On the saloon deck many of the officers turned and stepped inside. That set the fashion, for hundreds of enlisted men left their own decks and went below, either to sleep, read or write letters.
Then, a minute later, Major Wells once more appeared at the rail forward, calling down:
“For the benefit of those who like exact statistics I will say that the commanding officer has just received a signaled message to the effect that the navies of two countries got an enemy submarine apiece. You may omit the cheers!”
Those who remained on deck saw, a couple of hours later, several specks off on the water which, they were told, were British and American patrol boats out to give aid to victims of submarine sinkings.
Then night came on, dark, hazy, a bit chilling, so that officers and men alike were glad enough to seek their berths and get in under olive drab blankets.
“The haze and mist will hinder submarines anyway, so the weather is in our favor,” was the word passed around.
Save for the guard, and those on other active duty, the passengers on the troopship slept soundly. They might be sunk in the night, but American fighting men do not always dwell on danger.
When first call sounded in the morning the men rubbed their eyes, then realized that the ship was proceeding at very slow speed.
“Get up, you lubbers!” called a man going down to one of the berth decks. “Do you realize that the ship is at the entrance of a French harbor?”
Then a cheer went up that no officer could have stopped until it had spent its first force.
At last! France! “Over there!”
Never had men dressed faster. How the soldiers piled up the companionways! Yet a few bethought themselves to kick their now discarded life belts with a show of resentment and contempt.
However, the first glimpses had from the decks were bound to be disappointing. It was just after daylight. The mist of the night had thickened instead of vanishing. Here and there patchy bits of land could be seen through the haze, but for the most part France was invisible behind a curtain of early winter fog.
One at a time, under the guidance of local pilots, transports moved slowly into the harbor, moved slowly some more, then docked.
Here at last, made fast to a French pier constructed by American engineer troops! But where were the cheering crowds of French? Absent, for two reasons. The French had already seen many regiments of American troops arrive in former months, and the novelty of such a sight had worn off. Besides, most of the French who lived in this same port were now just about quitting their own beds.
“Who’ll be first ashore from this regiment?” demanded a laughing soldier as he witnessed the work of bringing the first gangway aboard from the pier.
“The guard!” tersely replied Captain Cartwright, as he appeared with a sergeant and a detachment from the guard. As soon as the gangway had been made fast sentries were thrown out, two of them being stationed at the foot of the gangway itself.