I am well aware, Dear Reader, that I had promised that this installment would be the last in this series. However, while writing this post I realized that it would take yet one more installment for me to complete Marta's saga. I appreciate your forbearance.
One evening during my parents' out-of-town trip, Marta announced at the dinner table that she and Big Daddy were going to take me and my siblings and Telma to the beach the next morning. We were going to leave at dawn and drive to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where we would spend the day taking in the pleasures of the beach and boardwalk.
Even though Rehoboth Beach was one of the closest seaside resorts to Washington, D.C., Hermione, Frecky, and I had never been there before. That's because MD considered it to be a plebeian and down-market destination, and an out-of-the-question one when compared with our family's usual seaside haunts of Nantucket and the coast of Maine. MD thought Rehoboth Beach to be, in a word, unsuitable, for people "like us."*
Furthermore, we had a perfectly nice country house in rural Maryland that we went to on most weekends, so why go to the beach in Delaware?
According to MD, "our kind" didn't go to Rehoboth Beach, as it was all rather honky-tonk, what with its cheap cotton-candy-and-salt-water-taffy boardwalk culture and throngs of sunburnt mid-Atlantic sorts who didn't know any better than to enjoy themselves there.
Needless to say, the prospect of our spending a day at Rehoboth Beach was terribly exciting, if not thrilling!
Marta told us that we could only go to Rehoboth on two conditions: the first was that we must never, ever tell our parents about Big Daddy's moving in with us, and the second was that we must keep secret our trip to the shore.
With that agreed upon, we all got up early the next morning and piled into Big Daddy's limousine. My sister, brother, and I sat in the back, along with Telma. Big Daddy and Marta rode up front.
A one-day round trip to Rehoboth Beach from the Cleveland Park neighborhood in Washington is a considerable undertaking, under any circumstances. Today it takes about three hours to make the 125-mile one-way trip. In the early 1960s, when we made the journey, it easily took four or more hours to drive each way, particularly on a busy summer weekend.
But how could one object to spending the better part of the day in transit when one was riding in the Ecuadorean Embassy's limousine, with Big Daddy at the wheel? Riding in the back of the car was exciting, and it was highly entertaining to watch the people in the other cars staring at us with open mouths, as we drove by in the huge, black limousine. We became giddy with pleasure and astonishment when Marta told us to throw our leftover food wrappers, soda bottles, and napkins out of the car's windows instead of properly putting them into a paper bag for later disposal, as MD had taught us to do. I still remember the delight I took in flinging the trash out of the car's window and watching it fly away as we rolled down the highway.**
Our brief visit to Rehoboth Beach was a blur of sun, boardwalk rides, fried seafood, and saltwater taffy, sandwiched between the long car rides to and fro in Big Daddy's limousine. On the journey home, all of us stuffed and sleepy, Marta reminded us of our pact. We three Darlings promised, again, that we would never, ever tell.
My parents returned to find the house as they left it, with all its occupants in their proper places and Big Daddy nowhere to be seen.
Several days later, though, MD found out that all was not as it seemed. She overheard a conversation among Hermione and me and our little neighborhood friend Antonia de Peyster, in which we talked about going to Rehoboth Beach and how much fun we had there.
MD summoned Hermione and me in front of her.
"What's this I hear about your going to Rehoboth Beach?"
"Come on now, you two, tell me! When did you go there? Who took you there?"
With the jig up, Hermione and I sang like jailbirds. The whole story came tumbling out that we and Frecky had gone to Rehoboth Beach with Marta, Telma, and Big Daddy in the Ecuadorean Embassy's limousine. MD further extracted that Big Daddy had moved into our house while she and my father were away, and that Big Daddy and Marta and Telma had made themselves comfortable upstairs for the duration of my parents' trip, with Telma sleeping in my sister Camilla's bed, and Big Daddy and Marta sleeping downstairs, in Marta's room.
MD was furious.
She angrily confronted Marta, who tearfully corroborated our story and begged forgiveness and another chance to redeem herself. MD, however, had finally had enough of Marta's wayward ways, and she sent her packing.***
Hermione and I were beside ourselves. We had betrayed Marta, and had gone back on our word to her that we would never tell MD what had happened while she and our father were away. I had grown very fond of Marta and Telma while they lived with us, and the fact that they were being sent away because of our stupid blunder was extremely upsetting to me, and I bawled like the little boy that I was.
Marta and Telma moved out that very afternoon, driven away in Big Daddy's car, never to be seen or heard from again.
One year later MD received a telephone call from an officer at the Department of Immigration and Naturalization with a request for an interview about a woman named Marta, who had once been employed in our household.
Marta had apparently got herself into very big trouble. And a whole lot more trouble than any of us could possibly have imagined.
Next: An Unsettling Visit from the INS
* Reggie understands that MD may well have been entirely wrong in her disapproval of Rehoboth Beach. As he has written before, MD could be a terrible snob, and she had very strong opinions (not always entirely well informed) on almost everything. Reggie spent several weekends at Rehoboth in his twenties, where he enjoyed himself immensely, and he understands that the seaside resort has been much improved since then.
** To the best of his knowledge, this was the only time in Reggie's life that he ever consciously littered, a practice of which he highly disapproves.
*** MD said years later that she had felt sorry for Marta and Telma, and that she gave Marta three months wages in cash, even though she felt she was under no obligation to give her anything, considering the circumstances.