Part 3 out of 4
could see so distinctly from my window. The name, too, did not have the
customary Tombs sound--De Nevers? _De Nevaire_--I repeated it slowly to
myself with varying accent. It seemed as though I had known the name
before. It carried with it a suggestion of the novels of Stanley J.
Weyman, of books on old towns and the chateaux and cathedrals of France.
I wondered who the devil Charles Julius Francis de Nevers could be.
Of course, if one answered all the letters one gets from the Tombs it
would keep a secretary busy most of the working hours of the day, and if
one acceded to all the various requests the prisoners make to interview
them personally or to see their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,
sweethearts and wives, a prosecutor might as well run an intelligence
office and be done with it. But as I re-read the note I began to have a
sneaking feeling of curiosity to see what Charles Julius Francis de
Nevers looked like, so I departed from the usual rule of my office, rang
for a messenger and directed him to ascertain the full name of the
prisoner from whom the note had come, the crime with which he was
charged, and the date of his incarceration, also to supply me at once
with copies of the indictment and the complaint; then I instructed him
to have De Nevers brought over as soon as he could be got into shape.
I had almost forgotten that I was expecting a visitor when, a couple of
hours later, an undersized deputy-sheriff entered my office and reported
that he had a prisoner in his custody for whom I had sent to the Tombs.
Glancing up from my desk I saw standing behind his keeper a tall and
distinguished-looking man in fashionably cut garments, whose well shaped
head and narrow face, thin aquiline nose, and carefully trimmed pointed
beard seemed to bespeak somewhat different antecedents from those of the
ordinary occupant of a cell in the City Prison. I should have
instinctively risen from my chair and offered my aristocratic looking
visitor a chair had not the keeper unconsciously brought me to a
realization of my true position by remarking:
"Say, Counsellor, I guess while you're talking to his nibs I'll step out
into the hall and take a smoke."
"Certainly," said I, glad to be rid of him, "I will be responsible for
Then, as the keeper hesitated in putting his suggestion into execution,
I reached into the upper right-hand drawer of my desk, produced two of
what are commonly known in the parlance of the Criminal Courts Building
as "cigars" and handed them to him.
"Well," said I, after the keeper had departed closing the door behind
him and leaving the visitor standing in the middle of the office, "I
have sent for you as you requested and shall be glad to hear anything
you have to say. Of course any communication which you may see fit to
make to me is voluntary and, in the event for your trial for--er--any
crime with which you may be charged, may be used against you." I had a
certain feeling of embarrassment in making this customary declaration
since the whole idea of this person being a criminal was so incongruous
as to put a heavy strain on one's credulity. However, I recalled that a
certain distinguished Englishman of letters has declared "that there is
no essential incongruity between crime and culture." He acknowledged my
remark with a slight smile of half-amused deprecation and with a
courteous bow took the seat to which I motioned him.
"I wish to thank you," he said in excellent English marked by the
slightest possible suggestion of a foreign accent, "for your exceeding
courtesy in responding so quickly to my request. I am aware," he added,
"that it is unusual for prisoners to seek interviews with the--what
shall I say--_juge d'instruction_, as we call him, but," he added with a
smile, "I think you will find that mine is an unusual affair."
I had already begun to think so, and reaching to the upper drawer on the
left-hand side of my desk, I produced from the box reserved for judges,
prominent members of the bar, borough presidents, commissioners of
departments and distinguished foreigners, a Havana of the variety known
in our purlieus as a "_good_ cigar," and tendered the same to him.
"Ah," he said, "many thanks, _merci, non_, I do not smoke the cigar.
M'sieu' perhaps has a cigarette? M'sieu' will pardon me if I say that
this is the first act of kindness which has been accorded to me since my
incarceration three weeks ago."
Somewhere I found a box of cigarettes, one of which he removed,
gracefully holding it between fingers which I noticed were singularly
white and delicate, and lighting it with the air of a diplomat at an
"You can hardly appreciate," he ventured, "the humiliation to which I,
an officer and a gentleman of France, have been subjected."
I lighted the cigar which he had declined and with mingled feelings of
embarrassment, distrust and curiosity inquired if his name was Charles
Julius Francis de Nevers. I wish it were possible to describe the
precise look which flashed across his face as he answered my question.
"That is my name," he said, "or at least rather, I am Charles Julius
Francis, and I am of Nevers. May I speak confidentially? Were my family
to be aware of my present situation they would never recover from the
humiliation and disgrace connected with it."
"Certainly," said I, "anything which you may tell me which you wish to
be kept confidential I will treat as such, provided, of course, that
what you tell me is the truth."
"You shall hear nothing else," he replied. Then leaning back in his
chair he said simply and with great dignity, "I am by direct inheritance
today the Duc de Nevers, my father, the last duke, having died in the
month of February, 1905."
Any such announcement would ordinarily have filled me with amusement,
but that the gentleman sitting before me should declare himself to be a
duke or even a prince seemed entirely natural.
"Indeed!" said I, unable to think of any more appropriate remark.
"Yes," said De Nevers, "and M'sieu' is naturally surprised that one of
my distinguished position should be now a tenant of an American jail.
But if M'sieu' will do me the honor of listening for a few moments I
will explain my present extraordinary predicament. I am Charles Julius
Francois, eldest son of the late Oscar Odon, Duc de Nevers, Grand
Commander of the Legion of Honor, and Knight of the Garter. I was born
in Paris in the year 1860 at 148 Rue Champs Elysee; my mother, the
dowager duchess, is now residing at the Chateau de Nevers in the
Province of Nievre in France. My sister Jeanne married Prince Henry of
Aremberg, and now lives in Brussells at the Palais d'Aremberg, situated
at the corner of the Rue de Regence near the Palais de Justice. My
sister Louise, the Countess of Kilkenny, is living in Ireland. My sister
Camille married the Marquis of Londonderry and is residing in London at
the present time. My sister Evelyn married the Earl of Dudley and is
living in Dublin. I have one other sister, Marie, who is with my mother.
My brother, Count Andre de Nevers is at present Naval Attache at Berlin.
My brother Fernand is an officer of artillery stationed in Madagascar,
and my youngest brother Marcel is also an officer of artillery attached
to the 8th Regiment in Nancy. I make this statement by way of
introduction in order that you may understand fully my situation. During
my childhood I had an English tutor in Paris, and when I reached the age
of ten years I was sent by my father to the College Louis le Grand where
I took the course of Science and Letters and graduated from the Lycee
with the degree of Bachelor on the 5th of August, 1877. Having passed my
examination for the Polytechnic I remained there two years, and on my
graduation received a commission as Sous-Lieutenant of Engineers, and
immediately entered the Application School at Fontainebleau, where I was
graduated in 1881 as Lieutenant of Engineers and assigned to the First
Regiment of Engineers at Versailles--"
De Nevers paused and exhaled the cigarette smoke.
"M'sieu' will pardon me if I go into detail for only in that way will he
be convinced of the accuracy of what I am telling him."
"Pray, go on," said I. "If what you tell me is true your case is
"My first act of service," continued De Nevers, "was on the 10th of
August when I was sent to Tonkin. I will not trouble you with the
details of my voyage on the transport to China, but will simply state
that I was wounded in the engagement at Yung Chuang on the 7th of
November of the same year and had the distinction of receiving the Cross
of the Legion of Honor therefor. I was immediately furloughed back to
France, where I entered the Superior School of War and took my Staff
Major brevet. At the same time I seized the opportunity to follow the
course of the Sorbonne and secured the additional degree of Doctor of
Science. I had received an excellent education in my youth and always
had a taste for study, which I have taken pains to pursue in whatever
part of the world I happened to be stationed. As a result I am able to
converse with considerable fluency in English, as perhaps you have
already observed, as well as in Spanish, Italian, German, Russian,
Arabic, and, to a considerable extent, in Japanese.
"In 1883 I was sent to Berlin as Military Attache, but was subsequently
recalled because I had violated the rules of international etiquette by
fighting three duels with German officers. The Ambassador at this time
was Charles de Courcel. You will understand that there was no disgrace
connected with my recall, but the necessity of defending my honor was
incompatible with the rules of the service, and after fifteen months in
Berlin I was remanded to Versailles with the rank of First Lieutenant,
under Colonel Quinivet. Here I pursued my studies and was then ordered
to the Soudan, whence, after being wounded, I was sent to Senegal. Here
I acted as Governor of the City of St. Louis. As you are doubtless
aware, the climate of Senegal is exceedingly unhealthy. I fell ill with
a fever and was obliged to return to France where I was assigned to the
office of the General Staff Major in Paris. At the opening of the war
with Dahomey in 1892, I was sent in command of the Engineers of the
Corps Expeditional, and on the 17th of November of that year was
severely wounded at Dakar in Dahomey, having received a spear cut
through the lungs. On this occasion I had the distinction of being
promoted as Major of Engineers and was created an Officer of the Legion
of Honor on the battle field. The wound in my lungs was of such a
serious character that Colonel Dodds sent me back once more to France on
furlough, and President Carnot was kind enough to give me his personal
commendation for my services.
"I was now thirty-three years old and had already attained high rank in
my profession. I had had opportunity to pursue studies in chemistry,
medicine and science, and my only interest was in the service of my
country and in qualifying myself for my future duties. My life up to
that time had been uniformly happy; I was the eldest son and beloved
both of my father and mother. My social position gave me the entree to
the best of society wherever I happened to be. As yet, however, I had
never been in love. At this time occurred the affair which in a measure
changed my career. The wound in my lungs was slow in healing, and at the
earnest invitation of my sister, Lady Londonderry, I went to London. At
that time she was living in Belgravia Square. It was here I met my first
De Nevers paused. The cigarette had gone out. For the first time he
seemed to lose perfect control of himself. I busied myself with some
papers until he should have regained his self possession.
"You will understand," he said in a few moments, "these things are not
governed by law and statute. The woman with whom I fell in love and who
was in every respect the equal in intellectual attainments, beauty and
charm of manner of my own people, was the nursery governess in my
sister's household. She returned my affection and agreed to marry me.
The proposed marriage excited the utmost antipathy on the part of my
family; my fiancee was dismissed from my sister's household, and I
returned to Paris with the intention of endeavoring by every means in my
power to induce my father to permit me to wed the woman I loved. It is
doubtless difficult for M'sieu' to appreciate the position of a French
officer. In America--Ah--America is free, one can marry the woman one
loves, but in France no officer can marry without the consent of the
Minister of War and of the President of the Republic; and more than that
he cannot marry unless his intended wife possesses a dowry of at least
fifty thousand francs which must be deposited with the Minister of War
"In spite of the fact that I enjoyed the confidence and friendship of
President Carnot the latter, at my father's request, refused me
permission to marry. There was no choice left for me but to resign my
commission, and this I did. I returned to England and was married at St.
Thomas's Church, London, on the 21st of June, 1893.
"My education as an engineer had been of the most highly technical and
thorough character, and I had every reason to believe that in America I
could earn a comfortable living. My wife and I, therefore, sailed for
America immediately after our marriage. I first secured a position in
some iron works in South Boston, and for a time lived happily. A boy,
Oscar, named after my father, was born to us while we were living in the
town of Winchester near Boston. Another son was born a year later in the
same place, and still a third in Pittsburgh, where I had gone to assume
the position of general foreman of the Homestead Steel Works and
assistant master mechanic of the Carnegie Steel Company. I rapidly
secured the confidence of my employers and was sent upon several
occasions to study new processes in different parts of the country.
