Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 14
MRS. CAUDLE THINKS IT "HIGH TIME" THAT THE CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE SUMMER CLOTHING.
"What do I want now?
"Why, you must know what's wanted, if you'd any eyes—or any pride for your children, like any other father.
"What's the matter—and what am I driving at?
"Oh, nonsense, Caudle! As if you didn't know! I'm sure if I'd any money of my own, I'd never ask you for a farthing; never; it's painful to me, goodness knows! What do you say?
"If it's painful, why so often do it?
"Ha! I suppose you call that a joke—one of your club jokes? I wish you'd think a little more of people's feelings, and less of your jokes. As I say, I only wish I'd any money of my own. If there is anything that humbles a poor woman, it is coming to a man's pocket for every farthing. It's dreadful!
"Now, Caudle, if ever you kept awake, you shall keep awake to-night— yes, you shall hear me, for it isn't often I speak, and then you may go to sleep as soon as you like. Pray do you know what month it is? And did you see how the children looked at church to-day—like nobody else's children?
"What was the matter with them?
"Oh, Caudle! How can you ask? Poor things! weren't they all in their thick merinos and beaver bonnets? What do you say?——
"What of it?
"What! you'll tell me that you didn't see how the Briggs's girls, in their new chips, turned their noses up at 'em? And you didn't see how the Browns looked at the Smiths, and then at our dear girls, as much as to say, 'Poor creatures! what figures for the month of May!'
"You didn't see it?
"The more shame for you—you would, if you'd had the feelings of a parent—but I'm sorry to say, Caudle, you haven't. I'm sure those Briggs's girls—the little minxes!--put me into such a pucker, I could have pulled their ears for 'em over the pew. What do you say?
"I ought to be ashamed of myself to own it?
"No, Mr. Caudle; the shame lies with you, that don't let your children appear at church like other people's children, that make 'em uncomfortable at their devotions, poor things! for how can it be otherwise, when they see themselves dressed like nobody else?
"Now, Caudle, it's no use talking; those children shall not cross the threshold next Sunday, if they haven't things for the summer. Now mind—they sha'n't; and there's an end of it. I won't have 'em exposed to the Briggs's and the Browns again: no, they shall know they have a mother, if they've no father to feel for 'em. What do you say, Caudle?
"THE TWENTY POUNDS I WILL HAVE, MR. CAUDLE, IF I'VE ANY."
"A good deal I must think of church, if I think so much of what we go in?
"I only wish you thought as much as I do, you'd be a better man than you are, Caudle, I can tell you; but that's nothing to do with it. I'm talking about decent "I'm always wanting money for clothes?
MR. AND MRS. CAUDLE AT CHURCH.
"Now, Caudle, dear! What a man you are! I know you'll give me the money, because, after all, I think you love your children, and like to see 'em well dressed. It's only natural that a father should. Eh, Caudle, eh? Now you sha'n't go to sleep till you've told me.
"How much money do I want?
"Why, let me see, love. There's Caroline, and Jane, and Susannah, and Mary Anne, and—What do you say?
"I needn't count 'em; you know how many there are?
"Ha! that's just as you take me up. Well, how much money will it take? Let me see; and don't go to sleep. I'll tell you in a minute. You always love to see the dear things like new pins, I know that, Caudle; and though I say it—bless their little hearts!--they do credit to you, Caudle. Any nobleman of the land might be proud of 'em. Now don't swear at noblemen of the land, and ask me what they've to do with your children; you know what I meant. But you ARE so hasty, Caudle.
"Now, don't be in a hurry! Well, I think, with good pinching—and you know, Caudle, there's never a wife who can pinch closer than I can—I think, with pinching, I can do with twenty pounds. What did you say?
"You won't give half the money?
"Very well, Mr. Caudle; I don't care: let the children go in rags; let them stop from church, and grow up like heathens and cannibals, and then you'll save your money, and, I suppose, be satisfied.
"You gave me twenty pounds five months ago?
"What's five months ago to do with now? Besides, what I HAVE had is nothing to do with it.
"What do you say?
"Ten pounds are enough?
"Yes, just like you men; you think things cost nothing for women; but you don't care how much you lay out upon yourselves.
"They only want bonnets and frocks?
"How do you know what they want? How should a man know anything at all about it? And you won't give more than ten pounds? Very well. Then you may go shopping with it yourself, and see what you'll make of it. I'll have none of your ten pounds, I can tell you. No, sir,-no; you have no cause to say that.
"I don't want to dress the children up like countesses?
"You often fling that in my teeth, you do: but you know it's false, Caudle; you know it. I only want to give 'em proper notions of themselves: and what, indeed, can the poor things think when they see the Briggs's, and the Browns, and the Smiths—and their fathers don't make the money you do, Caudle—when they see them as fine as tulips? Why, they must think themselves nobody; and to think yourself nobody—depend upon it, Caudle,—isn't the way to make the world think anything of you.
"What do you say?
"Where did I pick up that?
"Where do you think? I know a great deal more than you suppose—yes; though you don't give me credit for it. Husbands seldom do. However, the twenty pounds I will have, if I've any—or not a farthing. No, sir, no.
"I don't want to dress up the children like peacocks and parrots!
"I only want to make 'em respectable and—what do you say?
"You'll give fifteen pounds?
"No, Caudle, no—not a penny will I take under twenty; if I did, it would seem as if I wanted to waste your money: and I'm sure, when I come to think of it, twenty pounds will hardly do. Still, if you'll give me twenty—no, it's no use your offering fifteen, and wanting to go to sleep. You sha'n't close an eye until you promise me twenty. Come, Caudle, love!--twenty, and then you may go to sleep. Twenty— twenty—twenty——"
"My impression is," writes Caudle, "that I fell asleep sticking firmly to the fifteen; but in the morning Mrs. Caudle assured me, as a woman of honour, that she wouldn't let me wink an eye before I promised the twenty: and man is frail—and woman is strong—she had the money."