DRUSILLA WITH A MILLION
By ELIZABETH COOPER
DRUSILLA WITH A MILLION
"Drusilla Doane, O Drusilla Doane!" came waveringly around the corner; and the quavering voice was followed by a little old woman who peered at the line of old ladies sitting in the sun. "Is Drusilla Doane here?" she inquired, darting quick birdlike glances from her old eyes at the curious faces that looked up at her approach.
A little white-haired woman stopped the darning of the tablecloth in her hands and looked up expectantly.
"Yes, I'm here, Barbara. What do you want of me?"
"There's two men in the parlor to see you, an' Mis' Smith told me to tell you to hurry. I been lookin' for you everywhere."
Drusilla Doane let the cloth fall into her lap, and all the other women stopped their work to stare at the announcer of such wonderful news.
"To see me, are you sure?"
"Yes, they asked to see Miss Drusilla Doane. You're the only one of that name here, ain't you?"
Drusilla folded her work and placed it in the basket of linen by the side of her chair.
"Yes, I guess it must mean me," she said, and rose to go.
As she passed around the house all the old ladies moved as if by a common impulse.
"Come right here, Barbara Field, and tell us all about it. Who are the men?"
"What did they look like?" questioned another.
"Take this chair and tell us all about it," said Miss Harris, the youngest of the ladies; and a place was made in their midst and the line closed around her.
"Put your teeth in, so's we can understand you."
Barbara groped around in the pocket of her apron; then, holding the end of the apron up to her face, adroitly slipped her teeth into her mouth, and sat down to become for once the center of interest to her little world.
"Now tell us all about it—what you waiting for?" said one of the ladies impatiently.
"What'll I tell?" said Barbara. "I was passin' by the door and Mis' Smith called me in and said, 'Barbara, will you find Drusilla Doane and send her here? Tell her that there are two gentlemen who wish to see her.'"
"Two men—two men to see Drusilla Doane!" cackled one old lady. "She ain't never had one to call to see her before, as I knows on."
"No," chimed in another. "She's been here five years and there ain't a livin' soul before asked to see Drusilla Doane. What'd they look like, Barbara?"
"One was tall and thin and sour-lookin'—looked like a director of a institution; and the other was short and fat and pussy and was dressed real elegant. One had a silk hat and he wore one gray glove and carried another in his hand with a cane. That was the skinny one. The pussy one wore a gray vest—that's all I had time to see—and his eyes kind o' twinkled at me."
"Did you hear what they wanted Drusilla for?"
"No, I didn't hear nothin'."
"You mean you didn't hear anything, Barbara," interrupted a querulous, refined voice. "Your grammar is dreadful!"
"I don't mean no such thing. I mean I didn't hear nothin' and nothin' it is." And Barbara's meek, faded old eyes glared at the little old lady in the corner, if meek, faded blue eyes could glare.
"Never mind her grammar, Lodema Ann. Why didn't you hear what they said? What was you doin' in the hall if you wasn't listenin'?"
"I told you I was just passin' through and Mis' Smith called me in."
"Don't you know nothin' about it—nothin'!"
"Nothin'. I've told you all I know. Can I take my teeth out now?"
"No, Barbara; keep your teeth in till we've finished with you. A person can't understand a word you say with your teeth out, you gum your words so."
"But they hurt me; they don't fit. I ain't had a new pair for twenty years and my jaws've shrunk."
"Well, keep 'em in fer a while. They won't shrink any more fer a minit. Did they look like relations?"
"Relations!" said a big, placid-looking woman who was knitting quietly. "Drusilla ain't got no relations. She ain't never had none."
"She must have had some at one time. Everybody has relations— although some people I know, had rather be without them than recognize the kind they got." The sour voiced old lady directed her tones toward the seat next to her.
"If you're a meanin' me, Caroline, I want to tell you my relations is just as good as your'n, though we don't throw 'em down everybody's throat as some folks I know."
"No," said another; "Drusilla has no family; she told me so herself. One day I was telling her about my family, about my father who was so well known in the State, and my brother who became the great—"
"Now don't begin on your family, Maria. We know all about it. We ain't heard nothin' else fer the last three years. It's a good thing that some of the women in this home has something else to talk about except the greatness of their family, or we'd all be dead."
The little old lady twisted her ball of yarn viciously, causing it to roll upon the floor, and when she had stiffly followed it and picked it from the corner her face was very red, either from the exertion of stooping or from the insult she felt she had received.
"You're jealous—that's what's the matter with you! People who've no folks are always jealous of them who's had 'em; but old age has its liberties, I suppose, and we must pardon a great deal on account of it."
"Are you speakin' of me, I'd like to know? I ain't but four years older'n you. I'm only seventy-nine and you was seventy-five last May, though you didn't want us to know it was your birthday. But I seen the date in the book some one sent you, and you can't deny it."
"Never mind," broke in the placid-looking lady again, trying to pour oil on the troubled waters; "don't fight. Barbara, did they look rich? Put your teeth in again—why can't you leave 'em alone! Teeth are fer your mouth and not fer your pocket. You do beat me and rile me dreadfully, Barbara."
"I tell you they hurt," whimpered Barbara. "I can't even enjoy the sun with my teeth in."
"Never mind. Did they?"
"Did they what?"
"Did they look rich?"
"Oh, awful. I told you they looked like directors."
"Perhaps Drusilla has friends she ain't told us about."
"No, she ain't. She told me one day she didn't have a friend or a relation in the world, and if she'd a had 'em they'd a been to see her."
"Oh, I don't know. That ain't no sign. Your friends ferget you when you're in an old ladies' home," said a voice bitterly.
"Well, I wonder who it can be! I wish she'd hurry, so's we could ask her."
"Poor Drusilla!" said a sweet-voiced little woman. "I hope some one's found her. It's awful to have no one in all the world."
"How long's Drusilla been here?"
"Let me see"—and an old lady put down her sewing. "I been here seven years, I was here not quite two years when Drusilla come. She's been the linen woman ever since."
"Yes," said a woman who showed signs of having seen better days. Her clothes still had a look of by-gone elegance and her wrinkled hands were still dainty and beautifully kept. "Drusilla's our only charity inmate."
The stout old lady in the corner emitted a sound between a snort and a groan.
"Charity inmate! What are we all but charity inmates!"
The first old lady drew herself up stiffly.
"You may speak for yourself, Mis' Graham, but I am no charity inmate."
"You're just as much of one as I am."
"What do you mean? I pay each year a hundred and twenty dollars, and I paid when I entered an entrance fee of a hundred dollars."
"So'd we all; but still this is an old ladies' charitable home."
"Mis' Graham, how can you say such things!" spoke up a voice that had not been heard before. "I consider that we pay our way; and my grand-nephew who was here last week considers it ample!"
"Oh, so do most of our relations who'd rather pay our way in a home than be bothered with us around."
"You may speak for yourself, Mis' Graham. I pay my way myself."
"Yes, you was a dressmaker or something and saved a little money. Well, I never worked for my livin'. It wasn't considered ladylike in my day."
"Huh! You're trying to say I'm no lady. Well, I consider that if I'm no lady and worked fer my livin', I didn't sponge off my relations and don't now."
"Cat!" hissed Mrs. Graham, and sat back trying to think of some suitable answer.
"But don't Drusilla pay nothin' at all?" queried another woman.
"Not a cent. I tell you, she's charity. She's a sort of servant. Ain't you seen the way Mis' Smith treats her and orders her around? She takes care of the linen to pay her way and does odd jobs fer Mis' Smith and the family."
"How did she get in if she didn't have no money at all?"
"She's a Doane, and this home was give by a Doane most sixty years ago. And the Committee felt they couldn't let Drusilla die in the poor house because of her name. It might reflect on the home, and they'd lose some subscriptions. So they took her in."
"What'd she do before she was took in?"
"She sewed for folks and nursed and done odd jobs for the people in the village. Everything she could git to do, I guess. And then she got old and folks wanted stylisher dresses, and she wa'n't strong enough to nurse much, so she had to be took in somewhere. First they thought of sending her to the county house, and then as I told you they was afraid it would look bad to have the Doane home for old ladies right here and a Doane in the county house, so she was brought here. It most broke her heart, but they've worked her well. She's paid fer her keep and more, which is more than many I know of, what with their appetite."
"You're talkin' at me now, Frances Smith, don't you make no remarks about my appetite. I'm not strong and must eat well to keep up."
"Humph, it makes you feeble to carry round. I don't know what would happen to you if you had a chance to set down once to a square meal of vittles. I guess you'd bust."
"I want you to understand, Mis' Frances Smith, that I've et better vittles than you've ever seen. When I had my home my table was the talk of the countryside."
