The Box-Car Children

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CHILDREN By Gertrude Chandler Warner Author of "Star Stories For Little Folks" and, with Frances Warner, of "Life's Minor Collisions"

With pictures by Dorothy Lake Gregory



Copyright, 1924, by
Rand McNally & Company

Made in U.S.A.

The Flight 9
The Second Night 18
Shelter 27
A New Home 34
Housekeeping 43
Earning A Living 51
At Home 61
Building The Dam 71
Cherry Picking 81
The Race 88
More Education 96
Ginseng 105
Trouble 111
Caught 120
A New Grandfather        127
A United Family 134
Safe 142

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ABOUT seven o'clock one hot summer evening a strange family moved into the little village of Middlesex. Nobody knew where they came from, or who they were. But the neighbors soon made up their minds what they thought of the strangers, for the father was very drunk. He could hardly walk up the rickety front steps of the old tumble -down house, and his thirteen-year-old son had to help him. Toward eight o'clock a pretty, capable-looking girl of twelve came out of the house and bought a loaf of bread at the baker's. And that was all the villagers learned about the newcomers that night.

"There are four children," said the bakeshop woman to her husband the next day, "and their mother is dead. They must have some money, for the girl paid for the bread with a dollar bill."

"Make them pay for everything they get," growled the baker, who was a hard man. "The father is nearly dead with drink now, and soon they will be only beggars."

This happened sooner than he thought. The next day the oldest boy and girl came to ask the bakeshop woman to come over. Their father was dead.

She went over willingly enough , for someone had to go. But it was clear that she did not expect to be bothered with four strange children, with the bakery on her hands and two children of her own.

"Haven't you any other folks?'* she asked the children.

"We have a grandfather in Greenfield," spoke up the youngest child before his sister could clap her hand over his mouth.

"Hush, Benny," she said anxiously.

This made the bakeshop woman suspicious.

"What's the matter with your grandfather?" she asked.

"He doesn't like us," replied the oldest boy reluctantly, "He didn't want my father to marry my mother, and if he found us he would treat us cruelly."

"Did you ever see him?"

"Jess has. Once she saw him."

"Well, did he treat you cruelly?" asked the woman, turning upon Jess. Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/12 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/13 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/14 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/15 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/16 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/17 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/18 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/19 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/20 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/21 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/22 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/23 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/24 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/25 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/26 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/27 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/28 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/29 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/30 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/31 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/32 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/33 back. You just wait and see!" And she nodded her head wisely as Henry walked slowly off through the woods.

The moment he was out of sight she turned to Benny and Violet. "Now, children," she said, "what do you think we're going to do? Do you know what I saw over in the sunny part of the woods? I saw some blueberries!" "Oh, oh!" cried Benny, who knew what blueberries were. "Can't we have some blueberries and milk?"

"We certainly—" began Jess. But the sentence never was finished, for a sharp crackle of dry leaves was heard. Something was moving in the woods. Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/35 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/36 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/37 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/38 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/39 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/40 "We'll wash our paws in the brook just the way Cinnamon does,"

"First, let's gather armfuls of dry pine needles," ordered Jess. "Get those on top that have been lying in the sunshine." Jess laid the dog down on a bed of moss as she spoke, and started energetically to scoop up piles of the fragrant needles. Soon a pile as high as her head stood just under the freight-car door.

"I think we have enough," she said at last. Taking the scissors from Violet's workbag, she cut the laundry bag carefully into two pieces, saving the cord for a clothesline. One of the big squares was laid across Benny's hay and tucked under. That was the softest bed of all. Violet's apron and her own, she cut off at the belt.

"I'll sleep next to Benny," said Henry, "with my head up by the door. Then I can hear what is going on." A big pile of pine needles was loaded into the freight car for Henry's bed, and covered with the other half of the laundry bag.

The remainder of the needles Jess piled into the farthest corner of the car for herself and Violet, "We'll all sleep on one side, so we can call it the bedroom."

"What '11 be the other side?'* inquired Benny.

"The other side?' repeated Jess. "Let me think! I guess that'll be the sitting room, and perhaps some of the time the kitchen."

