Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Black Pearl Mystery
he captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign to prepare for landing,” a voice announced over the airplane loudspeaker. But six-year-old Benny Alden didn’t hear a thing, for he was fast asleep.
Benny’s older sister Jessie tugged her brother’s seat belt to make sure it was buckled. Then she checked her young cousin’s seat belt, too. “Wake up, sleepyheads,” Jessie said to Benny and Soo Lee Alden, who were sitting on either side of her. “We’re almost in Hawaii.”
Benny opened his eyes halfway. “Are we there yet?”
Soo Lee pulled her blanket to her chin. “This plane ride is forever and ever.”
Jessie patted Soo Lee’s hand, then Benny’s. “You’ve both been so good on this long plane ride. We’ve been flying for almost twelve hours.” She pointed out the plane window. “Look down there.”
Benny leaned over.
“Are all those islands part of Hawaii?” Benny asked when he looked out. “They look like a bunch of puzzle pieces on the ocean.”
“The biggest ones are the seven Hawaiian Islands that people live on,” Jessie explained. “One of them is Maui. That’s the one we’re going to. Soo Lee, do you remember when you stopped in Hawaii after Aunt Alice and Uncle Joe adopted you in Korea?”
The little girl yawned, then rubbed her big brown eyes. “The people put flower necklaces on us!” she said. “Now I remember.”
Benny wriggled in his seat. “I don’t want any old flower necklaces on me. But maybe one made out of sharks’ teeth!”
Across the aisle, Grandfather, Henry, and Violet Alden laughed when they heard what Benny said.
“We’ll soon find out about flower necklaces, sharks’ teeth, and lots of other Hawaiian things,” Grandfather said. “I just felt the landing gear go down. Just one more plane ride — a quick one, I promise — to Maui, then our Hawaiian vacation can really begin.”
After so many hours on the big airplane, the half-hour flight to Maui felt like nothing to the Aldens. When they stepped off the small plane, the warm, clean air smelled of flowers.
A friendly woman greeted the Aldens as they entered the airport. “Welcome to Hawaii,” the woman said. She was placing a flowered necklace called a
over each passenger’s head.
“I guess they ran out of sharks’-teeth necklaces, Benny,” Henry joked. “You’d better get used to wearing flowers. Look, everybody around here has on flowered shirts or pants or dresses.”
Grandfather Alden searched the crowd. “That’s going to make it hard to spot Joseph Kahuna. He manages my cousin Mary’s pineapple plantation. She told me she’d send Joseph to pick us up and that he’d be wearing an orange flowered shirt.”
“Hey! A man in a flowered shirt and a straw hat is holding up a sign with our name!” Benny said a few minutes after the Aldens collected their luggage.
Mr. Alden waved. “Good for you, Benny. I do believe that’s Joseph Kahuna. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him on my visits to Hawaii. Let’s go check.”
Henry and Mr. Alden pushed two luggage carts toward the man, while the other children followed them.
“Joseph Kahuna,” Grandfather said, shaking the man’s hand, “James Alden here. Good to see you again.”
The man checked a picture he was holding. Finally he spoke. “Aloha, old friend,” he said. “Aloha, Alden children.”
Benny tugged Mr. Alden’s arm. “What does
‘good-bye,’ ” Joseph Kahuna explained.
“We just said good-bye to our dog, Watch, and our housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, back home in Greenfield. Now we’re saying hello to everybody in Hawaii,” Benny said. He decided to try out his first Hawaiian word right away. “Aloha, aloha,” Benny said, greeting a woman who was trying to get Joseph’s attention.
The woman ignored Benny. “Joseph!” she said in a loud voice. “I need a ride. None of the taxi drivers will go out to my estate. They say the old road is too muddy. I’d like you to drop me off.”
Joseph Kahuna looked upset. “But — but . . . I have a full van of Mrs. Cook’s guests. It’s very crowded.”
The woman, dressed in a black suit without a single flower, paid no attention. “I need a ride,” she repeated in a louder voice. “If Mrs. Cook ever expects to sell another pineapple to my canning factory, I’m sure she’d want you to drive me home.”
Mr. Kahuna looked down at his work boots. “Of course, Mrs. Kane. I’ll make room for you.”
Mr. Alden tried to smooth things over. “Please join us. We’re the Aldens. Any friend of Cousin Mary’s is a friend of ours. We can put some of our luggage under the seats without any difficulty.”
This didn’t seem to make the woman any friendlier. “Well, I’m Norma Kane. Mary Cook and I are business acquaintances, not friends. I own a large pineapple plantation on Maui. I also just bought the canning factory on the other side of the island. If you’re doing business with Mrs. Cook, then you’ll be doing business with me as well. All the pineapple growers in this area sell their fruit to my cannery.”
Mr. Alden nodded. “I see. While I’m in Hawaii, Cousin Mary and I will be discussing many different plans for her plantation.”
“Hmph.” Mrs. Kane then spread her briefcase and packages over the front seat without leaving room for anyone else.
The Aldens didn’t really mind. They were just happy to be in Hawaii after their long trip. Mr. Alden and the children squeezed into the backseats of the van. They all settled down to take in the colorful scenery.
“Everything is so beautiful,” ten-year-old Violet said. “I don’t think I have enough colors in my paint box to match these trees and flowers.”
Joseph Kahuna smiled in the rearview mirror. “Ah. I see the young lady loves our land. I’ll be happy to give you a tour of our beautiful —”
“Joseph, can you go a little faster?” Mrs. Kane interrupted. “I must call my factory manager right away about the flooding. All the plantation owners are picking their pineapples before they rot in the fields. This means I can buy them at a very low price. Please speed it up so I can get home quickly.”
