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A Rogue's Life

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 had
subsided.
Mr. Batterbury 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!"
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