Between You and Me
Sir Harry Lauder
Part 4 out of 4
beside in these last five years. We maun move forward. They've left
sons behind them, many of the laddies that died to save us. Aye,
there's weans in Britain and America, and in many another land, that
will ne'er know a faither.
We owe something to those weans whose faithers deed for this world's
salvation. We owe it to them and to their faithers tae see that they
have a better world to grow up in than we and their faithers knew. It
can be a better world. It can be a bonnier world than any of us have
ever dreamed of. Dare I say that, ye'll be asking me, wi' the tears of
the widow and the orphan still flowing fresh, wi' the groans of those
that ha' suffered still i' our ears?
Aye, I dare say it. And I'll be proving it, tae, if ye'll ha' patience
wi' me. For it's in your heart and mine that we'll find the makings of
the bonnier world I can see, for a' the pain.
Let's stop together and think a bit. We were happy, many of us, in yon
days before the war. Our loved yins were wi' us. There was peace i' a'
the world. We had no thought that any wind could come blowing frae
ootside ourselves that would cast down the hoose of our happiness.
Wasna that sae? Weel, what was the result?
I think we were selfish folk, many, too many, of us. We had no
thought, or too little, for others. We were so used to a' we had and
were in the habit of enjoying that we forgot that we owed much of what
we had to others. We were becoming a very fierce sort of
individualists. Our life was to ourselves. We were self-sufficient.
One of the prime articles of our creed was Cain's auld question:
"Am I my brother's keeper?"
We answered that question wi' a ringing "No!" The day was enow for the
day. We'd but to gae aboot our business, and eat and drink, and maybe
be merry. Oh, aye--I ken fine it was sae wi' me. Did I have charity,
Weel, it may be that the wife and I did our wee bit tae be helping
some that was less fortunate than ourselves. But here I'll be
admitting why I did that. It was for my ain selfish satisfaction and
pleasure. It was for the sake of the glow of gude feeling, the warmth
o' heart, that came wi' the deed.
And in a' the affairs of life, it seems to me, we human folk were the
same. We took too little thought of God. Religion was a failing force
in the world. Hame ties were loosening; we'd no the appreciation of
what hame meant that our faithers had had. Not all of us, maybe, but
too many. And a' the time, God help us, we were like those folk that
dwell in their wee hooses on the slopes of Vesuvius--puir folk and wee
hooses that may be swept awa' any day by an eruption of the volcano.
All wasna sae richt and weel wi' the world as we thought it in you
days. We'd closed our een to much of bitterness and hatred and malice
that was loose and seeking victims in the hearts of men. Aye, it was
the Hun loosed the war upon us. It was he who was responsible for the
calamity that overtook the world--and that will mak' him suffer maist
of all in the end, as is but just and richt. But we'd ha' had trouble,
e'en gi'en there'd been no war.
It wouldna ha' been sae great, perhaps. There'd not be sae much grief
and sae much unhappiness i' the world today, save for him. But there
was something wrang wi' the world, and there had tae be a visitation
of some sort before the world could be made better.
There's few things that come to a man or a nation in the way of grief
and sorrow and trouble that are no punishments for some wickedness and
sin o' his ain. We dinna always ken what it is we ha' done. And whiles
the innocent maun suffer wi' the guilty--aye, that's a part of the
punishment of the guilty, when they come to realize hoo it is they've
carried others, maybe others they love, doon wi' them into the valley
I love Britain. I think you'll all be knowing that I love my native
land better than anything i' the world. I'd ha' deed for her gladly--
aye, gladly. It was a sair grief tae me that they wadna tak' me. I
tried, ye ken? I tried even before the Huns killed my boy, John. And I
tried again after he'd been ta'en. Sae I had tae live for my country,
and tae do what I could to help her.
But that doesna mean that I think my country's always richt. Far frae
it. I ken only tae well that she's done wrang things. I'm minded of
one of them the noo.
I've talked before of history. There was 1870, when Prussia crushed
France. We micht ha' seen the Hun then, rearing himself up in Europe,
showing what was in his heart. But we raised no hand. We let France
fall and suffer. We saw her humbled. We saw her cast down. We'd fought
against France--aye. But we'd fought a nation that was generous and
fair; a nation that made an honorable foe, and that played its part
honorably and well afterward when we sent our soldiers to fight beside
hers in the Crimea.
France had clear een even then. She saw, when the Hun was in Paris,
wi' his hand at her throat and his heel pressed doon upon her, that he
meant to dominate all Europe, and, if he could, all the world. She
begged for help--not for her sake alone, but for humanity. Humanity
refused. And humanity paid for its refusal.
And there were other things that were wrang wi' Britain. Our cause was
holy, once we began to ficht. Oh, aye--never did a nation take up the
sword wi' a holier reason. We fought for humanity, for democracy, for
the triumph of the plain man, frae the first. There are those will
tell ye that Britain made war for selfish reasons. But it's no worth
my while tae answer them. The facts speak for themselves.
But here's what I'm meaning. We saw Belgium attacked. We saw France
threatened wi' a new disaster that would finish the murder her ain
courage and splendor had foiled in 1871. We sprang to the rescue this
time--oh, aye! The nation's leaders knew the path of honor--knew, too,
that it was Britain's only path of safety, as it chanced. They
declared war sae soon as it was plain how Germany meant to treat the
Sae Britain was at war, and she called oot her young men. Auld
Britain--wi' sons and daughters roond a' the Seven Seas. I saw them
answering the call, mind you. I saw them in Australia and New Zealand.
I kissed my ain laddie gude bye doon there in Australia when he went
Never was there a grander outpouring of heroic youth. We'd no
conscription in those first days. That didna come until much later.
Sae, at the very start, a' our best went forth to ficht and dee.
Thousands--hundreds of thousands--millions of them. And sae I come to
those wha were left.
It's sair I am to say it. But it was in the hearts of sae many of
those who stayed behind that we began tae be able tae see what had
been wrang wi' Britain--and what was, and remains, wrang wi' a' the
There were our boys, in France. We'd no been ready. We'd no spent
forty years preparing ourselves for murder. Sae our boys lacked guns
and shells, and aircraft, and a' the countless other things they maun
have in modern war. And at hame the men in the shops and factories
haggled and bargained, and thought, and talked. Not all o' them--oh,
understand that in a' this I say that is harsh and bears doon hard
upon this man and that, I'm only meaning a few each time! Maist of the
plain folk i' the world are honest and straight and upright in their
But do you ken hoo, in a basket of apples, ane rotten one wi' corrupt
the rest? Weel, it's sae wi' men. Put ane who's disaffected, and
discontented, and nitter, in a shop and he'll mak' trouble wi' all the
rest that are but seeking the do their best.
"Ca' Canny!" Ha' ye no heard that phrase?
It's gude Scots. It's a gude Scots motto. It means to go slow--to be
sure before you leap. It sums up a' the caution and the findness for
feeling his way that's made the Scot what he is in the wide world
over. But it's a saying that's spread to England, and that's come to
have a special meaning of its own. As a certain sort of workingman
uses it it means this:
"I maun be carfu' lest I do too much. If I do as much as I can I'll
always have to do it, and I'll get no mair pay for doing better--the
maister'll mak' all the profit. I maun always do less than I could
easily manage--sae I'll no be asked to do mair than is easy and
comfortable in a day's work."
Restriction of output! Aye, you've heard those words. But do you ken
what they were meaning early i' the war in Britain? They were meaning
that we made fewer shells than we could ha' made. Men deed in France
and Flanders for lack of the shells that would ha' put our artillery
on even terms with that of the Germans.
It didna last, you'll be saying. Aye, I ken that. All the rules union
labor had made were lifted i' the end. Labor in Britain took its place
on the firing line, like the laddies that went oot there to ficht.
Mind you, I'm saying no word against a man because he stayed at hame
and didna ficht. There were reasons to mak' it richt for many a man
tae do that. I've no sympathy wi' those who went aboot giving a white
feather to every young man they saw who was no in uniform. There was
much cruel unfairness in a' that.
But I'm saying it was a dreadfu' thing that men didna see for
themselves, frae the very first, where their duty lay. I'm saying it
was a dreadfu' thing for a man to be thinking just of the profit he
could be making for himself oot of the war. And we had too many of
that ilk in Britain--in labor and in capital as well. Mind you there
were men i' London and elsewhere, rich men, who grew richer because of
their work as profiteers.
And do you see what I mean now? The war was a great calamity. It cost
us a great toll of grief and agony and suffering. But it showed us, a'
too plainly, where the bad, rotten spots had been. It showed us that
things hadna been sae richt as we'd supposed before. And are we no
going to mak' use of the lesson it has taught us?
