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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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Humble love,
And not proud science, keeps the door of Heaven;
Love finds admission where proud science fails.

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During the fortnight that Dudley continued absent from
the city, which was also the limit of his estrangement from
Mabel, the only companionship from which she obtained any
relief was that of her sister's children. Her efforts to win the
affections of the boys had not been without success; and each
in his way gave evidence of a strength of attachment to their
young aunt, which she, in her turn, reciprocated with all the
warmth of a loving heart. The shout of joy with which Murray
hailed her presence, was only equalled by the glow of
unspoken pleasure which overspread the face of Alick, and
their mutual admiration of their aunt Mabel was the one point
on which they never disagreed. Murray's restlessness subsided
into happy, childish enjoyment, when he was permitted
to climb her knee at the twilight hour, and prattle to her of
the events of the day; and nothing made him so supremely
happy, as to fall asleep at night with his hand locked fast
in hers. Often, while he was visiting at his grandfather's,
had Mabel loitered from the fashionable dinner party to listen
to the little nothings which he was so eager to impart;
and more than once her rich evening dress had swept the
carpet while she knelt beside his couch and soothed his infant
slumbers. Both nature and habit had made Alick independent
of caresses; but the gratified look with which he glanced up
from his book the first time she questioned him upon the subject
of his reading, had taught her the way to his heart, and the
boy never again had reason to complain that no one was interested
in his pleasure and improvement.

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She had her reward. Childish love is a refreshing balm to
the soul; and nothing so quieted her restless spirit as to feel
around her the pressure of Murray's little arms, and observe
the sturdy manliness with which Alick, on all occasions, appointed
himself her attendant and champion.

She had nothing to dread, moreover, in her intercourse with
the children. They would neither suspect her uneasiness, nor
seek to pry into its source, and experiencing a sense of security
in their presence, Mabel availed herself of their society on
every possible occasion.

One Sunday they accompanied her home from church after
the morning service, and, the early dinner being concluded,
followed her, with their pockets full of nuts, into the little
apartment adjoining the drawing-room, which she could never
enter now without feelings of inexpressible sadness. The boys
seated themselves in the window and commenced eating their
nuts, while Mabel wandered listlessly about the room, reading,
in its abundant decorations, the evidences of Harry's affection,
and wondering where he might be spending the Sabbath, for
she had not seen him since morning.

She paused in front of her richly inlaid writing-desk, and,
lifting the lid, took up a little heap of letters recently received
from her former teacher and schoolmates. They were in reply
to some she had written a few weeks ago in all the extravagance
of youthful spirits, and their tone grated strangely on her present
feelings. The dear girls congratualted and envied her, and
her beloved friend, Mrs. Herbert, believing her to be happy,
wrote only a brief message of affection, sympathizing in the
pleasures of her lot, and gently cautioning her not to be too
confident of their continuance. Alas! the caution came too

She closed the desk, and taking a book threw herself upon
the sofa and tried to read; but her mind wandered from the
page, and, after indulging a long fit of gloomy meditation, she
rose and walked to the window, where the children were watching
the numerous passers by. The day, though cold, was clear

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and bright, and the family groups that moved through the
street formed a pleasant picture.

“Should you like to take a walk?” asked she, moved by a
sudden impulse to run away from her thoughts.

The proposition was hailed with acclamations of delight.
The boys ran for their coats and hats, while Mabel prepared
for the excursion with an air of indifference strangely at variance
with her once elastic movements. They had proceeded
some distance down one of the avenues, without any special
destination in view, when Alick suddenly exclaimed, “O
Aunt Mabel, why can't we go and see Rosy?”

“We can,” said Mabel, “if it will not be too long a walk for

Murray protested against the possibility of his being fatigued,
and they at once took the direction toward Mrs. Hope's humble
dwelling. The quarter in which she lived was poor, but
respectable and orderly, and they reached the house without
adventure, though not without attracting the attention of the
neighborhood, who seldom had an opportunity to witness the
dress and bearing of the wealtheir classes. They found the
windows of the little shop closed, with wooden shutters; and
the door, too, was fastened; so that Mabel's repeated knocks
were unanswered. Disappointed at having come so far to no
purpose, and fearful that some misfortune had befallen the
family, she looked about her to find, if possible, some other
mode of entrance—and, at length, proceeding to the end of the
building, discovered a low, dark alley, which appeared to lead
to the rear of the dilapidated tenement.

