Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 29
MRS. CAUDLE THINKS "THE TIME HAS COME TO HAVE A COTTAGE OUT OF TOWN."
"But I know what's killing you. It's the confinement; it's the bad air you breathe; it's the smoke of London. Oh yes, I know your old excuse: you never found the air bad before. Perhaps not. But as people grow older, and get on in trade—and, after all, we've nothing to complain of, Caudle—London air always disagrees with 'em. Delicate health comes with money: I'm sure of it. What a colour you had once, when you'd hardly a sixpence; and now, look at you!
"'Twould add thirty years to your life—and think what a blessing that would be to me; not that I shall live a tenth part of the time—thirty years, if you'd take a nice little house somewhere at Brixton.
"You hate Brixton?
"I must say it, Caudle, that's so like you: any place that's really genteel you can't abide. Now Brixton and Baalam Hill I think delightful. So select! There, nobody visits nobody, unless they're somebody. To say nothing of the delightful pews that make the churches so respectable!
"However, do as you like. If you won't go to Brixton, what do you say to Clapham Common? Oh, that's a very fine story! Never tell me! No; you wouldn't be left alone, a Robinson Crusoe with wife and children, because you're in the retail way. What?
"The retired wholesales never visit the retired retails at Clapham?
"Ha! that's only your old sneering at the world, Mr. Caudle; but I don't believe it. And after all, people should keep to their station, or what was this life made for? Suppose a tallow-merchant does keep himself above a tallow-chandler,—I call it only a proper pride. What?
"You call it the aristocracy of fat?
"I don't know what you mean by 'aristocracy'; but I suppose it's only another of your dictionary words, that's hardly worth the finding out.
"What do you say to Hornsey or Muswell Hill? Eh?
"What a man you are! Well, then—Battersea?
"You're an aggravating creature, Caudle, you must own that! Hampstead, then?
"Nonsense; it would brace you up like a drum,—Caudle; and that's what you want. But you don't deserve anybody to think of your health or your comforts either. There's some pretty spots, I'm told, about Fulham. Now, Caudle, I won't have you say a word against Fulham. That must be a sweet place: dry and healthy, and every comfort of life about it—else is it likely that a bishop would live there? Now, Caudle, none of your heathen principles—I won't hear 'em. I think what satisfies a bishop ought to content you; but the politics you learn at that club are dreadful. To hear you talk of bishops—well, I only hope nothing will happen to you, for the sake of the dear children!
"A nice little house and a garden! I know it—I was born for a garden! There's something about it makes one feel so innocent. My heart somehow always opens and shuts at roses. And then what nice currant wine we could make! And again, get 'em as fresh as you will, there's no radishes like your own radishes! They're ten times as sweet! What?
"And twenty times as dear?
"Yes; there you go! Anything that I fancy, you always bring up the expense.
"No, Mr. Caudle, I should not be tired of it in a month. I tell you I was made for the country. But here you've kept me—and much you've cared about my health—here you've kept me in this filthy London, that I hardly know what grass is made of. Much you care for your wife and family to keep 'em here to be all smoked like bacon. I can see it—it's stopping the children's growth; they'll be dwarfs, and have their father to thank for it. If you'd the heart of a parent, you couldn't bear to look at their white faces. Dear little Dick! he makes no breakfast. What!
MRS. CAUDLE'S MORNING DECORATION.
"He ate six slices this morning?
"A pretty father you must be to count 'em. But that's nothing to what the dear child could do, if, like other children, he'd a fair chance.
"Ha! and when we could be so comfortable! But it's always the case, you never will be comfortable with me. How nice and fresh you'd come up to business every morning; and what pleasure it would be for me to put a tulip or a pink in your button-hole, just, as I may say, to ticket you from the country.
"But then, Caudle, you never were like any other man! But I know why you won't leave London. Yes, I know. Then, you think, you couldn't go to your filthy club—that's it. Then you'd be obliged to be at home, like any other decent man. Whereas you might, if you liked, enjoy yourself under your own apple-tree, and I'm sure I should never say anything about your tobacco out of doors. My only wish is to make you happy, Caudle, and you won't let me do it.
"You don't speak, love? Shall I look about a house to-morrow? It will be a broken day with me, for I'm going out to have little pet's ears bored——What?
"You won't have her ears bored?
"And why not, I should like to know?
"It's a barbarous, savage custom?
"Oh, Mr. Caudle! the sooner you go away from the world, and live in a cave, the better. You're getting not fit for Christian society. What next? My ears were bored and—What?
"So are yours?
"I know what you mean—but that's nothing to do with it. My ears, I say, were bored, and so were dear mother's, and grandmother's before her; and I suppose there were no more savages in our family than in yours, Mr. Caudle? Besides,—why should little pet's ears go naked any more than any of her sisters'? They wear earrings; you never objected before. What?
"You've learned better now?
"Yes, that's all with your filthy politics again. You'd shake all the world up in a dice-box, if you'd your way: not that you care a pin about the world, only you'd like to get a better throw for yourself,—that's all. But little pet shall be bored, and don't think to prevent it.
"I suppose she's to be married some day, as well as her sisters? And who'll look at a girl without earrings, I should like to know? If you knew anything of the world, you'd know what a nice diamond earring will sometimes do—when one can get it—before this. But I know why you can't abide earrings now: Miss Prettyman doesn't wear 'em; she would—I've no doubt—if she could only get 'em. Yes, it's Miss Prettyman who——
"There, Caudle, now be quiet, and I'll say no more about pet's ears at present. We'll talk when you're reasonable. I don't want to put you out of temper, goodness knows! And so, love, about the cottage? What?
"'Twill be so far from business?
"But it needn't be far, dearest. Quite a nice distance; so that on your late nights you may always be at home, have your supper, get to bed, and all by eleven. Eh,—sweet one?"
"I don't know what I answered," says Caudle, "but I know this: in less than a fortnight I found myself in a sort of a green bird-cage of a house, which my wife—gentle satirist—insisted upon calling 'The Turtle Dovery.'"