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   Chapter 8 No.8

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 21182

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


One morning James came to Drusilla.

"There is a man downstairs who wishes to see you," he announced.

"What does he want?" asked Drusilla.

"He does not say; just says he wants to see you personally. He says he is from your home town or village."

Drusilla looked up, pleased.

"Is that so. Take him in one of the setting-rooms and I'll be right down."

James hesitated.

"What is it, James?"

"He, well, he is not exactly a gentleman; he looks like a man from the country."

"That ain't nothin' to disgrace him for life. I'm from the country too, and I'm real glad to see any one from the place where I was raised. I ain't seen no one from there for a long time."

When she went downstairs she found a rather florid man, about fifty years of age, dressed as a farmer would dress when out on a holiday. She extended her hand cordially.

"James tells me you are from Adams," she said. "I'm real glad to see somebody from there. Set down. Won't you take off your coat?"

The man removed his overcoat and sat down.

"I am John Gleason," he said; "the brother of James Gleason, who owns the Spring Valley Stock Farm, just out of Adams."

Drusilla thought for a moment.

"I don't seem to recall the name, but perhaps you moved there sence I went away."

"I been there about thirty years. Of course you know William Fisher, the editor of the county paper? He is a friend of mine."

Drusilla's face brightened.

"Yes, indeed; I know him well. I nursed his wife through all her children and her last spell of sickness."

"Is that so! His wife was a cousin of my wife's. Her name was Jenny Jameson before she married me."

"The daughter of old Dr. Jameson! Well, I do declare, it's like meetin' old friends. How is she?"

"I'm sorry to say she is not very well. We lost our little girl about two years ago, and she has been sick ever since."

Kindly Drusilla was all sympathy at once.

"Do tell me. What did she die of."

"Diphtheria. She got it in school; it run through all the children in the county."

"How old was she?"

"She was eleven, and it near broke my wife's heart. She was our only child. I catch her settin' by the door waitin' for Julia to come home. It worries me very much."

"Well, I'm so sorry. Have you had a doctor?"

"Yes; we have had Dr. Friedman and another doctor from the city. But they don't seem to be doing her no good."

"It's too bad! Now perhaps I got something that'll help her. I got some harbs that make the best tonic. I always give it to mothers who didn't get along well, and it made them have an appetite; and if one can eat well, they can ginerally git enough strength to throw off sorrow. You just set still a minute, and I'll make a package for you. I ain't got much left, 'cause I been kind of savin' of it; but I know it'll do your wife good, so I'm goin' to give you some."

Drusilla left to go up to her room to find the "harbs" that she had been carefully cherishing for time of need. When she returned she handed the package to the man.

"You have her bile them fifteen minutes and drink it like a tea," she said.

They chatted for fifteen minutes about the families in Adams. Mr. Gleason seemed to be very familiar with them all, and Drusilla's eyes brightened as she heard the old names. She thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

"John Brierly is upstairs," she said finally. "I'll call him. He'd like to hear all the news of the old neighbors, and perhaps he'll know about your father."

The man looked embarrassed.

"Well, Miss Doane," he stammered, "I'd like to see him, but I'm in a hurry. I want to get the eleven o'clock train home. I'm worried about leaving my wife. She's not sick, you know, but just peculiar and I don't like to leave her longer than I can help. I had to come down on business-I've been seeing about some cattle over in New Jersey, and-and-Miss Doane, I'm in trouble, and I don't know a soul in New York, and I didn't know who I could go to but you, and I remembered you was from Adams and might help me."

Drusilla looked at him with inquiring, sympathetic eyes.

"What can I do?" she asked.

"Well,"-and the man was most embarrassed-"I've been farmer enough to have my pocket picked on the train. I was sleepy and went to sleep and when I woke up my pocketbook that I always carried right here"-showing an inside pocket in his coat-"was gone. It had all my money and my mileage ticket."

"Well, I swan!" said Drusilla.

"Yes; I didn't know what to do. I tried to tell the man in the ticket office that I would send back my ticket money, but he wouldn't give it to me, and I-well-I don't know what to do. I feel I ought to go home to my wife at once, and-and-"

"How much is the ticket?"

"The ticket is only about three dollars and sixty cents-"

"Pshaw, that is very little. I'll get some money from James. I never have any."

She rang the bell; and when James returned with fifteen dollars she handed it to the man.

"You'd better have a little extra, as somethin' might happen," she said.

He was more than thankful.

"I'll never forget your kindness, and I'll send it to you as soon as I get home. You'll get it day after to-morrow. And I'll see my wife takes this tea. We'll never forget you, Miss Doane."

