Between You and Me
Sir Harry Lauder
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Geoff Palmer, Berkeley, California
BETWEEN YOU AND ME
SIR HARRY LAUDER
Author of "A Minstrel in France"
THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY
_This book is dedicated to the
Fathers and Mothers
of the Boys who went and those
who prepared to go._
"ONE OF THE BOYS WHO WENT"
Say, Mate, don't you figure it's great
To think, when the war is all over,
And we're thro' with the mud--
And the spilling of blood,
And we're shipped back again to old Dover;
When they've paid us our tin
And we've blown the lot in,
And our very last penny is spent,
We'll still have a thought, if that's all we've got:
Well, I'm one of the boys who went.
Perhaps, later on, when the wild days are gone
And you're settling down for life--
You've a girl in your eye, you'll ask bye and bye
To share up with you as your wife--
Then, when a few years have flown
And you've got "chicks" of your own
And you're happy, and snug, and content,
Man, it will make your heart glad
When they boast of their Dad--
My Dad--He was one of the boys who went.
BETWEEN YOU AND ME
It's a bonny world, I'm tellin' ye! It was worth saving, and saved
it's been, if only you and I and the rest of us that's alive and fit
to work and play and do our part will do as we should. I went around
the world in yon days when there was war. I saw all manner of men. I
saw them live, and fight, and dee. And now I'm back from the other
side of the world again. And I'm tellin' ye again that it's a bonny
world I've seen, but no so bonny a world as we maun make it--you and
I. So let us speer a wee, and I'll be trying to tell you what I think,
and what I've seen.
There'll be those going up and doon the land preaching against
everything that is, and talking of all that should be. There'll be
others who'll say that all is well, and that the man that wants to
make a change is no better than Trotzky or a Hun. There'll be those
who'll be wantin' me to let a Soviet tell me what songs to sing to ye,
and what the pattern of my kilts should be. But what have such folk to
say to you and me, plain folk that we are, with our work to do, and
the wife and the bairns to be thinkin' of when it comes time to tak'
our ease and rest? Nothin', I say, and I'll e'en say it again and
again before I'm done.
The day of the plain man has come again. The world belongs to us. We
made it. It was plain men who fought the war--who deed and bled and
suffered in France, and Gallipoli and everywhere where men went about
the business of the war. And it's plain men who have come home to
Britain, and America, to Australia and Canada and all the other places
that sent their sons out to fight for humanity. They maun fight for
humanity still, for that fight is not won,--deed, and it's no more
than made a fair beginning.
Your profiteer is no plain man. Nor is your agitator. They are set up
against you and me, and all the other plain men and women who maun
make a living and tak' care of those that are near and dear to them.
Some of us plain folk have more than others of us, maybe, but there'll
be no envy among us for a' that. We maun stand together, and we shall.
I'm as sure of that as I'm sure that God has charged himself with the
care of this world and all who dwell in it.
I maun talk more about myself than I richt like to do if I'm to make
you see how I'm feeling and thinking aboot all the things that are
loose wi' the world to-day. For, after all, it's himself a man knows
better than anyone else, and if I've ideas about life and the world
it's from the way life's dealt with me that I've learned them. I've no
done so badly for myself and my ain, if I do say it. And that's why,
maybe, I've small patience with them that's busy always saying the
plain man has no chance these days.
Do you ken how I made my start? Are ye thinkin', maybe, that I'd a
faither to send me to college and gie me masters to teach me to sing
my songs, and to play the piano? Man, ye'd be wrong, an' ye thought
so! My faither deed, puir man, when I was but a bairn of eleven--he
was but thirty-twa himself. And my mither was left with me and six
other bairns to care for. 'Twas but little schoolin' I had.
After my faither deed I went to work. The law would not let me gie up
my schoolin' altogether. But three days a week I learned to read and
write and cipher, and the other three I worked in a flax mill in the
wee Forfarshire town of Arboath. Do ye ken what I was paid? Twa
shillin' the week. That's less than fifty cents in American money. And
that was in 1881, thirty eight years ago. I've my bit siller the noo.
I've my wee hoose amang the heather at Dunoon. I've my war loan stock,
and my Liberty and Victory bonds. But what I've got I've worked for
and I've earned, and you've done the same for what you've got, man,
and so can any other man if he but wull.
I do not believe God ever intended men to get too rich and prosperous.
When they do lots of little things that go to make up the real man
have to be left out, or be dropped out. And men think too much of
things. For a lang time now things have been riding over men, and
mankind has ceased riding over things. But now we plain folk are going
again to make things subservient to life, to human life, to the needs
and interests of the plain man. That is what I want to talk of always,
of late--the need of plain living, plain speaking, plain, useful
For me the great discovery of the war was that humanity was the
greatest thing in the world. I had to learn that no man could live for
and by himself alone. I had to learn that I must think all the time of
others. A great grief came to me when my son was killed. But I was not
able to think and act for myself alone. I was minded to tak' a gun in
my hand, and go out to seek to kill twa Huns for my bairn. But it was
his mither who stopped me.
"Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord. I will repay." She reminded me of
those words. And I was ashamed, for that I had been minded to forget.
And when I would have hidden myself away from a' the world, and nursed
my grief, I was reminded, again, that I must not. My boy had died for
humanity. He had not been there in France aboot his own affairs. Was
it for me, his father, to be selfish when he had been unselfish? Had I
done as I planned, had I said I could not carry on because of my ain
grief, I should have brought sorrow and trouble to others, and I
should have failed to do my duty, since there were those who, in a
time of sore trouble and distress, found living easier because I made
them laugh and wink back the tears that were too near to dropping.
Oh, aye, I've had my share of trouble. So when I'm tellin' ye this is
a bonny world do not be thinkin' it's a man who's lived easily always
and whose lines have been cast only in pleasant places who is talking
with ye. I've as little patience as any man with those fat, sleek folk
who fold their hands and roll their een and speak without knowledge of
grief and pain when those who have known both rebel. But I know that
God brings help and I know this much more--that he will not bring it
to the man who has not begun to try to help himself, and never fails
to bring it to the man who has.
Weel, as I've told ye, it was for twa shillin' a week that I first
worked. I was a strappin' lout of a boy then, fit to work harder than
I did, and earn more, and ever and again I'd tell them at some new
mill I was past fourteen, and they'd put me to work at full time. But
I could no hide myself awa' from the inspector when he came around,
and each time he'd send me back to school and to half time.
It was hard work, and hard living in yon days. But it was a grand time
I had. I mind the sea, and the friends I had. And it was there, in
Arboath, when I was no more than a laddie, I first sang before an
audience. A travelling concert company had come to Oddfellows' Hall,
and to help to draw the crowd there was a song competition for
amateurs, with a watch for a prize. I won the prize, and I was as
conceited as you please, with all the other mill boys envying me, and
seein', at last, some use in the way I was always singing. A bit later
there was another contest, and I won that, too, with a six-bladed
knife for a prize. But I did not keep the knife, for, for all my
mither could do to stop me, I'd begun even in those days to be a great
pipe smoker, and I sold the knife for threepence, which bought me an
ounce of thick black--a tobacco I still like, though I can afford a
better now, could I but find it.
It was but twa years we stayed at Arboath. From there we went to
Hamilton, on the west coast, since my uncle told of the plenty work
there was to be found there at the coal mines. I went on at the
pitheads, and, after a week or so, a miner gave me a chance to go
below with him. He was to pay me ten shillings for a week's work as
his helper, and it was proud I was the morn when I went doon into the
blackness for the first time.
But I was no so old, ye'll be mindin', and I won't say I was not
fearsome, too. It's a queer feelin' ye have when ye first go doon into
a pit. The sun's gone, and the light, and it seems like the air's gone
from your lungs with them. I carried a gauze lamp, but the bit flicker
of it was worse than useless--it made it harder for me to see, instead
of easier. The pressure's what ye feel; it's like to be chokin' ye
until you're used to it. And then the black, damp walls, pressin' in,
as if they were great hands aching to be at your throat! Oh, I'm
tellin' ye there's lots of things pleasanter than goin' doon into a
coal pit for the first time.
I mind, since then, I've gone doon far deeper than ever we did at
Hamilton. At Butte, in Montana, in America, I went doon three thousand
feet--more than half a mile, mind ye! There they find copper, and good
copper, at that depth. But they took me doon there in an express
elevator. I had no time to be afeared before we were doon, walkin'
along a broad, dry gallery, as well lighted as Broadway or the Strand,
with electric lights, and great fans to keep the air cool and dry.
It's different, minin' so, to what it was when I was a boy at
But I'm minded, when I think of Butte, and the great copper mines
there, of the thing I'm chiefly thinking of in writing this book.
I was in Butte during the war--after America had come in. 'Deed, and
it was just before the Huns made their last bid, and thought to break
the British line. Ye mind yon days in the spring of 1918? Anxious
days, sad days. And in the war we all were fighting, copper counted
for nigh as much as men. The miners there in Butte were fighting the
Hun as surely as if they'd been at Cantigny or Chateau-Thierry.
Never had there been such pay in Butte as in yon time. I sang at a
great theatre one of the greatest in all the western country. It was
crowded at every performance. The folk sat on the stage, so deep
packed, so close together, there was scarce room for my walk around.
Ye mind how I fool ye, when I'm singin', by walkin' round and round
the stage after a verse? It's my way of givin' short measure--save
that folk seem to like to see me do it!
Weel, there was that great mining city, where the copper that was so
needed for munitions was being mined. The men were well paid. Yet
there was discontent. Agitators were at work among them, stirring up
trouble, seeking to take their minds off their work and hurt the
production of the copper that was needed to save the lives of men like
those who were digging it out of the ground. They were thinkin',
there, in yon days, that men could live for themselves and by
But, thank God, it was only a few who thought so. The great lot of the
men were sound, and they did grand work. And they found their reward,
too--as men always do when they do their work well and think of what
There were others in Butte, too, who were thinking only of themselves.
Some of them hung one of the agitators, whiles before I was there.
They had not thought, any more than had the foolish men among the
workers, how each of us is dependent upon others, of the debts that
every day brings us, that we owe to all humanity.
Ye'll e'en forgie me if I wander so, sometimes, in this book? Ye'll
ken how it is when you'll be talkin' with a friend? Ye'll begin about
the bit land or the cow one of you means to sell to the other. Ye'll
ha' promised the wife, maybe, when ye slipped oot, that ye'd come
richt back, so soon as ye had finished wi' Sandy. And then, after ye'd
sat ye doon together in a corner of the bar, why one bit word would
lead to another, and ye'd be wanderin' from the subject afore ye knew
it? It's so wi' me. I'm no writin' a book so much as I'm sittin' doon
wi' ye all for a chat, as I micht do gi'en you came into my dressing
room some nicht when I was singin' in your toon.
