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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 studied words of sympathy
Were coldly whispered round;
The silence of the humble throng
Told more than measured sound.
And children touched the cold, white brow,
And then in awe stood by,
Their new-learnt lesson thinking o'er,
Of angels in the sky.
A. M. F. Annan.

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The month of June had nearly half expired. Mr. Vaughan
still delayed his journey to the West, and gave Mabel no new
intimation of his wish that she should start for L. Perhaps he
still hoped that Harry, who had listened in moody silence to
the declaration of his wishes in respect to his profession, and
had thus far shown no disposition to carry them into effect,
would at length manifest some symptoms of compliance and
accompany her. He forbore to urge the point, however, and
in spite of the increasing heat, no departure from the city was
alluded to, until one evening, when all three having been present
at dinner, Mr. Vaughan rose at its conclusion and gravely
announced to Harry his wish to speak with him in the library,
to which room he himself immediately repaired. Harry lingered
a few moments at the table, then rising with the air of a
detected culprit, followed his father, closed the door behind
him, and the two were closeted together for nearly an hour.

This period was one to Mabel of painful suspense; the formality
of the interview left her little doubt of its importance,
and she could easily conjecture the nature of the subjects likely
to be brought up. Deeply agitated, trembling so that she could
scarcely stand, and straining her ears to catch the slightest
sound, she remained in the spot where they had left her, until
she heard the library door open and saw Harry leave the house,

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folowed soon after by Mr. Vaughan, who, walking slowly, with
his bands behind him, looked like one upon whom trouble has
fallen with a sudden weight, which he is calculating the chances
and possibilities of relieving.

She learned, afterwards, that her father and brother had been
engaged in settling the preliminaries of the latter's leaving New
York for L.; and that these preliminaries consisted of a confession
on Harry's part of a heavy debt (a debt of honor, so
called, contracted at the gaming table), which effectually prevented
his leaving the city, and of an agreement, with difficulty
entered into by his already embarrassed parent, to meet the
demand and free him from the mortifying shackles, upon condition
of his conforming strictly to his views, and at once commencing
the study of law with Judge Paradox. She learned,
too, to her surprise, that this was the first interview Mr.
Vaughan had ever had with Harry on the subject of his misconduct,
and that even now, he received his confession and dismissed
him without any other reprimand than that which the
dullest eye might detect in his countenance; this course being
simply characteristic of his extreme reserve, even with his
family, and want of force in regulating the conduct of his household.
It was only after a considerable lapse of time, however,
that Mabel became aware of these facts, and at present she was
left to all the pain of uncertainty and apprehension.

This was somewhat allayed by the circumstance that her
father and Harry both returned home at an earlier hour than
usual, and by her observing that, thought excessively constrained
in each other's society, they seemed individually to be relieved,
and in a slight degree cheered; the one that he had made a
confession which it was no longer possible to escape, and the
other from a conviction that, bad as the case was, he now knew
the worst.

Mr. Vaughan took an early opportunity of informing his
daughter that it was his desire that she should leave for L., the
following week, with Harry, and the latter indirectly confirmed
the tidings of his intended departure, by some accidental reference
to the journey. Mabel also learned that her father's long

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postponed trip to the West would take place immediately upon
his having dismissed the servants, and closed the house, measures
which he had resolved to adopt, as he should be absent
for an indefinite period.

She had now plenty of employment. For the first time she
realized the necessity of looking over her father's wardrobe,
and providing for his comfort, during the many weeks of his
absence; and this, with similar cares for herself and Harry,
promised ample occupation, and caused her to rejoice in that
womanly skill and capability which made her independent of
Cecilia, who had usually officiated with her needle in this department.

She was busily engaged the next morning, going from room
to room, collecting verious articles which were in need of some
slight repair, when she received a summons to the hall door,
where a little girl stood waiting to deliver a message from Mrs.
Hope. Rose was very low, had been anxious to see her,—
would she try and come at once?

