He had grown “in wisdom and stature,” and gave promise of being a fine sturdy boy; but lately it had been borne in upon him that no one seemed just to look at things from his point of view. He was alluded to as “a strange laddie,” and the gulf of misunderstanding seemed to grow wider every day. Old Granny Frame, the “howdie-wife” of the village, always declared that he would be a great man, but others just took it for granted that he would never see things as they saw them.
He was already too serious for a boy, and his joys were not the joys of other children. Sensitive, and in a measure proudly reserved, he took more and more to the moors and the hills. All day sometimes he roved over them, and at other times he would lie motionless but happy, for the moor always understood. If he were hurt at anything which happened, the moor brought him solace; if he grieved, it gave him relief; and if he were happy, it too rejoiced. He loved it in all moods, and he could not understand how its loving silence was dreaded by others.
His parents now found that their battle, though not much easier, certainly was no worse, and hope shone bright for them in the future. The oldest boy was already at work and one girl was away “in service.” Robert, too, would soon be ready, and in quick succession behind him there were three other boys. Geordie Sinclair was often told by his workmates that he would “soon ha’e naethin’ to do but put in wicks in the pit lamps.” But Geordie merely smiled. How often before had he heard that said of others who had families like his own and he knew that he would never see them all working. Fifty years was a long time to live for a collier in those days of badly ventilated and poorly inspected pits and many men were in their graves at forty.
Walker still indulged in petty persecution, whilst Geordie agitated for the starting of a union, and many a battle the two had, until the enmity between them developed into keen hatred.
“I wonder what Black Jock really has against me,” he had said over and over again, unable to understand his persistent hostility, but his wife had never dared tell him.
One night, however, after he had been out of work a week, because, as Black Jock had said, “there was nae places,” she decided to tell him the real reason of Walker’s antipathy.
“Man, it’s no’ you, Geordie, that Black Jock has the ill will at,” she ventured to say, “it’s me, an’ he hits me an’ the bairns through you.”
“You,” said Geordie in some surprise, “hoo’ can that be?”
Bit by bit, though with great reluctance, she told her husband how and when Black Jock had attempted to degrade her. When she had ended, he sat in grim silence, while the ticking of the clock seemed to have gained in loudness, and so, too, the purring of the cat, as it rubbed itself against his leg, first on one side and then the other, drawing its sleek, furry side along his ankle, turning back again, and occasionally looking up into his face for the recognition which it vainly tried to win.