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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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A thousand pretty ways we'll find
To mock old Winter's starving reign;
We'll dress his withered cheeks in flowers,
And on his smooth bald head
Fantastic garlands bind.
Mrs. Barbauld.

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About a fortnight after the period of Dudley's return to the
city, the patience of Miss Vaughan and the good nature of the
whole family were put to a somewhat severe test, by an instance
of Mabel's generous but inconsiderate hospitality.

Some children, at the same hotel where Mrs. Leroy resided,
were seized with a prevailing epidemic, and Mabel, hearing
her sister complain of a circumstance which threatened the
health of the boys, cordially urged their coming to their grand-father's,
to remain until the danger of infection should have
passed. The little fellows were delighted to exchange the
restrictions of the nursery for the freedom they enjoyed in Mr.
Vaughan's spacious house, and their mother was only too cager
to take advantage of a proposal which freed her from a most
unwelcome responsibility. They came at once, therefore,
accompanied by Lydia Hope, who, in spite of her abrupt dismissal,
still continued in Mrs. Leroy's service. Louise's temper
being always subservient to her selfish convenience,
Murray's pleadings had scarcely been needed to induce her to
retain in her employment a girl of such unquestioned capability
as Lydia; and although it was only by the exercise of great
self-control that the latter could receive her mistress' concession
in a becoming spirit of gratitude and humility, she felt
amply repaid for the effort, in the opportunity now afforded her
of spending some weeks in the home of her youthful benefactress.

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This invasion of the domestic peace was, at first, endured
with a very good grace by the whole household; but Murray's
riotous behavior, and Alick's dogged obstinacy, soon gave rise
to difficulty and disturbance. Mr. Vaughan escaped the annoyance
by shutting himself up in his library, and Harry, after
amusing himself awhile by sharing the boys' noisy sports,
exciting their spirits, and often involving them in quarrelsome
disputes, would hurry out of the house, leaving others to reap
the fruits of the mischief which he had sown. Miss Sabiah
and the much tormented servants were the chief sufferers from
the introduction of these unruly and rebellious inmates; for
Mabel, when not engrossed with other objects, seldom failed to
find pleasure in the companionship of her young guests. It
was true, she was often called upon to quiet the disputes and
reconcile the disagreements which were continually arising,
but she had a happy, careless way of settling every vexed
question to the satisfaction of all parties; and by a mingling of
kindness and authority she contrived to exercise a certain
degree of government over her little nephews.

This restraining influence was due; in part, to the respect
which her consistent truthfulness inspired in children who had
hitherto been subjected to a system of artifice and bribery, and
still more to the cordial interest with which she occasionally
entered into their plans and participated in their enjoyments;
for, preöccupied as her mind might be, nothing could dispel
her earnest love of childhood and her sympathy in its pleasures.

Thus a long-talked-of sleigh-ride, to which the boys had been
looking forward from the commencement of the winter, was
anticipated with scarcely less zest by Mabel; and the snow-storm,
which was its precursor, was hailed by her, as well as
by the children, with unfeigned satisfaction.

It commenced falling at dusk, and the next morning the entire
city was decked in a rich garb of white, untrodden snow,
which certainly presented a tempting prospect to pleasure-seekers,
of all ages. Before noon, Broadway and the principal
avenues were thronged with sleighs of every shape and hue,
which, with their joyous occupants and eager, prancing horses,

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gave to the scene the aspect of a Carnival; while among the
many rich and gorgeous equipages, none was to be seen more
graceful in its style, or more complete in its appointments
than that which contained the happy, blooming Mabel and her
triumphant and excited little companions.

They glided rapidly up and down the principal thoroughfares,
threading a swift course among the crowd of huge,
open omnibuses, gay with decorations and laden with passengers;
fashionable turn-outs, with liveried servants, and rich
draperies of fur; miniature boats, drawn by fast horses, and
driven by fast young men;—in a word, vehicles of all descriptions,
and every grade of pretension, thus suddenly introduced
upon the scene of action, and rivalling one another in beauty,
grotesqueness, display, or speed.