During one of my vacations we returned to England and visited my wife's
people, who lived in Manchester; here she died on the 17th of June,
De Nevers paused again and it was some moments before he continued.
"After the death of my wife my father expressed himself as ready for a
reconciliation, but although this took place I had not the heart to
remain in France. I liked America and had attained distinction in my
profession. I therefore expressed my intention of returning to continue
my career as an engineer, but at the earnest solicitation of my father,
left my three children with my parents. They are now living at the
chateau of my mother at Nievre.
"I was sent to Chicago to study a new blast furnace, and two years
later, when Mr. Schwab organized the Russo-American Company at
Mariopool, South Siberia, he offered me the position of general manager,
which I accepted. Here I remained until November, 1904, when all the
American engineers were arrested and imprisoned on the order of General
Kozoubsky of the Russian Engineers, who at the same time shot and
murdered my assistant, Thomas D. McDonald, for refusing to allow him to
remove pig iron from the storehouse without giving a receipt for it.
Ambassador McCormick secured our immediate release, and we returned to
the States. M'sieu' has no idea of the power of these Russian officers.
The murder of my assistant was of the most brutal character. Kozoubsky
came to my office and demanded the iron, but having secured it, refused
to sign the receipt which McDonald presented to him. McDonald said: 'You
shall not remove the iron if you do not sign the receipt.' As he spoke
the words the General drew his revolver and shot him down like a dog.
"I returned to America in January, 1905, and have since then been doing
work as a consulting engineer. Last January I visited my parents in
Paris at their home at 148 Champs Elysee. You have doubtless seen the
mansion with its two gates and black railing of decorative iron. I had
no sooner returned to America than I received a cable announcing the
death of my father."
De Nevers removed from his breast pocket a bundle of carefully folded
papers from which he produced a sheet of heavy stationery with a deep
border of mourning and a large black cross at the top, of which the
following is a copy:
MM. Her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Nevers; his Grace the Duke
Charles J. F. of Nevers and his children Oscar, Hilda and John;
their Highnesses the Prince and Princess Henry of Aremberg; Captain
the Count Andre of Nevers; Captain the Count Fernand of Nevers; the
Earl and Countess of Kilkenny; the Marquis and Marchioness of
Londonderry; the Earl and Countess of Dudley; the Countess Marie of
Nevers; Lieutenant the Count Marcel of Nevers have the sorrow to
announce the subite death at the family seat at Nevers (France), of
His Grace Oscar Odon, Duke of Nevers, Grand Commander of the Legion
of Honor, Knight of the Garter. Their husband, father, grandfather
and uncle beloved.
Masonic burial shall take place at Nevers on Tuesday, February 21,
New York, February 20, 1905.
U. S. A.
The announcement was carefully engraved and was of an expensive
character, and I read it with considerable interest.
"Does M'sieu' care to see the photographs of my family? Here," producing
a photograph of a gentleman and lady and a group of children, "is my
wife with the three children, taken in London just before she died."
Another group, bearing the trade-mark of a Parisian photographer,
exhibited a distinguished looking man surrounded by a group of many
children of varying ages.
"These," said De Nevers, "are my father and my brothers and sisters."
Then came photographs of Lady Londonderry and the Earl and Countess of
Dudley. My interest in my visitor's story had for the moment completely
driven from my mind the real object of the interview, which, ostensibly,
was to explain the reason for his incarceration. His straightforward
narrative carried absolute conviction with it; that he was the
legitimate Duc de Nevers I accepted without hesitation; that he was a
man of education, culture and many accomplishments, was self evident.
"You have had an extraordinary career," I ventured.
"Yes," he replied, "it has been a life of action and I may say of
suffering. Permit me to show you the certificate of my general that what
I have told you is accurate."
And De Nevers unfolded from his pocket a document, bearing a seal of the
French Ministry of War, which read as follows:
MINISTERE DE LA GUERRE
CABINET DU MINISTERE
PARIS, _October 24, 1901._
_To Whom It May Concern_:
I, George Andre, General of Division of Engineers, Minister of War
of the French Republic, certify that the Lieutenant Colonel Charles
Jules Comte Francois de Nevers, is connected with the French Army,
since the 10th day of September, 1877, and that the following is a
true copy of his record:
Born in Paris the 10th of June, 1859.
Graduated, Bachelor of Sciences and of Letters, from the Lycee,
Louis le Grand, the 5th of August, 1877.
Received first as Chief of Promotion of the National Polytechnic
School of France, the 10th of September, 1877.
Graduated with the greatest distinction from the above school the
1st of September, 1879.
Entered at the Application School of Military Engineers at
Fontainebleau as Second Lieutenant, Chief of Promotion the 15th of
Graduated as Lieutenant of Engineers with great distinction, the 1st
of August, 1881, and sent to the First Regiment of Engineers at
Sent to Tonkin the 1st day of August, 1881.
Wounded at Yung Chuang (Tonkin) the 7th of November, 1881.
Inscribed on the Golden Book of the French Army the 10th of
Made Knight of the Legion of Honor the 10th of November, 1881.
Wounded at Suai Sing the 4th of January, 1882.
Sent to Switzerland in Mission where he was graduated at the Zurich
Polytechnic University as Mechanical Engineer, 1884.
Sent the 2nd of January, 1885, to Soudan.
Wounded there twice.
Made Captain of Engineers the 3rd of June, 1885.
Called back to France the 6th of September, 1885, sent in Mission in
Belgium, where he was graduated as Electrical Engineer from the
Montefiore University at Liege. Made officer of Academy.
Sent in Gabon, the 2nd of May, 1887. Wounded twice. Constructed
there the Military Railroad.
Sent to Senegal as Commander the 6th of July, 1888, to organize
administration. Wounded once.
Called back and sent to Germany the 7th of December, 1889.
Called back from Germany and assigned to the Creusot as Assistant
Sent to Dahomey, the 1st of January, 1891. Wounded the 19th of
November, 1892, at Dahomey. Made Major of Engineers on the battle
field. Made Officer of the Legion of Honor, on the battle field.
By special decision of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives
the name of Commandant Charles Jules Comte Francois de Nevers is
embroidered the 21st of November, on the flag of the Regiment of
Called back and sent to Algeria, the 3rd of January, 1893.
Made Ordinance of the President Carnot, the 5th of February, 1893.
Sent to the Creusot the 1st of July, 1893, as director.
Sent to Madagascar the 2nd of April, 1894, in command of the
Wounded the 12th of July, 1894, at Majungua.
Made Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers the 12th of July, 1894, on the
Proposed as Commander of the Legion of Honor on the same date.
Called back and sent as Ordinance Officer of the General in Chief in
Command in Algeria, the 4th of March, 1896.
Sent to America in special mission to the Klondike the 7th of July,
Put on disponsibility _Hors Cadre_ on his demand the 1st of
Made Honorary Member of the National Defences. Commissioned the 28th
of January, 1898.
Made Honorary Member of the Commission on Railroads, Canals, and
Harbors, the 7th of July, 1899.
Made Honorary Member of the Commission on Bridges and Highways the
14th of July, 1900.
Made Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences, the 14th of
Made Commander of the Legion of Honor the 22nd of October, 1901.
I will say further that the Lieutenant Colonel Charles Jules Comte
Francois de Nevers, is regarded as one of our best and most loyal
officers, that he has the good will and best wishes of the
government and of all his fellow officers, and is considered by
everybody as a great worker and a thoroughly honest man. I
personally will be pleased to do anything in my power to help him in
any business he may undertake, and can recommend him to everybody as
a responsible and trustworthy Engineer, knowing him for the last
_Minister of War_.
The document seemed in substance merely a repetition of what De Nevers
had already told me, and I handed it back to him satisfied of its
correctness. But public business is public business, and if the Duc de
Nevers had anything to communicate to me in my official character it was
time for him to do so.
"Well, Duke," said I, not knowing very well how otherwise to address
him, "do you desire to communicate anything to me in connection with
your present detention in the Tombs?"
"Ah," he said with a gesture of deprecation, "I can hardly understand
that myself. Perhaps M'sieu' has the papers? Ah, yes, I see they are on
his desk. M'sieu' will observe that I am accused of the crime of--what
is it called in English? Ah, yes, perjury, but I assure M'sieu' that it
is entirely a mistake."
I picked up the indictment and found that the Grand Jury of the County
of New York accused one Charles de Nevers of the crime of perjury
committed as follows:
That one William Douglas having been arrested by William W.
Crawford, a member of the Police force of the City of New York, upon
the charge of having violated the motor vehicle law of the State of
New York [ordinance against speeding] he, the said Charles de
Nevers, had then and there offered himself to go bail for the said
Douglas, and did sign a certain written undertaking called a bond
for the appearance of the said Douglas before the Magistrate,
wherein he swore that he owned a certain house and lot situate at
122 West 117th Street, in the County of New York, which was free and
clear of all incumbrances and of the value of not less than twenty
Whereas in truth and in fact he the said Charles de Nevers did not
own the said house and lot which did not then and there stand in the
name of him the said Charles de Nevers, but was the property of one
Helen M. Bent, and so recorded in the Registry of Deeds.
Which, said the grand jury, Charles de Nevers then and there well knew.
And so they accused him of feloniously, knowingly, wilfully, corruptly,
and falsely committing the crime of perjury against the form of the
statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace of the
People of the State of New York and their dignity.
And this they did over the signature of William Travers Jerome, District
"How did this happen?" I inquired, hardly believing my senses. "Was it a
fact that you made this false statement to the Police for the purpose of
securing bail for Mr. Douglas?"
De Nevers leaned forward and was about to answer when a messenger
entered the room and stated that I was wanted in the court.
"Another time, if M'sieu' will permit me," said he. "I have much to
thank you for. If M'sieu' will give me another hearing it shall be my
pleasure to explain fully."
I rose and summoned the keeper. De Nevers bowed and offered his hand,
which I took.
"I have much to thank you for!" he repeated.
As I hurried out of the room I encountered the keeper outside the door.
"Say, Counsellor, what sort of a 'con' was he throwin' into you?" he
inquired with a wink.
De Nevers was well inside my office, looking drearily out of my window
towards the courtyard in the Tombs where his fellows were still pursuing
their weary march.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Why, who did his nibs tell you he was?"
"The Duc de Nevers," I replied.
"Say," said O'Toole, "you don't mean you swallowed that, do you? Do you
know what the feller did? Why, one afternoon when a swell guy and his
girl were out in their gas wagon a mounted cop in the park pulls them in
and takes them over to the 57th Street Court. Well, just as me friend is
taking them into the house along walks this Charley Nevers wid his tall
silk hat and pearl handle cane, wid a flower in his buttonhole, and his
black coat tails dangling around his heels, just like Boni de
Castellane, and says he, 'Officer,' says he, 'may I inquire what for
you're apprehending this gentleman and lady?' says he. With that me
friend hands him out some strong language for buttin' in, and Charley is
so much shocked at the insult to himself and the lady that he steps in
before the Sergeant and offers to go bond for Douglas, just to go the
cop one better, givin' the Sergeant the same line of drip that he has
been handin' out to us in the Tombs, about his bein' the son of Oscar,
the Duc de Nevers, and related to all the crowned heads in Europe. Then
he ups and signs the bail bond for a house and lot that he has never
seen in his life. And here he is up agin it. An' it's a good stiff one
His Honor will be handin' out to him to my way of thinkin', for these
high fallutin' foreigners has got to be put a stop to, and Charley
Nevers is a good one to begin on."
