Read CHAPTER XXXV of The Tale of Timber Town , free online book, by Alfred Grace, on ReadCentral.com.

Bail.

The Pilot of Timber Town sat in his dining-room in the many-gabled house; Captain Sartoris sat opposite him, and both looked as miserable as men could possibly look.

“It’s a bad business, a terrible bad business,” said Captain Summerhayes, “to be charged with robbery and cold-blooded murder. I was in the Court. I heard the Resident Magistrate commit him to the Supreme Court. ‘Your Worship,’ says Jack, ’on what evidence do you commit me? I own that I was on the road to Canvas Town, but there is nothing wrong in that: there is no evidence against me.’ An’ no more there is. I stake all I’ve got on his innocence; I stake my life on it.”

“Same here, same here, Summerhayes,” said Sartoris. “But I don’t see how that helps him. I don’t see it helps him worth tuppence. He’s still in the lock-up.”

“It helps ’im this much,” said the old Pilot: “he can be bailed out, can’t he? and we’re the men to do it.”

“We’d need to be made o’ money, man. Ten thousand pound wouldn’t bail ’im.”

“We’ll see, we’ll see. Rosebud, my gal!” The Pilot’s gruff voice thundered through the house. “We’ll put it to the test, Sartoris; we’ll put it to the test.”

Rose Summerhayes hurried from the kitchen; the sleeves of her blouse tucked up, and her hands and arms covered with flour.

“What is it, father?”

“Young Scarlett’s in prison,” growled the Pilot, “and there he’s likely to stay till the sitting of the Supreme Court.”

The pink in Rose’s pretty face turned as white as the flour she had been kneading. “Have they found him guilty, father?”

“Not exactly that, my gal, but it looks black for the lad, as black as the pit.”

“But he’s not guilty!” cried the girl. “Nothing will persuade me to believe that.”

“We must bail him out,” said her father. “Bring me my deed-box.”

Rose rustled from the room, and presently returned with a square, japanned, tin box, which bore her father’s initials upon its lid.

The Pilot took a bunch of keys from his pocket, and quickly unlocked the box.

Upon the bare, polished table he placed a number of Bank deposit receipts.

“I can’t do it,” he said; “no more can Sartoris. But you can, my gal. Just add up these amounts, Cap’n, while I explain.” He handed the receipts to Sartoris.

“It isn’t often I’ve mentioned your uncle to you, Rosebud. But he’s a rich man, more than ordinary rich, my dear. Ever since you were a little dot, so high, he’s sent me money as reg’lar as the clock. I’ve never asked ’im for it, mind ye; and, what’s more, I’ve never spent a penny of it. I wouldn’t touch it, because I don’t bear him any love whatever. Before you was born, my gal, he did me a most unforgivable wrong, an’ he thinks money will wipe it out. But it won’t: no, no, it won’t. Howsomever, I banked all that money in your name, as it kept coming in; and there it’s been piling up, till I don’t really know how much there mayn’t be. What’s the total, Sartoris? Give us the total, man.”

But the Captain had forgotten his calculation, in open-mouthed astonishment.

“’Arf-a-minute, ’arf-a-minute,” he said, quickly giving his attention to the papers which lay before him. “Fifteen hundred and two thousand is three thousand, five hundred; and thirteen hundred is four thousand, eight hundred; and seven hundred and seventy-five is Why, there’s more money here than ever I saw in a skipper’s house before. I’ll need a pencil and a bit o’ paper, Miss Rose. There’s a mint o’ money as much as would bail out a duke.”

Supplied with stationery, he slowly made his calculation; the Pilot watching him unconcernedly, and Rose checking the amounts one by one.

At last he found his total, and drew a line under it.

“Well, what is it?” asked the Pilot.

“I make it ten thousand, seven hundred and seventy-five pound,” he said. “Goodness, girl, here’s all this money! and you baking and scrubbing as if you was a servant. Summerhayes,” he added, turning upon the Pilot, “I think you’ve been doing an injustice, sir; a gross injustice.”

“Personally,” replied the Pilot, “I don’t intend to receive a pennyworth o’ benefit from that money. If the gal likes to be a lady now, there’s nothing to stop her; but I don’t share in the spending o’ that money, not in a penny of it. Of that I’m determined.”

“You’re a contumacious, cantankerous old barnacle,” retorted Sartoris, “that’s what you are. It’d serve you right if your daughter was to cut the painter and cast you adrift, and leave you to sink or swim.”

“We can very well settle that point by and by, Sartoris. The present question is, Shall we bail out young Scarlett, or not? I put it to you, Rosebud. Here’s all this money what are you going to do with it? If you go bail for Scarlett and he runs away, you’ll lose it. If he stands his trial, then you’ll get it all back and have the knowledge, I believe, that you helped an innocent man. Which will you do?”

