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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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I from the influence of thy looks receive
Access in every virtue, in thy sight
More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were
Of outward strength.

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If there is one season more than another, which, in its
moving associations, appeals to the American heart, and finds
there a sure response, it is that of the annual Thanksgiving.
Originally a New England festival, almost the only one
established by our pilgrim ancestors, and therefore, perhaps,
the more highly honored, it has now become a welcome and
hallowed institution in every part of our wide-spread land,
where New England's sons and daughters have found a home.
Sacred to family and social ties, gathering the scattered members
of the flock into one fold, awakening the liveliest emotions
of gratitude, and touching the heart's secret springs, it is
to the young a period of unmingled pleasure and excitement,
to those in middle life a time of zealous and disinterested
effort to promote the common enjoyment, and to the old, a
season of solemn musings, touching memories, and immortal

It had been the cherished wish of Harry and Helen, as
well as the expectation of the whole family, that this anniversary,
now close at hand, should be celebrated at the house
of the young couple; and their friends at Lake Farm had
been cordially invited to join them there. But when Madam
Percival learned that old Mr. Vaughan, his sister, and grandsons,
intended to prolong their visit during the whole of
Thanksgiving week, she lost no time in presenting an urgent
request, that on the actual day of the festival she might be

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permitted to welcome their united family circle under her
son's roof.

“It is the only way, my dear sir,” said she, in a note which
Bessie wrote to the elder Mr. Vaughan at her dictation, “in
which I can be enabled to participate in the pleasure of the
occasion, as a recent attack of rheumatism forbids my travelling
at this season; nor would I suggest such an exposure to
yourself after your recent severe illness, but I am assured
that you do not fear to brave even winter weather, if spared
from breathing the evening air; and, as our accommodations
are ample, we should insist upon your all spending the night
at Lake Farm. It is long since I have been privileged to collect
a pleasant circle about me on this most interesting of occasions;
but by the memory which you, as well as myself, cannot
fail to entertain of many happy Thanksgivings in our New
England homes, let me beseech you to make my cause good in
your children's estimation, and gratify both my son and myself
by your company on Thursday.”

Harry and Helen, upon the receipt of this note, were disposed
to resist such an invasion of their claims. Sabiah demurred
greatly at the thought of accepting an invitation, which
was none the less formidable to the timid, retiring woman, from
Madam Percival's being dimly remembered as the sympathizing
friend of her girlhood. Mabel seemed a little embarrassed
at the idea of this change in the family plans; and the boys'
faces were full of eager expectancy and doubt. Mr. Vaughan,
however, at once put an end to all hesitation, by exclaiming
with cheerful gallantry, “We can not possibly refuse, Harry;
do not say a word, my dear Helen, the excellent lady must
not be disappointed;” and the honored head of the house, having
thus promptly expressed himself in Madam Percival's
favor, all acquiesced in his decision, and an affirmative reply
was dispatched to the general invitation.

As if to facilitate the views of all parties, and give added
spirit to the events of the day, a light snow fell during the
previous night and hardened to a smooth, crisp surface, making
admirable sleighing. According to an agreement entered

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into in anticipation of a snow-storm, Bayard drove over in the
morning, in a covered vehicle which had been put on runners
the previous winter for his mother's convenience, and returned
with Sabiah, Mr. Vaughan, and Helen, while Mabel, now
restored to her usual health, accompanied Harry and the boys
in an open sleigh; and all were borne rapidly over the level
prairie, to the cheerful sound of bells. A warm house and
a warm reception awaited them on their arrival; dinner succeeded,
with its social joys and abundant good cheer; other
entertainments, for young and old, presented themselves in
due course, and the hours wore pleasantly on.

It was now twilight of the festive day, and a happy and
animated group were assembled in the parlor at Lake Farm,
which, partially illumined by the long lines of light that streaked
the western sky, and still further cheered by the huge wood
fire which shed abroad its fantastic and fitful glare, presented
a rare picture of cheerfulness and comfort. In a large arm-chair
on the right, sat Mr. Vaughan, his hoary hair and attenuated
figure still marking him as one who had not been left
untouched by time and disease, but his face, glowing with a
peaceful and even joyous serenity, which proclaimed that newness
of life into which the old man had been born again. Near
him might be seen the venerable mistress of the household,
with her soft, white hands folded on her lap, the snowy folds
of her muslin neckerchief, and the flutings of her widow's cap,
contrasting with her dress of rich black satin, and her whole
attire adding, as far as anything foreign to herself could add,
to the dignity and grace of her noble person. Sabiah, too,
had found her niche in a corner of the opposite sofa, had recovered
from the awe with which Madam Percival had at first
inspired her, and learning to recognize in her the beloved Miss
Bayard of her school-days, had settled herself into a composed
attitude, and now formed one of the aged trio, who were
watching the more youthful members of the company and participating
in their enjoyment.

