A Rogue's Life HTML version

Chapter 4
I GAVE my orders to the colorman, and settled matters with my friend the artist
that day.
The next morning, before the hour at which I expected my sitter, having just now
as much interest in the life of Lady Malkinshaw as Mr. Batterbury had in her
death, I went to make kind inquiries after her ladyship's health. The answer was
most reassuring. Lady Malkinshaw had no present intention of permitting me to
survive her. She was, at that very moment, meritoriously and heartily engaged in
eating her breakfast. My prospects being now of the best possible kind, l felt
encouraged to write once more to my father, telling him of my fresh start in life,
and proposing a renewal of our acquaintance. I regret to say that he was so rude
as not to answer my letter.
Mr. Batterbury was punctual to the moment. He gave a gasp of relief when he
beheld me, full of life, with my palette on my thumb, gazing fondly on my new
"That's right!" he said. "I like to see you with your mind composed. Annabella
would have come with me; but she has a little headache this morning. She sends
her love and best wishes."
I seized my chalks and began with that confidence in myself which has never
forsaken me in any emergency. Being perfectly well aware of the absolute
dependence of the art of portrait-painting on the art of flattery, I determined to
start with making the mere outline of my likeness a compliment to my sitter.
It was much easier to resolve on doing this than really to do it. In the first place,
my hand would relapse into its wicked old caricaturing habits. In the second
place, my brother-in-law's face was so inveterately and completely ugly as to set
every artifice of pictorial improvement at flat defiance. When a man has a nose
an inch long, with the nostrils set perpendicularly, it is impossible to flatter it--you
must either change it into a fancy nose, or resignedly acquiesce in it. When a
man has no perceptible eyelids, and when his eyes globularly project so far out
of his head, that you expect to have to pick them up for him whenever you see
him lean forward, how are mortal fingers and bushes to diffuse the right
complimentary expression over them? You must either do them the most hideous
and complete justice, or give them up altogether. The late Sir Thomas Lawrence,
P.R.A., was undoubtedly the most artful and uncompromising flatterer that ever
smoothed out all the natural characteristic blemishes from a sitter's face; but
even that accomplished parasite would have found Mr. Batterbury too much for