The Alden children are helping their neighbors build a tree house. From the tree house, the children discover they can see into the attic of the house next door . . . and they notice a window that not even their neighbors know about! Does the old house have a secret?
About the Author
The Boxcar Children Series was created by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a teacher, when she realized that there were few, if any, books for children that were both easy and fun to read. She drew on her own experiences in writing the mysteries. As a child, she had spent hours watching trains near her home, and often dreamed about what it would be like to live in a caboose or freight car. In each story, she chose a special setting and introduced unpredictable, unusual or eccentric characters, to help highlight the Aldens’ independence and resourcefulness. Miss Warner lived in Putnam, Massachusetts until her death in 1979.
Read an Excerpt
New Next Door
One afternoon in early July Benny Alden came in the front door and rushed down the hall to the stairs.
"Hey, Henry!" he shouted. "Jessie! Violet!"
"What's the matter, Ben?" said a quiet voice. Henry stood at the top of the stairs. He looked down at his younger brother. "What's all the fuss?"
"Somebody's moving in next door! Imagine having neighbors!" Benny went on. "I can't remember anyone ever living there. And that's odd, too, because the house is so near the beach."
"Grandfather always calls it the beach house," Violet said. "I always thought people used to spend summers there."
"Well, there's a family there now," Benny said. "There are two boys, only I wish they were a little older."
"My, that house has been empty so long," said Jessie Alden. She stood beside Henry at the top of the stairs. "Who are they, Ben?"
"I don't know," answered Benny. "They're strangers."
"Oh, what do they look like?" Violet asked.
"You can see for yourself. Go and look out of Grandfather's bedroom window."
Grandfather Alden had gone to work, so his room was empty.
Benny raced upstairs to Mr. Alden's room, and Violet, Henry, and Jessie followed.
The next house was really not very near. The Alden place, after all, was quite big. There was a large lawn and a rose garden, and some woods between it and the house next door. That house, too, had many trees around it.
The Aldens could see a mover's truck in front of the house that had been empty. Four men were going into the house with furniture, and right by the truck stood a man and a woman and two boys.
Benny raised the screen and put his head out of the window.
"You can't make them hear you, Benny," said Jessie.
"Well, I'm going to try," replied Benny. "Yoo-hoo, welcome!" he shouted.
The strangers looked up. The boys began to smile and wave when they saw the four Aldens. The mother and father were not as quick to smile. Benny thought, "They act as if they don't want anyone to notice they are moving in."
While the boys waved the man called, "Thank you!" Then he did smile and began to walk toward the Alden house. The boys followed him. "Our name is Beach," he called. "We are going to be your new neighbors."
"That's good," answered Jessie. "That house has been empty too long."
Mr. Beach said, "This is Jeffrey, and this is Sammy. I'm sure they will like living here."
Jessie smiled at the boys. She said, "Hello, boys. You know, everyone calls your house the beach house. We thought it was because it was a summer place so near the beach. But it is your name, isn't it?"
"Yes, just the way your house is the Alden house," said Jeffrey. He was the older of the two boys.
"Oh, you know our name?" said Benny.
The boys looked at their father. Mr. Beach said, "Oh, everyone knows the Alden place."
The Aldens thought, "He acts as if he has known the Alden place for a long time. Maybe he isn't such a stranger after all."
Benny said, "I'll be over sometime when you get settled. Then we can get acquainted."
"Come any time," replied Mr. Beach, starting back. The Aldens noticed that Mrs. Beach had not said a word.
As the Beach family went into their new house, Violet said, "I have an idea."
The others looked at her because Violet's ideas were always good.
She said, "Mrs. Beach will be too tired to get supper, so let's send their supper over to them."
Nobody said a word. The Aldens looked at each other. Then they turned and went to the kitchen, all smiling.
Mrs. McGregor was the housekeeper and cook. She had been with the Aldens for many years and she loved them all. Now Mrs. McGregor was sitting in her big rocking chair in the kitchen, with her cat on her lap.
Jessie began, "Oh, Mrs. McGregor, we'd like to cook some supper for our new neighbors. The Beach family is moving in right now. There are four of them. Could we make a casserole?"
