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was rich and not known to be unhappy, or under any possible inducement to commit so desperate a deed as self-murder. Upon further examination, I picked up the half burnt wadding of the pistol, and unfolding it perceived it was a piece of calico, the figure of which was easily discernible; the propriety of its preservation, however, never occurred to me. I continued to hold it in my hand as I proceeded in my inquiries, and without thinking of it, or intending to do so, I put it in my pocket, and never thought of it again until some time after. I examined the ground, which was very hard frozen, but could perceive no other tracks than those of the horse which had belonged to the dead, and even those were scarcely to be seen. What should I do? was now the question. I concluded it would be best to mount the horse ; and ride off as speedily as possible to the mansion of the old gentleman, and give the alarm to his son who resided with him; I did so, and returned with him immediately to the scene. We made no other discovery which could lead to a development of the mystery; we went to the cross-road spoken of, and saw the faint traces of a horse upon it, as I had conjectured. The young man informed me that his father had determined the previous week upon a journey to the town of - -, and probably had a considerable sum of money about him, but we could find none. His watch was a very valuable one, and would doubtless have been taken had he been murdered. The placing of his papers and his watch in his hat, looked like a deliberate design, which could scarcely be imputed to an assassin, whose hurry upon a public road would have been too great for such deliberation. The pistol, however, he had never seen before. His father had frequently manifested some slight oddity of manner, but the son had never dreamed of such a termination of his existence. Upon the whole, the matter seemed to baffle conjecture, and so it appeared on the coroner's inquest. A verdict of death by some unknown means was the result, although public opinion seemed to lean to the idea of suicide. The son, however, came to a different conclusion, but still suspicion fell upon no particular person.
Three or four months had passed away, and the whole affair seemed buried in oblivion, when one day, in the presence of Benson only, I intimated my intention of setting out the following morning for the town of and he carelessly asked me if I would do him the favor to sell for him a tobacco note, which he had received in payment for some work. As I could see no sort of objection to so friendly an act, I readily assented; my reader must be informed that tobacco was at that time a sort of currency, and familiarly used in all transactions like money. I went to town, transacted my own business, sold the tobacco, and returned home and paid the proceeds to Benson. I thought no more of the matter until a few weeks after, when, to my utter astonishment, I was arrested upon the charge of having murdered the old gentleman abovementioned. My amazement was considered well feigned by his son, who assured me that the evidence against me was irresistible, and sneeringly asked me how I became possessed of his father's tobacco? The truth flashed instantly upon me, that I had been made the dupe of a designing villain, and at once I saw the peril of my situation. I replied that I had received the tobacco from Benson, and desired to be confronted with him, that I might see whether he would deny the truth of my assertion ; the officer who arrested me consented, as Benson lived in the village where the jail was, and accordingly I stood before him, searching every lineament of his dark countenance with an eye of fire. Did you not give me a tobacco note to sell for you several weeks ago ? No, was his sullen reply. Villain, I exclaimed, do you dare to deny it? and I sprang upon him with all the violence of a man who saw the desperation of his situation, unless he could obtain a confession. I should certainly have strangled the scoundrel with my grasp, had I not been overpowered by numbers, and dragged away to prison. My violence served but to confirm the suspicions of my persecutors, who saw in the workings of my countenance nothing but the evidence of vehement passions, capable of any atrocity. Left alone in my solitary prison, it may be
well imagined how horrible was the train of my thoughts. I felt like some malefactor whose prison was on fire, and who saw no chance of escape from the irons which held him chained to the wall. What could I do? I had certainly sold the tobacco, and was known by the purchaser, and could be identified ; no one had seen me receive the tobacco from Benson; no body had seen me pay him the money on my return. That tobacco, it appeared, was part of a parcel of notes which were known to be in the possession of the old gentleman murdered, and found to be missing when his papers were examined by his son, who was his executor and heir, and who resolved to watch in silence their sale, as the clue to the assassin of his father. He had taken his measures wisely, and upon going to town some weeks after my visit to the same, he discovered that the note had been sold to a merchant, who, upon application, described the individual from whom he had bought it, and disclosed his name. Here was a chain of evidence absolutely conclusive, even if I had not been the person who discovered the body and gave the alarm. What would it avail to say that I had no such pistol as the one found near the body ? It is always easy to procure materials which might lead inquiry astray, What object could I have in officiously disclosing the murder, and endeavoring to trace the murderer, as I had done, in company with the son ? The answer was easy ; the more effectúally to mislead the judgment. How corroborative of my guilt was the circumstance that no trace of another horse was visible on the spot. It would be vain to urge that the author of the deed might have designedly passed on the other road, and have crossed to the thicket on foot, and having committed the crime, might have returned to his horse on that road. Conjectures of this sort might have availed, had there been any corroborative circumstances to do away with the damning fact of my having possession of the note ; but there were none. No one bad seen the horseman that morning but myself; Benson was supposed to be at a distance; no body else was suspected. Could I refer to my character to screen
myself. It is true it had been good since my residence in the county; but from whence did I come, and what was my standing in the place of my nativity? I could not hope for aid in that quarter. No, the death of a felon was inevitable !
