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   Chapter 16 No.16

Drusilla with a Million By Elizabeth Cooper Characters: 13674

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


"John," Drusilla's hand carefully opened the door and Drusilla's head peered warily into the opening, "Are you alone? Has he gone?" She looked around the room. "Yes, he's gone. I'll come in." She closed the door behind her and came to her favorite seat before the fire.

"John, I didn't adopt the Reverend Algernon Thompson, did I?"

"Why, no, Drusilla; I don't think you adopted him. Why?"

"Well," breathing a sigh of relief, "I'm glad to hear you say it. I didn't know but that night when I was so relieved and so scared about puttin' him in jail, that I hadn't said more'n I meant. I know I asked him to come and stop here whenever he come to New York, but I didn't mean to live here. I don't see how his church gits along without him so much."

"What's the matter with the Reverend Algernon, Drusilla? I like him. His knowledge of chivalry is-"

"Yes, I know you two pore over them old books and study them tin men, and he seems to be a great comfort to you. But he ain't no comfort to me, John. I guess I'm gittin' old and finicky. I jest can't put my finger on the spot that riles me, but that man riles me. He's always so good and so sort of angelic, and I don't like people who are too good. A man without a few failin's is like underclothes without trimmin', useful but uninterestin', and-and-then, John, he's one of them fussy little men who's always puffin' around and never doin' nothin' worth while, just like a little engine in a switchyard that snorts and puffs and makes a lot of noise pullin' a dump-wagon. And-then, sometimes, I wonder about his religion, he's so narrer, he's got lots of religion but not so much Christianity. He kind of thinks that Heaven's goin' to be made up of him and a few Presbyterians, mainly from his congregation. He kind of seems to think that Heaven's going to be a special place for him where he'll strut around the only rooster and his flock'll foller after singin' praises to him instead of to the Almighty."

"Why, Drusilla, I thought you said when he was so interested in those children of his parish that he ought to be a very good man."

"So he ought to be a good man, and a man's legs ought to reach from his body to the ground but sometimes he has one short leg that don't quite tech. Now the Reverend wasn't interested so much in takin' care of them children as he was in showin' how he could raise money. I remember when I was in the Ladies' Aid of the Presbyterian Church and we made clothes for the heathen, we wasn't so much interested in clothing the heathen as we was that we had a bigger box at the end of the year than the Baptists had. Just as when some of these societies git to raisin' money for the poor or for some new buildin' or something, and they divide their 'raisers' up in bands, the people who ask you for subscriptions fergit what it is for in their hurry to show that they raised more'n some other band."

"I'm afraid, Drusilla, that Mr. Thompson has got on to your nerves."

"I ain't got no nerves, John. I leave that for women with husbands to work 'em off on. I don't know what it is with this preacher. He's a good man accordin' to his lights, but he makes me fidgety a rumblin' away about his work and his creeds and things like a volcano that don't never blow up. I wish he'd let off a little steam once in a while, or spit out a few rocks and stones jest to liven up things a bit."

"I'll admit he is a little bit self-centered."

"What's that? Oh, you mean he's got ingrowin' feelings. Yes, everythin' that he has to do with is big. Why, John, he's the kind of a man that'd entertain his wife by talkin' about his corns, and think it interestin' because they was his'n."

John laughed.

"Perhaps if he was married and had a wife to tell him a few things-"

"John-John!" Drusilla sat up very suddenly in her chair. "Why didn't I think of her before?"

"Think of whom, Drusilla? I thought we were talking about the Reverend Algernon, and he's a he."

"Sarah Lee."

"Sarah Lee? I don't follow you, Drusilla."

"John, some men are ugly, most men are conceited, and all men are thick-headed, and you're a man. Think of what a wife she'd make him!"

