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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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Fear is the virtue of slaves; but the heart that loveth is willing;
Perfect was, before God, and perfect is Love, and Love only.
Longfellow's Tegner.

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On a pleasant midsummer's afternoon, a middle-aged lady,
with a mild and thoughtful face, sat alone in her quiet parlor,
busily engaged in sewing. It was a country home in which
she dwelt, and her low window opened directly into a green
and sloping orchard, now fragrant with new-mown hay, the
sweet breath of which was borne in on every passing breeze.
She was a woman of many cares, and but little leisure, and for
more than an hour had not lifted her eyes from her work,
when, suddenly attracted by the merry voices of children, she
arrested herself in the act of setting a stitch, and, with her
needle still poised between finger and thumb, leaned her elbow
on the window-sill and for several minutes gazed earnestly and
attentively upon a little group collected beneath an opposite
tree. They were too far off for their words to be distinguishable,
but happiness shone in their faces, mirth rang in their
careless shout, and joy danced in all their motions. Whether
chasing the light butterfly, pelting each other with tufts of hay,
or, in the very exuberance of their spirits, scampering without
purpose or rest in the sunshine, they were in every view pictures
of infant glee, cheering and happy sights to a mother's
heart. Though now and then smiling on their sport, however,
the gentle-faced lady at the window was watching them with a

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more thoughtful and observant gaze than the occasion seemed
to warrant, for she saw amid their play what a less careful eye
might have failed to discern, and from it she drew a moral.

Three among this little group, were her own children; but
while they shared her notice, and from time to time excited
her sympathy in their innocent enjoyment, it was not by them
that her thoughts were at this time peculiarly engrossed.

There was among them a fourth, who, although not hers by
the tie of nature, might almost be said to have become so by
adoption, since she had now been three years under her roof,
with the prospect of continuing there for an indefinite period;
and it was on this little girl, who stood to her in the relation
of a pupil, that the teacher's thoughtful attention was fixed.

She was between eleven and twelve years of age, and the
eldest of the little band; a bright, rosy-cheeked, animated
child, of a lively, adventurous spirit, the invariable leader
in every youthful pastime. But on the present occasion
she seemed only partially to share in the sport, for after
every outburst of glee in which she indulged, far outdoing her
companions in extravagant merriment, and inciting them to
new hilarity, she would hastily resume her seat at the foot of
an old apple-tree, snatch a well-worn book from the grass where
she had thrown it, and appear for a time wholly engrossed in
study. Her fits of diligence, however, were but short lived.
At the first temptation held out by her companions, she would
again fling aside the volume, spring to her feet, and bound with
them to the farthest corner of the orchard, from which excursion
she would return, heated, weary, and out of breath. Now
a mischievous urchin had stolen her bonnet, and dared her to
its recovery; and now a pet rabbit had just rushed past, and
she must follow with the others in full pursuit. It was in vain
that after each fresh interruption she applied herself anew to
her lesson, and placing her fingers to her ears, strove to shut
out the bewildering voices of her playmates. The effort, after
all, was but a mock endeavor, for her heart was anywhere but
in her book; and, at length, an unseen hand having snatched
the much abused grammar from her lap and thrown it over the

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boundary wall, the unwilling student felt a sense of relief at its
disappearance, and was the first to raise the shout of approval
that succeeded.

Just at this moment a bell sounded, and with a glance of
surprise and alarm in the direction of the house, the girl hastened
to recover the book and proceed to her recitation, for
which this was the signal.

She came into the presence of her instructress with a flushed
face, and, in place of her recent smiles, a half-mortified, half-vexed

The teacher took the book from her pupil's hand without
comment, and commenced hearing the lesson, which, as may
well be supposed, proved a failure in the very onset.

The child stood in silence for a few moments, and then said,
while tears of impatience rushed into her eyes, “I can't learn
this lesson, Mrs. Herbert, it is too hard.”