"On rainy days, maybe the dining room," added Henry with a wink,

"Couldn't it be the parlor?" begged Benny,

"Certainly, the parlor! We forgot that," agreed Jess, returning the wink. She was covering the last two soft beds with the two aprons. "The tops of these aprons arc wash-cloths, she said severely. Then armed with the big cake of soap she led the way to the brook. The dog watched them anxiously, but when Jess said, "Lie still," he obeyed. From the moment Jess drew the thorn from his foot he was her dog, to obey her slightest command and to follow her wherever she went.

The clean cool brook was delightful even to Benny. The children rolled up their sleeves and plunged their dusty arms into its waters, quarreling good-naturedly over the soap, and lathering their stained faces and necks with it. When they were well rinsed with clear water they dried themselves with the towel. Then Jess washed both towels nicely with soap, rinsed them, and hung them on the clothesline of tape, which she had stretched between two slender birch trees. They flapped lazily in the wind.

"Looks like home already, Jess," said Henry, smiling at the washing.

The tired children clambered into the "bedroom," Jess coming last with the wounded dog.

"We'll have to leave the door open, it's so hot," said Henry, lying down with a tired sigh.

And in less than ten minutes they were fast asleep, dog and all—asleep at six o'clock, asleep without naming the dog, without locking the door, without fear, for this was the first night in four that they had been able to go to sleep at night, as children should.


THE next morning Jess was up before the others t as was fitting for a little housekeeper. That is, she was first if we except the dog, who had opened one eye instantly every time his little mistress stirred in her sleep- He sat watching gravely in the door of the car as Jess descended to get breakfast. She walked from the little waterfall quite a distance down the brook, looking at it with critical eyes.

"This will be the well," she said to herself, regarding a small but deep and quiet basin just below the falls. Below that she found a larger basin, lined with gravel, with flat stones surrounding it.

"This will be the washtub," she decided. "And now I must go back to the refrigerator." This was the strangest spot of all, for behind the little waterfall was a small quiet pool in which Jess had set the milk bottles the night before. Not a drop of water could get in, but all night long the cool running water had surrounded the bottles. They were now fairly icy to the touch. Jess smiled as she drew them out.

"Is it good?" asked Benny's voice. There he sat in the door of the car, swinging his legs, his arm around the shaggy dog.

"It's delicious!" declared Jess. "Cold as ice." She climbed up beside him as she spoke, bringing the breakfast with her. The other two children sat up and looked at it. "Today, Jess," began Henry, "I will go back to town and try to get a job mowing lawns or something. Then we can afford to have something besides milk for breakfast."

Milk suited Benny very well, however, so the older children allowed him to drink rather more than his share, Henry did not waste any time talking. He brushed his hair as well as he could without a brush, rolled down his sleeves, and started for town with the second dollar.

"Glad you've got a dog, Jess," he called back, as he waved his straw hat.

The children watched him disappear around the curve and then turned to Jess expectantly. They were not mistaken. Jess had a plan.

"We'll explore," she began mysteriously. "We'll begin here at the car, and hunt all over these woods until we find a dump!"

"What's a dump?" inquired Benny.

"O Benny!' answered Violet. "You know what a dump is. All old bottles and papers and broken dishes."

"And wheels?" asked Benny interestedly. "Will there be any old wheels?"

"Yes, maybe," assented Violet, "But cups, Benny! Think of drinking milk out of a cup again!"

"Oh, yes," said Benny, politely. But it was clear that his mind was centered on wheels rather than cups.

The exploring party started slowly down the rusty track, with the dog hopping happily on three legs. The fourth paw, nicely bandaged with Jess' handkerchief, he held up out of harm's way.

"I think this is a spur track," said Jess. "They built it in here so they could load wood on the cars, and then when they had cut all the wood they didn't need the track any more."

This explanation seemed very likely, for here and there were stumps of trees and decaying chips. Violet took note of these chips, and remembered them some days later. In fact, both girls kept their eyes open, and pointed out things of interest to each other.

"Remember these logs, Violet, if we should ever need any," said Jess pointing.

