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´╗┐Title: A Minstrel in France
Author: Lauder, Harry, Sir, 1870-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Minstrel in France" ***

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A MINSTREL IN FRANCE

BY

HARRY LAUDER


[ILLUSTRATION: _frontispiece_ Harry Lauder and his son, Captain John
Lauder. (see Lauder01.jpg)]


TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED SON
CAPTAIN JOHN LAUDER

First 8th, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders
Killed in France, December 28, 1916

Oh, there's sometimes I am lonely
And I'm weary a' the day
To see the face and clasp the hand
Of him who is away.
The only one God gave me,
My one and only joy,
My life and love were centered on
My one and only boy.

I saw him in his infant days
Grow up from year to year,
That he would some day be a man
I never had a fear.
His mother watched his every step,
'Twas our united joy
To think that he might be one day
My one and only boy.

When war broke out he buckled on
His sword, and said, "Good-bye.
For I must do my duty, Dad;
Tell Mother not to cry,
Tell her that I'll come back again."
What happiness and joy!
But no, he died for Liberty,
My one and only boy.

The days are long, the nights are drear,
The anguish breaks my heart,
But oh! I'm proud my one and only
Laddie played his part.
For God knows best, His will be done,
His grace does me employ.
I do believe I'll meet again
My one and only boy.

by Harry Lauder



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Harry Lauder and His Son, Captain John Lauder

"I did not stop at sending out my recruiting band. I went out myself"

"'Carry On!' were the last words of my boy, Captain John Lauder, to
his men, but he would mean them for me, too"

"Bang! Went Sixpence"

"Harry Lauder preserves the bonnet of his son, brought to him from
where the lad fell, 'The memory of his boy, it is almost his
religion.'--A tatter of plaid of the Black Watch. on a wire of a
German entanglement barely suggests the hell the Scotch troops have
gone through"

"Captain John Lauder and Comrades Before the Trenches in France"

"Make us laugh again, Harry!' Though I remember my son and want to
join the ranks, I have obeyed"

"Harry Lauder, 'Laird of Dunoon.'"
--Medal struck off by Germany when _Lusitania_ was sunk"



CHAPTER I

Yon days! Yon palmy, peaceful days! I go back to them, and they are
as a dream. I go back to them again and again, and live them over.
Yon days of another age, the age of peace, when no man dared even to
dream of such times as have come upon us.

It was in November of 1913, and I was setting forth upon a great
journey, that was to take me to the other side of the world before I
came back again to my wee hoose amang the heather at Dunoon. My wife
was going with me, and my brother-in-law, Tom Valiance, for they go
everywhere with me. But my son John was coming with us only to
Glasgow, and then, when we set out for Liverpool and the steamer that
was to bring us to America he was to go back to Cambridge. He was
near done there, the bonnie laddie. He had taken his degree as
Bachelor of Arts, and was to set out soon upon a trip around the
world.

Was that no a fine plan I had made for my son? That great voyage he
was to have, to see the world and all its peoples! It was proud I was
that I could give it to him. He was--but it may be I'll tell you more
of John later in this book!

My pen runs awa' with me, and my tongue, too, when I think of my boy
John.

We came to the pier at Dunoon, and there she lay, the little ferry
steamer, the black smoke curling from her stack straight up to God.
Ah, the braw day it was! There was a frosty sheen upon the heather,
and the Clyde was calm as glass. The tops of the hills were coated
with snow, and they stood out against the horizon like great big
sugar loaves.

We were a' happy that day! There was a crowd to see us off. They had
come to bid me farewell and godspeed, all my friends and my
relations, and I went among them, shaking them by the hand and
thinking of the long whiles before I'd be seeing them again. And then
all my goodbys were said, and we went aboard, and my voyage had begun.

I looked back at the hills and the heather, and I thought of all I
was to do and see before I saw those hills again. I was going half
way round the world and back again. I was going to wonderful places
to see wonderful things and curious faces. But oftenest the thought
came to me, as I looked at my son, that him I would see again before
I saw the heather and the hills and all the friends and the relations
I was leaving behind me. For on his trip around the world he was to
meet us in Australia! It was easier to leave him, easier to set out,
knowing that, thinking of that!

Wonderful places I went to, surely. And wonderful things I saw and
heard. But the most wonderful thing of all that I was to see or hear
upon that voyage I did not dream of nor foresee. How was a mortal man
to foresee? How was he to dream of it?

Could I guess that the very next time I set out from Dunoon pier the
peaceful Clyde would be dotted with patrol boats, dashing hither and
thither! Could I guess that everywhere there would be boys in khaki,
and women weeping, and that my boy, John----! Ah, but I'll not tell
you of that now.

Peaceful the Clyde had been, and peaceful was the Mersey when we
sailed from Liverpool for New York. I look back on yon voyage--the
last I took that way in days of peace. Next time! Destroyers to guard
us from the Hun and his submarines, and to lay us a safe course
through the mines. And sailor boys, about their guns, watching,
sweeping the sea every minute for the flash of a sneaking pirate's
periscope showing for a second above a wave!

But then! It was a quiet trip, with none but the ups and doons of
every Atlantic crossing--more ups than doons, I'm telling you!

I was glad to be in America again, glad to see once more the friends
I'd made. They turned out to meet me and to greet me in New York, and
as I travelled across the continent to San Francisco it was the same.
Everywhere I had friends; everywhere they came crowding to shake me
by the hand with a "How are you the day, Harry?"

It was a long trip, but it was a happy one. How long ago it seems
now, as I write, in this new day of war! How far away are all the
common, kindly things that then I did not notice, and that now I
would give the world and a' to have back again!

Then, everywhere I went, they pressed their dainties upon me whenever
I sat down for a sup and a bite. The board groaned with plenty. I was
in a rich country, a country where there was enough for all, and to
spare. And now, as I am writing I am travelling again across America.
And there is not enough. When I sit down at table there is a card of
Herbert Hoover's, bidding me be careful how I eat and what I choose.
Ay, but he has no need to warn me! Well I know the truth, and how
America is helping to feed her allies over there, and so must be
sparing herself.

To think of it! In yon far day the world was all at peace. And now
that great America, that gave so little thought to armies and to
cannon, is fighting with my ain British against the Hun!

It was in March of 1914 that we sailed from San Francisco, on the
tenth of the month. It was a glorious day as we stood on the deck of
the old Pacific liner _Sonoma_. I was eager and glad to be off. To be
sure, America had been kinder to me than ever, and I was loath, in a
way, to be leaving her and all the friends of mine she held--old
friends of years, and new ones made on that trip. But I was coming
back. And then there was one great reason for my eagerness that few
folk knew--that my son John was coming to meet me in Australia. I was
missing him sore already.

They came aboard the old tubby liner to see us off, friends by the
score. They kept me busy shaking hands.

"Good-by, Harry," they said. And "Good luck, Harry," they cried. And
just before the bugles sounded all ashore I heard a few of them
crooning an old Scots song:

"Will ye no come back again?"

"Aye, I'll come back again!" I told them when I heard them.

"Good, Harry, good!" they cried back to me. "It's a promise! We'll be
waiting for you--waiting to welcome you!"

And so we sailed from San Francisco and from America, out through the
Golden Gate, toward the sunset. Here was beauty for me, who loved it
new beauty, such as I had not seen before. They were quiet days,
happy days, peaceful days. I was tired after my long tour, and the
days at sea rested me, with good talk when I craved it, and time to
sleep, and no need to give thought to trains, or to think, when I
went to bed, that in the night they'd rouse me from my sleep by
switching my car and giving me a bump.

We came first to Hawaii, and I fell in love with the harbor of
Honolulu as we sailed in. Here, at last, I began to see the strange
sights and hear the strange sounds I had been looking forward to ever
since I left my wee hoose at Dunoon. Here was something that was
different from anything that I had ever seen before.

We did not stay so long. On the way home I was to stay over and give
a performance in Honolulu, but not now. Our time was given up to
sight seeing, and to meeting some of the folk of the islands. They
ken hospitality! We made many new friends there, short as the time
was. And, man! The lassies! You want to cuddle the first lassie
you meet when you step ashore at Honolulu. But you don't--if the
wife is there!

It was only because I knew that we were to stop longer on the way
back that I was willing to leave Honolulu at all. So we sailed on,
toward Australia. And now I knew that my boy was about setting out on
his great voyage around the world. Day by day I would get out the map,
and try to prick the spot where he'd be.

And I'd think: "Aye! When I'm here John'll be there! Will he be
nearer to me than now?"

Thinking of the braw laddie, setting out, so proud and happy, made me
think of my ain young days. My father couldna' give me such a chance
as my boy was to have. I'd worked in the mines before I was John's
age. There'd been no Cambridge for me--no trip around the world as a
part of my education. And I thanked God that he was letting me do so
much for my boy.

Aye, and he deserved it, did John! He'd done well at Cambridge; he
had taken honors there. And soon he was to go up to London to read
for the Bar. He was to be a barrister, in wig and gown, my son, John!

It was of him, and of the meeting we were all to have in Australia,
that I thought, more than anything else, in the long, long days upon
the sea. We sailed on from Honolulu until we came to Paga-Paga. So it
is spelled, but all the natives call it Panga-Panga.

Here I saw more and yet more of the strange and wonderful things I
had thought upon so long back, in Dunoon. Here I saw mankind, for the
first time, in a natural state. I saw men who wore only the figleaf
of old Father Adam, and a people who lived from day to day, and whom
the kindly earth sustained.

They lived entirely from vegetables and from clear crystal streams
and upon marvelous fish from the sea. Ah, how I longed to stay in
Paga-Paga and be a natural man. But I must go on. Work called me back
to civilization and sorrow-fully I heeded its call and waved good-by
to the natural folk of Paga-Paga!

It was before I came to Paga-Paga that I wrote a little verse
inspired by Honolulu. Perhaps, if I had gone first to Paga-Paga--
don't forget to put in the n and call it Panga-Panga when you say it
to yourself!--I might have written it of that happy island of the
natural folk. But I did not, so here is the verse:

     I love you, Honolulu, Honolulu I love you!
     You are the Queen of the Sea!
     Your valleys and mountains
     Your palais and fountains
     Forever and ever will be dear to me!

I wedded a simple melody to those simple, heart-felt lines, and since
then I have sung the song in pretty nearly every part of the world--
and in Honolulu itself.

Our journey was drawing to its end. We were coming to a strange land
indeed. And yet I knew there were Scots folk there--where in the
world are there not? I thought they would be glad to see me, but how
could I be sure? It was a far, far cry from Dunoon and the Clyde and
the frost upon the heather on the day I had set out.

We were to land at Sydney. I was a wee bit impatient after we had
made our landfall, while the old _Sonoma_ poked her way along. But
she would not be hurried by my impatience. And at last we came to the
Sydney Heads--the famous Harbor Heads. If you have never seen it I do
not know how better to tell you of it than to say that it makes me
think of the entrance to a great cave that has no roof. In we went--
and were within that great, nearly landlocked harbor.

And what goings on there were! The harbor was full of craft, both
great and sma'. And each had all her bunting flying. Oh, they were
braw in the sunlight, with the gay colors and the bits of flags, all
fluttering and waving in the breeze!

And what a din there was, with the shrieking of the whistle and the
foghorns and the sirens and the clamor of bells. It took my breath
away, and I wondered what was afoot. And on the shore I could see
that thousands of people waited, all crowded together by the water
side. There were flags flying, too, from all the buildings.

"It must be that the King is coming in on a visit--and I never to
have heard of it!" I thought.

And then they made me understand that it was all for me!

If there were tears in my eyes when they made me believe that, will
you blame me? There was that great harbor, all alive with the welcome
they made for me. And on the shore, they told me, a hundred thousand
were waiting to greet me and bid me:

"Welcome, Harry!"

The tramways had stopped running until they had done with their
welcome to inc. And all over the city, as we drove to our hotel, they
roared their welcome, and there were flags along the way.

That was the proudest day I ha d ever known. But one thing made me
wistful and wishful. I wanted my boy to be there with us. I wished he
had seen how they had greeted his Dad. Nothing pleased him more than
an honor that came to me. And here was an honor indeed--a reception
the like of which I had never seen.



CHAPTER II

It was on the twenty-ninth day of March, in that year of 1914 that
dawned in peace and happiness and set in blood and death and bitter
sorrow, that we landed in Sydney. Soon I went to work. Everywhere my
audiences showed me that that great and wonderful reception that had
been given to me on the day we landed had been only an earnest of
what was to come. They greeted me everywhere with cheers and tears,
and everywhere we made new friends, and sometimes found old ones of
whom we had not heard for years.

And I was thinking all the time, now, of my boy. He was on his way.
He was on the Pacific. He was coming to me, across the ocean, and I
could smile as I thought of how this thing and that would strike
him, and of the smile that would light up his face now and the look
of joy that would come into his eyes at the sudden sighting of some
beautiful spot. Oh, aye--those were happy days When each one brought
my boy nearer to me.

One day, I mind, the newspapers were full of the tale of a crime ill
an odd spot in Europe that none of us had ever heard of before. You
mind the place?  Serajevo! Aye--we all mind it now! But then we read,
and wondered how that outlandish name might be pronounced. A
foreigner was murdered--what if he was a prince, the Archduke of
Austria? Need we lash ourselves about him?

And so we read, and were sorry, a little, for the puir lady who sat
beside the Archduke and was killed with him. And then we forgot it.
All Australia did. There was no more in the newspapers. And my son
John was coming--coming. Each day he was so many hundred miles nearer
to me. And at last he came. We were in Melbourne then, it was near to
the end of July.

We had much to talk about--son, and his mother and I. It was long
months since we had seen him, and we had seen and done so much. The
time flew by. Maybe we did not read the papers so carefully as we
might have done. They tell me, they have told me, since then, that in
Europe and even in America, there was some warning after Austria
moved on Serbia. But I believe that down there in Australia they did
not dream of danger; that they were far from understanding the
meaning of the news the papers did print. They were so far away!

And then, you ken, it came upon us like a clap of thunder. One night
it began. There was war in Europe--real war. Germany had attacked
France and Russia. She was moving troops through Belgium. And every
Briton knew what that must mean. Would Britain be drawn in? There was
the question that was on every man's tongue.

"What do you think, son?" I asked John.

"I think we'll go in," he said. "And if we do, you know, Dad--they'll
send for me to come home at once. I'm on leave from the summer
training camp now to make this trip."

My boy, two years before, had joined the Territorial army. He was a
second lieutenant in a Territorial battalion of the Argyle and
Sutherland Highlanders. It was much as if he had been an officer in a
National Guard regiment in the United States. The territorial army
was not bound to serve abroad--but who could doubt that it would, and
gladly. As it did--to a man, to a man.

But it was a shock to me when John said that. I had not thought that
war, even if it came, could come home to us so close--and so soon.

Yet so it was. The next day was the fourth of August--my birthday.
And it was that day that Britain declared war upon Germany. We sat at
lunch in the hotel at Melbourne when the newsboys began to cry the
extras. And we were still at lunch when the hall porter came in from
outside.

"Leftenant Lauder!" he called, over and over. John beckoned to him,
and he handed my laddie a cablegram.

Just two words there were, that had come singing along the wires half
way around the world.

"Mobilize. Return."

John's eyes were bright. They were shining. He was looking at us, but
he was not seeing us. Those eyes of his were seeing distant things.
My heart way sore within me, but I was proud and happy that it was
such a son I had to give my country.

"What do you think, Dad?" he asked me, when I had read the order.

I think I was gruff because I dared not let him see how I felt. His
mother was very pale.

"This is no time for thinking, son," I said. "It is the time for
action. You know your duty."

He rose from the table, quickly.

"I'm off!" he said.

"Where?" I asked him.

"To the ticket office to see about changing my berth.  There's a
steamer this week--maybe I can still find room aboard her."

He was not long gone.  He and his chum went down together and come
back smiling triumphantly.

"It's all right, Dad," he told me. "I go to Adelaide by train and get
the steamer there. I'll have time to see you and mother off--your
steamer goes two hours before my train."

We were going to New Zealand. And my boy was was going home to fight
for his country. They would call me too old, I knew--I was forty-four
the day Britain declared war.

What a turmoil there was about us! So fast were things moving that
there seemed no time for thought, John's mother and I could not
realize the full meaning of all that was happening. But we knew that
John was snatched away from us just after he had come, and it was
hard--it was cruelly hard.

But such thoughts were drowned in the great surging excitement that
was all about us. In Melbourne, and I believe it must have been much
the same elsewhere in Australia, folks didn't know what they were to
do, how they were to take this war that had come so suddenly upon
them. And rumors and questions flew in all directions.

Suppose the Germans came to Australia? Was there a chance of that?
They had islands, naval bases, not so far away. They were Australia's
neighbors. What of the German navy? Was it out? Were there scattered
ships, here and there, that might swoop down upon Australia's shores
and bring death and destruction with them?

But even before we sailed, next day, I could see that order was
coming out of that chaos. Everywhere recruiting offices were opening,
and men were flocking to them. No one dreamed, really, of a long
war--though John laughed, sadly, when someone said it would be over in
four months. But these Australians took no chances; they would offer
themselves first, and let it be decided later whether they were needed.

So we sailed away. And when I took John's hand, and kissed him good-by,
I saw him for the last time in his civilian clothes.

"Well, son," I said, "you're going home to be a soldier, a fighting
soldier. You will soon be commanding men. Remember that you can never
ask a man to do something you would no dare to do yourself!"

And, oh, the braw look in the eyes of the bonnie laddie as he tilted
his chin up to me!

"I will remember, Dad!" he said.

And so long as a bit of the dock was in sight we could see him waving
to us. We were not to see him again until the next January, at Bedford,
in England, where he was training the raw men of his company.

Those were the first days of war. The British navy was on guard. From
every quarter the whimpering wireless brought news of this German
warship and that. They were scattered far and wide, over the Seven
Seas, you ken, when the war broke out. There was no time for them to
make a home port. They had their choice, most of them, between being
interned in some neutral port and setting out to do as much mischief
as they could to British commerce before they were caught. Caught
they were sure to be. They must have known it. And some there were to
brave the issue and match themselves against England's great naval power.

Perhaps they knew that few ports would long be neutral! Maybe they
knew of the abominable war the Hun was to wage. But I think it was
not such men as those who chose to take their one chance in a
thousand who were sent out, later, in their submarines, to send women
and babies a to their deaths with their torpedoes!

Be that as it may, we sailed away from Melbourne. But it was in
Sydney Harbor that we anchored next--not in Wellington, as we, on the
ship, all thought it would be! And the reason was that the navy,
getting word that the German cruiser _Emden_ was loose and raiding,
had ordered our captain to hug the shore, and to put in at Sydney
until he was told it was safe to proceed.

We were not much delayed, and came to Wellington safely. New Zealand
was all ablaze with the war spirit. There was no hesitation there.
The New Zealand troops were mobilizing when we arrived, and every
recruiting office was besieged with men. Splendid laddies they were,
who looked as if they would give a great account of themselves. As
they did--as they did. Their deeds at Gallipoli speak for them and
will forever speak for them--the men of Australia and New Zealand.

There the word Anzac was made--made from the first letters of these
words:  Australian New Zealand Army Corps. It is a word that will
never die.

Even in the midst of war they had time to give me a welcome that
warmed my heart. And there were pipers with them, too, skirling a
tune as I stepped ashore. There were tears in my eyes again, as there
had been at Sydney. Every laddie in uniform made me think of my own
boy, well off, by now, on his way home to Britain and the duty that
had called him.

They were gathering, all over the Empire, those of British blood.
They were answering the call old Britain had sent across the seven
seas to the far corners of the earth. Even as the Scottish clans
gathered of old the greater British clans were gathering now. It was
a great thing to see that in the beginning; it has comforted me many
a time since, in a black hour, when news was bad and the Hun was
thundering at the line that was so thinly held in France.

Here were free peoples, not held, not bound, free to choose their
way. Britain could not make their sons come to her aid. If they came
they must come freely, joyously, knowing that it was a right cause, a
holy cause, a good cause, that called them. I think of the way they
came--of the way I saw them rising to the summons, in New Zealand, in
Australia, later in Canada. Aye, and I saw more--I saw Americans
slipping across the border, putting on Britain's khaki there in
Canada, because they knew that it was the fight of humanity, of
freedom, that they were entering. And that, too, gave me comfort
later in dark times, for it made me know that when the right time
came America would take her place beside old Britain and brave France.

New Zealand is a bonnie land. It made me think, sometimes, of the
Hielands of Scotland. A bonnie land, and braw are its people. They
made me happy there, and they made much of me.

At Christchurch they did a strange thing. They were selling off, at
auction, a Union Jack--the flag of Britain. Such a thing had never
been done before, or thought of. But here was a reason and a good
one. Money was needed for the laddies who were going--needed for all
sorts of things. To buy them small comforts, and tobacco, and such
things as the government might not be supplying them. And so they
asked me to be their auctioneer.

I played a fine trick upon them there in Christchurch. But I was not
ashamed of myself, and I think they have forgi'en me--those good
bodies at Christchurch!

Here was the way of it. I was auctioneer, you ken--but that was not
enough to keep me from bidding myself. And so I worked them up and
on--and then I bid in the flag for myself for a hundred pounds--five
hundred dollars of American money.

I had my doots about how they'd be taking it to have a stranger carry
their flag away. And so I bided a wee. I stayed that night in
Christchurch, and was to stay longer. I could wait. Above yon town of
Christchurch stretch the Merino Hills. On them graze sheep by the
thousand--and it is from those sheep that the true Merino wool comes.
And in the gutters of Christchurch there flows, all day long, a
stream of water as clear and pure as ever you might hope to see. And
it should be so, for it is from artesian wells that it is pumped.

Aweel, I bided that night and by next day they were murmuring in the
town, and their murmurs came to me. They thought it wasna richt for a
Scotsman to be carrying off their flag--though he'd bought it and
paid for it. And so at last they came to me, and wanted to be buying
back the flag. And I was agreeable.

"Aye-I'll sell it back to ye!" I told them. "But at a price, ye ken--
at a price! Pay me twice what I paid for it and it shall be yours!"

There was a Scots bargain for you! They must have thought me mean and
grasping that day. But out they went. They worked for the money. It
was but just a month after war had been declared, and money was still
scarce and shy of peeping out and showing itself. But, bit by bit, they
got the siller. A shilling at a time they raised, by subscription. But
they got it all, and brought it to me, smiling the while.

"Here, Harry--here's your money!" they said. "Now give us back our flag!"

Back to them I gave it--and with it the money they had brought, to be
added to the fund for the soldier boys. And so that one flag brought
three hundred pounds sterling to the soldiers. I wonder did those
folk at Christchurch think I would keep the money and make a profit
on that flag?

Had it been another time I'd have stayed in New Zealand gladly a long
time. It was a friendly place, and it gave us many a new friend. But
home was calling me. There was more than the homebound tour that had
been planned and laid out for me. I did not know how soon my boy
might be going to France. And his mother and I wanted to see him
again before he went, and to be as near him as might be.

So I was glad as well as sorry to sail away from New Zealand's
friendly shores, to the strains of pipers softly skirling:

"Will ye no come back again?"

We sailed for Sydney on the _Minnehaha_, a fast boat. We were glad of
her speed a day or so out, for there was smoke on the horizon that
gave some anxious hours to our officers. Some thought the German
raider _Emden_ was under that smoke. And it would not have been
surprising had a raider turned up in our path. For just before we
sailed it had been discovered that the man in charge of the principal
wireless station in New Zealand was a German, and he had been
interned. Had he sent word to German warships of the plans and
movements of British ships? No one could prove it, so he was only
interned.

Back we went to Sydney. A great change had come since our departure.
The war ruled all deed and thought. Australia was bound now to do her
part. No less faithfully and splendidly than New Zealand was she
engaged upon the enterprise the Hun had thrust upon the world.
Everyone was eager for news, but it was woefully scarce. Those were
the black, early days, when the German rush upon Paris was being
stayed, after the disasters of the first fortnight of the war, at the
Marne.

Everywhere, though there was no lack of determination to see the war
through to a finish, no matter how remote that might be, the feeling
was that this war was too huge, too vast, to last long. Exhaustion
would end it. War upon the modern scale could not last. So they said
--in September, 1914! So many of us believed--and this is the spring
of the fourth year of the war, and the end is not yet, is not in
sight, I fear.

Sydney turned out, almost as magnificently as when I had first landed
upon Australian soil, to bid me farewell. And we embarked again upon
that same old _Sonoma_ that had brought us to Australia. Again I saw
Paga-Paga and the natural folk, who had no need to toil nor spin to
live upon the fat of the land and be arrayed in the garments that
were always up to the minute in style.

Again I saw Honolulu, and, this time, stayed longer, and gave a
performance. But, though we were there longer, it was not long enough
to make me yield to that temptation to cuddle one of the brown
lassies! Aweel, I was not so young as I had been, and Mrs. Lauder--
you ken that she was travelling with me?

In the harbor of Honolulu there was a German gunboat, the _Geier_,
that had run there for shelter not long since, and had still left a
day or two, under the orders from Washington, to decide whether she
would let herself be interned or not. And outside, beyond the three
mile limit that marked the end of American territorial waters, were
two good reasons to make the German think well of being interned.
They were two cruisers, squat and ugly and vicious in their gray war
paint, that watched the entrance to the harbor as you have seen a cat
watching a rat hole.

It was not Britain's white ensign that they flew, those cruisers. It
was the red sun flag of Japan, one of Britain's allies against the
Hun. They had their vigil in vain, did those two cruisers. It was
valor's better part, discretion, that the German captain chose.
Aweel, you could no blame him! He and his ship would have been blown
out of the water so soon as she poked her nose beyond American
waters, had he chosen to go out and fight.

I was glad indeed when we came in sight of the Golden Gate once more,
and when we were safe ashore in San Francisco. It had been a
nerve-racking voyage in many ways. My wife and I were torn with
anxiety about our boy. And there were German raiders loose; one or two
had, so far, eluded the cordon the British fleet had flung about the
world. One night, soon after we left Honolulu, we were stopped. We
thought it was a British cruiser that stopped us, but she would only
ask questions--answering those we asked was not for her!

But we were ashore at last. There remained only the trip across the
United States to New York and the voyage across the Atlantic home.



CHAPTER III

Now indeed we began to get real news of the war. We heard of how that
little British army had flung itself into the maw of the Hun. I came
to know something of the glories of the retreat from Mons, and of how
French and British had turned together at the Marne and had saved
Paris. But, alas, I heard too of how many brave men had died--had
been sacrificed, many and many a man of them, to the failure of
Britain to prepare.

That was past and done. What had been wrong was being mended now.
Better, indeed--ah, a thousand times better!--had Britain given heed
to Lord Roberts, when he preached the gospel of readiness and prayed
his countrymen to prepare for the war that he in his wisdom had
foreseen. But it was easier now to look into the future.

I could see, as all the world was beginning to see, that this war was
not like other wars. Lord Kitchener had said that Britain must make
ready for a three year war, and I, for one, believed him when others
scoffed, and said he was talking so to make the recruits for his
armies come faster to the colors. I could see that this war might
last for years. And it was then, back in 1914, in the first winter of
the war, that I began to warn my friends in America that they might
well expect the Hun to drag them into the war before its end. And I
made up my mind that I must beg Americans who would listen to me to
prepare.

So, all the way across the continent, I spoke, in every town we
visited, on that subject of preparedness. I had seen Britain, living
in just such a blissful anticipation of eternal peace as America then
dreamed of. I had heard, for years, every attempt that was made to
induce Britain to increase her army met with the one, unvarying reply.

"We have our fleet!" That was the answer that was made. And, be it
remembered, that at sea, Britain _was_ prepared! "We have our fleet.
We need no army. If there is a Continental war, we may not be drawn
in at all. Even if we are, they can't reach us. The fleet is between
us and invasion."

"But," said the advocates of preparedness, "we might have to send an
expeditionary force. If France were attacked, we should have to help
her on land as well as at sea. And we have sent armies to the
continent before."

"Yes," the other would reply. "We have an expeditionary force. We can
send more than a hundred thousand men across the channel at short
notice--the shortest. And we can train more men here, at home, in
case of need. The fleet makes that possible."

Aye, the fleet made that possible. The world may well thank God for
the British fleet. I do not know, and I do not like to think, what
might have come about save for the British fleet. But I do know what
came to that expeditionary force that we sent across the channel
quickly, to the help of our sore stricken ally, France. How many of
that old British army still survive?

They gave themselves utterly. They were the pick and the flower of
our trained manhood. They should have trained the millions who were
to rise at Kitchener's call. But they could not be held back. They
are gone. Others have risen up to take their places--ten for one--a
hundred for one! But had they been ready at the start! The bonnie
laddies who would be living now, instead of lying in an unmarked
grave in France or Flanders! The women whose eyes would never have
been reddened by their weeping as they mourned a son or a brother or
a husband!

So I was thinking as I set out to talk to my American friends and beg
them to prepare--prepare! I did not want to see this country share
the experience of Britain. If she needs must be drawn into the war--
and so I believed, profoundly, from the time when I first learned the
true measure of the Hun--I hoped that she might be ready when she
drew her mighty sword.

They thought I was mad, at first, many of those to whom I talked.
They were so far away from the war. And already the propaganda of the
Germans was at work. Aye, they thought I was raving when I told them
I'd stake my word on it. America would never be able to stay out
until the end. They listened to me. They were willing to do that. But
they listened, doubtingly. I think I convinced few of ought save that
I believed myself what I was saying.

I could tell them, do you ken, that I'd thought, at first, as they
did! Why, over yon, in Australia, when I'd first heard that the
Germans were attacking France, I was sorry, for France is a bonnie
land. But the idea that Britain might go in I, even then, had laughed
at. And then Britain _had_ gone in! My own boy had gone to the war.
For all I knew I might be reading of him, any day, when I read of a
charge or a fight over there in France! Anything was possible--aye,
probable!

I have never called myself a prophet. But then, I think, I had
something of a prophet's vision. And all the time I was struggling
with my growing belief that this was to be a long war, and a
merciless war. I did not want to believe some of the things I knew I
must believe. But every day came news that made conviction sink in
deeper and yet deeper.

It was not a happy trip, that one across the United States. Our
friends did all they could to make it so, but we were consumed by too
many anxieties and cares. How different was it from my journey
westward--only nine months earlier! The world had changed forever in
those nine months.

Everywhere I spoke for preparedness. I addressed the Rotary Clubs,
and great audiences turned out to listen to me. I am a Rotarian
myself, and I am proud indeed that I may so proclaim myself. It is a
great organization. Those who came to hear me were cordial, nearly
always. But once or twice I met hostility, veiled but not to be
mistaken. And it was easy to trace it to its source. Germans, who
loved the country they had left behind them to come to a New World
that offered them a better home and a richer life than they could
ever have aspired to at home, were often at the bottom of the
opposition to what I had to say.

They did not want America to prepare, lest her weight be flung into
the scale against Germany. And there were those who hated Britain.
Some of these remembered old wars and grudges that sensible folk had
forgotten long since; others, it may be, had other motives. But there
was little real opposition to what I had to say. It was more a good
natured scoffing, and a feeling that I was cracked a wee bit,
perhaps, about the war.

I was not sorry to see New York again. We stayed there but one day,
and then sailed for home on the Cunarder _Orduna_--which has since
been sunk, like many another good ship, by the Hun submarines.

But those were the days just before the Hun began his career of real
frightfulness upon the sea--and under it. Even the Hun came gradually
to the height of his powers in this war. It was not until some weeks
later that he startled the world by proclaiming that every ship that
dared to cross a certain zone of the sea would be sunk without warning.

When we sailed upon the old _Orduna_ we had anxieties, to be sure.
The danger of striking a mine was never absent, once we neared the
British coasts. There was always the chance, we knew, that some
German raider might have slipped through the cordon in the North Sea.
But the terrors that were to follow the crime of the _Lusitania_ still
lay in the future. They were among the things no man could foresee.

The _Orduna_ brought us safe to the Mersey and we landed at Liverpool.
Even had there been no thought of danger to the ship, that voyage would
have been a hard one for us to endure. We never ceased thinking of John,
longing for him and news of him. It was near Christmas, but we had small
hope that we should be able to see him on that day.

All through the voyage we were shut away from all news. The wireless
is silenced in time of war, save for such work as the government
allows. There is none of the free sending, from shore to ship, and
ship to ship, of all the news of the world, such as one grows to
welcome in time of peace. And so, from New York until we neared the
British coast, we brooded, all of us. How fared it with Britain in
the war? Had the Hun launched some new and terrible attack?

[ILLUSTRATION: "I did not stop at sending out my recruiting band. I
went out myself.". (See Lauder02.jpg)]

But two days out from home we saw a sight to make us glad and end our
brooding for a space.

"Eh, Harry--come and look you!" someone called to me. It was early in
the morning, and there was a mist about us.

I went to the rail and looked in the direction I was told. And there,
rising suddenly out of the mist, shattering it, I saw great, gray
ships--warships--British battleships and cruisers. There they were,
some of the great ships that are the steel wall around Britain that
holds her safe. My heart leaped with joy and pride at the sight of
them, those great, gray guardians of the British shores, bulwarks of
steel that fend all foemen from the rugged coast and the fair land
that lies behind it.

Now we were safe, ourselves! Who would not trust the British navy,
after the great deeds it has done in this war? For there, mind you,
is the one force that has never failed. The British navy has done
what it set out to do. It has kept command of the seas. The
submarines? The tin fish? They do not command the sea! Have they kept
Canada's men, and America's, from reaching France?

When we landed my first inquiry was for my son John. He was well, and
he was still in England, in training at Bedford with his regiment,
the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. But it was as we had feared.
Our Christmas must be kept apart. And so the day before Christmas
found us back in our wee hoose on the Clyde, at Dunoon. But we
thought of little else but the laddie who was making ready to fight
for us, and of the day, that was coming soon, when we should see him.



CHAPTER IV

It was a fitting place to train men for war, Bedford, where John was
with his regiment, and where his mother and I went to see him so soon
as we could after Christmas. It is in the British midlands, but
before the factory towns begin. It is a pleasant, smiling country,
farming country, mostly, with good roads, and fields that gave the
boys chances to learn the work of digging trenches--aye, and living
in them afterward.

Bedford is one of the great school towns of England. Low, rolling
hills lie about it; the river Ouse, a wee, quiet stream, runs through
it. Schooling must be in the air of Bedford! Three great schools for
boys are there, and two for girls. And Liberty is in the air of
Bedford, too, I think! John Bunyan was born two miles from Bedford,
and his old house still stands in Elstow, a little village of old
houses and great oaks. And it was in Bedford Jail that Bunyan was
imprisoned because he would fight for the freedom of his own soul.

John was waiting to greet us, and he looked great. He had two stars
now where he had one before--he had been promoted to first
lieutenant. There were curious changes in the laddie I remembered. He
was bigger, I thought, and he looked older, and graver. But that I
could not wonder at. He had a great responsibility. The lives of
other men had been entrusted to him, and John was not the man to take
a responsibility like that lightly.

I saw him the first day I was at Bedford, leading some of his men in
a practice charge. Big, braw laddies they were--all in their kilts.
He ran ahead of them, smiling as he saw me watching them, but turning
back to cheer them on if he thought they were not fast enough. I
could see as I watched him that he had caught the habit of command.
He was going to be a good officer. It was a proud thought for me, and
again I was rejoiced that it was such a son that I was able to offer
to my country.

They were kept busy at that training camp. Men were needed sore in
France. Recruits were going over every day. What the retreat from
Mons and the Battle of the Marne had left of that first heroic
expeditionary force the first battle of Ypres had come close to
wiping out. In the Ypres salient our men out there were hanging on
like grim death. There was no time to spare at Bedford, where men
were being made ready as quickly as might be to take their turn in
the trenches.

But there was a little time when John and I could talk.

"What do you need most, son?" I asked him.

"Men!" he cried. "Men, Dad, men! They're coming in quickly. Oh,
Britain has answered nobly to the call. But they're not coming in
fast enough. We must have more men--more men!"

I had thought, when I asked my question, of something John might be
needing for himself, or for his men, mayhap. But when he answered me
so I said nothing. I only began to think. I wanted to go myself. But
I knew they would not have me--yet awhile, at any rate. And still I
felt that I must do something. I could not rest idle while all around
me men were giving themselves and all they had and were.

Everywhere I heard the same cry that John had raised:

"Men! Give us men!"

It came from Lord Kitchener. It came from the men in command in
France and Belgium--that little strip of Belgium the Hun had not been
able to conquer. It came from every broken, maimed man who came back
home to Britain to be patched up that he might go out again. There
were scores of thousands of men in Britain who needed only the last
quick shove to send them across the line of enlistment. And after I
had thought a while I hit upon a plan.

"What stirs a man's fighting spirit quicker or better than the right
sort of music?" I asked myself. "And what sort of music does it best
of all?"

There can be only one answer to that last question! And so I
organized my recruiting band, that was to be famous all over Britain
before so very long. I gathered fourteen of the best pipers and
drummers I could find in all Scotland. I equipped them, gave them the
Highland uniform, and sent them out, to travel over Britain skirling
and drumming the wail of war through the length and breadth of the
land. They were to go everywhere, carrying the shrieking of the pipes
into the highways and the byways, and so they did. And I paid the bills.

That was the first of many recruiting bands that toured Britain.
Because it was the first, and because of the way the pipers skirled
out the old hill melodies and songs of Scotland, enormous crowds
followed my band. And it led them straight to the recruiting
stations. There was a swing and a sway about those old tunes that the
young fellows couldn't resist.

The pipers would begin to skirl and the drums to beat in a square,
maybe, or near the railway station. And every time the skirling of
the pipes would bring the crowd. Then the pipers would march, when
the crowd was big enough, and lead the way always to the recruiting
place. And once they were there the young fellows who weren't "quite
ready to decide" and the others who were just plain slackers, willing
to let better men die for them, found it mighty hard to keep from going
on the wee rest of the way that the pipers had left them to make alone!

It was wonderful work my band did, and when the returns came to me I
felt like the Pied Piper! Yes I did, indeed!

I did not travel with my band. That would have been a waste of
effort. There was work for both of us to do, separately. I was booked
for a tour of Britain, and everywhere I went I spoke, and urged the
young men to enlist. I made as many speeches as I could, in every
town and city that I visited, and I made special trips to many. I
thought, and there were those who agreed with me, that I could, it
might be, reach audiences another speaker, better trained than I, no
doubt, in this sort of work, would not touch.

So there was I, without official standing, going about, urging every
man who could to don khaki. I talked wherever and whenever I could
get an audience together, and I began then the habit of making
speeches in the theatres, after my performance, that I have not yet
given up. I talked thus to the young men.

"If you don't do your duty now," I told them, "you may live to be old
men. But even if you do, you will regret it! Yours will be a
sorrowful old age. In the years to come, mayhap, there'll be a wee
grandchild nestling on your knee that'll circle its little arms about
your neck and look into your wrinkled face, and ask you:

"'How old are you, Grandpa? You're a very old man.'

"How will you answer that bairn's question?" So I asked the young
men. And then I answered for them: "I don't know how old I am, but I
am so old that I can remember the great war."

"And then"--I told them, the young men who were wavering--"and then
will come the question that you will always have to dread--when you
have won through to the old age that may be yours in safety if you
shirk now! For the bairn will ask you, straightaway: 'Did _you_ fight
in the great war, Grandpa? What did you do?'

"God help the man," I told them, "who cannot hand it down as a
heritage to his children and his children's children that he fought
in the great war!"

I must have impressed many a brave lad who wanted only a bit of
resolution to make him do his duty. They tell me that I and my band
together influenced more than twelve thousand men to join the colors;
they give me credit for that many, in one way and another. I am proud
of that. But I am prouder still of the way the boys who enlisted upon
my urging feel. Never a one has upbraided me; never a one has told me
he was sorry he had heard me and been led to go.

It is far otherwise. The laddies who went because of me called me
their godfather, many of them! Many's the letter I have had from
them; many the one who has greeted me, as I was passing through a
hospital, or, long afterward, when I made my first tour in France,
behind the front line trenches. Many letters, did I say? I have had
hundreds--thousands! And not so much as a word of regret in any one
of them.

It was not only in Britain that I influenced enlistments. I preached
the cause of the Empire in Canada, later. And here is a bit of verse
that a Canadian sergeant sent to me. He dedicated it to me, indeed,
and I am proud and glad that he did.

     "ONE OF THE BOYS WHO WENT"

     Say, here now, Mate,
     Don't you figure it's great
       To think when this war is all over;
     When we're through with this mud,
     And spilling o' 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 last penny is spent;
     We'll still have a thought--
     If it's all that we've got--
       I'm one of the boys who went!
     And perhaps later on
     When your wild days are gone,
       You'll be 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.
     When a few years have flown,
     And you've kids of your own,
       And you're feeling quite snug and content;
     It'll make your heart glad
     When they boast of their dad
       As one of the boys who went!

There was much work for me to do beside my share in the campaign to
increase enlistments. Every day now the wards of the hospitals were
filling up. Men suffering from frightful wounds came back to be
mended and made as near whole as might be. And among them there was
work for me, if ever the world held work for any man.

I did not wait to begin my work in the hospitals. Everywhere I went,
where there were wounded men, I sang for those who were strong enough
to be allowed to listen, and told them stories, and did all I could
to cheer them up. It was heartrending work, oftentimes. There were
dour sights, dreadful sights in those hospitals. There were wounds
the memory of which robbed me of sleep. There were men doomed to
blindness for the rest of their lives.

But over all there was a spirit that never lagged or faltered, and
that strengthened me when I thought some sight was more than I could
bear. It was the spirit of the British soldier, triumphant over
suffering and cruel disfigurement, with his inevitable answer to any
question as to how he was getting on. I never heard that answer
varied when a man could speak at all. Always it was the same. Two
words were enough.

"All right!"



CHAPTER V

As I went about the country now, working hard to recruit men, to
induce people to subscribe to the war loan, doing all the things in
which I saw a chance to make myself useful, there was now an ever
present thought. When would John go out? He must go soon. I knew
that, so did his mother. We had learned that he would not be sent
without a chance to bid us good-by. There we were better off than
many a father and mother in the early days of the war. Many's the
mother who learned first that her lad had gone to France when they
told her he was dead. And many's the lassie who learned in the same
way that her lover would never come home to be her husband.

But by now Britain was settled down to war. It was as if war were the
natural state of things, and everything was adjusted to war and those
who must fight it. And many things were ordered better and more
mercifully than they had been at first.

It was in April that word came to us. We might see John again, his
mother and I, if we hurried to Bedford. And so we did. For once I
heeded no other call. It was a sad journey, but I was proud and glad
as well as sorry. John must do his share. There was no reason why my
son should take fewer risks than another man's. That was something
all Britain was learning in those days. We were one people. We must
fight as one; one for all--all for one.

John was sober when he met us. Sober, aye! But what a light there was
in his eyes! He was eager to be at the Huns. Tales of their doings
were coming back to us now, faster and faster. They were tales to
shock me. But they were tales, too, to whet the courage and sharpen
the steel of every man who could fight and meant to go.