“See!” cried Murray, springing to his feet in the enthusiasm
of his joy, “there's mamma, with Miss Vannecker, in Mr.
Earle's new sleigh. Drive faster, Donald!” shouted he to the
coachman, “drive faster, and see if we can't beat those gray
horses ahead!” and as they dashed gaily past Mrs. Leroy's
party, and, one after another, distanced all competitors, Mabel
was obliged to grasp the arm of the excited child, lest in the
exuberance of his spirits he should lose his balance and be
thrown from the sleigh.

“Look, aunt Mabel,” exclaimed the equally observing, but
more composed Alick, “look at that beantiful little white seashell
that seems to be cutting through foam; the wolf's robe,
the horse, and even the harness, as white as the snow itself.
Oh, that is the handsomest of all! Mr. Dudley is driving, and
he sees us, I am sure he does,—he is trying to catch up!”

“But he can't?” cried Murray, whose attention was attracted
by this new rival, “I'll bet he can't beat our bays, won't
you, aunt Mabel?”

“He will, though,” said Alick, who was carefully measuring
the chances.

Mabel's heightened color and kindling eye betokened the
interest with which she watched the race, but she was far
from sharing Murray's disappointment when the snow-white

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steed gradually gained upon them; and if she experienced
any mortification at the consciousness of approaching defeat,
there certainly was no evidence of it in the brilliant smiles
with which she welcomed Dudley, as the little equipage finally
came alongside.

The latter, on his part, seemed indisposed to make any show
of success; but, satisfied with having thus achieved a parallel
position, continued, in spite of obstacles, to maintain it for some
minutes; a species of compromise which, flattering and agreeable
as it might be to Mabel, was far otherwise to her impetuous
little nephew, who, still anxious to achieve a victory, persisted
in exclaiming to the coachman, “Hurry up, Donald!—
whip 'em up!”

The man, however, who read a contradictory order in the
expression of his mistress' countenance, as she responded to
Dudley's congratulation upon the pleasures of the day, forbore
pressing his horses to the top of their speed,—a fact of which
Murray soon became conscious. “See here, Al!” exclaimed
he, after an interval which he had occupied in clumsily moulding
a snow-ball, for which a huge drift furnished the material,
“I'll make 'em go!” Then, watching an opportunity when
Mabel was most deeply engrossed with some object to which
Dudley had directed her attention, he raised himself upon the
front seat, and flung his missile at the head of one of the
horses. His aim proved as accurate as its effect was instantaneous.
The spirited and startled animal gave one wild
leap, then dashed suddenly forward; and the panie being thus
communicated to its mate, the pair were, in an instant more,
rushing madly down the wide avenue, clearing for themselves
a passage through the quickly-parting throng of vehicles, but
utterly beyond the control or guidance of the coachman.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, and under circumstances
of a wholly different character, a pair of watchful,
thoughtful eyes were busily engaged in scanning the various
individuals and scenes which came within the scope of the observer's
vision. It was a limited prospect, of no very inviting nature;
but, such as it was, little Rose Hope had found in it

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material for thought and study during many a long year. The
dingy shop, which constituted her mother's principal support,
was situated in a narrow street, and the floor of the sunken
building was considerably below the level of the sidewalk.
Thus, the cheerful sun, which rose behind the house, and set
behind that on the opposite side of the street, never found its
way into the close, cellar-like apartment where the Widow
Hope sold needles, tape, and various other articles of trifling
value, including candy of her own manufacture.

There were two windows to this room, both fronting the street.
One contained samples of the widow's scanty stock in trade,
arranged and re-arranged many times a year, for the purpose
of producing a more marked effect upon her patrons, but seldom
diminished by an active custom, or increased by dint of
surplus capital. A few cards of buttons, discolored by exposure,
or soiled by time; a few clay pipes, in an earthen mug,
which had long been deficient in a handle; with here and there
a paper of pins, a skein of coarse thread, or a last year's almanae,
sufficed to give the public an intimation of what might be
found within.

