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The Guest House
"Wake up, Benny," Henry said, gently shaking Benny's shoulder. "We're here."
Benny yawned and sat up. "Has the bus stopped?"
"Look outside," Violet said, leaning across the aisle and pointing at the trees. "See? The trees have stopped moving past the window." She swung her lavender sweater around her shoulders and stood up.
Jessie reached for her bag, which was under the seat, and slid across to the aisle. "I'm eager to see Joe and Alice Alden, aren't you?"
"Yes," Violet said. "It's been a long time since we've seen our cousins."
As they moved up the aisle to the front door, Henry said, "It was nice of them to invite us, wasn't it?"
"Yes," Jessie said. "We had such good times on Surprise Island."
"And camping out and finding Bill McGregor," Benny said, wide awake and looking out the window. "I can't wait to go to the amusement park that's near Joe and Alice's." Then he rubbed his nose. "I'm sorry, though, that we had to leave Watch with Grandfather."
"Watch will be fine, Benny," Henry said reassuringly. "Our dog will keep Grandfather company. And Mrs. McGregor will look after both of them."
Jessie patted Benny's hand. "One of the first places we'll visit will be the amusement park, Benny."
Benny's face brightened.
"Step lively!" the bus driver ordered.
They took the big step down off the bus and onto the ground.
"Where're Joe and Alice?" Violet asked, looking around.
"Oh, they'll be here," Jessie said. "They're always on time."
Henry glanced about the bus station and noticed a big sign with the town's name, Pine Grove. Suddenly he broke into a wide smile. "Right over there," he shouted, pointing at a handsome young man.
Benny waved wildly. "Hi, Joe!"
"Hi, Benny!" a young man called, rushing forward and swinging the six-year-old boy around in a circle. Benny yelled with delight.
"Hello, Joe," Henry said, stepping forward.
Joe grabbed Henry's hand. "It's good to see you, Henry." He stepped back and studied the boy. "You're almost as tall as me!"
Henry's dark eyes sparkled. "Well, I am fourteen."
Joe shook his head and turned to Jessie. He brushed the girl's cheek with a kiss. "What a young lady you've become, Jessie! It's hard to believe you're twelve years old and Violet is ten."
Jessie smiled. "I'm glad to see you, Joe. Where's Alice?"
"She's working at the museum, but she'll be home in time for dinner," Joe said.
The young man looked over Jessie's shoulder and drew Violet forward.
Violet's cheeks grew pink. "Hello, Joe," she said shyly.
"You can tell you and Jessie are sisters with that brown hair and those brown eyes."
"Just like you, Joe," Jessie said, a twinkle in her eye.
Joe laughed as he threw their suitcases in the back of his station wagon. "Welcome to Pine Grove," he said. "I'll show you around after you've unpacked and had a cold drink. Even in the North Woods it's hot in August."
The children scrambled into the large car, and Joe drove down Main Street. Pine Grove was a pretty town surrounded by large pine trees. The children were all eyes as they rode past the library, the drugstore, the grocery store, a dress shop, and the Indian Museum where both Joe and Alice worked.
They hadn't gone very far down the highway when Benny shouted, "Look! There's a man in trouble."
There on the side of the road was a pickup truck with its hood up. The back end was loaded with cameras, stands, and lights.
Joe braked the station wagon and got out. "Hi," he called. "Can I help?"
A tall man with a red cap poked his head around the hood. "No, thanks," he said with a smile. "I already called a tow truck, and it should be here any minute."
Benny had already jumped out and was studying the equipment on the truck. "Are you a picture-taker?" he asked.
The man threw back his head and laughed. "Me? Naw, I don't know a thing about photography, my boy. I'm just delivering the stuff."
"Oh," Benny said. "I see." Losing interest, he climbed back into the station wagon.
Joe returned to the driver's seat, and they started off. He made a right turn, then a left, and slowed down when he went by the Pine Grove Amusement Park.
"Oh, boy!" Benny exclaimed. "Can we go to the park and eat cotton candy?"
"You bet," Joe said. "I thought you kids might enjoy biking there tomorrow."
"Biking?" Henry asked.
Joe chuckled. "Yes, Henry and Jessie can use our bikes and I've rented two more."
"Hurrah for Joe!" Benny said.
Soon he pulled up to a white house with a large front porch and a swing. Around the house and yard was a white picket fence.
"Here we are," Joe said. "Everyone out for a glass of apple cider!"
"Wonderful!" Jessie said. "I could drink a gallon!"
Violet smiled. "At least a glass, Jessie."
They went into the house.
"How cozy!" Violet exclaimed, looking at the dark blue flowered loveseat and matching sofa, and the striped blue, yellow, and green easy chairs.
"It is pretty, isn't it?" Jessie said.
"Let's go outside," Joe said. "And I'll show you where you'll be staying."
Henry glanced at Jessie not knowing what to expect, but when they went through the kitchen and out the back door, they were both surprised. There was a charming little house, the exact twin of Joe and Alice's house, only smaller.
"It's the guest house," Joe explained, "complete with a kitchen. Do you like it?"
"Do we!" Benny said. "It's great!"
