Chapter 71281541

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter TitleMr. Clinton Sees a Ghost.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71281541
Full Date1897-12-25
Page Number31
Corrections0
Word Count3154
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

CHAPTER XI.

Mr. Clinton Sees a (ihost.

Buring the two or three clays which followed Ralph Hardwicke's visit, I did nothing. I stag nated. I never showed my nose out of the door of my own room. 1 might have taken to my bed, and kept there, for all the good that I got out of life. In fact, I was seriously expecting that, in the end, I should have to take to my bed, and call in the aid of a doctor who was gifted with sufficient skill to keep my brain from turning.

1 did nothing else but think-think-think. It was all very well for Ralph Hardwicke, with the confidence of youth, and health, and strength, to lay down the law, and to demonstrate, at least to his own satisfaction, that it was impossible fbr a. man to die without the doctors being able to tell exactly what it was he died of. For my part/ I doubted it. He appeared to have a higher opinion of medical science and its practitioners than I had. And, in the case of Philip Bennion, he bad not had all the evidence before him.

An odd part of the matter was that I felt an , invincible repugnance to laying the evidence before him. Something held me back, kept my tongue tied, and my lips shut fast. I did not know how it was. To this hour I do not know how it was, but, for the life of me, I could not have told Ralph Hardwicke all there

was to tell.

During that period of stagnation and of doing nothing else but think-think-think, I more than once had serious thoughts of calling in the as sistance of the proverbial pet of Scotland Yard, cr of the equally proverbial private detective. Either individual might, at any rate, be able to give me a hint. But then, on the other hand, he mightn't. I came to the conclusion that the probabilities were on the side that he mightn't. I have seen something of detectives, both public and private, in my time. There may be one in existence, somewhere, who would be of real and undoubted assistance in a difficult and delicate investiga tion. But not only have 1 never seen him, I have never even heard of him. His services are never utilised by the authorities, and his name is kept studiously out of the reported eases. I came to the conclusion that I would continue to "work the case," and as 1 believe they phrase it at the "Yard," "single-handed."

A little variety was lent to the proceedings by the conduct of Mr. Raymond Clinton. He had taken to drink again. At Eton he had been troubled with thirst. It had cut short his edu cation-at least, so far as Eton was concerned. And, as he attained to manhood, one of the more agreeable habits to which he was addicted was the liquor habit. Since his uncle's death I had seen nothing of his tastes in that direction. But, all at once, they came to the front again.

Several mornings, about lunch time, he came into my room, evidently suffering from a severe mu. well-merited headache. I could not make him out at all. He wanted to know what I had been doing. He did not seem to know whether to be angry because I had done sq much, or be cause 1 had done so little. As I say, I could not make him out at all.

He also lent his mite towards the additional complication of the situation. He had an alter cation with Ryan. I fancy it commenced with Ryan's refusal to allow him ito knock him about when hé was drunk-which Mr. Clinton consider ed to be Impudence on the part of Ryan. The re sult was that be wais dismissed at a moment's no tice. So all that Ryan received from Mr. Clinton, in return for his long service to Mr. Clinton's un cle, was a month'is wages, no character, and the key of the street.

The morning after Ryan's dismissal Mr, Clinton came in, as usual, to me. He looked very queer very queer indeed. After dodging about the bush a good deal he said

"Did you ever lind out where Ryan was that night?"

"Whait night?"

- "Tho night that old Ben died."

1 never had found out. I . had never tried to find out. I told him so.

"It's (loosed odd. Nobody seems to know. He owned (himself that old Ben never gave him pier mission to go out. How are we to know if he ever did go out?"

I mked Mr. Clinton what he meant. He looked at me with a headachy stare, which he apparently intended should be full of meaning. "I don't know that I mean anything, exactly. But has it

never occurred ito you that Ryan might have known as much about how old Ben met his death as any

one?" _ _

It nevter had, until that moment. I wondered how many more persons would be suspected of having had a hand in Philip Bennion's prem?ture

decease.

