Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner
THE PILGRIM VILLAGE MYSTERY
GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
Illustrated by Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & Company
An Emergency Meeting
enny Alden ran into his sister's room. “Jessie! Jessie! Emergency meeting in the boxcar! Come quick!” he called out.
Jessie smiled at her six-year-old brother. “Emergency meeting? What does that mean?”
It means right away!” Benny said, tugging on his twelve-year-old sister's arm.
“All right, I'm coming,” Jessie replied, laughing.
The children went outside to the old boxcar, which was on the lawn behind their grandfather's large house. Ten-year-old Violet and fourteen-year-old Henry were already inside, sitting on the floor.
The boxcar had once been the children's home. When their parents died, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny had run away. They discovered the boxcar in the woods and lived inside it. But then their kind grandfather found them and took them to live with him. As soon as he realized how homesick his grandchildren were for their beloved boxcar, he had it moved to the backyard so they could play in it.
When Jessie and Benny were sitting on the floor, Henry said, “Benny, what's the big emergency?”
“We have another mystery to solve!” Benny exclaimed, his eyes sparkling.
“We do?” Violet asked. “What is it?”
“Well,” Benny began, “before he left for work, I saw Grandfather packing his suitcase. And I heard him telling Mrs. McGregor to get
suitcases out of the attic and start packing them, too!”
“Oh, Benny, that's no mystery. We must be going on a trip,” Violet said. The children took many trips with their grandfather, and each time they found a mystery to solve.
“But where?” asked Benny. “And when?”
“It must be soon,” Henry pointed out, “if Grandfather has already started packing.”
“Did you ask Mrs. McGregor?” Jessie asked. Mrs. McGregor was their grandfather's housekeeper.
“Yes,” Benny replied. “But she wouldn't tell me. She said Grandfather would tell us tonight at dinner.”
“Can't you wait until then?” Violet asked.
“But that's such a long time,” Benny cried. “It's not even lunchtime yet!”
The others laughed. “Maybe you can solve this mystery before Grandfather gets home,” Jessie said.
“All by myself?” Benny asked, frowning.
“You can do it!” Henry assured his brother.
Benny stood up and looked out the door of the boxcar toward the house. Then he turned to his brother and sisters and gave them a big smile. “I'm going to look for clues!” he called, running back to the house.
A few hours later, the children were making lunch. Mrs. McGregor had made a bowl of tuna fish salad, which Henry was spreading on bread. Jessie was pouring cold milk into four large glasses. Benny waited until Mrs. McGregor left the kitchen, then he told the others about the detective work he'd done.
“I looked at the clothes Mrs. McGregor was packing for us,” Benny said, his voice low. He was already sitting at the big round table and had started eating his sandwich. Benny loved to eat, and he always had a big appetite.
“And what did you find?” Jessie asked, carrying the glasses of milk to the table.
“She's packed regular clothes â you know, jeans and shirts like we're wearing now,” Benny said.
“Then we must not be going anywhere too hot or too cold,” Jessie pointed out.
“Did she put in our old clothes, for working on Aunt Jane's farm?” Henry asked, sitting down next to Benny.
“No,” Benny answered around a mouthful of tuna fish.
The children all sat quietly eating their sandwiches, wondering where they might be going.
Then Benny remembered something else. “Grandfather's suitcase was laying open on his bed, so I looked to see what he had packed.”
“Was there anything unusual?” Henry asked.
“Yes,” said Benny, finishing the last bite of his sandwich. “He packed books.”
“Grandfather always brings a book when we go on a trip,” Jessie answered. “He loves to read.”
“Yes, but there wasn't just one book â there were a few. And all of the titles had a name I recognized.” Benny looked around at the others. “The name was George â¦ um, George Washington, I think,” he said uncertainly.
Henry smiled. “Do you know who George Washington was?”
“Wasn't he the first president of the United States?” asked Benny.
“That's right,” said Jessie. “Some people call him the father of our country.”
“What could he have to do with our trip?” Violet wondered.
“Maybe we're going to meet him,” Benny suggested. “Maybe we're going to travel backward in time!” At that, all of the Aldens burst out laughing.
After what seemed like the longest day of his life, Benny was happy to see Mr. Alden pulling into the driveway. “Grandfather, Grandfather!” Benny called, running outside to greet him.
“Well, Benny. What a nice welcome,” Grandfather said, giving him a big hug.
“Let me carry your briefcase,” Benny said.
