MoboReader> Literature > Drusilla with a Million

   Chapter 5 No.5

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 38314

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

Drusilla grew more and more to feel that she was a part of her little world, where everything revolved around her and her wishes were law. It was only natural that she gained confidence in herself. She lost her awe of the servants, and even found courage to speak shortly to James, who, she learned from Jeanne, was relegating most of his duties to William, thinking Miss Doane would not know the difference.

But after the excitement of the first few weeks was past she found the time heavy on her hands. She had no duties, she did not read, there was no sewing nor mending for her, and she could not always work in the conservatories among the flowers; consequently she began to long for something with which to occupy her thoughts and, above all, her hands.

One morning when she was wandering aimlessly around the house she went into the pastry room. There she looked in delight at all the shining pans and the bowls arranged in graduated sizes on their shelves.

"My, ain't it nice, and everything so handy!"

She looked around for a minute; then a thought began to take shape in Drusilla's mind. She looked at the chef thoughtfully; then, evidently deciding, she gave her head a little toss and with a light laugh left the room, soon to return with a big gingham apron covering her pretty dress. The chef looked at her inquiringly.

"Cook," Drusilla said, "I'm hungry for some home cookin' and I want to do it myself. I ain't cooked none fer a good many years, and my fingers is jest itchin' to git into the flour. Where's your flour and things to make cake?"

The chef was shocked.

"Mais, Madame."

"Yes, Madame may, and she's goin' to; so show me where the things is." She rolled up her sleeves. "Now you git me that big yellow bowl, and give me the lard. I'm goin' to make doughnuts-fried cakes I used to call 'em, tho' it's more stylish to say doughnuts these days. I don't like them that's bought in the store with sugar sprinkled on top; sugar don't belong on fried cakes. It takes away their crispiness and you might jest as well be eatin' cake."

Drusilla kept the chef busy waiting on her until she had all the articles needed. Then she turned upon him.

"Now, you go away. Go up to your room, or down to James. I don't want you standin' round lookin' as if you was goin' to bust every minute. You got to git used to this. I'm goin' to have a bakin' day once a week, same as I did for forty year."

Drusilla spent a happy morning. The "fried cakes" finished, she decided to make some cookies-the "old-fashioned kind that my mother's sister Jane give me the receipt of; I kind o' want to see if I have lost my hand."

But the hand had not lost its cunning if the great dish of brown, crisp doughnuts, and the cookies and the gingerbread were a test. After they were baked and in a row on the table, she stepped back and surveyed her handiwork, with a proud expression on her kindly old face.

"Now if I only had some one to come in and say, 'Drusilla, is them fresh fried cakes?' and I'd laugh and say, 'Yes; do try 'em,' and they'd eat three or four. Or if I only had some neighbors-"

Drusilla stopped suddenly.

"Now, why shouldn't I! I've got neighbors that's all been tryin' to be neighborly to me in their way; why shouldn't I be neighborly in my way? I can't be neighborly jest leavin' a card, or drinkin' tea with my gloves on-Yes, I will! Drusilla'll be neighborly in Drusilla's way."

She was as delighted as a child at the thought. She hurried into the pantry and returned with some plates and napkins. She piled a few of her confections upon each plate, carefully covered it with a napkin, then called William.

"William," she said, "you take that plate o' cookies over to Mis' Gale's, and tell her that I sent 'em, bein' it was my bakin' day. See she gets 'em and they don't stop in the kitchen. And take that plate o' gingerbread to Mis' Cairns; and them fried cakes to Mis' Freeman; and tell 'em all I sent 'em with my love. Tell 'em I made 'em myself."

William looked at her but did not move.

"What you lookin' at me fer? Take 'em as I said. Put 'em in a basket if you can't carry 'em, or have one of the girls help you."

"But, ma'am, but-"

"But what? Ain't you never took cookies to one before?"

"Why-why-no, ma'am. Never in the houses where I've served-"

"Now that'll do, William. Don't begin that. That's what James always says when he specially wants to be disagreeable. If you haven't ever took a neighbor a plate o' cookies or some gingerbread, right hot out of the oven, you've missed a lot. So do as I say!"

