Chapter 71280472

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter TitleThe Verdict.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71280472
Full Date1897-11-20
Page Number31
Corrections0
Word Count1382
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleThe Mystery of Phillip Bennion's Death
article text

THU NOVELIST.

The Mystery ot Philip

Bennion"s Death.

(By Richard Marsh.)

Author of "The Crime ami Uie Criminal," "Mrs.

Musgrave'a Husband," otc, etc.

' . ciiAPT'i'iR nr.

The Verdict.

(Mr. Clinton proved a true prophet. That 1 what the doctores did isay-tliat Philip Benn thad died in a ht. And, .practically, 'that was verdict of thc coroner's jury too.

I attended the inquest, though I wats rot cal a>3 a witness. Mr. Clinton also attended the

quest, though he was not called as a witness, .waish he had been. H would have given a g round sum out o'f any own .pocket to have seen « heard him an.swer a few questions put to him a good cross-eKamining counsel. iFrom any po of view, it seemed to Jue that the whole aft of the inquest was a farce. What was more, wi 1 thought things quietly over by .myself, 1 did i see what grounds I had to go upon which woi enable the inquiry to take a wider range. I coi scarcely volunteer to go .into the 'box and det the conversation which Philip Bennion and I 1 had upon the art of murder the night .before -died. What good purpose would it serve? WI iwere the deductions which <1 drew? That Phi Bennion followed up a conversation on murder one of the fine arts hy committing suicide? Wil out proofs, the thing seemed preposterous on t face of it. And yet I, who knew Philip Benni better than any inion in the .world, was qu conscious tihat that 'was just the sort of thi which he was capable of doing, if only for t sake of puzzling me with a psychological proble Should I go into the witness-box, and, having une thined that I was a somnambulist, tell the sto of .my dream? Not to dwell on the fact that .man is hound to criminate hknsolf, what shred

evidence had I, somnambulist or no somnambul!, that, on that particular occasion, my dream h

been anything hut a dream?

?No. The question which had to 'be answered w the question as to how Philip Bennion .met with 1: death. That question the doctors alone could a swer. And answer it they did, in their O'V fashion. They declared that he had died, as Ry; phrased it, in a 'fit. The trouble was the heai lt was not quite clear what the precise natu of the trouble was, but the general concensus . medical evidence seemed to show that Philip Bei nion had died of valvular disease of the heart.

Ryan was the first witness who was called. 1-. stated that, on his entry into the (ininving-i'ooi: hu perceived his master lying on the lloor. Wbc it transpired that this was a few minutes aft( eleven o'olock, the coroner uti ked him, rathe sharply, as 'I had osle ed him, how it. was th; he had not discovered ibis .master sooner. Jt the , came out that he had been ahsent throughout tb

night, and had only just returned. When asked

this had been with his'maxtor's permission, Rya hesitated, and then owned that his master ha known nothing at all about it. The admissio created, what the newspapers cull, a "slight soc sation." iRyan, in dogged tone.;, went on to stat that he had been in Philip .Bennion's service nea ri thirty years, and that he had been in thc Imbi of epending a night out, now and then, "when h thought he would." This 1 knew myself to b true, though Ryan might .have added that liier always ensued a row royal with his master in th

morning.

.In answer to further questions, Ryan went on t state that he had no reason to suppose that hi. master had ever .meditated suicide; that he was ¡ sharp-tempered ".gent," who said what he meant and more than he meant, at times, but that, s< far as he was aware, he had not an enemy in ai

the world.

"He was as kind and generous a gent, at bot tom, in spite of all his sharp »ways, as ever lived.' Such was the postscript to his evidence whici: Ryan added of his own accord.

The next witness was Bennion's own medical e.d viser, Ful'lalove Carter. He stated, what was new.: to me, that he had suspected for some time tba' hie .patient's heart was weak. He had made ai: examination, and he was of opinion that Philij Bennion had died of valvular disease of the heart There might, or might not, have been some exciting cause, such, for instance, as a sudder shock. But it was well known that, in tho ease of a person with a weak heart, no exciting cause was absolutely needed, and that death was often, as it were, spontaneous. At the same time, he was 'bound to add that there were certain peculiari ties about the case which had induced him, while making his post-miortem examination, lo solicit the assistance of the eminent 'authority on diseases of the heart, Dr. .Blakeham Warner.

Dr. Blakeham Warner, the eminent specialist thus referred to, followed il>r. Carter. He 'was inclined to he ultra-scientific. It seemed to me that he twas more than half disposed to favor tho court with a little learned imed'ical disquisition on the human heart in general, and ou Philip Bennion's heart in particular. The coroner had some difficulty in keeping him to the point. One thing was iplain, that Dr. 'Blakeham Warner re garded Philip .Bennion's as a particularly interest

ing "case."

He had never seen a human heart present, in some respects, so peculiar an appearance as Philip Bennion's. The peculiarity consisted iu the ap pearance it presented of extraordinary and violent construction, lt was difficult to say as to what such an appearance 'might be owing. There were features about it iwhich, in hie experience, were unique. He detailed those features at considerable length-at rather more length, indeed, than the .coroner seemed to relish. They .might be owing

to organic disease, or they might be owing to the action of certain poisons. Here I pricked -up my ears, and I saw that Raymond Clinton pricked up his. As, for instance, such a poison as hydro cyanic acid. For himself, the attitude of his mind was an open one. He should like lo hear what were the results of the analysis. If the presence of no poisonous matter 'was proved, and the other organs of the 'body were in a healthy condition, then he should say that the cause of death was valvular disease of the heart, though it was at tended with .features and certain peculiarities on which, if tho coroner bad not stopped him, be seemed again disposed to enter-into detail-which in his experience, were unique. '

The next «witness was, «in a certain sense, my witness. I had insisted on the contents of Philip Bennion's stomach being sealed up and forwarded for analysis, to the 'famous toxicologist, Lewis Cowan. Mr. Cowan, when he appeared, made short work al the matter. The manner iu which he

gave his evidence was in striking contrast to tho man nor in which Dr. Blakahani Warner had 'given his. He cairne at once to the point. He slated that he had discovered nothing; that there twas nothing to discover; thuvt Philip Bennion had not died of poison; that there was not tho slightest trace or suspicion of any sort of injurious matter to be found; thai, the contents of his stomach had been in a perfectly normal and healthy condition.

On that evidence the coroner briefly charged the jury. After a momentary hesitation they returned a verdict of "Dea'th from natural causes." As they did so, Raymond Clinton looked up at me with what, was unniiistakaibly a gleam of triumph in h's eyes. As I was leaving the room in 'which tho inquiry had been held he came and wh tape rel in 'my ear: "I told you so."

And I felt that the llrst edition of Philip Ben nion's artist in murder had been fulfilled; that the eruniivvl had wrought his crime with such ingenu ity and skill as to Jea/vc upon the body of his vic tim no trace of the deed which he had done.