It's a far cry that last bit o' wandering meant--from Hamilton in my
ain Scotland to Butte in the Rocky Mountains of America! And yet, for
what I'm thinkin' it's no so far a cry. There were men I knew in
Hamilton who'd have found themselves richt at hame among the agitators
in Butte. I'm minded to be tellin' ye a tale of one such lad.
The lad I've in mind I'll call Andy McTavish, which'll no be his richt
name, ye'll ken. He could ha' been the best miner in the pit. He could
ha' been the best liked lad in a' those parts. But he was not. Nothin'
was ever good enough for Andy. I'm tellin' ye, had he found a golden
sovereign along the road, whiles he went to his work, he'd have come
to us at the pit moanin' and complainin' because it was not a five
pound note he'd turned up with his toe!
Never was Andy satisfied. Gi'en there were thirty shillin' for him to
draw at the pit head, come Saturday night, he'd growl that for the
hard work he'd done he should ha' had thirty-five. Mind ye, I'm not
sayin' he was wrong, only he was no worse off than the rest, and
better than some, and he was always feeling that it was he who was
badly used, just he, not everyone. He'd curse the gaffer if the vein
of coal he had to work on wasn't to his liking; he knew nothing of the
secret of happiness, which is to take what comes and always remember
that for every bit of bad there's nearly always a bit o' good waitin'
around the corner.
Yet, with it all, there wasn't a keener, brighter lad than Andy in all
Lanarkshire. He had always a good story to crack. He was handy with
his fists; he could play well at football or any other game he tried.
He wasn't educated; had he been, we all used to think, he micht ha'
made a name for himself. I didn't see, in those days, that we were all
wrong. If Andy'd been a good miner, if he'd started by doing well, at
least, as well as he could, the thing he had the chance to do, then
we'd have been right to think that all he needed to be famous and
successful was to have the chance.
But, as it was, Andy was always too busy greetin' over his bad luck.
It was bad luck that he had to work below ground, when he loved the
sunshine. It was bad luck that the wee toon was sae dull for a man of
his spirit. Andy seemed to think that some one should come around and
make him happy and comfortable and rich--not that the only soul alive
to whom he had a right to look for such blessings was himself.
I'll no say we weren't liking Andy all richt. But, ye ken, he was that
sort of man we'd always say, when we were talking of him: "Oh, aye--
there's Andy. A braw laddie--but what he micht be!"
Andy thought he was better than the rest of us. There was that, for
ane thing. He'd no be doing the things the rest of us were glad enough
to do. It was naught to him to walk along the Quarry Road wi' a
lassie, and buss her in a dark spot, maybe. And just because he'd no
een for them, the wee lassies were ready to come, would he but lift
his finger! Is it no always the way? There'd be a dozen decent, hard
working miners who could no get a lassie to look their way, try as
they micht--men who wanted nothing better than to settle doon in a wee
hoose somewhere, and stay at home with the wife, and, a bit later,
with the bairns.
Ye'd never be seein' Andy on a Saturday afternoon along the ropes,
watchin' a football game. Or, if ye did, there'd be a sneer curling
his lips. He was a braw looking lad, was Andy, but that sneer came too
"Where did they learn the game" he'd say, turning up his nose. "If
they'd gie me a crack I'd show them----"
And, sure enough, if anyone got up a game, Andy'd be the first to take
off his coat. And he was a good player, but no sae good as he thought
himself. 'Twas so wi' all the man did; he was handy enough, but there
were aye others better. But he was all for having a hand in whatever
was going on himself; he'd no the patience to watch others and learn,
maybe, from the way they did.
Andy was a solitary man; he'd no wife nor bairn, and he lived by his
lane, save for a dog and a bantam cock. Them he loved dearly and
nought was too good for them. The dog, I'm thinkin', he had odd uses
for; Andy was no above seekin' a hare now and then that was no his by
rights. And he'd be out before dawn, sometimes, with old Dick, who
could help him with his poaching. 'Twas so he lost Dick at last; a
farmer caught the pair of them in a field of his, and the farmer's dog
took Dick by the throat and killed him.
Andy was fair disconsolate; he was so sad the farmer, even, was sorry
for him, and would no have him arrested, as he micht well have done,
since he'd caught man and dog red handed, as the saying is. He buried
the dog come the next evening, and was no fit to speak to for days.
And then, richt on top of that, he lost his bird; it was killed in a
main wi' another bantam, and Andy lost his champion bantam, and forty
shillin' beside, That settled him. Wi' his two friends gone frae him,
he had no more use for the pit and the countryside. He disappeared,
and the next we heard was that he'd gone for a soldier. Those were the
days, long, long gone, before the great war. We heard Andy's regiment
was ordered to India, and then we heard no more of him.
Gi'en I had stayed a miner, I doubt I'd ever ha' laid een on Andy
again, or heard of him, since he came no more to Hamilton, and I'd,
most like, ha' stayed there, savin' a trip to Glasga noo and then, all
the days of my life. But, as ye ken, I didna stay there. I'll be
tellin', ye ken, hoo it was I came to gang on the stage and become the
Harry you're all so good to when he sings to ye. But the noo I'll just
say that it was years later, and I was singing in London, in four or
five halls the same nicht, when I met Andy one day. I was fair glad to
see him; I'm always glad to see a face from hame. And Andy was looking
fine and braw. He'd good clothes on his back, and he was sleek and
well fed and prosperous looking. We made our way to a hotel; and there
we sat ourselves doon and chatted for three hours.
"Aye, and I'll ha' seen most of the world since I last clapped my een
on you, Harry," he said. "I've heard much about you, and it's glad I
am to be seein' you."
He told me his story. He'd gone for a soldier, richt enough, and been
sent to India. He'd had trouble from the start; he was always
fighting, and while that's a soldier's trade, he's no supposed to
practice it with his fellows, ye ken, but to save his anger for the
enemy. But, for once in a way, Andy's quarrelsome ways did him good.
He was punished once for fighting wi' his corporal, and when his
captain came to look into things he found the trouble started because
the corporal called him, the captain, out of his name. So he made Andy
his servant, and Andy served wi' him till he was killed in South
Andy was wounded there, and invalided home. He was discharged, and
said he'd ha' no more of the army--he'd liked that job no better than
any other he'd ever had. His captain, in his will, left Andy twa
hunder pounds sterlin'--more siller than Andy's ever thought to finger
in his life.
"So it was that siller gave you your start, Andy, man?" I said.
"Oh, aye!" he said. "And came near to givin' me my finish, too, Harry.
I put the siller into a business down Portsmouth way--I set up for a
contractor. I was doin' fine, too, but a touring company came along,
and there was a lassie wi' 'em so braw and bonnie I'd like to have
deed for love of her, man, Harry."
It was a sad little story, that, but what you'd expect. Andy, the lady
killer, had ne'er had een for the lassies up home, who'd ha' asked
nothin' better than to ha' him notice them. But this bit lass, whom he
knew was no better than she should be, could ha' her will o' him from
the start. He followed her aboot; he spent his siller on her. His
business went to the dogs, and when she'd milked him dry she laughed
and slipped awa', and he never saw her again. I'm thinkin', at that,
Andy was lucky; had he had more siller she'd maybe ha' married him for
'Twas after that Andy shipped before the mast. He saw Australia and
America, but he was never content to settle doon anywhere, though
there were times when he had more siller than he'd lost at Portsmouth.
Once he was robbed; twa or three times he just threw his siller away.
It was always the same story; no matter how much he was earning it was
never enough; he should always ha' had more.
But Andy learned his lesson at last. He fell in love once more; this
time with a decent, bonnie lass who'd have no dealings wi' him until
he proved to her that she could trust him. He went to work again for a
contractor, and saved his siller. If he thought he should ha' more, he
said nothing, only waited. It was no so long before he saved enough to
buy a partnership wi' his gaffer.
"I'm happy the noo, Harry," he said. "I've found out that what I make
depends on me, not on anyone else. The wife's there waiting for me
when I gang hame at nicht. There's the ane bairn, and another coming,
God bless him."
Weel, Andy'd learned nothing he hadn't been told a million times by
his parents and his friends. But he was one of those who maun learn
for themselves to mak siccar. Can ye no see how like he was to some of
them that's makin' a great name for themselves the noo, goin' up and
doon the land tellin' us what we should do? I'm no the one to say that
it should be every man for himself; far from it. We've all to think of
others beside ourselves. But when it comes to winning or losing in
this battle of life we've all got to learn the same lesson that cost
poor Andy so dear. We maun stand on our ain feet. Neither God nor man
can help us until we've begun to help ourselves.
In the beginnin' I was no a miner, ye ken, in the pit at Hamilton. I
went doon first as a miner's helper, but that was for but the one
week. And at its end my gaffer just went away. He was to pay me ten
shillings, but never a three-penny bit of all that siller did I see!
It was cruel hard, and it hurt me sore, to think I'd worked sae long
and so hard and got nothing for it, but there was no use greetin'. And
on Monday I went doon into the pit again, but this time as a trapper.
In a mine, ye ken, there are great air-tight gates. Without them
there'd be more fires and explosions than there are. And by each one
there's a trapper, who's to open and close them as the pony drivers
with their lurches that carry the mined coal to the hoists go in and
out. Easy work, ye'll say. Aye--if a trapper did only what he was paid
for doing. He's not supposed to do ought else than open and close
gates, and his orders are that he must never leave them. But trappers
are boys, as a rule, and the pony drivers strong men, and they manage
to make the trappers do a deal of their work as well as their ain.
They can manage well enough, for they're no slow to gie a kick or a
cuff if the trapper bids them attend to their own affairs and leave
I learned that soon enough. And many was the blow I got; many the time
a driver warmed me with his belt, when I was warm enough already. But,
for a' that, we had good times in the pit. I got to know the men I
worked with, and to like them fine. You do that at work, and
especially underground, I'm thinking. There, you ken, there's always
some danger, and men who may dee together any day are like to be
friendly while they have the chance.
I've known worse days, tak' them all in all, than those in Eddlewood
Colliery. We'd a bit cabin at the top of the brae, and there we'd keep
our oil for our lamps, and leave our good coats. We'd carry wi' us,
too, our piece--bread and cheese, and cold tea, that served for the
meal we ate at midday.
'Twas in the pit, I'm thinkin', I made my real start. For 'twas there
I first began to tak' heed of men and see how various they were. Ever
since then, in the days when I began to sing, and when my friends in
the audiences decided that I should spend my life so instead of
working mair with my twa hands, it's been what I knew of men and women
that's been of service to me. When I come upon the idea for a new song
'tis less often a bit of verse or a comic idea I think of first--mair
like it's some odd bit of humanity, some man a wee bit different from
others. He'll be a bit saft, perhaps, or mean, or generous--I'm not
carin', so long as he's but different.
