Chapter 71282426

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Chapter NumberXVI.-(Continued.)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71282426
Full Date1898-01-22
Page Number8
Corrections0
Word Count2235
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

! THE NOVELIST.

i ._,_:_:_

The Mystery of- Philip

Bennion's Death.

(By Richard Marsh.)

Author of "The Crime and the Criminal,'' "Mrs.

Musgrave's Husband," &c, &o. .

_____ X

CHAPTER XVI.-(Continued.) ...

"She always tells every one five minutes after she~"bè"glnB to speak to them. Well, I heard 'the Pet pf the Perls.' Such a voice! And such songs! You never heard such-harmony! But, on the other*hand, you never saw such limbs-and, you know, she showed them. There lay, from an ar tistic point of view, her chiefest virtue. When she. came upon the stage to sing-forgive the word!-her second song, I-made up my mind that I would have her. The more I saw of her, you know, the more X wanted. So I went the next, night, and the next, and the next-all to see 'the Pet of the Peris!'-and I think it was the night after, that that I was introduced to her. I took her out to' supper, and I offered her. marriage. I had hèard^what sort of woman- she was, and I saw* for..-myself-for, even . in those ~days I had discerning eyes-that nothing else would serve.' So 4 offered her all I had to give for all that she had tc give. " She accepted the offer,-being- quite

/well Jawarej 'that - she would have the best of the

bargain, and the day but one after wè were mar ried. Well,'in ;abput a week I was^sorry, pkin fuily sorry, And as, in my excessive verdancy, I couldn't see-my way at all, I . came and made a clean breast of the whole affair to dear old Ben."

"And what did Philip Bennion say when you told him such a tale as that?'?

"Ho did not make the. exhibition of., himself which you ; are making, and which you bid fair to make hereafter. But then her.was a. cleverer man all round."' ... . .

This young man's insolence "was: really most amazing! To listen to him,-- and to Jbok at him, one would haye "thought that he had been dis covered in as commonplace every-day a little ad venture as ever man yet had. v A mere nothing

at all! ?

. But as he continued something began to come into his voice which suggested that -there was in him, somewhere deep down, a white-hot heat of passion which burned and seared every fibre of his being. ' " *':

"Old Ben's advice .was, to have no scandal; to make the best of 'the Pet. of the Peris,' to keep her, as much as' possible,1 out bf sight, and to go on as if she wasn't there. This was all very well in theory, butvin practice it wouldn't'work. For the mischief -was that I had loved Nina eyer since I was a boy." .-:' " ' .' .. '?'

"You say that you loved Nina eyer since you were a boy, and yet you did this thing!"

"Precisely. ? There's the puzzle.: What " they ¿all the psychology of life's a riddler You, with your : 1 knited powera of compreh ension, will not ? understand me when' I tell * you that it" was be

cause I loved. Nina, that I did'-'this things It

was because I loved Nina, that I "married 'the j

Pet: of the Peris.' " But! what I had ' not realised .. was, that I should love-Nina all the 'more, be

cause I had married 'the Pet of the Peris/ -But thafwas what actually happened. 'And that was where.the. mischief all came in."

. He was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, although he did not raise his voice above his ordinary tones, his words seemed to scorch me as they issued from his lips.

; L "You may thank your stars. Otway, that you

are a man of little- passions. If you haye no raptures! of enjoyment, you have no agonies of. baffled yearning. If you .desire a thing you do not long for it with ever-increasing longing, until, you realise that between you and madness there is but a slender veil, which may be severed at a touch. I do. » When I desire a thing, my desire grows and grows, until I must have what I desire-or go mad. When I was still a child I realised that with-me thiB w*âs so.- So I learned to put a continual restraint upon myself, until I had at; least acquired the art- of concealing -the strength of my. desire.' Nature, and the social conditions tinder which we live, compelled me to become a thing for which, I assure you, I . have no more taste than, you-a.hypocrite.

"You wini perceive that I . have an acute per ception .bf the character and situation of Joseph Surface. ' '-C. ?

. . ."Directly. I had married that husk of a woman,

that drinking,. swinish*, mindless animal, Nina's figure rose up?;in front of-me lin contrast to ' the figure pf : the. creature I ? had made^my wifel I had always loved her.: My love for her became a sort of madness. I saw what I had lost, what I had done.; I verily believe-I amawa'rè that similar language has, issued from > hundreds of thousands 'of meaningless mouths before, but I u-3p "it with full appreciation of its meaning, I "think you will grant it when I gp on-I verily believe that.no. man ever loved a woman as I loyed Nina-loved her! As, my God! 'I love her now! There was nothing I would not have done to win her-1 would have-run the gauntlet through all the devils in hell.". ,

_ Ralph Hardwicke was unconsciously quoting

the awfuU words which had-been almost the last "to issue from his dead wife's lips.

. "A shrewder man than, Philip Bennion was, perhaps never lived. I was amused when, that .day, you asked me.if I thought that he was mad. His chief fault, in my eyes, was tha^ he was too sane for me. He soon had a good idea of. the sort of thing .that was going on inside of me. You see, he .was a student of character, and he understood me, not -only better than anyone else, but' almost as well as I understood myself, and he loved me although he knew me for what I - was. There was only one thing he would not have sacrificed for me. That one thing was .Nina. He had agreed to keep my marriage

j secret, but he had no.t bargained for my making

; love to Nina. So he sent me right away,, and

told Nina that I was not for her, and that she was not for me."