"Yes, and if you hadn't et up everything, perhaps you wouldn't now be where you are, havin' beans on Monday and cabbage on Tuesday and soup on Wednesday and—"
The wrangling went on amongst these old derelicts sitting on the sunny side of the Doane home for old ladies. Their lives were filled with little jealousies and quarrels over petty details. They lived in the past and exalted it until they themselves had grown to believe that they had always trodden flowery pathways, until by some unfortunate chance, for which they were not to be blamed, these paths had led them, when old age and helplessness came upon them, into this home for the poor and lonely.
* * * * *
Drusilla slowly made her way to the parlor, which she entered with the wondering, surprised look still on her face—surprised that any one should ask for her, and wondering who it could be.
Two gentlemen rose as she entered, and Mrs. Smith, the Director of the home, said:
"This is Drusilla Doane. Drusilla, this is Mr. Thornton and Mr. Gale, who wish to speak with you."
They bowed over Miss Drusilla's hand, which was falteringly extended.
"We are very glad to meet you, Miss Doane. Won't you please sit down, as our business will take quite a little time to transact." Turning to Mrs. Smith: "May we speak with her alone?"
Mrs. Smith plainly showed that she shared in the curiosity of her charges in regard to the meaning of the visit to Drusilla, but she rose from her place and said:
"Oh, of course I will leave if you must see her alone."
"Thank you," said the taller of the men dryly. "Our business is with Miss Doane."
He accompanied Mrs. Smith politely to the door and closed it, then, returning, drew a chair near to Drusilla.
"We are the bearer of news to you, Miss Doane."
Drusilla clasped her hands a little tighter.
"Has anything happened?" she said. "But nothing could happen that would matter to me, unless—" a panic stricken look came into her old eyes "unless—the Committee hain't decided that I can't live here, has it? They ain't goin' to send me to the county house, be they? I work real well, Mr. Thornton; I work as hard as I can. I'm sure I pay fer my keep."
The tall man cleared his throat and said stiffly: "No, Miss Doane, we are the bearer of good news."
The short fat man bent over and impulsively patted the hands that were so tightly clenched in her lap.
"No, Miss Doane, you don't need to worry about the county house. You're not going to it yet."
Drusilla drew a deep breath of relief, and the frightened look died from her eyes. She leaned back in her chair.
"Then I don't know what you've got to tell me. It can't be that some one I know is dead, because all of my friends died long ago."
Mr. Gale said, "Tell her, so she'll understand. You're worrying the poor soul."
Mr. Thornton took a legal looking document from his pocket and a letter.
"Miss Doane," he said, "did you ever hear of Elias Doane?"
"Elias Doane? No, I don't believe I ever did."
"Well, he was a distant relation of yours; another branch of the family. He thought he was the last one of the Doane name, as he never married. A few weeks before his death, hearing about this home he sent me up here to learn the particulars regarding it, and I found you here. I reported that there was an inmate by the name of Doane still living, and we investigated and found that you belonged to the family that we thought was represented by only one man, the late Elias Doane."
"He's dead, then. Was he a relation of mine, did you say?"
"Yes, very distantly related."
"Well, I'm glad I've had some relations, even if I didn't know it."
"Now, we will come to the business, Miss Doane. Our client, the late Elias Doane, was a very wealthy man, very wealthy indeed. His estate amounts to many millions, and he has left a very curious will."
The lawyer opened a paper in his hand and commenced to read, but Mr. Gale interrupted.
"Don't bother her with the will, Robert; she won't understand. Tell her about it and give her the letter."
"Perhaps that is better, as the legal terms might be confusing. The gist of the matter is this, Miss Doane. Our client, the late Elias Doane, left the bulk of his money to the many charities in which he is interested, but he left you his home at Brookvale, near New York City, to be kept up fittingly out of the estate, and he gave you outright, to use as you may see fit, one million dollars."
Drusilla stared at him. Then her faded old face turned as white as the soft hair above it, and without a word she fell forward. For the first time in her life Drusilla Doane had fainted.
Mr. Thornton caught her in his arms and Mr. Gale sprang for the bell. Water and restoratives were brought, and within a few moments Drusilla opened her eyes—and soon she remembered. She brushed back her disarranged hair and laughed a soft, sweet little laugh.
"Well, I'm beginnin' well. All real ladies in story books faint when they hear good news."
When she was again seated in her chair and curious Mrs. Smith had been politely expelled from the room, Mr. Thornton cleared his throat and was again the precise man of business.
"As I was saying, Miss Doane, when you interrupted me, our late client, Mr. Elias Doane, left this very remarkable will and also a letter which we were to deliver to you." He handed her the letter.
Drusilla looked at it a moment as she held it in her hand. She seemed unwilling to break its seal. But the watching men opposite her caused her at last carefully, if not a little tremblingly, to tear the covering which was to reveal to her the wishes of a man, who evidently had thought of her and her happiness in his last hours. She unfolded the two pages covered with scrawling handwriting, but her faded eyes could make nothing of the strange hieroglyphics traced upon them, and she handed the letter to Mr. Thornton, saying:
"I guess it can't be nothin' private. You read it; I left my glasses in my work-basket."
Mr. Thornton adjusted his pince-nez and read:
MY DEAR DRUSILLA:
You will allow me to call you that, as it is the first and will be the last time that I will so address you; consequently you will pardon the seeming undue familiarity.
I first want to say that I regret that I did not know of your existence earlier, when perhaps I could have made life easier for you —although quite likely I would have added to its perplexities. We are the last of a good family: you, Drusilla Doane, an inmate of a charitable institution, and I, Elias Doane, millionaire, philanthropist, and rare old humbug. You have passed your life in toil, trying to earn your daily bread, and have found yourself nearing the end of this footless journey that we call life, alone and friendless. I have passed my days in toil also, and find myself, at the end, as much alone and friendless as is the loneliest inmate of the Doane home. I have had bread, yes; and often eaten it in bitterness. I have had friends, yes; and doubted their sincerity. Love, wife, children, home, all have been sacrificed to pride of wealth, of power, and things—just mere things, that cannot touch the hand in times of sorrow, nor rejoice in times of joy. But I do not complain; I made my god a thing of gilt and tinsel, and he repaid me for my worship. And now I go to meet another God.
But before I go I want to give another a chance to do what I have never done—enjoy my money—if such a thing can give enjoyment. A great share of my hard-earned dollars will go in salaries to fat officials and well-fed directors of the institutions I have endowed, but the little I have given you I want you to spend as you see fit. Throw it to the winds, if you so desire, or feed it to the squirrels in Central Park.
I am looking forward to enjoyment in seeing the way you spend the money. They say when we have passed over the river that the things of this world will no longer interest us; but, Drusilla, that is not true. I know my days will be spent leaning over the battlements watching the fools striving here below; and the biggest telescope in Heaven—or perhaps the other place—will be trained upon Drusilla Doane.
I give you a few words of advice. Better allow Thornton to act as your business manager. He is an old fool but honest. But follow your own wishes in all things except in actual business. I have directed that all the expenses of the place at Brookvale shall be met from a trust that I have created, as you are far too old to be worried with the details of the new life which you now will enter. Thornton is a nosy man and it will delight his soul to boss your servants and see that cheating tradesmen are kept in check.
Another thing I wish to say—you can act upon it as you see fit—it is simply the advice of an old man who has known his world. Don't subscribe to public charities; they're mostly grafts, and besides they have more of the Doane millions now than is good for them. And don't help the needy poor upon another man's advice; see your poor—know your poor.
And now, Drusilla Doane, good-by. Enjoy my million! Don't make too big a fool of yourself, nor marry your tango teacher, but spend my million, Drusilla, spend it—and may God rest your soul!
There was quiet for a few moments after Mr. Thornton had finished reading the letter. He folded the paper and then said dryly:
"I'm glad to know that my client appreciated and recognized my abilities, at least along some lines."
He turned to Drusilla, who seemed hardly to realize or understand the contents of the letter.
"Shall I file the letter along with the other papers, or do you wish to keep it?" he asked.
Drusilla took the letter, and folded it and refolded it, looking down at it as if it were a thing alive.
"If you don't mind, Mr. Thornton, I should like to keep it," she said. "He meant well by me, and his letter is kind though he said it in a queer way; but it is the first letter I've had from any one for a long time, and I should like to keep it. It makes it all seem more real."
The lawyer rose.
"Now we will leave you. When will you be ready to come with us to New York?"
Drusilla smiled her soft sweet smile.
"I haven't much to get ready, Mr. Thornton. It won't take me long to pack my things."
"Then shall we say that I may come for you to-morrow?"
"Yes, to-morrow will be as well as any other day. Unless—unless Mis' Smith needs me—"
Mr. Thornton said with a dry smile: "I do not think it will be necessary to consult Mrs. Smith."
The men started for the door, and then extended their hands.