Mr. Clinton went on

"I .never 'liked the way in which he gave me that link of youirs, which Tie said he had (picked. up off tlie floor. I always thought that ¡he had seen you, and that tie intended I should know it."

"Seen one-'when?"

.'That night iwhen"-Mr. Clinton grinned-"you were walking in your sleep!"

I hy mo means relished the suggestion. I could have hammered ¡Mr. Clinton's head against the wall ifoir imaking it. The vista of possibilities which it opened was, ifiroim '¡my point of view, anything 'but pleasant. I felt that I would have given ia good round sum to know, with perfect certainty, at any rate, one thing-'how many per oons have figured, unconsciously to each other, in

that death-chamber ?

When Mr. Clinton put du his appearance on the foillowing day he «looked queerer than ever. I told .myself that if Qie continued to' look queerer, monning ofter morning, in that ascending ratio,

he would joiu his uncle sooner than either anti cipated or desired.

"?I say,, Otway," he 'began, immediately on his entrance, "Pim not feeling well." .

He was not looking well. He 'was looking very far from wei!. lt was nearly 2 p.im., yet he seemed to have only just tumbled out of bed. His hair was unbruslied, he was apparently un washed, and Iiis face showed up against his gor geous dressing-gown like badly-kneaded dough. I said nothing, but I looked at him.

"Otway," he went on, "I've seen a ghost!"

So he had already taken to "seeing things." Weil, he was travelling quickly, but O was not surprised.

"You'll see more ghosts, and other things be sides ghosts, if you don't practice ia little modera tion, Mr. Clinton."

.He stared at irae vacuously, iwith evident lack of comprehension. Then & glàmpse of imy mean ing dawned on hiim.

"It ^wasn't that sort of 'thing. I know when I see that sort of thing as well as any mian. And I'll take my oath I wasn't that way last night. As sure as Pirn alive, Otway, I've tseen a ghost!"

I eyed him. He was plainly dn ,a state of un usual agitation, /bait he seemed to be sober, and, so far as il could judge, not . suffering from mental derangement.

"Whose ghost have you soen?"

"By-! Otway, I've seen old Ben!"

The imprecation which he uttered to emphasise h's statement fell on my ear with "the force of. ah unpleasant jar. Almost unconsciously I assum

ed a sterner tone.

"Oblige me, (Mr. Clinton, by not using such language in conjunction with such a theme. Where did you see ithis ghost of yours?"

"That's the funny part of it. -By Jove! Otway, I was never in such a state before. I'm trembling now."

"That, Mr. Clinton, is certainly owing to the influence of one kind of spirit, if not of another." He eyed .me angrily. The tone of his rejoinder, it characteristic, and the sort of thing which might have been expected, was scarcely civil.

. "No, it's not, so don't you think it. I don't say I've nat been dirin'kimg. il'im not going to deny lt to'anyone, and certainly mot to you-'why should I? .Suppose you listen to me, before you think yourself so cl ever."

.I listened, and he went on, rather shakily, and with a tendency to stray from the point-but still he did go on.

"When I came ho'ine last night-"

"Was it last night or this morniing?"

He looked as if he did not thank une for the interruption.

"What's that got to do with it? It was this .morning, if you unmet have it-perhaps, between 3 and 4."

"Were you drunk?"

"I'd been drinking, but I was not drunk. It takes a lot to make ¡me drunk."

I believed thal to be the fact. I had always understood that some peculiarity in his physical Constitution enabled him to swallow sufficient to stupefy two or three men iwithout losing what he

called bis senses.

He stood looking at ¡rae lill-temperedly. "Any moro questions to ask?"

I was 'perfectly .placid. "Not at present. I anay have some imore bo ask as you go on."

He hesitated-as if he would have liked to swear - and then went on.

"As I was coming up the stairs I had a sort of feeling as if someone twas going up in front of me."

