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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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Their home is home; their chosen lot
A private place and private name,
But, if the world's want calls, they'll not
Refuse the indignities of fame.
The Angel in the House.

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The Sabbath which was to terminate Mabel's visit at Lake
Farm dawned clear and beautiful. Since the day succeeding
her arrival the weather had been cold and cloudy, and the
pleasures of the household had been mostly of an indoor character.
Once more, however, that soft, fragrant breath which
seems to linger lovingly in the recesses of nature, had asserted
its power over the early frosts; and the cloudless sky, the deep
blue lake, and the gorgeously-tinted forests were radiant with
the last smile of summer. It still wanted a few moments to
the breakfast hour, and Mabel, with the bed-room window
thrown open, stood enjoying the beauty of the landscape, and
refreshing her spirit with the meditations to which it gave rise,
when a few soft, long-drawn notes of music fell upon her ear,
so harmonious and so perfectly in unison with the scene and
the hour, that they might almost be mistaken for the sighing
of the breeze through the old hemlock in front of her window.
Even when gradually swelling in sound and volume they filled
the air with sacred melody, there was something so soothing,
so grand, and so inspiring in the strain, that she scarcely cared
to question herself concerning its source, but stood enraptured
and engrossed, all other senses absorbed in that of hearing. It
was evidently the music of an organ, played with no ordinary
power and skill; and Mabel, who had observed such an instrument
in the library, experienced a dim consciousness that the
sound proceeded from its pipes. But although Bessie had

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assured her that she could play only simple airs upon it, and
the tribute of praise which now rang through the house was a
difficult and sublime composition of one of the old masters, she
forgot the seeming inconsistency, and, until the piece was
finished, and the glorious symphony died away into silence,
she indulged no thought save the soaring aspirations to which
it could not fail to give rise. As the continued and almost
oppressive stillness which succeeded at length convinced her,
however, that there was to be no repetition of the harmony,
she started from her attitude of fixed attention, actuated by the
sudden thought, “Could Bessie have deceived both herself and
me in respect to her powers, or is she the subject of a sudden
inspiration?” And hastily throwing a mantle over her head,
she stepped from her low window upon the wide verandah, and
proceeded around the front of the house in the direction of the
library, mentally ejaculating, “She will be self-convicted, when
I detect her with her fingers on the keys!”

The library, which was also the usual breakfast-room of the
family, was situated in one of the wings at the extremity of
the building; and it being Mabel's purpose to surprise her
friend by unexpectedly making her appearance at the window,
she was tripping lightly round an angle of the verandah, when
she suddenly stopped short, and blushed with embarrassment
as she encountered, face to face, the true author of the music,
the young master of the house, who, having in a characteristic
manner given notice of his return home, had sallied forth upon
the piazza to enjoy the beauty of the morning.

Their meeting upon the lonely prairie a few weeks before
was scarcely more unexpected to either party; but, as the
good sense of Mabel and the active benevolence of Percival
had dispelled the awkwardness of that occasion, so, now, the
simple candor of the one, and the utter freedom from self-consciousness
on the part of the other, quickly restored their mutual
equanimity, which had for a moment been disturbed.

“I was hastening to thank Bessie for my share of enjoyment
in that beautiful symphony,” said Mabel, after exchanging a
cordial greeting with Percival, who could not, if he would, have

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disguised his pleasure at meeting her. “If I had not believed
you to be nearly a dozen miles away, I should have known,
without a doubt, to whom we were indebted for the music.”

“I did not get released from my duties until a very late hour
last evening,” said Percival; “but I then felt an irresistible
attraction towards home, which I can not now consider any
thing less than a presentiment.

“Have you been well since I saw you last?” added he,
glancing inquiringly at her face, which, the glow of sudden
surprise having subsided, certainly presented a marked contrast
to the hue of health which it had worn on the day of their
prairie excursion.