And there, in the pit, men showed themselves to one another, and my
een and my ears were aye open in those days. I'd try to be imitating
this queer character or that, sometimes, but I'd do it only for my ain
pleasure. I was no thinkin', in yon days, of ever singing on the
stage. How should I ha' done so? I was but Harry Lauder, strugglin'
hard to mak siller enough to help at home.
But, whiles I was at my work, I'd sing a bit song now and again, when
I thought no one was by to hear. Sometimes I was wrong, and there's be
one nearer than I thought. And so it got aboot in the pit that I could
sing a bit. I had a good voice enough, though I knew nothing, then, of
how to sing--I've learned much of music since I went on the stage.
Then, though, I was just a boy, singing because he liked to hear
himself sing. I knew few and I'd never seen a bit o' printed music. As
for reading notes on paper I scarcely knew such could be done.
The miners liked to have me sing. It was in the cabin in the brae,
where we'd gather to fill our lamps and eat our bread and cheese, that
they asked me, as a rule. We were great ones for being entertained.
And we never lacked entertainers. If a man could do card tricks, or
dance a bit, he was sure to be popular. One man was a fairish piper,
and sometimes the skirl of some old Hieland melody would sound weird
enough, as I made my way to the cabin through a grey mist.
I was called upon oftener than anyone else, I think.
"Gie's a bit sang, Harry," they'd say. Maybe ye'll not be believing
me, but I was timid at the first of it, and slow to do as they asked.
But later I got over that, and those first audiences of mine did much
for me. They taught me not to be afraid, so long as I was doing my
best, and they taught me, too, to study my hearers and learn to decide
what folk liked, and why they liked it.
I had no songs of my own then, ye'll understand; I just sang such bits
as I'd picked up of the popular songs of the day, that the famous
"comics" of the music halls were singing--or that they'd been singing
a year before--aye, that'll be nearer the truth of it!
I had one rival I didn't like, though, as I look back the noo, I can
see I was'na too kind to feel as I did aboot puir Jock. Jock coul no
stand it to have anyone else applauded, or to see them getting
attention he craved for himself. He could no sing, but he was a great
story teller. Had he just said, out and out, that he was making up
tales, 'twould have been all richt enough. But, no--Jock must pretend
he'd been everywhere he told about, and that he'd been an actor in
every yarn he spun. He was a great boaster, too--he'd tell us, without
a blush, of the most desperate things he'd done, and of how brave he'd
been. He was the bravest man alive, to hear him tell it.
They were askin' me to sing one day, and I was ready to oblige, when
"Bide a wee, Harry, man," he said, "while I'll be tellin' ye of a
thing that happened to me on the veldt in America once."
"The veldt's in South Africa, Jock," someone said, slyly.
"No, no--it's the Rocky Mountains you're meaning. They're in South
Africa--I climbed three of them there in a day, once. Weel, I was
going to tell ye of this time when we were hunting gold----"
And he went on, to spin a yarn that would have made Ananias himself
blush. When he was done it was time to gang back to work, and my song
not sung! I'd a new chorus I was wanting them to hear, too, and I was
angry with puir Jock--more shame to me! And so I resolved to see if he
was as brave as he was always saying. I'm ashamed of this, mind ye--
I'm admitting it.
So, next day, at piece time, I didn't join the crowd that went to the
auld cabin. Instead I did without my bread and cheese and my cold tea--
and, man, I'm tellin' ye it means a lot for Harry to forego his
victuals!--and went quickly along to the face where Jock was working.
It happened that he was at work there alone that day, so I was able to
make my plans against his coming back, and be sure it wouldna be
spoiled. I had a mask and an old white sheet. On the mask I'd painted
eyes with phosphorus, and I put it on, and draped the sheet over my
shoulders. When Jock came along I rose up, slowly, and made some very
dreadful noises, that micht well ha' frightened a man as brave even as
Jock was always saying to us he was!
Ye should ha' seen him run along that stoop! He didna wait a second;
he never touched me, or tried to. He cried out once, nearly dropped
his lamp, and then turned tail and went as if the dell were after him.
I'd told some of the miners what I meant to do, so they were waiting
for him, and when he came along they saw how frightened he was. They
had to support him; he was that near to collapse. As for me, there was
so much excitement I had no trouble in getting to the stable unseen,
and then back to my ain gate, where I belonged.
Jock would no go back to work that day.
"I'll no work in a haunted seam!" he declared, vehemently. "It was a
ghost nine feet high, and strong like a giant! If I'd no been so brave
and kept my head I'd be lying there dead the noo. I surprised him, ye
ken, by putting up a fight--likes he'd never known mortal man to do so
much before! Next time, he'd not be surprised, and brave though a man
may be, he canna ficht with one so much bigger and stronger than
He made a great tale of it before the day was done. As we waited at
the foot of the shaft to be run up in the bucket he was still talking.
He was boasting again, as I'd known he would. And that was the chance
I'd been waiting for a' the time.
"Man, Jock," I said, "ye should ha' had that pistol wi' ye--the one
with which ye killed all the outlaws on the American veldt. Then ye
could ha' shot him."
"That shows how much you know, young Harry Lauder!" he said,
scornfully. "Would a pistol bullet hurt a ghost? Talk of what ye ha'
some knowledge of----"
"Aye," I said. "That's good advice, Jock. I suppose I'm not knowing so
much as you do about ghosts. But tell me, man--would a ghost be making
a noise like this?"
And I made the self-same noise I'd made before, when I was playing the
ghost for Jock's benefit. He turned purple; he was clever enough to
see the joke I'd played on him at once. And the other miners--they
were all in the secret began to roar with laughter. They weren't sorry
to see puir Jock shown up for the liar and boaster he was. But I was a
little sorry, when I saw how hard he took it, and how angry he was.
He aimed a blow at me that would have made me the sorry one if it had
landed fair, but I put up my jukes and warded it off, and he was
ashamed, after than, wi' the others laughing at him so, to try again
to punish me. He was very sensitive, and he never came back to the
Eddlewood Colliery; the very next day he found a job in another pit.
He was a good miner, was Jock, so that was no matter to him. But I've
often wondered if I really taught him a lesson, or if he always kept
on telling his twisters in his new place!
I stayed on, though, after Jock had gone, and after a time I drove a
pony instead of tending a gate. That was better work, and meant a few
shillings a week more in wages, too, which counted heavily just then.
I handled a number of bonnie wee Shetland ponies in the three years I
drove the hutches to and from the pitshaft. One likable little fellow
was a real pet. He followed me all about. It was great to see him play
one trick I taught him. He would trot to the little cabin and forage
among all the pockets till he found one where a man had left a bit of
bread and cheese at piece time. He'd eat that, and then he would go
after a flask of cold tea. He'd fasten it between his forefeet and
pull the cork with his teeth--and then he'd tip the flask up between
his teeth and drink his tea like a Christian. Aye, Captain was a
droll, clever yin. And once, when I beat him for stopping short before
a drift, he was saving my life. There was a crash just after I hit
him, and the whole drift caved in. Captain knew it before I did. If he
had gone on, as I wanted him to do, we would both ha' been killed.
After I'd been in the mine a few years my brother Matt got old enough
to help me to support the family, and so, one by one, did my still
younger brothers. Things were a wee bit easier for me then; I could
keep a bit o' the siller I earned, and I could think about singing
once in a while. There were concerts, at times, when a contest was put
on to draw the crowd, and whenever I competed at one of these I
usually won a prize. Sometimes it would be a cheap medal; it usually
was. I shall never forget how proud I was the night a manager handed
me real money for the first time. It was only a five shilling piece,
but it meant as much to me as five pounds.
That same nicht one of the other singers gave me a bit of advice.
"Gae to Glasga, Harry," he said. "There's the Harmonic Competition.
Ye're dead certain to win a prize."
I took his advice, and entered, and I was one of those to win a medal.
That was the first time I had ever sung before total strangers. I'd
always had folk I knew well, friends of mine, for my audience before,
and it was a nerve racking experience. I dressed in character, and the
song I sang was an old one I doubt yell ha' heard-"Tooralladdie" it
was called. Here's a verse that will show you what a silly song it
"Twig auld Tooralladdie,
Don't he look immense? His
watch and chain are no his ain
His claes cost eighteenpence;
Wi' cuffs and collar shabby,
0' mashers he's the daddy;
Hats off, stand aside and let
My success at Glasgow made a great impression among the miners.
Everyone shook hands with me and congratulated me, and I think my head
was turned a bit. But I'd been thinking for some time of doing a rash
thing. I was newly married then, d'ye ken, and I was thinkin' it was
time I made something of myself for the sake of her who'd risked her
life wi' me. So that night I went home to her wi' a stern face.
"Nance!" I said. "I'm going to chuck the mine and go in for the stage.
My mind's made up."
Now, Nance liked my singin' well enough, and she thought, as I did,
that I could do better than some we'd heard on the stage. But I think
what she thought chiefly was that if my mind was made `up to try it
she'd not stand in my way. I wish more wives were like her, bless her!
Then there'd be fewer men moaning of their lost chances to win fame
and fortune. Many a time my wife's saved me from a mistake, but she's
never stood in the way when I felt it was safe to risk something, and
she's never laughed at me, and said, "I told ye so, Harry," when
things ha' gone wrong--even when her advice was against what I was
minded to try.
We talked it all over that nicht--'twas late, I'm tellin' ye, before
we quit and crept into bed, and even then we talked on a bit, in the
"Ye maun please yersel', Harry," Nance said. "We've thought of every
thing, and it can do no harm to try. If things don't go well, ye can
always go back to the pit and mak' a living."
That was so, ye ken. I had my trade to fall back upon. So I read all
the advertisements, and at last I saw one put in by the manager of a
concert party that was about to mak' a Scottish tour. He wanted a
comic, and, after we'd exchanged two or three letters we had an
interview. I sang some songs for him, and he engaged me, at thirty-
five shillings a week--about eight dollars, in American money--a
That seemed like a great sum to me in those days. It was no so bad.
Money went farther then, and in Scotland especially, than it does the
noo! And for me it was a fortune. I'd been doing well, in the mine, if
I earned fifteen in a week. And this was for doing what I would rather
do than anything in the wide, wide world! No wonder I went back to
Hamilton and hugged my wife till she thought I'd gone crazy.
I had been engaged as a comic singer, but I had to do much more than
sing on that tour, which was to last fourteen weeks--it started, I
mind, at Beith, in Ayrshire. First, when we arrived in a town, I had
to see that all the trunks and bags were taken from the station to the
hall. Then I would set out with a pile of leaflets, describing the
entertainment, and distribute them where it seemed to me they would do
the most good in drawing a crowd. That was my morning's work.
