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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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No mortal doth know
What he can bestow,
What light, strength, and comfort do after him go;
Lo! onward I move,
And, but Christ above,
None guesses how wondrous the journey will prove.

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A brisk conversation, consisting for the most part of questions
and answers, was now maintained between the three children;
Rose every now and then stealing a glance at Mabel,
who was observing the little trio with evident interest. Mrs.
Hope had returned to some employment in the kitchen, which
had been interrupted by the arrival of her visitors, and Mabel
sat quietly watching the progress of this singular intercourse
between the children, responding to Rose's occasional glances
by a smile of approval and encouragement. She would gladly
have taken part in the conversation and expressed in some
way her sympathy with Rosy's misfortunes, but she found herself
disconcerted at the first attempt, being utterly at a loss
how to treat a child whose serious gravity inspired a respect
scarcely warranted by her years, and the patient contentment
of whose countenance forbade the pity which her infirmities
would otherwise have awakened. So she left it to the boys to
draw out the singular characteristics of their novel acquaintance,
an office for which they proved themselves amply competent.

Rose explained to them the use of various articles of which
the jack-straws furnished models, interesting the boys by the
clearness of her descriptions, and astonishing Mabel by the
intelligence they displayed. Things which could never, by

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any possibility, have come within the sick child's observations—
gardening utensils, carpenters and joiners' tools, and even complicated
pieces of machinery, were explained and their purposes
illustrated, with a force and accuracy which fascinated
the attention of Alick, and even imparted information to Mabel,
while Murray stood leaning on Rose's knee in a listening attitude,
his eyes fixed reverently on the face of their youthful
entertainer, who sat winding his long glossy curls around her
thin and wasted fingers.

It was certainly an incongruous group thus assembled in the
widow's shop. The sons of wealth, in gay attire and radiant
with health and vitality, drinking in knowledge at the feet of
one who, reared in poverty, wasted by disease, and isolated
from the world, formed a no less striking contrast to her youthful
listeners, from the superiority of her mental powers.

Perhaps Mabel felt conscious of the mortifying deficiencies
in her sister's children, for she asked herself, for the first time,
how it happened that the boys had never been sent to school,
and had been suffered to remain in such deplorable ignorance.

That they were not destitute of intellect, however, was evident
from the interest which they both manifested in Rosy's
engaging conversation; and the subjects to which the jackstraws
had given rise, might have engrossed the whole period of their
stay, had not their attention been at length attracted by another

A sudden movement caused Alick to hit his head against a
sharp corner, and looking up he espied Rosy's engraving,
which, removed from the little bed-room, hung against the
window frame. He immediately claimed acquaintance with
it. “Your picture!” cried he, “the picture of little pilgrim
and the angels! Let me see it—do! Lydia has told me
about that;” and he stretched forth his hand to snatch it from
the nail where it hung. It was beyond his reach, however,
and Mabel, after asking Rose's consent, assisted him in taking
it down, and placing it in an upright position on the window

As she did so she observed the chaste richness of its oval

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frame; and when she resumed her seat, and for the first time
saw the picture in a good light, she was struck with the exquisite
finish of the engraving, and the simple beauty of the subject.

“Where did you get it?” asked Alick, who, like Mabel,
perceived at once how inconsistent it seemed to be with its

“It was brought to the hospital while I was there trying to
be cured. It belonged to a young gentleman; and a lady, who
was one of the directresses, brought it there for me to see.
She left it for a week hanging at the foot of my bed, and then
it was that the doctor said I never could be cured, and might
as well come home again. I had got very fond of the picture,—
it told me stories and kept me company, and so, because I
loved it, and because I never could be cured, the gentleman
(I think it was the lady's son,) sent word for me to keep it

“Was n't he good?” exclaimed Alick, with feeling, at the
same time looking anxiously into the face of Rose, from whose
eyes, as she recalled the past, one or two tears had escaped
and were slowly trickling down her cheeks.

“What tells a story?” asked Murray, pulling at Rose's
sleeve—“Can the picture speak?”

“It speaks to me,” answered Rose, smiling sweetly through
her tears. “I can't tell you all it says, but some of the stories
are very plain to be seen,—don't you think so?”

“I do n't,” answered Murray, with a dissatisfied air, while
Alick carefully examined the picture.

“Why, you see,” said Rose, “that is little pilgrim going a
journey, and those three angels go with him.” Here Rose
paused, and looked inquiringly and diffidently into the face of
Mabel, as if seeking encouragement to continue the story.
Mabel answered by rising so as to obtain a better view, while
she herself listened attentively to Rose's description of her

Rose went on. “That is Hope,” said she, pointing to a
cherub figure peering above the clouds, with its hand outstretched,
and its eye fixed upon a light spot in the distance,

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which seemed intended to represent the glow of a brilliant

“And what does he say?” asked Murray.

