Although Independence Day didn't commence until midnight, the relentless "pop-pop-pop" of caps and crackers and the occasionally louder "crack" of a cherry bomb already echoed throughout the neighborhood the next afternoon as the boys and even some of the girls pulled out fireworks and sparklers bought with pennies carefully hoarded for weeks.
Lying on her stomach on a blanket in the warm sand, reading the final page of the Seaman novel and closing it with a contented sigh, Betty looked across first to her father, already asleep a few feet away, then to Kit and Cilla. The recent punishment seemed to have taken the wind from their sails and they sat quietly next to each other, Cilla working on her embroidery and Kit having abandoned her solitaire game as clouds scudded in and the wind rose.
"So what do folks do for the Fourth here?" Betty inquired. "At home there's a parade and speeches and a band concert and fireworks at night."
"Mamma despises the crowds on the Fourth, so we usually stay right here," Kit admitted. "She says the tourists just make the day a misery and since we can see the fireworks from Easton's Beach just fine from the beach, we've never really done anything special. Mamma will make fried chicken, though, and the fixings, and we'll have a picnic out here on the shore."
Cilla added wistfully, "When Papa was alive, he'd rent a shay from the livery stable and we'd go up to the parade in Bristol. Don't you remember, Kitty?" She smiled at Betty. "It's the largest parade in the state, even larger than the one in Newport or Providence, and it's been going for over 140 years. It's quite splendidwe ought to go again sometime."
"Since Elly's here," Kit brightened, "why not this year?"
"And how will we get up to Bristol, goosey?" Cilla's voice was affectionate.
"On the ferry of course," Kit retorted with equal humor, then she was silent a moment and here she studied her feet, stretched out before her, then asked softly, "Might we ask Dick? Certainly his father isn't working tomorrow, and his truck might be free just for the parade. And you two can talk in privateElly and I won't even sit near you if you don't want us to."
Cilla sobered, sighed, her eyes downcast again. "I'm not certain Dick is fond of going out in public these days."
"It's not as if those spiteful old cats will follow us all the way there," Kit replied, a little hotly. "In any case, I don't care. I know he hasn't done anything, no matter what Steven Carlisle says."
If the aborted sailing excursion had accomplished anything positive, Betty decided, it had at least cured Kit of her "crush" on Steven. "It can't hurt to ask him, Cil," she coaxed. "He's been fishing with his father for weeks. Maybe he'd like a day off and enjoy our company. And if he says no, we'll just do as you always do."
To the girls' delight, by the time they had returned to Surf House, they'd already received a telephone call from Dick asking if they would like to go to the parade. "Pop says I need a day off and I wanted to say thanks for sticking up for me the other day at the Madisons."
Cilla asked in astonishment, "How did you know about that?"
Dick responded diplomatically, "Word gets around," and when Cilla mentioned it at table later, Betty envisioned the gossips at the general store.
"You'll have to get an early start," Aunt Aurelia said briskly as she whisked dishes from the table. "While Maureen and I clear you girls can make sandwiches and we'll store them in the icebox tonight. I'll mix up a jug of switchell, too, and you pack up some of the cookies Maureen made this afternoon, and I'll slice up some fruit for-"
"Aurelia," Betty's father said mildly, "I was under the impression we were going to a parade, not to the Pole with Admiral Byrd."
Even Pietro, Thad, and Mrs. Croix burst into gales of laughter, but his sister-in-law merely answered, "You'll see how prudent I was tomorrow when you see the traffic!"
"But Mamma," Kit protested, "aren't you coming with us?"
"Nothing doing," Aunt Aurelia declared. She nodded at her boarders. "Pietro and Thad are spending the day in Newport tomorrow," and Anna Croix piped up, "And I'm visiting my sister for the day."
"I plan to lay abed late-" the elder woman continued.
"At least until seven o'clock," David Roberts interjected, and she switched at him with a dishcloth, finishing, "-and have the house to myself for the morning and send you all off for a picnic lunch when you get home and not do a stitch of housework except what needs doing until the next day. Maureen's going into Providence to visit her family so I'll be blessedly alone. I'm going to read my Ladies Home Journals and sip tea and do some tattingwith my feet up."
"Mamma's become a rebel in her old age," Cilla announced, a smile breaking through the too-serious expression on her face, and dinner was concluded with laughter.
* * * * *
"Fog!" Betty pronounced gloomily as she stared out the window next morning, shifting from one chilled bare foot to another since the weather had turned damp.
"It's been foggy nearly every morning since you've been here," Kit reminded, "but you've never been up early enough to see it." She tried to sound wise beyond her thirteen years and failed miserably. "All the days except two have turned out beautifully. Now hurry and get your clothes on."
"But must we leave this early?" Betty asked, knowing if she turned to the alarm clock she would see its baleful face indicating it was five-thirty in the morning.
"If we want to see the parade without any tall people blocking our view," her cousin responded. "And they are so rudethe out-of-towners come in early and none of the locals can get a good place. I tell Mamma that when I'm grown I'm going to Boston one Patriot's Day and take their seats for a change!"
Unselfconsciously Betty pulled off her nightgown and began drawing on her clothes while Kit draped herself at the edge of the bed. "Tell me about the motor cycle ride, Ellywas it really fast?"
"Good heavens, Kitty, haven't you stopped asking about that yet?" Kit had been the most excited when Artie Dale had delivered her to the doorstep, clutching the straw hat with one hand while her other held down her billowing skirt. Artie had asked Aunt Aurelia about the lace, received the expected answer, then departed, and both Kit and Cilla had returned to their Bible reading before their mother noticed their heads peering out the upstairs windows.
"It's not as if you came clopping up in the ice wagon, after all," Kit responded in astonishment.
"I know, but I've already told you. He didn't go all that quickly because he didn't want to frighten me, and it was nice having the wind in my face. What's left to talk about?"
"A young man gave you a ride," her cousin responded in amaze.
"He's not a 'young man,'" Betty said impatiently, tying her shoes, "he's..." She was about to say "a good friend," knew that was not supposed to be the truth, and finished lamely, "...the fellow who delivers our clams."
"Elly Roberts, you are such an odd duck!" Kit announced, then shook her head ruefully. "I'm going down for breakfast. See you in a minute."
The Shell Pendant Mystery is ©2002 by Linda M. Young