They were all in high spirits, having just returned from an
expedition to the farm-house of Owen Dowst, where they had

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been since dinner, according to invitation, to attend the baptism
of the little Rose, purposely appointed for this day, that
the occasion might be honored by their presence.

The pleasing incidents attendant on the ceremony, the brisk
walk over the frozen and glistening snow, and their animated
satisfaction in each other's society, had given a fine glow to
their faces, and loosened their voluble tongues. Helen, always
keenly sensitive to cold, and rejoicing in the bright blaze which
greeted them on their return, had seated herself on a low foot-stool
between Aunt Sabiah's corner of the sofa and the wide
hearth-stone, and with her hand locked affectionately in that of
her old friend, was the very picture of sweet and gentle content.
In front of the sofa stood Mabel, her beautiful face lit up with
the fire-light, while she entertained her aunt with a spirited
account of the afternoon's proceedings; Alick on one side, assisting
her to deliver with faithfulness, a torrent of respectful
messages, of which Lydia had made her the bearer; and Murray,
leaning over the arm of the sofa, and now and then aiding
the interest of the narrative by his graphic and witty allusions.

And while Sabiah listened attentively, and uttered many an
ejaculation of astonishment, at Lydia's good fortune, Bessie, on
her part, was exciting the gratified smiles of Mr. Vaughan
and Madam Percival, as she recounted with that spice of playful
exaggeration for which every one knew how to make allowance,
the simple honors, which, in connection with the christening,
had been paid to Mabel, Bayard, and the boys, quite to
the exclusion, as she declared, of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan
and herself.

Harry and Percival, in the meantime, were stationed outside
the rest of the group, in the recess of a window, the latter
divided between his close observance of Mabel's varying expression
and his attempt to explain to Harry the principles of
a new reaping machine, just invented by Mr. John Hope, and
for which the ingenious young man was about to take out a

At this moment horses hoofs were heard crackling the crisp

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snow beneath their hoofs, as they came up the avenue; and in
an instant more a figure on horseback shot rapidly past the
window. It is John, my man, said Harry, with no little earnestness
in his voice and manner. I sent him to the city this
morning; he has probably just returned.” And thus speaking,
he went hastily from the room to meet his messenger,
leaving Bayard at liberty to consult his inclinations, and, if he
pleased, join the little group collected round the sofa. He did
not do so, however, but remained immovable in the recess of
the window, while, had the room afforded a stronger light, a
slight flush of anticipation and excitement might have been
seen to mount to his temples; for although the rest of the
company had either failed to observe Harry's messenger, or
were unconscious of the tidings which he brought, Bayard himself
was well aware that the next moment would be to him
one of political defeat or triumph.

No one present was ignorant of the fact that the previous day
had witnessed the casting of the electoral vote, in which Bayard
had so deep an interest. But it had not been thought
possible that the result could yet be determined; and although
all hearts beat with expectancy, silence had, by common consent,
been maintained on the subject, and it had been suffered to
interfere as little as possible with the Thanksgiving festivities.

The committee, of which Harry was a member, had, however,
adopted such energetic measures for obtaining the returns,
that, in spite of the snow-storm and the obstacle it proved to
their efforts, the exact result of the election had been proclaimed
in the city less than two hours before, and Harry's
messenger, who was on the spot for the purpose, had been at
once dispatched by the chairman, to announce the intelligence
to the successful candidate. The eagerness which shone on the
man's face, no less than the abruptness of Harry's manner and
words, had at once betrayed to Bayard the nature of his errand;
and, whatever emotions this knowledge excited, they were still
in full force, when Harry, who had apparently scarcely had time
to receive his despatch from the hand of the man, rushed back
into the room, and, waving the document triumphantly above

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his head, came forward, with all the warm-heartedness of friendship,
and grasped Percival by the hand, exclaiming, “Let me
be the first to congratulate you, my dear fellow, on this glorious
victory!” and then glancing at the official communication before
him, he read aloud the statement of Bayard's election by an
overwhelming majority.

