[] NEXT morning the sun was out, all the sea-mist that had hung about for the last two days had disappeared, and Kirrin Island showed plainly at the mouth of Kirrin Bay. The children stared longingly at the ruined castle on it.

[] 'I do wish we could get over to the castle,' said Dick. 'It looks quite calm enough, George.'

[] 'It's very rough by the island,' said George. 'It always is at this time of year. I know Mother wouldn't let us go.'

[] 'It's a lovely island, and it's all our own!' said Anne. 'You said you would share it with us for ever and ever didn't you, George?'

[] 'Yes, I did,' said George. 'And so I will, dungeons and all. Come on - we must get the trap out. We shall be late meeting the train if we stand here all day looking at the island.'

[] They got the pony and trap and set off down the hard lanes. Kirrin Island disappeared behind the cliffs as they turned inland to the station.

[] 'Did all this land round about belong to your family once upon a time?' asked Julian.

[] 'Yes, all of it,' said George. 'Now we don't own anything except Kirrin Island, our own house - and that farm away over there - Kirrin Farm.'

She pointed with her whip. The children saw a fine old farm-house standing on a hill a good way off, over the heather-clad common.

[] 'Who lives there?' asked Julian.

[] 'Oh, an old farmer and his wife,' said George. 'They were nice to me when I was smaller. We'll go over there one day if you like. Mother says they don't make the farm pay any more, and in the summer-time they take in people who want a holiday.'

[] 'Hark! That's the train whistling in the tunnel!' said Julian, suddenly. 'Buck up, for goodness' sake, George. We shan't be there in time!'

[] The four children and Timothy looked at the train coming out of the tunnel and drawing in at the station. The pony cantered along swiftly. They would be just in time.'

[] 'Who's going on to the platform to meet him?' asked George, as they drew into the little station yard. I'm not. I must look after Tim and the pony.'

[] 'I don't want to,' said Anne. I'll stay with George.'

[] 'Well, we'd better go, then,' said Julian, and he and Dick leapt out of the trap. They ran on to the platform just as the train pulled up.

[] Not many people got out. A woman clambered out with a basket. A young man leapt out, whistling, the son of the baker in the village. An old man climbed down with difficulty. The tutor could be none of those!

[] Then, right at the front of the train, rather a queer-looking man got out. He was short and burly, and he had a beard rather like a sailor. His eyes were piercingly blue, and his thick hair was sprinkled with grey. He glanced up and down the platform, and then beckoned to the porter.

[] 'That must be Mr. Roland', said Julian to Dick. 'Come on - let's ask him. There's no one else it could be.'

[] The boys went up to the bearded man. Julian raised his cap politely. 'Are you Mr. Roland, sir?' he asked.

[] 'I am,' said the man. 'I suppose you are Julian and Dick?'

[] 'Yes, sir,' answered the boys together. 'We brought the pony-trap for your luggage.'

[] 'Oh, fine,' said Mr. Roland. His bright blue eyes looked the boys up and down, and he smiled. Julian and Dick liked him. He seemed sensible and jolly.

[] 'Are the other two here as well?' said Mr. Roland, walking down the platform, with the porter trailing behind with his luggage.

[] 'Yes - George and Anne are outside with the trap,' said Julian.

[] 'George and Anne,' said Mr. Roland, in a puzzled voice. 'I thought the others were girls. I didn't know there was a third boy.'

[] 'Oh, George is a girl,' said Dick, with a laugh. 'Her real name is Georgina.'

[] 'And a very nice name too,' said Mr. Roland.

[] 'George doesn't think so,' said Julian. 'She won't answer if she's called Georgina. You'd better call her George, sir!'

[] 'Really?' said Mr. Roland, in rather a chilly tone. Julian took a glance at him.

'Not quite so jolly as he looks!' thought the boy.

[] 'Tim's out there too,' said Dick.

[] 'Oh - and is Tim a boy or a girl'. inquired Mr. Roland, cautiously.

[] 'A dog, sir!' said Dick, with a grin.

Mr. Roland seemed rather taken-aback.

[] 'A dog?' he said. 'I didn't know there was a dog in the household. Your uncle said nothing to me about a dog.'

