[] TIMOTHY had leapt down into the hole when George had jumped. He now ran ahead of the children, puzzled at their wanting to explore such a cold, dark place. Both Julian and Dick had torches, which threw broad beams before them.

[] There was not much to be seen. The Secret Way under the old house was narrow and low, so that the children were forced to go in single file, and to stoop almost double. It was a great relief to them when the passage became a little wider, and the room a little higher. It was very tiring to stoop all the time.

[] 'Have you any idea where the Secret Way is going?' Dick asked Julian. 'I mean - is it going towards the sea, or away from it?'

[] 'Oh, not towards the sea!' said Julian, who had a very good sense of direction. 'As far as I can make out the passage is going towards the common. Look at the walls - they are rather sandy in places, and we know the common has sandy soil. I hope we shan't find that the passage has fallen in anywhere.'

[] They went on and on. The Secret Way was very straight, though occasionally it wound round a rocky part in a curve.

[] 'Isn't it dark and cold,' said Anne, shivering. 'I wish I had put on a coat. How many miles have we come, Julian?'

[] 'Not even one, silly!' said Julian. 'Hallo - look here -the passage has fallen in a bit there!'

[] Two bright torches shone in front of them and the children saw that the sandy roof had fallen in. Julian kicked at the pile of sandy soil with his foot.

[] 'It's all right,' he said. 'We can force our way through easily. It isn't much of a fall, and it's mostly sand. I'll do a bit of kicking!'

[] After some trampling and kicking, the roof-fall no longer blocked the way. There was now enough room for the children to climb over it, bending their heads low to avoid knocking them against the top of the passage. Julian shone his torch forward, and saw that the way was clear.

[] 'The Secret Way is very wide just here!' he said suddenly, and flashed his torch around to show the others.

[] 'It's been widened out to make a sort of little room,' said George. 'Look, there's a kind of bench at the back, made out of the rock. I believe it's a resting-place.'

[] George was right. It was very tiring to creep along the narrow passage for so long. The little wide place with its rocky bench, made a very good resting-place. The four tired children, cold but excited, huddled together on the queer seat and took a welcome rest. Timmy put his head on George's knee. He was delighted to be with her again.

[] 'Well, come on,' said Julian, after a few minutes. 'I'm getting awfully cold. I do wonder where this passage comes out!'

[] 'Julian - do you think it could come out at Kirrin Farm-house?' asked George, suddenly. 'You know what Mrs. Sanders said - that there was a secret passage leading from the Farm-house somewhere. Well, this may be the one - and it leads to Kirrin Cottage!'

[] 'George, I believe you're right!' said Julian. 'Yes -the two houses belonged to your family years ago! And in the old days there were often secret passages joining houses, so it's quite plain this secret way joins them up together! Why didn't I think of that before?'

[] ‘I say!' squealed Anne, in a high, excited voice, 'I say! I've thought of something too!'

[] 'What?' asked everyone.

[] 'Well - if those two artists have got Uncle's papers, we may be able to get them away before the men can send them off by post, or take them away themselves!' squeaked Anne, so thrilled with her idea that she could hardly get the words out quickly enough. 'They're prisoners at the Farm-house because of the snow, just as we were at the Cottage.'

[] 'Anne! You're right!' said Julian.

[] 'Clever girl!' said Dick.

[] 'I say - if we could get those papers again - how wonderful it would be!' cried George. Timmy joined in the general excitement, and jumped up and down in joy. Something had pleased the children, so he was pleased too!

[] 'Come on!' said Julian, taking Anne's hand. 'This is thrilling. If George is right, and this Secret Way comes out at Kirrin Farm-house somewhere, we'll somehow hunt through those men's rooms and find the papers.'

[] 'You said that searching people's rooms was a shocking thing to do,' said George.

[] 'Well, I didn't know then all I know now,' said Julian. 'We're doing this for your father - and maybe for our country too, if his secret formula is valuable. We've got to set our wits to work now, to outwit dangerous enemies.'

[] 'Do you really think they are dangerous?' asked Anne, rather afraid.

[] 'Yes, I should think so,' said Julian. 'But you needn't worry, Anne, You've got me and Dick and Tim to protect you.'

[] 'I can protect her too,' said George, indignantly. I'm as good as a boy any day!'

