Letters

4 April 1907

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

[4 April 1907] Smyrna [Izmir] April 4 Dearest Mother. I hope I shall get off on Monday. My preparations are really all finished but I have to wait and hear about the headman for my diggings whom Mr Richard Whittall is engaging for me. As this is the most important matter of all I cannot leave without settling it. Meantime I am going tomorrow with the Cumberbatches on an expedition into the mountains to see the Sesostris monument (it is Hittite). I was going by myself, which wd have been still nicer, but they proposed themselves and of course I had to accept with enthusiasm. I don't really mind and it simplifies matters as they make all the arrangements. We sleep a night at a place called Nif [Kemalpasa]. I spent yesterday afternoon at Burnabat [Bornova] which is the place where all the English people live, a charming little town of big houses and gardens under the hills. One of the Whittall girls met me at the station and we went together to see Mrs Stonor's aunt (tell Aunt Maisie) and then to call on all my Whittall friends. They all live in big delicious gardens and they have been here for generations. There are numbers of them - the grandmother who is now 85 married at 15 and had 20 children! Her children, the elder generation, are represented as far as I am concerned by 3 brothers, Herbert, Edward, and Richard. They are tall spare men about Father's standing; they have the bulk of the English trade in their hands, branch offices all down the southern coast, mines and shooting boxes and properties scattered up and down the SW corner of Asia Minor and yachts on the seas. They all have immense quantities of children the sons young men now in the varies[?] Whittall businesses, of a funny sort of colonial type, the daughters very charming, very gay, spending all the summer in picnicking and all the winter dancing and playing bridge. The big gardens touch one another and they walk in and out of one another's houses all day long gossiping and laughing. I should think life presents itself no where under such easy and pleasant conditions. The clan plays a considerable role in AM. Edward W. was the most intimate friend of the last Vali, Kiamil Pasha. I Bellieve he consulted him in everything. They have all sorts of people under their protection, even the brigands turn to them for their intercession when it comes to settling up scores with the govt. and they know the country and the people as Englishmen could scarcely know it, for indeed they are half orientals themselves. I stayed with the Herbert Whittalls last time I was here and this time Richard W. is making nearly all my arrangements for me. They are endlessly kind people and if one tells them of any difficulty, it vanishes in a trice. Today I lunched with the Cumberbatches and we went to call on the Vali - my Konia [Konya (Iconium)] friend, Faik Pasha. Faik is not a remarkable person. He spends most of his time in avoiding the taking of any action so as not to get into trouble. His wife is a very charming woman, a Circassian; she was in the Sultan's harem and pleased him so much that when he gave her to Faik he settled an annuity on her. I don't wonder he liked her. She embraced me affectionately when I came in - I had seen her too at Konia - and I managed to stammer a little Turkish to her which was at least better than sitting silent. There was a daughter too a very pretty girl of about 16 who talked extremely good French. She talked to Mrs Cumberbatch who can't speak a word of Turkish - that's so like them! Mrs C. spoke Greek before she spoke English but she can't read it. I made a diversion in the middle by spilling my coffee over my gown - fortunately a dark one - very clumsy of me, but it wasn't really a bad episode for it gave us something to do, mopping up the coffee. I think the Pasha gives his women a good deal of liberty. They seem to make expeditions all about. The little daughter is of the new school, a curious contrast to her mother. There came in while we were there the wife of the Vali's secretary; Mme Pasha got up and made the salutations most prettily, bowing almost to the ground, and after they had sat down again she turned to the newcomer in the correct manner and saluted her again. But the girl never looked up from the photograph book she was showing us. As we went out I said to her that their house seemed very nice. "Mais oui" said she "seulement nous y sommes enfermÇes." I wonder what she will make of things.

I'm sorry to see the death of Sir Augustus Hemming. We shan't be able to ask him to dinner after all! Peace to his ashes - he was very agreeable to us at Cairo. Every your affectionate daughter Gertrude.

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