[] THE three children downstairs felt very sorry for George. Uncle Quentin had forbidden them to go up and see her.

[] 'A little time for thinking out things all alone may do George good,' he said.

'Poor old George,' said Julian. 'It's too bad, isn't it? I say - look at the snow!'

[] The snow was falling very thickly. Julian went to the window and looked out. 'I shall have to go and see that Timmy's kennel is all right,' he said. 'We don't want the poor old fellow to be snowed up! I expect he is wondering what the snow is!'

[] Timothy was certainly very puzzled to see everywhere covered with soft white stuff. He sat in his kennel and stared out at the falling flakes, his big brown eyes following them as they fell to the ground. He was puzzled and unhappy. Why was he living out here by himself in the cold? Why didn't George come to him? Didn't she love him any more? The big dog was very miserable, as miserable as George!

[] He was delighted to see Julian. He jumped up at the boy and licked his face. 'Good old Tim!' said Julian. 'Are you all right? Let me sweep away some of this snow and swing your kennel round a bit so that no flakes fly inside. There - that's better. No, we're not going for a walk, old thing - not now.'

[] The boy patted the dog and fussed him a bit, then went indoors. The others met him at the sitting-room door.

[] 'Julian! Mr. Roland is going out for a walk by himself. Aunt Fanny is lying down, and Uncle Quentin is in his study. Can't we go up and see George?'

[] 'We were forbidden to,' said Julian, doubtfully.

[] ‘I know,' said Dick. 'But I don't mind risking it for the sake of making George feel a bit happier. It must be so awful for her, lying up there all alone, knowing she can't see Tim for days.'

[] 'Well - let me go up, as I'm the eldest,' said Julian. 'You two stay down here in the sitting-room and talk. Then Uncle Quentin will think we're all here. I'll slip up and see George for a few minutes.'

[] 'All right,' said Dick. 'Give her our love and tell her we'll look after Timmy.'

[] Julian slipped quietly up the stairs. He opened George's door and crept inside. He shut the door, and saw George sitting up in bed, looking at him in delight.

[] 'Sh!' said Julian. 'I'm not supposed to be here!'

[] 'Oh Julian!' said George joyfully. 'How good of you to come. I was so lonely. Come this side of the bed. Then if anyone comes in suddenly, you can duck down and hide.'

[] Julian went to the other side of the bed. George began to pour out to him all she had been thinking of.

[] 'I believe Mr. Roland is the thief, I really do!' she said. 'I'm not saying that because I hate him, Julian, really I'm not. After all, I did find him snooping round the study one afternoon - and again in the middle of the night. He may have got to hear of my father's work, and come to see if he could steal it. It was just lucky for him that we needed a tutor. I'm sure he stole those pages, and I'm sure he wanted Timmy out of the house so that he could do his stealing without Tim hearing him and growling.'

[] 'Oh, George - I don't think so,' said Julian, who really could not approve of the idea of the tutor doing such a thing. 'It all sounds so far-fetched and unbelievable.'

[] 'Lot's of unbelievable things happen,' said George. 'Lots. And this is one of them.'

[] 'Well, if Mr. Roland did steal the pages, they must be somewhere in the house,' said Julian. 'He hasn't been out all day. They must be somewhere in his bedroom.'

[] 'Of course!' said George, looking thrilled. T wish he'd go out! Then I'd search his room.'

[] 'George, you can't do things like that,' said Julian, quite shocked.

[] 'You simply don't know what things I can do, if I really want to,' said George, setting her mouth in a firm line. 'Oh - what's that noise?'

[] There was the bang of a door. Julian went cautiously to the window and peeped out. The snow had stopped falling for a time, and Mr. Roland had taken the chance of going out.

[] 'It's Mr. Roland,' said Julian.

[] 'Oooh - I could search his room now, if you'll keep watch at the window and tell me if he comes back,' said George, throwing back the bedclothes at once.