[] 'Yes, you are, really,' said Dick. 'In fact, you're fiercer than any boy I know!'

[] 'Come on,' said Julian, impatiently. I'm longing to get to the end of this passage.'

[] They all went on again, Anne following behind Julian, and Dick behind George. Timmy ran up and down the line, squeezing by them whenever he wanted to. He thought it was a very peculiar way to spend a morning!

[] Julian stopped suddenly, after they had gone a good way. 'What's up?' asked Dick, from the back. 'Not another roof-fall, I hope!'

[] 'No - but I think we've come to the end of the passage!' said Julian, thrilled. The others crowded as close to him as they could. The passage certainly had come to an end. There was a rocky wall in front of them, and set firmly in it were iron staples intended for footholds. These went up the wall and when Julian turned his torch upwards, the children saw that there was a square opening in the roof of the passage.

[] 'We have to climb up this rocky wall now,' said Julian, 'go through that dark hole there, keep on climbing - and goodness knows where we come out! I'll go first. You wait here, everyone, and I'll come back and tell you what I've seen.'

[] The boy put his torch between his teeth, and then pulled himself up by the iron staples set in the wall. He set his feet on them, and then climbed up through the square dark hole, feeling for the staples as he went.

[] He went up for a good way. It was almost like going up a chimney shaft, he thought. It was cold and smelt musty.

Suddenly he came to a ledge, and he stepped on to it. He took his torch from his teeth and flashed it around him.

[] There was stone wall behind him, at the side of him and stone above him. The black hole up which he had come, yawned by his feet. Julian shone his torch in front of him, and a shock of surprise went through him.

[] There was no stone wall in front of him, but a big wooden, door, made of black oak. A handle was set about waist-high, Julian turned it with trembling fingers. What was he going to see?

[] The door opened outwards, over the ledge, and it was difficult to get round it without falling back into the hole. Julian managed to open it wide, squeezed round it without losing his footing, and stepped beyond it, expecting to find himself in a room.

But his hand felt more wood in front of him! He shone his torch round, and found that he was up against what looked like yet another door. Under his searching fingers it suddenly moved sideways, and slid silently away!

[] And then Julian knew where he was! 'I'm in the cupboard at Kirrin Farm-house - the one that has a false back!' he thought. 'The Secret Way comes up behind it! How clever! Little did we know when we played about in this cupboard that not only did it have a sliding back, but that it was the entrance to the Secret Way, hidden behind it!'

[] The cupboard was now full of clothes belonging to the artists. Julian stood and listened. There was no sound of anyone in the room. Should he just take a quick look round, and see if those lost papers were anywhere about?

[] Then he remembered the other four, waiting patiently below in the cold. He had better go and tell them what had happened. They could all come and help in the search.

[] He stepped into the space behind the sliding back. The sliding door slipped across again, and Julian was left standing on the narrow ledge, with the old oak door wide open to one side of him. He did not bother to shut it. He felt about with his feet, and found the iron staples in the hole below him. Down he went, clinging with his hands and feet, his torch in his teeth again.

[] 'Julian! What a time you've been! Quick, tell us all about it!' cried George.

[] 'It's most terribly thrilling,' said Julian. 'Absolutely super! Where do you suppose all this leads to? Into the cupboard at Kirrin Farm-house - the one that's got a false back!'

[] 'Golly! 'said Dick.

[] 'I say I' said George.

[] 'Did you go into the room?' cried Anne.

[] 'I climbed as far as I could and came to a big oak door,' said Julian. 'It has a handle this side, so I swung it wide open. Then I saw another wooden door in front of me - at least, I thought it was a door,' I didn't know it was just the false back of that cupboard. It was quite easy to slide back and I stepped through, and found my-self among a whole lot of clothes hanging in the cup-board ! Then I hurried back to tell you.'

[] 'Julian! We can hunt for those papers now,' said George, eagerly. 'Was there anyone in the room?'

[] 'I couldn't hear anyone,' said Julian. 'Now what I propose is this - we'll all go up, and have a hunt round those two rooms. The men have the room next to the cupboard one too.'

[] 'Oh good ! ' said Dick, thrilled at the thought of such an adventure. 'Let's go now. You go first, Ju. Then Anne, then George and then me.'

