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Title: Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892
Author: Wingate, F. R., 1861-1953
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: Father Ohrwalder, The Sisters Catterina Chincarini
and Elisabetta Venturini and The Slave girl Adila

From a photograph by Stromeyer & Heyman, Cairo.

Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd.]






  =St. Dunstan's House=
  (_All rights reserved._)



[Illustration: FATHER OHRWALDER.]

After the fall of Khartum in January 1885, various attempts were from
time to time made to effect the release of some of the European
prisoners who had fallen into the Mahdi's hands during the early stages
of the Sudan revolt.

These attempts were for the most part attended with little result. The
causes of their failure, and eventual success in one instance, are
fully described in the following personal narrative of Father Ohrwalder.

As Father Ohrwalder is the first European who has escaped from the Sudan
since 1885, I was fully occupied with him during the few days
immediately following his arrival in ascertaining, for official
purposes, the actual situation in the Sudan, and that completed, we had
many interesting conversations on the historical events which had
occurred in these revolted districts during the last ten years.

Having but recently completed a _resumé_ of these events,[A] which had
been largely compiled from the statements of natives who had escaped, I
was not unnaturally desirous to verify, by the independent witness of
Father Ohrwalder, the accounts which they had given, and I further
begged Father Ohrwalder to carefully read over the book and point out
the errors. It was with considerable satisfaction that I learnt from him
that the facts had been faithfully recorded; but the flood of light
which he was enabled to throw on many obscure passages, and the great
interest attaching to the narrative of an active participator in so many
of these now historic occurrences, induced me to suggest that he should
set to work, while the memory of these events was fresh in his mind, to
write a personal narrative of his varied and terrible experiences, of
which the general public have hitherto learnt but the bare outline.

It should be borne in mind that the circumstances under which Father
Ohrwalder lived in the Sudan precluded him from keeping any written
record of his life; it was therefore agreed that I should supervise his
work which, I need scarcely add, it has given me great pleasure to do.
Father Ohrwalder's manuscript, which was in the first instance written
in German, was roughly translated into English by Yusef Effendi Cudzi, a
Syrian; this I entirely rewrote in narrative form. The work does not
therefore profess to be a literal translation of the original
manuscript, but rather an English version, in which I have sought to
reproduce accurately Father Ohrwalder's meaning in the language of
simple narration.

England and the British public in general have shown so much interest in
the stirring events which have occurred in the Sudan, and in which many
gallant British officers and men have lost their lives, that it is
Father Ohrwalder's desire that the narrative of his experiences should
be published in the first instance in England, as his modest tribute to
the nation which struggled so gallantly, and so nearly successfully, to
effect the relief of Khartum and the rescue of those unfortunate
Europeans who, like himself, had fallen into the hands of a cruel and
merciless enemy.

It seems almost incredible that such sufferings as the European captives
endured did not long ago bring to them the happy release of death they
so ardently longed for; but it was not to be. The door of escape, which
they had thought closed to them for ever, suddenly opened, and they did
not fear to risk the dangers and perils of that terrible desert journey,
with scanty food and water, and the sure knowledge that they must ride
for bare life; re-capture would have ended in certain death, or, at
best, perpetual incarceration in a prison, the horrors of which beggar
description. In spite, however, of all he has endured, Father Ohrwalder
longs for the time when it may be possible for him to return to the
Sudan and continue the Mission work so suddenly and hopelessly
interrupted since 1882.

I am greatly indebted to Mr. Walter C. Horsley for the admirable manner
in which he has executed his portion of the illustrations. The remainder
are chiefly from photographs, taken by Mr. Lekegian in his photographic
studio in Cairo, of Dervish prisoners captured at the action of Toski,
and of refugees who have recently reached Cairo from Equatoria, through
the territory administered by the Imperial British East Africa Company.

CAIRO, _30th July, 1892_.


[A] Published under the title of 'Mahdiism and the Egyptian
Sudan.' London: Macmillan & Co. 1891.



  Description of Kordofan and Dar Nuba--The Mission Station
  at Delen                                                             1



  The rise of the Mahdi--Early successes--Personal appearance
  --His   Khalifas described--Military organization--Makes new
  laws--He summons El Obeid to surrender                               6



  The storm rises in Dar Nuba--The Baggara begin to raid--
  Khojur Kakum of Delen--Mek Omar besieges Delen--The slave
  guard deserts the Mission--The priests and nuns surrender--
  They are sent to the Mahdi                                          22



  Description of El Obeid--Said Pasha's system of defence--
  The Mahdi's followers encircle the town--Townspeople desert
  to the Mahdi--Unsuccessful attack on Government buildings
  --Dervishes driven off with loss of 10,000 men--The
  missionaries brought before the Mahdi--Threatened with
  death--Preparations for the execution--Reprieved at the
  last moment--The Mahdi's camp described--Death of some
  of the missionaries--Illness of remainder                           34



  Terrible sufferings of the besieged--The Kababish--Fall of
  Bara--Fall of El Obeid--The Mahdi enters the town--Fate
  of the El Obeid Mission--Cold-blooded murder of the brave
  defenders--The Dervishes live a life of ease in El Obeid--
  The Mahdi makes laws--He sends out proclamations--Prestige
  increased by capture of town--News from Khartum--Bonomi and
  Ohrwalder summoned before the Mahdi--The interview                  52



  The European captives learn that General Hicks is
  advancing--Slatin Bey's defence of Darfur--His heroism--
  The Mahdi prepares to resist Hicks--The march of the Hicks
  Expedition--Extracts from the diary of Major Herlth--Colonel
  Farquhar's gallantry at Rahad--Gustav Klootz deserts to the
  Mahdi--Klootz's interview with the Mahdi in which Ohrwalder
  and Bonomi act as interpreters--The expedition advances
  towards Shekan--Is surrounded and annihilated--Description
  of the battle--The Mahdi victor of Kordofan                         72



  Fall of Darfur--Slatin surrenders--The Mahdi's divinity
  credited after the annihilation of Hicks--King Adam of
  Tagalla--Stambuli's kindness to the European captives--
  Gordon writes to the Mahdi--Power's letter--The sisters
  seized and distributed amongst the emirs--They are
  tortured--The missionaries turned into slaves--The terrible
  journey to Rahad--The Greeks come to the help of the
  sisters--The proclamation concerning the treatment of
  priests and hermits by Mohammedans--The Mahdi at Rahad--
  Ohrwalder's interviews with the Mahdi concerning religion
  --The Dervishes attack the Nubas                                    91



  Ohrwalder describes his treatment at the hands of various
  masters--The Nubas surrender and afterwards desert--News
  from Khartum--The capture of the English mail--Its
  arrival at the Mahdi's camp--The Mahdi decides to
  advance on Khartum--Brief review of events in Khartum
  and Berber--Ohrwalder's views on Gordon's mission--The
  Mahdi sets out for Khartum--Mohammed Ali Pasha's
  defeat and death--Colonel Stewart, Mr. Power, and others
  leave Khartum in ss. "Abbas"--Description of their
  wreck and treacherous murder                                       114



  The surrender of Omdurman fort--Gordon's dispositions
  for defence--His great personal influence--The night
  before the assault--The attack and entry of the Dervishes
  --Gordon's death--The adventures of Domenico Polinari--
  The massacre in Khartum--How most of the Europeans died
  --Ruthless cruelty and bloodshed--The fate of the wives
  and daughters of Khartum--Ohrwalder's views on the
  situation in Khartum and the chances of relief by the
  British Expeditionary Force--His description of the town
  three months after the fall                                        131



  Ohrwalder's criticisms on certain events connected with
  the defence of Khartum--The Sudan devastated by small-pox
  --The Mahdi gives way to a life of pleasure--Description
  of his harem life--The Mahdi sickens and dies--The effect
  on his followers--The Khalifa Abdullah succeeds--Party
  strife and discord--Abdullah prevails--Events in Sennar
  and Kassala                                                        152



  Ohrwalder continues to describe his personal experiences
  -- Mahmud the emir of El Obeid--His unsuccessful attempts
  to entrap the Nubas--The arrival of Olivier Pain in El
  Obeid--His motives in joining the Mahdi--His journey
  towards Omdurman--His sad fate--Lupton Bey arrives
  at El Obeid from the Bahr el Ghazal--He is sent to
  Omdurman and thrown into chains--Life in El Obeid--The
  escape of Father Bonomi--Ohrwalder's solitude--The
  death of the Khojur Kakum                                          169



  The black soldiers of the old Sudan army--They revolt
  against the Dervishes in El Obeid--And march off to Dar
  Nuba--The emir Mahmud pursues and is slain--Ohrwalder
  quits El Obeid for Omdurman--Zogal and Abu Anga at
  Bara                                                               189



  Ohrwalder's arrival in Omdurman--His first impressions
  of the Dervish capital--Khalifa Abdullah's intentions
  to conquer Egypt--Wad Suleiman of the beit el mal--Wad
  Adlan succeeds--Gordon's clothes, medals, &c.--Adlan
  reorganizes the beit el mal--The slave market, museum,
  mint, and system of coinage--Counterfeit coining--The
  lithograph press--The Khalifa's system of justice                  204



  Events subsequent to the fall of Khartum--Capture of
  Gedaref and Galabat--Dervishes defeated by Abyssinians
  at Galabat--Abu Anga's victorious expedition to Tagalla
  --His triumphal return to Omdurman--The Khalifa's
  grand review--Destruction of the Gehena tribe--The
  Khalifa decides to send Abu Anga's army to conquer
  Abyssinia--The battle of Dabra Sin--Abu Anga sacks
  Gondar--The victorious Dervishes return to Galabat--
  Rejoicings at Omdurman                                             216



  Destruction of the Kababish tribe and death of Saleh
  Bey--Events in Darfur--Revolt of Abu Gemaizeh--His
  death and destruction of his army--Rabeh Zubeir--King
  Theodore's son visits Omdurman--The conspiracy of
  "Sayidna Isa"--Death of Abu Anga--King John of
  Abyssinia attacks Galabat--Success of Abyssinians, but
  the king killed--Victory turned to defeat--The king's
  head sent to Omdurman                                              232



  The Khalifa's intentions regarding Egypt--Wad en Nejumi
  despatched north--Various operations on the Egyptian
  frontier--Battle of Toski--Defeat and death of Nejumi--
  Subsequent events in Dongola--Osman Digna's operations
  against Sawakin--Is defeated at Tokar--Emin Pasha and
  events in Equatoria--Recent events in Uganda and Unyoro            254



  Ohrwalder describes Omdurman--The Mahdi's tomb, and how
  it was built--Pilgrimage to Mecca forbidden--A description
  of the great mosque--The Khalifa's palace--The markets--
  The population--The Khalifa's tyrannical rule--The terrible
  famine of 1888-1889--Awful scenes and sufferings--The
  plague of locusts                                                  273



  The Khalifa's system of government--His household--An
  outline of his character--His system of prayers in the
  mosque--His visions and dreams--His espionage system--His
  household troops--His great activity and circumspection--
  The great Friday review described--The emigration of the
  Baggara and western tribes to Omdurman--The flight of
  Sheikh Ghazali--Management of the beit el mal--System of
  taxation                                                           293



  The revolt of the Batahin tribe--Revolt suppressed with
  appalling cruelty--Wholesale executions--Method of
  hanging--Punishment by mutilation--The execution of
  Abdel Nur--Trade with Egypt--Wad Adlan the emin beit el
  mal--His imprisonment and death                                    315



  System of public security and justice in Omdurman--The
  court of small causes--Bribery and corruption--The
  story of the slave and her mistress--How the Khalifa
  deals with quarrelsome persons--Thieves and pickpockets--
  The story of Zogheir--Usurers and their trade--The chief
  of police--Brigandage--Disproportion of males to females
  in Omdurman--How the Khalifa overcame the difficulty--
  Immorality--The marriage ceremony                                  328



  Description of the prison, or "Saier"--The "Abu Haggar"
  --The imprisonment of Charles Neufeld--Terrible
  sufferings of the prisoners--Domenico Polinari--The
  danger of corresponding with the European prisoners--
  Neufeld threatened with death--He is given charge of the
  saltpetre pits--The fate of Sheikh Khalil, the Egyptian
  envoy--The Khalifa's treatment of the "Whites"--Exile
  to the White Nile                                                  344



  The Khalifa's powder and ammunition begin to fail--Lupton
  Bey makes fulminate--Unsuccessful attempts to make powder
  --Yusef Pertekachi at last succeeds--The explosion in the
  powder factory                                                     366



  Remarks on the agriculture and commerce of the Mahdiist
  kingdom--A sandstorm in Omdurman--The paucity of cattle--
  System of taxation on imports--Provincial beit el mals--
  Local manufactures--Slavery and the slave-markets--Torture
  of slaves                                                          376



  Relations between Abdullah and the rival Khalifas--
  Mahdiism practically dead--The Khalifa's son Osman--His
  marriage to Yakub's daughter--His intentions regarding
  the succession--The Baggara and the Aulad-Belad--The
  Baggara masters of the Sudan--Examples of their tyranny
  --Emigration of the Rizighat tribe--Hostility between
  the Khalifa's and the late Mahdi's households--The
  Ashraf conspiracy--Witchcraft--The dispute between
  the Khalifas--Riots in Omdurman--The Mahdi's widows                387



  Ohrwalder forms plans for escape--The fate of other
  Europeans attempting to fly--Stricter surveillance--
  Ohrwalder's means of livelihood--Letters from Cairo--
  The faithful Ahmed Hassan discloses his plan--Archbishop
  Sogaro--Miseries of captivity in Omdurman--Death of
  Sister Concetta Corsi--Preparations for flight                     408



  Father Ohrwalder and Sisters Venturini and Chincarini
  escape--The ride for life--The rencontre with the
  Dervish guard near Abu Hamed--Alarm of the party--The
  journey across the great Nubian desert--Five hundred
  miles on camel-back in seven days--Arrival at the
  Egyptian outpost at Murat--Safe at last--Arrival in
  Cairo                                                              424



  Reflections on the situation in the Sudan--The horrors
  of the present Khalifa's rule--How long shall it continue?         447


  Father Ohrwalder, Sisters Venturini and Chincarini, and their
  servant Adila (_Frontispiece_).

  Zubeir Pasha                                                         8

  A native woman of Dongola                                           65

  Hicks Pasha                                                         74

  Colonel Arthur Farquhar (Chief of Staff)                            80

  A Baggara emir, present at the annihilation of the Hicks
  Expedition, and afterwards captured at Toski                        89

  Father Ohrwalder's interview with the Mahdi at Rahad,
  concerning religion                                                107

  The gold medal struck by Gordon to commemorate the siege
  of Khartum                                                         122

  A Dervish emir present in the attack on Khartum, and
  afterwards captured at Toski                                       136

  An Egyptian Harem woman                                            156

  "Many a time did I turn round to look back, until
  Bonomi disappeared from view in the wood"                          181

  A slave woman from Equatoria                                       209

  Abyssinian dancing girls                                           243

  An Arab sheikh of Upper Egypt                                      255

  Bishir Bey, sheikh of the Ababdeh Arabs                            259

  Wad en Nejumi (from a photograph of a drawing made by
  an Egyptian officer of the great Emir, as he lay dead
  on the field of Toski)                                             264

  A native woman of Makaraka, the wife of one of Emin
  Pasha's officers, who reached Egypt from Uganda in
  June 1892                                                          270

  A trophy of arms, banners, and drums, captured from
  the Dervishes                                                      305

  Charles Neufeld                                                    354

  A slave girl from Equatoria                                        382

  A Baggara woman                                                    398

  The Arab guides who effected the escape of Father
  Ohrwalder and the Sisters                                          409

  "We had scarcely gone twenty paces from the river,
  when suddenly we heard the sound of a camel"                       435

  Plan of Omdurman.

  Map of the Nile Basin, showing route taken by Father Ohrwalder.





     Description of Kordofan and Dar Nuba--The Mission Station at Delen.

I left Cairo on the 28th of December, 1880, as full of bright hopes for
a happy future as any young man could wish to be. I had no thought of
the miserable fate which was so soon to overtake me.

Our party consisted of Bishop Comboni, two missionaries, Johann Dichtl
and Franz Pimezzoni (these three have long since passed into eternity),
and several sisters. We embarked at Suez, and spent the first day of
1881 on the Red Sea. On the 4th of January we landed at Sawakin. At that
time the governor of the town was Ala ed Din Pasha, who subsequently
accompanied General Hicks as Governor-General of the Sudan, and was
eventually killed with him. After a journey of twenty-eight days and
travelling _viâ_ Berber, we reached Khartum; here the pleasant gardens
and shady groves of date-palms impressed us most favourably. Standing on
the high river bank, just in front of the Mission gardens, were the
various members of the Mission, headed by Father Alois Bonomi, also the
Austrian Consul Hansal and the Italian Consul Legnani, who gave us a
hearty welcome. The whole city was _en fête_, to celebrate the return of
the Governor-General Rauf Pasha from Gedaref. After landing, we walked
through the lovely garden towards the Mission buildings, and here, in
the principal parlour, were collected Rauf Pasha, Giegler Pasha, Gessi
Pasha, who had just returned quite worn out from his campaigns in the
Bahr el Ghazal; the courageous Slatin, fresh from Darfur; Marcopoli Bey,
Doctor Zurbuchen, Marquet, the African traveller Jean Maria Schuver, and
many others who had come to welcome Bishop Comboni on his arrival.

On the 15th of March we celebrated the fiftieth birthday of Bishop
Comboni with general rejoicings: in the evening the European colony
dined at the Mission, and then followed a _soirée_. Little did we think
of the terrible fate that was in store for the majority of those
gathered together on that happy evening!

In the meantime Slatin Bey had been appointed Governor-General of
Darfur, and he considered it his duty to proceed as soon as possible to
take up his new post. Our bishop accepted Slatin's proffered invitation
to travel together as far as El Obeid, and on the 29th of March we
embarked on a steamer placed at our disposal by Rauf Pasha and proceeded
to Tur el Hadra. We were accompanied thus far by Marcopoli Bey, Dr.
Zurbuchen and Marquet, and here, mounting on camels, we made a rapid
march across the Kordofan deserts, arriving at El Obeid on the 5th of
April. No sooner had we dismounted, than two telegrams were handed to
us: one announced the sudden death, on his return to Khartum, of Dr.
Zurbuchen, and the other described the death of the Czar Alexander of
Russia at the hands of the Nihilists.

We remained at El Obeid while Slatin was making arrangements for his
journey to Darfur. Bishop Comboni then made a tour through Jebel Nuba,
returned to El Obeid and subsequently to Khartum, where he died on the
10th of October. God, in His mercy, took him away so that he should not
behold the terrible events in the Sudan which followed soon after his

I left El Obeid on the 28th of November, 1881, and reached Delen in Dar
Nuba on the 5th of December. I was most favourably impressed with the
Nuba country. Whilst Kordofan is merely an extensive plain with little
change of scenery, Dar Nuba presents an entirely different aspect. Here
chains of picturesque hills, running in various directions, rise out of
the plain, interspersed with numerous watercourses. Jebel Delen, on
which our Mission station was situated, is one of the smallest of the
hills. The other principal groups are Naïma, Kurun, Dobab, Dair, Kedaro,
Tagalla, Gedir, and Tira, in which gold is found, besides a number of
smaller hills. It is estimated that in all there are upwards of one
hundred inhabited mountains.

The intervening plains and valleys are rich in vegetation of every
description; trees of colossal dimensions are found, more especially in
the khors (the beds of perennial streams), and the thick luxuriant
growth is so dense that the rays of the sun cannot penetrate. The soil
is exceptionally fertile and rain abundant, consequently for six months
in the year the density of the undergrowth makes it almost impossible to
traverse these rich valleys; but when the rains are over and the grass
becomes dry, it is generally fired, and thus the plains and valleys
become passable again. A quantity of the rain from these hills flows
into Lake Birket, some passes also into the Khor Abu Habl, which becomes
lost in the sand before it reaches the White Nile. The rain from the
southern Nuba hills finds its way into the Bahr el Arab. The plains
abound with quantities of deer, giraffe, antelope, and wild boar, whilst
the woods contain myriads of birds of lovely plumage, and apes and
monkeys of every description. During the winter season, elephants were
frequently to be seen in the neighbourhood of Delen, which also abounds
with snakes, amongst which the boa-constrictor is not uncommon.

The population of Dar Nuba, which at one time was considerable, does not
now exceed 50,000; the scattered sub-tribes of Baggara, who roam the
plains with the Bederieh and Ghodiat Arabs, have decimated the Nubas,
and forced those that are left to fly to their mountain recesses, where
they eke out a wretched existence, their protection being the
inaccessible nature of their retreats.

I found the Nubas a pleasant and well-disposed people; indeed, they have
the reputation in the Sudan of being the best of all the negroid races;
they cultivate only sufficient quantities of corn, sesame, and beans to
serve for their livelihood; whilst the wild fruits and vegetables of
their country are so plentiful as to furnish almost sufficient food for
their maintenance should they be unable to cultivate. They possess
numbers of goats and cattle which supply them with milk and butter; they
are much addicted to drinking marissa (a kind of beer made from dhurra),
and great quantities of this beverage are consumed at their feasts,
principally at the feast known as Zubeir. On this occasion men and women
drink and dance together; but notwithstanding this unusual familiarity,
I never saw anything which might be considered an outrage to society.
With the exception of the Khojur, of whom I shall presently speak, and
the head sheikh, monogamy is practised.

The Nubas are governed entirely by their own traditional laws and
customs, the Khojur only intervening in case of necessity. The Khojur is
in reality a sort of religious chief, whose power over the people
depends entirely on his skilfulness and sagacity. During the time I was
in this neighbourhood the Khojur was a certain Kakum, known as "Kakum of

Only a short time had elapsed since the Egyptian Government had made a
settlement at Delen. A company of Sudanese soldiers, under the command
of a captain who was appointed for the suppression of the slave-trade,
had been recently quartered there, and they were also charged with the
protection of our Mission station.

I was very happy in Delen, where I found a variety of pursuits to occupy
my time. I amused myself in collecting insects, of which I soon had a
large selection. I also skinned birds and snakes. The various modes of
Nuba life and cultivation were, moreover, an immense interest to me, and
the presentation of a few glass beads enabled me to secure many strange
objects in return. The natives used to roar with laughter when they saw
me examining with interest the curious insects they brought me.

We had quite a colony of blacks in the Mission, and as the number
increased, it became necessary to enlarge the accommodation, so we began
to make and burn bricks; we obtained lime from the Saburi mountain (I
may here say the Nubas gave us this information) and the doleb-palm
supplied us with plenty of wood. Assisted by Father Bonomi, our
carpenter Gabriel Mariani built a four-wheeled cart, which we drove with
two strong mules. We worked along cheerfully and full of hope. We turned
out some 2,000 good bricks. Our blacks were quite contented; far removed
from the corruption and temptation of the towns, they kept steadily to
their work, and tilled their own little patches of ground; everything
was going well, and we anticipated great results. But suddenly our
tranquillity was disturbed. Early in April 1882, there were perceptible
at Delen the first murmurings of the terrible storm which was to deluge
the entire Sudan with blood, and to bring misfortune and calamity on the
land and on our happy Mission; but these events I will describe in the
following pages.



     The rise of the Mahdi--Early successes--Personal appearance--His
     Khalifas described--Military organization--Makes new laws--He
     summons El Obeid to surrender.

A few years previous to the time of which I speak, an individual who
called himself a Dervish had attracted people's attention. He wandered
through the Sudan in the garb of a Dervish, and strove to rouse the
Moslems to religious fanaticism. He urged that reality no longer existed
in the religion; faith was becoming of no account, and this religious
decadence was due to a luxurious mode of life and contact with
Christians. A number of influential sheikhs and merchants took up his
cause, and these he made to swear to remain faithful and true to him. At
this time at El Obeid there was a certain Said el Mek, who had the
reputation of being a holy man, and the Dervish did all in his power to
induce him to espouse his cause. Said el Mek urged that religion had not
fallen into such disrepute, and that all would be well if more mosques
were built; but the Dervish, with threats that if he refused to join him
he would compass his destruction, extracted from him a promise to keep
his plans secret. He then prepared the way by continuing his wanderings,
preaching everywhere against the oppression of the Turk and the
decadence of the true Moslem faith. Under the very nose of the
Government he collected a small body of faithful adherents, set off with
them for the island of Abba on the White Nile, and there openly declared
himself. Rumours that he intended to raise the people to revolt reached
Khartum. At this time Rauf Pasha was Governor-General; he sent a noted
Khartum townsman named Abu Saud to Abba, with instructions to invite the
Dervish to come and see the Governor-General. Abu Saud nearly succeeded
in his mission, and had it not been for the advice of one of his
adherents, Ahmed Sharfi, it is probable that the Dervish would have
accepted the invitation. Rauf Pasha, on learning of his refusal to obey
the summons, despatched two companies of troops to Abba Island at the
end of July 1881, with instructions to bring the Dervish forcibly to
Khartum. The two captains of the companies had a difference of opinion,
and, landing the troops in a most careless manner, they were drawn on by
the adherents of the Dervish into a marshy swamp, where they were fallen
upon and a number of them killed with simple sticks. Ahmed Sharfi
himself told me this. Only a very few succeeded in escaping and
returning to the steamer, in which they made their way back to Khartum.

This episode caused great excitement. I was at El Obeid when it
happened, and Giegler Pasha, who was also there at the time, told me
about it. Giegler despatched Mohammed Said Pasha to the White Nile with
orders to prevent the Dervish from escaping south; but Said Pasha soon
afterwards returned, having done nothing; probably he did not dare to
attack the rebels. In the meantime the Dervish quitted Abba, and
succeeded in reaching Tagalla in safety; thence he proceeded to Jebel
Gedir, and located himself at the foot of that mountain. The natives of
this district are called Kawakla, and dwell on the top of the mountain;
they are possessors of a very celebrated and holy stone, on which there
is a tradition the prophet Mohammed sat and prayed. Here the Dervish
Mohammed Ahmed now took up his abode, and waited to see what action the
Government intended to take.

At Delen the news of this Dervish was very meagre, though there was much
talk of his wonderful miracles, the most important of which was said to
be his power to change the bullets of the Government troops into water.
His repute as a worker of miracles grew rapidly, and was the cause of
largely increasing the number of his adherents. The malcontents, runaway
slaves, criminals evading justice, and religious fanatics, hurried to
Gedir; but perhaps the bulk of his adherents were men who lived by theft
and robbery, and who were the main supporters of the movement. To all,
the Dervish gave promises of enormous shares of loot and everlasting
happiness in the world to come. But it was to the slave-dealers that
Mohammed appeared in the light of a saviour, and it was to them that he
owed his subsequent success.

[Illustration: ZUBEIR PASHA.]

From the time that Gessi Pasha put an end to the slave-trade in the Bahr
el Ghazal by conquering Suleiman, the son of Zubeir Pasha, and
dispersing his forces--as Gessi had often related to me--numbers of
these runaway slave-dealers (as they afterwards assured me) owed their
ruin to him. These men were all warriors, accustomed to every
description of hardship, well trained in the use of firearms, and from
their constant slave-fights well accustomed to war; they flocked in
numbers to the Dervish, and he gave them elaborate promises of
quantities of booty and a complete resumption of the slave-trade.
Mohammed Ahmed had the power of inspiring these men with an
extraordinary amount of fanatical ardour, so much so, indeed, as we
shall presently see, that they would not hesitate to rush into certain
death at one word from him. He would compare these men with the
Government troops, and prove how far inferior were these latter; and, on
the other hand, the Government troops made the fatal mistake of
underrating their enemies, and conducting their operations with a
complete disregard for the wary foes with whom they had to deal. What
more obvious example of this blind self-confidence can there be than in
the miserable defeat of Rashid Bey, Mudir of Fashoda, who, without any
instructions, advanced against the Dervishes, and was cut to pieces on
the 9th of December, 1881?

Rashid Bey--so an eye-witness told me--was drawn into the middle of a
forest, and there he and his men were massacred, before they could even
alight from their camels, so completely taken by surprise were they.
Thus the Dervishes gained an important and decisive victory, with,
comparatively speaking, no loss at all. The German Berghof, inspector
for the suppression of slavery at Fashoda, also fell in this fight. What
wonder is it that such successes as these strengthened the belief of the
people that the Mahdi could turn Egyptian bullets into water! This
victory gave enormous impetus to the cause; not only was a quantity of
arms, ammunition, and stores captured, but Mohammed Ahmed's moral
influence was greatly increased. He was now believed in as the true
Mahdi; men flocked to his standard from all parts, and were ready and
willing to lay down their lives in his cause.

Mohammed Ahmed Wad el Bedri, one of the Mahdi's favourite and early
adherents, told me that it was the latter's intention to proceed to Dar
Fertit, and there organise an extensive revolt against the Government;
but Elias Pasha, a Jaali, and former Mudir of El Obeid, urged him
against this. Elias Pasha was a bitter enemy of Mohammed Said Pasha, and
of Ahmed Bey Dafallah, one of the principal merchants of El Obeid, and
he took this opportunity to wreak his vengeance on them. He fully
convinced the Mahdi of the inability of the garrison of El Obeid to
offer any prolonged resistance, as the troops were few in number, and he
could count on all the inhabitants joining him. It was this advice that
caused the Mahdi to turn his attention to Kordofan.

During all this time the number of the Mahdi's followers was continually
increasing, and the Government at length decided to send an expedition
against him. On the 15th of March, 1882, Yussef Pasha Esh Shellali,
formerly Gessi's second in command in his campaign against Suleiman
Zubeir, left Khartum for the south, in command of some 4,000 men, a
large number of whom deserted on the march. About the middle of May,
however, he left Fashoda, and advanced towards Gedir. At the same time
another expedition under Abdullah, brother of Ahmed Bey Dafallah and
Osman, started from El Obeid. This force was composed entirely of
volunteers, whom it had taken almost a month to collect, the noggara
beating night and day as a summons to arms. They were badly armed, and
in spite of Abdullah's well-known bravery, the expedition left with
little hope of success. Besides, an event happened which filled the men
with gloomy forebodings. Just as the troops were starting, Abdullah fell
from his horse, and, according to Sudan superstition, such an untoward
event is always a sign that the expedition will meet with misfortunes.
Abdullah effected a junction with Yussef Pasha, and the combined force
reached Gedir, where they entrenched themselves in a zariba near the
base of the mountain. A body of rebels, noiselessly approaching by
night, succeeded unobserved in dragging away some of the thorns forming
the zariba, and in the early morning the Dervishes, with fearful yells,
broke in and threw themselves on the troops, who, scared by the
suddenness of the attack, offered little resistance; they were soon
overcome, and fell a prey to the deadly dervish spears. Abdullah alone
made a gallant stand, and fought with desperate bravery, but he too fell
at last. A few only succeeded in escaping to Fashoda, and Emin Bey, who
was there at the time, on his way to the Equatorial Province, was the
first to receive the sad news. The account of this massacre, which took
place on the 7th of June, 1882, was described to us by an eye-witness.

And now the Mahdi determined to lay siege to El Obeid, a step which was
hailed with satisfaction by all his followers. Large numbers of Dar
Hamd, Ghodiat, and Bederieh Arabs collected at Birket, which in
winter-time becomes a large lake, round which are clustered numerous

In July 1882, Mohammed Said Pasha sent Major Nesim and Osman, the
brother of Abdullah who was killed at Gedir, with a force of 1,500 men,
with orders to disperse the Arabs. After a stubborn resistance the Arabs
were defeated by Nesim, but the latter suffered heavily, and Osman was
amongst the killed. Nesim afterwards returned to El Obeid.

Meanwhile the various military stations in Kordofan were falling one by
one into the Mahdi's hands. In July Fiki Rahma, at the head of the
Gowameh Arabs, assaulted and took Ashaf and razed it to the ground. Here
terrible atrocities were committed; not a woman was spared; even those
with child were ripped open and the unborn infant impaled on a lance. On
the 8th of August Shat was captured and destroyed by Wad Makashif. Fiki
Minneh stormed and took Tayara, putting all the inhabitants to the
sword. Bara and El Obeid were now the only towns left in the whole
province of Kordofan over which the Egyptian flag was still flying; and
these two places were gradually being invested, while within lurked the
spirit of treachery, and the Mahdi propaganda was being secretly
instilled into not unwilling minds. At El Obeid, Elias Pasha was the
most active agent, and it was to him that the Mahdi had consigned the
medals, watches, and other valuables captured at Gedir, with orders to
sell them in El Obeid.

The Mahdi now became a man whose very name was a terror to the
Egyptians. The way to El Obeid lay open before him, and when he saw how
rapidly he had risen to power, there is no doubt he really believed
himself to be the true Mahdi, divinely sent by God to carry out this
great revolution, and the fulsome flattery of his numerous adherents
must have confirmed him in this idea. Here a few remarks on the Mahdi's
antecedents may not be out of place.

Mohammed Ahmed belonged to the race of people known as the
Danagla--_i.e._ inhabitants of Dongola--who are notorious in the Sudan
as being the cleverest and most determined of the slave-dealers. On the
White Nile and in the Bahr el Ghazal they had built numerous zaribas,
and it was through their means that this country became first known. In
Darfur they always occupied the position of chief ministers or vazirs to
the Sultans; even to the present day the prime minister of the Sultan of
Borgo is a Dongolawi. In spite, however, of their capacity, the Danagla
were rather despised throughout the Sudan, and it was only subsequently
that they were created Ashraf (or noble) by the Mahdi. Mohammed Ahmed's
age was estimated at his death to have been about forty-five, he must
therefore have been born about the year 1840. It appears that his father
came into the Sudan when quite a young man, and sent his son to the
Mesit or Kuran school at Kererri, and, from what I have heard, there is
no doubt that the young Mohammed Ahmed showed signs of a violently
fanatical nature at quite an early age. After the fall of El Obeid, his
former teacher came to see him, and was received with great solemnity by
his early pupil, who at once arranged that he should receive a monthly

Mohammed Ahmed's early youth was spent in learning the Kuran; later on
he led the life of a Dervish, moving about from place to place,
distributing amulets, and writing on little slips of paper mysterious
words, which were supposed to protect the wearer against all the ills
and diseases to which human beings are liable. Through constant study,
and by leading the life of an ascetic, he acquired a facility of speech
which obtained for him a great reputation amongst the uneducated and
superstitious classes in which he moved. Before he openly declared
himself, he retired for some time to a cave, where he gave himself up
entirely to prayer. His repute for sanctity was so great that sailing
vessels and even Government steamers stopped to ask his blessing on
their journey; in return for which he received many valuable gifts. As I
have already said, it was not till after he had prepared the ground by
his itinerant preaching that he openly declared himself.

His outward appearance was strangely fascinating; he was a man of strong
constitution, very dark complexion, and his face always wore a pleasant
smile, to which he had by long practice accustomed himself. Under this
smile gleamed a set of singularly white teeth, and between the two upper
middle ones was a V-shaped space, which in the Sudan is considered a
sign that the owner will be lucky. His mode of conversation too had by
training become exceptionally pleasant and sweet. As a messenger of God,
he pretended to be in direct communication with the Deity. All orders
which he gave were supposed to have come to him by inspiration, and it
became therefore a sin to refuse to obey them; disobedience to the
Mahdi's orders was tantamount to resistance to the will of God, and was
therefore punishable by death.

He called himself Mahdi Khalifat er Rasul (_i.e._ the successor of the
Prophet), while his adherents called him "Sayid" (_i.e._ Master);
Sayidna el Mahdi (_i.e._ our Master the Mahdi), or Sayidna el Imam
(_i.e._ our Master the head, or one who goes in front). The Mahdi in his
every action endeavoured to imitate and follow in the exact footsteps of
the Prophet.

Thus he made his hejira or flight to Gedir, and there appointed his four
Khalifas. The first of these was the Khalifa Abdullah, who assumed the
title of Khalifa Abu Bakr, or Khalifa Es Sadik; he belonged to the
Taisha section of the Baggara tribe, and it was through his influence
that the Taisha, Rizighat and Homr Baggaras were won over to the Mahdi's
cause. It was agreed that Khalifa Abdullah should, in the event of the
Mahdi's death, succeed.

The second Khalifa was Ali Wad Helu, the chief of the powerful Degheim
and Kenana tribes, who also largely contributed to the Mahdi's success.
The third was Ali Esh Sherif, a Dongolawi, and son-in-law of the Mahdi;
the title of Sherif, or noble, was given to him as being a member of the
Mahdi's family; he was the representative of the Gellabas (or traders),
and of the inhabitants of Gezireh,[B] Berber, and Dongola. Ali Sherif
was in reality the last Khalifa, for a fourth was never appointed. The
Mahdi asked the son of Sheikh Senussi, as by his influence he thought to
win over Egypt, but he refused the honour, and in consequence no one
else was nominated to fill the place, though strenuous efforts were made
by the more ambitious adherents to secure this much-coveted position;
and it is needless to add that several who sought the honour were
relegated to prison as possible rivals. The Khalifa Abdullah is now
about forty-three years of age, has a dark copper-coloured complexion,
much marked by small-pox, an intelligent face, and is a man of great
energy. He is gifted by nature with common sense, but he has had no
education, and can neither read nor write. The Khalifa Ali is rather
short, and if he were only a little taller would pass for a good-looking
man; he has a ruddy complexion, and wears a large beard; he was
educated at the El Azhar university in Cairo, and has a considerable
knowledge of Islam theology. He is at present under forty years of age,
and should succeed Abdullah. The Khalifa Sherif is not at present more
than twenty-one years of age.

These three Khalifas were the commanders-in-chief of the army, of which
each section had its own special distinctions, whilst the Mahdi himself
had no distinctive military insignia--neither flag nor drum. Each
Khalifa had his own Jehadieh, or regular troops, his cavalry and
lance-bearers, all from the tribe to which he himself belongs; each had
also his own distinctive flag; Abdullah's the Raya Zerga, or black flag;
Ali's the Raya el Hamra, or red flag; and Sherif's the Raya el Hadra, or
green flag; each Khalifa had in addition his own war-drums made of
brass, and which were therefore called "nahas," in contradistinction to
the ordinary drums known as "noggara," which are made of wood, over
which a piece of skin is tightly stretched; the Khalifa Abdullah had
also the onbaïa, a very powerful wind instrument made of an elephant's
tusk, hollowed out, and which when blown has a very loud and impressive

The whole of the Mahdi's troops were thus divided into three sections
under their respective flags, and each Khalifa was in actual command of
his section. The Mahdi and Sherif represented the Gellabas, who are
known, in contradistinction to the Baggara, as Aulad-Belad (country
people), and Aulad-Bahr (river people), because they dwell on the banks
of the Nile; whilst Khalifa Abdullah and Ali Wad Helu represented the
Baggara, _i.e._ the Arabs. The former of these two parties was the most
capable as well as the most numerous, but, as we shall presently see,
Khalifa Abdullah's party, through their leader's immense energy, gained
the ascendency. Each Khalifa has numbers of emirs under him, all of whom
have their different flags. These banners are quite simple and require
no great labour; they are made of varied colours, and on each the Moslem
creed is written, with the addition of the words: "Mohammed Ahmed el
Mahdi Khalifat er Rasul" (_i.e._ "the successor of the Prophet"). This
is specially directed against the Sultan of Turkey, who claims this
title. Latterly flags were made to represent certain stated numbers of
men; for instance, in the early days of the revolt, Abderrahman en
Nejumi was designated Emir el Umara (or Emir of Emirs), because in the
first instance he commanded from 2,000 to 4,000 men, and secondly, these
men received a regular rate of pay, which in reality found its way into
the emirs' pockets; but latterly many of the emirs command only fifty
men. Each emir is assisted by several mukuddums, or under officers, and
each mukuddum also has his assistant.

Thus did the Mahdi organise the force which was to conquer the Sudan. He
had absolutely no knowledge or system of drill, but he had men in
abundance; and taking the proverb, "Nekhrib ed Dunia wa nammir el Akher"
(_i.e._ "We shall destroy this and create the next world") as his motto,
he thought not of sparing the lives of his men, but rather urged that by
dying they should go direct to paradise. His plan, therefore, was to
attack in overwhelming numbers with wild shouts, and to be regardless of
all loss. Later on, at Abu Kru in the Bayuda desert, they yelled so
furiously in the hope that they would alarm the English, that their
commander, Nur Angara, tried to make them desist, by telling them that
if they continued shouting much longer, the English would laugh at them.
In spite, however, of his bold tactics, the Mahdi did not hesitate to
practise every possible deception and falsehood--indeed, most of his
early successes were secured by these means. At the commencement of the
revolt the use of firearms was forbidden; sticks and lances formed the
only arms, as it was the Mahdi's intention in this instance also to
follow directly in the footsteps of the Prophet who had gained all his
victories without firearms.

The Mahdi, however, whilst thus preparing for war, did not relax in any
degree his religious fervour. His primary object was to be a religious
reformer, and to preach that to him was confided the task of bringing
back the religion now polluted by the Turks, to its original purity. He
therefore formulated many severe orders. The use of alcoholic drinks, to
which the Sudanese are much addicted, was entirely forbidden, and any
infringement of this order was punished by sixty blows with the kurbash.
Smoking and chewing tobacco, a custom much in vogue amongst the
Sudanese, was also strictly forbidden; and the use of hashish, to which
the Turks and Egyptians were addicted, was entirely prohibited;
disobedience to this order was punishable by eighty lashes. Death often
ensued before the punishment could be completed, but the full number of
lashes was always given. If any one lived through his punishment he was
considered purified both externally and internally. Any harmless word of
abuse, such as "kelb" (dog), was punishable with twenty-seven lashes.
This punishment went by the name of "Hakk-Allah"[C] (the right of God),
and was also inflicted in the time of the Prophet, who, to make it a
really mild punishment, ordained that the upper part of the arms and
shoulders should be covered with camel's hide, and the punishment
inflicted on the lower arm only, the indication that it had been
correctly administered being shown by the fact that the camel's hide had
not moved from its place. The Mahdiists, however, took quite another
view of the matter, and thought that the only correct way of
administering "God's right" was to draw blood copiously.

The Mahdi also issued many new orders regarding marriages. Hitherto in
the Sudan and in the East generally, the marriage ceremony is
accompanied by large feasts. It was the custom of the father on the
betrothal of his daughter to obtain in exchange as large a sum of money
as possible; that is the reason why fathers greatly preferred their
children to be girls, for they made quite a small fortune on their
marriages. But the Mahdi changed all this, and ordered that the
bridegroom should expend a sum of ten dollars only, besides providing a
korbab (girth) coverlet, perfumes and ointment for the bride's hair,
also another sort of ointment which the Sudanese greatly appreciate, and
which is generally used for anointing the bridegroom's body; also he
must supply a pair of shoes. The ceremonies of betrothal and marriage
are very simple. When the contract is completed and the above articles
delivered by the bridegroom, his friends and relations assemble,
generally on a Friday or Monday (these days being considered lucky);
after a good meal the fiki asks the bride or some one appointed to
represent her, whether she consents to the marriage, after which the
bridegroom repeats the usual saying, in which he mentions the Mahdi's
name, the ceremony is thus concluded, and is announced to the neighbours
by the women of the party uttering at intervals the shrill cries of joy
called "Zagharit." Young women are forbidden by the Mahdi to walk about
with uncovered faces; an unveiled woman is considered to be naked; but
if she wear a veil and the rest of her body be unclothed, it is not an
offence. The wearing of gold and silver ornaments, and of goat's hair
curled and plastered with gum (a custom which some of the Sudanese women
affect), was strictly forbidden, and woe to the woman who thus adorned
herself; not only was her false hair forcibly torn from her, but her
real hair as well.

All these innovations the Mahdi justified by the divinity of his
mission. He announced that he was the last of the prophets, and that the
end of the world was near; further, he said that during his lifetime the
prophet Jesus would appear, and that the whole world would become
Moslem; he therefore urged the people to repentance and prayer, and do
all in their power to further the Jehad (or holy war). Why should they
seek after riches when in a very short time the world would cease to
exist? It is easy to see how such teaching as this must eventually
result in famine and destruction. The Mahdi forbade all weeping and
wailing for the dead, on the grounds that to die in such times as the
present for the Mahdi's cause was an honour and reward which would
without fail secure paradise to them. As for those who did not have the
good fortune to die, the Mahdi urged them to show their contempt for the
pleasures of this life by continual fasting, prayer, and repentance. If
a man were suffering from hunger, he recommended him to tighten his
belt, whilst his more fanatical adherents advised placing a heavy stone
on the stomach. He further ordained that the poorest of clothes should
be worn, the feet bared or in sandals, and, in imitation of the
Prophet's example, the hard floor should be chosen as the place on which
to sleep. He made curious regulations regarding the manufacture of
jibbehs (_i.e._ the Mahdi uniform coat); they should be made of damur, a
rough cotton fabric of the Sudan, and if torn, they should be mended
with new patches or old rags, but that on no account should a new jibbeh
ever be worn.

All these innovations, which were based on religious motives, were
intended by him to enforce unity and cohesion amongst his followers, and
at the same time they had the effect of hardening them to undergo the
perils of war without complaint; for the Mahdi thoroughly understood as
long as men were rich they would fear death, and that a luxurious and
comfortable mode of life was the worst possible training for war. The
Mahdi always conducted prayers in public, and his followers considered
it a very great privilege to be permitted to take part in worship with
him; consequently, when he prayed, his followers came in their
thousands, and ranged themselves in long regular lines behind him. When
prayers were concluded, it was his custom to make religious discourses,
in which he explained various passages in the sacred books, arguing that
they referred to the divine message concerning his mission, and the
destruction of the Turks and unbelievers. The people whom he addressed
were so ignorant and uneducated that they believed implicitly every word
he uttered; these were the guileless, simple folk, and they were
entirely deceived by the Mahdi; but there were others who well knew that
every word he uttered was a falsehood; nevertheless they listened, and,
to flatter him, showed an apparent interest in his new doctrine.

Thus the Mahdi, having prepared himself, as we have seen, and having
already been three times victorious over the Egyptian troops, now
quitted his place of refuge, Gedir, and set off for Kordofan, which he
intended to reduce to entire submission. In order to cover his retreat
in case of failure, he left his uncle, Sherif Mahmud, with some troops
at Gedir, where he also left the guns, as transport at that time of the
year was very difficult, owing to the rain having flooded the khors and
valleys; he also left behind the arms captured from the Turks. Hitherto
he had not collected any large amount of treasure, and had suffered
considerable privations at Gedir.

When the Mahdi announced his departure from Gedir, he wrote letters to
the tribes, and soon they flocked to his standards in great numbers and
from all directions; Baggara from the plains of Dar Nuba, Miserieh, Dar
Abu Dali, and Hawazma Arabs. These hordes assembled, according to the
Mahdi's orders, at Birket, and to this place also came the Bederieh,
Ghodiat, and Dar Homr Arabs, whilst on the further side of El Obeid,
cruel fiki Minneh was gathering the Gowameh, Asaker Abu Kalam and Dar
Giumeh Arabs, with whom he intended to assault El Obeid from the north,
simultaneously with the Mahdi's attack from the south. The rumours of
the enormous quantities of treasure stored in El Obeid misled the Arab
hordes, and there is no doubt that the town would not have fallen had
the inhabitants remained loyal to the Government. Mohammed Said Pasha
had dug a ditch and raised a high parapet round the whole city; but this
line of defence was so extensive, that it would have required at least
20,000 men to hold it; besides, the ditch was neither sufficiently deep
nor broad, and did not present a very serious obstacle to cross.

From Birket the Mahdi despatched three messengers to Said Pasha, calling
on him to surrender, and to acknowledge him as Mahdi; in case he refused
he was threatened with instant destruction. The three messengers,
clothed in their soiled and tattered jibbehs, were brought before a
meeting of all the principal people in El Obeid; but in spite of their
dirty appearance, they behaved in such an overbearing and insolent way,
that Said Pasha, regardless of the advice and counsel of a number of
those present who were in reality in league with the Mahdi, at once
ordered Skander Bey to hang them. The order was carried out, and in a
few moments their lifeless bodies were dangling on the gallows.

If Said Pasha had taken strong measures in dealing with some of the
principal townsmen, he might have saved El Obeid. A certain Ahmed
Dafallah, a loyal supporter of the Government, urged him to put all the
suspected people including himself in chains in the Mudirieh; this would
have disposed of Elias Pasha, Mohammed Wad el Areik, Hajji Khaled, Ben
en Naga, and Siwar ed Dahab; and their chiefs once away, it is probable
their followers would have returned to their former loyalty; but Said
Pasha refused to accept the proposal, and instead of trying to win over
his sworn enemy, Elias Pasha, he alienated him still further by taking
possession of his newly-built house near the Mudirieh and handing it
over to Elias's bitterest enemy, Ahmed Dafallah, to live in, thus
entirely disregarding Elias Pasha. Now was Elias Pasha's opportunity to
revenge himself on his two adversaries, the garrison of El Obeid was
unusually weak, insignificant reinforcements had been sent from Khartum
under Mohammed Pasha Khabir, but he also, being an enemy of the Mudir,
joined the Mahdi, as I shall narrate in the following chapter.


[B] The Gezireh or Geziret Meröe is generally applied to the
country lying between the Blue and White Niles.

[C] In law, the retributive chastisement which it is the duty
of a magistrate to inflict for crime and offences against morality and



     The storm rises in Dar Nuba--The Baggara begin to raid--Khojur
     Kakum of Delen--Mek Omar besieges Delen--The slave guard deserts
     the Mission--The priests and nuns surrender--They are sent to the

Leaving the Mahdi at Birket, I shall now return to the narration of the
events which befell us in Jebel Nuba.

As I have already said, the first indication of a revolt occurred in our
part of the country in April 1882. When the Mahdi had established
himself at Gedir, the slave-hunters, whose occupation had been destroyed
by the action of the Government, and who were therefore greatly
incensed, were among the first to join his banners. At that time the
most notorious slave-dealer was a certain Ismail Wad el Andok of Haboba,
who took the opportunity, when the Government was collecting troops to
attack the Mahdi, to assemble about 1,600 men and make a slave raid on
Golfan-Naïma. He had already burnt over a hundred houses and captured
the inhabitants, when some of the poor Nubas who had escaped, arrived by
night at Delen and urgently begged the inspector of slaves, Roversi, for
help. This, Roversi gladly promised he would give them, but it required
all his powers of persuasion to induce Captain Mohammed Suleiman to
consent; and, indeed, there was no small risk in advancing with only
eighty men--which was all Roversi could raise--to attack this powerful
band of robbers. However, we put our trust in God, and asked His
blessing on our humane undertaking. Roversi left that evening, guided by
the terror-stricken Nubas. Golfan-Naïma is about ten hours' journey
from Delen, and Roversi, by making a forced march during the night,
arrived there at daybreak, and was taken by the Nubas to a high hill,
from which he could see the enemy's entire camp without being seen, and,
indeed, so close was he that he could hear the horses neighing and the
sheep bleating. After the men had taken a short rest, they prepared for
the assault. Soon after daybreak, Roversi gave the signal for attack by
a trumpet call; the enemy, taken completely by surprise, thought only of
flight, but the bullets coming from every direction, gave them no time
to think or look from whence they came or how many were opposed to them;
they fled as rapidly as they could, leaving behind them all the people
and cattle they had captured, as well as a number of their own women.
Roversi's men were soon masters of the situation, and were welcomed by
the relieved Nubas with every expression of joy and delight; the other
Nubas, who had fled to the hills, now came down and cut off the retreat
of the Arabs. Roversi captured a large quantity of loot, received the
warmest thanks from the captives he had rescued, and soon after he
released a number of the women whom he had taken prisoners. The large
number of cattle and sheep captured from the Arabs in this expedition
proved invaluable during the investment of Delen, which followed shortly
afterwards. The little force now returned laden with booty of every
description, and was received by the inhabitants with every
manifestation of joy. This, however, was our last victory.

I must now give a short description of Delen before I proceed to narrate
the events which occurred there later on. Delen, situated five days'
journey to the south of El Obeid, is on one of the smallest of the
mountain ranges. Jebel Delen itself consists of five hill summits,
decreasing in height from south to north, the highest point being
scarcely 1,500 feet above the plain. These five hills form a most
picturesque group; enormous granite blocks lie piled one over the
other, and the spacious cavities thus formed serve as haunts for
panthers and other beasts of prey. The rain, which comes down in
torrents, has washed all the soil away, leaving only the barren rocks
standing in these huge piles; far in the clefts, a sort of wild fig has
taken slender root, and, gradually shooting up, gives a pleasant shade,
and takes off from the barren aspect which these hills would otherwise
present. Of the five hills only two are inhabited, and in all there
cannot be more than 2,000 inhabitants, who are remarkable for their tall
and graceful figures and unusual bravery. At the foot of the
northernmost hill lay our little Mission station, while at the foot of
the south-east hill was situated the palisaded zariba of the soldiers;
to the west and north, and close to the Mission buildings, stretched the
Nuba villages, extending from the base to the summit of the hills.

The second hill from the north, which is about 600 yards from the first
hill, was inhabited by the Nubas and their Khojur Kakum. Kakum was at
that time a man of about fifty years of age, of commanding appearance,
and greatly respected by the blacks. He used to wear wide white trousers
and a gallabieh, and on his head a nicely embroidered cap with a large
tassel which our sisters had made for him. He had passed his youth in
Alexandria as a soldier, and acquitted himself admirably as the Khojur,
not of Delen only, but also of the neighbouring hills. Numbers of people
used to come and seek his blessing and advice, and when our Bishop
Comboni arrived at El Obeid, he was there to beg him to send
missionaries to teach his people and make men of them. He always
remained faithful and loyal to the Government, and when our time of
difficulty and hardship came, his continual motto was, "Eed Effendina
tawileh" (_i.e._ "Our Khedive's hand is long")--that is to say, his
power is great.

The third mountain was occupied by a certain Dogman, with a small
following who were for the most part inclined to Mahdiism. For the
moment this man was not dangerous, and the people on the two other
hills remained loyal to us. When the whole country was up in arms
against the Government, this honesty and devotion on the part of these
poor Nubas was a bright exception; they would even have fought for us
had it been of any use and we had deemed it necessary.

The enemies we most feared were the Baggara of the Nuba plains, who had
their headquarters at Singiokai, about six hours north of Delen. These
tribesmen had joined in the revolt from the beginning, and had cut off
our communication with El Obeid; they had organised themselves into a
corps of from 150 to 200 strong, mounted on horses, and they frequently
made incursions on the people in the neighbourhood of Delen; they would
suddenly appear galloping at full speed, and as suddenly disappear,
destroying or seizing everything on their path. Their raids were
principally directed against the Nubas who were working in the fields,
and on their women who were carrying water from the wells. These
robber-dervishes appeared for the first time on the 8th of April, 1882,
and a cry of alarm was raised from the mountains, which echoed and
re-echoed it back a hundred times.

