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[Illustration: Cover art]





[Frontispiece: Sprang out over the awful chasm.]






HOLLYHOCK

A SPIRIT OF MISCHIEF


BY

L. T. MEADE


AUTHOR OF 'BEVY OF GIRLS,' 'REBEL OF THE SCHOOL,' ETC.



ILLUSTRATED

by

W. Rainey





LONDON: 38 Soho Square, W.

W. & R. CHAMBERS, LIMITED

EDINBURGH: 338 High Street

1916




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I. THE CHILDREN OF THE UPPER GLEN
II. AUNT AGNES
III. AUNT AGNES'S WAY
IV. THE PALACE OF THE KINGS
V. THE EARLY BIRD
VI. THE HEAD-MISTRESS
VII. THE OPENING OF THE GREAT SCHOOL
VIII. HOLLYHOCK LEFT IN THE COLD
IX. THE WOMAN WHO INTERFERED
X. A MISERABLE GIRL
XI. SOFT AND LOW
XII. UNDER PROTEST
XIII. THE SUMMER PARLOUR
XIV. THE FIRE THAT WILL NOT LIGHT
XV. CREAM
XVI. THE GIRL WITH THE WAYWARD HEART
XVII. THE GREAT CONSPIRACY
XVIII. LEUCHA'S TERROR
XIX. JASMINE'S RESOLVE
XX. MEG'S CONSCIENCE
XXI. THERE IS NO WAY OUT
XXII. THE END OF LOVE
XXIII. THE GREAT CHARADE
XXIV. THE WARM HEART ROUSED AT LAST
XXV. THE FIRE SPIRITS
XXVI. HOLLYHOCK'S DEED OF VALOUR
XXVII. ARDSHIEL TO THE RESCUE
XXVIII. WHAT LOVE CAN DO




ILLUSTRATIONS


Sprang out over the awful chasm . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

'It's here on moonlight nights that the ghost walks.'

The Conspiracy

The Rescue.




Hollyhock, a Spirit of Mischief.



CHAPTER I.

THE CHILDREN OF THE UPPER GLEN.

There was, of course, the Lower Glen, which consisted of boggy places
and endless mists in winter, and a small uninteresting village, where
the barest necessaries of life could be bought, and where the folks
were all of the humbler class, well-meaning, hard-working, but, alas!
poor of the poor. When all was said and done, the Lower Glen was a
poor place, meant for poor people.

Very different was the Upper Glen. It was beyond doubt a most
beautiful region, and as Edinburgh and Glasgow were only some fifty
miles away, in these days of motor-cars it was easy to drive there for
the good things of life. The Glen was sheltered from the worst storms
by vast mountains, and was in itself both broad and flat, with a great
inrush of fresh air, a mighty river, and three lakes of various sizes.
So beautiful was it, so delightful were its soft and yet at times keen
breezes, that it might have been called 'The Home of Health.' But no
one thought of giving the Glen this title, for the simple reason that
no one thought of health in the Glen; every one was enjoying that
blessed privilege to the utmost.

At the time when this story opens, two families lived in the Upper
Glen. There was a widowed lady, Mrs Constable, who resided at a lovely
home called The Paddock; and there was her brother, a widower, who
lived in a house equally beautiful, named The Garden.

The Hon. George Lennox had five young daughters, whom he called not by
their baptismal names, but by flower names. Mrs Constable, again,
called her five boys after precious stones.

The names of the girls were Jasmine, otherwise Lucy; Gentian, otherwise
Margaret; Hollyhock, whose baptismal name was Jacqueline; Rose of the
Garden, who was really Rose; and Delphinium, whose real name was
Dorothy.

The boys, sons of gentle Mrs Constable, were Jasper, otherwise John;
Sapphire, whose real name was Robert; Garnet, baptised Wallace; Opal,
whose name was Andrew; and Emerald, christened Ronald.

These happy children scarcely ever heard their baptismal names. The
flower names and the precious stones names clung to them until the day
when pretty Jasmine and manly Jasper were fifteen years of age. On
that day there came a very great change in the lives of the Flower
Girls and the Precious Stones. On that very day their real story
began. They little guessed it, for few of us do believe in sudden
changes in a very peaceful--perhaps too peaceful--life.

Nevertheless, a very great change was at hand, and the news which
heralded that tremendous change reached them on the evening of the
birthday of Jasmine and Jasper. It was the custom of these two most
united families to spend their evenings together--one evening at The
Garden, the Flower Girls' home, and the next at The Paddock, Mrs
Constable's house. On this special occasion the Flower Girls went with
their father to The Paddock, and thus avoided receiving until late in
the evening the all-important letter which was to alter their lives
completely.

