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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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And oft though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity
Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill
Where no ill seems.

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Several weeks passed away, during which Mabel continued
to enjoy an almost uninterrupted round of gaiety. A
city belle, however, should, notwithstanding the precautions of
modern luxury, be possessed of a constitution insensible to
every injurious influence; and Mabel, despite her usual high
health, was not proof against the combined effects of excitement,
exposure, and fatigue. A sudden cold, accompanied by
feverish symptoms, compelled her, at length, to forego all
society, save that which her home afforded; and now for the
first time, perhaps, did she learn to estimate the full extent of
that solicitude of which she was the cherished object. Her
father's affectionate anxiety, her aunt's assiduous and patient
nursing, and Harry's brotherly attention and devotedness, far
outweighed the gratification derived from the numerous bouquets
and notes of condolence which covered her dressingroom
table; and during a few days of positive illness, and a
week of convalescence, she had an ample opportunity of appreciating
the value of those domestic blessings and privileges,
which had hitherto been obscured by the more brilliant pleasures
of fashion and the world.

This temporary and forced seclusion from society occurred,
too, at the time when Mabel was first beginning to be conscious
of the monotony which existed in those gay circles, which to
Louise constituted the world. A certain fondness for admiration,
and a natural gratification at the large share of it which

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her position and charms excited, had served for a time to
blind her to the insipidity of the sources from whence it was
bestowed; and the attractions of dress, excitement, and display,
enlisted her interest so long as they continued to be
novelties. But she had too much freshness of feeling to find
any lasting pleasure in the same unvaried round of engagements,
especially as her intellect occasionally rebelled at the
endless repetition of ball-room nonsense, which constituted the
conversation of Mrs. Leroy's set.

The power of habit is strong, however, and she probably
would not have had the force of will to break through the
charmed ring of fashion, had not necessity laid its iron hand
upon her. Her cheerful and loving disposition now found the
means of both receiving and conferring pleasure in her home,
and her conscience more than once reproached her for previous
neglect of the spot, to which her presence, even as an invalid,
evidently had the power to impart sunshine.

Aunt Sabiah was like a new being, now that she had the
happiness of Mabel's society and the occupation of officiating
as a nurse. Mr. Vaughan went later to his office in the morning,
and passed his evenings with his family in the library,
where the numerous charts, which usually engrossed his mind
were never once unrolled. As for Harry, he seemed suddenly
relieved from his wonted press of convivial engagements, and
found time to read aloud to his aunt and Mabel, translate German
songs for the latter, and entertain himself and torment Sabiah
by rallying her upon the subject of the ill-shaped stockings
which constituted her favorite knitting work, and which,
although displaced in the parlor by some more elegant employment,
were gladly resumed in the retirement of an invalid's
room. Their distorted calves and shrivelled ancles afforded
Harry's fancy continual play, as to the sort of animal for whose
use they might be intended; and although he never called
forth any other than the invariable retort, that “it was a poor
leg that wouldn't shape its own stocking,” he seemed quite
contented to have the war of wits all to himself. So happy
was he, apparently, under this new order of things, that he

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seldom left the house for any great length of time, except
when warned away by the arrival of Mrs. Leroy, who made
a daily visit of bustle and inquiry, and the rattling of whose
flounces was usually the signal for her brother to walk off,
whistling an opera air.

Louise was half provoked at the contentment with which
Mabel submitted to a week's imprisonment; more especially as
she felt herself in some degree called upon to enliven her
seclusion now and then with her presence, a species of self-sacrifice
which she found intolerably irksome. She always
contrived, however, to make some plausible apology for the
shortness of her visits, and came and went with such graceful
ease, and so many affectionate inquiries and complimentary
messages, that Mable was very naturally gratified by her
attentions, and far from disposed to question her sincerity.

