Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures
by Douglas Jerrold
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Transcribed from the 1902 R. Brimley Johnson edition by David Price, email



It has happened to the writer that two, or three, or ten, or twenty gentlewomen have asked him—and asked in various notes of wonder, pity, and reproof -

"What could have made you think of Mrs. Caudle?

"How could such a thing have entered any man's mind?"

There are subjects that seem like rain drops to fall upon a man's head, the head itself having nothing to do with the matter. The result of no train of thought, there is the picture, the statue, the book, wafted, like the smallest seed, into the brain to feed upon the soil, such as it may be, and grow there. And this was, no doubt, the accidental cause of the literary sowing and expansion—unfolding like a night-flower—of MRS. CAUDLE.

But let a jury of gentlewomen decide.

It was a thick, black wintry afternoon, when the writer stopt in the front of the playground of a suburban school. The ground swarmed with boys full of the Saturday's holiday. The earth seemed roofed with the oldest lead, and the wind came, sharp as Shylock's knife, from the Minories. But those happy boys ran and jumped, and hopped, and shouted, and—unconscious men in miniature!—in their own world of frolic, had no thought of the full-length men they would some day become; drawn out into grave citizenship; formal, respectable, responsible. To them the sky was of any or all colours; and for that keen east wind—if it was called the east wind—cutting the shoulder- blades of old, old men of forty {1}—they in their immortality of boyhood had the redder faces, and the nimbler blood for it.

And the writer, looking dreamily into that playground, still mused on the robust jollity of those little fellows, to whom the tax-gatherer was as yet a rarer animal than baby hippopotamus. Heroic boyhood, so ignorant of the future in the knowing enjoyment of the present! And the writer still dreaming and musing, and still following no distinct line of thought, there struck upon him, like notes of sudden household music, these words—CURTAIN LECTURES.

One moment there was no living object save those racing, shouting boys; and the next, as though a white dove had alighted on the pen hand of the writer, there was—MRS. CAUDLE.

Ladies of the jury, are there not then some subjects of letters that mysteriously assert an effect without any discoverable cause? Otherwise, wherefore should the thought of CURTAIN LECTURES grow from a school ground—wherefore, among a crowd of holiday school-boys, should appear MRS. CAUDLE?

For the LECTURES themselves, it is feared they must be given up as a farcical desecration of a solemn time-honoured privilege; it may be, exercised once in a life time,—and that once having the effect of a hundred repetitions, as Job lectured his wife. And Job's wife, a certain Mohammedan writer delivers, having committed a fault in her love to her husband, he swore that on his recovery he would deal her a hundred stripes. Job got well, and his heart was touched and taught by the tenderness to keep his vow, and still to chastise his help-mate; for he smote her once with a palm-branch having a hundred leaves.



Poor Job Caudle was one of the few men whom Nature, in her casual bounty to women, sends into the world as patient listeners. He was, perhaps, in more respects than one, all ears. And these ears, Mrs. Caudle—his lawful, wedded wife as she would ever and anon impress upon him, for she was not a woman to wear chains without shaking them—took whole and sole possession of. They were her entire property; as expressly made to convey to Caudle's brain the stream of wisdom that continually flowed from the lips of his wife, as was the tin funnel through which Mrs. Caudle in vintage time bottled her elder wine. There was, however, this difference between the wisdom and the wine. The wine was always sugared: the wisdom, never. It was expressed crude from the heart of Mrs. Caudle; who, doubtless, trusted to the sweetness of her husband's disposition to make it agree with him.

Philosophers have debated whether morning or night is most conducive to the strongest and clearest moral impressions. The Grecian sage confessed that his labours smelt of the lamp. In like manner did Mrs. Caudle's wisdom smell of the rushlight. She knew that her husband was too much distracted by his business as toyman and doll- merchant to digest her lessons in the broad day. Besides, she could never make sure of him: he was always liable to be summoned to the shop. Now from eleven at night until seven in the morning there was no retreat for him. He was compelled to lie and listen. Perhaps there was little magnanimity in this on the part of Mrs. Caudle; but in marriage, as in war, it is permitted to take every advantage of the enemy. Besides, Mrs. Caudle copied very ancient and classic authority. Minerva's bird, the very wisest thing in feathers, is silent all the day. So was Mrs. Caudle. Like the owl, she hooted only at night.

Mr. Caudle was blessed with an indomitable constitution. One fact will prove the truth of this. He lived thirty years with Mrs. Caudle, surviving her. Yes, it took thirty years for Mrs. Caudle to lecture and dilate upon the joys, griefs, duties, and vicissitudes comprised within that seemingly small circle—the wedding-ring. We say, seemingly small; for the thing, as viewed by the vulgar, naked eye, is a tiny hoop made for the third feminine finger. Alack! like the ring of Saturn, for good or evil, it circles a whole world. Or, to take a less gigantic figure, it compasses a vast region: it may be Arabia Felix, and it may be Arabia Petrea.

A lemon-hearted cynic might liken the wedding-ring to an ancient circus, in which wild animals clawed one another for the sport of lookers-on. Perish the hyperbole! We would rather compare it to an elfin ring, in which dancing fairies made the sweetest music for infirm humanity.

Manifold are the uses of rings. Even swine are tamed by them. You will see a vagrant, hilarious, devastating porker—a full-blooded fellow that would bleed into many, many fathoms of black pudding—you will see him, escaped from his proper home, straying in a neighbour's garden. How he tramples upon the heart's-ease: how, with quivering snout, he roots up lilies—odoriferous bulbs! Here he gives a reckless snatch at thyme and marjoram—and here he munches violets and gilly-flowers. At length the marauder is detected, seized by his owner, and driven, beaten home. To make the porker less dangerous, it is determined that he shall be RINGED. The sentence is pronounced—execution ordered. Listen to his screams!

"Would you not think the knife was in his throat? And yet they're only boring through his nose!"

Hence, for all future time, the porker behaves himself with a sort of forced propriety—for in either nostril he carries a ring. It is, for the greatness of humanity, a saddening thought, that sometimes men must be treated no better than pigs.

But Mr. Job Caudle was not of these men. Marriage to him was not made a necessity. No; for him call it if you will a happy chance—a golden accident. It is, however, enough for us to know that he was married; and was therefore made the recipient of a wife's wisdom. Mrs. Caudle, like Mahomet's dove, continually pecked at the good man's ears; and it is a happiness to learn from what he left behind that he had hived all her sayings in his brain; and further, that he employed the mellow evening of his life to put such sayings down, that, in due season, they might be enshrined in imperishable type.

When Mr. Job Caudle was left in this briary world without his daily guide and nocturnal monitress, he was in the ripe fulness of fifty- seven. For three hours at least after he went to bed—such slaves are we to habit—he could not close an eye. His wife still talked at his side. True it was, she was dead and decently interred. His mind—it was a comfort to know it—could not wander on this point; this he knew. Nevertheless, his wife was with him. The Ghost of her Tongue still talked as in the life; and again and again did Job Caudle hear the monitions of bygone years. At times, so loud, so lively, so real were the sounds, that Job, with a cold chill, doubted if he were really widowed. And then, with the movement of an arm, a foot, he would assure himself that he was alone in his holland. Nevertheless, the talk continued. It was terrible to be thus haunted by a voice: to have advice, commands, remonstrance, all sorts of saws and adages still poured upon him, and no visible wife. Now did the voice speak from the curtains; now from the tester; and now did it whisper to Job from the very pillow that he pressed. "It's a dreadful thing that her tongue should walk in this manner," said Job, and then he thought confusedly of exorcism, or at least of counsel from the parish priest.

