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Christmas with Grandma Elsie
by Martha Finley
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The court-room was very quiet during the reading of the indictment, so that Max and Lulu who were listening intently, heard every word.

Lulu looked her astonishment when the prisoners pleaded, "Not guilty."

"Why they are! and they know they are!" she whispered to Max.

"Of course," he returned in the same low key, "but do you suppose men who break into houses to steal, will hesitate to lie?"

"Oh no, to be sure not! How silly I am!"

The next thing was the selecting of jurors; a rather tedious business, taking up all the rest of the time till the court adjourned for the noon recess.

That was a rest for Max and Lulu. Their father took them to a hotel for lunch, they chatted a while in its parlor, after satisfying their appetites, then returned to the court-room in season for the opening of the afternoon session.

The district attorney made the opening address, giving an outline of the evidence he expected to bring forward to prove the prisoners' guilt. Then Lulu was called to the witness stand.

She rose at once and turned to her father, looking a trifle pale, but quite calm and collected.

He took her hand and led her to the little railed platform. She stepped upon it and he stood near to encourage her by his presence.

"You are very young, my child," the judge said in a kindly tone, "What do you know of the nature of an oath?"

"I know, sir, that it is a very solemn promise in the presence of the great God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

"And what will happen to you if you fail to do so, my dear?"

"God will know it, and be angry with me; for he hates lying and has said, 'All liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone!'"

Lulu's answers were given in a low, but very distinct tone and in the almost breathless silence were quite audible in every part of the large room.

"Administer the oath to her," said the judge addressing the clerk of the court, "she is more competent to take it than many an older person."

When she had done so, "What is your name?" asked the district attorney.

"Lucilla Raymond."

"You are the daughter of Capt. Levis Raymond late of United States Navy?"

"Yes, sir, his eldest daughter."

"How old are you?"

"I was twelve on my last birthday; last summer."

"Look at the prisoners. Did you ever see them before?"

"Yes, sir."

"When and where?"

"The colored man has lived in our family, and I saw him every day for months."

"And the white man?"

"I have seen him three times before to-day; first on the second day of last January, when my brother and I were riding home through the bit of wood on my father's estate. That man was leaning against a tree and my pony nearly stepped on him before I knew he was there, and he seized her bridle and said fiercely, 'Look out there and don't ride a fellow down!'"

"And what did you answer?"

"Let go of my bridle this instant and get out of the path!"

"Plucky!" laughed some one in the audience.

"What happened next?" asked the lawyer, and Lulu went on to tell the whole story of the adventure in the wood.

"That, you have told us, was your first sight of the prisoner calling himself Perry Davis, when did you see him next? and where?"

"That night, in what we call the strong room where papa's safe is."

She was bidden to tell the whole of that story also, and did so in the same clear, straightforward manner in which she had told it in the magistrate's office, told it simply, artlessly—as not aware of the bravery and unselfishness of her conduct in attempting the capture of the burglars at the risk of being attacked and murdered by them—and in the same calm, even, distinct tones in which she had spoken at first.

A murmur of admiration ran through the court-room as she concluded her narrative with, "Papa was asleep and I couldn't speak just at first for want of breath; but when I put my arm round his neck and laid my face on the pillow beside his, he woke and I told him about the burglars and what I had done."

The prisoners had listened with close attention and evident interest.

"So 'twas her—that chit of a gal, that fastened us in—caught us in a trap, as one may say," muttered Davis, scowling at her and grinding his teeth with rage. "Pity I didn't hold on to that ere bridle and kerry her off afore we ventur'd in thar."

A warning look from his counsel silenced him, and the latter addressed himself to Lulu.

"You say you had seen Davis three times before to-day. Where and when did you see him the third time?"

"In the magistrate's office, the next morning after he and Ajax had been in our house."

"Did you then recognize them as the same men you had seen in the strong room of your home the night before at work at the lock of the safe?"

"Yes, sir; and Davis as the man who had seized my pony's bridle in the wood."