Every one fled to the mountains, even the cattle instinctively made for
their shelters. Some Nubas were attacked and killed in the woods, and
twelve of the soldiers, who were out looking after the camels grazing,
were all killed, with the exception of one who fell severely wounded in
the back; all the camels were captured. When the Baggara had
disappeared, the Nubas descended from the hills and came to the scene of
the raid. On finding the dead bodies, with weeping and wailing they
carried them back to the villages; the women tore their hair, rolled on
the ground, and put dust on their heads. The large broad lances had made
deep gaping wounds in the unfortunate soldiers who had fallen.

That night, when all was still, the widows of these poor men went to the
top of a high rock and there sang a solemn dirge for the dead, which
made a melancholy echo in the deep recesses of the hills. I never heard
a more touching lamentation for the dead. It was as if all nature joined
in sympathy with these poor people, whose happy homes had been
destroyed. I was deeply affected, and the more so as I thought over the
cruel fate which now seemed to be hanging over our heads.

Soon afterwards the Baggara appeared again, but this time they were seen
from a distance, and by a preconcerted signal all fled to places of
security, and the robbers returned empty-handed. The Nubas now wanted to
lie in wait for the Baggara, and asked the captain commanding the
company to assist them with twenty men. This, however, he refused to do,
so we gave them twenty rifles from the Mission, and they then prepared
an ambush for the unsuspecting Arabs, who a few days afterwards came
riding along on their tired horses. The Nubas waited till they came
quite close, and then suddenly opened fire; fifteen of the enemy fell,
and the remainder galloped off at full speed; eight horses and some
booty fell into the hands of the Nubas, who returned in triumph to the
village, and were welcomed with great rejoicings. It was interesting to
see them as they marched slowly along, leading their captured horses,
while the maidens of the village danced in front of them and sang songs
in honour of the braves.

We had now a short period of tranquillity, but soon afterwards the
Baggara renewed their attacks, and we were in a state of constant alarm.
Our information about the Mahdi was distorted and unreliable; we had
practically no news from El Obeid, and we could only arrive at the
conclusion that the Government was powerless, otherwise why should the
Baggara attack us?

One evening the captain told us that he had certain information that we
were to be massacred that night; he had heard that the Baggaras had made
a compact with the Khojur Kakum and the Nubas, and that our destruction
had been agreed upon. The alarm which fell upon our little colony at
this news can be readily understood.

It was a very dark night, and in the distance we saw a line of fires
which we took to be the Baggara camp-fires. As we all quite believed in
the captain's information, we prepared ourselves for defence; but as we
thought over the situation we began to wonder how it was that Kakum, who
had hitherto been our sworn friend, and united to us by the tie of
blood-brotherhood, should suddenly join with his bitterest enemies, the
Baggara, to compass our destruction; then, if the news were false, why
should we spend a night of anguish?

After some deliberation, Father Bonomi decided to ascertain the true
state of affairs, and taking with him two boys and a lantern, he set off
to see the Khojur himself. Full of anxious thoughts, we watched the
light as it moved on towards the gap in the hills; at length it reached
the base, and then began slowly ascending. An ominous silence pervaded
the whole place, which was unusual, for the Nubas love gossiping till a
late hour at night. Still we kept our eyes fixed on the light, which
eventually disappeared. How anxiously we awaited its reappearance!
Should the Khojur intend treachery, we knew we should not see Bonomi
again. How slowly the time passed! But at length the light reappeared,
and began to descend the hill. We breathed again; after all we should
not lose our Father Bonomi.

In a few minutes he was with us again, and with a cheery laugh told us
how the captain's information was all wrong, and how angry the Khojur
was that we should ever have doubted him. I thereupon hastened to the
soldiers' quarters, to reassure the poor captain. Mohammed Suleiman was
really a good man, but he was too old and unfitted for his position.
Although it was midnight, he and Roversi returned with me to the
Mission, and there he related how one of his female slaves, who had a
slight knowledge of the Nuba language, had gone to the Khojur to grind
some dhurra, and had overheard him talking secretly with some of the
Nubas; then some of them had got angry, and, standing up, beat the
ground with their spears. This, the woman concluded, must mean an oath
that we should be destroyed. As for the rest of the story, it was
entirely the woman's invention. Everything was now explained, and our
fear gave way to cheerful conversation, which we continued till dawn,
when the ringing of the "ave" bell awakened the echoes of the black
mountains of Delen.

At sunrise the Khojur arrived, accompanied by a number of followers and
many influential Nubas. Not content with his declaration of fidelity
made the previous night, the good man had come down to give us his
solemn oath that, far from fighting against us, he and his men were
ready to fight and die for us. In a grave speech, full of earnest
fervour, he assured us of his and of the Nubas' friendship. We, on the
other hand, felt certain of his loyalty, and we pledged the success of
our compact in a bottle of wine, which our good friend the Khojur
greatly enjoyed.

We lived in this state of uncertainty and fear for upwards of five
months, not knowing what the next day would bring forth; we were
entirely cut off from the rest of the world, and our peaceful work and
occupations were all disturbed. We now no longer dared to expose
ourselves on the plains, but confined ourselves to the hills, where we
sometimes hunted the koodoo. On one occasion, when we went to the Dogman
mountain, our suspicions were aroused by the way in which the people
gathered round us, and showed a curious desire to examine our arms. As
we were returning, the former sheikh of this district--a man named
Isa--warned us not to come to the mountain again, as some of the men
intended to kill us, and would have done so had they not been afraid of
our arms. Roversi's rifle had a magazine for sixteen cartridges.

Early in September our position became very critical. The Mahdi, having
quitted Gedir, had advanced into Kordofan; his adherents gathered round
him at Birket from all directions, and from here he despatched a certain
Mek Omar with letters and a small band of followers to take possession
of Delen. Mek Omar arrived, and encamped on the hill with his friend
Dogman, and planting his standard, he beat his war-drum incessantly, day
and night. He then sent us a letter saying that the Mahdi had captured
El Obeid, and that all the inhabitants had joined him, with the
exception of Mohammed Said Pasha and a few soldiers who still held out
in the Mudirieh buildings; at the same time Omar urged us to submit, as
resistance was useless. The fact that Omar, with only fifty men,
possibly less, had the audacity to pitch his camp under our very eyes,
rather induced us to believe in the truth of his assertions. Roversi,
however, determined to attack him, but was dissuaded from doing so by
the captain.

We then held a council to consider what would be the best course to
follow. After much deliberation (which is always the case in dealing
with Arabs) it was unanimously decided to attempt a flight to Fashoda.
The Nubas also, who offered us their services as guides, advised us to
take this course. It is very probable we should have succeeded in this
attempt, as almost all the Arabs who wanted to fight had followed the
Mahdi to El Obeid, in anticipation of the booty which they thought would
so soon be theirs.

The route to Fashoda lay far to the south of the scene of present
operations, and with the eighty Remingtons of the soldiers, and our
thirty good rifles, we felt confident that we should be able to make our
way thither. It was therefore decided that we should start off very
quietly in the dead of night. Every one made up a small bundle of the
few things he wished to take, which would be required on the journey,
either as presents or to buy or offer in exchange for food. We also had
a sufficient number of camels, mules, and donkeys for the sisters and
sick, and we had made up into bundles all that we required; we gave the
rest of our things to the Nubas, so that nothing should fall into Mek
Omar's hands. The Nubas gave us every possible assistance, and through
the darkness we could see them moving about like ghosts amongst the
black rocks, laden with every imaginable thing.

At midnight we quitted the Mission and made our way to the soldiers'
zariba, hoping that we should find them all ready to start; but instead
we found them all in bed, the captain had given no orders to prepare,
and Roversi's influence was gone. We tried in various ways to induce the
captain to give orders, but he merely answered that he was waiting till
he received a reply from Mek Omar, to whom he had written. Getting
impatient, he sent a trustworthy man to Omar, who never returned. It was
now nearly sunrise, and all our efforts to move the captain were
unavailing. Then the Khedivial National Anthem, which was always blown
at reveille, was sounded, but was smothered by the deafening rattle of
the noggaras; it was, as it were, a mockery, showing that the light of
civilisation was about to be extinguished by the barbaric hordes of
Jebel Nuba. In the meantime the soldiers had got ready of their own
accord, and declared themselves willing to undergo any fatigue, and, if
needs be, die for us; but the fear and irresolution shown by their
captain unnerved them, and as the sun rose they one by one left the camp
and submitted to Mek Omar. A very few only stayed with Roversi; and when
the captain quitted the zariba, these too went over to the enemy.

Thus were we left quite alone--a party of some 200 persons, of whom the
greater number were women and children. Flight was now out of the
question; there was nothing left for us but to return to our homes. We
did so; but what a sight met our eyes! The Nubas had carried off
everything. With heavy hearts we returned to the rooms of the Mission;
here everything was wrecked and ruined; what the Nubas had thought of no
use to themselves they had smashed to pieces. Roversi, who had always
been most loyal and true to us, now went to Mek Omar to arrange for his
own safety. When the first bitterness of feeling had passed off, we
discussed the next step to be taken; there was absolutely nothing left
in the station, and we had not a mouthful of food left.

I then went, in company with Bonomi, to Mek Omar. This former
slave-dealer--a short, crippled, and dirty old Takruri, who had been
well known to us a long time ago--received us in a friendly manner. He
had coffee brought to us, and related the great bravery of the Mahdi,
and then concluded with the following words: "I know that you will not
turn Mohammedans, you must therefore understand that your property and
slaves are no longer your own; at the same time I will give you a letter
to the Mahdi regarding your situation." Hard as these conditions were,
we had no alternative but to accept; and when our conference was over,
our arms were taken from us, and all our blacks, for whose welfare so
many lives had been sacrificed and such trouble expended, were suddenly
lost to us at one fell stroke. We then returned to the Mission, where we
spent the night alone and on our knees.

These events took place on the 14th of September, 1882. On the morning
of the 15th of September we rang for the last time the ave-bell for
Heaven knows how many years. At noon Mek Omar arrived with his
followers, and, chanting the Mohammedan creed, he first entered the
church, and there we had the agony of beholding with our own eyes its
destruction. Our blacks were taken over by Omar's troops, and attached
to the Government soldiers. Omar thought that he would find some
treasure, but here he was mistaken, for we had hidden the little money
we had to meet our future wants; and as we had been cut off from El
Obeid for seven months, we had consumed all our reserve stores; for the
fourteen days previous to this we had not even any salt to mix with our

We had to stay on at Delen for three long days, awaiting Omar's pleasure
to allow us to proceed. It was pitiable to see the cruel and brutal way
in which our poor blacks were treated by Omar's followers. Before
leaving we paid Khojur Kakum a visit; the poor man was filled with pity
for us, and more especially for the sisters; he longed to stay with us,
and, bitterly weeping, bade us farewell. He also fully expected to meet
a tragic fate. We finally left our beloved Nuba hills on the 18th of
September, and after endless trouble succeeded in procuring from Mek
Omar four animals on which the sisters could ride. Father Bonomi,
myself, and two lay brothers took it in turns to walk and ride. Our
mounts consisted of a camel, a mule, and two donkeys. Mek Omar placed us
in charge of his son Naser and a party of Arabs; several of the Nubas
accompanied us for some distance, and as we passed Kakum's hill, we
could see the poor man standing up and stretching out his hands towards
us as a last farewell. Many of our young blacks also followed us, but
were forced by their new masters to turn back. Our departure caused us
pangs of grief which pierced us to the very core.

In the evening we reached a small hill called Kudru, at the base of
which there was a well, and here we encamped for the night. Here also
the Nubas came down from the rocks to greet us. We left the next
morning, and our road now lay through the great grass plains. At this
season of the year, besides the rain, there is always a very heavy dew
which wetted us to the skin, besides we often had to ford streams up to
our necks, and emerging with dripping clothes, to continue our march. We
knew that this was sure to bring on fever and diarrhoea, and so,
indeed, it proved, shortly after our arrival at El Obeid.

At length we reached Singiokai, the head-quarters of the Baggara, and we
found numbers of nomad Arabs living in tents. On our arrival, every one,
old and young, hastened to look at us, and gaze on the hated captured
Christians. This inquisitive and motley crowd derided us and heaped
insults upon us; the ugly old women, whom one could only compare with
hyenas, were perhaps the most bitter in their disgraceful taunts. We
stayed here one day, and then continued our journey. Whenever we came to
a village we were subjected to the rudest treatment, and had we not
been guarded by our escort, we must have inevitably been killed. We
were constantly searched, in the hope that money would be found on us.
When we got near El Obeid, Naser put us into a hut, where we were told
to remain until he should see the Mahdi, and ascertain from him his
instructions regarding us. We gathered from what he said that he was
going to find out whether we should be killed where we were, or brought
first before the Mahdi. Thus Naser left us under strict guard.



     Description of El Obeid--Said Pasha's system of defence--The
     Mahdi's followers encircle the town--Townspeople desert to the
     Mahdi--Unsuccessful attack on Government buildings--Dervishes
     driven off with loss of 10,000 men--The missionaries brought before
     the Mahdi--Threatened with death--Preparations for the
     execution--Reprieved at the last moment--The Mahdi's camp
     described--Death of some of the missionaries--Illness of remainder.

During our stay in the hut we were told how the inhabitants of El Obeid
had joined the Mahdi, and that only the garrison held out; but I will
here narrate what had actually occurred.

We left the Mahdi last at Birket, while his three messengers had been
hanged in El Obeid. He left Birket on the 4th of September, and encamped
at Kaba, a place a few hours' journey from El Obeid. El Obeid is
situated in the midst of a vast plain, which in the hot weather is just
like a desert. Here and there a few Adansonia trees, transported from
Khartum, break the monotony of this dreary scene which is bounded on the
south-east by the Kordofan mountains; at a distance of about five
kilometres to the north rises the cone-shaped hill known as Korbatsh,
while to the north-west appears the small Om Herezeh mountain. El Obeid
lies in a sort of hollow in the plain; consequently during the
winter-time the wells become full of water, and serve as a sufficient
supply for the whole year.

Since the Egyptian occupation of the Sudan, El Obeid had become a town
of some importance, but the houses were for the most part built of mud,
with the exception of the Government buildings, which were constructed
of sun-dried bricks. The entrance to these buildings was through a lofty
archway, over which a second story had been raised, thus making it a
most conspicuous object, and one which could be seen from a considerable
distance. El Obeid, at the time of which I speak, was an important and
flourishing city, with a population of about 100,000 souls. It was noted
principally for its gum, the best quality of which was known by the name
of Kordofan gum. The largest quantities came from Tayara and Dar Homr,
where the gum trees were planted in large gardens regularly laid out.
Thousands of camels were engaged in the transport of this valuable
commodity to Shatt on the White Nile, to Omdurman, and to Dongola.
Ostrich feathers also formed another important article of commerce. At
Dar Homr there are numbers of ostrich farms, the animals being kept in
large zaribas; but as an article of trade, the feathers of the wild
ostriches are more valuable than those of the domestic animal. Ostrich
feathers are always sold by weight. Other exports from Kordofan are
tamarinds, senna, and the skins of animals. Iron is also found in
Kordofan; and one day, when we were digging out a well at Delen, we came
across quicksilver.

El Obeid was also the supply depôt for Darfur, Shakka, and Dar Nuba, and
thus became an important trade centre. Numbers of rich merchants lived
here, such as Elias Pasha, Omberer, Hajji Mohammed Ben en Naga, Ahmed
Bey Dafallah (who owned thousands of slaves), Mohammed Wad el Areik,
Hajji Khaled, Ibrahim wad Adlan, besides numbers of Copts and Egyptians.
Several of the principal mercantile houses in Cairo also had their
agents--Syrians, Greeks, and Jews--in El Obeid. Kordofan was also rich
in cattle. The Kababish, Dar Homr, Beni Jerrar, and Dar Hamed Arabs
possessed large numbers of she-camels. These animals are always kept in
the deserts, and are retained exclusively for breeding purposes.
Quantities of the young camels are killed, and their flesh, which is
preferred to any other kind of meat in the Sudan, is considered a great
luxury, and is generally eaten uncooked. Corn is largely grown in
Kordofan, also sesame, which is preferred to that grown on the White
Nile; large white water-melons are also grown in abundance. It may
therefore be understood why Kordofan was the richest province in the
Sudan and brought in the largest revenue to Government.

The whole of this rich country was now in the hands of the Mahdi, with
the exception of El Obeid, which was destined soon to be the scene of
bloodshed and fanatical warfare between people of the same race and
religion. The Arabs of various tribes, who in peace time had brought
their goods to El Obeid to barter and exchange, were now clamouring for
the destruction of the town and the slaughter of its inmates. As I have
already related, Said Pasha had completely surrounded the town by a
ditch and parapet; but as this would require such an enormous number of
men to defend it, and knowing that he could place little reliance on the
inhabitants, he had strongly entrenched the Mudirieh and Government
buildings, and at the same time put into a state of defence the
barracks, officers and officials' houses, and those of the Greek and
Syrian merchants. The members of our Mission station left their house
and pretty church, and hired rooms within the fortifications; the loyal
citizens and merchants followed their example, while the remainder of
the inhabitants continued to live in the town, and conspired with the
Mahdi. On the 7th of December, that is to say, the day on which the
Mahdi arrived at Kaba, the whole of these inhabitants quitted the town
and joined him in his camp. The wealthy merchants had for long been in
communication with the Mahdi, others joined him because they were worked
up to a pitch of wild fanaticism; some feared to disobey the summons,
for they could see how weak were the Government troops and how
successful the Mahdi had been. Amongst the deserters to the Mahdi's side
were Mohammed Khabir Pasha of Darfur, and a number of irregular troops
who had been despatched from Khartum as reinforcements for El Obeid.

Thus by various means the Mahdi's force now numbered upwards of 30,000
fighting men, and with such an army as that it seemed to him a very easy
matter to subdue Said Pasha and his meagre garrison. The Mahdi further
incited his people to fight by assuring them that the gates of paradise
were open to all those martyrs who should fall, and that each of them
should be attended by forty lovely houris when they entered its portals.
He also roused their feelings of cupidity by representing, in the most
exaggerated terms, the value of the treasure locked up within the
Mudirieh, and told them that victory was assured, for God and his
Prophet had decreed that they should annihilate their enemies with
simple sticks; this he said because he knew that only a few of his
followers had firearms. Having thus raised them to a pitch of the
wildest excitement, he advanced from Kaba.

In the meantime the Mudir, seeing that he could not rely on the
inhabitants, did all in his power to improve the fortifications, and
awaited the assault of the enemy. At daybreak the hordes appeared on the
rising ground near El Obeid; the defenders heard only the dull roar
caused by the mass of voices in the distance, but the clouds of dust
prevented them seeing anything; it was only when the fitful gusts of
wind blew away the dust that the thousands of horsemen could be seen
galloping wildly about and then disappearing again behind the dust. But
the noise like approaching thunder became every instant more audible,
and soon above the clouds of sand the myriads of flags and banners
became visible. Fiki Minneh, with about 10,000 men, approached from the
east, whilst the Mahdi's attack was directed on the south-west end of
the town. The first ditch was soon crossed, and then the Mahdiists
spread out and completely encircled the town; masses of wild fanatics
rolled like waves through the deserted streets; they did not advance
through these alone, but hurrying on from house to house, wall to wall,
and yard to yard, they reached the ditch of the Mudirieh, and like a
torrent suddenly let loose, regardless of every obstacle, with wild
shouts they dashed across it and up the ramparts, from which the din of
a thousand rifles and the booming of the guns suddenly burst forth; but
these wild hordes, utterly fearless of death, cared neither for the
deadly Remington nor the thunder of the guns, and still swept forward in
ever-increasing numbers.

The poor garrison, utterly powerless to resist such an assault, ran to
the tops of the houses and kept up an incessant fire on the masses,
which now formed such a crowd that they could scarcely move--indeed the
barrels of the rifles from the rapidity of the fire became almost
red-hot; and soon the streets and open spaces became literally choked
with the bodies of those who had fallen. There was a momentary pause,
and Ali Bey Sherif, seizing this opportunity, collected a party of men
and dashed towards the magazine, where a fierce conflict was going on
between the guard and the Dervishes. The latter had already become
masters of the situation when Ali Bey suddenly appeared on the scene,
and firing on the mass, whether friend or foe, he drove the Mahdiists
back over the ditch, and then formed up in the breach ready to repel any
further attempt to break in.

Meanwhile Said Pasha was heavily engaged in front of the Mudirieh. Here
an emir named Wad Gubara broke in, and shouting, "Death to the Turks,
those dogs and swine!" he dashed forward at the head of his men, but the
determined resistance of the Mudir forced them to retire back across the
ditch. Ahmed Dufallah defended that part of the line which was assaulted
by Ibrahim Wad Abdullah, an emir who had gained great celebrity amongst
the Dervishes. This brave Arab attacked again and again, hoping that the
bodies of those who fell would soon fill up the ditch and make a passage
which he could cross, but his attempt failed, and he too was forced to

The Mahdi all this time was watching at a safe distance, and kept on
ordering the assault to continue; but it was impossible to stand up
against the well-directed fire from the defences, and consequently
towards the afternoon he was forced to retire. The gallant little
garrison seeing this, could not be restrained, and dashing out over the
heaps of slain they made a fierce onslaught on the houses in the town,
which were filled with Dervishes in search of loot. In their fury they
killed all who came in their way, and perhaps they may be excused, for
they were in a state of the wildest excitement, occasioned by this
fearful scene of bloodshed.

It was impossible not to admire the reckless bravery of these fanatics
who, dancing and shouting, rushed up to the very muzzles of the rifles
with nothing but a knotty stick in their hands, only to fall dead one
over the other. Numbers of them carried large bundles of dhurra stalk,
which they threw into the ditch, hoping to fill it up and then cross
over. When the town was cleared, the victorious troops had a great feast
and general rejoicing. Amongst the dead bodies of the Dervishes were
found a near relative of the Mahdi's named Said Mohammed, also Wad
Gubara; the latter was a Turk who, with his two brothers, had joined the
Mahdi at Gedir; he was one of the fiercest of the emirs. He had fought
with the greatest pertinacity in front of the Mudirieh, and, mounted on
a horse, he was urging on his followers; but the soldiers, noticing his
fair face, persistently aimed at him, and at length he and his horse
fell on the top of a heap of dead bodies. When the soldiers subsequently
found his body, they were so annoyed that a Turk should have joined the
Mahdi that they cut off his head and hacked his body to pieces.

Whilst the soldiers were clearing out the enemy from the houses, the
Mahdi was retiring on Kaba with a loss of 10,000 men. Said Pasha then
held a council to consider whether they should pursue; but he himself
was against pursuit, for he thought that possibly Fiki Minneh might then
fall on the defenceless town; besides, in all he had not more than 3,000
men. As for the Mahdi, he and his principal emirs were greatly alarmed,
and it is very probable that if they had been pursued, the result would
have been a complete victory for Said Pasha. As it was, the Mahdi was on
the point of retreating to the mountains, and would have done so had
not the inhabitants of El Obeid, who still thought of their houses and
property, dissuaded him. The latter still urged him to continue the
siege, consequently on the following day he took up a position on a hill
called Gianzara, about two kilometres distant to the north-west of the
town, and only one kilometre distant from the Oshra Well (so called from
the oshra or euphorbia which grows in quantities in the vicinity). Fiki
Minneh established himself to the north-west of the town, and soon it
was more closely invested than ever; from that date nothing came in and
nothing went out of the doomed city.

We had spent one day in the hut, and had learnt all the details about
the Mahdi's attack on the town, when a messenger sent by Naser arrived,
and ordered us to move on to the Mahdi's camp, as it was his gracious
intention to permit us to look upon his face. Shortly after we had set
out, we met Naser returning, accompanied by a party of Dervishes.

As we approached El Obeid, the rattle of the rifles, broken every now
and then by the boom of a gun, became more and more audible. We were
halted under a large Adansonia tree and ordered to rest, but we had
scarcely laid down when we were suddenly attacked by Naser and his
party, who seized our watches and other valuables, and then stripped off
our clothes; they even attempted to remove the veils and outer garments
of the sisters, but to this we forcibly objected, and seizing sticks
tried to drive them off. At length these wretched thieves, ashamed of
the unequal contest, drew off, and Naser ordered our clothes to be
returned; but my suit, in which I had stitched thirty dollars, was not
given back to me, and I was reduced to appearing before the Mahdi in a
shirt and drawers! Our escort having satisfied their cupidity, now
mounted our donkeys, and we were obliged to walk; the burning sun beat
down on our heads, and the heated ground and heavy sand made our
progress intensely laborious.

As we approached the camp, at every step the crowd grew denser. El
Obeid was now visible a short way off, and the sight of the houses and
trees was a pleasant break in the monotony of this desolate wilderness.
The continuous rattle of the bullets, interrupted by the thunder of the
cannon, was an indication that a brisk engagement was going on. As we
entered the camp, the crowd was so enormous that we were almost choked
with the dust that was raised, and soon became thoroughly exhausted. Our
brother Mariani, who was sick at the time we left Delen, could keep up
no longer, and we were obliged to almost carry him along.

The fanatics now completely surrounded us, and kept on threatening us
with their lances, clubs, and sticks. Naser himself, seeing some of the
very excited Dervishes pointing their lances at our breasts, greatly
feared for our safety, and it seemed to us that there was now not the
slightest doubt that they intended to kill us. He therefore ordered our
escort to draw their swords and form a square, in the centre of which we
walked. The exertions of the last few days, the heat, the yelling of the
crowd, the monotonous chants of the Dervishes, and finally the din of
this enormous camp of over 100,000 men, exclusive of women and children,
reacted on us to such an extent that we were well-nigh speechless.
Slowly we made our way towards the centre of the camp where the great
Dervish, Mohammed Ahmed, had pitched his tent.

We were taken, in the first instance, to the hut of the Khalifa Sherif.
Here we found a lad of twelve or thirteen years of age, lying half-naked
on a bedstead, who invited us to come into the shade and rest ourselves,
at the same time he drove off with his whip the inquisitive crowd that
kept pressing in to look at us. He gave us some water to drink, but we
were so utterly weary and exhausted that we could not swallow it for
some time, and the heat and dust had literally glued our tongues, so
that we were unable to articulate. We were allowed to rest for a short
time, as the Mahdi had not risen from his noonday sleep, and this brief
respite enabled us to collect our thoughts, which the events of the
last few days and the uproar of the camp had caused to wander sadly.

At length an order came that the Mahdi was up and wished to see us. We
were then taken to a small hut, which had two sides open, through which
a cool breeze blew in; close to the hut one of the tents captured from
Yusef Pasha Shellali had been pitched, and as we arrived the Mahdi came
out of the tent and seated himself, in Arabic fashion, on a straw mat
spread on the floor of the hut. He greeted us kindly, and asked us about
our nationality and our object in coming to the Sudan, also whether we
had ever heard anything about the Mahdi, he then briefly explained to us
the nature of his divine message, and recounted his great victories over
"the enemies of God and His Prophet," by which name he designated the

Seeing that we were utterly exhausted, he offered us some kamar-ed-din
(dried apricots) mixed with water, but almost before we could put it to
our mouths it was full of flies. In the meantime a certain George
Stambuli, who had joined the rebels with the other inhabitants of El
Obeid, came in, and through him the Mahdi endeavoured to place before us
the great advantage of the Islam religion. The Mahdi himself never asked
us to adopt the Moslem faith, because he feared that we should answer in
the negative. He then stretched himself out on the mat as if he were
preparing to behold a vision.

Mohammed Ahmed was a powerfully built man, of dark-brown complexion and
carefully kept skin; he had a pleasant smile, which showed to advantage
the curious slit between his front teeth. By constant training he had
acquired a gentle manner in speaking, and with these exceptions there
was nothing unusual in his appearance. He wore a dirty jibbeh, on which
parti-coloured strips of cotton had been sewn; on his head the white
skull cap or "takia," round which a broad white turban was bound; he
also wore a pair of loose drawers and sandals.

After he had lain for some time with closed eyes, he rose and offered
us some more kamar-ed-din, from which he himself began to take out the
flies; but finding it absolutely useless to do so, he gave it up, and
then went back to his tent, probably to hold a council. After a short
time he again returned, wearing a clean jibbeh patched with pieces of
the vestments belonging to our Mission church at El Obeid. He then began
to recount to us the history of the numerous conversions which had taken
place in the early days of the Prophet. Seeing that we took little
interest in what he said, he got up and ordered us to be taken before
the Khalifa Abdullah (the present ruler of the Sudan), while he himself
retired to his own tent.

On our arrival at Abdullah's hut, we found ourselves in company with
twenty robbers who were chained hand and foot. An enormous crowd stood
round, and amongst the faces I noticed some of our Delen friends, who
had evidently followed us to see what the end would be. Our guard, armed
with Remington rifles, stood around us, and close to us was the Khalifa
Abdullah's horse, which always remained saddled--a witness to his
unbounded energy. A short distance off, about eighty flags were planted
in the ground, and beside them were the war-drums. Hardly had we seated
ourselves when the Khalifa Abdullah entered. He was at that time a man
of about thirty-three years of age, of middle height, very thin--in
fact, little else but skin and bone; he greeted us kindly, and invited
us to become Moslems. From his bombastic conversation, we soon saw that
he was a man of no education whatever, and he ended up by saying that if
we refused to obey we had only death to expect. We were then marched

On the evening of the 27th of September, when George Stambuli came to
tell us that if we did not embrace Islam, we should most certainly die,
we gave him no hope that we should change our minds. The Mahdi
frequently sent people to teach us the truths of religion, but we soon
tired of their nonsensical chattering, and Father Bonomi used to send
them away with strong words. Shortly afterwards Abdullah came again,
bringing a water-melon with him, and in default of a knife he broke it
on the ground; but we refused to take any. Greatly annoyed at this, he
went off in a rage, saying that we should be beheaded the following

At midnight Stambuli came to us again, to say that he had offered a
considerable sum for our ransom, but that the Mahdi had refused to
accept it. We therefore gave him the few dollars we had left, and asked
him to come and see us the following morning, which he promised to do.
We employed our few remaining hours in preparation for death. The
terrors and alarms which we had undergone for the last five months were
over at last; in the midst of our sufferings the thought of death, which
should soon take us out of the hands of these barbarians, was a comfort
to us. A deep quiet had now settled down over the camp, which was only
occasionally broken by the clank of the prisoners' chains.

Just before dawn a wonderful comet appeared in the east; its golden tail
seemed to project about ten feet into the blue firmament, and was a most
striking sight. It brought back to our minds the star in the east which
stood over the manger at Bethlehem. The Arabs called it "Nigmet el
Mahdi" (the Mahdi's star).

According to Sudan superstition, the appearance of a comet is supposed
to forebode evil, and, indeed, what catastrophe could have been greater
than that which was now impending over the Sudan? The sudden clang of
the war-drum startled me from the meditations which the appearance of
that strange comet had produced. The beating of the drums and the blast
of the great ivory horn (onbeïa) was the signal for the "Ardeh-Kebir,"
or grand review, and I now had to bethink me of my own affairs and let
the star pursue its way in the heavens.

The emirs' war-drums now took up the signal, and soon people were
rushing from all directions towards their particular flags, which were
planted to the east of El Obeid. Stambuli again appeared and announced
to us that our sufferings were nearly over. We gave him a small piece
of paper on which we had written our last farewells to our own loved
ones at home, and had signed our names. This we begged him to send on
when an opportunity occurred. Weeping bitterly, he took the paper and
went to his hut, saying he could not bear to look on at our execution.

We were now all ready, and at about nine o'clock a party of thirty men
armed with lances arrived and ordered us to follow them. We were still
suffering from fatigue, but we got up and followed. After about half an
hour's walk we arrived before the Dervish hosts, and thanked God that
victory was now so near. About 40,000 men were standing on parade, and
thousands of others were moving about the camp like ants. We were taken
to a central position and ordered to bend our necks to receive the
death-blow, and without the smallest hesitation we did so. But our hour
had not yet come. We were summoned before the Mahdi, who was riding on a
magnificent white camel; behind him rode a slave carrying an umbrella to
shade him from the sun's rays. As we approached, he turned round to us
and said, "May God lead you into the way of truth," and then rode on.

The troops were now dismissed, and we were immediately surrounded by a
turbulent crowd, who threatened to crush us to death; but the Mahdi,
seeing us in danger, turned back, and ordered us to walk in front of his
camel for protection. We did so, but were too weary to keep up, and then
the Mahdi gave orders, which we could not understand, to a number of
different emirs; the latter ordered us to halt until the great rush of
people had passed, then they formed a square and asked each one of us
separately whether we agreed to become Moslems or would prefer to suffer
death. Each one of us answered resolutely--death! Then, full of anger,
we were forced on--exhausted and covered from head to foot with
dust--till we reached the Mahdi's hut. Having arrived there he said,
"Have you not seen my army?" and then he began to boast of the number
of his followers and their great bravery. We said nothing. He then went
off, and we were taken back to Khalifa Abdullah's hut.

A council was now held to consider our fate; the majority were for
killing us, but a certain Hajji Khaled--now an emir in Omdurman--pointed
out that, according to the Moslem law, it was not lawful to kill priests
who had not offered any armed resistance, and who were, moreover,
captives. His view of the case was accepted, and we were handed over to
George Stambuli, who was made responsible for us. We then left
Abdullah's hut, and proceeded to Stambuli's, which was barely large
enough for himself and his family, so we were obliged to take up our
quarters outside in the open, where we remained for fifteen days,
exposed to the continual insults of the Arabs, until we were able to
build a hut for ourselves. We were now able to take a survey of this
gigantic camp. From the sandhill Gianzara almost up to the base of the
Om Herezeh mountain, was one mass of small huts, these were merely
enclosures made of branches of euphorbia and (sorghum) dhurra stalks,
just sufficient to keep off the burning rays of the sun. Here and there
a white tent indicated the headquarters of some important emir. Fiki
Minneh's camp adjoined that of Gianzara, and extended from Fulla (a
small pond which runs dry in the summer months), up to the base of Om
Herezeh. The huts were built so close to each other that constant fires
took place, which spread rapidly, and caused great destruction.

This enormous camp presented a wonderful spectacle, more especially at
night, when almost every one had his own cooking fire, and the whole
plain resembled a sea of fires which were lost in the distant horizon.
The din and noise created by hundreds of thousands of men, women, and
children, can be better imagined than described. Every emir's[D]
dwelling was known by two flags which were always planted near the
entrance, and beside them lay the war-drums, which were beaten day and
night, almost without intermission. Besides all this, the neighing of
thousands of horses rendered the din still more unbearable. The whole
air was infected with the most sickening stench; but to these wretched
people, pure or impure air makes no difference; they do not mind. All
the filth was piled behind the huts, dead donkeys lay about unburied; no
attempt was made to keep the place clean, and all this huge mass of
people lived in the midst of an ever-increasing heap of rotting
impurities. A daily market was held, and the people laid their goods on
the ground, sheltering themselves under a strip of cloth, known as
"Farda," stretched on the points of lances, the bases of which were
stuck in the ground. El Obeid was close by, the great arched gate of the
Mudirieh towered above the other houses of the town, and over it floated
the red Egyptian flag, which was hoisted every Friday. Some of the
Dervishes used to conceal themselves in the deserted houses of the town
and fire at the fort, while others pulled down the roofs and walls and
dragged away the beams to the camp, and there cut them up for firewood.
Our church, which was covered with galvanised iron plates, was
completely destroyed; even the mosque was not spared. There was a busy
scene day and night at the Oshra well; here thousands of male and female
slaves drew water, and frequent quarrels and fights took place.

All this change of scene made a deep impression on me; the strain of the
last few days, the tiring journey from Delen to El Obeid, the continual
uncertainty as to our fate, anguish, fear, din, tumult, bad food, had
already considerably affected our health, and now that we were at rest,
and that the Arabs had ceased to molest us, the re-action came, and we
fell a prey to disease. The infected atmosphere of El Buka--as the
Mahdi's camp is always called--brought on a burning fever and constant
diarrhoea. Besides all this, when confined with the robbers in
Abdullah's house, we had become covered with horrible vermin; it was
impossible to get rid of them--they seemed to increase daily. We had no
clothes to change, and as we had scarcely enough water to drink, washing
was out of the question. With a feeling of utter despair we lay helpless
and comfortless on the floor of that miserable black hut. Our maladies
became worse, and ere a month had passed, three of our number were dead.
Sister Eulalia Pesavento, of Verona, died of fever on the 28th of
October; carpenter Gabriel Mariani died of dysentery on the 31st of the
same month, and sister Amelia Andreis died on the 7th of November, while
we four who still remained, hovering between life and death, lay
helplessly side by side with our dead brothers and sisters. It was a
terrible exertion to us to sew the corpses in mats and drag them to the
door of the hut. At length some slaves--much against their will, and on
the promise of good pay--removed the already decaying bodies, and buried
them in shallow pits, which they covered up with sand. No one lent a
hand to bury these "Christian dogs," as we were called. It was a
terrible grief to us not to accompany our poor companions in adversity
to the grave, but we were all too ill to move, and so they were carried
away to their last resting-place without prayer or chant; and even to
this day I cannot tell if the slaves really buried them, or merely
dragged the bodies beyond the huts, and left them lying there on the

The condition of us miserable wretches who were still alive is beyond
description; we envied our companions, who were now beyond the reach of
human suffering; but our hour had not yet come. Towards the end of
November we were somewhat recovered, but our lives seemed to have been
spared only to behold more terrible sights and sufferings than we had
previously undergone.

Meanwhile, more of our companions in adversity had arrived from Dar
Nuba. Shortly after we had been made over to Stambuli, Roversi came, and
was interviewed by the Mahdi, who received him well, and presented him
with a horse. Roversi recounted to us the story of his misfortunes;
during his journey from Delen to El Obeid he was frequently in danger of
losing his life; the Baggaras, mindful of their defeat at his hands,
thirsted for vengeance. Roversi owed his life to his magazine rifle. He
used to visit us daily and tell us of the various plots of which we were
the intended victims. He told us how the Arabs had determined to take
the sisters, and that they intended to distribute us amongst the various
emirs. This news terrified the sisters, and there is little doubt that
the bare thought of it hastened the deaths of the two who were so ill.
Roversi further informed us that a quarrel had occurred between Mek Omar
and the Nubas regarding the distribution of the loot taken from our
Delen Mission; a conflict had taken place, in which Mek Omar had lost a
number of his men, and had been obliged to retreat from Delen to

After Roversi's arrival the Mahdi wrote to Said Pasha again, summoning
him to surrender; Roversi also, by the Mahdi's order, was forced to
write to the Mudir, telling him that resistance was useless, as it was
out of the question to hope for reinforcements from Khartum. Towards the
end of October Roversi fell ill with dysentery, caused by the infected
and foul atmosphere of the camp; the last time he came to see us he was
very weak; then we heard that the Mahdi had suddenly ordered him to
Kashgil for change of air, and a few days later we heard that he was
dead. Some said he had been killed, others said that he had been
poisoned by Ismail Wad el Andok, in revenge for his defeat at
Golfan-Naïma. Roversi's maid-servant, Aisha--a black girl brought up in
Constantinople--and his man-servant, Hajji Selim, reported that they had
found his shoes in the forest, and his dead body in a hut. The
unfortunate young Roversi was barely thirty years of age, a Protestant
by religion, and a man for whom we all cherished a great affection. The
date of his death was probably the 3rd of November, 1882. A few days
after this date Mek Omar and his men arrived in the camp, bringing our
Delen blacks with them. The latter at once came to see us, and soon
afterwards all of them--both boys and girls--were sold as slaves, whilst
the more grown-up youths were drafted into the Mahdi's army. Two of the
girls, one an Abyssinian and the other a black, became concubines of the
Mahdi. A cruel fate soon overtook Mek Omar: it was reported that he had
concealed some of the captured booty, and he was at once put in chains
by the Mahdi's order. Shortly afterwards he sent for us, and Bonomi and
I paid him a visit. We found him shackled with two chains on his feet,
and a chain about fifteen feet long round his neck; the poor man was
completely bowed down with the weight of these chains, and begged us
most humbly to intercede for him, as he told us it was the Mahdi's
intention to have him beheaded. The condition of this unfortunate
individual so touched us, that Bonomi went to the Mahdi and represented
that it was really the Nubas who had stolen the booty, and so Mek Omar
was released.

As we slowly began to recover from our illness, the thought of release
was constantly in our minds. We applied to the powerful Elias Pasha,
whom we had known very well in El Obeid. This blind old pasha received
us kindly, but said that Abdel Kader Pasha in Khartum, was furious with
him for having joined the rebels; he therefore said that our best course
was to apply daily to the Mahdi, who in time might perhaps be moved to
grant our release. We followed his advice, but it was no easy matter to
make our way through the crowd of fanatics who surrounded his hut day
and night, all struggling to get a sight of his face which, it was said,
shed rays of light. Pushed about, shoved in every direction, and
insulted, we might perhaps succeed in reaching the doorway; but here we
were stopped by the guards, and it was almost impossible to pass them.
However, after superhuman efforts, we succeeded twice in interviewing
the Mahdi. He listened kindly to our entreaty, and then said, "At
present the roads are dangerous, and I wish no harm to come upon you;
when El Obeid has surrendered, we will permit you to go to your own
country." He advised us to wear kuftans (the Arab outer garment), for
hitherto we wore merely a shirt and drawers, as he said that, dressed in
this way, we should escape the inquisitive glances of the multitude and
we took his good advice.


[D] The title "Emir" really means "Prince," and is far too high
a title to give to these wretched chiefs; but as it is the Sudan custom,
I must retain it.--J. O.



     Terrible sufferings of the besieged--The Kababish--Fall of
     Bara--Fall of El Obeid--The Mahdi enters the town--Fate of the El
     Obeid Mission--Cold-blooded murder of the brave defenders--The
     Dervishes live a life of ease in El Obeid--The Mahdi makes laws--He
     sends out proclamations--Prestige increased by capture of
     town--News from Khartum--Bonomi and Ohrwalder summoned before the
     Mahdi--The interview.

The garrison in El Obeid now began to suffer from the effects of this
close siege and blockade. The necessaries of life were failing rapidly;
the price of provisions had gone up enormously. The commonest food,
known as "dokhn" (a kind of millet) rose to 150 dollars, and eventually
to 500 dollars the ardeb. Meat had almost entirely given out. Our
Mission brethren in the fort possessed one camel, which was nothing but
skin and bone, and which was sold for 1,000 dollars, and two days
afterwards the purchaser offered it for sale for 1,500 dollars.
Eventually the butcher bought it for 2,000 dollars. A chicken went for
thirty dollars; eggs a dollar apiece; a loaf of sugar fifty dollars, and
twenty dollars for a pound of coffee. A thimbleful of salt cost a
dollar. The above were the prices a month after the close investment had
begun. Butter and oil could not be had for any money. The poor began to
starve quite at the beginning of the siege, and soon were dying in
considerable numbers. A little later, matters came to a terrible pass.
All the camels and cattle being finished, donkeys, dogs, mice, and even
crickets were consumed, as well as cockroaches, which were considered
quite tit-bits; white ants, too, were eaten.

And now the deaths by starvation had reached an appalling figure. The
dead and dying filled the streets; the space within the fortifications
being so limited, there was not room for all the people, and in
consequence many lay about in the streets and open spaces. The air was
poisoned by the numbers of dead bodies lying unburied, while the ditch
was half full of mortifying corpses. Scurvy and dysentery were rife; the
air was black with the scores of carrion-kites, which feasted on the
dead bodies; these ugly birds became so distended by constant gorging
that they could not even fly away, and were killed in numbers by the
soldiers, who devoured them with avidity.

Later on gum became the only food; there was a quantity of this, but it
brought on diarrhoea, and caused the bodies to distend--indeed,
numbers died from eating it. The ground was dug up in all directions in
search of the white ants' nests; and the food which they had collected
for the winter was greedily consumed. Some poor sufferers eked out a
miserable existence by living on the undigested food found in the
excrement of animals; all sorts of leather, shoes and sandals, were
boiled and eaten. It was a terrible sight to see these human
skeletons--their eyes sunk into the backs of their heads, wandering
about in search of food. The Mudir extorted all the corn and money he
could from the rich merchants, but of what good was a mere handful of
corn to the soldiers? They became desperate, all discipline was at an
end and they often broke into the houses by night in search of food.

During all this time the Dervishes outside kept on shouting out curses
and insults, deriding those within for eating dog's-meat, for, during
all this terrible famine in the city, there was abundance of food in the
Dervish camp, and this made the besiegers bolder and more insulting than
ever, for they knew that the town was practically in their hands. We
often tried to establish some sort of communication with our Mission
brethren in the city, but we never succeeded in getting any reliable
information about them. At length, towards the end of December, we
managed, through the kind offices of George Stambuli, to send in a
letter and received a reply from the Father Superior, Johann Losi, which
was brought to us by one of our female slaves. The news it contained was
heart-rending; all our brethren were down with scurvy--that is to say,
Father Rossignoli, brother Locatelli, and four sisters, whilst Father
Losi himself was on the point of death. For a month they had lived on
nothing but dokhn and rice; everything else was gone. Father Losi sent
us some clothes, which were a godsend to us, and also 200 dollars, while
we in return could do nothing for our poor besieged brethren. A few days
later we heard that Father Losi died on the 27th of December of scurvy.

The garrison frequently attempted small sorties, in the hope that they
might be able to secure a sheep or bullock, or some wood, and these
always caused some excitement in the camp. When anything of this sort
took place, the usual cry was "Et Turki Marak" ("The Turks are coming
out"), then the camp suddenly woke up, and, like a swarm of ants, moved
towards the town to drive the garrison in again. On these occasions
quantities of ammunition were expended without much result. In the
meantime the Mahdi continued his daily preaching against the vanities of
this life, of his divine message, and of the approaching end of the
world. During these sermons the people stood wrapped in wonder and
astonishment at the Mahdi's great wisdom.

The Egyptian guns frequently fired into the camp, and on two occasions
shells burst close to our hut, but did no harm. The Dervishes also
returned the fire, but their shots always fell far beyond; had they only
been skilled in the working of the guns they had, the fortifications
would have become untenable in a day, but the Mahdi seemed purposely to
wish to prolong the siege, and to thus compass the death of its
defenders through famine. The wells were only about one kilometre
distant from the forts, and in consequence within easy range of the fire
of the besieged; but the Mahdi was quite regardless of this, and often
formed up his troops there--a proceeding which generally resulted in his
losing some men.

It was about this time that the principal sheikhs of the powerful
Kababish tribe, viz. Saleh and Tome, the sons of Sheikh Salem, came to
pay their allegiance to the Mahdi. As a gift they brought him two
hundred camels, and he in return ordered a great military display and a
special bombardment of El Obeid in their honour. The two sheikhs did
not, however, take a great interest in these proceedings; and one day
Saleh suddenly took himself off, and from that date became the Mahdi's
sworn enemy, until the day of his death, when, as we shall presently
see, he was one of the last of the great sheikhs who was overthrown by
the Mahdi. His brother Tome was suddenly thrown into chains without any
warning, the Mahdi giving as his reason that the Prophet had appeared to
him in a vision and told him to do so.

Towards the end of November, news arrived that a further reinforcement
of troops had left Khartum for El Obeid. This information occasioned a
great stir in the camp, because there was some idea that English troops
had been sent. These must have been the arrival of the first batch of
troops destined eventually to form part of the Hicks Expedition; but
even then it was too late to send any help to El Obeid.

One day it came to the Mahdi's ears that provisions were being smuggled
into El Obeid, where they were sold at enormous prices, and to stop this
he made the investment still closer. Some of the smugglers were caught,
and as a punishment their right hands were cut off, and their handless
arms tied to their necks; they were then led round the camp as a warning
to others.

Meanwhile, as the siege of El Obeid was drawing to a close, other places
in Kordofan were falling into the Mahdi's hands. The town of Bara had
been reduced to great straits. A force marching to its relief under Abu
Kuka, was attacked by Fiki Minneh: the majority were killed, and it was
only through the bravery of Surur Effendi that a few hundred of them
succeeded in reaching the town. The notorious Nur Angar, who was on the
walls of the town, rendered no assistance during the siege, and went
over to the enemy. At length, on the 5th of January, Bara was forced to
capitulate through famine, and the garrison was sent to the Mahdi's

The victory was celebrated by a salute of guns, and the unfortunate
garrison in El Obeid took this to be the approach of relieving troops;
but the Mahdi made it known to Said Pasha that, on the contrary, it was
in celebration of the fall of Bara--an incident which caused the gloom
to deepen over the doomed city; and all hope of delivery was abandoned.
Yet the Mudir still continued to hope against hope that he should be
relieved from Khartum, and his sanguine spirit kept up the courage of
the garrison. But it could not last much longer; the soldiers were too
weak even to hold their rifles in their hands, and Said Pasha realized
that further resistance was useless. In desperation, therefore, he
proposed to blow himself up in the powder magazine, and this he
certainly would have done had not the senior officers urged that in
doing so numbers of other lives would have been sacrificed as well.
There was now nothing left to be done but to surrender, and this event
took place on the 19th of January, 1883.

The Mahdi and his hordes now entered El Obeid, and he made the Mudirieh
his residence. Guards under the command of mukuddums were posted outside
every large house, to prevent the notables escaping, to further extort
money and to search for treasure. Children, servants, and slaves were
kept aside, and by continual flogging were obliged to divulge the secret
hiding-places. The Mission buildings were of course entered by thousands
of Mahdiists. Father Bonomi and brother Locatelli lay sick, and the
sisters were completely exhausted. Hundreds of Dervishes struggled to
break into the narrow enclosure where the unfortunate brethren lay ill.
The crosses which the sisters wore round their necks were wrenched off
and broken to pieces with axes. Sister Concetta Corsi, who was then one
of the strongest, flew at these cruel intruders and made them wonder at
the boldness of a poor weak woman. Some of them then entered with drawn
swords, and, pointing their lances within an inch of her bosom, they
threatened her with instant death if she made the slightest resistance;
but she answered, "You are dogs, and not men!" whereupon one of those
standing near her gave her a blow on the face, which broke several of
her teeth and made her mouth pour with blood.

Three days after the Mahdi's entry into El Obeid, our missionaries were
taken before him, and in a solemn assembly he tried in vain to force
them to become Moslems. They were then sent forth with nothing but the
clothes they wore, in company with the other survivors of the siege, to
the Dervish camp.

Our little party was now increased by the arrival of Father Rossignoli,
brother Locatelli, who was then more dead than alive being carried on an
angarib (native bedstead), and four sisters, who were all suffering from
scurvy. They were brought to our hut, and our meeting could not be
otherwise than a sad one. The sisters were accompanied by a girl named
Bianca Limona, who, though a Sudanese, had quite a fair face, and
resembled an Albino. Gordon, when travelling from Darfur to El Obeid,
came across a youth of a similar type, whom he brought to the Mission,
and suggested that he should marry the girl; but he being a fanatical
Mussulman, the girl absolutely refused.

Bianca, being of no trade value, was permitted by the Dervishes to
remain with the sisters. All the other Mission blacks remained with the
soldiers, but the young ones were sold. From amongst the Christian girls
the Mahdi selected two as concubines--an Abyssinian and a black; the
latter had been well brought up, had learnt handiwork of different
sorts, and she soon became the head of all the concubines.

The Dervishes captured quantities of arms and ammunition in the fort,
also a considerable amount of rough gold, goods of all sorts, and
furniture. This was all carried off to the beit el mal; the floors were
all dug up in search of hidden treasure, and even dead bodies were
disentombed and examined. The body of Father Losi, who had died a month
before, was pulled up and searched, as it was believed he had a quantity
of money. I must here recount an episode which will give an idea of the
wonderful fidelity of our poor blacks, and their affection for us.
Father Losi had purchased a little black boy in El Obeid, and for the
ten long years during which this brave missionary had worked
continuously for the welfare and happiness of the blacks, his boy Said
served him most faithfully, and during all the horrors of that dreadful
siege this boy never left the side of his "Father," as he used to call
Father Losi. When Losi died, the boy used to spend most of the day
weeping over his grave, and one day he was found lying stretched on the
grave quite dead--he had died of grief.

The Mudir, Said Pasha, and the senior officers were, for a time, placed
under guard, and refused, even on pain of death, to say where the
treasure was; but when Said Pasha heard that his concubine and servants
had been cruelly flogged and beaten to make them divulge, he at length
handed over all his property to the Mahdi, and £6,000.

A few days after the fall of El Obeid a fire broke out on the north side
of the camp; the strong wind drove the flames to the adjoining huts, and
soon half the camp was ablaze. We had to run from our hut, which was
soon afterwards enveloped in flames, and we were again obliged to encamp
in the open. However, our good friend Stambuli succeeded in procuring a
small tent for us. The Mahdi now ordered the whole town of El Obeid to
be occupied by the Arabs, but it was not nearly large enough to hold all
the people, consequently an enormous circle of huts soon surrounded the
town, and we ourselves erected a small one, just beyond the precincts of
the Mahdi's camp, having some Greeks and Syrians, who had been turned
out of El Obeid, as our neighbours.

For about fifteen days most of the inhabitants of the town--clerks,
Government officials, and Copts, were closely guarded and continually
flogged to make them disclose the hiding-places of their treasure. Most
of the principal people were handed over to the emirs. Said Pasha was
placed in charge of Ismail Wad el Andok, and sent to Aluba; Ali Bey
Sherif was sent to Birket, and several of the Coptic clerks were sent to
Singiokai. Ahmed Bey Dafallah and Major Yesin were dragged to Shakka.
Evil reports were spread about them, and it was rumoured that both the
Mudir and Ali Bey Sherif had written to Khartum, consequently the Mahdi
issued orders that the gallant defenders should be killed, justifying
his action by saying that the Prophet had, in a vision, ordered him to
do so. Ali Bey Sherif was beheaded close to the tent occupied by his
wife and two children, who were afterwards taken over by Sayid Abdel
Kader, the Mahdi's uncle. Said Pasha was most cruelly slaughtered with
axes at Aluba; he was greatly disliked by the people, who called him
"Jurab el Ful" ("Sack of beans") because he was so stout. Ahmed Bey
Dafallah and Major Yesin were executed at Shakka. Such was the end of
the brave defenders of El Obeid, who, in truth, deserved a better fate.

The Mahdi, having thus made away with his enemies, was able to breathe
more freely, and, as if to excuse himself for his horrible cruelty, he
published a vision, in which he said that he had been told that Said
Pasha did not go to hell, but as he (the Mahdi) had earnestly begged it,
he was permitted to go to paradise.

