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Hushed Up - A Mystery of London
by William Le Queux
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"Two victims!" I exclaimed. "The open grave found there was prepared for me!"

"No doubt," exclaimed Guertin. "When I first communicated with your Scotland Yard, they refused to believe my allegations against Reckitt and Forbes. But I had had my suspicions aroused by their actions in Paris, and I was positive. But oh! your police methods are so very painfully slow!"

Then the sergeant again withdrew.

"But of Pennington. Tell me more of him," I urged.

"He was your worst enemy, and Sylvia's enemy also, even though he posed as her father. He wished her to marry Forbes, and thus, on account of her great beauty, remain the decoy of the gang. But she met you, and loved you. Her love for you was the cause of their hatred. Because of her affection, she risked her life by revealing to me certain things concerning her associates, whom she knew were plotting to kill you. The very man who was posing as her father—and who afterwards affected friendship for you—told that pair of unscrupulous assassins, Reckitt and Forbes, a fictitious story of how Sonia—for that is her real name—had denounced them. This aroused their hatred, and they decided to kill you both. From what I heard afterwards, they entrapped you, and placed you in that fatal chair beside the venomous reptile, while they also tortured the poor girl with all the horrors of the serpent, until her brain became deranged. Suddenly, however, they became alarmed by discovering a half-witted lad wandering in the garden where the bodies of previous victims lay concealed, and, making a quick escape, left you and her without ascertaining that you were dead. Eventually she escaped and rescued you, hence their fear that you would inform the police, and their frantic efforts to secure the death of both of you. Indeed, you would probably have been dead ere this, had I not taken upon myself the self-imposed duty of being your protector, and had not Louis Lessar most fortunately escaped from Devil's Island to protect his daughter from their relentless hands."

"His daughter!" I gasped, staring at him.

"Yes. Sonia is the daughter of Phil Poland, alias Louis Lessar, the man who was falsely denounced by Pennington as an accomplice in the assassination of the young Under-Secretary, Mr. Burke, on the Riviera. After I had arrested her father one night at the house where he lived down near Andover, Pennington compelled the girl to pass as his daughter for a twofold reason. First, because he believed that her great beauty would render her a useful decoy for the purpose of attracting young men into their fatal net, and secondly, in order that Forbes should secure her as his wife, for it was realized how, by her marriage to him, her lips would be sealed."

"But they all along intended to kill me."

"Of course. Your life was, you recollect, heavily insured at Pennington's suggestion, and you had made over a large sum of money to Sonia in case of your demise. Therefore it was to the interests of the whole gang that you should meet with some accident which should prove fatal. The theft of the jewels of the Archduchess delayed the conspiracy from being put into execution, and by that means your life was undoubtedly spared. Ah! monsieur, the gang recently led by Arnold Du Cane was once one of the most daring, the most unscrupulous, and the most formidable in the whole of Europe."

"And my dear wife is actually the daughter of the previous leader of that criminal band!" I exclaimed apprehensively.

"Yes. She escaped with him because she was in fear of her life—because she knew that if she were again beneath her own father's protection, you—the man she loved—would also be safe from injury. For Phil Poland is a strong man, a perfect past-master of the criminal arts, and a leader whose word was the command of every member of that great international organization, the wide ramifications of which I have so long tried in vain to ascertain."

"Then Poland is a noteworthy man in the world of crime?"

"He is a very prince of thieves. Yet, at the same time, one must regard him with some admiration for his daring and audacity, his wonderful resourcefulness and his strict adhesion to fair play. For years he lived in France, Italy and Spain, constantly changing his place of abode, his identity, his very face, and always evading us; yet nobody has ever said that he did a mean action towards a poor man. He certainly suffered an unjust punishment by that false accusation made against him by the man who was apparently jealous of his leadership, and who desired to become his successor."

"Then you are of opinion that my wife left me in order to secure my protection from harm?"

"I am quite certain of it. You recollect my meeting with her at the Hotel Meurice in Paris. She told me several things on that occasion."

"And Pennington very nearly fell into your hands."

"Yes, but with his usual cleverness he escaped me."

"Where is he now? Have you any idea?" I asked.

"I have no exact knowledge, but, with the arrest of four of his accomplices, it will not be difficult to find out where he is in hiding," he laughed.

"And the same may be said of Poland—eh?"

