[] 'WHAT'S the matter?' asked George, as the three children tore up to her. 'Has something happened?'

[] 'Yes, George. Someone has taken three most important pages out of your father's book!' panted Julian. 'And broken the test-tubes he was making an experiment with. Mr. Roland thinks you might have had something to do with it!'

[] 'The beast!' said George, her blue eyes deepening with anger. 'As if I'd do a thing like that! Why should he think it's me, anyway?'

[] 'Well, George, you left that bottle of oil in the study fender,' said Anne. 'I haven't told anyone at all what you told me happened last night - but somehow Mr. Roland guessed you had something to do with the bottle of oil.'

[] 'Didn't you tell the boys how I got Timmy indoors?' asked George. 'Well, there's nothing much to tell, Julian, I just heard poor old Tim coughing in the night, and I half-dressed, went down, and took him into the study, where there was a fire. Mother keeps a bottle of oil that she used to rub her chest with when she has a cough -so I thought it might do Timmy's cold good, too. I got the oil and rubbed him well - and we both fell asleep by the fire till six o'clock. I was sleepy when I woke up, and forgot the oil. That's all.'

[] 'And you didn't take any pages from the book Uncle Quentin is writing, and you didn't break anything in the study, did you?' said Anne.

[] 'Of course not, silly,' said George, indignantly. 'How can you ask me a thing like that? You must be mad.'

[] George never told a lie, and the others always believed her, whatever she said. They stared at her, and she stared back.

[] 'I wonder who could have taken those pages then?' said Julian. 'Maybe your father will come across them, after all. I expect he put them into some safe place and then forgot all about them. And the test-tubes might easily have over-balanced and broken themselves. Some of them look very shaky to me.'

[] 'I suppose I shall get into trouble now for taking Tim into the study,' said George.

[] 'And for not coming into lessons this morning,' said Dick. 'You really are an idiot, George. I never knew anyone like you for walking right into trouble.'

[] 'Hadn't you better stay out a bit longer, till everyone has calmed down a bit?' said Anne.

[] 'No,' said George at once. 'If I'm going to get into a row, I'll get into it now! I'm not afraid!'

[] She marched over the cliff path, with Timmy running round her as usual. The others followed. It wasn't nice to think that George was going to get into such trouble.

[] They came to the house and went up the path.

[] Mr. Roland saw them from the window and opened the door. He glanced at George.

[] 'Your father wants to see you in the study,' said the tutor. Then he turned to the others, looking annoyed.

'Why did you go out without me? I meant to go with you.'

[] 'Oh did you, sir? I'm sorry,' said Julian, politely, not looking at Mr. Roland. 'We just went out on the cliff a little way.'

[] 'Georgina, did you go into the study last night?' asked Mr. Roland, watching George as she took off her hat and coat.

[] I'll answer my father's questions, not yours,' said George.

[] 'What you want is a good spanking,' said Mr. Roland. 'And if I were your father I'd give it to you!'

[] 'You're not my father,' answered George. She went to the study door and opened it. There was no one there.

[] 'Father isn't here,' said George.

[] 'He'll be there in a minute,' said Mr. Roland. 'Go in and wait. And you others, go up and wash for lunch.'

[] The other three children felt almost as if they were deserting George as they went up the stairs. They could hear Timmy whining from the yard outside. He knew his little mistress was in trouble, and he wanted to be with her.

[] George sat down on a chair, and gazed at the fire, remembering how she had sat on the rug there with Tim last night, rubbing his hairy chest. How silly of her to have forgotten the bottle of oil!

[] Her father came into the room, frowning and angry. He looked sternly at George.

[] 'Were you in here last night, George?' he asked.

[] 'Yes, I was,' answered George at once.

[] 'What were you doing in here?' asked her father. 'You know you children are forbidden to come into my study.'

[] 'I know,' said George. 'But you see Timmy had a dreadful cough, and I couldn't bear it. So I crept down about one o'clock and let him in. This was the only room that was really warm, so I sat here and rubbed his chest with the oil Mother uses when she has a cold.'

[] 'Rubbed the dog's chest with camphorated oil!' exclaimed her father, in amazement. 'What a mad thing to do! As if it would do him any good.'

[] 'It didn't seem mad to me,' said George. 'It seemed sensible. And Timmy's cough is much better today. I'm sorry for coming into the study. I didn't touch a thing, of course.'

[] 'George, something very serious has happened,' said her father, looking gravely at her. 'Some of my test-tubes with which I was doing an important experiment, have been broken - and, worse than that, three pages of my book have gone. Tell me on your honour that you know nothing of these things.'

[] 'I know nothing of them,' said George, looking her father straight in the eyes. Her own eyes shone very blue and clear as she gazed at him. He felt quite certain that George was speaking the truth. She could know nothing of the damage done. Then where were those pages?

[] 'George, last night when I went to bed at eleven o'clock, everything was in order,' he said. 'I read over those three important pages and checked them once more myself. This morning they are gone.'

[] 'Then they must have been taken between eleven o'clock and one o'clock,' said George. 'I was here from that time until six.'

[] 'But who could have taken them?' said her father. 'The window was fastened, as far as I know. And nobody knows that those three pages were so important but myself. It is most extraordinary.'

[] 'Mr. Roland probably knew,' said George, slowly.

[] 'Don't be absurd,' said her father. 'Even if he did realize they were important, he would not have taken them. He's a very decent fellow. And that reminds me -why were you not at lessons this morning, George?'

[] 'I'm not going to do lessons any more with Mr. Roland,' said George. 'I simply hate him!'

[] 'George! I will not have you talking like this!' said her father. 'Do you want me to say you are to lose Tim altogether?'

