The Old Man in the Corner

by Baroness Orczy

The Dublin Mystery (#8)
Illustrations by H. M. Brock

The Old Man in the Corner from the cover of the Greening & Co. 1908 printing by H. M. Brock

This time the Old Man goes across the sea to Ireland—purely in thought, of course—unraveling a murder and some accompanying legal skullduggery. This tale was part of the 1902 series.

Dan Neyer
August, 2013
Introduction © 2013 by Dan Neyer

I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT the history of that forged will was about as interesting as any I had read,” said the man in the corner that day. He had been silent for some time, and was meditatively sorting and looking through a packet of small photographs in his pocket-book. Polly guessed that some of these would presently be placed before her for inspection—and she had not long to wait.

“That is old Brooks,” he said, pointing to one of the photographs, “Millionaire Brooks, as he was called, and these are his two sons, Percival and Murray. It was a curious case, wasn’t it? Personally I don’t wonder that the police were completely at sea. If a member of that highly estimable force happened to be as clever as the clever author of that forged will, we should have very few undetected crimes in this country.”

“That is why I always try to persuade you to give our poor ignorant police the benefit of your great insight and wisdom,” said Polly, with a smile.

“I know,” he said blandly, “you have been most kind in that way, but I am only an amateur. Crime interests me only when it resembles a clever game of chess, with many intricate moves which all tend to one solution, the checkmating of the antagonist—the detective force of the country. Now, confess that, in the Dublin mystery, the clever police there were absolutely checkmated.”


“Just as the public was. There were actually two crimes committed in one city which have completely baffled detection: the murder of Patrick Wethered the lawyer, and the forged will of Millionaire Brooks. There are not many millionaires in Ireland; no wonder old Brooks was a notability in his way, since his business—bacon curing, I believe it is—is said to be worth over £2,000,000 of solid money.

“His younger son Murray was a refined, highly educated man, and was, moreover, the apple of his father’s eye, as he was the spoilt darling of Dublin society; good-looking, a splendid dancer, and a perfect rider, he was the acknowledged ‘catch’ of the matrimonial market of Ireland, and many a very aristocratic house was opened hospitably to the favourite son of the millionaire.

“Of course, Percival Brooks, the eldest son, would inherit the bulk of the old man’s property and also probably the larger share in the business; he, too, was good-looking, more so than his brother; he, too, rode, danced, and talked well, but it was many years ago that mammas with marriageable daughters had given up all hopes of Percival Brooks as a probable son-in-law. That young man’s infatuation for Maisie Fortescue, a lady of undoubted charm but very doubtful antecedents, who had astonished the London and Dublin music-halls with her extravagant dances, was too well known and too old-established to encourage any hopes in other quarters.

“Whether Percival Brooks would ever marry Maisie Fortescue was thought to be very doubtful. Old Brooks had the full disposal of all his wealth, and it would have fared ill with Percival if he introduced an undesirable wife into the magnificent Fitzwilliam Place establishment.

“That is how matters stood,” continued the man in the corner, “when Dublin society one morning learnt, with deep regret and dismay, that old Brooks had died very suddenly at his residence after only a few hours’ illness. At first it was generally understood that he had had an apoplectic stroke; anyway, he had been at business hale and hearty as ever the day before his death, which occurred late on the evening of February 1st.

“It was the morning papers of February 2nd which told the sad news to their readers, and it was those selfsame papers which on that eventful morning contained another even more startling piece of news, that proved the prelude to a series of sensations such as tranquil, placid Dublin had not experienced for many years. This was, that on that very afternoon which saw the death of Dublin’s greatest millionaire, Mr. Patrick Wethered, his solicitor, was murdered in Phoenix Park at five o’clock in the afternoon while actually walking to his own house from his visit to his client in Fitzwilliam Place.

“Patrick Wethered was as well known as the proverbial town pump; his mysterious and tragic death filled all Dublin with dismay. The lawyer, who was a man sixty years of age, had been struck on the back of the head by a heavy stick, garrotted, and subsequently robbed, for neither money, watch, or pocket-book were found upon his person, whilst the police soon gathered from Patrick Wethered’s household that he had left home at two o’clock that afternoon, carrying both watch and pocket-book, and undoubtedly money as well.