"We want to congratulate you, Miss Doane. We sincerely hope that this will be the beginning of a very happy life for you. You may command me in all things. By the way, may we see the Director?"
Drusilla started to the door, but the lawyer intercepted her.
"No; do not go yourself. Ring for her."
Drusilla sat down again, rather aghast at the idea of asking any one else to do a service for her, who all her life had been at the beck and call of other people. One of the old ladies came and was asked to bring Mrs. Smith. The Director came quickly, showing that she had not been far away.
"Mrs. Smith," Mr. Thornton said, "we will come to-morrow afternoon to take Miss Doane with us. She has been left a legacy and will no longer be an inmate of the Doane home."
Mrs. Smith's expression changed instantly.
"Why, I'm real glad. Drusilla, you know I will be the first to rejoice in your good fortune."
Drusilla's face was a study for a moment as she remembered the many shrill orders and the thousand and one ways that the Director had employed to make her lonely life harder than was really necessary; but kindliness triumphed and the hard look left her eyes.
"I'm sure, Mis' Smith, you will be glad with me," she said; and she thought in her kindly old heart, "Perhaps she didn't mean to be mean; she was just too busy to think."
The men left and Drusilla was alone with the Director, whose curiosity was nearly consuming her.
"What has happened, Drusilla? Has some one left you money?"
"Yes," said Drusilla.
"A relation I didn't know."
"Did he leave you much?"
Drusilla said quietly: "A million dollars."
Mrs. Smith nearly fell from her chair.
"What did you say?"
"A million dollars."
"Are you sure?"
"That's what the lawyer, Mr. Thornton, said."
Mrs. Smith was speechless.
"I can't believe my ears. There must be some mistake. I'll—I'll—go and talk it over with some one. Do you want to go to your room, or will you go out to the women, Drusilla?"
"I think I'll go to my room fer a while, if I may—that is, if you don't need me, Mis' Smith."
Mrs. Smith shook her head. Need her, need a woman who had just been left a million dollars! No, indeed; not in the way that Drusilla meant.
Drusilla went slowly up to her room and sat down in the little rocker by the bed. She tried to think it all over; but it did not seem real. She felt the letter in her pocket and, finding her second-best pair of glasses, moved her chair close to the window and read it through slowly. Then, holding the letter in her hands, she sat back in her chair and the tears welled slowly from her faded eyes, rolling down the wrinkled cheeks and falling, drop by drop, on to her dress unnoticed. She was not thinking of the money but of the kindly old man who had thought of her in his last hours, and planned for her happiness. She had never had any one plan for her happiness before, nor care for her for so many years that she had forgotten what care meant, and her heart seemed full to bursting. She said softly to herself, "He must 'a' cared something fer me or he wouldn't 'a' thought of it all. He must 'a' cared."
The next morning there was a buzz of excitement in the Doane home for old ladies. Word had got around that Drusilla had been left a fortune and was going away. Some of the ladies were plainly envious and said spiteful, catty things, while others were glad that at least one of their number would be able to leave behind the "home"—the living on charity—that nightmare of the old. Drusilla had endeared most of them to her by her many kindly acts, prompted by a loving heart that even years of poverty and unappreciated labor for others had not hardened.
She passed the morning in looking over her few possessions and making little packages of the things she treasured to be given to her friends after she left. The handkerchiefs she had embroidered before her eye-sight was bad, she left for Barbara. A little lace cap that had been given her years ago and which she had never worn, thinking it too "fancy," was for the old lady who had seen better days. The heavy shawl was for the oldest inmate, Grandma Perkins, who always suffered with the cold. The warm bed-stockings were neatly folded and left with a little word of love to Mary, who had rheumatism; and to Mrs. Childs, the beauty of the place, she left her lace fichu.
There was ample room within the tiny trunk for her clothing. The plain black cashmere that had been turned and returned until it had nearly forgotten its original texture, but which was her Sunday best, the two black dresses for every-day wear, the two night-dresses of Canton flannel, the woolen underskirt and the lighter one for summer, the heavy stockings, the Sunday shoes, a life of John Calvin that a director had given her, her Bible—and the packing was completed.
When Mrs. Smith came herself to tell her that Mr. Thornton had arrived, and in a motor car, she trembled so that she feared she would not be able to go down to meet him. But finally she put on the little bonnet that she had worn for many years, and her "mantle"—an antiquated wrap that had been given her by some kindly patron of former years—and went down the stairs. Mr. Thornton looked at the little old lady as she came into the room—this little, kindly-faced, white-haired old woman, who showed so plainly that life had sent her sorrow but not bitterness—and offered her his hand, saying:
"I am glad you are ready, Miss Doane. We will have a nice ride to the city."
Drusilla looked up at him like a pitiful child.
"I—I—may I set down a minute—I—I'm rather trembly. I—I didn't sleep last night a-thinkin' of it all."
She sat down and tried to still the trembling of her lips and keep the tears from her eyes. Then, after a few moments, she said:
"Will you wait here or somewhere, Mr. Thornton? I want to say good-by. Mis' Smith thought I hadn't better see the ladies until I was ready to leave, as it might upset them."
"I will wait in the car for you, Miss Doane. Don't hurry; take all the time you want."
Drusilla went to the sunny veranda where she knew she would find the women in their accustomed places, and immediately she was the center of the curious old ladies, who welcomed any excitement that would relieve the monotony of their lives.
"It's true, Drusilla—then it's true, you're-a-goin' to leave us! It's true what Mis' Graham heard Mis' Smith tell Mr. Smith last night."
"What did she hear her say?"
"She heard her say, 'What do you think, James! Drusilla Doane has been left a million dollars!'"
"That's what the man told me," Drusilla said quietly; "and he's come to take me away. I come to say good-by."
The women sat forward in their chairs and stopped their knitting or darning, so that they would not miss a word.
"Well, I swan! A million dollars! A million dollars!"
"Is it true, Drusilla? Do you think it can be so much?"
"I don't know—that's what he said. He's waitin' for me and I must be goin'. Good-by, dear Harriet. Good-by, Caroline. Good-by, Mis' Graham; you always been good to me. Good-by, Mis' Fisher; I ain't never goin' to fer-get how good you was to me when I was sick. Good-by all, good-by. I'm comin' often to see you. Good-by."
She looked slowly around on her friends, then walked down the veranda to the waiting motor. Just as she reached it old Barbara came shuffling up to her. "Oh, Drusilla," she mumbled, taking her hand, "I'm so glad for you, I'm so glad. I hope it is a million dollars."
The loving touch was too much for tired Drusilla. The tears sprang to her eyes and she clasped Barbara's hands in both of her own.
"Oh, Barbara," she said, "it gives me a hurt inside my heart to leave you all behind! Listen, Barbara! Whether it's a million dollars or only a hundred, you shall have new store teeth. Good-by!"
To Drusilla's embarrassment both Mr. and Mrs. Smith were waiting for her beside the motor to say good-by, and were effusive in their farewells.
"You will come to see us, won't you, Miss Doane, and you won't forget us"—and Drusilla was tucked into the luxurious motor, a footstool found for her feet, a soft rug wrapped around her and they drove away.
She was quiet for the greater part of the journey, and Mr. Thornton left her to her own thoughts. Finally she sat more upright and began to take an interest in the fittings of the car. Mr. Thornton watched her.
"Do you like the car?" he asked
"It's beautiful. You know it's the first time I been in one."
"Why, is it possible? I thought every one had been in a motor."
"No, not every one, Mr. Thornton; I don't think that more'n two of the ladies in the home have been in one. This is fixed up real nice."
"I am glad you like it," Mr. Thornton said. "It is yours."
Drusilla sat back suddenly in her seat.
"Yes, this is yours, and you have two more at your home."
"Two more like this?"
"No, not exactly the same. One is an open car and one is a small town car."
"Why—why—what'll I do with three? I can't ride in 'em all at once."
"No, but you will find that you can use them all."
"Can I use them whenever I want to?"
"Certainly; they are yours. All you have to do is to send word to one of the chauffeurs and they will be ready for you."
"Send word to who?"
"The chauffeur, the man who is driving."
"Is he mine, too?"
"Yes; you have two men."
"What'll I do with two?"
"One will be on duty a certain number of hours, and then the other takes his place."
"Oh—" She was quiet for a time. "Can I take them anywhere I want to?"
"Certainly. They are yours."
"Then, I know what I'll do! I'll take the old ladies for a ride! Wouldn't Mis' Graham love it, and old Grandma Perkins—we could bundle her up; and Barbara might even ferget her teeth."
Drusilla settled back among the cushions and mused upon the joy she could give with this new wonder machine that was hers to do with as she wished, and the frightened look died from her face and a happy smile seemed trying to crowd the wrinkles from the corners of her mouth. She said nothing more for a long time; then:
"Are we goin' very fast, Mr. Thornton?"
