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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
Creation Date
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1 letter, paper

Sunday Ap 30 Between Berne [Bern] and Basel [(Basle)]. Dearest Mother. We did have such a delicious 24 hours of Switzerland. Having ascertained that the Tom Bells were safe at Aigle till this morning, we proceeded joyfully to Territet last night and slept there. The upper end of the lake (where we were) is extraordinarily lovely; I don't know if you know it. Imagine what the bluest of blue water looked like yesterday evening with a low light coming shooting across the lake, just touching the opposite shore, above which rose immense mountains, and deep deep purple where the white wings of sea gulls flashed across them, barred with filmy, misty cloud and capped with snow. We went on to Chillon which is a bewitching place with grey walls rising straight out of the water and pointed turrets. The inner court and the red roof of the wall were wreathed with yellow banksia roses. The prisoners all looked most inviting, I regret to say! The floor was a little stony certainly, but when I say cell you must understand me to mean an enormous vaulted hall built some of it out of the living rock. Tiny windows high up in the wall looked westward and the low sun shot through them touching the columns and the walls with flecks of pure gold. The whole place was full of memories of all those wonderful people at the beginning of the century - Shelley's name is cut on one of the pillars: more interesting than 50 holy prisoners, isn't it! Our hotel at Territet was very sophisticated and very full of people - all along the shore bristles with big hotels, half a dozen of them being the nearest to Chillon. We dined at the table d'hìte and were rather amused by the crowds of people, very smart indeed, some of them in low[?] gowns and some in the smartest possible bonnets and boas. Next morning I got up quite early and took the funicular train which in 9 minutes landed me in Ghon, up the hillside. Here I found a cakeshop and bought 3 cakes which I carried up the hill to breakfast on. I walked up till I got out of the zone of hotels and right up into those wonderful alpine meadows which lie just Bellow the pines - you know the smooth green look of them, with little chalets dotted about over the great slopes. They were lovely those meadows; they were full and full of flowers. Whole hillsides were white as if snow had fallen on them - white with the big single narcissus. I never saw anything so beautiful, they grew in the maddest wildest luxuriance and the air was heavy with the delicious smell of them. There were forgetmenots too and marsh marigolds - lovely globe flowers (the double buttercup you know) and vetches and gentians and salvias and lots more whose name I did not know, and great slopes of pale yellow oxlip. I sat down to eat my breakfast with the narcissus flowers for table cloths, and felt inclined to shout for pleasure it was all so beautiful, the pastures, and the blue lake and the fertile Rhone valley and the mountains. About 10 I arrived at the hotel again with a sheaf of flowers to show Papa. We went in the railway to Villeneuve, a little sleepy village at the end of the lake and in the train we caught to go down to Lausanne we found (as we expected) the Tom Bells whom we took on with us to Lausanne where they lunched with us at the station. Uncle Tom is rather a dear gentle old creature, learned about the flowers that grew and interested to hear about things I had found. He collects butterflies too - doesn't that suggest a harmless old age! She's an awful woman - Heaven defend us! she's coming to England in a fortnight when she intends to "wake us all up" so she says! I felt inclined to exclaim with the song "If this be sleep, oh let me dream once more!" (Poetry's sure to come in handy if you keep it long enough in your head - I never thought to find myself using those lines!) She is certainly coming to Sloane St, for "Lady Olliffe is always so glad to see me and so is Miss Olliffe - very glad they are!" Tell them this story and add a tribute of respect for their exquisite manners from me! Aunt Fanny was in a great joy about the Kindkys who were staying at the hotel at Territet; they were all on the platform as we passed and she pointed them out to me with great exactitude "the young count, and Count Albert and Countess this" and so forth. "They've come here 3 winters now" she said, "and though I don't exactly know the Countess, I know her quite well by sight and I always move to her when I meet her - oh yes I always move to her!" I wonder whether the Countess moves to Aunt Fanny! Now I come to think of it, I know the Queen quite well by sight and I always move to her when I meet her - don't you?
We are longing to hear details about A's Wife. The telegram at Geneva [Genäve] filled our hearts with the heaviest foreboding - it is maddening not to know what has happened for so long. I hope we shall hear tonight. Keep all the notices to show us - but of course you will. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

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