Nelson's House, Beyrut, Syria
May 26, 1920
This morning we have been making the final preparations to leave all camp outfit, field beds and the like behind in storage here in Beyrut. We have slept for the last time in a field bed! El-hamdu li’llah! I went over to the college just now with Harold to arrange for the storage of our stuff until some future need for it arises. As I unrolled my field bed, a corpulent, well-fed and contented looking bedbug slid expeditiously across the blanket! I contemplated him thankfully, enjoying the comfortable assurance that he and I and many of his kindred were bed-fellows no longer, and I resigned him to the waiting executioner in the person of the faithful Ali. In the corridor we met Professor Nicolay, the Acting-President, since the death of Dr. Bliss. He reminded me that I am to address the assembled college tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock, and very kindly expressed his regret that it will be impossible for me to remain and make the Commencement Address as I had expected to do. Coming overland from Baghdad has brought me here so early that it would be necessary for me to return here from Egypt to keep the Commencement Day engagement, so I asked them with much regret to excuse me. So I shall have a busy day tomorrow, our last day here, preparing for final departure, for this address, and for an interview with General Gouraud, the French High Commissioner in Syria.
Thus far the endeavor to reach home soon, or to ensure passage homeward has not proved successful. I presume you will have received by this time a cablegram giving you the date of my sailing from Naples, but viewed from this place and date, the outlook for securing passage is very gloomy. The overflow from India, the strikes which have tied up the French ships in Marseilles, the hosts of wealthy Egyptians going to Switzerland for the summer, have crowded the Italian ships, the only ones left by which to reach Italy. Thus the Mediterranean ships are all full for the first half of the summer, and the Atlantic ships westward bound are all full for the second half of the summer, and between the two the prospect of getting back to America soon are not bright. It may be so late by the time we reach Italy that there will be nothing left on the trans-Atlantic lines from Italy to New York. It seems that when the ships are more than full, the companies sell everything themselves and leave nothing for Cook, in order to avoid giving him a commission. I have therefore just wired a long message to Cairo to one of the antiquity dealers there, an active aggressive young fellow, and asked him to see all the agents of the lines themselves and secure us berths for Italy arriving not later than July 5th in Naples; — if necessary in second class, or dividing the party among different lines. If I succeed in nailing berths for an early sailing from Naples to New York, I shall see to it that I reach Naples in time to catch the New York sailing, if I have to cross the Mediterranean in the steerage! And judging from all reports, that arrangement is not in the least unlikely! I shall know before I leave here however, as I have asked Naples and Cairo to wire me the results.
For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!
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