"But-ma'am-I'm sure they have all the cakes they need. Mr. Cairns is a-very-very rich man, and they have a cook, a French cook. Why, he has an income of more than a million dollars a year, and-and-"

Drusilla looked at him over her glasses.

"Land o' Goshen, has he? That's a heap o' money; but I'm sure that if he has a French cook like mine, he'll be mighty glad to have an old-fashioned fried cake; so take that plate to him too, and I'll fix another for Mis' Freeman. He ain't never sence he was a boy set his teeth in better fried cakes. Perhaps the cookies won't be so much to his taste; but you tell 'em they're nice fer the children to slip in their apron pockets to eat at recess."

William executed his errand, although with a feeling that the dignity of the place was not being upheld. There was a luncheon party at the Cairns mansion, and when the butler brought in the plate of cookies and the doughnuts and delivered the message, trying his best not to smile, Mrs. Cairns looked at them in dismay.

"What did you say, John?"

"Miss Doane sent them to you with her love. She said that it was her baking day, and that she had made them herself. The cookies are for the children to slip in their apron pockets and eat at recess," recited the butler with an immobile face.

Mrs. Cairns raised the napkins and surveyed the cakes; then she looked at her husband and her guests. They laughed; that is, the guests did, but not Mr. Cairns.

"Take them to the kitchen, John," Mrs. Cairns ordered. "The servants may have them."

"No; bring them here, John," Mr. Cairns said sharply. "You may go and say that Mrs. Cairns thanks Miss Doane very much for her thoughtfulness in remembering her on her baking day, and that she is sure she will enjoy the doughnuts-and the cookies will be given to the children."

The servant left the room, and Mr. Cairns sat very quietly looking at the plates before him. He took up one of the doughnuts, studied it, then finally took a bite of it.

"Hot," he said, "and crispy."

He was quiet a moment, with a far away look in his eye; then, as if noticing the silence of his guests, he said with a quiet laugh:

"It takes me back-back-. Bless her old soul! I understand. And it takes me back-and-well, I'm a boy again and I can see Mother standing over the stove, and I can smell the hot cakes when I come in from school, and hear her say, 'Jimmie, take your hands out of that crock! No, you can't have but one. Well, two, but no more. Now take that plate over to Mis' Fisher and that one to Miss Corbin-'"

He was quiet again for a few moments; then, as if coming back to the world beside him, he said in his usual even tones:

"Shall we go into the library?"

And the guests did not laugh again.

Drusilla was neighborly in other ways besides that of sending cakes and cookies on her baking day. One day she heard that Mrs. Beaumont, who lived in the first house below her, was ill. "She has a bad cold," Miss Lee told her, "and they are afraid it might develop into pneumonia. But, between you and me, she's just bored to death and doesn't have enough to interest her."

As soon as her visitor left, Drusilla went upstairs, and came down with a little package in her hand and an old-fashioned sunbonnet on her head. She went out of the gate and down the road until she came to the great gates that guarded the home of the multi-millionaire who lived there.

She was told at the door that Mrs. Beaumont was not receiving, but she told the man to tell his mistress that she had something special for her and would not detain her but a moment. The man rather unwillingly took her message, and returning in a few moments conducted Drusilla into a luxurious bedroom, where a very beautiful woman was lying upon a chaise lounge, dressed in an elaborate peignoir, her hair covered by a marvelous creation that went by the name of boudoir cap. She languidly gave her hand to Drusilla.

"You want to see me?" she murmured in a low, languid voice. "Won't you please sit down? And excuse my appearance. I am not receiving-but-but-I thought I would see you."

Drusilla sat down.

"Now that's real nice of you to see me. I heard you was sick-had a bad cold; and I thought I'd come in and see if I couldn't help you. I brung some boneset. I nursed a lot when I was younger, and I found that boneset is the best thing in the world fer a cold. Jest make a tea of it and drink it hot. It's kind of bitter, but you can put milk and sugar in it if you want to-though, to my notion, that makes it worse. Then git right into bed and cover up and sweat. It's the best thing in the world fer a cold-jest sweat it out of you. If you should put a hot brick or a hot flatiron at your back and another at your feet, it'd help. By to-morrow you won't know you got a cold."

