A Destroyer in Active Service

April 7 [1917].
WELL, I must confess that, even after war has been declared, the skies have n’t fallen and oysters taste just the same. I never would have dreamed that so big a step would be accepted with so much equanimity. It is due to two causes, I think. First, because we have trembled on the verge so long and sort of dabbled our toes in the water, that our minds have grown gradually accustomed to what under other circumstances would be a violent shock. Second, because the individual units of the Navy are so well prepared that there is little to do. We made a few minor changes in the routine and slipped the war-heads on to the torpedoes, and presto, we were ready for war. One beauty of a destroyer is that, life on board being reduced to its simplest terms anyhow, there is little to change. We may be ordered to ‘strip,’ that is, go to our Navy yard and land all combustibles, paints, oils, surplus woodwork, uniforms, etc.; but we have not done so yet.
We were holding drill yesterday when the signal was made from the flagship, ‘War is declared.’ I translated it to my crew, who received the news with much gayety but hardly a trace of excitement.

April 13.
There is absolutely no news. We are standing by for what may betide, with not the faintest idea of what it may be. Of course, we are drilling all the time, and perfecting our readiness for action in every way, but there is a total absence of that excitement and sense of something impending that one usually associates with the beginning of war. Indeed, I think that the only real anxiety is lest we may not get into the big game at all. I do not think any of us are bloodthirsty or desirous of either glory or advancement, but we have the wish to justify our existence. With me it takes this form — by being in the service I have sacrificed my chance to make good as husband, father, citizen, son, in fact, in every human relationship, in order to be, as I trust, one of the Nation’s high-grade fighting instruments. Now, if fate never uses me for the purpose to which I have been fashioned, then much time, labor, and material have been wasted, and I had better have been made into a good clerk, farmer, or business man.
I do so want to be put to the test and not found wanting. Of course, I know that the higher courage is to do your duty from day to day no matter in how small a line, but all of us conceal a sneaking desire to attempt the higher hurdles and sail over grandly.
You need not be proud of me, for there is no intrinsic virtue in being in the Navy when war is declared; but I hope fate will give me the chance to make you proud.

April 21.
I have been having lots of fun in command myself, and good experience. I have taken her out on patrol up to Norfolk twice, where the channel is as thin and crooked as a corkscrew, then into dry dock. Later, escorted a submarine 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.

May 1.
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 going to help the British. I hope so. Of course, we are a mere drop in the bucket.

May 5.
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 own. 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.

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 dropped our lifeboat, and I went in charge for the fun of it. Beat the R—’s boat to him. He had no life-preserver, 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.

May 26.
I never seem to get time to write a real letter. All hands, including your husband, are so dead tired when off 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.

June 1.
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 merchant 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 blow n 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.

June 8.
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 arc 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 blase 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 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.

June 20.
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 heroic — à 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 something first; and now I am doing the same thing under cover of the letter.

July 2.
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.

July 4.
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 nerveand 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 my face that soap would not lather.

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. 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!

July 26.
I haven’t done anything heroic, which irks me. We would like to get in on the ground floor, while all hands are in a receptive mood, and before the Plattsburgers and other such deathdefying supermen make it too common,

July 22.
Your two letters of July 7 and 8 came this afternoon, but I got the latter first and expected from what you said in contrition that there was hot stuff—gas-attack followed by bayonet-work — in the former; therefore I was all the more ashamed to find you had dealt so leniently and squarely 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!

August 3.
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 deep sea tends to breed in those who follow it long enough. I have known some old Tartars greatly hated by those under them, but to whom a woman or child would take naturally.
What you say about my possibly being taken prisoner both amuses and touches me. The former because it seems so highly unlikely a contingency. Submarines do not take prisoners if they can help it, and least of all from a man-of-war. But I have often thought of just what I should do in such a case, and I have decided that it would be far better to die than to submit to certain things. In which case, I should use my utmost ingenuity to take along one or two adversaries with me.

