Horror took hold of her, and the sweat moistened her brow. The firelight played on the curls of the sleeping boy, and she started as she thought of that other fire that was never quenched, and she rose and shook her clenched hand at heaven as the possibility of the singeing of a single hair of the child passed through her mind.
For a time Deborah stood alone, without a God, the faith in which she had been trained, and in which she had sheltered in righteous security, shrinking into space until she found herself in the void of a darkness more terrible than that of the pit which she had been speaking of to the child. She saw how that hitherto she had only believed she believed, and that now, when her soul was touched in its nether deeps, she had never believed at all in the creed which she had fought for and upheld with such bitterness. There, in the twilight of that Sabbath evening, she uttered what, to Rehoboth, would have been a terrible renunciation, just as a lurid beam shot its level fire across the moors, and as the sun went down, leaving her in the horror of a great darkness.
And then, in the gathering gloom, was heard the voice of the child calling:
‘Well, mi lad, what is’t?’
‘Gronny, I don’t believe i’ th’ hoile.’
‘Bless thee, my darlin’—no more do I.’
‘I durnd think as God ud send me where yo’ an’ mi dad wouldn’t let me go—would He, gronny?’
‘Nowe, lad, He wouldn’t, forsure.’
And then, lighting the lamp, and turning with the old superstition to her Bible to see what the law and the testimony had to say as she opened it at random, her eyes fell on the words: ’If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him.’
That afternoon, when Matt and Miriam returned from Rehoboth, they found old Deborah less than the little child she watched over; for she, too, had not only become as a little child, but, as she said, least among the little ones.
HOW MALACHI O’ TH’ MOUNT WON HIS WIFE.
‘So yo’ want to know haa aw geet hand o’ my missus, dun yo’, Mr. Penrose? Well, if hoo’ll nobbud be quiet while aw’m abaat it, aw’ll tell yo’.’
And so saying, Malachi drew his chair to the fire, and blew a cloud of tobacco-smoke towards the rows of oat-cakes that hung on the brade fleygh over his head.
‘It’s forty year sin’ I furst wore shoe-leather i’ Rehoboth, Mr. Penrose.’
’Nay, lad, it’s noan forty year whol Candlemas. It were February, thaa knows, when thaa come; and it’s nobbud October yet. An’ thaa didn’t wear shoon noather, thaa wore clogs—clogs as big as boats, Mr. Penrose; an’ they co’d him Clitter-clatter for a nickname. Hasto forgetten, Malachi?’
‘Aw wish thaa wouldn’t be so plaguey partic’lar, lass, an’ let a felley get on wi’ his tale,’ said Malachi to his wife. And then, turning to Mr. Penrose, he continued: ‘Aw were tryin’ to say as it were forty year sin’ I come to Rehoboth.’