Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 15
MR. CAUDLE HAS AGAIN STAYED OUT LATE. MRS. CAUDLE, AT FIRST INJURED AND VIOLENT, MELTS.
"Well, I don't wonder at that, Mr. Caudle? you ought to be ashamed to speak; I don't wonder that you can't open your mouth. I'm only astonished that at such hours you have the confidence to knock at your own door. Though I'm your wife, I must say it, I do sometimes wonder at your impudence. What do you say?
"Ha! you are an aggravating creature, Caudle; lying there like the mummy of a man, and never as much as opening your lips to one. Just as if your own wife wasn't worth answering! It isn't so when you're out, I'm sure. Oh no! then you can talk fast enough; here, there's no getting a word from you. But you treat your wife as no other man does—and you know it.
"Out—out every night! What?
"You haven't been out this week before?
"That's nothing at all to do with it. You might just as well be out all the week as once—just! And I should like to know what could keep you out till these hours?
"Oh, yes—I dare say! Pretty business a married man and the father of a family must have out of doors at one in the morning. What?
"I shall drive you mad?
"Oh, no; you haven't feelings enough to go mad—you'd be a better man, Caudle, if you had.
"Will I listen to you?
"What's the use? Of course you've some story to put me off with—you can all do that, and laugh at us afterwards.
"No, Caudle, don't say that. I'm not always trying to find fault—not I. It's you. I never speak but when there's occasion; and what in my time I've put up with there isn't anybody in the world that knows.
"Will I hear your story?
"Oh, you may tell it if you please; go on: only mind, I sha'n't believe a word of it. I'm not such a fool as other women are, I can tell you.
"There, now—don't begin to swear—but go on—
"—And that's your story, is it? That's your excuse for the hours you keep! That's your apology for undermining my health and ruining your family! What do you think your children will say of you when they grow up—going and throwing away your money upon good-for-nothing pot-house acquaintance?
"He's not a pot-house acquaintance?
"Who is he, then? Come, you haven't told me that; but I know—it's that Prettyman! Yes, to be sure it is! Upon my life! Well, if I've hardly patience to lie in the bed! I've wanted a silver teapot these five years, and you must go and throw away as much money as—what?
"You haven't thrown it away?
"Haven't you? Then my name's not Margaret, that's all I know!
"A man gets arrested, and because he's taken from his wife and family, and locked up, you must go and trouble your head with it! And you must be mixing yourself up with nasty sheriff's officers—pah! I'm sure you're not fit to enter a decent house—and go running from lawyer to lawyer to get bail, and settle the business, as you call it! A pretty settlement you'll make of it—mark my words! Yes-and to mend the matter, to finish it quite, you must be one of the bail! That any man who isn't a born fool should do such a thing for another! Do you think anybody would do as much for you?
MR. CAUDLE IS CALLED TO A SPONGING HOUSE.
"You say yes? Well, I only wish—just to show that I'm right—I only wish you were in a condition to try 'em. I should only like to see you arrested. You'd find the difference—that you would.
"What's other people's affairs to you? If you were locked up, depend upon it, there's not a soul would come near you. No; it's all very fine now, when people think there isn't a chance of your being in trouble—but I should only like to see what they'd say to you if you were in a sponging-house. Yes—I should enjoy that, just to show you that I'm always right. What do you say?
"You think better of the world?
MR. CAUDLE HAS A MIDNIGHT VISITOR.
"And now, everybody that's arrested will of course send to you. Yes, Mr. Caudle, you'll have your hands full now, no doubt of it. You'll soon know every sponging-house and every sheriff's officer in London. Your business will have to take care of itself; you'll have enough to do to run from lawyer to lawyer after the business of other people. Now, it's no use calling me a dear soul—not a bit! No; and I shan't put it off till to-morrow. It isn't often I speak, but I will speak now.
"I wish that Prettyman had been at the bottom of the sea before—what?
"It isn't Prettyman?
"Ah! it's very well for you to say so; but I know it is; it's just like him. He looks like a man that's always in debt—that's always in a sponging-house. Anybody might swear it. I knew it from the very first time you brought him here—from the very night he put his nasty dirty wet boots on my bright steel fender. Any woman could see what the fellow was in a minute. Prettyman! a pretty gentleman, truly, to be robbing your wife and family!
"Why couldn't you let him stop in the sponging—Now don't call upon heaven in that way, and ask me to be quiet, for I won't. Why couldn't you let him stop there? He got himself in; he might have got himself out again. And you must keep me awake, ruin my sleep, my health, and for what you care, my peace of mind. Ha! everybody but you can see how I'm breaking. You can do all this while you're talking with a set of low bailiffs! A great deal you must think of your children to go into a lawyer's office.
"And then you must be bail—you must be bound—for Mr. Prettyman! You may say, bound! Yes—you've your hands nicely tied, now. How he laughs at you—and serve you right! Why, in another week he'll be in the East Indies; of course he will! And you'll have to pay his debts; yes, your children may go in rags, so that Mr. Prettyman—what do you say?
"It isn't Prettyman?
"I know better. Well, if it isn't Prettyman that's kept you out,—if it isn't Prettyman you're bail for—who is it, then? I ask, who is it, then? What?
"My brother? Brother Tom?
"Oh, Caudle! dear Caudle——"
"It was too much for the poor soul," says Caudle; "she sobbed as if her heart would break, and I——" and here the MS. is blotted, as though Caudle himself had dropped tears as he wrote.