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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 lovely being scarcely formed or moulded,
A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded.

[figure description] Page 012.[end figure description]

Mabel Vaughan was the daughter of a New York merchant,
a man of remarkable business capacity, undoubted
integrity, and reputed wealth; one who although of highly
respectable parentage, good education, and fair advantages for
a start in life, had nevertheless been in a great degree the fram-er
of his own fortunes, having passed through all the phases
incident to the accumulation of a large property.

While thus sacrificing his youth, however, and with it all
his best and noblest powers to the pursuit of wealth, he found
no opportunity for the forming of domestic ties, and it was not
until he was fast verging upon middle life that he even meditated
matrimony. He had by this time gained that point in
the social scale, when he was marked as a rising man of wide
commercial influence, and this distinction, together with his
gentlemanly bearing, found him faver in the eyes of a beautiful
and fashionable woman, whose fair face had captivated his
fancy, and whose family connection was such as to gratify his

There was between them no similarity of taste or habit,
however, and the union which succeeded their short acquaintance,
was productive of but little happiness to either party.
Mr. Vaughan had hoped to find at his own fireside that quiet
and relaxation from care, of which he had experienced the
want, and failing in this, he sought amid the speculation and
excitement of business to forget the disappointment he had
experienced in his home, while his wife, after pursuing for a
time those gaieties which her husband refused to share, became

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the victim, first, of complaining self-indulgence, and finally of
positive ill health.

Fatal as this utter want of sympathy proved to the welfare
of the ill-assorted pair, its consequences were still more injurious
to their children, especially to the eldest, a daughter, who
from infancy to womanhood was exposed to all its unfortunate
influences. At the birth of this little girl, Mr. Vaughan's
interests and affections were again turned from his countinghouse,
to centre in the home where he once more began to
meditate upon those fireside and domestic joys which had
always figured in his dreams of married life. But his wife
did not share these fond aspirations, and the child proving an
insufficient object to win her from a course of dissipated gayety,
was soon abandoned to the care of strangers, save as the father
strove at intervals, by fond and injudicious indulgence to atone
for the mother's neglect. During six succeeding years, this
daughter continued the sole occupant of the nursery, and the
sole victim of her parent's mismanagement. At the end of
that time a boy, and, a few years after, another girl were added
to the household. Louise, however, the eldest, was by this
time promoted to the companionship of her mother, who now
become a restless and nervous invalid, sought to divert her
mind with the pretty and graceful child, whose education and
accomplishments she resolved herself to superintend. And
the result of such superintendence was this. Louise, at six-teen
was a fine dancer, a tolerably skilful musician, and a
complete mistress of all the arts of coquetry. Nature had
given her a pretty face, and symmetry of form, and early practice
had taught her to turn both to good account. Despite her
youth, too, she had, by sedulous cultivation, acquired many socalled
fascinations of manner, which acted powerfully upon
those who shut their eyes to her extreme affectation; and her
utter want of mental and moral discipline was atoned for in
the eyes of her mother's circle of friends, by a natural quickness
of intellect, and a proverbial amiability of disposition.

These latter qualities, however, so far as she in reality possessed
them, were given her at birth. They could not be

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numbered among her acquirements, for unfortunately her heart,
mind, and soul had been quite overlooked in her education.

Such being the consequence of the mother's supervision, it
could scarcely be a matter of regret that Harry and Mabel
were, for the most part, shut out from her presence and her
care. Harry was so noisy, and his little sister had adopted so
many of his rude ways, that both were unfit for her sacred
precincts, even if she had considered them of a suitable age
to profit by her instruction; and as it was, she condemned
them wholly to the care of a newly-hired nurse.

Fortunately this nurse, though ignorant, was faithful; though
severe, impartial; and though unimaginative, true. She could
rarely give satisfactory replies to the questions suggested by
their innocent curiosity, but at the same time she taught them
no evil. Her management was often such as to thwart their
favorite schemes, but she never punished them unjustly, or
complained of them without reason; and if her dull and uncultivated
intellect failed to furnish diversion for theirs, she at
least practised upon them no deception, and entertained them
with no gossip.

Thus, while their young natures failed to ripen as rapidly as
they might have done under other tutelage, and their faculties
found little scope for development or growth, they were spared
many of the evil influences which had early corrupted the
mind of the less fortunate Louise; and if their young souls
were checked in their infant expansion, they at least were not
poisoned in the bud.

Before Harry had reached his ninth year his impatient spirit
burst the bounds of nursery restraint, and obtaining from his
indulgent father permission to attend school, he was sent from
home to form boyish connections and friendships, leaving his
little sister deprived of her cherished playmate, her only companion
in thraldom.

