The case of the blue vio.., p.1
The Case of the Blue Violet: A Murder Most Unladylike Mini Mystery, p.1Robin Stevens
About the Book
The Case of the Blue Violet
About the Author
Also by Robin Stevens
Extract from Jolly Foul Play
About the Book
I am the Honourable Daisy Wells, President of the Detective Society, one of the greatest detectives ever known – and also a fourth former at Deepdean School for Girls.
Violet Darby – one of the Big Girls – recently asked me to solve a most puzzling romantic mystery. I knew I’d be able to crack the case, and I did, in just a day and a half. It was one of my greatest triumphs (Hazel Wong, my Vice-President and best friend, is telling me that this is boasting, but it is also the truth). Hazel didn’t believe I would have the patience to write the account of it, but of course, she was wrong. I did write it down, and it came out very well.
I now, therefore, present to you: the Case of the Blue Violet.
Being an account of
The Case of Violet Darby,
an investigation by the Wells & Wong Detective Society (mainly Daisy Wells).
Written by Daisy Wells
(Detective Society President), aged 14.
Begun 26th September 1935.
And finished the next day.
This is the account of a case that I solved almost entirely on my own. It seemed very puzzling at first (at least, some people were puzzled) but I solved it as quick as anything. That is because I am the Honourable Daisy Wells, President of the Detective Society. I am fourteen at the moment, in the fourth form at Deepdean School for Girls. This is a bother, as it means I have to pretend to be an ordinary schoolgirl. But soon I shall be twenty, and then I shall become the world’s greatest consulting detective, like Sherlock Holmes, only real. I shall set up my own detective agency with Hazel Wong. She is my Vice-President, and I suppose my best friend too, although that sounds less official. I haven’t asked her yet, but I’m quite sure she’ll agree. Hazel is a very good sort of person, a true brick. Sometimes she does think for herself rather, just as though she ran the Detective Society instead of me, but I have tried to train her out of it. Largely she does listen.
Hazel usually writes down our cases (we have had three real murders so far, as well as quite a few littler ones, which is far more than most grown-ups), but I have been telling her that if I wanted to, I could note one down as well. Hazel didn’t believe me at the time. She made Hazel’s Disbelieving Face, which is pursed lips and very straight eyebrows, and I’m sure she thought that was the end of it. Now, though, I mean to prove her wrong. I shall write down the Case of the Blue Violet (that is my name for it, and I think it very good and quite amusing) just as well as she could, and twice as quickly. Hazel always spends far too long describing people talking to each other, and when I read her notes I have to skim.
Hazel is leaning over my shoulder and looking disapproving again as she reads what I have written. I don’t know why – I am only being truthful. As I was saying, this is the story of one of our cases. It is not a murder (which is a pity), but it is rather interesting. It is about what happened when one of the prettiest Big Girls, Violet Darby, came up to me at bunbreak a week after the beginning of term and said, ‘Please help me, Daisy Wells. I’m in the most dreadful trouble, and you are my only hope!’
Hazel (still leaning) says that I am inventing that. Well, perhaps Violet did not say those words exactly – but she was upset, and she did ask for my help. Now, it is true that the Detective Society is secret. At least, it is supposed to be, although I am concerned that some members may not be as good as I am at keeping it so. But Violet knew about it, and about me, for one very good reason: her cousin is King Henry. King Henry, whose real name is Henrietta Trilling, used to be our Head Girl last year, and we helped her during our first real case, the Murder of Miss Bell. (You may read about that in one of Hazel’s casebooks, the one with the blue cover.) Quite obviously, King Henry had reason to recommend our services, and so when the problem of the letter arose, Violet knew that I was absolutely the best person at Deepdean to ask. And Hazel too, of course.
After she had approached us and asked for our help, Violet was quite upset. She stood there squashing her bun in her hands instead of eating it. We – Hazel, mostly – got Violet to calm down and sat her down on the wall. Then, once she had stopped hiccupping and wiping her cheeks, I told her to explain herself.
This is the story she gave us. I am not embroidering this part, because the facts in the case are vitally important for a detective to understand. And I must explain properly, so you can see how I got to my conclusion.
Violet Darby lives in Gloucestershire, on a country estate quite like Fallingford (my family’s house). In July of this year, her father sent her over to the Graves Estate, next-door-but-one, to meet its new owner, Lord Graves. Now, ‘Lord Graves’ is not really a name. Just like Daddy, who is called Lord Hastings as well as George Wells, it is just a title. It is passed on from person to person, like a ring or a coat. The old Lord Graves had been very old, so old that he died in the spring and gave his title to his nephew, Mr Eastham.
Before he had become Lord Graves, Mr Eastham had lived in America for several years. He had a wife there, and also one son, Edward Eastham. Edward was nineteen, and had lived in America with his father and gone to school there since he was Hazel’s and my age. But now his father was back in England, and in possession of a really quite enormous estate, and Edward was back home with him for good. He was now all grown up, and did not even have an American accent to make him the least bit unmarriageable. And so Violet’s father naturally thought that Violet ought to meet Edward.