“An inquest was held, and a verdict of wilful murder was found against some person or persons unknown.

“But Dublin had not exhausted its stock of sensations yet. Millionaire Brooks had been buried with due pomp and magnificence, and his will had been proved (his business and personalty being estimated at £2,500,000) by Percival Gordon Brooks, his eldest son and sole executor. The younger son, Murray, who had devoted the best years of his life to being a friend and companion to his father, while Percival ran after ballet-dancers and music-hall stars—Murray, who had avowedly been the apple of his father’s eye in consequence—was left with a miserly pittance of £300 a year, and no share whatever in the gigantic business of Brooks & Sons, bacon curers, of Dublin.

“Something had evidently happened within the precincts of the Brooks’ town mansion, which the public and Dublin society tried in vain to fathom. Elderly mammas and blushing débutantes were already thinking of the best means whereby next season they might more easily show the cold shoulder to young Murray Brooks, who had so suddenly become a hopeless ‘detrimental’ in the marriage market, when all these sensations terminated in one gigantic, overwhelming bit of scandal, which for the next three months furnished food for gossip in every drawing-room in Dublin.

“Mr. Murray Brooks, namely, had entered a claim for probate of a will, made by his father in 1891, declaring that the later will made the very day of his father’s death and proved by his brother as sole executor, was null and void, that will being a forgery.”

"THE FACTS THAT TRANSPIRED in connection with this extraordinary case were sufficiently mysterious to puzzle everybody. As I told you before, all Mr. Brooks’ friends never quite grasped the idea that the old man should so completely have cut off his favourite son with the proverbial shilling.

“You see, Percival had always been a thorn in the old man’s flesh. Horse-racing, gambling, theatres, and music-halls were, in the old pork-butcher’s eyes, so many deadly sins which his son committed every day of his life, and all the Fitzwilliam Place household could testify to the many and bitter quarrels which had arisen between father and son over the latter’s gambling or racing debts. Many people asserted that Brooks would sooner have left his money to charitable institutions than seen it squandered upon the brightest stars that adorned the music-hall stage.

“The case came up for hearing early in the autumn. In the meanwhile Percival Brooks had given up his racecourse associates, settled down in the Fitzwilliam Place mansion, and conducted his father’s business, without a manager, but with all the energy and forethought which he had previously devoted to more unworthy causes.

“Murray had elected not to stay on in the old house; no doubt associations were of too painful and recent a nature; he was boarding with the family of a Mr. Wilson Hibbert, who was the late Patrick Wethered’s, the murdered lawyer’s, partner. They were quiet, homely people, who lived in a very pokey little house in Kilkenny Street, and poor Murray must, in spite of his grief, have felt very bitterly the change from his luxurious quarters in his father’s mansion to his present tiny room and homely meals.

“Percival Brooks, who was now drawing an income of over a hundred thousand a year, was very severely criticised for adhering so strictly to the letter of his father’s will, and only paying his brother that paltry £300 a year, which was very literally but the crumbs off his own magnificent dinner table.

“The issue of that contested will case was therefore awaited with eager interest. In the meanwhile the police, who had at first seemed fairly loquacious on the subject of the murder of Mr. Patrick Wethered, suddenly became strangely reticent, and by their very reticence aroused a certain amount of uneasiness in the public mind, until one day the Irish Times published the following extraordinary, enigmatic paragraph:

We hear on authority which cannot be questioned, that certain extraordinary developments are expected in connection with the brutal murder of our distinguished townsman Mr. Wethered; the police, in fact, are vainly trying to keep it secret that they hold a clue which is as important as it is sensational, and that they only await the impending issue of a well-known litigation in the probate court to effect an arrest.

“The Dublin public flocked to the court to hear the arguments in the great will case. I myself journeyed down to Dublin. As soon as I succeeded in fighting my way to the densely crowded court, I took stock of the various actors in the drama, which I as a spectator was prepared to enjoy. There were Percival Brooks and Murray his brother, the two litigants, both good-looking and well dressed, and both striving, by keeping up a running conversation with their lawyer, to appear unconcerned and confident of the issue. With Percival Brooks was Henry Oranmore, the eminent Irish K.C., whilst Walter Hibbert, a rising young barrister, the son of Wilson Hibbert, appeared for Murray.