Whether Job followed his own brain, or the wise direction of another, we know not. But he resolved every night to commit to paper one curtain lecture of his late wife. The employment would, possibly, lay the ghost that haunted him. It was her dear tongue that cried for justice, and when thus satisfied, it might possibly rest in quiet. And so it happened. Job faithfully chronicled all his late wife's lectures; the ghost of her tongue was thenceforth silent, and Job slept all his after nights in peace.

When Job died, a small packet of papers was found inscribed as follows:-

"Curtain Lectures delivered in the course of Thirty Years by Mrs. Margaret Caudle, and suffered by Job, her Husband."

That Mr. Caudle had his eye upon the future printer, is made pretty probable by the fact that in most places he had affixed the text— such text for the most part arising out of his own daily conduct—to the lecture of the night. He had also, with an instinctive knowledge of the dignity of literature, left a bank-note of very fair amount with the manuscript. Following our duty as editor, we trust we have done justice to both documents.


"You ought to be very rich, Mr. Caudle. I wonder who'd lend you five pounds? But so it is: a wife may work and may slave! Ha, dear! the many things that might have been done with five pounds. As if people picked up money in the street! But you always were a fool, Mr. Caudle! I've wanted a black satin gown these three years, and that five pounds would have entirely bought it. But it's no matter how I go,—not at all. Everybody says I don't dress as becomes your wife— and I don't; but what's that to you, Mr. Caudle? Nothing. Oh, no! you can have fine feelings for everybody but those belonging to you. I wish people knew you, as I do—that's all. You like to be called liberal—and your poor family pays for it.

"All the girls want bonnets, and where they're to come from I can't tell. Half five pounds would have bought 'em—but now they must go without. Of course, THEY belong to you: and anybody but your own flesh and body, Mr. Caudle!

"The man called for the water-rate to-day; but I should like to know how people are to pay taxes, who throw away five pounds to every fellow that asks them?

"Perhaps you don't know that Jack, this morning, knocked his shuttlecock through his bedroom window. I was going to send for the glazier to mend it; but after you lent that five pounds I was sure we couldn't afford it. Oh, no! the window must go as it is; and pretty weather for a dear child to sleep with a broken window. He's got a cold already on his lungs, and I shouldn't at all wonder if that broken window settled him. If the dear boy dies, his death will be upon his father's head; for I'm sure we can't now pay to mend windows. We might though, and do a good many more things too, if people didn't throw away their five pounds.

"Next Tuesday the fire-insurance is due. I should like to know how it's to be paid? Why, it can't be paid at all! That five pounds would have more than done it—and now, insurance is out of the question. And there never were so many fires as there are now. I shall never close my eyes all night,—but what's that to you, so people can call you liberal, Mr. Caudle? Your wife and children may all be burnt alive in their beds—as all of us to a certainty shall be, for the insurance MUST drop. And after we've insured for so many years! But how, I should like to know, are people to insure who make ducks and drakes of their five pounds?

"I did think we might go to Margate this summer. There's poor little Caroline, I'm sure she wants the sea. But no, dear creature! she must stop at home—all of us must stop at home—she'll go into a consumption, there's no doubt of that; yes—sweet little angel!—I've made up my mind to lose her, NOW. The child might have been saved; but people can't save their children and throw away their five pounds too.

"I wonder where poor little Mopsy is! While you were lending that five pounds, the dog ran out of the shop. You know, I never let it go into the street, for fear it should be bit by some mad dog, and come home and bite all the children. It wouldn't now at all astonish me if the animal was to come back with the hydrophobia, and give it to all the family. However, what's your family to you, so you can play the liberal creature with five pounds?

"Do you hear that shutter, how it's banging to and fro? Yes,—I know what it wants as well as you; it wants a new fastening. I was going to send for the blacksmith to-day, but now it's out of the question: NOW it must bang of nights, since you've thrown away five pounds.

"Ha! there's the soot falling down the chimney. If I hate the smell of anything, it's the smell of soot. And you know it; but what are my feelings to you? SWEEP THE CHIMNEY! Yes, it's all very fine to say sweep the chimney—but how are chimneys to be swept—how are they to be paid for by people who don't take care of their five pounds?

"Do you hear the mice running about the room? I hear them. If they were to drag only you out of bed, it would be no matter. SET A TRAP FOR THEM! Yes, it's easy enough to say—set a trap for 'em. But how are people to afford mouse-traps, when every day they lose five pounds?

"Hark! I'm sure there's a noise downstairs. It wouldn't at all surprise me if there were thieves in the house. Well, it MAY be the cat; but thieves are pretty sure to come in some night. There's a wretched fastening to the back-door; but these are not times to afford bolts and bars, when people won't take care of their five pounds.

"Mary Anne ought to have gone to the dentist's to-morrow. She wants three teeth taken out. Now, it can't be done. Three teeth that quite disfigure the child's mouth. But there they must stop, and spoil the sweetest face that was ever made. Otherwise, she'd have been a wife for a lord. Now, when she grows up, who'll have her? Nobody. We shall die, and leave her alone and unprotected in the world. But what do you care for that? Nothing; so you can squander away five pounds."

"And thus," comments Caudle, "according to my wife, she—dear soul!— couldn't have a satin gown—the girls couldn't have new bonnets—the water-rate must stand over—Jack must get his death through a broken window—our fire-insurance couldn't be paid, so that we should all fall victims to the devouring element—we couldn't go to Margate, and Caroline would go to an early grave—the dog would come home and bite us all mad—the shutter would go banging for ever—the soot would always fall—the mice never let us have a wink of sleep—thieves be always breaking in the house—our dear Mary Anne be for ever left an unprotected maid,—and with other evils falling upon us, all, all because I would go on lending five pounds!"


"Poor me! Ha! I'm sure I don't know who'd be a poor woman! I don't know who'd tie themselves up to a man, if they knew only half they'd have to bear. A wife must stay at home, and be a drudge, whilst a man can go anywhere. It's enough for a wife to sit like Cinderella by the ashes, whilst her husband can go drinking and singing at a tavern. YOU NEVER SING? How do I know you never sing? It's very well for you to say so; but if I could hear you, I daresay you're among the worst of 'em.

"And now, I suppose, it will be the tavern every night? If you think I'm going to sit up for you, Mr. Caudle, you're very much mistaken. No: and I'm not going to get out of my warm bed to let you in, either. No: nor Susan shan't sit up for you. No: nor you shan't have a latchkey. I'm not going to sleep with the door upon the latch, to be murdered before the morning.

"Faugh! Pah! Whewgh! That filthy tobacco-smoke! It's enough to kill any decent woman. You know I hate tobacco, and yet you will do it. YOU DON'T SMOKE YOURSELF? What of that? If you go among people who DO smoke, you're just as bad, or worse. You might as well smoke- -indeed, better. Better smoke yourself than come home with other people's smoke all in your hair and whiskers.

