhausted yet. Every day, on the contrary, her spirit
drank deeper of its heavenly lesson, and became more and
more convinced of the reality of its blessed promises; while to
her lonely hours of pain, it acted as a soothing balm, none the
less effectual from the frequency of its application.

A moment's glance at the familiar picture was sufficient for
Lydia, whose mind was not open to the language of art, more
especially to those things which are spiritually discerned.
None could be blind to its sacred truths, however, as they were
seen reflected in the holy patience, the religious calm, which
overspread the pale face of Rosy; and a deep and humble
sense of contrition stole into the heart of Lydia, as she compared
her own fretful murmurings with the saint-like submission
of the child. “O Rose!” cried she, her self-reproach

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bursting forth with a sudden vehemence which startled the
invalid girl,—“you make me quite ashamed of myself—indeed
you do! I wish I were half as good as you are. My
troubles are nothing to yours, and yet I make myself and
everybody else miserable; while you,—you make the best of

Rose looked anxiously into her sister's face, and answered
soothingly—“O Lyddy! no wonder you get discouraged, you
have so much to do, and so many to please, while I only
have to be patient with myself. I have thought about you all
the week, and have wished—Oh, how I have wished,—I could
see you once in a while, and know how you were getting along,
and whether the boys were very naughty, and if you had to sit
up late every night for Mrs. Leroy. You are all tired out,
aint you Lyddy?” continued she, observing the languid, and
despairing attitude into which the weary girl had thrown herself.
“Here, lie down by me a few minutes and rest!”
Rose threw her arm over her sister, and as the latter laid
down beside her, she went on in a soft and soothing voice,—
“tell me all about them, Lyddy dear.”

“What shall I tell?” asked Lydia.

“Oh, everything, whatever troubles you most?”

But that Lydia could not do. The petty vexations of the
week, had sunk into insignificance in view of Rose's patient
endurance, nor could she relate to the sick child the deeper
wound she had suffered on her account, with all its unhappy

“I will tell you,” said she, after a moment's hesitation, “of
some one I have seen to-day, who is as beautiful as—

“As Mrs. Leroy?” inquired Rose, interrupting her.

“Oh, yes indeed,” answered Lydia, in a tone which seemed
to disdain the comparison.

“But you thought her so pretty at first!”

“Did I? Well, I don't now; but never mind. Miss Mabel
does n't look one bit like her, though she is her sister;” and
warming with the subject, Lydia lifted her head from the pillow,
and leaning on her elbow with her eyes fixed upon Rosy,

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entered upon a glowing panegyric of her new and kind young

Rose seemed to catch her enthusiasm as she proceeded, and
at length exclaimed with eager interest, as Lydia paused in
her animated description, “Tell me more; what did she say to
Alick? did he like her?”

Lydia, once embarked on the subject, gave a faithful narrative
of Mabel's visit, with the exception of those particulars
which related to her own difficulty with Mrs. Leroy and consequent

“Fresh, bright and beautiful! and just from the country!”
said Rose meditatively,—“Oh, how I should like to see her!”

Lydia sighed as she thought how improbable it was that this
wish would ever be gratified.

“You will see her again?” said Rose in an inquiring tone.

“Perhaps so.”

“And you will remember everything she says, and does,
so as to tell me?”

“I will try.”

“Just from the country!” again soliloquized Rose. “How
I should like to see some one from the country.” Poor Rose
had never in her life been beyond the city streets, and the
country, to her imagination, was an earthly Paradise.

“Rose,” said Lydia, in a hopeful tone of voice, “you must
get better, so that next summer you and I can go up to the old

Rose shook her head, and then as if a thought had suddenly
occurred to her mind, said in a quiet whisper, “Lyddy, where's

“Gone off with Bob Martin,” replied Lydia, some returning
bitterness mingling with her tone of voice,” and I may as
well go back alone,” continued she, making a movement to
rise from her place by Rose's side, “for like enough he won't
be home till morning.”

“Yes he will,” said Rose confidently; “he will come to give
me my drops at ten; he has never forgotten it since you went
away. Is it near that time now?”

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“It can't be far from it,” said Lydia. “I will go and get
my bonnet and see if my shoes are dry.”

At this moment Jack's voice was heard in the shop, and just
as a church clock near by struck the hour of ten, he entered
Rose's room on tiptoe, holding in his hand a cup and phial.
Lydia had not yet left the room, but sat behind the bed, quite
out of sight, and Bob Martin himself could scarcely have been
more astonished than she was at the sight which now met her

Could this be Jack, the noisy and oftentimes profane boy,
who now stood near the light, carefully measuring out and
counting the drops? Could it be his rough hand which was
tenderly passed beneath his sister's neck, while he gently
rested her head on his shoulder, and placed the medicine to
her lips? Above all, could it be his rude accents which were
now softened to the affectionate inquiry, “Do you feel any
better, Rosy?”

Yes, it was Jack; there could be no doubt of that, for as
Lydia followed him into the kitchen, after his labors as a nurse
were completed, he betrayed his ordinary self by the abrupt
and harsh manner in which he addressed her with, “Well, Lyd!
you here yet?”

“Of course I am,” said Lydia, half provoked, half grieved,
at his surly manner towards her; “did you snppose I had
gone back alone?”

“Jack!” called Rose from the next room.

He was instantly by her side.

“You'll go home with Lyddy?”


“And then come back to me?”


“That's a good boy.”

“Good night, Rose,” said Lydia, stooping over her bed to
kiss her, while Jack went to look for his cap. “I can't tell
when I shall see you again; give this to mother when I am
gone. Good night, darling;” and she left in Rose's hands the
bank-bills which her poor mother had declined receiving.

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It was a very dreary walk back to the hotel—still raining,
and very wet under foot. Jack and Lydia proceeded rapidly
and in silence, the former somewhat in advance, while the latter
tried to pick her way so as to avoid the puddles in the side-walk.
Both were thoughtful; both perhaps a little mortified
at their recent ill humor; at all events, neither felt disposed
for conversation, and a hasty good-night from Lydia, and a
sulky response from her brother were all that passed between

Perhaps the walk, with the mediations to which it gave
rise, left an impression upon Lydia's mind, for her sleep that
night was haunted by the vision of a dark and dreary road on
which she and Jack were travelling; sometimes Mabel seemed
to be with them, leading her little nephews by the hand; and
always the path was hard, and the sky overshadowed with
clouds. But they went on, it seemed to her, in safety, and
the way grew brighter as they went, while on every cloud an
angel rode triumphant, and every angel wore the face of

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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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