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THE FIRST TROOPS OVERSEAS
where in Europe.” Central Netos
THEY WERE DETERMINED—AND NOT A LITTLE EAGER, TOO
“the funny thing about a torpedo gowere ready to start for "some- dent young officer, to the western fields, ing off under you is that you never
I know. He had never before smelled know what happened until you feel On board one of the transports, a the sea, I am sure. And he was, I yourself coming down !” great ocean liner, I went over to a pri- think, so intent on appearing self They laughed, I began to realize that vate standing alone by the rail—a composed that he forgot, as the big after all these men took the whole sitthoughtful, dark-haired fellow staring vessel turned her engines, and strolled uation philosophically, even into the distance, past intervening out upon the canvas covering of the the first unrushed moment since they miles, I imagined, clear away to a lit- top deck-strolled out, and then strolled had come marching out of the distances tle farmer mother standing in a door- right back again, very, very quickly! that constitute America. Almost all way, thinking of him. “Are you down He laughed at his own nervousness situations in life offer some satisfachearted?” I asked him.
queer little laugh. The others tions, and this one did likewise. "I'm just looking," he smiled.
laughed. And a moment later he stole And then the boat moved a little“Where?” I smiled back at him. off, to be alone, no doubt-alone with the tension was off its hawsers. "Oh, somewhere," he laughed. "the girl” thousands of miles away. I I got ashore.
And then, suddenly: “Hell, I got a thought then that he was the kind “I envy you—I wish I were in your girl.”
of impulsive boy who would some day place," I called to one of the men at Nearly every one of them had girls, steal off, quite unaided, over the para- the rail. I judge. Nearly all had mothers. And pet and across “No Man's Land,” and “Perhaps you won't three months some had wives. And many were sol- do perhaps as Sergeant Leary did — from now," he laughed. And then, diers of fortune with neither girls nor kiil half a score of Germans, capture from the same man: “Give my regards mothers nor wives. And here they were, a couple more, a machine gun and the to all the girls-all together, bound on the Great Ad- "V. C.” all in one hour of a busy day.
to Broadway, too,” called anventure, and if there were any tears “What's the difference," mused one other. shed, neither the ocean nor the officers of the remaining officers—one young And then another punned on somewere any the wiser.
enough to talk quite frankly. “If I get thing about Broadway with its skyThere may have been tears shed, yet shot my uncle will pay all my bills. line of stars, even when it's stormy! mothers who are in dread of embarka- And if I don't get shot he says he will The next moment the boat had tions these days should be assured that pay 'em any way if I bring him a Ger- cleared, all except two hawsers. I these thousands were full of fight and man helmet. So I'll send him two Ger- glanced at my watch. There was of fun, and they went to sea with the man helmets—C. 0. D. Well, what if minute left till schedule. She waited soldier “bands” playing. Certainly on you do get shot—if there isn't any that minute out. There was that minone ship the only sign of nervousness hereafter for a soldier fighting, who's ute's pause, a curt order from the I made out was that displayed by a got one coming to him, then ?"
bridge and almost instantly the big lieutenant, who came up from the The ship's whistle snorted. The Only craft was moving slowly but surely ranks by examination, clear up to the Civilian made for the head of the gang- out toward the sea. point where now he was, with some plank.
Then there was music. Some boy other officers, on what he called "the There, at the head of the gangplank, with a cheerful heart started it with roof” of the ship!
was a little group of soldiers—a couple “Tipperary,” and the next moment a He was a little nervous, and a bash- of wistful boys, an older sergeant, soldier band had caught up the tune, ful boy, too—one of those condemned three others. They were near the hatch then turned it to the music that promto suffer solitude tho thousands are all that led down to their quarters—down ises to be the marching song that will about him. He fretted. He moved round to the big space full of bunks, three heal forever the wounds between North in circles--for him very small circles. atop one another, all freshly painted and South—“Dixie”! He was accustomed, like many a diffi- and scrupulously clean.
