[] AFTER dinner the four children went upstairs to the boys' bedroom and spread out the bit of linen on a table there. There were words here and there, scrawled in rough printing. There was the sign of a compass, with E marked clearly for East. There were eight rough squares, and in one of them, right in the middle, was a cross. It was all very mysterious.

[] 'You know, I believe these words are Latin,' said Julian, trying to make them out. 'But I can't read them properly. And I expect if I could read them, I wouldn't know what they meant. I wish we knew someone who could read Latin like this.'

[] 'Could your father, George?' asked Anne.

[] 'I expect so,' said George. But nobody wanted to ask George's father. He might lake the curious old rag away. He might forget all about it, he might even burn it. Scientists were such queer people.

[] 'What about Mr. Roland?' said Dick. 'He's a tutor. He knows Latin.'

[] 'We won't ask him till we know a bit more about him,' said Julian, cautiously. 'He seems quite jolly and nice -but you never know. Oh, blow - I wish we could make this out, I really do.'

[] 'There are two words at the top,' said Dick, and he tried to spell them out. 'VIA OCCULTA.'

'What do you think they could mean, Julian?'

[] 'Well - the only thing I can think of that they can mean is - Secret Way, or something like that,' said Julian, screwing up his forehead into a frown.

[] 'Secret Way!' said Anne, her eyes shining. 'Oh, I hope it's that! Secret Way! How exciting. What sort of secret way would it be, Julian?'

[] 'How do I know, Anne, silly?' said Julian. 'I don't even know that the words are meant to mean "Secret Way". It's really a guess on my part.'

[] 'If they did mean that - the linen might have directions to find the Secret Way, whatever it is,' said Dick. 'Oh Julian - isn't it exasperating that we can't read it? Do, do try. You know more Latin than I do.'

[] 'It's so hard to read the funny old letters,' said Julian, trying again. 'No - it's no good at all. I can't make them out.'

[] Steps came up the stairs, and the door opened. Mr. Roland looked in.

[] 'Hallo, hallo!' he said. 'I wondered where you all were. What about a walk over the cliffs?'

[] 'We'll come,' said Julian, rolling up the old rag.

[] 'What have you got there? Anything interesting?' asked Mr. Roland.

[] 'It's a -' began Anne, and at once all the others began to talk, afraid that Anne was going to give the secret away.

[] 'It's a wonderful afternoon for a walk.'

[] 'Come on, let's get our things on!'

[] 'Tim, Tim, where are you?' George gave a piercing whistle. Tim was under the bed and came bounding out. Anne went red as she guessed why all the others had interrupted her so quickly.

[] 'Idiot,' said Julian, under his breath. 'Baby.'

[] Fortunately Mr. Roland said no more about the piece of linen he had seen Julian rolling up. He was looking at Tim.

[] 'I suppose he must come,' he said. George stared at him in indignation.

[] 'Of course he must!' she said. 'We never never go anywhere without Timothy.'

[] Mr. Roland went downstairs, and the children got ready to go out. George was scowling. The very idea of leaving Tim behind made her angry.

[] 'You nearly gave our secret away, you silly,' said Dick to Anne.

[] 'I didn't think,' said the little girl, looking ashamed of herself. 'Anyway, Mr. Roland seems very nice. I think we might ask him if he could help us to understand those funny words.'

[] 'You leave that to me to decide,' said Julian, crossly. 'Now don't you dare to say a word.'

[] They all set out, Timothy too. Mr. Roland need not have worried about the dog, for Timothy would not go near him. It was very queer, really. He kept away from the tutor, and took not the slightest notice of him even when Mr. Roland spoke to him.

[] 'He's not usually like that,' said Dick. 'He's a most friendly dog, really.'

[] 'Well, as I've got to live in the same house with him, I must try and make him friends with me,' said the tutor. 'Hi, Timothy! Come here! I've got a biscuit in my pocket.'

[] Timothy pricked up his ears at the word 'biscuit' but did not even look towards Mr. Roland. He put his tail down and went to George. She patted him.

[] 'If he doesn't like anyone, not even a biscuit or a bone will make him go to them when he is called,' she said.

[] Mr. Roland gave it up. He put the biscuit back into his pocket. 'He's a queer-looking dog, isn't he?' he said. 'A terrible mongrel! I must say I prefer well-bred dogs.'

[] George went purple in the face. 'He's not queer-looking!' she spluttered. 'He's not nearly so queer-looking as you! He's not a terrible mongrel. He's the best dog in the world!'

[] 'I think you are being a little rude,' said Mr. Roland, stiffly. CI don't allow my pupils to be cheeky, Georgina.'