"I never knew any good come to a man who went to a tavern. Nice companions he picks up there! Yes! people who make it a boast to treat their wives like slaves, and ruin their families. There's that wretch Harry Prettyman. See what he's come to! He doesn't get home now till two in the morning; and then in what a state! He begins quarrelling with the door-mat, that his poor wife may be afraid to speak to him. A mean wretch! But don't you think I'll be like Mrs. Prettyman. No: I wouldn't put up with it from the best man that ever trod. You'll not make me afraid to speak to you, however you may swear at the door-mat. No, Mr. Caudle, that you won't.


"How do you know what you'll do when you get among such people? Men can't answer for themselves when they get boozing one with another. They never think of their poor wives, who are grieving and wearing themselves out at home. A nice headache you'll have to-morrow morning—or rather THIS morning; for it must be past twelve. YOU WON'T HAVE A HEADACHE? It's very well for you to say so, but I know you will; and then you may nurse yourself for me. Ha! that filthy tobacco again! No; I shall not go to sleep like a good soul. How's people to go to sleep when they're suffocated?

"Yes, Mr. Caudle, you'll be nice and ill in the morning! But don't you think I'm going to let you have your breakfast in bed, like Mrs. Prettyman. I'll not be such a fool. No; nor I won't have discredit brought upon the house by sending for soda-water early, for all the neighbourhood to say, 'Caudle was drunk last night.' No: I've some regard for the dear children, if you haven't. No: nor you shan't have broth for dinner. Not a neck of mutton crosses my threshold, I can tell you.

"YOU WON'T WANT SODA, AND YOU WON'T WANT BROTH? All the better. You wouldn't get 'em if you did, I can assure you.—Dear, dear, dear! That filthy tobacco! I'm sure it's enough to make me as bad as you are. Talking about getting divorced,—I'm sure tobacco ought to be good grounds. How little does a woman think, when she marries, that she gives herself up to be poisoned! You men contrive to have it all of your own side, you do. Now if I was to go and leave you and the children, a pretty noise there'd be! You, however, can go and smoke no end of pipes and—YOU DIDN'T SMOKE? It's all the same, Mr. Caudle, if you go among smoking people. Folks are known by their company. You'd better smoke yourself, than bring home the pipes of all the world.

"Yes, I see how it will be. Now you've once gone to a tavern, you'll always be going. You'll be coming home tipsy every night; and tumbling down and breaking your leg, and putting out your shoulder; and bringing all sorts of disgrace and expense upon us. And then you'll be getting into a street fight—oh! I know your temper too well to doubt it, Mr. Caudle—and be knocking down some of the police. And then I know what will follow. It MUST follow. Yes, you'll be sent for a month or six weeks to the treadmill. Pretty thing that, for a respectable tradesman, Mr. Caudle, to be put upon the treadmill with all sorts of thieves and vagabonds, and—there, again, that horrible tobacco!—and riffraff of every kind. I should like to know how your children are to hold up their heads, after their father has been upon the treadmill?—No; I WON'T go to sleep. And I'm not talking of what's impossible. I know it will all happen- -every bit of it. If it wasn't for the dear children, you might be ruined and I wouldn't so much as speak about it, but—oh, dear, dear! at least you might go where they smoke GOOD tobacco—but I can't forget that I'm their mother. At least, they shall have ONE parent.

"Taverns! Never did a man go to a tavern who didn't die a beggar. And how your pot-companions will laugh at you when they see your name in the Gazette! For it MUST happen. Your business is sure to fall off; for what respectable people will buy toys for their children of a drunkard? You're not a drunkard! No: but you will be—it's all the same.

"You've begun by staying out till midnight. By-and-by 'twill be all night. But don't you think, Mr. Caudle, you shall ever have a key. I know you. Yes; you'd do exactly like that Prettyman, and what did he do, only last Wednesday? Why, he let himself in about four in the morning, and brought home with him his pot-companion, Puffy. His dear wife woke at six, and saw Prettyman's dirty boots at her bedside. And where was the wretch, her husband? Why, he was drinking downstairs—swilling. Yes; worse than a midnight robber, he'd taken the keys out of his dear wife's pockets—ha! what that poor creature has to bear!—and had got at the brandy. A pretty thing for a wife to wake at six in the morning, and instead of her husband to see his dirty boots!

"But I'll not be made your victim, Mr. Caudle, not I. You shall never get at my keys, for they shall lie under my pillow—under my own head, Mr. Caudle.

"You'll be ruined, but if I can help it, you shall ruin nobody but yourself.

"Oh, that hor—hor—hor—i—ble tob—ac—co!"

To this lecture, Caudle affixes no comment. A certain proof, we think, that the man had nothing to say for himself.


"Well, if a woman hadn't better be in her grave than be married! That is, if she can't be married to a decent man. No; I don't care if you are tired, I SHAN'T let you go to sleep. No, and I won't say what I have to say in the morning; I'll say it now. It's all very well for you to come home at what time you like—it's now half-past twelve—and expect I'm to hold my tongue, and let you go to sleep. What next, I wonder? A woman had better be sold for a slave at once.

"And so you've gone and joined a club? The Skylarks, indeed! A pretty skylark you'll make of yourself! But I won't stay and be ruined by you. No: I'm determined on that. I'll go and take the dear children, and you may get who you like to keep your house. That is, as long as you have a house to keep—and that won't be long, I know.

"How any decent man can go and spend his nights in a tavern!—oh, yes, Mr. Caudle; I daresay you DO go for rational conversation. I should like to know how many of you would care for what you call rational conversation, if you had it without your filthy brandy-and- water; yes, and your more filthy tobacco-smoke. I'm sure the last time you came home, I had the headache for a week. But I know who it is who's taking you to destruction. It's that brute, Prettyman. He has broken his own poor wife's heart, and now he wants to—but don't you think it, Mr. Caudle; I'll not have my peace of mind destroyed by the best man that ever trod. Oh, yes! I know you don't care so long as you can appear well to all the world,—but the world little thinks how you behave to me. It shall know it, though—that I'm determined.

"How any man can leave his own happy fireside to go and sit, and smoke, and drink, and talk with people who wouldn't one of 'em lift a finger to save him from hanging—how any man can leave his wife—and a good wife, too, though I say it—for a parcel of pot-companions— oh, it's disgraceful, Mr. Caudle; it's unfeeling. No man who had the least love for his wife could do it.

"And I suppose this is to be the case every Saturday? But I know what I'll do. I know—it's no use, Mr. Caudle, your calling me a good creature: I'm not such a fool as to be coaxed in that way. No; if you want to go to sleep, you should come home in Christian time, not at half-past twelve. There was a time, when you were as regular at your fireside as the kettle. That was when you were a decent man, and didn't go amongst Heaven knows who, drinking and smoking, and making what you think your jokes. I never heard any good come to a man who cared about jokes. No respectable tradesman does. But I know what I'll do: I'll scare away your Skylarks. The house serves liquor after twelve of a Saturday; and if I don't write to the magistrates, and have the licence taken away, I'm not lying in this bed this night. Yes, you may call me a foolish woman; but no, Mr. Caudle, no; it's you who are the foolish man; or worse than a foolish man; you're a wicked one. If you were to die to-morrow—and people who go to public-houses do all they can to shorten their lives—I should like to know who would write upon your tombstone, 'A tender husband and an affectionate father'? I—I'd have no such falsehoods told of you, I can assure you.

