Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Archie's Mistake
Author: Wyatt, G. E.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Archie's Mistake" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



               ARCHIE'S MISTAKE

                      BY

                 G. E. WYATT


_Author of "Follow the Right," "Archie Digby,"_
             _"Johnnie Venture,"_
                  _&c. &c._


             THOMAS NELSON AND SONS

   _London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and New York_

                      1912


[Illustration: _"Simon Bond's strong hands grasped Stephen's ear and
collar."_
(1,680)      Page 32.]



ARCHIE'S MISTAKE.


"Father, why do you have such a beggarly-looking hand at the mill as
that young Bennett?" asked Archie Fairfax of the great mill-owner of
Longcross.

"Why shouldn't I?" he replied. "He comes with an excellent character
from the foreman he has been under at Morfield. He does his work very
well, Munster says, and that's all I care for. I don't pay for his
clothes."

Archie said no more, but he still felt aggrieved. As a rule, his
father's work-people were a superior, tidy-looking set, but this new
lad was literally in rags, and his worn, haggard face and great,
hungry-looking eyes seemed, in Archie's mind, to bring discredit on
the cotton-mill.

"He's no business here," he said to himself.--"I wish you'd send him
away."

Archie had only lately had anything to do with the mill, as he had
been at a large public school. But now he was eighteen, and had left
school. He had come into his father's office as secretary, that he
might learn a little about the business which was to be his some day.

Mr. Fairfax had some excuse for the pride he took in his manufactory,
for a better looked after, better managed, or more prosperous one it
would have been difficult to find, though of course there were _some_
rough people among the workers. Long experience had taught his
work-people to respect and trust an employer who acted justly and
honourably in every transaction; and it was Mr. Fairfax's boast that
there had never yet been a "strike" among his men, nor any difficulty
about work or wages which had not been settled at last in a friendly
spirit.

But this very "superiority" was a snare to the mill-hands. For if they
once took a dislike to any one who had been "taken on," they left him
no peace until they got rid of him. It was looked on as a sort of
privilege in Longcross to belong to the Fairfax mills, and the men
chose to be very particular as to whom they would admit among
themselves.

They all disapproved of poor Stephen Bennett from the first day of his
coming.

As they walked away that evening they discussed his appearance with
eager disapprobation.

"Who is he?" "Where does he come from?" "Where's he living?" "What's
made the master take such a ragamuffin on?"

These were some of the questions asked, but no one was able to answer
them.

"I'll get it all out of him to-morrow," said Simon Bond, a big
savage-looking lad, with his hat on one side, and his pipe in his
mouth.

"P'raps he won't be quite so ready to tell as you are to ask," said
some one else.

"He'd better be, then, if he's got any care for his skin," answered
the boy, and the others laughed.

So the next day Simon followed the stranger out of the mill, and began
his questions in a rude, hectoring voice.

To his utter astonishment, Stephen refused to answer them. He made no
reply while Simon poured out his questions, until the latter said,--

"Well, dunderhead, d'ye hear me speaking?"

"Yes, I hear you," responded Stephen, looking at him with a
half-frightened, half-defiant expression.

"Then why don't you answer?" he inquired with an oath. He was getting
angry. "If you cheek me, 'twill be the worse for you, I can tell you."

"I don't want to cheek you," said Stephen; "but I don't see as my
affairs is your business, any more than your affairs is my business."

Simon could hardly believe his ears as he listened to this answer.
This little shrimp to defy him like that!

But his anger soon outweighed his amazement.

He seized Stephen by the collar, saying, as he gave him a shake,--

"Answer my questions this instant, or--"

His gestures completed the sentence.

Stephen turned very white, but he replied firmly,--

"I've told you I ain't going to, and I sticks to my words. If you
threaten me like that, I'll go to the foreman and complain. There he
comes."

Simon looked down the street, and saw Mr. Munster advancing just
behind two other mill-hands. He was obliged to let Stephen go, but
rage filled his heart.

"I'll pay you out," he muttered, "one of these days." Then he turned
round a side street and disappeared.

And what did Stephen do?

He walked on till he came to a baker's shop, where he bought some
bread; then to a grocer's, where he got sugar, tea, and a candle; and
so on, till his arms and pockets were full of parcels. But the odd
thing was that he bought so much. That was what struck a man--one of
the mill-hands--who was in the shop.

Most of the work-people lived in one particular quarter of the big
city--Fairfax Town it was called in consequence. But Stephen threaded
his way to quite a different part--a much poorer one--and turned into
an old tumble-down house, with all its windows broken and patched,
which had stood empty and deserted until he came to it.

Weeks passed on, and still, in spite of constant persecution, Stephen
remained at the mill. Scarcely any one spoke a kind word to him except
Mr. Fairfax, but he very seldom saw him. Even old Mr. Munster, the
head foreman, addressed him sharply and contemptuously, which was not
his usual custom. The lad did his work well enough, but he was such a
miserable-looking fellow, and so untidy and shabby.

Mr. Munster said something of the sort to Archie one day, when he met
him outside the office, just as Stephen was going away after receiving
his week's wages.

"Yes," replied Archie eagerly; "did you ever see such a scarecrow? But
he has good pay, hasn't he?"

"Yes, Mr. Archie; very good for such a young hand. He has fifteen
shillings a week."

"He drinks--depend upon it he drinks spirits, and that's what gives
him that hang-dog look," said Archie.

"You've never seen him the worse for drink, have you?" asked Mr.
Munster, not unwilling to have an excuse for getting rid of the ragged
stranger.