"No; on the contrary, while the man Pennington, alias Du Cane, is hated—and it will be believed by those arrested that he has betrayed them in order to save himself—yet Poland is beloved. They know it was Du Cane who made the false charge connecting Poland with Harriman, and they will never forgive him. The hatred of the international thief is the worst and most unrelenting hatred existing in the whole world. Before Poland came to live in retirement here in England at Middleton, near Andover, his association consisted only of the most expert criminals of both sexes, and he controlled their actions with an iron hand. Once every six months the members from all over Europe held a secret conference in one capital or another, when various tasks were allotted to various persons. The precautions taken to prevent blunders were amazing, and we were baffled always because of the widespread field of their operations, and the large number of experts engaged. The band, broken up into small and independent gangs, worked in unison with receivers always ready, and as soon as our suspicions were aroused by one party they disappeared, and another, complete strangers, came in their place. Premises likely to yield good results from burglary were watched for months by a constant succession of clever watchers, and people in possession of valuables sometimes engaged servants of irreproachable character who were actually members of the gang. Were their exploits chronicled, they would fill many volumes of remarkable fact, only some of which have appeared in recent years in the columns of the newspapers. Every European nationality and every phase of life were represented in that extraordinary assembly, which, while under Poland's control, never, as far as is known, committed a single murder. It was only when the great leader was condemned and exiled, and the band fell away, that Pennington, Reckitt and Forbes conceived the idea of extorting money by means of the serpent, allowing the reptile to strike fatally, and so prevent exposure. By that horrible torture of the innocent and helpless they must have netted many thousands of pounds."

"It was you, you say, who arrested Poland down in Hampshire."

"Yes, nearly three years ago. Prior to Harriman's arrest, I went there with my friend Watts, of Scotland Yard, and on that evening a strange affair happened—an affair which is still a mystery. I'll tell you all about it later," he added. "At present I must go to Porchester Terrace and see what is in progress. I only arrived in London from Paris two hours ago."

I begged him to take me along with him, and with some reluctance he consented. On the way, Guertin told me a strange story of a dead man exactly resembling himself at Middleton village on the night of Poland's arrest. Arrived at the house of grim shadows, we found a constable idling outside the gate, but apparently nobody yet knew of what was transpiring in the garden behind the closed house. At first the man declined to allow us to enter, but, on Guertin declaring who he was, we passed through into the tangled, weedy place where the lights of lanterns were shining weirdly, and we could see men in their shirt-sleeves working with shovel and pick, while others were clearing away the dead rank herbage of autumn.

In the uncertain light I saw that a long trench some four feet in depth had been dug, and into this the men were flinging the soil they carefully removed in their progress in a line backwards.

Beneath a tree, close to where was an open trench—the one prepared for the reception of my body—lay something covered with a black cloth. From beneath there stuck out a hideous object—a man's muddy patent-leather shoe!

Even while I stood amid that weird, never-to-be-forgotten scene, one of the excavators gave an ejaculation of surprise, and a lantern, quickly brought, revealed a human arm in a dark coat-sleeve embedded in the soil.

With a will, half-a-dozen eager hands were at work, and soon a third body—that of a tall, grey-haired man, whose face, alas! was awful to gaze upon—was quickly exhumed.

I could not bear to witness more, and left, gratified to know that the two fiends were already safely confined in a French prison.

Justice would, no doubt, be done, and they would meet with their well-merited punishment.



CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

FURTHER REVELATIONS

If you are a constant reader of the newspapers, as probably you are, you will no doubt recollect the great sensation caused next day on the publication of the news of the gruesome find in that, one of the most aristocratic thoroughfares of Bayswater.

The metropolitan police were very reticent regarding the affair, but many of the papers published photographs of the scene of the exhumations, the exterior of the long-closed house, and photographs of the various police officials. That of Guertin, however, was not included. The famous investigator of crime had no wish for the picture of his face, with its eyes beaming benignly through his gold glasses, to be disseminated broadcast.

The police refused to make any statement; hence the wildest conjectures were afloat concerning the series of tragedies which must have taken place within that dark house, with its secluded, tangled garden.

As the days went by, the public excitement did not abate, for yet more remains were found—the body of a young, fair-haired man who had been identified as Mr. Cyril Wilson, a member of the Travellers' Club, who had been missing for nearly nine months. The police, impelled by this fresh discovery, cut down the trees in the garden and laid the whole place waste, while crowds of the curious waited about in the neighbourhood, trying to catch a glimpse of the operations.

And as time wore on I waited in daily expectation of some sign from the woman I so dearly loved.

Guertin, who still remained in London, assured me that she was safe in hiding with her father, Phil Poland.

