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Title: General Gordon - A Christian Hero
Author: Churchill, Seton
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: C. G. Gordon

P.S. I am quite happy, thank God, & like Lawrence, I have "tried
to do my duty."

_Copied from the Original Engraving by permission of_
F. C. MCQUEEN & SONS, _sole Proprietors of the Copyright._]


A Christian Hero



Author of "Stepping-Stones to Higher Things," Etc.

13th Edition
(_Completing 41,000 Copies_)

James Nisbet & Co., Limited
21 Berners Street


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh








CHAP.                                              PAGE

   I. INTRODUCTION                                    1

  II. EARLY LIFE AND CRIMEAN WAR                     12


  IV. GORDON'S FIRST COMMAND                         36

   V. PROGRESS OF THE REBELLION                      50

  VI. END OF THE REBELLION                           65

 VII. AT GRAVESEND                                   80

VIII. GORDON'S SIMPLE FAITH                          92

  IX. HIS CATHOLICITY                               114



 XII. ABYSSINIA, INDIA, AND CHINA                   178


 XIV. KHARTOUM                                      209

  XV. THE SIEGE                                     230

 XVI. THE FALL OF KHARTOUM                          246

XVII. CONCLUSION                                    263




Lord Wolseley, on hearing an officer say that General Gordon was mad,
remarked, in language similar to that used by George II. to the Duke of
Newcastle about General Wolfe, that it was a great pity Gordon had not
bitten more Generals, so that they might have been infected with some
of his madness. Nor is there any reason why the motive power which
could make a man do such noble deeds and lead such a splendid life
should be confined to Generals. There are thousands of young men in
this country who may be helped to live better lives by the study of
such a Christian hero as Charles George Gordon undoubtedly was, and it
is with that end in view that I have endeavoured to write a popular
sketch of his life and character.

My object in adding to the number of biographies[1] already written of
General Gordon is to meet the demand for a popular book for young men
and others, which will focus the events of his life into one handy
volume, and which shall at the same time give a clear insight into the
religious life of this Christian hero. This I have attempted to combine
with a sketch of his military, political, and social life, setting
forth not only the deeds of the man, but the motive which prompted
them. The best writers on Gordon have taken up parts of his life only,
so that no one can get a view of it as a whole without wading through a
large number of volumes, some of them very ponderous. The best record
of his career in China is a work by Mr. Andrew Wilson called "The
Ever-Victorious Army." A smaller book by Mr. W. E. Lilley gives an
interesting account of Gordon's life at Gravesend. The first part of
his life in Africa is given in a larger volume by Dr. G. Birkbeck Hill,
called "Colonel Gordon in Central Africa." The late Prebendary Barnes
edited a small book, "Reflections in Palestine," and Mr. A. Egmont Hake
has published a complete account of the hero's career at Khartoum in
"The Journals of General Gordon," which were given to him in manuscript
to be edited. In addition to this valuable work, the same writer, who
is a distant cousin of Gordon's, has written two large volumes,
embracing the whole of his life, under the title "The Story of Chinese

      [1] In certain points where I have differed from other writers, I
      have relied on the opinion of a near relative of the late General
      Gordon, as to the accuracy of the statements put forward.

The late Sir Henry Gordon has also written a biography; but though an
able man and very fond of his brother, it is not generally considered
that he did full justice to his memory. The brothers were widely
separated in age, there being fourteen years between them; and owing to
the younger one having spent so much of his life abroad, they had not
seen much of each other. Colonel Sir William F. Butler has written the
ablest and most interesting of all the biographies which embrace the
whole of Gordon's life, but as he is a Roman Catholic, it could not be
expected that he would enter largely into the religious views of his
hero. The remarks he does make on the subject are, however, excellent
and in good taste. Another capital sketch of Gordon has been produced
by the celebrated war correspondent Archibald Forbes, who not
unnaturally devotes most of his space to the military aspect of
Gordon's career, and says but little about his religious life. From the
religious standpoint the best information can be got from the "Letters
of General Gordon to his Sister," edited by Miss Gordon. There seems to
have been a special bond of sympathy between the brother and sister,
and she seems to have been made the recipient of all his confidences,
religious and otherwise.

In order to get a clear and accurate conception of Gordon's many-sided
character, I have made myself acquainted with all these authorities on
the subject. There is another little book to which I am indebted--"Letters
from Khartoum," written by the late Frank Power, correspondent of the
_Times_ at Khartoum during the siege. It gives a good insight into
Gordon's life in the beleaguered city. I have further had the advantage
of hearing many anecdotes and incidents that throw a light upon the
personality of one who undeniably ranks amongst the great men of the
century. Nevertheless I feel that to represent the religious and
professional life of a man like Gordon, who was so essentially original
and unlike other people, is a very difficult task, so I have, as far as
possible, quoted his own words in giving expression to his views.

The play of "Hamlet" without its leading character could not be more
deficient than a sketch of the life of General Gordon without a careful
setting-forth of his religious views. It would be impossible to point
to one in this nineteenth century who was a more complete living
embodiment of the truth contained in the text, "This is the victory
that overcometh the world, even our faith." He was a man of faith, a
man of prayer, a devout student of the Word of God; and though he was
_in_ the world, and took far more than his share of the ordinary duties
of life, he was not _of_ the world. Mr. Gladstone was right when he
said from his seat in the House of Commons, "Such examples are fruitful
in the future, and I trust that there will grow from the contemplation
of that character and those deeds other men who in future time may
emulate his noble and most Christian example." Gordon must ever remain
a mystery to those who have not got the key to his character, and my
desire is simply to place that key in the hands of young men, so that
they may study him for themselves, and may learn to turn to the same
source whence he derived his wisdom and his force of character.

Such noble examples are not often seen, for Christian heroes in this
world are all too few. It is, then, our bounden duty to take pains that
the example set by one who has been termed "the youngest of the saints"
shall not be lost on the young men who come after him, and who have not
had the privilege of seeing him and knowing him while alive.

    "Lives of great men all remind us
      We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
      Footprints in the sands of time."

Goodness in the abstract we are all prepared to admire; but while we do
this, how often we are tempted to declare it an impossible thing to
live up to a high standard. God, recognising the weakness of human
nature, sent His only-begotten Son to reveal the Father, and show us a
life of goodness in human form. He has further descended to our
weakness by permitting us from time to time to see in our midst living
examples of how Christians can follow out the principles of Christ. The
Apostle Paul in one of his Epistles urges his readers to follow him
even as he followed Christ. Good men have their failings, and these we
are to avoid; but while doing so, we should aim at imitating that which
is good and noble and Christlike in their characters. It is a great
privilege to be permitted to come in contact with living men of the
type of Gordon, but that privilege is only for the few. As the great
majority of our fellow-creatures are denied it, the next best thing for
them is to be able to read about these heroes, and thus endeavour to
catch their spirit. Some are inclined to sneer at biographies, and to
say that, speaking generally, they set forward only the good part of
the character of their subjects, omitting all that is faulty. To a
certain extent this is undoubtedly true, owing to the very nature of
things; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that it is only
the good that we are to follow, and therefore it is useless to direct
attention to a man's failings.

There have been few men who have attained to eminence whose inner life
could be closely investigated and betray so few faults as did Gordon's.
The late Sir Stafford Northcote (afterwards Lord Iddesleigh), leader of
the Conservative Opposition in the House of Commons at the time of
Gordon's death, only expressed the literal truth when he said: "General
Gordon was a hero, and permit me to say he was still more--he was a
hero among heroes. For there have been men who have obtained and
deserved the praise of heroism whose heroism was manifested on the
field of battle or in other conflicts, and who, when examined in the
tenor of their personal lives, were not altogether blameless; but if
you take the case of this man, pursue him into privacy, investigate his
heart and his mind, you will find that he proposed to himself not any
ideal of wealth and power, or even fame, but to do good was the object
he proposed to himself in his whole life, and on that one object it was
his one desire to spend his existence."

But though Gordon's inner life was so thoroughly open to investigation,
there was something about him that made him very human. He had his full
share of faults, and a quickness of temper which manifested itself
unmistakably on occasions. He had also that kind of hasty impatience to
which men are liable who are themselves quick at taking in ideas, or
seeing how a thing should be done, when they are brought into contact
with others of a slower temperament. He was painfully conscious of his
own defects, and judged them far more severely than other people would

What made him so really great was the happy combination of so many
virtues with a corresponding absence of ordinary defects. There have
been Christians as earnest and devout as he; there have been soldiers
as brave and capable; there have been men as kind-hearted; but there
have been few who, while combining all of these good points and many
more, have exhibited so complete an absence of the numerous defects
which blemish the characters of most great men. The late Prebendary
Barnes, who was very intimate with him, remarks that "there are no
popular illusions to be dispelled" as one studies his inner life. Sir
John Lubbock in one of his lectures says of Napoleon, that he was a man
of genius, but not a hero. Now, while Gordon was essentially a genius,
he was even more essentially a hero. True heroism is inseparably
associated with self-sacrifice. A man may be as brave as a bulldog, yet
be entirely wanting in all that goes to make him a hero. The dictionary
definition by no means embraces all that the word implies. Lord
Wolseley in a magazine article remarked that he had met but two heroes
in his eventful life; one of them was that noble Christian officer
General Lee, who commanded the Southerners in the American War, and the
other was Gordon. It was his complete forgetfulness of self, his entire
willingness to sink his own individuality, his own comfort, his own
position, his good name, that made Gordon so Christlike, and lifted him
above the level of his fellows. We are accustomed to read of brave men,
of original thinkers, of great statesmen, of men of genius in different
departments of life, but we seldom read of one who was so entirely free
from what Milton calls the last infirmity of great men--the love of
fame--that he was willing to be nothing that the cause he had espoused
might triumph. When Columbus first saw the River Orinoco, some one
remarked to him that he must have discovered an island. His reply was,
"No such river as that flows from an island; that mighty torrent must
drain the waters of a continent;" and his prediction proved to be
correct. When we see the deep stream of true heroism flowing from the
heart of such a man as Gordon, we instinctively feel that no mere human
heart could produce such a torrent of good works, but that behind the
human being there must be something more. It has been my object in this
memoir to show that the stream that went forth from Gordon's heart to
cheer and bless all with whom he came in contact, sprang from no
isolated fountain, but had its origin in the great ocean of Divine
love, which has existed in all ages, but was revealed more distinctly
on Calvary.

                            *      *      *

This is a material, sceptical age, when many pride themselves on their
want of faith, quite forgetting that to believe too little is as
clearly an indication of mental weakness as to believe too much. God
suddenly raised up a man in our midst who was as strong in faith as he
was indifferent to the material things of this world. It was indeed his
faith in things eternal and unseen that made him so indifferent to
things temporal. Gordon might have lived and died amongst us without
being known beyond a limited circle, but that his Master placed him on
high so that men should be compelled to hear about his life. Sir
William Butler in his interesting book, "The Campaign of the
Cataracts," does not at all exaggerate when he says:--

    "Who is this far-off figure looming so large between the rifts in
    the dense leaguer which the Arab has drawn around Khartoum? We
    cannot save him with all this host and all this piled-up treasure;
    but, behold! our failure shall be his triumph; for God has raised a
    colossal pedestal in the midst of this vast desert, and placing
    upon it His noblest Christian knight, has lighted around the base
    the torch of Moslem revolt, so that all men through coming time may
    know the greatness of His soldier."

In spite, however, of the fact that many failed to appreciate him while
he was alive, we may be thankful to think that there is much good left
in Old England yet; for when the events of his noble career were made
public, there was a widespread feeling of regret that we had as a
nation failed to value adequately a man of so much true nobility.

In an interesting article in "The Young Man," Mr. William T. Stead hit
off the prominent characteristic of the hero's life when he said:
"General Gordon taught the world that it is possible to be good without
being goody-goody. That it is possible to live like a Christ and to die
like a Christ for your fellow-men, without going out of the world or
refusing to do your own fair share of the day's work of the world, is
one of those truths which need to be revealed anew to each successive
generation by the practical demonstration of an actual life." Gordon
was essentially a manly man, but with all his courage and bravery he
combined the tenderness of a woman. He could be "truest friend and
noblest foe." His courage and deeds of daring would have won him that
much-coveted distinction the Victoria Cross, had they been performed in
an English campaign; yet the sufferings of a child, or even of an
animal, caused him the greatest grief. He had a keen sense of humour,
and might have cultivated the mere pleasure-seeking part of his nature,
and become socially very popular. It has been well said that "Humanity
wants more than this; it craves to have its best and noblest powers
called into play, and exercised into action that will tend in some way
to promote the general good." It is for this reason that his example is
such a noble one to set before young men. Most young fellows who are
worthy of the name of men have within them a spirit which admires all
that is manly, noble, and chivalrous; and for such it is a grand thing
to have a high ideal, even if they do not attain to it. As it is true
of men that they cannot habitually think mean thoughts without becoming
mean, or set before themselves a low ideal without lowering themselves,
so is it true that men cannot adopt a high ideal without instinctively
cultivating noble and lofty aims.

Frederick Robertson of Brighton once said, "Hate hypocrisy, hate cant,
hate intolerance, hate oppression, hate injustice, hate pharisaism,
hate them as Christ hated them, with a deep, living, Godlike hatred."
It would be difficult to point to one who was more thoroughly
influenced by the teaching conveyed in this short sentence than was
Gordon. But negative virtues of this kind were not enough for him. One
of his most prominent characteristics was his love for that which is
good, and his incessant efforts to do good. His career was one long
effort to relieve the sufferings of his fellow-creatures, to inculcate
Divine truths, and in every way to make the world better. Few labourers
have been called to such a variety of work; but it was all one to him.
He worked for God in China when fighting to quell a civil war; he
served the same Master at Gravesend when he visited the sick and the
dying, and rescued little street arabs from lives of sin; and the same
motives prompted him when, later on, he devoted all his energies to
mitigating and attempting to abolish the horrors of the slave-trade. He
is dead, but his noble example still lives.

    "Press on, press on! nor doubt, nor fear,
    From age to age, this voice shall cheer;
    Whate'er may die and be forgot,
    Work done for God--it dieth not."



Charles George Gordon was born on January 28, 1833, at Woolwich, so
that he began his life among soldiers. He was the fourth son of General
Henry William Gordon, who was in the Royal Artillery. His father came
from a good family, which for centuries had been associated with the
army. The old General appears to have been a good officer and a
kind-hearted man, and doubtless the son inherited not only the
instincts of a soldier, but a certain nobility of character which was
conspicuous in the father. When the father held a high command at
Corfu, he made a point of seeking out and paying attention to the
forlorn and uninteresting, who are usually overlooked by others. Those
who have been richly endowed by Nature have little difficulty in
gaining the smiles of society; but in all classes there are a few
unfortunate ones, who are not specially gifted and attractive, and who
consequently often have the cold shoulder turned towards them. It was
characteristic of Charles Gordon's father, as it was of himself in
later years, that these were the ones he befriended and looked after.

If Charles Gordon inherited from his father the instincts of a soldier,
there can be little doubt that on his mother's side he inherited a
spirit of enterprise. His mother was Elizabeth Enderby, the daughter of
an enterprising merchant, who had ships on every sea. It is men of this
class, quite as much as our soldiers and sailors, who have made England
what she is. Samuel Enderby was one of the best-known among the great
merchant-princes of England, and he it was chiefly who opened to
commerce the previously unknown waters of the South Pacific, after the
exploring expeditions of Captain Cook. It is supposed that the first
batch of convicts sent to Botany Bay were conveyed in one of his ships,
and, but for his whaling fleet, Australia might never have been peopled
by English emigrants. His ships carried on a busy trade with America,
and it was one of his fleet that carried the historic cargo of tea
which was thrown into Boston harbour when the Americans severed their
connection with the mother country. His daughter had a large family,
numbering five sons and six daughters. Three only of the sons survived,
and they all attained the rank of General in the army. One of them
became General Enderby Gordon, C.B., of the Royal Artillery, who
distinguished himself in the Crimean War, and also in the Indian
Mutiny. Another became General Sir Henry William Gordon, already
alluded to as the author of "Events in the Life of Charles George
Gordon." Charlie Gordon, to use the name by which the subject of this
memoir was always known among his friends, was a delicate lad, and,
perhaps for this reason, was the special favourite of his mother, who
appears to have been a fond parent and a sensible woman. She was always
proud of her boy, and once or twice even annoyed him by speaking of him
in terms of praise to others.

The Gordon family seems to have been a very happy one, which to a great
extent must have been the result of the mother's influence. One only
needs to read the published "Letters of General Gordon to his Sister"
to see how passionately fond the two were of each other. It might well
have been Gordon that Browning had in his mind when he said--

    "I think, am sure, a brother's love exceeds
    All the world's love in its unworldliness."

A few lines from a letter of one of his brothers, written from the
Crimea, show the fond and almost parental care that the elder exhibited
on behalf of the younger brother. The extract is as follows:--"Only a
few lines to say Charlie is all right, and has escaped amidst a
terrific shower of grape and shells of every description. You may
imagine the suspense I was kept in until assured of his safety."

Like all soldiers' sons, Gordon when young had plenty of opportunities
of moving about and seeing different parts of the world. In many ways
this roving life is disadvantageous to a lad, as in after years he can
never look back to one spot as his home, and consequently he can never
localise the charming associations connected with that word. A boy also
suffers considerably by being moved from one school to another. On the
other hand, his wits, as a rule, get sharpened by contact with new
people and new circumstances. Before Gordon was seven years old, he had
accompanied his father on successive moves to Dublin, and to Leith
Fort. In 1840 he went to Corfu, where his father was in command of the
Royal Artillery. It was here the Duke of Cambridge first made his
acquaintance, as they occupied quarters next to each other, and His
Royal Highness, just forty-five years afterwards, after Gordon's death,
said in a speech at the Mansion House, that he remembered the little
lad then. As Gordon returned to England with his mother at the age of
ten, the fact that the Commander-in-Chief remembered him at all is
another proof of the wonderful faculty of memory which the Royal Family
are said to possess. How differently the Duke would have thought of
that little fair-haired boy with the blue penetrating eyes could he
have looked into the future! It was in 1843 that Mrs. Gordon brought
her son to England for the sake of his education. He went to school at
Taunton for a few years, and then to Mr. Jeffery's, Shooters Hill,
Woolwich, preparatory to entering the Royal Military Academy. His
father had been given an appointment at the Arsenal at Woolwich, so
that his holidays, as well as much of his school life, were spent at
that great garrison town. There was nothing about the youth at this
time that indicated what his future would be. Indeed, the very energies
which in after life made him undertake so much, finding no other vent,
gave him a turn for mischief and fun of all sorts. Later in life, and
even amid all his troubles in the Soudan, he would in his letters
recall with pleasure the boyish days spent at Woolwich.

                            *      *      *

In 1848 he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he
remained till 1852, when, at the age of nineteen, he received his
commission in the Royal Engineers. Although he was an adept at
surveying and at fortification, two branches of military knowledge
which served him well in after years, he was deficient in mathematics,
and consequently did not make much progress. An event which took place
here might have had very serious consequences, and shows that even then
he had the daring nature which afterwards characterised him. For some
reason it became necessary to restrain the cadets when leaving the
dining-hall, the approach to which was by a narrow staircase. At the
top of this staircase stood the senior corporal, with outstretched
arms, facing the cadets. This was too much for one so full of fun and
energy and so reckless of consequences as Gordon; so, putting down his
head, he charged, and butting the corporal in the pit of the stomach,
sent him flying down the staircase and through a window beyond.
Fortunately the corporal was unhurt, but Gordon was perilously near
dismissal, and having his military career cut short. The act of
insubordination was, however, overlooked by the authorities, but that
it did not subdue his spirit is evident from the fact that on another
occasion, when told by Captain Eardley Wilmot that he would never make
an officer, he tore the epaulets from his shoulders and threw them at
the feet of his superior. This officer, afterwards General Eardley
Wilmot, became one of his greatest friends. Later on, for another
offence, in which many were concerned, and of which it is doubtful if
Gordon really was guilty, he was deprived of half a year's seniority in
the army. This punishment really did him a good turn, for it enabled
him to secure a commission in the Royal Engineers instead of the Royal
Artillery, to which he would otherwise have been posted.

On the 23rd June 1852 Gordon was gazetted to the Engineers, and on the
29th November 1854 he was ordered to Corfu. As the Crimean War was
going on he was much disappointed at this order, and at first
attributed it to his mother's influence, who, he thought, wanted him to
be sent to a safe place. Through the influence of Sir John Burgoyne, an
old family friend, his destination was changed, and on the 4th of
December, during that bitterly cold winter, he writes, "I received my
orders for the Crimea, and was off the same day." This was not the only
time that he exhibited such promptitude in leaving his native land at
the call of his country. Thirty years afterwards he left England for
the Soudan the very day he received his orders.

He arrived in the Crimea on New Year's Day 1855, when all the
celebrated historical battles were over. His martial ardour had
doubtless been stirred by hearing how bravely our men swarmed up the
heights at Alma, charged the Russian gunners at Balaklava, and drove
back the sortie at Inkerman. When he arrived, the siege of Sebastopol
had commenced in earnest, and for some time it was an engineer's
campaign, in which the spade did more than the rifle, or, to speak more
correctly, the musket; for very few of our men had rifles then. Disease
and exhaustion from hardship slew far more than the bullet. Altogether,
it was rather a trying time for a young officer full of fire and
spirit, anxious to see service of that more dashing kind that appeals
to the imagination. The slow advance of the trenches must have tried
his somewhat impatient spirit, which, even in later years, when it
might have been modified by time, was always more ready for a rapid
march, a brilliant flank movement, or something of that kind. But
though the trench-work must have been wearisome and distasteful to a
degree, he threw himself heart and soul into it, meriting the following
praise from Colonel Chesney, an eminent engineer officer: "In his
humble position as an engineer subaltern he had attracted the notice of
his superiors, not merely by his energy and activity (for these are
not, it may be asserted, uncommon characteristics of his class), but by
an extraordinary aptitude for war, developing itself amid the
trench-work before Sebastopol in a personal knowledge of the enemy's
movements such as no other officer attained. 'We always used to send
him out to find what new move the Russians were making,' was the
testimony given to his genius by one of the most distinguished officers
he served under." He not only exhibited the "aptitude for war" of which
Colonel Chesney speaks, but it appears that he also displayed on
several occasions a great deal of that personal courage for which he
afterwards became so renowned. A single incident may be taken as a
specimen of many. One day as he was passing along the trenches, he
overheard a heated altercation between a sapper and a corporal, both
belonging to his own corps. On inquiring into the cause, he discovered
that the corporal had ordered a man to stand on the parapet, where he
was exposed to the enemy's fire, while the corporal, under cover, was
going to hand him some gabions for repairing the parapet. Gordon at
once jumped on to the parapet himself and called the corporal to join
him, letting the sapper hand up the gabions from a place of safety.
Gordon remained until the work was completed, in spite of the fire of
the Russians, and then turning to the corporal said, "Never order a man
to do anything you are afraid to do yourself."

His warlike genius and his courage were by no means his only remarkable
characteristics, and it may not be out of place to mention here a
trifling event, which possibly had a marked influence on his whole
life. It so happened that Colonel Staveley, an officer who afterwards
attained to some eminence, but who at that time was of no great note
beyond being the second in command of a distinguished corps, the 44th
Regiment, mentioned in Gordon's hearing that he had been appointed
field-officer of the day for the trenches for the following day, but
owing to his having been on sick leave, was ignorant of the geography
of the place. Now considering that Gordon was at this time greatly
overworked in the trenches, he might well have been excused had he
allowed Colonel Staveley's remark to pass; for it must be remembered
that it is no part of the duty of a young engineer officer to instruct
infantry field-officers in their duties. But this was not Gordon's
style. He, at all events, never limited himself to a strict routine of
mere duty, and so he cheerfully volunteered assistance, saying, "Oh!
come down with me to-night after dark, and I will show you over the
trenches." Colonel Staveley says, "He drew me out a very clear sketch
of the lines (which I have now), and down I went accordingly. He
explained every nook and corner, and took me along outside our most
advanced trench, the bouquets and other missiles flying about us in, to
me, a very unpleasant manner; he taking the matter remarkably coolly."
Napoleon somewhere remarked that "the smallest trifles produce the
greatest results," an expression to which Gordon himself once referred.
This Colonel Staveley afterwards became General Sir Charles Staveley,
and he it was who first recommended Gordon, when quite a young captain
in China, to take command of that army for which he did so much, and
with which he acquired such renown. Had it not been for Sir Charles
Staveley, possibly Gordon would never have had the opportunity he
needed to show of what good stuff he was made; and who but the General
himself can tell how much that night adventure in the trenches had to
do with his selection later on?

                            *      *      *

As I have taken a later opportunity to enlarge on Gordon's simple
faith, I will only say here that up to this period there are no
indications that he was very decided. It appears that during the year
1854, when stationed at Pembroke, a distinct spiritual change came over
him; and if we may judge from one of his letters to his sister Augusta,
it was she who influenced him for good. But there can be no question
that he did not at this time enter into that full assurance of faith
which afterwards characterised him; still, his faith at this period,
though weak, was real. In a letter home, referring to the death of a
Captain Craigie, who was killed by a splinter from a shell, he says, "I
am glad to say that he was a serious man. The shell burst above him,
and by what is called chance struck him in the back, killing him at
once." It is interesting to note from the words "what is called chance"
that he had already learnt to recognise the hand of God in everything,
and that even at this early stage of his career there existed the germs
of that doctrine on which he spoke and wrote so much later on. It has
been said by some that his so-called fatalistic views were imbibed from
the Mohammedans in the Soudan. This sentence in a letter written by him
before he had ever held an intimate conversation with a Mohammedan
shows that such was not the case. Allusion is made to the incident here
merely to show what the condition of faith and state of mind of Charles
Gordon were during the Crimean War. There is one other letter on
record, written about this time, which is worthy of mention here. When
the Commander-in-chief of the Crimean army died, Gordon wrote, "Lord
Raglan died of tear and wear and general debility. He was universally
regretted, as he was so kind. His life has been entirely spent in the
service of his country. I hope he was prepared, but do not know."

                            *      *      *

Beyond a few deeds of personal daring, there is not much to record of
Gordon during the Crimean War. He went out, as has already been said,
when the principal battles were over, and his position being quite a
subordinate one, he had no opportunities of distinguishing himself. He
gained the esteem of all those who did come in contact with him; he
took every opportunity of gaining a professional insight into the
science of war; he had many narrow escapes of being wounded, and once
he was struck on the head by a stone thrown up by a round shot. He
formed a high estimate of the Russians as soldiers, with a
correspondingly low one of our allies the French. Writing home of a
favourable opportunity lost of assaulting Sebastopol, he says, "I think
we might have assaulted on Monday, but the French do not seem to care
about it. The garrison is 25,000, and on that day we heard afterwards
that only 8000 were in the place, as the rest had gone to repel an
attack (fancied) of ours at Inkerman."

The history of the Crimean War has been written so often, that it is
unnecessary to occupy much space with detail, especially in view of the
unimportant part Gordon had to play. On June 7th he accompanied the
attacking force under Sir John Campbell, which was severely repulsed in
the assault upon the Great Redan. A delay of over two months took
place, and then the French attacked the Malakoff, and the English again
attempted to seize the Redan. The French were successful, but we
failed, and so it was decided to renew the attack on the following day.
The Russians, however, seeing it was useless to continue the struggle,
evacuated the post on the night of the 8th September. As Gordon was on
duty in the trenches that night, his account of what he witnessed is
interesting. "During the night of the 8th I had heard terrific
explosions, and going down to the trenches at 4 A.M., I saw a splendid
sight. The whole of Sebastopol was in flames, and every now and then
terrible explosions took place, while the rising sun shining on the
place had a most beautiful effect. The Russians were leaving the town
by the bridge; all the three-deckers were sunk, the steamers alone
remaining. Tons and tons of powder must have been blown up. About 8
A.M. I got an order to commence a plan of the works, for which purpose
I went to the Redan, where a dreadful sight was presented. The dead
were buried in the ditch--the Russians with the English--Mr. Wright
reading the burial service over them."

On the fall of Sebastopol Gordon joined the force that besieged
Kinburn, and was present at the fall of that fortress in October. He
then returned to Sebastopol, and was engaged in destroying the defences
of that place, remaining there till the evacuation in February 1856.
Although he received no promotion at the end of the war, he was
selected for the French Legion of Honour, a distinction given to very
few subalterns. Apparently, however, he had already formed to some
extent the opinion which became more decided in later years on the
subject of decorations, for he said in a letter written home a month
before the fall of Sebastopol, "I for one do not care about being
'lamented' after death. I am not ambitious, but what easily earned
C.B.'s and Majorities there are in some cases! while men who have
earned them, like poor Oldfield, get nothing. I am sorry for him. He
was always squabbling about his batteries with us, but he got more by
his perseverance than any man before did." Although Gordon was only
twenty-two years of age at this time, we see the germs of the
characteristics which later in life marked him so prominently. He was
even then indifferent to earthly distinctions; he had a simple faith in
his Saviour; he had repeatedly exhibited courage; and men of eminence
who came in contact with him had recognised indications of peculiar
military aptitude. Though he had had no opportunity of making a great
name for himself at that early date, he had stood the severe test of
his first campaign under great hardships, and while he had not been
found wanting in a single respect, he had gained the professional
respect and esteem of all.

It is unnecessary to enlarge on the time between the Crimean War and
the China War. Suffice it to say briefly, that instead of being sent
home, Gordon had to remain as an assistant-commissioner to settle the
frontier line; for Russia had to give up a piece of territory that in
1812 she had taken from the Turks. For a whole year he was engaged on
this task, and then, when he thought that he was to be allowed to
return home, he was sent to Asia Minor to perform a similar duty, and
was not able to return till he had been abroad three years. He was then
granted leave for six months, and afterwards returned to his work in
Armenia, where he remained till the spring of 1858, thus missing all
chance of being employed in the Indian Mutiny, which broke out in 1857.
On his return to England in 1858, he went to Chatham, where he was
promoted to the rank of captain the following year.



A stout old Scotch lady when asked about her health, replied that she
was "weel i' pairts, but ower muckle to be a' weel at ane time." If the
old lady was too large to be perfectly well all over at the same time,
may it not be said that in this respect China resembled her in 1860?
The largest empire in the world was suffering from external as well as
internal troubles. A great portion of the country was given up to all
the horrors of civil war conducted on an enormous scale, while the
united armies of England and France were assaulting it from without.

Space does not permit a detailed account of the causes which led
England to declare war on China. This war was but a phase in a dispute
that had been going on since 1837 between the two countries. In 1842,
to our shame it must be said, by force of arms we compelled the Chinese
to receive opium from India, and thenceforward a very sore feeling
existed against us. Just before the Indian Mutiny this feeling was
awakened by a trifling event, and war was again declared, though, owing
to the outbreak of the Mutiny, we did not press matters for a time. As
soon as our hands were free in India, operations in China were actively
pushed forward, the French troops joining us on account of the murder
of some French missionaries. The war was practically a walk-over, for
the Chinese army was quite incapable of meeting trained forces; and a
treaty having been agreed upon, the representatives of the English and
French returned home.

In March 1859 Mr. Frederick Bruce, brother to Lord Elgin, was sent out
as Minister Plenipotentiary to China, and instructed to proceed to
Pekin to exchange the ratifications of the treaty. He was to be
accompanied by Admiral Hope, the English admiral commanding in China.
Pekin lies inland about a hundred miles, being connected with the sea
by the river Peiho, the entrance to which was commanded by the Taku
Forts. For some reason, the Chinese did not want Mr. Bruce to proceed
to Pekin, or at all events they objected to his proceeding by the river
route, as he proposed. Obstacles to the progress of our ships were put
in the way, and the Chinese refused to remove them. Mr. Bruce thereupon
called upon the Admiral to take steps for their removal, and on his
attempting to do so, the Chinese fired on the English ships with such
telling effect that four gunboats were placed _hors de combat_. Nor was
the Admiral more successful when he attempted to storm the forts. The
result of that day's work was that out of 1100 men in the English force
nearly 450 were killed or wounded. The feeling in England was, that
though Mr. Bruce had acted very hastily in thus committing England to
another war without definite instructions from home, the matter could
not be allowed to rest. The French again joined us, and Sir Hope Grant,
who had distinguished himself in the Indian Mutiny, was appointed to
the command. This General, it may be remarked, was an earnest Christian
no less than an eminent soldier. The Taku Forts were captured and the
troops were marching on Pekin, when the Chinese sought to open
negotiations, in order to prevent our army from entering their capital.
Our representatives consented to enter into negotiations at Tungchow, a
place about a dozen miles from Pekin. Some English officers,
accompanied by a few of the staff of the English and French envoys,
went forward to Tungchow, to make the necessary arrangements for the
interview of the envoys with the Chinese commissioners. A
misunderstanding arose, and twenty-six British and twelve French
subjects were seized, in spite of the flag of truce, and hurried off to
different prisons. Their sufferings as prisoners were frightful, the
result being that half of them died, while the remainder, when
released, bore evident signs of the ill-treatment they had undergone.
The allied armies at once marched on Pekin, and Lord Elgin refused to
treat with the Chinese till the prisoners were restored, which did not
take place till the gates of the city were about to be blown in. The
Chinese were compelled to pay £10,000 for each European and £500 for
each native soldier captured, in addition to having their famous Summer
Palace, valued by some at the almost fabulous sum of £4,000,000,

                            *      *      *

Gordon at this time was adjutant of engineers at Chatham, a post a good
deal esteemed by officers of his rank. He had lost the opportunity of
seeing active service in India, but he was determined that it should be
no fault of his if he were not sent out to China. He resigned his
appointment at Chatham, an act which greatly annoyed his father and
many of his friends. Even a high official in the War Office considered
that he was damaging his prospects for life; whereas it turned out that
by going to China he got that opportunity of exercising his talents and
displaying his abilities which he might otherwise never have met with.
Not leaving England till the 22nd of July 1860, he was too late to take
part in the principal action, the taking of the Taku Forts, which were
assaulted on the 21st August. He writes to his mother from Hong-Kong,
"I am rather late for the amusement, which will not vex you." He
arrived at Tientsin on September 26th, and marched with Sir Hope
Grant's force to Pekin. The following is his description of the only
part he was allowed to take before the Chinese surrendered:--

    "We were sent down in a great hurry to throw up works and batteries
    against the town, as the Chinese refused to give up the gate we
    required them to surrender before we would treat with them. The
    Chinese were given until noon on October 13 to give up the Anting
    gate. We made a lot of batteries, and everything was ready for the
    assault of the wall, which is battlemented and forty feet high, but
    of inferior masonry. At 11.30 P.M. on the 12th, however, the gate
    was opened, and we took possession; so our work was of no avail."

The English and French armies left Pekin on November 8th, a little over
three weeks after the fall of the city, and returned to Tientsin, to
take up their quarters for the ensuing cold weather. Captain Gordon was
the senior engineer officer left behind, and he remained till the
spring of 1862, performing the ordinary engineer duties of providing
accommodation for men and horses. During his stay at Tientsin there is
little of any interest to record. He wisely relieved the monotony of
camp life by making a journey to the Great Wall of China, which has
been visited by very few of our countrymen. He was doubtless prompted
by curiosity to undertake this expedition, but other motives were also
at work. He was a born soldier, he was good at surveying, and doubtless
he was anxious to ascertain by personal observation if any other route
existed than the well-known one by which a Russian army could march on
Pekin; but he was unsuccessful in finding one. During the journey the
cold was very severe; in one place, he says, "the raw eggs were frozen
hard as if they had been boiled."

                            *      *      *

It has been already mentioned that China was troubled by an extensive
civil war, which had been going on for many years. It appears to have
commenced in the province of Quang-Tung, and to have been headed by a
schoolmaster, Hung-tsue-schuen. That there must have been good cause
for the dissatisfaction which caused the outbreak is clear from the
fact that not only did thousands join the rising, but that among the
rebels were men of great ability. The leader seems to have been a
strange mixture of good and evil, and at one time appears to have had
an inclination towards Christianity. Unfortunately the evil part of his
nature predominated, and his head was turned by his success. During the
time the Chinese troops were engaged in war with the English, the
rebels had it pretty well their own way, and large tracts of the
country were devastated. Intoxicated with success, the rebels
threatened to attack Shanghai, and the merchants there, seeing how
incapable the Government was to protect them, subscribed to form a
small army to protect their interests. The command of this force was
given to an American named Ward, who appears to have been a born
soldier. His career was short, but he was engaged in seventy actions
and never lost one. So successful was he, that the Pekin authorities
conferred on his troops the pretentious title of "Ever-Victorious
Army." Unfortunately for that army, it soon lost its able commander,
for in September 1862 he was killed when assaulting a city near Ningpo.
He was succeeded by an American adventurer named Burgevine, who turned
out a complete failure, being one of that type of unprincipled men who
do so much harm in non-Christian countries. When he was dismissed,
application was made to the English General to appoint an English
officer to take command. Major Gordon had been ordered to Shanghai from
Pekin at the beginning of May 1862, and consequently had come under the
command of General Staveley, with whom, it will be remembered, he was
acquainted in the Crimea. General Staveley's duty was to clear the
country for thirty miles round Shanghai of the rebels, and in the
performance of this task Major Gordon had been employed. The opinion
that General Staveley had formed of Gordon's courage and ability in the
Crimea was confirmed in the operations around Shanghai, and the
following account is given by that General of Gordon's plucky

    "Captain Gordon was of the greatest use to me when the task of
    clearing the rebels from out of the country within a radius of
    thirty miles from Shanghai had to be undertaken. He reconnoitred
    the enemy's defences, and arranged for the ladder-parties to cross
    the moats, and for the escalading of the works; for we had to
    attack and carry by storm several towns fortified with high walls
    and deep wet ditches. He was, however, at the same time a source of
    much anxiety to me from the daring manner in which he approached
    the enemy's works to acquire information. Previous to our attack
    upon Singpo, and when with me in a boat reconnoitring the place, he
    begged to be allowed to land, in order better to see the nature of
    the defences. Presently, to my dismay, I saw him gradually going
    nearer and nearer, by rushes from cover to cover, until he got
    behind a small outlying pagoda within a hundred yards of the wall,
    and here he was quietly making a sketch and taking notes. I, in the
    meantime, was shouting myself hoarse in trying to get him back; for
    not only were the rebels firing at him from the walls, but I saw a
    party stealing round to cut him off."

There is not much more of interest to record of Gordon's doings at this
period. The rebels having been cleared out of the thirty-miles radius,
Gordon was deputed to commence a complete survey of the whole district,
and in December we find him so engaged. This occupation gave him a
thorough insight into the ways of the people and the nature of the
country. In this month he writes as follows:--

    "The people on the confines are suffering greatly and dying of
    starvation. This state of affairs is most sad, and the rebellion
    ought to be put down. Words cannot express the horrors these people
    suffer from the rebels, or the utter desert they have made of this
    rich province. It is all very well to talk of non-intervention, and
    I am not particularly sensitive, nor are our soldiers generally so;
    but certainly we are all impressed with the utter misery and
    wretchedness of these poor people."

When General Staveley was applied to for an officer to take command of
the so-called Ever-Victorious Army, his thoughts not unnaturally turned
to Gordon, who, by the way, had received the brevet rank of major at
the end of 1862. Gordon, having seen the failings and shortcomings of
our generals in the Crimea, longed for an opportunity to exercise the
gifts of which he felt conscious. General Staveley, however, shrank
from recommending him for such a dangerous post. He knew well the
plucky, chivalrous nature of the young engineer, and not unnaturally
feared that he would expose himself too much to danger. His affection
for Major Gordon made him at first refuse to recommend him for the
command, and it was not till Gordon repeatedly urged him to yield, and
promised not to expose himself more than necessary, that he consented
to submit his name to the authorities at home. A temporary commander
being urgently required, he appointed the chief of his staff, Captain
Holland, of the Royal Marines, to the post, pending the decision of the
War Office with regard to Gordon. Before the reply arrived from England
two expeditions took place, one against Fushan, under Major Brennan,
and one against the city of Taitsan, in which Captain Holland commanded
in person. Both were disastrous to the reputation of the
Ever-Victorious Army. In the attack on Taitsan some 7500 men were
engaged, about one-third belonging to the Ever-Victorious Army, while
the remainder were Chinese Imperial troops. Unfortunately, Captain
Holland took it for granted that the Mandarins were correct when they
informed him that the moat around the city contained no water, whereas
it proved to be at least thirty feet deep. This was not discovered till
the assaulting party arrived without bridges, and with nothing but
escalading ladders, which they attempted to use as bridges. The ladders
were of course not strong enough to bear the weight of the men, and
broke down. The assault was very soon turned into a rout, and the
"Ever-Victorious Army" not only lost several hundred men, but allowed
two guns to fall into the hands of the enemy.

Such a disaster clearly indicated that an abler man was required at the
head of the Ever-Victorious Army, and forthwith Major Gordon was
appointed. A letter written home at the time shows that he was
conscious that his father would not be pleased at the step he had

    "I am afraid that you will be much vexed at my having taken the
    command of the Sung-kiang force, and that I am now a Mandarin. I
    have taken the step on consideration. I think that any one who
    contributes to putting down this rebellion fulfils a humane task,
    and I also think tends a great deal to open China to civilisation.
    I will not act rashly, and I trust to be able soon to return to
    England; at the same time, I will remember your and my father's
    wishes, and endeavour to remain as short a time as possible. I can
    say that if I had not accepted the command, I believe the force
    would have broken up, and the rebellion gone on in its misery for
    years. I trust this will not now be the case, and that I may soon
    be able to comfort you on the subject. You must not fret over the
    matter. I think I am doing a good service.... I keep your likeness
    before me, and can assure you and my father that I will not be
    rash, and that as soon as I can conveniently, and with due regard
    to the object I have in view, I will return home."

Gordon's father has been much misrepresented by some biographers. It
has been practically said that he was not able to appreciate his son's
nobility of character; but there is not a word of truth in this. The
old man saw that the post accepted by his son was one of great danger,
made all the more dangerous by that son's daring, and the fact that he
did not understand the language of the people and was not cognisant of
their manner of conducting warfare. He also was of opinion that the
Chinese Government ought to be able to deal with their own internal
affairs, and put down any rebellions that might occur without making a
cat's-paw of his son. One cannot blame the father, who only looked at
the matter in a natural way, judging the circumstances from his own
standpoint. It is impossible to consider the whole facts, and to read
the letters concerning them, without feeling that neither father nor
son had anything of which to be ashamed.

One of the most painful things in life is for a man who is fond of his
parents to have to take a step which he feels will not meet with their
approval, and we may be quite sure that Major Gordon gave this subject
his earnest and prayerful consideration. The path of duty seemed to him
to be clear, and the call was distinct. The whole country was
practically deluged in blood, and not only strong men, but hapless
women and children, were suffering. Could Gordon, knowing what he did,
and feeling conscious of his power to put down the rebellion, have
declined to enter the path so unexpectedly opened to him? Some would
have done so. But opportunities such as this, not seized, are seldom
repeated. His ability, his energies, and his powers might never have
found full scope, and might have proved a curse to him rather than a
blessing. How often one sees in life men with marked ability who are
not only unhappy themselves, but make every one around them equally so.
They seem to have missed the object for which they were created, and
instead of doing their duty in a large sphere, as they might have done,
their stunted energies prevent them from properly filling even a
smaller and humbler sphere. They have missed the opportunity of being
really great, and yet their abilities prevent them from being satisfied
with anything short of this. The call came to Gordon to take his share
in the battle of life, and to do his best to mitigate the sufferings
caused by a horrible civil war, and doubtless he pondered those words,
"He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." He
decided to take the path which appeared to him the one of duty; nor
need we be surprised when we know that he was a thorough Englishman of
the highest type, of whom the words are true--

    "There's a heart that leaps with burning glow
      The wronged and the weak to defend;
    It strikes as soon for a trampled foe
      As it does for a soul-bound friend."



At the age of thirty, Major Gordon obtained his first independent
command, thus surpassing the Duke of Wellington's achievement by four
years. With Wellington, too, able as he showed himself to be, it must
be borne in mind that his first appointment was due to family interest,
for his eldest brother, Lord Mornington, was Viceroy of India at the
time. In Gordon's case, however, personal merit was the only
qualification that brought him to the notice of the General in command,
and it speaks volumes for Sir Charles Staveley's insight into character
that such a wise appointment was made. Sir William Butler in his
biography of Gordon says, "Thus on March 24, 1863, Gordon stepped out
for the first time from that inevitable environment of the mass which
so often keeps entangled in its folds men on whom Nature has conferred
great gifts. Fate, it is said, knocks once at every man's door, but
sometimes it is when the shadows are gathering and the fire is
beginning to burn slow." This was not the case with Gordon, for he was
at about the age at which such famous soldiers as Alexander,
Wellington, and Napoleon have shown that man is full of life and fire.
Many of the brilliant successes attained by those men would never have
been won had they not had opportunities of making their first attempts
till mature years had sobered them down. Nothing gives a man so much
confidence in his own resources as success, more especially if that
success has been gained amidst trying circumstances.

There can be no doubt that the period which we are now considering is
the most interesting of Gordon's life. Up to this time, he had done
well all that he had been called upon to perform in the way of duty,
but had had no opportunity to show of what stuff he was made. A
subordinate may suggest, and a superior may reap the benefit of his
brains, if he has only sufficient intelligence of his own to recognise
merit in others, a quality of which many are deficient. But a
subordinate cannot initiate. And his suggestions, when adopted by a
superior, frequently fail, for the simple reason that only a portion of
his ideas are grasped, and something is lacking. Gordon's new position
gave him not only the opportunity to initiate, but the power to carry
out his ideas. After the suppression of the Taiping rebellion, every
one who had the power to recognise greatness at all knew that Gordon
had qualities that would make him succeed in anything he liked to take
up, and therefore it was no matter of surprise to see him adding
laurels to his crown.