"I think you're wrong, O'Toole," said I. "But we can tell better later
All that day my thoughts kept reverting to the Duc de Nevers. One thing
was more than certain and that was that of all the various personages
whom I had met during my journey through the world none was more fitted
to be a duke than he. I was obliged to confess that during my hour's
interview I had felt myself to be in the company of a superior being,
one of different clay from that of which I was composed, a man of better
brain, and better education, vastly more rounded and experienced, a
cultivated citizen of the world, who would be at home in any company no
matter how distinguished and who would rise to any emergency. As I ate
my dinner at the club the name De Nevers played mistily in the recesses
of my memory. _De Nevers_! Surely there was something historic about it,
some flavor of the days of kings and courtiers. Smoking my cigar in the
library I fell into a reverie in which the Tombs, with its towers and
grated windows, figured as a gray chateau of old Tourraine, and Charles
Julius Francis in hunting costume as a mediaeval monseigneur with a
hooded falcon on his wrist. I awoke to find directly in my line of
vision upon the shelf of the alcove in front of me the solid phalanx of
the ten volumes of Larousse's "Grand Dictionaire Universe du XIX
Siecle," and I reached forward and pulled down the letter "N."
"Nevers"--there it was--"Capitol of the Department of Nievre. Ducal
palace built in 1475. Charles III de Gonzagne, petit-fils de Charles
II," had sold the duchy of Nevers and his other domains in France to
Cardinal Mazarin "par acte du Jul. 11, 1659." So far so good. The
cardinal had left the duchy by will to Philippe Jules Francois Mancini,
his nephew, who had died May 8, 1707. Ah! _Julius Francis_! It was like
meeting an old friend. Philippe Jules Francois Mancini. Mazarin had
obtained letters confirming him in the possession of the Duchy of
Nivernais and Donzois in 1720. Then he had died in 1768, leaving the
duchy to Louis Jules Barbon Mancini-Mozarini. This son who was the last
Duc of Nivernais, had died in 1798! "He was the last of the name," said
Larousse. I rubbed my eyes. It was there fast enough--"last of the
name." Something was wrong. Without getting up I rang for a copy of
"Londonderry, Marquess of, married Oct. 2nd, 1875, Lady Theresa Susey
Helen, Lady of Grace of St. John of Jerusalem, eldest daughter of the
19th Earl of Shrewsbury." Dear me! "Dudley, Earl of, married September
14, 1891, Rachael, Lady of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem,
youngest daughter of Charles Henry Gurney." I closed the book and began
to think, and the more I thought the more I wondered. There really
didn't seem particular need of going further. If the fellow was a fraud,
he was a fraud, that was all. But how in Heaven's name could a man make
up a story like that! That night I dreamed once more of the ducal palace
of Nivernais, only its courtyard resembled that of the Tombs and many
couples walked in a straggling line beneath its walls.
A day or two passed and I had heard no more of the Duc Charles Julius
when one afternoon a lady called at my office and sent in her name as
Mrs. de Nevers. She proved to be an attractive young woman a little over
twenty, dressed in black, whose face showed that she had suffered more
than a little. She explained that her husband was confined in the Tombs
on a charge of perjury. But that was not all--he was worse than a
perjurer. He was an impostor--_a bigamist_. He had another wife living
somewhere in England--in Manchester, she thought. Oh, it was too
terrible. He had told her that he was the Count Charles de Nevers,
eldest son of the Duc de Nevers--in France, you know. And she had
believed him. He had had letters to everybody in Montreal, her home, and
plenty of money and beautiful clothes. He had dazzled her completely.
The wedding had been quite an affair and presents had come from the Duke
and Duchess of Nevers, from the Marchioness of Londonderry and from the
Countess of Dudley. There were also letters from the Prince and Princess
of Aremberg (in Belgium) and the Counts Andre and Fernand of Nevers. It
had all been so wonderful and romantic! Then they had gone on their
wedding journey and had been ecstatically happy. In Chicago, they had
been received with open arms. That was before the death of the
Duke--yes, her mourning was for the Duke. She smiled sadly. I think she
still more than half believed that she was a duchess--and she deserved
to be if ever any girl did. Then all of a sudden their money had given
out and the Duke had been arrested for not paying their hotel bill.
Perhaps I would like to see a newspaper clipping? It was dreadful! She
was ashamed to be seen anywhere after that. She had even been obliged to
pawn his cross of the Legion of Honor, the Leopold Cross of Belgium, and
another beautiful decoration which he had been accustomed to wear when
they went out to dinner. This was the clipping:
CHICAGO SOCIETY THE DUPE OF BOGUS COUNT
HOTEL AND SEVERAL WHILOM FRIENDS FILLED WITH REGRET--THE "COUNT"
Chicago, Jan. 29.--"Count Charles Julius Francois de Nevers" was in
the Police court to-day for defrauding the Auditorium Annex of a
board bill. The Count came to the French Consul, M. Henri Meron,
amply supplied with credentials. He posed as Consulting Engineer of
the United States Steel Corporation. He was introduced into all the
clubs, including the Alliance Francaise, where he was entertained
and spoke on literature.
He was accompanied by a charming young "Countess," and the honors
showered upon them and the adulation paid by society tuft-hunters
was something they will never forget.
They returned the entertainments. The Count borrowed several
President Furber, of the Olympic Games, said to-day of the "Count:"
"This man confided to me that he had invented a machine for
perpetual motion, the chief difficulty of which was that it
accumulated energy so fast that it could not be controlled. He asked
me to invest in some of his schemes, which I refused to do."
The fate of the Count is still pending and he was led back to a
cell. He has been a week behind the bars. The "Countess" is in
"The Countess is me," she explained.
"Was he sent to prison?" I asked.
"Oh, no," she answered. "You see they really couldn't tell whether he
was a Count or not, so they had to let him go."
"He ought to be hung!" I cried.
"I really think he ought," she answered. "You see it is quite
embarrassing, because legally I have never been married at all, have I?"
"I don't know," I answered, lying like a gentleman. "Time enough to look
that up later."
"I found out afterwards," she said, apparently somewhat encouraged,
"that his first wife was a nurse maid in London."
"Yes," said I, "he told me so himself."
Just then there came a knock at my door and O'Toole appeared.
"How are you, Counsellor," he said with a grin. "You know Charley
Nevers, well, av all the pious frauds! Say, Counsellor, ain't he the
cute feller! What do you suppose, now? I got his record to-day. Cast yer
eye over it."
I did. This is it:
No. B 7721
The Central Office,
Bureau of Detectives,
Police Department of the City of New York,
300 Mulberry Street.
Alias.......................Count de Nevers
Date of Arrest..............1903
Place of Arrest.............London, England
Cause of Arrest.............False Pretenses
Name of Court...............Sessions
To what Prison..............Penal Servitude
Term of Imprisonment........Eighteen months.
REMARKS: Fraudulently obtained motor-car in London under pretense
that he was Charles Duke de Nevers, son of Oscar, Prince de Nevers."
"So he's an ex-convict!" I exclaimed.
"He's more than that!" cried O'Toole. "He's a bir-rd!"
I turned to Mrs. de Nevers or whoever she legally was.
"How did he come to do such a foolish thing as to offer to go on the
bail bond of a perfect stranger? What good could it do him? He was sure
to be caught."
"I don't know," said she. "He was always doing things like that. He
wanted to seem fine and grand, I guess. We always travelled in style.
Why, the afternoon he signed the bond he came home and told me how the
police had been troubling a gentleman who had a lady with him in an
automobile and how he was able to settle the whole affair without the
slightest difficulty and send them on their way. He was quite pleased
"But why do you suppose be did it?"
"He just thought he'd do 'em a favor," suggested O'Toole, "and in that
way get in wid 'em an' take their money later, mebbe!"
"Who is he? Do you know?" I asked the girl.
"I haven't the vaguest idea!" she sighed.
A week later Charles Julius Francis stood at the bar of justice
convicted of perjury. His degradation had wrought no change in the
dignity of his bearing or the impassiveness of his general appearance,
and he received the sentence of the Court without a tremor, and with
shoulders thrown back and head erect as befitted a scion of a noble
"There's just one thing for me to do with you, Charles Francis," said
the Judge rudely, "And that is to send you to State Prison for a term of
five years at hard labor."
Francis made no sign.
"There is one other thing I should like to know, however," continued His
Honor, "And that is who you really are."
The prisoner bowed slightly.
"I am Charles Julius Francis," he replied quietly, "Duc de Nevers, and
Commander of the Legion of Honor."
A Finder of Missing Heirs
The professional prosecutor is continually surprised at the
insignificant amount of crime existing in comparison with the
extraordinary scope of criminal opportunity. To be sure, the number of
crimes actually detected is infinitesimal as contrasted with those
committed, but even so the conviction constantly grows that the world is
astonishingly honest when one considers the unlikelihood that any
specific prospective offence will be discovered. How few dishonest
servants there are, for example, out of the million or so composing that
class of persons who have an unlimited opportunity to snap up not only
unconsidered trifles, but personal property of great value. The actual
honesty of the servants is probably greater than that of the masters--in
the final analysis.
Men are not only "presumed to be innocent" in the eyes of the law, but
are found to be so, as a matter of daily experience, so far as honesty
in the ordinary affairs of life is concerned, and the fact that we rely
so implicitly upon the truthfulness and integrity of our fellows is the
principal reason why violations of this imperative social law should be
severely dealt with. If it were possible adequately to determine or deal
with any such issue mere lying should be made a crime.
It is matter of constant wonder that shrewd business men will put
through all sorts of deals, when thousands of dollars are at stake,
relying entirely upon the word of some single person, whom they do not
in fact know. John Smith is looking for a house. He finds one he likes
with an old lady, who says her name is Sarah Jones, living in it, and
offers her forty thousand dollars for her real estate. She accepts. His
lawyer searches the title and finds that Sarah Jones is the owner of
record. The old lady is invited to the lawyer's office, executes a
warranty deed, and goes off with the forty thousand dollars. Now in a
great number of instances no one really knows whether the aged dame is
Sarah Jones or not; and she perhaps may be, and sometimes is, only the
caretaker's second cousin, who is looking after the house in the
There are thousands of acres of land and hundreds of millions of money
waiting at compound interest to be claimed by unknown heirs or next of
kin. Even if the real ones cannot be found one would think that this
defect could be easily supplied by some properly ingenious person.
"My Uncle Bill went to sea in '45 and was never heard from again. Will
you find out if he left any money?" wrote a client to the author.
