"What's tempt?" "Tempt is, well, the Devil tempts us when there's something we want to do, but we know it is bad." "Why does God let us do bad things?" "Because He wants us to make up our own minds." "Even to do bad things, right under His nose?" "He doesn't want us to do bad things, but to know good from bad and be good of our own free choice." "Why?"
This bit of dialogue is taken from Chapter 5. The children are eating breakfast with Mary, and Rufus has been asking why his father is not there. Mary has told them that Jay has to leave to go see Grampa Follet, and has explained that Grampa Follet is getting old and may die soon. This has led into her religious explanation of death and related topics. Rufus tirelessly asks his mother question after question in an attempt to clarify God's intentions, especially about temptation, because these intentions do not make much sense to him. This relentless questioning typifies Rufus's interactions with his mother, and highlights the fact that though he is very bright and occasionally seems wise beyond his years, he is also very young.