“My friends say not,” replied she, smiling, “but I scarcely
own it myself, I am so little accustomed to play the part of an

“I fear it is too cold for you on this side of the house,” said
Bayard, who observed that the breeze had blown the searf
from her head and left it unprotected; and, with a respectful
gallantry most becoming to a man of his commanding presence,
he offered his arm, to accompany her to that part of the verandah
which was warmed by the morning sun. As she had no
longer any object in proceeding to the library, she accepted the
proposition and the offered arm, and, Madam Percival not
having left her room, and there being as yet no summons to
breakfast, they continued to walk slowly up and down for a
few minutes, while Bayard inquired with interest concerning
the various members of Mr. Vaughan's family, and expressed
his sincere regret at the old gentleman's illness, which he
rightly conjectured to be in no slight degree connected with
the evident change in Mabel.

“Upon my word!” exclaimed the lively Bessie, whom they
had already passed once or twice without observing, as she
stood in the doorway, but who now interrupted both their progress
and their conversation by her raillery, “You seem to be
a man of parts, Uncle Bayard; you enter the house like a
midnight robber, rouse us out of our beds at daylight with an
extravaganza furiosa, and now, lo and behold! I find you

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prescribing a new regimen to our invalid, whom grandmamma
does not allow to take the air before breakfast.”

“Indeed!” said Bayard, appearing to notice the last clause
only in Bessie's threefold reproof, “Then I should have invited
you into the library, where we have a bright fire.”

“By no means,” said Mabel, smiling, but at the same time
withdrawing her hand from his arm and stepping inside the
doorway. “No one could suffer from breathing such an atmosphere
as this; Bessie is a would-be tyrant, that is all.”

“She is a little scold,” said Bayard, at the same time sealing
with a kiss the lips which were preparing to utter a further
torrent of abuse. “I never anticipate any more flattering
greeting from her than that I have just received. For whom
do you reserve all your fine speeches, Bessie?”

“For people whom it is no flattery to praise,” said she,
breaking away from him, and putting her arm within that of
Mabel, in a defiant manner, which seemed to imply that they
two constituted a coalition against him; “Miss Vaughan never
heard me say anything but good of her.

The words might have escaped Bessie accidentally; but
Bayard evidently felt them, for he bit his lip and seemed slightly
confused by the reminiscence which they awakened, while
Mabel lifted her eyes for an instant to his face, and then turning
away made some abrupt remark upon the extent of the

It was a relief as well as a satisfaction, therefore, to at least
two of the party, when, a moment after, a slow, measured, but
touchingly tender voice was heard to say, “Good morning, my
son!” and, at the same time, a soft and still beautifully formed
hand was laid upon the broad white forehead of Percival, who
recognizing his mother's accent and touch, turned quickly, and
with a glad countenance, to receive her welcome.

It was a striking picture which was thus presented by the
stately matron, and her tall, manly, Saxon-featured son, whose
manner towards her was a beautiful mingling of respect, confidence,
and almost boyish affection. Mabel had seen them both
in many and varied relations; but never had either more fully

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commanded her admiration and interest, than at this moment,
when the young man stood encircling his mother's waist with
his strong arm, while she looked fondly up into his clear blue
eye, in which she seemed to read the fulfilment of all a parent's

“You must have travelled late, Bayard,” said she. “I sat
at my bed-room window watching for you until twelve o'clock,
which was more than an hour after the rest of the family

“I did not leave the city until midnight,” replied Bayard,
and it was between two and three when I arrived here; but
I am astonished at your expecting me; I sent you no message.”

“True; but I knew you could not resist having a peep at
your garden while this fine weather lasted, to say nothing of
the other attractions of home. Besides, as we wish, we are
apt to believe; and I felt sure you would be disappointed if you
wholly missed the pleasure of our young friend's visit,” and she
laid her hand expressively on Mabel's shoulder. “You had
but a cheerless arrival last night,” continued she, addressing
Bayard; “I hope you waked Mrs. Patten, and were made

“My only endeavor was not to disturb any one,” said Bayard.
“The long window in the library was unfastened, and I
found matches and candles in my room. I wanted nothing

“Always thoughtful, my son!” said his mother, with a smile
of approval; “come, shall we go to breakfast?” And taking
Mabel's hand in hers, she accompanied her across the hall,
making amends for having in the parent half-forgotten the
hostess, by the affectionate solicitude with which she now questioned
her concerning her health.