"Blackberry blossoms!" returned Violet briefly, turning one over gently with her foot. "Big flat stones!" remarked Jess, later on, as they came upon a great heap of them.

Here the track came out into the open sunshine, and broken pieces of rail showed clearly where it had joined the main track at some time in the past. And here from the top of the wooded hill the children could plainly see the city in the valley. They walked along the track, picking out a church steeple here and there, forgetting for a moment the object of their search.

"There's a wheel!" Benny cried triumphantly from behind.

The girls looked down, and with a glad cry of surprise Jess recognized a dump at the foot of the hill. They found it not composed entirely of ashes and tin cans, either, although both of these were there in great profusion. It was a royal dump, containing both cups and wheels.

"O Benny!" cried Jess, "if it hadn't been for you!" She hugged him, wheel and all, and began turning over the rubbish with great delight.

"Here's a white pitcher, Jess," Violet called, holding up a perfect specimen with a tiny chip in its nose.

"Here's a big white cup," said Jess delightedly, laying it aside.

"Want a teapot, Jessy?" inquired Benny, offering her an enormous blue enameled affair without a handle.

"Yes, indeed!" cried Jess. "We can use that for water. I've found two cups and a bowl already. And Violet, we ought to be looking for spoons, too."

Violet pointed without speaking to her little pile of treasures. There were five iron spoons covered with rust.

"Wonderful!" pronounced Jess with rapture.

Indeed, it is doubtful if collectors of rare and beautiful bits of porcelain ever enjoyed a search as much as did these adventurers in the dump heap.

Benny actually found four wheels, exactly alike, probably from the same cart, and insisted upon carrying them back. To please him, Jess allowed him to add them to the growing pile.

"Here's a big iron kettle," observed Violet. "But we won't really cook w T ith a fire, will we, Jess?"

"We'll take it back, though," replied Jess with a knowing look. "We can pile lots of dishes in it." They could, and did, but not until after Benny had discovered his beloved "pink cup." It was a tea-party cup of bright rose-color with a wreath of gorgeous roses on it, and a little shepherdess giving her lamb a drink from a pale blue brook. It had a perfectly good handle, gold into the bargain. Its only flaw was a dangerous crack through the lamb's nose and front feet. Jess made a cushion for it out of grass and laid it on top of the kettle full of treasures. All the things, even the wheels, were laid on a wide board which the two girls carried between them. Can you imagine the dishwashing when the gay party returned to the freight car? Children do not usually care for dishwashing. But never did a little boy hand dishes to his sister so care-

fully as Benny did , On their hands and knees

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Taking the dog's conduct as a sure guide, Henry composed himself for sleep.

"It must have been a rabbit or something," he said to Jess.

The occupants of the freight car slept peacefully until morning. Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/63 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/64 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/65 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/66 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/67 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/68 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/69 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/70 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/71 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/72 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/73 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/74 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/75 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/76 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/77 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/78 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/79 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/80 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/81 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/82 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/83 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/84 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/85 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/86 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/87 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/88 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/89 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/90 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/91 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/92 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/93 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/94 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/95 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/96

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Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/98 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/99 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/100 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/101 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/102 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/103 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/104 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/105 Page:TheBoxcarChildren1924.djvu/106 you might examine this faithful copy of its

first page, which required four days for its completion:

Henry always insisted that the rat's tail was too long, but Jess said his knife must have slipped when he was making the a, so they were even, after all. GINSENG WHAT Dr. McAllister ever did before Henry began to work for him would be hard to guess. There were cental nly as many duties always waiting for him as he had time to do. And it made no difference to the industrious boy what the job was. Nothing was too hard or too dirty for him to attempt. One day the doctor set him at the task of clearing out his little laboratory. The boy washed bottles, pasted labels, and cleaned instruments for one whole morning. And more than one broken flask on its way to the rubbish heap was carefully carried up the hill to the hidden family. While Henry was busy carefully lettering a sticky label, he noticed a young man in the outer office who was talking with the doctor. "Can you tell me if this is real ginseng? 1 Henry heard him say. "It certainly is," returned Dr. McAllister, "They will give you two dollars a pound for the root at any of the drug stores.'* 105 !o6 THE BOX-CAR CHILDREN Henry ventured to steal a peep, and found he could readily see the plant the man was holding. It was about a foot high with branching leaves and a fine feathery white flower. Henry knew it was exactly the same white puff ball that he had noticed in Violet's vase that very morning. When the young man had gone, Henry said, 'I know where I can find a whole lot of that plant." "Is that so?" replied the doctor kindly. "It's only the root, you know, that is valuable. But any one who wants the bother of digging it up can sell any quantity of that." When Henry went home at noon he related enough of this incident to set his sisters to work in good earnest. They started out with both knives and two strong iron spoons, and the kettle. And with Benny to run about finding every white flower he could, the girls succeeded, with a great deal of hard digging, in finding enormous quantities of ginseng root. In fact that first afternoon's work resulted in a kettle full, not counting a single leaf or stem. Henry was delighted when he saw the result of their work, and took it next day to the largest drug GINSENG 107 store, where he received three dollars for the roots. Without any hesitation Henry paid a visit to the dry-goods store, and came home with a pair of new brown stockings for Benny. That was a great day in the woods. Benny gave them no peace at all until they had admired his wonderful new stockings, and felt of each rib. There had been one other thing that Benny had given them no peace about. On the night when the children had crept so quietly away from the baker's wife, Jess had forgotten to take Benny's bear. This bear was a poor look- ing creature, which had once been an expensive bright-eyed Teddy-bear made of brown plush. But Benny had taken it to bed every single night for three years, and had loved it by day, so that it was not attractive to any one but himself. Both eyes were gone, and its body was very limp, but Benny had certainly suffered a great deal trying to sleep in a strange bed without his beloved bear. Jess, therefore, had plans on foot, the moment she saw Benny's new stockings. She washed the old brown stockings with their many neat darns, and hung them up to dry. And early i oR THE BOX-CAR CHILDREN in the afternoon she and Violet sat with the workbag between them, each with a stocking. With Benny sitting by to watch proceedings, Jess mapped out a remarkable Teddy-bear. One stocking, carefully trimmed, made the head and body, while the other furnished material for two arms, two legs, and the stuffing, Jess worked hard over the head, pushing the padding well into the blunt nose. Violet embroidered two beautiful eyes in black and white, and a jet black nose- tip, "You must make a tail, too, Jessy," said Benny, watching her snip the brown rags. "Bears don't have tails, Benny," argued Jess- — -although she wasn't exactly sure she was right. "Your old bear didn't have any tail, you know." "But this bear has a tail, though," returned Benny, knowing that Jess would put on two tails if he insisted. And it was true. His bear finally did have a tail, "What kind of tail? " asked Jess helplessly at last. "Bushy, long and slim, or cotton-tail? " 'Long and slim," decided Benny with great satisfaction, "so 1 can pull it." GINSENG ia 9 " Benny ! tf cried Jess, laughing in spite of herself. But she made a tail, long and slim, exactly as Benny ordered, and sewed it on very tightly, so that it might be "pulled" if desired. She fastened on the legs and arms with flat hinges, so the bear might sit down easily, and added at last a pair of cunning flappy ears and a gay collar of braided red string from a bundle. "What's his name, Jessy? 1 * inquired Benny, when the wonderful bear was finally handed over to him. "His name?" repeated Jess, "Well, you know he's a new bear; he isn't your old one, so I wouldn't call him Teddy." "Oh, no," said Benny, shocked. "This is not Teddy. This has a pretty tail." •"Of course," agreed Jess, trying not to laugh. "Well, you know we sold that ginseng to pay for your new stockings. And if you hadn't had your new ones, we couldn't have made this bear out of your old ones." "You want his name to be Stockings? " asked Benny politely. "Stockings? No," answered Jess. "I was thinking of 'Ginseng." "Ginseng?' echoed Benny, thinking deeply. "That's a nice name. All right, I think Ginseng will be a good bear, if Watchie doesn't bark at him." And from that moment the bear's name was Ginseng as long as he lived, and he lived to be a very old bear indeed. TROUBLE THE days went merrily by for the freight-car family. Hardly a day passed, however, without some exciting adventure. Mrs, Mc- Allister, finding out in some way that Violet was a clever seamstress, sent home fine linen handkerchiefs for her to hem. Each one had a tiny colored rose in the corner, and Violet was delighted with the dainty work. She sat sewing daily by the swimming pool while Benny sailed wonderful boats of chips, and waded around to his heart's content. The freight-car pantry now held marvelous dishes rescued from the dump; such rarities as a regular bread knife, a blue and gold soap dish, and half of a real cut-glass bowl, Henry proudly deposited thirty-one dollars in the savings bank under the name of Henry James, and worked eagerly for his kind friend, who never asked him any more embarrassing questions. Benny actually learned to read fairly well. The girls occupied their time making balsam pillows for the four beds, and trying to devise in wonderful meals out of very little material. Violet kept a different bouquet daily in the little vase. She had a perfect genius for arranging three purple irises to look like a picture, or a single wood lily with its leaves like a Japanese print. Each day the children enjoyed a cooked dinner, filling in the chinks with perfect satisfaction with bread and butter, or bread and milk, or bread and cheese. They named their queer house, "Home for Tramps," and printed this title in fancy lettering inside the car.