Then followed a dreary season, long remembered by poor
Mabel, when, during many tedious months, she kept on with her
lonesome plays, having no variety in her monotonous life, save
a daily walk with her nurse, a short visit from her often

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abstracted father, or a summons to the parlor, from which she
was sure to be banished on occasion of the slightest childish

And then came the release! Alas, that a mother's death
should have imparted new life to her child! But so it was,
though none but angel eyes perhaps traced out the workings of
that infinite love which recalled the unfaithful, earthly parent,
that a heavently father's hand might furnish a better guardianship
for his child. The well-dressed groups who assembled to
pay the last honors to her who had once been the ornament of
their circle, and who bestowed upon her awe-struck and sableclad
daughter the epithets “Poor Mabel!”—“Poor little
motherless one!”—this short-sighted group would have started,
perhaps, at the lesson and shrunk from the warning, had the
voice of truth whispered in their ears that the holiest trust
committed to the parent is sometimes recalled, in mercy to the

Mabel was eight years old when her mother died, and being
the only one of the children who was under the paternal roof
at the time, she became the more immediate object of her widowed
father's thoughts. Louise had recently been sent to a fashionable
boarding-school; Harry still continued at his academy;
but Mabel must be provided for. Both the calls of business
and his own choice combined to render Mr. Vaughan desirous
of leaving the country and closing his house for an indefinite
period; but in this case some arrangement must be made
which would furnish a suitable home for his little girl.

As she sat on his knee one evening, about a week after his
wife's death, and his thoughts, sobered by that solemn event,
and concentrated more ardently than was their wont upon his
children's future welfare, were especially bent upon the promotion
of Mabel's happiness and improvement, there darted into
his mind one of those Heaven-directed ideas, whose happy and
far-reaching results seem to prove the divinity of their source.

He had, within the past month, received a letter informing
him of the death of an old friend, one who had been a playmate
of his boyhood, and for whom he had ever continued to

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feel a warm and consistent regard. This regard had recently
been attested by the loan of a sum of money, trifling in the
eyes of the wealthy merchant, but of infinite importance to his
friend, who, with an increasing family and pursuing a poorly-paid
literary career, had become sadly embarrassed for the
want of this small amount.

He died, however, before an opportunity had ever arrived for
defraying the debt, and Mr. Vaughan's recent letter from his
widow was written less with the view of informing him of her
loss, than to acquaint him with her inability to meet his just
demands, and to request his indulgence for the present. This
was readily accorded, and with a sigh of regret for his friend,
Mr. Vaughan dismissed the subject from his mind.

Now, however, as he gazed in the face of his little daughter,
reflected upon the disappointment he could not but feel in
Louise, and resolved that a wholly different course should be
pursued with Mabel's education, he conceived a sudden desire
to place her under the sole charge of Mrs. Herbert,—the widow
of his friend,—confide to her the trust of which he felt conscious
he was scarcely more worthy than his wife had been, and
delegate to her the entire authority which had thus far been
neglected and abused.

Mrs. Herbert was poor; she had three children to support
by her own exertions, and was eager and anxious to employ
herself profitably. The proposal, therefore, which Mr. Vaughan
made without delay, accompanying it with the most generous
pecuniary offers, was as promptly accepted; and thus it happened
that Mabel became, as we have seen, one of Mrs.
Herbert's household.

We may not pause to trace the benefits which resulted from
this event to the widow and her family. The child's coming,
indeed, was the signal and forerunner of many blessings; it
roused Mrs. Herbert to hope and to exertion; it laid the foundation
for what became in time a well-established and prosperous
school; and long after, when she had acquired independence
for herself, and beheld with joy the prosperity of her children,
she failed not to look back to Mabel's entrance into her

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household as the date of all her after success. Often are mercies
thus combined, and far-reaching are the schemes of Providence;
but it is with their influence upon Mabel alone that we
now have anything to do.

She remained ten years under Mrs. Herbert's care, often
passing her vacations in that home which was to her the
happiest she had ever known, and never, during this long
period, revisiting her native city, save on the occasion of
her sister's marriage with a wealthy banker, which took place
when Mabel was still a mere child. Mr. Vaughan's house was at
that time leased to strangers, and the wedding ceremonies were
held under the hospitable roof of a Mrs. Vannecker, a distant
relative of the late Mrs. Vaughan, who had been proud to
usher Louise into society, and now boasted that she had made
the match.

Here the family were assembled to participate in the preparations
and festivities attendant upon the event, all of which
were entered into with eager zest by Mabel, and remembered
by her afterwards rather as a brilliant dream than an actual

With this exception she never left her school, save for a
yearly visit to her grandmother, whose residence was within a
day's journey from Mrs. Herbert's; and these visits were of
longer or shorter continuance, according to the old lady's state
of health, or the convenience of Mabel's aunt, Miss Sabiah
Vaughan, who continued to live with her mother, and had
charge of the housekeeping. From these absences, however,
which from one cause or another were usually of limited duration,
she invariably returned with joy to her kind teacher and
beloved playmates, by whom she was sure to have been sadly
missed, and was always warmly welcomed back, for Mabel was
the life of the household.

And here, amid healthful influences, and under the judicious
training of one of the best of women, she rapidly developed
those powers and capacities which had in her early childhood
found little scope for their expansion.

Mrs. Herbert was a religious woman, and she spared no

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pains to impart to Mabel the knowledge and love of virtue.
She had sound judgment and a highly cultivated intellect, and
patiently sought to guide and strengthen the mind of her pupil,
and store it with lasting treasures. She was possessed, too, of
those social qualities which give a charm to home and render
a fireside comfortable and happy; and the youthful group
around her were encouraged by her example to the cultivation
of every endearing and feminine grace.

