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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
McMahon, Henry
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

26.820553, 30.802498

Dec 25 On the Nile. My dearest Mother. The best of good wishes! I have spent the morning wondering at intervals what you are doing, whether you have Moll and Charles and all the children with you and what news there is of Elsa. My dear love to you all. I wish, I wish Father were here; it's so delicious - so beautiful and so restful. Our party is the MacMahon family, with a nice little niece, Lord Edward Cecil, Capt. Gordon, who is Sir Henry's aide de camp and a younger Gordon brother, all very pleasant. Lord Edward is delightful and my hosts so friendly and such pleasant travelling companions. We left Cairo on the evening of the 22nd and came up by train to Luxor, a very comfortable journey for Sir Henry has his own train wherever he goes. And wherever he arrives he is greeted by hot and frock-coated companies of all the notables of the province and we carry on the stilted conversation essential to these occasions for a quarter of an hour. When they only talk Arabic Lord Edward passes them on to me. I daresay it would be boring if you did it all your life, but once in a while it's amusing and so comic. It has its advantages for at Luxor two of the deputation were charming French archaeologists, one the head of the Museum, Maspero's successor, the other in charge of the antiquities at Thebes, and when we had established ourselves on our boat, they reappeared and took us all over the great temple which lies by the river's edge. That was all we saw of Luxor for we are to stay there on our way down; before lunch we cast off and steamed all day up the river, more heavenly than words can say. We moored at night far from any village in delicious tranquillity. Yesterday it was baking hot, almost too hot. We got to Esneh [Isna] in the morning and saw the temple, and to Edfu [Idfu] just after dark. There the Governor of the province came to see Sir Henry. They expected us earlier and had made elaborate preparations for us. We profited up these last however; after dinner, the moon being just past full and the night exquisitely cool, we mounted camels and donkeys (I hadn't been on a camel since I got off my own in the hospital garden at Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] ) and rode off to the great temple. What we lost in detail we gained in charm and mystery. It looked colossal, incredibly tall and solid, the immense columned court filled with moonlight and beyond it hall after hall, groves of enormous columns, opening before you as the long robed Arabs sped on in front of us with their lanterns. At the end we climbed up onto the roof and saw the little town before us and the long shining curves of the river with the desert stooping down to it. Most beautiful it was. Today we have the barren hills quite near us on either side, a tiny strip of green corn and palm trees on the banks - sometimes it petres [sic] out altogether. And the good north wind, which the Egyptians prayed that they might still feel after they were dead, follows us up the river and gives us an ideal climate.
Sir Henry has just had a letter from Domnul giving me a tremendous puff, bless him. I expect they won't let me go yet, until we see how things work out in the Near East and whether there will not be more work for me. You don't mind my staying, do you? as long as they have a job for me. Of course if you want me I will come home. I rather wish I had brought out more clothes. It would be ridiculous to buy things when I have got lots at home, but they are not very helpful to me here! Could you possibly send out to me the blue shot silk gown with a little coat, and its own hat trimmed with feathers? And if you are sending anything I should like too the purple satin day day [sic] with a cape - Marie knows which I mean - and a mauve parasol, I have lots I know. I don't know whether things sent by parcel post would be likely to reach me. Both gowns would fold up so small that they could almost be sent by letter post - not a hat, however. Perhaps if you were to ask the kind Capt. Hall he could contrive to send out a small box for me, by bag even. I should be so grateful - and the sooner the better. I think I will leave this letter open and post it tomorrow at Aswan - no I won't risk the mail but will write a second letter. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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