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gloom; the buzzing air is vitiated and oppressive. The
smoking-room, with its convivial crowd of tipsy jab-
berers, is no place to write descriptive prose in. Out
here it is quieter. In the saloon below some officers
are playing cards; others are occupied with a small
roulette-wheel. I gaze down at their well-oiled heads,
where they bend over the green tables; I listen to the
chink of coins and the jargon of their ejaculative
comments on the game, while dusky stewards con-
tinually bring them drinks. These are the distractions
which drug their exasperation and alarm; for like the
boat they are straining forward to safety, environed
by the menace of submarines.
Having watched all this for a while, I stumble from
a dim passage into blustering darkness and invigorat-
ing air. Out there the sea is darker than the sky, but
the escorting destroyers are seen like long shadowsó
scarcely more than a blur on the water, stealing for-
ward all the time.
Gradually getting used to the gloom, I see a sentry
looming by the davits, silent above the recumbent
sleepers, while the sea races backward cavernous and
chill with spray.
All along the decks the troops are sleeping, huddled
close together under their blankets. And on their
defencelessness a gleam of stars looks down.
Nothing is heard but the sluicing of the waves and
the throb of the engines.
Within are chart-rooms and engine-rooms, and the
wireless operator in his little den, and the captain in
his stateroom, and all the rest of them whose dutiful-
ness may at any moment become a futile contention
with disaster. And outside, the mystery and unpity-
ing hugeness of the sea; and the soldiers whose sleep-
ing forms remind me of the dead.