The next few days the children kept a sharp eye on the Old House. They saw smoke rising from two of the chimneys and guessed that women were at work cleaning the big place. George also went up and tried to clear the weeds from the drive, and he told the children that the new people were coming in the very next week.

“They seem in a mighty hurry to come in,” he said. “Why, that place wants painting from top to bottom - and they’re not going to have anything done except that the big boiler is to be put right!”

The children bathed and paddled, fished and boated as much as ever, but the day that the new people moved into the Old House all four of them went to hide themselves in an enormous oak tree that grew not far from the gates.

They climbed up into the tree, settled themselves down on two broad branches, leaned comfortably against the trunk of the tree, and sat there, whispering and waiting.

Presently a large removal van came along the road, and then another - but that was all.

“Funny!” said Jack, in surprise. “Only two vans of furniture for that enormous house! They must just be furnishing a small part of it.”

The vans moved in through the gates, stopped in front of the house, and the men began to unload. Then the big car belonging to Mr. Felipe Diaz came tearing along, and, just under the tree where the children hid, it had to stop, to allow a tradesman’s van to pass out of the gates.

In the car was Mr. Diaz, the yellow-haired woman, a chauffeur as dark as Mr. Diaz, and a sleepy-eyed young man who lolled back in the car, talking to the woman.

“Well,” said Mr. Diaz, hopping out of the car, and beckoning to the young man to come with him. “Here we are! You go on to the house, Anna. Luiz and I are just going to walk round the walls of the place to see that they are all right.”

The car moved in through the gates. The two men stood underneath the tree, talking in low tones. The children could hear every word.

“This is as safe a place as anywhere in the kingdom,” said Mr. Diaz. “See that tower? Well, the boat can hang about right out of sight till we light a signal in the tower. Then it can come slipping in, and nobody will ever know. We shall be copying the old smugglers, Luiz - but our goods are not quite the same! Ha, ha!”

Luiz laughed too. “Come on,” he said. “I want to see the place. When are the dogs coming?”

Mr. Diaz murmured something that the children couldn’t hear, and the two went off round the walls of the Old House’s garden. The children, who had hardly dared to breathe whilst the men had stood beneath the tree, looked at one another in the greatest excitement.

“Did you hear?” whispered Mike. “They’re going to use a boat - and put a signal into the tower! It’s just like the old days!”

“But are they smugglers then?” asked Nora, puzzled. “And what are the ‘goods’ they spoke of?”

“I don’t know,” said Mike. “But I’m jolly well going to find out. This is about the most exciting thing that has happened to us since we ran away long ago to our secret island!”

“I love adventures,” said Jack. “But look here - we’ve got to be jolly careful of these people. If they think we even guess that they’re up to something, there’ll be a whole heap of trouble for us!”

“We’ll be careful,” said Nora, and she began to climb down the tree. “Come on! I’m tired of being up here.”

“Nora! Don’t be an idiot!” whispered Jack, as loudly as he dared. “Come back - we haven’t looked to see if it’s safe to get down!”

But Nora slipped at that moment, slid down the last bit of tree-trunk, and landed on her hands and knees on the ground below the tree. And at that very moment Mr. Diaz and Luiz came back from their walk round the high walls of the grounds!

They saw Nora, and Mr. Diaz frowned. “Come here!” he shouted. Nora was too afraid to go to him, and too afraid to run away! She just stood there and stared. The others up the tree stayed as still as mice, wondering what Nora was going to do.

Mr. Diaz came up to poor Nora and shouted at her. “What are you doing here? Didn’t I say that you children were not to come round the Old House?” He took hold of Nora’s shoulder and shook her.

“Where are the others? Are they anywhere about?”

Nora knew that Mr. Diaz hadn’t seen her fall from the tree, and she was glad. If only he didn’t look up and see the others!

“Please let me go,” she said, half crying. “I just came for a walk up here. I haven’t been inside the gates.”

“You just try coming inside the grounds!” said Mr. Diaz fiercely. He gave her another shake. “Now, go home. And tell the others that if they come for walks up here they will soon feel very sorry for themselves. I keep a cane for tiresome children!”

“I’ll go and tell the others,” said Nora, and she sped away down the slope of the cliff as if she were going to find Peggy, Jack, and Mike straightaway.

“That’s given her a good fright,” said Luiz, with a sleepy grin. “We don’t want any sharp-eyed kids about, Felipe! Well, when the two dogs come they’ll keep everyone away. They’ll bite anyone at sight!”

The two men went through the gate laughing together. When they were safely out of sight. Jack spoke.

“A nice pleasant pair, aren’t they?” he whispered to the others. “Nora was pretty sharp the way she shot off like that - it looked exactly as if she was going to find us - and yet there we were above dear Mr. Diaz’s head all the time! He’d only got to look up and see my big feet!”