It was John's turn to go. So it was he felt. And so it was his mother
and I bid him farewell, there at Bedford. We did not know whether we
would ever see him again, the bonnie laddie! We had to bid him good-by,
lest it be our last chance. For in Britain we knew, by then, what were
the chances they took, those boys of ours who went out.

"Good-by, son--good luck!"

"Good-by, Dad. See you when I get leave!"

That was all. We were not allowed to know more than that he was
ordered to France. Whereabouts in the long trench line he would be
sent we were not told. "Somewhere in France." That phrase, that had
been dinned so often into our ears, had a meaning for us now.

And now, indeed, our days and nights were anxious ones. The war was
in our house as it had never been before. I could think of nothing
but my boy. And yet, all the time I had to go on. I had to carry on,
as John was always bidding his men do. I had to appear daily before
my audiences, and laugh and sing, that I might make them laugh, and
so be better able to do their part.

They had made me understand, my friends, by that time, that it was
really right for me to carry on with my own work. I had not thought
so at first. I had felt that it was wrong for me to be singing at
such a time. But they showed me that I was influencing thousands to
do their duty, in one way or another, and that I was helping to keep
up the spirit of Britain, too.

"Never forget the part that plays, Harry," my friends told me.
"That's the thing the Hun can't understand. He thought the British
would be poor fighters because they went into action with a laugh.
But that's the thing that makes them invincible. You've your part to
do in keeping up that spirit."

So I went on but it was with a heavy heart, oftentimes. John's
letters were not what made my heart heavy. There was good cheer in
everyone of them. He told us as much as the censor's rules would let
him of the front, and of conditions as he found them. They were still
bad--cruelly bad. But there was no word of complaint from John.

The Germans still had the best of us in guns in those days, although
we were beginning to catch up with them. And they knew more about
making themselves comfortable in the trenches than did our boys. No
wonder! They spent years of planning and making ready for this war.
And it has not taken us so long, all things considered, to catch up
with them.

John's letters were cheery and they came regularly, too, for a time.
But I suppose it was because they left out so much, because there was
so great a part of my boy's life that was hidden from me, that I
found myself thinking more and more of John as a wee bairn and as a
lad growing up.

He was a real boy. He had the real boy's spirit of fun and mischief.
There was a story I had often told of him that came to my mind now.
We were living in Glasgow. One drizzly day, Mrs. Lauder kept John in
the house, and he spent the time standing at the parlor window
looking down on the street, apparently innocently interested in the
passing traffic.

In Glasgow it is the custom for the coal dealers to go along the
streets with their lorries, crying their wares, much after the manner
of a vegetable peddler in America. If a housewife wants any coal, she
goes to the window when she hears the hail of the coal man, and holds
up a finger, or two fingers, according to the number of sacks of coal
she wants.

To Mrs. Lauder's surprise, and finally to her great vexation, coal
men came tramping up our stairs every few minutes all afternoon, each
one staggering under the weight of a hundredweight sack of coal. She
had ordered no coal and she wanted no coal, but still the coal men
came--a veritable pest of them.

They kept coming, too, until she discovered that little John was the
author of their grimy pilgrimages to our door. He was signalling
every passing lorrie from the window in the Glasgow coal code!

I watched him from that window another day when he was quarreling
with a number of playmates in the street below. The quarrel finally
ended in a fight. John was giving one lad a pretty good pegging, when
the others decided that the battle was too much his way, and jumped
on him.

John promptly executed a strategic retreat. He retreated with
considerable speed, too. I saw him running; I heard the patter of his
feet on our stairs, and a banging at our door. I opened it and
admitted a flushed, disheveled little warrior, and I heard the other
boys shouting up the stairs what they would do to him.

By the time I got the door closed, and got back to our little parlor,
John was standing at the window, giving a marvelous pantomime for the
benefit of his enemies in the street. He was putting his small,
clenched fist now to his nose, and now to his jaw, to indicate to the
youngsters what he was going to do to them later on.

Those, and a hundred other little incidents, were as fresh in my
memory as if they had only occurred yesterday. His mother and I
recalled them over and over again. From the day John was born, it
seems to me the only things that really interested me were the things
in which he was concerned. I used to tuck him in his crib at night.
The affairs of his babyhood were far more important to me than my own
personal affairs.

I watched him grow and develop with enormous pride, and he took great
pride in me. That to me was far sweeter than praise from crowned
heads. Soon he was my constant companion. He was my business
confidant. More--he was my most intimate friend.

There were no secrets between us. I think that John and I talked of
things that few fathers and sons have the courage to discuss. He
never feared to ask my advice on any subject, and I never feared to
give it to him.

I wish you could have known my son as he was to me. I wish all
fathers could know their sons as I knew John. He was the most
brilliant conversationalist I have ever known. He was my ideal
musician.

He took up music only as an accomplishment, however. He did not want
to be a performer, although he had amazing natural talent in that
direction. Music was born in him. He could transpose a melody in any
key. You could whistle an air for him, and he could turn it into a
little opera at once.

However, he was anxious to make for himself in some other line of
endeavor, and while he was often my piano accompanist, he never had
any intention of going on the stage.

When he was fifteen years old, I was commanded to appear before King
Edward, who was a guest at Rufford Abbey, the seat of Lord and Lady
Sayville, situated in a district called the Dukeries, and I took John
as my accompanist.

I gave my usual performance, and while I was making my changes, John
played the piano. At the close, King Edward sent for me, and thanked
me. It was a proud moment for me, but a prouder moment came when the
King spoke of John's playing, and thanked him for his part in the
entertainment.

There were curious contradictions, it often seemed to me, in John.
His uncle, Tom Vallance, was in his day, one of the very greatest
football players in Scotland. But John never greatly liked the game.
He thought it was too rough. He thought any game was a poor game in
which players were likely to be hurt. And yet--he had been eager for
the rough game of war! The roughest game of all!

Ah, but that was not a game to him! He was not one of those who went
to war with a light heart, as they might have entered upon a football
match. All honor to those who went into the war so--they played a
great part and a noble part! But there were more who went to war as
my boy did--taking it upon themselves as a duty and a solemn
obligation. They had no illusions. They did not love war. No! John
hated war, and the black ugly horrors of it. But there were things he
hated more than he hated war. And one was a peace won through
submission to injustice.

Have I told you how my boy looked? He was slender, but he was strong
and wiry. He was about five feet five inches tall; he topped his Dad
by a handspan. And he was the neatest boy you might ever have hoped
to see. Aye--but he did not inherit that from me! Indeed, he used to
reproach me, oftentimes, for being careless about my clothes. My
collar would be loose, perhaps, or my waistcoat would not fit just
so. He'd not like that, and he would tell me so!

When he did that I would tell him of times when he was a wee boy, and
would come in from play with a dirty face; how his mother would order
him to wash, and how he would painstakingly mop off just enough of
his features to leave a dark ring abaft his cheeks, and above his
eyes, and below his chin.

"You wash your face, but never let on to your neck," I would tell him
when he was a wee laddie.

He had a habit then of parting and brushing about an inch of his
hair, leaving the rest all topsy-turvy. My recollection of that
boyhood habit served me as a defense in later years when he would
call my attention to my own disordered hair.

I linger long, and I linger lovingly over these small details,
because they are part of my daily thoughts. Every day some little
incident comes up to remind me of my boy. A battered old hamper, in
which I carry my different character make-ups, stands in my dressing
room. It was John's favorite seat. Every time I look at it I have a
vision of a tiny wide-eyed boy perched on the lid, watching me make
ready for the stage. A lump rises, unbidden, in my throat.

In all his life, I never had to admonish my son once. Not once. He
was the most considerate lad I have ever known. He was always
thinking of others. He was always doing for others.

It was with such thoughts as these that John's mother and I filled in
the time between his letters. They came as if by a schedule. We knew
what post should bring one. And once or twice a letter was a post
late and our hearts were in our throats with fear. And then came a
day when there should have been a letter, and none came. The whole
day passed. I tried to comfort John's mother! I tried to believe
myself that it was no more than a mischance of the post. But it was
not that.

We could do nought but wait. Ah, but the folks at home in Britain
know all too well those sinister breaks in the chains of letters from
the front! Such a break may mean nothing or anything.

For us, news came quickly. But it was not a letter from John that
came to us. It was a telegram from the war office and it told us no
more than that our boy was wounded and in hospital.



CHAPTER VI

"Wounded and in hospital!"

That might have meant anything. And for a whole week that was all we
knew. To hope for word more definite until--and unless--John himself
could send us a message, appeared to be hopeless. Every effort we
made ended in failure. And, indeed, at such a time, private inquiries
could not well be made. The messages that had to do with the war and
with the business of the armies had to be dealt with first.

But at last, after a week in which his mother and I almost went mad
with anxiety, there came a note from our laddie himself. He told us
not to fret--that all that ailed him was that his nose was split and
his wrist bashed up a bit! His mother looked at me and I at her. It
seemed bad enough to us! But he made light of his wounds--aye, and he
was right! When I thought of men I'd seen in hospitals--men with
wounds so frightful that they may not be told of--I rejoiced that
John had fared so well.

And I hoped, too, that his wounds would bring him home to us--to
Blighty, as the Tommies were beginning to call Britain. But his
wounds were not serious enough for that and so soon as they were
healed, he went back to the trenches.

"Don't worry about me," he wrote to us. "Lots of fellows out here
have been wounded five and six times, and don't think anything of it.
I'll be all right so long as I don't get knocked out."

He didn't tell us then that it was the bursting of a shell that gave
him his first wounded stripe. But he wrote to us regularly again, and
there were scarcely any days in which a letter did not come either to
me or to his mother. When one of those breaks did come it was doubly
hard to bear now.

For now we knew what it was to dread the sight of a telegraph
messenger. Few homes in Britain there are that do not share that
knowledge now. It is by telegraph, from the war office, that bad news
comes first. And so, with the memory of that first telegram that we
had had, matters were even worse, somehow, than they had been before.
For me the days and nights dragged by as if they would never pass.

There was more news in John's letters now. We took some comfort from
that. I remember one in which he told his mother how good a bed he
had finally made for himself the night before. For some reason he was
without quarters--either a billet or a dug-out. He had to skirmish
around, for he did not care to sleep simply in Flanders mud. But at
last he found two handfuls of straw, and with them made his couch.

"I got a good two hours' sleep," he wrote to his mother. "And I was
perfectly comfortable. I can tell you one thing, too, Mother. If I
ever get home after this experience, there'll be one in the house
who'll never grumble! This business puts the grumbling out of your
head. This is where the men are. This is where every man ought to be."

In another letter he told us that nine of his men had been killed.

"We buried them last night," he wrote, "just as the sun went down. It
was the first funeral I have ever attended. It was most impressive.
We carried the boys to one huge grave. The padre said a prayer, and
we lowered the boys into the ground, and we all sang a little hymn:
'Peace, Perfect Peace!' Then I called my men to attention again, and
we marched straight back into the trenches, each of us, I dare say,
wondering who would be the next."

John was promoted for the second time in Flanders. He was a captain,
having got his step on the field of battle. Promotion came swiftly in
those days to those who proved themselves worthy. And all of the few
reports that came to us of John showed us that he was a good officer.
His men liked him, and trusted him, and would follow him anywhere.
And little more than that can be said of any officer.

While Captain John Lauder was playing his part across the Channel, I
was still trying to do what I could at home. My band still travelled
up and down, the length and width of the United Kingdom, skirling and
drumming and drawing men by the score to the recruiting office.

There was no more talk now of a short war. We knew what we were in
for now.

But there was no thought or talk of anything save victory. Let the
war go on as long as it must--it could end only in one way. We had
been forced into the fight--but we were in, and we were in to stay.
John, writing from France, was no more determined than those at home.

It was not very long before there came again a break in John's
letters. We were used to the days--far apart--that brought no word.
Not until the second day and the third day passed without a word, did
Mrs. Lauder and I confess our terrors and our anxiety to ourselves
and one another. This time our suspense was comparatively short-lived.
Word came that John was in hospital again--at the Duke of Westminster's
hospital at Le Toquet, in France. This time he was not wounded; he was
suffering from dysentery, fever and--a nervous breakdown. That was what
staggered his mother and me. A nervous breakdown! We could not reconcile
the John we knew with the idea that the words conveyed to us. He had
been high strung, to be sure, and sensitive. But never had he been the
sort of boy of whom to expect a breakdown so severe as this must be if
they had sent him to the hospital.

We could only wait to hear from him, however. And it was several
weeks before he was strong enough to be able to write to us. There
was no hint of discouragement in what he wrote then. On the contrary,
he kept on trying to reassure us, and if he ever grew downhearted, he
made it his business to see that we did not suspect it. Here is one
of his letters--like most of them it was not about himself.

"I had a sad experience yesterday," he wrote to me. "It was the first
day I was able to be out of bed, and I went over to a piano in a
corner against the wall, sat down, and began playing very softly,
more to myself than anything else.

"One of the nurses came to me, and said a Captain Webster, of the
Gordon Highlanders, who lay on a bed in the same ward, wanted to
speak to me. She said he had asked who was playing, and she had told
him Captain Lauder--Harry Lauder's son. 'Oh,' he said, 'I know Harry
Lauder very well. Ask Captain Lauder to come here?'

"This man had gone through ten operations in less than a week. I
thought perhaps my playing had disturbed him, but when I went to his
bedside, he grasped my hand, pressed it with what little strength he
had left, and thanked me. He asked me if I could play a hymn. He said
he would like to hear 'Lead, Kindly Light.'

"So I went back to the piano and played it as softly and as gently as
I could. It was his last request. He died an hour later. I was very
glad I was able to soothe his last moments a little. I am very glad
now I learned the hymn at Sunday School as a boy."

[ILLUSTRATION: "'Carry On!' were the last words of my boy, Captain
John Lauder, to his men, but he would mean them for me, too." (See
Lauder03.jpg)]

Soon after we received that letter there came what we could not but
think great news. John was ordered home! He was invalided, to be
sure, and I warned his mother that she must be prepared for a shock
when she saw him. But no matter how ill he was, we would have our lad
with us for a space. And for that much British fathers and mothers
had learned to be grateful.

I had warned John's mother, but it was I who was shocked when I saw
him first on the day he came back to our wee hoose at Dunoon. His
cheeks were sunken, his eyes very bright, as a man's are who has a
fever. He was weak and thin, and there was no blood in his cheeks. It
was a sight to wring one's heart to see the laddie so brought down--
him who had looked so braw and strong the last time we had seen him.

That had been when he was setting out for the wars, you ken! And now
he was back, sae thin and weak and pitiful as I had not seen him
since he had been a bairn in his mother's arms.

Aweel, it was for us, his mother and I, and all the folks at home, to
mend him, and make him strong again. So he told us, for he had but
one thing on his mind--to get back to his men.

"They'll be needing me, out there," he said. "They're needing men. I
must go back so soon as I can. Every man is needed there."

"You'll be needing your strength back before you can be going back,
son," I told him. "If you fash and fret it will take you but so much
the longer to get back."

He knew that. But he knew things I could not know, because I had not
seen them. He had seen things that he saw over and over again when he
tried to sleep. His nerves were shattered utterly. It grieved me sore
not to spend all my time with him but he would not hear of it. He
drove me back to my work.

"You must work on, Dad, like every other Briton," he said. "Think of
the part you're playing. Why you're more use than any of us out
there--you're worth a brigade!"

So I left him on the Clyde, and went on about my work. But I went
back to Dunoon as often as I could, as I got a day or a night to make
the journey. At first there was small change of progress. John would
come downstairs about the middle of the day, moving slowly and
painfully. And he was listless; there was no life in him; no
resiliency or spring.

"How did you rest, son?" I would ask him. He always smiled when he
answered.

"Oh, fairly well," he'd tell me. "I fought three or four battles
though, before I dropped off to sleep."

He had come to the right place to be cured, though, and his mother
was the nurse he needed. It was quiet in the hills of the Clyde, and
there was rest and healing in the heather about Dunoon. Soon his
sleep became better and less troubled by dreams. He could eat more,
too, and they saw to it, at home, that he ate all they could stuff
into him.

So it was a surprisingly short time, considering how bad he had
looked when he first came back to Dunoon, before he was in good
health and spirits again. There was a bonnie, wee lassie who was to
become Mrs. John Lauder ere so long--she helped our boy, too, to get
back his strength.

Soon he was ordered from home. For a time he had only light duties
with the Home Reserve. Then he went to school. I laughed when he told
me he had been ordered to school, but he didna crack a smile.

"You needn't be laughing," he said. "It's a bombing school I'm going
to now-a-days. If you're away from the front for a few weeks, you
find everything changed when you get back. Bombing is going to be
important."

John did so well in the bombing school that he was made an instructor
and assigned, for a while, to teach others. But he was impatient to
be back with his own men, and they were clamoring for him. And so, on
September 16, 1916, his mother and I bade him good-by again, and he
went back to France and the men his heart was wrapped up in.

"Yon's where the men are, Dad!" he said to me, just before he started.



CHAPTER VII

John's mother, his sweetheart and I all saw him off at Glasgow. The
fear was in all our hearts, and I think it must have been in all our
eyes, as well--the fear that every father and mother and sweetheart
in Britain shared with us in these days whenever they saw a boy off
for France and the trenches. Was it for the last time? Were we seeing
him now so strong and hale and hearty, only to have to go the rest of
our lives with no more than a memory of him to keep?

Aweel, we could not be telling that! We could only hope and pray! And
we had learned again to pray, long since. I have wondered, often, and
Mrs. Lauder has wondered with me, what the fathers and mothers of
Britain would do in these black days without prayer to guide them and
sustain them. So we could but stand there, keeping back our tears and
our fears, and hoping for the best. One thing was sure; we might not
let the laddie see how close we were to greeting. It was for us to be
so brave as God would let us be. It was hard for him. He was no boy,
you ken, going blindly and gayly to a great adventure; he had need of
the finest courage and devotion a man could muster that day.

For he knew fully now what it was that he was going back to. He knew
the hell the Huns had made of war, which had been bad enough, in all
conscience, before they did their part to make it worse. And he was
high strung. He could live over, and I make no doubt he did, in those
days after he had his orders to go back, every grim and dreadful
thing that was waiting for him out there. He had been through it all,
and he was going back. He had come out of the valley of the shadow,
and now he was to ride down into it again.

And it was with a smile he left us! I shall never forget that. His
thought was all for us whom he was leaving behind. His care was for
us, lest we should worry too greatly and think too much of him.

"I'll be all right," he told us. "You're not to fret about me, any of
you. A man does take his chances out there--but they're the chances
every man must take these days, if he's a man at all. I'd rather be
taking them than be safe at home."

We did our best to match the laddie's spirit and be worthy of him.
But it was cruelly hard. We had lost him and found him again, and now
he was being taken from us for the second time. It was harder, much
harder, to see him go this second time than it had been at first, and
it had been hard enough then, and bad enough. But there was nothing
else for it. So much we knew. It was a thing ordered and inevitable.

And it was not many days before we had slipped back into the way
things had been before John was invalided home. It is a strange thing
about life, the way that one can become used to things. So it was
with us. Strange things, terrible things, outrageous things, that, in
time of peace, we would never have dared so much as to think
possible, came to be the matters of every day for us. It was so with
John. We came to think of it as natural that he should be away from
us, and in peril of his life every minute of every hour. It was not
easier for us. Indeed, it was harder than it had been before, just as
it had been harder for us to say good-by the second time. But we
thought less often of the strangeness of it. We were really growing
used to the war, and it was less the monstrous, strange thing than it
had been in our daily lives. War had become our daily life and
portion in Britain. All who were not slackers were doing their part--
every one. Man and woman and child were in it, making sacrifices.
Those happy days of peace lay far behind us, and we had lost our
touch with them and our memory of them was growing dim. We were all
in it. We had all to suffer alike, we were all in the same boat, we
mothers and fathers and sweethearts of Britain. And so it was easier
for us not to think too much and too often of our own griefs and
cares and anxieties.

John's letters began to come again in a steady stream. He was as
careful as ever about writing. There was scarcely a day that did not
bring its letter to one of the three of us. And what bonnie, brave
letters they were! They were as cheerful and as bright as his first
letters had been. If John had bad hours and bad days out there he
would not let us know it. He told us what news there was, and he was
always cheerful and bright when he wrote. He let no hint of
discouragement creep into anything he wrote to us. He thought of
others first, always and all the time; of his men, and of us at home.
He was quite cured and well, he told us, and going back had done him
good instead of harm. He wrote to us that he felt as if he had come
home. He felt, you ken, that it was there, in France and in the
trenches, that men should feel at home in those days, and not safe in
Britain by their ain firesides.

It was not easy for me to be cheerful and comfortable about him,
though. I had my work to do. I tried to do it as well as I could, for
I knew that that would please him. My band still went up and down the
country, getting recruits, and I was speaking, too, and urging men
myself to go out and join the lads who were fighting and dying for
them in France. They told me I was doing good work; that I was a
great force in the war. And I did, indeed, get many a word and many a
handshake from men who told me I had induced them to enlist.

"I'm glad I heard you, Harry," man after man said to me. "You showed
me what I should be doing and I've been easier in my mind ever since
I put on the khaki!"

I knew they'd never regret it, no matter what came to them. No man
will, that's done his duty. It's the slackers who couldn't or
wouldn't see their duty men should feel sorry for! It's not the lads
who gave everything and made the final sacrifice.

It was hard for me to go on with my work of making folks laugh. It
had been growing harder steadily ever since I had come home from
America and that long voyage of mine to Australia and had seen what
war was and what it was doing to Britain. But I carried on, and did
the best I could.

That winter I was in the big revue at the Shaftesbury Theatre, in
London, that was called "Three Cheers." It was one of the gay shows
that London liked because it gave some relief from the war and made
the Zeppelin raids that the Huns were beginning to make so often now
a little easier to bear. And it was a great place for the men who
were back from France. It was partly because of them that I could go
on as I did. We owed them all we could give them. And when they came
back from the mud and the grime and the dreariness of the trenches,
they needed something to cheer them up--needed the sort of production
we gave them. A man who has two days' leave in London does not want
to see a serious play or a problem drama, as a rule. He wants
something light, with lots of pretty girls and jolly tunes and people
to make him laugh. And we gave him that. The house was full of
officers and men, night after night.

Soon word came from John that he was to have leave, just after
Christmas, that would bring him home for the New Year's holidays. His
mother went home to make things ready, for John was to be married
when he got his leave. I had my plans all made. I meant to build a
wee hoose for the two of them, near our own hoose at Dunoon, so that
we might be all together, even though my laddie was in a home of his
own. And I counted the hours and the days against the time when John
would be home again.

While we were playing at the Shaftesbury I lived at an hotel in
Southampton Row called the Bonnington. But it was lonely for me
there. On New Year's Eve--it fell on a Sunday--Tom Vallance, my
brother-in-law, asked me to tea with him and his family in Clapham,
where he lived. That is a pleasant place, a suburb of London on the
southwest, and I was glad to go. And so I drove out with a friend of
mine, in a taxicab, and was glad to get out of the crowded part of
the city for a time.

I did not feel right that day. Holiday times were bad, hard times for
me then. We had always made so much of Christmas, and here was the
third Christmas that our boy had been away. And so I was depressed.
And then, there had been no word for me from John for a day or two. I
was not worried, for I thought it likely that his mother or his
sweetheart had heard, and had not time yet to let me know. But,
whatever the reason, I was depressed and blue, and I could not enter
into the festive spirit that folk were trying to keep alive despite
the war.

I must have been poor company during that ride to Clapham in the
taxicab. We scarcely exchanged a word, my friend and I. I did not
feel like talking, and he respected my mood, and kept quiet himself.
I felt, at last, that I ought to apologize to him.

"I don't know what's the matter with me," I told him. "I simply don't
want to talk. I feel sad and lonely. I wonder if my boy is all right?"

"Of course he is!" my friend told me. "Cheer up, Harry. This is a time
when no news is good news. If anything were wrong with him they'd let
you know."

Well, I knew that, too. And I tried to cheer up, and feel better, so
that I would not spoil the pleasure of the others at Tom Vallance's
house. I tried to picture John as I thought he must be--well, and
happy, and smiling the old, familiar boyish smile I knew so well. I
had sent him a box of cigars only a few days before, and he would be
handing it around among his fellow officers. I knew that! But it was
no use. I could think of John, but it was only with sorrow and
longing. And I wondered if this same time in a year would see him
still out there, in the trenches. Would this war ever end? And so the
shadows still hung about me when we reached Tom's house.

They made me very welcome, did Tom and all his family. They tried to
cheer me, and Tom did all he could to make me feel better, and to
reassure me. But I was still depressed when we left the house and
began the drive back to London.

"It's the holiday--I'm out of gear with that, I'm thinking," I told
my friend.

He was going to join two other friends, and, with them, to see the
New Year in in an old fashioned way, and he wanted me to join them.
But I did not feel up to it; I was not in the mood for anything of
the sort.

"No, no, I'll go home and turn in," I told him. "I'm too dull tonight
to be good company."

He hoped, as we all did, that this New Year that was coming would
bring victory and peace. Peace could not come without victory; we
were all agreed on that. But we all hoped that the New Year would
bring both--the new year of 1917. And so I left him at the corner of
Southhampton Row, and went back to my hotel alone. It was about
midnight, a little before, I think, when I got in, and one of the
porters had a message for me.

"Sir Thomas Lipton rang you up," he said, "and wants you to speak
with him when you come in."

I rang him up at home directly.

"Happy New Year, when it comes, Harry!" he said. He spoke in the same
bluff, hearty way he always did. He fairly shouted in my ear. "When
did you hear from the boy? Are you and Mrs. Lauder well?"

"Aye, fine," I told him. And I told him my last news of John.

"Splendid!" he said. "Well, it was just to talk to you a minute that
I rang you up, Harry. Good-night--Happy New Year again."

I went to bed then. But I did not go to sleep for a long time. It was
New Year's, and I lay thinking of my boy, and wondering what this
year would bring him. It was early in the morning before I slept. And
it seemed to me that I had scarce been asleep at all when there came
a pounding at the door, loud enough to rouse the heaviest sleeper
there ever was.

My heart almost stopped. There must be something serious indeed for
them to be rousing me so early. I rushed to the door, and there was a
porter, holding out a telegram. I took it and tore it open. And I
knew why I had felt as I had the day before. I shall never forget
what I read:

"Captain John Lauder killed in action, December 28. Official.
War Office."

It had gone to Mrs. Lauder at Dunoon first, and she had sent it on to
me. That was all it said. I knew nothing of how my boy had died, or
where--save that it was for his country.

But later I learned that when Sir Thomas Lipton had rung me up he had
intended to condole with me. He had heard on Saturday of my boy's
death. But when he spoke to me, and understood at once, from the tone
of my voice, that I did not know, he had not been able to go on. His
heart was too tender to make it possible for him to be the one to
give me that blow--the heaviest that ever befell me.



CHAPTER VIII

It was on Monday morning, January the first, 1917, that I learned of
my boy's death. And he had been killed the Thursday before! He had
been dead four days before I knew it! And yet--I had known. Let no
one ever tell me again that there is nothing in presentiment. Why
else had I been so sad and uneasy in my mind? Why else, all through
that Sunday, had it been so impossible for me to take comfort in what
was said to cheer me? Some warning had come to me, some sense that
all was not well.

Realization came to me slowly. I sat and stared at that slip of
paper, that had come to me like the breath of doom. Dead! Dead these
four days! I was never to see the light of his eyes again. I was
never to hear that laugh of his. I had looked on my boy for the last
time. Could it be true? Ah, I knew it was! And it was for this moment
that I had been waiting, that we had all been waiting, ever since we
had sent John away to fight for his country and do his part. I think
we had all felt that it must come. We had all known that it was too
much to hope that he should be one of those to be spared.

The black despair that had been hovering over me for hours closed
down now and enveloped all my senses. Everything was unreal. For a
time I was quite numb. But then, as I began to realize and to
visualize what it was to mean in my life that my boy was dead there
came a great pain. The iron of realization slowly seared every word
of that curt telegram upon my heart. I said it to myself, over and
over again. And I whispered to myself, as my thoughts took form, over
and over, the one terrible word: "Dead!"

I felt that for me everything had come to an end with the reading of
that dire message. It seemed to me that for me the board of life was
black and blank. For me there was no past and there could be no
future. Everything had been swept away, erased, by one sweep of the
hand of a cruel fate. Oh, there was a past, though! And it was in
that past that I began to delve. It was made up of every memory I had
of my boy. I fell at once to remembering him. I clutched at every
memory, as if I must grasp them and make sure of them, lest they be
taken from me as well as the hope of seeing him again that the
telegram had forever snatched away.

I would have been destitute indeed then. It was as if I must fix in
my mind the way he had been wont to look, and recall to my ears every
tone of his voice, every trick of his speech. There was something
left of him that I must keep, I knew, even then, at all costs, if I
was to be able to bear his loss at all.

There was a vision of him before my eyes. My bonnie Highland laddie,
brave and strong in his kilt and the uniform of his country, going
out to his death with a smile on his face. And there was another
vision that came up now, unbidden. It was a vision of him lying stark
and cold upon the battlefield, the mud on his uniform. And when I saw
that vision I was like a man gone mad and possessed of devils who had
stolen away his faculties. I cursed war as I saw that vision, and the
men who caused war. And when I thought of the Germans who had killed
my boy a terrible and savage hatred swept me, and I longed to go out
there and kill with my bare hands until I had avenged him or they had
killed me too.

But then I was a little softened. I thought of his mother back in our
wee hoose at Dunoon. And the thought of her, bereft even as I was,
sorrowing, even as I was, and lost in her frightful loneliness, was
pitiful, so that I had but the one desire and wish--to go to her, and
join my tears with hers, that we who were left alone to bear our
grief might bear it together and give one to the other such comfort
as there might be in life for us. And so I fell upon my knees and
prayed, there in my lonely room in the hotel. I prayed to God that he
might give us both, John's mother and myself, strength to bear the
blow that had been dealt us and to endure the sacrifice that He and
our country had demanded of us.

My friends came to me. They came rushing to me. Never did man have
better friends, and kindlier friends than mine proved themselves to
me on that day of sorrow. They did all that good men and women could
do. But there was no help for me in the ministration of friends. I
was beyond the power of human words to comfort or solace. I was glad
of their kindness, and the memory of it now is a precious one, and
one I would not be without. But at such a time I could not gain from
them what they were eager to give me. I could only bow my head and
pray for strength.

That night, that New Year's night that I shall never forget, no
matter how long God may let me live, I went north. I took train from
London to Glasgow, and the next day I came to our wee hoose--a sad,
lonely wee hoose it had become now!--on the Clyde at Dunoon, and was
with John's mother. It was the place for me. It was there that I
wanted to be, and it was with her, who must hereafter be all the
world to me. And I was eager to be with her, too, who had given John
to me. Sore as my grief was, stricken as I was, I could comfort her
as no one else could hope to do, and she could do as much for me. We
belonged together.

I can scarce remember, even for myself, what happened there at
Dunoon. I cannot tell you what I said or what I did, or what words
and what thoughts passed between John's mother and myself. But there
are some things that I do know and that I will tell you.

Almighty God, to whom we prayed, was kind, and He was pitiful and
merciful. For presently He brought us both a sort of sad composure.
Presently He assuaged our grief a little, and gave us the strength
that we must have to meet the needs of life and the thought of going
on in a world that was darkened by the loss of the boy in whom all
our thoughts and all our hopes had been centred. I thanked God then,
and I thank God now, that I have never denied Him nor taken His name
in vain.

For God gave me great thoughts about my boy and about his death.
Slowly, gradually, He made me to see things in their true light, and
He took away the sharp agony of my first grief and sorrow, and gave
me a sort of peace.

John died in the most glorious cause, and he died the most glorious
death, it may be given to a man to die. He died for humanity. He died
for liberty, and that this world in which life must go on, no matter
how many die, may be a better world to live in. He died in a struggle
against the blackest force and the direst threat that has appeared
against liberty and humanity within the memory of man. And were he
alive now, and were he called again to-day to go out for the same
cause, knowing that he must meet death--as he did meet it--he would
go as smilingly and as willingly as he went then. He would go as a
British soldier and a British gentleman, to fight and die for his
King and his country. And I would bid him go.

I have lived through much since his death. They have not let me take
a rifle or a sword and go into the trenches to avenge him. . . . But
of that I shall tell you later.

Ah, it was not at once that I felt so! In my heart, in those early
days of grief and sorrow, there was rebellion, often and often. There
were moments when in my anguish I cried out, aloud: "Why? Why? Why
did they have to take John, my boy--my only child?"

But God came to me, and slowly His peace entered my soul. And He made
me see, as in a vision, that some things that I had said and that I
had believed, were not so. He made me know, and I learned, straight
from Him, that our boy had not been taken from us forever as I had
said to myself so often since that telegram had come.

He is gone from this life, but he is waiting for us beyond this life.
He is waiting beyond this life and this world of wicked war and
wanton cruelty and slaughter. And we shall come, some day, his mother
and I, to the place where he is waiting for us, and we shall all be
as happy there as we were on this earth in the happy days before the
war.

My eyes will rest again upon his face. I will hear his fresh young
voice again as he sees me and cries out his greeting. I know what he
will say. He will spy me, and his voice will ring out as it used to
do. "Hello, Dad!" he will call, as he sees me. And I will feel the
grip of his young, strong arms about me, just as in the happy days
before that day that is of all the days of my life the most terrible
and the most hateful in my memory--the day when they told me that he
had been killed.

That is my belief. That is the comfort that God has given me in my
grief and my sorrow. There is a God. Ah, yes, there is a God! Times
there are, I know, when some of those who look upon the horrid
slaughter of this war, that is going on, hour by hour, feel that
their faith is being shaken by doubts. They think of the sacrifices,
of the blood that is being poured out, of the sufferings of women and
children. And they see the cause that is wrong and foul prospering,
for a little time, and they cannot understand.

"If there is a God," they whisper to themselves, "why does he permit
a thing so wicked to go on?"

But there is a God--there is! I have seen the stark horror of war. I
know, as none can know until he has seen it at close quarters, what a
thing war is as it is fought to-day. And I believe as I do believe,
and as I shall believe until the end, because I know God's comfort
and His grace. I know that my boy is surely waiting for me. In
America, now, there are mothers and fathers by the scores of
thousands who have bidden their sons good-by; who water their letters
from France with their tears--who turn white at the sight of a telegram
and tremble at the sudden clamor of a telephone. Ah, I know--I know!
I suffered as they are suffering! And I have this to tell them and to
beg them. They must believe as I believe--then shall they find the
peace and the comfort that I have found.

So it was that there, on the Clyde, John's mother and I came out of
the blackness of our first grief. We began to be able to talk to one
another. And every day we talked of John. We have never ceased to do
that, his mother and I. We never shall. We may not have him with us
bodily, but his spirit is never absent. And each day we remember some
new thing about him that one of us can call to the other's mind. And
it is as if, when we do that, we bring back some part of him out of
the void.

Little, trifling memories of when he was a baby, and when he was a
boy, growing up! And other memories, of later days. Often and often
it was the days that were furthest away that we remembered best of
all, and things connected with those days.

But I had small wish to see others. John's mother was enough for me.
She and the peace that was coming to me on the Clyde. I could not
bear to think of London. I had no plans to make. All that was over.
All that part of my life, I thought, had ended with the news of my
boy's death. I wanted no more than to stay at home on the Clyde and
think of him. My wife and I did not even talk about the future. And
no thing was further from all my thoughts than that I should ever
step upon a stage again.

What! Go out before an audience and seek to make it laugh? Sing my
songs when my heart was broken? I did not decide not to do it. I did
not so much as think of it as a thing I had to decide about.



CHAPTER IX

And then one thing and another brought the thought into my mind, so
that I had to face it and tell people how I felt about it. There were
neighbors, wanting to know when I would be about my work again. That
it was that first made me understand that others did not feel as I
was feeling.

"They're thinking I'll be going back to work again," I told John's
mother. "I canna'!"

She felt as I did. We could not see, either one of us, in our grief,
how anyone could think that I could begin again where I had left off.

"I canna'! I will not try!" I told her, again and again. "How can I
tak up again with that old mummery? How can I laugh when my heart is
breaking, and make others smile when the tears are in my eyes?"

And she thought as I did, that I could not, and that no one should be
asking me. The war had taken much of what I had earned, in one way or
another. I was not so rich as I had been, but there was enough. There
was no need for me to go back to work, so far as our living was
concerned. And so it seemed to be settled between us. Planning we
left for the future. It was no time for us to be making plans. It
mattered little enough to us what might be in store for us. We could
take things as they might come.

So we bided quiet in our home, and talked of John. And from every
part of the earth and from people in all walks and conditions of life
there began to pour in upon us letters and telegrams of sympathy and
sorrow. I think there were four thousand kindly folk who remembered
us in our sorrow, and let us know that they could think of us in
spite of all the other care and trouble that filled the world in
those days. Many celebrated names were signed to those letters and
telegrams, and there were many, too, from simple folk whose very
names I did not know, who told me that I had given them cheer and
courage from the stage, and so they felt that they were friends of
mine, and must let me know that they were sorry for the blow that had
befallen me.

Then it came out that I meant to leave the stage. They sent word from
London, at last, to ask when they might look for me to be back at the
Shaftesbury Theatre. And when they found what it was in my mind to do
all my friends began to plead with me and argue with me. They said it
was my duty to myself to go back.

"You're too young a man to retire, Harry," they said. "What would you
do? How could you pass away your time if you had no work to do? Men
who retire at your age are always sorry: They wither away and die of
dry rot."

"There'll be plenty for me to be doing," I told them. "I'll not be
idle."

But still they argued. I was not greatly moved. They were thinking of
me, and their arguments appealed to my selfish interests and needs,
and just then I was not thinking very much about myself.

And then another sort of argument came to me. People wrote to me, men
and women, who, like me, had lost their sons. Their letters brought
the tears to my eyes anew. They were tender letters, and beautiful
letters, most of them, and letters to make proud and glad, as well as
sad, the heart of the man to whom they were written. I will not copy
those letters down here, for they were written for my eyes, and for
no others. But I can tell you the message that they all bore.

"Don't desert us now, Harry!" It was so that they put it, one after
another, in those letters. "Ah, Harry--there is so much woe and grief
and pain in the world that you, who can, must do all that is in your
power to make them easier to bear! There are few forces enough in the
world to-day to make us happy, even for a little space. Come back to
us, Harry--make us laugh again!"

It was when those letters came that, for the first time, I saw that I
had others to consider beside myself, and that it was not only my own
wishes that I might take into account. I talked to my wife, and I told
her of those letters, and there were tears in both our eyes as we
thought about those folks who knew the sorrow that was in our hearts.

"You must think about them, Harry," she said.

And so I did think about them. And then I began to find that there
were others still about whom I must think. There were three hundred
people in the cast of "Three Cheers," at the Shaftesbury Theatre, in
London. And I began to hear now that unless I went back the show
would be closed, and all of them would be out of work. At that season
of the year, in the theatrical world, it would be hard for them to
find other engagements, and they were not, most of them, like me,
able to live without the salaries from the show. They wrote to me,
many of them, and begged me to come back. And I knew that it was a
desperate time for anyone to be without employment. I had to think
about those poor souls. And I could not bear the thought that I might
be the means, however innocent, of bringing hardship and suffering
upon others. It might not be my fault, and yet it would lie always
upon my conscience.

Yet, even with all such thoughts and prayers to move me, I did not
see how I could yield to them and go back. Even after I had come to
the point of being willing to go back if I could, I did not think I
could go through with it. I was afraid I would break down if I tried
to play my part. I talked to Tom Valiance, my brother-in-law.

"It's very well to talk, Tom," I said. "But they'd ring the curtain
down on me! I can never do it!"

"You must!" he said. "Harry, you must go back! It's your duty! What
would the boy be saying and having you do? Don't you remember, Harry?
John's last words to his men were--'Carry On!' That's what it is
they're asking you to do, too, Harry, and it's what John would have
wanted. It would be his wish."

And I knew that he was right. Tom had found the one argument that
could really move me and make me see my duty as the others did. So I
gave in. I wired to the management that I would rejoin the cast of
"Three Cheers," and I took the train to London. And as I rode in the
train it seemed to me that the roar of the wheels made a refrain, and
I could hear them pounding out those two words, in my boy's voice:
"Carry On!"

But how hard it was to face the thought of going before an audience
again! And especially in such circumstances. There were to be gayety
and life and light and sparkle all about me. There were to be
lassies, in their gay dresses, and the merriest music in London. And
my part was to be merry, too, and to make the great audience laugh
that I would see beyond the footlights. And I thought of the Merryman
in The Yeomen of the Guard, and that I must be a little like him,
though my cause for grief was different.

But I had given my word, and though I longed, again and again, as I
rode toward London, and as the time drew near for my performance, to
back out, there was no way that I could do so. And Tom Valiance did
his best to cheer me and hearten me, and relieve my nervousness. I
have never been so nervous before. Not since I made my first
appearance before an audience have I been so near to stage fright.

I would not see anyone that night, when I reached the theatre. I
stayed in my dressing-room, and Tom Valiance stayed with me, and kept
everyone who tried to speak with me away. There were good folk, and
kindly folk, friends of mine in the company, who wanted to shake my
hand and tell me how they felt for me, but he knew that it was better
for them not to see me yet, and he was my bodyguard.

"It's no use, Tom," I said to him, again and again, after I was dressed
and in my make up. I was cold first, and then hot. And I trembled in
every limb. "They'll have to ring the curtain down on me."

"You'll be all right, Harry," he said. "So soon as you're out there!
Remember, they're all your friends!"

But he could not comfort me. I felt sure that it was a foolish thing
for me to try to do; that I could not go through with it. And I was
sorry, for the thousandth time, that I had let them persuade me to
make the effort.

A call boy came at last to warn me that it was nearly time for my
first entrance. I went with Tom into the wings, and stood there,
waiting. I was pale under my make up, and I was shaking and trembling
like a baby. And even then I wanted to cry off. But I remembered my
boy, and those last words of his--"Carry On!" I must not fail him
without at least trying to do what he would have wanted me to do!

My entrance was with a lilting little song called "I Love My Jean."
And I knew that in a moment my cue would be given, and I would hear
the music of that song beginning. I was as cold as if I had been in
an icy street, although it was hot. I thought of the two thousand
people who were waiting for me beyond the footlights--the house was a
big one, and it was packed full that night.

"I can't, Tom--I can't!" I cried.

But he only smiled, and gave me a little push as my cue came and the
music began. I could scarcely hear it; it was like music a great
distance off, coming very faintly to my ears. And I said a prayer,
inside. I asked God to be good to me once more, and to give me
strength, and to bear me through this ordeal that I was facing, as he
had borne me through before. And then I had to step into the full
glare of the great lights.

I felt as if I were in a dream. The people were unreal--stretching
away from me in long, sloping rows, their white faces staring at me
from the darkness beyond the great lights. And there was a little
ripple that ran through them as I went out, as if a great many
people, all at the same moment, had caught their breath.

