Letters

1 January 1916

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

[1 January 1916] Cairo. Jan. 1. My dearest Mother. A second year of war - and I can only wish you, as I wished you last first of January that we may not see another. Never another year like the last, though I wonder if I could choose, whether I would not have it all again, for the wonder it held, and bear the sorrow again. And dearest, not least of the wonder would be your kindness and love, yours and Father's, bless him a thousand times. I can't write of it, but I ask myself what I should have done without it and find no answer. I don't speak of these things now; it's best to keep silence. But you know that they are always in my mind.

Where did I leave off in my last letter? You missed last mail and I haven't had a letter from home for a fortnight. I am hoping for a good batch today or tomorrow. I think I posted my last letter at Kom Ombu - we went up to Aswan and had a heavenly afternoon there, the MacMahons, Lord Edward and I. A wonderful place it is. Finally we escaped from the clutches of an omnipresent Mudir and made off in a sailing boat round exquisite rocky islands on one of which we landed and found ourselves in a fairy rose garden, pink with great roses flowering under the shade of palm trees. We came away with sheaves of them. Next day Lord Edward left to our great sorrow. Sir Henry had to interview notables, but we took donkeys and rode out into the desert. It was a most enjoyable morning. And in the afternoon we went up the first cataract, saw the Dam and Philae, half under water, the poor temples, and passed the night anchored just above the dam. I longed for Father - he would have loved to see it all. We sailed round the huge lake formed by the dam next morning and then turned our faces homewards, very regretfully. It took us only 15 hours steaming to get down stream to Luxor - far too quick we all thought it. We spent the afternoon at Karnak [Karnak, El] and watched the sun set from the top of the huge pylon. Our last day was one of the most enjoyable of all. We took donkeys and our lunch and made a long expedition to the tombs of the Kings and their temples, coming back in the afternoon past the Colossi. So after tea to our train and a night's journey brought us back to Cairo yesterday morning. I washed and breakfasted and then went up to the office where I was greeted with enthusiasm. And George Lloyd had arrived - wasn't it delightful! He dined with me last night, he and Mr Lawrence and Col. Newcombe, a nice man whom I once met in C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)]. George and I escaped afterwards and had a long talk to finish the year. He is on Maxwell's staff at present, but there is going to be a comprehensive military rearrangement and what exactly will happen none of us know. It seems likely that we shall all be ejected from the I.D. but there is another scheme on hand which will absorb us. And it's probable that I may go on for a few days to India towards the end of the month. I have had long and very interesting letters from Domnul and an invitation from the Viceroy who wants to see me. It comes rather conveniently for there are certain matters on which we should like to have the V.'s sympathy and co-operation. I should not stay more than a week. It seems a long way to go from Saturday to Monday! but my chiefs are inclined to think it would be worth it. I will telegraph to you if this plan takes form. Mr Hogarth writes to me that he is coming back as soon as possible, which will be very nice. Also he might bring me out some clothes! Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Don't say anything about all my plans - the less these things are talked about the better.

Previous page