The First Surprise
"Now, tell us, Grandfather," cried Henry. "We ran all the way home from school."
"Tell us!" shouted Benny, throwing himself down on the grass beside the dog. "School is out for the whole summer, and Watch wants to know."
"Violet and I want to know, too," said Jessie.
Mr. Alden was sitting in the garden reading. He looked at his four grandchildren in surprise.
"Let me see, was this the day I said I'd tell you?" he asked them.
"He's joking, Benny," said Jessie.
"Joking?" cried Mr. Alden. "I mean everything I say!"
But he was joking, just the same, and enjoying himself, too. In the spring, he had promised his grandchildren a surprise for the summer, and now he had been waiting more than an hour for the children to come home.
"School is out," said Violet.
"We ran all the way home," shouted Benny.
"Yes, so you said," said Mr. Alden slowly.
"You said the surprise was something you liked to do yourself when you were fifteen," Henry told him.
"Yes, or even six," said Mr. Alden, looking at Benny.
"And you said you'd tell us the minute school was out, Grandfather," said Benny.
Mr. Alden laughed. "I certainly did," he replied. "And now I'm going to tell you."
The four children looked at him.
He began, "Once upon a time my father bought an island."
"He bought one!" cried Henry.
"Yes," Mr. Alden went on. "The island is small There is nothing much on it except a small house, a barn, and a fisherman's hut. My father wanted a quiet place to keep his best horses. Old Captain Daniel, who runs the motorboat, lives in the fisherman's hut now. Let's all go down to the island and look it over. If you want to stay there all summer, you may."
"Oh, Grandfather!" cried Jessie. "We would like it better than anything in the world. It will be just like the boxcar days!"
"Couldn't Watch go, too?" asked Benny, with his hand on the dog's head.
"Certainly," said Mr. Alden. "He would be lonesome without you."
"Can we have a real stove, and cook?" asked Violet.
"You'll have to cook," replied Mr. Alden, "if you want to eat. I will give you some money for dishes and things. You must tell me how much money you need, but don't make it too much."
All the children laughed a little, because even Benny knew that their grandfather had enough money to buy anything they wanted.
"Let's go now," said Benny suddenly.
The four children jumped up so quickly that Mr. Alden threw back his head and laughed.
"We will go in the car as far as the ocean," he said. 'Then Captain Daniel will take us in the motorboat across to the island. We might stop and get Dr. Moore and his mother to come along and enjoy the fun. It's the doctor's day off."
The children were delighted, for Dr. Moore and his mother were their best friends.
Dr. Moore did not look at all surprised when they came. He helped his mother into the big car, and off they all went toward the ocean. On the way Jessie and Violet began to plan their housekeeping.
"We have to buy bread and bottles of milk," said Jessie. "Then we could live, even if we didn't have anything else to eat."
"Here's a little book and a pen," said Mr. Alden, taking a small blue book from his pocket.
"Write down the dishes we need," said Violet.
Before they reached the ocean, Jessie had put down all the things they could think of. There were spoons, cups, bowls, plates, a sharp knife, a dishpan, and a big kettle.
Then they saw the ocean and the Alden motor-boat tied up at the small dock. Captain Daniel, the old fisherman, was waiting for them on the dock.
"How are you, Captain?" said Mr. Alden, as they shook hands. "Just take us across to the island. If the children don't like it, you can bring us right back again."
The children shouted at this. "We'll like it all right," they said.
They climbed into the boat and were off.
"There's our island!" cried Henry. "Our very own island!"
Benny began to wave.
"There's nobody there, Benny. Why are you waving?" asked Grandfather. In spite of this, all the children began to wave at the island.
"And there's our little house!" shouted Benny. "But is it big enough for all of us?"
"Oh, no," said Captain Daniel. "That little hut is my house." He laughed and looked at Mr. Alden.
They landed at the little dock, and walked a short way before they saw a small yellow house.
"Are we going to live in that yellow house?" cried Jessie.
"Oh, no!" answered Mr. Alden. "You children are going to live in the barn!"