“Oh, he says, `keep up a good heart, little pilgrim.' ”

“And what is that one's name?” inquired Alick, pointing
to another on the right, whose head was thrown back, while
both eye and hand were turned heavenward in an attitude of
rapt devotion.

“That is Faith,” replied Rose, and he says, `trust in God.' ”

“But that is the prettiest,” said Murray eagerly, placing his
finger on the central figure, whose eyes were downward bent,
and whose hand was pointing earthward, while the countenance
was illumined with the benignant smile of a pure benevolence.

“Yes, that is the prettiest,” said Rose, “and the best; that
is Charity, or Love, for it goes by both names.”

“We'll call it Love, then,” said Alick, “won't we?”

“Yes,” said Rose, “that is Love.”

“And what does Love say to Pilgrim?” continued Alick.

“Oh, a great many things,” answered Rose. “It tells him
to lend a helping hand to everybody he meets on the way, and
do all the good he can, and be patient, and gentle, and kind.”

“And is he? Does he do it?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“How do you know?”

“Can't you see?” asked Rose—“it is all told in the picture.”

The boys looked intently—so did Mabel—but neither
detected the proofs which seemed so evident to Rosy. Mabel
kept silent, but the boys confessed their ignorance.

“Don't you see,” said Rose, after a pause, “all the flowers
that have sprung up behind him as he goes; the path is dark,
and overhung with brushwood, so that he cannot see a step
before him on the road; but look where his feet have worn
that little track, and you will see all along beside it the flowers
that he has strewn there. Some have taken root and grown
up tall; there is a rose that has nearly climbed to the top of

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that high tree. How sweet it will smell to the next traveller
that comes along that way! “Those are his virtues,” added
Rose, after another pause, during which her listeners stood
carefully scanning the objects she had pointed out; “it was
Charity that went with him and helped him strew the flowers,—
don't you see he has a basket in his hand? that contains
the roots and seeds, and Charity shows him the best places to
plant them in, and how to make them grow.”

“He's got a cane,” said Murray—“what does he carry a
cane for?”

Rose looked up at Mabel and smiled. “That is the staff
of faith,” said she, “he leans on it when he is tired.”

“Where is he going?” asked Alick. “Is it a long journey.”

“Not very long; some people find it very short. He is
going to that city in the distance; do n't you see it with the
light shining on its walls and towers? That is the Eternal
City, Alick—the city of our God,” added she, solemnly, laying
her thin hand on Alick's arm; “we are all travelling on
the same road as pilgrim,—and we must try to strew flowers
behind us as we go.”

Children are always much impressed with anything in the
nature of an allegory. They wholly understand the actual
story, while they often catch a dim conception of its hidden
meaning. Murray was only capable of comprehending the
former, but Alick caught an idea, faint indeed, but still impressive
in its character, of the lesson which Rose's story had partially
revealed to his untaught soul; and Mabel, who, in spite
of good principles and high aspirations, was a child in religious
experience, felt awed by the simple teachings of virtue, and
subdued by the sublime power of truth. Thus Rose herself
had unconsciously planted seed by the wayside; and who shall
tell when and how such seed may spring up into everlasting

There was a silence in the little company for a short time
after Rose had finished; then Murray yawned, as children
will yawn when they have been agreeably entertained and
find the entertainment suddenly withdrawn. “How soon are

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we going home?” asked he of Mabel, “I'm hungry.”

“Hush!” said Mabel softly, unwilling to make further claim
upon the widow's hospitality by the expression of any new
wants; we shall go soon; it is time for Donald to be here
now;” then bethinking herself of the best mode of repaying
those attentions which she had already received, she proposed
to make some purchases from the widow's stock. It was difficult
to make a selection of articles in any degree appropriate
to her station in life, Mrs. Hope's goods being intended for the
accommodation of her own humble neighborhood. With the
children's assistance, however, she contrived to expend, in
trifling purchases, all the money she had in her purse; and
Murray had just received into his arms the gorgeous, but
long-neglected parrot, when the shop door was suddenly thrown
open, and Lydia entered with a flushed and excited countenance.

She was laden with shawls and wrappers, which, in addition
to the articles sent for by Mabel, had been despatched by her
anxious aunt, and was so breathless with haste and astonishment
that Mabel strove in vain to obtain from her an intelligent
reply to her inquiries, what had become of the coachman
and horses, and why she herself had come thither on foot.

