ping him gently to his feet, "Here, youngster,
it's rough, I know, but you'll have to wake up
HOLDING ON. 25
MEANTIME Cyp's basket, hanging for Mab,
had nearly come to grief. The owner of a
heavier, quicker step than Bent's had approached
the door, knocked, and in response to Mab's
" Come in," was just about to put a grip on the
door-knob that would have left little of violets or
chain, when through the twilight the visitor
caught sight of them just in time. Something
was there. What was it ? The new-comer hesi-
tated, gave it a close look, and then detaching it
as carefully as a big brawny hand could, carried
Mab knew who was coming and her face was
shining. It was a pretty face, even when quiet,
with its soft brown eyes and patient look, but it
was more than pretty when it lighted up like
"Oh, it's you, Jem. Come in. I'm so
glad. But what's that you're bringing me?
What 's in your hand ?"
"It's naught of my bringing," answered
Jem; "except as I was near bringing it to an
end. If it had once felt the clamp of my hand
on it, that would have been its last It was wait-
ing on the door-handle; that's all I know."
a6 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
"Oh, it's that little Cyp. Violets! Let me
have them, Jem, please. He heard me saying
how I longed for them, and that I could n't hunt
for them as I used."
Jem's large Saxon face did not look pleased.
He pushed back his cap hesitatingly, as his hands
were free, till a curl or two of tawny hair ap-
peared, then pulled it off and sat down.
"I don't know why you mightn't have told
me, if you wanted violets," he said. "I suppose
I might have brought them to you as well as
another, if you'd said the word."
" But, Jem, it was only a happening that they
were spoken of, you know."
"I don't know about happenings; I've noth-
ing to do with them that I know of; only, Mab,
there seem so many of them of late. I begin to
think you don't care for me as you used."
The light was gone out of Mab's face now,
and a half-frightened, half- wounded look took its
place. "Jem ! You ought n't to jest with me like
that. The very sound of the words hurts me,
though there isn't meaning in them, of course."
"And why shouldn't there be meaning in
them? There's been meaning enough in mine
when I asked you more than once if you meant
to marry me or not. I'm tired of this way of
Mab's great brown eyes fixed on him as if they
almost uttered a cry. "Tired of it?" she ex-
HOLDING ON. 2 7
claimed. " You are tired of it ! Oh, I was afraid
it would come to that at last! I felt a deadly fear
of it in my heart sometimes, but I tried to drive it
away; I wouldn't have it there."
"Better put an end to it then. If you care for
me, there 's one proof of it you can give."
There was silence a moment, and Mab's face,
that had flushed so prettily when he came in,
turned deadly pale and her mouth quivered.
"Jem, " she said at last, in a low, quiet tone,
" did you come here to quarrel with me?"
"No, Mab," answered Jem, his own face
flushing this time, "I want no quarrelling; but it
does begin to seem as if you're trifling with me,
and I 'm not a man to like that If you care for
me, why don't you prove it, as other girls do to
men they love? I know you 're not strong, but I
reckon I can work for two."
Mab pressed her hand to her heart Jem's
words seemed to have driven a pain through it
like a stab. If she cared for him ! If he cared for
her, how could he understand so little in all this
time of what the Lord had laid upon her to bear?
Jem waited in silence for his answer, and
seemed determined to wait. She must give it to
him, and she gathered herself up.
"Jem," she said slowly, bringing all her
strength to bear, "I never meant to trifle with
you, but perhaps I've done it without k'lowinof
it, after all. What kind of a wife should I make
28 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
for any man till the Lord sends some help to lift
me up from where I am ? How many times a day
do you think I am out of this chair ? Only once
or twice for a few steps. What do you think my
hands can do but this bit of lace-work that you
see me at? There 's not a thing done in this
house but what Barbie comes over and puts her
hand to, out of pure love; and your wife must
keep your home for you and keep it bright. I can
bear the pain, I can, though it seems as if it
would eat my life out sometimes; but it's the
uselessness that is bitterer than I can tell ! Still,
I 've hoped and hoped the L,ord had a help com-
ing for me, as I said. But it seems no nearer, and
perhaps I shall have to see that he means to keep
me as I am. I 've shut my eyes against it so far,
for your sake and mine, but if it 's true, Jem, I
don't wonder you're tired, I wont ask you to wait
Jem twisted his cap uncomfortably. "But
you do ask me all the same. You wont put an
end to it, at least."