“I couldn’t hesitate,” replied Rose. “I’m sure Mr. Scarlett wouldn’t commit such a dreadful crime as that he’s charged with. I I feel,” her breath caught in her throat, and she gave vent to something very like a sob, “I should be glad to do anything to get him out of prison.”

“Quite right, quite right!” thundered the old Pilot. “There speaks my gal, Sartoris; there speaks my dar’ter, Rosebud!” Rising from his chair, he kissed her heartily, and stood, regarding her with pride and pleasure.

“My dear young lady,” said Sartoris, as he took Rose’s hand in his, and warmly pressed it, “it does you great honour. Young Mr. Scarlett an’ me was shipmates; we was wrecked together. I know that lad better than I know my own brother and, I say, you may safely back your opinion of him to any amount.”

“Get my hat, gal,” said the Pilot. “We’ll be going.”

And so, after she had hastily performed her toilet, Rose walked into town, with the two old sea-dogs as an escort.

First, they went to the Kangaroo Bank, where the Pilot placed the sheaf of deposit receipts on the manager’s table, and said, “It comes to something over ten thousand pound, sir. What we want to know is, will you allow my dar’ter to draw five or ten thousand, and no questions asked?”

“Ah really,” said Mr. Tomkinson, “it would be most unusual. These deposits are made for a term, and the rule of the bank is that they can’t be drawn against.”

“Then what is the good of all this money to my gal, if she can’t use it?”

“She can draw it as it falls due.”

“But suppose that don’t suit? Suppose my dar’ter wants it at once, what then?”

The manager rubbed his chin: that was his only reply.

“These bits o’ paper are supposed to be as good as gold,” continued the Pilot, rustling the receipts as they lay upon the table, “ain’t they?”

“Better,” said the manager, “in some ways much better.”

“Indeed,” retorted the Pilot. “Then what’s the good o’ them, if nothing can be done with ’em?”

“For the matter o’ that, Summerhayes,” said Sartoris, “if this gen’leman don’t quite like to trust himself in the matter, there’s plenty outside will take them there bits o’ paper as security, and be glad to get ’em. I’ve seen the thing done, Summerhayes, though I can’t say I’ve done it myself, never having had enough money to deposit in a bank.”

“Ah well,” said the banker, “of course it can be managed, but you would lose the interest.”

“The interests be be the interest be hanged!” exclaimed the Pilot.

“But the young lady must act under no compulsion, sir.” Mr. Tomkinson spoke with a dignity worthy of the great institution which he represented. “She must do it of her own free will.”

“Ask her,” said the Pilot.

The manager looked at Rose, who said, “I want to draw seven thousand pounds of this money,” but she felt as though she was speaking in a dream, so unreal did the situation seem to her.

“The best way for your daughter to act,” said the manager, turning to the Pilot, “will be for her to sign seven thousand pounds’ worth of these receipts over to the bank, and to open in her own name an account, on which she can draw to the amount specified.”

“Very good,” said the Pilot, “that would suit; but why couldn’t you say so at first, instead o’ boxing the compass?”

The business was soon concluded, and Rose, for the first time in her life, drew a cheque, which was for nothing less than L7000.

“This is a large sum,” said the manager, “a large sum to take in a lump.”

“Isn’t it her own money she’s taking?” said the Pilot. “I’m her father, and I don’t see anything wrong about it.”

“But there her credit ceases,” said the manager.

“Let it cease,” said the Pilot.

The cheque was cashed at the counter, and Rose walked out of the bank with a mighty sheaf of notes in her hand.

For safety’s sake, the Pilot relieved her of some of her wealth, and Captain Sartoris relieved her of the rest, and thus the three walked briskly towards the Red Tape Office. Here, with difficulty and much climbing up and down stairs and traversing of corridors, they found the room of the District Judge, who was, in his minor capacity, likewise the Resident Magistrate.

He was a man of benign countenance, who, after the customary greetings and explanations had been made, politely asked them to be seated. This invitation the Pilot neglected to comply with, but, advancing to the table behind which the Judge sat, he said,

“I believe you have locked up a young man of the name of Scarlett.”

“That’s so,” said the Judge.

“Well, he’s a friend o’ mine,” said the Pilot, “a partic’lar friend.”

“Indeed,” said the Judge, smiling kindly. “I’m glad that Mr. Scarlett is not without friends.”

“I’ve a great respect for the Law,” continued the Pilot. “I always had, but that don’t make me feel less anxious to help a friend o’ mine that’s got into its clutches.”

The Judge continued to smile at the Pilot from behind his gold-rimmed spectacles. “I can quite believe it,” he said.

“Cap’n Sartoris,” said the Pilot, in his gruffest manner. “Stand up, sir!”

Sartoris stood.

“Scarlett was your shipmate, Cap’n?” continued the Pilot.

“Certainly he was,” answered Sartoris.

“And he was my very good friend, sir,” added Summerhayes, turning to the Judge.

“So you have said,” said the Judge.

