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Duck Lake
Chapter V. Chubb’s Home

MR. GREEN did not miss his big book on taxidermy until a couple of days after Chubb’s .visit, but he somehow connected the book with Chubb, for the boy had shown a special fondness for it. Still, he was surprised that Chubb had taken it without asking leave. It was a very valuable book, exceptionally well written, and handsomely got up, with coloured lithographs. So the teacher made inquiries for Chubb, but none of the children knew of the boy’s whereabouts.

About a week after Chubb’s visit and disappearance, the teacher walked several miles through the bush to the former’s home. The house was made of pine-logs, fairly well built, but the barn and sheds were in sad condition for want of completion and repair. Plough and harrow were exposed to the weather, while two half-fed tired-looking oxen were lying on the side of a heap of manure. The garden gloried in its weeds.

‘Poor Chubb!’ sighed the teacher; ‘what inspiration did you get from this home?'

Passing round to the back door, the teacher saw a girl of ten or eleven, though from her wan features she looked much older, carrying a baby and trying to pick up the chips at the same time.

‘Hurry up with that wood!’ rang out sharply from the house; and the owner of the shrill voice appeared almost immediately in the door-way. She was a rough-looking woman, with a frowsy head of hair, a stranger for at least a week to a comb. Her feet were adorned with rusty, torn, unbuttoned shoes, while her dress was short and ragged. Her sleeves were rolled up to her elbows, and her hands were covered with douch and flour.

‘Oh, the new teacher,’ she said, changing her tone and manner, as she saw Mr. Green approaching.

‘Yes. My name is Green, and yours is Mrs. More, I presume.’

‘Yes, sir, that’s our name.’

The teacher made an effort to help Jennie in with her burden of chips and squalling baby.

‘Drop them chips and shake hands with the teacher,' the mother shouted to Jennie. ‘Where are your manners?’

‘What a bear!’ thought Green. While Jennie on her part was almost overcome by fear and bashfulness.

‘Jennie is doing all right,' suggested the teacher.

‘All right!’ repeated the mother. ‘I never seed her do a thing right. These children have no manners.'

‘And no mother to teach them,' said Green to himself; and his heart went out in purest pity for both Jennie and her brother, Chubb.

‘Come in, won’t you?’ asked Mrs. More. ‘We ain’t very clean, but now you’ve come this far, come right in.’

Green entered. He wished for a hoe—the floor seemed to have never made the acquaintance of a broom. In the centre of the room stood a rusty cook-stove with broken damper. Before it a lad five or six years of age was playing with a stick in the ashes. On a box near the stove rested a pan of dough, which the mother was working up for bread. When that worthy woman came back from scolding Jennie and inviting the teacher to enter, she grabbed the little boy by the shoulder and whirled him around. This caused his stick to flip a lot of ashes over the pan of bread.

‘You young brat you!’ she exclaimed, and gave him a severe cuffing. Then she resumed-her punching at the dough—the ashes going in with the flour, Mrs. More never making the slightest effort to remove them.

‘Dear me,' thought Green, ‘this country needs some one besides a school teacher, for parents need instruction as well as children. Some Good-Home Association should send up missionaries.'

Green thought that he could not have been more uncomfortable in a bear’s den, so he plunged into his errand with a desire to be through with it and get away.

‘Where is Chubb, Mrs. More?'

'Why' said the astonished mother, straightening herself up from her pan, and looking sharply at the teacher, ‘we thought he was with you in your hunt-lodge! The young brat; has he been truancing again? Just wait till I catch him. I’ll hide him! But we haven’t seen him for a whole blessed week. He said he was going to “the lodge,” and we thought it was yourn.’

Green saw that Mrs. More was no wiser as to Chubb’s whereabouts than himself; but though he was greatly surprised, he thought that, for Chubb’s sake as well as his mother’s, he had better quell any fears about the boy.

‘Oh, well,’ he said, somewhat indifferently, ‘he was at school a little while ago, and I guess he’ll turn up all right.'

‘He usually does,’ said Mrs. More, very coolly.

The teacher rose, patted the little boy on the head, and moved towards the door. When in the doorway, he turned and said that he was glad to see them so well, and that he must hurry on.

‘But you’ll stay for supper, won’t you? I'll soon have this bread ready for the oven, and when it’s cooked we’ll have supper.'

The teacher’s eyes rested for a moment on the ashed dough, and then he replied—

‘No, I thank you. I cannot stay to-night. Good-bye.’

Mrs. More rubbed the dough off her hands, and came to the door. She was greatly disappointed in the teacher, and pressed him to stay; but he was firm.

‘Good-bye, Bobbie,’ he said to the little fellow, patting him on the head. Turning to Jennie, he patted her cheek.

‘Cheer up, my little girl,’ he said. ‘Tell your mother to let you come to school.’

Then, with a doff of his hat, he went down the path, through a gap in the fence and on into the woods.

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