Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“’Pon my word, Mr. Caudle, I think it a waste of time to come to bed at all now!  The cocks will be crowing in a minute.  Keeping people up till past twelve.  Oh yes! you’re thought a man of very fine feelings out of doors, I dare say!  It’s a pity you haven’t a little feeling for those belonging to you at home.  A nice hour to keep people out of their beds!

Why did I sit up, then?

“Because I chose to sit up - but that’s my thanks.  No, it’s no use your talking, Caudle; I never will let the girl sit up for you, and there’s an end.  What do you say?

Why does she sit up with me, then?

“That’s quite a different matter: you don’t suppose I’m going to sit up alone, do you?  What do you say?

What’s the use of two sitting up?

“That’s my business.  No, Caudle, it’s no such thing.  I don’t sit up because I may have the pleasure of talking about it; and you’re an ungrateful, unfeeling creature to say so.  I sit up because I choose it; and if you don’t come home all the night long - and ’twill soon come to that, I’ve no doubt - still, I’ll never go to bed, so don’t think it.

“Oh, yes! the time runs away very pleasantly with you men at your clubs - selfish creatures!  You can laugh and sing, and tell stories, and never think of the clock; never think there’s such a person as a wife belonging to you.  It’s nothing to you that a poor woman’s sitting up, and telling the minutes, and seeing all sorts of things in the fire - and sometimes thinking something dreadful has happened to you - more fool she to care a straw about you! - This is all nothing.  Oh no; when a woman’s once married she’s a slave - worse than a slave - and must bear it all!

“And what you men can find to talk about I can’t think!  Instead of a man sitting every night at home with his wife, and going to bed at a Christian hour, - going to a club, to meet a set of people who don’t care a button for him - it’s monstrous!  What do you say?

You only go once a week?

“That’s nothing at all to do with it: you might as well go every night; and I daresay you will soon.  But if you do, you may get in as you can: I won’t sit up for you, I can tell you.

“My health’s being destroyed night after night, and - oh, don’t say it’s only once a week; I tell you that’s nothing to do with it - if you had any eyes, you would see how ill I am; but you’ve no eyes for anybody belonging to you: oh no! your eyes are for people out of doors.  It’s very well for you to call me a foolish, aggravating woman!  I should like to see the woman who’d sit up for you as I do.

You didn’t want me to sit up?

“Yes, yes; that’s your thanks - that’s your gratitude: I’m to ruin my health, and to be abused for it.  Nice principles you’ve got at that club, Mr. Caudle!

“But there’s one comfort - one great comfort; it can’t last long: I’m sinking - I feel it, though I never say anything about it - but I know my own feelings, and I say it can’t last long.  And then I should like to know who will sit up for you!  Then I should like to know how your second wife - what do you say?

You’ll never be troubled with another?

“Troubled, indeed!  I never troubled you, Caudle.  No; it’s you who’ve troubled me; and you know it; though like a foolish woman I’ve borne it all, and never said a word about it.  But it can’t last - that’s one blessing!

“Oh, if a woman could only know what she’d have to suffer before she was married - Don’t tell me you want to go to sleep!  If you want to go to sleep, you should come home at proper hours!  It’s time to get up, for what I know, now.  Shouldn’t wonder if you hear the milk in five minutes - there’s the sparrows up already; yes, I say the sparrows; and, Caudle, you ought to blush to hear ’em.

You don’t hear ’em?

“Ha! you won’t hear ’em, you mean: I hear ’em.  No, Mr. Caudle; it isn’t the wind whistling in the keyhole; I’m not quite foolish, though you may think so.  I hope I know wind from a sparrow!

“Ha! when I think what a man you were before we were married!  But you’re now another person - quite an altered creature.  But I suppose you’re all alike - I dare say, every poor woman’s troubled and put upon, though I should hope not so much as I am.  Indeed, I should hope not!  Going and staying out, and -


You’ll have a key?

“Will you?  Not while I’m alive, Mr Caudle.  I’m not going to bed with the door upon the latch for you or the best man breathing.

You won’t have a latch - you’ll have a Chubb’s lock?

“Will you?  I’ll have no Chubb here, I can tell you.  What do you say?

You’ll have the lock put on to-morrow?

“Well, try it; that’s all I say, Caudle; try it.  I won’t let you put me in a passion; but all I say is, - try it.

“A respectable thing, that, for a married man to carry about with him, - a street-door key!  That tells a tale I think.  A nice thing for the father of a family!  A key!  What, to let yourself in and out when you please!  To come in, like a thief in the middle of the night, instead of knocking at the door like a decent person!  Oh, don’t tell me that you only want to prevent me sitting up - if I choose to sit up what’s that to you?  Some wives, indeed, would make a noise about sitting up, but you’ve no reason to complain - goodness knows!

“Well, upon my word, I’ve lived to hear something.  Carry the street-door key about with you!  I’ve heard of such things with young good-for-nothing bachelors, with nobody to care what became of ’em; but for a married man to leave his wife and children in a house with a door upon the latch - don’t talk to me about Chubb, it’s all the same - a great deal you must care for us.  Yes, it’s very well for you to say that you only want the key for peace and quietness - what’s it to you, if I like to sit up?  You’ve no business to complain; it can’t distress you.  Now, it’s no use your talking; all I say is this, Caudle: if you send a man to put on any lock here, I’ll call in a policeman; as I’m your married wife, I will.

“No, I think when a man comes to have the street-door key, the sooner he turns bachelor altogether the better.  I’m sure, Caudle, I don’t want to be any clog upon you.  Now, it’s no use your telling me to hold my tongue, for I - What?

I give you the headache, do I?

“No, I don’t, Caudle; it’s your club that gives you the headache; it’s your smoke, and your - well! if ever I knew such a man in all my life! there’s no saying a word to you!  You go out, and treat yourself like an emperor - and come home at twelve at night, or any hour for what I know, and then you threaten to have a key, and - and - and - ”

I did get to sleep at last,” says Caudle, “amidst the falling sentences oftake children into a lodging’ - ‘separate maintenance’ - ‘won’t be made a slave of’ - and so forth.”

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