CHAPTER 10 A Guest for Lunch

STARTLED by Veve’s cry, Miss Gordon, Jane, Rosemary and Sunny came hurrying up to the balcony.

“Oh, what a mess!” exclaimed Jane as she too viewed the upheaval.

“Who did such a mean, hateful thing!” exclaimed Sunny wrathfully. “Our lovely little house!”

Miss Gordon righted the chairs and picked up the broken pieces of a cup.

“Those horrid boys must have done it!” Veve declared. “Oh, I wish we could catch them!”

From the shoe tracks on the floor, the girls were convinced that at least three persons had been in the invading group. Miss Gordon shared the opinion of the Brownies that the same boys who had mixed up the trail signs were responsible for the disorder.

“Fortunately, the house itself hasn’t been damaged,” she said to encourage the girls. “We can clean up this litter.”

“Yes, but unless we catch those boys, they’ll come again and do the same thing!” Connie declared.

“They might,” the Brownie Scout leader admitted.

“If only we’d had a good lock on the door, this never could have happened,” remarked Veve. “Oh, let’s all wish again very hard for one!”

Connie had been glancing carefully about the room to see if anything were missing.

“The cushion for the window seat is gone!” she exclaimed.

The girls could find it nowhere in the little house. Nothing else appeared to be missing. However, before the room could be used, every dish would have to be washed.

“What time is it?” Eileen suddenly demanded.

Her abrupt question reminded the girls that it must be nearly noon.

And at any moment Sam Vincent might arrive for lunch.

“Oh, dear!” wailed Veve, deeply regretting the invitation. “What shall we do now? We can’t possibly get this place cleaned up in time.”

“He’ll think we’re horrible housekeepers,” added Rosemary in distress.

Miss Gordon told the girls that it was exactly ten minutes until twelve o’clock.

“We can’t possibly serve the lunch here,” she decided. “If Mr. Vincent does come, we’ll have to find another place somewhere in the park.”

“That won’t be any fun,” Jane said, frowning. “We wanted him to see this tree house.”

“I’m sure he’ll understand when he learns what happened,” Miss Gordon answered.

“Will we have enough dishes?” Rosemary asked. She had noticed that two cups were smashed and also a small plate.

“We’ll be short of cups,” the teacher admitted. “Otherwise, I think we can manage.”

“Let’s get to work,” proposed Connie briskly. “We can clean up the worst of this mess before he arrives.”

Quickly the girls gathered up the broken dishes and restored other china to its assigned place. Having no broom they could not clean the floor.

Noon came and another ten minutes elapsed. Mr. Vincent had not appeared.

“He isn’t coming,” Veve announced with conviction. She felt quite relieved.

“I think he will,” insisted Connie. “It’s barely possible he doesn’t know how to find the place, or is mixed up on the trails.”

After another ten minutes had elapsed, she and Veve and Sunny asked if they might go to the gatehouse to inquire if Mr. Vincent had been seen in the park.

Miss Gordon told the girls they might go and suggested that while there they report to Mr. Karwhite the damage done to their playhouse.

“Don’t be gone long,” she said as the girls started away. “We’re all very hungry.”

At the base of the oak tree, the three Brownies paused a moment to study the cluster of footprints.

“If we followed those, we might trail the persons who wrecked our house,” Sunny suggested.

“Oh, the footprints must be a day old by now,” Connie discouraged her. “We would only waste time.”

“Anyway, Miss Gordon told us to hurry,” declared Veve, starting off down the trail.

The little girl had taken scarcely a dozen steps when she was brought up short. At that moment an amazing thing happened.

Something red flashed in front of her, lodging over her head in the trunk of a young maple tree.

The object was an arrow.

“Indians!” shrieked Veve, backing away.

“Indians, my eye!” snorted Connie. “They’re all on reservations these days.”

“But it is an arrow,” declared Sunny in awe.

“And something is attached to it!” Recovering from fright, Veve darted over to the maple to pluck the arrow from the bark.

Attached to it was a neatly rolled scrap of paper.

Veve unsnapped the rubber band, and spreading out the message, read:

“Come to the Rustic Bridge. A Surprise Awaits You.”

“A surprise!” murmured Sunny. “We’ve already had one unpleasant one today. Who wants another?”

“This may be different,” declared Veve. “I think we should investigate. Don’t you, Connie?”

“Yes,” she agreed, “but not without telling Miss Gordon.”

The three girls remained within view of the tree house. Seeing Jane shaking out a rag on the balcony, they waved frantically to her.

“What’s wrong now?” she shouted back.

Connie held up the arrow with the message attached.

“Jeepers creepers! I want to see that!” cried Jane. Dropping the rug, she started down the stairway.

Made aware that something exciting had occurred, the other Brownies and Miss Gordon quickly joined the group below.

