Letter from Gertrude Bell to Charles Doughty-Wylie written over the course of several days, from the 19th to the 22nd of April, 1915.
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Ap 19 (1915). My very dear. This Monday brought me your two letters of March 27 & 30, & even such letters I’m more glad to have than words can say. You say you have got some of mine & you don’t tell me to beware of censors, so that I hope my letters reach you unopened & that I may say what I like. Well then — the sense of being in touch with you again, with only three weeks between us, of knowing that what I write reaches you, of reading your mind through what you mayn’t write — it’s been near paradise. Don’t you realize that after these months of being alone with one another, at least in letters, we could never go back to the old rules? I shall never again write you letters that any other person may read — except the censor. I’ve lived myself into you, I have no other life but yours. But no, it wasn’t an ultimatum; I will never bargain with you — how could I, being you? If you don’t like my first chapter of Genesis, we’ll drop it into the Aegaean [sic], & together we’ll write the Apocalypse, after your heart & mine. And after that I’ll lay down the pen, for always. I don’t mind. But I would rather lay it down after it has written a masterpiece than before — which is the only other alternative — if you will let me choose. But I love you so that if you had rather that I dropped out & left the world free for you, with no insistent problems any more, I’ll do that too. Only it must be a complete dropping out, you understand; it would not be a world that I could live in. We all hold life by such a slender thread these days that I can’t think it matters much to cut it. Unless it matters all the world to you. Therefore you must choose for me, remembering only that you can’t have it both ways. I shan’t demur whichever way the choice may fall. And I shan’t hesitate. Do you remember I was once on the edge of telling you something I had done, & then I hesitated lest you shouldn’t like it — since when I’ve forgotten about it. I’ve remembered now, & now I’ll say it. I told Elsa everything, 8 weeks ago — the day after you left. Everything from the very beginning. I even showed her your last Abyssinian letter. You don’t know her, but I know her very[?] well, & even I was amazed. When she had heard, she said I had the one thing which was worth having — which I knew — & that my way was the right way, my chapter of Genesis, no other. She thought, as I think, that there a no other, for if we took a path that seemed alternative, it would lead to the same goal, but over much more unpleasant country. I know that’s true — don’t you know it? There’s only one alternative path & you won’t blame her if she wouldn’t contemplate it — we are too near to one another, she & I. She’s the most darling creature, tender & humourous [sic] — you’ll love her; & already she loves you. She observed reflectively, after many hours’ talk, that she thought it would be a very interesting end to my remarkable career — I’m afraid she wasn’t thinking so much of your remarkable career, but when I called her attention to it, she wouldn’t admit that it would be much affected. She’s steel true & blade straight — my dear that’s why she wouldn’t look at it any way but mine. She’ll forgive me whatever way I take, but she wouldn’t like the other. Neither could I like it — but that wouldn’t prevent my taking it; because I live only on your word. That’s all the secret; you don’t mind really, do you? She’ll never speak of it to either of us, but what it is to me to have her tacit backing, now that you are so far away, I can’t well tell you. I should like you to tell me that you don’t mind — give me absolution. — I must stop writing to you. This has been such a long & heavy day. Lord R’s away, & Maurice at the front & you don’t think you can bear to run away with me - I put the day’s ills in ascending order of magnitude & they make in sum a mighty burden. But tonight I’ve thrown it off because of your letters & what they don‘t say which I read through them & because I know you were well less than 3 weeks ago. Ah if you were here! - I know too what that would be like & triumph in the knowledge. Feb [i.e April] 20. Don’t think I can’t keep a secret; I can. But the fact that I love you isn’t a secret which I want to keep - any more than the sun wishes to keep secret the fact that it rises, or the moon that it waxes to the full. All these things are the simple phenomena of the universe, spread out clear for all men to see, if they wish. Ultimately I couldn‘t keep the secret - I’ve told you that; but for other reasons. I can’t live a pretence & you couldn’t wish it. It means such horrible things which you would not like to witness — smirching things. But neither can I live without you. There’s the dilemma. We’ll speak no more of it. You know now how it stands. And there can be no decision now. If you go somewhere far away without coming back to me, that I won’ t bear. But you will not. You’ll come at least to reason with me — is that what you’ll come for? My dear my dear it’s so many days since I told you that I love you - 8 weeks tonight since you left — shall I tell you again? Or do you know well enough? - There’s no news. Do you see the Times ever? Lord Cromer wrote a capital letter to say that democratic control does not mean universal peace for ever & ever. Charles Trevelyan has been denounced by his constituency; they won’t have him for their member at the next election. He has had a majority of 3000 up to now. I wonder what he thinks of democratic control in the Elland division; it’s difficult, when you’ve thrown your whole being into the task of upholding the infallible wisdom of the electorate, to find some reason for denying its judgment. I suppose he thinks they are deafened to all wisdom by the echo of artillery. I’ll go to bed & think of other things. Ap .21. And yet there is an eternal secret between you and me. No one has known, no one will ever know, the woman who loves you. Mind & body, a different creature from her who walks the common earth before the eyes of men - new born & new fashioned out of our joined love. Only you know her & have seen her. And when I wonder how it is that you can love me I reassure myself by remembering that you love this magic woman whom you’ve created, & when all‘s said that she has no existence apart from me. You gave her life, but I made her, bone by bone having begotten her you may love her without fear. And you will. - Budrum‘s off ; you won’t disturb the rest of Mausolus. But your great attack is for 3 day’ s [sic] hence, Italy or no Italy. Was it for that that you inspected Dedeagatch? it’ s not so far from Enos[?] If indeed that is where the attack will be made - I don‘t know yet, but it seems a likely scheme to take them from behind & render vain all the defences of Gallipoli. My dear, my dear, almost before this letter is posted you’ll be in the thick of it. I’m so glad I’m here & not in France. At least I know from day to day all that there is to know, & when to fear, & when to pass indifferent. Here or there, I love you. — Do I write too often my very dear? tell me. Ap .22. Your letter of Ap 12 came this morning. But alas you don‘t hear from me. It’s so miserable & baffling. I’ve written to you twice a week & there are 16 little pieces of my heart floating about the world & aching to reach you. And my whole heart aching with the same desire. All but this one have been addressed to you on Birdwood’s staff — do you think some other staff officer is reading them? Oh my dear I’ve laughed to you & wept to you & neither tears nor laughter have got to you. What’s to be done? I can only go on writing & hope that the mail carriers will relent in time. And at least I will go on believing most firmly that you are mine — you would find it very difficult to persuade me that you are not. But oh the letters, the letters! I was so heavy hearted when I heard of their not coming, & you in distance & in silence, that I wondered how I was to get through the day. Half of it is gone — I’m writing in the brief moment after lunch when I ought to be resting — & yet there are days & days to come until I can know that my love & my thought are with you in any tangible form. I must go back to Arlington St. It’s good news that you have George. — The other half has gone & now it’s night. There are rumours that the Enos[?] attack has begun. You may short circuit the Dardenelles. I have my first letter from Maurice tonight — within sound of the guns. He’s happy. Pray for me. Yet I don’t feel anxious about it. I told you once before when he was ill in Edinburgh — with emotion there’s a saturation point. One can’t feel more than up to a certain point. I’ve reached it. All the feeling I have, all sensation — you know where it’s given. — I’ll tell you something curious: the German submarines have disappeared from our seas. They are withdrawn. The blockade is over — it has failed. They confine themselves to attacking trawlers in the North Sea — devils they are. But no, the Russians are not at Mosul. They’re far away yet in the Caucasus. What news had you I wonder? And the news that was true, my news hadn’t reached you — that I love you & am yours.