Everyone was assembled, from the guards to the spectators to the judges. The defendant and her lawyers sat at one table facing the judges, while the prosecutors sat nearby at another table facing the same direction. (God forbid that they should face each other!) Tata Sous-sus, whose dumbfounded expression was the source of much merriment at Court, sat hunched over, refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Unobserved, Queen Pirouette sat in the gallery, veiled behind screens.
Only a few days earlier, Tata, the Queen’s closest living relative, had been found guilty of the murder of Lady Greenmeadow. All of these great personages were gathered to witness her obligatory sentence: DEATH. The presiding judge who sat under a large white wig with many curls, cleared his throat and struck his gavel. Behind him, a young valet, dressed in the Queen’s livery, held a curious-looking black cap over the judges head as he spoke.
“We are gathered here today for the sad business of sentencing this unfortunate woman, the lady commonly known as ‘Tata Sous-sus.’ Picking up a document and clearing his throat again, before he could speak, another valet bounded through a side door of the courtroom, ran up the stairs that led to the judges’ seats and thrust a piece of paper in front of him. An audible gasp rippled through the spectators.
“Wha- what’s this?” Stammered the judge, peering through his half-lensed reading spectacles at the note now resting in his hands.
“I’m afraid that I must call for a recess while I consult in chambers with my colleagues. Council for the prosecution and the defense will attend me there.”
As the judges retreated to their chambers, the rest of the courtroom rose to its feet. The room veritably exploded in people shouting into each others’ faces. Tata Sous-sus swooned, and it was only because two of her lawyers grabbed her that she didn’t fall right there on the floor. Looking skyward, Tata murmured, “Thank you, Lord. I thought I was already a corpse.”