Violet had not really liked this idea – she is not the sort of person who listens to her father – but all the same, she rode up to the house one sunny day in July. She was rather dreading it, and the thought of Edward, and so when she was shown into the morning room she felt leaden inside – but only Lord Graves was there. He looked rather bothered to see her (Violet’s father had not telephoned ahead to say she was coming). He told her that Edward had gone out, but that he’d be home shortly – if she liked, she could wait for him outside. Lord Graves was busy with some letters, and trying to get rid of her, and Violet saw that. She went hurrying to the front door, and freedom, hoping like anything that she would miss Edward and be able to go home without any bother – but as she was standing on the front steps, up drove a car and out jumped Edward Eastham.
He was not at all what Violet had been imagining. She had been expecting a rather chinless idiot, but the boy walking towards her was nice-looking, tall and athletic, and he stopped her still. Her heart beat (even when she described him to us, her cheeks went pink) and she realized that she was very glad she had met him after all. She waved at Edward, and he waved back – and five minutes later, Violet Darby was bowling through the countryside in Edward Eastham’s car, in love.
After that, Edward and Violet went driving together most days. She would leave her house on foot, meet him in a lane, and off they would go. When her father asked, she gave him the vague impression that she had not cared for Edward (she did not explain this, but I understood why – it is such a bore, pleasing one’s parents). The times she could not get out, she sent her maid over to the Graves Estate with letters and tokens (locks of hair and soppy poems and all of the silly things that people in love share), and she would get letters back.
It was all going terribly well until Violet had to go back to Deepdean.
She said goodbye to Edward, and she
I am making Hazel copy down what Edward’s letter said here, because it is both important and rather shocking.
September 23, 1935
Dear Miss Darby,
I am puzzled. I am afraid that I have never met you, and I certainly do not know any of the instances to which you refer in your letter. Have you contacted me in error?
She wrote back at once, by return of post, asking him what he meant by it. I think she rather hoped it was some sort of joke, for Edward had been quite fond of joking, even though he was in love.
The next day, though, the following letter was in her pigeon hole at House.
September 25, 1935
There seems to be something wrong with you. I have never met you and I certainly do not know what brings you to write to me so familiarly. Please stop all communications at once.
At this point, Violet broke down in tears again, which I thought was rather foolish of her. However, I made sure to have Hazel comfort her. It is no good to put off clients, and I was most intrigued. I decided to get the obvious questions out of the way first.
‘Are you sure it was the right address?’ I asked, when Violet had stopped weeping for a moment.
‘Y-yes!’ said Violet, gulping. ‘I made sure it was. And he says his name, there – it is Edward, it has to be! I know his handwriting, as well. Why is he lying? Doesn’t he like me any more? Is – what if there is someone else?’
‘That can’t be it,’ said Hazel, and frowned. ‘If there was another girl, he simply wouldn’t write back.’
Hazel can be quite wise sometimes.
‘My Vice-President is quite right,’ I said. ‘It doesn’t fit. No, there must be another explanation. Is he ill? Perhaps his mind has gone.’
‘He wasn’t ill when I left!’ said Violet. ‘It couldn’t be – so quickly! Oh, but what if it is? Edward!’
She began to cry again.
‘Does he have a twin?’ I asked. I was thinking about what I have read in my crime novels. Twins are often a very useful explanation – although they are rather a cheat. I don’t think much of authors who use them.
Violet shook her head. ‘He’s an only child!’ she said. ‘Everyone knows it.’
I wondered about a secret twin – and then I saw Hazel’s face, and thought perhaps I was jumping to conclusions. ‘But he’s written you letters before?’ I asked. ‘May we see them?’
It was, of course, the perfect question. Violet looked hesitant – I knew why, of course, because of all the soppy things that were in them – but at last I told her that if she did not show us, we could not solve her case. She pulled a packet of letters out of her pinafore skirt, going pink. (For some reason, when I looked at Hazel, she had gone rather red herself.)
She skimmed through them, hardly having to look (they were very creased and thumbed; she had clearly read them very often) and at last chose one to open. Hazel and I peered at it. It was in the same simple schoolboy copperplate as the others we had seen.
Graves Estate, 14th August 1935
My lovely Violet,
I miss you every moment we are apart. I know I do tease, but I really can’t imagine a world without you. We mustn’t let anything break us apart. After all,
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
It was very soppy, just as I had been expecting. But there was something in it – only a very little thing, but enough for a keen detective mind like mine to be alerted. I felt my brain race. Could it be? If so – why, the case might be over almost before it had begun.
‘Violet,’ I said. ‘I have had a thought. Can I come with you, while you use the telephone?’
‘But I don’t need to use the telephone,’ said Violet, proving that she was not as clever as me – which, really, is not surprising.
‘Yes you do,’ I said. ‘Or at least, you say you do.’
‘She’s got a lead in the case. She wants to phone someone to confirm it,’ whispered Hazel to Violet.