“Uncle Bayard,” whispered Bessie, as she followed with her
uncle, “I thought there was a certain style of beauty which
you only admired at a safe distance. I am afraid you have had
a chill this morning.”

“Hush, hush, Bessie,” said Bayard; “I humbly crave a
truce. Your memory is as provoking as your tongue.”

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As there is nothing which leaves such a void in the family
circle as the departure of its head, so there is no transformation
so effectual and complete as that which is created by his sudden
and unexpected return. Especially is this the case when he
comes as Bayard did, in all that joyousness of spirit which
marks a true love of home, and brings with him, for its entertainment
and benefit, the choicest and best of all the influences
and experiences which have attended him in his absence.
Thus, every member of the household at Lake Farm, felt a
conscious exhilaration of spirits in the mere presence of its
young master. Even the servants seemed inspired with fresh
energy for the performance of every duty; and the old family
cat, who was exclusive in her preferences, deliberately forsook
her place on the hearth-rug, and ensconeed herself under his
chair. Add to this the ready zeal with which he took upon
himself every office, both small and great, which affection or
hospitality demanded, and no one could be insensible to the fact
that a wide sphere of action abroad does not necessarily unfit a
man for the amenities of domestic life.

Towards Mabel, his manner was at once marked by sincere
respect and cordial friendliness; nor, although conscious that
Bessie was watching him with an eye full of mischief, did he
fail in any of those thoughtful attentions which become a gentleman
and a host; for, however he might feel annoyed by his
niece's raillery, he was not one to be deterred by self-conscious
shyness or awkward embarrassment from that chivalrous devotion
to which Mabel was entitled as his mother's guest, independently
of her personal claims as a young and beautiful

“This is what my mother terms my garden, Miss Vaughan,”
said he, as, breakfast being ended, he rose and walked to the
window, where, with folded arms, he stood looking out for a few
moments on the almost interminable grain-fields which lay
stretched before him, with all their golden treasures bursting
from the stalk or waving heavily in the breeze.

“A noble field of labor,” said Mabel, who sat where she too
could command the prospect. “I confess I am almost awed by
the immensity of the work and its promised rewards.”

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“And yet, my dear,” said Madam Percival, “if you did but
realize it, you have been laboring for the last six years in a far
wider field, and a richer soil, where, if my son is not mistaken,
the fruit is already ripe unto the harvest: I mean the hearts
and minds of those two boys of yours,” added she, observing
Mabel's puzzled and inquiring look. “Bayard tells me that he
has never seen lads more full of early promise.”

Mabel colored with mingled modesty and pride at this praise
of her own faithfulness and its results; and Bayard, turning
round, hastened to confirm his mother's remark, congratulating
her on the hopes which might reasonably be indulged in reference
to her nephews, with whom he had evidently been most
favorably impressed.

“Bayard's animated description of our young friends,” said
Madam Percival, “interested and gratified me beyond measure.
It is evident, my dear, that the lads still exhibit the same
marked individuality of character which distinguished them as
children; but that, while the good in each has continued to gain
strength, both have overcome the evil tendencies which were
so apparent six years ago as to make me tremble for them and
for you. As I look back to the day when we sat on the rocks
at Niagara, and contemplated the solemn nature of your responsibility,
I am disposed to feel no slight triumph in your

“If you have succeeded in the management of such rude
creatures as boys are, Miss Vaughan,” said Bessie, “I think
you ought to write out a theory of education, for the benefit of

“I!” said Mabel, with simplicity, “indeed, I have had no
rules, no theory; I sometimes think that the boys have taught
me far more than I have them.”

“Her theory may be laid down in one word,” said Madam
Percival, “she has loved her little nephews; love is an inspired
teacher, Bessie, and one that may be trusted in every emergency.
It has been Miss Vaughan's counsellor from the beginning.
I am quite impatient” saïd she turning to Mabel, “for
the day when you shall introduce these young gentlemen to

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me once more. But my dear girls,” she continued glancing at
her watch, “if we are going to church this morning, it is time
we were making our preparations; Bayard, have you given
any directions about the horses?”