The woman's face was a study; but the doctor entered at that moment and saved her. She said:

"Dr. Hodman, this is Miss Doane, my nearest neighbor."

Drusilla shook his hand heartily.

"I'm real glad to see you. I've brung Mis' Beaumont some herbs. A little boneset. I told her to make a good strong cup o' tea of it, and drink it hot, then git into bed and cover up warm, and sweat, and by to-morrow she wouldn't know she had a cold."

The doctor looked from Drusilla to Mrs. Beaumont, hardly knowing what to say. This little old lady, with her sunbonnet and her boneset tea, was not the usual visitor he encountered in the homes of his fashionable patients.

"Yes," said Mrs. Beaumont, "and-and-Miss Doane was telling me that a hot brick-what was it you said, Miss Doane?"

"I was a tellin' her that a hot brick or a flatiron at her feet and another at the small of her back would help. It ain't comfortable jest at first, but she can have the hired girl wrap it in a piece o flannel, and after a while it feels real comfortin'. But I must be goin'. I see you're a lookin' at my bunnet, Mis' Beaumont. It don't look much like what you got on your head, but I work a lot in the garden, and if I don't have somethin' on my head my hair gets all frouzy. A hat don't seem to be the right thing to work in the garden with, and if I do wear one the sun burns the back of my neck when I stoop down; so I got me a bunnet, like I used to wear, and it makes me feel real to home. Good-by, good-by, doctor."

She turned to Mrs. Beaumont:

"Now, if the boneset tea don't do you no good, let me know. Perhaps your liver is teched a little and it makes you feel bad all over. I got some camomile leaves that's real good fer that. If you want any, I'll be real glad to bring 'em over."

She was gone.

The doctor looked at his patient and the patient looked at the doctor. Then Mrs. Beaumont put back her head and burst into a gale of laughter, in which the dignified doctor soon joined. They laughed and laughed, the woman wiping her tear-filled eyes. Finally, when she could stop long enough to talk, she said:

"Did you ever hear of anything so funny in all your life-a hot brick-or a hot flatiron"-a peal of laugher-"at my feet-another one at the small of my back-Oh, I shall die, I shall surely die!" And she went off into another paroxysm of laughter.

When the laughter ceased and the doctor returned to his professional manner, asking her how she felt and starting to feel her pulse, she said:

"Doctor, she's cured me. I haven't had a laugh like that for years. It's better than all your medicine. Boneset tea-" and again she was off.

Finally, when she had quieted, the doctor said:

"I don't know but that her boneset tea is as good as anything else. All you need is a little quiet. You seem better than you were yesterday."

"I tell you that I am well! All my system needed was a little shaking up, and Miss Doane has done it for me."

The doctor rose to go.

"I think that I shall take Miss Doane as a partner. Her herbs or her prescriptions seem to have a better effect than my medicines. Shall I come to-morrow?"

"Yes; this may not last. Come to-morrow if you are near, though I am sure I won't need you."

As the doctor's hand was on the door he turned:

"If I were you, Mrs. Beaumont, I'd send for those camomile leaves."

But with all her little acts of neighborliness, and her "baking day" and her attempts to find duties to fill the hours, time began to hang heavily upon the hands of active Drusilla. If she had been of a higher station in life she would have said that she was bored or was suffering from that general complaint of the rich-"enuyee."

Here Providence stepped in. One morning when she was dressing she heard a peculiar little wailing cry. She listened. The cry was repeated. She listened again, but could not locate the sound. Then, thinking she might be mistaken, she continued with her dressing; but again that piercing wail was borne to her ears. She opened her window and then she heard it distinctly-a baby's cry. She listened in amazement. There was no baby on the place except the gardener's, and his cottage was too far from the big house to have his children's wails heard in that place given over to aristocratic quiet. Drusilla tried to see around the comer of the house, but she could not; so she rang for Jeanne.

"Jane, I heard a baby cry. Go and find out where it is," she said.

Jeanne was gone a long time, it seemed to Drusilla; and then she returned, with big frightened eyes, followed by the butler carrying a large basket. He stopped at the door.

"Come in, James. What you standing there for? What you got?"

Just then the wailing cry came from the basket, and Drusilla dropped the brush in her hand.

"For the land's sake, what's in the basket? Come here!"

