Page 48 of Dracula

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"Sam Bloxam, Korkrans, 4, Poters Cort, Bartel Street, Walworth. Arsk forthe depite."

I got the letter in bed, and rose without waking Mina. She looked heavyand sleepy and pale, and far from well. I determined not to wake her,but that, when I should return from this new search, I would arrange forher going back to Exeter. I think she would be happier in our own home,with her daily tasks to interest her, than in being here amongst us andin ignorance. I only saw Dr. Seward for a moment, and told him whereI was off to, promising to come back and tell the rest so soon as Ishould have found out anything. I drove to Walworth and found, with somedifficulty, Potter's Court. Mr. Smollet's spelling misled me, as I askedfor Poter's Court instead of Potter's Court. However, when I had foundthe court I had no difficulty in discovering Corcoran's lodging-house.When I asked the man who came to the door for the "depite," he shook hishead, and said: "I dunno 'im. There ain't no such person 'ere; I never'eard of 'im in all my bloomin' days. Don't believe there ain't nobodyof that kind livin' 'ere or anywheres." I took out Smollet's letter, andas I read it it seemed to me that the lesson of the spelling of the nameof the court might guide me. "What are you?" I asked.

"I'm the depity," he answered. I saw at once that I was on the righttrack; phonetic spelling had again misled me. A half-crown tip putthe deputy's knowledge at my disposal, and I learned that Mr. Bloxam,who had slept off the remains of his beer on the previous night atCorcoran's, had left for his work at Poplar at five o'clock thatmorning. He could not tell me where the place of work was situated, buthe had a vague idea that it was some kind of a "new-fangled ware'us;"and with this slender clue I had to start for Poplar. It was twelveo'clock before I got any satisfactory hint of such a building, and thisI got at a coffee-shop, where some workmen were having their dinner.One of these suggested that there was being erected at Cross AngelStreet a new "cold storage" building; and as this suited the conditionof a "new-fangled ware'us," I at once drove to it. An interview with asurly gatekeeper and a surlier foreman, both of whom were appeased withcoin of the realm, put me on the track of Bloxam; he was sent for on mysuggesting that I was willing to pay his day's wages to his foreman forthe privilege of asking him a few questions on a private matter. He wasa smart enough fellow, though rough of speech and bearing. When I hadpromised to pay for his information and given him an earnest, he told methat he had made two journeys between Carfax and a house in Piccadilly,and had taken from this house to the latter nine great boxes--"mainheavy ones"--with a horse and cart hired by him for this purpose. Iasked him if he could tell me the number of the house in Piccadilly, towhich he replied:--

"Well, guv'nor, I forgits the number, but it was only a few doors froma big white church or somethink of the kind, not long built. It was adusty old 'ouse, too, though nothin' to the dustiness of the 'ouse wetooked the bloomin' boxes from."

"How did you get into the house if they were both empty?"

"There was the old party what engaged me a-waitin' in the 'ouse atPurfleet. He 'elped me to lift the boxes and put them in the dray. Curseme, but he was the strongest chap I ever struck, an' him a old feller,with a white moustache, one that thin you would think he couldn't throwa shadder."

How this phrase thrilled through me!

"Why, 'e took up 'is end o' the boxes like they was pounds of tea, andme a-puffin' an' a-blowin' afore I could up-end mine anyhow--an' I'm nochicken, neither."

"How did you get into the house in Piccadilly?" I asked.

"He was there too. He must 'a' started off and got there afore me, forwhen I rung of the bell he kem an' opened the door 'isself an' 'elped meto carry the boxes into the 'all."

"The whole nine?" I asked.

"Yus; there was five in the first load an' four in the second. Itwas main dry work, an' I don't so well remember 'ow I got 'ome." Iinterrupted him:--

"Were the boxes left in the hall?"

"Yus; it was a big 'all, an' there was nothin' else in it." I made onemore attempt to further matters:--

"You didn't have any key?"

"Never used no key nor nothink. The old gent, he opened the door 'isselfan' shut it again when I druv off. I don't remember the last time--butthat was the beer."

"And you can't remember the number of the house?"

