England, The Year 1837
The big door behind the judge's bench opened. The bailiff flicked an imaginary fleck of dust from his robes of state, and stepped stately into the courtroom. He cleared his throat. It was time to announce his superior.
"The court is now in session. All rise for the—"
He cut off. Blinking, he stared for a moment at the prosecution's table, then leant over to one of the policemen standing guard in the room. "Why is that man wearing a bag over his head?"
The policeman winced. Some of his colleagues snickered, and one of them handed the bailiff a stack of documents. The bailiff started to peruse the indictment—then, suddenly, his eyes widened.
"All by herself?"
"Did she, um...the whole thing, or just...partially?"
"I believe just the most prominent part, Sir. The object in question, if I am informed correctly, was of a prodigious size."
"Ah. Um. I see. Well..." He cleared his throat again, glancing at the young woman who waited in the dock, her red locks in disarray, her arms crossed defiantly. Cautiously, he took a step backwards. "A delicate matter, I see. Please, cease this levity, gentlemen. This is no time for undue amusement."
"Yes, Sir," the policemen grumbled, chastised.
"Very well." The bailiff nodded and solemnly adjusted his pince-nez. "All rise for His Lordship, Justice of the Peace, Vincent McDougal!"
A scruffy-looking man with a wild mop of black hair entered the room. As soon as he'd flopped into his chair, he leant over to the bailiff.
"Why the blazes does that fellow over there have a bag over his head?"
"He, um..." the bailiff whispered something to the judge.
"Speak up, man! I can't hear you!"
With a pained face, the bailiff leant closer and whispered something directly into the judge's ear.
"What?" The judge's face twitched. His shoulders quivered. Suddenly, a quick movement of his hand sent his gavel flying. It landed behind his table on the floor. "Oops. Please excuse me." Hurriedly, the judge ducked down behind his table. A moment later, a noise issued from behind the bench. It sounded a lot like giggles muffled by a thick robe.
A few moments later, the judge resurfaced, his eyes sparkling. "He got his bloody nose bitten off?"
"Yes, Your Lordship."
"Cor blimey!" The judge looked over at the young woman standing in the dock. "Pardon me, but what are you doing in my dock, Miss? Where's my ravenous cannibal?"
The young lady from the dock levelled a stern look at him. "Right here."
He raised an eyebrow. "Hm. Well...you don't really look like a nose-nibbling cannibal to me."
"I didn't eat it."
"Fasting, are you? Admirable. Quite admirable. I've heard it's healthy."
The bailiff threw his superior a look, his face pained. "Your Lordship!"
"Ah, yes. We have a case to try. Well, let's get on with it. This should be interesting." Rubbing his hands, the judge gestured at the prosecutor. "Go ahead, Sir Gerald."