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Trip — or Adventure?
It was a lovely autumn day. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. The Alden family sat around the breakfast table, talking as usual. First they talked about the Greenfield schools being closed for a week. There had been a fire. Some of the schoolrooms had to be painted and repaired.
"You know what I want to do?" Benny Alden asked suddenly.
"No, what?" asked his big brother Henry. He smiled because Benny was always wanting to do funny things.
Grandfather Alden laughed, too. He said, "Tell us, Ben. I am always interested in anything you want to do."
Benny put down his spoon. He had just finished an enormous dish of cereal and milk.
"Well," he said, "I'd like to go up to the Oak Hill woods and live in that hunters' cabin. Henry still has a week before he has to go back to college. We could all go."
Grandfather Alden said, "I think it could be managed. I belong to the Sportsmen's Club that owns the cabin. The hunters don't use it at this time of the year." He set down his coffee cup. "The cabin isn't too far away, and it's too early for snow."
"That's exactly what I thought," said Benny. "It's much too early for snow. We could do a lot of hiking in the fall woods. We might see wild animals like deer and find new plants."
"What about food?" asked Henry. "You'll be the first one to be hungry, Ben."
"Oh, that will be part of the fun!" said Benny. "I talked with Mr. Robbins. He's one of Grandfather's friends who belongs to the Sportsmen's Club, too."
"And what did he tell you?" asked Grandfather.
"We can hike five miles a day to the little store on the other side of Oak Hill. There's a good path and we can't miss the way. We can buy what we need at Nelson's Store."
"I see you've got it all figured out," said Henry. "Two and a half miles each way. Can we cook in the cabin, Grandfather?"
"Well, yes. There's a cookstove that burns kerosene. You could certainly heat up baked beans."
"And water," added Violet.
"Well, a panful maybe," replied Grandfather, laughing. "But not too many baths."
"That suits me," said Benny.
"Well, it wouldn't suit me," said Mr. Alden. "I think I'll stay at home."
"We'd love to have you come along, Grandfather," said Violet. "Don't you really want to go?
"No, my dear. I really want to stay at home. I'll go with you as far as Henry can drive the car, and then I'll take the car back home. I'll meet you in about a week. We can plan that."
Henry said, "Benny, suppose we run out of food and don't feel like walking five miles to the store?"
"Well, we could always walk home," said Benny, but he was joking.
"I'll take my transistor radio so we can hear all the news."
"I'd love to go," Jessie said. "We've never had an adventure in cold weather before."
"Why do you call it an adventure, Jessie?" asked Benny. "It's just a trip."
"All right, then," agreed Jessie. "But you know that our trips always turn out to be adventures. We might as well expect something surprising. We can take Watch this time. He will be glad. This is just the kind of trip for him."
Watch was the Aldens' dog. He seemed to understand everything that Jessie said. Now he knew that the Aldens were talking about him. He wagged his short tail because Jessie had said, "We'll take Watch."
"He knows he's going this time," said Henry, looking at the big dog.
"Yes, he's laughing," said Benny. "Look."
Watch seemed to be saying, "I'm ready. Let's go."
The Alden family started out for the Oak Hill woods on a beautiful day. The sun shone on the bright red and yellow leaves of the maple trees, and the sky was very blue.
Each of the Aldens took a sleeping bag. They all wore heavy clothes and took a few extra ones for cold nights.
Henry drove the car as far as he could. He stopped where a path led up a thickly wooded hill.
Jessie, Violet, Henry, and Benny got out. So did Watch. The Aldens took their sleeping bags, knapsacks, and the food.
Watch began to bark and jump. He knew something different was going to happen.
"You think you're a puppy again, Watch," said Jessie, laughing. "Don't you know you're getting to be an old dog?"
No, Watch didn't know that. He felt like a puppy — he was so glad to be walking in the woods with his family.
When the young people said good-bye to Mr. Alden, Watch put his front paws on the door of the car and barked good-bye, too. Mr. Alden patted his head and said, "I'll miss you, Watch. Remember, I'll meet all of you here one week from today at ten o'clock in the morning."