I stood and faced them, and the music sounded in my ears. For just a
moment they were still. And then they were shaken by a mighty roar.
They cheered and cheered and cheered. They stood up and waved to me.
I could hear their voices rising, and cries coming to me, with my own
name among them.

"Bravo, Harry!" I heard them call. And then there were more cheers,
and a great clapping of hands. And I have been told that everywhere
in that great audience men and women were crying, and that the tears
were rolling down their cheeks without ever an attempt by any of them
to hide them or to check them. It was the most wonderful and the most
beautiful demonstration I have ever seen, in all the years that I
have been upon the stage. Many and many a time audiences have been
good to me. They have clapped me and they have cheered me, but never
has an audience treated me as that one did. I had to use every bit of
strength and courage that I had to keep from breaking down.

To this day I do not know how I got through with that first song that
night. I do not even know whether I really sang it. But I think that,
somehow, blindly, without knowing what I was doing, I did get
through; I did sing it to the end. Habit, the way that I was used to
it, I suppose, helped me to carry on. And when I left the stage the
whole company, it seemed to me, was waiting for me. They were crying
and laughing, hysterically, and they crowded around me, and kissed
me, and hugged me, and wrung my hand.

It seemed that the worst of my ordeal was over. But in the last act I
had to face another test.

There was a song for me in that last act that was the great song in
London that season. I have sung it all over America since then "The
Laddies Who Fought and Won." It has been successful everywhere--that
song has been one of the most popular I have ever sung. But it was a
cruel song for me to sing that night!

It was the climax of the last act and of the whole piece. In "Three
Cheers" soldiers were brought on each night to be on the stage behind
me when I sang that song. They were from the battalion of the Scots
Guards in London, and they were real soldiers, in uniform. Different
men were used each night, and the money that was paid to the Tommies
for their work went into the company fund of the men who appeared,
and helped to provide them with comforts and luxuries. And the war
office was glad of the arrangement, too, for it was a great song to
stimulate recruiting.

There were two lines in the refrain that I shall never forget. And it
was when I came to those two lines that night that I did, indeed,
break down. Here they are:

      "When we all gather round the old fireside
       And the fond mother kisses her son--"

Were they not cruel words for me to have to sing, who knew that his
mother could never kiss my son again? They brought it all back to me!
My son was gone--he would never come back with the laddies who had
fought and won!

For a moment I could not go on. I was choking. The tears were in my
Eyes, and my throat was choked with sobs. But the music went on, and
the chorus took up the song, and between the singers and the orchestra
they covered the break my emotion had made. And in a little space I was
able to go on with the next verse, and to carry on until my part in the
show was done for the night. But I still wondered how it was that they
had not had to ring down the curtain upon me, and that Tom Valiance and
the others had been right and I the one that was wrong!

Ah, weel, I learned that night what many and many another Briton had
learned, both at home and in France--that you can never know what you
can do until you have to find it out! Yon was the hardest task ever I
had to undertake, but for my boy's sake, and because they had made me
understand that it was what he would have wanted me to do, I got
through with it.

They rose to me again, and cheered and cheered, after I had finished
singing "The Laddies Who Fought and Won." And there were those who
called to me for a speech, but so much I had to deny them, good
though they had been to me, and much as I loved them for the way they
had received me. I had no words that night to thank them, and I could
not have spoken from that stage had my life depended upon it. I could
only get through, after my poor fashion, with my part in the show.

But the next night I did pull myself together, and I was able to say
a few words to the audience--thanks that were simply and badly put,
it may be, but that came from the bottom of my overflowing heart.



CHAPTER X

I had not believed it possible. But there I was, not only back at
work, back upon the stage to which I thought I had said good-by
forever, but successful as I had thought I could never be again. And
so I decided that I would remain until the engagement of "Three
Cheers" closed. But my mind was made up to retire after that
engagement. I felt that I had done all I could, and that it was time
for me to retire, and to cease trying to make others laugh. There was
no laughter in my heart, and often and often, that season, as I
cracked my merriest jokes, my heart was sore and heavy and the tears
were in my eyes.

But slowly a new sort of courage came to me. I was able to meet my
friends again, and to talk to them, of myself and of my boy. I met
brother officers of his, and I heard tales of him that gave me a new
and even greater pride in him than I had known before. And my friends
begged me to carry on in every way.

"You were doing a great work and a good work, Harry," they said. "The
boy would want you to carry on. Do not drop all the good you were doing."

I knew that they were right. To sit alone and give way to my grief
was a selfish thing to do at such a time. If there was work for me to
do, still, it was my duty to try to do it, no matter how greatly I
would have preferred to rest quiet. At this time there was great need
of making the people of Britain understand the need of food
conservation, and so I began to go about London, making speeches on
that subject wherever people could be gathered together to listen to
me. They told me I did some good. And at least, I tried.

And before long I was glad, indeed, that I had listened to the
counsel of my friends and had not given way to my selfish desire to
nurse my grief in solitude and silence. For I realized that there was
a real work for me to do. Those folk who had begged me to do my part
in lightening the gloom of Britain had been right. There was so much
sorrow and grief in the land that it was the duty of all who could
dispel it, if even for a little space, to do what they could. I
remembered that poem of Ella Wheeler Wilcox--"Laugh and the World
Laughs With You!" And so I tried to laugh, and to make the part of
the world that I chanced to be in laugh with me. For I knew there was
weeping and sorrowing enough.

And all the time I felt that the spirit of my boy was with me, and
that he knew what I was doing, and why, and was glad, and that he
understood that if I laughed it was not because I thought less often
of him, or missed him less keenly and bitterly than I had done from
the very beginning.

There was much praise for my work from high officials, and it made me
proud and glad to know that the men who were at the head of Britain's
effort in the war thought I was being of use. One time I spoke with
Mr. Balfour, the former Prime Minister, at Drury Lane Theatre to one
of the greatest war gatherings that was ever held in London.

And always and everywhere there were the hospitals, full of the
laddies who had been brought home from France. Ah, but they were
pitiful, those laddies who had fought, and won, and been brought back
to be nursed back to the life they had been so bravely willing to lay
down for their country! But it was hard to look at them, and know how
they were suffering, and to go through with the task I had set myself
of cheering them and comforting them in my own way! There were times
when it was all I could do to get through with my program.

They never complained. They were always bright and cheerful, no
matter how terrible their wounds might be; no matter what sacrifices
they had made of eyes and limbs. There were men in those hospitals
who knew that they were going out no more than half the men they had
been. And yet they were as brave and careless of themselves as if
their wounds had been but trifles. I think the greatest exhibition of
courage and nerve the world has ever seen was to be found in those
hospitals in London and, indeed, all over Britain, where those
wonderful lads kept up their spirits always, though they knew they
could never again be sound in body.

Many and many of them there were who knew that they could never walk
again the shady lanes of their hameland or the little streets of
their hame towns! Many and many more there were who knew that, even
after the bandages were taken from about their eyes, they would never
gaze again upon the trees and the grass and the flowers growing upon
their native hillsides; that never again could they look upon the
faces of their loved ones. They knew that everlasting darkness was
their portion upon this earth.

But one and all they talked and laughed and sang! And it was there
among the hospitals, that I came to find true courage and good cheer.
It was not there that I found talk of discouragement, and longing for
any early peace, even though the final victory that could alone bring
a real peace and a worthy peace had not been won. No--not in the
hospitals could I find and hear such talk as that! For that I had to
listen to those who had not gone--who had not had the courage and the
nerve to offer all they had and all they were and go through that
hell of hells that is modern war!

I saw other hospitals besides the ones in London. After a time, when
I was very tired, and far from well, I went to Scotland for a space
to build myself up and get some rest. And in the far north I went
fishing on the River Dee, which runs through the Durrie estate. And
while I was there the Laird heard of it. And he sent word to tell me
of a tiny hospital hard by where a guid lady named Mrs. Baird was
helping to nurse disabled men back to health and strength. He asked
me would I no call upon the men and try to give them a little cheer.
And I was glad to hear of the chance to help.

I laid down my rod forthwith, for here was better work than fishing--
and in my ain country. They told me the way that I should go, and
that this Mrs. Baird had turned a little school house into a
convalescent home, and was doing a fine and wonderful work for the
laddies she had taken in. So I set out to find it, and I walked along
a country road to come to it.

Soon I saw a man, strong and hale, as it seemed, pushing a wheel
chair along the road toward me. And in the chair sat a man, and I
could see at once that he had lost the use of his legs--that he was
paralyzed from the waist down. It was the way he called to him who
was pushing him that made me tak notice.

"Go to the right, mon!" he would call. Or, a moment later, "To the
left now."

And then they came near to the disaster. The one who was pushing was
heading straight for the side of the road, and the one in the chair
bellowed out to him:

"Whoa there!" he called. "Mon--ye're taking me into the ditch! Where
would ye be going with me, anyway?"

And then I understood. The man who was pushing was blind! They had
but the one pair of eyes and the one pair of legs between the two of
them, and it was so that they contrived to go out together without
taking help from anyone else! And they were both as cheerful as wee
laddies out for a lark. It was great sport for them. And it was they
who gave me my directions to get to Mrs. Baird's.

They disputed a little about the way. The blind man, puir laddie,
thought he knew. And he did not--not quite. But he corrected the man
who could see but could not walk.

"It's the wrong road you're giving the gentleman," he said. "It's the
second turn he should be taking, not the first."

And the other would not argue with him. It was a kindly thing, the
way he kept quiet, and did but wink at me, that I might know the
truth. He trusted me to understand and to know why he was acting as
he was, and I blessed him in my heart for his thoughtfulness. And so
I thanked them, and passed on, and reached Mrs. Baird's, and found a
royal welcome there, and when they asked me if I would sing for the
soldiers, and I said it was for that that I had come, there were
tears in Mrs. Baird's eyes. And so I gave a wee concert there, and
sang my songs, and did my best to cheer up those boys.

Ah, my puir, brave Scotland--my bonnie little Scotland!

No part of all the United Kingdom, and, for that matter, no part of
the world, has played a greater part, in proportion to its size and
its ability, than has Scotland in this war for humanity against the
black force that has attacked it. Nearly a million men has Scotland
sent to the army--out of a total population of five million! One in
five of all her people have gone. No country in the world has ever
matched that record. Ah, there were no slackers in Scotland! And they
are still going--they are still going! As fast as they are old
enough, as fast as restrictions are removed, so that men are taken
who were turned back at first by the recruiting officers, as fast as
men see to it that some provision is made for those they must leave
behind them, they are putting on the King's uniform and going out
against the Hun. My country, my ain Scotland, is not great in area.
It is not a rich country in worldly goods or money. But it is big
with a bigness beyond measurement, it is rich beyond the wildest
dreams of avarice, in patriotism, in love of country, and in bravery.

We have few young men left in Scotland. It is rarely indeed that in a
Scottish village, in a glen, even in a city, you see a young man in
these days. Only the very old are left, and the men of middle age.
And you know why the young men you see are there. They cannot go,
because, although their spirit is willing their flesh is too weak to
let them go, for one reason or another. Factory and field and forge--
all have been stripped to fill the Scottish regiments and keep them
at their full strength. And in Scotland, as in England, women have
stepped in to fill the places their men have left vacant. This war is
not to be fought by men alone. Women have their part to play, and
they are playing it nobly, day after day. The women of Scotland have
seen their duty; they have heard their country's call, and they have
answered it.

You will find it hard to discover anyone in domestic service to-day
in Scotland. The folk who used to keep servants sent them packing
long since, to work where they would be of more use to their country.
The women of each household are doing the work about the house,
little though they may have been accustomed to such tasks in the days
of peace. And they glory and take pride in the knowledge that they
are helping to fill a place in the munitions factories or in some
other necessary war work.

[ILLUSTRATION: "Bang! went sixpence." HARRY LAUDER BUYING HIS BIT OF
WHITE HEATHER (See Lauder04.jpg)]

Do not look along the Scottish roads for folk riding in motor cars
for pleasure. Indeed, you will waste your time if you look for
pleasure-making of any sort in Scotland to-day. Scotland has gone
back to her ancient business of war, and she is carrying it on in the
most businesslike way, sternly and relentlessly. But that is true all
over the United Kingdom; I do not claim that Scotland takes the war
more seriously than the rest of Britain. But I do think that she has
set an example by the way she has flung herself, tooth and nail, into
the mighty task that confronts us all--all of us allies who are
leagued against the Hun and his plan to conquer the world and make it
bow its neck in submission under his iron heel.

Let me tell you how Scotland takes this war. Let me show you the
homecoming of a Scottish soldier, back from the trenches on leave.
Why, he is received with no more ceremony than if he were coming home
from his day's work!

Donald--or Jock might be his name, or Andy!--steps from the train at
his old hame town. He is fresh from the mud of the Flanders trenches,
and all his possessions and his kit are on his back, so that he is
more like a beast of burden than the natty creature old tradition
taught us to think a soldier must always be. On his boots there are
still dried blobs of mud from some hole in France that is like a
crater in hell. His uniform will be pretty sure to be dirty, too, and
torn, and perhaps, if you looked closely at it, you would see stains
upon it that you might not be far wrong in guessing to be blood.

Leave long enough to let him come home to Scotland--a long road it is
from France to Scotland these days!--has been a rare thing for Jock.
He will have been campaigning a long time to earn it--months
certainly, and maybe even years. Perhaps he was one of these who went
out first. He may have been mentioned in dispatches: there may be a
distinguished conduct medal hidden about him somewhere--worth all the
iron crosses the Kaiser ever gave! He has seen many a bloody field,
be sure of that. He has heard the sounding of the gas alarm, and
maybe got a whiff of the dirty poison gas the Huns turned loose
against our boys. He has looked Death in the face so often that he
has grown used to him. But now he is back in Scotland, safe and
sound, free from battle and the work of the trenches for a space,
home to gain new strength for his next bout with Fritz across the
water.

When he gets off the train Jock looks about him, from force of habit.
But no one has come to the station to meet him, and he looks as if
that gave him neither surprise nor concern. For a minute, perhaps, he
will look around him, wondering, I think, that things are so much as
they were, fixing in his mind the old familiar scenes that have
brought him cheer so often in black, deadly nights in the trenches or
in lonely billets out there in France. And then, quietly, and as if
he were indeed just home from some short trip, he shifts his pack, so
that it lies comfortably across his back, and trudges off. There
would be cabs around the station, but it would not come into Jock's
mind to hail one of the drivers. He has been used to using Shank's
Mare in France when he wanted to go anywhere, and so now he sets off
quietly, with his long, swinging soldier's stride.

As he walks along he is among scenes familiar to him since his
boyhood. You house, you barn, yon wooded rise against the sky are
landmarks for him. And he is pretty sure to meet old friends. They
nod to him, pleasantly, and with a smile, but there is no excitement,
no strangeness, in their greeting. For all the emotion they show,
these folk to whom he has come back, as from the grave, they might
have seen him yesterday, and the day before that, and the war never
have been at all. And Jock thinks nothing of it that they are not
more excited about him. You and I may be thinking of Jock as a hero,
but that is not his idea about himself. He is just a Tommy, home on
leave from France--one of a hundred thousand, maybe. And if he
thought at all about the way his home folk greeted him it would be
just so--that he could not expect them to be making a fuss about one
soldier out of so many. And, since he, Jock, is not much excited, not
much worked up, because he is seeing these good folk again, he does
not think it strange that they are not more excited about the sight
of him. It would be if they did make a fuss over him, and welcome him
loudly, that he would think it strange!

And at last he comes to his own old home. He will stop and look
around a bit. Maybe he has seen that old house a thousand times out
there, tried to remember every line and corner of it. And maybe, as
he looks down the quiet village street, he is thinking of how
different France was. And, deep down in his heart, Jock is glad that
everything is as it was, and that nothing has been changed. He could
not tell you why; he could not put his feeling into words. But it is
there, deep down, and the truer and the keener because it is so deep.
Ah, Jock may take it quietly, and there may be no way for him to show
his heart, but he is glad to be home!

And at his gate will come, as a rule, Jock's first real greeting. A
dog, grown old since his departure, will come out, wagging his tail,
and licking the soldier's hand. And Jock will lean down, and give his
old dog a pat. If the dog had not come he would have been surprised
and disappointed. And so, glad with every fibre of his being, Jock
goes in, and finds father and mother and sisters within. They look up
at his coming, and their happiness shines for a moment in their eyes.
But they are not the sort of people to show their emotions or make a
fuss. Mother and girls will rise and kiss him, and begin to take his
gear, and his father will shake him by the hand.

"Well," the father will ask, "how are you getting along, lad?"

And--"All right," he will answer. That is the British soldier's
answer to that question, always and everywhere.

Then he sits down, happy and at rest, and lights his pipe, maybe, and
looks about the old room which holds so many memories for him. And
supper will be ready, you may be sure. They will not have much to
say, these folk of Jock's, but if you look at his face as dish after
dish is set before him, you will understand that this is a feast that
has been prepared for him. They may have been going without all sorts
of good things themselves, but they have contrived, in some fashion,
to have them all for Jock. All Scotland has tightened its belt, and
done its part, in that fashion, as in every other, toward the winning
of the war. But for the soldiers the best is none too good. And
Jock's folk would rather make him welcome so, by proof that takes no
words, than by demonstrations of delight and of affection.

As he eats, they gather round him at the board, and they tell him all
the gossip of the neighborhood. He does not talk about the war, and,
if they are curious--probably they are not!--they do not ask him
questions. They think that he wants to forget about the war and the
trenches and the mud, and they are right. And so, after he has eaten
his fill, he lights his pipe again, and sits about. And maybe, as it
grows dark, he takes a bit walk into town. He walks slowly, as if he
is glad that for once he need not be in a hurry, and he stops to look
into shop windows as if he had never seen their stocks before, though
you may be sure that, in a Scottish village, he has seen everything
they have to offer hundreds of times.

He will meet friends, maybe, and they will stop and nod to him. And
perhaps one of six will stop longer.

"How are you getting on, Jock?" will be the question.

"All right!" Jock will say. And he will think the question rather
fatuous, maybe. If he were not all right, how should he be there? But
if Jock had lost both legs, or an arm, or if he had been blinded,
that would still be his answer. Those words have become a sort of
slogan for the British army, that typify its spirit.

Jock's walk is soon over, and he goes home, by an old path that is
known to him, every foot of it, and goes to bed in his own old bed.
He has not broken into the routine of the household, and he sees no
reason why he should. And the next day it is much the same for him.
He gets up as early as he ever did, and he is likely to do a few odd
bits of work that his father has not had time to come to. He talks
with his mother and the girls of all sorts of little, commonplace
things, and with his father he discusses the affairs of the
community. And in the evening he strolls down town again, and
exchanges a few words with friends, and learns, perhaps, of boys who
haven't been lucky enough to get home on leave--of boys with whom he
grew up, who have gone west.

So it goes on for several days, each day the same. Jock is quietly
happy. It is no task to entertain him: he does not want to be
entertained. The peace and quiet of home are enough for him; they are
change enough from the turmoil of the front and the ceaseless grind
of the life in the army in France.

And then Jock's leave nears its end, and it is time for him to go
back. He tells them, and he makes his few small preparations. They
will have cleaned his kit for him, and mended some of his things that
needed mending. And when it is time for him to go they help him on
with his pack and he kisses his mother and the girls good-by, and
shakes hands with his father.

"Well, good-by," Jock says. He might be going to work in a factory a
few miles off. "I'll be all right. Good-by, now. Don't you cry, now,
mother, and you, Jeannie and Maggie. Don't you fash yourselves about
me. I'll be back again. And if I shouldn't come back--why, I'll be
all right."

So he goes, and they stand looking after him, and his old dog wonders
why he is going, and where, and makes a move to follow him, maybe.
But he marches off down the street, alone, never looking back, and is
waiting when the train comes. It will be full of other Jocks and
Andrews and Tams, on their way back to France, like him, and he will
nod to some he knows as he settles down in the carriage.

And in just two days Jock will have traveled the length of England,
and crossed the channel, and ridden up to the front. He will have
reported himself, and have been ordered, with his company, into the
trenches. And on the third night, had you followed him, you might see
him peering over the parapet at the lines of the Hun, across No Man's
Land, and listening to the whine of bullets and the shriek of shells
over his head, with a star shell, maybe, to throw a green light upon
him for a moment.

So it is that a warrior comes and that a warrior goes in a land where
war is war; in a land where war has become the business of all every
day, and has settled down into a matter of routine.



CHAPTER XI

I could not, much as I should in many ways have liked to do so,
prolong my stay in Scotland. The peace and the restfulness of the
Highlands, the charm of the heather and the hills, the long, lazy
days with my rod, whipping some favorite stream--ah, they made me
happy for a moment, but they could not make me forget! My duty called
me back, and the thought of war, and suffering, and there were
moments when it seemed to me that nothing could keep me from plunging
again into the work I had set out to do.

In those days I was far too restless to be taking my ease at home, in
my wee hoose at Dunoon. A thousand activities called me. The rest had
been necessary; I had had to admit that, and to obey my doctor, for I
had been feeling the strain of my long continued activity, piled up,
as it was, on top of my grief and care. And yet I was eager to be off
and about my work again.

I did not want to go back to the same work I had been doing. No! I
was still a young man. I was younger than men and officers who were
taking their turn in the trenches. I was but forty-six years old, and
there was a lot of life and snap in the old dog yet! My life had been
rightly lived. As a young man I had worked in a pit, ye ken, and that
had given me a strength in my back and my legs that would have served
me well in the trenches. War, these days, means hard work as well as
fighting--more, indeed. War is a business, a great industry, now.
There is all manner of work that must be done at the front and right
behind it. Aye, and I was eager to be there and to be doing my share
of it--and not for the first time.

Many a time, and often, I had broached my idea of being allowed to
enlist, e'en before the Huns killed my boy. But they would no listen
to me. They told me, each time, that there was more and better work
for me to do at hame in Britain, spurring others on, cheering them
when they came back maimed and broken, getting the country to put its
shoulder to the wheel when it came to subscribing to the war loans
and all the rest of it. And it seemed to me that it was not for me to
decide; that I must obey those who were better in a position to judge
than I could be.

I went down south to England, and I talked again of enlisting and
trying to get a crack at those who had killed my boy. And again my
friends refused to listen to me.

"Why, Harry," they said to me--and not my own friends, only, but men
highly placed enough to make me know that I must pay heed to what
they said--"you must not think of it! If you enlisted, or if we got
you a commission, you'd be but one man out there. Here you're worth
many men--a brigade, or a division, maybe. You are more use to us
than many men who go out there to fight. You do great things toward
winning the war every day. No, Harry, there is work for every man in
Britain to do, and you have found yours and are doing it."

I was not content, though, even when I seemed to agree with them. I
did try to argue, but it was no use. And still I felt that it was no
time for a man to be playing and to be giving so much of his time to
making others gay. It was well for folk to laugh, and to get their
minds off the horror of war for a little time. Well I knew! Aye, and
I believed that I was doing good, some good at least, and giving
cheer to some puir laddies who needed it sorely. But--weel, it was no
what I wanted to be doing when my country was fighting for her life!
I made up my mind, slowly, what it was that I wanted to do that would
fit in with the ideas and wishes of those whose word I was bound to
heed and that would still come closer than what I was doing to meet
my own desires.

Every day, nearly, then, I was getting letters from the front. They
came from laddies whom I'd helped to make up their minds that they
belonged over yon, where the men were. Some were from boys who came
from aboot Dunoon. I'd known those laddies since they were bits o'
bairns, most of them. And then there were letters--and they touched
me as much and came as close home as any of them--from boys who were
utter strangers to me, but who told me they felt they knew me because
they'd seen me on the stage, or because their phonograph, maybe,
played some of my records, and because they'd read that my boy had
shared their dangers and given his life, as they were ready, one and
all, to do.

And those letters, nearly all, had the same refrain. They wanted me.
They wanted me to come to them, since they couldn't be coming to me.

"Come on out here and see us and sing for us, Harry," they'd write to
me. "It'd be a fair treat to see your mug and hear you singing about
the wee hoose amang the heather or the bonnie, bonnie lassie!"

How could a man get such a plea as that and not want to do what those
laddies asked? How could he think of the great deal they were doing
and not want to do the little bit they asked of him? But it was no a
simple matter, ye'll ken! I could not pack a bag and start for France
from Charing Cross or Victoria as I might have done--and often did--
before the war. No one might go to France unless he had passports and
leave from the war office, and many another sort of arrangement there
was to make. But I set wheels in motion.

Just to go to France to sing for the boys would have been easy
enough. They told me that at once.

"What? Harry Lauder wants to go to France to sing for the soldiers?
He shall--whenever he pleases! Tell him we'll be glad to send him!"

So said the war office. But I knew what they meant. They meant for me
to go to one or more of the British bases and give concerts. There
were troops moving in and out of the bases all the time; men who'd
been in the trenches or in action in an offensive and were back in
rest billets, or even further back, were there in their thousands.
But it was the real front I was eager to reach. I wanted to be where
my boy had been, and to see his grave. I wanted to sing for the
laddies who were bearing the brunt of the big job over there--while
they were bearing it.

And that no one had done. Many of our leading actors and singers and
other entertainers were going back and forth to France all the time.
Never a week went by but they were helping to cheer up the boys at
the bases. It was a grand work they were doing, and the boys were
grateful to them, and all Britain should share that gratitude. But it
was a wee bit more that I wanted to be doing, and there was the rub.

I wanted to go up to the battle lines themselves and to sing for the
boys who were in the thick of the struggle with the Hun. I wanted to
give a concert in a front-line trench where the Huns could hear me,
if they cared to listen. I wanted them to learn once more the lesson
we could never teach them often enough--the lesson of the spirit of
the British army, that could go into battle with a laugh on its lips.

But at first I got no encouragement at all when I told what it was in
my mind to do. My friends who had influence shook their heads.

"I'm afraid it can't be managed, Harry," they told me. "It's never
been done."

I told them what I believed myself, and what I have often thought of
when things looked hard and prospects were dark. I told them
everything had to be done for the first time sometime, and I begged
them not to give up the effort to win my way for me. And so I knew
that when they told me no one had done it before it wasn't reason
enough why I shouldn't do it. And I made up my mind that I would be
the pioneer in giving concerts under fire if that should turn out to
be a part of the contract.

But I could not argue. I could only say what it was that I wanted to
do, and wait the pleasure of those whose duty it was to decide. I
couldn't tell the military authorities where they must send me. It
was for me to obey when they gave their orders, and to go wherever
they thought I would do the most good. I would not have you thinking
that I was naming conditions, and saying I would go where I pleased
or bide at hame! That was not my way. All I could do was to hope that
in the end they would see matters as I did and so decide to let me
have my way. But I was ready for my orders, whatever they might be.

There was one thing I wanted, above all others, to do when I got to
France, and so much I said. I wanted to meet the Highland Brigade,
and see the bonnie laddies in their kilts as the Huns saw them--the
Huns, who called them the Ladies from Hell, and hated them worse than
they hated any troops in the whole British army.

Ha' ye heard the tale of the Scotsman and the Jew? Sandy and Ikey
they were, and they were having a disputatious argument together.
Each said he could name more great men of his race who were famous in
history than the other could. And they argued, and nearly came to
blows, and were no further along until they thought of making a bet.
An odd bet it was. For each great name that Sandy named of a Scot
whom history had honored he was to pull out one of Ikey's hairs, and
Ikey was to have the same privilege.

"Do ye begin!" said Sandy.

"Moses!" said They, and pulled.

"Bobbie Burns!" cried Sandy, and returned the compliment.

"Abraham!" said Ikey, and pulled again. "Ouch--Duggie Haig!" said
Sandy.

And then Ikey grabbed a handful of hairs at once.

"Joseph and his brethren!" he said, gloating a bit as he watched the
tears starting from Sandy's eyes at the pain of losing so many good
hairs at once.

"So it's pulling them out in bunches ye are!" said Sandy. "Ah, well,
man" And he reached with both his hands for Ikey's thatch.

"The Hieland Brigade!" he roared, and pulled all the hairs his two
hands would hold!

Ah, weel, there are sad thoughts that come to me, as well as proud
and happy ones, when I think of the bonnie kilted laddies who fought
and died so nobly out there against the Hun! They were my own
laddies, those, and it was with them and amang them that my boy went
to his death. It was amang them I would find, I thought, those who
could tell me more than I knew of how he had died, and of how he had
lived before he died. And I thought the boys of the brigade would be
glad to see me and to hear my songs--songs of their hames and their
ain land, auld Scotland. And so I used what influence I had, and did
not think it wrong to employ at such a time, and in such a cause. For
I knew that if they sent me to the Hieland Brigade they would be
sending me to the front of the front line--for that was where I would
have to go seeking the Hieland laddies!

I waited as patiently as I could. And then one day I got my orders! I
was delighted, for the thing they had told me could not be done had
actually been arranged for me. I was asked to get ready to go to
France to entertain the soldiers, and it was the happiest day I had
known since I had heard of my boy's death.

There was not much for me to do in the way of making ready. The whole
trip, of course, would be a military one. I might be setting out as a
minstrel for France, but every detail of my arrangements had to be
made in accordance with military rules, and once I reached France I
would be under the orders of the army in every movement I might make.
All that was carefully explained to me.

But still there were things for me to think about and to arrange. I
wanted some sort of accompaniment for my songs, and how to get it
puzzled me for a time. But there was a firm in London that made
pianos that heard of my coming trip, and solved that problem for me.
They built, and they presented to me, the weest piano ever you saw--a
piano so wee that it could be carried in an ordinary motor car. Only
five octaves it had, but it was big enough, and sma' enough at once.
I was delighted with it, and so were all who saw it. It weighed only
about a hundred and fifty pounds--less than even a middling stout
man! And it was cunningly built, so that no space at all was wasted.
Mrs. Lauder, when she saw it, called it cute, and so did every other
woman who laid eyes upon it. It was designed to be carried on the
grid of a motor car--and so it was, for many miles of shell-torn
roads!

When I was sure of my piano I thought of another thing it would be
well for me to take with me. And so I spent a hundred pounds--five
hundred American dollars--for cigarettes. I knew they would be welcome
everywhere I went. It makes no matter how many cigarettes we send to
France, there will never be enough. My friends thought I was making a
mistake in taking so many; they were afraid they would make matters
hard when it came to transportation, and reminded me that I faced
difficulties in that respect in France it was nearly impossible for us
at home in Britain to visualize at all. But I had my mind and my heart
set on getting those fags--a cigarette is a fag to every British
soldier--to my destination with me. Indeed, I thought they would mean
more to the laddies out there than I could hope to do myself!

I was not to travel alone. My tour was to include two traveling
companions of distinction and fame. One was James Hogge, M.P., member
from East Edinburgh, who was eager, as so many members of Parliament
were, to see for himself how things were at the front. James Hogge
was one of the members most liked by the soldiers. He had worked hard
for them, and gained--and well earned--much fame by the way he
struggled with the matter of getting the right sort of pensions for
the laddies who were offering their lives.

The other distinguished companion I was to have was an old and good
friend of mine, the Reverend George Adam, then a secretary to the
Minister of Munitions. He lived in Ilford, a suburb of London, then,
but is now in Montreal, Canada. I was glad of the opportunity to travel
with both these men, for I knew that one's traveling companions, on
such a tour, were of the utmost importance in determining its success
or failure, and I could not have chosen a better pair, had the choice
been left to me--which, of course, it was not.

There we were, you see--the Reverend George Adam, Harry Lauder and
James Hogge, M.P. And no sooner did the soldiers hear of the
combination than our tour was named "The Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P.,
Tour" was what we were called! And that absurd name stuck to us
through our whole journey, in France, up and down the battle line,
and until we came home to England and broke up!



CHAPTER XII

Up to that time I had thought I knew a good deal about the war. I had
had much news from my boy. I had talked, I think, to as many returned
soldiers as any man in Britain. I had seen much of the backwash and
the wretched aftermath of war. Ah, yes, I thought I knew more than
most folk did of what war meant! But until my tour began, as I see
now, easily enough, I knew nothing--literally nothing at all!

There are towns and ports in Britain that are military areas. One may
not enter them except upon business, the urgency of which has been
established to the satisfaction of the military authorities. One must
have a permit to live in them, even if they be one's home town. These
towns are vital to the war and its successful prosecution.

Until one has seen a British port of embarkation in this war one has
no real beginning, even, of a conception of the task the war has
imposed upon Britain. It was so with me, I know, and since then other
men have told me the same thing. There the army begins to pour into
the funnel, so to speak, that leads to France and the front. There
all sorts of lines are brought together, all sorts of scattered
activities come to a focus. There is incessant activity, day and
night.

It was from Folkestone, on the southeast coast, that the Reverend
Harry Lauder, M.P. Tour was to embark. And we reached Folkestone on
June 7, 1917.

Folkestone, in time of peace, was one of the greatest of the Southern
watering places. It is a lovely spot. Great hotels line the Leas, a
glorious promenade, along the top of chalk cliffs, that looks out
over the Channel. In the distance one fancies one may see the coast
of France, beyond the blue water.

There is green grass everywhere behind the beach. Folkestone has a
miniature harbor, that in time of peace gave shelter to the fishing
fleet and to the channel steamers that plied to and from Boulogne, in
France. The harbor is guarded by stone jetties. It has been greatly
enlarged now--so has all Folkestone, for that matter. But I am
remembering the town as it was in peace!

There was no pleasanter and kindlier resort along that coast. The
beach was wonderful, and all summer long it attracted bathers and
children at play. Bathing machines lined the beach, of course, within
the limits of the town; those queer, old, clumsy looking wagons, with
a dressing cabin on wheels, that were drawn up and down according to
the tide, so that bathers might enter the water from them directly.
There, as in most British towns, women bathed at one part of the
beach, men at the other, and all in the most decorous and modest of
costumes.

But at Folkestone, in the old days of peace, about a mile from the
town limits, there was another stretch of beach where all the gay
folk bathed--men and women together. And there the costumes were such
as might be seen at Deauville or Ostend, Etretat or Trouville. Highly
they scandalized the good folk of Folkestone, to be sure--but little
was said, and nothing was done, for, after all those were the folk
who spent the money! They dressed in white tents that gleamed against
the sea, and a pretty splash of color they made on a bright day for
the soberer folk to go and watch, as they sat on the low chalk cliffs
above them!

Gone--gone! Such days have passed for Folkestone! They will no doubt
come again--but when? When?

June the seventh! Folkestone should have been gay for the beginning
of the onset of summer visitors. Sea bathing should just have been
beginning to be attractive, as the sun warmed the sea and the beach.
But when we reached the town war was over all. Men in uniform were
everywhere. Warships lay outside the harbor. Khaki and guns, men
trudging along, bearing the burdens of war, motor trucks, rushing
ponderously along, carrying ammunition and food, messengers on
motorcycles, sounding to all traffic that might be in the way the
clamorous summons to clear the path--those were the sights we saw!

How hopelessly confused it all seemed! I could not believe that there
was order in the chaos that I saw. But that was because the key to
all that bewildering activity was not in my possession.

Every man had his appointed task. He was a cog in the greatest
machine the world has ever seen. He knew just what he was to do, and
how much time had been allowed for the performance of his task. It
was assumed he would not fail. The British army makes that
assumption, and it is warranted.

I hear praise, even from men who hate the Hun as I hate him, for the
superb military organization of the German army. They say the
Kaiser's people may well take pride in that. But I say that I am
prouder of what Britain and the new British army that has come into
being since this war began have done than any German has a right to
be! They spent forty-four years in making ready for a war they knew
they meant, some day, to fight. We had not had, that day that I first
saw our machine really functioning, as many months for preparation as
they had had years. And yet we were doing our part.

We had had to build and prepare while we helped our ally, France, to
hold off that gray horde that had swept down so treacherously through
Belgium from the north and east. It was as if we had organized and
trained and equipped a fire brigade while the fire was burning, and
while our first devoted fighters sought to keep it in check with
water buckets. And they did! They did! The water buckets served while
the hose was made, and the mains were laid, and the hydrants set in
place, and the trained firemen were made ready to take up the task.

And, now that I had come to Folkestone, now that I was seeing the
results of all the labor that had been performed, the effect of all
the prodigies of organization, I began to know what Lord Kitchener
and those who had worked with him had done. System ruled everything
at Folkestone. Nothing, it seemed to me, as officers explained as
much as they properly could, had been left to chance. Here was order
indeed.

In the air above us airplanes flew to and fro. They circled about
like great, watchful hawks. They looped and whirled around, cutting
this way and that, circling always. And I knew that, as they flew
about outside the harbor the men in them were never off their guard;
that they were peering down, watching every moment for the first
trace of a submarine that might have crept through the more remote
defenses of the Channel. Let a submarine appear--its shrift would be
short indeed!

There, above, waited the airplanes. And on the surface of the sea
sinister destroyers darted about as watchful as the flyers above,
ready for any emergency that might arise. I have no doubt that
submarines of our own lurked below, waiting, too, to do their part.
But those, if any there were, I did not see. And one asks no
questions at a place like Folkestone. I was glad of any information
an officer might voluntarily give me. But it was not for me or any
other loyal Briton to put him in the position of having to refuse to
answer.

Soon a great transport was pointed out to me, lying beside the jetty.
Gangplanks were down, and up them streams of men in khaki moved
endlessly. Up they went, in an endless brown river, to disappear into
the ship. The whole ship was a very hive of activity. Not only men
were going aboard, but supplies of every sort; boxes of ammunition,
stores, food. And I understood, and was presently to see, that beyond
her sides there was the same ordered scene as prevailed on shore.
Every man knew his task; the stowing away of everything that was
being carried aboard was being carried out systematically and with
the utmost possible economy of time and effort.

"That's the ship you will cross the Channel on," I was told. And I
regarded her with a new interest. I do not know what part she had
been wont to play in time of peace; what useful, pleasant journeys it
had been her part to complete, I only knew that she was to carry me
to France, and to the place where my heart was and for a long time
had been. Me--and two thousand men who were to be of real use over
there!

We were nearly the last to go on board. We found the decks swarming
with men. Ah, the braw laddies! They smoked and they laughed as they
settled themselves for the trip. Never a one looked as though he
might be sorry to be there. They were leaving behind them all the
good things, all the pleasant things, of life as, in time of peace,
every one of them had learned to live it and to know it. Long, long
since had the last illusion faded of the old days when war had seemed
a thing of pomp and circumstance and glory.

They knew well, those boys, what it was they faced. Hard, grinding
work they could look forward to doing; such work as few of them had
ever known in the old days. Death and wounds they could reckon upon
as the portion of just about so many of them. There would be bitter
cold, later, in the trenches, and mud, and standing for hours in icy
mud and water. There would be hard fare, and scanty, sometimes, when
things went wrong. There would be gas attacks, and the bursting of
shells about them with all sorts of poisons in them. Always there
would be the deadliest perils of these perilous days.

But they sang as they set out upon the great adventure of their
lives. They smiled and laughed. They cheered me, so that the tears
started from my eyes, when they saw me, and they called the gayest of
gay greetings, though they knew that I was going only for a little
while, and that many of them had set foot on British soil for the
last time. The steady babble of their voices came to our ears, and
they swarmed below us like ants as they disposed themselves about the
decks, and made the most of the scanty space that was allowed for
them. The trip was to be short, of course; there were too few ships,
and the problems of convoy were too great, to make it possible to
make the voyage a comfortable one. It was a case of getting them over
as might best be arranged.

A word of command rang out and was passed around by officers and non
coms.

"Life belts must be put on before the ship sails!"

That simple order brought home the grim facts of war at that moment as
scarcely anything else could have done. Here was a grim warning of the
peril that lurked outside. Everywhere men were scurrying to obey--I
among the rest. The order applied as much to us civilians as it did to
any of the soldiers. And my belt did not fit, and was hard, extremely
hard, for me to don. I could no manage it at all by myself, but Adam
and Hogge had had an easier time with theirs, and  they came to my help.
Among us we got mine on, and Hogge stood off, and looked at me,
and smiled.

"An extraordinary effect, Harry!" he said, with a smile. "I declare--
it gives you the most charming embonpoint!"

I had my doubts about his use of the word charming. I know that I
should not have cared to have anyone judge of my looks from a picture
taken as I looked then, had one been taken.

But it was not a time for such thoughts. For a civilian, especially,
and one not used to journeys in such times as these, there is a
thrill and a solemnity about the donning of a life preserver. I felt
that I was indeed, it might be, taking a risk in making this journey,
and it was an awesome thought that I, too, might have seen my native
land for the last time, and said a real good-by to those whom I had
left behind me.

Now we cast off, and began to move, and a thrill ran through me such
as I had never known before in all my life. I went to the rail as we
turned our nose toward the open sea. A destroyer was ahead, another
was beside us, others rode steadily along on either side. It was the
most reassuring of sights to see them. They looked so business like,
so capable. I could not imagine a Hun submarine as able to evade
their watchfulness. And moreover, there were the watchful man birds
above us, the circling airplanes, that could make out, so much better
than could any lookout on a ship, the first trace of the presence of
a tin fish. No--I was not afraid! I trusted in the British navy,
which had guarded the sea lane so well that not a man had lost his
life as the result of a Hun attack, although many millions had gone
back and forth to France since the beginning of the war.

I did not stay with my own party. I preferred to move about among the
Soldiers. I was deeply interested in them, as I have always been. And
I wanted to make friends among them, and see how they felt.

"Lor' lumme--its old 'Arry Lauder!" said one cockney. "God bless you,
'Arry--many's the time I've sung with you in the 'alls. It's good to
see you with us!"

And so I was greeted everywhere. Man after man crowded around me to
shake hands. It brought a lump into my throat to be greeted so, and
it made me more than ever glad that the military authorities had been
able to see their way to grant my request. It confirmed my belief
that I was going where I might be really useful to the men who were
ready and willing to make the greatest of all sacrifices in the cause
so close to all our hearts.

When I first went aboard the transport I picked up a little gold
stripe. It was one of those men wear who have been wounded, as a
badge of honor. I hoped I might be able to find the man who had lost
it, and return it to him. But none of them claimed it, and I have
kept it, to this day, as a souvenir of that voyage.

It was easy for them to know me. I wore my kilt and my cap, and my
knife in my stocking, as I have always done, on the stage, and nearly
always off it as well. And so they recognized me without difficulty.
And never a one called me anything but Harry--except when it was
'Arry! I think I would be much affronted if ever a British soldier
called me Mr. Lauder. I don't know--because not one of them ever did,
and I hope none ever will!

They told me that there were men from the Highlands on board, and I
went looking for them, and found them after a time, though going
about that ship, so crowded she was, was no easy matter. They were
Gordon Highlanders, mostly, I found, and they were glad to see me,
and made me welcome, and I had a pipe with them, and a good talk.

Many of them were going back, after having been at home, recuperating
from wounds. And they and the new men too were all eager and anxious
to be put there and at work.

"Gie us a chance at the Huns--it's all we're asking," said one of a
new draft. "They're telling us they don't like the sight of our
kilts, Harry, and that a Hun's got less stomach for the cold steel of
a bayonet than for anything else on earth. Weel--we're carrying a
dose of it for them!"