“The will of which the latter claimed probate was one dated 1891, and had been made by Mr. Brooks during a severe illness which threatened to end his days. This will had been deposited in the hands of Messrs. Wethered and Hibbert, solicitors to the deceased, and by it Mr. Brooks left his personalty equally divided between his two sons, but had left his business entirely to his youngest son, with a charge of £2000 a year upon it, payable to Percival. You see that Murray Brooks therefore had a very deep interest in that second will being found null and void.

“Old Mr. Hibbert had very ably instructed his son, and Walter Hibbert’s opening speech was exceedingly clever. He would show, he said, on behalf of his client, that the will dated February 1st, 1908, could never have been made by the late Mr. Brooks, as it was absolutely contrary to his avowed intentions, and that if the late Mr. Brooks did on the day in question make any fresh will at all, it certainly was not the one proved by Mr. Percival Brooks, for that was absolutely a forgery from beginning to end. Mr. Walter Hibbert proposed to call several witnesses in support of both these points.

“On the other hand, Mr. Henry Oranmore, K.C., very ably and courteously replied that he too had several witnesses to prove that Mr. Brooks certainly did make a will on the day in question, and that, whatever his intentions may have been in the past, he must have modified them on the day of his death, for the will proved by Mr. Percival Brooks was found after his death under his pillow, duly signed and witnessed and in every way legal.

“Then the battle began in sober earnest. There were a great many witnesses to be called on both sides, their evidence being of more or less importance—chiefly less. But the interest centred round the prosaic figure of John O’Neill, the butler at Fitzwilliam Place, who had been in Mr. Brooks’ family for thirty years.

“ ‘I was clearing away my breakfast things,’ said John, ‘when I heard the master’s voice in the study close by. Oh my, he was that angry! I could hear the words “disgrace,” and “villain,” and “liar,” and “ballet-dancer,” and one or two other ugly words as applied to some female lady, which I would not like to repeat. At first I did not take much notice, as I was quite used to hearing my poor dear master having words with Mr. Percival. So I went downstairs carrying my breakfast things; but I had just started cleaning my silver when the study bell goes ringing violently, and I hear Mr. Percival’s voice shouting in the hall: “John! quick! Send for Dr. Mulligan at once. Your master is not well! Send one of the men, and you come up and help me to get Mr. Brooks to bed.”

“ ‘I sent one of the grooms for the doctor,’ continued John, who seemed still affected at the recollection of his poor master, to whom he had evidently been very much attached, ‘and I went up to see Mr. Brooks. I found him lying on the study floor, his head supported in Mr. Percival’s arms. “My father has fallen in a faint,” said the young master; “help me to get him up to his room before Dr. Mulligan comes.”

“ ‘Mr. Percival looked very white and upset, which was only natural; and when we had got my poor master to bed, I asked if I should not go and break the news to Mr. Murray, who had gone to business an hour ago. However, before Mr. Percival had time to give me an order the doctor came. I thought I had seen death plainly writ in my master’s face, and when I showed the doctor out an hour later, and he told me that he would be back directly, I knew that the end was near.

“ ‘Mr. Brooks rang for me a minute or two later. He told me to send at once for Mr. Wethered, or else for Mr. Hibbert, if Mr. Wethered could not come. “I haven’t many hours to live, John,” he says to me—"my heart is broke, the doctor says my heart is broke. A man shouldn’t marry and have children, John, for they will sooner or later break his heart.” I was so upset I couldn’t speak; but I sent round at once for Mr. Wethered, who came himself just about three o’clock that afternoon.

“ ‘After he had been with my master about an hour I was called in, and Mr. Wethered said to me that Mr. Brooks wished me and one other of us servants to witness that he had signed a paper which was on a table by his bedside. I called Pat Mooney, the head footman, and before us both Mr. Brooks put his name at the bottom of that paper. Then Mr. Wethered give me the pen and told me to write my name as a witness, and that Pat Mooney was to do the same. After that we were both told that we could go.’