The Aldens waved until the car was out of sight. Then the climb began. There was a footpath, but it was narrow. They walked in line, Benny leading the way.
The woods smelled of evergreens and pine needles. Yellow and red leaves floated down all along the way.
"I can hardly wait to get there," Benny said.
Henry laughed. "Just keep on walking, Ben," he said.CHAPTER 2
Cabin in the Woods
Long before the family saw the cabin, Watch began to bark. His bark sounded different to the Aldens. They all looked ahead. There stood the little log-cabin. They walked up to it as fast as they could. The door was locked, but Henry had the key.
Watch was the first one inside. He ran around with his nose to the floor, smelling everything. The Aldens came in after Watch. They found themselves in one room with a bare table and six plain chairs at one end. Under the one window by the table was a long window seat with hard, brown cushions on it.
When Benny saw the window seat, he said, "That makes me think of the night we spent in the baker's shop before we found the boxcar. I think I'll sleep there just for fun."
Henry said, "I think it will only be one night, Ben. Those cushions look hard."
Jessie said, "I like the couch better." She poked the bright green couch as she spoke. "Oh, this is old, but it's soft! I guess it's for company. It opens out into a double bed."
"Well, we don't need it," said Henry. "We certainly won't have company."
"We can sit on it," said Benny. "And look at Watch! He can lie on it."
Jessie looked at Watch and laughed. The dog already lay stretched out on the couch.
"You think I'm going to make you get off," Jessie said. "But you can stay this time, Watch. You can't hurt that old couch."
At the other end of the room was an oilstove. Beside it was a small sink with one faucet.
"Cold," said Benny, trying it.
"Of course, Ben," said Henry. "What did you expect? Hot water? That's spring water."
There were two shelves and a drawer beside the sink. On the shelf were a few dishes. A neat pile of firewood was stacked against the wall.
"Oh, we have a fireplace," said Violet. "How nice. That's what the wood is for."
Just over the fireplace was a shelf with two lanterns and two candles on it. Beside the fireplace were two long-handled shovels and an ax.
There were two small bedrooms at the left side of the front door. Jessie lifted the curtain over the door to one bedroom and saw two bunk beds. The other room was the same.
Without a word, the Aldens put their sleeping bags on the four bunks. They set their knapsacks down and went back to the living room. On the table was a thick, black book.
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Henry. "This must be the Visitors' Book. Remember, Grandfather told us to be sure to write our names and the date in this book. Here's an empty page."
Henry took out a pen and wrote his name and address and the date. Then he gave the pen to Jessie. Each one wrote his name on the page.
After that, Violet turned back to read the first pages of the book. There were many rows of names.
"Here's the storeman's name, Thomas Nelson!" cried Benny. "Why should he come up here?"
"Maybe he comes to hunt," answered Henry.
"But he lives in the woods now," said Benny. "He wouldn't have to come to the cabin to hunt."
Henry said, "It is strange, Benny, that he should bring his family. I guess this must be his wife, Barbara Nelson. And here's Puggsy Nelson. That must be a little boy."
"Maybe it's a little girl," said Jessie.
"I don't think it could be a girl," said Henry. "They wouldn't call a girl Puggsy even as a nickname. But why should he bring his family with him, anyway?"
"Oh, let's sit on the window seat and look through this book," said Jessie, taking off her thick jacket. "I'd like to see who else we'll find. We've got lots of time."
They took off their coats and all four sat down on the window seat. Henry turned the pages as they read off the names.
"Here's Mr. Robert Robbins. He's one of Grandfather's friends," Henry said. He turned another page.
"Oh, look! Here's the Nelson family again!" said Benny.
"Now, why do you suppose they came twice?" asked Violet. "It couldn't be to hunt."
"Ah," said Benny, trying to be funny. "A mystery! Jessie said we always have a mystery."
"No, Ben," Jessie laughed. "I didn't say a mystery. I said an adventure."