[] 'Don't you like dogs?' asked Julian, in surprise.

[] 'No,' said Mr. Roland, shortly. 'But I daresay your dog won't worry me much. Hallo, hallo - so here are the little girls! How do you do?'

[] George was not very pleased at being called a little girl. For one thing she hated to be spoken of as little, and for another thing she always tried to be a boy. She held out her hand to Mr. Roland and said nothing. Anne smiled at him, and Mr. Roland thought she was much the nicer of the two.

[] 'Tim! Shake hands with Mr. Roland!' said Julian to Timothy. This was one of Tim's really good tricks. He could hold out his right paw in a very polite manner. Mr. Roland looked down at the big dog, and Tim looked back at him.

Then, very slowly and deliberately, Timothy turned his back on Mr. Roland and climbed up into the pony-trap! Usually he put out his paw at once when told to, and the children stared at him in amazement.

[] 'Timothy! What's come over you?' cried Dick. Tim put his ears down and did not move.

[] 'He doesn't like you,' said George, looking at Mr. Roland. 'That's very queer. He usually likes people. But perhaps you don't like dogs?'

[] 'No, I don't, as a matter of fact,' said Mr. Roland.

'I was once very badly bitten as a boy, and somehow or other I've never managed to like dogs since. But I daresay your Tim will take to me sooner or later.'

[] They all got into the trap. It was a tight squeeze. Timothy looked at Mr. Roland's ankles as if he would rather like to nibble them. Anne laughed.

[] 'Tim is behaving queerly!' she said. 'It's a good thing you haven't come to teach him, Mr. Roland!' She smiled up at the tutor, and he smiled back, showing very white teeth. His eyes were as brilliant a blue as George's.

[] Anne liked him. He joked with the boys as they drove him, and both of them began to feel that their Uncle Quentin hadn't made such a bad choice after all.

[] Only George said nothing. She sensed that the tutor disliked Timothy, and George was not prepared to like anyone who didn't take to Timothy at first sight. She thought it was very queer too, that Tim would not shake paws with the tutor. 'He's a clever dog,' she thought. 'He knows Mr. Roland doesn't like him, so he won't shake hands. I don't blame you, Tim darling. I wouldn't shake hands with anyone who didn't like me!'

[] Mr. Roland was shown up to his room when he arrived. Aunt Fanny came down and spoke to the children. 'Well! He seems very nice and jolly - though it's funny to see a youngish man with a beard.'

[] 'Youngish!' exclaimed Julian. 'Why, he's awfully old! Must be forty at the very least!'

[] Aunt Fanny laughed. 'Does he seem so old to you?' she said. 'Well, old or not, he'll be quite nice to you, I'm sure.'

[] 'Aunt Fanny, we shan't begin lessons until after Christmas, shall we?' asked Julian, anxiously.

[] 'Of course you will!' said his aunt. 'It is almost a week till Christmas - you don't suppose we have asked Mr. Roland to come and do nothing till Christmas is over, do you?'

[] The children groaned. 'We wanted to do some Christmas shopping,' said Anne.

[] 'Well, you can do that in the afternoons,' said her aunt. 'You will only do lessons in the morning, for three hours. That won't hurt any of you!'

[] The new tutor came downstairs at that moment, and Aunt Fanny took him to see Uncle Quentin. She came out after a while, looking very pleased.

[] 'Mr. Roland will be nice company for your uncle,' she said to Julian. 'I think they will get on very well together. Mr. Roland seems to understand quite a bit about your uncle's work.'

[] 'Let's hope he spends most of his time with him then!' said George, in a low voice.

[] 'Come on out for a walk,' said Dick. 'It's so fine today. We shan't have lessons this morning, shall we, Aunt Fanny?'

[] 'Oh, no,' said his aunt. 'You'll begin tomorrow. Go for a walk now, all of you - we shan't often get sunny days like this!'

[] 'Let's go over to Kirrin Farm,' said Julian. 'It looks such a nice place. Show us the way, George.'

[] 'Right!' said George. She whistled to Timothy, and he came bounding up. The five of them set off together, going down the lane, and then on to a rough road over the common that led to the farm on the distant hill.