Bayard started, apologized for his absent mindedness, for he
had been for the last few moments apparently lost in thought,
and hastily left the room. His mother proceeded to express
her regret at the prospect of so soon parting from Mabel, and
at the same time suggested the possibility of obtaining a longer
leave of absence from Helen; but Mabel gratefully, though
firmly declined prolonging her visit, at the same time expressing
the pleasure it had afforded her, and the three ladies then separated
until it should be time to leave for church.

“Does not Miss Vaughan intend to return with us Bessie?”
asked Bayard in a low tone as he saw Mabel's small travelling
box brought from her room to be placed in the carriage.

“No, of course not,” answered Bessie, feigning great astonishment
at the inquiry; “she would not have come at all, if I
had not taken care to let her know that you were not at home.”

Though uttered in a mocking tone, this reply effectually disconcerted
Bayard; the expostulations which had risen to his
lips, at the signs of their guest's departure, were instantaneously
checked; he stood by in constrained silence, while his mother
made one more attempt to change Mabel's resolution, and even
assisted in the convenient arranging of her luggage without
expressing a syllable of surprise or regret. This conduct was
so foreign to his usual hospitality that his mother could not fail
to observe it, and Bessie, whose heart was as tender as her tongue
was tantalizing felt a pang of self-reproach, as she observed
how completely her revengeful shaft had struck home.

This constraint was but momentary, however, and the drive
which succeeded was one of exquisite pleasure to all parties;
the softness of the air and the quiet beauty of the scene serving
to compose their minds to that calm, religious meditation,
which was suited to the occasion and the hour; while for conversation,
Madam. Percival who occupied the back seat with
Mabel, gave her an account of the growth and prospects of the

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little church, which was situated midway between Bayard's
estate and that of her brother.

Helen and Harry had arrived in advance, and were on the
steps to welcome them and to reclaim Mabel, whom Harry
boasted it was no slight generosity in them to have relinquished
for so long a period. As the church was situated at
the junction of four different roads, in a part of the country
where the farms were large and the population scattered, there
was but one service during the day, and that proportionately
prolonged. The simplicity with which it was conducted, however,
the earnestness of the preacher and the attention of the
audience, made the occasion both profitable and interesting, and
effectually beguiled Mabel of all sense of weariness. Within
sight of her, in a neighboring pew, were her humble friends,
the Hopes, clothed in their Sunday attire, and decked in the
smiles which bespeak cheerfulness and content. Preëminent
among them was Jack, now Mr. John Hope, one of the pillars
of the church and the township; his tall figure, modified features
and shining suit of broadcloth, rendering it difficult to
identify him with the shabby urchin of former days. Madam
Percival's pew was a little in the rear of Harry's, and Mabel,
who had followed her brother and Helen into church, while the
old lady and Bessie were still lingering in the porch, had for a
time lost sight of her friends. Their vicinity was soon made
evident, however, when the congregation joined in the opening
hymn; for never had the rich voice of Bayard, which had
power to enchain select audiences, and make the wild prairie
ring with its full, clear song, sounded so melodious in Mabel's
ear, as now, that it was consecrated to a sacred service and led
the voices of the multitude in a united chorus of praise.

The numerous vehicles which surrounded the church during
the service, had at its conclusion nearly all driven off, crowded
with occupants, while our little group of friends still loitered to
bid one another farewell and petition for a future interchange
of visits. Mabel's box had been transferred to Harry's rockaway,
which together with Mr. Percival's carriage stood before

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the door, and the horses being restless, the ladies made haste to
exchange their last words.

“Bessie forewarned me, Miss Vaughan,” said Percival, while
handing Mabel down the steps, “that it was hopeless to urge a
continuance of your visit to my mother; but as Harry and Mrs.
Vaughan give me the freedom of their house, I hope I may soon
have the pleasure of seeing you again, in my character of a
friend and neighbor.”