A quick cry half escaped Mab, and then her
woman's soul rose up. "I ze////put an end to it,
then, Jem," she said, "for I believe that is what
you are trying to make me do. To your part of
the waiting, I mean. My part may be many a
long day and year to come yet."
There was a step on the gravel of the carriage-
drive outside. Bent was coming. Jem rose hesi-
HOLDING ON. 29
tatingly. "We can't say anything more now,
Mab," he said. "But"
"No, nor anything different, Jem. It's said
for ever, I 'm afraid."
In another moment Jem was gone, and Bent
had come in in his place. Jem almost stumbled
over him as he stopped at the door, remembering
Cyp's charge about what he was to look for
"What, are you going, man?" Bent asked.
"Mab's been looking for you, and it's early
Jem gave some indistinct answer and pushed
out into the starlight, crunching over the few
steps of driveway between the house and the nar-
row street, and then his footsteps came rapidly
back, fainter and fainter, and then lost by a sud-
"Why, what's taken him so early?" began
Bent "And I was to find something on the
door-knob that Mr. Cyp " But he stopped sud-
denly as he looked at Mab. Her face was white
and her brown eyes were fixed on his face appeal-
ingly, while Cyp's violets, their chain crushed by
Jem's heavy touch, lay in her lap spilled and for-
Bent stood silent as he looked from her to
them and back again. " She looks like some poor
wounded thing," he said to himself excitedly.
" Has that Jem "
30 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
But he might as well have spoken. Mab read
"No, father, Jem never meant it. He has a
good heart, I'm sure, but he can't understand.
But it's harder than ever to-night. It never was
so bitter before. If I should let go !"
What was she saying? What did it all mean?
He Could not get hold of it yet. " If you were to
let go what, Mab?"
"Oh, my Lord's dear hand, my Lord's dear
hand! You don't know, you can't think, for
I 've never let you know, what it is to me to be
prisoner here. My life's young yet, father. It's
not as if I were old."
" I 'd sit there for you, daughter, God knows,"
said Bent with a little moan.
"Don't," pleaded Mab; "don't say such a
thing. I only meant that sometimes it all would
go over me, bitter and hard, if I didn't reach up
and get hold of my Lord's hand. I reach up for
it, and I seem to hold it, you don't know how
close ! I can almost lay my face against it, and
I feel as strong as anybody then, and as contented
and as rich. It seems as if his heart was right
beside it, so pitying and true, and they both were
ready to heal me, if it was only the thing to do.
But there's once in a while a cloud comes up,
and there seems such a dragging to make me let
go, to make me think he isn't there, after all, or
he doesn't care, or why does he let things go as
HOLDING ON. 31
they are? It kills me to have it so and I know-
it's a cruel lie; but it comes once in a while, and
to-night is one of the times. It never was so bad
as to-night, I think. "
Bent looked at her helplessly. "It's a time
when she needs a woman by," he said to him-
self. If her mother had not died ! If Barbie
would come in ! If she were but the little thing
he used to hold when she wanted comforting !
"Oh, my little Mab !" he cried, holding out his
hands as if he would have taken her.
Then he went up to her and lifted Cyp's dan-
delion chain. Some of the links were crushed
and broken, and some were loosened here and
there, but not one had given way.
" There 'sonly one thing we can do, as I see,
Mab," he said. "It's as Mr. Cyp said about
these things here this afternoon. I didn't alto-
gether take what he was saying, but it was
somehow that they were 'holding on tighter
the harder things pulled.' We must do it,
Mab. The Hand is there, and we can't let go.
It 's all gone with us if we do."
Mab' s eyes were "holding" him now, but a
sudden new light was gleaming in them. " Did
he say that? Did little Cyp say that? Oh, I
wonder if it was a message for me! Oh, I will
hold on ; I will, indeed ! It is the Hand that
held the very cross for us. How could I ever
think it would draw away from me !"
32 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
When Mab was asleep that night Bent stole
in and looked at her. There was a quiet peace
in her face, her cheek rested upon one slender
hand, and close beside it, dropped from the
pillow, lay a cluster of Cyp's violets, blue and
sweet. Bent stood still a moment, then turned
and went as softly out again.
" Yes, she'll 'hold on,'" he said. "It was
like part of her soul, almost, to lose Jem out of
her prisoned little life ; more to her than her old
father can ever be he might have been if he
would. But the Hand that held on to the very
cross for us isn't likely to miss when it portions
out. And he '11 never let her go, that 's sure."
