Read an Excerpt
The Ice Cream Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2003 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Horse Named Butterscotch
"Benny? Benny, where are you?" called ten-year-old Violet from the back door of the big white house.
No one answered.
"Benny?" Violet called again.
"Haven't you found him yet?" asked her sister, Jessie. "Henry's waiting."
Henry was fourteen and the oldest of the four Alden children. Benny, six, was the youngest.
"He and Watch were playing ball," Violet said. "But I don't see them now."
"I know how to get Benny's attention. Watch this!" said Jessie, taking charge. She was twelve and liked to get things done.
Cupping her hands to her mouth, Jessie shouted, "Benny! Watch! Ice cream!"
Almost immediately a small boy and a small dog came running from behind the old boxcar that stood at the edge of the backyard. "Here we are," the boy cried. Watch barked happily.
Violet laughed. "Benny! You're all muddy," she said.
"We are?" Benny looked down at his dirt-streaked T-shirt. Then he looked over at Watch, whose whole face from nose to ears was powdered with sticky dirt. "Oh," he said. "I guess we did get a little dirty. I was helping Watch dig a hole to bury a bone."
"I'll wash Watch with the garden hose," Jessie said. "Violet, why don't you help Benny get his hands and face clean."
"Aw, do I have to clean up already?" Benny said.
"If we're going to get ice cream, you do," Violet told him.
"Ice cream? Well, I guess I could wash up a little bit," said Benny. He followed Violet into the house.
"And put on a clean T-shirt," Jessie added.
"Awww," said Benny, but he didn't argue. Benny would do almost anything for ice cream.
A little while later, Violet and Benny came hurrying down the front steps of the house. Jessie, Watch, and Henry were waiting.
"There you are," said Henry, jumping to his feet. He picked up his bicycle. "Let's go."
It was a hot day, so Watch rode in Jessie's bicycle basket instead of running beside them. But he was still panting gently by the time they reached the Greenfield Ice Cream Barn at the edge of downtown Greenfield. The small shop was built to look like an old-fashioned red barn. Behind that was a real red barn with a small fenced-in pasture on one side. A neat gray shingled house with red trim stood just down the road. The owner of the shop lived there.
The Aldens steered their bikes into the bicycle stand in front of the store, and Watch hopped out of his basket. But instead of leading the way to the Ice Cream Barn where he knew he would get some water and maybe a taste of vanilla ice cream, he scampered toward the big red barn.
"Watch!" exclaimed Benny. "Where are you going?"
"Okay, I'm coming," said Benny, as if he could understand what Watch had said.
Henry looked at his sisters and shrugged. "I guess we'd better go see what Watch is up to," he said.
They found Watch in the pasture next to the barn. He was nose-to-nose with a large tan horse with a cream-colored mane and tail. Benny was scratching the horse's ears.
"Look! Watch and I found a horse. A big horse!" said Benny.
"There's never been a horse here before," said Jessie.
"What's your name?" Violet wondered in a soft voice.
"That's Butterscotch," a voice said behind them. "She's a new business partner at the Ice Cream Barn. And so am I."
The Aldens turned to see a tall girl, with bright green eyes and a thick ponytail, coming out of the barn. Her hair matched the color of Butterscotch's coat. She had on jeans and a red shirt with the words ICE CREAM BARN embroidered in gold above the pocket.
"Hi," said Benny. "Who are you?"
"Benny, don't be rude," said Jessie.
The girl laughed. "Don't worry about it," she told them. "I'm Brianna. I've just moved to Greenfield to join the ice-cream business."
"I'm Jessie. This is Violet, Henry, Benny, and Watch," said Jessie.
"How can Butterscotch be in the ice-cream business?" asked Henry.
"Why don't we go get some ice cream and I'll explain," Brianna suggested.
Inside, the shop was white with red trim. Old photographs of farmers and farm scenes decorated the walls. Gingham curtains hung in the windows.
Katy, the owner of the Ice Cream Barn, stood behind the red counter in a long white apron. She had just handed a customer a scoop of vanilla on a sugar cone.
The customer, a blond woman with thick, dark eyebrows and a stiff frown, said, "This is a single scoop?"