"Oh, yes," Violet said. "We can do our own cooking!"
Joe said, "I know how you like to be on your own."
They explored the little house. The two bedrooms were each done in blue. The living room had a large comfortable sofa, and nearby were two easy chairs. In the kitchen there was an eating nook in a large bay window. There was a small refrigerator and stove and cupboards with glass doors that displayed turquoise and pink pottery dishes.
After the Aldens had unpacked and hung up their clothes, they came back to the main house and drank apple cider with Joe.
Benny held out his chipped cup for more. "I never go any place without my pink cup," he announced.
Joe smiled. "And why is that?"
"I found this cup in a junk heap when we were living in the boxcar," Benny answered.
Joe nodded solemnly, pouring the cold juice into Benny's cup. "I remember the story of the boxcar. Your grandfather told me that you lived there because you were afraid of him."
"Yes," Jessie said. "After we lost our parents, we thought it would be better to live alone, rather than live with Grandfather."
"We thought he was mean and wouldn't like us," Violet added.
Henry chuckled. "Nothing could have been further from the truth."
"It was lucky Grandfather found us," Benny chimed in.
"Yes," Joe agreed. "Your grandfather Alden is a fine man."
"Is he your grandfather, too?" Benny asked, a frown crossing his round face.
"No," Joe replied. "My father and your grandfather were brothers."
"So our grandfather is your uncle," Violet said thoughtfully.
"Yes." Joe nodded. "Your grandfather is my uncle James Alden."
The back door opened and footsteps were heard coming across the kitchen and dining room. "Here you are!" Alice exclaimed, coming into the room. "We were counting the days until you arrived. Welcome, Aldens!"
"Hi, dear," Joe said, offering her a glass. "Will you have some cider with us?"
"Sure will," Alice said, collapsing in a chair. She wore jeans and a cotton shirt. "I'm thirsty after working in that musty museum all day." She smiled at each of the children. "You all look marvelous," she said.
"So do you," Jessie said, admiring Alice's slim figure and the light brown hair that curled softly about her face.
Alice laughed, a silvery tinkly sound. "Are you hungry?" she asked, rising.
"Starved!" Benny said.
"Benny, hush," Violet said.
"But I am hungry," he replied. "Honest!"
"Good for you, Benny," Joe said. "We've planned a hearty dinner for you."
"May we help?" Henry asked.
"Why, yes," Alice said. "Thank you."
"First, though," Jessie asked, "may we call Grandfather and tell him we arrived safely?"
"Of course," Alice said, pointing to the phone on a table in the living room. "Help yourselves."
They each spoke to their grandfather, telling him they were happily settled in, and promising to call him later in the week.
Re-entering the kitchen, the Aldens were each given a task. Benny set the table, Henry poured milk and water, Violet folded napkins, and Jessie made the salad.
Then the children sat down to eat. They were pleased with the hot delicious dinner that Joe and Alice had prepared—steak, baked potatoes, spinach, tossed salad, and banana-cream pie.
After dinner Benny leaned back and rubbed his stomach. "I'm not hungry anymore," he said, his eyes half closing. "I'm sleepy."
Alice sipped her coffee. "Well, you'd better get a good night's sleep because tomorrow you'll have a busy day."
Benny's face looked puzzled. "We will?"
"Yes," Joe said. "You're going to the amusement park."
"Oh, that will be wonderful," Violet said, rising to help Alice clear the table.
"Wait until you see the beautiful merry-go-round horses," Alice said.
Benny's eyes widened. "Horses?"
"Yes," Joe said with a chuckle. "The wooden horses on the carousel are hand-carved."
Alice's eyes shone. "The horses are really a piece of Americana."
"Americana?" Violet asked.
"Yes," Alice said. "A piece of American history or American art. The horses are not only very old but also very valuable."
"Oh, I can't wait to see them," Violet said.
"I can't wait to ride them," Benny echoed.
"Tomorrow we'll not only see the horses but ride them as well," Jessie promised, smiling.
"Tomorrow should be fun," Henry said, putting a hand on Benny's shoulder.CHAPTER 2
On Tuesday morning, in their cabin, the Alden children prepared a big breakfast of orange juice, pancakes, maple syrup, sausage, and milk. Alice had stocked the refrigerator and cupboards with enough groceries to last two days.
"Are you ready to go to the amusement park, Benny?" Jessie asked.
"Yes!" he answered. "I want to eat cotton candy and ride on the tilt-a-whirl and the merry- go-round!"
Violet laughed. "Aren't you afraid you'll get dizzy?"
Benny grinned. "Nope! I could ride the tilt-a-whirl all day long!"
Jessie scraped her plate at the sink. She wore jeans and a white T-shirt. Her thick hair bounced up and down when she walked.
Henry stood up from the table and stacked the rest of the plates. "Isn't this a nice house?" he asked.
"It's like a doll house," Violet replied, glancing around.
After the dishes were washed, Henry opened the door. "Let's begin the day. Alice and Joe are at work already," he said cheerfully.
They wheeled the bikes out of the garage and mounted them.
