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marine down, then docked the ship alongside of a collier, and have established, to my own satisfaction at least, that I know how to handle a ship. All this may not convey much, but you remember how you felt when you first handled your father's car. Well, the car weighs about two tons and the W— a thousand, and she goes nearly as fast. You have to bring your own mass up against another dock or oilship as gently as dropping an egg in an egg-cup, and you can imagine what the battleship skipper is up against, with 30,000 tons to handle. Only he generally has tugs to help him, whereas we do it all by ourselves.
This war is far harder on you than on me. The drill, the work of preparing for grim reality, all of it is what I am trained for. The very thought of getting into the game gives me a sense of calmness and contentment I have never before known. I suppose it is because subconsciously I feel that I am justifying my existence now more than ever before. And that feeling brings anybody peace.
Back in harness again and thankful for the press of work that keeps me from thinking about you all at home.
Well, we are going across all right, exactly where and for how long I do not know. Our present orders are to sail to-morrow night, but there seems to be wild uncertainty about whether we will go out then. In the meantime, we are frantically taking on mountains of stores, ammunition, provisions, etc., trying to fill our vacancies with new men from the Reserve Ship, and hurrying everything up at high pressure.
Well, I am glad it has come. It is what I wanted and what I think you wanted for me. It is useless to discuss all the possibilities of where we are going and what we are going to do. From the look of things, I think we are go
ing to help the British. I hope so. Of course, we are a mere drop in the bucket.
As I start off now, my only real big regret is that through circumstances so much of my responsibility has been taken by others you, my brother, and your father. I don't know that I am really to blame. At least, I am very sure that never in all my life did I intentionally try to shift any load of mine onto another. But in any case, it makes me all the more glad that I am where I am, going where I am to go to have my chance, in other words. I once said in jest that all naval officers ought really to get killed, to justify their existence. I don't exactly advocate that extreme. But I shall all my life be happier for having at least taken my chance. It will increase my selfrespect, which in turn increases my usefulness in life. So can you get my point of view, and be glad with me?
Now I am to a great extent a fatalist, though I hope it really is something higher than that. Call it what you will, I have always believed that if we go ahead and do our duty, counting not the cost, then the outcome will be in the hands of a power way beyond our
But if it be fated that I don't come back, let no one ever say, 'Poor R-.' I have had all the best things of life given me in full measure the happiest childhood and boyhood, health, the love of family and friends, the profession I love, marriage to the girl I wanted, and my son. If I go now, it will be as one who quits the game while the blue chips are all in his own pile.
GENERAL POST OFFICE, LONDON May 19, 1917. On the trip over, we were steaming behind the R- -, when all at once she steered out and backed, amid much running around on board. At first we
thought she saw a submarine and stood by our guns. Then we saw she had a man overboard. We immediately We immediately dropped our lifeboat, and I went in charge for the fun of it. Beat the R's boat to him. He had no lifepreserver, but the wool-lined jacket he wore kept him high out of water, and he was floating around as comfortably as you please, barring the fact that his fall had knocked him unconscious. So we not only took him back to his ship, but picked up the R's boat-hook, which the clumsy lubbers had dropped -and kept it as a reward for our trouble.
We are being somewhat overhauled, refitted, etc., in the British dock-yard here. Navy yards are much the same the world over, I guess. I will say, however, that they have dealt with us quickly and efficiently, with the minimum of red tape and correspondence. We have become in fact an integral part of the British Navy. Admiral Sims is in general supervision of us, but we are directly in command of the British Admiral commanding the station. Of the U-boat situation, I may say little. There is nothing about which so much is imagined, rumored and reported, and so little known for certain. Five times, when coming through the danger zone, we manned all guns, thinking we saw something. Once in my watch I put the helm hard over to dodge a torpedo which proved to be a porpoise! And I'll do the same thing again, too. We are in this war up to the neck, there is no doubt about that and thank Heaven for it!
Kiss our son for me and make up your mind that you would rather have his father over here on the job than sitting in a swivel-chair at home doing nothing.
I never seem to get time to write a real letter. All hands, including your
husband, are so dead tired when off i watch that there is nothing to do but flop down on your bunk or on the deck sometimes-and sleep. The captain and I take watch on the bridge day and night, and outside of this I do my own navigating and other duties, so time does not go a-begging with me. However, we are still unsunk, for which we should be properly grateful.