"And you will, of course, arrest him when you can discover him," I remarked, as I sat with the famous detective in his room at the Grand Hotel in Trafalgar Square.

"I do not wish to discover him, my dear Monsieur Biddulph," was his kind reply. "I happen to know that he has deeply repented of his wrongdoing, and even on his sudden reappearance at Stamford with the remaining portion of his once invulnerable gang, he urged them to turn aside from evil, and become honest citizens. He has, by his wrongful conviction of murder, expiated his crimes, and hence I feel that he may be allowed a certain leniency, providing he does not offend in future."

"But a warrant is out for him, of course?"

"Certainly. His arrest is demanded for breaking from prison. His escape is one of the most daring on record. He swam for five miles in the sea on a dark night, and met with most extraordinary adventures before a Dutch captain allowed him to work his passage to Rotterdam."

"But he will not dare to put foot in London, I suppose. He would be liable to extradition to France."

"Who knows? He is one of the most fearless and ingenious men I have ever known. He can so alter his appearance as to deceive even me."

"But the metropolitan police, knowing that Sylvia—I mean Sonia—is his daughter, may be watching my house!" I exclaimed in alarm.

"That is more than likely," he admitted. "Hence, if you want to allow madame, your wife, an opportunity to approach you, you should go abroad somewhere—to some quiet place where you would not be suspected. Let me know where you go, and perhaps I can manage to convey to them the fact that you are waiting there."

The hotel at Gardone—that fine lake-side hotel where I had first seen Sonia—occurred to me. And I told him.

"Very well," he said cheerfully. "I shall return to Paris to-morrow, and if I can obtain any information from either of the prisoners, I will manage to let Poland know that his son-in-law awaits him."

Then I thanked the great detective, and, shaking hands warmly, we parted.

What Guertin had told me regarding the strange discovery of a man who closely resembled him outside Poland's house on the night of the latter's arrest held me much puzzled. Even he, the all-powerful chief of the surete, had failed to solve the enigma.

Next afternoon Shuttleworth called upon me in Wilton Street, and for a long time sat chatting.

At last he looked at me gravely, and said—

"I dare say you have been much puzzled, Mr. Biddulph, to know why I, a clergyman of the Church of England, have apparently been mixed up with persons of shady character. But now that four of them are under arrest, and a fifth, we hope, will shortly be apprehended, I will explain. As you perhaps know, Sonia was the daughter of the Honourable Philip Poland, who came to live at the Elms, which is close to the rectory at Middleton. We became great friends, until one evening he made a strange confession to me. He told me who he was—Louis Lessar, who had been the leader of a dangerous band of international thieves—and he asked my advice in my capacity of spiritual guide. He had repented, and had gone into retirement there, believing that his sins would not find him out. But they had done, and he knew he must shortly be arrested. Well, I advised him to act the man, and put aside the thoughts of suicide. What he had revealed to me had—I regret to confess it—aroused my hatred against the man who had betrayed him—a man named Du Cane. This man Du Cane I had only met once, at the Elms, and then I did not realize the amazing truth—that this was the selfsame man who had stolen from me, twenty years before, the woman I had so dearly loved. He had betrayed her, and left her to starve and die in a back street in Marseilles. I concealed my outburst of feeling, yet the very next evening Poland was arrested, and Sonia, ignorant of the truth, was, with a motive already explained by Monsieur Guertin, taken under the guardianship of this man whom I had such just cause to hate—the man who subsequently passed as her father, Pennington. It was because of that I felt all along such a tender interest in the unhappy young lady, and I was so delighted to know when she had at last become your wife."

"You certainly concealed your feelings towards Pennington. I believed you to be his friend," I said.

"I was Sonia's friend—not his, for what poor Poland had told me revealed the truth that the fellow was an absolute scoundrel."

"And you, of course, know about the incident of a man closely resembling the French detective Guertin being found dead outside the door of the Elms?"

"Certainly," was his reply; "that is still a complete mystery which can only be solved by Poland himself. He must know, or else have a shrewd idea of what occurred."

As we chatted on for a long time, he told me frankly many things of which I had not the least suspicion, at the same time assuring me of Sonia's deep devotion towards me, and of his confidence that she had left me because she believed being at her father's side would ensure my own safety.

And now that I knew so much of the truth I longed hourly to meet her, and to obtain from her—and perhaps from the lips of Philip Poland himself—the remaining links in that remarkable chain of facts.



