Letters

2 May 1921

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

[2 May 1921] Baghdad May 2 Darling Father. I've just got your delightful letter posted at Genoa [Genova]. You seem to have had a pleasant voyage on the whole. As for the small Churchill incident I must say it seems to me to have been a molehill out of nothing and I can't imagine why Clementine minded what you said. Oh and I haven't answered your letter posted as you left Egypt. I was horrified to hear that you missed your boat but what really distressed me most was regret that I hadn't been in Cairo to spend those days with you. I should very much have enjoyed the journey back and the visits to Syracuse [Siracusa] and Naples [Napoli] - that's to say I should have immensely have loved to be with you there. I really can't tell you what it meant to me to have you at Cairo, and as long as you don't think it was too much trouble - as you say you don't - I'm undividedly glad you came. But I would have liked to have been with you much longer and shared your travels with you. Next year, inshallah, we'll meet somewhere in the Near East and go back to England together.

Every week I hope that next time I meet the coal strike will be over and it never is. You must be having a dreadfully difficult time and one can't feel any confidence that Govt interventions will mean anything like a lasting solution. I'm painfully anxious for your letters about it. Mother's letter of March 31 was before it began - that's the last I have from home.

I send you Humphry Bowman's nice letter about you and one from Gen. Ironside who is going on very well. I trust they won't allow him to fly to Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)]! "Thinking in terms of air" (a favourite expression of his) isn't always a consolatory process.

Did I ever tell you that Mustapha Pasha Bajlan (to whom you gave a silver pencil) died while I was in Cairo - a heart attack. It's a great loss; he was a staunch supporter at Khaniqin [Khanaqin] and a very old friend of mine. I had a great affection for him. His wife has written me several letters - she is a delightful woman. Some time I must get up to Khaniqin to see her. My former servant, Zaiya, who gave us tea at railhead when we went up the Persian road, turned up this morning, smiling and prosperous, with a present of two ducks - very handy for I've a dinner party tomorrow. He was down for a short visit and returns to Quraitu [Qoratu]. Col. Lubbock has just gone on leave and comes back in the autumn. But much worse is the fact that Aurelia leaves tomorrow with the children for Italy. I think she is right to go; George is looking very fragile and she hasn't been overwell herself, but I shall miss her dreadfully. She gave a farewell teaparty on Saturday to which we all went. It's thick with teaparties. Lady Cox had one in the club garden on Thursday, after which Aurelia and I went on to a second little tea party given by Major Murray in her honour in the Maude garden. Today I'm waiting for a number of the ladies of Baghdad - I've got one lot today (Monday) and another on Wed. One must get these things over before Ramadhan which begins on May 8.

Yesterday (Sunday) their Excellencies took a party to Babylon with me as guide. We left at 7 am and arrived by motor about 11, saw the palace and Ishtar gate and had an excellent lunch - need I say since it was provided by Lady Cox - in the German Expeditionshaus. The guests were mostly Airforce, including Col. Borton, the nice man who has succeeded Col. Burnet. After lunch he and I went to see the Marduk temple mound after showing Sir Percy a good place to birdsnest, bless him - no other than the temple zigurrat [sic]. Then we all walked back along the river edge under the palm trees, very peaceful and delicious. Lady Cox had the laugh of us - unlike the Sakkarah [Saqqara] expedition - for she left before us and got home at 8 while we, delayed by birdsnesting left at 5 and didn't get in till 10. I slept a good sleep last night.

- I've just had about 30 ladies to tea, quite a nice party in the garden, so that's that.

The office hours are now 7 a.m. till 1 which means breakfasting at 6.30. I think I shall rather like it. Later in the summer I shall come back for lunch and then have a rest in my house, but as yet it's not at all hot, an exceptionally cool and pleasant spring.

Do you see a very angry leader in the Times about AT [Wilson]'s appointment in the APOC? I fancy - in private! - that there was a good deal of hanky panky about the business. He had the offer up his sleeve, I think, for a long time. I hear now that he kept all the APOC business in his own hands always - the files were absolutely secret; no one was allowed to see them. This is for your eyes only.

Mr Philby has gone off on a tour to Mosul [Mawsil, Al]. I haven't seen him for 10 days. I think he is still very sore about Talib Pasha and I'm doubtful whether he will stay if Faisal comes, an eventuality which seems more and more likely. I shall be very sorry if he goes but on the other hand it will be no good his remaining if he is secretly hostile to the established Govt.

George Lloyd sent me a letter of introduciton to a young man called Dodge, a step-son of Lionel Guest, on his way to Persia to see if there are any openings for investments in that country. He is by way of looking - round him[?] here too - a nice boy, he was wounded in the Gallipoli [Gelibolu] landing and several times in France. He came with us to Babylon yesterday and dines with me tomorrow. I've asked Ja'far, Nuri and Naji Suwaidi to meet him, with Major Murray and another of my colleagues. I think he ought to be amused to meet all our leading Nationalists! I know I should be, if I were he. George again presses me to go to India in August. If Mr Cornwallis is here by that time I think I can safely go.

Goodbye my dearest Belloved step-mother and father. I'm happy and interested in my work and very happy in the confidence of my Chief. When I think of this time last year - ! Ever your loving daughter Gertrude

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