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

Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
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“Not Proven” Norris was in the middle of his Cross-Examination of the clergyman, Reverend Paterson. It was not going well…

“Now, Reverend, you have told the court that you saw Lord Albert there,” - Norris pointed to the old nobleman in the dock - “and another gentleman with pistols.”

“Yes, sir.”

“But for all you knew, they were possibly engaging in a spot of target practice.”

“Not unless they were using each other as targets sir...”

A guffaw from the public gallery.

Norris decided to take a different tack: “You gave a statement here, did you not?”

“Yes.”

“And you were telling the truth?”

“Of course.”

Norris lifted up a piece of paper from the desk and studied it for a moment: “And in that statement, you said ‘The next thing I knew, the younger man was lying on the ground’.”

“That is correct, sir.”

“I am curious about the phrase ‘...the next thing I knew...’”

The witness looked puzzled. “I regret to say that I do not follow you, sir?”

Norris turned to face the jury, but continued his questioning with his back to the witness: “‘...the next thing I knew...’ - does that not suggest that your attention was diverted for a time?”

The clergyman knotted his eyebrows and considered this. He said nothing for a while, then: “What you must understand, sir, is that I am climbing a hill with a puppy...”

This was news to Norris: “Ezekiel the dog is a puppy?”

“Yes...”

NP saw his opening: “And like many puppies - energetic and boisterous?”

“Yes.”

“And you are how old? If you do not mind me asking?’

“Fifty-seven, sir.”

“And on that hill, I dare say that the puppy was off the leash for a period?”

“Yes, sir.”

Norris placed the fingers of his hands together, like a little steeple. Kane had seen him in action a number of times and knew that Norris was now formulating a question that would likely blow a great hole in the prosecution’s own hat.

“So,” Norris continued, “you - a fifty seven year-old man are climbing a great hill while, at the same time you are managing an energetic and boisterous young puppy - off the leash, mind you. Correct?”

“Correct, sir.”

“It is fair to say, then, that your full attention was not always on the men with pistols?”

No answer.

“Is that fair?”

The clergyman paused, then nodded: “That is fair, sir.”

Norris pressed on: “Thus, when you say ‘...the next thing I knew, the younger man was lying on the ground...” you did not, in fact, see him being shot. That is accurate, is it not?”

Reverend Paterson thought for a moment, then: “Yes, sir.”

“At no point did you see anyone shoot anyone else, correct?”

“Correct.”

“And when you went to assist the young man lying on the ground, there was found to be no injury to him, was there.”

“That is correct.”

“And the only treatment that he received was the application of some smelling salts.”

“Correct.”

His work done, Norris gathered up his papers from the table before him, but - unbidden - the witness then volunteered: “But, apparently, there was a hole blown in his hat, sir.”

Norris put his papers down and turned on the witness: “...‘Apparently’? ‘Apparently’?? Again, sir, your very wording betrays your lack of direct knowledge here.”

The clergyman fought back: “Well, I was told...”

Norris cut him off: “‘I’m afraid that ‘I was told’ is not acceptable evidence here. You have come to this court today and you have given sworn evidence that you saw someone being shot - and that was not true. You then talked about a gun-hole in a hat, a hat - it transpires - that you have never even seen. Are you familiar with the Ten Commandments, Reverend Paterson?”

“Of course I am, sir, I am a Man of God...”

“Then you can perhaps remind us of the Ninth Commandment”

The witness responded immediately: “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

“You seem to know the Commandment, sir,” Norris collected his papers from the desk, “all that I would ask now, is that your follow it...”

And Norris sat down.

Kane saw a number of the jurymen nodding. There was a moment of silence, and then Lord Wallis looked towards the prosecutor, Charles Cod: “Any re-examination, Advocate Depute?”

*****

Kane was banging on his own front door: “Mr Horse, Mr Horse...the door appears to be blocked...”

A Cockney voice from inside: “Give us a minute, sir...”

A certain amount of huffing and puffing from inside Kane’s rented rooms, then a small fellow in a cloth cap appeared. He tipped his hat to Kane as he passed - “Sir” - before making his way down the stairs.

Kane entered the hallway - What are those? Pine needles? - and then the sitting room. Horse was sitting by the window, a wide grin on his face, admiring their new acquisition: “Well, Mr K, what do you think?”

And there, standing in the middle of the room was an enormous, bushy Christmas tree.

Kane struggled to find the words: “I think, Mr Horse, I think...it’s awfully...big...is it not?’

Horse beamed: “Yes, sir - she’s a beauty, ain’t she!”

Kane stood there, unsure of what to say next. Horse waxed on: “I’m glad we had that little chat the other day about Christmas and all, sir. Made me realise that I was being a bit of a grump. And so...”. He pointed to the tree.

Kane had to laugh: “And so...it is enormous, Mr Horse...”

Horse surveyed the tree with pride: “As the gentlemen would say, sir - it is ‘all the rage’. I half expect Prince Albert hisself to pop out of it.”

Kane smiled: “Well, it cannot remain in the centre of the room, Horse.”

“I’ll stick it here by the window.” He crouched down and began to shuffle the tree gradually across the floor. “Ooh, it’s a whopper, sir. Took two of us to get it up the stairs...”

Kane repaired to his bedroom. He saw that Horse had already prepared the wash basin and had laid out Kane’s clothes for the evening.

And when Kane emerged refreshed, Horse had placed the tree by the window and was standing admiring it: “I’ll go down to the Lawn Market tomorrow, sir, and get some ribbons and the like.”

He brushed his hands together, shaking off the tiny pieces of brown bark: “Now, Mr K, I’ll get the dinner on. I got us a nice chop for tea. And then you can tell me all about today..”

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)