POSTSCRIPT: AN ISLAND RETREAT
A few months later George sat down at a desk in Carson Drew's upstairs den to compose a somber letter to Nancy's cousin in Scotland. It was one of several that it was her sad duty to write.
Isle of Kiloran, Scotland
I'm sorry to have to inform you of the death of your cousin, Nancy Drew. I know that you two became very close friends on her last visit to Scotland.
This is what happened-it is all very shocking and tragic. Shortly after helping Nancy round up a whole gang of desperate criminals who had been making slaves of young people, her friend Bess Marvin, my cousin, came down with a strange neurological condition. Bess's parents and Nancy's father-he's a lawyer, as I'm sure you know-arranged to send her to a special clinic in Budapest. Nancy went with Bess to provide company. I had to stay here in River Heights because I had an engagement to play Mrs. Malaprop in "The Rivals." My friend Monty, who played Lydia Languish, would have been so disappointed had I not been able to stay. Besides, after my part in the adventure I was sick myself, though not so seriously as Bess. I'm a bit better now, after two long stays in a nursing home. I'm glad I got to stay there because I was able to see some of the victims of that horrible gang finally getting better. Most of them have gone home to their families. Only one, named Lucy, remains. They have to keep her under constant watch, for fear that she might do herself harm. It pains me so much to see the permanent harm those vicious gangsters have done to Lucy, and perhaps to others as well!
Anyway-sorry for losing the thread-you don't know Lucy of course, and are wishing to learn of poor Nancy's fate. Bess, it seems, had to be put in intensive care, and it was thought best to dismiss Nancy for a few days. Rather than wait around the clinic anxiously, Nancy went off on a short expedition into the Carpathian Mountains. She felt that if she could but test herself physically-and to the very limit-she would be able to get her mind off what was happening to Bess. Unfortunately, her guide proved to be an incompetent rascal, and led her astray up some treacherous pathways. Then, while they were camping-in the middle of the night-he must have panicked and took flight. Nancy and her party-it included Frank and Joe Hardy, she might have told you about them-woke up in a snowy gorge with no one to help them find their way. A local goatherd saw them at a distance struggling up a narrow defile. Just then the herdsman was startled by a loud noise in the medium distance, probably the report of an incautious hunter's gun. Instantly there was a deafening rumble, and as the Carpathian scrambled for cover, the three hikers were inundated by a mountain of snow. They must have been swept down the gorge and buried under hundreds of feet-tons and tons-of snow. A horrible fate-buried alive! I can only hope they were stunned into insensibility before they perished. Otherwise I hesitate to speculate what they must have been thinking about as they struggled to take their dying breaths!
Sorry for being so melodramatic. As Nancy must have told you, it is my nature. But my character is not all on the surface. My distress, my grief, and other emotions too complex even to describe, are almost more than I can bear. I don't know how I can write at all. But it is better to write than to just brood about it.
During the last year Nancy has told me a lot about you, and I hope we can be friends, too. We have so much in common, I'm sure-memories of a mutual acquaintance, helping Nancy solve mysteries etc. I hope soon to learn more about how Bess is doing and if I find this out I will share it with you directly.
Tell me about Scotland. Bess and I used to make fun of Nancy for being so interested in your quaint country. I hope you don't hold that against us. I guess I was wrong. Scotland is really interesting to me now, especially since Nancy has gone. Tell me about the places you walk and I will picture Nancy there, drinking in the mist and treading her way around the heath. Perhaps I will be allowed to visit you someday. It would be valuable background for me as an artist, to help me get into the mood for the "Scottish play."
I'd better stop running on like this, or you won't want to invite me at all.
Please write me soon. Hearing from you would be a great consolation.
Yours in offered friendship,
Two weeks later a typed letter arrived at George's home, addressed to her. When she opened it, she was startled to discover that the enclosed missive was in code! She could tell at a glance that it was an extremely difficult code, one that only a mind as clever as that possessed by Bess could have devised. Heedlessly dropping the battered airmail envelope on the floor of the Fayne's immaculate atrium, George excitedly ran upstairs to her room to look for her Portugese/Spanish dictionary. With that, and with the help of keys drawn from The Anatomy of Melancholy and Aubrey's Brief Lives, the meticulously-trained girl soon had the surprising message written out on a handful of yellow foolscap pages. As she read the letter for the sixth time, her tears flowed so copiously that the moisture wrinkled the paper that she held in her trembling hand.
River Heights, U.S.A.
Hey Jorge darling, it's me! Not Bess-she is here with me. It's your old friend Nancy, all in one piece. Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated! I have been like Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, and you have been my unfortunate and put-upon dear Dr. Watson. I had to orchestrate my own death and to play dead (the Hardys-they are safe-had their own interesting reasons to counterfeit death as well) in order to shake my pursuer, a hired assassin in the pay of the Carbon City gang. He is now in the custody of the Carpathian police. And my father is negotiating a deal with a southern Syndicate that we think will take the still-at-large minions of the jailed gang off my trail. It seems that the Carbon City kidnap ring had crossed the line of even the criminal honor code! My safety will be guaranteed, for the present, as long as I do not in future interfere with any other operations of the "Black Hand." "As if!"-we shall see about that! But I will enjoy even a temporary respite from constant peril.
