It amazed Lethbridge to find that the prisoner expressed the view that Birchill had committed the murder. This view was based on his contention that Sir Horace Fewbanks was alive when he (Holymead) left him about ten o’clock. The interview between them had been an angry one, but Holymead persisted in asserting that he had not shot his former friend. He declared that he had not taken a revolver with him when he went to Riversbrook.
Lethbridge was one of those barristers who believe that a knowledge of the guilt of a client handicapped Counsel in defending him. He had his private opinion as to the result of the angry interview between Holymead and Sir Horace Fewbanks, but he preferred that Holymead should protest his innocence even to him. That made it easier for him to make a stirring appeal to the jury than it would have been if his client had fully confessed to him. His private opinion as to the author of the crime was strengthened by Holymead’s admission that Birchill had not confessed to him or to his solicitor at the time of his trial that he had shot Sir Horace Fewbanks. He was astonished that Holymead had taken up Birchill’s defence, but Holymead’s explanation was the somewhat extraordinary one that the man who had killed the seducer of his wife had done him a service by solving a problem that had seemed insoluble without a public scandal. There was no doubt that although Sir Horace Fewbanks was in his grave, Holymead’s hatred of him for his betrayal of his wife burned as strongly as when he had made the discovery that wrecked his home life. Neither death nor time could dim the impression, nor lessen his hatred for the dead man who had once been his closest friend.
Lethbridge, feeling that it was his duty as Counsel for the prisoner to try every avenue which might help to an acquittal, asked Mr. Tomlinson, the solicitor who was instructing him in the case, to find Birchill and bring him to his chambers. Birchill was found and kept an appointment. Lethbridge explained to him that he had nothing further to fear from the police with regard to the murder of Sir Horace Fewbanks. Having been acquitted on this charge he could not be tried on it again, no matter what discoveries were made. He could not even be tried for perjury, as he had not gone into the witness-box. Having allowed these facts to sink home, he delicately suggested to Birchill that he ought to come forward as a witness for the defence of Holymead—he ought to do his best to try and save the life of the man who had saved his life.
“What do you want me to swear?” asked Birchill, in a tone which indicated that although he did not object to committing perjury, he wanted to know how far he was to go.
“Well, that Sir Horace Fewbanks was alive when you went to Riversbrook,” suggested Lethbridge.
“But I tell you he was dead,” protested Birchill. He seemed to think that reviving a dead man was beyond even the power of perjury.