And the men who had been out before, and were taking back with them
the scars they had earned, were just as anxious as the rest. That was
the spirit of every man on board. They did not like war as war, but
they knew that this was a war that must be fought to the finish, and
never a man of them wanted peace to come until Fritz had learned his
lesson to the bottom of Lie last grim page.

I never heard a word of the danger of meeting a submarine. The idea
that one might send a torpedo after us popped into my mind once or
twice, but when it did I looked out at the destroyers, guarding us,
and the airplanes above, and I felt as safe as if I had been in bed
in my wee hoose at Dunoon. It was a true highway of war that those
whippets of the sea had made the Channel crossing.

Ahm, but I was proud that day of the British navy! It is a great task
that it has performed, and nobly it has done it. And it was proud and
glad I was again when we sighted land, as we soon did, and I knew
that I was gazing, for the first time since war had been declared,
upon the shores of our great ally, France. It was the great day and
the proud day and the happy day for me!

I was near the realizing of an old dream I had often had. I was with
the soldiers who had my love and my devotion, and I was coming to
France--the France that every Scotchman learns to love at his
mother's breast.

A stir ran through the men. Orders began to fly, and I went back to
my place and my party. Soon we would be ashore, and I would be in the
way of beginning the work I had come to do.

[ILLUSTRATION: Harry Lauder preserves the bonnet of his son, brought
to him from where the lad fell. "The memory of his boy, it is almost
his religion." (See Lauder05.jpg)]

[ILLUSTRATION: A tatter of plaid of the Black Watch on a wire of a
German entanglement barely suggests the hell the Scotch troops have
gone through. (See Lauder06.jpg)]



CHAPTER XIII

Boulogne!

Like Folkestone, Boulogne, in happier times, had been a watering
place, less fashionable than some on the French coast, but the
pleasant resort of many in search of health and pleasure. And like
Folkestone it had suffered the blight of war. The war had laid its
heavy hand upon the port. It ruled everything; it was omnipresent.
From the moment when we came into full view of the harbor it was
impossible to think of anything else.

Folkestone had made me think of the mouth of a great funnel, into
which all broad Britain had been pouring men and guns and all the
manifold supplies and stores of modern war. And the trip across the
narrow, well guarded lane in the Channel had been like the pouring of
water through the neck of that same funnel. Here in Boulogne was the
opening. Here the stream of men and sup-plies spread out to begin its
orderly, irresistible flow to the front. All of northern France and
Belgium lay before that stream; it had to cover all the great length
of the British front. Not from Boulogne alone, of course; I knew of
Dunkirk and Calais, and guessed at other ports. There were other
funnels, and into all of them, day after day, Britain was pouring her
tribute; through all of them she was offering her sacrifice, to be
laid upon the altar of strife.

Here, much more than at Folkestone, as it chanced, I saw at once
another thing. There was a double funnel. The stream ran both ways.
For, as we steamed into Boulogne, a ship was coming out--a ship with
a grim and tragic burden. She was one of our hospital ships. But she
was guarded as carefully by destroyers and aircraft as our transport
had been. The Red Cross meant nothing to the Hun--except, perhaps, a
shining target. Ship after ship that bore that symbol of mercy and of
pain had been sunk. No longer did our navy dare to trust the Red
Cross. It took every precaution it could take to protect the poor
fellows who were going home to Blighty.

As we made our way slowly in, through the crowded harbor, full of
transports, of ammunition ships, of food carriers, of destroyers and
small naval craft of all sorts, I began to be able to see more and
more of what was afoot ashore. It was near noon; the day that had
been chosen for my arrival in France was one of brilliant sunshine
and a cloudless sky. And my eyes were drawn to other hospital ships
that were waiting at the docks. Motor ambulances came dashing up, one
after the other, in what seemed to me to be an endless stream. The
pity of that sight! It was as if I could peer through the intervening
space and see the bandaged heads, the places where limbs had been,
the steadfast gaze of the boys who were being carried up in
stretchers. They had done their task, a great number of them; they
had given all that God would let them give to King and country. Life
was left to them, to be sure; most of these boys were sure to live.

But to what maimed and incomplete lives were they doomed! The
thousands who would be cripples always--blind, some of them, and
helpless, dependent upon what others might choose or be able to do
for them. It was then, in that moment, that an idea was born,
vaguely, in my mind, of which I shall have much more to say later.

There was beauty in that harbor of Boulogne. The sun gleamed against
the chalk cliffs. It caught the wings of airplanes, flying high above
us. But there was little of beauty in my mind's eye. That could see
through the surface beauty of the scene and of the day to the grim,
stark ugliness of war that lay beneath.

I saw the ordered piles of boxes and supplies, the bright guns, with
the sun reflected from their barrels, dulled though these were to
prevent that very thing. And I thought of the waste that was
involved--of how all this vast product of industry was destined to be
destroyed, as swiftly as might be, bringing no useful accomplishment
with its destruction--save, of course, that accomplishment which must
be completed before any useful thing may be done again in this world.

Then we went ashore, and I could scarcely believe that we were indeed
in France, that land which, friends though our nations are, is at
heart and in spirit so different from my own country. Boulogne had
ceased to be French, indeed. The port was like a bit of Britain
picked up, carried across the Channel and transplanted successfully
to a new resting-place.

English was spoken everywhere--and much of it was the English of the
cockney, innocent of the aitch, and redolent of that strange tongue.
But it is no for me, a Scot, to speak of how any other man uses the
King's English! Well I ken it! It was good to hear it--had there been
a thought in my mind of being homesick, it would quickly have been
dispelled. The streets rang to the tread of British soldiers; our
uniform was everywhere. There were Frenchmen, too; they were
attached, many of them, for one reason and another, to the British
forces. But most of them spoke English too.

I had most care about the unloading of my cigarettes. It was a point
of honor with me, by now, after the way my friends had joked me about
them, to see that every last one of the "fags" I had brought with me
reached a British Tommy. So to them I gave my first care. Then I saw
to the unloading of my wee piano, and, having done so, was free to go
with the other members of the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour to
the small hotel that was to be headquarters for all of us in
Boulogne.

Arrangements had to be made for my debut in France, and I can tell
you that no professional engagement I have ever filled ever gave me
half so much concern as this one! I have sung before many strange
audiences, in all parts of the world, or nearly all. I have sung for
folk who had no idea of what to expect from me, and have known that I
must be at work from the moment of my first appearance on the stage
to win them. But these audiences that I was to face here in France
gave me more thought than any of them. I had so great a reason for
wanting to suceed with them!

And here, ye ken, I faced conditions that were harder than had ever
fallen to my lot. I was not to have, most of the time, even the
military theaters that had, in some cases, been built for the men
behind the lines, where many actors and, indeed, whole companies,
from home had been appearing. I could make no changes of costume. I
would have no orchestra. Part of the time I would have my wee piano,
but I reckoned on going to places where even that sma' thing could no
follow me.

But I had a good manager--the British army, no less! It was the army
that had arranged my booking. We were not left alone, not for a
minute. I would not have you think that we were left to go around on
our own, and as we pleased. Far from it! No sooner had we landed than
Captain Roberts, D.S.O., told me, in a brief, soldierly way, that was
also extremely businesslike, what sort of plans had been made for us.

"We have a number of big hospitals here," he said. "This is one of
the important British bases, as you know, and it is one of those
where many of our men are treated before they are sent home. So,
since you are here, we thought you would want to give your first
concerts to the wounded men here."

So I learned that the opening of what you might call my engagement in
the trenches was to be in hospitals. That was not new to me, and yet
I was to find that there was a difference between a base hospital in
France and the sort of hospitals I had seen so often at home.

Nothing, indeed, was left to us. After Captain Roberts had explained
matters, we met Captain Godfrey, who was to travel with us, and be
our guide, our military mentor and our ruler. We understood that we
must place ourselves under him, and under military discipline. No
Tommy, indeed, was more under discipline than we had to be. But we
did not chafe, civilians though we were. When you see the British
army at work nothing is further from your thoughts than to criticize
or to offer any suggestions. It knows its business, and does it,
quietly and without fuss. But even Fritz has learned to be chary of
getting in the way when the British army has made up its mind--and
that is what he is there for, though I've no doubt that Fritz himself
would give a pretty penny to be at home again, with peace declared.

Captain Godfrey, absolute though his power over us was--he could have
ordered us all home at a moment's notice--turned out to be a
delightful young officer, who did everything in his power to make our
way smooth and pleasant, and who was certainly as good a manager as I
ever had or ever expect to have. He entered into the spirit of our
tour, and it was plain to see that it would be a success from start
to finish if it were within his power to make it so. He liked to call
himself my manager, and took a great delight, indeed, in the whole
experience. Well, it was a change for him, no doubt!

I had brought a piano with me, but no accompanist. That was not an
oversight; it was a matter of deliberate choice. I had been told,
before I left home, that I would have no difficulty in finding some
one among the soldiers to accompany me. And that was true, as I soon
found. In fact, as I was to learn later, I could have recruited a
full orchestra among the Tommies, and I would have had in my band,
too, musicians of fame and great ability, far above the average
theater orchestra. Oh, you must go to France to learn how every art
and craft in Britain has done its part!

Aye, every sort of artist and artisan, men of every profession and
trade, can be found in the British army. It has taken them all, like
some great melting pot, and made them soldiers. I think, indeed,
there is no calling that you could name that would not yield you a
master hand from the ranks of the British army. And I am not talking
of the officers alone, but of the great mass of Tommies. And so when
I told Captain Godfrey I would be needing a good pianist to play my
accompaniments, he just smiled.

"Right you are!" he said. "We'll turn one up for you in no time!"

He had no doubts at all, and he was right. They found a lad called
Johnson, a Yorkshireman, in a convalescent ward of one of the big
hospitals. He was recovering from an illness he had incurred in the
trenches, and was not quite ready to go back to active duty. But he
was well enough to play for me, and delighted when he heard he might
get the assignment. He was nervous lest he should not please me, and
feared I might ask for another man. But when I ran over with him the
songs I meant to sing I found he played the piano very well indeed,
and had a knack for accompanying, too. There are good pianists,
soloists, who are not good accompanists; it takes more than just the
ability to play the piano to work with a singer, and especially with
a singer like me. It is no straight ahead singing I do always, as you
ken, perhaps.

But I saw at once that Johnson and I would get along fine together,
so everyone was pleased, and I went on and made my preparations with
him for my first concert. That was to be in the Boulogne Casino--
center of the gayety of the resort in the old days, but now, for a
long time, turned into a base hospital.

They had played for high stakes there in the old days before the war.
Thousands of dollars had changed hands in an hour there. But they
were playing for higher stakes now! They were playing for the lives
and the health of men, and the hearts of the women at home in Britain
who were bound up with them. In the old days men had staked their
money against the turn of a card or the roll of the wheel. But now it
was with Death they staked--and it was a mightier game than those old
walls had ever seen before.

The largest ward of the hospital was in what had been the Baccarat
room, and it was there I held my first concert of the trench
engagement. When I appeared it was packed full. There were men on
cots, lying still and helpless, bandaged to their very eyes. Some
came limping in on their crutches; some were rolled in in chairs. It
was a sad scene and an impressive one, and it went to my heart when I
thought that my own poor laddie must have lain in just such a room--
in this very one, perhaps. He had suffered as these men were
suffering, and he had died--as some of these men for whom I was to
sing would die. For there were men here who would be patched up,
presently, and would go back. And for them there might be a next
time--a next time when they would need no hospital.

There was one thing about the place I liked. It was so clean and
white and spotless. All the garish display, the paint and tawdry
finery, of the old gambling days, had gone. It was restful, now, and
though there was the hospital smell, it was a clean smell. And the
men looked as though they had wonderful care. Indeed, I knew they had
that; I knew that everything that could be done to ease their state
was being done. And every face I saw was brave and cheerful, though
the skin of many and many a lad was stretched tight over his bones
with the pain he had known, and there was a look in their eyes, a
look with no repining in it, or complaint, but with the evidences of
a terrible pain, bravely suffered, that sent the tears starting to my
eyes more than once.

It was much as it had been in the many hospitals I had visited in
Britain, and yet it was different, too. I felt that I was really at
the front. Later I came to realize how far from the real front I
actually was at Boulogne, but then I knew no better.

I had chosen my programme carefully. It was made up of songs
altogether. I had had enough experience in hospitals and camps by now
to have learned what soldiers liked best, and I had no doubt at all
that it was just songs. And best of all they liked the old love
songs, and the old songs of Scotland--tender, crooning melodies, that
would help to carry them back, in memory, to their hames and, if they
had them, to the lassies of their dreams. It was no sad, lugubrious
songs they wanted. But a note of wistful tenderness they liked. That
was true of sick and wounded, and of the hale and hearty too--and it
showed that, though they were soldiers, they were just humans like
the rest of us, for all the great and super-human things they ha'
done out there in France.

Not every actor and artist who has tried to help in the hospitals has
fully understood the men he or she wanted to please. They meant well,
every one, but some were a wee bit unfortunate in the way they went
to work. There is a story that is told of one of our really great
serious actors. He is serious minded, always, on the stage and off,
and very, very dignified. But some folk went to him and asked him
would he no do his bit to cheer up the puir laddies in a hospital?

He never thought of refusing--and I would no have you think I am
sneering at the man! His intentions were of the best.

"Of course, I do not sing or dance," he said, drawing down his lip.
And the look in his eyes showed what he thought of such of us as had
descended to such low ways of pleasing the public that paid to see us
and to hear us: "But I shall very gladly do something to bring a
little diversion into the sad lives of the poor boys in the
hospitals."

It was a stretcher audience that he had. That means a lot of boys who
had to lie in bed to hear him. They needed cheering. And that great
actor, with all his good intentions could think of nothing more
fitting than to stand up before them and begin to recite, in a sad,
elocutionary tone, Longfellow's "The Wreck of the Hesperus!"

He went on, and his voice gained power. He had come to the third
stanza, or the fourth, maybe, when a command rang out through the
ward. It was one that had been heard many and many a time in France,
along the trenches. It came from one of the beds.

"To cover, men!" came the order.

It rang out through the ward, in a hoarse voice. And on the word
every man's head popped under the bedclothes! And the great actor,
astonished beyond measure, was left there, reciting away to shaking
mounds of bedclothes that entrenched his hearers from the sound of
his voice!

Well, I had heard yon tale. I do no think I should ever have risked a
similar fate by making the same sort of mistake, but I profited by
hearing it, and I always remembered it. And there was another thing.
I never thought, when I was going to sing for soldiers, that I was
doing something for them that should make them glad to listen to me,
no matter what I chose to sing for them.

I always thought, instead, that here was an audience that had paid to
hear me in the dearest coin in all the world--their legs and arms,
their health and happiness. Oh, they had paid! They had not come in
on free passes! Their tickets had cost them dear--dearer than tickets
for the theater had ever cost before. I owed them more than I could
ever pay--my own future, and my freedom, and the right and the chance
to go on living in my own country free from the threat and the menace
of the Hun. It was for me to please those boys when I sang for them,
and to make such an effort as no ordinary audience had ever heard
from me.

They had made a little platform to serve as a stage for me. There was
room for me and for Johnson, and for the wee piano. And so I sang for
them, and they showed me from the start that they were pleased. Those
who could, clapped, and all cheered, and after each song there was a
great pounding of crutches on the floor. It was an inspiring sound
and a great sight, sad though it was to see and to hear.

When I had done I went aboot amang the men, shaking hands with such
as could gie me their hands, and saying a word or two to all of them.
Directly in front of the platform there lay a wounded Scots soldier,
and all through my concert he watched me most intently; he never took
his eyes off me. When I had sung my last song he beckoned to me
feebly, and I went to him, and bent over to listen to him.

"Eh, Harry, man," he said, "will ye be doin' me a favor?"

"Aye, that I will, if I can," I told him.

"It's to ask the doctor will I no be gettin' better soon. Because,
Harry, mon, I've but the one desire left--and that's to be in at the
finish of yon fight!"

I was to give one more concert in Boulogne, that night. That was more
cheerful, and it was different, again, from anything I had done or
known before. There was a convalescent camp, about two miles from
town, high up on the chalk cliffs. And this time my theater was a
Y.M.C.A. hut. But do not let the name hut deceive ye! I had an
audience of two thousand men that nicht! It was all the "hut" would
hold, with tight squeezing. And what a roaring, wild crowd that was,
to be sure! They sang with me, and they cheered and clapped until I
thought that hut would be needing a new roof!

I had to give over at last, for I was tired, and needed sleep. We had
our orders. The Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour was to start for
Vimy Ridge at six o'clock next morning!



CHAPTER XIV

We were up next morning before daybreak. But I did not feel as if I
were getting up early. Indeed, it was quite the reverse. All about us
was a scene of such activity that I felt as if I had been lying in
bed unconsciously long--as if I were the laziest man in all that busy
town. Troops were setting out, boarding military trains. Cheery,
jovial fellows they were--the same lads, some of them, who had
crossed the Channel with me, and many others who had come in later.
Oh, it is a steady stream of men and supplies, indeed, that goes
across the narrow sea to France!

Motor trucks--they were calling them camions, after the French
fashion, because it was a shorter and a simpler word--fairly swarmed
in the streets. Guns rolled ponderously along. It was not military
pomp we saw. Indeed, I saw little enough of that in France. It was
only the uniforms and the guns that made me realize that this was
war. The activity was more that of a busy, bustling factory town. It
was not English, and it was not French. I think it made me think more
of an American city. War, I cannot tell you often enough, is a great
business, a vast industry, in these days. Someone said, and he was
right, that they did not win victories any more--that they
manufactured them, as all sorts of goods are manufactured. Digging,
and building--that is the great work of modern war.

Our preparations, being in the hands of Captain Godfrey and the
British army, were few and easily made. Two great, fast army motor
cars had been put at the disposal of the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P.,
Tour, and when we went out to get into them and make our start it was
just a problem of stowing away all we had to carry with us.

The first car was a passenger car. Each motor had a soldier as
chauffeur. I and the Reverend George Adam rode in the tonneau of the
leading car, and Captain Godfrey, our manager and guide, sat with the
driver, in front. That was where he belonged, and where, being a
British officer, he naturally wanted to be. They have called our
officers reckless, and said that they risked their lives too freely.
Weel--I dinna ken! I am no soldier. But I know what a glorious
tradition the British officer has--and I know, too, how his men
follow him. They know, do the laddies in the ranks, that their
officers will never ask them to go anywhere or do anything they would
shirk themselves--and that makes for a spirit that you could not
esteem too highly.

It was the second car that was our problem. We put Johnson, my
accompanist, in the tonneau first, and then we covered him with
cigarettes. It was a problem to get them stowed away, and when we had
accomplished the task, finally, there was not much of Johnson to be
seen! He was covered and surrounded with cigarettes, but he was snug,
and he looked happy and comfortable, as he grinned at us--his face
was about all of him that we could see. Hogge rode in front with the
driver of that car, and had more room, so, than he would have had in
the tonneau, where, as a passenger and a guest, he really belonged.
The wee bit piano was lashed to the grid of the second car. And I
give you my word it looked like a gypsy's wagon more than like one of
the neat cars of the British army!

Weel, all was ready in due time, and it was just six o'clock when we
set off. There was a thing I noted again and again. The army did
things on time in France. If we were to start at a certain time we
always did. Nothing ever happened to make us unpunctual.

It was a glorious morning! We went roaring out of Boulogne on a road
that was as hard and smooth as a paved street in London despite all
the terrific traffic it had borne since the war made Boulogne a
British base. And there were no speed limits here. So soon as the
cars were tuned up we went along at the highest speed of which the
cars were capable. Our soldier drivers knew their business; only the
picked men were assigned to the driving of these cars, and speed was
one of the things that was wanted of them. Much may hang on the speed
of a motor car in France.

But, fast as we traveled, we did not go too fast for me to enjoy the
drive and the sights and sounds that were all about us. They were
oddly mixed. Some were homely and familiar, and some were so strange
that I could not give over wondering at them. The motors made a great
noise, but it was not too loud for me to hear larks singing in the
early morning. All the world was green with the early sun upon it,
lighting up every detail of a strange countryside. There was a soft
wind, a gentle, caressing wind, that stirred the leaves of the trees
along the road.

But not for long could we escape the touch of war. That grim etcher
was at work upon the road and the whole countryside. As we went on we
were bound to move more slowly, because of the congestion of the
traffic. Never was Piccadilly or Fifth Avenue more crowded with
motors at the busiest hour of the day than was that road. As we
passed through villages or came to cross roads we saw military
police, directing traffic, precisely as they do at busy intersections
of crowded streets in London or New York.

But the traffic along that road was not the traffic of the cities.
Here were no ladies, gorgeously clad, reclining in their luxurious,
deeply upholstered cars. Here were no footmen and chauffeurs in
livery. Ah, they wore a livery--aye! But it was the livery of glory--
the khaki of the King! Generals and high officers passed us, bowling
along, lolling in their cars, taking their few brief minutes or half
hours of ease, smoking and talking. They corresponded to the
limousines and landaulets of the cities. And there were wagons from
the shops--great trucks, carrying supplies, going along at a pace
that racked their engines and their bodies, and that boded disaster
to whoever got in their way. But no one did--there was no real
confusion here, despite the seeming madness of the welter of traffic
that we saw.

What a traffic that was! And it was all the traffic of the carnage we
were nearing. It was a marvelous and an impressive panorama of force
and of destruction that we saw it was being constantly unrolled
before my wondering eyes as we traveled along the road out of old
Boulogne.

At first all the traffic was going our way. Sometimes there came a
warning shriek from behind, and everything drew to one side to make
room for a dispatch rider on a motor cycle. These had the right of
way. Sir Douglas Haig himself, were he driving along, would see his
driver turn out to make way for one of those shrieking motor bikes!
The rule is absolute--everything makes way for them.

But it was not long before a tide of traffic began to meet us,
flowing back toward Boulogne. There was a double stream then, and I
wondered how collisions and traffic jams of all sorts could be
avoided. I do not know yet; I only know that there is no trouble.
Here were empty trucks, speeding back for new loads. And some there
were that carried all sorts of wreckage--the flotsam and jetsam cast
up on the safe shores behind the front by the red tide of war.
Nothing is thrown away out there; nothing is wasted. Great piles of
discarded shoes are brought back to be made over. They are as good as
new when they come back from the factories where they are worked
over. Indeed, the men told me they were better than new, because they
were less trying to their feet, and did not need so much breaking in.

Men go about, behind the front, and after a battle, picking up
everything that has been thrown away. Everything is sorted and gone
over with the utmost care. Rifles that have been thrown away or
dropped when men were wounded or killed, bits of uniforms, bayonets--
everything is saved. Reclamation is the order of the day. There is
waste enough in war that cannot be avoided; the British army sees to
it that there is none that is avoidable.

But it was not only that sort of wreckage, that sort of driftwood
that was being carried back to be made over. Presently we began to
see great motor ambulances coming along, each with a Red Cross
painted glaringly on its side--though that paint was wasted or worse,
for there is no target the Hun loves better, it would seem, than the
great red cross of mercy. And in them, as we knew, there was the most
pitiful wreckage of all--the human wreckage of the war.

In the wee sma' hours of the morn they bear the men back who have
been hit the day before and during the night. They go back to the
field dressing stations and the hospitals just behind the front, to
be sorted like the other wreckage. Some there are who cannot be moved
further, at first, but must he cared for under fire, lest they die on
the way. But all whose wounds are such that they can safely be moved
go back in the ambulances, first to the great base hospitals, and
then, when possible, on the hospital ships to England.

Sometimes, but not often, we passed troops marching along the road.
They swung along. They marched easily, with the stride that could
carry them furthest with the least effort. They did not look much
like the troops I used to see in London. They did not have the snap
of the Coldstream Guards, marching through Green Park in the old
days. But they looked like business and like war. They looked like
men who had a job of work to do and meant to see it through.

They had discipline, those laddies, but it was not the old, stiff
discipline of the old army. That is a thing of a day that is dead and
gone. Now, as we passed along the side of the road that marching
troops always leave clear, there was always a series of hails for me.

"Hello, Harry!" I would hear.

And I would look back, and see grinning Tommies waving their hands to
me. It was a flattering experience, I can tell you, to be recognized
like that along that road. It was like running into old friends in a
strange town where you have come thinking you know no one at all.

We were about thirty miles out of Boulogne when there was a sudden
explosion underneath the car, followed by a sibilant sound that I
knew only too well.

"Hello--a puncture!" said Godfrey, and smiled as he turned around. We
drew up to the side of the road, and both chauffeurs jumped out and
went to work on the recalcitrant tire. The rest of us sat still, and
gazed around us at the fields. I was glad to have a chance to look
quietly about. The fields stretched out, all emerald green, in all
directions to the distant horizon, sapphire blue that glorious
morning. And in the fields, here and there, were the bent, stooped
figures of old men and women. They were carrying on, quietly.
Husbands and sons and brothers had gone to war; all the young men of
France had gone. These were left, and they were seeing to the
performance of the endless cycle of duty. France would survive; the
Hun could not crush her. Here was a spirit made manifest--a spirit
different in degree but not in kind from the spirit of my ain
Britain. It brought a lump into my throat to see them, the old men
and the women, going so patiently and quietly about their tasks.

It was very quiet. Faint sounds came to us; there was a distant
rumbling, like the muttering of thunder on a summer's night, when the
day has been hot and there are low, black clouds lying against the
horizon, with the flashes of the lightning playing through them. But
that I had come already not to heed, though I knew full well, by now,
what it was and what it meant. For a little space the busy road had
become clear; there was a long break in the traffic.

I turned to Adam and to Captain Godfrey.

"I'm thinking here's a fine chance for a bit of a rehearsal in the
open air," I said. "I'm not used to singing so--mayhap it would be
well to try my voice and see will it carry as it should."

"Right oh!" said Godfrey.

And so we dug Johnson out from his snug barricade of cigarettes, that
hid him as an emplacement hides a gun, and we unstrapped my wee piano,
and set it up in the road. Johnson tried the piano, and then we began.

I think I never sang with less restraint in all my life than I did
that quiet morning on the Boulogne road. I raised my voice and let it
have its will. And I felt my spirits rising with the lilt of the
melody. My voice rang out, full and free, and it must have carried
far and wide across the fields.

My audience was small at first--Captain Godfrey, Hogge, Adam, and the
two chauffeurs, working away, and having more trouble with the tire
than they had thought at first they would--which is the way of tires,
as every man knows who owns a car. But as they heard my songs the old
men and women in the fields straightened up to listen. They stood
wondering, at first, and then, slowly, they gave over their work for
a space, and came to gather round me and to listen.

It must have seemed strange to them! Indeed, it must have seemed
strange to anyone had they seen and heard me! There I was, with
Johnson at my piano, like some wayside tinker setting up his cart and
working at his trade! But I did not care for appearances--not a whit.
For the moment I was care free, a wandering minstrel, like some
troubadour of old, care free and happy in my song. I forgot the black
shadow under which we all lay in that smiling land, the black shadow
of war in which I sang.

It delighted me to see those old peasants and to study their faces,
and to try to win them with my song. They could not understand a word
I sang, and yet I saw the smiles breaking out over their wrinkled
faces, and it made me proud and happy. For it was plain that I was
reaching them--that I was able to throw a bridge over the gap of a
strange tongue and an alien race. When I had done and it was plain I
meant to sing no more they clapped me.

"There's a hand for you, Harry," said Adam. "Aye--and I'm proud of
it!" I told him for reply.

I was almost sorry when I saw that the two chauffeurs had finished
their repairs and were ready to go on. But I told them to lash the
piano back in its place, and Johnson prepared to climb gingerly back
among his cigarettes. But just then something happened that I had not
expected.

There was a turn in the road just beyond us that hid its continuation
from us. And around the bend now there came a company of soldiers.
Not neat and well-appointed soldiers these. Ah, no! They were fresh
from the trenches, on their way back to rest. The mud and grime of
the trenches were upon them. They were tired and weary, and they
carried all their accoutrements and packs with them. Their boots were
heavy with mud. And they looked bad, and many of them shaky. Most of
these men, Godfrey told me after a glance at them, had been ordered
back to hospital for minor ailments. They were able to march, but not
much more.

They were the first men I had seen in such a case, They looked bad
enough, but Godfrey said they were happy enough. Some of them would
get leave for Blighty, and be home, in a few days, to see their
families and their girls. And they came swinging along in fine style,
sick and tired as they were, for the thought of where they were going
cheered them and helped to keep them going.

A British soldier, equipped for the trenches, on his way in or out,
has quite a load to carry. He has his pack, and his emergency ration,
and his entrenching tools, and extra clothing that he needs in bad
weather in the trenches, to say nothing of his ever-present rifle.
And the sight of them made me realize for the first time the truth
that lay behind the jest in a story that is one of Tommy's favorites.

A child saw a soldier in heavy marching order. She gazed at him in
wide-eyed wonder. He was not her idea of what a soldier should look
like.

"Mother," she asked, "what is a soldier for?"

The mother gazed at the man. And then she smiled.

"A soldier," she answered, "is to hang things on."

They eyed me very curiously as they came along, those sick laddies.
They couldn't seem to understand what I was doing there, but their
discipline held them. They were in charge of a young lieutenant with
one star--a second lieutenant. I learned later that he was a long way
from being a well man himself. So I stopped him. "Would your men like
to hear a few songs, lieutenant?" I asked him.

He hesitated. He didn't quite understand, and he wasn't a bit sure
what his duty was in the circumstances. He glanced at Godfrey, and
Godfrey smiled at him as if in encouragement.

"It's very good of you, I'm sure," he said, slowly. "Fall out!"

So the men fell out, and squatted there, along the wayside. At once
discipline was relaxed. Their faces were a study as the wee piano was
set up again, and Johnson, in uniform, of course sat down and trued a
chord or two. And then suddenly something happened that broke the
ice. Just as I stood up to sing a loud voice broke the silence.

"Lor' love us!" one of the men cried, "if it ain't old 'Arry Lauder!"

There was a stir of interest at once. I spotted the owner of the
voice. It was a shriveled up little chap, with a weazened face that
looked like a sun-dried apple. He was showing all his teeth in a grin
at me, and he was a typical little cockney of the sort all Londoners
know well.

"Go it, 'Arry!" he shouted, shrilly. "Many's the time h' I've 'eard
you at the old Shoreditch!"

So I went it as well as I could, and I never did have a more
appreciative audience. My little cockney friend seemed to take a
particular personal pride in me. I think he thought he had found me,
and that he was, in an odd way, responsible for my success with his
mates. And so he was especially glad when they cheered me and thanked
me as they did.

My concert didn't last long, for we had to be getting on, and the
company of sick men had just so much time, too, to reach their
destination--Boulogne, whence we had set out. When it was over I said
good-by to the men, and shook hands with particular warmth with the
little cockney. It wasn't every day I was likely to meet a man who
had often heard me at the old Shoreditch! After we had stowed Johnson
and the piano away again, with a few less cigarettes, now, to get in
Johnson's way, we started, and as long as we were in sight the little
cockney and I were waving to one another.

I took some of the cigarettes into the car I was in now. And as we
sped along we were again in the thick of the great British war
machine. Motor trucks and ambulances were more frequent than ever,
and it was a common occurrence now to pass soldiers, marching in both
directions--to the front and away from it. There was always some-one
to recognize me and start a volley of "Hello, Harrys" coming my way,
and I answered every greeting, you may be sure, and threw cigarettes
to go with my "Hellos."

Aye, I was glad I had brought the cigarettes! They seemed to be even
more welcome than I had hoped they would be, and I only wondered how
long the supply would hold out, and if I would be able to get more if
it did not. So Johnson, little by little, was getting more room, as I
called for more and more of the cigarettes that walled him in in his
tonneau.

About noon, as we drove through a little town, I saw, for the first
time, a whole flock of airplanes riding the sky. They were swooping
about like lazy hawks, and a bonnie sight they were. I drew a long
breath when I saw them, and turned to my friend Adam.

"Well," I said, "I think we're coming to it, now!"

I meant the front--the real, British front.

Suddenly, at a sharp order from Captain Godfrey, our cars stopped. He
turned around to us, and grinned, very cheerfully.

"Gentlemen," he said, very calmly, "we'll stop here long enough to
put on our steel helmets."

He said it just as he might have said: "Well, here's where we will
stop for tea."

It meant no more than that to him. But for me it meant many things.
It meant that at last I was really to be under fire; that I was going
into danger. I was not really frightened yet; you have to see danger,
and know just what it is, and appreciate exactly its character,
before you can be frightened. But I had imagination enough to know
what that order meant, and to have a queer feeling as I donned the
steel helmet. It was less uncomfortable than I had expected it to
be--lighter, and easier to wear. The British trench helmets are
beautifully made, now; as in every other phase of the war and its
work they represent a constant study for improvement, lightening.

But, even had it not been for the warning that was implied in Captain
Godfrey's order, I should soon have understood that we had come into
a new region. For a long time now the noise of the guns had been
different. Instead of being like distant thunder it was a much nearer
and louder sound. It was a steady, throbbing roar now.

And, at intervals, there came a different sound; a sound more
individual, that stood out from the steady roar. It was as if the air
were being cracked apart by the blow of some giant hammer. I knew
what it was. Aye, I knew. You need no man to tell you what it is--the
explosion of a great shell not so far from you!

Nor was it our ears alone that told us what was going on. Ever and
anon, now, ahead of us, as we looked at the fields, we saw a cloud of
dirt rise up. That was where a shell struck. And in the fields about
us, now, we could see holes, full of water, as a rule, and mounds of
dirt that did not look as if shovels and picks had raised them.

It surprised me to see that the peasants were still at work. I spoke
to Godfrey about that.

"The French peasants don't seem to know what it is to be afraid of
shell-fire," he said. "They go only when we make them. It is the same
on the French front. They will cling to a farmhouse in the zone of
fire until they are ordered out, no matter how heavily it may be
shelled. They are splendid folk! The Germans can never beat a race
that has such folk as that behind its battle line."

I could well believe him. I have seen no sight along the whole front
more quietly impressive than the calm, impassive courage of those
French peasants. They know they are right! It is no Kaiser, no war
lord, who gives them courage. It is the knowledge and the
consciousness that they are suffering in a holy cause, and that, in
the end, the right and the truth must prevail. Their own fate,
whatever may befall them, does not matter. France must go on and
shall, and they do their humble part to see that she does and shall.

Solemn thoughts moved me as we drove on. Here there had been real war
and fighting. Now I saw a country blasted by shell-fire and wrecked
by the contention of great armies. And I knew that I was coming to
soil watered by British blood; to rows of British graves; to soil
that shall be forever sacred to the memory of the Britons, from
Britain and from over the seas, who died and fought upon it to redeem
it from the Hun.

I had no mind to talk, to ask questions. For the time I was content
to be with my own thoughts, that were evoked by the historic ground
through which we passed. My heart was heavy with grief and with the
memories of my boy that came flooding it, but it was lightened, too,
by other thoughts.

And always, as we sped on, there was the thunder of the guns. Always
there were the bursting shells, and the old bent peasants paying no
heed to them. Always there were the circling airplanes, far above us,
like hawks against the deep blue of the sky. And always we came
nearer and nearer to Vimy Ridge--that deathless name in the history
of Britain.



CHAPTER XV

Now Captain Godfrey leaned back and smiled at us.

"There's Vimy Ridge," he said. And he pointed.

"Yon?" I asked, in astonishment.

I was almost disappointed. We had heard so much, in Britain and in
Scotland, of Vimy Ridge. The name of that famous hill had been
written imperishably in history. But to look at it first, to see it
as I saw it, it was no hill at all! My eyes were used to the
mountains of my ain Scotland, and this great ridge was but a tiny
thing beside them. But then I began to picture the scene as it had
been the day the Canadians stormed it and won for themselves the
glory of all the ages. I pictured it blotted from sight by the hell
of shells bursting over it, and raking its slopes as the Canadians
charged upward. I pictured it crowned by defenses and lined by such
of the Huns as had survived the artillery battering, spitting death
and destruction from their machine guns. And then I saw it as I
should, and I breathed deep at the thought of the men who had faced
death and hell to win that height and plant the flag of Britain upon
it. Aye, and the Stars and Stripes of America, too!

Ye ken that tale? There was an American who had enlisted, like so
many of his fellow countrymen before America was in the war, in the
Canadian forces. The British army was full of men who had told a
white lie to don the King's uniform. Men there are in the British
army who winked as they enlisted and were told: "You'll be a
Canadian?"

"Aye, aye, I'm a Canadian," they'd say. "From what province?"

"The province of Kentucky--or New York--or California!"

Well, there was a lad, one of them, was in the first wave at Vimy
Ridge that April day in 1917. 'Twas but a few days before that a wave
of the wildest cheering ever heard had run along the whole Western
front, so that Fritz in his trenches wondered what was up the noo.
Well, he has learned, since then! He has learned, despite his Kaiser
and his officers, and his lying newspapers, that that cheer went up
when the news came that America had declared war upon Germany. And
so, it was a few days after that cheer was heard that the Canadians
leaped over the top and went for Vimy Ridge, and this young fellow
from America had a wee silken flag. He spoke to his officer.

"Now that my own country's in the war, sir," he said, "I'd like to
carry her flag with me when we go over the top. Wrapped around me,
sir--"

"Go it!" said the officer.

And so he did. And he was one of those who won through and reached
the top. There he was wounded, but he had carried the Stars and
Stripes with him to the crest.

Vimy Ridge! I could see it. And above it, and beyond it, now, for the
front had been carried on, far beyond, within what used to be the
lines of the Hun, the airplanes circled. Very quiet and lazy they
seemed, for all I knew of their endless activity and the precious
work that they were doing. I could see how the Huns were shelling
them. You would see an airplane hovering, and then, close by,
suddenly, a ball of cottony white smoke. Shrapnel that was, bursting,
as Fritz tried to get the range with an anti-aircraft gun--an Archie,
as the Tommies call them. But the plane would pay no heed, except,
maybe, to dip a bit or climb a little higher to make it harder for
the Hun. It made me think of a man shrugging his shoulders, calmly
and imperturbably, in the face of some great peril, and I wanted to
cheer. I had some wild idea that maybe he would hear me, and know
that someone saw him, and appreciated what he was doing--someone to
whom it was not an old story! But then I smiled at my own thought.

Now it was time for us to leave the cars and get some exercise. Our
steel helmets were on, and glad we were of them, for shrapnel was
bursting nearby sometimes, although most of the shells were big
fellows, that buried themselves in the ground and then exploded.
Fritz wasn't doing much casual shelling the noo, though. He was
saving his fire until his observers gave him a real target to aim at.
But that was no so often, for our airplanes were in command of the
air then, and his flyers got precious little chance to guide his
shooting. Most of his hits were due to luck.

"Spread out a bit as you go along here," said Captain Godfrey. "If a
crump lands close by there's no need of all of us going! If we're
spread out a bit, you see, a shell might get one and leave the rest
of us."

It sounded cold blooded, but it was not. To men who have lived at the
front everything comes to be taken as a matter of course. Men can get
used to anything--this war has proved that again, if there was need
of proving it. And I came to understand that, and to listen to things
I heard with different ears. But those are things no one can tell you
of; you must have been at the front yourself to understand all that
goes on there, both in action and in the minds of men.

We obeyed Captain Godfrey readily enough, as you can guess. And so I
was alone as I walked toward Vimy Ridge. It looked just like a lumpy
excrescence on the landscape; at hame we would not even think of it
as a foothill. But as I neared it, and as I rememered all it stood
for, I thought that in the atlas of history it would loom higher than
the highest peak of the great Himalaya range.

Beyond the ridge, beyond the actual line of the trenches, miles away,
indeed, were the German batteries from which the shells we heard and
saw as they burst were coming. I was glad of my helmet, and of the
cool assurance of Captain Godfrey. I felt that we were as safe, in
his hands, as men could be in such a spot.

It was not more than a mile we had to cover, but it was rough going,
bad going. Here war had had its grim way without interruption. The
face of the earth had been cut to pieces. Its surface had been
smashed to a pulpy mass. The ground had been plowed, over and over,
by a rain of shells--German and British. What a planting there had
been that spring, and what a plowing! A harvest of death it had been
that had been sown--and the reaper had not waited for summer to come,
and the Harvest moon. He had passed that way with his scythe, and
where we passed now he had taken his terrible, his horrid, toll.

At the foot of the ridge I saw men fighting for the first time--
actually fighting, seeking to hurt an enemy. It was a Canadian
battery we saw, and it was firing, steadily and methodically, at the
Huns. Up to now I had seen only the vast industrial side of war, its
business and its labor. Now I was, for the first time, in touch with
actual fighting. I saw the guns belching death and destruction,
destined for men miles away. It was high angle fire, of course,
directed by observers in the air.

But even that seemed part of the sheer, factory-like industry of war.
There was no passion, no coming to grips in hot blood, here. Orders
were given by the battery commander and the other officers as the
foreman in a machine shop might give them. And the busy artillerymen
worked like laborers, too, clearing their guns after a salvo, loading
them, bringing up fresh supplies of ammunition. It was all
methodical, all a matter of routine.

"Good artillery work is like that," said Captain Godfrey, when I
spoke to him about it. "It's a science. It's all a matter of the
higher mathematics. Everything is worked out to half a dozen places
of decimals. We've eliminated chance and guesswork just as far as
possible from modern artillery actions."

But there was something about it all that was disappointing, at first
sight. It let you down a bit. Only the guns themselves kept up the
tradition. Only they were acting as they should, and showing a proper
passion and excitement. I could hear them growling ominously, like
dogs locked in their kennel when they would be loose and about, and
hunting. And then they would spit, angrily. They inflamed my
imagination, did those guns; they satisfied me and my old-fashioned
conception of war and fighting, more than anything else that I had
seen had done. And it seemed to me that after they had spit out their
deadly charge they wiped their muzzles with red tongues of flame,
satisfied beyond all words or measure with what they had done.

We were rising now, as we walked, and getting a better view of the
country that lay beyond. And so I came to understand a little better
the value of a height even so low and insignificant as Vimy Ridge in
that flat country. While the Germans held it they could overlook all
our positions, and all the advantage of natural placing had been to
them. Now, thanks to the Canadians, it was our turn, and we were
looking down.

Weel, I was under fire. There was no doubt about it. There was a
droning over us now, like the noise bees make, or many flies in a
small room on a hot summer's day. That was the drone of the German
shells. There was a little freshening of the artillery activity on
both sides, Captain Godfrey said, as if in my honor. When one side
increased its fire the other always answered--played copy cat. There
was no telling, ye ken, when such an increase of fire might not be
the first sign of an attack. And neither side took more chances than
it must.

I had known, before I left Britain, that I would come under fire. And
I had wondered what it would be like: I had expected to be afraid,
nervous. Brave men had told me, one after another, that every man is
afraid when he first comes under fire. And so I had wondered how I
would be, and I had expected to be badly scared and extremely
nervous. Now I could hear that constant droning of shells, and, in
the distance, I could see, very often, powdery squirts of smoke and
dirt along the ground, where our shells were striking, so that I knew
I had the Hun lines in sight.