In the afternoon I was a stage carpenter, and devoted myself to seeing
that every thing at the hall was ready for the performance in the
evening. Sometimes that was easy; sometimes, in badly equipped halls,
the task called for more ingenuity than I had ever before supposed
that I possessed. But there was no rest for me, even then; I had to be
back at the hall after tea and check up part of the house. And then
all I had to do was what I had at first fondly supposed I had been
engaged to do--sing my songs! I sang six songs regularly every night,
and if the audience was good to me and liberal in its applause I threw
in two or three encores.
I had never been so happy in my life. I had always been a great yin
for the open air and the sunshine, and here, for years, I had spent
all my days underground. I welcomed the work that went with the
engagement, for it kept me much out of doors, and even when I was busy
in the halls, it was no so bad--I could see the sunlight through the
windows, at any rate. And then I could lie abed in the morning!
I had been used so long to early rising that I woke up each day at
five o'clock, no matter how late I'd gone to bed the nicht before. And
what a glorious thing it was to roll right over and go to sleep again!
Then there was the travelling, too. I had always wanted to see
Scotland, and now, in these fourteen weeks, I saw more of my native
land than, as a miner, I might have hoped to do in fourteen years--or
forty. Little did I think, though, then, of the real travelling I was
to do later in my life, in the career that was then just beginning!
I made many friends on that first tour. And to this day nothin'
delights me more than to have some in an audience seek me out and tell
me that he or she heard me sing during those fourteen weeks. There is
a story that actually happened to me that delights me, in connection
It was years after that first tour. I was singing in Glasgow one week,
and the hall was crowded at every performance--though the management
had raised the prices, for which I was sorry. I heard two women
speaking. Said one:
"Ha' ye heard Harry sing the week?"
The other answered:
"That I ha' not!"
"And will ye no'?"
"I will no'! I heard him lang ago, when he was better than he is the
noo, for twapence! Why should I be payin' twa shillin' the noo?"
And, do you ken, I'm no sure she was'na richt! But do not be tellin' I
That first tour had to end. Fourteen weeks seemed a long time then,
though, the last few days rushed by terribly fast. I was nervous when
the end came. I wondered if I would ever get another engagement. It
seemed a venturesome thing I had done. Who was I, Harry Lauder, the
untrained miner, to expect folk to pay their gude siller to hear me
There was an offer for an engagement waiting for me when I got home. I
had saved twelve pounds of my earnings, and it was proud I was as I
put the money in my wife's lap. As for her, she behaved as if she
thought her husband had come hame a millionaire. The new engagement
was for only one night, but the fee was a guinea and a half--twice
what I'd made for a week's work in the pit, and nearly what I'd earned
in a week on tour.
But then came bad days. I was no well posted on how to go aboot
getting engagements. I could only read all the advertisements, and
answer everyone that looked as if it might come to anything. And then
I'd sit and wait for the postie to come, but the letters he brought
were not for me. It looked as though I had had all my luck.
But I still had my twelve pounds, and I would not use them while I was
earning no more. So I decided to go back to the pit while I waited. It
was as easy--aye, it was easier!--to work while I waited, since wait I
must. I hauled down my old greasy working clothes, and went off to the
pithead. They were glad enough to take me on--gladder, I'm thinkin',
than I was to be taken. But it was sair hard to hear the other miners
laughing at me.
"There he gaes--the stickit comic," I heard one man say, as I passed.
And another, who had never liked me, was at pains to let me hear _his_
opinion, which was that I had "had the conceit knocked oot o' me, and
was glad tae tak' up the pick again."
But he was wrong, If it was conceit I had felt, I was as full of it as
ever--fuller, indeed. I had twelve pounds to slow for what it had
brought me, which was more than any of those who sneered at me could
say for themselves. And I was surer than ever that I had it in me to
make my mark as a singer of comic songs. I had listened to other
singers now, and I was certain that I had a new way of delivering a
song. My audiences had made me feel that I was going about the task of
pleasing them in the right way. All I wanted was the chance to prove
what was so plain to me to others, and I knew then, what I have found
so often, since then, to be true, that the chance always comes to the
man who is sure he can make use of it.
So I plied my pick cheerfully enough all day, and went hame to my wife
at nicht with a clear conscience and a hopeful heart. I always looked
for a letter, but for a long time I was disappointed each evening.
Then, finally, the letter I had been looking for came. It was from J.
C. MacDonald, and he wanted to know if I could accept an engagement at
the Greenock Town Hall in New Year week, for ten performances. He
offered me three pounds--the biggest salary anyone had named to me
yet. I jumped at the chance, as you may well believe.
Oh, and did I no feel that I was an actor then? I did so, surely, and
that very nicht I went out and bought me some astrachan fur for the
collar of my coat! Do ye ken what that meant to me in yon days? Then
every actor wore a coat with a fur trimmed collar--it was almost like
a badge of rank. And I maun be as braw as any of them. The wife smiled
quietly as she sewed it on for me, and I was a proud wee man when I
strolled into the Greenock Town Hall. Three pounds a week! There was a
salary for a man to be proud of. Ye'd ha' thought I was sure already
of making three pounds every week all my life, instead of havin' just
the one engagement.
Pride goeth before a fall ever, and after that, once more, I had to
wait for an engagement, and once more I went back to the pit. I folded
the astrachan coat and put it awa' under the bed, but I would'na tak'
off the fur.
"I'll be needin' you again before sae lang," I told the coat as I
folded it. "See if I don't."
And it was even so, for J. C. MacDonald had liked my singing, and I
had been successful with my audiences. He used his influence and
recommended me on all sides, and finally, and, this time, after a
shorter time than before in the pit, Moss and Thornton offered me a
tour of six weeks.
"Nance," I said to the wife, when the offer came and I had written to
accept it, "I'm thinkin' it'll be sink or swim this time. I'll no be
goin' back to the pit, come weal, come woe."
She looked at me.
"It's bad for the laddies there to be havin' the chance to crack their
jokes at me," I went on. "I'll stick to it this time and see whether I
can mak' a living for us by singin'. And I think that if I can't I'll
e'en find other work than in the mine."
Again she proved herself. For again she said: "It's yersel' ye must
please, Harry. I'm wi' ye, whatever ye do."
That tour was verra gude for me. If I'd conceit left in me, as my
friend in the pit had said, it was knocked out. I was first or last on
every bill, and ye ken what it means to an artist to open or close a
bill? If ye're to open ye have to start before anyone's in the
theatre; if ye close, ye sing to the backs of people crowdin' one
another to get out. It's discouraging to have to do so, I'm tellin'
ye, but it's what makes you grit your teeth, too, and determine to
gon, if ye've any of the richt stuff in ye.
I sang in bigger places on that tour, and the last two weeks were in
Glasgow, at the old Scotia and Gayety Music Halls. It was at the
Scotia that a man shouted at me one of the hardest things I ever had
to hear. I had just come on, and was doing the walk around before I
sang my first song, when I heard him, from the gallery.
"Awa' back tae the pit, man!" he bellowed.
I was so angry I could scarce go on. It was no fair, for I had not
sung a note. But we maun learn, on the stage, not to be disconcerted
by anything an audience says or does, and, somehow, I managed to go
on. They weren't afraid, ever, in yon days, to speak their minds in
the gallery--they'd soon let ye know if they'd had enough of ye and
yer turn. I was discouraged by that week in old Glasgow. I was sure
they'd had enough of me, and that the career of Harry Lauder as a
comedian was about to come to an inglorious end.
But Moss and Thornton were better pleased than I was, it seemed, for
no sooner was that tour over than they booked me for another. They
increased my salary to four pounds a week--ten shillings more than
before. And this time my position on the bill was much better; I
neither closed nor opened the show, and so got more applause. It did
me a world of good to have the hard experience first, but it did me
even more to find that my confidence in myself had some justification,
That second Moss and Thornton tour was a real turning point for me. I
felt assured of a certain success then; I knew, at least, that I could
always mak' a living in the halls. But mark what a little success does
to a man!
I'd scarce dared, a year or so before, even to smile at those who told
me, half joking, that I might be getting my five pound a week before I
died. I'd been afraid they'd think I was taking them seriously, and
call me stuck up and conceited. But now I was getting near that great
sum, and was sure to get all of it before so long. And I felt that it
was no great thing to look ahead to--I, who'd been glad to work hard
all week in a coal mine for fifteen shillings!
The more we ha' the more we want. It's always the way wi' all o' us,
I'm thinkin'. I was no satisfied at all wi' my prospects and I set out
to do all I could, wi' the help of concerts, to better conditions.
There was more siller to be made from concerts in yon days than from a
regular tour that took me to the music halls. The halls meant steady
work, and I was surer of regular earnings, but I liked the concerts. I
have never had a happier time in my work than in those days when I was
building up my reputation as a concert comedian. There was an
uncertainty about it that pleased me, too; there was something
exciting about wondering just how things were going.
Now my bookings are made years ahead. I ha' been trying to retire--it
will no be so lang, noo, before I do, and settle doon for good in my
wee hoose amang the heather at Dunoon on the Clyde. But there is no
excitement about an engagement now; I could fill five times as many as
I do, if there were but some way of being in twa or three places at
once, and of adding a few hours to the days and nichts.
I think one of the proudest times of my life was the first Saturday
nicht when I could look back on a week when I had had a concert
engagement each night in a different town. It was after that, too,
that for the first time I flatly refused an engagement. I had the
offer of a guinea, but I had fixed a guinea and a half as my minimum
fee, and I would'na tak' less, though, after I'd sent the laddie awa'
who offered me the guinea, I could ha' kicked myself.
There were some amusing experiences during those concert days. I often
appeared with singers who had won considerable fame--artists who
rendered classical numbers and opertic selections. I sometimes envied
them for their musical gifts, but not seriously--my efforts were in a
different field. As a rule I got along extremely well with my fellow
performers, but sometimes they were inclined to look down on a mere
comedian. Yell ken that I was making a name for myself then, and that
I engaged for some concerts at which, as a rule, no comic singer would
have been heard.
One night a concert had been arranged by a musical society in a town
near Glasgow--a suburb of the city. I was to appear with a quartet
soprano, contralto, tenor and bass. The two ladies and the tenor
greeted me cheerfully enough, and seemed glad to see me--the
contralto, indeed, was very friendly, and said she always went to hear
me when she had the chance. But the bass was very distant. He glared
at me when I came in, and did not return my greeting. He sat and
scowled, and grew angrier and angrier.
"Well!" he said, suddenly. "The rest of you can do as you please, but
I shall not sing to-night! I'm an artist, and I value my professional
reputation too highly to appear with a vulgarian like this comic
"Oh, I say, old chap!" said the tenor, looking uncomfortable. "That's
a bit thick! Harry's a good sort--I've heard him----"
"I'm not concerned with his personality!" said the bass. "I resent
being associated with a man who makes a mountebank, a clown, of
I listened and said nothing. But I'll no be sayin' I did no wink at my
friend, the contralto.
