“Sing ‘GOD save the Queen,’ and I’ll keep well after ye with the fiddle,” he suggested. But Alister shook his head. “I know one or two Scotch tunes,” Dennis added, and he began to sketch out an air or two with his fingers on the strings.
Presently Alister stopped him. “Yon’s the ‘Land o’ the Leal’?”
“It is,” said Dennis.
“Play it a bit quicker, man, and I’ll try ‘Scots wha hae.’”
Dennis quickened at once, and Alister stood forward. He neither fidgeted nor complained of feeling shy, but as my eyes (I was squatted cross-legged on the deck) were at the level of his knees, I could see them shaking, and pitied him none the less, that I was doubtful as to what might not be before me. Dennis had to make two or three false starts before poor Alister could get a note out of his throat, but when he had fairly broken the ice with the word “Scots!” he faltered no more.
The boatswain was cheated a second time of his malice. Alister could not sing in the least like Dennis, but he had a strong manly voice, and it had a ring that stirred one’s blood, as he clenched his hands, and rolled his Rs to the rugged appeal:
“Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!”
Applause didn’t seem to steady his legs in the least, and he never moved his eyes from the sea, and his face only grew whiter by the time he drove all the blood to my heart with
“Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!”
“GOD forbid!” cried Dennis impetuously. “Sing that verse again, me boy, and give us a chance to sing with ye!” which we did accordingly; but as Alister and Dennis were rolling Rs like the rattle of musketry on the word turn, Alister did turn, and stopped suddenly short. The captain had come up unobserved.
“Go on!” said he, waving us back to our places.
By this time the solo had become a chorus. Beautifully unconscious, for the most part, that the song was by way of stirring Scot against Saxon, its deeper patriotism had seized upon us all. Englishmen, Scotchmen, and sons of Erin, we all shouted at the top of our voices, Sambo’s fiddle not being silent. And I maintain that we all felt the sentiment with our whole hearts, though I doubt if any but Alister and the captain knew and sang the precise words:
“Wha for Scotland’s king and law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa’,
Let him on wi’ me!”
true; for truth is always strange—
Stranger than fiction.”—BYRON.
“Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows.”—GRAY.