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   Chapter 3 No.3

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 18631

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The next morning Drusilla found herself unconsciously waiting for the rising bell that called the inmates of the Doane home from their slumbers, and when she opened her eyes she could not realize for a moment where she was. Instead of the plain white walls of her room, she saw the soft gray tints of silk and the sheen of silver, and her hands touched a silken-covered eiderdown quilt. She closed her eyes in sheer happiness, and then opened them again to be sure that it was not all a mirage. At last, not being used to lying in bed, she arose and, putting on the dressing-gown, went to one of the windows and raised the shade to look out. She stopped with her hand still on the shade, looking in wonder at the beauty just outside her window. A great copper beach was flaunting its gorgeous colors in the clear morning air; beyond it a clump of blue spruce seemed a background for the riotous autumn tints. At one side of the house was an Italian garden, with terrace after terrace falling toward the river. Across the river, the Palisades rose sheer and steep, their reddish-brown rocks covered with the glow of the morning sun.

Drusilla did not know it, but she was looking at one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful places along the Hudson, a place on which hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent with a lavish hand. Drusilla drew up a chair and sat by the window, watching the changing shades as the sun became brighter. Then she became interested in the life of the place as it gradually awoke to its morning's work. First a gardener crossed the lawn and began working around the plants; then another came with a rake and commenced raking up the dying leaves; another man wandered down toward the river. A man, evidently a house servant, came across the lawn and, seeing her at the window, went hastily into the house. Soon there was a light knock at the door, and in answer to her "come in," Jeanne, the maid, entered.

"Oh, Madame," she said, "why did, you not ring? I did not know you were up."

She bustled about the room, raising shades, and then rang for a man to come and make the fire in the grate. The house seemed warm to Drusilla.

"Do I need a fire?" she asked. "It's warm in here."

"Just a little fire, Madame," said Jeanne; "it makes the room more cheerful."

Drusilla laughed. It seemed to her that nothing could make that exquisite room more cheerful.

The maid went to the bedroom and soon returned to announce: "The bath is ready for Madame."

Drusilla wondered why she was expected to take another bath, as she had had one the night before. But evidently it was expected of her, and she went into the bathroom and again reveled in the warm, perfumed water. When she returned to the bedroom her clothing of the night before was arranged ready for her to put on, and as she dressed she felt for the first time the coarseness of the linen and the ugliness of the plain black dress.

"Would Madame like her breakfast here," the maid asked, "or will she go to the breakfast room?"

Drusilla hesitated, as she did not know what to do.

"I think Madame would like to go to the breakfast room," the clever little French woman said hastily; "it is very pretty there, with the flowers and the birds. I will show Madame the way."

Going before her she guided Drusilla down the great staircase and across a room that was evidently the dining-room, into what Drusilla would have called a sun-parlor. It was a corner of the veranda enclosed in glass and filled with flowers and plants of every description, with birds singing among them in their gilded cages, and from it the Hudson could be seen, flowing silently to the sea. In the center of the room was a round table covered with a cloth which quickly caught her eye and charmed it with its dainty embroidery and lace, used as she had been to the coarse linen of the home. A man drew out her chair and she was seated, a footstool found for her feet, and breakfast was served. Drusilla felt that she could never forget that breakfast. The grapefruit, the coffee in its silver pot, the crisp bacon, the omelet, all served on beautiful dishes; and, to complete her joy, a great Persian cat came lazily to her and rubbed against her, begging for a share in the good things of the table. She stooped down and stroked its soft fur.

"I am afraid that Nicodemus is very spoiled," the man said. "His master always gave him a dish of cream at the table."

Drusilla laughed. It seemed the first human thing she had heard.

"Well, then, I'll spoil him too. What do you give it to him in?"

The man pointed to a silver bowl.

"That is his dish. Shall I give it to him?"

"No; let me," said Drusilla. "I want to do something for some one. Let me give him his cream."