Careful search failed to reveal any money. But if the money had been
found _first_ how easy it would have been to turn up a nephew! Yet the
industry of producing properly authenticated nephews, heirs, legatees,
next of kin and claimants of all sorts has never been adequately
developed. There are plenty of "agents" who for a moderate fee will
inform you whether or not there is a fortune waiting for you, but there
is no agency within the writer's knowledge which will supply an heir for
every fortune. From a business point of view the idea seems to have
Some few years after the Civil War a Swede named Ebbe Petersen emigrated
to this country to better his condition. Fortune smiled upon him and he
amassed a modest bank account, which, with considerable foresight, he
invested in a large tract of unimproved land in the region known as "The
Bronx," New York City.
In the summer of 1888 Petersen determined to take a vacation and revisit
Sweden, and accordingly deeded all his real estate to his wife. Just
before starting he decided to take his wife and only child, a little
girl of ten or twelve, with him. Accordingly they set sail from Hoboken
Saturday, August 11, upon the steamer _Geiser_, of the Thingvalla Line,
bound for Copenhagen. At four o'clock Tuesday morning, at a point thirty
miles south of Sable Island and two hundred miles out of Halifax, the
_Geiser_, in the midst of a thick fog, crashed suddenly into a sister
ship, the _Thingvalla_, of the same line, and sank. The _Thingvalla_ was
herself badly crippled, but, after picking up thirty-one survivors,
managed to limp into Halifax, from which port the rescued were brought
to New York. Only fourteen of the _Geiser's_ passengers had been saved
and the Petersens were not among them. They were never heard of again,
and no relatives came forward to claim their property, which, happening
to be in the direct line of the city's development, was in course of
time mapped out into streets and house lots and became exceedingly
valuable. Gradually houses were built upon it, various people bought it
for investment, and it took on the look of other semi-developed suburban
In the month of December, 1905, over seventeen years after the sinking
of the _Geiser_, a lawyer named H. Huffman Browne, offered to sell "at a
bargain" to a young architect named Benjamin Levitan two house lots
adjacent to the southwest corner of One Hundred and Seventy-fourth
Street and Monroe Avenue, New York City. It so happened that Browne had,
not long before, induced Levitan to go into another real-estate deal, in
which the architect's suspicions had been aroused by finding that the
property alleged by the lawyer to be "improved" was, in fact, unbuilt
upon. He had lost no money in the original transaction, but he
determined that no such mistake should occur a second time, and he
accordingly visited the property, and also had a search made of the
title, which revealed the fact that Browne was not the record owner, as
he had stated, but that, on the contrary, the land stood in the name of
"William R. Hubert."
It should be borne in mind that both the parties to this proposed
transaction were men well known in their own professions. Browne,
particularly, was a real-estate lawyer of some distinction, and an
editor of what were known as the old "New York Civil Procedure Reports."
He was a middle-aged man, careful in his dress, particular in his
speech, modest and quiet in his demeanor, by reputation a gentleman and
a scholar, and had practised at the New York bar some twenty-five years.
But Levitan, who had seen many wolves in sheep's clothing, and had
something of the Sherlock Holmes in his composition, determined to seek
the advice of the District Attorney, and having done so, received
instructions to go ahead and consummate the purchase of the property.
He, therefore, informed Browne that he had learned that the latter was
not the owner of record, to which Browne replied that that was true, but
that the property really did belong to him in fact, being recorded in
Hubert's name merely as a matter of convenience (because Hubert was
unmarried), and that, moreover, he, Browne, had an unrecorded deed from
Hubert to himself, which he would produce, or would introduce Hubert to
Levitan and let him execute a deed direct. Levitan assented to the
latter proposition, and the fourteenth of December, 1905, was fixed as
the date for the delivery of the deeds and the payment for the property.
At two o'clock in the afternoon of that day Browne appeared at Levitan's
office (where a detective was already in attendance) and stated that he
had been unable to procure Mr. Hubert's personal presence, but had
received from him deeds, duly executed, to the property. These he
offered to Levitan. At this moment the detective stepped forward, took
possession of the papers, and invited the lawyer to accompany him to the
District Attorney's office. To this Browne offered no opposition, and
the party adjourned to the Criminal Courts Building, where Mr. John W.
Hart, an Assistant District Attorney, accused him of having obtained
money from Levitan by means of false pretences as to the ownership of
the property, and requested from him an explanation. Browne replied
without hesitation that he could not understand why this charge should
be made against him; that he had, in fact, received the deeds from Mr.
Hubert only a short time before he had delivered them to Levitan; that
Mr. Hubert was in New York; that he was the owner of the property, and
that no fraud of any sort had been attempted or intended.
Mr. Hart now examined the supposed deeds and found that the signatures
to them, as well as the signatures to a certain affidavit of title,
which set forth that William R. Hubert was a person of substance, had
all been executed before a notary, Ella F. Braman, on that very day. He
therefore sent at once for Mrs. Braman who, upon her arrival,
immediately and without hesitation, positively identified the defendant,
H. Huffman Browne, as the person who had executed the papers before her
an hour or so before. The case on its face seemed clear enough. Browne
had apparently deliberately forged William R. Hubert's name, and it did
not even seem necessary that Mr. Hubert should be summoned as a witness,
since the property was recorded in his name, and Browne himself had
stated that Hubert was then actually in New York.
But Browne indignantly protested his innocence. It was clear, he
insisted, that Mrs. Braman was mistaken, for why, in the name of
common-sense, should he, a lawyer of standing, desire to forge Hubert's
name, particularly when he himself held an unrecorded deed of the same
property, and could have executed a good conveyance to Levitan had the
latter so desired. Such a performance would have been utterly without an
object. But the lawyer was nervous, and his description of Hubert as "a
wealthy mine owner from the West, who owned a great deal of property in
New York, and had an office in the Flatiron Building," did not ring
convincingly in Mr. Hart's ears. The Assistant District Attorney called
up the janitor of the building in question on the telephone. But no such
person had an office there. Browne, much flustered, said the janitor was
either a fool or a liar. He had been at Hubert's office that very
morning. He offered to go and find him in twenty minutes. But Mr. Hart
thought that the lawyer had better make his explanation before a
magistrate, and caused his arrest and commitment on a charge of forgery.
Little did he suspect what an ingenious fraud was about to be unearthed.
The days went by and Browne stayed in the Tombs, unable to raise the
heavy bail demanded, but no Hubert appeared. Meantime the writer, to
whom the case had been sent for trial, ordered a complete search of the
title to the property, and in a week or so became possessed, to his
amazement, of a most extraordinary and complicated collection of facts.
He discovered that the lot of land offered by Browne to Levitan, and
standing in Hubert's name, was originally part of the property owned by
Ebbe Petersen, the unfortunate Swede who, with his family, had perished
in the _Geiser_ off Cape Sable in 1888.
The title search showed that practically all of the Petersen property
had been conveyed by Mary A. Petersen to a person named Ignatius F. X.
O'Rourke, by a deed, which purported to have been executed on June 27,
1888, about two weeks before the Petersens sailed for Copenhagen, and
which was signed with Mrs. Petersen's mark, but that this deed had not
been recorded until July 3, 1899, _eleven years_ after the loss of the
The writer busied himself with finding some one who had known Mrs.
Petersen, and by an odd coincidence discovered a woman living in the
Bronx who had been an intimate friend and playmate of the little
Petersen girl. This witness, who was but a child when the incident had
occurred, clearly recalled the fact that Ebbe Petersen had not decided
to take his wife and daughter with him on the voyage until a few days
before they sailed. They had then invited her, the witness--now a Mrs.
Cantwell--to go with them, but her mother had declined to allow her to
do so. Mrs. Petersen, moreover, according to Mrs. Cantwell, was a woman
of education, who wrote a particularly fine hand. Other papers were
discovered executed at about the same time, signed by Mrs. Petersen with
her full name. It seemed inconceivable that she should have signed any
deed, much less one of so much importance, with her _mark_, and,
moreover, that she should have executed any such deed at all when her
husband was on the spot to convey his own property.
But the strangest fact of all was that the attesting witness to this
extraordinary instrument was H. Huffman Browne! It also appeared to have
been recorded _at his instance_ eleven years after its execution.
In the meantime, however, that is to say, between the sinking of the
_Geiser_ in '88 and the recording of Mary Petersen's supposed deed in
'99, another _equally mysterious_ deed to the same property had been
filed. This document, executed and recorded in 1896, purported to convey
part of the Petersen property to a man named John J. Keilly, and was
signed by a person calling himself Charles A. Clark. By a later deed,
executed and signed a few days later, John J. Keilly appeared to have
conveyed the same property to Ignatius F. X. O'Rourke, the very person
to whom Mrs. Petersen had apparently executed her deed in 1888. And H.
Huffman Browne was the attesting witness to both these deeds!
A glance at the following diagram will serve to clear up any confusion
which may exist in the mind of the reader:
[Sidenote: (Not Recorded until 1899)]
1888 MARY A. PETERSEN 1896 CHARLES A. CLARK
by her (X) deed conveys _same property_
conveys to to
I.F.X. O'ROURKE JOHN J. KEILLY.
| 1896 JOHN J. KEILLY
| conveys to
| I.F.X. O'ROURKE
O'ROURKE thus holds land through two sources.
Browne was the witness to both these parallel transactions! Of course it
was simple enough to see what had occurred. In 1896 a mysterious man,
named Clark, without vestige of right or title, so far as the records
showed, had conveyed Ebbe Petersen's property to a man named Keilly,
equally unsubstantial, who had passed it over to one O'Rourke. Then
Browne had suddenly recorded Mrs. Petersen's deed giving O'Rourke the
very same property. Thus this O'Rourke, whoever he may have been, held
all the Petersen property by two chains of title, one through Clark and
Keilly, and the other through Mrs. Petersen. Then he had gone ahead and
deeded it all away to various persons, through one of whom William R.
Hubert had secured his title. But every deed on record which purported
to pass any fraction of the Petersen property was witnessed by H.
Huffman Browne! And Browne was the attesting witness to the deed under
which Hubert purported to hold. Thus the chain of title, at the end of
which Levitan found himself, ran back to Mary Petersen, with H. Huffman
Browne peering behind the arras of every signature.
MARY PETERSEN CLARK BROWNE,
to to attesting witness.
| KEILLY BROWNE,
| to attesting witness.
to attesting witness.
WILLIAM P. COLLITON
WILLIAM P. COLLITON
JOHN GARRETSON attesting witness.
HERMAN BOLTE attesting witness.
BENJ. FREEMAN attesting witness.
WILLIAM R. HUBERT attesting witness.
The Assistant District Attorney rubbed his forehead and wondered who in
thunder all these people were. Who, for example, to begin at the
beginning, was Charles A. Clark, and why should he be deeding away Ebbe
Petersen's property? And who were Keilly and O'Rourke, and all the
rest--Colliton, Garretson, Bolte and Freeman? And who, for that matter,
A score of detectives were sent out to hunt up these elusive persons,
but, although the directories of twenty years were searched, no Charles
A. Clark, John J. Keilly or I. F. X. O'Rourke could be discovered. Nor
could any one named Colliton, Freeman or Hubert be found. The only
persons who did appear to exist were Garretson and Bolte.