"Why not?" asked Mrs. McGregor, smiling. "I'll sit and watch you work."
That was what the Alden children liked best. They liked to work without any help, and Mrs. McGregor knew it well.
Everyone began to work. Benny opened cans of tomato soup. Henry peeled onions and cut them up. Violet got out some hamburger and began to break it up to cook in a pan. Jessie cooked macaroni and got out the cheese.
When all the things were cooked, Jessie put them together in a big dish and covered the top with cheese. She put it in the oven to bake.
Mrs. McGregor waited until Jessie had closed the oven door. Then she said, "Did you say a Beach family is moving in next door? I've been sitting here thinking about that old house. I haven't been in it for years."
"But you were in it once?" Benny asked.
"Yes," Mrs. McGregor said. "I must have been quite little because everything seemed huge to me. Let's see, I was invited there for a birthday party."
"That sounds like fun," Violet said. "Then there must have been a family with children there."
"No," Mrs. McGregor said. "That's the odd part about it. I'm sure this was special. An old lady lived there, I remember that. Even when I was little I thought it was sad that there was that great big house and just an old lady in it. Oh, I wish I could remember more."
The Aldens kept quiet while Mrs. McGregor rocked back and forth. At last she shook her head. "No, I can't remember anything else except that somebody got a little hunting horn. I remember a little boy with a great big sailor collar with ruffles. Maybe the horn was a birthday present."
"What happened to the old lady?" asked Jessie.
"I don't remember," Mrs. McGregor said. "My family moved out of town and we lived on a farm. Since your grandfather has been here, nobody has lived in the house. I know that much."
Benny said, "I guess the house always seemed a little spooky with all those big trees around it."
Jessie said, "Most of the time we don't think about the house being there at all. It's been empty so long."
"I like to think about two boys being there now," Benny said. "Can we take them some dessert?"
Mrs. McGregor said, "You can take four of my orange puddings. I made a dozen."
"Oh, thank you," said Violet. "That's wonderful."
So that was how the Beach family had their first supper as neighbors to the Alden family. It was true that Mrs. Beach was tired from moving and was glad to see a meal brought in by four smiling children.
A few days later Jessie was looking at the Greenfield News. "Here's something about our neighbors," she said.
"What is it?" asked Henry. "It seems funny that we have to find out about them by reading a newspaper."
Jessie read the news story aloud. It said that Mr. and Mrs. John Beach had moved into the house next to that owned by Mr. James Henry Alden. It also told that Mr. Beach was a scientist for the new Greenfield Chemical Company.
"Let me see," Benny said. Then he sounded disappointed. "It doesn't say anything at all about two boys in the family. I guess they don't count."
"I think we had better go over and call on our new neighbors," Mr. Alden said.
Benny said, "We'd better go in the evening. The mother and father go out every day. I guess they work."
"You see a lot, Ben," Jessie told him. "You must spend a lot of time looking out the window."
"No," Benny said. "I just happened to see the Beaches get in their car and drive off in the morning. Then I happened to see them when they came home in the afternoon."
Grandfather and the others laughed at Benny. They walked over to the house next door and rang the bell.
Mr. Beach came to the door and asked the Aldens to come in. The Beaches were all at home.
Mr. Beach was a tall thin man with very dark eyes and brown hair. He went back and sat down at his desk. He took off his glasses and said, "You were kind to cook that supper for us. My wife was very tired from moving."
Mrs. Beach said, "How do you do, Mr. Alden? Yes, I was tired. I didn't enjoy moving."
"The boys loved the casserole," Mr. Beach said suddenly. "They like all kinds of spaghetti and macaroni. They liked the dessert, too. And so did I."
Mrs. Beach said nothing else, and the two boys did not say a single word.
Mr. Beach was shy and uneasy, and Mrs. Beach acted as if she were thinking of something else. Even Benny found it hard to talk to the new neighbors. Nobody seemed interested in what he had to say.
"We really have a big dog," said Benny. "His name is Watch, but he isn't here this summer. My Aunt Jane wanted him on the farm."
Nobody said a word. They just looked at him.
Poor Benny. He tried again. "You'd like our dog. He's a nice, gentle dog."