And I can truthfully say that, that day, at least, I felt no great
fear or nervousness. Later I did, as I shall tell you, but that day
one overpowering emotion mastered every other. It was a desire for
vengeance! You were the Huns--the men who had killed my boy. They
were almost within my reach. And as I looked at them there in their
lines a savage desire possessed me, almost overwhelmed me, indeed,
that made me want to rush to those guns and turn them to my own mad
purpose of vengeance.

It was all I could do, I tell you, to restrain myself--to check that
wild, almost ungovernable impulse to rush to the guns and grapple
with them myself--myself fire them at the men who had killed my boy.
I wanted to fight! I wanted to fight with my two hands--to tear and
rend, and have the consciousness that I flash back, like a telegraph
message from my satiated hands to my eager brain that was spurring me on.

But that was not to be. I knew it, and I grew calmer, presently. The
roughness of the going helped me to do that, for it took all a man's
wits and faculties to grope his way along the path we were following
now. Indeed, it was no path at all that led us to the Pimple--the
topmost point of Vimy Ridge, which changed hands half a dozen times
in the few minutes of bloody fighting that had gone on here during
the great attack.

The ground was absolutely riddled with shell holes here. There must
have been a mine of metal underneath us. What path there was
zigzagged around. It had been worn to such smoothness as it possessed
since the battle, and it evaded the worst craters by going around
them. My madness was passed now, and a great sadness had taken its
place. For here, where I was walking, men had stumbled up with
bullets and shells raining about them. At every step I trod ground
that must have been the last resting-place of some Canadian soldier,
who had died that I might climb this ridge in a safety so
immeasurably greater than his had been.

If it was hard for us to make this climb, if we stumbled as we walked,
what had it been for them? Our breath came hard and fast--how had it
been with them? Yet they had done it! They had stormed the ridge the
Huns had proudly called impregnable. They had taken, in a swift rush,
that nothing could stay, a position the Kaiser's generals had assured
him would never be lost--could never be reached by mortal troops.

The Pimple, for which we were heading now, was an observation post at
that time. There there was a detachment of soldiers, for it was an
important post, covering much of the Hun territory beyond. A major of
infantry was in command; his headquarters were a large hole in the
ground, dug for him by a German shell--fired by German gunners who had
no thought further from their minds than to do a favor for a British
officer. And he was sitting calmly in front of his headquarters,
smoking a pipe, when we reached the crest and came to the Pimple.

He was a very calm man, that major, given, I should say, to the
greatest repression. I think nothing would have moved him from that
phlegmatic calm of his! He watched us coming, climbing and making
hard going of it. If he was amused he gave no sign, as he puffed at
his pipe. I, for one, was puffing, too--I was panting like a grampus.
I had thought myself in good condition, but I found out at Vimy Ridge
that I was soft and flabby.

Not a sign did that major give until we reached him. And then, as we
stood looking at him, and beyond him at the panorama of the trenches,
he took his pipe from his mouth.

"Welcome to Vimy Ridge!" he said, in the manner of a host greeting a
party bidden for the weekend.

I was determined that that major should not outdo me. I had precious
little wind left to breathe with, much less to talk, but I called for
the last of it.

"Thank you, major," I said. "May I join you in a smoke?"

"Of course you can!" he said, unsmiling.

"That is, if you've brought your pipe with you." "Aye, I've my pipe,"
I told him. "I may forget to pay my debt, but I'll never forget my
pipe." And no more I will.

So I sat down beside him, and drew out my pipe, and made a long
business of filling it, and pushing the tobacco down just so, since
that gave me a chance to get my wind. And when I was ready to light
up I felt better, and I was breathing right, so that I could talk as
I pleased without fighting for breath.

My friend the major proved an entertaining chap, and a talkative one,
too, for all his seeming brusqueness. He pointed out the spots that
had been made famous in the battle, and explained to me what it was
the Canadians had done. And I saw and understood better than ever
before what a great feat that had been, and how heavily it had
counted. He lent me his binoculars, too, and with them I swept the
whole valley toward Lens, where the great French coal mines are, and
where the Germans have been under steady fire so long, and have been
hanging on by their eyelashes.

It was not the place I should choose, ordinarily, to do a bit of
sight-seeing. The German shells were still humming through the air
above us, though not quite so often as they had. But there were
enough of them, and they seemed to me close enough for me to feel the
wind they raised as they passed. I thought for sure one of them would
come along, presently, and clip my ears right off. And sometimes I
felt myself ducking my head--as if that would do me any good! But I
did not think about it; I would feel myself doing it, without having
intended to do anything of the sort. I was a bit nervous, I suppose,
but no one could be really scared or alarmed in the unplumbable
depths of calm in which that British major was plunged!

It was a grand view I had of the valley, but it was not the sort of
thing I had expected to see. I knew there were thousands of men
there, and I think I had expected to see men really fighting. But
there was nothing of the sort. Not a man could I see in all the
valley. They were under cover, of course. When I stopped to think
about it, that was what I should have expected, of course. If I could
have seen our laddies there below, why, the Huns could have seen them
too. And that would never have done.

I could hear our guns, too, now, very well. They were giving voice
all around me, but never a gun could I see, for all my peering and
searching around. Even the battery we had passed below was out of
sight now. And it was a weird thing, and an uncanny thing to think of
all that riot of sound around, and not a sight to be had of the
batteries that were making it!

Hogge came up while I was talking to the major. "Hello!" he said.
"What have you done to your knee, Lauder?"

I looked down and saw a trickle of blood running down, below my knee.
It was bare, of course, because I wore my kilt.

"Oh, that's nothing," I said.

I knew at once what it was. I remembered that, as I stumbled up the
hill, I had tripped over a bit of barbed wire and scratched my leg.
And so I explained.

"And I fell into a shell-hole, too," I said. "A wee one, as they go
around here." But I laughed. "Still, I'll be able to say I was
wounded on Vimy Ridge."

I glanced at the major as I said that, and was half sorry I had made
the poor jest. And I saw him smile, in one corner of his mouth, as I
said I had been "wounded." It was the corner furthest from me, but I
saw it. And it was a dry smile, a withered smile. I could guess his
thought.

"Wounded!" he must have said to himself, scornfully. And he must have
remembered the real wounds the Canadians had received on that
hillside. Aye, I could guess his thought. And I shared it, although I
did not tell him so. But I think he understood.

He was still sitting there, puffing away at his old pipe, as quiet
and calm and imperturbable as ever, when Captain Godfrey gathered us
together to go on. He gazed out over the valley.

He was a man to be remembered for a long time, that major. I can see
him now, in my mind's eye, sitting there, brooding, staring out
toward Lens and the German lines. And I think that if I were choosing
a figure for some great sculptor to immortalize, to typify and
represent the superb, the majestic imperturbability of the British
Empire in time of stress and storm, his would be the one. I could
think of no finer figure than his for such a statue. You would see
him, if the sculptor followed my thought, sitting in front of his
shell-hole on Vimy Ridge, calm, dispassionate, devoted to his duty
and the day's work, quietly giving the directions that guided the
British guns in their work of blasting the Hun out of the refuge he
had chosen when the Canadians had driven him from the spot where the
major sat.

It was easier going down Vimy Ridge than it had been coming up, but
it was hard going still. We had to skirt great, gaping holes torn by
monstrous shells--shells that had torn the very guts out of the
little hill.

"We're going to visit another battery," said Captain Godfrey. "I'll
tell you I think it's the best hidden battery on the whole British
front! And that's saying a good deal, for we've learned a thing or
two about hiding our whereabouts from Fritz. He's a curious one,
Fritz is, but we try not to gratify his curiosity any more than we
must."

"I'll be glad to see more of the guns," I said.

"Well, here you'll see more than guns. The major in command at this
battery we're heading for has a decoration that was given to him just
for the way he hid his guns. There's much more than fighting that a
man has to do in this war if he's to make good."

As we went along I kept my eyes open, trying to get a peep at the
guns before Godfrey should point them out to me. I could hear firing
going on all around me, but there was so much noise that my ears were
not a guide. I was not a trained observer, of course; I would not
know a gun position at sight, as some soldier trained to the work
would be sure to do. And yet I thought I could tell when I was coming
to a great battery. I thought so, I say!

Again, though I had that feeling of something weird and uncanny. For
now, as we walked along, I did hear the guns, and I was sure, from
the nature of the sound, that we were coming close to them. But, as I
looked straight toward the spot where my ears told me that they must
be, I could see nothing at all. I thought that perhaps Godfrey had
lost his way, and that we were wandering along the wrong path. It did
not seem likely, but it was possible.

And then, suddenly, when I was least expecting it, we stopped.

"Well--here we are!" said the captain, and grinned at our amazement.

And there we were indeed! We were right among the guns of a Canadian
battery, and the artillerymen were shouting their welcome, for they
had heard that I was coming, and recognized me as soon as they saw
me. But--how had we got here? I looked around me, in utter amazement.
Even now that I had come to the battery I could not understand how it
was that I had been deceived--how that battery had been so marvelously
concealed that, if one did not know of its existence and of its exact
location, one might literally stumble over it in broad daylight!



CHAPTER XVI

It had turned very hot, now, at the full of the day. Indeed, it was
grilling weather, and there in the battery, in a hollow, close down
beside a little run or stream, it was even hotter than on the
shell-swept bare top of the ridge. So the Canadian gunners had
stripped down for comfort. Not a man had more than his under-shirt on
above his trousers, and many of them were naked to the waist, with
their hide tanned to the color of old saddles.

These laddies reminded me of those in the first battery I had seen.
They were just as calm, and just as dispassionate as they worked in
their mill--it might well have been a mill in which I saw them
working. Only they were no grinding corn, but death--death for the
Huns, who had brought death to so many of their mates. But there was
no excitement, there were no cries of hatred and anger.

They were hard at work. Their work, it seemed, never came to an end
or even to a pause. The orders rang out, in a sort of sing-song
voice. After each shot a man who sat with a telephone strapped about
his head called out corrections of the range, in figures that were
just a meaningless jumble to me, although they made sense to the men
who listened and changed the pointing of the guns at each order.

[ILLUSTRATION: Capt. John Lauder and Comrades Before The Trenches In
France (See Lauder07.jpg)]

Their faces, that, like their bare backs and chests, looked like
tanned leather, were all grimy from their work among the smoke and
the gases. And through the grime the sweat had run down like little
rivers making courses for themselves in the soft dirt of a hillside.
They looked grotesque enough, but there was nothing about them to
make me feel like laughing, I can tell you! And they all grinned
amiably when the amazed and disconcerted Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P.,
Tour came tumbling in among them. We all felt right at hame at once--
and I the more so when a chap I had met and come to know well in
Toronto during one of my American tours came over and gripped my hand.

"Aye, but it's good to see your face, Harry!" he said, as he made
me welcome.

This battery had done great work ever since it had come out. No
battery in the whole army had a finer record, I was told. And no one
needed to tell me the tale of its losses. Not far away there was a
little cemetery, filled with doleful little crosses, set up over
mounds that told their grim story all too plainly and too eloquently.

The battery had gone through the Battle of Vimy Ridge and made a
great name for itself. And now it was set down upon a spot that had
seen some of the very bloodiest of the fighting on that day. I saw
here, for the first time, some of the most horrible things that the
war holds. There was a little stream, as I said, that ran through the
hollow in which the battery was placed, and that stream had been
filled with blood, not water, on the day of the battle.

Everywhere, here, were whitened bones of men. In the wild swirling of
the battle, and the confusion of digging in and meeting German
counter attacks that had followed it, it had not been possible to
bury all the dead. And so the whitened bones remained, though the
elements had long since stripped them bare. The elements--and the
hungry rats. These are not pretty things to tell, but they are true,
and the world should know what war is to-day.

I almost trod upon one skeleton that remained complete. It was that
of a huge German soldier--a veritable giant of a man, he must have
been. The bones of his feet were still encased in his great boots,
their soles heavily studded with nails. Even a few shreds of his
uniform remained. But the flesh was all gone. The sun and the rats
and the birds had accounted for the last morsel of it.

Hundreds of years from now, I suppose, the bones that were strewn
along that ground will still be being turned up by plows. The
generations to come who live there will never lack relics of the
battle, and of the fighting that preceded and followed it. They will
find bones, and shell cases, and bits of metal of all sorts. Rusty
bayonets will be turned up by their plowshares; strange coins, as
puzzling as some of those of Roman times that we in Britain have
found, will puzzle them. Who can tell how long it will be before the
soil about Vimy Ridge will cease to give up its relics?

That ground had been searched carefully for everything that might
conceivably be put to use again, or be made fit for further service.
The British army searches every battlefield so in these days. And
yet, when I was there, many weeks after the storm of fighting had
passed on, and when the scavengers had done their work, the ground
was still rather thickly strewn with odds and ends that interested me
vastly. I might have picked up much more than I did. But I could not
carry so very much, and, too, so many of the things brought grisly
thoughts to my mind! God knows I needed no reminders of the war! I
had a reminder in my heart, that never left me. Still, I took some
few things, more for the sake of the hame folks, who might not see,
and would, surely, be interested. I gathered some bayonets for my
collection--somehow they seemed the things I was most willing to take
along. One was British, one German--two were French.

But the best souvenir of all I got at Vimy Ridge I did not pick up.
It was given to me by my friend, the grave major--him of whom I would
like some famous sculptor to make a statue as he sat at his work of
observation. That was a club--a wicked looking instrument. This club
had a great thick head, huge in proportion to its length and size,
and this head was studded with great, sharp nails. A single blow from
it would finish the strongest man that ever lived. It was a fit
weapon for a murderer--and a murderer had wielded it. The major had
taken it from a Hun, who had meant to use it--had, doubtless, used
it!--to beat out the brains of wounded men, lying on the ground. Many
of those clubs were taken from the Germans, all along the front, both
by the British and the French, and the Germans had never made any
secret of the purpose for which they were intended. Well, they picked
poor men to try such tactics on when they went against the Canadians!

The Canadians started no such work, but they were quick to adopt a
policy of give and take. It was the Canadians who began the trench
raids for which the Germans have such a fierce distaste, and after
they had learned something of how Fritz fought the Canadians took to
paying him back in some of his own coin. Not that they matched the
deeds of the Huns--only a Hun could do that. But the Canadians were
not eager to take prisoners. They would bomb a dugout rather than
take its occupants back. And a dugout that has been bombed yields few
living men!

Who shall blame them? Not I--nor any other man who knows what lessons
in brutality and treachery the Canadians have had from the Hun. It was
the Canadians, near Ypres, who went through the first gas attack--that
fearful day when the Germans were closer to breaking through than they
ever were before or since. I shall not set down here all the tales I
heard of the atrocities of the Huns. Others have done that. Men have
written of that who have firsthand knowledge, as mine cannot be. I
know only what has been told to me, and there is little need of hearsay
evidence. There is evidence enough that any court would accept as hanging
proof. But this much it is right to say--that no troops along the Western
front have more to revenge than have the Canadians.

It is not the loss of comrades, dearly loved though they be, that
breeds hatred among the soldiers. That is a part of war, and always
was. The loss of friends and comrades may fire the blood. It may lead
men to risk their own lives in a desperate charge to get even. But it
is a pain that does not rankle and that does not fester like a sore
that will not heal. It is the tales the Canadians have to tell of
sheer, depraved torture and brutality that has inflamed them to the
pitch of hatred that they cherish. It has seemed as if the Germans
had a particular grudge against the Canadians. And that, indeed, is
known to be the case. The Germans harbored many a fond illusion before
the war. They thought that Britain would not fight, first of all.

And then, when Britain did declare war, they thought they could
speedily destroy her "contemptible little army." Ah, weel--they did
come near to destroying it! But not until it had helped to balk them
of their desire--not until it had played its great and decisive part
in ruining the plans the Hun had been making and perfecting for
forty-four long years. And not until it had served as a dyke behind
which floods of men in the khaki of King George had had time to arm
and drill to rush out to oppose the gray-green floods that had swept
through helpless Belgium.

They had other illusions, beside that major one that helped to wreck
them. They thought there would be a rebellion and civil war in
Ireland. They took too seriously the troubles of the early summer of
1914, when Ulster and the South of Ireland were snapping and snarling
at each other's throats. They looked for a new mutiny in India, which
should keep Britain's hands full. They expected strikes at home. But,
above all, they were sure that the great, self-governing dependencies
of Britain, that made up the mighty British Empire, would take no
part in the fight.

Canada, Australasia, South Africa--they never reckoned upon having to
cope with them. These were separate nations, they thought,
independent in fact if not in name, which would seize the occasion to
separate themselves entirely from the mother country. In South Africa
they were sure that there would be smoldering discontent enough left
from the days of the Boer war to break out into a new flame of war
and rebellion at this great chance.

And so it drove them mad with fury when they learned that Canada and
all the rest had gone in, heart and soul. And when even their poison
gas could not make the Canadians yield; when, later still, they
learned that the Canadians were their match, and more than their
match, in every phase of the great game of war, their rage led them
to excesses against the men from overseas even more damnable than
those that were their general practice.

These Canadians, who were now my hosts, had located their guns in a
pit triangular in shape. The guns were mounted at the corners of the
triangle, and along its sides. And constantly, while I was there they
coughed their short, sharp coughs and sent a spume of metal flying
toward the German lines. Never have I seen a busier spot. And,
remember--until I had almost fallen into that pit, with its
sputtering, busy guns, I had not been able to make even a good guess
as to where they were! The very presence of this workshop of death
was hidden from all save those who had a right to know of it.

It was a masterly piece of camouflage. I wish I could explain to you
how the effect was achieved. It was all made plain to me; every step
of the process was explained, and I cried out in wonder and in
admiration at the clever simplicity of it. But that is one of the
things I may not tell. I saw many things, during my time at the
front, that the Germans would give a pretty penny to know. But none
of the secrets that I learned would be more valuable, even to-day,
than that of that hidden battery. And so--I must leave you in
ignorance as to that.

The commanding officer was most kindly and patient in explaining
matters to me.

"We can't see hide nor hair of our targets here, of course," he said,
"any more than Fritz can see us. We get all our ranges and the
records of all our hits, from Normabell."

I looked a question, I suppose.

"You called on him, I think--up on the Pimple. Major Normabell, D.S.O."

That was how I learned the name of the imperturbable major with whom
I had smoked a pipe on the crest of Vimy Ridge. I shall always
remember his name and him. I saw no man in France who made a livelier
impression upon my mind and my imagination.

"Aye," I said. "I remember. So that's his name--Normabell, D.S.O.
I'll make a note of that."

My informant smiled.

"Normabell's one of our characters," he said. "Well, you see he
commands a goodish bit of country there where he sits. And when he
needs them he has aircraft observations to help him, too. He's our
pair of eyes. We're like moles down here, we gunners--but he does all
our seeing for us. And he's in constant communication--he or one of
his officers."

I wondered where all the shells the battery was firing were headed
for. And I learned that just then it was paying its respects
particularly to a big factory building just west of Lens. For some
reason that had been marked for destruction, but it had been
reinforced and strengthened so that it was taking a lot of smashing
and standing a good deal more punishment than anyone had thought it
could--which was reason enough, in itself, to stick to the job until
that factory was nothing more than a heap of dust and ruins.

The way the guns kept pounding away at it made me think of firemen in
a small town drenching a local blaze with their hose. The gunners
were just so eager as that. And I could almost see that factory,
crumbling away. Major Normabell had pointed it out to me, up on the
ridge, and now I knew why. I'll venture to say that before night the
eight-inch howitzers of that battery had utterly demolished it, and
so ended whatever usefulness it had had for the Germans.

It was cruel business to be knocking the towns and factories of our
ally, France, to bits in the fashion that we were doing that day--
there and at many another point along the front. The Huns are fond of
saying that much of the destruction in Northern France has been the
work of allied artillery. True enough--but who made that inevitable
And it was not our guns that laid waste a whole countryside before
the German retreat in the spring of 1917, when the Huns ran wild,
rooting up fruit trees, cutting down every other tree that could be
found, and doing every other sort of wanton damage and mischief their
hands could find to do.

"Hard lines," said the battery commander. He shrugged his shoulders.
"No use trying to spare shells here, though, even on French towns.
The harder we smash them the sooner it'll be over. Look here, sir."

He pointed out the men who sat, their telephone receivers strapped
over their ears. Each served a gun. In all that hideous din it was of
the utmost importance that they should hear correctly every word and
figure that came to them over the wire--a part of that marvelously
complete telephone and telegraph system that has been built for and
by the British army in France.

"They get corrections on every shot," he told me. "The guns are
altered in elevation according to what they hear. The range is
changed, and the pointing, too. We never see old Fritz--but we know
he's getting the visiting cards we send him."

They were amazingly calm, those laddies at the telephones. In all
that hideous, never-ending din, they never grew excited. Their voices
were calm and steady as they repeated the orders that came to them. I
have seen girls at hotel switchboards, expert operators, working with
conditions made to their order, who grew infinitely more excited at a
busy time, when many calls were coming in and going out. Those men
might have been at home, talking to a friend of their plans for an
evening's diversion, for all the nervousness or fussiness they showed.

Up there, on the Pimple, I had seen Normabell, the eyes of the
battery. Here I was watching its ears. And, to finish the metaphor,
to work it out, I was listening to its voice. Its brazen tongues were
giving voice continually. The guns--after all, everything else led up
to them. They were the reason for all the rest of the machinery of
the battery, and it was they who said the last short word.

There was a good deal of rough joking and laughter in the battery.
The Canadian gunners took their task lightly enough, though their
work was of the hardest--and of the most dangerous, too. But jokes
ran from group to group, from gun to gun. They were constantly
kidding one another, as an American would say, I think. If a
correction came for one gun that showed there had been a mistake in
sighting after the last orders--if, that is, the gunners, and not the
distant observers, were plainly at fault--there would be a
good-natured outburst of chaffing from all the others.

But, though such a spirit of lightness prevailed, there was not a
moment of loafing. These men were engaged in a grim, deadly task,
and every once in a while I would catch a black, purposeful look
in a man's eyes that made me realize that, under all the light
talk and laughter there was a perfect realization of the truth.
They might not show, on the surface, that they took life and their
work seriously. Ah, no! They preferred, after the custom of their
race, to joke with death.

And so they were doing quite literally. The Germans knew perfectly
well that there was a battery somewhere near the spot where I had
found my gunners. Only the exact location was hidden from them, and
they never ceased their efforts to determine that. Fritz's airplanes
were always trying to sneak over to get a look. An airplane was the
only means of detection the Canadians feared. No--I will not say they
feared it! The word fear did not exist for that battery! But it was
the only way in which there was a tolerable chance, even, for Fritz
to locate them, and, for the sake of the whole operation at that
point, as well as for their own interest, they were eager to avoid
that.

German airplanes were always trying to sneak over, I say, but nearly
always our men of the Royal Flying Corps drove them back. We came as
close, just then, to having command of the air in that sector as any
army does these days. You cannot quite command or control the air. A
few hostile flyers can get through the heaviest barrage and the
staunchest air patrol. And so, every once in a while, an alarm would
sound, and all hands would crane their necks upward to watch an
airplane flying above with an iron cross painted upon its wings.

Then, and, as a rule, then only, fire would cease for a few minutes.
There was far less chance of detection when the guns were still. At
the height at which our archies--so the anti-aircraft guns are called
by Tommy Atkins--forced the Boche to fly there was little chance of
his observers picking out this battery, at least, against the ground.
If the guns were giving voice that chance was tripled--and so they
stopped, at such times, until a British flyer had had time to engage
the Hun and either bring him down or send him scurrying for the safe
shelter behind his own lines.

Fritz, in the air, liked to have the odds with him, as a rule. It was
exceptional to find a German flyer like Boelke who really went in for
single-handed duels in the air. As a rule they preferred to attack a
single plane with half a dozen, and so make as sure as they could of
victory at a minimum of risk. But that policy did not always work--
sometimes the lone British flyer came out ahead, despite the odds
against him.

There was a good deal of firing on general principles from Fritz. His
shells came wandering querulously about, striking on every side of
the battery. Occasionally, of course, there was a hit that was
direct, or nearly so. And then, as a rule, a new mound or two would
appear in the little cemetery, and a new set of crosses that, for a
few days, you might easily enough have marked for new because they
would not be weathered yet. But such hits were few and far between,
and they were lucky, casual shots, of which the Germans themselves
did not have the satisfaction of knowing.

"Of course, if they get our range, really, and find out all about us,
we'll have to move," said the officer in command. "That would be a
bore, but it couldn't be helped. We're a fixed target, you see, as
soon as they know just where we are, and they can turn loose a
battery of heavy howitzers against us and clear us out of here in no
time. But we're pretty quick movers when we have to move! It's great
sport, in a way too, sometimes. We leave all the camouflage behind,
and some-times Fritz will spend a week shelling a position that was
moved away at the first shell that came as if it meant they really
were on to us."

I wondered how a battery commander would determine the difference
between a casual hit and the first shell of a bombardment definitely
planned and accurately placed.

"You can tell, as a rule, if you know the game," he said. "There'll
be searching shells, you see. There'll be one too far, perhaps. And
then, after a pretty exact interval, there'll be another, maybe a bit
short. Then one to the left--and then to the right. By that time
we're off as a rule--we don't wait for the one that will be scored a
hit! If you're quick, you see, you can beat Fritz to it by keeping
your eyes open, and being ready to move in a hurry when he's got a
really good argument to make you do it."

But while I was there, while Fritz was inquisitive enough, his
curiosity got him nowhere. There were no casual hits, even, and there
was nothing to make the battery feel that it must be making ready for
a quick trek.

Was that no a weird, strange game of hide and seek that I watched
being played at Vimy Ridge? It gave me the creeps, that idea of
battling with an enemy you could not see! It must be hard, at times,
I think, for, the gunners to realize that they are actually at war.
But, no--there is always the drone and the squawking of the German
shells, and the plop-plop, from time to time, as one finds its mark
in the mud nearby. But to think of shooting always at an enemy you
cannot see!

It brought to my mind a tale I had heard at hame in Scotland. There
was a hospital in Glasgow, and there a man who had gone to see a
friend stopped, suddenly, in amazement, at the side of a cot. He
looked down at features that were familiar to him. The man in the cot
was not looking at him, and the visitor stood gaping, staring at him
in the utmost astonishment and doubt.

"I say, man," he asked, at last, "are ye not Tamson, the baker?"

The wounded man opened his eyes, and looked up, weakly.

"Aye," he said. "I'm Tamson, the baker." His voice was weak, and he
looked tired. But he looked puzzled, too.

"Weel, Tamson, man, what's the matter wi' ye?" asked the other. "I
didna hear that ye were sick or hurt. How comes it ye are here? Can
it be that ye ha' been to the war, man, and we not hearing of it,
at all?"

"Aye, I think so," said Tamson, still weakly, but as if he were
rather glad of a chance to talk, at that.

"Ye think so?" asked his friend, in greater astonishment than ever.
"Man, if ye've been to the war do ye not know it for sure and
certain?"

"Well, I will tell ye how it is," said Tamson, very slowly and
wearily. "I was in the reserve, do ye ken. And I was standin' in
front of my hoose one day in August, thinkin' of nothin' at all. I
marked a man who was coming doon the street, wi' a blue paper in his
hand, and studyin' the numbers on the doorplates. But I paid no great
heed to him until he stopped and spoke to me.

"He had stopped outside my hoose and looked at the number, and then
at his blue paper. And then he turned to me.

"'Are ye Tamson, the baker?' he asked me--just as ye asked me that
same question the noo.

"And I said to him, just as I said it to ye, 'Aye, I'm Tamson,
the baker.'

"'Then it's Hamilton Barracks for ye, Tamson,' he said, and handed me
the blue paper.

"Four hours from the time when he handed me the blue paper in front
of my hoose in Glasgow I was at Hamilton Barracks. In twelve hours I
was in Southhampton. In twenty hours I was in France. And aboot as
soon as I got there I was in a lot of shooting and running this way
and that that they ha' told me since was the Battle of the Marne.

"And in twenty-four hours more I was on my way back to Glasgow! In
forty-eight hours I woke up in Stobe Hill Infirmary and the nurse was
saying in my ear: 'Ye're all richt the noon, Tamson. We ha' only just
amputated your leg!'

"So I think I ha' been to the war, but I can only say I think so. I
only know what I was told--that ha' never seen a damn German yet!"

That is a true story of Tamson the baker. And his experience has
actually been shared by many a poor fellow--and by many another who
might have counted himself lucky if he had lost no more than a leg,
as Tamson did.

But the laddies of my battery, though they were shooting now at
Germans they could not see, had had many a close up view of Fritz in
the past, and expected many another in the future. Maybe they will
get one, some time, after the fashion of the company of which my boy
John once told me.

The captain of this company--a Hieland company, it was, though not of
John's regiment--had spent must of his time in London before the war,
and belonged to several clubs, which, in those days, employed many
Germans as servants and waiters. He was a big man, and he had a deep,
bass voice, so that he roared like the bull of Bashan when he had a
mind to raise it for all to hear.

One day things were dull in his sector. The front line trench was not
far from that of the Germans, but there was no activity beyond that
of the snipers, and the Germans were being so cautious that ours were
getting mighty few shots. The captain was bored, and so were the men.

"How would you like a pot shot, lads?" he asked.

"Fine!" came the answer. "Fine, sir!"

"Very well," said the captain. "Get ready with your rifles, and keep
your eyes on you trench."

It was not more than thirty yards away--pointblank range. The captain
waited until they were ready. And then his voice rang out in its
loudest, most commanding roar.

"Waiter!" he shouted.

Forty helmets popped up over the German parapet, and a storm of
bullets swept them away!



CHAPTER XVII

It was getting late--for men who had had so early a breakfast as we
had had to make to get started in good time. And just as I was
beginning to feel hungry--odd, it seemed to me, that such a thing as
lunch should stay in my mind in such surroundings and when so many
vastly more important things were afoot!--the major looked at his
wrist watch.

"By Jove!" he said, "Lunch time! Gentlemen--you'll accept such
hospitality as we can offer you at our officer's mess?"

There wasn't any question about acceptance! We all said we were
delighted, and we meant it. I looked around for a hut or some such
place, or even for a tent, and, seeing nothing of the sort, wondered
where we might be going to eat. I soon found out. The major led the
way underground, into a dugout. This was the mess. It was hard by the
guns, and in a hole that had been dug out, quit literally. Here there
was a certain degree of safety. In these dugouts every phase of the
battery's life except the actual serving of the guns went on.
Officers and men alike ate and slept in them.

They were much snugger within than you might fancy. A lot of the men
had given homelike touches to their habitations. Pictures cut from
the illustrated papers at home, which are such prime favorites with
all the Tommies made up a large part of the decorative scheme.
Pictures of actresses predominated; the Tommies didn't go in for war
pictures. Indeed, there is little disposition to hammer the war home
at you in a dugout. The men don't talk about it or think about, save
as they must; you hear less talk about the war along the front than
you do at home. I heard a story at Vimy Ridge of a Tommy who had come
back to the trenches after seeing Blighty for the first time in
months.

"Hello, Bill," said one of his mates. "Back again, are you? How's
things in Blighty?" "Oh, all right," said Bill.

Then he looked around. He pricked his ears as a shell whined above
him. And he took out his pipe and stuffed it full of tobacco, and
lighted it, and sat back. He sighed in the deepest content as the
smoke began to curl upward.

"Bli'me, Bill--I'd say, to look at you, you was glad to be back
here!" said his mate, astonished.

"Well, I ain't so sorry, and that's a fact," said Bill. "I tell you
how it is, Alf. Back there in Blighty they don't talk about nothing
but this bloody war. I'm fair fed up with it, that I am! I'm glad to
be back here, where I don't have to 'ear about the war every bleedin'
minute!"

That story sounds far fetched to you, perhaps, but it isn't. War talk
is shop talk to the men who are fighting it and winning it, and it is
perfectly true and perfectly reasonable, too, that they like to get
away from it when they can, just as any man likes to get away from
the thought of his business or his work when he isn't at the office
or the factory or the shop.

Captain Godfrey explained to me, as we went into the mess hall for
lunch, that the dugouts were really pretty safe. Of course there were
dangers--where are there not along that strip of land that runs from
the North Sea to Switzerland in France and Belgium?

"A direct hit from a big enough shell would bury us all," he said.
"But that's not likely--the chances are all against it. And, even
then, we'd have a chance. I've seen men dug out alive from a hole
like this after a shell from one of their biggest howitzers had
landed square upon it."

But I had no anxiety to form part of an experiment to prove the truth
or the falsity of that suggestion! I was glad to know that the
chances of a shell's coming along were pretty slim.

Conditions were primitive at that mess. The refinements of life were
lacking, to be sure--but who cared? Certainly the hungry members of
the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour did not! We ate from a rough
deal table, sitting on rude benches that had a decidedly home-made
look. But--we had music with our meals, just like the folks in London
at the Savoy or in New York at Sherry's! It was the incessant thunder
of the guns that served as the musical accompaniment of our lunch,
and I was already growing to love that music. I could begin, now, to
distinguish degrees of sound and modulations of all sorts in the
mighty diapason of the cannon. It was as if a conductor were leading
an orchestra, and as if it responded instantly to every suggestion of
his baton.

There was not much variety to the food, but there was plenty of it,
and it was good. There was bully beef, of course; that is the real
staff of life for the British army. And there were potatoes, in
plentiful supply, and bread and butter, and tea--there is always tea
where Tommy or his officers are about! There was a lack of table
ware; a dainty soul might not have liked the thought of spreading his
butter on his bread with his thumb, as we had to do. But I was too
hungry to be fastidious, myself.

Because the mess had guests there was a special dish in our honor.
One of the men had gone over--at considerable risk of his life, as I
learned later--to the heap of stones and dust that had once been the
village of Givenchy. There he had found a lot of gooseberries. The
French call them grossets, as we in Scotland do, too--although the
pronunciation of the word is different in the two languages, of
course. There had been gardens around the houses of Givenchy once,
before the place had been made into a desert of rubble and brickdust.
And, somehow, life had survived in those bruised and battered
gardens, and the delicious mess of gooseberries that we had for
dessert stood as proof thereof.

The meal was seasoned by good talk. I love to hear the young British
officers talk. It is a liberal education. They have grown so wise,
those boys! Those of them who come back when the war is over will
have the world at their feet, indeed. Nothing will be able to stop
them or to check them in their rise. They have learned every great
lesson that a man must learn if he is to succeed in the affairs of
life. Self control is theirs, and an infinite patience, and a dogged
determination that refuses to admit that there are any things that a
man cannot do if he only makes up his mind that he must and will do
them. For the British army has accomplished the impossible, time
after time; it has done things that men knew could not be done.

And so we sat and talked, as we smoked, after the meal, until the
major rose, at last, and invited me to walk around the battery again
with him. I could ask questions now, having seen the men at work, and
he explained many things I wanted to know--and which Fritz would like
to know, too, to this day! But above all I was fascinated by the work
of the gunners. I kept trying, in my mind's eye, to follow the course
of the shells that were dispatched so calmly upon their errands of
destruction. My imagination played with the thought of what they were
doing at the other end of their swift voyage through the air. I
pictured the havoc that must be wrought when one made a clean hit.

And, suddenly, I was swept by that same almost irresistible desire to
be fighting myself that had come over me when I had seen the other
battery. If I could only play my part! If I could fire even a single
shot--if I, with my own hands, could do that much against those who
had killed my boy! And then, incredulously, I heard the words in my
ear. It was the major.

"Would you like to try a shot, Harry?" he asked me.

Would I? I stared at him. I couldn't believe my ears. It was as if he
had read my thoughts. I gasped out some sort of an affirmative. My
blood was boiling at the very thought, and the sweat started from my
pores.

"All right--nothing easier!" said the major, smiling. "I had an idea
you were wanting to take a hand, Harry."

He led me toward one of the guns, where the sweating crew was
especially active, as it seemed to me. They grinned at me as they saw
me coming.

"Here's old Harry Lauder come to take a crack at them himself," I
heard one man say to another.

"Good for him! The more the merrier!" answered his mate. He was an
American--would ye no know it from his speech?

I was trembling with eagerness. I wondered if my shot would tell. I
tried to visualize its consequences. It might strike some vital spot.
It might kill some man whose life was of the utmost value to the
enemy. It might--it might do anything! And I knew that my shot would
be watched; Normabell, sitting up there on the Pimple in his little
observatory, would watch it, as he did all of that battery's shots.
Would be make a report?

Everything was made ready. The gun recoiled from the previous shot;
swiftly it was swabbed out. A new shell was handed up; I looked it
over tenderly. That was my shell! I watched the men as they placed it
and saw it disappear with a jerk. Then came the swift sighting of the
gun, the almost inperceptible corrections of elevation and position.

They showed me my place. After all, it was the simplest of matters to
fire even the biggest of guns. I had but to pull a lever. All morning
I had been watching men do that. I knew it was but a perfunctory act.
But I could not feel that! I was thrilled and excited as I had never
been in all my life before.

"All ready! Fire!"

The order rang in my ears. And I pulled the lever, as hard as I
could. The great gun sprang into life as I moved the lever. I heard
the roar of the explosion, and it seemed to me that it was a louder
bark than any gun I had heard had given! It was not, of course, and
so, down in my heart, I knew. There was no shade of variation between
that shot and all the others that had been fired. But it pleased me
to think so--it pleases me, sometimes, to think so even now. Just as
it pleases me to think that that long snouted engine of war propelled
that shell, under my guiding hand, with unwonted accuracy and
effectiveness! Perhaps I was childish, to feel as I did; indeed, I
have no doubt that that was so. But I dinna care!

There was no report by telephone from Normabell about that particular
shot; I hung about a while, by the telephone listeners, hoping one
would come. And it disappointed me that no attention was paid to
that shot.

"Probably simply means it went home," said Godfrey. "A shot that acts
just as it should doesn't get reported."

But I was disappointed, just the same. And yet the sensation is one I
shall never forget, and I shall never cease to be glad that the major
gave me my chance. The most thrilling moment was that of the recoil
of the great gun. I felt exactly as one does when one dives into deep
water from a considerable height.

"Good work, Harry!" said the major, warmly, when I had stepped down.
"I'll wager you wiped out a bit of the German trenches with that
shot! I think I'll draft you and keep you here as a gunner!"

And the officers and men all spoke in the same way, smiling as they
did so. But I hae me doots! I'd like to think I did real damage with
my one shot, but I'm afraid my shell was just one of those that
turned up a bit of dirt and made one of those small brown eruptions I
had seen rising on all sides along the German lines as I had sat and
smoked my pipe with Normabell earlier in the day.

"Well, anyway," I said, exultingly, "that's that! I hope I got two
for my one, at least!"

But my exultation did not last long. I reflected upon the
inscrutability of war and of this deadly fighting that was going on
all about me. How casual a matter was this sending out of a shell
that could, in a flash of time, obliterate all that lived in a wide
circle about where it chanced to strike! The pulling of a lever--that
was all that I had done! And at any moment a shell some German gunner
had sent winging its way through the air in precisely that same,
casual fashion might come tearing into this quiet nook, guided by
some chance, lucky for him, and wipe out the major, and all the
pleasant boys with whom I had broken bread just now, and the sweating
gunners who had cheered me on as I fired my shot!

I was to give a concert for this battery, and I felt that it was
time, now, for it to begin. I could see, too, that the men were
growing a bit impatient. And so I said that I was ready.

"Then come along to our theater," said the major, and grinned at my
look of astonishment.

"Oh, we've got a real amphitheater for you, such as the Greeks used
for the tragedies of Sophocles!" he said. "There it is!"

He had not stretched the truth. It was a superb theater--a great,
crater-like hole in the ground. Certainly it was as well ventilated a
show house as you could hope for, and I found, when the time came,
that the acoustics were splendid. I went down into the middle of the
hole, with Hogge and Adam, who had become part of my company, and the
soldiers grouped themselves about its rim.

Before we left Boulogne a definite programme had been laid out for
the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour. We had decided that we would
get better results by adopting a programme and sticking to it at all
our meetings or concerts. So, at all the assemblies that we gathered,
Hogge opened proceedings by talking to the men about pensions, the
subject in which he was so vitally interested, and in which he had
done and was doing such magnificent work. Adam would follow him with
a talk about the war and its progress.

He was a splendid speaker, was Adam. He had all the eloquence of the
fine preacher that he was, but he did not preach to the lads in the
trenches--not he! He told them about the war, and about the way the
folks at hame in Britain were backing them up. He talked about war
loans and food conservation, and made them understand that it was not
they alone who were doing the fighting. It was a cheering and an
inspiring talk he gave them, and he got good round applause wherever
he spoke.

They saved me up for the last, and when Adam had finished speaking
either he or Hogge would introduce me, and my singing would begin.
That was the programme we had arranged for the Hole-in-the-Ground
Theater, as the Canadians called their amphitheater. For this
performance, of course, I had no piano. Johnson and the wee
instrument were back where we had left the motor cars, and so I just
had to sing without an accompaniment--except that which the great
booming of the guns was to furnish me.

I was afraid at first that the guns would bother me. But as I
listened to Hogge and Adam I ceased, gradually, to notice them at
all, and I soon felt that they would annoy me no more, when it was my
turn to go on, than the chatter of a bunch of stage hands in the
wings of a theater had so often done.

When it was my turn I began with "Roamin' In the Gloamin'." The verse
went well, and I swung into the chorus. I had picked the song to open
with because I knew the soldiers were pretty sure to know it, and so
would join me in the chorus--which is something I always want them to
do. And these were no exceptions to the general rule. But, just as I
got into the chorus, the tune of the guns changed. They had been
coughing and spitting intermittently, but now, suddenly, it seemed to
me that it was as if someone had kicked the lid off the fireworks
factory and dropped a lighted torch inside.

Every gun in the battery around the hole began whanging away at once.
I was jumpy and nervous, I'll admit, and it was all I could do to
hold to the pitch and not break the time. I thought all of Von
Hindenburg's army must be attacking us, and, from the row and din,
I judged he must have brought up some of the German navy to help,
instead of letting it lie in the Kiel canal where the British
fleet could not get at it. I never heard such a terrific racket
in all my days.

I took the opportunity to look around at my audience. They didn't
seem to be a bit excited. They all had their eyes fixed on me, and
they weren't listening to the guns--only to me and my singing. And
so, as they probably knew what was afoot, and took it so quietly, I
managed to keep on singing as if I, too, were used to such a row, and
thought no more of it than of the ordinary traffic noise of a London
or a Glasgow street. But if I really managed to look that way my
appearances were most deceptive, because I was nearer to being scared
than I had been at any time yet!

But presently I began to get interested in the noise of the guns.
They developed a certain regular rhythm. I had to allow for it, and
make it fit the time of what I was singing. And as I realized that
probably this was just a part of the regular day's work, a bit of
ordinary strafing, and not a feature of a grand attack, I took note
of the rhythm. It went something like this, as near as I can gie it
to you in print:

"Roamin' in the--PUH--LAH--gloamin'--BAM!

"On the--WHUFF!--BOOM!--bonny--BR-R-R!--banks o'--BIFF--Clyde--ZOW!"

And so it went all through the rest of the concert. I had to adjust
each song I sang to that odd rhythm of the guns, and I don't know but
what it was just as well that Johnson wasn't there! He'd have had
trouble staying with me with his wee bit piano, I'm thinkin'!

