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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
The New York Ledger, June 20, 1857.
 
The Two-Fingered Assassin
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by Sylvanus Cobb, Jr.
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  examined his features I made up my mind that if he did do the deadly deed, he must have done it in a moment of maddening passion; for, really, had I been told to select a murderer from all that throng, the prisoner at the bar would have been the last one selected! He was not over four-and-twenty; small and delicately famed; with large, mild blue eyes; flaxen hair; and with features perfectly regular, and marked by a spirit of goodwill and intelligence. He looked pale and haggard now; and seemed to shun the gaze of the assembled multitude.

The murder had only been committed two days before. But the coroner had found a verdict at once; an indictment quickly followed; and as the court chanced to be in session at the time, the case, being so clear, was brought on.

From the opening of the prosecution I learned the following facts: The man who had been murdered was a wealthy planter, forty-eight years of age, named Owen Payne. On the evening of the murder he started from a lawyer’s office, on horseback, to return to his plantation, which was five miles distant; . . .

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    I was on my way from Jackson to Greensboro, in the state of Mississippi. At Lexington I left the great stage road, and struck off to the right by a less frequented way. One evening—a pleasant evening in the summer—I arrived at quite a village where I must pass the night. Upon entering the inn I found a number of guests there, and soon learned that the court was in session in that place.

The next morning was dull and drizzly, and I resolved to stop over one stage and attend court, as I learned that one or two very important cases were to be tried. I entered the courtroom which was built for town purposes, with a lawyer whose acquaintance I had made; and through his influence I got a good seat. The place was literally crowded within ten minutes from the time the doors were opened; and I hence judged that an important case was to come off. And I was not disappointed.

The first case was one of murder. The prisoner was brought in, and placed in the rough box which had been fixed up; and when I had

   

 

 


 

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