Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Is your cold better to-night, Caudle?  Yes; I thought it was.  ’Twill be quite well to-morrow, I dare say.  There’s a love!  You don’t take care enough of yourself, Caudle, you don’t.  And you ought, I’m sure, if only for my sake.  For whatever I should do, if anything was to happen to you - but I think of it; no, I can’t bear to think of that.  Still, you ought to take care of yourself; for you know you’re not strong, Caudle; you know you’re not.

“Wasn’t dear mother so happy with us to-night?  Now, you needn’t go to sleep so suddenly.  I say, wasn’t she so happy?

You don’t know?

“How can you say you don’t know?  You must have seen it.  But she is always happier here than anywhere else.  Ha! what a temper that dear soul has!  I call it a temper of satin; it is so smooth, so easy, and so soft.  Nothing puts her out of the way.  And then, if you only knew how she takes your part, Caudle!  I’m sure, if you had been her own son ten times over, she couldn’t be fonder of you.  Don’t you think so, Caudle?  Eh, love?  Now, do answer.

How can you tell?

“Nonsense, Caudle; you must have seen it.  I’m sure nothing delights the dear soul so much as when she’s thinking how to please you.

“Don’t you remember Thursday night, the stewed oysters when you came home?  That was all dear mother’s doings!  ‘Margaret,’ says she to me, ‘it’s a cold night; and don’t you think dear Mr. Caudle would like something nice before he goes to bed?’  And that, Caudle, is how the oysters came about.  Now, don’t sleep, Caudle: do listen to me for five minutes; ’tisn’t often I speak, goodness knows.

“And then, what a fuss she makes when you are out, if your slippers aren’t put to the fire for you.

She’s very good?

“Yes, - I know she is, Caudle.  And hasn’t she been six months - though I promised her not to tell you - six months working a watch-pocket for you!  And with her eyes, dear soul - and at her time of life!

“And then what a cook she is!  I’m sure the dishes she’ll make out of next to nothing!  I try hard enough to follow her: but, I’m not ashamed to own it, Caudle, she quite beats me.  Ha! the many nice little things she’d simmer up for you - and I can’t do it; the children, you know it, Caudle, take so much of my time.  I can’t do it, love; and I often reproach myself that I can’t.  Now, you shan’t go to sleep, Caudle; at least not for five minutes.  You must hear me.

“I’ve been thinking, dearest - ha! that nasty cough, love! - I’ve been thinking, darling, if we could only persuade dear mother to come and live with us.  Now, Caudle, you can’t be asleep; it’s impossible - you were coughing only this minute - yes, to live with us.  What a treasure we should have in her!  Then, Caudle, you never need go to bed without something nice and hot.  And you want it, Caudle.

You don’t want it?

“Nonsense, you do; for you’re not strong, Caudle; you know you’re not.

“I’m sure, the money she’d save us in housekeeping.  Ha! what an eye she has for a joint!  The butcher doesn’t walk that could deceive dear mother.  And then, again, for poultry!  What a finger and thumb she has for a chicken!  I never could market like her: it’s a gift - quite a gift.

“And then you recollect her marrow-puddings?

You don’t recollect ’em?

“Oh, fie!  Caudle, how often have you flung her marrow puddings in my face, wanting to know why I couldn’t make ’em?  And I wouldn’t pretend to do it after dear mother.  I should think it presumption.  Now, love, if she was only living with us - come, you’re not asleep, Caudle - if she was only living with us, you could have marrow puddings every day.  Now, don’t fling yourself about and begin to swear at marrow puddings; you know you like ’em, dear.

“What a hand, too, dear mother has for a pie crust!  But it’s born with some people.  What do you say?

Why wasn’t it born with me?

“Now, Caudle, that’s cruel - unfeeling of you; I wouldn’t have uttered such a reproach to you for the whole world.  Consider, dear; people can’t be born as they like.

“How often, too, have you wanted to brew at home!  And I never could learn anything about brewing.  But, ha! what ale dear mother makes!

You never tasted it?

“No, I know that.  But I recollect the ale we used to have at home: and father would never drink wine after it.  The best sherry was nothing like it.

You dare say not?

“No; it wasn’t indeed, Caudle.  Then, if dear mother was only with us, what money we should save in beer!  And then you might always have your own nice pure, good, wholesome ale, Caudle; and what good it would do you!  For you’re not strong, Caudle.

“And then dear mother’s jams and preserves, love!  I own it, Caudle; it has often gone to my heart that with cold meat you haven’t always had a pudding.  Now if mother was with us, in the matter of fruit puddings she’d make it summer all the year round.  But I never could preserve - now mother does it, and for next to no money whatever.  What nice dogs-in-a-blanket she’d make for the children!

What’s dogs-in-a-blanket?

“Oh, they’re delicious - as dear mother makes ’em.

“Now, you have tasted her Irish stew, Caudle?  You remember that?  Come, you’re not asleep - you remember that?  And how fond you are of it!  And I know I never have it made to please you!  Well, what a relief to me it would be if dear mother was always at hand, that you might have a stew when you liked.  What a load it would be off my mind.

“Again, for pickles!  Not at all like anybody else’s pickles.  Her red cabbage - why, it’s as crisp as biscuit!  And then her walnuts - and her all-sorts!  Eh, Caudle?  You know how you love pickles; and how we sometimes tiff about ’em?  Now if dear mother was here, a word would never pass between us.  And I’m sure nothing would make me happier, for - you’re not asleep, Caudle? - for I can’t bear to quarrel, can I, love?

“The children, too, are so fond of her!  And she’d be such a help to me with ’em!  I’m sure, with dear mother in the house, I shouldn’t care a fig for measles, or anything of the sort.  As a nurse, she’s such a treasure!

“And at her time of life, what a needle-woman!  And the darning and mending for the children, it really gets quite beyond me now, Caudle.  Now with mother at my hand, there wouldn’t be a stitch wanted in the house.

“And then, when you’re out late, Caudle - for I know you must be out late sometimes: I can’t expect you, of course, to be always at home - why then dear mother could sit up for you, and nothing would delight the dear soul half so much.

“And so, Caudle, love, I think dear mother had better come, don’t you?  Eh, Caudle?  Now, you’re not asleep, darling; don’t you think she’d better come?  You say No?

“You say No again?  You won’t have her, you say?

You won’t, that’s flat?

“Caudle - Cau-Cau-dle - Cau - dle - ”

Here Mrs. Caudle,” says her husband, “suddenly went into tears; and I went to sleep.”

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