But the very circumstance which repelled Mrs. Leroy,
opened a new source of happiness to her children, who now,
for the first time, began to enjoy the privileges of a grand-father's
house. Mabel sent for them occasionally during her
short illness; and though Harry thought it a bore to have
Alick poring over a book in the corner of the room, or staring
moodily out of the window, and aunt Sabiah was sure that
Murray's noise would throw Mabel into a fever-fit, these visits
served, on the whole, to establish natural relations between
the boys and the different members of the family, and to sow the
seeds of that future influence which each was destined to exercise
upon all the rest. How far this experience of domestic
joys, with the reflections and sentiments to which it gave rise,
might have served to divert Mabel's mind from the enjoyments
of gay life, and dispose her to serious and lasting considerations
of her own responsibilities and powers, it is impossible
to determine; for by the time she was restored to health, and
consequently to society, a new weight was added to the scale
of influence heretofore possessed by the outward world, and a
new sentiment engrossed both her intellect and heart, to the
exclusion of all rival claims.

Lincoln Dudley returned unexpectedly to the city, and

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Mabel met him under circumstances calculated to encourage
and increase the romantic interest she had long cherished for
her brother's friend.

A birth-night ball was given by one of her young friends,
who, not content with urging Mabel's attendance, both by note
and message, came herself to protest against the disappointment
of being refused. Mabel had not been exposed to the
evening air since her illness, and the invitation was only accepted
with the proviso, on the part of her father, that she
should not dance. Louise declared that, under such conditions,
it would be better to stay at home; but Mabel, with her usual
amiability, was glad to gratify her friend on such easy terms.

She was surrounded by a gay group of flatteres, when she
first caught sight of a gentleman, who, leaning against a mantel-piece
with an easy and self-possessed air, appeared to be
leisurely scanning the assembly. Perhaps there was a magnetic
power in those dark, dreamy eyes, for, at the moment
when Mable glanced at the spot where he stood, they were
fixed upon her with a glance of scrutiny as well as admiration.
When she next observed him, however, he was conversing
in an animated manner with a sprightly lady, who
evidently found great pleasure in his conversation.

Had his previous criticism of Mabel been less marked, he
could scarcely have failed to engage her attention, he was so
very unlike any one she had ever met before. His personal
appearance was striking, for, although scarcely of the medium
height, his figure was well-formed and graceful, while his attitude
and manners denoted an independence, and a freedom from
conventional restraint, which distinguished him amid the company
as one who could venture to dispense with the minor rules
of etiquette. Nevertheless, he was courtly in his demeanor,
especially towards ladies, and had evidently the power of making
himself generally agreeable—for, as Mabel continued her
ob ervations, she could not fail to remark the eager reception
which his civilities met with from persons of various ages and
tast s.

He soon disappeared amid the crowd, however, and the

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thoughts of the city belle were once more engrossed by the
little throng of admirers who were congratulating themselves
upon her reäppearance in society, and who remained true to
their allegiance, in spite of the music and dancing in an adjoining

It was with some surprise, therefore, that she felt the light
touch of a fan upon her shoulder, and turning, found Mrs.
Leroy beside her, accompanied by the stranger, who had evidently
sought Louise for the purpose of obtaining an introduction
to her sister.

Either Louise, in her haste to return to the dance, failed to
pronounce his name in an audible tone, or a little confusion on
Mabel's part prevented her catching the sound distinctly; at
all events, she remained quite in ignorance of the fact that she
was making the acquaintance of Dudley.

The self-possessed serenity of his manners, however, quickly
restored her wonted composure; and she knew not how it was,
that before many minutes she found herself engaged in a conversation
wholly free from the restraint usually consequent
upon an abrupt and hasty introduction. Neither did she
attempt to account for the fact that, one after another, even the
boldest among her attendant beaux retreated to the ball-room
or elsewhere, leaving Dudley in full possession of the field.

She only knew that she was listening to one, who, in beauty
of language, originality of thought, and play of fancy, was, in
comparison with those who had just left her side, like a being
of a different order in nature; and, flattered at finding herself
the object of attraction to a superior mind, and inspired, perhaps,
by the glance of Dudley's eloquent eyes, she felt conscious
of mental aspirations which her intercourse with society had
never before awakened. Finding that she did not dance,
Dudley obtained a seat for her, and leaning against an opposite
window-frame in his wonted easy and half-indolent attitude,
continued to exert his own brilliant powers of conversation, at
the same time emboldening her, by his apparently careless
address, to do justice to that native grace and force of intellect
with which she was amply endowed.

