Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Now, Mr. Caudle - Mr. Caudle, I say: oh: you can’t be asleep already, I know now, what I mean to say is this; there’s no use, none at all, in our having any disturbance about the matter; but, at last my mind’s made up, Mr. Caudle; I shall leave you.  Either I know all you’ve been doing to-night, or to-morrow morning I quit the house.  No, no; there’s an end of the marriage state, I think - an end of all confidence between man and wife - if a husband’s to have secrets and keep ’em all to himself.  Pretty secrets they must be, when his own wife can’t know ’em!  Not fit for any decent person to know, I’m sure, if that’s the case.  Now, Caudle, don’t let us quarrel, there’s a good soul, tell me what it’s all about?  A pack of nonsense, I dare say; still - not that I care much about it, - still I should like to know.  There’s a dear.  Eh: oh, don’t tell me there’s nothing in it: I know better.  I’m not a fool, Mr. Caudle: I know there’s a good deal in it.  Now, Caudle, just tell me a little bit of it.  I’m sure I’d tell you anything.  You know I would.  Well?

“Caudle, you’re enough to vex a saint!  Now don’t you think you’re going to sleep; because you’re not.  Do you suppose I’d ever suffered you to go and be made a mason, if I didn’t suppose I was to know the secret too?  Not that it’s anything to know, I dare say; and that’s why I’m determined to know it.

“But I know what it is; oh yes, there can be no doubt.  The secret is, to ill-use poor women; to tyrannise over ’em; to make ’em your slaves: especially your wives.  It must be something of the sort, or you wouldn’t be ashamed to have it known.  What’s right and proper never need be done in secret.  It’s an insult to a woman for a man to be a freemason, and let his wife know nothing of it.  But, poor soul! she’s sure to know it somehow - for nice husbands they all make.  Yes, yes; a part of the secret is to think better of all the world than their own wives and families.  I’m sure men have quite enough to care for - that is, if they act properly - to care for them they have at home.  They can’t have much care to spare for the world besides.

“And I suppose they call you Brother Caudle?  A pretty brother, indeed!  Going and dressing yourself up in an apron like a turnpike man - for that’s what you look like.  And I should like to know what the apron’s for?  There must be something in it not very respectable, I’m sure.  Well, I only wish I was Queen for a day or two.  I’d put an end to freemasonry, and all such trumpery, I know.

“Now, come, Caudle; don’t let’s quarrel.  Eh!  You’re not in pain, dear?  What’s it all about?  What are you lying laughing there at?  But I’m a fool to trouble my head about you.

“And you’re not going to let me know the secret, eh?  You mean to say, - you’re not?  Now, Caudle, you know it’s a hard matter to put me in a passion - not that I care about the secret itself: no, I wouldn’t give a button to know it, for it’s all nonsense, I’m sure.  It isn’t the secret I care about: it’s the slight, Mr. Caudle; it’s the studied insult that a man pays to his wife, when he thinks of going through the world keeping something to himself which he won’t let her know.  Man and wife one, indeed!  I should like to know how that can be when a man’s a mason - when he keeps a secret that sets him and his wife apart?  Ha, you men make the laws, and so you take good care to have all the best of ’em to yourselves: otherwise a woman ought to be allowed a divorce when a man becomes a mason: when he’s got a sort of corner-cupboard in his heart - a secret place in his mind - that his poor wife isn’t allowed to rummage!

“Caudle, you sha’n’t close your eyes for a week - no, you sha’n’t - unless you tell me some of it.  Come, there’s a good creature; there’s a love.  I’m sure, Caudle, I wouldn’t refuse you anything - and you know it, or ought to know it by this time.  I only wish I had a secret!  To whom should I think of confiding it, but to my dear husband?  I should be miserable to keep it to myself, and you know it.  Now Caudle?

“Was there ever such a man?  A man, indeed!  A brute! - yes, Mr. Caudle, an unfeeling, brutal creature, when you might oblige me, and you won’t.  I’m sure I don’t object to your being a mason: not at all, Caudle; I dare say it’s a very good thing; I dare say it is - it’s only your making a secret of it that vexes me.  But you’ll tell me - you’ll tell your own Margaret?  You won’t!  You’re a wretch, Mr. Caudle.

“But I know why: oh, yes, I can tell.  The fact is, you’re ashamed to let me know what a fool they’ve been making of you.  That’s it.  You, at your time of life - the father of a family!  I should be ashamed of myself, Caudle.

“And I suppose you’ll be going to what you call your Lodge every night, now.  Lodge, indeed!  Pretty place it must be, where they don’t admit women.  Nice goings on, I dare say.  Then you call one another brethren.  Brethren!  I’m sure you’d relations enough, you didn’t want any more.

“But I know what all this masonry’s about.  It’s only an excuse to get away from your wives and families, that you may feast and drink together, that’s all.  That’s the secret.  And to abuse women, - as if they were inferior animals, and not to be trusted.  That’s the secret; and nothing else.

“Now, Caudle, don’t let us quarrel.  Yes, I know you’re in pain.  Still, Caudle, my love; Caudle!  Dearest, I say!  Caudle!”

I recollect nothing more,” says Caudle, “for I had eaten a hearty supper, and somehow became oblivious.”

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