Besides these articles of positive significance, there were
some little attempts at ornament, which should not be omitted,
as they constituted the more marked tokens of Mrs. Hope's
establishment. These were two clumsy wooden figures,—the
one representing a parrot, gorgeous in green and yellow paint,
which, in aristocratic and proud disdain of its unworthy surroundings,
seemed to challenge the passer-by to remove it to a
more congenial sphere; the other, a laughing, portly, old sailor,
who, with his hands on his sides, and his feet in the position
for commencing a hornpipe, appeared resolved to be jolly, in
spite of circumstances.

But the parrot had maintained its dignity, and the sailor his
light-heartedness, for years, without this commendable perseverance
having won a purchaser for either.

These decorations were hung out as symbols for the public
generally; but for the immediate neighborhood, the opposite
and ungarnished window had a deeper and far more impressive

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meaning; for here might invariably be seen the little arm-chair
of the invalid child, whose emaciated face was as familiar
as the day, to every individual who frequented the narrow

Few were so indifferent, so thoughtless, or so hurried, as to
pass the widow's shop without bestowing a kindly glance upon
one who was the object of universal love and compassion.
Little children, on their way to school, paused a moment to
look smilingly up at the well-known window, assured of an
answering smile in return; old women pressed their faces
against the glass and spoke a word of inquiry or kindness;
and hard-faced men assumed a softened air while they exchanged
some friendly signal with Rosy. Or if, as was sometimes
the case, the arm-chair was vacant for a day, many an eye
missed the little invalid from her accustomed place, and peering
anxiously into the room beyond, wondered how it fared
with the child.

Thus, a good understanding had come to subsist between
Rose and the humble neighborhood in which she lived; and,
who shall measure the priceless value of that chain of tender,
though often unspoken friendships, which the force of human
sympathy had wrought from out the hard material of busy life?

More numerous than usual were the tokens of pleasure and
congratulation which greeted her on the morning after the
snow-storm. For some days past she had been absent from
the window, confined to her bed in the little room behind the
shop; but this bright morning found her better, and her re-appearance
was observed and hailed with general satisfaction.

The men who were removing the snow from the sidewalks,
paused now and then, and leaning on their shovels looked up,
as if to bespeak her approbation of their work; the women
who came out with their pitchers to meet the noisy milk-boy,
nodded a kindly good-morning, as they caught sight of her
welcome countenance; and the milk-boy himself, despite his
somewhat surly countenance, forbore the customary harsh cry
as he paused at the shop door, and patiently awaited the widow's
coming, whistling in the meantime a popular air, and glancing

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good-naturedly up at Rosy, as he thrashed his arms to and fro
to keep himself warm.

These and many other familiar greetings were responded to
by Rose, with her usual touching smile; but now and then
some simple incident served to call up a deeper glow of animation
or pleasure. Such was the appearance of a little deaf
and dumb child, who was in the habit of daily presenting himself
at her window, tapping on the glass to attract attention,
then making various gesticulations of delight when Rose feigned
a sudden surprise at seeing him, and whose happiness on this
morning, reached its climax upon his being summoned within
to receive a bit of crisp, brown candy, which she had begged
for him from her mother. The little fellow was one of Rose's
most devoted friends; and, among those with whom she had
never exchanged a word, he had but one rival to her partiality.
This was a tall and rosy-faced youth, the driver of a heavy
team, which, punctual to a moment, might be regularly seen
emerging from beneath an opposite arch-way.