Such were the thoughts which occupied my mind during the first night of my confinement! In the morning came my wife and child to see me. It is impossible to convey any idea of the deep sense of degradation I felt, notwithstanding my innocence at the reception of my family in a jail. My angel wife saw my pain and endeavored to soothe me by every means in her power; she assured me that she doubted not my innocence for a moment, and that she trusted in God for my deliverance. My child climbed my knee and asked me why I did not come home and what I staid there for, and repeated a thousand endearing little circumstances connected with home, which wrung my heart, and produced a feeling of bitterness which I had never known before. I caressed him fondly and promised to come back, and beseeched my wife to take him away, as I could not bear the agonizing emotions he awakened. I preferred being alone, as I felt even her company a restraint to me, while my mind was occupied so intensely with the contemplation of my situation. She wisely withdrew, but did not fail to return each day, to offer me all the consolation in her power, and to provide for my accommodation, of which she saw me entirely regardless. I will not dwell upon what may be readily imagined. Day after day passed without the smallest ray of hope of escape from my perilous condition. I employed counsel, but had nothing to say to him but the repetition of my innocence, nor could he conscientiously offer me any prospect of acquittal. The examining court was held, and the result was what might have been expected. I was remanded to jail for further trial at the superior court, and spent two dreadful months of tedious restraint, though each day found me more composed and more prepared to breast the shock of condemnation. I have ever found this the case with me, that I have been
impatient under the trials of life, as long as there was a chance of avoiding them. Small matters always harassed me more than great ones, and now that I had viewed my condition in all its possible aspects, and had become satisfied that there was no escape from my toils, I fortified my mind and resolved to bear my lot with a firmness which should at least exempt me from contempt. I was sitting with my wife on the evening prece ling my trial, and was once more detailing to her the circunstances attending my accidental discovery of the body of the old gentleman murdered. I was at her request, more minute than usual, as her mind was anxiously bent upon finding some clue to lead us from our labyrinth of difficulties. The circumstance of the half-burnt wadding of the pistol had until now passed entirely out of my mind, but the instant I mentioned it, she started up and exclaimed, what became of it? Í told her it remained unnoticed in my pocket for a long time, but that at length I drew it forth accidentally one day and had thrown it into a drawer at home, which I described, not with any view of preservation, but simply to be rid of it. She clasped her hand and devoutly thanked God that there was yet a hope, and then solemnly addressed me thus: “My dear husband, I would not for worlds, awaken a hope in your bosom which may be disappointed. I perceive the enviable state of calmness to which you have been brought by the goodness of God, but, nevertheless, a sudden thought has occurred to me which I will not reveal to you, lest it should excite in your breast the same intensity of feeling which pervades mine at this moment. I must begone ; farewell until to-morrow; I cannot return sooner." So saying, she hastened away, and I sought that repose which is so difficult in situations like mine. I did sleep, however, and strange to say, my dreams that night were all of a character the most pleasing, and my slumbers were more refreshing than those I had for some time experienced. But, oh! what were the thoughts which rushed upon my mind, when I awoke and returned to a consciousness of what was to take place that day? Those thoughts, rushing like a