American Detective Fiction    April 1841-July 1891

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  Published in
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1854.

This story was later published in the collection
Leaves from the Diary of a Law-Clerk by the Author of “Recollections of a Detective Police Officer,” &c. London: J.C. Brown & Co., 1857.

The Temptress
  damsel of about seventeen, and the daughter of John Morton, a statesman of comfortable means, with whom, whilst his father yet lived in reputedly fair circumstances, he had been on terms of sweetheart intimacy, or at least as much so as some half-a­dozen other bovine youths, whom Judith Mortons handsome person, and comparatively cultivated airs and graces, attracted round her. The first time Richard Penson met her, after the final winding-up of his father’s affairs, he was so thoroughly made to understand that an idle, know-nothing young fellow, with 2001. for all his fortune, was no match for Judith Morton, that the next half-hour was passed in mental debate as to which of the three expedients for ridding himself of hateful life—hanging, drowning, or poisoning—he should adopt; and he at length decided upon almost as desperate a leap in the dark as either of them, by forthwith writing to a London attorney, whose advertisement, setting forth a willingness to . . .


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RICHARD PENSON was a native of Westmoreland, his place of birth being the small village of Bedstone, on the borders of Gilgraith forest, some miles north of Appleby. His father had been what is called a “statesman” in those parts, that is, he farmed his own land; but long-continued ill-health, the death of his notable wife, and other crosses and losses, so reduced him in the world, that he died—when Richard, his only child, was in his twentieth year—in little better than insolvent circumstances, the son, who, from his desultory and rather bookish habits, had never been of much use upon the farm, finding himself, after everything had been disposed of, and all debts paid, the master of about 200l. only, and destitute, withal, of skill in either head or hand to turn his modest capital to account. Being, however, so young, of stout frame and sanguine temperament, he might not for some time have fully realized the undesirableness of his position and prospects, but for the light unexpectedly shed over them by the dark, scornful eyes of Judith Morton, a





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