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Mystery of the Turple Bramble

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Excerpt from a letter by Anne Blythe to Diana Wright

...won second place in the contest. My own humble contribution placed fifth (I’ll admit to slight feeling of disappointment, but truly it was nothing at all to be ashamed of – especially since it was our own Susan who placed first).

All would have been well and the cakes eaten merrily, had not suddenly Millie Foster stood up and declared most dramatically: “An outrage! This recipe, this recipe right here - “ and she pointed to the piece of Mina’s bramble cake, whereof she had the tiniest of tastes - “this recipe belongs to my family! Mrs. Turple has stolen it!”

You can well imagine the furore that ensued. Eventually Pastor Meredith managed to calm his flock down enough to allow us to further enjoy the contest’s offerings – but when came the time to pack up and go home, Mina Turple’s cake tin was nowhere to be found. Oh, Diana, the very tin that every lady of our congregation knows is a priceless heirloom! “Just like my recipe,” remarked Millie Foster, so that (although no proof could be found, no matter how we searched – the children ever so diligently, too!) even the slowest of us had to be aware she had done the deed in retaliation.

The only thing that turned up was a letter addressed to Mina – unsigned but the handwriting all too recognizable, oh, the nerve of Millie! - demanding the Foster recipe for ransom. Dearest Diana, can you imagine? (How Mina was meant to pay this ransom when, even if she handed it over, she would retain the memory of baking her bramble cake – we were quite puzzled by it. Should she swear an oath before God that she would never bake her prized cake again? You may guess that Rosemary and Pastor Meredith were deeply disturbed by this unrest.)

Poor Mina was in tears as she insisted that she had never stolen a thing, certainly not Mrs. Foster’s recipe, while Millie, quite unashamed in face of the evidence here before the pastor and God of her own sin, insisted with equal fervor that she must have.

All attempts to mediate between the parties were to no avail. Husbands were drawn into the discussion, even though it was apparent to all that they would much rather have stayed well out of it! (Although Gilbert, at least, was highly entertained behind his respectable veneer...) “Men,” our Susan snorted, as you can imagine.

It was our own Susan, then, who declared that the Mrs. Foster and Turple should each bake the contested cake anew and all we who were present would then determine if they were indeed identical – “Or, seeing as the hour is drawing quite late, you could each write down your recipe and let them be compared by a neutral body!” (I could not laugh at Millie’s face, for it would have been dreadful to ridicule poor Mina’s misery, but Diana, how I wanted to!)

Pastor Meredith was soon determined to be neutral enough (much to the man’s chagrine, but he, out of everyone, would never dream of revealing what all the secret recipe contained, even Millie Foster admitted it). Pens and paper were fetched, the women sat down far enough from everyone so that none of us could look over their shoulder… Pastor Meredith took the sheets and read them very carefully… I must confess that I might in such a moment not be able to remember the exact recipe Marilla taught me by heart, but it appeared that both these women could… for shocked were we all to learn by the weary pastor’s words that the recipes matched!

So, you ask, was Millie right in accusing Mina of thievery?

“Men!” our Susan had snorted, and oh, Diana, how fitting it was here! It was dawning to those among the crowd who had been poised to defend Mina – your own Anne included – that they might have been wrong in their estimation of her character, when – after hours of seeing his wife tormented! - Robbie Turple finally saw it fit to remember that he had, early in their marriage, given his Mina some notes of his grandmother’s. Had Mina known this all along? Had she kept quiet to keep her husband from being accused in her stead? This question, my dearest Diana, I fear will remain unanswered.

With this crucial piece of information now at hand, our elderlies quickly realized that Robbie Turple and Millie Foster share said same sainted grandmother. “I’m quite ashamed that I didn’t think of it earlier,” sighed Old Mrs. Suter. This is how we could all return to our homes reassured that there were no thieves among us, for with the help of our own Susan we had solved the mystery of how the same family recipe ended up in to unrelated women’s hands.

What of Mina’s cake tin, you ask? It was – without apology, mind you, but without any harm having come to it – returned to its rightful owner. Where it had been so that none of our young detectives’ searches could find it remains a mystery for another…