HOLLY- The Loneliest Girl in the world
Jayne Sharratt

Of course, there are ghosts around here.

“It’s cool,” said Max. “Just stay where you are.” He reached his arms out until he felt the cold stone beneath his fingers, and made his way along the wall. “When I find the door, we should be able to get out, easy.” He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. Nobody knew where they were. There was nobody to hear them shout.
At that moment there was another creaking noise, and a sudden shaft of sunlight. Holly stood framed in the gap left by the doors she had just opened.
“How did you do that?”
Holly shrugged. “They weren’t locked,” she pointed out. They all stumbled back out, onto the steps. “I’m sorry, they don’t usually do that. Something must have upset them,” she apologised.
“What do you mean?” asked Nic.
Holly shook her head. Max had taken his cap off, and was twisting it around in his hands, as he looked up, around, and about him, as if seeing the world for the first time. They all felt cold suddenly.
“There must have been a sudden gust of wind,” said Max.
“I didn’t feel any wind,” said Nic.
“My knee hurts,” Sam said quietly. Nobody took any notice. “What is this place?” he asked, trying again.
“It’s called a mausoleum,” Holly explained. “It’s where the Tempest family were buried when they died.”
“Tempest is my grandmother’s name,” said Max.
“Why did you bring us here?” Nic looked suspicious.
“I wanted to show you,” Holly replied simply.
“Show off, more like,” Nic muttered. More loudly she asked, “What did you mean? When you said someone must be upset? Who must be upset?”
“The ghosts, of course.”
“Ghosts?” Max repeated.
“Are you mad?” asked Nic.
“Of course there are ghosts around here. Not just here, they don’t just stay around graves. But lots of people have died here. Along the cliffs, at sea, in the moors. Pirates, Smugglers, Soldiers, Highway-men. They’re all here.”
“Let’s go,” said Sam, tugging at his sister.
Nic stood her ground. “You don’t really believe in all that, do you?” she asked.
Holly just smiled. “You’re not scared of ghosts, are you Sam?” she asked, sitting down on the top step.
“Yes,” Sam replied. He waited a moment. No one else was moving, and he didn’t
want to go off into the woods alone. Besides, he was tired. He sat down next to Holly.
Max, with a wary eye on the doors, wandered inside again to look at the wall inscriptions. “The name on this last one isn’t Tempest. It’s Chloe...Chloe ...Harrington. 1775-1795.”
“But...she was only twenty years old,” Nic said.
“She died of a broken heart,” Holly said.
“Can you die of a broken heart?” Sam was wide-eyed.
Holly nodded. “Chloe did. It was a long time ago, and they didn’t know much about medicine, but the trouble was that she didn’t want to live, after he was killed.”
“Who was killed?” asked Sam. Max too, was leaning against the doorway, and listening, while Nic took a place on the step below her brother.
“James Tempest. He was sometimes known as the Devil’s Cub, because his father had been even worse than he was.” Holly’s voice had been gradually growing quieter and quieter. She forced her audience to gather in around her. “He was the youngest son of the family, and there wasn’t much money left for him. He had four older brothers, but he was by far the most handsome and daring. When he was very young he was always drunk, and hanging around with smugglers so he could sell their wine to all the fine houses in the county, and scaring all the villagers by driving his racing chariot too fast in the lanes. Then, when a war broke out between England and France, he became a spy. He crossed the channel all the time, even though it was really dangerous, and he knew all the routes the smugglers used to use. In France he was wanted - dead or alive. He stole the battle plans of the French army, and rescued their prisoners. He was the most famous spy ever, at the time. He smuggled out all the treasures from the chateaux which were being burned in France and kept them safe in England until they could be claimed by their rightful owners. All was going well, until he met the daughter of a neighbouring family, Chloe Harrington.”
“What happened?” Max asked.
“He fell in love. Chloe was the beautiful daughter of a judge. His home was the only one that didn’t have cellars full of smuggled wine and whiskey in the whole area. He didn’t like his daughter seeing James Tempest at all. But Chloe was in love with James too, and they were secretly engaged to be married. She promised she would run away with him, if he promised to stop going to France, and get a steady job in London as a lawyer. She was afraid of the danger he was in, you see. He agreed to do this after he had finished one last mission.”
“What was that?”