"Well, I don't know," he answered. "He was leaning up against a wall
the other day when I passed, and when he saw me coming he tried to
stand upright, and he regularly staggered. I could see it was as much
as ever he could do."

"H'm!" said Mr. Munster thoughtfully; "I shall watch him, then. If I
catch him like that at his work, I shall soon send him packing."

"And there's another thing," Archie went on. "What does he do with the
things he buys? What do you think I saw him getting last week?"

"Couldn't say, sir, I'm sure."

"Why, three boys' fur caps, and a lot of serge, and a girl's cloak,
and four pairs of cheap stockings, and other things besides. I was in
Dutton's shop when he came in. He didn't see me because of a pile of
blankets, and I heard him buy all those things, and carry them off. He
paid for half, and the rest he said he'd pay for this week. He must
have bought things there before, or they wouldn't have trusted him.
But, you know, they'd come to very nearly as much as his wages."

"Yes; I don't understand it," said Mr. Munster. "But, after all, it
isn't our business if he does his duty at the mill."

"No, I know," said Archie; "but I believe there's something wrong
about him, and I should like to know what it is."

"Well, 'give him enough rope and he'll hang himself,' as they say,"
rejoined Mr. Munster--"that is, if your ideas about him are true."

Archie said no more on the subject then, but he made up his mind to
keep a sharp look-out upon Stephen's conduct. Whenever he met him,
therefore, he looked keenly at him; and he would sometimes come
through the great room where Stephen worked, with a number of other
men and lads, and stand close to him, silently scrutinizing him. If he
spoke to him, it was always to ask a question which obliged young
Bennett to say a good deal in reply; and Archie was forced to own that
he displayed a considerable knowledge of the branch of business in
which he was occupied.

But Stephen soon discovered that he was regarded with suspicion, and
he came to dread his young master's approach, and the cold, searching
glance of his blue eyes.

Stephen had looked haggard and careworn from the first, but as weeks
passed on he seemed to get worse. He still did his duty as well, or
almost as well, as ever, but he grew perceptibly weaker every day, and
at last he could hardly drag himself along.

"I doubt if I'll last much longer," he said to himself, as he reached
the mill one morning about three months after his first arrival at
Longcross, "but father's time will be out next week. I must write to
him to-day or to-morrow and warn him what may be coming."

There was only one man at the mill who had ever been the least civil
to Stephen. This was a gay, thoughtless young fellow named Timothy
Lingard.

He always rather prided himself on taking a different side from the
other men, and in his light, careless way he had rather patronized
Stephen when he saw him.

Not that they met very often, for Timothy's work was to stay in the
mill all night, and go round the premises at intervals in order to see
that there was no danger of fire.

Sometimes he was not gone when Stephen came in the morning; and then,
as the latter waited outside for the doors to be opened, Timothy would
enter into a conversation with him, just to show the other men that he
took a different line from theirs.

One evening--it was about a week after the discussion about Stephen
between Archie and Mr. Munster--Timothy met the pale, careworn lad
dragging himself wearily home from the mill. He looked more ragged
than ever--his clothes seemed almost ready to drop off.

"Hullo!" said Timothy; "you look as if you hadn't too many pennies to
chink against each other. What d'ye do with your wages? They don't go
in clothes--that's clear enough."

Stephen flushed deeply, in the sudden way that people do who are in a
very weak state, but he made no answer.

"I can put you in the way of earning an extra pound, if you like,"
said Timothy carelessly.

"Oh, how--how?" cried Stephen with sudden animation, clutching at
Timothy in his eagerness, and then holding on to him to keep himself
from falling.

"There--don't go and faint over it," said Timothy, pushing him off;
"and don't throttle a man either for doing you a good turn. That ain't
no encouragement. What I mean is, that I've a rather partic'lar
engagement to-morrow night, and for several nights to come--in fact,
till next Friday--and I want to get some one to take my place at the
mill."

"But will Mr. Munster let any one else come?"

"I ain't a-going to ask him. It don't matter to _him_ who's there, so
long as there _is_ some one to look after the premises. I'm going to
put in my own man; and you can have the job if you like, and take
two-thirds o' my pay--that's twenty shillings. I shall be back by
three or four o'clock in the morning, so as to give you time for a nap
before your own work begins. But if you ain't feeling up to the double
work, just say so. Now I look at you, I have my doubts, and it won't
do for you to go falling off asleep, or fainting, mind. What d'you say
to it?"

"I could do it--I'm sure I could. I wouldn't go to sleep--I promise
you I wouldn't. The only thing is, I should like--I think--if you say
it won't matter--yes, I really should like--"

"Have it out, and have done with it, and don't stand spluttering there
like a water-pipe gone wrong. Will you do it, or not?"

"Yes," said Stephen, in a low voice.

"Then mind, you ain't to say a word about it to any one--not as
there's any harm in it, but I don't want the foreman to hear of it
sideways. I shall come here as usual at six o'clock, and if you'll
come up about seven--it's pretty near dark by then--I'll let you in,
and be off myself."

"All right. But--but, Tim, I--I was going to ask--"

"Well? Do get on--what an ass you are! What do you want?" interrupted
the other impatiently.

"'Twas about the money. Could you--I mean, would you mind paying me
first? I'll do the work--I will, indeed."

"It'll be the worse for you if you don't," said Timothy. "But as for
paying first, I don't know as I've got the money. What d'you want it
for?"

"I can't tell you--at least, I mean, for food and clothes," answered
Stephen, looking extremely distressed and embarrassed. "But never
mind, Tim; if you can't do it, I'll wait."

