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   Chapter 2 No.2

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 22397

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The next morning there was a buzz of excitement in the Doane home for old ladies. Word had got around that Drusilla had been left a fortune and was going away. Some of the ladies were plainly envious and said spiteful, catty things, while others were glad that at least one of their number would be able to leave behind the "home"-the living on charity-that nightmare of the old. Drusilla had endeared most of them to her by her many kindly acts, prompted by a loving heart that even years of poverty and unappreciated labor for others had not hardened.

She passed the morning in looking over her few possessions and making little packages of the things she treasured to be given to her friends after she left. The handkerchiefs she had embroidered before her eye-sight was bad, she left for Barbara. A little lace cap that had been given her years ago and which she had never worn, thinking it too "fancy," was for the old lady who had seen better days. The heavy shawl was for the oldest inmate, Grandma Perkins, who always suffered with the cold. The warm bed-stockings were neatly folded and left with a little word of love to Mary, who had rheumatism; and to Mrs. Childs, the beauty of the place, she left her lace fichu.

There was ample room within the tiny trunk for her clothing. The plain black cashmere that had been turned and returned until it had nearly forgotten its original texture, but which was her Sunday best, the two black dresses for every-day wear, the two night-dresses of Canton flannel, the woolen underskirt and the lighter one for summer, the heavy stockings, the Sunday shoes, a life of John Calvin that a director had given her, her Bible-and the packing was completed.

When Mrs. Smith came herself to tell her that Mr. Thornton had arrived, and in a motor car, she trembled so that she feared she would not be able to go down to meet him. But finally she put on the little bonnet that she had worn for many years, and her "mantle"-an antiquated wrap that had been given her by some kindly patron of former years-and went down the stairs. Mr. Thornton looked at the little old lady as she came into the room-this little, kindly-faced, white-haired old woman, who showed so plainly that life had sent her sorrow but not bitterness-and offered her his hand, saying:

"I am glad you are ready, Miss Doane. We will have a nice ride to the city."

Drusilla looked up at him like a pitiful child.

"I-I-may I set down a minute-I-I'm rather trembly. I-I didn't sleep last night a-thinkin' of it all."

She sat down and tried to still the trembling of her lips and keep the tears from her eyes. Then, after a few moments, she said:

"Will you wait here or somewhere, Mr. Thornton? I want to say good-by. Mis' Smith thought I hadn't better see the ladies until I was ready to leave, as it might upset them."

"I will wait in the car for you, Miss Doane. Don't hurry; take all the time you want."

Drusilla went to the sunny veranda where she knew she would find the women in their accustomed places, and immediately she was the center of the curious old ladies, who welcomed any excitement that would relieve the monotony of their lives.

"It's true, Drusilla-then it's true, you're-a-goin' to leave us! It's true what Mis' Graham heard Mis' Smith tell Mr. Smith last night."

"What did she hear her say?"

"She heard her say, 'What do you think, James! Drusilla Doane has been left a million dollars!'"

"That's what the man told me," Drusilla said quietly; "and he's come to take me away. I come to say good-by."

The women sat forward in their chairs and stopped their knitting or darning, so that they would not miss a word.

"Well, I swan! A million dollars! A million dollars!"

"Is it true, Drusilla? Do you think it can be so much?"

"I don't know-that's what he said. He's waitin' for me and I must be goin'. Good-by, dear Harriet. Good-by, Caroline. Good-by, Mis' Graham; you always been good to me. Good-by, Mis' Fisher; I ain't never goin' to fer-get how good you was to me when I was sick. Good-by all, good-by. I'm comin' often to see you. Good-by."

She looked slowly around on her friends, then walked down the veranda to the waiting motor. Just as she reached it old Barbara came shuffling up to her. "Oh, Drusilla," she mumbled, taking her hand, "I'm so glad for you, I'm so glad. I hope it is a million dollars."

The loving touch was too much for tired Drusilla. The tears sprang to her eyes and she clasped Barbara's hands in both of her own.

"Oh, Barbara," she said, "it gives me a hurt inside my heart to leave you all behind! Listen, Barbara! Whether it's a million dollars or only a hundred, you shall have new store teeth. Good-by!"

To Drusilla's embarrassment both Mr. and Mrs. Smith were waiting for her beside the motor to say good-by, and were effusive in their farewells.

"You will come to see us, won't you, Miss Doane, and you won't forget us"-and Drusilla was tucked into the luxurious motor, a footstool found for her feet, a soft rug wrapped around her and they drove away.

She was quiet for the greater part of the journey, and Mr. Thornton left her to her own thoughts. Finally she sat more upright and began to take an interest in the fittings of the car. Mr. Thornton watched her.

"Do you like the car?" he asked

"It's beautiful. You know it's the first time I been in one."