"Going and spending your money, and—nonsense! don't tell me—no, if you were ten times to swear it, I wouldn't believe that you only spent eighteenpence on a Saturday. You can't be all those hours and only spend eighteenpence. I know better. I'm not quite a fool, Mr. Caudle. A great deal you could have for eighteenpence! And all the Club married men and fathers of families. The more shame for 'em! Skylarks, indeed! They should call themselves Vultures; for they can only do as they do by eating up their innocent wives and children. Eighteenpence a week! And if it was only that,—do you know what fifty-two eighteenpences come to in a year? Do you ever think of that, and see the gowns I wear? I'm sure I can't, out of the house- money, buy myself a pin-cushion; though I've wanted one these six months. No—not so much as a ball of cotton. But what do you care so you can get your brandy-and-water? There's the girls, too—the things they want! They're never dressed like other people's children. But it's all the same to their father. Oh, yes! So he can go with his Skylarks they may wear sackcloth for pinafores, and packthread for garters.

"You'd better not let that Mr. Prettyman come here, that's all; or, rather, you'd better bring him once. Yes, I should like to see him. He wouldn't forget it. A man who, I may say, lives and moves only in a spittoon. A man who has a pipe in his mouth as constant as his front teeth. A sort of tavern king, with a lot of fools like you to laugh at what he thinks his jokes, and give him consequence. No, Mr. Caudle, no; it's no use your telling me to go to sleep, for I won't. Go to sleep, indeed! I'm sure it's almost time to get up. I hardly know what's the use of coming to bed at all now.

"The Skylarks, indeed! I suppose you'll be buying a 'Little Warbler,' and at your time of life, be trying to sing. The peacocks will sing next. A pretty name you'll get in the neighbourhood; and, in a very little time, a nice face you'll have. Your nose is getting redder already: and you've just one of the noses that liquor always flies to. YOU DON'T SEE IT'S RED? No—I daresay not—but I see it; I see a great many things you don't. And so you'll go on. In a little time, with your brandy-and-water—don't tell me that you only take two small glasses: I know what men's two small glasses are; in a little time you'll have a face all over as if it was made of red currant jam. And I should like to know who's to endure you then? I won't, and so don't think it. Don't come to me.

"Nice habits men learn at clubs! There's Joskins: he was a decent creature once, and now I'm told he has more than once boxed his wife's ears. He's a Skylark too. And I suppose, some day, you'll be trying to box MY ears? Don't attempt it, Mr. Caudle; I say don't attempt it. Yes—it's all very well for you to say you don't mean it,—but I only say again, don't attempt it. You'd rue it till the day of your death, Mr. Caudle.

"Going and sitting for four hours at a tavern! What men, unless they had their wives with them, can find to talk about, I can't think. No good, of course.

"Eighteenpence a week—and drinking brandy-and-water, enough to swim a boat! And smoking like the funnel of a steamship! And I can't afford myself so much as a piece of tape! It's brutal, Mr. Caudle. It's ve-ve-ve—ry bru—tal."

"And here," says Caudle—"Here, thank Heaven! at last she fell asleep."


"Fie, Mr. Caudle, I knew it would come to this. I said it would, when you joined those precious Skylarks. People being called out of their beds at all hours of the night, to bail a set of fellows who are never so happy as when they're leading sober men to destruction. I should like to know what the neighbours will think of you, with people from the police knocking at the door at two in the morning? Don't tell me that the man has been ill-used: he's not the man to be ill-used. And you must go and bail him! I know the end of that: he'll run away, and you'll have to pay the money. I should like to know what's the use of my working and slaving to save a farthing, when you throw away pounds upon your precious Skylarks. A pretty cold you'll have to-morrow morning, being called out of your warm bed this weather; but don't you think I'll nurse you—not I; not a drop of gruel do you get from me.

"I'm sure you've plenty of ways of spending your money—not throwing it away upon a set of dissolute peace-breakers. It's all very well for you to say you haven't thrown away your money, but you will. He'll be certain to run off; it isn't likely he'll go upon his trial, and you'll be fixed with the bail. Don't tell me there's no trial in the matter, because I know there is; it's for something more than quarrelling with the policeman that he was locked up. People aren't locked up for that. No, it's for robbery, or something worse, perhaps.

"And as you have bailed him, people will think you are as bad as he is. Don't tell me you couldn't help bailing him; you should have shown yourself a respectable man, and have let him been sent to prison.

"Now people know you're the friend of drunken and disorderly persons, you'll never have a night's sleep in your bed. Not that it would matter what fell upon you, if it wasn't your poor wife who suffered. Of course all the business will be in the newspapers, and your name with it. I shouldn't wonder, too, if they give your picture as they do the other folks of the Old Bailey. A pretty thing that, to go down to your children. I'm sure it will be enough to make them change their name. No, I shall not go to sleep; it's all very well for you to say, go to sleep, after such a disturbance. But I shall not go to sleep, Mr. Caudle; certainly not."

"Her will, I have no doubt," says Caudle, "was strong; but nature was stronger, and she did sleep; this night inflicting upon me a remarkably short lecture."


"Pretty time of night to come to bed, Mr. Caudle. Ugh! As cold, too, as any ice. Enough to give any woman her death, I'm sure. What!


"If I hadn't, I've no doubt the fellow would have stayed all night. It's all very well for you, Mr. Caudle, to bring people home—but I wish you'd think first what's for supper. That beautiful leg of pork would have served for our dinner to-morrow,—and now it's gone. I can't keep the house upon the money, and I won't pretend to do it, if you bring a mob of people every night to clear out the cupboard.

"I wonder who'll be so ready to give you a supper when you want one: for want one you will, unless you change your plans. Don't tell me! I know I'm right. You'll first be eaten up, and then you'll be laughed at. I know the world. No, indeed, Mr. Caudle, I don't think ill of everybody; don't say that. But I can't see a leg of pork eaten up in that way, without asking myself what it's all to end in if such things go on? And then he must have pickles, too! Couldn't be content with my cabbage—no, Mr. Caudle, I won't let you go to sleep. It's very well for you to say let you go to sleep, after you've kept me awake till this time.


"How do you suppose I could go to sleep when I knew that man was below drinking up your substance in brandy-and-water? for he couldn't be content upon decent, wholesome gin. Upon my word, you ought to be a rich man, Mr. Caudle. You have such very fine friends, I wonder who gives you brandy when you go out!

"No, indeed, he couldn't be content with my pickled cabbage—and I should like to know who makes better—but he must have walnuts. And you, too, like a fool—now, don't you think to stop me, Mr. Caudle; a poor woman may be trampled to death, and never say a word—you, too, like a fool—I wonder who'd do it for you—to insist upon the girl going out for pickled walnuts. And in such a night too! With snow upon the ground. Yes; you're a man of fine feelings, you are, Mr. Caudle; but the world doesn't know you as I know you—fine feelings, indeed! to send the poor girl out, when I told you and told your friend, too—a pretty brute he is, I'm sure—that the poor girl had got a cold and I dare say chilblains on her toes. But I know what will be the end of that; she'll be laid up, and we shall have a nice doctor's bill. And you'll pay it, I can tell you—for I won't.