She felt some hesitation in entering this unexplored passage-way,
but it was no part of her character to be turned from a
worthy purpose by the indulgence of idle fears, and bidding
the children follow her closely, she penetrated to the extremity
of the alley, and found herself in a narrow yard, enclosed by
mouldy walls of brick, encumbered with rubbish, but extending,
as she had conjectured, across the rear of the entire building.
Several doors opened upon this common court-yard, and she
was at a loss to distinguish that of Mrs. Hope, when the widow

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herself emerged from one of them with a pail in her hand, and
was proceeding in the direction of the pump that stood against
the wall; but seeing and recognizing Mabel, she gave a quick
start of surprise, and, setting down her pail, came to meet her,
with an air of mingled pleasure and embarrassment.

The latter feeling partially subsided, as Mabel made haste to
apologize for her seemingly clandestine entrance, and inquired
with cordial interest concerning Mrs. Hope's welfare, and that
of Rose.

“Rose is pretty well, just now, for her,” said the widow.
“She'll be right glad to see you, Miss Vaughan. She's got
her little Sunday-school in the back room this afternoon, and I
suppose it was their singing that drowned your knock; they've
got considerable voice, little tots as they are. They are most
through now; walk in, Miss Vaughan, it's a sort of a pretty
sight. You wont disturb them,” added she, observing that
Mabel hesitated—and, stepping within the woodshed at the
rear of her own contracted tenement, she threw open the door
of the kitchen, and motioned to Mabel to advance as far as the

She did so without attracting observation, and, holding up
her finger, she enforced silence upon the boys, who also pressed
forward and peeped in.

Rose was seated in her little arm-chair in the centre of the
room, and around her were grouped some half dozen children,
none of whom could have been more than seven or eight years
of age. Their eyes were fixed upon Rose's face, while she repeated,
slowly and distinctly, the last verse of the hymn they
were singing. It ran thus:

Bright in that happy land
Beams every eye;
Fed by the Father's hand,
Love cannot die;
Oh! we shall happy be,
When, from sin and sorrow free,
Lord, we shall reign with thee,
Blest, blest, for aye.

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As Rose spoke the last word, the children commenced singing.
It was sweet and touching to hear their childish voices
uniting in the simple melody which Rose had taught them.
But it was sweeter and more touching still to see them, when
the hymn was finished, assume a kneeling posture, and repeat
after her the words of the little closing prayer with which they
were accustomed to separate.

The tears started to Mabel's eyes, and with instinctive deference
to the solemnity of the service, she retreated at its conclusion,
and, drawing Alick and Murray back into the outer
shed, closed the door noiselessly, that the little company might
not be conscious of intrusion.

“They're mostly German children,” said Mrs. Hope to
Mabel, in explanation; “this is a German neighborhood,
rather; they can't get much education in the schools for want
of knowing the language. Rosy first taught them English, and
then how to read and say their prayers; singing comes natural
to'em That makes fifteen she's taught, and some of'em are
bigger than she is, poor child. It aint much,” added the mother
with a meditative air, “but then it's better than nothing, to be
sure; and it makes Rose happy.”

“Better than nothing!” exclaimed Mabel earnestly, “yes,
indeed, it is everything.”

And Mabel felt what she said. In that moment of excited
feelings, the wealth, the learning, and the pride of this world
sank into nothingness, in comparison with the pure and child-like
faith which takes hold on eternal life.

Alick and Murray were no less impressed than Mabel, as
was evident from their awe-struck silence and inquiring faces;
there was no opportunity, however, for any further expression
of interest, for a confused murmur within the room was followed
by the sudden exit of the little band of children, who,
after casting curious and lingering glances at Mabel and her
nephews, dispersed in different directions—while Mrs. Hope
ushered the freshly arrived visitors into her neat though humble

Rose, somewhat exhausted with her labors, had thrown

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herself back in her chair, but she revived at sight of Mabel, and
exclaimed with fervor, “O dear Miss Mabel, how glad I am
to see you!”

It was with something like reverence that Mabel seated herself
beside Rose on a low stool, from which one of the children
had just risen, and taking her little shrunken hand, pressed it
with affectionate fervor.

“I am glad to see you looking so well, Rose,” said she, gazing
into the child's face with a warm expression of interest. “She
really has a color in her cheeks,” observed she to Mrs. Hope,
who stood watching Rose's countenance with mingled pleasure
and anxiety.

“Yes,” replied the widow, with some hesitation, “I'm afraid
it ain't quite natural, though; she's apt to be feverish about
this time of day.”

“You are tired, Rose, with teaching your little class,” said
Mabel. “It is too much for your strength, I think.”