James gingerly deposited the basket upon a chair.

"It's a baby, ma'am-a live baby."

"Well, upon my soul! Of course it is! You wouldn't expect it to not be alive. Let's see it."

She went over to the basket and looked down at the lively little bundle that seemed to be protesting in its feeble way against the injustice of the world in leaving it at a chance doorstep. Drusilla looked at it admiringly.

"Why, ain't it cunning, the pore little thing! It's done up warm. How'd it get here?"

"I don't know, ma'am. It must 'a' been left early this morning after the gates was opened. I'll ask the gardeners if they saw any one come in."

"Never mind now, James. Here's a letter. It'll tell us all about it. Where are my glasses, Jane?"

Drusilla put on her glasses and read the inscription on the letter.

"Miss Drusilla Doane. Well, they know my name."

She tore open the envelope and read aloud:

"I read in the paper that you have no one and are alone and rich. My baby has no one but me, and I can't get work. Won't you take him? His name is John-that's all."


Drusilla pushed the glasses up on her forehead and used a slang expression that almost drew a smile from solemn James.

"Now what do you know about that!"

She looked at James as if he should have an answer, and he said:

"I'm sure, Miss Doane, I don't know anything about it at all."

Drusilla looked down at the baby in the basket, and again at the letter, not knowing what to do; but, the little wail again rising, she reached down to take the baby into her arms, and found it securely pinned into the basket.

"Poor little mother!" she said. "She didn't want you to get cold."

As she took out the safety-pins and lifted the baby into her arms, she dislodged a bottle of milk.

"Why, she thought of everything! She must 'a' loved you, little John, even though she left you on my doorstep."

The baby, a healthy little youngster about eight months old, blinked up at Drusilla in a friendly manner, then clutched her hair. Drusilla laughed, as she drew her head away.

"That's the first thing all babies make for, my hair. Bless his little heart, he's gettin' familiar already."

James interrupted.

"What'll I do with it, Miss Doane?"

Drusilla looked up from the baby.

"Do with what? The basket? Take it away."

"No, ma'am; I meant it"-pointing to the baby.

"James, it is not an it. It's a he. But you're right, James; what'll we do with it?" And she looked down at the little body in her arms.

"Why-why-" stammered James, who plainly showed that disposing of babies left by chance at doorsteps was entirely out of the usual line of a well trained butler's duties, "I don't know, ma'am. It never happened before where I've served." Here he had an inspiration and his face cleared. "Perhaps we'd better send for Mr. Thornton."

Drusilla looked up at him in a relieved way.

"That's the first glimmer of sense you've ever showed, James; though what he knows about babies I don't see. I'm sure he never was one himself. Now I'll set down-this baby's heavy-and you go and telephone."

"What'll I tell him, ma'am?"

"Tell him? Why, tell him we've got a baby unexpected and we don't know what to do with it."

James almost smiled again.

"I'll break the news to him careful, ma'am," he said.

When he was gone Drusilla scrutinized the baby's hood and coat.

"Jane," she said, "his clothes is pretty--his mother must 'a' made 'em; and his socks is knit, not bought ones."

She examined each article of his clothing as carefully as would a mother inspecting her firstborn's wardrobe.

"He's dressed real nice.... Did you get him?" as James entered the room. "What did he say?"

"I did not speak to him, Miss Doane, but to Miss Daphne. She acted rather-well-rather excited, and said she would be over immediately with her father."

"We'll wait in patience, I suppose. I'll lay this young man down. My arms must be a gettin' old because I feel him."

She laid the baby on the couch and he protested with legs and arms and voice against being again laid upon his back. Drusilla took him up and he was happy again.

"Well," laughed Drusilla, "I guess I've found somethin' to do with my hands."

The baby stared at Drusilla for a few moments; then his wails commenced again. Drusilla trotted him, but that did not stop his cries.

"Perhaps he is hungry, Miss Doane," Jeanne suggested.

"Give me that bottle."

Drusilla felt the bottle and found it cold.

"It's cold, James. Go warm some milk and scald the bottle."

James went away, his head held high, disapproval expressed in every line of his back. Within a few moments a motor was heard at the door and Daphne's young voice was calling:

"Can we come in, Miss Doane? Where is the baby?"

