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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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My soul were dark
But for the golden light and rainbow hue
That, sweeping heaven with their triumphal arc,
Break on the view.
Enough to feel
That God indeed is good! enough to know
Without the gloomy clouds he could reveal
No beauteous bow.
William Croswell.

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At an early hour, the next morning, a pleasant voice was
heard outside Mabel's door, saying, softly, “Are you awake,
my dear?” and was answered by Mabel's presenting herself,
already dressed and equipped for going out.

“You are on the alert, I see,” said Madam Percival, who
also wore her bonnet and shawl, as if prepared for a walk.
“I thought I heard your step in the room, or I would not
have disturbed you. How have you slept?”

“Very soundly until daylight; but then I awoke, and, hearing
the noise of the Falls, could not resist going out to see
them before breakfast.”

“Ah, you are a girl after my own heart,” said Madam Percival,
drawing Mabel's arm through hers. “I have left word
with my woman, Mrs. Patten, to go in and attend to the
children's wants, whenever they awake, so you need feel no
anxiety about them;” and the old and the young lady left the
hotel together.

“This is the direction leading to the bridge over the rapids,”
said Madam Percival, when they had gained a side street.
“I see an old acquaintance of mine—that Indian woman, just
opening her little store of wares over opposite—she knows

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me;” and Madam Percival bowed in kindly recognition to the
dusky squaw, whose face was full of eagerness. “I must go
and speak to her. Do not wait for me; I will overtake you.”
Thus speaking, Madam Percival crossed the road leading to
the bridge, and Mabel proceeded alone.

How tumultuous and how mingled was the rushing tide of
thought which assailed her during that short, lonely walk!
The time, the place, the solitude—how suggestive were they
all! How many of her childhood's hopes, her girlish anticipations
had centred around Niagara! How fondly had she looked
forward to this fulfilment of her early dreams! How little
had she foreseen the cruel chain of circumstances which had
brought her to the spot at last, disappointed, forsaken, and
bereaved. A moment more, and, in the stillness of the morning,
for the sun had not yet risen, she found herself alone on
the bridge, beneathw which flowed the angry torrent. Panting
from exercise, breathless with her own agitating reflections, and
dumb with astonishment and awe, she stood, with parted lips,
gazing up that gigantic slope, down which, in wild and frantic
speed, the waters were hastening to their fearful plunge.
Whence came they and whither did they go—those mad,
triumphant waves—which, scorning all opposition and beating
down all obstacles, seemed like the very messengers of doom!
An instinctive dread took possession of Mabel's mind, as, gazing
long and fixedly at these witnesses to God's power and
majesty, she saw in them types of those recent events which,
bearing down like a mighty flood and overwhelming her beneath
a torrent of trouble, had left her to struggle helplessly
with the current. “All thy waves and thy billows have gone
over me, great God,” she exclaimed aloud, at length withdrawing
her gaze from a scene whose sublime and solemn grandeur
was, to the excited girl, almost lost in a nervous sense of terror.

Then, as the roar still continued sounding in her ears, an
irresistible impulse seized her to hasten on and witness the end,
which, at present, she could image to herself only as a dire
catastrophe; and, as if fearful that, by a moment's delay, she
should lose something of the awful spectacle which she half

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longed, half dreaded to behold, she commenced running, and,
without pausing to take breath, continued at the same rapid
pace until she suddenly gained an elevated point, where, at a
glance, she could discern the two rival divisions of the farfamed
cataract. She gazed for an instant only, at the dark
and angry waters, on which the sun, now just below the verge
of the horizon, had not yet shed his beams, and which, as they
plunged down the fearful vortex, seemed to her bewildered
senses to utter only a message of stern and angry wrath; then
throwing herself on the ground, with her face hid against a
huge overhanging rock, she burst into a fit of passionate and
uncontrollable weeping. Her excited feelings having thus
found vent, however, and her strained nerves being relieved by
this free and natural outburst, she soon became more calm, and
at length lay quite still, listening, without terror, to the roar
of the waters, when, suddenly, she heard, close beside her, in
measured and familiar accents, the solemn words,—“And I
heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, and as the
voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings,
saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

There was a pause; then a long-drawn sigh escaped Mabel,
and attracted the attention of Madam Percival, who had not
until then perceived her.