Holly did not seem to think the question very relevant to her story. “I’m not exactly sure, because it all had to be so secret, you see. Maybe only James Tempest knew exactly what he was doing, but it was very brave, more dangerous than anything he’d done before, and very important to Britain. There were a few moments when he was nearly caught, but he was so clever at disguises that he never was, and he made it all the
way back across the sea. He almost reached the coves, where Chloe was waiting for him on the cliffs above. These very cliffs here. Then, disaster struck.” Holly made a dramatic pause, and looked around to check she still held everyone’s attention. “Someone had betrayed him. He was lured into the wrong cove by a false light, and shot in the dark by a soldier who claimed he mistook him for a smuggler, was attacked and was forced to use his shotgun in self defence. But there were some people who didn’t believe that, and said the soldier who shot James Tempest had been paid by Chloe’s father. Chloe stayed on the cliffs, waiting for James to come home. When her family and friends begged her to come inside, she refused, wailed, sobbed, screamed, clung to trees. Some say she went mad with grief and guilt. Her family disowned her and when she died the Tempest’s buried her here, close to the sea, for her loyalty. She’s still here though. She wanders the cliffs at night, crying, and waiting for him to return.”
A tear was running down Holly’s cheek. Everyone was silent, awed, awkward.
“Weren’t her family sorry?” Sam asked.
Holly shook her head vigorously. She flicked away the tear.
Max was still stood in the door way, looking inside. “I can’t find a grave for this James Tempest here.”
“No. He fell back into the water, and his body was lost at sea. It was never found, and he took his secrets with him.”
“Where he left all the treasures, of course. He was keeping them in such a secret, safe place, that only he knew where. But the rumours say it was somewhere near here, and he did leave some clues, but no one has ever found out where. Over the years the Tempest family tried to find the treasure, but they never did.”
“Is this true?” Max was excited. “My family really has a lost treasure?”
Holly nodded.
“You look as if you really need it, too,” said Nic.
“I guess my grandmother could do with something,” said Max. “Things have looked a bit, er, run down around here.”
“We could look for it!” said Sam.
“We could,” agreed Holly.
“But first, could we go somewhere not so...haunted...could we go and have something to drink and sit down.”
Holly, Max and Nic laughed. Suddenly they didn’t feel as on edge as they had done ten minutes ago. The clearing seemed warmer, and less scary somehow.
“My gran’s house is full of old stuff that looks like it hasn’t been touched for years. We might find clues about the missing treasures there,” Max suggested.
“We could get something to drink anyway,” said Nic. “I’m just gasping.”
“I’m not exactly sure how to get back from here though,” Max said.

“I know,” said Holly, leading the way once more, this time by following a blue ribbon.
“You know I don’t believe any of this. But it might be fun to pretend I do,” Nic admitted.
Tempest Hall was an impressive, turreted mansion built on a rise in the land before it ran down to the cliff edge. The woods and gardens which surrounded it had grown in so close about it, and been cut back so rarely, that the Hall could barely be seen from outside, apart from the odd glimpse of the very pinnacles of the gabled towers. Nic and Sam had no idea what to expect, but they knew they must be getting closer when they started to pass statues, and pick their way through thorny overgrown rose trees. They were no longer walking through woodland, but what was left of an ornamental garden, once ordered, now taken over by nature.
Following Holly they climbed stone steps onto a large terrace. Its stone slabs were completely covered by a carpet of old and slimy leaves.
“Uurghhh!” Sam hopped around in his socks, hating the damp, squidgy feeling beneath him. Nobody took much notice of him. The back of Tempest Hall rose above them. It was built of mellow stone,covered over by ivy. Max had always gone in by the front door before, and thought the house quite symmetrical. Now he saw it was not. It was a jigsaw, put together by several generations of owners in several styles, without any attempt to make the new additions blend in with what was already there. The house was a mess, a crumbling and fading beauty, but he thought he liked this side better than the showy front.
“I’m not too sure where the back door is...” He mumbled, embarrassed by how alien it all was to him.
Sam hopped ahead, wanting to get inside quickly. As he ran past one of four stone lions placed in a square shape in the centre of the terrace he gave a sudden terrified yell. The floor seemed to give way below him, and he disappeared loudly, clutching at leaves and foliage which gave way in his hands.
“Sam!” Nic yelled, hurrying to help him.
“Careful.” Max warned. “There must be a hole in the terrace or something.”
Testing the ground beneath them carefully, they stood on the edge of the hole and pulled Sam out, spluttering and spitting rotten leaves from his mouth.
“Are you OK?” Nic asked anxiously. Seeing he had no injuries apart from the odd scratch she demanded; “What did you think you were doing?”
“How was I to know there’d be a big hole there?” He felt close to tears.
Their attention was drawn back to Holly. She was slumped beside the stone lion, quietly shaking with laughter, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“What-is-so-funny?” Nic felt furious with Holly.
