Read Archie's Battleflat Adventures: The Harriman Mystery Online

Authors: Rebecca King

Tags: #thriller, #suspense, #mystery, #murder mystery, #historical fiction, #childrens books, #childrens fiction, #historical mystery

Archie's Battleflat Adventures: The Harriman Mystery

ARCHIE’S BATTLEFLAT ADVENTURES

Book One

The Harriman Mystery

By

REBECCA KING

Archie’s Battleflat Adventures: The Harriman
Mystery

Rebecca King

Copyright 2013 by Rebecca King

Smashwords Edition © Rebecca King 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

Battleflat, Leicestershire 1780

 

 

From his
position high in the old oak tree, Archie scowled down at his best
friend and absently swung his legs backward and forward. He watched
Edward shrug into his jacket and move closer to the base of the
tree. He knew Edward wouldn’t be able to see much of him, if
anything at all. The leaves on the branches around him were lush
and provided perfect protection from prying eyes. The only problem
was, the leaves also stopped the gentle breeze from wafting through
the branches, and he was now stiflingly hot. Puffing out his
cheeks, he tucked his legs against his chest and glanced up and
down the road, wondering if he should go home. He knew he was being
churlish, and wasn’t all that cross with his best friend, but was
struggling with the disappointment of the latest news. After all,
it wasn’t Edward’s fault that his aunt had suddenly taken ill, but
he had been so looking forward to playing chase, skipping stones
and having some fun. Now he faced the prospect of spending the
afternoon alone, and he hated it.

After
several minutes of valiantly trying to see any trace of his friend,
Edward sighed deeply and returned to kicking dejectedly at the
dried leaves beneath his feet. He had tried to persuade his mum to
let him stay and play, at least for a little while, but had failed
miserably. Frowning in annoyance, he absently kicked a large stone
into the far corner of the spinney and glared at the dense foliage
Archie was sitting in.


I’m going home,” Edward grumbled, reluctance clearly outlined
in the dejected droop of his shoulders.

It was
rare for them to get a day off to play together. As soon as they
had been told they would have the afternoon off, they began
deciding on all of the exciting things they would do. For days and
days they had argued and squabbled about the benefits of stone
skipping, against playing chase, and whether they should just go
for skinny-dipping first. The news this morning, that Edward wasn’t
able to stay and play after all, was a crushing blow for both of
them.


Can’t you stay for a little while longer, Edward?” He fought
to keep the whine from his voice, and glared accusingly at his
friend. Archie’s thin face did little to hide his irritation and
disappointment at being abandoned on the one day they could have
had some real fun together, but Edward was too lost in his own
misery to notice.


Sorry, Archie, but my mum will kill me if I’m late.” Edward
shuffled from one foot to the other, reluctant to let his best
friend down. “I should be back at home by now. My mum will be cross
at me as it is.”


It’s not fair,” Archie sighed, and glanced briefly across the
patchwork of emerald and gold fields around them. He and Edward had
spent the past two days fetching and carrying things for the
grown-ups. Edward had been working in the fields, helping to
prepare for the upcoming harvest. Archie had been busily working in
the corn mill, getting everything ready for the large amount of
grain the mill would process over the coming weeks.

Now that
everything was ready, the children had been ushered out to play for
a while, leaving the adults free to finish moving the large carts
into the fields in readiness for the harvest to begin.

Everyone, that is, except for Edward and his family, who now
had to go and visit Edward’s Aunty Mavis, who had suddenly taken
ill.

Archie
watched Edward move slowly toward the entrance of the spinney, and
tried to convince himself that he was the lucky one. With all of
the work done for now, he had been given a reprieve from staying at
home and waiting for stuffy old relatives to come and visit. He
didn’t have to sit around listening to his Aunty Vera go into great
detail about her gout or worse, be playfully slapped on the back by
Uncle Malcolm, who had terrible wind, ate all the cake and moaned
about his gammy leg.

Even
worse than all that, was being stuffed into his best shirt and made
to go and visit them! Uncle Malcolm’s house smelled funny – of
smelly feet and wee. Aunty Vera’s house smelled a bit nicer, but
was old and fusty. Archie usually spent his time visiting her house
counting dust motes under the side board, fighting off her mad cat,
Bertie, who persistently tried to eat his jacket, and trying not to
sneeze.

Today
was one of only two or three days a year that he didn’t have to
visit anyone, do any chores, or go to work in the corn mill, and he
had fully intended to make the most of it. Until now.

The sun
was out, the birds chirped merrily from the depths of the thinner
branches high above him, and he had a good couple of hours before
he had to go home. He should be blissfully happy and enjoying
indulging in the many fun things he and Edward liked to do. Instead
he sighed, and watched Edward pause at the gap in the hedge and
turn back to the tree for one last look. Now that Edward was
leaving, he wondered if he wouldn’t have preferred to be visiting
relatives himself. At least it was something to do. Now that he
faced the prospect of spending the afternoon alone, he wasn’t quite
sure what to do with it. Stone skipping wasn’t the same if he
didn’t have Edward to compete against, and it was impossible to
play hide and seek by himself. A dark cloud of despondency settled
over his small ray of happiness just a little more.