"You had a sort of feeling-how?"

"Well, I didn't see anyone, and ¡I didn't hear any one, but still I seemed to feel that there was some

one there."

"I see. Or, rather, I don't see. But never mind."

"When I reached this landing I thought I saw someone dodge into tho alcove-you know, that alcove iii' 'which I 'was that night when you 'were .walking in your sleep."

He paused to grin. ¡Ho was always dragging in, .on all possible (occasions, so to speak, by the head and shoulders, an allusion ¡to that little episode; which custom of his lent, so far as I was concerned, a constant flavor to his oonversatiow more especially as, on each oocasion, he invariably paused to emphasise the allusion with a grin.

.lust then I allowed bis little display of genial buiinor to go apparently unnoticed. So he wont

on:

"When I came to the last step or two I could have bet a hat that someone on the landing turned round, sawime earning, and dodged into the alcove.

"Wasn't there a light?"

"There mover is unuch of a '.light at that hour of the anoniing. The beggar of a porter pretends there is, but there's just about enough to let you see a haystack just as you are running into it."

My éxperience 'was otherwise. As a matter of fact, the staircases are lighted throughout the night by electricity. 'But ats I thought it extremely probable that lelrouimstances over which he had control had diiinincd Mr. Clinton's vision, I made .no co man ©nt.

"I stopped on the landing, and I said, 'Come out of that!' iNo one cairne, so I went ito the alcove to rout the beggar out, whoever he might be. It gave me quite a turn when O found there was no one there. I could have sworn I saw someone dodge Inbo it! 'TMB ls doosed funny,' I said; 'I wonder if old Obway's walking in his tîleep again.' "

.Another allusion-dragged in by the head 'and ears-and, of course, the accompanying grin. "

"I listened, but i heard nothing, and there was nothing to (be seen; so I turned into any roams. I went straight io any bedroom, and began bo undress. But all the tiime I ifelt quite certain that souneocic wtas ii. the ' drawl ng-rooim. I don't (know what ima.de imo feel like that, because I could hear nothing, and, of course, with iray door closed, I couldn't see; but I'll take ray oath thait I did feel certain. At last, just as I was going to turn in between the sheets, 1 couldn't stand it any longer I wara all upon ibo fidget. 'Hang it,' 1 said, 'if 1 d.in't see wlicee there.' So I opened my bedroom door, and went aierosra the dresslng-iro'Otm and opened che drawing-room door. Otway, there was someone there-by-! there was."

? Mr. Olin ton .pa used, perceptibly shuddered, and loo'kod about bimi with wild, uncertain eyes. I could see that it required an effort om his port to enable him to go on.

"It;wara quite light. You luiow, I haven't had a fellow since that beasbily Ryan hooked lit, am di had .forgotten 'to .turn off the electric 'light-In fact, I hardly ever do when I come in; I leave it 'burn ing till the morning; it's such an awful bore."

Touching an ivory hutton wa« rauch an awful

.bare!

"I could see everything In the place as plainly as I can see you now. And I could see that some one was standing.at old Ben's writing-table. He was stooping down, and he had his back toward© me, so av first I coaifld not see who it was.. But I went funny directly I saw that ithere was some one there. .How the deuce had he got In ? But I went ?funnier a imotnent afterwards, when I saw-r-by -?! it was old Ben! 1 suppose I must have; made a noise or something, because all at once he stood up, and I saiw dt was old Ben."

Mr. Clinton paused 'bo wipe his brow. From ibhe state of agitation he was In one could see that . at any rate the vision toad seemed real ecough to

him.

As he seemed Incapable oif going on withouit as sistance, I helped him with a question.

"What did you do then?"

He made an evident attempt to regain his self

control.

"I suppose 1 must have faUeu down In. a fit or something, 'because -when I cairne to I found myself lying all In a heap on the ground. I tell you I didn't stop to see if old Ben was still Inside, but I made straight off tb bed as fast as my legs would carry ime. And there I've stuck until just mow. And then I felt that,I must came out and tell you what I'd seen, al though I knew you'd laugh at

me."

