Short Story #112: The Trials of Arden by Charles Brockden Brown

Title:  The Trials of Arden

Author:  Charles Brockden Brown


Charles Brockden Brown - Trials of Arden
A man begins by talking about a recent trial that has grabbed his attention and how it lead to a conversation with a very old friend.  He explains the case to his friend and this triggers the memory of a similar case that the old man begins to tell.  A young man named Arden arrived in the town and despite lacking references was able to get a job as a tutor to the children of Mr. Finch.  The oldest of children was Harriet and she and Arden eventually fell in love.  Some time later, Harriet was found to be dead in a grotto by the river.  Circumstantial evidence leads everyone to believe that it was Arden.  It is presumed that Arden did this because it seemed likely that she was to be married to another local wealthy family.  Eventually, Arden ends up at trial and meets with a hung jury, with one many holding out despite any argument.  Arden is released and flees the area.  However, Loveden, the juror who withheld is all but excommunicated from the town.  Some time later, a man named Mayo is apprehended and he admits to the murdering of Harriet.  It's in the aftermath of this discovery that people seek out to find Arden and do right by him.  It's also at this point that we find out the connection among Loveden, Arden, and another woman that contributed to the curious misunderstandings about Arden.  Eventually, Arden is granted an inheritence of Harriet's family and does live happily ever after.  The old man explains that he has the full manuscript of the events but refuses to fetch them for the narrator and that's where the story ends.


One could argue this is an early version of the mystery story.  There's a great amount of mystery involved and the tale is well layered.  The story slowly rolls out and the reader gets bits and pieces that make the picture of what's going on bigger and bigger.  Though we are never told, it appears clear that the Arden's tale has an impact on how he originally conceived of the controversy going on in town at the story's beginning.  

Short Story #112 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/7/2014
Source:  I found this story at this site.  Note the link is directly to a Word Document containing all of his uncollected short fiction.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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