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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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The world before her smiles—its changeful gaze
She hath not proved as yet; her path seems gay
With flowers and sunshine, and the voice of praise
Is still the joyous herald of her way.
Mrs. Hemans.

[figure description] Page 039.[end figure description]

Two or three hours passed away. Miss Sabiah's recent
experience had been fully detailed, more remote reminiscences
had in turn been called up and dwelt upon, and now the elder
lady began to exhibit manifest signs of weariness. Mabel,
although somewhat fatigued, would not allow herself to think
of sleep until she had seen Harry; but, compassionating her
aunt, whom she suspected of one or two naps already, she proposed
that they should ring the bell, inquire if the gas was lit
above stairs, and then seek their rooms. She mentally resolved
to return to the library and await Harry's arrival, as soon as
she had accompanied her aunt to her chamber and ascertained
that her wants were all supplied; but she said nothing of this
intention, and after receiving Sabiah's assent to the first proposition,
she rose to summon a servant. At the same moment
the door-bell sounded, and Mabel, who was listening intently
for her brother's footsteps, heard a merry peal of laughter, and
several lively female voices. In an instant more, a party of
ladies, in gay cloaks and full evening toilet, were unceremoniously
ushered into the room, to the astonishment of Mabel and
the discomfiture of her aunt, whose fit of drowsiness was at
once dispelled by this unexpected, and, to her, unwelcome

Mabel's first glance at their visitors betrayed only surprise
and bewilderment, but her face became radiant with pleasure
as she recognized Mrs. Leroy, who was foremost in the group,

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and who, smiling at the confusion their entrance had occasioned,
greeted her young sister with a manner which was at
once affectionate and marked by perfect grace. She then
turned towards her aunt, who maintained a stiff position in
front of the sofa, and touched the tips of her fingers with an
easy and careless air, at the same time bestowing on her dress
and figure a somewhat contemptuous scrutiny.

Meanwhile, her companions claimed Mabel's attention. The
one, a middle-aged lady, dressed in a brocade of butterfly hues,
and wearing white ostrich feathers in her hair, waited for no
introduction, declaring that forms might be dispensed with in
her case, as she loved her already for her dear mother's sake,
and for the sake of Louise, who was her most intimate friend.
She then presented her daughter, a sylph in tarleton, who
pressed Mabel's hand with a warmth which seemed an earnest
of the friendship that her mother hoped before long to see
existing between them.

Mabel was both pleased and flattered. She believed them
to have left the ball-room at an early hour, in order to bestow
on her this unceremonious and cordial welcome, and she met
their advances with a proportionate degree of animation and

At this moment, while they were still standing near the
door-way, the bustle which attended their entrance not having
wholly subsided, the bell rang again, and this time Mabel distinctly
heard Harry's step in the hall. As the familiar sound
of his voice at the same instant met her ear, politeness gave
way to sudden and joyful excitement, and breaking from her
guests without explanation or apology, she ran hastily out of
the room.

They stared at one another in mutual astonishment; but
their conjectures concerning her behavior were short lived, for
before Louise could follow, to learn the cause of her sister's
agitation, Mabel returned, leaning on the arm of her tall and
handsome brother, who, unconscious of the presence of visitors,
playfully drew her into the strongest light the room afforded,
and after scanning her features with evident satisfaction, and

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many an exclamation of surprise and pleasure, sealed his approbation
with several hearty kisses.

Mrs. Vannecker, the elder of Mrs. Leroy's companions, now
betrayed her presence by a loud and boisterous laugh, accompanied
by a slight giggle from her daughter, while Louise
exclaimed, in a tone which conveyed astonishment, if not reproof,
“Well, Harry, you are very demonstrative!”

Harry, nothing disturbed, however, by the presence of witnesses,
paid his respects to the ladies with perfect unconcern,
still holding his blushing sister by the hand. Mrs. Vannecker
commenced some bantering comments upon his brotherly enthusiasm,
while Mabel addressed herself to the difficult task of
entertaining Miss Victoria. The latter, however, had neither
eyes nor ears for any one but Harry, and the conversation soon
became general.

If Mabel could have had her choice, she would have preferred
a more private opportunity for this long-desired meeting
with her brother, but now she thought nothing could be more
agreeable than the pleasant little confusion of friendly voices
which his coming had only served to increase,—nothing could
be more exciting than the discussion of plans which immediately
ensued,—nothing more gratifying to her self-love than the fact
that all these plans had more or less reference to her enjoyment
and advantage.

