Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Ho, Mr. Caudle: I hope you enjoyed yourself at Greenwich.

How do I know you’ve been at Greenwich?

“I know it very well, sir: know all about it: know more than you think I know.  I thought there was something in the wind.  Yes, I was sure of it, when you went out of the house to-day.  I knew it by the looks of you, though I didn’t say anything.  Upon my word!  And you call yourself a respectable man, and the father of a family!  Going to a fair among all sorts of people, - at your time of life.  Yes; and never think of taking your wife with you.  Oh no! you can go and enjoy yourself out, with I don’t know who: go out, and make yourself very pleasant, I dare say.  Don’t tell me; I hear what a nice companion Mr. Caudle is: what a good-tempered person.  Ha!  I only wish people could see you at home, that’s all.  But so it is with men.  They can keep all their good temper for out-of-doors - their wives never see any of it.  Oh dear!  I’m sure I don’t know who’d be a poor woman!

“Now, Caudle, I’m not in an ill-temper; not at all.  I know I used to be a fool when we were first married: I used to worry and fret myself to death when you went out; but I’ve got over that.  I wouldn’t put myself out of the way now for the best man that ever trod.  For what thanks does a poor woman get?  None at all.  No: it’s those who don’t care for their families who are the best thought of.  I only wish I could bring myself not to care for mine.

“And why couldn’t you say, like a man, you were going to Greenwich Fair when you went out?  It’s no use your saying that, Mr. Caudle: don’t tell me that you didn’t think of going; you’d made up your mind to it, and you know it.  Pretty games you’ve had, no doubt!  I should like to have been behind you, that’s all.  A man at your time of life!

“And I, of course, I never want to go out.  Oh no!  I may stay at home with the cat.  You couldn’t think of taking your wife and children, like any other decent man, to a fair.  Oh no, you never care to be seen with us.  I’m sure, many people don’t know you’re married at all: how can they?  Your wife’s never seen with you.  Oh no; anybody but those belonging to you!

“Greenwich Fair, indeed!  Yes, - and of course you went up and down the hill, running and racing with nobody knows who.  Don’t tell me; I know what you are when you’re out.  You don’t suppose, Mr. Caudle, I’ve forgotten that pink bonnet, do you?  No: I won’t hold my tongue, and I’m not a foolish woman.  It’s no matter, sir, if the pink bonnet was fifty years ago - it’s all the same for that.  No: and if I live for fifty years to come, I never will leave off talking of it.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Caudle.  Ha! few wives would have been what I’ve been to you.  I only wish my time was to come over again, that’s all; I wouldn’t be the fool I have been.

“Going to a fair! and I suppose you had your fortune told by the gipsies?  You needn’t have wasted your money.  I’m sure I can tell you your fortune if you go on as you do.  Yes, the gaol will be your fortune, Mr. Caudle.  And it would be no matter - none at all - if your wife and children didn’t suffer with you.

“And then you must go riding upon donkeys.

You didn’t go riding upon donkeys?

“Yes; it’s very well for you to say so: but I dare say you did.  I tell you, Caudle, I know what you are when you’re out.  I wouldn’t trust any of you - you especially, Caudle.

“Then you must go in the thick of the fair, and have the girls scratching your coat with rattles!

You couldn’t help it, if they did scratch your coat?

“Don’t tell me; people don’t scratch coats unless they’re encouraged to do it.  And you must go in a swing, too.

You didn’t go in a swing?

“Well, if you didn’t it was no fault of yours; you wished to go I’ve no doubt.

“And then you must go into the shows?  There, - you don’t deny that.  You did go into a show.

What of it, Mr. Caudle?

“A good deal of it, sir.  Nice crowding and squeezing in those shows, I know.  Pretty places!  And you a married man and the father of a family.  No: I won’t hold my tongue.  It’s very well for you to threaten to get up.  You’re to go to Greenwich Fair, and race up and down the hill, and play at kiss in the ring.  Pah! it’s disgusting, Mr. Caudle.  Oh, I dare say you did play at it; if you didn’t, you’d have liked, and that’s just as bad; - and you can go into swings, and shows, and roundabouts.  If I was you, I should hide my head under the clothes and be ashamed of myself.

“And what is most selfish - most mean of you, Caudle - you can go and enjoy yourself, and never so much as bring home for the poor children a gingerbread nut.  Don’t tell me that your pocket was picked of a pound of nuts!  Nice company you must have been in to have your pocket picked.

“But I daresay I shall hear all about it to-morrow.  I’ve no doubt, sir, you were dancing at the Crown and Anchor.  I should like to have seen you.  No: I’m not making myself ridiculous.  It’s you that’s making yourself ridiculous; and everybody that knows you says so.  Everybody knows what I have to put up with from you.

“Going to a fair, indeed!  At your time - ”

Here,” says Caudle, “I dozed off hearing confusedly the words - hill - gipsies - rattles - roundabouts - swings - pink bonnet - nuts.”

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