|Chapter Title||Nina Pays Me a Visit.|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||The Mystery of Phillip Bennion's Death|
Isiiia Pays Me a Visit.
That cairne day 'Nina Macrae came to ßee une Bennion and I had heen left ae her trustees am guardians under her .father's will; hut as 1 had iel that, for many 'reasons, .Bennion had beei more capable of niling such a trust than I, I hac practically .left the whole management of tin young -lady and her fortune in his hands. Thus shi had come to look upon him, in many respects almost in the light of a second father.
I had not thought proper to acquaint her of >th< untoward fate which had overtaken Philip Benuion still, I had expected that she would have hean: of the affair from other quarters. 'But now, tc my surprise, she declared that she had onlj chanced upon the news by accident.
,She stood, holding "the handle of the door ic her hand, looking down at 'me. The young wo men of England are certainly growing taller everj year. 1 am not a dwarf, yet Nina Macrae is i good half-head taller than 1 am.
"Mr. Obwoy, what is the ¡meaning of tbir?"
I knew very well what she referred to, hut ]
"The meaning of what, any dear?" "Guardian's dead! Is it 'true?"
She saw the answer in uny face. She cam« hurriedly forward.
"Oh, ¡Mr. Otway, why did you not tell me?"
I wished then that .1 had told her, .but I did no)
"There were reasons, my dear." "Reasons! What reasons?"
I did not choose to tell her what the reason* were-that I had suspected foul iplay, and wished to keep the knowledge from her as long as pos sible. Still less did 1 choose to tell her that ray mind had been so engrossed with other matters that 1 had scarcely thought of her at all.
"There were reasons, uny dear, although just now I am not able to speak of them to you."
She stared at me.
"Guardian-dead!" She sank down into a chair, looking «i? though she were unable to realise the thing. "I was just coining to see him." There was a sort of catching in lier 'breath, but she did not cry. The young women of England are not only growing taller, hut it seems to me that they are growing leas tearful too; 'both of which changes, to my mind, are for the 'bettor. The young 'wo men of my day used to cry for nothing at all, in pailfuls. It requires something, nowadays, to .make their daughters shed a tear. "1 have had a letter from Ralph. He lias sent a message for guardian. 1 was coming to bring it." She drop ped her voice. "MT. Otway, what did guardian
"The doctore say that he died of heart disease." I suppose there was something in the tone of ray
voice 'Which struck her ear.
"The doctors say. What do you mean? What do you say?"
I did not choose to tell her what it was il thought. "I say 'What the doctors say-that Philip Ben nion, my old friend, in the seeming prime of his health and vigor, was suddenly taken away."
She looked at me as 'though she were trying to read in my face more 'than imy words conveyed.
"I suppose you are my guardian now?"
"I always have been your guardian. Only, hitherto, I have left the reins of guardianship in wiser hands than 'mine. I have felt that a young lady and her fortune might prove more than I could manage. Now I must do my best to do the best for, and with, both."
I do not know what moved her, but 'without any warning, all at once rising from her chaii^she crossed the room and kissed me; she had to stoop
to do it, too.
"ls is true there was an inquest?"
"Yes, my dear, it is quite .true. The inquest ?was held this 'morning. The fact that it was ne cessary to hold an inquest was one of the rea sons why 1 did not acquaint you sooner with the news that 'iny old friend was dead. So far as .we know, no human eye was the witness of his death. Under smell circumstances, the English law in sists that inquiry shall be ¡made into the cause of
"And what was the verdict?"
lt seemed to ¡me that her voice betrayed acute
" ' Death from natural causee,' iwas the verdict of the coroner's jury."
'^Natural causes. Oh?" She gave a sigh of evident relief. "Poor guardian! I shall call
you guardian now."
I thought of "the king ls dead-long live the
king," and (bowed.
"My dear, I shall feel highly flattered."
"And to think that I should only have had a letter from Ralph this morning, containing one of those funny messages of his for guardian. It seems that he has discovered some wonderful curiosity in the bric-a-brac way-a snuff box, I think it is-which I was to tell guardian all about, just, as Ralph says, to make his mouth
"Where is Ralph?"
"He was in Rome when he wrote me. He had been in Rome nearly a fortnight. Poor Ralph,
how grieved he will be!"
I thought it probable that he would be griev ed, in a measure. Ralph Hardwicke was as fine a young man as I ever met. With a suffi ciency of means, and a sufficiency of brains to enable him to use them to the best advantage. High-spirited, full of life, ar.tl fun, and frolic. He presented that, unfortunately unusual, com bination-he was a clever young man and a.
good young man; straight as a die, without a . suggestion of priggishness or pharasaical imper tinence. He was handsome, tall, and strong,
an athlete, and a scholar. What, I believe, ' commended him to Philip Bennion, as much as . anything else, waB his taste for bric-a-brac. 1
Bennion luid owed eonie of his rarest treasures to young Hardwicke's keen scent, and to his un erring judgment, when it came to bo a question of a genuine piece of vertu. Certainly Ben nion had regarded Hardwicke, 1 verily believe, with more affection than thc average father re gurdij the average .son. ile hud knwwn him from his earliest childhood, he had been hla guardian until he reached man's estate, and I had reason to believe that, through life, Hard wicke had made of him his constant and his
Nina Macrae, too, regarded Mr. Hardwicke with a favorable eye, just as Mr. Hardwicke re garded her. They had both been Philip Ben nion's wards, and they had grown up togcthei almost as sister and brother. But they had come to regard each other with a more than sisterly and brotherly love. I was as certain as I was certain of anything that she worshipped the ground on which he stood, just as he re turned the compliment by worshipping the ground she trod upon. So far as I knew, there had been no open declaration of affection, and there had certainly been nothing in the shape o'.' an open engagement. And this had rather sur prised me, because, although Nina, was only nineteen, Ralph was four or flve-and-twenty. There could scarcely have been a match more to Philip Bennion's liking, and it would have only needed a word from him-at least, so it had always seemed to me-to have had the mat ter signed, and sealed, and settled.