Daphne entered, interested and excited, follow

ed by her father, stiff, erect, the correct lawyer troubled by unnecessary and petty affairs of the women world.

Daphne came to the baby, who stopped his wails long enough to stare at the new visitor with round, wondering eyes.

"Oh, isn't he a dear! How did you find him?"

Drusilla handed her the letter. "Read that, and then you'll know as much as me."

Daphne read the note out loud.

"Isn't it romantic, Father!" she exclaimed. "Just like you read about in books. Oh, look at James with the bottle!"

James looked neither to the right nor to the left but handed the bottle to Drusilla. She felt it to test its warmth and gave it to the squirming baby, who settled down into the hollow of her arm with a little gurgle of content. The four stood around the baby and watched it for a few moments in silence. Soon its lids began to droop and it was off to slumberland.

"What are you going to do with it, Miss Doane?" whispered Daphne.

"I'm sure I don't know. That's why I sent for your father."

"It's clearly a case for the police," Mr. Thornton said dryly. "I will telephone them."

Drusilla looked at him inquiringly.

"What did you say? Telephone the police? Why?"

"I will ask them to call and take the child in charge."

"Why, what's the baby done?"

"Nothing, of course; but they will understand how to dispose of it."

"What'll they do with it?"

"They will get into connection with the proper authorities, and if the mother cannot be found, they will have the child committed to some institution."

"Some institution. What kind of an institution?"

"An orphan asylum-a home for waifs of this kind."

Drusilla caught the word "home" and she sat up so suddenly that the bottle fell to the floor and the blue eyes opened and looked into Drusilla's face appealingly and the little wail arose again. Drusilla bent over and picked up the bottle, and when she arose her eyes were hard and two bright spots colored her wrinkled cheeks.

"You said 'home.' What do you mean? I don't like the word."

Mr. Thornton was plainly irritated.

"A home for foundlings, where the proper care will be given it."

"Yes, but how?" queried Drusilla. "What kind of care?"

Daphne interrupted her father, who was plainly trying to find words to explain the exact meaning of an orphan asylum.

"Oh, Father, that's horrid. It'll be put in with hundreds of other babies, all dressed alike, and all brought up on rules and bells and things-"

"I know now what your father means-an orphan asylum. Just the same thing as an old ladies' home, only backwards. No, I lived in one o' them and I know what it is and," she settled back in her chair, "my baby ain't goin' there."

"But," objected Mr. Thornton, looking helplessly at the obstinate face before him, "that is the only possible way to dispose of him."

"But think of his poor mother, how she'd feel if she read in the paper that he'd been put in a home. She could 'a' done that herself."

"She should have thought of that before leaving him," Mr. Thornton said dryly. "She should not have deserted the child, and does not deserve any consideration."

"Well, we all do things we oughtn't to do. Even you do, 'cause I can see, lookin' closely at you, that you oughtn't to drink so much coffee, but you do; and the mother hadn't ought to have had the baby in the first place, which she did, and she oughtn't 'a' left it on my stoop, but it's done. Now can't you think of something else to do with it except send it to a home? Ugh, that word makes a pizen in my blood!"

Mr. Thornton clearly was exasperated that his very sensible advice was not acted upon immediately.

"I have told you the only thing to do, and we are wasting time. I must go into the city. James, telephone the police."

Drusilla sat up very erect.

"James, you'll do nothing of the kind! I've decided. I'll take the baby."

"What!" said Mr. Thornton, his exasperated look changing to one of consternation. "What!" said Daphne in delight. "Quoi!" said Jeanne. James did not speak, but he stopped on his way to the telephone and expressed his astonishment as well as a well trained servant may express astonishment at the actions of an employer.

Drusilla settled back in the chair and rocked back and forth with the sleeping baby in her arms, showing that she was enjoying the little explosive she had dropped in the midst of her family circle. There was silence for a few moments; then Mr. Thornton cleared his throat.

"I really don't believe I understood you, Miss Doane," he said.

Drusilla looked up at him with a twinkle in her eyes.

"I said in plain English that I'd take the baby."

Mr. Thornton looked at her, evidently at a loss for words to express his disapproval. Drusilla watched him, waiting for him to speak; and then, finding that he was silent, she said.