"Oh! yes, that's all very easy. I'm sure I might wish it. Don't swear in that dreadful way! Aren't you afraid that the bed will open and swallow you? And don't swing about in that way. THAT will do no good. THAT won't bring back the leg of pork, and the brandy you've poured down both of your throats. Oh, I know it, I'm sure of it. I only recollected it when I'd got into bed—and if it hadn't been so cold, you'd have seen me downstairs again, I can tell you—I recollected it, and a pretty two hours I've passed—that I left the key in the cupboard,—and I know it—I could see by the manner of you when you came into the room—I know you've got at the other bottle. However, there's one comfort: you told me to send for the best brandy—the very best—for your other friend, who called last Wednesday. Ha! ha! It was British—the cheapest British—and nice and ill I hope the pair of you will be to-morrow.

"There's only the bare bone of the leg of pork! but you'll get nothing else for dinner, I can tell you. It's a dreadful thing that the poor children should go without,—but if they have such a father, they, poor things, must suffer for it.

"Nearly a whole leg of pork and a pint of brandy! A pint of brandy and a leg of pork. A leg of—leg—leg—pint—"

"And mumbling the syllables," says Mr. Caudle's MS., "she went to sleep."


"Bah! That's the third umbrella gone since Christmas.


"Why, let him go home in the rain, to be sure. I'm very certain there was nothing about HIM that could spoil. Take cold, indeed! He doesn't look like one of the sort to take cold. Besides, he'd have better taken cold than take our only umbrella. Do you hear the rain, Mr. Caudle? I say, do you hear the rain? And as I'm alive, if it isn't St. Swithin's day! Do you hear it against the windows? Nonsense; you don't impose upon me. You can't be asleep with such a shower as that! Do you hear it, I say? Oh, you DO hear it! Well, that's a pretty flood, I think, to last for six weeks; and no stirring all the time out of the house. Pooh! don't think me a fool, Mr. Caudle. Don't insult me. HE return the umbrella! Anybody would think you were born yesterday. As if anybody ever DID return an umbrella! There—do you hear it! Worse and worse! Cats and dogs, and for six weeks, always six weeks. And no umbrella!

"I should like to know how the children are to go to school to- morrow? They sha'n't go through such weather, I'm determined. No: they shall stop at home and never learn anything—the blessed creatures!—sooner than go and get wet. And when they grow up, I wonder who they'll have to thank for knowing nothing—who, indeed, but their father? People who can't feel for their own children ought never to be fathers.

"But I know why you lent the umbrella. Oh, yes; I know very well. I was going out to tea at dear mother's to-morrow—you knew that; and you did it on purpose. Don't tell me; you hate me to go there, and take every mean advantage to hinder me. But don't you think it, Mr. Caudle. No, sir; if it comes down in buckets-full I'll go all the more. No: and I won't have a cab. Where do you think the money's to come from? You've got nice high notions at that club of yours. A cab, indeed! Cost me sixteenpence at least—sixteenpence! two-and- eightpence, for there's back again. Cabs, indeed! I should like to know who's to pay for 'em; I can't pay for 'em, and I'm sure you can't, if you go on as you do; throwing away your property, and beggaring your children—buying umbrellas!

"Do you hear the rain, Mr. Caudle? I say, do you hear it? But I don't care—I'll go to mother's to-morrow: I will; and what's more, I'll walk every step of the way,—and you know that will give me my death. Don't call me a foolish woman, it's you that's the foolish man. You know I can't wear clogs; and with no umbrella, the wet's sure to give me a cold—it always does. But what do you care for that? Nothing at all. I may be laid up for what you care, as I daresay I shall—and a pretty doctor's bill there'll be. I hope there will! It will teach you to lend your umbrellas again. I shouldn't wonder if I caught my death; yes: and that's what you lent the umbrella for. Of course!

"Nice clothes I shall get too, trapesing through weather like this. My gown and bonnet will be spoilt quite.


"Indeed, Mr. Caudle, I SHALL wear 'em. No, sir, I'm not going out a dowdy to please you or anybody else. Gracious knows! it isn't often that I step over the threshold; indeed, I might as well be a slave at once,—better, I should say. But when I do go out,—Mr. Caudle, I choose to go like a lady. Oh! that rain—if it isn't enough to break in the windows.

"Ugh! I do look forward with dread for to-morrow! How I am to go to mother's I'm sure I can't tell. But if I die I'll do it. No, sir; I won't borrow an umbrella. No; and you sha'n't buy one. Now, Mr. Caudle, only listen to this: if you bring home another umbrella, I'll throw it in the street. I'll have my own umbrella or none at all.

"Ha! and it was only last week I had a new nozzle put to that umbrella. I'm sure, if I'd have known as much as I do now, it might have gone without one for me. Paying for new nozzles, for other people to laugh at you. Oh, it's all very well for you—you can go to sleep. You've no thought of your poor patient wife, and your own dear children. You think of nothing but lending umbrellas!

"Men, indeed!—call themselves lords of the creation!—pretty lords, when they can't even take care of an umbrella!

"I know that walk to-morrow will be the death of me. But that's what you want—then you may go to your club and do as you like—and then, nicely my poor dear children will be used—but then, sir, then you'll be happy. Oh, don't tell me! I know you will. Else you'd never have lent the umbrella!

"You have to go on Thursday about that summons and, of course, you can't go. No, indeed, you DON'T go without the umbrella. You may lose the debt for what I care—it won't be so much as spoiling your clothes—better lose it: people deserve to lose debts who lend umbrellas!

"And I should like to know how I'm to go to mother's without the umbrella! Oh, don't tell me that I said I WOULD go—that's nothing to do with it; nothing at all. She'll think I'm neglecting her, and the little money we were to have we sha'n't have at all—because we've no umbrella.

"The children, too! Dear things! They'll be sopping wet; for they sha'n't stop at home—they sha'n't lose their learning; it's all their father will leave 'em, I'm sure. But they SHALL go to school. Don't tell me I said they shouldn't: you are so aggravating, Caudle; you'd spoil the temper of an angel. They SHALL go to school; mark that. And if they get their deaths of cold, it's not my fault—I didn't lend the umbrella."

"At length," writes Caudle, "I fell asleep; and dreamt that the sky was turned into green calico, with whalebone ribs; that, in fact, the whole world turned round under a tremendous umbrella!"


"Umph! I'm sure! Well! I wonder what it will be next? There's nothing proper, now—nothing at all. Better get somebody else to keep the house, I think. I can't do it now, it seems; I'm only in the way here: I'd better take the children, and go.

"What am I grumbling about now? It's very well for you to ask that! I'm sure I'd better be out of the world than—there now, Mr. Caudle; there you are again! I SHALL speak, sir. It isn't often I open my mouth, Heaven knows! But you like to hear nobody talk but yourself. You ought to have married a negro slave, and not any respectable woman.

"You're to go about the house looking like thunder all the day, and I'm not to say a word. Where do you think pudding's to come from every day? You show a nice example to your children, you do; complaining, and turning your nose up at a sweet piece of cold mutton, because there's no pudding! You go a nice way to make 'em extravagant—teach 'em nice lessons to begin the world with. Do you know what puddings cost; or do you think they fly in at the window?

