Last of all the almost muffled noises of gangways being drawn down on to the piers. Hawsers were cast off. Stealthy tugs hauled the ocean monster out into the stream.
“Off at last!” was felt more than spoken. Then the tugs let go and the ship, outwardly darkened save for the few necessary running lights, moved slowly down stream.
Some venturesome soldiers found their way up on deck.
Above them, on a still higher deck, the shadowy forms of officers were discernible.
The strangeness of the dark sea lay over all. It seemed uncanny, this dark departure from one’s native land—–the land for which these men were going to fight, to bleed and die!
Yet there was no sense of fear. It was the strangeness that gripped all minds.
Up forward on the spar deck a few enlisted men opened their mouths to sing. The chorus grew in volume and the words rolled up:
"And I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way!"
"For I belong to the Regulars. I’m proud to say."
"And I’ll do my dooty-ooty, Night or day."
"I don’t know where I’m going, But I’m on my way!" Breaking through the words the ship’s deep-throated whistle boomed its own notes.
IN THE WATERS OF THE SEA WOLVES
Some days later the same ship steamed steadily through the waters on the further side of the Atlantic.
Nor was the Ninety-ninth alone. Seven other transports were keeping her company, together with a busy, bustling escort of British and American destroyers.
For these American adventurers of to-day were nearing the coast of Ireland.
Whether these transports were to unload their cargoes of human beings and munitions at any port in Great Britain or Ireland few on the transports knew, nor did those few tell others.
Ever since the first morning out there had been daily drills, on every transport, in abandoning ship. A few night drills, too, had been held. Not an officer or man was there but knew his station and his lifeboat in case of disastrous meeting with a submarine.
These had not been the only drills, however. From morning to night platoons had been drawn up on the decks and military drills had been all but incessant while daylight lasted. Especially had the newest recruits been drilled. By this time the latest of them to join the regiment had gained considerable of the appearance of the soldier.
Dick and Greg, sharing the same cabin, had been much together, for on shipboard they had found much leisure. It had been the lieutenants who had drilled the platoons. Captains were but little occupied on shipboard.
On the morning that it became known that the fleet had entered the Danger Zone, Dick and Greg stood on deck to the port of the pilot house. Leaning over the rail they idly scanned the surface of the sea to northward.