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   Chapter 7 No.7

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 15584

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


John Brierly came.

He first wrote Drusilla a long letter and Drusilla answered it by telegraph-an answer that brought a reminiscent smile to John Brierly's lips. It read:

"I can't talk by letter. Just come."

And John came.

He was met at the station by the young man from the lawyer's office who had been to see him in Cliveden, and when he arrived at the house he found Drusilla awaiting him. After the young man left, Drusilla said:

"John, come upstairs; I want to look at you, and I want to talk to you."

She took him up to the small library, which looked very cozy with its fire in the big grate and the heavy English curtains drawn at the windows.

"Now set down there in that chair, John. It was made for a man-no woman could ever get out of it without help once she got in-and tell me all about yourself, John."

John looked around the luxurious room in a hesitating manner.

"I hardly know what to say, Drusilla-I can't understand all this-I can't understand."

"Never mind, John; it's all real. I know how you feel. I felt that way myself for the first few weeks; but now I'm gettin' used to it."

"Is-is-this place yours, Drusilla?"

"Yes, it's mine. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, but now I just want to talk to you and about you. You want to smoke, don't you? Light your pipe and be comfortable. It'll make you think better."

John laughed.

"I do want to smoke."

He drew his pipe from some pocket and filled it from a worn tobacco pouch.

Drusilla watched him interestedly.

"Now I know what this room needed. It needs tobacco. It'll make the curtains smell as if people lived here. You know the greatest trouble I find with this place, John, is to have it feel human. Everything is so sort of-sort of-dead-with just me a-creepin' round, and James and William tip-toein', and the hired girls never speakin' except to say, 'No, ma'am' or 'Yes, ma'am.' Why, sometimes I'd like to hear somebody drop somethin', or get mad, or stomp, or do somethin' as if they was alive. Here, help me pull up the chair closer by the fire, where I can see you without putting on my specs. There, that is comfortable. Now tell me all about yourself."

John looked into the fire dreamily.

"Drusilla, I am afraid I have been a failure. Your mother was right; I've been always a dreamer and a failure."

Drusilla leaned toward him.

"Never you mind, John. So long as you haven't been a dreamer and a democrat, I can stand it. I never could abide democrats. Why didn't you ever marry?"

John looked at her.

"I couldn't, Drusilla."

Drusilla flushed at the look in his face and sat back in her chair.

"Oh-Oh-"

John said again, earnestly: "I just couldn't, Drusilla. When I got you out of my heart enough to look at another woman, I was too old to care."

"What are you going to do now?" Drusilla asked, to turn the conversation into another channel.

"What I have done for the last few years-sit quietly by and wait for the messenger to come."

"Stuff and nonsense, John! I don't believe in waitin' for messengers. That's meetin' them half way. I believe in bein' so busy that he'll have a hard time to catch up to me."

"But I'm old, Drusilla, and-"

"Old, nothin' of the sort! You ain't but two years older'n me and I'm jest beginnin' to live. Why I've jest took to raisin' children, John, and I'm goin' to watch 'em grow up; so I can't afford to think about being old or dyin'. I got to see these babies get started someway."

John looked at her curiously.

"Yes, you're surprised-so's everybody-and it kind of tickles me to surprise people. I've had to do the things expected of me all my life; I couldn't afford to surprise no one; so I feel like I'm breaking out now, and-and-" laughing, "I like it, John-I like it. Why, when Mr. Thornton stands up so stiff and straight and makes his mouth square and hard to say, 'Impossible!' why-why-my toes kind of wiggle around in delight like the babies do when you hold 'em to the fire. But I don't want to talk about myself; we got lots of time to do that. I want to know what you intend doin'."

"Nothing, Drusilla. I have enough to live on in my little town; and with my books, and-"

"But, John, you can't live with jest books."

"That's all I have left, Drusilla. All my friends are gone."

"That's what I wanted to hear. You ain't got no one that draws your heart back to that place in Ohio, have you?"

"No one in the world, Drusilla."

Drusilla settled back into her chair and gave a sigh of contentment.

"Then what I've been dreamin' of ever sence I saw your name in the paper can come true."

"What have you been a-dreaming of, Drusilla?"