The half-laughing, half-crying girl, overjoyed at the safety
of Mabel and the children, and excited to the last degree by
the circumstance of their having taken refuge in her mother's
shop, could only embrace Rose and the boys by turns, uttering,
meanwhile, interjectional phrases, expressive of her own and
Miss Sabiah's fears, and the prompt action of Mr. Dudley,
whose name was strangely mingled with her exclamations.

Finding it impossible to calm her, Mabel hastily opened the
shop door, to satisfy herself whether or not the carriage was
in sight, and as she did so, encountered Dudley at the very
threshold. She blushed with pleased surprise, not having in
the least understood Lydia's broken communication, and the
color deepened in her cheeks when he seized her hand with an
eagerness that betrayed his anxiety on her account,—an anxiety
which evidently had not been wholly quieted by Donald's

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assurance of her safety. His fears were wholly allayed, however,
at the sight of her smiles, and she now learned that the carriage
awaited them at some little distance, Mr. Dudley having judged
it imprudent to venture on wheels into the narrow, crowded
street, encumbered as it was with snow.

He also informed her, in few words, that he had pursued her
sleigh as long as he could keep the frantic horses in sight, and
then, not being able to recover their track, had, after a fruitless
search, hastened to Mr. Vaughan's house, hoping that, though
the frightened animals were beyond the coachman's control,
instinct would guide them thither. He arrived there but a
few moments in advance of Donald, and having learned from
him the welcome tidings of her safety, resolved still further to
assure himself of it by accompanying him on his return to the
spot where she had found shelter.

“What a wretched place you have been obliged to wait in!”
exclaimed he, looking down into the low, dark shop, and seeming
to shrink from its close atmosphere.

“We have been hospitably, and even agreeably, entertained
here,” answered Mabel; “the boys and I have made the
acquaintance of a sick child, who proves to be the sister of
their nurse; she is an interesting little creature,—do come in
and see her, Mr. Dudley.”

“The room seems to be pretty well stocked already, in proportion
to its dimensions,” answered Dudley, smiling, “especially
as you pronounce it to be a sick-room; and in view of the
latter fact, Miss Mabel, I feel bound in conscience to hurry
you away from this miserable place. I have made myself
responsible to Miss Vaughan for your safe return, and a heated,
distempered air may sometimes prove as fatal as a pair of
runaway horses.”

Mabel made haste to repel this suggestion, assuring Dudley
that the child's illness was chronic, and not of a contagious
character, and that the room, though naturally close, from its
low, damp situation, was otherwise comfortable, and in all
respects neat.

He smiled complacently at the warmth with which she

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defended her place of refuge from unjust aspersions, and, as if
to satisfy her that he had no fears on his own account, stepped
within the door, and still holding it ajar, awaited her pleasure.

As there was no motive for further delay, the little party
were not long in making ready to depart; especially as Mabel
had previously resumed her cloak and bonnet, now restored by
Mrs. Hope's care to their original appearance, and Lydia had
recovered her composure and partially equipped the boys for
their return home. Mabel was much touched at the deep feeling
evinced by Rose, as she spoke her simple farewell, expressing
in a few words how happy the visit had made her, and
pressing Mabel's hand to her lips with mingled respect and
fervor. “I will come again, Rose,” said Mabel, in a low voice.

She would gladly have said more, being anxious to testify
in some way the tender sympathy she felt for the little invalid.
But Dudley stood looking on; he would mentally accuse her
of affectation or parade; so she contented herself with the
promise to repeat her visit, and with a lightly spoken good-by,
took her friend's offered arm to accompany him to the
carriage, leaving the boys to follow with Lydia.

“The fresh air is really delightful,” exclaimed she, as the
clear, wintry breeze, tempered by the warmth of a noon-day
sun, fanned her cheek, which was slightly feverish with the
excitement of the morning.

“If I may be allowed to advise,—and you will pardon whatever
there may be of selfishness in the suggestion,” said her
companion,—“I should declare a walk home preferable to a
drive, under existing circumstances.”

The sight of the carriage, which they had now reached,
served to enforce Dudley's opinion. The wheels were so
clogged with snow that it was evident they could move but
slowly, and in a lumbering manner, through the streets, and as
Alick also expressed a preference for walking, it was decided
that Murray and Lydia should proceed in the carriage, and
the others continue up Broadway on foot.

