“Yes, but it won’t be easy, Geordie,” he replied. “Our people’s lives have been stunted and warped so long, they’ve been held in bondage and poverty to such an extent, that it will take years—generations, maybe—before they come to realize it. But we must go on, undeterred by opposition, rousing them from their apathy, and continually holding before them the vision of the time we are working to establish. Ay, Geordie,”—and a quieter note came into his voice, “I hope I shall be strong enough to go on, and never to give heed to the discouragements I shall undoubtedly meet with in the work; but I’ve made up my mind, and I’ll see it through or dee.”
The talk of the two men worked like magic upon the impressionable mind of young Robert, who sat listening. Long after all had retired for the night he lay awake, his little mind away in the future, living in the earthly paradise which had been conjured up before him by the warm, inspiring sentences of this miners’ leader, and joyful in the contemplation of this paradise of happy humanity, he fell asleep. Could he have foreseen the terrible, heartbreaking ordeals through which Smillie often had to pass, still clinging with tenacity to the gleam that led him on, praying sometimes that strength would be given to keep him from turning back; of the strenuous battle he had, not only with those he fought against, but of the greater and more bitter fights he too often had with those of his own class whom he was trying to save; and of the fights even with himself, it would have raised Smillie still more in the estimation of this sensitive-hearted collier laddie.
ON THE PIT-HEAD
“Hooray, mither, I’ve passed the examination, an’ I can leave the school noo!” cried Robert one day, breaking in upon his mother, as she was busily preparing the dinner. She stopped peeling the potatoes to look up and smile, as she replied: “Passed the fifth standard, Robin?” she said, lovingly.
“Ay,” said the boy proudly, his face beaming with smiles. “It was quite easy. Oh, if you had just seen the sums we got; they were easy as winking. I clinked them like onything.”
“My, ye maun hae been real clever,” said Mrs. Sinclair encouragingly.
“Sammy Grierson failed,” broke in Robert again, too full of his success to contain himself. “He couldna’ tell what was the capital of Switzerland! Then the inspector asked him what was the largest river in Europe, an’ he said the Thames. He forgot that the Thames was just the biggest in England. I was sittin’ next him an’ had to answer baith times, an’ the inspector said I was a credit to the school. My, it was great fun!” and he rattled on, full of importance at his success.
“Ay, but maybe Sammy was just nervous,” said his mother, continuing her operations upon the potatoes, and trying to let him see that there might have been a cause for the failure of the other boy to answer correctly.