And happy herself, she did not even notice (naughty girl)
that her aunt Sabiah had retreated to a distance from the company,
and sat with her back nearly turned towards them,
moodily gazing into the fire, and apparently ill at ease; she did
not even pause to consider whether Louise might not, like herself,
have forgotten to introduce her to the strangers in the
party, and thus, as it were, excluded her from the conversation.

Harry, while he expressed many regrets that neither his
father nor himself had been at the boat-landing to meet
Mabel, seemed greatly satisfied with the result of his afternoon's
expedition, declaring that it had been the means of his
securing such a pair of horses as could not be matched in the
city. “Father gave me unlimited authority to make the

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purchase,” said he, “and I was determined that Mabel's first drive
should be with her own horses, and that there should not be a
finer pair to be seen in Broadway.”

“Her first drive must be on a round of shopping,” exclaimed
Louise. “I, too, have father's authority for making
purchases of equal or even greater importance. If you will
postpone your excursion until the next day,” continued she,
laughing, “I will see that Mabel has a bonnet suitable to the
occasion. But Harry are you not going to the ball?”

Before he could reply, Mrs. Vannecker began to expostulate
warmly against his remaining at home, and Miss Vannecker
added in a persuasive tone—“Oh, I am sure your sister will
excuse you—it is to be such a splendid affair, and she has
been travelling all day, and must be too much fatigued to enjoy
even your society any later.”

It was with some difficulty that Mabel could be brought to
realize that they were going to the ball at this hour of the
night, instead of returning as she had supposed, and as in her
ignorance of city times and seasons she had thus betrayed her
own more simple habits, this fact furnished a new argument
for Miss Vannecker, who now insisted that it would be but
common charity on Harry's part to bid Mabel good-night, and
follow them to the ball.

Mabel accompanied her sister and her new friends to the
hall door, to listen to Louise's plans for the morrow, and
receive their gay parting words, and while Harry waited upon
them to the carriage, she returned to the library, exclaiming,
“O, aunt, isn't my sister beautiful?”

“She looks very well,” said Miss Sabiah tartly, “but I wish
she wasn't so conscious of it herself. It was ridiculous to see
her and that Miss what-do-you-call-her looking at themselves
in the glass every two minutes, while they were here;”—and
Miss Sabiah rose from her chair with a jerk, which seemed to
say—“well! now they're gone, I suppose we can go to bed!”

“How good they were,” said Mabel, in a half soliloquy, as
she followed her aunt up stairs, to come here and see us for a
few minutes, when they were on their way to a ball.”

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“The very reason they came,” responded Miss Sabiah, in the
same sharp tone in which she had previously spoken; and a moment
after, as if carrying out the same train of thought, she
continued, “I hate to see folks make such a display! it don't
impose upon me though.”

Mabel could not find it in her heart to impute the visit to
other than the most disinterested and amiable motives, and
remembering now, for the first time, that her aunt had kept
aloof, and seemed an alien to their gay circle, the suspicion
crossed her mind that a sense of neglect prompted the severity
of her remarks.

Anxious to atone for this, she accompanied her to her room,
explained the working of the window-shades, and the management
of the gas (both of which were mysteries to Sabiah),
and proposed several plans to be carried out on the morrow,
for the promotion of her comfort and convenience.

Miss Sabiah seemed gratified with these little attentions.
The hard expression of her face softened somewhat, and the
tone of her voice, as she said good-night, was sufficient evidence
that whatever might be the cause of her dissatisfaction,
she attached no blame to the conduct of her favorite niece.

As Mabel descended the staircase which led from her aunt's
chamber, she observed a bright light streaming from a room
adjoining the parlor, the door of which, although locked in the
earlier part of the evening, now stood ajar; at the same moment,
she heard Harry's voice calling to her from within.

To her surprise, she found him stretched in an indolent attitude
upon a sofa, attired in dressing gown and slippers, and
evidently with no intention of going to the ball. The interest
with which he had listened to Miss Vannecker's entreaties, and
the apparent assent which his manner implied, had deceived
her as to his real intentions.

“What! go to a ball the first evening of your arrival,”
exclaimed he, in reply to her looks and words of astonishment,
“and that, too, when I have not seen you these four years!
You must think I care a great deal for balls, or very little for
my sister;” and as he spoke, he drew her affectionately to a

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seat beside him. “You are not tired,” continued he, “at least
you do not look so.”

