“No, he couldn’t,” Derry agreed. “You’d better hang out a recruiting sign, Drusilla.”
“I should if they would let me. The best I can do is ask them to tea and sing for them.”
It was right here that Bronson’s message had broken in, and Derry, coming back from the telephone, had said, “Sing for me.”
Drusilla lighted two red candles on the piano in the alcove. She began with a medley of patriotic songs. With her voice never soaring above a repressed note, she managed to give the effect of culminating emotion, so that when she reached a climax in the Marseillaise, Derry rose, thrilled, to his feet.
She whirled around and faced him. “They all do that,” she said, with a glowing air Of triumph. “It’s when I get them.”
“Why did you give the Marseillaise last?”
“It has the tramp in it of marching men—I love it.”
“But why not the ’Star Spangled Banner’?”
“That’s for sacred moments. I hate to make it common—but I’ll sing it—now—”
Still standing, he listened. Drusilla held her voice to that low note, but there was the crash of battle in the music that she made, the hush of dawn, the cry of victory—
“Dear girl, you are a genius.”
“No, I am not. But I can feel things—and I can make others feel—”
She rose and went to the window. “There’s a new moon,” she said, “come and see—”
The curtains were not drawn, and the apartment was high up, so that they looked out beyond the hills to a sky in which the daylight blue had faded to a faint green, and saw the little moon and one star.
“Derry,” Drusilla said, softly. “Derry, why aren’t you fighting?”
It was the question he had dreaded. He had seen it often in her eyes, but never before had she voiced it.
“I can’t tell you, Drusilla, but there’s a reason—a good one. God knows I would go if I could.”
The passion in his voice convinced her.
“Don’t you know I’d be in it if I had my way. But I’ve got to stay on the shelf like the tin soldier in the fairy tale. Do you remember, Drusilla? And people keep asking me—why?”
“I shouldn’t have asked it, Derry?”
“You couldn’t know. And you had a right to ask—everybody has a right—and I can’t answer.”
She laid her hand on his shoulder. “When I was a little girl,” she said, softly, “I used to cry—because I was so sorry for the—tin soldier—”
“Are you sorry for me, Drusilla?”
They stood in silence among the shadows, with only the red candles burning. Then Derry said, heartily, “You are the best friend that a fellow ever had, Drusilla.”
And that was as far as he would play the game!
Whatever else might be said of General Drake, his Bacchanalian adventures were those of a gentleman. Not for him were the sinister streets and the sordid taverns of the town. When his wild moods came upon him, he struck out straight for open country. Up hill and down dale he trudged, a knight of the road, finding shelter and refreshment at wayside inns, or perchance at some friendly farm.