Drusilla was silent for a few moments, looking thoughtfully into the fire. Then she said softly:

"Ever sence I knew you was alive, and after I sent that young man out to you and he told me about you, I jest been dreamin' of seein' you settin' there, smokin' your pipe, and me a-settin' here, talkin' to you, and I have come into this room more the last two weeks, lookin' at it, thinkin' how it would look with your things layin' around. You are alone, John, and I'm alone. As I wrote you, we are both two old ships that have sailed the seas alone for all these years, and now we're nearin' port. Why can't we make the rest of the voyage together? I have a home too big for one lone woman; you have no home at all. Years ago your home would 'a' been mine, if you could 'a' give it to me; and now I want to share mine with you. No-don't start," as she saw John make a movement, "I ain't proposin' to you, John. We're too old to think of such things, but I want to die with my hand in some one's who cares for me and who I care for. You're the only one in all the world that's left from out my past, and I want you near me."

"But, Drusilla-"

"Don't interrupt me, John. I want you to live here near me. These rooms are a man's rooms. I want to see a man in 'em; and, John, you're the man I want."

"But, Drusilla-"

"Now, John," raising her faded hand, "don't argue with me. I can see it's took you by surprise. But why shouldn't you live here, and me across the hall; and evenings, when the time is long, we can set before the fire like this and talk of the past. It's lonely, John, with no one."

"But, Drusilla, I couldn't-I couldn't-"

"Couldn't what, John? Couldn't you be happy here?"

"It isn't that."

"Well, what is it?"

"Drusilla, I couldn't accept even your charity."

"Now, John, I was afraid you'd say somethin' like that. When I was young, when we were young together, I'd 'a' give you all my life. What is a roof and the food you eat, compared to what I'd 'a' give you if things had been different?"

"But, Drusilla-"

"Yes, I know all you'd say. But see, John. I have more'n I can ever spend, though, goodness knows, I'm goin' to do my best; and there's some things I can't buy, John. I can't buy companionship and friends, John; and that's what we are, jest two old friends. We've drifted far apart, and now the winds has brought us together again, let's anchor side by side."

They were both silent, staring into the fire. Then Drusilla rose.

"Now we won't talk of it no more. These are your rooms. I want you to do what you want to do. If you'd feel that you could be happy here, send for your books and call this home, 'cause remember, John," and she went up to him and standing back of his chair put her hand around his head until it rested on his face, "remember, John, I always want you."

John reached up and covered the soft little hand with one of his for a moment, then he brought it down and kissed it.

Drusilla turned and left the room.

The next few days were happy days for Drusilla. She took great pride in showing John the place, and t

hey spent long hours in the gallery studying and discussing the pictures. The armor room was John's especial delight, after the library. He found a book on armor and learned the rules of chivalry. Drusilla said she could always tell where to find him-"a-studyin' them tin clothes."

One sunshiny day they decided to visit the Doane home. John did not want to go where there were so many women, but Drusilla insisted.

"I want 'em to see a man, John. They're shet up all day with nothin' but women, and they're tired of seein' 'em."

"But I'm an old man, Drusilla."

"Never mind how old you are, you're a man, and any man'll look good to them. Even if most of the ladies is past seventy, they ain't dead yet, and they're still women. You'll see how they'll set up and take notice; Miss Lodema'll smooth back her hair as soon as you step on the porch. I want to give 'em some real pleasure. Barbara'd like to talk to you better'n gettin' new teeth even. We'll take the big car and take as many as we can git in it out for a ride."

Drusilla had the cook make some cakes, for, as she confided to John, "I ain't a-goin' to take 'em a thing sensible. They git that every day. I'm goin' to have the cook make 'em as big cakes as he can, and put lots of frostin' and chocolate on 'em; and I've sent to town for twenty pounds of candy-the real fancy kind, that'll quite likely make 'em all sick, but they'll love it; and I've bought 'em a lot of things they don't need and that no one would think of givin' 'em. They're going to have a real party when I come to see 'em, John."

Drusilla was as excited as a child about her visit; but her excitement did not equal that of the old ladies when Drusilla was seen driving into the grounds in a big limousine with a man beside her.

The women clustered around her and chattered and talked and asked questions, and fingered their gifts like a group of children at a visit of Santa Claus. After lunch Drusilla announced that five of the old ladies should go with her to the near-by city, where she was going to take Barbara to a dentist.

"I don't want the dentist that would come here to see the 'inmates.' He'd give charity teeth. I want Barbara to have real teeth, so's she can chew a bone if she wants to, and I want to take Grandma Perkins. She's never been in a motor and she's near ninety, so she'd better hurry up or she'll be ridin' in a chariot and after that a motorcar wouldn't be excitin'."

The old ladies were bundled up, Grandma Perkins was carried out to the car, and they were off to the city about twenty miles away. The women were awed at first, and rather uneasy, some of them a little frightened. Drusilla watched Grandma Perkins, to see that she was not nervous; but after a few miles had been passed, the old lady sat up straighter in her shawls, and her eyes became bright.

