When Monsieur Dupont was a Frenchman, he had three daughters , and their names were Anne-Marie, Therese, and La p’tite Georgette. But when he became an American for a change, he called himself Mr. Dewpond, and his daughters were called Anne Mary, Terry and George.
Mrs Dewpond (who still called herself Madame Dupont when nobody was looking) had a linen-cupboard of which she was very proud and it was her one delight to keep it always full of the most beautiful linen. Linen fascinated her, just as kittens fascinate other people and money fascinates my Uncle James. She was never tired of buying it and running her fingers over it, and holding it against her cheek, and then tucking it away lovingly in her cupboard; and whenever she had a birthday, her three daughters would put all their savings together and buy her a table-cloth or a pair of dusters, so that Mrs Dewpond should say, "My darlings, but how they are ravishing!" They loved to hear her say this.
One day Mrs Dewpond was not very well: and then there were more days when she was no better; and first a doctor came, and then a nurse came, and then she and the nurse went away to the country together to see if it would do her any good. And all the time Mr Dewpond went about the house saying, "T’chk, t’chck, t’chk" to himself, and looking very miserable; and Anne Mary wrote to her Mother every day to say they were all getting on all right and did want her back so badly; and Terry ended up her prayers every night with, "And may she suddenly come back tomorrow morning, so that I can wake up and there she is;" and George kissed the door of her Mother’s empty bedroom every time she passed it, as a sort of friendly habit; and all the house called to her to come back to it.
And at last there came a day when Mr. Dewpond had a letter saying that Mrs. Dewpond was very nearly well again; and would be home again on Saturday afternoon. This was on the Monday, so they had less than a week to wait, and they were all just as happy as they could be, thinking of it.
"We must celebrate it," said Terry solemnly.
George didn’t know what "celebrate" meant, so Anne Mary explained it to her until she did know, and then they all wondered how they should do it.
"I know," said Terry suddenly. "Lets send all the linen to the wash, and then it will be lovely and clean and smelling lavendery when she comes back to it.",
Anne Mary wasn’t sure if this was a good thing to do. There was such a lot of it and it would look so funny on the bill if they suddenly had a hundred and twelve table-cloths and only one white shirt, and-
"Well, anyhow, George thinks it’s a lovely idea," said Terry carelessly, "and you know what fun it will be putting it all back again."
The thought of putting it all back again was too much for Anne Mary.
"Very well, darlings, " she said, "we’ll do it. Come along."
So they counted it out. There were 112 table-cloths, 42 bath-towels, 73 small towels, 26 pairs of white sheets , 229 pillow-cases, and more dusters than I can possibly put down here. And they all went to the laundry together. On the Saturday morning they all came back (except one duster) and Anne Mary, Terry and George put them in the cupboard neat as neat, George being particularly helpful. And then they waited for their Mother.
She came at last. Anne Mary said that she was prettier than ever, and Mr. Dewpond said she had never looked so well, and Terry and George thought she was even nicer to kiss than she had ever been before. For some time they all talked together about everything, and you could see that Mrs. Dewpond couldn’t help thinking about her linen-cupboard now and then, but she didn’t say anything; and Terry and George kept whispering to each other, "Won’t she be surprised when she see?" -and sometimes George said to Anne Mary, "How surprised do you think she’ll be?" At last she got up, saying, "Well I think I’ll just-" and they knew where she was going , and they all went with her. she threw open the chest, and of course she knew at once what had happened. she just clasped her hands and cried, "My darlings, but how they are ravishing!" And then they all four hugged each other.
Later on, when he saw the bill, Mr Dewpond clasped his hands and cried, too.
I didn’t think there was anyone in the world as proud of their linen cupboard as me, but this delightful little tale comes courtesy of the most elegant little children's book ever written: A Gallery of Children by A.A. Milne.
Buy it. Don your most elegant tea dress and spend the afternoon in the company of eleven eloquent little stories of domestic bliss.