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The Alden children plan to ride in their boxcar at the Greenfield Founders' Day Parade, but the newly refurbished boxcar is stolen a couple of days before the big event.
The Alden children plan to ride in their boxcar at the Greenfield Founders' Day Parade, but the newly refurbished boxcar is stolen a couple of days before the big event.
The Newspaper Article
Henry! Jessie! Violet! Benny!" Mrs. McGregor called across the backyard. She held up a newspaper. Mrs. McGregor was the housekeeper for the Alden family.
Ten-year-old Violet Alden, who'd been playing catch with her six-year-old brother Benny and their dog, Watch, turned around and ran toward Mrs. McGregor.
Their older sister Jessie, who was twelve, and their older brother Henry, who was fourteen, were repairing a bicycle tire nearby. When they heard Mrs. McGregor, they came quickly over.
"Our picture! Our picture!" said Benny excitedly.
Mrs. McGregor handed the newspaper to Henry. Sure enough, right there on the front page was a photograph of all four of the Alden children, and Watch, too. They were standing in front of their old, red boxcar.
Underneath the photograph were the words, "A part of Greenfield history," and a short article about the Aldens and their boxcar.
The story was one of several articles the newspaper was doing on the history of the town. That was because the anniversary of the founding of Greenfield was coming up.
The town of Greenfield was holding a big Founders' Day celebration. The Aldens were going to have a special Founders' Day dinner to celebrate, too.
"Look, Watch!" said Benny. "You're in the picture! See? Sitting on the stump in front of our boxcar."
Watch wagged his tail.
"Let's take this photograph and put it up in our boxcar," suggested Jessie. "May we have the newspaper, Mrs. McGregor?"
"Grandfather's not home," Violet pointed out. "He hasn't seen it yet."
Mrs. McGregor smiled. "He knew it was going to be in the newspaper today. He's planning to buy extra copies. I'm going to cut the picture out of one of the copies and put it on the refrigerator. And you can keep this one."
"Thank you," said Jessie.
"Don't forget, I need you to go to the grocery store for me a little later," Mrs. McGregor reminded them.
"We won't," promised Henry.
"I'll get some scissors so we can cut the picture and the article out," said Violet.
"And some tape, too," Henry said.
Violet walked back to the house with Mrs. McGregor to get the tape and scissors. The others went out to the boxcar and sat on the edge of the open doorway to admire the picture.
"They even put Watch's name in," Benny said, smiling. "We're all famous!"
When Violet came back, she carefully cut out the picture and the article and they put it up in a place of honor on the door of the boxcar. Anyone who came into the boxcar could see the photograph right away.
Jessie returned the rest of the newspaper to the house. As she walked back toward the boxcar, she saw a shiny yellow taxicab pull into the driveway by the house.
A thin man with an enormous mustache that curled up at the ends got out of the cab.
"Little girl!" he called. "Little girl, come here. Where is your grandfather?" Jessie didn't like being called a little girl, but she walked politely over to the thin man.
"Wait for me," the thin man told the taxi driver. When Jessie reached him, he repeated, "Where is your grandfather? I must speak to him!"
"He's not here," said Jessie. "But he should be back soon. Our housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, is here."
The thin man shook his head impatiently. "She won't do. She won't do at all!"
He looked around the Aldens' yard. Then he stopped. He stared. A smile lit up his face. The ends of his mustache seemed to quiver like the whiskers on a cat.
"Ahhhh," he said. "There she is!"
"Who?" Jessie looked around, expecting to see Mrs. McGregor or Violet. But she saw no one.
"An excellent, excellent specimen. A real collector's item. And I, little girl, am a collector!"
Jessie still didn't know what the man was talking about. "My name is Jessie," she said.
"Oh! Yes, er, Jessie. Jessie Alden, isn't it? I just saw your picture in the paper. I rushed right over."
The man began walking across the backyard toward the boxcar.
Jessie went after him. "Wait a minute," she said.
The thin man walked on. Watch began to bark.