"Why, is it possible? I thought every one had been in a motor."

"No, not every one, Mr. Thornton; I don't think that more'n two of the ladies in the home have been in one. This is fixed up real nice."

"I am glad you like it," Mr. Thornton said. "It is yours."

Drusilla sat back suddenly in her seat.

"This-this-mine?"

"Yes, this is yours, and you have two more at your home."

Drusilla gasped.

"Two more like this?"

"No, not exactly the same. One is an open car and one is a small town car."

"Why-why-what'll I do with three? I can't ride in 'em all at once."

"No, but you will find that you can use them all."

"Can I use them whenever I want to?"

"Certainly; they are yours. All you have to do is to send word to one of the chauffeurs and they will be ready for you."

"Send word to who?"

"The chauffeur, the man who is driving."

"Is he mine, too?"

"Yes; you have two men."

"What'll I do with two?"

"One will be on duty a certain number of hours, and then the other takes his place."

"Oh-" She was quiet for a time. "Can I take them anywhere I want to?"

"Certainly. They are yours."

"Then, I know what I'll do! I'll take the old ladies for a ride! Wouldn't Mis' Graham love it, and old Grandma Perkins-we could bundle her up; and Barbara might even ferget her teeth."

Drusilla settled back among the cushions and mused upon the joy she could give with this new wonder machine that was hers to do with as she wished, and the frightened look died from her face and a happy smile seemed trying to crowd the wrinkles from the corners of her mouth. She said nothing more for a long time; then:

"Are we goin' very fast, Mr. Thornton?"

"No; not so very fast. Are you nervous? I will have the chauffeur drive slower. I forgot you were not used to it."

Drusilla stopped him as he started to speak to the chauffeur.

"No; I wasn't thinking of that. I ain't nervous, I was just wonderin' if he couldn't go a little faster."

Mr. Thornton looked somewhat surprised, but he gave the order.

Drusilla again sat back among the cushions, a slight flush on her face. Soon she leaned forward once more.

"Mr. Thornton, couldn't he let her out jest a leetle more?"

Thornton laughed.

"We'll go as fast as you like; only I hope we won't be arrested."

Drusilla sighed.

"I'd be willin' to go to jail to pay fer feelin' like this. I always thought I'd have to wait till I got to Heaven before I'd git a chance to fly, but now they'll have to offer me something new."

She said nothing more on the journey, but showed by the bright flush on her cheeks and the sparkle in her eyes that she was enjoying every moment of the ride. At last they turned, passed a pair of big gate-posts and up a graveled driveway, and the car stopped before a door.

When a man came from the house and opened the door of the car, Drusilla came to herself with a start.

"Are we there already? I was kind of hopin' it'd never stop."

Mr. Thornton gravely helped Drusilla to the door.

"Welcome to your home, Miss Doane," he said. "I think we will find my daughter inside."

They entered a large hall and Drusilla stood hesitatingly, not knowing what to do. In a moment a voice was heard from above:

"Is that you, Father?" and a laughing face peered over the railing, and was followed by a slim young figure that seemed to fly down the stairs. "Oh, you were such a long time, Father. Welcome home, Miss Doane! we are so glad to have you. We have all been waiting such a long time. Father is always so slow;" and she flew in her pretty, impulsive way to Drusilla and took both her hands. "I am so glad to have you come, Miss Doane."

Drusilla looked at the pretty face before her that seemed to show such real welcome, and her eyes filled with tears.

"I'm real glad to come, but-but-I guess I'm a little bit scared."

"No, you aren't going to be frightened at all. You come right up with me and take off your hat in your room. Oh, here is Mrs. Perrine. She is your housekeeper, Miss Doane. And that is James, the butler; and that is Mary; and Jeanne is waiting for you upstairs. Come with me."

Drusilla followed as well as she could the flying feet up the broad stairs and was taken to a room that seemed to her a palace. It was all in soft shades of gray with a touch of blue here and there, and there were flowers everywhere. The chairs were upholstered in gray and blue chintz, and at the windows hung gray silk curtains with just a hint of the blue showing beneath them. Near the fireplace was a big couch with a soft gray silk quilt spread upon it, and pillows that invited one to rest. Drusilla stopped in delight.

"Oh-oh-what a pretty room! What a pretty room!"

Miss Thornton dimpled all over her pretty face.

"Do you like it? Oh, please say you like it! I arranged these rooms myself. This was a bachelor house, and there wasn't a pretty room in the place. I made Father let me fix them for you. You do like them, don't you?"

"I never saw nothin' like it before in my life."

"You don't think it too gay, do you? Mother said I ought not have the blue, that they should all be done in a dark color. But I said I knew you would love pretty things, and you should have them. You don't think it too gay. You like the blue, don't you?"

"I love it, I love it! I never had nothin' gay colored in my life, and I love it."

