Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 11: Clever Dick

The Great Hall at Parliament House was full to the gun-holes today. The Advocates – in what from above might have looked like an infestation of black beetles with curly cream heads – were swarming around the highly-polished polished floors, some in pairs, some in obvious dispute with their clients, others in conspiratorial huddle with their law agents.

Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 11: Clever Dick ILLUSTRATION: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 11: Clever Dick ILLUSTRATION: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane

‘Oh, my sainted aunt - what is SHE doing here?’ Pointing with his elbow, solicitor, old Mr Stevenson nodded to Edward Kane and then towards the front entrance. Through the crowd, there at the entrance, shaking her umbrella, was The Widow Fordyce, grandmother of the young lady who had questioned the identity of the returning husband.

Kane smiled: ‘Well, at least she didn’t bring the granddaughter with her.’

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And, as if on cue, Esme Blakemore (nee Fordyce) – hereinafter referred to as ‘the granddaughter’ – appeared at the entrance.

Old Stevenson was ducking down now behind some stone statues: ‘Perhaps, if we keep our heads down and if we are lucky, she will not find us until the hearing is over…’

This was not to be. Kane was soon aware that the old lady was waving over to them. Not so much a greeting, more akin to the waving down of a taxi carriage. She made her way over with her granddaughter following. Stevenson gave a short bow: ‘Mrs Fordyce – what a pleasant surprise.’ Kane took a bow, but looked at his shoes. The solicitor continued: ‘As I have advised you, madam – and I dare say, on more than a single occasion – there is no requirement for you to attend EVERY hearing…’

The Widow Fordyce glowered: ‘I am the client. I have a right to be here…’

Stevenson stifled a groan: ‘Mrs Fordyce, you are NOT the client. The client is your granddaughter here,’. He turned to the young lady: ‘Good morning, Mrs Blakemore…’

Esme Blakemore curtsied and the gentlemen bowed.

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The old lady was having none of it: ‘Client or not – I am the one paying the bills here with these – what seem to me to be exorbitant – fees. I may be almost blind, but I have a right to see how my money is being spent.’

The lawyers had been out-argued by this basic point and accepted their fate. But Old Stevenson had his parting shot: ‘I would remind you, madam, that Mr Kane, your Counsel here, has agreed to conduct your case on a speculative basis and it would be wise to bear that in mind.’

Suitably chastened (for now) the old lady followed her lawyers through the bewigged throng until they came to the wall upon which today’s business was posted. Here was a list of cases and (more importantly) a note of the judges who were down to hear those cases. Kane gently manoeuvred his way through the group of Advocates so that he could peek in and read the daily list. On his return to the group, the young Advocate looked noticeably worried.

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The solicitor asked: ‘And who did we get today, Mr Kane?’

‘We appear to have, um, well, you can see for yourself’

Stevenson narrowed his eyes and peered at the listings on the wall. ’Oh…’

It was apparent to the ladies there that the solicitor’s ‘Oh…’ was not a good ‘Oh…’.

The Widow Fordyce leaned in: ‘Is there a problem, gentlemen?’

The solicitor said nothing for a moment, before muttering – almost to himself – ‘Clever Dick…’

*****

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If there was a problem with Lord Dick, it was that he considered himself too good for the job. Alexander Mills Dick had risen through the ranks of the Faculty of Advocates with breath-taking speed and had soon become Counsel of first choice in any case. Elevation to the Court of Session bench appeared guaranteed from day one. And then when that happened, it soon became clear that his appointment had been a catastrophic error.

Because, very soon into the job as judge, Alexander Mills Dick realised that he was bored. An appearance before Lord Dick would typically entail a detailed lecture from the bench on the correct way on how the case ought to have been conducted – and this was not it.

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Edward Kane forced a smile: ‘It is really a matter of no concern, Mrs Fordyce. The judge, he is very…very ‘particular’, shall we say. But this is only a formal hearing today. I have agreed with the other side what is to happen, and so it shouldn’t take long.’

This did not please the grandmother: ‘If you have agreed everything with the other side, sir, then why are you here today? Why are we spending my money? Remember – I am the one whose pocket is being picked here.’

Kane said nothing, but studied the throng of Advocates walking up and down Parliament Hall and spotted his opponent: ‘I’m afraid that this is the procedure madam. I shall let Mr Stevenson here explain. I see Counsel for the other side over there, so if you will excuse me…’ With that, he gave a small bow to the ladies and left a glowering solicitor to deal with the clients.

The young Advocate called over to his opponent: ‘Charles…’

Tomorrow: ‘To Put Her Away Privily’