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stepped up, in the evening, to number forty-seven, Drummond-
street, George-street, Euston-square, and after casting your eye
on a brass door-plate, one foot ten by one and a half, orna-
mented with a great brass knob at each of the four corners,
and bearing the inscription "Miss Martin; millinery and
dressmaking, in all its branches ; " you'd just have knocked
two loud knocks at the street-door ; and down would have
come Miss Martin herself, in a merino gown of the newest
fashion, black velvet bracelets on the genteelest principle,
and other little elegancies of the most approved description.
If Miss Martin knew the young lady who called, or if the
young lady who called had been recommended by any other
young lady whom Miss Martin knew, Miss Martin would
forthwith show her up-stairs into the two-pair front, and
chat she would so kind, and so comfortable it really wasn't
like a matter of business, she was so friendly ; and, then Miss
Martin, after contemplating the figure and general appearance
of the young lady in service with great apparent admiration,
would say how well she would look, to be sure, in a low


dress with short sleeves ; made very full in the skirts, with
four tucks in the bottom ; to which the young lady in
service would reply in terms expressive of her entire con-
currence in the notion, and of the virtuous indignation with
which she reflected on the tyranny of " Missis, 11 who wouldn't
allow a young girl to wear a short sleeve of an arternoon
no, nor nothing smart, not even a pair of ear-rings ; let
alone hiding people's heads of hair under them frightful caps.
At the termination of this complaint, Miss Amelia Martin
would distantly suggest certain dark suspicions that some
people were jealous on account of their own daughters, and
were obliged to keep their servants 1 charms under, for fear
they should get married first, which was no uncommon circum-
stance leastways she had known two or three young ladies
in service, who had married a great deal better than their
missises, and they were not very good-looking either ; and
then the young lady would inform Miss Martin, in confidence,
that how one of their young ladies was engaged to a young
man and was a-going to be married, and Missis was so proud
about it there was no bearing of her; but how she needn't
hold her head quite so high neither, for, after all, he was
only a clerk. And, after expressing due contempt for clerks
in general, and the engaged clerk in particular, and the
highest opinion possible of themselves and each other, Miss
Martin and the young lady in service would bid each other
good night, in a friendly but perfectly genteel manner : and
the one went back to her "place, 11 and the other, to her
room on the second-floor front.

There is no saying how long Miss Amelia Martin might
have continued this course of life ; how extensive a connection
she might have established among young ladies in service ;
or what amount her demands upon their quarterly receipts
might have ultimately attained, had not an unforeseen train
of circumstances directed her thoughts to a sphere of action
very different from dressmaking or millinery.

A friend of Miss Martin's who had long been keeping


company with an ornamental painter and decorator's journey-
man, at last consented (on being at last asked to do so) to
name the day which would make the aforesaid journeyman
a happy husband. It was a Monday that was appointed for
the celebration of the nuptials, and Miss Amelia Martin was
invited, among others, to honour the wedding-dinner with
her presence. It was a charming party ; Somers-town the
locality, and a front parlour the apartment. The ornamental
painter and decorator's journeyman had taken a house no
lodgings nor vulgarity of that kind, but a house four
beautiful rooms, and a delightful little washhouse at the end
of the passage which was the most convenient thing in the
world, for the bridesmaids could sit in the front parlour and
receive the company, and then run into the little washhouse
and see how the pudding and boiled pork were getting on
in the copper, and then pop back into the parlour again, as
snug and comfortable as possible. And such a parlour as it
was ! Beautiful Kidderminster carpet six bran-new cane-
bottomed stained chairs three wine-glasses and a tumbler on
each sideboard farmer's girl and farmer's boy on the mantel-
piece : girl tumbling over a stile, and boy spitting himself, on
the handle of a pitchfork long white dimity curtains in the
window and, in short, everything on the most genteel scale

Then, the dinner. There was baked leg of mutton at the
top, boiled leg of mutton at the bottom, pair of fowls and
leg of pork in the middle ; porter-pots at the corners ;
pepper, mustard, and vinegar in the centre; vegetables on
the floor; and plum-pudding and apple-pie and tartlets
without number : to say nothing of cheese, and celery, and
water-cresses, and all that sort of thing. As to the company !
Miss Amelia Martin herself declared, on a subsequent
occasion, that, much as she had heard of the ornamental
painter's journeyman's connexion, she never could have
supposed it was half so genteel. There was his father, such a
funny old gentleman and his mother, such a dear old lady