"You hate cold mutton. The more shame for you, Mr. Caudle. I'm sure you've the stomach of a lord, you have. No, sir: I didn't choose to hash the mutton. It's very easy for you to say hash it; but I know what a joint loses in hashing: it's a day's dinner the less, if it's a bit. Yes, I daresay; other people may have puddings with cold mutton. No doubt of it; and other people become bankrupts. But if ever you get into the Gazette, it sha'n't be MY fault—no; I'll do my duty as a wife to you, Mr. Caudle: you shall never have it to say that it was MY housekeeping that brought you to beggary. No; you may sulk at the cold meat—ha! I hope you'll never live to want such a piece of cold mutton as we had to-day! and you may threaten to go to a tavern to dine; but, with our present means, not a crumb of pudding do you get from me. You shall have nothing but the cold joint— nothing as I'm a Christian sinner.

"Yes; there you are, throwing those fowls in my face again! I know you once brought home a pair of fowls; I know it: and weren't you mean enough to want to stop 'em out of my week's money? Oh, the selfishness—the shabbiness of men! They can go out and throw away pounds upon pounds with a pack of people who laugh at 'em afterwards; but if it's anything wanted for their own homes, their poor wives may hunt for it. I wonder you don't blush to name those fowls again! I wouldn't be so little for the world, Mr. Caudle.

"What are you going to do?


"Don't make yourself ridiculous, Mr. Caudle; I can't say a word to you like any other wife, but you must threaten to get up. DO be ashamed of yourself.

"Puddings, indeed! Do you think I'm made of puddings? Didn't you have some boiled rice three weeks ago? Besides, is this the time of the year for puddings? It's all very well if I had money enough allowed me like any other wife to keep the house with: then, indeed, I might have preserves like any other woman; now, it's impossible; and it's cruel—yes, Mr. Caudle, cruel—of you to expect it.


"I know what apples are, Mr. Caudle, without your telling me. But I suppose you want something more than apples for dumplings? I suppose sugar costs something, doesn't it? And that's how it is. That's how one expense brings on another, and that's how people go to ruin.


"What's the use of your lying muttering there about pancakes? Don't you always have 'em once a year—every Shrove Tuesday? And what would any moderate, decent man want more?

"Pancakes, indeed! Pray, Mr. Caudle,—no, it's no use your saying fine words to me to let you go to sleep; I sha'n't!—pray do you know the price of eggs just now? There's not an egg you can trust to under seven and eight a shilling; well, you've only just to reckon up how many eggs—don't lie swearing there at the eggs in that manner, Mr. Caudle; unless you expect the bed to let you fall through. You call yourself a respectable tradesman, I suppose? Ha! I only wish people knew you as well as I do! Swearing at eggs, indeed! But I'm tired of this usage, Mr. Caudle; quite tired of it; and I don't care how soon it's ended!

"I'm sure I do nothing but work and labour, and think how to make the most of everything; and this is how I'm rewarded. I should like to see anybody whose joints go further than mine. But if I was to throw away your money into the street, or lay it out in fine feathers on myself, I should be better thought of. The woman who studies her husband and her family is always made a drudge of. It's your fine fal-lal wives who've the best time of it.

"What's the use of your lying groaning there in that manner? That won't make me hold my tongue, I can tell you. You think to have it all your own way—but you won't, Mr. Caudle! You can insult my dinner; look like a demon, I may say, at a wholesome piece of cold mutton—ah! the thousands of far better creatures than you are who'd been thankful for that mutton!—and I'm never to speak! But you're mistaken—I will. Your usage of me, Mr. Caudle, is infamous— unworthy of a man. I only wish people knew you for what you are; but I've told you again and again they shall some day.

"Puddings! And now I suppose I shall hear of nothing but puddings! Yes, and I know what it would end in. First, you'd have a pudding every day—oh, I know your extravagance—then you'd go for fish,— then I shouldn't wonder if you'd have soup; turtle, no doubt: then you'd go for a dessert; and—oh! I see it all as plain as the quilt before me—but no, not while I'm alive! What your second wife may do I don't know; perhaps SHE'LL be a fine lady; but you sha'n't be ruined by me, Mr. Caudle; that I'm determined. Puddings, indeed! Pu-dding-s! Pud—"

"Exhausted nature," says Caudle, "could hold out no longer. She went to sleep."


"Now, Mr. Caudle—Mr. Caudle, I say: oh: you can't be asleep already, I know now, what I mean to say is this; there's no use, none at all, in our having any disturbance about the matter; but, at last my mind's made up, Mr. Caudle; I shall leave you. Either I know all you've been doing to-night, or to-morrow morning I quit the house. No, no; there's an end of the marriage state, I think—an end of all confidence between man and wife—if a husband's to have secrets and keep 'em all to himself. Pretty secrets they must be, when his own wife can't know 'em! Not fit for any decent person to know, I'm sure, if that's the case. Now, Caudle, don't let us quarrel, there's a good soul, tell me what it's all about? A pack of nonsense, I dare say; still—not that I care much about it,—still I SHOULD like to know. There's a dear. Eh: oh, don't tell me there's nothing in it: I know better. I'm not a fool, Mr. Caudle: I know there's a good deal in it. Now, Caudle, just tell me a little bit of it. I'm sure I'd tell you anything. You know I would. Well?

"Caudle, you're enough to vex a saint! Now don't you think you're going to sleep; because you're not. Do you suppose I'd ever suffered you to go and be made a mason, if I didn't suppose I was to know the secret too? Not that it's anything to know, I dare say; and that's why I'm determined to know it.

"But I know what it is; oh yes, there can be no doubt. The secret is, to ill-use poor women; to tyrannise over 'em; to make 'em your slaves: especially your wives. It must be something of the sort, or you wouldn't be ashamed to have it known. What's right and proper never need be done in secret. It's an insult to a woman for a man to be a freemason, and let his wife know nothing of it. But, poor soul! she's sure to know it somehow—for nice husbands they all make. Yes, yes; a part of the secret is to think better of all the world than their own wives and families. I'm sure men have quite enough to care for—that is, if they act properly—to care for them they have at home. They can't have much care to spare for the world besides.

"And I suppose they call you BROTHER Caudle? A pretty brother, indeed! Going and dressing yourself up in an apron like a turnpike man—for that's what you look like. And I should like to know what the apron's for? There must be something in it not very respectable, I'm sure. Well, I only wish I was Queen for a day or two. I'd put an end to freemasonry, and all such trumpery, I know.

"Now, come, Caudle; don't let's quarrel. Eh! You're not in pain, dear? What's it all about? What are you lying laughing there at? But I'm a fool to trouble my head about you.

"And you're not going to let me know the secret, eh? You mean to say,—you're not? Now, Caudle, you know it's a hard matter to put me in a passion—not that I care about the secret itself: no, I wouldn't give a button to know it, for it's all nonsense, I'm sure. It isn't the secret I care about: it's the slight, Mr. Caudle; it's the studied insult that a man pays to his wife, when he thinks of going through the world keeping something to himself which he won't let her know. Man and wife one, indeed! I should like to know how that can be when a man's a mason—when he keeps a secret that sets him and his wife apart? Ha, you men make the laws, and so you take good care to have all the best of 'em to yourselves: otherwise a woman ought to be allowed a divorce when a man becomes a mason: when he's got a sort of corner-cupboard in his heart—a secret place in his mind—that his poor wife isn't allowed to rummage!

