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Letter from Charles Doughty-Wylie to Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Wylie, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-
Person(s) mentioned
Wylie, Lilian [Judith] Doughty-
Creation Date
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1 letter plus envelope, paper

8.9806034, 38.7577605

11 Oct.
British Legation,
Adis Ababa.
My dear.

How I bless you & your letters! Now I’m all alone & its not very gay though I think I like it better than most people – being alone – the goddess comes nearer and faster & more often I am in her garden.

But there’s much to do. According to Thesiger there must be always 3 men here. I find I can do it alone, but I hate the accounts & the legions of extremely incompetent servants etc - & I haven’t time much to look at my flowers –

But your letters come like light – to me in prison. And they talk as you talk - & tell me things I want to know. I’ve just read French’s despatch the first one, and can understand that there was soreness – there must have been a bad break in the French staff work which is curious & unexpected, as from the bitter little that I know all seems working well now. But there are such great things hidden – where did they put in the French Indian troops, where are Canada’s & Australia’s – I dream of Dunkirk & Ostend even of Calais & Boulogne – for a dash at the communications – For what seems an incredible time we have had here no news at all of the English Army – People here all believe that French & 150,000 men have been taken prisoners - & 100 extravagant things, the Japanese in France, the Russians ditto – for the Japanese the story is that 100 ships of troops under the Japanese flag were seen off Perim – I tell them these were probably transports chartered in India, but it doesn’t matter what you tell them.

The Habesh though are reasonably calm. The news that the Germans burn churches sobered them for that to them is unthinkable & brings the swift anger of God, such as fell on the dervishes who burnt N. W. Abyssinia.

Did I tell you of our Red X show? It was the day before my wife left & I got Lij Yasu to come here to present medals to her Red X pupils. We got the medals from the British Red X in London, & had the word Abyssinia engraved on them. (It ought to have been Ethiopia) – the pupils who are what would be in England important people, one is a cousin of Lij Yasu’s, all are women – They have been worked very hard at not only Red X but midwifery - & have had to turn out at night etc & see things through (Elensinian mysteries) & pass a very stiff exam – But five passed it all – We had a regular show - & those five are now the proudest women in Abyssinia. But Lij Yasu was quite nice – he can be – he asked if he might give my wife the 2nd class Star of Ethiopia – she’s not an official & it would be ill-judged & ridiculous to refuse – its never been given to a woman - & then went on to say that he heard we were giving a hospital for the wounded & might he keep – if so he would give me 500 bullocks!

Those bulls I will sell – they ought to fetch £1000 if ever, seeing it is Abyssinia, I get them. We are giving £5000 so the thing can run for a time without any help from anybody. But there are, as you would see, many advantages in accepting Abyssinian help – So I thanked him and said I would take & sell the bulls – and I would call the hospital the Anglo Ethiopian & fly over it the Abyssinian flag beside the British. I can do some good with it – It will put ideas into their heads – we have been putting them there for some time – of health & mercy (they mutilate the wounded in their countries passim) & giving things needed – I have wanted them to adhere to the Geneva Convention, which they would have done but that the F. O. never answered about it, thinking I suppose such things not worth while – Still they are. Also temporarily & locally Lij Yasu’s gift is useful. The place stinks of lies & intrigue - & it will be an outward sign.

As for the hospital, the W. O. wired to thank me warmly but (something indecypherable) reserve at present – That was enough however – The French Govt accepted & promised a place near the fighting. So the plan is – my wife had gone but I have but I have wired to her – for her to go to Paris & there fit up with the countenance & help of French authorities & go where God will – The thing will be called a branch of the British Red X., of those august authorities do not think otherwise. [?] nor does it matter, provided it works –

My dear, did I ever thank you for your books. Besulandi I’ve read with the utmost interest – this other I look forward to immensely. Its such a pleasure to me to know that you in the midst of 100 things, can think of these things for me – And the lectures – How I would like to hear you!

About the war & the politics of it & after it we could write all night. You asked me if I was in favour of bringing in Indian troops – yes – for all reasons – to win first - & in the long run still more for India’s sake. Christianity, childbirth, may things say we love those for whom we suffer – let them fight for us. It will make men of them - & to what end do we govern India under the providence of God. But it must be spontaneous as indeed it was. As for the Japs – yes I’d let them fight too, though the reason is not the same nor near so strong. It is simply to take for ever so strong an ocean base as Kianchan. I’ve never been there but I know Weiheiwei well, which might be another strong fortress. I wonder the Germans did not take it.

Number two Italian here, a Count Duriai, a diplomat by trade, selected a luncheon party at the French Legation to defend at great length to the French Minister & myself the destruction of Louvain & the Rheims cathedral. It would have amused me the time the place the nation & all that, (the French Minister & I have just saved Italy a war) but that it made me angry. There is only one remedy which is hang in Louvain after the war, the officer whoever he was who gave that order. After having thus delivered my soul, I had to go lest I should say too much to the animal. He was many years in Berlin.

I am just going to telegraph to their regiment to ask if they would like my Indian cavalry escort. I don’t want them really - & if their regiment has gone or is going it would be hard to keep them. When my wife & Sandford went, we all rode out 2 hours to see them go - & then got down the Sikhs and in a line prayed in the old Sikh fashion for success to England & to us – it was nicely thought of - & I have always liked Sikhs – a wet hillside over a rushing torrent, a spatter of rain, the horses & the planted lances - & in point their line & their prayer – It is one of the things that one remembers.

& we have so many – you & I – so many I have forgotten, that come back to me at night or by chance, from a word, an old diary, or just a corner of the way.

And those fellows would follow one anywhere just as my dear old blaspheming comic Tommies have always done. I hope they get leave to go.

Well I suppose I’d better stop – Why don’t you come here & tell me things? However I call up your ghost by easy incantation.

They have been raiding again a little. I confess it doesn’t seem to me so very desperately important – it is in the nature of the Habesh as of your Bedouin – at present – he will drop it as the Scotch have dropped it , or even these same Sikhs. But for the time it gives an interest to the dull life of many an officer, sitting stewing with heat & fever & flies & cursing luck because he can’t go to the war. Let him meet the raid – what else is he there for? To kill or to be killed.

Wingate is having an expedition in a few weeks up to the border in the Amak country where he got licked before – I’ve been there – [?] 10 feet high, swamp & fever & surprise – but I know it’s a popular move – I don’t want to stop – its lonelier silent –

Yrs, Dick.

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