Lest my Noble Readers believe erroneously that I had forgotten my promise to Mademoiselle Margot, I assure you that I had not. My discussion with her had revealed that this gentleman to whom she was engaged resided, and indeed laboured, in Londontown. While young Gus kept watch over Sir Julius, I decided that I would uncover this Mills character to whom Mademoiselle Margot had so impetuously pledged her heart.
Unfortunately for me, I had no idea of in what endeavour Mills was currently engaged. After returning to the Tabard, I resolved to discover what his business was the following day. I was also left with the Mystery of the Gentleman with Thistle-down Hair. As Gus had no clue as to his identity, I decided to let that particular enigma sit, and instead focused on tracking to ground the elusive Mr. Mills.
The next day dawned hot. By mid-morning it was already quite warm, and I fancied that it might become extremely clement by noon. As such I left behind my heavy redingote and wore only a simple frock coat. Still, I fancied I cut quite the fashionable figure as I made my way to Ironmonger Lane. Here I found the guildhall of the Most Worshipful Company of Mercers. If anyone would know where this fellow Mills earned his coin, it would be they.
An hour later, after many kind (and not-so-kind) inquiries with most nearly every mercer I encountered, I discovered that the Mercers did not know Mills’ business, or indeed anything of Mills at all. I left stewing in frustration.
The Grocers, the Drapers, the Skinners, the Tallow Chandlers—I daresay I made a nuisance of myself, visiting every guildhall in the City. And out of every guildhall I emerged empty-handed.
My prediction as to the day’s weather turned accurate by mid-afternoon, and I found myself sweltering in the heat. A dipper of water from a nearby well soon quenched my thirst, but the sun still beat down upon me, so I retreated to the shade cast by a convenient building.
It was most aggravating to have met with such failure. Still, I kept up hope. Now in all honesty I had little conception of how I would cause this Mills fellow to quit his engagement. But that was but a small obstacle, since I believed with all justification that Mills was an honourable man, and the only way to cause such a man to renege on a prior agreement is through guile, trickery, and deception, skills I am most happy to possess. However, I tried to avoid overconfidence, since this Mills was a prosperous man of business, and without some dissimulation no business can be carried on at all. Caution was required.
After a brief respite in the shade, I righted myself and proceeded down the lane. By chance I had wandered into Trinity Lane, and soon found myself in front of the fine guildhall of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers. While I doubted that a gentleman such as Mills was purported to be would have anything to do at all with such a low group of tradesmen, I resolved to be nothing if not thorough, and decided to inquire within.
The cool of the interior contrasted quite nicely with the oven exterior. A young man sat at a finely-wrought desk, his quill scratching spidery lines of ink across cream-white paper. "May I help you, sir?" he asked, looking up.
"Yes, my good man," I replied. "I seek information on a gentleman of some note in this city, but I most sincerely doubt your company possesses information on him."
"I shall be the judge of that," smiled the young man. "What is this gentleman’s name?"
"I must confess I do not know his Christian name, but his family name is Mills."
The young man’s eyebrows jumped towards his hairline. "Would that be Edward Erick Mills, the lithographer and salon owner?"
"It may," I hazarded. "In truth, I know very little of the man, save that he comes from Dublin and now resides in London."
"That is he, most definitely," said the young secretary. "Mister Mills is indeed Hibernian. His accent is most noticeable. He has long been a member of our illustrious society."
"Then perhaps I shall seek this man out," I said.
"If he should stop in, whom shall I tell him called?"
"Mister..." I was reluctant to give my true name. I glanced out the window, seeking inspiration. My eyes lit upon the signs of the nearby enterprises. A pub: THE RINGING BELL. A tanner’s: JOHNSON AND SON LEATHER CURERS. "Mister...Bell. Currer Bell."
"Very well, Mister Bell. I shall let him know you called."
"And his address?"
"His salon is in Candlewick, near St. Mary Abchurch."
"Thank you, sir," and with that I took my leave.
Most excellent! I now knew the location of Mills’ business. And it seemed he was a patron of the artistes, which suggested any number of ways in which he could be swindled. I resolved to make use of this information at once.
Art, after all, holds a mirror up to life: everything is twisted and false.
The Life, Times, and Misadventures of Dennis St. Michel, Viscount of Stokington, Soldier, Gambler, Diplomat, Scoundrel, Notorious Rakehell, and Lord of Menacing House, in his Own Words.