Read Boxcar Children 64 - Black Pearl Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Boxcar Children 64 - Black Pearl Mystery (2 page)

Cousin Mary shook everyone’s hands. “I’m so happy to meet all of you at last. I know all about how Cousin James found you living in a boxcar in the woods after your parents died and that he brought you home to Greenfield.”

The children smiled, remembering the good old boxcar days when they had lived on their own. That was when they’d found their dog, Watch. Then Grandfather Alden had found them.

Mr. Alden put his arm around his cousin. “I didn’t expect you to be looking so well after all the troubles you wrote to me about. Now that I’ve brought in my family, tell us how we can help.”

Cousin Mary smiled again, though everyone could see she seemed tired. “You’ve already helped just by showing up with your grandchildren. People have been wonderful. So many volunteers have arrived to help my workers harvest our pineapples quickly. Please don’t worry James. We’ve survived hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, insects, you name it.”

“Sharks?” Benny asked. “Did you survive sharks?”

Cousin Mary laughed. “Before my husband died years ago, he saw sharks from time to time, but they never bothered him. Not to worry, though. You’ll be swimming in our bays and coves, where the sharks don’t go. Now, did Joseph tell you what’s been going on here?”

Mr. Alden shook his head. “He was awfully quiet on the drive from the airport. We gave a woman named Norma Kane a ride home. He seemed to be upset after talking with her.”

A shadow seemed to pass over Cousin Mary’s face. “Ah, yes. Norma Kane. She just bought a large pineapple plantation and the cannery where we sell most of our pineapples. Old-time planters like me are all trying to get used to her new ways. But I’m sure we’ll get along. Joseph was probably worried about the crop. We’re picking pineapples as fast as we can before they rot in the wet ground. Many of my neighbors have come by to help out as well.”

“We just have to unpack our suitcases so we can get into old clothes. Then we can pitch in, too,” Jessie said.

Cousin Mary pushed back a strand of hair from her forehead. “Nonsense. You children need to relax — lie on our beautiful beaches, collect seashells.”

“Ah, Mary,” Mr. Alden began, “you don’t know my grandchildren. You won’t find them lying around on beaches. And they’re not going to be collecting seashells when they can pick pineapples.”

“And eat them, too!” Benny added. “Is that part of pineapple picking?”

“Eating pineapples is the best part of picking them,” Cousin Mary said. “Now come out to the
lanai
for a bite to eat. It’s time to start your vacation.”

CHAPTER 2
The Legend of the Black Pearl

M
r. Alden left for Honolulu the next morning on business, and the children began their working vacation, too. First they tried on the rubber work boots Cousin Mary had given them.

There’s a pair for each of us, even small ones for Benny and Soo Lee.” Henry held up two glove-covered hands and made a monster face. “I’m the volcano monster,” he said. “Grrr.”

The other children knew Henry was only fooling.

You don’t scare me with those big gloves, Henry,” Soo Lee said. “Why do you have to wear them?”

Jessie read from a book opened on her lap. “It says here that pineapple plants have sharp leaves. The pickers have to wear the gloves so they won’t cut their hands. Anyway, Cousin Mary said you and Benny and Violet don’t have to pick pineapples. Instead you’ll get to carry them to the carts after we pick them.”

Do I have to wear a straw hat?” Benny wanted to know.

Jessie nodded. “We all do so we don’t get sunburned faces.”

Not me,” Henry said. “I’m going to wear my baseball hat, only I left it in Joseph’s van. Be right back.”

Would you bring back the travel books and brochures we picked up at the airport?” Jessie asked Henry. “I left them in the van.”

Joseph Kahuna’s van was still parked in front of the plantation house. Henry found his baseball hat on the floor. He quickly gathered up Jessie’s travel books, papers, and brochures from under the front seat.

By this time, the other children were all set for pineapple picking. They came looking for Henry.

I’ll stick these papers and books in our cottage,” Jessie said to Henry. “Cousin Mary said to meet Joseph out in the fields as soon as we were ready.”

