Read Boxcar Children 12 - Houseboat Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Boxcar Children 12 - Houseboat Mystery

BOOK: Boxcar Children 12 - Houseboat Mystery
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Houseboat Mystery

GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
Illustrated by David Cunningham

ALBERT WHITMAN & Company, Chicago, Illinois

My thanks to
Commander Neal E. Williams
of the United States Coast Guard
for many courtesies.
G.C.W.

Contents

CHAPTER

  
1   Houseboat for Rent

  
2   Henry’s Invention

  
3   Trouble Brewing

  
4   The Auction

  
5   April Center

  
6   Something Wrong

  
7   Mystery in a Picture

  
8   A Discovery

  
9   The Plan

10   Trapped!

About the Author

CHAPTER
1

Houseboat for Rent

W
hat 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?”

BOOK: Boxcar Children 12 - Houseboat Mystery
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