Cilla recovered somewhat of her humor the next day and life at Surf House settled into a pleasant routine. In the mornings Betty tidied her room, had breakfast, helped Cilla and Kit dust and sweep the big house, and sometimes assisted with other large chores, such as monitoring the ungainly gasoline-powered washing machine that chugged away twice a week on the back porch. She lacked Kit's slapdash style, so Aunt Aurelia and Maureen often invited her into the kitchen while they cooked, and while she wasn't fond of the task, she did learn how to make the rich chowder her dad so enjoyed, her nose gradually adjusting to the once-unpleasant smell of the clams delivered every other morning by Artie Dale.
Sometimes for luncheon they would have their meal in the kitchen and then spend the afternoon working in the garden or walking into town for a nickel ice-cream soda, or the domestically-inclined Cilla would pack a picnic lunch and they would laze away the afternoon at the beach. On the days they ventured into town or relaxed on the beach, Betty's father usually accompanied them. He claimed his own blanket on the beach sojourns and sat a few yards away from the girls, giving them privacy, bringing along one of Betty's treasured St. Nicholases, and, later, books provided with Cilla's library card. After an hour he would usually fall asleep, hands crossed behind his head, hat tipped over his eyes, in the warm breezes, leaving Betty pleased that he was finally allowing his body the rest it needed.
At least once again they traveled into Newport to walk along Brenton Point, then window-shop downtown and have an ice-cream soda at the Newberry's soda fountain.
On Sundays the routine was different; even Pietro and Thaddeus went to church, Pietro into Newport for a Catholic service along with Anna Croix, while Thad joined the Roberts and Albrights at the small Methodist congregation in Middletown. There was usually roast beef or roasted chicken for dinner, and their treat was a trip into Newport via the excursion bus to have a sundae at the big Newport Creamery ice cream parlor on Main Street.
The two rainy days that fell in the first fortnight of their stay brought Betty to the realization that her hope that she and Kit would become close chums was tempered by the fact that they had so little in common. Kit was truly a social creature while Betty was more reserved. Too, Kit really didn't like to read unless it was a romance or movie magazine. While Betty enjoyed a rainy day as an opportunity to curl up in the back parlor with a book after she had helped out with the house cleaning, Kit prowled the rooms like a restless tiger, not knowing what to do while her cousin "vanished" into the companionship of a good book and Cilla relaxed in her mother's sewing chair and did fancywork, cross-stitch embroidery on pillowcases and tablecloths for her hope chest. What Kit loved to do most was chatter and Betty could stand to hear just so much about male classmates and schoolmates' foibles.
One sunny morning near the end of the second week of their visit, a restless Kit suggested a berrying expedition. Aunt Aurelia's toothsome desserts had finally exhausted the supply of blueberries that grew wild in the tangled bushes that lined the lanes near the house and those homes of their neighbors, so Kit proposed they go afield for more, lest they have to use the less flavorsome variety from the local market.
Artie Dale had appeared on their doorstep the previous morning with not only the usual supply of clams, but inquiring if Aunt Aurelia might be interested in beach plums. He'd found a supply a few miles up the bay, and having the morning free, thought he would pick them to sell. Aunt Aurelia, knowing both she and Cilla had a weakness for plum jam, told him she would take all he could gather, and now two bushels of the small fruit sat in the kitchen while the preserving supplies were readied.
Since Cilla wasn't available for berrying, Betty brightly asked her father if he'd like to come along. Kit was too polite to demur, although she briefly glowered at her cousin as the three of them formed a procession down the beach. Each carried a large tin pail to be used as a berry receptacle and Betty had one half of their lunch, Kit the other, while David Roberts' contribution was a big Scotch vacuum jug full of cold juice.
Her dad's presence had the expected effect: Kit's chatter about boys was curtailed and they could instead have a pleasant time romping along the beach gathering shellsBetty's collection by that time having become rather impressiveand chatting about picture shows and the birds and small animals they caught glimpses of in the underbrush.
Wild blueberries, however, seemed to be a rare commodity; having reached the closest bushes, the ones Kit claimed were known only to her, they found them stripped, whether by other children or errant birds, and in disappointment they continued their tramp further along the shore. Five miles down the beach, Betty's dad insisted they stop to rest, and they settled themselves along the shore in what was almost a miniature cove with the rock outcroppings serving as seats and tables. They decided to have their lunch and hungrily devoured the sandwiches, thin slices of ham on home-baked brown bread, and a half dozen or so beach plums held out from Artie's cache.
Betty was finishing her last plum, absorbed with licking the last traces of sour-sweet juice from where it had dribbled on her thumb, when two boys in an odd brownish craft paddled around the anvil-shaped, layered grey outcropping of rock which partially blocked their view of the bay to the south.
"Gosh, look at that!" she exclaimed, hastily swallowing a last bit of plum. Her father unobtrusively passed her his handkerchief and she wiped her mouth as she watched the boys skillfully navigate the turn. "What kind of boat is that?"
"I believe that's what's called a 'kayak,'" David Roberts answered, slipping his glasses back on to take a closer look at the craft. It looked like an oddly-shaped canoe, with the sides of the boat rising to surround the waists of the two young men paddling. "The Esquimos have them, remember?"