The tide of feeling which had agitated the hearts of the little
comapny, in view of the approaching crisis, and which had
swelled to a fuller flood in proportion as it had been foreibly
suppressed all day, now burst forth without restraint; and
Bayard was at once surrounded by eager, excited faces, and
greeted on every side by a chorus of congratulations. Nor,
though seemingly less excited than the rest, was he the man to
be insensible or indifferent to these evidences of sympathy
and affection. The popular demonstrations, the eager acclamations
of the tumultuous crowd, could have no power to move
him, as did these simple tokens of social friendship and family
love; and he responded to each with cordial and unaffected
satisfaction, while, as he felt the soft pressure of his mother's
hand, a tear started to his eye, which did no discredit to his

But there was one satisfaction, and that the greatest, which
was wanting to him in this his hour of triumph; one voice, and
that the one most powerful to stir his soul, which alone was
silent; one form, which, while all the rest pressed eagerly forward,
still lingered in the back ground. Yes, strangely enough,
while every one else was emboldened or inspired to some characteristic
expression of delight, Mabel, hitherto zealous in her
friendly partizanship, seemed to be suddenly struck dumb.
Once, indeed, as Bayard's unsatisfied eye wandered round the
little circle, it met hers, fixed full upon him, with an eloquent,
answering glance; but her heart drooped as she encountered
his earnest gaze, and the next moment the whole face was hidden
from him, as she hastily withdrew into the shadow afforded
by her brother's tall figure.

Both the silence and the quick retreat were involuntary,
however; and if this apparent coolness and reserve were painful

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to Percival—they were no less so to Mabel herself. For a
few moments, indeed, she had stood, intently watching the countenance
of the young man, as he received the congratulations
of the rest, quite forgetful that some similar demonstration
might be expected on her own part; nor was it until she
encountered his searching glance that the consciousness flashed
upon her, that she had as yet given no expression to her sympathy
in the universal joy. She would then gladly have
repaired the omission; but the very intensity of her emotions
checked and forbade their utterance. There was a quick beating
of the heart, which she found it impossible to subdue; and
her instinctive retreat, beyond the outermost edge of the little
circle, was but the natural impulse of a sensitive mind, which
shrank from betraying its own unseasonable and vexatious

Here, secure from observation, she strove to recover her
composure; nervously watching a favorable opportunity for
addressing the hero of the occasion, and vainly endeavoring to
frame her thoughts into suitable words. But while she thus
waited and delayed, a new turn was given to affairs, Bayard
was suddenly summoned from the room and the opportunity was

A delegation of citizens had just arrived, having come hither
to rejoice over their victory, and shake hands with the popular
young representative. The confusion of tongues which had
prevailed in the drawing-room was now superseded by the loud
shuffling of feet on the verandah, the violent ringing of the
door-bell, and the tumultuous and eager voices of the throng,
who, met by Bayard at the threshold, eagerly tendered their
congratulations and received his acknowledgments in return.
The sudden withdrawal of both Harry and Percival, consequent
on this arrival, and the sound of laughter and conversation
proceeding from the dining-room, on the opposite side of
the hall, into which the new comers had been ushered, had the
effect of composing the little family circle into a thoughtful,
listening attitude; and one after another they resumed their
seats, and a comparative quiet reigned throughout the room.

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In a retired corner, a little apart from the rest, Mabel mused
with her own thoughts, and gave ear to the occasional dialogues
which took place around her, seriously vexed, meanwhile, at her
own inability to assume a natural and unconstrained air, and
wondering whether, in the general excitement, her own individual
deportment had been observed and commented on.

No observation could be more critical or severe, however,
than that which she exercised over herself. “What is the
meaning of this, Mabel Vaughan?” was her inward interrogatory.
“Who can be more pleased than you with the result of
this election? You have scarcely thought of anything else for
two or three weeks past; it has been the object and end in
which all your hopes have been centred; nowhere has the young
candidate found a more zealous champion; from no one could
he reasonably anticipate warmer sympathy and congratulations!
You certainly are very, very glad of his success! Why not
tell him so, then, in those frank, simple terms which are all that
the occasion demands, and which would be sure to be understood?”

Why not? Indeed, she could not answer the question satisfactorily
even to herself. She would have given worlds, had
they been at her disposal, rather than that Bayard should suffer
a defeat. Still, the announcement was so sudden—it involved
so much! Perhaps she realized more than others the responsibility
that rested upon the young man—the bias that was to
be given to his whole future life. Perhaps she took into the
account, that it was an event not merely of private, but of
national interest. Why, otherwise, should she have experienced
that quick beating of the heart which effectually forbade
her utterance? Yes, she was glad, very glad, that was a
question which did not admit of a doubt. But she could not
speak so lightly as the rest did on a matter of such grave concern—
she could not so readily subdue the emotions which an
event of such serious moment was calculated to excite.