“The old butler went on to explain that he was present in his late master’s room on the following day when the undertakers, who had come to lay the dead man out, found a paper underneath his pillow. John O’Neill, who recognized the paper as the one to which he had appended his signature the day before, took it to Mr. Percival, and gave it into his hands.

“In answer to Mr. Walter Hibbert, John asserted positively that he took the paper from the undertaker’s hand and went straight with it to Mr. Percival’s room.

“ ‘He was alone,’ said John; ‘I gave him the paper. He just glanced at it, and I thought he looked rather astonished, but he said nothing, and I at once left the room.’

“ ‘When you say that you recognized the paper as the one which you had seen your master sign the day before, how did you actually recognize that it was the same paper?’ asked Mr. Hibbert amidst breathless interest on the part of the spectators. I narrowly observed the witness’s face.

“ ‘It looked exactly the same paper to me, sir,’ replied John, somewhat vaguely.

“ ‘Did you look at the contents, then?’

“ ‘No, sir; certainly not.’

“ ‘Had you done so the day before?’

“ ‘No, sir, only at my master’s signature.’

“ ‘Then you only thought by the outside look of the paper that it was the same?’

“ ‘It looked the same thing, sir,’ persisted John obstinately.

“You see,” continued the man in the corner, leaning eagerly forward across the narrow marble table, “the contention of Murray Brooks’ adviser was that Mr. Brooks, having made a will and hidden it—for some reason or other under his pillow—that will had fallen, through the means related by John O’Neill, into the hands of Mr. Percival Brooks, who had destroyed it and substituted a forged one in its place, which adjudged the whole of Mr. Brooks’ millions to himself. It was a terrible and very daring accusation directed against a gentleman who, in spite of his many wild oats sowed in early youth, was a prominent and important figure in Irish high life.

“All those present were aghast at what they heard, and the whispered comments I could hear around me showed me that public opinion, at least, did not uphold Mr. Murray Brooks’ daring accusation against his brother.

“But John O’Neill had not finished his evidence, and Mr. Walter Hibbert had a bit of sensation still up his sleeve. He had, namely, produced a paper, the will proved by Mr. Percival Brooks, and had asked John O’Neill if once again he recognized the paper.

“ ‘Certainly, sir,’ said John unhesitatingly, ‘that is the one the undertaker found under my poor dead master’s pillow, and which I took to Mr. Percival’s room immediately.’

“Then the paper was unfolded and placed before the witness.

“ ‘Now, Mr. O’Neill, will you tell me if that is your signature?’

“John looked at it for a moment; then he said: ‘Excuse me, sir,’ and produced a pair of spectacles which he carefully adjusted before he again examined the paper. Then he thoughtfully shook his head.

“ ‘It don’t look much like my writing, sir,’ he said at last. ‘That is to say,’ he added, by way of elucidating the matter, ‘it does look like my writing, but then I don’t think it is.’

“There was at that moment a look in Mr. Percival Brooks’ face,” continued the man in the corner quietly, “which then and there gave me the whole history of that quarrel, that illness of Mr. Brooks, of the will, aye! and of the murder of Patrick Wethered too.

“All I wondered at was how every one of those learned counsel on both sides did not get the clue just the same as I did, but went on arguing, speechifying, cross-examining for nearly a week, until they arrived at the one conclusion which was inevitable from the very first, namely, that the will was a forgery—a gross, clumsy, idiotic forgery, since both John O’Neill and Pat Mooney, the two witnesses, absolutely repudiated the signatures as their own. The only successful bit of caligraphy the forger had done was the signature of old Mr. Brooks.

“It was a very curious fact, and one which had undoubtedly aided the forger in accomplishing his work quickly, that Mr. Wethered the lawyer having, no doubt, realized that Mr. Brooks had not many moments in life to spare, had not drawn up the usual engrossed, magnificent document dear to the lawyer heart, but had used for his client’s will one of those regular printed forms which can be purchased at any stationer’s.

“Mr. Percival Brooks, of course, flatly denied the serious allegation brought against him. He admitted that the butler had brought him the document the morning after his father’s death, and that he certainly, on glancing at it, had been very much astonished to see that that document was his father’s will. Against that he declared that its contents did not astonish him in the slightest degree, that he himself knew of the testator’s intentions, but that he certainly thought his father had entrusted the will to the care of Mr. Wethered, who did all his business for him.

