Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures


“But all I say is this: I only wish I’d been born a man.  What do you say?

You wish I had?

“Mr. Caudle, I’ll not lie quiet in my own bed to be insulted.  Oh, yes, you did mean to insult me.  I know what you mean.  You mean, if I had been born a man, you’d never have married me.  That’s a pretty sentiment, I think; and after the wife I’ve been to you.  And now I suppose you’ll be going to public dinners every day!  It’s no use your telling me you’ve only been to one before; that’s nothing to do with it - nothing at all.  Of course you’ll be out every night now.  I knew what it would come to when you were made a mason: when you were once made a ‘brother,’ as you call yourself, I knew where the husband and father would be; - I’m sure, Caudle, and though I’m your own wife, I grieve to say it - I’m sure you haven’t so much heart that you have any to spare for people out of doors.  Indeed, I should like to see the man who has!  No, no, Caudle; I’m by no means a selfish woman - quite the contrary; I love my fellow-creatures as a wife and mother of a family, who has only to look to her own husband and children, ought to love ’em.

“A ‘brother,’ indeed!  What would you say, if I was to go and be made a ‘sister’?  Why, I know very well the house wouldn’t hold you.

Where’s your watch?

“How should I know where your watch is?  You ought to know.  But to be sure, people who go to public dinners never know where anything is when they come home.  You’ve lost it, no doubt; and ’twill serve you quite right if you have.  If it should be gone - and nothing more likely - I wonder if any of your ‘brothers’ will give you another?  Catch ’em doing it.

You must find your watch?  And you’ll get up for it?

“Nonsense! - don’t be foolish - lie still.  Your watch is on the mantelpiece.  Ha! isn’t it a good thing for you, you’ve somebody to take care of it?

“What do you say?

I’m a dear creature?

“Very dear, indeed, you think me, I dare say.  But the fact is, you don’t know what you’re talking about to-night.  I’m a fool to open my lips to you - but I can’t help it.

Where’s your watch?

“Haven’t I told you - on the mantelpiece?

All right, indeed!

“Pretty conduct you men call all right.  There now, hold your tongue, Mr. Caudle, and go to sleep: I’m sure ’tis the best thing you can do to-night.  You’ll be able to listen to reason to-morrow morning; now, it’s thrown away upon you.

Where’s your cheque-book?

“Never mind your cheque-book.  I took care of that.

What business had I to take it out of your pocket?

“Every business.  No, no.  If you choose to go to public dinners, why - as I’m only your wife - I can’t help it.  But I know what fools men are made of there; and if I know it, you never take your cheque-book again with you.  What?  Didn’t I see your name down last year for ten pounds?  ‘Job Caudle, Esq., £10.’  It looked very well in the newspapers, of course: and you thought yourself a somebody, when they knocked the tavern tables; but I only wish I’d been there - yes, I only wish I’d been in the gallery.  If I wouldn’t have told a piece of my mind, I’m not alive.  Ten pounds indeed! and the world thinks you a very fine person for it.  I only wish I could bring the world here, and show ’em what’s wanted at home.  I think the world would alter their mind then; yes - a little.

“What do you say?

A wife has no right to pick her husband’s pocket?

“A pretty husband you are, to talk in that way!  Never mind: you can’t prosecute her for it - or I’ve no doubt you would; none at all.  Some men would do anything.  What?

You’ve a bit of a headache?

“I hope you have - and a good bit, too.  You’ve been to the right place for it.  No - I won’t hold my tongue.  It’s all very well for you men to go to taverns - and talk - and toast - and hurrah - and - I wonder you’re not all ashamed of yourselves to drink the Queen’s health with all the honours, I believe, you call it - yes, pretty honours you pay to the sex - I say, I wonder you’re not ashamed to drink that blessed creature’s health, when you’ve only to think how you use your own wives at home.  But the hypocrites that the men are - oh!

Where’s your watch?

“Haven’t I told you?  It’s under your pillow - there, you needn’t be feeling for it.  I tell you it’s under your pillow.

It’s all right?

“Yes; a great deal you know of what’s right just now!  Ha! was there ever any poor soul used as I am!

I’m a dear creature?

“Pah!  Mr. Caudle!  I’ve only to say, I’m tired of your conduct - quite tired, and don’t care how soon there’s an end of it.

Why did I take your cheque-book?

“I’ve told you - to save you from ruin, Mr. Caudle.

You’re not going to be ruined?

“Ha! you don’t know anything when you’re out!  I know what they do at those public dinners - charities, they call ’em; pretty charities!  True Charity, I believe, always dines at home.  I know what they do: the whole system’s a trick.  No: I’m not a stony-hearted creature: and you ought to be ashamed to say so of your wife and the mother of your children, - but you’ll not make me cry to-night, I can tell you - I was going to say that - oh! you’re such an aggravating man I don’t know what I was going to say!

Thank Heaven?

“What for?  I don’t see that there’s anything to thank Heaven about!  I was going to say, I know the trick of public dinners.  They get a lord, or a duke, if they can catch him - anything to make people say they dined with nobility, that’s it - yes, they get one of these people, with a star perhaps in his coat, to take the chair - and to talk all sorts of sugar-plum things about charity - and to make foolish men, with wine in ’em, feel that they’ve no end of money; and then - shutting their eyes to their wives and families at home - all the while that their own faces are red and flushed like poppies, and they think to-morrow will never come - then they get ’em to put their hand to paper.  Then they make ’em pull out their cheques.  But I took your book, Mr. Caudle - you couldn’t do it a second time.  What are you laughing at?


“It’s no matter: I shall see it in the paper to-morrow; for if you gave anything, you were too proud to hide it.  I know your charity.

Where’s your watch?

“Haven’t I told you fifty times where it is?  In the pocket - over your head - of course.  Can’t you hear it tick?  No: you can hear nothing to-night.

“And now, Mr. Caudle, I should like to know whose hat you’ve brought home?  You went out with a beaver worth three-and-twenty shillings - the second time you’ve worn it - and you bring home a thing that no Jew in his senses would give me fivepence for.  I couldn’t even get a pot of primroses - and you know I always turn your old hats into roots - not a pot of primroses for it.  I’m certain of it now - I’ve often thought it - but now I’m sure that some people dine out only to change their hats.

Where’s your watch?

“Caudle, you’re bringing me to an early grave!”

We hope that Caudle was penitent for his conduct; indeed, there is, we think, evidence that he was so: for to this lecture he has appended no comment.  The man had not the face to do it.

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