Sure enough, Joseph Kahuna waved the Aldens over the minute they appeared. Rows of pineapple plants stretched in every direction. The ground was muddy, with puddles everywhere.

Over here, Aldens,” Joseph said. “Since we can’t send our machines into these muddy fields, we’re picking pineapples the old Hawaiian way, with our hands. Then a runner carries them to these carts. Are there any good runners here?”

Benny’s, Violet’s, and Soo Lee’s hands shot up. “We are! We are!” they cried.

The Aldens were glad to see Joseph smile again. “Very good. You three children will be my runners.”

The children followed Joseph. He stopped in front of a plant that was about the same height as Soo Lee. He took hold of the top of a pineapple. “These leaves on top are called the crown. You take hold of the crown and give it a twist.” In a flash, Joseph was holding a large pineapple. “Now you try, Jessie.”

Jessie reached down, grabbed the pineapple crown, and tugged several times. “Ta-da!” she cried when she finally pulled a pineapple free.

In no time, Jessie and Henry had picked several pineapples apiece. The younger children took turns carrying them down to the cart one by one.

By late afternoon, the carts were half full of ripe, juicy-looking pineapples. The Aldens were tired, but they kept right on picking along with the other workers and volunteers. Several people sang Hawaiian songs as they went along — sad songs and happy songs.

Singing makes the work go faster, doesn’t it, Jessie?” Violet said. “I wish I knew what those words were. Maybe Joseph can tell us when we see him at dinner.”

At five o’clock, the Aldens heard a loud bell ring.

Day is done,” a man named Luke from the next row over told the Aldens. “At six o’clock there will be a
luau.

I hope that means food,” Benny said.

A luau’s a Hawaiian feast, Benny — roast pork, sweet potatoes, all kinds of Hawaiian fruits and vegetables,” Luke said. “Some of the food is served on big banana leaves instead of plates. Mrs. Cook said she’d have a luau at the end of the day for the volunteers and workers.”

Benny giggled.

What’s so funny, Benny?” Violet asked.

Benny couldn’t stop giggling. When he finally did, he shared his joke. “I hope Cousin Mary Cook is a
good
cook!”

Everyone laughed. They hoped so, too.

At six o’clock, the Aldens joined the other pickers on the porch. After a hard day, everyone had showered and changed. Most of the men and boys wore colorful flowered shirts. The women and girls wore flowered dresses called
muumuus.

A long table stretched along one side of the porch. The middle of the table was decorated with orchids and glass bowls of colorful, delicious-looking dishes the Aldens had never seen before. At the end of the table was a large square cake with coconut frosting.

Don’t be shy,” Cousin Mary said, waving the Aldens in along with the other pineapple pickers. “A luau needs lots of hungry people. Now, please take a big banana leaf to use as a plate and help yourselves to the feast.”

So the Aldens helped themselves. Spotting Luke and his five-year-old daughter, Hani, at a nearby table, the children came over with their food and sat down.

Hi, Luke,” Benny said. “I like eating from a plate that’s made out of a leaf. I took lots of good things, but no pineapple. I had enough pineapple already!”

Now have one of our famous fruit drinks,” Luke said. “It’s made out of crushed fruit, coconut milk, and ice.”

Yum,” Soo Lee said when she took a sip of a colorful drink Luke had poured from a glass pitcher.

The Aldens felt relaxed and happy. They were hungry and thirsty after a long day’s work.

I hope you’ve all left room for my special coconut cake,” Cousin Mary said when she came around to the Aldens’ table later. “But first we have to have some dancing and songs and stories. You can’t have a luau without those.”

Or without coconut cake!” Benny added.

Everyone helped clear a space in the middle of the porch. First, a storyteller told tales about Hawaiian gods and goddesses and monsters who were said to live inside volcanoes. After the storyteller came several musicians. They played their steel guitars and
ukuleles
,which were like small guitars with just four strings.

Several dancers in real grass skirts came out and began to dance the Hawaiian dance called the
hula.
Though the Aldens didn’t understand the Hawaiian words to the songs, they clapped and swayed when the music began.