I've had a muckle to say in this book aboot hoo other folk should be
acting. That's what my wife tells me, noo that she's read sae far.
"Eh, man Harry," she says, "they'll be calling you a preacher next.
Dinna forget you're no but a wee comic, after a'!"
Aye, and she's richt! It's a good thing for me to remember that. I'm
but old Harry Lauder, after a'. I've sung my songs, and I've told my
stories, all over the world to please folk. And if I've done a bit
more talking, lately, than some think I should, it's no been all my
ain fault. Folk have seemed to want to listen to me. They've asked me
questions. And there's this much more to be said aboot it a'.
When you've given maist of the best years of your life to the public
you come to ken it well. And--you respect it. I've known of actors and
other artists on the stage who thought they were better than their
public--aye. And what's come tae them? We serve a great master, we
folk of the stage. He has many minds and many tongues, and he tells us
quickly when we please him--and when we do not. And always, since the
nicht when I first sang in public, so many yearst agane that it hurts
a little to count the tale o' them, I've been like a doctor who keeps
his finger on the pulse of his patient.
I've tried to ken, always, day in, day oot, how I was pleasing you--
the public. You make up my audiences. And--it is you who send the
other audiences, that hae no heard me yet, to come to the theatre. To-
morrow nicht's audience is in the making to-nicht. If you folk who are
out in front the noo, beyond the glare of the footlights, dinna care
for me, dinna like the way I'm trying to please you, and amuse you,
there'll be empty seats in the hoose to-morrow and the next day.
Sae that's my answer, I'm thinking, to my wife when she tells me to
beware of turning into a preacher. I mind, do you ken, the way I've
talked to audiences at hame, and in America and Australia, these last
twa or three years. It was the war led me to do it first. I was
surprised, in the beginning. I had just the idea of saying a few
words. But you who were listening to me would not let me stop. You
asked for more and more--you made me think you wanted to know what old
Harry Lauder was thinking.
There was a day in Kansas City that I remember well. Kansas City is a
great place. And it has a wonderful hall--a place where national
conventions are held. I was there in 1918 just before the Germans
delivered their great assault in March, when they came so near to
breaking our line and reaching the Channel ports we'd held them from
through all the long years of the war. I was nervous, I'll no be
denying that. What Briton was not, that had a way of knowing how
terrible a time was upon us? And I knew--aye, it was known, in London
and in Washington, that the Hun was making ready for his last effort.
Those were dark and troubled days. The great American army that
General Pershing has led hame victorious the noo was still in the
making. The Americans were there in France, but they had not finished
their training. And it was in the time when they were just aboot ready
to begin to stream into France in really great numbers. But at hame,
in America, and especially out West, it was hard to realize how great
an effort was still needed.
America had raised her great armies. She had done wonders--and it was
natural for those folk, safe at hame, and far, far away frae all the
turmoil and the stress of the fighting, to think that they had done
The Americans knew, you'll ken, that they were resistless. They knew
that the gigantic power of America could crush half a dozen Germanys--
in time. But what we were all fearing, we who knew how grave the
situation was, how tremendous the Hun's last effort would be, was that
the line in France would be broken. The French had fought almost to
the last gasp. Their young men were gone. And if the Hun broke through
and swept his way to Paris, it was hard to believe that we could have
gathered our forces and begun all over again, as we would have had to
In Kansas City there was a great chance for me, I was told. The people
wanted to hear me talk. They wanted to hear me--not just at the
theatre, but in the great hall where the conventions met. There was
only the one time when I could speak, and I said so--that was at noon.
It was the worst time of all the day to gather an audience of great
size. I knew that, and I was sorry. But I had been booked for two
performances a day while I was in Kansas City, and there was no
Well, I agreed to appear. Some of my friends were afraid it would be
what they called a frost. But when the time came for me to make my way
to the platform the hall was filled. Aye--that mighty hall! I dinna
ken how many thousand were there, but there were more than any theatre
in the world could hold--more than any two theatres, I'm thinking. And
they didna come to hear me sing or crack a joke. They came to hear me
talk--to hear me preach, if you'll be using that same word that my
wife is sae fond of teasing me with.
I'm thinking I did preach to them, maybe. I told them things aboot the
war they'd no heard before, nor thought of, maybe, as seriously as
they micht. I made them see the part they, each one of them, man, and
woman, and child, had to play. I talked of their president, and of the
way he needed them to be upholding him, as their fathers and mothers
had upheld President Lincoln.
And they rose to me--aye, they cheered me until the tears stood in my
een, and my voice was so choked that I could no go on for a space. So
that's what I'm meaning when I say it's no all my fault if I preach,
sometimes, on the stage, or when I'm writing in a book. It's true,
too, I'm thinking, that I'm no a real author. For when I sit me doon
to write a book I just feel that I maun talk wi' some who canna be wi'
me to hear my voice, and I write as I talk. They'll be telling me,
perhaps, that that's no the way to write a book, but it's the only way
Oh, I've had arguments aboot a' this! Arguments, and to spare! They'll
come tae me, good friends, good advisers. They'll be worried when I'm
in some place where there's strong feeling aboot some topic I'm
thinking of discussing wi' my friends in the audience.
"Now, Harry, go easy here," I mind a Scots friend told me, once during
the war. I was in a town I'll no be naming. "This is a queer place.
There are a lot of good Germans here. They're unhappy about the war,
but they're loyal enough. They don't want to take any great part in
fighting their fatherland, but they won't help against their new
country, either. They just want to go about their business and forget
that there's a war."
Do you ken what I did in that town I talked harder and straighter
about the war than I had in any place I'd talked in up to then! And I
talked specially to the Germans, and told them what their duty was,
and how they could no be neutral.
I've small use for them that would be using the soft pedal always, and
seeking to offend no one. If you're in the richt the man who takes
offence at what you say need not concern you. Gi'en you hold a
different opinion frae mine. Suppose I say what's in my mind, and that
I think that I am richt and you are wrong. Wull ye be angry wi' me
because of that? Not if you know you're richt! It's only the man who
is'na sure of his cause who loses his temper and flies into a rage
when he heard any one disagree wi' him.
There's a word they use in America aboot the man who tries to be all
things to a' men--who tries to please both sides when he maun talk
aboot some question that's in dispute. They call him a "pussyfooter."
Can you no see sicca man? He'll no put doon his feet firmly--he'll
walk on the balls of them. His een will no look straight ahead, and
meet those of other men squarely. He'll be darting his glances aboot
frae side to side, looking always for disapproval, seeking to avoid
it. But wall he? Can he? No--and weel ye ken that--as weel as I! Show
me sicca man and I'll show you one who ends by having no friends at
all--one who gets all sides down upon him, because he was so afraid of
making enemies that he did nothing to make himself freinds.
Think straight--talk straight. Don't be afraid of what others will say
or think aboot ye. Examine your own heart and your own mind. If what
you say and what you do suits your ain conscience you need ha' no
concern for the opinions of others. If you're wrong--weel, it's as
weel for you to ken that. And if you're richt you'll find supporters
enough to back you.
I said, whiles back, that I'd in my mind cases of artists who thocht
themselves sae great they need no think o' their public. Weel, I'll be
naming no names--'twould but mak' hard feeling, you'll ken, and to no
good end. But it's sae, richt enough. And it's especially sae in
Britain, I think, when some great favorite of the stage goes into the
halls to do a turn.
They're grand places to teach a sense of real value, the halls! In the
theatre so muckle counts--the play, the rest of the actors,
reputation, aye, a score of things. But in a music hall it's between
you and the audience. And each audience must be won just as if you'd
never faced one before. And you canna be familiar wi' your audience.
Friendly--oh, aye! I've been friendly wi' my audiences ever since I've
had them. But never familiar.
And there's a vast difference between friendliness and what I mean
when I say familiarity. When you are familiar I think you act as
though you were superior--that's what I mean by the word, at least,
whether I'm richt or no. And it's astonishing how quickly an audience
detects that--and, of course, resents it. Your audience will have no
swank frae ye--no side. Ye maun treat it wi' respect and wi'
Often, of late, I've thocht that times were changing. Folk, too many
of them, seem to have a feeling that ye can get something for nothing.
Man, it's no so--it never will be so. We maun work, one way or
another, for all we get. It's those lads and lassies who come tae the
halls, whiles, frae the legitimate stage, that put me in mind o' that.
