Edward Kane, Advocate in A Promise is a Promise: Chapter 6
“Oh, Mr K - what a load of old codswallop, sir”Mr Horse, Kane’s manservant, stood at the table, stirring the leaves in the teapot.
Edward Kane sat by the fire: “I don’t agree, Mr Horse. A promise is a promise...”
Horse shook his head: “So what you’re telling me is this: a bloke takes his dog out so that the mutt can ‘water the flowers’, if you take my meaning, and he comes back with a wife on his back?”
“Mr Horse, the matter is quite simple. There has been a breach of promise to marry here. Thomas Tack made a proposal of marriage. The young girl, Rose, accepted. Mr Tack has reneged on that proposal and so must face the consequences”
Horse poured the tea into the teacup: “And what did the young madam have to say for herself, sir?”
Kane pursed his lips: “I attempted to consult with her directly, but she quickly became upset. We got as far as the phrase ‘Thomas had such beautiful penmanship’, then she burst into floods of tears.”
Horse stood, shaking his head. Kane looked up: “You can shake that head of yours all you like, Mr Horse, but a promise is a promise. And Mr Thomas Tack Esquire is in breach of that promise.”
Horse poured the tea into his tin mug: “What is the world coming to, Mr K? When a man takes a dog out for a bone - and he comes back with a new rib...”
Despite the solicitor’s reservations on the small nature of Kane’s fee, the sum was enough to clear the outstanding rent and purchase necessities. More paid work followed. The drafting of the Summons in the case now known as Miss Rosemary Daisy Thomas versus Thomas Tack, Esq was complete and sent to the solicitors. Also, the firm of McAllister and McAdam threw Kane what Horse described as “a few juicy bones” of paid work.
The clock of St Giles had already struck ten. Kane was still sitting in the Advocates Library finishing an urgent piece of work. A voice whispered his name: “Edward?”
Kane looked up. It was James Sim.
James Sim, Advocate - known to all as “Jim Sim” was a popular figure at the Bar. A “good egg”, Jim Sim. Always positive and pleasant. Always fair.
“Oh, Jim - hello. How are you?”
“In fine fettle. Sorry to disturb you, my friend. Do you have a few moments to spare, Edward?”
They walked the length of the great Parliament Hall, empty now at this time of night. Sim got to the point.
“I’ve just polished off a set of Answers in a case, Edward. I believe it’s one of yours. The one about the dogs...”
Kane frowned: “If the action has a dog as its focus, Jim, then I fear that it is not one of mine.”
Jim Sim laughed: “Apologies, Edward. The dogs were perhaps minor players in the drama where the principal dramatis personae were the two young lovers - a certain Miss Thomas versus a certain Mr Tack...”
Kane smiled: “Of course, my Breach of Promise case. And what precisely, pray, does that ardent - if faithless - lover, Mr Tack say? I take it that he denies everything?”
“Oh, he denies nothing, Edward, nothing at all. In fact, my hand became quite cramped as I required to write the word ‘Admitted’ again and again.”
Kane stopped in his tracks: “Then Thomas Tack will simply concede the case against him?”
Jim Sim laughed again: “Oh, no Edward. Thomas Tack admits everything, but the case against him will never succeed.”
“But there will be evidence that he wrote a letter proposing marriage.”
“On solicitors’ headed notepaper, no less.”
Jim Sim smiled: “Of course. And have you seen that letter for yourself, Edward?”
Kane thought for a moment, then: “No. Now that I think of it, the letter was not among my papers....”
Jim Sim interrupted him: “Fear not, Edward. As you will see from my Answers, both the letter and its contents are admitted...”
“Then I do not understand the defence here, Jim.”
“Study the letter, Edward, study the letter...”
“What do you mean ‘The dog ate the letter’?”
Edward Kane stood in the offices of McAllister and McAdam, jaw dropped. Murray McAdam, solicitor, looked somewhat chastened, was silent for a moment, then turned towards the main office and barked: “Mother!”
Mrs Morag McAdam came into the room: “Murray, son, whit a noise. Ye don’t have to shout sae loud. I’m just in the next room.”
McAdam pointed towards Kane. “Mother, Mr Kane would like to see the letter.”
“The proposal, mother. From Thomas Tack. You remember. The letter in which Thomas Tack proposed marriage to Rosie. You know. The letter that is essential to her case.”
The old lady’s face flushed. She turned toward Kane: “The letter...the letter... was destroyed, sir.”
McAdam nodded and raised his eyebrows: “And how, mother, did that valuable piece of evidence come to be no more?”
Mrs McAdam nodded towards a pile of papers in the corner of the room. “You see that pile, Mr Kane? That pile is called ‘the scrap pile’. It’s just old bits of paper we use to clean up. For example, when my wee dog Dash does his business in the office by mistake, we clean it up from that paper. From the scrap pile. I was giving Dash a wee treat - some raw liver, sir - and I didnae want to stain the rug, so I took some paper from the scrap pile and put the liver on that. Dash ate the liver and the paper an’ all.”
At that point, the solicitor McAdam went to the window and yanked it open. Kane saw a brick on the windowsill outside. The weight of the brick secured a large envelope. McAdam retrieved the envelope and brought it inside. He opened it. Kane detected the smell of rotting meat. McAdam placed his thumb and index finger together and produced a document, holding it up as he might hold a dead rat by the tail. Kane could see the printed heading “Fergusson and Fergusson” at the top, and the ragged, chewed bottom.
McAdam held the item at arm’s length and looked at Kane: “As you will note, sir, that important piece of evidence is now rotten. Rotten as the proposal itself...”