And, do you ken, I got to see, after a bit, that it was the gunners,
all the time, havin' a bit of fun with me! For when I sang a verse
the guns behaved themselves, but every time I came to the chorus they
started up the same inferno of noise again. I think they wanted to
see, at first, if they could no shake me enough to make me stop
singing, and they liked me the better when they found I would no
stop. The soldiers soon began to laugh, but the joke was not all on
me, and I could see that they understood that, and were pleased.
Indeed, it was all as amusing to me as to them.

I doubt if "Roamin' in the Gloamin'" or any other song was ever sung
in such circumstances. I sang several more songs--they called, as
every audience I have seems to do, for me to sing my "Wee Hoose Amang
the Heather"--and then Captain Godfrey brought the concert to an end.
It was getting along toward midafternoon, and he explained that we
had another call to make before dark.

"Good-by, Harry--good luck to you! Thanks for the singing!"

Such cries rose from all sides, and the Canadians came crowding
around to shake my hand. It was touching to see how pleased they
were, and it made me rejoice that I had been able to come. I had
thought, sometimes, that it might be a presumptuous thing, in a way,
for me to want to go so near the front, but the way I had been able
to cheer up the lonely, dull routine of that battery went far to
justify me in coming, I thought.

I was sorry to be leaving the Canadians. And I was glad to see that
they seemed as sorry to have me go as I was to be going. I have a
very great fondness for the Canadian soldier. He is certainly one of
the most picturesque and interesting of all the men who are fighting
under the flags of the Allies, and it is certain that the world can
never forget the record he has made in this war--a record of courage
and heroism unexcelled by any and equaled by few.

I stood around while we were getting ready to start back to the cars,
and one of the officers was with me.

"How often do you get a shell right inside the pit here?" I asked
him. "A fair hit, I mean?"

"Oh, I don't know!" he said, slowly. He looked around. "You know that
hole you were singing in just now?"

I nodded. I had guessed that it had been made by a shell.

"Well, that's the result of a Boche shell," he said. "If you'd come
yesterday we'd have had to find another place for your concert!"

"Oh--is that so!" I said.

"Aye," he said, and grinned. "We didn't tell you before, Harry,
because we didn't want you to feel nervous, or anything like that,
while you were singing. But it was obliging of Fritz--now wasn't it?
Think of having him take all the trouble to dig out a fine theater
for us that way!"

"It was obliging of him, to be sure," I said, rather dryly.

"That's what we said," said the officer. "Why, as soon as I saw the
hole that shell had made, I said to Campbell: 'By Jove--there's
the very place for Harry Lauder's concert to-morrow!' And he agreed
with me!"

Now it was time for handshaking and good-bys. I said farewell all
around, and wished good luck to that brave battery, so cunningly
hidden away in its pit. There was a great deal of cheery shouting and
waving of hands as we went off. And in two minutes the battery was
out of sight--even though we knew exactly where it was!

We made our way slowly back, through the lengthening shadows, over
the shell-pitted ground. The motor cars were waiting, and Johnson,
too. Everything was shipshape and ready for a new start, and we
climbed in.

As we drove off I looked back at Vimy Ridge. And I continued to gaze
at it for a long time. No longer did it disappoint me. No longer did
I regard it as an insignificant hillock. All that feeling that had
come to me with my first sight of it had been banished by my
introduction to the famous ridge itself.

It had spoken to me eloquently, despite the muteness of the myriad
tongues it had. It had graven deep into my heart the realization of
its true place in history.

An excrescence in a flat country--a little hump of ground! That is
all there is to Vimy Ridge. Aye! It does not stand so high above the
ground of Flanders as would the books that will be written about it
in the future, were you to pile them all up together when the last
one of them is printed! But what a monument it is to bravery and to
sacrifice--to all that is best in this human race of ours!

No human hands have ever reared such a monument as that ridge is and
will be. There some of the greatest deeds in history were done--some
of the noblest acts that there is record of performed. There men
lived and died gloriously in their brief moment of climax--the moment
for which, all unknowing, all their lives before that day of battle
had been lived.

I took off my cap as I looked back, with a gesture and a thought of
deep and solemn reverence. And so I said good-by to Vimy Ridge, and
to the brave men I had known there--living and dead. For I felt that
I had come to know some of the dead as well as the living.



CHAPTER XVIII

"You'll see another phase of the front now, Harry," said Captain
Godfrey, as I turned my eyes to the front once more.

"What's the next stop?" I asked.

"We're heading for a rest billet behind the lines. There'll be lots
of men there who are just out of the trenches. It's a ghastly strain
for even the best and most seasoned troops--this work in the
trenches. So, after a battalion has been in for a certain length of
time, it's pulled out and sent back to a rest billet."

"What do they do there?" I asked.

"Well, they don't loaf--there's none of that in the British army,
these days! But it's paradise, after the trenches. For one thing
there isn't the constant danger there is up front. The men aren't
under steady fire. Of course, there's always the chance of a bomb
dropping raid by a Taube or a Fokker. The men get a chance to clean
up. They get baths, and their clothes are cleaned and disinfected.
They get rid of the cooties--you know what they are?"

I could guess. The plague of vermin in the trenches is one of the
minor horrors of war.

"They do a lot of drilling," Godfrey went on. "Except for those times
in the rest billets, regiments might get a bit slack. In the
trenches, you see, the routine is strict, but it's different. Men are
much more on their own. There aren't any inspections of kit and all
that sort of thing--not for neatness, anyway.

"And it's a good thing for soldiers to be neat. It helps discipline.
And discipline, in time of war, isn't just a parade-ground matter. It
means lives--every time. Your disciplined man, who's trained to do
certain things automatically, is the man you can depend on in any
sort of emergency.

"That's the thing that the Canadians and the Australians have had to
learn since they came out. There never were any braver troops than
those in the world, but at first they didn't have the automatic
discipline they needed. That'll be the first problem in training the
new American armies, too. It's a highly practical matter. And so, in
the rest billets, they drill the men a goodish bit. It keeps up the
morale, and makes them fitter and keener for the work when they go
back to the trenches."

"You don't make it sound much like a real rest for them," I said.

"Oh, but it is, all right! They have a comfortable place to sleep.
They get better food. The men in the trenches get the best food it's
possible to give them, but it can't be cooked much, for there aren't
facilities. The diet gets pretty monotonous. In the rest billets they
get more variety. And they have plenty of free time, and there are
hours when they can go to the estaminet--there's always one handy, a
sort of pub, you know--and buy things for themselves. Oh, they have a
pretty good time, as you'll see, in a rest billet."

I had to take his word for it. We went bowling along at a good speed,
but pretty soon we encountered a detachment of Somerset men. They
halted when they spied our caravan, and so did we. As usual they
recognized us.

"You'm Harry Lauder!" said one of them, in the broad accent of his
country. "Us has seen 'ee often!"

Johnson was out already, and he and the drivers were unlimbering the
wee piano. It didn't take so long, now that we were getting used to
the task, to make ready for a roadside concert. While I waited I
talked to the men. They were on their way to Ypres. Tommy can't get
the name right, and long ago ceased trying to do so. The French and
Belgians call it "Eepre"--that's as near as I can give it to you in
print, at least. But Tommy, as all the world must know by now, calls
it Wipers, and that is another name that will live as long as British
history is told.

The Somerset men squatted in the road while I sang my songs for them,
and gave me their most rapt attention. It was hugely gratifying and
flattering, the silence that always descended upon an audience of
soldiers when I sang. There were never any interruptions. But at the
end of a song, and during the chorus, which they always wanted to
sing with me, as I wanted them to do, too, they made up for their
silence.

Soon the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour was on its way again. The
cheers of the Somerset men sounded gayly in our ears, and the cars
quickly picked up speed and began to mop up the miles at a great
rate. And then, suddenly--whoa! We were in the midst of soldiers
again. This time it was a bunch of motor repair men.

They wandered along the roads, working on the trucks and cars that
were abandoned when they got into trouble, and left along the side of
the road. We had seen scores of such wrecks that day, and I had
wondered if they were left there indefinitely. Far from it, as I
learned now. Squads like this--there were two hundred men in this
particular party--were always at work. Many of the cars they salvaged
without difficulty--those that had been abandoned because of
comparatively minor engine troubles or defects. Others had to be
towed to a repair shop, or loaded upon other trucks for the journey,
if their wheels were out of commission.

Others still were beyond repair. They had been utterly smashed in a
collision, maybe, or as a result of skidding. Or they had burned.
Sometimes they had been knocked off the road and generally
demoralized by a shell. And in such cases often, all that men such as
these we had met now could do was to retrieve some parts to be used
in repairing other cars in a less hopeless state.

By this time Johnson and the two soldier chauffeurs had reduced the
business of setting our stage to a fine point. It took us but a very
few minutes indeed to be ready for a concert, and from the time when
we sighted a potential audience to the moment for the opening number
was an almost incredibly brief period. This time that was a good
thing, for it was growing late. And so, although the repair men were
loath to let me go, it was but an abbreviated programme that I was
able to offer them. This was one of the most enthusiastic audiences I
had had yet, for nearly every man there, it turned out, had been what
Americans would call a Harry Lauder fan in the old days. They had
been wont to go again and again to hear me. I wanted to stay and sing
more songs for them, but Captain Godfrey was in charge, and I had to
obey his orders, reluctant though I was to go on.

Our destination was a town called Aubigny--rather an old chateau just
outside the town. Aubigny was the billet of the Fifteenth Division,
then in rest. Many officers were quartered in the chateau, as the
guests of its French owners, who remained in possession, having
refused to clear out, despite the nearness of the actual fighting
front.

This was a Scots division, I was glad to find. I heard good Scots
talk all around me when I arrived, and it was Scottish hospitality,
mingled with French, that awaited us. I know no finer combination,
nor one more warming to the cockles of a man's heart.

Here there was luxury, compared to what I had seen that day. As
Godfrey had warned me, the idea of resting that the troops had was a
bit more strenuous than mine would be. There was no lying and lolling
about. Hot though the weather was a deal of football was played, and
there were games of one sort and another going on nearly all the time
when the men were off duty.

This division, I learned, had seen some of the hardest and bloodiest
fighting of the whole war. They had been through the great offensive
that had pivoted on Arras, and had been sorely knocked about. They
had well earned such rest as was coming to them now, and they were
getting ready, in the most cheerful way you can imagine, for their
next tour of duty in the trenches. They knew about how much time they
would have, and they made the best use they could of it.

New drafts were coming out daily from home to fill up their sadly
depleted ranks. The new men were quickly drawn in and assimilated
into organizations that had been reduced to mere skeletons. New
officers were getting acquainted with their men; that wonderful thing
that is called esprit de corps was being made all around me. It is a
great sight to watch it in the making; it helps you to understand the
victories our laddies have won.

I was glad to see the kilted men of the Scots regiments all about me.
It was them, after all, that I had come to see. I wanted to talk to
them, and see them here, in France. I had seen them at hame, flocking
to the recruiting offices. I had seen them in their training camps.
But this was different. I love all the soldiers of the Empire, but it
is natural, is it no, that my warmest feeling should be for the
laddies who wear the kilt.

They were the most cheerful souls, as I saw them when we reached
their rest camp, that you could imagine. They were laughing and
joking all about us, and when they heard that the Reverend Harry
Lauder, M.P., Tour had arrived they crowded about us to see. They
wanted to make sure that I was there, and I was greeted in all sorts
of dialect that sounded enough, I'll be bound, to Godfrey and some of
the rest of our party. There were even men who spoke to me in the
Gaelic.

I saw a good deal, afterward, of these Scots troops. My, how hard
they did work while they rested! And what chances they took of broken
bones and bruises in their play! Ye would think, would ye no, that
they had enough of that in the trenches, where they got lumps and
bruises and sorer hurts in the run of duty? But no. So soon as they
came back to their rest billets they must begin to play by knocking
the skin and the hair off one another at sports of various sorts, of
which football was among the mildest, that are not by any means to be
recommended to those of a delicate fiber.

Some of the men I met at Aubigny had been out since Mons--some of the
old kilted regiments of the old regular army, they were. Away back in
those desperate days the Germans had dubbed them the ladies from
Hell, on account of their kilts. Some of the Germans really thought
they were women! That was learned from prisoners. Since Mons they
have been out, and auld Scotland has poured out men by the scores of
thousands, as fast as they were needed, to fill the gaps the German
shells and bullets have torn in the Scots ranks. Aye--since Mons, and
they will be there at the finish, when it comes, please God!

There have always been Scots regiments in the British army, ever
since the day when King Jamie the Sixth, of Scotland, of the famous
and unhappy house of Stuart, became King James the First of England.
The kilted regiments, the Highlanders, belonging to the immortal
Highland Brigade, include the Gordon Highlanders, the Forty-second,
the world famous Black Watch, as it is better known than by its
numbered designation, the Seaforth Highlanders, and the Argyle and
Sutherland regiment, or the Princess Louise's Own. That was the
regiment to a territorial battalion of which my boy John belonged at
the outbreak of the war, and with which he served until he was killed.

Some of those old, famous regiments have been wiped out half a dozen
times, almost literally annihilated, since Mons. New drafts, and the
addition of territorial battalions, have replenished them and kept up
their strength, and the continuity of their tradition has never been
broken. The men who compose a regiment may be wiped out, but the
regiment survives. It is an organization, an entity, a creature with
a soul as well as a body. And the Germans have no discovered a way
yet of killing the soul! They can do dreadful things to the bodies of
men and women, but their souls are safe from them.

Of course there are Scots regiments that are not kilted and that have
naught to do with the Hielanders, who have given as fine and brave an
account of themselves as any. There are the Scots Guards, one of the
regiments of the Guards Brigade, the very pick and flower of the
British army. There are the King's Own Scottish Borderers, with as
fine a history and tradition as any regiment in the army, and a
record of service of which any regiment might well be proud; the
Scots Fusiliers, the Royal Scots, the Scottish Rifles, and the Scots
Greys, of Crimean fame--the only cavalry regiment from Scotland.

Since this war began other Highland regiments have been raised beside
those originally included in the Highland Brigade. There are Scots
from Canada who wear the kilt and their own tartan and cap. Every
Highland regiment, of course, has its own distinguishing tartan and
cap. One of the proudest moments of my life came when I heard that
the ninth battalion of the Highland Light Infantry, which was raised
in Glasgow, but has its depot, where its recruits and new drafts are
trained, at Hamilton, was known as the Harry Landers. That was
because they had adopted the Balmoral cap, with dice, that had become
associated with me because I had worn it so often and so long on the
stage in singing one of my most famous and successful songs, "I Love
a Lassie."

But in the trenches, of course, the Hieland troops all look alike.
They cling to their kilts--or, rather, their kilts cling to them--but
kilts and jackets are all of khaki. If they wore the bright plaids of
the tartans they would be much too conspicuous a mark for the
Germans, and so they have to forswear their much loved colors when
they are actually at grips with Fritz.

I wear the kilt nearly always, myself, as I have said. Partly I do so
because it is my native costume, and I am proud of my Highland birth;
partly because I revel in the comfort of the costume. But it brings
me some amusing experiences. Very often I am asked a question that
is, I presume, fired at many a Hieland soldier, intimate though it is.

"I say, Harry," someone will ask me, "you wear the kilt. Do you not
wear anything underneath it?"

I do, myself. I wear a very short pair of trunks, chiefly for reasons
of modesty. So do some of the soldiers. But if they do they must
provide it for themselves; no such garment is served out to them with
their uniform. And so the vast majority of the men wear nothing but
their skins under the kilt. He is bare, that is, from the waist to
the hose--except for the kilt. But that is garment enough! I'll tell
ye so, and I'm thinkin' I know!

So clad the Highland soldier is a great deal more comfortable and a
great deal more sanely dressed, I believe, than the city dweller who
is trousered and underweared within an inch of his life. I think it
is a matter of medical record, that can be verified from the reports
of the army surgeons, that the kilted troops are among the healthiest
in the whole army. I know that the Highland troops are much less
subject to abdominal troubles of all sorts--colic and the like. The
kilt lies snug and warm around the stomach, in several thick layers,
and a more perfect protection from the cold has never been devised
for that highly delicate and susceptible region of the human anatomy.

Women, particularly, are always asking me another question. I have
seen them eyeing me, in cold weather, when I was walkin' around,
comfortably, in my kilt. And their eyes would wander to my knees, and
I would know before they opened their mouths what it was that they
were going to say.

"Oh, Mr. Lauder," they would ask me. "Don't your poor knees get cold--
with no coverings, exposed to this bitter cold?"

Well, they never have! That's all I can tell you. They have had the
chance, in all sorts of bitter weather. I am not thinking only of the
comparitively mild winters of Britain--although, up north, in
Scotland, we get some pretty severe winter weather. But I have been
in Western Canada, and in the northwestern states of the United
States, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, where the thermometer drops
far below zero. And my knees have never been cold yet. They do not
suffer from the cold any more than does my face, which is as little
covered and protected as they--and for the same reason, I suppose.
They are used to the weather.

And when it comes to the general question of health, I am certain,
from my own experience, that the kilt is best. Several times, for one
reason or another, I have laid my kilts aside and put on trousers.
And each time I have been seized by violent colds, and my life has
been made wretched. A good many soldiers of my acquaintance have had
the same experience.

Practical reasons aside, however, the Scots soldier loves his kilt,
and would fight like a steer to keep from having it taken away from
him, should anyone be so foolish as to try such a performance. He
loves it, not only because it is warm and comfortable, but because it
is indistinguishably associated in his mind with some of the most
glorious pages of Scottish history. It is a sign and symbol of his
hameland to him. There have been times, in Scotland, when all was not
as peaceful in the country's relations with England as it now is,
when the loyal Scot who wore the kilt did so knowing that he might be
tried for his life for doing so, since death had been the penalty
appointed for that "crime."

Aye, it is peace and friendship now between Scot and Englishman. But
that is not to say that there is no a friendly rivalry between them
still. English regiments and Scots regiments have a lot of fun with
one another, and a bit rough it gets, too, at times. But it is all in
fun, and there is no harm done. I have in mind a tale an officer told
me--though the men of whom he told it did not know that an officer
had any inkling of the story.

The English soldiers are very fond of harping on the old idea of the
difficulty of making a Scotsman see a joke. That is a base slander,
I'll say, but no matter. There were two regiments in rest close to
one another, one English and one Scots. They met at the estaminet or
pub in the nearby town. And one day the Englishman put up a great
joke on some of the Scots, and did get a little proof of that pet
idea of theirs, for the Scots were slow to see the joke.

Ah, weel, that was enough! For days the English rang the changes on
that joke, teasing the Hielanders and making sport of them. But at
last, when the worst of the tormentors were all assembled together,
two of the Scots came into the room where they were havin' a wee
drappie.

"Mon, Sandy," said one of them, shaking his head, "I've been thinking
what a sad thing that would be! I hope it will no come to pass."

"Aye, that would be a sore business, indeed, Tam," said Sandy, and
he, too, shook his head.

And so they went on. The Englishmen stood it as long as they could
and then one turned to Sandy.

"What is it would be such a bad business?" he asked.

"Mon-mon," said Sandy. "We've been thinking, Tam and I, what would
become of England, should Scotland make a separate peace?"

And it was generally conceded that the last laugh was with the Scots
in that affair!

My boy, John, had the same love for the kilt that I had. He was proud
and glad to wear the kilt, and to lead men who did the same. While he
was in training at Bedford he organized a corps of cyclists for
dispatch-bearing work. He was a crack cyclist himself, and it was a
sport of which he was passionately fond. So he took a great interest
in the corps, and it soon gained wide fame for its efficiency. So
true was that that the authorities took note of the corps, and of
John, who was responsible for it, and he was asked to go to France to
take charge of organizing a similar corps behind the front. But that
would have involved a transfer to a different branch of the army, and
detachment from his regiment. And--it would have meant that he must
doff his kilt. Since he had the chance to decline--it was an offer,
not an order, that had come to him--he did, that he might keep his
kilt and stay with his own men.

To my eyes there is no spectacle that begins to be so imposing as the
sight of a parade of Scottish troops in full uniform. And it is the
unanimous testimony of German prisoners that this war has brought
them no more terrifying sight than the charge of a kilted regiment.
The Highlanders come leaping forward, their bayonets gleaming,
shouting old battle cries that rang through the glens years and
centuries ago, and that have come down to the descendants of the
warriors of an ancient time. The Highlanders love to use cold steel;
the claymore was their old weapon, and the bayonet is its nearest
equivalent in modern war. They are master hands with that, too--and
the bayonet is the one thing the Hun has no stomach for at all.

Fritz is brave enough when he is under such cover and shelter as the
trenches give. And he has shown a sort of stubborn courage when
attacking in massed formations--the Germans have made terrible
sacrifices, at times, in their offensive efforts. But his blood turns
to water in his veins when he sees the big braw laddies from the
Hielands come swooping toward him, their kilts flapping and their
bayonets shining in whatever light there is. Then he is mighty quick
to throw up his hands and shout: "Kamerad! Kamerad!"

I might go on all night telling you some of the stories I heard along
the front about the Scottish soldiers. They illustrate and explain
every phase of his character. They exploit his humor, despite that
base slander to which I have already referred, his courage, his
stoicism. And, of course, a vast fund of stories has sprung up that
deals with the proverbial thrift of the Scot! There was one tale that
will bear repeating, perhaps.

Two Highlanders had captured a chicken--a live chicken, not
particularly fat, it may be, even a bit scrawny, but still, a live
chicken. That was a prize, since the bird seemed to have no owner who
might get them into trouble with the military police. One was for
killing and eating the fowl at once. But the other would have none of
such a summary plan.

"No, no, Jimmy," he said, pleadingly, holding the chicken
protectingly. "Let's keep her until morning, and may be we will ha'
an egg as well!"

[ILLUSTRATION: "'Make us laugh again, Harry!' Though I remember my
son and want to join the ranks, I have obeyed." LAUDER ADDRESSING
BRITISH TROOPS BEHIND THE LINES IN FRANCE (See Lauder08.jpg)]

The other British soldiers call the Scots Jock, invariably. The
Englishman, or a soldier from Wales or Ireland, as a rule, is called
Tommy--after the well-known M. Thomas Atkins. Sometimes, an Irishman
will be Paddy and a Welshman Taffy. But the Scot is always Jock.

Jock gave us a grand welcome at Aubigny. We were all pretty tired,
but when they told me I could have an audience of seven thousand
Scots soldiers I forgot my weariness, and Hogge, Adam and I, to say
nothing of Johnson and the wee piano, cleared for action, as you
might say. The concert was given in the picturesque grounds of the
chateau, which had been less harshly treated by the war than many
such beautiful old places. It was a great experience to sing to so
many men; it was far and away the largest house we had had since we
had landed at Boulogne.

After we left Aubigny, the chateau and that great audience, we drove
on as quickly as we could, since it was now late, to the headquarters
of General Mac----, commanding the Fifteenth Division--to which, of
course, the men whom we had just been entertaining belonged. I was to
meet the general upon my arrival.

That was a strange ride. It was pitch dark, and we had some distance
to go. There were mighty few lights in evidence; you do not advertise
a road to Fritz's airplanes when you are traveling roads anywhere
near the front, for he has guns of long range, that can at times
manage to strafe a road that is supposed to be beyond the zone of
fire with a good deal of effect I have seldom seen a blacker night
than that. Objects along the side of the road were nothing but
shapeless lumps, and I did not see how our drivers could manage at
all to find their way.

They seemed to have no difficulty, however, but got along swimmingly.
Indeed, they traveled faster than they had in daylight. Perhaps that
was because we were not meeting troops to hold us up along this road;
I believe that, if we had, we should have stopped and given them a
concert, even though Johnson could not have seen the keys of his piano!

It was just as well, however. I was delighted at the reception that
had been given to the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour all through
our first day in France. But I was also extremely tired, and the
dinner and bed that loomed up ahead of us, at the end of our long
ride through the dark, took on an aspect of enchantment as we neared
them. My voice, used as I was to doing a great deal of singing, was
fagged, and Hogge and Dr. Adam were so hoarse that they could
scarcely speak at all. Even Johnson was pretty well done up; he was
still, theoretically, at least, on the sick list, of course. And I
ha' no doot that the wee piano felt it was entitled to its rest, too!

So we were all mighty glad when the cars stopped at last.

"Well, here we are!" said Captain Godfrey, who was the freshest of us
all. "This is Tramecourt--General Headquarters for the Reverend Harry
Lauder, M.P., Tour while you are in France, gentlemen. They have
special facilities for visitors here, and unless one of Fritz's
airplanes feels disposed to drop a bomb or two, you won't be under
fire, at night at least. Of course, in the daytime. . ."

He shrugged his shoulders. For our plans did not involve a search for
safe places. Still, it was pleasant to know that we might sleep in
fair comfort.

General Mac---- was waiting to welcome us, and told us that dinner
was ready and waiting, which we were all glad to hear. It had been a
long, hard day, although the most interesting one, by far, that I had
ever spent.

We made short work of dinner, and soon afterward they took us to our
rooms. I don't know what Hogge and Dr. Adam did, but I know I looked
happily at the comfortable bed that was in my room. And I slept
easily and without being rocked to sleep that nicht!



CHAPTER XIX

Though we were out of the zone of fire--except for stray activities
in which Boche airplanes might indulge themselves, as our hosts were
frequently likely to remind us, lest we fancy ourselves too secure, I
suppose--we were by no means out of hearing of the grim work that was
going on a few miles away. The big guns, of course, are placed well
behind the front line trenches, and we could hear their sullen,
constant quarreling with Fritz and his artillery. The rumble of the
Hun guns came to us, too. But that is a sound to which you soon get
used, out there in France. You pay no more heed to it than you do to
the noise the 'buses make in London or the trams in Glasgow.

In the morning I got my first chance really to see Tramecourt. The
chateau is a lovely one, a fine example of such places. It had not
been knocked about at all, and it looked much as it must have done in
times of peace. Practically all the old furniture was still in the
rooms, and there were some fine old pictures on the walls that it
gave me great delight to see. Indeed, the rare old atmosphere of the
chateau was restful and delightful in a way that surprised me.

I had been in the presence of real war for just one day. And yet I
took pleasure in seeing again the comforts and some of the luxuries
of peace! That gave me an idea of what this sort of place must mean
to men from the trenches. It must seem like a bit of heaven to them
to come back to Aubigny or Tramecourt! Think of the contrast.

The chateau, which had been taken over by the British army, belonged
to the Comte de Chabot, or, rather, to his wife, who had been
Marquise de Tramecourt, one of the French families of the old regime.
Although the old nobility of France has ceased to have any legal
existence under the Republic the old titles are still used as a
matter of courtesy, and they have a real meaning and value. This was
a pleasant place, this chateau of Tramecourt; I should like to see it
again in days of peace, for then it must be even more delightful than
it was when I came to know it so well.

Tramecourt was to be our home, the headquarters of the Reverend Harry
Lauder, M.P., Tour, during the rest of our stay at the front. We were
to start out each morning, in the cars, to cover the ground appointed
for that day, and to return at night. But it was understood that
there would be days when we would get too far away to return at night,
and other sleeping quarters would be provided on such occasions.

I grew very fond of the place while I was there. The steady pounding
of the guns did not disturb my peace of nights, as a rule. But there
was one night when I did lie awake for hours, listening. Even to my
unpracticed ear there was a different quality in the sound of the
cannon that night. It had a fury, an intensity, that went beyond
anything I had heard. And later I learned that I had made no mistake
in thinking that there was something unusual and portentous about the
fire that night. What I had listened to was the preliminary drum fire
and bombardment that prepared the way for the great attack at
Messines, near Ypres--the most terrific bombardment recorded in all
history, up to that time.

The fire that night was like a guttural chant. It had a real rhythm;
the beat of the guns could almost be counted. And at dawn there came
the terrific explosion of the great mine that had been prepared,
which was the signal for the charge. Mr. Lloyd-George, I am told,
knowing the exact moment at which the mine was to be exploded, was
awake, at home in England, and heard it, across the channel, and so
did many folk who did not have his exceptional sources of
information. I was one of them! And I wondered greatly until I was
told what had been done. That was one of the most brilliantly and
successfully executed attacks of the whole war, and vastly important
in its results, although it was, compared to the great battles on the
Somme and up north, near Arras, only a small and minor operation.

We settled down, very quickly indeed, into a regular routine. Captain
Godfrey was, for all the world, like the manager of a traveling
company in America. He mapped out our routes, and he took care of all
the details. No troupe, covering a long route of one night stands in
the Western or Southern United States, ever worked harder than did
Hogge, Adam and I--to say nothing of Godfrey and our soldier
chauffeurs. We did not lie abed late in the mornings, but were up
soon after daylight. Breakfast out of the way, we would find the cars
waiting and be off.

We had, always, a definite route mapped out for the day, but we never
adhered to it exactly. I was still particularly pleased with the idea
of giving a roadside concert whenever an audience appeared, and there
was no lack of willing listeners. Soon after we had set out from
Tramecourt, no matter in which direction we happened to be going, we
were sure to run into some body of soldiers.

There was no longer any need of orders. As soon as the chauffeur of
the leading car spied a blotch of khaki against the road, on went his
brakes, and we would come sliding into the midst of the troops and
stop. Johnson would be out before his car had fairly stopped, and at
work upon the lashings of the little piano, with me to help him. And
Hogge would already be clearing his throat to begin his speech.

The Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour, employed no press agent, and
it could not boast of a bill poster. No hoardings were covered with
great colored sheets advertising its coming. And yet the whole front
seemed to know that we were about. The soldiers we met along the
roads welcomed us gladly, but they were no longer, after the first
day or two, surprised to see us. They acted, rather, as if they had
been expecting us. Our advent was like that of a circus, coming to a
country town for a long heralded and advertised engagement. Yet all
the puffing that we got was by word of mouth.

There were some wonderful choruses along those war-worn roads we
traveled. "Roamin' in the Gloamin'" was still my featured song, and
all the soldiers seemed to know the tune and the words, and to take a
particular delight in coming in with me as I swung into the chorus.
We never passed a detachment of soldiers without stopping to give
them a concert, no matter how it disarranged Captain Godfrey's plans.
But he was entirely willing. It was these men, on their way to the
trenches, or on the way out of them, bound for rest billets, whom, of
course, I was most anxious to reach, since I felt that they were the
ones I was most likely to be able to help and cheer up.

The scheduled concerts were practically all at the various rest
billets we visited. These were, in the main, at chateaux. Always, at
such a place, I had a double audience. The soldiers would make a
great ring, as close to me as they could get, and around them, again,
in a sort of outer circle, were French villagers and peasants, vastly
puzzled and mystified, but eager to be pleased, and very ready with
their applause.

It must have been hard for them to make up their minds about me, if
they gave me much thought. My kilt confused them; most of them
thought I was a soldier from some regiment they had not yet seen,
wearing a new and strange uniform. For my kilt, I need not say, was
not military, nor was the rest of my garb warlike!

I gave, during that time, as many as seven concerts in a day. I have
sung as often as thirty-five times in one day, and on such occasions
I was thankful that I had a strong and durable voice, not easily worn
out, as well as a stout physique. Hogge and Dr. Adam appeared as
often as I did, but they didn't have to sing!

Nearly all the songs I gave them were ditties they had known for a
long time. The one exception was the tune that had been so popular in
"Three Cheers"--the one called "The Laddies Who Fought and Won." Few
of the boys had been home since I had been singing that song, but it
has a catching lilt, and they were soon able to join in the chorus
and send it thundering along. They took to it, too--and well they
might! It was of such as they that it was written.

We covered perhaps a hundred miles a day during this period. That
does not sound like a great distance for high-powered motor cars, but
we did a good deal of stopping, you see, here and there and
everywhere. We were roaming around in the backwater of war, you might
say. We were out of the main stream of carnage, but it was not out of
our minds and our hearts. Evidences of it in plenty came to us each
day. And each day we were a little nearer to the front line trenches
than we had come the day before. We were working gradually toward
that climax that I had been promised.

I was always eager to talk to officers and men, and I found many
chances to do so. It seemed to me that I could never learn enough
about the soldiers. I listened avidly to every story that was told
to me, and was always asking for more. The younger officers,
especially, it interested me to talk with. One day I was talking
to such a lieutenant.

"How is the spirit of your men?" I asked him. I am going to tell you
his answer, just as he made it.

"Their spirit?" he said, musingly. "Well, just before we came to this
billet to rest we were in a tightish corner on the Somme. One of my
youngest men was hit--a shell came near to taking his arm clean off,
so that it was left just hanging to his shoulders. He was only about
eighteen years old, poor chap. It was a bad wound, but, as sometimes
happens, it didn't make him unconscious--then. And when he realized
what had happened to him, and saw his arm hanging limp, so that he
could know he was bound to lose it, he began to cry.

"'What's the trouble?' I asked him, hurrying over to him. I was sorry
enough for him, but you've got to keep up the morale of your men.
'Soldiers don't cry when they're wounded, my lad.'

"'I'm not crying because I'm wounded, sir!' he fired back at me. And
I won't say he was quite as respectful as a private is supposed to be
when he's talking to an officer! 'Just take a look at that, sir!' And
he pointed to his wound. And then he cried out:

"'And I haven't killed a German yet!' he said, bitterly. 'Isn't that
hard lines, sir?'

"That is the spirit of my men!"

I made many good friends while I was roaming around the country just
behind the front. I wonder how many of them I shall keep--how many of
them death will spare to shake my hand again when peace is restored!
There was a Gordon Highlander, a fine young officer, of whom I became
particularly fond while I was at Tramecourt. I had a very long talk
with him, and I thought of him often, afterward, because he made me
think of John. He was just such a fine young type of Briton as my boy
had been.

Months later, when I was back in Britain, and giving a performance at
Manchester, there was a knock at the door of my dressing-room.

"Come in!" I called.

The door was pushed open and a man came in with great blue glasses
covering his eyes. He had a stick, and he groped his way toward me. I
did not know him at all at first--and then, suddenly, with a shock, I
recognized him as my fine young Gordon Highlander of the rest billet
near Tramecourt.

"My God--it's you, Mac!" I said, deeply shocked.

"Yes," he said, quietly. His voice had changed, greatly. "Yes, it's
I, Harry."

He was almost totally blind, and he did not know whether his eyes
would get better or worse.

"Do you remember all the lads you met at the billet where you came to
sing for us the first time I met you, Harry?" he asked me. "Well,
they're all gone--I'm the only one who's left--the only one!"

There was grief in his voice. But there was nothing like complaint,
nor was there, nor self-pity, either, when he told me about his eyes
and his doubts as to whether he would ever really see again. He
passed his own troubles off lightly, as if they did not matter at
all. He preferred to tell me about those of his friends whom I had
met, and to give me the story of how this one and that one had gone.
And he is like many another. I know a great many men who have been
maimed in the war, but I have still to hear one of them complain.
They were brave enough, God knows, in battle, but I think they are
far braver when they come home, shattered and smashed, and do naught
but smile at their troubles.

The only sort of complaining you hear from British soldiers is over
minor discomforts in the field. Tommy and Jock will grouse when they
are so disposed. They will growl about the food and about this
trivial trouble and that. But it is never about a really serious
matter that you hear them talking!

I have never yet met a man who had been permanently disabled who was
not grieving because he could not go back. And it is strange but true
that men on leave get homesick for the trenches sometimes. They miss
the companionships they have had in the trenches. I think it must be
because all the best men in the world are in France that they feel
so. But it is true, I know, because I have not heard it once, but a
dozen times.

Men will dream of home and Blighty for weeks and months. They will
grouse because they cannot get leave--though, half the time, they
have not even asked for it, because they feel that their place is
where the fighting is! And then, when they do get that longed-for
leave, they are half sorry to go--and they come back like boys coming
home from school!

A great reward awaits the men who fight through this war and emerge
alive and triumphant at its end. They will dictate the conduct of the
world for many a year. The men who stayed at home when they should
have gone may as well prepare to drop their voices to a very low
whisper in the affairs of mankind. For the men who will be heard, who
will make themselves heard, are out there in France.



CHAPTER XX

It was seven o'clock in the morning of a Godly and a beautiful day
when we set out from Tramecourt for Arras. Arras, that town so famous
now in British history and in the annals of this war, had been one of
our principal objectives from the outset, but we had not known when
we were to see it. Arras had been the pivot of the great northern
drive in the spring--the drive that Hindenburg had fondly supposed he
had spoiled by his "strategic" retreat in the region of the Somme,
begun just before the British and the French were ready to attack.

What a bonnie morning that was, to be sure! The sun was out, after
some rainy days, and glad we all were to see it. The land was sprayed
with silver light; the air was as sweet and as soft and as warm as a
baby's breath. And the cars seemed to leap forward, as if they, too,
loved the day and the air. They ate up the road. They seemed to take
hold of its long, smooth surface--they are grand roads, over you, in
France--and reel it up in underneath their wheels as if it were a tape.

This time we did little stopping, no matter how good the reason looked.
We went hurtling through villages and towns we had not seen before.
Our horn and our siren shrieked a warning as we shot through. And it
seemed wrong. They looked so peaceful and so quiet, did those French
towns, on that summer's morning! Peaceful, aye, and languorous, after
all the bustle and haste we had been seeing. The houses were set in
pretty encasements of bright foliage and they looked as though they had
been painted against the background of the landscape with water colors.

It was hard to believe that war had passed that way. It had; there
were traces everywhere of its grim visitation. But here its heavy
hand had been laid lightly upon town and village. It was as if a wave
of poison gas of the sort the Germans brought into war had been
turned aside by a friendly breeze, arising in the very nick of time.
Little harm had been done along the road we traveled. But the thunder
of the guns was always in our ears; we could hear the steady,
throbbing rhythm of the cannon, muttering away to the north and east.

It was very warm, and so, after a time, as we passed through a
village, someone--Hogge, I think--suggested that a bottle of ginger
beer all around would not be amiss. The idea seemed to be regarded as
an excellent one, so Godfrey spoke to the chauffeur beside him, and
we stopped. We had not known, at first, that there were troops in
town. But there were--Highlanders. And they came swarming out. I was
recognized at once.

"Well, here's old Harry Lauder!" cried one braw laddie.

"Come on, Harry--gie us a song!" they shouted. "Let's have 'Roamin' in
the Gloamin', Harry! Gie us the Bonnie Lassie! We ha' na' heard 'The
Laddies Who Fought and Won,' Harry. They tell us that's a braw song!"

We were not really supposed to give any roadside concerts that day,
but how was I to resist them? So we pulled up into a tiny side
street, just off the market square, and I sang several songs for
them. We saved time by not unlimbering the wee piano, and I sang,
without accompaniment, standing up in the car. But they seemed to be
as well pleased as though I had had the orchestra of a big theater to
support me, and all the accompaniments and trappings of the stage.
They were very loath to let me go, and I don't know how much time we
really saved by not giving our full and regular programme. For,
before I had done, they had me telling stories, too. Captain Godfrey
was smiling, but he was glancing at his watch too, and he nudged me,
at last, and made me realize that it was time for us to go on, no
matter how interesting it might be to stay.

"I'll be good," I promised, with a grin, as we drove on. "We shall go
straight on to Arras now!"

But we did not. We met a bunch of engineers on the road, after a
space, and they looked so wistful when we told them we maun be
getting right along, without stopping to sing for them, that I had
not the heart to disappoint them. So we got out the wee piano and I
sang them a few songs. It seemed to mean so much to those boys along
the roads! I think they enjoyed the concerts even more than did the
great gatherings that were assembled for me at the rest camps. A
concert was more of a surprise for them, more of a treat. The other
laddies liked them, too--aye, they liked them fine. But they would
have been prepared, sometimes; they would have been looking forward
to the fun. And the laddies along the roads took them as a man takes
a grand bit of scenery, coming before his eyes, suddenly, as he turns
a bend in a road he does not ken.

As for myself, I felt that I was becoming quite a proficient open-air
performer by now. My voice was standing the strain of singing under
such novel and difficult conditions much better than I had thought it
could. And I saw that I must be at heart and by nature a minstrel! I
know I got more pleasure from those concerts I gave as a minstrel
wandering in France than did the soldiers or any of those who heard me!

I have been before the public for many years. Applause has always
been sweet to me. It is to any artist, and when one tells you it is
not you may set it down in your hearts that he or she is telling less
than the truth. It is the breath of life to us to know that folks are
pleased by what we do for them. Why else would we go on about our
tasks? I have had much applause. I have had many honors. I have told
you about that great and overwhelming reception that greeted me when
I sailed into Sydney Harbor. In Britain, in America, I have had
greetings that have brought tears into my eye and such a lump into
my throat that until it had gone down I could not sing or say a word
of thanks.

But never has applause sounded so sweet to me as it did along those
dusty roads in France, with the poppies gleaming red and the
cornflowers blue through the yellow fields of grain beside the roads!
They cheered me, do you ken--those tired and dusty heroes of Britain
along the French roads! They cheered as they squatted down in a
circle about us, me in my kilt, and Johnson tinkling away as if his
very life depended upon it, at his wee piano! Ah, those wonderful,
wonderful soldiers! The tears come into my eyes, and my heart is sore
and heavy within me when I think that mine was the last voice many of
them ever heard lifted in song! They were on their way to the
trenches, so many of those laddies who stopped for a song along the
road. And when men are going into the trenches they know, and all who
see them passing know, that some there are who will never come out.

Despite all the interruptions, though, it was not much after noon
when we reached Blangy. Here, in that suburb of Arras, were the
headquarters of the Ninth Division, and as I stepped out of the car I
thrilled to the knowledge that I was treading ground forever to be
famous as the starting-point of the Highland Brigade in the attack of
April 9, 1917.

And now I saw Arras, and, for the first time, a town that had been
systematically and ruthlessly shelled. There are no words in any
tongue I know to give you a fitting picture of the devastation of
Arras. "Awful" is a puny word, a thin one, a feeble one. I pick
impotently at the cover-lid of my imagination when I try to frame
language to make you understand what it was I saw when I came to
Arras on that bright June day.

I think the old city of Arras should never be rebuilt. I doubt if it
can be rebuilt, indeed. But I think that, whether or no, a golden
fence should be built around it, and it should forever and for all
time be preserved as a monument to the wanton wickedness of the Hun.
It should serve and stand, in its stark desolation, as a tribute,
dedicated to the Kultur of Germany. No painter could depict the
frightfulness of that city of the dead. No camera could make you see
as it is. Only your eyes can do that for you. And even then you
cannot realize it all at once. Your eyes are more merciful than the
truth and the Hun.

The Germans shelled Arras long after there was any military reason
for doing so. The sheer, wanton love of destruction must have moved
them. They had destroyed its military usefulness, but still they
poured shot and shell into the town. I went through its streets--the
Germans had been pushed back so far by then that the city was no
longer under steady fire. But they had done their work!

Nobody was living in Arras. No one could have lived there. The houses
had been smashed to pieces. The pavements were dust and rubble. But
there was life in the city. Through the ruins our men moved as
ceaselessly and as restlessly as the tenants of an ant hill suddenly
upturned by a plowshare. Soldiers were everywhere, and guns--guns,
guns! For Arras had a new importance now. It was a center for many
roads. Some of the most important supply roads of this sector of the
front converged in Arras.