During the siege there was much friction between the Mahdi and Fiki
Minneh, whose capacity for drinking marissa and stealing booty came to
the Mahdi's ears. As long as Minneh was useful to the Mahdi he forbore
with him; but when El Obeid fell, he sent for him and forcibly made him
divide his booty. Fiki Minneh therefore returned in a sulky mood to
Tayara, and from that time became the Mahdi's enemy. He openly collected
a quantity of dokhn, and brought together his fighting force. The Mahdi
therefore despatched Abu Anga, the Commander-in-chief of his forces,
Abderrahman en Nejumi and Abdullah Wad en Nur, with a large number of
men. Making a forced march, they appeared suddenly at Tayara, and the
Gowameh followers of Minneh fled on the first volley. Minneh's brother,
uncle, and two sons were captured and beheaded on the same spot where
Minneh himself had slain the soldiers and their wives and children the
previous year; their heads were hung up in the market-place at El Obeid
as a warning to others.

The Mahdi and his emirs now began to live a life of ease; the latter
occupied the various buildings around the Mudirieh and made themselves
comfortable: they placed no restrictions on themselves in the way of
food and drink; there was money in abundance and supplies were
plentiful, consequently sensuality and luxurious living were substituted
for the abstemious life which the Mahdi doctrine had at first
inculcated. The principal emirs delighted in extensive harems and a show
of splendour. Jibbehs were still worn, but their ragged condition, which
was essential in the early days, gave way to as much embellishment as
such a garment would admit of. The emirs vied with one another in their
wealth of slaves, cattle, horses and donkeys; their sword-hilts were now
embellished with silver. In place of lying on the dirty ground, their
clothes full of vermin, they assumed the luxurious and comfortable mode
of life of the Turks and Egyptians. So shocked, indeed, was the Mahdi's
uncle, Sherif Mahmud, when he arrived from Gedir to see the drunken and
debauched lives led by the emirs, more especially by Wad en Nejumi, that
he induced the Mahdi to order the latter to reduce his harem by twenty
wives, who were subsequently sold in the beit el mal as slaves. At the
same time the Mahdi issued the strictest orders against luxurious
living, and insisted that no gold and silver ornaments should be worn.
He further ordained that in future the dress should consist of a takia
(or skull cap) made of the leaves of the dwarf-palm, round which a
turban should be worn with end hanging down; the jibbeh (or coat); a
pair of drawers; and a girdle made of straw. This made rather a becoming
uniform to these swarthy warriors.

The rules regarding smoking and drinking were reiterated with greater
severity. It was next to impossible to induce the Sudanese to give up
smoking and chewing tobacco: a man would willingly give all the money he
had to secure even a small quantity. Then the blacks, and especially the
emirs, are much addicted to marissa drinking, which it was found still
more difficult to stop; if men or women were caught in the act of
smoking or drinking, they were obliged to walk through the market with
the drinking bowl or tobacco on their heads, followed by an insulting
and hooting crowd. It was sometimes the custom to break the bowl on the
marissa drinker's head and drench him with its contents; this was the
signal for all the children to throw mud and dust at the culprit until
he became almost unrecognisable; he was then dragged before the kadi (or
judge) in the market-place, where he received eighty unusually heavy
blows, the first of which generally drew blood. The place was full of
spies, who were always on the look-out to report smokers and drinkers to
the Mahdi. Sometimes they forced their way into the houses, and finding
nothing, would surreptitiously throw some tobacco on the floor, which
they would then suddenly discover, and declare it to be the property of
the owner of the house, who would be forthwith dragged off and thrashed
unmercifully although perfectly innocent.

Justice was administered according to the Moslem law. Blasphemers of God
or the religion were punished with instant death, as well as all those
who disbelieved in the Mahdi. A murderer was at once beheaded, no
extenuating circumstances were ever admitted. A thief was deprived of a
hand and a foot; adultery between married persons was punished by
beheading the man and stoning the woman, but in the latter case a
necessary proof was that the woman should be with child. Illicit
intercourse between unmarried persons was punished with eighty lashes;
these laws regarding immorality were, however, in the case of slaves,
relaxed to some extent, and they were, as a rule, punished by flogging
only. Persons found concerned in the making of eunuchs were beheaded,
though curiously enough the khalifas and emirs all retained eunuchs for
their harems. Slaves freed by the Egyptian Government were not
recognised as such, and were again forced to become slaves. A slave's
witness was not accepted in a trial. All important cases were judged
before the Mahdi, who sentenced persons as he thought fit. The Mosaic
law--an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth--was generally practised.
The relations of murdered persons generally carried out the sentences on
the criminal, provided that the judge approved. Punishment could be
modified or cancelled altogether by the payment of money. In addition to
the Mahdi, his relatives and the khalifas were permitted to judge
cases--a proceeding which resulted in great confusion and miscarriage of
justice. The market-place was the chief centre of activity; here the
judge held his court, and a profitable business he made of it by
substituting money for punishments.

Shortly after the fall of El Obeid the Mahdi set himself to regulate his
finances. The Kordofan Arabs, who had gained many successes over the
Government, and who had really taken up the Mahdi's cause in
anticipation of the loot they would acquire, were ordered to bring all
their booty--down to the smallest article--to the Mahdi at El Obeid, and
to enforce this order, parties of Dervishes were sent out in various
directions to forcibly drive in the Arabs, who now regretted that they
had so precipitately joined the Mahdi in the first instance. Everything
was brought to the beit el mal, and there publicly sold; of the
proceeds, one-fifth was given to the Mahdi personally, and the remaining
four-fifths were set aside as administrative revenue, but in point of
fact a considerable portion of this sum also found its way into the
Mahdi's private treasury. A native of Dar Mahas, named Ahmed wad
Suleiman and a great favourite of the Mahdi, was given unlimited control
over the beit el mal treasury. His master had had a divine revelation,
pointing out that he was the one man to hold this responsible position,
and in consequence he was unassailable. Whenever the Mahdi rode out on
horseback, Ahmed held the reins and walked barefooted at the horse's

All learned men were despised and disliked by the Mahdi, for he not
unnaturally recognised a danger in their combating his claims by
reference to divine books. Consequently all such documents were ordered
to be burnt, and any one who concealed a book did so at the risk of his
life. The Mahdi's object was to keep the people in ignorance by
proclaiming that he was the centre of all light and knowledge; there
were even flatterers to be found who asserted that they had seen flashes
of light darting out of his head! He frequently indulged in visions,
sometimes representing that he had been taken up in the spirit to the
heavens, where he conversed with God and His Prophet. To doubt the truth
of these visions was an unpardonable offence. He entirely abolished all
the rules and customs practised by the Government. The wearing of the
tarbush (fez) was strictly forbidden; if any one was seen wearing one,
it was instantly pulled off and torn to shreds. All Government registers
were burnt, and debts contracted with the Government considered
cancelled. He ordered his adherents to call themselves Foggara[E] or

His usual custom was to pray on a small straw mat placed in the divan of
the Mudirieh and in the presence of all his followers; a slave generally
stood beside him with a pillow on which he either sat or knelt, as the
case might be. When the prayers were over he received the visitors,
conversed on matters of general interest, read his letters, and
discoursed on the manners and customs of the Turks with the object of
making his hearers despise and laugh at them. He plunged wildly into the
sensual delights of his immense harem. In place of wine he substituted a
drink much appreciated in the Sudan, consisting of date syrup mixed with
ginger, of which he drank quantities out of the silver cups taken from
the Mission Church in El Obeid.

In spite, however, of all this luxurious living, the Mahdi did not omit
to publish his new propaganda far and wide. He wrote several letters to
the inhabitants of the Gezireh (the country between the Blue and White
Niles), calling on them to rise, and threatening all those who refused
to obey the summons. Numbers flocked to his standards, partly through
fear and partly because they recognised the inability of the Government
to cope with the revolt. It was at this time that he despatched Osman
Digna, who afterwards became so notorious, to the Eastern Sudan. This
fanatical adherent of the Mahdi copied the example of his master in
every respect, wearing neither shoes nor sandals, and only riding during
exceptionally long marches, his argument being that as the Mahdi deigned
to walk the earth, he thereby made it holy. A force was now despatched
to capture Sheikh Tome of the Kababish, who was reported to be in
friendly communication with Khartum. The unfortunate man was attacked by
night, captured and dragged off in chains with his wife, child, slaves,
and camels to El Obeid. The Mahdi was prepared to pardon him, but
Khalifa Abdullah insisted on beheading him, which was done; this cruel
act terrified the remainder of the tribe. During the last fifteen days
of Ramadan the Mahdi attended to no public business, but gave himself up
to fasting and prayer. The holidays following Ramadan were set aside for
military parades and manoeuvres, which served to rouse the fanatical
ardour of his now numerous followers.


About this time a letter came from Mustafa Yawer, the Mudir of Dongola,
to Osman Tobji; the latter was a most generous man, who gave much of his
money to the poor and to widows and orphans, especially during the siege
of El Obeid; Tobji had thus won the honour and respect of all, and on
the fall of the town the Mahdi returned to him the property he had
captured; thereupon he at once set to work to relieve the distressed
Egyptian families who had been turned out of house and home, and whose
property had been taken. In his letter Mustafa Yawer asked his friend
Tobji if Mohammed Ahmed were the real Mahdi or not; this letter came
into the Mahdi's hands, and Tobji was at once sent for and asked what
reply he intended to give. Osman answered, "When the sun has risen over
the horizon it is visible to all, and no further proof of its existence
is required--thus if the Mahdi be the true Mahdi, his works will bear
witness of the truth." This evasive answer did not however satisfy the
Mahdi, who obliged Tobji to sign a letter declaring that Mohammed Ahmed
was the true Mahdi, and this letter was then despatched to the Mudir of

The Mahdi was well versed in the art of winning over people. His
unruffled smile, pleasant manners, generosity and equable temperament,
though at times somewhat severe, all tended to enhance the popular idea
of him. He attributed the execution of Said Pasha and Ali Bey Sherif to
the Khalifa Abdullah, and when the two little sons of the latter were
brought to him, the smiling hypocrite wept for their father's fate. The
popular belief in him and his cause almost amounted to worship: women
especially raved about him and thought him the most handsome of men.
They swore by him in the words "Hakk rabb el Mahdi" (By the Mahdi's God)
or "Hakk Sayidna el Imam" (By our Lord, the Imam); all solemn oaths and
statements began with the words "Aleik el Mahdi el Muntaser" (By the
Victorious Mahdi); his virtues were extolled in poems, and constant
reference was made to his good looks, wisdom, stature and to his
repeated victories over the Turks. The beggars used to learn off by
heart special laudatory verses, and by reciting them from house to house
they were sure to be given alms; to such an extent was this laudation
carried that if a beggar sang songs in which the Prophet's name
occurred, he was at once interrupted and told to substitute the Mahdi's
for the Prophet's name; at every street corner his praises were sung;
soldiers on the march sang of his glorious victories; female slaves
gathering wood, or laden with corn, or grinding it between the
stones--all sang the same refrain, which indeed might be called the
Mahdi's national anthem, and began with the words "Mahdi Nur Ainana"
(the Mahdi is the light of our eyes), or "El Mahdi kammal et Turk fi
Kana" (the Mahdi conquered--lit. gave their full to--the Turks at Kana).

The Arabs delight in poetry, and during the night generally collected in
parties, and seated on the sand sang the Mahdi's praises, the two
principal singers keeping time by beating the ground with their sticks,
while the rest joined in the chorus at the end of each verse. Inspired
sometimes by their theme, they would stand up and flourish their swords
in the air as if combating the Turks, shouting "Fi Shan Allah" (for
God's cause). Thus the adulation of the Mahdi extended from the highest
emir to the lowest slave, and woe to him who was ever heard to utter one
word in deprecation or blame of the new Prophet, he would at once be
pounced upon and beaten to death with sticks.

Sometimes the Mahdi was called "Khalifat er Rasul" (the successor of the
Prophet), and sometimes even they dignified him with the sacred title of
Nebbi (Prophet). In truth the Prophet Mohammed occupied in the people's
minds quite a secondary position, and the celebration of his birthday
was forbidden by the Mahdi.

On one occasion a dispute occurred between two men; one argued that the
Mahdi would have a higher seat in heaven than the Prophet, while the
other maintained that "God was higher than the Mahdi." The dispute waxed
hot, and the case was referred to the judge, who settled the matter by
saying that "the living was better than the dead," but at the same time
the man who advocated the Prophet's claims was relegated to prison, not
so much for asserting what was perfectly true, that "God was higher than
the Mahdi," but that the tone in which he had said it was tantamount to
an insult to the Mahdi. Naturally those Moslems who still had some sense
of the orthodox creed were much annoyed at this decision.

Early in April a messenger arrived from Khartum with a letter from the
Austrian Consul Hansal. Now as we were perfect strangers in El Obeid,
people did not dare to associate with us; the messenger therefore
handed over the letter to George Stambuli, who was then a man well known
to every one. Stambuli, who supplied us with all the necessaries of
life, now came to us in a state of great excitement, bringing the letter
in which he hoped to find some news of the outside world. We opened the
letter, which was long and well-written, and found that it was directed
to the Mahdi. We read it and considered it a well-written letter; in it
Hansal called the Mahdi "Sheikh," and begged him to release us,
receiving as a ransom such a sum as he should demand, and which he
(Hansal) was prepared to give. The bearer of the letter was then ordered
to take it direct to the Mahdi, but fearing that its contents might
compromise him, he gave it to Stambuli, who gave it as his opinion that
the letter was useless, as he himself had been doing all in his power to
effect our release, but was unable to do so. Father Bonomi, however,
urged that as the letter was useless it was therefore harmless, and that
there could be no objection to giving it to the Mahdi; consequently it
was taken to him, and he expressed himself much pleased with it;
although he admitted that the system of ransoming was in vogue during
the days of the Prophet, he stated that it had been changed by him, as
also was the tax per head formerly paid by Christians.

He, however, promised to give us protection until the coming of Sayidna
Isa (Jesus Christ), when we should either have to turn Moslems or die;
thus the letter was of no good to us, and on the following day a rumour
was spread abroad that the Austrian Consul had joined the Mahdi. The
messenger asked us to give him a few lines to take back, and thus prove
that he had delivered the letter to us; so we and Stambuli complied, and
the messenger left for Khartum; but he was followed by spies, and when
at Korsi--one and a half day's journey distant--he was searched by them,
and the letters found in the saddle-bag on the donkey, consequently he
was arrested, brought back, and thrown into chains.

The false news was now rapidly circulated that an English post had
arrived. Father Bonomi and I were at once summoned to read the letters.
It occurred to us that our letters had probably been seized and that we
were in some danger. I was not alarmed about my letter to Hansal, for I
had written in German, and there was no one besides myself in El Obeid
who understood German; but Bonomi's letters had been written in Italian,
and there were several people who understood that language. As we
entered the Mudirieh we saw Stambuli also coming. We were first taken to
the Khalifa Sherif, who was lying on a straw mat in his hut; after
greeting us, he lifted up the mat and drew out several letters, which we
at once recognised as those we had written. The Khalifa asked us if we
had written them, and we replied in the affirmative. He thereupon
produced a piece of paper on which Bonomi had written that the messenger
should receive six pounds. Father Bonomi translated this to the Khalifa;
Stambuli was then called in, as he pretended to know a number of
European languages, while in point of fact he knew little or nothing;
when the paper was given to him to read he said that it contained a
medical prescription, and this translation did not of course agree with
Bonomi's version. Amidst the murmuring of the bystanders the Khalifa now
rose and bid us follow him into the divan of the Mudirieh, and thence
into the room adjoining that in which the Mahdi was sitting with the
Khalifa Abdullah. The latter had to keep his bed, for his leg had been
broken by a fall from a horse; he had collided with another horseman,
and in falling had been badly kicked. Father Bonomi and Stambuli only
were taken before the Mahdi, whilst I was left in the room outside;
there were a Dervish and a Greek also in the room, and as I was sitting
on the ground near the door, the Greek came up to me and told me that a
sheikh wished to speak to me. I replied, "Let the sheikh come to me if
he wants to speak to me; I have nothing to ask of him."

A few moments afterwards the sheikh came up to me in a furious rage,
and without further ado attacked me with his fists, kicked me, and
called me a Christian dog; then seizing me by the leg he dragged me out
towards the gate, where he said he intended to cut off my head.

The sound of this struggle reached the Mahdi's ears, and he sent a
eunuch to take me out of the sheikh's hands. Shortly afterwards the
Mahdi himself, Bonomi, and Stambuli came out, and were rather pleased
than otherwise that my incident with the sheikh had interrupted their
somewhat painful conversation. The Mahdi did not appear angry, and as
usual, smiled pleasantly all round; then, surrounded by his principal
emirs, he performed the noonday prayers in the divan, while the
multitude conformed to the prayers in the Mudirieh courtyard. This over,
he sat down on his mat and opened his audience, whilst a slave standing
behind him fanned him and drove off the flies. Numbers of people
submitted their cases to him in a very low and humble tone of voice, and
from the various gestures which took place, I concluded that he had
given satisfaction to all. He then read aloud a letter from an
influential sheikh in Khartum, whose name I have forgotten; after which
a number of sheikhs came in to take the oath of allegiance.

During this ceremony the man taking the oath had to place his hand in
the Mahdi's right hand; then the latter repeated the oath in the
following words: "Thou consecratest thyself, thy children and thy
property to the Mahdi. Thou shalt be guilty of no impurity; thou shalt
not steal, nor drink alcohol; and thou shalt bind thyself to do thy duty
in the Jehad." The person to whom the oath was administered sealed it
with a solemn "Amen." If several persons took the oath together, they
were obliged to repeat it in chorus, and at the conclusion they shouted
"Fi Shan Allah." When the audience was over, we asked the Mahdi's
permission to retire, which he allowed us to do.

Bonomi now gave us an account of his interview with the Mahdi and
Khalifa Abdullah. They had thought that we had written letters to the
Government at Khartum, but they could not read the letters which, in
point of fact, contained nothing political. Bonomi had given the Mahdi a
short resumé of their contents with which he seemed pleased, but
Abdullah appeared dissatisfied.

For the next eight days we were in considerable danger, and the one
topic of conversation was what should be done to us. It was the general
idea that we were to be beheaded; but Stambuli was working his friends,
and by dint of bribes the matter was hushed up, although I believe that
we owed it principally to the good will and kindly disposition of the
Mahdi. After about ten days we were summoned before a certain emir named
Hajji Khaled, who made enquiries about the letters, and we told him that
we were prepared to translate literally every word. Our fearless
persistence impressed him, and he did not trouble us further.

Some of the European merchants could have translated the letters, but
Stambuli bribed them with twenty pounds, and on the 26th of April,
thirteen days after the letters had been intercepted, the Mahdi pardoned
Stambuli at a public meeting, and handed them back to him; then in the
presence of two trustworthy friends of the Mahdi, we translated them
word for word into Arabic, and gave them back to the Mahdi, who, judging
from their general tenour, appeared convinced of their harmlessness.


[E] Pl. of Fakir, _i.e._ a poor religious mendicant--one who
has renounced the world.

[F] Pl. of Sayid, _i.e._ a master.



     The European captives learn that General Hicks is advancing--Slatin
     Bey's defence of Darfur--His heroism--The Mahdi prepares to resist
     Hicks--The march of the Hicks Expedition--Extracts from the diary
     of Major Herlth--Colonel Farquhar's gallantry at Rahad--Gustav
     Klootz deserts to the Mahdi--Klootz's interview with the Mahdi in
     which Ohrwalder and Bonomi act as interpreters--The expedition
     advances towards Shekan--Is surrounded and annihilated--Description
     of the battle--The Mahdi victor of Kordofan.

In our present miserable plight all our hopes were directed on Khartum,
from whence we expected succour. Hitherto we heard only vague rumours,
but the news of the defeat and death of Wad Makashef on the White Nile
encouraged us to hope on. We had no idea who commanded the Egyptian
troops in this action. We were quite uncertain as to what policy the
Government would adopt regarding Kordofan; and of course, at this time,
false reports were flying about everywhere, and it was quite impossible
to arrive at the truth. At first we were inclined to believe everything
we heard, but gradually we found that we lived in such an atmosphere of
lying and deceit that we arrived at believing almost nothing we heard.
The Sudanese proverb, "Consider all news to be good and true, even if it
be false," is universally acted on in the Moslem world; and those who
looked for help from the Government always hoped for good news, and
seized on the smallest pretext to give colour to their expectations;
their belief in dreams which never came true accentuated their misery.
It was useless to try and enlighten these poor ignorant people,
contradiction only made them annoyed. Fortune-tellers were often
consulted about the future, and naturally they foretold what they
thought their interrogators wanted to hear, and thus gave them hope for
a short time; but when it turned out incorrect--as was invariably the
case--it only increased their depression.

God, in His mercy, sent a ray of light into the darkness of our
captivity, which again kindled the hope of succour which had been
well-nigh quite extinguished. On the 21st of June, 1883, a man came into
our little hut and asked in a scared sort of way if we were the
missionaries. After repeated assurances that we were, the man took
courage and withdrew from his trousers a little note, which he had
concealed very carefully, and handed it to Father Bonomi, who at once
tore it open in nervous haste and eagerly scanned the few lines which
were to give us a new life. The note was signed by Marcopoli Bey, by
order of General Hicks, and was to the effect that we should not abandon
hope, for as soon as the winter season began, a large army would advance
into the Sudan to attack the Mahdi. We kissed that dirty little bit of
paper, and thanked God most heartily for sending us news so full of
comfort. We became reassured, and now our dark future gave place to
cheerful hopes which brightened the few months of anxious delay which
followed the receipt of this note. The letter was dated from the White
Nile, where the General had already gained a victory over Wad Makashef,
and soon the news of the intended expedition against the Mahdi spread
like wildfire through the camp.

[Illustration: HICKS PASHA.]

It appears that Consul Hansal also wrote a letter to the Mahdi, but the
latter said nothing to us about it. Amina, one of our black girls whom
the Mahdi had taken as a concubine, said she saw in the Mahdi's hand a
letter with a large seal, on which the "double-headed eagle" was
represented; but the Mahdi does not appear to have taken much notice of
it. In Darfur the news of the intended Hicks expedition had considerable
effect. Slatin, the Governor-General, had been fighting continuously
against the natives of Darfur and against the Rizighat, Habbanieh, and
other Arab tribes; he was now in the north, then in the south,
combating with bravery and unusual rapidity the various revolts which
sprang up throughout his province. He was a scourge to the Arabs and
killed thousands of them; he even pursued them into the almost
inaccessible hills and valleys of Jebel Marra. His powers of endurance
were wonderful, and he would often be twenty-four hours in the saddle,
constantly fighting, and with nothing to eat or drink. He slept on the
bare floor or ground beside his native soldiers, and lived on dhurra
soaked in water; he was just, never took bribes, generous, ever ready to
assist the poor and needy, and never refused admittance to old and young
who sought his help. In spite, however, of his having--as he himself
told me--fought in twenty-seven battles against the Arabs, he could not
crush them, for they were like fungus growing out of the earth.

In action Slatin was most heroic. On one occasion he was struck by a
bullet which shattered one of his fingers; but, undismayed, he seized
the hanging remnant with his other hand and ordered the man standing
next him to cut it off with his knife; then he joined again in the
fight, and cheered his men on to victory. Not only in Kordofan, but
throughout the entire Sudan, he was celebrated for his bravery in the
face of the enemy. Still he was powerless to cope with the extensive
revolt in his province, and obtained little support from his Egyptian
officers, who were jealous and constantly intrigued against him; yet it
was the wonder of all that he succeeded in holding out so long. At
length, when his ammunition was almost finished, came the news of
Hicks's projected expedition, and to gain time he resorted to the
following expedient. His vakil was a man named Mohammed Zogal, uncle to
the Mahdi, and a man of sense; with him Slatin came to a private
understanding, and it was agreed that Zogal should pay a visit to the
Mahdi, inform him that Slatin was prepared to submit, provided he was
permitted to hold his present position, and then he was to return and
bring back full information regarding the Mahdi, his power, &c., and at
the same time endeavour to arrange for a suspension of hostilities
pending the arrival of Hicks. Should Hicks be victorious then Slatin and
Darfur would be saved, otherwise all would be lost; but this plan, if
successful, would enable Slatin to hold out until Hicks came, which he
could not otherwise have done. Zogal set out on his journey and arrived
at El Obeid early in September 1883, where he was warmly welcomed by the
Mahdi. The latter was much pleased with Slatin's proposition, and
ordered a salute of one hundred guns to be fired to announce his

The Mahdi could now turn his entire attention to his preparations to
resist the advance of General Hicks, concerning the number of whose
troops the wildest reports were circulated. On learning of his departure
from Omdurman on the 9th of September, he issued a proclamation
instructing his emirs to read it to their followers. In it he, as usual,
styled himself the Mahdi sent by God to defeat the Turks, who were the
enemies of God and His Prophet, and that his mission was to conquer the
world; he extolled the virtues of holy war and promised paradise and its
joys to all those who fell fighting in the holy cause. He now quitted El
Obeid and pitched his tent under a large Adansonia tree outside the
walls; his three Khalifas and their followers copied his example, and
this was the signal for the whole town to be evacuated. The life of ease
and comfort was abandoned and people collected round their emirs' flags,
so that in a short time an enormous camp was formed in anticipation of
the great battle. Couriers were sent in all directions to proclaim that
anyone who refused to follow the Mahdi would have his hand and foot cut
off; all men joined willingly, the Mahdi's camp daily grew larger, and
straw huts (or tokuls) soon covered the plain, though the people were
allowed in turns to go back to the town at night. Detachments of troops
were sent to various parts of Kordofan to collect the Dervishes, and
whole tribes streamed from all directions towards El Obeid. Daily
manoeuvres and reviews were held, and guns fired repeatedly so that
the horses should get accustomed to the noise. Thus the Mahdi instilled
great enthusiasm into the masses, and we began to have some fear for

The Mahdi now despatched the three emirs, Abdel Halim Wad el Hashmi,
Hajji Mohammed Abu Girgeh, and Omar Elias Pasha, with their followers,
to Duem. They were instructed to watch the movements of Hicks's force,
and when it left the White Nile, to cut his communication; they were
then to harass his march as much as possible, but not to bring on a
general engagement. All these orders were admirably carried out.

General Hicks left Duem on the 24th of September, 1883, and marched in a
south-westerly direction through Shatt, Zeregga, Aigella, Shirkeleh,
and Rahad, which he reached on the 20th of October, leaving Tagalla and
Jebel Dair on the left. The inhabitants of the districts through which
the troops passed, quitted their villages and carried off all their
goods, so that when the troops arrived they found nothing but straw
huts, which the soldiers at first set fire to; but General Hicks soon
forbade this practice. The ill-fated army scarcely met a living soul,
but flocks of vultures followed them as if waiting for their prey.
Shortly after the annihilation of the army, a small and incomplete diary
belonging to an Austrian officer, Major Herlth, came into my hands, but
it was sufficient to give me an insight into the wretched condition of
this force. The facts were briefly as follows: It was expected that on
the arrival of the army at Shirkeleh, it would be joined by several
thousand Tagalla people, and it was hoped that this reinforcement would
inspire the troops with some life and energy, which they entirely
lacked; but these reinforcements never appeared.

Major Herlth described the troops as anything but good, and frequently
refers to the want of agreement between the two commanders--General
Hicks with his small body of European officers on the one hand, and Ala
ed Din Pasha, Governor-General of the Sudan, a man imbued with the old
Turkish system, on the other. The European officers were convinced that
the expedition would not be successful; the camels were badly looked
after, hundreds died every day, and their loads were piled on to the
others which were still alive; saddles were for the most part without
straw, so that the bare wood rubbing on their backs made terrible
wounds. Almost all the horses had died before the force reached Rahad.
General Hicks had also great trouble in keeping the men together;
numbers of them had recently been fighting against the English with
Arabi Pasha, and had been forcibly sent to the Sudan. It is also strange
that the shorter route from Duem to Bara, on which there was plenty of
water, was not chosen in preference to the long roundabout road they
took. While the latter route led through forests and long grass, the
former was entirely free from these obstructions, and, moreover, the
friendly Kababish tribe would have supported them on their northern
flank. There was still another circumstance which contributed to the
final disaster--the guides were treacherous, and led the army into the
hands of the Dervishes; indeed, it was an open secret in the camp at El
Obeid that the guides had been sent by the Mahdi.

At Rahad, Hicks expected to have been joined by five hundred Baggara
horsemen, and it is true a number of horsemen were seen in the distance,
and a white flag was shown; but the riders did not approach, and it was
soon evident that they were enemies. The force was in such a miserable
and wretched condition that the emir, Abdel Halim, begged permission of
the Mahdi to be allowed to attack it with his own followers; but this
the Mahdi would not permit him to do, as he wanted to have all the
honour and glory of victory for himself. Every day information about the
movements of the Egyptian troops was sent to the Mahdi; sometimes
reports reached him twice a day, and were always of the same tenour,
viz. that the men had no heart to fight. Had an expedition been coming
which had the elements of success in it, public opinion would have shown
itself by numbers deserting the Mahdi's standards; but they had heard
nothing of Hicks's early successes, and now the only reports that
reached them were that the army was in a hopeless condition. All this
only made the Mahdi's prestige the greater, and it must be remembered
that the latter was an adept at inspiring fanaticism. One of General
Hicks's spies was captured, and he was at once impaled on lances. The
following extracts, which I give from memory, from Major Herlth's diary
will show how demoralised the expedition had become. The camp was
pitched at Rahad on a small eminence near the Khor Abu Habl, whilst the
enemy, who were concealed on the opposite side in the high grass and
under the trees, fired incessantly at the Egyptians and killed a number
of them. One bullet entered Hicks's tent and struck the seat on which
he was sitting; he then gave orders that the grass and woods should be
at once cleared of the enemy. There was still a little water in the
Khor, and as it seemed to be deep, a consultation was held as to how it
should best be crossed. The discussion lasted an hour. At length a few,
more courageous than the rest, decided to try and wade across, and to
their intense surprise found that it was quite shallow and easily
fordable; they then crossed over and drove back the enemy, killing seven
of them.

While at Rahad, it was discovered that the camp out of which they had
marched the previous day had been entered, and everything that they had
left behind had been taken. It was now evident that the enemy were in
greater force than they had thought, and in consequence General Hicks
made an entrenchment and put guns into position, which were fired with
some effect, as one shell killed no less than thirteen men. This news
was sent to the Mahdi.

At El Obeid the slow advance of the troops could not be understood, and
this had a still more convincing effect on the Dervishes that the
expedition must be in a bad way. It was a matter of no surprise that the
troops had not been victorious, as it was known that every element of
success was wanting; as for the poor Egyptians, the capture of a cow was
an event of great importance, and General Hicks ordered every officer to
be given a piece of it.

Colonel Farquhar, chief of the staff, did all he could to raise the
courage of the soldiers. On one occasion some horsemen were seen a short
distance away sitting fearlessly on their horses as if challenging
anyone to come out and fight them. When Farquhar saw them he mounted his
horse and advanced straight on them. When he approached they began to
retire, but he went in pursuit, and coming up with them killed two, the
third he pulled off his horse, and capturing the horses brought them
back to camp. In spite, however, of such a gallant example, the men were
listless and out of heart; the long marches had thoroughly exhausted


(_Chief of the Staff._)]

At Rahad, Gustav Klootz, a native of Berlin, deserted the army. He was
Baron Seckendorf's servant; but at Shirkeleh he quitted his master's
service, and became the servant of Mr. O'Donovan, correspondent of the
_Daily News_. Klootz had certain socialistic tendencies, which caused
him to change masters, and there is no doubt that these ideas had much
to do with his desertion. He and a native of Saxony determined to escape
secretly, and on the plea of gathering wood outside the camp, these two
men succeeded one evening in passing the outposts. No sooner had they
gone beyond the line than they heard firing, and the Saxony man, fearing
a sudden attack, at once turned back to camp, whilst Klootz continued
his flight. When he had gone a short distance he fired two shots, one to
make the Egyptians believe that the enemy was close to them, and the
other to make the enemy think that they were close to the Egyptian
outposts. When night came on he lay down under a tree to sleep,
regardless of the fact that he was between two enemies; and the next
morning he began to debate with himself whether, after all, it would not
be better to return. He would not have hesitated for an instant had he
not thought that perhaps the Saxony man had betrayed his desertion. At
length he decided there was nothing for it but to go on towards the

After going some distance he saw three dirty-looking men who pointed
their rifles at him; but he signed to them that he was not coming as an
enemy, and to further reassure them, he threw down his rifle and
revolver on the ground, and advanced towards them. The Arabs also
approached; but Klootz, who did not understand a word of Arabic, called
out, "Dervish--where is the Dervish?" (by "Dervish" he meant the Mahdi.)
The Arabs understood perfectly what he wanted to say, but at that moment
they were thinking much more of the loot they saw before them than of
the Mahdi; so they seized the little money Klootz had, and took
possession of his watch, rifle, revolver, and even his boots. Klootz
soon realised into whose hands he had fallen, for these Arabs, having
taken everything from him, then directed him towards the Dervish camp.
On he plodded barefooted, through the long grass, and often over thorns,
until at last he met an old woman, who made him understand by gestures
that he was close on the camp. A few moments later several horsemen
appeared, and, surrounding him, took him in triumph to Abu Girgeh; for
they thought at length they had captured a hated Englishman. Klootz, to
his astonishment, now found himself in a large entrenched camp, where
the Dervishes were living in perfect safety. The horsemen had told Abu
Girgeh that they had found him sitting in a tree writing, so he was at
once put in chains, tied tightly to a bedstead, and then interrogated
about Hicks's troops. At the same time a messenger was sent to the Mahdi
to inquire what should be done with the Englishman. The Mahdi ordered
that he should be at once brought to El Obeid; the chains were therefore
removed, and a rope put round his neck, by which he was drawn by
horsemen to the Mahdi's camp. The journey lasted a day and a half, and
he was obliged to walk the whole way barefooted in the burning sun, so
that when he reached El Obeid his feet were swollen up and in a dreadful

As swift as lightning the news now spread through the camp that an
English officer had been captured. Who could the unfortunate man be? we
wondered. When Klootz was brought before the Mahdi all he could say was
that he was Nimsawi (a German). The Mahdi therefore summoned Stambuli,
Bonomi, and myself, to act as interpreters. When we entered the crowded
enclosure everyone understood the object of our coming; most of them
were busy cleaning their lances, and shouted out after us, "Mind you
make careful inquiries of him." There was such a crowd in front of the
Mahdi's tent that it was almost impossible to make our way through; but
at last there was a cry of "Ahl Delen" ("Here are the Delen people"),
and they made way for us. We took off our shoes, and were shown into the
Mahdi's presence. I was intensely anxious to see who this Englishman
might be; we had seen nothing but black faces for so long, that had he
been a creature from the other world, we could not have been more
interested; then we were on tenter-hooks to know how the expedition was
progressing, whether it was under English command, &c., &c. Of course
General Hicks's name was well known, but we knew nothing about the
composition of his force.

When we entered we saw the Mahdi, the supposed English officer, and
Ahmed Wad Suleiman sitting on a straw mat. We saluted the Mahdi, who
returned our salute in a most gracious manner. He was smiling, and
seemed much pleased. He introduced the Englishman to me, and asked me
to question him about his coming. My imagination, in which I had
pictured an Englishman, received a rude shock, for I beheld before me a
young man with blonde hair, blue eyes, a sunburnt face, and a nose from
which the skin was peeled off. He wore a dirty tarbush; his clothes were
made of rough canvas, and he looked very much like the fireman of an
engine. Before anything else I expressed to him my sincere pity at his
having fallen into the hands of savages, for I did not then know that he
had come of his own accord. I asked him his name; he replied, "Gustav
Klootz, of Berlin," and said that he was the correspondent of an
important newspaper. He afterwards gave me a true account of himself. I
translated everything to the Mahdi. I then asked him about the state of
the army. He said that it consisted of barely 10,000 men, and he added
that it was generally believed by the European officers that they would
be defeated. It was with the greatest difficulty that I concealed the
blow to my feelings which this news occasioned. I asked him why he
deserted, and he excused himself by saying that he did so to save his
life. I now knew that he could be no soldier; but, of course, I did not
translate to the Mahdi the wretched account he gave of the army. At this
moment I received a kick in the ribs from Ahmed Wad Suleiman, who cried
out, "Ask him how many guns are in possession of the unbelievers?" I was
then given a small book, which turned out to be Klootz's diary, and was
told to translate it. There were only a few leaves, in which the date of
departure from Shatt and other places was noted; the number of camels
that died daily; a few observations on his master, and sundry other

The Mahdi then asked whether, if he wrote to Hicks, he would be likely
to surrender, to which Klootz naturally replied that he was sure nothing
would induce him to do so.

The Mahdi further asked whether Klootz thought he or General Hicks was
the more powerful, to which Klootz answered that he thought the Mahdi
would be successful; but that he would probably lose a number of his
followers, as Hicks's force was well supplied with good firearms, to
which Wad Suleiman added, "Death will be our reward."

The Mahdi seemed delighted with the news he had received, and ordered a
plate of fried meat to be brought, which he shared with us, eating with
his fingers. It was considered a very high favour when he touched the
plate with his hand, and handed a small piece of meat to those who sat
with him, and this favour he conferred on us. It was rather striking
that he should have done this, for many Moslems consider it wrong even
to eat in the presence of Christians. When the meal was over he
dismissed us, and Klootz was handed over to Stambuli till further

Just as we got outside the hut, Klootz and I were called in again. The
Mahdi was now quite alone. He ordered us to sit down on the floor, and
then whispered in my ear, "Tell this man he may count on the best of
treatment if he will turn Moslem; if not, he must die." I explained this
to Klootz in German, and he replied that he was quite prepared to do
anything the Mahdi required; whereupon the latter presented him with his
shoes and a jibbeh, and named him "Mustafa," as it struck him that there
was a similarity of sound between Mustafa and Gustav.

When we left the hut we found an enormous crowd of people all clamouring
to know what the Englishman had said. Of course everyone wanted to see
him, and it was impossible for us to move a step. Stambuli, therefore,
procured a horse, mounted Klootz upon it, and in this manner we
proceeded to Stambuli's house.

We did not at first believe in Klootz's statement, and thought that he
must have purposely given the Mahdi false information, so as to gain
favour and save his own skin; but when we were alone together, I bound
him by a solemn oath to tell me the absolute truth, and, to my
astonishment, he told me he had nothing to add to what he had already
said. It is impossible to describe our misery when we heard Klootz's
report. We had counted for months on the success of the expedition to
deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and now all our bright hopes
were rapidly fading away, and again a gloomy future yawned in front of

General Hicks left Rahad on the 26th of October, and arrived at Aluba on
the 29th; here he received the Mahdi's letter summoning him to submit.
Of course this was taken no notice of, and on the 3rd of November the
army advanced towards Kashgeil, which is about twelve miles south of El

In the meantime the Mahdi had been collecting his followers, and doing
all in his power to inspire them with wild fanaticism; anyone who saw
the enormous hordes of savages which were brought together, must have
trembled for the fate of Hicks. It was said that the Mahdi had been
promised the assistance of 40,000 angels from paradise, and everyone
quite believed in the truth of this assertion. Anyone beholding this
immense multitude of fanatics of every race and age, even though he had
formerly been a disbeliever in the Mahdi, must now have been convinced
of his divinity. The uneducated masses of the Sudan are entirely
governed by the influence of external appearances, they had never heard
or seen anything of this description before; now heralds were going from
end to end of the camp foretelling the death of everyone who refused to
follow the Mahdi.

On the 1st of November, Mohammed Ahmed quitted El Obeid, and
everyone--man, woman, and child--followed him. Every house was
evacuated, and woe to him who attempted to hide himself! Wad Gubara and
his flag alone remained behind as garrison of El Obeid. The throng,
noisy bustle and din of the camp suddenly gave way to almost absolute
silence--the silence of the grave. The days which followed were for us a
period of terrible anxiety. Although we felt almost certain that a
terrible catastrophe was about to take place, yet we still had a slight
hope that, with the help of European leaders, good rifles, and
machine-guns, the result might be different. Abu Anga, who had
separated from his Jehadieh (black troops) just the day before, now
joined the powerful division of Abdel Halim, and on the 3rd of November
the Mahdi's followers also joined this division, whilst the Mahdi
himself, accompanied by his Khalifas, set out for Birket.

It was on the 3rd of November that the action actually began, for, in
accordance with the Mahdi's orders, his followers had gradually
completely encircled the troops, who were now opposed by black soldiers
with Remington rifles, Wad en Nejumi's Gellabas, and the flags of Abdel
Halim, Sherif Mahmud, and many others. In the attack which occurred on
this date, the Dervishes were forced back with the loss of Fauzi, one of
the Mahdi's katibs, Elias Pasha's son, and the son of Hajji Khaled; but
General Hicks's losses were considerably greater; he had also run short
of water, and was doing his utmost to dig wells, though he did not know
that within fifteen minutes' walk of him there was a large reservoir of
rain-water. What days of terrible anxiety these must have been for the
principal officers, and especially for General Hicks, on whom the entire
responsibility rested!

Major Herlth's diary stops abruptly on the 4th of November; he writes on
that day that Dr. Georges Bey was wounded the previous day and died
shortly afterwards. As far as I can remember, the Major then
continues:--"These are bad times; we are in a forest, and everyone very
depressed. The general orders the band to play, hoping that the music
may enliven us a little; but the bands soon stop, for the bullets are
flying from all directions, and camels, mules, and men keep dropping
down; we are all cramped up together, so the bullets cannot fail to
strike. We are faint and weary, and have no idea what to do. The general
gives the order to halt and make a zariba. It is Sunday, and my dear
brother's birthday. Would to God that I could sit down and talk to him
for an hour! The bullets are falling thicker...."

Here the writer suddenly breaks off; possibly a bullet had penetrated
his weary heart.

The ring of encircling Dervishes was gradually drawing in and enclosing
the ill-fated troops. The greatest destruction was done by Abu Anga's
men who may be said to have destroyed the army; hidden behind shrubs and
bushes, they fired incessantly at very close range into the midst of the
Egyptians. One of Abu Anga's men told me that he alone had fired one
hundred and fifty rounds. On that terrible Sunday General Hicks had to
abandon a number of guns, for he had no mules to carry them. Dire
confusion prevailed everywhere, the troops were suffering terribly from
thirst, discipline was gone, and the men could not even lay their guns

Klootz, whom the Khalifa Abdullah took with him, told me that he was
some way from the place where the actual fighting was going on, and that
the shells were striking the branches overhead. It would seem that the
army made three attempts to break through the Dervish lines, but failed,
and Klootz told me that the bodies were scattered in three large heaps
extending over a distance of nearly two miles. The largest heap was in
the forest of Shekan near Kashgeil, and it was here that the Dervishes
fell on the remainder of the force and the European officers, and killed
them with their lances on the 5th of November.

According to the evidence of the Dervishes themselves, the European
officers fought most heroically. General Hicks was one of the last to
fall; he had emptied his revolver, and, holding his sword in his right
hand, waited for the rush of the enemy; he was soon surrounded and his
horse wounded in the back; he then dismounted and fought most gallantly
with his sword until he fell, pierced by several spears. The heroism of
these brave men was the admiration of all. After the massacre the bodies
were stripped and mutilated. Even long after the battle those who were
present used to talk of the terrible spectacle of all these bodies lying
with their mouths gaping open and covered with blood. These savages used
to plunge their spears into the bodies of the dead so as to dip them in
the bloody entrails of their enemies, and for long after they talked
and revelled over the yellow-looking fat of the "Turks," which protruded
through their gaping wounds. Baron Seckendorf, who was remarkable for
his enormous size, had been beheaded, and his head was taken to the
Mahdi; it was thought that he must have been General Hicks. A few
escaped by hiding themselves under the heaps of dead bodies or behind
guns or waggons; at the end of the action these were all collected, and
numbered one hundred persons. During the actual fighting no quarter was
given. An Egyptian soldier pursued by some Dervishes fled towards the
Khalifa Sherif and begged to be spared; but the latter laughed at his
fear, and he was at once despatched with spears.

The Dervishes then collected their dead and laid them out in a line. It
seems almost incredible to say so, but there were only three hundred and
fifty in all killed. The Mahdi offered up a prayer over them, and then
they were buried.

The dead bodies of the Egyptians were left a prey to the vultures and
hyenas. Klootz, who said that he understood doctoring, was permitted by
the Mahdi to collect all the medicines in the field, and when doing so
he was enabled to examine the bodies of the Europeans. He told me that
it was with the greatest difficulty he kept himself from breaking down
when he saw the mutilated corpses of those with whom he had but a short
time ago laughed and spoken. The body of a soldier was seen hanging
between earth and sky; he had evidently climbed up an Adansonia tree in
search of water, when a bullet must have killed him, and in falling he
was caught by the branches.

Amongst those who escaped was a man named Abderrahman Ben en Naga Bey,
whose father, then in El Obeid, had entreated the Mahdi to spare him. A
few days before the catastrophe he was found writing letters to Omar Wad
Elias Pasha, then with Abdel Halim's force; in consequence he and his
men had been put in irons, and it was Ala ed Din Pasha's intention to
execute him; but Hicks would not allow it, saying that he would be
fairly tried after El Obeid was captured. Ben en Naga was in the
thickest of the fight, and had already lost an eye, when his father's
slaves succeeded in reaching him and saving his life.


The Mahdi and his followers were greatly delighted, for they had not
calculated on such a complete victory, and a messenger was at once
despatched to El Obeid to order a salute of one hundred guns to be

It was early on Tuesday morning, the 6th of November, that the thunder
of the guns was heard in the camp, and our alarm at this terrible news
can well be understood. Our bright hopes, which enabled us to support a
wretched existence for more than a year, were rudely dashed to the
ground. We now gave up all idea of the Government sending a second
expedition. It was clear that Khartum must look to its own safety, and
as the Mahdi had in the first instance gained possession of Kordofan
through his victory over Yusef Pasha Esh Shellali, so now his
annihilation of General Hicks's force placed almost the entire Sudan in
his hands.



     Fall of Darfur--Slatin surrenders--The Mahdi's divinity credited
     after the annihilation of Hicks--King Adam of Tagalla--Stambuli's
     kindness to the European captives--Gordon writes to the
     Mahdi--Power's letter--The sisters seized and distributed amongst
     the emirs--They are tortured--The missionaries turned into
     slaves--The terrible journey to Rahad--The Greeks come to the help
     of the sisters--The proclamation concerning the treatment of
     priests and hermits by Mohammedans--The Mahdi at Rahad--Ohrwalder's
     interviews with the Mahdi concerning religion--The Dervishes attack
     the Nubas.

The Mahdi remained seven days with his entire force at Birket, so as to
collect families and stragglers and to take possession of the loot which
the greedy Arabs had seized and refused to give up. Several of the
latter were flogged, and seven slaves belonging to the Mahdi's uncle,
Sayid Mohammed Taha, suffered the loss of a hand and a foot because they
had kept for themselves some of the Mahdi's booty.

The loot referred to consisted of war material, such as Krupp guns,
machine guns, and Remington rifles, besides a number of axes, pickaxes,
and shovels, which were required for making zaribas; a quantity of
money, watches, and clothing, was also included, and the whole was
carried off to the beit el mal.

Some of the dead bodies were secretly set fire to, so as to make the
ignorant people think that these unbelievers were being consumed by
hell-fire. General Hicks's white horse was handed over to Klootz with
orders to cure the wound in its back.

At length the pestilential smell of thousands of dead bodies of men and
animals drove the conquerors forward. The Mahdi's entry into El Obeid
was a scene of wild enthusiasm and excitement. The many-coloured flags
came first, then followed thousands upon thousands of Dervishes moving
to the ever-swelling murmur of "La Ilaha il'lallah" ("There is no god
but God"), whilst others danced out of the ranks and shook their
blood-bespotted spears, uttering fearful yells. After them followed the
cavalry with the three Khalifas. Every now and then a halt was made,
when a number of riders would dash forward at full gallop, poising their
lances ready for the thrust, and then would return to the ranks amidst
the loud applause of the others.

After the cavalry followed a few prisoners, the wretched remnant of
Hicks's army. Most of them were naked, and were being dragged forward
under the continual insults of the Dervishes; then came the guns drawn
by wounded mules, and last of all came the Mahdi himself, riding a
magnificent white camel, and surrounded by his most fanatical adherents,
whose monotonous "La Ilaha il'lallah" resembled the sound of a rushing
stream. Clouds of dust filled the air, and as the Mahdi passed by, the
spectators threw themselves down and kissed the ground, whilst the women
shouted "Mahdi Allah" ("The Mahdi of God").

Such a scene of wild triumph had never before been witnessed. The Mahdi
was now honoured almost as a god. This victory gained for him an
enormous increase of power and respect. The fear of his name sped like
wildfire throughout every province and district in the Sudan. He was now
regarded as the true Mahdi, every Moslem believed in him, and all doubt
was put aside.

At the battle near Shekan numbers of people said they saw the angels
whom the Mahdi had summoned to fight against the Turks. He now became
the object of almost superhuman adoration; even the water with which he
washed himself was handed by the eunuchs to the believers, who drank it
with avidity as an antidote to all ills and diseases.

After a time the captured Egyptians were released, and many died in a
state of beggary in the market-place at El Obeid. The captured blacks
were distributed amongst the beit el mal soldiers, and were known by the
name of "Hiksani," for example, Morgan Hiksani. It was one of the Mahdi
institutions that slaves should--besides their own names--bear also the
names of their masters. Our Delen blacks were also given my name,
"Yusef." Of course it would have been more correct if they had called
them after our chief, Luigi Bonomi, but the Arabs found this name rather
difficult to pronounce.

The Mahdi now became more imperious, and his success made him bolder and
more confident. He despatched letters to various parts of the world,
proving the divinity of his mission by his success in arms, and
summoning all to rise against the Turks. He wrote very strongly to the
inhabitants of the Gezireh, threatening them with fire and sword if they
refused to rise against the Government and join him.

Having rid himself of his enemies, the Mahdi now turned his attention to
Darfur. He appointed his uncle, Zogal Bey, who was known as Sayid
Mohammed Khaled, emir of Darfur, and sent him to that province,
accompanied by Abdel Samad, the son of Ahmed Sharfi, and Omar Wad Elias.

Khalifa Sherif, immediately after the victory over Hicks, urged the
Mahdi to advance to the White Nile and attack Khartum, which he might
easily have done, but the Mahdi was anxious first of all to secure
Darfur, and he also wished to rest on his laurels a little longer. He
wrote to Slatin Bey informing him of the destruction of Hicks's army,
and he also forced Klootz to write to the same effect. Zogal started on
the 16th of December, 1883, and proceeded in the first instance to Dara,
where Slatin was at that time. He then sent in a messenger with the
Mahdi's letter, in which he was called upon to surrender. Zogal well
knew that this was a mere formality, for Slatin was quite unable to hold
out any longer, and he had only five cartridges per man left; his men
too refused to make any further stand. Slatin, therefore, on receipt of
the letter, rode out to Zogal and submitted. The Dervishes then entered
Dara, and as usual began to plunder. Zogal subsequently proceeded to El
Fasher, which was at that time commanded by the Mudir, Said Bey Guma,
who had put the town in a state of defence.

In spite of the wells being beyond the lines, Said Bey offered a
resistance which from the outset was hopeless; seven days later, that is
to say on the 15th of January, 1884, he surrendered. Kebkebieh also
yielded to Zogal, and Omshanga had already submitted. Thus the populous
and valuable province of Darfur, which had cost Egypt much blood and
money, was entirely lost in the short space of eight days. In the
meantime the Mahdi had despatched his son-in-law, Wad el Beshir, to the
Gezireh to head the revolt against the Government in that district.

The Mahdi showed his wisdom in never attempting to invade a district
which had not previously declared in his favour. When he heard of the
submission of El Fasher and Dara, he despatched Abu Girgeh to undertake
the siege of Khartum. The latter left with only a small body of troops,
but numbers joined him on the way, especially when he reached the White
Nile; so that he was not afraid of advancing towards the capital.

Thus through his victory at Shekan, the Mahdi had virtually made himself
master of the whole Sudan from the Red Sea to the boundaries of Waddai,
and from the Bahr el Ghazal to Dongola. All eyes were turned to him, and
the majority of the people believed him to be the true Mahdi; some
thought he must be a great magician. Even now at the present time, when
he has already been six years in his grave, and the fallacy and misery
wrought by Mahdiism are thoroughly admitted, still his wonderful success
is attributed to witchcraft. His own countrymen--the Danagla--although
they now admit he was not the Mahdi, say that he was undoubtedly a very
holy man, and was supernaturally endowed by God with extraordinary
authority and wisdom. Amongst others who feared the Mahdi's power was
King Adam of Tagalla, who with his wife, child, and slaves, came down
from his mountain retreat and surrendered.

For a long time the King's Kadi had endeavoured to convince his master
that Mohammed Ahmed was not the true Mahdi, and did his utmost to
dissuade him from joining; but after the defeat of Hicks, Adam delayed
no longer, and moreover took his Kadi with him. When they reached
Melbeis, about three hours' journey from El Obeid, the Kadi deserted,
but he was recaptured, put in chains, and brought with the king to El

On their arrival near the town, Khalifa Abdullah went out with a large
retinue to meet Adam, who had a great reputation throughout Kordofan,
and greeted him most cordially. A salute was fired, and every one
rejoiced at the Mahdi's bloodless victory. King Adam was warmly welcomed
by the Mahdi, given a special place to live in, and treated with the
greatest respect. To gain still more favour in the Mahdi's eyes, Adam
sent him six of his prettiest young girls as concubines. After a short
time, however, the mountain king seemed to tire of residence in El Obeid
and began to suffer from melancholia. In his mountains he was absolute
master, here in El Obeid he was nothing but a slave. At first he thought
he would be permitted to return to his mountains, but soon he had to
give up all hope of this; and before long he realised that one of the
first principles of Mahdiism was that those who were fortunate enough to
behold its light would never be permitted to wander back into darkness.
Now he bitterly repented that he had not accepted his Kadi's advice,
while the spies by whom he was surrounded soon let the Mahdi know what
the Kadi's opinions were; and when Khalifa Abdullah learnt that he
meditated flight, he at once had him seized and beheaded. Thus was the
unfortunate Adam intimidated; then his horses were taken from him, and
last of all, to save his life, he had to sell his wives.

Almost all the inhabitants of Jebel Nuba sent messengers to say that
they were the Mahdi's subjects. Even in Khartum already numbers were
inclined to him. In proof of this statement, the case of the Sub-Mudir
of the town, Wad Gesuli, may be quoted. When this individual heard of
Gordon's arrival at Berber, he at once fled from Khartum and came to El
Obeid, where he threw himself at the Mahdi's feet and assured him that
the inhabitants of Khartum to a man were on his side.

All hope of release now seemed at an end. Our pitiful condition was
somewhat lightened through the kind offices of our Syrian friend, George
Stambuli, who was both the Mahdi's favourite and our benefactor at the
same time, and he supplied us with the necessaries of life. The sisters
made jibbehs (Dervish coats), which Stambuli sold and gave us the
proceeds. We obtained the material chiefly from the clothes of the
soldiers who had been killed, and from the officers' tunics. O'Donovan's
mackintosh and some other articles of clothing which Klootz recognised
came into our hands and were soon cut up. Most of the clothing was
stained with blood, which we were obliged to wash out; but what bitter
thoughts occupied our minds in this sad task!

