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- Without a Home - 64/94 -

for unless you can prove yourself innocent at this preliminary examination, your case must be heard before a higher court. Perhaps you had better obtain counsel, and have the whole matter referred at once to the grand jury."

"I would rather be tried by you, sir," Mildred replied, in a vibrating voice full of deep, repressed feeling; "I am innocent. It would be like death to me to remain longer under this shameful charge. I have confidence in you. I know I am guiltless. Please let me be tried now, NOW, for I cannot endure it any longer."

"Very well, then;" and he handed her a small, grimy Bible, that, no doubt, had been kissed by scores of perjured lips. But Mildred pressed hers reverently upon it, as she swore to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

After a few preliminary questions as to age, etc., the justice said, reassuringly, "Now tell your story briefly and clearly."

It was indeed a brief story, and it had the impress of truth; but his Honor looked very grave as he recognized how little there was in it to refute the positive testimony already given. "Have you witnesses?" he asked.

"My mother and sister are present, and--and--a young man who thinks he knows something in my favor."

"I will hear your mother first," said the judge, believing that in her he would find the chief source of character; and when the sad, refined gentlewoman stood beside her daughter, he was all the more convinced that the girl ought to be innocent, and that all his insight into character and its origin would be at fault if she were not. In low, eager tones, Mrs. Jocelyn spoke briefly of their misfortunes, and testified as to Mildred's conduct. "She has been an angel of patience and goodness in our home," she said, in conclusion; "and if this false charge succeeds, we shall be lost and ruined indeed. My daughter's pastor is out of town, and in our poverty we have few friends who could be of any service. An old neighbor, Mrs. Wheaton, is present, and will confirm my words, if you wish; but we would thank your Honor if you will call Mr. Roger Atwood, who says he has information that will aid my child."

"Very well, madam," responded the judge kindly, "we will hear Mr. Atwood."

Roger was now sworn, while Mrs. Jocelyn returned to her seat. In the young fellow's frank, honest face the judge found an agreeable contrast with the ill-omened visage of the floor-walker, whose good looks could not hide an evil nature.

"I must beg your Honor to listen to me with patience," Roger began in a low tone, "for my testimony is peculiar, and does not go far enough unless furthered by your Honor's skill in cross-questioning;" and in eager tones, heard only by the judge, he told what he had seen, and suggested his theory that if the girl, whom he had followed two evenings before, could be examined previous to any communication with her accomplice, she would probably admit the whole guilty plot.

The judge listened attentively, nodding approvingly as Roger finished, and said, "Leave me to manage this affair. I wish you to go at once with an officer, point out this girl to him, and bring her here. She must not have communication with any one. Nor must anything be said to her relating to the case by either you or the officer. Leave her wholly to me."

A subpoena was made out immediately and given to a policeman, with a few whispered and emphatic injunctions, and Roger was told to accompany him.

"This case is adjourned for the present. You may sit with your mother within the railing," he added kindly to Mildred.

The floor-walker had been watching the turn that the proceedings were taking with great uneasiness, and now was eager to depart, in order to caution the girl that Roger was in pursuit of against admitting the least knowledge of the affair; but the judge was too quick for him, and remarked that he was not through with him yet, and requested that he and the representative of the firm should remain. The two women who had testified against Mildred were permitted to depart. Then, as if dismissing the case from his mind, he proceeded to dispose of the other prisoners.

Belle joined her sister, and greeted her with great effusiveness, looking ready to champion her against the world; but they at last quieted her, and waited with trembling impatience and wonder for the outcome of Roger's mission.

The girl who had been led to wrong Mildred so greatly returned to the shop that morning with many misgivings, which were much increased when she learned what had occurred. She also felt that her accomplice had dealt treacherously in allowing such serious proceedings against Mildred, for he had promised that she should be merely taxed with theft and warned to seek employment elsewhere. "If he deceives in one respect he will in another, and I'm not safe from arrest either," she said to herself, and she made so many blunders in her guilty preoccupation that she excited the surprise of her companions. As she was waiting on a customer she heard a voice remark, "That's the girl," and looking up she grew faint and white as she saw, standing before her, a policeman, who served his subpoena at once, saying, "You must go with me immediately."

Frightened and irresolute, she stammered that she knew nothing about the affair.

"Well, then, you must come and tell his Honor so."

"Must I go?" she appealed to one of the firm, who happened to be near.

"Certainly," he replied, examining the subpoena; "go and tell all you know, or if you don't know anything, say so."

"I don't see why I should be dragged into the case--" she began brazenly.

"There's the reason," said the officer impatiently; "that subpoena has the power of bringing any man or woman in the city."

Seeing that resistance was useless, she sullenly accompanied them to a street-car, and was soon in readiness to be called upon for her testimony. The judge having disposed of the case then on trial, Mildred was again summoned to the bar, and the unwilling witness was sent for. She only had time to cast a reproachful glance at the man who, she feared, had betrayed her, and who tried, by his manner, to caution her, when the judge demanded her attention, he having in the meantime noted the fellow's effort.

"Stand there," he said, placing her so that her back was toward the man who sought to signal silence. "Officer, swear her. Now," he resumed severely, "any deviation from the truth, and the whole truth, will be perjury, which, you know, is a State-prison offence. I can assure you most honestly that it will be better for you, in all respects, to hide nothing, for you will soon discover that I know something about this affair."

After the preliminary questions, which were asked with impressive solemnity, he demanded, "Did you not leave the shop on Tuesday evening, and pass up the Avenue to----Street?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you not look back twice, to see if you were followed?"

"I may have looked back."

"You don't deny it, then?"

"No, sir."

"Did not Mr. Bissel, the floor-walker, join you in----Street, before you had gone very far?"

"Ye--yes, sir," with a start.

"Did he not say something that agitated you very much?"

"He may have frightened me," she faltered.

"Yes, he probably did; but why? Did you not make a strong gesture of protest against what he said?"

"Yes, sir," with a troubled stare at the judge.

"Did you not go on with him very quietly and submissively, after a moment or two?"

"Yes, sir," and her face now was downcast, and she began to tremble.

"Did you not enter a covered alley-way, that led to tenements in the rear?"

"Yes, sir," with increasing agitation.

"Well, what did you do there?"

"Has he told on me, your Honor?" she gasped, with a sudden flood of tears.

"What he has done is no concern of yours. You are under oath to tell the whole truth. There was a single gas-jet burning in the covered passage-way, was there not?"

"Yes, sir," sobbing violently.

"Has Miss Mildred Jocelyn ever wronged you?"

"N--no, sir, not that I know of."

"Now tell me just what occurred under that gas-jet."

"I'll tell your Honor the whole truth," the girl burst out, "if your Honor'll let me off this time. It's my first offence, and we're poor, and I was driven to it by need, and he promised me that Miss Jocelyn wouldn't suffer anything worse than a warning to find another place."

Believing that her accomplice had betrayed her, she told the whole story without any concealment, fully exonerating Mildred. Although the judge maintained his stern, impassive aspect throughout the

Without a Home - 64/94

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