I have seen a little of Ireland and like New York State better than ever. It is difficult to realize how matter-offact the war has become with every one over here. You meet some mild-mannered gentleman and talk about the weather, and then find later that he is a survivor from some desperate episode that makes your blood tingle. I would that we were over on the North Sea side, where Providence might lay us alongside a German destroyer some gray dawn. This submarine-chasing business is much like the proverbial skinning of a skunk — useful, but not especially pleasant or glorious.
When I said good-bye to you at home, I don't think that either of us realized that I was coming over here to stay. Perhaps it was just as well. Human nature is such that we subconsciously refuse to accept an idea, even when we know it to be a true one, because it is totally new beyond our experience. Pursuant to which, I could not believe that my fondest hopes were to be realized, and that not only I, but the whole of America, would really get into the big game. Oh, it is big all right, and it grows on you the more you get into it.
Now, I realize that it is asking too much of you or of any woman to view with perfect complacency having a husband suddenly injected into war. But just consider suppose I was a prosperous dentist or produce mer
chant on shore, instead of in the Navy. By now you and I would be undergoing all the agonies of indecision as to whether I should enlist or no; it would darken our lives for weeks or months, and in the end I should go anyhow, letting my means of livelihood and yours go hang, and be away just as long and stand as good a chance of being blown up as I do now. So I am very thankful that things have worked out as they have for us.
There is very little to tell that I am allowed to tell you. The technique of submarine-chasing and dodging would be dry reading to a landsman. It is a very curious duty in that it would be positively monotonous, were it not for the possibility of being hurled into eternity the next minute. I am in very good health and wholly free from nervous tension.
P.S. When despondent, pull some Nathan Hale 'stuff,' and regret that you have but one husband to give to your country.
Once more I get the chance to write. We are in port for three days, and that three days looks as big as a month's leave would have a month ago. Everything in life is comparative, I guess. When we live a comfortable, civilized, highly complex life, our longings and desires are many and far-reaching. Now and here such things as sleep, warmth, and fresh food become almost the limit of one's imagination. Just like the sailor of the old Navy, whose idea of perfect contentment was 'Two watches below and beans for dinner.'
You get awfully blasé on this duty -things which should excite you don't at all. For instance, out of the air come messages like the following: 'Am being chased and delayed by submarine.' 'Torpedoed and sinking fast.' And you merely look at the chart and decide whether to go to the rescue full VOL. 121 - NO. 4
speed, or let some boat nearer to the scene look after it. Or, if the alarm is given on your own ship, you grab mechanically for life-jacket, binoculars, pistol, and wool coat, and jump to your station, not knowing whether it is really a periscope or a stick floating along out of water.
Well, we got mail when we came into port this time, your letter of May 28 being the last one. I don't mind the frequent pot-shots the U-boats take at us, but doggone their hides if they sink any of our mail! We won't forgive them that.
My health is excellent, better than my temper, in fact. I am beginning to think that we are not getting our money's worth in this war. I want to have my blood stirred and do something heroicà la moving-pictures. Instead of which it much resembles a campaign against cholera-germs or anything else which is deadly but difficult to get any joy-of-battle out of.
Do tell me everything you are doing, for it is up to you to make conversation, since there is so little of affairs at this end that I can talk about. It is a shame, for you always claimed that I never spoke unless you said some thing first; and now I am doing the same thing under cover of the letter.
The other day, half-way out on the Atlantic, we sighted a periscope, and some one at the gun sent a shell skimming over the C, who was in the way, and then the periscope turned out to be a ventilator sticking up over some wreckage. However, the incident was welcome. You have no conception of how gray life can get to be on this job, and the shock of danger, real or imaginary, is really beneficial, I think. All hands seem to be more cheerful under its influence.
I was so glad to get your letters. A man who has a brave woman behind him will do his duty far better and, incidentally, stand more chance of coming back, than one who feels a drag instead of a push.
I am glad son had his first fight. You were perfectly right to make him go on. Mother used to tell how, when brother was a wee boy, he came home almost weeping, and said, 'Mother, a boy hit me.' Instead of comforting him, she said, 'Did you hit him back?' It almost killed her, he was so utterly dumbfounded and hurt; but next time he hit back and licked.
I am well but get rather jumpy at times. Strangely enough, it is always over more or less trivial matters. Every time we have a submarine scare, I feel markedly better for a while it seems to reestablish my sense of proportion.
