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- Drusilla with a Million - 1/43 -


DRUSILLA WITH A MILLION

By ELIZABETH COOPER

DRUSILLA WITH A MILLION

CHAPTER I

"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!"


Drusilla with a Million - 1/43

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