Be sure, if they've any real reputation upon the stage, they have
earned it. Oh, I ken fine that there'll be times when a lassie 'll
mak' her way tae a sort of success if she's a pretty face, or if she's
gained a sort of fame, I'm sorry to say, frae being mixed up in some
scandal or another. But--unless she works hard, unless she has
talent, she'll no keep her success. After the first excitement aboot
her is worn off, she's judged by what she can do--not by what the
papers once said aboot her. Can ye no think of a hundred cases like
that? I can, without half trying.
Weel, then, what I'm meaning is that those great actors and actresses,
before they come to the halls to show us old timers what's what, and
how to get applause, have a solid record of hard work behind them. And
still some of them think the halls are different, and that there
they'll be clapped and cheered just because of their reputations.
They'd be astonished tae hear the sort of talk goes on in the gallery
of the Pav., in London--just for a sample. I've heard!
"Gaw bli'me, Alf--'oo's this toff? Comes on next. 'Mr. Arthur Andrews,
the Celebrated Shakespearian Actor.'"
"Never heard on him," says Alf, indifferently.
And so it goes. Mr. Andrews appears, smiling, self-possessed, waiting
gracefully for the accustomed thunders of applause to subside.
Sometimes he gets a round or two--from the stalls. More often he
doesn't. Music hall audiences give their applause after the turn, not
before, as a rule, save when some special favorite like Miss Vesta
Tilley or Mr. Albert Chevalier or--oh, I micht as weel say it like old
Harry Lauder!--comes on!
And then Mr. Andrews, too often, goes stiffly through a scene from a
play, or gives a dramatic recitation. In its place what he does would
be splendid, and would be splendidly received. The trouble, too often,
is that he does not realize that he must work to please this new
audience. If he does, his regard will be rich in the event of success.
I dinna mean just the siller he will earn, either.
It's true, I think, that there's a better living, for the really
successful artist, in varieties than there is on the stage. There's
more certainty--less of a speculative, dubious element, such as ye
canna escape when there's a play involved. The best and most famous
actors in the world canna keep a play frae being a failure if the
public does not tak' to it. But in the halls a good turn's a good
turn, and it can be used longer than even the most successful plays
But still, it's no just the siller I was thinking of when I spoke of
the rich rewards of a real success in the halls. An artist makes real
friends there--warm-hearted, personal friends, who become interested
in him and his career; who think of him, and as like as not, call him
by his first name. Oh--aye, I've known artists who were offended by
that! I mind a famous actor who was with me once when I was taking a
walk in London, and a dozen costers, recognizing me, wished me good
luck--it was just before I was tae mak' my first visit to America.
It was "Good luck, Harry," and "God bless you, Harry!" frae them.
'Deed, and it warmed the cockles of my heart to hear them! But my
friend was quite shocked.
"I say, Harry--do you know those persons?" he said.
"Never saw them before," I told him, cheerfully.
"But they addressed you in the most familiar fashion," he persisted.
"And why not?" I asked. "I never saw them before--but they've seen me,
thanks be! And as for familiarity--they helped to buy the shoon and
the claes I'm wearing! They paid for the parritch I had for breakfast,
and the bit o' beef I'll be eating for my dinner. If it wasna for them
and the likes of them I'd still be digging coal i' the pit in
Scotland! It'll be the sair day for me when they call me Mr. Lauder!"
I meant that then, and I mean it now. And if ever I hear a coster call
out, "There goes Sir Harry Lauder," I'll ken it's time for me to be
really doing what I'm really going tae do before sae long--retire frae
the stage and gae hame to my wee hoose amang the heather at Dunoon tae
I'd no be having you think I'm meaning to criticize all the actors and
actresses of the legitimate stage who have done a turn in the halls.
Many of them are among our prime favorites, and our most successful
artists. Some have given up appearing in plays to stick to the halls;
some gae tae the halls only when they can find no fitting play to
occupy their time and their talent. Some of the finest and most
talented folk in the world are, actors and artists; whiles I think all
the most generous and kindly folk are! And I can count my friends,
warm, dear, intimate friends amang them by the score--I micht almost
say by the hundred.
No, it's just the flighty ones that gie the rest a bad name I'm
addressing my criticisms to. There'll be those that accept an
opportunity to appear in the halls scornfully. They'll be lacking an
engagement, maybe. And so they'll turn to the halls tae earn some
siller easily, with their lips curling the while and their noses
turned up. They see no need tae give of their best.
"Why should I really _act_ for these people?" I heard one famous actor
say once. "The subtleties of my art would be wasted upon them. I shall
try to bring myself down to their level!"
Now, heard you ever sae hopeless a saying as that? It puts me in mind
of a friend of mine--a novelist. He's a grand writer, and his readers,
by the million, are his friends. It's hard for his publishers to print
enough of his books to supply the demand. And he's a kindly, simple
wee man; he ust does his best, all the time, and never worries aboot
the results. But there are those that are envious of him. I mind the
only time I ever knew him to be angry was when one of these, a man who
could just get his books published, and no mair, was talking.
"Oh, I suppose I'll have to do it!" he said. "Jimmy"--Jimmy was the
famous novelist my friend--"tell me how you write one of your best
sellers? I think I'll turn out one or two under a pen name. I need
Man, you can no even mak' money in that fashion! I ken fine there's
men succeed, on the stage, and in literature, and in every other walk
of life, who do not do the very best of work. But, mind you, they've
this in common--they do the best they can! You may not have to be the
best to win the public--but you maun be sincere, or it will punish
When every one's talking sae much of Bolsheviki and Soviets it's hard
to follow what it's just all about. It's a serious subject--aye, I'd
be the last to say it wasna that! But, man--there's sae little in this
world that's no got its lighter side, if we'll but see it!
I'm a great yin for consistency. Men are consistent--mair than women,
I think. My wife will no agree with that, but it shall stand in spite
of her. I'll be maister in my ain book, even if I canna be such in my
ain hoose! And when it comes to all this talk of Bolshevism, I'm
wondering how the ones that are for it would like it if their
principles were really applied consistently to everything?
Tak' the theatre, just for an example. I mind a time when there was
nearly a strike. It was in America, once, and I was on tour in the far
West. Wall Morris, he that takes care of all such affairs for me, had
given me a grand company. On those tours, ye ken, I travel with my ain
company. That time there were my pipers, of coorse--it wouldna be my
performance without those braw laddies. And there was a bonnie lassie
to sing Scots songs in her lovely voice--a wee bit of a lassie she
was, that surprised you with the strength of her voice when she sang.
There was a dancer, and some Japanese acrobats, and a couple more
turns--another singer, a man, and two who whistled like birds. And
then there was just me, tae come on last.
Weel, there'd be trouble, once in sae often, aboot how they should gae
on. None of them liked tae open the show; they thocht they were too
good for that. And so they were, all of them, bless their hearts.
There was no a bad act amang the lot. But still--some one had to
appear first! And some one had to give orders. I forget, the noo, just
how it was settled, but settled it was, at any rate, and all was
peaceful and happy.
And then, whoever it was that did open got ill one nicht, and there
was a terrible disturbance. No one was willing to take the first turn.
And for a while it looked as if we could no get it settled any way at
all. So I said that I would open the show, and they could follow,
afterward, any way they pleased--or else that so and so must open, and
no more argument. They did as I said.
But now, suppose there'd been a Bolshevik organization of the company?
Suppose each act had had a vote in a council. Each one would have
voted for a different one to open, and the fight could never have been
settled. It took some one to decide it--and a way of enforcing the
decision--to mak' that simple matter richt.
I'm afraid of these Bolsheviki because I don't think they know just
what they are doing. I can deal with a man, whether I agree with him
or no, if he just knows what it is he wants to do, and how. I'll find
some common ground that we can both stand on while we have out our
differences. But these folk aren't like that. They say what they don't
mean. And they tell you, if you complain of that, they are interested
only in the end they want to attain, and that the means they use don't
Folk like that make an agreement never meaning to stick to it, ust to
get the better of you for a little while. They mak' any promise you
demand of them to get you quieted and willing to leave them alone, and
then when the time comes and it suits them they'll break it, and laugh
in your face. I'm not guessing or joking. And it's not the Bolshevists
in Russia I'm thinking of--it's the followers of them in Britain and
America, no matter what they choose to call themselves.
I've nothing to say about an out-and-out union labor fight. I've been
oot on strike maself and I ken there's times when men have to strike
to get their rights. They've reason for it then, and it's another
matter. But some of the new sort of leaders of the men think anything
is fair when they're dealing with an employer. They'll mak' agreements
they've no sort of thought of keeping. I'll admit it's to their credit
that they're frank.
They say, practically: "We'll make promises, but we won't keep them.
We'll make a truce, but no peace. And we'll choose the time when the
truce is to be broken."
