Harry Lauder.

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There were some amusing experiences during those concert days. I often
appeared with singers who had won considerable fame - artists who
rendered classical numbers and opertic selections. I sometimes envied
them for their musical gifts, but not seriously - my efforts were in a
different field. As a rule I got along extremely well with my fellow
performers, but sometimes they were inclined to look down on a mere
comedian. Yell ken that I was making a name for myself then, and that
I engaged for some concerts at which, as a rule, no comic singer would
have been heard.

One night a concert had been arranged by a musical society in a town
near Glasgow - a suburb of the city. I was to appear with a quartet
soprano, contralto, tenor and bass. The two ladies and the tenor
greeted me cheerfully enough, and seemed glad to see me - the
contralto, indeed, was very friendly, and said she always went to hear
me when she had the chance. But the bass was very distant. He glared
at me when I came in, and did not return my greeting. He sat and
scowled, and grew angrier and angrier.

"Well!" he said, suddenly. "The rest of you can do as you please, but
I shall not sing to-night! I'm an artist, and I value my professional
reputation too highly to appear with a vulgarian like this comic
singer!"

"Oh, I say, old chap!" said the tenor, looking uncomfortable. "That's
a bit thick! Harry's a good sort - I've heard him - - "

"I'm not concerned with his personality!" said the bass. "I resent
being associated with a man who makes a mountebank, a clown, of
himself!"

I listened and said nothing. But I'll no be sayin' I did no wink at my
friend, the contralto.

The other singers tried to soothe the bass down, but they couldn't. He
looked like a great pouter pigeon, strutting about the room, and then
he got red, and I thought he looked like an angry turkey cock. The
secretary of the society came in, and the basso attacked him at once.

"I say, Mr. Smith!" he cried. "There's something wrong here, what!
Fancy expecting me to appear on the same platform with this - this
person in petticoats!"

The secretary looked surprised, as well he micht!!

"I'll not do it!" said the basso, getting angrier each second. "You
can keep him or me - both you can't have!"

I was not much concerned. I was angry; I'll admit that. But I didna
let him fash me. I just made up my mind that if I was no allowed to
sing I'd have something to say to that basso before the evening was
oot. And I looked at him, and listened to him bluster, and thought
maybe I'd have a bit to do wi' him as well. I'm a wee man and a', but
I'm awfu' strong from the work I did in the pit, and I'm never afraid
of a bully.

I need ha' gie'n myself no concern as to the secretary. He smiled, and
let the basso talk. And I'll swear he winked at me.

"I really can't decide such a matter, Mr. Roberts," he said, at last.
"You're engaged to sing; so is Mr. Lauder. Mr. Lauder is ready to
fulfill his engagement - if you are not I don't see how I can force you
to do so. But you will do yourself no good if you leave us in the
lurch - I'm afraid people who are arranging concerts will feel that you
are a little unreliable."

The other singers argued with him, too, but it was no use. He would no
demean himself by singing with Harry Lauder. And so we went on without
him, and the concert was a great success. I had to give a dozen
encores, I mind. And puir Roberts! He got no more engagements, and a
little later became a chorus man with a touring opera company. I'm
minded of him the noo because, not so lang syne, he met me face to
face in London, and greeted me like an old friend.

"I remember very well knowing you, years ago, before you were so
famous, Mr. Lauder," he said. "I don't just recall the circumstances -
I think we appeared together at some concerts - that was before I
unfortunately lost my voice - - "

Aweel, I minded the circumstances, if he did not, but I had no the
heart to remind him! And I "lent" him the twa shillin' he asked. Frae
such an auld friend as him I was lucky not to be touched for half a
sovereign!

I've found some men are so. Let you succeed, let you mak' your bit
siller, and they remember that they knew you well when you were no so
well off and famous. And it's always the same way. If they've not
succeeded, it's always someone else's fault, never their own. They
dislike you because you've done well when they've done ill. But it's
easy to forgie them - it's aye hard to bear a grudge in this world, and
to be thinkin' always of punishin' those who use us despite-fully.
I've had my share of knocks from folk. And sometimes I've dreamed of
being able to even an auld score. But always, when the time's come for
me to do it, I've nae had the heart.

It was rare fun to sing in those concerts. And in the autumn of 1896 I
made a new venture. I might have gone on another tour among the music
halls in the north, but Donald Munro was getting up a concert tour,
and I accepted his offer instead. It was a bit new for a singer like
myself to sing at such concerts, but I had been doing well, and Mr.
Munro wanted me, and offered me good terms.