On the present occasion the passage was so much impeded
by snow as to create some doubt in Rosy's mind, whether the
young teamster might not be deterred from venturing forth to
his daily duties. But no; just as the clock struck eight, the
spirited leader appeared in sight, flinging the snow like powder
from his hoofs, and tossing his wavy mane as if in defiance of
obstacles. The sun, which never shone on Rosy's side of the
street, was reflected in glittering rays from the brazen knobs
that ornamented the head-piece and bridle of the noble animal
and which, thickly set and polished to the last degree, dangled
and glistened like a dandy's watch-chain. Not a whit less
proud were the step and bearing of the shaft-horse, a fit companion
and a perfect match to the tall and well-shaped leader;
and both, in truth, formed a striking contrast to the brokendown
and half-starved hacks which performed most of the
draught labor of the city. Rose had watched and hailed their
approach for so many successive days and months, that she had
come to feel a sort of ownership in the handsome pair; a sentiment
which acted, perhaps, as a bond of sympathy between her

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and their smart young driver, who took no small pride in their
fine forms, glossy coats, and perfect training. There was something
healthy and cheery about the whole establishment, and
especially in the ruddy face of the teamster, who, standing upright
and firm, issued punctually from beneath the archway, a
fit type of honest labor coming forth to its daily toil.

The horses always made their exit with a slow and stately
pace, but the moment they gained the street the lad would
crack his long cart-whip, with a sound which made the neighborhood
ring, but which was a token of his coming intended for
Rosy's car, if one might judge by his cheerful smile and wave
of the hand in the direction of her window, while the horses,
which seldom suffered from the application of the lash, pricked
up their ears as if at the sound of music, and broke into a brisk
and voluntary trot.

To Rosy, who had no opportunity of seeing the costly equipages
which were thronging the great avenues of the city, and
the courteous salutations which were being exchanged in the
world of fashion, there was nothing more imposing than the
bearing of these working steeds, nothing more truly kind and
courtly than the demeanor of her assured friend, the healthy
and robust teamster.

The passage of this and many similar vehicles, however, of
clumsy construction, and moving on wheels in defiance of the
snow, soon had the effect of marring the purity and roughening
the surface of the streets in this, the business quarter of the city,
and the view became gradually less fair to the eye than even on
ordinary occasions. The day was wearing towards noon, and
Rosy's eyes, dazzled by the snow and weary from past sleeplessness,
were closed in momentary slumber, when she was
startled by a rushing noise, accompanied by the sound of bells
in rapid motion, and a sudden cry of alarm. In a moment
more a pair of unmanageable horses might be seen rushing
furiously down the street, dragging after them a light but richly
ornamented sleigh, gay with showy trappings and the rich
dresses of its occupants. It was in vain that the skilful coachman
endeavored to guide the frightened animals, which

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bounded forward in uncontrolled terror, threatening the destruction
of the whole party. As they approached the widow's shop
their driver made a final effort to check their progress, by
turning them suddenly under the opposite arch-way, but the
attempt was ineffectual; they bounded aside, bringing one of
the runners of the sleigh upon a heap of bricks which lay, just
beyond the sidewalk, deceitfully covered with snow, and the
vehicle was at once overturned. Fortunately, however, for its
inmates, they were all, with the exception of the coachman, who
still clung to his reins, thrown upon a soft snow-bank in front
of the shop door, and thus escaped wholly uninjured.

A young lady, who was no other than Mabel, was upon her
feet in an instant, and, without pausing to shake the snow from
her garments, she hastened to the assistance of Murray, who,
half buried in snow, was screaming lustily, but making no effort
to rise. Alick, however, who had, from the first moment of
alarm, shown a manly degree of courage and composure, had
already dashed the snow from his own clothes and bounded off
to recover Mabel's muff, which was tossed to some little distance,
and the ostrich feather, which had escaped from Murray's
hat, and was borne by a gust of wind rapidly down the street.

