Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“It is hard, I think, Mr. Caudle, that I can’t leave home for a day or two, but the house must be turned into a tavern: a tavern? - a pothouse!  Yes, I thought you were very anxious that I should go; I thought you wanted to get rid of me for something, or you would not have insisted on my staying at dear mother’s all night.  You were afraid I should get cold coming home, were you?  Oh yes, you can be very tender, you can, Mr. Caudle, when it suits your own purpose.  Yes! and the world thinks what a good husband you are!  I only wish the world knew you as well as I do, that’s all; but it shall, some day, I’m determined.

“I’m sure the house will not be sweet for a month.  All the curtains are poisoned with smoke; and what’s more, with the filthiest smoke I ever knew.

Take ’em down, then?

“Yes, it’s all very well for you to say take ’em down; but they were only cleaned and put up a month ago; but a careful wife’s lost upon you, Mr. Caudle.  You ought to have married somebody who’d have let your house go to wreck and ruin, as I will for the future.  People who don’t care for their families are better thought of than those who do; I’ve long found out that.

“And what a condition the carpet’s in!  They’ve taken five pounds out of it, if a farthing, with their filthy boots, and I don’t know what besides.  And then the smoke in the hearthrug, and a large cinder-hole burnt in it!  I never saw such a house in my life!  If you wanted to have a few friends, why couldn’t you invite ’em when your wife’s at home, like any other man? not have ’em sneaking in, like a set of housebreakers, directly a woman turns her back.  They must be pretty gentlemen, they must; mean fellows, that are afraid to face a woman!  Ha! and you all call yourselves the lords of the creation!  I should only like to see what would become of the creation, if you were left to yourselves!  A pretty pickle creation would be in very soon!

“You must all have been in a nice condition!  What do you say?

You took nothing?

“Took nothing, didn’t you?  I’m sure there’s such a regiment of empty bottles, I haven’t had the heart to count ’em.  And punch, too! you must have punch!  There’s a hundred half-lemons in the kitchen, if there’s one: for Susan, like a good girl, kept ’em to show ’em me.  No, sir; Susan shan’t leave the house!  What do you say?

She has no right to tell tales, and you WILL be master in your own house?

“Will you?  If you don’t alter, Mr. Caudle, you’ll soon have no house to be master of.  A whole loaf of sugar did I leave in the cupboard, and now there isn’t as much as would fill a teacup.  Do you suppose I’m to find sugar for punch for fifty men?  What do you say?

There wasn’t fifty?

“That’s no matter; the more shame for ’em, sir.  I’m sure they drank enough for fifty.  Do you suppose I’m to find sugar for punch for all the world out of my housekeeping money?”

You don’t ask me?

“Don’t you ask me?  You do; you know you do: for if I only want a shilling extra, the house is in a blaze.  And yet a whole loaf of sugar can you throw away upon - No, I won’t be still; and I won’t let you go to sleep.  If you’d got to bed at a proper hour last night, you wouldn’t have been so sleepy now.  You can sit up half the night with a pack of people who don’t care for you, and your poor wife can’t get in a word!

“And there’s that china image that I had when I was married - I wouldn’t have taken any sum of money for it, and you know it - and how do I find it?  With its precious head knocked off!  And what was more mean, more contemptible than all besides, it was put on again, as if nothing had happened.

You knew nothing about it?

“Now, how can you lie there, in your Christian bed, Caudle, and say that?  You know that that fellow, Prettyman, knocked off the head with the poker!  You know that he did.  And you hadn’t the feeling - yes, I will say it - you hadn’t the feeling to protect what you knew was precious to me.  Oh no, if the truth was known, you were glad to see it broken for that very reason.

“Every way I’ve been insulted.  I should like to know who it was who corked whiskers on my dear aunt’s picture?  Oh! you’re laughing, are you?

You’re not laughing?

“Don’t tell me that.  I should like to know what shakes the bed, then, if you’re not laughing?  Yes, corked whiskers on her dear face, - and she was a dear soul to you, Caudle, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself to see her ill-used.  Oh, you may laugh!  It’s very easy to laugh!  I only wish you’d a little feeling, like other people, that’s all.

“Then there’s my china mug - the mug I had before I was married - when I was a happy creature.  I should like to know who knocked the spout off that mug?  Don’t tell me it was cracked before - it’s no such thing, Caudle; there wasn’t a flaw in it - and now, I could have cried when I saw it.  Don’t tell me it wasn’t worth twopence.  How do you know?  You never buy mugs.  But that’s like men; they think nothing in a house costs anything.

“There’s four glasses broke, and nine cracked.  At least, that’s all I’ve found out at present; but I daresay I shall discover a dozen to-morrow.

“And I should like to know where the cotton umbrella’s gone to - and I should like to know who broke the bell-pull - and perhaps you don’t know there’s a leg off a chair, - and perhaps - ”

I was resolved,” said Caudle, “to know nothing, and so went to sleep in my ignorance.”

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