"We have degenerated," he returned, shaking his head, which he could do to a very limited extent in his cravat. "A levelling age is not favourable to deportment. It develops vulgarity. Perhaps I speak with some little partiality. It may not be for me to say that I have been called, for some years now, Gentleman Turveydrop, or that his Royal Highness the Prince Regent did me the honour to inquire, on my removing my hat as he drove out of the Pavilion at Brighton (that fine building), 'Who is he? Who the devil is he? Why don't I know him? Why hasn't he thirty thousand a year?' But these are little matters of anecdote--the general property, ma'am-- still repeated occasionally among the upper classes."
"Indeed?" said I.
He replied with the high-shouldered bow. "Where what is left among us of deportment," he added, "still lingers. England--alas, my country!--has degenerated very much, and is degenerating every day. She has not many gentlemen left. We are few. I see nothing to succeed us but a race of weavers."
"One might hope that the race of gentlemen would be perpetuated here," said I.
"You are very good." He smiled with a high-shouldered bow again. "You flatter me. But, no--no! I have never been able to imbue my poor boy with that part of his art. Heaven forbid that I should disparage my dear child, but he has--no deportment."
"He appears to be an excellent master," I observed.
"Understand me, my dear madam, he IS an excellent master. All that can be acquired, he has acquired. All that can be imparted, he can impart. But there ARE things--" He took another pinch of snuff and made the bow again, as if to add, "This kind of thing, for instance."
I glanced towards the centre of the room, where Miss Jellyby's lover, now engaged with single pupils, was undergoing greater drudgery than ever.
"My amiable child," murmured Mr. Turveydrop, adjusting his cravat.
"Your son is indefatigable," said I.
"It is my reward," said Mr. Turveydrop, "to hear you say so. In some respects, he treads in the footsteps of his sainted mother. She was a devoted creature. But wooman, lovely wooman," said Mr. Turveydrop with very disagreeable gallantry, "what a sex you are!"
I rose and joined Miss Jellyby, who was by this time putting on her bonnet. The time allotted to a lesson having fully elapsed, there was a general putting on of bonnets. When Miss Jellyby and the unfortunate Prince found an opportunity to become betrothed I don't know, but they certainly found none on this occasion to exchange a dozen words.
"My dear," said Mr. Turveydrop benignly to his son, "do you know the hour?"
"No, father." The son had no watch. The father had a handsome gold one, which he pulled out with an air that was an example to mankind.
"My son," said he, "it's two o'clock. Recollect your school at Kensington at three."
"That's time enough for me, father," said Prince. "I can take a morsel of dinner standing and be off."
"My dear boy," returned his father, "you must be very quick. You will find the cold mutton on the table."
"Thank you, father. Are YOU off now, father?"
"Yes, my dear. I suppose," said Mr. Turveydrop, shutting his eyes and lifting up his shoulders with modest consciousness, "that I must show myself, as usual, about town."
"You had better dine out comfortably somewhere," said his son.
"My dear child, I intend to. I shall take my little meal, I think, at the French house, in the Opera Colonnade."
"That's right. Good-bye, father!" said Prince, shaking hands.
"Good-bye, my son. Bless you!"
Mr. Turveydrop said this in quite a pious manner, and it seemed to do his son good, who, in parting from him, was so pleased with him, so dutiful to him, and so proud of him that I almost felt as if it were an unkindness to the younger man not to be able to believe implicitly in the elder. The few moments that were occupied by Prince in taking leave of us (and particularly of one of us, as I saw, being in the secret), enhanced my favourable impression of his almost childish character.