The four children rushed out of the front gate and didn’t stop till they got to the Peep-Hole. How nice and friendly it seemed, and how kind Dimmy looked as she stood picking peas for supper in the garden!
“Dimmy!” cried Nora, rushing up to her. “Some people are going to buy the Old House.”
Dimmy looked astonished. “Whatever for?” she asked. “It’s no use except for a school or for a hotel or something like that - it’s so lonely for an ordinary family.”
“Dimmy, they are queer people,” said Jack, and he told what had happened. “Do you suppose they really would punish us if we go there again?”
“Quite likely,” said Dimmy, going indoors with the peas. “If they are buying the house it will be theirs. So keep away from it. Surely you’ve got plenty to do without going wandering over that old place! “
“Well, you see, it’s a mysterious sort of place, somehow,” said Jack. “It looks as if anything might happen there. I keep looking at it and wondering about it.”
“So do I,” said Nora. “I don’t like the old house - but I can’t help thinking about it.”
“Rubbish!” said Miss Dimity. “No doubt these people will move in and make it a holiday place, and it will be just as ordinary as Peep-Hole.”
“Let’s go and bathe,” said Mike suddenly. “Don’t let’s think about it any more. They were horrid people, and we’ll forget them.”
They fetched their towels in silence. They had all had a shock, for never had they thought that anyone could speak to them so fiercely, or threaten them so unkindly. However, when they were splashing in the warm water they forgot the strange old house and the queer couple that were going to buy it, and shouted gaily to one another.
But they had another shock when they went in to their tea that afternoon. They saw a car outside the door, and inside it was sitting the same yellow-haired woman they had seen in the old house! She looked at them without smiling.
The children went indoors, puzzled - and they walked straight into the dark-skinned man! He was standing just inside the sitting-room door, listening to Dimmy.
“Oh! Sorry!” said Jack. “I didn’t know you had a visitor, Dimmy.“
“He’s just going,” said Dimmy, who looked quite worried. “Go and tidy yourselves for tea.”
As the children turned to go they heard the man speak again.
“But why will you not sell me this little house? I am offering far more money to you for it than you will ever get when you want to sell it!”
“It has been in my family for two hundred years.” said Dimmy firmly. “It is true that I only live here in the summer-time, but I love it and I will not part from it.”
“Well, will you rent it to me for twelve months?” asked the man.
“No,” said Miss Dimity. “I have never let it, and I don’t want to.”
“Very well,” said the man angrily. “Do as you please. But I think you are very foolish.”
“I’m afraid I don’t really mind what you think about me,” said Dimmy with a laugh. “Now, please go. The children want their tea.”
“Oh, the children - yes, that reminds me,” said the man sternly. “Keep them out of the Old House from now on, or they will get into serious trouble. I’m not going to have badly-behaved children running all over my house and grounds.”
“They are not badly behaved,” said Dimmy, “and they didn’t know you were going to buy it till to-day. Good-day.”
She showed the man out of the door. He went to the car frowning, started it with a great noise and roared off down the country lane.
“Sort of fellow who likes a car to sound like a hundred aeroplanes,” said Mike in disgust, looking out of his tower window. “You know, Jack, there’s something funny about that man. Why does he want to buy the Old House - and the Peep-Hole, too? Do you suppose he’s going to do something that he wants no one to know of? This would be a marvellous place to do a bit of smuggling, for instance.”
“People use aeroplanes for that sort of thing nowadays,” said Jack. “No - I just can’t imagine what he’s going to do here - but I’d dearly like to find out. And if Mr. Felipe, or whatever his name is, is up to something funny, I vote we find out what it is!”
“Yes, let’s,” said Nora excitedly. She and Peggy had come up to the boys’ room to brush their hair. “I feel as if something is going to happen. Don’t you?”
“I do rather,” said Jack. “Though it may all turn out to be quite ordinary.”
“Children! Are you never coming down to tea?” called Miss Dimity. “I suppose you don’t want any jam-scones to-day?”
“Yes we do, yes we do!” yelled the children, rushing down the winding stairs. “Is there cream with them?”
There was. Dimmy poured out their milk and handed the new scones thickly spread with raspberry jam.
“Dimmy, who was that man?” asked Jack.
