In the courtroom, Kane and Jim Sim were sitting waiting for the judge to arrive. Sim whispered over: “I take it Edward, having seen the papers, you now understand why we are here.”
Kane nodded: “It was the letter, wasn’t it. The legal disclaimer.”
Jim Sim smiled: “That’s the one. Nothing promised in the letter has any legal effect. It says so. Explicitly at the bottom. I confess I was surprised that you didn’t notice it.”
Kane had to laugh: “Possibly because a certain animal had scoffed a good part of the letter for its dinner...”
Sim covered his mouth to stifle the laugh. Kane, too, was overtaken with the absurdity of his position. Arguing a hopeless case. Where a dog had eaten the evidence.
“Court rise!” The Macer entered the Court, the ceremonial mace slung over his shoulder. The judge shuffled on, bowed, and sat down. Everyone in court mirrored the bow and then sat down.
Jim Sim got to his feet: “My lord, may I mention the case: ‘Rosemary Daisy Thomas against Thomas Tack...’”
Kane looked up at the bench. Lord Lambert. Ah! This put a different complexion on matters. Andrew Lambert - “Liquid Lambert” had been a widely-respected Counsel in his day. He possessed that rare gift of reaching into a case and seizing its beating heart. His legal understanding was lightning quick, but, as with many gifted people, this meant that he could be impatient with others who were slower on the uptake...
Jim Sim continued: “My lord, to start at the beginning...”
Lambert – eyes tight shut – interrupted him immediately: “No, Mr Sim, this is my Court - today, we’ll start at the end. I’ve read the papers. What is your final submission?”
This unexpected interjection unbalanced Jim Sim, who now stood silent.
Now, while Lord Lambert’s testy demeanour was sometimes justified, the old judge had other faults that were not so easily excused. For one, he did enjoy his brandy of an evening. Sometimes too much of it. This, of itself, was not an issue, but the after-effects could be problematic the following morning. Supplies of magnesia and peppermint water were kept in Lambert’s chambers to combat any related indisposition. And where those remedies failed - there was always more brandy.
Jim Sim ploughed on. The judge growled: “Be assured, I have your submission, sir. Your client - an idiot by the sounds of it - writes a letter and proposes to an innocent young lady. She accepts the proposal. And now that same idiot claims that there was no proposal because the letter in question says that nothing written there can be deemed a proposal.” He leaned forward and glared at Sim: “Do I have you correctly?”
Jim Sim nodded. Liquid Lambert, one hand now nursing his throbbing temple, was ferocious now: “Sit down, Mr Sim. Your point here is that some nicety of the law should protect this young blackguard...”
Jim Sim stood his ground: “With the greatest of respect, my lord, the letter gives a clear indication...”
Lambert barked: “The only ‘clear indication’ here is that this young philanderer is attempting to hide behind the law, and he is using a firm to law agents to assist him in the process. This is a disgrace, sir. Do his employers know that they are harbouring a duplicitous lothario.”
“They are fully supportive of his defence, my lord.”
Lambert had his head in both hands now. The magnesia and peppermint were not working. He studied the Court papers for a good three minutes. Silence. Then, with all the warmth of a storm cloud, he looked down at Sim: “Have you read the Summons, Mr Sim?”
“Of course, my lord”
The judge was icy: “Turn to Article Three of Condescendence...”
Jim Sim turned to Article Three.
Weary now: “And, unless I am in sudden need of eyeglasses, the Article contains the words: ‘...did by the said communication written at his employers’ offices and by subsequent conversation propose marriage to the Pursuer...’”
“Yes, my lord...”
The old judge smiled, but there was no warmth in his eyes: “Then - Mr Sim - presumably, you know what the word ‘and’ means, don’t you?”
Sim was struggling.
The old judge continued: “It means that your opponent here...”. The judge nodded down towards Kane “...is likely to lead evidence over and above the letter to prove his case.“ The same crocodile smile. He looked down at Kane now: “Isn’t that right, Mr...Mr...”
Kane bobbed up: “Kane, my lord, Edward Kane. Yes, that is correct...”
The old judge eased back in his chair: “And there we have it.” He addressed Sim: “Sometimes, sir, a lady requires to ‘shake the tree so that the fruit will fall’, as it were. That is commonly understood. Now, when is the evidential hearing in this matter?”
Kane was still on his feet: “It is some three months hence, my lord.”
Lambert rubbed his troublesome temples: “Three months? Three months??? Pish-posh! A child could decide this matter in three minutes. What about three days, sir? We can have the hearing in three days.”
The judge looked down at the Clerk of Court. The Clerk looked up and nodded. Liquid Lambert smiled: “Then it is decided - proof hearing three days hence. Should occupy all of an hour. Get this nonsense off the Rolls.”
Jim Sim spluttered: “But my lord, no witnesses have been cited to appear...”
The judge sighed: “As I understand, there are only four witnesses here. A Rogue Romeo, a Jilted Juliet and two dogs. I shall ordain them to appear. The lovers, I mean. Not the dogs. Can’t bear dogs. Slobbery animals...”