"No; you can have it. I daresay I'll be making more to-night," said
the reckless Timothy, and he got out two half-sovereigns and gave them
to Stephen.

"Now, remember," he said, "if you say I ain't paid you, or if you
don't do the work properly, and anything happens while I'm away, I'll
break every bone in your body."

No one could look at the two and doubt Timothy's power to wreak his
anger on the slim, weakly-looking youth, some ten years younger than
himself.

"All right; I'll take care," answered Stephen, who never wasted words;
and they separated.

The following evening Stephen arrived, as arranged, in the twilight,
at the big mill, and was admitted by Timothy at a little side-door.

"Mind," said the latter, "you ain't supposed to go to sleep. You goes
your rounds four times. There's the rules." He pointed to a card on
the wall, and added--"I take forty winks myself every now and then,
but _I_ can wake up if a fly jumps on the table. Now, I'm off. I'll be
back in lots o' time."

He departed, whistling as he went, and not feeling the least ashamed
of betraying the trust reposed in him, by thus entrusting the safety
of the whole mill to a comparative stranger. Timothy was not in the
habit of asking whether things were _right_ before he did them, but
only whether they were pleasant or convenient.

He did not notice Archie Fairfax, who was standing at the office-door
as he walked quickly by, just under a newly-lighted lamp.

There was some one else watching too, from under the shadow of a
projecting buttress, whom neither Archie nor Timothy perceived. It was
Simon Bond--Stephen's bitterest enemy.

Ever since the day when the lad had refused to answer his rude
questions, Simon had been on the look-out for his revenge. Twice he
had waylaid Stephen, and tried to give him the thrashing he had
promised him.

But once Stephen had eluded him by going through a big shop which had
an opening on the other side; once some one had come up just as Simon
had got his foe into a quiet corner.

It was of no use for him to track Stephen to his home, for he knew how
crowded it was in those narrow streets; and though a "row" would
probably be a matter of daily occurrence, there was every likelihood
that the men who looked on might take the side of their own neighbour
against a stranger like Simon.

"But my time'll come yet," he said to himself, "if I wait long
enough."

He contented himself, while waiting for the longed-for day of
vengeance, with adding what he could to Stephen's load of trouble.

His work was in the same big room, and he took care that Stephen
should have the draughtiest corner of it, and be the last to get into
the office on pay-day. And he managed that if anything did go wrong,
suspicion should fall on Stephen--in which Archie was his unconscious
helper. Then, if Stephen ventured to speak while waiting outside for
admittance in the morning--which he did very seldom--Simon would
repeat his words in a loud, mocking voice, and comment upon them, and
turn them into ridicule, till poor Stephen dreaded the sight of him
more than of all the other men put together.

"What's up now, I wonder," thought Simon, as he watched Timothy come
out and Stephen go in at the little door of the manufactory. "Why,
there's Tim Lingard going off right away. Is he gone for the night? I
should like to know. If he is, now's my time. I don't suppose the
little chap will lock the door, so I'll just slip in while he's going
his rounds, and be ready for him when he comes back--that'll all be as
easy as sneezing. I'll make it pretty hot, though, for Master Stephen
when I've got him."

He went home to his tea; and Stephen, all unconscious of the plots
being laid against him, entered the little room where the night-watch
sat, and got out his meagre supper, which he had had no time yet to
swallow. The room had two doors; one led to the courtyard through
which Stephen had entered, and the other, the upper half of which was
glass, took into Mr. Fairfax's private office and the larger
counting-house beyond, out of which the passages leading to the
general workrooms opened.

"I hope the little 'uns 'ull get on all safe for a few nights without
me," he said to himself, as he ate his slice of bread. "Polly's so
sensible, she'll do all right, if those rackety boys 'ull do as she
tells 'em. They promised me they would, but there's no tellin'."

He sat thinking for some time, and then started off on his first round
of inspection.

Meanwhile Archie Fairfax had gone home to dinner, his mind full of
the proofs he thought he had acquired of Stephen Bennett's
untrustworthiness. He said nothing about it, however, until he and
his father were left alone after dinner.

"Who's the caretaker at night now, father?" he asked, as he peeled an
apple.

"Timothy Lingard," was the answer. "Why do you want to know?"

"Oh, only because he isn't there to-night; so I thought he might have
been dismissed."

"Not there to-night! What do you mean, Archie?"

"Why, I saw him come away this evening, just before I came back here,
and Stephen Bennett went in instead. I can't say he looks quite the
sort of fellow to be in charge of a big place like that all night--a
fellow of his habits, too."

"What do you know about his habits?"

"Oh, nothing particular. But, of course, one can't help suspecting
there's something wrong about a chap who draws the pay he does, and
goes staggering about the streets with his arms full of children's
clothes, and his own things looking like a beggar's."

"Do you mean you think the lad drinks, or is dishonest? Speak out,
Archie, like a man, and don't throw stones in the dark."

"I don't want to do the fellow any harm," responded Archie, who felt
that, in spite of his watching, he knew far too little to speak
definitely; "but what I have seen of him I don't like, and that's a
fact. I can't help thinking there's something behind. What business
has he to be at the mill to-night, when the regular man's away?"

"None at all, of course. Most likely Lingard has gone off on some
errand of his own, and paid Bennett to take his place. But it is not
regular or right, by any means; I don't like the idea of it at all....
I think I shall go round myself presently, and find out all about it."

By the time Stephen got back from his round it was nearly nine
o'clock. He sank into a chair, and leaning his elbows on the table,
rested his head in his hands.

