CHAPTER 3 Surprise!

TWO days had elapsed.

For the Brownie Scouts, never had time seemed to pass so slowly.

“Oh, I hardly can wait to see if anything has happened!” Veve declared excitedly.

Except for Sunny and herself, the other girls pretended they weren’t much excited at the thought of returning to the metropolitan park area.

Actually, they wouldn’t have missed the hike for anything in the world.

On the appointed day, the girls gathered after school at Miss Gordon’s home.

Each Brownie brought her own neat package of sandwiches. In addition, the leader had provided two thermos bottles filled with hot chocolate.

“This is a silly trip,” Jane complained good-naturedly. “I wish we’d gone somewhere else.”

The beautiful early autumn day had turned a trifle chilly. Even if the weather had not been nippy, the girls would have walked fast, so eager were they to reach the park.

“I don’t know why I came,” Jane went on. “It’s a long walk out here.”

“No one asked you to come,” Veve said crossly. She was certain that when they reached the oak tree, Jane would say “I told you so.” Already she had been teased too much about wishing for a tree house.

“Girls, let’s not bicker,” interposed Miss Gordon. “I thought we were going on this hike for the fun of it. I’m sure no one expects to find a tree house.”

Veve and Sunny looked at each other and made no response.

They expect to find one!” teased Jane. “I guess all that wishful dreaming comes from reading books like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ Veve figures a tree house will sprout out of the ground, complete with curtains and a fireplace!”

“Oh, hush!” Veve retorted savagely.

Miss Gordon brought peace by directing the girls’ attention to a rabbit which had paused near a briar patch. When Jane tried to creep closer, the animal hopped away.

Passing the stone gatehouse, the Brownies again selected Trail three.

“Why don’t we eat our lunch before we go to the cliff?” proposed Jane. “I’m hungry.”

“Try eating your words for a while,” Veve muttered. “The rest of us want to go straight to the oak tree.”

Jane said no more. Or at least she managed to remain silent until the troop approached the cliff area. Then she could not resist remarking: “If we should find anything, I’d drop dead! I would for a fact.”

Veve, who was at the head of the line of hikers, had stopped on the trail.

“All right, Jane!” she exclaimed. “Drop dead then! ’Cause I can see something ahead.”

“Oh, you’re kidding,” Jane retorted, unimpressed. “You don’t see a thing.”

“Don’t I?” demanded Veve. “Then my eyes are deceiving me!”

Swinging her knapsack over the other shoulder, she ran forward.

“Do you suppose—” Sunny began, and then she uttered a little shriek of joy. “Veve’s right!” she cried. “Something has been built in the oak tree!”

Sunny also bolted down the trail.

Not to miss out on anything, the other girls followed as fast as they could.

Reaching the clearing, the Brownies stopped dead in their tracks.

Directly ahead of them stood Veve and Sunny, their enchanted gaze fastened upon a little house built in the lower branches of the oak tree.

“Pinch me,” whispered Connie. “I know I’m dreaming.”

Eileen obliged by giving her such a hard nip that she yipped in pain.

“Is it real?” whispered Rosemary in awe. “It doesn’t seem possible!”

Jane was too dumbfounded to speak. Veve and Sunny however, capered around as if they were crazy.

“Didn’t we tell you?” Veve shouted. “Now who says wishes don’t come true?”

The square house had a window, a door and a balcony with a stairway leading down. The steps were far apart, but a railing had been put up so that anyone climbing to the little house would not fall.

“What are we waiting for?” demanded Veve. Excitedly, she started up the stairway.

“Veve!” called Miss Gordon.

Reluctantly the little girl waited for the teacher.

“Dear me, I don’t know what to think!” Miss Gordon declared testing the stairway. “The steps are well constructed and seem safe enough.”

“Up I go!” shouted Veve.

Before the teacher could offer a protest, she darted up the steps.

Reaching the balcony, Veve turned to look down. The Brownies, watching from below, appeared rather small.

“Oh, it’s a wonderful house!” the little girl shouted. “And it’s all ours too!”

She disappeared into the house.