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Not until Mr. Leroy, who chanced to be present on this
occasion, came to inform her that the carriage was waiting, and
Louise also in readiness to depart, did she realize the length
of time in which she had been so agreeably entertained; and,
although the acquaintance of an evening only, she could not
conceal from herself the satisfaction she felt at Dudley's parting
assurance that he hoped to have the pleasure of soon seeing
her again.

Harry, contrary to expectation, had not made his appearance;
detained, as it proved, by some friends whom he met at
his club; and it was not until the next day at dinner that Mabel
had any opportunity to speak to him concerning the occurrences
of the evening. Her communications then were somewhat
involuntary, and only drawn from her by pointed questions on
his part. He compelled her at length, however, to acknowledge
the new acquaintance she had formed, and even drew her on
to give a somewhat minute description of the individual. After
amusing himself with her conjectures concerning him, and especially
her suspicion that he must be a poet, because he had
dark eyes, was guilty of long hair, and some little eccentricities
of dress, and was, moreover, very agreeable, he astonished her
with the abrupt remark, “In a word,—you have seen Lincoln
Dudley, and the satisfaction seems to be mutual.”

A glow of delighted surprise overspread Mabel's face at the
first part of Harry's announcement, while a quickly succeeding
blush betrayed her sensibility to Dudley's good opinion. Aunt
Sabiah at once became interested to learn Mabel's opinion of
one who had impressed her most favorably. Mr. Vaughan
had some curiosity concerning Harry's friend, and Harry himself
was disposed to ply Mabel with further questions.

But Mabel perseveringly evaded all inquiries, and at length
contrived to change the topic of conversation. It continued
none the less the subject of her thoughts, however.

There is, perhaps, no flattery to which a young girl is so
susceptible, as that of finding herself an object of interst to a
man some years her senior, possessed of a superior mind, and,
moreover, one of the most popular and influential members of

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the society in which she moves. More especially is this the
case, when natural refinement of thought and feeling have
fitted her for the enjoyment of more elevated and intellectual
pleasures than those which are ordinarily furnished in the
world of fashion. Even Louise, and the frivolous set with
which she had entire sympathy, felt the honor which Mr.
Dudley's attentions were capable of conferring, and diligently
strove to attain them; for his social standing was as confirmed
as his abilities were acknowledged. How much more highly,
then, might Mabel be expected to appreciate the man, who
satisfied at once the demands of the most select circles, and
inspired that involuntary respect which youth is ever ready to
offer at the shrine of genius.

Dudley's genius, indeed, was of a most universal character.
Educated mostly abroad, passing rapidly from one school of
knowledge to another, viewing European society in all its
phases, and profiting by opportunities which are open to but
few, he had become cosmopolitan in his habits, artistic in his
tastes, completely versed in the knowledge of society, and
everywhere fitted to shine. Those who knew him best declared
him qualified for success in whatever profession he
might adopt; but, although now nearly thirty years of age, his
choice was yet undetermined.

Thus, at the time of his introduction to Mabel, he was still a
gentleman of leisure, enjoying a moderate income, which was
sufficient for the wants of one who, though fastidious and luxurious
in his mode of life, was not disposed to reckless extravagance,
and whose weight and influence in society were, strange
to say, wholly independent of wealth.

We shall soon see the effect which this uncommon influence
had power to produce upon the young and enthusiastic Mabel.

Her acquaintance with him ripened rapidly. His intimacy
with Harry, and the certainty of a cordial reception at Mr.
Vaughan's house, would alone have favored this. But, although
he frequently made one of their family circle at dinner,
and was received at all hours with the familiarity of a privileged
guest, these were not the only occasions which afforded

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him the opportunity of exciting Mabel's interest, and winning
her confidence. She met him everywhere in society; and his
singular powers of fascination were never more successfully
exercised than when, amid the distractions of a crowded assembly,
he would now and then seek her side, and, for a longer or
shorter time, as the case might be, enchain her thoughts, enkindle
her imagination, or excite her merriment, by drawing
upon his seemingly inexhaustible stores of information, poetry,
wit, and satire. He never danced; and from the period of
Mabel's introduction to him her love of this amusement became
less engrossing. Not that he sought to win her from gayer
pleasures by the charm of his conversation, or strove to monopolize
any considerable portion of her time. On the contrary,
he had too much delicacy and tact to make his attentions conspicuous;
and his preference and admiration were only to be
inferred from the eagerness and self-gratulation with which
he availed himself of those accidental opportunities which
chance or good fortune might throw in his way.