Henry looked out the door of the boxcar. "Shh, Watch," he said. He grabbed Watch's collar and held onto it.
But the man didn't seem to notice Watch or Henry. Or even Violet or Benny, who had also come to the door.
When he reached the boxcar, the man stopped. He reached into his coat pocket and took out a folded newspaper. It was the same newspaper that had their picture in it.
Holding up the newspaper, the man looked from the picture on the front page to the boxcar and back again.
"What are you doing?" asked Henry.
The man shook his head. "Not a very good picture, I'm afraid. Doesn't do justice to the subject at all!"
"I think we look good!" said Benny indignantly.
The man kept shaking his head. He ignored Benny. "Not a good picture at all."
Then his smile lit up his face. "But good enough for me to take notice," he said. "And that's the important thing."
He put the newspaper back in his pocket, and threw his arms out wide.
"This beautiful, beautiful boxcar!" he exclaimed. "I must have it. It must be mine!"
The Aldens were so surprised that no one spoke for a moment. Then Jessie stepped around in front of the thin man. He was still staring at the boxcar.
"Excuse me," she said. "But what are you talking about?"
The man lowered his arms. He smiled down at Jessie as if he had noticed her for the first time. "Pardon me," he said. "My name is Casey Chessy. I am a collector of trains."
"I have a train set," Benny said.
The man shook his head impatiently. "No, no, no. Not toy trains. Real trains. I collect real trains.... May I take a closer look at your boxcar?"
"Of course," said Henry. The Aldens watched as Mr. Chessy walked all around the boxcar. They stood aside as he climbed up on the stump they used for a front step and went inside.
Mr. Chessy rubbed his hands as he inspected the inside of the old wooden boxcar. He thumped on the walls and peered into the corners. He even examined the ceiling!
Then he sneezed. And sneezed again.
"Gesundheit!" said Benny.
Holding a handkerchief up to his nose as he climbed quickly out of the boxcar, Mr. Chessy said, "You have a very fine boxcar. It is a wooden one, and those are rather rare. The wooden ones had a nasty habit of catching on fire or getting smashed to bits. But this one is in surprisingly fine condition."
"Thank you," said Benny. "Do you know a lot about trains?"
"Certainly," said Mr. Chessy. He backed away from the boxcar and stopped. "I travel by train. In fact, I have my own special railroad car, an old caboose that I have fixed up. I take vacations in it."
"That sounds like fun," said Violet.
"My caboose and I arrived in Greenfield late yesterday," Mr. Chessy went on. "I went out for a stroll this morning and just happened to buy a copy of the local paper. And there it was. This boxcar!"
He rubbed his hands together again. Then he turned abruptly to Henry. "When did you say your grandfather would be home? I have something very, very important to say to him."
"He'll be home soon," said Henry.
Mr. Chessy nodded. "Well, I can wait. It's not every day I get a chance to buy an old boxcar in as good condition as this one."
"Buy our boxcar!" Jessie cried. "Is that what you are talking about?"
"Naturally," answered Mr. Chessy. "Why else would I be here? I told you I collected trains."
"Not our boxcar," said Henry firmly.
Mr. Chessy smiled. "Now, now, children, I'm sure your grandfather will be able to buy you a nice playhouse with some of the money I'm going to pay him for this boxcar."
"Our boxcar is not just a playhouse," said Jessie.
"And what has Grandfather got to do with it?" asked Henry. "It's not his boxcar. It is ours!"
"Yours?" Mr. Chessy didn't like hearing that. He thought for a moment. Then he said, "Well, I'm willing to pay you a great deal of money for your boxcar."
"It's not for sale," said Jessie.
"Not at any price," said Violet.
"Not even a million, trillion dollars," said Benny.
As each of them spoke, the smile faded from Mr. Chessy's face.
He looked from one to the other. "You are being very foolish children," he said.
"No, we're not," said Jessie. "We don't need lots and lots of money. We have everything we need right here with our grandfather."