After that she did not feel so frightened and awed by the presence of the man who waited upon her so deftly, and when he left she rose and wandered around the room, looking at the flowers, wondering what were the names of the many plants that were strange to her. Then she went across the dining-room and up the stairs to her own rooms, where she felt more at ease. She found them already arranged, and wondered at the quickness and silence with which the work was done.

She did not know what to do, so she sat down again by the window to wait for Daphne. While she was sitting there, the housekeeper came into the room.

"Good morning, Miss Doane," she said pleasantly. "I hope you slept well."

"Yes; thank you," replied Drusilla.

"Would you like to go over the house this morning?"

Again Drusilla was embarrassed, as she did not know what would be expected of her if she went over the house. "Why-why-" she said, "I think, if you don't mind, I will wait until Miss Thornton comes."

"Very well. I will be ready at any time."

When the housekeeper left the room, Drusilla sat quietly in her place by the sunny window until at last she saw a motor turn into the grounds, and soon Daphne appeared. Drusilla's face lighted up when she saw the pretty girl standing before her. She seemed a part of the morning itself, with her sparkling eyes, her dainty coloring accentuated by her pretty suit of blue and her jaunty hat.

"Oh, you look like one of the flowers!" Drusilla exclaimed, reaching out her hands to her.

"How nice of you to say that! I've come early; did you wait long for me?"

"Yes; I have been settin' here just seeing the beauty of it all. I can't believe it's real."

"Oh, but it is. And isn't it beautiful! I always loved the place. Did you sleep well? Were you tired out? Are you rested?"

"I didn't sleep at first-I couldn't. But I'm not tired; I'm just sort of excited-and-and-oh, I don't know what to say about it all."

"Well, if you are not tired, would you like to go over the house? It's a lovely house. I know Mrs. Perrine wants to show it to you and let you see what a wonderful housekeeper she is."

"Yes; she asked me to go with her, but I wanted to wait until you come-as-as I might not know what to say."

"Well, we'll go together; and don't you worry about saying anything if you don't want to. I talk enough for both of us. That's my trouble, Father says-I talk too much. Come-Mrs. Perrine is downstairs."

They went from room to room, from drawingroom to library, to the picture gallery in which, had Drusilla known it, were some of the famous pictures of the world, and on to the great armor room, in which the former master of the house had searched the countries of the old world for the armor and accouterments of chivalry which were arranged around the walls. Then she was shown that which interested her more than the pictures or the armor-the pantries and the room in which were kept the china and silver in daily use; and the kitchen, with its array of cooking utensils, brought a look of delight into her old eyes, because these she could understand.

Finally she was taken upstairs again and shown the guest rooms, each with its dressing-room and bath, and then opposite to her own suite of rooms she was taken into a small library paneled in soft toned woods. Daphne pulled out a leather chair for Drusilla.

"Now sit in that and tell me what you think of it all. Isn't this a pretty room? I like it best of all except your sitting-room, and isn't that a wonderful fireplace? It was brought from somewhere abroad. It is cozy here at night when the curtains are drawn. I think this room looks human; those big rooms downstairs don't. I could never curl up in a chair and read in that great library downstairs, but here you can really find a novel and read in comfort. I know you'll spend lots of time in this room."

Drusilla was quiet, sitting with folded hands. Then, after a few moments, she said:

"I was just a-thinkin' that all this great house can't be for just one old woman. And all them dishes and the kitchen with them pots and pans and the cook can't be there just to cook for me alone?"

"Oh, but he is, and he's a wonderful cook. Mr. Doane has had him for years and years. And James, the butler, came with him from England. He was in the house of a duke over there, and I assure you, Miss Doane, he doesn't forget it."

"Is that the man who stands around as if he was afraid he'd hurt something if he teched it? I ain't seen him do muc

h; another man gave me my breakfast."

"Yes, I presume William, the second man, gave you your breakfast. James is too grand to serve breakfast."

"Do I need so many men around?"