[] 'No, George, don't,' said Julian. 'Honestly and truly, it's awful to search somebody's room like that. And anyway, I dare say he's got the pages with him. He may even be going to give them to somebody!'

[] 'I never thought of that,' said George, and she looked at Julian with wide eyes. 'Isn't that sickening? Of course he may be doing that. He knows those two artists at Kirrin Farm-house, for instance. They may be in the plot too.'

[] 'Oh, George, don't be silly,' said Julian. 'You are making a mountain out of a mole-hill, talking of plots and goodness knows what! Anyone would think we were in the middle of a big adventure.'

[] 'Well, I think we are,' said George, unexpectedly, and she looked rather solemn. 'I sort of feel it all round me -a Big Adventure!'

[] Julian stared at his cousin thoughtfully. Could there possibly be anything in what she said?

[] 'Julian, will you do something for me?' said George.

[] 'Of course,' said the boy, at once.

[] 'Go out and follow Mr. Roland,' said George. 'Don't let him see you. There's a white mackintosh cloak in the hall cupboard. Put it on and you won't be easily seen against the snow. Follow him and see if he meets anyone and gives them anything that looks like the pages of my father's book - you know those big pages he writes on. They're very large.'

[] 'All right,' said Julian. 'But if I do, promise you won't go and search his room. You can't do things like that, George.'

[] 'I can,' said George. 'But I won't, if you'll just follow Mr. Roland for me. I'm sure he's going to hand over what he has stolen to others who are in the plot! And

[] I bet those others will be the two artists at Kirrin Farmhouse that he pretended not to know!'

'You'll find you're quite wrong,' said Julian, going to the door. 'I'm sure I shan't be able to follow Mr. Roland, anyway - he's been gone five minutes now!'

[] 'Yes, you will, silly - he'll have left his footmarks in the snow,' said George. 'And oh, Julian - I quite forgot to tell you something else exciting. Oh dear, there isn't time now. I'll tell you when you come back, if you can come up again then. It's about the Secret Way.'

[] 'Really?' said Julian, in delight. It had been a great disappointment to him that all their hunting and searching had come to nothing. 'All right - I'll try and creep up again later. If I don't come, you'll know I can't, and you must wait till bed-time.'

[] He disappeared and shut the door quietly. He slipped downstairs, popped his head into the sitting-room and whispered to the others that he was going out after the tutor.

[] 'Tell you why, later,' he said. He put the white macintosh cloak around him and went out into the garden. Snow was beginning to fall again, but not yet heavily enough to hide Mr. Roland's deep footsteps. He had had big Wellington boots on, and the footmarks showed up well in the six-inch-deep snow.

[] The boy followed them quickly. The countryside was very wintry-looking now. The sky was low and leaden, and he could see there was much more snow to come. He hurried on after Mr. Roland, though he could not see ; a sign of the tutor.

[] Down the lane, and over the path that led across the common went the double row of footmarks. Julian stumbled on, his eyes glued to the foot-prints. Suddenly he heard the sound of voices and stopped. A big gorse bush lay to the right and the voices came from there. The boy went nearer to the bush. He heard his tutor's voice, talking in low tones. He could not hear a word that was said.

[] 'Whoever can he be talking to?' he wondered. He crept up closer to the bush. There was a hollow space inside. Julian thought he could creep right into it, though it would be very prickly, and peer out of the other side. Carefully the boy crept into the prickly hollow, where the branches were bare and brown.

[] He parted the prickly branches slowly and cautiously -and to his amazement he saw Mr. Roland talking to the two artists from Kirrin Farm-house - Mr. Thomas and Mr. Wilton! So George was right. The tutor had met them - and, as Julian watched, Mr. Roland handed over to Mr. Thomas a doubled up sheaf of papers.

[] 'They look just like pages from Uncle Quentin's book,' said Julian to himself. 'I say - this is mighty queer. It does begin to look like a plot - with Mr. Roland as the centre of it!'