Towards the end of January 1884 an unfortunate incident occurred which
brought us into difficulties. One of Stambuli's female slaves, having
come to an understanding with his Dongolawi servant, went to the Khalifa
Abdullah and reported that her master was a Christian, and prayed daily.
Stambuli's suspicions were aroused, and that evening he hid away
everything which could be brought up against him, except a small silver
cross which his little daughter wore round her neck. Almost before dawn
his house was surrounded by a number of Dervishes, and Nejumi with Wad
Suleiman, who had been ordered to take possession of his house, broke
into it and began a thorough search.

Stambuli who, since the fall of El Obeid, had never been questioned, had
his house full of all sorts of things, and was also in possession of a
quantity of gum and ostrich feathers. The house was turned upside down,
but nothing of an implicating nature could be found: the slave had,
however, mentioned the little girl's cross, and the inquisitors demanded
to see the children; when they saw the cross they at once asked what it
was. Stambuli replied that it was an ornament which had no special
signification, and Wad Suleiman then pulled it off the child's neck and
kept it.

I must here remark that numbers of people were very envious and jealous
of Stambuli, and did not at all care to see a white man in possession of
all this property; they therefore took every occasion to rob and steal
from him. Stambuli was now put into chains, whilst his property was
carried off to the beit el mal. It was decided that he was to be
beheaded, but his Syrian countrymen and the Greeks consulted together,
then went to the Mahdi and begged for his life. They were kindly
received by the latter, who gave them some hope, and fifteen days later
Stambuli was pardoned. He was obliged to appear before the Mahdi with a
shebba (_i.e._ a long piece of forked wood in which the neck was placed,
and which had the effect of forcing the head back), and in this
condition he was obliged to implore the Mahdi's forgiveness. His
property was never returned to him, and he could support us no more.

Father Bonomi seized this opportunity to write to the Mahdi and beg for
our release, which he had so frequently promised. The Mahdi wrote
several kind words on the reverse of the petition, but they meant
nothing; he said Father Bonomi was aware with what affection he regarded
him, and that, therefore, he could not bear the thought of losing him.
At the same time he instructed Wad Suleiman to give us whatever was
necessary for our sustenance from the beit el mal; this occurred on the
5th of February, 1884.

Just at this time, when all hopes of release seemed at an end, God sent
us light in the midst of our darkness. Some people arrived from Khartum
and reported that Gordon Pasha had reached there and had been received
with great enthusiasm.

The alarm with which this news was received by the Mahdi and his
adherents, and the delight which it occasioned to those who still hoped
for deliverance, can readily be understood. The Mahdi, who thought the
Sudan was actually in his grasp, was thoroughly upset, for it was
generally believed that Gordon had brought Englishmen with him. A few
days later he received a letter from Gordon, and the anxiety to know
what it contained was enormous. Nothing else was talked about, and when
the Mahdi ordered the letter to be read in public the disappointment was
very great.

In this letter Gordon offered the Mahdi the whole of the Western Sudan,
of which he said he should be considered the Sultan. He authorised the
continuance of the slave trade, and free transit to all pilgrims going
to Mecca; and, in conclusion, he asked for the release of the prisoners.
The Mahdi laughed at Gordon's proposals, and thought him a very cunning
unbeliever, who was attempting to delude him with vain promises merely
to gain time. He could not understand how it was Gordon came to offer
him what he already possessed some time ago; and he remarked that the
very ground on which Gordon was standing was practically in his hands.
The fact that Gordon had brought no troops with him served to further
increase his pride, and his reply was couched in the following
terms:--He said that when he was at Abba Island he had warned the
Government officials that if they refused to recognise him as the Mahdi,
they would undoubtedly perish. He had repeated the same warning to Yusef
Pasha Esh Shellali, and to Hicks Pasha. He informed him of the surrender
of Darfur, and concluded by saying that he had no desire for worldly
benefits. His object was to reform the people, and he invited Gordon to
come and join him. With the letter the Mahdi sent him a complete set of
Dervish garments, viz. a jibbeh, takia, turban, girth, and pair of

Meanwhile the Mahdi had despatched the emir Abu Anga with some troops,
also the emirs Wad Nejumi and Abdullah Wad en Nur to Jebel Dair, where
the king (Mek) Kumbo was still offering resistance. It was thought that
the number of troops would alarm these mountaineers; but they
successfully resisted the first attack, and then withdrew to their
mountain fastnesses where the troops could not follow them.

On the 23rd of March, 1884, a man arrived from Khartum with a small note
from Consul Power. It was written in English on one side, and in French
on the other: "Courage pour un peu. Gordon est ici. Courage tout ira
bien," was what this good man wrote. He also asked for the names of the
survivors of Hicks's expedition, and the names of the European prisoners
in Kordofan. We answered all his questions. These few words of the
consul gave us no little comfort and encouragement.

The time of the Mahdi's departure from El Obeid was now drawing near.
The crowd of people who had been collected was so enormous that the
water in the wells was insufficient, and rose greatly in price, and
anyone with slaves had to pay dearly for the luxury.

Disturbances frequently took place round the wells, and often people
fell in. The wells were from 150 to 160 feet deep.

The Mahdi's further stay at El Obeid was now useless, and he decided to
advance on Khartum. He issued a proclamation summoning all people to
join him, and heralds were despatched in all directions with the Mahdi's
orders. At the same time it was announced that all people should follow
in the Mahdi's track via Rahad, and Arabs living to the north and east
of El Obeid were instructed to fall upon any travellers, put them in
chains, and drag them to that town.

Provisions now became very cheap, such as coffee, wheat, dates, &c.;
but, on the other hand, the rates of hire of camels and donkeys
increased enormously. Money was distributed to everyone for the journey.

With regard to ourselves, however, as we were not permitted to leave, we
resolved to try and escape; but this was most difficult, for we were
avoided by everyone and no one dared associate with us. We managed,
however, to procure a trustworthy man, who succeeded in getting us
camels and guides; but God had disposed otherwise. Khalifa Abdullah,
accompanied by a number of followers, suddenly appeared at our huts on
the 28th of March, and Father Bonomi, brother Joseph Rognotto and myself
were summoned before him. We found him seated on his sheepskin in the
midst of a circle of emirs, and when he had beckoned to us to sit down,
he then began to address to us a heap of questions, all leading up to
the one important point--that we should accept his faith. His arguments
were valueless, and had no effect upon us, so we were sent back to our

That evening, at about sunset, some thirty men, mounted on horses, broke
into our humble abode, and said that they had orders to remove the
sisters, assuring us with mock modesty that no harm should happen to
them. We, however, well knew what would happen, and absolutely refused
to be separated, saying that if they wished they could kill us, and cut
off our heads; but that it would be a cruel shame for the Mahdi to
ill-treat these poor women after all his solemn promises and assurances.
But of what avail could our protests be against brutal violence! They
forced their way in, seized the sisters, and took them before the
Khalifa Abdullah. He and Khalifa Sherif used every means of cruel
barbarity to shake the faith of these poor sisters, and the latter,
seizing a pair of scissors, which one of the sisters was carrying, cut
the partition between her nostrils. The Khalifa's wives also howled and
insulted them in every base way, and then they were distributed amongst
the emirs, and sent to Rahad.

We spent that night in our own huts, but early the following morning the
Dervishes came and took us to the Khalifa, who made us over to various
emirs. My master was to be Abdullah Wad en Nur; but as at that time he
happened to be at Jebel Dair, I was made over to his brother Makin, who
was then occupying Mohammed Said Pasha's house. Father Bonomi, together
with the little property we had left, was put into the beit el mal; but
my diary, which I had now written for the third time, also Herlth's
diary, General Hicks's Bible and prayer book, and a sandwich case and
small bundle, belonging to O'Donovan, were all lost. We were now
exposed to ill-treatment and insult from all sides. The Mahdi's three
sons, ranging from seven to ten years of age, used to come and insult me
daily; but I cannot mention the details, which will for ever remain
engraven on my memory.

At length, on the 7th of April, 1884, the Mahdi set out, and we with
him. The huge camp, swarming with thousands and thousands of people,
became empty in a few days, and each one, as he left his hut, set fire
to it, so that nothing was to be seen but clouds of smoke and flames
darting upwards to the sky.

Just as we were leaving I was made over to another master, Idris Wad el
Hashmi. When I arrived at his house, I found everything ready for the
journey; numbers of well-bound books were lying about on the floor. I
picked one up, and found it was 'The Soldier's Pocket Book,' by Lord
Wolseley. I would like to have searched amongst these books for a diary,
but they turned me out: Idris had taken them out of some good leather
trunks, which he had filled with his own effects. Three days after the
Mahdi's departure my master and I quitted El Obeid. The road to Rahad
was one uninterrupted stream of human beings--men, women, and children;
camels carrying the household goods, on the top of which were fastened
angaribs, on which women were seated; oxen and donkeys, all heavily
laden; numbers of Arabs were driving along their flocks with them; here
one would see a camel fallen prone under its heavy load, there a child
or a slave vainly seeking in the crowd for his lost master. Of course I
had to walk, and to act as a camel-driver as well, subject to continual
insult and threatening. I moved along as best I could; the Arabs
applauded my master's good sense in making me his camel-driver, and
urged that I should carry a load as well. We had to halt frequently, as
the camels were so heavily laden.

The burning sun and fatigue were terribly oppressive, and it is always a
wonder to me how I escaped sunstroke. As to food, I had a share of my
master's horses' meal. In the evening I was obliged to clean the dokhn,
which was given to the horse, and the pangs of hunger made me covet even
this, while I was obliged to ask my master's slave to occasionally give
me a gulp of water; indeed, this slave pitied my wretched state.

It took us three days to reach Rahad, though, under ordinary
circumstances, the journey could easily be performed in one and a half
days. The burning sand had blistered my feet, and caused my legs to
swell. One day I saw the unfortunate King Adam, of Tagalla, riding by;
he was mounted on a mule, and his feet heavily chained. They thought
that the sight of his native mountains might make him wish to desert.
Soon after his arrival at Rahad the poor king died, heart-broken, and to
him death must have come as a happy deliverance; while to us, who also
longed for it, death would never come.

Rahad is situated in a depression, which in winter becomes a swamp; the
water remains standing for some time, and there are numerous wells,
which are sufficient for a large number of men and animals. During the
dry season, Rahad is a centre in which large numbers of Arab tribes
collect, and about four hours to the south rises the great Dobab
mountain (called by the Arabs Dair, because of its semicircular shape).
Dobab is perhaps the best naturally-fortified hill of the entire Nuba
group. It is accessible from one side only, and is easily defensible;
there are quantities of water, which would enable the inhabitants to
stand a prolonged siege. The circumference of the base of the mountain
is about eighteen miles, and the inhabitants live on the top.

Already the Dervishes had constructed their rude barracks under the
shady trees of Rahad, and soon an enormous camp sprang up. Shortly after
my arrival, I was again obliged to change masters; the one with whom I
had recently been was not really bad, but my new master, Abdel Halim Wad
Id, was a very great and fanatical emir.

Before, however, I proceed to describe the events which occurred at
Rahad, I must give a brief outline of what had happened to the sisters
since they were so cruelly wrenched away from us. They had set out from
Rahad with the various emirs amongst whom they had been distributed; on
the journey they suffered greatly; they were obliged to walk the whole
distance barefooted, over thorns and burning sand; they underwent the
agonies of hunger and thirst, and some of them had to carry loads; one
of them, for a whole day, had not a drop of water to drink. These brutal
savages were continually beating, insulting, and abusing them, and when,
tired and weary, they sat down for a moment, they were driven forward
under the lash of the cruel whip. On their arrival at Rahad they
scarcely looked like human beings, with their faces all scorched and
peeled by the burning sun; and here new tortures awaited them. One of
them was suspended from a tree, and beaten on the soles of the feet
until they became swollen and black, and soon afterwards the nails
dropped off. In spite of all this suffering, and notwithstanding the
continual threats of these barbarians that they would be violated, these
sisters clung firmly to their faith and belief.

One night, one of the sisters succeeded in escaping to the Mahdi's hut,
and, forcing her way into his presence, appealed vehemently to him
against the cruel treatment which she and her companions were suffering
at the hands of his tyrannical emirs, and that their only fault was that
they resolved to adhere to their own faith. Under other circumstances
the Mahdi would never have forgiven this bitter reproach, but when he
saw this poor sister wounded and bleeding, he pretended that he knew
nothing of the matter, and at once ordered all the sisters to be brought
to his enclosure, where they were, to some extent, safe from
ill-treatment; yet they were in constant terror of being dishonoured,
and therefore decided to seek the protection of some of the Greeks who
were in favour with the Mahdi, and who, at the sisters' request, sought
his permission to take charge of them and care for them. The Mahdi, who
really pitied them from his heart, sanctioned the proposal of the
Greeks, to whom the sisters were duly handed over; but it was not, of
course, admitted that pity for them had induced this decision.

It is a well-known fact that in the Kuran the Prophet Mohammed enjoins
respect and toleration of the ministers of Christianity, whom he calls
"Rahban," or pious persons consecrated to God's service; and, moreover,
he tells his followers that it is their duty to do so. In support of
this I may here quote a translation of the celebrated passage which
occurs in the manuscripts kept in the Greek convent on Mount Sinai. It
is as follows:--

"In the name of the merciful God, Mohammed Ibn Abdullah issues this
proclamation to all. He announces that he is the trusted one of God, by
whom he has been placed over his creatures. No one, therefore, can
shelter himself under the plea of ignorance.

"I have written this proclamation in the form of an order to my nation,
and to all Christians in the East and West, far and near, young and old,
known and unknown. He who fails to follow the instructions laid down in
this order is conducting himself contrary to God's will, and renders
himself liable to a curse, whoever he may be, whether Sultan or any
other Moslem.

"If a priest or a monk retire to a mountain, grotto, cave, plain,
desert, city, village, or church, I myself am prepared to follow them
with my army and my subjects, to protect them against any enemies they
may meet, for these priests are my rayas (subjects), and I myself will
prevent any harm coming to them. Taxes shall not be taken from them,
except those which they may give of their own free will and accord, not
being compelled to do so by any one. It is not permissible to remove a
bishop from his bishopric, a priest from his church, or a monk from his
retreat. No objects shall be removed from their churches and used in the
construction of mosques, nor, indeed, for the construction of the houses
of Mussulmans. Whoso doth not act in accordance with this, acteth
contrary to the law of God and His Prophet. It is forbidden to burden
bishops or other holy men with taxes. I shall uphold these their
privileges everywhere, on land or sea, in the East or West, North or
South. They shall enjoy my favour and protection against anything
harmful, disagreeable, or unpleasant to them.

"Those who cultivate on mountains or distant places shall not be
burdened with the tithe or tenth-tax, even if they give it of their own
free will and accord, provided that what they cultivate is for their own
maintenance. If there is a scarcity of corn, they shall be supported
each with one quart of corn for each house. It shall never be necessary
for them to go to war or to pay tribute. Those in possession of
unmovable goods shall not pay more than twelve drams of silver annually.
No one shall be burdened. No discussions will take place with those who
follow the teaching of the Gospels, they should rather be in some degree
sympathized with so as to put aside all enmity and to cause the wings of
mercy to spread out.

"Should a Christian woman go amongst Moslems, they shall treat her well
and permit her to go through her prayers in church, and allow nothing to
come between her and her religion. Whoso acteth contrary to these orders
acteth in rebellion to God and His Prophet.

"Christians should be supported in the maintenance of their churches and
houses; their religion should help them to do so. It is not their duty
to carry arms, the Moslems shall do that for them, and Moslems should
ever hold firmly this order until the world's end.

"The witnesses who confirm the truth of this proclamation, which is
hereby issued by Mohammed Ibn Abdallah, the messenger of God to all
Christians, which proclamation is to seal their privileges, are, Ali Ibn
Abu Taleb, Bakr Ibn Ali Kohaifi, Omar Ibn El Khattab, Othman Ibn Affan,
Abu El Darda, Abu Horeireh, Abdullah Abu Masaud, Abbas Ibn Abdel
Muttaleb, Fodeil Ibn Abbas, Zoheir Ibn Awan, Talaat Ibn Obeidallah, Saad
Ibn Maaz, Saad Ibn Obadi, Tabet Ibn Kais, Abu Khayetma, Hashim Ibn
Omaya, Hareth Ibn Tabet, Abdallah Ibn Amr Bin el Aas, Amr Ibn Yasin,
Moazzam Ibn Koreishi, Abdel Azim Ibn Hassan.

"This proclamation is written by the hand of Ali Taleb on the 3rd
Moharrem of the second year of the Hejira corresponding with the 1st of
August, 622 of the Christian Era. It is signed by the Prophet himself.

"Blessed be he who followeth the contents thereof, and cursed be he who
acteth contrary to them."

No doubt the precepts enjoined in the above proclamation weighed with
the Mahdi in his decision to hand over the sisters to the Greeks, and
thus it was that the danger was for the time tided over. Later on, when
Khartum fell and hundreds of the young women who had been in the harems
of the principal people of the town fell into the hands of the emirs,
the persecution of the sisters was entirely stopped, and in retirement
they at length secured some rest and quietude, gaining their daily bread
by sewing and other handiwork.

After this digression, let us return to Rahad, where numbers of straw
huts were now erected. A market was opened and provisions were cheap.
Various Arab tribes--the Dar Homr, Bederieh, Ghodiat, Baggara Howazma,
Miserieh, and Dar Nauli--streamed hither with their flocks and herds,
and soon the camp extended greatly. Sherif Mahmud, whom the Mahdi had
left behind in El Obeid, was instructed to send all the people on from

The Mahdi set up his abode between two large trees, and the Khalifas
lived around him. The combined movements of this enormous crowd were
most impressive. At prayer-time thousands upon thousands of Dervishes
ranged themselves in well-ordered lines behind the Mahdi, and the shout
of "Allahu Akbar" resounded through the air. Often the singers of the
Mahdi's praises would go on till long after midnight, and thus did he
continue to inspire his gigantic audience.


I was also twice summoned by the Mahdi; on one occasion two of his
body-guard rushed up to me quite out of breath, just to show how
expeditiously they carried out the Mahdi's orders, and brandishing their
swords over my head shouted, "Get up, the Mahdi wishes to speak to you."
As a matter of fact I had no desire to see him, but I had to get up, and
this I did as slowly as I possibly could, and then I was pushed forward
in the direction I had to go. At length I reached the two large trees,
and sitting down beside them I leaned against the roots. The Mahdi had
not arrived. Close to me was a hut roughly built of dokhn reeds, which I
was told was the fort, around which a small thorn zariba had been
constructed to keep off the crowding Dervishes who were collected in
their thousands, most of them seated in long lines on the sand and
repeating their "subhan allah." The Mahdi's huts and tents were close

It was then the time for noonday prayers, and as the Mahdi approached
there was a short buzz and hum followed by a deep silence.

When the Mahdi came to the place where the sheepskin was stretched out
on the ground, a slave came up and took off his sandals, after which he
conducted prayers. These over, he turned round and greeted me. Then some
of his favourites came forward and presented petitions to him, some of
which he approved at once by writing a few words on the back of the
paper, while the remainder were put aside for consideration.

Since the occasion on which the Mahdi had interviewed Klootz, I had not
seen him. I now saw a considerable change in him; he had grown much
stouter, but he still wore the same clothes of rough damur, consisting
of drawers, jibbeh, girth, and turban. His conversation soon turned on
religion, and he asked me if we Christians used the "Hamdu" (a form used
by the Moslems as they bow in prayer) in our prayers. I replied that not
only had we one but several, and at his request I repeated the Lord's
Prayer in Arabic.

This created much surprise amongst the ignorant listeners, who believe
that Christians do not know how to pray, and I was thought quite
"fasich" (_i.e._ educated). After a long conversation on the Psalms of
David, the Mahdi said, "I know that you Christians are very good people,
and that you feed the hungry." He then told me about "deeds of mercy,"
and added that all such acts were useless, as anyone who did not believe
in the Mahdi was but "wood for the fire." Our conversation was
interrupted by the Aser or afternoon prayers, after which the Mahdi
again held a reception. Amongst others a small dwarf appeared, and the
Mahdi spoke to him about his tribe and asked if he were married. The
dwarf replied that he had come to ask for a wife, and explained that the
possession of one was the desire of his heart, whereupon the Mahdi gave
orders that he should at once be provided with one. He then rose up to
leave, and I was permitted to go home.

On the following day I was again summoned before him, and he explained
that through the noonday prayers he knew he should win over the whole
world. He said that God had given him a period of forty years (as a
matter of fact he only lived four years, but a cypher more or less is of
no consequence) during which he should make all people believe on him
and acknowledge that he was the Mahdi. He added that after the
subjugation of the Sudan he would take Egypt, which would only offer a
weak resistance, and that afterwards he would attack Mecca, where the
most bloody battle which the world had ever seen would take place; from
Mecca he should proceed to Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ should descend
from heaven. "Of course," I said, "Christ will possess all the
characteristics which the Gospel attributes to Him;" but the Mahdi
continued, "Would Christ not fight with anti-Christ? If I do not believe
in Him He will kill me."

The Mahdi then asked me if I ever had dreams, and I replied that even if
I did have dreams I did not believe in them. Then the Mahdi turned round
to those who were near and said, "Assuredly the Turks do not believe in
dreams, or they would have admitted that I am the Mahdi." It is said
that Mahmud Bey Ahmedani, Mudir of Khartum, who had accompanied Hicks
and had fallen near Shekan, had seen the Mahdi's shadow on the wall
surrounded with a halo of light, but in his obstinacy he still refused
to acknowledge him.

Just then a Sherif of Syria came in, and, making obeisance to the Mahdi,
said, "Sire, you are my relation!" (By this he meant that as he belonged
to the Prophet's tribe, and as the Mahdi had sprung from the Prophet,
that therefore they were connected.) The Mahdi was much gratified by
this flattery, and ordered Wad Suleiman to give him fifty dollars and a
concubine. The conversation was then turned on Gordon. The Mahdi
remarked he was full of pity for him, for he said that he was convinced
it was the Ulema's arguments which had made Gordon believe that he was
not the true Mahdi. He then asked me what was the object of the wires
with which Gordon had surrounded Khartum. I replied that I knew nothing
of the art of war, but others said that this was telegraph wire, which
Gordon had put down so that in case of attack the horses would stumble
over it. The Mahdi smiled, and remarked that God was more mighty than
all the tricks and artifices of Gordon.

It was now evening, and the Mahdi got up to go, so I went home, and when
I returned to Sheikh Idris, several came up and congratulated me for
having had the good fortune to talk with the Mahdi. For my own part I
would gladly have dispensed with this good fortune. When I was summoned
the next day I sent word that I was very ill, and by this means secured
some rest.

Whilst at Rahad, the Mahdi's eyes were continually directed on Jebel
Dair, and when Abu Anga and the emirs who were sent to subjugate these
districts, returned, defeated in their attempts to scale the mountain,
the Mahdi then despatched every man fit for war to reinforce him. He
excused himself for this unusual measure by saying that all persons
should be exercised in war, and that, moreover, this was penance to
those who had only recently joined him, to purify them from the sin of
not having joined him earlier. As a matter of fact, these Arabs were a
source of great trouble and annoyance to the Mahdi, for they did nothing
but wander about the market-place begging, and it was no small
difficulty to keep such vast crowds in order.

The war against the Nubas was waged in the most cruel manner; the proud
Dervishes were incensed at the stubborn resistance of these poor black
slaves, as they used to call the Nubas. On one occasion, when the
Dervishes, led by Abu Anga and followed by the Gellabas, attempted to
ascend the mountain, the Nubas allowed them to advance some way and then
pounced down upon the Gellabas in the narrowest pass; these men were
badly armed, and four hundred of them were killed. Abu Anga seeing this
beat a rapid retreat, and on coming into the pass was implored by the
wretched wounded Gellabas to carry them away, but Abu Anga's men
jeeringly replied that they must die "in God's cause," and left them to
the tender mercies of the Nuba lances.

I may here remark that there was great ill-feeling between the blacks
and the Dervishes, for the black soldiers complained that they were
always placed in the forefront of the battle. In another attack the
Dervishes succeeded in reaching the Nuba village, burning the huts,
killing a large number of them and carrying off their wives and children
as captives to Rahad, where they were sold as slaves. On this occasion
Nur Angar cut off the heads of three Nubas who had already submitted,
while Abu Anga's men seized the little children by the feet and dashed
their brains to pieces on the rocks. At Rahad a special zariba was built
for the Nuba captives, who were driven like cattle into a pen to be
sold. These poor creatures, without covering from the sun or rain,
suffered terribly from hunger and thirst; each evening they were given a
handful of dhurra and some water, but that was quite insufficient, and
in a few days mothers had to see their children slowly starving to
death, while the little suckling babes gathered round their mothers in
the vain search for food. Each morning the guards looked in to inquire
if there were any dead or dying, and then ordered the wretched
survivors, who had scarcely the strength to get up, to drag out their
dead and dying friends and relations.

It would take a long time to tell of all the horrible atrocities and
cruelties which these poor Nubas suffered at the hands of the
Dervishes--and why? because they tried to retain their freedom and
defend their fatherland, refusing to follow that base liar who called
himself the Mahdi, to the siege of Khartum. Amongst the captives in the
zariba was a man and his wife and two small children. The sight of his
starving children was breaking the father's heart; the view of his
native mountain so affected him that he became desperate, and knowing
that he would probably be separated from his wife and children and sold
the next day, he took a terrible resolution: in the middle of the night
he embraced his wife, kissed his little children, and then plunged his
knife into each of them, preferring rather that they should die than
become slaves; he then broke out of the zariba and fled, the guards
fired and missed him; thus the wretched man succeeded in reaching his
beloved hills.



     Ohrwalder describes his treatment at the hands of various
     masters--The Nubas surrender and afterwards desert--News from
     Khartum--The capture of the English mail--Its arrival at the
     Mahdi's camp--The Mahdi decides to advance on Khartum--Brief review
     of events in Khartum and Berber--Ohrwalder's views on Gordon's
     mission--The Mahdi sets out for Khartum--Mohammed Ali Pasha's
     defeat and death--Colonel Stewart, Mr. Power, and others leave
     Khartum in ss. "Abbas"--Description of their wreck and treacherous

The war with Jebel Dair dragged on a long time; the Nubas fought with
desperate courage. I used to hear of their bravery from the Dervishes
who frequented my master's house. After about a month my master was sent
to Birket, where he was ordered to collect the Arabs and send them on to
Rahad. At this place he practised unprecedented cruelty. A man found
drinking marissa he ordered to be flogged with eighty lashes, until the
poor victim's bowels fell out. During his absence I was sent back to my
old master, Sheikh Idris, where I continued to lead a wretched
existence, eating out of the horses' nose-bag and quenching my thirst
from the share of water which was allotted to the animals. The ground
was my bed, the sky my roof.

Every morning when I got up I had to shake off the scorpions from my
clothes, into which they had crept during the night. It is curious that
the sting of these animals, which at other times was always most
painful, caused me little trouble or irritation. The filth in the camp,
owing to the entire absence of all sanitary rules, caused the flies to
increase prodigiously; eating during the daytime was impossible, for
one would have eaten as many flies as food.

I still suffered threats and insults here as in other places, and many a
time did I intentionally put my head in danger in the hope that death
would release me from these savages. Sheikh Idris was annoyed at my
ill-treatment, but what could one man do with these hordes of fanatics?
One day after a review I was asked by Idris to have breakfast with him
in his hut; after breakfast he began to talk confidentially with me, and
said that the Prophet Mohammed had expressly forbidden the ill-treatment
of priests and hermits. He then said that Egypt had lost the Sudan, and
that Gordon would not be able to withstand the Mahdi; most of the fikis
and sheikhs had already submitted to the Mahdi, and the Sudan was in
their hands. When I pointed out the great difficulties he would have in
traversing the deserts to Wadi Halfa, he remarked that the Mahdi's
undertaking was not likely to be hindered by the death of a few thousand
men? I then argued that it was most unlikely that the white Moslems
would ever accept a black Mahdi; and that, moreover, according to the
traditions, the Mahdi would appear in Mecca. He replied, "God is the
Lord of all," by which he meant to say that God can make a black Mahdi.

We had a long conversation about the Mahdi, and it seemed to me that
Sheikh Idris did not believe in him, but had merely joined him in the
hope of gain and rewards. Idris also added, "By what right should we be
ruled by the Turks? can we not govern ourselves?" If there had been many
more sensible and enlightened men like Sheikh Idris, it is probable that
Mahdiism would have taken a very different form; but Idris was an
exception--most of the principal emirs were uneducated and ignorant
savages. It was God's will that this Idris should fall later on in the
battle of Argin in 1889, fighting against Wodehouse Pasha.

A few days after this conversation, my original master, Abdullah Wad en
Nur, arrived from Jebel Dair to obtain the Mahdi's instructions as to
the future conduct of the war. The Mahdi presented him with a very good
horse. Khalifa Abdullah asked him what he intended to do with me, and
advised him that when he again went to the Nuba country he should take
me with him and put me in the front so that the Nubas might kill me.
Sheikh Idris told me this, and Khalil Hassanein, Roversi's old clerk,
who had obtained a good place in the beit el mal, brought me three
dollars for the journey. I was delighted with the idea of a change, for
I could not have been worse off than I was at Rahad.

At first I was handed over to a fiki, who bothered me with his useless
and nonsensical talk; his name was Mahmud, and he came from Tuti Island,
near Khartum; he joined the Mahdi after Hicks's defeat, and brought a
donkey and a few dollars with him. The first thing he did was to sell
his donkey and purchase a concubine, but in two days the latter purchase
ran away, so he lost both his donkey and his money. He then joined the
Khalifa Abdullah, who recommended him to Idris as a good man to instruct
me in the right way; but instead of convincing me of the Mahdi's
divinity, I very soon convinced him of the reverse, and it was by no
means difficult to do so; the fiki used frequently to go to the beit el
mal to try and get a concubine, but no one took the smallest notice of
him. On the other hand he used constantly to see the numerous concubines
of Idris, who was rich, while he was but a poor man. From this I made
him understand that the chiefs of Mahdieh sought only how they could
best gain riches and honour at the expense of their poorer brethren.
Soon afterwards he fell sick at Rahad, and there was no one to look
after him or care for him; I knew that in his heart he had had quite
enough of the Mahdi, but he was ashamed to acknowledge it before me. One
night, not hearing his voice in the miserable hut which had been given
to him, I looked in and found him lying stretched out dead on the
ground. I felt sorry for the poor creature who had died away from his
own home.

Another reason which made me glad to go away to Dair, was that I was
ill and suffering much from my old complaint, which forced me to
frequently retire outside the camp amidst the jeers of the Arabs; but
suddenly the ray of hope which had come to me with the thought of a
change to the mountain, was as suddenly extinguished, for it transpired
that Idris had arranged with Abdullah, without my knowledge, to leave me
at Rahad.

The war against the Nubas was continued, and from Rahad I could see the
columns of smoke ascending, showing where the villages had been burnt by
these cruel Dervishes. At length these poor but brave mountaineers,
overwhelmed by superior numbers, became discouraged, and agreed to
submit on condition that they should remain free, and be allowed to live
in their mountains. The Mahdi approved, for the Dervishes were quite
worn out with their long and bloody war. The brave inhabitants descended
from their hills--men, women, and children--in astonishing numbers, and
established themselves at the foot of the mountain, and near the Dervish
camp, while Mek Kumbo and the principal chiefs went to the Mahdi to take
the Bea'a (oath of allegiance).

There was now great rejoicing. The Mahdi received them kindly, gave them
presents, and handed back to them those who still remained in the beit
el mal; but before they left his presence he ordered them and their
wives and children to follow him to the White Nile. This was quite
contrary to the agreement made between them, but the Mahdi cared little
about honour and keeping his word, his main object was to attain his
point by any fraud or deception he could practise. The Nubas promised to
do so, and went back to their camp; but on talking to their people, they
agreed to escape during the night, preferring rather to starve in the
caves and recesses of their own mountains, than to leave their native
country. Like one man, they rose and fled to the hills, and the fight
was once more renewed. Many of them fought with the most stubborn
desperation; several were killed, but the Dervish loss was also very
heavy. The Nubas retired into the inmost recesses of the hills, where
the enemy could not possibly follow them. On one occasion the Dervishes
all but captured Mek Kumbo; his horse and lance fell into their hands,
but he himself escaped.

At length, thoroughly exhausted by this tedious and interminable war,
they returned to Rahad; but heavy rain had fallen, the Khor was now a
rushing torrent, and here hundreds of Mahdiists were drowned--victims to
their rash fanaticism--for they believed that the Mahdi's power could
save them from the wild impetuous stream. Many of them crossed on
angaribs (native beds), to each post of which an inflated skin was

Towards the end of June, 1884, Slatin Bey arrived at Rahad. The Khalifa
Abdullah ordered the big war-drums to be beaten, and the whole of the
cavalry left the camp to meet him and escort him in. The Mahdi received
Slatin very kindly, and he was attached to Khalifa Abdullah's followers.

Abdullah delighted in collecting foreigners around him. One day Father
Bonomi and I were summoned by Abdullah to meet Slatin, and this gave me
a chance of meeting Father Bonomi, whom I had not seen for months.

It was about this time that Marietta Combotti, one of our black girls,
came from Khartum to Rahad. After Hicks's defeat we sent her to Khartum
to inform our people there about our condition and about the Mahdi's
power, and urged everyone to leave Khartum as soon as possible. We gave
her some letters which were sewn into the end of a mat. Consul Hansal
had assisted Combotti in every way, and had given her several things for
us, such as clothes, money, and medicines. She had suffered greatly on
the journey, had been put in chains, and all she had succeeded in saving
was her money. She had been away seven months.

Amongst other things Consul Hansal sent us a photograph of our new and
highly-honoured bishop, Monsignor Imbrien, of the Tyrol. Marietta also
brought a letter from the consul to me describing the condition of
Khartum, and the defeat of Baker Pasha, about which we had heard
nothing. The consul further added: "We hope that the English will
energetically push forward into the Sudan, or we shall be lost. Our
condition is desperate." This letter was dated early in January, 1884.
Hansal also sent us the _Tyroler Volksblatt_ newspaper, published in
Posen, and in it I was surprised to read an account of my own death. The
paper said I had been captured by the Mahdiists, and had died of fatigue
and ill-treatment. So my friends believed I was dead! and, indeed, I
felt then that death could not be far distant. My complaint was worse
than ever, and I was suffering from scurvy as well. We did indeed feel
grateful to the unfortunate Hansal who had done all he could to
alleviate our distress; but God has disposed otherwise. How I wish poor
Hansal had taken our advice and gone home.

The state of moral darkness in which we lived, the constant insults,
being gazed upon by such multitudes, being at the mercy and sport of
these savages, just as if one were a monkey or other curious animal, all
had a dulling effect on one's spiritual nature, and I felt that I must
be losing my mind; but yet in all these trials and afflictions God did
not leave us. Again a ray of hope shone through the obscurity.

We had already heard something about English troops, but the information
was very vague. One of the Mahdi's messengers, who took the Mahdi's
answer back to Gordon in Khartum, told me that Gordon had received him
well, had given him some bakshish, not like the God-forsaken Mohammed
Said Pasha, who had executed the Mahdi's messengers; but, prior to his
departure, Gordon had warned him in the following words:--"Go, tell the
Mahdi that I have only to stamp my feet on the ground, and thousands of
Englishmen will at once spring up." I believed this story, for I did not
think the messenger was clever enough to invent it; besides, I felt sure
that Gordon must have known quite well that he alone was utterly unable
to extinguish the fire of this gigantic revolt. But at length all these
reports were fully confirmed.

It was Friday. The Khalifas were out on parade, when two camels,
carrying an English mail, arrived. Khalifa Abdullah at once left the
review, and sent for Klootz to read the letters. Klootz came at once to
me and said that an entire English mail for Gordon had been captured
near Omdurman. It was clear from several letters that English troops
were advancing into the Sudan from three directions; that is to say,
from Suakin to Berber, from Korosko to Abu Hamed, and from Dongola,
where there were 20,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. There was a
telegram from Cairo to Assuan announcing General Graham's advance; a
touching little letter from a young girl to her father in Khartum, whose
name I forget. In this letter she told of the alarm she felt for her
father's safety, and how she prayed daily that her father might not meet
the same fate as General Hicks. In another letter Gordon was informed
that £60,000 had been sent to him.

All these letters had been sent from Berber to General Gordon by Joseph
Cuzzi, who had written a letter to Gordon to that effect in Italian. One
letter said that it was well known that the Khalifa Abdullah was the
moving spirit of the revolt, and that the Mahdi merely supplied the
religious element; but Klootz did not translate this in the Mahdi's
presence. When the latter got up to go, Klootz translated this sentence
to the Khalifa Abdullah, who was delighted with this flattering remark.
Cuzzi's Italian letter was concealed by Klootz, who afterwards brought
it to me. In this letter Cuzzi briefly informed General Gordon that he
was forwarding the letters; that he had sent a messenger to Sawakin to
come to an understanding with General Graham, and that the rebels at Abu
Hamed had seized a number of the Government boats. He added that Gordon
should have no anxiety about Berber, as long as Hussein Pasha Khalifa
was Mudir. But in this matter he proved to have been completely

The general import of all these letters convinced the Mahdi that the
English were in earnest. He therefore decided to take no action for a
time, and to remove the camp to the foot of the mountain, where it was
his intention to await their advance.

But soon after came the news that Berber had fallen, and that General
Graham had returned to Sawakin, and this decided the Mahdi to advance on

The Nubas now began to give some difficulty. No sooner had the Dervishes
abandoned their camp at the foot of the mountain, than the Nubas
rendered all roads in the vicinity of Rahad, and for a considerable
distance, unsafe. Slaves going out to gather wood or straw were suddenly
swooped down upon by these bold mountaineers, who killed or captured
them. In this way they revenged the cruelties which they had suffered.
The Mahdi was quite unable to subdue these blacks, and his failure to do
so was a great blow to his pride.

I may here remark that at this period of the Mahdieh religion, violation
of moral laws was very severely punished. One of the Mahdi's bodyguard
caught _in flagrante_ in the practice of a species of immorality by no
means uncommon in Eastern countries, both culprits were led out in
chains and beheaded in the presence of the assembled multitudes.

Before following the Mahdi on his march to Khartum, it is advisable here
to take a brief review of the events which had occurred in Khartum,
Berber, and the Gezireh.

The catastrophe which had overtaken General Hicks's force filled the
inhabitants of Khartum with indescribable dismay. Several of them
returned to Egypt, and the members of the Austrian Mission, with their
blacks, quitted Khartum on the 11th of December, 1883. Fortunate were
those who seized this chance of escape before the roads became blocked!

General Gordon's arrival in Khartum gave fresh life and hope to the
inhabitants. Great were the rejoicings, and a magnificent reception was
prepared for the long-expected deliverer. This reception took place on
the 18th of February, 1884, and must have greatly encouraged General
Gordon in his undertaking; but it was not Gordon's individual presence
which so greatly inspired the people. What could Gordon do alone,
against the now universally worshipped Mahdi? The nature of the revolt
was not political; the Sudanese had no intention of establishing an
empire under the Mahdi's rule, and, even had this been the case, it is
very improbable that Gordon's mediation would have been of any avail.


The movement was a religious movement, and was not limited to the Sudan
alone; the Mahdi's intention was to subdue the world. He was a prophet,
and in his own and the estimation of his followers he was a greater man
than the Prophet Mohammed. The world was to come to an end in his time.
Had Gordon only known beforehand how boundless was the wild fanaticism,
and how completely the Mahdi's followers were intoxicated by it, he
would never have accepted the mission. As it appeared to us in Kordofan,
and to the Mahdi himself, Gordon's undertaking was very strange; it was
just as if a man were attempting to put out an enormous fire with a drop
of water. Gordon's name alone could not suppress the revolt, and it was
not on account of his name that the Khartum people rejoiced at his
arrival; it was because they looked on Gordon as an English
representative, and that he was only the precursor of an English
expedition sent to take possession of the Sudan for England. That is
what made the people glad, and caused them to put aside all idea of
departure. Had they not been certain that an English expedition was
coming, not a soul would have remained in Khartum, and I have no
hesitation in saying that had the Egyptian Government not sent Gordon,
then undoubtedly the evacuation originally ordered could have been
carried out without difficulty.

Those who escaped massacre in Khartum have often told me that they were
perfectly ready to leave, and it was only Gordon's arrival that kept
them back; but Gordon's arrival without troops had rather disappointed
them. Had he been accompanied by five hundred British bayonets, his
reputation in the Sudan might have been maintained, and probably the
Mahdi would never have left Kordofan.

Gordon himself committed a mistake, by which he gave a death-blow to
himself and his mission. On his way to Khartum he stopped at Berber and
interviewed the Mudir Hussein Pasha Khalifa; he imprudently told him
that he had come up to remove the Egyptian garrisons, as Egypt had
abandoned the Sudan. At Metemmeh also--a strong place between Berber and
Khartum, and the headquarters of the powerful Jaalin tribe--he committed
a similar imprudence, by giving the same information to Haj Ali Wad
Saad, the emir of Metemmeh.

This Haj Ali was a man held in great respect, on account of his just
dealings, and afterwards, when he died in Omdurman, there was public
mourning for him. The fact, indeed, that the Khalifa had pardoned him
after "marissa" had been found in his house, sufficiently indicates how
greatly he was respected. Both Haj Ali and Hussein Pasha Khalifa
informed all their principal people about the decision of the
Government, and it was this announcement that made these faithful
sheikhs, who were then trembling in the balance, throw in their lot
with the Mahdi. Why should they remain loyal to a Government which had
decided to give up their land? Had they remained faithful, what had they
to expect when the Mahdi prevailed? It was this announcement of Gordon's
which was the main cause of the fall of Berber, which place was
essential for Gordon's plan of operations.

Haj Ali, shortly before his death, and when in great suffering, reviewed
the misery which the Mahdi had brought upon the Sudan, and the part he
himself had taken in it, and he then said that it was nothing but the
knowledge of the intention of the Government to abandon the Sudan which
made him join the Mahdi. "How," he said, "could I have remained loyal to
a Government which I knew intended to leave me in the lurch afterwards?
I would only have been paving the way for the Mahdi's vengeance."

At the time Haj Ali said this he was in doubt about the Divine nature of
the Mahdi, and spoke openly to people on these matters. "But," he added,
"at that time every one thought only of himself. Gordon thought only how
he could save himself and the Egyptians, and we thought how we could
save ourselves and avert the Mahdi's vengeance by taking his part; so we
went to Berber, joined with the Ababdeh, besieged and took the town, and
then cut Gordon's communications with Egypt."

Gordon was soon destined to see with his own eyes what a fatal mistake
he had made, but only when it was too late.

No notice was taken of Gordon's peaceful proclamations; the revolt was
now widespread, and masses of fanatical Dervishes were gradually
encircling Khartum. Mohammed Wad el Besir, the sheikh El Obeid--a man
held in great respect in the Gezireh--his sons, and the Fiki Medawi
advanced on the town from the south. On the 16th of March, 1884,
Gordon's troops were heavily defeated, and their leaders were executed
by Gordon for treachery.

Another blow fell on Gordon by the surrender, at Fedasi, of Saleh Wad
el Mek, with 1,400 men, to the emir Abu Girgeh. Still Gordon did not
despair of success, and it was his individuality which inspired the
inhabitants of Khartum with hope.

Saleh Wad el Mek's surrender greatly encouraged the Dervishes. Rebels
were also gathering to the north of Khartum. The Jaalin of Metemmeh and
the Ababdeh, as I previously stated, prepared to attack Berber. Hussein
Pasha Khalifa, Sheikh of the Ababdeh, who had been Mudir there since the
18th of December, 1883, remained faithful to the Government, but his
subordinates paid no attention to him; and it was largely due to the
influence of these officials that numbers of local sheikhs joined the

The Ababdeh, Barabra, and Jaalin, under the supreme command of Mohammed
el Kheir, now besieged Berber. Eight days later the town was taken by
storm, and most of the garrison and a number of inhabitants were
massacred. Joseph Cuzzi had attempted to escape, but he was caught and
sent to Khartum to endeavour to induce Gordon to surrender. He was
subsequently sent on to the Mahdi at Rahad.

Gordon's communications with the north were now cut. After Saleh Pasha's
surrender, the number of besieging Dervishes increased greatly, and Abu
Girgeh growing bolder, seized the village of Buri, where he built a fort
and began to shell the town. Gordon therefore, on the 2nd of May, sent
out a considerable force, which attacked Abu Girgeh, drove him out of
his position, and all but succeeded in capturing him. Thus did Gordon,
although hemmed in on all sides, maintain a bold front, and employed
every art of war to keep the Dervishes from investing the town more

To return now to the Mahdi at Rahad. He was at this time in full
preparation for departure to the siege of Khartum, and, as usual, he
despatched Abu Anga, Wad Nejumi, Wad En Nur, and Wad Gubara, with all
his best troops in advance. As I have previously related, Cuzzi, who
arrived at Rahad at the end of June, had been previously sent by the
Dervishes to Khartum to try and induce Gordon to surrender, and Gordon
had given strict orders that he should not be permitted within the
walls. When, therefore, he arrived at Rahad, the Mahdi received him very
well, loaded him with presents, and then sent him back with George
Clementino to Khartum as bearer of letters to Gordon. He arrived at the
Dervish camp at the same time as Nejumi. Clementino was permitted to
converse with the Greek consul, Leontides, but Cuzzi returned to Berber.

The Mahdi passed the month of Ramadan in Rahad, and it was not until the
8th of August that he set out for Khartum. The whole population, like a
swarm of bees, accompanied him on the same road which Hicks had taken.
The people joyfully undertook this long journey through pathless
districts, and at a time when the rainfall was heaviest. Camels, too,
were expensive and difficult to procure; but, in spite of all these
obstacles, fanaticism was more pronounced than ever. There were in all
upwards of 200,000 people, and at Shirkeleh the cavalry numbered 4,000.
To defeat such an enormous force as this, a European expedition was
necessary, not the weak force at Gordon's disposal.

Throughout the entire route fresh cavalry joined, whilst the herds of
cattle which the Arabs drove along served as food, and meat was then
cheap enough. Numbers of animals died during the march, and the road was
plainly marked by an unbroken line of dead camels, donkeys, horses, and
oxen. The route lay from Shirkeleh to Shatt, and thence to Duem. Here a
halt was called for a few days to collect stragglers. All notion of
working in the fields was abandoned, and agricultural pursuits were
entirely dispensed with. Thus it happened that on the Mahdi's arrival at
Omdurman the Dervishes were in great want of grain.

The Mahdi arrived at Omdurman on the 23rd of October, 1884, but the
whole of the stragglers did not reach it till early in November.
Everything had been prepared. Gordon was surrounded by numerous enemies,
still he did not despair.

In August both Niles had risen considerably; the Blue Nile had arrived
almost at its full height, while the White Nile had overflowed its low
bank, and now swept past Fort Mukran and the houses in Khartum. So high
was it, that a dam had to be constructed to keep the water within
bounds. At high Nile the White river is very broad; and at a later date,
when I crossed over from Omdurman to the roughly built fort which has
long since been destroyed, I was sea-sick. But as the river fell it left
the ditch full of mud, and this proved a source of great danger. When
the river was high, Gordon made several successful counter-attacks.
Mohammed Ali Pasha went up the Blue Nile to a place near Gereif, and on
the 30th of August fell upon the Arabs, utterly defeating them. This
brave leader also attacked the old Sheikh El Obeid at Halfaya, and
captured a quantity of dhurra and cattle. Khartum breathed once more,
and it seemed as if all would be well; the bands played in the evening,
and the town was full of joy, which, alas, was soon to be turned to

Mohammed Ali Pasha, emboldened by his late successes, advanced again on
the Sheikh El Obeid, whom he defeated near El Eilafun; but, advancing
into the desert to renew the attack on the 4th of September, he and
upwards of 800 of his troops fell into an ambush and were slaughtered.
This proved a very severe blow to Gordon, and Khartum being now closely
invested, he decided to send a steamer north to communicate with the
Government, and give them full information of the state of affairs.

As the Nile was now high, it was thought the small steamer _Abbas_ would
be able to make her way safely to Dongola. The _Abbas_ left Khartum on
the 10th of September, and was accompanied by two other steamers towing
boats, in one of which were a number of Greek, and in the other Syrian
merchants. These steamers ran the gauntlet of shot and shell till past
Berber. When a short way beyond that town, the steamers _Mansureh_ and
_Safia_ turned back, and reached Khartum only with the greatest
difficulty, being fired upon throughout almost the entire distance. The
_Abbas_ continued her journey north, and drew up for the night at a
small island. The two boats which had been cast off when the other
steamers left, now passed the _Abbas_, but were driven on to some rocks
by the wind, and here they had to stop for the night to repair. The next
morning the _Abbas_ passed them, and Colonel Stewart urged them to push
forward. The Greek boat started, but it was some time before the Syrians
could set sail; and again they were driven on to the rocks, where they
remained firmly fixed.

In the meantime the Dervishes at Berber, who had gained possession of
the steamer _El Fasher_ when the town fell into their hands, at once
sent her off in pursuit, together with two large sailing boats. The
_Fasher_ soon came up with the wrecked Syrian boat, which now made a
sign of truce, was boarded and taken possession of. The Dervishes,
having obtained all information, left one of their boats in charge of
their capture, and then pursued the Greek boat, with which they soon
came up, and, having secured her, the _Fasher_ continued her pursuit of
the _Abbas_. She proceeded almost as far as Abu Hamed, but here the
captain refused to take her any further, as he feared running her on to
a rock. So she returned to Berber with her captured boats, in which
there were in all twelve Greeks and fifteen Syrians. Of the latter,
eight were males, five females, and two children.

The steamer _Abbas_, after passing Abu Hamed, entered the Wadi Gamr
cataracts, which are very rocky and dangerous, and here she struck on a
rock near the village of Hebbeh, the inhabitants of which belong to the
Monasir tribe. Colonel Stewart had the baggage disembarked on an island,
on which the travellers now took up their abode until the expected Greek
and Syrian boats should arrive; but, after waiting two days, Stewart
sent his interpreter, Hassan Husni, with Mohammed Hilmi Gorab and the
captain, ashore, with instructions to see the sheikhs, and, by the offer
of presents and the promise of a good reward from the Government, to
induce them to supply camels to enable the shipwrecked party to continue
their journey to Dongola.

These messengers were well received by Sheikh Suleiman Wad Naaman, and
neither he nor his people were wearing jibbehs; they asserted that they
were thoroughly loyal to the Government, and added that it was only the
arrival of Sheikh Heddai that had made them pretend to be against the
Government. Suleiman said that he would assist the shipwrecked
passengers with the greatest pleasure, and so well did he conceal his
wicked treachery that the messengers returned to Stewart greatly elated
with their success. But in the meantime Suleiman had prepared a
treacherous trap, into which the over-confident passengers blindly fell.
He sent secret orders to all the people round about to prepare for a
fight, and then drove some camels along the river bank, to show that he
was preparing for the journey. Colonel Stewart ordered all the spare
ammunition to be thrown into the river, and then landed with the other

Suleiman invited him and the consuls, Power and Herbin, to go into his
house, so as to make final arrangements with the camel-owners, and at
the same time he begged them to remove their arms, as the Arabs might
get alarmed and make difficulties about hiring their camels. An
artillery captain who was with Stewart begged him not to let go his
arms, as there might be treachery; but Stewart laughed at his fears, and
he, with the two consuls and the interpreter, entered the house, while
the others remained outside; they still retained their revolvers.
Suleiman begged them to be seated, and proceeded to present to them a
number of Arabs, who, he asserted, were the camel-owners.

The traitor had dates brought to them, and, so as not to offend him,
they took some. Then Suleiman stood up and lifted his leather
water-bottle, which was the prearranged signal for the Arabs to rush out
of their hiding-places and attack the guests. In a second the house was
full of armed men, who called upon them to throw down their revolvers
and submit; but before they had even time to do this, the Arabs rushed
upon them with their swords. Consul Herbin, who was standing near the
door, was the first to fall; his head was chopped off with an axe.
Consul Power and Colonel Stewart were soon cut to pieces. The
interpreter, Hassan, begged to be spared, crying out, "I am a Moslem! I
am a Moslem, and my name is Hassan!" So he was not killed, but received
a wound in the shoulder. The murderers then rushed off to the river bank
to attack the others, who were soon killed, except two artillerymen, who
jumped into the river, and a few servants. It was said that the
interpreter, Hassan, had arranged the betrayal, and I was afterwards
told that when he got into difficulties later, he sent a petition to
Mohammed el Kheir, in which he said that he was entitled to reward for
having secured Colonel Stewart's death. He is still living in Omdurman.

Suleiman sent all the correspondence he captured to the Mahdi, who thus
became thoroughly aware of Gordon's desperate condition. On the 22nd of
October he wrote to Gordon, informing him of the event, and summoned him
to submit, as he had no hope of receiving any relief.

This catastrophe was another terrible blow to Gordon. He had counted on
Stewart being able to inform the Government of the straits to which
Khartum was reduced, and the necessity of sending immediate help. The
state of Khartum now became very serious. Nejumi and the other forces
were clustering round Kalakala; there was daily fighting, and bullets
fell in the streets of Khartum. There were upwards of 10,000 Dervishes,
extending from Kalakala to Buri. Wad Gubara and Wad Sheikh el Obeid had
their camp at Khojali, on the right bank of the Nile, to the north. Thus
was Khartum surrounded by hordes of fanatical Arabs, who attacked the
starved and forsaken town from morning till night.



     The surrender of Omdurman fort--Gordon's dispositions for
     defence--His great personal influence--The night before the
     assault--The attack and entry of the Dervishes--Gordon's death--The
     adventures of Domenico Polinari--The massacre in Khartum--How most
     of the Europeans died--Ruthless cruelty and bloodshed--The fate of
     the wives and daughters of Khartum--Ohrwalder's views on the
     situation in Khartum and the chances of relief by the British
     Expeditionary Force--His description of the town three months after
     the fall.

The Mahdi camped on the south side of Omdurman fort, and at once began
to direct the siege, the command of his troops was vested in Abu Anga;
but he did not dare to send his black troops, who had previously fought
in the Egyptian service under Gordon, against Khartum, fearing that,
owing to the influence which Gordon had formerly exercised over them,
they might desert to him.