                            *      *      *

Hitherto I have refrained from making any allusion to Gordon's personal
appearance, having reserved the point till this period of his history,
when, for the first time, he takes a prominent part on the stage of
life. There have been numerous pictures sold representing him, and
perhaps still more numerous descriptions written. The best that I have
seen are accounts written by two intimate friends. Sir Gerald Graham,
who knew him as a cadet at Woolwich, and was one of the last Englishmen
ever to see him, says:--

    "Not over five feet nine inches in height, but of compact build,
    his figure and gait characteristically expressed resolution and
    strength. His face, though in itself unpretending, was one that, in
    common phrase, 'Grew upon you.' Time had now streaked with grey the
    crisp, curly, brown hair of his youth, and traced lines of care on
    his ample forehead and strong clear face, bronzed with exposure to
    the tropical sun. His usual aspect was serene and quiet, and though
    at times a ruffling wave of constitutional impatience or
    indignation might pass over him, it did not disturb him long. The
    depth and largeness of Gordon's nature, which inspired so much
    confidence in others, seemed to afford him a sense of inner repose,
    so that outer disturbance was to him like the wind that ruffles the
    surface of the sea, but does not affect its depth. The grace and
    beauty of Gordon's whole expression came from within, and, as it
    were, irradiated the man, the steadfast truthful gaze of the
    blue-grey eyes seeming a direct appeal from the upright spirit
    within. His usual manner charmed by its simple unaffected courtesy;
    but though utterly devoid of self-importance, he had plenty of
    quiet dignity, or even imperious authority, at command when

Colonel H. G. Prout, an American officer, who served under Gordon in
the Soudan, writing in _Scribner's Magazine_, says:--

    "He was rather under than over medium height, of well-proportioned
    figure, by no means heavy, but muscular and vigorous in all his
    movements. His hair was brown, and curled rather closely. His
    complexion was ruddy. He wore a short moustache and small whiskers,
    and shaved as carefully when he was in the heart of Africa as when
    he was in London. His mouth was resolute, but full of humour. His
    smile was quick, and his whole expression was kind, bright, and
    ready, but absolutely self-reliant. Only a dull person could fail
    to see that here was a man who had nothing to ask or to fear. His
    most striking feature was his eyes. These were bright blue, and the
    blue and white were of that pure unclouded quality that one sees
    only in the eyes of a baby. Only a baby's eyes could be so direct
    and sincere. You felt that they looked right into your soul and
    laid bare your motives."

Both these descriptions speak of him as seen in the Soudan, but they
are so graphic, that it requires little imagination to see the man
before us a few years younger. At the age of thirty, he was of course
much younger looking; but his general appearance was not one that
changed much. Considering the hardships through which he passed, it was
wonderful how little he exhibited their effects. It will be remarked
that in both of the foregoing descriptions reference is made to his
blue eyes, which certainly were a very prominent feature in his
personality. If we may anticipate events a little, as we are
considering this subject, it is interesting to record that a little
native boy named Capsune, whom General Gordon rescued from the
slave-dealers in 1870, asked the lady who had charge of him after
Gordon's death whether she was quite sure that Gordon Pasha still kept
his blue eyes, and did she think he could "see all through me now?"
Another day he said he was "quite sure Gordon Pasha could see quite
well in the dark, because he had the light inside him."

                            *      *      *

This, then, is the man whom the fortunes of war called to fill about as
difficult a position as it is possible to imagine. The enemy he was to
disperse were flushed with victory, having for years been able to defy
all who had attempted to suppress them. Their numbers were overwhelming
as compared with the handful of men the merchants of Shanghai were able
out of their private resources to put into the field; and, as if these
were not sufficient advantages, they had possession of all the large
cities and places of importance for many miles outside the thirty-miles
radius around Shanghai. The army Gordon was called upon to command
possessed a high-sounding name, justly earned by a former commander,
but with his death had passed away all that made the title justifiable.
It was a relic of greatness that had departed, and to one like Gordon,
who had a keen sense of humour, it must have sounded ridiculous in the
extreme. The army consisted of about 3000 Chinese, with 150 officers,
the latter being principally foreigners. The officers were by no means
wanting in pluck, nor deficient in military skill, but there appears to
have been a great want of discipline among them, to say nothing of the
existence of keen jealousies of one another. The fact that in one month
eleven officers died of _delirium tremens_ speaks volumes as to their
character. Colonel Chesney says, "Among them were avowed sympathisers
with the rebels, and avowed defiers of Chinese law; but all classes
soon learnt to respect a General in whose kindness, valour, skill, and
justice they found cause unhesitatingly to confide; who never spared
himself personal exposure when danger was near; and beneath whose firm
touch sank into significance the furious quarrels and personal
jealousies which had hitherto marred the usefulness of the force."

The headquarters of this little army was a place called Sung-kiang, to
the west of Shanghai, and close to the border of the thirty-miles
radius around that city. Gordon proceeded on the 24th March 1863 to
assume his command, and it was thought by many that he would endeavour
to take the city of Taitsan, and thus wipe out the reproach of his
predecessor. But his military instinct showed him a far more important
step to take. About twenty miles inland and fifty miles from Gordon's
headquarters was a city called Chanzu, which was the only one in that
neighbourhood loyal to the Imperial cause. It had been held by the
Taipings, but the chief had persuaded his men to abandon the cause of
the rebels and throw in their lot with the Emperor. No sooner had their
decision been taken, than the Taiping General marched a strong army on
the city to punish them. The defenders were holding out bravely, but
they were reduced to starvation, and were suffering terribly. It would
have been both impolitic and cruel to have left this city to its fate;
so Gordon determined to relieve it. Chanzu was, however, cut off from
the sea by an intervening city called Fushan, which commanded the
river; so Gordon decided that, with the object of relieving the Chanzu
garrison, Fushan must be captured. As has already been mentioned, one
expedition against this place had signally failed. Gordon took two
steamers, packed 1000 men into them, 200 of whom were artillerymen, and
with this small force proceeded to attack Fushan. In spite of the
overwhelming numbers against him, the enemy being able to draw
reinforcements from the army investing Chanzu, he captured the place.
No sooner had it fallen than Gordon set to work to relieve Chanzu. This
he had very little difficulty in doing, for as soon as the rebels found
that they were between two armies and exposed to attack in opposite
directions, they moved off.

This brilliant achievement accomplished, Gordon retired to his
headquarters at Sung-kiang. By Imperial decree he was made a Tsung-Ping
or Brigadier-General. He had passed through his first ordeal, and had
come out of it with credit. He had not only struck a blow, but had done
it with such promptitude, that every one began to get confidence in
this young "General," as he was hereafter termed by the Chinese. To
take a handful of men, not stronger than a full-sized English regiment
at that time, to transport them in one day fifty miles, and to capture
a city with overwhelming odds against him, exhibited capacity combined
with promptness of action equal to anything recorded in the annals of
the greatest soldiers. His predecessor, with an army numbering
7500--for he had a large force of Imperial troops in addition to his
own--had been terribly beaten in his attempt to take Taitsan. But
Gordon with a force of only 1000 men had captured one city and relieved
another, at a much greater distance from headquarters, and that with
the loss of only two killed and six wounded. In the account of the
attack, no light is thrown on the question why Gordon succeeded so
brilliantly when others failed. He simply pounded away with his
artillery, which was not strong, for three hours, and having effected a
breach, he ordered an assault of infantry, which swept everything
before it. This in itself is such a simple operation, and so much like
what had been done before, that it does not account for his success. As
the question will doubtless often occur to the reader, why Gordon so
often succeeded where others failed, it may be well to quote a few
words written by Colonel Prout, dealing with this very subject:--

    "Gordon took and kept his unquestioned place as a chief, not by
    force of gold lace, banners, and salutes of trumpets and guns, but
    _by doing things_. He filled Carlyle's definition, _King_,
    _Könning_, which means _Can_-ing, Able-man. All who are at all
    familiar with his character and deeds must recognise the fact that
    he was a man of great qualities, both of mind and character. He did
    not do things accidentally or by mysterious means. Whatever
    business he had in hand, he knew it thoroughly in all its details.
    He knew his men and their motives, and he grasped all the minutiæ
    of his material. He was a highly educated modern soldier, and from
    the principles of grand strategy down to mending a gun-lock or
    loading a cartridge he knew his profession. He was not a great
    student of books, but his quick and strong mind seized and held
    facts with wonderful power. His most remarkable intellectual
    quality was directness."

This paragraph from a magazine article throws light on the cause of
much of Gordon's success. Lord Beaconsfield used to say that genius was
the art of taking pains. It will be remembered that the principal
reason why Gordon's predecessor failed at Taitsan was, that he took it
for granted that he was rightly informed when he was told that the
ditch around the city was dry, and consequently he came unprovided with
bridges. Gordon, on the other hand, took nothing for granted. Every
detail was personally looked into, every difficulty anticipated by his
eager restless brain. Consequently everything he took in hand
succeeded; and yet to the superficial observer it all seemed so simple.
The power of anticipating and providing against difficulties is one of
those gifts which go a long way towards ensuring success in any calling
in life, and that gift Gordon possessed to a remarkable degree. Whether
it was innate, or whether it was cultivated, is difficult to say.
Possibly it was implanted by nature to a certain extent, and in
addition he cultivated and developed the natural gift.

                            *      *      *

A brief allusion has already been made to Burgevine, the American who
for a short time commanded the Ever-Victorious Army after the death of
Ward. This man plays a somewhat important part in connection with
Gordon's operations, so it may be well here to give an account of his
history, for just at this time an order arrived from Pekin that he was
to be reinstated in his command, if the Governor of the province
approved. The career of Burgevine is, it is to be feared, an
illustration of the lives of many adventurers who, having failed in
some civilised country, go out to seek their fortunes among a
non-Christian people, and bring disgrace upon Christianity. Without
principle, destitute of all honourable feelings, they imbibe all that
is low and bad in the countries to which they go, yet all the time they
are called Christians, and looked upon as such by the natives. In
almost every large city belonging to a non-Christian people will be
found one or more of this type, to whom the lines might with truth be

    "Hast thou with Asiatic vices filled thy mind,
    And left their virtues and thine own behind?"

Burgevine was by no means deficient in military skill or courage, but
he was utterly unprincipled, and, as the sequel will show, he was as
ready to sell himself to the enemy as he was to fight for the
Imperialists. The immediate cause of his dismissal from the command of
the Ever-Victorious Army was that he went to the Chinese treasury
officer with a hundred men of his bodyguard and demanded money for
arrears of pay. That official being unable to comply, Burgevine struck
him and ordered his followers to seize 40,000 dollars. No sooner was he
dismissed, than he went to Pekin to plead his cause there, and got the
American ambassador to back him up, the latter of course being ignorant
of his real character. The authorities at Pekin yielded, and sent him
back to Shanghai to assume command, provided the local Governor had no
objection. A shrewd suspicion exists that this was but a diplomatic way
of getting out of a difficulty, as the authorities at Pekin must have
known that the Governor could not possibly consent to receive Burgevine
back after what he had done. This Governor was Li Hung Chang, a man of
considerable power, who could see that he had in Gordon a man of
ability; and though he did not at that time appreciate him as he
afterwards did, still the fascination of Gordon's character, that so
endeared him to many others, had already begun to work. Consequently
the Governor strongly opposed the return of Burgevine, and at the same
time took the opportunity of informing the Pekin authorities that
Gordon was gaining the confidence of his men, as well as of the
merchants and others at Shanghai. This for a time closed Burgevine's
career, though we shall hear of him again.

                            *      *      *

The city of Chanzu was relieved on April 5th, but it was not till the
end of that month that Gordon again took the field. His brief but
brilliant campaign had shown the weak points in his force; so he spent
some three weeks at headquarters in getting his little army better in
hand. Among other things, he put his men into a uniform of dark serge
with green turbans, so as to make the enemy suppose that they were
Europeans. At first this little reform was very unpopular, as most
reforms are, and the men were called by their countrymen "Imitation
Foreign Devils." When the Ever-Victorious Army regained its right to
its title, the men became proud of their uniform, and would not have
exchanged it for their old costume. Dr. Wilson in his interesting
account of this period tells us that Woo, the Tautai of Shanghai, even
went so far as to purchase thousands of boots of European make, such as
were worn by Gordon's men, that their footprints might be seen about,
as the rebels were so impressed with fear of the disciplined Chinese
troops! Not only uniform, but every other detail necessary to the
improvement of the army, was during that short space of time gone into,
and on April 29th Gordon once more commenced active operations.

This time the object of attack was the city of Quinsan, about thirty
miles to the north-west of his camp; but, when _en route_, he heard
that his Imperialist allies, who were besieging the city of Taitsan,
had been most treacherously treated. The rebels had proposed to
surrender, and had permitted upwards of 1500 men of the Imperial army
to enter their city. Suddenly they closed the gates and captured these
men, beheading some 300 of them, including the brother of Li Hung
Chang. This disaster to his allies decided Gordon to turn aside and
lend his aid in reducing Taitsan, the city where his predecessor had
suffered such a terrible defeat. It must have been an anxious time when
he led his small army against a place which would remind them so
forcibly of the greatest disaster they had experienced.

The city of Taitsan had a garrison of some 10,000 men, with a
considerable sprinkling of white men, some of whom were deserters from
the English and French armies, together with American sailors and
others. Gordon's army consisted of only 3000 men; so that not only had
his opponents the benefit of walls, from behind which they might
deliver their fire, but they outnumbered his little force by more than
three to one. Taitsan was, however, a great prize to be aimed at, for
its fall would blot out the remembrance of the disaster which had
occurred when it was last attacked. Captain Holland on that occasion
had assaulted it from the south. Gordon's quick military eye showed him
that he ought to seize the canal leading into the town on the western
side. He had little difficulty in possessing himself of this water-way,
and he made use of it to bring his guns and ammunition to within 600
yards of the walls. At that distance he opened fire, under cover of
which he pushed forward some of his guns to within 100 yards,
concentrating all his fire on one spot, with the object of effecting a
breach in the walls. At each discharge of his guns at this short range
masses of masonry fell, forming a gradual slope, up which the
assaulting party could rush. Steamers and boats came up the canal and
turned into the moat, forming a perfect bridge across the water. The
defenders, seeing their danger, wisely concentrated their fire on the
temporary bridge, and rushed to defend the breach. Captain Bannen, who
led the attack, was killed, and the assaulting party were for a time
driven back. Another column was formed for the assault, and this time
Gordon kept up an incessant artillery fire over the heads of his own
men as they advanced. Again they met with a determined resistance, but
after a severe hand-to-hand struggle, the attack was victorious, and
the defenders, seized with panic, actually trampled down many of their
own side in their haste to escape.

Thus on May 1, 1863, fell this important stronghold; but the victory
cost Gordon dearly, as his killed and wounded were very numerous for
such a small force. The vacancies, however, were filled up by
volunteers from among the prisoners he took, and these men made
admirable fighting soldiers, though they had of course somewhat lax
notions on the subject of discipline. Although Gordon received little
or no help from the Imperial troops, they caused him a good deal of
pain and annoyance by an act committed on the fall of Taitsan.
Capturing seven retreating rebels, the Imperial troops tied them up,
and, according to their own horribly cruel custom, forced arrows into
their flesh, flayed bits of skin off their arms, and thus exposed them
for several hours previous to execution. This was supposed to be in
revenge for the treachery of the Taipings, already alluded to, and they
contended that these seven men were specially to blame. Be that as it
may, a very natural sense of indignation was awakened throughout the
civilised world, and questions were asked in Parliament about the
incident, it being assumed that Gordon and other British officers were
concerned in these atrocities. As Gordon, in spite of his bravery and
his being habitually brought into the presence of bloodshed, was one of
the most tender-hearted of men, it need hardly be said that he was
deeply grieved and pained by the whole circumstance, and it was through
his influence that General Brown, then in command of the British troops
at Shanghai, informed the Chinese Governor that, on a repetition of
such barbarity, all the British officers would be withdrawn.



Before Gordon captured Taitsan, it will be remembered, he was on his
way to attack the city of Quinsan. Having accomplished his purpose of
assisting his allies, the Imperial troops, he reverted to his original
object. He wanted to leave Taitsan to be held by the Imperialists, and
at once to march on Quinsan; but owing to the want of discipline in his
army, he was unable to do this. His men had taken a large amount of
loot from Taitsan, and were anxious to dispose of it, and their young
General, much against his will, had to accept the inevitable. With an
army such as that which Gordon had under his control, it does not do to
draw tight the reins of discipline too suddenly. It had for a long time
been in a lax condition, and Gordon saw that he must gain the men's
confidence before sharply asserting his authority. With an army well in
hand, the right thing would have been to follow up his victories
immediately, so that the enemy should not have time to recover
themselves. But instead of being able to go on at once from Taitsan to
Quinsan, he had to return to headquarters, and there wait till the end
of May, reorganising and making preparations. So bad was the discipline
among his officers, that just before he started for Quinsan, all the
majors commanding regiments resigned, simply because he promoted his
commissary-general, an English officer named Cooksby, to the rank of
colonel. This step was taken because Gordon found that disputes were
always occurring about rations and quarters between the
commissary-general and the regimental commanders. As the latter had,
and the former had not, military rank, the commissary was in an awkward
position. Gordon therefore decided that, the commissary being one of
his most important staff officers, he ought not only to have military
rank, but that his rank should be of a superior kind. It is worthy of
note that in this respect Gordon was just twenty years ahead of the War
Office authorities, for it was not till the year 1884 that commissariat
officers in the English army were accorded military rank. The amusing
part of the outbreak of insubordination amongst Gordon's majors was,
that though they resigned their commissions, they asked that they might
be allowed for the sake of loot to accompany the expedition to Quinsan.
Gordon accepted the resignations, but declined to let the majors take
part in his expedition. But he had to yield this point; for on the
following day, when the "fall in" sounded, the men supported their
commanding officers, and refused to obey. The majors, however, seeing
that there was only one General, and that he might be killed, in which
event the command would probably devolve on one of themselves, thought
better of the matter, and fell in with their men as usual. The only
wonder is that, with such an army and such disorganised material, the
young commander should have been able to accomplish so much against
overwhelming numbers.

When Gordon reached Quinsan, he found the Imperial troops under
Governor Li and General Ching in a most unfortunate position. They were
supposed to be besieging the city, but the enemy were practically
besieging them. Gordon quickly drove off the enemy that were seeking to
encompass the Imperialists, and then he found that General Ching was
anxious to attack the eastern gate of the city, a proceeding that did
not at all commend itself to him. He saw at a glance that the western
gate would probably be the better one to attack, as the enemy would be
less prepared there. Quinsan was an important place, and was strongly
defended; it was held by at least 15,000 men, and the moat round the
fortification was forty feet wide. Before coming to a definite
decision, Gordon made a reconnaissance in a steamer, taking the
Governor and General Ching with him. Being convinced by personal
observation that he was right in the step he intended to take, he
informed the Chinese General to that effect, and in a letter written
some little time after the event he says, "General Ching was as sulky
as a bear when he was informed that I thought it advisable to take
these stockades the next day, and to attack on this side of the city."

At dawn on the 30th May, having surrounded the city with his own and
the Imperialist troops, he took a small force by water to a point on
the main line of communication between Quinsan and Soo-chow, only
defended by a weak stockade, which was easily taken. Gordon then took
the celebrated little steamer the _Hyson_, and went towards Soo-chow.
Meeting a large force of the enemy on the way to reinforce Quinsan, he
opened fire upon them. Little anticipating an attack in this direction,
they got into confusion and fled, the steamer following them. Having
inflicted heavy loss on the retreating army and steamed right up to
Soo-chow, he turned round and went at full speed till he got back to
Chunye, where he had that morning left a small detachment of riflemen.
It was 10.30 P.M. and a rather dark night. His intention was to wait
till the next morning and renew the conflict by attacking the city. But
the rebels within the walls had been seized with panic, and knowing
that the city was invested on three sides, they made a rush for
Soo-chow. In doing so they met Gordon's steamer returning. Again she
opened fire and blew her whistle, the sound of the latter doing much
damage by adding to the noise and increasing the panic among the
rebels. The men were in dense masses, and each shell mowed them down in
large numbers. Gordon says, "The mass wavered, yelled and turned back."
The city had fallen, and by 4 A.M. on May 31st everything was quiet,
and it was reckoned that from three to four thousand of the enemy must
have been killed, drowned, or taken prisoners. The little steamer had
won the day, having fired some eighty or ninety rounds; the troops had
done little or nothing. Only two men on Gordon's side were killed and
five were drowned.

Thus in a single day had fallen this important city, which was the key
to the position of Soo-chow. Indeed, the impetuous young commander was
anxious to dash on and seize Soo-chow itself, but he could not inspire
the Imperialist General with his spirit. He says, "I have no doubt of
my having been able to take Soo-chow the other day, if the Mandarins
had been able to take advantage of our success." The capture of Quinsan
was one of the most brilliant strokes of success Gordon had during the
whole of the campaign, and he attributed it to the fact that the lines
of communication between that city and Soo-chow were neglected, and
that he was permitted to get his steamer into the canal, which ran
parallel with the only road. Both the armies which he defeated were
compelled to march along the road, as on each side of the road there
was water. Through the men marching thus in dense masses, the shot and
shell from the steamer carried death and destruction, creating much
confusion. The Taiping rebels were evidently not prepared to fight such
an amphibious general as Gordon proved himself to be.

It may be well to remark here on the fertility of resource and the
initiative power which this young commander possessed. It mattered not
what difficulties arose, his fertile brain sooner or later devised a
method by which he could overcome them. It is said that the best doctor
is not necessarily the cleverest man, but the one who is most fertile
in resource. If disorders of the human frame refuse to yield to one
kind of treatment, another must be tried, and so on, until at last the
right method is discovered. There can be no question that this is also
true of the military and other callings in life. The man of a fertile
brain, ever ready to suggest new methods when old ones have failed, is
the most likely to succeed. It was to this cause, more than to any
other, that Napoleon at first owed his success. When he was a young
man, it was the custom in Europe to imitate blindly the tactics of
Frederick the Great of Prussia, and to rely on ponderous heavy squares
and a slow stiff method of moving. Napoleon was the first to see that,
however suitable such tactics had been during the time of the great
Prussian general, before the development of artillery, they were not
adapted to the changed circumstances under which battles were fought in
his own time; and so in 1806 at Jena he smashed to pieces the Prussian
force, which came against him in all the pride of inherited traditions,
handed down from one of the greatest generals of his age. While it is
almost a truism to say that what is appropriate to one age is not
suited to another, it is only men of the type of Napoleon and Gordon
who are quick enough to see the necessity for a change of method, and
sufficiently resourceful to adopt new plans. Ninety-nine generals out
of a hundred would never have thought of utilising a little steamer to
destroy a land force, but would have proceeded in the old-fashioned
methods of a siege, and perhaps have lost an enormous number of men in
the process. The enemy are always more or less prepared for
conventional methods of fighting, but it stands to reason that they are
unprepared for new ideas. Hence much of Gordon's success.

In addition to this fertility of resource, Gordon displayed wonderful
courage in carrying out his ideas. No sooner had Quinsan fallen than he
saw that it would be a good thing to make a change in his headquarters,
and to transfer them thence from Sung-kiang. With the old centre were
associated all sorts of traditions connected with the army before his
time, in the days when discipline was lax, and the one idea of the
soldiers was that the war was being carried on for the sake of
providing them with loot. There were loot agents and other means by
which the officers and soldiers could easily dispose of their booty.
All this was demoralising, so Gordon decided on an immediate change.
But the army looked at the matter from a different standpoint, and a
mutinous spirit arose. Mr. Wilson informs us that the artillery
threatened to blow the officers to pieces, and a written notification
to that effect was sent to the General. Gordon at once summoned the
non-commissioned officers, who he knew were at the bottom of the plot,
and threatened to shoot every fifth man if the name of the writer of
the notice were not revealed. Immediately they all commenced to groan,
one corporal making himself specially conspicuous by groaning very
loudly. Whether Gordon had any suspicions with regard to this
particular man, we are not informed, but he directed him to be seized,
and ordered a couple of infantry soldiers standing by to shoot him. He
then had the others confined, and again repeated his threat to the
effect that one in every five would be shot if the name of the writer
were not given up. Events proved that the corporal already shot was the
culprit. No doubt many in this country will judge Gordon harshly with
regard to this summary method of dealing out justice; but it must be
remembered that a civil war was going on in which thousands of lives
were annually sacrificed. Gordon knew perfectly well that he could
suppress it if he had a disciplined force under him. He also knew what
a frightful scourge an undisciplined army might become. According to
the tradition of all nations, each man in Gordon's army had forfeited
his life by disobedience in the presence of the enemy. What was the
life of one man compared with the thousands of women and children who
were suffering through the horrors of that war? We in England have been
for so long mercifully spared the misery of war in our own country,
that possibly public opinion has become a little too sentimental.
During the Trafalgar Square riots in 1887, it was suggested by some
that the Fire Brigade should pump cold water on to the rioters in order
to disperse them; and one writer seriously deprecated such a step, on
the ground that possibly the poor fellows who got the ducking might
catch cold! It is possible to go from one extreme to another, and,
while wishing to avoid harshness and cruelty in any form, to become too
sentimental, and thus do harm in an opposite direction. Sentimental
people too often forget the sufferings of the many innocent victims
when contemplating those of a few culprits. War is too stern a thing
for us to trifle with, and those whose duty it is to be engaged in it
must be prepared to suppress with a strong hand anything in the form of
incipient mutiny.

With regard to the threat which Gordon held out of shooting one man in
five, such a form of punishment is by no means uncommon in countries
more civilised than China. It has been frequently resorted to in
Russia, and as recently as 1876, during the Russo-Turkish war, on
symptoms of a mutiny exhibiting themselves among the Russian troops,
the commander-in-chief threatened to shoot one in every ten of the men,
and thus quelled the manifestation. There can be no question that
Gordon's acting as he did was far more plucky than all the personal
exposure to danger through which he went. Many men who would be willing
to sacrifice their own lives in the path of duty would have shrunk from
taking such a step.

But though Gordon was quite prepared to fight as long as he could
benefit his fellow-creatures by so doing, he was essentially a man of
peace, and he loathed the horrors of war. On the 29th June he says:
"The rebels remain very quiet, and we are engaged in organising another
attack upon them. I have, however, sent a letter to the rebel chiefs,
offering my good services towards any arrangements they may be inclined
to enter into with the Imperialists, by which more fighting may be
avoided. I am most anxious to have as little fighting as possible, and
shall do my best to bring about a pacific solution of the question."
This was the more magnanimous when we consider that he was perfectly
confident in the ultimate result of the conflict, and that in the way
of glory acquired by brilliant victories he had everything to gain in
terminating the war by force of arms instead of by diplomacy.

The rebels at this time had received a great addition of strength by
Burgevine going over to them, together with upwards of 300 English,
American, and other adventurers. On this subject Gordon says:--

    "The fact that Burgevine has joined the rebels will no doubt very
    much prolong the rebellion, which, humanly speaking, would almost
    have been put down this year, or at the latest next spring; but the
    force at my command is too small to do everything, and one has to
    act with great caution. I feel that I have so many lives intrusted
    to me, that these are, as it were, at my disposal, and I will not
    risk them in an enterprise I consider rash. Burgevine is a very
    foolish fellow, and little thinks of the immense misery he will
    cause this unhappy country, for of the ultimate suppression of the
    rebellion I have little doubt."

In another letter he says, "I think the rebels will soon get very tired
of their auxiliaries, and the latter of the rebels."

The worst thing, however, that Gordon had to fear was treachery on the
part of his own officers and men. Burgevine knew most of them well, and
had managed very skilfully to associate his own dismissal from the
command of the Ever-Victorious Army with the fact that he was striving
for the interests of the men and officers. Consequently he was to a
certain extent a martyr in their eyes, and he made the most of this
fact in endeavouring to corrupt some of Gordon's officers. For
Burgevine was not more successful in alluring Gordon's army from its
allegiance than in defeating it in open conflict. Having made one or
two unsuccessful attempts, and discovered that the brilliant young
commander was more than a match for him, he asked Gordon to meet him at
an appointed place, where he told him that he had determined to desert
the rebel cause. This did not surprise Gordon. What did astonish him
was that Burgevine went on to propose that Gordon and he should
together capture Soo-chow, throw off all allegiance to either
Imperialists or rebels, organise an army 20,000 strong, and set up an
independent kingdom of their own. Being a mere adventurer himself, he
little understood the man of honour with whom he had to deal. Gordon at
once cut short further communications. Burgevine and his men, however,
being so disgusted with their masters, decided to leave them at all
costs, and sent to inform Gordon that at a signal-rocket being fired by
him they would rush out under pretence of a sortie and join him. The
signal was given, the sortie was made, and a good many got away, but
Burgevine and a few others had been suspected, and detained. When
Gordon discovered this, he generously wrote to the rebel chiefs,
explained to them that it was against their interests to compel men to
fight against their will, and asked for their release. The messenger
who bore the letter was interrogated as to whether he thought it
possible for Gordon to be bought over, and his reply was of course in
the negative. Strange to say, Gordon's request was granted, and
Burgevine was released and handed over to the British Consul. Dr.
Wilson informs us that:--

    "At the very time Burgevine was negotiating with Gordon in regard
    to his relief, he had proposed to Jones, his lieutenant, a plan for
    entrapping the man whose efforts were being directed toward the
    succour of him and his followers. Jones revolted against treachery
    so base, and he and Burgevine had a 'difficulty.' Jones told the
    story thus: Burgevine drew out his revolver, which he cocked and
    discharged at my head from a distance of about nine inches. The
    bullet entered my cheek and passed upward; it has not yet been
    extracted. I exclaimed, 'You have shot your best friend!' His
    answer was, 'I know I have, and I wish to God I had killed you.'"

We hear no more of Burgevine in connection with Gordon, so we here part
company with him. According to Mr. Wilson, he had subsequently a very
chequered career, and finally was reported to have been drowned by
accident when a prisoner in the hands of the Imperialists. This writer
says, "I have no reason to suppose that the account of his death given
by the Chinese authorities was untrue; and if they did drown him
purposely, they saved themselves and the American authorities a good
deal of trouble." The only wonder is that a scoundrel who so thoroughly
deserved to be hanged should ever have found a watery grave.

After the Taipings had got rid of Burgevine and his followers, they
began to lose heart, for they felt that the principal reason why these
men had deserted their cause was that it was a losing one. They thought
that their chances of holding Soo-chow against the ubiquitous Gordon
were slight, and, as is often the case under such circumstances, they
underrated their own resources, and overrated those of their opponents.
They made sure that Gordon would soon assault the city, but this he had
no intention of doing. "With the small force at one's command," said
he, "I am not at all anxious to pit myself against a town garrisoned by
seven, or even ten times our number, if it can be avoided." Instead of
attempting an open assault, which must have resulted in a desperate
loss of life, Gordon gradually surrounded the city with his own and the
Imperial troops, capturing all the smaller places around it, so that it
might be completely invested. Here again he exhibited his quick
perception of the weak points in his opponents' character. Even the
greatest coward amongst our own countrymen would fight desperately if
he felt that all his means of retreat were cut off; but, strange as it
may seem, this is not a characteristic of all nations. Once let a
Chinaman feel that his means of retreat are destroyed, and he is filled
with panic. Gordon says, "The great thing in taking stockades from the
rebels is to cut off their retreat, and the chances are they will go
without trouble; but attack them in front, and leave their rear open,
and they will fight most desperately."

Interesting as it would be to many, space does not permit us to follow
the details of the siege, and the severe struggles Gordon had in
different places, when capturing strongholds of the enemy in order to
cut off their supplies. There are, however, a few personal incidents
that occurred at this time which deserve mention, in order to show what
marvellous escapes he had, and what great personal danger he was often
in. Once when sitting on the Patachow Bridge, a somewhat celebrated
structure of fifty-three arches and 300 yards long, which he had
captured from the enemy, a couple of shots from his own camp struck the
bridge close to him. He was alone, and he could not account for the
firing. Leaving his seat to ascertain the cause, he got into his boat
and started to row across the river, when suddenly an enormous mass of
masonry fell from the very spot where he had been sitting, and nearly
struck the boat. These two accidental--or shall we more correctly call
them providential?--shots saved his life. Again, on the assault of
Leeku, he discovered that one of his officers, Lieutenant Perry, had
been in communication with the enemy. When challenged, this officer
made an excuse which Gordon accepted, saying, "I shall pass over your
fault this time, on condition that, in order to show your loyalty, you
undertake to lead the next forlorn hope." But Gordon forgot his
decision, and was leading the forlorn hope himself, when suddenly an
officer next to him was struck down. That officer was Lieutenant Perry,
who fell into the arms of his commander. Many of Gordon's officers were
brave men, but not a few of them exhibited the white feather, and he
had, in order to set an example of personal courage, often to take the
lead. Sometimes he would take one of these timid ones by the arm, and,
in his quiet way, conduct him into the thick of the fight. His men used
to think he had a charmed life, and they termed the little cane which
he always carried in place of a sword "the magic wand of victory."

There is one incident which should be mentioned here, although the
public did not hear of it for many years after it occurred. When the
Ashantee expedition was contemplated, and speculation was rife as to
whom the command should be offered to, somebody wrote to the _Times_,
signing himself "Mandarin," and, among other things which he mentioned
about Gordon, said that during the month of September, before the
capture of Soo-chow, Gordon had decided to attack certain detached
forts around that place. For some reason his men again mutinied, and
refused to march off the parade-ground.

    "At this juncture General Gordon arrived on the spot, with his
    interpreter. He was on foot, in undress, apparently unarmed, and,
    as usual, exceedingly cool, quiet, and undemonstrative. Directly he
    approached the leading company, he ordered his interpreter to
    direct every man who refused to embark to step to the front. One
    man only advanced. General Gordon drew his revolver from an inside
    breast-pocket, presented it at the soldier's head, and desired the
    interpreter to direct the man to march straight to the barge and
    embark. The order was immediately complied with, and then, General
    Gordon giving the necessary word of command, the company followed
    without hesitation. It was generally allowed by the officers, when
    the event became known, that the success in this instance was
    solely due to the awe and respect in which General Gordon was held
    by the men; and that such was the spirit of the troops at the time,
    that had any other but he attempted what he did, the company would
    have broken into open mutiny, shot their officers, and committed
    the wildest excesses. In less than a week the spirit of the troops
    was as excellent as before, and gradually the whole garrison joined
    in a series of movements which culminated in the fall of Soo-chow."



The city of Soo-chow was in the possession of seven rebel generals,
each exercising an independent command, but all recognising one of
their number, Moh-Wang, as their head. Though the rebels had upwards of
40,000 men in the city, they were badly provided with food, and
dissensions broke out among them. Most of the generals were for
yielding, but the brave old chieftain, Moh-Wang, opposed such a step.
Some of the generals made overtures to Gordon and General Ching, making
no other condition than that their lives should be spared. But
overtures were of no use so long as Moh-Wang refused to acquiesce. A
council of war was summoned, and hot words passed. One general seized
the brave old warrior, whose spirit was so invincible, stabbed him, and
severed his head from his body. That night, November 29, 1863,
Soo-chow, which had been held by the rebels since 1860, was
surrendered. In order to prevent his men from looting it, Gordon sent
them back to Quinsan, but he asked Governor Li to grant them two
months' extra pay, which was denied, though later on one month's pay
was granted. This meanness on the part of the civil Governor to a body
of men who had done so much for the country very nearly led to a

The culminating point of the young commander's grievances against his
employers was yet to come. On December 6th, when Gordon visited the
captured city, he discovered that the rebel generals who had
surrendered had all been killed, in spite of the stipulation that their
lives were to be spared. It is said that Gordon was so enraged with
this cowardly treachery that he burst into tears, and then went forth,
revolver in hand, to seek the Governor, in order to shoot him. It is to
be regretted that Sir Henry Gordon, in his biography of his brother,
denies this circumstance. Nothing is gained by attempting to screen the
faults of a great man. The commander of the Ever-Victorious Army was
undeniably a great man, but it is also true that he had his share of
human failings, among them a tendency to act on the impulse of the
moment. His honour had been touched, he felt that he had been disgraced
and would appear in the light of one who could trample on a fallen foe,
and there can be no question as to the accuracy of the fact, that in
his impulsiveness he did seek the life of Li Hung Chung; though the
Governor afterwards became a bosom friend of his. Mr. Wilson, another
biographer, who has already been quoted, read his MS. over to Gordon,
so that his account is likely to be accurate. In it he says:--

    "His first impulse, when his two steamers came in sight, was to
    obtain hold of the Futai (Governor Li) and inflict summary justice
    on that high official. General Ching, however, gave timely warning
    of Gordon's incensed state, and Li very wisely hurried into the
    city, thus avoiding a meeting. For some days after this Gordon's
    anxiety to meet with the Futai was only equalled by that of the
    Futai to keep out of his way, and this was the only period of his
    campaign during which the commander of the Ever-Victorious Army
    _burdened himself with carrying arms_."

The last words of this quotation, which I have italicised, clearly
indicate what the nature of the summary punishment would have been had
the two men met. Gordon had an opportunity of striking out those words,
but he was too honest to do so, for he knew they were true. Even though
we may blame him for his actions, we cannot but admire the honesty that
would not allow the fact to be concealed.

Both as a matter of policy and a matter of honour, Gordon saw what a
fearful mistake had been made. He was of opinion that had an honourable
understanding been come to with the rebels at this time, every other
city in their hands would have yielded, and thus the rebellion would
have been terminated. He at once demanded an investigation into the
conduct of Governor Li and General Ching, and refused to co-operate
with them further. While Gordon was taking action in this matter,
Governor Li was sending despatches to Pekin claiming far more credit
than was fairly due for the Imperial troops, though he did not forget
to praise Gordon as well. The Emperor sent the young commander 10,000
taels (about £3500) in token of his approbation, together with money
for the troops and the wounded. The latter was accepted, but the former
was indignantly declined, and that in a very few stiff sentences
written on the back of the paper containing the order:--

    "Major Gordon receives the approbation of his Majesty the Emperor
    with every gratification, but regrets most sincerely that, owing to
    circumstances which occurred since the capture of Soo-chow, he is
    unable to receive any mark of his Majesty the Emperor's
    recognition, and therefore respectfully begs his Majesty to receive
    his thanks for his intended kindness, and to allow him to decline
    the same."

Writing home he said, "To tell you the truth, I do not want anything,
either money or honours, from either the Chinese Government or our own.
As for the honours, I do not value them at all, and never did. I should
have refused the 10,000 taels even if everything had gone well, and
there had been no trouble at Soo-chow."

Gordon's army remained at Quinsan till the end of February 1864. They
had received £7000 from the Chinese Government, but this, of course,
did not compensate them for being prevented from taking their share of
loot, and not only were they dissatisfied, but their inaction was
doubtless doing them much harm. Moreover, the rebel forces were
recruiting rapidly, and all the good work that Gordon had accomplished
appeared likely to be undone. Gordon heard all the excuses that
Governor Li had to offer, and came to the conclusion that Asiatics must
not be judged according to the standard by which Englishmen, with a
higher sense of honour, measure themselves. He therefore made up his
mind to emerge from his retreat, and, stipulating that in the event of
future capitulations nothing should be done without his consent, he
once more took the field with the object of terminating the rebellion.

On the 17th February 1864 he had been promoted to the rank of
lieutenant-colonel by the War Office authorities. This, of course, made
no difference to his position as general in the Chinese army. His
resumption of hostilities was marked by similar tactics to those which
he had previously found so successful. Blows rapidly struck at distant
points appear to have been his aim. Having captured Soo-chow, the next
place of importance was Nankin, the second largest city in China, about
100 miles to the north-west. The rebels were in strong force there, and
the place was too distant to make it practicable to capture it, at
once, as there were several cities _en route_ still in the hands of the
rebels. Gordon decided to take these latter in detail, and he commenced
with Yesing, which fell easily on March 1st. He then proceeded to
Liyang, which yielded even more easily. The horrors witnessed on this
march were awful. Gordon said of the inhabitants:--

    "Those who still remained alive had been driven to eat human flesh,
    and the unburied bodies of the dead were in a condition which
    showed that much of this revolting food had been consumed." "The
    scenes I have witnessed of misery are something dreadful; and I
    must say that your wish for me to return with the work incomplete
    would not be expressed if you saw the state of these poor people.
    The horrible furtive looks of the wretched inhabitants hovering
    about one's boats haunts me.... I hope to get the Shanghai people
    to assist, but they do not see these things: and to read that there
    are human beings eating human flesh produces less effect than if
    they saw the corpses from which the flesh is cut."

Gordon's fate was to be hampered by the blunders of his friends. On
March 20th he marched on Kintang; but just as he was about to commence
operations, an alarming despatch reached him from the Imperial
commander. The Imperialists had actually not been able, with their
immense force, to hold cities that Gordon with his small one had
captured and handed over to their charge. Fushan had fallen, and Chanzu
was in danger. However, Gordon thought that as he was so close to
Kintang, he might as well take it, and so he made an assault. It did
not, however, yield so easily, and Major Kirkham, one of his best
officers, was badly wounded. Gordon himself was also wounded below the
knee. A soldier who saw him struck was about to proclaim the event,
when Gordon stopped him for fear he should discourage the men. He went
on fighting till he fainted from loss of blood, and Dr. Moffitt[2] had
to carry him out of action.

      [2] Surgeon Moffitt of the 67th Regiment was a man of ability and
      courage. He became a great personal friend of Gordon's, and
      afterwards married one of Gordon's sisters. He died in the year
      1882. He was the only officer who remained with Gordon from the
      beginning of the end of the campaign.

Sir Frederick Bruce, the British representative, wrote to Colonel
Gordon after he was wounded at Kintang:--

    "Be cautious of yourself. I beg you not to look upon your position
    merely from a military point of view. You have done quite enough
    for your reputation as a gallant and skilful leader. We all look to
    you as the only person fit to act with these perverse Chinese, and
    to be trusted with the great interests at stake at Shanghai. Your
    life and ability to keep the field are more important than the
    capture of any city in China."

Gordon had to abandon further attempts to take Kintang, and retire on
Liyang. Here he took to his steamer, as he could no longer march owing
to his wound, the first and last that he ever had. With 1000 men he
started on March 24th for Woosieh, to find that the rebels who had been
threatening that place had fallen back. On the following day, lying on
his back in a steamer, and accompanied by a flotilla, Gordon made a
dash with the 1000 men he had right into the midst of the country held
by the rebels, in order to ascertain their disposition of troops. Well
might Colonel Chesney say, "One scarcely knows here whether most to
admire the pluck, or to wonder at the confidence of the wounded
commander!" He quickly took in the whole situation, and made up his
mind that a place called Waisso, which was held by the enemy in some
force, was the point at which to aim. Unfortunately, he was unable to
get about himself, yet he could not take the entire force, which had
been increased by one more battalion, on board. Consequently he had to
divide it, leaving a detachment to go by land. The officers put in
charge seem to have fallen into every mistake it was possible for
soldiers to make. The attacking regiments did not co-operate, their
flanks were left unprotected, and a long gap was permitted to occur
between two regiments. To make a long story short, the assault failed,
the assailants narrowly escaping annihilation. Unquestionably this
signal failure was due to the fact that the commander, being wounded,
could not see to details himself, and was obliged to leave his
principal arm, the infantry, to the direction of others.

Fortunately the Imperialists with 6000 men came to Gordon's assistance.
The Imperial force had been doing remarkably well in their recent
conflict with the enemy, but unfortunately had lost their commander,
General Ching. This man, who at first had been so jealous of Gordon,
had afterwards learnt to know and respect him, and Gordon had acquired
quite an affection for him in spite of his faults. Gordon was deeply
grieved to hear of his death, indeed it is said that he burst into
tears. It is touching to read an account of the death of this heathen
general, who, it will be remembered, had been a leading man among the
rebels before they degenerated. Mr. Hake's account is founded on the
statement of Governor Li, who says that even when he knew his wound was
fatal, he concentrated his mind on the affairs of the country. He
pointed out that though the rebels had been beaten, their strength was
not to be despised, and begged his colleague to order his officers to
be careful in battle. He remarked that brave men were not easily to be
found, and he bitterly regretted his own fate, by which he was
prevented from doing his duty to his country. When gradually sinking,
he ordered his servant to bring the yellow jacket presented to him by
the Emperor, and to assist him on with it. He then bowed his head
towards the Imperial Palace, and thus he yielded up his brave patriotic

After the junction of the Imperialists with Gordon's force there was
little difficulty in the capture of Waisso, and with the fall of that
place on April 6th it became evident that the campaign was fast drawing
to a close, the only places of any importance remaining in the hands of
the rebels being Nankin and Chanchufu. The former Gordon left to the
Imperialists, who felt confident of victory, and were very jealous of
the successful young soldier. Indeed, it is evident that they could
easily have taken Chanchufu also, but they apparently were in no hurry
to close the campaign. Many of them were mere mercenaries, who did not
want to remove the _raison-d'être_ for their existence as an army.
Strong suspicion exists that an incident which occurred soon after
Gordon reached Chanchufu, and when he was making preparations for the
attack, was really an attempt on his life. He and Major Tapp, a clever
artillery officer, were engaged in the construction of a battery, when
suddenly one of the picquets fired a volley at the battery, and the
rebels, not knowing the cause, fired also. Gordon and his party were
thus between two fires, and Major Tapp and several others were killed.

The first assault on Chanchufu was made by the Imperialists, and
defeated. Gordon was then asked to co-operate in another assault, which
he did; but not being supported by the Imperialists, he also failed.
After this a combined assault was made, and again it failed. Seeing
that the place was too strongly defended for an ordinary assault,
Gordon taught the Imperialists how to approach it by means of trenches.
Another assault was made by the Imperialists, who were on the point of
being driven back again, when Gordon came to their rescue, and the
stronghold was taken. When the rebel commander was captured he said
that, except for the aid of Gordon and his men, he could have defied
all the Futai hosts to take the city from him. The garrison was 20,000
strong; the place was skilfully fortified; and the rebels, thinking
that they would receive no quarter, fought with great desperation and
recklessness of life.

