There are times when a man dares not utter his deepest feelings because of the commonplace character of the words through which they only can find expression. If Malachi had asked Mr. Penrose to write the character of God on a blackboard before a class of infants, he would not have been placed in a greater difficulty than that now involved by the question of Malachi. Already his mind was dark with the problem of suffering. Little Job’s cry for ‘the candle of the Almeety’ had reached depths he knew not were hidden in his heart; while the look in the mother’s face, as she stood snow-covered in the doorway of the farmstead, and as the firelight lent its glare to her blanched and pain-wrought face, continued ceaselessly to haunt him. And now Malachi wanted to know what he thought of it all! How could he tell him?
Finding Mr. Penrose remained silent, Malachi continued: ’Yon woman’s supped sorrow, and no mistak’. Hoo buried her husband six months afore yon lad wur born. Poor little felley! he never know’d his faither.’
’Ah! I never knew that. Then she has supped sorrow, as you call it.’
’Owd Mr. Morell used to say as he could awlus see her deead husband’s face i’ hers until th’ child wur born, and then it left her, and hoo carried th’ face o’ th’ little un hoo brought up. But it’ll be a deead face hoo’ll carry in her een naa, I’ll be bun for’t.’
’How was it his mother sent him to work in the pit?—such a dangerous calling, and the boy so young.’
’You’ll know a bit more, Mr. Penrose, when yo’ve lived here a bit longer. His fo’k and hers hev bin colliers further back nor I can remember; and they noan change trades wi’ us.’
‘But why need he go to work so young?’ asked the minister.
Malachi stopped and gazed in astonishment at the minister, and then said:
‘I durnd know as he would ha’ worked in th’ pit, Mr. Penrose, if you’d ha’ kep’ him and his mother and o’. But fo’k mun eat, thaa knows. Th’ Almeety’s gan o’er rainin’ daan manna fro’ heaven, as He used to do in th’ wilderness.’
Mr. Penrose did not reply.
‘Yo’ know, Mr. Penrose,’ continued Malachi, ‘workin’ in a coile-pit is like preychin’: it’s yezzy (easy) enugh when yo’ ged used to ‘t. An’ as for danger—why, yo’ connot ged away fro’ it. As owd Amos sez, yo’re as safe i’ one hoile (workshop) as another.’
‘Yes; that’s sound philosophy,’ assented Mr. Penrose.
‘Mr. Morell once tell’d us in his preychin’ abaat a chap as axed a oracle, or summat, what kind of a deeath he would dee; and when he wur towd that he would happen an accident o’ some sort, they couldn’t geet him to shift aat o’ his garden, for fear he’d be killed. But it wur all no use; for one day, as he wur sittin’ amang his flaars, a great bird dropped a stooan, and smashed his yed. So yo’ see, Mr. Penrose, if yo’ve to dee in th’ pulpit yo’ll dee theer, just as little Job deed i’ th’ coile-pit.’