I know we don’t have grass skirts, but can we dance, too?” Soo Lee asked Jessie.

Jessie turned to Luke when he got up to dance with Hani. “Do you think we should dance?” Jessie asked. “We don’t know how to do the hula.”

Luke smiled. “Just follow what Hani and I do. The movements in the hula dance tell a story or describe beautiful places on our islands. We’ll get in front of you to show you the movements.”

The Aldens were soon on their feet, waving their arms like Luke and Hani.

That was fun,” Violet said after the music ended. “What was the dance that we just did about?”

Luke leaned back and smiled. “It’s about a secret waterfall where a god and goddess met and fell in love. We have many stories and legends in Hawaii. If I lived to be a hundred, I couldn’t tell them all.”

Hani pulled her father’s ear. “Tell about the black pearl, Daddy, and all the bad luck. I want to hear that story.”

Suddenly the Aldens noticed everyone at the table was quiet. People poked at their desserts with their forks or stared into their coffee cups. A few people looked at Luke.

Please, Daddy,” Hani begged. “Tell the story about the black pearl.”

But Luke had no story to tell. “It’s too late for that, much too late. Only Joseph Kahuna knows the real story of the black pearl, and I don’t see him here tonight. It’s time to go home, anyway.”

Cousin Mary’s luau was over. Everyone helped to clear the tables. No one spoke much.

What was that all about?” Jessie asked Henry when the children went into the kitchen.

Henry shook his head. “I don’t know, but everything stopped when Hani asked about the black pearl.”

Cousin Mary turned around from the sink when she overheard this. “The black pearl?” she asked, her voice shaking. “Did Joseph tell you about it? I didn’t even see him tonight, did you?”

The Aldens looked at each other. Why was Cousin Mary so upset?

No, we saved some cake for Joseph, but we never saw him,” Henry explained.

Soo Lee looked up at Cousin Mary. “Hani asked her daddy to tell the story about the black pearl. But he didn’t want to. Can you tell us?”

Cousin Mary turned away. “The black pearl? I . . . really don’t remember it. Maybe another time. Not tonight.” With that, Cousin Mary put down her sponge, leaving the pots and pans in the sink.

We’ll finish up,” Henry said. “Thanks for the good dinner.”

One by one the children thanked Cousin Mary for the luau, too. But she stayed quiet. Soon she walked down the hall to her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

CHAPTER 3
A Mysterious Message

W
aking up in Hawaii was like waking up in a jungle. Just outside the Aldens’ guest cottage, several bright red honeycreepers twittered in the trees the next morning.

Those birds are like little alarm clocks,” Violet whispered to Jessie, who was half awake in the next bed.

Jessie yawned and looked over the side of her bed. “Where’s Watch?”

The next thing Jessie felt wasn’t Watch but Benny bouncing on the bed. “Watch isn’t in Hawaii, silly,” Benny said with a laugh. “But I am. Time for breakfast.”

Jessie pulled the sheet up over her head. “You did a good job waking me up, just like Watch. I forgot we were in Hawaii, not Greenfield.”

Benny tugged Jessie’s covers. “Maybe our breakfast will be on banana leaves. Can I go now, Jessie? Cousin Mary said there’s breakfast on the porch for the volunteers. That’s what I am, right?”

Jessie opened one eye, then the other. She yawned. “You sure are, Benny. If you’re really hungry, go ahead to breakfast now. We’ll come in a while. Do you have your pink cup?”

Benny reached into his backpack. He took out the old cracked pink cup that he’d found when the children were all living in the boxcar. “It’s right here.”

So Benny went ahead. He just knew his first Hawaiian breakfast was going to be good. When he stepped onto Cousin Mary’s porch, only one other person was there.

Hi, Joseph,” Benny said to Mr. Kahuna.

Joseph continued reading his newspaper without looking up.

This didn’t stop Benny’s chatter. “I’m an early bird, just like those honeycreeper birds with the funny beaks.”

Joseph Kahuna turned the newspaper page.

Is it okay to help myself?” Benny asked. He could hardly wait to try the juices, fruits, and breads spread out on the table.

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