16 March 1926

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

[16 March 1926] Baghdad March 16. Darling Father. I know just what you mean in your letter of March 3. It's like a great door closed onto the future, isn't it. All the things you planned and dreamt of shut out, poor dearest. The letter from Frances which you sent me was beautiful. She does love you so much. I hope she will find her kind of happiness in the life she has chosen. She deserves it, doesn't she. Sir Arthur's letter was very dear.

This letter ought to catch you before you leave for Italy. I'm so glad you are going. I feel sure you need a rest, you have been far too busy. Thank you for the p.c. from Sir Henry. I must write to him but I hope the boy is better or out of the wood.

I went to Ur last week, taking Lionel and a very nice Col. Martin (I told you about him) who was a great solace to me because we played picquet in the train between tea and dinner. We got to Ur in the early morning, after about 18 hours' journey and left at 5 in the evening, catching the mail and getting into Baghdad at 7 a.m. So I had a very busy day dividing the things. Nor was it very easy. I had to take the best thing they have got, a small but very perfect statue of the Goddess Ban who presided over the farm yard and has two geese by her throne and two under her feet. As we walked up to Ur from the train, the sky was black with geese flighting north, and talking as hard as they flew. I felt the goddess had been well supplied with them in her time.

I relinquished the lovely little head of the Moon Goddess which was published in the Times and very reluctantly I relinquished two very early plaques showing sacrificial scenes. I think I really ought to have taken one, but Mr Woolley made a fuss and I thought after all that I had got a great deal for the Museum out of their labour, so I ended by giving both.

I'm getting much more knowing with practice. I now can place cylinder and other seals at more or less their comparative date and value, so that I don't choose wildly according to prettiness but can take my full share of the best things. I least I hope so.

The Goddess Ban is worth a great deal of money - I don't know [how] much, never having tried to sell, but certainly over ú5000. Lionel was so anxious lest we should be robbed of her (he is rather fussy) that he carried her about in his rÅcksack and I fancy used her as a pillow, like a crossed Foreign Office Bag. I took her away when we reached Baghdad, kept her in my house for a day and on Sunday deposited her in a safe. I also discussed with the police how we should protect the new museum. We have such a number of very valuable things which you can't keep in safes for they must be exhibited and safes are not good for that.

I had to lunch on Sunday rather an interesting young woman, a Miss Freda White, introduced to me by Baffy Dugdale - she is a colleague of hers on the League of Nations Union. She knew a great deal and was very modest about it. She is coming to dinner tomorrow and I've got a suitable party to meet her - including a Syrian who can tell her how the mandate is working there. It isn't working at all. Things go from bad to worse in the most scandalous fashion.

Ken and the Bourdillons dined and played bridge - a friendly party - but it rained in such torrents that I felt ashamed of having asked them to come.

I very much wonder what you think of the report of the Coal Commission. If when you return from Italy you make any public comments on it, I should like to be favoured with them.

Ken and I dined last night with Nuri Pasha, a very pleasant party including one of the Iraq Army's British officers and his wife. It was slightly disturbed by the arrival just as we had finished dinner of an old Jewish notable with his son who had come to congratulate Nuri on his having embarked on the fast of Ramadhan. As Nuri never embarks on any fast - very few people do - it was rather absurd. After they left we played bridge. Madame Nuri took a hand and played quite well. Aren't they coming on! Ever, darling, your very loving daughter Gertrude.

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