Kit watched them in avid interest, teeth pressed to her lip, eyes shining. "Yes, that's Stevie...Steven and Rory in Rory's new kayak. Mr. Madison had it shipped in all the way from Oregon." With a sigh she leaned back on the sun-warmed rock, continuing dreamily, "Oh, I'd love to be rich like them one day. I'd have the prettiest dresses, lovely silk things in blue and pink and slippers from that lovely shoemaker in Boston and silk stockings, and live in a beautiful house like the Breakers and have all sorts of delicious things to eat every day, like roast beef and roast chicken, and-" When she became conscious of both cousin and uncle eying her in amusement, she added rapidly, "And of course Mamma would never have to take boarders again and the house would be fixed up and she and Cilla would wear and eat lovely things as well...oh, look!"
It was not simply Kit's attempt to turn the conversation away from her unfortunately selfish daydream; to their surprise the two boys had diverted the kayak toward the rocky shore directly before them, riding the low breakers in until they reached shallow enough water that Rory could shinny from inside the craft and slide himself down into the water. It was only chest deep and he helped walk the little craft aground while Steven kept it steady.
Betty followed them with curious eyes as they dragged the kayak ashore. Both were in navy blue bathing costumes and wore old tennis shoes on their feet, presumably to guard against cuts from the broken shells strewn underwater. She could have sworn the boys had already noted their presence and had landed deliberately at their location, but after making a great fuss getting the kayak beached, since it was top-heavy and awkward once removed from water, they appeared to be surprised at the sudden knowledge that three people they knew were nearby.
Steven Carlisle smoothed his damp hair back before trudging up the beach to say hello, leaving Rory to finish putting away the paddles. There may have been a momentary, sour expression to Rory's face as he did so, then the other boy combed back his wet hair as well, using dextrous fingers to tame the rebellious wet curls, and trailed behind his companion.
"Well, Catherine Albright," Steven announced brightly as he approached, "imagine meeting you here. You're a long walk from home."
Kit flashed a smile at him. "I love walking, Steve. Didn't you know?"
Steven next bowed his head in greeting to Betty's father, offering him a salt-encrusted hand. "Sir, pleased to meet you. My name's Steven Carlisle. My family hails from New York City."
They shook hands while David Roberts introduced himself, adding with upraised eyebrow, "Of Elkhart, Indiana."
Steven looked blank, but nodded politely. "Ah, the Midwest. Afraid I've seen more of Europe than our own farm country."
The well-traveled remark was let slide, and Betty's father smiled down at her. "And this is my daughter...Elly."
She'd held her breath for his introduction, then smiled gratefully in return, holding out a hand for Steven to shake. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Carlisle."
"'Mr. Carlisle' is my pop." Steven said with a grin. "I'm just Steve." He motioned to Rory, made introductions all round, then searched the shore to either side of them. "I don't see your sister, Kitty-Cat. Is she ill?"
"She's home helping Mamma make jam," Kit said, then laughed, "which I suppose would make me ill, but Priscilla loves it. I'd rather have fun." And she tossed her hair, so obviously flirting that Betty was astounded. "We've been trying to pick blueberries, but I guess the odds are against us." She waved a hand at the bushes still visible from their cove. "They seem to be all gone."
"You have to be the early bird to get those berries," Steve laughed pleasantly. "The town orphanage is just on the other side of the hill, remember? I'm sure the little urchins come down here for this crop to perk up the miserable desserts they feed them. Although I wouldn't be surprised if that dragon of a headmistress sells them off and pockets the proceeds. She's a mean old bird, or so I've heard."
"Oh," Kit answered, crestfallen.
Betty spoke up then, curious. "That's an odd boat, Mr. Mad- Rory. I've never seen one like it."
Rory blinked in surprise at her question being addressed to him, evidently too used to companions making conversation only with Steven, then brightened. "It's a kayak, Miss Roberts. I also have a canoe, but that's properly for lake usethe surf makes her too unstable. So I asked Pop-my father if I might have a kayak. It was shipped by express from Oregon last Friday. Isn't she a beaut?"
"It will be a lot more stable once you learn to paddle her properly, buddy," Steve said, with an affable pat to Rory's shoulders and his companion sagged for a moment, then lifted his head and smiled, excusing himself with, "It's brand new. I'll get the hang of it soon."
"Say, Kit," Steven asked soberly, "Priscilla isn't still angry at me because of what happened with Dick Burrows, is she? She looked like a thundercloud last week on the motorbus. I tried to make a silly joke then, but it fell rather flat."
Like the proverbial pancake, Betty thought to herself, but her expression remained unchanged.
"Of course she is," Kit protested, drawing herself up virtuously. "Dick is one of our dearest friends. How can you expect her not to be angry after what you and your mother have said?"
"But what was I supposed to do?" Steve asked earnestly, spreading his hands. Whether he saw or did not see the rather arch glance David Roberts tossed at his daughter, he still continued, "The necklace was missing and Dick was upstairs where he wasn't supposed to be just before the disappearance was discoveredMrs. Whatley clearly heard his voice. Mother had worn the necklace not four days earlier. What were we supposed to think?"
"It is rather damning circumstantial evidence," Betty's father remarked in a mild voice, bouncing a small pebble up and down in the palm of his hand. "But there still is no proof. I understand you were very unpleasant to the young man."
Steve acknowledged that he and his mother might have over-reacted, and the conversation continued along those lines for a few minutes, then veered to more general pleasantries about the Roberts family's visit.
The Shell Pendant Mystery is ©2002 by Linda M. Young