"No, I really don't suppose you do, Miss Doane; but Mr. Doane kept a big household and he left in his will that the house should be kept up exactly the same as when he was here. But don't you worry about that. That is father's business. You don't have to bother a bit about it. All you have to do is to enjoy yourself. Now, what would you like to do? Is there anything you want?"

Drusilla looked at her a moment and then said, half laughingly, half apologetically:

"I'd like-I'd like-"

She stopped, and Daphne came over to her.

"What would you like, Miss Doane? I'm here to do anything you wish."

"You won't think I'm a vain old woman if I tell you?"

"Why, certainly not. Tell me."

"Well-well-I was thinkin' this mornin' when I dressed that I didn't seem to fit in with the house. When I saw my pretty gray room, all so light and-and-beautiful-and when I saw myself in the lookin'-glass with my old black dress, I thought-I wished-"

"Yes, Miss Doane; what did you wish?"

Drusilla flushed as if ashamed of her wishes that seemed to her scarcely befitting a woman of her age.

"I just wished I had pretty clothes to go with the room."

Daphne clapped her hands.

"Now, isn't that lovely! Of course you should have pretty clothes, and you shall! We will go shopping! Father said to do anything you wanted to do. Now, what would you like?"

"I don't know, but I'd-I'd just like pretty clothes."

Daphne jumped up and danced around the room.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," she said gaily. "We'll go to town and shop and shop and shop. I'd love it, and we'll send all the bills to Father. He can't frown or scold as he does when I send him bills; he'll have to pay yours without a word. Oh, we'll go right away!"

"I'd love to go, Miss Thornton. I never really shopped in my life. I jest bought things I had to have, things I couldn't go without no longer." Drusilla rose, as pleased with the idea as was the young girl beside her. "Can we go right away?"

"Yes; but wait, you must eat something."

"But I jest had my breakfast."

"Yes; but you must have something now, or you'll get tired. I'll have them bring you some chicken broth or something, and I'll have some too. I can always eat."

She danced over to the bell, and when Jeanne answered it she said:

"Tell James to bring some chicken broth and some sandwiches; and have the small car at the door in half an hour. And please tell my chauffeur to return home and tell Mother that I will not be home for lunch."

When Jeanne was gone she danced back to Drusilla.

"We'll make a day of it, Miss Doane, and we'll have the loveliest time!"

The lunch was served and then the ugly bonnet was tied on, the mantle wrapped around the thin shoulders, and Drusilla and Daphne started for that joy land of women-Fifth Avenue.

"We'll go first and get some things that are already made," Daphne said.

She took Drusilla to one of the exclusive shops on Fifth Avenue. If Daphne had not been known, slight courtesy would have been shown the shabbily dressed old woman, but a few words from Daphne and the salesladies were all smiles and bows, eager to show their best. At first they showed her black dresses; but at Drusilla's little look of distress, quick Daphne saw there was something wrong.

"Don't you like them, Miss Doane?"

"Yes-yes-they're beautiful, Miss Thornton, but-do I have to wear black? I've worn it all my life because it wears well. I'd like-I'd like-"

"Tell me what you would like."

"I'd like a soft gray dress like my room, if I ain't too old. But-but-perhaps it wouldn't be fittin'."

"That's just the thing! Why didn't I think of that! Gray will be just the color for you; and with a touch of blue, and your white hair-Oh, you'll be lovely, Miss Doane."

Again the willing salesladies were given their instructions, and gray dresses and gray suits were placed before her. Drusilla passed over the suits with hardly a look, but fingered lovingly the soft crepes and chiffons.

"I don't like the heavy things," she said. "They look as if they'd turn well, and I don't want nothin' that can be turned. I'd like something that'll wear out."

Daphne laughed.

"You're just like me. I hate things that wear forever. Father says that's the cause of the high cost of living-we women don't buy sensible clothes."

Drusilla looked pained.

"Perhaps I shouldn't look at them then-"

Daphne interrupted her.

"You just buy what you want. Don't you worry about what Father thinks. I don't."

"But I-I-don't want to be extravagant."