"Foolish children," repeated Mr. Chessy. "You'll change your minds."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card. "This is my card," he said. "If you call this number, you can always reach me. I'll talk to you again soon."
"We won't change our minds," said Henry.
"You'll change your minds," said Mr. Chessy. "I will have your boxcar. I'll see to that, one way or the other!"
With that, he marched back to the waiting taxicab and rode away.CHAPTER 2
A Strange Visitor
He can't have our boxcar, can he?" asked Benny.
"No, Benny," said Jessie. "It's our boxcar and we're going to keep it!"
Henry clapped his hand to his forehead. "Oh, no! I almost forgot. We're supposed to go to the grocery store for Mrs. McGregor."
Putting the rather strange Mr. Chessy out of their thoughts for the moment, the children hurried into the house.
"You didn't forget, did you?" Mrs. McGregor teased.
Henry's cheeks turned red. "Well, not exactly," he said. He was glad when Benny spoke up.
"What are we going to get at the grocery store?" Benny asked. "Is it for dessert tonight?" He looked hopeful. Benny was always hungry.
"No, I've already made dessert for tonight, Benny," answered Mrs. McGregor. Her merry eyes twinkled. "But if you don't like apple pie, I might be able to make something else."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Benny. "I love apple pie.
His brother and sisters laughed. Mrs. McGregor laughed, too. Then she bent over the kitchen table and wrote something else on her grocery list. She picked up the list and handed it to Henry.
Henry folded it and carefully put it in his pocket. He checked to make sure he had enough money for groceries.
Violet asked, "Are we shopping for our Founders' Day dinner already?"
Mrs. McGregor nodded. "That you are," she said. "I may not have to begin cooking it yet, but I want to start getting ready."
"It'll be like Thanksgiving," said Benny. "I'm going to get all my favorite foods at one time!"
The four children got their bicycles and rode to town with Watch trotting beside them on his leash. When they got there, the sidewalks and streets were very crowded. So they decided to walk their bicycles along the sidewalk and look in the windows until they got to the grocery store.
Suddenly, Jessie stopped. "Look," she said. "A parade!"
Henry stopped behind Jessie and read aloud from the sign posted in the window of the hardware store: "'The Founders' Day Parade: A Parade to Celebrate the Founding of Greenfield. Come see the parade — or be in it.'"
"Wow," said Jessie. "That would be great, to be in a parade!"
"I don't know," said Violet. "Parades are fun to watch, too." Violet looked a little worried at the idea of being in a parade. She was very shy.
"Let's at least find out about it," said Henry. "Then we can decide."
"How will we find out?" asked Benny.
"Let's ask inside the hardware store," suggested Jessie. They all went inside.
"Could you tell us more about the parade?" Henry asked the owner of the store.
"It's on the sign in your window," added Jessie.
The hardware store owner said, "Of course. In fact, I can tell you everything you need to know." She reached over to the counter and picked up a colorful folded piece of paper. "This flyer will tell you all about the parade and how to join it."
"Thanks!" Henry said.
"You're welcome," said the hardware store owner. "See you at the parade."
"Or in it!" said Benny.
The Aldens walked outside. Henry read from the flyer as they walked. He read about how to enter the parade by filling out the form on the back of the flyer and mailing it to the Greenfield Parade Committee. "We have to tell them our names and what we are going to do in the parade," Henry said. "They'll let us know when to meet and where. Anybody can be in the parade, but listen to this: 'Parade members are encouraged to choose a costume or build a float that reflects some part of the history of Greenfield,'" he read aloud.
The children were quiet for a moment. Then Violet said, "Costumes would be fun. I could make a beautiful purple costume." Purple was Violet's favorite color.
"But what kind of costume?" Jessie asked. "Greenfield is very old. We have to think of something that goes with the history of our town."
The children thought and thought all the way to the grocery store. But they couldn't come up with an idea. After they finished shopping and were headed home, Henry said, "I know! Before we decide on a costume, let's ask Grandfather what he thinks."
"That's a good idea," said Jessie.