This message is in code just in case. I couldn't wait until getting a final report from Dad to send you this missive. I have been worrying about you every day, and even more since Catriona showed me your kind letter.
I only hope that you have been able to bear the false bad news with fortitude, like a good little soldier, and can forgive me for not earlier informing you of the true state of affairs. Bess had a very rough time recovering from the effects of the drug and I have had some very nasty experiences, any one of which might have done me in had my luck and practiced skills of observation not carried me through. But I know that you have had the hardest job of us three. I have my spies in River Heights, and I know what you have been through. I feel that I am to blame for everything, yet I don't know how I could have done otherwise.
But enough of what cannot be helped. Catriona-she is my hostess on this island retreat-accepts your kind offer of friendship. And she hopes that she will be able to be your hostess too in the very near future. I want you to come visit me here too, and soon! I think your past distaste for Scotland may have been in part resentment at something that seemed to take me away from you in the summers when my father and I went on our longish vacations. Now I hope you will see Scotland in a new light, a kind of Brigadoon, where things that have seemed to change elsewhere really stay the same, where the past never dies, and old friends can be reunited in the gloaming or in the heather on the glen.
By the way, my old friend, Charles Prince, was much cut up when he first heard your news. He was then astonished-he fell over backward into the loch!-when he first saw me coming down the glen from Pig's Paradise. (He is a cousin to the Laird here). He is now recovered from the pleasant-though moist-shock, and asks that when you come-and you must come soon!-you bring your gentleman friend too. He says that he understands that Monty is quite an intriguing chap.
The Laird of Kiloran is also an interesting fellow. He spends altogether too much time tramping around hunting and fishing, but is otherwise quite romantic. And he always wears the kilt, which he insists on calling a filibeg. He says that he is descended from a silkie (a seal!). He takes me to see all the sights and tells me the quaint folklore of the island. And he wants me to marry him! I told him that I am not ready to settle down, and besides, enjoyable as Kiloran is for a season, I'm certain that I could not stay cooped up on a few square miles-however ruggedly scenic-for the rest of my life. He answered that it wasn't as bad as all that. Every year he will take me on two day-trips, one to Tobermory and the other as far as Inverary! What more could a young lady want? He is quite the rustic gentleman, won't take "no" for an answer, but is content to have our courtship proceed slowly. Don't tell Ned about this, at least just yet. I promise to extricate myself somehow. Even if I have to disguise myself as a silkie and swim underwater all the way back to Oban.
Perhaps we could reunite most of our old sleuthing gang and take a whack at some of the mysterious goings on around Scotland. It would be brilliant if we could solve The Riddle of the Pictish Stones, for example. I would need your literary talents as well as Bess's mathematical skills to get started. Right here on Kiloran we could tackle The Mystery of the Underwater Bridge. Or we might take a jaunt over to the continent and assay something like-dare I think it!-The Clue in the Vampire's Nest!
Speaking of Bess, she is already here on Kiloran, somewhat recovered. But she has been acting very strange: howling night and day, begging for magical powders, running around half-naked and wild-eyed. On the south beach at low tide she took a stick and wrote the word "sin" several times with mysterious numbers, letters, and arcane symbols after it. I asked her what it meant and she told me something about a "trap door." Because of very big numbers, she says, sinister people who are after her can send each other clandestine messages. "But," said she, "these formulae will exorcise them." Then she looked up into the sky and screamed, "No more secrets!"
Unfortunately one of the cotter's wives was passing by just then, witnessed Bess's bizarre performance, and saw some of her weird scratchings before the tide fully erased them. Word gets around the island very quickly. None of the simple folk will go anywhere near Bess any more. They say that she is bewitched or cursed. One elderly lady says that the devil has put his harness upon her and that Satan will ride her straight into hell! In spite of myself I was frightened by this awful image, though I was much more concerned about Bess's mental and physical health. For a while Bess sweated a great deal, could not keep down food, and seemed about to waste away-so unlike our dear, chubby Bess! And she continued to cry out desperately both by day and night. The local doctor could not do much to help reduce her symptoms, but was reassuring. "Stay by her side, give her only fresh water from the uppermost reaches of the north stream, and in a few days the fever will break, and after this she will be well." Wouldn't you know it but the fever did break in just half a week, and on the very day that your precious letter arrived. While she was lying in bed, both calm and coherent, Catriona read her the letter and she is now desperate to see you as soon as possible.
Come as soon as you can. Tell us when you will be arriving. Don't eat anything on the ferry, it will make you retch. I will catch a salmon for you and Bess will prepare it. Catriona will play the bagpipes, and we will make a Ceilidh (a Celtic party!) of it. We will all be at the pier when your boat docks.
Your devoted, enthusiastic, and, oh-still-living friend,
P.S. The Hardys are much altered. You would never recognize them now. But I must save some news for our reunion. ND.