"Drusilla," she asked, "how fast are we goin'?"

"I don't know," Drusilla said. "We'll ask the man."

Twenty-five miles an hour, the chauffeur told them.

"We'll go slower if it scares you, Grandma," Drusilla said gently.

The old lady looked at her with scorn.

"Scares me, nothin'! I was only wonderin' if we couldn't go faster!"

Drusilla laughed.

"That's jest what I said when I first rode in the car with Mr. Thornton."

She gave the order and the car sped swiftly over the macadam road. The old lady settled back among her shawls, a look of absolute happiness on her wrinkled old face.

They arrived at the city all too soon. Barbara was taken to the dentist, and Drusilla had the other ladies taken to a tea shop and given tea while she waited for Barbara.

After tea they started home.

"I don't want to go back, Drusilla," Grandma Perkins began to whimper. "Must we go back right away?"

Drusilla looked puzzled.

"I don't know what to do. Where'll we go if we don't go back?" She thought a moment. "I'll ask Joseph; he always knows everything." She turned to the waiting chauffeur. "Joseph, we don't want to go home. Ain't there anything we can see?"

Joseph looked at the five old ladies, evidently at a loss as to what would please them; then a suggestion occurred to him.

"You might go to a moving-picture show."

"What's that?"

"It's-it's a kind of theater."

"Well, I ain't never seen one," said Drusilla; and turned to the old ladies, who were waiting patiently to learn of their final disposal. "Do you want to go to a movin'-picture show?"

"What's that?" came in chorus.

"I don't know myself, but it's a sort of-sort of-"

"Never mind what it is, we want to go."

"Yes, let's go, Drusilla; let's not go home."

And the patrons of the moving-picture house had a view of six old ladies, piloted by a smartly dressed chauffeur, who saw them seated in a box and then left them. It was really a very good moving-picture, and if the actors could have seen the delight of the box party they would have felt they had not toiled in vain. They sat for two hours entranced by the scenes that passed before them on the screen. One of the plays was a war-time drama, and the old ladies were quite likely the only ones in the house to whom the blue and the gray brought memories.

At the end of the reel, Drusilla decided that they should be leaving, as supper would be ready at the home. One of the old ladies objected.

"Let's not go home, Drusilla; let's miss supper."

"It's bean night, anyway," said another. "Let's stay."

Five pairs of dim old eyes looked at Drusilla beseechingly.

"Well, we'll stay just a little while longer," she concluded.

The little while quite likely would have been the rest of the evening if the performance had not finished for the afternoon. They rose with a sigh and left the theater. When they started to help Grandma Perkins into the car, she stopped with one foot on the step.

"Drusilla, I want to ride with the man," she said.

"Oh, but, Grandma, you'd catch cold," Drusilla objected.

"I wouldn't," she wailed, "and I want to. I might jest as well die fer a sheep as a lamb, and I won't never git no chance again to feel myself goin' through the air with nothin' in front of me."

"But, Grandma-"

The old lip quivered, and the eyes filled childishly.

"But I want to, Drusilla. I don't want to be all squshed up with a lot of old women where I can't see nothin'. I want to see, and I want to feel."

Drusilla turned helplessly to the other women, and then Joseph came to her aid.

"She can sit here, Ma'am. I'll fix the wind shield so's she won't catch cold, and you can put this rug around her. She'll be warm."

Grandma Perkins was lifted into the seat by the driver, bundled up in a big fur rug so that only her bright eyes could be seen, and they were off. Twice on the way home Grandma Perkins was seen to lean towards the chauffeur and the car jumped forward until it seemed that they were flying. When at last they drove into the "home" grounds, they found a very anxious superintendent and John waiting for them, fearing something had happened.

As Drusilla took her leave, Grandma Perkins chuckled childishly.

"I always said, Drusilla, that I didn't want to die and go to Heaven; but I've changed my mind. I'll go any time now, 'cause I like flyin' and am willin' to be an angel."

The superintendent was inclined to be angry with Drusilla-as angry as she could be with a woman who possessed a million dollars. She said stiffly:

"I'm afraid the ladies will be ill to-morrow."

One of them, hearing it, spoke up.

"Of course we'll all be sick; but, then, it was worth it!"

And Drusilla left with those words ringing in her ears.

"John," she said, "perhaps all is vanity and a strivin' after wind; but the preacher didn't know much about women, or his wives didn't have motorcars."

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