"Now you take that chair, and set down in front of me. Jane, go away. James, go downstairs. Now, Mr. Thornton, fix yourself real comfortable and we'll talk."

"But Miss Doane-"

"Now don't but me, Mr. Thornton, 'cause I'm goin' to talk. I ain't used my voice much sence I been here, and it's gettin' tired o' doin' nothin', jest like I am. Now I've done everything you told me to. I've made visits I didn't like, I've talked with women who come here who didn't like me, and I've tried hard to live up to this house and be a lady and do nothin', and have nothin' to look after and no one to do for and worry about, and nothin' to think of; and I'm tired of it. I've done somethin' all my life, and took care of some one. I nussed my mother for most forty years, then I took care of the sick in all our county, and I looked after the old ladies in the home who wasn't able to look after themselves and now I can't jest set. I'm too old to learn new ways, and I got to have something or some one to do for, and the good Lord knowed I was gettin' restless and sent this here baby. Now-no, wait a minute-I ain't through yet," as Mr. Thornton tried to interrupt her. "I'm goin' to have my say, then your turn'll come, though it won't do you much good, as my mind is made up, and when a woman's mind is made up it's jest as foolish to try to change it as it is to try to set a hen before she begins to cluck."

She stopped a moment and looked down at the sleeping baby in her arms.

"I ain't a-thinkin' of myself alone and jest how good it'll be for me, but I'm a-thinkin' of the baby and I want to give him a chance like other babies."

"But," said Mr. Thornton, "it's quite impossible! A home for such as he is the proper place for him."

"Don't say that word home to me. Mr. Thornton, I hate the word. I've et charity bread and it's bitter, and charity milk'd be the same."

Mr. Thornton threw out his hands with an exasperated gesture.

"But it is impossible, I tell you, quite impossible!"

"Why impossible?" asked Drusilla. "Why, ain't the house big enough?"

"But my late client, Mr. Elias Doane-"

"Have you forgot the letter he wrote me: 'Spend the money your own way, Drusilla.'"

"But he certainly did not mean-"

"How do you know what he meant? He said spend it, and I ain't spent nothin' yet except on some foolish clothes. First thing I know I might die, then it wouldn't be spent, and I know I'd pass my days worryin' St. Peter to find out what had become of it."

Mr. Thornton threw up his hands again.

"Well, I don't know what to say more than I have said," he declared. "Have you decided on its disposition?"

Drusilla, seeing that the lawyer was surrendering, said quite meekly:

"I ain't figured out what is to be done jest now-"

Here Daphne came to her rescue.

"Why don't you give him to the gardener's wife until you find out what to do?"

Drusilla reached over and patted Daphne's hand.

"Daphne, there's some sense under them curls. Your father ought to take you in business with him. That's what we'll do. She has four already, but there's always room in a house where there's babies for one more. Send for her."

"Should it not be medically examined before being placed with other children?" Mr. Thornton suggested.

"Medically examined, stuff and nonsense! Why?"

"A child left in the manner in which this infant was left may come from extremely unsanitary surroundings, and may carry disease with it. It is more than probable."

"Disease nothin'!" said Drusilla, looking down at the baby. "I never saw a healthier child."

At the word medical Daphne rose and went to a part of the room where she could be seen by Drusilla and not by her father, and when Drusilla looked up from inspecting the baby she caught sight of Daphne, who seemed to be staring at her fixedly with a meaning in her eye.

Mr. Thornton, still intent upon the one subject where he saw a chance of having his advice acted upon, and consequently of retaining at least a semblance of authority, said: "I think a doctor should be sent for and the child medically examined."

Drusilla commenced: "It's nonsense. There ain't-" but here she again caught Daphne's eye and saw a slight movement of the head which seemed to mean, "Say yes." Drusilla looked at her a moment uncomprehendingly; then, the nod being repeated more vigorously, she said:

"Well-well-yes, if you believe it should be done, though for the life of me I don't see no sense in it. Who'll I send for?"

"I would suggest Dr. Rathman. He is-"

"Oh, Father!" interrupted Daphne. "He is so old and slow. He'd never get here. Why don't you ask Dr. Eaton? He lives near here."

Mr. Thornton pursed up his lips.