"No; not so very fast. Are you nervous? I will have the chauffeur drive slower. I forgot you were not used to it."
Drusilla stopped him as he started to speak to the chauffeur.
"No; I wasn't thinking of that. I ain't nervous, I was just wonderin' if he couldn't go a little faster."
Mr. Thornton looked somewhat surprised, but he gave the order.
Drusilla again sat back among the cushions, a slight flush on her face. Soon she leaned forward once more.
"Mr. Thornton, couldn't he let her out jest a leetle more?"
"We'll go as fast as you like; only I hope we won't be arrested."
"I'd be willin' to go to jail to pay fer feelin' like this. I always thought I'd have to wait till I got to Heaven before I'd git a chance to fly, but now they'll have to offer me something new."
She said nothing more on the journey, but showed by the bright flush on her cheeks and the sparkle in her eyes that she was enjoying every moment of the ride. At last they turned, passed a pair of big gate-posts and up a graveled driveway, and the car stopped before a door.
When a man came from the house and opened the door of the car, Drusilla came to herself with a start.
"Are we there already? I was kind of hopin' it'd never stop."
Mr. Thornton gravely helped Drusilla to the door.
"Welcome to your home, Miss Doane," he said. "I think we will find my daughter inside."
They entered a large hall and Drusilla stood hesitatingly, not knowing what to do. In a moment a voice was heard from above:
"Is that you, Father?" and a laughing face peered over the railing, and was followed by a slim young figure that seemed to fly down the stairs. "Oh, you were such a long time, Father. Welcome home, Miss Doane! we are so glad to have you. We have all been waiting such a long time. Father is always so slow;" and she flew in her pretty, impulsive way to Drusilla and took both her hands. "I am so glad to have you come, Miss Doane."
Drusilla looked at the pretty face before her that seemed to show such real welcome, and her eyes filled with tears.
"I'm real glad to come, but—but—I guess I'm a little bit scared."
"No, you aren't going to be frightened at all. You come right up with me and take off your hat in your room. Oh, here is Mrs. Perrine. She is your housekeeper, Miss Doane. And that is James, the butler; and that is Mary; and Jeanne is waiting for you upstairs. Come with me."
Drusilla followed as well as she could the flying feet up the broad stairs and was taken to a room that seemed to her a palace. It was all in soft shades of gray with a touch of blue here and there, and there were flowers everywhere. The chairs were upholstered in gray and blue chintz, and at the windows hung gray silk curtains with just a hint of the blue showing beneath them. Near the fireplace was a big couch with a soft gray silk quilt spread upon it, and pillows that invited one to rest. Drusilla stopped in delight.
"Oh—oh—what a pretty room! What a pretty room!"
Miss Thornton dimpled all over her pretty face.
"Do you like it? Oh, please say you like it! I arranged these rooms myself. This was a bachelor house, and there wasn't a pretty room in the place. I made Father let me fix them for you. You do like them, don't you?"
"I never saw nothin' like it before in my life."
"You don't think it too gay, do you? Mother said I ought not have the blue, that they should all be done in a dark color. But I said I knew you would love pretty things, and you should have them. You don't think it too gay. You like the blue, don't you?"
"I love it, I love it! I never had nothin' gay colored in my life, and I love it."
"I knew you would. Come into the bedroom. Isn't this gray furniture dear? Don't those long mirrors look lovely with the gray wood? And aren't the toilet things pretty? See the monogram—D. D. I thought a lot about it, and aren't they pretty on that dull silver? Look at this mirror—and isn't that the cunningest pin-tray? And this is for your hatpins; and look at this pin-cushion. I had the loveliest time picking them out."
Drusilla looked at the pretty things in amazement rather mixed with awe.
"Why, what'll I do with all them things?"
"Oh, you'll use them all. There isn't one too many, and perhaps I've forgotten some things. If I have, we will go and pick them out together. You will let me go with you, won't you, because I love to shop. Oh, I forgot—here is your bathroom, and beyond that is your maid's room. She is quite near, so if you feel ill in the night you can call her. But let me take off your hat. Shall I ring for Jeanne? No," as she saw the frightened look come into the eyes, "perhaps you'd rather be with me just at first. How pretty your hair is, so soft and fluffy. You must blue it, it is so white. I wish my hair would fluff, but it won't curl except in wet weather. Now come into the other room and sit down in that soft chair. Isn't that an easy chair? I picked that out too. I chose everything in the room, and I'm so proud of it. See, here is the footstool that goes with it, and you sit by the big window here when you don't want to go downstairs, and this little table will hold your books or your sewing."
Drusilla looked up at her.
"You've been real kind, Miss Thornton; you've thought of everything."
"But I loved it. I've been working ever since Father knew about you."
"It is nice of you to be here. I was afraid a little to come, not knowin' what it was goin' to be like."
"That's what I told Father. I said you didn't want to come into a big cold house with only a cold lawyer like him to say, 'Welcome home.' I made him let me come. I'm going to stay to dinner with you if you'll invite me. We'll send Father home. I don't live far from here—only about five minutes in the car—and Father can send back for me. Would you like me to stay?"
Drusilla leaned forward eagerly.
"Oh, do stay, Miss Thornton. I—I—well, I wouldn't know what to do by myself."
"Well, you sit here by this fire and I'll go down and tell Father to go away. You don't want to hear any more business to-night and Father always talks business. Just you take a little nap while I'm gone. Are you comfortable? There! I'll be back in five minutes."
Drusilla sat down in the comfortable chair and watched the flames flickering in the grate; then her eyes passed lovingly around the room, resting on each beautiful picture, on the soft draperies, the easy-chairs and the flowers. She sat as one in a dream, until light steps were heard and Miss Thornton again entered the room.
"Did you sleep?"
"No, I didn't want to shut my eyes. I was afraid it might all go away and I'd be again in the bare little rooms I've always lived in. I don't think I'll ever sleep again—I might miss somethin'."
"Isn't that lovely! Why, you'll always have lovely things all your life. And now I've told James that we're going to have dinner up here. The dining-room looks too big for us two."
Miss Thornton busied herself around the room for a few moments; then drew a chair in front of the grate and sat down beside Drusilla while the butler and a maid brought in a small table. Drusilla watched them as they noiselessly arranged the china and the glass upon the beautiful cloth, and when all was prepared the butler said in his even, "servant" tones, "Dinner is served," and went behind the chair reserved for the mistress of the house. Drusilla hesitated a moment, in evident awe of the butler, who stood so erect and stiff in his evening clothes, but here again kindly Daphne Thornton came to her aid.
"Now, you sit here, Miss Doane," and she took her to the chair which the butler deftly slid into place. "I will be just opposite you. Isn't this nicer than sitting at that great big table downstairs where we would need a telephone to talk to each other?"
She chatted all through the dinner, showing in a kindly, unobtrusive way the uses of the different things that might be an embarrassment to the little old lady who was used to the simple service of a charity table. After dinner the coffee was served on a small table in front of the fire.
While they were drinking it a maid entered the room.
"The motor has come for Miss Thornton," she announced.
"Now, I am going to leave you. Get a good sleep. I will call Jeanne, who will take care of you. She is your personal maid, Miss Doane, so tell her anything you want."
Answering the ring of the bell a pretty maid came into the room, and Miss Thornton said:
"Jeanne, this is Miss Doane, your mistress. She is tired and will like to go to bed early, I am sure. See that she has a good warm bath, as it will help her sleep. And, Miss Doane, I bought a few things for you, as perhaps your luggage might not come in time. Jeanne will have them ready for you. Now, good night! I am so glad you have come, and I know you will be so happy. You will let me come often to see you, won't you?"
She came over to the chair and bent her pretty young head over the old white one, and Drusilla reached up her arms and took the smiling face between her hands.
"You'll never know, dear, what you've done for a lonely old woman. I don't know how to thank you."
"Thank me—why, I should thank you. I have had such a nice time, and I'm so glad that you like the rooms—Mother said you wouldn't. Would you like me to come in the morning and see how you are getting on?"
"Oh, will you? I won't know what to do, you know."
"Yes, I'll love to come and I'll be here early. Good night and happy dreams!" And she was gone.
When she was alone Drusilla sat before the fire and tried to feel that it all was true, that it was not some beautiful dream from which she would waken. She went in retrospect over her past life from the time when, a little girl, her father dying, she and her mother were left with no support except the little earned by her mother, who was the village tailoress. Then when she became older the burden of the support for the two shifted to her shoulders, her mother seeming to have lost heart and with it the strength and the desire to make the grim fight with the wolf that always seemed so near the door. For years she struggled on, doing the country tailoring, nursing the sick, helping in families who were too poor to hire expert labor, missing all the joys that come to the average young girl, as all her leisure moments from work were given to an ailing mother who seemed to become more dependent upon her daughter each year for companionship and strength.