Although the hour passed in the widow's humble dwelling
had been replete with interest, the sudden change from the

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confined atmosphere and narrow limits of the shop to the bracing
air, active exercise, and brilliant spectacle afforded by the
crowded street, had a corresponding effect upon the spirits of
Alick and Mabel. The former, whose movements were usually
slow and languid, trod with a light step, as if rejoicing in an
unwonted share of liberty, which he was, in truth, experiencing,
since it was rarely that he went out on foot, except for a short
and monotonous walk with Lydia. Availing himself of the
license afforded on the present occasion, he would now and
then pause to survey at his leisure whatever object attracted
his attention, and then bounding forward, overtake his somewhat
careless protectors, who, engrossed with each other, left
him at liberty to do as he pleased; a freedom of which, however,
he took no undue advantage. Mabel, meanwhile, flattered
by Dudley's marked interest in her safety, and rejoicing
in the exuberance of youthful spirits, excited the increased
admiration of her companion by the variety of her conversation
and her natural and eager enjoyment of the gay, wintry
scene. It was, in truth, the simple and unperverted freshness
of this child of nature which had captivated the experienced
man of the world. The inborn dignity, grace, and animated
sweetness of manner, which had fitted her to take at once a
distinguished place in society, might have existed independently
of that child-like enthusiasm which was, perhaps, the most
interesting feature of her character; but this latter trait had at
once been discerned by Dudley, and, cautious as he was of
yielding to impressions, its charm had completely fascinated
him. So true it is, that a mutual attraction often exists between

The prevailing character of the incidents in which their walk
invited them to participate, was that of mirth and laughter;
but an opportunity soon occurred for the further and more
complete development of Mabel's ready and universal sympathies.
At just that point in Broadway where the crowd was
most dense, and their movements the most hurried, our party
suddenly encountered a little boy, ragged, dirty, and bending
beneath the weight of an old basket filled with half-burnt coals.

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The little urchin was directly in the path of the throng of foot
passengers, who were hurrying up and down the side-walk, and
in endeavoring to avoid a collision, he stumbled and fell upon
one knee, striking his burden heavily upon the pavement.
The time-worn and shattered basket had hardly held together
before, and now, as he lifted it to resume his progress, it gave
way entirely, and its whole contents were scattered in the deep
snow which bordered the side-walk. Some of the passers-by
laughed, some looked compassionately over their shoulders,
and one or two paused for an instant, out of curiosity, to see
whether the boy would attempt to repair the misfortune.

“Oh! poor little fellow;” exclaimed Mabel, who reached
the spot at the moment of the accident, and whose compassion
was at once excited by the expression of blank dismay which
overspread his childish face at the sight of his lost and wasted

The boy, hearing a kindly voice, and seeing the shadow of
some person who evineed a pitying interest by coming to a full
stop, looked up from the wreck on which his gaze had been
hitherto fixed, and met the glance of Mabel's eye with such a
look of appeal as went straight to her heart. It was an innocent
countenance, and a sad one, and told a story of want and
disappointment somewhere.

“It's a pity!” said Mabel, glancing from the face of the boy
to the spilt coal and useless basket; and, as the mournful eyes,
now fast filling with tears, still spoke a touching entreaty, a
moisture gathered in her own, and her hand, as usual, sought
her pocket.

Alick, who had been lingering behind, now came up, and,
with childhood's quick instinct, reading the whole story, exclaimed
eagerly and confidently, “Oh, Aunt Mabel, do give
him some money!”

But alas, the purse was empty; the money had all been
spent at the widow's shop! The consciousness of this did not
flash upon Mabel, until she had drawn the little silver reticule
from her pocket and exposed her destitution; then blushing
with mortification and disappointment at having encouraged the

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child's hopes, to dash them the next instant, she turned to Dudley,
supposing that the act had awakened his observation, and
would induce him to supply her deficiencies by a prompt contribution
on his part. But the case seemed not to have touched
his sympathies, at least not in such a way as to conduce to the
boy's benefit. He stood at the distance of a step or two,
quietly surveying the scene with an interested and amused air,
and, although manifesting no impatience, seemed to be viewing
Mabel's proceedings as those of a capricious child indulging a
wayward impulse.

Mabel could not be sure whether he perceived her embarrassment;
but it being very evident that he felt no disposition
to charity, she was reluctantly compelled to restore her purse
to her pocket, and leave the child to bear his misfortune as he
best might, with no other encouragement than that conveyed
in a kind word. “My money is all gone,” said she; “I am
sorry,—perhaps some other lady will give you a sixpence.”

She spoke confusedly, and with evident regret, which increased
to actual pain as the little fellow replied, with sad simplicity,
“It's very hard to find a lady that'll give me a sixpence.”

Grieved as she felt for the little fellow, there was nothing
more to be said or done, and the next moment she was continuing
her walk, exchanging salutations with gay friends, and
listening to Dudley's conversation.

