The Four Faces: A Mystery

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THE FOUR FACES

A MYSTERY

BY
WILLIAM LE QUEUX

AUTHOR OF
“THE DEATH DOCTOR,” “FATAL THIRTEEN”
“LYING LIPS,” ETC. ETC.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I. CURIOSITY IS AROUSED
II. THE ANGEL FACES
III. A HAMPSTEAD MYSTERY
IV. IN FULL CRY
V. HUGESSON GASTRELL AT HOME
VI. THE HOUSE IN GRAFTON STREET
VII. OSBORNE’S STORY
VIII. MORE SUSPICIONS
IX. THE SNARE
X. NARRATES A CONFESSION
XI. CONCERNS MRS. STAPLETON
XII. THE BROAD HIGHWAY
XIII. THE BARON
XIV. IN THE MISTS
XV. THE MODERN VICE
XVI. SECRETS OF DUSKY FOWL
XVII. IS SUSPICIOUS
XVIII. CONTAINS ANOTHER SURPRISE
XIX. “IN THE PAPERS”
XX. PRESTON AGAIN
XXI. A CHANNEL MYSTERY
XXII. THE THIN-FACED STRANGER
XXIII. RELATES A QUEER ADVENTURE
XXIV. IN STRANGE COMPANY
XXV. THE GLITTERING UNDERWORLD
XXVI. “THAT WOMAN!”
XXVII. THE FOUR FACES
XXVIII. THE FACES UNMASKED
CONCLUSION

THE FOUR FACES

CHAPTER I

CURIOSITY IS AROUSED

“I confess I’d like to know somethin’ more about him.”

“Where did you run across him first?”

“I didn’t run across him; he ran across me, and in rather a curious way.
We live in Linden Gardens now, you know. Several of the houses there are
almost exactly alike, and about a month ago, at a dinner party we were
givin’, a young man was shown in. His name was unknown to me, so I
supposed that he must be some friend of my wife’s. Then I saw that he
was a stranger to her too, and then all at once he became very confused,
inquired if he were in Sir Harry Dawson’s house—Sir Harry lives in the
house next to ours—and, findin’ he was not, apologized profusely for
his mistake, and left hurriedly.”

“Anyone might make a mistake of that kind in some London houses,” the
second speaker said. “What is he like? Is he a gentleman?”

“Oh, quite.”

“And for how long have you leased him your house in Cumberland Place?”

“Seven years, with option of renewal.”

“And you mean to say you know nothing about him?”

“I won’t say ‘nothin’,’ but I know comparatively little about him.
Houston and Prince, the house agents, assure me they’ve made inquiries,
and that he is a rich young man whose uncle amassed a large fortune in
Tasmania—I didn’t know fortunes were to be made in Tasmania, did you?
The uncle died six months ago, Houston and Prince tell me, and Hugesson
Gastrell has inherited everything he left. They say that they have
ascertained that Gastrell’s parents died when he was quite a child, and
that this uncle who has died has been his guardian ever since.”

“That sounds right enough. What more do you want to know?”

“It somehow seems to me very strange that I should have come to know
this man, Gastrell, without introduction of any kind—even have become
intimate with him. On the day after he had come to my house by accident,
he called to fetch a pair of gloves which, in his confusion on the
previous evenin’, he had left in the hall. He asked if he might see me,
and then he again apologized for the mistake he had made the night
before. We stayed talkin’ for, I suppose, fully half an hour—he’s an
excellent talker, and exceedingly well-informed—and incidentally he
mentioned that he was lookin’ for a house. From his description of what
he wanted it at once struck me that my Cumberland Place house would be
the very thing for him—I simply can’t afford to live there now, as you
know, and for months I have been tryin’ to let it. I told him about it,
and he asked if he might see it, and—well, the thing’s done; he has it
now, as I say, on a seven years’ lease.”

“Then why worry?”

“I am not worryin’—I never worry—the most foolish thing any man can do
is to worry. All I say is—I should like to know somethin’ more about
the feller. He may be quite all right—I have not the least reason for
supposin’ he isn’t—but my wife has taken a strong dislike to him. She
says she mistrusts him. She has said so from the beginnin’. After he had
asked to see me that mornin’, the mornin’ he called for his gloves, and
we had talked about the house, I invited him to lunch and introduced him
to my wife. Since then he has dined with us several times, and—well, my
wife is most insistent about it—she declares she is sure he isn’t what
he seems to be, and she wanted me not to let him the house.”

