Edward Kane, Advocate in A Promise is a Promise: Chapter 3
“Mr Horse, Mr Horse!”Kane rushed into the small sitting room to see Mr Horse sitting at the table, smoking a long pipe.
“Mr Horse - why is there a man who appears to be intent on suicide hovering at our windowsill?”
Horse looked over: “Ah, sir...”
The apparently suicidal figure appeared to be on his back now, hanging half-in and half-out of the window. Horse nodded towards it: “...that’s my friend, ‘the monkey’.”
‘“Macpherson’ - ‘The Monkey Macpherson’, we likes to call him. You was complaining of the draught from the window this morning, Mr K, so I sent word and The Monkey came round to fix it. He says that the putty on the outside is all mardy, so he’s sorting it all out for you.”
Kane stood, taking it in: “The monkey...Macpherson...”
“That’s what they calls him sir. A dab hand at windows with his swinging in and out. He can clean them an’ all. I’ve seen him hanging out of the best windows in Edinburgh, sir.”
Kane was lost for words. Horse took Kane’s hat and cloak: “Shall I make us a brew Mr K?”
The windows repaired and cleaned (in and out) Mr Horse sat, tin mug in hand, and listened to Kane recount the events of the day.
“Well, Mr K, sounds like you done a good job today, sir.”
Kane sat back in the wing-back chair: “I hope so, Horse, I sincerely hope so. Though, I confess that I was rather vexed by the comments of the solicitor, Mr McAdam...”
“What? That you was going to die in the gutter, sir...”
“Well, he did not exactly say...”
“That you was bound for the poor house, Mr K...”
“...sleeping in a dirty grubber, and lying famished across an old rope...”
“That is not precisely...”
Horse laughed: “Next time, sir, just charge him double what the work is worth. That’ll learn him.”
Horse stood with his back to Kane and was looking out of the window. He examined the window panes: “Well, at least The Monkey done a good job with the windows.”
Kane nodded: “And did it cost much, Mr Horse?”
“I just gave him a nip of your rum and the thruppeny bit in me pocket, Mr K, and he was well happy with that. He’ll do anything for a swallow of rum, will The Monkey.”
Kane had a fleeting - but alarming - picture of Macpherson swinging in and out of windows in Edinburgh in a state of significant inebriation.
This image was interrupted by a knock at the door.
Kane and Horse froze. Kane looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. Ten past six pm. It was around this time that the landlady, the Widow Thomson, did her rounds for the rent. Horse put his finger to his lips, then whispered: “Just keep the bone-box shut, Mr K, and she’ll get tired and move on.”
They waited in silence. Nothing. Then more knocking. More waiting. More silence. Then a wee piping voice:
“Mr Kine. Mr Kine - are you in there, sir?”
Kane smiled: “I suspect that I know this person - let him in, Mr Horse.”
Horse opened the door. Standing there was a little red-headed lad aged around eleven. The boy noted Horse’s broken nose. And gulped: “Oh...oh...I’m sorry, sir. I was looking for a Mr Kine, the Advocate, sir. I should have known that he wouldnae live in a stair as manky as this....”
Horse grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck. The boy squealed: “Don’t kill me, sir. Don’t kill me. I might dress posh, but these are my work breeks. I’ve nae money, sir....”
Horse lifted the boy up and started to carry the dangling lad into the sitting room.
“I’ve got some money, sir...some money..I’ve got a couple of farthings, but I’m saving up for my old age...”
Horse carried the boy into the sitting room and presented him to Kane, as a cat might present to its owner a tiny, squirming mouse.
Kane peered at the boy’s face for a moment, then: “You can put him down, Mr Horse. I know this lad.”
The manservant lowered the messenger boy to the floor. Kane smiled: “Mr Horse, this is Master Timmy...I am not sure if I was ever made aware of his surname...”
The boy piped up: “Timmy Thomas, sir, Timmy Thomas...”
Kane nodded: “This is Master Timmy Thomas. Newly-appointed messenger boy for the firm of law agents, McAllister and McAdam.”
The boy gave a low bow. Kane continued: “And Timmy, I think that you have already made the acquaintance of my man, Mr Horse...”
The boy looked up at Horse and cowered.
Kane continued: “Now Master Timmy, how may I assist you?”
The boy stood up straight, cleared his throat, and then tried to remember his prepared address to the Advocate: “Ahem. Mr Kine, the firm of McAllister and McAdam presents condiments...”
“I think that you mean present ‘compliments’...”
The boy nodded. “Aye sir. That’s it. Whatever that means. I’ve just got to say the thing - then give you this letter sir...” And with that, Timmy Thomas produced a letter from his jacket and handed it to Kane. “And I’ve got to wait for a reply.”
The letter was from McAllister and McAdam and it did indeed present compliments. It invited Kane to accept instructions in a new matter and to consult the following morning at eleven o’clock at the lawyers’ offices. Was that convenient?
Kane read the letter aloud and Mr Horse listened closely. Horse put his thumbs up: “What did I say today, sir! The tide is a-turning...”
Kane spoke: “You may inform the law agents that I am delighted to undertake any task in furtherance of their instructions and I will attend at the appointed hour.”
The boy looked blank. Kane leaned forward in his chair: “Tell your masters - the answer is ‘yes’.”
The boy almost swooned with relief: “I’ll do that, sir. I’ll do that. My sister will be so happy...”
“Your sister? The girl...‘Rose’...who works in the cash room?”
Timmy nodded: “That’s her, sir. She said you would be good for the case. You see, sir, Mr McAdam didn’t want you. He said he thought you were a bit of a drip...”