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And it was the same way in America. There I helped, as much as I could, in selling Liberty Bonds. And I saw there the way the Boy Scouts worked. They sold more bonds than you would have thought possible. They helped me greatly, I know. I'd be speaking at some great meeting. I'd urge the people to buy--and before they could grow cold and forget the mood my words had aroused in them, there'd be a boy in uniform at their elbows, holding a blank for them to sign.
And the little girls worked at sewing and making bandages. I dinna ken just what these folk that are so disturbed aboot our boys and girls wad be wanting. Maybe they're o' the sort who think bairns should be seen and not heard. I'm not one of those, maself--I like to meet a bairn that's able and willing to stand up and talk wi' me. And all I can say is that those who are discouraged about the future of the race because of the degeneration of childhood during the war do not know what they're talking about.
Women and children! Aye, it's well that we've talked of them and thought of them, and fought for them. For the war was fought for them--fought to make it a better world for them. Men did not go out and suffer and die for the sake of any gain that they could make. They fought that the world might be a better one for children yet unborn to live in, and for the bairns they'd left behind to grow up in.
Was there, I wonder, any single thing that told more of the difference between the Germans and the allies than the way both treated women and children? The Germans looked on their women as inferior beings. That was why they could be guilty of such atrocities as disgraced their armies wherever they fought. They were well suited with the Turks for their own allies. The place that women hold in a country tells you much about it; a land in which women are not rated high is not one in which I'd want to live.
And if women wull be better off in Britain and America than they were, even before the war, that's one of the ways in which the war has redeemed itself and helped to pay for itself. I think they wull--but I've no patience wi' those who talk as if men and women had different interests, and maun fight it out to see which shall dominate.
They're equal partners, men and women. The war has shown us that; has proved to us men how we can depend upon our women to tak' over as much of our work as maun be when the need comes. And that's a great thing to have learned. We all pray there need be no more wars; we none of us expect a war again in our time. But if it comes one of the first things we wull do wull be to tak' advantage of what we've learned of late about the value and the splendor of our women.
I've been pessimistic, you'll think, maybe, in what I've just been saying to you. And you'll be wondering if I think I kept my promise-- to prove that this can be a better, a bonnier world than it was before yon peacefu' days of 1914 were blotted out. I have'na done sae yet, but I'm in the way of doing it. I've tried to mak' you see that yon days were no sae bonny as we a' thocht them.
But noo! Noo we've come tae a new day. This auld world has seen a great sacrifice--a greater sacrifice than any it has known since Calvary. The brawest, the n.o.blest, the best of our men, have offered themselves, a' they had and were, upon the altar of liberty and of conscience.
And I'll ask you some questions. Gie'n you're asked, the noo, tae do something that's no just for your ain benefit. Whiles you would ha'
thought, maybe, and hesitated, and wondered. But the noo? Wull ye no be thinking of some laddie who gave up a' the world held that was dear to him, when his country called? Wull ye no be thinking that, after a', ought that can be asked of you in the way of sacrifice and effort is but a sma' trifle compared to what he had tae do?
I'm thinking that'll be sae. I'm thinking it'll be sae of all of us.
I'm thinking that, sae lang as we live, we folk that ken what the war was, what it involved for the laddies who fought it, we'll be comparing any hards.h.i.+p or privation that comes tae us wi' what it was that they went through. And it's no likely, is it, that we'll ha' the heart and the conscience tae be saying 'No!' sae often and sae resolutely as used tae be our wont?
They've put shame into us, those laddies who went awa'. They ha'
taught us the real values o' things again. They ha' shown us that i'
this world, after a', it's men, not things, that count. They helped to prove that the human spirit was a greater, grander thing than any o'
the works o' man. The Germans had all that a body could ask. They had numbers, they had guns, they had their devilish inventions. What beat them, then? What held them back till we could match them in numbers and in a' the other things?
Why, something Krupp could not manufacture at Essen nor the drillmasters of the Kaiser create! The human will--the spirit that is G.o.d's creature, and His alone.
I was in France, you'll mind. I remember weel hoo I went ower the ground where the Canadians stood the day the first clouds of poison gas were loosed. There were sae few o' them--sae pitifully few! As it was they were ootmatched; they were hanging on because they were the sort o' men wha wouldna gie in. French Colonials were supporting them on one side.
And across the No Man's Land there came a sort o' greenish yellow cloud. No man there knew what it meant. There was a hissing and a writhing, as of snakes, and like a snake the gas came toward them. It reached them, and men began to cough and choke. And other men fell doon, and their faces grew black, and they deed, in an agony such as the man wha hasna seen it canna imagine--and weel it is, if he would sleep o' nichts, that he canna.
The French Colonials broke and ran. The line was open. The Canadians were dying fast, but not a man gave way. And the Hun came on. His gas had broken the line. It was open. The way was clear to Ypres. That auld, ruined toon, that had gi'en a new glory to British history in November o' the year before, micht ha' been ta'en that day. And, aye, the way was open further than that. The Germans micht ha' gone on.
Calais would ha' fallen tae them, and Dunkirk. They micht ha' cut the British army awa' frae it's bases, and crumpled up the whole line along the North Sea.