I did not laugh at him. I wondered.

"How do you know it Avas your uncle?"

"How do I know? Do you think that I shouldn't knio'W old Beni aimo'ing a million, let alone when I saw him within a dozen yards' af me?"

"Did you see (his if ace?"

"I didn't get as % as ibhat. I knew him di rectly he imoved, then I suppose that I went off at

once."

"You must excuse my remarking, Mr. Clinton, that you don't appear, on this occasion, to have 'been conspicuous for presence of unind."

He looked rueful, even in the midst of his agita

tion.

"No, I ItncHW I don't; and that's what riles me. ?But the Slight of old Ben, looking for all the world as If he were alive and kicking, took me so aback. I hadn't been thinking of binn in the least."

"You say that all the time you were undressing you felt quite 'certain that soimeone was in the drawing-room. Who did you think was there?"

"I had not the faintest notion. I only felt that

there was somi-eone there."

"How «was this person, whom you suppose to have been your uncle, dressed?" : Mr. Clinton hesitated.

"I didn't ?notice. 1 have a sort of general im pression that lie was dressed in black, but all that 1'im certain about is that lt was did Ben."

?I 'gave expression to an idea 'which had occurred

to me.

"'Haw do you know that ¡it wasn't Ryan?"

"¡Ryan!" iMir. Clinton staired. "Do you think that I shouldn't know Ryan? Besides, what on earth should he be doing there?"

"That 1 cannot tell you. But granting that you saw someone, which has yet to be proved, it seems, to put it 'mildly, more likely to have been Ryan than your uncle."

¡My suggestion that .proof was required oif Ms having seen anyone seemed to annoy (Mm.

"There Isn't winch proof .wanted about that, heoause, as d carnie to you, I cairne through the drawing-room, just to see if old Ben was still there; and tho Urst thing I saw was that a drawer .was open in the iwrtting-iüablo over iwihioh I had seen him stooping."

"You say that the drawer 'was open when you

came in here?"

"Wide open-pulled right out." "Didn't yon open 'it yourself?"

"Open lt myself! I haven't touch ed that writ ing taiblo sinco the .night that you were there; and, by bhe way, it's the very drawer out of Which I took old Ben's diary which I gave you."

His words struck me. .... ... "ls that draiwer still open?"

"I supposo it ls, unless it's shut itself oif dis ow»

accord sinco 1 «anno in here."

"Can 1 look at lt?"

"If you like you can. Look here, Otiway, who do you think you're getting at? ilf you think that .1'im (playimg it off on yon, or that I've Iliad a touch oí D.T., or anything of that sort, you're wrong. .1 saw old Ben last night os sure as I see you now I'll stake my life on lt."

"I am not contradicting you. Let us go and look at this draiwer." «

We wont and looked at the drawer. When wo entered that now historic drawing-room, which Phillp 'Bennion loved in life, and which, according to his nephew, he bade fair to haunt in death, I looked round to see if there were about the place any signs of obvious disorder. 'Nothing of the kind, however, was noticeaible-nobbing, that is, which might not be expected In an apartment which was occupied ¡by Raymond Clinton.

Have you missed anything?" I asked.

"Missed anything? What do you anean? Do you think that I mistook burglars ifor raid Ben?"

"If you saw anyone at all, 'I think it is extremely probable that lt Avas some one who cairne lhere to look for something he particularly wanted. Whe ther lt was money or not, 1 cannot say. He was interrupted Iby your appearance, and that that ls so the evidence of the open drawer, which he had not time to close, is, to my mind, sufficient proof."

(To bo continued).

Mrs. Turnbull: "It'B too bad, your husband cut off his flowing beard!"

Mrs, Crlmple: "Yes, ho had to do it. I gave him a diamond scarf-pin for a Christmas present."