Mr. Kahuna didn’t answer right away. When he did, he spoke in a low voice. “I can only go at this speed, Mrs. Kane. The roads out this way are very poor, especially after all the rain. I, too, am needed as soon as possible.”
“I wouldn’t count on that, Joseph,” Mrs. Kane said. “You may not have a job at Pineapple Place much longer. When I was in Honolulu, I heard that Mrs. Cook may be giving up her plantation.”
Mr. Alden leaned forward from the backseat. “Oh, I wouldn’t go that far. I know there have been problems with the pineapple crop. Still, this is valuable land. My cousin Mary would never give up her farm. I came here to help her figure out how best to run Pineapple Place.”
We came out here to help, too!” Benny piped up. “I can’t wait to start picking pineapples.”
Mr. Kahuna drove carefully over the twisty, bumpy road.
“Is the road always like this, Joseph?” Mr. Alden asked. “I can’t believe you have to send your crops over a road like this one.”
Before Joseph could answer, Mrs. Kane spoke up. “The state won’t be fixing this old road. It doesn’t pay. There’s a new road under way from the other side of the island, where all the large farms are located. And it leads to my cannery. Soon all the pineapples on this island will come from large farms like mine — much more efficient.”
Mr. Alden had a thing or two to say about this. “Well, that’s one point of view. On the other hand, there’s room for all sizes of farms in this state. Many tourists come here to see the sugarcane and pineapple plantations of old Hawaii, like my cousin Mary’s farm. Not everyone in the world thinks bigger and faster are better.”
With that, Mr. Alden rolled down the window to enjoy the breeze. The Alden children and Mr. Kahuna did the same.
After a long drive, the van stopped at a gate.
“Here’s your estate, Mrs. Kane,” Joseph announced. “Would you like me to drop you off here?”
Mrs. Kane gathered up her briefcase and packages. “Of course not! My house is at the end of this drive. I’ll press the security button to open the gate.”
After the gate opened, Joseph drove up the long, curved driveway. At the end stood a huge white house with a red tile roof.
“Let me help you with your bags,” Joseph said when he pulled in front of the house. He collected Mrs. Kane’s luggage, then followed her inside. When he returned about ten minutes later, Mrs. Kane was close behind him. She handed Joseph a piece of paper.
“You forgot this,” she said. Joseph read what was on the paper and placed it on the dashboard of the van. He seemed awfully quiet.
“How many inches of rain have you had at Pineapple Place?” Mr. Alden asked.
Joseph drove on without answering.
“Were a lot of pineapples damaged?” Jessie asked, wondering why Joseph was so silent.
Finally he spoke. “I have to watch the road now. It’s no good to talk.”
The old road followed the coastline for about ten miles. Soon Joseph Kahuna’s van passed sugarcane and pineapple fields, which lay like quilt squares on either side of the road.
Benny pointed to a cone-shaped mountain rising behind a sugarcane plantation. “Is that a volcano, Mr. Kahuna?”
Joseph drove without answering.
“Shhh,” Jessie whispered to Benny. “Joseph needs to keep his eyes on this road. All the Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanoes.”
Soo Lee and Benny both opened their eyes wide.
“You mean we’re riding on a volcano, Jessie?” Soo Lee asked.
“In a way,” Jessie whispered. “I’ll tell you more about it when we get to Pineapple Place. We need to be quiet so Joseph can drive.”
Benny had a hard time being quiet. There was so much to talk about now that they were in Hawaii. He was glad when the van finally pulled into Pineapple Place.
The plantation was located high on a bluff that overlooked the ocean on one side and a mountain on the other. The farm was dotted with palm trees, nut trees, and trees with flowers the Aldens had never seen before. And, of course, there were fields of spiky pineapples in every direction.
Cousin Mary’s house was small, but it had a large airy porch called a
Benny spied a table of delicious-looking food. His stomach growled so loudly that he wondered if anyone else heard it.
Joseph led the Aldens out to one of the plantation’s small cottages. It was freshly painted and inviting.
“This is so pretty,” Violet said when the children stepped inside the three-bedroom cottage. The wicker furniture was painted white, and the beds were covered with flowered bedspreads. The children could hardly wait to take off their shoes. They wanted to feel the cool tile floor beneath their bare feet.
“Why did Joseph get so quiet after he dropped off that lady?” Benny asked Henry after Joseph left.
“I noticed the same thing,” Henry said. “First he was friendly at the airport, then he wasn’t. I don’t know what Mrs. Kane told him, but he didn’t seem friendly after he dropped her off.”
Mr. Alden set down Soo Lee’s suitcase. “Joseph has a lot on his mind. Perhaps Mrs. Kane reminded him of all the recent problems with Pineapple Place — the flooding, the poor roads. The small plantation owners out this way really need some help to keep going. That’s why we’re here.”
“So that’s why you’re here!” the Aldens heard next.
Everyone turned around. A tall white-haired woman in overalls, work gloves, and rubber boots greeted Mr. Alden with a smile. “Aloha, Cousin James. Aloha, Alden children. I’m Cousin Mary. I’m delighted to meet all of you. I see Joseph has gotten you settled in the cottage. We just finished fixing it up. You’re our first guests. Here’s a pineapple right out of the field.”
“Thank you, Mary. I know pineapples are a sign of welcome,” Mr. Alden said. “This young man is Henry. He’s fourteen now. Next down is Jessie, who’s twelve. Violet is ten. Then there’s Benny, who is six. And our newest Alden is Soo Lee Alden, Joe and Alice’s little girl.”