And what I'm wanting to know is how are we going to do business that
way, and live together, and keep cities and countries going? And
suppose, just suppose, noo, doctrine like that was consistently
Here's Mr. Radical. He's courtin' a lassie--supposing he's no one of
those that believe in free love--and maybe if he is! I've found that
the way to cure those that have such notions as that is to let the
right lassie lay her een upon them. She'll like him fine as a suitor,
maybe. She'll like the way he'll be taking her to dances, and spending
his siller on presents for her, and on taking her oot to dinner, and
the theatre. But, ye'll ken, she's no thocht of marrying him.
Still, just to keep him dangling, she promises she wull, and she'll
let him slip his arm aboot her, and kiss her noo and again. But whiles
she finds the lad she really loves, and she's off wi' him. Mr. Radical
comes and reminds her of her promise.
"Oh, aye," she'll say, wi' a flirt of her head. "But that was like the
promise you made at the works that you'd keep the men at work for a
year on the new scale--when you called them oot on strike again within
a month! Good day to you!"
Wull Mr. Radical say that's all richt, and that what's all sound and
proper when he does it is the same when it's she does it tae him? Wull
he? Not he! He'll call her false, and tell the tale of her perfidy tae
all that wull listen to him!
But there's a thing we folk that want to keep things straight must aye
remember. And that's that if everything was as it should be, Mr.
Radical and his kind could get no following. It's because there's
oppression and injustice in this bonny world of ours that an opening
is made for those who think as do Trotzky and Lenine and the other
Russians whose names are too hard for a simple plain man to remember.
We maun e'en get ahead of the agitators and the trouble makers by
mending what's wrong. It's the way they use truth that makes them
dangerous. Their lies wull never hurt the world except for a little
while. It's because there's some truth in what they say that they make
so great an impression as they do. Folk do starve that ask nothing
better than a chance to earn money for themselves and their families
by hard work. There is poverty and misfortune in the world that micht
be prevented--that wull be prevented, if only we work as hard for
humanity now that we have peace as we did when we were at war.
Noo, here's an example of what I'm thinking of. I said, a while back,
that the folk that don't have bairns and raise them to make good
citizens were traitors. Well, so they are. But, after a', it's no
always their fault. When landlords wull not let their property to the
families that have weans, it's a hard thing to think about. And it's
that sort of thing makes folk turn into hating the way the world is
organized and conducted. No man ought to have the richt to deny a hame
to a man and his wife because they've a bairn to care for.
And then, too, there's many an employer bears doon upon those who work
for him, because he's strong and they're weak. He'll say his business
is his ain, to conduct as he sees fit. So it is--up to a certain
point. But he canna conduct it by his lane, can he? He maun have help,
or he would not hire men and women and pay them wages. And when he
maun have their help he makes them his partners, in a way.
Jock'll be working for such an employer. He'll be needing more money,
because the rent's been raised, and the wife's ailing. And his
employer wull say he's sorry, maybe, but he canna afford to pay Jock
more wages, because the cost of, diamonds such as his wife would be
wearing has gone up, and gasolene for his motor car is more expensive,
and silk shirts cost more. Oh, aye--I ken he'll no be telling Jock
that, but those wull be his real reasons, for a' that!
Noo, what's Jock to do? He can quit--oh, aye! But Jock hasna the time,
whiles he's at work, to hunt him anither job. He maun just tak' his
chances, if he quits, and be out of work for a week or twa, maybe. And
Jock canna afford that; he makes sae little that he hasna any siller
worth speaking of saved up. So when his employer says, short like: "I
cannot pay you more, Jock--tak' it or leave it!" there's nothing for
Jock to do. And he grows bitter and discontented, and when some
Bolshevik agitator comes along and tells Jock he's being ill used and
that the way to make himself better off is to follow the revolutionary
way, Jock's likely to believe him.
There's a bit o' truth, d'you see, in what the agitator tells Jock.
Jock is ill used. He knows his employer has all and more than he needs
or can use--he knows he has to pinch and worry and do without, and see
his wife and his bairns miserable, so that the employer can live on
the fat of the land. And he's likely, is he no, to listen to the first
man who comes along and tells him he has a way to cure a' that? Can ye
blame a man for that?
The plain truth is that richt noo, when there's more prosperity than
we've ever seen before, there are decent, hard workingmen who canna
afford to have as many bairns as they would wish, for lack of the
siller to care for them properly after they come. There are men who
mak' no more in wages than they did five years ago, when everything
cost half what it does the noo. And they're listening to those who
preach of general strikes, and overthrowing the state, and all the
other wild remedies the agitators recommend.
Now, we know, you and I, that these remedies wouldn't cure the faults
that we can see. We know that in Russia they're worse off for the way
they've heeded Lenine and Trotzky and their crew. We know that you
can't alter human nature that way, and that when customs and
institutions have grown up for thousands of years it's because most
people have found them good and useful. But here's puir Jock! What
interests him is how he's to buy shoes for Jean and Andy, and a new
dress for the wife, and milk for the wean that's been ailing ever
since she was born. He hears the bairns crying, after they're put to
bed, because they're hungry. And he counts his siller wi' the gude
wife, every pay day, and they try to see what can they do without
themselves that the bairns may be better off.
"Eh, man Jock, listen to me," says the sleek, well fed agitator. "Join
us, and you'll be able to live as well as the King himself. Your
employer's robbing you. He's buying diamonds for his wife with the
siller should be feeding your bairns."
Foolishness? Oh, aye--but it's easier for you and me to see than for
Jock, is it no?
And just suppose, noo, that a union comes and Jock gets a chance to
join it--a real, old fashioned union, not one of the new sort that's
for upsetting everything. It brings Jock and Sandy and Tom and all the
rest of the men in the works together. And there's one man, speaking
for a' of them, to talk to the employer.
"The men maun have more money, sir," he'll say, respectfully.
"I cannot pay it," says the employer.
"Then they'll go out on strike," says the union leader.
And the employer will whine and complain! But, do you mind, the shoe's
on the other foot the noo! For now, if they all quit, it hurts him. He
wouldna mind Jock quitting, sae lang as the rest stayed. But when they
all go out together it shuts doon his works, and he begins to lose
siller. And so he's likely to find that he can squeeze out a few
shillings extra for each man's pay envelope, though that had seemed so
impossible before. Jock, by himself, is weak, and at his employer's
mercy. But Jock, leagued with all the other men in the works, has
Now, I hear a lot of talk from employers that sounds fine but is no
better, when you come to pick it to pieces, than the talk of the
agitators. Oh, I'll believe you if you tell me they're sincere, and
believe what they say! But that does not mak' it richt for me to
believe them, too!
Here's your employer who won't deal with a union.
"Every man in my shop can come to my office at any time and talk to
me," he'll say. "He needs no union delegate to speak for him. I'll
talk to the men any time, and do everything I can to adjust any
legitimate grievance they may have. But I won't deal with men who
presume to speak for them--with union delegates and leaders."
But can he no see, or wull he no see, that it's only when all the men
in his shop bind themselves together that they can talk to him as man
to man, as equal to equal? He's stronger than any one or twa of them,
but when the lot of them are leagued together they are his match.
That's what's meant by collective bargaining, and the employer who
won't recognize that right is behind the times, and is just inviting
trouble for himself and all the rest of us.
Let me tell you a story I heard in America on my last tour. I was away
oot on the Pacific coast. It was when America was beginning her great
effort in the war, and she was trying to build airplanes fast enough
to win the mastery of the air frae the Hun. She needed spruce for
them--and to supply us and France and Italy, as well. That spruce grew
in great, damp forests in the States of Oregon and Washington--one
great tree, that was suitable for making aircraft, to an acre, maybe.
It was a great task to select those trees and hew them doon, and split
and cut them up.
And in those forests lumbermen had been working for years. It was
hard, punishing work; work for strong, rough men. And those who owned
the forests and employed the men were strong, hard men themselves, as
they had need to be. But they could not see that the men they employed
had any richt to organize themselves. So always they fought, when a
union appeared in the forests, and they had beaten them all.
The men were weak, dealing, each by himself, with his employer. The
employers were strong. But presently a new sort of union came--the I.
W. W. It did as it pleased. It cheated and lied. It made promises and
didn't keep them. It didn't fight fair, the way the old unions did.
And the men flocked to it--not because they liked to fight that way,
but because that was the first time they had had a chance to deal with
their employers on even terms.
So, very quickly, the I. W. W. had organized most of the men who
worked in the forests. There had been a strike, the summer before I
was there, and, after the men went back to work, they still soldiered
on their jobs and did as little as they could--that was the way the I.