But they stopped, wi' the greatest victory o' the war within their grasp. They stopped. They waited. And the line was formed again.
Somehow, new men were found tae tak' the places of those who had deed.
Masks against the gas were invented ower nicht. And the great chance o' the Germans tae win the war was gone.
Why? It was G.o.d's will? Aye, it was His will that the Hun should be beaten. But G.o.d works wi' human instruments. And His help is aye for they that help themselves--that's an auld saying, but as true a one as ever it was.
I will tell you why the Germans stopped. It was for the same reason that they stopped at Verdun, later in the war. It was for the same reason that they stopped again near Chateau Thierry and gave the Americans time to come up. They stopped because they couldna imagine that men would stand by when they were beaten.
The Canadians were beaten that day at Ypres when the gas came upon them. Any troops i' the world would ha' been beaten. The Germans knew that. They knew just hoo things were. And they knew that, if things had been sae wi' them, they would ha' run or surrendered. And they couldna imagine a race of men that would do otherwise--that would dee rather than admit themselves beaten.
And sae, do you ken hoo it was the German officers reasoned?
"There is something wrong with our information," they decided. "If things were really, over there, as we have believed, those men would be quitting now. They may be making a trap ready for us. We will stop and make sure. It is better to be safe than sorry."
Sae, because the human spirit and its invincibility was a thing beyond their comprehension, the German officers lost the chance they had to win the war.
And it is because of that spirit that remains, that survives, in the world, that I am so sure we can mak' it a world worthy of those who died to save it. I would no want to live anither day myself if I didna believe that. I would want to dee, that I micht see my boy again. But there is work for us all tae do that are left and we have no richt to want, even, to lay doon our burdens until the time comes when G.o.d wills that we maun.
Noo--what are the things we ha' tae do? They are no just to talk, you'll be saying. 'Deed, and you're richt!
Wull you let me touch again on a thing I've spoken of already?
We ken the way the world's been impoverished. We've seen tae many of our best laddies dee these last years. They were the husbands the wee la.s.sies were waiting for--the faithers of bairns that will never be born the noo. Are those that are left doing a' that they should to mak' up that loss?
There's selfishness amang those who'll no ha' the weans they should.
And it's a selfishness that brings its ain punishment--be sure of that. I've said before, and I'll say again, the childless married pair are traitors to their country, to the world, to humanity. Is it that folk wi' children find it harder to live? Weel, there's truth i' that, and it's for us a' tae see that that shall no be so.
I ken there are things that discourage them that would bring up a family o' bairns. Landlords wull ask if there are bairns, and if there are they'll seek anither tenant. It's no richt. The law maun step in and reach them. Oh, I mind a story I heard frae a friend o' mine on that score.
He's a decent body, wi' six o' the finest weans e'er you saw. He'd to find a bigger hoose, and he went a' aboot, and everywhere, when he told the landlords he had six bairns, they'd no have him. Else they'd put up the rent to sic a figure he couldna pay it. In the end, though, he hit upon a plan. Ane day he went tae see an agent aboot a hoose that was just the yin to suit him. He liked it fine; the agent saw he was a solid man, and like tae be a gude tenant. Sae they were well along when the inevitable question came.
"How many children have you?" asked the agent.
"Six," said my friend.
"Oh," said the agent. "Well--let's see! Six is a great many. My princ.i.p.al is a little afraid of a family with so many children. They damage the houses a good deal, you know. I'll have to see. I'm sorry.
I'd have liked to let the house to you. H'm! Are all the children at home?" "No," said my friend, and pulled a lang face. "They're a' in the kirkyard."
"Oh--but that's very different," said the agent, growing brichter at once. "That's a very different case. You've my most sincere sympathy.
And I'll be glad to let you the house."
Sae the lease was signed. And my friend went hame, rejoicing. On the way he stopped at the kirkyard, and called the bairns, whom he'd left there to play as he went by!
But this is a serious matter, this one o' bairns. Folk must have them, or the country will gae to ruin. And it maun be made possible for people to bring up their weans wi'oot sae much trouble and difficulty as there is for them the noo.
Profiteering we canna endure--and will'na, I'm telling you. Let the profiteer talk o' vested richts and interests--or whine o' them, since he whines mair than he talks. It was tae muckle talk o' that sort we were hearing before the war and in its early days. It was one of the things that was wrang wi' the world. Is there any richt i' the world that's as precious as that tae life and liberty and love? And didna our young men gie that up at the first word?
Then dinna let your profiteer talk to me of the richts of his money.
He has duties and obligations as well as richts, and when he's lived up to a' o' them, it'll be time for him tae talk o' his richts again, and we'll maybe be in a mood tae listen. It's the same wi' the workingman. We maun produce, i' this day. We maun mak' up for a' the waste and the loss o' these last years. And the workingman kens as weel as do I that after a fire the first thing a man does is tae mak'
the hoose habitable again.
He mends the roof. He patches the holes i' the walls. Wad he be painting the veranda before he did those things? Not unless he was a fule--no, nor building a new bay window for the parlor. Sae let us a'
be thinking of what's necessary before we come to thought of luxuries.