To return to my business affairs.
When I was comfortably settled
in the prison, and knew exactly
what I owed, I thought it my
duty to my father to give him
the first chance of getting me
out. His answer to my letter
contained a quotation from Shakespeare
on the subject of thankless children,
but no remittance of money. After
that, my only course was to employ
a lawyer and be declared a bankrupt.
I was most uncivilly treated,
and remanded two or three times.
When everything I possessed had
been sold for the benefit of
my creditors, I was reprimanded
and let out. It is pleasant to
think that, even then, my faith
in myself and in human nature
still not shaken.
About ten days before my liberation,
I was thunderstruck at receiving
a visit from my sister's mahogany-colored
husband, Mr. Batterbury. When
I was respectably settled at
home, this gentleman would not
so much as look at me without
a frown; and now, when I was
a scamp, in prison, he mercifully
and fraternally came to condole
with me on my misfortunes. A
little dexterous questioning
disclosed the secret of this
prodigious change in our relations
toward each other, and informed
me of a family event which altered
my position toward my sister
in the most whimsical manner.
While I was being removed to
the bankruptcy court, my uncle
in the soap and candle trade
was being removed to the other
world. His will took no notice
of my father or my mother; but
he left to my sister (always
supposed to be his favorite in
the family) a most extraordin
ary legacy of possible pin-money,
in the shape of a contingent
reversion to the sum of three
thousand pounds, payable on the
death of Lady Malkinshaw, provided
I survived her.
Whether this document sprang
into existence out of any of
his involved money transactions
with his mother was more than
Mr. Batterbury could tell. I
could ascertain nothing in relation
to it, except that the bequest
was accompanied by some cynical
remarks, to the effect that the
testator would feel happy if
his legacy were instrumental
in reviving the dormant interest
of only one member of Doctor
Softly's family in the fortunes
of the hopeful young gentleman
who had run away from home. My
esteemed uncle evidently felt
that he could not in common decency
avoid doing something for his
sister's family; and he had done
it accordingly in the most malicious
and mischievous manner. This
was characteristic of him; he
was just the man, if he had not
possessed the document before,
to have had it drawn out on his
death-bed for the amiable purpose
which it was now devoted to serve.
Here was a pretty complication!
Here was my sister's handsome
legacy made dependent on my outliving
my grandmother! This was diverting
enough; but Mr. Batterbury's
conduct was more amusing still.
The miserly little wretch not
only tried to conceal his greedy
desire to save his own pockets
by securing the allowance of
pin-money left to his wife, but
absolutely persisted in ignoring
the plain fact that his visit
to me sprang from the serious
pecuniary interest which he and
Annabella now had in the life
and health of your humble servant.
I made all the necessary jokes
about the strength of the vital
principle in Lady Malkinshaw,
and the broken condition of my
own constitution; but he solemnly
abstained from understanding
one of them. He resolutely kept
up appearances in the very face
of detection; not the faintest
shade of red came over his wicked
old mahogany face as he told
me how shocked he and his wife
were at my present position,
and how anxious Annabella was
that he should not forget to
give me her love. Tenderhearted
creature! I had only been in
prison six months when that overwhelming
testimony of sisterly affection
came to console me in my captivity.
Ministering angel! you shall
get your three thousand pounds.
I am fifty years younger than
Lady Malkinshaw, and I will take
care of myself, Annabella, for
thy dear sake!
The next time I saw Mr. Batterbury
was on the day when I at last
got my discharge. He was not
waiting to see where I was going
next, or what vital risks I was
likely to run on the recovery
of my freedom, but to congratulate
me, and to give me Annabella's
love. It was a very gratifying
attention, and I said as much,
in tones of the deepest feeling.
"How is dear Lady Malkinshaw?" I
asked, when my grateful emotions
shook his head mournfully. "I regret to say,
not quite so well as her friends
could wish," he answered. "The
last time I had the pleasure
of seeing her ladyship, she looked
so yellow that if we had been
in Jamaica I should have said
it was a case of death in twelve
hours. I respectfully endeavored
to impress upon her ladyship
the necessity of keeping the
functions of the liver active
by daily walking exercise; time,
distance, and pace being regulated
with proper regard to her age--you
understand me?--of course, with
proper regard to her age."