It is a mighty nerve- and temperwearing life at sea nearly all the time and with the boat rolling and bucking like a broncho, you can't exercise. You can hardly do any work, but only hold on tight and wipe the salt spray from your eyes. Sometimes I have started to shave and found the salt so thick on face that soap would not lather. my
July 16. Things are the same as before with us. Time passes quickly, with navigating, standing watch, and sleeping when you get a chance. One day or two passes all too quickly. I wish there were more to do in the shape of relaxation when we do get ashore. The people here are cordial enough, according to their lights, but those that we meet are practically all Army and Navy people, who have no abode here themselves and are almost as much strangers as we are; and there is no resident population of that caste that would
ordinarily open its doors to foreign naval officers.
Ireland is a poor country comparatively. tively. A town of 50,000 here shows less in the way of facilities for diversion than the average town of 10,000 in the States.
Don't worry about my privations'which mostly there ain't none.' Such as they are, they are necessary and unavoidable; and, above all, we are fitted for them. You can't well sympathize with a man who is doing the thing he has longed for and trained for all his life. Besides, physical privations are nothing; it is the mental ones that hurt. A soldier in the trenches, with little to eat and nothing but a hole to sleep in, can feel happy all the same particularly if life has something in prospect for him if he lives. But a man out of work at home, sleeping in the park and panhandling for food, is much more to be pitied, though his immediate hardships may be no greater.
The weather over here is very passable at present, but they say it is simply hell off the coast in winter. However, somebody said the war will be over in November. I hope the Kaiser and Hindenburg know it, too!
with me. Why did n't you come back with a long invoice of troubles of your own, as 99 per cent of women would? Evidently you are the one-per-cent woman. I bitterly regretted my whines after having written them, for their very untruth. Alas, how many people think the world is drab-colored and life a failure, and so have done or said something they regret all their lives, when a vegetable pill or a brisk walk would have changed their vision completely! Why is it that people sometimes deliberately hurt those they have loved most in the world? I suppose it is because we are all really children at heart and want some one else to cry too. The other day Smith shamefacedly abstracted from the mail-box a letter to his wife, and tore it up, and I know -oh, I know!
At a husbands' meeting on the ship the other day, we all agreed that the heavy hand was the only way to deal with women; but it seemed on investigation that no one had actually tried it, the reason being apparently a wellgrounded fear that our wives would n't like it.
This war has n't had as much action, variety, and stimulation for us as I would like. Danger there always is, but being little in evidence, you have to prod your nerves to realize it rather than soothe them down. Lately, however, things have changed in a manner which, though involving no more danger, furnishes a somewhat greater mental stimulation, and thence is better for everybody. I regret to say that I am gaining in weight. It was my hope to come back thin and gaunt and interesting-looking. Instead of which, you will likely be mad as a hornet to find me so sleek, while you at home have done all the thinning down. Truth to tell, if you compare our relative peace and war status, you are much more at war than I am.
If you find son timid in some things, just remember that I was, too. Lots of things he will change about automatically. At his age I had small love for fire-crackers or explosives of any kind, but in two or three years, and without any prompting, I became really expert in guns and gunpowder. Try to get him to realize that the very highest form of courage is to be afraid to do a thing - and do it!
Once in a while some one of us gets a torpedo fired at him, and only luck or quick seamanship saves him from destruction. Some day the torpedo will hit, and then the Navy Department will 'regret to report.' But the laws of probability and chance cannot lie, and as the total U-boat score against our destroyers so far is zero, you can figure for yourself that they will have to improve somewhat before the Kaiser can hand out many iron crosses at our expense.
We had a new experience the other day when we picked up two boatloads of survivors from the, torpedoed without warning. I will say they were pretty glad to see us when we bore down on them. As we neared, they began to paddle frantically, as though fearful we should be snatched away from them at the last moment. The crew were mostly Arabs and Lascars, and the first mate, a typical comicmagazine Irishman, delivered himself of the following: 'Sure, toward the last, some o' thim haythen gits down on their knees and starts calling on Allah; but I sez, sez I, "Git up afore I swat ye wid the axe-handle, ye benighted haythen; sure if this boat gits saved 't will be the Holy Virgin does it or none at all, at all! Git up," sez I.'
The officers were taken care of in the ward-room—rough unlettered old sailormen, who possessed a certain fineness of character which I believe the