[] 'What about Tim?' asked George.

[] 'He can't climb, silly,' said Julian. 'He's a simply marvellous dog, but he certainly can't climb, George. We'll have to leave him down here.'

[] 'He won't like that,' said George.

[] 'Well, we can't carry him up,' said Dick. 'You won't, mind staying here for a bit, will you, Tim, old fellow?’

[] Tim wagged his tail. But, as he saw the four children mysteriously disappearing up the wall, he put his big tail down at once. What! Going without him? How could they?

[] He jumped up at the wall, and fell back. He jumped again and whined. George called down to him in a low voice.

[] 'Be quiet, Tim dear! We shan't be long.'

[] Tim stopped whining. He lay down at the bottom of the wall, his ears well-cocked. This adventure was becoming more and more peculiar!

[] Soon the children were on the narrow ledge. The old oak door was still wide open. Julian shone his torch and the others saw the false back of the cupboard. Julian put his hands on it and it slid silently sideways. Then the torch shone on coats and dressing-gowns!

[] The children stood quite still, listening. There was no sound from the room. I'll open the cupboard door and peep into the room,' whispered Julian. 'Don't make a sound!'

[] The boy pushed between the clothes and felt for the outer cupboard door with his hand. He found it, and pushed it slightly. It opened a little and a shaft of daylight came into the cupboard. He peeped cautiously into the room.

[] There was no one there at all. That was good. 'Come on!' he whispered to the others. 'The room's empty!’

[] One by one the children crept out of the clothes cupboard and into the room. There was a big bed there, a wash-stand, chest of drawers, small table and two chairs. Nothing else. It would be easy to search the whole room.

[] 'Look, Julian, there's a door between the two rooms,' said George, suddenly. 'Two of us can go and hunt there and two here - and we can lock the doors that lead on to the landing, so that no one can come in and catch us!'

[] 'Good idea!' said Julian, who was afraid that at any moment someone might come in and catch them in their search. 'Anne and I will go into the next room, and you and Dick can search this one. Lock the door that opens on to the landing, Dick, and I'll lock the one in the other room. We'll leave the connecting-door open, so that we can whisper to one another.'

[] Quietly the boy slipped through the connecting-door into the second room, which was very like the first. That was empty too. Julian went over to the door that led to the landing, and turned the key in the lock. He heard Dick doing the same to the door in the other room. He heaved a big sigh. Now he felt safe!

[] 'Anne, turn up the rugs and see if any papers are hidden there,' he said. 'Then look under the chair-cushions and strip the bed to see if anything is hidden under the mattress.'

[] Anne set to work, and Julian began to hunt too. He started on the chest of drawers, which he thought would be a very likely place to hide things in. The children's hands were shaking, as they felt here and there for the lost papers. It was so terribly exciting.

[] They wondered where the two men were. Down in the warm kitchen, perhaps. It was cold up here in the bedrooms, and they would not want to be away from the warmth. They could not go out because the snow was piled in great drifts round Kirrin Farm-house!

[] Dick and George were searching hard in the other room. They looked in every drawer. They stripped the bed. They turned up rugs and carpet. They even put their hands up the big chimney-place!

[] 'Julian? Have you found anything?' asked Dick in a low voice, appearing at the door between the two rooms.

[] 'Not a thing,' said Julian, rather gloomily. They've hidden the papers well! I only hope they haven't got them on them - in their pockets, or something!'

[] Dick stared at him in dismay. He hadn't thought of that. 'That would be sickening!' he said.

'You go back and hunt everywhere - simply everywhere I' ordered Julian. 'Punch the pillows to see if they've stuck them under the pillow-case!'

Dick disappeared. Rather a lot of noise came from his room. It sounded as if he were doing a good deal of punching!

[] Anne and Julian went on hunting too. There was simply nowhere that they did not look. They even turned the pictures round to see if the papers had been stuck behind one of them. But there was nothing to be found. It was bitterly disappointing.

[] 'We can't go without finding them,' said Julian, in desperation. 'It was such a bit of luck to get here like this, down the Secret Way - right into the bedrooms! We simply must find those papers!'

[] 'I say,' said Dick, appearing again, 'I can hear voices! Listen!'

[] All four children listened. Yes - there were men's voices - just outside the bedroom doors!