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sians who would cut his throat rather than bother to take him prisoner. You can't do it. You don't believe any of it. Things like that might happen to other men's sons, but never to yours. So we dreamed on, as the sailing was postponed from week to week.
Then late one afternoon, a message came that if I wished to see my son before he sailed the next morning I must immediately present myself at a certain place, and receive the special written authority to accompany him aboard the transport which had been accorded to me by the War Department. I hung up the receiver weakly. That curt voice on the other end of the wire had paralyzed my motor centres. They couldn't be going to ship him off like that, without giving him a chance to say good-by to his mother ! It wasn't human! But I had no time to waste if I was to meet him, for the place of embarkation was a long distance from New York City.
I scribbled a hurried note for Helen, who was downtown, put the bundles and packages in a valise, summoned a taxi, and within an hour had been given my pass and full instructions as to what I must do. I took a train to a certain nameless town, and shortly before midnight was hurrying down a side street leading to an empty railroad yard near the water-front.
I can see every detail of it as vividly now as I could then. Night after night I find myself there in my dreams. It is always the same-my sufferings are
the same. I am stumbling along in the dark in my fur coat, carrying my bag, when out of the shadows a vague figure lurches forward and holds a bayoneted rifle against my chest. Under the yellow circle of a flash-light my letter of identification and pass are examined and I am told to pass on. Half a block farther along I am stopped again and the process is repeated. Once more, and at last I am turned loose into the network of tracks where the trains are to come in.
Over on the other side half a dozen forms are standing around a small fire, and I clamber across the railroad-ties and make myself known to them. They are transportation officers and express surprise at the permission granted me. I mention the name of my partner Morris. "Oh, Morris!"-that explains it. Apparently he is some sort of hidden power who lurks behind the arras at Washington. They show great respect for Morris's partner, and I hand round cigars, inquiring when the train is expected. The senior officer says it ought to be in in about an hour— it is due already; but they had a hot box or something. He expresses unmitigated contempt for the railroad cor'poration whose enforced hospitality we are enjoying.
It is cold and we huddle together, warming our finger-joints over the tiny blaze-a large one might attract attention; for the government has succeeded in keeping the location of the place a secret and no one may approach within half a mile without proper
identification. We talk of things military and naval in a desultory way. The transportation officer thinks the war will last not less than five-very probably ten years. I am just recovering from the shock of his prophecy when a green semaphore swings up at the lower end of the yard. "Train's coming!" he says, and we all hasten after him down the track.
Round a curve chugs an old-fashioned locomotive with a dirty headlight. It stops, jerks, and heaves again, banging the cars together behind it like empty coal-scuttles. There is no light except in the driver's cab; every car-window is tightly closed, with curtains drawn. Slowly the antediluvian engine, with its antiquated smoke-stack, yanks its burden into the middle of the yard and, with a final cough, relapses into silence.
No sound comes from inside the cars, though cracks of light are visible round the edges of the windows. Are there really men inside, or is it a chain of "empties"? The officer climbs to the platform and pokes his head into one of the cars. A rookie appears and swings down to the ground, followed by a dozen others, who move toward the engine. They are the baggage-squad charged with the duty of transporting the soldiers' kits to the waiting steamer.
Where is Jack? I begin to be impatient. The quiet is getting on my nerves. No one speaks above a whisper. One of the officers taps me on the shoul
der, leads me to one of the farther cars, and goes inside. In a few moments he comes back with a tall, coated figure. The form doesn't look natural, somehow. Then two hands are clapped on my shoulders and Jack's voice whispers: "Hello, sir! Bully of you to come! Sorry I couldn't see mother again. But you'll explain to her, won't you?"
Together we stand in silence under the canopy of stars, as one by one the sleepy men drop off the steps of the car and form in loose lines outside. Jack leans over and tells me that the boys are all very tired; that the cars are of the vintage of 1875-exhumed from some forgotten limbo for this purpose-and practically without ventilation. Do I know where he could buy them some coffee? I shake my head. Apparently no provision has been made for any refreshment at this stage of their journey. Lights flash here and there about the yard. The pile of luggage has melted away. The fire has died out.
A noncom hurries up and says something to Jack in a low tone. There is a movement of expectation along the waiting line of men, which stiffens up and shuffles together. There is a muffled word of command; the line faces toward the right and the men march off in single file. I follow along with Jack, who has taken my bag away from me and tucked his arm under mine. We feel our way along the yard, skirt a pile of coal, stumble across a vacant lot covered with
empty tin cans and clinkers, and come to a wharf at which is tied up an ancient side-wheel steamer belonging to a bygone era of navigation. She shows no lights except a riding light. Her decks are empty.
We mount the gang-plank and pile into the dingy saloon. Kerosene-lamps are smoking in brackets along the walls, the window-shades are closely drawn. It is dank and stuffy in there, but the fellows begin to joke, referring to the old tub as the Mayflower. I have a strange feeling of unreality. This is not my ides of a departure at all. It is more like the aftermath of a Yale-Harvard game, the anticlimax of coming back in a crowded smoking-car after it is all over. The men compose themselves in various attitudes of discomfort and try to go to sleep. Many lie down on the floor. Three repose at full length on the table in the centre. I try unsuccessfully to think of something to say to Jack.
At the end of forty-five minutes we hear the gangplank being run. in and there is a jingle from the engine-room. The wheels begin to turn and the old side-wheeler begins to strain and groan. From forward the transportation officer beckons us to join him and we ascend to the pilot-house, where we find seven or eight others. All is darkness, except for the aura round the binnacle and the glowing tips of the ciga
We are about a quarter of a mile from shore and