August 11.
So the boys at home don’t all take kindly to being conscripted, eh? Well, I wish for a lot of reasons that the conscription might be as complete and farreaching as it is in, for instance, France. I think for one thing that universal conscription is the final test of democracy. Again, I think it would do every individual in the nation good to find out that there was something a little bit bigger than he — something that neither money nor politics nor obscurity nor the Labor Union nor any one else could help him to wriggle out of. It would go far towards disillusioning those many who seem to feel that they do not have to take too seriously a government because they have helped to create it.
While I have precious little sympathy for slackers of any variety, one must not judge them too harshly because their minds do not happen to work the same as ours. In nine cases out of ten it is not a question of courage, but one of mental process. Some people come of a caste to whom war or the idea of fighting for their country is second nature. They take it for granted, like death and taxes. If they ever permitted themselves seriously to question the rightness of it; to submit patriotism and courage to an acid analysis, they might suddenly turn arrant cowards. How much harder is it, then, for people who have never even faced the idea of it before to be suddenly placed up against the actual fact!

August 18.
I have been having a little extra fun on my own hook recently. The poor captain has had to have an operation, and will be on his back for some weeks.
Do I like going to war all on my own? Oh no, just like a cat hates cream. It is a wee bit strenuous, as I have to do double duty; and one night I was on the bridge steadily from 9 P.M. to 7 A.M. But the funny part is that I did n’t feel especially all in afterward, and one good sleep fixed me up completely.
I had a big disappointment on my first run out. I nearly bagged a submarine for you. We got her on the surface as nice as anything, but it was very rough, and she was far away, and before I could plunk her, she got under. If she had only — but, as the saying goes, if the dog had n’t stopped to scratch himself, he would have got the rabbit (not, however, that we stopped to scratch ourselves).

August 27.
I am still in command of the ship and love it, but there is a difference between being second in command and being It. It makes you introspective to realize that a hundred lives and a $700,000 ship are absolutely dependent upon you, without anybody but the Almighty to ask for advice if you get into difficulty.
It is not so much the submarines, which are largely a matter of luck, but the navigating. Say I am heading back for port after several days out, the weather is thick as pea-soup, and I have not seen land or had an observation for days. I know where I am, — at least I think I do, — but what if I have miscalculated, or am carried off my course by the strong and treacherous tides on this coast, and am heading right into the breakers somewhere, or perchance a mine-field! Then the fog lifts a little, and I see the cliffs or mountains that I recognize, and bring her in with a slam-bang, much bravado, and a sigh of relief. Don’t you remember the days when you thought son was dying if he cried — or it he did n’t? Well, that’s it!
Don’t get the idea that I have no recreations. We walk and play golf, go to the movies on occasion, and there is always a jolly gang of mixed services to play with.

September 9
. Life here does n’t vary much. The captain is up and taking a few days’ leave, though I doubt if he will take command for two or three weeks yet. But I am having a lovely time running her.
The other night we had a very interesting chap for dinner — a New Zealander he was, who has served in Egypt, Gallipoli, the trenches in France, and is now in the Royal Naval Reserve. The tales he told were of wonderful interest. He was modest and seemed to have been a decent sort, but you could sense the brutalizing effect of war on him. Some of the things he told were such jokes on the Germans that we laughed right heartily.
The beast in man lies so close to the surface. We think we are human and law-abiding of our own volition, whereas, as a matter of fact, nine-tenths of it is from pure habit. It does n’t occur to us to be anything else. But let all standards and customs be scrapped, let us see the things done freely that never even entered our minds before, and a lot of us are liable to develop ape and tiger proclivities. We nearly all put unconscious limits to our humanity. The most chivalrous and kindly Westerner or Southerner would admit that massacring Chinamen, Mexicans, or Negroes is not such a great crime; and the most devoted mother or father is prone to regard as unspanked brats children who to a third party appear quite as well as the critic’s own.

September 20.
I am still in command and loving every minute of it. With any other captain than ours it would be a comedown to resume my place as a subordinate. But in his case I think that all mourn a little when he is away.