But as he sat down a different look came over
his face. "What kind of a soul could a man
have in him though, lover or friend, to be hard
to a girl like Mab ! She tries to defend him and
say he wasn't hard, but I am afraid. If he was,
she's better without him than with him, and I
hope he '11 never cross her path nor mine."
THE POSTMAN'S RING. 33
THE POSTMAN'S RING.
THE "three-sided table" was faultless as
ever next morning, and its occupants had never
seemed gayer or in better mood.
"Parlor napping hasn't spoiled those eyes
of yours yet, Cyp," said Judge Havisham, "but
look out for yourself next time ! You wont get
floated up stairs at my expense if you try it too
often, I promise you in advance. Bent, hand
me Nevermind, there's the postman's ring;
see what he has for us this time, first"
Bent went, and returning laid the letters
beside "Mr. Thorpe's" plate. As he did so he
recognized the clear, elegant hand-writing upon
the upper one, and some of yesterday's thoughts
flashed back into his mind.
"Ha !" exclaimed the judge, as he broke the
seal and ran his eye over the first page, "com-
ing, is she ? Going to take pity on us, and see
how the old home looks in June. What do you
say to that, boys? Vivian ! Hardly ten weeks
she has spent in the house in the two years
you've been in it Well, we wont refuse her.
How many gay folks will she bring in her train ?
I wonder," as he read on. "Coming alone, is
34 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
she? Well, the rest will be following soon
enough; you may risk that"
He put the letter in his pocket and opene4
the morning paper, but that did not seem to
engross his thoughts as usual, in spite of double-
headed columns and foreign news. His eye ran
over one paragraph after another disconnectedly,
but the letter seemed to stand before them all.
And that strange question Wynt had asked last
night ^did he think Vivian liked it? What
could be the boy's idea ? What could have put
such a thought into his head ? To tell the truth,
though and the judge gave his paper an impa-
tient shake, turned it over and back again he
could remember a quick suspicion of that kind
having floated into his mind once or twice when
Vivian was last at home. But yet how could it
be? How should it? It couldn't, of course,
and yet there were trifles that might be inter-
preted as pointing that way. Vivian never
seemed to look upon them as at home ; there was
always some remark dropped as to " this visit of
the boys," or the time when u the boys would be
away at school."
And why had she not kept her promise and
her husband's that they would stay by him in
the old house ? Of course she must have her gay
little trips away, but, on one pretext or another,
there had been nothing else.
" You can't miss me much, papa," she would
THE POSTMAN'S RING. 35
say in her graceful way, "while these little
guests of yours are here;" or, "The old home
wont be lonely till the boys are fairly launched.
School-life is what makes men of them, of course,
and it 's a long work. You '11 have time enough
to grow tired of me after that. ' '
"As if I wanted to send them away to
school!" he repeated half indignantly. "There
are schools enough here, except for a four years'
college course. I want them just where they are. ' *
But was it possible Vivian did not? How
could they in any way interfere with her? Ab-
surd ! A mere notion of that sensitive Wynt's.
High notions and sensitive ones together; there's
where he was like his mother again. He hoped
this visit of Vivian's would bring her and the boys
together better. They needed to understand each
other, that was all.
He walked down to his office with a quicker
step than usual, and found work ready for him, as
it always was: clients waiting to consult, papers,
claims, knotty questions, pleas to prepare. He
met every one with the frank, interested manner
that won so many friends, listened courteously
and closely, or turned to his desk when alone
without a moment's loss of time. But, in spite of
it all, his partner's keen eye glanced at him now
and then as he wondered what there was out-
side of work that was stirring up the judge to-day.
Suddenly the judge's revolving-chair turned
36^ JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
round and he faced the other with a quick, earnest
look. "Wilkie," he exclaimed, "I want you
to look out for those boys of mine if anything hap-
pens to me. They'll have to have a guardian,
and you are the man I want. I 've been meaning
to ask you, ought to have done so before, for I 've
asked you already, in fact, in my will I 'd rather
trust you than any other man. Will you do it for
There was no answer for a moment, and then,
"A heavy trust, is it, judge?" asked Mr. Wilkie
with a quiet dryness in his tone.
