Mrs. White waited nervously for the others to arrive. Although she knew the meeting was necessary, she dreaded it. She would not have even called the meeting, but her character demanded it of her, and Mrs. White was not one to shirk her duty. She touched her hat to reassure herself just as Mrs. Blue entered the room, followed by her daughter Miss Adeline.
“Mrs. Blue,” said Mrs. White, “how lovely to see you, my dear. Dear Miss Adeline, what a pleasure!”
“Oh, what a lovely hat,” said Mrs. Blue. “The basket is a delicious touch–and so daring. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”
“Yes, Mama,” said Adeline, echoing her mother’s words. “It’s a lovely hat, delicious and daring.”
“Thank you, ladies,” said Mrs. White. “I appreciate your responding so promptly to my invitation, especially as it is not our usual meeting day. But there is something I must discuss with you–a very serious matter. You see…”
“Oh, I knew it!” twittered Mrs. Blue. “Adeline, didn’t I tell you that Mrs. White had a serious matter to discuss? Otherwise, why would she call a meeting for today when we just met last Monday?”
“Yes, mama, it is a serious matter even though we met last Monday.”
“Is it about Mr. Green?” asked Mrs. Blue. “Oh, say it isn’t so? Or is it Miss Yellow? No, it can’t be her because Adeline and I had the book drive with her only yesterday. If it was about her, I am sure I would have noticed it. There is always something about the eyes that gives it away. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”
“No, Mama; I mean yes, we would have noticed her eyes.”
“Ladies, please!” said Mrs. White. “The matter I wish to discuss with you concerns me. The issue is–and here I must demand your fullest assurance, your most solemn promise that you will keep what I say in strictest confidence, no matter how sorely you are tempted to repeat the matter to others–my drawers.”
“Your drawers!” said Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline in unison.
Mrs. White sighed. It was out now, and there was no getting around it. She straightened her spine and looked directly at her guests.
“My drawers are stuck,” she said. “They have been for several years.”
“Oh, Mrs. White! How dreadful! But…but how could such a thing have happened?”
“How could it not happen? My drawers have not been opened for a long time. And what is worse…”
“There is something worse? Oh, how can we endure it?”
“Mrs. Blue, please. Your interruptions only make this more difficult. Yes, it’s worse. My drawers are not only stuck, but they are full of bottles. What’s more, some of the bottles are so old their contents are beginning to smell.”
“Mama, remember you said something about…”
“Never mind, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, looking uncomfortable. She turned to Mrs. White. “Oh, Mrs. White, words cannot express how deeply I feel for you. Full drawers that are stuck are so…so…well, full! If there is anything I can do, just name it.”
“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. White. “You can help me get them unstuck and emptied. I need my drawers emptied immediately. Now pull. You, too, Adeline.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, “pulling one’s drawers is such a delicate matter. Are you certain it’s appropriate–I mean, with Adeline present.”
“Adeline is well over forty so I should think it’s appropriate. Now pull!”
The three ladies commenced pulling at Mrs. White drawers. They pulled and strained and groaned and grunted until finally Mrs. White’s drawers popped open. A dreadful odor filled the room.
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue.
Mrs. White was fierce in her embarrassment. She immediately began emptying her drawers; Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline followed suit. In minutes a pile of old bottles lay on the floor at Mrs. White’s feet.
“There,” she said, “that’s the last one. I can finish the rest of this on my own. Thank you, ladies, and remember that not one word of this must be spoken. It must forever be our secret. I am only sorry that I kept it to myself for so long.”
“We will be silent as the grave,” said Mrs. Blue. “Isn’t that right, Adeline?”
“Yes, Mama, silent as the grave. And, Mama, is this what you mean when you say better out than in?”