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Rose, eagerly. “It is very easy teaching
them—I love to.” And then, as if anxious to turn the
conversation from herself, she addressed numerous inquiries to
Alick and Murray, both of whom had pressed close to her
side, asking them concerning Lydia, their mamma, and the
mode in which they had come thither. Now and then she
turned her smiling countenance upon Mabel, with deep and
admiring affection, her glance in some degree expressing the
two-fold happiness which she experienced in the presence of
one in whom her own loving nature recognized a kindred spirit,
while the appreciation of the beautiful, which was inherent in
the little invalid, found in this new friend the perfect and only
illustration of its ideal.

It was with mingled emotions that Mabel perceived the influence
she exercised. As she met the admiring glance of
Rose, a glow of self-satisfaction overspread her face, such as
all the flatteries of the ball-room could not call up. But this
sentiment of gratified vanity was chastened and subdued by
an unwonted sense of unworthiness, which forced itself upon

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her as she compared her own aimless life with the self-devotion
of the invalid child.

This latter sentiment asserted itself still more strongly before
the conclusion of the visit.

The little company were met together on more free and
familiar terms than on the occasion of their first becoming acquainted.
Mabel's easy cordiality disarmed all embarrassment
and reserve, and even the awkward constraint of the widow
Hope was not proof against the considerate kindness of her
manner. Thus the conversation became brisk and general,
the contrast in social position was well-nigh forgotten, and the
previous good understanding of the parties was ripening into
the confidence of friendship.

Something of Mrs. Hope's family history was elicited, some
reminiscences of her better days were called up, and her hopes
and fears for the future welfare of herself and family, touched
upon. Rose's week-day employments, and her Sabbath labors
and pleasures, were enumerated and discussed, and Jack was
for the first time brought to Mabel's knowledge, through the
frequent mention which was made of him.

Into all this Mabel entered with ready interest, while a
corresponding sympathy was expressed in return, in the countenances
of both Rose and Mrs. Hope, when allusion was
incidentally made to the circumstance of her having been
motherless from her childhood.

Alick, meanwhile, was content to listen to the conversation,
but Murray, not satisfied with playing the part of a silent spectator,
began to look about him for amusement; and, espying
on the table an exceedingly ragged and shabby-looking book,
he tossed it on the floor, and commenced kicking it contemptuously
from one end of the kitchen to the other. Observing
Rose's eye wander towards him, Mabel turned, saw the nature
of his occupation, and starting forward, checked his play and
rescued the volume, at the same time saying, good-naturedly,

“Murray, don't kick the poor old book. I'm afraid you
have no respect for age, my dear.”

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Rose smiled. “It has done good service,” said she. “Perhaps
I like it better for that.”

Mabel opened it; it was an ancient copy of “Pilgrim's Progress.”
As she turned over the leaves she directed Alick's
attention to the fact, that it was a copy of the same work she
had bought for him, at his own request, a few weeks before,
when he chanced to be with her in a bookstore and took a
fancy to the richly-bound and beautifully illustrated book.

“Mine ain't like that,” said he, with rude disdain; “Mine is
handsome—that is a real ugly old thing.”

As he finished speaking, his quick eye detected the mortification
which Rose's face evinced at his unflattering comparison;
and, regretting his thoughtlessness, he at once endeavored
to atone for it, by exclaiming—

“Rose ought to have one like mine, aunt Mabel.”

“She shall have one,” said Mabel, unhesitatingly. “I will
bring you one like Alick's, with pleasure, Rose, if you would
like it.”

Rose smiled pensively, but with evident satisfaction.

Alick's face glowed with delight as, without giving Rose
time to reply, he proceeded to expatiate to her upon the rich
binding, gilt-edged leaves, and illuminated margins of the volume
she was to possess.

“Shan't you like it, Rose?” said he, when he had finished
the description.

“Will it cost much?” asked Rose, thoughtfully.

“Oh, yes!” said Alick, confidently.

“As much,” said Rose, looking at Mabel, and at the same
time taking up a well-worn testament which lay beside her,
and a few stray leaves from a primer,—“As much as two new
ones like these would cost?”

“As much as half a dozen like each of those,” replied Mabel,
a little astonished at the question.

“Oh!” exclaimed Rose, with deep-drawn breath, “I should
rather have them.” Then, the excitement of her tone subsiding,
she added, with slight hesitation, “But perhaps I ought
not to be the one to choose.”

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“Yes, you ought,” replied Mabel, while Alick looked greatly
disappointed. “You shall have whichever you please, or both.”

“Oh, yes, both!” said Alick, with a relieved and brightened
expression of countenance.