Mabel frankly replied, that nothing would give her greater
pleasure. Harry, who overheard the remark, endorsed it by
grasping Bayard's hand and exclaiming with generous warm-heartedness,—
“Let us see you as often as possible my dear
fellow—I have no patience with that law term which has engrossed
so much of your time of late;” and Helen's sweet smile
was premonitory of future welcomes on the part of one who
had none of the jealousy of her husband's friends which is sometimes
attributed to young wives. A moment more and both
carriages were off on different roads, which stretched across a
plain so level and so uninterrupted that at the distance of nearly
two miles Mabel could clearly distinguish a handkerchief which
Bessie was waving in her hand as a farewell signal.

But Mabel had yet to learn what is was to be a friend and
neighbor in the sense in which Bayard understood those terms.
Though for six years a resident of the West, which is truly a
country of gigantic distances, she had never believed it possible
that ten miles of space could be so practically annihilated, as
was instanced during the few following weeks, when, if Bayard's
and Harry's estates had been but a stone's throw apart, they
could not have been more strictly pronounced within the limits
of good neighborhood. It was not that Bayard's promised visits
were regular or prolonged, or that the attractions of the
house were suffered to interfere with the young man's ordinary
occupations. On the contrary, his landed estate had never required
more active superintendence than at present; when the
narvesting was yet to be completed, and those marks of negligence
which had escaped even the careful Owen's observation
were to be rectified, under the discriminating eye of the master;

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while, in addition to his cares at Lake Farm, the business of his
profession in the neighboring city frequently called him thither.

But, although his agricultural and legal labors were performed
with promptness and efficiency, and his mental and
physical powers were taxed to a degree which would have
exhausted an ordinary man, he still found time and opportunity
for that social enjoyment which constituted his highest recreation;
deeming a ten miles ride, whatever might have been his
previous fatigue, a light penalty to pay for half an hour's intercourse
with congenial minds. It was true, he came and went
at such odd, uncertain seasons—astonishing the household
equally by his arrival and departure—that such surprises became
familiar, and they scarcely realized the number and frequency
of his visits; still, as they looked back through the
weekly calendar, they could not but be reminded that there
was scarcely a day, some portion of which had not been gladdened
by his cheerful voice and smile. Whatever might be
the object which called him from home, he was sure to take
them in his way; and even when summoned to the city, which
was in the opposite direction, he more than once contrived to
make a circuit which brought him to Harry's door; thus proving
the truth of the old proverb, that “the longest way round is the
shortest way home.” If Mabel went out to ride, as she frequently
did on Helen's white pony, still a cherished favorite of
its mistress, she was not unlikely to come back attended by
their gallant neighbor; and, on one occasion—when she had
accompanied Harry into the woods—and been left by him in a
shady retreat while he explored a more distant part of the
forest, she was unexpectedly joined by Percival, who seated
himself on the pine-strewn ground at her feet, caught up the
book from which she had been reading, and conversed with her
for nearly an hour upon literary themes, with the air of a man
never more utterly at leisure to play the agreeable; then
mounting his horse, which had been fastened to a tree, rode off
to meet a distant appointment, at the almost fearful rate of speed
rendered unavoidable by his voluntary delay.

With Madam Percival and Bessie, Mabel's intercourse was

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necessarily much restricted by the intervening distance, which
they could not ignore as Bayard did; and except on one or
two occasions, when Bessie drove over with her uncle and
passed an evening, and once when Mabel accompanied Helen
to return Madam Percival's visit, there was, for a fortnight or
more, no personal communication between the ladies of the two
households. It was scarcely possible to realize any barrier of
separation, however, so long as Bayard continued the medium
of their reciprocal friendship; and, although he often made his
appearance under circumstances seemingly fortuitous, Mabel
could not but consider him as in some sort the representative
of her aged friend, and even attributed to her partiality many
of those evidences of kindness and attention for which she was
in reality indebted to him alone.

It seemed, indeed, an understanding in the household, that
Bayard's visits, and his evident enjoyment in them, should be
a subject of no surprise, and should be attributed to no partial
or ulterior motive.

