My passage was uneventful. No submarines, no bad weather, nothing disagreeable. On the eighth day I looked out through a welter of fog and rain to the place where the Statue of Liberty should have been waving a greeting across New York harbor. The lady wasn’t visible, but I knew she was there. And even in a downpour equal to anything furnished by the choicest of Flanders rainstorms, little old New York looked better than anything I could imagine, except sober and staid old Boston.
That I am at home, safe and free of the horrors of war, is to me a strange thing. I think it comes into the experience of most of the men who have been over there and who have been invalided out of the service. Looking back on the awfulness of the trenches and the agonies of mind and body, the sacrifice seems to fade into insignificance beside the satisfaction of having done a bit in the great and just cause.
Now that our own men are going over, I find myself with a very deep regret that I cannot go too. I can only wish them the best of luck and rest in confidence that every man will do his uttermost.
SUGGESTIONS FOR “SAMMY”
I cannot end this book without saying something to those who have boys over there and, what is more to the point, to those boys who may go over there.
First as to the things that should be sent in parcels; and a great deal of consideration should be given to this. You must be very careful not to send things that will load your Sammy down, as every ounce counts in the pack when he is hiking, and he is likely to be hiking any time or all the time.
In the line of eatables the soldier wants something sweet. Good hard cookies are all right. I wish more people in this country knew how to make the English plum pudding in bags, the kind that will keep forever and be good when it is boiled. Mainly, though, chocolate is the thing. The milk kind is well enough, but it is apt to cause overmuch thirst. Personally I would rather have the plain chocolate,—the water variety.
Chewing gum is always in demand and is not bulky in the package. Send a lot of it. Lime and lemon tablets in the summertime are great for checking thirst on the march. A few of them won’t do any harm in any parcel, summer or winter.
Now about smoking materials. Unless the man to whom the parcel is to be sent is definitely known to be prejudiced against cigarettes, don’t send him pipe tobacco or a pipe. There are smokers who hate cigarettes just as there are some people who think that the little paper roll is an invention of the devil. If any one has a boy over there, he—or she—had better overcome any possible personal feeling against the use of cigarettes and send them in preference to anything else.
From my own experience I know that cigarettes are the most important thing that can be sent to a soldier. When I went out there, I was a pipe smoker. After I had been in the trenches a week I quit the pipe and threw it away. It is seldom enough that one has the opportunity to enjoy a full pipe. It is very hard to get lighted when the matches are wet in bad weather, which is nearly always. Besides which, say what you will, a pipe does not soothe the nerves as a fag does.