"Two days later the police applied for a warrant for the arrest of Mr.
Percival Brooks on a charge of forgery.
"The Crown prosecuted, and Mr. Brooks had again the support of Mr. Oranmore, the eminent K.C. Perfectly calm, like a man conscious of his own innocence an_nable to grasp the idea that justice does sometimes miscarry, Mr. Brooks, th_on of the millionaire, himself still the possessor of a very large fortun_nder the former will, stood up in the dock on that memorable day in October, 1908, which still no doubt lives in the memory of his many friends.
"All the evidence with regard to Mr. Brooks' last moments and the forged wil_as gone through over again. That will, it was the contention of the Crown, had been forged so entirely in favour of the accused, cutting out every on_lse, that obviously no one but the beneficiary under that false will woul_ave had any motive in forging it.
"Very pale, and with a frown between his deep-set, handsome Irish eyes, Percival Brooks listened to this large volume of evidence piled up against hi_y the Crown.
"At times he held brief consultations with Mr. Oranmore, who seemed as cool a_ cucumber. Have you ever seen Oranmore in court? He is a character worthy o_ickens. His pronounced brogue, his fat, podgy, clean-shaven face, his no_lways immaculately clean large hands, have often delighted the caricaturist.
As it very soon transpired during that memorable magisterial inquiry, h_elied for a verdict in favour of his client upon two main points, and he ha_oncentrated all his skill upon making these two points as telling as h_ossibly could.
"The first point was the question of time, John O'Neill, cross-examined b_ranmore, stated without hesitation that he had given the will to Mr. Perciva_t eleven o'clock in the morning. And now the eminent K.C. brought forward an_laced in the witness-box the very lawyers into whose hands the accused ha_hen immediately placed the will. Now, Mr. Barkston, a very well-know_olicitor of King Street, declared positively that Mr. Percival Brooks was i_is office at a quarter before twelve; two of his clerks testified to the sam_ime exactly, and it was _impossible_ , contended Mr. Oranmore, that withi_hree-quarters of an hour Mr. Brooks could have gone to a stationer's, bough_ will form, copied Mr. Wethered's writing, his father's signature, and tha_f John O'Neill and Pat Mooney.
"Such a thing might have been planned, arranged, practised, and ultimately, after a great deal of trouble, successfully carried out, but huma_ntelligence could not grasp the other as a possibility.
"Still the judge wavered. The eminent K.C. had shaken but not shattered hi_elief in the prisoner's guilt. But there was one point more, and thi_ranmore, with the skill of a dramatist, had reserved for the fall of th_urtain.
"He noted every sign in the judge's face, he guessed that his client was no_et absolutely safe, then only did he produce his last two witnesses.
"One of them was Mary Sullivan, one of the housemaids in the Fitzwillia_ansion. She had been sent up by the cook at a quarter past four o'clock o_he afternoon of February 1st with some hot water, which the nurse ha_rdered, for the master's room. Just as she was about to knock at the door Mr.
Wethered was coming out of the room. Mary stopped with the tray in her hand, and at the door Mr. Wethered turned and said quite loudly: 'Now, don't fret, don't be anxious; do try and be calm. Your will is safe in my pocket, nothin_an change it or alter one word of it but yourself.'
"It was, of course, a very ticklish point in law whether the housemaid'_vidence could be accepted. You see, she was quoting the words of a man sinc_ead, spoken to another man also dead. There is no doubt that had there bee_ery strong evidence on the other side against Percival Brooks, Mar_ullivan's would have counted for nothing; but, as I told you before, th_udge's belief in the prisoner's guilt was already very seriously shaken, an_ow the final blow aimed at it by Mr. Oranmore shattered his last lingerin_oubts.
"Dr. Mulligan, namely, had been placed by Mr. Oranmore into the witness-box.
He was a medical man of unimpeachable authority, in fact, absolutely at th_ead of his profession in Dublin. What he said practically corroborated Mar_ullivan's testimony. He had gone in to see Mr. Brooks at half-past four, an_nderstood from him that his lawyer had just left him.
"Mr. Brooks certainly, though terribly weak, was calm and more composed. H_as dying from a sudden heart attack, and Dr. Mulligan foresaw the almos_mmediate end. But he was still conscious and managed to murmur feebly: '_eel much easier in my mind now, doctor—have made my will—Wethered ha_een—he's got it in his pocket—it is safe there—safe from that—' But the word_ied on his lips, and after that he spoke but little. He saw his two son_efore he died, but hardly knew them or even looked at them.
"You see," concluded the man in the corner, "you see that the prosecution wa_ound to collapse. Oranmore did not give it a leg to stand on. The will wa_orged, it is true, forged in the favour of Percival Brooks and of no on_lse, forged for him and for his benefit. Whether he knew and connived at th_orgery was never proved or, as far as I know, even hinted, but it wa_mpossible to go against all the evidence, which pointed that, as far as th_ct itself was concerned, he at least was innocent. You see, Dr. Mulligan'_vidence was not to be shaken. Mary Sullivan's was equally strong.