"He is far too young. He has not the experience of Dr. Rathman."

"But, Father, the baby isn't dying."

Drusilla's shrewd old eyes looked keenly at Daphne's flushed face, and she laughed.

"I think Daphne is right. A young doctor's better. I don't think old doctors have a hand with babies."

"But Dr. Eaton is very young," remonstrated Mr. Thornton.

"The younger the better, then perhaps he ain't forgot how the stomach-ache feels himself. You telephone him, Daphne."

"No," said Daphne, a little embarrassed. "I think James had better do that. Oh, here's Mrs. Donald."

The baby was given into the motherly arms of Mrs. Donald; and Mr. Thornton drew on his gloves and said very coldly, feeling that he had lost ground on every point, "Come, Daphne; we will go. When you have decided upon the final disposition of the child, you may, as always, command my services, Miss Doane. Come, Daphne."

"But, Father, I'll stay a while with Miss Doane."

"No, Daphne; you will go with me. Your mother needs you."

Daphne cast an imploring glance at Drusilla.

"Can't Daphne stay a while? I'd like to talk with her," Drusilla said.

"No," said her father, with a finality in his tone that caused Daphne to go with him meekly, if unwillingly; "Daphne must return with me."

Drusilla looked at the set face a moment, and then at the rebellious face of Daphne, and her own face broke into the tiny wrinkles that accompanied her smiles.

"Oh, I see! Well, never mind, child. There are lots of other days and this baby may need the services of a doctor often." And she accompanied them to the hall with a little light of understanding in her eyes as she watched Daphne's pouting face disappear in the motor.

The young doctor came. He was a tall, broad-shouldered young athlete, not yet thirty, and his merry blue eyes and his cheery voice won Drusilla at once. They went to the gardener's cottage and inspected the baby. The doctor patted it and tickled it and tossed it in his arms until it was all gurgles of delight.

"He's as sound as a dollar, Miss Doane," he said. "Couldn't be in better condition. He could run a Marathon this minute if his legs were long enough."

Drusilla watched the proceedings with twinkling eyes.

"Well, that's a new way to medically examine an ailin' child," she commented; "but it seems to work."

"Ailing! He isn't ailing, Miss Doane. If he keeps this fit Mrs. Donald won't have to send for me often."

"That's what I told Mr. Thornton; but he said I must have you."

Dr. Eaton stopped tossing the baby and looked at Miss Doane in astonishment.

"Are you telling me that Mr. Thornton asked you to send for me?"

"Well," and Drusilla laughed, "he didn't exactly mention your name, but he said I should have a doctor for the baby."

"I thought Mr. Thornton wasn't recommending me. Didn't he mention Dr. Rathman?"

"Perhaps he did, but Miss Daphne seemed to feel that he was too old to answer a hurry call like this, so we sort of compromised, at least Daphne and me did, on you."

There was a slight flush on the young man's face that did not miss the keen eyes of Drusilla.

"Oh," he said, "I see." And then, in an attempt to change the subject: "Is this a new baby of Donald's? I haven't seen him around here before."

"No," said Drusilla; "this is my baby."

Dr. Eaton looked at her, and then laughed with her.

"Now what should I say, Miss Doane-many happy returns of the day, or-"

"You jest say, Dr. Eaton, 'This is a fine baby.' But come up to the house and have breakfast with me. I clean forgot it. And we'll talk it all over."

They went slowly up the graveled walk to the breakfast-room, and over the coffee and the cakes Drusilla explained the unexpected arrival of the baby.

"Now you know as much about it as I do," she ended; "and I suppose you'll say with Mr. Thornton that I'm a foolish old woman to say I'll take it. But it won't do you no good. I'm goin' to have my way, and I've found out in the last few weeks that I can get it, and I'm afraid it's spoilin' me. I'm goin' to keep the baby."

The doctor leaned back in his chair. "May I light a cigarette? Thanks. That breakfast was corking. Now, about the baby. I think you are right. Why shouldn't you keep the baby?"

"That's what I said-why shouldn't I?"

"No reason in the world why you shouldn't."