That tour brought me one of my best friends and one of my happiest
associations. It was on it that I met Mackenzie Murdoch. I'll always
swear by Murdoch as the best violinist Scotland ever produced. Maybe
Ysaye and some of the boys with the unpronounceable Russian names can
play better than he. I'll no be saying as to that. But I know that he
could win the tears from your een when he played the old Scots
melodies; I know that his bow was dipped in magic before he drew it
across the strings, and that he played on the strings of your heart
the while he scraped that old fiddle of his.

Weel, there was Murdoch, and me, and the third of our party on that
tour was Miss Jessie MacLachlan, a bonnie lassie with a glorious
voice, the best of our Scottish prima donnas then. We wandered all
over the north and the midlands of Scotland on that tour, and it was a
grand success. Our audiences were large, and they were generous wi'
their applause, too, which Scottish audiences sometimes are not. Your
Scot is a canny yin; he'll aye tak' his pleasures seriously. He'll let
ye ken it, richt enough, and fast enough, if ye do not please him. But
if ye do he's like to reckon that he paid you to do so, and so why
should he applaud ye as weel?

But so well did we do on the tour that I began to do some thinkin'.
Here were we, Murdoch and I, especially, drawing the audiences. What
was Munro doing for rakin' in the best part o' the siller folk paid to
hear us? Why, nothin' at all that we could no do our twa selves - so I
figured. And it hurt me sair to see Munro gettin' siller it seemed to
me Murdoch and I micht just as weel be sharing between us. Not that I
didna like Munro fine, ye'll ken; he was a gude manager, and a fair
man. But it was just the way I was feeling, and I told Murdoch so.

"Ye hae richt, Harry," he said. "There's sense in your head, man, wee
though you are. What'll we do?"

"Why, be our ain managers!" I said. "We'll take out a concert party of
our own next season."

At the end of the tour of twelve weeks Mac and I were more determined
than ever to do just that. For the time we'd spent we had a hundred
pounds apiece to put in the bank, after we'd paid all our expenses -
more money than I'd dreamed of being able to save in many years. And
so we made our plans.

But we were no sae sure, afterward, that we'd been richt. We planned
our tour carefully. First we went all aboot, to the towns we planned
to visit, distributing bills that announced our coming. Shopkeepers
were glad to display them for us for a ticket or so, and it seemed
that folk were interested, and looking forward to having us come. But
if they were they did not show it in the only practical way - the only
way that gladdens a manager's heart. They did not come to our concerts
in great numbers; indeed, an' they scarcely came at a'. When it was
all over and we came to cast up the reckoning we found we'd lost a
hundred and fifty pounds sterling - no small loss for two young and
ambitious artists to have to pocket.

"Aye, an' I can see where the manager has his uses," I said to Mac.
"He takes the big profits - but he takes the big risks, too."

"Are ye discouraged, man Harry!" Mac asked me.

"Not a bit of it!" said I. "If you're not, I'm not. I'll try it again.
What do you say, Mac?"

We felt the same way. But I learned a lesson then that has always made
me cautious in criticizing the capitalist who sits back and rakes in
the siller while others do the work. The man has his uses, I'm tellin'
ye. I found it oot then; they're findin' it oot in Russia now, since
the Bolsheviki have been so busy. I'm that when the world's gone along
for so many years, and worked out a way of doing things, there must be
some good in it. I'm not sayin' all's richt and perfect in this world
- and, between you and me, would it be muckle fun to live in it if it
were? But there's something reasonable and something good about
anything that's grown up to be an institution, even if it needs
changing and reforming frae time to time. Or so I think.

Weel, e'en though I could see, noo, the reason for Munro to be gettin'
his big share o' the siller Mac and I made, I was no minded not to ha'
another try for it myself. Next season Mac and I made our plans even
more carefully. We went to most of the same towns where business had
been bad before, and this time it was good. And I learned something a
manager could ha' told me, had he liked. Often and often it's
necessary to tak' a loss on an artist's first tour that'll be more
than made up for later. Some folk go to hear him, or see him, even
that first time. An' they tell ithers what they've missed. It was so
wi' us when we tried again. Our best audiences and our biggest success
came where we'd been most disappointed the time before. This tour was
a grand success, and once more, for less than three months of work,
Mac and I banked more than a hundred pounds apiece.