"Caudle, you sha'n't close your eyes for a week—no, you sha'n't— unless you tell me some of it. Come, there's a good creature; there's a love. I'm sure, Caudle, I wouldn't refuse you anything— and you know it, or ought to know it by this time. I only wish I had a secret! To whom should I think of confiding it, but to my dear husband? I should be miserable to keep it to myself, and you know it. Now Caudle?

"Was there ever such a man? A man, indeed! A brute!—yes, Mr. Caudle, an unfeeling, brutal creature, when you might oblige me, and you won't. I'm sure I don't object to your being a mason: not at all, Caudle; I dare say it's a very good thing; I dare say it is— it's only your making a secret of it that vexes me. But you'll tell me—you'll tell your own Margaret? You won't! You're a wretch, Mr. Caudle.

"But I know why: oh, yes, I can tell. The fact is, you're ashamed to let me know what a fool they've been making of you. That's it. You, at your time of life—the father of a family! I should be ashamed of myself, Caudle.

"And I suppose you'll be going to what you call your Lodge every night, now. Lodge, indeed! Pretty place it must be, where they don't admit women. Nice goings on, I dare say. Then you call one another brethren. Brethren! I'm sure you'd relations enough, you didn't want any more.

"But I know what all this masonry's about. It's only an excuse to get away from your wives and families, that you may feast and drink together, that's all. That's the secret. And to abuse women,—as if they were inferior animals, and not to be trusted. That's the secret; and nothing else.

"Now, Caudle, don't let us quarrel. Yes, I know you're in pain. Still, Caudle, my love; Caudle! Dearest, I say! Caudle!"

"I recollect nothing more," says Caudle, "for I had eaten a hearty supper, and somehow became oblivious."


"Ho, Mr. Caudle: I hope you enjoyed yourself at Greenwich.


"I know it very well, sir: know all about it: know more than you think I know. I thought there was something in the wind. Yes, I was sure of it, when you went out of the house to-day. I knew it by the looks of you, though I didn't say anything. Upon my word! And you call yourself a respectable man, and the father of a family! Going to a fair among all sorts of people,—at your time of life. Yes; and never think of taking your wife with you. Oh no! you can go and enjoy yourself out, with I don't know who: go out, and make yourself very pleasant, I dare say. Don't tell me; I hear what a nice companion Mr. Caudle is: what a good-tempered person. Ha! I only wish people could see you at home, that's all. But so it is with men. They can keep all their good temper for out-of-doors—their wives never see any of it. Oh dear! I'm sure I don't know who'd be a poor woman!

"Now, Caudle, I'm not in an ill-temper; not at all. I know I used to be a fool when we were first married: I used to worry and fret myself to death when you went out; but I've got over that. I wouldn't put myself out of the way now for the best man that ever trod. For what thanks does a poor woman get? None at all. No: it's those who don't care for their families who are the best thought of. I only wish I could bring myself not to care for mine.

"And why couldn't you say, like a man, you were going to Greenwich Fair when you went out? It's no use your saying that, Mr. Caudle: don't tell me that you didn't think of going; you'd made up your mind to it, and you know it. Pretty games you've had, no doubt! I should like to have been behind you, that's all. A man at your time of life!

"And I, of course, I never want to go out. Oh no! I may stay at home with the cat. You couldn't think of taking your wife and children, like any other decent man, to a fair. Oh no, you never care to be seen with us. I'm sure, many people don't know you're married at all: how can they? Your wife's never seen with you. Oh no; anybody but those belonging to you!

"Greenwich Fair, indeed! Yes,—and of course you went up and down the hill, running and racing with nobody knows who. Don't tell me; I know what you are when you're out. You don't suppose, Mr. Caudle, I've forgotten that pink bonnet, do you? No: I won't hold my tongue, and I'm not a foolish woman. It's no matter, sir, if the pink bonnet was fifty years ago—it's all the same for that. No: and if I live for fifty years to come, I never will leave off talking of it. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Caudle. Ha! few wives would have been what I've been to you. I only wish my time was to come over again, that's all; I wouldn't be the fool I have been.

"Going to a fair! and I suppose you had your fortune told by the gipsies? You needn't have wasted your money. I'm sure I can tell you your fortune if you go on as you do. Yes, the gaol will be your fortune, Mr. Caudle. And it would be no matter—none at all—if your wife and children didn't suffer with you.

"And then you must go riding upon donkeys.


"Yes; it's very well for you to say so: but I dare say you did. I tell you, Caudle, I know what you are when you're out. I wouldn't trust any of you—you especially, Caudle.

"Then you must go in the thick of the fair, and have the girls scratching your coat with rattles!


"Don't tell me; people don't scratch coats unless they're encouraged to do it. And you must go in a swing, too.


"Well, if you didn't it was no fault of yours; you wished to go I've no doubt.

"And then you must go into the shows? There,—you don't deny that. You did go into a show.


"A good deal of it, sir. Nice crowding and squeezing in those shows, I know. Pretty places! And you a married man and the father of a family. No: I won't hold my tongue. It's very well for you to threaten to get up. You're to go to Greenwich Fair, and race up and down the hill, and play at kiss in the ring. Pah! it's disgusting, Mr. Caudle. Oh, I dare say you DID play at it; if you didn't, you'd have liked, and that's just as bad;—and you can go into swings, and shows, and roundabouts. If I was you, I should hide my head under the clothes and be ashamed of myself.

"And what is most selfish—most mean of you, Caudle—you can go and enjoy yourself, and never so much as bring home for the poor children a gingerbread nut. Don't tell me that your pocket was picked of a pound of nuts! Nice company you must have been in to have your pocket picked.

"But I daresay I shall hear all about it to-morrow. I've no doubt, sir, you were dancing at the Crown and Anchor. I should like to have seen you. No: I'm not making myself ridiculous. It's you that's making yourself ridiculous; and everybody that knows you says so. Everybody knows what I have to put up with from you.

"Going to a fair, indeed! At your time—"

"Here," says Caudle, "I dozed off hearing confusedly the words—hill- -gipsies—rattles—roundabouts—swings—pink bonnet—nuts."


"There, Mr. Caudle, I hope you're in a little better temper than you were this morning? There—you needn't begin to whistle: people don't come to bed to whistle. But it's like you. I can't speak, that you don't try to insult me. Once, I used to say you were the best creature living; now you get quite a fiend.


"No: I won't let you rest. It's the only time I have to talk to you, and you SHALL hear me. I'm put upon all day long: it's very hard if I can't speak a word at night: besides, it isn't often I open my mouth, goodness knows.

"Because ONCE in your lifetime your shirt wanted a button you must almost swear the roof off the house!


"Ha, Mr. Caudle! you don't know what you do when you're in a passion.


"Weren't you? Well, then, I don't know what a passion is—and I think I ought by this time. I've lived long enough with you, Mr. Caudle, to know that.

