Meantime, Charlie, finding his own library book rather dull, had commenced reading Carrie’s. “Here! that’s mine,” she cried, trying to snatch it.
“Wait till I finish this page,” he said, holding it up out of her reach.
“No, I will have it now,” she insisted; and by frantic efforts finally seized it, but not till she had left a scratch on his hand, and received several pinches on her arm.
She opened the book, and the first thing she saw was the verse, “Ye have need of patience.”
“Oh, dear,” she sighed, “there is another mark. Now, I suppose, I must carry this book back to Charlie, and ask his forgiveness.”
“I am sorry I behaved so bad, and you may take the book all the afternoon,” she whispered.
Charlie stopped whistling. “Upon my word, I believe you are a Christian, Carrie,” he said, and then he fell to whistling again. But Carrie went softly up stairs.
[Illustration: "Never mind her! Her father drinks."]
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.”
They were all eager for the game, and a large circle was formed with Ned Graham for 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 touched 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 her bosom, and hot tears filling her eyes, she turned and ran away from the play-ground.
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.
[Illustration: “He said that father drinks.”]
“Oh, mother,” said Susie, 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 in that family.
“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 act just as if I had done something wicked. I wish father wouldn’t drink! Do you suppose he’ll ever leave it off?”