"In the barn!" shouted the children, as they ran over to it.
"This is the best idea I have ever heard!" cried Henry. He opened the big door and looked in. A new floor had been laid but the children did not notice it. All of them were looking at the four box stalls along the back of the room.
"Bedrooms!" cried Benny, pointing to the box stalls.
"That's what they are!" said Henry, opening one of the swinging doors to look in. Each stall had a large window and nothing else at all.
"Let's bring down some straw for beds," said Henry, looking up the stairs. "We can cover the straw with blankets." He pointed to a pile of clean, light brown blankets.
Jessie ran over to look at the little stove. It was new, and there was an oven on top. Then Henry walked over to look at some barrels.
"Here are two empty barrels," he shouted. "We can use them for table legs, and lay this long board across them for a table."
"Wonderful!" said Jessie.
The older people stood in the doorway, watching the excited children.
"I'm glad the workmen left these old boxes here," said Henry. "I can make dozens of things out of that wood — maybe a little cupboard for the dishes."
"Oh, Henry, do you think you could?" cried Violet. "We wouldn't need doors."
"Of course he could," said Benny. "He could make doors, too. Henry can make anything."
"There is a little spring over there," said Mr. Alden, taking the children to the window to look. "That spring never runs dry. It is always as cold as ice, even on very hot days, and it is safe to drink, too."
"Isn't this perfect, Henry?" said Jessie. "The most important things are settled already. Oh, I wish we could stay here tonight!"
"How about dishes?" asked Violet.
Jessie said, "We can get spoons and things at the five and ten. Are there any dishes already on the island, Grandfather?"
"Not a dish except what the captain has," replied Mr. Alden. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry!" cried Jessie. "It's lots more fun to buy them. Let's get six of each thing. Then we can have company."
"There's still time to go back to the mainland," said Henry looking at his watch. "We could go to the five and ten for dishes, and we could buy bread and milk for supper."
"And I want my bear," said Benny.
"Very well, my children," said Mr. Alden, smiling. "You shall go back and get your things and stay here this very night."
But just then Mr. Alden noticed that Captain Daniel had something on his mind.
"Did you want something, Captain?" he asked.
"Well, yes," replied Captain Daniel. "I heard you say I was the only one on the island."
"Well, aren't you?" Mr. Alden looked at him.
"No, I'm not. I've got a young friend staying with me in my hut. I thought I had better tell you. He's a good young man, handy and all, but he hasn't been well."
"What's the matter with him? Who is he?" asked Mr. Alden sharply, just as Captain Daniel knew he would.
"I've known him all his life," said Captain Daniel. Then he looked at Dr. Moore for help.
"Suppose I go down to the hut and talk with this man," said Dr. Moore.
"Fine!" said Mr. Alden. "You go and see what this is all about."
"I want to go with you," said Benny.
"Oh, no," said the doctor. "You go look in the windows of the yellow house, and see what you can see. I'll be right back."
So the children went over to look into every window, while Dr. Moore went off with Captain Daniel to see his friend.CHAPTER 2
"Thank you for coming, Doctor," said Captain Daniel, as they walked toward the fisherman's hut. "You will see that it's all right."
Soon they came to the hut. A young man sat in the door, fixing a lobster pot.
"Hello," he said, looking up.
"Hello," replied Dr. Moore. "I'm a doctor, and I thought I would come to see you. Mr. Alden is leaving his four grandchildren on the island with Captain Daniel."
The young man smiled. "Yes, I know," he said. "I'm glad you came."
"He's a very handy man, Joe is," put in Captain Daniel. "He's a big help to me."
"I'd like to tell you about myself," said the young man. "Please sit down a minute.
"I used to live around here," he went on. "Last year I went off to explore a place, and dig up old Indian things. One day I fell from a very high rock, and broke my arm. For a long time I didn't know who I was."
"Now do you remember who you are?" asked Dr. Moore.
"Yes, I think I'll tell you." The young man whispered a name.
