But at that moment a voice was heard calling: “Come in to tea, children!”
“It can’t be tea-time yet, surely!” said Tom, quite astonished at the quick flight of time.
So the scratch team had not played so badly after all, and during Tom’s stay with his aunt they had many a game together and always thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was Saturday—a summer Saturday; the sun shone down upon the meads and pastures round Clover Farm so radiantly that every face felt bound to smile brightly in return. Every face but one, and that belonged to Roddy Lester, the eldest of the farmer’s four.
“What ails my boy this fine sunshiny morning?” called out mother from the cool, sweet dimness of the dairy, where she was at work.
Roddy did not answer. He was standing in the ivy-encircled doorway of the dairy, his hands deep in his pockets, his feet shuffling to and fro, and on his face a dark, angry cloud.
“Come, Roddy, tell mother the trouble. Is it anything to do with school? Is there a punishment preparation to be done this morning?”
“No; there isn’t!” Roddy roused himself at such a suspicion. “Why, mother, I told you I was moved up yesterday; don’t you remember? But I’ll come inside and tell you all about it.”
“No! Tell me from outside all about it.”
“Well, then, mother, I don’t want to take the children to the meads. I want to amuse myself. And it’s not fair. Saturday’s a holiday, and it’s my right to have it!” sullenly said Roddy.
“Your right! Perhaps so, dear! But sometimes it is our privilege to yield our rights!” quietly said mother, taking her eyes for a second off the yellowing cream to glance at the boy’s gloomy face. “Who told you to take the children to the meads—father?” she asked.
“Yes, it was. He said I was to take them to the cowslip meads, and not to stir from there until he came back from market.”
“And what is it you want to do instead?”
“I want to go with my net down to Butterfly Corner. There will be heaps of butterflies out this sunny day. And the other boys at school are all collecting: they have more than I have, all of them. I have only a tortoiseshell and a brimstone. O, it’s a regular shame of father!”
“Hush, dear, hush! Nothing that your kind, good father says or does can be called a shame. But I believe I can guess why he gave those orders. He knew that this is an over-busy day for me, and also that I have one of my bad headaches.” Certainly mother’s face gleamed out white from the dairy shadows. “And as this is market-day at Hamley Town he and old Michael would be away until dinner-time. So, you see, sonny, he has left you in charge. You are in father’s place this morning to guard the farm and us all, particularly the tinies. Don’t you see what an honour it is to be trusted thus?”