Monday, December 10, 2012
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew #1)
Grosset & Dunlap, 1959
My previous post discusses the original 1930s version of the first Nancy Drew mystery. This post will discuss the 1959 revision. In the plot, I will write about the revision and make notes in brackets of major elements that changed from the original to the revision.
Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of 18 , is driving home in her new convertible. She just got done delivering some legal papers for her father. As she is driving down the road, a little girl not more than five years old dashes out into the street in front of her and almost gets hit by a moving van. The girl jumps up onto the narrow railing of a bridge but looses her balance and falls. Nancy rushes to the scene and luckily the girl appears to be fine. She lives with her great-aunts, Mary and Edna Turner [Mathilda and Edna Turner don’t play much of a role in the original]. Mary tells Nancy that a cousin of their father’s, Josiah Crowley, used to help them with finances but he died a few months ago. He was supposed to leave them some money in his will but it all ended up going to the snooty Tophams. As Nancy is taking leave, the women notice that some of their silver is missing—the men in the moving truck have stolen it! First, they nearly kill poor Judy and then they turn out to be thieves.
When Nancy returns home that evening she learns more about the Crowley case from her father. He says that it seems like all the evidence points to Josiah having written a second will but no one can find it so his original will leaving everything to the Tophams will be the will that is honored. Nancy wishes she could help young Judy by finding the second will. Carson asks Nancy if she will take some papers to Judge Hart [Hartgrave] in Masonville. He tells her to stop by a farm and speak to the Hoover [Horner] girls on her way back as they were also supposed to be left money in Josiah’s will.
On her way back from dropping off the papers, Nancy gets caught in a bad thunderstorm and takes refuge in a barn. There she is introduced to the few girls she was coming to see—Allison [Allie] and Grace. It is Allison’s birthday so they invite Nancy to wait out the storm and have some cake. Allison sings and Nancy admires her beautiful voice. She admits that she has wanted to take singing lessons but can’t afford them now that Uncle Josiah didn’t leave them any money in his will. Nancy explains who she is and that she is going to try and find the second will. On her way back home she stops at the home of Signor Mascagni, a famous voice teacher, and asks him to hear Allison sing and possibly take her on as a student if she gets her part of the inheritance. The girls come and visit Nancy and Carson the next day, telling them everything they know about the will. The girls join Nancy for dinner and Allison gets to sing in front of Signor. He falls in love with her voice and tells Allison that, if she can get the money, he would take her on as a student at half price.
Nancy decides that her best bet is to talk to the other people Josiah was going to leave money to. She is told to speak to William and Fred Mathews and Abby Rowen. The Mathews tell Nancy pretty much the same story and say that they have filed a complaint with the courthouse. Abby is a fragile old lady. Nancy discovers that she had an accident falling down the stairs and is in extreme pain. Nancy goes to the store to get her some food and bandages and Abby admits to actually seeing the second will in Josiah's possession. He told her that he just needed two witnesses and that he was going to put it somewhere where no one could get to it without legitimate legal authority. Unfortunately, Abby has trouble remembering the details until her clock chimes and she remembers that he had said something about clock. She also remembers that he said he wrote the location of the will in a small little notebook that he hid somewhere. He did have a small mantel clock that now must reside in the Topham house. Nancy’s got to find that clock.
Nancy runs into her friend Helen who says that she is selling charity dance tickets and has four [six] of them to get rid of or else she can't go on her trip to Moon Lake. Nancy, seeing a way to get into the Topham house, offers to sell the tickets for her. Nancy goes over to the house and is invited in by Mrs. Topham. She seems about ready to buy the tickets when Ada and Isabel show up and convince her not to. However, her husband shows up and hands Nancy a $100 [$20] bill for the tickets. As Nancy is leaving she asks what time it is and notices the mantel clock on the fireplace. She asks if it is a Crowley heirloom and Mrs. Topham says that all of Crowley's stuff was junk and looked out of place with their modern furnishings so all of it is being stored in their bungalow at Moon Lake.
Nancy asks her father if can join Helen on a camping trip to Moon Lake. Her father tells Nancy she can go. Nancy makes it to Moon Lake where Helen is very happy to see her. After dinner Nancy is dragged on a hike and then told that the girls are going for a ride in a launch. Nancy agrees to going in the hopes of discovering which bungalow belongs to the Tophams. When she asks about their bungalow she is told that they aren't there right now and that there is just a caretaker. Nancy plans to visit the bungalow the next day but Helen and the girls take up all her time with their various activities. The next day Helen announces they are going on all-day hike and Nancy says she needs a bit of her break. After they are gone, Nancy takes the launch out onto the lake to get to the bungalow. Unfortunately, the boat breaks down at her plans are foiled. Poor Nancy decides that she will have to leave camp the next day because Helen and her friends won't ever leave her alone. She will have to stop at the cottage on her way out.
