Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Teatime Fiction. The Harbour Adventure. Part 4

Big Fat Helen has been rescued from the harbour but the alarm has given the Magistrate the excuse to encroach on the Harbour Master's territory.

The Magistrate arrived. To represent The Law In The Land, he had jammed his Bowler hat on to his head, which is what he wore when he was out and about. He reserved his top hat for ceremonial occasions, not least because it was his best hat. His Bowler was more the working hat and could be easier replaced. It was also lined in thin cork and was more likely to float if it wound up in the water.

"If anybody is dead, I am the Coroner's Deputy" he announced.
"Nobody is dead, thank The Lord." said the Harbour Master, curtly.
"Well, I'm glad you now thank The Lord for that and have give up appeals to heathenish gods" replied the Magistrate "And all that is needed is for you to respect some of the other Christian principles, and we'll all be better off"
"What do you mean by that?" spluttered the Harbour Master.

The Magistrate opened his mouth to answer but was shouldered out of the way by Little Fat Helen, who arrived with towels and a pair of stretcher-bearers, carrying the green canvas stretcher.
"Let me through. Got to get her home, lads" ordered LF Helen, as if the wet Helen might dissolve or shrink. The stretcher bearers looked doubtful, but rolled her on to the groaning canvas, then got another couple of mates to help heave the stretcher up. Eventually the four of them took a handle each and LF Helen walked alongside to make sure her sodden sister didn't roll off. The wooden spars creaked but did not crack.

The Harbour Master turned to Dadder and took out his note book and pencil. Pushing his nautical cap, the sign of his office, back a little, he squinted at us.
"Now then, what happened?"
The Magistrate broke in.
"Your daughter jumped in the dock when she was surprised by a seagull. Silly girl. These children saved her."
The Harbour master looked offended at this slur on his child.
"How do you know, Sir?"
There was an awkward silence.
"I saw it".
"How? You came from the other side of the bridge. It's miles away. Your eyesight must be good."
There was a long, awkward pause.
"I happened to be glancing out of the window".
"What window? The court has only got a little fanlight in that wall, and that in the upper gallery".
"If you must know, I was watching for the ... Mail packet from the West Indies. Yes. That was it."

The Harbour Master leafed back through his notebook of events from the past week.
"That boat arrived two days ago. The Post Mistress herself collected that mail, and she'll have sorted and distributed it by now. If there was anything on it for you, you should have had it early this morning."
"There's no law against a magistrate looking out of his own courthouse window."
"I never said there was. I just remarked that you must have very good eyesight."
"He could be using binoculars" interjected Dadder, remembering how these things go in Agatha Christie books.
"You have no proof of that" stuttered the Magistrate.
"Well what's that round your neck, then?" Dadder blundered on.
"Ah yes, these are...these are...birdwatching. My new hobby."

The Harbour Master shut his notebook with a snap. "I think I've heard enough to establish that there is no Foul Play here. Fowl play, yes. Foul play, no. My daughter overbalanced and, by the Grace of God, did not perish. I will put it in the incident book and the Harbour authorities can examine them as an when they think suitable."
"I'll be the one to decide if there has been Foul Play." Spat the Magstrate. He paused. "And I have found that there has not".
Dadder jammed his woollen hat back on his head.
"If you gentlemen have done agreeing, I'll take these children home" he said.

He was shooing the Raft children in to line, oblivious to the Magistrate and the Harbour Master looking daggers at each other. He suddenly remembered why he had come, and turned round.

"Blessed if it didn't go right out of my mind. Begging your pardon, Your Worship, but I came to ask the Harbour Master if it was alright to push a Revenue Man off the Raft, on account of him being an illegal boarder, but he says 'No' on account of the Revenue is the state's business and that's how the libraries are paid for. How say you Sir?"

The Magistrate thought about it for a moment, and then bearing in mind the legal opinion of the Harbour Master, gave his own.

"I should say that it depends on whether the officer has identified himself. If he has not, then you are entitled to take whatever steps seem sufficient to you, but you should take care not to go beyond sufficiency."

Dadder bowed. "Much obliged to you Your Worships. I can push him off the raft but not keel haul him. See, isn't that preciserly what I told Mrs Raft. Come along duckerlings, time to go home".

The End

1 comment:

Submariner said...

An enjoyable whimsy: thank you