"I'm a deal weaker than I was last week," he murmured; "but I must
try and last out till father's back. I'll write to him now, and tell
him how fast I'm going. If there was any one a bit friendly, I'd tell
'em about it all, and ask 'em to look after the little 'uns if I go
quicker; but there isn't. They all seem against me and my rags. I
thought Mr. Archie looked so kind at first, but I can see now he
thinks worse of me than any."

He got out some sheets of paper he had in his pocket, and pulled the
pens and ink on the table towards him.

He did not write very fast, and as he had a good deal to say, he was
some time over his letter. About twenty minutes had passed, when the
room seemed to get very misty. The pen dropped out of Stephen's hand,
and he fell back, with his eyes shut, and his head against the rail of
the chair.

He had remained thus, asleep from very weakness, for about an hour,
when he was suddenly aroused by a rough voice in his ear.

"Wake up, skulker! your time's come at last."

He opened his eyes, his heart throbbing violently, and there stood the
burly form of Simon Bond. He looked bigger than ever in the
dimly-lighted room; and as his great grimy face came nearer, and his
strong hands grasped Stephen's ear and collar, he felt that his last
moment had come, and even sooner than he had expected.

"Get up!" said his enemy, giving him a kick, and dragging him roughly
from the chair. "Now," he went on, "I think you refused to answer my
questions last time I asked 'em. You'll please to alter your ways from
to-night, or you'll get more o' _these_ than you'll quite like."

As he spoke he let go of the lad's collar with his right hand, and
brought it swinging down with all his force on the side of Stephen's
head.

Instantly the boy dropped like one dead at his feet.

At the same moment the office-door opened, and the appalling sight
appeared of Mr. Fairfax's tall form, followed closely by his son
Archie.

Not a second did Simon lose. He turned to the door, and was off like a
flash of lightning.

Archie made a rush, as though to follow him.

"Cowardly lout!" he cried.

"No; stop, Archie," said his father. "You couldn't catch him; and if
you did, you couldn't keep him. We'll examine him to-morrow--we both
saw who it was. Now let us look after this poor lad."

"See, father, he was writing a letter," said Archie.

Mr. Fairfax took up the paper. This is what it said:--

"DEAR FATHER,--The little 'uns is all well, and I've got money now to
last 'em till you are out, if I'm took before, which I'm that bad and
low I can't hardly creep along. I've give Polly the money to use when
wanted. She's been a good girl all along. Come to the above address as
soon as you are out. I done my best, father, as you told me. And now
good-bye, if I'm gone.--Your loving son,

      "STEPHEN BENNETT.

"_P.S._--I never believed as you did it, father, and I don't now. God
will make it right, so don't fret."

The envelope lay by the letter. It was directed to--

      _Ambrose Bennett, No. 357,_
           _Eastwood Jail._

Mr. Fairfax gave them both to his son. "There, Archie," he said;
"read these, and see if you still think you were right."

Then he went to Stephen, and did what he could to restore him to
consciousness. But he was in such a weak state that nothing seemed of
any use.

"Father, I've been a suspicious _brute_," cried Archie, flinging down
the letter. "But for my cold looks and constant spying, which I
daresay he's noticed, he might have told me all this, and I might have
helped him. Now he's starving and friendless. But I'll try to make up
now, if it isn't too late. Do let me carry him home, father--may I?"

"No," said Mr. Fairfax; "I'll go back and order some brandy, and send
for the doctor. You stay here and take care of him and the mill."

He went away, and very long did the time seem to Archie before the
doctor arrived. Now he had time to think over his own unkind--nay,
cruel--suspicions, founded on nothing but Stephen's shabby appearance.

"It's my way, I know, to make up my mind too quickly, and by a
fellow's outside," he thought. Then, somehow, the words of the last
Sunday's epistle came into his mind--"Charity thinketh no evil." He
knew that charity means love.

"No," he said to himself, "I shouldn't have thought evil of him, and I
certainly had no right to say what I did to father and Mr. Munster.
Poor fellow! how lonely and miserable he must have been; and I might
have stood his friend, if I'd only given him the chance of speaking
about his troubles, instead of glaring at him as I did. Is it too late
now to make up?"

Just then the doctor came in; but for a long, long time he could not
restore Stephen to consciousness.

He was trying still when three o'clock struck.

"Now he is really coming to--look, Dr. Grey," cried Archie, who had
watched all the doctor's efforts with breathless anxiety.

Just then Stephen gave a great sigh, and opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked feebly.

"All among friends," said Archie, "and going to have a jolly time, and
be nursed up, and made as strong as a horse.--Now, Dr. Grey, let's get
a cab. I'll go and call one," and he bustled off.

Outside he met a disgusting sight. It was Timothy Lingard, staggering
towards the mill, very much the worse for what he had been drinking.

"You can't go there; go home at once," said Archie.

"Night-watch--caretaker--said I'd be here," mumbled Timothy, trying
to brush past him; and then finding Archie still stood as a hindrance
in front of him, he tried to strike him--of course not knowing who it
was--only he missed his aim, and fell down into the gutter.

There Archie left him, to seek a cab, which is not an easy thing to
find at three o'clock in the morning. However, before long he did
succeed in procuring one, and in it Stephen was conveyed to the
nearest hospital.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Fairfax was just starting for his office the next morning when he
was accosted by a respectable-looking working-man.

"Do I speak to Mr. Fairfax, sir?" he asked, touching his hat.

"Yes, that is my name. Can I do anything for you?"

"Would you be good enough, sir, to tell me where my son, Stephen
Bennett, is? I hear he was taken ill last night."