Nor was she less a practical than an accomplished woman.
She understood every branch of house keeping, every art in
needle-work, and had acquired, through years of rigid practice,
economy, prudence and skill, in all of which branches her
pupils reaped, in a greater or less degree, the benefit of her

Thus, during ten years passed in a plain but well-ordered
New England homestead, where the highest mental discipline
was combined with instruction in the simplest female duties, Mabel
acquired strength of principle, soundness of knowledge, cheerfulness
of disposition, and useful and industrious habits. Meantime,
her physical development had kept pace with her mental
and moral growth; pure air, healthful exercise, and wholesome
diet, strengthening and hardening her frame, while with
every succeeding year she grew in beauty and grace, until Mrs.
Herbert gazed at length with inward pride and delight upon
the fair blossom that her own hand had reared, and which had
ripened beneath her very eye.

When Mabel, at eight years of age, was first placed under
Mrs. Herbert's charge, she was a shy, unformed child, rude in
her manners and speech, and wholly unused to any kind of
application. At eighteen she was not only beautiful in person,
cultivated in mind, and amiable and affectionate in disposition,
but to her rich personal and mental gifts she added a winning
frankness and cordiality of manner, which, springing as they
did from a warm and sincere heart, combined with her other
attractions to render her the favorite as well as the pride of
her companions.

But Mrs. Herbert was not infallible, nor Mabel faultless.

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True, the former had labored diligently for the improvement
of one who, next to her own children, was the principal object
of her endeavors and prayers, and had met undoubtedly with a
proportionate degree of success. But there were faults in
Mabel's character which time and diligence had not yet
uprooted; faults of whose full extent Mrs. Herbert was scarcely
aware, and which were fostered by circumstances beyond her control.
Mabel's very popularity among her schoolmates exposed
her to danger; and amid the varying characters with which she
came in familiar contact, she could not wholly escape pernicious
influences, especially during the latter years of her school
life, when the number of Mrs. Herbert's pupils had greatly

These faults, however, were not vital. They were such only
as are common to most girls of her age, and we need not pause
to dwell upon them, for in due season they will present themselves
to notice as we follow her in her after career.

Conscious as Mrs. Herbert was of a faithful discharge of
duty, and well rewarded as her efforts had for the most part
been, she had too much good sense, too much knowledge of the
waywardness of the human heart, to believe for a moment that
Mabel was henceforth secure from temptation, or proof against
its assaults. And, therefore, as she read the few hasty lines
from Mr. Vaughan, which summoned his daughter to the superintendence
of his house, and the enjoyment of city gayeties, she
trembled at the thought that thenceforward Mabel must mark
out her own path, unsustained by the guiding hand and almost
maternal love which had thus far fostered and protected her.

It needed, indeed, no prophetic eye to foresee the peculiar
exposures and dangers which awaited Mabel's future. Already
had Mrs. Herbert observed the pride with which the fond
father, in his occasional visits, gazed upon his daughter's daily
increasing charms, and already had she more than once been
compelled to remonstrate against the lavish and profuse indulgence
with which he proposed to gratify her girlish whims.
She knew, too, the gay and thoughtless circles in which
Mrs. Vaughan had moved, in which Louise now shone

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triumphant, and in which Mabel would be sure to be admired, flattered,
and caressed.

And because she knew all this, and because she rightly conjectured
that in this new sphere no pains would be spared to
gratify Mabel's vanity, encourage her ambition, foster her
pride, and administer to her self-love, did she tremble for her
purity of heart and disinterestedness of purpose.

She feared that in time of trial, when pleasure stood on one
side and duty opposed to it on the other, Mabel's unaided
strength would fail in the bitter contest. She feared lest selfishness,
worldliness, and pride, would triumph at last over the
barriers of christian truth and virtue, which she had sought to
rear in the young girl's heart. And so, since henceforward she
could protect her only with her prayers, she gave her for a
watchword and a shield that simple precept, so gentle in its
workings, yet so mighty in its power,—that potent spell which
disarms every spirit of evil, and is woman's surest weapon, both
of warfare and defence,—for she sent her forth to the conflict
with the armor of christian love.

And Mrs. Herbert and Mabel never met again. Not that
either was speedily called from a career of earthly usefulness;
but their paths henceforth lay apart. Often would Mabel
gladly have turned to this well-tried confidant and friend
for counsel, sympathy, and advice. But it might not be.
Other interests soon became bound up in her own, interests in
which Mrs. Herbert might not share; and only partially, and
at long intervals, could she, even by letter, impart to this friend
of her childhood and youth the secret cares and anxieties which
burdened her woman's heart.

But there was a spiritual bond between them still, a bond
which strengthened with time, and was tempered in adversity,
for in her last warning charge, her last earnest lesson, Mrs.
Herbert had imparted to Mabel the great truth that woman
needs to learn. It slumbered awhile, then awoke in power;
at first as a still, small voice, and anon as a flaming sword,
it led her on to victory.

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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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