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.