"I like you, Dr. Eaton. I like you more and more; and I see you understand how I feel. Here I am, an old woman all alone in this big house, with nothin' to do, and a lot of pesky servants that stand around and don't earn their salt, jest a-waitin' on me. I've always wanted babies, but never had a chance to have 'em, and I've jest spent my heart lovin' other people's, and seein' 'em in other people's arms and mine empty. Now I git a chance to have a baby most my own and I ain't goin' to lose it."

The doctor looked at her face for a few moments in silence, and beneath the lines he saw the loneliness of the heart-hungry little old woman and he understood.

"You are perfectly right, Miss Doane. There's nothing like a baby in all the world. It'll give you something to do and think about and it'll bring sunshine into the house. I envy you. Every time I go down to the 'home' where I look after the health of some kiddies, I wish I could bundle every one of them up and take them to a real home with me."

"That's what Mr. Thornton wanted me to do with it-put it in a home. I've lived in a home, Dr. Eaton, and though I wasn't treated bad and had all the comforts of four walls and enough to eat, such as it was, it ain't a place to die in, and it sure ain't a place to grow up in."

"You're right again, Miss Doane. The kiddies up at our place get a bed and clothes and plenty of food; but there's something they don't get and that something is going to count in their life. They grow up without love, and are turned out on the world just little machines that have been taught that the world goes round at the tap of a bell. They've missed something that they can never get, and if they win out in life it's because they've got something pretty big inside of them which they've had to fight for all by themselves. And any fight is hard when it is made alone without a little tenderness to help over the hard places. Why, when I see the girls all in checked aprons, hair braided in two braids tied with a blue cord, all the boys in blue with hats just exactly alike with blue bands on them-all going to dinner at a regular time-all eating oatmeal out of a blue bowl, all just part of a thing that turns babies into a lot of little jelly-molds like a hundred other little jelly-molds-well, Miss Doane, it hurts something way deep inside of me. Keep the baby, Miss Doane, for your own sake and for the baby's."

"I'm glad you see it my way. I'd made up my mind already, but you make it easier for me. I wonder that I'll do with it at first?"

"Why don't you let the gardener's wife keep it until you can find out what you really want to do. You can pay her and she'll be glad to earn the extra money. It won't cost much."

"I ain't thinkin' about the cost. I'm jest glad to get a chance to spend some money. Mr. Thornton come to me the other day and talked most an hour about the investment of my income, and when I got it through my head what he meant, I learnt that he has to hunt up ways to put out the money that's comin' to me all the time, so's it'll make more money. Now I don't want to invest my income, or save it. I want to spend it, and I don't see no better way than taking babies."

She laughed softly.

"I wouldn't mind a few more, Dr. Eaton, jest to keep that one company. But I guess I'll git along. Most people commence with one at a time."

"Do you want more babies, Miss Doane?" asked Dr. Eaton, leaning forward interestedly. "I can get you as many as you want. I run across them every day-babies that lose their mothers in the hospitals, babies that are deserted. Why, babies that need homes are as thick as fleas, in New York."

Drusilla put up her hand.

"Now, I don't mean I want 'em all at once, Dr. Eaton. We won't be what you might call impulsive, 'cause if there's as many as you say, they can wait until I know about 'em. I'd rather like to pick and choose my family. Now I'll go upstairs and think a little about this one, and what we're goin' to do with him. It's all been rather sudden, you know, and I ain't used to so much excitement-though I think it is good fer me. I think it's going to keep me from dyin' of dry rot, which I've always been afeard of. I want to wear out, not rust out, like so many old women do."

Dr. Eaton rose to go and Miss Drusilla looked up at him as he stood straight and strong before her. She smiled, with the merry little wrinkles playing around the corners of her mouth.

"I believe I'm rather ailin' myself, and will need to have a family doctor. You might look in every once in a while and see if my health is good."

The doctor laughed as he said: "Well, I hope you won't ever need me professionally, but I'd like nothing better than to drop in and have a chat with you. Think over the baby question, Miss Doane. You'll find it the greatest question in the world to keep you up and coming. Good-by. Thank you for sending for me. Good-by."

Drusilla watched him as he swung with his long stride down the drive and out of the gate, and then she chuckled to herself.

"I can see now why Daphne is interested in the medical profession. I don't blame her; if I was fifty years younger, I'd be myself."

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top