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 honourable 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.”