He wrung her hand.

"Can't I get you anything from the country," he asked. "But I suppose you have everything. I'd like to send you something to show you how I feel."

Drusilla was touched.

"Now that's real kind of you to think of it," she said; "but I don't need nothin'."

She followed him to the door and helped him on with his overcoat.

"Be sure and let me know how your wife gets on. Perhaps if the tea don't do no good, my doctor will know of something that'll help her. She might come down here for a few days; a change might take her mind off her sorrow."

Again Mr. Gleason shook the kindly outstretched hand, and for a moment he seemed rather overcome by his feelings of gratitude.

"I'll let you know at once, and I'll remember your offer. I must catch my train. Thank you again, Miss Doane."

Drusilla watched him walk down the drive, and then she went up to tell John of his visit. As they were talking, Dr. Eaton's card was brought to her and Drusilla asked him to be shown to John's sitting-room. Drusilla met him with a happy smile on her face.

"Come right in, Dr. Eaton. I'm always glad to see you. You're just youth and strength and it does my old eyes good to see you. John, this is Dr. Eaton, my family doctor. You didn't know I was an ailin' woman and have to have a doctor by the year."

John looked at her anxiously.

"You ain't sick, are you, Drusilla?"

"Oh, money gives you lots of diseases that you didn't know you had till you could afford 'em."

The doctor laughed.

"Miss Doane'll never be sick in her life, Mr. Brierly. She's good for twenty-five years of hard work yet."

"Don't speak that word to me, Dr. Eaton. I don't like the word work. It's stuck closer to me than a brother for too many years."

"Oh, but there's work and work. But am I interrupting your visit with Mr. Brierly?"

"No; I just been tellin' him about a visitor I had who comes from Adams, where we used to live when we was young. I wanted John to come and see him, but the man couldn't wait. He had to catch a train."

"Was it an old friend? It's nice to see old friends."

"No, he wasn't exactly an old friend, but he knowed a lot of people I knowed once. Poor man, he was in a lot of trouble. He had his pocket picked and couldn't get home and his wife was sick-"

The doctor looked up quickly.

"Did you lend him money, Miss Doane?"

"Yes; I felt so sorry for him. He was so worried I let him have fifteen dollars. He'll send it back to me to-morrow. He was so grateful. It must be awful to be in a big city and know no one and have no money."

"Yes; it must," the doctor remarked dryly.

Drusilla looked at him quickly.

"What you speakin' in that tone of voice for?"

The doctor laughed rather hesitatingly.

"I'm afraid, Miss Doane, that you're what the small boys call 'stung.'"

"Stung? What do you mean?"

"I rather imagine that was a little confidence game."

"What is a confidence game?"

"Oh, a man gets money from people on false pretenses. They work a lot of games. One of them is to go to people whom they have looked up, and claim to be a relation or from their home town."

"But he knowed lots of names I knowed."

"Yes; he might have found them in a local paper from the place."

Drusilla sat back in her chair.

"Well, do tell!" Then, after a moment's pause, "But I don't believe he's dishonest. He looked honest. He looked like a man from the country."

"That's where they're clever. But don't worry; you can stand the touch-it wasn't much. You got off easy."

"But I don't like to think I bin cheated. It makes me mad clean through. It always did. I remember once I bought a cow when mother was bad; paid forty dollars for her to Silas Graham. He said she was young and would give fifteen quarts of milk a day, and I figgered out I could give mother all the milk she'd need and sell the rest and in that way pay for her, because forty dollars was a lot of money for me in them days. Why, when I got that cow she never give enough milk to wet down a salt risin', and she was as old as Methuselah. All she could do was to eat, and she et her head off. I couldn't see her starve and I couldn't sell her. I kept her for two years, and finally a butcher come along and offered me eight dollars for her and I let her go. Wasn't I mad! I never could abide any one by the name of Silas after that."

"Never mind; you're able to stand this loss. But you'd better write up to Adams and see if what he says is true. You can find it out easy enough."

"No; I'll wait and see. I believe he'll send it back to me. But it makes me excited."

"But, Miss Doane," said Dr. Eaton earnestly, "I want you to promise me one thing. You must not be annoyed. If the word gets around that you are 'easy' you'll be bothered to death. Now the next time that any one comes claiming to be from your home town, and asks you for money, for anything at all, just send for the police and have them arrested."

"Oh, I'd hate to do that."

"But you must, Miss Doane. You must protect yourself. Promise me that no matter who it is, or what kind of a con talk they give you, you'll send at once for the police."

