Houseboat Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #12)

Houseboat Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #12)


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The Aldens spend their summer traveling in a houseboat! But when a black car shows up at every place they dock, the children begin to think someone is after something on the boat. Can the Boxcar Children figure out what the pursuer could be after?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807534137
Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date: 01/01/1990
Series: Boxcar Children Series , #12
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 85,556
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.30(d)
Lexile: 480L (what's this?)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Houseboat for Rent

What a hot day in July! The four Alden children were sitting under the trees with their grandfather. This was the coolest place they could find.

"Oh, it's so hot!" said Benny Alden. "Let's go for a ride."

"Good!" said Grandfather Alden, looking at his four grandchildren. He stood up. "I was hoping somebody would have a good idea. Henry —"

But Henry, who was older than Benny, had gone. They could hear him in the garage getting out the station wagon.

Jessie wiped her face with a large handkerchief.

"Let's ride until it gets cooler," she said. "The weather report says this heat is going to last for a week."

The Aldens' dog, Watch, wagged his tail as he lay at Jessie's feet. "Yes, Watch, you can go, too," Jessie said.

Watch gave a bark and trotted along with the family. They all walked across the grass to the drive. Violet put her arm through her grandfather's and said, "This family has the best ideas. Don't you think so, Grandfather?"

"Yes, indeed," Mr. Alden replied as he smiled at his younger granddaughter. "Somebody always thinks of something to do when we need it."

"It's funny," said Jessie. "Things always seem to happen to this family when we don't expect them. I was thinking I'd never feel cool again. But we will be cooler just as soon as the car is moving."

Henry stopped the car in the driveway. The children, Grandfather, and Watch all got in and away they went. Every window was open as they rode along a straight highway.

Henry said, "Benny, I'm glad you thought of this. I feel better already."

The Aldens rode for over an hour. Then Henry saw a sign at the left saying River Road. Henry turned left. Soon he was driving along a small river.

"Good," said Benny. "This is even cooler. And I don't think we've ever been here before."

Jessie said, "You don't have to drive so fast, Henry. My hair is blowing out straight."

It was a good thing that Henry slowed down. If he had not, the Alden family might have missed an exciting adventure. But no one guessed it then.

The pretty little river flowed slowly along. There were cool green banks and trees on both sides. All at once Henry slowed down still more.

"I hear whistling," he said. The family listened. They could hear it, too, down by the river.

Suddenly they came to a short side road that led to the river itself. Henry stopped the car, and they all looked down the side road.

"What in the world is that thing?" asked Benny. "Is it a boat?" He pointed to a little house that seemed to be sitting in the water.

"It's a houseboat, I do believe!" said Mr. Alden. "I haven't seen one for years and years."

"Let's drive down," said Henry. "We can see what's going on. My, this is a rough road! Lucky for me it is so short." Henry drove slowly down the rough side road to the edge of the river.

They all looked at the little house. It had four windows and two ladders which led to the roof. At one end was a blue awning that covered the front deck. A railing ran all the way around the boat. Another railing ran around the roof. On the lower deck of the houseboat a man was sitting in a chair, whistling.

"Hello, there!" he called. "Want to see the houseboat? My name is Rivers."

The family got out of the car and went down to see the strange man and the strange boat. The houseboat was anchored at a small dock, and also tied to the dock with a rope.

Benny looked at the dark blue letters on top of the boat. "Its name is the Blue Heron," he said. "How did you happen to name it that?"

"I didn't," said Mr. Rivers. "The couple who just left named it that. You see, the people who rent this boat can name it anything they like. Come on board, and I'll show you. Just step from the dock over here." He took off a chain to make an opening in the railing.

Watch began to whine. "Never mind, Watch," said Jessie. "You don't have to come. You just sit here and wait."

The Aldens stepped on board the houseboat, leaving Watch sitting on the dock.

Mr. Rivers took down a rack that was fastened against the wall.