The next day Nancy drives up the precarious road that leads to the cottage. Her journey is made all that harder by tire tracks that appear to have been made recently in the mud. As she gets out of her car by the cottage she notices that the tire tracks of the truck also appear to have stopped here. As she approaches the bungalow she discovers that the whole camp is in chaos. Clearly, a moving van had been here no more than an hour ago. She goes into the house to discover that the whole place has been ransacked except for one bedroom that was practically untouched with just a rolled up rug in the middle of the floor. Nancy is nervous as the robbers could still be in the vicinity.
She decides to leave and stop at the nearest town to report the robbery. As she passes a window, she sees a heavyset man start walking up the path towards the house. The bedroom closet is the only place that offers her a possible refuge and she slips in and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, Nancy ends up sneezing and gives herself away. After an intense struggle, she finds herself locked in the closet. Nancy is overcome with panic at the thought that she is been left there to starve to death. Nancy tries everything to get out of the closet and finally pulls down the hanger rod to use it as leverage to pop the door out of its hinges. As the door is almost free, Nancy hears footsteps. It is Jeff Tucker.
Nancy and Jeff introduce themselves and Jeff tells Nancy that he was “hornswoggled” by some men. They arrived in a moving van and told him they saw some trespassers. He followed one of the men down to the lake and was locked in a shed. He just got out, came back and discovered the place robbed, and Nancy in the closet. [In the original, Jeff is a black man who gets in a car with a white man who gets him drunk and drops him off at a hotel. Jeff wakes up in the morning, notices his house keys missing, and makes his way back to the cottage to find Nancy in the closet.] They make it to the police station and Nancy says that on her way there she saw the side road where the truck’s tire marks turned off on. She says that she will take the police there. They follow the trail until they reach a fork in the road and lose the tire tracks. Nancy decides to take the road to the major city while the police take the other road. Nancy drives for a while and thinks she might have been wrong. Luckily, she finds a fueling station and while filling her tank asks the attendant if he has seen a moving van. [She sees a man on the side of the road with a team of horses and decides to question him. He says he saw a moving truck about twenty minutes ago that nearly pushed him into a ditch.] She is directed back to the restaurant she passed and finds a large barn and garage that the men could have parked the truck in.
She peeks inside the restaurant and sees the three men sitting at table. Before she decides to notify the police she thinks that maybe she could look inside the truck and find the clock before the stolen goods are confiscated by them. She makes her way to the barn and finds the truck. Inside, after some hunting around, she sees the clock and grabs it just in time to hear heavy footsteps coming towards her. She proceeds to hide in a grain bin [manger]. In her car, Nancy can't resist looking inside the clock and is saddened to discover there is nothing there. Of course Abby did not say that the notebook would be in the clock; Nancy had made that deduction. She turns it upside down and rattles it and hears something moving around. She removes the face of the clock and inside discovers a tiny blue notebook.
Nancy backtracks to find the police and they give chase on a moving van. To avoid the cops, the driver swerves and costs the van to loose control and it settles in a ditch. [They end up having to fire their gun and pop a tire to get the van to stop.] Nancy gives a positive identification. Instead of a reward, Nancy asks the cop to put in a good word with the Tophams for Jeff as she doesn’t want to see him loose his job [in the original no thought is given the Jeff getting in trouble]. Nancy gets worried when the Marshall wants to ride back in her car because the clock is sitting on the front seat of her roadster. Luckily, the little notebook is in her pocket so she decides to tell the Marshall that she has the clock. When she found the van she took it upon herself to search it to make sure the stolen furniture is inside. She had the clock in her hands when the men came back to the van so she ran and hid. She hands the clock to him. [Nancy gets away with her little petty thievery—she doesn’t tell the Marshall about the clock]. At home, Nancy begins to pour over the little notebook and discovers lots of information about Josiah's financial standing. After a while, Nancy finally finds a small key with a tag “148” [notation saying that his will can be found in a safety deposit box] for a safety deposit box at the Merchants Trust Company [Masonville National Bank] under the name Josiah Johnston [Harkston].