“What! are you here before me, and in my favorite spot, my
child?” exclaimed she; then seeing the despairing attitude and
covered face of Mabel, and at once conjecturing that, in the
weak state of her nervous system, she had been overcome by
the scene, she sat down beside her and said, in a self-reproving
tone, “Ah! I should not have let you come here alone.”

“It frightens me,” said Mabel, with a shudder. “I should
not have minded the fall so much,—but those dreadful rapids!”
and again a slight shudder passed over her frame. “It seemed
as if everything were pouring down at once just as—just as”—

“Just as trouble comes upon us poor mortals, you would say,
my dear.”

“Yes, I could not help thinking of myself.”

“I have often had the same thought,” said Madam Percival,

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soothingly; “but I have also found here a lesson of faith and
hope, which has fortified me in the hour of trouble, and which
I trusted you would have learned here, too. Often are we
borne through the rushing waves of anxiety, suspense, and
pain, and plunged at last down the gulf of a mighty sorrow;
but let us not be faithless or despairing. He who has meted
out the bounds of the earth has said to human suffering, as to
the mighty torrent, `Thus far shalt thou go and no farther;'
and even amid the shock of a great calamity, we know that
the raging torrent of affliction is spanned by the rainbow of
His love. Look up, my dear, look up.”

Mabel lifted her head quickly, as her attention was thus
earnestly claimed, and above the watery abyss, which a few
moments before had been so dark and fearful, a glorious rainbow
danced and quivered in the beams of the newly-risen sun;
and, as the glittering spray caught and reflected the rays of
light in new forms of radiance, another and another brilliant
arch stretched its graceful curve across the foaming flood.

A smile of joy flashed out from Mabel's face, effecting in it
a transformation scarcely less striking than that which had so
suddenly been wrought in the face of nature; she clasped her
hands, and stood for some moments in a rapt and serene

Madam Percival watched the play of her features with
affectionate interest; and, as the anxious and troubled expression
of her countenance was gradually superseded by the glow
of a Heavenly peace, she said in a low and fervent tone,
“Ah! my child, it is only when the light of the Sun of Righteousness
comes to illumine our darkened hearts, that we can
comprehend the love of Him who is continually confirming his
ancient promise—“It shall come to pass when I bring a
cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud.”

“I have realized it many times,” said Mabel, eagerly; “I
realize it now.”

“It is shining in your face, my love,” said Madam Percival.
“Come, let us go back to the hotel, and cheer with it the little

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orphan hearts which must look to you henceforward to be the
sunshine of their lives.

“Is it not grand? is it not encouraging and ennobling?” said
Madam Percival, when, some hours later, they sat together on
the flat surface of Table Rock, watching the gigantic waters
of the Horse Shoe Fall. “In the course of a long life, I
have visited this spot many times, and I have invariably gone
away refreshed and strengthened, as if I had been listening to
the voice of a sacred oracle. Especially when the chastening
of God's providence was heavy upon me, have I been cheered
by this glorious proclamation of the truth, that His power
goes hand in hand with His love.”

“I cannot thank you enough for bringing me here,” said
Mabel;—“it is a remembrance for a life-time.”

“I confess,” said the old lady, “my first thought was merely
to divert your mind from dwelling too fixedly on your recent
trials. I did not realize how fully you were open to impressions
from nature. Now I cannot be too thankful for the
prompting which bade me lead you to this school of high
thoughts and noble purposes. God grant, my child, that your
young life, sanctified by the divine blessing, may flow on in as
strong, deep, and tranquil a current, as that of this noble river,
whose waters, henceforward, with only now and then a temporary
interruption, sweep calmly on to the eternal ocean. You,
indeed, need moral courage and strength, my child, for it is a
noble mission which you have before you.”

“You mean the care of the children,” said Mabel, observing
that Madam Percival's eye was fixed upon the boys, who were
playing at a little distance?”