"Here are all the letters of the alphabet," he said. "People who rent the boat pick out the letters and spell any name they like. You'd laugh at some of the names this boat has had. One couple named it Rock and Roll. Another named it Moon Rocket. And another tired family named it the All Inn."

Benny laughed. "It would be fun to name a boat," he said. "It could even be a different name every day. Now the first day we could name it for Grandfather, the James H. Alden. The next day it could be the Henry James Alden, then the Jessie Alden, and so on."

Everybody laughed. Mr. Rivers said, "I guess you're the one in the family with grand ideas. Comical, I'd say."

"Benny talks as if we were really going to rent your houseboat, Mr. Rivers," said Jessie. "And it really would be fun. There are chairs on the deck and everything. I suppose you can sit here under the awning and stay out of the hot sun."

Mr. Rivers smiled. He pointed to the flat roof of the houseboat. "Yes, and if you want to get tanned, just climb up the ladder and lie down in the sun."

Violet said, "Just look at the pretty white curtains in the windows. They make it look like a big dollhouse."

Mr. Alden had been looking at the houseboat, too, and now he looked at Mr. Rivers. He seemed to like what he saw. "Do you own this boat?" he asked.

"Yes, I do," Mr. Rivers answered. "I rent this boat by the week. Everybody seems to like it. The last family went today, and they were very sorry to go. I have just cleaned it all up for the next customer. Why don't you look around?"

"Oh, let's look at it, Grandfather," said Jessie.

"It's made like a flatboat," said Henry. He was looking down over the railing into the water. "It's like a raft. I'm sure it can't go very fast."

"That's right," said Mr. Rivers. "In fact, it just floats down the river all by itself. If you want to land, you can use those two poles to push it ashore. Coming back up the river, you have to use the motor on the back."

Grandfather said, "Well, this river seems to be very slow. I must say that living here would be a nice quiet rest. Of course, these grandchildren of mine are all tired out by a whole year in school. They would just love to do nothing."

The Aldens looked at their grandfather. They knew he was joking because no Alden ever liked to do nothing.

"Let's go inside," said Jessie.

Benny was inside already. He sat on one of the bunk beds. "I don't think this boat is big enough for us, Mr. Rivers," he said. "We need five beds and there are only two."

"There are six beds," said Mr. Rivers, smiling.

"Where?" asked Benny. He looked all around, but he didn't see any more bunks.

Mr. Rivers said, "A houseboat has to be small. Everything has to be shipshape. That means that things must be in perfect order or you can't get everything in. Here are the other beds." He pulled one down out of the wall.

"What do you know!" said Benny. "That's pretty smart. Now I see the others. They all have curtains."

"I suppose this is the water tank under the sink," said Henry. He took off the cover. "You can't drink the river water, can you?"

"No, you have to go ashore for drinking water and supplies. There are many places along the river where you can stop for water and ice and other things. You can use the river water for washing, though."

"Let's go, Grandfather!" said Benny.

The Aldens knew what Benny meant. He wanted to rent the houseboat and start out tomorrow. That was how the Aldens liked to do things — in a hurry.

But Mr. Alden was not in a hurry this time. He put his hand on Benny's shoulder and said, "We'd better go slow, Benny. We have to know how to handle this boat for one thing."

"I know how," said Henry.

Everyone stared at him. "How do you know, Henry?" asked Benny.

"Well, you remember one weekend I visited a fellow in school? His family had a boat something like this, and I learned how to steer it. We had a grand time. Benny can help me pole the boat when we want to land, and I know how to run the outboard motor when we want to come home."

"Well, how lucky!" said Jessie. It was plain that she wanted to try living on the houseboat.

Violet said, "If we don't like it, we can always come back, can't we?" That settled it for Mr. Alden. He really wanted to try it himself.

Mr. Rivers said, "It is really very safe. This river has no dangerous places. Every night it is easy to find a place along the bank to drop anchor. There aren't many boats on this river, but still you don't want one of them to run into you. Do you understand about lights, young man?"