The voice of Mr. Vaughan was now heard amid the general
silence, gravely remarking to Madam Percival: “These political
constituents have snatched our young friend from us at an

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interesting crisis; but this little circumstance only illustrates
the general truth, that private friendship must yield to the call
of public duty; nor must we complain of our personal loss in
view of this election, since it introduces your son upon an arena
where he is sure to play a worthy part. I congratulate you,
Madam, with all my heart, upon the honors which he has
achieved to-night.”

“I have never coveted any higher honor for my son,” said
Madam Percival, in reply, “than that which belongs to every
man who faithfully does his duty. I thank you most sincerely,
my dear sir, for your friendly sympathy. But new responsibilities
are a new test of character and ability; and, as a parent,
I almost shrink from congratulation until such a time as Bayard
shall have proved that this is indeed a true occasion for it.”

“The past, however, is, to a great degree, prophetic of the
future,” replied Mr. Vaughan; “and you will not forbid me to
wish you joy, that there is in the young man himself such good
foundation for a people's confidence and a parent's hopes.”

“I will not deny, sir,” said Madam Percival, with a placid
smile, while her eye glistened with a maternal pride which
could not be wholly concealed, “that now, as always, I find in
this my highest satisfaction; and, to do Bayard justice, I believe
that his aims are pure, and his strength of will indomitable. I
pray God that he may be found as wise as I know him to be
brave and true.”

“Who can doubt his fitness for every emergency?” thought
Mabel, as, while she watched Madam Percival's face, she felt
her own heart swell with a pride none the less deep, and far
more ardent than that which now sent a sudden glow to the
aged woman's cheek. “Has he not nobly fulfilled every trust
reposed in him as counsellor, brother, son, and friend! The
mother may modestly disclaim the laurels which yet await his
brow; but what honor is there in the nation's gift which we
may not hope one day to see him wear? How thankful we
should be, and how rejoiced we are, that the public have claimed
him as their representative, and have destined him to an elevated
and conspicuous career.”

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This thankfulness, this joy, however, were not of the same
serene and placid character as Madam Percival's. Perhaps
they were none the less generous, none the less sincere, that
another, and in some degree, rival emotion, now and then
asserted itself, and was only kept down by the vehemence and
resolution with which Mabel strove to convince herself that the
occasion was one of perfect and unqualified satisfaction. This
honorable and public service might imperatively summon its
votary from the domestic circle,—it might engross his time, to
the exclusion of all minor claims. She did not need her
father's suggestion, to remind her that private pleasures may
sometimes clash with public duties; for the thought had flashed
upon her in the very moment of Bayard's victory. But what
then! Was there one among his friends so cowardly as to
shrink from the sacrifice? Was there one so selfish as willingly
to detain him a moment from his post? one so mean as
to estimate personal loss against the public gain? Reason
proudly answered in the negative; but a pang shot through her
heart at the question; a sigh was the only audible answer; and
while joy sat on her countenance, her spirits waged an inward

“I have been in the dining-room, where the gentlemen are!”
exclaimed Murray, approaching the spot where she sat, and
speaking in a tone of exultation. “There are as many as
fifteen or twenty, standing round the fire, talking with Mr.
Percival and Uncle Harry. They are all so triumphant and
delighted about the election! it's capital fun to stand by and
listen. Come, Al! come in and hear them!” and he hurried
his brother away.

“How gratifying the presence of these friends must be to
Mr. Percival!” thought Mabel, as through the open door, by
which the boys left the room, she heard the indistinct murmur
of voices, and pictured to herself the animated scene. “How
great must be the zeal which prompted them to a ten miles ride
on this wintry night! What staunch and true supporters they
will be to him in the future! How closely their interests will
be allied to his! How mutually confidential will be the

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relations existing between them! What a pleasant excitement
their arrival adds to the other events of the evening!”

Such were Mabel's sentiments; the only sentiments, at least,
which she acknowledged, or of which she was distinctly conscious.
Why then that undefined sadness which crept over her,
as she mentally contrasted the partially deserted drawing-room
with the well-filled apartment at the other extreme of the house,
where Percival gave reception to his political guests? Why
that distinct remembrance which darted into her mind, of her
aunt Sabiah's late denunciation of men engaged in public life,
and her assertion of its proverbial effect in weakening social
sympathies and ties? Why the restless tapping of her little
foot on the carpet as she impatiently awaited the departure of
the district committee, and the sense of weariness and discontent
with which she mentally ejaculated—“How long they
stay!”—then secretly glanced at her watch, adding, as she did
so, “only eight o'clock! I thought it had been nine.”

