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   Chapter 14 No.14

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 16379

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


The next morning Drusilla was at breakfast when she heard the chug-chug of a motor. Mrs. Carrington's card was brought in; but before she could say to William that she would see her visitor, the happy laughing face of Mrs. Carrington looked in at the door.

"May I come in? I am sure you will see me."

Drusilla rose with a smile on her sweet old face, and extended her hand.

"Yes, do. You're just in time to have a cup of good coffee with me."

"Am I so early? I motored down with Robert this morning and felt that I must stop and see you on the way home."

"No, you're not early at all; but I'm gettin' lazy in my old age. I git up early in the mornin' and have some coffee and then go and see all my babies. I like to see 'em git their bath, and then I help dress 'em. Then I come back and have my real breakfast. Now, you set right there, so's the sun'll shine on you, and William'll git another cup and plate."

"But I have had my breakfast."

"Pshaw, one can always drink coffee in the mornin'. And you've been clear down town."

Mrs. Carrington settled herself comfortably in her chair, threw back her coat, and smiled across at Drusilla.

"Yes, I've taken Robert down town the first time for more than a year. Oh, it seemed just like old times to take him to his office again."

Drusilla looked at her smilingly.

"Well, it seems to have made you pert-lookin' this mornin'. Your face is a-shinin'. Do you take one lump or two? Cream? Is that the right color? I'm particular about the color of my coffee."

"Yes, that's just right. It smells delicious," said Mrs. Carrington, taking the cup. "No, I won't have anything to eat. Well-I don't know whether I can resist those hot rolls. Just a half of one, then. Is that honey? I ought not to eat sweets-I know my fate if I do; but I can't resist hot rolls and honey."

She was quiet for a few moments. Then she looked up at Drusilla and said, half hesitatingly, "I presume you are wondering why I have come to make this early morning visit, Miss Doane?"

"No; I ain't wonderin' at all. I'm just glad you come."

"Well," and Mrs. Carrington laughed happily, "I'm so happy I just had to talk to some one. You know I have not been to see you before, because I expected to go to France next month for-for a-for rather an extended trip. And I thought there was no use in calling when I was going away so soon."

"Yes; I heard you was goin' away," Drusilla said.

Mrs. Carrington looked up quickly.

"Oh, did you? I didn't know that people knew it. Who told you?"

"The circulatin' family story-paper," laughed Drusilla, "Miss Lee."

Mrs. Carrington frowned for a moment; then she laughed.

"Oh, well, if Sarah knows it, it is no secret in Brookvale. But I am not going away, so her story will have to be revised. What else did she say, Miss Doane?"

"Well-I jest can't remember all she said-but-you said jest now you was happy. Miss Lee'll lose all interest in you now. There's nothin' so uninteresting to old maids as their married friends when they're happy."

"I might just as well tell you myself, and it's all past now and I can talk without breaking my heart. Did Sarah tell you that we lost our little boy about a year ago?"

"Yes; she told me, and I'm sorry for you. It must be a sad thing to lose a baby."

"It nearly killed me, and-and-I began to think about myself too much-I can see that now. I began to feel that Robert did not understand me, that he did not miss our boy nor care as much as I did-that he was hard and occupied himself too much with business and neglected me-and-and-"

"I understand," said Drusilla. "You didn't know that to a man work is the whole dinner, and love the pie that he has to finish it off and make the dinner perfect for him. Perhaps you didn't understand him no more than he did you?"

"Perhaps that's so, but he didn't seem to share my trouble-"

"Now, my dear," said Drusilla, reaching over and softly touching the pretty hand that was lying on the arm of the chair, "it ain't so much the troubles and sorrows they share, but the bridge parties and dances that they don't share that makes most of the troubles between husbands and wives."

"Yes; perhaps that's so. I did get to caring too much for dancing and society, and went out too much without Robert. I was bored-"

"That's the kind of tired feelin' women git who ain't got nothin' to do."

"Oh, but I have had a great deal to do. I belong to a great many clubs and take an active interest in charities, and go to so many committee meetings-they can't say that I have had nothing to do."

"But that ain't the right kind of doin'. Let people like Sarah Lee sew shirts for the heathen and go to the clubs; and as for charity, I seen a lot of charity done by women who go to church and then turn their hired girls out of doors if they git in trouble. That ain't what you want, women with husbands and babies-"

"But I have no baby-"

"But you got a husband. Have babies, just swathes of 'em. You can afford 'em. It's women like you that ought to have big families. Don't your husband like babies?"