CHAPTER THIRTY

CONCLUSION

About ten days afterwards I one morning received by post a brief note from Guertin, written from the Prefecture in Paris, urging me to go at once to the Victoria Hotel at Varenna, on the Lake of Como, where, if I waited in the name of Brown, my patience would be rewarded.

And there, sure enough, six days later, as I sat one evening in my private sitting-room, the door suddenly opened and my well-beloved, in a dark travelling gown, sprang forward and embraced me, sobbing for very joy.

Can I adequately describe the happiness of that reunion. Of what I uttered I have no recollection, for I held her closely in my arms as I kissed her hot tears away.

A man stood by—a tall, silent, gentlemanly man, whose hair was grey, and whose face as he advanced beneath the strong light showed traces of disguise.

"I am Philip Poland—Sonia's father," he exclaimed in a low voice. Whereupon I took the hand of the escaped prisoner, and expressed the utmost satisfaction at that meeting, for he had risked his liberty to come there to me.

"Sonia has told me everything," he said; "and I can only regret that those blackguards have treated you and her as they have. But Guertin, who is a humane man, even though he be a detective, has tracked them down, and only yesterday I heard Du Cane—the man who made that false charge against myself, and stepped into my shoes; the man who intended that my poor girl should marry that young scoundrel Forbes—has been discovered in Breslau, and is being extradited to England."

"On the night of your arrest, Mr. Poland, a mystery occurred," I said presently, as we sat together exchanging many confidences, as I held my dear wife's soft little hand in mine.

"Yes," he replied. "It was only while I was out at Devil's Island that I learnt the truth. Du Cane, intending to get me out of the way, hit upon a very ingenious plan of sending a man made up as Guertin—whom I only knew by sight—to see me and suggest suicide rather than arrest. This man—a person named Lefevre—came and made the suggestion. He did not know that Du Cane had written anonymously to the Prefecture, and never dreamed that Guertin himself would follow him so quickly. On leaving, he apparently hung about watching the result of his dastardly mission, when Harriman—or Bell as we knew him—walked up the drive, in order to call in secret upon me. He espied a man whom he recognized as Guertin peering in at the window, and, creeping up behind him, struck him down before he could utter a word. Afterwards he slipped away, believing that he had killed our arch-enemy, the chief of the surete. Presently, however, the body of the unfortunate Lefevre was found by Guertin himself, who had come to arrest me."

"And Harriman admitted this!" I exclaimed.

"Yes. He admitted it to me upon his death-bed. He died of fever a week before I made my dash for liberty. But," he added, "Sonia has told me of that dastardly attempt which those hell-fiends Reckitt and Forbes made upon you in Porchester Terrace, and how they also tortured her. But they were fortunately alarmed and fled precipitately, leaving Sonia unconscious."

"Yes," declared my sweet wife. "When I came to myself I recollected, in horror, what they had told me concerning the fate to which they had abandoned you in the adjoining room, and with a great effort managed to free myself and seek you. I cut the straps which bound you, and succeeded in killing the snake just in time to save you. Then I stole away and left, fearing that you might suspect me of having had some hand in the affair."

"And you saved my life, darling!" I exclaimed, kissing her fondly on the lips.

Then, turning to Poland, I said—

"The police are hunting for you everywhere. Cannot you get to some place where you are not liable to be taken back to France?"

"To-morrow, if I am fortunate," he said, with a faint smile, "I return to the modest little villa I have rented on the hill-side outside Athens. In Greece one is still immune from arrest for offences abroad."

"And I shall return to London with you, Owen. Father and I have travelled to Trieste, and thence here, in order that I should rejoin you, now that the danger is past."

"Ah! darling," I cried. "I never for one moment doubted you! Yet I admit that the circumstances once or twice looked very black and suspicious."

"Alas! I could not prevent it," she declared; "I left you and joined Dad at the Coliseum, because I went in fear of some further attempt being made upon us, and I felt you and I would be safe if I were with him. He had no idea when he met the others at Stamford that Forbes and Reckitt and Du Cane had effected that coup with the Archduchess's jewels."

"No. I had no idea of it," said Poland. "My meeting with them was one of farewell. I had already severed my connection with them three years ago, before my arrest."

And then, after some further explanations, I clasped my loved one in my arms and openly repeated my declaration of fervent love and fond affection.

Of the rest, what need be said?

Sonia is now very happy, either down at Carrington or at Wilton Street, for the black clouds which overshadowed the earlier days of our marriage have rent asunder, and given place to all the sunshine and brightness of life and hope.