But, while Mabel's general popularity continued undiminished,
and she was still the ornament and life of the ball-room,
her face was never animated by a more brilliant glow than
when, owing to a pause in the music, or a casual movement
among the company, she found herself released from her recent
partner in the dance, and brought within the magic influence
which Dudley's musical voice and eloquent eye had power to
exercise upon her imaginative spirit.

All the other events of the evening might well serve to
minister to her vanity and self-love, but these little episodes
had a deeper significance, and produced a more subtle and
lasting effect upon her heart and life.

A new ambition, as well as a new sentiment, had been suddenly
awakened; and the young girl, who a month before could
scarcely credit the triumph which had placed her beyond the
rivalry of fashionable competitors, now felt a deeper thrill of
gratified pride as she became conscious of those more ennobling
gifts, which caused her to be appreciated by a man of rare
cultivation and fastidious taste.

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A fresh impulse was thus given to mental powers which had
hitherto lain dormant; and although the routine of her daily
life underwent little change, a close observer might detect many
an indication of the new direction which had been given to her
motives and aims, and the unwonted interest which was imparted
to every scene in which Dudley played a part.

And while the charm which his presence exercised in the
gayer circles effectually vanquished the hesitation with which
she resumed her round of fashionable engagements, the ascendency
of his empire over her thoughts was no less perceptible
in her moments of retirement and meditation. The topics on
which he had awakened her interest became the subject of
after thought; the books from which he had quoted, frequently
lay open upon her dressing-table, and the little apartment so
choicely furnished by Harry was frequently resorted to for the
more careful study of those works of art which possessed the
merit of having been selected by Dudley.

Mr. Vaughan, who had been over-anxious on account of his
daughter's health, felt too deep a satisfaction in her entire restoration
to complain of his deserted fire-side, and patiently betook
himself to the usual resource afforded by his papers and charts.
Harry, at first gratified by his friend's evident admiration of
his sister, began at length to weary of the subordinate part
which he filled in relation to them both, and occasionally, in
the domestic circle as well as the public assembly, would quietly
absent himself from their society, without being much missed
by either party. Miss Sabiah, whose prejudices were all in
Dudley's favor, forbore to utter any reproaches at the thoughtless
and unintentional neglect which sometimes fell to her lot,
and fostered her niece's growing preference by the unqualified
praise which she bestowed upon its object.

What wonder, then, that Mabel, unquestioned, unchecked,
and unwarned, lent herself without fear or doubt to the emotion
of the hour? What wonder if he, whom all the world
admired as the scholar, the poet, and the wit, became in her
eyes the noble, the generous, the true, and the disinterested
man which he should have been,—but which, alas! he was not?

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With all his varied acquisitions,—his knowledge, taste,
culture and refinement,—with all his appreciation of the beautiful,
both in art and nature, and all the seeming fairness of a
reputation which knew no stain, there yet lurked within the
well-springs of his being a secret but fatal poison, dwarfing all
his higher purposes, and blighting all his nobler hopes.

Free from all outward forms of vice, he had, nevertheless,
no true love of virtue; bowing at the shrine of female loveliness,
he had no high faith in woman; and scorning the world in
which he lived, he had no power to rise above it.

Early distrust of all things good had palsied the noblest
gifts of nature; and the life which might have been a blessing
to mankind had thus far proved a failure.

And shall Mabel's trusting heart be exposed to this chilling
influence? Shall the young mind yearning for truth and
knowledge share the sophistries of a perverted intellect? Shall
the soul open to great and lasting impressions find all its generous
aspirations quenched in the cold reasoning of a falso

Ambition, self-love, pride of heart, a deceived imagination,
and a host of worldly allies, will urge her on in the dangerous
path which her feet seem doomed to tread. But one shall
meet them by the way, a childlike form, clad in holy faith,
who shall oppose them with the gentle might of an humble
heart, a pure life, and a whispered prayer. Unequal seems
the contest, but it is God who giveth the victory.

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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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