George Lennox, whose dead wife had been a Cameron--a near relative of
the head of the great house of Ardshiel--bade his sister a most
affectionate good-night, and returned to The Garden with his five
bonnie lassies. They had passed a delightful evening together, and on
account of the double birthday Lennox and Mrs Constable had made up a
most charming little play, in which the Flower Girls and the Precious
Stones took part. Ever true and kind of heart, they had invited from
the Glen a number of children, and also their parents, to witness the
performance. The play had given untold delight, and the guests from
the Lower Glen finished the evening's entertainment with a splendid
supper, ending with the well-known and beloved song of 'Auld Lang Syne.'

Mr Lennox and Mrs Constable taught their girls and boys without any aid
from outside. All ten children were smart; indeed, it would be
difficult to find better-educated young people for their ages. But Mrs
Constable knew only too well that whatever the future held in store for
her brother's Flower Girls, she must very soon part, one by one, with
her splendid boys; for was not this the express wish of her beloved
soldier-husband, Major Constable, who had died on the field of battle
in Africa, and who had put away a certain sum of money which was to be
spent, when the time came, on the children's education? He himself was
an old Eton boy, and he wanted his young sons to go to that famous
school if at all possible. But before any of the Precious Stones could
enter Eton, he must pass at least a year at a preparatory school, and
it was the thought of this coming separation that made the sweet gray
eyes of the widow fill often with sudden tears. To part with any of
her treasures was torture to her. However, we none of us know what
lies in store for us, and nothing was farther from the hearts of the
children and their parents than the thought of change on this glorious
night of mid-June.

The moment Mr Lennox and his five girls entered the great hall, which
was so marked a feature of the beautiful Garden, they saw a letter,
addressed to The Hon. George Lennox, lying on a table not far from the
ingle-nook. Mr Lennox's first impulse was to put the letter aside, but
all the little girls clustered round him and begged of him to open it
at once. They all gathered round him as they spoke, and being
exceeding fond of his daughters, he could not resist their appeal.
After all, the unexpected letter might mean less than nothing. In any
case, it must be read sometime.

'Oh, Daddy Dumps, do--_do_ read the letter!' cried Hollyhock, the
handsomest and most daring of the girls. 'We 're just mad to hear what
the braw laddie says. Open the letter, daddy mine, and set our minds
at rest.'

'The letter may not be written by any laddie, Hollyhock,' said her
father in his gentle, exceedingly dignified way.

'If it's from a woman, we'd best burn it,' said Hollyhock, who had a
holy contempt for members of her own sex.

'Oh! but fie, prickly Holly,' said her father. 'You know that I allow
no lady to be spoken against in my house.'

'Well, read the letter, daddy--read it!' exclaimed Jasmine. 'We want,
anyhow, to know what it contains.'

'I seem to recall the writing,' said Lennox, as he seated himself in an
easy-chair. 'You _will_ have it, my dears,' he continued; 'but you may
not like it after I have read it. However, here goes!'

The children gathered round their father, who slowly and carefully
unfolded the sheet of paper and read as follows:


'MY DEAR GEORGE,--It is my intention to arrive at the Garden to-morrow,
and I hope, as your dear wife's half-sister, to get a hearty welcome.
I have a great scheme in my head, which I am certain you will approve
of, and which will be exceedingly good for your funny little
daughters'----


'I do not like that,' interrupted Hollyhock. 'I am not a funny little
daughter.'

'Dearest,' said her father, kissing her between her black brows, 'we
must forgive Aunt Agnes. She doesn't know us, you see.'

'No; and we don't want to know her,' said Jasmine. 'We are very happy
as we are. We are desperately happy; aren't we, Rose; aren't we,
Delphy?'

'Yes, of course, of course,' echoed their father; 'but all the same,
children, your aunt must come. She is, remember, your dear mother's
sister.'

'Did you ever meet her, daddy?' asked Jasmine.

'Yes, years ago, when Delphy was a baby.'

'What was she like, daddy?'

'She wasn't like any of you, my precious Flowers.'

The five little girls gave a profound sigh.

'Will she stay long, daddy?' asked Gentian.

'I sincerely trust not,' said the Honourable George Lennox.

'Then _that's_ all right. We don't mind _very_ much now,' said
Hollyhock; and she began to dance wildly about the room.

'You will have to behave, Hollyhock,' said her father with a smile.

Hollyhock drew herself up to her full height; her black eyes gleamed
and glowed; her lips parted in a funny, yet naughty, smile. Her hair
seemed so full of electricity that it stood out in wonderful rays all
over her head.

'And why should I behave well _now_, daddy mine?' she asked.

'Oh, because of Aunt Agnes.'

'Catch me,' said Hollyhock.--'Who is with me in this matter, girls?
Are you, Delphy? Are you, Jasmine? Are you, Gentian? Are you, Rose
of the Garden?'

'We 're every one of us with you,' exclaimed Jasmine, snuggling up to
her father as she spoke. 'Daddy,' she continued, 'I want to ask you a
question. Even if it hurts you, I must ask it.



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