"You can't mean it!" cried Dr. Moore. "How strange! Who found you after you fell?"
"An old Indian found me, and took me to his hut. He took care of me, and got a doctor to fix my arm. I came here to Captain Daniel as soon as I remembered who I was."
"Why didn't you go right back to your home?" asked Dr. Moore.
"Because I wanted to be perfectly well before I went home. You see, I used to live with my uncle. It didn't seem right for me to go back home until I was sure that I was well again."
"I see," said Dr. Moore. "Come over some day to see me, and tell me some more. I will look at your arm then."
"It is almost well," said the young man.
"Good!" said Dr. Moore. "You are doing the right thing. You should stay here and help Captain Daniel. You will like the four children when you get to know them."
"I'm sure I shall," said the young man. "You won't tell anyone about me, will you?"
"No, I won't," promised the doctor. "I will say that you are Captain Daniel's old friend and a handy man. The children can call you Joe."
"Right!" said Joe. "My middle name is Joseph, anyway."
Dr. Moore and Captain Daniel went back to the barn, leaving the strange handy man still fixing the lobster pot.
"Do you feel better now, Captain?" asked the doctor.
"I should say so! Thanks for fixing it up."
"The stranger is all right, Mr. Alden," said Dr. Moore. "Joe is a very fine fellow, he's very handy, and Captain Daniel has known him all his life."
"You are sure then that everything is all right?" Mr. Alden asked sharply.
"Yes," said the doctor. "The children will like Joe."
"I want to go and see Joe," said Benny.
"Not now," cried Henry. "We haven't time. Don't you remember we are going back to the mainland and buy groceries and dishes?"
"Of course I remember!" said Benny. "I've been waiting and waiting."
Captain Daniel took them back to the mainland. The doctor and his mother left the others at the store.
"We had a wonderful time seeing your new home," said Mrs. Moore.
"May we come again?" asked Dr. Moore, with a twinkle in his eye.
"You know you may," said Jessie, smiling back. "Come any time after we get some dishes."
"Come on, Jessie," said Benny. "Let's buy things."
"Right," said Jessie. And they all went into the store. They walked straight to the piles of cooking dishes.
"We are going to get a lot of dishes," said Jessie. "May we have a big box first, so that we can put the things into it as we find them?"
"Certainly," said the girl. "How is this one? Is it big enough?"
"That's just fine," said Henry. "Look, Jessie, see that big pail? We ought to have two, one for drinking water, and one for dishwater."
"That's a good idea," said Jessie. "I hope we won't forget anything."
Soon they had everything they wanted.
"It's four o'clock," said Henry. "Let's go up to the house and get our swimming suits and towels."
"And my bear," cried Benny.
"We will get your bear if we don't get anything else," said Jessie.
"I think we'll have to pack another box at the house," said Henry.
"Let's pack old clothes," said Jessie. "We certainly don't want to wear these school clothes."
"I should say not," said Henry. "We couldn't explore an island with good clothes on."
"Are we going to explore?" asked Benny.
"Yes, Benny," said Violet. "I'm going to take my paints and make pictures of things we find."
"Good!" cried Henry, who liked Violet's little pictures very much.
By this time they had come to the house. "Let's find what we want to take," said Henry, "and bring it to Jessie's room."
Mrs. McGregor, the housekeeper, met them at the door and said, "Jessie, don't you want to see what Mr. Alden has bought, before you pack your things?"
"Bought? Yes, indeed," replied Jessie.
Upstairs on Jessie's bed was a big pile of new play clothes. There were four pairs of brown shoes, too.
"Just think of Grandfather's getting all these!" cried Jessie. "Just what we need. Let's each put on one of these suits and not take any school clothes at all."
"I like my new shoes," said Benny. He sat down on the floor and began to take off his old shoes at once.
Mr. Alden smiled as he sat alone downstairs in his big chair and listened to the happy shouting.
"Now for the packing box," said Henry.
"Wait!" said Jessie. "Don't bring the box up here. Each one of us can carry some things downstairs."
"I'll take the towels and my tools," said Henry.