[] 'No,' said George, feeling shaky about the knees. 'And I don't think it's fair to keep trying to force me to do things by threatening me with losing Timothy. If - if -you do a thing like that - I'll - I'll run away or something!'

[] There were no tears in George's eyes. She sat bolt upright on her chair, gazing defiantly at her father. How difficult she was! Her father sighed, and remembered that he too in his own childhood had been called 'difficult'. Perhaps George took after him. She could be so good and sweet - and here she was being perfectly impossible!

[] Her father did not know what to do with George. He thought he had better have a word with his wife. He got up and went to the door.

[] 'Stay here. I shall be back in a moment. I want to speak to your mother about you.'

[] 'Don't speak to Mr. Roland about me, will you?' said George, who felt quite certain that the tutor would urge terrible punishments for her and Timmy. 'Oh, Father, if only Timothy had been in the house last night, sleeping in my room as usual, he would have heard whoever it was that stole your secret - and he would have barked and roused the house!'

[] Her father said nothing, but he knew that what George had said was true. Timmy wouldn't have let anyone get into the study. It was funny he hadn't barked in the night, if anyone from outside had climbed in at the study window. Still, it was the other side of the house. Maybe he had heard nothing.

[] The door closed. George sat still on her chair, gazing up at the mantelpiece, where a clock ticked away the time. She felt very miserable. Everything was going wrong, every single thing!

[] As she gazed at the panelled overmantel, she counted the wooden panels. There were eight. Now, where had she heard of eight panels before? Of course - in that Secret Way. There were eight panels marked on the roll of linen. What a pity there had not been eight panels in a wooden over-mantel at Kirrin Farm-house!

[] George glanced out of the window, and wondered if it faced east. She looked to see where the sun was - it was not shining into the room - but it did in the early morning - so it must face east. Fancy - her-e was a room facing east and with eight wooden panels. She wondered if it had a stone floor.

[] The floor was covered with a large thick carpet. George got up and went to the wall. She pulled up the edge of the carpet there - and saw that the floor underneath was made of large flat stones. The study had a stone floor too!

[] She sat down again and gazed at the wooden panels, trying to remember which one in the roll of linen was marked with a cross. But of course it couldn't be a room in Kirrin Cottage - it must be in Kirrin Farm-house where the Secret Way began.

[] But just suppose it was Kirrin Cottage! Certainly the directions had been found in Kirrin Farm-house - but that was not to say that the Secret Way had to begin there, even though Mrs. Sanders seemed to think it did.

[] George was feeling excited. 'I must tap round about those eight panels and try to find the one that is marked on the linen roll,' she thought. 'It may slide back or something, and I shall suddenly see the entrance opening!'

[] She got up to try her luck - but at that moment the door opened again and her father came in. He looked very grave.

[] 'I have been talking to your mother,' he said. 'She agrees with me that you have been very disobedient, rude and defiant. We can't let behaviour like that pass, George. You will have to be punished.'

[] George looked anxiously at her father. If only her punishment had nothing to do with Timothy! But, of course, it had.

[] 'You will go to bed for the rest of the day, and you will not see Timothy for three days,' said her father. 'I will get Julian to feed him and take him for a walk. If you persist in being defiant, Timothy will have to go away altogether. I am afraid, queer as it may seem, that that, dog has a bad influence on you.'

[] 'He hasn't, he hasn't!' cried George. 'Oh, he'll be so miserable if I don't see him for three whole days.'

[] 'There's nothing more to be said,' said her father. 'Go straight upstairs to bed, and think over all I have said to you, George. I am very disappointed in your behaviour these holidays. I really did think the influence of your three cousins had made you into a normal, sensible girl. Now you are worse than you have ever been.'

[] He held open the door and George walked out, holding her head high. She heard the others having their dinner in the dining-room. She went straight upstairs and undressed. She got into bed and thought miserably of not seeing Tim for three days. She couldn't bear it! Nobody could possibly know how much she loved Timothy!

[] Joanna came up with a tray of dinner. 'Well, Miss, it's a pity to see you in bed,' she said cheerfully. 'Now you be a sensible girl and behave properly and you'll soon be downstairs again.'

[] George picked at her dinner. She did not feel at all hungry. She lay back on the bed, thinking of Tim and thinking of the eight panels over the mantelpiece. Could they possibly be the ones shown in the Secret Way directions? She gazed out of the window and thought hard.

[] 'Golly, it's snowing!' she said suddenly, sitting up. T thought it would when I saw that leaden sky this morning. It's snowing hard! It will be quite thick by tonight - inches deep. Oh, poor Timothy. I hope Julian will see that his kennel is kept clear of the drifting snow.'

[] George had plenty of time to think as she lay in bed.

Joanna came and took the tray away. No one else came to see her. George felt sure the other children had been forbidden to go up and speak to her. She felt lonely and left-out.

[] She thought of her father's lost pages. Could Mr. Roland have taken them? After all, he was very interested in her father's work and seemed to understand it. The thief must have been someone who knew which were the important pages. Surely Timothy would have barked if a thief had come in from outside, even though the study was the other side of the house. Timmy had such sharp ears.

[] 'I think it must have been someone inside the house,' said George. 'None of us children, that's certain - and not Mother or Joanna. So that only leaves Mr. Roland. And I did find him in the study that other night when Timmy woke me by growling.'

[] She sat up in bed suddenly. 'I believe Mr. Roland had Timothy put out of the house because he wanted to go poking round the study again and was afraid Tim would bark!' she thought. 'He was so very insistent that Tim should go out of doors - even when everyone else begged for me to have him indoors. I believe - I really do believe - that Mr. Roland is the thief!'

[] The little girl felt very excited. Could it be that the tutor had stolen the pages - and broken those important test-tubes? How she wished that the others would come and see her, so that she could talk things over with them!