Mrs. Caudle's Lecture by Douglas Jerrold

There, Mr. Caudle, I hope you're in a little better temper than you were this morning. There, you needn't begin to whistle: people don't come to bed to whistle. But it's like you; I can't speak, that you don't try to insult me. Once, I used to say you were the best creature living: now, you get quite a fiend. Do let you rest? No, I won't let you rest. It's the only time I have to talk to you, and you shall hear me. I'm put upon all day long: it's very hard if I can't speak a word at night; and it isn't often I open my mouth, goodness knows!

Because once in your lifetime your shirt wanted a button, you must almost swear the roof off the house. You didn't swear? Ha, Mr. Caudle! you don't know what you do when you're in a passion. You were not in a passion, wer'n't you? Well, then I don't know what a passion is; and I think I ought by this time. I've lived long enough with you, Mr. Caudle, to know that.

It's a pity you hav'n't something worse to complain of than a button off your shirt. If you'd some wives, you would, I know. I'm sure I'm never without a needle-and-thread in my hand; what with you and the children, I'm made a perfect slave of. And what's my thanks? Why, if once in your life a button's off your shirt—what do you say "ah" at? I say once, Mr. Caudle; or twice or three times, at most. I'm sure, Caudle, no man's buttons in the world are better looked after than yours. I only wish I'd kept the shirts you had when you were first married! I should like to know where were your buttons then?

Yes, it is worth talking of! But that's how you always try to put me down. You fly into a rage, and then, if I only try to speak, you won't hear me. That's how you men always will have all the talk to yourselves: a poor woman isn't allowed to get a word in. A nice notion you have of a wife, to suppose she's nothing to think of but her husband's buttons. A pretty notion, indeed, you have of marriage. Ha! if poor women only knew what they had to go through! What with buttons—and one thing and another! They'd never tie themselves up to the best man in the world, I'm sure. What would they do, Mr. Caudle?—Why, do much better without you, I'm certain.

And it's my belief, after all, that the button wasn't off the shirt; it's my belief that you pulled it off, that you might have something to talk about. Oh, you're aggravating enough, when you like, for anything. All I know is, it's very odd that the button should be off the shirt; for I'm sure no woman's a greater slave to her husband's buttons than I am. I only say it's very odd.

However, there's one comfort; it can't last long. I'm worn to death with your temper, and sha'n't trouble you a great while. Ha, you may laugh! And I daresay you would laugh! I've no doubt of it! That's your love; that's your feeling! I know that I'm sinking every day, though I say nothing about it. And when I'm gone, we shall see how your second wife will look after your buttons! You'll find out the difference, then. Yes, Caudle, you'll think of me, then; for then, I hope, you'll never have a blessed button to your back.