Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Well, if a woman hadn’t better be in her grave than be married!  That is, if she can’t be married to a decent man.  No; I don’t care if you are tired, I shan’t let you go to sleep.  No, and I won’t say what I have to say in the morning; I’ll say it now.  It’s all very well for you to come home at what time you like - it’s now half-past twelve - and expect I’m to hold my tongue, and let you go to sleep.  What next, I wonder?  A woman had better be sold for a slave at once.

“And so you’ve gone and joined a club?  The Skylarks, indeed!  A pretty skylark you’ll make of yourself!  But I won’t stay and be ruined by you.  No: I’m determined on that.  I’ll go and take the dear children, and you may get who you like to keep your house.  That is, as long as you have a house to keep - and that won’t be long, I know.

“How any decent man can go and spend his nights in a tavern! - oh, yes, Mr. Caudle; I daresay you do go for rational conversation.  I should like to know how many of you would care for what you call rational conversation, if you had it without your filthy brandy-and-water; yes, and your more filthy tobacco-smoke.  I’m sure the last time you came home, I had the headache for a week.  But I know who it is who’s taking you to destruction.  It’s that brute, Prettyman.  He has broken his own poor wife’s heart, and now he wants to - but don’t you think it, Mr. Caudle; I’ll not have my peace of mind destroyed by the best man that ever trod.  Oh, yes!  I know you don’t care so long as you can appear well to all the world, - but the world little thinks how you behave to me.  It shall know it, though - that I’m determined.

“How any man can leave his own happy fireside to go and sit, and smoke, and drink, and talk with people who wouldn’t one of ’em lift a finger to save him from hanging - how any man can leave his wife - and a good wife, too, though I say it - for a parcel of pot-companions - oh, it’s disgraceful, Mr. Caudle; it’s unfeeling.  No man who had the least love for his wife could do it.

“And I suppose this is to be the case every Saturday?  But I know what I’ll do.  I know - it’s no use, Mr. Caudle, your calling me a good creature: I’m not such a fool as to be coaxed in that way.  No; if you want to go to sleep, you should come home in Christian time, not at half-past twelve.  There was a time, when you were as regular at your fireside as the kettle.  That was when you were a decent man, and didn’t go amongst Heaven knows who, drinking and smoking, and making what you think your jokes.  I never heard any good come to a man who cared about jokes.  No respectable tradesman does.  But I know what I’ll do: I’ll scare away your Skylarks.  The house serves liquor after twelve of a Saturday; and if I don’t write to the magistrates, and have the licence taken away, I’m not lying in this bed this night.  Yes, you may call me a foolish woman; but no, Mr. Caudle, no; it’s you who are the foolish man; or worse than a foolish man; you’re a wicked one.  If you were to die to-morrow - and people who go to public-houses do all they can to shorten their lives - I should like to know who would write upon your tombstone, ‘A tender husband and an affectionate father’?  I - I’d have no such falsehoods told of you, I can assure you.

“Going and spending your money, and - nonsense! don’t tell me - no, if you were ten times to swear it, I wouldn’t believe that you only spent eighteenpence on a Saturday.  You can’t be all those hours and only spend eighteenpence.  I know better.  I’m not quite a fool, Mr. Caudle.  A great deal you could have for eighteenpence!  And all the Club married men and fathers of families.  The more shame for ’em!  Skylarks, indeed!  They should call themselves Vultures; for they can only do as they do by eating up their innocent wives and children.  Eighteenpence a week!  And if it was only that, - do you know what fifty-two eighteenpences come to in a year?  Do you ever think of that, and see the gowns I wear?  I’m sure I can’t, out of the house-money, buy myself a pin-cushion; though I’ve wanted one these six months.  No - not so much as a ball of cotton.  But what do you care so you can get your brandy-and-water?  There’s the girls, too - the things they want!  They’re never dressed like other people’s children.  But it’s all the same to their father.  Oh, yes!  So he can go with his Skylarks they may wear sackcloth for pinafores, and packthread for garters.

“You’d better not let that Mr. Prettyman come here, that’s all; or, rather, you’d better bring him once.  Yes, I should like to see him.  He wouldn’t forget it.  A man who, I may say, lives and moves only in a spittoon.  A man who has a pipe in his mouth as constant as his front teeth.  A sort of tavern king, with a lot of fools like you to laugh at what he thinks his jokes, and give him consequence.  No, Mr. Caudle, no; it’s no use your telling me to go to sleep, for I won’t.  Go to sleep, indeed!  I’m sure it’s almost time to get up.  I hardly know what’s the use of coming to bed at all now.

“The Skylarks, indeed!  I suppose you’ll be buying a ‘Little Warbler,’ and at your time of life, be trying to sing.  The peacocks will sing next.  A pretty name you’ll get in the neighbourhood; and, in a very little time, a nice face you’ll have.  Your nose is getting redder already: and you’ve just one of the noses that liquor always flies to.  You don’t see it’s red?  No - I daresay not - but I see it; I see a great many things you don’t.  And so you’ll go on.  In a little time, with your brandy-and-water - don’t tell me that you only take two small glasses: I know what men’s two small glasses are; in a little time you’ll have a face all over as if it was made of red currant jam.  And I should like to know who’s to endure you then?  I won’t, and so don’t think it.  Don’t come to me.

“Nice habits men learn at clubs!  There’s Joskins: he was a decent creature once, and now I’m told he has more than once boxed his wife’s ears.  He’s a Skylark too.  And I suppose, some day, you’ll be trying to box my ears?  Don’t attempt it, Mr. Caudle; I say don’t attempt it.  Yes - it’s all very well for you to say you don’t mean it, - but I only say again, don’t attempt it.  You’d rue it till the day of your death, Mr. Caudle.

“Going and sitting for four hours at a tavern!  What men, unless they had their wives with them, can find to talk about, I can’t think.  No good, of course.

“Eighteenpence a week - and drinking brandy-and-water, enough to swim a boat!  And smoking like the funnel of a steamship!  And I can’t afford myself so much as a piece of tape!  It’s brutal, Mr. Caudle.  It’s ve-ve-ve - ry bru - tal.”

And here,” says Caudle - “Here, thank Heaven! at last she fell asleep.”

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