"I knew you would. Come into the bedroom. Isn't this gray furniture dear? Don't those long mirrors look lovely with the gray wood? And aren't the toilet things pretty? See the monogram-D. D. I thought a lot about it, and aren't they pretty on that dull silver? Look at this mirror-and isn't that the cunningest pin-tray? And this is for your hatpins; and look at this pin-cushion. I had

the loveliest time picking them out."

Drusilla looked at the pretty things in amazement rather mixed with awe.

"Why, what'll I do with all them things?"

"Oh, you'll use them all. There isn't one too many, and perhaps I've forgotten some things. If I have, we will go and pick them out together. You will let me go with you, won't you, because I love to shop. Oh, I forgot-here is your bathroom, and beyond that is your maid's room. She is quite near, so if you feel ill in the night you can call her. But let me take off your hat. Shall I ring for Jeanne? No," as she saw the frightened look come into the eyes, "perhaps you'd rather be with me just at first. How pretty your hair is, so soft and fluffy. You must blue it, it is so white. I wish my hair would fluff, but it won't curl except in wet weather. Now come into the other room and sit down in that soft chair. Isn't that an easy chair? I picked that out too. I chose everything in the room, and I'm so proud of it. See, here is the footstool that goes with it, and you sit by the big window here when you don't want to go downstairs, and this little table will hold your books or your sewing."

Drusilla looked up at her.

"You've been real kind, Miss Thornton; you've thought of everything."

"But I loved it. I've been working ever since Father knew about you."

"It is nice of you to be here. I was afraid a little to come, not knowin' what it was goin' to be like."

"That's what I told Father. I said you didn't want to come into a big cold house with only a cold lawyer like him to say, 'Welcome home.' I made him let me come. I'm going to stay to dinner with you if you'll invite me. We'll send Father home. I don't live far from here-only about five minutes in the car-and Father can send back for me. Would you like me to stay?"

Drusilla leaned forward eagerly.

"Oh, do stay, Miss Thornton. I-I-well, I wouldn't know what to do by myself."

"Well, you sit here by this fire and I'll go down and tell Father to go away. You don't want to hear any more business to-night and Father always talks business. Just you take a little nap while I'm gone. Are you comfortable? There! I'll be back in five minutes."

Drusilla sat down in the comfortable chair and watched the flames flickering in the grate; then her eyes passed lovingly around the room, resting on each beautiful picture, on the soft draperies, the easy-chairs and the flowers. She sat as one in a dream, until light steps were heard and Miss Thornton again entered the room.

"Did you sleep?"

Drusilla laughed.

"No, I didn't want to shut my eyes. I was afraid it might all go away and I'd be again in the bare little rooms I've always lived in. I don't think I'll ever sleep again-I might miss somethin'."

"Isn't that lovely! Why, you'll always have lovely things all your life. And now I've told James that we're going to have dinner up here. The dining-room looks too big for us two."

Miss Thornton busied herself around the room for a few moments; then drew a chair in front of the grate and sat down beside Drusilla while the butler and a maid brought in a small table. Drusilla watched them as they noiselessly arranged the china and the glass upon the beautiful cloth, and when all was prepared the butler said in his even, "servant" tones, "Dinner is served," and went behind the chair reserved for the mistress of the house. Drusilla hesitated a moment, in evident awe of the butler, who stood so erect and stiff in his evening clothes, but here again kindly Daphne Thornton came to her aid.

"Now, you sit here, Miss Doane," and she took her to the chair which the butler deftly slid into place. "I will be just opposite you. Isn't this nicer than sitting at that great big table downstairs where we would need a telephone to talk to each other?"

She chatted all through the dinner, showing in a kindly, unobtrusive way the uses of the different things that might be an embarrassment to the little old lady who was used to the simple service of a charity table. After dinner the coffee was served on a small table in front of the fire.

While they were drinking it a maid entered the room.

"The motor has come for Miss Thornton," she announced.

Daphne rose.

"Now, I am going to leave you. Get a good sleep. I will call Jeanne, who will take care of you. She is your personal maid, Miss Doane, so tell her anything you want."

Answering the ring of the bell a pretty maid came into the room, and Miss Thornton said:

"Jeanne, this is Miss Doane, your mistress. She is tired and will like to go to bed early, I am sure. See that she has a good warm bath, as it will help her sleep. And, Miss Doane, I bought a few things for you, as perhaps your luggage might not come in time. Jeanne will have them ready for you. Now, good night! I am so glad you have come, and I know you will be so happy. You will let me come often to see you, won't you?"

She came over to the chair and bent her pretty young head over the old white one, and Drusilla reached up her arms and took the smiling face between her hands.

"You'll never know, dear, what you've done for a lonely old woman. I don't know how to thank you."