Carefully the teacher read the note. “This may be another joke those boys are playing,” she said slowly. “On the other hand, we’ve had many pleasant surprises since we came to the park.”

“Let’s follow instructions,” urged Veve. “It won’t take long to dash to the rustic bridge and see what’s what.”

“Veve and I could go,” offered Connie, equally excited.

This proposal, however, the teacher rejected. “No, we’ll all hike there together,” she decided. “It may be another trick those mischievous boys have played. If so, I want to be along.”

The person or persons who had shot the arrow were nowhere visible. Hastening along the trail without seeing anyone, the six girls and their leader soon reached the rustic bridge.

Connie gazed carefully about. No one was within view.

“It’s a trick,” she announced.

“Maybe it isn’t,” insisted Veve. “Someone has been here.”

“That’s so,” agreed Miss Gordon. “I see smoke coming from one of the fireplaces. Someone built a fire there.”

The Brownies walked over to the stone fireplace. The wood had burned down to cherry coals which were exactly right to broil steaks.

An iron frying pan stood ready for use, filled with uncooked meat. On the back of the fire a kettle of thick bean soup gently simmered.

“Uhm, uhm,” murmured Rosemary, “does that ever smell delicious?”

“Just the sort of food for a fall day,” added Jane enviously.

Connie had been looking over the rustic table near the fireplace. Buttered buns were in a paper sack, and there was an ample supply of paper plates and plastic tableware.

“Oh, just the sight of this food is driving me wild!” Rosemary moaned. “Let’s get away from here quick!”

“I wonder where the picnickers are who started the fire?” Veve speculated.

“And the mysterious person who shot that arrow!” added Jane indignantly. “We’ve been taken in again.”

“No, we haven’t!” Connie suddenly exclaimed.

Turning toward her, the other girls saw that she had picked up a sheet of paper from the rustic wooden table.

“Here’s another message!” she announced. “It’s in the same handwriting as the one attached to the arrow!”

The girls clustered about her.

“What does it say?” Sunny demanded impatiently.

“TO THE BROWNIES,” Connie began, reading aloud.

“Why, that’s us!” laughed Jane. “What about the food?”


“That IS us!” shouted Jane. “Hurrah!”

“What a glorious surprise!” yelled Veve, capering about. “Especially after our tree house was left in such a mess.”

“Let’s start those steaks to broiling,” urged Jane. “I can eat a dozen of ’em myself.”

“With the lunch we brought from home, we’ll really have a feast,” laughed Miss Gordon. “My, that soup smells delicious!”

“How will we serve it?” asked Connie in perplexity.

Rosemary, who had been peering into another sack, produced a nest of paper cups.

“We can use these for the soup,” she announced. “Whoever gave us this wonderful meal thought of everything.”

Miss Gordon directed Jane and Eileen to hike back to the tree house for the cold food which had been left there.

“Make certain that Mr. Vincent hasn’t arrived for lunch belatedly,” she advised. “If he should be there, invite him to join us. I’m sure he’ll like a hot meal much better than the one we prepared.”

The two girls were gone nearly fifteen minutes. When they returned carrying the picnic baskets, the steaks were nearly done.

Jane assured Miss Gordon that Sam Vincent had not put in an appearance at the tree house.

“Too bad,” declared Veve, hovering near the fire. “If only he had come, we could have offered him a real meal.”

All the Brownies and Miss Gordon as well were convinced that Mr. Vincent had forgotten about the luncheon invitation.

“He isn’t coming or he’d have arrived a half hour ago,” Connie said. “Let’s eat!”

Soon the steaks were ready. The girls filed past Miss Gordon, each receiving a cup of steaming soup and a hot sandwich.

Gathered on either side of the wooden table, they excitedly discussed who might have prepared the feast for them. Their mysterious benefactor was nowhere to be seen. Nor had he left any clue as to his identity.

“The brownies must have done it,” chuckled Veve. “The imaginary ones I mean.”

“I wish we knew who built the tree house,” Connie said, taking a large bite of sandwich. “The person who did that must have planned this surprise for us too.”

Eileen asked Miss Gordon if she had any idea who might have provided the meal.

“Not the slightest,” the teacher said, placing another pan of steak on the coals. “I did have a thought about the tree house, but this completely baffles me.”

Before the girls could question Miss Gordon as to the person she had in mind, Connie unexpectedly held up her hand in a signal for silence.

“Listen!” she commanded.

Startled, the other girls became quiet.

Distinctly, they could hear someone approaching on the trail. As yet they could see only a slight movement of the bushes.

“Keep quiet, everyone!” whispered Connie. “Someone is coming this way. Who knows? It may be the person who planned this nice surprise for us—the one who shot the arrow.”

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