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“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 haven'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
button's off your shirt - what do you cry oh' at?- I say once, Mr. Caudle ; or twice, or three times, at most. Caudle, no man's buttons in the world are better looked after than yours. I only wish I had 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, - no, not 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 dare say 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.
“No, I'm not a vindictive woman, Mr. Caudle, nobody ever called me that, but you. What do you say? Nobody ever knew 80 much of me? That's nothing at all to do with it.
Ha! I wouldn't have your aggravating temper, Caudle, for mines of gold. It's a good thing I'm not as worrying as you are — or a nice house there'd be between us. I only wish you'd had a wife that would have talked to you! Then you'd have known the difference. But you impose upon me, because, like a poor fool, I say nothing. I should be ashamed of myself, Caudle.
“And a pretty example you set as a father! You'll make your boys as bad as yourself. Talking as you did all breakfasttime about your buttons ! And of a Sunday morning too! And you call yourself a Christian; I should like to know what
your boys will say of you when they grow up? And all about a paltry button off one of your wristbands ! A decent man wouldn't have mentioned it. Why won't I hold my tongue ? Because I won't hold my tongue. I'm to have my peace of inind destroyed - I'm to be worried into my grave for a miserable shirt-button, and I'm to hold my tongue! Oh! but that's just like you men!
“ Bit I know what I'll do for the future. Every button you have may drop off, and I won't so much as put a thread to 'em. And I should like to know what you'll do then? Oh, you must get somebody else to sew 'em, must you? That's a pretty threat for a husband to hold out to a wife! And to such a wife as I've been, too; such a negro-slave to your buttons, as I may say! Somebody else to sew 'em, eh? No, Caudle, no: not while I'm alive! When I'm dead - and with what I have to bear there's no knowing how soon that may be — when I'm dead, I say — oh! what a brute you must be to snore sol
“ You're not snoring ? Ha! that's what you always say ; but that's nothing to do with it. You must get somebody else to sew 'em, must you? Ha! I shouldn't wonder. Oh no! I should be surprised at nothing, now. Nothing at all! It's what people have always told me it would come to, - and now, the buttons have opened my eyes! But the whole world shall know of your cruelty, Mr. Caudle. After the wife I've been to you. Somebody else, indeed, to sew your buttons! I'm no longer to be mistress in my own house! Ha, Caudle! I wouldn't have upon my conscience what you have, for the world! I wouldn't treat anybody as you treat - no, I'm not mad! It's you, Mr. Caudle, who are mad, or bad — and that's worse! I can't even so much as speak of a shirt-button, but that I'm threatened to be made nobody of in my own house! Caudle, you've a heart like a hearth-stone, you have! To threaten me, and only because a button a button "
“I was conscious of no more than this,” says Caudle: “for here nature relieved me with a sweet, deep sleep."
MRS. CAUDLE SUGGESTS THAT HER DEAR MOTHER SHOULD
“ COME AND LIVE WITH THEM.”
“Is your cold better to-night, Caudle? Yes; I thought it was. 'Twill be quite well to-morrow, I dare say. There's a love! You don't take care enough of yourself, Caudle, you don't. And you ought, I'm sure; if only for my sake. For whatever I should do, if anything was to happen to you — but I won't think of it; no, I can't bear to think of that. Still, you ought to take care of yourself; for you know you're not strong, Caudle; you know you're not.
“ Wasn't dear mother so happy with us to-night? Now, you needn't go to sleep so suddenly. I say, wasn't she so happy. You don't know? How can you say you don't know? You must have seen it. But she always is happier here than any. where else. Hal what a temper that dear soul has! I call it a temper of satin; it is so smooth, so easy, so soft. Nothing puts her out of the way. And then, if you only knew how she takes your part, Caudle! I'm sure, if you had been her own son ten times over, she couldn't be fonder of you. Don't you think so, Caudle!
Eh, love? Now, do answer. How can you tell ? Nonsense, Caudle; you must have seen it. I'm sure, nothing delights the dear soul so much as when she's thinking how to please you.
“ Don't you remember Thursday night, the stewed oysters when you came home? That was all dear mother's doings ! • Margaret,' says she to me, “it's a cold night; and don't you think dear Mr. Caudle would like something nice before he goes to bed?' And that, Caudle, is how the oysters came about. Now, don't sleep, Caudle: do listen to me, for five minutes ; 'tisn't often I speak, goodness knows.