Quite by chance the Assistant District Attorney located the former of
these, who proved to be one of Browne's clients, and who stated that he
had taken title to the property at the lawyer's request and as a favor
to him, did not remember from whom he had received it, had paid nothing
for it, received nothing for it, and had finally deeded it to Herman
Bolte at the direction of Browne. Herman Bolte, an ex-judge of the
Municipal Court, who had been removed for misconduct in office, admitted
grumblingly that, while at, one time he had considered purchasing the
property in question, he had never actually done so, that the deed from
Garretson to himself had been recorded without his knowledge or his
authority, that he had paid nothing for the property and had received
nothing for it, and had, at the instruction of Browne, conveyed it to
Benjamin Freeman. Garretson apparently had never seen Bolte, and Bolte
had never seen Freeman, while William R. Hubert, the person to whom the
record showed Freeman had transferred the property, remained an
invisible figure, impossible to reduce to tangibility.
Just what Browne had attempted to do--had done--was obvious. In some
way, being a real-estate lawyer, he had stumbled upon the fact that this
valuable tract of land lay unclaimed. Accordingly, he had set about the
easiest way to reduce it to possession. To make assurance doubly sure
he had forged two chains of title, one through an assumed heir and the
other through the owner herself. Then he had juggled the title through a
dozen or so grantees, and stood ready to dispose of the property to the
There he stayed in the Tombs, demanding a trial and protesting his
innocence, and asserting that if the District Attorney would only look
long enough he would find William R. Hubert. But an interesting question
of law had cropped up to delay matters.
Of course, if there was anybody by the name of Hubert who actually owned
the property, and Browne had signed his name, conveying the same, to a
deed to Levitan, Browne was guilty of forgery in the first degree. But
the evidence in the case pointed toward the conclusion that Browne
himself _was_ Hubert. If this was so, how could Browne be said to have
forged the name of Hubert, when he had a perfect legal right to take the
property under any name he chose to assume? This was incontestable. If
your name be Richard Roe you may purchase land and receive title thereto
under the name of John Doe, and convey it under that name without
violating the law. This as a general proposition is true so long as the
taking of a fictitious name is for an honest purpose and not tainted
with fraud. The Assistant District Attorney felt that the very strength
of his case created, as it were, a sort of "legal weakness," for the
more evidence he should put in against Browne, the clearer it would
become that Hubert was merely Browne himself, and this would necessitate
additional proof that Browne had taken the property in the name of
Hubert for purposes of fraud, which could only be established by going
into the whole history of the property. Of course, if Browne were so
foolish as to put in the defence that Hubert really existed, the case
would be plain sailing. If, however, Browne was as astute as the
District Attorney believed him to be, he might boldly admit that there
was no Hubert except himself, and that in taking title to the property
and disposing thereof under that name, he was committing no violation of
law for which he could be prosecuted.
The case was moved for trial on the twelfth of March, 1906, before Judge
Warren W. Foster, in Part Three of the Court of General Sessions in New
York. The defendant was arraigned at the bar without counsel, owing to
the absence of his lawyer through sickness, and Mr. Lewis Stuyvesant
Chanler, the later Lieutenant-Governor of the State, was assigned to
defend him. At this juncture Browne arose and addressed the Court. In
the most deferential and conciliatory manner he urged that he was
entitled to an adjournment until such time as he could produce William
R. Hubert as a witness; stating that, although the latter had been in
town on December 14th, and had personally given him the deeds in
question, which he had handed to Levitan, Hubert's interests in the West
had immediately called him from the city, and that he was then in
Goldfields, Nevada; that since he had been in the Tombs he, Browne, had
been in correspondence with a gentleman by the name of Alfred Skeels, of
the Teller House, Central City, Colorado, from whom he had received a
letter within the week to the effect that Hubert had arranged to start
immediately for New York, for the purpose of testifying as a witness for
the defence. The prosecutor thereupon demanded the production of this
letter from the alleged Skeels, and Browne was compelled to state that
he had immediately destroyed it on its receipt. The prosecutor then
argued that under those circumstances, and in view of the fact that the
People's evidence showed conclusively that no such person as Hubert
existed, there was no reason why the trial should not proceed then and
there. The Court thereupon ruled that the case should go on.
A jury was procured after some difficulty, and the evidence of Mr.
Levitan received, showing that Browne had represented Hubert to be a man
of substance, and had produced an affidavit, purported to be sworn to
by Hubert, to the same effect, with deeds alleged to have been signed by
him. Mrs. Braman then swore that upon the same day Browne had himself
acknowledged these very deeds and had sworn to the affidavit before her
as a notary, under the name of William R. Hubert.
Taken with the fact that Browne had in open court stated that Hubert was
a living man, this made out a _prima facie_ case. But, of course, the
District Attorney was unable to determine whether or not Browne would
take the stand in his own behalf, or what his defence would be, and, in
order to make assurance doubly sure, offered in evidence all the deeds
to the property in question, thereby establishing the fact that it was
originally part of the Petersen estate, and disclosing the means whereby
it had eventually been recorded in the name of Hubert.
The prosecution then rested its case, and the burden shifted to the
defence to explain how all these deeds, attested by Browne, came to be
executed and recorded. It was indeed a difficult, if not impossible,
task which the accused lawyer undertook when he went upon the stand. He
again positively and vehemently denied that he had signed the name of
Hubert to the deed which he had offered to Levitan, and persisted in
the contention that Hubert was a real man, who sooner or later would
turn up. He admitted knowing the Petersen family in a casual way, and
said he had done some business for them, but stated that he had not
heard of their tragic death until some years after the sinking of the
_Geiser_. He had then ascertained that no one had appeared to lay claim
to Mrs. Petersen's estate, and he had accordingly taken it upon himself
to adveritse for heirs. In due course Charles A. Clark had appeared and
had deeded the property to Keilly, who in turn had conveyed it to
O'Rourke. Just who this mysterious O'Rourke was he could not explain,
nor could he account in any satisfactory manner for the recording in
1899 of the deed signed with Mary Petersen's mark. He said that it had
"turned up" in O'Rourke's hands after O'Rourke had become possessed of
the property through the action of the heirs, and that he had no
recollection of ever having seen it before or having witnessed it. In
the latter transactions, by which the property had been split up, he
claimed to have acted only as attorney for the different grantors. He
was unable to give the address or business of O'Rourke, Clark, Keilly or
Freeman, and admitted that he had never seen any of them save at his own
office. He was equally vague as to Hubert, whose New York residence he
gave as 111 Fifth Avenue. No such person, however, had ever been known
at that address.
[Illustration: With the exception of the upper left hand signature and
the four immediately below it of H. Huffman Browne, these are all the
signatures of imaginary persons invented by Browne to further his
schemes. The upper right-hand slip shows the signatures to the Wilson
bond, among which appears that of W.R. Hubert.]
Browne gave his testimony in the same dry, polite and careful manner in
which he had always been accustomed to discuss his cases and deliver his
arguments. It seemed wholly impossible to believe that this
respectable-looking person could be a dangerous character, yet the
nature of his offence and the consequences of it were apparent when the
State called to the stand an old broom-maker, who had bought from Browne
one of the lots belonging to the Petersen estate. Holding up three
stumps where fingers should have been, he cried out, choking with tears:
"My vriends, for vifteen years I vorked at making brooms--me und my
vife--from fife in the morning until six at night, und I loose mine
fingern trying to save enough money to puy a house that we could call
our own. Then when we saved eight hundred dollars this man come to us
und sold us a lot. We were very happy. Yesterday anoder man served me
mit a paper that we must leave our house, because we did not own the
land! We must go away! Where? We haf no place to go. Our home is being
taken from us, und that man [pointing his stumps at Browne]--that man
has stolen it from us!"
He stopped, unable to speak. The defendant's lawyer properly objected,
but, with this piece of testimony ringing in their ears, it is hardly
surprising that the jury took but five minutes to convict Browne of
forgery in the first degree.
A few days later the judge sentenced him to twenty years in State's
Then other people began to wake up. The Attorney-General guessed that
the Petersen property had all escheated to the State, the Swedish
Government sent a deputy to make inquiries, the Norwegian Government was
sure that he was a Norwegian, and the Danish that he was a Dane. No one
knows yet who is the real owner, and there are half a dozen heirs
squatting on every corner of it. Things are much worse than before
Browne tried to sell the ill-fated lot to Levitan, but a great many
people who were careless before are careful now.
It soon developed, however, that lawyer Browne's industry and ingenuity
had not been confined to the exploitation of the estate of Ebbe
Petersen. Before the trial was well under way the City Chamberlain of
New York notified the District Attorney that a peculiar incident had
occurred at his office, in which not only the defendant figured, but
William R. Hubert, his familiar, as well. In the year 1904 a judgment
had been entered in the Supreme Court, which adjudged that a certain
George Wilson was entitled to a one-sixth interest in the estate of
Jane Elizabeth Barker, recently deceased. George Wilson had last been
heard of, twenty years before, as a farmhand, in Illinois, and his
whereabouts were at this time unknown. Suddenly, however, he had
appeared. That is to say, H. Huffman Browne had appeared as his
attorney, and demanded his share of the property which had been
deposited to his credit with the City Chamberlain and amounted to
seventy-five hundred dollars. The lawyer had presented a petition signed
apparently by Wilson and a bond also subscribed by him, to which had
been appended the names of certain sureties. One of these was a William
R. Hubert--the same William R. Hubert who had mysteriously disappeared
when his presence was so vital to the happiness and liberty of his
creator. But the City Chamberlain had not been on his guard, and had
paid over the seventy-five hundred dollars to Browne without ever having
seen the claimant or suspecting for an instant that all was not right.
It was further discovered at the same time that Browne had made several
other attempts to secure legacies remaining uncalled for in the city's
treasury. In how many cases he had been successful will probably never
be known, but it is unlikely that his criminal career dated only from
the filing of the forged Petersen deed in 1896.
Browne made an heroic and picturesque fight to secure a reversal of his
conviction through all the State courts, and his briefs and arguments
are monuments to his ingenuity and knowledge of the law. He alleged that
his conviction was entirely due to a misguided enthusiasm on the part of
the prosecutor, the present writer, whom he characterized as a
"novelist" and dreamer. The whole case, he alleged, was constructed out
of the latter's fanciful imagination, a cobweb of suspicion, accusation
and falsehood. Some day his friend Hubert would come out of the West,
into which he had so unfortunately disappeared, and release an innocent
man, sentenced, practically to death, because the case had fallen into
the hands of one whose sense of the dramatic was greater than his logic.
Perchance he will. Mayhap, when H. Huffman Browne is the oldest inmate
of Sing Sing, or even sooner, some gray-haired figure will appear at the
State Capitol, and knock tremblingly at the door of the Executive,
asking for a pardon or a rehearing of the case, and claiming to be the
only original, genuine William R. Hubert--such a denouement would not be
beyond the realms of possibility, but more likely the request will come
in the form of a petition, duly attested and authenticated before some
notary in the West, protesting against Browne's conviction and
incarceration, and bearing the flowing signature of William R.
Hubert--the same signature that appears on Browne's deeds to
Levitan--the same that is affixed to the bond of George Wilson, the
vanished farmhand, claimant to the estate of Jane Elizabeth Barker.