"Why, Drusilla!" John looked a little dazed. "I thought-I thought you didn't care especially for Sarah Lee. I heard you, if I remember rightly-"

"Never mind, John. Your memory's too long to be convenient. Never mind what I said-I take it all back. She's jest the wife for him. They jest fit together. They ain't neither one of 'em got a sense of humor. She's the kind of a woman who'd tell him a funny story when he's shavin', and he's the kind of a man that'd ask her where she put his clean shirt when she was doin' up her back hair with her mouth full of pins. It'd be too bad to spile two good families with 'em."

"But, Drusilla, they're neither one of them thinking about getting married. Perhaps they don't want to."

"Shows how little you know about human natur', John, especially woman human natur'. Sarah Lee'd jump at the chance. She'd been settin' in the station for a long time waitin' for the express to pick her up; now she'd be willin' to take a slow freight."

"Well, she might do worse. He's likely and healthy-"

"Humph-so's an onion. But he's a good man, John, and I trust Sarah to make him over into anything she wants. She's a managin' woman."

"But-but, Drusilla, I don't think he wants to get married, even if she does."

"Of course he don't. No man does; they have to be led up to it."

"Well, I don't know about this. He might not want Sarah. He looks to me like a man who knows his own mind."

"He ain't got a wide acquaintance if it's all he knows. But I mustn't be mean. 'Cause I couldn't live with him ain't no reason that a lot of women couldn't stand him. He's been a batch too long and always had his own way, and he's been a preacher where he could talk to people and they dassent talk back, but Sarah'd change all that, and make him real human before a year was past. I'm glad you thought of it, John."

John looked up, surprised.

"Me? Drusilla! It never entered my head."

"Didn't it? Well, you ought to 'a' thought of it before, and it'd all be done now. Here we've wasted all these months, and I've been pestered to death with 'em both. She's done more tattin' settin' in my sun parlor than'd trim all the petticoats in Brookvale. But, John, her heart is good and is kind of thawin' about the babies. I seen her a-givin' yards o' that stuff to Mary Allen the other day to trim her baby's dresses; and when little Isaac got most run over she got as white as a sheet and we both cried over him together, which kind of brought us closer. And if she marries Algernon, they'll have babies and she'll jest blossom right out."

"You seem to be planning rather far ahead, aren't you?"

"No one has to be a

prophet to say a preacher'll have babies. That's ginerally about all they do have."

"It's your business, Drusilla; but I can't understand why you want these two very worthy people to marry-"

"Can't you see through a fence-post, John? If Sarah marries the Reverend Algernon, she'll have to move to Adams, and she'll keep him hoppin' around so fast that he won't git time to come visitin' me so often."

"Oh, you are killing two birds with one stone!"

"Say it any way you want to, but they was made for each other, and I want to see Sarah married with a growin' family on her hands and then she won't have so much time to think and talk about her neighbors. She does it jest because she ain't got nothin' else to do; but if she has to watch Johnny through the measles, and Lizzie through the mumps, and see that Willie's stockings is patched, she won't have time to tatt or tattle, and it'll make her a real woman, instead of jest an old maid. Is he comin' back tonight?"

"No; he has gone to his room."

"Well, I didn't know I'd ever be sorry not to see Algernon, but I'd like to begin on him tonight when it's fresh in my mind, and I could put spirit in my work. What you goin' to do with him to-morrow?"

"We are goin' to go over again those last books on chivalry that I bought-"

"Now, you leave them old books go, and when you git him alongside of one of them iron men, that must 'a' had a derrick to heave him on his horse, come down to earth and talk about women. Point out that that man must 'a' had a wife to buckle all his straps, or somethin' like that, and then tell him how all men ought to be married. Show how you're a shinin' example of how a man looks that ain't had a wife to see that he don't spill egg on his shirt bosom or make him change his underclothes Saturday night. Flatter him. Tell him he is a big, strong man-all little men like that-but tell him that no matter how strong a man is he ain't strong enough to put the studs in his own shirt-and so lead up to Sarah. You can do it, John, if you go about it right. Git him interested, and I'll take care of Sarah."

