Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 16
BABY IS TO BE CHRISTENED; MRS. CAUDLE CANVASSES THE MERITS OF PROBABLE GODFATHERS.
"I suppose the baby must have a godfather; and so, Caudle, who shall we have? Who do you think will be able to do the most for it? No, Caudle, no; I'm not a selfish woman—nothing of the sort—but I hope I've the feelings of a mother; and what's the use of a godfather, if he gives nothing else to the child but a name? A child might almost as well not be christened at all. And so who shall we have? What do you say?
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Caudle? Don't you think something will happen to you, to talk in that way? I don't know where you pick up such principles. I'm thinking who there is among our acquaintance who can do the most for the blessed creature, and you say,— 'Anybody!' Caudle, you're quite a heathen.
"There's Wagstaff. No chance of his ever marrying, and he's very fond of babies. He's plenty of money, Caudle; and I think he might be got. Babies, I know it—babies are his weak side. Wouldn't it be a blessed thing to find our dear child in his will? Why don't you speak? I declare, Caudle, you seem to care no more for the child than if it was a stranger's. People who can't love children more than you do, ought never to have 'em.
"You don't like Wagstaff?
"No more do I much; but what's that to do with it? People who've their families to provide for, mustn't think of their feelings. I don't like him; but then I'm a mother, and love my baby.
"You won't have Wagstaff, and that's flat?
"Ha, Caudle, you're like nobody else—not fit for this world, you're not.
"What do you think of Pugsby? I can't bear his wife; but that's nothing to do with it. I know my duty to my babe: I wish other people did. What do you say?
"Pugsby's a wicked fellow?
"Ha! that's like you—always giving people a bad name. We mustn't always believe what the world says, Caudle; it doesn't become us as Christians to do it. I only know that he hasn't chick or child; and, besides that, he's very strong interest in the Blue-coats; and so, if Pugsby——Now, don't fly out at the man in that manner. Caudle, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! You can't speak well of anybody. Where do you think to go to?
LITTLE NUMBER SIX BEGAN TO CRY.
"You wouldn't ask him a favour for the world?
"Well, it's a good thing the baby has somebody to care for it: I will. What do you say?
"I will, I can tell you. Sniggins, besides being a warm man, has good interest in the Customs; and there's nice pickings there, if one only goes the right way to get 'em. It's no use, Caudle, your fidgetting about—not a bit. I'm not going to have baby lost—sacrificed, I may say, like its brothers and sisters.
"What do I mean by sacrificed?
"Oh, you know what I mean very well. What have any of 'em got by their godfathers beyond a half-pint mug, a knife and fork, and spoon—and a shabby coat, that I know was bought second-hand, for I could almost swear to the place? And then there was your fine friend Hartley's wife—what did she give to Caroline? Why, a trumpery lace cap it made me blush to look at. What?
"It was the best she could afford?
"Then she'd no right to stand for the child. People who can't do better than that have no business to take the responsibility of godmother. They ought to know their duties better.
"Well, Caudle, you can't object to Goldman?
"Yes, you do?
"Was there ever such a man! What for?
"He's a usurer and a hunks?
"Well, I'm sure, you've no business in this world, Caudle; you have such high-flown notions. Why, isn't the man as rich as the bank? And as for his being a usurer,—isn't it all the better for those who come after him? I'm sure it's well there's some people in the world who save money, seeing the stupid creatures who throw it away. But you are the strangest man! I really believe you think money a sin, instead of the greatest blessing; for I can't mention any of our acquaintance that's rich—and I'm sure we don't know too many such people—that you haven't something to say against 'em. It's only beggars that you like—people with not a shilling to bless themselves. Ha! though you're my husband, I must say it—you're a man of low notions, Caudle. I only hope none of the dear boys will take after their father!
"And I should like to know what's the objection to Goldman? The only thing against him is his name; I must confess it, I don't like the name of Lazarus: it's low, and doesn't sound genteel—not at all respectable. But after he's gone and done what's proper for the child, the boy could easily slip Lazarus into Laurence. I'm told the thing's done often. No, Caudle, don't say that—I'm not a mean woman—certainly not; quite the reverse. I've only a parent's love for my children; and I must say it—I wish everybody felt as I did.
"I suppose, if the truth was known, you'd like your tobacco-pipe friend, your pot-companion, Prettyman, to stand for the child?
"You'd have no objection?
"I thought not! Yes; I knew what it was coming to. He's a beggar, he is; and a person who stays out half the night; yes, he does; and it's no use your denying it—a beggar and a tippler, and that's the man you'd make godfather to your own flesh and blood! Upon my word, Caudle, it's enough to make a woman get up and dress herself to hear you talk.
"Well, I can hardly tell you, if you won't have Wagstaff, or Pugsby, or Sniggins, or Goldman, or somebody that's respectable, to do what's proper, the child sha'n't be christened at all. As for Prettyman, or any such raff—no, never! I'm sure there's a certain set of people that poverty's catching from, and that Prettyman's one of 'em. Now, Caudle, I won't have my dear child lost by any of your spittoon acquaintance, I can tell you.
"No; unless I can have my way, the child sha'n't be christened at all. What do you say?
"It must have a name?
"There's no 'must' at all in the case—none. No, it shall have no name; and then see what the world will say. I'll call it Number Six—yes, that will do as well as anything else, unless I've the godfather I like. Number Six Caudle! ha! ha! I think that must make you ashamed of yourself if anything can. Number Six Caudle—a much better name than Mr. Prettyman could give; yes, Number Six. What do you say?
"Anything but Number Seven?
"Oh, Caudle, if ever——"
"At this moment," writes Caudle, "little Number Six began to cry; and taking advantage of the happy accident I somehow got to sleep."