By Jenean McBrearty
It was Tuesday. For Gilbert Mannerly, that meant lunching with his Uncle Clive at the Turnbull Club, a lunch that usually lasted until tea-time. It meant a swift, light breakfast as well, because it took him three hours to dress—one to bathe, one to decide what to wear, and one to ‘put himself together’ in front of his full-length William Kent mirror.
“How do you keep yourself so trim?” John, his valet remarked when he delivered Gilbert’s fresh-pressed trousers.
“Swimming in summer, polo in autumn, skating in winter, rowing in spring,” Gilbert said. And a good deal of bedroom hopping at night, he might have added, but didn’t in deference to the ladies. Even in private, gentlemen were not indelicate with the staff. A slip of the tongue to the wrong person and one might be yoked to a legal unpleasantness. The name Oscar Wilde was on everyone’s lips.
Of course, there were unforeseen circumstances that could always eventuate a downfall of catastrophic proportions. He cringed at the thought of what might have been—Leslie Davidson. They’d graduated Oxford together in 1878. Saw one of the first performances of The Pirates of Penzance together. Why wouldn’t he agree to meet an old school chum at The Green Fields? How was he to know that was one of the pubs where Wilde and Bosie met regularly?
That afternoon schnapps was unforgettable. Chiefly because he drained his glass in less time than it took for Leslie to light his cigarette.