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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1856
   
An Alibi

In the autumn of 18— I had made my arrangements to retire from the practice of law, and preparatory thereto had gone up into the country for a vacation of a couple of months at the old place, out of the reach of business or clients.

But some way it happened that I could not keep away from a courtroom, and one morning learning that Judge—would hold a ‘circuit in toe’ town that day, I rode over to shake hands with some old friends, and gather the news of the county.

It was a brilliant morning. The mountains were covered with the tints of autumn, the sky was surprisingly clear and blue, everything invigorating to a city man. The ride along the country road was so inspiriting that, as I reached the front of the old courthouse and sprang from my horse, it was with a fresher and more lively flow of spirits than I had felt in years.

As I entered the room the Judge was standing near the stove, with a group of lawyers

    surrounding him, and, as I joined them, the sheriff entered with half a dozen prisoners.

“Criminal business today?” inquired someone.

“Yes,” said the District Attorney. “We propose to try the two murder cases if we can.”

“Who are the prisoners?” I inquired.

“A negro, Johnson—half the negroes in the county are Johnson—is indicted for the murder of his wife; and a young fellow, named Randall, for killing old Solomon Davis. You ought to remember the old man?”

“I do, well. I remember hearing of the murder.”

There was no interruption to the joking and laughing around the stove; the entrance of the solemn-faced prisoners had no effect on the group.

That scene, which is one of daily . . .

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