American Detective Fiction    April 1841-July 1891

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  Published in
United States Democratic Review, August 1845


“The Innocent Convict,” continued from p. 9

to read by during the long winter nights when I could not sleep, and I was a prey to my own thoughts.

“By reading nothing but the Bible for five years, I grew so familiar with the blessed book, that I could tell whenever I heard a passage of Scripture quoted, not only the chapter and verse, but the page where it could be found. At last my five years were at an end and I was free. I had never known much of the ways of society before my imprisonment, but I was now utterly ignorant of the world and its ways. When the prison doors were opened, and I was furnished with a suit of clothes and money enough to defray my travelling expenses to the town where I was born, I felt more wretched and lonely than when I was first shut up in my prison cell. I was afraid of moving lest I should draw some new calamity upon my head. It was early in spring; the earth looked chill and desolate, and I knew not where to look for shelter and kindness. But I took the first conveyance that offered for my native town, for I had been told that the little property which had been left by my mother, had risen in value in consequence of speculation and

    improvements in real estate. I cannot tell you of my feelings when I returned to my mother’s home, nor of the contempt with which my old schoolmates and relations treated me. Merciful God, how can men hope to be forgiven themselves when they will not forgive others! I had wronged no one, but the taint of guilt was upon me, and I was shunned as though my touch would contaminate, as though there was pestilence in my looks. God be merciful to the guilty who have to endure the scorn of the world in addition to the stings of their own conscience.

“I had made arrangements with an attorney to attend to the sale of my property, which was now worth a very considerable sum, and had determined to quit my native town forever, when I encountered my old classmate whose money had been found in my trunk. I was paying my bill to the landlord of the tavern, when he came up to me, and laughing reached out his hand to me. I had always entertained an unqualified contempt for him, but his speaking to me now touched my heart, and I grasped his hand with delight. He was the son of a rich manufacturer in the town, but he was a mere

Continued on p. 11

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