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A Minstrel in France
Chapter 1


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 of!. 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 sorely already.

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

"Good-bye, 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— a 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 harbour 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 very 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 sightseeing, 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 honours 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 on vegetables and marvellous fish from the sea, and drink from clear crystal streams. 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 sorrowfully I heeded its call and waved good-bye 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
For ever and ever will be dear to me!

I wedded a simple melody to those simple, heartfelt 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 that was on 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 Harbour Heads. If you have never seen it, I do not know how better to describe 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 harbour..

And what goings on there were ! The harbour 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 colours 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 clamour 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 harbour, 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 the folks had done with their welcome to me. 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 had 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 honour that came to me. And here was an honour indeed—a reception the like of which I had never seen.


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