Violet said, "We can ask him at dinner tonight. But you know what else I think we should do? We should learn more about the history of Greenfield, too."
"That's right," said Jessie. "We'll have an idea for the parade before you know it!"
"Do you hear that, Watch?" Benny said. "We're going to be in a parade!"
"This apple pie is the best pie I ever ate," said Benny that night at dinner.
"You say that every time Mrs. McGregor makes apple pie," said Grandfather Alden to his youngest grandchild.
"It's true every time," said Benny.
"Mrs. McGregor said that the apples came from an old apple orchard right here in Greenfield," said Violet. "She said they've been growing apples there for years and years."
"Farmers have been growing apples in and around Greenfield ever since I was a boy," said Grandfather.
"Will you tell us more about Greenfield?" asked Henry. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the flyer. "We got this at the hardware store today."
Mr. Alden read it, then looked up. "I don't suppose you want to be in the parade, do you?"
"Yes!" answered Jessie. "That's exactly what we want to do. But we have to think of the perfect costumes. Something historic."
"If you tell us more about Greenfield," explained Henry, "then maybe it will help us think of an idea for the parade."
So Grandfather Alden told his grandchildren all he knew about the history of Greenfield. He told them that when his own father was growing up, there was no electricity, and no running water in any of the houses. "When your great-grandmother was a girl about your age, Jessie, her job was to bring in water from the well. She knew how to make candles so the family would have light. And she knew how to drive a horse and carriage, because back then they didn't have cars."
"Did they have bicycles?" asked Benny.
"No bicycles either," said Grandfather. "Not until she was older. But they did have trains. The Greenfield Train Station is closed now. But in the old days it was the center of activity. I remember going there when I was a boy to watch the trains."
"What happened to the trains?" Jessie asked.
"There aren't as many as there used to be. Now people use trucks and cars," said Grandfather. "The trains only stop in the big towns. They still go through Greenfield, on the tracks by the old station at the edge of town, but they don't stop here anymore."
Jessie frowned. She was thinking hard. Suddenly she said, "Trains are a part of the history of Greenfield, aren't they? Just like it said in the newspaper about our boxcar?"
"They sure are," said Grandfather.
Jessie looked around the table. "I have an idea for the parade. Can you guess what it is?"
Everyone shook their heads. Jessie said, "I'll give you a hint. Once upon a time, four orphans and a little lost dog who didn't have any place to live went to live in a special place. And then their grandfather, who had been looking and looking for them, found them ..."
"In an old, abandoned boxcar in the woods," said Violet. She slipped her hand into her grandfather's and continued the story. "So the four children went to live with their grandfather in a big, white house in Greenfield. And as a surprise ..."
Henry finished, "Their grandfather brought the boxcar to the backyard of the house for his grandchildren. And their names were ...
"Benny, Jessie, Violet, Henry, and Watch Alden," Benny burst out.
It was all true. That was how the Boxcar Children had come to live with their grandfather, James Alden.
Benny looked puzzled. "What does our boxcar have to do with the parade?"
"I think I know," said Henry. "Our boxcar is an old boxcar. Boxcars were probably part of the trains that once went through Greenfield. That means it's a part of Greenfield's history."
"That's right," said Jessie. "So, we should take our boxcar to be in the parade!"
"That's a great idea, Jessie," said Violet. She frowned. "But how will we get the boxcar in the parade? It doesn't have a motor!"
"I think I can help you with that," said Grandfather. "My old truck can pull the boxcar. I can hitch the boxcar to it and drive the truck in the parade."
"I can wear my engineer's costume with the red bandanna!" Benny said excitedly.
"Yes," said Henry. "And we can paint the boxcar and polish it and make it look extra special."
"We'll start first thing tomorrow," said Jessie.
For the rest of the night, the Aldens made plans to decorate the boxcar and to make costumes for the parade. Then they went to bed so they could get up early to mail their entry into the Founders' Day Parade and start getting their boxcar ready for the big day.
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Stolen Boxcar by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1995 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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