She did not indeed. Not only was her face radiant with
pleasure at this proof of her brother's unchanged affection, but
every object around her served to summon up such emotions
of delighted surprise, as quite put to flight every thought of
weariness. The little room, which she had now entered for the
first time, seemed to the young school-girl a perfect vision of
enchantment. The costly furnished parlors, the well-filled
library, the wide stair-cases, and lofty halls, had pleased her by
their magnificence, and impressed her with new convictions of
her father's wealth. But there was something in this little
apartment, which appealed to that higher sense, and that more
refined taste which were by no means wanting in Mabel, in
spite of her light and thoughtless gaiety. The draperied walls
and windows gave to the room that air of seclusion and repose
which had been wanting to the rest of the house, while a
flower-stand of delicate wire-work was covered with choice
plants in full bloom, imparting to the atmosphere the freshness
and fragrance of a garden. The pictures were few, but their
subjects appealed to Mabel's heart, and she felt, rather than
recognized, the power of a master's hand. There was no glare
of mirrors, no rich display of gilding to dazzle the eye, but
there were vases of classic form, tables exquisitely inlaid, a
rich buhl writing desk, a miniature book-case of well chosen
books, and a few statuettes, while the silvery light which
streamed from an alabaster lamp of curious workmanship,
gave to the whole a softened and subdued effect.

Harry watched his sister with evident satisfaction, while she
made an eager survey of each beautiful object, her eye kindling
with pleasure, and many an expression of enthusiastic
delight escaping from her lips. “O, Harry,” exclaimed she,
at last, “how beautiful your room is!”

“Mine!” replied Harry. “You surely do not think all this
lady-like trumpery belongs to me. A seat in the corner of the
sofa I mean sometimes to claim, but everything else here is at
your own disposal.”

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This was too much for Mabel's composure. She had left
her brother's side to examine more minutely the attractive
decorations of the room, but as he proclaimed her the mistress
of them all, she hastily stole behind him, where he could not
see the fast gathering tears called up by gratified feeling, and
bending her head over his shoulder, she strove, by earnest
words and caresses, to manifest her appreciation of his kindness,
for she rightly conjectured that this little treasure-cabinet
contained the gleanings of Harry's foreign tour.

“You are too lavish of your thanks, my dear,” said Harry
in a lively tone, after Mabel had again and again enlarged
upon his generosity, taste, and forethought. “It cost me no
self-denial to spend my father's money, of which I always had
such a liberal supply, and I assure you, I had very little to do
with the selection of these fancy articles, except it be a few of
the books. All you have to thank me for, is the fact that the
Terpsichore did not arrive here minus the tips of her fingers,
and that Apollo was saved a broken nose. It cost me a world
of pains to get those things properly packed, and passed
through the custom-houses in safety. I would not have done
it for anybody but you, May, but since you are pleased, I feel
very well paid for the trouble.” “Can you speak German?”
continued he, rising and walking towards the book-case.

“No,” answered Mabel, “but I read it a little.”

“You must study it with me,” said Harry; “you will soon
like it as well as I do; we will read these together,” added
he, placing his hand upon the works of some of the best German
authors, “and I will teach you to enjoy Schiller and

“So you will take me for a pupil!” exclaimed Mabel. “Oh,
that will be delightful; and this shall be our school-room.”

Harry had taken a richly bound volume from the shelf, and
was now glancing at it with the eager and almost fond interest
of one who cherishes a keen appreciation of an author; for
Harry's intellectual tastes had of late developed rapidly. As
he closed the book and replaced it, he said,—

“The only difficulty in the way of your studious plans, is

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that Louise and the Vannecker set will have the advantage of
me, and engross all your time. Louise is a complete woman
of fashion,—just what you will be in a week,” added he, playfully.

Mabel eagerly and almost indignantly repelled the suggestion.
A woman of fashion she should never be,—not if he
meant by that a mere worldling. She should enjoy society, of
course, as she supposed Louise did; but that need not interfere
with her reading, studying, and faithfully keeping up an extensive
correspondence with her school friends.

Harry smiled good-naturedly, but with an incredulous look,
and an admiring glance at her beautiful face and figure,—a
glance that seemed to say “the world will claim you, whether
you will or not.”

But there was no replying to a smile, however expressive it
might be, and Mabel, not appearing to observe its meaning,
turned to the Terpsichore, which stood in a little alcove, and,
after expatiating upon the shame it would have been if such
an exquisite thing had been injured in its removal, she inquired
to whom she was indebted for its selection.

“You tell me that you did not consult your own taste; do
you mean that these gems were recommended to you by the
artists themselves?”