"You can't be extravagant. You can't spend too much. Now, don't you think about it-and don't you ask how much they cost. You don't need to know. Just you buy the prettiest things they've got."

Finally a choice was made of two pretty soft gray dresses, fragile enough to suit even Daphne's luxurious tastes; arrangements were made in regard to their hurried alterations; and, after buying a wrap to replace the now discarded mantle, they departed, Drusilla as happy as a child, with a flush on her old cheeks and a strange happy light in her blue eyes.

"Now we must have things to go with them."

They went into a lingerie shop, where Drusilla was dazed by the piles of dainty underclothing that were spread before her. She caressed the soft laces and the delicate, cobweb affairs.

"Oh, Miss Thornton, I can't decide. I didn't know there was such beautiful things in the world! Had I ought to have 'em? Ain't they too young for me?"

"There is no age for underclothing. Don't you want them? Isn't that the loveliest nightgown? Don't you want it?"

"Yes, I'd like to have it, but-" Drusilla thought of her two Canton flannel nightdresses lying in her little trunk.

"Well, you shall have them. And this fluffy gray dressing-gown-it is a dear. We will take that too; and this pretty bed-jacket. Look at the embroidery on it. You must have that, so if you have breakfast in bed-and look at this dear lace cap. When you sit up in bed, with the tray in front of you, and this little jacket on, and the cap, with a little of your hair showing beneath it, why, you'll look nice enough to eat. Now we'll go and buy stockings, pretty gray silk ones, and shoes, and slippers; and we mustn't forget about the milliner. I know the loveliest place; Madame will know just what to give you."

Drusilla enjoyed the milliner's the most of all; for there she tried on hat after hat-not ugly bonnets but cleverly arranged creations for an old lady that seemed to remove the lines from her face and made her feel that perhaps, after all, she could take a part and share in the beautiful things of this new beautiful world, instead of a mere looker on.

At last they were taken to one of the great modistes, a creator of gowns known on two continents, and Daphne had Miss Doane wait in a reception-room while she interviewed the great lady herself. This arbitrator of fashion came smilingly to Miss Doane and with her keen, professional eye saw her "possibilities." She said to Miss Thornton:

"Will you leave it to me? I will make her the gowns and she will be pleased."

Measurements were taken and orders given; and when they were again in the motor, Drusilla asked shyly:

"What was that last place, Miss Thornton?"

"That is Marcelle, the great dressmaker's place. That was Marcelle herself who came to us."

"Was that a dressmaking shop? I didn't see no dresses or fashion books."

"No, she doesn't use fashion books. She makes her own fashions."

"But-but-we jest got two new dresses."

Miss Thornton laughed.

"Oh, those are because we were in a hurry. Your dresses must be made. I told her she must hurry, too; and her things are beautiful, Miss Doane. You'll love yourself in them."

Drusilla laughed softly.

"I'm afraid I love myself already. It seems awful vain for an old woman like me to be buying all them pretty clothes-but-" and she sighed like a happy child-"it's nice to be vain for once in your life. It's just nice."

"Of course it is. All women love pretty clothes."

"Yes; it must be something born inside of us, 'cause I don't know as I've ever had such a feelin' even when readin' the Bible as I did when I tried on them hats, and bought them dresses, and knowed they was mine." She was quiet for a moment. "I wonder if Eve ever had the chance to be extravagant in fig leaves?"

"Well, we've bought them, and Father's hair will certainly turn gray, but he can't say a word. Now we'll go to lunch. It's late; you must be hungry. I'm glad we found a coat that fitted you-that velvet is so soft and pretty. And your hat-why, Miss Doane, you won't know yourself!"

"Is it pretty? It ought to be. It's got ten dollars of hat and thirty dollars of style; but I don't care. I'm so happy that I'm afraid I'll cry and spoil it all."

But she did not cry and she enjoyed the luncheon at the big hotel, and as she ate she stole shy glances in the mirror opposite that reflected a transformed Drusilla from the frightened little woman who had gone tremblingly down the steps of the Doane home the day before.

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