Published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc

Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories: Volume Seven

The Clue in the Diary

Copyright © 1931 by Simon & Schuster, Inc

Published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc

This is original text, 1931

Nancy and her friends Bess and George, on their way home from a carnival, discuss a financially struggling and have trouble deciding if they should by candy Swedish immigrant, Mrs. Swenson, and her daughter, whom the girls have just helped to enjoy the carnival attractions by being their hosts for the evening.

As they are driving, a luxurious roadside estate bursts into flames. The girls park the car and make sure that no one is trapped inside. In doing so, Nancy sees someone fleeing the property, and discovers an anonymous Swedish diary on the ground. She picks up this clue, and as firefighters and gawkers arrive on the scene, she notices an attractive young man moving her car away from the flying embers. At first suspicious of Ned Nickerson, Nancy warms to him when he helps her out of a jam. Ned proves to be a good friend, and is a perennial admirer of Nancy's from then on. Meanwhile, Mrs. Swenson's husband is missing, and she identifies his diary as the one picked up at the fire. To top it all off, the owner of the burned house, Felix Raybolt, is missing, and his wife claims Joe Swenson has murdered her husband. Raybolt, it turns out, swindles inventors like Swenson out of patents and copyrights on their inventions and used an invention to start the fire.

NANCY. GEORGE. AND MISS PETSY SANDERS

By

MARGARET MARON

author of

The Sigrid Harald Series: Past Imperfect;

The Deborah Knott Series: Bootlegger's Daughter;

The Deborah Knott Series: Shooting at Loons,

& Others

When I was a child, living on the eastern edge of our family farm, summertime seemed an endless round of chopping, picking, bending, weeding. Chores weren't something to keep a child out of mischief; they were a necessary contribution to a farm family's well-being.

Nevertheless, everyone in our family read, and there were plenty of lazy Sunday afternoons or long summer evenings, after work was put aside and before sleep claimed us, when the whole farm seemed wreathed in silence. No television, no ringing phones. Telephone lines hadn't yet reached our part of Johnston County, and no one we knew owned a television. Radio was just past its prime in those days, and we usually turned it off after the evening newscast. Often, the only sounds that competed with our turning pages were night birds, cicadas, an occasional car bumping past on the dirt road in front of our house, and maybe the clink of ice in tall glasses of strong sweet tea.



We bought few books, and our periodicals were consumed the day they arrived: The Raleigh Times, of course; The Progressive Farmer; Reader's Digest; The Saturday Evening Post. These were my parents' staples and I would quickly thumb through them for the comics and cartoons. A neighbor used to pass his old Popular Mechanics magazines on to my older brother, and our mother would occasionally take "trial" subscriptions to Redbook, McCall's, or Ladies' Home Journal, (Regular subscriptions were deemed too expensive.)

But books we had—murder mysteries piled on the kitchen bench at my mother's place, humor and travel books strewn across my father's bedspread, adventures and fictionalized biographies stacked in a box on the floor beside my bed, even a handful of picture books on a high shelf within easy reach when we wanted to read to her but safe from the baby's sticky fingers.

So where did we get these riches?

We borrowed them from our county library. Or, to be precise, we borrowed them from the county's bookmobile.

Once a month, that great green box on wheels would come lumbering down our dusty road and, with a clash of gears, maneuver itself into the shade of my grandmother's crepe myrtle trees. No air conditioning, of course, but small windows could be cranked open for ventilation.

My cousin Nell and I would dart barefooted up the hot metal steps into the dim close interior and watch Miss Betsy Sanders pull books off the backward slanting shelves. Most of the books she recommended had boys as the main protagonists because, Miss Betsy said, shaking her head over such folly, "girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls."

To a ten-year-old girl living in a Southern patriarchy, this seemed blatantly unfair since I didn't know any boys, not even my own brother, who would read any books they weren't forced to. But there was nothing to be gained by grumbling. I filled my box with as many books as I was allowed and hoped that there would be something interesting to swap with Nell or to sneak from Mother's stack when I'd devoured my own.



I was a voracious, indiscriminate, and totally nonjudgmental reader who could suspend disbelief as soon as my eyes fell on the first line of the printed page. I cringe now to read the casual racist or anti-Semitic slurs contained in so many books written before World War II, but back then my eyes skipped over those phrases the way my mind skipped over prickly heat, mosquito bites, chiggers, or any other irritants that tried to get between me and the story itself.

The Nancy Drew adventures were my favorite, and I always read them first (and sometimes last, too, because I often reread books if that month's pickings had been slim). The Hidden Staircase was my introduction to the series, and, if memory serves, The Clue in the Diary was second. After that, the order gets muddled. It never dawned on me that there was a sequence to the books or that I could have asked Miss Betsy to bring me every Nancy Drew mystery in the Johnston County Library. Instead, it depended totally on the luck of the draw. Sometimes two months would go by without seeing a single Nancy Drew on the shelves; then, astonishingly, there would be four or five, and at least one of those would be an adventure I hadn't yet read.

Bliss!

But was it also cause and effect? Did my early reading of Nancy Drew turn me into a mystery novelist? Or was I drawn to those books because my mind already enjoyed riddles, secrets, and convoluted mazes?

When my colleagues and I compare our memories of Nancy, I'm amused that so many pictured themselves as that spunky motherless girl detective, dashing around the countryside in her blue roadster.

Not me. My mother was too real, my father too un-indulgent, my days too full of structured obligations to put myself in Nancy Drew's stylish shoes and floor the gas pedal to freedom.

Tomboyish George Fayne was quite another matter though. Warm-hearted, loyal, practical, and supportive, George was every bit as interesting to me as Nancy herself. Clearly answerable to a vigilant mother and therefore unable to go adventuring every time Nancy beckoned, she was nevertheless less concerned with conventional feminine dress and conventional feminine propriety than either her cousin Bess or Nancy. Whenever I imagined myself into their world, it was as George.

Today, I look at the three friends and recognize that dainty, feminine Bess Marvin and sturdy, boyish George Fayne symbolize the two warring sides of female adolescence that must be integrated into a Nancy Drew wholeness.

Back then, as a self-conscious child who felt herself to be homely and inadequate, I admired George's confidence and her determination not to be fettered by society's dicta of proper feminine behavior and appearance. (In a day when all pretty girls were supposed to have curly hair, it didn't seem to bother George one little bit that hers was as straight as mine!)

Bess was a wimp and Nancy played both sides so that she could be admired for both her courage and her femininity; but not only did George not seek approval and admiration, there were times when she actively thumbed her nose at it. Nancy Drew was perfection and I was willing to respect her accomplishments as much as George seemed to, but oh how I used to wish there were more of less-than-perfect George in each book.

Yes, Nancy Drew was a fine role model for young girls and I wouldn't take anything for the hours of pleasure those books gave me, but my image of her is inextricably bound up in my mem­ory of the sturdy pragmatic woman who put her adventures into my hands.

Miss Betsy Sanders did not have curly blonde hair, and she drove a cranky old worn-out bookmobile, not a sleek blue roadster. She had to earn her own living, not exist as the indulged daughter of a well-to-do attorney. She wore tailored gabardine slacks at a time when most women wore flowery print dresses. If the bookmobile got a flat tire on some isolated back road, Miss Betsy changed it. When the radiator boiled over or the starter balked, she climbed under the hood and fixed it.

I wanted to be just like her.

Miss Betsy wasn't Nancy Drew all grown up. But I bet she was George.


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