Trains of ammunition trucks, supply carts and wagons of all sorts,
great trucks laden with jam and meat and flour, all were passing
every moment. There was an incessant din of horses' feet and the
steady crunch--crunch of heavy boots as the soldiers marched through
the rubble and the brickdust. And I knew that all this had gone on
while the town was still under fire. Indeed, even now, an occasional
shell from some huge gun came crashing into the town, and there would
be a new cloud of dust arising to mark its landing, a new collapse of
some weakened wall. Warning signs were everywhere about, bidding all
who saw them to beware of the imminent collapse of some heap of masonry.

I saw what the Germans had left of the stately old Cathedral, and of
the famous Cloth Hall--one of the very finest examples of the guild
halls of medieval times. Goths--Vandals--no, it is unfair to seek
such names for the Germans. They have established themselves as the
masters of all time in brutality and in destruction. There is no need
to call them anything but Germans. The Cloth Hall was almost human in
its pitiful appeal to the senses and the imagination. The German fire
had picked it to pieces, so that it stood in a stark outline, like
some carcase picked bare by a vulture.

Our soldiers who were quartered nearby lived outside the town in
huts. They were the men of the Highland Brigade, and the ones I had
hoped and wished, above all others, to meet when I came to France.
They received our party with the greatest enthusiasm, and they were
especially flattering when they greeted me. One of the Highland
officers took me in hand immediately, to show me the battlefield.

The ground over which we moved had literally been churned by
shell-fire. It was neither dirt nor mud that we walked upon; it was a
sort of powder. The very soil had been decomposed into a fine dust by
the terrific pounding it had received. The dust rose and got into our
eyes and mouths and nostrils. There was a lot of sneezing among the
members of the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour that day at Arras!
And the wire! It was strewn in every direction, with seeming
aimlessness. Heavily barbed it was, and bad stuff to get caught in.
One of the great reasons for the preliminary bombardment that usually
precedes an attack is to cut this wire. If charging men are caught in
a bad tangle of wire they can be wiped out by machine gun-fire before
they can get clear.

I asked a Highlander, one day, how long he thought the war would last.

"Forty years," he said, never batting an eyelid. "We'll be fighting
another year, and then it'll tak us thirty-nine years more to wind up
all the wire!"

Off to my right there was a network of steel strands, and as I gazed
at it I saw a small dark object hanging from it and fluttering in the
breeze. I was curious enough to go over, and I picked my way
carefully through the maze-like network of wire to see what it might
be. When I came close I saw it was a bit of cloth, and immediately I
recognized the tartan of the Black Watch--the famous Forty-second.
Mud and blood held that bit of cloth fastened to the wire, as if by a
cement. Plainly, it had been torn from a kilt.

I stood for a moment, looking down at that bit of tartan, flapping in
the soft summer breeze. And as I stood I could look out and over the
landscape, dotted with a very forest of little wooden crosses, that
marked the last resting-place of the men who had charged across this
maze of wire and died within it. They rose, did those rough crosses,
like sheathed swords out of the wild, luxurious jungle of grass that
had grown up in that blood-drenched soil. I wondered if the owner of
the bit of tartan were still safe or if he lay under one of the
crosses that I saw.

There was room for sad speculation here! Who had he been? Had he
swept on, leaving that bit of his kilt as evidence of his passing?
Had he been one of those who had come through the attack, gloriously,
to victory, so that he could look back upon that day so long as he
lived? Or was he dead--perhaps within a hundred yards of where I
stood and gazed down at that relic of him? Had he folks at hame in
Scotland who had gone through days of anguish on his account--such
days of anguish as I had known?


[ILLUSTRATION: Berlin struck off this medal when the "Lusitania" was
sunk: on one side the brutal catastrophe, on the other the grinning
death's head Teutonically exultant. "And so now I preach the war on
the Hun my own way," says Harry Lauder. (See Lauder09.jpg)]

[ILLUSTRATION:  HARRY LAUDER "Laird of Dunoon." (See Lauder10.jpg)]


I asked a soldier for some wire clippers, and I cut the wire on
either side of that bit of tartan, and took it, just as it was. And
as I put the wee bit of a brave man's kilt away I kissed the
blood-stained tartan, for Auld Lang Syne, and thought of what a tale
it could tell if it could only speak!

     "Ha' ye seen a' the men frae the braes and the glen,
      Ha' ye seen them a' marchin' awa'?
      Ha' ye seen a' the men frae the wee but-an'-ben,
      And the gallants frae mansion and ha'?"

I have said before that I do not want to tell you of the tales of
atrocities that I heard in France. I heard plenty--ayes and terrible
they were! But I dinna wish to harrow the feelings of those who read
more than I need, and I will leave that task to those who saw for
themselves with their eyes, when I had but my ears to serve me. Yet
there was one blood-chilling story that my boy John told to me, and
that the finding of that bit of Black Watch tartan brings to my mind.
He told it to me as we sat before the fire in my wee hoose at Dunoon,
just a few nights before he went back to the front for the last time.
We were talking of the war--what else was there to talk aboot?

It was seldom that John touched on the harsher things he knew about
the war. He preferred, as a rule, to tell me stories of the courage
and the devotion of his men, and of the light way that they turned
things when there was so much chance for grief and care.

"One night, Dad," he said, "we had a battalion of the Black Watch on
our right, and they made a pretty big raid on the German trenches. It
developed into a sizable action for any other war, but one trifling
enough and unimportant in this one. The Germans had been readier than
the Black Watch had supposed, and had reinforcements ready, and sixty
of the Highlanders were captured. The Germans took them back into
their trenches, and stripped them to the skin. Not a stitch or a rag
of clothing did they leave them, and, though it was April, it was a
bitter night, with a wind to cut even a man warmly clad to the bone.

"All night they kept them there, standing at attention, stark naked,
so that they were half-frozen when the gray, cold light of the dawn
began to show behind them in the east. And then the Germans laughed,
and told their prisoners to go.

"'Go on--go back to your own trenches, as you are!' they said.

"The laddies of the Black Watch could scarcely believe their ears.
There was about seventy-five yards between the two trench lines at
that point, and the No Man's Land was rough going--all shell-pitted
as it was. By that time, too, of course, German repair parties had
mended all the wire before their trenches. So they faced a rough
journey, all naked as they were.  But they started.

"They got through the wire, with the Germans laughing fit to kill
themselves at the sight of the streaks of blood showing on their
white skins as the wire got in its work. They laughed at them, Dad!
And then, when they were halfway across the No Man's Land they
understood, at last, why the Germans had let them go. For fire was
opened on them with machine guns. Everyone was mowed down--everyone
of those poor, naked, bleeding lads was killed--murdered by that
treacherous fire from behind!

"We heard all the details of that dirty bit of treachery later. We
captured some German prisoners from that very trench. Fritz is a
decent enough sort, sometimes, and there were men there whose
stomachs were turned by that sight, so that they were glad to creep
over, later, and surrender. They told us, with tears in their eyes.
But we had known, before that. We had needed no witnesses except the
bodies of the boys. It had been too dark for the men in our trenches
to see what was going on--and a burst of machine gun-fire, along the
trenches, is nothing to get curious or excited about. But those naked
bodies, lying there in the No Man's Land, had told us a good deal.

"Dad--that was an awful sight! I was in command of one of the burying
parties we had to send out."

That was the tale I thought of when I found that bit of the Black
Watch tartan. And I remembered, too, that it was with the Black Watch
that John Poe, the famous American football player from Princeton,
met his death in a charge. He had been offered a commission, but he
preferred to stay with the boys in the ranks.



CHAPTER XXI

We left our motor cars behind us in Arras, for to-day we were to go
to a front-line trench, and the climax of my whole trip, so far as I
could foresee, was at hand. Johnson and the wee piano had to stay
behind, too--we could not expect to carry even so tiny an instrument
as that into a front-line trench! Once more we had to don steel
helmets, but there was a great difference between these and the ones
we had had at Vimy Ridge. Mine fitted badly, and kept sliding down
over my ears, or else slipping way down to the back of my head. It
must have given me a grotesque look, and it was most uncomfortable.
So I decided I would take it off and carry it for a while.

"You'd better keep it on, Harry," Captain Godfrey advised me. "This
district is none too safe, even right here, and it gets worse as we go
along. A whistling Percy may come along looking for you any minute."

That is the name of a shell that is good enough to advertise its
coming by a whistling, shrieking sound. I could hear Percies
whistling all around, and see them spattering up the ground as they
struck, not so far away, but they did not seem to be coming in our
direction. So I decided I would take a chance.

"Well," I said, as I took the steel hat off, "I'll just keep this
bonnet handy and slip it on if I see Percy coming."

But later I was mighty glad of even an ill-fitting steel helmet!

Several staff officers from the Highland Brigade had joined the
Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour by now. Affable, pleasant gentlemen
they were, and very eager to show us all there was to be seen. And
they had more sights to show their visitors than most hosts have!

We were on ground now that had been held by the Germans before the
British had surged forward all along this line in the April battle.
Their old trenches, abandoned now, ran like deep fissures through the
soil. They had been pretty well blasted to pieces by the British
bombardment, but a good many of their deep, concrete dugouts had
survived. These were not being used by the British here, but were
saved in good repair as show places, and the officers who were our
guides took us down into some of them.

Rarely comfortable they must have been, too! They had been the homes
of German officers, and the Hun officers did themselves very well
indeed when they had the chance. They had electric light in their
cave houses. To be sure they had used German wall paper, and
atrociously ugly stuff it was, too. But it pleased their taste, no
doubt. Mightily amazed some of Fritz's officers must have been, back
in April, as they sat and took their ease in these luxurious
quarters, to have Jock come tumbling in upon them, a grenade in each
hand!

Our men might have used these dugouts, and been snug enough in them,
but they preferred air and ventilation, and lived in little huts
above the ground. I left our party and went around among them and, to
my great satisfaction, found, as I had been pretty sure I would, a
number of old acquaintances and old admirers who came crowding around
me to shake hands. I made a great collection of souvenirs here, for
they insisted on pressing trophies upon me.

"Tak them, Harry," said one after another. "We can get plenty more
where they came from!"

One laddie gave me a helmet with a bullet hole through the skip, and
another presented me with one of the most interesting souvenirs of
all I carried home from France. That was a German sniper's outfit. It
consisted of a suit of overalls, waterproofed. If a man had it on he
would be completely covered, from head to foot, with just a pair of
slits for his eyes to peep out of, and another for his mouth, so that
he could breathe. It was cleverly painted the color of a tree--part
of it like the bark, part green, like leaves sprouting from it.

"Eh, Jock," I asked the laddie who gave it to me. "A thing like yon's
hard to be getting, I'm thinking?"

"Oh, not so very hard," he answered, carelessly. "You've got to be a
good shot." And he wore medals that showed he was! "All you've got to
do, Harry, is to kill the chap inside it before he kills you! The
fellow who used to own that outfit you've got hid himself in the fork
of a tree, and, as you may guess, he looked like a branch of the tree
itself. He was pretty hard to spot. But I got suspicious of him, from
the way bullets were coming over steadily, and I decided that that
tree hid a sniper.

"After that it was just a question of being patient. It was no so
long before I was sure, and then I waited--until I saw that branch
move as no branch of a tree ever did move. I fired then--and got him!
He was away outside of his lines, and that nicht I slipped out and
brought back this outfit. I wanted to see how it was made."

An old, grizzled sergeant of the Black Watch gave me a German revolver.

"How came you to get this?" I asked him.

"It was an acceedent, Harry," he said. "We were raiding a trench, do
you ken, and I was in a sap when a German officer came along, and we
bumped into one another. He looked at me, and I at him. I think he
was goin' to say something, but I dinna ken what it was he had on his
mind. That _was_ his revolver you've got in your hand now."

And then he thrust his hand into his pocket.

"Here's the watch he used to carry, too," he said. It was a thick,
fat-bellied affair, of solid gold. "It's a bit too big, but it's a
rare good timekeeper."

Soon after that an officer gave me another trophy that is, perhaps,
even more interesting than the sniper's suit. It is rarer, at least.
It is a small, sweet-toned bell that used to hang in a wee church in
the small village of Athies, on the Scarpe, about a mile and a half
from Arras. The Germans wiped out church and village, but in some odd
way they found the bell and saved it. They hung it in their trenches,
and it was used to sound a gas alarm. On both sides a signal is given
when the sentry sees that there is to be a gas attack, in order that
the men may have time to don the clumsy gas masks that are the only
protection against the deadly fumes. The wee bell is eight inches
high, maybe, and I have never heard a lovelier tone.

"That bell has rung men to worship, and it has rung them to death,"
said the officer who gave it to me.

Presently I was called back to my party, after I had spent some time
with the lads in their huts. A general had joined the party now, and
he told me, with a smile, that I was to go up to the trenches, if I
cared to do so. I will not say I was not a bit nervous, but I was
glad to go, for a' that! It was the thing that had brought me to
France, after a'.

So we started, and by now I was glad to wear my steel hat, fit or no
fit. I was to give an entertainment in the trenches, and so we set
out. Pretty soon I was climbing a steep railroad embankment, and when
we slid down on the other side we found the trenches--wide, deep gaps
in the earth, and all alive with men. We got into the trenches
themselves by means of ladders, and the soldiers came swarming about
me with yells of "Hello, Harry! Welcome, Harry!"

They were told that I had come to sing for them, and so, with no
further preliminaries, I began my concert. I started with my favorite
opening song, as usual--"Roamin' in the Gloamin'," and then went on
with the other old favorites. I told a lot of stories, too, and then
I came to "The Laddies Who Fought and Won." None of the men had heard
it, but there were officers there who had seen "Three Cheers" during
the winter when they had had a short leave to run over to London.

I got through the first verse all right, and was just swinging into
the first chorus when, without the least warning, hell popped open in
that trench. A missile came in that some officer at once hailed as a
whizz bang. It is called that, for that is just exactly the sound it
makes. It is like a giant firecracker, and it would be amusing if one
did not know it was deadly. These missiles are not fired by the big
guns behind the lines, but by the small trench cannon--worked, as a
rule, by compressed air. The range is very short, but they are
capable of great execution at that range.

Was I frightened? I must have been! I know I felt a good deal as I
have done when I have been seasick. And I began to think at once of
all sorts of places where I would rather have been than in that
trench! I was standing on a slight elevation at the back, or parados,
of the trench, so that I was raised a bit above my audience, and I
had a fine view of that deadly thing, wandering about, spitting fire
and metal parts. It traveled so that the men could dodge it, but it
was throwing oft slugs that you could neither see nor dodge, and it
was a poor place to be!

And the one whizz bang was not enough to suit Fritz. It was followed
immediately by a lot more, that came popping in and making themselves
as unpleasant as you could imagine. I watched the men about me, and
they seemed to be unconcerned, and to be thinking much more of me and
my singing than of the whizz bangs. So, no matter how I felt, there
was nothing for me to do but to keep on with my song. I decided that
I must really be safe enough, no matter how I felt. But I had certain
misgivings on the subject. Still, I managed to go on with my song,
and I think I was calm enough to look at--though, if I was, my
appearance wholly belied my true inward feelings.

I struggled through to the end of the chorus--and I think I sang
pretty badly, although I don't know. But I was pretty sure the end of
the world had come for me, and that these laddies were taking things
as calmly as they were simply because they were used to it, and it
was all in the day's work for them. The Germans were fairly sluicing
that trench by now. The whizz bangs were popping over us like giant
fire-crackers, going off one and two and three at a time. And the
trench was full of flying slugs and chunks of dirt, striking against
our faces and hurtling all about us.

There I was. I had a good "house." I wanted to please my audience.
Was it no a trying situation? I thought Fritz might have had manners
enough to wait until I had finished my concert, at least! But the Hun
has no manners, as all the world knows.

Along that embankment we had climbed to reach the trenches, and not
very far from the bit of trench in which I was singing, there was a
railroad bridge of some strategic importance. And now a shell hit
that bridge--not a whizz bang, but a real, big shell. It exploded
with a hideous screech, as if the bridge were some human thing being
struck, and screaming out its agony. The soldiers looked at me, and I
saw some of them winking. They seemed to be mighty interested in the
way I was taking all this. I looked back at them, and then at a
Highland colonel who was listening to my singing as quietly and as
carefully as if he had been at a stall in Covent Garden during the
opera season. He caught my glance.

"I think they're coming it a bit thick, Lauder, old chap," he
remarked, quietly.

"I quite agree with you, colonel," I said. I tried to ape his voice
and manner, but I wasn't so quiet as he.

Now there came a ripping, tearing sound in the air, and a veritable
cloudburst of the damnable whizz bangs broke over us. That settled
matters. There were no orders, but everyone turned, just as if it
were a meeting, and a motion to adjourn had been put and carried
unanimously. We all ran for the safety holes or dugouts in the side
of the embankment. And I can tell ye that the Reverend Harry Lauder,
M.P., Tour were no the last ones to reach those shelters! No, we were
by no means the last!

I ha' no doot that I might have improved upon the shelter that I
found, had I had time to pick and choose. But any shelter was good
just then, and I was glad of mine, and of a chance to catch my
breath. Afterward, I saw a picture by Captain Bairnsfather that made
me laugh a good deal, because it represented so exactly the way I
felt. He had made a drawing of two Tommies in a wee bit of a hole in
a field that was being swept by shells and missiles of every sort.
One was grousing to his mate, and the other said to him:

"If you know a better 'ole go 'ide in it!"

I said we all turned and ran for cover. But there was one braw laddie
who did nothing of the sort. He would not run--such tricks were not
for him!

He was a big Hie'land laddie, and he wore naught but his kilt and his
semmet--his undershirt. He had on his steel helmet, and it shaded a
face that had not been shaved or washed for days. His great, brawny
arms were folded across his chest, and he was smoking his pipe. And
he stood there as quiet and unconcerned as if he had been a village
smith gazing down a quiet country road. I watched him, and he saw me,
and grinned at me. And now and then he glanced at me, quizzically.

"It's all right, Harry," he said, several times. "Dinna fash
yoursel', man. I'll tell ye in time for ye to duck if I see one
coming your way!"

We crouched in our holes until there came a brief lull in the
bombardment. Probably the Germans thought they had killed us all and
cleared the trench, or maybe it had been only that they hadn't liked
my singing, and had been satisfied when they had stopped it. So we
came out, but the firing was not over at all, as we found out at
once. So we went down a bit deeper, into concrete dugouts.

This trench had been a part of the intricate German defensive system
far back of their old front line, and they had had the pains of
building and hollowing out the fine dugout into which I now went for
shelter. Here they had lived, deep under the earth, like animals--and
with animals, too. For when I reached the bottom a dog came to meet
me, sticking out his red tongue to lick my hand, and wagging his tail
as friendly as you please.

He was a German dog--one of the prisoners of war taken in the great
attack. His old masters hadn't bothered to call him and take him with
them when the Highlanders came along, and so he had stayed behind as
part of the spoils of the attack.

That wasn't much of a dog, as dogs go. He was a mongrel-looking
creature, but he couldn't have been friendlier. The Highlanders had
adopted him and called him Fritz, and they were very fond of him, and
he of them. He had no thought of war. He behaved just as dogs do at hame.

But above us the horrid din was still going on, and bits of shells
were flying everywhere--anyone of them enough to kill you, if it
struck you in the right spot. I was glad, I can tell ye, that I was
so snug and safe beneath the ground, and I had no mind at all to go
out until the bombardment was well over. I knew now what it was
really to be under fire. The casual sort of shelling I had had to
fear at Vimy Ridge was nothing to this. This was the real thing.

And then I thought that what I was experiencing for a few minutes was
the daily portion of these laddies who were all aboot me--not for a
few minutes, but for days and weeks and months at a time. And it came
home to me again, and stronger than ever, what they were doing for us
folks at hame, and how we ought to be feeling for them.

The heavy firing went on for three-quarters of an hour, at least. We
could hear the chugging of the big guns, and the sorrowful swishing
of the shells, as if they were mournful because they were not
wreaking more destruction than they were. It all moved me greatly,
but I could see that the soldiers thought nothing of it, and were
quite unperturbed by the fearful demonstration that was going on
above. They smoked and chatted, and my own nerves grew calmer.

Finally there seemed to come a real lull in the row above, and I
turned to the general.

"Isn't it near time for me to be finishing my concert, sir?" I asked
him.

"Very good," he said, jumping up. "Just as you say, Lauder."

So back we went to where I had begun to sing. My audience
reassembled, and I struck up "The Laddies Who Fought and Won" again.
It seemed, somehow, the most appropriate song I could have picked to
sing in that spot! I finished, this time, but there was some discord
in the closing bars, for the Germans were still at their shelling,
sporadically.

So I finished, and I said good-by to the men who were to stay in the
trench, guarding that bit of Britain's far flung battleline. And then
the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour was ready to go back--not to
safety, at once, but to a region far less infested by the Hun than
this one where we had been such warmly received visitors!



CHAPTER XXII

I was sorry to be leaving the Highland laddies in that trench. Aye!
But for the trench itself I had nae regrets--nae, none whatever! I
know no spot on the surface of this earth, of all that I have
visited, and I have been in many climes, that struck me as less
salubrious than you bit o' trench. There were too many other visitors
there that day, along with the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour.
They were braw laddies, yo, but no what you might call
over-particular about the company they kept! I'd thank them, if they'd
be havin' me to veesit them again, to let me come by my ain!

Getting away was not the safest business in the world, either,
although it was better than staying in yon trench. We had to make our
way back to the railway embankment, and along it for a space, and the
embankment was being heavily shelled. It was really a trench line
itself, full of dugouts, and as we made our way along heads popped in
all directions, topped by steel helmets. I was eager to be on the
other side of you embankment, although I knew well enough that there
was no sanctuary on either side of it, nor for a long space behind it.

That was what they called the Frenchy railway cutting, and it
overlooked the ruined village of Athies. And not until after I had
crossed it was I breathing properly. I began, then, to feel more like
myself, and my heart and all my functions began to be more normal.

All this region we had to cross now was still under fire, but the
fire was nothing to what it had been. The evidences of the terrific
bombardments there had been were plainly to be seen. Every scrap of
exposed ground had been nicked by shells; the holes were as close
together as those in a honeycomb. I could not see how any living
thing had come through that hell of fire, but many men had. Now the
embankment fairly buzzed with activity. The dugouts were everywhere,
and the way the helmeted heads popped out as we passed, inquiringly,
made me think of the prairie dog towns I had seen in Canada and the
western United States.

The river Scarpe flowed close by. It was a narrow, sluggish stream,
and it did not look to me worthy of its famous name. But often, that
spring, its slow-moving waters had been flecked by a bloody froth,
and the bodies of brave men had been hidden by them, and washed clean
of the trench mud. Now, uninviting as its aspect was, and sinister as
were the memories it must have evoked in other hearts beside my own,
it was water. And on so hot a day water was a precious  thing to men
who had been working as the laddies hereabout had worked and labored.

So either bank was dotted with naked bodies, and the stream itself
showed head after head, and flashing white arms as men went swimming.
Some were scrubbing themselves, taking a Briton's keen delight in a
bath, no matter what the circumstances in which he gets it; others
were washing their clothes, slapping and pounding the soaked garments
in a way to have wrung the hearts of their wives, had they seen them
at it. The British soldier, in the field, does many things for
himself that folks at hame never think of! But many of the men were
just lying on the bank, sprawled out and sunning themselves like
alligators, basking in the warm sunshine and soaking up rest and
good cheer.

It looked like a good place for a concert, and so I quickly gathered
an audience of about a thousand men from the dugouts in the
embankment and obeyed their injunctions to "Go it, Harry! Gie us a
song, do now!"

As I finished my first song my audience applauded me and cheered me
most heartily, and the laddies along the banks of the Scarpe heard
them, and came running up to see what was afoot. There were no ladies
thereabout, and they did not stand on a small matter like getting
dressed! Not they! They came running just as they were, and Adam,
garbed in his fig leaf, was fully clad compared to most of them. It
was the barest gallery I ever saw, and the noisiest, too, and the
most truly appreciative.

High up above us airplanes were circling, so high that we could not
tell from which side they came, except when we saw some of them being
shelled, and so knew that they belonged to Fritz. They looked like
black pinheads against the blue cushion of the sky, and no doubt that
they were vastly puzzled as to the reason of this gathering of naked
men. What new tricks were the damned English up to now? So I have no
doubt, they were wondering! It was the business of their observers,
of course, to spot just such gatherings as ours, although I did not
think of that just then--except to think that they might drop a bomb
or two, maybe.

But scouting airplanes, such as those were, do not go in for bomb
dropping. There are three sorts of airplanes. First come the scouting
planes--fairly fast, good climbers, able to stay in the air a long
time. Their business is just to spy out the lay of the land over the
enemy's trenches--not to fight or drop bombs. Then come the swift,
powerful bombing planes, which make raids, flying long distances to
do so. The Huns use such planes to bomb unprotected towns and kill
women and babies; ours go in for bombing ammunition dumps and trains
and railway stations and other places of military importance,
although, by now, they may be indulging in reprisals for some of
Fritz's murderous raids, as so many folk at hame in Britain have
prayed they would.

Both scouting and bombing planes are protected by the fastest flyers
of all--the battle planes, as they are called. These fight other
planes in the air, and it is the men who steer them and fight their
guns who perform the heroic exploits that you may read of every day.
But much of the great work in the air is done by the scouting planes,
which take desperate chances, and find it hard to fight back when
they are attacked. And it was scouts who were above us now--and,
doubtless, sending word back by wireless of a new and mysterious
concentration of British forces along the Scarpe, which it might be a
good thing for the Hun artillery to strafe a bit!

So, before very long, a rude interruption came to my songs, in the
way of shells dropped unpleasantly close. The men so far above us had
given their guns the range, and so, although the gunners could not
see us, they could make their presence felt.

I have never been booed or hissed by an audience, since I have been
on the stage. I understand that it is a terrible and a disconcerting
experience, and one calculated to play havoc with the stoutest of
nerves. It is an experience I am by no means anxious to have, I can
tell you! But I doubt if it could seem worse to me than the
interruption of a shell. The Germans, that day, showed no ear for
music, and no appreciation of art--my art, at least!

And so it seemed well to me to cut my programme, to a certain extent,
at least, and bid farewell to my audience, dressed and undressed. It
was a performance at which it did not seem to me a good idea to take
any curtain calls. I did not miss them, nor feel slighted because
they were absent. I was too glad to get away with a whole skin!

The shelling became very furious now. Plainly the Germans meant to
take no chances. They couldn't guess what the gathering their
airplanes had observed might portend, but, if they could, they meant
to defeat its object, whatever that might be. Well, they did not
succeed, but they probably had the satisfaction of thinking that they
had, and I, for one, do not begrudge them that. They forced the
Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour to make a pretty wide detour, away
from the river, to get back to the main road. But they fired a power
of shells to do so!

When we finally reached the road I heard a mad sputtering behind. I
looked around in alarm, because it sounded, for all the world, like
one of those infernal whizz bangs, chasing me. But it was not. The
noise came from a motor cycle, and its rider dashed up to me and
dropped one foot to the ground.

"Here's a letter for you, Harry," he said.

It was a package that he handed me. I was surprised--I was not
expecting to have a post delivered to me on the battlefield of Arras!
It turned out that the package contained a couple of ugly-looking
bits of shell, and a letter from my friends the Highlanders on the
other side of the railway embankment. They wrote to thank me for
singing for them, and said they hoped I was none the worse for the
bombardment I had undergone.

"These bits of metal are from the shell that was closest to you when
it burst," their spokesman wrote. "They nearly got you, and we
thought you'd like to have them to keep for souvenirs."

It seemed to me that that was a singularly calm and phlegmatic
letter! My nerves were a good deal overwrought, as I can see now.

Now we made our way slowly back to division headquarters, and there I
found that preparations had been made for very much the most
ambitious and pretentious concert that I had yet had a chance to give
in France. There was a very large audience, and a stage or platform
had been set up, with plenty of room on it for Johnson and his piano.
It had been built in a great field, and all around me, when I mounted
it, I could see kilted soldiers--almost as far as my eye could reach.
There were many thousands of them there--indeed, all of the Highland
Brigade that was not actually on duty at the moment was present, and
a good many other men beside, for good measure.

Here was a sight to make a Scots heart leap with pride! Here, before
me, was the flower of Scottish manhood. These regiments had been
through a series of battles, not so long since, that had sadly
thinned their ranks. Many a Scottish grave had been filled that
spring; many a Scottish heart at hame had been broken by sad news
from this spot. But there they were now, before me--their ranks
filled up again, splendid as they stretched out, eager to welcome me
and cheer me. There were tears in my eyes as I looked around at them.

Massed before me were all the best men Scotland had had to offer! All
these men had breathed deep of the hellish air of war. All had
marched shoulder to shoulder and skirt to skirt with death. All were
of my country and my people. My heart was big within me with pride of
them, and that I was of their race, as I stood up to sing for them.

Johnson was waiting for me to be ready. Little "Tinkle Tom," as we
called the wee piano, was not very large, but there were times when
he had to be left behind. I think he was glad to have us back again,
and to be doing his part, instead of leaving me to sing alone,
without his stout help.

Many distinguished officers were in that great assemblage. They all
turned out to hear me, as well as the men, and among them I saw many
familiar faces and old friends from hame. But there were many faces,
too, alas, that I did not see. And when I inquired for them later I
learned that many of them I had seen for the last time. Oh, the sad
news I learned, day after day, oot there in France! Friend after
friend of whom I made inquiry was known, to be sure. They could tell
me where, and when, and how, they had been killed.

Up above us, as I began to sing, our airplanes were circling. No
Boche planes were in sight now, I had been told, but there were many
of ours. And sometimes one came swooping down, its occupants curious,
no doubt, as to what might be going on, and the hum of its huge
propeller would make me falter a bit in my song. And once or twice
one flew so low and so close that I was almost afraid it would strike
me, and I would dodge in what I think was mock alarm, much to the
amusement of the soldiers.

I had given them two songs when a big man arose, far back in the
crowd. He was a long way from me, but his great voice carried to me
easily, so that I could hear every word he said.

"Harry," he shouted, "sing us 'The Wee Hoose Amang the Heather' and
we'll a' join in the chorus!"

For a moment I could only stare out at them. Between that sea of
faces, upraised to mine, and my eyes, there came another face--the
smiling, bonnie face of my boy John, that I should never see again
with mortal eyes. That had been one of his favorite songs for many
years. I hesitated. It was as if a gentle hand had plucked at my very
heart strings, and played upon them. Memory--memories of my boy,
swept over me in a flood. I felt a choking in my throat, and the
tears welled into my eyes.

But then I began to sing, making a signal to Johnson to let me sing
alone. And when I came to the chorus, true to the big Highlander's
promise, they all did join in the chorus! And what a chorus that was!
Thousands of men were singing.

     "There's a wee hoose amang the heather,
      There's a wee hoose o'er the sea.
      There's a lassie in that wee hoose
      Waiting patiently for me.
      She's the picture of perfection--
      I would na tell a lee
      If ye saw her ye would love her
      Just the same as me!"

My voice was very shaky when I came to the end of that chorus, but
the great wave of sound from the kilted laddies rolled out, true and
full, unshaken, unbroken. They carried the air as steadily as a ship
is carried upon a rolling sea.

I could sing no more for them, and then, as I made my way, unsteadily
enough, from the platform, music struck up that was the sweetest I
could have heard. Some pipers had come together, from twa or three
regiments, unknown to me, and now, very softly, their pipes began to
skirl. They played the tune that I love best, "The Drunken Piper." I
could scarcely see to pick my way, for the tears that blinded me, but
in my ears, as I passed away from them, there came, gently wailing on
the pipes, the plaintive plea--

 "Will ye no come back again?"



CHAPTER XXIII

Now it was time to take to the motor cars again, and I was glad of
the thought that we would have a bracing ride. I needed something of
the sort, I thought. My emotions had been deeply stirred, in many
ways, that day. I felt tired and quite exhausted. This was by all
odds the most strenuous day the Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour had
put in yet in France. So I welcomed the idea of sitting back
comfortably in the car and feeling the cool wind against my cheeks.

First, however, the entertainers were to be entertained. They took
us, the officers of the divisional staff, to a hut, where we were
offered our choice of tea or a wee hauf yin. There was good Scots
whisky there, but it was the tea I wanted. It was very hot in the
sun, and I had done a deal of clambering about. So I was glad, after
all, to stay in the shade a while and rest my limbs.

Getting out through Arras turned out to be a ticklish business. The
Germans were verra wasteful o' their shells that day, considering how
much siller they cost! They were pounding away, and more shells, by a
good many, were falling in Arras than had been the case when we
arrived at noon. So I got a chance to see how the ruin that had been
wrought had been accomplished.

Arras is a wonderful sight, noble and impressive even in its
destruction. But it was a sight that depressed me. It had angered me,
at first, but now I began to think, at each ruined house that I saw:
"Suppose this were at hame in Scotland!" And when such thoughts came
to me I thanked God for the brave lads I had seen that day who stood,
out here, holding the line, and so formed a bulwark between Scotland
and such black ruin as this.

We were to start for Tramecourt now, but on the way we were to make a
couple of stops. Our way was to take us through St. Pol and Hesdin,
and, going so, we came to the town of Le Quesnoy. Here some of the
11th Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were stationed. My heart
leaped at the sight of them. That had been my boy's regiment,
although he had belonged to a different battalion, and it was with
the best will in the world that I called a halt and gave them a
concert.

I gave two more concerts, both brief ones, on the rest of the
journey, and so it was quite dark when we approached the chateau at
Tramecourt. As we came up I became aware of a great stir and movement
that was quite out of the ordinary routine there. In the grounds I
could see tiny lights moving about, like fireflies--lights that came,
I thought, from electric torches.

"Something extraordinary must be going on here," I remarked to Captain
Godfrey. "I wonder if General Haig has arrived, by any chance?"

"We'll soon know what it's all about," he said, philosophically. But
I expect he knew already.

Before the chateau there was a brilliant spot of light, standing out
vividly against the surrounding darkness. I could not account for
that brilliantly lighted spot then. But we came into it as the car
stopped; it was a sort of oasis of light in an inky desert of
surrounding gloom. And as we came full into it and I stood up to
descend from the car, stretching my tired, stiff legs, the silence
and the darkness were split by three tremendous cheers.

It wasn't General Haig who was arriving! It was Harry Lauder!

"What's the matter here?" I called, as loudly as I could.

"Been waitin' for ye a couple of 'ours, 'Arry," called a loud cockney
voice in answer. "Go it now! Get it off your chest!" Then came
explanations. It seemed that a lot of soldiers, about four hundred
strong, who were working on a big road job about ten miles from
Tramecourt, had heard of my being there, and had decided to come over
in a body and beg for a concert. They got to the chateau early, and
were told it might be eleven o'clock before I got back. But they didn't
care--they said they'd wait all night, if they had to, to get a chance
to hear me. And they made some use of the time they had to wait.

They took three big acetylene headlights from motor cars, and
connected them up. There was a little porch at the entrance of the
chateau, with a short flight of steps leading up to it, and then we
decided that that would make an excellent makeshift theater. Since it
would be dark they decided they must have lights, so that they could
see me--just as in a regular theater at hame! That was where the
headlights they borrowed from motor cars came in. They put one on
each side of the porch and one off in front, so that all the light
was centered right on the porch itself, and it was bathed in as
strong a glare as ever I sang in on the stage. It was almost
blinding, indeed, as I found when I turned to face them and to sing
for them. Needless to say, late though it was and tired as I was, I
never thought of refusing to give them the concert they wanted!

I should have liked to eat my dinner first, but I couldn't think of
suggesting it. These boys had done a long, hard day's work. Then they
had marched ten miles, and, on top of all that, had waited two hours
for me and fixed up a stage and a lighting system. They were quite as
tired as I, I decided--and they had done a lot more. And so I told
the faithful Johnson to bring wee Tinkle Tom along, and get him up to
the little stage, and I faced my audience in the midst of a storm of
the ghostliest applause I ever hope to hear!

I could hear them, do you ken, but I could no see a face before me!
In the theater, bright though the footlights are, and greatly as they
dim what lies beyond them, you can still see the white faces of your
audience. At least, you do see something--your eyes help you to know
the audience is there, and, gradually, you can see perfectly, and
pick out a face, maybe, and sing to some one person in the audience,
that you may be sure of your effects.

It was utter, Stygian darkness that lay beyond the pool of blinding
light in which I stood. Gradually I did make out a little of what lay
beyond, very close to me. I could see dim outlines of human bodies
moving around. And now I was sure there were fireflies about. But
then they stayed so still that I realized, suddenly, with a smile,
just what they were--the glowing ends of cigarettes, of course!

There were many tall poplar trees around the chateau. I knew where to
look for them, but that night I could scarcely see them. I tried to
find them, for it was a strange, weird sensation to be there as I
was, and I wanted all the help fixed objects could give me. I managed
to pick out their feathery lines in the black distance--the darkness
made them seem more remote than they were, really. Their branches,
when I found them, waved like spirit arms, and I could hear the wind
whispering and sighing among the topmost branches.

Now and then what we call in Scotland a "batty bird" skimmed past my
face, attracted, I suppose, by the bright light. I suppose that bats
that have not been disturbed before for generations have been aroused
by the blast of war through all that region and have come out of dark
cavernous hiding-places, as those that night must have done, to see
what it is all about, the tumult and the shouting!

They were verra disconcertin', those bats! They bothered me almost as
much as the whizz bangs had done, earlier in the day! They swished
suddenly out of the darkness against my face, and I would start back,
and hear a ripple of laughter run through that unseen audience of
mine. Aye, it was verra funny for them, but I did not like that part
of it a bit! No man likes to have a bat touch his skin. And I had to
duck quickly to evade those winged cousins of the mouse--and then
hear a soft guffaw arising as I did it.

I have appeared, sometimes, in theaters in which it was pretty
difficult to find the audience. And such audiences have been nearly
impossible to trace, later, in the box-office reports. But that is
the first time in my life, and, up to now, the last, that I ever sang
to a totally invisible audience! I did not know then how many men
there might have been forty, or four hundred, or four thousand. And,
save for the titters that greeted my encounters with the bats, they
were amazingly quiet as they waited for me to sing.

It was just about ten minutes before eleven when I began to sing, and
the concert wasn't over until after midnight. I was distinctly
nervous as I began the verse of my first song. It was a great relief
when there was a round of applause; that helped to place my audience
and give me its measure, at once.

But I was almost as disconcerted a bit later as I had been by the
first incursion of the bats. I came to the chorus, and suddenly, out
of the darkness, there came a perfect gale of sound. It was the men
taking up the chorus, thundering it out. They took the song clean
away from me--I could only gasp and listen. The roar from that unseen
chorus almost took my feet from under me, so amazing was it, and so
unexpected, somehow, used as I was to having soldiers join in a
chorus with me, and disappointed as I should have been had they ever
failed to do so.

But after that first song, when I knew what to expect, I soon grew
used to the strange surroundings. The weirdness and the mystery wore
off, and I began to enjoy myself tremendously. The conditions were
simply ideal; indeed, they were perfect, for the sentimental songs
that soldiers always like best. Imagine how "Roamin' in the Gloamin'"
went that nicht!

I had meant to sing three or four songs. But instead I sang nearly
every song I knew. It was one of the longest programmes I gave during
the whole tour, and I enjoyed the concert, myself, better than any I
had yet given.

My audience was growing all the time, although I did not know that.
The singing brought up crowds from the French village, who gathered
in the outskirts of the throng to listen--and, I make no doubt, to
pass amazed comments on these queer English!

At last I was too tired to go on. And so I bade the lads good-nicht,
and they gave me a great cheer, and faded away into the blackness.
And I went inside, rubbing my eyes, and wondering if it was no all
a dream!

"It wasn't Sir Douglas Haig who arrived, was it, Harry?" Godfrey
said, slyly.



CHAPTER XXIV

The next morning I was tired, as you may believe. I ached in every
limb when I went to my room that night, but a hot bath and a good
sleep did wonders for me. No bombardment could have kept me awake
that nicht! I would no ha' cared had the Hun begun shelling
Tramecourt itself, so long as he did not shell me clear out of my
bed.

Still, in the morning, though I had not had so much sleep as I would
have liked, I was ready to go when we got the word. We made about as
early a start as usual--breakfast soon after daylight, and then out
the motor cars and to wee Tinkle Tom. Our destination that day, our
first, at least, was Albert--a town as badly smashed and battered as
Arras or Ypres. These towns were long thinly held by the British--
that is, they were just within our lines, and the Hun could rake them
with his fire at his own evil will.

It did him no good to batter them to pieces as he did. He wasted
shells upon them that must have been precious to him. His treatment
of them was but a part of his wicked, wanton spirit of
destructiveness. He could not see a place standing that he did not
want to destroy, I think. It was not war he made, as the world had
known war; it was a savage raid against every sign and evidence of
civilization, and comfort and happiness. But always, as I think I
have said before, one thing eluded him. It was the soul of that which
he destroyed. That was beyond his reach, and sore it must have
grieved him to come to know it--for come to know it he has, in
France, and in Belgium, too.

We passed through a wee town called Doullens on our way from
Tramecourt to Albert. And there, that morn, I saw an old French nun;
an aged woman, a woman old beyond all belief or reckoning. I think
she is still there, where I saw her that day. Indeed, it has seemed
to me, often, as I have thought upon her, that she will always be
there, gliding silently through the deserted streets of that wee
toon, on through all the ages that are to come, and always a cowled,
veiled figure of reproach and hatred for the German race.

There is some life in that wee place now. There are no more Germans,
and no more shells come there. The battle line has been carried on.
to the East by the British; here they have redeemed a bit of France
from the German yoke. And so we could stop there, in the heat of the
morning, for a bit of refreshment at a cafe that was once, I suppose,
quite a place in that sma' toon. It does but little business now;
passing soldiers bring it some trade, but nothing like what it used
to have. For this is not a town much frequented by troops--or was
not, just at that time.

There was some trouble, too, with one of the cars, so we went for a
short walk through the town. It was then that we met that old French
nun. Her face and her hands were withered, and deeply graven with the
lines of the years that had bowed her head. Her back was bent, and
she walked slowly and with difficulty. But in her eyes was a soft,
young light that I have often seen in the eyes of priests and nuns,
and that their comforting religion gives them. But as we talked I
spoke of the Germans.

Gone from her eyes was all their softness. They flashed a bitter and
contemptuous hatred.

"The Germans!" she said. She spat upon the ground, scornfully, and
with a gesture of infinite loathing. And every time she uttered that
hated word she spat again. It was a ceremony she used; she felt, I
know, that her mouth was defiled by that word, and she wished to
cleanse it. It was no affectation, as, with some folk, you might have
thought it. It was not a studied act. She did it, I do believe,
unconsciously. And it was a gesture marvelously expressive. It spoke
more eloquently of her feelings than many words could have done.

