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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
The New York Ledger, May 3, 1856.
 
The Dead Man’s Inn
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by Sylvanus Cobb, Jr.
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  tell the plain truth, I did not like the looks of things. I saw a negro, whom Blackthorn called Joe, that looked worse, if anything, than his master, and I soon made up my mind that I would ride the next ten miles that night rather than remain there. So I simply asked the host for a glass of spirit, at the same time informing him that my business would force me to push on. He remonstrated—assured me that a severe storm was close at hand—road bad—dark night, and so on. But I pretended that my business was imperative, and that I should make the trial, at all events. He gave up with a bad grace, though I detected something in his eye which had a hopeful meaning. He went out after the spirit, and when he returned he placed a common junk bottle upon the rough counter, and informed me that it contained the best of whiskey. I poured out a glass, but the moment I placed it to my lips I detected the presence of some drug, and in a moment when his eye was turned I poured the stuff into the water pitcher, and then clapped the glass to my lips as though in the act of draining the last drop. I paid for the liquor, and then turned from the place. . . .

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    It was towards night on a dull, cloudy day of the latter part of November that I found myself in front of a dingy looking inn in the southwestern part of Mississippi. I dismounted and threw my horse’s bridle rein over a post, and then made my way into the house. The building was of hewn timber, halved together at the corners, and I found that the only finish within consisted of coarse brown paper pasted upon the walls. The landlord’s name was Job Blackthorn. He was a short, stout, square-built, bulldog looking fellow, somewhere about five-and-forty years of age, and possessed a face the complexion and expression of which was halfway between that of a Crow Indian and a very poor white man. I asked him how far it was to the next town, and he told me ’twas too far for me to reach it that night. And when I pressed him for a more definite answer he told me ’twas something over ten miles.

When I first dismounted I had intended to remain there overnight, but I began to waver now that I had seen the host and his house. To

   

 

 


 

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