A Trip to the Theatre
Betty stood fidgeting on the front porch of Surf House, wearing her Sunday dress of pink georgette, Sunday shoes, her neatest cloche hat and white gloves. It felt unnatural to be dressed so smartly in the middle of the week, especially since underneath the neat lace collar of the pretty dress, her heart was thumping with excitement.
The night before, Kit had come racing to her room, tossing herself headlong on Betty's bed. She and the ever-present St. Nicholas both bounced with a wail of bedsprings, then bounced once more as Kit pulled into a sitting position.
"I have the most delicious news!" she exclaimed. "Mamma and Uncle David said I could come tell you. We're going into the city tomorrow, to the Majestic to see the vaudeville program! Pietro and Thad told Mamma they could grub up dinner themselves, so we'll eat at the Waldorf Cafeteria before we come home. Isn't it splendid? We'll take the cars to Fall River and then to Providence! We'll be away all day but won't it be worth it?"
So it was that at eight a.m. she was waiting for the rest of the familyand here was the motorbus approaching and no one else was yet outside.
Mr. Slocum seemed to recognize her predicament as he braked to a stop before the gate, for the 'bus horn sounded once, then twice, and in a flurry Kit was out the door, followed by Betty's father. Aunt Aurelia was last, her face discouraged.
"She refuses to come, David," she told him despairingly. "She said she'll stay here and tidy up the house some and 'do' for the boys if they need something. I thought Dick's coming along on the Fourth might cheer her up a little, but it's only made her more unhappy."
"Let her go," he counseled, and behind the adults' back, Kit murmured to Betty, "Silly clot, missing all the fun to moon over Dick."
"That isn't fair," Betty hissed back. She felt rather sorry for Cilla at that moment. But the journey into Newport gradually turned her mind from problems to the exciting day at hand. They could tell it was going to be "a scorcher" already, and even in the light georgette frock Betty was glad to open the windows and drink in the cooling breeze. Sooner than she imagined they were in Newport, just in time for the nine o'clock train.
She had been so absorbed with her father's health on the journey across country that she had not noticed the countryside they had passed; now she delighted in the cool thickets and gaps where farms and small country stores dotted the landscape. Soon they were approaching the grimy mill city of Fall River, with its sprawling brick factories and landscape of three-decker houses and church spires. Kit played tour guide on the journey, telling her that Fall River was known as "the city of churches" and if Betty didn't feel too odd doing so, in the following week they could visit Saint Anne's, the beautiful Catholic church that, her cousin claimed, looked almost like a cathedral.
At the Fall River depot they changed trains and thus were transported to Providence. The landscape was flat here, dotted with small farms, those broken by woodlots and marsh, until they turned the curve and crossed the bridge over the Providence River, hemmed in between the narrow streets.
Aunt Aurelia wanted to take a taxicab to the theatre as soon as they arrived, but to Betty's delight, her father demurred. She had seen his eyes come alight as they emerged from the doors of Union Station, taking in the compact city spread before them. "Now, I've looked at the map, Aurelia, and it's not a long distance..."
Kit chimed in, "Mamma, it's not even ten o'clock! The matinee doesn't begin until one. We certainly can't expect to sit in the theatre for over three hours. Why, Elly hasn't seen Shepards nor the Outlet-"
The department store names meant nothing to Betty, but she was eager to explore the city nevertheless.
Kit coaxed, "We could take luncheon at the Port Arthur-"
"None of that foreign truck," her mother objected strenuously. "Who knows what they put in it! We can have muffins at Child's or go up to Shepard's Tea Room if you insist."
As they strolled past Exchange Place, Kit whispered, "The Port Arthur serves Chinese food and it's really delicious. Cilla and I came one day last winter with Mrs. Croix. But Mamma believes they use stray cats for the meat."
Betty cast her cousin a horrified glance and Kit quickly assured her that was not the case. "Mamma's just old-fashioned." Then she stepped up her pace to link arms with her mother. "How about Liggett's?" she wheedled. "We haven't had a treat in ages."
Aunt Aurelia hadn't a chance under Kit's pleading. Smiling, Betty bounced ahead to take her father's arm as they walked under the eaves of the massive stone building that was City Hall.
As much time as it seemed they had, it was not enough to explore all the delightful stores they found on Westminster and Weybosset Streets. Kit insisted on peeking in the display windows of each of the dress shops, pointing out her favorite frocks. They stopped at the Fanny Farmer Candy Shoppe to buy a treat for Cilla, though Kit averred she didn't deserve it. For lunch they went to Liggett's drug store and each had a sandwich as well as an ice cream sundae at the fountain.
By the time they had reached the ornate theatre that was Emery's Majestic, Betty was grateful to sit down and let her eyes wander the beautiful house with its marble walls and red velvet accouterments. They were seated in the middle of the theatre toward the back, where they could easily see the huge stage.
Then the program began and for the next hour and a half, Betty thought she had never had so much fun. Kit's movie magazine reading now served her in good stead as she was constantly whispering interesting things to her cousin about the singers and actors, many of whom also appeared in the picturesexcept when the dancers were onstage; then she seemed completely mesmerized by the performances. Better yet, when Betty glanced at her father, laughing and clapping at the end of each act, she could easily see how much his health had improved in the past weeks. That might have been the best part of all.
Then, just before one of the headline acts was about to appear, she heeded a call of nature, picking her way over the few seats between herself and the aisle. Once in the foyer, she asked the usher, brave in a red uniform with gold buttons and epaulets, directions to the ladies' lounge, and a staircase to her left, leading downstairs, was indicated.
Someone had turned the sprawling anteroom between the ladies' and gentlemen's lounges into a wilderness of rubber plants and bamboo furniture with green velvet seats, making conversation nooks and smoking corners in the enormous space with its thick Brussels carpeting, and Betty peeked, awed, between the drooping fronds at the picturesque armchairs and sofas, then hurried into the lounge. It was beautifully appointed as well and she lingered a few more minutes after completing her errand to enjoy the porcelain fixtures and gilt-framed mirrors before starting to leave.
As she commenced opening the door, she heard an angry man's voice finish, "-give me th' rest of my money!"
The Shell Pendant Mystery is ©2002 by Linda M. Young