“Yes,—the training of these young minds and hearts is
an office of true dignity and greatness, and one in which you
have all my sympathy. I, too, have educated boys, and my
work is not yet finished. If I read those little fellows' characters
aright, your responsibility is as great as your influence is
unbounded. That eldest child loves you with a devotion which
I have rarely seen equalled in one of his years. It is through
that love that he must learn to cherish those universal

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sympathies, in which I suspect him to be deficient, and that happy,
affectionate, beautiful, spoiled plaything yonder, who is at this
moment attracting the attention of strangers, will develope
impulses and propensities of so wide a range, that all the ardor
of his nature must be early taught to concentrate itself on the
pure, the elevated, and the good. Remember, my dear, that
your counsels may rule in many generations of hearts, and, if
the thought will add sanctity to your office, cherish the belief
that the principles you instil, may help to mould the future
fortunes of this free republic.”

A shade of earnest thought and holy resolution was stamped
on Mabel's attentive face, as, with her eyes intently fixed on
the children, she listened to the solemn charge of her experienced
and venerable friend. It would have been difficult to
pronounce which was the nobler countenance of the two; that
of the benevolent and Christian matron who thus uttered the
words of warning and of wisdom, or that of the enthusiastic
and truth-loving girl, into whose heart they sunk with a deep
and lasting power. Madam Percival gazed into the earnest
face of Mabel, and her heart warmed anew towards her, as
she read in every expressive feature a hopeful prophecy for the
future,—a prophecy which after years saw gloriously fulfilled.

We pass over the departure from Niagara, after a visit
which, though brief, was memorable to at least two of the
little company, between whom there had, then and there, been
sealed the compact of a friendship, rendered the more sacred
by the wide difference in their years. All were refreshed
and strengthened for continuing the journey; and the joy of
the children, and the relief and satisfaction of Mabel were
complete, when, at the steamboat wharf in Buffalo, they met
Owen, who, poor fellow, had suffered the most intense anxiety
on their account, and who at once became a sharer in their
gratitude to Madam Percival, as was evident from his clumsy
but honest expression of thanks, and still more from his unwearied
and deferential services to her during the remainder
of the journey. “Upon my word, Ma'am,” said he, “when I
found they were off, and nobody to see to 'em, I was e'en

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a'most crazed; and when, to crown the whole, I found Miss
Vaughan's purse in my pocket, I believe I went clean mad.
Why, I'd a fired one of the engines, and come off on my own
hook, but 't was no use; I just had to cool down and learn
patience by waitin'. But I see, and bless the Lord for it too,
the young lady wa' n't without a protector, nor never will be in
this world, I've a notion,—sartin not if she has her deserts;
and I make bold to thank you for your goodness on my own
account, Ma'am, and for the relief it is to my conscience;” and
taking off his hat and bowing, as he had been wont to bow to
Rosy, he drew back a step and added, “Owen Dowst's your
servant for life, Ma'am.” Madam Percival was one who could
appreciate the simplicity and worth of Mabel's humble escort;
and before their travels together were at an end, he had learned
to look upon this lady, as almost every one did who came under
her influence, as a reliable friend. She talked intelligently
with him of farms, stock and crops; gave him much valuable
information regarding Western life, and when he finally ventured
to consult her with reference to the investment of his little
property, she entered into his schemes with as ready an interest
as if she had been a professed land-agent and he a wealthy

Thus all went on happily and harmoniously, and Mabel,
with Madam Percival for her counsellor and friend, Owen as
the devoted attendant of herself and the children, and Mrs.
Patten, who shared all the interests of her beloved mistress,
to minister to her wants, and relieve her of little cares, found
her formidable journey drawing to a safe conclusion, and
almost sighed as she thought how soon she must part from
these valued and tried friends of her adversity.

The last night of their sojourn in each other's company was
passed on board a canal-boat. The children had gone to
sleep in the cabin; Mrs. Patten was watching beside them;
Owen, at the stern of the boat, was giving voluntary aid in
the stowing of some freight, and Madam Percival and Mabel
were seated on deck, holding the last of those pleasant and
valuable conversations which they had enjoyed together.

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“I am glad you like this Western country,” said Madam
Percival, “and that you do not feel discouraged by its yet
rough and undeveloped character. It is a great field, and one
in which comparatively little has yet been accomplished. You
will find much that is strange, uncouth, and utterly at variance
with all your preconceived ideas; but to a noble mind there is
a satisfaction in overcoming difficulties, and every effort is
sure to find its reward in a land which makes such a rich
return for the labor bestowed on it.”

