The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
Mr. Caudles Shirt-Buttons
By Douglas William Jerrold (18031857)
From Curtain Lectures
WELL, Mr. Caudle, I hope youre in a little better temper than you were in this morning? Thereyou neednt begin to whistle; people dont come to bed to whistle. But its like you. I cant speak, that you dont try to insult me. Once, I used to say that you were the best creature living; now, you get quite a fiend. Do let you rest? No, I wont let you rest. Its the only time I have to talk to you, and you shall hear me. Im put upon all day long; its very hard if I cant speak a word at night; besides, it isnt 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 didnt swear? Ha, Mr. Caudle! you dont know what you do when youre in a passion. You were not in a passion? Wernt you? Well, then, I dont know what a passion isand I think I ought by this time. Ive lived long enough with you, Mr. Caudle, to know that.
Its a pity that you havent something worse to complain of than a button off your shirt. If youd some wives, I know you would. Im sure Im never without a needle and thread in my hand. What with you and the children, Im made a perfect slave of. And whats my thanks? Why, if once in your life a buttons off your shirtwhat do you cry oh at?I say once, Mr. Caudle; or twice, or three times, at most. Im sure, Mr. Caudle, no mans 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 thats how you always try to put me down. You fly into a rage, and then if I only try to speak you wont hear me. Thats how you men always will have all the talk to yourselves; a poor woman isnt allowed to get a word in.
A nice notion you have of a wife to suppose shes nothing to think of but her husbands 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! Theyd never tie themselves upno, not to the best man in the world, Im sure. What would they do, Mr. Caudle? Why, do much better without you, Im certain.
And its my belief, after all, that the button wasnt off the shirt; its my belief that you pulled it off, that you might have something to talk about. Oh, youre aggravating enough, when you like, for anything! All I know is, its very odd that the button should be off the shirt! for Im sure no womans a greater slave to her husbands buttons than I am. I only say, its very odd.
However, theres one comfort: it cant last long. Im worn to death with your temper, and shant trouble you a great while. Ha, you may laugh! And I dare say you would laugh! Ive no doubt of it! Thats your lovethats your feeling! I know that Im sinking every day, though I say nothing about it. And when Im gone, we shall see how your second wife will look after your buttons. Youll find out the difference, then. Yes, Caudle, youll think of me then; for then, I hope, youll never have a blessed button to your back.
No, Im not a vindictive woman, Mr. Caudle; nobody ever called me that but you. What do you say? Nobody ever knew so much of me? Thats nothing at all to do with it. Ha! I wouldnt have your aggravating temper, Mr. Caudle, for mines of gold. Its a good thing Im not as worrying as you areor a nice house thered be between us. I only wish youd had a wife that would have talked to you! Then youd 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! Youll make your boys as bad as yourself. Talking as you did all breakfast-time 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 when they grow up? All about a paltry button off one of your wrist-bands! A decent man wouldnt have mentioned it. Why wont I hold my tongue? Because I wont hold my tongue. Im to have my peace of mind destroyedIm to be worried into my grave for a miserable shirt-button, and Im to hold my tongue! Oh! but thats just like you men!
But I know what Ill do for the future. Every button you have may drop off, and I wont so much as put a thread to em. And I should like to know what youll do then? Oh, you must get somebody else to sew em, must you? Thats a pretty threat for a husband to hold out to a wife! And to such a wife as Ive been too; such a negro slave to your buttons, as I may say! Somebody else to sew em, eh? No, Caudle, no; not while Im alive! When Im deadand with what I have to bear theres no knowing how soon that may bewhen Im dead, I sayoh! what a brute you must be to snore so!
Youre not snoring? Ha! thats what you always say; but thats nothing to do with it. You must get somebody else to sew em, must you? Ha! I shouldnt wonder. Oh, no! I should be surprised at nothing, now! Nothing at all! Its what people have always told me it would come toand now the buttons have opened my eyes! But the whole world shall know of your cruelty, Mr. Caudle. After the wife Ive been to you. Somebody else, indeed, to sew your buttons!