"There were two witnesses swearing positively that old Brooks' will was in Mr.
Wethered's keeping when that gentleman left the Fitzwilliam mansion at _uarter past four. At five o'clock in the afternoon the lawyer was found dea_n Phoenix Park. Between a quarter past four and eight o'clock in the evenin_ercival Brooks never left the house—that was subsequently proved by Oranmor_p to the hilt and beyond a doubt. Since the will found under old Brooks'
pillow was a forged will, where then was the will he did make, and whic_ethered carried away with him in his pocket?"
"Stolen, of course," said Polly, "by those who murdered and robbed him; it ma_ave been of no value to them, but they naturally would destroy it, lest i_ight prove a clue against them."
"Then you think it was mere coincidence?" he asked excitedly.
"That Wethered was murdered and robbed at the very moment that he carried th_ill in his pocket, whilst another was being forged in its place?"
"It certainly would be very curious, if it _were_ a coincidence," she sai_usingly.
"Very," he repeated with biting sarcasm, whilst nervously his bony finger_layed with the inevitable bit of string. "Very curious indeed. Just think o_he whole thing. There was the old man with all his wealth, and two sons, on_o whom he is devoted, and the other with whom he does nothing but quarrel.
One day there is another of these quarrels, but more violent, more terribl_han any that have previously occurred, with the result that the father, heartbroken by it all, has an attack of apoplexy and practically dies of _roken heart. After that he alters his will, and subsequently a will is prove_hich turns out to be a forgery.
"Now everybody—police, press, and public alike—at once jump to the conclusio_hat, as Percival Brooks benefits by that forged will, Percival Brooks must b_he forger."
"Seek for him whom the crime benefits, is your own axiom," argued the girl.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Percival Brooks benefited to the tune of £2,000,000."
"I beg your pardon. He did nothing of the sort. He was left with less tha_alf the share that his younger brother inherited."
"Now, yes; but that was a former will and—"
"And that forged will was so clumsily executed, the signature so carelessl_mitated, that the forgery was bound to come to light. Did _that_ never strik_ou?"
"There is no but," he interrupted. "It was all as clear as daylight to me fro_he very first. The quarrel with the old man, which broke his heart, was no_ith his eldest son, with whom he was used to quarrelling, but with the secon_on whom he idolised, in whom he believed. Don't you remember how John O'Neil_eard the words 'liar' and 'deceit'? Percival Brooks had never deceived hi_ather. His sins were all on the surface. Murray had led a quiet life, ha_andered to his father, and fawned upon him, until, like most hypocrites, h_t last got found out. Who knows what ugly gambling debt or debt of honour, suddenly revealed to old Brooks, was the cause of that last and deadl_uarrel?
"You remember that it was Percival who remained beside his father and carrie_im up to his room. Where was Murray throughout that long and painful day, when his father lay dying—he, the idolised son, the apple of the old man'_ye? You never hear his name mentioned as being present there all that day.
But he knew that he had offended his father mortally, and that his fathe_eant to cut him off with a shilling. He knew that Mr. Wethered had been sen_or, that Wethered left the house soon after four o'clock.
"And here the cleverness of the man comes in. Having lain in wait for Wethere_nd knocked him on the back of the head with a stick, he could not very wel_ake that will disappear altogether. There remained the faint chance of som_ther witnesses knowing that Mr. Brooks had made a fresh will, Mr. Wethered'_artner, his clerk, or one of the confidential servants in the house.
Therefore _a_ will must be discovered after the old man's death.
"Now, Murray Brooks was not an expert forger, it takes years of training t_ecome that. A forged will executed by himself would be sure to be foun_ut—yes, that's it, sure to be found out. The forgery will be palpable—let i_e palpable, and then it will be found out, branded as such, and the origina_ill of 1891, so favourable to the young blackguard's interests, would be hel_s valid. Was it devilry or merely additional caution which prompted Murray t_en that forged will so glaringly in Percival's favour? It is impossible t_ay.
"Anyhow, it was the cleverest touch in that marvellously devised crime. T_lan that evil deed was great, to execute it was easy enough. He had severa_ours' leisure in which to do it. Then at night it was simplicity itself t_lip the document under the dead man's pillow. Sacrilege causes no shudder t_uch natures as Murray Brooks. The rest of the drama you know already—"
"But Percival Brooks?"
"The jury returned a verdict of 'Not guilty.' There was no evidence agains_im."
"But the money? Surely the scoundrel does not have the enjoyment of it still?"
"No; he enjoyed it for a time, but he died, about three months ago, and forgo_o take the precaution of making a will, so his brother Percival has got th_usiness after all. If you ever go to Dublin, I should order some of Brooks'