Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Poor me!  Ha!  I’m sure I don’t know who’d be a poor woman!  I don’t know who’d tie themselves up to a man, if they knew only half they’d have to bear.  A wife must stay at home, and be a drudge, whilst a man can go anywhere.  It’s enough for a wife to sit like Cinderella by the ashes, whilst her husband can go drinking and singing at a tavern.  You never sing?  How do I know you never sing?  It’s very well for you to say so; but if I could hear you, I daresay you’re among the worst of ’em.

“And now, I suppose, it will be the tavern every night?  If you think I’m going to sit up for you, Mr. Caudle, you’re very much mistaken.  No: and I’m not going to get out of my warm bed to let you in, either.  No: nor Susan shan’t sit up for you.  No: nor you shan’t have a latchkey.  I’m not going to sleep with the door upon the latch, to be murdered before the morning.

“Faugh!  Pah!  Whewgh!  That filthy tobacco-smoke!  It’s enough to kill any decent woman.  You know I hate tobacco, and yet you will do it.  You don’t smoke yourself?  What of that?  If you go among people who do smoke, you’re just as bad, or worse.  You might as well smoke - indeed, better.  Better smoke yourself than come home with other people’s smoke all in your hair and whiskers.

“I never knew any good come to a man who went to a tavern.  Nice companions he picks up there!  Yes! people who make it a boast to treat their wives like slaves, and ruin their families.  There’s that wretch Harry Prettyman.  See what he’s come to!  He doesn’t get home now till two in the morning; and then in what a state!  He begins quarrelling with the door-mat, that his poor wife may be afraid to speak to him.  A mean wretch!  But don’t you think I’ll be like Mrs. Prettyman.  No: I wouldn’t put up with it from the best man that ever trod.  You’ll not make me afraid to speak to you, however you may swear at the door-mat.  No, Mr. Caudle, that you won’t.

You don’t intend to stay out till two in the morning?

“How do you know what you’ll do when you get among such people?  Men can’t answer for themselves when they get boozing one with another.  They never think of their poor wives, who are grieving and wearing themselves out at home.  A nice headache you’ll have to-morrow morning - or rather this morning; for it must be past twelve.  You won’t have a headache?  It’s very well for you to say so, but I know you will; and then you may nurse yourself for me.  Ha! that filthy tobacco again!  No; I shall not go to sleep like a good soul.  How’s people to go to sleep when they’re suffocated?

“Yes, Mr. Caudle, you’ll be nice and ill in the morning!  But don’t you think I’m going to let you have your breakfast in bed, like Mrs. Prettyman.  I’ll not be such a fool.  No; nor I won’t have discredit brought upon the house by sending for soda-water early, for all the neighbourhood to say, ‘Caudle was drunk last night.’  No: I’ve some regard for the dear children, if you haven’t.  No: nor you shan’t have broth for dinner.  Not a neck of mutton crosses my threshold, I can tell you.

You won’t want soda, and you won’t want broth?  All the better.  You wouldn’t get ’em if you did, I can assure you. - Dear, dear, dear!  That filthy tobacco!  I’m sure it’s enough to make me as bad as you are.  Talking about getting divorced, - I’m sure tobacco ought to be good grounds.  How little does a woman think, when she marries, that she gives herself up to be poisoned!  You men contrive to have it all of your own side, you do.  Now if I was to go and leave you and the children, a pretty noise there’d be!  You, however, can go and smoke no end of pipes and - You didn’t smoke?  It’s all the same, Mr. Caudle, if you go among smoking people.  Folks are known by their company.  You’d better smoke yourself, than bring home the pipes of all the world.

“Yes, I see how it will be.  Now you’ve once gone to a tavern, you’ll always be going.  You’ll be coming home tipsy every night; and tumbling down and breaking your leg, and putting out your shoulder; and bringing all sorts of disgrace and expense upon us.  And then you’ll be getting into a street fight - oh!  I know your temper too well to doubt it, Mr. Caudle - and be knocking down some of the police.  And then I know what will follow.  It must follow.  Yes, you’ll be sent for a month or six weeks to the treadmill.  Pretty thing that, for a respectable tradesman, Mr. Caudle, to be put upon the treadmill with all sorts of thieves and vagabonds, and - there, again, that horrible tobacco! - and riffraff of every kind.  I should like to know how your children are to hold up their heads, after their father has been upon the treadmill? - No; I won’t go to sleep.  And I’m not talking of what’s impossible.  I know it will all happen - every bit of it.  If it wasn’t for the dear children, you might be ruined and I wouldn’t so much as speak about it, but - oh, dear, dear! at least you might go where they smoke good tobacco - but I can’t forget that I’m their mother.  At least, they shall have one parent.

“Taverns!  Never did a man go to a tavern who didn’t die a beggar.  And how your pot-companions will laugh at you when they see your name in the Gazette!  For it must happen.  Your business is sure to fall off; for what respectable people will buy toys for their children of a drunkard?  You’re not a drunkard!  No: but you will be - it’s all the same.

“You’ve begun by staying out till midnight.  By-and-by ’twill be all night.  But don’t you think, Mr. Caudle, you shall ever have a key.  I know you.  Yes; you’d do exactly like that Prettyman, and what did he do, only last Wednesday?  Why, he let himself in about four in the morning, and brought home with him his pot-companion, Puffy.  His dear wife woke at six, and saw Prettyman’s dirty boots at her bedside.  And where was the wretch, her husband?  Why, he was drinking downstairs - swilling.  Yes; worse than a midnight robber, he’d taken the keys out of his dear wife’s pockets - ha! what that poor creature has to bear! - and had got at the brandy.  A pretty thing for a wife to wake at six in the morning, and instead of her husband to see his dirty boots!

“But I’ll not be made your victim, Mr. Caudle, not I.  You shall never get at my keys, for they shall lie under my pillow - under my own head, Mr. Caudle.

“You’ll be ruined, but if I can help it, you shall ruin nobody but yourself.

“Oh, that hor - hor - hor - i - ble tob - ac - co!”

To this lecture, Caudle affixes no comment.  A certain proof, we think, that the man had nothing to say for himself.

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