"You could not possibly have
given her better advice," I said. "When
I saw her, as long as two years
ago, Lady Malkinshaw's favorite
delusion was that she was the
most active woman of seventy-five
in all England. She used to tumble
downstairs two or three times
a week, then, because she never
would allow any one to help her;
and could not be brought to believe
that she was as blind as a mole,
and as rickety on her legs as
a child of a year old. Now you
have encouraged her to take to
walking, she will be more obstinate
than ever, and is sure to tumble
down daily, out of doors as well
as in. Not even the celebrated
Malkinshaw toughness can last
out more than a few weeks of
that practice. Considering the
present shattered condition of
my constitution, you couldn't
have given her better advice--upon
my word of honor, you couldn't
have given her better advice!"
"I am afraid," said Mr. Batterbury,
with a power of face I envied; "I
am afraid, my dear Frank (let
me call you Frank), that I don't
quite apprehend your meaning:
and we have unfortunately no
time to enter into explanations.
Five miles here by a roundabout
way is only half my daily allowance
of walking exercise; five miles
back by a roundabout way remain
to be now accomplished. So glad
to see you at liberty again!
Mind you let us know where you
settle, and take care of yourself;
and do recognize the importance
to the whole animal economy of
daily walking exercise--do now!
Did I give you Annabella's love?
She's so well. Good-by."
Away went Mr. Batterbury to
finish his walk for the sake
of his health, and away went
I to visit my publisher for the
sake of my pocket.
disappointment awaited me.
My "Scenes of Modern
Prison Life" had not sold so
well as had been anticipated,
and my publisher was gruffly
disinclined to speculate in any
future works done in the same
style. During the time of my
imprisonment, a new caricaturist
had started, with a manner of
his own; he had already formed
a new school, and the fickle
public were all running together
after him and his disciples.
I said to myself: "This scene
in the drama of your life, my
friend, has closed in; you must
enter on another, or drop the
curtain at once." Of course I
entered on another.
Taking leave of my publisher,
I went to consult an artist-friend
on my future prospects. I supposed
myself to be merely on my way
to a change of profession. As
destiny ordered it, I was also
on my way to the woman who was
not only to be the object of
my first love, but the innocent
cause of the great disaster of
I first saw her in one of the
narrow streets leading from Leicester
Square to the Strand. There was
something in her face (dimly
visible behind a thick veil)
that instantly stopped me as
I passed her. I looked back and
hesitated. Her figure was the
perfection of modest grace. I
yielded to the impulse of the
moment. In plain words, I did
what you would have done, in
my place--I followed her.
She looked round--discovered
me--and instantly quickened her
pace. Reaching the westward end
of the Strand, she crossed the
street and suddenly entered a
I looked through
the window, and saw her speak
to a respectable
elderly person behind the counter,
who darted an indignant look
at me, and at once led my charming
stranger into a back office.
For the moment, I was fool enough
to feel puzzled; it was out of
my character you will say--but
remember, all men are fools when
they first fall in love. After
a little while I recovered the
use of my senses. The shop was
at the corner of a side street,
leading to the market, since
removed to make room for the
railway. "There's a back entrance
to the house!" I thought to myself--and
ran down the side street. Too
late! the lovely fugitive had
escaped me. Had I lost her forever
in the great world of London?
I thought so at the time. Events
will show that I never was more
mistaken in my life.
I was in no humor to call on
my friend. It was not until another
day had passed that I sufficiently
recovered my composure to see
poverty staring me in the face,
and to understand that I had
really no alternative but to
ask the good-natured artist to
lend me a helping hand.
I had heard it darkly whispered
that he was something of a vagabond.
But the term is so loosely applied,
and it seems so difficult, after
all, to define what a vagabond
is, or to strike the right moral
balance between the vagabond
work which is boldly published,
and the vagabond work which is
reserved for private circulation
only, that I did not feel justified
in holding aloof from my former
friend. Accordingly, I renewed
our acquaintance, and told him
my present difficulty. He was
a sharp man, and he showed me
a way out of it directly.
"You have a good eye for a
likeness," he said; "and you
have made it keep you hitherto.
Very well. Make it keep you still.
You can't profitably caricature
people's faces any longer--never
mind! go to the other extreme,
and flatter them now. Turn portrait-painter.
