Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Cummins, Maria Susanna, 1827-1866 [1857], Mabel Vaughan. By the author of The lamplighter. (John P. Jewett and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf533].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Previous section

Next section


Not every flower that blossoms
Diffuses sweets around;
Not every scene hope glids with light
Will fair be found.
Mrs. S. J. Hale.

[figure description] Page 070.[end figure description]

Engrossed with this new scheme for the indulgence of
her vanity, Louise hastened at once to her friend's apartment,
and lingered there so long, that before her return the carriage
came for Mabel, who could not find her scarf, and supposing
that she must have left it in the nursery was compelled to go
there and seek it. As she opened the door unheard, and stood
unperceived in the room, a sight met her eyes which excited
both her sympathy and her interest. Poor Lydia, overcome
with grief, had thrown herself upon the narrow bed usually
occupied by one of the children, and so vehement were the
sobs she uttered, that they shook her whole frame convulsively.
Her eyes were fixed and vacant, and there was an hysterical
gasping in her throat, which frightened Mabel, lest the girl
might be choking with an emotion which she evidently could
not control. Alick was standing beside her,—his face no
longer apathetic and indifferent, but expressive both of sorrow
and indignation. He seemed to be making an endeavor to
soothe her, and as Mabel entered the room she heard him
say, “I shouldn't care for her, Lydia,—she's a cross old
thing.” At first Murray was no where to be seen; but on
taking a nearer view, Mabel perceived the little fellow, who,
really affectionate in his disposition and truly grieved at his
own share in causing Lydia's distress, had crept upon the bed,
and was nestled close beside her, with one arm round her neck.
At the sound of Mabel's voice speaking kindly to her, Lydia
gave a sudden start, and the presence of a stranger seeming

-- 071 --

[figure description] Page 071.[end figure description]

to act as a powerful motive for self-control, she succeeded in
somewhat mastering her agitation. Mabel took a glass of
water from the table and sprinkled a little of it on her face, as
she had seen Mrs. Herbert do on a similar occasion. The
shock acted as a restorative, and after a few more gasps the
excited girl found relief in natural and fast flowing tears.

Mabel, although a stranger to such emergencies, spoke a
few words of comfort to her, which drew forth in return an
expression of poor Lydia's overcharged feelings. “Indeed,
miss,” she sobbed forth, “I meant no harm, but I felt so bad
at what she said about the children, you wouldn't wonder if
you knew—” here her words were lost in tears, but she soon
recovered herself and added,—“So now I've lost my place,
and I don't know what I shall do.”

“I'll ask mother to keep you,” said Murray, in a soothing

Lydia smiled upon the wayward child, but said nothing.
Alick, in the meantime, stood a little in the background,
gazing in the face of Mabel, who looked concerned for the
girl, but uncertain what part to take in the matter herself.
As, after a few moment's pause, she turned to leave the room,
she was arrested by Alick, who exclaimed, as if in further
explanation of Lydia's conduct, “She can't get her money
now, and its too bad; she wanted it for her mother and Rosy.
Mother said she wouldn't pay her, and she won't, she's just
so ugly.”

Mabel's countenance evinced how much she was shocked
by the boy's unfilial language, but he did not perceive this;
his eyes were following the hand with which she now sought
her purse. Poor Lydia, in the meantime, was the picture of
mortification and distress. Words of bitter disappointment on
her part had betrayed to the observing Alick the secret of
her family's necessity, but despite her dependent situation,
she had a sensitive pride which shrank from Mabel's becoming
a partner to this knowledge.

Mabel, scarcely less disconcerted, for she was a novice in

-- 072 --

[figure description] Page 072.[end figure description]

such circumstances, inquired the amount due her for the services
which were now at an end.

“Six dollars,” said Lydia, in a faltering voice, “but, O miss,
it's no matter.”

The sum was in her hand before she had finished speaking.
“Never mind,” said Mabel, soothingly, and putting aside the
hand which offered to return the money, “keep it,—do,—and
I will arrange the matter with Mrs. Leroy some other time.”

Then, anxious to escape the half-audible thanks of Lydia,
she hastily left the room, followed by the wondering, admiring
gaze of Alick. Murray manifesting his satisfaction in an
equally characteristic manner, by attempting to turn a somerset
on the bed.