Sunny and Connie now started up the stairway, but Miss Gordon called them back.

“I must be certain that the steps are strong enough to bear so much weight,” she warned. “I’ll climb up first. Then if it appears safe, you all may come.”

“Hurry! Hurry!” urged Jane, who now had forgotten that she ever had made fun of Veve or Sunny.

As Miss Gordon started up the steps, Veve popped her head out of a window.

“It’s super—simply super!” she yelled down. “The house has a window seat and a cupboard!”

The other Brownies by this time were jumping up and down in their excitement. Unable to wait for Miss Gordon to give the word, Eileen started up a few steps.

“The stairway is very sturdily built,” the leader called down. “You may come up one at a time. Eileen first, since she is half way up.”

Each girl took her turn. Jane, the disbeliever, was the last one to climb the stairway.

As she viewed the interior of the neat playhouse, her breath was quite taken away.

“Oh, this place will look grand when we bring dishes and books and put curtains at the window!” she exclaimed.

“But is it really ours?” returned Miss Gordon quietly. “I can’t understand how this house came to be here. It is well built, evidently by a skilled carpenter.”

“We don’t care who built it,” chortled Jane. “It’s ours to use, isn’t it?”

“I’m far from certain that it is,” replied the leader. “This is a public park you must remember.”

“Very few people come here, especially so late in the year.”

“All the same, I’m sure no one would have the right to put up a tree house without permission. Or for that matter to use it.”

The house had been built large enough so that all the Brownies and their leader could enter.

At first Miss Gordon would allow only two or three of the girls in the room at one time. As the house remained absolutely firm in the branches she finally permitted the others to join the group.

“Let’s eat our lunch here!” Connie proposed. “Oh, we’re going to have wonderful times!”

“Providing we’re allowed to use the playhouse,” Miss Gordon reminded her. “It’s a marvelous thing in a way—but I can’t understand how it came about.”

“The brownies,” laughed Veve.

“A very substantial brownie, I think,” said Miss Gordon. “Mr. Karwhite may know something about the matter. We’ll question him when we leave the park.”

As the girls ate their sandwiches and sipped hot chocolate, they made elaborate plans. The house was perfect, they thought, except that it needed a table and chairs.

“How cosy it will look with a rag rug on the floor and a curtain at the window,” Rosemary declared. “And the view! One can see the road from here!”

“And the stone bridge!” added Eileen, peering over her shoulder.

“I feel just like a bird living up in a tree,” laughed Veve happily. “Wouldn’t it be fun to sleep here at night?”

“The house would rock you to sleep!” laughed Connie. “It’s just like a cradle when the wind blows.”

“It wouldn’t be any fun in a storm,” Sunny said with a shiver. “This house would rock like an earthquake was shaking it then. And it might come crashing down.”

The girls so thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the little house that they took a long while eating lunch.

With an anxious glance at her wrist watch, Miss Gordon warned that it was time to leave.

“We have stayed far too long,” she declared, gathering up the lunch papers. “Unless we hurry, we’ll be caught on the road after dark. That will never do.”

“We may come again soon?” Sunny pleaded. “Tomorrow perhaps?”

“I hardly know what to say,” replied Miss Gordon. “Before I give my answer, I must make inquiries. I do hope though, that this house is truly ours to use.”

Reluctantly, the girls trooped down from the tree house.

Once on the ground, they stood for a moment, gazing up at it.

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if it vanished over night?” Connie said, voicing the fear that had beset them all. “Oh, it’s such a perfect little house!”

“Let’s wish hard that it’s just for us,” proposed Sunny.

Not even Jane offered a protest.

“And let’s wish that the brownie, whoever he is, builds us a nice table and set of chairs!” added Veve.

“Why, that’s greedy,” protested Connie. “We should be grateful that we have this splendid house.”

Veve, however, only laughed, as she turned to follow the others up the trail.

“It’s forethought,” she insisted. “I have a hunch we’ll get to use this darling little tree house for a long while. So while that Mr. Brownie is in a good mood, why not ask him to do a good job of furnishing our home?”

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