The other singers tried to soothe the bass down, but they couldn't. He
looked like a great pouter pigeon, strutting about the room, and then
he got red, and I thought he looked like an angry turkey cock. The
secretary of the society came in, and the basso attacked him at once.
"I say, Mr. Smith!" he cried. "There's something wrong here, what!
Fancy expecting me to appear on the same platform with this--this
person in petticoats!"
The secretary looked surprised, as well he micht!!
"I'll not do it!" said the basso, getting angrier each second. "You
can keep him or me--both you can't have!"
I was not much concerned. I was angry; I'll admit that. But I didna
let him fash me. I just made up my mind that if I was no allowed to
sing I'd have something to say to that basso before the evening was
oot. And I looked at him, and listened to him bluster, and thought
maybe I'd have a bit to do wi' him as well. I'm a wee man and a', but
I'm awfu' strong from the work I did in the pit, and I'm never afraid
of a bully.
I need ha' gie'n myself no concern as to the secretary. He smiled, and
let the basso talk. And I'll swear he winked at me.
"I really can't decide such a matter, Mr. Roberts," he said, at last.
"You're engaged to sing; so is Mr. Lauder. Mr. Lauder is ready to
fulfill his engagement--if you are not I don't see how I can force you
to do so. But you will do yourself no good if you leave us in the
lurch--I'm afraid people who are arranging concerts will feel that you
are a little unreliable."
The other singers argued with him, too, but it was no use. He would no
demean himself by singing with Harry Lauder. And so we went on without
him, and the concert was a great success. I had to give a dozen
encores, I mind. And puir Roberts! He got no more engagements, and a
little later became a chorus man with a touring opera company. I'm
minded of him the noo because, not so lang syne, he met me face to
face in London, and greeted me like an old friend.
"I remember very well knowing you, years ago, before you were so
famous, Mr. Lauder," he said. "I don't just recall the circumstances--
I think we appeared together at some concerts--that was before I
unfortunately lost my voice----"
Aweel, I minded the circumstances, if he did not, but I had no the
heart to remind him! And I "lent" him the twa shillin' he asked. Frae
such an auld friend as him I was lucky not to be touched for half a
I've found some men are so. Let you succeed, let you mak' your bit
siller, and they remember that they knew you well when you were no so
well off and famous. And it's always the same way. If they've not
succeeded, it's always someone else's fault, never their own. They
dislike you because you've done well when they've done ill. But it's
easy to forgie them--it's aye hard to bear a grudge in this world, and
to be thinkin' always of punishin' those who use us despite-fully.
I've had my share of knocks from folk. And sometimes I've dreamed of
being able to even an auld score. But always, when the time's come for
me to do it, I've nae had the heart.
It was rare fun to sing in those concerts. And in the autumn of 1896 I
made a new venture. I might have gone on another tour among the music
halls in the north, but Donald Munro was getting up a concert tour,
and I accepted his offer instead. It was a bit new for a singer like
myself to sing at such concerts, but I had been doing well, and Mr.
Munro wanted me, and offered me good terms.
That tour brought me one of my best friends and one of my happiest
associations. It was on it that I met Mackenzie Murdoch. I'll always
swear by Murdoch as the best violinist Scotland ever produced. Maybe
Ysaye and some of the boys with the unpronounceable Russian names can
play better than he. I'll no be saying as to that. But I know that he
could win the tears from your een when he played the old Scots
melodies; I know that his bow was dipped in magic before he drew it
across the strings, and that he played on the strings of your heart
the while he scraped that old fiddle of his.
Weel, there was Murdoch, and me, and the third of our party on that
tour was Miss Jessie MacLachlan, a bonnie lassie with a glorious
voice, the best of our Scottish prima donnas then. We wandered all
over the north and the midlands of Scotland on that tour, and it was a
grand success. Our audiences were large, and they were generous wi'
their applause, too, which Scottish audiences sometimes are not. Your
Scot is a canny yin; he'll aye tak' his pleasures seriously. He'll let
ye ken it, richt enough, and fast enough, if ye do not please him. But
if ye do he's like to reckon that he paid you to do so, and so why
should he applaud ye as weel?
But so well did we do on the tour that I began to do some thinkin'.
Here were we, Murdoch and I, especially, drawing the audiences. What
was Munro doing for rakin' in the best part o' the siller folk paid to
hear us? Why, nothin' at all that we could no do our twa selves--so I
figured. And it hurt me sair to see Munro gettin' siller it seemed to
me Murdoch and I micht just as weel be sharing between us. Not that I
didna like Munro fine, ye'll ken; he was a gude manager, and a fair
man. But it was just the way I was feeling, and I told Murdoch so.
"Ye hae richt, Harry," he said. "There's sense in your head, man, wee
though you are. What'll we do?"
"Why, be our ain managers!" I said. "We'll take out a concert party of
our own next season."
At the end of the tour of twelve weeks Mac and I were more determined
than ever to do just that. For the time we'd spent we had a hundred
pounds apiece to put in the bank, after we'd paid all our expenses--
more money than I'd dreamed of being able to save in many years. And
so we made our plans.
But we were no sae sure, afterward, that we'd been richt. We planned
our tour carefully. First we went all aboot, to the towns we planned
to visit, distributing bills that announced our coming. Shopkeepers
were glad to display them for us for a ticket or so, and it seemed
that folk were interested, and looking forward to having us come. But
if they were they did not show it in the only practical way--the only
way that gladdens a manager's heart. They did not come to our concerts
in great numbers; indeed, an' they scarcely came at a'. When it was
all over and we came to cast up the reckoning we found we'd lost a
hundred and fifty pounds sterling--no small loss for two young and
ambitious artists to have to pocket.
"Aye, an' I can see where the manager has his uses," I said to Mac.
"He takes the big profits--but he takes the big risks, too."
"Are ye discouraged, man Harry!" Mac asked me.
"Not a bit of it!" said I. "If you're not, I'm not. I'll try it again.
What do you say, Mac?"
We felt the same way. But I learned a lesson then that has always made
me cautious in criticizing the capitalist who sits back and rakes in
the siller while others do the work. The man has his uses, I'm tellin'
ye. I found it oot then; they're findin' it oot in Russia now, since
the Bolsheviki have been so busy. I'm that when the world's gone along
for so many years, and worked out a way of doing things, there must be
some good in it. I'm not sayin' all's richt and perfect in this world
--and, between you and me, would it be muckle fun to live in it if it
were? But there's something reasonable and something good about
anything that's grown up to be an institution, even if it needs
changing and reforming frae time to time. Or so I think.
Weel, e'en though I could see, noo, the reason for Munro to be gettin'
his big share o' the siller Mac and I made, I was no minded not to ha'
another try for it myself. Next season Mac and I made our plans even
more carefully. We went to most of the same towns where business had
been bad before, and this time it was good. And I learned something a
manager could ha' told me, had he liked. Often and often it's
necessary to tak' a loss on an artist's first tour that'll be more
than made up for later. Some folk go to hear him, or see him, even
that first time. An' they tell ithers what they've missed. It was so
wi' us when we tried again. Our best audiences and our biggest success
came where we'd been most disappointed the time before. This tour was
a grand success, and once more, for less than three months of work,
Mac and I banked more than a hundred pounds apiece.
But there was more than siller to count in the profits of the tours
Mac and I made together. He became and has always remained one of my
best and dearest friends--man never had a better. And a jollier
companion I can never hope to find. We always lived together; it was
easier and cheaper, too, for us to share lodgings. And we liked to
walk together for exercise, and to tak' our amusement as well as our
work in common.
I loved to hear Mac practice. He was a true artist and a real
musician, and when he played for the sheer love of playing he was even
better, I always thought, than when he was thinking of his audience,
though he always gave an audience his best. It was just, I think, that
when there was only me to hear him he knew he could depend upon a
sympathetic listener, and he had not to worry aboot the effect his
playing was to have.
We were like a pair of boys on a holiday when we went touring together
in those days, Mac and I. We were always playing jokes on one another,
or on any other victims we could find usually on one another because
there was always something one of us wanted to get even for. But the
commonest trick was one of mine. Mac and I would come down to
breakfast, say, at a hotel, and when everyone was seated I'd start, in
a very low voice, to sing. Rather, I didn't really sing, I said, in a
low, rhythmical tone, with a sort of half tune to it, this old verse:
"And the old cow crossed the road,
The old cow crossed the road,
And the reason why it crossed the road
Was to get to the other side."
I would repeat that, over and over again, tapping my foot to keep time
as I did so. Then Mac would join in, and perhaps another of our
company. And before long everyone at the table would catch the
infection, and either be humming the absurd words or keeping time with
his feet, while the others did so. Sometimes people didn't care for my
song; I remember one old Englishman, with a white moustache and a very
red face, who looked as if he might be a retired army officer. I think
he thought we were all mad, and he jumped up at last and rushed from
the table, leaving his breakfast unfinished. But the roar of laughter
that followed him made him realize that it was all a joke, and at
teatime he helped us to trap some newcomers who'd never heard of the
Mac and I were both inclined to be a wee bit boastful. We hated to
admit, both of us, that there was anything we couldna do; I'm a wee
bit that way inclined still. I mind that in Montrose, when we woke up
one morning after the most successful concert we had ever given, and
so were feeling very extra special, we found a couple o' gowf balls
lyin' around in our diggings.
"What do ye say tae a game, Mac?" I asked him.
"I'm no sae glide a player, Harry," he said, a bit dubiously.
For once in a way I was honest, and admitted that I'd never played at
all. We hesitated, but our landlady, a decent body, came in, and made
light of our doots.
"Hoots, lads," she said. "A'body plays gowf nooadays. I'll gie ye the
lend of some of our Jamie's clubs, and it's no way at a' to the
Secretly I had nae doot o' my bein' able to hit a little wee ball like
them we'd found so far as was needful. I thought the gowf wad be
easier than digging for coal wi' a pick. So oot we set, carryin' our
sticks, and ready to mak' a name for ourselves in a new way.
Syne Mac had said he could play a little, I told him he must take the
honor and drive off. He did no look sae grateful as he should ha'
done, but he agreed, at last.
"Noo, Harry, stand weel back, man, and watch where this ball lichts.
Keep your een well doon the coorse, man."
He began to swing as if he meant to murder the wee ba', and I strained
my een. I heard him strike, and I looked awa' doon the coorse, as he
had bid me do. But never hide nor hair o' the ba' did I see. It was
"Hoots, Mac," I said, "ye must ha' hit it an awfu' swipe. I never saw
it after you hit it."
He was smiling, but no as if he were amused.