A Murder Conspiracy
William M. Rice, eighty-four years of age, died at the Berkshire
Apartments at 500 Madison Avenue, New York City, at about half after
seven o'clock on the evening of Sunday, September 23, 1900. He had been
ill for some time, but it was expected that he would recover. On or
about the moment of his death, two elderly ladies, friends of the old
gentleman, had called at the house with cakes and wine, to see him. The
elevator man rang the bell of Mr. Rice's apartment again and again, but
could elicit no response, and the ladies, much disappointed, went away.
While the bell was ringing Charles F. Jones, the confidential valet of
the aged man, was waiting, he says, in an adjoining room until a cone
saturated with chloroform, which he had placed over the face of his
sleeping master, should effect his death.
_Did_ Jones murder Rice? If so, was it, as he claims, at the instigation
of Albert T. Patrick?
These two questions, now settled in the affirmative forever, so far as
criminal and civil litigation are concerned, have been the subject of
private study and public argument for more than seven years.
Mr. Rice was a childless widower, living the life of a recluse, attended
only by Jones, who was at once his secretary, valet and general servant.
No other person lived in the apartment, and few visitors ever called
there. Patrick was a New York lawyer with little practice who had never
met Mr. Rice, was employed as counsel in litigation hostile to him, yet
in whose favor a will purporting to be signed by Rice, June 30, 1900,
turned up after the latter's death, by the terms of which Patrick came
into the property, amounting to over seven million dollars, in place of
a charitable institution named in an earlier will of 1896. It is now
universally admitted that the alleged will of 1900 was a forgery, as
well as four checks drawn to Patrick's order (two for $25,000 each, one
for $65,000, and one for $135,000, which represented practically all of
Rice's bank accounts), an order giving him control of the contents of
Rice's safe deposit vaults (in which were more than $2,500,000 in
securities), and also a general assignment by which he became the owner
of Rice's entire estate. Thus upon Rice's death Patrick had every
possible variety of document necessary to possess himself of the
property. Jones took nothing under any of these fraudulent instruments.
Hence Patrick's motive in desiring the death of Rice is the foundation
stone of the case against him. But that Patrick desired and would profit
by Rice's death in no way tends to establish that Rice did not die a
natural death. Patrick would profit equally whether Rice died by foul
means or natural, and the question as to whether murder was done must be
determined from other evidence. This is only to be found in the
confession of the valet Jones and in the testimony of the medical
experts who performed the autopsy. Jones, a self-confessed murderer,
swears that upon the advice and under the direction of Patrick (though
in the latter's absence) he killed his master by administering
chloroform. There is no direct corroborative evidence save that of the
experts. Upon Jones's testimony depended the question of Patrick's
conviction or acquittal, and of itself this was not sufficient, for
being that of an accomplice it must, under the New York law, be
In the confession of Jones the State had sufficient _direct_ evidence
of the crime and of Patrick's connection with it, providing there was
_other evidence tending to connect Patrick with its commission_. This
corroborative evidence is largely supplied by the facts which show that
for a long time Patrick conspired with Jones to steal the bulk of Mr.
Rice's estate at his death. This evidence not only shows Patrick's
possible motive for planning Mr. Rice's _murder_, but also tends to
corroborate Jones's whole story of the conspiracy.
Rice did not know Patrick even by sight. He had heard of him only as a
person retained by another lawyer (Holt) to do "the dirty work" in an
action brought by Rice against Holt, as executor, to set aside Mrs.
Rice's will, in which she assumed, under the "Community Law" of Texas,
where Rice had formerly resided, to dispose of some $2,500,000 of Rice's
property. If Rice was a _resident of Texas_ she had the legal right to
do this,--otherwise not. Holt employed Patrick to get evidence that Rice
still was such a resident. Rice knew of this and hated Patrick.
Patrick's connection with the Rice litigation had begun four years
before the murder, which was not planned until August, 1900, His first
visit to Rice's apartment was made under the assumed name of Smith for
the purpose of discovering whether the valet could be corrupted into
furnishing fictitious proof of Rice's intent to reside in Texas. He
flattered Jones; told him he was underpaid and not appreciated, and,
after a second visit, at which he disclosed his right name, persuaded
him to typewrite a letter on Rice's stationery addressed to Baker,
Botts, Baker & Lovett (Rice's attorneys), in which he should be made to
say that he had lost hope of winning the suit against Holt, was really a
citizen of Texas, and wanted to settle the litigation. Patrick said that
he could arrange for the signing of such a letter and was willing to pay
Jones $250 for his help. Jones agreed.
Patrick now learned that Mr. Rice was living with no companion except
Jones; that he held little communication with the outside world; that
the valet was in his confidence and thoroughly familiar with his papers,
and that the will made in 1896 disinherited natural heirs in favor of an
educational institution which he had founded in Texas. He also learned
that while Mr. Rice was 84 years of age he was in possession of all his
faculties, conducted his own business, and might live for years.
Possessed of these facts Patrick's evil mind soon developed a conspiracy
with Jones to secure the whole estate.
Mr. Rice's pet charity was the William M. Rice Institute "for the
advance of science, art and literature," of Texas, which he had founded
in 1891. He had donated to it more than a million and a half dollars. By
the will of 1896 only small legacies were bequeathed to relatives, while
the bulk of his fortune was left to the Institute.
About a month after Patrick's first visit to the Berkshire Apartments,
that is, in December, 1899, while he and Jones were examining Rice's
private papers, they stumbled upon the will. Patrick saw his
opportunity. By the forgery of a new will which would increase the
legacies of those mentioned in the will of 1896 and leave legacies to
every person who might have any claim upon the estate, it would be for
the interest of those persons to sustain and carry into effect the
forgery. The whole scheme was based upon the belief that "every man has
his price." He told Jones that he thought the will unjust; that he did
not think it right to leave so little to relatives, and later he brought
to Jones a rough draft of a will which could be substituted for the
genuine one. Patrick was to get half the estate, the relatives were to
receive double or three times the amount provided in the 1896 will, and
what was left was to be given to the Rice Institute. He proposed that
Jones should typewrite this will, and guaranteed to arrange for the
witnessing and signing of it, and promised that Jones should get
whatever he wanted. Jones at first objected, but was finally won over.
Rewritten many times to include new ideas of the conspirators, the
document finally reached the form of the will of June 30, 1900, in which
Patrick substituted himself for the Rice Institute and made himself one
of the executors.
An ingenious part of the conspiracy was the decision to leave the 1896
will in existence. If Patrick had destroyed it and the relatives had
succeeded in overthrowing the will of 1900, the estate would have been
left without testamentary disposition and the relatives would have got
more than was provided by either will. With the will of 1896 in
existence, however, the relatives would get less if they overthrew the
forgery. By retaining it, therefore, Patrick figured that the relatives
would have selfish reasons for accepting the forgery as genuine.
The preparation of this bogus will occupied about a month, and the next
question was the procurement of witnesses. It was desirable to get the
same persons who witnessed the former will. These were Walter H.
Wetherbee and W. F. Harmon, clerks for many years at Swenson's banking
house. On the assumption that Wetherbee had been injured by Rice and was
therefore hostile to him, Jones practically unfolded the scheme. He
told Wetherbee that one of Mr. Rice's bonds had disappeared and that
Rice had accused Wetherbee of stealing it. He wound up with the
suggestion, "I will get one witness and you can get another, and the
thing is done." But Wetherbee indignantly declined to join in the
Morris Meyers, who had been employed in Patrick's office, and David L.
Short, a friend of both, were the false witnesses finally selected.
They were clothed with the appearance of honesty and were brought into
contact with Rice by Jones at various times: Meyers as a notary public,
and Short as commissioner of deeds for the State of Texas, an
appointment procured for him by Patrick probably for this specific
The date of the forged will, June 30, 1900, was selected to correspond
with the date of three genuine papers which Rice acknowledged before
Short on that date.
[Illustration: Last page of the forged will of 1900, showing the forgery
of Rice's signature, and the false attestation of Short and Meyers.]
The next step was to obviate the absurdity of Patrick's being selected
as the residuary legatee at a time when he was engaged in bitter
litigation against Rice. The best way out was for Patrick to pose as a
lawyer who had brought about a settlement of this expensive litigation
and thus won Rice's regard. Patrick first tried to accomplish this by
getting friends to visit Rice and urge a settlement. But Rice rebuffed
them all. Accordingly, Patrick again resorted to forgery, and in
August, 1900, manufactured an instrument of settlement, dated March 6,
But such an agreement would not explain the paradox of a man whom Rice
hated and despised and did not know by sight turning up as the principal
beneficiary under his will. It was necessary to manufacture evidence to
be used after Rice's death in support of his claim of close relations.
The idea of a personal meeting with Rice had been abandoned on Jones's
advice, and Patrick therefore caused the valet to prepare twenty-five or
thirty forged letters addressed to him and purporting to come from Rice.
These referred to current business matters and conveyed the impression
that it was Rice's custom to seek the lawyer's advice. One instructed
Patrick as to the terms of the will of 1900. Carbon copies were made for
filing in Rice's letter book after his death.
To make assurance doubly sure and to secure immediate possession of
Rice's securities a general assignment to Patrick of all Rice's estate
was forged, and an order giving him access to and possession of the
securities on deposit in Rice's safety vault.
But Patrick did not stop here. He procured from Jones three checks
signed by Mr. Rice in the regular course of business, one payable to
Jones for his July salary and the other two for the July and August
salary of an employee of Rice's in Texas named Cohn. These three checks
Patrick kept as models, forwarding to Cohn two forged checks filled out
by Jones upon which Rice's signature had been traced, and returning to
Jones a substitute check with Rice's signature traced upon it. All three
checks passed through the banks unsuspected. Traced signatures were also
substituted for genuine ones upon letters dictated by Rice to his Texas
correspondents. Thus Patrick secured the circulation of five copies of
Rice's signature which, if occasion demanded, he could produce as
standards of comparison to correspond with his other forgeries. The
principal preparations were complete. But title under the will might
long be delayed and perhaps even eventually fail. Patrick was poor and
in no condition to conduct adequately a serious litigation. The moment
Mr. Rice died a large amount of cash would be necessary. For the
procurement of this Patrick and Jones looked to the current balance of
Rice's bank account, which amounted to some two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars on deposit at Swenson's private bank and at the Fifth
Avenue Trust Company. With this they felt reasonably secure of success.
For even if the will should be set aside as fraudulent they had a second
line of defense in the general assignment of the estate and the orders
to Rice's two million five hundred thousand dollars of securities.
While the evidence affords a motive for Patrick to desire the death of
Mr. Rice, it does not of itself, up to this point, indicate the
slightest intention on the part of Patrick to do away with the old
gentleman. It was therefore conceded by the prosecution that, upon
Jones's own testimony, the conspiracy to murder was not formed until
about seven weeks before the event. The first evidence which points to
an intent to murder is the famous "cremation letter," dated August 3d.
The cremation letter from Mr. Rice, authorizing Patrick to cremate his
body, shows that Patrick intended to do away with Rice in such a way
that an autopsy must, if possible, be prevented and the evidence of
murder destroyed. That Patrick forged such a letter was evidence that
his connection with the murder was premeditated and deliberate. To
cremate the body before an autopsy it was necessary to procure a
physician's certificate that Rice had died from natural causes. He
therefore made preparation to secure such a certificate, and then upon
the strength of the cremation letter to give directions for the
immediate destruction of the body.