"Thank me-why, I should thank you. I have had such a nice time, and I'm so glad that you like the rooms-Mother said you wouldn't. Would you like me to come in the morning and see how you are getting on?"

"Oh, will you? I won't know what to do, you know."

"Yes, I'll love to come and I'll be here early. Good night and happy dreams!" And she was gone.

When she was alone Drusilla sat before the fire and tried to feel that it all was true, that it was not some beautiful dream from which she would waken. She went in retrospect over her past life from the time when, a little girl, her father dying, she and her mother were left with no support except the little earned by her mother, who was the village tailoress. Then when she became older the burden of the support for the two shifted to her shoulders, her mother seeming to have lost heart and with it the strength and the desire to make the grim fight with the wolf that always seemed so near the door. For years she struggled on, doing the country tailoring, nursing the sick, helping in families who were too poor to hire expert labor, missing all the joys that come to the average young girl, as all her leisure moments from work were given to an ailing mother who seemed to become more dependent upon her daughter each year for companionship and strength.

Yet romance did not entirely pass her by, for when she was nineteen she loved and was loved in return by John Brierly. They were an ideal couple, the neighbors said. He, young, handsome, although a little too much of a dreamer to be a success; she, the prettiest girl in all the country side. John was restless, and with youth's ambition rebelled against the narrow restrictions of the little town. Hearing the call of the West, he decided to go to the country of his dreams and find the fortune that he knew was waiting him in that new land of mystery. He tried to persuade Drusilla to marry him and go with him; but her mother, with a sick woman's persistency, demanded that her daughter stay with her. They offered to take her with them, and painted in glowing colors the new life in that "far beyond"; but she wept in terror at the thought of leaving all she knew, and clung the more closely to Drusilla, begging her to stay with her until the end. "When I am gone, Drusilla, you may go; but let me die here among the things I know and love"; and Drusilla and John put off the journey from year to year, until at last John in desperation said, "Drusilla, I can wait no longer. I must go. I will wait for you, and some day you will come to me."

The years rolled on. Drusilla heard from John from time to time, but after many years the letters stopped. Her mother lived long enough to see Drusilla becoming old and tired and worn, and then she, too, left her for the Great Unknown. Drusilla worked on, making the clothes for each rising generation, helping tired mothers, caring for the sick. But at last she had to give up the fight; she was too old. Quicker feet were wanted, younger hands, and Drusilla learned the bitter lesson that comes often to the old. They are stumbling-blocks in the pathway of the young. This knowledge broke her courage and her health, and her hard saved dollars were spent in doctor's bills. When strength came slowly back to her she was too weak to rebel against the order that she was to pass the remainder of her days at the Doane home. Even there she tried to keep her feeling of self-respect and independence by doing the work that was not given the other women, who "paid their way." The Director and his wife, busy, annoyed by a thousand petty details, were not consciously unkind, but they found it easy to shift a few of their burdens to the shoulders that always seemed able to carry a little heavier load; consequently the willing hands were always occupied, the wearied feet often made many steps on errands that should have been relegated to one of few years.

Drusilla, sitting before the fire, saw all these bitter years pass like shadows before her half-closed eyes; she saw the years of toil without the reward that is woman's right-the love of children, husband, a home to call her own. And yet those years had left no scar upon her soul, no rancor against the world that had taken all and given nothing except the right to live.

A log dropped into the fire and Drusilla awakened from her revery with a start. Her eyes felt heavy and she rose to go to the bedroom; then remembered that she was told to ring when she wished to go to bed. She rang the bell and the maid came into the room.

"Madame desires to retire?"

Drusilla looked at her inquiringly.

"What did Miss Thornton say your name was?"

"Jeanne, Madame."

"Jeanne. That isn't Jane, is it?"

"It may be French for Jane; I am French."

"Well, then, I'll call you Jane. I can't remember the other. I think I would like to go to bed."

"Then I will prepare the bath."

Soon she returned to the room.

"The bath is ready for Madame," she said; and Drusilla followed her into the bedroom.

There the thoughtfulness of Miss Thornton was again shown. Over a chair hung a warm gray dressing-gown, with slippers to match, and neatly folded on the bed was a soft white nightdress, lace-trimmed, delicate, dainty, the mere touch of which gave delight to the sensitive fingers as they touched its folds.

The bathroom, with its silver fittings, was a revelation to Drusilla; and as she stepped into the warm, slightly perfumed water, it seemed to speak to her more eloquently than all the rest of the seeming miracles that were now coming into her life.

When Drusilla returned to the bedroom she found a shaded light on a table at the head of the bed, and beside the light were her Bible and the life of John Calvin.

She stood a moment looking around the room, and then she knelt beside the bed.

"O God," she whispered, "I hain't never had much to thank you for except for strength to work, but now-dear God, I thank you!"

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