"Aweel, ye wouldna--ye was looking the wrong way, man," he said. "I
sort o' missed my swing that time. There's the ba'----"
He pointed, and sure enough, I saw the puir wee ba', over to right,
not half a dozen yards from the tee, and lookin' as if it had been cut
in twa. He made to lift it and put it back on the tee, but, e'en an' I
had never played the game I knew a bit aboot the rules.
"Dinna gang so fast, Mac," I cried. "That counts a shot. It's my turn
And so I piled up a great double handfu' o' sand. It seemed to me that
the higher I put the wee ba' to begin with the further I could send it
when I hit it. But I was wrong, for my attempt was worse than Mac's. I
broke my club, and drove all the sand in his een, and the wee ba'
moved no more than a foot!
"That's a shot, too!" cried Mac.
"Aye," I said, a bit ruefully. "I--I sort o' missed my swing, too,
We did a wee bit better after that, but I'm no thinkin' either Mac or
I will ever play against the champion in the final round at Troon or
I maun e'en wander again from what I've been tellin' ye. Not that in
this book there's any great plan; it's just as if we were speerin'
together. But one thing puts me in mind o' another. And it so happened
that that gay morn at Montrose when Mac and I tried our hands at the
gowf brought me in touch with another and very different experience.
Ye'll mind I've talked a bit already of them that work and those they
work for. I've been a laboring man myself; in those days I was close
enough to the pit to mind only too well what it was like to be
dependent on another man for all I earned and ate and drank. And I'd
been oot on strike, too. There was some bit trouble over wages. In the
beginning it was no great matter; five minutes of good give and tak'
in talk wad ha' settled it, had masters and men got together as folk
should do. But the masters wouldna listen, and the men were sair
angry, and so there was the strike.
It was easy enough for me. I'd money in the savings bank. My brothers
were a' at work in other pits where there was no strike called. I was
able to see it through, and I cheered with a good will when the
District Agents of the miners made speeches and urged us to stay oot
till the masters gave in. But I could see, even then, that, there were
men who did no feel sae easy in their minds over the strike. Jamie
Lowden was one o' them. Jamie and I were good friends, though not sae
close as some.
I could see that Jamie was taking the strike much more to heart than
I. He'd come oot wi' the rest of us at the first, and he went to all
the mass meetings, though I didna hear him, ever mak' a speech, as
most of us did, one time or another. And so, one day, when I fell into
step beside him, on the way hame frae a meetin', I made to see what he
"Dinna look sae glum, Jamie, man," I said. "The strike won't last for
aye. We've the richt on our side, and when we've that we're bound to
win in the end."
"Aye, we may win!" he said, bitterly. "And what then, Harry? Strikes
are for them that can afford them, Harry--they're no for workingman
wi' a wife that's sick on his hands and a wean that's dyin' for lack
o' the proper food. Gie'en my wife and my bairn should dee, what good
would it be to me to ha' won this strike?"
"But we'll a' be better off if we win----"
"Better off?" he said, angrily. "Oh, aye--but what'll mak' up to' us
for what we'll lose? Nine weeks I've been oot. All that pay I've lost.
It would have kept the wean well fed and the wife could ha' had the
medicine she needs. Much good it will do me to win the strike and the
shillin' or twa extra a week we're striking for if I lose them!"
I'm ashamed to say I hadn't thought of the strike in that licht
before. It had been a grand chance to be idle wi'oot havin' to
reproach myself; to enjoy life a bit, and lie abed of a morn wi' a
clear conscience. But I could see, the noo Jamie talked, how it was
some of the older men did not seem to put much heart into it when they
shouted wi' the rest of us: "We'll never gie in!"
It was weel enough for the boys; for them it was a time o' skylarkin'
and irresponsibility. It was weel enough for me, and others like me,
who'd been able to put by a bit siller, and could afford to do wi'oot
our wages for a space. But it was black tragedy for Jamie and his wife
Still ye'll be wonderin' how I was reminded of all this at Montrose,
where Mac and I showed how bad we were at gowf! Weel, it was there I
saw Jamie Lowden again, and heard how he had come through the time of
the strike. I'll tell the tale myself; you may depend on't that I'm
giving it to ye straight, as I had it from the man himself.
His wife, lying sick in her bed, always asked Jamie the same question
when he came in from a meeting.
"Is there ony settlement yet, Jamie?" she would say.
"Not yet," he had to answer, time after time. "The masters are rich
and proud. They say they can afford to keep the pits, closed. And
we're telling them, after every meeting, that we'll een starve, if
needs must, before we'll gie in to them. I'm thinkin' it's to starvin'
we'll come, the way things look. Hoo are ye, Annie--better old girl?"
"I'm no that bad, Jamie," she answered, always, affectionately. He
knew she was lying to spare his feelings; they loved one another very
dearly, did those two. She looked down at the wee yin beside her in
the bed. "It's the wean I'm thinkin' of, Jamie," she whispered. "He's
asleep, at last, but he's nae richt, Jamie--he's far frae richt."
Jamie sighed, and turned to the stove. He put the kettle on, that he
might make himself a cup of tea. Annie was not strong enough to get up
and do any of the work, though it hurt her sair to see her man busy
about the wee hoose. She could eat no solid food; the doctor had
ordered milk for her, and beef tea, and jellies. Jamie could just
manage the milk, but it was out of the question for him to buy the
sick room delicacies she should have had every day of her life. The
bairn was born but a week after the strike began; Jamie and Annie had
been married little more than a year. It was hard enough for Annie to
bring the wean into the world; it seemed that keeping him and herself
there was going to be too much for her, with things going as they
"She was nae strong enough, Jamie, man," the doctor told him. "Yell
ha' an invalid wife on your hands for months. Gie her gude food, and
plenty on't, when she can eat again let her ha' plenty rest. She'll be
richt then--she'll be better, indeed, than she's ever been. But not if
things go badly--she can never stand that."
Jamie had aye been carefu' wi' his siller; when he knew the wife was
going to present him wi' a bairn he'd done his part to mak' ready. So
the few pound he had in the bank had served, at the start, weel
enough. The strikers got a few shillings each week frae the union;
just enough, it turned out, in Jamie's case, to pay the rent and buy
the bare necessities of life. His own siller went fast to keep mither
and wean alive when she was worst. And when they were gone, as they
were before that day I talked wi' him, things looked black indeed for
Jamie and the bit family he was tryin' to raise.
He could see no way oot. And then, one nicht, there came a knocking at
the door. It was the doctor--a kindly, brusque man, who'd been in the
army once. He was popular, but it was because he made his patients
afraid of him, some said. They got well because they were afraid to
disobey him. He had a very large practice, and, since he was a
bachelor, with none but himself to care for, he was supposed to be
almost wealthy--certainly he was rich for a country doctor.
"Weel, Jamie, man, and ho's the wife and the wean the day?" he asked.
"They're nane so braw, doctor," said Jamie, dolefully. "But yell see
that for yersel', I'm thinkin'."
The doctor went in, talked to Jamie's wife a spell, told her some
things to do, and looked carefully at the sleeping bairn, which he
would not have awakened. Then he took Jamie by the arm.
"Come ootside, Jamie," he said. "I want to hae a word wi' ye."
Jamie went oot, wondering. The doctor walked along wi' him in silence
a wee bit; then spoke, straight oot, after his manner.
"Yon's a bonnie wean o' yours, Jamie," he said. "I've brought many a
yin into the world, and I'm likin' him fine. But ye can no care for
him, and he's like to dee on your hands. Yer wife's in the same case.
She maun ha' nourishin' food, and plenty on't. Noo, I'm rich enough,
and I'm a bachelor, with no wife nor bairn o' my ain. For reasons I'll
not tell ye I'll dee, as I've lived, by my lain. I'll not be marryin'
a wife, I mean by that.
"But I like that yin of yours. And here's what I'm offerin' ye. I'll
adopt him, gi'en you'll let me ha' him for my ain. I'll save his life.
I'll bring him up strong and healthy, as a gentleman and a gentleman's
son. And I'll gie ye a hundred pounds to boot--a hundred pounds
that'll be the saving of your wife's life, so that she can be made
strong and healthy to bear ye other bairns when you're at work again."
"Gie up the wean?" cried Jamie, his face working. "The wean my Annie
near died to gie me? Doctor, is it sense you're talking?"
"Aye, and gude, hard sense it is, too, Jamie, man. I know it sounds
dour and hard. It's a sair thing to be giving up your ain flesh and
blood. But think o' the bairn, man! Through no fault o' your ain,
through misfortune that's come upon ye, ye can no gie him the care he
needs to keep him alive. Wad ye rather see him dead or in my care?
Think it ower, man. I'll gie ye two days to think and to talk it ower
wi' the wife. And--I'm tellin' ye're a muckle ass and no the sensible
man I've thought ye if ye do not say aye."
The doctor did no wait for Jamie to answer him. He was a wise man,
that doctor; he knew how Jamie wad be feelin' just then, and he turned
away. Sure enough, Jamie was ready to curse him and bid him keep his
money. But when he was left alone, and walked home, slowly, thinking
of the offer, he began to see that love for the wean urged him nigh as
much to accept the offer as to reject it.
It was true, as the doctor had said, that it was better for the bairn
to live and grow strong and well than to dee and be buried. Wad it no
be selfish for Jamie, for the love he had for his first born, to
insist on keeping him when to keep him wad mean his death? But there
was Annie to think of, too. Wad she be willing? Jamie was sair beset.
He didna ken how to think, much less what he should be doing.
It grieved him to bear such an offer to Annie, so wan and sick, puir
body. He thought of not telling her. But when he went in she was sair
afraid the doctor had told him the bairn could no live, and to
reassure her he was obliged to tell just why the doctor had called him
oot wi' him.
"Tak' him away for gude and a', Jamie?" she moaned, and looked down at
the wailing mite beside her. "That's what he means? Oh, my bairn--my
"Aye, but he shall not!" Jamie vowed, fiercely, dropping to his knees
beside the bed, and putting his arms about her. "Dinna fash yersel',
Annie, darling. Ye shall keep your wean--our wean."
"But it's true, what the doctor said, that it wad be better for our
"Oh, aye--no doot he meant it in kindness and weel enow, Annie. But
how should he understand, that's never had bairn o' his own to twine
its fingers around one o' his? Nor seen the licht in his wife's een as
she laid them on her wean?"
Annie was comforted by the love in his voice, and fell asleep. But
when the morn came the bairn was worse, and greetin' pitifully. And it
was Annie herself who spoke, timidly, of what the doctor had offered.
Jamie had told her nothing of the hundred pounds; he knew she would
feel as he did, that if they gave up the bairn it wad be for his ain
sake, and not for the siller.
"Oh, Jamie, my man, I've been thinkin'," said puir Annie. "The wean's
sae sick! And if we let the doctor hae him he'd be well and strong.
