A misunderstanding leads to an accusation of theft and a missed concert

in 1880 Henry Bird ran a music shop at 56 Berwick Street, Soho, London. One afternoon Henry Everest turned up at his shop with an order for a double bass.

The order was handwritten and signed by James Parry Cole who lived in Maida Vale. The note was numbered and had carried his business address at 16 Rathbone Place. Mr Bird saw that everything was in order on the order and sgave the instrument to the musician, who took it away.

Cole had advertised for musicians to join his band, and Everest had answered the ad. The band had been about to perform a concert and on the day of show Everest turned up at rehearsals to report that the bass had been damaged on his way over. It had fallen off of the cab he’d used and the neck was broken off and smashed.

Everest now had to try and find another instrument and he turned to a man he knew who owed him money. However this person was abroad and without an instrument the musician was unable to play. He didn’t turn up for concerts and as a result Cole had no musician and Mr Bird was still owed for the double bass.

In consequence a warrant was issued for Henry’s arrest and when he heard about this he turned himself in at the nearest police station. He had managed to sell the broken bass for £5 (it had been on sale for £8 at Mr Bird’s) and had no intention of avoiding paying the music shop for it.

In court at Marlborough Street the magistrate was sympathetic. He didn’t see it as a case of theft but merely of delayed payment. The problem was one of communication he declared. Mr Bird and Mr Cole should have spoken to each other, and perhaps Cole should have listened to Everest when he had tried to explain about the bass being broken. The latter was preoccupied with the concert rehearsals (and admitted as much in court).

The musician agreed to pay back Mr Bird at 5s a week until the balance was cleared and everyone went home happy. Whether Henry Everest went on to pursue a successful career in music is quite another story.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, January 20, 1880]

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