Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 28
MRS. CAUDLE HAS RETURNED HOME. THE HOUSE (OF COURSE) "NOT FIT TO BE SEEN." MR. CAUDLE, IN SELF-DEFENCE, TAKES A BOOK.
HOME! SWEET HOME!—MRS. CAUDLE'S RETURN.
"You're glad of it?
"That's like your sneering; I know what you mean. Of course; I never can think of making myself comfortable, but you wound my feelings. If you cared for your own bed like any other man, you'd not have stayed out till this hour. Don't say that I drove you out of the house as soon as we came in it. I only just spoke about the dirt and the dust,—but the fact is, you'd be happy in a pig-sty! I thought I could have trusted that Mrs. Closepeg with untold gold; and did you only see the hearthrug? When we left home there was a tiger in it: I should like to know who could make out the tiger, now? Oh, it's very well for you to swear at the tiger, but swearing won't revive the rug again. Else you might swear.
"You could go out and make yourself comfortable at your club. You little know how many windows are broken. How many do you think? No: I sha'n't tell you to-morrow—you shall know now. I'm sure! Talking about getting health at Margate; all my health went away directly I went into the kitchen. There's dear mother's china bowl cracked in two places. I could have sat down and cried when I saw it: a bowl I can recollect when I was a child. Eh?
"I should have locked it up, then?
"Yes: that's your feeling for anything of mine. I only wish it had been your punch-bowl; but, thank goodness! I think that's chipped.
"Well, you haven't answered about the windows—you can't guess how many?
"You don't care?
"Well, if nobody caught cold but you, it would be little matter. Six windows clean out, and three cracked!
"You can't help it?
"I should like to know where the money's to come from to mend 'em! They sha'n't be mended, that's all. Then you'll see how respectable the house will look. But I know very well what you think. Yes; you're glad of it. You think that this will keep me at home—but I'll never stir out again. Then you can go to the sea-side by yourself; then, perhaps, you can be happy with Miss Prettyman?—Now, Caudle, if you knock the pillow with your fist in that way, I'll get up. It's very odd that I can't mention that person's name but you begin to fight the bolster, and do I don't know what. There must be something in it, or you wouldn't kick about so. A guilty conscience needs no—but you know what I mean.
"She wasn't coming to town for a week; and then, of a sudden, she'd had a letter. I dare say she had. And then, as she said, it would be company for her to come with us. No doubt. She thought I should be ill again, and down in the cabin, but with all her art, she does not know the depth of me—quite. Not but what I was ill; though, like a brute, you wouldn't see it.
"What do you say?
"Yes: you can be very tender, I dare say—like all of your sex—to suit your own ends; but I can't go to sleep with my head full of the house. The fender in the parlour will never come to itself again. I haven't counted the knives yet, but I've made up my mind that half of 'em are lost. No: I don't always think the worst; no, and I don't make myself unhappy before the time; but of course that's my thanks for caring about your property. If there aren't spiders in the curtains as big as nutmegs, I'm a wicked creature. Not a broom has the whole place seen since I've been away. But as soon as I get up, won't I rummage the house out, that's all! I hadn't the heart to look at my pickles; but for all I left the door locked, I'm sure the jars have been moved. Yes; you can swear at pickles when you're in bed; but nobody makes more noise about 'em when you want 'em.
"I only hope they've been to the wine-cellar: then you may know what my feelings are. That poor cat, too——What?
"You hate cats?
"Yes, poor thing! because she's my favourite—that's it. If that cat could only speak—What?
"It isn't necessary?
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Caudle: but if that cat could only speak, she'd tell me how she's been cheated. Poor thing! I know where the money's gone to that I left for her milk—I know. Why, what have you got there, Mr. Caudle? A book? What!
"If you aren't allowed to sleep, you'll read?
"Well, now it is come to something! If that isn't insulting a wife to bring a book to bed, I don't know what wedlock is. But you sha'n't read, Caudle; no, you sha'n't; not while I've strength to get up and put out a candle.
"And that's like your feelings! You can think a great deal of trumpery books; yes, you can't think too much of the stuff that's put into print; but for what's real and true about you, why, you've the heart of a stone. I should like to know what that book's about. What!
"Milton's 'Paradise Lost'?
"I thought some rubbish of the sort—something to insult me. A nice book, I think, to read in bed; and a very respectable person he was who wrote it.
"What do I know of him?
"Much more than you think. A very pretty fellow, indeed, with his six wives. What?
"He hadn't six—he'd only three?
"That's nothing to do with it; but of course you'll take his part. Poor women! A nice time they had with him, I dare say! And I've no doubt, Mr. Caudle, you'd like to follow Mr. Milton's example; else you wouldn't read the stuff he wrote. But you don't use me as he treated the poor souls who married him. Poets, indeed! I'd make a law against any of 'em having wives, except upon paper; for goodness help the dear creatures tied to them! Like innocent moths lured by a candle! Talking of candles, you don't know that the lamp in the passage is split to bits! I say you don't—do you hear me, Mr. Caudle? Won't you answer? Do you know where you are? What?
"In the Garden of Eden?
"Are you? Then you've no business there at this time of night."
"And saying this," writes Caudle, "she scrambled from the bed and put out the light."