It is now behoven upon me to describe the trial of Victor Leach. You might say, as Poll does, “Beare, you silly sod, they’ve never managed to pin anything on the old villain.” Ah, but I’m not talking about the Old Bailey, but a kangaroo (more like cockatoo!) court here at the Lords of Aether, when the nasty little toerag tried to infiltrate the club. They assembled twelve good men and true and put him in the dock.
Now, when I say dock, I mean an upside down table they made him stand in, while they sat on two rows of benches like a load of silly beggars. And as for twelve good men and true…I told my Poll that the only words that counted for my lot were “twelve” and “and”.
Everyone wanted to wear wigs and gowns, of course, but Lord Anthony overruled them. Knowing Shelley, he’d have sported gold ringlets, high heels and sparkly garters. Anything for showing off and making a spectacle of himself. Have I told you about the incident in Drury Lane with the black bombazine dress, the policeman, the flower seller and a pound of carrots? No? Some other time, maybe. If the details ever stop being a state secret.
They charged Victor with having an offensive face, and a presence that disgraced the club. Which is coming it a bit, seeing as all of the members here would be a disgrace to a drunken party of costermongers flashing on the front at Brighton.
Lord Anthony tarted himself up in the role of the judge, of course. He allowed himself to wear a robe, alright—his game, so he got the best part in it. Looked more like a pair of my old nan’s velvet curtains. Poll had the washing of it afterwards—we didn’t enquire too closely what some of the stains were or how they got there—and she said it was the finest hammered velvet. Very educated, my Poll. She can tell a hawk from a handsaw and a molly from a machete so I suppose she knows her cloth.
I wasn’t officially allowed to listen to or watch the proceedings, but it’s surprising how much dirt accumulates by doors and how long it can take you to clear it, down on your knees with your eyes and ears at keyhole level. Unfortunately I missed some key bits both when the charlady came along and when my knees started to play up. They accused Victor of infiltrating the club on numerous occasions, to perform unnatural acts, but he insisted that the photographs were faked, the witness statements a pack of lies and the sworn affidavit from Coutts a clever forgery. He couldn’t give a credible explanation for what had happened with the anteater and the annotated copy of Bradshaw’s.
I guess they’d have hung, drawn and quartered him if they’d got the chance—or made him perform on the stage at the Glasgow Palace Empire for a week, which would be almost as bad. But all they could do was sling him out on his ear, and that not even literally, as the miserable sod has his contacts and protectors. All they could do was shoo him off, brandishing their snick-a-sees and umbrellas or whatever else they had to hand. Shelley had a feather duster which looked like it had been put to unnatural use, as well!
Lucky my Poll didn’t have to wash that…