[] Mr. Thomas put the papers into the pocket of his overcoat. The men muttered a few more words, which even Julian's sharp ears could not catch, and then parted. The artists went off towards Kirrin Farm-house, and Mr. Roland took the path back over the common. Julian crouched down in the hollow of the prickly gorse bush, hoping the tutor would not turn and see him. Luckily he didn't. He went straight on and disappeared into the snow, which was now falling thickly. It was also beginning to get dark and Julian, unable to see the path very clearly, hurried after Mr. Roland, half-afraid of being lost in the snow-storm.

[] Mr. Roland was not anxious to be out longer than he could help, either. He almost ran back to Kirrin Cottage. He came to the gate at last, and Julian watched him go into the house. He gave him a little time to take off his things and then, giving Timothy a pat as he went by, he went to the garden door. He took off his mackintosh cloak, changed his boots, and slipped into the sitting-room before Mr. Roland had come down from his bedroom.

[] 'What's happened?' asked Dick and Anne, seeing that Julian was in a great state of excitement. But he could not tell them, for at that moment Joanna came in to lay the tea.

[] Much to Julian's disappointment, he could not say a word to the others all that evening, because one or other of the grown-ups was always in the room. Neither could he go up to see George. He could hardly wait to tell his news, but it was no good, he had to.

[] 'Is it still snowing, Aunt Fanny?' asked Anne.

[] Her aunt went to the front door and looked out. The snow was piled high against the step!

[] 'Yes,' she said, when she came back. 'It is snowing fast and thickly. If it goes on like this we shall be completely snowed up, as we were two winters ago! We couldn't get out of the house for five days then. The milkman couldn't get to us, nor the baker. Fortunately we had plenty of tinned milk, and I can bake my - own bread. Poor children - you will not be able to go out tomorrow - the snow will be too thick!'

[] 'Will Kirrin Farm-house be snowed up too?' asked Mr. Roland.

[] 'Oh yes - worse than we shall be,' said Aunt Fanny. 'But they won't mind! They have plenty of food there. They will be prisoners just as much, and more, as we shall.'

[] Julian wondered why Mr. Roland had asked that question. Was he afraid that his friends would not be able to send those pages away by the post - or take them anywhere by bus or car? The boy felt certain this was the reason for the question. How he longed to be able to talk over everything with the others.

[] 'I'm tired!' he said, about eight o'clock. 'Let's go to bed.'

[] Dick and Anne stared at him in astonishment. Usually, as he was the eldest, he went to bed last of all. Tonight he was actually asking to go! Julian winked quickly at them, and they backed him up at once.

[] Dick yawned widely, and so did Anne. Their aunt put down the sewing she was doing. 'You do sound tired!' she said. 'I think you'd better all go to bed.'

[] 'Could I just go out and see if Timmy is all right?' I asked Julian. His aunt nodded. The boy put on his rubber boots and coat, and slipped out through the garden door into the yard. It was very deep in snow, too. Tim's kennel was half-hidden in it. The dog had trampled a space in front of the kennel door, and stood there, looking for Julian as he came out of the house.

[] 'Poor old boy, out here in the snow all alone,' said Julian. He patted the dog, and Timmy whined. He was asking to go back with the boy.

[] 'I wish I could take you back with me,' said Julian. 'Never mind, Timothy. I'll come and see you tomorrow.'

[] He went indoors again. The children said good night to their aunt and Mr. Roland, and went upstairs.

[] 'Undress quickly, put on dressing-gowns and meet in George's room,' whispered Julian to the others. 'Don't make a sound or we'll have Aunt Fanny up. Quick now!'

[] In less than three minutes the children were undressed, and were sitting on George's bed. She was very pleased to see them. Anne slipped into bed with her, because her feet were cold.

[] 'Julian! Did you follow Mr. Roland all right?' whispered George.