"He's in the hospital. I'll take you--I was just going there myself,"
said Archie, who was with his father.

"Your son has had a hard life, I fear, in your absence," said Mr.
Fairfax, glancing curiously at the stranger, who did not look at all
like a man capable of crime.

"Yes, sir," he answered somewhat bitterly; "it has pleased the
Almighty to send me a heavy trial. First, I lost my wife; then I was
accused, along with my fellow-workers in a brick-yard, of stealing
fagots. I was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, and my time
would have been out next week. My boy, which he's one in a
thousand--though he was that weakly he was hardly fit for work--he
brought the little 'uns, five of 'em, all under fourteen, to this
place. 'We shan't be known at Longcross, father,' he says, 'and I'll
work for 'em all till you're out.' So he come here. And yesterday they
come to me in the jail, and they says, 'Bennett, we find you're
innocent. The man what took the fagots, he's up and confessed, and he
says as you've had nothing to do with it.' So they wrote me this paper
to say I'm pardoned, as they call it, and I come away; but they
couldn't give me back the three months of my life."

"No," said Mr. Fairfax; "you have suffered indeed. But I trust that
even yet you may find good come out of evil, as it so often does. We
have come to know and respect Stephen, and as soon as he is well he
shall be moved into a comfortable house, which I have now to let, and
which is at your disposal, if you like to take it. Other help, too, I
hope to be able to render you."

Thus talking, they arrived at the hospital. Stephen had not made much
progress, and was still alarmingly weak. Scanty food and constant
anxiety had told terribly on his delicate constitution. But when he
saw his father, and heard that he had been set free, and declared
innocent, a new life seemed to come into him.

"I shall get well now, father," he said; "I feel I shall--only my
head's so bad where the blow came that I can't think much. But that
doesn't matter now; you'll look after the little 'uns. 'Twas the
having all them on me, and thinking about you, that seemed to crush me
down; though I knew you was innocent, father--I knew it all along.
Thank God for making it clear, though. I asked Him to do it, night and
day, and He's done it."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now, Archie, my boy," said Mr. Fairfax, as he and his son walked back
together, "you see how entirely wrong you were in your hasty
judgment."

"Yes, father, I do see;" and the lad's voice was full of feeling.
"Stephen may never lose the effects of this time of cruel hardship. I
might have been his friend, and I was his enemy instead."

"If I had listened, or allowed the foreman to listen, to your guesses,
he might have been turned off altogether. It should be a lesson to
you, Archie, never to injure another person's character again without
absolute certainty, and even then only if it is necessary for the
general good. Once gone, it is sometimes impossible to win back."

"I know--I know, father. I _will_ try to be careful, and not so
hasty."

"Don't judge merely by appearances, Archie. Above all, remember those
words of the Great Teacher, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.'"



"I KNOW BEST."


"So the choir treat is fixed for Thursday, and we're all going to the
Crystal Palace! What jolly fun we shall have!"

The speaker was Walter Franklin, a village lad of eighteen. But
Christopher Swallow, the friend to whom he addressed himself, a youth
who looked rather older, did not receive the news with the pleasure
Walter expected.

"The old Crystal Palace again!" he grumbled. "Bother! What's the good
of going to the same place twice over? _I_ call it foolery and
rubbish."

"Oh, but the rector said that no one but you and three of the older
men had been before; and when he asked them whether they would like
anything else better, they said no. Benjamin Sorrell said that once
for seeing all over such a big place was nothing, and he'd like to
spend a week there."

"Let him, then; one day's enough for me. Of course, we must go as it's
settled; but you won't catch _me_ staying dawdling about, looking at
the same old things over and over again as I see two years ago. I
shall be off and enjoy myself somewhere else."

"But, Christopher, Mr. Richardson said most partic'lar we _must_ all
keep together or we should get lost; and we're all to wear red
rosettes on our left shoulders, that we may know each other at a
distance, if we should get separated by any accident."

"Oh, did he indeed?" replied Christopher scornfully. "P'raps some'll
do it. I think I know _one_ as won't."

Walter said no more. Chris was well known to be what the others called
"cranky" in his temper; and when he considered, as he generally did,
that he was right, and every one else wrong, there was nothing for it
but to leave him alone.

When Thursday came, it was a most lovely September day. There was
hardly any one among the thirty members of the Hartfield Parish Choir,
who drove in two big wagonettes to the station, that did not look
prepared to enjoy the day's outing to the utmost.

"Christopher don't look best pleased, though," thought Walter, as
they drove along, glancing at his friend's gloomy face. "And there's
Miss Richardson getting out the rosettes. I hope he won't go and make
a row; but there's no telling."

The Hartfield Choir consisted of men, lads, and boys, with about half
a dozen little girls. The boys and girls, of course, sang alto and
treble; the lads alto, if they could manage nothing better; and the
men bass and tenor. There were eight men between thirty and fifty
years of age, six lads like Walter, and sixteen children.

Half were in one long brake with the rector, and half in another with
the schoolmaster and Miss Richardson. About half-way between Hartfield
and the station, Miss Richardson produced a white cardboard box, which
she opened.

"Here," she said, taking out a very bright rosette made of red
ribbon, and a packet of pins, "I want each of you to put one of these
on your left shoulder, and then we shall know one another when we are
too far off to see each other's faces. There, I've put mine on."

As she spoke she fastened one on to her jacket. Every one else did the
same, amidst a good deal of laughing and joking--every one, that is,
except one.

"Christopher, where's _your_ badge?" asked Mr. White, the
schoolmaster.

"In my pocket, sir," was the answer.

