Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 34
"You don't believe it?
"Well, I'm sure! That's a pretty thing for a man to say to his wife. I know he's too much of a man of business to talk; but I suppose there's a way of telling things without speaking them. And when I put the question to him, lawyer as he is, he hadn't the face to deny it.
"To be sure, it can be of no consequence to me whether your will is made or not. I shall not be alive, Mr. Caudle, to want anything: I shall be provided for a long time before your will's of any use. No, Mr. Caudle, I sha'n't survive you: and—though a woman's wrong to let her affection for a man be known, for then she's always taken advantage of—though I know it's foolish and weak to say so, still I don't want to survive you. How should I? No, no; don't say that: I'm not good for a hundred—I sha'n't see you out, and another husband too. What a gross idea, Caudle! To imagine I'd ever think of marrying again. No—never! What?
MR. CAUDLE SENDS FOR HIS LAWYER.
"That's what we all say?
"Not at all; quite the reverse. To me the very idea of such a thing is horrible, and always was. Yes, I know very well that some do marry again—but what they're made of I'm sure I can't tell. Ugh!
"There are men, I know, who leave their property in such a way that their widows, to hold it, must keep widows. Now, if there is anything in the world that is mean and small, it is that. Don't you think so, too, Caudle? Why don't you speak, love? That's so like you! I never want a little quiet, rational talk, but you want to go to sleep. But you never were like any other man! What?
"How do I know?
"There now—that's so like your aggravating way. I never open my lips upon a subject but you try to put me off. I've no doubt when Miss Prettyman speaks, you can answer her properly enough. There you are, again! Upon my life, it is odd; but I never can in the most innocent way mention that person's name that—
"Why can't I leave her alone?
"LAWYER AS HE IS, HE HADN'T THE FACE TO DENY IT."
"I'm sure—with all my heart! Who wants to talk about her? I don't: only you always will say something that's certain to bring up her name.
"What was I saying, Caudle? Oh, about the way some men bind their widows. To my mind, there is nothing so little. When a man forbids his wife to marry again without losing what he leaves—it's what I call selfishness after death. Mean to a degree! It's like taking his wife into the grave with him. Eh?
"You never want to do that?
"No, I'm sure of that, love: you're not the man to tie a woman up in that mean manner. A man who'd do that would have his widow burnt with him, if he could—just as those monsters, that call themselves men, do in the Indies.
"However, it's no matter to me how you've made your will; but it may be to your second wife. What?
"I shall never give you a chance?
"Ha! you don't know my constitution after all, Caudle. I'm not at all the woman I was. I say nothing about 'em, but very often you don't know my feelings. And as we're on the subject, dearest, I have only one favour to ask. When you marry again—now it's no use your saying that. After the comforts you've known of marriage—what are you sighing at, dear?—after the comforts, you must marry again—now don't forswear yourself in that violent way, taking an oath that you know you must break—you couldn't help it, I'm sure of it; and I know you better than you know yourself. Well, all I ask is, love, because it's only for your sake, and it would make no difference to me then— how should it?—but all I ask is, don't marry Miss Pret—— There! there! I've done: I won't say another word about it; but all I ask is, don't. After the way you've been thought of, and after the comforts you've been used to, Caudle, she wouldn't be the wife for you. Of course I could then have no interest in the matter—you might marry the Queen of England, for what it would be to me then—I'm only anxious about you. Mind, Caudle, I'm not saying anything against her; not at all; but there's a flightiness in her manner—I dare say, poor thing, she means no harm, and it may be, as the saying is, only her manner after all—still, there is a flightiness about her that, after what you've been used to, would make you very wretched. Now, if I may boast of anything, Caudle, it is my propriety of manner the whole of my life. I know that wives who're very particular aren't thought as well of as those who're not—still, it's next to nothing to be virtuous, if people don't seem so. And virtue, Caudle—no, I'm not going to preach about virtue, for I never do. No; and I don't go about with my virtue, like a child with a drum, making all sorts of noises with it. But I know your principles. I shall never forget what I once heard you say to Prettyman: and it's no excuse that you'd taken so much wine you didn't know what you were saying at the time; for wine brings out man's wickedness, just as fire brings out spots of grease.
"What did you say?
"Why, you said this: —'Virtue's a beautiful thing in women, when they don't make so much noise about it: but there's some women who think virtue was given 'em, as claws were given to cats'—yes, cats was the word—'to do nothing but scratch with.' That's what you said.
"You don't recollect a syllable of it?
"No, that's it; when you're in that dreadful state, you recollect nothing: but it's a good thing I do.
"But we won't talk of that, love—that's all over: I dare say you meant nothing. But I'm glad you agree with me, that the man who'd tie up his widow not to marry again, is a mean man. It makes me happy that you've the confidence in me to say that.
"You never said it?
"That's nothing to do with it—you've just as good as said it. No: when a man leaves all his property to his wife, without binding her hands from marrying again, he shows what a dependence he has upon her love. He proves to all the world what a wife she's been to him; and how, after his death, he knows she'll grieve for him. And then, of course, a second marriage never enters her head. But when she only keeps his money so long as she keeps a widow, why, she's aggravated to take another husband. I'm sure of it; many a poor woman has been driven into wedlock again, only because she was spited into it by her husband's will. It's only natural to suppose it. If I thought, Caudle, you could do such a thing, though it would break my heart to do it,—yet, though you were dead and gone, I'd show you I'd a spirit, and marry again directly. Not but what it's ridiculous my talking in such a way, as I shall go long before you; still, mark my words, and don't provoke me with any will of that sort, or I'd do it-as I'm a living woman in this bed to-night, I'd do it."
"I did not contradict her," says Caudle, "but suffered her to slumber in such assurance."