“He said his name was Mr. Felipe Diaz,” said Dimmy, eating a scone. “Fancy him thinking I’d let him have the Peep-Hole! I certainly wouldn’t sell my old home to a person like Mr. Diaz!”
“We think he’s up to no good,” said Jack, taking a second scone. “And if he is, Dimmy, we are going to find out what’s wrong!”
“Now don’t you do anything of the sort,” said Dimmy at once. “He’s a man of his word, and if he says he’ll punish you if you trespass on his grounds you may be sure you’ll get into trouble if you disobey. Keep away from the Old House. Don’t even peep over the wall.”
The children said nothing. They didn’t want to make any promises, because they never broke a promise, and it would spoil things if they had to promise Dimmy never to go near the Old House.
They ate a huge tea, and not a single scone or cake was left. “You made too few scones, Dimmy dear,” said Jack, getting up.
“Oh no, I didn’t,” said Dimmy. “You ate too many! I am just wondering whether I shall bother to think about supper for you - I am sure you couldn’t possibly eat any more to-day.”
The children laughed. They knew Dimmy was only teasing them. “We’re going out in George’s boat,” said Jack. “Why don’t you come with us, Dimmy? We’d love to have you.”
Dimmy shook her head. “I’ve plenty to do,” she said. “Go off and enjoy yourselves and see if you can possibly get an appetite for supper!”
The children shot off to get George’s boat. He kept it tied to a rough little wooden pier in a cove nearby. He used it for fishing and it was a good, strong little boat.
“George, did you see anything of the people who are going to buy the Old House?” asked Jack eagerly.
“Yes,” said George, who was mending his fishing lines. “They came and asked me to tidy up the garden a bit and to get a couple of women from the nearest village to scrub down the house. And they wanted to know a tidy lot about the coast around here!”
“Did they? What for?” asked Mike.
“That’s what I’d like to know!” said George, with a laugh. “That man’s up to no good, I reckon! He wanted me to sell him my boat too, when I told him it was the only one hereabouts.”
“Oh, George! You didn’t sell it to him, did you?” cried Jack in dismay.
“Of course not,” said George. “I wouldn’t part with my boat, not for a hundred pounds! I don’t think they wanted the boat to use themselves though - I just think they didn’t want me rowing round about this coast for a bit.”
“George! Do you think they are smugglers then?” cried Mike. “I thought smugglers used aeroplanes, not boats nowadays.”
“They’ve got some little game on,“ said George, packing up his nets neatly into the bottom of the boat. “But I’m not going to help them by selling my boat. I’m going to keep my eyes open.”
“So are we, George, so are we!” cried the four children excitedly. They told him all about their adventure in the Old House that day. George listened. He got into his boat, which was floating by the side of the little pier, and beckoned to the children to get in.
“You come along with me and I’ll show you something,” he said. They all tumbled in, and Jack and Mike took an oar each. George had two. They rowed out on the calm sea, bumping a little on the waves that ran round the rocks here and there.
“We’ve got to row a good way,” said George. “I reckon we can just do it before supper. Right round the cliff there, look - and beyond it - and then round the next crag too. It’s a goodish way.”
It was lovely on the sea in the evening. The children took turns at rowing. The sun sank lower. The boat rounded the big cliff, went across the next bay, and rounded a great craggy head of rock that stood well out into the sea. Beyond that the cliff fell almost down to sea-level before it rose again.
George took the boat well out to sea then - and suddenly he pulled in his oars, shaded his eyes with his hand, and looked over the land to the north-west.
“Now you look over there,” he said, “and tell me what you can see.”
The children looked. Jack gave a shout. “Why, we can see the topmost window of the Old House from here - and we can see the topmost window of our own tower too! The cliffs seem to fall away in a more or less straight line from here, and the towers can just be seen.”
“Yes,” said George. “And in smuggling days a ship could come and anchor out here. Right out of sight of Spiggy Holes, and could come in at night when a light shone in those towers! Old man Spiggy used to light the lamp when it was safe, and it used to wink out at the smuggling ships here, and in they’d ride on the tide, unseen by anyone!”
“It does sound exciting,” said Jack. “Do you suppose Mr. Felipe Diaz is going to use the tower for the same thing, George?”
“Oh no!” said George. “But we’ll keep our eyes open, shall we?”
“Yes, rather!” cried all the children, and rowed back to supper as fast as they could.