With the capture of Chanchufu ends the list of Gordon's fights in
China. His next care was to break up the Ever-Victorious Army. He knew
this to be very important, for he felt that they would be a standing
danger to the country. With men like Burgevine about, who were not
wanting in skill, and were as unprincipled as they were daring, it was
impossible to say what might happen if the command of such an army fell
into bad hands. The Chinese Government behaved very generously, giving
each wounded officer £900, and others on a similar scale. In a letter
written home, Gordon says:--

    "The losses I have sustained in this campaign have been no joke:
    out of one hundred officers I have had forty-eight killed and
    wounded; and out of 3500 men, nearly 1000 killed and wounded; but I
    have the satisfaction of knowing that, as far as mortal can see,
    six months will see the end of this rebellion, while if I had
    continued inactive it might have lingered on for six years. Do not
    think that I am ill-tempered, but I do not care one jot about my
    promotion or what people may say. I know I shall leave China as
    poor as I entered it,[3] but with the knowledge that through my
    weak instrumentality upwards of eighty to one hundred thousand
    lives have been spared. I want no further satisfaction than this."

      [3] It may be well to note here that his predecessor, Ward, who
      was killed in action, accumulated the sum of £60,000, although he
      was not very long in command, and was not considered at all an
      unscrupulous man.

A large sum of money was offered to Gordon and at first declined; but
when pressed to accept it, he decided to do so, and divide it among his
men. His pay had been good, being over £3000 per annum, but, in his
usual generous manner, he had spent it almost entirely on his men,
especially in providing comforts for the sick and wounded.

The last fight had taken place on May 11th, and by June 1st Gordon had
disbanded his army, his promptness exhibiting itself to the very last.
"So parted the Ever-Victorious Army," says Colonel Chesney in his
"Essays on Modern Military Biography," "from its general, and its brief
but useful existence came to an end. During sixteen months' campaigning
under his guidance it had taken four cities and a dozen minor strong
places, fought innumerable combats, put _hors de combat_ numbers of the
enemy, moderately estimated at fifteen times its own, and finding the
rebellion vigorous, aggressive, and almost threatening the unity of the
Chinese Empire, had left it at its last gasp, confined to the ruined
capital of the usurper."

Gordon paid a visit to the Imperialists who were investing Nankin,
where he interested himself in their mode of conducting the siege, and
gave a good deal of useful advice as to the future existence of the
Imperial army. Beyond this he took no active part. Nankin fell; the
"Heavenly King," who was the author of the rebellion, committed
suicide; and Chung Wang, his celebrated general, was beheaded,
permission being given to him at his own request that he might first
write his autobiography. One cannot but feel that it would have been an
act of policy as well as of clemency had the Emperor spared the life of
this noble fellow Chung Wang, more especially as the so-called Heavenly
King had committed suicide. As long as he was alive Chung Wang showed a
loyalty to him that was worthy of a better cause. He might easily have
escaped with his life but that he was anxious to save the life of the
son of the Heavenly King, a worthless individual, with all the faults
of his father and none of his ability. Chung Wang gave up his
fleet-footed horse to the young man, who did not even know how to make
use of the chance thus given him. The loyalty Chung Wang displayed to
the rebel chief might easily have been transferred to the Emperor.
Governor Li we shall hear of again, for when Gordon revisited China in
1880 he found his old friend still alive and active. There can be no
doubt that Gordon's personal influence over this man was considerable,
and when we next hear of him it is as standing almost alone among his
countrymen, pleading for a peaceable policy. The latter part of the
following letter, which he wrote to Gordon when in the Soudan, shows
that he had imbibed a good deal of that public spiritedness which made
Gordon so willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others. The
letter was dated March 22, 1879. Li Hung said:--

    "I am right glad to hear from you. It is now fourteen years since
    we parted from each other. Although I have not written to you, I
    often speak of you, and remember you with very great interest. The
    benefit you have conferred on China does not disappear with your
    person, but is felt throughout the regions in which you played so
    important and active a part. All these people bless you for the
    blessings of peace and prosperity which they now enjoy. Your
    achievements in Egypt are well known throughout the civilised
    world. I see often in the papers of your noble works on the upper
    Nile. You are a man of ample resources, with which you suit
    yourself to any kind of emergency. My hope is that you may long be
    spared to improve the condition of the people among whom your lot
    is cast. I am striving hard to advance my people to a higher state
    of development, and to unite both this and all other nations within
    the four seas under one common brotherhood."

An amusing circumstance was the utter bewilderment of the Regent of
China, Prince Kung, as to how he could reward Gordon. The money offered
he had refused for himself, and as for honours and distinctions they
had no charms for him. He accepted the yellow jacket, the highest
distinction the Chinese Emperor could confer (corresponding to our
Knight of the Garter), but this he did only to please his parents, not
because he valued it himself. Prince Kung called on the English
Minister at Shanghai and said, "You will be surprised to see me again,
but I felt I could not allow you to leave without coming to see you
about Gordon. We do not know what to do. He will not receive money from
us, and we have already given him every honour which it is in the power
of the Emperor to bestow; but as these can be of little value in his
eyes, I have brought you this letter, and ask you to give it to the
Queen of England, that she may bestow on him some reward which would be
more valuable in his eyes."

Gordon had already been awarded a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy in the
Royal Engineers, so he was now made a Commander of the Bath; but he was
as indifferent to English honours as to those of the Chinese. As for
Prince Kung's letter to Queen Victoria, we are informed by Mr. Hake
that he has good reason to believe it never reached the Queen, but was
allowed to remain in a pigeon-hole in the Foreign Office! Well may we
quote the words of Axel Oxenstiern to his son, to which the late Prince
Consort once referred in a letter to the late Emperor of Germany, at
that time Crown Prince of Prussia, "Oh, my son, mark how little wisdom
goes to the government of states." Mr. Hake also informs us that when
General Gordon presented himself at the War Office, the Secretary of
State seemed hardly to have heard his name, and knew nothing of his
work in China. Yet this was the man that at the age of thirty had saved
from ruin the largest empire of the world! We are indeed a marvellous
people. We are always manufacturing sham heroes, and parading them
before the world. Yet when we have a real one in our midst we utterly
ignore him. When one thinks of the many campaigns in which England has
been engaged since the Chinese war was over, the public may well be
astonished at a military system which allowed one of its ablest
soldiers to live in obscurity, and not even be consulted in the affairs
of the nation. Sir William Butler with withering scorn says:--

    "Nay, he was almost a stranger in his own land, and, when nearly a
    generation had passed away, and the fruit of many blunders had
    accumulated in Egypt a load of disaster that seemed too heavy to be
    borne, Gordon was at last called from the obscurity in which he had
    been so long consigned--he was, his own brother has told us, as a
    person who was now heard of for the first time."

A report has been circulated that he was offered the command of the
Ashantee Expedition and declined it. This report has absolutely no
foundation. The truth of the matter is that he never was offered a
command on active service of any kind by the British authorities. Those
who manage the affairs of other nations were able to recognise the
merits of this remarkable man, and to find opportunities for him to
exercise his powers, but our own authorities seem to have been
absolutely blind to his qualities. Yet this was he of whom Colonel
Chesney, a great writer on military matters, said, "If there is a man
in the world who can conduct a war with honour, thoroughness, and
humanity, and bring it to a satisfactory close without needless delay
or expense, England has that man in 'Chinese Gordon.'" It is, of
course, quite possible that every army has some men of military genius,
whose services are never utilised in positions of importance, for the
simple reason that they are unknown to the authorities. There is no
profession in which it is more difficult to pick out the born leaders
than is the case in the army. Plenty of men who promise well when in a
subordinate position prove miserable failures when in command. Men who
can pass examinations with flying colours are not always able to make
use of their knowledge in the field. A foreign power had, however,
provided a field in which one of our officers was able to show what
wonderful military instincts he possessed. It is therefore all the more
difficult to find excuses for those who were responsible for the fact
that, as far as England was concerned, Gordon was allowed to live in
obscurity, and was never even offered a command of any sort in any of
the campaigns in which his countrymen were engaged.



When Lord John Russell visited Elba, he was asked by Napoleon, then a
prisoner there, whether he thought that his rival, the Duke of
Wellington, would be able to live without the excitement of war, which
Napoleon used to call "a splendid game." It seemed incredulous to
Napoleon that a man who had shown himself so good a soldier as
Wellington should retire into the position of a simple citizen, and
Napoleon, little knowing the great man, thought that he would probably
use his influence as a statesman to involve his country in war again.
To some it may possibly seem strange that Gordon, who had distinguished
himself as a soldier, and had saved an empire, should again take up the
humble avocation of an engineer officer, but so he did. He was in
reality only a captain of engineers, though a brevet lieutenant-colonel
in the army, when in February 1865 he returned home. He took a few
months' leave, which he spent quietly at Southampton with his father
and mother, shunning all publicity.

On the expiration of his leave he was sent to Gravesend, to superintend
the building of some forts for the protection of the Thames. During one
of our periodical panics as to the safety of the country, large sums of
money were voted for defensive purposes. Gordon's duties were very
subordinate as far as these defences were concerned. The plans were
made out by others, and his duty was merely to see them executed.
Though he worked very hard in the performance of his duty, he made no
secret of the fact that he thoroughly disapproved of the way in which
the national money was being wasted. It is said that one day, when the
Commander-in-chief came to inspect the progress of the work, Gordon
denounced the whole thing most vehemently, and exposed its
worthlessness. It is characteristic of the man that he had the courage
of his opinions at all times. He must have been carried away a good
deal by his feelings, for when he got home that day he said that he
might have been put under arrest for the way in which he had denounced
the work of his superiors. As it was, his Royal Highness smiled
good-naturedly at his vehemence, and took no further notice. But though
Gordon thoroughly disapproved of the nature of the defences on which he
was engaged, he worked very hard at them, and it certainly is through
no fault of his if the Thames fortifications are not all they should
be. He was an early riser and a hard worker, and as he hardly ever went
into society, and did not go in for games, he found time to engage in
all kinds of religious and philanthropic work, in addition to his other
duties. He spent six years at Gravesend, and, although this is not a
popular station with many officers, he found so much to be done, that
in after years he used to look back upon the time spent there as the
happiest of his life. After the stirring scenes through which he had
passed in the Crimea and in China, it may have appeared to some a very
commonplace, uninteresting sort of life to eke out for so many years,
but no one more than Gordon felt the force of the truth conveyed in the

    "'A commonplace life,' we say and we sigh;
      But why should we sigh as we say?
    The commonplace sun in the commonplace sky
      Makes up the commonplace day.
    The moon and the stars are commonplace things,
    And the flower that blooms, and the bird that sings;
    But dark were the world, and sad our lot,
    If the flowers failed, and the sun shone not;
    And God, who studied each separate soul,
    Out of commonplace lives made His beautiful whole."

One remarkable characteristic of Gordon was the persistent way in which
he avoided publicity of any sort, evading every effort to bring him
forward. When he first came to Gravesend no one knew him, and he used
quietly to take a seat in the gallery of the parish church. As soon as
it was discovered that the stranger who occupied such a humble place,
was no other than the renowned "Chinese Gordon," great efforts were
made to induce him to take a more prominent position. But it was in
vain. What was good enough for the poor was good enough for him, and he
did not approve of the rich and the eminent occupying all the good
seats, to the exclusion of the poor, whose souls were just as valuable
in the sight of God. Again, he steadily refused to take the chair at
all public meetings. It was not that he could not speak at such
gatherings, for, although he was not a good speaker, he was by no means
a bad one, and he was always willing to conduct services for the poor.
He had a horror of taking a prominent position, and the only occasion
on which he ever broke through his rule as to taking the chair, was at
a meeting of some three hundred children over which he presided. He
was, however, very much at home when sitting in front of a class of
children, and this he infinitely preferred to giving formal addresses
even to children. Only once was he persuaded to address the whole
school collectively. Speaking to a large number of children requires a
special gift, and this he did not possess. His strength with children
lay in the fact that he obtained a personal influence over each one
individually. With a small class he could get to know each by name, and
win the affections of all one by one. The words, "He loved little
children," which were the only epitaph on the tomb of a certain
Sunday-school teacher, might well be applied to Gordon. It is difficult
to say what kind of teacher he was, or whether he availed himself of
the latest developments in the art of instructing children; but this is
quite clear, that he had one of the best qualifications a teacher can
possess, love for his pupils. There is a tale of a lady visitor who
once asked a little boy why he went so far to his Sunday-school, when
there were as good ones nearer at hand. The reply was, "They may be as
good, but they are not so good for me;" and when the lady asked him
"Why not?" he said, "Because they love a fellow over there." Love is a
qualification that is too often lacking in teachers, but it was one
that Gordon displayed very prominently. Need we wonder that the "dear
little fellows," as he used to call them, responded by loving him in

Nor was it only in the Sunday-school that Gordon's love for the young
was exhibited; he also had a class in the ragged school, and used to
invite his boys to his house for instruction in the evening on week
days, as well as on Sunday evenings. When three or four of them had
scarlet fever, he nursed them in his own house, and would sit up at
night talking to them, till he could get them to drop off to sleep. He
used to call these boys "kings," a name suggested to him when reading
Rev. i. 6, "And hath made us kings and priests unto God." He exclaimed
to his sister, "Why then, these are little 'kings,'" and he stuck to
the name. He took great pains to secure good posts for his boys in
ships going to sea, and on a map on his wall he kept a number of little
flags representing the boys he had sent abroad. These flags he used to
move about as he heard from time to time where the lads were. We need
not be surprised that among these boys were some who ardently loved
him, and that they used to give expression to their feelings by
scribbling on the wall with a piece of chalk, as boys will do, "God
bless the Kernel," "C. G. is a jolly good fellow," or "Long life to our
dear teacher, Gordon." The ragged school at Gravesend still retains the
Chinese flags which he presented to the boys, flags which he had
himself captured from the Taiping rebels. They are now kept as precious
relics, to be displayed only on special occasions. Sir Henry Gordon
says, that when the news reached England of the death of the heroic
defender of Khartoum, a young man, about twenty-five years of age,
called on him to inform him that he and others who had been Gordon's
boys at Gravesend, wished to put up some kind of memorial to his
memory, and that he was willing to give £25. He was much overcome when
speaking of all that Gordon had done for him.

Another writer relates that on one occasion when Gordon was watching
some workmen, he saw among them a lad looking very unhappy. On his
inquiring, the lad said, "Mother has left us, and gone away from home;
and everything there is so miserable that it is not like home at all."
At once the boy was invited to spend his evenings at the Fort House,
where he was instructed in the night school class, and taught to read
his Bible. Some little time after this he fell ill, and the doctor
decided that he ought to be taken to the local infirmary. "Shall I see
you there, Colonel?" he asked with wistful eyes; "I know I am going to
die." "But you are not afraid," replied Gordon, "for now you know who
says, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life.' He will be as near to you
in the infirmary as here, and as near to you in death as in life." "Oh
yes, I know Him now;" and so he did, for as the narrator said, "The
Colonel had led him to Christ by his life and teaching." When in the
hospital the young lad said to a nurse, "Read the Bible to me, there is
nothing like it." "But you are very tired," said the nurse. "Yes, I am
very tired. I do long to go to Jesus." This is a briefly narrated
incident, and is but a specimen of many that might be recorded if space

Gordon also took special pleasure in visiting the workhouse and talking
to the paupers, remembering that--

    "Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
      Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
      Chords that were broken will vibrate once more."

Workhouse inmates are, as a rule, a very disheartening class to visit.
A large percentage of them have been brought there by faults of their
own, and most of them are beyond the age when one may reasonably hope
for reform. Gordon's kind heart was proof against disappointment, and
he persistently used to visit the old people, supplying tobacco to the
men, and tea to the women, and chatting away to them, in an effort to
help them to forget their troubles. He was mindful, too, of the sick,
caring not who the sufferer was nor what his complaint; so long as he
was in need, so long was Gordon a regular visitor at his sick-bed.
Frequently when he heard that the doctors had ordered delicacies beyond
the reach of a patient, he would purchase what was required, and
administer it with his own hands. Mr. Lilley says:--

    "On one occasion he visited a poor, wretched woman, in an
    apparently dying condition. He at once lighted a fire, made some
    gruel for her, and fed her with his own hand. He afterwards
    appointed a nurse to look after her, and sent a doctor to her, and
    it is believed that she is still residing at Gravesend, a living
    testimony to his generous care."

The people so loved him, that often instead of sending for the
clergyman when in sickness or trouble, the poor would send for the
Colonel living at Fort House, the official residence of the officer
commanding the Royal Engineers.

Even his house and garden seem to have been placed at the disposal of
the poor in the neighbourhood. A visitor once remarked to his
housekeeper on the beautiful vegetables his garden produced. She
replied that the Colonel never touched them, but used to let the poor
people come in and cultivate plots of ground in the garden, and grow
their own vegetables; and even when presents of fruit were sent him by
friends, he used to take them to the bedside of some sick person, who
he thought needed them more than he did.

As for his own food, nothing could have been more simple and plain. The
Rev. S. H. Swaine says, "Coming home with us one afternoon late, we
found his tea waiting for him--a most unappetising stale loaf and a
teapot of tea. I remarked upon the dryness of the bread, when he took
the whole loaf (a small one) and crammed it into the slop-basin, and
poured all the tea upon it, saying it would soon be ready for him to
eat, and in half-an-hour it would not matter what he had eaten." It is
said that some of the boys whom he invited to live in his house were a
good deal disappointed when they saw the kind of fare that was put
before them. They had fondly imagined that the occupant of such a grand
house would have sumptuous meals, which they would share, and they were
not prepared for the plain salt-beef, and other good but very plain
food, to which the Colonel was in the habit of sitting down. But though
he denied himself luxuries of any sort, he often used to take grapes
and other dainties to the sick and the dying.

All forms of distress aroused his interest; and when the late Canon
Miller of Greenwich was collecting money for the suffering people at
Coventry, during the cotton famine, Gordon took a large and valuable
gold medal, that had been presented to him by the Empress of China, and
having with a gouge scooped out his name, which was engraved upon it,
put it into an envelope and despatched it to the Canon, merely
notifying briefly the object for which it was sent. Efforts have been
since made to discover the fate of the medal, which was of the best
gold, and twice the size of a crown piece, but owing to the death of
Canon Miller, they have hitherto been unsuccessful.

Gordon was, indeed, generous to a fault, and sometimes he was taken in
by impostors; but as he had a good knowledge of human nature, he was
not deceived so often as many with his generous heart would be. His
generosity was only limited by his purse, and there were times in his
life when he drew the line too fine, for, as he himself once said, "I
assure you that many a time I have not known where my food was to come
from, nor if I should find a place in which to lie down at night." So
long as there was money in his pocket, so long had he money to give
away; but on many occasions he forgot that he had a long railway
journey before him, and that the generosity he displayed to the needy
would not be extended to him at the railway ticket office. But on the
whole, his money was well laid out; many is the lad he started in life,
many the waif he picked up from the gutter, who, now a well-to-do
respectable member of society, might, but for him, have been a
criminal, getting into trouble himself, and leading others astray.

                            *      *      *

It would be interesting to follow more in detail the career of this
remarkable man at Gravesend, but space forbids. Gordon only spent six
years at this kind of work, and much of the time was engaged in his
official duties, yet the results were so good, that one cannot but
regret that a longer part of his career was not passed in the same way.
From his letters written in the Soudan, it is evident that he often
thought of devoting his old age to work among the poor, had he been
spared. It was, however, willed otherwise, and we are only permitted to
see how much can be done by a man in six years, when his heart is
thoroughly in the work.

It has been remarked more than once, that Gordon's military career
reminds one of the great soldier Cromwell, who did so much to rescue
England from the degenerate condition into which it had fallen under
the miserable rule of the Stuarts. In the same way the six years spent
by Gordon at Gravesend, very forcibly remind us of the great religious
philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury, who did perhaps more than any other
man of this nineteenth century, or any other century, to relieve human
suffering, and to solve some of those difficult problems that are
associated with the condition of the poor. Lord Shaftesbury had little
in common with Cromwell, except that both loved God and hated tyranny
and injustice. Their ways of going to work were very different, but one
cannot help seeing that Gordon combined much of both characters; and
had his lot fallen in different times or different circumstances, he
might have undertaken the work of either. He had all the martial
instinct of a Cromwell, and, with it, the love of relieving suffering
which so characterised Lord Shaftesbury. His one object seems to have
been to--

    "Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
      Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o'er the erring ones, lift up the fallen,
      Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save."

Gordon was never allowed to carry on any work for any great length of
time, and the six years at Gravesend passed very quickly. In 1871 he
was appointed British representative on the European Commission to
superintend the improvement of the mouth of the Danube, so that it
might be made more navigable for ships. He was engaged in this work for
two years, with his headquarters at Galatz; and the eminent war
correspondent, Archibald Forbes, says that he "found his memory still
green there in the early years of the Russo-Turkish war, fourteen years
after he had exchanged the mosquitoes of the Lower Danube for the not
less venomous insects of the Upper Nile."

Apart from the testimony of Archibald Forbes, we may be quite sure that
he did some good work at Galatz, for it would be difficult to imagine
him doing nothing but the ordinary routine of official duties. He
always discovered an opening of some sort by which he could help his
fellow-creatures, and his active mind and sympathetic nature were, in
the words of Jean Ingelow, always asking the question of those with
whom he came in contact--

    "Are there no briers across thy pathway thrust?
      Are there no thorns that compass it about?
    Nor any stones that thou wilt deign to trust
      My hand to gather out?"

The time had now come when he was to be called to a new form of work,
one to which he was to give the best years of his life, and for which
ultimately he was to sacrifice life itself. In the Crimea and in China,
he had shown what he could do as a soldier; at Gravesend he had set a
noble example to the world of what a Christian philanthropist might do
in his spare hours; and now he was to be called to wage war with the
horrors of slavery. We had him in our midst for six years, and we found
no work for him worthy of his abilities; but while we overlooked his
merits, other nations were not so blind. Just as later on the King of
the Belgians was anxious to secure his services which we were allowing
to remain idle, so now Nubar Pasha, the far-sighted minister of Ismail
Khan, Khedive of Egypt, persuaded him to enter the Egyptian service,
and go to Africa as Governor of the Equatorial Provinces.

But before we follow him into the Soudan, it may be well to dwell for a
little on the distinctly religious aspect of his life.



There are few young men who cannot remember having, in their boyhood,
taken a caterpillar and shut it up in a box. Before long the creature
assumed a chrysalis form, and finally developed into a butterfly, with
a completely new power not possessed by the caterpillar. Instead of
only being able to grovel on the ground, the creature in its new
existence is able to soar high into the air. This is one of Nature's
conversions, and is a faint illustration of the spiritual change which
takes place in the human heart, when the natural man becomes a new
creature with new powers. It is customary for some to sneer at the
doctrine of conversion, scorning the idea of a distinctly spiritual
change taking place in the human heart. It would, however, be difficult
to find any other term by which accurately to describe the change that
took place in Gordon's life.

      [4] In this and the following chapter, I have, in order to give
      Gordon's views, selected quotations from his letters at different
      periods of his life, but not always in chronological order. For
      want of space a large number of extracts have had to be omitted;
      those that are given must be taken as specimens.

Up to a certain period, while he had done well all that he was called
upon to do, and had completely outstripped his peers, showing himself,
in his professional capacity, to be a head and shoulders above his
fellows, there were nevertheless latent powers within him, which had
not yet been called into play. Who can study his life without being
convinced that he had a power with God, in later life, that he did not
possess earlier? Christ said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men
unto Me." He was lifted up before Gordon's eyes, and there was a
distinctive response to the magnetic influence of the Cross; and, as in
the laws of magnetism, the instrument that has been charged can in its
turn charge metal brought into contact with it, so in the life of
Gordon we see, that not only had the Redeemer a distinct influence on
his whole nature, but that he was himself so charged with Divine love,
that he was able to exert a magnetic influence over others.
Ecclesiastics may fight and wrangle about names and terms; we have to
deal with facts. It matters little by what name we call it, the fact
remains that a distinct spiritual change came over Gordon, leaving him
a man who had power with God. But though the effect of this change in
Gordon's life was most marked, it is not so obvious when it took place.
As a boy and a cadet he was full of animal spirits, and somewhat given
to practical joking; but, though not a religious boy, he never was bad
in the ordinary acceptation of the term. After he had obtained his
commission, before he went out to the Crimea, there were distinct
indications of a feeling after God, and some have affirmed that this
was brought about through the influence of his mother. That good
mothers are blessed by God as the means of conveying spiritual light to
their boys, is a fact so frequently evident, that writers and others
are often led to assume it must always be the case. Now, though Gordon
possessed an excellent mother, of whom he was very fond, and who in
later years became a true Christian, as a matter of fact in early life
she was somewhat worldly. She was always a remarkably clever and
sensible woman, but in the matter of religion she never attempted to
influence her son. Whatever of spiritual good there was in him, was
therefore not due to her. That he had great affection for her is clear,
even if there were no other evidence, from a letter written during her
illness in October 1873, when he was abroad, to his sister, in which
occurs this passage:--

    "Kiss my dear mother, and do not fret for me. I have, thank God,
    all comfort, peace, and happy reminiscence with the knowledge that
    the Comforter is with you all; that He is able, willing, unselfish,
    and kind, and that He will keep you all till you reach the land
    where the 'sun never sets,' and where you will see Him, and know
    why 'Jesus wept' at Lazarus' grave. Feed by the living pastures;
    they will fatten you."

A few days later he says:--

    "By keeping my watch at your time, I feel enabled to know what you
    are doing. It will be a sore trial for you to see my dear mother
    leave her worn-out shell, but you will feel that God takes her to
    Himself. My dear mother has spent a useful, hard-working life, and
    a happy one; it seems as if it is for you she is kept."

Still the truth expressed in the following lines applied to Gordon's

    "They talk about a woman's sphere,
      As though it had no limit.
    There's not a place in earth or heaven,
    There's not a task to mankind given,
    There's not a blessing or a woe,
    There's not a whispered yes or no,
    There's not a life, or death, or birth,
    That has a feather's weight of worth,
      Without a woman in it."

Writers have too often ignored the influence of an elder sister in the
formation of a man's character. There can be little doubt that even
before Gordon went out to the Crimea, he was indebted to his sister for
much spiritual help, as the following letter, written from Pembroke in
1854, shows:--

    "MY DEAR AUGUSTA,--Write another note like the last, when you have
    time, as I hope I have turned over a new leaf, and I should like
    you to give me some hope of being received.

    "... I got your very kind letter to-day, and am very much obliged
    to you for it. I have not had time to look out the texts, but will
    do so to-morrow. I am lucky in having a very religious captain of
    the 11th, of the name of Drew; he has on the mantelpiece of his
    room the 'Priceless Diamond,' which I read before yours arrived. I
    intend sending to you, as soon as possible, a book called 'The
    Remains of the Rev. R. M'Cheyne,' which I am sure you will be
    delighted with. I told Drew to go to Mr. Molyneux; and he did so,
    and of course was highly pleased. I cannot write much in favour of
    our pastor; he is a worldly man, and does not live up to his
    preaching; but I have got Scott's 'Commentaries.' I remember well
    when you used to get them in numbers, and I used to laugh at them;
    but, thank God, it is different with me now. I feel much happier
    and more contented than I used to do. I did not like Pembroke, but
    now I would not wish for any prettier place. I have got a horse and
    gig, and Drew and myself drive all about the country. I hope my
    dear father and mother think of eternal things. Can I do or say
    anything to either to do good? When you get my book, read the

    "You know I never was confirmed. When I was a cadet, I thought it
    was a useless sin, as I did not intend to alter (not that it was in
    my power to be converted when _I_ chose). I, however, took my first
    sacrament on Easter day [16th April 1854], and have communed ever

    "I am sure I do not wonder at the time you spent in your room, and
    the eagerness with which you catch at useful books--no novels or
    worldly books come up to the Sermons of M'Cheyne or the
    Commentaries of Scott. I am a great deal in the air, as my fort is
    nine miles off, and I have to go down pretty often. It is a great
    blessing for me that in my profession I can be intimate with whom I
    like, and have not the same trials among my brother officers as
    those in a line regiment have. I ought not to say this, for 'where
    sin aboundeth, grace aboundeth more fully;' but I am such a
    miserable wretch, that I should be sure to be led away. Dearest
    Augusta, pray for me, I beg of you."

For several years after the date of the above letter, he alludes very
little to religion, and if we may accept his own statement on the
subject, in a letter from China, dated Taku Forts, 15th March 1862, it
is probable that he went back for a time.

    "The climate, work, and everything here suits me, and I am thankful
    to say I am happy both in mind and body. I have had a slight attack
    of small-pox--it is not necessary to tell my mother this, as it
    will trouble her. I am glad to say that this disease has brought me
    back to my Saviour, and I trust in future to be a better Christian
    than I have been hitherto."

Then followed the stirring adventures he went through in command of the
Ever-Victorious Army in China; but that he could not, during that
period, have had the full assurance which characterised him later on,
and which arises from the witness of the Holy Spirit, is evident from
the fact that he once remarked to his aunt, Miss Enderby, that he could
not make out how it was that he had feared death so little, when all
the time he did not know that he was prepared to die.

On the 19th September 1865, his father passed away a few months after
he had taken up his appointment at Gravesend. This event seems to have
marked an important crisis in his spiritual life. He shut himself up in
complete retirement for a few days, and emerged a very different man
from what he had been before. From that time to the day of his death,
he was known as an out-and-out Christian. During the previous ten years
it is clear, from his letters, that he was in the highest and truest
sense a child of God, but there seems to have been something wanting in
his character. From the time of his father's death, he seems to have
had such a firm assurance in Christ, that religion was the prevailing
element of his life.

It is interesting to note that Gordon dedicated himself to the service
of God not only in the full vigour of health and strength, but at a
time when he might have been, had he chosen, one of the world's
favourites. In the case of some, broken health, advancing age, or
disappointed hopes and ambitions, are the causes that lead to a search
for something more lasting than this world can offer. Thankful as we
may be when any man yields to the higher claims of his Heavenly Father,
whatever the prompting cause may be, it is satisfactory to be able to
record an instance in which apparently none but the highest motives
were at work. Gordon at the time of his father's death was only
thirty-two years of age, and though young, he had done deeds of heroism
which might make many a Victoria Cross hero envy his opportunity and
courage. He had seen what the world had to offer, and he decided that
there was a nobler life to be led. To that new life he dedicated his
remaining years, and, it need hardly be added, he never regretted the
choice. As late as the 26th March 1881, after he had just recovered
from a severe illness, he remarks: "B---- said, when dying, how glad he
was he had sought God in his time of strength, for when he was sinking
he could not do so, and so I feel."

If we may form any opinion from expressions in his letters, dating from
this time to the day of his death, Gordon's religion brought him that
"peace of mind which passeth all understanding," and which the world
can neither give nor take away. The following are but specimens of many
remarks which he let fall from time to time on this subject:--

    "I may say that I have died suddenly over a hundred times; but in
    these deaths I have never felt the least doubt of my salvation."

    "I would that all had the full assurance of life. It is precisely
    because we are despicable and worthless that we are accepted. Till
    we throw over that idea that we are better than others, we can
    never have that assurance."

Nor must it be thought that the joy and happiness he experienced in
religion arose from any inward sense of self-satisfaction. Never had a
man a humbler estimate of himself than Gordon, but his faith in this
respect took a very healthy form. Instead of morbidly looking into his
own heart for evidences of his union with Christ, he ever kept his eye
on the precious work of his Saviour for him. Space will not permit many
quotations from his writings, so the two following must suffice. The
one was written soon after his conversion, the other near the end of
his life.

    "_May 3, 1867._--We are _born_ corrupt, and, if the devil had his
    way, we should be kept in ignorance of it; our permitted
    transgressions show us our state; it is the root that is evil, and
    evil must be its emanations, yet we feel much more oppressed by the
    outward sin than by the inward corruption."

    "_May 7, 1883._--Give me a ream of foolscap and I will sign it: it
    may be filled with my demerits and unworthiness, which I agree to;
    but my so doing is a proof of how much I accept the free gift of
    God. Unless our Lord's sufferings were in vain, it is just that
    sheet of demerits that I have signed which gives me my right to
    Him; had I a clean sheet I should have no right to Him."

Gordon's, however, was not a faith which contents its possessor merely
with a sense of the forgiveness of sins. That he possessed this happy
assurance, is evident. But no sooner had he entered into possession of
some of his privileges as a child of God, than he pressed on to obtain
more spiritual advantages. The indwelling of God in his heart was a
truth to which he attached much importance, and the following extracts
are but specimens of much that might be quoted showing that he held the
same truth from a period very soon after his father's death to the year
which preceded his own death.

    "_July 31, 1867._--I have had very nice thoughts on 1 John iv.
    13--'Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God
    dwelleth in him, and he in God.' I think it is the key to much of
    the Scripture. I am more than ever convinced that the secret of
    happiness and holiness is in the indwelling of God. The same truth
    is shown in many other verses, but the above, to my mind, shows it
    more clearly. Let a man seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit on
    such verses, and he will grow much in grace. As we believe _that_
    text, so we shall realise the presence of God in our hearts, and,
    having Him there, we have as a sequence holiness and love. He alone
    can make us believe the truth and keep it in mind."

    _"March 15, 1882._--It had struck me before, in 1865, that the
    ordinary Christian life of _non-assurance_ was not a sufficient
    gain to have come from Christ's incarnation and death; then I
    learnt _assurance_, then followed the knowledge of His indwelling,
    then the solution in my mind of the problem of the safety of
    others; and then I halted, having given up the thought that in this
    life it was possible to regenerate the body, putting down its
    failings as venial and connected with our human infirmities. In
    time it came to me that surely some growth, some improvement, ought
    to be made, some increased sanctification ought to be expected,
    one ought not to be so very barren; glimpses of selfishness,
    self-seeking pride, and a certain weariness of one's _châteaux
    d'Espagne_ came to me, and led to this--Christ dwelleth in us, and
    His light enlightens all dark places."

He held very strongly the teaching of the Apostle in Rom. vii., that we
have two natures contending for the mastery, the one good and the other
evil. Writing to his sister he says:--

    "We are torn in twain by our two natures, namely, our own judgment
    and our faith, and the result must be inconsistent work. How can it
    be otherwise? In appearance the Bible is inconsistent, and so must
    we be who fulfil it. The only consolation is to fall back on the
    text, 'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto
    thine own understanding.'"

And again on the 6th October 1878:--

    "You cannot evade it: we are each composed of two beings--one of
    which we see, which is temporal, which will fulfil certain works in
    the world; and one unseen, eternal, and which is always in
    conformity with God. One is sometimes uppermost, sometimes subdued,
    but rules in the long run, for it is eternal, while the other is

Gordon was a remarkable instance of the truth of the text, "The people
that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits," a truth which
is as applicable to individuals as it is to nations. Gifted by nature
with a strong character, its strength was greatly developed by the way
in which he came into personal contact with God in the study of His
Word. He yielded no slavish subservience to any Church or priest,
however good, but tested all doctrines by the unerring standard of
God's truth. "Take the Holy Spirit," he used to say, "for your teacher,
and you will never want another word from man on questions of
doctrine." He never shrank from facing difficulties, or new theories,
as some do who are not quite sure of the ground on which they stand,
but would ask all who propounded novel doctrines for chapter and verse
for their authority. When difficulties arose, he used to treat them as
that great scholar, the late Dean Alford did, as shown in the following
words: "I find difficulties in the Bible as well as others, but I am so
convinced of the general truth of that sacred volume as a whole, that I
can easily afford to suspend my judgment on those matters which for
some purpose perhaps God has not permitted me to understand."

The Bible was to Gordon a living oracle, to which he used to apply at
all times. Here are extracts from two of his letters showing how he
regarded it:--

    "Out of commiseration for our dual condition, God _has_ given us an
    oracle which will answer any question, advise, instruct, and guide
    us; now this oracle must be His voice, for, if not, it would not be
    His word. He has in His infinite wisdom incarnated His voice in the
    Scriptures; His voice is to be understood by the highest or lowest
    intellect; it gives answers, &c., through all time. To the carnal
    man it is an ordinary book, to the spiritual man it is alive and
    makes alive."

    "Whether we may apprehend it or not, the Scripture contains the
    mind of Christ, and is, when illuminated with the Spirit, as if
    Christ was ever talking to us. Now, we should think that if Christ
    was ever near to talk with us, _that_ should suffice us, and
    consequently, _as I believe that in theory_, I try to realise it in

Knowing the high value that Gordon placed on the Word of God, we shall
not be surprised to hear that he took intense pains to study the sacred
volume. He incidentally mentions that one page of his Bible had been so
worn by use that he could hardly read the words. The energy and
thoroughness ever evinced in his professional duties, he also practised
in the earnest search for God's truths. He used to apply the text, "In
the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," to the soul as well as to
the body, to the living Bread of Life as well as to the bread that
sustains physical life. At one time he devoted a great deal of time to
studying the book of Revelation, although he admitted that it was the
most difficult book in the Bible to understand. He did not profess to
understand it all, but he used to quote that saying of Dr. Mackie's,
"The blessing to be looked for does not come by comprehension, but by
the reading of the revelation God has given us in His Word, Rev. i. 3."
But though he read and studied his Bible as earnestly as he would any
other book, he never forgot the fact that only the Holy Spirit can
teach us the truths contained in it.

    "We can see the _history_ of the Bible, and may understand it, but
    we forget that we are blind to its secret mysteries, unless God
    shows them to us; our Saviour says, 'Unto you it is _given_.' Only
    the Spirit _in_ man finds God."

He contended, moreover, that there could be but little benefit from a
mere theoretical study of the Bible, and that consequently the best
school in which to learn the sacred truths it contained was that of the
discipline of life.

    "I feel sure that no study without trial is of avail; life must be
    lived to learn these truths. I believe, if a man knows his Bible
    fairly, and then goes forth into the world, God will show him His
    works. The Jews learnt the Scripture by heart, and so I expect our
    Saviour did; He therefore had no need to study it. He applied its
    teachings to life and its trials."

Nor did Gordon study his Bible only when he was alone, for he was very
fond of reading it in company with those who, like himself, valued it.
Thus Mr. Pearson, of the Church Missionary Society, who was at Nyanza,
gives a brief account of his visit to Khartoum in 1878, and says,
"After the work of the day was finished, Gordon would say, 'Let us have
reading and prayer;' and in that very palace which was, perhaps, the
scene of his death, we used to meet and pray, not separating sometimes
until one in the morning."

Before leaving Gordon and his Bible, it is interesting to note that the
actual copy of the Scriptures which he had for a long period, including
the time of his first visit to Khartoum, is now at Windsor Castle in
the possession of the Queen. The following is the Queen's letter on the

    "WINDSOR CASTLE, _March 16, 1885_.

    "DEAR MISS GORDON,--It is most kind and good of you to give me this
    precious Bible, and I only hope that you are not depriving yourself
    and family of such a treasure, if you have no other. May I ask you,
    during how many years your dear heroic Brother had it with him? I
    shall have a case made for it with an inscription, and place it in
    the Library here, with your letter and the touching extract from
    his last to you. I have ordered, as you know, a Marble Bust of your
    dear Brother to be placed in the Corridor here, where so many Busts
    and Pictures of our greatest Generals and Statesmen are, and hope
    that you will see it before it is finished, to give your opinion as
    to the likeness.--Believe me always, yours very sincerely,

    "VICTORIA R. I."

It is not a little remarkable that in the history of all eminent
Christians, those who attach great importance to the study of the Word
of God invariably make a point of spending much time at the throne of
grace, waiting on God in prayer. These two means of grace seem to be
almost inseparable, and we seldom find one much in use without the
other. Some people talk about being too busy to spare time for prayer
or study of the Scriptures, but Luther used to say that the more work
he had to do, the more necessary did he find it to hedge-in time during
which he could be alone with God. The more work there is to be done,
the more strength is needed, and therefore the more important is it to
make use of those means which alone can bring strength for work. Few
men get through more work in the course of the year than Gordon did,
but he made a great point of so arranging his work as to enable him to
find time for private communing with God.

When in the Soudan as Governor-General he used to hoist a flag outside
his tent to indicate to outsiders that he was not to be disturbed
except under very urgent circumstances, and that flag became the signal
that the occupant of the tent wanted to be alone with his God, to seek
for guidance[5] and strength, which he felt he needed so much in
conducting the affairs of the province over which he was called to
rule. Like all men who begin by praying much for themselves, his heart
was soon drawn out in prayer for others; and it is evident that he
interceded much for his enemies, as well as for those with whom he was
officially brought into contact. Thus in one letter he says: "I believe
very much in praying for others; it takes away all bitterness towards
them;" and on another occasion:--

      [5] It is sometimes said that Gordon used to "toss up" when he
      was in any doubt, and that such a step indicates want of faith in
      prayer. As a matter of fact, he did appeal two or three times to
      lot in this way, and he used to quote Acts i. 26 as a precedent;
      but it is not true that he often decided questions thus, nor is
      it true that he resorted to an appeal to lot instead of seeking
      guidance in prayer. He would pray first, and ask God to indicate
      His mind in this modern form of appeal to lot.

    "The only remedy with me is to pray for every one who worries me;
    it is wonderful what such prayer does. In heaven our Lord
    intercedes for us, and He governs heaven and earth. Prayer for
    others relieves our own burdens. God turned the captivity of Job
    _when he prayed for his friends_, who had been as thorns in his
    side. I feel strongly that the grace God gave me to pray for my
    enemies in the Soudan led to my success, though I certainly used
    the sword of Cæsar on them."

Those who are opposed to the doctrine that salvation is not to be
obtained by human merit, but by simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
sometimes assert that the Gospel teaches people to be selfish, by
thinking first of their own salvation. As a matter of fact, the most
active Christians are those who hold this doctrine; and never has the
Church of our country been so fruitful of good works, as when her
children have been careful to make it clear that salvation is not to be
obtained by them. It is not selfishness for a man to think of his own
soul first, when he knows that he cannot do much good to others till
its salvation is assured. The happy combination between a natural
unselfishness, and a newly developed love for the temporal and
spiritual welfare of his fellow-creatures, had very blessed results in
Gordon's case. No sooner was he thoroughly convinced of the importance
of religion, than his unselfish nature exhibited itself in a marvellous
development of the missionary spirit at home and abroad. When Gordon
secured anything good, his unselfish nature at once prompted him to let
others share it. It is sometimes supposed that only men of strong faith
are in earnest about the propagation of their faith, but this is not
altogether a correct way of stating a fact. The young man who makes
good use of the muscular power given to him by Nature acquires greater
strength, whereas he who fails to do so finds that he has to pay the
penalty of his neglect in having his muscles grow flabby and feeble.
And so it is with faith. The unselfish man who starts with a weak
faith, but is determined to let others derive as much benefit as
possible, finds his faith growing stronger and stronger, as he
continues to witness evidences of the influence of that faith on
others. Had Gordon, like one in the parable, wrapt his faith up in a
napkin, instead of making good use of it by putting it out to usury, he
might never have acquired the strong faith which so characterised him.
As it was, he not only to the last day of his life had cause to thank
God for the full assurance he enjoyed, but the number of orphans, of
widows, and of others, who derived benefit directly or indirectly from
his faith, will never be known.

There are some to whom one might apply, though in a slightly different
sense, the words of Naaman's servants, "If the prophet had bid thee do
some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?" While willing to
exercise this faith in the performance of great deeds, they overlook
numerous smaller opportunities of working for their Master, and fail to
do anything because they are always looking out for great
opportunities. The great change in Gordon's life took place at
Gravesend, and it was there he commenced to show that intense longing
to do good to others which characterised him to the end. Nothing was
beneath his notice, nobody too insignificant for him. The gutter
children, and the inmates of the workhouse, might have been passed over
by many in his position who had higher aims. It was not so with Gordon,
and consequently he quickly cultivated the missionary spirit, and soon
reaped a rich harvest, proving the truth of Browning's lines about the
humble-minded man, who finds nothing too insignificant for his

    "That low man sees a little thing to do,
      Sees it and does it:
    This high man with a great thing to pursue,
      Dies ere he knows it.
    That low man goes on adding one to one,
      His hundreds soon hit:
    This high man aiming at a million
      Misses an unit."

Here was a man, who had already made a great name for himself in the
world, and might, had he wished, have been far better known, planning
out for himself a future career, the main object of which was to spread
abroad a knowledge of those spiritual truths which had so greatly
benefited him, and that not by the formation of some great society,
some splendid organisation, but by simply putting himself into touch
with some of the humble city missionaries, and, through their
instrumentality, getting at the poor. Witness these two passages from
his letters:--

    "_January 8, 1881._--I hope, D.V., to put myself in communication
    with some of our Scripture-reader people, and shall try and visit
    Christ, who is in the East end in the flesh (Matthew xxv. 34). I
    feel this is what I shall like; these truths were not given to make
    a man idle."

    "_September 24, 1881._--I have been down for two Sundays to meet a
    lot of Chinese, and have spoken to them as well as I could. I have
    not yet touched on Jesus and His sacrifice, but spoke of God's
    indwelling. It was satisfactory, and they were pleased."

It is also interesting to note how, from time to time, he kept on
reproaching himself for not being more alive to his responsibilities,
and making better use of his opportunities to do good. He even seemed
to begrudge himself the few months' holiday he spent in Palestine
recruiting his health and energies. Writing on August 14, 1882, he

    "Fancy, since I left Mauritius, with the exception of twenty-nine
    days on board ship, I have been living at hotels, and, I may say,
    have not talked of the pearls to more than a dozen people."

And again from Palestine he wrote:--

    "You know I do not like idleness; I want to get to a place where I
    can find sick people to visit, feeling sure that is the necessary
    work for me; I think He will direct me, so I seek no advice
    elsewhere. I leave it to God, to decide in His time. I do not like
    the ways of the polished world, and my dislike has increased during
    the time I have been here."

