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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
Cox, Louisa Belle
Marling, Charles Murray
Creation Date
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1 letter plus envelope, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Sep 19 Darling Mother. There is still no mail so that I haven't any further news of how you are, for which I'm longing. However - I take refuge in God. Meantime, I must announce the good arrival of some gloves and a felt hat, just what I wanted, and General Cobbe tells me that Richard is bringing me some clothes, which is splendid. Woad is the only suitable cover at present. It's infernally hot, 113 and absolutely airless. I don't think I've ever felt the climate more. Also I've had a cold and though I'm taking every means to be better the Almighty isn't doing his bit and until the weather changes I don't look forward to much vigour. At sunset the dust and mist lie in thick bars over the world and you gasp for breath. When this reaches you I shall probably be shivering, so I write untrammeled - has it got two ls? - by any fear of causing you anxiety. Did I tell you that one of the Rayworths came to see me and ask my help to get him a commission in the Labour Corps? I gave him a letter of recommendation to the General who is at the head of Labour but I haven't heard what happened. Mrs Taggart's grandson is back from leave and purposes paying me a visit.
We have had a tremendous function this week - a Durbar of Shaikhs held by the C. in C. It really was rather wonderful. We had all the leading men of the country, shaikhs and tribal sayids, from Samawah [Samawah, As] to Tikrit - the Chief had seen the Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] people there the week before. There were about 80 of them, only the very biggest from each district, had been selected. The Durbar was held in the public gardens and all the notables of Baghdad attended to see it, an immense converse. It was terrifically hot but I fortunately was in the shade on the platform, with consuls and distinguished foreigners, French and American, who happened to be here. At 5 o'clock the C. in C. came up in procession through the garden, with all his Major Generals behind him, very splendid it looked. The shaikhs filed past him by districts, each group introduced by its Political Officer, and the Chief, beaming, as he always does on these occasions (he has an admirable official manner) shook hands with each man and said pleasant things. My heart went out to him over the shaking of hands, for - the shaikhs had been sitting in the sun, poor dears, and they were melting hot. And then I must tell you of an absurd incident. I was sitting a long way down the platform, but presently the shaikhs caught sight of me and they began to turn aside in their dignified procession across the stage and shake hands with me too. So I had to jump up and greet the blessed creatures, all of whom of course I knew. But I didn't feel that this was at all suitable so I took cover behind a fat American lady and a plump French consul. It wasn't wholly successful, however. I hear that they were very much impressed by the fact that the C. in C. stood up to receive them. They said that no Turkish Wali had ever done more than loll in his chair when they paid their respects and you could see the difference with the English. No Turkish Wali had ever seen the like of what we saw that day, I may say. Lots of them came in to see me in the office during the days they were here, and they all spoke of the change they felt in our relations since last year, how we had made acquaintance and knew one another now. And I thought that testimony to our friendly intimacy was worth everything.

Next morning they had a military show, bombs and a smoke barrage and aeroplanes, with which they told me they were much pleased. I didn't go because of the extreme heat and my temporary indisposition. The gathering of Political Officers in charge of their parties was almost as interesting as the gathering of shaikhs, and quite as valuable. Some of them from distant parts of the province didn't even know one another; they met and talked and made acquaintance and realized one another's qualities. We must have them all in again, and now that we have the Cox's house at our disposal it's so easy, for we can always billet them.

The Marlings arrive next week - did I tell you they have lost a baby? I'm so sorry - I'm afraid they will be dreadfully unhappy. I must be well before they come because I want to take them to Babylon and generally do the honours of our sites and sights.

Beyond this I haven't done much. People come to tea with me - there's a new French military attaché, the Commandant Sciard, a nice, if dull, dog and he came today. I went motoring with the C. in C. yesterday to try and get a little air outside the town; there wasn't much, but it was very pleasant because he is such a dear. I dined out once with Col. Ryder, O.C. Surveys (and a Gold Medallist so I was well suited!) who is a delightful person. He has mapped lots of the Hinterland behind Assam, those wild mountains. And that's my tale. Also the Persian Intelligence book is nearly finished. Ever your very loving daughter Gertrude

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