A Rogue's Life
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 was 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.