Alick staid behind a moment, to scan the boy's face with his
ever-curious eyes, and solace his disappointment, if possible, by
saying, “She has spent all her money,—I have not got any
either—it's too bad.”

“Your compassion is awake I see, Miss Vaughan, like
every other amiable emotion,” said Dudley, as they proceeded
up the street. “You are new to scenes like that younder, but
you will soon, I fear, become accustomed to them, if you go out
frequently in New York, especially on foot.”

“Oh, I have seen a great many miserable objects already,”
said Mabel; “enough to make my heart ache; but that little fellow
interested me particularly, he had such a plaintive look;”

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and Mabel sighed, as her thoughts again recurred to the unspoken
appeal which had moved her so forcibly.

“That boy had rather a beautiful countenance,” said Dudley;
“he reminded me of a most exquisite group I saw in Florence
last winter, Picciotti's Beggars. I wish you could see that
piece of statuary, Miss Vaughan—I am sure you would appreciate
it; it is his masterpiece—a wonderful work of art! I
was struck immediately with that boy's resemblance to the
younger of the two beggars.”

“He was not a beggar!” exclaimed Alick, who had joined
them unobserved, and caught Dudley's last word only. “He
didn't ask for anything!”

“There are various kinds of begging,” responded Dudley,
replying to Alick's remark, though not looking at him, or appearing
to observe from what quarter the suggestion had proceeded,
for he seldom took much notice of children. “That is
the most specious, certainly, which addresses itself to the eye
and not the ear. That stroke was capitally executed, however,”
added he, laughing good humoredly; “it would have
done credit to one of the junior members of the Ravel troupe.
It is astonishing how quickly those little practitioners become
adepts in their art.”

“Why, you surely do not think—” exclaimed Mabel, in

“That that was an accident done on purpose?” said Dudley,
in continuation of her query, and smiling at her genuine astonishment;
“perhaps so—perhaps not;” and he shrugged his
shoulders expressively. “At all events,” continued he, as if
hesitating to pronounce decisively in the present instance, “we
will not be severe upon him, since your judgment is evidently
in his favor, Miss Vaughan; but these artifices to excite sympathy
are no doubt very common. Modern institutions are
partially responsible for it; they cry out against street begging,
and street cunning rises up in its stead. Ah, they manage
these things much better abroad! a few bajocchi will disperse an
Italian rabble, and there is the end of it; but here, society is
to be reörganized, poverty put down, and I don't know what

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not. Very well; I am willing to give philanthropists a fair
chance for my part—but if they will put restrictions on our
benevolence, the poor must take the consequences, I suppose,
if they starve.”

And having thus involved what had previously seemed
a simple appeal to charity, into a complicated case of political
economy, Dudley gracefully and easily waived any
further consideration of the difficult question, by resuming
his analysis of the merits of Picciotti's Beggars, and leading
Mabel's thoughts into the wide field of beauty and of art.
Here he was completely at home; and, with his wonderful
gift at description, and his unrivalled and varied powers of entertainment,
he completely enchained her attention for the
remainder of the walk.

That evening, however, as she stood in front of a brilliant
fire which was burning in the dining room, and heard the cold
wind whistle round the corner of the house, she thought again
of the little boy and the spilt coals. He might be an impostor,
the very prince of rogues, but, despite her reason, instinct and
good heart whispered otherwise, and, do what she would to
restrain them, painful visions rose before her of dreary garrets,
where half-starved children and despairing mothers crouched
beneath scanty coverings, and cried and shivered with the cold.

Mabel's experience and knowledge would not warrant her in
deciding the comparative claims of beggars and philanthropists;
but one thing at least was certain, misused as her bounty might
have been by the boy, it's bestowal would have left a blessing
with the giver. As it was, she could only sigh for the poverty
which was beyond her reach, and soothe her regret with the
newly awakened idea, that a too liberal distribution of money
was dangerous, and might defeat the best interests of society.
Not that she could persuade herself that it would have done
harm in the present case, for she felt an honest conviction of
the truthfulness of her first impressions. Who shall say, however,
that her heart warmed as readily towards the next child
of misfortune that came in her path? or, that the spirit of distrust
once awakened in her hitherto unsuspecting bosom could

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be easily laid to rest? Rosy was right in saying, that we need
in life's pathway an angel guide, to teach us where to plant the
flowers of charity. Alas for earth's youthful pilgrims, when a
cold and worldly calculation banishes the gentle spirit of human
love and sympathy! More fatal still, when the sister spirits of
faith and hope give place to gloomy doubts and discouraging

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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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