W. W. taught them to do.
"Don't stay out on strike and lose your pay," the I. W. W. leaders
said. "That's foolish. Go back--but do as little as you can and still
not be dismissed. Poll a log whenever you can without being caught.
Make all the trouble and expense you can for the bosses."
And here was the world, all humanity, needing the spruce, and these
men acting so! The American army was ordered to step in. And a wise
American officer, seeing what was wrong, soon mended matters. He was
stronger than employers and men put together. He put all that was
wrong richt. He saw to it that the men got good hours, good pay, good
working conditions. He organized a new union among them that had
nothing to do with the I. W. W. but that was strong enough to make the
employers deal fairly with it.
And sae it was that the I. W. W. began to lose its members. For it
turned out that the men wanted to be fair and honorable, if the
employers would but meet them half way, and so, in no time at all,
work was going on better than ever, and the I. W. W. leaders could
make no headway at all among the workers. It is only men who are
discontented because they are unfairly treated who listen to such folk
as those agitators. And is there no a lesson for all of us in that?
I've heard much talk, and I've done much talking myself, of charity.
It's a beautiful word, yon. You mind St. Paul--when be spoke of Faith,
Hope, Charity, and said that the greatest of these was Charity? Aye--
as he meant the word! Not as we've too often come to think of it.
What's charity, after a'? It's no the act of handing a saxpence to a
beggar in the street. It's a state of mind. We should all be
charitable--surely all men are agreed on that! We should think weel of
others, and believe, sae lang as they wull let us, that they mean to
do what's right and kind. We should not be bitter and suspicious and
cynical. God hates a cynic.
But charity is a word that's as little understood as virtue. You'll
hear folk speak of a woman as virtuous when she may be as evil and as
wretched a creature as walks this earth. They mean that she's never
sinned the one sin men mean when they say a lassie's not virtuous! As
if just abstaining frae that ane sin could mak' her virtuous!
Sae it's come to be the belief of too many folk that a man can be
called charitable if he just gives awa' sae muckle siller in a year.
That's not enough to mak' him charitable. He maun give thought and
help as well as siller. It's the easiest thing in the world to gie
siller; easier far than to refuse it, at times, when the refusal is
the more charitable thing for one to be doing.
I ken fine that folk think I'm close fisted and canny wi' my siller.
Aye, and I am--and glad I am that's so. I've worked hard for what I
have, and I ken the value of it. That's mair than some do that talk
against me, and crack jokes about Harry Lauder and his meanness. Are
they so free wi' their siller? I'll imagine myself talking wi' ane of
them the noo.
"You call me mean," I'll be saying to him. "How much did you give away
yesterday, just to be talking? There was that friend came to you for
the loan of a five-pound note because his bairn was sick? Of coorse ye
let him have it--and told him not to think of it as a loan, syne he
was in such trouble?"
"Well--I would have, of course, if I'd had it," he'll say, changing
color a wee bit. "But the fact is, Harry, I didn't have the money--"
"Oh, aye, I see," I'll answer him. "I suppose you've let sae many of
your friends have money lately that you're a bit pinched for cash?
That'll be the way of it, nae doot?"
"Well--I've a pound or two outstanding," he'll say. "But--I suppose I
owe more than there is owing to me."
There's one, ye'll see, who's not mean, not close fisted. He's easy
wi' his money; he'd as soon spend his siller as no. And where is he
when the pinch comes--to himself or to a friend? He can do nothing,
d'ye ken, to help, because he's not saved his siller and been carefu'
I've helped friends and strangers, when I could. But I've always tried
to do it in such a way that they would help themselves the while. When
there's real distress it's time to stint yourself, if need be, to help
another. That's charity--real charity. But is it charity to do as some
would do in sich a case as this?
Here'll be a man I know coming tae me.
"Harry," he'll say, "you're rich--it won't matter to you. Lend me the
loan of a ten-pound note for a few weeks. I'd like to be putting oot
some siller for new claes."
And when I refuse he'll call me mean. He'll say the ten pounds
wouldn't matter to me--that I'd never miss them if he never did return
the siller. Aye, and that's true enough. But if I did it for him why
would I not be doing it for Tom and Dick and Harry, too? No! I'll let
them call me mean and close fisted and every other dour thing it
pleases them to fancy me. But I'll gae my ain gait wi' my ain siller.
I see too much real suffering to care about helping those that can
help themselves--or maun do without things that aren't vital. In
Scotland, during the war, there was the maist terrible distress. It's
a puir country, is Scotland. Folk there work hard for their living.
And the war made it maist impossible for some, who'd sent their men to
fight. Bairns needed shoes and warm stockings in the cold winters,
that they micht be warm as they went to school. And they needed
parritch in their wee stomachs against the morning's chill.
Noo, I'll not be saying what Mrs. Lauder and I did. We did what we
could. It may have been a little--it may have been mair. She and I are
the only ones who ken the truth, and the only ones who wull ever ken
it--that much I'll say. But whenever we gave help she knew where the
siller was going, and how it was to be spent. She knew that it would
do real good, and not be wasted, as it would have been had I written a
check for maist of those who came to me for aid.
When you talk o' charity, Mrs. Lauder and I think we know it when we
see it. We've handled a goodly share of siller, of our own, and of
gude friends, since the war began, that's gone to mak' life a bit
easier for the unfortunate and the distressed.
I've talked a deal of the Fund for Scottish Wounded that I raised--
raised with Mrs. Lauder's help. We've collected money for that
wherever we've gone, and the money has been spent, every penny of it,
to make life brighter and more worth living for the laddies who fought
and suffered that we micht all live in a world fit for us and our
It wasna charity those laddies sought or needed. It was help--aye. And
it took charity, in the hearts of those who helped, to do anything for
them. But there is an ugly ring to that word charity as too many use
it the noo. I've no word to say against the charitable institutions.
They do a grand work. But it is only a certain sort of case that they
can reach. And they couldna help a boy who'd come home frae Flanders
with both legs gone.
A boy like that didna want charity to care for him and tend him all
his days, keeping him helpless and dependent. He wanted help--help to
make his own way in the world and earn his own living. And that's what
the Fund has given him. It's looked into his case, and found out what
he could do.
Maybe he was a miner before the war. Almost surely, he was doing some
sort of work that he could do no longer, with both legs left behind
him in France. But there was some sort of work he could do. Maybe the
Fund would set him up in a wee shop of his ain, provide him with the
capital to buy his first stock, and pay his first year's rent. There
are men all over Scotland who are well able, the noo, to tak' care of
themselves, thanks to the Fund--men who'd be beggars, practically, if
nothing of the sort had existed to lend them a hand when their hour of
need had come.
But it's the bairns that have aye been closest to our hearts--Mrs.
Lauder's and mine. Charity can never hurt a child--can only help and
improve it, when help is needed. And we've seen them, all about our
hoose at Dunoon. We've known what their needs were, and the way to
supply them. What we could do we've done.
Oh, it's not the siller that counts! If I could but mak' those who
have it understand that! It's not charity to sit doon and write a
check, no matter what the figures upon it may be. It's not charity,
even when giving the siller is hard--even when it means doing without
something yourself. That's fine--oh, aye! But it's the thought that
goes wi' the giving that makes it worth while--that makes it do real
good. Thoughtless giving is almost worse than not giving at all--
indeed, I think it's always really worse, not just almost worse.
When you just yield to requests without looking into them, without
seeing what your siller is going to do, you may be ruining the one
you're trying to help. There are times when a man must meet adversity
and overcome it by his lane, if he's ever to amount to anything in
this world. It's hard to decide such things. It's easier just to give,
and sit back in the glow of virtue that comes with doing that. But
wall your conscience let you do sae? Mine wull not--nor Mrs. Lauder's.
We've tried aimless charity too lang in Britain, as a nation. We did
in other times, after other wars than this one. We've let the men who
fought for us, and were wounded, depend on charity. And then, we've
forgotten the way they served us, and we've become impatient with
them. We've seen them begging, almost, in the street. And we've seen
that because sentimentalists, in the beginning, when there was still
time and chance to give them real help, said it was a black shame to
ask such men to do anything in return for what was given to them.
"A grateful country must care for our heroes," they'd say. "What--
teach a man blinded in his country's service a trade that he can work
at without his sight? Never! Give him money enough to keep him!"
And then, as time goes on, they forget his service--and he becomes
just another blind beggar!
Is it no better to do as my Fund does? Through it the blind man learns
to read. He learns to do something useful--something that will enable
him to _earn_ his living. He gets all the help he needs while he is
learning, and, maybe, an allowance, for a while, after he has learnt
his new trade. But he maun always be working to help himself.