"Well-"

"Please promise this, Miss Doane. You must make an example, or you'll have every confidence man in town working you. Will

you do it, no matter what or who it is? If you are asked for money, and you don't know the man, have him locked up, and the story'll get around, and you won't be bothered any more."

"Well, if you think it necessary-"

"It is most necessary. You will promise?"

"Yes, I'll promise. I'll do it, though I hate to."

"All right; I have your word for it. Now be sure to do it. Don't believe a word they say, if you haven't known the person before. He's sure to be playing the old game, and I don't want them to think they can work you."

"Well, all right. I'll send for the police if any one ever comes again and says he's from Adams. I guess you are right. Now let's change the subject. What did you come for particular, beside wanting to see me, of course."

"Well, I wanted to see you, first of all, just for the pleasure of seeing you, and then I want to tell you about the mothers we've got by our advertisement."

Drusilla was interested at once.

"Did you git some? I told you we would. Did you advertise in all the papers?"

"Yes; every paper in New York City-Jewish, German, Bohemian, Russian, everything; and I've found three mothers out of the bunch."

"Well-well, I'm glad. Where are they, and who are they?"

"One of them is little John's mother. You remember you thought she'd come and she did. The other two, we've had their stories investigated and found them all right. One is an American girl about twenty years of age whose husband deserted her when he couldn't get work, and she was practically starving, and the other is a little Jewish girl, who works in a flower factory."

"The poor things! Did you bring them right up?"

"No; I wanted to talk with you first, and with Mr. Thornton-"

"Never mind talkin' with Mr. Thornton. This is my affair and not connected with the estate, as he calls it. It ain't none of his business, and you know what he'd say. I don't tell him more'n I have to till it's done, then he can't do nothin' and he's learnt he's wastin' his breath talkin'. You see he talks slow and I talk fast, and he don't git much chance."

The doctor laughed.

"I'm glad I don't have to talk this over with him, as he isn't what you might call sympathetic."

"Yes; he's cold. Sometimes I look to see him drip like an icicle brought into a warm room, but I guess he's not so bad as he acts sometimes. But who's the little Jew girl?"

"She is that little Jew kid's mother."

"The baby with the black eyes and the big nose? Well, he ain't pretty, but he's clever."

"The girl couldn't make but five dollars a week and she couldn't pay any one to keep the baby, and she had no people, so she gave it to you. But she's a nice little thing, and willing to work and be with her boy."

"That makes four nurses, and perhaps there'll be more answer. Now you figger what I ought to pay 'em. I want to be just, but I ain't goin' to be extravagant. And send them up to-morrow. And, Doctor, I been a thinkin'. These mothers ought to be learnt somethin' so's they can make a livin' when they leave here. They can't live here forever, perhaps. Mis' Fearn was over here the other day and said somethin' about tryin' to get a good sewin' woman-some one who could make dresses in the house for the children and make over her old ones, and do odds and ends that she can't get the big dressmakers to do. She says she pays three dollars a day but that it's hard to get good ones. Why can't we get some one to teach our mothers to be dressmakers-real good ones-then they can always make a livin'."

"That's an idea, Miss Doane, and a good one. We'll think it over."

"Well, you figger it out; but we got enough to think about jest now. We've got a good start-twelve babies and four mothers. I think I'll stop with that. Twelve is a good number."

Just then James came to the door with a disgusted look on his face. He glanced from one to the other in perplexity. Drusilla looked up.

"What is it, James?"

James was plainly embarrassed.

"I'd-I'd-like to speak to Dr. Eaton. I think I'd better speak to him first."

"What do you want to say to him you can't say to me? Has some one sent for him?"

"No-no-"

"Well, is it private? What you so nervous about, James? You look foolish."

"Well-well-"

"Say it! What is it?"

"Well, ma'am-there's another baby come."

"What!" cried Drusilla, sitting erect in her chair.

"What!" exclaimed Dr. Eaton. "Where's the watchman?"

"I don't know, sir. The baby was found at the laundry door, and no one was in sight, though we all searched the grounds and the roads."

"Well, I swan! I thought we'd stopped. What'll we do with it?"

James said impressively: "We'd better send this one to the police station."

"James," said Drusilla severely, "I've told you I won't send a baby to the police station. Bring it up and let me see it!"

"But, ma'am, this is different-"

Drusilla sniffed.

"It can't be much different. A baby is a baby-"

"But, ma'am-Dr. Eaton-I-"

"James, I said bring it up. Now bring it up at once, I say!"