When her father returns home she anxiously tells him the news and he says that the discovery of the second will will be unfortunate for the Tophams as Richard has been losing heavily in the stock market over the past month and it seems that he is depending upon the Crowley money to pull the family out of a tight spot. The next morning, Nancy and her father get court order to open up the safety deposit box and then head towards the bank. Nancy and her father are allowed to view the safety deposit box. Inside the box is a will that names the bank manager the executor of the will. It’s no wonder the will didn’t come to light as both witnesses—Dr. Nesbitt and Thomas Wackley—died a few months after Crowley. [They discover that one of the witnesses is Dr. Nesbitt who unfortunately died a few days after Crowley. The other witness is a Thomas Wackley no one has ever heard of.]
A few days later Carson invites everyone involved in the will to his house. Of course, the Topham family thinks that it is utterly preposterous that there is a second will and that there is some type of conspiracy going on. Carson reads the will. Allison and Grace receive 20% of the estate [$75,000 each]. Abby receives 10% of the estate [$75,000]. Fred and William receive 10% of the estate [$20,000 each] and Edna and Mary receive 20% of the estate [$20,000 each]. Richard Topham receives $5,000 [he gets nothing in the original] and Mrs. Topham asks if they are mentioned at all and Carson replies that they are and reads aloud, “to Grace and Allison Hoover my household furniture now in the possession of Mrs. Richard Topham.” Grace and Allison say that they now have enough without the furniture so they won't take the household goods from Mrs. Topham.
A number of months later, Nancy learns that the Tophams have filed for bankruptcy and have been forced to give up their fancy home and the girls have to go to work! She goes to visit Grace and Allison and sees all the new things that they've done to improve their farm. All of the relatives wanted to give her a reward but Nancy says that she doesn't want anything. However, she is happy and shocked when the girls hand her the Crowley clock. She's attached to it because of its suggestion of her recent adventure.
“I'll always prize this clock as a trophy of my first venture as a detective.”
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
Let’s compare some of the same issues from the 1930s version to this 1957 version. Most of Nancy’s description and home life is the same except for the fact that Nancy is now 18 instead of 16 years old. Nancy’s opinions of the Topham’s have not changed at all (p. 12):
“Nancy did not know Richard Topham, but she was acquainted with his wife, as well as his daughters. They were arrogant and unreasonable, and disliked by many of the shopkeepers in town. Ada and Isabel had been unpopular in high school. They had talked incessantly of money and social position, making themselves very obnoxious to the other students.”
[Original: “Richard Topham is an old skinflint who made his money by gambling on the stock exchange. And Cora, his wife, is nothing but a vapid social climber. The two girls, Isabella and Ada, are even worse. I went to school with them, and I never saw such stuck up creatures in all my life. If they fall heir to any more money, this town won't be big enough to hold them!”]
When Nancy goes shopping she runs into the vapid and rude Topham sisters—Ada and Isabel. In the revision they are described as: “In spite of the expensive clothes she wore, Ada was not attractive. She was very thin and sallow, with an expression of petulance. Now that her face was distorted with anger, she was almost ugly. Isabel, the pride of the Topham family, was rather pretty, but her face lacked character. She had acquired an artificially elegant manner of speaking which, although irritating, was sometimes amusing. It was her mother's ambition that Isabel marry into a socially prominent family” (p. 23). Nancy adds, “I pity any future husband of hers!”
[Original: The narration reads, “In spite of the expensive clothes she [Ada] wore, she was nothing but attractive, for she was tall and slender to the point of being termed ‘skinny.’ Now that her face was distorted with anger, she was positively ugly. Isabel, who was the pride of the Topham family, was rather pretty in a vapid sort of way, but Nancy Drew thought that her face lacked character. She acquired an artificial manner of speaking which was both irritating and amusing. It was her mother's ambition that someday she marry into a wealthy family, and every opportunity was given her for her brilliant match” (p. 15-16).]
When Carson discovers that Nancy is going to actively search for the missing second will, he warns her about detective work: “Detective work isn’t always the safest occupation in which to engage. I happen to know that Richard Topham is an unpleasant man when crossed. If you do find out anything which may frustrate him, the entire Topham family could make things extremely difficult for you” (p. 62).
[Original: “Detective work isn't always the safest occupation in which to engage. I happen to know that Richard Topham is an unpleasant man when crossed. If you actually succeed in learning anything which may help the Horner girls, you are certain to have the Tophams in your wool” (p. 40).
The Tophams excess continues to be explored when Nancy goes to visit Mrs. Topham to try and sell her the charity tickets and find out about the Crowley clock. When she arrives “it seemed ages to the young sleuth before the maid returned and said that ‘Madame’ would see her. Nancy was ushered into the living room, which was so bizarre in its décor she was startled. ‘Such an expensive hodge-podge!’ Nancy observed to herself, sitting down. She glanced at the pink carpet—which to her clashed with the red window draperies—and at an indiscriminate assortment of period furniture mixed with modern” (p. 83).
