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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
Iraq ยป Basra

30.5257657, 47.773797

Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] March 24 Dearest Mother. I'm writing from here because I've come down to meet Father. I got a telegram from him saying he was arriving in Basrah on the 23rd and I just had time to leap into a train in order to arrive before him - it's a 30 hours' journey. When I got here, paff! a telegram from Karachi to say he wasn't leaving there till today! So that he, poor dear, has been kicking his heels there I expect, just as I, poor dear, will have to kick my heels here. However -
I had fortunately brought down a little work to finish and I shall perhaps be able to get rid of an intolerable cold before he comes, so there's a soul of goodness in things evil.

I spent the whole of yesterday talking to Mr van Ess, the American missionary. He is the most invigorating companion, he knows the place as no one else does, and thank Heaven he gives an extremely encouraging account of the state of Arab feeling. We really are on the top of the wave.

Today I'm going to instruct an old American professor who happens to be here on the lines of an article he wants to write for the American press - good propaganda - and then I'm going to sit in Mr van Ess's house and receive visits from all the notables. Last week in Baghdad, I had an American journalist, a very nice and intelligent woman, to whom I talked for many hours and I trust the results will appear in the Saturday Evening Post. As she rightly said, they haven't a notion in the U.S.A. of what we've really done here. I love to have these people, because we have nothing to conceal, on the contrary every kind of publicity is to our advantage.

It's so curious to be back in Basrah - I feel transported into a past existence. But it's a Basrah I scarcely know again - all the roads widened and straightened, and the stink holes filled up, public taxis running in the streets and actually a decent hotel, in which I'm staying. It's a miracle. I rub my eyes and wonder how such changes can possibly have been accomplished in 3 years. Tomorrow I shall fill up the time by visiting our schools and hospitals.

Oh I'm so much looking forward to having Father. I can scarcely believe he's really coming.

A detail - Lizzie promised to send Marie fashion books and pictures, but she never has. And now Marie wants to make me some muslin gowns and we don't know the modes. I wish she would send us some. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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