"Yes," said Katy. She cocked her head and looked at the enormous mound of vanilla ice cream. The Ice Cream Barn was well known in Greenfield for its big servings. The Aldens knew that the woman couldn't be from Greenfield or she would have known that.
The woman pushed her sunglasses farther back on her head and stared at the scoop of ice cream.
Katy grinned. "If that's not enough, I could add a little more."
"Where?" Benny whispered to Violet. The cone looked very full already.
"It's too much!" the blond woman declared. "How can you stay in business with such big single scoops?"
"It's a mystery!" said Katy cheerfully. "But our customers just keep coming back. Big scoops, exciting flavors, that's our specialty."
The woman sighed, as if Katy had said something upsetting. Then she turned away, balancing the vanilla ice cream carefully, and took a seat at a small table near the window.
Katy looked over at Brianna and the Aldens and winked. She was a small woman with a big pile of black and silver hair wound in a bun on top of her head, almost like a swirled ice-cream cone. Her eyes were chocolate-brown.
"I'll take care of these customers," Brianna said, motioning toward the Aldens.
"Okay, but wash your hands," Katy said. She smiled at Benny, then disappeared through the door to the kitchen.
"Yes, ma'am!" said Brianna, laughing.
Soon Henry was digging into an ice-cream float with chocolate ice cream. Jessie had chosen peanut chunk swirl with chocolate sprinkles, while Violet had cherry vanilla in a dish. Benny picked two scoops, one of pistachio and one of the special flavor of the week, double lemon pie.
"A mix like that might give some people a stomachache," Brianna said as she handed Benny his double scoop.
"Not me," said Benny. "Not my cousin Soo Lee, either. She lives in Silver City and she likes ice cream, too. But she's on vacation with Uncle Joe."
"We'll still be serving ice cream when Soo Lee gets back," Brianna promised as she set a bowl of water outside the door for Watch. Next to it, she put a dish with a little taste of vanilla ice cream. Then she poured herself a glass of water and leaned on the counter across from the Aldens.
Benny's eyes got round. "Don't you want ice cream?" he asked Brianna.
"There's such a thing as too much ice cream, Benny," Brianna said.
Benny looked shocked. "No, there isn't," he argued.
Everyone laughed and Benny smiled a little sheepishly.
"It's too bad we can't take some chocolate mint chip back to Mrs. McGregor," said Violet. "She loves the chocolate and the little green mint chips. And the ice cream is extra good today."
"Who is Mrs. McGregor?" asked Brianna.
"She's our housekeeper," Violet answered. "We live with her and our grandfather."
"We used to live in a boxcar in the woods," Benny added. "Just by ourselves. That's where we found Watch. And then Grandfather found us."
"We were orphans and we didn't know we had a grandfather who wanted us," explained Jessie.
They told Brianna all about how they'd found the old boxcar in the woods where they'd lived until their grandfather, James Alden, found them and took them to live with him in his big old white house in Greenfield.
"And now the boxcar is in our backyard," concluded Henry.
"Grandfather put it there for us," Violet explained. "Now we use it as a playhouse."
"That's an amazing story," said Brianna.
Just then Katy bustled back in. "Well," she said, "I'm glad to see my favorite customers and my favorite granddaughter have met."
"I'm your only granddaughter, Granna Katy," Brianna answered, laughing again.
"Granddaughter? But you said you were the new partner," Jessie said.
"That, too," Brianna agreed. "Katy's favorite and only granddaughter, and her new partner."
"You said Butterscotch was a new partner, too," Henry reminded her.
"Does Butterscotch test ice cream for you?" guessed Benny.
"Good grief, no!" Katy exclaimed. "What an idea!"
Brianna said, "What flavor of ice cream did you say Mrs. McGregor likes?"
"Your chocolate mint chip," said Violet.
"What has that got to do with Butterscotch?"
"It's a surprise. A mystery," said Brianna.
"We're good at solving mysteries," Benny said promptly. "We've solved lots and lots of them."
"I can guarantee you'll have this one solved by this afternoon," said Brianna.
"How?" Violet wanted to know.
