CHAPTER 4 Through the Field Glass

IN leaving the park area, the Brownies again stopped at the gate house to talk to Mr. Karwhite.

The superintendent listened in amazement to their story that a tree house had been built in the branches of the oak.

“Why, I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed.

“Then the house couldn’t have been constructed by park workmen,” remarked Miss Gordon.

“I should say not!” agreed Mr. Karwhite. “We’d be afraid to put up a tree house lest some child climb up and fall. I’ll have it torn down immediately.”

A wail of protest greeted this announcement.

“Oh, no! You can’t!” cried Veve. “It’s such a cute little house.”

“It was built for the Brownies too,” insisted Sunny earnestly. “It would be a shame to destroy such a darling little place.”

“The house seems very well built,” added Miss Gordon. “Whoever put it up knew his business.”

“That’s what annoys me,” sputtered Mr. Karwhite. “No one had the right to put up any structure without my permission. Where is this tree house?”

Although the hour was growing late, the Brownies offered to show the superintendent the way.

Back at the oak, Mr. Karwhite scratched his head in perplexity as he gazed up at the house amid the leaves.

“Well, at least it looks well built and in keeping with the rustic design of other park buildings,” he admitted grudgingly.

“Then you won’t tear it down?” Connie asked.

“I suppose it could stay up until winter,” the superintendent said after he had inspected the stairway. “Now that it’s so late in the season not many children come here any more. The house isn’t as high from the ground as I thought either.”

“And the stairway has a railing,” pointed out Eileen. “Oh, Mr. Karwhite, having a little house like this would be so wonderful!”

The superintendent turned to Miss Gordon. “I can’t have children playing here unwatched,” he said. “Now, if you were to be here with them—”

“I always accompany the Brownies on all their hikes.”

“Then I’ll let the house stand for the time being,” the man consented. “I don’t know who built this house, but I have an idea. Most of the work must have been done late in the day when I’m at the other end of the park feeding the deer.”

The Brownies plied Mr. Karwhite with questions, seeking to learn the name of the person he thought might have built the house.

“I can’t say,” the superintendent put them aside. “I intend to do a little investigating though.”

Long shadows were beginning to envelop the forest.

Fearful of being caught on the road after dark, the Brownies and their leader hurriedly said good-bye to Mr. Karwhite.

All the way to their homes, the girls could talk of nothing except what they would do in the new play room. Miss Gordon promised she would make a pair of dainty curtains for the window.

Several of the girls had extra dishes which they planned to bring.

“May we go tomorrow?” Connie pleaded. “The park officials may decide to take the little house down. We want to play in it every minute we can.”

Miss Gordon was very easy to persuade. “Yes, we’ll hike to the park again after school,” she decided. “It isn’t every Brownie troop that has its own tree house!”

“And a mystery with it!” added Jane pertly.

“What’s the mystery?” inquired Rosemary, trudging along beside her.

“Why, how did the tree house come to be in the park?”

“A brownie built it!” laughed Veve. “My wish came true!”

“Your wish!” Jane snorted. “You know very well there isn’t such a thing as magic except in story books.”

“You said we’d never get a tree house, Jane Tuttle! Wrong, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was. But to say the tree house was built by a brownie is downright stupid!”

“I’m not stupid,” Veve retorted. “It’s fun to pretend a brownie did it. And until you can give me a better explanation, I’m going to keep right on saying so! There!”

“Girls, girls!” laughed Miss Gordon, who always found it necessary to make peace between Jane and Veve. “We’re certain of one thing. Whoever built the tree house, must have heard our wish. And the person, whoever he or she is, wishes to have his identity remain unknown. So perhaps, just as a little game, we can say that a brownie was responsible.”

“See!” exclaimed Veve triumphantly.

To the bitter disappointment of all the girls, the following day was cold and rainy.

By Saturday, however, the sun was out, and the Brownies again visited the park.

Clomping along in galoshes, they found the trails muddy and the forest area deserted. Not even Mr. Karwhite was in evidence at the gate house.

“We’ll certainly have the park to ourselves today,” declared Miss Gordon.

The Brownies selected the shortest route to the tree house. Their way took them past a stone grill, across a rustic bridge and then down a long series of steps cut in the side of the steep slope.

“The house is still there,” declared Connie in relief as they presently came within view of it.

“I’ll race you!” shouted Veve.

Before Miss Gordon could warn the girls not to run, she was off, with Connie close behind.

Breathless, the two reached the base of the giant oak.

“Beat you to the top!” challenged Veve.

Again she was first. Two steps ahead of Connie she arrived on the tiny balcony. Waving at the other girls on the ground, she ducked into the tree house.

Immediately she gave a loud yell, which told those below that another surprise awaited them.

“Hurry! Hurry!” shouted Veve.

The girls hastened up the stairway as fast as they could.

Upon reaching the doorway, they instantly saw why Veve was so excited.

During their absence, a table and six sturdy chairs had been added to the little house. Also, a corner shelf had been built to hold books or miscellaneous articles.

“Our wish came true!” cried Veve, quite carried away. “Now what do you say?”

“Who do you suppose did it?” murmured Jane in awe.

“Mr. Karwhite maybe,” suggested Eileen.

The others, however, did not share her belief that the park superintendent had contributed the furniture.

“I can’t understand it,” Miss Gordon remarked, deeply puzzled. “Girls, where were you standing when you made the wish for table and chairs?”

“At the foot of the stairway by the oak tree,” supplied Veve promptly. “But no one except the Brownies heard the wish.”

