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- Drusilla with a Million - 3/43 -
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'
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