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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell, written over the course of several days from the 29th of May to the 1st of June, 1911.

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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 letter plus envelope, paper

May 29. On board SS Niger. Dearest Mother. I got into Aleppo [Halab] on the 23rd, instantly posted a letter to you and telegraphed next day as soon as I knew dates. I found a letter from you and one from Father, for which thank you both very much. My telegram will have told you that I shall be back in time for the dinner party and in my letter from Diarbekr [Diyarbakir (Amida)] I said I wd like to see the procession if there happened to be a ticket going. We got into Aleppo at about 3 in the afternoon, and since Fattuh's house lies on the road we went in and greeted his wife and had some coffee with her. Then I went to the Consulate and left a card (Mr Fontana was out) and then, before washing, to see my old friend Mme Koch, the wife of a German merchant, where I was received with open arms. After washing and changing I went to tea with the Fontanas who were most pleasant. There came in while I was there a certain Mr Eady, Sir John Jackson's consulting engineer who had just come up from Baghdad. He was at my hotel and we went back there together. He says he has met Father. He told me that the quick boat for C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] left on the following Saturday and as he was going by it he telegraphed for berths both for himself and me. The next day was mostly occupied in winding up affairs, selling my horses and paying off my people. I went to tea with Mme Koch and presently there came in Oppenheim who was still in Aleppo preparing for his expedition to Ras al 'Ain [R'as al 'Ayn] - where you remember I went expecting to find him already established. Oppenheim is really awful, the most shocking little vulgar Jew - blatant now, you might think he had taken all Mesopotamia into his wise keeping to hear him talk! He is much worse than he was in Egypt when he was well kept under. I prophecy that none of the architects and people he is taking out with him will stay with him - he is too dreadful. Next day I paid a visit on my great friend the Greek Catholic Archbishop and had a visit of an hour and a half from him in return. He is I think the most interesting Oriental I know (he is a Damascene), the only Oriental with whom one can talk with absolute freedom. Our friendship is now of 6 years' standing and one of the greatest pleasures of going to Aleppo is the pleasure of seeing him. I lunched with the Kochs and dined with the Fontanas. The latter are both intelligent well read people and I enjoyed my dinner very much. Next day, the 26th I left at 6 AM for Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)]. All my muleteers and all Fattuh's family came to see me off and dear Mme Koch with a present of cakes for the journey. I took Fattuh with me for I was determined that he should see the skilful American doctors at Beyrout who may be able to do something for his neuralgia. I also insisted that his wife, Zekiyyeh, should come too, for Fattuh may have to stay and be treated in Beyrout and it was much better that she should be with him. She is a charming little woman, very pretty too. It is a wretchedly uncomfortable journey to Beyrout, 18 hours of it in a horribly crowded train. We got in at midnight in streaming rain. I was met by the innkeeper and by a kavass with a letter from Mr Cumberbatch and by another man with a letter from Mr Eady saying I had got my cabin. Next morning Mr Cumberbatch came to see me at 8 and we went on board together, I at last in tidy clothes, for I had left my boxes with the Cook's man at Beyrout and now reentered into possession of them. Fattuh saw to all my luggage arrangements and Zekiyyeh came on board to say goodbye to me. Also Dr Bliss came, the head of the American College, so that I was able to put Fattuh into his hands and to explain all about his illness. Fattuh and Zekiyyeh stayed on board till the last moment - when it comes I can't say how sorry I am always to say goodbye to this delightful country where I leave so many friends and so much gratitude. It was cold and a little rough the first day out, but yesterday we ran between islands and it was warm and delicious. It is I think the most lovely sea journey I know. We stopped for a couple of hours outside Rhodes [Rodhos] in the evening, but I did not go on shore, for it was too late and I had been before. This morning we were off Chios [Khios] and we are now running down the Gulf of Smyrna [Izmir K├Ârfezi]. We pick up mails at Smyrna [Izmir], but we shall not be allowed to land as there is cholera there and quarantine, consequently in C'ple. I am sorry for I should have liked to have paid a visit on the governor who is an old friend of mine.

June 1. [1 June 1911] Constantinople [Istanbul]. I arrived last night and found a letter from you. I think I shall stay till Monday or Tuesday and probably sleep a night in Vienna [Wien] to see Strzygowski. Mr Fitzmaurice came to see us soon after I had arrived, and then Mr Lorimer (of Baghdad) who is here. They both stayed to dinner - I am at the Pera Palace Hotel. Mr Mounsey came in after dinner and altogether we had a very merry evening. Now I have a thousand things to do so goodbye and my dear love. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

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