“No, indeed; but I had the benefit of counsel more reliable
than my own, or the artists' either. Dudley was with me in
Florence, and in most of the studios I visited abroad. His
taste is perfect; more than that, May, he seemed to flatter himself
that he thoroughly understood yours. It was really ridiculous,
the way in which he insisted upon my bringing that
musical genius home; he declared we had seen nothing in all
our travels so suited to your refined and youthful taste; and
the Iris, too,—nothing would do but I should secure that gossamer
belle, at any rate. He confidently assured me that they
would be of priceless value, in your eyes. I long to have you
see Dudley, Mabel; he is a splendid fellow.”

Mabel turned away to examine the picture, and, at the same

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time, to hide a blush at what she felt to be no ordinary compliment
from a man like Lincoln Dudley.

Although some years her brother's senior, Dudley had been
his companion, not only during a few months spent in Paris,
when Harry first went abroad, but also, more recently, on a
most interesting pedestrian excursion through Switzerland,
Germany, and some parts of Italy. Thus, for years, his
praises had been familiar to her, through Harry's letters; and,
from this source, too, she had become inspired with the greatest
respect for his uncommon talents, and a most romantic interest
in his somewhat eccentric character. She was well
aware that her weekly correspondence with her brother had
brought her to Dudley's knowledge, and, in some degree, to his
acquaintance; still she felt not a little flattered at his having
thus studied her character, and divined her tastes, among which,
enthusiasm for art was inherent, though, as yet, but little cultivated.

“When does Mr. Dudley return?” asked she, with apparent

“In a few weeks. We should have come together, but he
was unexpectedly detained in Paris. You will be unlike most
ladies, if you do not admire Dudley; he is, generally speaking,
very popular. I wonder what he will think of those horses I
bought to-day?”

“Is he a judge of horse-flesh?” asked Mabel, in some surprise.

“No more than he is of everything. I doubt whether he
understands a single point about a horse; still he could tell at
a glance whether a gentleman's equipage was complete, and I
would trust to his judgment in a purchase of any sort.”

Here Harry's panegyric of his friend was interrupted by
his father's return home. He glanced at his watch, discovered
the lateness of the hour, and, blaming himself for keeping Mabel
up so late, went away in spite of her assurance that she was
not in the least fatigued. A few moments after, Mr. Vaughan,
hearing her voice, and seeing a light in the room, looked in to

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reprimand her for not being asleep, and bade her a kindly
good-night; after which, she was left to her own thoughts.

Exciting thoughts they were; and such as, it may well be
imagined, robbed Mabel of sleep during many an hour of that
first night spent under her father's roof.

What indulgence, what love, what pride were evinced in the
demeanor of each member of her family towards her! What
plans had they already formed for her happiness! With what
bounty had every want been foreseen, and provided for! Now
the thought of her father's affectionate liberality was uppermost
in her mind; then came the recollection of her manly brother,
his warm-hearted welcome, and the promise of future happy
days in his society; and this, in its turn, was dispelled by the
vision of her graceful sister, who seemed a fitting type of that
select and elegant circle into which Mabel was soon to be introduced,
and in which she already foresaw the future triumphs
that awaited her.

But there were some things which she did not think of, the
very things which Mrs. Herbert had feared she would forget,
and had labored to impress upon her memory. She did not
think of her kind teacher's last injunction, last warning, and
last lesson. She quite forgot the duty which every blessing
entails, the obligation which is bound up in every privilege,
and while her cup was running over, she forgot to ask whose
hand had filled it. Not that her heart was cold, or that generous
emotions were lost in selfish satisfaction. The tenderest
love shone in her affectionate smile, gratitude sparkled in the
quick-starting tear, and the unquestioning trust with which her
young heart reposed in each new assurance of affection, proved
the depth of her faithful, confiding nature.

But, alas! her love is not for Him who has meted out her
lot so graciously; her moist eye is not uplifted in thankfulness to
the Source whence all these blessings flow; her ardent trust is
not in Him, without whom all confidence is vain. Not yet has
Mabel learned the sacredness of her mission; not yet has she
realized its duties, or its pangs. For the present it is her
business to be happy, and her joy to be beloved.

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Well for her, if, when pleasure's altars are shattered,—
when self-love awakens from its dream, and life be no longer a
pastime, her spirit can bow in meek submission, and the
inner temple of the heart be consecrated to the service of Him
whose love can impart to a life of toil and trial a foretaste
of the joys of Heaven'

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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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