And it micht be we could see him sometimes. The doctor wad let us do
sae, do ye nae think it?"
Lang they talked of it. But they could came tae nae ither thought than
that it was better to lose the bairn and gie him his chance to live
and to grow up than to lose him by havin' him dee. Lose him they must,
it seemed, and Jamie cried out against God, at last, and swore that
there was no help, even though a man was ready and willing to work his
fingers to the bone for wife and bairn. And sae, wi' the heaviest of
hearts, he made his way to the doctor's door and rang the bell.
"Weel, and ye and the wife are showing yer good sense," said the
doctor, heartily, when he heard what Jamie had to say. "We'll pull the
wean through. He's of gude stock on both sides--that's why I want to
adopt him. I'll bring a nurse round wi' me tomorrow, come afternoon,
and I'll hae the papers ready for ye to sign, that give me the richt
to adopt him as my ain son. And when ye sign ye shall hae yer hundred
"Ye--ye can keep the siller, doctor," said Jamie, suppressing a wish
to say something violent. "'Tis no for the money we're letting ye hae
the wean--'tis that ye may save his life and keep him in the world to
hae his chance that I canna gie him, God help me!"
"A bargain's a bargain, Jamie, man," said the doctor, more gently than
was his wont. "Ye shall e'en hae the hundred pounds, for you'll be
needin' it for the puir wife. Puir lassie--dinna think I'm not sorry
for you and her, as well."
Jamie shook his head and went off. He could no trust himself to speak
again. And he went back to Annie wi' tears in his een, and the heart
within him heavy as it were lead. Still, when he reached hame, and saw
Annie looking at him wi' such grief in her moist een, he could no bear
to tell her of the hundred pounds. He could no bear to let her think
it was selling the bairn they were. And, in truth, whether he was to
tak' the siller or not, it was no that had moved him.
It was a sair, dour nicht for Jamie and the wife. They lay awake, the
twa of them. They listened to the breathing of the wean; whiles and
again he'd rouse and greet a wee, and every sound he made tore at
their heart strings. They were to say gude-bye to him the morrow,
never to see him again; Annie was to hold him in her mither's arms for
the last time. Oh, it was the sair nicht for those twa, yell ken
withoot ma tellin' ye!
Come three o' the clock next afternoon and there was the sound o'
wheels ootside the wee hoose. Jamie started and looked at Annie, and
the tears sprang to their een as they turned to the wean. In came the
doctor, and wi' him a nurse, all starched and clean.
"Weel, Jamie, an' hoo are the patients the day? None so braw, Annie,
I'm fearin'. 'Tis a hard thing, my lassie, but the best in the end.
We'll hae ye on yer feet again in no time the noo, and ye can gie yer
man a bonnier bairn next time! It's glad I am ye'll let me tak' the
wean and care for him."
Annie could not answer. She was clasping the bairn close to her, and
the tears were running down her twa cheeks. She kissed him again and
again. And the doctor, staring, grew uncomfortable. He beckoned to the
nurse, and she stepped toward the bed to take the wean from its
mither. Annie saw her, and held the bairn to Jamie.
"Puir wean--oh, oor puir wean!" she sighed. "Jamie, my man--kiss him--
kiss him for the last time----"
Jamie sobbed and caught the bairn in his great arms. He held it as
tenderly as ever its mither could ha' done. And then, suddenly, still
holding the wean, he turned on the doctor.
"We canna do it, Doctor!" he cried. "I cried out against God
yesterday. But--there is a God! I believe in Him, and I will put my
trust in Him. If it is His will that oor wean shall dee--dee he must.
But if he dees it shall be in his mither's arms."
His eyes were blazing, and the doctor, a little frightened, as if he
thought Jamie had gone mad, gave ground. But Jamie went on in a
"I ken weel ye meant it a' for the best, and to be gude to us and the
wean, doctor," he said, earnestly. "But we canna part with our bairn.
Live or dee he must stay wi' his mither!"
He knelt down. He saw Annie's eyes, swimming with new tears, meeting
his in a happiness such as he had never seen before. She held out her
hungry arms, and Jamie put the bairn within them.
"I'm sorry, doctor," he said, simply.
But the doctor said nothing. Without ane word he turned, and went oot
the door, wi' the nurse following him. And Jamie dropped to his knees
beside his wife and bairn and prayed to the God in whom he had
resolved to put his trust.
Ne'er tell me God does not hear or heed such prayers! Ne'er tell me
that He betrays those who put their trust in Him, according to His
Frae that sair day of grief and fear mither and wean grew better. Next
day a wee laddie brocht a great hamper to Jamie's door. Jamie thocht
there was some mistake.
"Who sent ye, laddie?" he asked.
"I dinna ken, and what I do ken I maun not tell," the boy answered.
"But there's no mistake. 'Tis for ye, Jamie Lowden."
And sae it was. There were all the things that Annie needed and Jamie
had nae the siller to buy for her in that hamper. Beef tea, and fruit,
and jellies--rare gude things! Jamie, his een full o' tears, had aye
his suspicions of the doctor. But when he asked him, the doctor was
"Hamper? What hamper?" he asked gruffly. That was when he was making a
professional call. "Ye're a sentimental fule, Jamie Lowden, and I'd
hae no hand in helpin' ye! But if so be there was some beef extract in
the hamper, 'tis so I'd hae ye mak' it--as I'm tellin' ye, mind, not
as it says on the jar!"
He said nowt of what had come aboot the day before. But, just as he
was aboot to go, he turned to Jamie.
"Oh, aye, Jamie, man, yell no haw been to the toon the day?" he asked.
"I heard, as I was comin' up, that the strike was over and all the men
were to go back to work the morn. Ye'll no be sorry to be earnin'
money again, I'm thinkin'."
Jamie dropped to his knees again, beside his wife and bairn, when the
doctor had left them alone. And this time it was to thank God, not to
pray for favors, that he knelt.
Do ye ken why I hae set doon this tale for you to read? Is it no
plain? The way we do--all of us! We think we may live our ain lives,
and that what we do affects no one but ourselves? Was ever a falswer
lee than that? Here was this strike, that was so quickly called
because a few men quarreled among themselves. And yet it was only by a
miracle that it did not bring death to Annie and her bairn and ruin to
Jamie Lowden's whole life--a decent laddie that asked nowt but to work
for his wife and his wean and be a good and useful citizen.
Canna men think twice before they bring such grief and trouble into
the world? Canna they learn to get together and talk things over
before the trouble, instead of afterward? Must we act amang ourselves
as the Hun acted in the wide world? I'm thinking we need not, and
shall not, much longer.
The folks we met were awfu' good to Mackenzie Murdoch and me while we
were on tour in yon old days. I've always liked to sit me doon, after
a show, and talk to some of those in the audience, and then it was
even easier than it is the noo. I mind the things we did! There was
the time when we must be fishermen!
It was at Castle Douglas, in the Galloway district, that the landlord
of our hotel asked us if we were fishermen. He said we should be,
since, if we were, there was a loch nearby where the sport was grand.
"Eh, Mac?" I asked him. "Are ye as good a fisherman as ye are a
"Scarcely so good, Harry," he said, smiling.
"Aweel, ne'er mind that," I said. "We'll catch fish enough for our
supper, for I'm a don with a rod, as you'll see."
Noo, I believed that I was strictly veracious when I said that, even
though I think I had never held a rod in my hand. But I had seen many
a man fishing, and it had always seemed to me the easiest thing in the
world a man could do. So forth we fared together, and found the boat
the landlord had promised us, and the tackle, and the bait. I'll no
say whether we took ought else--'tis none of your affair, you'll ken!
Nor am I making confession to the wife, syne she reads all I write,
whether abody else does so or nicht.
The loch was verra beautiful. So were the fish, I'm never doubting,
but for that yell hae to do e'en as did Mac and I--tak' the landlord's
word for 't. For ne'er a one did we see, nor did we get a bite, all
that day. But it was comfortable in the air, on the bonny blue water
of the loch, and we were no sair grieved that the fish should play us
Mac sat there, dreamily.
"I mind a time when I was fishing, once," he said, and named a spot he
knew I'd never seen. "Ah, man, Harry, but it was the grand day's sport
we had that day! There was an old, great trout that every fisherman in
those parts had been after for twa summers. Many had hooked him, but
he'd got clean awa'. I had no thocht of seeing him, even. But by and
by I felt a great pull on my line--and, sure enow, it was he, the big
"That was rare luck, Mac," I said, wondering a little. Had Mac been
overmodest, before, when he had said he was no great angler? Or was
he----? Aweel, no matter. I'll let him tell his tale.
"Man, Harry," he went on, "can ye no see the ithers? They were
excited. All offered me advice. But they never thocht that I could
land him. I didna mysel'--he was a rare fish, that yin! Three hours I
fought wi' him, Harry! But I brocht him ashore at last. And, Harry,
wad ye guess what he weighed?"
I couldna, and said so. But I was verra thochtfu'.
"Thirty-one pounds," said Mac, impressively.
"Thirty-one pounds? Did he so?" I said, duly impressed. But I was
still thochtfu', and Mac looked at me.
"Wasna he a whopper, Harry?" he asked. I think he was a wee bit
disappointed, but he had no cause--I was just thinking.
"Aye," I said. "Deed an' he was, Mac. Ye were prood, the day, were ye
no? I mind the biggest fish ever I caught. I wasna fit to speak to the
Duke o' Argyle himsel' that day!"
"How big was yours?" asked Mac, and I could see he was angry wi'
himself. Do ye mind the game the wee yins play, of noughts and
crosses? Whoever draws three noughts or three crosses in a line wins,
and sometimes it's for lettin' the other have last crack that ye lose.
Weel, it was like a child who sees he's beaten himself in that game
that Mac looked then.
"How big was mine, Mac?" I said. "Oh, no so big. Ye'd no be interested
to know, I'm thinking."
"But I am," said Mac. "I always like to hear of the luck other
fishermen ha' had."
"Aweel, yell be makin' me tell ye, I suppose," I said, as if verra
reluctantly. "But--oh, no, Mac, dinna mak' me. I'm no wantin' to hurt
"Tell me, man," he said.
"Weel, then--twa thousand six hundred and fourteen pounds," I said.
Mac nearly fell oot o' the boat into the loch. He stared at me wi' een
"What sort of a fish was that, ye muckle ass?" he roared.
"Oh, just a bit whale," I said, modestly. "Nowt to boast aboot. He
gied me a battle, I'll admit, but he had nae chance frae the first----"
And then we both collapsed and began to roar wi' laughter. And we
agreed that we'd tell no fish stories to one another after that, but
only to others, and that we'd always mak' the other fellow tell the
size of his fish before we gave the weighing of ours. That's the only
safe rule for a fisherman who's telling of his catch, and there's a
tip for ye if ye like.
