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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cornwallis, Ken
Dobbs, Henry
Cooke, R.S.
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Clayton, Iltyd
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Dec 9 Darling Father. This is the Xmas mail and I send you the best of good wishes. I feel so anxious about Hugo. There's no telegram from you - I don't know whether that is good or bad, but I hope for the best. A little book will come to you from Bain with my love. It's for your Italian journey. Last week when I wrote, we were in great anxiety. All has ended well. I enclose a darling letter from Sylvia which please send on to Aunt Maisie. I have no news yet of what was decided at Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)]. Aunt M. will get that from her direct. The kindness of everybody, especially the A.V.M. was past talking about. I took Sylvia to the aerodrome and saw her off on Thursday afternoon. Marie and Zaya came too. Then I came home, packed and dined early and at 9 p.m. took the train to go up to Khanaqin to the King. Ken came too. We arrived at 6 a.m., dressed and found a posse of ADCs and officials waiting to receive us and waft us up to H.M.'s house - he has built quite a good and comfortable little house. When we arrived about 7, we found the King in bed with fever. It had almost gone but we telegraphed at once for Sinbad, then breakfasted and after holding {his} H.M.'s hand a little more, Ken and I and Zaid went off shooting. We motored for about a couple of hours over execrable roads to the other side of the farm where we shot for 4 hours in the thickets by the Diyala [(Sirwan)]. It was very hot, but oh so delicious. I hadn't been out a day since I arrived in October. I loved it. We got quite enough black partridge and quail to satisfy us and at 2.30 found our lunch waiting for us and eat it, very hungrily, sitting on the cushions out of the cars. Then we drove back to find the King quite well again and sitting on the roof with a glorious sunset and a gorgeous view of the Persian hills before him. Then we had tea - Sinbad arrived, we bathed and dressed and dined. After which Ken went away and Sinbad, H.M. and I and Rustam Beg played bridge till bed time. Next morning, Saturday, Sinbad, Zaid and Rustam went away. I slept till past 8 and appeared at breakfast at 9. The King had breakfasted but he sat by while I eat. We then talked till the arrival of Mr Thomas, an agricultural expert now employed by the Diyala Cotton Plantations Co. We sat and talked cotton growing for an hour - most interesting, and then motored off to the cotton fields, our lunch following us. It was really wonderful; the King's cotton is all first grade. Picking was in progress and we wandered through the fields and looked and admired and praised - H.M. in an extasy [sic] of satisfaction. At a quarter to 2 we rejoined the cars and lunched. It was hot and heavenly weather. Then we drove back to tea on the roof where we were joined by Iltyd Clayton and Major Eadie who had come up from Qaraghan, 2 hours' away at my bidding. There's a battery of 'Iraq artillery at Qaraghan, practising. We played bridge till dinner after which Iltyd, Major Eadie, Mr Thomas and I caught the train at 9. Iltyd sat in my carriage talking till 10.30 when we reached Qaraghan. He got out while I went to bed and slept soundly till 6, when we got to Baghdad. Such an exquisite dawn it was. I had an assignation with Lionel at the Museum at 11. Ken took me there. Lionel came to lunch and brought a very nice Mrs Kerr, an American, who has been engaged as head mistress of the biggest of our girls' schools. I'm going to see something of her. Ken dined and we discussed arrangements for the King's household which I am taking in hand. Elsie and I are furnishing the Khanaqin house together and having great fun over it. On Monday I came in to the office to find very serious news of Turkish activities on the frontier. I tabulated it and took it to Bernard whom I found much perturbed over still more serious - and desperately secret - news from home. We talked it all over and I advised that Ken, who had left for Amarah ['Amarah, Al] at dawn, should be telegraphed for at once, and sent up to Mosul [Mawsil, Al] to keep watch and report. Bernard jumped at this and I also in the course of the morning had one or two other remarkably helpful ideas which he adopted. Altogether I was working with him till 11 and then I had to write the fortnightly report. So I lunched with the Bernards and got it done about 3 when I went across to the Ministry of Education, picked up Lionel and inspected some new premises for the museum - very satisfactory. Lionel came to tea, and then Elsie to lay plans about furnishing the King's house. She lunched with me on Tuesday and together we gave orders for masses of furniture - we are going to do it so well and simply. I had to go back to the office about 4.30 as I had not got through my work. I had been interrupted in the morning by the Italian consul, M. Speranza, who brought a very distinguished Italian journalist, M. Cipola, who is correspondent for 4 Italian papers. We had a rather thrilling talk. Cipola tried to pump me about Syria, but I absolutely refused to be drawn. Then he asked me about what we were doing in the 'Iraq and I responded well. Finally we talked of Mosul and he agreed that if the League decision went wrong it would be a crime against humanity and a death blow to the League. I then showed him the map and pointed out where the Turks were gathering on our frontier - in French territory. That's the danger. The French can't do anything to stop them and we mayn't. I sent Cipola away a wiser man. As he left he expressed the deepest thanks and asked if he might photograph me for his papers. I said that the best way in which he could express thanks was not to photograph or mention me and he dropped the idea. He is really a most interesting man - he is coming to lunch. Elsie lunched - oh yes I've told you that. Ken came back that evening and came to me about 6 after he had seen Bernard to tell me all that had been decided. In the end Bernard went up alone to Mosul today and is returning tomorrow when he will decide what Ken is to do. I think myself that he was mistaken not to take Ken with him, but I couldn't interfere. Anyway I am to go up to Mosul by train on Sunday night. They have been expecting me for the last 5 weeks - I meant to take Sylvia - to start a little museum and do some antiquities work. Bernard and the A.V.M. think that it would have a calming effect if I were to go now and I would much rather be there than living in anxiety here. Today I have worked like a beaver all the morning - Bernard being away I had to do a lot of his work. Frankly, now that Sir Henry has gone, we two are the only live wires in the office. I spent the afternoon with the Cookes and Elsie buying old Indian furniture for the King. We got two chests and a cupboard very cheap, thanks to Mr Cooke, and are in treaty for a couple of round tables. I have a terrific amount to do - the annual report and an article for the Encyclopedia and I don't know what more. But I'm glad to be so busy as it keeps me from missing Sylvia - though I do that all the same. Goodbye darling - before you get this you will know what has happened to us in Mosul. Your very loving daughter Gertrude.

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