[] FOR the next day or two the four children did not really have much time to think about the Secret Way, because Christmas was coming near, and there was a good deal to do.

There were Christmas cards to draw and paint for their mothers and fathers and friends. There was the house to decorate. They went out with Mr. Roland to find sprays of holly, and came home laden.

[] 'You look like a Christmas card yourselves,' said Aunt Fanny, as they walked up the garden path, carrying the red-berried holly over their shoulders. Mr. Roland had found a group of trees with tufts of mistletoe growing from the top branches, and they had brought some of that too. Its berries shone like pale green pearls.

[] 'Mr. Roland had to climb the tree to get this,' said Anne. 'He's a good climber - as good as a monkey.'

[] Everyone laughed except George. She never laughed at anything to do with the tutor. They all dumped their loads down in the porch, and went to wash. They were to decorate the house that evening.

[] 'Is Uncle going to let his study be decorated too?' asked Anne. There were all kinds of strange instruments and glass tubes in the study now, and the children looked at them with wonder whenever they ventured into the study, which was very seldom.

[] 'No, my study is certainly not to be messed about,' said Uncle Quentin, at once. 'I wouldn't hear of it.'

[] 'Uncle, why do you have all these funny things in your study?' asked Anne, looking round with wide eyes.

[] Uncle Quentin laughed. I'm looking for a secret formula!' he said.

[] 'What's that?' said Anne.

[] 'You wouldn't understand,' said her uncle. 'All these "funny things" as you call them, help me in my experiments, and I put down in my book what they tell me -and from all I learn I work out a secret formula, that will be of great use when it is finished.'

[] 'You want to know a secret formula, and we want to know a secret way,' said Anne, quite forgetting that she was not supposed to talk about this.

[] Julian was standing by the door. He frowned at Anne. Luckily Uncle Quentin was not paying any more attention to the little girl's chatter. Julian pulled her out of the room.

[] 'Anne, the only way to stop you giving away secrets is to sew up your mouth, like Brer Rabbit wanted to do to Mister Dog!' he said.

[] Joanna the cook was busy baking Christmas cakes. An enormous turkey had been sent over from Kirrin Farm, and was hanging up in the larder. Timothy thought it smelt glorious, and Joanna was always shooing him out of the kitchen.

There were boxes of crackers on the shelf in the sitting-room, and mysterious parcels everywhere. It was very, very Christmassy! The children were happy and excited.

[] Mr. Roland went out and dug up a little spruce fir tree. 'We must have a Christmas tree,’ he said. 'Have you any tree-ornaments, children?'

[] 'No,' said Julian, seeing George shake her head.

[] I'll go into the town this afternoon and get some for you,' promised the tutor. 'It will be fun dressing the tree. We'll put it in the hall, and light candles on it on Christmas Day after tea. Who's coming with me to get the candles and the ornaments?'

[] 'I am!' cried three children. But the fourth said nothing. That was George. Not even to buy tree-ornaments would the obstinate little girl go with Mr. Roland. She had never had a Christmas tree before, and she was very much looking forward to it - but it was spoilt for her because Mr. Roland bought the things that made it so beautiful.

[] Now it stood in the hall, with coloured candles in holders clipped to the branches, and gay shining ornaments hanging from top to bottom. Silver strands of frosted string hung down from the branches like icicles, and Anne had put bits of white cotton-wool here and there to look like snow. It really was a lovely sight to see.

[] 'Beautiful!' said Uncle Quentin, as he passed through the hall, and saw Mr. Roland hanging the last ornaments on the tree. 'I say - look at the fairy doll on the top! Who's that for? A good girl?'

[] Anne secretly hoped that Mr. Roland would give her the doll. She was sure it wasn't for George - and anyway, George wouldn't accept it. It was such a pretty doll, with its gauzy frock and silvery wings.