If Harry observed their frequency and questioned himself in
reference to their object, he never betrayed his thoughts, even
to his wife, merely remarking with an air of self-congratulation,
“It is so gratifying to be able to return some of Percival's hospitalities,
and make him happy in our home!”

If Helen, through the power of an exquisite tenderness, saw
more than met the eye, and suspected far more than she saw—
that same tenderness forbade her, by word or look, to ruffle
even the surface of Mabel's feelings; and remembering how,
through long years, her own unspoken attachment to Harry
had received a sister's silent sympathy, she reverenced the
heart's sacred secrets, and guarded them as if they had been
her own.

And if Harry and Helen generously refrained from disturbing
the quiet current of her thoughts, by so much as an embarrassing
suggestion or whispered inuendo, Mabel was still less
disposed to interpret in her own favor, those daily visits and
civilities, which, however gratifying they might prove, she
deemed a valued privilege of the common household.

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The time had been, when vanity and self-love would have
lent a more flattering construction to anything so marked as
Bayard's evident partiality for the society which her brother's
house afforded. But the bitter experience of Mabel's early
womanhood, and the chastening influences of succeeding years,
had effectually guarded her against the indulgence of vain and
delusive imaginations; and it was no part of her present character,
to assume for herself any distinction, or claim for herself
any especial title to regard.

Thus, while every circumstance of their daily intercourse
served to increase her esteem for Percival, and exhibit his personal
and social traits in a new and attractive light, she never
even dreamed of establishing any exclusive ascendancy over a
heart which seemed to be world-wide in its benevolent sympathies.
He might enter with animated and eager interest into
her favorite studies and pursuits; but was not this characteristic
of him in whatever society he might be thrown? He might
omit no opportunity of rendering her a service; but was not
his simplicity of manner so tempered with chivalrous gallantry,
that he would have done the same for the humblest of her sex?
He might express no slight anxiety concerning her health; but
could he do less in the case of one who was at once his friend's
sister and his mother's friend? It must be confessed, too, that
although leaving it wholly to Bessie to avenge her cause, Mabel
could not quite forget the unfavorable nature of Bayard's early
impressions concerning her. And if now and then she experienced
a conscious sense of elation, at some involuntary tribute
of praise from the truthful lips which were guiltless of flattery,
the emotion was instantly checked by the thought,—“it is but
an endeavor to atone for past censure,—a confession wrung
from him by a sense of justice.”

But while Mabel indulged no ideal visions of conquest or of
power, and was innocent as a child of any attempt at influence
or display, the friendship, which was the natural growth of
gratitude and respect, became daily more and more an element
of her being; and, in an atmosphere free from every restraint,
it was enjoyed without check or hindrance.

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Thus, it was with unaffected pleasure that she greeted Percival,
with undisguised regret that she saw him depart; and
with confident, though serene anticipation, that she looked forward
to his speedy return; deriving calm enjoyment, meantime,
in the society of Harry and Helen, entering cordially into all
their interests and schemes, and never attempting to analyze
the sources of that perfect contentment and repose, both of
body and mind, which were gradually restoring her to her
wonted health.

One evening, Harry, who had been to the neighboring city,
returned home at so late an hour that Mabel had already
retired, and did not see him until the following morning, when
they met at breakfast. “I have news for you, May,” said he,
as she entered and took her seat at the table. His face was
glowing with animation, and Mabel, observing it, eagerly inquired
into the nature of the tidings.

“Nothing less,” replied he, “than the promise of an exciting
election. I found every body in the city engrossed with one
topic, which was the nomination of a candidate for the vacancy
that has lately been created in Congress by the sudden
death of our representative. I never witnessed a more exciting
scene than prevailed in the convention yesterday; not as
usual, on account of party conflicts and politicaldisputes, but
because the whole assembly were so enthusiastic in their
opinions and their choice. There seemed to be but one heart,
one voice, one mind among them, and the unanimous vote was
welcomed by an almost deafening round of cheers. I only
wished the nominee could have been present to hear the
applause which accompanied the proclamation of his name.”

