Drusilla with a Million by Elizabeth Cooper - HTML preview
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At three o'clock on July 16th, there met in the Doane library Mr. Carrington, Mr. Raydon--the multi-millionaire and great friend of Drusilla's--Mr. Thornton, Dr. Eaton, and half a dozen of the residents of Brookvale.
"Gentlemen," Drusilla began when the men were seated, "I suppose you wonder why you are all here. I'm goin' to tell you, because you are all my neighbors and I have heard that you are worryin' about what I am goin' to do. We've all got a right to expect happiness in Heaven, but I believe we git what we give, and I want to give as much happiness here as I kin, so's I'll be sure to have somethin' to my account on the other side. I been lookin' around fer two years, tryin' to find a way to leave my million dollars so's to give as much happiness and joy to them that hasn't their share, or so's to benefit the most people in the most lastin' way, and I haven't found it yet. But I have found a way to invest my income, and a little of the money that's come in through the good business head and investments of Mr. Thornton.
"I've always loved babies, and I've always wanted to be a mother; but it didn't seem to fit in with God's plans fer me. Perhaps He knowed that I'd have a chance to mother a bigger family than I could raise myself, no matter how hard I tried, and he sent me these babies. Now, these are my plans fer them. I ain't goin' to start an orphan asylum, nor a house of refuge, nor no kind of a 'home.' I ain't goin' to take more'n I kin git along comfortable with and make a real home fer, not an institution. I'm goin' to educate 'em and make 'em men and women you'll be proud of, but I ain't goin' to try to make ladies and gentlemen of 'em, whether they're born fer that or not. If a boy has a head that'll make him an architect, then we'll make him an architect, but if he was jest intended fer a good carpenter then he'll be a good carpenter; and if a girl has it in her to be a school-teacher, she'll have a chance at it--if not, she kin always make a good livin' as a dressmaker or a milliner. They're goin' to be made into good middle-class men and women; and when they git their education, I'll have 'em sent out into the world with a trained brain but empty hands, and if they've got the right stuff in 'em, they will soon fill their hands.
"I know there's been lots of objections to the mothers of some of my babies comin' to the neighborhood; but the ones that's willin' to come are the ones who's wantin' a chance to become self-supportin', self-respectin' women; and that's what most women want--jest a chance. They'll be learnt a trade, somethin' that they have leanin's to, and they'll go out in the world agin able to take care of themselves, without help from no one.
"I got a lot of spare rooms in the house that's doin' no good to no one, and I'm goin' to ask some mothers and their little ones to spend a few days with me in the hot weather. I've been to see 'em, and I'll always know the ones I ask. They'll be friends of mine, jest like you ask your friends to visit you fer a few days. It won't be a mothers' home nor a summer home nor nothin' charitable. I'm jest goin' to give a little sunlight to some of my friends in the hot tenements, whose sack of happiness ain't been full to overflowin'.
"Now, that disposes of my income and the new money saved, but it ain't done nothin' with the million dollars. I been visitin' institutions and charities, I've talked with every one who's got an idee about it. Dr. Eaton wants me to endow a home fer children and mothers; but I won't do that, as I can't live always to watch it. I know that I could make Dr. Eaton manager of it, and you gentlemen directors and my idees would be carried out as long as you was alive; but you all got to die sometime, and it'd git to be a business thing, payin' a lot of officials, and it'd drift into an institution like lots I've seen, with no heart in it. I've thought a lot about them foundations that leaves the money to be used as the times sees fit, and they seem kind of sensible, because times change and what I'd leave it fer now might not be needed in fifty years. New things would come up with the new generations, and my fund'd be way behind the times and not fit in. I'm a little leanin' towards that kind of leavin' the money, yet--yet--I don't know. I'd like to git something new, something different, that'd go on and on in the right way doin' good.
"Mr. Raydon kind of has leanin's towards a people's bank, lending money to poor people who ain't got nothin' but their honesty and reputation--but he's goin' to figger that out by himself and in the meantime he's waitin' to see what I find out, as he's got more money than he kin take with him. He says he's only interested 'cause he likes me and I make him laugh, but way down deep inside of him he's got the biggest kind of heart; but he don't want his money to be wasted when he's gone, no more'n I do.
"Gentlemen, I want you to think it over, ask every one, the same's I'm doin', git some new idees about the way to spend a million dollars and spend it right."
They rose and went to the lawn, where the neighbors with whom Drusilla had made friends were waiting to greet their hostess. As Drusilla passed little groups of mothers playing with their children under the trees, the men with her saw tired faces light up, and gratitude in faded eyes of weary mothers, while tiny children clung to her dress or ran shyly forward to take her hands in their baby fingers. Love shone from Drusilla's face and was reflected in the eyes of all these poor and helpless who followed her with loving glance as she crossed the lawn.
As they were waiting for the tea to be served Mr. Carrington stood upon a chair and called for attention.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Mothers and Babies," he said. "To-day is a great day for us all, but more for the people of Brookvale than for the others. Two years ago Miss Doane came to us, and found a great many of us hard, self-centered, worldly. Why"--and he laughed--"I remember I was chairman of a committee who was to wait upon her and persuade her that she must not bring babies to our aristocratic neighborhood. I never waited--but that is another story.
"There is a great chemist, and he dissolves selfishness and worldliness with a little invisible powder called love. Miss Doane brought stores of that powder with her, and scatters it over her doughnuts and her gingerbread and her cookies that she sends us, and she does it up in little packages that we can't see and slips it into our pockets when we're not looking. It has spread like a fine mist over Brookvale. And I am speaking for Brookvale, and I want to say that we are glad to have her with us, that we are glad to see her family growing up around her"-– waving his hand toward the groups of children on the lawn--"and on this, her seventy-second birthday, we want you all to give three cheers for Drusilla Doane, OUR Drusilla Doane!"
And he led in the cheering that made the air resound.
Drusilla flushed and wiped her eyes, and in answer to the calls of "Speech! Speech!" she said:
"I ain't never made a speech in my life, as I hold with St. Paul that women should be seen and not heard. But--I want to say that I been happy a whole heartful since I been with you--and I want to share it--and I want you to feel that in passin' it on to others--I'm passin' on your love that you all been a-showin' me. So you'll git it all agin, as love always comes back. But--but--I can't talk--I can't tell you how I feel; I jest want in my small way to make the world a little bit glad that Elias Doane hunted up a charity home and found in it Drusilla"; and she shyly drew back into the crowd.
When she saw the people sitting at the tables drinking their tea, or walking over the beautiful lawns, her eyes looked for John. Finding him, she went up to him. "John, let's go up on the porch off my room. I'm tired, and we can look at 'em all from there. I want to be alone with you."
They went up to the veranda and stood overlooking the happy scene. Mothers were sitting at the small tables happily watching their larger children playing under the trees. Babies were rolling on the grass, their baby prattle and laughter coming faintly to the ears of John and Drusilla. The soft afternoon sun filtered through the trees and seemed to cover them with a golden glow.
As Drusilla watched them, she slipped her hand into one of John's and leaned forward, looking up at him with a soft light in her dear old eyes.
"John," she said, "when we were young, we used to dream that we'd grow old together and see our children's children playin' round us."
She was silent for a moment. Then:
"John,"--she motioned toward the lawn--"let's play our dream's come true!"