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Duck Lake
Chapter X. Jennie’s Errand

'I BELIEVE it’s all that teacher’s doin’,’ said Mrs. More to her husband after Jonas had disappeared. ‘If I were a man I’d make him leave my boy alone.’

‘Oh, you shut up, and get back to your potatoes!’

‘I’ll know where my boy is, Tom More. Pretty father you be, to let a school teacher fill him with foolish notions, and then get killed in the woods by a bear. Oh, my Charlie!’ and she sat down on a big stone and cried.

‘Come, woman, get up and get some more potatoes in. It looks like a shower’s cornin’, and you can’t pick in the mud.’

So Mrs. More went back to her potatoe-digging.

‘Oh, mother, what’s the matter? You’ve been crying!’ exclaimed little Jennie.

‘Shut up, you silly-head, and go along with your work!’ was the poor little creature’s rebuff.

That night Jennie heard her father and mother talk about Chubb. They repeated all that Jonas had told them, and added some surmises of their own. Poor Jennie’s heart was nearly bursting with sorrow and fright. Then, in reply to her mother’s pleadings and crying, she heard her father declare—

‘If that boy doesn’t turn up in a day or two, I’ll shoot that teacher.’

There was no sleep for Jennie that night, and very early the next morning she left her rude bed, which was only a blanket on a rough mattress of straw. She ran as hard as her legs could carry her through the woods. The teacher boarded at Mr. Miller’s, so it was generally understood, and Jennie must find him. She must find out where Chubb was, and tell her parents, so that her father may not shoot the teacher.

* * * *

‘Look, look, pa! Well, I do declare. There’s Tom More’s little Jennie running, bare-headed and bare-legged, through the woods this cold morning. Whatever can be the matter?’

Mrs. Miller had gone, pail in hand, to help her husband milk her cows. They were a thrifty pair, and got their work started and completed while some of their neighbours were beginning.

‘You’re right, wife. Take the poor little dear in and warm her up, and see what is the matter.’

Mrs. Miller hardly needed the kindly advice, but it was just like Miller to give it. He helped her along in the good work by catching up the shivering little girl and pressing her to his big heart.

‘Whatever brings this little lamb out such a drizzly morning?’ he asked, as he carried her into the house.

Jennie’s teeth chattered so that she could not make herself understood.

After placing her in the big rocking-chair and drawing it up to the kitchen fire, Mr. Miller went back to his work in the stable. Mrs. Miller busied herself to get a warm drink and flannels. Thoroughly fagged out after her four-mile tramp through the wet woods, Jennie sank into a deep sleep, and when she awoke in the afternoon she found herself in Mrs. Miller’s big bed, with white sheets over her and wonderful pictures on the walls. As her eyes wandered from one to the other they fastened on one depicting the Saviour carrying a little lamb.

Mrs. Miller’s quick ears heard Jennie moving, and she soon appeared carrying a bowl of steaming broth.

‘You poor dear,’ she soothed, ‘you’ve had a long sleep. How is my pet now, better, eh?’ 'Is that Mr. Miller?’ asked Jennie, abruptly, pointing to the picture of the Saviour and the lamb.

‘No, dearie, that’s the blessed Jesus.’

‘Well, it’s the way Mr. Miller carried me, and he called me his lamb.’

‘Just like him, the good man.’

‘Oh, Mrs. Miller,’ exclaimed Jennie, suddenly recollecting her errand, ‘where’s Chubb?’ ‘ I do not know, dearie. Have you lost him?’

‘Well, he hasn’t been home for ever so long.’

‘There, there, dearie, don’t get excited and spill your broth. You’ll be sick if you don’t mind. Chubb is a good boy, and he’ll come back all right.’

‘Oh, I’m so glad! ’ said the little one, comforted. ‘But ma blames the teacher, and pa says that if Chubb don’t come back to-day or to-morrow he’ll shoot the teacher.’

‘There now, dearie, be still. I just feared that your mind had been turned. Be very quiet, dearie. Just drink some more broth. It’s good, isn’t it? Now, hush; don’t say another word. We’ll hunt up Chubb for you, and we’ll see that the teacher is not hurt. Now lie down, and I’ll cover you up. Now just lie still and sleep.’

* * * * *

‘The poor dear is out of her head,’ said Mrs. Miller that evening to her husband.

‘Take good care of her, wife, and bring her round.’

‘But something’s wrong, husband, or she wouldn’t have run away or babbled like that.’

‘Well, my dear, we’ll hear soon enough. But the teacher ain’t home.’

‘No; he said he wouldn’t be. He’s gone to the preacher’s to spend the night with him. They’re very friendly these days.’

‘That’s so, wife. But you’d better leave a lamp in the west window, to help him to see the way through the bush, supposin’ he took the notion to come home,’

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