[] Galling her Georgina made George still more furious. She lagged behind with Tim, looking as black as a thundercloud. The others felt uncomfortable. They knew what tempers George got into, and how difficult she could be. She had been so much better and happier since the summer, when they had come to stay for the first time. They did hope she wasn't going to be silly and get into rows. It would spoil the Christmas holidays.

[] Mr. Roland took no more notice of George. He did not speak to her, but strode on ahead with the others, doing his best to be jolly. He could really be very funny, and the boys began to laugh at him. He took Anne's hand, and the little girl jumped along beside him, enjoying the walk.

[] Julian felt sorry for George. It wasn't nice to be left out of things, and he knew how George hated anything like that. He wondered if he dared to put in a good word for her. It might make things easier.

[] 'Mr. Roland, sir,' he began. 'Could you call my cousin by the name she likes - George - she simply hates Georgina. And she's very fond of Tim. She can't bear anyone to say horrid things about him.'

[] Mr. Roland looked surprised. 'My dear boy, I am sure you mean well,' he said, in rather a dry sort of voice, 'but I hardly think I want your advice about any of my pupils. I shall follow my own wishes in my treatment of Georgina, not yours. I want to be friends with you all, and I am sure we shall be - but Georgina has got to be sensible, as you three are.'

[] Julian felt rather squashed. He went red and looked at Dick. Dick gave him a squeeze on his arm. The boys knew George could be silly and difficult, especially if anyone didn't like her beloved dog - but they thought Mr. Roland might try to be a bit more understanding too. Dick slipped behind and walked with George.

[] 'You needn't walk with me,' said George at once, her blue eyes glinting. 'Walk with your friend Mr. Roland.'

[] 'He isn't my friend,' said Dick. 'Don't be silly.'

[] 'I'm not silly,' said George, in a tight sort of voice. 'I heard you all laughing and joking with him. You go on and have a good laugh again. I've got Timothy.'

[] 'George, it's Christmas holidays,' said Dick. 'Do let's all be friends. Do. Don't let's spoil Christmas.'

[] ‘I can't like anyone who doesn't like Tim,' said George, obstinately.

[] 'Well, after all, Mr. Roland did offer him a biscuit,' said Dick, trying to make peace as hard as he could.

[] George said nothing. Her small face looked fierce. Dick tried again.

[] 'George! Promise to try and be nice till Christmas is over, anyway. Don't let's spoil Christmas, for goodness' sake! Come on, George.'

[] 'All right,' said George, at last. I'll try.'

[] 'Come and walk with us, then,' said Dick. So George caught up the others, and tried not to look too sulky. Mr. Roland guessed that Dick had been trying to make George behave, and he included her in his talk. He could not make her laugh, but she did at least answer politely.

[] 'Is that Kirrin Farm-house?' asked Mr. Roland, as they came in sight of the farm.

[] 'Yes. Do you know it?' asked Julian, in surprise.

[] 'No, no,' said Mr. Roland, at once. 'I heard of it, and wondered if that was the place.'

[] 'We went there this morning,' said Anne. 'It's an exciting place.' She looked at the others, wondering if they would mind if she said anything about the things they had seen that morning. Julian thought for a moment. After all, it couldn't matter telling him about the stone in the kitchen and the false back to the cupboard. Mrs. Sanders would tell anyone that. He could speak about the sliding panel in the hall too, and say they had found an old recipe book there. He did not need to say anything about the old bit of marked linen.

[] So he told their tutor about the exciting things they had seen at the old farm-house, but said nothing at all about the linen and its strange markings. Mr. Roland listened with the greatest interest.

[] 'This is all very remarkable,' he said. 'Very remark - able indeed. Most interesting. You say the old couple live there quite alone?'

[] 'Well, they are having two people to stay over Christmas,' said Dick, 'Artists. Julian thought he would go over and talk to them. He can paint awfully well, you know.'

[] 'Can he really?' said Mr. Roland. 'Well, he must show me some of, his pictures. But I don't think he'd better go and worry the artists at the farm-house. They might not like it.'

[] This remark made Julian feel obstinate. He made up his mind at once that he would go and talk to the two artists when he got the chance!,

[] It was quite a pleasant walk on the whole except that George was quiet, and Timothy would not go anywhere near Mr. Roland. When they came to a frozen pond Dick threw sticks on it for Tim to fetch. It was so funny to see him go slithering about on his long legs, trying to run properly!

[] Everyone threw sticks for the dog, and Tim fetched all the sticks except Mr. Roland's. When the tutor threw a stick the dog looked at it and took no more notice It was almost as if he had said. 'What, your stick! No thank you!'

[] 'Now, home we go,' said Mr. Roland, trying not to look annoyed with Tim. 'We shall just be in time for tea!'