Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Umph!  I’m sure!  Well!  I wonder what it will be next?  There’s nothing proper, now - nothing at all.  Better get somebody else to keep the house, I think.  I can’t do it now, it seems; I’m only in the way here: I’d better take the children, and go.

“What am I grumbling about now?  It’s very well for you to ask that!  I’m sure I’d better be out of the world than - there now, Mr. Caudle; there you are again!  I shall speak, sir.  It isn’t often I open my mouth, Heaven knows!  But you like to hear nobody talk but yourself.  You ought to have married a negro slave, and not any respectable woman.

“You’re to go about the house looking like thunder all the day, and I’m not to say a word.  Where do you think pudding’s to come from every day?  You show a nice example to your children, you do; complaining, and turning your nose up at a sweet piece of cold mutton, because there’s no pudding!  You go a nice way to make ’em extravagant - teach ’em nice lessons to begin the world with.  Do you know what puddings cost; or do you think they fly in at the window?

“You hate cold mutton.  The more shame for you, Mr. Caudle.  I’m sure you’ve the stomach of a lord, you have.  No, sir: I didn’t choose to hash the mutton.  It’s very easy for you to say hash it; but I know what a joint loses in hashing: it’s a day’s dinner the less, if it’s a bit.  Yes, I daresay; other people may have puddings with cold mutton.  No doubt of it; and other people become bankrupts.  But if ever you get into the Gazette, it sha’n’t be my fault - no; I’ll do my duty as a wife to you, Mr. Caudle: you shall never have it to say that it was my housekeeping that brought you to beggary.  No; you may sulk at the cold meat - ha! I hope you’ll never live to want such a piece of cold mutton as we had to-day! and you may threaten to go to a tavern to dine; but, with our present means, not a crumb of pudding do you get from me.  You shall have nothing but the cold joint - nothing as I’m a Christian sinner.

“Yes; there you are, throwing those fowls in my face again!  I know you once brought home a pair of fowls; I know it: and weren’t you mean enough to want to stop ’em out of my week’s money?  Oh, the selfishness - the shabbiness of men!  They can go out and throw away pounds upon pounds with a pack of people who laugh at ’em afterwards; but if it’s anything wanted for their own homes, their poor wives may hunt for it.  I wonder you don’t blush to name those fowls again!  I wouldn’t be so little for the world, Mr. Caudle.

“What are you going to do?

Going to get up?

“Don’t make yourself ridiculous, Mr. Caudle; I can’t say a word to you like any other wife, but you must threaten to get up.  Do be ashamed of yourself.

“Puddings, indeed!  Do you think I’m made of puddings?  Didn’t you have some boiled rice three weeks ago?  Besides, is this the time of the year for puddings?  It’s all very well if I had money enough allowed me like any other wife to keep the house with: then, indeed, I might have preserves like any other woman; now, it’s impossible; and it’s cruel - yes, Mr. Caudle, cruel - of you to expect it.

Apples aren’t so dear, are they?

“I know what apples are, Mr. Caudle, without your telling me.  But I suppose you want something more than apples for dumplings?  I suppose sugar costs something, doesn’t it?  And that’s how it is.  That’s how one expense brings on another, and that’s how people go to ruin.


“What’s the use of your lying muttering there about pancakes?  Don’t you always have ’em once a year - every Shrove Tuesday?  And what would any moderate, decent man want more?

“Pancakes, indeed!  Pray, Mr. Caudle, - no, it’s no use your saying fine words to me to let you go to sleep; I sha’n’t! - pray do you know the price of eggs just now?  There’s not an egg you can trust to under seven and eight a shilling; well, you’ve only just to reckon up how many eggs - don’t lie swearing there at the eggs in that manner, Mr. Caudle; unless you expect the bed to let you fall through.  You call yourself a respectable tradesman, I suppose?  Ha!  I only wish people knew you as well as I do!  Swearing at eggs, indeed!  But I’m tired of this usage, Mr. Caudle; quite tired of it; and I don’t care how soon it’s ended!

“I’m sure I do nothing but work and labour, and think how to make the most of everything; and this is how I’m rewarded.  I should like to see anybody whose joints go further than mine.  But if I was to throw away your money into the street, or lay it out in fine feathers on myself, I should be better thought of.  The woman who studies her husband and her family is always made a drudge of.  It’s your fine fal-lal wives who’ve the best time of it.

“What’s the use of your lying groaning there in that manner?  That won’t make me hold my tongue, I can tell you.  You think to have it all your own way - but you won’t, Mr. Caudle!  You can insult my dinner; look like a demon, I may say, at a wholesome piece of cold mutton - ah! the thousands of far better creatures than you are who’d been thankful for that mutton! - and I’m never to speak!  But you’re mistaken - I will.  Your usage of me, Mr. Caudle, is infamous - unworthy of a man.  I only wish people knew you for what you are; but I’ve told you again and again they shall some day.

“Puddings!  And now I suppose I shall hear of nothing but puddings!  Yes, and I know what it would end in.  First, you’d have a pudding every day - oh, I know your extravagance - then you’d go for fish, - then I shouldn’t wonder if you’d have soup; turtle, no doubt: then you’d go for a dessert; and - oh! I see it all as plain as the quilt before me - but no, not while I’m alive!  What your second wife may do I don’t know; perhaps she’ll be a fine lady; but you sha’n’t be ruined by me, Mr. Caudle; that I’m determined.  Puddings, indeed!  Pu-dding-s!  Pud - ”

Exhausted nature,” says Caudle, “could hold out no longer.  She went to sleep.”

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