"Violet and I will carry the workbag, paints, the swimming suits, and the other clothes," said Jessie. "Benny can bring the flashlight and the rest of the things."
They all went downstairs with their arms full.
"Now did we forget anything?" asked Jessie.
"We forgot my bear, I guess," said Benny, who had come downstairs again with a very funny-looking animal in his hand. He laid the bear beside the box.
"The most important thing of all!" cried Jessie, packing the bear carefully in the box.
"We're all ready to go, Grandfather," said Henry, when the bear was added to the box. "Are you sure you won't be lonesome?"
"Thank you, my boy. No indeed!" said Mr. Alden quickly. He knew the children would not go at all unless he were careful. "I wouldn't go with you if I could. I need a little rest without any children or dogs around."
The children did not need to look up to see the twinkle in his eye, for they knew very well that he liked to have them near him.
"You won't hear Watch bark at the milkman for a long time," said Benny.
"What shall I do, Benny?" asked his grandfather. "I shall miss the barking and noise in the morning."
"Good-by!" called everybody, as the car started. Mr. Alden and Mrs. McGregor waved until the car was out of sight.
"They're wonderful children," said Mrs. McGregor. "They are very clever. And yet they're never too busy to be kind to everybody. Even little Benny, now, didn't forget to say 'Good-by' to the cook."
"Thank you, Mrs. McGregor," said Mr. Alden. "That means a lot to me because you know them so well."
He smiled as he went back to his big chair. He wanted to think about the children as they went across the island and into their new home.
The children got out of the car at the dock.
"Don't you forget that bread and milk, Jessie!" said Benny.
"Oh, my!" cried Jessie. "We almost went over without a thing to eat. How lucky we are to have a store so near this dock. Let's get lots of bread and milk. If we have bread and milk, we can live without eating anything else."
"I have to have my vegetables," said Benny.
"Of course," said Jessie, laughing. "We'll have lots of other things."
"I want some supper now, Jessie," said Benny. "I don't want to hear any more talking about it."
Jessie laughed. "I'm glad you are so hungry, Benny," she said. "I almost forgot to buy our supper. It's only six o'clock. We can have supper ready in an hour. Here comes Henry with the bread and milk."
"I can't wait an hour," said Benny. "I have to go to bed in an hour because Mrs. McGregor says so."
"Not tonight, Mr. Benny," said Henry, laughing.
Captain Daniel put the boxes into the boat and started the motor. In a very short time they came to the island, and Captain Daniel helped the children carry the boxes to the barn.
"Good luck!" said Captain Daniel, as he set down the last box. "I hope you will like your new home."
"Oh, we shall!" Jessie called after him. "And thank you. You have been so kind to us."
"Now!" said Henry. "Let's get to work."
"Oh, isn't this exciting!" cried Jessie. "You open the boxes and Benny and I will set up the table."
What a noise they made! Henry took off the cover of the box. The others pulled out the barrels and laid the wide board across them. Then the whole family unpacked the blue-and-white dishes.
"We'll wash four bowls and four spoons," said Jessie. "We won't heat water to wash all the dishes tonight. It is lucky that Captain Daniel brought us a little water."
"No," said Violet, "we can't put things away until we have a dish cupboard."
"Tomorrow," laughed Henry, "I will make that dish cupboard the very first thing."
Violet piled the bread on a plate, while Jessie put two bottles of milk on the table. So with packing boxes for chairs, the four children sat down. They put the bread into the bowls and poured the cold milk over it. With their new spoons, they began to eat their first delicious supper in their new home.
"We must get something for Watch to eat," said Henry, as the dog ate two big slices of their bread.
"How many pieces of bread may I have, Jessie?" asked Benny.
"All you want!" cried both Jessie and Henry.
When supper was over, Jessie got up so suddenly that her chair went over. "Let's wash these dishes right away," she said, "and then make our beds."
So the children started for the spring, each with a bowl and spoon. They soon saw that the water from the spring came up into a barrel and ran over the top. The stream ran into the woods.