"Yes," said Henry. "From sunset to sunrise there must be white lights about eight feet above the water so that other boats can see you for one mile."

"Well, well!" said Mr. Rivers. "Good for you! What else do you know?"

"I suppose you have a fire extinguisher and life jackets?" answered Henry. "And a bell? Yes, I see the bell right up there on top."

Mr. Rivers said, "Life jackets right there. Six of them." He pointed to the wall of the first cabin. "And it's the law to have a fire extinguisher. I have a fire pail and a sandbox, too. You know that you can put out a fire by pouring sand on it."

Benny got down and read the printing on the pail. It said, "Keep water up to this line." On the sandbox it said, "Keep sand up to this line."

Mr. Rivers explained, "We never had a fire yet. Everyone is careful. I had one family that let the baby play in the sand. I soon stopped that."

"You don't have to worry about us," said Benny. "We promise not to play in the sand. And besides, I lost my last pail and shovel a long time ago."

"You're good-natured," said Mr. Rivers. "You always see the funny side, don't you? Comical."

Benny looked at Henry and said, "I guess you should be the captain."

"Then you can be my first mate," said Henry.

Mr. Rivers said, "That's fine! This boat is registered with the Coast Guard. They know all about it, even when its name is something different."

"Oh, let's go!" said Benny.

"When?" asked Mr. Rivers.

"Tomorrow," said Grandfather, before Benny could answer. "We'll be here at ten o'clock."

Watch was whining and barking when his family stepped on the dock. "You don't like this, do you, old fellow?" Henry said to the dog. "Come and get in the car."

He turned the car around while Mr. Alden talked with Mr. Rivers about the rent.

"Here's the key," said Mr. Rivers. "Lock up at night. And whenever you go to the store, shut the windows, too. The windows lock themselves when you shut them."

The Aldens all were excited. They started up the rough side road, waving to Mr. Rivers. Grandfather gave the key to Henry. "Here, Captain," he said.

Mr. Rivers shouted after them, "Don't bring too many things!"

"No, we won't," Jessie called back. Then she said to her family, "We won't need many clothes. We can all just live in swimsuits and sweaters — all but Grandfather."

Grandfather winked at Benny. "You'd be surprised," he said.

Henry drove the car carefully up the rough side road and stopped before turning at River Road.

Suddenly, right in front of him, a heavy black car came roaring down River Road. It turned a sharp corner past Henry, down the side road toward the houseboat. Stones flew as the tires screamed and the car skidded past the Aldens' station wagon. It almost hit it.

"Hey! What are they thinking of?" said Henry.

"Whew!" said Benny. "Those two men almost hit us! That was a close one!"

Violet said, "What in the world do they want of a houseboat? People who drive like that?"

Nobody felt much like talking. Henry started slowly down River Road toward home. He looked in his rearview mirror. "Here are our friends again," he said. He pulled over to the right and slowed down. The black car roared past.

Henry said, "Well, what's their hurry? What do they want with our houseboat, anyway?"

Benny said, "I guess they don't want it. They didn't stay long enough even to look at it. I hope we won't ever see them again."

Henry wondered, but he said nothing.


Henry's Invention

The next morning Henry said, "I have to leave half this stuff at home. I've got to take my camera and a flashlight and my fishing rod and tackle."

"Can't take that fishing tackle, Henry," called Mr. Alden from his room. "This time we will have to go without some things. There isn't room on the boat."

Jessie said, "Henry, I'm afraid Watch thinks he is going. It's too bad to leave him at home." She looked at the big dog lying right in the way. She stepped over him.

Benny said, "He wouldn't like a houseboat trip. He whined when we went aboard. He would bark every time we went swimming. You'll be better off at home, Watch, with Mrs. McGregor."

When the Aldens were away, Mrs. McGregor, their housekeeper, took care of things. She nodded and said, "Watch is always all right after you go. He sleeps in the hall and wags his tail when I go by. Then he walks out in the yard and lies in the shade. Don't worry about him."

