The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

BOOK: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
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T
HE
C
ASE OF THE
B
IZARRE
B
OUQUETS
T
HE
C
ASE OF THE
B
IZARRE
B
OUQUETS

AN ENOLA HOLMES MYSTERY

N
ANCY
S
PRINGER

PHILOMEL BOOKS

To my mother

PHILOMEL BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group. Published by The Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.). Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England. Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd). Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd). Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India. Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd). Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa. Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.

Copyright © 2008 by Nancy Springer. All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. Philomel Books, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Springer, Nancy.
The case of the bizarre bouquets: an Enola Holmes mystery/Nancy Springer.
p. cm.
Summary: Fourteen-year-old Enola Holmes, disguised as a beautiful woman, finds clues in floral bouquets as she searches for the missing Doctor Watson, a companion of her famous older brother, Sherlock.
[1. Missing persons—Fiction. 2. Flower language—Fiction. 3. Characters in literature—Fiction. 4. London (England)—History—19th century—Fiction. 5. Great Britain—History—19th century—Fiction. 6. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
PZ7.S76846Carb 2008 [Fic]—dc22 2007020435

ISBN: 1-4362-2027-0

A
LSO BY
N
ANCY
S
PRINGER

T
HE
E
NOLA
H
OLMES
M
YSTERIES

The Case of the Missing Marquess

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

T
HE
T
ALES OF
R
OWAN
H
OOD

Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest

Lionclaw

Outlaw Princess of Sherwood

Wild Boy

Rowan Hood Returns, the Final Chapter

T
HE
T
ALES FROM
C
AMELOT

I am Mordred

I am Morgan Le Fay

Ribbiting Tales

M
ARCH
, 1889

L
UNATICS HAVE NO COMMON SENSE, THINKS THE
matron, but then, that’s what deranges the faculties, isn’t it, lack of common sense? Take this new inmate now: If he had any sense, he would be exercising with the others in the airing yard on this beautiful sunny day, the first fine day of spring; he’d be following directions (“Stand up straight! Breathe deeply! Lift your eyes and contemplate the glories of the firmament! Now, march! Left foot first, ONE-two-three-four!”) and he’d be doing himself some good, but instead—

“Let me out,” he demands for perhaps the hundredth time. “I am an
Englishman
! Such treatment of a British citizen simply cannot be tolerated.” While his tone is angry, he doesn’t curse, she’ll give him that; even at his worst, when he fought with the keepers, when he blackened the director’s eye, even then he hadn’t cursed. Nor does he now, only complaining vehemently, “Let me out. I demand my rights as a loyal subject of the queen. Let me out of this confounded coffin, I say!”

“It’s not a coffin, Mr. Kippersalt.” Sitting in a comfortless wooden chair, cushioned only by her own amplitude while in her lap she knits a sock, the matron speaks in a bored but soothing tone. “The top and bottom resemble those of a coffin, perhaps, but you know quite well that a coffin would not have spindlework all up and down the sides so you can breathe and I can see that you are not in any difficulties—”

“Not in any difficulties?” Unexpectedly the man lying in the confines of the restraining box starts to laugh. At the sound of his laughter the matron drops a stitch, frowns, and lays her knitting aside, reaching for paper and pencil instead.

“Not in any
difficulties
in this fiendish device?” the man cries amidst unnaturally high-pitched yowls of laughter.

“You do not appear to be physically indisposed,” answers the matron with gentle dignity, “and you are lying on a clean pallet, and you can change your position, move your hands. Certainly the crib is preferable to a strait-jacket.”

“A crib! Is
that
what it’s called!” The man is still laughing for no good reason. The matron watches him narrowly, knowing she must take care with him; he was quite unexpectedly quick for such a stocky fellow, and resourceful, too. He very nearly made it to the fence.

In Mr. Kippersalt’s barely started casebook she writes the date and time, then,
Patient laughing in apparent hysteria
. Earlier notations state that Mr. Kippersalt most strenuously resisted putting on his grey woollen uniform while his own things were taken away for safekeeping; that he has refused food; that his urine is light and clear, he moves his bowels appropriately, and he seems to be of a cleanly nature; that he shows no deformity of the head, trunk, or limbs; that he exhibits intelligence of a sort, and that he uses a handkerchief.

“A crib, as in, cheating me of my freedom?” The man’s unnerving laughter is quietening. Not a bad-looking man of middle age, a soldierly type, he strokes his moustache with his fingers as if to calm himself, or to think. “When are you going to let me out?”

“After the doctor has looked you over.” After first administering chloral hydrate, the matron feels sure. Himself an addict to laudanum and the like, the asylum’s doctor troubles himself little with the inmates other than to medicate them.

“Doctor? I
am
a doctor!” The newly committed lunatic starts once again to howl with laughter.