Mr. and Mrs. Beach just nodded politely.
At last the Aldens went home. "They aren't very friendly," said Jessie, as they opened their own door.
"I agree with Jessie," said Benny.
After that, nothing happened. Nothing at all.
One day Benny said, "I'd never know we had any neighbors. They certainly aren't friendly. We asked them to come and see us, but they didn't even say they would. And they haven't."
Even Grandfather Alden said, "It seems strange to me, too, Benny. We don't want to bother them if they don't want to be friends."
"It's too bad," Jessie said. "We thought it would be nice to have neighbors at last."
Henry nodded at his sister. "I guess we go our way, and they go their way."
So that's how it was. No new friends. No neighbors. Nothing at all.
Benny Alden was a boy who liked to see things happen. One day at breakfast he burst out, "Those kids next door are the dumbest kids I ever saw!"
Grandfather Alden looked up in surprise. He said, "That doesn't sound like you, Benny. You are usually a kind boy."
"Well, I don't mean to hurt anybody," answered Benny. "I'm just telling you the way it is. You know what those new boys do, Grandfather?"
"Nothing," said Benny. "They don't play, and they don't read. They don't work, and they don't talk to each other. The big one lies in the swing and never swings. And the little one lies on his back and just looks up at the leaves. He doesn't even go to sleep!"
"It's true, Grandfather," said Henry. He looked at Mr. Alden. "I have never seen boys like them."
Benny went on. "Here they are, two healthy boys, one eight and one ten."
"How do you know how old they are?" Jessie asked.
"I asked them. I went through our woods and looked over the hedge and asked them how old they were."
"What did they say?" asked Violet.
"Just that. Jeffrey said one word, ten, and Sammy said one word, eight. Then I said, 'Don't you ever play anything?' And they both said one word, no. So I came home. I was discouraged."
Henry glanced at Mr. Alden and raised his eyebrows as if asking a question. Mr. Alden nodded. Getting up from the table, he said, "I must go to work. Good luck to you all."
Then Grandfather Alden stopped and added, "I must tell you that I have an idea for a vacation later in the summer, maybe the last of July. So that gives you about three weeks to do whatever you like with the neighbors."
The four Aldens looked at their grandfather.
Benny said, "I don't suppose it's any use to ask you what your idea is?"
"No, Ben. No use at all. You know I never tell secrets."
"I know," said Henry, laughing. "Do you want me to drive you to work?"
"No, Bill will drive. But thank you just the same, Henry."
Bill was Mrs. McGregor's husband. He took care of the yard and the vegetable garden and the flowers.
When Mr. Alden had gone, the four young people still sat at the table, thinking and talking.
Benny said, "I wonder why those boys don't do anything. There is something wrong somewhere."
Violet looked at her brother and said, "Benny, I don't think they're lazy. I think they are unhappy."
"Why?" asked Benny. "Why should they be unhappy? They have a big yard full of trees and bushes and rocks. Most boys would think it was a great place to have fun."
Violet shook her head. "I don't really know, but I think they are not very happy with their parents."
"You're right," said Jessie. "We all noticed that Mrs. Beach didn't pay any attention to the boys that time when we called on them."
At last Henry said, "Let's say they are not happy. We can't let two boys live like this right next door. We must do something about it."
Jessie agreed. "We ought to try."
"Now what could we do?" asked Violet. "Let's think."
They were quiet for a long time. Then Benny's eyes opened wide and he jumped up.
"I know! A tree house! Everybody likes a tree house, even grownups. Even the Swiss Family Robinson! Even Robinson Crusoe!"
Jessie said, "That's right, Ben. The Beaches have plenty of trees in their backyard. Is there a good one for a tree house? We've never made a tree house ourselves!"
"It would be fun," Violet said, "even for us. You'll have to show us how, Henry. Where are the boys now?"
Jeffrey and Sammy were in their backyard, as usual. They were sitting in the swing, side by side. They were even swinging a little.
When Benny saw them, he said, "Well, that's a good sign. I never saw them swing before. Let's go and get something started."
The four Aldens went to the hedge and called, "Hello, there!"
"Hello," said the boys together. They stopped swinging.
Benny said, "You don't seem to play much or do anything."