No pair could be happier than we.

Twice we have been to Athens as the guest of the tall, grey-haired Englishman who is such a thorough-going cosmopolitan, and who lives in Greece for the sake of the even climate and the study of its antiquities. No one in the Greek capital recognizes Mr. Wilfrid Marsh as the once-famous Louis Lessar.

And dear old Jack Marlowe, still our firm and devoted friend, is as full of good-humoured philosophy as ever, and frequently our visitor. He still leads his careless existence, and is often to be seen idling in the window of White's, smoking and watching the passers-by in St. James's Street.

You who read the newspapers probably know how Arnold Du Cane, alias Pennington, alias Winton, was recently sentenced at the Old Bailey to fifteen years, and the two young Frenchmen, Terassier and Brault, to seven years each, for complicity in the robbery on the Scotch express.

And probably you also read the account of how two mysterious Englishmen named Reckitt and Forbes, who had been arrested in Paris, had, somehow, prior to their extradition to England, managed to obtain possession of blades of safety-razors, and with them had both committed suicide.

In consequence of this there was no trial of the perpetrators of those brutal crimes in Porchester Terrace.

The whole affair was but a nine days' horror, and as the authorities saw that no good could accrue from alarming the public by further publicity or inquiry, it was quickly "Hushed up."

THE END

Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay.



"THE MASTER OF MYSTERY"

WILLIAM LE QUEUX'S NOVELS

Opinions in 1911

"Mr. William Le Queux retains his position as 'The Master of Mystery.' ... He is far too skilful to allow pause for thought: he whirls his readers from incident to incident, holding their attention from the first page to the close of the book."—Pall Mall Gazette.

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"Mr. Le Queux's books are always exciting and absorbing. His mysteries are enthralling and his skill is world-famous."—Liverpool Daily Post.

"Mr. Le Queux has brought the art of the sensational novel to high perfection."—Northern Whig.

"Mr. Le Queux is so true to his own style that any one familiar with his books would certainly guess him to be the author, even if his name were not given."—Methodist Recorder.

"'As good wine needs no bush' so no mystery story by Mr. Le Queux, the popular weaver of tales of crime, needs praise for its skill. Any novel with this author's name appended is sure to be ingenious in design and cleverly worked out."—Bookseller.

"Mr. Le Queux is always reliable. The reader who picks up any of his latest novels knows what to expect."—Bookman.

"Mr. Le Queux's admirers are legion, and the issue of a new novel is to them one of the most felicitous events that can happen."—Newcastle Daily Chronicle.

"Mr. Le Queux is the master of the art of mystery-creating."—Liverpool Daily Post.



A Descriptive List of NASH'S Two-Shilling NOVELS

The greatest popular success of modern publishing.

Autumn 1911

Exactly like 6/- Novels in size :: :: quality and appearance :: ::

Recognisable everywhere by their green cloth covers on which are coloured medallions



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An Exchange of Souls By Barry Pain

The Arrest of Arsene Lupin By Maurice Leblanc

The Perfume of the Lady in Black By Gaston Leroux

The Lady of the Hundred Dresses By S. R. Crockett

The Silent House By Louis Tracy

Hushed Up By William Le Queux

Yellow Men and Gold By Gouverneur Morris



NASH'S 2/- NOVELS

VOLUMES ALREADY ISSUED MYSTERY & DETECTIVE STORIES

The Hollow Needle By Maurice Leblanc

A story of Arsene Lupin, the greatest, most ingenious and most daring criminal in modern fiction.

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The Black Spider By Carlton Dawe

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The Window at The White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

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The Wife He Never Saw By Max Marcin

"A decidedly clever bit of sensation, ... worked out with considerable resource. Altogether a fine thrill."—Liverpool Courier.

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The House of Whispers By William Le Queux

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Treasure of Israel by William Le Queux

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Stranleigh's Millions By Robert Barr

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A Honeymoon—And After By F. C. Philips & Percy Fendall

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Jack and Three Jills By F. G. Philips

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The Divine Fire By May Sinclair

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A Lucky Young Woman By F. C. Philips

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Mr. Poskitt's Nightcaps By J. S. Fletcher

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The Nun By Rene Bazin

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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

1. Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and intent.

2. In the advertising pages, titles were in bold font; + has been used in this text version to indicate that.

3. Following the title page, this edition included a page of magazine and newspaper reviews of William Le Queux's books. This has been moved to just before the advertising pages at the end of this e-text.

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