However much Gordon might reproach himself, it must not for one moment
be supposed that, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, there was
any cause for it. He was in truth a most indefatigable worker, and no
matter how hard his official work was, he always seemed to find time to
do something for his Master. A case in point is the time he spent in
South Africa, when it is difficult to understand how he got through all
the official work he managed to compress into his brief sojourn. Yet we
find that the herculean task of reorganising the colonial army was not
the only thing that occupied his attention, for on the 12th August 1882
he writes to his sister:--

    "How odd, those leaflets[6] being in Dutch, and my wanting them,
    and your sending them just as I am about to go up to the Free
    State, when, as in the 'Auld time long ago,' I shall be dropping
    them along the road near the Boer towns. What hundreds I did give
    away; how I used to run miles, if I saw a scuttler (boy) watching
    crows in a field! If I, or any one else, went now to Gravesend and
    dropped them, how quickly men, now grown up, would remember that
    time. Send me the whole lot out unless you want them, I mean of all
    languages; it is the loveliest leaflet I ever saw, and it still
    looks fresh."

      [6] This leaflet consists principally of a few choice and
      carefully selected passages of Scripture, and shows how intensely
      he valued the _ipsissima verba_ of God's own word, as a means of
      reaching the human heart.

Francis de Sales, an eminent saint of the Roman Catholic Church, when a
famine was prevailing, and he wanted to preach in a certain village,
purchased twelve waggons and packed them with bread. He sent the
waggons forward one at a time, going on the last one himself. "For,"
said he, "we must get at the poor through their physical natures. They
will be the more willing to receive our message for their souls when
they see that we care about their bodies." Gordon used to act on the
same principle, and made a great point of caring for the physical wants
of any he found in trouble. It would be difficult to enumerate all the
instances of this to which publicity has been given, but a few cases
may suffice. One lad who exhibited consumptive tendencies he sent at
his own expense to Margate. The boy recovered, grew up to be a man, and
christened his eldest son "Gordon," in memory of one who, he used to
say, had "saved both his body and soul." Another story is told of a
case in which Gordon handed over a dirty little urchin to one of his
lady friends, with the remark, "I want to make you a present of a boy."
Under good influences the lad grew up until he became a respectable
member of society. Years after, when he was earning good wages at sea,
and was about to be married, he fell from the topmast of his vessel,
and was conveyed to the Gravesend Infirmary with a fractured skull. In
his last moments, however, he did not forget his benefactor, and, in
trembling tones, asked his adopted mother to tell the Colonel how he
valued the truth contained in that beautiful hymn he had taught him,
"Jesus, Lover of my soul." The same writer mentions also the history of
a boy called Albert who, through Gordon's kindness, was apprenticed to
a tradesman at Gravesend. Subsequently the lad went into a business
house at Southampton, where he was placed in a department which he did
not understand. Fearing that his services would be dispensed with, he
communicated with his friends, and they, in turn, wrote to General
Gordon, who happened to be staying in Southampton at his sister's
house. Without loss of time the General called on "Little Albert," whom
he scarcely recognised in the youth of six feet two inches who
presented himself, and had a consultation with his employer. The result
was that the young man was retained in his situation, and placed in a
department with which he was well acquainted.

It is by no means uncommon to find that those who are eager about the
spread of spiritual truths among professing Christians, are also keenly
alive to the importance of mission work among non-Christian people.
Gordon was a remarkable instance of this happy combination. The chapter
that deals with his life in Palestine gives an insight into this part
of his character, but a few words will not be out of place here to show
his opinion on this subject in other countries. He had a very high
ideal of what a missionary should be, and a supreme contempt for bad
missionaries. He was on the whole fortunate in the class of men he came
across in Palestine, the Soudan, and South Africa. In the first of
these two places the missionaries belonged to the Church Missionary
Society, an organisation with which he was much in sympathy. But he
also met men of other societies, and his large-hearted sympathies went
out to them too. He was a great admirer of Livingstone, and spoke of
him with much respect and affection. The spirit of heroism which has
characterised so many of our missionaries attracted him greatly. "Do
not send lukewarms," he once wrote to Mr. Wright, the Honorary
Secretary of the Church Missionary Society; and one of the first things
he did at Gravesend was to support the Moravian Missions by becoming
their local treasurer. Later on in Africa he writes, "How refreshing it
is to hear of the missionary efforts made in these countries."

We may not quite agree with all that Gordon said on the subject of
foreign missions, and some may think that the standard he set up was
too high for frail human nature to aim at. Moreover, recent events in
Uganda, and elsewhere, may have shown us that good work can be done by
men who fall far short of Gordon's standard. Nevertheless, we cannot
but feel that he was himself, in the truest sense of the word, a
missionary, and that the Earl of Harrowby did not at all exaggerate the
truth when he said about Gordon, after his death:--

    "I believe that one effect of that man's example was to lift up a
    noble standard for the cross in a way that no professional
    missionary could have lifted it up, and to oblige devotees of
    pleasure and people who had thought but little of such things to
    acknowledge the power of the Gospel. Many who saw him and spoke to
    him could not understand him. It was to them a marvellous sight to
    witness, and I feel that we can hardly be grateful enough to that
    great man for the infinite benefits which he has bestowed upon us
    as friends of missions."

Apart from any direct work that he did to advance the cause of
missions, an illustration has recently been given us in _The Jewish
Intelligencer_, showing what an influence his life had on Mohammedans
and others with whom he came in contact. The writer describes a
conversation he had with a shereef from Mecca, a man who was held in
the greatest veneration by all loyal Mohammedans. He was a
well-informed man, and had travelled much. In speaking of Gordon, he
said: "Oh! the English lost a great man, it is true, but the unhappy
Mussulmans have lost in him a benefactor, a father, and a servant of
the true God. Before I knew him I hated the Christians, but Gordon has
taught me to love them; and I see more clearly every day that a
religion which makes such heroic, faithful, and disinterested men, can
only be a religion coming from the true God." And, believe me, the
whole Mohammedan world has felt, and still feels every day, the loss of
the noble defender of Khartoum.



So many Churches and parties have laid claim to Gordon's patronage, and
such extraordinary views have been attributed to him on religious
subjects, that it may not be out of place to say something on the
point. His mind was very comprehensive, and his whole nature
sympathetic, consequently many, differing widely from each other, have
regarded him as an ally of their own cause. When he became Private
Secretary to Lord Ripon, on the appointment of the latter, who is a
Roman Catholic, as Governor-General of India, it was stated in some of
the Indian papers that the new Viceroy had been urged by Mr. Gladstone
to accept a Baptist as his Private Secretary, in order to conciliate
the Nonconformist and Protestant element in England. There was not a
word of truth in the statement. The Baptist Church has possessed some
very eminent men, such as Sir Henry Havelock, Dr. Carey, Dr. Judson,
Dr. Angus, and Mr. Spurgeon, but General Gordon was not one of their
number. He was baptized as a member of the Church of England, and
though he was never confirmed, yet he lived and died a communicant of
that body. In many ways he was a thorough type of that catholic
generous class of Churchmen, so characteristic of our National Church,
which, taking a large-hearted view of Church membership, recognises all
that is good, noble, and pure in other systems, and is not afraid of
losing caste by associating with Nonconformists. Nor would it be fair
to say that his catholicity developed only in the direction of the
Nonconformists, for no man ever tried more than he to see good in other
systems of religion, such as the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches, and
even Mohammedanism. He had a remarkably open mind, and was always
anxious to distinguish between persons and principles. He fully
recognised the errors of certain religious systems, but this did not in
the least interfere with his recognition of good in the individuals who
adhered to them. The catholicity of his own views may be gathered from
the following extracts made from his letters at different times:--

    "I do not think much of getting help from only one particular set
    of men; I will take Divine aid from any of those who may be
    dispensing it, whether High Church, Low Church, Greek Church, or
    Roman Catholic Church; each meal shall be, by God's grace, my

    "I would wish to avoid laying down the law: you may look at a plate
    and see it is round; I look at it, and see it is square; if you are
    happy in your view, keep it, and I keep mine; one day we shall both
    see the truth. I say this, because we often are inclined to find
    fault with those who do not think as we do, 'who do not follow
    _us_.' Why trouble others and disturb their minds on matters which
    we see only dimly ourselves? At the same time I own to repugnance
    to the general conversation of the world and of some religious
    people; there is a sort of 'I am holier than thou' in their words
    which I do not like, therefore I prefer those subjects where such
    discussions do not enter."

    "Join no sect, though there may be truth in all. Be of the true
    army of Christ, wear His uniform, _Love_: 'By this, and by no other
    sign, shall men know that ye are My disciples.'"

If we may judge of a man by his friends and his books, few can surpass
General Gordon in catholicity. He used to say that he learned certain
truths from certain individuals. Thus, from the writings of an eminent
Plymouth Brother, C. H. Mackintosh, he learnt the doctrine of the two
natures within himself, and from a Mr. Jukes he learnt the lesson of
the crucifixion of the flesh. "Mr. Mylne," he used to say, "taught me
the importance of intercessory prayer, and Colonel Travers taught me
the importance of bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit." He valued
also Bishop Pearson's work on the Creed, and the standard work on the
Thirty-nine Articles by the lately-retired Bishop of Winchester. "The
Imitation of Christ," by Thomas à Kempis, was a favourite book, and one
which he gave away largely. "Christ's Mystical," by Hall, and "The Deep
Things of God," by Hill, were also much valued, and given away to his
friends, as well as Clark's "Scripture Promises," and Wilson on
"Contentment." He was an admirer of the eminent preacher Charles H.
Spurgeon, about whom he says:--

    "I found six or seven sermons of Spurgeon in the hotel, and read
    them. I like him; he is very earnest; he says: 'I believe that not
    a worm is picked up by a bird without direct intervention of God,
    yet I believe entirely in man's free will; but I cannot and do not
    pretend to reconcile the two.' He says he reads the paper to see
    what God is doing and what are His designs. I confess I have now
    much the same feeling; nothing shocks me but myself."

He was personally very fond of the late Bishop of Lincoln, Dr.
Christopher Wordsworth, describing him as "imbued with the indwelling
of God; only one fault--he is hard on the Roman Catholics." The last
phrase gives a good insight into the working of Gordon's mind. Romish
Catholicism, as a religious system, was about as opposed as anything
could be to his own views, which were all in favour of comprehensiveness,
and a large display of individuality. But though he had no sympathy
with the narrow exclusiveness of that ecclesiastical survival of the
dark middle ages--the Roman system--he had the greatest sympathy with
earnest individuals, who in spite of their system possessed the Spirit
of Christ. He had many sincere friends who were members of the Church
of Rome, and he used to remark that some of them set a noble example of
devotion to many Protestants, who did not act up to their own
principles. Writing on the 5th January 1878, he says:--

    "Why does the Romish Church thrive with so many errors in it? It is
    because of those godly men in her who live Christ's life, and who,
    like as Zoar was spared for Lot's sake, bring a blessing on the
    whole community. For self-devotion, for self-denial, the Roman
    Catholic Church is in advance of our present-day Protestantism.
    What is it if you know the sound truths and do not act up to them?
    Actions speak loudly and are read of all; words are as the breath
    of man."

But in spite of his large-hearted toleration he had no hesitation in
speaking out against the tendency of Romanism which unduly exaggerates
the position of the priests, and puts the laity into a subservient
position with regard to them. Writing from Khartoum with regard to the
Abyssinians, he says:--

    "The excommunication of the priests is the great weapon--it is
    terrible; far worse than, or quite as bad as, that of the
    Inquisition. It amuses me to hear the Catholic priests here
    [Khartoum] complain of it, and say that the priests want to keep
    the people ignorant, so as to rule them. Is it not what _they_
    would do elsewhere, if they could?"

It may be supposed by some that General Gordon was a member of what is
known as the Evangelical party in the Church of England, but though he
held perhaps more in common with that party than with any other, it
would be inaccurate to say that he belonged to it. Religious party
views are always rather difficult to describe, and it will be found
that in every party there are some whose minds do not run on partisan
lines. An eminent bishop was once asked to define the three parties of
the National Church, and he replied, that the High Churchman always
asked what the Church taught, the Broad Churchman could be
distinguished by his asking what reason taught, and the Evangelical was
known by his asking what the Bible taught. If such a rough-and-ready
system of classification be applied to General Gordon, there can be no
question that his loyalty to the Bible would stamp him at once. In
addition, however, to this characteristic, which was the most prominent
one in his life, he held in common with the Evangelicals, and far more
strongly than the majority of them, the doctrine of Election, and the
wise policy of cultivating friendly relations with Nonconformists, to
whose places of worship he frequently went, as also the doctrine of
personal assurance, and that of the utter depravity of human nature.
But Gordon was not of a type of mind that can ever go completely with a
party. He had such a strong individuality, that it would have been
impossible for him to do as many do--sink his own views on questions
not of vital importance, so as to be enabled to work with the party
with which he was most in accord. He was nothing, if not original and
genuine; he sought the truth for himself, and would not receive
stereotyped views of religion where he did not see that they were in
harmony with the Bible.

    "He that cannot think is a fool,
    He that will not is a bigot,
    He that dares not is a slave."

His fearlessness in the search for truth made him frequently touch on
subjects on which his own mind was not fully made up. The fate of those
who had not accepted Christ as their Saviour was one of these points.
Though he frequently spoke of his own salvation, through the merits of
Christ, he believed that God had provided some means of saving those
who had never had opportunities of hearing of Christ, but he never
dogmatised on what those means were. Referring to his Mohammedan
secretary, Berzati Bey, he writes on the 12th April 1881:--

    "He will ever be one of those who have taught me the great lesson,
    that in all nations and in all climes there are those who are
    perfect gentlemen, and who, though they may not be called
    Christians, are so in spirit and in truth. They may not see how
    Christ is their Saviour, but they die with a sense that all their
    efforts are useless, and with the conviction that unless God
    provides some way of satisfying His justice, they have no hope."

The fate of the heathen who are suffering, not from any personal
rejection of true religion, but on account of the sins of some distant
ancestors who forsook the worship of the true God, is a mysterious
subject, and one on which true Christians have differed. The most that
any of us can do is to take comfort in the conviction that--

    "The love of God is broader
    Than the measure of man's mind."

It must not, however, be thought, because Gordon held that the
ignorance of the heathen was no bar to their salvation, that he in any
way undervalued the benefits of the Christian faith. Again and again,
in view of his being asked to become a Mohammedan in order to save his
life, he says in substance what he wrote on September 10, 1884, when
Khartoum was surrounded with bigoted Mahdists: "If the Christian faith
is a myth, then let men throw it off; but it is mean and dishonourable
to do so merely to save one's life, if one believes it is the true

He also believed that heathen magicians had influence with God. Writing
to his sister shortly after a repulse that his men received from some
natives near Moogie, in the Equatorial Province, he says: "Did I not
mention the incantations made against us by the magicians on the other
side, and how somehow, from the earnestness that they made them with, I
had some thought of misgiving on account of them? These prayers were
earnest prayers for celestial aid, in which the Pray-er knew he would
need help from some unknown power to avert a danger. That the native
knows not the true God is true; but God knows him, and moved him to
pray, and answered his prayer."

But while General Gordon held much in common with the liberal
Evangelicals, there was one point on which he differed from them very
strongly, and on which he was more in sympathy with the Broad Church
party in the National Church, or those amongst the Nonconformists known
as the Down Grade party; this was the doctrine known as Universalism.
Whether we agree with him or not, we must in honesty recognise the fact
that Gordon held a modified form of the doctrine that there is no such
thing as future punishment. Writing on the 13th October 1878 he gives
his views thus:--

    "I look on universal salvation for every human being, past,
    present, or future, as certain, and, as I hope for my own, no doubt
    comes into my mind on this subject. Is it credible that so _many_
    would wish it to be otherwise, and fight you about it? And among
    those _many_ are numbers, whose lives, weighed truly as to their
    merits by the scale of the sanctuary, would kick the beam _against_
    those _they_ condemn.

    "Once I did believe that some perished altogether at the end of the
    world--were annihilated, as having no souls. After this, I believed
    that the world was made up of incarnated children of God and
    incarnated children of the evil spirit; and then I came to the
    belief that _the two are in one_.

    "With reference to the doctrine of annihilation, I do not think it
    gives the same idea of God as is obtained from this other view. It
    may show force to annihilate, but we should think more highly of a
    monarch who would, by his wisdom, kindness, and long-suffering,
    turn a rebel people into faithful subjects, than of him who had the
    land wasted and utterly destroyed his rebellious subjects. I do not
    think that after the declaration, 'It is _finished_,' there can be
    any more probation; punishment brings no one to God."

Once more, writing on the 16th May 1883, he says:--

    "I have become much more timid about speaking of these matters of
    universal salvation, yet perforce one comes to this question. If
    every one lives, then he must live by the fact of his possession of
    an emanation of the Life of Life, which must be good, and never can
    be evil. This emanation is the cause of his existence, his life in
    fact, and that I regard as the '_he_.'"

Perhaps the best answer will be found in Sir William Butler's "Life of
Gordon." Dealing with Gordon's difficulty about future punishment, he
says with truth:--

    "Yet never lived there man who in his own life had seen more of the
    vast sum of human wrong-doing which has to be righted somewhere,
    and on which no sword of justice ever lights in this world. He does
    not seem to have asked himself the question, If I am shooting and
    hanging these maker of orphans; if I am punishing with stripes and
    chains these sellers and buyers of human flesh, and doing it in the
    name of truth and right, is the Great Judge of all to be denied His
    right to use the sword of justice upon those who are beyond my
    reach? Are nine-tenths of the evil-doers on earth not only to
    escape the penalty of their crimes, but often and often to be
    favoured reapers in the harvest of the world's success? You catch
    the common robber, or the man who steals, perhaps through
    starvation, penury, or through knowing no better, and you imprison
    him for years or for life; and is the rich usurer who has wrung the
    widow's farthing from her, is the fraudulent bankrupt, is the
    unjust judge, is the cruel spoiler of war to pass from a world that
    in millions and millions of cases gave them wealth and honours, and
    stars and garters, instead of ropes and bars and gallows, to go
    forthwith to free pardon, to everlasting light and endless rest
    beyond the grave? It would indeed be strange justice that meted to
    Jude and Judas the same measure of mercy in the final judgment."

It must be borne in mind that Gordon was not a trained theologian but
an earnest Christian soldier. As his brother, Sir Henry Gordon, reminds
us, he led a very lonely life, and consequently often lost opportunities
of hearing both sides of a question. He might come across a book on one
side, and thus adopt a certain set of views without hearing the
opposite side. No man was more capable of forming a sound opinion, when
arguments _pro_ and _con_ were fairly laid before him, but his peculiar
style of life often prevented him from doing justice to his own

If Gordon was likely to err in one direction more than another, it was
in that of an exaggerated form of kindness. He had a tender, loving
heart, which unduly influenced his judgment. It would be well for all
students of God's Word if it could be said that their only failings
arose from exaggerated virtues. All have some weak points, and it would
be ridiculous to claim for Gordon immunity from error.

    "Find earth where grows no weed, and you may find
    A heart wherein no error grows."

No writer would be doing justice to Gordon if he failed to deal with
his views on the subject of God's Sovereignty, for from the beginning
to the end of his religious life he attached the greatest importance to
this doctrine. He was avowedly what is generally called a Calvinist,
though as a matter of fact he very seldom made use of the term. That
sainted prelate, the late Bishop Waldegrave, when once he heard a young
clergyman sneering at the doctrine which so frequently goes by the name
of Calvinism, remarked: "Young man, before you denounce Calvinism, take
care that you properly understand what the term means, or possibly you
may find yourself contending against some of God's truths." Now that it
is so fashionable to denounce Calvinism, it is perhaps well to act on
the good bishop's advice, and see whether we thoroughly comprehend it,
or whether all the time we are not contending with a creation of our
own imagination which is but a caricature of the thing itself. Even
Froude, the great historian, who, whatever else he is, is not a
Calvinist, inquires how it is that Calvinistic doctrines have
"possessed such singular attractions for some of the greatest men who
have ever lived? If it be a creed of intellectual servitude, how was it
able to inspire and sustain the hardest efforts ever made by man to
break the yoke of unjust authority?"

Of course in Calvinism, as in the opposite doctrine, some have gone to
great extremes and brought ridicule on the subject, but as Gordon's
views were strictly moderate, and eminently practical, it is not
necessary to consider to what extreme lengths some may go who differ
from him on either side, nor is it necessary to consider all the
revolting doctrines which have been attributed to Calvin by his
enemies, nor some of the things he may even have said in the heat of
argument. Gordon was distinctly of the moderate school of Calvinists;
he believed that the heart of man was so corrupted by the Fall, that he
could not of his own accord turn to God, and that consequently in the
case of those who did turn, it must have been God's work, drawing the
heart to Himself. He contended that to look at Christianity from the
opposite standpoint, that of Human Responsibility, pandered to the
pride which is innate in the human heart. Thus the individual would be
always tempted to think that it was _his_ wisdom, _his_ foresight,
_his_ strength, _his_ decision, or _his_ something, that made him
close with the offer of mercy, and so looking around him, and seeing
many going astray, he would be tempted to congratulate himself on _his_
success, when so many failed, and to fondly imagine that it was a case
of the survival of the fittest. Once let the Christian grasp the actual
truth, and he is deprived of this element of self-glorification. His
title to honour is removed by the thought that an exterior power,
unknown to himself, drew him with the cords of love, or drove him with
the lash of fear. There are numerous passages in which Gordon expressed
himself on this subject, but perhaps the following states his views as
well as any:--

    "To accept the doctrine of man having no free will, he must
    acknowledge his utter insignificance, for then no one is cleverer
    or better than his neighbour; this must be always abhorrent to the
    flesh. 'Have not I done this or that?' 'Had I naught to do with
    it?' For my part, I can give myself no credit for anything I ever
    did; and further, I credit no man with talents, &c. &c., in
    anything he may have done. Napoleon, Luther, indeed all men, I
    consider, were directly worked on, and directed to work out God's
    great scheme. Tell me any doctrine which so humbles man as this, or
    which is so contrary to his nature and to his natural pride."

Although writers have often attempted to show that Gordon was an
extreme Calvinist, there is no evidence that he ever stated his views
on the subject in any stronger language than that used in Article XVII.
of the Prayer-Book of the Church of England, which says:--"Predestination
to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the
foundations of the world were laid) He hath constantly decreed by His
counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He
hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to
everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour." However it may be
with others, Churchmen at all events have no right to sneer at Gordon's
views on the doctrine of God's Sovereignty, or Fatalism, as he more
frequently used to call it.

Nor did Gordon confine his views on Election merely to the initial
stage of the Christian life; he believed that the same loving Father,
who in the first instance had drawn him into the fold, watched over
him, and ordained for him what was to happen. Some fatalists, seeing
that a certain thing is _likely_ to happen, say that God has ordained
that it shall be, and they fold their hands, and make no effort to
avert a catastrophe. Not so with Gordon; until the thing had actually
happened, he would exert all his powers to prevent it; but when he
failed to avert any impending trouble, he would find comfort in the
thought that it was ordained by God, and would fret no more about it.
In a letter to his sister, he said:--

    "It is a delightful thing to be a fatalist, not as that word is
    generally employed, but to accept that, _when things happen_ and
    _not_ before, God has for some wise reason so ordained them. We
    have nothing further to do, when the scroll of events is unrolled,
    than to accept them as being for the best; but _before it is
    unrolled_, it is another matter, for you would not say, 'I sat
    still and let things happen.' With this belief all I can say is,
    that amidst troubles and worries no one can have peace till he thus
    stays upon his God--_that_ gives a superhuman strength."

It has been asserted that Gordon was very hard on the clergy, and that
he did not believe in a divinely appointed order of ministry. This has
probably arisen from certain statements of his that have appeared in a
disconnected form. Take the following passages from letters written at
different periods of his life:--

    _From the Crimea._--"We have a great deal to regret in the want of
    good working clergymen, there being none here that I know of who
    interest themselves about the men."

    _From Gravesend._--"The world's preachers and the world's religion
    of forms and ceremonies are hard and cold, with no life in them,
    nothing to cheer or comfort the broken-hearted. Explain, O
    preachers, how it is that we ask and do not get comfort, that your
    cold services cheer not. Is it not because ye speak to the flesh
    which is at enmity to all that is spiritual and must die (joy is
    only from the spirit)?... You preach death as an enemy instead of a
    friend and liberator. You speak of Heaven, but belie your words by
    making your home here. Be as uncharitable as you like, but attend
    my church or chapel regularly.... Does your vast system of
    ceremonies, meetings, and services tend to lessen sin in the world?
    It may make men conceal it. Where would you find more hardness to a
    fallen one than you would in a congregation of worshippers of the
    Church of this day? Surely this hardness is of the devil, and they
    who show it know not God."

    _From the Soudan, April 20, 1876._--"The sacerdotal class have
    always abounded; they are allied with the temporal civil power, who
    need their aid to keep the people quiet. 'By whose authority
    teachest thou these things?' is their cry; from them alone must
    come the authority."

    _From Jaffa, July 11, 1883._--"I believe the deadness in some of
    the clergy is owing, firstly, to not reading the Scriptures;
    secondly, to not meditating over them; thirdly, to not praying
    sufficiently; fourthly, to being taken up with religious secular
    work (Acts vi. 2-4). I wonder how it is that, when a subject of the
    greatest import is brought up, one sees so very little interest
    taken in it; and how willingly it is allowed to drop with a sort of
    'Oh yes, I know all about that.'"

Yet it is quite incorrect to say that Gordon undervalued the work of
hard-working clergymen. He was of a critical turn of mind and used to
criticise their methods of working, but no one recognised more fully
than he did the good that was being done by many devoted workers, and
these he would of course exclude when administering blame for the
shortcomings of the others. He had a way of speaking and writing in
general terms that might be a little misleading to those who do not
understand him, but he always took it for granted, in his private
letters to his sister, or to his intimate friends, that they would
understand to whom he meant his words to apply. There are plenty of his
statements which show that he valued highly the ministry of some of the
more spiritually minded among the clergy. Those who preached the truth
of the indwelling of God had in his opinion a great influence over
those to whom they ministered. Writing from South Africa on 5th June
1882, he says:--"Both clergymen here preach the great secret, the
indwelling, but not as strongly as I could wish. Their churches are
full, while, where it is not preached, they are comparatively empty."

It would indeed quite misrepresent Gordon's views to say that he
ignored the work of the ministry as a body. He was one of those who
believed that it was the duty of every one to be a labourer in the
vineyard, whether he was ordained or not, and he himself set a noble
example in working for his Master. At the same time he never called in
question the principle which the Bible, and also the Prayer-Book of the
National Church, recognise, that it is for the good of Christianity
that there should be a division of labour, and that, while all should
be workers, some should give themselves wholly to the work of the
ministry. Apparently, in Apostolic days, every one who was converted
became a labourer, and there certainly was no hard-and-fast line of
demarcation between laymen and ministers. Perhaps we have gone too far
in the other direction, and made too much distinction between lay and
clerical workers, but it is only due to the National Church of this
country to say, that this is the result of custom and of secular law,
rather than of ecclesiastical law. Considering that the Prayer-Book was
written or compiled by the clergy, it is wonderful how carefully they
avoided setting up undue claims, so as to magnify their own office.
There is indeed only one expression in the Prayer-Book to indicate that
the authors believed that the ministry was of Divine appointment, and
that is a sentence, occurring three times over in the Ordination
Service, which runs: "Almighty God, who by Thy Divine Providence hast
appointed divers orders of ministers in Thy Church, &c." This merely
asserts that the Bible teaches that there were deacons and elders, or
ministers, in Apostolic days, and it is difficult to read the New
Testament without recognising this fact. Certainly Gordon did not deny
it. Indeed no body even of the Nonconformists does so except the
Plymouth Brethren. Gordon's shrewd common sense showed him that, apart
from any Divine sanction to the principle, there must be a division of
labour, there must be specialists in every department of life, and
religion was no exception to the general rule. Though he would resent
the pretentious claims of an exclusive ministry, he never opposed the
principle of a scriptural ministry. He had friends who were in the
ministry, and he derived great benefits from their teaching.

The truth is that Gordon thought more of the man than he did of the
profession or calling. Shovel hats, wideawakes, long-tailed black
coats, and white ties were nothing to him. What he valued was the man
who was to be found beneath the clerical costume. Was he a true man, or
was he merely a professional hireling? Had he a heart to sympathise
with the sufferings of his fellow-creatures, and to help them to wage
war with sin and temptation? If so he would find a true friend in
Gordon; but it mattered little in his eyes what the external profession
was, if there was an absence of the internal reality. Gordon hated
everything that was not genuine, and of all the shams in life the
religious one was to him the worst.

It is not a little interesting to note that while some considered him
almost a Plymouth Brother on the one hand, others have attributed to
him extreme party views in an opposite direction on the subject of the
Lord's Supper. It may not, therefore, be out of place to show exactly
what his views were, for though apparently peculiar, they were
certainly not extreme. For many years he appears not to have given much
thought to the subject of Holy Communion, but in 1880 the Rev. Horace
Waller directed his attention to it, and after that time he took up the
subject very warmly, as the following passages will show:--

    "_December 4, 1880._--'This do in remembrance of _Me_.' I mean,
    with God's blessing, to try and realise the truth that is in this
    dying request. I hope I may be given to see the truth and comfort
    to be derived from the Communion. I have in some degree seen it
    must be a means of very great grace; but of this in the future. It
    is a beautiful subject. Do not peck at words. Communion is better
    than sacrament, but communion may exist without the eating of the
    bread, &c. Sacrament means the performance of a certain act, which
    is an outward and visible sign of spiritual grace. You need not
    fear my leaving off this subject, it is far too engrossing to me,
    and is extremely interesting."

    "_March 26, 1881._--I had looked forward to a Communion, but could
    not go. I must confess to putting great (but _not salvation_)
    strength on that Sacrament."

    "_February 18, 1882._--What a wonderful history! these thoughts of
    eatings and sacraments. Eat in _distrust of God_, and _trust in
    self_, and eat in _distrust of self_, and _trust in God_. It is
    very wonderful, as is also that the analogy should be so hidden.
    Eve knew no more what would happen to her by her eating, than we do
    by our eating."

    "_January 10, 1883._--I hear that at my village the Greek-Russian
    Church give the Lord's Supper to all who present themselves,
    without query; they give it in both kinds--bread and wine, so I
    shall go there. It is odd that no queries were asked when we
    poisoned ourselves in Eden; but that, when we wish to take the
    antidote, queries are asked. It is sufficient for me that the Greek
    Church is Christian, and that they 'show forth the Lord's death
    till He come.'"

But though Gordon never adopted extreme views, or in any way
exaggerated the benefits of that sacred meal to which all Christians
attach importance, still, from the somewhat peculiar way in which he
sometimes stated his views, they might be thought very fanciful. For
instance, he used to contend that as sin came into the world by eating,
it was only natural that by "eating, spiritually and actually, Christ
who is the Life," sin should be destroyed. "I cannot repeat it too
often, that as the body was poisoned by the eating of a fruit, so it
must be cured from its malady by absorbing an antidote. To the world
this is foolishness. I own it, but the wisdom of God is foolishness to
man" (_Observations on Holy Communion_, p. 12). In other words, the
evil came in by eating, so the antidote to sin should come by the same
means. Plainly stated, this does unquestionably sound somewhat
fanciful; but then it must be remembered that Gordon was neither a
theologian nor a lawyer, and consequently he never studied accuracy of
definition. The fact is, that many have completely misunderstood his
views for the simple reason that they have interpreted his words too
literally, and made no allowance for poetic imagination and figurative
language. There is a sense in which he was correct. No orthodox
Christian doubts the fact that sin came into the world through our
ancestors eating the forbidden fruit. The antidote to sin is Christ,
and for us to partake of the benefits of His death we must appropriate
Him by faith, or, in other words, we must by faith feed on Him, which
is the same as a spiritual participation. By "eating," Gordon meant,
not the mere swallowing of the symbols, but the whole process of
participation in the death of Christ. Every sound Christian theologian
must admit that this is necessary to salvation, and more than this
Gordon did not mean.

It is interesting to note that this independent searcher after truth
was by no means singular in his views, and that traces of them are to
be found in the works of Augustine and other patristic writings, which
possibly he had never seen. One writer has remarked that in the garden
of Eden the command was "Eat not," and we know too well how that
injunction was disobeyed. When Christ, the antidote to sin, came, He
bade His followers "Take, eat," but with the perversity of human nature
that characterises fallen man, too often that command is also

There is another point to which reference should be made. When at
Khartoum, Gordon wrote to a friend, "There is no eating up here, which
I miss." Some have contended that in this sentence he showed that he
recognised the necessity for the presence of a priest, to make the
Lord's Supper a valid ordinance. As a matter of fact, he never believed
that the presence of a clergyman was necessary for Holy Communion.
There were besides himself only two Englishmen at Khartoum during the
siege, and one of them was Power, a Roman Catholic, who, although a
great admirer of Gordon, probably would, from early training, have had
conscientious scruples about taking the Lord's Supper without the
presence of a priest. The other Englishman was Colonel Stewart, who,
despite his friendship for Gordon, was not in sympathy with him in
regard to religious matters. Had the three Englishmen been like-minded,
there can be no question that that sentence in Gordon's letter would
never have been written.

This is a subject that touches Christian men in the army and navy, as
well as in the merchant service, very closely. Frequently such men for
months together never see a clergyman, and it would be absurd to say
that under such circumstances they must neglect the dying command of
their Saviour.

It is told of three officers, who were great friends, that on the night
before the battle of Waterloo, they agreed to partake together of the
Holy Communion. The senior of them took an ordinary glassful of wine
and some bread, and they knelt together, and asked God to bless the
sacred rite. They rose, and the senior administered to each, using the
beautiful words of the Church of England Communion Service. They never
met together again on earth, but who can question the validity of that
sacred meal, and who would dare to say that the ceremony would have
been more acceptable to God if a clergyman had been present? The Bible
nowhere asserts that the presence of a minister is necessary, and our
National Church has very wisely followed the example of the Bible. The
Church of Rome does teach that the presence of a priest is necessary to
make Holy Communion a valid ordinance. Our National Church, in common
with the various bodies of Nonconformists, recognises, as a matter of
ecclesiastical order, that under ordinary circumstances, an officiating
clergyman should be present. But his presence in no way affects the
validity of the sacrament, being merely a wise precaution against the
admission of unworthy communicants. The laity surrender into the hands
of the clergyman, or the minister aided by elders or deacons, their
power of admitting or rejecting worthy or unworthy persons. But under
abnormal circumstances, such as those in which Gordon was placed at
Khartoum, ecclesiastical order would be suspended, and any two or three
Christian laymen would have a perfect right to partake of the Holy
Communion in accordance with the Word of God. This is the view that
Christian officers in the army and navy have always taken, and those
who were pained to think that Gordon gave his support to their
opponents, may rest assured that no man contended more than he did for
that liberty which is the very essence of Christian teaching.



It has already been mentioned that when Colonel Gordon was at Galatz he
met Nubar Pasha. In September 1873 Nubar asked him to enter the service
of the Khedive of Egypt. While waiting to know whether the British
Government would sanction this step he wrote home as follows:--

    "For some wise design God turns events one way or another, whether
    man likes it or not, as a man driving a horse turns it to right or
    left without consideration as to whether the horse likes that way
    or not. To be happy, a man must be like a well-broken, willing
    horse, ready for anything. Events will go as God likes. It is hard
    to accept the position; the only solace is, it is not for long. If
    I go to Egypt or not is uncertain; I hope He has given me the
    strength not to care one way or the other; twenty years are soon
    gone, and when over it will matter little whether I went or not."

The proposed step was sanctioned by the authorities, and so, at the age
of forty-one, Gordon became the governor of the immense Equatorial
Province. _En route_ to Egypt he writes from Paris: "I remember that
God has at all times worked by weak and small means. All history shows
this to be His mode, and so I believe if He will He may work by me."

Of course some little time had to be spent in Cairo; the Khedive Ismail
was anxious to make the acquaintance of his new governor, and certain
preliminaries had to be settled. Gordon had a suspicion that his
appointment was a sham, and that he would not have the power he needed
to suppress the slave trade. He was determined that _coûte qui coûte_
he would not be made a tool of to blind the European public, so at
the very outset he showed his colours, and let the Khedive clearly
understand that he was not a mere hireling anxious to secure a
well-paid billet. As for his pay, though his predecessor had received
£10,000 per annum, he decided to cut it down to £2000; for, as he said,
the whole would be wrung out of the unfortunate natives, who could ill
afford the high taxation to which they were subjected. Writing home at
this juncture, he said:--

    "My object is to show the Khedive and his people that gold and
    silver idols are not worshipped by all the world. They are very
    powerful gods, but not so powerful as our God; so if I refuse a
    large sum, you--and I am responsible to you alone--will not be
    angry at my doing so. From whom does all the money come? From poor
    miserable creatures who are ground down to produce it. Of course,
    these ideas are outrageous. 'Pillage the Egyptians!' is still the

    "I am quite prepared not to go, and should not think it unkind of
    God if He prevents it, for He must know what is best. The twisting
    of men carries out some particular object of God, and we should
    cheerfully agree now to what we will agree hereafter when we know
    all things."

His characteristic outspokenness--a style of thing to which Egyptian
officials were not accustomed--somewhat alarmed a few of his friends,
and on one occasion he was urged not to make an enemy of Nubar Pasha,
who was a very powerful minister, and could, it was said, do him a
great deal of harm. At this Gordon fired up, and before those present
said that he would like to see the man who was capable of injuring him.
Shakespeare has well said:--

    "What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!
    Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just,
    And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
    Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted."

Though Nubar showed his powers of appreciation in recognising merit in
Colonel Gordon, when he met him at Galatz, there can be no question
that he little understood the honest, straightforward character of the
man with whom he had to deal. He must have often wished that he had
never met Gordon, for, whilst the new governor was not a man to seek
office for the sake of the "loaves and fishes," once in power he was
not one of those pliant characters who will act as mere dummies in the
hands of others. Men with great strength of character, good abilities,
and honest intentions are invaluable, when their official superiors are
capable of appreciating their merits; but when those under whom they
serve have ulterior purposes to attain, weak, pliant natures make
better servants for their purposes. In Colonel Gordon's own mind his
mission at this time was to combat slavery, and in every possible way
to ameliorate the sufferings of the unfortunate people over whom he was
called to rule. Nubar Pasha held very different views from the
newly-appointed governor on many points that were likely to arise in
connection with these duties. The Soudan and the Equatorial Province
were so frightfully mismanaged and cruelly governed that, Gordon says,
"when Said Pasha, the Viceroy before Ismail, went up to the Soudan with
Count F. Lesseps, he was so discouraged and horrified at the misery of
the people that at Berber the Count saw him throw his guns into the
river, declaring that he would be no party to such oppression. It was
only after the urgent solicitations of European consuls and others that
he reconsidered his decision."

It is quite amusing to see the efforts that were made at Cairo to break
in the new governor, and to fit him for his post, in accordance with
the traditions of the country. As soon as everything was settled,
Gordon, with his usual promptness, and absence of all love of display,
was anxious to be off to his post of duty, and for that purpose to
utilise the ordinary passenger steamer from Suez. But about states such
as Egypt was before the British occupation, there is a strange mixture
of reckless expenditure combined with paltry meanness. Although the
Egyptian authorities once refused to pay the travelling expenses of an
official travelling on duty from Alexandria to Cairo in connection with
Colonel Gordon, yet they insisted on this occasion that it would be
unbecoming to the dignity of a governor to travel by an ordinary
steamer, so a special one was set apart for this purpose. Gordon
afterwards calculated that had he been allowed his own way, he would at
the outset have saved at least £400! For the sake of peace he yielded
the point, and went from Cairo in a special train, and from Suez in a
special steamer, accompanied by a large number of useless servants. He
had his revenge, however, for owing to an engine getting off the line,
there was a long halt, and finally he had to proceed by the ordinary
train. Gordon was a remarkable instance of the general rule, that the
greater the ability of a man the less affection has he for display, and
for all the official trappings of office. The only display that Gordon
ever cared for was that of intrinsic merit and hard work, and these
qualities he always looked for in his subordinates.

Colonel Gordon reached Suakim on February 25th, 1874, and writing home,
he records his impressions of Cairo and its officials. "I think the
Khedive likes me, but no one else does; and I don't like them, I mean
the swells, whose corns I tread on in all manner of ways. Duke of This
wants steamer, say £600. Duke of That wants house, &c. All the time the
poor people are ground down to get money for all this. 'Who art thou to
be afraid of man?' If He wills, I will shake all this in some way not
clear to me now. Do not think I am an Egoist; I am like Moses who
despised the riches of Egypt. I will not bow to Haman." Little did he
then foresee that before eight years had passed British guns would be
shaking the stronghold of Alexandria, and that 10,000 Egyptian soldiers
would yield the citadel of Cairo to a small force of some 300 troops
carrying the British flag. From Suakim he went on a camel to Berber,
and thence by steamer to Khartoum, the first time he ever visited a
place which now can never be mentioned without awakening in the mind
associations of this noble servant of God, who feared neither man nor

At first Gordon was to a certain extent subordinate to the
Governor-General of the Soudan, through whom he had to get supplies.
But by September 8th he was enabled to write: "I have now entirely
separated my province from that of the Soudan. When I came up I had
instructions to ask for all I wanted from the Governor-General of
Khartoum, who was ordered to supply me. Now this was from the first a
fruitful source of quarrel, and must have been so, for I could not be
continually writing to the Khedive about the non-supply of things and
money; it would have worn me and every one out. Now I am quite
independent, raise my own revenue, and administer it, and send the
residue to Cairo, which residue is all they care for there."

                            *      *      *

The Equatorial Province lies considerably to the south of Khartoum, and
is bisected by the Nile. As a matter of fact, the equator does not run
through any part of the province, though the southern part comes very
close to it, just touching the Victoria Nyanza, through the north of
which the equator runs. The hold that Egypt had at any time on this
province was indeed very slight, and considering how little capable she
was of managing even her own affairs, it does seem ridiculous in the
extreme that she should ever have attempted to annex an enormous
country outside her borders. When Egypt was really strong and powerful,
as in olden times, it does not appear that she ever held territory
beyond Wady Haifa, and it is in reality only within this century,
during the whole of which Egypt has been weak, that she has extended
her territory down to the equator. Far from gaining either money or
prestige, she has lost greatly by her annexations. Had the Nile, which
is the only highway, been easily navigable for ships of any size,
possibly the tide of civilisation might have gone south as well as
north, and the history of these provinces might have been very
different. But the Nile is full of rapids, or cataracts, as they are
called, and at certain seasons of the year is absolutely impassable for
large boats, while the paucity of wells makes regular travel by land
impossible. From Khartoum to Gondokoro, which was the capital of
Colonel Gordon's new province, a distance of about 1000 miles, another
obstacle presents itself, in the form of an almost impassable barrier,
known as a "sudd," which forms on the river, and puts a stop to
traffic. Gordon said that the sudd is formed by an "aquatic plant with
roots extending five feet in the water. The natives burn the top parts,
when dry; the ashes form mould, and fresh grasses grow till it becomes
like _terra firma_. The Nile rises, and floats out the masses; they
come down to a curve and then stop. More of these islands float down,
and at last the river is blocked. Though under them the water flows, no
communication can take place, for they bridge the river for several

Gordon left Khartoum on March 23, 1874, for Gondokoro, and on the 26th
he writes: "Last night we were going along slowly in the moonlight, and
I was thinking of you all, and the expedition, and Nubar, &c., when all
of a sudden from a large bush came peals of laughter. I felt put out;
but it turned out to be birds, who laughed at us from the bushes for
some time in a rude way. They are a species of stork, and seemed in
capital spirits, and highly amused at anybody thinking of going up to
Gondokoro with the hope of doing anything." Gordon was full of hope,
and very sanguine of success; but from the day when he reached Cairo,
croakers all along the route had been whispering in his ear the
hopelessness of his mission, and how utterly impossible it was to
reform anything connected with such a corrupt administration as that of
Egypt. Fortunately, though he used at times to have terrible fits of
depression, he possessed a great deal of dogged perseverance. It was
this that in China had enabled him to overcome all obstacles in
fighting the enemy, and the same indomitable spirit now made him
persevere and hope on, when every one else despaired. Not only were
there real foes in every direction, determined if possible to frustrate
his mission, but in addition there was physical suffering to endure
from climatic and other causes. "No one can conceive," says he in a
letter written on April 10th, "the utter misery of these lands, heat
and mosquitoes day and night all the year round. But I like the work,
for I believe that I can do a great deal to ameliorate the lot of the
people." Two days after this he passed through a place called St.
Croix, which had been a Roman Catholic mission station, but so
unhealthy was it that it had at last been abandoned. After thirteen
years of work not a single convert had been made, although during that
period the missionaries had plodded on in the face of discouragement,
and in spite of the appalling havoc that death and sickness had made in
their ranks. Out of twenty missionaries thirteen had died of fever, two
of dysentery, and two had been invalided. A few banana trees were all
that remained of the settlement at which these heroes had been

Gordon reached Gondokoro on April 16th, just twenty-four days after
leaving Khartoum. Everybody was much surprised to see him, for it was
not even known that he had been appointed. He remained only six days,
and then started back to Khartoum, in order to get his baggage. Not
finding it there, he went on to Berber to hurry up the escort, but not
till he had given the corrupt Governor of Khartoum a bit of his mind.
"I have had some sharp skirmishing with the Governor-General of
Khartoum," said he in a letter home, "and I think I have crushed him.
Your brother wrote to him and told him he told _stories_. It was
undiplomatic of me, but it did the Governor-General good." Having
secured his baggage, he returned to Gondokoro. _En route_ he writes
from the entrance of the Sanbat River:--

    "We arrived here from Khartoum a week ago, and I have made a nice
    station here, and made great friends with the Shillock natives, who
    come over in great numbers from the other side of the river. They
    are poorly off, and I have given them some grain; very little
    contents them. I have employed a few of them to plant maize, and
    they do it very fairly. The reason they do not do it for themselves
    is, that if they plant any quantity they would run the chance of
    losing it, by its being taken by force from them; so they plant
    only enough to keep body and soul together, and even that is sown
    in small out-of-the-way patches."