One day Jess began to teach Benny a little arithmetic. He learned very readily that two and one make three.

"I knew that before," he said cheerfully. But it was a different matter when Jess proposed to him that two minus one left one.

"No, it does not left one," said Benny indignantly. "It left two."

"Why, Benny!" cried Jess in astonishment. "Supposing you had two apples and I took away one, wouldn't you have one left?"

"You never would," objected Benny with confidence.

"No, but supposing Watch took one," suggested Jess.

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to college. Then you may do whatever you choose for a living," replied Mr. Cordyce. (This also came true.)

"Of course I have more than enough money to support us all," went on Mr, Cordyce, "but if you have something to do, you will be happier." (This not only came true, but it is always and forever true, all over the world.)

"Am I going to college tomorrow?" asked Benny, stopping his little pony in front of the group.

"Not tomorrow, Benny," said his grandfather, laughing. "But I 'm glad you reminded me. All you children must go over to Dr. McAllister's tomorrow, and stay while the surprise comes."

"Is the surprise very nice?" asked Benny.

'No, not very," replied Mr. Cordyce with a twinkle.

"Did it cost a great deal?" asked Jess.

"It didn't cost me anything," answered her grandfather. "The only thing I shall have to pay will be express." (He didn't tell them that the express cost him several hundred dollars.) However, next day the children rode gladly over to see the kind doctor. They stayed until Mr. Cordyce telephoned to them that the surprise was ready. And then Mrs. McAllister and her son rode back with them in the big car.

Mr. Cordyce was as happy as a boy. He led the merry little procession out through his many gardens, past the rose garden, through the banks of purple asters. Then they came to an Italian garden with a fountain in the middle, and a shady little wood around the edge. Among the trees was the surprise. It was the old freight car! The children rushed over to it with cries of delight, pushed back the dear old door, and scrambled in. Everything was in place. Here was Benny's pink cup, and here was his bed. Here was the old knife which had cut butter and bread, and vegetables, and firewood, and string, and here were the letters for Benny's primer. Here was the big kettle and the tablecloth. And hanging on a near-by tree was the old dinner bell. Benny rang the bell over and over again, and Watch rolled on the floor and barked himself hoarse.

The children were never homesick after that. To be sure, a dull and ugly freight car looked little strange in a beautiful Italian garden. But it was never dull or ugly to the Cordyce children or their dog. They never were so happy as when showing visitors each beauty of their beloved old home. And there were many visitors. Some of them were fascinated by the stories of the wonderful dishes and the shelf. And the children never grew tired of telling them over and over again.

One summer day, many years afterward, Watch climbed out of his beautiful padded silk bed, and barked until Henry lifted him into the freight car. There he lay down on the hard, splintery floor, blinking his eyes in the sun, and watching the children as they sat studying by the fountain.

"He likes the old home best," said Jess Cordyce, smiling at him and patting his rough back. And as Benny would say, if he hadn't grown up, "That's true, I shouldn't wonder."