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The Touching Reproof
by [?]

“HERE, Jane,” said a father to his little girl not over eleven years of age, “go over to the shop and buy me a pint of brandy.”

At the same time he handed her a quarter of a dollar. The child took the money and the bottle, and as she did so, looked her father in the face with an earnest, sad expression. But he did not seem to observe it, although he perceived it, and felt it; for he understood its meaning. The little girl lingered, as if reluctant, from some reason, to go on her errand.

“Did you hear what I said?” the father asked, angrily, and with a frowning brow, as he observed this.

Jane glided from the room and went over to the shop, hiding, as she passed through the street, the bottle under her apron. There she obtained the liquor, and returned with it in a few minutes. As she reached the bottle to her father, she looked at him again with the same sad, earnest look, which he observed. It annoyed and angered him.

“What do you mean by looking at me in that way? Ha!” he said, in a loud, angry tone.

Jane shrunk away, and passed into the next room, where her mother lay sick. She had been sick for some time, and as they were poor, and her husband given to drink, she had sorrow and privation added to her bodily sufferings. As her little girl came in, she went up to the side of her bed, and, bending over it, leaned her head upon her hand. She did not make any remark, nor did her mother speak to her, until she observed the tears trickling through her fingers.

“What is the matter, my dear?” she then asked, tenderly.

The little girl raised her head, endeavouring to dry up her tears as she did so.

“I feel so bad, mother,” she replied.

“And why do you feel bad, my child?”

“Oh, I always feel so bad when father sends me over to the shop for brandy; and I had to go just now. I wanted to ask him to buy you some nice grapes and oranges with the quarter of a dollar–they would taste so good to you–but he seemed to know what I was going to say, and looked at me so cross that I was afraid to speak. I wish he would not drink any more brandy. It makes him cross; and then how many nice things he might buy for you with the money it takes for liquor.”

The poor mother had no words of comfort to offer her little girl, older in thought than in years; for no comfort did she herself feel in view of the circumstances that troubled her child. She only said–aying her hand upon the child’s head–

“Try and not think about it, my dear; it only troubles you, and your trouble cannot make it any better.”

But Jane could not help thinking about it, try as hard as she would. She went to a Sabbath school, in which a Temperance society had been formed, and every Sabbath she heard the subject of intemperance discussed, and its dreadful consequences detailed. But more than all this, she had the daily experience of a drunkard’s child. In this experience, how much of heart-touching misery was involved!–how much of privation–how much of the anguish of a bruised spirit. Who can know the weight that lies, like a heavy burden, upon the heart of a drunkard’s child! None but the child–for language is powerless to convey it.

On the next morning, the father of little Jane went away to his work, and she was left alone with her mother and her younger sister. They were very poor, and could not afford to employ any one to do the house-work, and so, young as she was, while her mother was sick, Jane had everything to do:–the cooking, and cleaning, and even the washing and ironing–a hard task, indeed, for her little hands. But she never murmured–never seemed to think that she was overburdened; How cheerfully would all have been done, if her father’s smiles had only fallen like sunshine upon her heart! But that face, into which her eyes looked so often and so anxiously, was ever hid in clouds–clouds arising from the consciousness that he was abusing his family while seeking his own base gratification, and from perceiving the evidences of his evil works stamped on all things around him.