"You'll see," said Brianna. No matter how many questions the Aldens asked before they left the ice-cream shop, she wouldn't give them even a single clue to help them solve the mystery.CHAPTER 2
A Melted Ice Cream Mess
Violet heard it first. She and Benny were sitting on the front porch later that afternoon giving a tea party for her dolls and Benny's stuffed animals. Watch was sleeping in a patch of sunlight nearby.
Ding, ding, dingaling, a bell chimed from not very far away.
Violet looked up. She carefully set down a doll-sized teacup.
Ding, ding, dingalinggggg. The sound was getting closer and louder.
Suddenly Violet jumped to her feet. "Look!" she cried.
Around the corner and down the street came a large, tan-colored horse.
Henry and Jessie looked up from the bicycle they were repairing on the front lawn.
"It's Butterscotch," Benny said excitedly, jumping up so suddenly that his stuffed bear fell facefirst into the plate of imaginary cookies.
"It is Butterscotch," said Jessie.
"And she's pulling a wagon," said Henry.
As the wagon got closer, Henry began to laugh. "I know that wagon! That's Sam and Susie's wagon." Sam and his horse Susie had driven an ice-cream wagon in Greenfield every summer for as long as anyone could remember. "Brianna is inside!"
The wagon pulled up in front of the big white house. "Whoa, girl," said Brianna, and Butterscotch stopped and turned her head to look at the Aldens lined up on the sidewalk.
Watch jumped off the porch to trot over and touch noses with Butterscotch.
"Isn't that Sam's wagon?" Henry asked.
"It was," said Brianna. She jumped down and patted Butterscotch's nose. "I bought it from him. He and Susie have retired, you know. But Sam wanted the ice-cream wagon tradition to continue, so he passed it on to me.
"I'm so glad the wagon didn't retire," said Violet.
"So that's how Butterscotch is a partner in the Ice Cream Barn. She pulls the ice-cream wagon just like Susie used to pull it," Jessie said.
"That's right," said Brianna with a smile, as she looped Butterscotch's reins over a fence post.
Climbing back into the wagon, Brianna opened a sliding wooden panel on one side. Then she reached down into a freezer inside the wagon, pulled out a small container, and set it on the counter of the window. "For Mrs. McGregor," she said.
"Chocolate mint chip ice cream, right?" asked Henry.
"Right." Brianna winked at Benny. "If you hurry and give it to Mrs. McGregor, it won't melt one bit."
"Wow, is Mrs. McGregor going to be surprised," said Benny. He took the container of ice cream and hurried into the house. A moment later he came hurrying out with a carrot in his hand. "This is for Butterscotch," he said a little breathlessly.
"She'll love it," said Brianna.
Violet stroked Butterscotch's velvet nose as the horse nibbled the carrot from the palm of Benny's hand. Jessie and Henry admired the wagon. "New paint," Henry said.
"Ice Cream Barn colors: red and white," explained Brianna.
Just then a man came hurrying up the sidewalk.
"A new customer," Jessie said in a low voice to Brianna.
But she was wrong.
The man, who had crew-cut hair and an unfriendly expression in his blue eyes, stopped and put his hands on his hips. "What's all this?" he demanded.
"The Ice Cream Barn's new ice-cream wagon. From our barn to your neighborhood," Brianna said proudly.
"Do you have a permit?" the man said, scowling.
"Yes," Brianna answered. "Of course."
"Oh," said the man. He glared at the wagon, then at Butterscotch. "Noise. Bells ringing, children screaming for ice cream," he said. He wrinkled his nose. "And stinky horse smell."
"Butterscotch doesn't smell!" Benny protested.
"That's what you think!" the man said.
Jessie, who had been staring at the man in wonder, suddenly said, "You're our new neighbor, aren't you? You just moved in at the end of the street."
"Nosy, aren't you?" said the man. "Yes, I'm your new neighbor. My name's Bush. Ronald Bush. Mr. Bush to you."
"Welcome to the neighborhood, Mr. Bush," said Violet politely.
"Are you trying to be funny?" the man said. Before Violet could answer, he went on. "Let me warn you. If that horse makes a mess, or you make one bit of noise, I'm going to call the police and complain!"
With that, Ronald Bush turned and stomped back up the street.
The Aldens and Brianna stood and watched until he had disappeared into the house at the other end of the block.