At last the Aldens had everything stuffed into their suitcases. Henry had his camera and Benny had a flashlight.

Mrs. McGregor was right. Watch barked a little, but not much. He sat on the front steps with Mrs. McGregor as the Aldens packed the car.

When Henry drove away, Jessie looked back and saw Watch go into the house with Mrs. McGregor. He didn't even try to follow the car.

"Well," Jessie said, "we don't have to worry about Watch anymore. I'm glad."

When the Aldens reached River Road, Mr. Alden said, "There is a store on this road before we get to the houseboat."

"Yes, Mr. Rivers told me about it, too," said Jessie. "He says all the houseboat people get their food there. The man knows what they need."

As the Aldens came into the store, the groceryman said, "So you want to try houseboat life?"

"That's right," Benny said.

"Five of you, I see," said the man. "You can choose between three cans of tuna and three cans of chicken. Take two cans of beans or two cans of hash. You can use a dozen eggs, two quarts of milk, two loaves of bread, sugar, salt, and butter. One cake of soap can be used for washing everything."

"Coffee?" asked Violet, looking at Grandfather.

"Oh, yes, coffee," the groceryman said. "But if you forget anything, you can stop and buy more down the river. We call it Second Landing."

The Aldens put the groceries in the car and went along toward the houseboat. Mr. Rivers was there.

"Right on time!" he said. "You can lock your car and park it here. It will be safe. I'll help you unload."

"Fine!" said Benny. "I can hardly wait to see this boat go."

"You can hardly see it go," said Mr. Rivers, "even when it goes." That made everyone laugh.

The suitcases and supplies were soon on board. Benny climbed up the ladder and changed the name to the James H. Alden.

"Looks fine," said Mr. Rivers. Then he said to Henry, "Just pole yourself out to the middle of the river. It's about eight feet deep. You can dive out there all right."

"This is so exciting," said Jessie as Henry pulled up the anchor and Mr. Rivers untied the rope.

Henry began to pole. Then suddenly there they were, floating gently away!

"Goody-bye, Mr. Rivers!" they shouted.

"Good luck!" he called. He watched them as they went out of sight around a bend in the river.

"Oh, let's just watch the river for a little while," said Violet. She sat down on the deck. "It won't take us long to get settled."

It was peaceful on the river. Sometimes it was so narrow that the beautiful trees almost met overhead. A big orange-and-black butterfly flew right across the deck.

"Look, a milkweed butterfly," said Violet.

Benny looked at the cattails. They grew very thick near the shore. Suddenly he pointed. A red-winged blackbird was swinging on the reeds.

"Isn't that beautiful?" said Jessie. "What bright red and yellow on his black wings!"

"He doesn't sing," said Violet. "Oh, he saw us. Do you suppose he has a nest somewhere?"

Then they all saw the nest. A dull brown bird flew off, showing a grassy cup with five blue eggs in it.

Mr. Alden said, "This must be their second family this year. It is too late for the first one."

Benny said, "That pattern on the eggs is like modern art. All those brown wiggles. And look — there's a blue heron."

The water bird stood on one leg and did not move. He was so near that the Aldens could see every blue-gray feather and its black eyes.

"That's probably why that other family named this boat the Blue Heron," said Benny. "Maybe they saw a lot of blue herons."

In a little while the Aldens began to put things away. Jessie put the food on the shelf. She came back on the deck to get the box of salt. Just as she picked it up, a bird flew right in front of her.

"Oh!" cried Jessie, jumping back. The salt slipped out of her hand and rolled along the deck, over the edge, and into the water.

"Oh, how could I?" said Jessie. "Now we haven't any salt. And we must have salt."

Grandfather said, "Don't worry, Jessie. We'll just watch for Second Landing and get another box of salt."

In about half an hour Benny called out, "There it is. That must be Second Landing."

"Yes," said Henry. "And it looks as if there are several buildings there."


Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children Houseboat Mystery"
by .
Copyright © 1967 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.

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