Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell, written between the 18th and the 19th of January, 1920.
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Baghdad Jan. 18 Dearest Mother. I very much hope that before this letter reaches you Father may have left for Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)]. It would be difficult to say how much I hope he is coming. I have not been having a very easy time and he could both advise me and I think smooth my path. The MacMunns left yesterday; I was very sorry to see him go. He has been valuable here, not to me only. You will see that General Haldane is appointed here. We might easily do worse; he's an able man and is [sic] worst fault, so far as I know, which is that he's a climber, won't matter here, for there is nowhere for him to climb to. He being at the summit, so to speak. Oh dear, I do personally regret Sir William; I could always take refuge with him if things weren't going straight. However when Sir Percy comes back it will be all right I hope.
I have been having a week of dissipation, 4 dinner parties, the reason being that a former Resident, Sir John Ramsay, is here on a visit. I stayed with him here in 1909 and I'm always asked to meet him. He is delightful so I don't mind. He dined with me and I had Mr Bullard to make a party; we spent a most amusing evening. I also took him to see his old friend the Naqib and in the course of the hour and a half's conversation I asked the Naqib why it was that all young Moslems were free-thinkers. That stumped the Naqib (who is the greatest Sunni divine east of Mecca [Makkah]) but I hastened to add that most young Christians were the same. Frank and I went with Sir John Ramsay one afternoon to see the Naqib's beautiful fruit garden, his son Saiyid Muhi ud Din being our guide! Saiyid M.D. is a most charming man socially; politically he is a convinced pro-Turk and is I believe engaged in Turkish propaganda, which adds a spice to my cordial relations with him. We never speak of it, of course, but when he motored me home the other day I took occasion to tell him exactly the sort of Arab Govt. I should like to see set up here. He replied only that I was universally Belloved in the country, a rejoinder to which I couldn't take exception, nor did it give me much to bite on. But one doesn't expect to get much change out of Saiyid M.D. for he is a diplomat of the finest water.
The Leslies are in charge till Gen. Haldane arrives. She is a charming sweet-looking woman whom I think I shall like very much. She is coming to tea with me this week because she wants to hear about tribes and Baghdadis - another agreeable trait.
I meant to write you a long letter, but it will have to be cut short because the Hambros have just called and stayed an hour. She arrived yesterday; she is much younger than he and very pretty. I'm going to take them to Ukhaidhir [Ukhaydir] some day. I like him particularly and she seems nice. I'm dining with Frank tonight, to meet Sir John again. I ought to dine with a good appetite for this afternoon I took my two dogs for a long walk in the desert where I could let them run loose owing to the fact that there are no hens in it. They jump on every hen they see and I never knew till I went out walking with them how many owners of hens there are in Baghdad.
I've got another delightful petition story at which I hope you'll laugh as much as I did. It came to Major Nalder from a man who had lost his donkey. Major Nalder objected that there were many donkeys and he must have a description. The answer (in English) was as follows: "Sir. The colour of the donkey is green and has borne a male child indifferent to the colour of his mother."
I think the donkey must have been found, don't you?
I have a very interesting letter from Father this week dated Dec 11 but nothing from you. However Father gave me all the news. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude
Jan. 19. [19 January 1920] I've forgotten to tell you that the event last week was the opening of the Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] rly. We all went out to meet the train which had come up from Basrah in 24 hours with 40 notables, the MacMunns laid the last rail and we steamed triumphantly into the station where we had a great tea party. It was a most successful function.