But on Monday morning Andrew Marshall had to pay the price of the happiness he had been instrumental in giving them, for he was informed by one of Walker’s henchmen that his place was stopped. The excuse given was that it was too far in advance of the others. Andrew knew what that meant, and as he went home, fierce rebellious feelings stirred within him. Peter Pegg, he was glad to know, had got started on “oncost” work, and Andrew felt he had done right in not allowing Peter to take the collection with him.
“I see Andra Marshall’s back again,” observed Sanny Robertson to Peter Pegg one evening three months later.
“Ay,” said Peter, “he was at Glampy, but his place was stopped, an’ there wasna anither for him.”
“Got the sack again, I suppose,” said Sanny. “Weel, he maun learn, Peter, that gaffers are no’ gaun to put up wi’ his nonsense. If a man will no’ do what he’s telt, he maun just take the consequences.”
“Ay,” said Peter, very dryly, and as Peter knew his man, no more was said.
Later the same night Matthew Maitland observed to Peter, as they sat on their “hunkers” at the corner:
“Andra’s back again, I suppose.”
“Ay,” was the answer, “he was telt his place was stopped.”
“Imphm,” said Matthew, “it’s a damn fine excuse. It’s a pity but somethin’ could be done.”
“It’s the Block,” said Peter. “I’m telt that a’ the managers roun’ aboot ha’e an understandin’ with one another no’ to gi’e work to onybody they take a dislike to.”
“Ay,” agreed Matthew, “I ha’e heard aboot it, but I would soon put a stop to it.”
“Ay, Matthew, it’s a union we need up here badly. I’m telt that that chap Smillie has managed to start one down in the West Country, an’ it’s daein’ weel. He’s got some o’ their wages up a hale shillin’ a day since he took it in hand.”
“Is that a fact, Peter? The sooner we ha’e him up here the better then. Black Jock needs a chap back onyway,” and Matthew looked like a man who had suddenly discovered a great truth.
Andrew Marshall had never been allowed to forget his action in defying Walker; everywhere he went it was the same story—no work for him. The “Block” system among the managers was in good working order, and could easily starve a man into docility. Andrew became more desperate as time passed, and he knew that he and his wife were nearing the end of their small savings. He returned home one evening from his usual fruitless search for employment, and threw himself into the arm-chair by the fireside.
“No work yet, Andra?” asked Katie.
“Nane,” was the gloomy response.
“We have no’ very mony shillin’s left noo, Andra. I dinna ken what we’ll do.”
Savage, revengeful feelings surged through Andrew, and found vent in a volley of oaths which terrified his wife.