Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island: A New Perspective

Chapter 1: An Unexpected Invitation

As told to Dana
by Honey

Author Notes

So, the best part about rewriting Chapter 1? I got to remove all mentions of the previous day being the "last day of school"! As the previous two books take place in the summer and August, respectively, this has always bugged me. So, in my version of the chapter, these references to time do not exist! Heh. Therefore, I’ve written about the previous two trips from the perspective that they happen in the same summer as this trip. Mary rocks for coordinating this year's Jixanny rewrite! Many thanks to Susan for editing for me when she’s got more on her plate than you could ever imagine! Not only is she a true Bob-White, she’s Wonder Woman! (My word count: 3,240; KK: 228.)

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"Matthew, renting a house on Cobbett’s Island for the summer sounds wonderful," Madeleine’s cultured voice, even in its measured tones, couldn’t hide her obvious pleasure. "I think a beach vacation is just what our family needs, especially after all of that idol business in the city!"

"Yes, we certainly could use a nice, relaxing vacation after the last one! I’m glad you agree a house on Cobbett’s is a good idea, Maddie," Matthew’s strong voice rang out, and Honey, who had paused outside her father’s study after hearing such agreeable tones from within, couldn’t help but smile. She couldn’t wait for her family to spend a pleasant beach holiday together during summer vacation. Since adopting Jim, the Wheelers hadn’t spent as much time as a family as Honey would have liked, so she was excited that there was a family vacation in the works.

Then, just as quickly, on the heels of the other thought, Honey had another one.

How can I spend the rest of the summer without Trixie? Without the Bob-Whites?

As much as Honey wanted to spend time with her parents, getting to truly know them for the first time, she also couldn’t bear not spending time with her best friend and the members of the semi-secret club that they had founded.

Maybe, she thought, Trixie and her brothers and the rest of the Bob-Whites can come visit us on Cobbett’s Island!

No sooner had she pacified herself with this thought—and had already crafted the invitation to her friends in her mind—when she heard her father say, "I can’t wait to go deep-sea fishing off the island, but you never know when business will rear its ugly head. Let’s not mention this to the kids until we’re absolutely sure."

"Oh, Matthew," Honey’s mother said, "what could possibly come up now?"

"There’s that business in South America," Honey heard her father say, and she could almost picture him waving the newspaper that he was sure to have in his hands in a dismissive manner. "I hope I won’t have to go down there, but you never know."

As she stood listening outside the study door, Honey felt her shoulders sag. She was sure that her mother’s next words would echo her disappointment, but to her dismay she heard her mother ask, in an all-too curious voice, "South America? Where?"

The honey-haired girl finally dared to peek around the corner at that point, mentally already blaming her daring sandy-haired friend if she got caught, and saw her father wave an airy hand, still concentrating on the newspaper on his lap. "Brazil," he said nonchalantly.

Honey watched as her mother beamed. "Brazil!" the elegant wife of Matthew Wheeler exclaimed. "I’ve never been to Brazil. That would be exciting!" The thought of renting a cottage on Cobbett’s Island with her family was clearly forgotten as Honey watched her mother’s wide, hazel eyes take on a look of anticipation as she pondered a trip south of the Equator.

Honey could bear no more, and she hurried on down the hall and up to her bedroom, throwing herself on her bed and wishing for parents that didn’t travel so much. Then, she immediately felt guilty for the thought. Her mother and father were wonderful, in their own way, and at least she wasn’t an orphan, like Jim and Dan.

Perhaps, Honey reflected as she changed into her pajamas, Dad and Mother won’t have to go to Brazil, after all. Maybe we can still have a family vacation at the beach.

After she had brushed her teeth and climbed into bed, Honey drifted to sleep, dreaming of clambakes, sailboats, and warm sand under a golden sun…all shared with her whole family.

* * * * *

Two days later, all seven of the Bob-Whites were gathered in their cozy little clubhouse, which used to serve as the gatehouse for the Wheeler estate during the days of carriages and sleighs. The group had worked hard to turn the tumble-down shack into a nice gathering space for their club. As Honey looked around at the weather-tight roof, the neatly hung curtains, the wood floor, the benches and big table that Brian and Jim had made, and the rest of the cheerfully decorated interior, she felt a warm sense of pride in what she and her friends had accomplished.

After the excitement of their visit to Trixie’s uncle’s house in the Ozarks and their visit with the Hubbell twins and Ned, followed by a short visit with the Wellingtons, in New York City, the teenagers were trying to come up with plans for the summer.

"We could hold another carnival," Trixie suggested. "The ice carnival was such a success!"

