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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
Creation Date
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1 letter, plus envelope

Tuesday 23rd Before Lucerne [Luzern]. Dearest Mother. So far we have been extremely prosperous, in fact all our journey has been so simple that there has only been one opportunity of going wrong which I confess we to a certain extent embraced. We were a ..... arriving in Paris and .... porters advised us to go straight to the Gare de l'Est and dine there. We went accordingly and consulted a porter there as to a place to dine. He said we had better go en face, so we went with the best intentions - but en face was very big and there were many streets opening away to right and leftward and we wandered on past enormous restaurants where we might dine indeed but in the oddest company. Meantime the time was passing - we had only 25 minutes - our chances of dinner seemed to be diminishing and we were famished. Finally in despair I stopped before one of those little newspaper places in the street and asked the old woman who was very neat[?] and white capped whether she knew of a convenable place to dine! She was equal to the occasion - "Ah oui, Madame" she said "l'Hìtel de l'Europe - c'est Ö deux pas d'ici" So it was and that was about its only merit for it was a poky little hole in which I should judge the newspaper lady generally had dinner herself! However it was in a measure respectable for there were only some old commis voyageurs sort of people who paid no kind of attention to us, and we had a beefsteak, some haricots ..... and some fruit and paid 6 francs for the whole. But it was a comic place to be in! When we came back to the station and found our sleeping carriages waiting for us we felt that we were quite unworthy of them nor could we look our porter in the face lest he should ask us where we had dined after all!
We had a most comfortable night - at least Mary had and I might have had if I had not been pursued by nightmares of proofs which I was trying to correct all night and couldn't! There was a nouvelle mariÇe in the compartment next us and she was rather a bore for she had brought great bunches of white lilac and red roses which she would keep in the basin where we wanted to wash our hands. The basin was like one of Papa's ......; an extremely shaky train, a very shallow basin full of water, a pair of hands inches by inches - find how much washing was done. And if he objects that the hands would slop out all the water - why they did!

We breakfasted at BÉle [Basel (Basle)] on coffee and delicious rolls and honey and now we are passing through the most beautiful legions of mountains, all snow white and glittering in the sun. It doesn't feel cold at all but everything outside is hard frozen and in the cuttings long icicles and sheets of ice are hanging on the rocks. We have just passed Lucerne but I am rather concerned about the lake - it seems to have disappeared, which is a pity! Perhaps we shall come upon it later. I shall post this letter to you at Gîschenen where we lunch - do you remember lunching there with Sidney Colvin!

I got my rug by the bye; I think I will write a line to Grandmamma and tell her I am prospering - perhaps you didn't know I had left my rug behind.

Mary is an ideal travelling companion, she is always amused and happy and ready to accept everything. Even the dinner in the Hìtel de l'Europe did not come amiss! I should like to see the last act of that comedy: Mother (reading a letter from her absent daughter) !!!!!!..!!

I wish one of the children would write to me and tell me about Jess. My dear love to Papa Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

IIIF Manifest