"Well, you were right, weren't you?" asked Benny. "Isn't this an adventure?"
Henry said, "I'd call this a mystery, myself. Look." He pointed to an earlier page. There was the Nelson family a third time.
"Now, everyone listen," said Jessie. "We don't need any groceries. But let's go down to Nelson's Store and just look around. What do you say?"
"Good," said Violet and Henry together.
Benny said, "I agree, but wouldn't it be a good idea to eat lunch first?"
Henry shut the book and got up. "I told you, Ben, you'd be the first to be hungry. But I don't blame you. I'm hungry myself after that climb. When's lunch?"
Jessie and Violet were already in the kitchen, which was only the other end of the room.
"Let's have sandwiches," said Benny. "They don't take long. For supper we can cook things and have a fire in the fireplace."
"A good idea," said Violet. "I'd like a tuna fish sandwich. I hope we brought a can opener."
"We did," said Jessie. "And if we didn't, remember Benny has his pocketknife."
Benny's pocketknife had everything in it, from a screwdriver to a small pair of scissors.
Violet hunted in the kitchen drawer and found a red-and-white plastic tablecloth. She spread this on the table. Then Violet ran outside and soon came back with some red and yellow leaves. She put these in a small white bowl in the middle of the table.
"I could eat ten sandwiches, Jessie," said Benny.
"All right. Wait till you eat two, and then I'll make more. But I'll have to open another can of tuna fish."
When the sandwiches were gone, along with many cups of milk, Benny found that he didn't want any more after all. They ate bananas for dessert.
As they sat there eating, Jessie said, "Let's unpack everything before we go and see if we want to take anything with us on the hike."
"Let's take the field glasses," said Benny. "In case we see any birds."
Violet said, "Shh, look! Look out into the tree."
There was a woodpecker on the trunk, and a goldfinch and a chickadee flying among the branches.
Jessie said, "It's a good thing we saw the birds before we went. We can buy some sunflower seed and set up a bird feeder."
"While we're at the store," said Benny, "maybe we can find out if Puggsy is a name for a boy or a girl."
"Do you know the way, Benny?" asked Violet.
"No, but I guess I can find it. There is only one path."
"Grandfather said he was sure we couldn't miss it," Violet said.
"And lock the door!" sang Benny. He and Watch were already chasing each other.
Down the path they went, looking on every side for something new. A rabbit scuttled away far ahead of them, showing his short white tail.
"Look!" said Violet. "He's scared. Maybe he never saw people before."
Just then Watch smelled the rabbit. He started to run so suddenly he almost turned head over heels.
"Watch!" called Henry. "Stop that!"
But Watch wouldn't mind Henry or anyone else — except Jessie.
She called, "Watch, stop this minute!"
Poor Watch stopped so fast he skidded on his side. He always obeyed Jessie. He looked up at her now with sad eyes.
"I'm sorry, Watch. Yes, I know," said Jessie, patting his head, "it's too bad. But you can't kill rabbits, that's sure. Understand?"
Watch was sorry, but he seemed to understand. He trotted along with the family.
Then Violet found some trailing vines and red berries. "On the way back, I'll pick them. Then we'll have something pretty to look at in our cabin," she said.
But Henry was not looking at the ground. He was looking up into the trees. In fact, he stopped for a minute to look up.
"What are you looking for?" asked Benny.
"I'm not looking for anything," Henry answered. "But these trees are nut trees. It's possible we could find some hickory nuts still on the ground. I see a few left in the trees."
"Oh," said Jessie. "Those nuts are delicious. We could get a lot and crack them at the cabin."
"It's a lot of fun to find them," said Violet. "But don't you think we had better go nutting another day? We still have to find Nelson's Store."
"Yes, that's so," replied Jessie.
"We want to get home before dark," Henry said. "Remember, we don't know much about this country."CHAPTER 3
Noises in the Night
At last the Aldens saw the store. There were a few small houses on the other side of the store.
Jessie looked down the road. She said, "This looks like a small village."
Benny read the sign:
He said, "I think the Nelsons must live upstairs over the store."
