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Duck Lake
Chapter XVI. The Preacher and the Father

WITH his face hard and set, and revolving thoughts of vengeance, even of murder, More followed the teacher into the house.

‘And this is your father, Jennie.' said Mr. Hewitt cheerily, from his couch. His shoulder was bound up with many cloths and smarting painfully, but none of his pain was seen in his face or heard in his voice. ‘I am sorry that I have not called upon you, Mr. More. I have not been able to overtake all my work. I hope that you will pardon me.’

The hard-faced man looked at the preacher with a scowl.

‘Then, when Chubb was hurt.' continued Mr. Hewitt, ‘I should have let you know about it, but Chubb did not want you to know that he had been beaten by a bear; while we had hoped to have sent him home to you well. Poor boy, he is having a harder pull back to health than we thought.'

More looked over at Chubb, who was lying on the bed, his little face as white as a moonbeam.

‘Then there’s dear little Jennie,’ rambled on the preacher. ‘She only came to see us this morning. You should have seen her up on the bed nursing Chubb. It was one of the sweetest pictures I ever saw in my life. But, Mr. More, she says that you have not kissed her yet. You are a father, and no doubt you are glad to see your children again. Look, Jennie is just hungering for a kiss from you now!’

‘I never kiss my children.' growled More, shifting his feet uneasily.

‘Then you had better begin now. You are their father, aren’t you? Look, how can you keep your hands off a sweet little lassie like Jennie? If you don’t kiss your precious girl I’ll have to do it for you.’

The rough man stooped to his little girl and kissed her. Jennie threw her arms around his neck, and, hugging him tightly, she said—

‘Oh, papa, that’s the first time you ever kissed me, and I’ve wanted to kiss you ever so often.’

The big man staggered back as if hit by a hammer. He found a chair and sat down. Jennie climbed up into his lap.

‘Papa,’ she said eagerly, ‘come and kiss Chubb too. He’d like it most as much as me.’

The father rose unsteadily, and, led by his little girl, he went over to Chubb’s bedside. The boy, in spite of his suffering, bravely smiled up at his father. The man took the boy’s white face in his two rough hands and kissed it Then, sinking to his knees, he cried out—

‘Good God, what have I done? I’ve nearly killed my children and my best friend. God forgive me!’

‘He will,’ said the preacher, as tears of thankfulness sprang into his eyes, and the other eyes that beheld were by no means dry. ‘He will forgive, bless His holy name!’

As if suddenly aroused, More struggled to his feet, and came over to the couch on which the young preacher lay.

‘Mr. Hewitt,’ he began, and his voice choked, ‘when I entered this house I vowed in my heart to kill you, and here you are praying to God to bless me.’

‘God is merciful and forgiving. Just try Him, Mr. More.’

‘Mr. Hewitt, you are hard enough to deal with. Have mercy on me, and say that you’ll not send me to jail for what I’ve done to you.’ ‘Nay, nay, my good friend. I might have sent the man who came into this house to jail, but you are going to be a new man now in Christ Jesus. God has opened your heart. Go and love your children. Let the past be buried in oblivion. Let God and your children be your guiding stars in the future.’

The man stood as if in agony of spirit, and seemed unable to move.

'Why, man, your clothes are wet,’ said Mr. Hewitt. ‘Green, please see if you cannot get something dry out of my trunk for this man. Jonas, make up a fire, like a good fellow, and dry Mr. More’s clothes. Then, after supper, he and Jennie will go and tell Mrs. More about Chubb’s fight with the bear. She must be very anxious, with nearly all her family away.’

The preacher’s wishes were promptly obeyed. Then, after Mr, More was in dry clothes, Mr. Hewitt and Jonas and the teacher, with some comments from Chubb, entertained the Warden and Mr. More with an account of Chubb’s experiences with the bear and the red cow. An early tea was served, and then Mr. More picked Jennie lovingly up in his arms and went away.

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