[Original: When she arrives she is “forced to wait until the Butler returned with permission for her to enter. As she was finally ushered into the living room, she could not help but smile at the elaborate formality, for in spite of Mrs. Topham's lofty ambitions, the woman had never achieved the commanding position in society that she strove for” (p. 96).]
On her way to Moon Lake, Nancy still gets a flat tire. Her changing it this time is expressed as: “Though Nancy was able to change a tire, she never relished the task. Quickly she took out the spare tire from the rear compartment, found the jack and lug wrench, and went to work. By the time her job was completed, she was hot and a little breathless” (p. 91-92). Compared to the original Nancy goes from a heroic girl who doesn’t let a flat tire stop her to a whiny girl who breaks a sweat at a little work.
[Original: “Presently, she noticed that the roadster had taken a strange notion to turn to the left of the road in spite of her efforts to keep it in the middle. Not without foreboding of trouble, she stopped the car and got out to make a tour of inspection. As she suspected, the rear tire was flat. . . . It was not the first time Nancy Drew had changed a tire, but she never relished the task. Rummaging under the seat, she pulled out the tools and quickly jacked up the rear axle. She loosened the lugs which held the tire in place, and tugged at it. Again and again she pulled, but the huge balloon tire could not be budged. Then, she gave one mighty tug, it came off and Nancy Drew fell backwards into a sitting posture in the road.”]
However, of course, the biggest change comes in the form of Jeff Tucker’s character. He is no longer referred to as the “negro” or “colored” caretaker because Harriet Adams’s usual way of fixing the problem of cultural and stereotypical elements in the revision of the Stratemeyer books was simply to eliminate the problem. Instead of making Jeff a more realistic black character Jeff is now a white man. He still suffers from some dialect issues (instead of being a very phonetically speaking black man he now seems more like the stereotype of an uneducated country bumpkin). Here is the same conversation but now with a white man (p. 115-116):
“So, one o’ you ornery robbers got yourself locked up, did you? That’ll teach you to try puttin’ one over on old Jeff Tucker. You won’t be doin’ any more pilferin’. I got you surrounded.”
[Original: “Oh, you is a caged lion, dis time,” a rather unsteady voice remarked. “You is one o' dese tough robber boys, is you? Well, you won't do no no' pilferrin', 'cause I done got you surrounded.”]
“Let me out!” she pleaded. “I’m not one of the thieves! If you’ll only let me out of her, I’ll explain everything!”
[Original: “Let me out!” Nancy pleaded. “I'm not a robber!”]
“Say, you aimin’ to throw me off, imitatin’ a lady’s voice? Well, it won’t do you any good! No, sir. Old Jeff Tucker’s not gettin’ fooled again!”
[Original: “Say, robber boy, is you imitatin' a lady's voice to th'o' me off de scent? If you is, it won't do no good 'cause I's a natural-born two-legged blood houn'.”]
Nancy decided to convince the man beyond doubt. She gave a long, loud feminine scream.
[Original: Nancy thought of a way to convince him. She let go her longest and loudest feminine scream.]
“All right, all right, ma’am. I believe you! No man could make that racket. This way out, lady!”
[Original: “Dat's enough! Hold yo' siren! I'll let yo' out. Dar ain't a man in de world could make a racket like dat! Dis way out, lady!”]
Expectantly Nancy waited. But the door did not open. Then she heard to her dismay:
[Original: Expectantly, Nancy waited, but the door did not open.]
“If that ain’t the limit. The key’s gone and I’ve left my ring o’ extra keys somewhere. It’s not in my pockets.”
[Original: “My Lawdy!” she she heard to her horror. “I's done gone and misplaced de key!”]
When he releases Nancy, she learns about what happened to him: “I was plain hornswoggled by those critters, Miss Drew. They pulled up here in a movin’ van, and told me I’d better get after some trespasser they’d seen nearby. So, I believed ‘em. One of the men went with me down to the lake and locked me in a shed. I just got out. And all this time they was robbin’ the place” (p. 117).
[Original: When Nancy is released the first thing she notices about Jeff is that he “plainly had had a bit too much to drink. Jeff still knew very well what was going on about him, but a certain alcoholic glitter in his eyes and his somewhat unsteady stance informed Nancy that he was not just as sober as the proverbial judge” (p. 139-141). She suspects that while he was off getting drunk, the robbers had made off with the Topham furniture, for even in his condition of semi-inebriety he realizes that something was wrong: “Say, white gu'l, you tell me wheah all dis heah fu'niture is at!”]