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- Without a Home - 60/94 -
despairing apathy she followed the officer out of the store--out into the glaring lamplight of the street, out into the wild March storm that swept her along toward prison. To her morbid mind the sleet-lad en gale seemed in league with all the other malign influences that were hurrying her on to shame and ruin.
"Hi, there! Look where you are going," thundered the policeman to a passenger who was breasting the storm, with his umbrella pointed at an angle that threatened the officer's eye.
The umbrella was thrown back, and then flew away on the gale from the nerveless hands of Roger Atwood. Dumb and paralyzed with wonder, he impeded their progress a moment as he looked into Mildred's white face. At last a time had come when she welcomed his presence, and she cried, "Oh, Mr. Atwood, tell them at home--tell them I'm innocent."
"What does this outrage mean?" he demanded, in a tone that cause the officer to grasp his club tightly.
"It means that if you interfere by another word I'll arrest you also. Move on, and mind your business."
"Miss Jocelyn, explain," he said earnestly to her, without budging an inch, and the comparatively few passers-by began to gather around them.
"You can have no communication with the prisoner on the street," said the arm of the law roughly; "and if you don't get out of my way you'll be sorry."
"Please don't draw attention to me," entreated Mildred hurriedly. "You can do nothing. I'm falsely accused--tell them at home."
He passed swiftly on her side, and, as he did so, whispered, "You shall not be left alone a moment. I'll follow, and to-morrow prove you innocent," for, like a flash, the scene he had witnessed the evening before came into his mind.
"Quit that," warned the officer, "or I'll--" but the young man was gone. He soon turned, however, and followed until he saw Mildred led within the station-house door. The storm was so severe as to master the curiosity of the incipient crowd, and only a few street gamins followed his example. He was wary now, and, having regained his self-control, he recognized a task that would tax his best skill and tact.
Having watched until he saw the officer who had made the arrest depart, he entered the station-house. To the sergeant on duty behind the long desk he said, with much courtesy, "I am a friend of Miss Jocelyn, a young woman recently brought to this station. I wish to do nothing contrary to your rules, but I would like to communicate with her and do what I can for her comfort. Will you please explain to me what privileges may be granted to the prisoner and to her friends?"
"Well, this is a serious case, and the proof against her is almost positive. The stolen goods were found upon her person, and her employers have charged that there be no leniency."
"Her employers could not have wished her treated cruelly, and if they did, you are not the man to carry out their wishes," Roger insinuated. "All that her friends ask is kindness and fair play within the limits of your rules. Moreover, her friends have information which will show her to be innocent, and let me assure you that she is a lady by birth and breeding, although the family has been reduced to poverty. She has influential friends."
His words evidently had weight with the sergeant, and Roger's bearing was so gentlemanly that the official imagined that the young man himself might represent no mean degree of social and political influence.
"Yes," he said, "I noticed that she wasn't one of the common sort."
"And you must have observed also that she was delicate and frail looking."
"Yes, that, too, was apparent, and we have every disposition to be humane toward prisoners. You can send her some supper and bedding, and if you wish to write to her you can do so, but must submit what you write to the captain of the precinct. I'm expecting him every minute."
Roger wrote rapidly:
"Miss JOCELYN--Your friends fully believe in your innocence, and I think I can say without doubt that they have the means of proving it. Much depends on your maintaining strength and courage. Bedding will be sent to make you comfortable, and, for the sake of your mother and those you love at home, I hope you will not refuse the supper that shall soon be sent also. I have ever believed that you were the bravest girl in the world, and now that so much depends on your fortitude and nerve, I am sure you will second the efforts of those who are trying to aid you. With the strongest respect and sympathy, ROGER ATWOOD."
The captain, who soon appeared, saw no objection to this note, and promised that it should be sent to Mildred.
Roger then went to the nearest restaurant, and procured a delicate and inviting supper, which, with a generous pot of coffee, he carried so swiftly through the storm that it was sent smoking hot to the cell in which Mildred was confined.