Yet romance did not entirely pass her by, for when she was nineteen she loved and was loved in return by John Brierly. They were an ideal couple, the neighbors said. He, young, handsome, although a little too much of a dreamer to be a success; she, the prettiest girl in all the country side. John was restless, and with youth's ambition rebelled against the narrow restrictions of the little town. Hearing the call of the West, he decided to go to the country of his dreams and find the fortune that he knew was waiting him in that new land of mystery. He tried to persuade Drusilla to marry him and go with him; but her mother, with a sick woman's persistency, demanded that her daughter stay with her. They offered to take her with them, and painted in glowing colors the new life in that "far beyond"; but she wept in terror at the thought of leaving all she knew, and clung the more closely to Drusilla, begging her to stay with her until the end. "When I am gone, Drusilla, you may go; but let me die here among the things I know and love"; and Drusilla and John put off the journey from year to year, until at last John in desperation said, "Drusilla, I can wait no longer. I must go. I will wait for you, and some day you will come to me."
The years rolled on. Drusilla heard from John from time to time, but after many years the letters stopped. Her mother lived long enough to see Drusilla becoming old and tired and worn, and then she, too, left her for the Great Unknown. Drusilla worked on, making the clothes for each rising generation, helping tired mothers, caring for the sick. But at last she had to give up the fight; she was too old. Quicker feet were wanted, younger hands, and Drusilla learned the bitter lesson that comes often to the old. They are stumbling-blocks in the pathway of the young. This knowledge broke her courage and her health, and her hard saved dollars were spent in doctor's bills. When strength came slowly back to her she was too weak to rebel against the order that she was to pass the remainder of her days at the Doane home. Even there she tried to keep her feeling of self-respect and independence by doing the work that was not given the other women, who "paid their way." The Director and his wife, busy, annoyed by a thousand petty details, were not consciously unkind, but they found it easy to shift a few of their burdens to the shoulders that always seemed able to carry a little heavier load; consequently the willing hands were always occupied, the wearied feet often made many steps on errands that should have been relegated to one of few years.
Drusilla, sitting before the fire, saw all these bitter years pass like shadows before her half-closed eyes; she saw the years of toil without the reward that is woman's right—the love of children, husband, a home to call her own. And yet those years had left no scar upon her soul, no rancor against the world that had taken all and given nothing except the right to live.
A log dropped into the fire and Drusilla awakened from her revery with a start. Her eyes felt heavy and she rose to go to the bedroom; then remembered that she was told to ring when she wished to go to bed. She rang the bell and the maid came into the room.
"Madame desires to retire?"
Drusilla looked at her inquiringly.
"What did Miss Thornton say your name was?"
"Jeanne. That isn't Jane, is it?"
"It may be French for Jane; I am French."
"Well, then, I'll call you Jane. I can't remember the other. I think I would like to go to bed."
"Then I will prepare the bath."
Soon she returned to the room.
"The bath is ready for Madame," she said; and Drusilla followed her into the bedroom.
There the thoughtfulness of Miss Thornton was again shown. Over a chair hung a warm gray dressing-gown, with slippers to match, and neatly folded on the bed was a soft white nightdress, lace-trimmed, delicate, dainty, the mere touch of which gave delight to the sensitive fingers as they touched its folds.
The bathroom, with its silver fittings, was a revelation to Drusilla; and as she stepped into the warm, slightly perfumed water, it seemed to speak to her more eloquently than all the rest of the seeming miracles that were now coming into her life.
When Drusilla returned to the bedroom she found a shaded light on a table at the head of the bed, and beside the light were her Bible and the life of John Calvin.
She stood a moment looking around the room, and then she knelt beside the bed.
"O God," she whispered, "I hain't never had much to thank you for except for strength to work, but now—dear God, I thank you!"
The next morning Drusilla found herself unconsciously waiting for the rising bell that called the inmates of the Doane home from their slumbers, and when she opened her eyes she could not realize for a moment where she was. Instead of the plain white walls of her room, she saw the soft gray tints of silk and the sheen of silver, and her hands touched a silken-covered eiderdown quilt. She closed her eyes in sheer happiness, and then opened them again to be sure that it was not all a mirage. At last, not being used to lying in bed, she arose and, putting on the dressing-gown, went to one of the windows and raised the shade to look out. She stopped with her hand still on the shade, looking in wonder at the beauty just outside her window. A great copper beach was flaunting its gorgeous colors in the clear morning air; beyond it a clump of blue spruce seemed a background for the riotous autumn tints. At one side of the house was an Italian garden, with terrace after terrace falling toward the river. Across the river, the Palisades rose sheer and steep, their reddish-brown rocks covered with the glow of the morning sun.
Drusilla did not know it, but she was looking at one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful places along the Hudson, a place on which hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent with a lavish hand. Drusilla drew up a chair and sat by the window, watching the changing shades as the sun became brighter. Then she became interested in the life of the place as it gradually awoke to its morning's work. First a gardener crossed the lawn and began working around the plants; then another came with a rake and commenced raking up the dying leaves; another man wandered down toward the river. A man, evidently a house servant, came across the lawn and, seeing her at the window, went hastily into the house. Soon there was a light knock at the door, and in answer to her "come in," Jeanne, the maid, entered.
"Oh, Madame," she said, "why did, you not ring? I did not know you were up."
She bustled about the room, raising shades, and then rang for a man to come and make the fire in the grate. The house seemed warm to Drusilla.
"Do I need a fire?" she asked. "It's warm in here."
"Just a little fire, Madame," said Jeanne; "it makes the room more cheerful."
Drusilla laughed. It seemed to her that nothing could make that exquisite room more cheerful.
The maid went to the bedroom and soon returned to announce: "The bath is ready for Madame."
Drusilla wondered why she was expected to take another bath, as she had had one the night before. But evidently it was expected of her, and she went into the bathroom and again reveled in the warm, perfumed water. When she returned to the bedroom her clothing of the night before was arranged ready for her to put on, and as she dressed she felt for the first time the coarseness of the linen and the ugliness of the plain black dress.
"Would Madame like her breakfast here," the maid asked, "or will she go to the breakfast room?"
Drusilla hesitated, as she did not know what to do.
"I think Madame would like to go to the breakfast room," the clever little French woman said hastily; "it is very pretty there, with the flowers and the birds. I will show Madame the way."
Going before her she guided Drusilla down the great staircase and across a room that was evidently the dining-room, into what Drusilla would have called a sun-parlor. It was a corner of the veranda enclosed in glass and filled with flowers and plants of every description, with birds singing among them in their gilded cages, and from it the Hudson could be seen, flowing silently to the sea. In the center of the room was a round table covered with a cloth which quickly caught her eye and charmed it with its dainty embroidery and lace, used as she had been to the coarse linen of the home. A man drew out her chair and she was seated, a footstool found for her feet, and breakfast was served. Drusilla felt that she could never forget that breakfast. The grapefruit, the coffee in its silver pot, the crisp bacon, the omelet, all served on beautiful dishes; and, to complete her joy, a great Persian cat came lazily to her and rubbed against her, begging for a share in the good things of the table. She stooped down and stroked its soft fur.
"I am afraid that Nicodemus is very spoiled," the man said. "His master always gave him a dish of cream at the table."
Drusilla laughed. It seemed the first human thing she had heard.
"Well, then, I'll spoil him too. What do you give it to him in?"
The man pointed to a silver bowl.
"That is his dish. Shall I give it to him?"
"No; let me," said Drusilla. "I want to do something for some one. Let me give him his cream."
After that she did not feel so frightened and awed by the presence of the man who waited upon her so deftly, and when he left she rose and wandered around the room, looking at the flowers, wondering what were the names of the many plants that were strange to her. Then she went across the dining-room and up the stairs to her own rooms, where she felt more at ease. She found them already arranged, and wondered at the quickness and silence with which the work was done.
She did not know what to do, so she sat down again by the window to wait for Daphne. While she was sitting there, the housekeeper came into the room.
"Good morning, Miss Doane," she said pleasantly. "I hope you slept well."
"Yes; thank you," replied Drusilla.
"Would you like to go over the house this morning?"
Again Drusilla was embarrassed, as she did not know what would be expected of her if she went over the house. "Why—why—" she said, "I think, if you don't mind, I will wait until Miss Thornton comes."
"Very well. I will be ready at any time."
When the housekeeper left the room, Drusilla sat quietly in her place by the sunny window until at last she saw a motor turn into the grounds, and soon Daphne appeared. Drusilla's face lighted up when she saw the pretty girl standing before her. She seemed a part of the morning itself, with her sparkling eyes, her dainty coloring accentuated by her pretty suit of blue and her jaunty hat.