Had Mabel had more experience in cases of slow decline
she would not have been astonished at this summons, for, to
those who understood Rose's symptoms, it was only a matter
of surprise that she had lingered so long; but Mabel had not
realized, until now, how surely and speedily death must follow
the decay, whose progress she had marked step by step, and a
chill and shudder cerpt over her frame as she hastily prepared
to follow the little messenger, who had run back as swiftly as
she came. Although the day was oppressively hot, she would
not wait for the carriage, but walking a short distance, and then
availing herself of a Broadway omnibus, she soon reached her

An air of unusual quiet and sadness seemed to pervade the
little street; the neighbors looked after Mabel as she passed,
wondering whether she, like them, knew of the fearful change
which a few hours had made; the children had ceased their
play, and two of the elder ones sat weeping on the door-step of
the closed shop. Mabel approached the little alley which communicated
with the rear of the building, and at its entrance

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encountered Rosy's sturdy friend, the youthful teamster, who was
brushing his rough sleeve across his eyes, and did not see her
until she paused to let him pass. As he looked up, recognized
her, and read an anxious inquiry in her face, he said in a low,
tremulous voice, “She's going,—they tell me she can't last
the day out.” Then pressing his lips firmly together, as strong
men do when their feelings threaten to get the mastery of them,
he rushed by her, crossed the street, and darted down the arch-way.

In the humble courtyard, women were engaged at their washtubs,
or in hanging out clothes, and as she stooped in passing
beneath the wet linen more than one eye followed her with
mournful interest, while now and then a childish face glanced
up with a pitiful, imploring look, as if hoping she had come
indued with some magic power to make Rosy well again. Just
as she reached the widow's door, she stopped short, believing
that the angel of death had preceded her, for outside the shed,
stretched across a little wood-pile, lay a forlorn figure, convulsed
with sobs, which she at once recognized as that of Jack.
The poor boy had evidently thrown himself there in an agony
of grief, and in the self-abandonment of a first heart-breaking
sorrow was utterly unconscious of everything around. His
head rested on his arms, and his hands clutched at the wood,
as if he were wrestling with outward obstacles to case his inward
woe, the depth of which might in some degree be measured
by the spasmodic heaving of his chest, and an hysterical
choking in his throat.

Overwhelmed with pity for the boy, to whom she could not
venture to speak, and suspecting that a similar scene prevailed
in doors, Mabel was hesitating whether she should not depart
without intruding into the house of mourning, when the widow,
who had caught sight of her figure through the window, came
out to meet her. Mabel took her hand and glanced from her
face, which was perfectly calm, to that of the agitated Jack.

“Poor fellow!” said Mrs. Hope, compassionately, “he takes
it hard, and no wonder. She's been talking to him,” added
she in a whisper, “and so beautifully,—he won't forget it to

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his dying day. She's asleep now, as quiet as a lamb; it's a
chance whether she ever wakes, but if she should, Miss Mabel,
I thought she'd like to rest her eyes on your face again; she
asked for you once or twice in the night,—so if you'll come

Mabel followed without speaking,—for she could not speak,—
into the little room. She was indeed sleeping sweetly, her
little hands clasped on her breast, her golden hair thrown back
upon the pillow, and a smile upon her face, which seemed to
tell of heavenly dreams. An hour passed on and still she
slept; the room was so quiet, that each breath of the little
sleeper might be counted; there was no noise outside, for love
had set its faithful guard around the house, and every footfall
in the neighborhood was softened, every loud voice hushed.
By-and-by a flushed, swollen, and tear-stained face appeared
in the doorway, and Jack, in his stocking-feet, came slowly, cautiously
in, and sat down among the watchers. There was
another pause, and at length softly, and without warning, the
blue eyes once more unclosed, with one more fond, loving
glance, they rested in turn on each of the assembled group,—
not eye to eye, but soul to soul, they seemed to stand, taking
their last farewell of her who, in a moment more, would be a
disembodied spirit. The breath grew shorter, the blue orbs
closed,—they listened,—there was no breath at all, and then
the glory came and settled on the little face.

As if the parting spirit, which had left its radiance on the
mortal clay, still hovered above their heads, they all for a
while stood motionless and awed; then, as a consciousness of
the dread reality rushed upon them, Jack darted from the
room with a loud cry of anguish, Lydia buried her head in
her mother's lap, and Mabel, drawing her veil over her face,
glided noiselessly away.