"Yes, he adores them, but-"

"Of course he does! Ain't he a man? Men just love babies when they're their own. It feeds their vanity to show the world how they're improvin' the human race. Now look here, Mis' Carrington, let an old woman talk. I'm old and I got wrinkles in my face but there ain't none in my heart, and the only way to keep 'em out of your heart is just to fill it to bustin' with love. Keep the skin tight; don't let it git slack. Why, you'll find you been goin' without love and it's like eatin' without an appetite. It's fillin' your life with somethin' that don't satisfy. Even if you feel you ain't got the best man in the world, make the best of the one you got, and, just 'cause he's yourn, you'll believe after a while you drew the only sweet orange in the grove and all the rest was sour. We all know that marriage is like the weather, mighty uncertain, but that ain't no reason for you to live in the cyclone cellar expecting the tornado to come. Set in the sun parlor and you'll git more enjoyment."

"But-"

"Now, let me talk. I like to talk, and when I git on the subject of love, though I ain't had much of it in my life except what I give myself, I know what it is, and I learnt that you mustn't pick it to pieces, any mor'n you'd pick that rose beside you to pieces and expect to have it keep its color and its smell. If you do that there ain't nothin' left in your hands but dead leaves. And, dear, don't look at it through a microscope; it'll make the little things look too big. Quarrel once in a while if you must, but don't criticize his kind of love. A person's love is his own kind, same as his nose-"

"Oh, we never quarrel. Robert is a perfect gentleman."

"Now that's too bad. Perhaps if he wasn't such a gentleman, instead of goin' to his club when he was mad, he'd turn in and you'd have a real old-fashioned row, just like common people, and when the storm was passed you'd have a chance to kiss and make up. Don't be too much of a lady, just be human and act like people, and things'll come out better. It's these awful polite people who grate on one, especially when you're mad!"

"I know I am not a good wife-I wish I were better-but my temperament-"

"Don't say it! I can't abide that word. It's only rich women who have temperament; in poor women it's just a nasty disposition. But, my dear, you are good enough. Don't try to be an angel-you'd bore your Robert to death. He'd rather see you with a pretty hat than a halo any day; and I know your kind, Mis' Carrington. You'll go into fits and have to be put to bed if your dress don't fit, but if your Robert lost his money, you'd give him your diamonds to sell so's to start him again-and I'm sure he knows it too."

Mrs. Carrington was quiet for a few moments. Then she looked up with the tears glistening on her pretty lashes.

"Oh, Miss Doane, you do make me feel that we are going to be happy. I am going to understand Robert better and he will understand me-"

"Don't worry about him understanding you. Don't think about your inside feelin's; j

ust talk it all out with him. If he don't understand what you're thinkin', shake him and tell him he is stupid, and he'll laugh and you'll laugh-and then you'll kiss each other-and then, where are you?"

Mrs. Carrington again was quiet. Drusilla watched her for a moment; then she rose and came over to her chair and, bending down, put her arms around the young shoulders.

"Dear, jest do this-so fill your heart with sweetness that there won't be room for the memory of any wrong."

Mrs. Carrington reached up her hands and drew the kindly old face to hers and kissed the lips; and the tears that had been in her eyes rolled unheeded down her cheeks.

"Oh, Miss Doane, you are so good! I love you. We are going to begin all over again."

"That's right, dear. Go to lookin' for the lost heart's desire and if you look in the right place you'll find it."

As Drusilla was standing by the chair James entered, and, seeing Mrs. Carrington, started to leave the room. Drusilla turned.

"What is it, James?"

"It's no moment now, Miss Doane, the matter can wait."

"Well, but what is it? Does some one want to see me?"

"Yes; the laundry man. I took the liberty of telling him that you might see him-"

"Is he in trouble, James?"

"Yes," hesitatingly; "and as I have known him for a great many years and know he is pretty straight and honest, I-as I said, ma'am-took the liberty of telling him you might see him, as you are so kind to so many that come here for help."

"Ssh-ssh-James; you mustn't talk about it. Tell him to come up."

Mrs. Carrington rose to go.

"No, don't go," begged Drusilla. "You know," looking around the room, "I'm just like a girl that's afraid of gettin' found out. I see a lot of people that I don't let Mr. Thornton know about. He tried to keep me from seein' any one who comes here in trouble, but I get around him. I see every one who comes. James has his orders from Mr. Thornton to keep 'em out, and he has his orders from me to let 'em in, and he's more afeered of me than he is of Mr. Thornton."

"But, my dear Miss Doane, I should think you would be worried to death."

"No, it keeps me alive. I got a chance to hear people's troubles and understand what they're fighting against, and I'm seein' life and gettin' a chance to help people in my own way."

"But don't they impose upon you? Aren't lots of the people dishonest?"

"Well, I don't do nothin' sudden. I hear 'em talk and then I git Dr. Eaton to find out if it's true; and he's a clever young man, Mis' Carrington-they're pretty sharp to git around him. We call it the Doane Eaton Associated Charities. But"-laughing-"I'm awful selfish in it. I like people, and I like to be in their lives, and if I done what Mr. Thornton wanted me to do, I'd set here and die of dry rot."

