But a touch of bitterness was creeping into his character, and for this his mother’s teaching was responsible. Nellie was always jealous of the welfare of the working class, and was ever vigilant as to its interests. She did not know how matters could be rectified, but she did know that she and her like suffered unnecessarily.
“There’s no reason,” she would say, “for decent folk bein’ in poverty. Look at the conditions that puir folk live in!”
“Hoot ay! Nellie, but we canna’ help it,” a neighbor would reply. “It’s no’ for us to be better.”
“What way is it no’?” she would demand indignantly. “Do you think we couldna’ be better folk if we had no poverty?”
“Ay, but the like o’ us ken no better, an’ it wadna’ do if we had mair. We micht waste it,” and the tone of resignation always maddened her to greater wrath.
“There’s mair wasted on fancy fal-lals among the gentry than wad keep many a braw family goin’. Look at the hooses we live in; the gentry wadna’ keep their dogs in them. The auld Earl has better stables for his horses than the hooses puir folk live in!”
“That’s maybe a’ richt, Nellie, but you maun mind that we’re no’ gentry. We havena’ been brocht up to anything else. Somebody has got to work, an’ we canna’ help it,” and the fatalistic resignation but added fuel to her anger.
“Ay, we could help it fine, if we’d only try it. It’s no’ richt that folk should hae to slave a’ their days, an’ be always in hardships, while ither folk who work nane hae the best o’ everything. I want a decent hoose to live in; I want to see my man hae some leisure, an’ my weans hae a chance in life for something better than just work and trouble,” and her voice quivering with anger at the wrongs inflicted upon her, she would rattle away on her favorite topic.
“There you go again. You are aye herp, herpin’ at the big folk, or aboot the union. I wonder you never turn tired, woman,” the reply would come, for sometimes these women were unable to understand her at all.
“I’ll never turn tired o’ that,” she would reply. “If only the men wad keep thegither an’ no’ be divided, they’d soon let the big folk see wha’ was the maist importance to the country. Do you think onybody ever made a lot o’ money by their ain work? My man an’ your man hae wrocht hard a’ their days. They’ve never wasted ony o’ their hard-earned money, an’ yet they hae naething.”
“No, because it takes it a’ to keep us,” would be the reply, as if that were a conclusive answer, difficult to counter.
“Well, how do ye think other folk mak’ a fortune? Do ye think they work harder than your man does? No! It’s because our men work so hard that other folk get it aff their labor. Do they live a better life than your man or mine? They waste mair in yae day, whiles, than wad keep your family or mine for a whole year. Is it because they are honester than us? No.