"We can't see through that, man; it isn't transparent, like a glass
window. Get out the rosette and put it on."

Christopher plunged his hands into his two jacket-pockets and fumbled.
Mr. White thought he was going to do as he was told, and took no
further notice.

"Chris, you haven't put it on, now," whispered Walter, as the horses
drew up at the station. "Ain't you going to?"

"Be quiet, will you? _You_ ain't master," said Christopher roughly;
and Walter was silent.

He noticed, though, that his friend kept well out of sight behind the
others, and also that in the train he took a seat on the same side as
Mr. White, and as far off as possible. Miss Richardson was with the
little girls in another carriage.

When the party reached the Crystal Palace station, they proceeded up
the steps to the gardens.

"Now," said Mr. Richardson, when they got to the final flight leading
into the great glass building--"now, I think we may as well separate
for a bit. I will stay inside and take any who wish to see the poultry
and rabbit show. The girls will like, I daresay, to go with Miss
Richardson, and those who don't care for the animals can follow Mr.
White to the garden; only be sure you all come to the terrace by one
o'clock for dinner."

So saying, he turned towards the corridor where an immense cackling
and cooing announced the presence of the poultry and pigeons, followed
by four of the lads and some of the men and boys.

"What shall you do, Chris?" whispered Walter.

"I shall see what schoolmaster's up to; and if I don't like what he
does, I shall make off and get some jolly good fun by myself," was the
answer. "You stick to me, Walter. I s'pose you don't want to be the
only big chap among all them little 'uns?"

"No; I'll stick to you, Chris," he replied, but he did not feel very
comfortable.

Walter was a well-meaning lad, but he was very weak, and easily led by
the stronger-willed Christopher.

Mr. White knew the Crystal Palace well, and all its many attractions.
He took his party to see a show where cardboard figures were made to
walk and jump and open their eyes, just like real people.

Then he proposed that they should try throwing sticks, provided for
the purpose, at a row of penknives, and if any one knocked a knife
over it would be his. This was amusing for a little while; but when no
one could get anywhere near a knife, the boys grew tired of trying,
especially as they each had to pay a penny for three tries.

At last they arrived at the place where a man has tricycles to let
out. Every boy pulled out the rest of his money and begged for a ride.
In a few minutes half a dozen little green tricycles where whirling
round the curve.

Walter and Christopher despised the idea at first of doing what the
little boys did; but when they saw some other youths like themselves
get on, they put their pride in their pockets, and each mounted a
tricycle. How they did waggle from side to side; and how impossible it
was not to laugh and shout at the absurd feeling of the thing!

"This is rare good sport," said Chris at last.

He had but just spoken when he met Mr. White.

"It's ten minutes to one," said the latter. "We must go, or we shan't
be on the terrace as soon as the rector. Come along, boys; it's
dinner-time."

There was a general turning round of tricycles, and in a few minutes
the little party were making their way towards the palace.

"What's the matter, Chris?" asked Walter. "I thought you liked that."

"So I did; 'twas the only bit of fun I've had. It's a regular
nuisance to be at some one else's beck and call like this, just when
one _is_ getting a little pleasure. Why should we come before we want
to?"

"Why? Because it's dinner-time. Aren't you hungry? I am, I know."

Christopher grunted sulkily, but in spite of his ill-humour he managed
to get through the meat-patties and plum-pudding with a most excellent
appetite.

Dinner over, the rector proposed that every one should come with him
to see a panorama of the siege of Paris, which was to begin at three
o'clock.

"I should like it awfully. Wouldn't you, Chris?" said Walter.

"I don't know. No--it sounds dull and schoolish," replied Chris, who
was no scholar. "I won't be led about like a monkey on a chain,
either. I know best how to amuse myself, and I tell you what--I'm
going back for another ride on that tricycle. You'd better come too,
Wat. The panorama doesn't really begin till half-past three. I saw it
up on the board outside."

"But I've only got three half-pence left," said Walter, "so _I_ can't
ride any more."

"Oh, I'll lend you the money. I've got heaps."

"But could you find your way back, Chris? This is such a thundering
big place," urged Walter doubtfully.

"Yes, you idiot, of course I can. But don't come if you're afraid."

Chris knew very well that such a suggestion would break down Walter's
hesitation at once; and so it did. He followed his friend, and soon
forgot all about the panorama in his delight at having improved so
much since the morning in the management of his tricycle.

Suddenly a clock struck. One, two, three, FOUR.

"Chris, Chris, _did_ you hear? It's four o'clock!" he cried.

"Well, what of that?" was the cool rejoinder.

"Get off at once, Chris. The panorama must be half over. Bother it
all! and I did so want to see it."

Chris proceeded slowly and leisurely back to the starting-point, and
got off his tricycle.

"How much?" he asked the man in charge.

"One and sixpence each, please."

"What a plague you are, Wat, to have come without any money," said
Chris, as he paid the three shillings. "I didn't come to spend all my
cash on you."

"How do you come to have so much?" inquired Walter.

"Why, my jolly old brick of an uncle gave me five shillings when he
heard I was coming here."

"I wish he was _my_ uncle," sighed Walter, whose parents were very
poor. "But I say, Chris, is this the way to the panorama?"

"No, but I'm thirsty. I'm going into the palace to get a glass of
beer. You can go on to the panorama if you're so anxious about it."

But Walter was far too much afraid of getting lost among the crowds of
people in the "thundering big garden" to part from his companion. He
had never been more than ten miles from his native village until
to-day, and he felt quite bewildered at all the strange sights and
sounds.

