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Gertrude Bell, happily for her family and friends, was one of the people whose lives can be reconstructed from correspondence. About the little girls frocks Hunt would like to have one for Molly made of cambric matching the pattern of Elsa, 16d a yard 40 in. It looks like the white skeleton of a town, standing knee deep in the blown sand.
It was fortunate for the recipients that the act of writing, the actual driving of the pen, seemed to be no more of an effort to Gertrude than to remember and record all that the pen set down. [The only remaining entry in the diary is an account of her birthday, the day she was eleven, Monday, 14th of July. Then I found under my pillow a book from nurse then we got up. The little girls think it is a great pity you are coming back so soon, because we are so comfortable. If you let it stand for 12 hours the taste almost goes away, but it remains flat and disagreeable, and I add some lemon juice to it before I drink it. We pitched our tents by a charming temple in the very middle of the ruins--it was before the mules came up, we having got in at 10.
MY DEAR FLORENCE, Mopsa has been very naughty this morning. By some mischance none of her letters from Bucharest seems to have been preserved, but we know that she was extremely happy there, and keenly interested in her new surroundings. Then I paid some visits and came home with Papa at . We stopped, too, and had some coffee and dates and my soldiers ate bread new baked--very good, I tasted it--and drank camels' milk.
She has been scampering all over the dining-room Cilla says. Auntie Ada had her on her knee and Kitty was at one side. From Bucharest she returned to London, from London she Went to Redcar, enjoying herself everywhere. Molly and I have since been picking cowslips in the fields. They eat surprisingly little, these Arabs, when they are travelling.
[This is the earliest letter extant from Gertrude, dated when she was six years old. But it was all part of her entire honesty and independence of judgment: and the time was to come when many a distinguished foreign statesman not only listened to the opinions she proffered but accepted them and acted on them. I paid everything but the butcher with what you sent, and had over 1 pound balance which I have kept for next time. So we all played at jumping over a string, not a very cooling occupation, till fortunately Miss Thomson came and called them in. There is no water between Ain el Baida and Karyatein, three hours on.
It is addressed to me, at a time when she was not yet my little daughter but my "affectionate little friend." Mopsa, about whom she writes, was a large grey Persian cat, who played a very prominent part in the household.] REDBARNS, COATHAM, REDCAR, Sept., 25th, 1874. Gertrude hardly ever dated her letters except by the day of the week, sometimes not even that, so that where the envelope has not been preserved I have had to guess the year by the context. I went to Clarence to-day and arranged about the nursing lecture to-morrow,-there were a lot of things to prepare for it. Did we tell you how Molly puzzled and shocked her dreadfully the other day by asking her suddenly what was the French for "this horse has the staggers"! I caught up the Agail who had stopped to breakfast and were making coffee and baking bread--they eat nothing in the morning before they start.
Gertrude herself in her letters used often to spell the same word in different ways, sometimes because she was trying experiments in transliteration, sometimes deliberately adopting a new way, sometimes because the same word is differently pronounced in Arabic or in Turkish. I am also much indebted to the following for placing at my disposal maps or photographs, letters or portions of letters from Gertrude in their possession, or accounts of her written by themselves: Captain J. To most people outside her own circle Gertrude was chiefly known by her achievements in the East, and it is probably the story of these that they will look for in this book. The pigion was brought into our room it drank some milk Maurice spilt a lot on my bed. The History Lecturer at Queens College at that time was Mr. Gertrude's intelligence and aptitude for history impressed him keenly, and he strongly urged us to let her go to Oxford and go in for the History School. She had a most engaging way of saying 'Well you know, my father says so and so' as a final opinion on every question under discussion-[and indeed to the end of her life Gertrude, with the same absolute confidence would have been capable of still quoting the same authority as final]. Yesterday morning I went to the French Literature class at Caroline's [Hon. It is lovely, you must learn it the first dancing lesson you are here. We had a very agreeable chat and they gave me some gingerbread biscuits, for which I blessed them and we made plans for meeting in Damascus.