Presently the judge stopped writing and said he would hear the charges against Troilus Oberlies. Several neighbours took the stand in succession; their complaints were confused and almost humorous. Oberlies had said the United States would be licked, and that would be a good thing; America was a great country, but it was run by fools, and to be governed by Germany was the best thing that could happen to it. The witness went on to say that since Oberlies had made his money in this country--
Here the judge interrupted him. "Please confine yourself to statements which you consider disloyal, made in your presence by the defendant." While the witness proceeded, the judge took off his glasses and laid them on the desk and began to polish the lenses with a silk handkerchief, trying them, and rubbing them again, as if he desired to see clearly.
A second witness had heard Oberlies say he hoped the German submarines would sink a few troopships; that would frighten the Americans and teach them to stay at home and mind their own business. A third complained that on Sunday afternoons the old man sat on his front porch and played Die Wacht am Rhein on a slide-trombone, to the great annoyance of his neighbours. Here Nat Wheeler slapped his knee with a loud guffaw, and a titter ran through the courtroom. The defendant's puffy red cheeks seemed fashioned by his Maker to give voice to that piercing instrument.
When asked if he had anything to say to these charges, the old man rose, threw back his shoulders, and cast a defiant glance at the courtroom. "You may take my property and imprison me, but I explain nothing, and I take back nothing," he declared in a loud voice.
The judge regarded his inkwell with a smile. "You mistake the nature of this occasion, Mr. Oberlies. You are not asked to recant. You are merely asked to desist from further disloyal utterances, as much for your own protection and comfort as from consideration for the feelings of your neighbours. I will now hear the charges against Mr. Yoeder."
Mr. Yoeder, a witness declared, had said he hoped the United States would go to Hell, now that it had been bought over by England. When the witness had remarked to him that if the Kaiser were shot it would end the war, Yoeder replied that charity begins at home, and he wished somebody would put a bullet in the President.
When he was called upon, Yoeder rose and stood like a rock before the judge. "I have nothing to say. The charges are true. I thought this was a country where a man could speak his mind."
"Yes, a man can speak his mind, but even here he must take the consequences. Sit down, please." The judge leaned back in his chair, and looking at the two men in front of him, began with deliberation: "Mr. Oberlies, and Mr. Yoeder, you both know, and your friends and neighbours know, why you are here. You have not recognized the element of appropriateness, which must be regarded in nearly all the transactions of life; many of our civil laws are founded upon it. You have allowed a sentiment, noble in itself, to carry you away and lead you to make extravagant statements which I am confident neither of you mean. No man can demand that you cease from loving the country of your birth; but while you enjoy the benefits of this country, you should not defame its government to extol another. You both admit to utterances which I can only adjudge disloyal. I shall fine you each three hundred dollars; a very light fine under the circumstances. If I should have occasion to fix a penalty a second time, it will be much more severe."