A quick blush of surprise and embarrassment overspread
her face, as, on re-entering the drawing-room, she discovered
Louise standing near the half-open door of the nursery, where
she must have plainly overheard all that had passed within.
She was trying the effect of the coral ear-rings at an opposite
mirror, and did not even turn her head, on Mabel's sudden
entrance. Had the latter been detected in a mean, instead of
a generous action, she could scarcely have been more disconcerted
than she now felt, at the consciousness of having played
what her sister might consider an officious and censorious part
in a matter with which she had no immediate concern. There
was an awkward silence between them, interrupted at length
by Louise, who, after impatiently jerking one of the ear-rings,
and finally entangling it in her hair, exclaimed in an imperious
and ruffled tone of voice, “Do, Mabel, see what is the matter
with this,—I can't do anything with it!”

Mabel hastened to extricate and clasp the refractory ornament,
and then stood by the side of the irritable little beauty,
who, after surveying herself for a moment with no slight
degree of satisfaction, exclaimed, “How pretty they are! I
wish they were mine! If I had money to throw away,” continued
she in a meaning tone, “as some folks have, I would
buy me a pair this very day!”

“Yes, they are quite pretty and becoming,” said Mabel, with

-- 073 --

[figure description] Page 073.[end figure description]

an absent air. She understood her sister's allusion, and fearing
she had given deep offence, was meditating an excuse for
her own presumption on the score of poor Lydia's necessities.

“I hope,” added Louise, tartly, and with a short, contemptuous
laugh, “that you do not mean to charge me with
all that wastefulness you have been guilty of in the next
room; your purse must be longer than mine if you can afford
to pay people for putting on airs and getting up scenes.”

Mabel, astonished at her sister's meanness and indifference
to distress, was at a loss for a reply to this unexpected outburst;
but Louise, having thus given vent to her vexation,
and at the same time disowned a debt which she never intended
to discharge, seemed to be immediately restored to
good humor, and dismissing the subject with the same ease
with which a child forgets its little annoyance at the sight of
a new toy, she entered with flippant and eager gaiety upon
the subject of the evening's entertainment.

Mabel could not so easily free herself from the agitation
and embarrassment to which her sister's words and her own
awkward situation had given rise; but, relieved to find the
affair amicably settled, although at the expense both of her
purse and her feelings, she lent a ready ear to all the theatrical
details which Mrs. Leroy had gleaned from Mrs. Vannecker,
and from Victoria, who was to take part in the performance.
It would be a charming occasion, but it was on
Mabel's account, chiefly, that Mrs. Leroy professed to congratulate
herself at the opportunity; it would be something
so new to her, and so interesting. Harry, too, would be delighted
to escort them.

Mabel hesitated. She was strongly tempted by her sister's
glowing description of the exciting scene they should witness,
the lovely little theatre, its decorations, etc.; but at the mention
of Harry's name, she remembered the understanding between
herself and her brother, that they were to have a quiet evening
at home. She mentioned this circumstance to Louise as a
motive for relinquishing the project, and once more the good-humored
smile vanished from the face of the latter, who,

-- 074 --

[figure description] Page 074.[end figure description]

resuming, as it were, her previous right to be angry with
Mabel, turned coldly away, saying in an offended tone, “Very
well,—I shall stay at home then, of course; I have no wish
to go alone.”

Mabel's countenance betrayed signs of indecision at sight
of Louise's disappointment and displeasure. She had already
given offence once this morning; she could not bear to be
thought censorious or disobliging; but what would Harry think
of the proposal?

Reflections of this and a similar nature were interrupted by
a fretful expostulation from Louise, who, comprehending her
chief cause of hesitation, exclaimed, “It is nonsense to think of
staying at home on Harry's account, for I will venture to say,
he is full of the idea himself before this time. Several of his
friends are among the dramatis personœ; he will hear of the
performance in the course of the day, and be quite enthusiastic
on the subject.

This last suggestion had the effect of overruling Mabel's
scruples, and just as she was on the point of departure she
yielded a reluctant promise to send the carriage to the hotel,
and be herself in readiness at an appointed hour, for which
obliging concession she was rewarded by a radiant smile, and
affectionate pressure of the hand, from the conciliated and satisfied

But though Louise was satisfied, the case was far otherwise
with Mabel; and the shadow which, during the homeward
drive, clouded her usually happy features, had its rise in many
contending, contradictory, but alike painful emotions.