[] 'Why did he follow him?' asked Dick, who had been dying to know.

[] Julian told them everything as quickly as he could -all that George suspected - and how he had followed the tutor - and what he had seen. When George heard how Julian had watched him giving a sheaf of papers to the two artists, her eyes gleamed angrily.

[] 'The thief! They must have been the lost pages! And to think my father has been so friendly to him. Oh, what can we do? Those men will get the papers away as quickly as they can, and the secret Father has been working on for ages will be used by someone else - for some other country, probably!'

[] 'They can't get the papers away,' said Julian. 'You've no idea how thick the snow is now, George. We shall be prisoners here for a few days, if this snow goes on, and so will the people in Kirrin Farm-house. If they want to hide the papers, they will have to hide them in the farmhouse! If only we could get over there and hunt round!'

[] 'Well, we can't,' said Dick. 'That's quite certain. We'd be up to our necks in snow!'

[] The four children looked gloomily at one another. Dick and Anne could hardly believe that the jolly Mr. Roland was a thief - a spy perhaps, trying to steal a valuable secret from a friendly scientist. And they couldn't stop it.

[] 'We'd better tell your father,' said Julian at last.

[] 'No,' said Anne. 'He wouldn't believe it, would he, George?'

[] 'He'd laugh at us and go straight and tell Mr. Roland,' said George. 'That would warn him, and he mustn't be warned. He mustn't know that we guess anything.'

[] 'Sh! Aunt Fanny's coming!' whispered Dick, suddenly. The boys slipped out of the room and into bed. Anne hopped across to her own little bed. All was peace and quiet when the children's aunt came into the bedroom.

[] She said good night and tucked them up. As soon as she had gone down, the four children met together again in George's room.

[] 'George, tell me now what you were going to say about the Secret Way,' said Julian.

[] 'Oh yes,' said George. 'Well, there may be nothing in my idea at all - but in the study downstairs, there are eight wooden panels over the mantelpiece - and the floor is of stone - and the room faces east! A bit queer, isn't it? Just what the directions said.'

[] 'Is there a cupboard there too?' asked Julian.

[] 'No. But there is everything else,' said George. 'And I was just wondering if by any chance the entrance to the Secret Way is in this house, not in the farm-house. After all, they both belonged to my family at one time, you know. The people living in the farm-house years ago must have known all about this cottage.'

[] 'Golly, George - suppose the entrance was here!' said Dick. 'Wouldn't it be simply marvellous! Let's go straight down and look!'

[] 'Don't be silly,' said Julian. 'Go down to the study when Uncle Quentin is there? I'd rather meet twenty lions than face Uncle! Especially after what has happened!'

[] 'Well, we simply MUST find out if George's idea is right; we simply must,' said Dick, forgetting to whisper.

[] 'Shut up, idiot!' said Julian, giving him a punch. 'Do you want to bring the whole household up here?'

[] 'Sorry!' said Dick. 'But, oh golly, this is exciting. It's an Adventure again.'

[] 'Just what I said,' said George, eagerly. 'Listen, shall we wait till midnight, and then creep down to the study when everyone is asleep, and try our luck? There may be nothing in my idea at all - but we'll have to find out now. I don't believe I could go to sleep till I've tried one of those panels over the mantelpiece to see if something happens.'

[] 'Well, I know I can't sleep a wink either,' said Dick. 'Listen - is that someone coming up? We'd better go.

Come on, Julian! Meet in George's room at midnight - and we'll creep down and try out George's idea!'

[] The two boys went off to their own room. Neither of them could sleep a wink. Nor could George. She lay awake, and went over and over in her mind all that had happened those holidays. 'It's like a jigsaw puzzle,' she thought. 'I couldn't understand a lot of things at first -but now they are fitting together, and making a picture.'

[] Anne was fast asleep. She had to be awakened at midnight. 'Come on!' whispered Julian, shaking her. 'Don't you want to share in this adventure?'