‘Oh! Why didn’t you say so before? Meet me at lunch time and I’ll get you into Matron’s office,’ said Violet.
Hazel made a face at me, which I ignored. She is sometimes far too soft with clients for her own good.
At lunch time, Violet took me into Matron’s study to use the telephone.
‘What shall I say if she asks what we’re doing here?’ she kept on asking, terribly worried. It was an awful bother to keep her focused and explain that as she was a Big Girl, Matron would not even ask.
I was exhausted by the time I picked up the receiver and heard the operator’s voice.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Fallingford 243, please.’ It is always good to be polite. It makes people wonderfully willing to give you things. ‘Of course,’ said the operator. There was a click, and a few whirrs, and then our butler Chapman’s voice echoed down the wire to me, saying, ‘Hello?’
‘Chapman!’ I said. ‘It’s Daisy. Can you get Hetty for me, please?’
Hetty is another true brick. If she were not a grown-up she would be an excellent member of the Detective Society – a far more worthy one than some people. But despite her age, she can still be useful, especially if one wants to find out some information quickly. I told Hetty what I wanted her to find out and tell me (I will not say it here, because I am building suspense, and also giving you a chance to solve the case. Perhaps you may not be as brilliant a detective as I am, but you may as well try), and she said she would get it to me as soon as she could.
‘Borrow the money from Chapman,’ I said, to punish him for listening. (I knew he was standing next to Hetty, I could hear him breathing.)
‘Miss D—’ Chapman began, offended – but I put the receiver down as quick as anything, so I would not have to hear him scolding me.
‘Why did you want to know that?’ asked Violet, looking troubled. I turned to Hazel, and saw that she understood. Her eyebrows were wrinkled up.
‘A good detective never reveals their methods,’ I said. ‘Not before we give you the answer, anyway. Hazel, don’t tell.’
Hazel pressed her lips together. I did think that the look she gave me was unfair. I am still her president, after all. This year she sometimes forgets that.
‘Do you know?’ she asked me later.
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Even before Hetty confirms it. Do you?’
‘Of course. How will you tell her?’
‘I shall think of something,’ I said. ‘Tomorrow.’
To be quite honest, I had not thought – but when Hazel asked, tomorrow was still an awfully long time away. I went over the case in my head, lining the details up like pebbles on a wall. It was all very satisfying. I think some people feel this way when they look at a painting or hear music, which makes me think that some people are awfully strange.
The next morning, at breakfast, there was a telegram waiting for me. It was very brief.
THREE STOP GARDENER VALET CHAUFFEUR STOP BE GOOD HETTY STOP
Hazel and I looked at each other. We both knew that the case was solved.
‘What are you up to?’ asked our dorm-mate Lavinia, chewing on a piece of toast. ‘You look odd.’
‘They look mysterious,’ said our other dorm-mate Kitty, grinning. I glared at her. Kitty is dreadful at keeping secrets. It’s really quite offensive.
‘Yes, it’s fa
That shut Kitty up, as I knew it would. She curled her lip and turned away to talk to our friend Beanie. Of course, it never occurred to her to ask why my maid should be sending an urgent telegram about staff. People never really do see what’s in front of them. It’s terribly lucky – it means that I can do almost anything I like.
In the bunbreak queue that morning, I nodded at Violet. She went pale, but she nodded back, and as soon as we were all out on the lawn, she came to find us, doing a very good impression of a Big Girl condescending to speak to two fourth formers.
‘We know the answer,’ I said.
‘Oh,’ said Violet. ‘Tell me!’
‘We shall,’ I said. ‘We want paying, though.’
‘Of course,’ said Violet. ‘Anything! Only – tell me what’s wrong with Edward!’
‘Nothing’s wrong with him,’ I said. ‘Only – the person you know as Edward isn’t Edward Eastham at all. He’s the Easthams’ chauffeur. That’s who you’re in love with. You’ve never met Edward Eastham, and he’s never met you. Isn’t it obvious? And that’ll cost you those nice cakes that you’ve got stored in your tuck box, all four of them – oh, and two favours, one for each of us, whenever we need them.’
Violet dropped her biscuit.
‘Oh!’ she said. ‘I say! It can’t – it can’t be true!’
‘Of course it is,’ I said. I felt frustrated. Why don’t people understand, when I speak to them clearly? ‘Hazel, explain!’
‘It does make sense,’ said Hazel gently. ‘Edward wasn’t in the house with Lord Graves when you arrived, was he? The first time you ever saw the boy you think of as Edward was when he got out of the car – and you never saw him with any of the Graves family, because you were meeting in secret. And you never told us he introduced himself as Edward Eastham. How did you know that’s who he was?’
‘But he said – he – oh!’ said Violet. ‘I asked him if he was Edward, and he said yes, but – oh, never his last name!’
‘Exactly!’ I said. ‘You only assumed. You thought that he was driving his car – but again, how could you know? How could you be sure that what you were seeing wasn’t something else – a chauffeur who had just come back from taking his master to an event?’
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