"Oh, you look like one of the flowers!" Drusilla exclaimed, reaching out her hands to her.
"How nice of you to say that! I've come early; did you wait long for me?"
"Yes; I have been settin' here just seeing the beauty of it all. I can't believe it's real."
"Oh, but it is. And isn't it beautiful! I always loved the place. Did you sleep well? Were you tired out? Are you rested?"
"I didn't sleep at first—I couldn't. But I'm not tired; I'm just sort of excited—and—and—oh, I don't know what to say about it all."
"Well, if you are not tired, would you like to go over the house? It's a lovely house. I know Mrs. Perrine wants to show it to you and let you see what a wonderful housekeeper she is."
"Yes; she asked me to go with her, but I wanted to wait until you come—as—as I might not know what to say."
"Well, we'll go together; and don't you worry about saying anything if you don't want to. I talk enough for both of us. That's my trouble, Father says—I talk too much. Come—Mrs. Perrine is downstairs."
They went from room to room, from drawingroom to library, to the picture gallery in which, had Drusilla known it, were some of the famous pictures of the world, and on to the great armor room, in which the former master of the house had searched the countries of the old world for the armor and accouterments of chivalry which were arranged around the walls. Then she was shown that which interested her more than the pictures or the armor—the pantries and the room in which were kept the china and silver in daily use; and the kitchen, with its array of cooking utensils, brought a look of delight into her old eyes, because these she could understand.
Finally she was taken upstairs again and shown the guest rooms, each with its dressing-room and bath, and then opposite to her own suite of rooms she was taken into a small library paneled in soft toned woods. Daphne pulled out a leather chair for Drusilla.
"Now sit in that and tell me what you think of it all. Isn't this a pretty room? I like it best of all except your sitting-room, and isn't that a wonderful fireplace? It was brought from somewhere abroad. It is cozy here at night when the curtains are drawn. I think this room looks human; those big rooms downstairs don't. I could never curl up in a chair and read in that great library downstairs, but here you can really find a novel and read in comfort. I know you'll spend lots of time in this room."
Drusilla was quiet, sitting with folded hands. Then, after a few moments, she said:
"I was just a-thinkin' that all this great house can't be for just one old woman. And all them dishes and the kitchen with them pots and pans and the cook can't be there just to cook for me alone?"
"Oh, but he is, and he's a wonderful cook. Mr. Doane has had him for years and years. And James, the butler, came with him from England. He was in the house of a duke over there, and I assure you, Miss Doane, he doesn't forget it."
"Is that the man who stands around as if he was afraid he'd hurt something if he teched it? I ain't seen him do much; another man gave me my breakfast."
"Yes, I presume William, the second man, gave you your breakfast. James is too grand to serve breakfast."
"Do I need so many men around?"
"No, I really don't suppose you do, Miss Doane; but Mr. Doane kept a big household and he left in his will that the house should be kept up exactly the same as when he was here. But don't you worry about that. That is father's business. You don't have to bother a bit about it. All you have to do is to enjoy yourself. Now, what would you like to do? Is there anything you want?"
Drusilla looked at her a moment and then said, half laughingly, half apologetically:
"I'd like—I'd like—"
She stopped, and Daphne came over to her.
"What would you like, Miss Doane? I'm here to do anything you wish."
"You won't think I'm a vain old woman if I tell you?"
"Why, certainly not. Tell me."
"Well—well—I was thinkin' this mornin' when I dressed that I didn't seem to fit in with the house. When I saw my pretty gray room, all so light and—and—beautiful—and when I saw myself in the lookin'-glass with my old black dress, I thought—I wished—"
"Yes, Miss Doane; what did you wish?"
Drusilla flushed as if ashamed of her wishes that seemed to her scarcely befitting a woman of her age.
"I just wished I had pretty clothes to go with the room."
Daphne clapped her hands.
"Now, isn't that lovely! Of course you should have pretty clothes, and you shall! We will go shopping! Father said to do anything you wanted to do. Now, what would you like?"
"I don't know, but I'd—I'd just like pretty clothes."
Daphne jumped up and danced around the room.
"I'll tell you what we'll do," she said gaily. "We'll go to town and shop and shop and shop. I'd love it, and we'll send all the bills to Father. He can't frown or scold as he does when I send him bills; he'll have to pay yours without a word. Oh, we'll go right away!"
"I'd love to go, Miss Thornton. I never really shopped in my life. I jest bought things I had to have, things I couldn't go without no longer." Drusilla rose, as pleased with the idea as was the young girl beside her. "Can we go right away?"
"Yes; but wait, you must eat something."
"But I jest had my breakfast."
"Yes; but you must have something now, or you'll get tired. I'll have them bring you some chicken broth or something, and I'll have some too. I can always eat."
She danced over to the bell, and when Jeanne answered it she said:
"Tell James to bring some chicken broth and some sandwiches; and have the small car at the door in half an hour. And please tell my chauffeur to return home and tell Mother that I will not be home for lunch."
When Jeanne was gone she danced back to Drusilla.
"We'll make a day of it, Miss Doane, and we'll have the loveliest time!"
The lunch was served and then the ugly bonnet was tied on, the mantle wrapped around the thin shoulders, and Drusilla and Daphne started for that joy land of women—Fifth Avenue.
"We'll go first and get some things that are already made," Daphne said.
She took Drusilla to one of the exclusive shops on Fifth Avenue. If Daphne had not been known, slight courtesy would have been shown the shabbily dressed old woman, but a few words from Daphne and the salesladies were all smiles and bows, eager to show their best. At first they showed her black dresses; but at Drusilla's little look of distress, quick Daphne saw there was something wrong.
"Don't you like them, Miss Doane?"
"Yes—yes—they're beautiful, Miss Thornton, but—do I have to wear black? I've worn it all my life because it wears well. I'd like—I'd like—"
"Tell me what you would like."
"I'd like a soft gray dress like my room, if I ain't too old. But— but—perhaps it wouldn't be fittin'."
"That's just the thing! Why didn't I think of that! Gray will be just the color for you; and with a touch of blue, and your white hair —Oh, you'll be lovely, Miss Doane."
Again the willing salesladies were given their instructions, and gray dresses and gray suits were placed before her. Drusilla passed over the suits with hardly a look, but fingered lovingly the soft crepes and chiffons.
"I don't like the heavy things," she said. "They look as if they'd turn well, and I don't want nothin' that can be turned. I'd like something that'll wear out."
"You're just like me. I hate things that wear forever. Father says that's the cause of the high cost of living—we women don't buy sensible clothes."
Drusilla looked pained.
"Perhaps I shouldn't look at them then—"
Daphne interrupted her.
"You just buy what you want. Don't you worry about what Father thinks. I don't."
"But I—I—don't want to be extravagant."
"You can't be extravagant. You can't spend too much. Now, don't you think about it—and don't you ask how much they cost. You don't need to know. Just you buy the prettiest things they've got."
Finally a choice was made of two pretty soft gray dresses, fragile enough to suit even Daphne's luxurious tastes; arrangements were made in regard to their hurried alterations; and, after buying a wrap to replace the now discarded mantle, they departed, Drusilla as happy as a child, with a flush on her old cheeks and a strange happy light in her blue eyes.
"Now we must have things to go with them."
They went into a lingerie shop, where Drusilla was dazed by the piles of dainty underclothing that were spread before her. She caressed the soft laces and the delicate, cobweb affairs.
"Oh, Miss Thornton, I can't decide. I didn't know there was such beautiful things in the world! Had I ought to have 'em? Ain't they too young for me?"
"There is no age for underclothing. Don't you want them? Isn't that the loveliest nightgown? Don't you want it?"
"Yes, I'd like to have it, but—" Drusilla thought of her two Canton flannel nightdresses lying in her little trunk.
"Well, you shall have them. And this fluffy gray dressing-gown—it is a dear. We will take that too; and this pretty bed-jacket. Look at the embroidery on it. You must have that, so if you have breakfast in bed—and look at this dear lace cap. When you sit up in bed, with the tray in front of you, and this little jacket on, and the cap, with a little of your hair showing beneath it, why, you'll look nice enough to eat. Now we'll go and buy stockings, pretty gray silk ones, and shoes, and slippers; and we mustn't forget about the milliner. I know the loveliest place; Madame will know just what to give you."
Drusilla enjoyed the milliner's the most of all; for there she tried on hat after hat—not ugly bonnets but cleverly arranged creations for an old lady that seemed to remove the lines from her face and made her feel that perhaps, after all, she could take a part and share in the beautiful things of this new beautiful world, instead of a mere looker on.