“You have not tried, Mabel,” said Mrs. Herbert, mildly.

“Yes I have,” answered Mabel; “I have tried just as hard
as I could, and I can't learn it. I wish I needn't study Latin.”

“Were you studying, my dear, when you lay for ten minutes
hid in the hay, while the children tried in vain to find you, or
when you stood on the highest bough of a cherry-tree and
strained your eyes with looking into a robin's nest?”

Mabel gave a quick glance out of the window from whence
she had thus been observed, then looked up into the friendly
face of Mrs. Herbert, and seeing there a smile, which invited
confidence and disarmed her of timidity, exclaimed, with natural
and childlike frankness, “How could I study any better, when
they were all having such a good time?”

“Ah! that is the true secret of the matter,” said Mrs. Herbert,
drawing Mabel towards her and wiping the moisture from
the child's heated brow. “I have been watching you for this
half hour, and knew very well how it would be with the lesson.
Do you remember what I told you about it this morning?”

“You said it was hard, the hardest thing in the book.”

“Not exactly, my dear; I told you, to be sure, that it was
more difficult than any task you had yet attempted; but, at the

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same time, I assured you that with a little patience you could
quickly learn it, and that this verb once mastered, all the rest
would seem comparatively easy. I did not promise, however,
that you would find the orchard a good place to study in, or
that the noise of the children would help you to fix your
thoughts on your book. You should have gone to your own
room, shut the door, and made up your mind to apply yourself
diligently for an hour at least. Will you do so now?”

Mabel hesitated, gave a longing look at her recent play-ground,
and then cast down her eyes, which were fast filling
with tears.

After waiting in vain for a reply, Mrs. Herbert passed her
arm round the waist of her pupil, fixed her mild eyes upon her
face with a look which enforced attention, and gently but forcibly
made use of such arguments as were most likely to excite
her ambition and prompt her to the necessary effort. The girl
was possessed of excellent capacity, but had not yet formed
habits of application, and needed powerful motives to stimulate
her to exertion. These Mrs. Herbert was able to supply, and
soon had the satisfaction of witnessing the effect produced by
her words, for Mabel gradually withdrew from her side, straightened
her figure with a determined air, and exclaimed, with
energy, “I suppose I can learn it, and I will.

“And remember,” said Mrs. Herbert, as she bestowed a
glance of affectionate interest and approval upon her hastily
retreating pupil, “remember for your encouragement what I
told you yesterday, that the more perfectly you learn this one
lesson, the easier will every future task become.”

It was the verb am&abar;re—to love—of the first regular conjugation,
and a formidable task did it appear in Mabel's eyes.

She was, however, possessed of an excellent memory, and
every requisite for successful study, and bringing, as she now
did, her whole heart to the labor, she was able in less than the
allotted time, to overcome all its difficulties.

Before the hour had expired, she presented herself once
more, grammar in hand, and her face bright with smiles, to
beg that Mrs. Herbert would hear her recite, assuring her

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that she knew every word perfectly, and had twice repeated
the synopsis to herself without looking on the book. It was
true, and the young student went triumphantly through the

“And see,” exclaimed she, as, after receiving the praise her
efforts had merited, she took the grammar from her teacher's
hand, “it is just as you said. I have been looking at the verb
that comes next, and it is so much like this that it will not be
hard at all,” and Mabel eagerly pointed out the tokens of similarity.