“ And then what a fuss she makes when you're out, if your slippers arn't put to the fire for you. She's very good? Yes – I know she is, Caudle. And hasn't she been six months though I promised her not to tell you — six months, working a watch-pocket for you! And with her eyes, dear soul — and at her time of life!
** And then what a cook she is! I'm sure the dishes she'll make out of next to nothing! I try hard enough to follow her; but, I'm not ashamed to own it, Caudle, she quite beats me. Ha! the many nice little things she'd simmer up for you — and I can't do it; the children, you know it, Caudle, take so much of my time. I can't do it, love : and I often reproach myself that I can't. Now, you sha’n’t go to sleep, Caudle, at least, not for five minutes. You must hear me.
" I've been thinking, dearest - ha! that nasty cough, love! – I've been thinking, darling, if we could only persuade dear mother to come and live with us. Now, Caudle, you can't be asleep ; it's impossible - you were coughing only this minute yes, to live with us. What a treasure we should have in her! Then, Caudle, you never need go to bed without something nice and hot. And you want it, Caudle. You don't want it? Nonsense, you do; for you're not strong, Caudle; you know you're not.
" I'm sure, the money she'd save us in housekeeping. Ha! what an eye she has for a joint! the butcher doesn't walk that could deceive dear mother. And then, again, for poultry; what a finger and thumb she has for a chicken! I never could market like her: it's a gift – quite a gift.
“ And then you recollect her marrow-puddings ? You don't recollect 'em? Oh, fie! Caudle, how often have you flung her marrow-puddings in my face, wanting to know why I couldn't make 'em ? And I wouldn't pretend to do it after dear mother; I should think it presumption. Now, love, if she was only living with us — come, you're not asleep, Caudle - if she was only living with us, you could have marrow-puddings every day. Now, don't fling yourself about and begin to swear at marrowpuddings; you know you like 'em, dear. .
“What a hand, too, dear mother has for a pie-crust! But it's born with some people. What do you say? Why wasn't it born with me? Now, Caudle, that's cruel — unfeeling of you; I wouldn't have uttered such a reproach to you for the whole world. Consider, dear; people can't be born as they like.
“How often, too, have you wanted to brew at home! And I never could learn anything about brewing. But, ha! what ale dear mother makes ! You never tasted it? No, I know that. But I recollect the ale we used to have at home: and father never would drink wine after it. The best sherry was nothing like it. You dare say not? No; it wasn't indeed, Caudle. Then, if dear mother was only with us, what money we should save in beer! And then you might always have your own nice, pure, good, wholesome ale, Caudle: and what good it would do you! For you're not strong, Caudle.
“And then dear mother's jams and preserves, love! I own it, Caudle; it has often gone to my heart that with cold meat you hav'n't always had a pudding. Now, if mother was with us, in the matter of fruit-puddings, she'd make it summer all the year round. But I never could preserve now mother does it, and for next to no money whatever. What nice dogs-in-a-blanket she'd make for the children! What's dogs-in-the-blanket? Oh, they're delicious — as dear mother makes 'em.
“Now, you have tasted her Irish stew, Caudle? You remember that? Come, you're not asleep - you remember that? And how fond you are of it! And I know I never have it made to please you! Well, what a relief to me it would be if dear mother was always at hand, that you might have a stew when you liked. What a load it would be off my mind.
“Again, for pickles ! Not at all like anybody else's pickles. Her red cabbage — why it's as crisp as biscuit! And then her walnuts — and her all-sorts! Eh, Caudle? You know how you love pickles; and how we sometimes tiff about 'em? Now if dear mother was here, a word would never pass between us. And I'm sure nothing would make me happier, for — you're not asleep, Caudle ? — for I can't bear to quarrel, can I, love?
“ The children, too, are so fond of her! And she'd be such a help to me with 'em! I'm sure, with dear mother in the house, I shouldn't care a fig for measles, or anything of the sort. As a nurse, she's such a treasure !
“ And at her time of life, what a needlewoman! And the darning and mending for the children, it really gets quite beyond me now, Caudle. Now, with mother at my hand, there wouldn't be a stitch wanted in the house.