These latter shades of feeling were, however, but an undercurrent,
and were outwardly veiled by her usual calm and
cheerful demeanor, to which she had been restored almost
immediately upon Bayard's leaving the room; nor, whatever
might be the source of her secret uneasiness, could it be attributed
to any conscious yearning for the society of the absentees;
for when, at length, the gentlemen from the city took their
departure, and Bayard and Harry hastened back to the drawing-room,
she seemed disconcerted rather than gratified by their
presence, and lost no time in ensconcing herself behind the tea-table,
in one corner of the apartment. Here, she begged from
Madam Percival the privilege of making tea for the company,
an office which she performed in silence and with methodical
precision; nor did she leave her place of retreat until Percival
was seated at the piano in the adjoining library, and nearly all
the rest had resorted thither for the enjoyment of some music.

So closely do national and familiar airs interweave themselves
with associations of the past, that on the anniversary of
Thanksgiving scarcely any one could fail to express some preference
or ask for some favorite tune. Thus Bayard was

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detained long at his post, and Bessie, whose catalogue of songs
was as exhaustless as her good nature, maintained her place
beside him, turning over the leaves of the music book and
accompanying him with power and spirit, while Harry, as
occasion offered, aided them with his deep bass voice. Helen,
to whom the day had been fraught with many a tender memory,
waited patiently until the rest were satisfied, and then in a
tremulous tone begged that Percival would open the organ and
play upon it one or two sacred anthems which her father had
dearly loved, a request which Bayard with his usual prompt
courtesy immediately complied with.

Mabel meanwhile, still courting seclusion, had entered the
room with a noiseless step and seated herself in an ample bay
window at the extremity of the apartment, in which sheltered
nook, partially screened by some heavy old-fashoned draperies,
she might enjoy the music undisturbed. Her attitude was
scarcely that of a gratified listener, however, as she sat gazing
fixedly out on the smooth shining surface of snow, and now and
then pressing her aching head against the cool glass. Once or
twice, indeed, she might have been seen to start, as if the chorus
of a joyous glee grated harshly on her feelings; but with these
exceptions, she seemed scarcely conscious of the protracted concert
save as it afforded her a welcome opportunity of undisturbed
thought and repose.

At length there was a pause in the music and Mabel, although
insensible to the ordinary conversation which had been going
on around her, distinctly heard Harry remark to his friend,—
“we shall miss you sadly, Percival, this winter. I suppose you
will be obliged to leave for Washington next month.”

“I cannot tell—perhaps not until January,”—replied Bayard
in an under tone,—then added emphatically and with compressed
lips, “perhaps immediately.”

The last word only reached Mabel's attentive ear. It struck
cold upon her heart. Involuntarily she repeated it to herself.
It seemed to give form and shape to those vague and undefined
emotions which she could not comprehend and would fain have
crushed. “Immediately!” was the thought which forced itself

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upon her—“the flat has gone forth, and he must obey the call
without hesitation and without delay. He must turn his back
upon the home which he loves and the friends to whom he is
so justly dear. They will no longer hear his cheerful voice as
he enters the house unexpectedly at dusk, nor listen to his
horse's feet as he retreats in the distance, nor count upon his
aid when in difficulty or need, nor enjoy his books, nor have the
benefit of his advice. The woods and prairies will moan him
in silence; even his horse and dog will miss him; his departure
will spread a cloud over the landscape, only to be dispersed by
his return.

“It is true he goes on a noble errand; he will serve the
cause of humanity and the best interests of his country; he
will give her his time, his efforts, his affections; he will meet
with a just reward; he will be honest, beloved and happy;
but we—”

Alas, she could deceive herself no longer. Exultant, proud,
and thankful she might endeavor to be in this his hour of triumph;
but she could not be blind to the fact, that the shadow which his
departure would fling upon all nature was reflected most deeply
on her own heart; that others might regret the absence of a
friend, but that for her, the sun of her life would be gone down.

As thus painfully self-engrossed she peered tremblingly into
that night of the spirit, which was threatening to overtake her,
she failed to observe that the library had become well-nigh
deserted of its occupants, who one by one had received their
meed of satisfaction from the music and had returned to the
drawing-room. The organ still gave forth the soft, long-drawn
strains of a beautiful symphony, and the pathetic minor tones,
keeping pace with her train of thought, were listened to
almost unconsciously. Not until they were suddenly brought
to a close, therefore, and a solemn silence succeeded did she
become aware that Helen, who, overcome by the music, had
been the last to leave the room, had inadvertently closed the
door behind her; that the candles attached to the organ were
extinguished, and she and the organist were the sole inmates of
the quiet library, now lit only by the pale light of the moon,

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which was streaming through the window at which she sat.
Her first impulse was to steal noiselessly away; her next, to
wait in her place of partial concealment until Percival, who was
closing the organ lid, should have preceded her, but both
schemes were rendered equally abortive, for, so far from leaving
the room after shutting up the instrumeut, Bayard folded his
arms and with a deliberate air walked straight to the window
to look out into the night. She started at his approach, and
with a fluttered air was hurrying past him in silence, but,
though scarcely less disconcerted than herself at his discovery
(for he believed her to have spent the entire evening in the
drawing-room), he arrested her with the words,—“Do not
go,”—at the same time standing aside to let her pass.