He reached Gondokoro the second time on September 4th, receiving the
salaams and salutes of the officers, men, and functionaries, together
with the submission of all the neighbouring chiefs. In the whole of his
province Egypt had only two forts, one at Gondokoro, the capital, with
300 men, and one at Fatiko, further south, with 200 men. "As for paying
taxes," said he, "or any government existing outside the forts, it is
all nonsense. You cannot go out in any safety half-a-mile, all because
they have been fighting the poor natives and taking their cattle. I
apprehend not the least difficulty in the work; the greatest will be to
gain the people's confidence again. They have been hardly treated."

The chief culprit, to whom much of this misgovernment was due, was
Raouf Bey, whom Gordon found at Gondokoro. This man had been in office
for six years, and proved a miserable failure. "Raouf had never
conciliated the tribes, never had planted dhoora; and, in fact, only
possessed the land he camped upon." Yet he made it a grievance that
Gordon refused to employ him, and the present Khedive of Egypt many
years afterwards made him Governor-General of the Soudan when Gordon

What most astonished Gordon was the apparent want of affection on the
part of the natives for their offspring, and it pained him none the
less when he reflected that this was entirely due to the slave trade,
and the sufferings the poor people had endured. One man brought Gordon
two of his children of 12 and 9 years old, because they were starving,
and sold them for a basketful of grain, and though the father often
came to the station after this, he never asked to see them. Gordon
mentioned another case, of a family in which there were two children.
Passing their hut one day, and seeing only one child, he asked the
mother where the other was. "Oh," said she, "it has been given to the
man from whom the cow was stolen"--her husband having been the culprit.
This was said with a cheerful smile. "But," said Gordon, "are you not
sorry?" "Oh, no! we would rather have the cow." "But you have eaten the
cow, and the pleasure is over." "Oh, but all the same, we would sooner
have had the cow!" Gordon adds, "The other child of twelve years old,
like her parents did not care a bit. A lamb taken from the flock will
bleat, while here you see not the very slightest vestige of feeling."
Such an incident shows how the human heart can, under certain
circumstances, degenerate to being "without natural affection." It is
not the people who are to blame, but their cruel conquerors. Not many
miles away from this place, in a district which the tyranny of slavery
has not yet reached, Dr. Schweinfurth says of the natives:
"Notwithstanding that certain instances may be alleged which seem to
demonstrate that the character of the Dinka is unfeeling, these cases
never refer to such as are bound by the ties of kindred. Parents do not
desert their children, nor are brothers faithless to brothers, but are
ever prompt to render whatever aid is possible." The famous negro
prelate, Bishop Crowther, and the celebrated traveller, Mr. Stanley,
bear similar testimony. There can be no question that the African, in
his normal condition, is as capable of affection as the native of any
other country.

                            *      *      *

Slavery has been, is, and as long as it exists will be, the curse of
Africa. "Not a soul," said Gordon, "to be seen for miles; all driven
off by the slavers in years past. You could scarcely conceive such a
waste or desert." Such was his comment when at the entrance of the
river Sanbat, and such would have frequently been a correct description
of the country blighted by this cursed traffic.

Speaking generally, slavery exists now only in Mohammedan countries
(though there are a few exceptions), yet it cannot be called a
Mohammedan institution. The Prophet sanctioned only the taking of
slaves in war. The custom of his time was to kill and often to torture
prisoners taken in war, so that really it was a step in advance to
suggest that these captives should be utilised as servants. To a great
extent, if not entirely, slavery as an institution is due to the low
moral standard set up by the Koran. Were it not for love of sensual
indulgence, slavery would long ago have died a natural death. Over and
over again has it been proved that voluntary service is far cheaper
than enforced labour. An Indian coolie will work all day, and ask for
little more than enough to keep body and soul together. This much the
slave-owners are compelled to give to keep their slaves in health.
Slaves are valuable property, and it is cheaper to feed them well than
badly. But over and above the food, the slave-owner has to bear the
cost of transit from their bright happy homes in Central Africa,
through hundreds of miles of scorching desert, which demands a
frightful death-toll. Only the strongest ever reach the slave-markets,
and it has been calculated that at least 500,000 lives are annually
sacrificed during transit. Indirectly the slave-owner has to pay for
these. When slaves were taken in war, they cost nothing to transport;
but when Mohammedan conquests ceased, the supply ceased with it, for
Mohammedans are not allowed by the Koran to make slaves of men of their
own creed, though they do sometimes infringe this rule.

It is generally supposed that the slave trade originated in the fact
that in certain parts of Central Africa there are no horses or beasts
of burden, as owing to the existence of the tetse-fly no animal can
live. Consequently ivory and everything else has to be carried on the
heads of porters. These porters were engaged by the Arab ivory dealers
in the interior, and marched in large gangs to the seaports. Having
reached their destination, and given up their loads, the question of
transport back to their villages would arise. The Arab traders found
that it would suit their purpose best to sell the porters as slaves.
Who was to know whether or not they were taken in battle? In Mohammedan
countries, so long as plenty of backsheesh is forthcoming, those in
authority ask few questions. Soon the sale of slaves became more
profitable than the ivory trade, which possibly had originated it, and
so the one was substituted for the other, the authorities not only
winking at it, but encouraging it as a source of large revenues to
them. At one time a large number of so-called Christians were engaged
in this unholy traffic, but the scandal became so great that European
public opinion would not tolerate it, and so they had to sell their
stations to Mohammedan Arabs, who if possible were even more cruel and
relentless in the way they conducted the trade. Merchant princes arose
among them, and they carried on their business with a thoroughness and
a system worthy of a better cause. Soldiers were trained, and large
armies kept for no other purpose than that of collecting slaves.
Peaceful villages were surrounded, night attacks were made, whole
tribes were marched off to the slave markets, the road being lined by
grinning skulls to show the way in which the victims suffered _en

                              "Not for this
    Was common clay ta'en from the common earth,
    Moulded by God, and tempered with the tears
    Of angels, to the perfect shape of man!"

The unfortunate captives were chained together to prevent escape, and
often the fastenings were secured in a way so unnecessarily cruel, that
they had great difficulty in securing any sleep, either at night or
during the day when the periodical halts were made. Indeed the ordinary
precautions that we take in the convoy of large herds of cattle were
generally neglected. This is all the more surprising when we consider
what great trouble these men took to secure their victims; one would
have thought that self-interest at least would often have dictated a
more humane policy, but it does not appear to have been so.

                            *      *      *

In hunting for these gangs of slaves, it was a subject of deep regret
to Gordon that often his action only tended to increase their
sufferings. In the Central African deserts there are only a few wells,
at long intervals, and the poor captives suffered terrible thirst on
the march from well to well. But the surest way of intercepting the
gangs was to hold the wells. When the slave-dealers knew that a certain
well on which they were marching was held by Gordon, they would make a
detour in order to avoid him, and their unfortunate victims would be
kept from quenching their thirst for unusually long periods, with the
result that many would succumb to the appalling heat. If a slave
exhibited great exhaustion, and showed little chance of being able to
reach the next halting-place, the drivers would not even trouble to
waste a round of ammunition, but, unchaining the victim, would kill him
by a blow on the back of the neck with a mallet or a piece of wood, and
leave his body where it lay, to feed the vultures. Often young girls,
and even infants, were marched through deserts, through which Gordon
declared that he shuddered to contemplate a journey on his fleet-footed
camel. It was with truth that Burns said--

    "Man's inhumanity to man
    Makes countless thousands mourn."

Some of the slave traders had become very rich, and one of them, Zebehr
Rahama, now in captivity in Gibraltar, had become so powerful that even
the Khedive dared not molest him. His field of operations lying at a
considerable distance from Gordon's province, these two did not come in
contact, until the latter was made Governor-General of the whole of the
Soudan, and so it is not at the present time necessary to do more than
merely allude to him as the king of slave hunters. Many more carried on
a successful business, and some of them conducted their operations in
the Equatorial Province; and it is hardly necessary to say that the
first thing the new governor did was to break up the organisations of
these men. He was only appointed in Cairo during the month of February,
and after that time he had to spend many weary days and nights in
travelling. But in June we find him seizing an Arab dealer named
Nassar, at the head of a large convoy of slaves, and casting him into
prison. By this brilliant stroke he not only got possession of a
well-known culprit, but struck terror into the hearts of smaller
dealers. But, as in the case of the Taiping rebels, whom he at once
turned into soldiers to fight for him, so Nassar was enlisted into his
service. "Do you know," he wrote, "I have forgiven the head slaver
Nassar, and am employing him; he is not worse than others, and these
slavers have been much encouraged to do what they have done. He is a
first-rate man, and does a great deal of work. He was in prison for two
weeks, and was then forgiven." Other quotations could be made from his
letters showing that he had formed a high opinion of the abilities of
the Arabs engaged in slave dealing, with a correspondingly low one of
the Egyptian soldiers who were employed to put them down. The Arabs
were enterprising, plucky fellows, with the spirit of a man in them,
whereas the soldiers were a cowardly and contemptible lot. When in
large numbers, they used to ill-treat and bully the natives, who
consequently took every opportunity of retaliating. Gordon, with his
quick perception, saw that the best way to remedy this was to scatter
the soldiers about in small detachments, just strong enough to defend
their posts, but not to take advantage of the people:--

    "I have the garrisons small on purpose to make them keep awake; and
    it has its effect, for they are all in a fearful fright along the
    line. I cannot help feeling somewhat of a malicious enjoyment of
    their sufferings. If I personally am at any station, even if there
    are thirty or forty men there, the sentries all go to sleep in
    comfort. Not so in my absence; every one is awake, I expect. Having
    nothing to do--or rather not doing anything, though there is plenty
    to be done--they sit and talk over the terrors of their position,
    until they tremble again. I never in the course of my life saw such
    wretched creatures dignified by the name of soldiers. Fortunately,
    though I can do the work of the province without an interpreter, I
    cannot speak to the men except by my looks, or tell them my opinion
    in words, though my letters are pretty strong."

The results of this policy were excellent. Not only were the garrisons
kept on the alert and prevented from oppressing the people, but the
country was opened up and travelling rendered safer. Writing home,
Gordon says:--

    "It is such a comfort having my roads open. One man came down from
    Bedden to-day alone. Before I came it would have needed thirty or
    at least twenty men to go along this route. The blacks would have
    concealed themselves in the grass, and stuck a spear into the
    hinder-most man; now they are quite friendly. A Bari in my
    employment stole a sheep yesterday, and down came the natives to
    complain and have justice, which they got. Is it not comfortable?
    All this has effected a great change among my men. They no longer
    fear the blacks as they did, and altogether a much better feeling
    exists. Going up to Kerri, where in September last the convoy of
    Kemp was harassed all the route, I went on alone with four or five
    soldiers behind me, and never felt the least apprehension; for the
    natives talk much amongst themselves, and the virgin tribes had
    heard we were not to be feared, and that their cattle was safe from
    pillage. A year ago an escort of five or six soldiers used to
    accompany each nuggar either coming up or down. Even the steamers
    carried an escort of the same number. Now not one soldier either
    goes with one or the other. This has prevented all pillaging _en
    route_, for our people dare not do it now, not having the escort
    of soldiers."

In spite of his contempt for the soldiers under him, he treated them
kindly and made great efforts to improve them. Now and then he would
give them a magic-lantern lecture, and in other ways try to benefit
them mentally and morally. No doubt in this he succeeded to a great
extent, and at all events he had the satisfaction of feeling that he
was liked by them. In another letter he says:--

    "The men and officers like my justice, candour, and my outbursts of
    temper, and see that I am not a tyrant. Over two years we have
    lived intimately together, and they watch me closely. I am glad
    that they do so. My wish and desire is that all should be as happy
    as it rests with me to make them, and though I feel sure that I am
    unjust sometimes, it is not the rule with me to be so. I care for
    their marches, for their wants and food, and protect their women
    and boys if they ill-treat them; and I do nothing of this. I am a
    chisel which cuts the wood; the Carpenter directs it. If I lose my
    edge, He must sharpen me; if He puts me aside and takes another, it
    is His own good will. None are indispensable to Him; He will do His
    work with a straw equally as well."

Gordon had not been long in his province when he saw that the only
effectual way to abolish slavery was to open up the country, and
encourage traders by making it safe for them to travel about. Much as
he did personally to punish slave-hunting, and to break up gangs of men
so engaged, he always considered that his best efforts should be
devoted to the opening up of the country for trade. At the time he was
there, and now also, the leading men were all more or less engaged in
slave-hunting, and no one dared to say a word against them. Gordon
wanted to introduce an independent class of traders, who would soon be
sufficiently powerful to give evidence against the leaders of the
slave-hunting system. His desire afterwards to serve the King of the
Belgians in the Congo territory was with the object of developing
trade, and thus ultimately of preventing slave-dealing. With regard to
Egypt, he formed his ideas during the first year he was in the country,
and he steadily adhered to them to the end. Writing from Tultcha, on
17th November 1873, he says:--

    "I believe if the Soudan was settled, the Khedive would prevent the
    slave trade; but he does not see his way to do so till he can move
    about the country. My ideas are to open it out by getting the
    steamers on to the lakes, by which time I should know the promoters
    of the slave trade and could ask the Khedive to seize them." And
    again: "God has allowed slavery to go on for so many years; born in
    the people, it needs more than an expedition to eradicate it; open
    out the country, and it will fall of itself."

Though he was not permitted during his life to see much permanent
result from his arduous labours, yet far from his efforts having been
in vain, he it was who revived in Europe an interest in the subject,
and conclusions arrived at by the recent Anti-Slavery Conference, at
Brussels, clearly indicate that the more thoughtful philanthropists who
are moving in the matter recognise that the lines he laid down are the
right ones to follow. The number of years that he was permitted to
devote to this struggle with slavery were not many, but the seeds were
sown which will bring forth a rich harvest in the future. In that noble
crusade, which he undertook single-handed against tyranny and
oppression, he supplied the best possible answer to the cynic's
question whether or not life is worth living:--

    "Is Life worth living? Yes, so long
      As there is wrong to right,
    Wail of the weak against the strong,
      Or tyranny to fight;
    Long as there lingers gloom to chase
      Or streaming tear to dry,
    One kindred woe, one sorrowing face,
      That smiles as we draw nigh."[7]

      [7] Mr. Alfred Austin in the _English Illustrated Magazine_.

Not only had Gordon to contend with the slave trade, corrupt officials,
an unsympathetic government at Cairo, and incompetent troops, but to
add to his troubles his staff broke down with sickness and even death,
while he for the first time in his life suffered from ague and liver
disorders. Here are descriptions of the climate from some of his

    "This is a horrid climate. I seldom, if ever, get a good sleep. It
    is a very great comfort to feel that God will rectify one's defects
    in this life, and make right all mistakes, also that He governs
    everything. Is it my present temperament, or is it truly the case
    that things go untowardly more in this land than anywhere else? You
    wrap up an article in paper, the paper is sure to tear, the string
    you least want to be broken is broken; every, _every_ thing seems
    to go wrong. It may be my liver which makes me think this, but it
    has been the same with all travellers." ... "The mosquitoes are
    horrible here; the proboscis is formed like a bayonet, with a hinge
    at the bend; they turn it down for perforation and press on it with
    their head, muscles, and chest. I am very susceptible of their bite
    or dig; the least touch of the 'bayonet' makes a lump."

    ... "Variety is pleasing! Got away from mosquitoes to find
    sand-flies and harvest-bugs instead. However, they are quiet by
    day, and here there are no flies with irritating feet. There must
    be some wonderful mystery about this life. Why should these
    countries be so full of annoyances to man? Why should even the
    alighting of a fly, _his footprints_, cause such irritation to the
    skin. It must be for some good object eventually to be made known
    to us."

Most of Gordon's efforts were directed to the abolition of slavery, and
the amelioration of the sufferings of the people he governed, but as an
explorer and a surveyor he also did good work, and he might, had he
cared for such distinctions, have received honours from the Royal
Geographical Society. Though suffering a good deal from sickness and
from mental worries, he endeavoured to explore the seventy miles of
country between Foweira and the Albert Nyanza. In one of his letters he

    "It was contended that the Nile did not flow out of Lake Victoria
    and thence into Lake Albert and so northward, but that one river
    flowed out of Lake Victoria and another out of Lake Albert; and
    that these two rivers united and formed the Nile. This statement
    could not be positively denied, inasmuch as no one had actually
    gone along the river from Foweira to Hagungo. So I went along it
    with much suffering, and settled the question."

As he did not personally come into contact with M'tesa, the King of
Uganda, it is not necessary to do more than mention the fact that this
strange monarch wrote a letter to him, and even asked him to plant a
stockade for his troops within Uganda territory. Gordon, however, did
not trust M'tesa, and at one time, on account of some misbehaviour on
the part of that monarch, even contemplated attacking him. But Mr.
Stanley, the great explorer, sent a vigorous protest against any
aggression on the part of a Christian representative, even of a Moslem
Government, towards a newly Christianised state, if one may apply that
term to Uganda. Gordon evidently recognised the wisdom of Stanley's
contention, for the attack was never made, and Stanley received from
Gordon a letter giving him much information.

Gordon reached Lake Albert at the end of July 1876, and from then till
he left to return home he was busily engaged in surveying the country,
wading through rivers, cutting his way through dense jungles,
encountering natives armed with assegais, and in other ways risking his
valuable life, all for the sake of his fellow-creatures, and in the
hope of ultimately opening up the country. Was there ever a man more
strongly actuated by the spirit of altruism?

His three years were drawing to a close, and not having received the
support he thought he deserved, he decided to leave the service of the
Khedive. On October 6th he commenced his journey, and by Christmas Eve
of that year he had reached England.



Colonel Gordon's visit to England was a very short one, for no sooner
did the Khedive Ismail realise the fact that such an able public
servant had definitely decided to quit his service, than he wrote
imploring him to return on his own terms, which were nothing less than
that he should be invested with the Governor-Generalship of the whole
Soudan, including the Equatorial Province, over which he had for three
years ruled. The Khedive was sufficiently wide awake to know what an
able, conscientious servant he had in Gordon, and, cost what it might,
was determined not to lose him. The truth of the matter was that Gordon
had made himself indispensable to the Khedive, and when a man does that
he may practically demand his own terms. His heart was thoroughly in
the work, and the only reason for his having resigned was that he was
disgusted with Ismail Yacoob, the Governor-General of the Soudan, who,
although Gordon was not under him, was from his position in many ways
able to hamper his reforms. The Khedive wisely decided to recall Ismail
Yacoob from Khartoum, and to put Colonel Gordon in his place. "Setting
a just value," wrote the Khedive, "on your honourable character, on
your zeal, and on the great services that you have already done me, I
have resolved to bring the Soudan, Darfour, and the provinces of the
Equator, into one great province, and to place it under you as
Governor-General. As the country which you are thus to govern is so
vast, you must have beneath you three vakeels (or deputy governors):
the first for the Soudan properly so called, the second for Darfour,
and the third for the shores of the Red Sea and the Eastern Soudan."
Thus, at the age of forty-four, Gordon had committed to his charge the
absolute control, including power over life and death, over a province
as large as France, Germany, and Spain together! He had already served
the Khedive for three years in the unhealthy Equatorial Province, and
now he was to govern for nearly three years more this larger and still
more unwieldy province, his reign only ceasing with the abdication of

When Gordon left England for Cairo, the appointment had not been
conferred upon him. He merely went out to see the Khedive, and it was
not till February 13, 1877, that the matter was finally decided.
Writing home in reference to the Khedive's kindness, he quotes that
text, "Ask of me, and I will give thee to the half of my kingdom," and
then he goes on to say:--

    "And now for the reverse of the medal. It is the sacrifice of a
    _living_ life. To give your life to be taken at once, is one
    thing; to give a life such as is before me is another and more
    trying ordeal. I have set my face to the work, and will give my
    life to it. I feel as if I had nought to do with the Government.
    God must undertake the work.... I think how many would be weighed
    down by this immense charge; how they would shrink from accepting
    it without some other help, for fear of their reputation. But for
    me, I never gave the question a thought. I feel sure of success;
    for I do not lean on my own understanding, and He directs my path."

On March 19th he writes with regard to his grand escort:--

    "Here I met two hundred cavalry and infantry, who had come to meet
    us. I am most carefully guarded--at six yards' radius round the
    tree where I am sitting are six or eight sentries, and the other
    men are in a circle round them. Now, just imagine this, and put
    yourself in my position. However, I know they will all go to sleep,
    so I do not fret myself. I can say truly, no man has ever been so
    forced into a high position as I have. How many I know to whom the
    incense would be the breath of their nostrils. To me it is irksome
    beyond measure. Eight or ten men to help me off my camel! as if I
    were an invalid. If I walk, every one gets off and walks; so,
    furious, I get on again."

After being appointed Governor-General of the Soudan, the first thing
Colonel Gordon did was to attempt to bring about a definite peace
between the Khedive and the King of Abyssinia, whose territory adjoins
the Soudan. It will be remembered that in the year 1868 an English
expedition, under the late Lord (then Sir Robert) Napier, went against
Theodore, King of Abyssinia, to punish him for imprisoning and
ill-treating British subjects. Being defeated, that monarch committed
suicide. Before his defeat, as he was much hated, some of his
chieftains had broken into open revolt, and one of them had proclaimed
himself king of a certain province. Sir Robert Napier presented this
chieftain with four guns and a thousand rifles, and this recognition on
the part of the conquerors enabled the chief in question to mount the
Abyssinian throne, taking for himself the name of Johannis.

In 1874 a Swiss adventurer, who was at that time governor of Massowah,
under the Khedive, seized Bogos, a piece of territory belonging to
Abyssinia, and held it for his master, at the same time urging him to
add another province, that of Hamaçen, to his ill-gotten gains. At this
time the Khedive was rich, having just received £4,000,000 from the
British Government for the Suez Canal shares, and instead of spending
the money in developing the resources of the territory he already
possessed, he was ill advised enough to go to war, and got defeated.
Foremost among the Abyssinians in the conflict was Walad el Michael,
the hereditary prince of Bogos and Hamaçen, who before the war was
imprisoned for having sought the aid of Napoleon III. against the
Abyssinian king. He was released at the commencement of hostilities,
and proved very successful. But, having defeated the Egyptians, Walad
got disgusted with the Abyssinian king for depriving him of his share
of the spoils of war, and consequently, when the Egyptians in 1876
sought to avenge their defeat, Walad turned against his own king. The
Egyptians were however again defeated, 9000 of them being killed, and
an enormous number taken prisoners. The spoils of war were great, for
all the Egyptian tents, twenty-five guns, 10,000 rifles, and a large
amount of English gold, were captured by the Abyssinians. So ignorant
were they of the value of this spoil, that they mistook English
sovereigns for brass counters, and thirty of them were sold for four
dollars! The Abyssinian king was so incensed at the conduct of Walad,
who had 7000 men and 700 rifles, that, as one of the conditions of
peace, he demanded that the Khedive should give him up. This of course
the Khedive could not do, and a long delay followed, during which the
Abyssinian monarch sent an envoy to Cairo. But the Khedive treated the
envoy badly, and he, rightly or wrongly, imagined that his life was in
danger. He managed to get away, and the ill-feeling between the two
monarchs was intense when Colonel Gordon arrived on the scene. Just at
this time the great bulk of the Egyptian troops were required for the
Turkish war against the Russians, and Gordon was left helpless, as he
had not sufficient force with him to compel Walad to cease his
intermittent attacks on Abyssinia.

Seeing the hopelessness of his position, Gordon decided to waste no
more time over the question, more especially as he had not yet been to
Khartoum, the capital of his huge province, to take up his duties, and
all the time there was a revolt going on in Darfour, on the extreme
west of his dominion. Having once made up his mind, he lost no time in
getting to Khartoum, leaving Walad to be dealt with at his leisure
later on. On reaching Khartoum, which he did by travelling forty-five
miles a day in the extremely hot months of April and May, he had to
submit to the ordeal of installation. It was on this occasion, after
the firman had been read and the royal salute had been fired, that he
made the memorable speech which so delighted the people, and which may
be summed up in one sentence that he made use of, "With the help of God
I will hold the balance level." By this he meant to say, that as long
as he was Governor-General there should be none of the cruel, grinding
tyranny that had existed in the time of his predecessor. It may be well
here, anticipating events, to illustrate the desperate condition of the
people under the tyranny of the Egyptian rule. Mr. Frank Power,
correspondent of the _Times_, in a private letter to his mother in the
year 1884, describes the way in which the poor people were ground down
with taxation. He says:--

    "Every Arab must pay a tax for himself, children, and wife or
    wives. This he has to pay three times over--once for the Khedive,
    once for the tax collector or local Beys, and once for the
    Governor-General. The last two are illegal, but still scrupulously
    collected to the piastre. To pay this he must grow some corn, and
    for the privilege of growing corn he must pay £3 per annum. To grow
    corn the desert earth must have water: the means of irrigation is a
    'Sakeh,' a wheel like a mill-wheel with buckets on it, which raise
    the water into a trough, and then it flows in little streams over
    the land. A sakeh is turned by two oxen. Every man who uses a sakeh
    must pay £7: if he does not use it, he must go into prison for
    life, and have his hut burned. Every one must pay for the right of
    working to earn money; every one must pay if they are idle; in any
    case every one must pay to make the officials rich. If you have a
    trading boat, you are fined £4 if you do not continually fly the
    Egyptian flag, and you must pay £4 for the privilege of flying it."

In another letter he says:--

    "If they wish to grow corn they must pay for permission to do so,
    pay for liberty to take water from the broad Nile, and pay for
    liberty to sell the corn. If the crop is good, pay double taxes
    (one for private purse of the Pasha and one for the Government at
    Cairo). If they don't grow the corn they can't pay the taxes at
    all, and get kourbashed (flogged) and put into prison. No matter
    how they make a few piastres, the dragoman of some Bey or Pasha
    will steal it for his master. They frequently pull down huts and
    tear up yards and fields to find where the coins are hidden. If the
    peasant buys a few rags for his wife or child, or mends a hole in
    his hut to keep out the sun, he is told he must have got money
    somewhere, and he is doubly taxed; and after all, his sole
    possessions are a hut made of mud and river reeds, a rush bed, a
    rush mat, and an earthen pot."

In still another letter he says:--

    "Some of these merchants, who sit all day in their little stalls in
    the bazaar, are really millionaires, and would buy up many of the
    London merchant-princes. They live like kings in what, outside,
    looks like a mud hut. If one shows any outward signs of wealth, the
    Pasha lets him know quietly that he will at once be charged as a
    rebel or something, and put in prison if he does not make him a
    little present, generally from £300 to £1000. One Pasha left here
    last year, admitting, report says, that in three years he had made
    £60,000. He came here three years ago as a clerk on £2 a month.
    Abdul-Kereem Pasha, the Governor, took a fancy to him, and made him
    chief of the tax-gatherers; in three years he gained the rank of
    Pasha and £60,000--meaning 5000 ruined homes, several million
    strokes of the bastinado, rapine, robbery, and men driven to
    exasperation, and shot down at their doors."

Need we wonder that people so ground down by tyranny were delighted to
hear their Governor-General announce that he would hold the balance
level, and that no longer should the rich and powerful trample on the
weak and poor?

The prominent characteristic of the Egyptian rule in the Soudan was
fittingly summed up in the sentence, "_Kourbash, kourbash, et toujours
kourbash_," which being interpreted means, "Flogging, flogging, always
flogging." As to administration of justice, there was no such thing. He
who could bribe the judges the highest got judgment delivered in his
favour, while his opponent received the kourbash. The symbol of
authority might well have been a kourbash, which corresponds to the
English cat-o'-nine-tails. Men were often kourbashed for no other
reason than that they would not, or could not, bribe any official who
had the power of administering this form of punishment not to inflict
it on them. Nor must it be supposed that an ordinary flogging, such as
we understand by that term, would satisfy these tyrannical perpetrators
of cruelty. Often the use of the kourbash meant that the victim was
maimed for life, and the unfortunate one might always consider himself
lucky if he escaped without any permanent injury. In many cases it
amounted to nothing more or less than a form of torture, such as used
to be inflicted in England in the barbarous Middle Ages, and if the
sufferer had not actually got the money he was supposed to have, he
would often have to borrow as much as he could of the required amount,
in order to avoid further torture. We can imagine how Gordon's blood
must have boiled with indignation at such gross miscarriages of
justice; and during the whole time he served the Khedive, his object
was to do away with this kind of tyranny. Often his journeys from place
to place were marked by signs of fallen greatness, as he would not
tolerate tyranny. "In one month," he says, "I have turned out three
generals of division, one general of brigade, and four lieutenant-colonels.
It is no use mincing matters."

He allowed every one to approach him and to make complaints. A box
always stood at his tent or palace, into which any one who had a
grievance could drop his written complaint, with a certainty that it
would receive immediate investigation. Such a method gave publicity to
instances of cruelty and oppression, and often, directly Gordon heard
of cases of this kind, he would jump on his camel, pay a personal visit
to the individual concerned, and having investigated the case on the
spot, would deal out justice upon the culprit. Of course, in such an
extensive province as his, without railways, it was absolutely
impossible to investigate all the cases, but by taking the more
prominent and the grosser ones, he could strike terror into the hearts
of evil-doers in high places; and in this way he considerably reduced
the evil of tyrannical rule, and taught the oppressed people that they
had as much right to live as their oppressors had.

Of course Gordon was a much-hated man among the oppressor class, as
reformers of deep-seated abuses usually are; but he knew that the weak
and helpless at all events would appreciate him. When Wilberforce, the
great slavery abolitionist, was accused by an opponent of interference
with the rights of man, he asked what those rights were, and received
for answer, "The right that every man has to lick his own nigger!" To
rights of this kind, however long established, Gordon was an inveterate
enemy; his object was to show that the weak and the helpless had rights
as well as their oppressors, and in this he succeeded to a marvellous
extent. "My great desire," said he, "is to be a shelter to the people,
to ease their burdens, and to soften their hard lot in these
inhospitable lands." And again:--

    "I have an enormous province to look after; but it is a great
    blessing to me to know that God has undertaken the administration
    of it, and it is His work, and not mine. If I fail, it is His will;
    if I succeed, it is His work certainly. He has given me the joy of
    not regarding the honours of this world, and to value my union with
    Him above all things. May I be humbled to the dust and fail, so
    that He may glorify Himself. The greatness of my position only
    depresses me, and I cannot help wishing that the time had come when
    He will lay me aside and use some other worm to do His work."

Besides putting an end to cruelty and injustice, he introduced into
Khartoum a system of water supply. But important as his work at
Khartoum was, he was on May 19 compelled to leave, a revolt having
broken out at Darfour, where his immediate presence was required. So
off he went on his camel into the very heart of the slave-hunting
district. Writing from Fogia, on the frontier of Darfour, he says:--

    "I have a splendid camel--none like it; it flies along, and quite
    astonishes the Arabs. I came flying into this station in marshal's
    uniform, and before the men had time to unpile arms, I had arrived
    with only one man with me. I could not help it; the escort did not
    come in for an hour and a half afterwards. The Arab chief who was
    with me said it was the telegraph.... It is fearful to see the
    Governor-General arrayed in gold clothes flying along like a
    madman, with only a guide, as if he was pursued.... Specks had been
    seen in the vast plain around the station moving towards it (like
    Jehu's advance), but the specks were few--only two or three--and
    were supposed to be the advanced guard, and before the men of Fogia
    knew where they were, the station was taken!"

Writing from Oomchanga near Fascher, the capital of Darfour, he says:--

    "All this revolt is the fault of the Bashi-Bazouks. I said the
    other day, 'If the people of this country were Ryahs or Christians,
    I might understand your bad treatment of them, but I do not when I
    see they are Mussulmans, as you.' Upon which the Darfourians were
    delighted, and clapped their hands. Now the Darfourians were so
    fanatical that they would never let a Christian into their country,
    and now they ask me to send Christian Governors!"

Their hatred of the Bashi-Bazouks was well illustrated by an incident
Gordon mentions, which was told him by one of the officers. "An officer
declared to me," he said, "that a woman with an officer escaped with
the child he had by her, and taking the child to the chief of the
insurgents, asked him to kill it, as 'the child of a Turk,' which the
chief did."

On June 29 Gordon was able to write, "We have made peace with the
tribes around here half-way to Fascher;" but he records, "I speak my
mind, and I cannot help saying to some" (of the Darfourians who had
come in to ask for peace), "'You ought to pardon me.' Really no people
could have been treated worse than these people."

                            *      *      *

No sooner was one trouble settled than he was off on another
expedition, and this time his steps were directed towards Dara, the
stronghold of the great prince of slave-dealers, Zebehr Rahama. _En
route_ he was nearly starved as well as poisoned by putrid water.
Writing from Toashia on July 3, he says, "We have been two whole days
without meat," and he finds a garrison who for three years have been
without pay! He left Toashia on July 11 with 500 men, of whom 150 only
were any good. On this march there was a threatened attack, which
fortunately did not come off, but that he felt he was in great danger
we may gather from the extract: "We have, thank God, passed our
dangers. Whether they were imaginary or not, I do not know, but we were
threatened by an attack from thousands of determined blacks, who knew I
was here. Now very few Englishmen know what it is to be with troops
they have not a bit of confidence in.... I do not fear death, but I
fear, from want of faith, the results of my death--for the whole
country would have risen."

At Dara he came across a gang of 210 slaves, who had been rescued, but
who had received no food for thirty-six hours. His heart was filled
with pity for them, and he wrote:--

    "I am a fool, I dare say, but I cannot see the sufferings of these
    people without tears in my eyes.... It is a sad sight to see the
    poor starved creatures looking so wistfully at one. What can I do?
    Poor souls! I cannot feed or look after them. I must leave it to
    God, who will arrange all in kindness. Some of them were so
    miserably thin. I have sent them some dhoora. I declare solemnly
    that I would give my life willingly to save the sufferings of these
    people; and if I would do this, how much more does He care for them
    than such imperfection as I am! You would have felt sick had you
    seen them. Poor creatures! thirty-six hours without food!"

The more experience Colonel Gordon had of his Bashi-Bazouk soldiers,
the more he seems to have disliked them:--

    "I am worn to a shadow by the utter uselessness of the
    Bashi-Bazouks. The very sight of them excites my ire. I never saw
    such a useless, expensive set. I hate (there is no other word for
    it) these Arabs; and I like the Blacks--patient, enduring, and
    friendly, as much as the Arab is cowardly, cruel, and effeminate.
    All the misery is due to these Arab and Circassian Pashas and
    authorities. I would not stay a day here for these wretched
    creatures, but I would give my life for these Blacks."

Writing from Dara, he mentions an instance which occurred on the march
to that place to show the cowardly nature of his men, as well as the
bravery of the Blacks. His force of 3500 men was attacked by the
Leopard tribe, numbering only 700 men. In spite of these overwhelming
odds in their favour, Gordon says that his men were nearly beaten. "I
was sickened," he said, "to see twenty brave men of the tribes in
alliance with me ride out to meet the Leopard tribe, unsupported by my
men, who crowded into the stockade. It was terribly painful. The only
thing which restrained me from riding out to the attack was the
sheep-like state in which my people would have been had I been killed.
What, also, would have become of the province?"

Notwithstanding the inferior quality of his troops, Colonel Gordon was
determined to march on and pay a visit to Zebehr Rahama's camp, one of
the boldest acts of his life. Zebehr, himself the head of the cursed
slave traffic, was at this time practically a prisoner in Cairo. He
had, foolishly enough, gone there with £100,000, in the hope that he
could bribe the Khedive and his officials, and he even had the
effrontery to ask Gordon to intercede for him. Unfortunately for
Zebehr, he was too powerful a man for the Khedive to care to have at
large. He was practically an independent chief, his power and influence
being greater in the Soudan than that of the Khedive. He lived in regal
style, and every one trembled at his name. Dr. Schweinfurth thus
describes the surroundings of this remarkable man. He was "surrounded
with a court that was little less than princely in its details. Special
rooms, provided with carpeted divans, were reserved as ante-chambers,
and into these all visitors were conducted by richly-dressed slaves.
The regal aspect of these halls of state was increased by the
introduction of some lions, secured, as may be supposed, by
sufficiently strong and massive chains." Dr. Birkbeck Hill says, "He
owned no less than thirty stations. These fortified posts were carried
far into the heart of Africa; and all along the line from one to
another, and round each one of them far and wide, the slave-dealer
exercised despotic rule."

The only foolish act this prince of slave-hunters ever did was to put
himself into the power of the Khedive, by going to visit him at his
capital. Once at Cairo, the Khedive kept him there as a prisoner.
Zebehr's son, Suleiman, was at the head of his army of some 3000
fighting men, as plucky as Gordon's men were cowardly. When the father
was detained at Cairo, he telegraphed in cipher to his son to break
into open revolt, and even to attack the Government. Gordon knew that
his men were utterly unable to meet Suleiman's troops in the field, so
he tried another method to intimidate the rebels. He rode on alone
ahead of his escort, covering eighty-five miles in a day and a half, in
the heat of August, and dashing into the camp of these robbers,
summoned their chief to an interview. Suleiman and his followers were
dumbfounded by this bold act, and offered no resistance. The
Governor-General then told Suleiman that he was aware of the meditated
revolt, and that if he did not submit to his authority, his band should
be broken up and disarmed. Suleiman and his chiefs went off to consider
their course of action. Of course many were for making Gordon a
prisoner, and he had, humanly speaking, a narrow escape. However,
Suleiman decided to submit, and though afterwards we hear of him again
in open revolt, for the time being Gordon carried the day. Nothing but
his daring courage preserved him on that occasion. He even accepted an
invitation to visit Suleiman at Shaka, where he spent two days. When
Suleiman asked for an appointment, it was refused, on the ground that
he had not yet shown his loyalty to the Khedive. Gordon, however, made
him a present of his own gun, and taught him to use it.

Gordon often used to speak of this adventure as a most remarkable
answer to prayer. He had prayed for Suleiman before starting, and had
also asked for guidance for himself, and God heard him. It has
sometimes been represented as a mad freak on Gordon's part to put
himself into the lion's den in this way, but it was nothing of the
kind. Suleiman was in revolt, supported by a splendid army. Gordon was
absolutely at his mercy, for he could not rely on his troops. It was
only Gordon's daring courage that intimidated Suleiman, and made him
think Gordon was stronger than he really was.

                            *      *      *

After obtaining the submission of Suleiman, Gordon returned to
Khartoum, and again for a time resumed his ordinary official duties.
But this was not for long; he had before him another visit to Walad el
Michael, the turbulent Abyssinian chief, whom he had visited before
taking up his duties at Khartoum. Gordon's object was to persuade Walad
to submit to the authority of King Johannis of Abyssinia. But nothing
would induce Walad to do this. He was surrounded by 7000 soldiers, and
Gordon felt himself, in spite of the denials of the rebel chief,
practically a prisoner. Walad demanded authority to go on attacking
Johannis, but to this of course the Governor-General could not assent.
He therefore compromised matters by offering Walad £1000 per mensem, on
condition that he should leave his old king alone.

Having settled Walad, Gordon left, intending to return to Khartoum, but
was intercepted by a telegram from the Khedive begging him to go to
Cairo to help him in his financial difficulties, and he started for
Cairo on February 3, 1878, having completed one year's service as
Governor-General of the Soudan.

In spite of the hard rough life of the Soudan, he infinitely preferred
it to the more artificial civilised existence which the officials were
living at Cairo. He arrived there on March 7th, and left again on the
30th; and during the whole of his stay he was wretched. At first the
Khedive paid great attention to him, receiving him with a splendour
which suggested the "Arabian Nights." He asked him to be the president
of a commission of inquiry into the finances of the country, with the
condition attached that he should use his influence to arrange with the
representatives of the different countries that the commissioners of
the debt or the representatives of the creditors who had lent money to
Egypt should not serve on that commission of inquiry. After a good deal
of discussion, it was finally ascertained that this condition would not
be consented to by the foreign Governments. This of course relieved
Colonel Gordon of any obligations in the matter, and he, seeing that he
could be of no further service, decided to return to his province.
Considering how much Gordon had done to try and accomplish the desires
of the Khedive, there can be little question that he was in this matter
treated very badly. "I left Cairo," said he, "with no honours, by the
ordinary train, paying my own passage. The sun which rose with such
splendour set in the deepest obscurity. I calculate my financial
episode cost me £800. His Highness was bored with me after my failure,
and could not bear the sight of me."

Fortunately for Gordon, he cared very little for official favour. "I
now only look," said he in a letter written a short time after this,
"to benefiting the people." It was in this spirit he visited Harrar, a
small province detached from the Soudan, and lying to the south of
Abyssinia, on the eastern coast of Africa, almost opposite to Aden.
This province had once belonged to Turkey, but had been transferred to
the Khedive in exchange for £15,000 per annum extra tribute. The
governor of the province was Raouf Pasha, whom Colonel Gordon, it will
be remembered, had refused to employ on account of his cruel treatment
of the natives in the Equatorial Province four years before. Again he
had been playing the tyrant, and Gordon felt it to be his duty to turn
him out. As this man afterwards succeeded Colonel Gordon as
Governor-General of the Soudan, it is to him more than any one that the
present Khedive is indebted for having lost the whole of the Soudan. By
his tyranny, following after Gordon's kindness, the province was
stirred into revolt, and the Mahdi enabled to usurp authority. We are,
however, anticipating events.

Having freed Harrar of this tyrant, he went to Massowah, and thence on
May 22nd to Khartoum. Back once more at his capital, he devoted himself
first to a thorough reform of the prisons and the administration of the
law. "The prisons," he wrote, "were dens of injustice, and I am glad to
have had time to go into the question of each individual prisoner."

                            *      *      *

Although he used to tell amusing stories against himself and his own
personal expenditure of money, yet Gordon had great aptitude for
finance, and could make money go farther than most men. Had his views
been adopted for Egypt, it is more than likely that we should have been
saved the Egyptian war, to say nothing of the loss of the Soudan, and
all that was associated with it. In the Soudan province there was an
annual deficit amounting to something like £259,000. By dint of cutting
down expenditure and increasing the receipts, Gordon reduced this
during the second year to £50,600! Had he continued Governor-General
for many years, there can be no question that he would have not only
made the two ends meet, but would have obtained sufficient to carry out
his schemes of opening up the country by railways and steamers, thus at
the same time developing trade and reducing slavery. He calculated that
with great economy, and utilising the machinery and the rails that were
already lying idle in the country, a highway from Cairo to Khartoum
might have been opened up for £70,000, a sum of money which over and
over again has been frittered away in building great useless palaces
for the Khedive or some other Egyptian official, which bring in no
income, and are a great expense to keep up. The traffic, especially the
conveyance of ivory and other merchandise, would soon have recouped the
Government for their original outlay. The way in which Colonel Gordon
was thwarted in every possible manner at this time troubled him a good
deal. "As for myself," he writes, "I am exceedingly weary, and wish,
with a degree of bitterness, that it was all over. I am cooped up here
now, but am much occupied with finances, which are in a very low state.
My life is burthensome and weary, but I feel that it is better to be
employed here than to be idle elsewhere."

Writing on November 20, 1878, he says:--

    "I will give you an instance of the miserable way the Cairo
    Government treats the Soudan. I asked H.H.[8] a long time ago to
    send up a man A. H.H. replied he wanted the man A., and could not
    send him. To-day I got a request for £7, 10s., stating that I had
    asked for A., who was at Port Said; that in consequence A. went to
    Cairo and said that he did not want to come; so they ask me to pay
    the £7, 10s. for his passage from Port Said to Cairo and return,
    which I have refused to do."

      [8] The abbreviation he generally used for His Highness
      the Khedive.

Closely associated with this question of finance was the still more
important question of slavery. The Khedive's Government were at this
time at their wit's end for money. They wrote to Colonel Gordon asking
him to send them £12,000, and he replied that he had no funds
available. Nubar Pasha, who was Minister at the time, was casting about
to see how money could be raised, and not being troubled with
conscientious scruples on the subject of slavery, he made overtures to
the great slave-dealer Zebehr, who, it will be remembered, was
practically a prisoner in Cairo. Zebehr jumped at the offer, and
promised to send £25,000 per annum to Cairo from the Soudan, if he were
made Governor-General in place of Gordon. This of course meant that he
would be allowed a perfectly free hand to kidnap as many slaves as
possible, in order to make up the annual deficit in addition to this
subsidy of £25,000. Writing from Khartoum on February 18, 1879, Gordon
says that he was ordered to return to Cairo for consultation. This,
however, he steadily refused to do, on the ground of certain
disturbances which had occurred. There was a simultaneous rebellion of
slave-dealers in the Bahr-Gazelle, and also risings in Darfour and
Kordofan, and Gordon felt it to be his duty to go and assist his
lieutenant, Gessi, who was endeavouring to crush Zebehr's gang. Again
all the horrors of the slave-trade were forced upon Gordon's mind.

    "I declare if I could stop this traffic I would willingly be shot
    this night. This shows my ardent desire; and yet, strive as I can,
    I can scarcely see any hope of arresting the evil. Now comes the
    question, Could I sacrifice my life and remain in Kordofan and
    Darfour? To die quickly would be to me nothing; but the long
    crucifixion that a residence in these horrid countries entails
    appalls me. Yet I feel that, if I could screw up my mind to it, I
    could cause the trade to cease, for its roots are in these
    countries.... I have written to the Khedive to say I will not
    remain as Governor-General, for I feel I cannot govern the country
    to satisfy myself.... Now as I will not stay as Governor-General of
    the whole of the Soudan, query, shall I stay as Governor of the
    West Soudan, and crush the slave-dealers? I agree, if the death was
    speedy; but oh! it is a long and weary one, and for the moment I
    cannot face it."

Again, writing from Kalaka at the beginning of May 1879, he says:--

    "All the road from here to Shaka is marked by the camping-places of
    the slave-dealers, and there are numerous skulls by the side of the
    road. What thousands have passed along here! I hear some districts
    are completely depopulated, all the inhabitants having been
    captured or starved to death."

