'Well,' said the boy, thinking hard, 'this tramp may have had a spite against Mr. Hick. You can't tell. Mr. Hick hasn't got a very good name about here for being good-tempered. He may have kicked the old tramp out of the place, or something, that very morning!'

The others thought about this. 'Let's go into the summer-house and talk,' said Pip, feeling excited. 'This is a sort of mystery, and it would be fun if we could help to solve it.'

The boy with Buster walked into the summer-house too, without being asked. Buster scrambled on to Larry's knee. Larry looked pleased.

'What time did you see the tramp?' asked Pip.

'About six o'clock' said the boy. 'A dirty old fellow he was too, in a torn mackintosh, and a frightful old hat He was skulking along the hedge. Buster saw him and tore out, barking.'

'Did you notice if he had a tin of petrol in his hand?' asked Larry.

'No, he hadn't,' said the boy. 'He'd got a stick of some sort. That's all.'

'I say,' said Daisy suddenly. 'I say! I've got an idea!'

They all looked at her. Daisy was a great one for ideas, and usually she had good ones.

'What's the idea this time?' asked Larry.

'We'll be detectives!' said Daisy. 'We'll set ourselves to find out 'WHO BURNT THE COTTAGE.' '

'What's a detective?' asked eight-year-old Bets.

'It's somebody who solves a mystery,' said Larry, 'Somebody who finds out who does a crime.'

'Oh, a find-outer,' said Bets. 'I'd love to be that. I'm sure I would make a very good find-outer.'

'No, you're too little,' said Pip. Bets looked ready to cry.

'We three older ones will be proper detectives,' said Larry, his eyes shining. 'Pip, Daisy and me - the Three Great Detectives!'

'Can't I belong?' said the fat boy at once. 'I've got plenty of brains.'

The others looked at him doubtfully. His brains didn't show in his face, anyway.

'Well, we don't know you,' said Larry. 'My name is Frederick Algernon Trotteville,' said the boy. 'What are your names?'

'Mine is Laurence Daykin,' said Larry, 'and I'm thirteen.'

'Mine's Margaret Daykin, and I'm twelve/' said Daisy.

'I'm Philip Hilton, aged twelve, and this is Elizabeth, my baby-sister,' said Pip.

The boy stared at them. 'You're none of you called by your names, are you?' he said. 'Larry for Laurence, Pip for Philip, Daisy for Margaret and Bets for Elizabeth. I'm always called Frederick.'

For some reason this seemed funny to the others. The boy spoke in a drawling, affected kind of voice, and somehow the name of Frederick Algernon Trotteville just seemed to suit him.

'F for Frederick, A for Algernon, T for Trotteville,' said Pip suddenly, with a grin. 'F-A-T; it describes you rather well!'

Frederick Algernon Trotteville looked rather cross at first, then he gave a grin. 'I am rather fat, aren't I?' he said. 'I've an awful appetite, and I expect I eat too much.'

'Your parents ought to have known better than to give you three names whose initials spelt FAT,' said Daisy. 'Poor old Fatty!'

Frederick Algernon sighed. He knew quite well that from now on he would be Fatty. He had already been Tubby and Sausage at school - now he would be Fatty in the holidays. He gazed at the little company of four friends.

'Can I belong to the detective-club?' he asked. 'After all, I did tell you about the tramp.'

'It isn't a club,' said Larry. 'It's just us three older ones banding together to solve a mystery.'

'And me too!' cried Bets. 'Oh, do say I can too! You're not to leave me out!'

'Don't leave her out,' said Fatty unexpectedly. 'She's only little, but she might be some use. And I think Buster ought to belong too. He might be awfully good at smelling out hidden things.'

'What hidden things?' said Larry.

'Oh, I don't know,' said Fatty vaguely. 'You simply never know what you are going to find when you begin to solve a mystery.'

'Oh, let's all belong, Fatty and Buster too. Please!' cried Bets. Buster felt the excitement and began to whine a little, pawing at Larry with a small black foot.

The three bigger ones felt much more inclined to let Fatty join them once they realized that Buster could come too. For Buster's sake they were willing to have Fatty, plump, conceited and stupid. Buster could be a sort of bloodhound. They felt certain that real detectives, who solved all sorts of mysteries, would have a bloodhound.

'Well,' said Larry. 'We'll all belong and try to solve the Mystery of the Burnt Cottage.'

'We're the Five Find-Outers and Dog,' said Bets. Every one laughed. 'What a silly name!' said Lany. But all the same, it stuck, and for the rest of those holidays, and for a very long time after, the Five Find-Outers and Dog used that name continually for thehiselves.

'I know all about police and detectives,' said Fatty. 'I'd better be the head of us.'

'No you won't,' said Larry. 'I bet you don't know any more than the rest of us. And don't think that we're so stupid as not to see what a very good opinion you've got of yourself! You might as well make up your mind straightaway that we shan't believe half the tall stories you tell us! As for being head -1 shall be. I always am.'

'That's right,' said Pip. 'Larry's clever. He shall be the head of the bold Find-Outers.'

'All right,' said Fatty ungraciously. 'I suppose it's four against one. Blow - is that half-past twelve, - yes, it is. I must go.'

'Meet here this afternoon sharp at two,' said Larry. 'We will discuss the finding of clues then.'

'Glues?' said Bets, not hearing the word properly. 'Oh, that sounds exciting. Are glues sticky?'

'Idiot,' said Pip. 'What use you are going to be in the Find-Outers, I simply can't imagines'

At two o'clock sharp the Five Find-Outers and Dog met together in Pip's big garden. Pip was waiting for them, and he led them to the old summer-house.

'This had better be our headquarters,' he said. 'We shall keep wanting to meet and discuss things., I expect. It's a good place for that because it's at the bottom of the garden, and nobody can overhear us.'

They all sat down on the wooden bench that ran round the old summer-house. Buster jumped up on to Larry's knees. Larry liked that. Fatty didn't seem to mind.

'Now,' said Larry, 'as I'm the head of us I'd better start things going. I'll just go over what we all know, and then we'll discuss what we should do.'

'I do think this is exciting,' said Bets, who was very much enjoying being one of the Big Ones.

'Don't interrupt. Bets,' said Pip. Bets made her face solemn and sat still and straight.

'Well, we all know that Mr. Hick's cottage workroom, which stands at the end of his garden, was burnt down last night,' said Larry. 'Mr. Hick was not there till the end, because his chauffeur had gone to meet him off the London train. The insurance people say that petrol was used to start the fire, so some one must have done it on purpose. The Find-Outers have made up their minds that they will find out who has done this crime. Is that right?'

'Quite right, and very well put,' said Pip, at once. Buster wagged his tail hard. Fatty opened his mouth and began to speak in his high, affected voice.

'Well, I suggest that the first thing we do is to...' But Larry interrupted him at once.

'I'm doing the talking, Fatty, not you,' he said. 'Shut up!'

Fatty shut up but he didn't look at all pleased about it.

He put on a bored expression and rattled the money in His pocket.

'Now what we must do to find out who did the crime, is to discover who, if anyone, was near the workroom or in the garden that evening,' said Larry, 'Fatty tells us he saw a tramp. Well, we must find that tramp and somehow try to discover if he had anything to do with the fire. There's Mrs. Minus, the cook, too. We must find out about her.'

'Oughtn't we to find out if anyone had a spite against Mr. Hick?' put in Daisy. 'People don't go burning down cottages just for fun. It must have been done to pay Mr. Hick out for something, don't you think?'

'That's a very good point, Daisy,' said Larry. 'That's one of the things we will have to discover - who had a

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