A long and trying and exciting day. By the first post I got my directed envelope with a dirty scrap of paper enclosed, on which was written with a carpenter’s pencil in a sprawling hand, “Sam Bloxam, Korkrans, 4 Poters Cort, Bartel Street, Walworth. Arsk for the depite.”
I got the letter in bed, and rose without waking Mina. She looked heavy and 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 for her 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 and in ignorance. I only saw Dr. Seward for a moment, and told him where I was off to, promising to come back and tell the rest so soon as I should have found out anything. I drove to Walworth and found, with some difficulty, Potter’s Court. Mr. Smollet’s spelling misled me, as I asked for Poter’s Court instead of Potter’s Court. However, when I had found the 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 his head, and said, “I dunno ‘im. There ain’t no such a person ‘ere. I never ‘eard of ‘im in all my bloomin’ days. Don’t believe there ain’t nobody of that kind livin’ ‘ere or anywheres.”
I took out Smollet’s letter, and as I read it it seemed to me that the lesson of the spelling of the name of 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 right track. Phonetic spelling had again misled me. A half crown tip put the 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 at Corcoran’s, had left for his work at Poplar at five o’clock that morning. He could not tell me where the place of work was situated, but he 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 twelve o’clock before I got any satisfactory hint of such a building, and this I got at a coffee shop, where some workmen were having their dinner. One of them suggested that there was being erected at Cross Angel Street a new “cold storage” building, and as this suited the condition of a “new-fangled ware’us,” I at once drove to it. An interview with a surly gatekeeper and a surlier foreman, both of whom were appeased with the coin of the realm, put me on the track of Bloxam. He was sent for on my suggestion that I was willing to pay his days wages to his foreman for the privilege of asking him a few questions on a private matter. He was a smart enough fellow, though rough of speech and bearing. When I had promised to pay for his information and given him an earnest, he told me that he had made two journeys between Carfax and a house in Piccadilly, and had taken from this house to the latter nine great boxes, “main heavy ones,” with a horse and cart hired by him for this purpose.
I asked him if he could tell me the number of the house in Piccadilly, to which he replied, “Well, guv’nor, I forgits the number, but it was only a few door from a big white church, or somethink of the kind, not long built. It was a dusty old ‘ouse, too, though nothin’ to the dustiness of the ‘ouse we tooked the bloomin’ boxes from.”
“How did you get in if both houses were empty?”
“There was the old party what engaged me a waitin’ in the ‘ouse at Purfleet. He ‘elped me to lift the boxes and put them in the dray. Curse me, 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 throw a shadder.”
How this phrase thrilled through me!
“Why, ‘e took up ‘is end o’ the boxes like they was pounds of tea, and me a puffin’ an’ a blowin’ afore I could upend mine anyhow, an’ I’m no chicken, 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, for when I rung of the bell he kem an’ opened the door ‘isself an’ ‘elped me carry the boxes into the ‘all.”
“The whole nine?” I asked.
“Yus, there was five in the first load an’ four in the second. It was main dry work, an’ I don’t so well remember ‘ow I got ‘ome.”
I interrupted him, “Were the boxes left in the hall?”
“Yus, it was a big ‘all, an’ there was nothin’ else in it.”
I made one more attempt to further matters. “You didn’t have any key?”
“Never used no key nor nothink. The old gent, he opened the door ‘isself an’ shut it again when I druv off. I don’t remember the last time, but that 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 ‘un with a stone front with a bow on it, an’ ‘igh steps up to the door. I know them steps, ‘avin’ ‘ad to carry the boxes up with three loafers what come round to earn a copper. The old gent give them shillin’s, an’ they seein’ they got so much, they wanted more. But ‘e took one of them by the shoulder and was like to throw ‘im down the steps, till the lot of them went away cussin’.”
I thought that with this description I could find the house, so having paid my friend for his information, I started off for Piccadilly. I had gained a new painful experience. The Count could, it was evident, handle the earth boxes himself. If so, time was precious, for now that he had achieved a certain amount of distribution, he could, by choosing his own time, complete the task unobserved. At Piccadilly Circus I discharged my cab, and walked westward. Beyond the Junior Constitutional I came across the house described and was satisfied that this was the next of the lairs arranged by Dracula. The house looked as though it had been long untenanted. The windows were encrusted with dust, and the shutters were up. All the framework was black 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 board in front of the balcony. It had, however, been roughly torn away, the uprights which had supported it still remaining. Behind the rails of the balcony I saw there were some loose boards, whose raw edges looked white. I would have given a good deal to have been able to see the notice board intact, as it would, perhaps, have given some clue to the ownership of the house. I remembered my experience of the investigation and purchase of Carfax, and I could not but feel that I could find the former owner there might be some means discovered of gaining access to the house.
