“An’ what did ye do wi’ the tawse, son?” she enquired, her dark eyes showing pride in the revolt of her laddie. She was proud to know that he had sufficient character to stand up to a bully, even though he were a headmaster.
“I buried them in the muir,” he replied simply, “but I dinna’ want to tell naebody where they are. I’ll never gi’e them back.”
“Oh, weel, if ye dinna’ want to tell me, dinna’ do it,” she said. “I’ll gang with ye to the school the morn, an’ I’ll see that ye’re no’ meddled wi’. But, Robin, while I like to see ye staunin’ up against what is wrong, I dinna want ye to dae wrang yerself. An’ I think ye was in the wrang to strike Peter. He staggered against ye, an’ I dinna think he wad try to tramp on yer taes. An’ always when ye’re in the wrang, own up to it, an’ make what amends ye can.”
Robin did not reply to this, but she could see that he knew she was right. Before he could say anything she added, “Come awa’ noo’, if ye ha’e gotten yer denner, son, I think ye should gang awa’ to yer bed. Ye’ll be the better o’ a lang sleep. Dinna’ think hard o’ yer faither; he’s feelin’ ashamed o’ hittin’ ye. There must be something botherin’ him, for I dinna’ mind o’ him ever leatherin’ one o’ ye like that.”
This was true, for Geordie Sinclair was rather a “cannie” man, and had never been given to beating his children before. She felt that something had happened in the pit, and whatever it was it had made her husband angry.
Robert again stripped off his clothes and crept into bed, while his mother seemed to feel every pain once more as she looked upon the soft little body with the ugly black stripes upon it. She placed him under the rough blankets as snugly as possible, telling him to lie well over near to the wall, for there were five of them now who lay abreast, and there was never too much room. He was soon asleep, and Mrs. Sinclair put fresh coals on the fire, and began to tidy up, so as to have everything as cheerful as possible when her husband should return. It was no easy matter to keep a house clean, with only a single apartment, and eight individuals living in it.
The housing conditions in most mining villages of Scotland are an outrage on decency. In Lowwood there were no sanitary conveniences of any kind, and it was a difficult matter for the women folk to keep a tidy house under these circumstances. But it was wonderful, the homeliness and comfort found in those single apartment houses. It was home, and that made it tolerable. In such homes fine men and women were bred and reared, but the credit was due entirely to our womenfolk; for they had the fashioning of the spirit of the homes, and the spirit of the homes is always the spirit of the people.
THE COMING OF A PROPHET
Another year passed, and Robert was now eleven years of age. Though full of hardship, hunger and poverty, yet they were not altogether unhappy years for him. There were joys which he would not have liked to have missed, and in later life he looked back upon them always through a mist of memory that sometimes bordered on tears.