The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer

Author:Nancy Springer
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Publisher: Penguin Group, Inc.
Published: 0100-12-31T22:00:00+00:00

CHAPTER THE TENTH

IT IS MUCH TO THE CREDIT OF THE PLATTER-FACED proprietess that she did not gawk or exclaim as I entered Pertelote’s. She only gazed, and murmured, “My goodness. Good ’eavens. And you carry it off splendidly. My congratulations, Miss, ah, Everseau.”

So she recognised the wig and the birthmark, remembered my unprepossessing appearance at the time of our transactions, and even recalled the name she had imprinted upon my calling-cards.

“Thank you.” I smiled. She knew as well as I did that the name I used was not my own, just as I was not what I appeared to be, but I heard nothing mocking, condescending or sly in her voice; hers was a warm sort of discretion, one might even say motherly—

As if Mum ever mothered me?

Do not think about Mum.

“’Ow may I ’elp you today?”

With some difficulty I disciplined my thoughts to attend to my business, which was to question Pertelote without appearing to do so. Therefore, I had to pretend to be in her shop for some other purpose. “The Spanish papers,” I murmured. “I find them rather awkward. Have you anything…else…”

“Of course. This way.”

She led me to a back alcove screened off from the rest of the shop, where she revealed to me a number of remarkable substances—liquid, paste and powdered—that could be discreetly used to enhance one’s eyes. Eye-drops to increase brilliance. Eyelash augmentation to obviate the need for tasteless fakery. Eyelid and eyebrow glosses, “shadows,” and pastel colouring.

“The secret,” explained Pertelote, “is to use just a ’int. One’s advantage is spoilt if one’s ’and is detected.”

Seated on a divine little lace-skirted dressing-chair at a well-lighted mirror, dabbing miracle-working unguents onto my face as she directed me, I exclaimed, “Fascinating!”

“Quite so.”

“Are these materials used in the theatre?”

“No, these are too subtle for the stage. These are rather recondite emollients, Miss Everseau. One might find them ’idden in the dressing-table drawers of countesses, duchesses, even queens.”

Merest cant, of course, yet I found myself half believing her. Greatly impressed, I looked up at her plain large-featured face flanked by buns of grey hair. “I feel honoured. But how ever did you come to discover these?”

“Why, in the business way.”

“But how came you into this sort of business?”

“One who is ugly beyond ’ope dealing in the secrets of beauty, you mean?” She uttered these shockingly frank words with a smile in which I saw not the slightest trace of bitterness, only amusement. “It is ironic, is it not.”

Her extraordinary honesty both delighted and perplexed me. “That is not what I meant at all,” I told her sincerely. “How does a woman come to undertake such a queer sort of shop as this?”

I noticed that—oddly, for such a forthright person—she hesitated slightly before telling me, “Oh, well, it was my ’usband’s at first, you see.”

“Ah! Chaunticleer was your husband?”

Chaunticleer could not by any stretch of fancy have been his real name, of course. I suppose that is why she smiled rather oddly.

I extrapolated further. “And was he an actor, or some such, that he entered into merchandising of this sort?”

“No, not at all.



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