We have got to go visit Aunt Mavis ‘cos she hasn’t been very
well, and my mum’s worried. Dad’s finished all of his chores and is
free to go, so has said we have to go and visit her.” He didn’t add
that his Aunt Mavis made the most scrumptious pudding cake -
Edward’s favourite - and he didn’t want to miss such a delicious
treat. Even though she was now poorly, he knew a pudding cake would
be sitting in the middle of the dining table – waiting. There was
always pudding cake at Aunty Mavis’ house. His mouth watered at the
thought of the soft crumbly sponge cake topped with
currants.


Are you up there?” Edward called, when Archie didn’t reply.
Although he tried to see through the thick blanket of leaves, he
really did, all he could see was branches and leaves. There was no
sign of the white shirt and dark breeches worn by his friend. If he
hadn’t seen Archie nimbly disappear up there moments earlier, he
would have thought his friend had simply vanished.


Yes. Just,” came the slightly breathless, and somewhat
muffled reply from high above. “Can you come out later?” Archie
gasped, knowing this was unlikely as it was afternoon already, and
the sun would have gone down by the time Edward returned home, but
felt he had to ask anyway – just in case.


Sorry, old man. Not this time,” Edward replied, moving closer
to the tree once more, and squinting harder in a vain attempt to
spot Archie sitting in the branches. He wished he could go up and
join him. Giving up on finding out how high Archie had managed to
climb, Edward raised his voice toward the thick foliage and
shouted, “Aren’t you going to come too?”


Nope!” Archie boasted, somewhat proudly, hoping Edward was
jealous. “Don’t have visits this afternoon. My dad gave me the
afternoon off ‘cos I did all of my chores early, and he’s getting
the cart ready for harvest, you know that. I was hoping to spend
the afternoon playing, but seeing as you have to go, I think I will
stop here for a bit, and then go and find someone else to play
with.”


No chores? Lord, you’re lucky! Don’t have too much fun
without me,” Edward muttered enviously, wishing he had a dad like
Archie’s. Shaking his head, he peered up toward the trees. “Well,
I’ll see you next week then?” His voice rose in question but, after
several moments of silence, he reluctantly clambered through the
rough hedgerow at the side of the cart track. With a quick shake of
his clothing, he removed the few clinging remnants of undergrowth
from his clothing, and headed home.

Once or
twice along the dusty track he stopped to look back at the huge oak
tree. It stood out starkly against the surrounding trees purely
because of its size. The huge oak must be about a cart wide and
three carts high, at least. It had been there for years and years.
Edward knew from experience that it gave anyone who managed to
clamber up to the top branches a clear view down the road into the
village and the over surrounding area. On a clear day you could see
the church spire at Hampton village, two miles away. It was
brilliant!

Although
he couldn’t see him, Edward could practically feel Archie watching
him through the dense foliage and raised a dejected hand in mute
farewell, before turning toward home.

Aunty
Mavis and pudding cake it was.

Archie
watched his friend walk slowly down the dirt track, and felt a pang
of regret that he had been so abrupt with his friend. At eight
years old, he and Edward had been born within weeks of each other
and had grown up practically in each other’s houses. Now they were
both at work, it was hard to get time off, which made the times
they did manage to get together more precious. He had been so
excited at the thought of being able to play for hours with Edward.
Archie knew that next Sunday he would most probably be visiting his
Aunt Elspeth and Uncle Bertie, his mother’s sister and her husband,
after church. It would be at least six or seven weeks before he and
Edward got the chance to meet in the spinney again, and by that
time winter would be fast approaching. They wouldn’t be able to go
skinny-dipping, and stone skipping would be virtually
impossible.

As
silence descended around him, Archie settled against the rough bark
at his back and scanned the patchwork of green and gold hills of
the surrounding countryside as it lay basking in the hazy sunshine
of the warm August afternoon. From his vantage point, Archie could
see practically everything that went on for miles around. Small
dots visible in the farthest fields were undoubtedly the men from
the village preparing the carts and equipment they would need to
harvest the crops. The church spire of Battleflat sat in solitary
splendour half a mile to the left of him. Over to the right, a
small group of thatched roofs made up the small village of
Battleflat. Archie could see some of the children skipping and
playing chase in the gardens and surrounding fields, their laughter
distant echoes of their youth.

It was a
fairly small village where nothing much really happened, except for
the odd traveller, the annual visit by travelling labourers, or the
occasional fight in the village tavern when neighbours fell out, or
friends got too drunk. Otherwise, life in the small village was
boring – and disappointing.

Like
now.

Harvesting would begin in a matter of days, then it would be
all hands to the fields. Everyone would be needed to help bring the
crops in before the autumn, or the rain made them too wet to cut.
It meant long hours of hard labour for all of the villagers. Their
reward for their work was the harvest festival, which would be held
as soon as the last of the harvest was cut. The music, dancing and
food would bring about the end of the growing season. Nearly all of
the villagers would then turn to tending their gardens, picking
their orchards, and digging up the vegetables before the frost got
them and rendered them useless. The work was seemingly endless
until the first snow fell, then it would become cold and
monotonous.

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