Charles Dickens

Jennings Rodolph claimed his right to call upon a lady, and the right being conceded, trusted Miss Martin would favour the company--a proposal which met with unanimous approbation, whereupon Miss Martin, after sundry hesitatings and coughings, with a preparatory choke or two, and an introductory declaration that she was frightened to death to attempt it before such great judges of the art, commenced a species of treble chirruping containing frequent allusions to some young gentleman of the name of Hen-e-ry, with an occasional reference to madness and broken hearts. Mr. Jennings Rodolph frequently interrupted the progress of the song, by ejaculating 'Beautiful!'-- 'Charming!'--'Brilliant!'--'Oh! splendid,' &c.; and at its close the admiration of himself, and his lady, knew no bounds.

'Did you ever hear so sweet a voice, my dear?' inquired Mr. Jennings Rodolph of Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

'Never; indeed I never did, love,' replied Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

'Don't you think Miss Martin, with a little cultivation, would be very like Signora Marra Boni, my dear?' asked Mr. Jennings Rodolph.

'Just exactly the very thing that struck me, my love,' answered Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

And thus the time passed away; Mr. Jennings Rodolph played tunes on a walking-stick, and then went behind the parlour-door and gave his celebrated imitations of actors, edge-tools, and animals; Miss Martin sang several other songs with increased admiration every time; and even the funny old gentleman began singing. His song had properly seven verses, but as he couldn't recollect more than the first one, he sang that over seven times, apparently very much to his own personal gratification. And then all the company sang the national anthem with national independence--each for himself, without reference to the other--and finally separated: all declaring that they never had spent so pleasant an evening: and Miss Martin inwardly resolving to adopt the advice of Mr. Jennings Rodolph, and to 'come out' without delay.

Now, 'coming out,' either in acting, or singing, or society, or facetiousness, or anything else, is all very well, and remarkably pleasant to the individual principally concerned, if he or she can but manage to come out with a burst, and being out, to keep out, and not go in again; but, it does unfortunately happen that both consummations are extremely difficult to accomplish, and that the difficulties, of getting out at all in the first instance, and if you surmount them, of keeping out in the second, are pretty much on a par, and no slight ones either--and so Miss Amelia Martin shortly discovered. It is a singular fact (there being ladies in the case) that Miss Amelia Martin's principal foible was vanity, and the leading characteristic of Mrs. Jennings Rodolph an attachment to dress. Dismal wailings were heard to issue from the second-floor front of number forty-seven, Drummond-street, George-street, Euston-square; it was Miss Martin practising. Half-suppressed murmurs disturbed the calm dignity of the White Conduit orchestra at the commencement of the season. It was the appearance of Mrs. Jennings Rodolph in full dress, that occasioned them. Miss Martin studied incessantly--the practising was the consequence. Mrs. Jennings Rodolph taught gratuitously now and then--the dresses were the result.

Weeks passed away; the White Conduit season had begun, and progressed, and was more than half over. The dressmaking business had fallen off, from neglect; and its profits had dwindled away almost imperceptibly. A benefit-night approached; Mr. Jennings Rodolph yielded to the earnest solicitations of Miss Amelia Martin, and introduced her personally to the 'comic gentleman' whose benefit it was. The comic gentleman was all smiles and blandness-- he had composed a duet, expressly for the occasion, and Miss Martin should sing it with him. The night arrived; there was an immense room--ninety-seven sixpenn'orths of gin-and-water, thirty-two small glasses of brandy-and-water, five-and-twenty bottled ales, and forty-one neguses; and the ornamental painter's journeyman, with his wife and a select circle of acquaintance, were seated at one of the side-tables near the orchestra.