“ ‘I only very cursorily glanced at the signature,’ he concluded, speaking in a perfectly calm, clear voice; ‘you must understand that the thought of forgery was very far from my mind, and that my father’s signature is exceedingly well imitated, if, indeed, it is not his own, which I am not at all prepared to believe. As for the two witnesses’ signatures, I don’t think I had ever seen them before. I took the document to Messrs. Barkston and Maud, who had often done business for me before, and they assured me that the will was in perfect form and order.’

“Asked why he had not entrusted the will to his father’s solicitors, he replied:

“ ‘For the very simple reason that exactly half an hour before the will was placed in my hands, I had read that Mr. Patrick Wethered had been murdered the night before. Mr. Hibbert, the junior partner, was not personally known to me.’

“After that, for form’s sake, a good deal of expert evidence was heard on the subject of the dead man’s signature. But that was quite unanimous, and merely went to corroborate what had already been established beyond a doubt, namely, that the will dated February 1st, 1908, was a forgery, and probate of the will dated 1891 was therefore granted to Mr. Murray Brooks, the sole executor mentioned therein.”

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 and unable to grasp the idea that justice does sometimes miscarry, Mr. Brooks, the son of the millionaire, himself still the possessor of a very large fortune under 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 will was 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 one else, that obviously no one but the beneficiary under that false will would have 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 him by the Crown.

“At times he held brief consultations with Mr. Oranmore, who seemed as cool as a cucumber. Have you ever seen Oranmore in court? He is a character worthy of Dickens. His pronounced brogue, his fat, podgy, clean-shaven face, his not always immaculately clean large hands, have often delighted the caricaturist. As it very soon transpired during that memorable magisterial inquiry, he relied for a verdict in favour of his client upon two main points, and he had concentrated all his skill upon making these two points as telling as he possibly could.

“The first point was the question of time, John O’Neill, cross-examined by Oranmore, stated without hesitation that he had given the will to Mr. Percival at eleven o’clock in the morning. And now the eminent K.C. brought forward and placed in the witness-box the very lawyers into whose hands the accused had then immediately placed the will. Now, Mr. Barkston, a very well-known solicitor of King Street, declared positively that Mr. Percival Brooks was in his office at a quarter before twelve; two of his clerks testified to the same time exactly, and it was impossible, contended Mr. Oranmore, that within three-quarters of an hour Mr. Brooks could have gone to a stationer’s, bought a will form, copied Mr. Wethered’s writing, his father’s signature, and that of 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 human intelligence could not grasp the other as a possibility.

“Still the judge wavered. The eminent K.C. had shaken but not shattered his belief in the prisoner’s guilt. But there was one point more, and this Oranmore, with the skill of a dramatist, had reserved for the fall of the curtain.

“He noted every sign in the judge’s face, he guessed that his client was not yet absolutely safe, then only did he produce his last two witnesses.

“One of them was Mary Sullivan, one of the housemaids in the Fitzwilliam mansion. She had been sent up by the cook at a quarter past four o’clock on the afternoon of February 1st with some hot water, which the nurse had ordered, 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, nothing can change it or alter one word of it but yourself.’

“It was, of course, a very ticklish point in law whether the housemaid’s evidence could be accepted. You see, she was quoting the words of a man since dead, spoken to another man also dead. There is no doubt that had there been very strong evidence on the other side against Percival Brooks, Mary Sullivan’s would have counted for nothing; but, as I told you before, the judge’s belief in the prisoner’s guilt was already very seriously shaken, and now the final blow aimed at it by Mr. Oranmore shattered his last lingering doubts.

“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 the head of his profession in Dublin. What he said practically corroborated Mary Sullivan’s testimony. He had gone in to see Mr. Brooks at half-past four, and understood from him that his lawyer had just left him.