But there was more than siller to count in the profits of the tours
Mac and I made together. He became and has always remained one of my
best and dearest friends - man never had a better. And a jollier
companion I can never hope to find. We always lived together; it was
easier and cheaper, too, for us to share lodgings. And we liked to
walk together for exercise, and to tak' our amusement as well as our
work in common.

I loved to hear Mac practice. He was a true artist and a real
musician, and when he played for the sheer love of playing he was even
better, I always thought, than when he was thinking of his audience,
though he always gave an audience his best. It was just, I think, that
when there was only me to hear him he knew he could depend upon a
sympathetic listener, and he had not to worry aboot the effect his
playing was to have.

We were like a pair of boys on a holiday when we went touring together
in those days, Mac and I. We were always playing jokes on one another,
or on any other victims we could find usually on one another because
there was always something one of us wanted to get even for. But the
commonest trick was one of mine. Mac and I would come down to
breakfast, say, at a hotel, and when everyone was seated I'd start, in
a very low voice, to sing. Rather, I didn't really sing, I said, in a
low, rhythmical tone, with a sort of half tune to it, this old verse:

"And the old cow crossed the road,
The old cow crossed the road,
And the reason why it crossed the road
Was to get to the other side."

I would repeat that, over and over again, tapping my foot to keep time
as I did so. Then Mac would join in, and perhaps another of our
company. And before long everyone at the table would catch the
infection, and either be humming the absurd words or keeping time with
his feet, while the others did so. Sometimes people didn't care for my
song; I remember one old Englishman, with a white moustache and a very
red face, who looked as if he might be a retired army officer. I think
he thought we were all mad, and he jumped up at last and rushed from
the table, leaving his breakfast unfinished. But the roar of laughter
that followed him made him realize that it was all a joke, and at
teatime he helped us to trap some newcomers who'd never heard of the
game.

Mac and I were both inclined to be a wee bit boastful. We hated to
admit, both of us, that there was anything we couldna do; I'm a wee
bit that way inclined still. I mind that in Montrose, when we woke up
one morning after the most successful concert we had ever given, and
so were feeling very extra special, we found a couple o' gowf balls
lyin' around in our diggings.

"What do ye say tae a game, Mac?" I asked him.

"I'm no sae glide a player, Harry," he said, a bit dubiously.

For once in a way I was honest, and admitted that I'd never played at
all. We hesitated, but our landlady, a decent body, came in, and made
light of our doots.

"Hoots, lads," she said. "A'body plays gowf nooadays. I'll gie ye the
lend of some of our Jamie's clubs, and it's no way at a' to the
links,"

Secretly I had nae doot o' my bein' able to hit a little wee ball like
them we'd found so far as was needful. I thought the gowf wad be
easier than digging for coal wi' a pick. So oot we set, carryin' our
sticks, and ready to mak' a name for ourselves in a new way.

Syne Mac had said he could play a little, I told him he must take the
honor and drive off. He did no look sae grateful as he should ha'
done, but he agreed, at last.

"Noo, Harry, stand weel back, man, and watch where this ball lichts.
Keep your een well doon the coorse, man."

He began to swing as if he meant to murder the wee ba', and I strained
my een. I heard him strike, and I looked awa' doon the coorse, as he
had bid me do. But never hide nor hair o' the ba' did I see. It was
awesome.

"Hoots, Mac," I said, "ye must ha' hit it an awfu' swipe. I never saw
it after you hit it."

He was smiling, but no as if he were amused.

"Aweel, ye wouldna - ye was looking the wrong way, man," he said. "I
sort o' missed my swing that time. There's the ba' - - "

He pointed, and sure enough, I saw the puir wee ba', over to right,
not half a dozen yards from the tee, and lookin' as if it had been cut
in twa. He made to lift it and put it back on the tee, but, e'en an' I
had never played the game I knew a bit aboot the rules.

"Dinna gang so fast, Mac," I cried. "That counts a shot. It's my turn
the noo."

And so I piled up a great double handfu' o' sand. It seemed to me that
the higher I put the wee ba' to begin with the further I could send it
when I hit it. But I was wrong, for my attempt was worse than Mac's. I
broke my club, and drove all the sand in his een, and the wee ba'
moved no more than a foot!

"That's a shot, too!" cried Mac.

"Aye," I said, a bit ruefully. "I - I sort o' missed my swing, too,
Mac."