The matron writes,
Persists in his grandiose delusions
. Setting the casebook aside, she takes up her knitting again. Trying to turn the heel of a sock can be most vexing, but that’s the way things are when one is married to the director of a lunatic asylum: always seven things to do at once, never a quiet moment to simply rest one’s soul, go for a walk or look at a newspaper. The nurses require as much supervision as the patients do; Florence Nightingale’s influence has not extended here, and the help is illiterate at best, if not in the grip of some vice, usually drink.

The matron sighs. Trying to pick up the stitch she dropped, she cannot keep a slight edge from creeping into her voice as she replies, “A doctor? That‘s not true, Mr. Kippersalt. Your documents of admission clearly state that you are a shopkeeper.”

“My name is not Kippersalt! I am not the person you say I am! Why can I not make anyone at this hellish place understand that I am here because of some absurd misapprehension?”

Feeling the man watching her from the coffin-like box in which he lies, the matron smiles, albeit wearily. “In my experience of the past thirty years, Mr. Kippersalt, patients very often believe a mistake has been made, but it has never been so.” How could it be, when such considerable sums of money have changed hands? “Take gentlemen like you, now. A number have come here declaring themselves to be Napoleon—that’s the most frequent, but we’ve had a Prince Albert, a Sir Walter Drake and a William Shakespeare—”

“I’m telling you the
truth
!”

“—and some of those poor distracted minds are eventually cured,” the matron speaks on, ignoring the interruption, “but some of them remain here yet. Is that what you want, Mr. Kippersalt? To remain here for the rest of your life?”

“My name is not Kippersalt! It’s Watson!” Even through the spindles she can see his moustache bristling.

With kindly whimsy she retorts, “We have a Sherlock Holmes in one of the other wards. I wonder whether he would care to vouch for you.”

“You are mad! I tell you, I
am
John Watson, medical doctor and author! All you have to do is telephone Scotland Yard—”

Telephone? As if anyone this far north of London City has ever seen or used such a come-lately contraption? Just call Scotland Yard? Grandiose delusions again.

“—and ask for Inspector Lestrade. He will confirm my identity—”

“Nonsense,” the matron murmurs. “Nonsense.” He really thinks the director will make inquiries, give back a considerable fee and turn him loose? The man is raving. “Shush now. Shhh.” As if trying to calm a child, she murmurs to him, concerned; such passion might lead to brain fever if it does not soon abate. It has been two days now and Mr. Kippersalt is still ranting just as irrationally as he was when they brought him in. A sad case, really. The matron has dealt with many lunatics, but she feels particularly sorry for this one, because he seems as if he might have so much good in him if he were in his right mind.

C
HAPTER THE
F
IRST

I
T IS DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A NEW NAME FOR
oneself. Even more difficult, I imagine, than choosing a name for a child, for one is confusingly intimate with oneself, whereas one is barely acquainted with a baby upon its arrival. Some artistic whim, surely, had caused Mum to name me “Enola,” which, backwards, spells
alone
.

Do not think about Mum.

Although the large bruise on my face had faded, the even larger one upon my feelings had not. Thus I remained in my lodging on the first fine, sunny day in March, 1889. With paper and pencil in hand, I sat at my open window (how welcome is fresh air—even the London variety—after a long winter!) looking out over the seething East End street. The scene below had attracted my attention: Due to a quantity of mutton still on the hoof passing through, all manner of vehicles, including coal-wagons, donkey-carts and costermonger’s barrows, had locked shafts; I could hear the drivers shouting the most frightful oaths at one another. Red-coated army recruiters and other idlers looked on, grinning, while a blind beggar led by a ragged child tried to get past the jam, street urchins climbed lampposts to stare and jeer, and women in sooty shawls hurried on their errands.

They—the sorely overworked women of the slums—unlike me, had somewhere to go.

Looking down on the paper in my lap, I found that I had written:

Enola Holmes

Hastily and heavily I crossed out this, my very own name, the one I absolutely could not use. My brothers Mycroft and Sherlock, you see, must not find me, for they quite wanted to take charge of me and transform me, via singing lessons and similar vapours, into an ornament for genteel society. Which, legally, they could do. Force me into boarding school, I mean. Or into a convent, an orphanage, a Young Ladies’ Academy of Porcelain Painting, wherever they chose. Legally, Mycroft, the elder, could even have me locked up for life in an insane asylum. Such confinement required only the signature of two medical doctors, one of whom would be the “mad doctor” who quite wanted money to run the place. Those, and the signature of Mycroft himself—any scheme to deprive me of my freedom I would not put beyond him.

