Kane smiled. He read on:
“We were just getting to the Hope Park end when the dog “Dash” ran off. I tried to catch him, but my skirts made that too hard. When I caught up, Dash had stopped at another dog and they were sniffing each other. The fellow with the other dog had taken hold of Dash and was keeping Dash for me until I got there.
“I thanked the gentleman. It turned out that he was also walking a dog, a poodle, for his own employer. The fellow’s name was Thomas Tack. He was a lowly Writing Clerk for the firm of lawyers, Fergusson and Fergusson. His duties were mainly copying documents, visiting the tobacconist and walking the dog for his employer, ‘Old Man Fergusson’ (or ‘The Old Tyrant’, as Thomas used to call him). The dog was a miniature poodle named ‘Minnie’.
“And, from that day onwards, Thomas Tack and I would meet every day. And the dogs, Dash and Minnie, would run all around The Meadows, each other’s best. And Thomas and I would just walk and talk. We talked about the fact that I was an orphan and had a difficult upbringing. And that, after my mother died, I had to bring up my brother Timmy since he was a baby. Thomas Tack was very understanding about that. For his own part, he was very solicitous of his own mother, who was an invalid and required to be conveyed in a bath-chair. We talked about our dreams for the future. I was seeking a stable home for Timmy and me. Thomas Tack wanted to gain promotion and become a proper Articled Clerk, to raise a family and continue caring for his mother.
“And then, after a period of seeing each other almost every day, our feelings grew. Thomas began to call me his ‘spaniel.’ He would hand me little notes that he had written while at work and addressed to me - ‘To my own Spaniel’ or ‘Dearest Spaniel...’.
“And one day, Thomas looked serious as he passed me the note. I can see it in my mind’s eye even now. I remember the headed notepaper, ‘Fergusson and Fergusson’. And the note read: ‘My Dearest Spaniel. I love you with all my heart. Would you do me the honour of being my wife. We shall build our own little dog house for Mama, Timmy and our own little puppies. With deepest love and affection. From your own Spaniel. Thomas.’ I immediately accepted and Thomas promised that we would be married by Christmas. But then the problems began...”
Kane looked up from his papers. It made sense now what Master Timmy had said last night. Timmy’s sister, Rose, the cash room girl, had been allowed to select Kane in this matter, because it was actually her case. And Rose Thomas had, no doubt, chosen Kane because of Kane’s kindness towards Master Timmy.
His thoughts were interrupted by the voice of McAdam: “Mr Kane - you are neither reading nor writing. Have you encountered a problem, sir?”
Kane turned round: “I am digesting the facts, Mr McAdam. I had no idea that the...the ‘subject-matter’ - if I may call it that - was likely to be so...so close to home, sir.”
McAdam pointed towards Kane’s papers. “She is a good girl, Rose. She is a good worker. Reliable. Always trying to improve herself. Her mother died in childbirth, you know, giving birth to that half-wit brother of hers. Poor Rose has required to look after the boy ever since. Hence, her particular solicitude for the lad.”
“It is to her credit...”
“It was my mother’s idea to take her on. As you have seen, Mother has a fondness for waifs and strays.” And with that, McAdam dipped his pen in the ink-well. Looked down and started writing again.
Kane turned back to his own papers. He could hear Rose’s voice in his head now:
“...the problems began. One day, around six weeks ago, Thomas did not appear at the appointed place. I waited with Dash for some forty minutes. I assumed that Thomas had been given some other, more urgent task and had been called away that day. I attended the following day at the same time and place, and again – no appearance from Thomas. After four such days, I wondered if my darling might have fallen ill, and so I sent a little note to the offices of Fergusson and Fergusson. The following day, I received the note back with a reply written on top of it [Reference is made to Pursuer’s Production Number One]...”
At this point, Kane filed through his papers until he found the bundle marked “Productions” and examined them. He found the note from Rose Thomas. The note, in Rose’s gentle hand, had now been cut through with a large swipe of red ink and, at the bottom, in large red letters had been scrawled: “Kindly desist from further communication with Thomas Tack....”
Kane raised his eyebrows, taken aback by the response. After the gentle narrative from the young lady, the red ink that scarred the paper seemed to sneer at any prospect of romance. His thoughts were interrupted again by McAdam: “You have stopped reading again, Mr Kane. I expect that you have now come upon the red-ink response?”
Kane looked round again: “Yes. There seems to be a certain brutality in the reply that I was not expecting, sir.” Kane held up the papers. “This Thomas Tack had struck me as something of a sensitive soul - but his response here...”
McAdam shook his head and laughed: “Oh, Mr Kane, Mr Kane. Can you not read between the lines here?” He nodded towards the papers: “Young Thomas Tack had nothing to do with that response...”
“A Promise is a Promise” continues in The Scotsman on Monday, when Edward Kane, Advocate is given Thomas Tack’s proposal letter – and a shock…