Omdurman Fort, which was then under the command of Faragallah Pasha, was
soon reduced to great straits, and the Mahdiists threw up trenches, in
which they were comparatively safe from the continuous fire. Eventually
they succeeded in entrenching themselves between the fort and the river,
thus cutting the communications, which Gordon was unable to restore.
Consequently, the garrison soon began to starve; but they still fought
courageously, and inflicted great loss on the Dervishes. Amongst the
latter was a certain emir, named Mohammed Wad el Areik, who, while in
the act of laying a gun at Omdurman, was struck in the back of the neck
by a bullet. He was visited by the Khalifa Abdullah, who promised that
he should recover; but, in spite of this promise, he died the following

Faragallah, having now no food left, was obliged to surrender, and thus
the Mahdi was enabled to press the siege of Khartum more closely than

The town itself was full of traitors; almost all the important townsmen
had written to the Mahdi from time to time, to the effect that they
wished to submit to him, and that they believed in him. Gordon was, so
to speak, alone in the midst of enemies, but the expected arrival of the
English kept the inhabitants from surrendering.

Every day Gordon invented some means of making the people believe that
their deliverers were near; he frequently had the walls placarded with
announcements that they were very near Khartum, but all his promises
came to nothing.

Gordon was almost superhuman in his efforts to keep up hope. Every day,
and many and many a time during the day, did he look towards the north
from the roof of the palace for the relief which never arrived. He
overcame the want of money by issuing paper bonds; but soon the people
refused to accept them, and to enforce his order he sent fourteen
merchants to the east bank, just in front of the enemy's guns; this he
did to frighten them, and when they agreed to accept the bonds he had
them brought back to the town. To further strengthen the belief of the
people in the speedy arrival of the English, he hired all the best
houses along the river bank, and had them prepared for their occupation.
He was sure they would come--but when? The time was pressing. How
eagerly he searched the distant horizon for the English flag he longed
to see, but every day he was doomed to disappointment.

The troops were famine-stricken, and began to lose heart, whilst the
enemy without the walls daily grew bolder in anticipation of the plunder
they hoped so soon would be theirs. From Buri to Kalakala the Dervishes
extended in one unbroken mass, whilst their hundreds of noggaras never
ceased beating in Gordon's ears night and day.

The town was closely hemmed in on three sides. Wad Gubara on the north
was near enough to shell his palace; and under the hole where the first
shot struck the wall Gordon inscribed the date as a remembrance. None of
us can realize how heavily his terrible responsibilities weighed upon
him. Despair had seized upon the town. The unreliable nature of the
Sudanese was a constant source of anxiety to him, and enhanced the
critical situation. Those in charge of the biscuits and dhurra stole
quantities of it on every possible occasion, and tried to deceive Gordon
by assuring him that there were millions of okes in store, when in
reality there was almost nothing. In their endeavours to enrich
themselves they forgot that they were only preparing the way for their
ultimate destruction.

The officer in charge of the dhurra store was arrested and brought
before a Court of Inquiry; but Gordon had to point out to those who were
making the investigation that they should not inquire too critically
into the matter. He knew all that had taken place, but he was powerless
to stop it. He won the people's hearts by his generosity; and even to
this day all who knew him never cease speaking of his kindness. His
endeavours to recompense the Greeks for their honesty are affecting in
the extreme. He elaborated numerous plans for their escape. His first
intention was to place a steamer at their disposal to convey them to
Emin Pasha in Equatoria; and, to avoid ill-feeling and jealousy, he made
known his plans to them at a public meeting, remarking that as most of
them were natives of the Greek islands, they had necessarily
considerable experience of boats and navigation, and that therefore it
became their duty to patrol with the steamers on the Blue and White
Niles, and watch the enemy's movements; but secretly he warned them that
they should be in readiness, as soon as they saw Khartum was lost, to
set off and join Emin Pasha.

This plan did not, however, please the Greeks, so Gordon proposed
another, which was that, in case of great danger, they should proceed
north; and for this purpose he kept a steamer moored off the palace,
well stocked with biscuits and other necessaries. To enable them to get
their families on board during the night without the other townspeople
knowing about it, he gave orders that after 9 P.M. all traffic along the
roads leading to the Blue Nile should be stopped, and that no persons
were to be allowed out of their houses after that hour. In this way,
should the Dervishes enter the town by night, the Greeks could easily
escape to the steamer, start down stream, and meet the English. Some of
them resolved that, should the Mahdiists effect an entrance, they would
forcibly carry off Gordon and put him on board the steamer, for they
felt sure he would not leave Khartum of his own accord. Everything was
carefully prearranged and considered; and all would have been well but
for a disagreement amongst the Greeks themselves, which mainly arose
through the phlegmatic and short-sighted conduct of their consul Nicola

On that fatal Sunday evening one of the principal Greeks came to the
consul and begged him urgently to spend that night on the steamer. The
consul refused, arguing that there was no imminent danger, and that he
was sure the troops could hold out a few days longer. The Greek argued
in vain, and at length left him; and that was the last time they saw
each other.

That night proved to be the last night on earth for Gordon and thousands
of others. While they were sleeping soundly, and dreaming perhaps of the
arrival of the English, the Dervishes were creeping like snakes towards
the parapets. It is hardly likely Gordon could have slept. For two days
he had remarked considerable movement in the Mahdi's camp; he had
observed numbers of boats passing to and fro on the White and Blue
Niles. He could not have doubted that the Mahdi was preparing to strike
the final blow. And so it proved, for he was planning the assault on
Khartum. He had received news of the destruction of his troops at Abu
Klea and Abu Kru, and of the advance of the English.

The Mahdi was convinced that if one Englishman reached Khartum his
chance of success was gone, and that he must retire to Kordofan. That
was his reason for attempting the assault. Gordon, on the other hand,
expected the arrival of the English at any moment; and while he was
counting the hours which might elapse ere they could reach him, his
enemies were shaking their lances with which they should pierce him.

The moon had gone down, deep obscurity reigned; and now the Dervishes
stealthily advanced in perfect silence towards that portion of the
defence which had been destroyed during the high Nile, and which, as the
river receded, had left an open space in which ditch and parapet had
almost disappeared. Here there was little to impede their entry; and the
Dervishes, shouting their wild battle-cry, dashed in wild disorder over
this open ground.

Farag Pasha commanded the whole of this portion of the defences. Many
people in the Sudan, more especially those who used to be in the
Government service, say that Farag Pasha betrayed the town; but the fact
that he was killed almost immediately after the fall points to his not
having done so.

It is a well-known fact that many of the senior officers were wavering,
and numbers of Khartum merchants were in correspondence with the Mahdi.
It is possible that their action may have assisted the Dervishes. The
latter naturally assert that Khartum was captured entirely by force of
arms, for any acknowledgment on their part of treachery within the town
would tend to detract from the effect of the Mahdi's success. The matter
stands thus: the parapet which had been destroyed had never been
repaired. This was not Gordon's fault; in his desperate position he
could not be everywhere. It is a thousand pities that he had not a few
trusty European officers with him. With the exception of this defective
portion near the White Nile, the whole line of defence was almost
impregnable; the ditch was so deep and the parapet so high that it would
have been next to impossible to cross it.


On coming through the open space the Dervishes broke up into two
parties. One party dashed along the parapet, breaking all resistance,
and slaughtering the soldiers in all directions; the other party made
for the town. The inhabitants, roused from their sleep by the shouts of
the Arabs and the din of rifle-shots, hurried out, anticipating what had
occurred. Like a pent-up stream suddenly released, over 50,000 wild
Dervishes, with hideous yells, rushed upon the 40,000 inhabitants of
Khartum, besides the 5,000 soldiers--all that was left of the 9,000 at
the commencement of the siege. The only cry of these fanatical hordes
was "Kenisa! Saraya!" ("To the church! the palace!")--_i.e._ the
Austrian Mission Church and Gordon's palace, where they expected to find
treasure stored up in the cellars, and priests and sisters.

The surging mass threw itself on the palace, overflowed into the lovely
garden, and burst through the doors in wild search for their prey; but
Gordon went alone to meet them. As they rushed up the stairs, he came
towards them and tried to speak to them; but they could not or would not
listen, and the first Arab plunged his huge spear into his body. He fell
forward on his face, was dragged down the stairs, many stabbed him with
their spears, and his head was cut off and sent to the Mahdi.

Such was the end of the brave defender of Khartum. When I came from El
Obeid to Omdurman I visited Khartum, and went to the palace, where I was
shown some black spots on the stairs which they told me were the traces
of Gordon's blood.

On Gordon's head being brought to the Mahdi, he appeared to have been
much displeased at his death--not because he felt pity for him, but he
believed that Gordon might join his army. Had he not done so, he would
have imprisoned him and reduced him to slavery. It was much better that
Gordon should have died when he did than have remained a captive in the
hands of these cruel and fanatical Arabs. Gordon's head was hung on a
tree in Omdurman, and the wild multitude rejoiced in heaping curses on
it and insulting it.

After the palace, the Mission building was the next principal object on
which the wild, plunder-seeking Arabs vented their fury. General Gordon
had some time previously hired this building, which was of stone and
bomb-proof, and turned it into a powder magazine and ammunition store.
The Dervishes killed the guards mounted outside the garden, and then
broke in, while others clambered over the high wall. A black who was
employed in the Mission garden was lying on the point of death on his
mattress in the garden; the Dervishes ended his life by ripping open his

The Mission gardener, brother Domenico Polinari, who had been left to
take charge of the Mission property, on the first alarm, had rushed to
the main gate of the garden to see what was the matter. He opened the
gate slightly, and, seeing an array of lances, he slammed to the gate
with all his might, and fled to a small hut in the garden which was full
of hay, and he hid himself in the corner underneath the hay. Several
slaves who were working in the garden followed his example; but they did
not stay long, for, thinking it was not a sufficiently good
hiding-place, they were running off to another hut when they were fallen
upon and massacred. Domenico heard their shrieks and the click of the
sword which beheaded them from his place of concealment; but he dared
not move from the spot, though half choked with the dry grass in which
he lay. Several Dervishes entered the hut and thrust their spears into
the hay to search for any one in concealment.

One can realize the terror of poor Domenico as the naked spear-heads
were forced through and almost touched him. He lay, however,
undiscovered for some hours, and at last the noise and din of
rifle-shots grew less. Though suffering agonies from thirst, he still
did not dare to move till close on midnight, when he emerged from his
bed of hay. All was still, the stillness of death. He could see the
Dervish guard fires; and, as he crept along, he stumbled over the dead
body of the black who had been working in the garden. Horror-stricken,
he slowly moved forward again. At every step he saw a dead man, all of
them labourers and watchmen who had attempted to escape when the
Dervishes entered. Creeping under the shadow of the large lemon-trees,
he reached the main gate, above which was a small hut which had been
occupied by one of the black families belonging to the Mission. The
windows of the hut looked into the garden, and Domenico scrambled
through one of these into the room. Here he found one of the women,
Halima, and begged her to give him some bread and water. He questioned
her about the entrance of the Dervishes and the fate of the inhabitants.
She replied in a few words that the town had been stormed, and numbers
of the inhabitants, as well as General Gordon, Consul Hansal, and most
of the Europeans, had been killed.

This was a new shock to the already terror-stricken Domenico. He threw
himself on the bed and begged that Halima would not betray him; but she,
fearing to be found out, crept out of the hut, went up to the Dervishes
who were collected round the camp fire, and told them that there was a
Turk in her cottage. Some of them jumped up, and, following Halima into
the hut, they drove out the unfortunate Domenico with the butt ends of
their lances. He was brought in front of the camp fire and carefully
searched for money; but he at once drew forty pounds out of his pocket,
which he distributed amongst them, and they were satisfied and did not
ill-treat him.

On the following day he was taken before Ahmed Wad Suleiman, the Emin
beit el mal, who made full inquiries of him regarding the Mission money.
Domenico said that when the Mission left Khartum they took all the money
with them, and had left nothing. Domenico was then sent to the garden to
work there for his new master, but soon afterwards was betrayed a second
time, and fell into grievous trouble and danger.

A few days before the fall of Khartum he had buried £150 in the garden,
intending to make use of it when the needful time came; but one of the
blacks who was working at the steam-pump in the garden, to whom
Domenico had confided his secret, and who was one of the garden
labourers who had escaped the massacre, went and told Ahmed Sharfi (one
of the Mahdi's nearest relations) that Domenico had concealed money.
This he did to ensure his own safety, for the Dervishes had been greatly
disappointed in the quantity of loot they expected to find. In the
palace they had discovered only paper money, and in the Mission some
furniture, instead of the treasure they had been led to expect. Ahmed
Sharfi was therefore much pleased with the black's information, himself
came to Domenico and asked to be shown the place where the money was
buried. In vain Domenico protested that he had given all the money to
Gordon. He was at once knocked down and flogged with a kurbash; but the
first stroke, which drew blood, made him cry for mercy; he disclosed the
hiding-place, and, when Ahmed Sharfi had secured the money, he was

The ruthless bloodshed and cruelty exercised by the Dervishes in Khartum
is beyond description. I will briefly describe the deaths of the
best-known people. Nicola Leontides, the Greek consul, who, on account
of his amiable character, was much respected in Khartum, had his hands
cut off first, and was then beheaded. Martin Hansal, the Austrian
consul, who was the oldest member of the European colony, was alive up
till 2 P.M., when some Arabs from Buri, led by his chief kavass, who was
on bad terms with him, entered the courtyard of the house, and, on
Hansal being summoned to come down, he was at once beheaded. At the same
time Mulatte Skander, a carpenter who lived with him, was killed in the
same way. His body, together with that of his dog and parrot, were then
taken out, alcohol poured over them, and set fire to. After a time, when
the body had become like a red-hot coal, it was thrown into the river.

Human blood and ruthless cruelty alone seemed to satisfy the Dervishes.
The Austrian tailor, Klein, on making the sign of the cross, had his
throat cut from ear to ear with a knife which was used to slaughter
animals, and his life-blood was poured out before the eyes of his
horror-stricken wife and children. Not satisfied with the death of the
father, they seized his son, a youth of eighteen, and, burying their
lances in his body, they stretched him out at his mother's feet, a
corpse! They then took counsel as to how they should kill the next son,
a lad of fifteen. But by this time the mother, a daughter of Cattarina
Nobili, of Venice, was worked up into a state of mad despair. Seizing
her son of five years old with her right hand, while she held her
suckling babe to her breast with her left, she fought against these
murderers like a tigress being robbed of her young, and they could not
wrest her children from her; but they seized her daughter, a girl of
eighteen, who became the wife of an Arab.

The son-in-law of Doctor Georges Bey (who had been killed in the Hicks's
expedition) was roused from sleep by the noise of the Arabs breaking in.
He rose from his bed, and, making the sign of the cross, rushed to the
window, where he shouted "Aman" ("Security of life"); but a bullet
struck him in the forehead, and he fell dead at the feet of his young
wife. The Dervishes forced their way into the house, broke in the door
of the room where the dead man lay stretched out on the bed, killed
another Greek, and clove open the head of the little son, a boy of
twelve years of age, with an axe, scattering his brains over his
unfortunate mother, who was sitting beside him. She saved her little son
of six months old by saying he was a girl. The mother herself was not
killed, as she was with child, but she was reserved to become the wife
of Abderrahman Wad en Nejumi.

Aser, the American consul, fell down dead on seeing his brother beheaded
before his eyes. The males of most of the Coptic families were
massacred, but the women were spared. I know several of these poor women
who, from continuously weeping over the cruelties of that terrible 26th
of January, have become quite blind.

Those men whose lives were spared have to thank Providence that either
they fell into the hands of those less cruel than their comrades, or
that they did not quit their houses for two days, at the end of which
time the first wild passions of these murderers had cooled down.

The fate of seven Greeks was a sad one; these were all together in one
house, for, through a merciful Providence, they had fallen into less
cruel hands. It was past noon, and they were rejoicing at having escaped
from the general massacre. Then a certain George Clementino entered.
This Clementino had originally come from El Obeid, and had frequently
been sent by the Mahdi with messages to Gordon, and when he returned
from Khartum to the Mahdi, the latter treated him with much favour.

When the capture of Khartum was known in Omdurman, Clementino hastened
to the town, with the intention of rescuing any compatriots he could
find, and he soon heard of the seven surviving Greeks. Full of delight
at their safety, he congratulated them, and advised them to make their
way to the house of Manoli, the Greek who, with his wife and nephew, had
escaped by concealing themselves in the dove-cot.

It was Clementino's intention to collect all the Greeks here, and then
take them to Omdurman. The seven Greeks trusted to their compatriot's
name and influence to protect them, but Dervishes were on the watch to
stop them. As they were following Clementino to Manoli's house, which
was only a short distance off--indeed, they had only gone a few
steps--they were met by a party of Ahmed Sharfi's Danagla, who were
searching the streets filled with the dead and wounded, with the object
of giving the _coup de grâce_ to any who might still be alive.

When these murderers espied the party of white men from a short
distance, they shouted, "Look! Some of these dogs, these unbelievers,
are still alive," and, full of anger, they rushed upon the unfortunate
Greeks. Clementino begged and prayed that they might be spared, but
they were beheaded before his eyes, and he himself barely escaped with
his life. Pale, terror-stricken, and trembling, he fled to Omdurman, and
for some months he lay on the point of death, so great had been the
shock of witnessing the massacre of his fellow-countrymen.

Numbers even of women and little children were not spared, and the
torture which the survivors had to undergo, to force them to produce
their money, are scarcely credible. Ibrahim Pasha Fauzi (the favourite
of Gordon) was tied for several days to a date-palm and flogged till he
gave up all his money. The old widow of Mustafa Tiranis was flogged
almost to death. She was a rich Circassian lady, and had supplied Gordon
with money in donkey loads, and had been decorated by him with the
Khartum medal.

Slaves were most cruelly tortured, beaten, and forced to disclose the
hiding-places of their masters' money and treasures. The Shaigieh tribe
in particular was most harshly dealt with; this was the only tribe which
remained loyal to the Government, and even eight days after the fall of
Khartum, if a Shaigi was seen, he was instantly killed; hence the
Dervish proverb, "Esh Shaigi, Wad er Rif el Kelb ma yelga raha fil
Mahadieh" ("The Shaigi, the Egyptian, _i.e._, the white one, the dog, no
rest shall he find in Mahdieh").[G]

Farag Pasha did not live long after the fall; some still said he had
betrayed the town, and the Dervishes were furious with him because, some
ten days before the assault, during one of the preliminary attacks, he
had shot Abdullah Wad en Nur, an emir of great repute, and much beloved
by the Ansar. Farag was summoned before Wad Suleiman, who ordered him to
produce all the money he had. Incensed at his treatment and at the
charge of treachery, he fell into a hot dispute with Wad Suleiman, who
had him forthwith beheaded as an unbeliever and an obstinate man. If he
was really a traitor, he richly deserved his fate; but if not, his
death was that of a brave man.

When the massacre in Khartum was at an end, the Mahdi himself gave
orders that the survivors should be spared, but the wild fury of these
fanatical Arabs had been satiated at the cost of 10,000 lives; the
streets were filled with headless corpses, which were left unburied
until the plunder had been distributed.

The whole of Khartum was now divided up amongst hundreds of emirs and
their mukuddums. Every emir planted his flag in the midst of the quarter
captured by his men, and then the work of collecting the survivors was
begun. Ahmed Wad Suleiman ordered all free women and slaves to be
brought to the beit el mal; here the young and good-looking fair women
were locked up in a separate enclosure, the good-looking, unmarried
Sudanese girls in another zariba, and in a third were placed black slave
girls, suitable as concubines.

It is deplorable to think that at such a time were found certain of the
well-known townsmen of Khartum who assisted the Dervishes to lay hands
on all the prettiest girls in Khartum; through their intermediary, many
of the women who had cut off their hair, and in other ways concealed
their beauty and sex by disguising themselves as men, fell into the
hands of the Ansar.

May God's curse fall on those wicked traitors who delivered up these
unfortunates in order to gain favour with the Mahdi! What sufferings
these miserable creatures underwent when they lay huddled together like
cattle in a pen, awaiting their cruel fate! Many of them were still in
their silken robes, all bespattered with the blood of their husbands and
children, and there they lay, awaiting their turn to become the wives of
those who had murdered their husbands and their offspring!

The first selection was, of course, made for the Mahdi, who took for
himself all girls of five years of age and upwards, who, in a few years'
time, he would take to his harem; then came the turn of the three
Khalifas, whose selections were made especially under the direction of
Wad Suleiman; then followed the emirs, each in the order of his rank,
and one by one they made their choice of these wretched women. Those
that were left were distributed amongst the Ansar. Then were openly
enacted sights which would have melted hearts of stone. The weeping and
lamentation of the white women, as they prayed and besought the pity of
their masters, the rough jeering and foul replies of these monsters, it
is all too horrible to relate.

The old unmarried women were given a few rags with which to partially
cover themselves, and were sent to Nejumi's camp, where they were kept
in captivity for a few days. All suffered the agonies of hunger and
thirst, heat and cold. Little babies, not yet weaned, were left to die
of hunger, and for weeks after the fall young widowed mothers could be
seen wandering naked through the market at Omdurman, begging. Some poor
women brought forth children in the streets, and there they would lie,
mother and child, naked and foodless, until death came as a happy
release from their misery.

The Mahdi had directed that all gold and silver jewellery, precious
stones and ornaments, should be collected in the beit el mal; but of
course most of this had already found its way into the pockets of the
emirs; and, in spite of the Mahdi's most stringent orders, and his
threats that those who concealed the booty would be punished in
hell-fire, still the Ansar kept the loot and risked the eternal flames.

Considerable quantities of treasure were, however, collected in the beit
el mal, for Khartum was wealthy, and the women especially had quantities
of gold and silver ornaments; but so much loot soon reduced the
currency, and a sovereign was now valued at two and a half dollars.
Every penny was extracted from the prisoners by the lash, and all were
reduced to complete beggary. They were then sent to Nejumi's camp; and
on their way thither they were again beaten and searched. They were kept
a few days longer as prisoners in that camp, and then those who had the
fortune to meet with relations or friends who had been released would
weep together over their wretched state. The confusion was terrible.
Women wandered through the camps in search of their children, children
sought their parents; but how few ever found them!

After a time all the prisoners were permitted to live in Omdurman, where
they eked out a miserable existence by begging; but hunger, disease, and
all the sufferings they had undergone carried off hundreds. For days
they remained naked, scorched under the burning sun by day, and perished
with cold at night. How could people accustomed to ease and comfort bear
up against such hardships?

When at length all the houses in Khartum had been evacuated, the
furniture, &c., removed, and their owners robbed of all they possessed,
the effects were sold from the beit el mal at a low price. The various
coloured stuffs were cut up and utilised for making the patches on the
jibbehs (Dervish uniform), gold brocades were purchased by those who
knew their real value for a mere trifle, and the gold melted down and
made into ornaments. Mirrors and looking-glasses were chopped in pieces
with axes, and valuable china and pottery articles, which might have
been sold for much, were smashed in pieces. The beautiful Khartum
gardens were divided up amongst the chiefs; the Khalifa Abdullah became
the possessor of Gordon's garden, Khalifa Sherif took that of the Roman
Catholic Mission, and Khalifa Ali Wad Helu became owner of Albert
Marquet's. Every emir selected the best house he could find, and there
he installed himself with his wives and slaves; while the Ansar took the
houses of the poorer Copts and Egyptians. But Omdurman, and not Khartum,
was now considered the Dervish capital.

Intoxicated by their success, and insatiable in their desire for women
and plunder, the Dervishes had forgotten altogether about the English,
for whom Gordon had waited so long. How cruel is fate! Two days after
the fall, on the 28th of January, 1885, two steamers were seen slowly
making their way along the western shore of Tuti Island.

Khartum and Omdurman were electrified; a consultation was quickly held,
and it was at once decided to prevent their landing. The English could
be seen searching in all directions for some sign to show them that
Gordon was still alive; but the only answer they got was the rain of
thousands of bullets fired from thousands upon thousands of rifles and
guns at Omdurman and Fort Mukrun. All rushed to the river bank. The
women, seizing sticks and waving them over their heads, shrieked and
yelled like hyenas, "Mót lil Inglez!" ("Death to the English!") and they
were prepared to rush at them with their sticks if they attempted to
land. When the English saw this, they could have had little doubt as to
what had happened; they turned back and disappeared. The rage of the
Dervishes at their departure was unbounded. They rained bullets and
shell after them; but they were soon out of sight.

Let us now consider for a moment the chances of success of the English
relief expedition. The defeat at Abu Klea struck terror into the
Mahdiists gathered round Khartum; the arrival of some wounded men at
Omdurman added to the general alarm. Had twenty redcoats arrived at
Khartum, it would have been saved. Their presence would have given fresh
courage to the inhabitants; and, confident of their approaching
deliverance, they would have striven might and main to hold out longer.
General Gordon, assisted by the advice and energy of a few English
officers, would have completely regained his influence. It is true,
indeed, that the soldiers were weary of the long siege and continual
fighting, and they had lost all faith in Gordon's repeated promises that
the English were coming. They became heart-broken and in despair; but
Khartum was not for long in the state of distress which prevailed in El
Obeid before that town fell. In Khartum they had only been eating gum
for a few days previous to the fall, while in El Obeid they had existed
on it for months, and had practically nothing else to live upon.

Had the Khartum people but seen one Englishman with their own eyes, they
would have taken fresh courage, and would in all probability have held
out for another month, until the relief for which they had waited so
long was a _fait accompli_. The Mahdi would not have dared to assault
Khartum; and even if he had, it is most probable he would have been
beaten back. Many survivors of Khartum often said to me, "Had we seen
one Englishman, we should have been saved; but our doubt that the
English were really coming, and the feeling that Gordon must be
deceiving us, made us discouraged, and we felt that death would be
preferable to the life of constant war and daily suffering we were
leading during the siege."

The unaccountable delay of the English was the cause of the fall of
Khartum, the death of Gordon, and the fate of the Sudan. The Mahdi only
made up his mind to attack when he heard that they had delayed at Gubat.
He did not begin to cross over his troops till the 24th of January, and
it was not till Sunday night that the crossing was complete. He could
not have attacked earlier than he did. When the first news of his defeat
at Abu Klea reached him he wished to raise the siege and retire to
Kordofan. If the English had appeared at any time before he delivered
the attack he would have raised the siege and retired. Indeed, it was
always his intention to revisit El Obeid before he made his attack.

Even to the present day people in the Sudan cannot understand the reason
for the delay. Some say that the English general was wounded at Abu
Klea, and was lying insensible, and that those who were acting for him
did not dare to undertake any operations until he was sufficiently
recovered to be able to give his own orders.

The Sudanese wondered why Europeans, who generally take precautions for
every eventuality, should not have done so in this case. Others thought
that Kashm el Mus Pasha must have urged the English to attack the Arabs
about Metemmeh and Shendi, in revenge for the persistency with which
they had attacked and harassed the steamers. The above are only some of
the many reasons by which the Sudanese seek to explain the delay after
the battle of Abu Klea.

When the English were convinced that Khartum had fallen, they retreated
north. Once the town had fallen, the little English fighting force was
in the gravest peril; the Mahdi had now his entire force at his disposal
to combat them. He at once despatched Nejumi and a large number of his
best emirs with a large force; and had not the English already retreated
before he reached Metemmeh, they could not have escaped.

The Mahdi was furious when he heard that the English, who had killed
such numbers of his best troops, had retired; and, though the latter
failed in their object, still their bold attempt to snatch the prey from
the lion's mouth must remain for ever a grand exploit. The bravery of
the English in advancing on Khartum with such a small number of men is
always a source of wonder to the Sudanese. But, alas, what a useless
sacrifice of blood and money! The relief came too late.

The memory of Gordon, the heroic defender of Khartum, is still held in
respectful remembrance in the Sudan. His bravery, generosity, and
voluntary self-sacrifice have won the admiration of his bitterest
enemies. It is the common saying amongst Moslems, "Had Gordon been one
of us, he would have been a perfect man." I will now give a slight
sketch of the events subsequent to the fall, and the fate of the town.

After the retreat of the English, the new masters of Khartum settled
down and made themselves comfortable. The Ashraf, _i.e._ the Mahdi's
relatives, especially made themselves at home in the best houses and
gardens, the best dancers entertained them by night, and they lived a
life of ease and luxury. After the death of the Mahdi, which occurred on
the 22nd of June, 1885, his successor, the Khalifa Abdullah, looked on
the prosperity of Khartum with jealous eyes.

When I arrived in Khartum from El Obeid in April 1886, I visited every
part of the town, and examined it most carefully; very few houses had
been destroyed, and the town was thickly populated. I also visited the
lines of defence between the Blue and White Niles, they extended about
six kilometres. The impression I gathered from the appearance of the
ditch, which at that time had been much damaged by the heavy rains, was
that it could not have been crossed, except near the White Nile where it
was quite choked up with mud and sand. At various points along the line
there were strongly-built forts manned with guns, and a little in rear
of the parapets were high structures which commanded the ditch; behind
every loophole were small mud shelters, evidently made by the troops to
protect themselves from the cold and strong winds.

The Messalamieh gate was built of burnt bricks and cement and was then
in a good state, but the iron gate lay unopened against the side of the
ditch. I counted about 150 bodies along the parapet; there they lay,
shrivelled up like mummies, while rats and mice had made their homes in
them. In one place I saw two bodies tied together by the feet, they had
evidently been killed in this position. It was impossible to distinguish
the Egyptians from the blacks, for the sun had burnt up and shrivelled
the skin into one black colour. Here, where there had been such bustling
activity, now only the stillness of the tomb prevailed. As one walked
along, lizards and other reptiles would creep from beneath the skeletons
and dart off to take refuge under others.

I strolled on from the Messalamieh gate to the European cemetery. Here
what desolation and desecration met my eyes! The crosses had been
smashed to pieces and lay strewn about in little bits. Graves had been
dug up and the bodies pulled out. I recognised from their clothes three
who had died in January 1881. The grave of Bishop Comboni, who had died
on the 11th of October, 1881, and had been buried in the Mission garden,
had also been opened, but the obelisk erected to his memory by the
townspeople of Khartum had not been destroyed. The church bells had
been pulled down, but lay there in the garden undamaged.

Shortly after my visit, Khartum was reduced to ruins. The Khalifa
Abdullah, jealous of the Ashraf, who had completely established
themselves in the town, and whose actions he could not therefore
sufficiently supervise, determined to order its evacuation. In August
the command was given to all to quit the town within three days; it was
carried out at once, and on the fourth day the destruction of Khartum
began. Houses were pulled down, the wood of the windows, balconies, and
doors was transported to Omdurman, and within a very short time the
whole place was in ruins; the burnt bricks were for the most part
brought to Omdurman; the only buildings which were spared were the
Arsenal, in which work still continues to be done, Gordon's palace, and
the Mission house. In fact, Khartum is now nothing but a heap of mud
ruins, here and there a wall is left standing, everywhere large prickly
thorn bushes have sprung up and cover as with a veil the sad remnants of
the once thriving and populous metropolis of the Sudan.


[G] According to the Mahdi doctrine, dogs, being considered
impure animals, are destroyed; but this subject will be considered in
another chapter.



     Ohrwalder's criticisms on certain events connected with the defence
     of Khartum--The Sudan devastated by small-pox--The Mahdi gives way
     to a life of pleasure--Description of his harem life--The Mahdi
     sickens and dies--The effect on his followers--The Khalifa Abdullah
     succeeds--Party strife and discord--Abdullah prevails--Events in
     Sennar and Kassala.

Looking back on the events which occurred during the siege of Khartum, I
cannot refrain from saying that I consider Gordon carried his
humanitarian views too far, and that this excessive forbearance on his
part both injured the cause and considerably added to his difficulties.
It was Gordon's first and paramount duty to rescue the Europeans,
Christians, and Egyptians from the fanatical fury of the Mahdi, which
was specially directed against them. This was Gordon's clear duty, but
unfortunately he allowed his kindness of heart to be made use of to his
enemy's advantage.

Khartum during the siege was full of the wives, relations, and children
of men who had joined the Dervishes, and were foremost in their efforts
to harass and attack the town. These crafty people thus assured
themselves that should the Mahdi be victorious, their loyalty to him
would ensure the safety of their families and property in Khartum,
while, on the other hand, should Gordon be victorious then their wives
and families would be able to mediate for them with the conquerors. Thus
in his kindness of heart did Gordon feed and support the families of his
enemies. It was quite sufficient for a number of women to appeal to
Gordon with tears in their eyes, that they were starving, for him to
order that rations of corn should at once be issued to them, and thus
it was that the supplies in the hands of the Government were enormously

Had Gordon, in the early stages of the siege, relieved Khartum of the
presence of these people, as he subsequently was forced to do, he would
have had supplies sufficient to prolong the resistance of his troops far
beyond the limits at which they had arrived when the assault took place,
and, after all, should not Gordon's first care have been for his troops?
His men clamoured against the lavish way in which Gordon distributed
what should have been their rations amongst the families of the
besiegers, but it was of no avail.

Gordon should have recognised that the laws of humanity differ in war
from peace time, more especially when the war he was waging was
especially directed against wild fanatical savages who were enemies to
all peace. He was entirely deceived if he believed that by the exercise
of kindness and humanity he was likely to win over these people to his
side; on the contrary, they ridiculed his generosity and only thought it
a sign of weakness. The Sudanese respect and regard only those whom they
fear, and surely those cruel and hypocritical Mahdiists should have
received very different treatment to civilized Europeans.

I also think that Gordon brought harm on himself and his cause by
another action which I am convinced led to a great extent to his final
overthrow. Such men as Slatin, Lupton, Saleh Wad el Mek, and others had
offered at the risk of their lives to come and serve him. It is almost
certain that some means could have been found of rescuing from slavery
these brave men who had defended their provinces with the greatest
determination against treachery from within and overwhelming numbers
from without, and they could have rendered him most valuable and useful
services. None knew better than these men the weak and the strong points
of the Mahdi's rule and his method of warfare, and it is quite possible
that they might have been able to alter the fate of Khartum. In the
Mahdi's camp they were looked upon as brave and skilful leaders, indeed
they were feared, and that is why they were put in chains, as it was
thought they might attempt to escape. Had they been permitted to enter
Khartum they would not only have been able to assist in the Mahdi's
overthrow, but they would have been able to encourage the garrison.

Gordon would not, however, even vouchsafe an answer to the letters of
appeal these men wrote to him. He could not have believed they were
traitors, such an idea could not have entered into the mind of an
European. The Mahdi never for an instant doubted their inclinations, and
treated them with the greatest mistrust; but even to these savages the
idea of killing men who had been loyal to the Government, and had fought
bravely for their provinces, was objectionable, unless they could have
produced a really valid reason for doing so. How was it possible Gordon
could be for an instant in doubt as to the inclinations and intentions
of these men? I feel strongly on these points, and therefore cannot
refrain from mentioning them.

After the fall of Khartum only two strong places remained in the hands
of the Government, Kassala and Sennar, both of which were closely
besieged. The English had retired north, and the Mahdi could rest at
last, assured that he was now possessor of the Sudan.

The enormous multitudes around Khartum had been engaged during the whole
of the winter season in war, consequently cultivation was neglected, and
had it not been for the quantities of cattle available, a disastrous
famine must have occurred. As it was, there was a great deal of
distress, and numbers died of starvation. Famine and war had brought
disease in their train. In addition to fever and dysentery, small-pox,
which in the Sudan is endemic, increased with fearful rapidity. In
Omdurman hundreds died, and the principal business of the beit el mal
was distributing "kafans" (shrouds).

It was curious that the Sudanese, who much dread this disease, should
have attributed it to the English; but that they did so is a fact, and
this is how it came about. When the English retired, from Gubat, they
left behind them a quantity of preserved stores and tinned meat. The
Dervishes, in spite of the belief that they contained pork, which is an
abomination to them, were so hungry that they consumed almost everything
they found, and it is said that almost immediately afterwards they were
attacked by small-pox, which gave rise to the idea that the English had
mixed their food with the germs of the disease, and this was implicitly
believed in.

Owing to the prevalence of small-pox in Omdurman, many people fled to
Kordofan, Darfur, and other places, and consequently caused the disease
to spread over the whole country. Several false doctors, with the sole
object of making money, guaranteed to check the disease by inoculation;
but as the inoculated matter was frequently in itself diseased, the
epidemic was still further increased.

Notwithstanding this national calamity, the Mahdi now gave himself up to
a life of ease and luxury, in which the unfortunate women captured in
Khartum played a prominent part. He represented that all those who died
of small-pox were suffering God's punishment for being evil-minded or
having appropriated the booty. People believed what he said, and would
still believe him, if he were alive and told them even more incredible
things. The capture of Khartum had, of course, raised his prestige
enormously, and now the belief in his Divine message needed no further
confirmation. Before the assault took place he said that he would divide
the river into two parts, just as Moses had divided the Red Sea, so that
his followers could cross to Khartum on dry land if they failed to take
it by assault. His promise, too, that very few should fall by the sword,
not only encouraged them in the attack, but its verification served only
to further prove his divinity. His uncle, Sayid Abdel Kader, up to the
time of the fall of Khartum, still doubted that he was the true Mahdi;
but, once the town was taken, he doubted no longer.


All this success increased the adulation and worship of the Mahdi to an
extraordinary extent, and as for himself, although he was continually
warning his followers to despise the good things of this world, and to
abandon all luxurious modes of life, he surrounded himself with every
sort of comfort and luxury, appreciating to the utmost the very
pleasures which he declaimed so violently. He urged moderation in eating
and drinking, yet he secured for himself every dainty which Khartum
could possibly produce. He now wore shirts and trousers of the finest
material, and, before putting them on, his wives were obliged to
perfume them with incense and other costly fragrances. His wives
attended on him in turns, but no regularity was preserved. They anointed
his body with all sorts of precious unguents, but his speciality was the
expensive "Sandalia" (a perfume prepared from sandal-wood and oil), and
so saturated was he with these perfumes that when he went forth the air
was laden with sweet-smelling odours.

The courtyard of his harem was full of women, from little Turkish girls
of eight years old to the pitch-black Dinka negress or copper-coloured
Abyssinian; almost every tribe in the Sudan supplied its representative,
so that one might say the entire Sudanese woman-world was to be seen

Amongst this vast concourse four only were lawful wives; the remainder
were considered as "ghenima," or booty, and were looked upon as slaves
and concubines. His principal wife was called "Aisha," or, as she is
better known in Omdurman, "Om el Muminin" (the Mother of the Faithful).
She was a woman of considerable influence, for the wives of all the
principal emirs visited her, and she was assisted by them in elaborating
an extensive system of espionage. Alas, how many unfortunate girls were
left weeping day and night for their miserable state, robbed by this
Aisha of their happiness and liberty!

The Mahdi's dwelling was built for the most part of the captured loot.
From the boards of General Hicks's stable he had two huts built, and
near these a hut made of mortar and a small magazine. This man, who
hitherto had but a small straw mat, now lay on fine bedsteads originally
brought from Jedda and captured in Khartum, while the floors were spread
with Persian carpets. Here was this Divine Mahdi leading indoors a life
of the most immoderate uxoriousness, whilst outside his fanatical
followers hailed him as the direct messenger of God, sent to purge the
world from the evil practices of the hated Turk.

Two persons whom I knew well, and who had visited the Mahdi less than
three weeks before his death, gave me an account of the sort of life he
was then leading. It was the month of Ramadan, the great fast, and any
one who failed to keep it strictly was punishable by death. From noon
till midnight people used to crowd to the mosque, which was then only a
large enclosure surrounded by a zariba. Thousands of Dervishes could be
accommodated in this large rectangular space, in which the clash of a
forest of spears indicated their impatience to see the Mahdi as he came
to prayers; they had seen him hundreds and hundreds of times before, but
they seemed never tired of gazing at him, and often fought to get a
place near the mihrab (niche) where he prayed.

Whilst the impatient murmur of thousands of voices indicates that the
time of his approach has almost arrived, let us for a moment turn into
the Mahdi's harem, and here is a true picture of what my friends there
beheld. The Mahdi reclining on a magnificent carpet, his head propped up
by a pillow covered with gold brocade; he is clothed in a linen shirt of
finest texture, a pair of drawers, and a gallabieh; his shaved head
covered by a takia of embroidered silk. Upwards of thirty women stand
around him; some fan him with great ostrich feathers, others gently rub
his feet (a practice in which the Sudanese delight), without in any way
disturbing his slumber; others gently smooth his hands, and Aisha lies
beside him, covering his head and neck with loving embraces.

Meanwhile hundreds of Ansar are shouting outside his zariba, impatiently
awaiting his blessing, and anxiously expecting to hear his voice. The
eunuchs are trying to drive off this importunate crowd with whips, but
they will not leave until they have obtained the earnestly sought
blessing. At length one of the eunuchs enters, and receives from Aisha
the blessing, which she gives without disturbing the Mahdi. He then
returns and tells the impatient crowd that the Mahdi is at present in
deep contemplation, but that he is graciously pleased to give them his
blessing, which is then repeated. This is the signal for a wild shout
of joy, and then they return to the mosque to range themselves in their
appointed lines for prayers. And now those who were not present to
receive the blessing press forward to touch the others, and thus obtain
some of its virtue.

The Mahdi is gradually sinking from his half doze into a sound slumber,
when Aisha very gently rouses him and tells him that the appointed time
for ablutions and prayers is already passed. The women now assist him to
rise, his red shoes are brought, and then he proceeds to the place of
ablution, followed by four women carrying his water-bottle. On his
return the women throw themselves down frantically on the spots which
his feet have touched, and struggle with each other in their endeavours
to embrace the ground on which he has trodden.

It is believed that the earth touched by the Mahdi's foot has healing
properties, and has, moreover, the effect of ensuring a quick and
painless delivery; it is therefore distributed amongst holy women, and
even to this day is carefully preserved for the purpose which I have
cited. Not a drop, too, of the water with which the Mahdi has washed is
allowed to be wasted, but is hoarded with the greatest care, and drunk
as an unfailing remedy for every sort of illness and malady.

But to return to my friends' description. The Mahdi's ablutions over,
his son Bashra runs up to him and shows him a golden ring his mother has
given him. Bashra asks permission to wear the ring, but the Mahdi, who
has by this time noticed the presence of two strangers, says, "Oh, my
son, only the Turks wear such ornaments, because they love the things of
this world; but it is not becoming in us to wear such ornaments, which
are perishable; we strive to obtain things imperishable. Give the ring
back to your mother." The little hypocrite well understands what his
father means, and obeys.

Aisha then clothes the Mahdi in his Dervish jibbeh, girdle, and turban,
and in this godly raiment he marches off to the mosque. As he quits the
palace, his bodyguard surround him and keep off the crowd. On reaching
the mihrab he is received with a shout by the assembled multitude. After
prayers he gives a short sermon, and then returns to his wives.

Thus did the Mahdi enjoy the sweets of victory indoors, whilst outside
he practised the most abominable hypocrisy. Most of his principal emirs
(with the exception of his uncle, Sayid Abdel Karim, who had been sent
to reduce Sennar) followed in their divine master's footsteps, and led a
life of pleasure and debauchery. Sometimes the Mahdi used to cross over
to Khartum and disport himself in Gordon's palace, whither he ordered a
portion of his harem to be transferred.

But all this good living and unbridled sensuality were to be the cause
of his speedy dissolution. He grew enormously fat. The two visitors,
whom I mentioned above, saw him only eight days before his death, and
told me that they believed then he could not live much longer. Early in
Ramadan he fell sick, and soon became dangerously ill. The hand of God's
justice fell heavily upon him; and it was decreed that he should no
longer enjoy the empire which he had raised on the dead bodies of
thousands of the victims to his wretched hypocrisy and deceit.

It is, indeed, terrible to think of the awful misery and distress
brought upon his own country by this one man. His disease grew rapidly
worse; he complained of pain in the heart, and died, on the 22nd of
June, 1885, of fatty degeneration of the heart. Some say that he was a
victim to the vengeance of a woman who had lost husband and children in
the fall of Khartum, and who repaid the Mahdi's outrage on her own
person by giving him poison in his food. This may be so; and it is true,
poison is generally used in the Sudan to put people out of the way; but
I am rather inclined to think that it was outraged nature that took
vengeance on its victim; and that it was the Mahdi's debauched and
dissolute mode of life which caused his early death. He died in the
mortar hut, which I previously described; and his adherents gave out
that he was about to travel through the heavens for a space of three
years. People were not allowed to say "The Mahdi is dead," but "El Mahdi
intakal" (_i.e._ "The Mahdi has been removed").

The shock of his death was terrible. The wild fanatics were, so to
speak, struck dumb; their eyes were suddenly opened; and their very
confusion showed that they had realized, the Mahdi was a liar. Omdurman
was full of suppressed murmuring; and the people were collected in
groups, talking of this awful catastrophe.

Those who were oppressed believed that the sudden collapse of Mahdieh
must result in a revolution. No one believed that the Mahdi's party
could continue ruling in his name. Would that some good man could have
been found to rapidly seize this opportunity of putting himself at the
head of the anti-Mahdiists; he must have been successful!

The confusion in the Mahdi's household was beyond description; his women
wept and wailed in the wildest grief. Ahmed Wad Suleiman and the Mahdi's
nearest relatives prepared a grave immediately beneath the bed on which
he had died; the body was washed, wrapped in a shroud, according to the
Moslem custom, and, in the presence of the Khalifas and all the members
of the Mahdi's family, it was lowered into the grave, amidst the
lamentations and wailing of the enormous crowd collected outside the
building. Before the grave was filled in, the body was sprinkled with
perfumes; then each person present took a handful of earth and threw it
into the grave, amidst murmurs of "Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim!" (_i.e._ O
merciful, O gracious God!) A simple monument was erected over the tomb.

Thus ended the Mahdi--a man who left behind him a hundred thousand
murdered men, women, and children, hundreds of devastated towns and
villages, poverty, and famine. Upon his devoted head lies the curse of
his people whom he had forced into a wild and fanatical war, which
brought indescribable ruin upon the country, and which exposed his
countrymen to the rule of a cruel tyrant, from whom it was impossible
to free themselves.

Before his death, the Mahdi had nominated the Khalifa Abdullah as his
successor; he saw that this was the only man capable of holding in check
the rapacious Sudanese tribes, and of governing the strange empire which
he had raised; but the selection of this "foreigner" was a bitter
disappointment to the Danagla and Jaalin, who, hitherto rulers, had now
to become the ruled; and from whose hands their authority was
transferred to the cruel and tyrannical Baggaras, who henceforth became
the conquerors of the Sudan, and who governed its inhabitants with a rod
of iron.

In nominating the Khalifa Abdullah, the Mahdi threw the firebrand of
discord amongst the hitherto united ranks of Mahdieh, and thereby
greatly weakened his cause. It was hard for the Mahdi to die, just when
he had established an empire stretching from the Bahr el Ghazal to
Egypt, and from Darfur to the Red Sea; he had neither had the time nor
the inclination to try and govern it; his mission had been the
destruction of all existing forms of government; and he had carried it
out to the letter.

Immediately after the Mahdi's death, the Khalifa Abdullah summoned a
meeting, and then and there insisted on the two Khalifas and the Ashraf
acknowledging him as the Khalifat el Mahdi (or Mahdi's successor). After
a long discussion it was at length agreed to, and he gave a solemn
assurance that he would follow absolutely in the Mahdi's footsteps. Just
at this time the agitation was too great for him to think of introducing
the selfish and ambitious plans which he had already formulated.
Moreover, Sennar and Kassala were still holding out; it was therefore
the first necessary step to be most conciliating on all sides, and to
all parties.

The Mahdi's name was still paramount in inspiring fanaticism; and
therefore the Khalifa's watchword became "Ed din mansur" (Religion is
victorious); thus he sought to establish unity and concord by means of
the new religion which the Mahdi had founded, and which, now that its
originator was dead, he sought to make unassailable.

Nevertheless, discord very soon sprang up. The Khalifa Sherif and the
Ashraf were furious at being out of power, and they could not long
conceal their discontent. Each Khalifa now did his utmost to show his
independence of the other; each of them rode about in Omdurman in the
greatest splendour, as if he were a king, and ordered his own great
war-drum to be beaten. Jealousy, hatred, and discontent spread rapidly
amongst the people; and soon Omdurman was divided into two distinct
camps: Khalifas Sherif and Ali Wad Helu in the one, and Khalifa Abdullah
in the other.

Both parties now prepared for battle. Abdullah had the Baggaras and
blacks, under Fadl Maula (Abu Anga's brother). There were frequent
disputes in the market-place; and every day it was thought a fight must
take place. At length matters reached such a stage that Abdullah
challenged the two other Khalifas to fight on the open plain, on which
the great reviews usually take place, just outside the town.

The two parties collected their entire forces; but it was evident the
Baggaras were by far the stronger; and as they marched out they shouted
"Môt el Gellaba" ("Death to the Gellabas!" _i.e._ the Danagla, in
contradistinction to the Baggara). Khalifa Wad Helu now acted the part
of mediator, and went across to confer with Abdullah; the troops of the
latter were drawn up in battle-array, and quite prepared for the fray.
Khalifa Sherif feared to enter the lists alone, and therefore he
submitted; he was obliged to hand over his soldiers, arms, ammunition,
flags, and war-drums, which Abdullah took possession of, and was allowed
to retain only fifty men, with firearms, as a bodyguard.

Thus Abdullah constituted himself the one and only ruler, and showed
that he was quite resolved to allow no one else to share his authority
with him. Gradually he reduced the power of the two other Khalifas and
of the Ashraf, and in a short time they became men of little influence.
The Mahdi's two uncles, Abdel Karim and Abdel Kader, who showed the most
open and violent animosity, were at once thrown into chains, their
houses destroyed, and themselves declared enemies of the Mahdi; and, as
we shall presently relate, he ordered Abu Anga to secure Zogal and put
him in prison.

Whilst all these disturbances were going on in Omdurman, the two places,
Sennar and Kassala, in which Government troops were still holding out,
were now in the greatest straits; and I will here give a brief account
of the events which occurred.

Sennar had suffered from the Mahdiists for a very long time. Ahmed Wad
el Makashef had besieged it in 1883; Abdel Kader Pasha, Governor-General
of the Sudan, had advanced to its relief with a large force, had
defeated the Makashef, and then raised the siege. Abdel Kader himself
was wounded in this fight, and his watch was broken to pieces by a
bullet. Sennar and Khartum were once more in communication. It is
unfortunate that Abdel Kader, who was greatly feared by the Sudanese,
was recalled to Egypt.

In 1884 the rebels again attacked Sennar, but were repulsed. It was then
besieged by El Mehrdi Abu Rof, who succeeded in defeating the Egyptian
troops under Nur Bey. I shall presently relate how this Mehrdi was
afterwards treated by the Sudanese.

Some say that the fall of Khartum had a very discouraging effect on the
gallant garrison of Sennar; but this was not so--they determined to make
a stand. The Mudir, Hassan Sadik, who had been put in chains by Nur Bey,
volunteered, if he should be released, to attack the rebels, and, in
fact, he succeeded in driving them off; but on his return to the town he
fell into an ambush and was killed. Brave Nur Bey again pursued the
enemy, and succeeded in inflicting a further defeat on them.

Abdel Karim now arrived with a large force, and summoned the garrison
to surrender. Nur Bey refused, and on the 16th of June the city was
assaulted; but Abdel Karim was driven back, and was himself wounded in
the thigh. He then decided to make the garrison capitulate by famine.
The siege was pressed very closely, and on the 18th of July Nur Bey made
a successful sortie, inflicting considerable loss on the enemy; but he
too was wounded in the leg, and was rendered permanently lame.

The determined defence of the town now induced the Khalifa to despatch
Wad En Nejumi with large reinforcements. Meanwhile the garrison had been
suffering greatly from famine, and Nur Bey had decided to make a last
sortie, which should be under the command of Hassan Bey Osman; but this
proved unsuccessful, the commander was killed on the 19th of August,
1885, and Nur Bey was forced to capitulate. Of the 3,000 men of whom the
garrison had originally consisted, 700 only remained--a tangible proof
of the vigorous and determined resistance they had made.

It is thought throughout the Sudan that the defence of Sennar was most
praiseworthy. Nur Bey still lives in Omdurman. Only last year his old
wound was cut open to remove the splinters of bone. He was better again
when I escaped, but is still lame. Wad En Nejumi arrived two days after
the fall of the town and found it in ruins. All that is left of Sennar
are a few mud and sand heaps, and its very name has ceased to exist,
although early in this century it was better known even than Dongola or

Kassala alone was left. This town is situated on the Khor el Gash, not
far from the Atbara River, and about midway between Khartum and
Massawah. It had a population of 13,000, and was surrounded by a wall.
Here the celebrated moslem, Sid el Hassan, is buried, and a dome is
erected over his grave. This man was greatly venerated in the Eastern
Sudan; and if any one swears by his name, it is believed that he must be
speaking the truth. One of his pupils, whom I met in Omdurman, told me
of his miracles, of which I will quote one or two examples. One day he
was preaching a sermon; and when it was over, several of the listeners
came to him and begged for alms. Sid el Hassan struck his knee, and
forthwith a number of dollars fell out--the exact sum for which the
beggars had asked. Amongst the bystanders was a poor shame-faced man,
who immediately begged that he might have one dollar. Sid el Hassan
again struck his knee, and one dollar fell out, which he at once handed
to the man, saying, "This is for the poor shame-faced one." The man at
once fell at his feet and gratefully kissed his hands. All who were
present were greatly astonished at this miracle, and some, bolder than
the rest, approached Sid el Hassan and touched him, when they found, to
their wonder, that he felt just like a sack full of dollars.

On another occasion two travellers arrived, with the intention of making
a map of the country. Having failed in their purpose, they applied to
Sid el Hassan for advice, and, after offering them food and drink, he
handed to them the map they required. He performed many different
miracles, and was, moreover, a very tolerant man, rendering the
Government many valuable services, especially when he succeeded in
stopping a revolt of the soldiers. During all the recent events, his
relations remained perfectly loyal.

But to return to my narrative. When Osman Digna came to the Sawakin
neighbourhood, he sent the emir, Mustafa Hadal, to commence the siege of
Kassala; but, as the Shukrieh tribe supplied quantities of corn, it was
enabled to stand a very prolonged siege. In January 1884, it was
assaulted, and the Mudir suffered serious loss. The Arabs, who had
hitherto remained loyal, seeing no hope of help from the Government,
also deserted.

The siege was now more closely pressed, and the suburb of Khatmieh was
nearly captured; but the enemy were at length driven back. A treaty was
concluded with Abyssinia to relieve the Egyptian garrisons and bring
them through that country to Massawah; and though at that time all the
donkeys in the town had been eaten, they still hoped for relief.

In June 1885, the city was hemmed in on all sides, and was in a
desperate condition. Nevertheless the attempted assault on the 15th of
the month was successfully repulsed, and the Mudir pursued the enemy, of
whom he killed 300. He also succeeded in capturing 1,000 head of cattle.
This enabled the town to hold out for a short time; and the news of the
Mahdi's death served to further encourage the garrison.

