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   Chapter 11 No.11

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 14163

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

A light tap was heard on the door of John's sitting-room.

"John, are you still up? Can I come in?"

Before John could answer, Drusilla was in the room.

"John, I'm ashamed of you! Has this been goin' on all the time, and I didn't know it. It's past twelve."

John said apologetically: "It isn't late, is it, Drusilla? I didn't think of the time."

"Late! It's past twelve, I tell you, and you had ought to be in bed gettin' your beauty sleep. Nights was made for sleepin', John Brierly." John shook his head.

"Oh, no, Drusilla; nights were made for reading. There is no joy like a long quiet evening and Carlyle, for example, for company."

"He couldn't be company for me at this time o' night. But you don't ask me nothin' about my dinner party, my first dinner party, and my dance."

John looked longingly at his book, then carefully placed a marker in it and closed it.

"Now don't sigh, John. I'm goin' to tell you about it whether you want to hear it or not. I know you'd rather read, but I been in society and I must talk."

"I'm only anxious to hear all about it, Drusilla."

Drusilla pulled off her gloves and sat down in an easy chair before the fire.

"John, there's no more guile in you than in a stick of molasses candy, but you're like a sermon, comfortin', if sort of uninteresting, and I can talk at you if I can't talk with you. Ask me all about it, git me started somehow. I'm as full of conversation as an egg is of meat, but I don't know where to begin."

"Did you enjoy the dinner?"

"Did I enjoy the dinner! That's like a man to think about the vittles first. I never thought of them. They was numerous and plenty, one thing after another and too many forks. I couldn't help wonderin' how they ever washed all the dishes."

"Where was it, Drusilla? I don't remember if you spoke of it to me."

"John Brierly, you'll be the death of me yet. You don't think you heard me speak of it, and I didn't talk of nothin' else for three days, tryin' to make up my mind whether I'd go or not, only Mrs. Thornton was so particular about me comin'."

"Yes, I do remember hearing you speak of it. It was at the Thorntons'."

"Well, it's about time you remember. Yes, it was a dinner dance-whatever that is. There was about forty people to dinner and a lot of young people come in afterwards to dance. I wish you could 'a' seen it, John.

"A butler about like James met us in the hall and we took off our wraps in a room and went into the parlor. 'Tisn't as big as our'n and I was a little late and they was all there, standin' around, and Mis' Thornton introduced me to a lot of people, and then a man handed around somethin' in glasses-cocktails I think she said; anyway it tasted like hair oil-and little pieces of toast with spoiled fish eggs on 'em; arid we et 'em standin' up. I thought I'd gag, but I said, 'Drusilla Doane, be a sport and do everything that other people do.' And I done it, although to-morrow I'll quite likely have to stay in bed. Finally everybody give their arm to some one else, at least the men did, and an old man come to me and I took his arm and we went into the dining-room. There was five small tables and they was pretty with candles and flowers and I had a little card at my place to tell me where to set. The old man was so feeble he couldn't hardly push my chair in.

"John, I'm glad you ain't doddering. Let's never git doddering and brag about our diseases. It seems that that's all some men have to brag about when they git old, how much rheumatiz they can hold, as if it's a thing to be proud of.

"I listened to that chronic grunter tell me his troubles for a while, then I turned to the young man on the other side, who was one of them shrewd-eyed business men; and I hadn't been settin' there five minutes before I knowed that he had asked to set by me and that he had schemes. Tried to git me interested in some business venture where they would be able to pay about eight hundred per cent. I told him I hadn't heard of nothin' paying eight hundred per cent, except guinea pigs or rabbits, and I didn't want to invest in them, and after a while he saw it wasn't worth while to try to git me interested in mines in Alaska or coal fields in Ohio, so he kind of laughed and we got to be good friends. He ain't bad, as he laughed when he saw it wasn't no use, and it's a great strain on a person's religion to laugh when he knows he's beat. Then lie told me who the people was and a lot about 'em, and then they all got to talkin' and a woman was there who believed in women votin' and being self-supportin' and not dependin' on their husbands, and I said I thought a self-supportin' wife was as much use as a self-rockin' cradle. They talked and argued but this woman was set in her ideas, and you might as well try to argue a dog out of a bone as a woman like that out of an idee once she's got it fixed in her head. I don't like a woman with one idee; it's like a goose settin' on one egg. They use up lots of time and git skinny and don't git much result after all.

