The Scotsman Christmas Story: Edward Kane and The Matter of Honour (Chapter Nine)

Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
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The Trial: Day Three

“What in blue blazes is going on here???”

The Dean of Faculty’s face was a crimson beacon of anger. The Dean’s Room was filled with the Advocates involved. Again.

“I make a simple request - a SIMPLE request - that this matter should be resolved quickly and without further ado and what do we get? Nothing less than a common and vulgar pantomime.”

He turned on NP Norris: “And you! What is this I hear about making fun of a police officer - ‘...a costermonger in Corstorphine’ or some such nonsense....”

Norris removed the pipe from his mouth: “...‘...a porter in Portobello’ as I recall it.”

The Dean fumed on: “I don’t care if it was a barber in...in...”. The Dean struggled to find the match “...Prestonpans....”

Silence for a moment. They were in the midst of the severe dressing-down, but each Advocate in attendance found himself disappointed that the Dean could not locate a decent piece of alliteration.

NP Spoke up: “Dean of Faculty, you do us a great wrong.” He nodded over to the sullen-looking prosecutor: “Charles here has been handed a witness list that appears to have been consumed by moths...”

Norris nodded towards Kane: “While young Edward and I are saddled with an old rascal who is convinced that he has done nothing wrong. What would you have us do, Dean of Faculty?”

The Dean thought for a moment, then turned to Cod: “Charles - there must be a further reduction available here? A lesser charge, perhaps?”

Cod shook his head:: “It has been tried, Dean of Faculty. Lord Albert has refused ‘culpable and reckless’....”

They Dean looked over at Norris. Norris puffed on his pipe and said nothing. The Dean looked back at Cod: “Then offer something better...”

“But the Lord Advocate...”

The Dean was shouting now: “Are you deaf, man? Are you deaf? I told you - I have spoken to the Lord Advocate. Fix this, Charles - fix it.”

The Dean stood up. The Advocates stood up. Charles Cod looked anxious: “I would require more time...”

Rab Lennox, Dean of Faculty, sighed: “I will have word sent to the judges. There will be no evidence today.” He stared at Charles Cod - “Fix this...”

*****

“Well, Mr K - what do you think?”

Mr Horse, extremely pleased with himself, pointed to the Christmas tree at the window.

Kane stood and admired their recent over-sized acquisition.

Picture-perfect, it stood. Busy and ungainly, but now a joyful splash of colour. And at the Lawn Market, Horse had picked up some bright red ribbon, and had fashioned a number of festive bows. And dotted among the green pine needles now were white paper decorations and a host of large angels - made of macramé.

Kane stood and admired Horse’s handiwork: “Those are some very intricate bows, Mr Horse.”

Horse smiled: “Learned to tie a good number of knots in the army, sir. Make sure them French prisoners didn’t escape on us”

Kane laughed. Horse fumbled in his pockets: “Oh, and I’ve got another thing here for you, sir. Picked it up last night.”

And with that, Horse reached into his pocket and produced a beautiful ladies’ cameo brooch. He handed it to Kane, who took it and ran his fingers around its outside: “Is this gold, Mr Horse?”

Horse shook his head: “No, Mr K - most likely a bit of the old Pinchbeck brass, but I thought you’d enjoy the picture, sir.”

Kane studied the picture on the brooch. Shell or coral had been hand-carved into a raised illustration of Michelangelo’s Pieta. There was the Virgin Mary, cradling the body of Jesus on her lap.

Kane recognised the image. A similar engraving had hung on the wall of his father’s study. His father, a clergyman, had always wanted to visit Rome to see that great marble masterpiece for himself, but that hadn’t happened. How long was it that his father had been dead now? Three years? Four?

Kane’s reverie was broken by Horse’s Cockney brogue: “So, Mr K, I thought that it might come in handy for a Christmas gift or the like. You know. For Christmas morning and your visit to…well, your visit and such...”

Of course. Before going to the Collins household, Kane had another visit to make.

