Read Boxcar Children 64 - Black Pearl Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Boxcar Children 64 - Black Pearl Mystery (4 page)

By midafternoon, most of the shoppers and tourists had gone home or back to their hotels.

Cousin Mary folded up the bright blue market umbrella. “You children did an amazing job. I’ve never sold so many pineapples at the farmers’ market in one day.”

The Aldens tried to feel happy about this, but how could they? Cousin Mary’s truck looked almost as full as it had been that morning.

It’s okay children,” Cousin Mary said when she saw how discouraged the children looked. “Be proud of yourselves. You couldn’t have unloaded more pineapples if you’d given them away for free. I make most of my money selling my crop to the cannery. Still, this farmers’ market money will help, too. Now I want to share some of the profits with you. Here’s five dollars each. Go buy yourselves some souvenirs while I close up the booth.”

Henry pushed the money away.

Even Benny wouldn’t take anything. “When we go places, we like free souvenirs the best — like rocks and treasures we find.”

Cousin Mary hugged Benny. “You children are the best treasures I could ever find. Well, at least go buy some ice cream. Try coconut ice cream if you want a real treat. You can window-shop while I pack up everything. You’ve worked hard enough.”

Ten minutes later, the children stood in front of a jewelry store and enjoyed their ice-cream cones.

Wow!” Benny said, when he saw all the diamonds, pearls, and gold in the window. “Do all those jewels come from Hawaii?”

Some of them do,” Jessie answered. “The pearls anyway. I remember reading about that in my geography class. People used to dive for pearls in the oyster beds in Hawaii. There’s even a bay called Pearl Harbor off Oahu, only it’s not used for pearl farming anymore.”

Do farmers grow pearls like pineapples?” Soo Lee asked.

Jessie smiled. “Not exactly. A pearl grows inside an oyster shell when something small like a grain of sand gets stuck in it. There’s a pearly liquid inside the oyster that covers the grain layer by layer. After a few years, you get a pearl! On pearl farms they put some kind of tiny bead or grain in the oysters on purpose.”

Violet pointed to a gold chain with three grayish pearls in the middle. “I wonder where they found those dark ones. The sign says they’re black pearls. Can we go inside and find out why they’re dark like that? Maybe the owner knows something about the legend of the black pearl.”

The children finished up the last of their ice-cream cones, then entered the shop.

Inside, the owner was talking with two customers who were facing away from the Aldens. He sounded impatient. “I can’t tell you the value of something that disappeared over forty years ago. Even my own father never saw it, and he was an expert in pearls.”

One of the customers spoke softly, but the Aldens could still hear what she said: “Just give us an idea, that’s all. We’d like to know what it’s worth.”

Before the owner could answer, the bell over the shop door jingled. A group of tourists crowded into the shop.

Sorry,” the owner said. “I have to wait on these customers. Anyway, I really don’t have the information you want. People around here think it’s bad luck to even talk about it. Good day.”

The Aldens overheard the couple arguing on their way out.

I told you not to say anything,” the man said. “No use stirring things up by asking a lot of questions. Now come on, let’s find a place to stay.”

Violet strolled over to the counter. “Can you tell us about the black pearl —”

Before Violet could finish, the owner tapped his pencil on the glass counter. “Again? I really haven’t time to discuss these old stories while I’m so busy.”

Violet stepped back. “Sorry. I just wanted to find out about the black pearl necklace in the window. I wondered why the pearls are dark, not white.”

The owner calmed down a bit when he heard this. “Oh, sorry, young lady. I thought you were asking about something else. Black pearls come from the black oysters. They only grow in a couple of special bays around the Hawaiian Islands. They’re pretty rare, even small ones like that. The big ones — well, I’ve only heard about them. Does that answer your question?”

Violet nodded. “Yes, thank you.”

The store owner told us about the necklace,” Henry said to the other children after they left the jewelry store. “But he wouldn’t talk about the black pearl legend. I’d sure like to know what’s so mysterious, anyway. Nobody around here wants to talk about it.”

The children dawdled along, stopping at a booth where someone was making leis with blossoms, feathers, even nutshells. At another booth, a woman was weaving a hula skirt from long plant leaves.

I’d like to wear one of those grass skirts,” Soo Lee said. “Maybe Hani will let me try one of hers.”

The Pineapple Place booth was closed when the children turned the corner about a half hour later.

Look who Cousin Mary is talking to,” Violet said. “I didn’t get a close look, but those two people seem like the couple we overheard in the jewelry store.”

Cousin Mary waved to the children. “Come meet Richard and Emma Pierce. They stopped to ask for directions, and what do you know? They’re looking to buy a small farm out our way. They need a place to stay while they look at farms for sale. They can stay in my other guest cottage for a while.”

Benny looked at the couple. “Hi! Were you just in the jewelry store down the block?”

Mr. and Mrs. Pierce didn’t answer right away.

Finally Emma Pierce spoke up. “We’ve been walking around looking at all these booths. It’s too nice out to be shopping indoors.”

But . . . but . . . you sound just like the people we heard talking about —” Benny stopped. His brother and sisters had taught him good manners. “Maybe it was two other people,” he said finally in a soft voice.

All the shops and booths are crowded,” Richard Pierce told Benny. “It’s easy to get mixed up.”

But Benny wasn’t mixed up at all. He had sharp ears. He was sure that the people in the jewelry store were the same couple standing in front of him. Why didn’t they just say so?

CHAPTER 5
Voices in the Night

E
ven without pineapples, Pineapple Place was busy. There were nuts to gather, papayas to pick, and chores to do all around the plantation.