She stopped—checked not so much by his words as by the
power of his mild blue eye, which was fixed upon her with a
gaze at once penetrating and persuasive.

“I did not mean to intrude upon you,” said he, as she stood
hesitating and irresolute “but since I am here, indulge me for
a moment.”

He would have taken her hand to detain her, but she would
not trust it to him, conscious that it trembled; and without
appearing to notice the movement on his part, she voluntarily
resumed her place in the window.

“You are the only one of my friends who has not congratulated
me to-night,” said he, as he seated himself beside her.
“I was half disposed at first to reproach you with indifference,
but on second thoughts I thank you rather for sparing me such
a mockery.”

She repeated his last word in a questioning tone, at the same
time looking up at him for an explanation of its meaning.

“Yes, it is a strong term,” continued he, with a vehemence
of manner unusual to him, “but congratulations from your lips
would have seemed to me scarcely less than a mockery to-night.
Others might be blind to the truth, and their well-meant words
might be both acceptable and sincere, but I would fain flatter
myself that you understand me better, that you do me the justice
to believe, that the events which outwardly wear a flattering air,

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have caused me nothing but pain—that no sentence of exile or
banishment could be more bitter than this unwelcome summons,
which calls me away from everything that is dearest to me on

There was a tremulous depth to his voice as he thus spoke,
such as Mabel had never heard in it before. It almost startled
her. She felt his eye fixed piercingly upon her; but, without
daring now to look up and meet it, she faltered out, “Harry
said it would cost you a sacrifice.”

“Harry! What does he know of it? What does any one
know?” exclaimed Bayard, with an impetnous, almost an impatient
gesture. “Who but myself can measure the pang it
costs me? I do not look for sympathy! I am stung with
congratulations! But you,” and his voice changed to one of
almost feminine tenderness and appeal, “you, who by your
holy confidence in my sense of right strengthened me for this
task,—you will not at least refuse to wish me God-speed?”

“I? Oh, no!” replied Mabel; and then added, hesitatingly,
and scarcely knowing what she said, “I—I wish you every
thing that is good.”

“And you will shrive me before I go?”

She answered only by looking timidly, anxiously up at him;
then her glance wandered quickly round the room, as if she
meditated making her escape.

“Yes, let this be my confessional,” said Bayard, his words
following fast upon one another, as if he understood her intention
and would not be frustrated in his own purpose. “I may
not depart with a light heart, but I would at least carry away
with me an easy conscience. I would disburden it of a weight
which has laid on it ever since the evening we first met, when,
in the blindness of a false and hasty judgment, I spoke, and
you overheard the unworthy words, which were repented of as
soon as uttered. Can you, will you, forgive me for the blindness,
the presumption, the folly for which I have never forgiven
myself? Can you deem it a sufficient atonement for
my fault, that your first reproachful glance convicted me at
once of injustice and libel that it has haunted my memory

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ever since; and that I can not be at peace, as long as its
shadow is upon my heart.”

“And is that all?” said Mabel, breathing more freely, while
a pensive smile overspread her face, as memory, which had
failed to treasure up the wrongs of that eventful evening, led
her back to the contemplation of the never-to-be-forgotten
benefits which Bayard had generously rendered her in her hour
of need.

“No, it is not all,” exclaimed he, with a returning vehemence
and fervor, which he struggled with, vainly endeavoring to be
calm. “You overheard me, when I rashly undertook to interpret
the character which I had neither the wisdom nor the
charity to read aright. I beseech you, then, to listen—to have
patience with me—to believe me, when I tell you, that the
lesson of goodness, beauty, and truth which you have been
teaching me ever since, is such as to make me ready to hide
my face and exclaim, `So, this is your cold, artificial, worldly
woman! Never trust yourself again, Bayard Percival.”'

“Mr. Percival,” said Mabel, her calmness partially restored,
as she saw how much Bayard was moved, “you wrong yourself
and me, when you waste so much regret on words spoken
at random, and forgiven, I assure you, as promptly as they
were truly atoned for. If my mind often recurs to the evening
of which you speak, it is not to dwell on my own wounded
vanity, but on a kindness which touched me to the heart. Do
not ever think of the occasion again, unless you should some
day be tempted to doubt that I know what it is to be grateful.”

