At last the boat got away, and five minutes later we were mounting the side of the Des Moines. Throngs of refugees covered the decks of the cruiser. Their faces showed tension and anxiety. Their presence there seemed too good to be true, and all awaited the moment when the ship should heave anchor. A Filipino sailor showed us about, and as he spoke Italian, I told him I wanted to be hidden somewhere till the ship got under way. I felt that even yet we were not entirely safe. That my fears were justified I discovered shortly, when from our hiding-place I saw the shopkeeper approaching in a small boat with a Turkish officer. They looked over all the refugees on the deck, but searched for us in vain. After a half-hour more of uncomfortable tension the engines began to sputter, the propellers revolved, and—we were safe!
[ILLUSTRATION: BEIRUT, FROM THE DECK OF AN OUTGOING STEAMER]
The day was dying and a beautiful twilight softened the outlines of the Lebanon and the houses of Beirut. The Mediterranean lay quiet and peaceful around us, and the healthy, sturdy American sailors gave a feeling of confidence. As the cruiser drew out of the harbor, a great cry of farewell arose from the refugees on board, a cry in which was mingled the relief of being free, anguish at leaving behind parents and friends, fear and hope for the future. A little later the sailors were lined up in arms to salute the American flag when it was lowered for the night. Moved by a powerful instinct of love and respect, all the refugees jumped to their feet, the men bareheaded and the women with folded hands, and in that moment I understood as I had never understood before the real sacred meaning of a flag. To all those people standing in awe about that piece of cloth bearing the stars and stripes America was an incarnation of love universal, of freedom and salvation.
The cool Syrian night, our first night on the cruiser, was spent in songs, hymns, and conversation. We were all too excited to sleep. Friends discovered friends and tales of woe were exchanged, stories of hardship, injustice, oppression, all of which ended with mutual congratulations on escaping from the clutches of the Turks.