But though Gordon could not do all he desired, he was enabled to do
more perhaps than any other man could have accomplished in the
circumstances, and by the end of June 1879, Suleiman, the son of the
great Zebehr, had been hunted down by Gessi, who discovered papers
clearly proving the guilt of both father and son. The latter was tried
by court-martial and shot, and Gordon sent the evidence against the
father to the Khedive. No notice was taken of it, and Gordon bitterly
complains that, instead of being punished, Zebehr was _pensioned_!
"What pensions," he asks, "have the widows and orphans whom Zebehr has
made by the thousand? What allowance have the poor worn-out bodies of
men, strong enough till he dragged them from their homes, who are now
draining the last bitter dregs of life in cruel slavery? What
recompense has been made to those whose bleached bones mark the track
of his trade over many and many a league of ground?"

Space does not permit a detailed account of the interesting and
exciting campaign in which Gessi delivered this crushing blow against
the great slave-dealer. No man had imbibed more of Gordon's detestation
to the slave trade than Gessi, and with quite a small force he captured
the redoubtable Suleiman, who had a large force at his disposal. Gordon
made him a Pasha and gave him a reward of £2000, which he richly



Colonel Gordon's work of putting a stop to slave-hunting and other
evils in the Soudan was about to terminate. At Fogia on the 1st July
1879 he received a telegram announcing that Ismail had abdicated, and
that his son Tewfik reigned at Cairo in his place. Gordon at once
decided to go to Cairo. He writes:--

    "I am a wreck, like the portion of the _Victory_ towed into
    Gibraltar after Trafalgar; but God has enabled me, or rather has
    used me, to do what I wished to do--that is, break down the
    slave-trade.... To-day I had a telegram from Darfour, saying,
    'Haroun [another great slave-dealer, second only in importance to
    Zebehr] had been killed and his forces dispersed.' God has truly
    been good to me. 'Those that honour Me I will honour.' May I be
    ground to dust, if He will glorify Himself in me; but give me a
    _humble heart_, for then He dwells there in comfort."

"The new Khedive is most civil," he writes from Cairo, "but I no longer
distress myself with such things. God is the sole ruler, and I try to
walk sincerely before Him." In spite of his treatment by the deposed
Khedive, he always had a real affection for him, and he says: "It pains
me what sufferings my poor Khedive Ismail has had to go through;" but
later on he writes: "Do not fret about Ismail Pasha; he is a
philosopher, and has plenty of money. He played high stakes and lost.
He is the cleverest man in Europe. I am one of those he fooled, but I
bear him no grudge. It is a blessing for Egypt that he has gone."

Colonel Gordon had quite determined not to remain under the new
Khedive, so he terminated, as he then thought for ever, his connection
with the Soudan, little thinking how inseparably his name was yet to be
associated with that country. It may give us some idea of the energy of
the man when it is mentioned that during the last three years he had
ridden 8500 miles on camels or mules. Such violent exertion in a hot
country was greatly to the detriment of his health. In one of his
letters he says:--

    "From not having worn a bandage across the chest, I have shaken my
    heart or my lungs out of their places; and I have the same feeling
    in my chest as you have when you have a crick in the neck. In
    camel-riding you ought to wear a sash round the waist, and another
    close up under the armpits; otherwise, all the internal machinery
    gets disturbed."

Before finally quitting the service of the Khedive, Gordon felt that he
would like to put affairs between Egypt and Abyssinia on a more
satisfactory footing, though it was through no fault of his that they
were in such a bad condition. In spite, therefore, of his state of
health, he left Cairo on August 30, 1879, on a mission to the
Abyssinian king, Johannis. Writing home he playfully alludes to a
ridiculous report that was being circulated, that he intended to throw
off allegiance to Egypt, and set up as an independent Sultan, similar
to what the American adventurer, Burgevine, proposed to do in China.
"The Khedive said, after some circumlocution, 'Was I not too friendly
with Johannis?' In fact, the general report in Cairo was that I was
going in for being Sultan; but it would not suit our family. I hope to
finish off Johannis soon, and then to come home." There seem to have
been some other evil reports circulated at this time about Colonel
Gordon, for he says again in his humorous manner: "I wrote to the
secretary of the Foreign Office man, who is a friend of mine, asking
him to tell his chief, who is of the council, 'That if, on my return, I
hear any of the Council of Ministers have said anything against me, I
will beg the Khedive to make the evil speaker Governor-General of the
Soudan,' which is equivalent to a sentence of death to these Cairo

Though he was sick in body his brave spirit showed no signs of yielding
as long as there was duty to be done, and off he went to Abyssinia. On
September 2nd, 1879, he writes:--

    "The heat is terrible, but I am quiet and that is a great thing. I
    fear, through this Abyssinian affair, I shall have to wend my weary
    way to Senheit; however, God knows what is best for me. I would
    sooner have come home straight, but I had it not in my heart to
    forsake Tewfik till this affair is finished. I have begun to be
    very tired of the continual wear and tear of my last six years.
    However, I cannot think of leaving Egypt exposed to her enemies."

On September 12th he writes, when _en route_ to meet Aloula, the
Abyssinian commander-in-chief:--

    "We have met a caravan coming from Aloula's. They confirm the news
    that Walad el Michael and all his officers are prisoners, by orders
    sent to Aloula by King Johannis, and Metfin [Walad el Michael's
    son, whom Gordon disliked very much] is dead--killed by some one. I
    heard just as I left Massowah that Abdulgassin--the last of the
    leaders of Zebehr's slave-dealers--had been taken, and I ordered
    him to be shot.[9] Thus gaps, one by one, are made in my prayers
    for my enemies."

      [9] This man had started his career by a cold-blooded murder.
      When he first set up his standard of revolt, the wind blew it
      down, so in order to turn away the anger of heaven four oxen were
      slaughtered, and then a negro boy. In the poor wretch's blood a
      flag was dipped, and the standard was raised a second time, a
      second time to fall.

This last remark is made in reference to his custom of always praying
for his enemies by name.

He went on this Abyssinian embassy with a heavy heart, for the Khedive
had telegraphed to him, "Give up nothing, but do not fight." It really
mattered little what happened, considering that soon Egypt was to give
up even the lands over which she had a legal right, but in November
1879 this could not be foreseen. Khedive Ismail had undoubtedly behaved
very badly to Abyssinia, and had treated the Abyssinian envoy with a
great want of courtesy. Tewfik, however, was not to blame for this, and
he wanted to express his regret at the past and his desire to renew the
old friendship between Egypt and Abyssinia. Johannis was a tyrannical
king, hated by his own people, who thought him partly mad, and he took
to heart Ismail's conduct to his representative and refused to
distinguish between one Khedive and another. Gordon's description of
the Abyssinian king is as follows:--

    "Johannis, oddly enough, is like myself--a religious fanatic. He
    has a mission, and will fulfil it, and that mission is _to
    Christianise!! all Mussulmans_. He has forbidden the smoking of
    tobacco in his country, and cuts off the right hand and left foot
    of any man he catches doing so! When Christ comes again, how truly
    He may say to us all 'I know ye not.'"

Gordon had foreseen that the Abyssinians would probably revenge
themselves upon him for the treatment which their envoy had received at
Cairo, and this probability was rendered a certainty by the fact that
he had nothing to offer by way of compensation. From the day he entered
Abyssinia to the day he left it, he was constantly insulted, and he
gained very little by the journey, in which he risked his life. He saw
King Johannis, and got him to make certain definite demands, but the
king would not put them into writing. When Gordon referred him to the
Khedive's letter it was not forthcoming, and could not even be found
for some time. When it was found the chief clerk received forty blows
for not having before translated it! Amid a pile of letters which were
disregarded, Gordon saw one from the British Government and one from
the French Government.

At first the king tried to distinguish between Gordon and the Khedive,
but the former was too loyal to allow this, and informed the king that
he must look on him as a Mahommedan and an Egyptian, and not as a
Christian and an Englishman. On this point Gordon held very
conscientious views. In the event of a foreigner entering the service
of an Oriental Power, he contended, "He shall for the time entirely
abandon his relations with his native land; he shall resist his own
government, and those of other powers, and keep intact the sovereignty
of the Oriental State whose bread he eats."

When Johannis saw that Gordon had nothing to offer, and nothing was to
be got out of him, he dismissed him. It is unnecessary to retail all
the unpleasant incidents of his journey to Massowah. The only thing of
importance is, that Gordon, anticipating that there might be
disturbances at Massowah, telegraphed to the Khedive to send a
battalion of infantry there, a request to which no attention was paid.
This neglect on the part of the Khedive ultimately led to an open
rupture between him and Gordon. Fortunately the British Government had
sent a gunboat across from Aden at Gordon's request. "The whole town
was in a ferment," Gordon writes, "and had it not been for H.M.S.
_Seagull_, Massowah would no doubt have been attacked and sacked." The
Khedive asked Gordon to come at once to Cairo, but this he refused to
do till the battalion arrived, as he felt that his presence was
necessary there, "in order to give confidence to the people, until the
troops came."

Ultimately, however, Gordon went to Cairo, and gave the Khedive a piece
of his mind, with regard to the publication of confidential telegrams,
as well as other things. It was on this occasion that he received the
reply from the ruler of Egypt, "I am a young man; it is not my fault,"
which caused some little amusement in England, when it was made known.
The rupture was made, Gordon had decided to serve the Khedive no
longer, and at the beginning of the year 1880 he returned home for the
rest that he required, mentally and physically, after six years'
incessant hard work in the thankless task of governing the Soudan.

When Gordon was leaving Alexandria he was medically examined by Dr.
Mackie, the surgeon to the British Consulate, who stated that he was
"suffering from symptoms of nervous exhaustion, and alteration of the
blood, giving rise to hæmorrhagic spots on the skin, &c." "I have,"
said the same authority, "recommended him to retire for several months
for complete rest and quiet, and that he may be able to enjoy fresh and
wholesome food, as I consider that much of what he is suffering from is
the effect of continued bodily fatigue, anxiety, and indigestible food.
I have insisted on his abstaining from all exciting work--especially
such as implies business or political excitement." Gordon possessed an
exceptionally strong constitution, but there is a limit to the burden
which the most powerful can bear, and that limit had been exceeded.
There was nothing for it, therefore, but to put into dock for
constitutional repairs.

                            *      *      *

After spending three months in England, he went to Switzerland on the
9th April 1880. During this period of inactivity he was offered by the
Government of the Cape of Good Hope the command of their colonial
forces on £1500 per annum, but his reply was, "Thanks for telegram just
received; I do not feel inclined to accept an appointment." In the
beginning of May, however, he accepted the post of private secretary to
Lord Ripon, who was going out to India as Viceroy. Considering that
Colonel Gordon had been ruling a territory as large as France, Germany,
and Spain put together, it was thought strange at the time that he
should accept such a very subordinate post as that of secretary to the
Viceroy, himself only a subordinate to the Secretary of State for
India, who practically governs that vast empire from Downing Street by
means of the telegraph. The appointment was indeed a peculiarly
unfortunate one. The P. & O. steamer that conveyed the Viceregal party
had on board two kings, the greater man being, so to speak, the
uncrowned one. The Viceroy, who has since shown himself to be a man of
ability, had not at that time gained the confidence of the public.
Consequently, his principal qualification for the post was that he
possessed the aristocracy of birth. It is impossible to secure
everything in any given man, and as social distinctions weigh heavily
in such a post as that of Viceroy of India, only average abilities are
as a rule looked for. Consequently India has been termed the "land of
mediocrity," from the fact that the average statesmen who direct her
affairs, are neither very brilliant nor very dull.

The Viceroy must have been more than human not to have felt somewhat
keenly the awkward position in which he was placed on that voyage. To
make matters worse, the ship was compelled to pass through the very
territory where Gordon's name was best known, and he was most beloved,
and thus the Suez Canal voyage was a kind of royal progress.
Unfortunately the homage paid was to the subordinate, the uncrowned
king, and not to him who held the higher position. It was Gordon's
opinion that was sought for, it was to him that every one looked, and
it is said by the well informed, that at least once on the voyage this
led to difficulties. Be that as it may, the experience of that voyage
showed Colonel Gordon that he was utterly out of place, and that it was
neither fair to himself, nor to his chief, that he should continue in
it, so he decided to resign at Bombay, which place he reached on June
1st. All sorts of reasons for this resignation were suggested at the
time, but none of them went very near the mark. Of course some said
that the difference of opinion on religious matters was the cause,
while others alleged a political reason, saying that Colonel Gordon was
opposed to the treatment of Yakoob Khan, the late Ameer of Afghanistan.
Colonel Gordon's brother, the late Sir H. Gordon, has given publicity
to this latter as the reason, but as a matter of fact it is not the
correct one, and there is no use handing down false reports to
posterity. More than this I am not at liberty to say.

The only published statement on the subject from Gordon himself was as

    "In a moment of weakness I took the appointment of private
    secretary to Lord Ripon, and repented that I had done so at once,
    but I did not like to say so. I went out, and saw at Bombay that in
    my irresponsible position I could not possibly hope to do anything
    really to the purpose, in the face of vested interests out there;
    so seeing this was the case, and also observing that my views were
    diametrically opposed to those of the official classes, I gave it
    up. It certainly was a great consideration with me--Lord Ripon's
    position--for it was assumed by some, that my views of the state of
    affairs were those of the Viceroy, and then I felt I would do him
    harm by staying with him. Lord Ripon and I left perfect friends.
    The brusqueness of my leaving was unavoidable, inasmuch as my stay
    would have put me in the possession of State things that I ought
    not to know. Certainly, I might have stayed a month or two, and had
    a pain in the head and gone quickly; but the whole duties were so
    distasteful that I felt--being perfectly callous as to what the
    world says--it was better to go at once, and did so."

Subordinate posts of that kind may do very well for men of ability, who
have a name to make; but it is not in accordance with human nature,
that a man of brilliant genius, who had already made a great reputation
as a soldier and an administrator, could serve with satisfaction to
himself, or justice to his chief, in such a position, and Gordon was
not the man to serve unless he could be thoroughly loyal.

                            *      *      *

Having resigned his post on the 3rd June, he received a telegram from
London inviting him to go again to China. Mr. Robert Hart, then in
China as Inspector-General of Customs, telegraphed to Mr. Campbell, his
agent in London, to invite Gordon to go out on six months' leave. Mr.
Campbell, seeing Gordon's resignation announced, at once passed on the
invitation to Bombay. Gordon's reply was, "Inform Hart Gordon will
leave for Shanghai first opportunity; as for conditions, Gordon
indifferent." He then telegraphed to the War Office for leave till the
end of the year. It was thought that China would shortly be involved in
war with Russia, and as our own relationships with the Czar were not
too friendly at that time, the War Office authorities felt bound to act
cautiously, lest it should appear as if we shrank from fighting Russia
ourselves, but were encouraging another nation to do so, by allowing
one of our most brilliant officers to lead their forces. Consequently
Gordon received the following telegram, "Must state more specifically
purpose and position for and in which you go to China." Gordon's reply
was, "Am ignorant; will write from China before the expiration of my
leave." On the 11th he received a further message, "Reasons
insufficient: your going to China is not approved." To this Gordon
replied, "Arrange retirement, commutation or resignation of service;
ask Campbell reasons. My counsel, if asked, would be for peace, not
war. I return by America." The War Office were not, however, going to
lose an officer of such ability so easily, so when Gordon arrived at
Point de Galle on the 16th June, he found the following telegram
awaiting him, "Leave granted on your engaging to take no military
service in China;" to which he replied, "I will take no military
service in China; I would never embarrass the British Government."

He arrived at Hong-Kong on July 2nd and went immediately to Shanghai,
but hearing that his old friend, Li Hung Chang, was at Tientsin, he
proceeded there at once, and found things in a very unsatisfactory
condition. Prince Chun and the Empress Regent were anxious for war with
Russia, being supported in this folly by all the Court, while Prince
Kung and Li Hung Chang practically stood alone in their desire for
peace. Li was so delighted to see Gordon that he fell on his neck and
kissed him. Gordon at once threw his influence into the scale of peace.
He had previously, before leaving India, expressed his views on the
subject in the press:--

    "My fixed desire is to persuade the Chinese not to go to war with
    Russia, both in their own interests, and for the sake of those of
    the world, especially those of England. To me it appears that the
    question in dispute cannot be of such vital importance that an
    arrangement could not be come to, by concessions upon both sides.
    Whether I succeed in being heard or not is not in my hands. I
    protest, however, at being regarded as one who wishes for war in
    any country, still less in China. Inclined as I am, with only a
    small degree of admiration for military exploits, I esteem it a far
    greater honour to promote peace than to gain any paltry honours in
    a wretched war."

As a matter of fact Gordon did succeed in convincing the Government at
Pekin of the advisability of coming to terms with its opponent, and
thus once more he rendered China an invaluable service. In his earnest
advocacy he appears to have used such emphatic language that the
interpreter dared not repeat it, so Gordon seized a dictionary, looked
up the word "idiotcy," and pointed it out to them. Far better was it,
in Gordon's opinion, to ruffle the self-esteem of a few bigwigs, than
to allow two great nations to drift into a war which, after an enormous
sacrifice of life and much suffering, must have ended fatally for the
Chinese, who were quite unable to meet the trained hordes of Russia.



Gordon left China immediately he had saved that country from war,
arriving in England on October 21, 1880. From then till about the end
of the following April he spent on leave. During this month the post of
officer commanding Royal Engineers at the Mauritius fell vacant, and
two officers to whom the command was offered retired rather than go to
Mauritius. Sir Howard Elphinstone was then offered the command, and
would also probably have retired, but Colonel Gordon offered to go for
him, and refused any money on account of the exchange, though usually
£700 or £800 was paid for an exchange of this kind. Yet Gordon was so
poor that he had actually to borrow the money to pay for his passage
when he went from India to China a few months before this! He left
England for the Mauritius on the 2nd May, travelling _via_ the Suez
Canal and Aden.

The voyage opened up to his ever-active fertile brain the whole
question of the advantage to England of the Suez Canal, and of our
proper route to India. This, he maintained most strongly, should, in
the event of war, be _viâ_ the Cape, and not through the Canal, his
opinion concurring with that of Lord Palmerston, Mr. W. E. Forster, and
many men of ability. The Suez route may save a few days, but the risk
is terrible. In some parts of the Canal only one ship can pass at a
time, and a sunken barge, a little dynamite, or even a severe sandstorm
may block the Canal for days. An enemy could easily bribe the owners of
a few petty craft to sink their vessels, and thus completely to block
up troopships in the Canal. Even without such designs our troopships
are frequently delayed in passing through owing to accidents of all

The heads of many Englishmen have been completely turned by the opening
of the Suez Canal, and Gordon was one of the few who stood out against
the idea of considering it as _the_ proper route to India. It has been
said that our trade has increased very largely since the Canal was
opened, and that is true; but then the period in question has been one
of special activity, and probably our trade would have increased no
less had the Canal never been constructed. Moreover, the trade of other
countries has increased even more rapidly. Italy, France, Russia,
Germany, and Austria have gained more in proportion than we have. In
the olden days, when all the trade with the East came to Europe _viâ_
the Cape, England was the great centre of the world. Everything was
shipped to England, and then despatched to different parts of Europe.
We were the great carriers of the ocean. But the Suez Canal has
disturbed this arrangement, and the European nations can more easily
obtain their supplies direct through the Canal, to the detriment of our
labour market. Gordon recognised that it was too late for the mistake
to be remedied, but he was most anxious that we should attach more
importance to our hold on the Cape, as the natural route to India in
the event of war, and not be deceived by the fictitious advantages of
the Suez Canal, which only offers the saving of a few days at enormous

He took the opportunity of stopping at Suez to pay a visit to the grave
of his friend and lieutenant, Gessi, who had lost his life and died at
Suez from the hardships through which he passed on the Nile, partly
owing to the blocking of that river by the "sudd," which had re-formed
after Gordon left the Soudan, all precautionary measures having been
neglected, and partly owing to the cruel neglect of the authorities,
who might have taken more prompt measures for his relief. As his master
was to do a few years later, Gessi practically sacrificed his life in
the crusade against slavery. He had been an interpreter in the Crimean
war, and in the Soudan he exhibited such great military skill that he
was given a high independent command, with the result that he was, it
will be remembered, the means of capturing and breaking up Suleiman's
band of slave-dealers.

Colonel Gordon arrived at the Mauritius at the end of May 1881, and he
left in March 1882, so he was only for about ten months on the island.
He went out to command the Royal Engineers, but as the officer
commanding the island was promoted and sent home, he succeeded by
seniority to the chief command. During this period there is not much to
mention beyond the fact that here, as elsewhere, he used every
opportunity to do acts of kindness to others. Two men of the Royal
Artillery had, when the worse for liquor, gone out in a boat, without
oars. For eight days they were drifting about in the currents that
surround the Mauritius. At last they reached the Island of Bourbon, and
in attempting to land, one of them got drowned. The other was sent back
to his battery, and the owner of the lost boat at once demanded
compensation. Thinking that the poor fellow had already suffered enough
for his misdeeds, Colonel Gordon paid for the boat, and took the
receipt to the man's commanding officer, stipulating that he should not
tell the man who had got him out of trouble. He always took the
greatest interest in the men, and also in the agent of the Army
Scripture Readers' Society, who worked among them. He told the officer
who collected funds for that Society to put him down for a subscription
of Rs.40 per annum, and said that if more was wanted he would be
delighted to give it.

                            *      *      *

In March 1882 he received a telegram from the Premier of the Cape
Government, asking for his aid in bringing about a termination of the
Basuto war. He had previously in April 1881 offered his services on
£700 per annum for this purpose, but the Government then in office at
the Cape had not even replied to his telegram, either by mail or by
wire, and so Gordon had thought no more about the matter. Troubles had
thickened, and a new Government had come into office. Hence the offer,
accompanied by the statement that they did not expect him to be bound
to the salary formerly proposed. Gordon at once accepted the offer, but
he could not get a ship going to the Cape direct. Fortunately there was
a small coasting vessel called the _Scotia_ bound for the Cape, so
Gordon at once took his passage, and stated that he would arrive on
board at a certain hour. The hour came, but no passenger arrived. The
afternoon wore away, evening came and passed, night arrived, and still
the Colonel did not put in an appearance. At last, about midnight, a
gentleman quietly came on deck, saying that he was Colonel Gordon, and
hastened to explain his reasons for being so late. Some of the officers
and people on the island, hearing that he was going to sail, had
intended to give him an ovation. In order to escape this, he had walked
twelve miles into the interior, returning after dark so that no one
should know where he was. Next day, however, crowds came on board to
wish him "good-bye," among them many children in whom he had as usual
taken an interest. One of these, whom he introduced as his "pet lamb"
to the wife of the captain of the ship, brought him a couple of bottles
of sherry, and other friends gave him a case of champagne. As he was
almost a total abstainer and frequently did not touch stimulants for
days together, he had no use for the wine, but he accepted the gifts in
order to please the givers.

He made himself perfectly at home on board the little ship, and soon
became very friendly with the captain and his wife. He spoke a great
deal about the Seychelles Islands, situated to the north-east of
Madagascar, which he believed to be the site of the Garden of Eden, and
he showed them wood from the coco-de-mer, or nut of the sea, which he
believed to be the veritable tree that produced the forbidden fruit
which our ancestors tasted. The voyage, though not more than three
thousand miles in length, lasted a whole month, and there was some
rough weather, which he felt terribly, for he was not a particularly
good sailor, and the ship was very small. Writing to his sister he

    "You will not care overmuch for my secular history, but will say,
    'What did you learn on the passage?' Well, the passage was truly a
    fearful trial; dirt prevailed in everything; the bilge-water
    literally, when pumped out from decayed sugar, tore up the very
    inmost parts of the stomach, and showed me that, if that was wrong,
    life was unendurable. I am not generally sick at sea, but I was
    nearly dead with it; perhaps it was Mauritius fever coming out.
    Salt water had got into the tank and we had to drink it. I was
    very, very ill, but through it all I would not have changed one
    iota of the voyage....

    "I am a _rag_; that voyage in the _Scotia_ has killed me. I went to
    Dr. Abercromby, and he told me I was on the verge of an attack of
    jaundice. I am certainly better, but feel far from well. Listless,
    worried in _body_, not a bit in spirits, and as if I had eaten
    copper. I want to get into the position of delighting to accept and
    do His will, yet I feel so very much inclined to wish His will
    might be my release....

    "Earth's joys grow very dim, its glories have faded. My Mauritius
    sojourn has quenched to a great degree my desire for anything but
    to be with Jesus. Everybody is very kind here and complimentary,
    but all compliments are to me but sounds of the wind. If it was
    Jesus' will, how delighted I should be to be called away, to be a
    nail in His footstool, and how willingly I would have every one to
    be higher than me in heaven!"

There was, however, some mitigation to the horrors of this voyage, for,
during it, he heard of his promotion to the rank of major-general,
which gave him very great satisfaction, as he was beginning to fear
that, as the War Office authorities had failed to offer him an
appointment worthy of his merits, they might also see fit to pass him
over in the matter of promotion. Before he had heard the news he had

    "Why am I not in the _Gazette_? I will not move, but it seems odd.
    Anyway, if they do not promote me, I shall hope for strength to
    bear it. _He_ is ruler, and I love Jesus irrespective of His mighty
    rank and power. At Communion this morning I asked Christ to let me
    rest, and then He should take the post of COMMANDANT-GENERAL, and
    that I should be passive in the matter. Good-bye, my dear Augusta,
    _fifteen years more_."

He arrived at the Cape on May 3rd, 1882, and at once made the
acquaintance of the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, and the Premier,
Mr. Merriman. He found things in a very unsatisfactory condition, and
nearly decided to have nothing to do with them. The Cape Government
were in an awkward position, the affairs of the Basuto war being in the
hands of Mr. Orpen, in whom the Government had no confidence, but whom,
for party reasons, they did not like to remove. Consequently they could
not entrust matters entirely to General Gordon. He good-naturedly
yielded to pressure, accepted the post of Commandant-General, on £1200
per annum, and undertook to report to the Cape Government his
suggestions for the improvement of the army generally, as well as the
best means for bringing the Basuto trouble to a speedy termination. The
arrangement was a very unsatisfactory one, but, with that public
spiritedness which so characterised him, Gordon threw himself
thoroughly into the business, and, before the end of the month, he drew
up a most able, statesman-like paper on the whole subject. With most it
would have been a piece of presumption for a man during a single month,
much of which was spent in travelling, to attempt such a task, more
especially as some of the questions were extremely difficult. But such
was Gordon's capacity for work, and for grasping complex questions,
that not only was the paper he drew up most exhaustive, but, read in
the light of subsequent events, it shows how well-informed he was, and
what an impartial mind he brought to bear on the subjects before him.
He read very quickly, he could at a glance grasp the salient points of
any question, and, having a wonderfully retentive memory, no important
detail was lost sight of. He wrote both quickly and clearly, and had
the faculty of presenting his points in a lucid manner. Like many
military men, who are, when young, taken from their studies, he did not
always write in the best of English, but he made up for this in the
remarkable manner in which he could marshal facts and arguments, and
the ease with which he carried his reader along. In his letters and
journals he does not do himself justice as a writer, but in his
official despatches and memoranda he shows that, not least among his
accomplishments, was the gift of being able to write well, and to the
point. His memorandum on the reform of the Cape army was very able,
though too long to reproduce here. Briefly stated it showed how an army
of 8000 men could be maintained instead of the 1600 men then under
arms, and at a reduced cost of £7000 per annum! He also pointed out how
unjustly the Basutos had been treated, and suggested as a remedy that
they should be invited to assemble a general council in which to
ventilate their grievances, and that steps should be taken to remove
these grievances. He advocated giving them a semi-independent position,
with power to manage their own affairs, and to administer justice
without the intervention of foreign magistrates, some of whom, in
Gordon's opinion, were very corrupt.

Those who have studied the affairs of South Africa, and the history of
Christian missions there, will not need to be told what an interesting
people the Basutos are. But for others, it may be as well to say that
this branch of the Kaffir race are not only among the most civilised of
all the African races, but a large proportion of them are Christian in
something more than name. The old chieftain Moshesh, who reigned some
fifty years ago, was a man of marked ability, and, though a great
soldier, he hated war. Having heard of the work of the celebrated Dr.
Moffat among the Korannas, he sent to invite this "man of prayer, and
teacher of the Christian religion," to visit him. To cut a long story
short, some French Protestant missionaries responded to the invitation,
and were wonderfully blessed in their work. Hundreds of converts were
received into the Christian Church, and instead of war and bloodshed
prevailing, men were instructed how to cultivate fields and build

In the Kaffir war of 1852 Sir George Cathcart was informed that Moshesh
was the centre of intrigue, and, ill-advised, he attacked that
chieftain and was defeated. When the attack was about to be renewed, he
received from Moshesh the following message: "O my master, I am still
your servant; I am still the child of the Queen. Sometimes a man beats
his dog, and the dog puts his teeth into his hands, and gives him a
bite: nevertheless the dog loves the master, and the master loves the
dog, and will not kill it. I am vexed at what happened yesterday; let
it be forgotten." Fortunately Sir George Cathcart had sufficient
nobility of character to appreciate this message. Peace was made, and
Sir George afterwards said of Moshesh, "I found him not only to be the
most enlightened, but the most upright chief in South Africa, and one
in whose good faith I put the most perfect confidence, and for whom,
therefore, I have a sincere respect and regard." Moshesh died in 1870,
and the policy he had initiated was carried on by his successor

Unfortunately the Cape Government wanted to deprive the Basutos of
their right to carry arms, and this they resented. Gordon's sympathies
were entirely with them. There were other abuses, such as bad
magistrates, which were even admitted by the Secretary for Native
Affairs, and Gordon came to the conclusion that the Basutos had been
very badly treated. They were loyal to the Queen, but objected to being
put under the Cape Government, disliking the Dutch element which has
such influence at the Cape.

                            *      *      *

On the 18th July, 1882, the Cape Government proposed that General
Gordon should visit Basutoland, but he was of opinion that unless the
Government saw their way to grant what he suggested, there was little
use in his going. In August, Mr. Sauer, the Secretary for Native
Affairs, came to King William's Town, and asked Gordon to accompany him
into the Basuto country. Much against his own opinion Gordon yielded,
and went as far as Leribe; but finding that the idea in the mind of Mr.
Sauer was that he might employ one portion of the Basutos to fight
against the other, he remonstrated very strongly. Mr. Sauer then asked
him privately to visit Masupha, but gave him no instructions
officially. Gordon consented to do this much, but he let Mr. Sauer
clearly understand that nothing would induce him to fight the Basutos,
with the object of forcing bad magistrates on them, or treating them
unjustly. Hoping to avert the horrors of war, Gordon, unarmed and
without a flag of truce or any commission, went into the middle of a
hostile people, who had never even heard his name. The charm of manner
which he ever manifested in his dealings with native races gained the
day, and he secured the confidence of these people. In his speech to
them he said:--

    "I have come here as a friend of the Basutos. I showed myself a
    friend, for when asked to come and fight, I would not. Now, when I
    come, I want first to do good for Basutos. The Basutos are of a
    good disposition. I say to the chief and people, How can Basutoland
    belong to Basutos? I tell all that the Government want to do good
    to the people. The Queen does not want the Colony to take land of
    Basutos, and what the Colony and the Queen are afraid of is that if
    abandoned the Basutos would be eaten up. I like the Boers; they are
    brave, and like their own government; and when they fought, they
    fought for their own government. England could have beaten the
    Boers if they liked, but thought it unjust. Which do Basutos think
    Dutch like best--Basutos or land? I think they like land best.
    Supposing Colony abandoned this country, by-and-by they have
    trouble with Free State; after that begins fighting; then I look
    forward ten years, and I see Dutch farms close here. I do not want
    that, the Colony does not, and the Queen does not, and no Basuto
    either. Then I say, Basutos, make friends with the Government....

    "Suppose Boers drive you away, for me it would be all the same, and
    not much difference when you are put in the ground. I wish the
    Basutos would do what I say. What I want is for all to speak with
    one tongue. I cannot make myself black. I cannot make Masupha and
    his people do what I want, so I leave it to Jesus, who works
    everything. This is all I have to say--Do what you like; think
    well; pray to Jesus for advice."

No sooner had General Gordon gone on his peaceful mission than he
discovered that Mr. Sauer had actually induced Lerethodi, a rival
chief, to attack Masupha. This action not only endangered Gordon's
life, but outraged his sense of honour to such an extent, that he
decided forthwith to sever all connection with the Cape Government. It
was, to say the least, extraordinary conduct, to send a messenger of
peace to a rebel chief, and then, without waiting for any reply, to
induce some of his own countrymen to attack and coerce him. It would
perhaps not be fair to hold the whole of the Cape Government
responsible for the action of a single man, but this curious proceeding
confirmed General Gordon in an opinion he held, that white men often
fail to practise towards the despised coloured men that honourable,
upright dealing that might be expected from the leaders of civilised

Mr. Arthur Pattison, writing to the _Times_ on the 20th August 1885,
after Gordon's death, said of Masupha, "If you trust him
straightforwardly, he is as nice a man as possible, and even kind and
thoughtful; but if you treat him the other way, he is a fiend
incarnate. The late General Gordon divined his character marvellously,
and was the only man Masupha had the slightest regard for." If our
Government had more men of the type of General Gordon, we may rest
assured that we should have fewer of these petty little "nigger wars,"
which, more often than not, are brought on by incapacity and want of
sympathy on the part of our representatives abroad. One great charm
about Gordon's character was his sympathy for the weak and helpless. It
mattered not whether the helpless one were a king or a slave, so long
as he was weak he was sure of having Gordon's sympathies and assistance
in his troubles. Before leaving the Cape, Gordon made a most noble
offer, which was that he should go on £300 per annum and live as a
magistrate among the Basutos, so as to protect them from their enemies,
but the offer was not accepted.

The way in which Gordon regarded his position is shown in the following
passages from two of his letters:--

    "KING WILLIAM'S TOWN, _October_ 6, 1882.--The telegrams will show
    you that the Cape Colony chapter of my life is over. I am so glad
    to be free of all this turmoil. There will be a fearful row, but
    these things have not moved me at all. I have thought more of a
    scuttler who shed tears when I spoke to him of God's living in him,
    than I have of all this affair."

    "SS. KINFAUNS CASTLE, _October_ 20, 1882.--I shall, D.V., be in
    England when you get this. I shall go by sea to Gravesend, and on
    to Southampton at once. Whether men praise you, it does not make
    you better, or whether they blame you, it does not make you worse.
    God judges by motives, men by actions (Thomas à Kempis). When I
    went to the Cape I prayed for glory to God and the welfare of the
    people, so I am glad _I_ got no glory out of it."

It may be well to introduce here a few words he wrote of the celebrated
Zulu king whom we deposed and imprisoned at the Cape.

    "_May_ 20, 1882.--I went to see Cetewayo, and felt for him, and
    tried to cheer him. I gave him a stick with an ivory head--a
    beauty--which had been given me by the Sultan of Perak, who was a
    prisoner at the Seychelles. When I told Cetewayo that I had always
    been interested in him and that he must have hope, with a deep
    '_Ah!_' he pointed upwards. He is a fine savage."

General Gordon arrived in England on the 8th November 1882, after the
close of the Egyptian war, little thinking how closely that war would
affect him. After a short stay at Southampton he left on December 28th
for Palestine, and nearly the whole of the year 1883 was spent in
Palestine. Writing from Jerusalem he says:--

    "Everything looks small and insignificant, but quite meets the idea
    I had of the _worldly_ position of the Jews and of our Lord. In
    fact, the Scriptures tell the story without any pretence that
    either the country, people, or our Lord were of any great
    importance _in the world_. They are expositors of how very low
    the position to which He, the Lord of lords, descended. You can
    realise the fact as well in England as here, by substituting a
    Scripture-reader of dubious birth and humble parents, exposing the
    fallacy of a ceremonial church-going religion, and pointing out how
    impossible it is to please God by such religious formalities....

    "The Temple of Solomon was fine for those days, but, setting aside
    its Divine significance, it was only about six times as long as the
    room you are in, and not much wider--60 cubits = 90 feet = 30 yards
    long, by 20 cubits = 30 feet = 10 yards wide. You could walk round
    the city in less than an hour; it is not quite three miles

    "The ravines round Jerusalem are full of the dust of men, for over
    a million bodies must have been slain there. What a terrific sight
    the resurrection there will be! I suppose there is no place in the
    world where so many bodies are concentrated....

    "It is nice sauntering about, conjuring up scenes of days gone
    by--real scenes, actions on the stage of life; all gone! It quiets

    "I came back from Gaza yesterday, after a ten days' sojourn there,
    returning through Askelon, where there are very fine ruins,
    enormous columns, marbles, &c, lying in all directions: it is a
    wonderful place. Like all the coast, it is most dreary, yet one
    sees that all the country was once thickly populated. Sand from the
    shore is creeping in steadily, and makes it mournful. Napoleon I.,
    Alexander the Great, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and a host of
    great men passed by this route. Titus came up by Gaza to Jerusalem.
    Richard Coeur de Lion was years at Askelon. All gone, 'those old
    familiar faces'!"

The supposed sites of the holy places seem to have had peculiar
fascination for his active brain, and he came to the conclusion that
most, if not all, of them were wrong. It would, however, occupy too
much space to give the reasons which led him to this conclusion. Though
we cannot gather it from his own letters, a good deal of his time was
more profitably spent than in hunting up old sites. Dr. Cunningham
Geikie, who was in Jerusalem when Gordon was killed at Khartoum, tells

    "A poor dragoman told me that General Gordon used to come often to
    his house in Jerusalem when he and his wife lay ill, and that he
    would take a mat, and put it on the floor as a seat, there being no
    chairs or furniture, and sit down with his Testament to read and
    speak to them about Christ. Ascertaining that a doctor's account
    had been incurred, he went off secretly and paid it. He gave away
    all he had to the poor in Jerusalem and the villages round, and the
    people mourn for him as for their father."

He made friends with some of the missionaries of the Church Missionary
Society, with whom he found himself much in sympathy. Speaking of the
Rev. J. R. L. Hall, he says, "I have found a nice man now here (Jaffa),
but his mission is at Gaza. He is a Jew[10] by birth, but a man after my
own heart. I may drop down there ere long and help him. He belongs to
the C.M.S."

      [10] General Gordon was under a misconception as to the parentage
      of Mr. Hall. As a matter of fact this missionary is descended
      from a very old family in the county of Hampshire, and was no
      more related to that ancient race than the General himself.

This Mr. Hall, in a speech afterwards made at Exeter Hall, told some
interesting things about General Gordon at this period of his life,
which for want of space, cannot be reproduced at length here. He
thoroughly identified himself with mission work, showing how much he
valued Christianity over all other religious systems. When he met Mr.
Hall he said, "I am very restless; I came here for rest and quiet, to
study the Word of God, and at the same time to discover different
sacred sites. I am not satisfied; I am restless; I want Christian work.
Do you think that if I were to come to Jaffa, you could give me any
work to do?" He went to live at Jaffa for eight months. While he was
there instructions came from the central society for a mission-house to
be built at Nablous. There was no architect nearer than at Jerusalem,
and his fee and expenses would have been very high. The missionaries
agreed to consult General Gordon about drawing up the plans for the
house, but were afraid of presuming too much on his kindness. When the
deputation from them arrived, he cut them short in their apology. "I
know what you want; you want a contribution," said he. When told that
they wanted something much more valuable, he was delighted, and seizing
a pencil and paper wrote down exactly all they needed in the way of
accommodation. He set to work, and before the day was over he had drawn
up admirable plans and calculations. The mission-house was built on
those plans, and his estimate proved to be almost exactly the cost of
the building. He said to Mr. Hall:--

    "You thought that I should be annoyed at being asked to draw out
    plans for a mission-house. If there is anything that I can do for
    the cause of missions I am delighted to do it. What did I come to
    Jaffa for? Did I not tell you at Haifa that if you could give me
    some work to do for the Lord, that would set my mind at rest? I was
    restless because I had been shutting myself up in Palestine, and
    had not been putting out my powers for service in the Lord's work."

There are among Christian people some who take a deep interest in the
spread of the Gospel at home, but do not exhibit the same interest in
the spread of Christianity abroad, and _vice versâ_. During Gordon's
stay at Gravesend he showed what a real interest he took in home
mission work, and in his letters he frequently used to say that he
should like to end his days working in the east end of London. The time
he spent among the missionaries in Palestine shows that he took an
equally deep interest in foreign missions, and before leaving that
country he wrote, in reference to a conference of missionaries that was
about to be held at Gaza, "I should like to go down there and meet the
brethren who assemble; it may be the last time that I can have any
intercourse with a number of missionaries."

On the 15th October 1883 General Gordon received a telegram from the
King of the Belgians, asking him to go to Central Africa to govern the
territory that had been acquired by the International Association. The
King had once before pressed him to join this movement, which had for
its object the opening up of Africa to trade and civilisation, and the
consequent abolition of slavery and cruelty. Mr. H. M. Stanley was at
the head of the movement, and Gordon offered to serve under him, and
had promised the Belgian king that when his services were required they
would be given. Stanley had resigned his post, and the time had come
for Gordon to redeem his promise. He at once telegraphed home for
leave, and the reply came back, "The Secretary of State has decided to
sanction your going to the Congo." A telegraph clerk had made a
mistake, and the correct message was, "The Secretary of State has
_declined_ to sanction your going to the Congo." As Gordon had,
however, already promised the King of the Belgians to go, there was no
alternative but for him to sever his connection with the British army.
With the full intention of placing his resignation in the hands of the
Secretary of State for War, as well as to interview King Leopold, he
left Palestine at the end of the year 1883. He was travelling on the
last night of the old year, and he tells us that he spent that night in
prayer in the railway carriage, of which he was the solitary occupant.
As the new year was ushered in, the lonely traveller between Genoa and
Brussels little thought that it was to be almost his last,[11] and that
soon he would be permitted to throw off the earthly tabernacle, and put
on the crown of glory. His active brain was busily employed at this
time in considering how best he could wage war with human cruelty. He
was to have started on January 26, 1885, for the Congo, but a telegram
reached him at his sister's house at Southampton, from Lord Wolseley,
requesting his presence in London, as an outcry was being made by
certain well-informed persons that the only man who was capable of
solving the Soudan difficulties was being permitted to leave the
British army, and to go into the service of a foreign power, to busy
himself in the wilds of Africa.

      [11] General Gordon is supposed to have been killed on 26th
      January 1885.



In order to understand aright the events that suddenly intervened and
prevented General Gordon from fulfilling his engagement to the King of
the Belgians, it will be necessary to go back to the year 1882, and
briefly survey what occurred after that time. It will be remembered
that Gordon left the Soudan at the end of 1879, when the young Khedive
Tewfik was reigning in place of his father Ismail, who had been
compelled to resign. Tewfik unfortunately was not fit to rule, and
Egypt above all things wanted a man who was not a mere puppet. His
father, with all his faults, had great force of character, and made
himself respected in the kingdom. The son was as weak as the father was
strong, with the result that his rule soon became nominal. When weak
men get into such positions, there is great temptation for stronger
ones to rise up and seize the reins of government. It is unnecessary to
sketch the history of Arabi Pasha, or to recount in detail the
circumstances that brought him to the front. Enough for our purpose to
mention that his name, little known before, was suddenly associated
with a great military revolt, and that the powers of Europe took alarm
lest the Suez Canal should be blocked. But for that Canal, events in
Egypt might have taken a very different turn, and that country might
now have had, what it sorely needs, a strong man at the head of
affairs. England, having far more ships passing through the Canal than
all the rest of the world together, intervened. Our fleet attacked
Alexandria, and our troops under Lord Wolseley broke up the Egyptian
army at Tel-el-Kebir. From that time we have virtually been the rulers
of the ancient kingdom of Egypt, the Khedive being little more than a
puppet in our hands. He has all the social position and dignity of a
Khedive, without the trouble or responsibility of having to govern.

Unfortunately, soon after General Gordon relinquished the
Governor-Generalship of the Soudan, the Khedive, in spite of Gordon's
protest, appointed to the post about as bad a man as he could possibly
have selected. This was no other than Raouf Pasha, whom Gordon had
twice turned out of different appointments for playing the tyrant. No
sooner was he appointed than there was a revival of all the horrors of
cruel government, which Gordon had done so much to abolish. The
following are his own words in explanation of the origin of the

    "The movement is not religious, but an outbreak of despair. Three
    times over I warned the late Khedive that it would be impossible to
    govern the Soudan on the old system, after my appointment to the
    Governor-Generalship. During the three years that I wielded full
    powers in the Soudan, I taught the natives that they had a right to
    exist. I waged war against the Turks and Circassians, who had
    harried the population. I had taught them something of the meaning
    of liberty and justice, and accustomed them to a higher ideal of
    government than that with which they had previously been
    acquainted. As soon as I had gone, the Turks and Circassians
    returned in full force; the old Bashi-Bazouk system was
    re-established; my old _employés_ were persecuted; and a population
    which had begun to appreciate something like decent government was
    flung back to suffer the vast excesses of Turkish rule. The
    inevitable result followed; and thus it may be said that the egg of
    the present rebellion was laid in the three years during which I
    was allowed to govern the Soudan on other than Turkish principles."