“It excites all my enthusiasm,” said Mabel. “I have felt,
a hundred times on our journey, as if I would gladly stop
short at any given point, and remain a year or more, to watch
the progress which could almost be seen in passing, and of
which I hear such wonderful accounts on every side.”

“Say rather,” said Madam Percival, “to take part in that
progress. Do not consider yourself excluded by your age or
sex from exerting an active influence on the growth and true
civilization of any spot in which you are either temporarily or
permanently a resident. In a country whose physical development
is so unexampled as this, too much effort cannot be
made to insure a proportionate advance in moral and spiritual
growth. It may be that your influence and example must be
confined to a narrow circle, but do not forget that, however
restricted may be your sphere, it is woman's peculiar privilege
and province to exert that softening, elevating, purifying spirit,
which sanctifies the ruder labors of life, and sheds abroad
in the community a nobler ambition than that of building
cities in the wilderness, and subduing the elements to human
will. Above all, my dear, do not consider your life in the
West a period of exile; this is but a part of our mother
country, destined, in time perhaps, to become in its influence,
what it already is in its locality,—the centre and heart of the

“I am already accustoming myself,” said Mabel, “to look
upon it as my future home, for such it may eventually become.”

“Make it a home, my dear,” said Madam Percival, “for

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yourself and your family; at least, while you remain in it,
give it your affection and your best efforts,—it is the only
way to render it a happy residence or a useful one. I have
homes in several parts of our country, and it would be hard
for me to say which I love best. It is now fifteen years since
I accompanied my husband into this then unsettled region.
He was one of the pioneers of civilization, and the affection
which I then conceived for this Western valley has continued
in full force ever since. It has been with great satisfaction
that I have made successive pilgrimages hither, and now that
I have come to finish my days, perhaps, in this land of promise,
I do not feel willing to consider it the home of my adoption,
but simply my native soil.”

“If you were only to be near me,” said Mabel, “it would be
such a comfort; your counsel would be so precious.”

“Forty miles is not counted a very great distance in this
part of the world, my dear; and that, as nearly as I can judge,
is the distance between your father's estate and that of my
son. My hand, owing to one of the infirmities of age, has
recently been disabled from writing, but I shall find a way,
one of these days, to communicate with my young friends, and
shall always be rejoiced to hear from you in return. But,
good night; I will not keep you up any longer to listen to an
old woman's preaching.”

Before morning they had reached the bustling Western city
where their united route terminated. Mabel and the children
took passage in the clumsy carriage in which they were to
commence their last day's journey; Owen set out for another
part of the country; and Madam Percival, having seen her
adopted charges on their way, proceeded to the house of a
friend, where she was to await her son's arrival in the city.

It was a cold, rainy, and uncomfortable evening, when, with
the horses weary and steaming, and the children exhausted
with cold and fatigue, Mabel, almost hopeless of ever reaching
their destination, which had seemed all day to recede as they
advanced, at length heard from their driver the joyful words,

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“That 'ere's Mr. Vaughan's house where you see the light
over yonder.”

“Don't cry; we are almost there, Murray!” she exclaimed,
encouragingly, to the poor weeping child, who, sadly feeling
the want of Madam Percival's shawls and Owen's pilot cloth
coat, was shivering with the cold, from which all Mabel's care
could ill protect him, and who, hungry, dissatisfied, and out of
humor, had complained and cried bitterly for the last half hour.
“Look over there, beyond the river—that is grandpa's house;
you will soon see him and Uncle Harry.”

“I don't want to see them! I hate this place! I won't
stay here!” sobbed Murray.

“It will be better than riding all night, though, Murray;
won't it?” said Alick, in the same patient, philosophical tone
which the little man had maintained from the commencement
of the journey.

“Ye'll have to get out here and step up a piece,” said the
driver, halting within a few rods of the house. “My road
turns off here to the post-office, and these horses is dead beat,
that's a fact.”

Mabel needed no second bidding; she was only too glad to
trust to her own feet, to which eagerness lent wings, and in an
instant more, with Murray in her arms and Alick close beside
her, she hastened in the direction of the light, opened the unlocked
door of the house, and entered. She found herself in a
dark passage, and was groping for the inner door, when it was
suddenly thrown open; and, with a cry of joy, she set Murray
on the floor, and flung her arms around the neck of her astonished

Had it been the ghost of Mabel instead of Mabel herself, it
could have created no greater surprise and consternation. Mr.
Vaughan, who was sitting in an arm-chair by the fire, turned
his head as Harry uttered her name, and seeing his daughter
before him, became pale, tried twice to rise from his seat, then
sank back as if seized by sudden giddiness, while a look of
deep distress passed over his haggard features.