At last they were taken to one of the great modistes, a creator of gowns known on two continents, and Daphne had Miss Doane wait in a reception-room while she interviewed the great lady herself. This arbitrator of fashion came smilingly to Miss Doane and with her keen, professional eye saw her "possibilities." She said to Miss Thornton:
"Will you leave it to me? I will make her the gowns and she will be pleased."
Measurements were taken and orders given; and when they were again in the motor, Drusilla asked shyly:
"What was that last place, Miss Thornton?"
"That is Marcelle, the great dressmaker's place. That was Marcelle herself who came to us."
"Was that a dressmaking shop? I didn't see no dresses or fashion books."
"No, she doesn't use fashion books. She makes her own fashions."
"But—but—we jest got two new dresses."
Miss Thornton laughed.
"Oh, those are because we were in a hurry. Your dresses must be made. I told her she must hurry, too; and her things are beautiful, Miss Doane. You'll love yourself in them."
Drusilla laughed softly.
"I'm afraid I love myself already. It seems awful vain for an old woman like me to be buying all them pretty clothes—but—" and she sighed like a happy child—"it's nice to be vain for once in your life. It's just nice."
"Of course it is. All women love pretty clothes."
"Yes; it must be something born inside of us, 'cause I don't know as I've ever had such a feelin' even when readin' the Bible as I did when I tried on them hats, and bought them dresses, and knowed they was mine." She was quiet for a moment. "I wonder if Eve ever had the chance to be extravagant in fig leaves?"
"Well, we've bought them, and Father's hair will certainly turn gray, but he can't say a word. Now we'll go to lunch. It's late; you must be hungry. I'm glad we found a coat that fitted you—that velvet is so soft and pretty. And your hat—why, Miss Doane, you won't know yourself!"
"Is it pretty? It ought to be. It's got ten dollars of hat and thirty dollars of style; but I don't care. I'm so happy that I'm afraid I'll cry and spoil it all."
But she did not cry and she enjoyed the luncheon at the big hotel, and as she ate she stole shy glances in the mirror opposite that reflected a transformed Drusilla from the frightened little woman who had gone tremblingly down the steps of the Doane home the day before.
The next few days passed in a whirl of excitement for Drusilla. Dresses were bought for her to fit, and she went into town with Daphne on visits to the great dressmaker, who turned and studied Drusilla as gown after gown was fitted to her slim, yet still erect old figure. But finally they were all finished and great boxes came to the house. They were opened by Jeanne and their treasures spread upon the chairs and the bed to be admired and fingered lovingly by Drusilla, who took as much joy in her new clothes as any girl with her first trousseau. Except for the Bible and the life of John Calvin the contents of the little trunk were lost, so far as Drusilla was concerned. She became another being, as, clothed in soft-toned grays, her hair dressed by the hand of expert Jeanne, she gradually lost her feeling of loneliness, of being a person apart from her new life, and began to move with confidence amongst the treasured beauties of her new home.
The pretty gowns gave her a feeling of respect for herself that she had never experienced before, and for the first time in her life she felt within herself a power. Her opinions were deferred to, her wishes carried out immediately, and it seemed to her that all the world was trying to give her happiness. It took her many days to feel that she might ask for service instead of waiting upon herself; but she soon learned that the many servants were there for her especial use, and expected to be called upon to render any service that she required.
At first she was embarrassed when the housekeeper came to her in the mornings for orders for the day, and she confided to Daphne that she didn't know what to tell her. Daphne interviewed the housekeeper privately and then said to Drusilla, "I have seen Mrs. Perrine and told her that she doesn't need to come to you in the morning, as she understands what is to be done. If there is anything special, you will tell her, but you are not to be bothered with the details of the house now. After a while, perhaps, you will care to attend to some of the things, and tell her what you would like; but don't let it worry you until you get used to it all. I told the chef, too, that he need not send up the menu for the day, as he did to Mr. Doane."
Miss Thornton could not know how thankful Drusilla was for this last order, as the consideration of the menu had been a great embarrassment to her. It was written in French—a language quite unknown to Drusilla—and although she could not read the names of the marvelous creations of the cook, the food delighted her and the quiet, skilful service was always a wonder. The mechanism of the great household seemed to move with almost a machine's precision, and she felt that she was in a world that revolved to the order of unseen hands.
She had been in her new home but a few days when a card was brought her, and she read on it: Thomas Carney, The New York Times. She went to the library, wondering what some strange man could want with her. She found a very quick, alert young man, with twinkling blue eyes, who rose to greet her. She gave him her hand and asked him to be seated. He sat down, and then question after question was asked Drusilla. What relation she was to Elias Doane? Had she ever known him? How she had passed her life; the details of the life in the Doane home; how many years she had been there? Her impressions of her new home; what she intended doing with her million dollars; if she had any relatives to whom she would leave her money? Was she interested in charities? Did she believe in promiscuous giving, or would she help personally the objects of her charity?
Poor Drusilla heard the flood of questions in amazement, and answered them quite frankly; and the keen young newspaper man read much between the answers that showed the loneliness of her life, her bewilderment in her new surroundings, and he congratulated himself that he would have an article for his Sunday paper that not only would be filled with facts but also would have "heart interest."
When he rose to go he asked her if she had a photograph of herself.
"No, I ain't never had my pictur' took since I was a young girl and had it on a tintype."
Nothing daunted, the young man asked for it; but she had to tell him that she had lost it years ago; and then he asked if he might take her photograph as she sat there in her high-backed chair. Drusilla was a little awed by this very confident young man, so she sat still while he took her photograph, and then when he was ready to depart, she hesitatingly said:
"Young man, you have asked me a lot of questions. May I ask you one?"
"Certainly! As many as you want."
"Well, why have you asked me so many things?"
"I represent the New York Times, a newspaper, and we want to tell the people all about you."
"About me? Why should they want to know about me?"
The man laughed again, pleasantly, and said:
"You know we like to know about our neighbors, and you are the newest neighbor."
"But are you going to write all I said?"
"Well, nearly all; but, Miss Doane, if there is anything you don't want written, I'll cut it."
Drusilla was embarrassed.
"Have I said anything that I shouldn't? If I had known you was from a paper, I'd 'a' waited until Mr. Thornton come."
"I'm jolly glad you didn't. Little copy could have been squeezed from that old lawyer. But don't you worry, Miss Doane. There won't be anything that will hurt you. It's kind of you to see me. I have been trying for several days to get in, but couldn't get past that butler of yours. He sure is a wonder."
"Did the butler stop you?"
"Well, yes; he stood at the door like an armored cruiser. I wouldn't have made it to-day if I hadn't waited until I saw him go out. I knew the second man was at his home and only a maid in charge of you."
Drusilla was unhappy.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have seen you. It must have been Mr. Thornton's orders, and he knows what is best for me."
She crossed over to the young man and looked rather pitifully up into his face.
"You look like a nice young man," she said; "I like your eyes. You won't say nothing that'll make Mr. Thornton unhappy?"
The reporter took the half-outstretched hand and smiled down into the kindly, wrinkled face. When he spoke there was almost a touch of tenderness in his voice.
"I don't care about making Mr. Thornton unhappy, Miss Doane, but I wouldn't do anything to make you unhappy for the world; and if you ever want anything of the papers, here is my card. Just you send for me and I'll do anything for you that I can."
And so ended Drusilla's first interview.
To her amazement the next Sunday there was spread before her the paper with great headlines: MISS DRUSILLA DOANE, OUR NEWEST MILLIONAIRE. There was the picture of the Doane home for old ladies; there were pictures of the home at Brookvale taken from many angles, pictures of the garden, the conservatories; and in the middle of the page there was Drusilla herself, sitting in the high-backed chair. The article was well written, filled with "heart interest." It told of her early struggles, her years of work, and her later life in the charity home. Evidently the young man had visited the village where she had lived and talked with all who knew her; and Mrs. Smith's hand could plainly be seen in the account of the life of the inmates of the institution over which she had charge. Even poor old Barbara had been called upon to tell about Drusilla, the many little acts of kindness which she had done for the poor and lonely. As Drusilla read it she laughed and said, "Well, I guess Barbara had her teeth in that day." The article ended with the account of the million dollar bequest, and suggested that quite likely the charities of New York would benefit by the newest acquisition to the ranks of its millionaires, as Miss Doane was alone in the world, and had no one on whom to lavish her enormous income or to leave the money when she was called to the other world.
Drusilla did not know it, but this last addition of the facile reporter's pen set many heads of institutions to thinking, and caused many a person to wonder how they could gain the affections or the pity of this old lady, and separate her from at least a part of her new-found inheritance.