“Women have wonderful intuition in reading characters.”

“I know they have, and that’s why I feel—well, why I feel just the
least bit uneasy. What has made me feel so to-day is that I have just
heard from Sir Harry Dawson, who is on the Riviera, and he says that he
doesn’t know Hugesson Gastrell, has never heard of him. There, read
his letter.”

Seated in my club on a dull December afternoon, that was part of a
conversation I overheard, which greatly interested me. It interested me
because only a short time before I had, while staying in Geneva, become
acquainted at the hotel with a man named Gastrell, and I wondered if he
could be the same. From the remarks I had just heard I suspected that he
must be, for the young man in Geneva had also been an individual of
considerable personality, and a good conversationalist.

If I had been personally acquainted with either of the two speakers, who
still stood with their backs to the fire and their hands under their
coat-tails, talking now about some wonderful run with the Pytchley, I
should have told him I believed I had met the individual they had just
been discussing; but at Brooks’s it is not usual for members to talk to
other members unintroduced. Therefore I remained sprawling in the big
arm-chair, where I had been pretending to read a newspaper, hoping that
something more would be said about Gastrell. Presently my patience
was rewarded.

“By the way, this feller Gastrell who’s taken my house tells me he’s
fond of huntin’,” the first speaker—whom I knew to be Lord Easterton, a
man said to have spent three small fortunes in trying to make a big
one—remarked. “Said somethin’ about huntin’ with the Belvoir or the
Quorn. Shouldn’t be surprised if he got put up for this club later.”

“Should you propose him if he asked you?”

“Certainly, provided I found out all about him. He’s a gentleman
although he is an Australian—he told Houston and Prince he was born and
educated in Melbourne, and went to his uncle in Tasmania immediately he
left school; but he hasn’t a scrap of that ugly Australian accent; in
fact, he talks just like you or me or anybody else, and would pass for
an Englishman anywhere.”

Without a doubt that must be the man I had met, I reflected as the two
speakers presently sauntered out of the room, talking again of hunting,
one of the principal topics of conversation in Brooks’s. I, Michael
Berrington, am a man of leisure, an idler I am ashamed to say, my
parents having brought me up to be what is commonly and often so
erroneously termed “a gentleman,” and left me, when they died, heir to a
cosy little property in Northamptonshire, and with some £80,000 safely
invested. As a result I spend many months of the year in travel, for I
am a bachelor with no ties of any kind, and the more I travel and the
more my mind expands, the more cosmopolitan I become and the more
inclined I feel to kick against silly conventions such as this one at
Brooks’s which prevented my addressing Lord Easterton or his friend—men
I see in the club every day I am there, and who know me quite well by
sight, though we only stare stonily at each other—and asking more
about Gastrell.

So Lady Easterton had taken an instinctive dislike to this young man,
Hugesson Gastrell, and openly told her husband that she mistrusted him.
Now, that was curious, I reflected, for I had spoken to him several
times while in Geneva, and though his personality had appealed to
me, yet—

Well, there was something about him that puzzled me, something—I cannot
define what it was, for it was more like a feeling or sensation which
came over me while I was with him—a feeling that he was not what he
appeared to be, and that I saw, so to speak, only his outer surface.

“Hullo, Michael!”

The greeting cut my train of thought, and, screwing myself round in the
big arm-chair, I looked up.

“Why, Jack!” I exclaimed, “I had no idea you were in England. I thought
you were bagging rhinoceroses and things in Nigeria or somewhere.”

“So I have been. Got back yesterday. Sorry I am back, to tell you the
truth,” and he glanced significantly towards the window. A fine, wetting
drizzle was falling; dozens of umbrellas passed to and fro outside; the
street lamps were lit, though it was barely three o’clock, and in the
room that we were in the electric lights were switched on. The sky was
the colour of street mud, through which the sun, a huge, blood-red disc,
strove to pierce the depressing murk of London’s winter atmosphere,
thereby creating a lurid and dismal effect.

Jack Osborne is a man I rather like, in spite of the fact that his sole
aim in life is to kill things. When he isn’t shooting “hippos” and
“rhinos” and bears and lions in out-of-the-way parts of the world, he is
usually plastering pheasants in the home covers, or tramping the fields
and moors where partridges and grouse abound.

“Had a good time?” I asked some moments later.

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