"The indisputable fact that there happens to be a dearth of transparent crystalline solid in most of the Northern Hemisphere presently certainly will not precipitate a predicament," Mart teased his sister. Trixie glared at him, her bright blue eyes squaring off with similar ones.

"No one said it had to be another ice carnival," Trixie retorted hotly.

Honey, ever the peacemaker, quickly interjected, "What type of a carnival did you have in mind, Trix?"

At this, her friend immediately went from angry to dejected as she slumped in her seat. "I don’t know," she admitted. "It would be hard to hold a summer carnival. Those usually involve Ferris wheels and rides and all sorts of stuff that would be really hard for us to pull off."

"There’s an art fair over in Croton we could visit," Di offered. She had recently begun to be interested in art and even thought that she might want to major in it in college.

Trixie looked absolutely mutinous at this suggestion, so Honey spoke up before Trixie had a chance to put her foot in her mouth and hurt Di’s feelings. "That sounds like fun for an afternoon, but that still leaves the rest of the summer wide open," she said, burying the tantalizing thought of a trip to Cobbett’s Island as she spoke.

Jim grinned at his "full-blooded adopted sister," a twinkle in his green eyes. "Wide open for swimming in the lake, picnics, camping, horseback riding through the preserve, seeing movies at the Cameo…"

"But we always do those kinds of things," Trixie stated adamantly. "I want to do something special."

"Just because we do them all the time doesn’t mean they’re not special," Jim said quietly.

Trixie looked guilty as she digested Jim’s remark. "You’re right. They are fun and special—just spending time with you guys is special—I didn’t mean that. I just thought it’d be fun to have a project to work on, like the ice carnival or the antique show or hunting for ghost fish for a reward or—"

"Or finding a diamond in the eye of an ugly little idol and bringing down a ring of ruthless, international jewel thieves," dark-haired Brian finished drily.

Honey watched as Trixie flushed. "Well, it certainly was more exciting than just sitting around here not coming up with any ideas for a summer project."

"Trixie—" Brian began, but Mart cut him off.

"Conversing logically with our scatterbrained younger sibling is an exercise in futility, my dear older brother," he began. "As our bevy is clearly entering the depths of frustration, we should retire to the expansiveness of the Wheeler comestible preparation area and partake of a repast that will invigorate our fatigued grey matter."

The other Bob-Whites grinned at Mart, and Dan outright laughed. "Mart’s go-to solution for anything—food!"

Honey put in, "Cook did just make some yummy brownies."

"Why didn’t you say so? Let’s go!" Mart’s haste to fill his stomach for once made him forget to use the longest, most unfamiliar words that he could think of. The mood lifted as the seven friends crossed the wide expanse of lawn up to the Manor House, which stood in all of its white stateliness on its hill top. Di and Mart led the way, and Honey could hear Di chatting about the art fair she wanted to see in Croton. Behind them, Brian, Jim, and Dan were discussing an old jalopy that Brian had towed home the day before. She and Trixie lagged behind, and she listened as Trixie bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t think of a project.

"Something will turn up," Honey assured her best friend. "It always does."

At that, Trixie visibly brightened. "You’re right, Honey. Something fun always does seem to find us!"

As the Bob-Whites gathered in the immaculate kitchen and enjoyed Cook’s fudgy, gooey brownies, Honey’s mother joined them in the kitchen with a smile.

"I’m so glad I’ve found all of you here," the polished woman said warmly. "I have some news for all of you."

Honey’s breath caught. What news could Mother possibly have for all of us? Could it be that she’s going to invite all of the Bob-Whites to Cobbett’s Island? Trying to sound calm, she asked, "What is it, Mother?"

"Well, your father and I have rented a house on Cobbett’s Island for the summer. He planned on spending weekends there deep-sea fishing, but now it turns out that he has some business in Brazil that he must attend to. I’ve never been to South America before, so I’m going to go with him. We hate for the house to sit empty, though, so we’d love it if you Bob-Whites could spend ten days there, with Miss Trask as a chaperone, of course."

The words were barely out of her mouth before a flurry of activity and joyous noise erupted in the kitchen. Trixie gripped Honey’s arm.

"You were right, Hon!" she exclaimed, her blue eyes bright with excitement. "Something did turn up! Something just perfectly perfect! Imagine! A beach vacation!"

Honey grinned back at her. Yes, she could imagine. She was certainly excited to be able to head to the beach with her friends, but she couldn’t help but feel disappointment that the family vacation that she had so hoped for was going to be delayed while her parents took yet another trip without her and Jim.