Patrick, with the view of having at hand a physician who would be
unsuspicious, and who would issue a certificate of death from natural
causes, induced Jones to send for Dr. Curry, his own friend and
physician, on an occasion when the valet was ill. This was in March,
1900. Dr. Curry came, and Jones, acting under Patrick's advice,
cautioned him not to mention the lawyer's name to Rice. In course of
time he saw Rice, gained his good opinion and became his attending
physician. But Rice did not die, and curiously enough it was he himself
who suggested to Jones the instrumentality of death which was finally
employed, for he read an article dealing with the dangers of chloroform
as an anaesthetic, and discussed it with the valet. This suggestion was
conveyed to Patrick, who asked Dr. Curry whether chloroform left any
traces discoverable upon an autopsy. Dr. Curry rather carelessly replied
that it left but slight traces if administered only in the quantities
which would be fatal to a man with a weak heart. Patrick told Jones, so
Jones alleges, to procure some chloroform and this he did, sending to
Texas for two bottles of two ounces each. From Dr. Curry's remarks it
was manifest that a weakened condition of the patient was an important
element, and as Jones was taking some mercury pills (prescribed for him
by Dr. Curry), the valet induced his master to take some of them. The
old gentleman was benefited, however, rather than weakened. This was
_before_ the forgery of the cremation letter. It was clear that larger
doses of mercury would be necessary, and accordingly Patrick furnished
Jones with pellets containing the drug in such quantities that Jones,
experimenting with one of them, became ill.
They had now the means to effect gradual death, but as mercury leaves
traces discernible at an autopsy, it was decided that the body must be
cremated promptly. Hence the cremation letter. It was hoped that Rice
might drop off at any moment, owing to his weakened condition, and in
anticipation of death Patrick discontinued his visits to the apartment
in order to establish a satisfactory alibi. Jones also frequently
absented himself from the apartment in the evenings after the old man
had fallen asleep.
[Illustration: The famous letter forged by Patrick, which requests the
cremation of the remains of the supposed writer, old Mr. Rice.]
On September 16th Rice had an attack of acute indigestion, which might
have resulted seriously had it not been for the mercurial pills which
promptly relieved him. The reader should observe that practically all of
this testimony comes from Jones. There is no extraneous evidence that
Patrick induced the giving of the mercury. Patrick, however, spread
false rumors as to Rice's general health and also as to his financial
condition and intentions, namely, that Rice was only worth seven
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and that those who expected he was
going to leave his money to the Institute were doomed to disappointment.
But neither his statements about Rice's condition nor his remarks as to
the disposition and extent of his property are inconsistent with a mere
_hope_ that he would die and thus leave Patrick free to enjoy the fruits
of his forgeries.
There now occurred, however, an event which may well have played a part
in inducing Patrick to supplement forgery by murder. On Sunday,
September 16th, the plant of the Merchants' and Planters' Oil Company of
Houston, Texas, of which Rice owned seventy-five per cent. of the
capital stock, was destroyed by fire. The company being without funds to
rebuild, its directors telegraphed to Rice requesting him to advance the
money. The amount needed was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars--and
if Rice consented, all the available funds on deposit in the New York
banks, upon which the conspirators relied to accomplish their object,
would be exhausted. Jones endeavored to dissuade the old man from
advancing the money, but without effect, and Rice sent a letter to
Houston agreeing to supply one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and
more in instalments of twenty-five thousand dollars each. This was on
September 18th, after he had wired to the same effect on September
17th. Patrick and Jones suppressed a telegram that Rice would advance
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and on September 19th the old
man received word that the first draft in conformity with his telegram
of September 17th had been drawn and would arrive in New York on the
22d. Jones says that on showing this to Patrick the latter announced
that Rice must be put out of the way as soon as possible. Accordingly,
on September 20th and 21st, Jones administered larger doses of mercury
than usual, which, while weakening and depressing him, failed to cause
his end. Saturday, September 22d, the draft was presented at Rice's
apartment. The old man was not confined to his bed, but Jones told the
bank messenger, after pretending to consult him, that Rice was too ill
to attend to business that day and to return on Monday. That night Jones
and Patrick met, and it was agreed (according to Jones) that Rice must
not be allowed to survive until Monday. They still hoped that he might
die without any further act upon their part, but Jones was informed by
Dr. Curry that, although the old man seemed weak and under a great
mental strain, he nevertheless thought that he would recover. This Curry
also told to Patrick, the latter calling at the doctor's house about
five o'clock in the afternoon.
"You think Mr. Rice will be able to go down Monday morning?" Patrick
"You had better wait until Monday morning comes," replied Dr. Curry.
"Do you think he will be able to go down town next week?" persisted the
The doctor answered in the affirmative.
That night Mr. Rice slept quietly until eight o'clock Sunday morning.
Dr. Curry called and found him in excellent condition, having eaten a
hearty breakfast. His heart was a trifle weak, but it was sound. His
organs were all working normally; he felt no pain. The doctor left
without prescribing any medicine, stating that he would not return
unless called, and expressing his opinion that the patient would
recover. This was about eleven o'clock, and Jones immediately hastened
to Patrick's house and reported the conversation.
It was clear that Rice's death would not occur before Monday morning. He
might live to pay over the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; long
enough to give further testimony in the Holt litigation, and thus expose
the whole fraudulent scheme of pretended settlement and of friendly
relations with the lawyer, and finally, perhaps, even to make a new
will. The success of the conspiracy demanded that Rice should die that
night. Did he die naturally? Was his death caused by any further act of
the conspirators? Did Jones kill him by means of chloroform?
Jones's story is that Patrick supplied him with some oxalic acid which
was to be mixed with powdered ammonia and diluted in water, on the
theory that it was preferable to chloroform since it would not require
Jones's presence in the room at the moment of death. Jones said that he
endeavored to administer the mixture to the old man, but that he refused
to take it. Jones had already procured the chloroform from Texas, as has
been stated, and had turned it over to Patrick. He says that that
afternoon he procured this from Patrick, who told him how to administer
it. This was a few moments after six o'clock. Rice was sleeping soundly.
The colored woman who did the housework was absent for the day and the
rooms were deserted. He saturated a sponge with chloroform, constructed
a cone out of a towel, placed the sponge in the cone, put the cone over
the sleeping man's face and ran out of the room and waited thirty
minutes for the chloroform to complete the work. Waiting in the next
room he heard the door bell ring, and ring again, but he paid no
attention to the summons. In point of fact he was never quite sure
himself whether the bell was not the creation of his own overwrought
brain. At the end of half an hour he returned to the bedroom, removed
the cone from Rice's face and saw that he was dead, then after burning
the sponge and the towel in the kitchen range he opened the windows,
straightened the rooms out, called the elevator man, asked him to send
for Dr. Curry, and telephoned to Patrick that Rice was dead.
Jones had no sooner telephoned Patrick that Rice was dead than the
lawyer hastened to Dr. Curry's, and within forty minutes appeared with
him in Rice's apartments, assuming complete charge. Summoning an
undertaker and having the cremation letter at hand, he gave orders for
speedy cremation. But he now discovered the principal mistake in his
calculations. He had omitted to investigate the length of time required
to heat the crematory. This he now discovered to his horror to be
twenty-four hours. But the body must be destroyed. The undertaker
suggested that the body might be embalmed while the crematory was being
heated, and Patrick at once seized upon the suggestion and gave orders
to that effect, although the cremation letter sets forth specifically
that one of the reasons why Rice desired cremation was his horror of
being embalmed. The body was embalmed at the apartments that night, Dr.
Curry innocently supplying the certificate of death from "old age and
weak heart," and "as immediate cause, indigestion followed by
collocratal diarrhoea with mental worry."
Having arranged for the cremation at the earliest possible moment, Jones
and Patrick rifled the trunk in which Rice kept his papers, and stuffed
them in a satchel which Patrick bore away with him.
The funeral was to be held early Tuesday morning and the ashes conveyed
by Jones to Milwaukee, to be interred near the body of Rice's wife,
while the relatives should not be notified until it should be too late
for them to reach New York.
The next step was to secure the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars
which Rice had on deposit. Patrick had already forged Rice's name to
blank checks on Swenson and the Fifth Avenue Trust Company. Early Monday
morning Jones, with Patrick looking over his shoulder and directing him,
filled out the body of the checks, which covered all but ten thousand
dollars of Rice's deposits. These consisted of one for twenty-five
thousand dollars and one for sixty-five thousand dollars on Swenson, one
for twenty-five thousand dollars and another for one hundred and
thirty-five thousand dollars on the Trust Company. They were all made
payable to the order of Patrick and dated September 22d, the day before
Rice's death. One of the drafts on the Fifth Avenue Trust Company was
cashed for him by a friend named Potts early Monday morning, and was
paid without suspicion.
But now came the second error, which resulted in the exposure of the
conspiracy and conviction for murder. Jones, in filling out the
twenty-five thousand dollar check on Swenson, had in his nervousness
omitted the "l" from Patrick's Christian name, so that the check read
"Abert T. Patrick," and Patrick in his excitement had failed to notice
the omission or attempt to obviate it by extra indorsement. This
twenty-five thousand dollar Swenson check was intrusted to David L.
Short for presentation to Swenson & Sons for certification. When he
presented it, Wallace, the clerk, recognized Jones's handwriting in the
body of it, and thought the signature looked unnatural. He took it to a
rear office, where he showed it to Wetherbee, who was the person whom
Jones had approached nine months before with a request that he join the
conspiracy to manufacture a bogus will. Wetherbee compared the signature
on the check with genuine signatures in the bank, and returned it to
Short without any intimation that he regarded it as irregular, but
assigning as the reason the defect in the indorsement. Short thereupon
returned the check to Patrick, who supplied the necessary supplementary
indorsement and telephoned to Jones what had occurred, instructing him
to say that the check was all right in case the Swensons should
Half an hour later Short returned to Swenson's, where the check was
examined by one of the firm. Rice's apartments were then called up, and
Jones said that the checks were all right. But this did not satisfy Mr.
Swenson, so he instructed Wallace to call up the apartment again and
insist on talking to Mr. Rice. Jones delayed replying to Wallace and in
the afternoon called up Patrick on the telephone, inquiring what he
should say. Patrick replied that he would have to say that Rice was
dead. And in accordance with this Jones informed Swenson that Rice had
died at eight o'clock the previous evening. It was thus clear to Swenson
that although the maker of the check was dead, Patrick, a lawyer,
cognizant of that fact, was seeking to secure payment upon it. For Jones
had told Swenson that he had reported Rice's death to the doctor and to
Rice's lawyer, Patrick.
Patrick, accompanied by Potts, went immediately to the bank, where
Swenson informed him that the check could be paid only to the
administrator. Patrick replied that there would be no administrator;
that Rice had left no property in this State, and informed Swenson that
he had an assignment by Rice to himself of all Rice's securities with
Swenson. He also invited Swenson to the funeral.