“I’m sorry, Nic, it was just...when Sam suddenly, and...he was so surprised, and...Sam, I’m sorry. You’re not hurt are you?” She stood up and ruffled
his hair.
Sam shook his head.
“It could have been worse. You could have fallen into the deep end,” Holly said.
“What did you say?” Nic’s voice sounded dangerous.
“Well he only fell into the shallow end of the pool, so he didn’t disappear completely under the leaves. I mean, he could still get out.”
“You mean this is an old swimming pool, filled with leaves?” Max asked.
“Oh yes. Hasn’t anyone told you?” Holly was surprised. “The lions mark the four corners.”
“You mean you knew?” Nic was really angry now. “You knew and you never warned us? You just let Sam run into all that, and get covered in slime...”
“I didn’t get time to tell you. He ran on so quickly..”
“You didn’t even try!”
Sam was brushing himself down, and rubbing the dirt in more. “It’s all right,” he said. “I don’t mind, Nic. I’m OK, It’s not Holly’s fault. She probably just forgot...”
“I suppose you’d wander blindly into hell if Holly said so, would you Sam? It’s not OK at all. What’s Mum going to say when she sees you?”
“Let’s go inside and see if we can get us all cleaned up a bit,” said Max. “I can see a door over there.”
“No,” Nic was clearly not happy to let Holly get away with it. “I want to know how Holly knows so much about everything. I mean how do you know there used to be a swimming pool here? Do you spend all your time just snooping about other people’s homes? Don’t you have a home of your own to go to?”
Holly just stood still, she didn’t say anything.
Nic carried on. “You lead us all about on wild goose chases, telling us stories, and how do we know anything you tell us is true? You tell us we’re going to hunt for treasure, but why should we believe you? Why should we do what you want all the time? And all these ghosts of yours. I suppose they’re personal friends? How do you know so much about them?”
Holly made no answer.
“I did wonder about that. How do you know all about these ghost stories, Holly?” Max asked curiously.
“Well, they tell me...”
“Don’t be stupid, Holly!” Nic was scathing. “You cannot tell us that ghosts tell you all about themselves, and expect us to believe you.”
Holly went red. “I’ve seen them,” she said. “And I’ve read all about them. There wasn’t much to do about here before you all came, you know. Sometimes the ghosts seem more real than anything...” She sounded wistful.
“She can’t...she can’t see ghosts,” Nic was not prepared to give up.
“I guess she can if she wants to,” said Max, glaring as if to say, ‘leave her alone’. He
had the feeling that it was cruel to try and pin Holly down and make her explain herself.
Nic felt irritated at the ways the boys were taking Holly’s side. “It’s all very well for her. She leads us about through woods and ponds and graveyards and holes full of smelly leaves. Some of us have a Mum who’ll want to know where we’ve been and why we look such a mess, even if you...” She stopped herself, remembering Holly’s Mother was dead, and blushing.
“Nobody cares what I do,” said Holly. She reached her hand out to Nic. “Let’s just go inside, shall we?”
“Yes,” said Max and Sam, almost together. Max led them to a small wooden door, and took them through it, inside Tempest Hall.
They were inside a vast kitchen with stone-flagged floors, a large wooden table and light pouring in through dirty windows. The room was like ones Nic and Sam had seen on school trips to Stately Homes in the Home Counties, where they could look from behind a barrier at tables piled high with plastic food, a range and models of hard working cooks and servants. There was none of that here.
“Have you got servants?” Sam asked Max.
Max shook his head. “Gran doesn’t have anyone.” He didn’t need to say it. It was obvious. The table was piled with cans and the plastic containers which held ready meals. It was hard to tell which were empty, and which were waiting to be eaten. The huge sinks were piled high with washing up, plates rose spattered and gold rimmed beneath the traces of congealed gravy or pasta sauce. Dinner services made for huge banquets meant one person could get away without washing up for months. The large old fashioned black range stood cold and cobwebbed, obviously unlit in decades. There was no sign of any other means of cooking, except for a microwave on the floor in a corner of the kitchen. It was old and uncleaned too.
“We came here to get clean?” Nic asked. The tension from earlier was broken by laughter.
“Is this what you’ve been eating? Baked beans and Pasta Carbonara?” Sam asked, clearly jealous.
Max nodded.
“Who cooks?” asked Nic.
“Gran cooks for herself, I guess. She told me to help myself. Maybe I’ll do some cleaning sometime.”
He took them through to a pantry at the other side of the room. Here there was a large fridge and chest freezer - both looked like museum pieces. From inside the fridge Max handed them cans of Coke, and Kit Kats from one of the shelves. All the shelves were well stocked, with what looked like several months’ supply of quick and easy Microwave food.
