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. 11

“I did not return to the hotel till near daylight, when I was admitted by the porter, and having

groped my way to my room, I was soon a-bed and asleep. Presently there was a confused noise in my room, and I started up from a pleasant dream, and perceived two or three men standing at my bedside. I had become so familiar with the sinister looks of law officers and constables, that I perceived at a glance that these were myrmidons of justice, and I was not allowed to remain in ignorance of their errand.

“The body of my classmate had been found in the river at daylight, by some workmen, and I was suspected of having murdered him. Again I was arrested and thrown into prison, and for many months I had little hope of escaping the gallows. There probably never was a stronger case of circumstantial evidence than that which was made out against me, which being strengthened by the former accusations against me, left me without a hope of escape. But I had money, and the services of an able lawyer having been secured, I was pronounced not guilty, by a jury who, I fear, believed in their hearts that I was a murderer. It was proved on
    the trial that my classmate had left the tavern in a state of intoxication near midnight, and his father’s house being on the opposite side of the river, it was probable that the wretched man

had missed his way, and fallen into the river, where he was drowned. This could not be proved, of course. But it was proved that I had quarrelled with him in the barroom, that I had used threatening language to him, that I left the hotel before him, and that I did not return until near daylight. In what manner I had spent the night, and where, I could not prove. But you must spare me the pain of repeating the particulars of this most unhappy portion of my life. I was acquitted, but even my lawyer, when the trial was over, refused to speak to me. He had earned his money, as he thought, by clearing a bad man from the gallows, and there his business with me ended. I had told him the true story of my misfortunes, but I found that he looked upon it, as I fear many others will do, as an ingenious fiction.”

“Why have you changed your name?” I inquired.

Continued on p. 13

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