I wrote:

Ivy Meshle

The name I had used during the six months I had been a fugitive, on my own. “Ivy” for fidelity, “Meshle” a play on “Holmes”—
Hol mes, mes Hol, Meshle
—and I liked that name; I really wished I could keep it. But I was afraid—I had discovered that Sherlock knew I used Ivy as a code name when communicating with Mum through the newspaper personal columns.

What else did my oh-so-clever brother Sherlock—the one who, as opposed to the large and sessile Mycroft, was actually on the hunt for me—what did Sherlock know about me? What had he learned in the course of our most irregular dealings?

I wrote:

He knows I look like him.

He knows I climb trees.

He knows I ride a bicycle.

He knows I disguised myself as a widow.

He knows I disguised myself as a poor woman selling pen-wipers.

He knows I disguised myself as a nun.

He knows I gave food and blankets to the poor.

He knows I carry a dagger in my corset.

He knows I have located two missing persons.

He knows I have put the police onto two villains.

He knows I have twice invaded his Baker Street rooms.

He knows I use the name Ivy.

One must assume that he now knows from Dr. Watson that a young woman named Ivy Meshle worked for the world’s first and only Scientific Perditorian.

I sighed at this last, for I quite admired Dr. Watson, although I had encountered the good physician only three times: the first when he had come to consult the Perditorian—a professional seeker of missing persons—for the sake of his friend Sherlock Holmes; the second when I had gone to ask him a question and he had given me a bromide for a headache; the third when I had thrust an injured lady upon his care. Dr. Watson was the epitome of a gallant, sturdy English gentleman, willing to help anyone. I liked him tremendously, almost as much as I liked my brother—for, despite everything, I did adore Sherlock, although I knew him mainly through the very popular stories his friend Watson wrote about him, which I read as avidly as anyone in England.

Why, why did those for whom I cared always seem to prove my undoing?

Sighing, I pressed my lips together and drew several heavy pencil lines crossing out
Ivy Meshle
.

What, then?

It was not just choosing a new name that baffled me; it was the all-encompassing problem of what to do and whom to be. Within what sort of woman should I next hide myself? A commoner, Mary or Susan? How dull. Yet the flower names I loved, such as Rosemary, symbol of remembrance, or Violet, symbol of hidden beauty and virtue, were out of the question, for Sherlock knew about the code Mother and I used.

Nor could I fall back upon one of my middle names; I had, of course, the usual gentrified quota of them, being christened Enola Eudoria Hadassah Holmes. Enola E. H. Holmes—E.E.H.H. Eehh. Just the way I felt. Hadassah being my father’s deceased sister’s name, which Sherlock would instantly recognise, and Eudoria, even worse, being my mother’s given name.

Not that I cared in any way to style myself after my mother.

Or did I?

“Curses! Ye gods,” I muttered naughtily, writing down

Violet Vernet

Vernet being my mother’s maiden name, which, again, Sherlock Holmes would recognise at once. But perhaps backwards?

Tenrev

Well, no. But if I played with the letters a bit?

Netver

Never

Every

Ever

Ever
what?

Ever alone?

Ever forlorn?

Ever defiant
, I told myself sternly.
Ever to go on being—what I am.
A rebel, a dreamer, and a perditorian, finder of the lost. It occurred to me that, as a step in that direction, in order to hear news that did not reach print, I ought to try to find a position with some Fleet Street publication—

Coincidentally, as I thought this I heard my landlady’s tortoise-like tread upon the stairs. “Newspapers, Miss Meshle!” she bellowed even before she had reached the landing. Being as deaf as a turnip, Mrs. Tupper seemed to find it necessary to make a great deal of noise.

As I stood up, crossed my room and threw everything I had written into the fire, she knocked hard enough to crack walnuts. “Newspapers, Miss Meshle!” she shouted into my face just as I opened the door.

“Thank you, Mrs. Tupper.” She couldn’t hear me, of course, but she could see my lips move in what I hoped was a smile as I took the papers from her hands.

However, she did not then go away. Instead, she straightened her short, hunched form to its limit and fixed me with her watery gaze. “Miss Meshle,” she declaimed with the bravado of one who has decided to perform a Moral Duty, “it’s no good yer shuttin’ yerself up this way. Now whatever ’appened, and it’s none of my business, but whatever it was, it’s no use gittin’ pale about. Now, it’s a nice day out, wit’ a bit uv sun and startin’ to feel springish. Now whyn’t you git yer bonnet on an’ go out for a walk, at least—”

Or I believe she said something of the sort. I barely heard her, and I am sorry to say I shut the door in her face, for my gaze had caught upon the
Daily Telegraph
’s headline and fixed there.

It said:

SHERLOCK HOLMES ASSOCIATE MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARS DR. WATSON’S WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN

BOOK: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
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