Over the next couple of days, Cousin Mary couldn’t get the Aldens to relax. “I have wonderful workers to take care of the jobs around here,” she told the children as they helped clean up after another delicious dinner one night. “I won’t let you lift another finger without doing some of the things you came to Hawaii to do, starting with snorkeling. That’s your job for tomorrow morning.”

Snorkeling isn’t a job,” Benny said. “It’s just fun. We learned how in Florida.”

Cousin Mary was pleased to hear this. “Good. Then I know you’ll have a good time snorkeling in Hawaii. We have underwater lava formations and caves not far from here. Cousin James said you brought your own equipment. My husband drew some maps of his favorite snorkeling places. They’re in my office on my desk, so just —”

A crash of silverware on the tile floor interrupted Cousin Mary.

Emma Pierce stood in the doorway, with a knife, fork, and spoon at her feet. “Sorry,” she said, bending over to pick up the dropped silverware. She quickly put her silverware on the counter, then left the kitchen as quietly as she had entered.

The Pierces are a funny pair,” Mary Cook told the Aldens. “They seem never to be around, then they suddenly appear when I don’t expect them. Now I want you children to disappear for a walk on the beach. The moon is totally full tonight. You won’t even need a flashlight. You’ll see lots of little sand crabs and sea creatures on the beach. Go have a good time.”

As always, the Aldens did as they were told. The children climbed down the wooden steps that led from the plantation to Pineapple Bay. Cousin Mary was right. In the moonlight, the children could see sand crabs darting in and out of the gentle waves.

Know what?” Benny said. “Those two people always seem to be around, just like Cousin Mary said.”

I know what you mean,” Jessie joined in. “This morning after we ate breakfast with Cousin Mary on the porch, I ran back to get my hat. Emma Pierce was standing off to the side of the porch. She walked away fast when she saw me. I had a feeling she’d been listening in.”

For people who said they wanted to go look at other farms,” Henry said, “they seem to hang around Pineapple Place a lot.”

The children soon forgot about the Pierces. There was a completely full moon shining over the bay. Everything was silvery in the moonlight.

I wish I could paint a picture of this,” Violet whispered.

The children were quiet, enjoying the sound of gentle waves lapping on the beach.

Soo Lee, holding Violet’s hand, stopped. “I hear music. And a person’s voice.”

The children listened.

I hear a ukulele,” Jessie said. “Somebody’s saying something, too. Maybe some of the workers came down to the beach.”

The children followed the sound of the voice and the ukulele. Soon they came to a steep, rocky point that separated Pineapple Bay from Reef Bay.

Can we climb up?” Benny asked.

Cousin Mary said people do it all the time,” Henry said. “Here, I’ll go up first and give you a hand if you need help.”

The children scrambled over the rocks until they came to the bluff overlooking Reef Bay. In the distance, a campfire flickered on the beach. There seemed to be a man and several children sitting by the fire.

Jessie put her finger to her lips. “Shhh. I think it’s Joseph and his grandchildren. Let’s listen.”

Grandfather, tell us the black pearl story again,” the Aldens heard a child say when they got closer. “We like that best of all.”

In the firelight, the Aldens saw Joseph pick up his ukulele. He strummed a few notes, then began to tell a story.

Over five hundred moons ago, on a faraway island in Hawaii, there lived a poor young diver. He had the same name as you children have now — Kahuna — which means “one who knows secrets.” Young Kahuna knew all the secrets of the sea: where the best fishing could be found, where the dangerous tides would be, where the finest oysters lived at the bottom of the ocean.

Young Kahuna dived for pearls nearly every day of his life. No one could dive deeper or stay underwater as long. He discovered more pearls than any diver had ever found.

The Kahuna family was soon able to buy land. There they grew the juiciest pineapples and fruits on the island. Nearby they built a large, sun-washed house, close to the ocean that had been so good to them. For their son, they built a fine sturdy boat to sail across the sea.

One day young Kahuna dived deeper than he had ever dived before. At the bottom of the sea, he touched the largest oyster he had ever felt. He dropped the heavy oyster into his diving net. With his lungs nearly bursting, he swam to the surface and gasped for air. He could hardly wait to open his treasure.

With his sharp diving knife, he finally opened his oyster. There, resting inside, was the largest pearl he had ever seen

a rare black pearl! In his excitement, he stepped on a poisonous fish sleeping on the sandy bottom of the bay. His foot felt as if it were on fire. Still, he could only think of his pearl and the new riches it would bring to his family.

When he reached his family’s house, he could barely walk from the pain in his foot. Yet, he held on to his pearl. He showed it to his mother and father. “We are rich!” they cried, proud of their son.

But woe, young Kahuna fainted from the pain in his foot. For many days, then many months, the poison infected his whole body. He could no longer dive, no longer fish, no longer swim like a dolphin in the sea.

Then more terrible things happened. His father’s boat crashed upon the rocks, and his father was never seen again. Thieves broke into the house looking for the famous black pearl. One such thief knocked over a lantern and set the beautiful beach house ablaze. Insects arrived in a cloud one morning and ate all the pineapple blossoms on the bushes. There were no pineapples that year.

Young Kahuna, still sick from his infected foot, began to fear for his mother and for his own life. The black pearl was cursed. This he knew. So he visited an old Hawaiian fisherman who knew about such things. The man told young Kahuna that his bad luck would not turn to good luck again for five hundred moons. To avoid more bad luck, the pearl must be given away or returned to the sea.

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