He then hastened to a livery-stable, and, having obtained a carriage, was driven rapidly to the tenement in which the Jocelyns had their rooms. Mr. Jocelyn, fortunately, was absent; for Mildred's natural protector would only have made matters far worse. If the guardians of the law had looked upon the wrecked and fallen man they would have felt that the daughter's alleged crime was already half explained. But a visit from Mrs. Jocelyn would make a far different impression, and he determined that she alone should accompany him to the station-house.
It would be useless to pain the reader with Mrs. Jocelyn's distress, and for a time Roger thought the tidings would crush the already stricken woman; but in answer to his appeal she soon rallied in defence of her child. At his request she assumed, as far as possible, the garb of a lady--the appearance and bearing of one was inseparable from her. It was with much difficulty that he persuaded the weeping and indignant Belle to remain with the children, for he well knew that she was far too excitable to deal with the police. Having made every provision possible for Mildred's comfort, they soon reached the station-house, and the sergeant in charge greeted them politely; but on learning their errand he frowned, and said to Mrs. Jocelyn, "No, you can't see her till she is brought into court to-morrow."
In answer to the mother's appeals and Roger's expostulations he remarked impatiently, "Do you think I'm going to disobey orders? Either take my answer or wait till the captain comes in again."
They had no other resource, and sat down to weary waiting, the mother weeping silently, and Roger, with sternly knit brows, deep in thought.
At last the captain returned, and the sergeant rose and said, "Here's the mother of the girl who was taken with stolen goods on her person. She wishes to speak with you."
"Well, what is it?" demanded the police-captain a little harshly, turning toward Mrs. Jocelyn; but his manner softened as he looked upon the thin, delicate features which had not yet lost their old, sweet charm, and which now were eloquent with a mother's unspeakable grief and solicitude. "Don't be frightened, madam," he added, somewhat kindly, as he saw the poor woman's ineffectual efforts to rise and speak. "I'm human, and not more hard-hearted than my duties require."
At last Mrs. Jocelyn burst forth: "If you have a heart at all, sir, save mine from breaking. My child is innocent--it will be proved to-morrow. A year ago we had a happy, beautiful home, and my girl a father whom all men respected. We've had misfortunes, that, thank God, fall to the lot of few, but my child has kept herself spotless through them all. I can prove this. She is in prison to-night through no fault of hers. Oh, sir, in the name of mother-love, can you keep me from my child? Can I not see her even for a moment, and say to her one reassuring word? She may go mad from fear and shame. She may die. Oh, sir, if you have the heart of a man, let me see her, let me speak to her. You, or any one, may be present and see that I mean no harm."
"There certainly has been some dreadful mistake," Roger put in hastily, as he saw the man was irresolute, and was regarding the suppliant sympathetically. "People who must command your respect will be glad to testify that Miss Jocelyn's character is such as to render impossible anything dishonorable on her part."
"Let me warn you," said the officer keenly, "that any such negative testimony will have but little weight against the positive facts in the case."
"Oh, let me see my child," cried Mrs. Jocelyn, in tones of such passionate pathos that his scruples gave way, and he said to the sergeant, "Let her see the girl! I'd be a brute to deny her, even if it is against our rules. The doorman need not stand near enough to embarrass them."
As Mrs. Jocelyn eagerly descended to the cells in the basement, the captain remarked to Eoger, "The girl's friends will have to bestir themselves if they clear her. The evidence is so strong that she'll be committed for further trial, without doubt."
"I think she'll be discharged to-morrow," replied Roger quietly. "I thank you for your kindness to Mrs. Jocelyn."
"Mere statements as to the girl's previous character will not clear her," resumed the captain emphatically. "You are a relative, lover, or something, I suppose. This poor woman has knocked my routine methods a little out of gear. One rarely sees a face like hers in a station-house. She evidently comes of no common stock, and I'd like to hear that the charge is all a mistake, as you claim; but, young man, you can't meet criminal charges with generalities. You've got to show that she didn't steal that lace. I wish you success, for the mother's sake at least," and he passed into his private room.
As Mildred was about to enter the station-house she had looked back, hoping, for the first time in her life, that Roger Atwood was near. The eager and reassuring wave of his hand satisfied her that he would know the place of her imprisonment, and that he would
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