Her voice shook and quivered as she uttered the last syllable;
and, once more impelled to take refuge in flight, she sprang
from her seat and would have darted from the room. But
Bayard was on the watch. Something in her manner had led
him to anticipate the movement, and, starting up, he caught
her by the hand.

“Stay, Mabel—stay,” cried he, in a voice of deep emotion,
while the eyes, usually so mild and gentle, seemed to emit a
burning light as he fixed them full on hers. “You must not—
you shall not go. I have made but half my confession yet.

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Hear me for a moment only, and then, if you bid me, I will
depart and you shall never see me more.”

She stopped short—mute, transfixed, and statue-like. Even
the hand, which had shaken with a nervous tremor, ceased to
flutter, as he held it in his firm grasp. There was something
awful and impressive in the agitation of this strong man, usually
so calm and self-possessed; and Mabel's heart almost ceased
to beat, as she observed how his broad chest heaved, and his
lips refused to give utterance to the thoughts which were working
within. But when they came at last, those words of pathos
and of power, they seemed to sweep through all the chambers
of her soul, penetrating to the very seat of her life, and telling
of a love as mighty and strong as the heart that had conceived
it was elevated and noble. With all the simplicity and ardor
of youth, with all the eloquence and force of mature manhood,
did he plead his cause, pouring into her ear the story of a deep
and true affection, which had implanted itself in the fibres of
his nature more than six years before, and had silently and
secretly taken root in the generous soil, to expand and blossom
at last in the sunshine of her presence and her smiles.

“I have loved my Western home with a boyish enthusiasm,”
exclaimed he, at length, as having poured forth the tale of his
hopes and fears, he scanned her colorless features, and in their
marble-like pallor and rigidity could not as yet read his answer.
I have rejoiced in the freedom and independence of my unshackled
life; I have shrunk from every thing that had a tendency
to win me from my favorite pursuits. Still, I could have
broken away at the call of duty; I could have looked even
exile cheerfully in the face, and dared fortune to do her worst,
glorying in my native strength. But it is so no longer. My
resolutions are weaker than any child's; my courage fails me
in the most critical moment of my life. I dare not say but that I
should have evaded the present call, had not your generous
confidence urged me on. But now there is no drawing back.
I must break up the habits and associations which have come
to possess a nameless charm; I must bid farewell to the spots
round which your image will forever cling. Duty bids me

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depart; and you, too, echo her voice. O Mabel!” His tone
was low, sweet, and full of touching earnestness, as he made
this final appeal. “O Mabel! must I go alone?”

The heart which had seemed to stand still, while Bayard
unfolded, with passionate fervor, the indwelling secret of his
strong love, vibrated with sudden motion as his impetuous
words thus gave place to low, half-whispered entreaty; the
blood which had seemed to ebb away in a cold, stagnant
stream, rushed back in a warm, living current, and the long
suppressed, subdued, and hidden emotion of Mabel's soul was
stirred into sudden life. It was no blind sentiment,—no transient
preference, which thus lay treasured in the inmost recesses
of her being; it was a holy and pure affection, born of
gratitude, nursed by time, strengthened by respect, and perfected
by that union of habit, principle, thought, and feeling,
which moulds two hearts into one. It lay deep, and she had
concealed it well; so well, that until now she herself had suspected
but half its power. The time had come, however,
when it could be repressed no longer. She felt it in the trembling
agitation which, commencing within, vibrated through her
whole frame, until she tottered where she stood; she betrayed
it in the hot, rushing tide which suffused her neck, her cheek,
her brow, with crimson, and tingled to her fingers' ends. She
could not speak, but she laid the hand that was free on the
hand which Bayard still firmly held; he clasped them both in
his, and was answered. The nervous agitation which caused
her to tremble like an aspen leaf, was subdued and tranquilized
as she felt herself folded in his strong embrace; and the heart
which had been schooled by experience, purified by suffering,
and ennobled by patient endurance, realized that it had found
at last its true, its perfect earthly rest.

And what did they all say when Mabel's engagement was
announced? for engagements must come out, and everybody
must say something.

It did not come out until the next day, for Bayard returned
to the drawing-room at length without his promised bride, who

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was lost to the family for the remainder of the evening. Murray
went to look for her, being anxious that she should witness
a brilliant aurora which was visible in the north, but returned
to say, that he feared Aunt Mabel had a headache, as she did
not open her room door, but begged him to excuse her to
Madam Percival and the rest of the company.