“Does your Gran go shopping?” Nic asked, wondering how on earth one old lady
could manage all this food, even if she did have a car.
Max shook his head. “She orders everything on-line, I guess.”
“Your gran’s got the internet?” This time Sam and Nic were really impressed.
Max just shrugged. “Mom hooked her up to it last time she visited, a couple of years ago. So that she didn’t need to worry, and Gran could get all her food delivered in vans.”
“They’d have to be big vans,” Nic said. “Doesn’t your mum worry about your Gran being here all on her own? I mean couldn’t she get someone in to look after her a bit?”
Max frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s just not used to having to do stuff in the kitchen. She would have had people in to cook and clean once, I guess.”
“Well, why doesn’t she now? I’m sure people can’t be that scared of this place. It could be really nice if it was done up.”
“I think she just doesn’t like people coming here anymore. She likes things as they are.”
“But she couldn’t mind someone just coming in once a week to do some cleaning, could she? We used to have a cleaner when we were in London. What did your Mum say when she saw all this mess?”
Max was not enjoying himself. “She didn’t see this. She didn’t bring me here. One of my Dad’s secretaries from the London office met me at the airport, and put me in a car to bring me down here.”
Nic was very curious. It seemed really odd to her that Max’s parents would send him to be looked after by someone it seemed he’d never met and who could barely look after herself, in a strange country. “When did you last see your Mum and Dad?” she asked.
“Do you have to ask so many questions?” Max asked, walking quickly back into the kitchen.
“Stop being nosy,” Sam told his sister.
“People don’t have to tell you every little thing about themselves, you know,” said Holly.
“I just don’t understand why everything has to be such a big mystery around here,” Nic muttered. She didn’t like to admit it, but several times that day she knew she had gone too far.
They followed Max into the kitchen. He didn’t stay annoyed for long. “It is a mess. I guess when I saw it I just thought all the English were eccentric,” he said this with a grin.
“Some of us more than others,” Nic said, looking at Holly, who was bending to get a closer look at Sam’s hurt knee.
“You’ve been really brave,” Holly told Sam. “We should get you washed.”
“I know that,” snapped Nic,
“We’ll go upstairs and find a bathroom,” Max said, and led them out of the kitchen
and up a stone spiral staircase.
“Where’s your Gran now?” Sam asked. “Will she mind us being here?”
Max shook his head. “I shouldn’t think so. The house is so big she won’t notice. She hasn’t noticed me being here much. I’ve hardly seen her.”
As they crept up several flights of back stairs, feeling more and more weary, they all secretly hoped they wouldn’t run into Max’s grandmother.
The bathroom was large and airy and quite obviously unused until Max had arrived.
“There’s another bathroom which goes off from my grans bedroom, I think,” Max explained.
The shower, bath, toilet and sink had probably been the latest and most expensive models when they had been bought, but that was about fifty years ago. Max found some soap and all the children tried to wash themselves a bit, without much success.
Getting soapy water all over his shorts and t-shirt only seemed to make Sam look even worse than he had done.
“At least we’ve cleaned the dirt away from your cut knee,” said Holly. “Your mum can’t get too mad, can she?”
Nic smiled grimly. “You don’t know my mum. Maybe you could find some Anti-septic or something around here, Max?”
Before he could answer they were all stopped by the sound of someone singing down the corridor. “Daisy, daisy, love, love me do, I’m half crazy, say you’ll be mine...” The tune was lost and the words were confused.
Max, Nic, Sam and Holly all stood, rooted to the spot, trying to keep quiet. The singing broke off. The voice called out, “Max? Max, are you there?”
Max opened the bathroom door, and they all shuffled out. His Gran was a tall old lady with long white hair caught up beneath what looked like a diamond tiara. Her eyes were a vivid blue and seemed younger than the rest of her. She wore a long silk shift dress which was bright blue with red, green and orange flowers.
“Ah Max, there you are. And these are your new young friends, how nice to meet you all. Did you like the song I wrote this morning?”
They all felt taken aback. They hadn’t expected her to be friendly. Somehow this felt scarier than the unwelcoming ogre they had expected.
“It was lovely,” said Holly.
Mrs.Tempest turned her attention to Holly. She looked at her for a long time, gasping a little. She reached out her wrinkled hand to touch Holly’s face, and her red hair. “Oh dear,” she whispered. “Oh dear, how sad, how very...” Tears were running down her cheeks. She turned abruptly and almost ran away, back down the corridor and through one of the doors.

© Jayne Sharratt 2001

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