"It’s fantastic!" she managed to say. Meanwhile, Brian and Jim were excitedly talking about lures and casting and rods, while Di mentioned to Mart that she needed a new bathing suit. Honey didn’t miss the way his eyes lit up as Di talked, no doubt imagining her in the scant garment.

The honey-haired girl turned her hazel eyes toward Brian, and she wondered whether the eldest Belden sibling would be excited to see her in a bathing suit. The thought of spending time on a beach with Brian warmed her, and she quickly cast her eyes away lest her face show the longing that she felt for a certain dark-haired Belden. It was then that she noticed that Dan was being a lot quieter than everyone else. As a matter of fact, he had hardly said a word during their discussion at the clubhouse. Honey wondered what was up.

She didn’t have time to ponder, however, because her mother, laughing at the teenagers’ enthusiasm for the trip, was describing the amenities on Cobbett’s Island. "You’ll take a ferry from the mainland. There’s swimming, of course, as well as fishing and sailing." She turned to Trixie. "There’s even a deserted lighthouse that I’m sure you’ll have a good time exploring. Just don’t find any mysteries there, please!"

The Bob-Whites laughed at her words, but Honey noticed that Trixie didn’t promise a thing!

The "party" broke up soon after, with Trixie eager to hurry home and get her mother’s permission for the Beldens to accompany Miss Trask, Honey’s old governess, and Jim and Honey to the rented summer house.

"Moms will be sure to give her permission," Trixie said confidently as she crumpled her napkin and moved across the kitchen to throw it into the gleaming silver trash receptacle. "I just hope Dad agrees."

Brian followed his sister’s actions and said, "I hope so. I’ll head back with you so I can work on that jalopy."

Dan stood and excused himself as well, and Honey worried about his quietness. She didn’t want to make a big deal about it with her mother and the rest of the Bob-Whites present, but she planned on telephoning him later to make sure that he was okay.

Brian and Trixie started to leave the kitchen, and Brian turned to Mart, who was still seated at the kitchen table, and asked, "Coming, Mart?"

Mart shook his head. "I’d like to stay up here and discuss the trip some more." He looked at Honey and Jim. "If that’s okay with you?"

Honey nodded while Jim said, "Natch!"

Once Mart had decided to stay, Honey knew without a doubt that Di wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon.

The departing trio waved, and the four remaining Bob-Whites continued to enjoy Cook’s delicious baking.

"I’m going to take my leave now," Mrs. Wheeler said, "but I forgot to mention that I was on the phone with your mother earlier, Di, and she’s already given her permission for you to go."

Di smiled. "That’s fantastic, Mrs. Wheeler. Thank you!"

With a smile and a graceful wave, Mrs. Wheeler made her exit, and Honey turned her full attention to the plans that were afoot.

"I can’t wait to try some sailing," Jim was saying.

"I hear that clambakes are big in that area. Wouldn’t it be fun to attend a clambake?" Mart asked as he took a bite of his fourth brownie, clearly so excited about the prospect of a vacation on Cobbett’s Island that he had dropped the use of large words. Honey had a feeling that the fact that Trixie wasn’t around to tease was another reason Mart wasn’t exercising his extensive vocabulary.

"Leave it to Mart to come up with a beach-themed, food-related activity!" Di said, but the adoring look that she gave the blond boy softened her words.

"I think a clambake will be a lot of fun, and I’ve always wanted to go to one," Honey said enthusiastically. "I hope we’ll get to while we’re there!"

"Maybe we can have one ourselves," Jim suggested.

"I can’t wait to lie on the beach and get some sun!" Di stated. "I’m so glad Mummy said I could go!"

"I’m glad, too," Honey said and then turned to Mart. "Let’s hope you Beldens and Dan can go, too!"

The foursome continued to discuss possible activities, when Celia entered the room.

"There’s a telephone call for you, Miss Honey," she said.

Honey quickly rose and headed out of the kitchen, through the dining room, and across the hall to the library, where the nearest phone extension was located. She settled onto the couch as she picked up the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Honey, it’s Dan."

To Honey’s ears, Dan actually sounded nervous. "Hi, Dan!" she greeted him cheerfully and then turned serious. "Are you okay? You were awfully quiet today."

Honey heard Dan’s soft chuckle through the phone. "I should have known I couldn’t hide anything from you," he said. "I didn’t want to say anything to you guys in case it didn’t work out, but, well, last month I applied for a summer job at several camps. Yesterday, I heard from one of them. I got hired."

"That’s wonderful news, Dan. Congratulations!"