“Why, what a splendid fall we have had, and how beautifully
we came down in the snow, didn't we, Murray?” exclaimed
Mabel, speaking in a gay tone for the encouragement
of her little nephew, and at the same time lifting him from his
soft resting-place to the side-walk; then, as he still continued
to cry so loudly as to attract the attention of a crowd of
people who were rapidly collecting around the scene of the
accident, she hastily lifted the latch of the widow Hope's door,
hesitating whether or not to seek shelter within. At the same
moment she caught sight of Rosy, looking eagerly from the
window and beckoning, as if inviting them to enter. This
hospitable indication decided her; and, leading Murray by
the hand, and calling to Alick to follow, she stepped quickly
into the shop,—too quickly, indeed, for, in her haste, she
failed to perceive the little step downward from the side-walk,
and would have fallen but for the support afforded by the

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door-latch, while Murray, startled by the loud ringing of the
shop bell, and stumbling at the unexpected descent, was thrown
head-foremost upon the floor. This inauspicious entrance
alarmed the widow Hope, whose slow movements now brought
her upon the scene, where her offers of assistance proved very
acceptable. The little party indeed, in spite of their recent
deliverance from danger, were in a somewhat deplorable condition.
Murray was, in reality, slightly bruised by his second
fall, and, although he could scarcely cry any louder than he had
done before, he made as much tumult as possible, and required
all Mabel's attention. It was almost unconsciously, therefore,
that the latter was relieved of her cloak, now dripping with the
fast melting snow, and it was not until the child was somewhat
quieted that she even thought of attempting to remove her
delicate gloves, which, thoroughly soaked, were clinging obstinately
to her half-frozen fingers. Her bonnet, also, was so
crushed as to be almost shapeless, Murray had lost a shoe,
and Alick, although he made no complaint, had grazed his knee
against the pavement, which he had struck in falling.

These causes of discomfiture, trifling as they were, created
no little excitement in the contracted limits which the shop
afforded; and for some minutes a general confusion prevailed,
of which Rose was a silent spectator, her infirmities disabling
her from being of any service. A chair was at length procured
from the back room for Mabel, who, disencumbered of
bonnet and cloak, soon made herself quite at home, with Murray
sitting on her knee, and now gradually becoming soothed
and quiet. Alick declined a low seat which was offered him,
and, stationing himself directly opposite Rose, stood gazing at
her with unmistakable wonder and curiosity.

Mabel's only anxiety now was for the safety of the coachman,
who soon, however, appeared at the door unharmed, but
presenting a rueful countenance, as he informed her that his
master's sleigh lay an utter wreck upon the sidewalk.

“No matter, Donald,” answered Mabel promptly, “since we
are all safe.”

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“But what shall be done, Miss Mabel?” inquired the man;
“how will you get home?”

“What has become of the horses?” asked Mabel, with difficulty
restraining a smile at the man's utterly disconcerted

“They are just at the end of the street, Miss, at a poor kind
of a livery, but there isn't a sleigh to be had hereabouts—none,
sartain, that would be fit for you and the young gentlemen.
I'm afeard Mr. Harry will be a good deal disappinted, Miss,
when he sees what a smash-up we've had down yonder.”

“O, never mind that,” said Mabel, good-naturedly; “you
did the best you could, Donald. Mr. Harry will be only too
glad to see us home in safety.” And having learned that the
horses were uninjured, and quite sobered from their recent
fright, she suggested that Donald should lead them back to
their stable, inform the family of what had occurred, and return
with the carriage for herself and the boys.

The man hesitated,—expressed a fear that it would take a
long time to accomplish this, especially as wheels would not
run well on the snow; and at the same time, looked around
the dark shop, as if he considered it a very unworthy place of
refuge for his young mistress; but Mabel, understanding the
look, declared herself quite content to remain in her present
quarters during whatever time might be required; “That is,”
continued she, turning with true courtesy to Mrs. Hope, “if
our good friend will give us permission to stay so long.”

The pale, rigid features of the widow assumed an expression
that might be pronounced sincere, if not positively cordial,
as, in answer to this appeal, she expressed in a few words
her desire to accommodate, and make them as comfortable as
possible in so poor a place.

Thus assured, Mabel dismissed the man, calling to him, however,
just as he was leaving the shop, and adding, “Donald,
tell Lydia that I should like to have her come in the carriage;
and ask her to bring a pair of shoes for Murray, and my cloth

“Mother,” exclaimed Rose, drawing a deep breath the

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moment the door was closed, and speaking as if giving vent to
suppressed feeling, “Mother, is is her! it's Miss Mabel!”

