It was a half-holiday. The children were gathered on the green and a right merry time they were having.
“Come, girls and boys,” called out Ned Graham, “let’s play hunt the squirrel.”
All assented eagerly, and a large circle was formed with Ned Graham for the leader, because he was the largest.
"Come Susie,” said one of the boys, to a little girl who stood on one side, and seemed to shrink from joining them.
“Oh, never mind her!” said Ned, with a little toss of his head, “she’s nobody, anyhow. Her father drinks.”
A quick flush crept over the child’s pale face as she heard the cruel, thoughtless words.
She was very sensitive, and the arrow had touchéd her heart in its tenderest place.
Her father was a drunkard, she knew, but to be taunted with it before so many was more than she could bear; and with great sobs heaving from her bosom, and hot tears filling her eyes, she turned and ran away from the playground.
Her mother was sitting by the window when she reached home, and the tearful face of the little girl told that something had happened to disturb her.
“What is the matter, Susie?" she asked, kindly.
“Oh mother,” Susie said, with the tears dropping down her cheeks, as she hid her face in her mother’s lap, Ned Graham said such a cruel thing about me,” and here the sobs choked her voice so that she could hardly speak; “He said that I wasn’t anybody, and that father drinks.”
“My poor little girl,” Mrs. Ellet said, very sadly. There were tears in her eyes too.
Such taunts as this were nothing new.
“Oh mother,” Susie said as she lifted her face, wet with tears, from her mother’s lap. “I can’t bear to have them say so, and just as if I had done something wicked. I wish father wouldn’t drink! Do you suppose he’ll ever leave it off?”
“I hope so,” Mrs. Ellet answered as she kissed Susie’s face where the tears clung like drops of dew on a rose. “I pray he will break off the habit, and I can do nothing but pray, and leave the rest to God.”
That night Mr. Ellet came home to supper, as usual. He was a hard-working man, and a good neighbor. So everybody said, but he had the habit of intemperance so firmly fixed upon him that everybody thought he would end his days in the drunkard’s grave. Susie kissed him when he came through the gate, as she always did, but there was something in her face that went to his heart—a look so sad, and full of touching sorrow for one so young as she!
“What ails my little girl?” he asked as he patted her curly head.
“I can’t tell you, father,” she answered slowly.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because it would make you feel bad,” Susie replied.
“I guess not,” he said, as they walked up to the door together. “What is it Susie?”
"Oh, father,” and Susie burst into tears again as the memory of Ned Graham’s words came up freshly in her mind, “I wish you wouldn’t drink any more, for the boys and girls don’t like to play with me, ‘cause you do.”
Mr. Ellet made no reply. But something stirred in his heart that made him ashamed of himself; ashamed that he was cause of so much sorrow and misery. After supper he took his hat, and Mrs. Ellet knew only too well where he was going.
At first he had resolve to stay at home that evening, but the force of habit was so strong that he could not resist, and he yielded, promising himself that he would not drink more than once or twice.
Susie had left the table before he had finished his supper, and as he passed the great clump of lilacs by the path on his way to the gate, he heard her voice and stopped to listen to what she was saying.
“Oh, good Jesus, please don’t let father drink any more. Make him as he used to be when I was a baby, and then the boys and girls can’t call me a drunkard’s child, or say such bad things about me. Please dear Jesus, for mother’s sake and mine.
Susie’s father listened to her simple prayer with a great lump swelling in his throat.
And when it was ended he went up to her, and knelt down by her side, and put his arm around her, oh so lovingly!
“God in heaven,” he said, very solemnly, “I promise to-night, never to touch another drop of liquor as long as I live. Give me strength to keep my pledge, and help me to be a better man.”
“Oh father,” Susie cried, her arms about his neck, and her head upon his breast, “I’m so glad! I shan’t care about anything they say about me now, for I know you won’t be a drunkard any more.”
“God helping me, I will be a man!” he answered, as, taking Susie by the hand he went back into the house where his wife was sitting with the old patient look of sorrow on her face—the look that had become so habitual.
I cannot tell you the joy and thanksgiving that went up from that hearthstone that night. I wish I could, but it was too deep a joy which filled the hearts of Susie and her mother to be described.
Was not Susie’s prayer answered?
There is never a day so dreary
But God can make it bright
And unto the soul that trusts him
He giveth songs in the night.
There is never a path so hidden
But God will show the way
If we seek the Spirit’s guidance
And patiently watch and pray.