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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Harper’s Weekly, November 7, 1863
 
Case for the Prisoner
  coaches come in had been cheaply edified and were moving off, the coachman had jerked the horses’ heads into the air preparatory to walking them round to the stable, when a pale-faced clerk, with a pen behind his ear, came rushing out of the little side-door, tumbling over the guard, and exclaiming, “Hold hard, for God’s sake! The mail has been robbed!”

When the two official porters carried the mail-portmanteau into the Foreign Office of the General Post-office, they placed it before the clerk waiting to receive it. There was little time to count, and sort, and dispatch the letters; the clerk knew that, in order to get through his work, he must have quick eyes and nimble fingers; and in a minute he had unbuckled the flaps of the square portmanteau and thrown them back, preparatory to opening the two compartments, when in each of the compartments he saw a long cut, as with a knife, large enough to admit of the inclosed bags being drawn out. Rather staggered at this, the clerk hastily turned all the bags out on . . .

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    At six o’clock on Monday morning, the 29th of January, 1827, the Dover mail-coach, mud-bespattered and travel-stained, pulled up before the General Post-office in Lombard Street, and the official porters in attendance flung themselves upon it, and dragged from it the receptacle for letters (then containing correspondence from France, from foreign countries transmitting through France, and from Dover itself), which, in official language, was known as the mail-portmanteau. The guard, cold, stiff, and tired, tumbled off his perch, stamped his feet on the pavement, yawned, stretched himself, and literally “lent a hand” toward the removal of the mail-portmanteau by just touching it in its descent with his four fingers; the coachman, also cold, stiff, and tired, let his benumbed left hand give to the motion of the four jaded horses, which, dank and steaming, stretched their necks, and yawed about with their heads and shook their bodies, rattling their harness in a dismal manner. All the passengers had dismounted long ago, the guard had stepped inside the office to settle some little matter in connection with the way-bill, the few stragglers always waiting about to see the    

 

 

 
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