Drusilla with a Million by Elizabeth Cooper - HTML preview

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Chapter X

The following Wednesday Miss Doane received a message to the effect that Daphne and Mary Deane were going in to the matinee that day and would stop to see her on their return. She passed the day wondering how she could legitimately get Mr. James Thornton to stop on his way home from the office; then Providence came to her aid, as it always did. James brought her word that the chef wished to speak to her.

"What does he want of me, James?"

James coughed discreetly.

"I think you had better see him, Miss Doane."

Drusilla looked at him sharply a moment.

"Well, send him here," she said.

The chef came into the room. She looked at the fat, mustached Frenchman for a moment before she spoke.

"What do you want to see me about, cook?"

The chef drew himself up.

"I wish to pay my compliments to Madame and say I can no longer serve her." "You mean you want to quit?"

The Frenchman bowed.

"Madame comprehends."

"Speak English, cook. What did you say?"

"I said that Madame understands perfectly."

"Why do you want to leave?"

The Frenchman drew himself up tragically. "I can no longer serve Madame: it is not convenable to my dignity."

"What's hurtin' your dignity?"

"It is not for me to cook for a lot of babies, and--and--a nigger baby."

Drusilla looked at him silently for a moment.

"Um-um--I see," she said. "You don't think you ought to cook for babies. There ain't much cookin'; they're mostly milk fed now."

"There is the porridge in the morning, and the soft-boiled eggs, and --and--" "Oh, you object to cookin' eggs and porridge. It ain't hard."

"It is not the deefeeculty; it is the disgrace. I am a great artist-- a chef--it hurts the soul of the artist to--"

"I don't want an artist in the kitchen. I want a cook. Artists paint picters; they don't boil potatoes. What do you mean?"

"You do not understand, Madame. I am an artist; I have cooked in the best houses."

"Ain't this a good house?"

"It was, Madame; and I was proud to serve you until the house was turned into an orphan asylum, a--a--home for children of the street, and--"

Drusilla flushed suddenly.

"That'll do, cook. I've heard all I want. Perhaps you're a great cook, but when you cook for me you'll cook for whoever is under my roof. And I want you to understand that this is not an orphan asylum. These children are my visitors; and so long as they're in my house, they'll eat, and if you don't want to cook for them, well--you can cook for some one else. You can go, cook. Mr. Thornton'll give you your money."

And Drusilla sat down a very angry and ruffled Drusilla.

"Orphan asylum, indeed! He'll be callin' it a home next. What does anybody want with a man in the kitchen--especially a man who's got more hair under his nose than on his head!"

She was quiet for a while; then she laughed softly to herself.

"The Lord takes care of his own. Now I been wondering all day how to get that man here, and here's my chance. Jane, tell some one to telephone Mr. Thornton's brother to stop here on his way from the office. I want to speak to him particularly."

It was nearly six o'clock before the lawyer's motor stopped before Drusilla's door. When the lawyer came in Drusilla said to herself, "I don't blame his girl none. He's worse'n his brother;" but she turned smilingly to him.

"I'm afraid that I've called you in on business that'll seem mighty little to a man," she said; "but it's big to a woman. I'm changin' cooks."

Mr. Thornton smiled.

"I don't see where you require my services--"

"Oh, yes, I do. You know the expenses of this house are kept up by the estate, and you pay all the servants. Now I don't like to send a cook away unless I tell you. But this cook's goin' and he's goin' sudden."

"Isn't he a good cook?"

"Yes, I suppose he is; but, between you and me and the gatepost, I won't be sorry to see the last of him. I guess he's a fine cook for fancy cookin', but I been used to plain things all my life and I'm tired of things with French names. When I have a stew I like to have a stew, and I'd like real American vittles once in a while. Some good pork and beans and cabbage that ain't all covered up with flummadiddles so that I don't know I'm eatin' cabbage; an' I like vegetables that ain't all cut up in fancy picters, and green corn on a cob without a silver stick in the end of it. I liked his things real well at first; but he can't make pie and his cakes is too fancy-- and, well--he got sassy and said he wouldn't cook for a lot of babies, and he's goin'. You just be sure of that, Mr. Thornton; he's goin'."

Mr. Thornton said dryly: "I presume it is a little lowering to the dignity of a French chef to cook for a lot of waifs--"

"Now you be careful, Mr. Thornton, or you'll go trottin' along with the cook. I'm a little bit techy about them babies--"

The man flushed and rose to go.