"Then another man at the table who had a head three sizes too big for him talked a lot of stuff I couldn't foller, and the man next me said he was the brainiest man in New York. He looked as if he had indigestion and he didn't eat nothin', and I couldn't help thinkin' that a good reliable set of insides would be more use to him than any quantity of brains, but I didn't say it."

"I'm surprised you didn't, Drusilla."

"What's that? Well, I guess I would if I'd a thought of it in time, but I was interested in the talk about the 'new woman'-I guess that's what they called her. I said I didn't believe too much in the over-education of females. That I'd rather be looked down to in lovin' tenderness than up to in silent awe, and that men can't love and wonder at the same time. I don't think men want to set women so high up that they're all the time wonderin' how she got there an' if they dare to bring her down to their level. I said that it seemed to me that love exchanged for learnin' was a mighty poor bargain for the woman if she wanted happiness; and one of the women that set at the table-the kind of woman that can't hold a baby without its clothes comin' apart-said I represented the old school. That things was changed now; that marriage was not the ultimate objective-es, that's what she said, the ultimate objective of women. I asked her what was the ultimate objective, and she said, 'the cultivation of her own individuality, the freeing of her soul.' I asked, couldn't she do it just as well with a man? and she said, no, that man impeded woman's progress. I said that I guessed that most women who said that hadn't never had no chance to git close enough to a man to have him git in her way. I said I'd seen lots of women who said they hated men, but they generally hadn't had a chance to find out whether they could love 'em. I guess I was like a blind mule then, kicking out in space and hittin' something accidental, 'cause she got red and then I was sorry and I sort of tried to make it

up. I said, 'Of course there's lots of marriages that's mistakes, 'cause a lot of people git married like they learn a job, take about three weeks to it, and that's the reason there's so many poor workmen and poor marriage jobs, but marriage must be a pretty good thing after all, 'cause I never saw a widow who wasn't ready to try it again.'

"They all laughed after that and they got real talkative and human. One little woman was awful pretty, and, John, she had on the littlest amount of clothes above her waist that I ever saw on a person outside a bedroom. She said she envied me my motors and my money, and I laughed and asked her if she envied me my seventy years too. She said, 'No, but-' and I said to her, 'I know what you feel; I've wanted things too; and it's just as much misery to want a motorcar as it is to want a shirt.' One man there, who looked like a dried up herrin', laughed and laughed and said that he hadn't laughed so much for years. I said that it was good for him, and if he'd come and see me every mornin' I'd agree to make him laugh once a day, 'cause if you don't laugh before you die, you'll go out of the world without laughing, and you don't know whether there'll be anything to laugh at in the next. He said he was comin' to see me. Why don't you look jealous, John? Wait till I tell you who he is. That big John Craydon, who owns all of America as far as I heard. They say he's the hardest man in New York, and that when he come within an inch of dyin' last year no one would 'a' cared if he had 'a' come within an inch of bein' born, as he ain't done nothin' but make money. I'm goin' to show him my babies, especially Rastus, and I know he ain't hard. Any man that can laugh as hearty as he did, if he only does it once a year, ain't got an iron heart.

"The old man on the other side of me didn't like Mr. Craydon. He mumbled to me, 'What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul'; and I said it was accordin' to the size of the soul, and then he quoted that old thing about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle-you know the thing people who ain't got money is always quoting about people who has. I said that, according to Scripter, Heaven might look like a circus parade, it'd be so full of camels; but I didn't have a chance to explain what I meant and the women got up and went into the parlor, where we had coffee. Pretty soon the men come in and we all went into the dancin'-room.