He followed Chris, who proceeded to a refreshment counter, and asked
for beer.

"We don't sell wine or beer, or anything of the sort, sir," was the
answer. "It's against the rules of the palace, and we've no licence."

Nothing made Chris so savage as to be thwarted in anything he wanted
to do.

"Then it's a stupid place, and it ought to be ashamed of itself," he
said angrily; "but if I can't get it here, I'll go where I can."

He turned on his heel and walked quickly away, followed by the
much-vexed Walter.

In vain did he ask Chris where he was going, and what he meant to
do--not a word could he extract. The other lad stalked on, looking
every now and then at the printed directions on the walls, telling
whither each turning led.

He reached a sort of entrance-place at last, where there were the same
kind of turnstiles as those through which Mr. Richardson had brought
his party in the morning.

"Way out" was written above one. Without a word to his companion,
Chris went through it.

"But, Chris, that takes us outside. What _are_ you doing?" cried
Walter.

"I know what I'm about," answered the other. "Are you coming or not
I? I can't wait all day. You'll never find your way back to the others
alone. You'd a deal better stick to me that knows the way."

Walter looked round despairingly.

"What shall I do?" he said to himself. "I _wish_ I hadn't come with
Chris. He's so cross and disagreeable, it's no fun to be with him; but
I could no more find my way back through all those twists and turns
than fly. I suppose I must keep with him now," and he went through the
turnstile and caught up his friend, who had grown tired of waiting and
had gone on some way.

"Oh, you've come, have you?" said he, as Walter came running up. "I
thought you liked best wandering about all proper and lonely inside
that fine place you seem so fond of."

Walter made no reply, but walked by the side of his companion, who
marched along as if he knew very well what he wanted, and meant to
have it.

At length they came to a street corner, where they saw written up,
"Crystal Palace Arms."

"Now, here's just the place for me," cried Chris, pushing the door
open and going in.

Walter, though he felt more uncomfortable than ever, saw no choice but
to follow.

"Me and my pal wants a glass of beer," said Chris loudly, throwing
down a sixpence with the air of one who had plenty more.

"No, I don't want any, thanks, Chris," interrupted Walter hastily.

"Then you can go without," answered Christopher, deeply offended.
"I'm not going to offer it to you again, nor anything else either, you
great hulking killjoy."

He drank off his own beer, and then had some more, and some more
again.

Walter began to feel really frightened now, for Chris was one of those
childish people who, having once begun drinking, cannot stop
themselves from taking more than is good for them.

But on this occasion, to his comrade's surprise, he did stop before
long.

"It's no good for me to try and persuade him," thought Walter; "it
'ud only make him go the other way. I _wish_ I hadn't gone with him;
it's quite spoilt my day. I didn't get a holiday and come all this way
from home just to spend the afternoon in a stuffy public-house, nor on
the pavement outside, neither. It's six o'clock--there's the clock
striking.--Chris, we shall only just get back to the palace in time to
meet Mr. Richardson," he said aloud, beginning to walk very fast. "You
know he's got all the tickets--we can't go without him."

"All right--plenty o' time," rejoined Chris, speaking rather thickly,
and lagging behind in a most irritating way.

Walter thought he never should get him to the gate, but they reached
it at last. He thought it was the same man and the same entrance they
had come in by before, but really both were quite different. The
gatekeeper said at once,--

"Where's your money? But you can only stay five minutes."

"Oh, we paid this morning," replied Chris. "Don't you remember a big
party with red rosettes on?"

"You can't come in again, anyhow, without paying. And _you_ haven't no
red rosettes."

"Yes, I have; it's in my pocket," said Walter, beginning to feel for
it. But, alas! it was gone--drawn out, most likely, with his
handkerchief.

"Why did you make me take it off?" he said crossly. "Get out yours,
Chris, and show it."

"Mine? Threw the old thing away hours ago. Not such a fool as I look,"
answered Chris rudely.--"I'm going through here, so you can just stop
your row," he continued insolently to the gatekeeper, with a vague
idea of obtaining admiration from the crowds now coming out through
the turnstile.

The gatekeeper looked at him contemptuously for a moment, and then
gave a little whistle. Instantly two very tall policemen appeared.

"Just turn these two chaps out, will you?" said he. "They're regular
holiday-keepers, they are. Been at the Palace Arms, I should say, most
of the day."

"Now then, you clear out," said the policemen, with voice and manner
that even Chris dared not disregard.

"Please, we want to go to the station. We're to meet the others to go
by the half-past six train," said Walter desperately.

"You must look sharp, then--it's just off. There, be off down those
steps as hard as you can split."

Walter obeyed. In his anxiety he forgot all about Chris; and not even
when he reached the bottom of the steps, and caught sight of Mr.
Richardson's troubled countenance looking for the truants from one of
the carriage windows, did he recollect his friend.

The platform was crowded with people, and though Walter could see the
rector, the latter could not distinguish him. If he had but worn the
red badge upon his shoulder, matters might even yet have gone well;
but, as it was, all Walter's efforts to shoulder his way through the
masses of people only brought him to the front of the platform as the
train steamed off!

At the last moment of all, Mr. Richardson's eye fell upon him, and he
called out something, but Walter could not hear what it was.

A feeling of despair came over him as he turned back towards the
steps. He had just remembered Chris.

"What _shall_ we do?" he thought. "I haven't a penny, and Chris can't
have much left either. Oh, there he is!" as he caught sight of the
other lad's ill-tempered, flushed face at the foot of the steps.

"You sneak!" cried Chris angrily; "what d'ye mean by leaving me in the
lurch like this?"

