What were the rights of a soldier, anyway? Was he privileged to discuss political issues, and to agree with the utterances of the President of his country? Might he believe, as the President believed, in a just peace and the right of all peoples to freedom and self-determination, even though many of the officers of the army hated and despised such ideas? Jimmie didn’t know, and there was nobody to tell him; but Jimmie knew that he hadn’t meant to give up his rights as a citizen when he enlisted to fight for democracy, and if these rights were taken away from him, it would not be without a struggle.
The transports came into the region of icebergs, and low-hanging mists, and rocky cliffs covered with snow, and flocks of seagulls flying over them. For days and nights on end they steamed in those Arctic waters, and came at last into the White Sea, and the harbour of Archangel.
The Allies had been here since the beginning of the war, building docks and sheds and railway yards; but they had never been able to build enough, and the transport department of the corrupt Russian government having gone to pieces, here were mountains of supplies of every sort you could think of for an army, piled high on the shores. At least, that was what Jimmie had been told; he had read in the newspapers that the statement was made officially in answer to questions in the British Parliament. Jimmie had understood that he was here to save those mountains of supplies from the Germans, and he was surprised when he looked about the harbour and saw no mountains of any sort.
Back in the interior were vast trackless forests of fir-trees, and moss-covered swamps in which in summertime a man would sink up to his neck. Now, in September, they were already frozen solid, and you travelled over them with a sledge and a team of reindeer, bundled up in furs and looking, except for the whiskers, like the pictures of Santa Claus you had seen when you were a kid. But most of the traffic of the army was upon the rivers which cut the forests and swamps, and the single railroad, which was being put back into commission.
This country had, of course, no roads on which motor-cycles could be used, even in summer. Jimmie found that his job would be confined to the city and the encampments near about. A few streets would be kept clear of snow, and the little band of messengers would scoot about them, now and then taking a slide into a snow-bank and smashing things up. That would have been all right, and Jimmie would have bossed the job and been happy as he knew how to be—had only his mind been at peace.