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Chapter 23 A MEMORABLE DAY

  • "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.
  • "What?"
  • "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?"
  • "Yes, but—"
  • "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'
  • bacon if I were you. It is very good."