and his sister, such a charming girl and his brother, such

a manly-looking young man with such a eye ! But even
all these were as nothing when compared with his musical
friends, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, from White Conduit,
with whom the ornamental painter's journeyman had been
fortunate enough to contract an intimacy while engaged in
decorating the concert-room of that noble institution. To
hear them sing separately, was divine, but when they went
through the tragic duet of " Red Ruffian, retire ! " it was, as
Miss Martin afterwards remarked, " thrilling." And why (as
Mr. Jennings Rodolph observed) why were they not engaged
at one of the patent theatres ? If he was to be told that
their voices were not powerful enough to iill the House, his
only reply was, that he would back himself for any amount
to fill Russell-square a statement in which the company,
after hearing the duet, expressed their, full belief; so they
all said it was shameful treatment ; and both Mr. and Mrs.
Jennings Rodolph said it was shameful too ; and Mr. Jennings
Rodolph looked very serious, and said he knew who his
malignant opponents were, but they had better take care how
far they went, for if they irritated him too much he had not
quite made up his mind whether he wouldn't bring the
subject before Parliament; and they all agreed that it "''ud
serve 'em quite right, and it was very proper that such
people should be made an example of." So Mr. Jennings
Rodolph said he'd think of it.

When the conversation resumed its former tone, Mr.
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? 11 inquired
Mr. Jennings Rodolph of Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

"Never; indeed I never did, love, 11 replied Mrs. Jennings

"Don't you think Miss Martin, with a little cultivation,
would be very like Signora Marra Boni, my dear? 11 asked
Mr. Jennings Rodolph.

"Just exactly the very thing that struck me, my love, 11
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 11 without delay.

Now, " coming out, 11 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 commence-
ment 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 dress-
making 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. The concert began. Song sentimental by a
light-haired young gentleman in a blue coat, and bright
basket buttons [applause]. Another song, doubtful, by
another gentleman in another blue coat and more bright
basket buttons [increased applause]. Duet, Mr. Jennings
Rodolph, and Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, " Red Ruffian, retire ! "


[great applause]. Solo, Miss Julia Montague (positively on
this occasion only) " I am a Friar " [enthusiasm]. Original
duet, comic Mr. H. Taplin (the comic gentleman) and Miss
Martin" The Time of Day." " Bray vo ! Brayvo ! " cried
the ornamental painter's journey man's party, as Miss Martin
was gracefully led in by the comic gentleman. " Go to work,
Harry," cried the comic gentleman's personal friends. "Tap
tap tap," went the leader's bow^on the music-desk. The
symphony began, and was soon afterwards followed by a faint
kind of ventriloquial chirping, proceeding apparently from
the deepest recesses of the interior of Miss Amelia Martin.
" Sing out " shouted one gentleman in a white great-coat.
"Don't be afraid to put the steam on, old gal," exclaimed
another, " S s s s s s s " went the five-and-twenty
bottled ales. " Shame, shame ! " remonstrated the ornamental
painter's journeyman's party "S s s s" went the bottled
ales again, accompanied by all the gins, and a majority of
the brandies.

"Turn them geese out," cried the ornamental painter's
journeyman's party, with great indignation.

" Sing out," whispered Mr. Jennings Rodolph.

" So I do," responded Miss Amelia Martin.

" Sing louder," said Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

" I can't,"' replied Miss Amelia Martin.

" Off, off, off'," cried the rest of the audience.

" Bray-vo ! " shouted the painter's party. It wouldn't do
Miss Amelia Martin left the orchestra, with much less cere-
mony than she had entered it; and, as she couldn't sing out,
never came out. The general good humour was not restored
until Mr. Jennings Rodolph had become purple in the face,
by imitating divers quadrupeds for half an hour, without being
able to render himself audible ; and, to this day, neither has
Miss Amelia Martin's good humour been restored, nor the
dresses made for and presented to Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, nor
the local abilities which Mr. Jennings Rodolph once staked
his professional reputation that Miss Martin possessed.



OF all the dancing academies that ever were established,
there never was one more popular in its immediate vicinity
than Signer BillsmethiX of the "King^s Theatre." It was
not in Spring-gardens, or Newman-street, or Berners-street,
or Gower-street. or Charlotte-street, or Percy-street, or any
other of the numerous streets which have been devoted time
out of mind to professional people, dispensaries, and boarding-
houses ; it was not in the West-end at all it rather approxi-
mated to the eastern portion of London, being situated in the
populous and improving neighbourhood of GrayVinn-lane.
It was not a dear dancing academy four-and-sixpence a
quarter is decidedly cheap upon the whole. It was very
select, the number of pupils being strictly limited to seventy-
five, and a quarter's payment in advance being rigidly exacted.
There was public tuition and private tuition an assembly-
room and a parlour. Signer Billsmethi's family were always
thrown in with the parlour, and included in parlour price;
that is to say, a private pupil had Signor Billsmethfs parlour
to dance in, and Signor Billsmethi's family to dance with ;
and when he had been sufficiently broken in in the parlour,
he began to run in couples in the assembly-room.