[] It was lovely walking in the December sun. Their feet rang on the frosty path, and Tim's blunt claws made quite a noise as he pattered up and down, overjoyed at being with his four friends again.

[] After a good long walk across the common the children came to the farm-house. It was built of white stone, and stood strong and lovely on the hillside. George opened the farm-gate and went into the farm-yard. She kept her hand on Tim's collar for there were two farm-dogs somewhere about.

[] Someone clattered round the barn near by. It was an old man, and George hailed him loudly.

[] 'Hallo, Mr. Sanders! How are you?'

[] 'Why, if it isn't Master George!' said the old fellow with a grin. George grinned too. She loved being called Master instead of Miss.

[] 'These are my cousins,' shouted George. She turned to the others. 'He's deaf,' she said. 'You'll have to shout to make him hear.'

[] I'm Julian,' said Julian in a loud voice and the others said their names too. The farmer beamed at them.

[] 'You come along in and see the Missis,' he said. 'She'll be rare pleased to see you all. We've known Master George since she was a baby, and we knew her mother when she was a baby too, and we knew her granny as well.'

[] 'You must be very, very old,' said Anne.

[] The farmer smiled down at her.

[] 'As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth!' he said, chuckling. 'Come away in now.'

[] They all went into the big, warm farm-house kitchen, where a little old woman, as lively as a bantam hen, was bustling about. She was just as pleased to see the four children as her husband was.

[] 'Well, there now!' she said. 'I haven't seen you for months, Master George. I did hear that you'd gone away to school.'

[] 'Yes, I did,' said George. 'But I'm home for the holidays now. Does it matter if I let Timothy loose, Mrs. Sanders? I think he'll be friendly if your dogs are, too.'

[] 'Yes, you let him loose,' said the old lady. 'He'll have a fine time in the farm-yard with Ben and Rikky. Now what would you like to drink? Hot milk? Cocoa? Coffee? And I've some new shortbread baked yesterday. You shall have some of that.'

[] 'Ah, the wife's very busy this week, cooking up all sorts of things,' said the old farmer, as his wife bustled off to the larder. 'We've company this Christmas!'

[] 'Have you?' said George, surprised, for she knew that the old pair had never had any children of their own. 'Who is coming? Anyone I know?'

[] 'Two artists from London Town!' said the old farmer. 'Wrote and asked us to take them for three weeks over Christmas - and offered us good money too. So the old wife's as busy as a bee.'

[] 'Are they going to paint pictures?' asked Julian, who rather fancied himself as an artist, too. 'I wonder if I could come and talk to them some day. I'm rather good at pictures myself. They might give me a few hints.'

[] 'You come along whenever you like,' said old Mrs. Sanders, making cocoa in a big jug. She set out a plate of most delicious-looking shortbreads, and the children ate them hungrily.

[] 'I should think the two artists will be rather lonely down here, in the depths of the country at Christmastime,' said George. 'Do they know anyone?'

[] 'They say they don't know a soul,' said Mrs. Sanders. 'But there - artists are queer folk. I've had some here before. They seemed to like mooning about all alone. These two will be happy enough, I'll be bound.'

[] 'They should be, with all the good things you're cooking up for them,' said her old husband. 'Well, I must be out after the sheep. Good-day to you, youngsters. Come again and see us sometimes.'

[] He went out. Old Mrs. Sanders chattered on to the children as she bustled about the big kitchen. Timothy ran in and settled down on the rug by the fire.

[] He suddenly saw a tabby cat slinking along by the wall, all her hairs on end with fear of the strange dog. He gave a delighted wuff and sprang at the cat. She fled out of the kitchen into the old panelled hall. Tim flew after her, taking no notice at all of George's stern shout.

[] The cat tried to leap on top of an old grandfather clock in the hall. With a joyous bark Tim sprang too. He flung himself against a polished panel - and then a most extraordinary thing happened!

[] The panel disappeared - and a dark hole showed in the old wall! George, who had followed Tim out into the hall, gave a loud cry of surprise. 'Look! Mrs. Sanders, come and look!'