“I hae been thinkin’, Nellie,” he began nervously, “that I could tak’ Rob in wi’ me. Ye see, I ha’e no callans o’ my ain, and I ha’e aye to get yin to draw off me. So, gin ye’re agreeable, I could tak’ Rob, an’ I’ll be guid to him. He can come an’ be my neighbor, an’ as he’ll hae to get work in ony case, he micht as weel work wi’ me as wi’ ony ither body. Forby I’ll maybe be able to pay him mair than plenty ithers could pay him, an’ that is efter a’ the point to be maist considered. What do ye think?”
But Mrs. Sinclair could not think; she merely indicated to him that he might please himself and make his own arrangements with the boy, which Andrew did, and Robert went to work with him the following week. He was a mass of nerves and was horribly afraid—indeed, this fear never left him for years—but, young as he was, he recognized his responsibility, to his mother and the rest of the family. He was now its head, and had to shoulder the burden of providing for it, and so his will drove him to work in the pit, when his soul revolted at the very thought of it. Always the horror of the tragedy was with him, down to its smallest detail; and sometimes, even at work, when his mind wandered for a moment from his immediate task, he would start up in terror, almost crying out again as he had done on the day of the accident.
Andrew kept his word and was good to the boy now in his care. Indeed, he took, as some said, more care of the boy than if Robert had been his own, for he tried to save him from every little detail that might remind him of the accident.
“That’s yours, Robin,” he said, when pay-day came, as he handed to the boy the half of the pay earned.
“Na, I canna’ tak’ that, Andrew,” replied Robert, looking up into the broad, kindly, honest face of the man. “My mither wouldna’ let me.”
“Would she no’?” replied Andrew. “But you are the heid o’ the hoose, Robin, sae just tak’ it hame, an’ lay it down on the dresser-head. We are doin’ gey weel the noo, an’ forby, ye’re workin’ for it. Noo run awa’ hame wi’t, an’ dinna say ocht to yir mither, but just put it doon on the dresser-head.” And so the partnership began which was to last for many years.
About this time there happened one of those tremendous upheavals, long remembered in the industrial world, the great Scottish Miners’ Strike of 1894. The trade union movement was growing and fighting, and every tendency pointed to the fact that a clash of forces was inevitable. The previous year had seen the English miners beaten after a protracted struggle. They had come out for an increase in wages, and whilst it was recognized that they had been beaten and forced to go back to work suffering wholesale reductions, yet a newer perspective was beginning to appear to the miners of Scotland.
“We’ll never be able to beat the maisters,” said Tam Donaldson, when the cloud first appeared upon the industrial horizon. “The English strike gied us a lesson we shouldna forget.”