“I hope he is a worthy subject of their enthusiasm,” said

“You can judge for yourself,” replied Harry. “He is no
other than our friend Percival!”

It would have been difficult to discover, amid the massmeeting
of the day before, a more deeply interested and delighted
countenance than that which Mabel turned upon her
brother at this unexpected announcement. There was a

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dancing light in her eye, and a smile of proud satisfaction in her
face, which fully expressed her sympathy with the vote of the
people; while her astonishment found expression in the words:
“Is it possible, Harry? But I had no idea that Mr. Percival
thought of entering political life, or that he had any taste
for it.”

“I believe both his thoughts and his tastes to be wholly
averse to it,” said Harry, “and I am by no means sure he will
accept the nomination.”

“That would seem a pity,” remarked Helen, “he would be
such an honor to the State.”

“True,” said Harry; “there is not a man in the commonwealth
who could carry anything like his strength and ability
into the counsels of the country. But, if he relinquishes his
present mode of life to enter upon a political career, I am confident
that it will be at a great personal sacrifice. I was one
of a delegation who waited upon him last evening, to inform
him of his nomination. We found him quietly reading law in
his office, and I assure you he looked positively pained when
he learned the object for which he was sought. `Mr. S.,' said
he to the gentleman who was the spokesman of our committee,
`I was never more completely surprised, and, I may almost say,
troubled, than I am by your communication. I am very much
flattered at being thought worthy to fill this vacancy in Congress,
but a political office of any kind is a thing which I have
never desired, and certainly have never sought.'

“ `We all know that, Mr. Percival,' said Mr. S., `and that
is the very reason why we and the district at large will be
satisfied with nobody else. `Give us a man,' our honest
back-country people say, `in whom we can have confidence;
one who would scorn to buy our votes, and who will never sell
his own conscience or the nation's rights, for any political or
party bribe. Give us a man of whom we can say, `He will
support the weak, and maintain the right, and be just towards
all! We are united as to measures, but we are no less so in respectto
him who is to maintain them—and we want our man.' ”

“I saw that Percival was moved. He passed his hand

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across that broad, white forehead of his, and then rose and
walked up and down his office. Mr. S. and some of the other
gentlemen continued to urge their point in the same strain;
alluded to the critical state of the times, and the anxiety of
every thoughtful mind to see the district represented by one
who had the confidence of the people, and was so universally
popular that he might remain long in the chair of office and be
a permanent pillar of the public welfare.

“Percival listened respectfully and courteously to every thing
they had to say; thanked them, and promised that he would
inform them of his decision to-day.”

“And you think his reply will be in the affirmative,” asked
Helen, while Mabel wore an earnest, thoughtful expression of
countenance, but said nothing.

“He gave us no encouragement,” said Harry: “and I confess
I am at a loss with reference to his probable decision. There
can be no question that great issues are at hand in our national
counsels, and that, in no generation more than the present,
have such men as Percival been needed at the seat of government.
At no other time, and in no other way, can his eloquence,
wisdom, moderation, and fearless disinterestedness be made so
available for his country's good. Still, when I remember his
passionate love for the free life of the West; the enthusiasm
with which he has sketched out future improvements; the adventurous
spirit with which he undertakes distant explorations;
the zest with which he engages in a sportsman's pursuits;
and the independence with which he has ever held himself
aloof from the clash of party strife and political conflict: I must
acknowledge (and Harry shook his head doubtfully) that it is
hard to picture our friend setting out for Washington, to be
cooped up for the greater part of the year within the contracted
limits of a dull city, and condemned to the toilsome routine
and hotly-contested controversies of congressional duty, upon
which, if he engages in them at all, he will enter with all the
faithfulness and ardor of his nature. I confess that, viewing it
in this light, I shall not wonder if he shrinks from the sacrifice;—
shall you, my dear?” and he glanced at Helen, inquiringly.

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“I scarcely know,” said Helen, as she at this moment looked
up, while a smile overspread her face which was not intended
for her husband. “I will not venture an opinion until I have
heard him speak for himself.”

