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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Nov 23 Dearest Mother. I'm very sorry I didn't write last week but I was in the middle of having a sharp attack of flu and felt unspeakably miserable. What a complaint! I've never had it before. However one recovers from it with great celerity. In the middle of it arrived Marie, pleased and capable - you may think how glad I was to see her! She really is a treasure. She is delighted with everything, interested in everything (and especially in getting the house nice - she is busy making my curtains) gets on excellently with the native servants and is learning Arabic. Isn't [it] a comfort she is turning out so well. What isn't turning out well is my furniture and crockery which I ordered from Maples last July. It hasn't come and there are no signs of it. I've telegraphed to Maple and got no answer. I think I shall telegraph to you and ask you to make enquiries. If you don't get a telegram will you ask about when you get this letter? I do want the things so much. The weather has turned much colder, it drops into the 50s at night and is quite perfect by day. We've had no rain yet and should be the better for it now; the dust is pretty bad. But oh I don't envy you your cold and rain - I wish I could give you a little of our wonderful sunshine. Sir George has provided me with a pony but owing to the flu I've not been able to ride it yet. I should have gone out today but I was invited to a tea party of notables at the house of the Deputy Military governor - a very pleasant function. Marie meantime has been to tea with Mrs Howell's nurse who is our nearest neighbour. Before I had flu I went one afternoon to the house of the greatest learned man here. He doesn't consort with Europeans at all but he and I have been friends from the beginning and I pay him a visit at intervals. He had a select little party to meet me, his cousin the Qadhi, my friend the Mayor and a few others. I must say I always feel a sense of personal triumph when I sit in that house as an intimate. He doesn't like us and doesn't want us but he admits two others among my colleagues and always treats us like friends. Sir George asked me to take him to see the old Naqib, which I did one morning; we had a very successful visit and the Naqib was as pleased as Punch. He is the religious head of all the Sunnis here but he doesn't count much politically. He is one of the people I've known longest, years before the war. He has played up for us very well always.
I have been reading in the papers about the rly strike. The intervention of the other unions seems to me to be a very encouraging feature - I wonder what Father thinks. George and Blanche urge me to go to them for Xmas. I should love it, but of course, I can't. It would mean being away at least 3 weeks and I've only just come back. Besides I really want to get on with my work and I'm enjoying being here when I haven't the flu. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Your last letters are Oct 1, 8 and 15.

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