But at last the town was reduced to absolute starvation, and, on
condition that the lives of the inhabitants should be spared, the Mudir
surrendered. No sooner, however, were the arms given up than the
conquerors began to pillage the town and inflict all sorts of cruelties
on the people. Osman Digna, who was at that time furious on account of
his defeat by Ras Alula on the 22nd of September at Kufit, vented his
wrath on the unfortunate Mudir, Ahmed Bey Effat, Hassan Agha, and
Ibrahim Eff Shawki, and also on two Greeks, Stello Apostolidi and Tadros
Manioseh, whom he caused to be beheaded on the 30th of September, 1885.

From that time Kassala remained under Osman Digna; but in 1886, when the
latter was fully occupied in his operations against Sawakin, the Khalifa
sent Abu Girgeh there as emir. When Abu Girgeh was subsequently sent to
Tokar, Sayid Hamed became emir of Kassala, which from that time formed a
part of the province of Galabat, of which Sheikh Nasri, of the Bederieh
tribe, became emir.

Abu Girgeh was eventually sent to Berber to replace Osman Wad Dekeim,
who had fallen into disgrace. This Osman was very anxious to marry a
pretty woman he had seen in Berber, and had frequently visited her in
the hope that she would consent; but the woman, who did not want to
marry him, decided on a stratagem, and agreed to have a rendezvous on a
certain day. She, however, told her brothers and relations to lie in
wait; and when Osman arrived at the appointed hour, and was almost sure
that he had succeeded, the brothers suddenly broke into the hut and
thrashed him so soundly that he made off, and resolved not to urge his
suit a second time.

Abu Girgeh did not long remain on good terms with this low Arab, and
soon they were both recalled to Omdurman; the former was again sent to
Kassala, where he accused Nasri of having oppressed the inhabitants, and
appropriated a quantity of money; the latter fled to Omdurman, where the
Khalifa pardoned him.

Sayid Hamid also quarrelled with Abu Girgeh, and just before I left the
Sudan I was told that the Khalifa had recalled him on suspicion that he
was in league with the Italians. It is generally believed in the Sudan
that Italy will shortly take possession of the weakly defended Kassala,
but accurate information of occurrences in the Eastern Sudan is more
likely to be received in Cairo than in Omdurman.



     Ohrwalder continues to describe his personal experiences--Mahmud
     the emir of El Obeid--His unsuccessful attempts to entrap the
     Nubas--The arrival of Olivier Pain in El Obeid--His motives in
     joining the Mahdi--His journey towards Omdurman--His sad
     fate--Lupton Bey arrives at El Obeid from the Bahr el Ghazal--He is
     sent to Omdurman and thrown into chains--Life in El Obeid--The
     escape of Father Bonomi--Ohrwalder's solitude--The death of the
     Khojur Kakum.

I must now return to the narrative of my own personal experiences, which
I broke off in order to follow those events of the Mahdi's career in
which I did not take part.

Before the Mahdi left Rahad, I was again handed over to yet another
master; this was Sherif Mahmud, the Mahdi's uncle, and Governor of
Kordofan, and I was put into his charge when he came to Rahad to see the
Mahdi off. I stayed a few days with Mahmud at Rahad. I was then in a
wretched state of health; to my horror I discovered black spots on my
body, my teeth were chattering, and then I knew that I had scurvy. I
longed to escape to the Dobab hills, but my guards were always with me,
and I could not succeed.

At length Mahmud started back for El Obeid, and he gave me one of the
few surviving mules of the Hicks expedition, which had been wounded by a
bullet in the neck and which had never healed. The heavy rain had
entirely changed the aspect of the country, which was now a mass of
green, and under any other circumstances the journey would have been
pleasant enough. We were twice overtaken by terrible thunder-storms,
which obliged us to halt, as the heavy rain made travelling impossible;
at night we had to sleep on the wet ground.

As we approached El Obeid we heard the war-drums beating, to announce
the Governor's arrival. The great sandy plain around was transformed
into green fields planted with dokhn. We halted for a time under the
leafy Adansonia tree, under which the Mahdi's tent had been pitched, and
I noticed that the entire bark of the tree had been peeled off. I
afterwards learnt that the people believed the Mahdi's presence had
hallowed the tree, and that in consequence the bark had been stripped
off and boiled, the liquid being used as medicine or for witchcraft

Only a few huts were left standing in El Obeid, and Mahmud went to live
in the Mudirieh. He had a great reception on his arrival, and the most
profuse flattery was showered upon him. It was the usual thing to say
that "during his absence the town had been as still as the grave and as
dark as night, but, thanks be to God, on his return light was once more
restored," &c., &c. The Sherif delighted in this adulation.

A few days after our arrival, Father Bonomi was brought from Rahad to El
Obeid in chains, and he and I were given a small hut in the midst of his
slaves' quarters, where it was thought we would be in safe custody.

Sherif Mahmud was a small thin man about fifty years of age, full of
wiry strength and with evil, malignant-looking eyes. He had formerly
been a slave-dealer in Dar Fertit and had then joined Zubeir Pasha's
army. Even at Abba he was one of the Mahdi's most fanatical adherents.
He pretended to hate the things of this world, was always poorly
dressed, and before others always eat of the worst and humblest food.
But he was inordinately proud, and loved the power of commanding. During
his prayers he used to throw about his arms and legs and shout "Hoa!
Hoa!" ("It is He! it is He!" _i.e._ God). His followers used to say that
when he did this he saw God in his vision; but others who knew him of
old laughed at these antics, though at the same time they were afraid
of him and indulged him with flattery. He was excessively severe and
strict, but was impartial in his administration of justice.

He dealt very severely with the robbers who now infested El Obeid, and
cut off a number of hands and feet. He thoroughly believed in the
Mahdi's divine message, and had the reputation of being the bravest of
the family. He had received a bullet wound at Gedir, and at Shekan he
was always in front, carrying a flag, until he disappeared in the smoke;
he fell pierced by two bullets and was thought to have been killed;
after the battle, however, his people found him lying on the ground with
both legs broken; but he recovered. He carried such a number of arms
that men laughed at him. In addition to the two broad-bladed spears, he
carried two smaller ones, as well as a number of javelins in a quiver;
from his shoulder hung his sword and a small Remington rifle, while his
girdle was stuck all over with revolvers and knives. Women always fled
out of his path, for he whipped them ruthlessly; sometimes he would dash
amongst a crowd of women on his horse and lay about him right and left.
He had a very choice harem, and amongst his women was a young Egyptian
girl; it is the great desire of a Mahdiist to possess a fair woman, and
they often have recourse to the most violent and cruel practices in
order to acquire what they want.

Mahmud frequently went through his prayers with his wives and
concubines, and on one occasion they began to laugh, in consequence of
which the Egyptian girl was sent away and the rest flogged. From this
date he took an intense dislike to all the fair-skinned people, and the
few Egyptian families who still lived in El Obeid were banished from it.

He flattered himself that neither Abu Anga nor Nejumi understood how to
wage war against the Nubas, and therefore he once more determined to
attack these mountaineers; but he set about it in a very different
manner from his predecessors. He armed 400 Takruris and instructed them
to encamp at the foot of the mountain; they were to say they were at
enmity with the Dervishes and desired the friendship and assistance of
the Nubas.

Meanwhile Mahmud pitched his camp at Rahad, and was in constant
readiness for the attack. At first the Nubas were inclined to fall into
the trap, and made a treaty of friendship with the Takruris; but they
too had recourse to a still more successful stratagem, and when the
Takruris seemed quite certain of their prey, the Nubas suddenly fell
upon them during a wild, stormy night and killed almost all of them,
very few escaped, and Mahmud was obliged to return crestfallen to El

On the 15th of August, 1884, a great surprise came upon El Obeid. Quite
unexpectedly, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, a European and
three Arabs, mounted on good camels, entered the open yard of the
Mudirieh, where Ali Bakhit, the chiefs, and a number of Dervishes were
assembled. The European dismounted, and boldly advanced towards the
crowd. He was tall, and gave one the impression of being a powerful and
energetic man; he had a fair beard, and his face was very sunburnt. His
appearance made a great commotion amongst the Dervishes.

Immediately all sorts of wild rumours were flying about; some said he
was the King of France; others that he was one of the principal
ministers of that nation. He wore a jibbeh, white cap and turban, and at
once was directed to Ali Bakhit. Being unable to speak Arabic, Father
Bonomi was immediately summoned to act as interpreter; but he had much
difficulty in making himself understood.

The stranger informed Bonomi that he had marched from Dongola to El
Obeid in thirteen days; that he had escaped from Dongola, as the English
had endeavoured to thwart him in his projects; that his name was Olivier
Pain, and that he was the bearer of letters from Zubeir Pasha to the
Mahdi; but that fear of the English had obliged him to destroy them. He
said that he came in the name of France, to place his nation's
submission in the Mahdi's hands; and that he was prepared to assist the
Mahdi, both by advice and, if required, by deeds.

After this statement Olivier Pain was searched, and at once relieved of
his money; a small hut was then pointed out, in which he was to live, in
charge of a guard; the three guides were also secured in another place.
The Dervishes did not credit Pain's statement; they could not believe it
possible that a European would voluntarily come into the Sudan to join
the Mahdi; they entirely distrusted Europeans, whose mental superiority
they thoroughly recognised; they therefore concluded that Pain was a spy
sent by the English to take stock of the situation.

On the following day Bonomi was again summoned; the various articles
Pain had brought with him were laid before him, such as books of travels
in the Sudan, an Arabic dictionary, a Kuran in French, a few maps,
letters, and a passport. Bonomi had to explain these various articles to
the Dervishes, who were not a little surprised about the maps of the
Sudan, and more especially that of Kordofan. It is true there was
nothing found in Pain's baggage of a suspicious nature; still, the
Dervishes did not trust him; and he was kept under a very strict guard;
we were not permitted to visit him.

The next day Pain complained of the bad food he was given; but the
Dervishes gave him wholesome instruction: they told him that the true
adherents of the Mahdi were dead to the things of this world. Poor
Pain's mind must have been sadly disabused by this reception.

The Dervishes were full of curiosity about this strange Frenchman's
doings and intentions, and kept worrying us to know why he should have
come; but it was also a mystery to us; and when they asked him, he
always gave the same answer--"The whole of the European nations, more
especially France, and with the one exception of England, entirely
sympathised with the Mahdi." He was asked if the Senussi had risen
against the unbelievers in Egypt; but he replied that the Senussi
feared the English. When asked what the English were doing, he replied
that they were building forts at Assuan; whereupon Ali Bakhit
observed--"May God destroy their forts." But, question as they would,
Pain's arrival and his reasons for coming still remained a mystery to
them. He was therefore sent, in charge of a large escort, to Mahmud at
Rahad; Mahmud received him well, gave him a horse and a female slave,
and sent him on to the Mahdi, who was then on his march to Omdurman.

On the 28th of August Pain arrived at Aigella, where one of our El Obeid
Mission brothers was staying; the latter at once inquired of Pain what
he was going to do. On this occasion, it appears, he spoke more openly;
he asked if the brother understood French; but the latter replied that
he could not speak it, though he understood it. Then Pain proceeded to
say that he was correspondent of a newspaper, and came to see the Mahdi
and his empire, about which he intended to write full accounts to his

This brother endeavoured to explain to him the difficulties he would be
sure to meet with, and on what dangerous ground he was treading, adding
that it was most unlikely he would ever return; but Pain replied that if
he succeeded in his undertaking, he would receive an immense reward; and
that hitherto the Dervishes had not treated him badly; moreover, he was
full of energy, and would not give up hope of escape in the future. Pain
also explained to the brother the difficulties with which the English
expedition would be sure to meet, and how he believed Khartum would
certainly be lost.

Pain caught up the Mahdi at the village of Busata. Various were the
surmises of those in camp regarding his intentions. Slatin, Klootz, and
the other Europeans were especially perplexed. Olivier Pain had imagined
that the immense services which he would be able to render the Mahdi
would cause the latter to receive him with open arms; but the poor man
was sadly deluded. He was presented to the Mahdi, who greeted him
coldly, and asked him his reasons for coming. Pain replied--"To
acknowledge you as Mahdi, and to lay before you the submission of the
French nation." The Mahdi gave an ironic smile, as much as to say he did
not believe a word Pain was saying; and then he ordered Abu Anga to take
charge of him, guard him most carefully, and permit no one to see him.

During the march to Shatt, Klootz managed to approach Pain, and began
talking to him; but for this disobedience he was at once seized and put
in chains. On Slatin's representations, however, to the Khalifa
Abdullah, he was released.

At Shatt, Pain began to suffer from dysentery and fever, brought on by
over-fatigue and bad water. The Mahdi permitted Slatin to visit him; and
Pain's wretched condition so disturbed Slatin that he begged the Mahdi
to give him a little money, with which he could buy some better food,
which it was absolutely necessary Pain should have.

But his disease became worse; and it was with the greatest difficulty he
could continue his march to Om Sadik. Here his condition became
hopeless; he explained that he could go on no longer, and begged for
some medicine. The custom in the Sudan is to drink melted butter; and
after Pain had taken a little, he was placed on a camel; but it had
scarcely gone a few steps, when he was seized with a fainting fit, and
fell off. As he lay unconscious on the ground, and was deathly pale, his
guards believed that he must be dead; so they dug a rough grave, in
which poor Pain was laid, covered him over with sand, and then hurried
on. It is quite possible the unfortunate man was not dead. They marked
his grave by planting his stick in the sand, and tying his sandals to
it. This event occurred on the 15th of November, 1884.

Early in September, Lupton Bey, Mudir of Bahr el Ghazal arrived at El
Obeid; he had been permitted to retain his property, and he was most
kind to us; indeed, I have no words to express our gratitude to him for
his unvarying generosity to us. He told us a great deal about his own
fights, and related how, after the destruction of General Hicks, the
Mahdi had despatched the two slave-dealer brothers Karamallah and
Kirkesawi from Dongola to the Bahr el Ghazal. Karamallah had summoned
Lupton Bey to surrender; but Lupton, as his letters to Emin Pasha show,
determined to fight; his subordinate officers, however, almost all
deserted him, and joined the Mahdiists, and the few who remained loyal
eventually refused to fight. Indeed, I have seen the actual document
they drew up and signed to that effect. Lupton, who at that time was
thoroughly exhausted by his constant warfare against the Dinkas, had
therefore no alternative but to submit, which he did on the 28th of
April, 1884.

A few days later Lupton, with his kavass and clerk, were sent as
prisoners to El Obeid, _viâ_ Shakka. His arrival was a welcome addition
to our little circle, and it was a very great comfort to us to have the
society of such a genuine and kind friend as Lupton in these times of
trial. He remained with us for about a month; at that time we had daily
information about the movements of the English expedition, and we now
hoped that the time for our deliverance was approaching. Many of the
Mahdiists themselves were getting tired of the new _régime_, which gave
neither rest nor security of property to anyone. It was through these
malcontents that we obtained news which gave us food for argument and
speculation during the long and weary days of our captivity.

This life of a slave was terribly obnoxious to poor Lupton, who
frequently gave way to bursts of indignation, and in one of these Sherif
Mahmud arrested him, and in the first week of October he despatched him
under escort to the Mahdi. On his arrival at Omdurman he was put in
chains, where he remained for ten months, as he had attempted to escape
to Khartum. During this period of captivity, Lupton underwent terrible
sufferings, which I could not possibly describe.

Shortly after Lupton left us, we received a letter from Slatin, saying
that Gordon intended holding out until the English arrived, at the same
time he urged us to try and obtain leave to come to Omdurman; but this
was impossible. Another friend also told us that he hoped shortly to be
able to effect our release; but in his letter he wrote in such a manner
that we alone were able to grasp his meaning, for he feared that what he
had written might fall into the hands of the Dervishes.

Our anxiety can readily be understood, for we felt certain that if the
English were victorious, we should be killed in revenge. Sherif Mahmud
had already received orders from the Mahdi to encamp outside the town,
and be prepared for any eventuality. So our days passed in a whirl of
hopes and fears, and death would have been welcome.

But now a new disaster occurred; the circumstantial account of the death
of Colonel Stewart and his party, and the fact that the state of Khartum
was rapidly becoming desperate, made us full of doubt as to Gordon's
fate. The fall of Omdurman further confirmed our fears, and we trembled
to think that Khartum would fall before the English arrived. The
prolonged resistance of the town, and the knowledge that the English
were almost there, caused no small alarm amongst the people in El Obeid;
when, therefore, Sherif Mahmud ordered a salute of one hundred guns to
be fired to announce a great victory, the reaction was tremendous.

The news of the fall of Khartum and of the English victory at Abu Klea
reached El Obeid the same day. Mahmud held a great review, and the
Mahdiists were wild with joy. Thus the last bulwark of Egyptian
authority in the Sudan had disappeared; the English turned back and left
the Sudan to its fate. The Mahdi rested for a time on his laurels, and
occupied himself with bringing into subjection the few who still

Sherif Mahmud now determined to make himself famous for his bravery, and
resolved to conquer the whole of Nuba, and convert the inhabitants. As a
first step, he proceeded with a force of two thousand men straight to
Delen; these good people had been left unmolested since Mek Omar had
taken his departure, and had gone back to their peaceful ways and former
mode of life, which consisted largely of breeding swine, planting
tobacco, and drinking marissa to their heart's content.

The Baggaras, who lived in Nuba, and of whom many had been unwillingly
forced to follow the Mahdi, were getting somewhat tired of the new
faith. Khojur Kakum was just in the same position as before, and had
gained considerably in reputation, as he had foretold correctly how the
Mahdi would conduct himself. Mahmud duly arrived at Delen, and encamped
at the foot of the hills.

On Mahmud's departure, we thought the time had at length arrived when we
might attempt to escape, for long ago we had projected a plan to get the
Kababish to assist us. Formerly this tribe did much of the carrying
trade between Dongola and El Obeid, and they had already proved that
they were loyal to the Government. It was said that when the English
came to Dongola, this tribe was bringing thousands of camels laden with
corn from Dar Hamer; but when Mahmud heard of it, he sent after them,
and captured two thousand five hundred loads, so from that time no
Kababish ever came to El Obeid. This, therefore, greatly interfered with
our plans; besides, we had no money either to buy camels or pay the
guides, so I reverted to my old idea, which I had formulated at Rahad,
to escape to Jebel Dobab and live with the brave Nubas.

I was thinking over this plan, and casting up in my mind the chances of
success, when, on the 4th of June, 1885, a Coptic friend of ours called
Sideham arrived, and handed Father Bonomi a small note, saying at the
same time that a man had come to take him back to Dongola, and that he
would meet him in the market next day. Bonomi and I then retired to a
place where we knew no one would see us, and there in fear and trembling
we tore open the letter; then Bonomi, in the deepest agitation, read as

"Dear Friend, I am sending this man so that you may escape with him.
Trust him--he is honest. Monsignor Sogaro awaits you in Cairo with
outstretched arms. Your fellow-countryman, ALOIS SANTONI."

For some moments we were so excited we could scarcely speak; but my
first thought was, "Why is Bonomi only sent for?" and the feeling that
flight was debarred from me, filled me with the most utter dejection.

It was to be my sad fate to see my companion in adversity start without
me; then a ray of hope flashed across my mind, possibly the man might be
the bearer of a verbal message. It was the very moment for flight; there
were very few Dervishes in El Obeid. Oh, the terrible length of that day
and night! How slowly the hours went by!

The next morning Bonomi went alone to the place of rendezvous. I thought
if I went with him it might create suspicion; but at the same time I
begged him to urge the man to take me with him as well. Bonomi met the
man, and it required only a very few moments to come to an arrangement.
How I longed for him to return and know the result. At length he came,
looking very pleased; but the man, he said, had definitely declined to
take me with him; however, he promised that if he succeeded in
conducting Bonomi safely, he would return for me in fifteen days.

I grieved terribly at the news that my flight must be deferred; but, on
the other hand, I rejoiced that one of us should be fortunate enough to
escape from this terrible bondage. The man told Father Bonomi not to
trouble about anything, but merely to meet him on Mount Korbatsh, where
he would find him with the camels.

On the afternoon of the 5th of June, Bonomi prepared himself for flight,
taking a large knife with him. We left our huts, and proceeded to the
rendezvous; our hearts were too full to speak. At last I left him; and
pressing him to my heart, bade him farewell, saying--"Do not forget your
poor companion in adversity, who is left behind."


Many a time did I turn round to look back, until Bonomi disappeared from
view in the wood. It was just sunset, and a lovely evening, which made
even that dull plain look beautiful. Wild, anxious thoughts kept
careering through my brain, as I walked back to my wretched and solitary
home. Would Bonomi succeed, and what would happen to me? for I knew that
the Dervishes must conclude that I knew about Bonomi's flight. So
immersed was I in these thoughts that I kept on losing my way, and did
not get back till late.

My delay had already caused some suspicion; but I found a ready excuse.
I said that I had been searching for corn; for at that time there was
famine; and nothing was to be had in the market. My excuse was accepted,
and fortunately they did not think of asking for Bonomi. I now threw
myself down on my hard bed; but my weary eyes found no sleep. I kept
revolving in my mind all that had occurred; but at length I determined
to pluck up courage and put my trust in God; and then my thoughts turned
to more practical considerations. How should I explain Bonomi's absence
to the emir without saying anything which would implicate myself?

It was a hot, sultry night, but a refreshing shower fell just then; and
in the midst of the patter of the rain-drops, I thought I heard Bonomi's
voice in the hut. What could it be? Had he returned? A thousand wild
thoughts crowded into my mind; but I did not dare make a noise, though
it was all I could do to control my curiosity.

I rose very early the next morning, and searched about the hut; but
found no one. It was at any rate quite certain Bonomi had gone; but yet
I felt sure he must have come back during the night. It was not until
six long years afterwards, when I returned to Cairo, that I solved the
mystery; and then he himself told me how, after parting from me, he had
lost his way, and could not find the guide or camels; after vainly
wandering about, he had returned to the hut, where the Copt who had
given him the note found him, and conducted him to the Arab with whom
he had escaped.

I must here explain why it was the messenger had only been commissioned
to rescue Father Bonomi; and this I did not learn till after my own
escape. News had reached Cairo that I was in Omdurman, and that Bonomi
had been left alone in El Obeid; and therefore arrangements had been
made for his rescue only.[H]

Meanwhile, I kept Bonomi's escape concealed; and it was not until the
fourth day after he had left, and when I was assured of his safety, that
I informed the emin beit el mal[I] that he had gone to Khartum to fetch
some medicine. I believe this man thoroughly knew that he had escaped;
but he did not show the slightest suspicion, and ordered us to go to
Khartum as well; and we were placed under close surveillance. He also
wrote to Sherif Mahmud at Delen, and to Khartum; a few days later orders
came from Mahmud that we were to be imprisoned in the zariba of the beit
el mal. That evening, soldiers came and dragged us and our slender
property to the zariba; and while waiting till huts should be made for
us, we were housed with slaves suffering from small-pox.

This disease was then very prevalent in El Obeid, and horrible sights
continually met our eyes. These unfortunate sufferers had no one to help
them, and they were left to die, either of the disease, or of hunger;
they lay about under the trees in the market-place, shunned by every
one; often, when still living, they were dragged off by men, who tied
ropes round their bodies, and pulled them along the ground till they
were beyond the outskirts of the town; and there they were left to be
devoured by the hyenas.

A dreadful famine prevailed, and the population was decimated by
hunger; ten to twelve pounds of corn were sold for a dollar, and the man
was fortunate who could buy it at this price. In the market, fights were
frequent; meat, however, was not so expensive, and we lived for days on
meat only, without any bread. The poor people used to dig about the
streets and in the houses for gum, which they knew had been concealed
during the siege; and this unwholesome food frequently caused their

The air in the zariba was poisoned by the number of people suffering
from small-pox; but curiously enough, the disease never seemed to touch
the white people. My new abode turned out to be not so bad as I
expected. I became friends with some of the soldiers who used to be in
the Government service, and sympathised with them in their wretched
state; these poor men often tried to do me any little service they

It was about this time that Sultan Dud Benga, flying from Zogal,
arrived, on his way to give himself up to the Mahdi in Omdurman, and
also a certain Sherif, who set himself up to be the fourth
Khalifa--Osman. The latter, however, on his arrival in Omdurman, was
thrown into chains, and his wives, horses, and slaves confiscated. I
planted a few water-melons round my hut, which grew well; and I used to
amuse myself by watching the movements of the chameleons which disported
themselves underneath the leaves; but one day a fire broke out, which
destroyed my hut, water-melons, chameleons, and all; and so this little
dissipation was denied me. However, I built a new hut in a few days.

Almost a month had now passed since Bonomi's departure, and I began to
look about anxiously for the return of the Arab who was to help me to
escape. During the night I had cautiously loosened the zariba hedge, so
that I could easily get out, when the time came; but day by day passed,
and I began to lose hope. I did hear a rumour once that a man had come
to help us to escape, but that on hearing we were locked up in the
zariba, he had gone away. This was very probably true; for the Arabs are
excessively timid; and we were as universally shunned by all as if we
were infested with a plague; if anyone dared to speak to us, he was
almost sure to be arrested and locked up.

Thus we dragged out a miserable existence, devoid of hope, shunned by
all, and suffering much from continual sickness. One event, however,
unexpectedly occurred, which we thought would completely alter the state
of affairs, and would produce a revolution, in which we again thought we
saw some chance of escape.

Early in July 1885, the news of the Mahdi's death arrived. At first it
was not credited, and the leading people thought it better to keep it a
strict secret, but their dismal countenances belied them. It was a
terrible blow to the Dervishes, and they themselves believed that
disturbances would undoubtedly take place, for the number of malcontents
was by no means small. The truth, however, soon came out, and the
immediate effect on the ignorant masses was the realization that they
had been deceived, and that the Mahdi was no Mahdi at all. Hitherto
Mahdiism had been thoroughly admitted, and it was their belief in the
Mahdi's divine mission which had given birth to the fanaticism which had
made them so bold and fearless--the belief that to die in battle as
martyrs assured them paradise with its myriads of lovely houris, its
lovely gardens, laden with milk and honey, fruits and flowers.

All this was implicitly believed. What wonder then that they should
throw themselves into the very thickest of the fight in the sure and
certain hope that to die in the Mahdi's cause ensured eternal delights
and pleasures! Now all these glorious visions had collapsed like a house
of cards, and in the future Mahdiism to live would have to be enforced.
From this time forth there was no voluntary seeking to obey, and it was
clear that the new Religion was on the wane.

The family and adherents of the Mahdi were at variance with the
followers of Khalifa Abdullah, the latter by his immense energy had made
himself master of the situation. But the glow and fervour of religious
enthusiasm was gone.

The blow of the Mahdi's death almost killed Sherif Mahmud; many of his
chiefs and emirs muttered: "See how the Mahdi has deceived us. Had he
been the real Mahdi he would not have died in Omdurman. Alas! what
thousands of human lives have been sacrificed to this false Mahdi's
caprice." Mahmud was at a loss to know what to say and contented himself
with murmuring: "Even if the Mahdi be dead, his religion did not die
with him; let us therefore fight in the cause of religion."

Nevertheless all obedience and discipline did not disappear, for these
men had still their own interests to look after: but it was unfortunate
there was no one to place himself at the head of the malcontents and
openly declare that the Mahdi was no Mahdi.

Mahmud now returned without delay to El Obeid, and immediately on his
arrival he ordered the criers to announce that he required some account
of Father Bonomi's escape. He was furious at his flight; he sent for me
and asked where he had gone; I simply replied, that he had disappeared
one night and that the next morning I could find no trace of him in the
hut. If Mahmud had not been so upset by the Mahdi's death, I believe I
should have had to pay dearly for his flight. As it was he believed that
Bonomi would be seized by the Dervishes in Dongola, and at the same time
he sent out spies to try and discover who had assisted him to escape.
Suspicion fell on Mohammed Suleiman, who had been our old captain at
Delen and who was now the kadi's clerk; he was threatened with a
flogging, which he would certainly have received had not his master
begged him off.

Mahmud brought with him from Delen the unfortunate Khojur Kakum; this
poor man was thrown into chains soon after his arrival, and his hut and
the chair which he used for his religious ceremonies were burnt. The
Nubas were solemnly abjured to desist from their superstitious beliefs,
and Mahmud made a small straw mosque for them in which they were obliged
to say prayers; but the Nubas set fire to it, and after Mahmud's
departure they named their pigs after the Mahdi's important emirs.

When Kakum was on his way to El Obeid, he had had a bad fall from a
bullock, which had injured him internally and made it almost impossible
for him to move: he was put into our zariba, and soon after he came I
went to see him and found him in a state of profound dejection. He was
very pleased to see me, and the tears rolled down his black cheeks; he
was so affected he could barely speak, and lost all control over
himself. His two wives were sitting near him--one of them, Mea, was a
thoroughly good woman, and many a happy hour did I spend playing with
her little child of six years old. Kakum gave me coffee, and we talked
over the old days at the Mission, then I left him to rest. That same
night I was suddenly summoned by Mea, who said that Kakum was seriously
ill; I hastened to the hut and found him almost unconscious, and in a
few hours he was dead. He was a thoroughly good, sensible man, and had
been a faithful friend to the Mission and to the Government. He died in
July 1885, and I think he must then have been about fifty-five years of
age. His second wife married the Khojur of Sobei, who had also been
dragged to El Obeid by Mahmud; but Mea did not marry again. She devoted
herself to her little child.

The boy delighted in being with me, and said he always wanted to stay
with the Christians; but a month later Mea and her child were allowed to
return to Delen. I gave the boy a little shirt, and in return Mea
promised to send me some tobacco; and, true to her word, a messenger
arrived soon afterwards with that luxury, in return for which I sent her
some glass beads.

During his stay at Delen, Mahmud had captured Shirra, one of the
renegade Baggara chiefs, and his two sons. This man had formerly been
our sworn enemy, and had declared that he would kill every one of us
Christians; but when this great chief and his sons came into the zariba
they greeted me like lambs, and when, in fun, I recalled to them their
former oaths, they admitted that they had been completely deceived, and
now that they had not words sufficient to praise the Christians or to
curse the Mahdi. It was no little satisfaction to me to find such an
entire change of mind and purpose in one who had been our bitterest foe.
Thus was justice tardily meted out to us.

Meanwhile Khalifa Abdullah had sent an order from Omdurman to Mahmud,
telling him to set out forthwith for Omdurman to swear the Bea'a (or
oath of allegiance) to the Mahdi's successor. Mahmud therefore, in
August 1885, left El Obeid with a large number of followers.


[H] Father Bonomi arrived safely in Dongola, and Mr. Santoni,
who is now director of posts at Assiut, was rewarded by His Holiness
Pope Leo XIII. with the Order of Gregory the Great, in recognition of
the humane service he had rendered.

[I] _I.e._ the official in charge of the beit el mal or Dervish
storehouse and treasury.



     The black soldiers of the old Sudan army--They revolt against the
     Dervishes in El Obeid--And march off to Dar Nuba--The emir Mahmud
     pursues and is slain--Ohrwalder quits El Obeid for Omdurman--Zogal
     and Abu Anga at Bara.

The old Sudanese soldiers of the Egyptian army were perhaps, of all
others, the most dissatisfied with Mahdiism. These brave blacks who, as
they say in the Sudan, "had eaten the Khedive's bread," were now in a
wretched state compared with the once miserable Gellabas, who now
galloped about proudly on horseback, while in former years they had
scarcely a donkey to their name. Several of these soldiers had been to
Egypt, some had been servants to Europeans, and most of them had been in
the various fights which had previously taken place in the Sudan. Sherif
Mahmud, it is true, treated them with some deference, and gave them corn
when he refused to give it to the Gellabas who were starving; but in
spite of this, their previous condition was infinitely preferable to
their life under Mahdiist rulers. There were about two hundred of these
soldiers in El Obeid; shortly afterwards, a number of slaves arrived,
and quite recently their numbers had been further increased by the
addition of a company sent by Zogal.

Many of these men had fought under Munzinger Pasha, and under Slatin
Bey, and were distinguished for their bravery; their total number was
now three hundred, under the command of an Egyptian mowallid,[J] named
Abdullah. These men used to complain of being always placed in the
forefront of the battle; and they were further irritated by the arrogant
way in which they were treated by the Danagla and their unbearable emir
Wad el Hashmi, who used to call them "abd" (_i.e._ slave); they
therefore decided to revolt against this tyrannical rule, and in this
their emir supported them. It was agreed that they should await the
great Dahiyeh festival, and when they were all out on parade, and the
Dervishes were going through their prayers, they would suddenly separate
themselves and, trusting to their good rifles, would be able to
annihilate their hated enemies; but the thought that a number of
innocent people would be thus sacrificed, decided them to await some
other more favourable opportunity. It was often a matter of surprise to
me how these blacks managed to keep their secret, which even all their
women knew.

A clever young mukuddum lived near my hut, and did me many a kindness;
he often used to bring me some meat to eat, as the soldiers who looked
after the sheep and goats taken from the Arabs frequently killed some
for their own food and then reported that they had died. At this time I
suffered a great deal from fever, I could not remain in my close and
small hut, and used to lie wide awake and tossing about on my hard bed
outside. I often saw the mukuddum in secret conversation with some of
his men, and then they would look at their arms to see they were all
right; this made me feel certain that some plot was brewing.

Amongst the soldiers I had also another good friend, Hajji Selim, who
was at all times ready to render me any little service, in return for
which I used to give him a little coffee or some tobacco. Hajji Selim
had a curious story. He was born in Bornu, and when young had joined his
father, who was going with a caravan to Mecca. Whilst journeying through
the Sahara, they came to a district in which two tribes were at war; he
joined one of them, but was taken prisoner by the other, sold as a
slave, and taken to Tunis; from here, he was brought to Constantinople,
where he became the playfellow of his master's son, and in this way
learnt the Turkish language. Soon afterwards his master was sent to
Egypt as a Pasha, and he came with him, from thence they went on a
pilgrimage to Mecca, hence his title of Hajji. On their return to Cairo,
the master died, his property was confiscated, and Selim was taken into
the army. He was sent to Sawakin, then he served under Munzinger Pasha
at Massawa, and was with him at the time of his murder; from here he was
sent to Darfur, then to Kordofan, and eventually to Delen, where he was
taken prisoner with Mohammed Suleiman, and thus became attached to the

This unfortunate man, though comparatively young, had become aged by
constant travelling, he was homeless, and had neither wife nor child; he
wore an old coat which had been given to him by some of Hicks Pasha's
soldiers, it was riddled with bullet-holes, covered with patches of
blood, and very dirty; however, that did not much matter to him, as he
had no soap to wash it; he always wore the hood of his coat over his
head, which further added to his curious appearance. He made his coat
into a species of Dervish uniform by patching up the holes with the
pieces of an old tarbush; but withal he was a thoroughly honest man, and
I liked him. I also knew I could rely on him to carry out a secret
mission, and therefore, after Bonomi had fled, I had made over to him
some money and two volumes of the 'Popular Educator,' which Lupton Bey
had given me, and which I looked upon as a priceless treasure. I did
this because I was afraid that Sherif Mahmud would confiscate my little
all; but when all fear was over, the honest man brought back everything
just as I had given it to him. At that time I had no suitable place in
my hut to hide them, so I asked him to keep them a few days longer; but,
alas! my books were to become food for the flames, which soon afterwards
devoured the camp, and this was an irreparable loss. I tried to find but
from Hajji Selim what plot was brewing; but all my inquiries were
fruitless. He would not breathe a word, and from that time I saw no
more of him, for he was afraid that my importunity might make him
divulge the secret. I knew perfectly well that he must have been one of
the conspirators, and as I never saw him again, I presume he must have
been killed.

The above little incident is merely mentioned to show how zealously the
soldiers kept their secret; but all the same, the people in El Obeid had
a notion that something was going to happen, and one day an order was
suddenly given that a hundred soldiers were to prepare to proceed to Dar
Hamer. In this way they thought to split up the party, and then disarm
them; but the men guessed that this was the intention, and therefore
decided to execute their plan the following day.

That night I was lying outside as usual; the sky was particularly
brilliant, and I was watching the myriads of shooting stars which,
leaving bright trails behind them, burst suddenly like rockets, and
illumined the night till it became for an instant almost as light as
day. Every one wondered at this curious phenomenon, and foretold that it
meant mischief of some sort, and, curiously, there was mischief enough
in the air that night.

The next day, at about noon, I was startled by the sound of firing, and
bullets were suddenly flying over my head. In my alarm I had rushed out
of the hut, and saw that the firing was from the direction of the
powder-magazine. To my intense surprise, I did not see a solitary
soldier in the zariba; even their wives had gone, and had taken their
household goods away with them. I shouted and cried out, but no one
answered; a few women passed by, but they were too occupied to answer
me; they, too, soon disappeared, and the whole place, which but a few
moments before had been a Babel of din and noise, became silent as the
grave. In the distance I could hear continuous firing, and occasionally
I caught sight of women and children running away in a northerly

I now thought it time to quit the zariba myself. I seized a bayonet, and
tried to push aside the thorns, but they were so firmly fixed in the
ground, that I could not move them. I then made for the gate, and here
there was not a soul to be seen; even the slaves in chains had
disappeared. Bullets were now flying in all directions. I went towards
the Emir Abdullah's house, and found him standing by his door in a state
of great agitation, with only two soldiers. In reply to my question as
to what was the matter, he answered in a surly tone: "These beit el mal
slaves have destroyed everything." These words were scarcely out of his
mouth, when fifty Dervishes with drawn swords suddenly rushed up, and
with frightful yells dragged him and his men off to the courtyard of the
Mudirieh. I followed them. Here an enormous crowd of Dervishes was
collected, and, wild with rage, they would have torn Abdullah to pieces
had not Wad el Hashmi stopped them.

The Dervishes now accused Abdullah of having incited the soldiers; but
he protested that he knew nothing of the affair, and in proof of his
statement urged that he had not quitted his house; but it was useless.
The air resounded with cries of "Cut off his head!" and he was obliged
to kneel down. With one blow his head rolled on the sand; both the
soldiers were also beheaded, and their bodies thrown down near the
mosque, so that everyone might see them.

I now learnt that the soldiers had taken possession of the powder
magazine, which consisted of a square yard, with small towers at the
corners; it had been utilized as a magazine in Government days. All arms
and ammunition were stored here, and a number of Egyptians were employed
moulding bullets and filling cartridges; there were also quantities of
caps, and all the necessary implements. The soldiers had broken into
this place, killed the guards, made loopholes, and prepared for defence;
they had burnt down most of the houses in the town, and forced all they
met to join them. Two Egyptians who refused to do so were at once
killed. The Dervishes had rushed, in a body, to attempt to recover the
magazine, but had been shot down in numbers; several emirs also fell in
this assault, and no one dared to return to recover their bodies. At
length, having rallied from their first failure, they again collected
and advanced--this time with more order--to the attack; but the
soldiers, who had learnt of their Emir Abdullah's death, fought with
desperate courage, and again drove them back, with heavy loss.

The Dervishes now assembled beside the great gate of the Mudirieh, and
consulted what was best to be done; they were thoroughly alarmed, and no
wonder; for everyone who came within range of the fort was almost
certainly shot down. Amongst these was Fiki Isa, of the Shanabla, who
was struck in the neck by a bullet, and fell dead at once. Naturally, I
fled as soon as possible from this dangerous proximity, and went to the
house of a clerk, whose walls I knew would give me protection.

The firing now became faster, and the soldiers sounded the trumpet for
the attack on the Mudirieh, intending to capture the guns which stood
outside the gate; but the Dervishes had withdrawn them and closed it, so
the troops were forced to retire; their ranks had been largely increased
by a number of male and female slaves, who, on hearing of the mutiny,
had at once left their masters.

Fighting lasted till nightfall; and at length, under cover of darkness,
I made my way back to the zariba, to see what had become of my
companions in adversity. I found it empty and deserted; even the cattle
had escaped somehow; and only two miserable slaves, suffering from
ferentit (guinea-worm), and who were unable to move, remained behind. I
was feverish and restless; so returned again to the Mudirieh, to see
what was going forward there. I found a crowd of Dervishes, exasperated
at the idea of having been defeated by the "slave-soldiers," as they
called them; more of their emirs had been killed; and the chief, Wad
Hashmi, had been mortally wounded, and died the following day. When the
Dervishes caught sight of me (hitherto I had passed unnoticed), they
ordered me back to the zariba, threatening to kill me if I again left
it; I suppose they did this because they thought I might join the
mutineers. It was believed that the soldiers would attack and capture
the town the next day. How I wish they had had a good leader!

My companions and I now found ourselves in the beit el mal again, under
the guard of four soldiers. Worn out with excitement, I threw myself
down on my angarib; the success of the mutineers again revived in my
breast hopes of release; and with this pleasing thought, I dropped off
into a sound slumber.

I was suddenly roused up by one of the guard prodding me with the butt
end of his rifle, and saying--"When everyone is in terror of his life,
how can you sleep?" So I reluctantly had to get up, and began chatting
to the guard, as I feared any display of satisfaction on my part would
probably call down vengeance from them. We talked over the events of the
day; and I soon realised that the Dervishes were, in truth, greatly

The powder magazine was not far from the beit el mal, so we could
overhear a great deal of what was going on there; and one would have
imagined that they were engaged in marriage festivities rather than in
bloody warfare. The whole night through they kept up singing; the women
were dancing, and the men drinking marissa: every now and then the
trumpets were sounded, which seemed to add to the women's delight; they
were all laughing over the Mahdi's doings, heaping insults on him and
his religion; and still further exasperating the Dervishes by shouting
out to them to come and join them in a drinking bout.

But whilst these good blacks were enjoying themselves in the magazine,
the Dervishes had fortified the beit el mal, and placed bodies of
troops, with their flags, in different parts. Occasionally, the blacks
fired a volley into them, which made them disperse, leaving their flag
behind them. Everyone was in a state of most anxious expectancy for the
next day; it was looked upon as certain that a fight would take place
between the Dervishes and the soldiers, which would finally decide
matters; and that night there was little sleep for anyone.

Early the next morning the soldiers played the Khedivial salute, which
stirred us to the quick; and by the time the sun had risen, firing had
recommenced, and was continued up till nine o'clock. The soldiers made a
few raids on camels and donkeys, but did not attempt to attack the
Dervishes; and it was not at all clear what they intended to do. The
Dervish emir, being certain that the mutineers were quite demoralized,
sent their imam (priest) to tell them that if they wished to surrender,
they would receive pardon; this exasperated the blacks beyond measure;
the imam was told not to talk nonsense; and was then deliberately
dragged out about fifty paces from the fort, pierced through and through
with his own spears, and his body thrown out in the direction of the
Mudirieh, whilst the soldiers shouted out--"This is the head in return
for the head of our Emir Abdullah." They continued to make desultory
sorties during the day, and captured a quantity of animals.

In the afternoon they left the powder magazine; the band playing, women
and children marching in front; then came the ammunition, surrounded by
armed men, and lastly, the soldiers, marching in good order, and
disposed in such a manner as to resist any sudden assault.

The Dervishes, however, determined to attack, and, marshalling their
banners, they made for the powder magazine, which they found quite
deserted; the soldiers had thrown into the wells all the powder they
could not carry. There were only five fresh graves in the magazine,
which showed that the soldiers had lost only five men, whilst the
Dervishes had lost about five hundred.

Meanwhile, the blacks were marching gaily towards Melbeis; but the
Dervishes, more furious than ever after their discoveries in the
magazine, set off in hot pursuit; and when they had got within a short
distance of their enemy, they were received by a well-directed volley,
which killed some fifty of them; the remainder fled in disorder to El
Obeid. The total number of the blacks, including the slaves who had
joined them, did not exceed one thousand men, whilst the Dervishes more
than trebled that number. Had they only had a competent commander, there
is no doubt they could easily have captured El Obeid. They continued
their march, unopposed, to Nuba, and arrived first of all at Delen,
where they established themselves, and selected Beshir, an old soldier
of Slatin Bey's, to be their Mudir. Mahdiism was entirely renounced, and
the Khedive's Government proclaimed. Anyone who swore by the Mahdi's
name received eighty lashes; the regular form of swearing was--"Hakk ras
Effendina" ("By the Khedive's head!") Strict discipline was enforced.
Any one found selling arms or ammunition to the Nubas was punished with
death, and the sentence was carried out by shooting.

Shortly afterwards, they quitted Delen and marched to Jebel Naïma, the
inhabitants of which place are known as the bravest of the Nubas; but
here they still seemed to think themselves too close to their hated
enemies, and therefore moved on to Golfan, where they took up a position
in an inaccessible mountain, were recognized by their neighbours as the
rulers of the country, and were supplied by them with quantities of
cattle and sesame.

In the meantime Sherif Mahmud, in Omdurman, had been fully informed of
all that had occurred. He fell into a terrible passion, accused all his
emirs of cowardice, and proceeded forthwith to El Obeid. He would not
even enter his house, but encamped outside the town. Khalifa Abdullah
had ordered him to leave the mutineers alone, and to proceed, _viâ_ the
Es Safiyeh Wells, to Dongola; but Mahmud entirely disregarded this
order. He thirsted for vengeance against these rebels, and determined to
subdue them. Added to this, he had also conceived the idea of usurping
Khalifa Abdullah's authority. His object, therefore, was to increase
his power by regaining the co-operation of the soldiers, and so proud
and self-confident was he, that he believed they would never attempt to
fight against him.

Here, underneath the great Adansonia tree where the Mahdi had stayed so
long, he pitched his camp and made preparations for his advance on Nuba.
He called for volunteers, saying that he did not wish to force anyone to
go to war, and at the same time he endeavoured to encourage the people
by telling them that the Mahdi had appeared to him in a dream, and had
told him to advance and attack the rebels, promising him certain
victory. In spite of this summons, very few volunteered, and getting
thoroughly annoyed, he now threatened with death anyone who refused to
join him. Thus did Mahmud realise that the spirit of Mahdiism had almost
died out, and that in future force would be required to carry out its

He rapidly advanced with a force of 2,500 men, most of them armed with
Remingtons. On his way he was joined by a number of Arabs, which raised
his force to some 8,000 men. On arrival at Naïma he found that the
mutineers had moved on; he therefore advanced to Golfan, and sent in a
letter to the effect that if they surrendered he would give them a free
pardon. But the soldiers had had previous experience of Mahdieh
promises, and received the messengers with volleys, which soon made them
turn back. Mahmud determined, therefore, to invest his former adherents,
and, putting himself at the head of his troops, he advanced towards the
mountain; but the soldiers, concealed behind rocks, sent volley after
volley into the Dervish ranks. Mahmud received a bullet in his side,
but, nothing daunted, he continued to advance, carrying his own flag,
until another bullet, hitting him full on the forehead, killed him.

Already over a hundred Dervishes had fallen, and the remainder, hearing
that Mahmud was dead, turned tail and fled in disorder towards El Obeid.
The soldiers did not pursue, but took up Mahmud's body and gave him an
honourable burial befitting the brave man he was. In his death Mahdieh
lost perhaps the boldest of its adherents, and certainly the bravest of
the Mahdi's family. And though he had latterly given himself up to a
life of pleasure and debauchery, as all the rest had done, still he did
not fear exposing himself to every sort of danger.

Mahmud fell in the month of November 1885, and Khalifa Abdullah was by
no means displeased to be rid of a rival whose prowess and popularity he
greatly feared and envied.

In place of Sherif Mahmud, Abdullah despatched his brother Bakhit to
Kordofan; but he was a very different class of man, and was nicknamed
"Tor" ("The Bullock").

Soon afterwards Bakhit received orders to leave all his men at El Obeid
and to return to Omdurman. He was succeeded by the emir Wad el Hashmi,
who was followed by Osman Wad Adam (nicknamed "Ganu"), the Mahdi's

Preparations were now made to transport all Mahmud's people to Omdurman,
and in order to convey so many thousand people, camels were forcibly
seized. We also were released, and permitted to go to Omdurman. I had
passed too many miserable years in Kordofan not to rejoice at the
change: for a time I had a faint hope that someone might be sent by
Father Bonomi to assist me to escape, but now it seemed useless to hope
for this any longer, whereas, once at Omdurman, I might manage to escape
by myself. Our departure was delayed for a month.

El Obeid had gradually become a dirty Arab village; except meat and
dokhn, there was absolutely nothing to be got in the market. I suffered
much from dysentery. There were no medicines to be had, so I had to
trust to the recuperative powers of nature, assisted by a little rice
which was grown in the marshes about Birket. I had not a civilized soul
with whom to associate.

The Nubas of Jebel Dair did their utmost to harass El Obeid; they were
always hovering about in the outskirts, ready to pounce down on any
cattle and slaves they saw. It would have been madness to go an hour's
distance from the town without an escort. The Dervishes frequently made
attempts to clear the neighbourhood of these brigands, but I observed
that they always returned considerably fewer in number, and I secretly
rejoiced at their inability to cope with these brave Nubas. Taking
everything into consideration, I was not sorry to say good-bye to this
dreary and inhospitable town.

We were given four camels, whose owners acted as the drivers. It was
agreed that on arrival in Omdurman we should pay them at the rate of
seven dollars a camel.

On the 25th of March, 1886, we left El Obeid. What a flood of
recollections welled up in my mind as we marched for the last time
through the desolate ruins of the city! How strange had been the
vicissitudes of this once flourishing place during the last few years!
From a thriving and peaceful township it had been transformed into the
theatre of constant warfare and bloodshed. It had then been the scene of
the Mahdi's debaucheries, when he rested after his victories, and now it
had dwindled down into a wretched Arab village.

Our road took us past the site of the El Obeid Mission-house, of which
not a trace remained. In its place was the market, and a heap of white
bones indicated the locality of the cook's shop. We halted that evening
at Korbatsh; the next day we started very early; and after a two days'
march, arrived at Bara. This beautiful little town is situated in a
woody depression of the great Kordofan plain. In the distance we could
see the white ruins through the high acacia trees. Formerly the place
had been well planted with date-palms; but during the siege the
inhabitants had cut them down, and lived upon the crushed core.

In the Government days Bara had been a sort of sanatorium for El Obeid,
where the richer inhabitants used to spend the summer; they had made
lovely gardens, full of date-trees, lemon-plants, banana-trees, and
vines, while the vegetables used to be sold in El Obeid. The soil is
exceptionally fertile, and there is an abundance of water obtainable at
only six feet below the surface. But now the place was completely
destroyed and neglected; and wild bushes and thorns grew apace amidst
the ruins.

As we approached Bara, we heard the thunder of guns, and were told that
it was a salute announcing the arrival of Zogal, the Governor of Darfur,
with his troops. It was the 2nd of April. We halted under a large acacia
tree, and took down our angaribs, over which mats were tightly
stretched. The arrival of two large parties, one from El Obeid and one
from Darfur, soon changed this dismal graveyard into a noisy camp.

Zogal had brought with him 2,500 infantry, 4,000 black soldiers and
singers, and 1,500 good horses. He had over 10,000 dollars in his beit
el mal, besides what each of his men possessed--and that was no
inconsiderable quantity: for everyone had enriched himself in Darfur;
and all this wealth was destined to become the Khalifa Abdullah's
property. Zogal had organized bands in his army; and the same tunes
which had been played in the days of the Government, now resounded over
the deserted plains of Bara. Zogal's camp was a scene of pleasure and
merry-making. Marissa was publicly sold and drunk openly; all idea of
being within the Mahdi's jurisdiction seemed to have been forgotten.
Zogal was a liberal man; his principle was "live and let live;" and he
thoroughly enjoyed the good things of this life, which the Mahdi's
revolt had placed within his reach. He was a powerfully built, stout
man, of about sixty years of age, with a white beard, which gave him a
patriarchal appearance. He was known as the father of many children, and
was of an open-hearted and generous disposition.

Zogal's camp was pitched on the ruins of Bara; rich carpets were spread
over the sand, and there he sat, ready to see anybody and everybody at
any time of the day; abundance of food was always ready for all his
guests. The only thing for which Zogal should be blamed was his shooting
to death twenty-five Sanjaks and Turks, who had surrendered with Slatin,
on the fall of Darfur. These Sanjaks had sworn to revolt against
Mahdiism, but had been betrayed. With this exception, he had conducted
his rule with great moderation; he did all he possibly could to further
trade; and when in Bara I saw some French calico, which had come from
Tunis, _viâ_ Wadai, to Darfur. Zogal's Bazingers made a great impression
on me; they were a wild and turbulent lot, capable of great marching
power, and able to support long-continued privations.

Lupton Bey often used to tell me of the cannibal propensities of these
black warriors. In many instances, their only dress consisted of the
leather bandolier, or cartridge case, and a big leather bag, from which
a human leg could often be seen protruding; and in almost every bag some
human flesh or bones could be found. When I used to go to the market,
crowds of these swarthy warriors would collect to gaze on my white skin,
which, in truth, the sun had long since tanned to a very brown colour.

Zogal's nine days' halt in Bara soon came to an end. News came that
disturbances had occurred in Omdurman between Khalifas Abdullah and
Sherif; the latter had frequently written to Zogal to come to Khartum at
once, as he was most anxious to have him there. News was brought at the
same time that Abu Anga had arrived at El Obeid _viâ_ Birket; it was
rumoured that Abu Anga had been sent by Abdullah to arrest Zogal, for it
was reported that Zogal and Sherif had agreed to combine and wrest the
authority from Abdullah. Zogal was quite strong enough to overturn
Abdullah; but unfortunately he was no soldier, and Abdullah had secretly
won over a number of his emirs to his side.

Abu Anga pressed on from El Obeid, and, arriving at Bara, summoned Zogal
to surrender. The latter, however, prepared to fight; but most of his
Bazingers and emirs went over to Abu Anga's side, and he was soon left
with but a few followers, and easily fell into Abu Anga's hands; he was
at once put in chains and handed over to Said Bey Guma, who was at that
time commander of the artillery. All his property was confiscated. Abu
Anga did this in revenge, for Zogal had done exactly the same to Said
Bey when he took possession of Darfur. Zogal was now dragged in chains
to El Obeid, where he was left for a year to think over his changed
state. His emin beit el mal, Ibrahim Ramadan, was also seized on his way
to Omdurman, and brought back in chains to El Obeid, where he was
mercilessly flogged to make him disclose the hiding-place of the money;
but nothing would induce him to tell. He was subsequently taken to
Omdurman, where Abdullah received him well and gave him a situation in
the beit el mal.

Zogal's arrest was the signal for ill-treating all the Khalifa Sherif's
adherents; these were deprived of all their positions, and were replaced
by Abdullah's nominees. I had relied considerably on seeing a change for
the better if this attempt of Sherif and Zogal to upset Abdullah had
succeeded; but it had failed, and we again moved on towards Omdurman,
still further depressed by the feeling that Abdullah was growing more
and more powerful. By the time we arrived near Omdurman my camel had
died; the poor Arab wept bitterly for his loss, and I could do nothing
towards repaying him. On the evening of the 24th of April, 1886, we
encamped close to the town. A fearful sandstorm was blowing, and we were
enveloped in clouds of dust--a fitting advent to the capital of the
Mahdi's empire!