"I think so, too," said Jessie. "See the white curtains?"
"I suppose people shop here who live nearby and don't want to drive into Greenfield," Henry said.
The Aldens went in. When they opened the door, a bell rang. But the storeman did not need the bell to tell him someone was coming. He was right behind the counter.
The Aldens didn't know what they had expected to see. But the Nelson family certainly surprised them.
Mr. Nelson was young, for one thing. Henry thought he looked almost as if he were still in college. He was handsome, with brown hair and brown eyes. Although he was tall and slender, he looked strong. Best of all was his smile.
"I'm glad to see visitors," he said to the Aldens. "I'm Tom Nelson. It gets lonesome here when summer is over. Not many customers."
"Our name is Alden," said Henry.
"Oh, yes, I heard you were coming. I have met your grandfather," the young man said. "He's a fine gentleman."
"Yes, he is," said Benny. "I'm Benny, and this is Watch. Do you allow dogs in your store?"
"It all depends on the dog," said Mr. Nelson, laughing. "Your dog seems to have good manners."
Watch was sitting down just inside the door, because Jessie had trained him that way. Once in a while he wiggled his nose and sniffed because a wonderful smell of baking filled the air.
"We are living in the hunters' cabin," said Jessie.
"Fine," said the man. "I'll be glad to help you out in any way I can."
Just then a nice looking young woman with a little boy of about five appeared from behind a curtain.
"Puggsy!" cried Benny.
"How'd you know my name?" asked Puggsy, going right over to Benny. "I don't know you."
"We saw your name in the Visitors' Book in the cabin," explained Jessie. Then she was surprised to see Mrs. Nelson turn red and look at her husband.
The young man said, "Yes, we go up there once in a while. It's a change and very quiet."
"I should think you'd go to town instead," said Benny, "if you want a change. The cabin is even lonesomer than the store."
The young man didn't seem to know what to say to this. He stood on one foot and then on the other. Then he turned around and took down a jar of pickles, and then he put it back on the shelf.
"We'd like to buy those pickles," said Jessie. "We all like sweet pickles and we didn't bring any."
Puggsy reached up and took hold of Benny's hand. "We look and look at the cabin. We look —"
His mother said, "Puggsy, come here and let me fix your shirt."
Jessie said, as if nothing had happened, "We just used up a can of tuna fish and we ought to get another." She looked at her list.
"Barbara," said Mr. Nelson, "please get the tuna for Miss Alden. It's on your side."
Barbara Nelson seemed glad to do this. As she turned her back, she said, "You people look around the store. You may see something else you need."
"I know what you need," said Puggsy. "You need some buns."
"Oh, yes!" said Mr. Nelson. "Puggsy's right. They are very good. Very good indeed. But —"
"But what?" asked Benny.
"Well, nothing. I just could make them better than I do. My father and grandfather were both bakers. They made the best buns in the world."
"You like to cook, don't you?" asked Jessie. She liked it, too, and she noticed how Mr. Nelson smiled when he talked about it.
Mrs. Nelson answered for him. Mr. Nelson seemed to be dreaming about something. "Yes, Tom loves to cook. He's a born baker. He is never so happy as when he is making bread, pies, cookies, and cake. Buns are what he most likes to bake."
"I like to bake, too," said Puggsy.
His mother laughed. "Yes, he really does. He can make nice round buns all by himself."
Puggsy took Benny's hand. "I like you, Benny," he said. "You're so nice. You ought to buy some of my mother's beef stew. It goes good with buns."
"Goes well with buns, Puggsy," said his mother.
"Well, it means just the same," said Puggsy. "My father's buns have raisins in them. And my mother's stew has onions in it."
"Let's try them both," said Henry. "The stew and the buns. Jessie's the cook, so she can decide."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children Mysteries Boxed Set #13-16"
Copyright © 2019 Albert Whitman & Company.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
#13 Snowbound Mystery,
#14 Tree House Mystery,
#15 Bicycle Mystery,
#16 Mystery in the Sand,