“Someone must have,” insisted the leader. “Even though we saw no one near, a person could have been hidden back among the bushes. It gives me a queer, uneasy feeling to think about it.”

“I think it’s nice to have an unknown good fairy doing things for us!” laughed Connie.

Thrilled by the latest gift for their house, the girls set to work “moving in.” Miss Gordon had made a pair of dainty red and white dotted curtains which exactly fitted the window.

From home, Rosemary had brought one of her mother’s handmade rag rugs for the floor. Connie, Eileen and Rosemary contributed dishes which they arranged attractively in the cupboards.

“Oh, if Mr. Karwhite only allows us to stay here, we’ll have grand times,” Connie declared gaily.

The other girls were equally thrilled. Taking turns they peeped out of the window into a delightful world of branches and tinted leaves.

From the balcony, they could see the gate house, the road, and many of the park trails.

Best of all, however, they enjoyed the gentle movement of the little house, as the breeze rocked it in its bough cradle.

“I feel almost as if I’m part of the tree,” declared Veve dreamily. “Wouldn’t it be fun to sleep here at night?”

“Now don’t get ideas,” interposed Miss Gordon. “Our tree house activities definitely are limited to the daytime.”

The brisk morning hike had made the girls very hungry. Although it was not yet noon, they voted to have lunch immediately.

“We must try out the new dishes,” said Eileen. “My, I wish we had a little stove! Then we could heat things and have a hot meal.”

“And be snug and warm after the weather turns cold,” added Eileen. “Maybe we could keep coming here all winter!”

“Dear me, don’t make any more wishes,” laughed Miss Gordon. “Let’s be satisfied with this little house just as it is.”

The girls spread out their lunch of sandwiches, hard cooked eggs, fresh tomatoes and beverage. Scarcely had they settled down to eat than Veve held up her hand in a signal for silence.

“Sh!” she whispered. “I hear something!”

The others listened intently. But they heard no unusual sound.

“It was the wind whispering in the leaves,” declared Connie. “Or maybe a bird.”

Veve shook her head. “I’m sure it was someone below in the bushes!” she whispered.

“Veve’s right,” suddenly agreed Eileen, becoming tense. “Someone’s sneaking up the stairway!”

Distinctly now, the girls could hear footsteps on the steps below them.

Rather alarmed, Miss Gordon went quickly to the door. Then she laughed.

“We do have a visitor, girls! It’s Mr. Karwhite.”

The superintendent came on up the stairway. He peeped into the little house, but did not try to enter. In fact, not a square inch of space was available for him.

“Well, well,” he chuckled. “A full house! How are you getting along?”

“Oh, just fine!” replied Connie. “We have a new table and chairs. Aren’t they cute?”

Mr. Karwhite agreed that the furniture was very nice. Carefully, he examined each piece, remarking that the articles had been made of good lumber and were well finished.

“I can’t understand who is doing this!” he said in an annoyed tone. “It’s against park rules. Whoever built this house had no right to do it without permission.”

“But it’s such an adorable little house,” said Connie anxiously. “You wouldn’t make the person tear it down if you could find him, would you?”

“I reckon not,” Mr. Karwhite smiled. “At least not before spring. But it does annoy me.”

He told the Brownies then that he was in a rather bad mood that morning because in inspecting Trail No. 3 he had discovered that several of the trees were incorrectly marked.

“Then we were right about it!” exclaimed Connie.

“You certainly were,” the park superintendent assured her. “The tree you thought was a maple actually was one. Someone deliberately changed the tags on at least five trees.”

“What a stupid thing to do,” commented Miss Gordon.

“I’ve no proof, but I figure the trick was done by a group of boys who come through the park now and then. I’d like to catch them!”

Mr. Karwhite started to leave, and then thought of another matter.

“This tree house is almost like a lookout station,” he declared. “If any of you see those boys playing pranks, I wish you’d let me know right away.”

“We will!” promised Connie.

Mr. Karwhite unstrapped a black leather case which he wore over his shoulder.

“Here, keep my fieldglass,” he directed. “You’ll have fun using it, and will be able to see almost anywhere in the park from such a high point.”

“Oh, thank you!” cried Veve, taking the glass from him. “How do you make it work?”

The superintendent showed her how to adjust the glass. Each girl insisted upon her turn.

“Just leave the glass at the gate house when you start home,” Mr. Karwhite instructed. “And if you should see those young rascals tampering with the tags, be sure to notify me right away!”

After the superintendent had gone, the girls had a great deal of fun looking at various points of the park through the field glass.

“I can see the animal pens!” announced Sunny when her turn came.

“Let me look,” pleaded Veve.

Taking the glass from Sunny, she adjusted it to her own eyes. After studying the animal pens for a time, she trained the instrument upon the roadway.

“Come on, it’s my turn now!” exclaimed Jane impatiently. “You’ve had that glass for five minutes.”

Veve waved her aside.

“Wait,” she mumbled.

“Wait!” Jane retorted in exasperation. “It’s always ‘wait’ when you have the glass, and ‘hurry up’ when someone else is looking.”

“I’m really seeing something,” said Veve impressively. “Something queer.”

Her words drew the attention of all the Brownies. Quickly they clustered about her, eager to learn what held her interest.

“What d’you see?” Connie demanded. “Those boys Mr. Karwhite asked us to watch for?”

“It’s more interesting than that,” announced Veve, clinging fast to the glass as Jane tried to take it from her. “Oh, my goodness! Where is she going with that sack?”

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