"And, John, I've had a revelation. St. John's was nothin' compared to mine. A lot of young men come in, men with no chins and high collars, and young girls that had ought to have had gimps put in their dresses; and the way they slithered around that room hugging each other-well, for once in my life, I couldn't talk. I just looked. It wasn't only the young men with soft heads and loud laughs that danced. By the way, they was some of them the descendants of the big men we read about in the papers, and, between you and me, John, great descent was what most of 'em was sufferin' with. But old men and women danced-old men especially that had ought to been at home rubbin' their backs with goose grease. I just thought as I saw them old men foolin' around, 'It's hard for an old dog to learn new tricks, but an old man hasn't got sense enough not to try.' And what do you think, one of them young nin-com-poops come and asked me if I wouldn't like to turkey trot. That's what he said, turkey trot. When I got my breath, I said, 'Young man, there's two things in life I ain't never prepared for. One's twins, the other's to turkey trot-whatever that is-so you run along to the chicken yard; you've mistook the place.'

"Then I moved over to a corner by some paam trees, as I was afraid one of them old men'd come and ask me to bunny hug next, and I always been respectable. As I was a settin' there, some one come and set down, and I couldn't help hearin' what they said. He wanted to go home and she didn't want to go, and he said he was tired and had to git up early and that he'd been out four nights this week, and she said he was selfish and didn't want her to enjoy herself, and they talked a lot and then he got up in a huff and went away. I heard a little sniffle and I looked around the paams and there set that pretty girl that got married about three months ago and lives in the Red House. I smiled at her and she stopped cryin' and tried to pretend she hadn't been, and then I got up and went and set down by her and took her hand an' kind of patted it, and let her dry her eyes. When she seemed better I said, 'Every wise woman buildeth her own home, but the foolish one plucketh it down with her own hands.' Isn't that what you are doin', my dear?

"She sniffed again and I thought she was going to begin all over, but she didn't. She said, 'Bert used to love to be at dances with me, but now he always says he's tired and wants to go home.'

"'Well, dear,' I said, 'you're his wife now, and it's different. He can see you at home, and have you to himself. You're not just the girl he dances with. The things a man wants in his wife ain't the things he wants in the girl he just dances with, any more than the vittles he wants for breakfast is like them he wants for dinner. It's all different when you're married.'

"'But Bert is selfish; he isn't trying to make me happy.'

"'Does this give you happiness?' I asked.

"'Why, of course; it's so gay,' she said.

"'But is it happiness?' I asked again. 'Happiness and bein' gay is different, and you don't need to go to things like this for happiness. You find it at home if you stop huntin' for it outside. It's like my specs that I go lookin' all over the house for and find up on my forehead where they was all the time. Now, dear, don't make a mistake and go fishing for happiness with a red rag instead of a real live worm, and then think there ain't no fish 'cause they won't bite. You got the right kind of bait in your pretty self, in your nice home, and in that great big husband, who, a person can see as plain as a wart on a white neck, is all over in love with you, and the sea'll be just full of fish for you."

"I patted her hand again, as I was afraid she'd think I was interferin', but she didn't. She set quiet a while, then she squeezed my hand, and I said, 'Now I'm goin' home. Git on your bunnet and find your Bert and I'll drop you both at your house; and when you git home git him something fillin' to eat and something he likes to drink, and light his seegar for him and set down by the fire and tell him that real hugs is better'n all the bunny hugs in the world, and you'll find you won't be lonesome.'

"And she did, John; at least I took 'em home, and they held hands all the way there, though they didn't know I saw 'em."

"Well, Drusilla, you did have a nice time after all. I suppose you'll be going out every night now."

"John, you got more hair then sense. I'm glad I haven't died before I seen this dinner dancin'; but it's like them spoiled fish sandwiches-one taste's enough."

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