"I did not mean to offend you, Miss Doane. We are at your service. What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to get me a woman cook--by the way, what did you pay that cook?" "I think, if I remember rightly, he receives a hundred and fifty dollars."

Drusilla sat back in her chair aghast.

"One hundred and fifty dollars a month for a cook! Elias Doane must 'a' been out of his head!"

"I think that is not an exorbitant price for a cook with the reputation of this one. He was for many years with Mr. Doane."

"To think of it costin' one hundred and fifty dollars a month before you got anything to eat, and all give to that fat, lazy Frenchman! If I'd 'a' knowed it, his things would 'a' choked me. And your brother talked to me about the expense of keepin' my children! Why, you git me a fat Irish woman, who likes real vittles, and who ain't above cookin' oatmeal, and pay her about fifty dollars a month, and she'll suit me and we'll be savin' enough to pay for the babies."

She was quiet a moment.

"You talked kind of mean about my babies, and I know you was thinkin' about my colored baby." Then, looking at him suddenly: "Did you ever see a colored baby when he's nothin' on but a little white shirt?"

The lawyer shook his head stiffly.

"I'm afraid my duties have not called me in the neighborhood of colored babies dressed only in white shirts."

"Well," said Drusilla, "you've missed a lot. But I'm goin' to begin your education right away. It's just bedtime. You come with me."

And before the astonished lawyer could voice his protest he was being hurried down the hall and up the wide stairs to the big nursery, Drusilla pattering along at his side, talking all the time.

"You know every one wonders why I keep this little Rastus--the doctor give him that name--but I keep him just to make me laugh. Some of the other babies make me want to cry, they're so sickly and puny, but you can't cry at Rastus. He's goin' away next week to some people who'll take him till he's old enough to go to that big colored school that's run by Mr. Washington, where I'm goin' to see that he's made a man of, and show people what's in a little black boy. But just look at him-- here he is!"

She led the way down the long room, lined with beds on each side, to where a girl was preparing a very happy black baby for bed. As Drusilla said, he was clothed only in a little white shirt; and as his plump body lay over the nurse's lap he exposed to view a very fat little back and a pair of dimpled legs that were kicking in evident enjoyment of the rubbing his back was receiving at the hands of the nurse.

The lawyer stopped at the nurse's side and watched the baby for a moment. Then he broke into a jolly laugh.

"You're right, Miss Doane. You can't help it." And before he was really aware of what he did, he bent over the squirming baby and gave it a little spank.

The baby twisted an astonished face around the nurse's knee. Seeing the man looking down at him, he puckered up his little face and the big eyes filled with tears.

Mr. Thornton stooped quickly.

"You poor little tad!" he said. "Did I scare you? Here"--as the wails became louder--"come here." He took the baby into his arms and tossed him high over his head. "It's all right, baby; I didn't mean it."

As he was holding the baby above him, laughing into the now laughing face, a voice from the doorway said, "Jim."

Mr. Thornton nearly dropped the baby in his astonishment. He looked at the vision of the pretty woman standing in the doorway, and then hastily deposited the baby in the nurse's lap.

"Mary!" he said. "Mary!"

She came to him, seeing nothing in the room but the man.

"Oh, Jim, you are human after all. You are, you are!"

The astonished nurse saw a woman folded in a man's arms and a woman crying happily on a man's shoulders.

Drusilla watched them for a moment and then went to the door, where Daphne was waiting. The girl took Drusilla's hand excitedly.

"It worked, didn't it, Miss Doane; it worked!"

They waited in Drusilla's room for quite a while before two shamefaced but happy looking people appeared, hand in hand. Mr. Thornton went up to Drusilla and took her hand in both his own.

"Miss Doane," he said enthusiastically, "start all the asylums--red, black, or yellow--that you want. Take the whole African race if you want to, and I'll see that you get cooks enough for them."

Mary Deane laughed--the laugh of a happy woman who has come into her own. "And, Miss Doane," she added, "we'll do better than that. Rastus isn't your colored baby any more. He's Jim's and mine. We're going to see to his education, for if it hadn't been for Rastus--well--perhaps there'd never have been a happy Mary."

"Or," said Mr. Thornton with a glad laugh, "or a Sunny Jim."