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- Drusilla with a Million - 20/43 -
Dr. Eaton, you come with me to that big room I was a lookin' at the other day."
She led the way to the third floor, where there was a big billiard room.
"Isn't this just the right kind of a room for babies?" she exclaimed. "Look at them windows to let the sun in! Now, how many beds can I put here? We'll take them big tables out and we can put a lot of beds side by side; and the nurse can sleep in this room here that opens out of it, with the littlest babies near her."
The doctor looked at the room.
"It seems made for a nursery, doesn't it?" he commented. "Let's see. You could put six little beds along each side, and a couple in the other room with the nurse's bed. That would more than dispose of your dozen already."
"And I been a-worryin' what to do with 'em all when I got this room! I ought 'a' been ashamed of myself! Now, you run right along and order the things we need--beds and whatever babies should have--and send them right up. Tell the storekeepers that they must git here at once or I won't take 'em. I can jest see James's face when I tell him his wife won't need to keep them five babies he's got any longer. I'll go and take my bunnet off and help move."
Within the next two days twelve little beds were established in the billiard room, and the little mother was installed as first nurse, with Jane and a couple of girls hired as assistants.
That evening Drusilla was sitting down to dinner--or supper, as she called it--when Mr. Thornton was ushered in. He was more severe and uncompromising than ever, and Drusilla said to herself, "I'm in for it. He's heard somethin'."
But she did not show that she was a wee bit nervous. She said, as if it were the usual thing for him to make her an evening call,
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Thornton? Won't you have some supper with me?"
"No, thank you. I came to talk with you."
"Now, that's real nice of you. I always like to talk. Set right down and we'll have a comfortable visit. You'd better change your mind and have some supper."
"No; my dinner is waiting for me."
"I eat my dinner in the middle of the day, though James will call it lunch. I think a great big dinner at night makes you dream of your grandmother, so I have mine like I used to."
"I understand that you have been to court, and brought home with you that woman and her child."
"Well, well! How news does travel! How did you hear that?"
"It is in the evening papers."
"Is it? Well, I do declare! It seems I can't do nothin' but what I git in the papers. I don't need to talk to git writ up; my money talks for me. What did they say?"
The lawyer drew a paper from his pocket and handed it to Drusilla. She took her glasses from her forehead, where they had been resting, and read aloud: MISS DRUSILLA DOANE, THE FRIEND OF THE FRIENDLESS.
"Well, ain't that nice of 'em!" she stopped to comment; then she went on reading.
"They seem to have it all down," she said, handing the paper back to Mr. Thornton.
He looked at her with the air he used when trying to frighten witnesses who opposed him.
"Of course, you will deny all this. You will make a statement that it is all a mistake, and that you do not intend to give these--these-- wanderers a home."
"Now, that's a good word, Mr. Thornton; that's jest what they are-- wanderers. But they won't be wanderers no more; they've found a home."
"What do you mean?"
"Jest what I said, Mr. Thornton. I mean to give that mother and her baby a home."
"I do not understand you at all, Miss Doane; or at least I hope I am mistaken in your meaning."
"I talk plain American."
"I have been waiting for you to send those children that have been left here to the proper authorities."
"Well, I'm an authority--or at least I seem to be one since I got all this money; and no one ain't ever said I wasn't proper."
"You are evading the question. I have said with the advent of each child that it should be sent, along with the others, to the police. They would dispose of them in the homes ordained for them."
"I ain't a Presbyterian, Mr. Thornton, and I don't believe in predestination and foreordination. Them babies of mine was never ordained for a home--the kind you mean; and I won't put 'em there. I got room and I got money to feed 'em and clothe 'em; so why shouldn't I keep 'em?"
"It is quite impossible, _quite_ impossible!"
"Why--why--my late client, Mr. Elias Doane--"
"Now, don't throw him in my teeth again. Elias Doane don't care whether I keep babies or poodle dogs, and I like babies best. Now, don't let's quarrel, Mr. Thornton," as she saw him give an exasperated shake of his head and rise as if to go. "Set still and talk it over with me calm like. Can't you see _my_ side to it? I'm old and I'm lonesome, and I've always wanted babies but the Lord didn't see fit to let me have 'em, and now He's sent me these. I feel that I'd be a goin' against His plans if I didn't keep 'em. My old heart's jest full of love that's goin' to waste, and I want to give it to some one, and," laughing, "I can't waste much of it on you, can I? I don't want to die with it all shet up inside of me. I want to love these babies and learn 'em to love me. Why, what chance will a baby brung up in a 'home' have to know about love? How can they ever be learnt of the love of God when they grow up, if they don't learn something about love when they're little. They won't know the word. Don't be so set against it, Mr. Thornton"--she looked at him pleadingly for a moment, then her eyes twinkled--"though it won't do you much good as I'm set on this and I'm goin' to do it. Your late client, Mr. Elias Doane, said, 'Spend my money, Drusilla, in your own way'; and I'm takin' him at his word."
Mr. Thornton rose.
"Nothin more can be said then; but it is a disgrace to the neighborhood to have a home for waifs come to it."
Drusilla flushed hotly.
"Don't you call it that; and don't you call it a 'home'! It's a home, but not the kind you mean, and I won't hear it called that."
"I wash my hands of the affair. You will get into trouble, and when you do you may call on me."
Drusilla rose and laid her hand on Mr. Thornton's arm.
"I'm sure to get into trouble," she said. "I always was a hand to do that. But when I do you'll be the true, kind friend I know you are, and help me out."
Mr. Thornton smiled, against his will, as he looked down into the earnest face of the little old lady. He patted the hand on his arm.
"Miss Doane, you are causing me a lot of trouble not connected with the business of the estate; but of course I'll always help you. Every one will--they can't help it."
Drusilla drew a sigh of relief.
"I'm glad to know you ain't agin me, 'cause I like you, even when you almost always come here to scold me. You ain't near so stiff inside as you are outside. We're friends now, ain't we, babies or no babies?"
Mr. Thornton bent and kissed the withered old hand.
"Always, Miss Doane, babies or no babies; but you had better--"
"Never mind! You run along. Your dinner's cold by now. What you want to say'll keep till next time, and I know it ain't near as nice as what you said last. Good night."
John Brierly came.
He first wrote Drusilla a long letter and Drusilla answered it by telegraph--an answer that brought a reminiscent smile to John Brierly's lips. It read:
_"I can't talk by letter. Just come."_
And John came.
He was met at the station by the young man from the lawyer's office who had been to see him in Cliveden, and when he arrived at the house he found Drusilla awaiting him. After the young man left, Drusilla said:
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