Hearing how I had been treated, and why, Mr Maxwell, the Rector of Dumfries Academy, offered to let me attend all classes there, free of charge, so long as I cared to remain ; but that, in lack of means of support, was for the time impossible, as I would not and could not be a burden on my dear father, but was determined rather to help him in educating the rest I went therefore to what was known as the Lamb Fair at Lockerbie, and for the first time in my life took a “fee” for the harvest. On arriving at the field when shearing and mowing began, the farmer asked me to bind a sheaf; when I had done so, he lifted it by the band, and it fell to pieces! Instead of disheartening me, however, he gave me a careful lesson how to bind, and the second that I bound did not collapse when shaken, and the third he pitched across the field, and on finding that it still remained firm, he cried to me cheerily :
“Right now, my lad ; go ahead !”
It was hard work for me at first, and my hands got very sore ; but being willing and determined, I soon got into the way of it, and kept up with the best of them. The harvesters, seeing I was not one of their own workers, had an eager dispute as to what I was, some holding that I was a painter, and some a tailor ; but the more ‘cute observers denied me the rank of tailor from the lack of “jaggings” on my thumb and finger, so I suppose they credited me with the brush. The male harvesters were told off to sleep in a large hay-loft, the beds being arranged all along the side, like barracks. Many of the fellows were rough and boisterous, and I suppose my look showed that I hesitated in mingling with them, for the quick eye and kind heart of the farmer’s wife prompted her to suggest that I, being so much younger than the rest, might sleep with her son George in the house,—an offer, oh, how gratefully accepted ! A beautiful new steading had recently been built for them; and during certain days, or portions of days, while waiting for the grain to ripen or to dry. I planned and laid out an ornamental garden in front of it, which gave great satisfaction—a taste inherited from my mother, with her joy in flowers and garden plots. They gave me, on leaving, a handsome present, as well as my fee, for I had got on very pleasantly with them all. This experience, too, came to be valuable to me, when, in long-after days, and far other lands, Mission buildings had to be erected, and garden and field cropped and cultivated without the aid of a single European hand.