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- Drusilla with a Million - 6/43 -
"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
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