[] Julian, Dick and Anne had quite accepted the tutor now as teacher and friend. In fact, everyone had, their uncle and aunt too, and even Joanna the cook. George, of course, was the only exception, and she and Timothy kept away from Mr. Roland, each looking as sulky as the other whenever the tutor was in the room.

[] 'You know, I never knew a dog could look so sulky!' said Julian, watching Timothy. 'Really, he scowls almost like George.'

[] 'And I always feel as if George puts her tail down like Tim, when Mr. Roland is in the room,' giggled Anne.

[] 'Laugh all you like,' said George, in a low tone. 'I think you're beastly to me. I know I'm right about Mr. Roland. I've got a feeling about him. And so has Tim.'

[] 'You're silly, George,' said Dick. 'You haven't really got a Feeling - it's only that Mr. Roland will keep calling you Georgina and putting you in your place, and that ' he doesn't like Tim. I dare say he can't help disliking dogs. After all, there was once a famous man called Lord Roberts who couldn't bear cats.'

[] 'Oh well, cats are different,' said George. 'If a person doesn't like dogs, especially a dog like our Timothy, then there really must be something wrong with him.'

[] 'It's no use arguing with George,' said Julian, 'Once she's made up her mind about something, she won't budge!'

[] George went out of the room in a huff. The others thought she was behaving rather stupidly.

[] 'I'm surprised really,' said Anne. 'She was so jolly last term at school. Now she's gone all queer, rather like she was when we first knew her last summer.'

[] 'I do think Mr. Roland has been decent digging up the Christmas tree and everything,' said Dick. 'I still don't like him awfully much sometimes, but I think he's a sport. What about asking him if he can read that old linen rag for us - I don't think I'd mind him sharing our secret, really.'

[] 'I would love him to share it,' said Anne, who was busy doing a marvellous Christmas card for the tutor. 'He's most awfully clever. I'm sure he could tell us what the Secret Way is. Do let's ask him.'

[] 'All right,' said Julian. 'I'll show .him the piece of linen. It's Christmas Eve tonight. He will be with us in the sitting-room, because Aunt Fanny is going into the study with Uncle Quentin to wrap up presents for all of us!'

[] So, that evening, before Mr. Roland came in to sit with them, Julian took out the little roll of linen and stroked it out flat on the table. George looked at it in surprise.

[] 'Mr. Roland will be here in a minute,' she said. 'You'd better put it away quickly.'

[] 'We're going to ask him if he can tell us what the old Latin words mean,' said Julian.

[] 'You're not!' cried George, in dismay. 'Ask him to share our secret! However can you?'

[] 'Well, we want to know what the secret is, don't we?' said Julian. 'We don't need to tell him where we got this or anything about it except that we want to know what the markings mean. We're not exactly sharing the secret with him - only asking him to use his brains to help us.'

[] 'Well, I never thought you'd ask him,' said George. And he'll want to know simply everything about it, you just see if he won't’. 'He's terribly snoopy.'

[] 'Whatever do you mean?' said Julian, in surprise. 'I don't think he's a bit snoopy.'

[] 'I saw him yesterday snooping round the study when one was there,' said George. 'He didn't see me outside the window with Tim. He was having a real poke round.’

[] 'You know how interested he is in your father's work,' paid Julian. 'Why shouldn't he look at it? Your father likes him too. You're just seeing what horrid things you t find to say about Mr. Roland.'

[] 'Oh shut up, you two,' said Dick. 'It's Christmas Eve. Don't let's argue or quarrel or say beastly things.'

[] Just at that moment the tutor came into the room, 'All busy as bees?' he said, his mouth smiling beneath its moustache. 'Too busy to have a game of cards, I suppose?'

[] 'Mr. Roland, sir,' began Julian, 'could you help us something? We've got an old bit of linen here with id markings on it. The words seem to be in some sort of Latin and we can't make them out.'

[] George gave an angry exclamation as she saw Julian E push the piece of linen over towards the tutor. She went of the room and shut the door with a bang. Tim was S with her.