I've talked to hundreds and hundreds of such laddies--blind and
maimed. And they all feel the same way. They know they need help, and
they feel they've earned it. But it's help they want not coddling and
alms. They're ashamed of those that don't understand them better than
the folk who talk of being ashamed to make them work.
In all the talk and thought about what's to be, noo that the war's
over with and done, I hear a muckle of different opinions aboot what
the women wull be doing. They're telling me that women wull ne'er be
the same again; that the war has changed them for good--or for bad!--
and that they'll stay the way the war has made them.
Weel, noo, let's be talking that over, and thinking about it a wee
bit. It's true that with the war taking the men richt and left, women
were called on to do new things; things they'd ne'er thought about
before 1914. In Britain it was when the shells ran short that we first
saw women going to work in great numbers. It was only richt that they
should. The munitions works were there; the laddies across the Channel
had to have guns and shells. And there were not men enough left in
Britain to mak' all that were needed.
I ken fine that all that has brocht aboot a great change. When a
lassie's grown used to the feel of her ain siller, that's she's earned
by the sweat of her brow, it's not in reason that she should be the
same as one that has never been awa' frae hame. She'll be more
independent. She'll ken mair of the value of siller, and the work that
goes to earning it. And she'll know that she's got it in her to do
real work, and be really paid for doing it.
In Britain our women have the vote noo' they got so soon as the war
showed that it was impossible and unfair to keep it frae them longer.
It wasna smashing windows and pouring treacle into letter boxes that
won it for them, though. It wasna the militant suffragettes that
persuaded Parliament to give women the vote. It was the proof the
women gave that in time of war they could play their part, just as men
But now, why should we be thinking that, when the war's over, women
will be wanting tae go on just as they did while it was on? Would it
not be just as sensible to suppose that all the men who crossed the
sea to fight for Britain would prefer to stay in uniform the rest of
Of coorse there'll be cases where women wall be thinking it a fine
thing to stay at work and support themselves. A lassie that's earned
her siller in the works won't feel like going back to washing dishes
and taking orders about the sweeping and the polishing frae a cranky
mistress. I grant you that.
Oh, aye--I ken there'll be fine ladies wall be pointing their fingers
at me the noo and wondering does Mrs. Lauder no have trouble aboot the
maids! Weel, maybe she does, and maybe she doesn't. I'll let her tell
aboot a' that in a hook of her own if you'll but persuade her to write
one. I wish you could! She'd have mair of interest to tell you than I
But I've thocht a little aboot all this complaining I hear about
servants. Have we not had too many servants? Were we not, before the
war, in the habit of having servants do many things for us we micht
weel have done for ourselves? The plain man--and I still feel that it
is a plain man's world that we maun live in the noo--needs few
servants. His wife wull do much of the work aboot the hoose herself,
and enjoy doing it, as her grandmither did in the days when housework
was real work.
I've heard women talking amang themselves, when they didn't know a man
was listening tae them, aboot their servants--at hame, and in America.
They're aye complaining.
"My dear!" one will say. "Servants are impossible these days! It's
perfectly absurd! Here's Maggie asking me for fifteen dollars a week!
I've never paid anything like that, and I won't begin now! The idea!"
"I know--isn't it ridiculous? What do they do with their money? They
get their board and a place to sleep. Their money is all clear profit
--and yet they're never satisfied. During the war, of course, we were
at their mercy--they could get work any time they wanted it in a
And so on. These good ladies think that girls should work for whatever
their mistresses are willing to pay. And yet I canna see why a girl
should be a servant because some lady needs her. I canna see why a
lassie hasna the richt to better herself if she can. And if the ladies
cannot pay the wages the servants ask, let them do their own work! But
do not let them complain of the ingratitude and the insolence of girls
who only ask for wages such as they have learned they can command in
But to gae back to this whole question of what women wull be doing,
noo that the war's over. Some seem tae think that Jennie wall never be
willing to marry Andy the noon, and live wi' him in the wee hoose he
can get for their hame. She got Andy's job, maybe. And she's been
making more money than ever Andy did before he went awa'. Here's what
they're telling me wull happen.
Andy'll come hame, all eager to see his Jenny, and full of the idea of
marrying her at once. He'll have been thinking, whiles he was out
there at the front, and in hospital--aye, he'd do mair thinking than
usual aboot it when he was in hospital--of the wee hoose he and Jennie
wad be living in, when the war was over. He'd see himself kissing
Jennie gude-bye in the morn, as he went off to work, and her waiting
for him when he came hame at nicht, and waving to him as soon as she
And he'd think, too, sometimes, of Jennie wi' a bairn of theirs in her
arms, looking like her, but wi' Andy's nose maybe, or his chin. They'd
be happy thoughts--they'd be the sort of thoughts that sustained Andy
and millions like him, frae Britain, and America, and Canada, and
Australia, and everywhere whence men went forth to fight the Hun.
Weel, here'd be Andy, coming hame. And they're telling me Jennie wad
be meeting him, and giving him a big, grimy hand to shake.
"Kiss me, lass," Andy wad say, reaching to tak' her in his arms.
And she'd gie a toss of her pretty head. "Oh, I've no time for
foolishness like that the noo!" she'd tell him, for answer.
"No time? What d'ye mean, lass?"
"I'll be late at the works if ye dinna let me go--that's what I mean."
"But--dinna ye love me any more'?"
"Oh, aye--I love ye weel enough, Andy. But I canna be late at the
works, for a' that!"
"To the de'il wi' the works! Ye'll be marrying be as soon as may be,
and then there'll be no more works for ye, lass--"
"That's only a rumor! I'm sticking to my job. Get one for yourself,
and then maybe I'll talk o' marrying you--and may be no!"
"Get me a job? I've got one--the one you've been having!"
"Aye--but it's my job the noo, and I'll be keeping it. I like earning
my siller, and I'm minded to keep on doing it, Andy."
And off she goes, and Andy after her, to find she's told the truth,
and that they'll not turn her off to make way for him.
"We'd like to have you back, Andy," they'll tell him. "But if the
women want to stay, stay they can."
Well, I'll be asking you if it's likely Jenny will act so to her boy,
that's hame frae the wars? Ye'll never mak' me think so till you've
proved it. Here's the picture I see.
I see Jenny getting more and more tired, and waiting more and more
eagerly for Andy to come hame. She's a woman, after a', d'ye ken, and
a young one. And there are some sorts of work women were not meant or
made to do, save when the direst need compels. So, wi' the ending of
the war, and its strain, here's puir Jennie, wondering how long she
must keep on before her Andy comes to tak' care of her and let her
And--let me whisper something else. We think it shame whiles, to talk
o' some things. But here's Nature, the auld mither of all of us. She's
a purpose in the world, has that auld mither--and it's that the race
shall gae on. And it's in the heart and the soul, the body and the
brain, of Jennie that she's planted the desire that her purpose shall
It's bairns Jenny wants, whether or no she kens that. It's that helps
to mak' her so eager for Andy to be coming back to her. And when she
sees him, at long last, I see her flinging herself in his arms, and
thanking God wi' her tears that he's back safe and sound--her man, the
man she's been praying for and working for.
There'll be problems aboot women, dear knows. There are a' the lassies
whose men wull no come back, like Andy--whose lads lie buried in a
foreign grave. It's not for me to talk of the sad problem of the
superfluous woman--the lassie whose life seems to be over when it's
but begun. These are affairs the present cannot consider properly. It
will tak' time to show what wall be happening and what maun be done.
But I'm sure that no woman wull give up the opportunity to mak' a
hame, to bring bairns into the world, for the sake of continuing the
sort of freedom she's had during the war. It wad be like cutting off
her nose to do that.
Oh, I ken fine that men wull have to be more reasonable than they've
been, sometimes, in the past. Women know more than they did before the
war opened the gates of industry to them. They'll not be put upon, the
way I'm ashamed to admit they sometimes were in the old days. But I
think that wull be a fine thing for a' of us. Women and men wull be
comrades more; there'll be fewer helpless lassies who canna find their
way aboot without a man to guide them. But men wull like that--I can
tell ye so, though they may grumble at the first.
The plain man wull have little use for the clinging vine as a wife.
He'll want the sort of wife some of us have been lucky enough to have
even before the war. I mean a woman who'll tak' a real note of his
affairs, and be ready to help him wi' advice and counsel; who'll
understand his problems, and demand a share in shaping their twa
lives. And that's the effect I'm thinking the war is maist likely to
have upon women. It wall have trained them to self-reliance and to the
meeting of problems in a new way.
