While I was watering my horse, I tried to ask questions from a few inhabitants. My fair hair and complexion and my khaki costume made them take me for a German, and they barely answered me, but when I addressed them in French their faces lit up. For the Lebanon, for all it is thousands of miles away from France, is nevertheless like a French province. For fifty years the French language and French culture have taken hold of the Lebanon. No Frenchman has more love for and faith in France than lie in the hearts of the Lebanese Christians. They have never forgotten that when massacres were threatening to wipe out all the Christians of the Lebanon, ten thousand French soldiers swept over the mountains to spread peace, life, and French gayety.
And when the poor people heard the language they loved, and when they found out that I too was the son of an oppressed and ruined community, all the sadness and bitterness of their hearts was told me,—how the Turkish soldiers had spread over the beloved mountains of Lebanon; how the strong, stalwart young Lebanese had been taken away from the mountains and forced into the Turkish army; how the girls and women were hiding in their homes, afraid to be seen by the soldiers and their officers; how the chieftains were imprisoned and even hanged; and how violence and pillage had spread over the peaceful country.[Footnote: Since the above was written the American press has chronicled many atrocities committed in the Lebanon. The execution of leaders and the complete blockade of the mountains by the Turkish authorities resulted in the starving of eighty thousand Lebanese. The French Government has warned Turkey through the American Ambassador that the Turks will be held accountable for their deeds.]
I could not help wondering at the mistakes of the Allies. If they had understood the situation in Palestine and Syria, how differently this war might have eventuated! The Lebanon and Syria would have raised a hundred thousand picked men, if the Allies had landed in Palestine. The Lebanon would have fought for its independence as heroically as did the Belgians. Even the Arab population would have welcomed the Allies as liberators. But alas!
With a saddened heart I pursued my journey into Beirut. My coming was a joyful surprise to my sister. Many sad things had happened since she had last seen me. During my imprisonment she had suffered tortures, not knowing what would happen to me, and now that she saw me alive she cried from happiness. She told me how kindly she had been treated by President Bliss, of the Syrian Protestant College, and of all the good things the college had done.
What a blessing the college was for the people of Beirut! Many unfortunate people were saved from prison and hardships through the intervention of President Bliss. He never tired of rendering service, wonderful personal service. But alas, even his influence and power began to wane. The American prestige in the country was broken, and the Turkish Government no longer respected the American flag. An order issued from Constantinople demanded that the official language of the college be Turkish instead of English, and Turkish officers even dared to enter the college premises to search for citizens belonging to the belligerent nations, without troubling to ask permission from the American Consul.