Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“Caudle, love, do you know what next Sunday is?

No! you don’t?

“Well, was there ever such a strange man!  Can’t you guess, darling?  Next Sunday, dear?  Think, love, a minute - just think.

What! and you don’t know now?

“Ha! if I hadn’t a better memory than you, I don’t know how we should ever get on.  Well, then, pet, - shall I tell you what next Sunday is?  Why, then, it’s our wedding-day - What are you groaning at, Mr. Caudle?  I don’t see anything to groan at.  If anybody should groan, I’m sure it isn’t you.  No: I rather think it’s I who ought to groan!

“Oh, dear!  That’s fourteen years ago.  You were a very different man then, Mr. Caudle.  What do you say - ?

And I was a very different woman?

“Not at all - just the same.  Oh, you needn’t roll your head about on the pillow in that way: I say, just the same.  Well, then, if I’m altered, whose fault is it?  Not mine, I’m sure - certainly not.  Don’t tell me that I couldn’t talk at all then - I could talk just as well then as I can now; only then I hadn’t the same cause.  It’s you who’ve made me talk.  What do you say?

You’re very sorry for it?

“Caudle, you do nothing but insult me.

“Ha! you were a good-tempered, nice creature fourteen years ago, and would have done anything for me.  Yes, yes, if a woman would be always cared for, she should never marry.  There’s quite an end of the charm when she goes to church!  We’re all angels while you’re courting us; but once married, how soon you pull our wings off!  No, Mr. Caudle, I’m not talking nonsense; but the truth is, you like to hear nobody talk but yourself.  Nobody ever tells me that I talk nonsense but you.  Now, it’s no use your turning and turning about in that way, it’s not a bit of - what do you say?

You’ll get up?

“No you won’t, Mr. Caudle; you’ll not serve me that trick again; for I’ve locked the door and hid the key.  There’s no getting hold of you all the day-time - but here you can’t leave me.  You needn’t groan again, Mr. Caudle.

“Now, Caudle, dear, do let us talk comfortably.  After all, love, there’s a good many folks who, I daresay, don’t get on half so well as we’ve done.  We’ve both our little tempers, perhaps; but you are aggravating; you must own that, Caudle.  Well, never mind; we won’t talk of it; I won’t scold you now.  We’ll talk of next Sunday, love.  We never have kept our wedding-day, and I think it would be a nice day to have our friends.  What do you say?

They’d think it hypocrisy?

“No hypocrisy at all.  I’m sure I try to be comfortable; and if ever man was happy, you ought to be.  No, Caudle, no; it isn’t nonsense to keep wedding-days; it isn’t a deception on the world; and if it is, how many people do it!  I’m sure it’s only a proper compliment that a man owes to his wife.  Look at the Winkles - don’t they give a dinner every year?  Well, I know, and if they do fight a little in the course of the twelvemonth, that’s nothing to do with it.  They keep their wedding-day, and their acquaintance have nothing to do with anything else.

“As I say, Caudle, it’s only a proper compliment that a man owes to his wife to keep his wedding-day.  It’s as much as to say to the whole world - ‘There! if I had to marry again, my blessed wife’s the only woman I’d choose!’  Well!  I see nothing to groan at, Mr. Caudle - no, nor to sigh at either; but I know what you mean: I’m sure, what would have become of you if you hadn’t married as you have done - why, you’d have been a lost creature!  I know it; I know your habits, Caudle; and - I don’t like to say it, but you’d have been little better than a ragamuffin.  Nice scrapes you’d have got into, I know, if you hadn’t had me for a wife.  The trouble I’ve had to keep you respectable - and what’s my thanks?  Ha!  I only wish you’d had some women!

“But we won’t quarrel, Caudle.  No; you don’t mean anything, I know.  We’ll have this little dinner, eh?  Just a few friends?  Now don’t say you don’t care - that isn’t the way to speak to a wife; and especially the wife I’ve been to you, Caudle.  Well, you agree to the dinner, eh?  Now, don’t grunt, Mr. Caudle, but speak out.  You’ll keep your wedding-day?  What?

If I let you go to sleep?

“Ha! that’s unmanly, Caudle.  Can’t you say ‘Yes,’ without anything else?  I say - can’t you say ‘Yes’?  There, bless you!  I knew you would.

“And now, Caudle, what shall we have for dinner?  No - we won’t talk of it to-morrow; we’ll talk of it now, and then it will be off my mind.  I should like something particular - something out of the way - just to show that we thought the day something.  I should like - Mr. Caudle, you’re not asleep?

What do I want?

“Why, you know I want to settle about the dinner.

Have what I like?

“No: as it’s your fancy to keep the day, it’s only right that I should try to please you.  We never had one, Caudle; so what do you think of a haunch of venison?  What do you say?

Mutton will do?

“Ha! that shows what you think of your wife: I dare say if it was with any of your club friends - any of your pot-house companions - you’d have no objection to venison.  I say if - what do you mutter?

Let it be venison?

“Very well.  And now about the fish?  What do you think of a nice turbot?  No, Mr. Caudle, brill won’t do - it shall be turbot, or there sha’n’t be any fish at all.  Oh, what a mean man you are, Caudle!  Shall it be turbot?

It shall?

“Very well.  And now about the soup - now, Caudle, don’t swear at the soup in that manner; you know there must be soup.  Well, once in a way, and just to show our friends how happy we’ve been, we’ll have some real turtle.

No, you won’t, you’ll have nothing but mock?

“Then, Mr. Caudle, you may sit at the table by yourself.  Mock-turtle on a wedding-day!  Was there ever such an insult?  What do you say?

Let it be real, then, for once?

“Ha, Caudle!  As I say, you were a very different person fourteen years ago.  And, Caudle, you’ll look after the venison?  There’s a place I know, somewhere in the City, where you get it beautiful!  You’ll look to it?

You will?

“Very well.

“And now who shall we invite?

Who I like?

“Now, you know, Caudle, that’s nonsense; because I only like whom you like.  I suppose the Prettymans must come?  But understand, Caudle, I don’t have Miss Prettyman: I’m not going to have my peace of mind destroyed under my own roof! if she comes, I don’t appear at the table.  What do you say?

Very well?

“Very well be it, then.

“And now, Caudle, you’ll not forget the venison?  In the City, my dear?  You’ll not forget the venison?  A haunch, you know; a nice haunch.  And you’ll not forget the venison - ?”

Three times did I fall off to sleep,” says Caudle, “and three times did my wife nudge me with her elbow, exclaiming - ‘You’ll not forget the venison?’  At last I got into a sound slumber, and dreamt I was a pot of currant jelly.”

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