James entered then, followed by a little man who bowed awkwardly to Miss Doane.

"This is Mr. Henderson, Miss Doane," James said.

Drusilla looked at him critically.

"Set down, Mr. Henderson. James tells me that you are in trouble."

"Yes, Miss Doane. I hardly know which way to turn. Mr. Hawkins told me you might be good enough to help me."

"What is it you want? You are the laundry man, ain't you?"

"Yes; I have done the outside work for the place here for twelve years, and"-turning to Mrs. Carrington-"I think Mrs. Carrington will remember me. I work for her and worked for her mother before her."

"Certainly I know you, Mr. Henderson," said Mrs. Carrington. "I remember I used to coax you for a ride in your wagon when I was a little girl."

The man smiled.

"Yes, I've given all the children in Brookvale a ride some time or other."

"Now that we know who you are," said Drusilla, "jest tell me what the trouble is."

"It's this way, Miss Doane. The last year business has been bad and I have had to buy new machinery, and I put a mortgage on the place to pay for the machines, and then my wife was sick for most eight months and the doctor's bills and the nurses eat up all my ready money, and I find I'm in a corner and can't pay the interest on the mortgage, and can't get good help, because I can't pay the wages. I'm afraid I will lose my business."

"Is it a good business?"

"Yes. It's always been able to give me a good livin', nothin' more, but it's all I got, and I don't know nothin' else to do. If I lose it I'll have to go into some one else's laundry, and it's hard after fifteen years-" He looked down with a catch in his voice.

"How much will it take to put you on your feet?"

"If I could get eight hundred dollars it would pay up the debts that's pressin' me and would give me a start."

"Can't you borrow at the bank?"

"No, because I've no security. The place is mortgaged all it can stand."

"Well, now you give your name and address to James, and I'll talk it over with Dr. Eaton, and we'll see what can be done. You understand we ain't givin' you the money, even if we find out you're all right. We'll lend to you, and Dr. Eaton asks interest the same as at the bank, but we take your word for security. You understand, we're a lending on your reputation, and what you stand for in your community."

"I understand, ma'am, and I'm willin' to stand on my reputation in the neighborhood."

"Well," as he rose to go, "Dr. Eaton'll come and talk it over with you, and we'll see. How's your wife now?"

"She is much better."

"Is she in bed?"

"Yes; she only sets up a couple of hours a day."

"Pshaw, that's too bad! Wait till I see James."

She rang the bell and James appeared.

"James, fix a basket of things to eat and send it home with Mr. Henderson. Perhaps a change of cookin'll make her eat better. A sick person gits awful tired of the same kind of vittles."

When the man left with a new look of hope on his face Drusilla turned to Mrs. Carrington.

"Now, Mis' Carrington, them's the kind of people that need help. You ain't no idee how many men in this city have got little businesses that's jest makin' them a livin' but nothin' over for a rainy day, and when the day comes they've nothin' to fall back on. And if they could tide themselves over the bad times, whether it's sickness or bad business, they'd be all right. That's just like the truck gardener down on the Fulham Lane. Ain't you seen his place? The hail broke all his glass cases, and he couldn't buy new and he most lost his little place, and if he hadn't 'a' been helped he'd 'a' had to git out."

"Did you help him?"

Drusilla looked rather shamefaced.

"Now, don't you whisper it to a soul. I'm so feered that Mr. Thornton'll find it out that I'm scared to hear a door slam for fear he's heard somethin' and comin' to talk to me. I didn't do nothin' for him as he knows on, but Dr. Eaton went his security at the bank so's he could borrow, and he'll be able to pay back in a couple of years."

Mrs. Carrington laughed.

"Oh, you are a dear!" she exclaimed.

"No, that's jest what I can't make Dr. Eaton see either, that I'm selfish in it all. I like to talk to people, I like to know about 'em. I've always set outside the fence before and peeked into the ball game, now I kin set in the front row and sometimes catch a ball that comes my way. You know, Mis' Carrington, I set up nights wonderin' how I kin leave my million dollars so's it'll do some good and not be fooled away. I pester Dr. Eaton to death to find a way, and he thinks he's got some kind of a poor man's bank figgered out. He's brought up some men and we've talked ourselves hoarse trying to figger out a charity that ain't a charity. By the way, what is your husband?"

"He is a banker."

"Now, that's jest the thing. Bring him over some night and we'll git 'em all together and have a real talk about it all. Tell him what I'm tryin' to do. No-I'll send Dr. Eaton to talk with him. I like your husband, Mis' Carrington. A man that can hold a sick baby so tender in a pan of hot water has got heart; and what we want in this is heart as well as brains and money."

Mrs. Carrington rose to go.

"I'm glad I came to you this morning, and I'm glad you like my husband, because, Miss Doane-let me whisper it to you-I believe I do too!"

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