You shall have the use of this
study three days in the week,
for ten shillings a week--sleeping
on the hearth-rug included, if
you like. Get your paints, rouse
up your friends, set to work
at once. Drawing is of no consequence;
painting is of no consequence;
perspective is of no consequence;
ideas are of no consequence.
Everything is of no consequence,
except catching a likeness and
flattering your sitter--and that
you know you can do."
I felt that I could; and left
him for the nearest colorman's.
Before I got to the shop, I
met Mr. Batterbury taking his
walking exercise. He stopped,
shook hands with me affectionately,
and asked where I was going.
A wonderful idea struck me. Instead
of answering his question, I
asked after Lady Malkinshaw.
"Don't be alarmed," said Mr.
Batterbury; "her ladyship tumbled
downstairs yesterday morning."
"My dear sir,
allow me to congratulate you!"
"Most fortunately," continued
Mr. Batterbury, with a strong
emphasis on the words, and a
fixed stare at me; "most fortunately,
the servant had been careless
enough to leave a large bundle
of clothes for the wash at the
foot of the stairs, while she
went to answer the door. Falling
headlong from the landing, her
ladyship pitched (pardon me the
expression)--pitched into the
very middle of the bundle. She
was a little shaken at the time,
but is reported to be going on
charmingly this morning. Most
fortunate, was it not? Seen the
papers? Awful news from Demerara--the
"I wish I was at Demerara," I
said, in a hollow voice.
"You! Why?" exclaimed
Mr. Batterbury, aghast.
"I am homeless, friendless,
penniless," I went on, getting
more hollow at every word. "All
my intellectual instincts tell
me that I could retrieve my position
and live respectably in the world,
if I might only try my hand at
of all others that I am naturally
fittest for. But I have nobody
to start me; no sitter to give
me a first chance; nothing in
my pocket but three-and-sixpence;
and nothing in my mind but a
doubt whether I shall struggle
on a little longer, or end it
immediately in the Thames. Don't
let me detain you from your walk,
my dear sir. I'm afraid Lady
Malkinshaw will outlive me, after
"Stop!" cried Mr. Batterbury;
his mahogany face actually getting
white with alarm. "Stop! Don't
talk in that dreadfully unprincipled
manner--don't, I implore, I insist!
You have plenty of friends--you
have me, and your sister. Take
to portrait-painting--think of
your family, and take to portrait-painting!"
"Where am I
to get a sitter?' I inquired,
with a gloomy shake
of the head.
"Me," said Mr. Batterbury,
with an effort. "I'll be your
first sitter. As a beginner,
and especially to a member of
the family, I suppose your terms
will be moderate. Small beginnings--you
know the proverb?" Here he stopped;
and a miserly leer puckered up
his mahogany cheeks.
"I'll do you, life-size, down
to your waistcoat, for fifty
pounds," said I.
Mr. Batterbury winced, and
looked about him to the right
and left, as if he wanted to
run away. He had five thousand
a year, but he contrived to took,
at that moment, as if his utmost
income was five hundred. I walked
on a few steps.
"Surely those terms are rather
high to begin with?" he said,
walking after me. "I should have
thought five-and-thirty, or perhaps
"A gentleman, sir, cannot condescend
to bargain," said I, with mournful
dignity. "Farewell!" I waved
my hand, and crossed over the
"Don't do that!" cried Mr.
Batterbury. "I accept. Give me
your address. I'll come tomorrow.
Will it include the frame! There!
there! it doesn't include the
frame, of course. Where are you
going now? To the colorman? He
doesn't live in the Strand, I
hope--or near one of the bridges.
Think of Annabella, think of
the family, think of the fifty
pounds--an income, a year's income
to a prudent man. Pray, pray
be careful, and compose your
mind: promise me, my dear, dear
fellow--promise me, on your word
of honor, to compose your mind!"
I left him still harping on
that string, and suffering, I
believe, the only serious attack
of mental distress that had ever
affected him in the whole course
of his life.
Behold me, then, now starting
afresh in the world, in the character
of a portrait-painter; with the
payment of my remuneration from
my first sitter depending whimsically
on the life of my grandmother.
If you care to know how Lady
Malkinshaw's health got on, and
how I succeeded in my new profession,
you have only to follow the further
course of these confessions,
in the next chapter.