James turned desperately and left the room. Soon he returned with a clothes-basket and put it on the library table. Drusilla, Dr. Eaton and John rose and went to the table and looked down in silence at the basket's contents, with consternation plainly written on their faces. There was a moment's silence, then Dr. Eaton burst into a roar of laughter. He put back his head and laughed until the tears ran down his face, and soon he was joined by John; but Drusilla was too amazed to laugh. She looked down at the baby in the big clothes-basket, at the round, black, wondering eyes that stared up at her from the coal-black face of a negro baby. There it lay, the little woolly head on a clean white pillow, a white blanket covering its little body. The baby looked at the laughing faces above it, as if wondering why the sight of him should cause such merriment; then, as if seeing the joke, opened his little mouth, showing the tip of a red tongue and dazzling baby teeth. It was too much for Drusilla. She sat down heavily in the nearest chair.

"Well, I swan-I swan! A nigger baby!"

Drusilla went again to the basket, from which the squirming infant was evidently trying to get out. She looked at him for a moment and then turned to Dr. Eaton.

"Take him out. I ain't never seen a colored baby close."

The baby was found to be a boy about a year and a half old. He was not at all frightened, and stood up on his sturdy legs and tried to make friends in his baby fashion, showing his white teeth and rolling his round black eyes in a way that started Dr. Eaton and John off into another paroxysm of laughter.

Drusilla looked at the baby; then at the two men. Then, as she did not know what to do, she became exasperated.

"What's the matter with you two? Ain't you never seen a nigger baby before? What you laughing at?"

The baby was trying to toddle across the floor. His toes struck a rug and he fell, showing above his white socks a pair of little fat legs that seemed to be made in ebony, so clearly were they in contrast to his white clothing. Even Drusilla sat back and joined the men in their merriment. The baby looked at them solemnly; then put his chubby fist into his mouth and his face puckered up and great tears came to his eyes. Drusilla was all kindness in an instant.

"You poor little mite! They shan't laugh at you-no, they shan't! Come right here to Grandma-No, I can't be Grandma to a colored baby, can I? Well, never mind, come here to me."

She held out her arms to the weeping baby, and he came toddling to her. She lifted him to her lap and cuddled him down against her breast.

"There, there!" she soothed. "Now you're all right. Well," turning to the men, "he feels just like any other baby, black or white."

Dr. Eaton looked at the white head bent over the black one and again he started to laugh, but Drusilla looked up with a slight flush on her face and a sparkle in her eyes that plainly said that she had had enough of laughter, and he stopped.

"What are you going to do with this one? Now we'd better send for Mr. Thornton."

Drusilla looked at him severely.

"Don't you be a fool, Dr. Eaton. I don't want Mr. Thornton to know nothin' about this one. I'd never hear the last of it."

"Well, then you'd better let me take him to the police station."

"Yes-" hesitatingly; "I suppose so. But-" and she looked down at the baby who was contentedly playing with the trimming on her dress-"I jest hate to send a baby there."

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Dr. Eaton. "There's a big colored orphan asylum out on the Elpham Road. Let's telephone up there, and I'll take it over myself."

Drusilla hesitated again.

"Another 'home.' I hate to-"

"It's the only thing to do, Miss Doane. You can't mix the colors."

"Well, perhaps you'd better."

Dr. Eaton left the room, and returned after a few moments with a shake of his head.

"No good! They say they're full. They can't take in another child. I telephoned another one downtown that they told me of, and they say the same thing. It seems there is a superfluity of colored babies just now. I guess it'll have to be the police station."

"What'll they do with him? If we can't find a place to-night, they can't."

"No; perhaps not. But they'll keep him until they do find a place."

"Well, if they can keep him, so can I. I'll keep him until we find a place for him. Ring for James and Fanny and we'll put him to bed."

James came and the little girl mother, and the baby was placed in James's outraged arms.

"Now, James, don't drop him-he won't bite you. Take him to the children's room; and you, Fanny, see that he has something to eat and a bath. Now you be jest as nice to him as to the other babies. Give him your baby's bed and take your baby in with you to-night."

As James left the room with the baby in his arms, which were stretched out as far from his body as he could carry them, and with his head held disdainfully in the air, Drusilla sat back in her chair and chuckled.

"Ain't James havin' new experiences? His back says, 'This didn't never happen to me when I was in the Duke's house'!"

Dr. Eaton rose to go.

"I'll find some place to put him to-morrow, Miss Doane. It's good of you to take him tonight."

Drusilla went with him to the door.

"Good night, Doctor. Things do seem to be kind of comin' my way. I've got Swedes and Dutch and Irish and Jews, and now a nigger baby. It's a mighty good thing for me that the heathen Chinee is barred. Good night."

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