"But it's a great risk, Drusilla. They might be so happy that they'd always be grateful and both want to come and visit you."

Drusilla raised her hands and then dropped them in despair.

"The Lord forbid, John."

"Don't you want them to be happy, Drusilla? If you don't think they would be, you hadn't better meddle in it."

"Certainly, they'll be happy. Sarah's a good woman. Her milk of human kindness is a leetle bit curdled now and sets hard on her stomach, but marriage'll be the soda that'll clear it all up. And her husband won't have to put a tin mask on her face to keep from bein' jealous, and she won't need to fear his gettin' in temptation, 'cause she won't let him come to the city alone long enough to git real busy huntin' it up. Sarah's jest the wife for a parsonage. She's turnin' more and more to religion and preachers as she gits older, like a lot of women do when they find they're not excitin' enough to interest the other kind. Now, John, be careful what you say. A man is like a kitten-try to catch him and he'll run. Don't fling Sarah at his head-it'd be like flingin' a bone at a cat; jest chase him away instead of drawin' him to her. Now I'm goin' to telephone her and ask her to come over to-morrow, and I'll prepare the way. And you, John," and Drusilla rose and shook her finger at him, "now you be careful what you say, but say it."

The plan worked even better than Drusilla had hoped. Under Miss Lee's very evident admiration, the Reverend Algernon seemed to grow at least three inches in height, and his rather prosy compliments did not fall upon too critical nor blase' ears. Sarah blushed and fluttered and stammered as would any young girl with her first sweetheart. She even grew pretty; took to arranging her hair in a more becoming style and was particular about her dress. One morning she came over with a fluffy little gown that certainly took ten years from her age, and Drusilla looked at her in amazement. She confided to John: "I've heard that women had an Indian Summer but Sarah's surely having her early spring. And, John, I always thought that courtin' was like cookin'-you had to learn by experience; but them two seem to take to it natural. It's makin' Sarah over, I tell you. Why, I even heard her say that she thought Bessie Grey was pretty, and she used to say about any girl that was so pretty that a blind man'd have to admit it, 'Yes, she's pretty, but it is the kind that'll fade early.' Why, she ain't shot a poison arrow at nobody's good luck sense they met."

"You seem to give them chance enough to see each other."

"Yes; I want them to find out each other's beauties. I set up nights tryin' to find errands to send 'em together down town in the motor. Take a man and a woman and put 'em close together, in a rich, soft motor car, with nice cushions to lean against and a chauffeur who can't hear 'em, and something is hound to happen if they're human beings. And I git her to serve tea under the trees and let him see what a nice housewife she'd make, and how she'd show off to his women in the church. Do you notice she don't talk so much? jest sets quiet and smiles, which is wise of her, as she looks best that way. Why, she used to be like an electric fan buzzing away all day and fannin' up nothin' but hot air. John, I feel I'm doin' some good in the world. If I keep on, it'll be a temptation to die just to read the epigraphs my friends'll write of me. But I ain't goin' to die fer a while; I'm goin' to set right down and go over them invitations we sent for the people who's comin' next week for my birthday. Dr. Eaton and me went over the house; it's all ready, and the children and the mothers'll move in on Monday."

Drusilla was silent for a few moments. Then she reached over and took John's hand in her own.

"John, Wednesday I am seventy-two years old. And it's more'n fifty years sense you and me went walkin' down the lane together first. And you're here now beside me. You can always find some one to share your money and your joys, but you can't ask everybody to share your sorrows and your troubles; and it makes me feel a sort of peace and quiet to know that you'll always be near me, and if things that I've planned don't come out right, that I kin come to you and talk it over and you'll understand. Lots of people when they hear what I'm goin' to do will say that I'm an old fool, that I'm impractical, and lots of things that'd maybe hurt, if I didn't have some one to go to and talk it over with who I know won't be critical but will see down beneath it all what I'm try in' to do, and who'll understand. That's what love is, John, for people who grow old-just a great, great friendship, and-an understandin'."

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