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CHAPTER 4.
WOODLAND SCHOOL GRADUATION

NEXT DAY IN THE WOODLAND SCHOOL CLEARING, Miz Badger stood with her arms folded. Her pupils seemed unusually fidgety, and she waited patiently for them to settle down. At last, she asked, "What is it? What's the matter? Will one of you speak for the rest?"

Four of them wanted to speak at once. Miz Badger held up a firm paw. Michael was the most sensible of her pupils, but Michael shook his head when she nodded at him. "What about you, Steven?" she asked.

"It's about Michael," Steven began. "Yes, yes!" the others shouted. And Steven told the story of how Michael saved the mother duck and her family from the ugly snapping turtle. "Really, REALLY ugly!" was Ruthie's interruption. "I couldn't look," said Kathy. "Michael could've had a leg bitten off," said Jeremy, "or worse." But Michael just sat, staring at the ground. Finally, Steven ended the story with, "And the last we saw of that thing it was just paddling around in a circle with its beak stuck in the tree limb."

Miz Badger listened in silence, her brow furrowed in concentration. Finally, she said, "Michael, look at me." Michael raised his head and gazed up at Miz Badger. "That was a very brave action," she said quietly. "You were not in danger yourself, but you risked your life to save the duck family."

Michael said, "I didn't think, I just acted. But when I got back into my house, I just sat for a long time and shook. It was awful. I kept seeing that big, ugly beak coming at me." He fell silent and stared once more at the ground.

By then his friends had gathered around him, patting him and whispering how proud of him they were.

Miz Badger clapped her paws. "I had a graduation speech ready to give, but I don't think you need to hear it. You pupils grew up suddenly yesterday, especially Michael, and I am very proud of all of you. You are no longer my pupils; you are ready to go out and make your own way now." She held out her long, furry arms and the young animals crowded around her for a comforting hug before they left her.

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