"It's a pity you haven't something worse to complain of than a button off your shirt. If you'd SOME wives, you would, I know. I'm sure I'm never without a needle and thread in my hand. What with you and the children, I'm made a perfect slave of. And what's my thanks? Why, if once in your life a button's off your shirt—what do you cry 'OH' at?—I say once, Mr. Caudle; or twice, or three times, at most. I'm sure Caudle, no man's buttons in the world are better looked after than yours. I only wish I had kept the shirts you had when you were first married! I should like to know where were your buttons then?

"Yes, it IS worth talking of! But that's how you always try to put me down. You fly into a rage, and then if I only try to speak you won't hear me. That's how you men always will have all the talk to yourselves: a poor woman isn't allowed to get a word in.

"A nice notion you have of a wife, to suppose she's nothing to think of but her husband's buttons. A pretty notion, indeed, you have of marriage. Ha! if poor women only knew what they had to go through. What with buttons, and one thing and another! They'd never tie themselves up,—no, not to the best man in the world, I'm sure.


"Why, do much better without you, I'm certain.

"And it's my belief, after all, that the button wasn't off the shirt; it's my belief that you pulled it off, that you might have something to talk about. Oh, you're aggravating enough, when you like, for anything! All I know is, it's very odd that the button should be off the shirt; for I'm sure no woman's a greater slave to her husband's buttons than I am. I only say, it's very odd.

"However, there's one comfort; it can't last long. I'm worn to death with your temper, and sha'n't trouble you a great while. Ha, you may laugh! And I dare say you would laugh! I've no doubt of it! That's your love—that's your feeling! I know that I'm sinking every day, though I say nothing about it. And when I'm gone, we shall see how your second wife will look after your buttons. You'll find out the difference, then. Yes, Caudle, you'll think of me, then; for then, I hope, you'll never have a blessed button to your back.

"No, I'm not a vindictive woman, Mr. Caudle; nobody ever called me that, but you. What do you say?


"That's nothing at all to do with it. Ha! I wouldn't have your aggravating temper, Caudle, for mines of gold. It's a good thing I'm not as worrying as you are—or a nice house there'd be between us. I only wish you'd had a wife that WOULD have talked to you! Then you'd have known the difference. But you impose upon me, because, like a poor fool, I say nothing. I should be ashamed of myself, Caudle.

"And a pretty example you set as a father! You'll make your boys as bad as yourself. Talking as you did all breakfast time about your buttons! And of a Sunday morning, too! And you call yourself a Christian! I should like to know what your boys will say of you when they grow up? And all about a paltry button off one of your wristbands! A decent man wouldn't have mentioned it.


"Because I WON'T hold my tongue. I'm to have my peace of mind destroyed—I'm to be worried into my grave for a miserable shirt button, and I'm to hold my tongue! Oh! but that's just like you men!

"But I know what I'll do for the future. Every button you have may drop off, and I won't so much as put a thread to 'em. And I should like to know what you'll do then? Oh, you must get somebody else to sew 'em, must you? That's a pretty threat for a husband to hold out to a wife! And to such a wife as I've been, too: such a negro-slave to your buttons, as I may say! Somebody else to sew 'em, eh? No, Caudle, no: not while I'm alive! When I'm dead—and with what I have to bear there's no knowing how soon that may be—when I'm dead, I say—oh! what a brute you must be to snore so!


"Ha! that's what you always say; but that's nothing to do with it. You must get somebody else to sew 'em, must you? Ha! I shouldn't wonder. Oh no! I should be surprised at nothing, now! Nothing at all! It's what people have always told me it would come to,—and now the buttons have opened my eyes! But the whole world shall know of your cruelty, Mr. Caudle. After the wife I've been to you. Somebody else, indeed, to sew your buttons! I'm no longer to be mistress in my own house! Ha, Caudle! I wouldn't have upon my conscience what you have, for the world! I wouldn't treat anybody as you treat—no, I'm not mad! It's you, Mr. Caudle, who are mad, or bad—and that's worse! I can't even so much as speak of a shirt button, but that I'm threatened to be made nobody of in my own house! Caudle, you've a heart like a hearth-stone, you have! To threaten me, and only because a button—a button—"

"I was conscious of no more than this," says Caudle; "for here nature relieved me with a sweet, deep sleep."


"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?


"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.


"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.


"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.


"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?


"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?


"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!


"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.


"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!


"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?



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


"'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!


"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?


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


"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?


"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.


"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?


"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.


"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 -



"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.


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


"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?


"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 of 'take children into a lodging'—'separate maintenance'— 'won't be made a slave of'—and so forth."


"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.


"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?


"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?


"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?


"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?"


"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.


"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?


"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."


"There, Caudle! If there's anything in the world I hate—and you know it, Caudle—it is asking you for money. I am sure for myself, I'd rather go without a thing a thousand times, and I do—the more shame of you to let me, but—there, now! there you fly out again!


"Why, you must know what's wanted, if you'd any eyes—or any pride for your children, like any other father.


"Oh, nonsense, Caudle! As if you didn't know! I'm sure if I'd any money of my own, I'd never ask you for a farthing; never; it's painful to me, goodness knows! What do you say?


"Ha! I suppose you call that a joke—one of your club jokes? I wish you'd think a little more of people's feelings, and less of your jokes. As I say, I only wish I'd any money of my own. If there is anything that humbles a poor woman, it is coming to a man's pocket for every farthing. It's dreadful!

"Now, Caudle, if ever you kept awake, you shall keep awake to-night— yes, you shall hear me, for it isn't often I speak, and then you may go to sleep as soon as you like. Pray do you know what month it is? And did you see how the children looked at church to-day—like nobody else's children?


"Oh, Caudle! How can you ask? Poor things! weren't they all in their thick merinos and beaver bonnets? What do you say? -


"What! you'll tell me that you didn't see how the Briggs's girls, in their new chips, turned their noses up at 'em? And you didn't see how the Browns looked at the Smiths, and then at our dear girls, as much as to say, 'Poor creatures! what figures for the month of May!'


"The more shame for you—you would, if you'd had the feelings of a parent—but I'm sorry to say, Caudle, you haven't. I'm sure those Briggs's girls—the little minxes!—put me into such a pucker, I could have pulled their ears for 'em over the pew. What do you say?


"No, Mr. Caudle; the shame lies with you, that don't let your children appear at church like other people's children, that make 'em uncomfortable at their devotions, poor things! for how can it be otherwise, when they see themselves dressed like nobody else?

"Now, Caudle, it's no use talking; those children shall not cross the threshold next Sunday, if they haven't things for the summer. Now mind—they sha'n't; and there's an end of it. I won't have 'em exposed to the Briggs's and the Browns again: no, they shall know they have a mother, if they've no father to feel for 'em. What do you say, Caudle?


"I only wish you thought as much as I do, you'd be a better man than you are, Caudle, I can tell you; but that's nothing to do with it. I'm talking about decent clothes for the children for the summer, and you want to put me off with something about the church; but that's so like you, Caudle!


"How can you lie in your bed and say that? I'm sure there's no children in the world that cost their father so little: but that's it; the less a poor woman does upon, the less she may. It's the wives who don't care where the money comes from who're best thought of. Oh, if my time was to come over again, would I mend and stitch, and make the things go so far as I have done? No—that I wouldn't. Yes, it's very well for you to lie there and laugh; it's easy to laugh, Caudle—very easy, to people who don't feel.

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