There was a belief among the Mohammedans that the year 1882 would be an
eventful one for them. It closed the twelfth century of Mohammedanism,
and the popular expectation was that a Mahdi, or another prophet, would
arise to reform Islam, and to abolish the tyranny of the rich and
powerful. Predictions of this kind frequently bring about their own
accomplishment. Before the time stated, a man named Mohammed Achmet had
arisen, declaring that he was the long-looked-for Mahdi, and crowds
were flocking to his standard.[12] With a powerful governor, such as
Gordon, the movement would have been quickly stamped out; indeed, so
few abuses existed under his rule, that there was then no demand for
such a reformer. But with Raouf Pasha the case was reversed; not only
were there many abuses to be reformed, but there was a corresponding
want of ability to subdue such a movement. The Mahdi's forces grew
apace, for there existed plenty of material in the way of recruits.
Passing over smaller engagements in which the Egyptian troops met the
forces of the Mahdi, we come to one crowning disaster on the 5th
November 1883, when an Egyptian army, numbering something like 12,000
men, under the command of Colonel Hicks, a retired Indian officer, was
massacred on the road between Khartoum and El Obeid. No blame can be
attached to the commander on this occasion. Mr. Frank Power, the
_Times_ correspondent at Khartoum, writes of him as follows: "I pity
Hicks; he is an able, good, and energetic man, but he has to do with
wretched Egyptians, who take a pleasure in being incompetent, thwarting
one, delaying and lying." The unfortunate men who composed his army had
been dragged from their homes in chains, and many of them had never
learnt to fire a shot, or to ride a horse. Mr. Power predicted, before
the army left Khartoum, that fifty good men would rout the whole lot.
The Mahdi not only had upwards of 69,000 men on his side, but a large
proportion of them were fine plucky fellows, worthy of a better foe.

      [12] One writer thus describes the Mahdi:--"Mohammed Achmet was a
      native of Dongola, the son of a shipwright, formerly well known
      there. From his early youth he was fond of meditation and
      studying the Koran, rather than of working like his brothers; and
      his tastes were encouraged. He became the disciple of a fakir, or
      dervish, near Khartoum. In 1870 he took up his residence on an
      island, where he gained reputation as a learned and devout man.
      For a time he used this reputation only for selfish and sensual
      ends. He took wives from among the Arabs, and thus made many
      alliances, which he afterwards turned to account. After some
      years he began to assume more ambitious claims, and declared
      himself to be the true Mahdi."

Mr. Power says: "The last that was seen of poor old Hicks was his
taking his revolver in one hand, and his sword in the other; calling on
his soldiers to fix bayonets, and his staff to follow him, he spurred
at the head of his troops into the dense mass of naked Arabs, and
perished with all his men." They had fought for three days and nights
without a drop of water, the whole day under a scorching sun on a sandy
plain. Gordon writing to a friend says: "What a defeat Hicks's was! It
is terrible to think of over 12,000 men killed; the Arabs just prodded
them to death, where they lay dying of thirst, four days without water!
It is appalling. What a hecatomb to death!"

                            *      *      *

That victory changed everything. Nothing succeeds like success; the
Mahdi became the hero of the hour in the Soudan, and his forces, it was
supposed, at one time numbered something like 300,000 men. Here then
were all the elements ready for a new Mohammedan crusade, and
considering how much trouble the first Mohammedan crusade had given in
Europe, it was not to be wondered at that there was fear and trembling
in Egypt, the first country on the line of march of this huge fanatical
army, flushed with victory, believing their leader to be none other
than the long-expected reformer of Islam and conqueror of the world. A
hurriedly-scraped-together force, consisting mainly of gendarmerie, was
at once dispatched under Baker Pasha, _viâ_ Suakim, to relieve
Khartoum, and attack the Mahdi. This force was so completely smashed up
by Osman Digna within a few miles of Suakim that it had little effect
upon the campaign, except to show that Egyptian troops were absolutely
unfit to meet the forces of the Mahdi. If the tide of conquest was to
be rolled back it must be done by British troops. But England might
well ask what claim was there resting on her that she should give
valuable lives to be sacrificed, to say nothing of incurring the cost
of a fresh campaign, simply because the corrupt Egyptian Government was
too weak to rule its own territory?

When once it became clear that Egyptian troops could not hold the
Soudan, our Government rightly decided that the province must be given
up. Unfortunately, there were scattered about in different parts of
that immense territory various Egyptian officials and bodies of troops.
It was calculated that including the women and children their number
must have been about 30,000. We had practically broken up the Egyptian
army, and virtually become the rulers of the country, so we as a nation
had a certain amount of responsibility in the matter. The problem was
how to withdraw that enormous number of human beings from the Soudan
into Egypt. What appeared to be needed far more than troops was a man
with a head on his shoulders, acquainted with the country, familiar
with the people and their habits of thought, and possessing force of
character to stand against the turbulent elements that had to be dealt
with. No sooner were the difficulties of the position recognised in
England than an outcry arose that Gordon ought to be sent to undertake
the herculean task. Mr. Gladstone, in the House of Commons, has given
credit to Sir Charles Wilson as the first to suggest sending Gordon, as
the only man competent to deal with all the difficulties of the
situation. Both Mr. Gladstone and Sir Charles Dilke asserted in public
that the English Cabinet advised the Egyptian Government that Gordon
was the best man to send, but that the Khedive's ministers did not
approve of this step. Sir Henry Gordon, in his biography states that
Sir Evelyn Baring, our representative in Egypt, does not even seem to
have consulted the Egyptian Government, but of his own accord declined
to accept Gordon. It is quite clear that Sir Evelyn Baring and General
Gordon were not the best of friends, for Gordon later on complains: "I
hear very little from Cairo. Baring only telegraphs officially." It
does not, however, much matter now who is to blame for the want of
wisdom in not recognising in time that Gordon was the man for the
occasion. That blunder, whosever fault it was, not only lost the Soudan
to Egypt, but caused the death of many of our brave soldiers, to say
nothing of Gordon himself. The Egyptian Government blundered on a
little longer, till it was too late, and then the request that Gordon
might be sent was telegraphed home.

Nubar Pasha, who was the first to invite Gordon to Egypt many years
before, was now the first to see that he ought to be sent for. This
astute minister had only just come into office, and within eight days
he got Sir Evelyn Baring to telegraph to England for Gordon. There can
be little question now that the fatal delay of a single month sealed
the fate of the Soudan. Hicks Pasha's force was annihilated in November
1883, but it was not till January 11, 1884, that General Gordon
received a telegram from his old friend and comrade, Lord Wolseley,
urging him to come to town at once for consultation, and though he did
not lose a single day he did not reach Cairo till January 24th. By that
time he ought to have been at Khartoum.

Before proceeding further, it may be well to say that so little was
General Gordon known at this time by his countrymen, that a country
gentleman, who was a magistrate and a deputy-lieutenant in
Pembrokeshire, a county in which Gordon had formerly been stationed,
remarked, on seeing the fact mentioned in the paper that "Chinese
Gordon" was going out. "I see the Government have just sent a Chinaman
to the Soudan. What can they mean by sending a native of that country
to such a place?" This story, which is mentioned by Sir William Butler,
is quite characteristic of the ignorance that prevailed about the
Khartoum hero, previous to his being selected as the one man who could
save Egypt from its troubles, and our Government from an awkward

In a letter to his brother, dated 17th January, Gordon says, "I saw
King Leopold to-day; he is furious." It must have been a great trial to
that kind-hearted monarch to have all his philanthropic plans thus
upset, and he made Gordon promise that he would, if spared, go to the
Congo when the Soudan was settled. So hard up for money was Gordon at
this time that he had to borrow from the king enough to pay for his
journey to London. Fortunately it occurred to Lord Wolseley to ask
Gordon, a few hours before he was to start by the evening mail, if he
had sufficient money. Gordon had none, and as the banks had closed his
lordship had some amusing adventures going about to raise £200, which
he did by borrowing small sums. As far as Gordon was concerned, his
lordship might have saved himself the trouble, as £100 of the amount
was generously bestowed by him on Mahomet, his old blind secretary at

The _Pall Mall Gazette_, which was the first journal to advocate
sending Gordon to the Soudan, and which first published his views on
that country, was represented at Charing Cross when the gallant General
was starting, and described the scene as a very unusual and interesting
one. Lord Wolseley carried the General's portmanteau; Lord Granville,
the Foreign Secretary, took his ticket; and the Duke of Cambridge held
open the door. Considering how little Gordon cared about grandees, it
is amusing to note that he was waited on in a way that many
tuft-hunters would envy.

Writing before he had actually started, he said: "I am averse to the
loss of a single life, and will endeavour to prevent any happening _if
I go_. I have a Bank, and on that I can draw; He is richer than the
Khedive, and knows more of the country than any one; I will trust Him
to help me out of money or any other difficulties." Again he writes,
when at sea, 21st January: "If people ask after me, tell them they can
greatly help me with their prayers, not for my earthly success, but
that my mission may be for God's glory, the welfare of the poor and
wretched, and, for me, what He wills, above all for a humble heart."
And to his friend Prebendary Barnes, he says: "You and I are equally
exposed to the attacks of the enemy--me not a bit more than you are."

                            *      *      *

On January 24th he reached Cairo, where a good deal of excitement
prevailed. Gordon apparently took it all very calmly. He had to remain
a couple of days, and during that time had a stormy interview with
Zebehr, who accused him of the murder of his son. Gordon's reply was
practically that had full justice been done, Zebehr too would have paid
the death penalty. Though he had such a short time at Cairo, he found
opportunity to interest himself in the affairs of a poor lad, the son
of a native pastor of the Church Missionary Society at Jaffa. The boy
had been in a telegraph office at Jaffa, but had been unjustly
dismissed. He went to Cairo for employment, and got into the telegraph
office. General Gordon had not forgotten him, and went to call on the
young fellow, who was of course in quite a subordinate position, and
must have been not a little astonished at the visit of a man upon whom,
at that time, the eyes of the whole civilised world were turned. "How
is your mother?" was the first question Gordon put, the woman having
been unwell when he was in Palestine. He then spoke to the head of the
department, with the result that the boy's position was improved
considerably. Writing from Khartoum, Gordon said: "I saw two pleasant
things at Cairo--Baring's and Wood's chicks;[13] and I heard one
pleasant thing--Mrs. Amos wanted me to see her lambs."

      [13] Sir Evelyn Baring, the British representative, and Sir
      Evelyn Wood, the commander-in-chief.

General Gordon had brought with him from England a very able staff
officer, Colonel Stewart, of the 11th Hussars, who knew Egypt well.
Having done all that was necessary in the way of interviewing officials
at Cairo, the two proceeded together on January 26th, reaching Korosko
on February 1st, at which point they took to their camels, and dashed
into the Nubian Desert. All sorts of alarming rumours reached England
as to Gordon's fate during this hazardous ride, but on February 13th he
reached Berber in safety, and we heard that he had reached Khartoum on
the 18th. Mr. Power, the _Times_ correspondent, writing from Khartoum
on January 24th, said: "I hear that Chinese Gordon is coming up. They
could not have a better man. He, though severe, was greatly loved
during the five years he spent up here." Again Mr. Power writes: "Just
got a telegram from Mr. Bell, the _Times_ agent for Egypt, to say,
'Gordon leaves Cairo to-night, and will be in Khartoum in eighteen
days.' The shortest time on record is twenty-four days; but Gordon
(sword and Bible) travels like a whirlwind. No Arab of the desert
could, when he was up here, vie with him in endurance on camel back;"
and yet again, on February 9th, "I don't believe the fellows in Lucknow
looked more anxiously for Colin Campbell than we look for Gordon." The
same pen described the scene he created on arrival, and the speech he
made. Thousands of the people crowded to kiss his hands and feet,
calling him the "Sultan of the Soudan."

    "His speech to the people was received with enthusiasm. He said, 'I
    come without soldiers, but with God on my side, to redress the
    evils of the Soudan. I will not fight with any weapons but justice.
    There shall be no more Bashi-Bazouks.' It is now believed that he
    will relieve the Bahr-Gazelle garrisons without firing a shot.
    Since they heard that he was coming the aspect of the people has so
    changed that there are no longer any fears of disturbance in the
    town. They say that he is giving them more than even the Mahdi
    could give. He is sending out proclamations in all directions. Such
    is the influence of one man, that there are no longer any fears for
    the garrison or people of Khartoum."

General Gordon immediately reduced the taxation of the people by one
half, and directed Colonel Stewart to examine into the case of each
person in prison. It was found that some prisoners had been awaiting
trial for months and some even for years, one poor woman having been
detained for fifteen years for a paltry offence committed when a child.
As many as possible were released, only the worst cases being detained.
One poor old Sheikh had to be carried into Gordon's presence, the
ex-governor of Khartoum having bastinadoed him so severely on the feet
that the flesh had all gone, and only the sinews and bones were
showing. Gordon was so indignant at this that he telegraphed to Cairo
to have £50 stopped out of the pay of Hussein Pasha Cheri, and handed
to his victim by way of compensation for such brutal treatment. He had
a collection made of kourbashes and other instruments of torture, and
had them all destroyed in a bonfire.

Writing on February 22nd, Gordon says:--

    "I have all my old servants back, and it is like old times again. I
    have not minced matters with the Pashas; it was useless to do so.
    We have thousands of petitions daily. I have ordered an Arabic
    text, 'God rules the hearts of all men,' to be put up over my
    throne, to which I can refer when people come to me in fear....
    There is, of course, a very mixed sort of feeling here about the
    evacuation of the Soudan; the civil employés do not desire it, for
    the half taxes will cause their pay to be diminished by half, and
    the _personnel_ reduced."

From Mr. Power's interesting correspondence we get pleasant little
peeps at the private life of the great hero:--

    "Gordon is a most lovable character--quiet, mild, gentle and
    strong; he is so humble too. The way he pats you on the shoulder
    when he says, 'Look here, dear fellow, now what would you advise?'
    would make you love him. When he goes out of doors there are always
    crowds of Arab men and women at the gate to kiss his feet, and
    twice to-day the furious women, wishing to lift his feet to kiss
    them, threw him over. He likes my going so much amongst the
    natives, for not to do so is a mortal sin in his eyes.... It is
    wonderful that one man could have such an influence on 200,000
    people. Numbers of women flock here every day to ask him to touch
    their children to cure them; they call him the 'Father and the
    Saviour of the Soudan.' He has found me badly up in Thomas à
    Kempis, which he reads every day, and has given me an 'Imitation of
    Christ.' He is indeed, I believe, the greatest and best man of this

    "I like Gordon more and more every day; he has a most lovable
    manner and disposition, and is so kind to me. He is glad if you
    show the smallest desire to help him in his great trouble. How one
    man could have dared to attempt his task, I wonder. One day of his
    work and bother would kill another man, yet he is so cheerful at
    breakfast, lunch, and dinner; but I know he suffers fearfully from
    low spirits. I hear him walking up and down his room all night (it
    is next to mine). It is only his great piety carries him through.
    He and I agree in a great many religious views."

Mr. Power being an Irishman and a Roman Catholic, while General Gordon
was a Scotchman and a member of the Church of England, such testimony
speaks volumes for the General as well as for the writer. There can be
little doubt that General Gordon had not known the brave young Irishman
long, before he had cast over him that fascinating spell which
invariably attracted and charmed young men. Cowper tells us that--

    "Truth embodied in a tale,
    Shall entrance find at lowliest doors."

Might not the poet have added that truth embodied in a life shall be
even more efficacious in obtaining an entrance? Power's life was cut
short before he had an opportunity of doing much in the world, but the
little that he was permitted to do shows us that he too was made of
that stuff which produces heroes; and as long as our country has such
men in reserve to fall back upon in times of emergency, there need be
no fear of her not being able to maintain her supremacy among nations.

How unwavering was Gordon's faith in the providence of God, even in the
midst of difficulties that would have appalled most men, is shown by
the following letter:--

    "_February 27, 1884._--I have sent Stewart off to scour the river
    White Nile, and another expedition to push back the rebels on the
    Blue Nile. With Stewart has also gone Power, the British Consul and
    _Times_ correspondent, so I am left alone in the vast palace of
    which you have a photograph, but not alone, for I feel great
    confidence in my Saviour's presence.

    "The peculiar pain, which comes from the excessive anxiety one
    cannot help being in for these people, comes back to me at times. I
    think that our Lord, sitting over Jerusalem, is ruling all things
    to the glory of His kingdom, and cannot wish things were different
    than they are, for, if I did so, then I wish _my will_ not _His_ to
    be done. The Soudan is a ruin, and, humanly speaking, there is no
    hope. Either I must believe He does all things in mercy and love,
    or else I disbelieve His existence; there is no half-way in the
    matter. What holes do I not put myself into! And for what? So mixed
    are my ideas. I believe ambition put me here in this ruin; however,
    I trust and stay myself on the fact that not one sparrow falls to
    the ground without our Lord's permission; also that enough for the
    day is the evil. 'God provideth by the way, strength sufficient for
    the day.'

    "_March 1, 1884._--We are all right at present, and I have hope,
    but certainly things are not in a good way; humanly speaking,
    Baker's defeat at Suakim has been a great disaster, and now it has
    its effects up here. 'It is nothing to our God to help with many or
    with few,' and I now take my worries more quietly than before, for
    all things are ruled by Him for His glory, and it is rebellion to
    murmur against His will. Excuse a long letter."[14]

      [14] This letter of 27th February and 1st March has been
      presented to the Trustees of the British Museum, and is now
      exhibited in the Manuscript Department.

It may be well at this point to consider the position of General Gordon
in his official relationship to the Egyptian and English Governments,
for it is impossible to understand subsequent events accurately,
without a proper apprehension of the exact state of affairs. When
Gordon was first sent out, his instructions were merely "to report to
Her Majesty's Government on the military situation in the Soudan, and
on the measures which it might be deemed advisable to take for the
security of the Egyptian garrisons still holding positions in that
country, and for the safety of the European population in Khartoum,
&c., &c." Added, however, to these instructions was an insignificant
clause to which no one at the time attached much importance, and which
ran as follows, "You will consider yourself authorised and instructed
to perform such other duties as the Egyptian Government may desire to
intrust to you, and as may be communicated to you by Sir E. Baring."
The Egyptian Government decided to make Gordon Governor-General of the
Soudan, and the Khedive gave into his hands all the absolute power that
he himself possessed; this appointment was sanctioned by the British
Government, and officially communicated to Gordon by Sir E. Baring. In
view of this appointment, most readers will concur in the opinion of
Mr. Egmont Hake, the editor of Gordon's Journals, that "it is as unfair
as it is illogical to talk about General Gordon having exceeded the
instructions conveyed to him by Her Majesty's Government." The real
truth is that it was impossible for Gordon to exceed his instructions.
He himself again and again contended that while it was open to the
Khedive to cancel the appointment, until that was done he was
absolutely master of the situation, to do as he thought best for the
good of the country.

It must not, however, be supposed that General Gordon availed himself
of a flaw in his instructions to carry out a policy of his own. On the
contrary, he clearly understood from the British Government that
evacuation was what was required, and that all the Egyptian employés
must be given a chance of leaving the Soudan if possible. From
beginning to end this was the one thing he held out as the object at
which he aimed. All the suggestions he put forward were made with this
end in view, and he never swerved from it. He was in reality more true
to the instructions he received than were those who issued them. No
sooner had he got into the country, and grasped the actual state of
affairs, than he saw that things were looking very serious. The
interval between Hicks's defeat and his own arrival had been too
prolonged. People who might have been loyal had lost heart and gone
over to the Mahdi. Added to this, Gordon had himself made public the
fact that the country was to be evacuated, so all who intended to
remain behind saw that their best policy was to throw in their lot with
the Mahdi. Gordon blamed himself sometimes for having made known the
intentions of the Government, but it is questionable if such an
important fact could have been long kept secret. At all events, when he
openly promulgated it as Governor-General, he thought, and many thought
with him, that he was taking the line most likely to lead to a peaceful

                            *      *      *

General Gordon did not take long to make up his mind, and soon after
his arrival in Khartoum he astonished the English people by two steps
he took. The first was the issue of a proclamation announcing that the
institution of slavery was not to be interfered with in any way; the
second was an application that his old enemy, Zebehr Rahama, the great
slave-dealer, should be sent up to govern the Soudan. At first sight
Gordon's action was amazing; but when it is more carefully examined in
the light of facts, it cannot be blamed. To take the proclamation
first, it must be apparent to any one that when it was decided that the
Soudan was to be given up, and that thenceforth neither Egypt nor
England should interfere in its internal affairs, it would have been
ridiculous to go on talking about the abolition of slavery. Gordon had
to face a fanatical body of Mohammedans who, rightly or wrongly, looked
upon slavery as a religious institution. The feeling of the country was
strongly in favour of slavery, and if the country was to be left to
itself slavery would continue to exist. Gordon did but make a virtue of
a necessity, and announce that henceforth outsiders would not interfere
in the matter. Thus he took the wind out of the sails of the Mahdi and
his party, who could not say that they were fighting on behalf of one
of their religious institutions.

The proposal to the English Government that Zebehr should be made ruler
of the Soudan, was, as Mr. Hake truly says, "one of those daring
strokes of policy which made his tactics unlike those of other men."
The telegram reached England on February 18, and must at first have
caused some of the Cabinet Ministers to think that Gordon had lost his
head. The last that they had heard on the subject of Gordon's
relationship with Zebehr, was the suggestion of the former that the
latter should be sent as a prisoner to Cyprus, to get him out of Egypt,
where he thought he might give trouble. No wonder, then, if the
ministers were astonished to hear that their representative had changed
his mind so completely as to propose that instead of being imprisoned
in Cyprus, his enemy should be sent to govern the Soudan!

Those who have followed Gordon's tactics closely will not wonder so
much at the proposal. Indeed it seems to have been a part of his creed
to utilise his enemies, and thus if possible to turn them into friends.
In China he frequently enlisted hundreds of prisoners of war, converted
them into staunchest allies, and led them to victory against their old
comrades. He now wanted to apply in the case of Zebehr the principles
he had found so effective elsewhere. So long as he did not see his way
to utilising this king of slave-hunters, he desired to have him kept
out of the way, but when his brilliant genius saw a way of turning his
old foe into a friend, he asked for his services. Unfortunately, Gordon
was not in the position of a Napoleon: he was hampered in the carrying
out of his brilliant designs by those at home, who had neither his
knowledge nor his capacity.

With regard to the proposed appointment of the great slave-hunter to be
King of the Soudan, opinions even now differ greatly. Lord Wolseley,
Sir Evelyn Baring, and most well-informed people are agreed that the
recommendation ought to have been acted upon, and that its adoption
would have been the means of saving many valuable lives, including
Gordon's, and of placing the Soudan under an authoritative government,
which it has not yet obtained. But the English Cabinet felt that public
opinion would be strongly opposed to such a step, and therefore they
would not sanction it.

When Gordon left Cairo for Khartoum he thought that the best plan for
the Soudan, when the Egyptian Government withdrew, would be to replace
it by the heirs of the petty Sultans, who had been deprived of their
power when the Soudan was annexed by Mehemet Ali. But when he saw the
real state of affairs, he felt that these disunited kinglets would not
be strong enough to resist the power of the Mahdi. As for the Mahdi, he
was too much of a religious fanatic to have the government of the
Soudan put into his hands. He was ambitious as well as fanatical; his
object was to overrun the whole world. Directly he ceased to be a
conqueror, his people would cease to believe in his Divine mission, and
he would lose his power. At that time he possessed great power, and
Gordon felt that there must be a still more powerful man set up. There
was only one such man alive, and he was a prisoner at Cairo. The
argument against Zebehr was that he had been an inveterate slave-hunter,
and that to put him into supreme power would be to give him unlimited
means of gratifying his vices. Against this it must be urged that under
the Mahdi's rule the kidnapping of slaves would be just as cruelly
carried on as under that of Zebehr. Also that with Zebehr, being a
prisoner, it would be possible to make certain stipulations on the
subject of slave-hunting. Moreover, it was Gordon's intention
eventually to annex, for the Congo State, the great slave-hunting
district, and to rule that himself, so that Zebehr could not interfere.
Apart from these arguments, Gordon did not believe that Zebehr loved
slave-hunting for its own sake, but rather for the wealth and position
it gave him. He believed that if Zebehr were made Sultan of the Soudan,
his ambitious nature would be satisfied, and he would cease to hunt
slaves, the _raison d'être_ for such an occupation being gone.

There can be no question that Zebehr was a most able man, a born ruler
and leader of men. He was an inveterate enemy of Gordon's, and at the
meeting which took place between Gordon and Zebehr at Cairo, when the
former was _en route_ to Khartoum, lookers-on considered that on no
account ought these two men ever to be in the Soudan together.

It was, however, one of Gordon's characteristics, and a great charm in
his nature, that he was not only forgiving, but that he never allowed
personal feeling to affect his judgment. He thought only of what was
good for the Soudan, and he was convinced that the only way to restore
law and order there was to place Zebehr in power. One of the faults of
our system of party government is that the Cabinet does not consider so
much what is right in the abstract, as what will most affect the public
mind. The national hatred of slavery is, in England, rightly very
strong; but circumstances alter cases. The Cabinet could not face
public opinion, although the public were at that time ill-informed, and
ignorant of many important elements in the case, and they consequently
refused to let Zebehr go.

Public opinion in England is generally in the right when the public
have been properly informed, and have had time to form an opinion. But
it is not to be expected that the first impressions, formed by a large
mass of people who have not been supplied with full information, are
very reliable. We ought therefore always to have a government in office
strong enough to resist, if need be, the first impression of public
opinion, but willing to yield when the public have thoroughly made up
their minds. The government in office at that time were not united
among themselves, and consequently were weak, and afraid to face the
public. As a result, Gordon's policy was not carried out, and he fell a
victim. The Soudan is still without a settled government, and the
problem how it should be governed is as far as ever from being solved.
As for slavery, that institution alone has gained by the weak policy of
those who were afraid to send up the old slave-hunter to govern the
unfortunate Soudan.



One of the most remarkable characteristics of General Gordon was the
marvellous fertility of his resources. Knowing that there would be a
great deal of prejudice against employing Zebehr, he almost
simultaneously suggested an alternative scheme, which was that, as the
Egyptians could not govern the Soudan, and the English would not,
rather than let it fall into a state of anarchy it should be offered to
the Turks. There was much to be said for this suggestion. Turkey had
once ruled Egypt, and still exercised a suzerainty over it and all its
belongings, and if Egypt was not strong enough to rule itself and its
annexations, it only seemed fair that the suzerain power should
intervene to prevent its being grasped by an upstart like the Mahdi.
Besides, the Sultan of Turkey is the head of the Mohammedan religion,
and had therefore a special interest in suppressing the claims of a
False Prophet.

That the scheme was no hastily-formed one, which he would see fit to
change later on for something else, may be gathered from the fact that
Gordon adhered to it to the very last. Nor was it a scheme suggested by
the immediate difficulties of his position, for in the month of
October, when Lord Wolseley was on the way to relieve him, he writes:--

    "Give the country to the Turks, when once you have come to
    Khartoum, with one or two millions sterling (which you will have to
    spend in three months' occupation up here if you delay), make
    arrangements at once with the Porte for its Soudan cession, let
    6000 Turks land at Suakim and march up to Berber, thence to
    Khartoum; you can then retire at once before the hot weather comes

    "I do not advocate the keeping of the Soudan by us, it is a useless
    possession, and we could not govern it, neither can Egypt (after
    the late events). I am only discussing how to get out of it in
    honour and in the cheapest way (we must remember we caused its
    troubles), and that way is, either by some sort of provincial
    government under Zubair, or by giving it to the Turks; it is simply
    a question of getting out of it with decency. The Turks are the
    best solution, though most expensive. _They would keep the Soudan_:
    give them £2,000,000. The next best is Zubair, with £500,000 and
    £100,000 a year for two years: he will keep the Soudan for a time
    (in both cases slave trade will flourish), thus you will be quiet
    in Egypt, and will be able to retreat in January 1885. If you do
    not do this, then be prepared for a deal of worry and danger, and
    your campaign will be entirely unprofitable and devoid of prestige,
    for the day after you leave Khartoum the Mahdi will walk in and say
    that he drove you out."

But the Government that had refused the assistance of Zebehr for fear
of public opinion at home, were equally decided not to allow the
assistance that might be obtained from the Turks, and this time, it
must be admitted, they had more reason on their side. There were
already too many complications connected with the government of Egypt
to make it prudent to admit another possible element of discord. Earl
Granville, the Foreign Secretary, therefore telegraphed as follows:--

    "Gordon should be at once informed by several messengers ... that
    we do not propose to supply him with Turkish or other force for the
    purpose of undertaking military expeditions, such being beyond the
    scope of the commission he holds, and at variance with the pacific
    policy which was the purpose of his mission to the Soudan; that, if
    with this knowledge, he continues at Khartoum, he should at once
    state to us the cause and intention with which he so continues."

This dispatch shows how little the powers in England actually
understood the questions at issue, or the practical working of their
own instructions. Gordon had been asked to undertake the withdrawal of
the Egyptian garrisons, and civil employés. Having accepted this duty,
he goes out, and finding the Mahdi's forces stronger than was supposed
in this country, he sends home word that the task is a far more
complicated one than the authorities in England knew of, and he
suggests other methods. His suggestions are not accepted, and he is
asked why he continues at Khartoum, as if he could have left his duty
unperformed with honour to himself, or credit to his country.

Gordon was anxious to evacuate the country as quickly as possible; in
this he was quite at one with his employers; but, on the spot, and
knowing all the difficulties of the situation, he saw what they in the
distance could not see, that the evacuation was a practical
impossibility. The most distant garrison held by Egyptians was at
Senaar, and if Gordon could have got to that place, a feat which it is
more than doubtful if even he could have performed, it is perfectly
certain that with the wretched troops he would have had to command he
could not have safely escorted the host of the Egyptian employés thence
to Khartoum, while the whole intermediate country was in the hands of
the fanatical hordes owning allegiance to the Mahdi.

The commencement of his march from Senaar to Khartoum would have been
the signal for a repetition of the horrors of the march of our
retreating army from Cabul to Jellalabad in 1842, the sole survivor of
which has been immortalised in Miss Elizabeth Thompson's (Lady Butler)
celebrated picture, the only difference being that the heat and sand of
the Soudan would have been substituted for the cold and snow of
Afghanistan. The Mahdi's forces would have at once occupied Senaar, and
spread reports to the effect that they had driven out the Egyptians,
while Gordon's party with very limited provisions would have been
exposed to incessant attacks during the whole of their journey. A
retreating army has always plenty of enemies; and it is doubtful if a
single survivor would have reached Khartoum.

On the other hand, if either of Gordon's suggestions had been accepted
and the country handed over to the Turks or to Zebehr, the towns at
both ends would have been held in force, and a suitable escort could
have been provided for the Egyptian employés. Gordon states his
position very fairly in the following brief telegram to Sir Evelyn

    "You ask me to state cause and intentions in staying at Khartoum,
    knowing Government means to abandon Soudan, and in answer I say, I
    stay at Khartoum because Arabs have shut us up, and will not let us
    out. I also add that if the road was opened the people would not
    let me go, unless I gave them some government or took them with me,
    which I could not do. No one would leave more willingly than I
    would if it was possible."

There were some in authority who advocated leaving such a distant
garrison as Senaar to its fate, and wanted Gordon to retreat with the
Khartoum force only, picking up the Berber force on the way home.
Against this Gordon's generous heart revolted, and he was determined
that so long as he was Governor-General it should never be said that he
left his subordinates to perish. He thus telegraphs to Sir Evelyn

    "Put yourself in my position, if you say 'rapid retreat, and leave
    Senaar to its fate.' I will say, 'No, I would sooner die first,'
    and will resign my commission, for I could not do it. If you say,
    'Then you are no longer Governor-General,' then I am all right, and
    all the responsibility is on you (for I could not be supposed, if
    you turn me out of being Governor-General, to be obliged to aid
    such a movement, which I think is disgraceful)."

Writing as late as October 24th, and assuming that Lord Wolseley had
conquered the country, he says:--

    "I declare I do not see how we will get out of it (the Soudan) even
    now; allow that you come to Khartoum, that you drive off the Arabs,
    open the road to Senaar. What are you going to do? You will say,
    'Take out those who wish to leave.' Well, you begin with Senaar,
    and of course will have to fight all the way down. It will take
    three months. During these three months, how are you to feed
    Khartoum? for the moment you leave Senaar you leave your granary.
    You get to Khartoum, you are face to face with 30,000 people who
    will not leave, and who are hedging with the Mahdi; and with 3000
    Shaggyeh all armed. You fight your way to Berber; another three
    months, you have no food at Berber; then it will need another two
    months to get to Dongola, which (seeing your policy) will be

    "It is indeed a terrible problem, and I wish I could see my way out
    of it. Then you come into the hot months, and low Nile. This time
    next year will not see you out of the Soudan with decency. Of
    course you can go back now, but what was the use of your coming? I
    will not allow that you came for me. You came for the garrisons of
    the Soudan. Now, by the Turkish arrangement, if you act promptly,
    you can get away quietly in January 1885."

Not only, however, did the British Government refuse to adopt either of
Gordon's alternative proposals, but they neglected until August 12th to
take any other measures for relieving the garrisons. Yet all the time
the gallant General felt that he had not a free hand, and could not
take independent action, for he writes in his journal:--

    "Truly the indecision of our Government has been, from a military
    point of view, a very great bore, for we never could act as if
    independent; there was always the chance of their taking action,
    which hampered us.... It is truly deplorable, the waste of men and
    money on account of our indecision."

The mistake our Government made was the old one of endeavouring to
control details in distant countries from Downing Street, instead of
sending out the best man to the spot, and giving him more or less of a
free hand.

At last, on April 16th, Gordon telegraphed to Sir Evelyn Baring at

    "As far as I can understand, the situation is this: You state your
    intention of not sending any relief up here or to Berber, and you
    refuse me Zebehr. I consider myself free to act according to
    circumstances. I shall hold on here as long as I can, and if I can
    suppress the rebellion I shall do so. If I cannot, I shall retire
    to the Equator, and leave you the indelible disgrace of abandoning
    the garrisons of Senaar, Kassala, and Dongola, with the certainty
    that you will eventually be forced to smash up the Mahdi under
    great difficulties, if you would retain peace in Egypt!"

But though Gordon saw that it was impossible to attempt an immediate
evacuation with something like 50,000 men, women, and children, he did
everything that lay within his power to get rid of as many refugees as
possible during the few weeks that he was in Khartoum before the means
of communication were cut off. The measures he took were described by
Colonel Duncan, M.P., at that time in command of a station on the Nile,
through which the refugees had to pass _en route_ to Egypt, in a
speech made some time afterwards, as follows:--

    "Last year, after the arrival of General Gordon at Khartoum, I was
    sent to the northern end of the Korosko desert to facilitate the
    passage of the refugees from Khartoum to Egypt. It was then that I
    realised the true nature of Gordon, who was not a mere sentimental
    philanthropist, but a man of business as well as a man of courage.
    At that time the telegraph wire between Khartoum and where I was
    stationed was still uncut; and with marvellous monotony, I might
    say, batch after batch of the sick and the injured, of women and
    children, used to be sent by Gordon to me. They used to arrive in
    an almost perfect state of comfort, with all the necessary papers
    enabling me to disperse them among their different villages in
    Egypt. One of the first messages the General sent to me was this,
    'Do try and find a motherly European woman to receive these poor
    women and children, for they have never been in Egypt yet before.'
    With the regularity of clockwork over 2000 refugees arrived, all
    the arrangements for their transport from Khartoum to Berber having
    been made by Gordon.... Two thousand five hundred men, women, and
    children were saved by the direct action and the direct humanity of
    Gordon himself, long before the expedition set out for Khartoum."

It is evident that the impression among the three Englishmen at
Khartoum was, that the English Government had deserted Gordon, and
intended to leave him there to die. Both Colonel Stewart and Mr. Power
nobly decided that they would not forsake him in his hour of need, and
that, happen what might, they would remain with him.

Though plenty of skirmishes took place, there was no real fight that
might be dignified by the name of a battle till the middle of March.
Some 4000 of the Mahdi's force had cut off about 800 of Gordon's men at
a village called Halfaya, on the north of Khartoum, and, as the
detachment could not retreat, Gordon decided to attempt to relieve
them. By means of steamers he succeeded in extricating them from
danger, but he could not drive away the rebels who held Halfaya in
strong force.

On the 16th, therefore, he sent Colonel Stewart to attempt to dislodge
the enemy, and the following is his own description of what actually

    "At 8 A.M. on the 16th, two steamers started for Halfaya.
    Bashi-Bazouks and some regulars advanced across plain towards
    rebels. At 10 A.M. the regulars were in square opposite centre
    of rebels' position, and Bashi-Bazouks were extended in their line
    to their right. The gun with regulars then opened fire. Very soon
    after this a body of about sixty rebel horsemen charged down a
    little to the right of centre of Bashi-Bazouks line. The latter
    fired a volley, then turned and fled. The horsemen galloped towards
    the square, which they immediately broke. The whole force then
    retreated slowly towards the fort with their rifles shouldered. The
    horsemen continued to ride along flanks, cutting off stragglers.
    The men made no effort to stand, and the gun was abandoned with
    sixty-three rounds and fifteen cases of reserve ammunition. The
    rebels advanced, and retreat of our men was so rapid that the Arabs
    on foot had no chance of attacking. Pursuit ceased about a mile
    from stockade and the men rallied. We brought in the wounded.
    Nothing could be more dismal than seeing these horsemen, and some
    men even on camels, pursuing close to troops who, with arms
    shouldered, plodded their way back."

The result of this, the first real battle, showed Gordon the
hopelessness of his position. Colonel Stewart was wounded, though not
very seriously, and Gordon saw that not only were his men cowards, but
they were treacherous as well. At one time the rebels were actually
retreating when two of Gordon's generals, Hassan and Seyid, by name,
actually rode after them and summoned them back. Need it be added that
an army, seeing itself thus betrayed by its own leaders, lost all heart
and bolted, leaving two valuable guns in the hands of their opponents.
It is satisfactory, however, to be able to record that both these
traitors were tried by court-martial and shot.

General Gordon made every effort to avoid further bloodshed by opening
negotiations with the Mahdi, and even going so far as to offer to make
him Sultan of Kordofan. The False Prophet briefly replied, "I am the
Mahdi," which was a polite way of saying that it would be beneath his
dignity to accept such a subordinate post. He, however, sent Gordon a
courteous letter, urging him to become a Mohammedan. As Gordon declined
this offer all negotiations between the two were closed.

                            *      *      *

Towards the end of April Gordon wrote that the Nile was beginning to
rise. It continues to rise during May, June, and July, and is so high
during the last-mentioned month that boats can pass the numerous
cataracts with comparative safety. This is the season of which an
expedition should have taken advantage for the Nile campaign.
Unfortunately the greatest empire of the world was at this time ruled
by a disunited Cabinet, and party conflicts were going on at home.
There may be much to be said in favour of party government, but there
can be no question that to it is due the disgrace of England in the
eyes of the whole civilised world, for having sent one of her bravest
heroes into the heart of a hostile country in Africa, and then left him
to perish. The blame in the matter is often cast solely upon the
Liberals. Those who are not political partisans must see that this is
not a fair way of stating the truth. The government in office was a
Liberal one, but it cannot be said that it is a part of their programme
to leave English heroes to perish. Lord Palmerston, the old Whig
leader, would have been the first to denounce such a policy. The fact
is, the fault was not due to either party as such, but to the party
form of government that unfortunately prevails in this country. The
opposite party might have fallen into the same mistake, had they been
in the same position. The Government was afraid to split up its
supporters by engaging in another war so soon after the Egyptian and
Suakim campaigns. But, be the cause what it may, the fact remains that
much valuable time was lost, in spite of Lord Wolseley's remonstrances,
who said with truth--

    "Remember, we can command many things, but all the gold of England
    will not affect the rise and fall of the Nile, or the duration of
    the hot and cold seasons in Egypt. Time is a most important element
    in this question, and it will be indeed an indelible disgrace if we
    allow the most generous, patriotic, and gallant of our public
    servants to die of want, or fall into the hands of a cruel enemy,
    because we would not hold out our hands to save him."

Public opinion at last grew too strong for the Government, and orders
were given on August 12th to commence making the boats that were to
convey the troops up the river Nile. The official report of the
campaign states that there were only 104 vessels on the Nile that were
able to pass the cataracts on the upper part of the river, so that
boats of some sort had to be taken out. From August 12th till the final
disaster took place no reasonable time was lost, but it takes time to
transport a large army over such obstacles as had to be surmounted. It
has been truly said that the campaign of the Nile was far more a
conflict with Nature than with man. We might, however, have overcome
Nature had we only taken the field earlier in the day.

                            *      *      *

When Gordon realised how thoroughly the enemy had invested Khartoum,
and that all supplies from outside were cut off, he wisely decided to
reduce the number of persons inside the beleaguered city. There were,
it was estimated, something like 10,000 who were in sympathy with the
enemy, and who not only ate food, which was most valuable, but were a
source of weakness to the defenders. Consequently the General gave them
permission to go over to the enemy, which they did with alacrity. He
was after all only acting on the sensible advice he gave the leader of
the Taipings in China, who was retaining a large force of white men
against their wills in the city of Soo-chow, of whom Gordon's rival,
Burgevine, was one (see page 60). The Khartoum general gained
considerably more than the enemy by this bold yet humane stroke of
policy, as he got rid of 10,000 traitors, who would have very soon
demoralised his whole force.

The greater the difficulties became the nobler Gordon's character
appears. No sooner was he absolutely cut off from the outer world than
he fell back on his boundless fertility of resources, and showed
himself to be at the same time a skilful general, a brave soldier, a
far-seeing statesman, and a clever financier. The defences of the town
were attended to, and the whole place so well covered with obstacles
and mines, that it might have been defended for years, had the food
supply only held out. Cartridges were manufactured on an enormous
scale; the General calculated that over half a million were fired away
during four months of the siege. Eight steamers, which were nothing
more than ordinary vessels, similar to the "Penny Steamers" on the
Thames, were armour-plated, and made to act as miniature men-of-war,
new ones were built, old ones were fitted up and adapted, and landsmen
were trained to take them into action. "Our steamers," Gordon said,
"are blinded and bullet proof, and do splendid work, for you see they
cannot run away, and must go into action." The food supply, such as it
was, was regulated so that nothing should be wasted, and paper money
was issued, redeemable in six months. So great was the faith of the
inhabitants in Gordon's ultimate success that £2500 worth of this paper
money was in circulation by the end of April, and £26,000 worth was
issued before the end of July. In addition, the merchants advanced to
him upwards of £50,000.

For six long weary months General Gordon held out at Khartoum. Till the
9th of September he had at all events the companionship of his two
brave countrymen, Colonel Stewart and Mr. Power. But for the remaining
months of the siege he was deprived of even this comfort, and had to
stand at the post of duty single-handed, as far as his own countrymen
were concerned. On the 26th August the authorities at Cairo received a
telegram from Gordon to the effect that now that the Nile had risen,
and the way from Khartoum to Dongola was opened for a steamer, he
intended to attack Berber and capture it, and thence to despatch
Colonel Stewart and Mr. Power to Dongola. His object was to publish to
the outside world the real facts of the terrible position at Khartoum,
and to enable Colonel Stewart to urge on the authorities the necessity
of at once despatching troops to the rescue; for he had not received
any notification that a few days before this time--namely, on August
12th--the Government had decided to send an expedition for his relief.
Colonel Stewart brought Gordon's Diary of Events up to the date of his
starting, and was accompanied by Mr. Power, M. Herbin, the French
Consul, and about fifty soldiers. They went in the _Abbas_, a small
paddle-boat drawing only two feet of water. The following remark is
made in Gordon's Journals in reference to the departure of Colonel
Stewart in this vessel:--

    "Stewart said he would go if I would exonerate him from deserting
    me. I said, 'You do not desert me. I--I cannot go, but if you go
    you do me a great service.' I then wrote him an _official_. He
    wanted me to write him an order. I said, 'No, for though I fear not
    responsibility, I will not put you in any danger which I am not in
    myself.' I wrote then a letter couched thus: '_Abbas_ is going
    down. You say you are willing to go in her if I think you can do so
    with honour. You can go in honour, for you can do nothing here, and
    if you go you do me service in telegraphing my views.'"

The _Abbas_ started together with two other steamers on the night of
September 9th, and having shelled Berber proceeded on her way to
Dongola, the two other vessels returning. On the 18th the _Abbas_
struck on a rock. When Colonel Stewart saw that further progress was
hopeless, he spiked the guns and threw them, with the ammunition, into
the river. He then went on shore to arrange for the purchase of some
camels to take his party on to Dongola. He was accompanied to the house
of a blind man, named Fakri Etman, by Power and the French Consul. The
Sheikh Suleiman Wad Gamr was present and invited them on shore, only
insisting that the soldiers must not come armed for fear of frightening
the people. To this Colonel Stewart agreed, and was the only one who
was armed, he carrying a small revolver. Suleiman accepted from Colonel
Stewart a sword and a dress as gifts. When Stewart and his party were
in the house, Suleiman came outside and made some signs to his people,
who were hanging about in large numbers. Immediately they divided into
two parties, one proceeding to the house, the other to the steamer's
crew landed on the bank, and the whole were massacred. News has
recently reached Cairo to the effect that the perpetrator of this
cold-blooded and treacherous murder has at last paid the penalty of his
crime, being slain in a conflict with Saleh Bey. All the official
documents that Gordon had sent for the British authorities fell into
the hands of the Mahdi, giving him the most exact information as to the
supply of ammunition and food within the walls of Khartoum. These
documents were at once sent to the Mahdi, and it is generally supposed
that at this present moment they are lying in the Fort at Omdurman,
outside Khartoum.

The loss of the _Abbas_ was a cause of great grief to General Gordon,
and again and again he refers to it. Writing on November 5th he says:--

    "I cannot get out of my head the _Abbas_ catastrophe; that the
    _Abbas_ (with her 970 bullet marks on her, her gun, and her
    parapets, which were bullet proof) could be captured by force seems
    impossible; that she ran upon a rock seems unlikely, for she had
    her sides defended by buffers, sunk one foot in water. I also
    warned them against ever anchoring by the bank, also to take wood
    from isolated spots; in fact as far as human foresight goes, I did
    all my possible.... You will notice the number of Greeks (on
    board). They were a bodyguard I ordered and paid highly, to prevent
    any treachery on the part of the crew. Thus the question of
    treachery was duly weighed by me, and guarded against, as far as I
    could--both on the part of the crew, and on the part of the
    inhabitants--and I told them to anchor mid-stream, and not to take
    wood except in isolated spots."