And here's anither thing we maun be remembering. In the auld days a
lassie, if she but would, could check up the lad that was courtin'
her. She could tell, if she'd tak' the trouble to find oot, what sort
he was--how he stud wi' those who knew him. She could be knowing how
he did at work, or in business, and what his standing was amang those
who knew him in that way. It was different when a man was courtin' a
lassie. He could tell little about her save what he could see.
Noo that's been changed. The war's been cruelly hard on women as weel
as on men. It's weeded them oot. Only the finest could come through
the ordeals untouched--that was true of the women at hame as of the
men on the front line. And now, when a lad picks out a lassie he's no
longer got the excuses he once had for making a mistake.
He can be finding oot how she did her work while he was awa' at the
war. He can be telling what those who worked wi' her thought of her,
and whether she was a good, steady worker or not. He can make as many
inquiries aboot her as she can aboot him, and sae they'll be on even
terms, if they're both sensible bodies, before they start.
And there's this for the lassies who are thinking sae muckle of their
independence. They're thinking, perhaps, that they can pick and choose
because they've proved they can earn their livings and keep
themselves. Aye, that's true enough. But the men can do more picking
and choosing than before, too!
But doesna it a' come to the same answer i' the end--that it wall tak'
more than even this war to change human nature? I think that's so.
It's unfashionable, I suppose, to talk of love. They'll be saying I'm
an auld sentimentalist if I remind you of an old saying--that it's
love that makes the world go round. But it's true. And love wall be
love until the last trumpet is sounded, and it wall make men and
women, lads and lassies, act i' the same daft way it always has--thank
Love brings man and woman together--makes them attractive, one to the
ither. Wull some matter of economics keep them apart? Has it no been
proved, ever since the beginning of the world, that when love comes in
nothing else matters? To be sure--to be sure.
It's a strange thing, but it's aye the matters that gie the maist
concern to the prophets of evil that gie me the greatest comfort when
I get into an argument or a discussion aboot the war and its effects
upon humanity. They're much concerned about the bairns. They tell me
they've got out of hand these last years, and that there's no doing
anything wi' them any more. Did those folk see the way the Boy Scouts
did, I wonder?
Everywhere those laddies were splendid. In Britain they were
messengers; they helped to guard the coasts; they did all sorts of
work frae start to finish. They released thousands of men who wad have
been held at hame except for them.
And it was the same way in America. There I helped, as much as I
could, in selling Liberty Bonds. And I saw there the way the Boy
Scouts worked. They sold more bonds than you would have thought
possible. They helped me greatly, I know. I'd be speaking at some
great meeting. I'd urge the people to buy--and before they could grow
cold and forget the mood my words had aroused in them, there'd be a
boy in uniform at their elbows, holding a blank for them to sign.
And the little girls worked at sewing and making bandages. I dinna ken
just what these folk that are so disturbed aboot our boys and girls
wad be wanting. Maybe they're o' the sort who think bairns should be
seen and not heard. I'm not one of those, maself--I like to meet a
bairn that's able and willing to stand up and talk wi' me. And all I
can say is that those who are discouraged about the future of the race
because of the degeneration of childhood during the war do not know
what they're talking about.
Women and children! Aye, it's well that we've talked of them and
thought of them, and fought for them. For the war was fought for
them--fought to make it a better world for them. Men did not go out
and suffer and die for the sake of any gain that they could make. They
fought that the world might be a better one for children yet unborn to
live in, and for the bairns they'd left behind to grow up in.
Was there, I wonder, any single thing that told more of the difference
between the Germans and the allies than the way both treated women and
children? The Germans looked on their women as inferior beings. That
was why they could be guilty of such atrocities as disgraced their
armies wherever they fought. They were well suited with the Turks for
their own allies. The place that women hold in a country tells you
much about it; a land in which women are not rated high is not one in
which I'd want to live.
And if women wull be better off in Britain and America than they were,
even before the war, that's one of the ways in which the war has
redeemed itself and helped to pay for itself. I think they wull--but
I've no patience wi' those who talk as if men and women had different
interests, and maun fight it out to see which shall dominate.
They're equal partners, men and women. The war has shown us that; has
proved to us men how we can depend upon our women to tak' over as much
of our work as maun be when the need comes. And that's a great thing
to have learned. We all pray there need be no more wars; we none of us
expect a war again in our time. But if it comes one of the first
things we wull do wull be to tak' advantage of what we've learned of
late about the value and the splendor of our women.
I've been pessimistic, you'll think, maybe, in what I've just been
saying to you. And you'll be wondering if I think I kept my promise--
to prove that this can be a better, a bonnier world than it was before
yon peacefu' days of 1914 were blotted out. I have'na done sae yet,
but I'm in the way of doing it. I've tried to mak' you see that yon
days were no sae bonny as we a' thocht them.
But noo! Noo we've come tae a new day. This auld world has seen a
great sacrifice--a greater sacrifice than any it has known since
Calvary. The brawest, the noblest, the best of our men, have offered
themselves, a' they had and were, upon the altar of liberty and of
And I'll ask you some questions. Gie'n you're asked, the noo, tae do
something that's no just for your ain benefit. Whiles you would ha'
thought, maybe, and hesitated, and wondered. But the noo? Wull ye no
be thinking of some laddie who gave up a' the world held that was dear
to him, when his country called? Wull ye no be thinking that, after
a', ought that can be asked of you in the way of sacrifice and effort
is but a sma' trifle compared to what he had tae do?
I'm thinking that'll be sae. I'm thinking it'll be sae of all of us.
I'm thinking that, sae lang as we live, we folk that ken what the war
was, what it involved for the laddies who fought it, we'll be
comparing any hardship or privation that comes tae us wi' what it was
that they went through. And it's no likely, is it, that we'll ha' the
heart and the conscience tae be saying 'No!' sae often and sae
resolutely as used tae be our wont?
They've put shame into us, those laddies who went awa'. They ha'
taught us the real values o' things again. They ha' shown us that i'
this world, after a', it's men, not things, that count. They helped to
prove that the human spirit was a greater, grander thing than any o'
the works o' man. The Germans had all that a body could ask. They had
numbers, they had guns, they had their devilish inventions. What beat
them, then? What held them back till we could match them in numbers
and in a' the other things?
Why, something Krupp could not manufacture at Essen nor the
drillmasters of the Kaiser create! The human will--the spirit that is
God's creature, and His alone.
I was in France, you'll mind. I remember weel hoo I went ower the
ground where the Canadians stood the day the first clouds of poison
gas were loosed. There were sae few o' them--sae pitifully few! As it
was they were ootmatched; they were hanging on because they were the
sort o' men wha wouldna gie in. French Colonials were supporting them
on one side.
And across the No Man's Land there came a sort o' greenish yellow
cloud. No man there knew what it meant. There was a hissing and a
writhing, as of snakes, and like a snake the gas came toward them. It
reached them, and men began to cough and choke. And other men fell
doon, and their faces grew black, and they deed, in an agony such as
the man wha hasna seen it canna imagine--and weel it is, if he would
sleep o' nichts, that he canna.
The French Colonials broke and ran. The line was open. The Canadians
were dying fast, but not a man gave way. And the Hun came on. His gas
had broken the line. It was open. The way was clear to Ypres. That
auld, ruined toon, that had gi'en a new glory to British history in
November o' the year before, micht ha' been ta'en that day. And, aye,
the way was open further than that. The Germans micht ha' gone on.
Calais would ha' fallen tae them, and Dunkirk. They micht ha' cut the
British army awa' frae it's bases, and crumpled up the whole line
along the North Sea.
But they stopped, wi' the greatest victory o' the war within their
grasp. They stopped. They waited. And the line was formed again.
Somehow, new men were found tae tak' the places of those who had deed.
Masks against the gas were invented ower nicht. And the great chance
o' the Germans tae win the war was gone.
Why? It was God's will? Aye, it was His will that the Hun should be
beaten. But God works wi' human instruments. And His help is aye for
they that help themselves--that's an auld saying, but as true a one as
ever it was.
I will tell you why the Germans stopped. It was for the same reason
that they stopped at Verdun, later in the war. It was for the same
reason that they stopped again near Chateau Thierry and gave the
Americans time to come up. They stopped because they couldna imagine
that men would stand by when they were beaten.
The Canadians were beaten that day at Ypres when the gas came upon
them. Any troops i' the world would ha' been beaten. The Germans knew
that. They knew just hoo things were. And they knew that, if things
had been sae wi' them, they would ha' run or surrendered. And they
couldna imagine a race of men that would do otherwise--that would dee
rather than admit themselves beaten.
And sae, do you ken hoo it was the German officers reasoned?
