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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
Cox, Percy
Wilson, A.T.
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Office of the C.C. Dec 7 Dearest Mother. I wish to announce the arrival of 6 pairs of white and ditto of brown stockings which I found here when I got back a week ago. But you might send me 4 more pairs of white ones, for all mine are worn out and 6 aren't enough in hot weather. As for the bill from the Shirt Co., I got a copy of it. They exceeded the stipulated price considerably - however - ! If I can find my copy I'll mark those which didn't arrive. I've been waiting to make sure they wdn't come, but now I think time's up. I should rather like the dark blue one, which didn't come, repeated and sent to me against next spring. Otherwise I shall have enough to see me through whatever hot weather I shall experience. I'm bound to have a few months of it one way and another whatever I do. And please will you send me 6 packets of ordinary crinkly hair pins and 6 of fine crinkly hair pins; India seems to produce none whiich are not yards long, a thing I hate.
That's that. I was very glad to get back. I found Sir P. [Percy] just off to the Euphrates whence he has not yet returned, so I hadn't time for more than a hasty talk with him. I plunged at once into a mass of accumulated work and have scarcely lifted my eyes from maps and files. But the pleasure of being well and able to work the whole day long! The truth is that one can't do without that narcotic. To be idle means having time to think and no thoughts are bearable. Even before the end of my 12 days at Samarra I felt myself slipping into a slough of unhappiness. That's gone now for I haven't had a moment all day and I've brought back work to do at night after dinner - oh thank Heaven there's plenty of it. I suffer here from having no special friend. I like everybody and no one in particular any better than all the rest. Mr Bullard of the Revenue Dept. is one of those I like best. He came to dine with me one night this week, but I've been too busy to have anyone else.

The new regime promises well. I haven't see General Marshall since I came back but he gives signs of being sympathetic towards our side of the game. It's as well, for we were running fast onto rocks, in my opinion. We are now in the middle of operations on our R. flank which seem to have been very successful so far, and that's very encouraging too, though I don't believe we can accomplish anything very dramatic while the Turk holds off as far as he can. The presence of an enemy is an essential element in battle. And we can't walk after him indefinitely because an army walks on its stomach. Far more pressing at this moment than the enemy is the food shortage. Vigorous steps have been taken to ensure a good harvest next spring - if the Almighty will do his share in the matter of rain and flood - but that is not till the middle of April and meantime we are gong to be hard put to it to get the civil population fed. This morning I was riding in the desert, out on the Diyalah [Diyala (Sirwan)] road, where I met Arabs from the Diyalah bringing in donkey loads of brushwood to sell. As soon as I had opened the conversation with a God save you they began to tell me how hungry they were out there, and I to explain what we were doing to bring the hunger to an end. I expect they don't usually live in the lap of luxury, those mean tribes on the Diyalah river, but with prices what they are, they must be well pinched this year. We had a very bad harvest this year, what with lack of rain and neglect of canals. They are all being dug out now, seed corn distributed and advances given in money. But it's a big job. Tonight it's warm and windy, we might have rain.

My dear pony which I brought up from Basrah is lame. But kind Captain Lupton, who is at the Remounts has let me send it up to be blistered and meantime he has let me 'ave a charming little mare, a little pocket mare which I feel sure could be up to nobody's weight but my diminished stones, so I'm harming no one. But what she lacks in height she makes up in spirit and we had a delightful gallop this morning out on the Diyalah road - road, I call it, but it's just desert - with the sun rising and a warm wind in our face. It's everything to see a little of the world outside of a morning. I see plenty of the world inside - a succession of callers all with some axe or another to grind and one's task generally being to remove the grindstone gently out of their reach! It's amazing how seldom one gets an uninterrupted hour.

No mail this week and what dull letters I write, to be sure. I went with Capt. Wilson (D.C.C. he has come up from Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)]) to inspect two big Alliance Israelite schools - the same at which we just didn't see Hamlet you remember. The head master is a Frenchman, so far as he is anything - that's to say he was born in Bulgaria, educated in Paris and is married to a compatriot of Constantinople [Istanbul]. They talk Spanish en famille like all C'ple Jews. The children learn French, English, Hebrew and Arabic. The English is not a very great success; they wholly failed to understand me when I talked clearly in words of one syllable. "C'est qu'ils ne comprennent pas un anglais" explained M. Bassin "C'est trop difficile - mais leurs propres professeurs ils comprennent bien." There they had me, for I found the professors' English too difficult. For the purposes of interchange of thought there was a distinct break in the chain. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

I found out the unit of Mrs Taggart's grandson, and wrote to him but I've had no answer. He should be on the W. flank I think.

IIIF Manifest