Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 23

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LECTURE XXIII.

MRS. CAUDLE "WISHES TO KNOW IF THEY'RE GOING TO THE SEA-SIDE, OR NOT, THIS SUMMER—THAT'S ALL."
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MRS. CAUDLE AT MARGATE.

OT? Yes, it is hot. I'm sure one might as well be in an oven as in town this weather. You seem to forget it's July, Mr. Caudle. I've been waiting quietly—have never spoken; yet, not a word have you said of the seaside yet. Not that I care for it myself—oh, no; my health isn't of the slightest consequence. And, indeed, I was going to say—but I won't—that the sooner, perhaps, I'm out of this world, the better. Oh, yes; I dare say you think so—of course you do, else you wouldn't lie there saying nothing. You're enough to aggravate a saint, Caudle; but you shan't vex me. No; I've made up my mind, and never intend to let you vex me again. Why should I worry myself?

"But all I want to ask you is this: do you intend to go to the sea-side this summer?

"Yes? you'll go to Gravesend?

"Then you'll go alone, that's all I know. Gravesend! You might as well empty a salt-cellar in the New River, and call that the seaside. What?

"It's handy for business?

"There you are again! I can never speak of taking a little enjoyment, but you fling business in my teeth. I'm sure you never let business stand in the way of your own pleasure, Mr. Caudle—not you. It would be all the better for your family if you did.

"You know that Matilda wants sea-bathing; you know it, or ought to know it, by the looks of the child; and yet—I know you, Caudle—you'd have let the summer pass over, and never said a word about the matter. What do you say?

"Margate's so expensive?

"Not at all. I'm sure it will be cheaper for us in the end; for if we don't go, we shall all be ill—every one of us—in the winter. Not that my health is of any consequence: I know that well enough. It never was yet. You know Margate's the only place I can eat a breakfast at, and yet you talk of Gravesend! But what's my eating to you? You wouldn't care if I never ate at all. You never watch my appetite like any other husband, otherwise you'd have seen what it's come to.

"What do you say?

"How much will it cost?

"There you are, Mr. Caudle, with your meanness again. When you want to go yourself to Blackwall or to Greenwich you never ask, how much will it cost? What?

"You never go to blackwall?

"Ha! I don't know that; and if you don't, that's nothing at all to do with it. Yes, you can give a guinea a plate for whitebait for yourself. No, sir: I'm not a foolish woman: and I know very well what I'm talking about—nobody better. A guinea for whitebait for yourself, when you grudge a pint of shrimps for your poor family. Eh?

"You don't grudge 'em anything?

"Yes, it's very well for you to lie there and say so.

"What will it cost?

"It's no matter what it will cost, for we won't go at all now. No; we'll stay at home. We shall all be ill in the winter—every one of us, all but you; and nothing ever makes you ill. I've no doubt we shall all be laid up, and there'll be a doctor's bill as long as a railroad; but never mind that. It's better—much better—to pay for nasty physic than for fresh air and wholesome salt water. Don't call me 'woman,' and ask 'what it will cost.' I tell you, if you were to lay the money down before me on that quilt, I wouldn't go now—certainly not. It's better we should all be sick; yes, then you'll be pleased.

"That's right, Mr. Caudle; go to sleep. It's like your unfeeling self! I'm talking of our all being laid up; and you, like any stone, turn round and begin to go to sleep. Well, I think that's a pretty insult!

"How can you sleep with such a splinter in your flesh?

"I suppose you mean to call me the splinter?—and after the wife I've been to you! But no, Mr. Caudle, you may call me what you please; you'll not make me cry now. No, no; I don't throw away my tears upon any such person now.

"What?

"Don't?

"Ha! that's your ingratitude! But none of you men deserve that any woman should love you. My poor heart!

"Everybody else can go out of town except us. Ha! If I'd only married Simmons—— What?

"Why didn't I?

"Yes, that's all the thanks I get.

"Who's Simmons?

"Oh, you know very well who Simmons is. He'd have treated me a little better, I think. He was a gentleman.

"You can't tell?

"May be not: but I can. With such weather as this, to stay melting in London; and when the painters are coming in!

"You won't have the painters in?

"But you must; and if they once come in, I'm determined that none of us shall stir then. Painting in July, with a family in the house! We shall all be poisoned, of course; but what do you care for that?

"Why can't I tell you what it will cost?

"How can I or any woman tell exactly what it will cost? Of course lodgings—and at Margate, too—are a little dearer than living at your own house.

"Pooh! You know that?

"Well, if you did, Mr. Caudle, I suppose there's no treason in naming it. Still, if you take 'em for two months, they're cheaper than for one. No, Mr. Caudle, I shall not be quite tired of it in one month. No: and it isn't true that I no sooner get out than I want to get home again. To be sure, I was tired of Margate three years ago, when you used to leave me to walk about the beach by myself, to be stared at through all sorts of telescopes. But you don't do that again, Mr. Caudle, I can tell you.

"What will I do at Margate?

Mr. and Mrs. Caudle at the sea-side.jpg

MR. AND MRS. CAUDLE AT THE SEA-SIDE.

"Why, isn't there bathing, and picking up shells; and aren't there the packets, with the donkeys; and the last new novel, whatever it is, to read?—for the only place where I really relish a book is at the sea-side. No; it isn't that I like salt with my reading, Mr. Caudle! I suppose you call that a joke? You might keep your jokes for the daytime, I think. But as I was saying—only you always will interrupt me—the ocean always seems to me to open the mind. I see nothing to laugh at; but you always laugh when I say anything. Sometimes at the sea-side—especially when the tide's down—I feel so happy: quite as if I could cry.

"When shall I get the things ready? For next Sunday?

"What will it cost?

"Oh, there—don't talk of it. No: we won't go. I shall send for the painters to-morrow. What?

"I can go and take the children, and you'll stay?

"No, sir: you go with me, or I don't stir. I'm not going to be turned loose like a hen with her chickens, and nobody to protect me. So we'll go on Monday? Eh?

"What will it cost?

"What a man you are! Why, Caudle, I've been reckoning that, with buff slippers and all, we can't well do it under seventy pounds. No; I won't take away the slippers and say fifty. It's seventy pounds and no less. Of course, what's over will be so much saved. Caudle, what a man you are! Well, shall we go on Monday? What do you say——

"You'll see?

"There's a dear. Then, Monday."


"Anything for a chance of peace," writes Caudle. "I consented to the trip, for I thought I might sleep better in a change of bed."