Mabel turned and looked at the sick child in utter astonishment
at this unexpected recognition.

“Aunty,” said Alick, approaching Mabel's side and speaking
in a whisper, “I shouldn't wonder if that girl was Rose—
Lydia's sister Rose.”

“What makes you think so?” asked Mabel, speaking aloud
and glancing at Rose as she spoke.

“I know it is,” answered Alick, confirming the remark by a
confident nodding of his head; “she's just so little, and sick
and good, and sits all day in an arm-chair with a pillow in it.”

Mabel rose and moved her seat nearer to that of Rose, at
the same time displacing Murray from her knee. “Alick
thinks,” said she, laying her hand on the arm of Rose's chair,
“that this is little Rose Hope; and I begin to think so, too,”
added she, observing the ray of pleasure which overspread
Rosy's face at her words.

The fact certainly needed no other confirmation than that
expressed in the little invalid's countenance, as she discovered
the recognition to be mutual. “Only think,” exclaimed she to
her mother, who was incredulously surveying her visitors, “of
my seeing Miss Mabel! What will Lyddy say? O,Mother!
what will she say when she comes in the carriage!”

Mabel, amused and gratified at the child's enthusiasm, hastened
to express her own sense of the good fortune which had
brought her to the shop of Lydia's mother, and won that
mother's heart by the friendly interest with which she spoke of
her daughter's capability and faithfulness.

Meantime Alick, contrary to his usual custom with strangers,
entered into eager conversation with Rose, betraying, in a
rapid series of questions, a knowledge of the sick child's tastes,
habits, and character, which, together with his unwonted sociability,
astonished Mabel, who was unaware of the interest
which Lydia's description of her sister had awakened in the
mind of the thoughtful boy.

“Is that your slate?” asked he, glancing at one which lay

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on the wide window-sill, and whose well-worn frame and scanty
bit of pencil attested the frequency of its use; “and is this
what has been sold to-day?” he added, pointing to a neat list
of figures in one corner. Then, having received an affirmative
reply to both inquiries, he continued, “That's your big Bible—
it's a real old one, is'nt it? But here's a cunning little
book,” and he eagerly seized her “Daily Food,” which was
seldom absent from her side, and opening at the first page
commenced reading, but seemed disappointed in its contents,
as he quickly threw it aside and looked about him for other
objects of interest.

“Don't trouble the little girl, Alick,” interposed Mabel, who
was struck with Rose's pallor and evident feebleness; “you
must remember she is sick and will not like to be tired with

“O, no, no! he will not tire me,” said Rose, disclaiming such
a possibility with an earnestness which seemed to beseech Mabel
not to repress his curiosity.

Alick's eye now fell upon a rough wooden box, upon which
he pounced with an eagerness that denoted a knowledge of its
contents. “These are the jack-straws, ar'n't they?” said he,
looking inquiringly in Rose's face, as he vainly tried to remove
the cover.

Rose assured him that he was right, and taking the box from
his hand, she slid aside its ingenious fastening, and emptied the
neat little articles upon the window-sill for his easier inspection.

Alick had jack-straws of his own, but they did not compare
with Rosy's in variety, number, or neatness of finish. “Here's
the bow!” exclaimed he, as if he recognized a familiar object,
“it's finished, and it's a beauty! But where is the arrow?
hasn't Jack made the arrow yet?”

“Yes, he made one last evening,” answered Rose; “but it
was too slender, and it got broken; I guess he'll make another

Murray's attention was by this time attracted. He had
hitherto stood at a distance, out of humor and disdainful, but
he now came forward a few steps, and leaning on Mabel's

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knee, stood on tiptoe and peered over Alick's shoulder at the
toys. Rose perceived the motion, and, gently drawing aside,
made room for him between herself and the window. Alick
was disposed to keep him at a distance and engross the enjoyment
of the jack-straws, but yielded at once to Rose's gentle
remonstrance, “Let Murray see, too, Alick.”

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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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