On the decks, too, were not a few
b.sejatkets—men assigned to man—or just like the other privates—Lees, for Of course on board there was much shaii we say "mother!" —the plentiful instance-a few men of wealth, and more merely than rifles. Of course zurs fore and aft.
not a few sons of men celebrated in there was aboard that great armada of What are those guns for?" I asked our down-to-the-date American life. men and materials much more very a “jaedie."
much more—somewhere! He laughed. Just for sociability's IT
T was startling in its psychological Yet here were all these men, gathsace," he said,
effect—the sudden appearance, right ered from far and wide, from all the “Regards to Fritz-boom!” suggest- on seheduled minute, of these columns. levels high and low of a country as ei a private.
They came marching up out of all the wide and deep as America, bound to The jackie shook his head dolefully. reaches of America-marching four the other side of the world, taking “You feiions are the ones that will see abreast, in line upon line, till their nothing but rifles! Of course this is a something doing," he said.
faces made a passing sweep that crazy idea, and yet it persisted, and it "Well, Skinny,” retorted the private, played on one's emotions like the fiut still persists. It seemed to this civilian "you'll see something doing when you ter of an American flag. They came that it was as if a shoemaker were get this bunch of landlubbers out on marching up, into the lighted space, going to Egypt and taking not an awl the briny!"
and then flashed on into the shadows, but merely a hammer. So I said so to This, no doubt, proved to be truth. to pause, take a look about and a one of the officers. He smiled indulBut there is solace, nevertheless, for moment's rest, then file up the gang- gently. "They're going over to use their the privates—50 the jackies intimated planks, down the hatches and up to rifies," he explained. “And you know,” -in knowing that the jackies will be the upper decks, and pile themselves he laughed more and more amused, enjoying themselves even if the land- into bunks—for they were tired, every "they've got their bayonets, too!” lupbers aren't! And, after all, seasick- one of them.
He did not even add—this vigorous, ress leaves hardly any sting!
They were tired; yet they came much amused officer—that old adage All of which suggests something im- marchir.g up out of the depths symbol- among the military to the effect that a portant—that this trip will constitute ically, with a vigor that was astound- soidier's life is for his family, his an event in the annals of American ing, marching with full equipment death for his country, and his discomtraditions because it has been very ready to stay in Europe till the Ger- forts for himself. seldom that soldiers and sailors have mans burn out and freeze themselves But they weren't thinking of things croet the ocean together, and of course under. They came, thousand after thou- like that—not these men. The older solthey have never crost on a mission like sand of them, in order that the Im- diers, with the love of a fight that is this one.
perial German Government would have part of their nature, looked forward to There are men from Army and Navy deemed impossible here, at an embarka- action of a kind past all anticipation. and from the Marine Corps, too, on tion. There was no confusion. They And the young ones with the old were this first contingent-men from all came and there were no consequences full of wonderment, perhaps, yet they ranks of our various services. Amer- -just a few low and quict commands, took their cues from the old ones. I had ica was represented in those first ten a few wheelings and swift and direct spent hours with them. They were thousands, represented fore and aft execution of movements desired. They cheerful, full of fight and of fun. They and in the lookouts atop decks, in came in long columns and went aboard, were comfortable. And intelligent, too cabins and under hatches, all of Amer- and the strange, quizzical idea that --that is, they looked at the situation ica—typical soldiers from whom one persisted in me, past all the envy that as they found it, knew its dangers and can extract nothing in the way of in- came to this poor civilian at these fel- enjoyed them. They were not downformation about themselves; men from lows who are to have their chance, was hearted, taken altogether. They were the North and the South, from the this, that it was somehow curious that determined, and it may be guessed that East and the West—from all the lev- they were going to the other side of before their journey was over they els high and low of America. There the world and taking nothing but their were not a little eager, too. were men with distinguished names, rifles!