Later in the day Patrick attempted to obtain possession of Rice's
securities in the Safety Deposit Company and in the Fifth Avenue Trust
Company, by presenting forged instruments of transfer and the orders
heretofore referred to; but after some delay the trust companies
declined him access. The conspiracy had begun to go to pieces. The two
mistakes and the failure to secure funds placed Patrick in a dangerous
Two o'clock on Monday afternoon, eighteen hours after the death, Jones,
at Patrick's direction, began to notify the relatives that Rice had died
the evening before, and that the funeral would take place the following
morning. The telegrams to Baker and to Rice, Jr., in Texas, were in the
following extraordinary form:
Mr. Rice died eight o'clock last night under care of physicians.
Death certificate, "old age, weak heart, delirium." Left
instructions to be interred in Milwaukee with wife. Funeral 10 A. M.
to-morrow at 500 Madison Avenue.
It is significant that care was used to convey the information that the
death was a natural one with a physician in attendance; that the body
was to be interred in Milwaukee, without reference to the cremation.
This may well have been so that if any suspicions of foul play should
arise, the recipients, realizing that they could not reach New York in
time to arrest matters there, might hasten to Milwaukee to intercept the
body, where they could be met by Jones with the cremation letter in his
pocket and his urn of ashes under his arm.
But the telegram did arouse suspicion, and Baker and Rice immedately
wired Jones as follows:
Please make no disposition of Rice's remains until we arrive. We
leave to-night, arrive New York Thursday morning.
Baker also instructed N. A. Meldrum, a Texan then in New York, to
co-operate with Jones in preserving everything intact.
In the meantime, however, Swenson had notified his attorneys, who in
turn had informed the police and the District Attorney's office, and
that evening at about eleven o'clock James W. Gerard, accompanied by a
detective, who posed as the lawyer's clerk, interviewed Patrick at his
home. Patrick informed Gerard that he had an assignment of all Rice's
property and also a will of Rice's of which he was executor. This was
the first reference to the will of 1900. He also informed Gerard that he
would not receive a cent under its provision. To have explained the real
terms of the will would, under the circumstances, have excited too much
suspicion. Yet he was eager to let the Swensons know that as executor
he was in a position to control the profitable banking business that
would arise from the settlement of the estate. In the meantime four
Headquarters' detectives, representing themselves as lawyers, visited
Patrick hurried to 500 Madison Avenue, where he learned of Meldrum's
presence in town. Things were turning out far from the way in which he
had expected. He then hastened to his office down-town, which he reached
about half-past one in the morning, and, alone, destroyed great
quantities of paper, attempting to dispose of them through the toilet
bowl, which was so clogged that the water flowed out upon the floor,
necessitating an apology to the janitor. In the silence of the night
misgivings came upon him. He lost his nerve, and at two o'clock in the
morning called up the undertaker and revoked the signed order for
cremation which he had given. Leaving the office at about five in the
morning he first visited Meyers, thence proceeded to his own
boarding-house, and from there went to the apartments, which he reached
at eight o'clock. Here he found the detectives who had been on guard
since early morning to forestall any attempt to remove the body.
At the funeral itself he attempted to conciliate adverse interests and
to win witnesses for his purpose. He had begun to do this the very
night that Rice had died, when he told the elevator man that he was
remembered in Rice's will. He had also informed Wetherbee that he had a
five thousand dollars' legacy. At the funeral were Blynn, one of Rice's
nephews, who had come on from Massachusetts, and two ladies, to each of
whom he stated that they had legacies which would soon be available
provided there was no contest of the will.
[Illustration: Four forged signatures of W.M. Rice, which bisected and
rearranged haphazard fit exactly, thus showing that they were made from
the same model. This would be an utter impossibility in the case of four
[Illustration: Forged assignment of vault at the New York Safe Deposit
Co. from Rice to Patrick.]
The detectives now informed Patrick that he was wanted at Headquarters,
and Patrick invited Potts to accompany him, informing the latter that
the police suspected that there was something unnatural in the cause of
death, but that he could explain satisfactorily. As a matter of fact no
such intimation had been made to him by the police or anyone else. At
Police Headquarters after an interview with Inspector McClusky he was
permitted to go his way.
Patrick returned to Rice's apartments, sent for Short and Meyers, and
conferred with them there. He took this occasion to tell Maria Scott,
the colored woman who worked in the apartment, that she was suspected of
having poisoned Rice, and that she had better say nothing about his
death. Jones told her that she was remembered in the will and that it
would be worth her while to stand by himself and Patrick, who would see
that she was taken care of. Meanwhile the coroner had sent the body to
the morgue for autopsy.
The autopsy was performed on Tuesday, forty-three hours after death
occurred, by Dr. Donlin, a coroner's physician, in the presence of Dr.
Williams, also a coroner's physician, and of Professor R. A. Witthaus,
an expert chemist. The two physicians testified at the trial that the
organs of the body, except the lungs, were normal in condition, save as
affected by the embalming fluid. They and Professor Witthaus agreed in
their testimony that the lungs were congested. Dr. Donlin spoke of their
being "congested all over"; while Dr. Williams characterized it as "an
intense congestion of the lungs--coextensive with them." Outside of the
lungs they found no evidence of disease to account for death, and beyond
the congestion these showed nothing except a small patch of consolidated
tissue about the size of a twenty-five cent piece. They testified, in
effect, that nothing save the inhalation of some gaseous irritant could
have produced such a general congestion, and that the patch of tissue
referred to was insufficient to account for the amount of congestion
present. Dr. Donlin could not testify what the proximate cause of death
was, but was firm in his opinion that no cause for it was observable in
the other vital organs. In this Dr. Williams concurred. He was of the
opinion that chloroform would act as an irritant upon the lungs and
cause precisely that general congestion observable in the case of the
deceased. Professor Witthaus testified that his analysis revealed the
presence of mercury, obtained as calomel, and while the amount was not
sufficient to cause death, its presence indicated that a larger quantity
had existed in life. The embalming fluid had contained no mercury, and
he and Dr. Donlin agreed that the embalming fluid would have no effect
upon the lungs beyond a tendency to bleach them. In other words, the
People's evidence was to the effect that no cause of death was
observable from a medical examination of the body save the congestion
stated to exist in the lungs, and that this might have been caused by
Thursday morning Mr. Baker and F. A. Rice, the brother of the deceased,
arrived in New York. Patrick showed them the cremation letter, and,
inasmuch as they took a neutral position in the matter, ordered the
cremation to proceed, and accordingly it took place that very day. He
also endeavored to win the confidence of Baker, but succeeded in
accomplishing little. He finally gave the latter a copy of the 1900 will
and the original will of 1896. He also informed Baker that he had taken
a large number of papers from Rice's apartments, and turned over to him
a considerable number of them. He also surrendered on Friday the two
After considerable discussion Baker told Patrick flatly that he would
never consent to the probate of the 1900 will; that he was satisfied
that the '96 will was the last will of Rice, and that he would insist
upon its being probated, to which Patrick replied, that so far as he was
concerned he did not know but that the probate of the '96 will would
suit him just as well as the probate of the 1900 will; that it was a
matter of indifference to him, and that so far as the Rice Institute was
concerned he was prepared to give Baker from three to five million
dollars for it, or any other sum Baker might name. These negotiations
and conferences continued until the fourth of October, Patrick yielding
step by step, until he had divested himself of all control of the
documents and securities.
Meantime sufficient evidence having been secured, Patrick and Jones were
arrested on a charge of forgery and held for the Grand Jury. Bail was
fixed at ten thousand dollars each, but was not forthcoming.
On October 21st, Mr. House, Patrick's lawyer, visited Patrick and Jones
in the Tombs. Jones says that after Patrick had talked to Mr. House the
former called Jones to one corner of the room and told him that House
insisted on knowing definitely whether a crime had been committed and
directed Jones to tell House that a murder had been committed, but that
he (Patrick) was not concerned in it. This Jones declined to do without
implicating Patrick. The two prisoners then returned to House and Jones
says that he informed House that he had killed Rice by chloroform, and
gave him the "same story which he told on the witness stand." After this
Jones apparently lost his nerve and told Patrick that he intended to
commit suicide. This idea Patrick encouraged, agreeing that they should
both do it at about the same time.
On the 26th of October Jones made a statement to Assistant District
Attorney Osborne which was in large part false, and in which he
endeavored to exonerate himself entirely from complicity in any of the
crimes, and in which he charged the actual administration of the
chloroform to Patrick. Four days later Osborne sent for him and told him
he had lied, upon which Jones became confused, continued to persist in
some of his statements, qualified others and withdrew still others. He
was completely unnerved and that night attempted, by means of a knife
which Patrick had supplied him, to cut his throat. The attempt was a
failure, and he was removed to Bellevue Hospital, where he remained
until November 12th. He then finally gave the statement which
corresponded with his testimony upon the trial and which jibed with all
the circumstances and evidence known to the District Attorney.
Did Patrick conspire with Jones to murder Rice? What corroboration is
there of Jones's story that he killed Rice under Patrick's direction?
First: What proof is there that murder was committed?
Roughly, that Jones so swore; that Rice died at the time alleged; that
he did not die from disease, but that he died from a congestion of the
lungs which could have occurred only in the case of a living organism by
the administration of some such irritant as chloroform; that some one,
therefore, must have killed him, and that Jones alone had the
Second: What proof is there that Patrick directed the murder?
Evidence of an elaborate conspiracy, as briefly heretofore set forth,
which contemplated the _death_ of Rice. Of course Patrick wanted Rice to
die. If Patrick was not implicated in the killing, what motive had Jones
to commit the deed? Why did Rice die at the precise psychological moment
which would enable Patrick to prevent two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars on deposit being diverted to Texas? And finally, why did Patrick
prepare a forged cremation letter for the destruction of the body? If
the conspiracy contemplated a _natural_ death, nothing could be of
greater value to the two parties concerned than the means of proving
that the death was _not_ unnatural.
This, in the most abbreviated form, is the case against Patrick. Space
forbids any reference to his elaborate and ingenious defense, which was
based entirely on an alleged complete failure of corroboration of
Jones's testimony. Starting with the premise that the word of a
self-confessed murderer and thrice-perjured scoundrel was valueless as
proof, he contended that there was no adequate evidence that Rice's
death was felonious, and that the congestion of the lungs could have
been and was caused by the embalming fluid and was only attributed to
the chloroform after Jones had given his final version of how the murder
was accomplished. Technically the case against Patrick was not a strong
one. Dramatically it was overwhelming. His own failure to testify and
his refusal to allow his lawyer, Mr. House, to relate what passed
between them in the Tombs, remain significant, although not evidence
proper for a jury to consider. Wherever lawyers shall get together,
there the Patrick case will be discussed with its strong points and its
weak ones, its technicalities and its tactics, and the ethics of the
liberation of Jones, the actual murderer, now long since vanished into
the obscurity from which he came. On the one hand stands a public
convinced of Patrick's guilt, and on the other the convicted "lifer"
pointing a lean finger at the valet Jones and stubbornly repeating, "I
[Footnote 4: In 1906 the Governor of New York commuted the death
sentence of Albert T. Patrick to life imprisonment, and the most
extraordinary struggle in the legal history of the State on the part of
a convicted murderer for his own life came to an end. The defendant in