“Oh, well, thank you very much,” said Mr. Alden, strolling into the house beside his grandson.
Unable to wait any longer, Benny asked, “Do you have something to tell us?”
“Ah â¦ is that why you're so excited?” Mr. Alden said, looking down at Benny. “As a matter of fact I do. Why don't you go get Jessie, Henry, and Violet, and I'll tell all of you at once.”
When the children were gathered around Grandfather's comfortable chair in the living room, Mr. Alden began speaking. “I have a surprise that I was going to tell you when we sat down to dinner. But somebody already suspects something, and it seems he can't wait.” Grandfather reached out and rumpled Benny's hair. “We're going to spend a week visiting a friend of mine named Linda Crawley, and we're leaving tomorrow. Linda works in a very special place called Pilgrim Village. It's a town where everything is just the way it was in America long ago. The people who work there dress in old costumes, and they show visitors â like us â what life was like back then. There are old buildings where they make things like hand-dipped candles and clay pots,” Grandfather explained.
“What do they eat?” asked Benny.
“Oh, Benny, you're always thinking about food,” Jessie said with a smile.
“That's a good question. They eat old-fashioned foods,” answered Mr. Alden. “That means no hamburgers and french fries.” To reassure Benny, who looked worried, he added, “They probably have lots of other good things like freshly baked breads and cookies.”
“Where will we stay?” Violet wanted to know.
“I'll be staying in a hotel next door,” Grandfather replied. “You can stay there, too, if you'd like. Linda has another idea about where you children can stay, but I'll let her tell you about that.”
“Very mysterious, Grandfather,” said Jessie.
“This place sounds really interesting!” said Henry.
“I think you'll enjoy Pilgrim Village,” Grandfather told them. “It's also near where George Washington had his headquarters during part of the American Revolution.”
“So that's why you had all those books about him!” Benny exclaimed.
Grandfather laughed. “Leave it to my grandchildren, always solving mysteries. But I'm sure there won't be any mystery in Pilgrim Village.”
“There might be,” Benny said.
“Well, then it's a good thing that you'll be there to solve it,” said Grandfather.
Looking for a Mystery
he next morning the Aldens set off bright and early for Pilgrim Village. They drove for most of the day. Finally, Violet spotted a sign. “Look! â
Pilgrim Village, five miles
“Hooray!” shouted Benny, who was tired of sitting in the car.
A few minutes later, the Aldens pulled into a large parking lot.
“Here we are at last,” Grandfather said.
The children were happy to get out of the car and stretch their legs. Grandfather led the way toward a group of small buildings surrounded by a split-rail fence.
“There's the Visitors' Center,” Henry said, pointing.
The Aldens entered the small white building and Grandfather went up to the information counter. “Hello,” he said to the man behind the counter. “We're here to see Linda Crawley. I'm an old friend â”
“Well, if it isn't James Alden,” a voice called out.
The Aldens turned to see a tall woman heading toward them, with a broad grin on her face. She had long dark hair that was braided and then pulled up in a colorful scarf.
“Linda,” Mr. Alden said, “how good to see you!”
“And these must be your famous grandchildren,” Linda went on.
“Famous?” Benny asked. “I didn't know we were famous.”
Linda laughed. “Every time I talk to your grandfather, he tells me more stories of what you children are up to â helping to restore an old castle, working in a museum. I couldn't wait to meet you.”
After Mr. Alden introduced his grandchildren, Linda told them a little bit about the village. “This land used to belong to a man named Thomas Heathcliff,” Linda began. “He was a farmer back in the 1700s. His farm was passed down through several generations, who kept a few of the buildings intact. About twenty years ago, the last living member of the family decided to turn the farm into a park where people could learn about history. It was named in honor of the Pilgrims. The first Heathcliffs came over on the
. And that was how Pilgrim Village began.”
Linda paused. “Come out to the green, and I'll show you around.” She led them outside onto a grassy square surrounded by a dozen small cabins. People walked about, going from one building to another. The Aldens noticed a number of people in old-fashioned colonial clothing. The women were in long skirts, cotton blouses, and bonnets, the men in knee-length pants, vests and long coats, and shoes with big buckles.
“This area in the middle of town is called the green,” Linda went on. “Around the green are shops you might have found in a colonial village. See, there's the candlemaker's shop,” she pointed out a building beside them, “and the general store.” She motioned to a slightly larger building with a sign over the door that read “Monroe General Store.”