"But you wouldn't hurry, Chris; and as it is, we've lost the
train--that was ours that's just gone. What are we to do now? Have you
got any money?"

"No; you know I ain't, else I shouldn't ha' left the 'public' so
quick. It's all your fault," answered Chris savagely, the beer
mounting to his head more and more every minute, and he as usual
growing more unpleasant and ill-tempered as his power of
self-restraint grew weaker.

Walter was wise enough not to try arguing with or blaming him. He knew
it would be worse than useless.

It was now getting dark, and the station was being lighted up. By some
happy chance, Walter found his way out of it, and into the town, still
holding on to Chris.

"Leave go," said the latter roughly. "I ain't a baby, nor a
perambulator neither, to be pushed about by you."

He walked, or rather stumbled, along some way without help, Walter
feeling utterly disgusted both with himself and his friend.

"But he shan't be my friend no more after to-day--I've made up my mind
as to that," he said to himself. "Father's often told me he wasn't a
good companion, and I know I didn't believe him. I thought Chris was a
fine fellow, as really knew more than other folks--he always talked as
if he did--but I see now 'twas all talk, and he ain't near so sensible
nor so pleasant as some of the other chaps. I ain't going to tell
tales, but if Mr. Richardson could see him now, I don't think Chris
'ud stay much longer in the choir."

By this time they had reached the Palace Arms again, and Christopher
once more turned in at the door.

"What's he doing that for?" thought Walter, "when he said he hadn't a
farthing left. _I_ shan't go in--I've had enough of it."

So he stayed in the street. He could hear voices--and very angry
ones--within. They rose louder and louder, and then there seemed a
sort of struggle.

Walter's anxiety to know what was going on had just conquered his
reluctance to be mixed up in anything like a drunken row, when the
door was hastily opened, and several men, among them the landlord of
the tavern, appeared, all pushing and shoving at Chris in order to
turn him out. They succeeded at last, and a very disgusting spectacle
he presented as he half stood, half lounged against a lamp-post. His
hat was gone--some one threw it out to him a minute later--his coat
was torn, his collar and tie were all crooked, his eyes were
bloodshot, and his expression was a mixture of fury and helplessness.

More than ever did Walter wish he was not obliged to claim
companionship with this degraded, low-looking man.

As he stood watching the impotent rage with which Chris kicked the
lamp-post, as though he thought it was one of the enemies he wished to
punish, a policeman came suddenly round the corner. Chris made a sort
of rush at him with an angry yell.

"Hullo! Drunk and disorderly, are you? Come along o' me," said the
constable coolly, quietly slipping a pair of handcuffs over Chris's
wrists. The latter, with renewed passion, struggled vehemently, but
the policeman took no notice; he merely led Chris along, without
uttering a word. It was not far to the police-station. When they had
got there, Chris's captor suddenly observed Walter, who had followed
at a little distance.

"What do _you_ want?" he asked. "A night in the lock-up?"

He spoke in jest, and was very much astonished when Walter answered,--

"Yes, please."

"What? In here?" said the policeman in amazement, looking at the
respectable, quiet lad. "Why, man, it's a sort of a jail."

"I don't _want_ to go there, of course," replied Walter; "but me and
him"--pointing to Chris--"has got lost, and if he's going there, why,
I s'pose I must too."

"Is this your pal, then? You don't know how to choose your mates, I
should say," observed the policeman. "'Tis too late for you to see a
magistrate, or you could speak to Colonel Law. Where d'ye come from?"

Walter related his story, Chris meanwhile sitting on the steps almost
asleep.

"It seems to me it's all your fault for not doing as the gentleman
told you, but going by such as he," said the constable, looking
disdainfully at Chris. "Now, look here," he added; "if you'll wait at
the door while I take in this chap and speak to the superintendent,
when I've done I'll take you to the colonel, and p'raps he'll see
you."

Walter thanked him, and waited patiently till he reappeared.

They soon reached the colonel's house, and were admitted to see him,
when the policeman recounted Walter's adventures. The magistrate was a
tall, thin old man, with a bristling white moustache, and a very
sharp, quick manner.

"Well," he said to Walter, "if your story is true, you've been a very
foolish fellow, and quite spoilt what might have been a very pleasant
day. You can go and sit in the kitchen and have some supper, while I
telegraph to your rector. If he says it is all as you say, I will lend
you the money to go back by the 9.30 train."

"Oh, thank you, sir, thank you," cried Walter, feeling as if his
troubles were coming to an end at last. "But what about Chris?"

"Your friend in the lock-up? He must stay there till he is let out.
When he is set free, I suppose his relations will send the money for
his journey--you can see about that when you get home--and he will
probably have to pay a fine also, before he can go."

Never had Walter enjoyed a supper more. An hour passed quickly away,
and he was quite surprised at being summoned again so soon to the
colonel's library. He looked less fierce this time.

"It's all right, Franklin," he said. "Mr. Richardson has requested me
to help you, so here is the money. I hope you will get home safely,
and learn from the events of to-day to choose your friends from among
the steady lads of the village, and not to listen to the big talkers,
who want you to despise your elders, and judge for yourself."

"No, sir; I don't mean to be friends with Chris again," said Walter.
"Thank you for helping me, sir. Good-night."

He shut the door, and as he walked away he said to himself,--

"I see now what it is that makes Chris so often go wrong. It's just
that whatever any one tells him to do, he always says, 'I know best.'"


THE END.


Transcriber's Note:

The frontispiece illustration has been shifted to follow the title page.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Archie's Mistake" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home