We did a wee bit better after that, but I'm no thinkin' either Mac or
I will ever play against the champion in the final round at Troon or
St. Andrews.



CHAPTER VI


I maun e'en wander again from what I've been tellin' ye. Not that in
this book there's any great plan; it's just as if we were speerin'
together. But one thing puts me in mind o' another. And it so happened
that that gay morn at Montrose when Mac and I tried our hands at the
gowf brought me in touch with another and very different experience.

Ye'll mind I've talked a bit already of them that work and those they
work for. I've been a laboring man myself; in those days I was close
enough to the pit to mind only too well what it was like to be
dependent on another man for all I earned and ate and drank. And I'd
been oot on strike, too. There was some bit trouble over wages. In the
beginning it was no great matter; five minutes of good give and tak'
in talk wad ha' settled it, had masters and men got together as folk
should do. But the masters wouldna listen, and the men were sair
angry, and so there was the strike.

It was easy enough for me. I'd money in the savings bank. My brothers
were a' at work in other pits where there was no strike called. I was
able to see it through, and I cheered with a good will when the
District Agents of the miners made speeches and urged us to stay oot
till the masters gave in. But I could see, even then, that, there were
men who did no feel sae easy in their minds over the strike. Jamie
Lowden was one o' them. Jamie and I were good friends, though not sae
close as some.

I could see that Jamie was taking the strike much more to heart than
I. He'd come oot wi' the rest of us at the first, and he went to all
the mass meetings, though I didna hear him, ever mak' a speech, as
most of us did, one time or another. And so, one day, when I fell into
step beside him, on the way hame frae a meetin', I made to see what he
was thinking.

"Dinna look sae glum, Jamie, man," I said. "The strike won't last for
aye. We've the richt on our side, and when we've that we're bound to
win in the end."

"Aye, we may win!" he said, bitterly. "And what then, Harry? Strikes
are for them that can afford them, Harry - they're no for workingman
wi' a wife that's sick on his hands and a wean that's dyin' for lack
o' the proper food. Gie'en my wife and my bairn should dee, what good
would it be to me to ha' won this strike?"

"But we'll a' be better off if we win - - "

"Better off?" he said, angrily. "Oh, aye - but what'll mak' up to' us
for what we'll lose? Nine weeks I've been oot. All that pay I've lost.
It would have kept the wean well fed and the wife could ha' had the
medicine she needs. Much good it will do me to win the strike and the
shillin' or twa extra a week we're striking for if I lose them!"

I'm ashamed to say I hadn't thought of the strike in that licht
before. It had been a grand chance to be idle wi'oot havin' to
reproach myself; to enjoy life a bit, and lie abed of a morn wi' a
clear conscience. But I could see, the noo Jamie talked, how it was
some of the older men did not seem to put much heart into it when they
shouted wi' the rest of us: "We'll never gie in!"

It was weel enough for the boys; for them it was a time o' skylarkin'
and irresponsibility. It was weel enough for me, and others like me,
who'd been able to put by a bit siller, and could afford to do wi'oot
our wages for a space. But it was black tragedy for Jamie and his wife
and bairn.

Still ye'll be wonderin' how I was reminded of all this at Montrose,
where Mac and I showed how bad we were at gowf! Weel, it was there I
saw Jamie Lowden again, and heard how he had come through the time of
the strike. I'll tell the tale myself; you may depend on't that I'm
giving it to ye straight, as I had it from the man himself.

His wife, lying sick in her bed, always asked Jamie the same question
when he came in from a meeting.

"Is there ony settlement yet, Jamie?" she would say.

"Not yet," he had to answer, time after time. "The masters are rich
and proud. They say they can afford to keep the pits, closed. And
we're telling them, after every meeting, that we'll een starve, if
needs must, before we'll gie in to them. I'm thinkin' it's to starvin'
we'll come, the way things look. Hoo are ye, Annie - better old girl?"

"I'm no that bad, Jamie," she answered, always, affectionately. He
knew she was lying to spare his feelings; they loved one another very
dearly, did those two. She looked down at the wee yin beside her in
the bed. "It's the wean I'm thinkin' of, Jamie," she whispered. "He's
asleep, at last, but he's nae richt, Jamie - he's far frae richt."