[] 'Our sweet-tempered Georgina doesn't seem to be very friendly tonight,' remarked Mr. Roland, pulling the bit of linen towards him. 'Where in the world did you get ; this? What an odd thing !'

[] Nobody answered. Mr. Roland studied the roll of linen, and then gave an exclamation. 'Ah - I see why you wanted to know the meaning of those Latin words the other day - the ones that meant "hidden path", you remember. They are at the top of this linen roll.'

[] 'Yes,' said Dick. All the children leaned over towards Mr. Roland, hoping he would be able to unravel a little of the mystery for them.

[] 'We just want to know the meaning of the words, sir,' said Julian.

[] 'This is really very interesting,' said the tutor, puzzling over the linen. 'Apparently there are directions here for finding the opening or entrance of a secret path or road.'

[] 'That's what we thought!' cried Julian, excitedly. 'That's exactly what we thought. Oh sir, do read the directions and see what you make of them.'

[] 'Well, these eight squares are meant to represent wooden boards or panels, I think,' said the tutor, pointing to the eight rough squares drawn on the linen. 'Wait a minute - I can hardly read some of the words. This is most fascinating, Solum lapideum - paries ligneus - and what's this - cellula - yes, cellula!'

[] The children hung on his words. 'Wooden panels!' That must mean panels somewhere at Kirrin Farm-house.

[] Mr. Roland frowned down at the old printed words. Then he sent Anne to borrow a magnifying glass from her uncle. She came back with it, and the four of them looked through the glass, seeing the words three times as clearly now.

[] 'Well,' said the tutor at last, 'as far as I can make out the direction mean this: a room facing east; eight wooden panels, with an opening somewhere to be found in that marked one; a stone floor - yes, I think that's right, a stone floor; and a cupboard. It all sounds most extraordinary and very thrilling. Where did you get this from?'

[] 'We just found it,' said Julian, after a pause. 'Oh Mr. Roland, thanks awfully. We could never have made it out by ourselves. I suppose the entrance to the Secret Way is in a room facing east then.'

[] 'It looks like it,' said Mr. Roland, poring over the linen roll again. 'Where did you say you found this?'

[] 'We didn't say,' said Dick. 'It's a secret really, you see.'

[] 'I think you might tell me,' said the tutor, looking at Dick with his brilliant blue eyes. 'I can be trusted with secrets. You've no idea how many queer secrets I know.'

[] 'Well,' said Julian, 'I don't really see why you shouldn't know where we found this, Mr. Roland. We found it at Kirrin Farm-house, in an old tobacco pouch. I suppose the Secret Way begins somewhere there! I wonder where and wherever can it lead to?'

[] 'You found it at Kirrin Farm-house!' exclaimed Mr. Roland. 'Well, well - I must say that seems to be an interesting old place. I shall have to go over there one day.'

[] Julian rolled up the piece of linen and put it into his pocket. 'Well, thank you, sir,' he said. 'You've solved a bit of the mystery for us but set us another puzzle! We must look for the entrance of the Secret Way after Christmas, when we can walk over to Kirrin Farmhouse.’

[] I'll come with you,' said Mr. Roland. 'I may be able to help a little. That is - if you don't mind me having a little share in this exciting secret.'

[] 'Well - you've been such a help in telling us what the words mean,' said Julian; 'we'd like you to come if you want to, sir.'

[] 'Yes, we would,' said Anne.

[] 'We'll go and look for the Secret Way, then,' said Mr. Roland. 'What fun we shall have, tapping round the panels, waiting for a mysterious dark entrance to appear!'

[] 'I don't suppose George will go,' Dick murmured to Julian. 'You shouldn't have said Mr. Roland could go with us, Ju. That means that old George will have to be left out of it. You know how she hates that.'

[] 'I know,' said Julian, feeling uncomfortable. 'Don't let's worry about that now though. George may feel different after Christmas. She can't keep up this kind of behaviour for ever!'