September 29.
Oh, it’s great stuff, this being in command and handling the ship alone. Particularly I enjoy swooping down on some giant freighter, like a hawk on a turkey, running close alongside, where a wrong touch to helm or engine may spell destruction, and then demanding through a megaphone why she does or does not do so and so. I have learned more navigation and ship-handling since being over here than in all my previous seagoing experience. In the old ante-bellum days one hesitated to get too close to another ship, even in daytime, far more so at night, even with the required navigation lights on. Now, without so much light as a glowworm could give, we run around, never quite certain when the darkness ahead may turn into a ship close enough to throw a brick at.
However, I am back in the ranks again now, as the captain has come back and resumed command.

October 9.
You must not be resentful because of the things you have gone through, unappreciated by those perhaps for whom you have undergone them. It is one of the laws of life, and a hard law too, but it comes to everybody, either in a few big things or a multitude of little ones. Do the people who keep the world turning around ever get due recognition? I was thinking in much the same resentful vein myself to-day, in my own small way, how thankless the job of an executive officer is; how you never reach any big end, or even feel that you have made progress, but just keep on the job, watching and inspecting and fussing to keep the whole personnel-materiel machine running smoothly, and knowing that your recognition is purely negative, in that, if all goes well, you don’t get called down. And then I calm down and realize that it is all in the game, and that it is the best tribute so to handle your job in life that nothing has to be said. If your car runs perfectly, you neither feel nor hear it, and give it little credit on that account. But let it strip a gear or something go!!
I hate to tell you what I was doing this afternoon. You will think I am not at war at all when I tell you that I have been roller-skating. I was a bit rusty at first, but warmed up to it. It is about the only exercise we can get on shore, for it rains all the time. Each shower puts an added crimp in my temper, as I have been trying to get a new coat of camouflage paint on the ship. I think, if some of the old paintand-polish captains and admirals could see her now, they would die of apoplexy.
I fear there is no chance for you to come over. Admiral Sims disapproves, — not of you personally, — one cannot find a place to live here, and there would be too many hardships. How would it be for you when we had said good-bye, and you saw the ship start out into a howling gale or go out right after several ships had been sunk outside? With you at home among friends, I can keep my mind on my job, which I could n’t if you were alone over here.
Let me say right now that the destroyer torpedoed was not ours. It was hard on you all to have the news published that one had been and a man killed, and not say what boat, as that leaves every one in suspense. I suppose the relatives of the man were notified, but that does n’t help other people who were anxious.
I don’t suppose I can tell you which boat either, if the authorities won’t. You do not know any one on board of her, however. They saw it coming, jammed on full speed, and nearly cleared it. It took them just at the stern and blew off about 30 feet as neatly as son would bite the end off a banana. The submarine heard the explosion, of course, from below, and came to the surface to see the ’damned Yankee’ sink, only to find the rudderless, sternless boat steaming full speed in a circle with her one remaining propeller, and to be greeted by a salvo of four-inch shells that made her duck promptly. The man killed saw the torpedo coming and ran aft to throw overboard some high explosives stowed there — but he did n’t quite make it.
Our destroyers are really wonderful boats — you can shoot off one end of them, ram them, cut them in two, and still they float and get back to port somehow.
Some time ago, on a pitch-dark night, one of them was rammed by a British boat and nearly cut in two. Was there a panic? Not at all. As she settled in the water, they got out their boats and life-rafts, the officers and a few selected men stayed on board, and the rest pulled off in the darkness singing, ‘Are we downhearted? No! ’ and ‘Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.’ She floated, though with her deck awash; the boats were recalled, and they brought her in. She is fixed up and back in the game again now.