One can only echo the words of Mr. Egmont Hake: "It is impossible to
read this without a feeling of admiration for the thorough way in which
General Gordon examined into the minutest details of everything
himself. Every precaution human foresight could conceive he took to
ensure the safety of the _Abbas_ and her crew; having done this, her
fate was in higher hands than his."



Fortunately for the public, as soon as Colonel Stewart left, Gordon
commenced, in addition to all his other duties, writing journals of
events at Khartoum, in which doubtless he recapitulated much of what
had been given in the Diary of Events he had sent with Stewart. On
September 21st, the General received authentic news that an expedition
was actually on its way to Khartoum. On September 30th he sent five
steamers to Metemmah to meet the advancing army, so that there should
be no delay on his part in rendering help. By the steamers he sent his
Journals made up to date, and it is from these that authentic
information is obtained. The despatch of these steamers to Metemmah was
a most unselfish act on his part; indeed, it is by no means certain
that their presence at Khartoum might not have prevented the crowning
disaster later on. He calculated that each steamer was worth to him at
least 2000 men, so that he practically reduced his force by something
like 10,000 men in order to assist the Relief Expedition. Since the
Nile had risen these vessels had considerably increased in utility, and
they had been most valuable in the defence of Khartoum. Each was well
provisioned, so that they would not have required to draw on the
slender resources of the garrison.

On November 5th Gordon says:--

    "A curious thing has happened; my friend Kitchener sent up the
    post; he wrapped the letters in some old newspapers (he gave me no
    news in his letter), the old newspapers were thrown out into the
    garden: there a clerk who knew some English found them blowing
    about, and gave them to the apothecary of the hospital, who knows
    English. The doctor found him reading them, saw date 15th
    September, and secured them for me; they are like gold, as you may
    imagine, since we have had no news since 24th February 1884! These
    papers gave us far more information than any of your letters. Did
    K. send them by accident or on purpose?"

In the newspaper appeared the following statement in the form of a
heading: "Lord Wolseley seen off at Victoria Station for the Gordon
Relief Expedition." To this Gordon appended, "_No! for the relief of
the Soudan garrisons_;" and he extracted another statement to the
following effect, "An official telegram received here from Wady Halfa
states that, owing to the unprecedented lowness of the Nile, no
confidence is felt in the practicability of hauling boats over the
cataracts till the end of September." General Gordon pasted this into
the Journal, and wrote opposite to it, "It was not a low Nile, it was
an average Nile, only you were _too late_"--a verdict which events
only too completely justified. It will be of interest to give here a
few brief extracts selected from Gordon's remarks regarding the Relief

    "If it is right to send up an expedition now, why was it not right
    to send it up before?"

    "We are a wonderful people; it was never our Government which made
    us a great nation; our Government has been ever the drag on our

    "I am afraid to say what numbers have been killed through this
    present policy, certainly some 80,000; and it is not over yet."

    "I altogether decline the imputation that the projected expedition
    has come to relieve me. It has come to save our national honour in
    extricating the garrisons, &c., from a position in which our action
    in Egypt had placed these garrisons. I was relief expedition No. I.
    They are relief expedition No. II. As for myself I could make good
    my retreat at any moment if I wished. Now realise what would happen
    if this first relief expedition was to bolt and the steamers fall
    into the hands of the Mahdi; this _second_ relief expedition (for
    the honour of England engaged in extricating garrisons) would be
    somewhat hampered. We, the _first_ and _second_, are equally
    engaged for the honour of England. This is fair logic. Earle[15]
    comes up to extricate garrisons and (I hope) succeeds. Earle does
    not come to extricate me.... I am not the _rescued lamb_, and I
    will not be."

      [15] Gordon thought that General Earle was to be in command of
      the whole force. As a matter of fact he was in command of the
      brigade that was going by water the whole way to Khartoum. He was
      killed on the way.

In spite of his great anxiety, and the worries through which he was
called to pass, Gordon never seemed to lose his sense of humour. There
are many amusing entries in his Journals, of which the following may be
taken as fair specimens:--

    "A horse escaped from the Arabs, formerly belonging to Government.
    It gave _no_ information; but from its action, may be supposed _not
    to believe in the Mahdi_."

    "It is really amusing to find (when one can scarcely call one's
    life one's own) one's servant, _already_ with one wife (which most
    men find is enough), coming and asking for three days' leave, in
    order to take another wife. Yet such was the case, a few days ago,
    with one of my servants."

His comments on the Mahdi are also amusing:--

    "The Greek (refugee) who came in told the Greek Consul that the
    Mahdi puts pepper under his nails, and when he receives visitors
    then he touches his eyes and weeps copiously; that he eats a few
    grains of dhoora openly, but in the interior of the house he has
    fine feeding and drinks alcoholic drinks.... After this pepper
    business! I think I shall drop any more trouble in writing him
    letters, trying to convince or persuade him to reasonable measures.
    I must confess that the pepper business has sickened me; I had
    hitherto hoped I had to do with a regular fanatic, who believed in
    his mission, but when one comes to pepper in the finger nails, it
    is rather humiliating to have to succumb to him, and somehow I have
    the belief that I shall not have to do so....

    "One cannot help being amused at this pepper business. Those who
    come in for pardon, come in on their knees, with a halter round
    their neck. The Mahdi rises, having scratched his eyes and obtained
    a copious flow of tears, and takes off the halter. As the
    production of tears is generally considered the proof of sincerity,
    I would recommend the Mahdi's receipt to Cabinet Ministers,
    justifying some job."

It is not necessary to enumerate the number of encounters that took
place between Gordon's men and the Mahdists; he took little personal
part in these engagements. The fiery spirit of the young soldier, who
led his own troops in China, had not expended itself, but was kept in
subjection by a higher spirit. He knew that much was staked on his
life, and that the risk was too great. There was no one to succeed him;
his death meant defeat to his cause, and ruin to the country for which
he had done so much. Speaking generally, therefore, he did not expose
himself more than he could help. But though he avoided rashness in any
form, he was a good deal exposed to danger, and the palace in which he
lived was an object on which the enemy expended much of their

The Mahdi had kept himself as far from Gordon's reach as possible, by
remaining at Obeid, while his troops conducted the investment of
Khartoum. But when the new year of the Mohammedan Calendar commenced,
on October 21st, and the Mahdi had heard, through the capture of
Colonel Stewart's papers, of the difficulties that Gordon was in, he
appears to have mustered his courage and to have brought up 30,000 men
to intimidate Gordon. When called upon to surrender the following was
the reply that Gordon returned: "If you are the real Mahdi, dry up the
Nile and come over, and I will surrender." It is said that the Mahdi
took him literally, and lost 3000 men in an attempt to walk across the
Nile! Be that as it may, the Mahdi ordered an attack, which was
conducted with some vigour. It was resisted successfully by Gordon,
aided by his twelve steamers and 800 men, but the fighting must have
been severe, for it lasted for eight hours. The bursting of mines and
torpedoes carried more havoc into the ranks of the enemy than Gordon's
men did. Material things of this kind at least responded to the will of
him who organised them, and did not prove cowardly or treacherous.

The Mahdi then retreated to a more respectful distance, and, it is
said, hid himself in a cave, prophesying that there should be sixty
days of rest, and that then blood would flow like water. The real truth
of the matter is that the Mahdi's military advisers saw that there was
little use in attempting to capture Khartoum by direct assault. Having
full information from Stewart's papers that the food supply could not
last long, they prudently decided to starve out the garrison.

                            *      *      *

English officers have before now gone through trying sieges, as, for
instance, Lawrence and Havelock at Lucknow, and Sale at Jellalabad, but
it would be difficult in the whole of the military history of England
to find a case in which an officer was left single-handed to contend
with such frightful odds for so long a time. The siege lasted 317 days,
very nearly as long as the siege of Sebastopol. English officers have
usually had a few of their own countrymen, on whom they could rely and
with whom they could take counsel, to share their hardships. But Gordon
stood alone, and the troops he had were not only foreigners, but, with
a few exceptions, they were cowards, and he knew that very few of them
were really loyal to him. Nothing but his extraordinary personality
kept the force together. His opinion of these miserable troops is
frequently expressed in his Journals. The following passages are

    "_October 31st._--I have ever felt the greatest insecurity
    respecting the lines, for I believe 100 determined men would carry
    them with ease, if they made their attack on the Shaggyeh or
    Bashi-Bazouk part.... The Cairo Turkish Bashi-Bazouks, the
    Shaggyeh, and the Fellaheen soldiers, I will back against any
    troops in the world for cowardice."

    "_November 17th._--I certainly lay claim to having commanded, more
    often than any other man, cowardly troops, but this experience of
    1884 beats all past experiences; the worst of the matter is that
    you cannot believe one word the officers say."

On November 2nd he writes: "Six weeks' consumption! and then the sponge
must be thrown up." Fortunately, he discovered on November 11th that a
robbery by some corrupt Egyptian officials had been going on, and that
2-1/2 million lbs. of biscuit--worth £9000 at any time, but at least
£26,000 during the siege--had been stolen. The recovery of this helped
him to hold out a little longer. On December 13th he writes:--

    "We have in hand 1,796,000 rounds Remington ammunition; 540 rounds
    Krupp; 6000 rounds mountain gun ammunition; £140 in specie; £18,000
    in paper in treasury! £60,000 in town in paper; 110,000 okes of
    biscuits; 700 ard ebs of dhoora....

    "We are going to send down the _Bordeen_ the day after to-morrow,
    and with her I shall send this Journal. _If some effort is not made
    before ten days' time the town will fall._"

The following day, December 14th, was the last as far as his ability to
communicate with the outer world was concerned. Though he held on for
nearly six weeks longer, nothing is known accurately after the
_Bordeen_ left Khartoum. Writing to the commander of the approaching
Expeditionary Force, he says:--

    "I send down the steamer _Bordeen_ to-morrow, with vol. vi. of my
    private journal, containing account of the events in Khartoum from
    November 5 to December 14. The state of affairs is such that one
    cannot foresee further than five to seven days, after which the
    town may at any time fall. I have done all in my power to hold out,
    but I own I consider the position is extremely critical, almost
    desperate; and I say this without any feeling of bitterness with
    respect to Her Majesty's Government, but merely as a matter of
    fact. Should the town fall, it will be questionable whether it will
    be worth the while of Her Majesty's Government to continue its
    expedition; for it is certain that the fall of Khartoum will ensure
    that of Kassala and Senaar."

Another letter of the same date was received by Sir Gerald Graham in
Cairo, saying: "Farewell. You will never hear from me again. I fear
there will be treachery in the garrison, and all will be over by
Christmas." The following message, addressed to a friend in Cairo, and
also dated December 14, was received only on February 24: "All is up. I
expect a catastrophe in ten days' time. It would not have been so if
our people had kept me better informed as to their intentions. My
adieux to all." He also wrote to his sister:--

    "This may be the last letter you will receive from me, for we are
    on our last legs, owing to the delay of the expedition. However,
    God rules all, and, as He will rule to His glory and our welfare,
    His will be done. I fear, owing to circumstances, that my affairs
    pecuniarily are not over-bright....--Your affectionate brother,

    "C. G. GORDON.

    "_P.S._--I am quite happy, thank God, and like Lawrence, I have
    '_tried_ to do my duty.'"

It has already been mentioned that August 12th was the day when the
English Government yielded to the pressure of public opinion and gave
orders to commence the building of the boats which were to convey the
troops to relieve Khartoum. It is unnecessary to follow in detail the
history of that force. Suffice it to say that the commander, Lord
Wolseley, received at Korti a message from General Gordon, dated 14th
December 1884, "Come quickly, come together; do not leave Berber behind
you." But the verbal message which the messenger delivered was far
worse, "Famine was in Khartoum; the Arabs knew it: there was not a
moment to be lost."

At once, Sir Herbert Stewart, with a small force, was sent to dash
through the desert from Korti to Metemmah. He, Colonel Burnaby, and
several other brave men, fell on that famous march, for the enemy at
two points warmly disputed their passage. The loss in these conflicts,
at Abu Klea on the 17th, and at Metemmah on the 19th, was appalling for
the Arabs, but such victories often repeated would soon have done for
the conquerors. The entire force reached Gubat on the Nile on January
20th, and there they found the four steamers which Gordon had sent
down. Originally there were five steamers, but one had been sunk. The
six journals were handed over to Sir Charles Wilson, who, by right of
seniority, had taken command on the death of Sir Herbert Stewart. A
note was also given to Sir Charles, which had been brought by a
messenger from Khartoum, to the following effect: "Khartoum all right,
could hold out for years.--C. G. Gordon, 29th December 1884."

It was at first generally believed that this document was but one of
many sent out in order to deceive the enemy, but it is now thought that
his real object was not to deceive the enemy, who knew only too well
the actual state of affairs, so much as to get them to let his
messengers pass, if caught by them, and that then the messengers could
deliver a _vivá voce_ message, and tell the appalling truth.

Sir Charles Wilson, with two officers and a small detachment of
Englishmen belonging to the Sussex regiment (late 35th), started on the
morning of the 24th for Khartoum in two of Gordon's steamers. The delay
that occurred between the arrival of the English force at Gubat, and
the start up the river for Khartoum, has been freely criticised by the
press. The journey from Gubat to Khartoum being entirely by water, Lord
Charles Beresford, a well-known naval officer, had been attached to
Stewart's force, with orders "at once to take over and man any steamer
or steamers that were either there or in the vicinity," and to "use
every means in his power to get one or more of the steamers into an
efficient state." Unfortunately, the British force that reached the
Nile was in a very different condition from that which left Korti in
such high spirits. Rapid marching and hard fighting had demanded a
heavy penalty, and the death-roll and sick-list were very high; among
others, Lord Charles Beresford himself was on the latter.

The whole force under Sir Charles Wilson did not equal a battalion of
infantry on its war strength, and it included a large percentage of
sick and wounded to be looked after. In addition to this, reports came
into camp that large bodies of Arabs were advancing from the north as
well as from the south, with the object of annihilating the force. The
commander, therefore, had an anxious time of it, and was compelled to
undertake a reconnaissance to ascertain the truth of the rumours, and
to make all sorts of preparations for defending his little camp with
its sick and wounded against any sudden onslaught. He was unconscious
of the fact that time was so pressing, and that instead of his camp
being attacked, it would be Khartoum, where Gordon had for so long held
out against overwhelming odds. Thus the valuable hours of the 21st,
22nd, and 23rd glided away, all too rapidly.

Even when Wilson's force was ready to start, Lord Charles Beresford was
not able to accompany it, and Sir Charles had to go without him. The
distance to Khartoum was about 100 miles, but it was not until January
28th that the steamers got clear of the Sixth Cataract, which was about
half-way between Gubat and Khartoum. For about a dozen miles large
boulders and rocks caused delay and danger. No sooner had the steamers
got clear of these obstacles than all eyes were strained to catch sight
of the Egyptian flag floating over Khartoum. The steamers made rapid
progress in the open water, and as the distance was reduced, the square
roof of the palace where Gordon had resided came into view. But there
was no Egyptian flag flying from it, and the reception accorded to the
relieving force, although a warm one, was not such as Gordon would have
given. His eyes had often been strained looking to the quarter whence
he thought his grateful countrymen would surely send aid, but he had
looked in vain. Now, when the tardy help was at hand, it received no
welcome from him, for just two days before, on January 26th, he had
yielded up his heroic spirit. From every side the Mahdists poured shot
and shell upon Sir Charles Wilson and his little band; and it was
matter for grateful surprise that they escaped the fate of him whom,
too late, they had come to rescue. They approached within eight hundred
yards of the city, and then, convinced that it had fallen, retreated to
a safer position, from which they could institute inquiries as to the
fate of the gallant hero, hoping, yet hardly daring to hope, that his
life might have been spared.

It is not necessary to follow further in detail the history of Sir
Charles Wilson's party, the narrow escape they had from being
treacherously run on to a rock, and the way in which they were
gallantly rescued by Lord Charles Beresford, who by February 1st was
sufficiently recovered to enable him to take command of another of
Gordon's steamers, and relieve the would-be relievers. There followed
at least six days of suspense, as the accounts brought in by natives
were very conflicting, but by the 11th of February it was known in
England that a consensus of evidence pointed to the fact that the noble
hero of Khartoum had been killed at his post.

                            *      *      *

Probably it will never be accurately known either how Khartoum fell
into the hands of the Mahdi, or how the gallant defender actually met
his fate. There have been many wild rumours regarding both events, but
it is probable that the most authentic account is that obtained by
Colonel Kitchener, who of all men was most likely to be well informed,
for not only was his experience of the Arabs great, but he had personal
opportunities of examining witnesses. He thinks that the ordinary food
supply at Khartoum was quite exhausted by the 1st January 1885, and
that on the 6th the General issued a proclamation, offering to any of
the inhabitants who liked free permission to leave the town and go to
the Mahdi. Great numbers availed themselves of this permission, and
Gordon wrote letters to the Mahdi, requesting him to protect and feed
these poor Moslem people, as he had for the last nine months. In this
way the population of the city was reduced to about 14,000 out of the
34,000 inhabitants who were there in September. About the 18th of
January, a sortie was made which resulted in desperate fighting, and a
large number of the Mahdi's troops and about 200 of Gordon's men were
killed. Colonel Kitchener says:--

    "The state of the garrison was then desperate for want of food; all
    the donkeys, dogs, cats, rats, &c., had been eaten; a small ration
    of grain was issued daily to the troops, and a sort of bread was
    made from pounded palm-tree fibre.

    "On the 23rd General Gordon had a stormy interview with Farag Pasha
    [the commander of his black troops]. An eye-witness states that it
    was owing to Gordon having passed a fort on the White Nile which
    was under Farag Pasha's charge, and found to be inadequately
    protected. Gordon is said to have struck Farag Pasha on this
    occasion. It seems probable to me that at this interview Farag
    Pasha proposed to Gordon to surrender the town, and stated the
    terms the Mahdi had offered, declaring in his opinion that they
    should be accepted. Farag Pasha left the palace in a great rage,
    refusing the repeated attempts of other officers to effect a
    reconciliation between him and Gordon. On the following day (24th)
    General Gordon held a council of the notables at the palace. The
    question of the surrender of the town was then discussed, and
    General Gordon declared, whatever the council decided, he would
    never surrender the town. I think it very probable that on this
    occasion General Gordon brought Farag Pasha's action and proposals
    before the council, and it appears that some in the council were of
    Farag Pasha's opinion, that the town could resist no longer, and
    should be surrendered on the terms offered by the Mahdi. General
    Gordon would not, however, listen to this proposal.

    "On the 25th Gordon was slightly ill, and as it was Sunday, he did
    not appear in public. He had, however, several interviews with
    leading men of the town, and evidently knew that the end was
    near.... On the night of the 25th many of the famished troops left
    their posts on the fortifications in search of food in the town.
    Some of the troops were also too weak, from want of nourishment, to
    go to their posts."

Meanwhile news had reached the Mahdists of their terrible defeat at Abu
Klea, and also rumours that the English had taken Metemmah. Reports
which have quite recently arrived from Egypt say that the Mahdi,
alarmed at the approach of English troops, had already packed up his
goods and chattels and was about to beat a retreat. There was a meeting
of all the Emirs in the camp of the Mahdi, and, with one exception, all
were in favour of abandoning the siege. A single Emir, however, said,
"Let us make one more attempt. Let us fire 101 guns and proclaim a
great victory over the advancing English army, and then make one more
attempt on Khartoum. If we fail we shall be no worse off than we are
now, for we can only retreat, but if we succeed we shall be able to
defy the approaching British." Unfortunately for us the advice of the
Emir was taken, and the British expedition, which was so near
succeeding, failed by forty-eight hours to gain its object. The Mahdist
attack took place at 3.30 A.M. on Monday, January 26th, and was only
too successful. With regard to the report that the fall of Khartoum was
due to foul play on the part of Farag Pasha, Colonel Kitchener says:
"The accusations of treachery have all been vague, and are, to my mind,
the outcome of mere supposition. In my opinion Khartoum fell from
sudden assault, when the garrison was too exhausted by privation to
make proper resistance!" Whether Farag Pasha was guilty or not is not
definitely known, but it is certain that he was taken prisoner, and
three days after the fall of the town was brought up to show where the
wealth was hidden. As there was none he could not reveal it, so he was
killed in the market-place at Omdurman. The Mahdi's troops massacred
4000 persons, and after they had been engaged for six hours in thus
wreaking their vengeance, the Mahdi sent over to stop them, and a
systematic method was adopted of searching for loot. As the Mahdi had
bribed his men by promises of untold wealth, and they were
disappointed, a large number deserted his cause, and afterwards
actually fought against him.

The most contradictory reports have been circulated as to the manner in
which General Gordon met his fate, and although it would be impossible
to allude to all, it may not be out of place to refer to one which has
been very widely accepted. It is to the effect that the General,
hearing that the city had been betrayed, put on his uniform and rushed
out, sword in hand, to die as a soldier. Narratives which have a
dramatic element are always easily accepted. Dramatic effect was,
however, the last thing our gallant hero thought of at any time, and
still less on such an occasion as this. As a matter of fact he had not
a stitch of uniform in Khartoum, and, considering his Chinese
experience, it is very unlikely that he would have drawn his sword,
even if he had possessed one, which he certainly did not. One person
who recognised Gordon after his death says that he was dressed in light
clothes. Colonel Kitchener quotes the only person who claimed to be an
eye-witness of his death, who says:--

    "On hearing the noise, I got my master's donkey, and went with him
    to the palace. Muhamed Bey Mustapha, with my master, Ibrahim Bey
    Rushdi, and about twenty cavasses, then went with Gordon towards
    the house of the Austrian Consul Hansall, near the church, when we
    met some rebels in an open place near the outer gate of the palace.
    Gordon Pasha was walking in front leading the party. The rebels
    fired a volley, and Gordon was killed at once; nine of the
    cavasses, Ibrahim Bey Rushdi, and Muhamed Bey Mustapha were killed;
    the rest ran away."

Whether Gordon's death was intended by the Mahdi or was entirely an
accident is not known. Colonel Kitchener says that the Mahdi professed
to be very angry when he heard that Gordon was killed, but the Colonel
thinks that had he expressed himself strongly on the subject
beforehand, this calamity would never have taken place. This, however,
is very doubtful; a rushing host of victorious soldiers, firing wildly
in every direction, are never very discriminating; of course many of
them did not know Gordon personally, and the brave General was not the
man to make himself conspicuous by any distinguishing garb. Though
Colonel Kitchener is perhaps rather hard on the Mahdi in this respect,
he is probably correct in thinking that "the want of discipline in the
Mahdi's camp made it dangerous for him to keep as a prisoner a man whom
all the black troops liked better than himself, and in favour of whom,
on a revulsion of feeling, a successful revolt might take place in his
own camp. Moreover, if Gordon was dead, he calculated (and rightly) the
English would retire and leave him in peace." How Gordon was actually
killed, and whether it was the intention of the Mahdi that he should be
"accidentally" disposed of, is open to dispute. There can, however, be
no question that he was slain, for his dead body was recognised. Well
might Colonel Kitchener say, "Never was a garrison so nearly rescued,
never was a commander so sincerely lamented." As far back as October
13th General Gordon had written:--

    "It is, of course, on the cards that Khartoum is taken under the
    nose of the Expeditionary Force, which will be _just too late_.

    "The Expeditionary Force will perhaps think it necessary to retake
    it; but that will be of no use, and will cause loss of life
    uselessly on both sides. It had far better return, with its tail
    between its legs.... England was made by adventurers, not by its
    Government, and I believe it will only hold its place by

The Government decided to take Gordon's advice, and, to save further
bloodshed, withdrew the Relief Expedition. Wady Halfa, Korosko, and
Assouan, were held with some force, in case the Mahdi's adherents
should seek to follow up their victory. The death of the Mahdi,
however, and the defeat of his followers at the end of 1885, have
together helped to crush the Mahdist movement, and Egypt has been left



The news of Gordon's death startled not England only, but the whole of
the civilised world. Every eye had been watching the relief column
slowly wending its way up the Nile, and over the desert route. One war
correspondent had actually used the words in his telegram, "To-morrow
the lonely and weary hero will joyfully grasp the hand of an
Englishman." People would not at first believe the sad reality, and for
a time every one hoped against hope. The news reached the War Office on
February 4th, and was communicated to the public during the following
day. No better proof exists of the tenacity with which many clung to
the hope that Gordon might possibly have survived, than the fact that
the Queen, whose womanly heart always prompted her to be one of the
first to send expressions of sympathy to the relatives of those who
fall at the post of duty, did not date her letter to Miss Gordon till
February 17th, and even then used the sentence, "I fear there cannot be
much doubt of it," in alluding to the hero's death. The Queen's letter,
which did but give expression to the feelings of the country on the
subject, was as follows:--

    "OSBORNE, _17th February 1885._

    "DEAR MISS GORDON,--_How_ shall I write to you, or how shall I
    attempt to express _what I feel_! To _think_ of your dear, noble,
    heroic Brother, who served his Country and his Queen so truly, so
    heroically, with a self-sacrifice so edifying to the World, not
    having been rescued. That the promises of support were not
    fulfilled--which I so frequently and constantly pressed on those
    who asked him to go--is to me _grief inexpressible_! indeed, it has
    made me ill! My heart bleeds for you, his Sister, who have gone
    through so many anxieties on his account, and who loved the dear
    Brother as he deserved to be. You are all so good and trustful, and
    have such strong faith, that you will be sustained even now, when
    _real_ absolute evidence of your dear Brother's death does not
    exist--but I fear there cannot be much doubt of it. Some day I hope
    to see you again, to tell you all I cannot express. My daughter
    Beatrice, who has felt quite as I do, wishes me to express her
    deepest sympathy with you. I hear so many expressions of sorrow and
    sympathy from _abroad_: from my eldest daughter, the Crown
    Princess, and from my Cousin, the King of the Belgians,--the very
    warmest. Would you express to your other Sisters and your elder
    Brother my true sympathy, and what I do so keenly feel, the _stain_
    left upon England for your dear Brother's cruel, though heroic
    fate?--Ever, dear Miss Gordon, yours sincerely and sympathisingly,

    "V. R. I."

Parliament at once voted £20,000, the sum usually given to a successful
general on the completion of a campaign, to be set apart for the
sisters, nephew, and nieces of General Gordon, and an _In Memoriam_
service was conducted in every cathedral, and in nearly all the large
churches of England. A statue was in course of time erected in
Trafalgar Square,[16] and another has recently been unveiled at
Chatham. A monument was erected in St. Paul's Cathedral, and it was
decided to place another in Westminster Abbey, the national mausoleum
of England. But better still, we know that his memory is enshrined in
the hearts of many left behind, and that the record of his noble
saintly life is still teaching many of our countrymen valuable lessons.

      [16] It is from this monument that the picture on the cover is
      taken. It represents Gordon in the undress uniform of the Royal
      Engineers, with a Bible under one arm, and the "magic wand of
      victory" under the other.

Few men have done more than General Gordon to elevate the tone of the
soldier. The old-fashioned notion still survives that soldiers love war
for its own sake, and for the honours it brings to those who take part
in it; but Gordon showed us a higher ideal, that the true soldier
should study his profession with the idea of mastering it, so as the
better to enable him to maintain peace. If good men were all to abstain
from studying the science of war, evildoers would very soon have a
monopoly of it, and would become aggressors. There are plenty of
bullies, who, like Napoleon, would soon upset the peace of Europe were
it not that they fear to do so. Such men can only be kept in order by
brute force, and brute force is absolutely of no avail, unless it is
organised and directed by a brain that has studied the art and science
of directing and controlling physical force. It need hardly be said
that a knowledge of this kind is not acquired in a day, and although
there have been some splendid soldiers of the type of Cromwell, Warren
Hastings, and Washington, who have never had a military training, it is
unquestionable that a knowledge of the science of war gives a general a
very great advantage over one who has not had such training. Exceptions
there are to every rule, and the names mentioned must be placed amongst
them. It is doubtful if some of the generals named would have ever
attained celebrity had their opponents been well trained. Gordon loved
his profession, but he took a high view of it. Soldiering with him was
not a mere profession for slaughtering his fellow-creatures, but for
the prevention of that bullying and bloodshed which would be ever going
on in this world, were it not for those who train themselves in order
to be able to stop it. The Taiping rebellion, which caused the death of
millions of innocent creatures, is but a specimen of what might go on
throughout the world did not skilful, well-trained soldiers throw in
their lot with the side of law and order. Had the Chinese Government
only possessed an able general, and a proper army, that rebellion would
never have made such headway as it did. And had they not received the
services of such an able soldier as Gordon proved to be, the rebellion
might have been indefinitely prolonged, and might have broken up the
Empire of China.

In less civilised days the percentage of persons who loved fighting for
its own sake was undoubtedly larger than it is now. The more civilised
we become, the more we learn to value peace and to dislike war. But
even in a civilised nation like the English, there is a certain
percentage who really love fighting for its own sake; and besides
these, there are many who do not actually love it, but think they ought
to do so, as they are in the army, and so they cultivate a style of
talking as if they really liked it, and thus they mislead others. In
the case of Gordon there was an entire absence of either the one or the
other spirit. He did not love fighting for its own sake, and he would
probably have looked upon a person who did as a survival of a former
age. As for the latter class he had an utter abhorrence of all shams,
and he took every opportunity of speaking out of the honesty of his
heart. "People have little idea how far from 'glorious' war is. It is
organised murder, pillage, and cruelty, and it is seldom that the
weight falls on the fighting men--it is on the women, children, and old
people. Consider it how we may, war is a brutal, cruel affair."
Speaking of some of his men killed and wounded in a skirmish, he says,
"I wish people could see what the suffering of human creatures is--I
mean those who wish for war. I am a fool, I daresay, but I cannot see
the sufferings of any of these people without tears in my eyes."

It is worthy of note that some of the ablest generals who have lived
and died in the latter half of this century have held similar views.
The great Duke of Wellington remarked, as he crossed the field of
Waterloo, the evening after the battle, that "nothing exceeds the
horror of victory except a defeat;" and such men as Sir Henry Havelock,
Sir Hope Grant, Sir Henry Lawrence, and the heroic General Lee of
America, used expressions of similar purport. Gordon was a living
illustration of the saying that "the gentlest men are ever the bravest
when enlightened consciousness tells them that they have a just cause
to support."

Gordon's courage was unquestioned, but, though he possessed more
natural courage than most men, he never made a wanton display of it
merely with a view of impressing others. In China he exposed himself
almost recklessly, in order to encourage his officers and men; but in
the Soudan, where he felt so much depended on his life, he carefully
refrained from exposing himself, though it must at times have been a
great trial to him to see his men so badly handled by their leaders.

It is not unnatural that, in the case of the death of a man like
General Gordon, people should like to know his views on that event
which must in due course happen to all of us, unless our Lord Himself
shall come to terminate this dispensation. Apparently he sometimes
wished for this, though he did not appear to think the Second Advent
near at hand. In one of his letters he says:--

    "I wish, I wish the King would come again and put things right on
    earth; but His coming is far off, for the whole world must long for
    Him ere He comes, and I really believe that there are but very,
    very few who would wish Him to appear, for to do so is to desire
    death, and how few do this! Not that we really ever die: we only
    change our sheaths."

But though he longed for the return of the Heavenly Bridegroom during
his life, he also looked upon death as a welcome release from the
trials and troubles of life. He frequently alluded to this subject, and
dozens of extracts might be made from his letters, all more or less
similar to the two following, which were written at different dates:--

    "I would that all could look on death as a cheerful friend, who
    takes us from a world of trial to our true home. All our sorrows
    come from a forgetfulness of this great truth. I desire to look on
    the departure of my friends as a promotion to another and a higher
    sphere, as I do believe that to be the case with _all_.

    "Any one, to whom God gives to be much with Him, cannot even suffer
    a pang at death. For what is death to a believer? It is a closer
    approach to Him, whom, even through the veil, he is ever with."

There is one point on which we ought specially to dwell in considering
the lessons to be learnt from the life of General Gordon, and that is
the _moral_ courage he always exhibited. His physical courage has
already been touched on, but great as it was, his moral courage was far
greater. There are plenty of men possessing physical courage who fail
to exhibit moral courage when put to the test. Man being a gregarious
animal, and accustomed to go in flocks, is led by his fellows to evil
as well as to good. No man can be a true leader of men who is not
prepared to stand alone, if need be, against overwhelming majorities.
Gordon had the courage of his convictions, and no amount of pressure,
no weight of public opinion, could deter him when once the path of duty
was clear. The time-server does not ask, What is right? What is my
duty? but, What will pay? What will public opinion think? For such an
one Gordon had a supreme contempt. It has been well said by Dr. Ryle,
the Bishop of Liverpool, "It is not overwhelming majorities that shake
and influence the world. Small minorities have ever had more influence
than large majorities. All great men have had their seasons of
loneliness. See Napoleon, Mahomet, Luther, John Wesley, and Christ
Himself." To this list we may add the name of General Gordon; few men
so often found themselves so much in opposition in fashionable circles
and in the official world.

                            *      *      *

Among the false reports that have been circulated about General Gordon
is one that he was very unsociable and morose, shunning society in
general, and ladies' society in particular. It is true that he shunned
a certain class of society; there was also a certain set of women that
he fought shy of; but it is quite untrue to say that he was unsociable.
He greatly enjoyed the society of ordinary cultivated women, who were
in sympathy with his efforts to do good, and with them he was neither
shy nor reserved. He could talk pleasantly for hours together, and as
his own mind was a very cultivated one, he was a great element of
attraction to society of a certain kind. What he did dislike intensely
was the society of that class of ladies who think of little beyond the
fashions of the day, the latest style of dress, and the newest forms of
amusement. Such persons he used to find had no minds to think, and no
hearts to feel for suffering humanity. Many of them attempted to
lionise him, while others paid him the most fulsome compliments, both
being things that he particularly disliked. The ordinary conventional
dinner-party, where a man is condemned to take in a lady with whom he
has nothing in common, and next to whom he must sit for a couple of
hours or so eating and drinking things which do not agree with him, was
to Gordon a special object of antipathy. Writing from Cairo on March
15, 1878, he says:--

    "I am much bothered, but I get to bed at 8 P.M., which is a
    comfort, for I do not dine out, and consequently do not drink wine.
    Every one laughs at me; but I do not care."

Again, when in South Africa, he writes:--

    "How I hate society; how society hates me! I never tell you the
    sort of life I lead, it is not worth it; for it is simply the life
    I led at home, being asked out, and refusing when it is
    possible;--when I go, getting humiliated, or being foolish. This
    latter is better than not being exposed--keeping one's self in
    cotton wool, for that brings out no knowledge of self, such as is
    brought out by being with others. At the same time, I think it is
    not right to be much in society, indeed I fight against it truly,
    and have only dined out about seven times since I have been here."

On October 24th, 1884, when he had made up his mind not to return to
England, even if he should get away from Khartoum, he says:--

    "I dwell on the joy of never seeing Great Britain again, with its
    horrid, wearisome dinner-parties and miseries. How we can put up
    with those things passes my imagination! It is a perfect bondage.
    At those dinner-parties we are all in masks, saying what we do not
    believe, eating and drinking things we do not want, and then
    abusing one another. I would sooner live like a Dervish with the
    Mahdi, than go out to dinner every night in London. I hope, if any
    English general comes to Khartoum, he will not ask me to dinner.
    Why men cannot be friends without bringing the wretched stomachs
    in, is astounding."

But though Gordon did not like the artificial conventional society one
meets at ordinary dinner-parties, it must not be supposed that he was
in any way gloomy. His friend, Prebendary Barnes, says about him: "The
seriousness of Gordon's temper did not prevent him from being a bright
and agreeable companion, especially when those with whom he talked
could join him in smoking a cigarette. He had a keen sense of humour,
and on every matter about which he cared to form an opinion he spoke
clearly and decisively." And his old brother officer, Sir Gerald
Graham, thus speaks of him:--

    "Pictures have been drawn of Gordon as a gloomy ascetic, wrapped up
    in mystic thoughts, retiring from all communion with the world, and
    inspiring fear rather than affection. I can only describe him as he
    appeared to me. Far from being a gloomy ascetic, he always seemed
    to me to retain a boyish frankness, and to long to share his ideas
    with others. Our intimacy began when we were thrown together in
    mining the docks of Sebastopol during the winter of 1855-56--a
    period Gordon always delighted in referring to whenever we met, by
    calling up old scenes, and even our old jokes of that time. Like
    all men of action, more especially soldiers, Gordon disliked
    argument with subordinates when once he had resolved on his course
    of action; otherwise he invited discussion, and I always found him
    most tolerant in listening to arguments against his own views, even
    on subjects in which he, of course, possessed a knowledge far
    exceeding any I could pretend to. To show the impression he made
    upon me at the time of my last seeing him, in 1884, I will quote
    from a letter which I wrote shortly after: 'Charlie Gordon's
    character is a very fascinating one; he has so much of the natural
    man about him. To his friends--and he treats all as friends whom he
    knows and trusts--his charm of manner is irresistible. It is
    utterly unlike the charm of a polished man of the world; it is the
    charm of a perfectly open mind, giving and demanding confidence,
    sometimes playfully, sometimes earnestly, and sometimes with
    touching humility."

There were various reasons which made him avoid worldly society; one
was the incessant grumbling in which many indulge, who have little
cause to complain. Writing from the Soudan, he says:--

    "I have not patience with the groans of half the world, and declare
    there is more happiness among these miserable blacks, who have not
    a meal from day to day, than among our own middle classes. The
    blacks are glad of a little handful of maize, and live in the
    greatest discomfort. They have not a strip to cover them; but you
    do not see them grunting and groaning all day long, as you see
    scores and scores in England, with their wretched dinner-parties,
    and attempts at gaiety, where all is hollow and miserable."

Then there was a higher reason. He found that such society interfered
with his spiritual life. He says, in three distinct letters:--

    "Getting quiet does one good; it is impossible to hear God's voice
    in a whirl of visits. You must be more or less in the desert, to
    use the scales of the Sanctuary, to see and weigh the true value of
    things and sayings."

    "We have no conception or idea of what God will show us, if we
    persevere in seeking Him; and it is He who puts this wish into our
    hearts. All I can say to you is: Persevere; avoid the world and its
    poor wretched little talk about others; never mind being thought
    stupid; look on everything with regard to the great day, and trust
    Him implicitly."

    "Christ must _actually die_, not come _very near_ death; and so
    must we, if we would rise. I once thought it possible to bargain
    with Christ; to say, I will give up half of my desire of the world,
    and gain, in the gap, a corresponding measure of Christ. It was no
    good: I lost the half, but did not get the measure filled. Then I
    tried to give up a little more, but with the same result; now I
    think God has shown me that it is not the least use trying these
    subtle bargains; that the giving up little by little is more
    wearisome and trying than _one_ surrender, and _that_ I trust He
    will give me power to make."

Another reason, doubtless, why he shunned fashionable society was his
extreme sensitiveness to praise. His honest, straightforward nature
could not tolerate the praise that so often is showered upon great men.
He used to say:--

    "If a man speaks well of me, divide it by millions and then it will
    be millions of times too favourable. If a man speaks evil of me,
    multiply it by millions and it will be millions of times too
    favourable. Man is disguised, as far as his neighbour is concerned;
    this disguise is his outward goodness. Some have it in a slight
    measure torn off in this life, and are judged accordingly by those
    whose disguise of goodness is more intact; the revelation of the
    evil by this partial tearing off is but the manifestation of what
    exists. Whether the disguise is torn or intact, the interior and
    true state (known to God quite clearly) is the same corrupt thing;
    the eye of the Spirit discerns through the disguise.

    "Who could bear to have this disguise quite rent off, and the evil
    exposed to the eyes of the world? How would the world receive me,
    if they knew what I really was, and what God knows that I am at
    this minute? Yet, how hardly I judge another whose disguise,
    slightly rent, shows a little of the corruption I know exists in
    me. Nothing evil was ever said of any man which was not true, his
    worst enemies could not say a thousandth part of the evil that is
    in him.

    "Praise now humbles me, it does not elate me; did the world praise
    Jesus? and what right have we to take this praise of men, when it
    is due to Him?

    "When one knows the little one does of oneself, and any one praises
    you, I, at any rate, have a rising, which is a suppressed 'You
    lie.' There are several nice bits in our Lord's life, when He
    replied with some unpalatable truth to those men who would follow
    Him, and would make much of Him, but afterwards they entirely
    changed their demeanour."

At one time he used, for the same reason, to avoid reading all
newspapers, as they contained so much praise of him. Writing in 1882,
when he was Governor-General of the Soudan, he says:--

    "I have come to a conclusion; may God give me strength to keep it!
    _Stop all the newspapers._ It is no use mincing the matter; as the
    disease is dire, so also must be the remedy.... Newspapers feed a
    passion _I_ have for giving my opinion; therefore, as we have no
    right to judge and have nothing to do with this world (of which we
    are not), this feeding must be cut short.

    "The giving up the papers may cause the starvation of my passion
    for politics, and that scab may drop off. God has shown me what
    the scabs are:--Evil-speaking, lying, slandering, back-biting,
    scoffing, self-conceit, boasting, silly talking, and some few more.

    "I wish friends would not send me papers, &c. I pass them on to
    ----, who is my waste-paper basket!"

Not only did he combat that part of his nature which loved the praise
of men, he also sternly resisted the temptation of ambition. For
instance, he writes:--

    "I wonder if I look ambitious in your eyes. Do you think I sought
    this place? You should know better than most people, for you have
    all my thoughts in my letters. Judging myself, I fear it was so
    when I took the work in hand; not that I cared for the money or the
    honours to come from it. I think, however, my main idea was the
    Quixotic one--to help the Khedive, mixed with the feeling that I
    could, with God's direction, accomplish this work.

    "... There is death in the seeking of high posts on this earth
    for the purpose of what the world calls doing great things;
    the mightiest of men are flies on a wheel; a kind word to a
    crossing-sweeper delights Christ _in him_, as much as it would
    delight Christ _in_ a queen."

He was conscious, too, of a natural tendency to judge his neighbours.
Like many reformers, he had a critical nature, and often found himself
led into temptation through it. He never screened this failing, and did
his utmost to fight against it. There are several extracts from his
letters on this besetting sin. Witness these two:--

    "What troubles me immensely is the way in which circumstances force
    me into society, for in it is the great evil of judging others,
    picking them to pieces behind their backs, so entirely mean and
    contrary to our Lord's will. All this tends to make a cloud between
    Him and us; and yet I declare I cannot see how I can avoid it."

    "This is one great reason why I never desire to enter social life,
    for there is very great difficulty in knowing people and not
    discussing others."

Considering how thorough Gordon himself was, and how intensely he hated
shams of every kind, it is not surprising to find that, with his
naturally critical temperament, he used most relentlessly to expose the
unreality of many who, acknowledging the truth of Christianity,
practically denied its power.

    "As a rule, Christians are really more inconsistent than
    'worldlings.' They talk truths, and do not act on them. They allow
    that 'God is the God of the widows and orphans,' yet they look in
    trouble to the gods of silver and gold: either He can help
    altogether, or not at all. He will not be served in conjunction
    with idols of any sort....

    "How unlike in acts are most of so-called Christians to their
    Founder! You see in them no resemblance to Him. Hard, proud,
    'holier than thou,' is their uniform. _They have the truth_,
    no one else, it is _their_ monopoly."

But though he avoided Christians of this type, he had a great yearning
for the society of those who were real, and had more sympathy with the
weaknesses of those who were true, in spite of their failings, than
most men. He was fully conscious of the natural depravity of his own
heart, and so was ever tender to those who fell. Nobody was more
willing than he to act to a fellow Christian on the principle laid down
in the lines--

    "Help a poor and weary brother
    Pulling hard against the stream."

He loved Christian society of the right sort, and, under its influence,
his whole nature would expand, and he would converse for hours
together. Writing from Galatz, where he went after the pleasant time
spent at Gravesend, he says, "I feel much also the want of some
religious talk," thereby adding another illustration to the truth of
that text, "They that love the Lord spake often one to another."

General Gordon's temperament was not that of the monk who shuns his
fellow-creatures, and it must therefore have been all the greater trial
for him to cut himself off from his friends for so many years at a time
as he used to do. Indeed he used to speak of it as "a living death."
But the great lesson of his life was that of self-sacrifice for the
good of others. Speaking to the editor of a journal, to which reference
has already been made, he once said, "When I was in the Soudan, I used
to pray every day, 'O Lord, let me be crushed. Lay the punishment of
their sins upon me.'" Then, as if he was afraid of being misunderstood,
he said, "It was a strange prayer, was it not? As if I had not enough
of my own sins to bear!" Few men have learned better than he the great
lesson taught from the Cross of Calvary, and few have practised that
lesson more completely.

As we so often see greatness associated with success in life, it is
well that now and then we witness greatness, which has not been
associated with what the world calls success, for the two are far from
being inseparably connected. General Gordon frequently emphasised the
distinctions between honours and honour. The former he cared very
little about, but the latter he ever valued highly, and he used to say
that often men attain the former at the expense of the latter. No
titles precede his name, nor do any decorations of importance follow
it, but his simple and yet heroic self-sacrificing life have fascinated
his countrymen, and helped to make the world better by setting before
it a higher ideal. On the monument in St. Paul's Cathedral his life is
briefly summed up in the few following words: "To Major-General Charles
George Gordon, C.B., who at all times and everywhere gave his strength
to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering,
his heart to God. He saved an empire by his warlike genius, he ruled
vast provinces with justice, wisdom, and power, and lastly, obedient to
his Sovereign's command, he died in the heroic attempt to save men,
women, and children, from imminent and deadly peril." The nation felt
that their Poet Laureate, Lord Tennyson, did but speak the simple truth
when he penned the following lines:--

    "Warrior of God, man's friend, not laid below,
    But somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan,
    Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
    This earth has borne no simpler, nobler man."


Edinburgh & London

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