She had seen the Germans! Aye! She had seen them come, in 1914, in
the first days of the war, rolling past in great, gray waves, for
days and days, as if the flood would never cease to roll. She had
seen them passing, with their guns, in those first proud days of the
war, when they had reckoned themselves invincible, and been so sure
of victory. She knew what cruelties, what indignities, they had put
upon the helpless people the war had swept into their clutch. She
knew the defilements of which they had been guilty.

Nor was that the first time she had seen Germans. They had come
before she was so old, though even then she had not been a young
girl--in the war of 1870, when Europe left brave France to her fate,
because the German spirit and the German plan were not appreciated or
understood. Thank God the world had learned its lesson by 1914, when
the Hun challenged it again, so that the challenge was met and taken
up, and France was not left alone to bear the brunt of German greed
and German hate.

She hated the Germans, that old French nun. She was religious; she
knew the teachings of her church. She knew that God says we must love
our enemies. But He could not expect us to love His enemies.

Albert, when we came to it, we found a ruin indeed. The German guns
had beaten upon it until it was like a rubbish heap in the backyard
of hell. Their malice had wrought a ruin here almost worse than that
at Arras. Only one building had survived although it was crumbling to
ruin. That was a church, and, as we approached it, we could see, from
the great way off, a great gilded figure of the Holy Virgin, holding
in her arms the infant Christ.

The figure leaned at such an angle, high up against the tottering
wall of the church, that it seemed that it must fall at the next
moment, even as we stared at it. But--it does not fall. Every breath
of wind that comes sets it to swaying, gently. When the wind rises to
a storm it must rock perilously indeed. But still it stays there,
hanging like an inspiration straight from Heaven to all who see it.
The peasants who gaze upon it each day in reverent awe whisper to
you, if you ask them, that when it falls at last the war will be
over, and France will be victorious.

That is rank superstition, you say? Aye, it may be! But in the region
of the front everyone you meet has become superstitious, if that is
the word you choose. That is especially true of the soldiers. Every
man at the front, it seemed to me, was a fatalist. What is to be will
be, they say. It is certain that this feeling has helped to make them
indifferent to danger, almost, indeed, contemptuous of it. And in
France, I was told, almost everywhere there were shrines in which
figures of Christ or of His Mother had survived the most furious
shelling. All the world knows, too, how, at Rheims, where the great
Cathedral has been shattered in the wickedest and most wanton of all
the crimes of that sort that the Germans have to their account, the
statue of Jeanne d'Arc, who saved France long ago, stands untouched.

How is a man to account for such things as that? Is he to put them
down to chance, to luck, to a blind fate? I, for one, cannot do so,
nor will I try to learn to do it.

Fate, to be sure, is a strange thing, as my friends the soldiers know
so well. But there is a difference between fate, or chance, and the
sort of force that preserves statues like those I have named. A man
never knows his luck; he does well not to brood upon it. I remember
the case of a chap I knew, who was out for nearly three years, taking
part in great battles from Mons to Arras. He was scratched once or
twice, but was never even really wounded badly enough to go to
hospital. He went to London, at last, on leave, and within an hour of
the time when he stepped from his train at Charing Cross he was
struck by a 'bus and killed. And there was the strange ease of my
friend, Tamson, the baker, of which I told you earlier. No--a man
never knows his fate!

So it seemed to me, as we drove toward Arras, and watched that
mysterious figure, that God Himself had chosen to leave it there, as
a sign and a warning and a promise all at once. There was no sign of
life, at first, when we came into the town. Silence brooded over the
ruins. We stopped to have a look around in that scene of desolation,
and as the motors throbbed beneath the hoods it seemed to me the
noise they made was close to being blasphemous. We were right under
that hanging figure of the Virgin and of Christ, and to have left the
silence unbroken would have been more seemly.

But it was not long before the silence of the town was broken by
another sound. It was marching men we heard, but they were scuffling
with their feet as they came; they had not the rhythmic tread of most
of the British troops we had encountered. Nor were these men, when
they swung into sight, coming around a pile of ruins, just like any
British troops we had seen. I recognized them as once as Australians--
Kangaroos, as their mates in other divisions called them--by the way
their campaign hats were looped up at one side. These were the first
Australian troops I had seen since I had sailed from Sydney, in the
early days of the war, nearly three years before. Three years! To
think of it--and of what those years had seen!

"Here's a rare chance to give a concert!" I said, and held up my hand
to the officer in command.

"Halt!" he cried, and then: "Stand at ease!" I was about to tell him
why I had stopped them, and make myself known to them when I saw a
grin rippling its way over all those bronzed faces--a grin of
recognition. And I saw that the officer knew me, too, even before a
loud voice cried out:

"Good old Harry Lauder!"

That was a good Scots voice--even though its owner wore the
Australian uniform.

"Would the boys like to hear a concert?" I asked the officer.

"That they would! By all means!" he said. "Glad of the chance! And
so'm I! I've heard you just once before--in Sydney, away back in the
summer of 1914."

Then the big fellow who had called my name spoke up again.

"Sing us 'Calligan,'" he begged. "Sing us 'Calligan,' Harry! I heard
you sing it twenty-three years agone, in Motherwell Toon Hall!"

"Calligan!" The request for that song took me back indeed, through
all the years that I have been before the public. It must have been
at least twenty-three years since he had heard me sing that song--all
of twenty-three years. "Calligan" had been one of the very earliest
of my successes on the stage. I had not thought of the song, much
less sung it, for years and years. In fact, though I racked my
brains, I could not remember the words. And so, much as I should have
liked to do so, I could not sing it for him. But if he was
disappointed, he took it in good part, and he seemed to like some of
the newer songs I had to sing for them as well as he could ever have
liked old "Calligan."

I sang for these Kangaroos a song I had not sung before in France,
because it seemed to be an especially auspicious time to try it. I
wrote it while I was in Australia, with a view, particularly, to
pleasing Australian audiences, and so repaying them, in some measure,
for the kindly way in which they treated me while I was there. I call
it "Australia Is the Land for Me," and this is the way it goes:

     There's a land I'd like to tell you all about
       It's a land in the far South Sea.
     It's a land where the sun shines nearly every day
       It's the land for you and me.
     It's the land for the man with the big strong arm
       It's the land for big hearts, too.
     It's a land we'll fight for, everything that's right for
       Australia is the real true blue!

     Refrain:

     It's the land where the sun shines nearly every day
       Where the skies are ever blue.
     Where the folks are as happy as the day is long
       And there's lots of work to do.
     Where the soft winds blow and the gum trees grow
       As far as the eye can see,
     Where the magpie chaffs and the cuckoo-burra laughs
       Australia is the land for me!

Those Kangaroos took to that song as a duck takes to water! They
raised the chorus with me in a swelling roar as soon as they had
heard it once, to learn it, and their voices roared through the ruins
like vocal shrapnel. You could hear them whoop "Australia Is the Land
for Me!" a mile away. And if anything could have brought down that
tottering statue above us it would have been the way they sang. They
put body and soul, as well as voice, into that final patriotic
declaration of the song.

We had thought--I speak for Hogge and Adam and myself, and not for
Godfrey, who did not have to think and guess, but know--we had
thought, when we rolled into Albert, that it was a city of the dead,
utterly deserted and forlorn. But now, as I went on singing, we found
that that idea had been all wrong. For as the Australians whooped up
their choruses other soldiers popped into sight. They came pouring
from all directions.

I have seen few sights more amazing. They came from cracks and
crevices, as it seemed; from under tumbled heaps of ruins, and
dropping down from shells of houses where there were certainly no
stairs. As I live, before I had finished my audience had been swollen
to a great one of two thousand men! When they were all roaring out in
a chorus you could scarce hear Johnson's wee piano at all--it sounded
only like a feeble tinkle when there was a part for it alone.

I began shaking hands, when I had finished singing. That was a
verrainjudeecious thing for me to attempt there! I had not reckoned
with the strength of the grip of those laddies from the underside of
the world. But I had been there, and I should have known.

Soon came the order to the Kangaroos: "Fall in!"

At once the habit of stern discipline prevailed. They swung off
again, and the last we saw of them they were just brown men,
disappearing along a brown road, bound for the trenches.

Swiftly the mole-like dwellers in Albert melted away, until only a
few officers were left beside the members of the Reverend Harry
Lauder, M.P., Tour. And I grew grave and distraught myself.



CHAPTER XXV

One of the officers at Albert was looking at me in a curiously intent
fashion. I noticed that. And soon he came over to me. "Where do you
go next, Harry?" he asked me. His voice was keenly sympathetic, and
his eyes and his manner were very grave.

"To a place called Ovilliers," I said.

"So I thought," he said. He put out his hand, and I gripped it, hard.
"I know, Harry. I know exactly where you are going, and I will send a
man with you to act as your guide, who knows the spot you want to reach."

I couldn't answer him. I was too deeply moved. For Ovilliers is the
spot where my son, Captain John Lauder, lies in his soldier's grave.
That grave had been, of course, from the very first, the final, the
ultimate objective of my journey. And that morning, as we set out
from Tramecourt, Captain Godfrey had told me, with grave sympathy,
that at last we were coming to the spot that had been so constantly
in my thoughts ever since we had sailed from Folkestone.

And so a private soldier joined our party as guide, and we took to
the road again. The Bapaume road it was--a famous highway, bitterly
contested, savagely fought for. It was one of the strategic roads of
that whole region, and the Hun had made a desperate fight to keep
control of it. But he had failed--as he has failed, and is failing
still, in all his major efforts in France.

There was no talking in our car, which, this morning, was the second
in the line. I certainly was not disposed to chat, and I suppose that
sympathy for my feelings, and my glumness, stilled the tongues of my
companions. And, at any rate, we had not traveled far when the car
ahead of us stopped, and the soldier from Albert stepped into the
road and waited for me. I got out when our car stopped, and joined
him.

"I will show you the place now, Mr. Lauder," he said, quietly. So we
left the cars standing in the road, and set out across a field that,
like all the fields in that vicinity, had been ripped and torn by
shell-fire. All about us, as we crossed that tragic field, there were
little brown mounds, each with a white wooden cross upon it. June was
out that day in full bloom. All over the valley, thickly sown with
those white crosses, wild flowers in rare profusion, and thickly
matted, luxuriant grasses, and all the little shrubs that God Himself
looks after were growing bravely in the sunlight, as though they were
trying to hide the work of the Hun.

It was a mournful journey, but, in some strange way, the peaceful
beauty of the day brought comfort to me. And my own grief was altered
by the vision of the grief that had come to so many others. Those
crosses, stretching away as far as my eye could reach, attested to
the fact that it was not I alone who had suffered and lost and laid a
sacrifice upon the altar of my country. And, in the presence of so
many evidences of grief and desolation a private grief sank into its
true proportions. It was no less keen, the agony of the thought of my
boy was as sharp as ever. But I knew that he was only one, and that I
was only one father. And there were so many like him--and so many
like me, God help us all! Well, He did help me, as I have told, and I
hope and pray that He has helped many another. I believe He has;
indeed, I know it.

Hogge and Dr. Adam, my two good friends, walked with me on that sad
pilgrimage. I was acutely conscious of their sympathy; it was sweet
and precious to have it. But I do not think we exchanged a word as we
crossed that field. There was no need of words. I knew, without
speech from them, how they felt, and they knew that I knew. So we
came, when we were, perhaps, half a mile from the Bapaume road, to a
slight eminence, a tiny hill that rose from the field. A little
military cemetery crowned it. Here the graves were set in ordered
rows, and there was a fence set around them, to keep them apart, and
to mark that spot as holy ground, until the end of time. Five hundred
British boys lie sleeping in that small acre of silence, and among
them is my own laddie. There the fondest hopes of my life, the hopes
that sustained and cheered me through many years, lie buried.

No one spoke. But the soldier pointed, silently and eloquently, to
one brown mound in a row of brown mounds that looked alike, each like
the other. Then he drew away. And Hogge and Adam stopped, and stood
together, quiet and grave. And so I went alone to my boy's grave, and
flung myself down upon the warm, friendly earth. My memories of that
moment are not very clear, but I think that for a few minutes I was
utterly spent, that my collapse was complete.

He was such a good boy!

I hope you will not think, those of you, my friends, who may read
what I am writing here, that I am exalting my lad above all the other
Britons who died for King and country--or, and aye, above the brave
laddies of other races who died to stop the Hun. But he was such a
good boy!

As I lay there on that brown mound, under the June sun that day, all
that he had been, and all that he had meant to me and to his mother
came rushing back afresh to my memory, opening anew my wounds of
grief. I thought of him as a baby, and as a wee laddie beginning to
run around and talk to us. I thought of him in every phase and bit of
his life, and of the friends that we had been, he and I! Such chums
we were, always!

And as I lay there, as I look back upon it now, I can think of but
the one desire that ruled and moved me. I wanted to reach my arms
down into that dark grave, and clasp my boy tightly to my breast, and
kiss him. And I wanted to thank him for what he had done for his
country, and his mother, and for me.

Again there came to me, as I lay there, the same gracious solace that
God had given me after I heard of his glorious death. And I knew that
this dark grave, so sad and lonely and forlorn, was but the temporary
bivouac of my boy. I knew that it was no more than a trench of refuge
against the storm of battle, in which he was resting until that hour
shall sound when we shall all be reunited beyond the shadowy
borderland of Death.

How long did I lie there? I do not know. And how I found the strength
at last to drag myself to my feet and away from that spot, the
dearest and the saddest spot on earth to me, God only knows. It was
an hour of very great anguish for me; an hour of an anguish
different, but only less keen, than that which I had known when they
had told me first that I should never see my laddie in the flesh
again. But as I took up the melancholy journey across that field,
with its brown mounds and its white crosses stretching so far away,
they seemed to bring me a sort of tragic consolation.

I thought of all the broken-hearted ones at home, in Britain. How
many were waiting, as I had waited, until they, too,--they, too,--
might come to France, and cast themselves down, as I had done, upon
some brown mound, sacred in their thoughts? How many were praying for
the day to come when they might gaze upon a white cross, as I had
done, and from the brown mound out of which it rose gather a few
crumbs of that brown earth, to be deposited in a sacred corner of a
sacred place yonder in Britain?

While I was in America, on my last tour, a woman wrote to me from a
town in the state of Maine. She was a stranger to me when she sat
down to write that letter, but I count her now, although I have never
seen her, among my very dearest friends.

"I have a friend in France," she wrote. "He is there with our
American army, and we had a letter from him the other day. I think
you would like to hear what he wrote to us.

"'I was walking in the gloaming here in France the other evening,' he
wrote. 'You know, I have always been very fond of that old song of
Harry Lauder's, 'Roamin' in the Gloamin'.'

"'Well, I was roamin' in the gloamin' myself, and as I went I hummed
that very song, under my breath. And I came, in my walk to a little
cemetery, on a tiny hill. There were many mounds there and many small
white crosses. About one of them a Union Jack was wrapped so tightly
that I could not read the inscription upon it. And something led me
to unfurl that weather-worn flag, so that I could read. And what do
you think? It was the grave of Harry Lauder's son, Captain John
Lauder, of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, and his little
family crest was upon the cross.

"'I stood there, looking down at that grave, and I said a little
prayer, all by myself. And then I rewound the Union Jack about the
cross. I went over to some ruins nearby, and there I found a red rose
growing. I do believe it was the last rose of summer. And I took it
up, very carefully, roots and all, and carried it over to Captain
Lauder's grave, and planted it there.'"

What a world of comfort those words brought me!

It was about eight o'clock one morning that Captain Lauder was
killed, between Courcellete and Poizieres, on the Ancre, in the
region that is known as the Somme battlefield. It was soon after
breakfast, and John was going about, seeing to his men. His company
was to be relieved that day, and to go back from the trenches to rest
billets, behind the lines. We had sent our laddie a braw lot of
Christmas packages not long before, but he had had them kept at the
rest billet, so that he might have the pleasure of opening them when
he was out of the trenches, and had a little leisure, even though it
made his Christmas presents a wee bit late.

There had been a little mist upon the ground, as, at that damp and
chilly season of the year, there nearly always was along the river
Ancre. At that time, on that morning, it was just beginning to rise
as the sun grew strong enough to banish it. I think John trusted too
much to the mist, perhaps. He stepped for just a moment into the
open; for just a moment he exposed himself, as he had to do, no
doubt, to do his duty. And a German sniper, watching for just such
chances, caught a glimpse of him. His rifle spoke; its bullet pierced
John's brave and gentle heart.

Tate, John's body-servant, a man from our own town, was the first
to reach him. Tate was never far from John's side, and he was
heart-broken when he reached him that morning and found that there
was nothing he could do for him.

Many of the soldiers who served with John and under him have written
to me, and come to me. And all of them have told me the same thing:
that there was not a man in his company who did not feel his death as
a personal loss and bereavement. And his superior officers have told
me the same thing. In so far as such reports could comfort us his
mother and I have taken solace in them. All that we have heard of
John's life in the trenches, and of his death, was such a report as
we or any parents should want to have of their boy.

John never lost his rare good nature. There were times when things
were going very badly indeed, but at such times he could always be
counted upon to raise a laugh and uplift the spirits of his men. He
knew them all; he knew them well. Nearly all of them came from his
home region near the Clyde, and so they were his neighbors and his
friends.

I have told you earlier that John was a good musician. He played the
piano rarely well, for an amateur, and he had a grand singing voice.
And one of his fellow-officers told me that, after the fight at
Beaumont-Hamul, one of the phases of the great Battle of the Somme,
John's company found itself, toward evening, near the ruins of an old
chateau. After that fight, by the way, dire news, sad news, came to
our village of the men of the Argyle and Sutherland regiment, and
there were many stricken homes that mourned brave lads who would
never come home again.

John's men were near to exhaustion that night. They had done terrible
work that day, and their losses had been heavy. Now that there was an
interlude they lay about, tired and bruised and battered. Many had
been killed; many had been so badly wounded that they lay somewhere
behind, or had been picked up already by the Red Cross men who
followed them across the field of the attack. But there were many
more who had been slightly hurt, and whose wounds began to pain them
grievously now. The spirit of the men was dashed.

John's friend and fellow-officer told me of the scene.

"There we were, sir," he said. "We were pretty well done in, I can
tell you. And then Lauder came along. I suppose he was just as tired
and worn out as the rest of us--God knows he had as much reason to
be, and more! But he was as cocky as a little bantam. And he was
smiling. He looked about.

"'Here--this won't do!' he said. 'We've got to get these lads feeling
better!' He was talking more to himself than to anyone else, I think.
And he went exploring around. He got into what was left of that
chateau--and I can tell you it wasn't much! The Germans had been
using it as a point d'appui--a sort of rallying-place, sir--and our
guns had smashed it up pretty thoroughly. I've no doubt the Fritzies
had taken a hack at it, too, when they found they couldn't hold it
any longer--they usually did.

"But, by a sort of miracle, there was a piano inside that had come
through all the trouble. The building and all the rest of the
furniture had been knocked to bits, but the piano was all right,
although, as I say, I don't know how that had happened. Lauder spied
it, and went clambering over all the debris and wreckage to reach it.
He tried the keys, and found that the action was all right. So he
began picking out a tune, and the rest of us began to sit up a bit.
And pretty soon he lifted his voice in a rollicking tune--one of your
songs it was, sir--and in no time the men were all sitting up to
listen to him. Then they joined in the chorus--and pretty soon you'd
never have known they'd been tired or worn out! If there'd been a
chance they'd have gone at Fritz and done the day's work all over
again!"

After John was killed his brother officers sent us all his personal
belongings. We have his field-glasses, with the mud of the trenches
dried upon them. We have a little gold locket that he always wore
around his neck. His mother's picture is in it, and that of the
lassie he was to have married had he come home, after New Year's. And
we have his rings, and his boots, and his watch, and all the other
small possessions that were a part of his daily life out there in
France.

Many soldiers and officers of the Argyle and Sutherlanders pass the
hoose at Dunoon on the Clyde. None ever passes the hoose, though,
without dropping in, for a bite and sup if he has time to stop, and
to tell us stories of our beloved boy.

No, I would no have you think that I would exalt my boy above all the
others who have lived and died in France in the way of duty. But he
was such a good boy! We have heard so many tales like those I have
told you, to make us proud of him, and glad that he bore his part as
a man should.

He will stay there, in that small grave on that tiny hill. I shall
not bring his body back to rest in Scotland, even if the time comes
when I might do so. It is a soldier's grave, and an honorable place
for him to be, and I feel it is there that he would wish to lie, with
his men lying close about him, until the time comes for the great
reunion.

But I am going back to France to visit again and again that grave
where he lies buried. So long as I live myself that hill will be the
shrine to which my many pilgrimages will be directed. The time will
come again when I may take his mother with me, and when we may kneel
together at that spot.

And meanwhile the wild flowers and the long grasses and all the
little shrubs will keep watch and ward over him there, and over all
the other brave soldiers who lie hard by, who died for God and for
their flag.



CHAPTER XXVI

So at last, I turned back toward the road, and very slowly, with
bowed head and shoulders that felt very old, all at once, I walked
back toward the Bapaume highway. I was still silent, and when we
reached the road again, and the waiting cars, I turned, and looked
back, long and sorrowfully, at that tiny hill, and the grave it
sheltered. Godfrey and Hogge and Adam, Johnson and the soldiers of
our party, followed my gaze. But we looked in silence; not one of us
had a word to say. There are moments, as I suppose we have all had to
learn, that are beyond words and speech.

And then at last we stepped back into the cars, and resumed our
journey on the Bapaume road. We started slowly, and I looked back
until a turn in the road hid that field with its mounds and its
crosses, and that tiny cemetery on the wee hill. So I said good-by to
my boy again, for a little space.

Our road was by way of Poizieres, and this part of our journey took
us through an area of fearful desolation. It was the country that was
most bitterly fought over in the summer long battle of the Somme in
1916, when the new armies of Britain had their baptism of fire and
sounded the knell of doom for the Hun. It was then he learned that
Britain had had time, after all, to train troops who, man for man,
outmatched his best.

Here war had passed like a consuming flame, leaving no living thing
in its path. The trees were mown down, clean to the ground. The very
earth was blasted out of all semblance to its normal kindly look. The
scene was like a picture of Hell from Dante's Inferno; there is nothing
upon this earth that may be compared with it. Death and pain and agony
had ruled this whole countryside, once so smiling and fair to see.

After we had driven for a space we came to something that lay by the
roadside that was a fitting occupant of such a spot. It was like the
skeleton of some giant creature of a prehistoric age, incredibly
savage even in its stark, unlovely death. It might have been the
frame of some vast, metallic tumble bug, that, crawling ominously
along this road of death, had come into the path of a Colossus, and
been stepped upon, and then kicked aside from the road to die.

"That's what's left of one of our first tanks," said Godfrey. "We
used them first in this battle of the Somme, you remember. And that
must have been one of the very earliest ones. They've been improved
and perfected since that time."

"How came it like this?" I asked, gazing at it, curiously.

"A direct hit from a big German shell--a lucky hit, of course. That's
about the only thing that could put even one of the first tanks out
of action that way. Ordinary shells from field pieces, machine-gun
fire, that sort of thing, made no impression on the tanks. But, of
course----"

I could see for myself. The in'ards of the monster had been pretty
thoroughly knocked out. Well, that tank had done its bit, I have no
doubt. And, since its heyday, the brain of Mars has spawned so many
new ideas that this vast creature would have been obsolete, and ready
for the scrap heap, even had the Hun not put it there before its
time.

At the Butte de Marlincourt, one of the most bitterly contested bits
of the battlefield, we passed a huge mine crater, and I made an
inspection of it. It was like the crater of an old volcano, a huge
old mountain with a hole in its center. Here were elaborate dugouts,
too, and many graves.

Soon we came to Bapaume. Bapaume was one of the objectives the
British failed to reach in the action of 1916. But early in 1917 the
Germans, seeing they had come to the end of their tether there,
retreated, and gave the town up. But what a town they left! Bapaume
was nearly as complete a ruin as Arras and Albert. But it had not
been wrecked by shell-fire. The Hun had done the work in cold blood.
The houses had been wrecked by human hands. Pictures still hung
crazily upon the walls. Grates were falling out of fire-places. Beds
stood on end. Tables and chairs were wantonly smashed and there was
black ruin everywhere.

We drove on then to a small town where the skirling of pipes heralded
our coming. It was the headquarters of General Willoughby and the
Fortieth Division. Highlanders came flocking around to greet us
warmly, and they all begged me to sing to them. But the officer in
command called them to attention.

"Men," he said, "Harry Lauder comes to us fresh from the saddest
mission of his life. We have no right to expect him to sing for us
to-day, but if it is God's will that he should, nothing could give us
greater pleasure."

My heart was very heavy within me, and never, even on the night when
I went back to the Shaftesbury Theater, have I felt less like
singing. But I saw the warm sympathy on the faces of the boys.

"If you'll take me as I am," I told them, "I will try to sing for
you. I will do my best, anyway. When a man is killed, or a battalion
is killed, or a regiment is killed, the war goes on, just the same.
And if it is possible for you to fight with broken ranks, I'll try to
sing for you with a broken heart."

And so I did, and, although God knows it must have been a feeble
effort, the lads gave me a beautiful reception. I sang my older songs
for them--the songs my own laddie had loved.

They gave us tea after I had sung for them, with chocolate eclairs as
a rare treat! We were surprised to get such fare upon the
battlefield, but it was a welcome surprise.

We turned back from Bapaume, traveling along another road on the
return journey. And on the way we met about two hundred German
prisoners--the first we had seen in any numbers. They were working on
the road, under guard of British soldiers. They looked sleek and
well-fed, and they were not working very hard, certainly. Yet I
thought there was something about their expression like that of
neglected animals. I got out of the car and spoke to an intelligent-
looking little chap, perhaps about twenty-five years old--a sergeant.
He looked rather suspicious when I spoke to him, but he saluted
smartly, and stood at attention while we talked, and he gave me ready
and civil answers.

"You speak English?" I asked. "Fluently?"

"Yes, sir!"

"How do you like being a prisoner?"

"I don't like it. It's very degrading."

"Your companions look pretty happy. Any complaints?"

"No, sir! None!"

"What are the Germans fighting for? What do you hope to gain?"

"The freedom of the seas!"

"But you had that before the war broke out!"

"We haven't got it now."

I laughed at that.

"Certainly not," I said. "Give us credit for doing something! But how
are you going to get it again?"

"Our submarines will get it for us."

"Still," I said, "you must be fighting for something else, too?"

"No," he said, doggedly. "Just for the freedom of the seas."

I couldn't resist telling him a bit of news that the censor was
keeping very carefully from his fellow-Germans at home.

"We sank seven of your submarines last week," I said.

He probably didn't believe that. But his face paled a bit, and his
lips puckered, and he scowled. Then, as I turned away, he whipped his
hand to his forehead in a stiff salute, but I felt that it was not
the most gracious salute I had ever seen! Still, I didn't blame him
much!

Captain Godfrey meant to show us another village that day.

"Rather an interesting spot," he said. "They differ, these French
villages. They're not all alike, by any means."

Then, before long, he began to look puzzled. And finally he called
a halt.

"It ought to be right here," he said. "It was, not so long ago."

But there was no village! The Hun had passed that way. And the
village for which Godfrey was seeking had been utterly wiped off the
face of the earth! Not a trace of it remained. Where men and women
and little children had lived and worked and played in quiet
happiness the abominable desolation that is the work of the Hun
had come. There was nothing to show that they or their village
had ever been.

The Hun knows no mercy!



CHAPTER XXVII

There had been, originally, a perfectly definite route for the
Reverend Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour--as definite a route as is mapped
out for me when I am touring the United States. Our route had called
for a fairly steady progress from Vimy Ridge to Peronne--like
Bapaume, one of the great unreached objectives of the Somme
offensive, and, again like Bapaume, ruined and abandoned by the
Germans in the retreat of the spring of 1917. But we made many side
trips and gave many and many an unplanned, extemporaneous roadside
concert, as I have told.

For all of us it had been a labor of love. I will always believe that
I sang a little better on that tour than I have ever sung before or
ever shall again, and I am sure, too, that Hogge and Dr. Adam spoke
more eloquently to their soldier hearers than they ever did in
parliament or church. My wee piano, Tinkle Tom, held out staunchly.
He never wavered in tune, though he got some sad jouncings as he
clung to the grid of a swift-moving car. As for Johnson, my
Yorkshireman, he was as good an accompanist before the tour ended as
I could ever want, and he took the keenest interest and delight in
his work, from start to finish.

Captain Godfrey, our manager, must have been proud indeed of the
"business" his troupe did. The weather was splendid; the "houses"
everywhere were so big that if there had been Standing Room Only
signs they would have been called into use every day. And his company
got a wonderful reception wherever it showed! He had everything a
manager could have to make his heart rejoice. And he did not, like
many managers, have to be continually trying to patch up quarrels in
the company! He had no petty professional jealousies with which to
contend; such things were unknown in our troupe!

All the time while I was singing in France I was elaborating an idea
that had for some time possessed me, and that was coming now to
dominate me utterly. I was thinking of the maimed soldiers, the boys
who had not died, but had given a leg, or an arm, or their sight to
the cause, and who were doomed to go through the rest of their lives
broken and shattered and incomplete. They were never out of my
thoughts. I had seen them before I ever came to France, as I traveled
the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, singing for the men in
the camps and the hospitals, and doing what I could to help in the
recruiting. And I used to lie awake of nights, wondering what would
become of those poor broken laddies when the war was over and we were
all setting to work again to rebuild our lives.

And especially I thought of the brave laddies of my ain Scotland.
They must have thought often of their future. They must have wondered
what was to become of them, when they had to take up the struggle
with the world anew--no longer on even terms with their mates, but
handicapped by grievous injuries that had come to them in the noblest
of ways. I remembered crippled soldiers, victims of other wars, whom
I had seen selling papers and matches on street corners, objects of
charity, almost, to a generation that had forgotten the service to
the country that had put them in the way of having to make their
living so. And I had made a great resolution that, if I could do
aught to prevent it, no man of Scotland who had served in this war
should ever have to seek a livelihood in such a manner.

So I conceived the idea of raising a great fund to be used for giving
the maimed Scots soldiers a fresh start in life. They would be
pensioned by the government. I knew that. But I knew, too, that a
pension is rarely more than enough to keep body and soul together.
What these crippled men would need, I felt, was enough money to set
them up in some little business of their own, that they could see to
despite their wounds, or to enable them to make a new start in some
old business or trade, if they could do so.

A man might need a hundred pounds, I thought, or two hundred pounds,
to get him started properly again. And I wanted to be able to hand a
man what money he might require. I did not want to lend it to him,
taking his note or his promise to pay. Nor did I want to give it to
him as charity. I wanted to hand it to him as a freewill offering, as
a partial payment of the debt Scotland owed him for what he had done
for her.

And I thought, too, of men stricken by shell-shock, or paralyzed in
the war--there are pitifully many of both sorts! I did not want them
to stay in bare and cold and lonely institutions. I wanted to take
them out of such places, and back to their homes; home to the village
and the glen. I wanted to get them a wheel-chair, with an old,
neighborly man or an old neighborly woman, maybe, to take them for an
airing in the forenoon, and the afternoon, that they might breathe
the good Scots air, and see the wild flowers growing, and hear the
song of the birds.

That was the plan that had for a long time been taking form in my mind.
I had talked it over with some of my friends, and the newspapers had
heard of it, somehow, and printed a few paragraphs about it. It was
still very much in embryo when I went to France, but, to my surprise,
the Scots soldiers nearly always spoke of it when I was talking with
them. They had seen the paragraphs in the papers, and I soon realized
that it loomed up as a great thing for them.

"Aye, it's a grand thing you're thinking of, Harry," they said, again
and again. "Now we know we'll no be beggars in the street, now that
we've got a champion like you, Harry."

I heard such words as that first from a Highlander at Arras, and from
that moment I have thought of little else. Many of the laddies told
me that the thought of being killed did not bother them, but that
they did worry a bit about their future in case they went home maimed
and helpless.

"We're here to stay until there's no more work to do, if it takes
twenty years, Harry," they said. "But it'll be a big relief to know
we will be cared for if we must go back crippled."

I set the sum I would have to raise to accomplish the work I had in
mind at a million pounds sterling--five million dollars. It may seem
a great sum to some, but to me, knowing the purpose for which it is
to be used, it seems small enough. And my friends agree with me. When
I returned from France I talked to some Scots friends, and a meeting
was called, in Glasgow, of the St. Andrews Society. I addressed it,
and it declared itself in cordial sympathy with the idea. Then I went
to Edinburgh, and down to London, and back north to Manchester.
Everywhere my plan was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm, and the
real organization of the fund was begun on September 17 and 18, 1917.

This fund of mine is known officially as "The Harry Lauder Million
Pound Fund for Maimed Men, Scottish Soldiers and Sailors." It does
not in any way conflict with nor overlap, any other work already
being done. I made sure of that, because I talked to the Pension
Minister, and his colleagues, in London, before I went ahead with my
plans, and they fully and warmly approved everything that I planned
to do.

The Earl of Rosebery, former Prime Minister of Britain, is Honorary
President of the Fund, and Lord Balfour of Burleigh is its treasurer.
And as I write we have raised an amount well into six figures in
pounds sterling. One of the things that made me most willing to
undertake my last tour of America was my feeling that I could secure
the support and cooperation of the Scottish people in America for my
fund better by personal appeals than in any other way. At the end of
every performance I gave during the tour, I told my audience what I
was doing and the object of the fund, and, although I addressed
myself chiefly to the Scots, there has been a most generous and
touching response from Americans as well.

We distributed little plaid-bordered envelopes, in which folk were
invited to send contributions to the bank in New York that was the
American depository. And after each performance Mrs. Lauder stood in
the lobby and sold little envelopes full of stamps, "sticky backs,"
as she called them, like the Red Cross seals that have been sold so
long in America at Christmas time. She sold them for a quarter, or
for whatever they would bring, and all the money went to the fund.

I had a novel experience sometimes. Often I would no sooner have
explained what I was doing than I would feel myself the target of a
sort of bombardment. At first I thought Germans were shooting at me,
but I soon learned that it was money that was being thrown! And every
day my dressing-table would be piled high with checks and money
orders and paper money sent direct to me instead of to the bank. But
I had to ask the guid folk to cease firing--the money was too apt to
be lost!

Folk of all races gave liberally. I was deeply touched at Hot
Springs, Arkansas, where the stage hands gave me the money they had
received for their work during my engagement.



CHAPTER XXVIII

I have stopped for a wee digression about my fund. I saw many
interesting things in France, and dreadful things. And it was
impressed upon me more and more that the Hun knows no mercy. The
wicked, wanton things he did in France, and that I saw!

There was Mont St. Quentin, one of the very strongest of the
positions out of which the British turned him. There was a chateau
there, a bonnie place. And hard by was a wee cemetery. The Hun had
smashed its pretty monuments, and he had reached into that sacred
soil with his filthy claws, and dragged out the dead from their
resting-place, and scattered their helpless bones about.

He ruined Peronne in wanton fury because it was passing from his
grip. He wrecked its old cathedral, once one of the loveliest sights
in France. He took away the old fleurs-de-lis from the great gates of
Peronne. He stole and carried away the statues that used to stand in
the old square. He left the great statue of St. Peter, still standing
in the churchyard, but its thumb was broken off. I found it, as I
rummaged about idly in the debris at the statue's foot.

It was no casual looting that the Huns did. They did their work
methodically, systematically. It was a sight to make the angels weep.

As I left the ruined cathedral I met a couple of French poilus, and
tried to talk with them. But they spoke "very leetle" English, and I
fired all my French words at them in one sentence.

"Oui, oui, madame," I said. "Encore pomme du terre. Fini!"

They laughed, but we did no get far with our talk! Not in French.

"You can't love the Hun much, after this," I said.

"Ze Hun? Ze bloody Boche?" cried one of them. "I keel heem all my
life!"

I was glad to quit Peronne. The rape of that lovely church saddened
me more than almost any sight I saw in France. I did not care to look
at it. So I was glad when we motored on to the headquarters of the
Fourth Army, where I had the honor of meeting one of Britain's
greatest soldiers, General Sir Henry Rawlinson, who greeted us most
cordially, and invited us to dinner.

After dinner we drove on toward Amiens. We were swinging back now,
toward Boulogne, and were scheduled to sleep that night at Amiens--
which the Germans held for a few days, during their first rush toward
Paris, before the Marne, but did not have time to destroy.

Adam knew Amiens, and was made welcome, with the rest of us, at an
excellent hotel. Von Kluck had made its headquarters when he swung
that way from Brussels, and it was there he planned the dinner he
meant to eat in Paris with the Kaiser. Von Kluck demanded an
indemnity of a million dollars from Amiens to spare its famous old
cathedral.

It was late when we arrived, but before I slept I called for the
boots and ordered a bottle of ginger ale. I tried to get him to tell
me about old von Kluck and his stay but he couldn't talk English, and
was busy, anyway, trying to open the bottle without cutting the wire.
Adam and Hogge are fond, to this day, of telling how I shouted at
him, finally:

"Well, how do you expect to open that bottle when you can't even talk
the English language?"

Next day was Sunday, and we went to church in the cathedral, which
von Kluck didn't destroy, after all. There were signs of war; the
windows and the fine carved doors were banked with sand bags as a
measure of protection from bombing airplanes.

I gave my last roadside concert on the road from Amiens to Boulogne.
It was at a little place called Ouef, and we had some trouble in
finding it and more in pronouncing its name. Some of us called it
Off, some Owf! I knew I had heard the name somewhere, and I was
racking my brains to think as Johnson set up our wee piano and I
began to sing. Just as I finished my first song a rooster set up a
violent crowing, in competition with me, and I remembered!

"I know where I am!" I cried. "I'm at Egg!"

And that is what Oeuf means, in English!

The soldiers were vastly amused. They were Gordon Highlanders, and I
found a lot of chaps among them frae far awa' Aberdeen. Not many of
them are alive to-day! But that day they were a gay lot and a bonnie
lot. There was a big Highlander who said to me, very gravely:

"Harry, the only good thing I ever saw in a German was a British
bayonet! If you ever hear anyone at hame talking peace--cut off their
heads! Or send them out to us, and we'll show them. There's a job to
do here, and we'll do it.

"Look!" he said, sweeping his arm as if to include all France. "Look
at yon ruins! How would you like old England or auld Scotland to be
looking like that? We're not only going to break and scatter the Hun
rule, Harry. If we do no more than that, it will surely be reassembled
again. We're going to destroy it."

On the way from Oeuf to Boulogne we visited a small, out of the way
hospital, and I sang for the lads there. And I was going around,
afterward, talking to the boys on their cots, and came to a young
chap whose head and face were swathed in bandages.

"How came you to be hurt, lad?" I asked.

"Well, sir," he said, "we were attacking one morning. I went over the
parapet with the rest, and got to the German trench all right. I
wasn't hurt. And I went down, thirty feet deep, into one of their
dugouts. You wouldn't think men could live so--but, of course,
they're not men--they're animals! There was a lighted candle on a
shelf, and beside it a fountain pen. It was just an ordinary-looking
pen, and it was fair loot--I thought some chap had meant to write a
letter, and forgotten his pen when our attack came. So I slipped it
in my pocket.

"Two days later I was going to write a few lines to my mother and
tell her I was all right, so I thought I'd try my new pen. And when I
unscrewed the cap it exploded--and, well, you see me, Harry! It blew
half of my face away!"

The Hun knows no mercy.

I was glad to see Boulogne again--the white buildings on the white
hills, and the harbor beyond. Here the itinerary of the Reverend
Harry Lauder, M.P., Tour, came to its formal end. But, since there
were many new arrivals in the hospitals--the population of a base
shifts quickly--we were asked to give a couple more concerts in the
hospitals where we had first appeared on French soil.

A good many thousand Canadians had just come in, so I sang at Base
Hospital No. 1, and then gave another and farewell concert at the
great convalescent camp on the hill. And then we said good-by to
Captain Godfrey, and the chauffeurs, and to Johnson, my accompanist,
ready to go back to his regiment now. I told them all I hoped that
when I came to France again to sing we could reassemble all the
original cast, and I pray that we may!

On Monday we took boat again for Folkestone. The boat was crowded
with men going home on leave, and I wandered among them. I heard many
a tale of heroism and courage, of splendid sacrifice and suffering
nobly borne. Destroyers, as before, circled about us, and there was
no hint of trouble from a Hun submarine.

On our boat was Lord Dalmeny, a King's Messenger, carrying dispatches
from the front. He asked me how I had liked the "show." It is so that
nearly all British soldiers refer to the war.

They had earned their rest, those laddies who were going home to
Britain. But some of them were half sorry to be going! I talked to
one of them.

"I don't know, Harry," he said. "I was looking forward to this leave
for a long time. I've been oot twa years. My heart jumped with joy at
first at the thought of seeing my mother and the auld hame. But now
that I'm started, and in a fair way to get there, I'm no so happy.
You see--every young fellow frae my toon is awa'. I'm the only one
going back. Many are dead. It won't be the same. I've a mind just to
stay on London till my leave is up, and then go back. If I went home
my mother would but burst out greetin', an' I think I could no stand
that."

But, as for me, I was glad, though I was sorry, too, to be going
home. I wanted to go back again. But I wanted to hurry to my wife,
and tell her what I had seen at our boy's grave. And so I did, so
soon as I landed on British ground once more.

I felt that I was bearing a message to her. A message from our boy. I
felt--and I still feel--that I could tell her that all was well with
him, and with all the other soldiers of Britain, who sleep, like him,
in the land of the bleeding lily. They died for humanity, and God
will not forget.

And I think there is something for me to say to all those who are to
know a grief such as I knew. Every mother and father who loves a son
in this war must have a strong, unbreakable faith in the future life,
in the world beyond, where you will see your son again. Do not give
way to grief. Instead, keep your gaze and your faith firmly fixed on
the world beyond, and regard your boy's absence as though he were but
on a journey. By keeping your faith you will help to win this war.
For if you lose it, the war and your personal self are lost.

My whole perspective was changed by my visit to the front. Never
again shall I know those moments of black despair that used to come
to me. In my thoughts I shall never be far away from the little
cemetery hard by the Bapaume road. And life would not be worth the
living for me did I not believe that each day brings me nearer to
seeing him again.

I found a belief among the soldiers in France that was almost
universal. I found it among all classes of men at the front; among
men who had, before the war, been regularly religious, along
well-ordered lines, and among men who had lived just according to
their own lights. Before the war, before the Hun went mad, the young
men of Britain thought little of death or what might come after death.
They were gay and careless, living for to-day. Then war came, and with
it death, astride of every minute, every hour. And the young men began
to think of spiritual things and of God.

Their faces, their deportments, may not have shown the change. But it
was in their hearts. They would not show it. Not they! But I have
talked with hundreds of men along the front. And it is my conviction
that they believe, one and all, that if they fall in battle they only
pass on to another. And what a comforting belief that is!

"It is that belief that makes us indifferent to danger and to death,"
a soldier said to me. "We fight in a righteous cause and a holy war.
God is not going to let everything end for us just because the mortal
life quits the shell we call the body. You may be sure of that."

And I am sure of it, indeed!





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