October 25.
Where did you hear that about two destroyers being sunk off the coast of Ireland on September 3? False alarm. Of course, you have read in the papers about the convoy destroyed in the North Sea by German raiders. The two British destroyers with the convoy stood up to them and fought as a bulldog would fight a tiger — and with the same result. Somebody was arguing with the Admiral, our boss, to the effect that it would have been better for them to have saved themselves, trailed the raiders, and sent radio, so that British cruisers could have intercepted and destroyed them. Said the Admiral, ‘Yes, it would have been better, but I would court-martial and shoot the man that did it.’ He’s a wonder to serve under, as grim and strict as a Prussian, but very just, and runs things in a way that secures all our admiration — though we may fuss a bit when, expecting two or three comfortable days in port, we get chased out on short notice into a raving gale outside.

November 4.
There are lots of our army people here. Some of them are just passing through, while others are stationed at near-by training camps or hospitals. I was wandering around the big hotel here, when I saw a familiar face in army uniform, and who should it be but M—.Much joy! He is near here, on temporary duty at a British hospital. I had him over to the ship for lunch, and hope to see him again. I certainly respect that boy. He has no military ambitions, and wishes the war were over, so he could get back to his wife and children; but he answered the call while others were hiding behind volleys of language, and he is here to see it through. I am afraid he is homesick and lonely, for it is harder for a boy who does not know the English than for us hardened mercenaries, who are accustomed to hobnob with everybody from Cubans to Cossacks.
I will be glad when American Army and Navy uniforms are designed by a tailor who really knows something about it. Alas, our people are distinctly inferior to the British in the cut of their jib. I think it is the high standing collar that queers us. It is only at its best when one stands at Attention, — head up, chest out, arms at side, — being distinctly a parade uniform. The British, with their rolling collar, and coat tight where it may be and loose where it needs to be, are, you might say, less military and better dressed.
Tell the Enfant that I am very proud when he gets gold honor-marks on his school-papers, and I think that it probably means about the same as a star on a midshipman’s collar. (That ought to get him.)
I must close and get a bit of sleep. It seems as if, when it is all over, all the heaven I will want is to be with you and son again, perfectly quiet.

AT SEA, November 16.
I think a true democracy is necessarily inefficient in a way. The only really efficient government in the world is the one which we intend to pull down, or else go down ourselves, trying to!
Can’t you imagine, in the dim Valhalla beyond, how the archer of Pharaoh, the swordsman from the plains before Troy, and the Roman legionary will greet the hurrying souls of the aviator, the bomb-thrower, and the bayonet-man with, ‘Brother, what were you?’
I’d hate to have to explain to their uncomprehending ears what a conscientious objector is!

December 2.
Well, to-day is one of the big days of my life, for I assumed command of this little packet. I put on my sword and fixings and reported to Captain Paine, who was most benevolent. Several of us went on shore to celebrate with a little dinner. Some of the boys just over joined in, and we became involved with some Highland officers of a fighting regiment famous throughout Europe for the last three hundred years. One’s first ship, like the first baby, is an event that cannot be duplicated.

