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- Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures - 3/28 -
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.
LECTURE III--MR. CAUDLE JOINS A CLUB--"THE SKYLARKS."
"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."
LECTURE IV--MR. CAUDLE HAS BEEN CALLED FROM HIS BED TO BAIL MR. PRETTYMAN FROM THE WATCH-HOUSE
"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.
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