Such was the dancing academy of Signor Billsmethi, when
Mr. Augustus Cooper, of Fetter-lane, first saw an unstamped
advertisement walking leisurely down Holborn-hill, announcing


to the world that Signer Billsmethi, of the King's Theatre,
intended opening for the season with a Grand Ball.

Now, Mr. Augustus Cooper was in the oil and colour line
just of age, with a little money, a little business, and a
little mother, who, having managed her husband and his
business in his lifetime, took to managing her son and his
business after his decease; and so, somehow or other, he had
been cooped up in the little back parlour behind the shop on
week-days, and in a little deal box without a lid (called by
courtesy a pew) at Bethel Chapel, on Sundays, and had seen
no more of the world than if he had been an infant all his
days ; whereas Young White, at the gas-fitter's over the way,
three years younger than him, had been flaring away like
winkm 1 going to the theatre supping at harmonic meetings
eating oysters by the barrel drinking stout by the gallon
even stopping out all night, and coming home as cool in
the morning as if nothing had happened. So Mr. Augustus
Cooper made up his mind that he would not stand it any
longer, and had that very morning expressed to his mother
a firm determination to be " blowed," in the event of his not
being instantly provided with a street-door key. And he
was walking down Holborn-hill, thinking about all these
things, and wondering how he could manage to get intro-
duced into genteel society for the first time, when his eyes
rested on Signer Billsmethi's announcement, which it imme-
diately struck him was just the very thing he wanted ; for he
should not only be able to select a genteel circle of acquaint-
ance at once, out of the five-and-seventy pupils at four-and-
sixpence a quarter, but should qualify himself at the same
time to go through a hornpipe in private society, with perfect
ease to himself and great delight to his friends. So, he
stopped the unstamped advertisement an animated sandwich,
composed of a boy between two boards and having procured
a very small card with the Signer's address indented thereon,
walked straight at once to the Signer's house and very fast
he walked too, for fear the list should be filled up, and the


five-and-seventy completed, before he got there. The Signor
was at home, and, what was still more gratifying, he was an
Englishman ! Such a nice man and so polite ! The list was
not full, but it was a most extraordinary circumstance that
there was only just one vacancy, and even that one would
have been filled up, that very morning, only Signor Billsmethi
was dissatisfied with the reference, and, being very much
afraid that the lady wasn't select, wouldn't take her.

" And very much delighted I am, Mr. Cooper," said Signor
Billsmethi, "that I did not take her. I assure you, Mr.
Cooper I don't say it to flatter you, for I know you're
above it that I consider myself extremely fortunate in
having a gentleman of your manners and appearance, sir."

" I am very glad of it too, sir," said Augustus Cooper.

"And I hope we shall be better acquainted, sir," said
Signor Billsmethi.

"And I'm sure I hope we shall too, sir," responded
Augustus Cooper. Just then, the door opened, and in came
a young lady, with her hair curled in a crop all over her
head, and her shoes tied in sandals all over her ankles.

" Don't run away, my dear," said Signor Billsmethi ; for
the young lady didn't know Mr. Cooper was there when she
ran in, and was going to run out again in her modesty, all
in confusion-like. " Don't run away, my dear, " said Signor
Billsmethi, "this is Mr. Cooper Mr. Cooper, of Fetter-lane.
Mr. Cooper, my daughter, sir Miss Billsmethi, sir, who I
hope will have the pleasure of dancing many a quadrille,
minuet, gavotte, country-dance, fandango, double-hornpipe,
and farinagholkajingo with you, sir. She dances them all,
sir; and so shall you, sir, before you're a quarter older, sir."

And Signor Billsmethi slapped Mr. Augustus Cooper on
the back, as if he had known him a dozen years, so friendly ;
and Mr. Cooper bowed to the young lady, and the young
lady curtseyed to him, and Signor Billsmethi said they were
as handsome a pair as ever he'd wish to see ; upon which the
young lady exclaimed, " Lor, pa ! " and blushed as red as Mr.


Cooper himself you might have thought they were both
standing under a red lamp at a chemist's shop ; and before
Mr. Cooper went away it was settled that he should join the
family circle that very night taking them just as they were
no ceremony nor nonsense of that kind and learn his
positions in order that he might lose no time, and be able to
come out at the forthcoming ball.

