‘And why do they put it in a hoile, gronny? Is it to mak’ it better?’
‘Nay, lad; they put it i’ th’ hoile because it’s noan good.’
‘Then it’s summat like mi dad when I’m naughty, an’ he says he’ll put me i’ th’ cellar hoile.’
‘But he never does—does he, lad?’ asked the grandmother anxiously.
‘Nowe, gronny. He nobbud sez he will.’ And then, after a pause, he continued, ’But, gronny, if God sez He’ll put ’em in He’ll do as He sez—willn’t He?’
‘Yi, lad; He will, forsure.’
‘An’ haa long does He keep ’em in when He gets ’em theer? Till to-morn t’neet?’
‘Longer nor Kesmas?’
’Yi, lad. But ne’er heed. Here’s summat to eat. Sithee, I baked thee a pasty.’
‘I noan want th’ pasty, gronny. I want to yer abaat th’ hoile. Haa long does God keep bad fo’k in it?’
‘Ey, lad. I wish thaa’d hooisht! What doesto want botherin’ thi little yed wi’ such like talk?’
’Haa long does He keep ’em i’ th’ hoile?’ persistently asked the boy.
’Well, if thaa mun know, He keeps ’em in for ever.’
‘An’ haa long’s that, gronny? Is it as long as thee?’
‘As long as me, lad! Whatever doesto mean?’
‘I mean is forever as long as thaa’rt owd? Haa owd arto, gronny?’
‘I’m sixty-five, lad.’
’Well, does He keep ’em i’ the hoile sixty-five years?’
‘Yi, lad. He does, forsure. But thi faither never puts thee i’ th’ cellar hoile when thaa’s naughty, does he?’
‘Nowe. I tell thee he nobbud sez he will,’
‘By Guy, lad! If ever he puts thee i’ th’ cellar hoile—whether thaa’rt naughty or not—thaa mun tell me, and I’ll lug his yed for him.’ And the old woman became indignant in her mien.
‘But if God puts fo’k i’ th’ hoile, why shuldn’t mi faither put me i’ th’ hoile? It’s reet to do as God does—isn’t it, gronny?’
‘Whatever wilto ax me next, lad?’ cried the worn-out and perplexed old woman. ‘Come, shut up th’ Bible, and eat thi pasty.’
But the little fellow’s appetite was gone, and as he fell asleep on the settle his slumber was fitful, for dark dreams disturbed him—he had felt the first awful shadow of a dogmatic faith.
Nor was old Deborah less disturbed. Sitting by the fire, with one eye on the child and the other on her Bible, the gloomy shadows of a shortening day creeping around her, she, too, with her mind’s eye, saw the regions of woe—the flaming deeps where hope comes never. What if that were her grandchild’s doom!—her grandchild, whose father she would smite if even for a moment he shut his little son up in the cellar of his home! How her heart loathed the passion, the cruelty, that would wreak such an act! And yet He whom she called God had reserved blackness and darkness for ever for the disobedient and rebellious.