"No, sir. But ye needn't have no difficulty about that. It's a 'igh 'unwith a stone front with a bow on it, and 'igh steps up to the door. Iknow them steps, 'avin' 'ad to carry the boxes up with three loaferswhat come round to earn a copper. The old gent give them shillin's, an'they seem' they got so much, they wanted more; but 'e took one of themby the shoulder and was like to throw 'im down the steps, till the lotof them went away cussin'." I thought that with this description I couldfind the house, so having paid my friend for his information, I startedoff for Piccadilly. I had gained a new painful experience: the Countcould, it was evident, handle the earth-boxes himself. If so, time wasprecious; for, now he had achieved a certain amount of distribution,he could, by choosing his own time, complete the task unobserved. AtPiccadilly Circus I discharged my cab, and walked westward; beyondthe Junior Constitutional I came across the house described, and wassatisfied that this was the next of the lairs arranged by Dracula. Thehouse looked as though it had been long untenanted. The windows wereencrusted with dust, and the shutters were up. All the framework wasblack with time, and from the iron the paint had mostly scaled away.It was evident that up to lately there had been a large notice-boardin front of the balcony; it had, however, been roughly torn away, theuprights which had supported it still remaining. Behind the rails ofthe balcony I saw there were some loose boards, whose raw edges lookedwhite. I would have given a good deal to have been able to see thenotice-board intact, as it would, perhaps, have given some clue to theownership of the house. I remembered my experience of the investigationand purchase of Carfax, and I could not but feel that if I could findthe former owner there might be some means of gaining access to thehouse.

There was at present nothing to be learned from the Piccadilly side,and nothing could be done; so I went round to the back to see ifanything could be gathered from this quarter. The mews were active,the Piccadilly houses being mostly in occupation. I asked one or twoof the grooms and helpers whom I saw around if they could tell meanything about the empty house. One of them said he had heard it hadlately been taken, but he couldn't say from whom. He told me, however,that up to very lately there had been a notice-board of "For sale" up,and that perhaps Mitchell, Sons & Candy, the house agents, could tellme something, as he thought he remembered seeing the name of that firmon the board. I did not wish to seem too eager, or to let my informantknow or guess too much, so, thanking him in the usual manner, I strolledaway. It was now growing dusk, and the autumn night was closing in, soI did not lose any time. Having learned the address of Mitchell, Sons &Candy from a directory at the Berkeley, I was soon at their office inSackville Street.

The gentleman who saw me was particularly suave in manner, butuncommunicative in equal proportion. Having once told me thatthe Piccadilly house--which throughout our interview he called a"mansion"--was sold, he considered my business as concluded. When Iasked who had purchased it, he opened his eyes a thought wider, andpaused a few seconds before replying:--

"It is sold, sir."

"Pardon me," I said, with equal politeness, "but I have a special reasonfor wishing to know who purchased it."

Again he paused longer, and raised his eyebrows still more. "It is sold,sir," was again his laconic reply.

"Surely," I said, "you do not mind letting me know so much."

"But I do mind," he answered. "The affairs of their clients areabsolutely safe in the hands of Mitchell, Sons & Candy." This wasmanifestly a prig of the first water, and there was no use arguing withhim. I thought I had best meet him on his own ground, so I said:--

"Your clients, sir, are happy in having so resolute a guardian of theirconfidence. I am myself a professional man." Here I handed him my card."In this instance I am not prompted by curiosity; I act on the part ofLord Godalming, who wishes to know something of the property which was,he understood, lately for sale." These words put a different complexionon affairs. He said:--

"I would like to oblige you if I could, Mr. Harker, and especiallywould I like to oblige his lordship. We once carried out a small matterof renting some chambers for him when he was the Honourable ArthurHolmwood. If you will let me have his lordship's address I will consultthe House on the subject, and will, in any case, communicate with hislordship by to-night's post. It will be a pleasure if we can so fardeviate from our rules as to give the required information to hislordship."

I wanted to secure a friend, and not to make an enemy, so I thanked him,gave the address at Dr. Seward's, and came away. It was now dark, and Iwas tired and hungry. I got a cup of tea at the Aerated Bread Companyand came down to Purfleet by the next train.

I found all the others at home. Mina was looking tired and pale, butshe made a gallant effort to be bright and cheerful; it wrung my heartto think that I had had to keep anything from her and so caused herinquietude. Thank God, this will be the last night of her lookingon at our conferences, and feeling the sting of our not showing ourconfidence. It took all my courage to hold to the wise resolution ofkeeping her out of our grim task. She seems somehow more reconciled; orelse the very subject seems to have become repugnant to her, for whenany accidental allusion is made she actually shudders. I am glad we madeour resolution in time, as with such a feeling as this, our growingknowledge would be torture to her.

I could not tell the others of the day's discovery till we were alone;so after dinner--followed by a little music to save appearances evenamongst ourselves--I took Mina to her room and left her to go to bed.The dear girl was more affectionate with me than ever, and clung tome as though she would detain me; but there was much to be talked ofand I came away. Thank God, the ceasing of telling things has made nodifference between us.

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