December 21.
I needed your letter, being about twenty years older than I was a week ago. No, no harm done. Just had my first experience of what it means under certain circumstances to be in command. Went out with certain others on a certain job. All went well, though we had a poor grade of oil in our bunkers and were burning more than we should ordinarily. Then, through certain chances, we had to go farther than expected. Still, I figured to get back with a moderate margin, when the gale struck us. You may have read of Biscay storms; well, believe me, they are not overrated. I have seen just as bad, perhaps, but not from the deck of a destroyer. And while I am frantically calculating whether I shall have enough fuel to make port or not, there is a wild yell from the bridge that the rudder is jammed at hard-a-starboard and can’t be moved. She, of course, at once fell off into the trough of the sea, and the big green combers swept clear over her at every roll, raising merry hob. All the boats were smashed to kindling-wood; chests, and everything on deck not riveted down, went over the side. In that sea you could no more manoeuvre by your engines alone than you could dam Niagara with a handful of sand. A man alongside of me aft, where we were working on the steering-gear, was swept overboard, but, having a line around his waist, was hauled back like a hooked fish.
All I could do was to steam in a big circle, and at one point would be running before it, and could work for an instant or two with the seas running up to our waists. When they get over your head, you probably won’t be there any longer. At that time I didn’t really expect to stay afloat, but was too busy with the matters in hand to care. Well, we finally got it fixed, though we could only use about 15 degrees of rudder instead of full.
All this time we were drifting merrily to leeward at a rate that I hated even to guess at, with the certainty, unless matters mended, of eventually piling up on the Spanish coast, then not far away, though I had n’t had a sight of sun or stars in days, and did n’t know within fifty miles where I was. Well, when I finally headed up into it, I could just about hold her, without making any headway to speak of. You cannot drive a destroyer dead into a heavy sea at full speed without busting her in two. Still the situation would have been nothing to worry about much if I had had sufficient fuel. Now, you on shore may fancy that a ship just keeps on steaming till she gets there, whether it takes a month or more; but such is far from the case. Every mile you go consumes just so much fuel, and, if your margin of safety is too small, you are liable to be out of luck. And my calculations showed me that while I was using up oil enough to be making— knots, in the teeth of the gale we were only making—knots, and that at that rate I never would make port.
There were three courses open to me: to let her drift, consuming my oil, in the hope that it would blow over; to run into a Spanish port; or to run for France, my destination, and, if I fell trust to luck that they could send out and pick me up. The first course was too risky. I would be making untold miles to leeward all the time, would probably roll the masts and funnels out of her, and maybe bust down anyhow, too far off for help. The second choice was the safest. I could reach Ferrol or Vigo all right, but they would probably try to intern me; and while I had heard that King Alfonso was a regular guv and a good scout to run around with, the ensuing diplomatic complications would make me about as popular in Allied circles as the proverbial skunk at a bridge-party. So I took the final alternative, and jammed her into the teeth of it for all I thought she could stand without imitating an operahat or an accordion. And, glory be, she made it, the blessed little old cross between a porpoise and a safety-razor blade! Whether the gale really moderated, or I got more nerve, I don’t know; but anyhow I gave her more and more, half a knot at a time, until we were actually making appreciable headway against it. I never thought any ship could stand the bludgeoning she got. It seemed as if every rivet must shear, every frame and stanchion crush, under the impact of the Juggernaut seas that hurtled into her. As a thoroughbred horse starts and trembles under the touch of the whip, so she reared and trembled, only to bury herself again in the roaring Niagara of water. Oh, you thoroughbred hightensile steel! blue-blooded aristocrat among metals; Bethlehem or Midvale may claim you, — you are none the less worthy of the Milan casque, the Damascus blade, your forefathers! Verily, I believe you hold on by sheer nerve, when by all physical laws you should buckle or bend to the shock!
And so we kept on. Don’t you know how in the stories it is always in a terrific gale that the caged lion or gorilla or python breaks loose and terrorizes the ship? We don’t sport a menagerie on the—, but I did pick up the contents of the dry gun-cotton case, which had broken and spilt the torpedo detonators around on deck contiguous to the hot radiator! And, of course, the decks below were knee-deep in books, clothes, dishes, etc., complicated in some compartments by a foot or two of oil and water.
Well, the next day we made a little more, and the seas were only gigantic, not titanic. The oil was holding out better, too, as we struck a better grade in some of our tanks, and I saw that we had a fighting chance of making it. By night I felt almost confident we could, and I really slept some. Next day I expected to make land, but, of course, had little idea how far I might really be from my reckoning. Nevertheless, we sighted—Light about where I expected to, and laid a course from there into the harbor. It was a rather thick, foggy day, and pretty soon I noted a cunning little rock or two dead ahead, where they did n’t by any means belong. So I rather hurriedly arrested further progress, took soundings, and bearings of different landmarks, and found that we were some twenty-five miles from our reckoning—so far, in fact, as to have picked up the next light-house instead of the one we thought.
After this’t was plain sailing, though I had never been into that port before. Made it about noon, took possession of a convenient mooring-buoy inside the breakwater, — which buoy I found out later was sacred to the French flag-ship or somebody like that—called on our Admiral there, and was among friends. Yes, by heck, I let ’em buy me a drink at the club — I needed it! Had oil enough left for just about an hour more!