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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
Balfour, Frank
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Sunday Nov 30 Dearest Mother. The post is late this week - it came in today but the letters are not yet distributed. Another thing came in today, quite as important as the post - two most beautiful Arab greyhounds sent to me by my old friend the paramount chief of the 'Anizah, Fahad Beg ibn Hadhdhal. They had walked 10 days down the Euphrates with 2 tribesmen to conduct them, and came in half starved. They are sitting beside me on my sofa as I write, after wandering about the room for half an hour whining. They are very gentle and friendly and I hope they will soon get accustomed to living in a garden instead of a tent. They are perfectly lovely and of course of the finest Arab breed. We have named them Rishan and Najmah, the Feathered (that's because of his feathered tail) and the Star. I've had a bothersome week because Marie caught a chill and was within an ace of developing dyssentery. She has been in bed for the last two days but thank Heaven she is mending and the doctor says she will be all right in a day or two. Meantime I'm in poor case, for she has put all my things away in places known only to herself and I have the Devil's own time looking for gloves or handkerchiefs. I lead the life of a hermit - if a hermit could spend all his days in one office. Sir George has provided me with an excellent pony on which I've been riding for 3/4 of an hour after 4. I thus come back to my house and work at my big Mesopotamian report till dinner and after dinner until I go to bed. I can rarely get at it in the office because of constant interruptions. One day this week I went to a tea party in the house of a notable who is very far from being pro-British. His wife is a friend of mine and I think it's as well to conduct one's personal relations without regard to politics. There are a whole lot of people here who have come back from C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] while I was away, ex-deputies, ex-soldiers in the Turkish army and men who fled when we took Baghdad. They are usually either pro-Turk in sentiment or advanced Arab nationalists. It isn't possible really to conciliate the latter till we can set up civil govt. here and give Arabs a more responsible part in the administration, and that waits on the conclusion of peace with Turkey, which waits on the Senate and now seems to be postponed indefinitely. The delay is exasperating to all concerned and with every day's continuance makes the final settlement more difficult. But what can we do?
Today I motored out with Sir George to pay a visit on my dear friend Haji Naji, the owner of the best fruit gardens near Baghdad. He is a fine type, an excellent cultivator, a staunch friend of ours and only anxious to be left in peace under a decent government which will allow him to gather in the fruits of his labours. He gave us coffee and delicious preserved nectarines and offered some very sensible suggestions as to the management of the police force, which here as everywhere is one of the most thorny questions. His gardens were looking lovely, the fruit trees just beginning to turn yellow in our late autumn.

I wholly forgot to tell you the main feature of the week which was the Prophet's birthday - Sunni style; make no mistake, the Shiahs celebrate it a week later, as if he were Bellated twins, so to speak. The Pious Bequests Dept gives an official entertainment at Muadhdham [Azamiyah, Al], a much frequented Sunni shrine 3 miles above Baghdad; it consists of a square meal and prayers and for the first time we were invited - to the meal. I went and so did Frank Balfour with all his staff. It had rained heavily the night before - our long expected first rain which has come at last - and to motor out to Muadhdham was a ticklish business; the party began at 9 a.m. However we all arrived safely and found a gathering of all the men of religion sitting in the house of the Curator of the mosque. We sat round and chatted for an hour or so, very pleasantly, and then we had a lunch of excellent Arab food, provided in incredible quantities. Some thought the hour, 10.20 am, untoward, but I never mind how early I lunch. Then we all went back to our offices. I can't tell you how friendly and nice it all was; I loved it.

I am sending you a copy of my Syrian report. It is of course confidential but I have permission to let you have it and I wish you would tell me what you think of it. I can't judge and nobody offers any criticisms except that on the whole they don't agree with my conclusions. Nevertheless I think I'm right. You can show it to trustworthy people but it must not be published in any form. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

I've got a very tiresome request to make - the riding boots I have here don't fit in the leg, they are too short and not tight enough at the top. I'm riding now in breeches and a coat and the top of the boot shows and looks horrible. There is a pair of black patent leather riding boots of mine at Rounton which fit perfectly in the foot and ankle but will have the same mistake in the leg. (There is also a pair of Elsa's boots, Marie says. These are longer in the foot than mine - don't take them in error.) I wonder if Maurice would be an angel and have a pair of brown leather riding boots made for me by his own boot maker, just like the black Dalton pair in the foot but longer in the leg and properly fitting at the top, with the little strap that men's boots have at the top to keep them in place. These are the measurements which I think will be sufficient since the foot of the pattern boot is all right:

round leg immediately Bellow knee 113/4 in

round calf 3 inches Bellow knee 113/4 in

from Bellow knee to ankle bone on inner side of leg 123/4 in

from ankle bone to bottom of instep 3½ in

I.E. my leg seems to be the same size Bellow the knee and round the calf (rather surprising but true) while from Bellow the knee down the whole length of the inside of my leg to the instep it is 16/¼ inches.

Back of leg from knee joint to bottom of heel 16 in. [Illustration] (It really is rather like my leg!)

I should like the boots made as soon as possible and fitted with trees. They had better be sent by post, {one boot} in two parcels if necessary. I fear they will be horribly expensive.

IIIF Manifest