When she awoke, however, the following morning, she found
her venerable hostess sitting by her bedside. “Good morning,
my dear child,—my dear daughter!” said she, leaning over
her, smoothing the hair back from her forehead, and kissing
her tenderly. “Bayard has told me all,—it is as I have
fondly wished,—I could ask no better comfort for my old age.
My son will be very happy, and you—excuse a mother's partiality,
but you will have a husband worthy of you.”

Mabel sprang up and threw her arms round her dear, respected
friend. “Oh, the blessing,” exclaimed she, with tearful
eyes, “of knowing, for the first time within my recollection,
what it is to claim a mother's love!”

“Your union with Bayard, my dear,” said the old lady, “will
but set a seal to the compact which my heart made with you
long ago. You are mine by adoption, no less than by his choice;
it is sweet to me to feel that my affections went out instinctively
to meet the daughter soon to become mine by a most holy tie;”
and once more pressing Mabel to her bosom, she hastened from
the room, to recover the composure which this interview had
sensibly disturbed.

“Come with me,” said Mabel to Bayard, who had been pacing
up and down the hall, just outside her door, and was, consequently,
the first person whom she met when she left her
room. “Come with me to my father.”

The old gentleman was an early riser, and, as Mabel had
anticipated, was up, and sitting alone in front of the library fire.
He laid down his spectacles and books as his daughter and their
youthful host entered the room together, and gazed at them with
no little surprise, for they had the earnest look of persons with
a positive object in view. Mabel went behind his chair and
whispered in his ear. He looked round at her, half

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incredulously, then bestowed an earnest, inquiring glance on Percival.
“You will be to her the friend that she deserves?” said he at

“I will, Sir, with God's help,” answered the young man

“Take her, then,” said the father, rising from his chair, and
laying a hand on the head of each. “This is unexpected to
me, but not unwelcome. If, having been a good daughter is
any security that she will be a good wife,” continued he, addressing
Bayard, “you will never repent your choice. God
bless you both.”

“Two elections in one day, you lucky fellow!” exclaimed
Harry, who came in at the moment, and understood at a
glance how matters stood. “I give you joy! and I hope it will
not be considered in any degree disparaging to the district
which you represent, if I remark, that I consider the last victory
you have achieved greater than the first, and a more worthy
subject of rejoicing, not only for your sake, but, for that of
my dear sister, and of every one who has her happiness at heart.'
Though Harry addressed himself to Bayard, his look of affection
was fixed on Mabel, whom he drew towards him as he
finished speaking, and clasped in a fraternal embrace.

“I hope you will both be as happy as we are, Mabel dear,”
whispered Helen, who had followed her husband into the room.
“I can offer you no warmer wish.”

Bessie now made her appearance in a state of great excitement.
She had learned the news from her grandmother, and
her delight, which was, no doubt, extreme, was almost lost in
the excess of her astonishment. “I never was so cheated in
my life,” exclaimed she. “I am provoked, beyond all patience,
to think what a game you have been playing almost before my
face and eyes,—and I as blind as a bat to the whole thing!
Why! isn't anybody else astonished? I want to know,” and
she gazed inquiringly from one face to another. “I thought
you disliked my uncle, Miss Vaughan,” said she in an expostulatory
tone. “I thought you had an old grudge against him.
And so you, Uncle Bayard, propose uniting yourself to an

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iceberg, after all?” Bayard smiled. Bessie saw that her cutting
allusion failed to exercise its accustomed effect. “Mabel
has forgiven me,” said Percival. “Your tongue, my little
Bessie, has lost its power to wound.”

There was a marked contrast in the manner with which the
boys received the announcement. Murray shouted with joy,
and civilly asked Madam Percival's leave to give three cheers.
Alick scanned Percival's face with as keen and anxious a
serutiny as if he would have pierced to his very soul, kissed
Mabel impulsively, rushed from the room and (he was sixteen
years old, and a tall boy for his age, but, nevertheless, it must
be confessed) he wept.

“Well, now,” said Sabiah, whom Mabel sought, and informed
privately of the event, “you don't mean so! Upon my word
it's so sudden I don't know what to think! Why, you never
saw him more than half a dozen times in your life,—did you,

Mabel confessed the frequency with which they had met
during her visit at Harry's.

“La's sakes! Then all the time other folks have been
electioneering, and so on, he's spent his time a courtin'.
Well, he's a fine young man; I never had anything in the
world against him, except his being so mixed up with politics;
and if he has neglected his public interests, as they say, after
this fashion, to play the agreeable to his lady-love, I'm thinking
his wife will never be second best whatever may turn up;
so I guess the heart you've won you're pretty sure to keep
against all odds!”

And Sabiah was right; for with Bayard Percival to love
once was to love forever.

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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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