Still and a' we caught us no fish, and whiles we talked we'd stopped
rowing, until the boat drifted into the weeds and long grass that
filled one end of the loch. We were caught as fine as ye please, and
when we tried to push her free we lost an oar. Noo, we could not row
hame wi'oot that oar, so I reached oot wi' my rod and tried to pull it
in. I had nae sort of luck there, either, and broke the rod and fell
head first into the loch as well!
It was no sae deep, but the grass and the weeds were verra thick, and
they closed aboot me the way the arms of an octopus mich and it was
scary work gettin' free. When I did my head and shoulders showed above
the water, and that was all.
"Save me, Mac!" I cried, half in jest, half in earnest. But Mac
couldna help me. The boat had got a strong push from me when I went
over, and was ten or twelve feet awa'. Mac was tryin' to do all he
could, but ye canna do muckle wi' a flat bottomed boat when ye're but
the ane oar, and he gied up at last. Then he laughed.
"Man, Harry, but ye're a comical sicht!" he said. "Ye should appear so
and write a song to go wi' yer looks! Noo, ye'll not droon, an', as
ye're so wet already, why don't ye wade ower and get the oar while
He was richt, heartless though I thought him. So I waded over to where
the oar rested on the surface of the water, as if it were grinning at
me. It was tricksy work. I didna ken hoo deep the loch micht grow to
be suddenly; sometimes there are deep holes in such places, that ye
walk into when ye're the least expecting to find one.
I was glad enough when I got back to the boat wi' the oar. I started
to climb in.
"Gie's the oar first," said Mac, cynically. "Ye micht fall in again,
Harry, and I'll just be makin' siccar that ane of us twa gets hame the
But I didna fall in again, and, verra wet and chilly, I was glad to do
the rowing for a bit. We did no more fishing that day, and Mac laughed
at me a good deal. But on the way hame we passed a field where some
boys were playing football, and the ball came along, unbenknownst to
either of us, and struck Mac on the nose. It set it to bleeding, and
Mac lost his temper completely and gave chase, with the blood running
down and covering his shirt.
It was my turn to laugh at him, and yell ken that I took full
advantage o't! Mac ran fast, and he caught one of the youngsters who
had kicked the ball at him and cuffed his ear. That came near to
makin' trouble, too, for the boy's father came round and threatened to
have Mac arrested. But a free seat for the show made him a friend
instead of a foe.
Speakin' o' arrests, the wonder is to me that Mac and I ever stayed
oot o' jail. Dear knows we had escapades enough that micht ha' landed
us in the lock up! There was a time, soon after the day we went
fishing, when we made friends wi' some folk who lived in a capital
house with a big fruit garden attached to it. They let us lodgings,
though it was not their habit to do so, and we were verra pleased wi'
We sat in the sunshine in our room, having our tea. Ootside the birds
were singing in the trees, and the air came in gently.
"Oh, it's good to be alive!" said Mac.
But I dinna ken whether it was the poetry of the day or the great
biscuit he had just spread wi' jam that moved him! At any rate there
was no doot at a' as to what moved a great wasp that flew in through
the window just then. It wanted that jam biscuit, and Mac dropped it.
But that enraged the wasp, and it stung Mac on the little finger. He
yelled. The girl who was singing in the next room stopped; the birds,
frightened, flew away. I leaped up--I wanted to help my suffering
But I got up so quickly that I upset the teapot, and the scalding tea
poured itself out all over poor Mac's legs. He screamed again, and
went tearing about the room holding his finger. I followed him, and I
had heard that one ought to do something at once if a man were
scalded, so I seized the cream jug and poured that over his legs.
But, well as I meant, Mac was angrier than ever. I chased him round
and round, seriously afraid that my friend was crazed by his
"Are ye no better the noo, Mac?" I asked.
That was just as our landlady and her daughter came in. I'm afraid
they heard language from Mac not fit for any woman's ears, but ye'll
admit the man was not wi'oot provocation!
"Better?" he shouted. "Ye muckle fool, you--you've ruined a brand new
pair of trousies cost me fifteen and six!"
It was amusing, but it had its serious side. We had no selections on
the violin at that night's concert, nor for several nights after, for
Mac's finger was badly swollen, and he could not use it. And for a
long time I could make him as red as a beet and as angry as I pleased
by just whispering in his ear, in the innocentest way: "Hoo's yer
pinkie the noo, Mac?"
It was at Creetown, our next stopping place, that we had an adventure
that micht weel ha' had serious results. We had a Sunday to spend, and
decided to stay there and see some of the Galloway moorlands, of which
we had all heard wondrous tales. And after our concert we were
introduced to a man who asked us if we'd no like a little fun on the
Sawbath nicht. It sounded harmless, as he put it so, and we thocht,
syne it was to be on the Sunday, it could no be so verra boisterous.
So we accepted his invitation gladly.
Next evening then, in the gloamin', he turned up at our lodgings, wi'
two dogs at his heel, a greyhound and a lurcher--a lurcher is a
coursing dog, a cross between a collie and a greyhound.
He wore dark clothes and a slouch hat. But, noo that I gied him a
closer look, I saw a shifty look in his een that I didna like. He was
a braw, big man, and fine looking enough, save for that look in his
een. But it was too late to back oot then, so we went along.
I liked well enow to hear him talk. He knew his country, and spoke
intelligently and well of the beauties of Galloway. Truly the scenery
was superb. The hills in the west were all gold and purple in the last
rays of the dying sun, and the heather was indescribably beautiful.
But by the time we reached the moorlands at the foot of the hills the
sun and the licht were clean gone awa', and the darkness was closing
down fast aboot us. We could hear the cry of the whaup, a mournful,
plaintive note; our own voices were the only other sounds that broke
the stillness. Then, suddenly, our host bent low and loosed his dogs,
after whispering to them, and they were off as silently and as swiftly
as ghosts in the heather.
We realized then what sort of fun it was we had been promised. And it
was grand sport, that hunting in the darkness, wi' the wee dogs comin'
back faithfully, noo and then, to their master, carrying a hare or a
rabbit firmly in their mouths.
"Man, Mae, but this is grand sport!" I whispered.
"Aye!" he said, and turned to the owner of the dogs.
"I envy you," he said. "It must be grand to hae a moor like this, wi'
dogs and guns."
"And the keepers," I suggested.
"Aye--there's keepers enow, and stern dells they are, too!"
Will ye no picture Mac and me, hangin' on to one anither's hands in
the darkness, and feelin' the other tremble, each guilty one o' us? So
it was poachin' we'd been, and never knowing it! I saw a licht across
"What's yon?" I asked our host, pointing to it.
"Oh, that's a keeper's hoose," he answered, indifferently. "I expect
they'll be takin' a walk aroond verra soon, tae."
"Eh, then," I said, "would we no be doing well to be moving hameward?
If anyone comes this way I'll be breaking the mile record between here
The poacher laughed.
"Ay, maybe," he said. "But if it's old Adam Broom comes ye'll hae to
be runnin' faster than the charge o' shot he'll be peppering your
troosers wi' in the seat!"
"Eh, Harry," said Mac, "it's God's blessings ye did no put on yer kilt
He seemed to think there was something funny in the situation, but I
did not, I'm telling ye.
And suddenly a grim, black figure loomed up nearby.
"We're pinched, for sure, Mac," I said.
"Eh, and if we are we are," he said, philosophically. "What's the fine
for poaching, Harry?"
We stood clutching one anither, and waitin' for the gun to speak. But
the poacher whispered.
"It's all richt," he said. "It's a farmer, and a gude friend o' mine."
So it proved. The farmer came up and greeted us, and said he'd been
having a stroll through the heather before he went to bed. I gied him
a cigar--the last I had, too, but I was too relieved to care for that.
We walked along wi' him, and bade him gude nicht at the end of the
road that led to his steading. But the poacher was not grateful, for
he sent the dogs into one of the farmer's corn fields as soon as he
was oot of our sicht.
"There's hares in there," he said, "and they're sure to come oot this
gate. You watch and nail the hares as they show."
He went in after the dogs, and Mac got a couple of stones while I made
ready to kick any animal that appeared. Soon two hares appeared,
rustling through the corn. I kicked out. I missed them, but I caught
Mac on the shins, and at the same moment he missed with his stones but
hit me instead! We both fell doon, and thocht no mair of keeping still
we were too sair hurt not to cry oot a bit and use some strong
language as well, I'm fearing. We'd forgotten, d'ye ken, that it was
the Sawbath eve!
Aweel, I staggered to my feet. Then oot came more hares and rabbits,
and after them the twa dogs in full chase. One hit me as I was getting
up and sent me rolling into the ditch full of stagnant water.
Oh, aye, it was a pleasant evening in its ending! Mac was as scared as
I by that time, and when he'd helped me from the ditch we looked
aroond for our poacher host. We were afraid to start hame alane. He
showed presently, laughing at us for two puir loons, and awfu' well
pleased with his nicht's work.
I canna say sae muckle for the twa loons! We were sorry looking
wretches. An' we were awfu' remorsefu', too, when we minded the way
we'd broken the Sawbath and a'--for a' we'd not known what was afoot
when we set out.
But it was different in the morn! Oh, aye--as it sae often is! We woke
wi' the sun streamin' in our window. Mac leaned on his hand and
sniffed, and looked at me.
"Man, Harry," said he, "d'ye smell what I smell?"
And I sniffed too. Some pleasant odor came stealing up the stairs frae
the kitchen. I leaped up.
"'Tis hare, Mac!" I cried. "Up wi' ye! Wad ye be late for the
breakfast that came nigh to getting us shot?"
Could go on and on wi' tales of yon good days wi' Mac. We'd our times
when we were no sae friendly, but they never lasted overnicht. There
was much philosophy in Mac. He was a kindly man, for a' his quick
temper; I never knew a kinder. And he taught me much that's been
usefu' to me. He taught me to look for the gude in a' I saw and came
in contact wi'. There's a bricht side to almost a' we meet, I've come
It was a strange thing, the way Mac drew comic things to himsel'. It
seemed on our Galloway tour, in particular, that a' the funny,
sidesplitting happenings saved themselves up till he was aboot to help
to mak' them merrier. I was the comedian; he was the serious artist,
the great violinist. But ye'd never ha' thocht our work was divided
sae had ye been wi' us.
It was to me that fell one o' the few heart-rending episodes o' the
whole tour. Again it's the story of a man who thocht the world owed
him a living, and that his mission was but to collect it. Why it is
that men like that never see that it' not the world that pays them,
but puir individuals whom they leave worse off for knowing them, and
trusting them, and seeking to help them?
I mind it was at Gatehouse-of-Fleet in Kircudbrightshire that, for
once in a way, for some reason I do not bring to mind, Mac and I were
separated for a nicht. I found a lodging for the night wi' an aged
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