The little form which had taken birth within the close
atmosphere of the city, and pined and perished in the narrow
limits of a dark and gloomy street, was not destined to
sleep its last sleep within those crowded and improsoning
walls. They buried her on a quiet hill-side, where the grass

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and wild flowers might grow on the little grave, where summer
insects and soaring birds might chirp and sing above it, and
where the murmur of running water fell upon the ear.

“Will they give her a place among the city poor,” asked
the milk-boy of the ruddy teamster, nodding his head significantly
in the direction of the vacant window.

Owen Dowst,—for that was the teamster's name,—feared
so, but it seemed to him a pity.

He but echoed the thought of the boisterous milk-boy,
who had a heart as big and tender as his voice was deep and
sonorous. “There's a little Dutch burying-ground in the
corner of my father's milk-farm,” said the boy; “it slopes
down of the East River, and is out o' use now. There's no
crowding there,—room enough, and a plenty for many a
child like that; tell'em so; and look here, Owen, if the idea
suits the widder, drive out with your team to-night, and I'll
be there myself with a spade.”

And so it was that no hired hands dug the little grave.

“The blessed Lord spared our Jemmy to us, it's now six
months ago, wife,” said a pale-faced undertaker, whose workshop
was not far off, “and there's the box I worked away at,
that long week, while you watched to see him die. I couldn't
ever sell it, no how. I've cried over it many a time, and
often thought, when I've laid eyes on't since, that it seemed
like a keepsake, to remind me o' the mercy o' the Lord. But
I've been a thinkin' to part with it. If 't wouldn't be no
offence to anybody, I'd like to see the little golden-haired gal,
that had such a pretty smile for everybody, laid in the cradle
I made for my boy. It's the best o' stuff, and I driv every
nail myself. S'posen you go round to-night and speak on't
to the poor woman. Speak kind o' gentle, wife; poor soul,
her child is gone.”

A messenger was dispatched in due season by Mabel, to
make every possible offer of assistance, but all that love
could dictate had been done already; the humble neighbors
had vied with each other in their efforts to comfort the family
and honor the memory of the angel child.

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The funeral was appointed for the day preceding that on
which Mabel was to leave New York, and she was in attenance
at an early hour. The house was quiet and in perfect
order; she entered at the shop door, but the bell was muffled
and gave forth no sound. The kitchen into which she passed
was vacant, save that the child, clad in her snow white robes,
seemingly lay sleeping there. The little hands were peacefully
folded on the breast, the serene smile still rested on the
face, and beauty was stamped upon the features from which
pain had forever fled. Death had not only glorified the soul,
but had transfigured the mortal part.

“She is not here,—she is risen,” said a low, solemn voice,
close at Mabel's side.

She looked up, unconscious that any one had entered the
room, where she stood absorbed in contemplation. It was the
tall and venerable man, known to us as Father Noah. Mabel
recognized him at once, though she could not recall his name.
He seemed regardless, however, of ceremony, in resuming his
acquaintance with her, and continued—

“You have known this child,—for she was a child in
years,” he added, as if feeling that in some sense the term
was misapplied.

Mabel bowed in assent, her tearful face speaking plainly of
the affection she had felt for her.

“She was a wonderful child,” he exclaimed, meditatively,—
“wonderful! She has accomplished a beautiful work in this
neighborhood,—it puts to shame many of my profession.
Death has no power over such as she, except to release them
from pain. I am glad you knew her,” he said, after a pause.

Perhaps Mabel's expression as he spoke, revealed some surprise
at the personal interest implied in his remark, for he
said again,—“Yes, I am very glad you knew her. I have
no doubt it has been a benefit to her,—I am sure it has been
to you.”

“She,—she has been my better angel!” exclaimed Mabel
fervently,—“she is still.”

“Her life has been a lesson to us all,” said the good

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clergyman. “I pray God,” he continued, laying his hand solemnly
on Mabel's head, “that He will perfect and finish the good
work which, through one of his humblest servants, He has
begun in you.” So saying, he went to meet Mrs. Hope in the
little inner room, and Mabel turned away to recover her self-command.