Then Benny said, "You know what, I don't like Mr. Bush."
Brianna shook her head. "Some people are just cranky, Benny. Well, I'd better get going. We have a few stops to make today before I head back to the barn."
"Will you be back?" Violet asked.
"Oh, yes," Brianna said. "We have a bell we'll ring to let people know we're here. We'll park right over there by the curb and people can come and buy ice cream."
"Every day?" Benny asked.
"Not every day, Benny. Greenfield's not that small. But at least two or three days a week," Brianna promised.
"Even though Mr. Bush doesn't want you to?" asked Violet.
"Hey, it'll take a lot more than Mr. Bush to stop this ice-cream wagon," Brianna said. She picked up the reins. Then she said, "You know, you don't have to wait for the ice-cream wagon to come to you. Why don't you come visit us. We'll be closed for business tomorrow, but Granna Katy and I are going to be there early working on some new flavor ideas. Stop by and we'll give you a tour."
"That would be great!" said Jessie.
"We'll be there," Henry added.
"See you tomorrow, then," Brianna said. "Giddyup, Butterscotch."
The next morning, Benny was up early, ready to go. "Are you sure you don't want to come with us?" he asked Grandfather.
"Not today, Benny," James Alden told his youngest grandson, his eyes twinkling. "Maybe next time."
"Okay," said Benny. "Then we'd better hurry. We don't want to be late."
"We just finished breakfast, Benny," Violet protested.
"Brianna said she'd be there early," Benny insisted.
"If we ride our bikes the long way into Greenfield, maybe we won't get to the Ice Cream Barn too soon," Henry said.
A few minutes later, the Aldens pedaled down the street. They waved to their neighbor Ms. Dalby, who was standing in her garden. They waved to Violet's classmate Catherine, who was walking down the sidewalk. They even waved to cranky Ronald Bush when they rode by his house. But Mr. Bush didn't wave back. He stared at them as if he couldn't believe his eyes.
When they reached the Ice Cream Barn, the front door was locked.
"Uh-oh," said Benny
"We'll wait," said Violet.
They sat down on the bench outside the shop. Then Henry said, "It looks as if someone else is waiting for the shop to open." He nodded in the direction of a small white car parked across the street. They could see someone inside, but whoever it was had on a hat. It was hard for the Aldens to see the driver's face.
"Maybe whoever it is doesn't know the Barn is closed today. I'll tell the driver," Jessie said. She jumped up and started toward the white car. But before she could take two steps, the car pulled away.
"Oh," said Jessie, stopping in surprise.
"Maybe the person wasn't waiting for the shop to open. Maybe whoever it was just stopped to read a map," said Violet.
"I guess," said Jessie.
Just then, Brianna drove up. "You're nice and early," Brianna said as she got out of her car.
"Benny thought we should be," Henry said, laughing.
"Yes," said Benny. "We beat you. And Katy!"
Katy, who had just walked up to the shop from her house, smiled. She said, "Well, let's go in the back way, since we're not open today." She led the way around the side of the Ice Cream Barn and stopped so suddenly that Jessie, who was right behind her, almost crashed into her.
"Oh, no," said Katy.
"What?" asked Brianna.
Katy pointed. A small stack of square white boxes and two large containers, all decorated with a blue stripe, stood by the back door. The box labels read MARTINE BLUE RIBBON ICE CREAM VENDORS.
"Those look like ice-cream sandwiches," Katy said. "But ..."
Brianna rushed past her and pried open the lid of the top box. "They were ice-cream sandwiches. Now they're just a melted mess."
"These say 'Vanilla Ice Cream,'" Violet said, leaning over to inspect the printing on the side of the two large containers. "Five gallons each."
"Vanilla ice-cream soup," said Henry, observing the milky puddle spreading out from the bottom of one container.
"Here's a bill taped to the back door," said Brianna. "It's from Marcos. I don't believe it!" She turned to Katy. "Did you order ice cream for today, Granna?"
"Of course not!" Katy said, shocked. "We're always closed on Tuesdays and Marcos knows that. We never take deliveries on Tuesdays."
Excerpted from The Ice Cream Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau. Copyright © 2003 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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