“Mr Horse, this is very impressive. May I offer you some money for it?”

Horse shook his head: “Put you hand back in your pocket, sir. We can square up the next time you get paid.”

Kane admired the brooch again. “It is beautiful, Horse. Where on earth did you get it?”

“I won it last night, sir. At cards...”

*****

The Trial: Day Four

“This whole case...this whole case is going to pigs and whistles!”

Lord Wallis was bellowing now. Prosecutor Cod stood. Cowed.

The jury had been removed from the court for the time being so that the judges could shout at the Advocates.

The judge turned on NP Norris: “And you, sir, with your allusions of milkmaids in Portobello and the like...”

Kane mused to himself: Have none of the senior lawyers ever heard alliteration? Milkmaids in Musselburgh was much better...

“...this courtroom is not a place for levity, Mr Norris. This is a trial for Attempted Murder. You would do well to remember that, sir.”

NP Norris remained seated, but gave a bow in acknowledgment. Wallis turned to back to Cod: “And you sir, on day four of the trial, seeking yet another adjournment...”

Cod could do nothing but sigh,

Wallis harrumphed and lifted up his pen: “And what is the basis for this Crown motion to adjourn?”

Cod looked down at his papers: “Certain difficulties with Crown witnesses, my lords.”

Lord Wallis threw down his pen. He looked as if he were about to explode: “Again? Again?? You are already conducting you case without the benefit of a complainer, sir. Apparently, the gentleman, one John Sanders Barrington Smith has decided to be abroad for these proceedings.” Lord Wallis looked at the other two judges: “And one can only envy him....” He turned back towards Cod again: “What is the issue now?”

Cod lifted up his papers and read from them: “It would seem that we have not been able to cite Mr Smith’s Second, his cousin, a certain Mr Charles Smith.”

Lord Wallis was writing now. He looked up: “Why not?”

“Because he is also abroad.”

The judge shook his head and continued writing. Charles Cod continued, as calmly as he could: “And as far as the surgeon at the scene who treated Mr Smith is concerned, he...he is...”

Lord Wallis looked up wearily: “Let me guess. He has emigrated to the Isthmus of Panama...”

“He is unable to be traced, my lords.”

Lord Wallis sighed and shook his head. NP Norris got up to address the court, but the judge waved him away. “Sit down, Mr Norris.”

Lord Wallis then summoned the judges at his sides to come and speak privately. The three judges stood in a huddle, their backs to the lawyers and the main gallery. Much nodding and gesticulation. Then they returned to their seats. Lord Wallis addressed the prosecutor:

“We appreciate the leaned Advocate Depute’s difficulties here, but an adjournment of another full day would, we feel, be excessive. Thus, Advocate Depute you can have until two o’clock this afternoon. Who is you’re next witness?”

Cod sighed with relief: “That would be Captain Harry Street.”

“And what is he to speak to?”

“Captain Street was the gentleman who assisted the Lord Albert at the...” he thought about saying the word ‘duel’, but thought the better of it “...at the event in question. He will confirm the identity of the accused, the identity of the complainer, Mr Smith, and he will speak to the accused here firing the bullet at Mr Smith’s head.”

Lord Wallis looked around him and the judge on each side nodded. Wallis closed his notebook. “Very well, Advocate Depute. Two o’clock, then. And I would be very grateful if you could ensure that this witness does not emigrate in the meantime...”

Ross Macfarlane QC has written The Scotsman Christmas story every year for the last ten years. His Scotsman story “Mr Charles Dickens and the Tale of Ebenezer...Scroggie” was chosen as the featured fiction by the international organisation, the Dickens Fellowship in 2017. His novella “Edward Kane and The Matter of Honour” is set in Edinburgh in the same period, the mid-19th Century and has been specially commissioned by The Scotsman. Illustrations by Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane.

READ MORE: The Scotsman Christmas Story: Edward Kane and The Matter of Honour (Chapter One)