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Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Mystery of the Alligator Swamp

BOOK: The Mystery of the Alligator Swamp
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The Boxcar Children Mysteries

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The Mystery of the Alligator Swamp
created by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
Illustrated by Hodges Soileau
ALBERT WHITMAN & Company, Chicago
Contents

Chapter 1. Welcome to the Bayou

Chapter 2. Ghosts and Gumbo

Chapter 3. A Haunted Fish Camp?

Chapter 4. The Ghost Alligator

Chapter 5. Scary Stories for Breakfast

Chapter 6. Look and Listen

Chapter 7. Lost in the Swamp

Chapter 8. A Secret and a Thief

Chapter 9. An Alligator Trap

Chapter 10. An Alligator Birthday

Chapter 1
Welcome to the Bayou

“Look! An alligator!” Six-year-old Benny Alden rolled down the car window. He pointed toward a sheet of slick, dark water pierced by the stumps of trees at the side of the road. “An alligator,” Benny repeated. He bounced on the seat. “I saw an alligator!”

“I think it was a big log floating in the water, Benny. Not an alligator,” said his twelve-year-old sister, Jessie.

“Roll up the window, Benny,” said his other sister, Violet. She was ten and the shyest of the four Aldens.

“Why? Do you think a big alligator might jump in?” Benny asked.

“Of course not,” said Violet. Her expression said she didn’t like that idea. “But it’s so hot. Anyway, you’ve seen alligators before.”

“Not in Louisiana,” said Benny. “That was in Florida.”

“Well, I don’t imagine they’re all that different here in Louisiana,” Jessie said. “You know, big, lizard-shaped, lots of teeth.”

“It’s the state reptile of Louisiana,” reported Grandfather Alden. He slowed the car down and peered ahead. They were on a narrow unpaved road. Trees draped in moss towered overhead and sheets of dark water stretched out beneath them.

“Why are we slowing down? Did you see another alligator?” Benny asked. He bounced even higher on the seat.

“Put your seat belt back on, Benny,” said Henry. “Here, I’ll help you.”

Henry kept a close eye on his younger brother and his two sisters. Henry was fourteen, the oldest of the Aldens.

“No alligators,” their grandfather said. “I’m looking for the sign… There it is.”

They all saw it then: a big sign, white with faded letters of purple and red that said,
BILLIE’S BAYOU BAIT ’N BITE FISH CAMP & RESTAURANT, YOU’RE ALMOST THERE
! Beneath it an arrow pointed the way.

They turned down a flat, wide, rutted road. Trees locked branches overhead, shutting out most of the sunlight. The air was very still and very hot. Benny rolled up his window, but he kept his face pressed to the glass, looking for alligators.

Jessie saw the Bait ’n Bite first. She pointed. “Through that gate,” she said.

Grandfather turned in at the gate. As he drove across a tire-scuffed patch of sand, they saw that the Bait ’n Bite was perched almost in the water of the bayou beyond. Another low, small house with a long screened porch stood just past it, also right on the bayou. Tucked in the surrounding trees and not far from the restaurant on the other side along the bayou were small cabins, each with a small screened porch.

Opening the car doors, the Aldens tumbled out.

“Hey, there, James Alden,” a voice called. A cheerful-looking woman with red curly hair springing out from beneath a purple cap was coming toward them.

“Hello there, Billie!” Grandfather called back.

“I was beginning to think you’d fallen into the bayou and were never going to make it to my birthday
fais do do
.”

“What’s a … a fay doe doe?” asked Benny.

“A dance. A party,
cher
,” said Billie, “And
cher
means ‘dear, darling.’ It’s what we call people. You’re in the heart of Cajun country here — we Cajuns are the descendants of French Canadians who came to Louisiana almost three hundred years ago. So some of the words we use come from French. Some of our names, too, just like—”

Billie suddenly cupped her hand to her mouth and shouted, “Beau!
Beau!
Where are you?
Beau!”

Everyone jumped.

“That grandson of mine. He keeps disappearing. Well, I’d know you anywhere, James. Your hair’s a little grayer, I admit. But you haven’t changed.”

“You haven’t changed, either, Billie Boudreau,” Grandfather answered. His eyes twinkled. “I just hope you can swim better than the last time I fished you out of the bayou.”

“I was twelve and I could swim fine then,” she retorted. “I just wasn’t going to let go of that new fishing pole.”

They both laughed. Then Billie threw her arms around Grandfather Alden in a bear hug.

“Oof!” said Grandfather Alden. But he hugged her back, grinning.

Then he turned. “These are my grandchildren—”

“I’ve seen your pictures,” Billie interrupted. “Let’s see. This tall fellow is Henry. The little pepper here is Benny. Mmm, Jessie?”

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