[J] The name given to natives of a mixed parentage; _i.e._,
generally an Egyptian or Turkish father and a Sudanese mother.



     Ohrwalder's arrival in Omdurman--His first impressions of the
     Dervish capital--Khalifa Abdullah's intentions to conquer
     Egypt--Wad Suleiman of the beit el mal--Wad Adlan
     succeeds--Gordon's clothes, medals, &c.--Adlan reorganizes the beit
     el mal--The slave market, museum, mint, and system of
     coinage--Counterfeit coining--The lithograph press--The Khalifa's
     system of justice.

The next morning--the 26th of April, 1886--we rose covered with dust
from head to foot, and by the time we had got under way again, the sun
was already high in the heavens, and was unusually hot. This was the
worst season of the year. The first place we came to was the Mahdi's old
camp, which was marked by a line of mud walls. From this position the
fort of Omdurman had been besieged, and innumerable human and animal
bones marked the site of this long-sustained conflict. To our right lay
the White Nile, flowing between its green banks, beyond it the Blue Nile
could just be seen, and the ruins of Khartum were visible behind the
thick belt of palm-trees.

Emerging from the arid deserts of Kordofan, the Nile with its green
banks was a most refreshing sight; on the other hand, the view of
Khartum in ruins awakened the saddest recollections. Of the vast crowd
which had beset Gordon on every side, some were scattered far and wide,
while others had settled down around their new master in Omdurman. The
little hill on the west bank just opposite to the junction of the two
Niles was called Omdurman, hence the name of the Mahdiist capital.
Previous to the revolt, there had been merely a few huts; but it was
always considered a place of importance, as the hills in the vicinity
supplied lime and stone in quantities for building works in Khartum. In
those days, the lime-pits were in Omdurman, and the place where the
Mahdiist capital now stands was a thick and thorny bush--the abode of
the Batahin robbers.

What a change had now taken place! From the old fort at the south end,
right up to Khor Shambat, and even further, the new capital extends, a
countless conglomeration of straw huts (tokuls), surrounded by small
zaribas; here and there a few mud huts, some of which, larger than the
others, denote the residences of the Khalifas and principal emirs--they
are looked upon as palaces.

Formerly the mosque consisted merely of a square enclosure, surrounded
by a hedge; but this had now been replaced by a wall of sun-dried
bricks. In the distance we could see the galvanised-iron mosque where
the Mahdi used to perform prayers. The Mahdi's original camp had been
situated some kilometres' distance to the north of the fort, where the
plain widens out.

On our arrival we at once made inquiries about the market, and sought
news of the other Europeans. The market was a sort of maze, and arranged
with no idea of system. Merchants never left their goods there
over-night; but always took them to their own houses. A Greek had made a
bakery, and drove a good trade, as long as people had money to buy.
There were such crowds of people that it was almost impossible to make
one's way through; there were quantities of provisions for sale, and
trade seemed very lively. Egyptian merchants brought their goods as far
as Ed Damer, whence they were brought by Arab merchants to Omdurman. The
only tax levied by the Khalifa's order was 2-1/2 per cent. zekka (_i.e._
alms for the poor), and people seemed generally contented and happy.
There were quantities of money in the beit el mal, and at that time
there was no occasion to oppress the inhabitants.

There were numbers of Greeks, Jews, and Syrians, all of whom were doing
fairly well in business. I also saw Klootz. Slatin at that time
happened to be absent, he was commanding some troops under the Emir
Yunis at Wad el Abbas.

Khalifa Abdullah was full of ideas of conquest and pretensions; he used
often to announce publicly that the end of the Turks' rule in Egypt was
approaching. He was most anxious to obtain possession of that country,
and thought the time had now come. Several of the sheikhs and ulemas in
Cairo and in other parts of Egypt had written to him inviting him to
take possession of the country where, they assured him, he would be most
cordially received.

The Mahdi's summons and proclamations were sent in all directions.
Pilgrims arrived from Samarkand, Bokhara, India, and Mecca, to examine
Mahdieh with their own eyes. All this tended to make Abdullah more
desirous than ever to conquer Egypt. He despatched Nejumi and his men to
Dongola, whilst Yunis was instructed to collect all the men he could in
the Gezireh. Sherif Mahmud's followers were also sent to Dongola; thus
did Abdullah dispose of the adherents of those emirs whom he knew to be
hostile to him. Zogal once arrested, Abdullah had now little to fear.
Hitherto he had treated his two brother Khalifas, and the Ashraf and
Danagla with the utmost respect; but now he conducted himself in a very
different manner, and could not bear to have anyone in the smallest
degree associated with him who was of almost equal rank; he therefore
did all in his power to weaken the opposition party, and to increase the
influence of his own party. The first blow he struck fell on Ahmed Wad
Suleiman, emin of the beit el mal. The day that we arrived in Omdurman
he was put in chains, and his house and the beit el mal were put under
guards. Wad Suleiman had been one of the Mahdi's most fanatical
adherents, and whenever he passed the Mahdi's tomb he used to stretch
out his hands and weep like a child--indeed he had every reason to do
so, for the Mahdi had raised him from a low position to a post of great
honour, and the thought of losing this position distressed him greatly.

Suleiman's wheel of fortune had come round at a good time, when the
amount of money in the beit el mal was considerable. The immense
quantities of loot taken at El Obeid, Shikan, Khartum, Sennar, and
Berber, had all passed through his hands, and any Dervish who was in
need of anything always came to him, and in this way he acquired great
influence. Since the Mahdi's death there had been great enmity between
Suleiman and Abdullah, and on the pretext of examining the accounts,
Abdullah had him arrested, and intended to send him away, while he
appointed Mohammed Osman (Zogal's son) in his place.

In Suleiman's house some 5,000 grammes of unstamped gold was found, and
it is more than probable that this was but a small portion of what he
had previously appropriated. He was therefore thrown into chains, where
he remained for a year and more. A month after his arrest, a certain
Ibrahim Wad Adlan, of Wad Medina, on the Blue Nile, and sometime
merchant in El Obeid, was appointed emin beit el mal. He had frequently
been in Cairo, was a pleasant-looking man, and had enlightened ideas. At
one time, when a dispute arose between the commercial house of Arbib in
Cairo, and their two partners in El Obeid, Adlan had been nominated
arbitrator by the Cairo house. He had for long remained loyal to the
Government, and had stayed in El Obeid until it fell into the hands of
the Mahdi, who permitted him--as a special favour--to keep 2,000 of the
30,000 dollars he then had.

For a long time Adlan had nothing to do; but he was always an
influential man, and was continually trying to help those in distress.
After the fall of El Obeid, and when all the clerks had been exiled to
various parts, he never ceased until he obtained permission for their
return. A short time before the Mahdi had quitted El Obeid, he had been
employed in the beit el mal, and at Rahad, Wad Suleiman had appointed
him his assistant. He was then despatched by the Mahdi to Berber, to
secure the £60,000 which had been sent to Gordon from Cairo, and which
had been left in the Berber treasury, owing to the interruption of
communications with Khartum. Ibrahim brought the money, clothes, medals,
decorations, and other valuables belonging to Gordon to the Mahdi. The
clothes were sold, and cut to pieces to repair other garments, the metal
of the medals, &c., was melted down, whilst the precious stones were
sold, and eventually found their way to Cairo.

Adlan soon gained considerable influence over the Khalifa, and had
sufficient tact to moderate the inborn tyranny of his master. His desire
to continually give assistance when he could, had made him very popular.
He soon set to work to reorganize the beit el mal, and began by removing
it from its original position to the river bank, thus avoiding the
unnecessary transport of articles brought by boats to the stores.

Here he built an extensive yard of sun-dried bricks, which he divided
off into sections for the various departments of the administration. He
made a large corn-store, in which a mountain of dhurra was
collected--indeed, so high was it, that it could be seen from a
considerable distance. This store was placed in charge of his assistant.
Another yard was built containing a number of rooms, in which the slaves
were kept under a guard of soldiers. Here the slaves were shackled,
twenty or thirty together in one long chain, with iron rings round their
necks. Any obstreperous slaves were generally shackled with one or two
makias or iron rings round their ankles, joined together by a small
chain or iron bar, which made walking very difficult.

Slaves received a little dry dhurra from the beit el mal as food until
they were sold. The female slaves generally grind the dhurra, and make a
sort of polenta out of it, which is either eaten with water or boiled
and eaten as balila. The dhurra ration of a slave is generally so small
and so bad that numbers of them die of starvation long before they are
fortunate enough to be sold.

Slaves are sold by auction in the beit el mal, and a written certificate
is given to the purchaser, stating in detail the description of the
slave, whether male or female, and that the purchase was effected in
the beit el mal. Before an auction the slaves are generally well rubbed
with oil, to improve their appearance. The bulk of the slaves sold are
females, as male slaves are generally attached to the army. A special
woman is also employed, together with the other officials, to see to the
female slaves. Adlan also railed off a part of the beit el mal for the
reception of cattle--camels, sheep, goats, donkeys, &c.; these are also
sold by auction.


The Mint forms a distinct sub-department. When the Mahdi was alive, gold
and silver coins were struck by his order, not so much to supply the
demand, but rather to prove his independence of Egypt and the
establishment of his new kingdom. He ordered guineas to be coined, just
like the Egyptian pounds; they were made out of the gold ornaments
captured in Khartum. Dollars were coined, and made similar to the
Turkish Medjidie dollar. A certain Hajji Abdullah Granteli, of Bokhara,
formerly jeweller in Khartum, and Elias el Kurdi, watchmaker, were made
chief coiners. In 1889 the latter lost his hand and foot for issuing
counterfeit money. Almost all coins bearing the stamp, "By order of the
Mahdi," have disappeared.

When I arrived in Omdurman there was a great scarcity of small coins,
and in consequence pieces of damur (a twilled cotton fabric manufactured
in the Sudan), valued at ten, five, and two and a half piastres, were
made currency; but these rags soon became so dirty, from being passed
from hand to hand, and so covered with oil and grease, that people
refused to accept them. Khalifa Abdullah, when he heard of this,
threatened those who refused with confiscation of property and
imprisonment, and employed spies in various parts of the market to
report the names of those who objected; but the spies were bribed to
keep silence, and Abdullah was obliged to give in. Merchants had
recourse to every sort of deception to evade his orders, so the dirty
rags were withdrawn from currency.

Adlan had organized the Mint rather with the object of making a profit
than of supplying a want. Silver was cheap, and he was able to make 50
per cent. profit on the manufacture of dollars. At that time gold
coinage was no longer current. On one side of the dollars was stamped
the Mohammedan date, with the words, "Struck in Omdurman," while on the
reverse was the Sultan's Toghra, underneath which was written the word,
"Makbul" (accepted); hence the dollar became known as the "Makbul
dollar." Pieces of five and ten piastres value were also coined, as well
as a few single piastre pieces, on one side of which was stamped the
Toghra, and on the other the word "Omdurman." The Mahdi on his coins had
written, within the Toghra, the words, "By order of the Mahdi," but
Khalifa Abdullah did not follow his example.

Besides these coins, English sovereigns were also current in Omdurman,
and were known as "khayala" (cavalry) pounds, on account of the St.
George and the dragon being engraved on them. Egyptian pounds were also
current, but now all gold coins have become rare.

The principal currency is the Medjidie dollar, and these have been in
such constant use that they are much obliterated. The Maria Theresa
dollar (also known as the "Abu Nokta") is current as well, but chiefly
with Sawakin, Massawa, and Abyssinian traders, and notably with the
last. The French 5-franc-piece and the Spanish dollar (known as Abu
Madfa) are current in a very minor degree. Egyptian piastres and
half-piastres, introduced by the Hicks Expedition, are occasionally
seen. The Austrian quarter-gulden piece (fiorini) is considered to be
worth 2 piastres. In addition to all these silver pieces, copper coins
of all descriptions are current.

The Khalifa Abdullah had no small trouble in circulating the Makbul
dollar; the merchants refused to value them at 20 piastres, and, in
spite of most stringent orders, and continued threats of confiscation of
property, imprisonment, &c., the order was somehow continually evaded.

Merchants set high prices on their goods, and would never accept until
the buyer had shown all the different sorts of dollars he possessed; he
was thus obliged to do this or to buy at exorbitant rates. Complaints
became rife, and eventually they reached Abdullah's ears. He got very
angry, and one day in October 1887, he sent troops to the market with
instructions to bring all the goods in the market to the beit el mal. It
was useless to resist; the owners were obliged to look after their own
goods, which were piled up near the big gate of the beit el mal, in the
open, and under a burning sun. Abdullah was now raging, and publicly
made the following curious statement:--

"That unbeliever Gordon induced merchants to accept miserable bits of
paper as equivalents for money, and now I offer you silver and you won't
even take it."

For fourteen days these wretched people sat by the gate, trembling for
their property. All sorts of rumours were flying about. Some said that
the Khalifa intended to throw all the goods into the river; others said
that he was going to burn them, and perhaps the most likely notion of
all was that he intended to confiscate the lot and transfer it to the
beit el mal. By this time the merchants were thoroughly alarmed, and
begged some of their influential friends to mediate with the Khalifa. At
length the latter summoned the principal merchants, and asked them if
they would accept the Makbul dollar at the value of the old dollar,
whereupon they not only accepted gladly, but declared their readiness to
accept any sort of money he chose to issue, even should it be made of

Thus was a reconciliation effected. The Khalifa treated the merchants
well, gave them plenty of food, and condescended even to eat with them
on this festive occasion. After this episode there were no more
difficulties about making the Makbul dollar current in Omdurman, though
to this day the Arabs refuse to accept it.

But gradually silver became dear, and the Mint began coining bad
dollars, made of two parts silver to three parts copper; consequently
the value of the old dollar has now gone up to 25 piastres. This gave
further opportunities to the counterfeit coiners. The silver-workers in
the Mint began making dollars on their own account, and, those being
different from the others, caused great confusion. These false dollars
were very well coined, and it required a practised eye to notice the
deception; indeed, it was not until a very large quantity of these false
coins had got into circulation that the fraud was found out.

An inspector was now sent to examine all dollars; all false coins were
broken into pieces, and no compensation given to the owners. Thieves and
smugglers purchased the bad dollars at 10 piastres apiece, and then, of
course, every description of bribery and corruption was practised. For
instance, an Arab would agree to sell his camel for 150 dollars, on
condition that the money should be submitted to the examining
commission. The president, who was of course bribed, gave out as his
decision that the dollars were all good, and received a good round sum
from the purchaser for his falsehood; thus it happened that the Arab was
generally defrauded of 40 or 50 dollars. In spite of several false
coiners being punished with the loss of a hand and foot, still the evil
practice continued, and it is only within the last few years, since the
price of silver has increased so much, that false coining has, to a
great extent, ceased.

A printing and lithograph press was also established in the beit el mal;
it had originally been set up in Khartum, and was now used for pulling
off numbers of Mahdi proclamations. Several "Ratibs," or Mahdi's book of
prayers, were also printed and distributed.

A museum of curios also formed part of the beit el mal. It is known as
the Beit el Antikat, and contains numbers of interesting things, such as
trophies from Darfur, Abyssinia, and Egypt. The Abyssinian section is
the largest, and includes King John's throne. Amongst the Darfur
articles are the robes of Sultan Yusef and of the Sultan of Masalit. The
robe of one of the Ababdeh sheikhs, who was made a Bey by the
Government, and then came to Omdurman and submitted to the Mahdi,
represents Egypt.

The beit el mal also contains a dispensary, in charge of an Egyptian
doctor; here are numbers of shelves, laden with medicines, which have
long since gone bad, but the doctor has taken entirely to native
remedies, of which cauterization and burning are the most usual.

Amongst the Khartum survivors was a certain Greek soap-boiler, who had
established a soap manufactory in the beit el mal, and had handed over
to it his large supplies of soda; but gradually other private
individuals began to establish soap works, and soon they began to sell
soap so cheaply that all the beit el mal customers came to them. The
consequence was that the Khalifa at once issued an order that the beit
el mal held the soap-boiling monopoly, and anyone who infringed this
rule would lose one hand, and all his property would be confiscated.

A careful system of accounts was elaborated in the beit el mal showing
all revenue and expenditure. If an expedition is ordered to any part of
the country, money, clothing, and other necessaries must be supplied
from the beit el mal. The staff to work this large administration
consists of an emin beit el mal, his assistant, head clerk, and a host
of smaller officials and clerks. When the merchants refused to accept
the Makbul dollar the staff was increased, as at that time the whole of
the boats and canoes were also confiscated. Of these there were upwards
of 1,000, and they were eventually hired out by the beit el mal. Wad
Adlan always tried to secure for the beit el mal the services of those
clerks who had formerly served under the Government; but this plan did
not please the Khalifa. Adlan naturally preferred the old clerks, who
thoroughly understood their work; besides, they were terrified of the
Dervishes, and thus did not dare to cheat. On the whole, Adlan's
administration was very good, and he received the Khalifa's thanks.

Abdullah now turned his attention to reorganizing the system of justice.
Hitherto, and during the Mahdi's lifetime, the office of Kadi had
continued, but the Ashraf (Mahdi's relations) also acted in the capacity
of judges, and the result was the greatest possible confusion. For
instance, supposing a man was sentenced by the judge, Sayid Abdel Kader
(the Sheikh el Islam) would immediately pardon him. Abdullah, not
unnaturally, wanted to change this anomaly, not so much in the interests
of justice as to break down the power and authority of the Ashraf. He
therefore nominated Kadi Ahmed as the Kadi el Islam, and appointed a
number of assistant judges, whom he called Nuab.

It was ruled that everyone, old and young, should report all causes of
dispute to the Grand Kadi, and it was his duty to look into it and give
a decision. Kadi Ahmed is a particularly good man, and gives protection
to the white people, more especially when they are attacked and abused
by the native populace. He is, however, of rather a vacillating,
timorous disposition, and is therefore a pliable instrument in the
Khalifa's hands; consequently there is often a miscarriage of justice.

Thus did the Khalifa secure, in his own person, the right to pardon or
to convict, and thus he became absolute master of life and death. As for
the law, he only appealed to it when it suited his own convenience; on
every other occasion he absolutely ignored it.



     Events subsequent to the fall of Khartum--Capture of Gedaref and
     Galabat--Dervishes defeated by Abyssinians at Galabat--Abu Anga's
     victorious expedition to Tagalla--His triumphant return to
     Omdurman--The Khalifa's grand review--Destruction of the Gehena
     tribe--The Khalifa decides to send Abu Anga's army to conquer
     Abyssinia--The battle of Dabra Sin--Abu Anga sacks Gondar--The
     victorious Dervishes return to Galabat--Rejoicings at Omdurman.

The preceding pages have given a glimpse of Omdurman, the new Dervish
capital of the Sudan; let us now turn briefly to the military events
which had occurred since the fall of Khartum.

Whilst Khartum was besieged on all sides, so also were the various other
garrisons still holding out, closely beset. Gedaref, also known as Suk
Abu Sin, the name of the patriarchal sheikh of the Shukrieh tribe, was
situated in the midst of a fertile plain which produced such quantities
of corn that it was the common saying, three camel-loads could be sold
for half a dollar. The ground was so productive that anything could be
grown. There was no want of water. The Greeks and several Egyptians had
made gardens, in which there was found every description of fruit-tree;
grapes grew in abundance, and were of particularly good quality; they
were to be had all the year round; for it was of no consequence in what
month the vines were pruned. Quantities of sesame were also grown as
well as a special kind of dhurra, with a sweet stalk, from which a
substance something like honey was extracted. Water-melons, cotton,
tobacco, and all sorts of vegetables were grown in the greatest
profusion, and everything was of exceptionally good quality.

The garrison of Gedaref consisted of only two hundred men, and on being
summoned by the Jaalin to surrender, they did so, in April 1884. This is
hardly to be wondered at, for the inhabitants of Gedaref are, for the
most part, Jaalin, and resistance would, under such circumstances, have
been next to impossible. The principal merchants were permitted to keep
their goods, and the change of hands did not, for the moment, greatly
alter the situation; but we shall see, later, what became of this rich
and valuable province after a prolonged Dervish occupation.

As regards Galabat, the difficulties were considerably greater. This
town was situated about six days' journey from Gedaref, and was the
residence of the well-known Takruri, Saleh Bey Shanga, who was Mamur of
the district. This brave official remained loyal to the Government
throughout, and was bitterly opposed to Mahdiism. He succeeded in
gaining the friendship of the neighbouring Abyssinian tribes, and,
through their assistance, inflicted great losses on the Dervishes. In
November 1884, he severely defeated the besieging Jaalin; but a few days
later, the Dervishes, being heavily reinforced, beset him very closely.

Through the intermediary of the English, King John sent a relieving
force of Abyssinians, which reached the vicinity of Galabat on the 27th
of January, 1885; and making known their approach to Saleh, the latter
made a sortie, while at the same time the Dervishes were heavily
attacked by the Abyssinians, who drove them off, thus enabling the
entire garrison, men, women, and children, to escape; they marched _viâ_
Gondar to Massawa, under the protection of an Abyssinian force. Galabat
was subsequently occupied by the Dervishes, who collected here in great
force under the Emir Wad Arbab.

Meanwhile, Saleh Bey, who was now staying with Ras Adal, the chief of
Amhara, was not idle, and was continually urging him to take possession
of Galabat; he was shortly afterwards joined by the Fiki Medawi,
formerly a wild, fanatical adherent of the Mahdi, and who, together with
Abu Girgeh, had been one of the first to lay siege to Gordon in Khartum;
this man, after the Mahdi's death, began to find out that he had been
following an imposture, and fled from Omdurman; he stayed in Abyssinia
for a time, and eventually reached Cairo. Abdullah was furious at his
flight, and put a number of his friends in chains, believing that Fiki
Medawi had been instrumental in pushing on Ras Adal to attack Galabat.

Shortly after the festival of the "Three holy kings," in commemoration
of the baptism of our Saviour in Jordan, known as "Ghittas," which means
immersion (on this occasion--the 5th of January--a cross is always
immersed in the river); Ras Adal, having collected a large army,
amounting, it is said, to 100,000 men, of whom 20,000 were horsemen,
advanced across the mountains and descended on Galabat.

Sheikh Egeil, of the Hamran Arabs, who had always been loyal to the
Egyptian Government, and had combated Mahdiism continuously, also joined
Ras Adal, and entered Dervish territory. Wad Arbab, who had received
full information of the Abyssinian movements, was awaiting their attack,
strongly entrenched within Galabat. He had 16,000 well-seasoned troops,
mostly Jaalin, and a quantity of rifles and ammunition. In a few minutes
the Abyssinian cavalry, dashing down with wild impetuosity, completely
surrounded Wad Arbab; the fight did not last long; the Dervishes were
driven out, pursued in all directions, and Galabat was soon in flames.
Arbab's men could not face the wild rush of the Abyssinians, and fell in
great numbers; the high wind caused the flames to spread with terrible
rapidity, and soon the powder magazine blew up with a terrific report,
burying hundreds in its ruins; amongst these was a Greek who had come
from Sawakin the year before to Omdurman, where he was imprisoned for a
time, then released, and came to Galabat, hoping to escape into
Abyssinia, just a few days before this fight which took place in
January 1887. The Abyssinians captured a large number of women and
children, whom they dragged off as slaves.

A few months prior to this action, Gustav Klootz had died in Galabat. He
had left Omdurman in September 1886, for Galabat, intending to escape
into Abyssinia; but having no money, he was forced to walk the entire
distance, and the great fatigue he had undergone made him seriously ill;
he lingered on for a time, but eventually died; and perhaps it was
fortunate that he did die, for only a few days afterwards an order
arrived from the Khalifa Abdullah at Gedaref, ordering him to be thrown
into chains and brought back to Omdurman, where a miserable death
awaited him.

Whilst the Abyssinians were attacking Galabat, Sheikh Egeil fell upon
Doka, a place situated between Galabat and Gedaref, which he succeeded
in capturing, and putting its inhabitants to the sword. The Abyssinians
now returned to their own country, after having sacked and pillaged
Galabat, which they left absolutely empty.

The disaster at Galabat was a great blow to the Dervishes; Abdullah now
appointed his nephew Yunis as emir of the district, and ordered him to
reoccupy the town. Yunis, on his return from Wad el Abbas, had encamped
south of Omdurman Fort, at a place which is still known as Dem Yunis;
his force consisted of about 1,000 men, armed with Remingtons, and 2,000
sword-and spearmen, of whom the majority had been amongst the Mahdi's
original followers at Abba. Abdullah himself now crossed over to
Khojali, and led Yunis's troops for some distance.

The equipment and transport of the force were not expensive items; each
man received about half a dollar; and perhaps that was sufficient, for
the troops always plundered the villages for their food as they went
along. Yunis marched direct to Abu Haraz, on the Blue Nile, and thence
followed the Khor Rahad up to Galabat, which he found quite empty and
deserted. He now settled down, and, to his credit, he occasionally made
raids into Abyssinia, destroyed a few villages and churches, and sent
the ornaments he took to Omdurman. This so delighted the Khalifa that he
dubbed him "Mismar ed Din" (or the "Nail of Religion"), and had special
poems about his deeds sung in his presence.

But soon Yunis abandoned hostilities, and guaranteed free passes to
merchants travelling in the country; the Abyssinians believed in these
assurances of peace, and descended into the Galabat plain at various
times in the year, bringing with them for sale thousands of mules,
donkeys, and horses, also quantities of coffee, garlic, lentils, beans,
wax, and honey. Things went on quite peaceably for some time; but one
day Yunis suddenly fell on all the merchants collected within their
zariba, killed numbers of them, seized their goods, and sent off about
1,000 of them as prisoners to Omdurman. Several died of starvation on
the journey, and on their arrival in Omdurman the remainder were
released, but had to go about the markets begging their bread. It
frequently happened that they would take shelter for the night in the
merchants' empty stalls; and on the latter arriving with their goods in
the morning, they would find their shops full of dead and dying
Abyssinians; afterwards, slaves were left by the merchants to guard the
shops and prevent these miserable creatures from making use of them.
These wretched, gaunt, half-starved people used sometimes to come to us
to beg for food; they knew no Arabic, but knowing that we were
Christians, they would repeat that word, or sometimes "Wad Maryam"
("Mary's child") to excite our pity. Their wretched condition at length
reached the Khalifa's ears, and he ordered the beit el mal to take
charge of them; the emin beit el mal now sent a crier to the market to
warn all Abyssinians that if they came to the beit el mal they would
receive assistance. The poor starving creatures dragged themselves
there, but were still kept two or three days without food; numbers of
them died, and their bodies were thrown into the river, whilst the
remainder were at last given a miserable pittance of dhurra, which
served to keep body and soul together for a time; but these, too, at
length succumbed to starvation; and after that, I never saw an
Abyssinian prisoner again.

In July 1887, Khalifa Abdullah wrote a letter to King John, offering to
make peace, on condition that he would become a Moslem, and that he
would return all the women and children he had captured, but more
especially was he to surrender the persons of Saleh Bey, Fiki Medawi,
and the Sheikh el Egeil. If he refused to accept these terms he must
expect war. King John did not deign to reply.

During the feast of Bairam on the 31st of July, 1887, Khalifa Abdullah
summoned Abu Anga to Omdurman, and here I must give a short description
of this renowned warrior.

Hamdan Abu Anga had been a slave, and had been brought up in the Khalifa
Abdullah's household; he had been well treated by his master, and was
eventually looked upon as a member of the family, a custom which was
formerly in vogue amongst the Baggara, Rizighat, and Taisha tribes. In
fact, these Arabs used not infrequently to give their daughters in
marriage to their slaves. It was amongst the Baggara that Abu Anga had
first learnt to ride on horseback and to go out hunting, and it was from
them that he had acquired such dexterity in handling and throwing
spears, for which he had frequent opportunities in the continual raids
which took place on neighbouring tribes.

Abu Anga had taken part in the campaigns against Zubeir Pasha, by whom
he and his entire family had been captured, but subsequently released.
When the Mahdi declared himself he joined with his master, Abdullah.
During the siege of El Obeid little was known or heard of him, but after
the fall of that city Khalifa Abdullah handed over to him the charge of
all captive soldiers in El Obeid, as well as in other places. The astute
Khalifa had for long had his eye on these blacks, whose fighting powers
he well knew, and he was most desirous to bring them under his direct
control, and utilize them.

Previous to the Hicks Expedition Abu Anga had already secured a number
of them, and they were largely instrumental in compassing the complete
downfall of that ill-fated army. Then, again, his blacks had shown the
greatest bravery in their campaigns against Jebel Dair, when they had
acquired a great name for themselves, and, finally, it was through their
means that Gordon's Fort of Omdurman had been compelled to surrender.
After the fall of Khartum these brave but undisciplined troops, having
no more fighting to do, took to highway robbery. Numbers of them hovered
about in the desert a few hours' distance from Omdurman, and amused
themselves by falling on caravans coming from Kordofan or Berber, and
pillaging and killing to their heart's content. Their depredations
became so constant that the Mahdi decided that he must employ them
somewhere, so he ordered Abu Anga to proceed with them to the still
independent Dar Nuba country, which he was to conquer, and obtain from
thence recruits for his Jehadieh, or Black Army.

But there was also another reason which induced the Mahdi to undertake
this campaign. During the siege of Omdurman a certain Baggara Sheikh, of
Birket, named Noaïa, deserted, and gathering a number of malcontents in
Dar Nuba, he defied the Mahdi's authority. When I was at El Obeid there
were all sorts of strange stories current about the doings of Noaïa, who
had gathered numbers of horsemen from the Howazma and Miserieh tribes,
and had made himself decidedly formidable. All those disappointed
slave-hunters and slave-dealers who--annoyed with the suppression of
their trade by the Egyptian Government--had flocked in numbers to the
Mahdi's standard, now had begun to find out that they were rather worse
off than before, and were, in reality, little better than the Mahdi's
slaves. These people sought every occasion to desert to Noaïa. Abu Anga
therefore received orders to hunt him down and annihilate him. He
collected his men, quitted the now debauched and pleasure-loving
Omdurman, and proceeded to the Tagalla Mountain, at the foot of which he

After the death of King Adam, his followers had again thrown off the
Dervish yoke and were now in open revolt; against these Abu Anga
conducted several successful expeditions, and captured numbers of
slaves, but suffered some loss as well. As long as Abu Anga was in the
neighbourhood, Tagalla was more or less in a state of submission; but
the moment he moved off they again broke out into active opposition.

Abu Anga now advanced on Noaïa, whose adherents, alarmed by the presence
of the soldiers, dispersed. These blacks are greatly feared in the
Sudan, not only on account of their great bravery in battle, but also it
is well known that they are merciless to their conquered enemies.

Sheikh Noaïa was eventually secured and thrown into chains, and a few
days later he died of small-pox. Abu Anga attacked almost all the Nuba
mountains; at times he was successful, at other times he suffered
reverses. Tolodi, Gedir, and lastly Naïma, were scenes of bloody
combats, and at the last-named place Abu Anga, in spite of his
artillery--which was commanded by Said Bey Guma--was heavily defeated
and driven back.

One of Abu Anga's most capable assistants was Abdullah Wad Ibrahim, who,
on account of his unparalleled cruelties, made Abu Anga's name a terror
throughout the land. Abu Anga was now recalled from his campaign by
Khalifa Abdullah to take possession of Zogal and his army, who was then
on his way from Darfur to Bara. We have seen how rapidly and skilfully
he carried out this order.

Now all that was left for Abu Anga to do was to punish the mutinous
troops of El Obeid who had killed Sherif Mahmud. Wad Ibrahim was sent on
this duty, and after a severe fight, in which numbers were killed on
both sides, he succeeded in capturing several of the mutineers, whom he
attached to his troops; but some of them escaped to the Nubas, and Wad
Ibrahim proceeded in consequence to Golfan-Naïma, which he besieged,
took, and reduced the inhabitants to slavery; the heads of Bishir and
three other leaders were sent to Omdurman, where they were exposed for a
month on the gallows as a warning to all mutinous-minded persons.

By all these various actions Abu Anga had succeeded in adding
considerably to the numbers of his troops, and he moreover drilled them
constantly and instilled a spirit of discipline which had been hitherto
unknown--thus he raised up a power which it was almost impossible to
defeat. Khalifa Abdullah now sent instructions to Abu Anga to return to
Omdurman in time for the Bairam festival, and at the same time he sent
orders to all the inhabitants of the Gezireh and Nile Valley to collect
at Omdurman for a great review. Abu Anga, as usual, complied with the
order with alacrity, and making forced marches, _viâ_ Tayara, Shatt, and
Om Sadik, he reached Omdurman in a very short time. Abdullah sent
numbers of emirs to meet and welcome him.

In Omdurman the only topic of conversation was about Abu Anga and his
great army. The Khalifa himself also prepared a magnificent reception
for his faithful general, in which he strove to do him all possible
honour. On the night preceding the great festival, criers were sent
through Omdurman announcing that any one who failed to present himself
at the great review the following morning would be seriously dealt with;
this order was willingly complied with, and at the foot of the hills
near Kerreri were assembled enormous crowds, who waited--as the
malcontents said--on the pleasure of that "slave," Abu Anga. The guns
had all been drawn out in line the evening before, and the festival was
ushered in by prolonged salutes.

In the meantime Abu Anga had arrived at Om Sadik, where a careful
inspection was made to see that no one was in possession of unlawful
booty; numbers of female slaves were found, who were subsequently sent
to the beit el mal. He then moved on to his camp near Omdurman, and
prepared to make his formal entry the following morning.

By the time the sun had well risen, the Dervishes were assembled in
endless lines under their various flags. Khalifa Abdullah left his
residence accompanied by his bodyguard; he was mounted on a magnificent
camel, and advanced to the sound of the great onbeïa trumpet. Abu Anga,
mounted on a pony and clad in a casque and coat-of-mail, now advanced to
meet him, and his magnificent figure created no small impression on the
assembled multitudes. His bodyguard, consisting of his very best
soldiers, accompanied him, as well as a number of mukuddums. On
approaching the Khalifa he adroitly dismounted and kissed his hands; he
was warmly greeted, and ordered to mount again.

Then the march past began. Upwards of 31,000 black troops, armed with
Remingtons and formed up in long lines, went by to the sound of drums
and trumpets; but the latter, on which the players attempted to produce
some specially Dervish music, raised the most discordant sounds, which
gave an intensely comic aspect to the whole proceeding. Each emir, with
his flag, rode at the head of his division; the chief emirs were Ibrahim
Wad Abdullah, Nur Angara, Zeki Tummal, and Ibrahim Wad Abu Tagalla. When
the Jehadieh had passed, the sword-and spearmen followed, some 20,000 in
number; then came the inhabitants of Omdurman in countless numbers.
There could not have been less than 60,000.

After the march past all were formed up again, and then the Khalifa,
dismounting from his camel, stood on his sheepskin and conducted
prayers. The shout of "Allahu Akbar" from over 100,000 throats was
impressive in the extreme, and, as the sound rolled down the immense
lines, it was echoed again and again through the hills, lasting for over
a minute after each shout.

On the conclusion of prayers the guns pealed forth salutes, and such
wild fanaticism and enthusiasm prevailed that several men dashed up to
the very muzzles of the guns and were blown to pieces. Of course the
Khalifa announced that the souls of these stupid people had gone
straight to paradise. The salutes over, the lines were once more
inspected, and then all the flags were collected in one place, in the
centre of which stood the Khalifa; this was the signal for the whole
force to gather around and vie with one another in their shouts of
loyalty that they would die a hundred times over for him and his cause.
Khalifa Abdullah became so wildly impressed by the enthusiasm of these
savage hordes that he could scarcely contain himself, and it was as much
as his bodyguard could do to keep the impetuous crowds from crushing him
to death. Numbers were bruised and kicked by the horses; but they were
left quite unnoticed--a mere remark, "Umru Khalas" ("It is the end of
his life"), was all the sympathy these heartless men ever offered.

From that day to this I do not think the Khalifa has ever had such an
ovation. At that time Omdurman was unusually full, trade was brisk, and
it was thought that he would now undertake the invasion of Egypt. But,
as it soon transpired, he had still a good deal of work to do in the
Sudan itself. One enemy he undoubtedly had--this was El Merhdi Abu Rof,
a descendant of the ancient Kings of Sennar and sheikh of the great
Gehena tribe, which, amongst the mass of Arabs allied to the Mahdi, had
persistently held aloof. This tribe possessed a large number of camels
of a curious dark-coloured breed, and also quantities of gray-coloured

El Merhdi had instigated a purely local movement of his own against the
Government, and had once besieged and set fire to Sennar; long before
Abu Anga's arrival he had shown hostility to the Khalifa, and had
annihilated a number of small Dervish garrisons; his power extended as
far as Karkoj, and he levied taxes on all boats going north. For a long
time the Khalifa had let him alone, but now finding himself in
possession of such an enormous force, he decided to attack El Merhdi,
more especially as at this time his audacity considerably endangered the
navigation of the Blue Nile, from whence Omdurman drew its main supplies
of corn. He therefore despatched Ismail Wad el Andok up the Blue Nile,
while Abdullah Wad Ibrahim was sent up the White Nile.

El Merhdi, attacked thus on both sides, was powerless; he was unable to
withstand the advance of the victorious black troops, and he and almost
all his Arabs were killed. El Merhdi's head was sent to Omdurman, where
it was exposed for a long time on the gallows, and was at last thrown
into the pit in which lay the heads of Bishir and those who had been
slain with him.

Thus one by one did the Khalifa's enemies become subdued. The vengeance
wreaked on the unfortunate Gehena tribe by the Dervishes is almost
beyond description. The property of the survivors was seized, men,
women, and children were dragged off to Omdurman, and there, naked and
helpless, they were left to starve on the river bank. One would see
wretched mothers of three or four children, who looked just like
skeletons, miserably abandoned in a place utterly unknown, and subject
to the insults and indignities of the proud and cruel Dervishes. Numbers
of them, especially children, died of starvation, whilst those who still
had sufficient strength would wander about begging their bread; if any
one had money enough he would buy a waterskin, and would go half a mile
to the river, fill it, carry it back and sell it in the market for a
quarter of a piastre; thus they eked out a miserable existence. Men who
but lately had ridden on good horses and had owned hundreds of camels
were reduced to this mode of gaining their livelihood, whilst poor women
could be seen, with babies at their breasts, toiling under the heavy
weight of a filled waterskin towards the market-place; then they had no
rest, for in the evening they had to grind the dhurra and make a sort of
pap which the poor little mouths of their infants could hardly
masticate; they had but one meal in the twenty-four hours.

It was impossible not to be struck by the mother's love of these poor
people for their offspring, and at the same time to feel bitterly
incensed against the Khalifa and his cruel followers who could thus
intentionally inflict on people of their own race such untold cruelties.
Thousands of Gehena camels were brought to Omdurman and sold at low
prices; thus was the wealth of their country utterly destroyed, and now
the terrible famine, which was so soon to fall upon the land, was close
at hand.

In the meantime Abdullah was considering with his advisers the
desirability of permitting war to break out with Abyssinia. The great
power of which he now felt himself possessed inclined him to war, and of
course the majority of his emirs, whose sole desire was to pander to his
will, agreed with him. Then news reached Yunis that Ras Adal was making
gigantic preparations; this finally decided Abdullah to wage war, and
with this object in view, he despatched his faithful Abu Anga to conduct
the operations.

The three Khalifas, Abu Anga's brother Abdel Maula, who commanded the
Jehadieh in Omdurman, and several other important people embarked on the
steamer and proceeded to the east bank, where Abdullah himself led off
the troops. For some days before, every boat had been requisitioned for
transport, and these were now laden with provisions for the army; but
what with overloading and the strength of the current, several foundered
and numbers of persons were drowned; however, this was of little
consequence, for human life is of small value among the Dervishes.

The troops advanced in divisions along the banks of the Nile, and before
finally taking leave of them the Khalifa addressed Abu Anga and his
emirs, urging them to be ever united, and to keep always before them the
rewards which would be theirs on their return, promising them the divine
help of the Mahdi and a certainty of victory.

This speech was delivered in such an impressive manner that there were
few dry eyes amongst these hardy warriors, and the Khalifa himself was
by no means ignorant of the gravity of the step he had now taken, for
Abyssinia was looked upon as even a more powerful country than Egypt.
Abu Anga followed his troops in a steamer as far as Abu Haraz, near
which the Khor Rahad joins the Nile, and which during the winter is
quite full and navigable almost up to Galabat.

Some time before, Abdullah Wad Ibrahim and Ismail Wad el Andok had been
sent to collect people in the Gezireh; they now joined Abu Anga, whose
entire force numbered 81,000 men. After a short halt at Galabat, Abu
Anga advanced into Abyssinian territory, leaving Wad Ali in Galabat.
Making forced marches, the troops made their way over hills and across
valleys, through the most rugged country. Numbers died of exhaustion,
but still they continued to move on; they met with no opposition, the
villages through which they passed were deserted, and wherever they went
they found provisions in abundance. This magnificent country was a
source of intense astonishment to the Dervishes.

Meanwhile Ras Adal had collected his forces in the great plain of Dabra
Sin, some six days' journey from Galabat, and here he patiently awaited
Abu Anga's advance. As the Dervishes approached, numbers of the Gezireh
troops who could not keep up with the force lagged behind, and were
invariably killed or mutilated by the Abyssinians.

Abu Anga, on arrival on the plain, formed up in battle-array, and
putting himself in the centre of a square composed of his best troops,
he advanced on the Abyssinian camp, which was much extended, and
stretched as far as the eye could reach.

The Abyssinians now attacked in wild disorder; they fought with the
courage of lions, for their religion and fatherland, against the hated
Moslems who had dared to enter their country. The horsemen especially
fought with the most reckless bravery; but Abu Anga's blacks here as
elsewhere showed their sterling fighting qualities; they mowed down the
masses of Abyssinians in thousands with their well-aimed fire, whilst
the latter were vainly endeavouring to break through their solid ranks;
and soon Abu Anga's victory was assured. He had conquered through his
good discipline, the arrangement of his troops, and the galling fire of
the Remingtons, and now the rest of the fight was merely a massacre,
which was continued until the troops were quite tired out. Most of Ras
Adal's principal chiefs had fallen, and amongst the captives was one of
his sons, who was well cared for and sent to Galabat.

The entire camp, with its countless tents, donkeys, and mules, fell into
the hands of the Mahdiists. The captured animals were in such quantities
that the victors could not possibly carry them off, and in consequence
they either hamstrung them or cut their throats. Amongst the other
things captured were two guns.

The road to Gondar, the former capital of Abyssinia, was now clear, and
Abu Anga advanced towards it, hoping that he would secure great
quantities of treasure. It was a march of only thirty miles from the
battlefield, and was soon reached; sacked, plundered, and reduced to
ashes; the churches were pillaged and then burnt; priests were thrown
down from the roof and killed; the population massacred, and women and
children dragged in hundreds into slavery.

Abu Anga only stayed a short time in Gondar, the change of climate had
already caused the death of a number of his troops, and, laden with
booty, he returned to Galabat, which he reached at the end of December.

Meanwhile there was great anxiety in Omdurman. Abdullah could not
conceal his alarm, for it was well known that the Abyssinian army was
very powerful. Abu Anga had crossed the border thirty days before, and
still no news reached Abdullah: those who did not wish the Dervishes
well, rejoiced at the thought that a great part of the army must have
been destroyed, and the anxiety so told on Abdullah, that he was seen to
visibly age in this momentous time. Besides, there was the prophecy of
Mohammed, who had forbidden his followers to make war against the
Abyssinians, unless the latter first provoked it. Abu Anga's expedition
was in direct disobedience to this order, and it was thought that he
must suffer defeat as a punishment, and it was urged that if Abu Anga
returned in safety, then the Prophet Mohammed must be a liar as well as
the Mahdi.

At length the arrival of twelve heads which Abu Anga had sent to Galabat
proved conclusively that a great victory had been won, and now the news
of the destruction of Gondar and the return of Abu Anga's victorious
troops was indeed a welcome relief to the terrible suspense.

This news was followed up soon afterwards by the arrival of numbers of
women and children, and quantities of loot. Several of these miserable
captives had died on the journey, and those who had not been already
sold, had their ears cut off, and were sent to the beit el mal.

Abdullah, without the smallest shame, went himself to the beit el mal,
and chose all the best-looking girls for his harem, and each of the
principal men of his household received an Abyssinian girl as a present.

Abu Anga received great praise at the hands of the Khalifa, and many
verses were made in his honour. Shortly before the victor's arrival in
Omdurman, criers were sent out to say that he should no longer be called
Abu Anga, but Sidi Hamdan, and Abdullah himself went out to meet the
conqueror, and shed tears of joy on seeing him. The booty included
thirty thousand Maria Theresa dollars, of which Khalifa Abdullah at once
took sole possession.



     Destruction of the Kababish tribe and death of Saleh Bey--Events in
     Darfur--Revolt of Abu Gamaizeh--His death and destruction of his
     army--Rabeh Zubeir--King Theodore's son visits Omdurman--The
     conspiracy of "Sayidna Isa"--Death of Abu Anga--King John of
     Abyssinia attacks Galabat--Success of Abyssinians, but the king
     killed--Victory turned to defeat--The king's head sent to Omdurman.

Let us now leave Abyssinia for a moment, and turn to the course of
events in other parts of the country. The most powerful and determined
opponent to Mahdiism was Saleh Bey Fadlallah Wad Salem, the brother of
Sheikh Tome of the Kababish, who had been executed in El Obeid. This
tribe has enormous quantities of camels and sheep, and occupied the
desert between Dongola and Kordofan; they formerly paid taxes to the
extent of 100,000 dollars a year to Government. They did all the
carrying trade between Dongola and Kordofan. It will be remembered that,
during the siege of El Obeid, Saleh Bey had come to the Mahdi's camp;
but had left it quite suddenly, and thenceforth had become one of the
Mahdi's bitterest enemies.

In 1884 he had given considerable assistance in camels to the English
expedition, and had been in constant conflict himself with the

When Khalifa Abdullah had consolidated his authority he determined to
rid himself of this rebel. Saleh Bey was at that time weak, for many of
his tribe had joined the Mahdiist ranks, and had fought against him. He
learnt that Abdullah intended to strike a serious blow to his power, he
therefore appealed to the Egyptian Government for help, and sent fifty
of his slaves to Wadi Halfa; the Government granted them two hundred
Remington rifles, forty boxes of ammunition, and £200 in cash.

Neufeld, a German merchant, joined Saleh's men on their return to
Kordofan, intending, if possible, to re-open a trade with the Arab
sheikhs in gum and ostrich feathers.

Nejumi, who was then at Dongola, having learnt through spies of their
departure, occupied the wells of Selima on the Arbain road, through
which the Kababish would probably pass. Fifteen days after leaving Halfa
the little caravan arrived at the oasis, only to be received by Dervish
bullets. Most of them were killed, and a few, including Neufeld, were
taken captive to Dongola; there they were beheaded, with the exception
of Neufeld, who was sent on to Omdurman, where he arrived on the 1st of
March, 1887.

The capture of the caravan and arms was a great blow to Saleh, and now
Abdullah no longer delayed to carry out his intentions. He despatched
the Emirs Greger Hamed and Wad Nubawi, of the Beni Jerrar, against him.
In the first fight Saleh was successful; but lost his brother and a
number of men. After this, a number of Dar Homr Arabs, who had formerly
been allied to him, now deserted to the other side, and with the
Dervishes occupied the wells of Mahbas. This being the only water in the
neighbourhood, there was now nothing left but to fight, and Saleh and
his men performed prodigies of valour, killing great numbers of the
Dervishes; but he was hampered by numerous camp-followers, women and
children, whom it was impossible to defend; and at length, seeing his
third brother fall before his eyes, he dismounted from his horse, sat on
his "fur" (sheep's skin), and waited to receive his death-blow, which
was dealt by one of Greger's relatives, between whom and Saleh a blood
feud existed; the latter having killed both Greger's father and uncle.

Another account relates, that Greger had severely wounded Saleh in the
head with his axe, but Saleh plunging his sword through Greger's body,
they both fell from their horses, and died together. This fight took
place on the 17th of May, 1887, and by Saleh's death Abdullah succeeded
in ridding himself of the enemy he most feared. Wad Adam was despatched
with Saleh's head to Omdurman, where it hung on the gallows for a month,
and where I myself saw it.

After Saleh's death the Kababish were dealt with in the most cruel
manner; several of them were brought to El Obeid as prisoners, where
they were executed. On one occasion Wad Adam had one hundred of them
hanged together, and then threw their bodies into a well. The same
evening groans were heard from the well, and it was found that one of
the victims was still alive; he was taken out and allowed to live. The
camels and sheep of this wealthy tribe were all brought to the beit el
mal at Omdurman. Most of the she-camels were killed and sold for about
two dollars apiece. In this way the Dervishes ruined the possibility of
breeding, and destroyed the prosperity and well-being of the country.

The once powerful Kababish tribe has now almost disappeared, and is
seldom even mentioned. Abdullah having thus vanquished his last enemy,
now seriously set to work to mature his plans for the conquest of Egypt.

But before entering on this part of my story, it may be as well to give
a brief historical sketch of Darfur, and the recent events which had
occurred there.

Darfur had, for the last four centuries, been governed by its native
sultans, who had gradually extended their authority into Kordofan, and
it was here that they first came into contact with the Egyptian
Government. Mohammed Ali had sent his son Ismail Pasha to take
possession of the Sudan, and whilst he was engaged in subduing the petty
kings of Shendi and Halfaya, his general, Ahmed Bey Defterdar, had
advanced from Dongola into Kordofan. This province was then administered
by a Magdum appointed by Sultan Musallem, of Darfur, who, hearing of the
advance of the "Turks," collected a large force, and awaited the
invaders at Bara. Spies had told him that it would be impossible to
fight the Turks, as they used fire; but the Magdum laughed at the idea,
and said he had no fear of fire. Moreover, to prove his word, he had an
immense quantity of thorns and brushwood collected, which he set fire
to, and then ordered his cavalry to dash through it; these bold and
fearless riders did so, and received no great harm. Thus did he impress
his followers that they need have no fear of the Turks; but the good man
had no notion of firearms and what they were. He met the attack of the
Turks in the most heroic manner; but he and most of his followers fell,
and the province became an Egyptian possession, though no steps were
taken to establish a government there.

It was not until August 1874, that the bold slave-hunter Zubeir Pasha
attacked and took the ancient kingdom of Shakka, and thus did Ismail
Pasha extend the Egyptian authority over Darfur.

From that date the country knew no peace; there was a constant series of
little wars. Slatin had fought no less than twenty-seven battles. Then
after the defeat of Hicks Pasha came the Dervishes, and Zogal became
Emir of Darfur, residing at El Fasher; but his rule was not peaceful.
The Sultan Dudbenga was fought, overcome, and sent to Omdurman a
prisoner in 1884; thence he was sent to Galabat, where he died. After
this, Zogal was left undisturbed, and succeeded in accumulating a
considerable amount of riches; but when the Mahdi died, Zogal, as we
have seen, was summoned to Omdurman, and left Darfur in the hands of
Sultan Yusef, Dudbenga's son; this sultan was entirely submissive to the
Khalifa; and when Sheikh Madibbo, of the Rizighat tribe, revolted
against Karamallah, the Dervish Emir of Bahr el Ghazal, and fled to
Jebel Marra, Sultan Yusef took him prisoner, and sent him back to
Karamallah, who passed him on to Abu Anga, by whom he was decapitated in
El Obeid.

But Abdullah did not wish Darfur to continue in this semi-independent
state; he therefore instructed Karamallah to raid the country from
Dara. Yusef sent word, begging that their respective boundaries might be
adhered to, but Karamallah only raided the more. In self-defence Yusef
sent out his army, and thus a war broke out, which was just what
Abdullah wanted. Yusef allied himself with Sultan Said, of Jebel Marra,
and their combined forces defeated Ketenbur, who had been sent by
Karamallah in command of a force.

In consequence of this disaster, Abdullah despatched his uncle, Osman
Wad Adam (nick-named "Ganu"), with a strong force to Shakka, where he
joined Karamallah. Yusef, fearing that he had been betrayed, sent a very
strong force, and in the month of December a great battle took place, in
which the Furs were almost annihilated, and it is said that Karamallah's
brother, Kerkesawi, killed so many men with his sword that his right arm
became bent.

Darfur once a prey to the bloodthirsty Dervishes, Osman Wad Adam
continued his victorious march to El Fasher. Sultans Yusef and Zayid
then fled to Jebel Marra, and sought the assistance of Sultan Jabrallah.
Osman sent troops in pursuit. Yusef detached himself from Jabrallah and
fled again, while Jabrallah betrayed and murdered the brave Zayid and
sent his head to Osman. Shortly afterwards Yusef was captured, brought
to El Fasher, and there decapitated. The heads of both these sultans
eventually reached Omdurman, and were hung up beside the Abyssinian
heads, where I saw them in January 1888.

After this the captor of Zayid returned to El Fasher, whilst Jabrallah,
anticipating a great reward for his treacherous conduct, was sent with
his five sons to see the Khalifa in Omdurman. He was allowed his liberty
for a time, but having once attempted to escape, he and his sons were
thrown into chains; four of the latter died in prison, and just before I
escaped I saw the unfortunate Jabrallah and his surviving son in a
pitiable state in the streets of Omdurman.

For the second time Darfur had now become a Dervish province, under the
direction of Osman Wad Adam. The Khalifa believed that all opposition
was over, and that he had nothing to fear from that direction. Indeed,
the majority of the inhabitants had been killed, and the few surviving
sheikhs had taken refuge in the Dar Tama and Masalit districts; but they
did not remain inactive; there were constant meetings, in which they
discussed how they should rid themselves of these "enemies of Islam," as
they called the Dervishes.

The Masalit people are savage and cruel to a degree; they are in the
habit of making waterskins out of the skins of their slain enemies.
Slatin Bey told me that when in Darfur he had two of these skins--of a
male and a female--which he had kept as curios. Some of the Darfur
sheikhs had gone as far as to apply to the Sultan of Borgo for help, but
he had refused to interfere in any way with Mahdieh. Then a man suddenly
appeared amongst the Masalit about whose origin little was known; he
represented himself as the arch-enemy of the hated Dervishes, who, under
the guise of Mohammedanism, robbed, plundered, ravished, and murdered
all they could lay their hands on.

Such influence did this fiki, or religious teacher, gain over the
superstitious masses of the west that some said he must be the true
Mahdi; others said he was the fourth Khalifa (Osman); then again many
said he was the celebrated Sheikh es Senussi, the great religious head
of all the North African tribes, and whose influence has extended far
into Central Africa. Several asserted that he was merely a delegate from
the great Senussi.