A young girl of eighteen, of a happy temperament, impulsive
character, and warm affections, is not likely to prove a strict or
severe judge of those faults and foibles which are concealed or
atoned for by a pleasing and fascinating exterior; but Mabel,
with all the romance, sensibility, and ardent imagination of
girlhood, had a deep and steady love of justice, an unsophisticated
sense of right, and an honest contempt for meanness and
duplicity. She could not be blind or indifferent to those unexpected
traits in her sister's character, which the events of the

-- 075 --

[figure description] Page 075.[end figure description]

morning had brought to light, and in proportion as fancy had
hitherto invested Louise with mental and moral loveliness, did
she shrink from the reality disclosed on a nearer view. The
emotions awakened in Mabel's mind, however, were somewhat
indistinct and undefined, and she did not even attempt to analyze
them. She felt, but did not reason, and the rambling
nature of her reflections resulted only in a general sense of dissatisfaction
and disappointment.

The succession of vague doubts, regrets, and apprehensions,
which chased each other through her mind, was suddenly put
to flight as the carriage stopped at her father's door, and a
more immediate and pressing cause of anxiety forced itself
upon her recollection. “What will Aunt Sabiah say to my
long absence?” was her mental inquiry as she entered the
house. The hall clock struck four as she passed up the stair-case.
“So late,” was her inward exclamation; “is it possible?”
And then came the still more startling remembrance,
that she had returned without the promised bit of ribbon.
Truly, thought she, this is one of the days when everything
goes wrong.

Everything had certainly gone wrong thus far. Miss Sabiah
had passed a lonely, cheerless day, and was proportionately depressed.
With martyr-like spirit she had declined taking luncheon,
a meal of no slight importance to one of her country
habits, and it was with difficulty that she could be persuaded
that it was not yet too late for a biscuit and a cup of chocolate,
which Mabel brought with her own hands from the dining
room; she declared that Mabel's forgetfulness to purchase the
ribbon was of no consequence,—O, no,—not the least: what
consequence could it be whether she wore a new cap or an old

From this hopeless state of despondency it would have been
in vain for any one but Mabel to attempt to arouse her; but in
the partial eyes of the aunt the favorite niece was never the
chief delinquent; and after inveighing at intervals against
Louise's growing influence over her sister, and declaring herself
quite resigned to the loss of Mabel's future society, Miss

-- 076 --

[figure description] Page 076.[end figure description]

Sabiah allowed herself to be cheered and comforted by listening
to the contents of a bundle of old letters, which Mabel read
aloud until dark, manifesting a degree of girlish interest in the
musty heap of ancestral details which truly warmed the heart
of her maiden aunt.

Both then and afterwards, Mabel carefully avoided all reference
to her visit at the hotel, unwilling to excite her aunt's
prejudices by relating the stormy occurrences of the morning,
and Miss Sabiah, on her part, scorned to make any inquiries
concerning Louise and her mode of life, subjects on which she
professed perfect indifference.

But the perplexities and annoyances of this unfortunate day
were not yet at an end. At dinner, Mabel waited in vain in
the hope that Harry, who had returned home from his excursion-party
fatigued but in high spirits, would broach the subject
of the theatricals; he remained provokingly silent on the subject,
however, and when, after dinner, he called for his slippers
and proposed going for his flute to accompany her on the piano,
she was reluctantly compelled to confess the promise she had
made to Louise, explaining at the same time her own reluctance
to accede to the proposal, until over-persuaded by her
sister's confident assurance that he would be delighted to accompany

She hardly knew whether to be hurt or amused at the raillery
which her communication called forth. “And so you
really believed that humbuggery!” exclaimed Harry. “Here
have I been, these last two days, employing all the arts of a
blackleg to keep clear of those jackanapes, who were trying to
entice me into that nonsensical farce. Why, I have hardly
dared show myself in any of their haunts, and have been half
afraid of my own shadow lest it should take the form of a stage
manager; and you, innocent lamb that you are, would lead me
into the very thick of the fight. Why, they would condemn me,
without mercy, to the part of Julius Cœsar, or worse still, that
of Vic Vannecker's lover; upon my word, my dear, they are
a perfect set of harpies.”