There was at present nothing to be learned from the Piccadilly side, and nothing could be done, so I went around to the back to see if anything could be gathered from this quarter. The mews were active, the Piccadilly houses being mostly in occupation. I asked one or two of the grooms and helpers whom I saw around if they could tell me anything about the empty house. One of them said that he heard it had lately 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 tell me something, as he thought he remembered seeing the name of that firm on the board. I did not wish to seem too eager, or to let my informant know or guess too much, so thanking him in the usual manner,I strolled away. It was now growing dusk, and the autumn night was closing in, so I 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 in Sackville Street.
The gentleman who saw me was particularly suave in manner, but uncommunicative in equal proportion. Having once told me that the Piccadilly house, which throughout our interview he called a “mansion,” was sold, he considered my business as concluded. When I asked who had purchased it, he opened his eyes a thought wider, and paused a few seconds before replying, “It is sold, sir.”
“Pardon me,” I said, with equal politeness, “but I have a special reason for 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 are absolutely safe in the hands of Mitchell, Sons, & Candy.”
This was manifestly a prig of the first water, and there was no use arguing with him. 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 their confidence. 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 of Lord Godalming, who wishes to know something of the property which was, he understood, lately for sale.”
These words put a different complexion on affairs. He said, “I would like to oblige you if I could, Mr. Harker, and especially would I like to oblige his lordship. We once carried out a small matter of renting some chambers for him when he was the Honorable Arthur Holmwood. If you will let me have his lordship’s address I will consult the House on the subject, and will, in any case, communicate with his lordship by tonight’s post. It will be a pleasure if we can so far deviate from our rules as to give the required information to his lordship.”
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 I was tired and hungry. I got a cup of tea at the Aerated Bread Company and came down to Purfleet by the next train.
I found all the others at home. Mina was looking tired and pale, but she made a gallant effort to be bright and cheerful. It wrung my heart to think that I had had to keep anything from her and so caused her inquietude. Thank God, this will be the last night of her looking on at our conferences, and feeling the sting of our not showing our confidence. It took all my courage to hold to the wise resolution of keeping her out of our grim task. She seems somehow more reconciled, or else the very subject seems to have become repugnant to her, for when any accidental allusion is made she actually shudders. I am glad we made our resolution in time, as with such a feeling as this,our growing knowledge 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 even amongst 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 to me as though she would detain me, but there was much to be talked of and I came away. Thank God, the ceasing of telling things has made no difference between us.
When I came down again I found the others all gathered round the fire in the study. In the train I had written my diary so far, and simply read it off to them as the best means of letting them get abreast of my own information.
When I had finished Van Helsing said, “This has been a great day’s work, friend Jonathan. Doubtless we are on the track of the missing boxes. If we find them all in that house, then our work is near the end. But if there be some missing, we must search until we find them. Then shall we make our final coup, and hunt the wretch to his real death.”
We all sat silent awhile and all at once Mr. Morris spoke, “Say! How are we going to get into that house?”
“We got into the other,”answered Lord Godalming quickly.
“But, Art, this is different. We broke house at Carfax, but we had night and a walled park to protect us. It will be a mighty different thing to commit burglary in Piccadilly, either by day or night. I confess I don’t see how we are going to get in unless that agency duck can find us a key of some sort.”
Lord Godalming’s brows contracted, and he stood up and walked about the room. By-and-by he stopped and said, turning from one to another of us, “Quincey’s head is level. This burglary business is getting serious. We got off once all right, but we have now a rare job on hand. Unless we can find the Count’s key basket.”
As nothing could well be done before morning, and as it would be at least advisable to wait till Lord Godalming should hear from Mitchell’s, we decided not to take any active step before breakfast time. For a good while we sat and smoked, discussing the matter in its various lights and bearings. I took the opportunity of bringing this diary right up to the moment. I am very sleepy and shall go to bed . . .
Just a line. Mina sleeps soundly and her breathing is regular. Her forehead is puckered up into little wrinkles, as though she thinks even in her sleep. She is still too pale, but does not look so haggard as she did this morning. Tomorrow will, I hope, mend all this. She will be herself at home in Exeter. Oh, but I am sleepy!