“No, not both,” said Rose, with unmistakable decision. Her
practical mind, trained in the school of necessity, had seen no
impropriety in suggesting the change, but her deeply sensitive
nature recoiled from voluntarily placing herself under a double

“You shall have your own way, Rose,” said Mabel, who had
been watching her face with intense interest.

“Then I should like the testament and primers, best,” said
Rose. “These are all we have had to read and study in, Sunday
afternoons, and they are almost worn out. The little children
can't read mother's bible, because the long ff's puzzle
them so; how glad they will be to have each a testament of
their own—and how good you are, Miss Mabel.”

“I good!” exclaimed Mabel, with the deepest sense of humility
she had ever known, “It is nothing for me to furnish
the books, but how much they owe to you, Rosy?” And rising
from her low seat and drawing her fur mantle around her, as
if about to depart, she stooped down and imprinted a kiss upon
Rose's forehead, the action at the same time serving to hide
the emotion which had been excited by the child's unhesitating

“Is there nothing else I can bring you?” asked she. “Can
not you think of something that you could relish—something
that would relieve you when you felt feverish at night?”

“Oranges!” shouted Murray, from a corner of the room,
where he had seated himself astride of one of the low stools.
Murray had but one pleasant association with fevers and sick
rooms, and that was oranges. Every body smiled, and Mabel
availed herself of the suggestion.

“I will bring her some oranges, certainly,” said she, glancing
at Mrs. Hope, “if you think they would be wholesome for her.

“I dare say they might be refreshing,” said Mrs. Hope;
“she usually has a pretty hot spell towards morning. I tell

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her it would not be so if she'd go to bed early, and not have
any excitement evenings; but she sits up, playing jack-straws
and so on, and sometimes after she's in bed Jack props her up
with one thing and another, and there she stays working out
puzzles, and models, and I don't know what they call'em, until
her poor back aches and she can't go to sleep.”

Rose looked uneasily at her mother as she entered this complaint,
and Mabel glanced inquiringly at Rose, surprised at a
charge which seemed to intimate a want of prudence and docility
in the youthful invalid.

“You should not do that, Rose,” said she, as with both her
soft hands she smoothed the light hair from the child's transparent
temples. “Do you like games and puzzles so much?”

“Jack does,” said Rose, in a soft, meaning whisper, meant
only for Mabel's ear.

The words penetrated to the heart of the listener. There was
a depth of sisterly love, and a power of self-sacrifice expressed
in that simple utterance, which were irresistibly touching in
one whose feebleness might seem to excuse her from all responsibility.

Mabel felt the full force of the example, which was to her,
at once, a lesson and a reproach. For a moment she stood
gazing at Rose, as if striving to read in her face the secret of
that divine strength which was victorious over the infirmities
of the flesh; then, at a loss for words, and afraid perhaps of
betraying how deeply she was moved, she made haste to bid
her farewell; and the boys having also taken leave of the little
invalid, they all followed Mrs. Hope into the shop, from
whence, having unbarred the front door, she ushered them into
the street. Before taking her leave, Mabel begged that she
might be kept informed through Lydia of Rose's state of health,
and be applied to without reserve if there was any way in which
she could minister to her comfort.

The day was fast drawing to a close, and after accompanying
her little nephews to the hotel, Mabel proceeded with haste towards
her own home.

What a change had two short hours effected in her air, her

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countenance, and her thoughts! She had gone forth excited,
restless, and unhappy, and thus, also, she returned; but
how chastened, subdued, and changed, were all these emotions!
Then, she was excited by vehement regrets, restless with vain
longings, and unhappy from disappointed hopes. Now, her
spirit was disturbed, but it was by a new revelation of things
hitherto unseen; she was eager and uneasy, but it was with a
vague longing to rise above her former self; she was dissatisfied,
but it was the discontent whose fruit is repentance unto
life eternal.

How soft, how gentle was the voice which had thus unconsciously
roused a sleeping conscience! It was no startling
warning, no stern alarum, which had awed and bewildered the
trembling soul. It was but the soft breathing of a loving
heart, giving utterance to the gentlest tones; but a still small
voice within responded to the whisper, and thenceforth could
not be silenced. She might resist it,—she did resist it,—for
earthly temptations are strong, and heavenly impulses brief
and evanescent. But it came again, an unwelcome intruder
on her gayer hours, a patient supplicant pleading with her in
her solitude. Like an angel sitting at the gate, warding off all
hostile influences and ever waiting to be heard, it silently, secretly
gathered strength for the hour when the heart should be
aroused by its trumpet-call, when the conflict should be ended,
and the victory won.

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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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