“Well, we’ve come to bail him out,” said the Pilot; “that’s what has brought us here. How much will it take, Judge?”

“A really this is very sudden,” replied the Judge. “Er this is ah most unusual. In fact, I might say that this is quite an unparalleled case.”

“We’re plain, sea-faring men,” said Sartoris, who felt he was bound to back up the Pilot, and to say something; “law isn’t our strong point.”

“Would you consider a matter o’ five thousand pound might do it?” asked the Pilot.

The old Judge leaned over his table, and took up a book.

“Bail?” he said. “Page 249. Listen to this. ’On charges of murder, it is the uniform practice of Justices not to admit the person charged to bail; although in point of law, they may have power to do so.’ That is from The Justice of the Peace it seems perfectly plain.”

“You may give bail, but you make a practice of refusing it,” commented the Pilot. “Might I suggest that you set an example to the other Justices, an’ come out strong in the matter o’ bail? If you’ve got power to make the lot of a well-known citizen a little happier, why not use it? Hand over them notes, Sartoris.”

The Pilot emptied his pockets of all the money that Rose had handed him, and placed it on the Judge’s table, and Sartoris contributed his quota to the pile.

“There you are, Judge,” said the Pilot, pushing all the money towards the legal magnate, “that should be enough to bail out a Member of the Legislative Council, or even the Governor himself. That should fix it. But don’t think, Judge, that me and Cap’n Sartoris is doing this thing. No, sir, it’s my dar’ter. She supplies the motive-power that works the machinery. All this money belongs to her. She it is that wishes to bail out this young man who, we believe, has been falsely accused.”

“Ah really,” said the good old Judge, “I must say now listen to this: I have here the newest edition.” He took another and bulkier volume from his table. “Page 66, section 176. Allow me to read. ’The exercise of discretion with respect to taking of bail for the appearance of an accused person, where such discretion exists namely, in all crimes except treason, being accessory after the fact to treason’

“Yes,” interrupted the Pilot, “that’s the Law, an’ very good it is, very good to them as understands it; but what Sartoris, my dar’ter, and me want is for you to let this young feller out of gaol till the trial, an’ we’ll be responsible.”

A perplexed look came over the Judge’s face. He took off his glasses, and wiped them; readjusted them; gave a bewildered look at the Pilot, and said, “Yes, yes; but listen to what I am reading. The first question is whether bail ought to be taken at all; the second, what the amount should be.”

“Place it high, Judge,” said the Pilot. “We’ve come prepared for that. We’ve come prepared with seven thousand.”

“Really, this is most irregular,” complained the Judge, his finger marking the place on the page from which he was reading. “The ah object of bail, that is the amount of bail should be sufficient to secure the appearance of the accused to answer the charge.” He had found his place, and read on determinedly, “’And it may be remarked here, that it is not the practice in England, under any circumstances, to take bail on charges of murder.’”

“Jus’ so, Judge,” said the Pilot. “Jus’ so. It’s not the custom in England. That’s as I should ha’ thought. But here, where murders don’t occur every day, you may grant it if you like. That’s as I thought, just as I thought. What’s your opinion, Cap’n Sartoris?”

“Same here,” said Sartoris, tapping his chest. “I’m with you, Pilot; with you on every point.”

“Theoretically, that is so,” said the Judge, “but practically, how are you going to assess bail for a man who is to be tried for his life? What amount of money will guarantee his reappearance? Why, no sum, however great.”

The Judge shut his book with a snap, and set his mouth firmly as one who had made up his mind.

“This young man,” he continued, “whom I knew and respected as well as you yourselves, has been accused of most serious crimes. He is said, with the aid of other persons at present at large, to have murdered the members of a gold-escort and to have stolen gold to the value of something like twenty thousand pounds.”

The two seamen stood attentively, with their eyes fixed earnestly on the Judge, whilst Rose covered her face with her hands.

“Besides which,” the Judge had now regained his judicial composure, and his words flowed smoothly, as though he were on the bench “we must remember that the accused is reputed to be a wealthy man. Supposing him to have augmented his means by murder and malpractice, what would ten, twenty or even thirty thousand pounds be to him in comparison with his life? That is the question. There can be no guarantee of his reappearance. Bail is impossible. But I will do this: I will extend you the privilege seeing your affection for this man, who, for your sakes as well as his own, I hope may be acquitted I will allow you leave to visit him on certain days, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 noon, and I will write an order to that effect.”

He looked at Jack’s sympathisers, who remained dumb. Dipping his pen in the ink, he asked them their names in full, and wrote.

Handing each of them an order, he said, “You will present those to the gaoler when you desire to visit your friend. I may say that I very much admire the strong affection which you have shown towards one who is under such a serious charge as that made against the prisoner, John Scarlett. I wish you good morning.”

So saying, he rose from his chair, and, when they had gathered up their money, ushered them out of the room.