At last, however, he came on deck, an utterly humbled Socialist agitator, asking only a corner to lie in the sunshine—preferably where he could not see the Atlantic surges, the very thought of which turned him inside out. But gradually he found his feet again, and ate with permanence, and looked out over the water and saw the other vessels of the convoy, weirdly painted with many-coloured splotches, steaming in the shape of a gigantic V, with two cruisers in front, and another on each side, and another bringing up the rear. Day and night the look-outs kept watch, and the wigwag men and the heliograph men were busy, and the wireless buzzed its warnings of the movements of the underwater foe. The U-boats had not yet got a transport, but they had made several tries, and everyone knew that they would continue trying. Twice a day the clanging of bells sounded from one end of the vessel to the other, and the crews rushed to the boat-drill; each passenger had his number, and unless he was ill in his berth he had to take his specified place, with his life-preserver strapped about his waist.
The passengers played cards, and read and sang and skylarked about the decks. Up on the top deck, to which Jimmie was not invited, were officers, also a number of women and girls belonging to the hospital and ambulance units. “Janes” was the term by which the soldier-boys described these latter; you could see they were a good sort of “Janes”, serious and keen for their job, looking business-like and impressive in their uniforms with many pockets. Among them were suffragists, answering the taunt of the other sex, showing that in war as well as in peace the world needed them; it had to find a place for them on board the most badly crowded transport.
Never having been on an ocean-liner before, Jimmie did not know that it was crowded; it did not trouble him that there was hardly room for a walk on the decks. He watched the sea and the great white gulls and the piebald ships; he watched the crew at work, and got acquainted with his fellow-passengers. Before long he found a driver of an ambulance who was a Socialist; also an I.W.W. from the Oregon lumber-camps. Even the “wobblies”, it appeared, had come to hate the Kaiser; a bunch of them were in France, and more would have come, if the government had not kept them cross by putting their leaders into jail. An army officer with some sense had gone into the spruce-country of the far North-west, and had appealed to the patriotism of the men, giving them decent hours and wages, and recognizing their unions; as a result, even the dreaded I.W.W. organization had turned tame, and all the lumberjacks had pitched in to help in “canning the Kaiser!”