“Mabel here!” was his exclamation.

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She had thrown herself on the floor beside him, and with
both arms resting on his knee, was looking him earnestly in
the face before he had finished speaking the words. “Yes,
father; Mabel and the boys.”

“Alick! Murray! What does it all mean?” cried the old
man, greatly agitated—“their mother?”

There was a pause—a long, long pause—no one spoke.
Alick hung down his head. Murray crept to the fire and kept
on sobbing.

“Their mother, Mabel?” said Mr. Vaughan, again, in a
tone of anxious inquiry.

“They have no mother in this world but me, father,” answered
Mabel, in a hollow whisper.

The head of the afflicted parent dropped upon his bosom.
Harry came up, untied Mabel's bonnet, smoothed her hair with
his hands, kissed her hastily, and walked to the other end of
the room to hide his agitation. She rose and stood looking
into the fire.

“Is she dead? How did it happen? When did she die?
Where?” asked Mr. Vaughan, at last, in a choked voice.

Mabel gave a simple outline of the facts. Mr. Vaughan
held fast to the sides of his chair, as if needing support, and
presently Harry came back, and watching Mabel's countenance,
listened also to the story. Now and then, one or the other
asked some anxious question, and at length amid sighs, sobs,
and secret shudderings, the sad tale was fully told. There
was a second long silence, broken only by Murray's cries, and
then succeeded other questionings and other cares; the weary
young travellers—their long, hard journey; the trying experiences
of Mabel; the exposures and deprivations of the poor
children; their present necessities and wants—all in turn demanded
consideration, and were in turn discussed. Murray's
loud complaints of cold and hunger were promptly responded
to by Harry, who piled on more wood and went to consult the
larder, and, through his good housekeeping and Mabel's ingenuity,
arrangements were soon made by which the

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newlyarrived party could be comfortably accommodated for the

“How happened you to think of coming here, Mabel?” asked
Mr. Vaughan, when, supper being concluded and the children
gone to bed, she had quietly seated herself beside him, with the
satisfied, contented air of one who having suffered much has
found a place of repose at last.

“I did not know what else to do, father,” was her simple

The same distressed look returned to his face which had
marked it on the first announcement of her arrival; he moved
uneasily in his chair, glanced at the bare, plastered walls and
meagre furniture of their only parlor, and then, gazing at her
with mingled pride and pity, ejaculated mournfully, “It is
not a fit place for you, my child. I would have spared you

Mabel, grieved at perceiving how deeply he felt the trial of
seeing his beloved daughter reduced to such humble fortunes,
made haste to assure him of her perfect satisfaction and joy in
sharing his Western abode. He interrupted her, however,
shook his head in a troubled, discontented manner, and glanced
once more around the room, saying, “Ah, well! it may do for
awhile, perhaps—a week or so, until I get my affairs settled.”

It seemed, indeed, as if his paternal grief at the death of
Louise was secondary to this one absorbing regret; and as if
in contemplating the trials and mortifications to which his
favorite child had been suddenly reduced, he had forgotten
every other cause of sorrow; for, when at last he took his
candle to retire for the night, he laid his hand on Mabel's head,
and said in a consolatory tone, “Never mind, my daughter!
It is only for a season, while Harry practises a little shooting
and I settle up my affairs, and then we will all go home again.”

“I am afraid father is sorry I came, Harry,” said Mabel, as
the brother and sister were also about to separate.

“No, no, indeed,” replied Harry; “only he feels, as any
body must, that this is a new style of things for you to be

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brought to—this bivouac in the wilderness—this hunting-lodge
in the prairie—for that is all it is fit for.”

“If he only cares on my account—if you are sure of that,
Harry, I am content,” said Mabel. “He shall see how happy
I can be here.”

“Dear Mabel,” said Harry, looking at her tenderly, “how
much you have suffered—how much you have been through
since we parted!”

“We will not think of it now,” said she, smiling through her
tears. “I am with my father and you, Harry. I have nothing
more to ask.”

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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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