“I want to get down as soon as I can,” said Peggy, who felt that if anyone did happen to see them up the tree they would be well trapped. “Is it safe to slip down now, Jack?”

Jack parted the leaves and peered all round. “Yes,” he said. “Come on, down we go!”

One by one they slipped down, and then shot off down the slope, keeping behind the big gorse bushes as much as they could in case any of the people of the Old House caught sight of them. They guessed that Nora would be waiting for them at the Peep-Hole.

She was - but she was crying bitterly.

“Don’t cry, Nora,” said Jack, putting his arm round her. “Were you very frightened?”

“I’m n-n-n-ot crying b-b-b-because I was frightened,” sobbed Nora, “I’m c-c-c-rying because I was such an idiot - slipping down out of the tree like that, and nearly spoiling everything.”

“Well, that was really very silly of you,” said Mike. “But you didn’t give us away, thank goodness - you were quite sharp, Nora. So cheer up - but you’d better be careful next time.”

“Jack shall be captain,” said Peggy. “He always was on the secret island - and he shall be now. He shall take charge of this adventure, and we’ll do what he says.”

“All right,” said Nora, cheering up and putting away her hanky. “I’ll always do what the captain says.”

“Do you think we ought to tell Dimmy about this adventure?” said Mike.

“No, I don’t,” said Jack at once. “She is awfully nice - but she might be frightened. She might even forbid us to try and find out anything. We’ll keep this secret all to ourselves - though perhaps we might get George to help us later on.”

“Did you hear what they said about the boat coming in?” said Mike. “We’ll watch for that, anyway! We can take it in turns to sit up each night in the top bedroom of our own tower and watch for a light in the tower of the big house. When we see it, we’ll slip down to the beach, hide in a cave, and watch the boat coming in - and maybe we’ll see what the mysterious ‘goods’ are that dear Mr. Diaz is smuggling in!”

“It’s getting very exciting,” said Peggy, not quite sure whether she liked it or not. “We shall have to be awfully careful that we’re not seen or caught.”

George told the children that the furniture had been put into only eight of the twenty rooms of the Old House.

“The tower rooms have been furnished,” he said. “I found that out from one of the women who is cleaning the place. So they are going to use the tower.”

“Yes - they are going to use the tower!” said Mike, looking at the others. But they did not tell George what they knew. He was very nice - but he was almost grownup and he might think, perhaps, they should tell Miss Dimity - and they did so want to follow the adventure themselves and find out everything before any grown-ups came into it.

That night the children undressed in great excitement. Jack was to take the first watch, from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock. Then Mike was to watch from twelve to two and Nora from two to four. By that time it would be daylight and there would be no need to watch.

The next night Peggy was to begin the watch. “We must sit by this window, and keep our eyes on the tower of the Old House,” said Jack. “If any of us sees a light flashing or burning there, he must wake the others at once - and then we’ll all creep down to the beach, hide in a cave and see if we can spot the boat coming in.”

Peggy and Nora went down to their bedroom. They found it difficult to go to sleep. Mike got into bed and talked to Jack, but they both fell asleep very soon. Jack had set the alarm clock to wake him at ten.

“R-r-r-r-r-r-ring!” It went off shrilly at ten o’clock. Jack sat up and switched it off. “Good thing Dimmy gave us our rooms right away in this tower,” he thought to himself. “She would be waked too, if we slept anywhere near her. Mike, are you awake? Well, go to sleep again. I’m going to watch now, and I’ll wake you at twelve.”

Jack put on a dressing-gown, and sat down by the window that looked towards the tower of the Old House. It was a dark, cloudy night. Jack could not make out the tower, stare as he might.

“Well, I should see it if it had a light in it,” he thought.

An owl hooted in a distant wood. A moth fluttered in a corner near Jack’s head and made him jump. He yawned. After the first five minutes, it was rather boring to sit and look at dark nothingness.

He was glad when it was time to wake Mike. Mike stumbled sleepily out of bed, dragged on his dressing-gown, and went to sit by the window. Jack tumbled into bed thankfully and was asleep in a second.

Mike sat and stared sleepily at the tower of the Old House. He could just see it now, for the sky had cleared. The tower was dark. Mike felt his eyes closing and he jerked his head up. He got up to walk about, afraid that he might fall asleep in the chair.

When his two hours were almost up, he heard a sound in the bedroom. And a hand touched his shoulder. Mike almost jumped out of his skin. He hit out and struck something soft.

“Oh!” said Nora’s voice. “You hurt me, Mike! I’ve just come up to tell you it’s my turn to watch.”

“Well, what do you want to come creeping in like that for, and make me jump!” said Mike crossly. “I thought you were a smuggler or something!”

Nora giggled and took her seat by the window. “Get into bed,” she said. “It’s my turn now. Oooh, I do feel important!”

That night nothing happened - neither did anything happen the next night or the next - but on the fourth night there was great excitement. A light flashed in the tower at midnight! There it was, as plain as could be!