“If only it were fiction, Mr Malcolm, if only it were...”
Jonathan Shepherd, who had remained silent during the narrative, now stared at Malcolm, blinking hard now, a look of panic on his face. Malcolm remained collected in the face of any revelation: “Mr Kane, I can only repeat our more than generous proposal: your client puts a halt to her conduct and we shall draw a line under the matter...”
“The truth will out, Mr Malcolm...”
“Then the Summons will be served and the action will begin.” Malcolm laughed: “I hardly think that your client has the means to defend it.”
Kane leaned back in his chair: “I have agreed to represent her for no fee, Mr Malcolm.”
The railway lawyer shifted in his chair now: “Then we will move that she must find some form of guarantee for the expenses of the action...”
Kane smiled: “Caution? Against a Defender? Oh, I can see it now, Mr Malcolm. The North British Railway Company employing the full force of the law to silence the grieving mother of yet another child who perished on that Innocent railway. It all promises to be quite a spectacle. You know your Bible, sir. The meeting of David and Goliath. And the sympathy is never with Goliath...”
Malcolm furrowed his eyebrows and thought for a moment, then: “When you say ‘...yet another child...who perished...’?”
Kane leaned forward: “Not my words, sir. That will be the evidence of the police officers who have retrieved quite a number of bodies, as I understand it, from that same…‘Innocent’ railway. If you wish to verify this, simply go to the St Giles Police Office and ask for a PC Wilson...”
Kane looked over at Jonathan Shepherd. The railwayman had that look of someone who had recently taken a blow to the stomach. Shepherd did nothing for a long moment, and then he looked at his lawyer and gave a nod of the head. Malcolm gave a small nod back and turned to Kane: “And what is it that you want, sir.”
It was at this point that the old solicitor, Angus Stevenson, spoke: “Mr Kane has taken the liberty of asking the boy’s mother to attend. She is waiting outside, Mr Malcolm. Better, I think, to hear from her in person, don’t you?”
The fight had gone out of messrs Shepherd and Malcolm and so they did not resist coming face-to-face with the grieving mother. After a measure of cursory introduction, the lady was asked for her terms:
“I’ve been thinking a lot, sir and I’ll tell ye what I want. I want a proper burial for my boy. Somewhere nice for the bairn. We’ll bury him again – but at the Bairns’ Knowe. I used to take him up there walking when he was just a wee skelf of a thing. I mind, he would climb among the stones...”
The railways lawyer nodded. The Bairns’ Knowe or ‘Children’s Hill’ was a beautiful burial spot at the Kirk of St Cuthbert. “I am sure, madam, that we can come to some form of accommodation. The boy’s remains can be moved with all due respect and deference.”
The mother continued: “And I want an angel. A big, marble angel.
“Wan that will still be there in a hundred years, sir, so that fowk will look at it and say: ‘Here lies wee Johnny Campbell...’”
Malcolm nodded as he wrote down the details of the settlement. The mother spoke on: “And another thing. When my time is done here on this earth, sir, I want to lie beside him. And you’ll pay for that as well...”
“I don’t know why you’re looking so glum, Mr K. You done good, this morning – wery impressed I was.”
Later that day, back in their less-than-commodious set of furnished rooms, Kane and Mr Horse unpacked the doings of the morning.
“You got that widow everything that she asked for, sir”
Kane sighed: “But I’m afraid that I let it slip that I was prepared to do all of that work for nothing, Mr Horse – so we do not feature in any of the agreed expenses. It appears that we are just as impecunious as we were before.”
“But you done the right thing for a grieving widow, sir – so bully for you, Mr K!”
Kane smiled and nodded. “Dare I ask, Mr Horse, is there anything in our larder that could possibly be employed to create the illusion of an appetising dinner?”
Horse laughed: “In actual fact, sir – we got a nice bit of duck in there. ’I thought we’d have a nice roast...”
Kane blinked in surprise: “Roast duck? Roast duck? Mr Horse – where on earth...?”
“That gold watch and chain of yours, sir. I went and pawned them...”
Of course, she still thought about him every day. A particular boy, he was, little Johnny. Euphemia Campbell smiled. He loved his books, you know. Maybe one day he would have been a gentleman. Maybe if...maybe...
Tomorrow was Sunday. She would take flowers to the grave. Lilacs. Lilacs for her wee boy. And she would sit for hours under the great angel and listen to the trains in the distance. Here lies Johnny Campbell. And she would dream in the gloaming until it was time to leave. One day, when it was all over, they would lay her there. Lay her beside her wee boy, their names carved together in stone. And they would lie there together, perfectly still, in the centre of the beating heart of that great city of Edinburgh.