Drusilla passed many hours among the flowers in the conservatories, where she won the heart of the gardener by the keen interest she took in his work. He would walk around with her and tell her the names of the plants strange to her, pointing out their beauties and their peculiarities. He soon saw that the orchids and the rare blooms from foreign lands did not appeal to her as did the old-fashioned flowers she knew, and they made a little bargain that in the spring she should have some beds of mignonette, phlox, verbenas, and moss rose. One morning she watched him giving directions to one of the under-gardeners for the potting of small plants for the spring.
"Mr. Donald," she said, "I wish I could plant somethin'. It's been years since I dug around in the earth, and I want to plant somethin' and see it grow."
"That's easy, ma'am," said Scotch Mr. Donald. "I'll fix a part of the house here and you can plant what you want in it"; and after that many mornings found Drusilla pottering happily around the conservatory with a trowel, planting seeds or "slipping" plants as she called it. It gave her something to do, and that was the one thing she needed. She missed the active life, the "doing something." Everything was done for her—she had no duties. She, who had passed her life in service for others, here had only to mention a wish and it was immediately carried out. She was not allowed even to look after her clothing. As soon as an article was removed it was whisked out of the room and when returned was brushed, mended, and ready for use again.
One afternoon Drusilla sat down by the window to mend a tear on the bottom of her skirt. Jeanne, coming into the room, quickly took the garment from her.
"Madame, she must not do that. Quelle horreur! I will attend to it at once."
"Can't I even patch my dress?" she said. "Jane, where are my stockin's? I am sure there must be some darnin'."
Jeanne looked at her reproachfully.
"Madame does not wear darned stockings."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Drusilla. "Why shouldn't I wear darned stockin's?"
"Yes, but it would not be au fait for Madame to wear darned stockings."
Drusilla became a little angry.
"How foolish you are, Jane! I've wore darned stockin's all my life. A few darns don't hurt one way or another. What becomes of my stockin's? I saw a hole in one the other day."
Jeanne looked a little embarrassed.
"Why—why—when they become not convenable for Madame, I—I take them."
"Oh," said shrewd Drusilla, looking at Jeanne over her glasses. "And I presume you are the judge of when they become 'convenable' —whatever that means. But you'd better let me tell you when I think they're ready to be passed on."
Drusilla sat back in the chair with folded hands for a few moments; then she looked down at them as they lay idly in her lap.
"I don't see what I'm goin' to do with my hands. I've always had a work-basket by my side whenever I set down, and now you just expect me to set. Well, I'm tired of it; I want to do something."
A few of the neighbors, headed by Mrs. Thornton, the typical New York woman devoted to "society," made calls upon Drusilla; and when the first caller's card was brought to Drusilla, she went into the drawing-room and greeted the stylishly dressed lady who rose to meet her, wondering why she had come. The lady sat down and talked to Drusilla about the weather, asked how she liked Brookvale, spoke of the opera season and of a new singer, asked her if she cared for symphonies, which Drusilla thought at first was something to eat, mentioned a ball that was being given at Sherry's that night for charity; and then departed, leaving Drusilla still wondering why she came. Evidently she told her friends of her visit, as many came, some from curiosity and others from real kindliness and desire to be friendly with their newest neighbor.
One day Daphne saw the cards.
"Oh," she said, "has Mrs. Druer called, and Mrs. Cairns, and Mrs. Freeman. I am so glad. You must return the call."
"Is that a call? What did they come for? I been wondering about it ever since they come."
"They are your neighbors."
"Oh, is that the way they are neighborly in the city? Set down and talk about nothing for ten minutes and then go home. Well, I don't see as it's very fillin'."
"They want to get acquainted."
"Well, why don't they stay a while and git acquainted? We jest git started to talkin' when they go away. Where I lived when a neighbor come to see you, they brought their sewin' and spent the afternoon. You can't git acquainted settin' opposite each other and wonderin' what to say. Why, they all look when they git ready to go, 'Well, I've done my duty; thank goodness it's over!'"
"You must go and return the calls."
"You mean that I must go to their houses and do what they done—set ten minutes and ask them about the weather and the opera and symphonies? I don't know nothin' about them things at all."
"You needn't ask them about the opera, but you must return their calls."
Drusilla shook her head.
"No, I won't do it."
"Oh, but you must."
"But I won't, Miss Thornton," said Drusilla obstinately. "I don't know what to say."
"I'll go with you, Miss Doane."
"Well—" and Drusilla was a little pacified—"well, I'll go once and see what it's like. I'll do anything once, but I won't promise to do it much."
"Never mind; you must return the first calls. I'll come for you to-morrow and we'll go. You have cards—I had them made for you; and I'll bring my new cardcase. No, I'll get you the dearest bag I saw downtown. Gray suede with a cardcase and mirror in it, and a pencil and everything you need."
"What do I want a mirror in my hand satchel for?"
"Why to powder your nose if it gets shiny, Miss Doane. You're not up to date. You must have a vanity box in your bag or you won't be in it at all now."
"You ain't forgot how vain I was that first day when I peeked in all the mirrors at the hotel. But now I can pass one without lookin' in, if I ain't got a new dress on."
"Speaking of dresses, Miss Doane, put on that dark gray velvet that Marcelle made you and the hat with the mauve. Oh, I wish it were cold, so you could wear your new furs. But—well—they'll see them all after a while. We mustn't astonish them too much at first."
"Do I have to fix up so much?"
"But I want them to see how pretty you are."
Drusilla blushed like a girl.
"Pshaw, Miss Thornton, don't you know I'm past seventy years old? You shouldn't say such things."
"Oh, but I mean it. Margaret Fairchild, who was here with her mother, told the girls the other night at the dance that she couldn't keep her eyes off of you, as you sat with the light on your hair, and your pretty dress that was so half old-fashioned and half the latest style. She said you looked as if you had just stepped out of a picture."
"It's my clothes, I guess."
"Yes, it's partly the clothes, and that's where Marcelle is clever. She makes the clothes suit you, and doesn't try to make a fashionable middle-aged woman out of you. She spoke of your hands too, said they looked so—so—sort of feminine as they lay on the arms of the chair. You are clever, Miss Doane, to always sit on one of those high-backed chairs when callers come; it makes a lovely background."
"Does it? I hadn't thought of that. I generally set in the chair that's nearest the door; and I like one with arms that I can take hold of, 'cause it makes me nervous to have the women stare at me, and sometimes when there is such a long time between talks, I hold on to the arm tight so's I won't show I'm nervous and wonderin' what to say to fill in. But I didn't think any one noticed my hands." She looked down at them rather sadly. "They've always worked hard and I guess they show the marks."
"Oh, your hands are beautiful, Miss Doane. I can't ever believe you have worked with them."
"Can't you? I never had my hands idle in my lap in all my life till I come here. But—well, they ought to have something happen to 'em the way Jane works with 'em. Whenever I let her she's fussin' with my hands with little sticks and knives, until sometimes I'd like to box her ears. How any one can spend so much time just settin' still and lettin' some one fuss with their hands, I don't see. But I let her do it, as I don't have much else to do here but just set still, and she'd better fool with my hands than spend her time talkin' with William, which she does enough as it is."
"Oh, is Jeanne flirting?"
"Now, I shouldn't say anything. But I can't help seein' things, even if they do think I'm an old woman with my eyes half shut."
"I'll speak to Father about it."
"No, you won't, Miss Thornton. Leave her alone. It ain't much company for a young girl like her just to wait on an old woman like me; and William seems a nice young man. I like him, Miss Thornton, but I jest can't bear the sight of James."
Daphne turned quickly.
"Has James been impertinent to you?"
Drusilla shook her head.
"No, not at all. I wish he would be impudent or anything except jest stand around and look grand. He don't approve of me, Miss Thornton—even his back when he leaves the dining-room says he don't approve of me. I never seen a back that can say so much as his'n."
"Well, if you don't like him I will speak to Father and he will get another butler."
"No, don't do that. He don't do nothin' to lose his place for; and I'd hate to have to git used to another back. He never says a word, but he jest looks; but perhaps he'll git over it, or I'll git used to it, or maybe when I git more used to things I'll talk to him and ask him if he can't be a little more human, instead of lookin' like the chief mourner at a funeral. It sometimes makes me feel that I'm dead and he's takin' the last look."
"Oh, that's his way. He's English, you know, and English servants are trained to look like mummies."
"Well, he certainly had good trainin'. What time do we go callin' to-morrow? I want to git it over."
"I'll come for you at four, and I'll tell them to have the small car ready. Good-by. I'm going to a great big tea where I am to pour. I love to give tea, although I always give the wrong person lemon."
The next day Jeanne, being told that Drusilla was going to call upon the ladies of the neighborhood, took extra care in dressing her; and when Daphne came, Drusilla was a very richly, exquisitely dressed old lady waiting for her car. The bag delighted Drusilla and she examined the fittings, and looked at the little vanity case with its tiny powder puff and mirror. Daphne laughed as she saw her peep into the mirror.