As she stood resting her hand on the mantel-piece above
the kitchen stove, she caught sight of an open daguerreotype
case, which, on a nearer inspection, she discovered to contain a
likeness of Rosy. It had been taken at some happy moment
when the gentle smile was on her face, and the little arm-chair,
her simple dress, and all the features of her ordinary
life, were faithfully impressed by the magic instrument.
Mabel was wondering that she had never seen it before, and
was blessing God in her heart for that beneficent invention in
which rich and poor may almost be said to share alike, when
Jack appeared at her side and attempted to speak. Except
at Rosy's death-bed, Mabel had never seen him since the day
they met in the grocer's shop, and the latter scene rose full
before her as she turned and met his eager face. Impressed
by her glance, and half choked with his own grief, the boy
made one or two vain attempts to articulate. Then, pointing
at the likeness of his sister, he gasped out, in broken phrase,
the words, “I—I—paid for it—with—that dollar,” and
overcome by his emotion, he clapped his rough hands to his
face and disappeared through the doorway.

The little neighborhood now began to assemble, and Mabel,
retreating to a corner, was touched to see them enter. There
was no formality, no ceremony, in receiving them or awarding
them their place; they came in crowds, but there was no confusion;
the little house could not contain half of them, and
they entered in turn to gaze once more at the features of the
neighborhood's child, and those for whom there was no room
patiently waited without. All ages were represented. Old
women were there, leaning on their staffs, and children were
borne in their father's arms to take one more look at Rosy.
The girls of her little class were there, wearing no badge of

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mourning, but each, with instinctive and grateful prompting,
bearing under her arm the little testament,—pledge of Rose's

The service at length commenced. It was performed by
the clergyman already alluded to, and was simple, solemn,
beautiful, interrupted only by the sobs which rung through the
house. It concluded with a hymn—a voluntary and touching
tribute, the sweet lifting up of childish voices, the simple offering
of loving hearts. There was a pause, and then the crowd
began to file away, lingering without the door until the little
form should be borne through their midst. There had been
no concerted arrangements with regard to bearers, and a slight
hesitation ensued in consequence, when a tall youth stepped
forward, closed the casket, lifted it gently in his strong arms,
and bore it slowly and tenderly through the parting crowd.
The widow and her children followed Owen Dowst as he thus
cleared for them a passage through the friendly throug, took
their place in the humble vehicle which awaited them, and in
a moment more moved on. With one consent the assembled
neighborhood formed in long and regular procession, and treading
the sidewalk with slow and solemn pace, kept the carriage
in sight for the distance of a mile or two and then reluctantly
and sadly dispersed.

Mabel found herself alone in the deserted house. She had
left her carriage at some little distance, feeling that its rich
trappings would be a mockery in this place of humble, sacred
sorrow. She looked round the little shop as if bidding it a
long farewell, then stepped upon the sidewalk. An old woman
stood there leaning upon her staff—a very old woman, too
infirm to follow the mourning procession—the same old woman
who lived in the opposite house and had been accustomed
to watch Rosy from the window.

“We shan't ever see her there no more,” said she to Mabel,
pointing with her crutch to the little empty arm-chair, “but,”
and she looked up to the sky above, “Heaven don't seem so
far off to an old body like me, now that I know she's sittin' at
some bright winder up there, watchin' to see me comin' in.”

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“Drive out on the Bloomingdale road, Donald,” said Mabel,
when she reached the carriage. “You will overtake the child's
funeral; follow, but keep at a distance.”

They did so; and as the little train moved into the unpretending
cemetery, Mabel alighted and joined the mourners,
who were grouped around the grave. They saw the child laid
in her quiet resting-place,—they waited and listened with sad
hearts, while Owen and the milk-boy, who had reached the
spot before them, gently heaped the earth upon her grave, and
then they went away. Mabel lingered a little behind the rest,
feeling, as the earth closed over the remains of her little friend,
scarcely less bereaved than the broken-hearted group who had
looked their last upon the darling of their hearts. “Dear
Rosy,” thought she, as seating herself on the grass of the sloping
hill-side, she strewed the mound with the flowers which she
had brought for the purpose, “ `He maketh thee to lie down in
green pastures, he leadeth thee beside the still waters;' thine
earthly pilgrimage was hard, but its end is peace, joy, and
everlasting life.”

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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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