“War!” retorted Davie, heatedly. “They’ll aye hae a war or something else to fricht you wi’, when you show that you mean business. Wha the hell hae we to quarrel wi’ onyway, I’d like to ken?”
“Oh, it micht be France, or Germany, or Russia, or some ither o’ thae cut-throat foreign nations.”
“An’ what are you gaun to quarrel aboot?” yelled Davie still more heatedly.
“What the hell do I ken?” was the answer.
“Then, if you don’t ken, why the damn should you quarrel? It’s a dam’d silly thing to fecht at ony time, but it’s a dam’d sicht sillier to fecht withoot haein’ a quarrel at a’,” cried Davie, now fairly roused. “That’s jist hoo they diddle us. They diddle the workers o’ France an’ ither countries in the same way. Maybe the French Government is telling the French colliers that there is a danger o’ a war wi’ Britain at this minute, to keep them quate; an’ if they are, do you an’ me ken anything aboot what the war will be for? No’ a thing does yin o’ us ken. Wars are no’ made by workin’ folk at all! They are made wi’ the ither crowd, an’ they laugh in their sleeves when they hae sent us awa’ back to our work an’ oor hames as quate as mice,” and Davie looked round in triumph, asking with his eyes, and in the tones of his voice, for confirmation of his views from the others.
Thus they talked and discussed, exchanging opinions about all things in strong but expressive language, as the train sped northwards bearing them home. District meetings were organized, and the leaders put persuasively the arguments for the acceptance of the terms laid down. All through the crisis the men had behaved admirably, for they had learned to trust Smillie, even when they felt doubtful of his policy. Robert took a big share in the organizing of these meetings and in addressing them. He flung himself into this work whole-heartedly. The terms certainly did not please him; but, as the majority at the London Conference had decided to recommend them to the men, he thought it his duty to sink his personal opinions, and in the interests of discipline and the unity of the organization—as he had already had his say and had been found in the minority—he put all his efforts into trying to get the men to accept the suggested terms, and go forward as one united body. His persuasive powers of appeal, and his straight, direct way of argument, commended him to his comrades. By the time that the ballot had been carried through in the various districts, it was mid-February, and the Scottish delegates met in Edinburgh to give the result of the voting among the rank and file.
Robert attended the Conference, and while he had appealed to the men to accept the terms of the London Conference, he secretly hoped that the ballot vote of the men would decide to fight; for, like Davie Donaldson, he believed they had again been side-tracked. He wondered how Smillie regarded the matter. He had not had an opportunity of talking with Smillie to learn his opinion, but he felt sure that his leaders did not like the terms either.