Well ; Mr. Augustus Cooper went away to one of the
cheap shoemakers 1 shops in Holborn, where gentlemen's dress-
pumps are seven-and-sixpence, and men's strong walking just
nothing at all, and bought a pair of the regular seven-and-
sixpenny, long- quartered, town-mades, in which he astonished
himself quite as much as his mother, and sallied forth to
Signer Billsmethi's. There were four other private pupils
in the parlour : two ladies and two gentlemen. Such nice
people ! Not a bit of pride about them. One of the ladies
in particular, who was in training for a Columbine, was
remarkably affable ; and she and Miss Billsmethi took such
an interest in Mr. Augustus Cooper, and joked, and smiled,
and looked so bewitching, that he got quite at home, and
learnt his steps in no time. After the practising was over,
Signer Billsmethi, and Miss Billsmethi, and Master Billsmethi,
and a young lady, and the two ladies, and the two gentlemen,
danced a quadrille none of your slipping and sliding about,
but regular warm work, flying into corners, and diving among
chairs, and shooting out at the door, something like
dancing! Signer Billsmethi in particular, notwithstanding
his having a little fiddle to play all the time, was out on the
landing every figure, and Master Billsmethi, when everybody
else was breathless, danced a hornpipe, with a cane in his
hand, and a cheese-plate on his head, to the unqualified
admiration of the whole company. Then, Signor Billsmethi
insisted, as they were so happy, that they should all stay to
supper, and proposed sending Master Billsmethi for the beer
and spirits, whereupon the two gentlemen swore, "strike 'em
wulgar if they'd stand that;" and were just going to quarrel


who should pay for it, when Mr. Augustus Cooper said he
would, if they'd have the kindness to allow him and they
had the kindness to allow him ; and Master Billsmethi
brought the beer in a can, and the rum in a quart pot.
They had a regular night of it ; and Miss Billsmethi squeezed
Mr. Augustus Cooper's hand under the table; and Mr.
Augustus Cooper returned the squeeze, and returned home
too, at something to six o'clock in the morning, when he was
put to bed by main force by the apprentice, after repeatedly
expressing an uncontrollable desire to pitch his revered
parent out of the second-floor window, and to throttle the
apprentice with his own neck-handkerchief.

Weeks had worn on, and the seven-and-sixpenny town-
mades had nearly worn out, when the night arrived for the
grand dress-ball at which the whole of the five-and-seventy
pupils were to meet together, for the first time that season,
and to take out some portion of their respective four-and-
sixpences in lamp-oil and fiddlers. Mr. Augustus Cooper had
ordered a new coat for the occasion a two-pound-tenner from
Turnstile. It was his first appearance in public ; and, after a
grand Sicilian shawl-dance by fourteen young ladies in cha-
racter, he was to open the quadrille department with Miss
Billsmethi herself, with whom he had become quite intimate
since his first introduction. It was a night! Everything
was admirably arranged. The sandwich-boy took the hats
and bonnets at the street-door ; there was a turn-up bedstead
in the back parlour, on which Miss Billsmethi made tea and
coffee for such of the gentlemen as chose to pay for it, and
such of the ladies as the gentlemen treated ; red port-wine
negus and lemonade were handed round at eighteen-pence a
head ; and in pursuance of a previous engagement with the
public-house at the corner of the street, an extra potboy was
laid on for the occasion. In short, nothing could exceed the
arrangements, except the company. Such ladies ! Such pink
silk stockings! Such artificial flowers! Such a number of
cabs ! No sooner had one cab set down a couple of ladies,


than another cab drove up and set down another couple of
ladies, and they all knew : not only one another, but the
majority of the gentlemen into the bargain, which made it all
as pleasant and lively as could be. Signer Billsmethi, in
black tights, with a large blue bow in his buttonhole, intro-
duced the ladies to such of the gentlemen as were strangers :
and the ladies talked away and laughed they did it was
delightful to see them.

As to the shawl-dance, it was the most exciting thing that
ever was beheld ; there was such a whisking, and rustling,
and fanning, and getting ladies into a tangle with artificial
flowers, and then disentangling them again ! And as to Mr.
Augustus Cooper's share in the quadrille, he got through it
admirably. He was missing from his partner, now and then,
certainly, and discovered on such occasions to be either
dancing with laudable perseverance in another set, or sliding
about in perspective, without any definite object ; but,
generally speaking, they managed to shove him through the
figure, until he turned up in the right place. Be this as it

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 24 of 31)