“And you, May?” said Harry, who, not following the direction
of Helen's eye, failed to comprehend her arch and meaning
smile,—“you know the whole story, and I see by your
face that your mind is made up, whether Percival's is, by this
time or not. Will he stay or go?”

“If I know him in the least,” said Mabel, with a firm and
unhesitating air, “he will go at any sacrifice.”

At this instant Harry caught the expression of Helen's face,
and turned abruptly round in his chair. Mabel also looked
up, and directly behind her, in the doorway, stood Percival,
his face flushed with exercise, his riding boots bespattered with
mud, his fine hair tossed back from his forehead, which was
resting on his hand, as he stood leaning against the doorframe,—
and his eyes, now that she had turned her face, fixed
full and expressively upon Mabel.

“My dear friend!” exclaimed Harry, springing from his
seat and grasping Bayard's hand, “you are very welcome!
You have come to breakfast, I hope!”

“No, not to breakfast, Harry,” said Bayard, glancing apologetically
at his spattered boots, and slightly resisting Harry's
hospitable endeavor to draw him to a place at the table. “I
scarcely know for what I came, since I have only a moment
to spare. Advice, sympathy, encouragement, I believe, were
what I felt the want of; I have obtained them all, though
somewhat clandestinely, I fear, and now I must be on my way
again. Harry, have you the address of the gentleman who
was the chairman of your committee yesterday? I forgot to
take it, and I must write to him when I reach home.—Yes,
thank you, Mrs. Vaughan,” continued he, in reply to a proposition
from Helen that he should at least take a cup of hot
coffee;—“I will with pleasure, if you will let me have it standing.”
And while Harry went to look for the address, and
Helen ran to a cupboard in the next room for a cup and

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saucer, he approached Mabel, who, in her confusion, had forgotten
to even bid him good-morning, and said, at the same
time taking her hand: “I trust you are not displeased, Miss
Mabel, at my overhearing your remark; if I had one doubt
left in regard to my duty, you have laid it at rest; and believe
me, I will endeavor not to disappoint your kind confidence,
for which I am the more deeply grateful, that it is far beyond
my deserts.

“I should not have spoken with such decision if I had
known by whom I was overheard,” said Mabel, with a smile,
which, though embarrassed, denoted anything but displeasure;
“still, I am not disposed to retract.”

“You have no need, in this case,” said Percival, “for I will
prove your words true; though since my decision has your
approval, the sacrifice will be comparatively light.”

There was neither occasion nor opportunity for any further
remark, for Harry had by this time returned with the address,
and Helen, also, brought the coffee, which Percival swallowed
hastily, then bade them all farewell, and in a moment more
was off on his homeward road.

“Mabel,” exclaimed Harry, laughing heartily as he sat
down to finish his breakfast, “I think the convention should
assemble once more, and tender you public thanks for the spur
you have given to their future representative. I suppose,”
added he, “we have seen the last of our candidate for some
four weeks to come; he will be so much occupied in view of
the approaching election.” And Harry, for the first time,
cast a mischievous glance at his wife, which the dear, kindbearted
Helen pretended not to see, and took care not to

But whether this prophecy of Harry's was made with playful
irony, or in all seriousness, its falsehood was not long in
being proved; for while he canvassed the county, and brought
home daily reports of Percival's universal popularity and undoubted
triumph, and Mabel indulged prophetic visions of his
future eminence and usefulness in a public career, the young
man himself, after writing his letter of acceptance, appeared

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to give himself no further thought in the matter; but, leaving
the fortunes of his election in the hands of his constituents,
devoted himself with increasing assiduity to those other pleasures
and cares, which had their source and centre, not in the
field of political agitation, but in the domestic circle of his
friends. And, as day after day found him still faithful at his
post of allegiance, Harry and Helen were tempted to whisper
to one another, under the strictest pledge of secresy, their
mutual and growing suspicion, that, though indifferent to public
favor, he was the ambitious and self-appointed candidate
for higher honors than the people had power to bestow; and
that he had almost forgotten his popular election, while bending
all his powers to win for himself the pre-eminence in one
priceless heart.

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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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