As they biked along the road with the sun streaming through the pine trees, Henry whistled a tune with Jessie joining in. Benny puckered up his lips, but no whistle came out. The harder he tried, the more his cheeks puffed out, the redder his face became, and the more air he blew out.
Violet laughed. "Don't feel bad, Benny. I can't whistle either."
Arriving at the amusement park, they put their bikes in a bike rack and carefully padlocked them.
The park opened early on summer mornings. Rides were whirling and twirling around them, lights flashed, and customers on the rides shrieked with delight.
"Ooooh," Benny gasped, running toward a concession stand. "Cotton candy."
The others followed and gathered around the stand. Benny gazed at the pink frothy candy oozing out of the machine. He looked up at Henry. "Could I have some?" he begged.
Henry smiled and shook his head. "It's a little early. But you've been dreaming about cotton candy ever since we arrived." He turned to a woman with dark hair and asked pleasantly, "We'll all have one. How much?"
The woman pointed to the sign as her bracelets jingled. She wore her hair pulled tightly back into a bun, showing gold earrings. She handed each of them a cone of cotton candy.
"My, my," a man with black curly hair said to Benny, "that cone is almost as big as you are." He winked at Henry and took the money. Smoothing down his drooping moustache, he questioned, "Where are you kids from?"
"We're staying just outside Pine Grove," Violet answered shyly.
"Yes," Jessie said in a friendly tone. "We're visiting our cousins."
"Welcome to Pine Grove," he said, holding out his hand to Henry. "I'm Frank Arnold and this is my wife, Sheila."
"I'm Benny Alden," Benny piped up.
Henry laughed. "And I'm Henry Alden, and these are my sisters, Violet and Jessie."
"We serve hamburgers and hot dogs, too," Sheila Arnold interrupted in a husky voice.
"Come back for lunch."
"Oh, we will," Benny said happily, licking the giant pink cone of candy.
They walked over to the Ferris wheel. "That's the biggest Ferris wheel I've ever seen," Violet exclaimed.
Jessie, turning to her left said, "Oh, look, there's a House of Mirrors!"
A young woman with straight red hair who was standing there glanced at Jessie. "I knew people would love this!"
"Let's go in," Henry said.
"Sorry," the unsmiling woman said abruptly, turning away. "It's new and won't be open until tomorrow."
"Look!" Benny yelled. "The merry-go-round!"
The children hurried away, forgetting all about the unpleasant woman. They stared at the graceful carved horses.
"They're so lifelike," Violet breathed, completely won over by the horses' beauty.
The calliope music blared forth as the horses moved up and down to the musical beat.
"I've never seen such beautiful horses," Henry said in an awed tone.
"And to think," Violet added, "Alice said they are part of our history."
Jessie marveled at a large brown and gray steed. The gallant horse had plates of armor painted on and armor over his head so that only his eyes and ears were visible.
"I want to ride that gray one with the dots!" Benny said eagerly. "It looks like he's breathing fire."
"That's called a dapple gray, Benny," Jessie explained.
"It's hard to choose a favorite," Violet said, studying them. "They're all so beautiful."
They rode the merry-go-round twice, then dismounted and rode the swings and the Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel frightened Benny a little. They ate hot dogs and chocolate shakes and trudged over every inch of the dusty grounds.
Several times they stopped to try their luck at different games. Henry threw a softball, knocked down five wooden milk bottles, and won a box of candy. Jessie put money in a machine full of prizes and maneuvered a huge claw to pick up a silver ring with a green stone. Violet tried her hand at the ringtoss and managed to circle three pegs, winning a small but cute teddy bear. Benny had his weight guessed, but the man guessed wrong, so Benny won a softball.
By midafternoon the children were tired. "I'm ready to go home," Jessie said, brushing a wisp of hair from her forehead.
"Me, too," Benny said. "I was ready after that scary Ferris wheel ride."
Henry led the way to the bikes, and even though the Aldens were weary, they pedaled along the road, filled with contentment. It had been a wonderful day.
When Joe and Alice got home the Aldens told them every detail about the rides, the food, and their prizes. The day had been filled with surprises, but Joe had a surprise, too.
"We're having a barbecue tonight," he said.
"Yes," Alice said. "Joshua Eaton and his daughter, Karen, are joining us. They own the amusement park."
"Oh, great," Violet said, her eyes sparkling. "Maybe they'll tell us something about the merry-go-round horses."
"I hope so!" Jessie said. "Let's go to our house and clean up."
After Henry had given Joe and Alice the box of candy he'd won, the children left.
Once they'd washed and put on clean clothes, they came back to help with dinner.
Jessie was placing the silverware on the table when the doorbell rang.
A gray-haired man and a young woman of about twenty entered. Benny blurted out, "Why, you're the girl we saw by the House of Mirrors."
"Yes, I am," she replied with a flicker of a smile.
"Hello! Hello!" the gray-haired man said. "I'm Joshua Eaton."
"And these are our cousins," Alice said, presenting Violet, Jessie, Henry, and Benny.
The children said hello. "Wow," Benny said. "You own the amusement park! I won a softball!"
"Good for you," Joshua Eaton said.
Excerpted from The Boxcar Children Super Summer by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER. Copyright © 2011 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.
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