Mrs. Caudle's curtain lectures/Lecture 25
MRS. CAUDLE, WEARIED OF MARGATE, HAS "A GREAT DESIRE TO SEE FRANCE."
"Well, was there ever such a man! But nothing ever tires you. Of course, it's all very well for you: yes, you can read your newspapers and—What?
"So can I?
"And I wonder what would become of the children if I did! No; it's enough for their father to lose his precious time, talking about politics, and bishops, and lords, and a pack of people who wouldn't care a pin if we hadn't a roof to cover us—it's well enough for—no, Caudle, no: I'm not going to worry you; I never worried you yet, and it isn't likely I should begin now. But that's always the way with you—always. I'm sure we should be the happiest couple alive, only you do so like to have all the talk to yourself. We're out upon pleasure, and therefore let's be comfortable. Still, I must say it: when you like, you're an aggravating man, Caudle, and you know it.
"What have you done now?
"There, now; we won't talk of it. No; let's go to sleep: otherwise we shall quarrel—I know we shall. What have you done, indeed! That I can't leave my home for a few days, but I must be insulted! Everybody upon the pier saw it.
"How can you lie there in the bed and ask me? Saw what, indeed! Of course it was a planned thing!—regularly settled before you left London. Oh yes! I like your innocence, Mr. Caudle; not knowing what I'm talking about. It's a heart-breaking thing for a woman to say of her own husband; but you've been a wicked man to me. Yes: and all your tossing and tumbling about in the bed won't make it any better.
"Oh, it's easy enough to call a woman 'a dear soul.' I must be very dear, indeed, to you, when you bring down Miss Prettyman to—there now; you needn't shout like a wild savage. Do you know that you're not in your own house—do you know that we're in lodgings? What do you suppose the people will think of us? You needn't call out in that manner, for they can hear every word that's said. What do you say?
"Why don't I hold my tongue then?
"To be sure; anything for an excuse with you. Anything to stop my mouth. Miss Prettyman's to follow you here, and I'm to say nothing. I know she has followed you; and if you were to go before a magistrate, and take a shilling oath to the contrary, I wouldn't believe you. No, Caudle; I wouldn't.
"Very well, then?
"Ha! what a heart you must have, to say 'very well'; and after the wife I've been to you. I'm to be brought from my own home—dragged down here to the sea-side—to be laughed at before the world—don't tell me. Do you think I didn't see how she looked at you—how she puckered up her farthing mouth—and—what?
MRS. CAUDLE MEETS MISS PRETTYMAN.
"Why did I kiss her, then?
"What's that to do with it? Appearances are one thing, Mr. Caudle; and feelings are another. As if women can't kiss one another without meaning anything by it! And you—I could see you looked as cold and as formal at her as—well, Caudle! I wouldn't be the hypocrite you are for the world!
"There, now; I've heard all that story. I daresay she did come down to join her brother. How very lucky, though, that you should be here! Ha! ha! how very lucky that—ugh! ugh! ugh! and with the cough I've got upon me—oh, you've a heart like a sea-side flint! Yes, that's right. That's just like your humanity. I can't catch a cold, but it must be my own fault—it must be my thin shoes. I daresay you'd like to see me in ploughman's boots; 'twould be no matter to you how I disfigured myself. Miss Prettyman's foot, now, would be another thing—no doubt.
"I thought when you would make me leave home—I thought we were coming here on pleasure: but it's always the way you embitter my life. The sooner that I'm out of the world the better. What do you say?
"But I know what you mean, better than if you talked an hour. I only hope you'll get a better wife, that's all, Mr. Caudle. What?
"You'd not try?
"Wouldn't you? I know you. In six months you'd fill up my place; yes, and dreadfully my dear children would suffer for it.
"Caudle, if you roar in that way, the people will give us warning to-morrow.
"Can't I be quiet, then?
"Yes—that's like your artfulness: anything to make me hold my tongue. But we won't quarrel. I'm sure if it depended upon me, we might be as happy as doves. I mean it—and you needn't groan when I say it. Good-night, Caudle. What do you say?
"Well, you are a dear soul, Caudle; and if it wasn't for that Miss Prettyman—no, I'm not torturing you. I know very well what I'm doing, and I wouldn't torture you for the world; but you don't know what the feelings of a wife are, Caudle; you don't.
"Caudle—I say, Caudle. Just a word, dear.
"Now, why should you snap me up in that way?
"You want to go to sleep?
"So do I; but that's no reason you should speak to me in that manner. You know, dear, you once promised to take me to France.
"You don't recollect it?
"Yes—that's like you; you don't recollect many things you've promised me; but I do. There's a boat goes on Wednesday to Boulogne, and comes back the day afterwards.
"What of it?
"Why, for that time we could leave the children with the girls, and go nicely.
"Of course; if I want anything it's always nonsense. Other men can take their wives half over the world; but you think it quite enough to bring me down here to this hole of a place, where I know every pebble on the beach like an old acquaintance—where there's nothing to be seen but the same machines—the same jetty—the same donkeys—the same everything. But then, I'd forgot; Margate has an attraction for you—Miss Prettyman's here. No; I'm not censorious, and I wouldn't backbite an angel; but the way in which that young woman walks the sands at all hours—there! there!—I've done: I can't open my lips about that creature but you always storm.
"You know that I always wanted to go to France; and you bring me down here only on purpose that I should see the French cliffs—just to tantalise me, and for nothing else. If I'd remained at home—and it was against my will I ever came here—I should never have thought of France; but—to have it staring in one's face all day, and not be allowed to go! it's worse than cruel, Mr. Caudle—it's brutal. Other people can take their wives to Paris; but you always keep me moped up at home. And what for? Why, that I may know nothing—yes; just on purpose to make me look little, and for nothing else.
"Heaven bless the woman?
"Ha! you've good reason to say that, Mr. Caudle; for I'm sure she's little blessed by you. She's been kept a prisoner all her life—has never gone anywhere—oh yes! that's your old excuse,—talking of the children. I want to go to France, and I should like to know what the children have to do with it? They're not babies now—are they? But you've always thrown the children in my face. If Miss Prettyman—there now; do you hear what you've done—shouting in that manner? The other lodgers are knocking overhead: who do you think will have the face to look at 'em to-morrow morning? I sha'n't—breaking people's rest in that way!
"Well, Caudle—I declare it's getting daylight, and what an obstinate man you are!—tell me, shall I go to France?"
"I forget," says Caudle, "my precise answer; but I think I gave her a very wide permission to go somewhere, whereupon, though not without remonstrance as to the place—she went to sleep."