Jamie sighed, and turned to the stove. He put the kettle on, that he
might make himself a cup of tea. Annie was not strong enough to get up
and do any of the work, though it hurt her sair to see her man busy
about the wee hoose. She could eat no solid food; the doctor had
ordered milk for her, and beef tea, and jellies. Jamie could just
manage the milk, but it was out of the question for him to buy the
sick room delicacies she should have had every day of her life. The
bairn was born but a week after the strike began; Jamie and Annie had
been married little more than a year. It was hard enough for Annie to
bring the wean into the world; it seemed that keeping him and herself
there was going to be too much for her, with things going as they
were.

"She was nae strong enough, Jamie, man," the doctor told him. "Yell
ha' an invalid wife on your hands for months. Gie her gude food, and
plenty on't, when she can eat again let her ha' plenty rest. She'll be
richt then - she'll be better, indeed, than she's ever been. But not if
things go badly - she can never stand that."

Jamie had aye been carefu' wi' his siller; when he knew the wife was
going to present him wi' a bairn he'd done his part to mak' ready. So
the few pound he had in the bank had served, at the start, weel
enough. The strikers got a few shillings each week frae the union;
just enough, it turned out, in Jamie's case, to pay the rent and buy
the bare necessities of life. His own siller went fast to keep mither
and wean alive when she was worst. And when they were gone, as they
were before that day I talked wi' him, things looked black indeed for
Jamie and the bit family he was tryin' to raise.

He could see no way oot. And then, one nicht, there came a knocking at
the door. It was the doctor - a kindly, brusque man, who'd been in the
army once. He was popular, but it was because he made his patients
afraid of him, some said. They got well because they were afraid to
disobey him. He had a very large practice, and, since he was a
bachelor, with none but himself to care for, he was supposed to be
almost wealthy - certainly he was rich for a country doctor.

"Weel, Jamie, man, and ho's the wife and the wean the day?" he asked.

"They're nane so braw, doctor," said Jamie, dolefully. "But yell see
that for yersel', I'm thinkin'."

The doctor went in, talked to Jamie's wife a spell, told her some
things to do, and looked carefully at the sleeping bairn, which he
would not have awakened. Then he took Jamie by the arm.

"Come ootside, Jamie," he said. "I want to hae a word wi' ye."

Jamie went oot, wondering. The doctor walked along wi' him in silence
a wee bit; then spoke, straight oot, after his manner.

"Yon's a bonnie wean o' yours, Jamie," he said. "I've brought many a
yin into the world, and I'm likin' him fine. But ye can no care for
him, and he's like to dee on your hands. Yer wife's in the same case.
She maun ha' nourishin' food, and plenty on't. Noo, I'm rich enough,
and I'm a bachelor, with no wife nor bairn o' my ain. For reasons I'll
not tell ye I'll dee, as I've lived, by my lain. I'll not be marryin'
a wife, I mean by that.

"But I like that yin of yours. And here's what I'm offerin' ye. I'll
adopt him, gi'en you'll let me ha' him for my ain. I'll save his life.
I'll bring him up strong and healthy, as a gentleman and a gentleman's
son. And I'll gie ye a hundred pounds to boot - a hundred pounds
that'll be the saving of your wife's life, so that she can be made
strong and healthy to bear ye other bairns when you're at work again."

"Gie up the wean?" cried Jamie, his face working. "The wean my Annie
near died to gie me? Doctor, is it sense you're talking?"

"Aye, and gude, hard sense it is, too, Jamie, man. I know it sounds
dour and hard. It's a sair thing to be giving up your ain flesh and
blood. But think o' the bairn, man! Through no fault o' your ain,
through misfortune that's come upon ye, ye can no gie him the care he
needs to keep him alive. Wad ye rather see him dead or in my care?
Think it ower, man. I'll gie ye two days to think and to talk it ower
wi' the wife. And - I'm tellin' ye're a muckle ass and no the sensible
man I've thought ye if ye do not say aye."

The doctor did no wait for Jamie to answer him. He was a wise man,
that doctor; he knew how Jamie wad be feelin' just then, and he turned
away. Sure enough, Jamie was ready to curse him and bid him keep his
money. But when he was left alone, and walked home, slowly, thinking
of the offer, he began to see that love for the wean urged him nigh as
much to accept the offer as to reject it.

It was true, as the doctor had said, that it was better for the bairn
to live and grow strong and well than to dee and be buried. Wad it no
be selfish for Jamie, for the love he had for his first born, to
insist on keeping him when to keep him wad mean his death? But there
was Annie to think of, too. Wad she be willing? Jamie was sair beset.


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