"Thanks! It’s just that, well, I need to head to camp before you guys will all be back from Cobbett’s Island. I want to go, more than anything, but, well…"

Honey swallowed her disappointment for the second time in an hour and tried to reassure her friend. "We’ll definitely miss you, and I’m so sorry that you can’t go, but I think it’s wonderful that you’ve gotten a job at a camp. You’ll have a great time and earn some money!"

"Gee, Honey, thanks for being so understanding."

"Of course. I know the other Bob-Whites will be disappointed, too, but they’re going to be just as proud of you as I am. I bet your uncle and Mr. Maypenny are proud, too!"

Dan’s uncle, Bill Regan, worked for Honey’s father as the Wheeler groom. He ran a tight stable, but the teenagers and the youngest Belden, six-year-old Bobby, just adored him. Dan lived with Mr. Maypenny in a cabin in the Wheeler game preserve. Mr. Maypenny served as the Wheeler gamekeeper, and Dan helped him out part-time.

"They did seem pretty pleased. I was worried about leaving Mr. Maypenny in the lurch, but you know Mr. M. He told me what a great opportunity it would be for me and assured me that he could get along fine without me."

"We Bob-Whites will visit him while you’re gone," Honey promised.

"Thanks, Honey. Anyway, I’m really sorry I can’t make the trip."

"Me, too. It definitely won’t be as fun without you, but at least I know that you’ll be having fun at camp!"

The two said their good-byes, and Honey got up to return to the kitchen. She had almost made it out of the long room, with its floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with richly bound books, when the phone rang again. She hurried to answer it so that Celia wouldn’t make a wasted trip.

"Hello, Wheeler residence," she greeted the unknown caller on the other end.

"Honey!" Trixie’s enthusiastic voice exclaimed. "Moms and Dad said that we can go!"

"I’m so glad you can all go," said Honey when she heard the news. "At least there will be six Bob-Whites, but the most awful thing has happened. Dan just called up to say he can’t make it."

"Oh, jeepers!" exclaimed Trixie. "What’s wrong? He’s our newest member, and it’s not fair for him to miss out on the fun again, the way he did when we all went out west."

Honey agreed that it wasn’t fair, and she thought back again to how quiet Dan had been that afternoon. "Did you notice how quiet he was when we were all talking about the trip?"

"Come to think of it, he did seem kind of unenthusiastic, didn’t he?" replied Trixie.

"Oh, he wanted to come badly enough," she assured her friend, "but last month, without anyone knowing, he applied to several camps for a summer job, and yesterday he heard from one of them saying they would hire him."

"But I thought Mr. Maypenny needed him to help on your father’s game preserve," said Trixie. "That’s why he couldn’t come to the Ozarks with us."

"That’s true. Maybe he didn’t come to the Ozarks because he knew he might get this camp job, and he wanted to help Mr. Maypenny out as long as possible. As far as the summer camp job goes, I guess Dan knew that the gamekeeper job was just part of the experiment to see if he would straighten out after the trouble he got into in the city, and Mr. Maypenny didn’t really need a full-time helper all summer," said Honey thoughtfully.

"Well, he’s certainly justified Regan’s faith in him, hasn’t he? And to think he got a job all on his own! No one will ever have to worry about Dan again," Trixie said, and Honey heartily agreed. As Honey had predicted to Dan just a few minutes before, her fellow club member was extremely proud of the newest Bob-White.

"I really wish Dan could come," Trixie said. "He’s worked so hard since he moved to Sleepyside that he really deserves a fun vacation!"

"And ten days at the beach is certainly a fun vacation! I wish he could come, too. It won’t be as much fun without him."

Honey heard Trixie sigh on the other end of the line. "It won’t be, for sure. We’ll just have to make sure we send him lots of postcards, so he knows we miss him and that we’re thinking about him!"

"Definitely!" Honey agreed.

"Well, I need to go help Moms with dinner, but I wanted to let you know to count us Beldens in!"

"I’m so glad!" Honey said, and the two said their good-byes.

That night, as Honey lay in bed, she once again daydreamed of the delicious smells of a clambake, the feel of the wind in her hair as she rode along on a sailboat, and the tickling sensation of sand between her toes. This time, though, her family wasn’t with her for these imagined beach activities. Instead, in her mind’s eye, she saw Mart and the other Bob-Whites feasting at the clambake, Trixie and Di laughing as the club members sailed above crystal clear blue water, and Brian smiling down at her as they strolled barefoot along the beach together. It was a lovely daydream, and Honey was happy that most of her other family would be with her on Cobbett’s Island.

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