“Mr. Brooks certainly, though terribly weak, was calm and more composed. He was dying from a sudden heart attack, and Dr. Mulligan foresaw the almost immediate end. But he was still conscious and managed to murmur feebly: ‘I feel much easier in my mind now, doctor—have made my will—Wethered has been—he’s got it in his pocket—it is safe there—safe from that—’ But the words died on his lips, and after that he spoke but little. He saw his two sons before he died, but hardly knew them or even looked at them.

“You see,” concluded the man in the corner, “you see that the prosecution was bound to collapse. Oranmore did not give it a leg to stand on. The will was forged, it is true, forged in the favour of Percival Brooks and of no one else, forged for him and for his benefit. Whether he knew and connived at the forgery was never proved or, as far as I know, even hinted, but it was impossible to go against all the evidence, which pointed that, as far as the act itself was concerned, he at least was innocent. You see, Dr. Mulligan’s evidence 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 a quarter past four. At five o’clock in the afternoon the lawyer was found dead in Phoenix Park. Between a quarter past four and eight o’clock in the evening Percival Brooks never left the house—that was subsequently proved by Oranmore up 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 which Wethered carried away with him in his pocket?”

“Stolen, of course,” said Polly, “by those who murdered and robbed him; it may have been of no value to them, but they naturally would destroy it, lest it might 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 the will in his pocket, whilst another was being forged in its place?”

“It certainly would be very curious, if it were a coincidence,” she said musingly.

“Very,” he repeated with biting sarcasm, whilst nervously his bony fingers played with the inevitable bit of string. “Very curious indeed. Just think of the whole thing. There was the old man with all his wealth, and two sons, one to 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 terrible than any that have previously occurred, with the result that the father, heartbroken by it all, has an attack of apoplexy and practically dies of a broken heart. After that he alters his will, and subsequently a will is proved which turns out to be a forgery.

“Now everybody—police, press, and public alike—at once jump to the conclusion that, as Percival Brooks benefits by that forged will, Percival Brooks must be the 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 than half 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 carelessly imitated, that the forgery was bound to come to light. Did that never strike you?”

“Yes, but——”

“There is no but,” he interrupted. “It was all as clear as daylight to me from the very first. The quarrel with the old man, which broke his heart, was not with his eldest son, with whom he was used to quarrelling, but with the second son whom he idolised, in whom he believed. Don’t you remember how John O’Neill heard the words ‘liar’ and ‘deceit’? Percival Brooks had never deceived his father. His sins were all on the surface. Murray had led a quiet life, had pandered to his father, and fawned upon him, until, like most hypocrites, he at 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 deadly quarrel?

“You remember that it was Percival who remained beside his father and carried him 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’s eye? 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 father meant to cut him off with a shilling. He knew that Mr. Wethered had been sent for, that Wethered left the house soon after four o’clock.

“And here the cleverness of the man comes in. Having lain in wait for Wethered and knocked him on the back of the head with a stick, he could not very well make that will disappear altogether. There remained the faint chance of some other witnesses knowing that Mr. Brooks had made a fresh will, Mr. Wethered’s partner, 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 to become that. A forged will executed by himself would be sure to be found out—yes, that’s it, sure to be found out. The forgery will be palpable—let it be palpable, and then it will be found out, branded as such, and the original will of 1891, so favourable to the young blackguard’s interests, would be held as valid. Was it devilry or merely additional caution which prompted Murray to pen that forged will so glaringly in Percival’s favour? It is impossible to say.

“Anyhow, it was the cleverest touch in that marvellously devised crime. To plan that evil deed was great, to execute it was easy enough. He had several hours’ leisure in which to do it. Then at night it was simplicity itself to slip the document under the dead man’s pillow. Sacrilege causes no shudder to such 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 against him.”

“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 forgot to take the precaution of making a will, so his brother Percival has got the business after all. If you ever go to Dublin, I should order some of Brooks’ bacon if I were you. It is very good.”

Did you enjoy your visit to Famous (and forgotten) Fiction?
Please consider subscribing, to help pay our web hosting and keep us writing!
Plus, you get your name listed on our Editors' Corner page.
Famous (and forgotten) Fiction
is produced and edited by Bob Gay and Dan Neyer
All contents are © 2012 by Bob Gay and Dan Neyer
All Rights Reserved
Individual copyrights are as noted
For site questions, please contact us through the Editors' Corner.