Sammy answered, "There isn't anything special to do."
"Haven't you got bikes?" asked Henry. "I thought I saw two bikes."
"Oh, yes, we have bikes," replied Jeffrey. "But we can't go out on the highway with them. My mom says it is too dangerous."
Jessie asked, "Are you all alone? Is your mother at home?"
"No, she isn't here right now," said Jeffrey. "She's writing a book, so she has to study in the new Science Library a lot. That's why we moved here, to give Mom a nice quiet place to write in. But she doesn't know what to do with us. She said, 'You'll be perfectly safe if you stay right in the yard. And don't do anything to get into trouble.'"
"I see," Henry said. "Do you think she would mind if we came over to see you?"
Jeffrey said, "No, I don't think so. But we can't go out of this yard. Mom doesn't want us run over by a car. I know Dad would like to have you come. But he told us not to bother you because you are older than we are."
Sammy said suddenly, "Dad is a very smart man. He's a scientist. I'm going to be a scientist, too, when I grow up, just like my dad. I like to think about chlorophyll."
"About what?" Benny asked in surprise.
"Chlorophyll," repeated Sammy. "My dad says chlorophyll is the green in the leaves and that's what keeps us alive. I like to lie and look at those trees and think about that."
Benny laughed, "That's a big word for an eight-year-old," he said.
Jeffrey broke in, "I like to think about space. I'd like to run a computer and guide the men walking on the moon."
Benny said, "You boys are interested in grown-up ideas. You don't seem to want to play. Why is that?"
Jeffrey thought a minute. Then he said, "I guess it's because we haven't any friends our age."
Henry said, "Benny thought building a tree house would be fun." That was all he said, and the other Aldens waited and said nothing.
The Beach boys looked at each other and then they both began to talk at once. They were so different from the boys who never said a word.
Sammy said, "Do you know how to build one?"
"Well, I never built one," replied Henry. "But I think I could."
"That wouldn't be dangerous," shouted Sammy. "And we wouldn't get into any trouble."
"We've got lots of tools," said Jeffrey. "They are really my father's tools, but I know he will let us use them. He's very fussy about them. He put a big piece of white oilcloth on the wall in the cellar. Then he drew pictures of every tool with black ink, just exactly the size of the tools. You always have to put each tool back in the right place."
"That I'd like to see!" Benny said. "Lots of times I can't even find a hammer."
"We've got loads of boards, too!" exclaimed Sammy. "There are the big boxes in the cellar that the furniture came in. One is a piano box. We could take the boxes apart. Do you want to see them?"
The Beach boys led the Aldens down the outside steps into the dark cellar. Jeffrey turned on the light. There were boxes and boxes, just as Sammy said.
Henry looked at the boxes and then said, "The floor of the tree house must be strong. Let's use the piano box for the floor."
But Jessie said, "Wait a minute. Do you think it will be all right? Maybe Mr. or Mrs. Beach wants the piano box for something else?"
"Oh, no," replied Jeffrey. "I'm positive. I don't think they remember the boxes are in the cellar."
Sammy nodded his head. "That's right. Boxes don't mean a thing to Mom or Dad."
"Well, if you're sure, we'll begin," said Henry. "It will take a long time just to get enough boards for the floor."
The Aldens and the Beaches tugged and lifted the piano box up the cellar steps into the backyard. They set it down.
"Now for a tree," said Sammy. "I think that one would be exactly right." He pointed upward. "That would be grand for a tree house. It's a white oak."
Henry looked at Sammy. He said, "You are exactly right. It's the best tree in the whole yard."
Jessie looked at the tree and said, "I never saw a tree just like that one. Its lower branches are enormous."
"It's a special tree," said Sammy. "Dad told us that Uncle Max fell out of it once."
"Years and years ago," Jeffrey said.
Excerpted from "Tree House Mystery"
Copyright © 1969 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
1 New Next Door,
2 Benny's Plot,
3 With Hammer and Nails,
4 Finding Uncle Max,
5 Up A Tree,
6 Behind the Round Window,
7 More Questions,
8 Mrs. McGregor's Clue,
9 Good News,
10 An Old Secret,
11 Lost and Found,