By the defects of your education you are more disqualified to be a working man than to be the ruler of an empire. The gulf, sir, is below; and the true learned arts--those which alone are safe from the competition of insurgent laymen--are those which give his title to the artisan.'
'This is a very pompous fellow,' said Challoner, in the ear of his companion.
'He is immense,' said Somerset.
Just then the door of the divan was opened, and a third young fellow made his appearance, and rather bashfully requested some tobacco. He was younger than the others; and, in a somewhat meaningless and altogether English way, he was a handsome lad. When he had been served, and had lighted his pipe and taken his place upon the sofa, he recalled himself to Challoner by the name of Desborough.
'Desborough, to be sure,' cried Challoner. 'Well, Desborough, and what do you do?'
'The fact is,' said Desborough, 'that I am doing nothing.'
'A private fortune possibly?' inquired the other.
'Well, no,' replied Desborough, rather sulkily. 'The fact is that I am waiting for something to turn up.'
'All in the same boat!' cried Somerset. 'And have you, too, one hundred pounds?'
'Worse luck,' said Mr. Desborough.
'This is a very pathetic sight, Mr. Godall,' said Somerset: 'Three futiles.'
'A character of this crowded age,' returned the salesman.
'Sir,' said Somerset, 'I deny that the age is crowded; I will admit one fact, and one fact only: that I am futile, that he is futile, and that we are all three as futile as the devil. What am I? I have smattered law, smattered letters, smattered geography, smattered mathematics; I have even a working knowledge of judicial astrology; and here I stand, all London roaring by at the street's end, as impotent as any baby. I have a prodigious contempt for my maternal uncle; but without him, it is idle to deny it, I should simply resolve into my elements like an unstable mixture. I begin to perceive that it is necessary to know some one thing to the bottom--were it only literature. And yet, sir, the man of the world is a great feature of this age; he is possessed of an extraordinary mass and variety of knowledge; he is everywhere at home; he has seen life in all its phases; and it is impossible but that this great habit of existence should bear fruit. I count myself a man of the world, accomplished, CAP-A-PIE. So do you, Challoner. And you, Mr. Desborough?'
'Oh yes,' returned the young man.
'Well then, Mr. Godall, here we stand, three men of the world, without a trade to cover us, but planted at the strategic centre of the universe (for so you will allow me to call Rupert Street), in the midst of the chief mass of people, and within ear-shot of the most continuous chink of money on the surface of the globe. Sir, as civilised men, what do we do? I will show you. You take in a paper?'
'I take,' said Mr. Godall solemnly, 'the best paper in the world, the Standard.'
'Good,' resumed Somerset. 'I now hold it in my hand, the voice of the world, a telephone repeating all men's wants. I open it, and where my eye first falls--well, no, not Morrison's Pills--but here, sure enough, and but a little above, I find the joint that I was seeking; here is the weak spot in the armour of society. Here is a want, a plaint, an offer of substantial gratitude: "TWO HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.--The above reward will be paid to any person giving information as to the identity and whereabouts of a man observed yesterday in the neighbourhood of the Green Park. He was over six feet in height, with shoulders disproportionately broad, close shaved, with black moustaches, and wearing a sealskin great-coat." There, gentlemen, our fortune, if not made, is founded.'
'Do you then propose, dear boy, that we should turn detectives?' inquired Challoner.
'Do I propose it? No, sir,' cried Somerset. 'It is reason, destiny, the plain face of the world, that commands and imposes it. Here all our merits tell; our manners, habit of the world, powers of conversation, vast stores of unconnected knowledge, all that we are and have builds up the character of the complete detective.