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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell written for Charles Doughty-Wylie

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper
Asquith, H.H.

33.5138073, 36.2765279

May 1. [1 May 1914] And today through the vinyards [sic] and orchards to Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Shams, Damas)]. I cannot tell you what they looked like in the bright morning to eyes weary with deserts - you must think of it, the rushing water and the deep green corn, the grey shade of olive trees and the rustle of sweet smelling chestnut leaves, the pale Damascene roses - a man gave me a handful of them, may God reward him! The first house on the Dumair [Dumayr] road as you come into Damascus is the hospital. I reached it soon after 9 and went in to greet the Mackinnons. They have kept me, they refused to let me go any further, and I was all too willing to be made captive. So here I am these kind people - remember them in your prayers! - and in a garden which is one bower of roses, and in a quiet house where no one can bother me and I can lie still and rest. I don't think I ever have felt so tired. I was in bed before 11 AM and slept for an hour or two, but it wasn't much of a success for I rode a camel through my dreams. I expect it will be a day or two before I can rest and sleep. I have a message from Louis Mallet telling me to come to him whenever I like. My idea is to stay here for a week or so, go down to Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)] on the 6th, stay with the Cumberbatches or the Blisses till the 8th and catch the French boat up to C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] on that day. It reaches C'ple on the 12th or 13th, I may stay there a week or less, and then home by train, ie London about the 23rd. I think that is what I shall do. \n\nBy the way, the official envelopes which you sometimes use are, like many official things, so bad that they often, if not generally, arrive half torn open - all the edges frayed. I don't suppose that so far your news has interesed the Turkish govt, so it doesn't matter - but they might have had it if they liked! It is as well however to know that envelopes like these are not good covers for letters about political matters which are not public. Therefore I tell you. I meant to have told you before, but I forgot. And before I try to sleep I must tell you a piece of political gossip - have you heard it? My sister Elsa Richmond (her husband is in the Admiralty) writes - you shall have her words for they are interesting: "The story is that Winston Churchill tried to make a coup d'Ètat. He got Seely to agree and though he (Winston) has nothing to do with the army, he was in and out of the War Office the whole time hatching his plot presumably. Warrants for the arrest of Carson[?] and of 200 others were prepared and the troops, without Asquith's knowledge, secretly ordered to move on Ulster. Then all the Ulster leaders were to be arrested and the troops to be (unexpectedly) on the spot to quell in a moment the uprising of the Ulster volunteers that of course would result immediately from the leaders' arrest. Thus suddenly all would have been settled, Ulster cowed, and Winston the man who had done it all. He also ordered a squadron of battle ships to go to Belfast, but stopped them by wireless when the plot was found out. The reason it failed was that Sir Arthur Paget was told to find out from the {troops} officers under his command if they were ready to go to Ulster - and they resigned almost to a man. Of course then the fat was in the fire, Seely resigned finally and Asquith has made hinself War Minister." \n\nFrom my latest papers it looks as if something of this kind must lie at the bottom of the business - but did you ever hear such a tale! so fatuous a scheme! we might all be living in Nejd [Najd] - the childish plotting! Can the Govt. survive it? Harold Baker writes to me - his letter is dated before Seely's resignation and he says nothing of the plot - that he feels sure there will be an election in June. With this story for a weapon - true story or no - I do not see how the Opposition can fail to win. But the sorrow of it is that they themselves are such pauvres sires. There is not a man amongst them fit to lead. But I'll write of all this from England. \n\nTomorrow thank Heaven, I shall not get up at dawn and mount a camel, I've done with Arabia for the moment. I've crossed the huge Syrian desert for the second time, in safety, in the peace of God. And now it's all behind me and I must try to forget it for a little, till I am less weary and can think of it more soberly and in a better perspective. I'm still too near it - it looms too big, out of all proportion to the world, and too dark, unbelievably menacing. The worst of it is I can't forget it yet. I go on riding camels through my dreams. Perhaps the rose garden and tomorrow's sun will veil it all - and the good Mackinnons will help me to forget it.

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