" Yes; two such boys are a heavy trust for any
one; but as for money, they've very little of that;
I can't imagine what that father of theirs was
doing all those years. However, that doesn't
matter. I can make that up to them, and have
done so. Now will you do this other thing for
" I never refused you anything yet, Havisham,
" All right then, and thank you. Now here,"
rising and going to his safe, ' ' here are the papers
showing the little the youngsters have; it was all
I could find to gather up for them east or west;
and here is my will. So now my mind is settled,
thanks to you, and I'll go and get my lunch.
I '11 outlive you yet ten years, I dare say; I never
felt better in my life. But I don't like a thing
like that hanging at loose ends."
THE POSTMAN'S RIXG. 37
Meantime there had come a tap at the door
where Cyp's basket had hung the night before,
and a tall, stately figure, erect as a forest tree, had
come in. It was Barbie with Mab's little break-
fast-tray in her hand. Not too early, for she
knew Mab would not like that; but when the
right moment came not a morning had ever
known her fail, or the tray fail to bring something
dainty and hot, since Mab moved into the house.
Mab was ready for her. She was sure to have
pulled herself over to her chair by some means, by
this time; but something in her face caught Bar-
bie's notice, and she stood a moment, stately and
still, against the door while her great brilliant
eyes fixed themselves on Mab.
Barbie was called "old" because the gene-
rations she had nursed in the Havisham family
were grown out of her reach; but that seemed to
be all. Her pulse was as quick and her step as
elastic and firm as on the day she first entered the
Havisham House, brought from a West Indian
island, with just tinge enough of its blood to
"give her a right to her head-handkerchief," as
she used to say as she wound it about her head.
There was a dignity in the folds with which
that "head-handkerchief," or turban, went on
that made the Havisham children whisper that
Barbie "had a queen's blood in her veins;" but
they had to take it out in whispering; they could
never get deeper than that
38 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
She went slowly over to the table now, set the
tray in its place, and seated herself on a low chair
before Mab. "You might just as well tell me,
child," she said quietly, her eyes still fixed upon
Mab gave her a little smile that she thought
would cover everything. "The pain is a little
sharp to-day, Barbie. I seemed to get a wrench,
like, last night."
"And whom did you get it from?" asked
Barbie, without changing her gaze.
Mab struggled and tried to resist it, but in an-
other moment her arms were flung around Barbie
and a sharp little cry broke out. " O Bab ! Bab !
I thought I should always have had Jem, at least.
I ought to have known better, but I thought I
should get well at last. Didn't you think I
would get well at last, Barbie dear?"
Barbie's lips were sealed. What did it all
mean ? No, she did not feel as sure as she would
like that Mab would ever be well. There was
many a long year of sitting in that chair before
her, Barbie feared. But had Jem turned his back
on her for that?
" A day never seemed long to me when I was
looking for him in at night, ' ' Mab went on. ' ' My
life's not like others', and he was so much to
come into it, you know. He shall not stay a
day, though, not a day, if he tires of it !" and
Mab' s eyes shone suddenly. "But he need not
THE POSTMAN'S RING. 39
have tired, if it could have been granted me to
Barbie felt her blood glow to her finger ends
for a moment and then cool again. Had Jem
been rough to Mab when he saw what every one
else had seen so long? No, she would not believe
it But Mab's blind little dream was over, that
She took Mab's slender hands from round her
neck and held them in her own dark, tapering
ones, then lifted the oval chin till she looked into
the girl's face. u Mab, child, it's a hard thing to
sit as a captive," she said; " it 's a hard thing for
a captive to see the day grow dark; but if your
own Lord's voice says through the darkness, * Sit
as a captive,' what then?"
"I'll do it, Barbie!" and then, as a quick
light sprang into the face Barbie held, " Did you
hear what I got from Cyp yesterday, and what he
said about holding on tighter the harder things
Barbie rose and stood with her full height
erect as she looked slowly down at Mab. ' ' Did
Mr. Cyp say that? A child like that? He
couldn't have said more if all these old eyes have
lived to see had been painted for him. There
have been strange times and dark times in the
Havisham House, mixed in with the blessed
ones, as the years have passed, and just that very
thing is all that's brought us through yes, hold-
4o JUDGE HAVISHAM'S
ing on to what we could see and what we
couldn't see, lambie, both alike. We could al-
ways see what was the right, and we couldn't
always see the loving-kindness of the Lord right
there, tender and true, but the only way was to
hold on to both of them strong."