"There is something wrong with our information," they decided. "If
things were really, over there, as we have believed, those men would
be quitting now. They may be making a trap ready for us. We will stop
and make sure. It is better to be safe than sorry."
Sae, because the human spirit and its invincibility was a thing beyond
their comprehension, the German officers lost the chance they had to
win the war.
And it is because of that spirit that remains, that survives, in the
world, that I am so sure we can mak' it a world worthy of those who
died to save it. I would no want to live anither day myself if I didna
believe that. I would want to dee, that I micht see my boy again. But
there is work for us all tae do that are left and we have no richt to
want, even, to lay doon our burdens until the time comes when God
wills that we maun.
Noo--what are the things we ha' tae do? They are no just to talk,
you'll be saying. 'Deed, and you're richt!
Wull you let me touch again on a thing I've spoken of already?
We ken the way the world's been impoverished. We've seen tae many of
our best laddies dee these last years. They were the husbands the wee
lassies were waiting for--the faithers of bairns that will never be
born the noo. Are those that are left doing a' that they should to
mak' up that loss?
There's selfishness amang those who'll no ha' the weans they should.
And it's a selfishness that brings its ain punishment--be sure of
that. I've said before, and I'll say again, the childless married pair
are traitors to their country, to the world, to humanity. Is it that
folk wi' children find it harder to live? Weel, there's truth i' that,
and it's for us a' tae see that that shall no be so.
I ken there are things that discourage them that would bring up a
family o' bairns. Landlords wull ask if there are bairns, and if there
are they'll seek anither tenant. It's no richt. The law maun step in
and reach them. Oh, I mind a story I heard frae a friend o' mine on
He's a decent body, wi' six o' the finest weans e'er you saw. He'd to
find a bigger hoose, and he went a' aboot, and everywhere, when he
told the landlords he had six bairns, they'd no have him. Else they'd
put up the rent to sic a figure he couldna pay it. In the end, though,
he hit upon a plan. Ane day he went tae see an agent aboot a hoose
that was just the yin to suit him. He liked it fine; the agent saw he
was a solid man, and like tae be a gude tenant. Sae they were well
along when the inevitable question came.
"How many children have you?" asked the agent.
"Six," said my friend.
"Oh," said the agent. "Well--let's see! Six is a great many. My
principal is a little afraid of a family with so many children. They
damage the houses a good deal, you know. I'll have to see. I'm sorry.
I'd have liked to let the house to you. H'm! Are all the children at
home?" "No," said my friend, and pulled a lang face. "They're a' in
"Oh--but that's very different," said the agent, growing brichter at
once. "That's a very different case. You've my most sincere sympathy.
And I'll be glad to let you the house."
Sae the lease was signed. And my friend went hame, rejoicing. On the
way he stopped at the kirkyard, and called the bairns, whom he'd left
there to play as he went by!
But this is a serious matter, this one o' bairns. Folk must have them,
or the country will gae to ruin. And it maun be made possible for
people to bring up their weans wi'oot sae much trouble and difficulty
as there is for them the noo.
Profiteering we canna endure--and will'na, I'm telling you. Let the
profiteer talk o' vested richts and interests--or whine o' them, since
he whines mair than he talks. It was tae muckle talk o' that sort we
were hearing before the war and in its early days. It was one of the
things that was wrang wi' the world. Is there any richt i' the world
that's as precious as that tae life and liberty and love? And didna
our young men gie that up at the first word?
Then dinna let your profiteer talk to me of the richts of his money.
He has duties and obligations as well as richts, and when he's lived
up to a' o' them, it'll be time for him tae talk o' his richts again,
and we'll maybe be in a mood tae listen. It's the same wi' the
workingman. We maun produce, i' this day. We maun mak' up for a' the
waste and the loss o' these last years. And the workingman kens as
weel as do I that after a fire the first thing a man does is tae mak'
the hoose habitable again.
He mends the roof. He patches the holes i' the walls. Wad he be
painting the veranda before he did those things? Not unless he was a
fule--no, nor building a new bay window for the parlor. Sae let us a'
be thinking of what's necessary before we come to thought of luxuries.
Weel, I'm near the end o' my tether. It's been grand tae sit doon and
talk things ower wi' you. We're a' friends together, are we no? Whiles
I'll ha' said things wi' which you'll no agree; whiles, perhaps, we've
been o' the same way o' thinking. And what I'm surest of is that
there's no a question in this world aboot which reasonable men canna
We maun get together. We maun talk things over. Here and noo there's
ane great trouble threatening us. The man who works isna satisfied.
Nor is the man who pays him. I'll no speak of maister and man, for the
day when that was true of employer and workman has gone for aye.
They're partners the noo. They maun work together, produce together,
for the common gude.
We've seen strikes on a' sides, and in a' lands. In Britain and in
America I've seen them.
I deplore a strike. And that's because a strike is like a war, and
there's no need for either. One side can force a war--as the Hun did.
But if the Hun had been a reasonable, decent body--and I'm praying
we've taught him, all we Allies, that he maun become such if he's tae
be allowed tae go on living in the world at a'!--he could ha' found
the rest o' the world ready to talk ower things wi' him.
And when it comes tae a strike need ane side or the other act like the
Hun? Is it no always sae that i' the end a strike is settled, wi' both
sides giving in something to the other? How often maun one or the
other be beaten flat and crushed? Seldom, indeed. Then why canna we
get together i' the beginning, and avoid the bitterness, and the cost
of the struggle?
The thing we've a' seen maist often i' the war was the fineness of
humanity. Men who hadna seemed tae be o' much account proved
themselves true i' the great test. It turned oot, when the strain was
put upon them, that maist men were fine and brave and full of the
spirit of self sacrifice. Men learned that i' the trenches. Women
proved it at hame. It was one for a', and a' for one.
Shall we drop a' that noo that peace has come again? Shall we gie up
a' we ha' learned of how men of different minds can pull together for
a common end? I'm thinking we'll no be such fools. We had to pull
together i' the war to keep frae being destroyed. But noo we've a
chance to get something positive--to mak' something profitable and
worth while oot of pulling together. Before it was just a negative
thing that made us do it. It was fear, in a way. It was the threat
that the Hun made against all we held most dear and sacred.
Noo it's sae different. We worked miracles i' the war. We did things
the world had thought impossible. They've aye said that it was
necessity that was the mither of invention, and the war helped again
tae prove hoo true a saying that was. Weel, canna we make the
necessity for a better world the mother of new and greater inventions
than any we ha' yet seen? Can we no accomplish miracles still, e'en
though the desperate need for them has passed?
That's the thing I think of maist these days--that it would be a sair
thing and a tragic thing if the spirit that filled the world during
the war should falter the noo. We've suffered sae much--we've given
sae much of our best. We maun gain a' that we can in return. And the
way has been pointed tae us. It is but for us to follow it.
Things have aye been done in certain ways. Weel, they seemed ways gude
enow. But when the war came we found they were no gude enow, for all
we'd thocht. And because it was a case of must, we changed them.
There's many would gae back. They say that wi' the end o' the war
there maun be an end o' all the changes that it brought. But we could
do more, we could accomplish more, through those changes. I say it
would be a foolish thing and a wicked thing to go back.
It was each man for himself before the war. It couldna be sae when the
bad times came upon us. We had to draw together. Had we no done so we
should have perished. Men drew together in each country; nations
approached one another and stood together in the face of the common
peril. They have a choice now. They can draw apart again. Or they can
stay together and advance wi' a resistless force toward a better life
for a' mankind.
I've the richt to say a' this. I made my sacrifice. I maun wait, the
noo, until I dee before I see my bairn again. When I talk o' suffering
it's as ane who has suffered. When I speak of grief it's as ane who
has known it, and when I think of the tears that have been shed it is
as ane who has shed his share. When I speak of a mother's grief for
her son that is gone, and her hope that he has not deed in vain, it is
as one who has sought to comfort the mither of his ain son.
So it's no frae the ootside that auld Harry Lauder is looking on. It's
no just talk he's making when he speers sae wi' you. He kens what his
words mean, does Harry.
I ken weel what it means for men to pull together. I've seen them
doing sae wi' the shadow of death i' the morn upon their faces. I've
sung, do you mind, at nicht, for men who were to dee next day, and
knew it. And they were glad, for they knew that they were to dee sae
that the world micht have a better, fuller life. I'd think I was
cheating men who could no longer help themselves or defend themselves
against my cheating were I to gie up the task undone that they ha'
left tae me and tae the rest of us.
Aye, it's a bonny world they've saved for us. But it's no sae bonny
yet as it maun be--and as, God helping us, we'll mak' it!
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