Miss Sabiah now began to expostulate against Mabel's life

-- 077 --

[figure description] Page 077.[end figure description]

being sacrificed to late hours and bad weather, and Mr. Vaughan
taking alarm at these intimations, looked up from his news-paper
to remark, that it was a very wet evening, and that he
hoped she did not think of going out.

The discussion, however, was interrupted by the arrival of
Mrs. Leroy, whose wilful obstinacy was proof against all opposition.
Mabel would now gladly have retracted her promise,
but Louise exacted its fulfilment, and the most that could be
peaceably effected was a compromise, by which it was agreed
that they should return home early. At Mabel's earnest entreaty,
seconded by that of her father, Harry was persuaded to
accompany them, with the express understanding that he was
at liberty to make his escape, if there was any attempt made to
enlist him for future service among the theatrical corps. At
the carriage door, however, they were greeted by the voices of
Mrs. Vannecker and her daughter, who were comfortably ensconced
on the back seat.

A low exclamation of impatience escaped from Harry.
“I'm off,” whispered he to Mabel; then added aloud, “there
are enough of you to take care of each other, I see—good

If Mabel felt vexed at this inauspicious commencement of
the evening, this feeling was scarcely allayed by the events
that succeeded. The much vaunted performance proved to be
merely a rehearsal; the parts were ill-learned, the stage ill-lighted,
the actors out of humor. Louise betook herself behind
the scenes and mingled in the petty contentions of the
rival aspirants; while Mrs. Vannecker wearied Mabel's ears
with an excited recital of Victoria's wrongs, and her successful
retaliation upon the offenders. Long before Miss Vannecker
and Louise could be persuaded to depart, which was not until
near midnight, Mabel had, despite her good-nature, arrived at
the uneasy conclusion that her sister and friends were making
her the tool of their own love of pleasure, and ceasing to feel
any interest in the histrionic disputes and failures, her
thoughts became occupied with compassion for her aunt and
Harry, who were awaiting her at home, and sympathy for her

-- 078 --

[figure description] Page 078.[end figure description]

weary coachman and restless horses, exposed to a wintry rain,
and, like herself, the victims of imposition.

But the vexations of the evening did not end here. A more
provoking disappointment was yet to come.

It was half-revealed in the triumphant expression of countenance
which met her on her return home, and Mabel felt a
deeper sense of regret than she would have been willing to acknowledge,
when she learned that during nearly the whole of
her absence, Harry and Miss Sabiah had been in the enjoyment
of Lincoln Dudley's society, listening to his rich strains of anecdote,
poetry, and learning, borne, as her imagination suggested,
into those regions of thought and fancy to which such a mind
as his could not fail to lead the way. She even fancied there
was something malicious in the relish with which Harry quoted
some of his friend's best sayings,—something positively taunting
in the assurance of her usually unimpressible aunt, that she
would not probably have any opportunity during the winter to
make the acquaintance of this uncommonly agreeable man, for
that he had missed the cars by accident that afternoon, had
devoted his only evening to them, and would leave for Philadelphia
in the Sunday morning train.

So ended a day of vexations; and Mabel's weekly calendar
of pleasure, excitement, and gratified pride, closed with a confused
but certain sense of weariness, regret, and disappointment.

How impossible it is to please everybody, thought she, as
in the retirement of her own room, she mentally reviewed the
events of the day, dwelling with peculiar bitterness upon that
climax of misfortunes,—the loss of Dudley's visit.

And having thus come to the conclusion that it was impossible
to please everybody, she composed herself to sleep with
the half-formed resolve, that henceforth she would attempt
only to please herself.

Happily, neither this dangerous resolve, nor the painful
emotions which had given it birth, were destined to survive a
night's repose, and the Sabbath sun shone on no more radiant

-- 079 --

[figure description] Page 079.[end figure description]

face than Mabel's, and enkindled in no youthful breast more
generous impulses.

A deeper cloud may one day settle on her pathway, and involve
her bright spirit in a deeper conflict. Well for her then,
if the powers of darkness flee away at the dawn of light, while
faith whispers to her burdened heart that earth has no night
of trouble and despair from which the Sun of Righteousness
may not at length arise with healing in his wings.

-- --

Previous section

Next section

Cummins, Maria Susanna, 1827-1866 [1857], Mabel Vaughan. By the author of The lamplighter. (John P. Jewett and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf533].
Powered by PhiloLogic