Mrs. Herbert, smiling at the little girl's earnestness, suggested
still further marks of resemblance, congratulated Mabel
upon the advantage she had gained, and then, laying her hand
upon the child's shoulder, said, impressively, “And so it is with
life, my dear Mabel. The great lesson of love once learned,
learned patiently, truly, and with the whole heart, not carelessly
scanned, or foolishly toyed with, but diligently received into
the soul, and planted there forever—this lesson will relieve all
life's trials and illumine all its mysteries. But, believe me,
my child, it is seldom learned amid life's sunshine and its joy.
Its teachings come to us in the silent chambers of thought,
when noise is shut out, and the voice of mirth for a time is
stilled, and eager pleasure gives place to patient duty. While
chasing the butterflies of folly, or wasting the summer hours in
play, we cannot take life's great lesson to heart; but, planted
perhaps in sorrow, and nourished perhaps in tears, it will one
day blossom in joy and peace. Rouse yourself to this last
lesson, Mabel, bring to it your soul's best powers, pursue it
with the energy which has been victorious to-day, and I shall
have no fear for your future.”

Mabel did not quite understand at the time, the full force of
these spontaneous words, which, prompted by earnest feeling,
took rather the form of soliloquy, than an address suited to
the child's years. But they were not lost upon her. Like
seeds of future promise, they were planted in her young heart;
memory kept them warm, and at last, matured by time, they
brought forth fruits unto righteousness.

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And once again. When Mabel had reached her eighteenth
year, and the summons had at length been received, which was
to call the pupil from the teacher who, during more than half
of the young girl's existence, had been to her less an instructress
than a parent, words of a similar import were the last
warning and the last charge which fell from the revered lips
of age and experience upon the listening ear of youth.

“Learn above all things, my dear girl,” said Mrs Herbert,
as they sat together the evening before Mabel's departure,
“to beware of self-love, and cultivate to the utmost degree a
universal charity. It is the best advice I can give you for
your safety, and the surest for your happiness.”

“Do you think me so selfish then?” exclaimed Mabel, half
grieved at the implication conveyed in her teacher's words.
“Oh, there are so many whom I love better than myself!”

“I accuse you of no unamiable quality, my dear Mabel, and
your generosity has always been proverbial among us; but,
when I charge you to cultivate love for others, even to the forgetfulness
of self, you must not misunderstand my meaning.
It is because it is so easy and natural to you, my dear child, to
love all and everybody, that I wish to warn you of a time,
when, instead of being your happiness, and so demanding of
you no sacrifice, it may become your trial and your misery;
and it is then that I bid you love on as woman can and must.
O, Mabel, there is nothing so insidious as self-love, nothing so
noble and so womanly as that divine love which finds its happiness
in duty.”

Mrs Herbert's voice trembled with emotion as she spoke,
and had anything been wanting to impress her words upon
Mabel's heart, that want would have been supplied when she
looked in the face of her revered friend, and felt that the lesson
she was now so earnestly imparting, was one taught her by
experience and proved by faithful practice.

Amid the pain of parting with old friends, and the joys and
hopes attendant upon her entrance into a new home, this lesson,
and that equally impressive one of her early childhood
which it had served to call up, were both for a time effaced

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from Mabel's recollection. But they were not lost. There
are lessons which penetrate our hearts like Heaven-sent whisperings,
lessons, simply spoken, scarce heeded when uttered,
but proving by their deep and lasting influence that they have
their source in the eternal fountain of truth.

And so it was with these simple teachings of a faithful, truehearted
woman. It was not the power with which they were
spoken, it was not eloquence nor a passion-stirring voice, nor
was it the effect of time or circumstance, that stamped them so
indelibly on Mabel's heart, but nevertheless they struck upon
a chord within, which thrilled at the word, and vibrating
through many years, reminded her again and again of the
Heavenly lesson which her soul needed for its purification.

It was long before the page fully unfolded itself on which that
lesson of love was written, and only by years of patient striving
were its difficulties overcome; but often amid the struggle
did memory whisper in Mabel's ear the encouraging assurance,
that this task once learned, the rest of life's path would be
made easy.

And is it not so? Is not woman's mission truly a mission
of love? And can she fail to fulfil all its duties nobly, and
find all its trials lightened and relieved when she has once
taken to heart that lesson, once fortified herself with that spirit
so beautifully exemplified in Him whose life on earth was a
glorious manifestation of love made perfect?

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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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