"But you had not seen Ajax Stone's face; how then could you recognize him?"

"No, I had not seen his face, but I had the back of his head and how he was dressed, and I knew I had fastened him in there, and that he didn't get out till the sheriff took him out; and then I heard his voice and knew it was Ajax's voice."

The cross-questioning went on. It was what Lulu had dreaded, but it did not seem to embarrass or disturb her; nor could she be made to contradict herself.

Her father's eyes shone; he looked a proud and happy man as he led her back to her seat, holding her hand in a tender, loving clasp.

She was surprised and pleased to find Grandma Elsie and Violet sitting with the other relatives and friends. They had come in while she was on the witness stand.

"Dear child," Violet said, making room for her by her side, "you went through your ordeal very successfully, and I am very glad for your sake, that it is over."

"Yes, my dear, we are all proud of you," added Grandma Elsie, smiling kindly upon the little girl.

But there was not time for anything more.

"Max Raymond," some one called.

"Here, sir," replied the lad, rising.

"Take the witness stand."

"Go, my son, and let us see how well you can acquit yourself," the captain said in an encouraging tone, and Max obeyed.

He conducted himself quite to his father's satisfaction, behaving in a very manly way, and giving his testimony in the same clear, distinct tones and straightforward manner that had been admired in his sister. But having much less to tell, he was not kept nearly so long upon the stand.

There were other witnesses for the prosecution, one of whom was Capt. Raymond himself.

He testified that the burglars had evidently entered the house through a window, by prying open a shutter, removing a pane of glass, then reaching in and turning the catch over the lower sash.

When the evidence on that side had all been heard, the counsel for the accused opened the case for the defense.

He was an able and eloquent lawyer, but his clients had already established an unenviable reputation for themselves, and the weight of the evidence against them was too strong for rebuttal. Their conviction was a foregone conclusion in his mind, and that of almost every one present, even before he began his speech.

He had but few witnesses to bring forward, and their testimony was unimportant and availed nothing as disproof of that given by those for the prosecution.

After the lawyers on both sides had addressed the jury, and the judge had delivered his charge to them, they retired to consider their verdict.

In a few moments they returned and resumed their seats in the jury box. They found both the accused guilty of burglary, and the trial was over.

"Is it quite finished, papa?" Lulu asked as they were driving toward home again.

"What, my child? the trial? Yes; there will be no more of it."

"I'm so glad," she exclaimed with a sigh of relief. "You said they would have to go to the penitentiary if they were found guilty; and the jury said they were; how long will they have to stay there?"

"I don't know; they have not been sentenced yet; but it will be for some years."

"I'm sorry for them. I wish they hadn't been so wicked."

"So do I."

"And that I hadn't had to testify against them. I can't help feeling as though it was unkind, and that their friends have a right to hate me for it."

"No, not at all. It was a duty you owed the community (because to allow criminals to go unpunished would make honest people unsafe), and indeed to the men themselves; as being brought to justice may prove the means of their reformation. So set your mind at rest about it, my darling; try to forget the whole unpleasant affair, and be happy in the enjoyment of your many blessings."

"There's one thing that helps to make my conscience perfectly easy on the score of having testified against them," remarked Max, "and that is I couldn't help myself, but had to obey the law."

"True enough," rejoined his father. "And Lulu was no more a free agent than yourself."

"No, sir; but she did more to catch the rogues than anybody else," Max went on, giving her a merry, laughing glance. "Don't you wish, sis, that you had let them go on and help themselves to all they wanted, and then leave without being molested?"

"No, I don't," she answered with spirit. "I wouldn't want papa to lose his money, or Mamma Vi her jewels. Beside they might have gone upstairs and hurt some of us."

"We are all much obliged to you, Lulu dear," Violet remarked, looking affectionately at the little girl. "How brave and unselfish you were! That burglary following so immediately upon the festivities of our delightful Christmas holidays, seemed a most trying and unfortunate afterclap; but we will hope for better things next time."

THE END

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