Barbie sat down by Mab and stroked her hand
gently. " Lambie," she said, "I never said it to
any soul before, but it was the not holding on, it
was letting go, that brought some of the heavi-
est troubles the old house has ever seen. That '11
never happen again, thank the good Lord, while
Mr. Thorpe lives; but it sometimes lies mighty
heavy on my heart what may come after that
"But you just hold on tight, lambie. The
Lord's hand's there just the same the darkest
night, and just longing for the moment to spread
sunshine again. As to holding on to the right,
you' 1 II never have any trouble about that, but
there 's others that may some others in the house
that may." And Barbie shook her head with a
troubled look, that was gone again, however, al-
most as soon as it came.
Nothing could go wrong while Mr. Thorpe
lived, and why should not that be for twenty good
years to come ?
THERE was an unusual sense of stir and ex-
citement in the Havisham House as the day went
on. It was always in order, always ready with
whatever comfort or luxury a visitor could ask;
but for " Miss Vivian " no one seemed to feel that
his or her department was quite perfect enough.
Her own old room, that she had used since a
child, looking out into the great linden-tree, must
be freshened and "made up," as Burnham, the
housekeeper, said. Bent was re-polishing every-
thing that shone before, and Waite was bringing
in great bunches from his flower beds a mass of
doffodils here, and hyacinths, violets, everything
that the season allowed, finding place somewhere,
until fragrance told tales at every turn.
"Miss Vivian always sure to bring her per-
fumes with her, but she wont need 'em here,"
said Barbie, who could not be satisfied till she had
taken one look over the house herself. Burnham
was all very well in her way, but she hadn't
known Miss Vivian's ways and fancies ever since
she was born.
"/shall get apple-blossoms," said Cyp, whirl-
ing round Wynt in a wild state. u I know she '11
42 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S
like 'em best. She'll find a pile of 'em in her
room. I say, Wynt, don't you call it awfully
splendid for Cousin Vivian to come ?' '
Wynt laid down his book, seized Cyp in a gy-
ration, and laid him "alongside" on the sofa
where he sat
"I say, don't you?" repeated Cyp, as Wynt
only looked down at him without reply. .
Why couldn't he answer? Vivian was a
bright, beautiful thing to have about and always
kind. He did n' t know what made him feel that
he wanted to keep his arm round Cyp, somehow,
ever since he had heard the news.
But Cyp was giving his sleeve a tug, and he
became conscious that his uncle's eye was wan-
dering from his paper with little glances, as if he
were waiting to catch what he would say.
"It will make gay times for us, Cyp; but
don't let her hear you say 'awfully' too many
times, not if you take my advice. And as for
apple-blossoms, why don't you get them, then?
Don't you know she'll be here in half an
Cyp was off like a rocket, and Wynt took up
his book; but he felt, rather than saw, that his
uncle's eye turned to. him once or twice still.
"Oh y what ought I to have said?" he thought
"It is Vivian's home; it '3 not purs. It's she
who is to find us here, and not for two little inter-
lopers like us to receive her. And I hope she
wont mind it much that she does find us, for
Cyp's sake. For my part, I 'd quite as lieve not
be found, if the truth were told. I hate being in
any one's house who has never said I was wel-
come. I'd willingly slip off. Only for that
reason though. It is fascinating to have her
Bent's almost noiseless step was at the door
then. "If you please, Mr. Thorpe, the carriage
is ready to meet Mrs. Adriance at the train.
Shall Waite drive you? he would like to know."
"Let me drive!" exclaimed Wynt, springing
up eagerly. "I'd like to bring Cousin Vivian
"Come along then," said his uncle, with a
pleased look. "It's time we were off." And
in another moment the horses were curvetting
out of the yard.
Any young fellow might have been proud to
"bring Vivian home," and more than one of
Wynt's mates envied him as the carriage, with
its party complete, whirled from the train.
"There's been beauty enough, dear knows,
in the old house," Barbie used to say, "but this
child got almost too much. It seems they all
'queathed her what they 'd done with when they
laid it down. But they all together hadn't that
graciousness like a princess that sweeps every one
away. We all think we 're getting a favor when
we're doing one for her; and as for the judge, I
44 JUDGE HAVISHAM'S WILL.
hope she '11 never ask him anything he ought not
But neither asking nor granting favors seemed
to be in any one's mind just now as Vivian leaned
gracefully towards Wynt. u What a man you