‘Do you think, Mr. Ericson,’ he said, at length, taking up the old question still floating unanswered in his mind, ‘do you think if a devil was to repent God would forgive him?’
Ericson turned and looked at him. Their eyes met. The youth wondered at the boy. He had recognized in him a younger brother, one who had begun to ask questions, calling them out into the deaf and dumb abyss of the universe.
‘If God was as good as I would like him to be, the devils themselves would repent,’ he said, turning away.
Then he turned again, and looking down upon Robert like a sorrowful eagle from a crag over its harried nest, said,
‘If I only knew that God was as good as—that woman, I should die content.’
Robert heard words of blasphemy from the mouth of an angel, but his respect for Ericson compelled a reply.
‘What woman, Mr. Ericson?’ he asked.
‘I mean Miss Letty, of course.’
‘But surely ye dinna think God’s nae as guid as she is? Surely he’s as good as he can be. He is good, ye ken.’
‘Oh, yes. They say so. And then they tell you something about him that isn’t good, and go on calling him good all the same. But calling anybody good doesn’t make him good, you know.’
‘Then ye dinna believe ‘at God is good, Mr. Ericson?’ said Robert, choking with a strange mingling of horror and hope.
‘I didn’t say that, my boy. But to know that God was good, and fair, and kind—heartily, I mean, not half-ways, and with ifs and buts—my boy, there would be nothing left to be miserable about.’