When he said that I started, and he perceived

I started.

"Yes; I see what you are thinking of,- You are right. Nina told the truth when slje sail that old Ben had warned her off jibe. It wis I who lied. My dear fellow, it ia bol the^only lie whioh J have told you-it is only onç out of. perhaps, more than a thousand. It . Is one M the misfortunes' attendant on the exigencies QI such & situation &à min?¿ that I eM tonstantly

[ionstfaidod IQ iieA " * ?,

He spoke of tho absence in himself of any moral sense as calmly as if he were expounding the intricacies' of an abstruse problem in mathe

matics.

"When old Ben interposed it already was too late-with all his acumen he had not plumbed

ali the depths that were within me. My desire j

for Nina had become the master passion of my being. It was my one Idea. 1 had already told myself that I would have her, let the price which I should have to pay for her be what it might. So soon as old Ben dispatched me on my travels I set to thinking by. what means I could attain the object of my. desire."

Ralph Hardwicke paused. He drew'.a long.' i breath. He seemed to hesitate. But perhaps

that was only supposition .on. my part, because,

I directly afterwards, he went on with a cool, cai- .

culated precision of utterance which held me spellbound. . -,\ ', .' . \.. '' :

"I realised one thing-that I should never have . Nina while old Ben could keep her from me.

That Philip Bennion blocked, the way. ; But, i . with - crass stupidity, there was another thing I

did not realise, and, what is even stranger, it is. only quite recently that I have begun-to realise lt. It is incredible, but it is true. I did not

realise that the shortest way to obtain posses- :; sion of Nina was to kill my wife." "?.;?' ' - -

He said this as quietly as if he had been re- V questing a light for his cigar; but he said it in

? a manner which caused every drop of blood in -

my "body to suddenly congeal." '. -.r - v . . - < . . ï

"Ralph!". I cried. .

- And something 'made me 'shrink from ' him as

if he were some -awful thing. ',>'. >: ÍV - v -V

He regarded" me with a'smile of indescribable . amusement, evidently wholly unmoved . by the state of agitation I was in".

-, "The idea, my good fellow, would have been,

obvious even to you-I see it, as they have it, * in your eye. To have killedmy wife would

have been to ' resolve, at the smallest possible . cost-practically, as you yourself perceive, at . na -cost at all-the situation to a T. It would,

henceforth, have been all plain sailing. Old . Ben would have been*satisfied.. As.I told" you. and as, for once in a way, -I told you truly, the dream of his existence .was that Nina and I

should be man' and wife.. If . I had only been * abie to furnish him with proof that 'the-Pet ot. the Peris' was no more, he would have bidden me God-speed? and- given me his blessing there

and then. . Nothing could have been more satis- - factory-Nothing simpler. But-Otway, I hope you won't be shocked, you really are so funny. In matters such as these you should eschew sen

timent. . Look facts'in the face with the indif- . ferencè with which you perceive the elementary fact that, two and two make four. But-and "now my blindness seems to have been almost -miraculous, for I can assure you that no one could haye gone about the business more coolly and logically' than I did-but, .the one idea, tho only idea which occurred to me, was to kill old Ben. I thought that if be were out" of the way,

- Now, Otway, what is thè matter?" , ' ~:

The matter-was, not that I had fainted, or lout my senses, but that my legs had given way , "be neath me, and that I had fallen helpless to the

floor.. He advanced as to proffer me assist- ; . .ance;;--'. .; r . . .-.

, "JKeep away! ^ Keep away!" I screamed,. in> a sort of strangled whisper. "Don't touch me!" ".; He ? seemed, surprised that I should shrink

from his touch as -from the touch of some evil thing. -? . ? - v-'' -

"My dear fellow, don't be absurd. I have no ' wish to touch you against your will-why should

I have? Only you dont look very comfortable, huddled up in'a heap upon the floor. -And aa >old man like you! . It you decline my assist

ance, don't you think that you had better make - some attempt upon your-own account to . assume . a" position more becoming to your age and char acter?" ' -

. "You devil!" was all I said. ; - " ,

He laughed.

"Be it devil, if you will have it devil-why, not? The word conveys, but a vague-and- fan cied meaning tomy mind.. Perhaps it conveys a clearer meaning to yours-I am content. If my; conversation annoys you-far toe it from me to knowingly bore any one, and least' of all, my* dear old fellow, would I bore you-I. will cease*

Only I imagined, as I might be able to throw", '

some light upon a subject in which, I believe, : you have shown interest, . that you w;ould wish to hear me te the end." ; .

I heard him to the end, riot because I wishedl

to, but. because I could not help it. Because"' he held me spellbound.;. Because, as he unfolded,

as it were, inch by inch, his monstrous wicked- ' ness, wickedness of which. I had thought-and I had seen something of the wickedness of men, and women too-no human being could have been,

capable," I hung upon his "words, so «that they/ held me with the fascination with which the mesmerist holds his subject.

As he stood looking down at me, handsome , aa Lucifer,, as Milton's Satan, and, surely, scarcely less wicked,-.I staggered to my feet and tottered

into a chair, arid, he went on, -speaking., for all - the world as if he were narrating some aid mlrable little story, which it was really worth* my while to make a note of. "