“Oh, Mary, no!” exclaimed horrified Una. “God isn’t a bit like father—I mean He’s a thousand times better and kinder.”
“If He’s as good as your father He’ll do for me,” said Mary. “When your father was talking to me I felt as if I never could be bad any more.”
“I wish you’d talk to father about Him,” sighed Una. “He can explain it all so much better than I can.”
“Why, so I will, next time he wakes up,” promised Mary. “That night he talked to me in the study he showed me real clear that my praying didn’t kill Mrs. Wiley. My mind’s been easy since, but I’m real cautious about praying. I guess the old rhyme is the safest. Say, Una, it seems to me if one has to pray to anybody it’d be better to pray to the devil than to God. God’s good, anyhow so you say, so He won’t do you any harm, but from all I can make out the devil needs to be pacified. I think the sensible way would be to say to him, ’Good devil, please don’t tempt me. Just leave me alone, please.’ Now, don’t you?”
“Oh, no, no, Mary. I’m sure it couldn’t be right to pray to the devil. And it wouldn’t do any good because he’s bad. It might aggravate him and he’d be worse than ever.”
“Well, as to this God-matter,” said Mary stubbornly, “since you and I can’t settle it, there ain’t no use in talking more about it until we’ve a chanct to find out the rights of it. I’ll do the best I can alone till then.”
“If mother was alive she could tell us everything,” said Una with a sigh.
“I wisht she was alive,” said Mary. “I don’t know what’s going to become of you youngsters when I’m gone. Anyhow, do try and keep the house a little tidy. The way people talks about it is scandalous. And the first thing you know your father will be getting married again and then your noses will be out of joint.”
Una was startled. The idea of her father marrying again had never presented itself to her before. She did not like it and she lay silent under the chill of it.
“Stepmothers are awful creatures,” Mary went on. “I could make your blood run cold if I was to tell you all I know about ’em. The Wilson kids across the road from Wiley’s had a stepmother. She was just as bad to ’em as Mrs. Wiley was to me. It’ll be awful if you get a stepmother.”
“I’m sure we won’t,” said Una tremulously. “Father won’t marry anybody else.”
“He’ll be hounded into it, I expect,” said Mary darkly. “All the old maids in the settlement are after him. There’s no being up to them. And the worst of stepmothers is, they always set your father against you. He’d never care anything about you again. He’d always take her part and her children’s part. You see, she’d make him believe you were all bad.”
“I wish you hadn’t told me this, Mary,” cried Una. “It makes me feel so unhappy.”
“I only wanted to warn you,” said Mary, rather repentantly. “Of course, your father’s so absent-minded he mightn’t happen to think of getting married again. But it’s better to be prepared.”