This religious reformer and adventurer styled himself "Abu Gemaizeh"
(Gemaizeh is the Arabic name for the sycamore fig-tree), because it was
said that the shade of this tree always accompanied him. At Omdurman all
sorts of extraordinary stories were current about his supernatural
gifts. Some said that he had the power of miraculously increasing food;
an ordinary plate-full he would make sufficient for hundreds of people;
others said that they had seen him produce milk from his finger-tips,
and it was said that he could produce, in a moment, all sorts of things
pleasant to the palate. He could raise a palm-tree out of barren
ground, which, in the space of an hour, would become covered with fruit.
In his sermons and letters he reproached the Khalifa for having
oppressed and slaughtered Moslems, and having taken their wives for
himself--a crime only committed by the "unbelievers"--and with God's
help, he declared his intention of coming to Omdurman to annihilate
"God's enemies," as he called the Dervishes.

The sayings and doings of this extraordinary being attracted great
attention throughout the entire Sudan. The Mahdi had first appeared in
the west, and now an anti-Mahdi had sprung up from the west. Immense
numbers of adherents flocked to his standard. Not only did the Furs,
thirsting for vengeance, join him, but people from Bornu, Borgo, and
Wadai collected around him.

Osman Wad Adam despatched a force against him, which was annihilated,
and he now begged the Khalifa to send him reinforcements. In answer to
this appeal a number of Beni Jerrar Arabs were sent to him, but these
also were destroyed almost to a man. These two important victories
increased Abu Gemaizeh's prestige enormously, and when Abdullah saw that
the oppressed Sudanese were secretly rejoicing at his discomfiture, he
himself began to tremble for his authority.

A third expedition, despatched by Osman, met with a similar fate to the
other two, and now the Khalifa vented his wrath on his unsuccessful
lieutenant. In October 1888, he wrote to him to retire at once to El
Fasher, to confine himself entirely to defensive operations, and on no
account to attack the enemy. There was great excitement in Omdurman,
where the importance of Abu Gemaizeh's victories had been enormously
exaggerated. It was even said that Osman had been killed, El Fasher
captured, and Kordofan on the point of being invaded. Then came the news
that El Obeid had been captured, and now the rejoicings at the Khalifa's
defeat were an open secret. But these highly-coloured rumours were
merely the outcome of an intense desire and longing on the part of the
wretched inhabitants of the Sudan, groaning under the Dervish yoke, to
see themselves once more free from the tyrannical oppression which their
own short-sighted conduct had brought upon themselves.

Abu Gemaizeh had, it is true, been very successful. He had three times
defeated Osman, who was now besieged in El Fasher, and in great want of
food. All Darfur had sided with Abu Gemaizeh, and the Dervishes were
almost powerless; but in the zenith of his success the great religious
sheikh was suddenly struck down by small-pox, and died at Kebkebieh in
February 1889. His death caused many of his adherents to quit the cause,
and his successor--who, had he not attacked El Fasher, might have
succeeded in compassing the downfall of Osman, who was then entirely cut
off and in great straits--felt that he must do something to keep his
army together. But his force was hampered by a large number of women,
children, and camp followers. He was deficient in firearms, whilst Osman
was well supplied with rifles and ammunition, and his Shaggieh troops
fought magnificently.

The final action took place under the walls of El Fasher, on the 22nd of
February, 1889, and resulted in the death of the leader and the massacre
of thousands of his followers. This was the death-blow to the movement,
and is an example of how easily Moslems are imposed upon by religious
adventurers. Numbers of those who had joined and left Mahdiism,
thoroughly convinced of its fraud and deception, had unhesitatingly
allied themselves to this new religious movement, which they inspired
with almost greater enthusiasm than that they had just quitted. The
collapse of this new delusion was therefore comparatively greater. The
heads of Abu Gemaizeh and a number of his important leaders were sent to
Omdurman, where they found a place on the gallows, and were subsequently
relegated to the pit in which lay the whitening skulls of Merhdi, the
Abyssinians, and the mutinous blacks.

Osman's victory delighted the Khalifa even more than Abu Anga's success
in Abyssinia, because he had always considered Darfur a place of
refuge, to which he had a secure line of retreat in case of attack from
the north.

The victorious Osman now vented his wrath on the tribes who had
supported Abu Gemaizeh's movement. The Beni Helba tribe especially fell
under his merciless hand, and was almost exterminated; but the country
took some time to recover its normal state, and, in consequence, the
Khalifa had to forego the pleasure of summoning Osman to Omdurman, and
loading him with benefits as he had done to Abu Anga. However, he had a
special house built for him near the mosque, and prepared to do him all
honour when his presence could be spared from Darfur.

But this was not to be. The successful Osman fell ill, and died shortly
afterwards at El Fasher. He was succeeded by the Khalifa's brother
Mahmud Wad Ahmed, who was also accompanied by the kadi Suleiman el
Hejazi. This latter individual was deported to Darfur because he had had
a disagreement with the Khalifa's principal spy, Hajji Zubeir.

Mahmud was ordered, on his arrival at El Fasher, to send to Omdurman all
the money found in the late Osman's safe, and to take over all his
horses, wives, &c., and keep them for himself. He left Omdurman with a
large number of followers, and travelling _viâ_ El Obeid at length
reached his province. Here he found the country desolate; during the
recent wars all cultivation had lapsed, a terrible famine had set in,
and he was unable to find food for his troops. On reporting this to the
Khalifa, he received orders to retire to Nahut in Kordofan, which he
did, but his black soldiers disliked the change, and conspired together
to kill Mahmud and desert back to Darfur. They attempted to carry out
this project one night, but failing to secure the ammunition, which was
essential to the success of their undertaking, they deserted from the
camp, about 1,000 strong, and set off to join Rabeh Zubeir.

This Rabeh had been originally brought up in Zubeir Pasha's family, had
shown military ability, and at the time of the suppression of the
revolt in Bahr el Ghazal by Gessi Pasha commanded with Suleiman
(Zubeir's son) the supposed rebel army. On Suleiman's capture and death,
Rabeh fled with the remnants of the force towards Bornu, and after a
host of strange adventures and constant fights with the kingdoms of
Borgo, Wadai, &c., he succeeded in establishing himself in an
independent position on the banks of the Sharé river which empties into
Lake Chad. Here he has collected a considerable force, and appears to
have at last established friendly relations with his neighbours. The
Khalifa has frequently sent messages to him to return to Omdurman, where
he would be most honourably received, but Rabeh has persistently

Osman, when at El Fasher, also communicated with him in the same sense;
but Rabeh, who had a shrewd idea of the Khalifa's intentions, summoned
to his aid a Fiki who had been in Omdurman, and who quite understood
Abdullah's character. On Rabeh telling the Fiki of his message from
Osman, the Fiki asked that a cock should be given him, and he proceeded
deliberately to pull out the feathers of its wings. He then bound its
legs together, and plucked it completely; and last of all cut its head
off. The Fiki said not a word, but Rabeh thoroughly understood the moral
of the proceeding, and came to the wise conclusion to stay where he was.
The last news is that a portion of his force has re-entered Dar Fertit,
the country to the north-west of Bahr el Ghazal.

As for Mahmud, after the disturbance at Nahut, he retired on El Obeid in
1890, and left Darfur to its fate. All that portion of it bordering on
Kordofan is entirely depopulated. Herds of elephants roam the plains as
far as El Fasher. There is continual internecine warfare, which is still
further reducing the population, and creating a wilderness of this once
populous district.

Let us now revert to the operations against Abyssinia. In consequence of
Abu Anga's victory over Ras Adal, the tribes on the north-western
borders of Abyssinia, and who are known as Makada, embraced Mahdiism;
and it was at this time that Todros Kasa, the son of the Todros Kasa
(King Theodore), who had been vanquished by the British at Magdala,
suddenly appeared at Galabat, and offered his services to the Dervishes
to fight against his own countrymen. He was at once sent on to Omdurman,
where he was received with great pomp by Khalifa Abdullah, who promised
to place him on the throne of Abyssinia, and in return for this promise
Todros agreed that all the Abyssinians should turn Moslems, and should
pay the Khalifa an annual tribute.

Before going further, it may be as well to explain briefly who this
Todros was. He was the second son of the King Theodore who had been
subdued by the English army. The eldest son had been taken to England,
where he died. At that time the Todros of whom I speak was a mere child,
and had been concealed by his relatives from King John, who wanted to
kill him. When he grew up he wandered about Abyssinia, and happened to
be in the neighbourhood of Galabat when Abu Anga made his successful
descent on Abyssinia. It at once occurred to Todros that an alliance
with the Dervishes might secure him his father's throne, and we have
seen how successfully he had deceived the Khalifa, who implicitly
believed in his good faith.

Todros had two children of twelve and fourteen years of age, who always
accompanied him when he went about in Omdurman, and he always carried a
red umbrella, which made him the laughing-stock of the place. He did not
speak Arabic, and all intercourse with him had to be through an

Amongst the female slaves taken by Abu Anga were two girls, who
accidentally came into the possession of one of my friends. These girls
were related to Todros, and when he heard of them, he at once bought
their release, and eventually took them with him to Galabat. We used
often to talk to him, as he was not in the least afraid, and told us of
his real projects and intentions. Suddenly Abu Anga, without any
previous warning, set off for Galabat, no one knew why, and it was
generally supposed that some very important information had reached the
Khalifa. Abu Anga took Todros Kasa with him.

Before leaving, Abu Anga asked the Khalifa to whom he should refer in
case of his (the Khalifa's) death. Abdullah replied to his brother
Yakub, and from this it was generally understood that he intended to
retain the succession in his own family.


Shortly after Abu Anga's departure, the Khalifa received a small note in
Amharic, written on parchment, from King John. Two of the Abyssinians in
Omdurman interpreted it to the Khalifa, and it was to the effect that he
(John) was prepared to make a reasonable treaty of peace with the
Khalifa; basing his argument on the fact that they all--both Sudanese
and Abyssinians--had a common descent through their mutual forefather
Ham, and that, being neighbours, they should rather combine to fight
against their common enemies, who were the Europeans, and whose power
was always extending. To this the Khalifa replied that if he would
become a Moslem, they would become good friends; but if he refused to do
this, he (the Khalifa) felt obliged to brand him as the enemy of God and
His Prophet, and that he had no other course open but to exterminate

On Abu Anga's arrival at Galabat, the most violent jealousy sprang up
between him and Yunis. The latter separated his camp from Abu Anga's,
and lost no opportunity of showing his hatred and envy of the "slave"
(as he called him), who had so successfully combated the Abyssinians.
Even on the usual Friday review, in spite of Abu Anga having been
appointed to the supreme command, Yunis always drilled his men
separately from the rest. This Abu Anga reported to the Khalifa, who at
once instructed Yunis to place himself under him in every respect.

Meanwhile a conspiracy was brewing amongst the emirs in the camp of
Yunis. One of the ugliest types of Takruris that have ever been seen
took to calling himself "Sayidna Isa" ("Our Master Jesus"). Yunis and
his emirs believed in him, although he subsequently betrayed him. It is
impossible to understand how it is that these fanatical people could
believe in the nonsense told them by Isa; yet, if he heard that any one
disbelieved in him, he would at once have him summoned, and there, in
the presence of four witnesses, he would convert him. He asserted that
he was the Messiah foretold by the Mahdi who should wrest the power from
the Khalifa. Indeed the day was actually fixed when it was decided to
kill Abu Anga and proclaim Isa publicly; but Yunis betrayed the
conspiracy to Abu Anga, and after afternoon prayers on the following
Friday he summoned the sixteen mutinous emirs and threw them into
chains; he then wrote to the Khalifa asking his instructions. The latter
despatched some judges to Galabat, who were told to instruct these
deluded people in the right way. They were tried one after the other;
but none of them would deny their belief in Isa; then they threatened to
kill them; but Isa laughed, and said he was immortal. At length the
judges, seeing that further talking was useless, condemned Isa to death,
and in a few minutes he was dangling on the gallows. Even this was not
proof enough for the sixteen deluded emirs, who still believed he was
not dead, and so one by one they were hanged, and their heads sent to
Omdurman, where they also remained on the gallows for a month and were
then relegated to the pit. Yunis was summoned to Omdurman, and for some
time was quite out of favour.

Thus did Khalifa Abdullah score success after success over his enemies,
and there is little doubt that, had Abu Anga failed to act as quickly
and decidedly as he did, Isa's rapidly-increasing power might have
become a serious menace to the Khalifa's authority. There is no doubt
that these sixteen emirs had been instigated by Yunis to revolt against
the Khalifa and put him at the head of the movement; they knew perfectly
well that Isa was a mere fraud and deception; but I do not think it is
possible ever to start a movement on a large scale in a Moslem country
unless it is based on some religious grounds. The Mahdi only succeeded
by working up the fanaticism of his own countrymen. Such motives as
liberty, freedom, and the love of the fatherland are entirely unknown
factors in the composition of feelings which go towards creating a
national movement amongst Moslems.

Abu Anga, who was now growing old and fat, did not live long after the
events just described. He was attacked by typhus, which at that time was
prevalent at Galabat, and in a few days this great warrior, who had shed
such quantities of blood, was dead. His soldiers mourned him bitterly,
and his name is still held amongst them in affectionate remembrance;
they loved him because he himself had been a slave, and knew how to
discriminate between severity and kindness. He was one of the best emirs
of Mahdieh, and of an infinitely more generous nature than Wad En Nejumi
or others. Once a poor woman came to him and complained that a soldier
had forcibly taken her milk, which was all she had to live upon. Abu
Anga sent for the soldier and asked him if the woman's complaint was
true; the thief denied it most emphatically and abused the woman
unmercifully. Abu Anga was almost convinced that he was speaking the
truth; but the woman still persisted in the most violent manner that the
man had drunk the milk. After a moment's thought Abu Anga gave the
following judgment: "The man's stomach to be ripped open, and if no milk
is discovered, the woman will be executed." The woman accepted this
judgment with delight, while the unfortunate man had to undergo this
terrible operation. The milk was found in his stomach, and Abu Anga made
good to the woman her loss. Thus did he maintain discipline amongst his
men, and as long as he commanded in Galabat there was no fear. In battle
his cruelty knew no bounds, and the most horrible atrocities were
perpetrated by his men, especially in Abyssinia. His death was deeply
felt by the Khalifa, and with reason, for he was not only a brave and
capable leader, but he was absolutely honest; any other man in his place
would have, long before, abused his power. He was buried in Galabat in
1888, and his men have canonized him as a saint.

When dying, Abu Anga nominated Wad Ali as his successor, until the
Khalifa's orders should be received; but very soon after his death there
was discontent amongst the men and want of harmony amongst the emirs,
with whom Wad Ali was by no means a favourite. These dissensions reached
the Khalifa's ears, and he despatched the Kadi Ahmed, in whom he placed
great reliance, to Galabat, with instructions to do all he could to put
down discord, and to nominate some one as leader who was popular with
all ranks. After several meetings, the Kadi at length succeeded in
quieting the people, and it was agreed, by common consent, to nominate
Zeki Tummal as Abu Anga's successor. This appointment was subsequently
confirmed by the Khalifa.

The Galabat army was now made into four divisions--Zeki Tummal commanded
the first division, and was also Commander-in-chief of the whole;
Abdallah Ibrahim, Nur Angara, and Mahmud Wad Ali commanded the other
divisions. In addition to these four great emirs there were also other
well-known men in the Galabat force--such as Sheikh Abu Tagalla,
Faragallah (Gordon's old commandant of Omdurman Fort), Omar Wad Elias
Pasha, Sheikh Nuri, of the Bederieh tribe, Ismail Wad el Andok, and
others. The immense zariba was now further fortified and strengthened.

There were already rumours that King John was making preparations to
take Galabat, after which it was said he would advance on Omdurman and
utterly destroy Mahdiism. King John was accompanied by all his most
important chiefs--Ras Adal, Ras Aria Salasseh, Ras Michael, Ras Mariam,
Ras Alula, Saleh Shanga, and several others. In all, the army numbered
some 150,000, of whom 20,000 were horsemen.

This news caused the greatest alarm in Galabat and Omdurman; but it also
had the effect of making us indulge in pleasant dreams of release. Zeki
Tummal took counsel with his emirs whether it would be better to await
the enemy's arrival in the zariba or whether it would be advisable to
advance and fight in the open. Kadi Ahmed urged that it would be better
to stay in the zariba, and his advice was adopted; there is little doubt
this was the wisest course to take, as the Abyssinian cavalry would
undoubtedly have struck confusion into their ranks. Zeki's force now
numbered 85,000 men, and was well disposed in the zariba to resist
attack. Criers went through the market-place summoning all people to
leave their business and take up arms for the defence of the town;
messengers were also sent to the Khalifa to beg his blessing--in fact,
great fear prevailed. Spies reported that the enemy were as numerous as
the sand, that their numbers stretched beyond the horizon, and that when
they moved such clouds of dust arose that the sun was quite obscured.

This news created almost a panic in Omdurman; besides, there is an old
prophecy that the Abyssinians should come to Khartum; that their horses
should wade knee-deep in blood, and that the King should tether his
horse to the solitary tree on the White Nile near Khartum.

At the end of February the King quitted Gondar, and marched out to make
holy war against the most bitter enemy to Christianity. When near
Galabat he sent word to Zeki to say he was coming, lest it should be
said that he had "come secretly as a thief." Numbers of women had also
joined the Abyssinian army; they were, for the most part, the wives and
concubines of the soldiers, and many others had fled from their parents
to follow their lovers to battle.

On Saturday, the 9th of March, 1889, the King began his attack on
Galabat. Such clouds of dust were raised that it was almost impossible
to see anything. The zariba was stormed; some attempted to drag away the
thorn bushes, others tried to set fire to it, whilst the Dervishes
opened a terrific fire on the masses. Some Takruris, who had deserted
Zeki's camp, reported that the part of the zariba held by Wad Ali was
the weakest, and, in consequence, the Abyssinians made a supreme effort
to break in at that point.

The din and noise was beyond description. At length, after a very hard
fight, the Abyssinians succeeded in forcing an entry, and then their
masses rolled in like a great storm stream, carrying everything before
them. The thousands of Dervish women within now raised terrible cries as
the enemy approached, killing and destroying all in their path; they set
fire to the straw huts; the din of the firing, the shouts and screams of
the men and women, mingled with the crackling and wild rush of the
flames, were terrible beyond description. Already the Abyssinians had
taken possession of the beit el mal, and had occupied the house in which
Abu Anga's harem lived, and now they were searching for his body, which
they wanted to pull out of the ground and throw into the flames, in
revenge for the burning of Gondar.

The strength of the Mahdiists was now almost exhausted, ammunition was
running short, and it was thought the fight was nearly over, when
suddenly the news spread amongst the Abyssinians that their King had
been struck by a bullet. This was the signal for a general retreat:
everyone seized all the booty he could lay his hands upon, and soon the
zariba was evacuated; several of the women were carried off as captives,
including Abu Anga's harem, and the Abyssinians then made for the river

Now was the time for the Dervishes to reverse their defeat; they had
suffered very heavily, Wad Ali's division had been almost annihilated;
but they lost no time in cutting off some of the Abyssinians' heads and
sending them at once to Omdurman, with the information that they had
gained a great victory, for Kadi Ahmed well knew how anxious was the
Khalifa, and how fearful that defeat should overtake his forces.

The Dervishes thought the Abyssinians would renew their attack the next
day, but to their surprise no one appeared; then spies were sent out to
discover their whereabouts, and they brought back information that the
Abyssinian force was now in full retreat towards the Atbara. This
information decided Zeki to pursue, and on the 11th of March the Dervish
force came up with a large portion of the Abyssinian army encamped on
the river bank; a battle ensued, in which the Abyssinians lost heavily
and fled precipitately, leaving the dead body of King John in the hands
of the Dervishes. It was discovered carefully packed in a long box and
sealed with wax; at first it was thought to contain treasure, but on
opening it the odour of decay left little doubt that the body they had
attempted to embalm was none other than that of the unfortunate John,
and this was confirmed by the Abyssinian prisoners. The King's head was
cut off and sent to Omdurman.

Here the wildest excitement prevailed, the Khalifa Abdullah ordered the
great war-drums to be beaten and the onbeïa to be sounded. A large
review took place. The Abyssinian heads were paraded and said to be
those of Eas Alula, Eas Mariam, and Saleh Shanga; but this was not true.
However, the Khalifa's delight knew no bounds, and our sorrow was
proportionately great. Once more our cherished hopes had been dashed to
the ground, and it seemed as if all chance of escape was now quite at an

The heads were put upon the gallows, and left no doubt that a great
victory had been won, then three days afterwards came the news that the
King had been killed. Fixed high up on a camel's back, John's head was
paraded up and down through the market-place, preceded by a herald
shouting out that the mighty Negûs had been slain, and that now was a
time for festivity and rejoicing. The Khalifa was quite intoxicated by
his success. He publicly exposed the articles captured with the King's
body, amongst which was the throne from which the cross had been
removed; this was afterwards replaced in Omdurman and retained in the
beit el mal.

A wonderful copy of the New Testament had also been taken; it was
written on parchment in Amharic language, was profusely illustrated and
illuminated, and bound in a triple leather cover; then there was a gold
watch marked "Crosdi, Paris," which showed the day of the week and the
month of the year; a telescope, and also an original letter from Her
Majesty Queen Victoria to King John, dated November 1887. I myself read
this letter, in which the Queen inquired after King John's health, and
asked him how he and his family were; that England having occupied Egypt
had become a near neighbour to Abyssinia, and that it was Her Majesty's
earnest wish to continue to live on terms of peace and friendship with
the Negûs. The letter concluded with good wishes for the King's health,
happiness, and long life, and was signed by Lord Salisbury. Amongst
other things I also saw the King's tent and a number of richly jewelled

On the same day of its arrival, the Khalifa ordered the King's head to
be sewn in a piece of leather and sent it on to Dongola, from whence it
was to be sent on to Wadi Halfa as a warning to the Khedive and the
English that a like fate would await them if they did not at once

It now seemed that the Khalifa was at the very zenith of his power.
There in a dirty pit near the market-place lay the decaying heads of all
his principal enemies, the Sultan Yusef, Abu Gemaizeh, the Abyssinians,
Sayidna Isa, all huddled up together in a heap, and I could not help
reflecting deeply on all these strange events every time I passed that
pit. Gradually the skin and hair dropped off, leaving only the bare
white skulls, deep eye-holes, and grinning teeth, and yet these were the
skulls of crowned heads, prophets, and patriarchs gathered together in a
narrow pit from far-distant countries--a solemn evidence indeed of the
far-reaching power of Mahdiism. Passers-by struck them with their
sticks, and yet for what thousands of lives had these now empty
brain-pans been responsible, which lay rotting on far-distant
battlefields--proof in truth of God's judgment on the Sudan!

Abdullah now thought himself master of the whole world. In his moments
of wildest enthusiasm he had never dreamt of gaining such a tremendous
victory over the Abyssinians, and yet another such victory would have
almost destroyed his power; he had lost thousands of his best warriors,
and the women and cattle captured could never compensate him for such a
loss. Of course Zeki and his emirs did not always adhere to the truth in
writing to the Khalifa, nor was the latter anxious they should do
so--indeed, it would have been tantamount to a crime on Zeki's part to
report that the Galabat garrison was weak; had he done so, and even if
he had been the Khalifa's own relative, he would probably have been
relegated to prison. It would have been treason to have said anything
which would detract from the Khalifa's idea of his own power, and he was
surrounded by wretched flatterers and trimmers who were the last to tell
him the truth.

But all these wars and disturbances had now almost completely ruined the
country, and then came the terrible famine, which lasted almost a year
and brought untold sufferings on the people. The Khalifa, however, was
blind to all this misery and distress. His only idea was
self-aggrandisement, and he did not realize that hunger was likely to
prove by far the worst and most dangerous enemy with which Mahdieh had
to cope; but this he eventually learnt by bitter experience.

After the death of King John there was a certain amount of intercourse
between the Dervishes and Abyssinians, and not a few of the latter used
to come to Galabat and promise to lead Zeki to where the late king's
treasures had been hidden; but this they probably did with the intention
of trying to draw him into an ambush. It was eventually hunger which
compelled Zeki to take some active measures. He despatched Abdullah
Ibrahim into Abyssinia with several thousand men, and a few words
respecting the career of this emir may not be amiss.

He was a nephew of Ahmed Bey Dafallah, of Kordofan, and had come to
notice during the siege of El Obeid. Whenever he saw any cattle near the
town he was always on the watch with his slaves, and generally succeeded
in making a successful sortie, capturing them and bringing them into the
fort. It was said that on one occasion, when the Mahdi was approaching
El Obeid, Ibrahim left the fort and made straight for him, intending to
kill him, but was twice wounded by his revolver; he however succeeded in
returning to the fort, and after its fall the Mahdi, already greatly
impressed by his bravery, pardoned him, and placed him in command of a
division under Abu Anga. He accompanied his chief in all his numerous
fights, and displayed even greater bravery in fighting for the Mahdieh
than he did in fighting for the Government. Had he only been a Baggara
he would undoubtedly have succeeded Abu Anga in command.

This Abdullah now penetrated Abyssinia; for a long time nothing was
heard of him, and it was thought he must have been annihilated; but at
length he returned to Galabat, having lost a large portion of his force.
The actual events which happened in this expedition are wrapped in
obscurity, and it is more than probable that it fared badly.

After the King's death Abyssinia became a prey to civil and internecine
war, which left the inhabitants no time to revenge themselves for the
death of their King. The Dervishes, too, were quite exhausted, and had
to combat a terrible famine, which swept them off in thousands. This
famine induced the sensible emirs at Galabat, such as Abderrahman Wad
Abu Degel, to enter into commercial relations with Abyssinia, which have
continued uninterrupted up to the present time.



     The Khalifa's intentions regarding Egypt--Wad en Nejumi despatched
     north--Various operations on the Egyptian frontier--Battle of
     Toski--Defeat and death of Nejumi--Subsequent events in
     Dongola--Osman Digna's operations against Sawakin--Is defeated at
     Tokar--Emin Pasha and events in Equatoria--Recent events in Uganda
     and Unyoro.

Having briefly considered the Khalifa's operations within the Sudan, let
us now turn and follow his movements and intentions regarding Egypt.
Ever since the annihilation of Hicks Pasha's expedition the conquest of
Egypt had been the dream of the Mahdi's life. Those of his followers who
had seen Egypt described it in the most glowing terms to the Sudanese,
whose cupidity was fully aroused. The immense wealth in Cairo, the
lovely women in the harems, had excited their most ardent desires.

The Mahdi himself had decided on the Khedive's palace of Abdin as his
place of residence, whence it was his intention to proceed to Syria, and
after conquering it, to advance on Mecca. He had prophesied that the
conquest of Egypt should be carried out by Khalifa Sherif's flag, and he
himself had done all in his power to incite the Egyptians to revolt. He
wrote numbers of letters to the leading sheikhs and principal people in
Cairo, and had he not died, there is no doubt his influence would have
permeated, in no small degree, into Egypt. Several people in Egypt
believed in him as the true Mahdi, and besides, he was now the ruler of
hundreds of thousands of people. With his death belief in Mahdiism began
to decline. His successor, it is true, was a man of boundless energy,
and had just as ambitious ideas as his predecessor in regard to the
conquest of Egypt, but circumstances had entirely altered.


The Mahdi's death and the Khalifa's accession had caused Mahdiism to
break up into two distinct parties, viz. the Baggara Arabs, who called
themselves the Arabs of the Sudan, and the "Aulad Belad," or country
people, such as the Danagla, Barabra, Jaalin, and other tribes on the
White Nile. This division in Mahdieh considerably weakened it. Wad En
Nejumi and his emirs belonged to the section opposed to the Khalifa, and
who would like to have freed themselves from his control; in consequence
Abdullah always arranged that a Baggara emir should be attached to
Nejumi, to keep him informed of all the latter's doings.

The Mahdi had laid down the plan for invading Egypt, which should be by
combined movements from Dongola towards Halfa, and from Abu Hamed
towards Korosko; and accordingly, when the English evacuated Dongola in
June 1885, Mohammed el Kheir, the conqueror of Berber, together with
Abdel Majid, at once took possession of the province, and the first
action which took place between these latter and the British and
Egyptian troops occurred in December the same year at Giniss. El Kheir
was defeated, and fixed his advanced camp at Kerma.

The fall of Sennar enabled the Khalifa to send forward more troops for
his operations against Egypt, and the Mahdi's prophecy that the conquest
of Egypt was to be carried out by Sherif's flag, entirely fell in with
his own arrangements, for he entrusted the command of the advanced force
to Wad En Nejumi, who belonged to Sherif's raya (flag), and thus
succeeded in keeping this powerful emir, whom he regarded with great
fear and jealousy, as far away from him as possible.[K]

Nejumi set out from Omdurman in November 1885, and marching along the
river bank to Berber, robbed and pillaged as if he were advancing
through an enemy's country. He seized the goods of merchants at Berber,
giving them receipts signed to the effect that they should receive
payment when he had taken Assuan. He captured two Egyptian spies, one of
whom he decapitated, and the other had his hand and foot cut off. During
his stay at Berber he robbed and pillaged in all directions, and used to
boast of his approaching conquest of Egypt. He stopped all trade with
the north, and drove on the entire population towards Dongola.

It was not, however, until the end of November 1886, that he reached
Dongola, and there he began to organize his fighting force, which was
continually increased by reinforcements sent from Omdurman.

Early in 1887 four messengers were despatched with letters to Her
Majesty the Queen of England, His Majesty the Sultan of Turkey, and His
Highness the Khedive. These envoys were permitted to come to Cairo, and
to personally deliver their letters; but when they were opened, perused,
and found only to contain a summons from the Khalifa to adopt Mahdiism,
and submit to him, or the recipients would suffer the same fate as
Gordon and Hicks, the messengers were at once sent back without any
reply being given to them, and this was considered by Abdullah to be the
greatest insult that could have been offered to him.

The Dervish advanced-guards continued to creep on towards the Egyptian
Frontier, whilst Hassan Khalifa, the nephew of the former Mudir of
Berber, occupied the desert wells, and made several incursions on the
river to the north and south of Korosko. Mounted on dromedaries, these
bold raiders made sudden descents on defenceless villages, carried off
quantities of booty, and then disappeared into the desert.

At this time the Egyptians had retired to Wadi Halfa, and the Dervishes
had occupied Sarras, a little to the south, from whence they constantly
harassed the Egyptian outposts. A variety of circumstances, however,
occurred to prevent Khalifa Abdullah from carrying out his projects
against Egypt. The revolt in Darfur, the Abyssinian war, internal
dissensions, all contributed to impede the despatch of troops north.
Besides, the Dervish garrison in Dongola had already done much to
destroy the well-being and prosperity of the province; they plundered
the inhabitants, who, in their turn, became averse to the Dervish
occupation; continued warfare had produced a famine; numbers died of

Bahr el Karrar in 1888 occupied the wells of Haimar and Ongat, and from
here was able to annoy the inhabitants on the Nile between Assuan and
Korosko. He raided the village of Kalabsheh, some fifty miles south of
Assuan, killed the Egyptian police guards, and carried off their officer
a captive to Omdurman. All this time there was a great deal of talk in
the capital about the conquest of Egypt, but we never received any very
decisive news. The captured officer was paraded through the streets in
triumph, and was then brought before the Khalifa, who received him
kindly, and questioned him very fully about Egypt; but he quite
understood what sort of replies to make to the Khalifa's questions, and
only told him what he knew would please; so he was well treated, set at
liberty, and now lives in Omdurman.

From time to time the Khalifa despatched reinforcements to Dongola which
never returned, and this was the reason of the main road leading north
out of Omdurman being called "Darb Esh Shuhada" ("The Martyrs' Road ").

The Egyptian Government had now confined itself to the defence of its
own frontiers. In June 1888, Bishir Bey, a subsidized Government sheikh,
turned Bahr Karrar out of Haimar; but on the other hand, the Sarras
Dervishes made a sudden descent on the Dabarosa bazaar, killed a number
of merchants, and escaped before the troops from Haifa could intercept
them. Meanwhile, there was not much harmony between the big emirs.
Nejumi and his followers were jealous of the masterful Baggaras, and it
was only with the greatest reluctance that they brought themselves to
show any respect to the Emir Mussaid of the Baggara Habbanieh, who had
been sent to Dongola by the Khalifa to watch and report on Nejumi's

The Baggaras hated Nejumi to such an extent that one of their number
attempted to poison him; but he recovered after a long illness, though
he never entirely got the poison out of his system. It is said that his
eyesight was always bad afterwards. This constant bickering between the
Baggara and Nejumi crippled his energy. Formerly he had been greatly
feared by them, but now his own people were annoyed that he showed so
much deference to the Khalifa and his emirs. As for the Khalifa, he was
thoroughly exasperated by Nejumi's indolence, and summoned him to

During his absence from the province, a deserter from the Egyptian side
led the Dervishes into the fort at Khor Musa, within five miles of
Halfa, where they killed some of the garrison, but were unable to take
the whole fort. Colonel Wodehouse having been informed of their attack,
at once sent out help, and the Dervishes were surprised and annihilated.


Towards the end of 1888 Nejumi was in Dongola again. The Khalifa had
threatened to throw him into chains unless he showed more energy in his
operations against Egypt. He had already exhibited his displeasure by
imprisoning Sheikh Idris and Makin Wad en Nur, who had shown a
reluctance to go forward, for they had made up their minds that a
successful attack on Egypt was an impossibility. They could not even
capture Wadi Halfa. The desert roads were next to impassable owing to
want of water, whilst the river was in the hands of the enemy, who had
numbers of steamers, and could prevent any Dervish advance by water. All
these difficulties were quite apparent to Nejumi and his emirs; but so
self-confident was the Khalifa, that he could not believe there was any
great difficulty in conquering Egypt; added to this, several sheikhs of
Upper Egypt had assured him that when the Dervishes advanced they would
be joined by the entire population.

Thus the Khalifa insisted, and Nejumi could not do otherwise than obey.
He had already transferred to Dongola the entire Batahin tribe, which
had showed a mutinous spirit, and early in 1889 he sent a further
detachment, consisting of thirty flags, composed for the most part of
Gehena Arabs, who are not warlike, and were most averse to fighting in
the Dervish cause. Thus, like lambs to the slaughter, were these
unwilling tribes driven forward to battle.

When the revolt in Darfur had been suppressed, and Abyssinia had been
humbled, the Khalifa turned his attention more earnestly than ever to
the invasion of Egypt. He despatched Yunis ed Dekeim to Dongola, and on
his arrival, Nejumi was to begin his advance north.

Nejumi was now nominated Commander-in-chief, and being one of the
Mahdi's most determined and fanatical emirs, he had given him the title
of "Emir el Umara" ("The Emir of emirs"). He had under his command
several brave emirs, such as Abdel Halim, Makin en Nur, Wad Gubara,
Sheikh Idris, Osman Azrak, and several others. But the fighting
conditions of these Dervishes had considerably changed during the last
few years. The Ansar no longer fought for Mahdieh. All those promises
of joys in paradise were no longer believed in, for by dying the Mahdi
had proved himself to be false, and so were all his prophecies. They did
not fight to obtain booty, for long experience had shown them that the
booty was exclusively appropriated by the Khalifa and his emirs. It was
now fear of the Khalifa's anger which drove them to fight, and numbers
of them deserted when a favourable opportunity occurred for them to do

Not only were all these feelings at work in Nejumi's force, but also the
conditions of the country in which he was operating were very different
from those in which he had won all his early victories. Then he knew
every path, almost every tree. It was his own country; the inhabitants
were of his own race; volunteers flocked to his standards. He always
largely exceeded his enemies in point of numbers; but now it was all
entirely different. He knew nothing of the country through which he had
to march; enormous difficulties blocked his every movement. Even had the
population of Upper Egypt been desirous of joining him, they were much
too carefully looked after by the troops and the Government to be able
to do so. An enormous desert separated him from the position he desired
to reach, and the result was that his force--just as Hicks's force had
done--suffered greatly from want of water. As usual he was accompanied
by numbers of women and children, and sometimes even five dollars would
not purchase a drink of water.

Abdullah showed his mistrust of the men by permitting their wives and
families to accompany them, for he thought that they could not well run
away, leaving their wives and children behind, and therefore they would
have to fight; but this great crowd of women and children hampered
Nejumi's movements enormously, and still further increased the want
which already prevailed in the Dervish camp. When in Dongola, the
Gehenas were suffering so terribly from famine that they stole the
Dervishes' sheepskins, on which they prayed, and ate them.

It was madness to attempt to invade Egypt with such a force as Nejumi
then had, made up of almost every tribe and nationality, all huddled
together, and yet absolutely wanting in cohesion. Then the enemy which
they were going to fight was of an entirely different stamp to the one
they had overcome in the Sudan. The Egyptian was not the same as in the
old days. The army was now composed of well-trained battalions under
English officers; and it is not out of place here to remark that the
occupation of Egypt by England was a heavy blow to the Khalifa and his
followers. Often have I heard him say, "If the English would only
evacuate Egypt, I should very soon take possession of it."

Thus did Nejumi set out from Dongola with his force. At Sarras a parade
was held, and some 14,000 souls counted; but of these nearly half were
women and children. His intention was to avoid Halfa, and march direct
on Bimban, as the inhabitants of that place had promised to join him;
but in the village of Argin, he was attacked and defeated by Colonel
Wodehouse. Here Nejumi lost about 1,000 men, amongst whom were several
emirs, including Sheikh Idris and Abdel Kader Guru, besides many more
wounded. On account of this victory, Wodehouse Pasha was known in the
Sudan as "the vanquisher of Wad Nejumi."

But, in spite of his defeat, Nejumi still continued his advance,
although the only food he had for his force was camels' and donkeys'
meat, and his troops were more dead than alive. He was obliged to make
his cavalry into a rear-guard to prevent desertion, but still large
numbers succeeded in joining the Egyptian troops.

The Sirdar, General Grenfell Pasha, wrote a letter to Nejumi, in which
he showed him that he understood the wretched state his troops had come
to, and urging him not to expose uselessly the lives of so many of his
people; but take the wise course and surrender. Nejumi, however, boldly
replied that if Grenfell Pasha would adopt Mahdiism he would guarantee
him happiness and contentment, otherwise he would sweep him and his
troops off the face of the earth.

Only one of the two messengers who had been sent with General Grenfell's
letter returned with this reply; the other--an Arab named Abdel
Hadi--was sent on to Omdurman bearing the General's letter to the
Khalifa, who was also informed by Nejumi, that Abdel Hadi had originally
been on the Dervish side at Abu Hamed, but had deserted over to the
"Turks."[L] On his arrival, Abdullah questioned him closely regarding
the latest news of Nejumi and the condition of the opposing armies.
Abdel Hadi replied that the "Turks" were very strong, and that it was
probable that Nejumi would be defeated. For this saying, he was thrown
into prison for months, and would have starved to death had not Neufeld,
who was with him in prison, given him some help; he was eventually
released through the intermediary of Hajji Saad, and permitted to return
to Abu Hamed, whence he escaped back to Egypt.

Meanwhile Nejumi still continued his advance; he could not and would not
submit. On the one hand he was of far too proud a nature to submit to
the hated Egyptian troops; and on the other, his fear of the Khalifa
added to his natural obstinacy. At Toski his advance was arrested by
General Grenfell at the head of the Egyptian troops, and he had no other
course open but to fight. He was utterly defeated, himself and most of
his emirs killed, whilst a mass of men, women and children fell into the
hands of the Egyptian force.

This battle took place on the 3rd of August, 1889; by it the
annihilation of Hicks Pasha's expedition was avenged, and the project of
invading Egypt, which had been maturing for the last three years,
entirely collapsed. The news of this defeat caused great commotion in
Omdurman; it was at first rumoured that every one had been killed; and
the Khalifa was in despair. He hated the Europeans and Egyptians, and
though we, in our hearts, were rejoiced at the news, we suffered no
small anxiety as well, for we thought it quite possible that the Khalifa
would appease his wrath to some extent by venting his annoyance on us.
It was, indeed, a most crushing blow for him and his followers.

[Illustration: WAD EN NEJUMI.

_From a photograph of a drawing made by an Egyptian officer of the great
Emir, as he lay dead on the field of Toski._]

The Emirs Hassan en Nejumi--a relative of Wad Nejumi--and Siwar ed
Dahab, who had escaped from the massacre, returned with all speed to
Dongola, and thence to Omdurman. They reported that it was madness of
Nejumi to have attempted what he did; that all his emirs were opposed to
it, and that they had told Nejumi that they were sure, if the Khalifa
were fully informed of all the circumstances, he would never have
permitted him to advance. As it was, famine, want of water, and the
unseasonable time of the year, ought to have been sufficient reasons for
postponing the expedition; but Nejumi turned a deaf ear to all their
protests, he feared the Khalifa; his plundering and cruelties cried to
heaven for vengeance, and the instruments of that vengeance appeared in
the persons of General Grenfell and Colonel Wodehouse.

Saleh Bey, the son of Hussein Pasha Khalifa, and a subsidized sheikh of
the Egyptian Government, drove his nephew out of Murat, advanced almost
to Abu Hamed, and we fondly hoped that the Government would at least
advance to Dongola, which is the key of the Sudan; but we were again
doomed to disappointment.

And now Mahdiism was far too exhausted to make any further attempts on
Egypt. The province of Dongola had been utterly ruined, and Yunis's
ill-treatment of the inhabitants was beyond description. Complaints of
his evil deeds eventually reached the Khalifa's ears, and fearing that
the inhabitants might be induced to join the "Turks," he relieved Yunis
of his appointment, and replaced him by Zogal, who, in spite of his
former fall from power, was known to be a just man, and the Khalifa
trusted to him to restore the confidence of the people. Yet the Khalifa
did not entirely trust Zogal, and still left Mussaid to watch him, he
also sent another Baggara called Arabi with three hundred troops to
observe his doings.

Dongola now became a hotbed of spying and cross-spying. Matters became
so serious that it seemed a fight between the rival parties was
imminent, and every post brought letters from either section, accusing
the other of malpractices. The Khalifa therefore summoned these two
emirs--Mussaid and Arabi--to Dongola, and on their arrival they reported
that it was Zogal's intention to deliver up the province to the Egyptian
Government. Thereupon the Khalifa recalled Zogal, and replaced him by

Zogal, on his arrival in Omdurman, was well received, and did not
hesitate to refute the misstatements of the emirs; but he was not
believed, and was thrown into chains, where he remains to this day.
Zogal's only fault is, that he is a Dongolawi, and a relative of the
Mahdi, whilst his opponents are all Baggaras, who are the governing
party, and therefore he is not likely to receive any pity from them.

Besides Wad en Nejumi and Abu Anga, there yet remained one of the
greatest of the Mahdi's old emirs. I mean Osman Digna, to whom I
referred in the early pages of this work. He had been sent to the
Eastern Sudan after the fall of El Obeid, and in July 1883, had taken up
a position near Sawakin. The Mahdi had given him proclamations to
distribute to all the tribes in the neighbourhood of Kassala and
Sawakin, ordering them to rise against the Government. The summons was
obeyed, and by the end of 1883 Osman Digna was in possession of all the
principal posts in the vicinity. The most important work which Osman
Digna performed for the Mahdi was cutting the communication between
Sawakin and Berber, and thus blocking the shortest and best road into
the Sudan. Fully alive to the importance of this route, the Government
made repeated attempts to re-open it, but Osman, with his dauntless
Hadendoas, caused every effort to fail.

On the 3rd of February, General Baker Pasha made a vain attempt, but was
cut to pieces at El Teb, losing over two thousand men and all his arms
and ammunition. After Baker's defeat, the English made another effort,
and after General Graham had defeated Osman Digna at both Teb and Tamai,
the proposal was made to open the road to Berber, and thus relieve
Gordon, then besieged in Khartum; but it was thought impossible to fight
Osman Digna's hordes, and to overcome the difficulties of the desert, so
the idea was abandoned.

For seven long years Osman Digna continued alternately to harass and
besiege Sawakin; but gradually numbers of the local Arabs--notably the
Amarar--fell away from his cause, and intertribal conflicts ensued.
When almost quite deserted, Osman Digna came to Omdurman. In January
1887, he returned _viâ_ Gedaref and Kassala, where he collected some
four thousand men, eventually occupied Handub, and again besieged
Sawakin. He also defeated the Amarar, and killed over seven hundred of

Kitchener Pasha, the Governor-General of the Red Sea Littoral, was
severely wounded during his attack on Handub; in March of the same year
Abu Girgeh arrived with a force from Kassala, and thus Osman became
almost as powerful as ever. He continued to harass Sawakin, and to
devastate the neighbouring country. It was useless for him to attempt to
take the town, he therefore received the Khalifa's orders to establish
himself at Tokar in January 1889, and at the same time he was permitted
to open commercial relations with Sawakin. A small post was established
at Handub, and Dervish merchants were actually permitted to enter the
town and purchase goods.

These commercial relations existed for about two years between Sawakin
and the Dervishes, and, as a famine prevailed at Tokar, the enemy drew
most of their supplies through the port of Trinkitat. Suddenly news
reached Omdurman to the effect that the gates of Sawakin had been
closed, and all traffic stopped between Tokar and Handub. In consequence
the famine increased, and merchants arriving in Omdurman said that no
doubt it was the intention of the Government to attack Osman Digna very

The wealthiest of these merchants was a certain Omar Kisha, who had
smuggled quantities of lead and powder through Sawakin. The news they
brought was soon confirmed, and in February 1891, Handub was occupied.
In March a message was received from Zogal, in Dongola, to the effect
that a salute had been fired at Halfa to announce the occupation of
Tokar by the Government, and the complete defeat of Osman Digna. This
news created almost a panic in Omdurman, and what made it worse was the
uncertainty, for no news had been received either through Berber or
Kassala. It was not until eight days later that a Shukrieh Arab arrived
from Kassala, and said that he had heard much talk about the defeat at
Tokar, but the fate of Osman Digna was uncertain, some said that he had
been killed, others, seriously wounded. A month afterwards letters
arrived from Osman himself confirming the news of the defeat. This
caused great consternation, and the Khalifa at once assembled a council.

It was said that an Egyptian expedition had already reached Berber, and
every day it was thought news would arrive of the capture of Dongola. It
was decided to make a camp at Metemmeh. The whole of Omdurman was
secretly rejoicing at the approaching downfall of the Khalifa, but again
we were all doomed to the most bitter disappointment. News came from
Berber that the "Turks" had no intention of advancing further, and were
content to have occupied Tokar, where they had built a fort and securely
established themselves. But, though thus temporarily relieved, the loss
of Tokar was a very severe blow to the Khalifa, as the Government was
now in immediate contact with the tribes on the Sawakin-Berber road, and
the way was clear.

On the last Muled (the anniversary of the Prophet's birth) Osman Digna
arrived at Omdurman, accompanied by a few followers. During his flight
from Tokar towards Kassala his followers had nothing to eat but wild
figs, and many had starved. The Khalifa received Osman very coldly, and
reproached him for his defeat; he afterwards sent him to cultivate on
the Atbara, where he now lives at a place called Adaramab.

Of all the opponents to Government, Osman Digna was perhaps the most
bitter; he had done great things at Sawakin, Kassala, and on the
Abyssinian frontier, but by his ruthless cruelty he had alienated the
Arabs from his cause. In his present seclusion he has, probably,
occasion to think of all his evil and bloodthirsty deeds, which have
ended in the ruin of his country and the death of his followers. Almost
all the Arabs who espoused his cause with so much zeal are now dead,
and his present humiliation is a fitting reward for his blind adherence
to a false and ruthless tyrant.

Scarcity of money in the beit et mal at Omdurman was the main reason for
the despatch of an expedition up the White Nile. Since 1885 Emin had not
been disturbed by the Dervishes, and Karamallah had long since retired
to Bahr el Ghazal, from whence no news had been received of him for

There was no Dervish post south of Fashoda, which was the market to
which the blacks brought their cattle for sale. The negro tribes all
along the White Nile had been left quite undisturbed by the Dervishes,
but now it occurred to the Khalifa to send an expedition to collect
ivory and slaves and to subdue Emin Pasha. Omar Saleh was appointed to
command, and was given three steamers and a number of sailing vessels;
he was also the bearer of a letter to Emin informing him of the various
events which had occurred in the Sudan, and calling on him to surrender
to Omar. To add weight to his letter, he also ordered the Syrian
Stambuli to write in a similar sense; also some of the Copts in Omdurman
were ordered to write to the Copts who were known to be in Emin's

Omar Saleh left Omdurman in July 1888, and a whole year passed without
any information of his movements reaching Omdurman; it was thought that
Emin must have annihilated the expedition and captured the steamers. The
Khalifa became restless, but at length one of the steamers returned,
laden with ivory and slaves.

We were all naturally most anxious to hear about Emin, and the men who
brought the despatches informed us that they had arrived at Regaf in
October; this place they took by storm, and had sent down to Omdurman
one of the clerks they had taken prisoner there. As to Emin, they stated
that he and an Englishman (we thought this Englishman must be the
intrepid Stanley) had been put in chains by the mutinous soldiers,
because the Englishman wanted to bring Emin to Egypt, as the Khedive had
sent him there for that purpose. Omar Saleh had seized this opportunity
to take possession of the province, but he had been driven back by the
mutineers; this last news was not told the Khalifa, but we heard it in
confidence. Omar had begged the Khalifa to send back the steamer without
delay, and in consequence it went south again a few days afterwards.


A long time after this another steamer arrived from Equatoria, but it
brought no important information. It seemed that Emin had left the
provinces, that on his departure the country had fallen into a state of
anarchy, and that the blacks had massacred all the Arabs. The Khalifa
despatched two emirs, Hasib and Elias Wad Kanuna, to Regaf in the
steamer; and as it was reported that the Dervishes there suffered a
great deal from the climate, he decided to make it a place of exile, and
afterwards sent only bad characters there.

In 1891 the Emir Hasib arrived in Omdurman; he came as a fugitive, and
reported that he was with two of the steamers which had been sent to a
place two days' journey from Regaf to collect ivory; they made a zariba,
and one steamer was already loaded up when they were suddenly attacked
by the blacks, who killed everyone in the zariba, and he had retreated
with the remaining empty steamer, but the other had fallen into the
enemy's hands.

Some of the blacks who came to Omdurman with Hasib said that they had
heard Emin had returned to the province and had stirred up the blacks to
revolt against the Dervishes; but Hasib was of a different opinion, and
believed the attack to have been purely a local affair.[M]

Khalifa Abdullah now felt some alarm for the safety of his posts at
Lado and Regaf, more particularly as he was now at war with the
Shilluks, and his post at Fashoda was hemmed in by this warlike tribe;
he therefore despatched another steamer south to obtain more
information, but the Dervishes he wished to send refused to go, and had
to be dragged on board in chains.

In my opinion the Khalifa will have some difficulty in retaining his
posts on the White Nile. When I left Omdurman, the head of the Shilluk
King was hanging on the gallows, and his brave people revolted against
this act of treachery which had deprived them of their chief. The revolt
had assumed large proportions, and the Emir Zeki had been despatched to
Fashoda from Galabat, and had been heavily pressed by the infuriated


[K] It was the knowledge of this fact that caused General Sir
F. Grenfell, in his letter written to Nejumi, calling on him to
surrender just prior to the action of Toski, to say, "I know that you
personally have been the victim of a base jealousy imposed upon you by
the false Khalifa."--_Mahdiism and the Egyptian Sudan_, p. 418.

[L] It must be remembered that with the Arabs of the Sudan the
term "Turk" is a synonym for the hated oppressor of whatever
nationality. The British troops, even, were confounded under the same

[M] The arrival of a portion of the old Equatoria garrison in
Cairo in June 1892, who had travelled under the ægis of the Imperial
British East Africa Company through Uganda to Mombasa, throws further
light on the present situation in Equatoria. They state that after
Stanley's departure from Kavalli's, Selim Bey (Emin's old commandant),
who had been despatched north to collect the garrison, finding that
Stanley had gone, settled down with a small number of men in his old
camp at Kavalli's, while the rebel officer, Fadl Maula Bey, with the
bulk of the garrison, remained in the neighbourhood of Wadelai. This
place was eventually attacked by the Dervishes, who were driven off, but
most of the garrison, feeling that they could not trust Fadl Maula, who
was known to have been in communication with the Dervishes, deserted to
Selim Bey. Emin had come to Kavalli's in April 1891, but on stating that
he was in German employ had been joined by only a few of his old
garrison, and had not attempted to re-enter his old province. Shortly
after Emin's departure, Captain Lugard had arrived, and had taken the
entire force into Uganda and Unyoro, where he had established some
military posts.--F. R. W.



     Ohrwalder describes Omdurman--The Mahdi's tomb, and how it was
     built--Pilgrimage to Mecca forbidden--A description of the great
     mosque--The Khalifa's palace--The markets--The population--The
     Khalifa's tyrannical rule--The terrible famine of 1888-1889--Awful
     scenes and sufferings--The plague of locusts.

In this chapter I propose to give a description of the great Mahdi
capital of the Sudan. I have already given a brief account of the place
as I found it on my arrival from Kordofan in 1886, but now the city is
vastly increased in size.

When Khalifa Abdullah had quite consolidated his authority within the
Sudan, and was contemplating the invasion of Egypt, it also occurred to
him to define the limits of his kingdom, and establish an hereditary
succession in his family. Indeed his only reason for carrying on his
rule under the guise of Mahdiism was his fear that a change of name
might involve him in difficulties, but nevertheless he adhered strictly
to his intentions, with the result that now nothing of Mahdiism remains
but the name. He has adopted many of the old Government systems of
administration, and were it not that he feared he might lose his new
kingdom, I believe that he would not be averse to substituting the
Sultan's for the Mahdi's name.

It is now thoroughly understood that the Khalifa's authority is no
longer based entirely on religious principles as in the case of the
Mahdi: he has substituted for it--if not in name, at any rate in
fact--the system of "molk," or temporary authority. He has abolished
almost all the Mahdi's decrees. His predecessor had substituted for the
gallows the system of decapitation for death-sentences, but the Khalifa
has reinstituted the gallows, his reason for doing this was to make the
mode of execution more alarming to the Sudanese, for whom he considers
decapitation a too painless death.

He has changed the name of his followers. The Mahdi had decreed that the
Foggara (or "poor" as the Dervishes first called themselves) should take
the name of Asyad (_i.e._ masters), and this system of nomenclature was
partially adhered to up to the date of his death; but the Khalifa
thought the name Foggara very derogatory to the spirit of his rule, and
therefore ordered that this name should be abolished and substituted by
"Ansar ed Din" (_i.e._ auxiliaries or helpers in the cause of religion);
it was also permitted to be called the Habib or Sahib el Mahdi (_i.e._
the friend or disciple of the Mahdi), consequently the women are known
as Habiba--a play on words which has given rise to much joking on the
part of the men. It took only a few days to cause the name of Fakir to
be completely forgotten, and now Ansar for the men and Ansariat for the
women have been adopted throughout the Sudan.

The Khalifa also abolished the name Fiki, which is given to religious
teachers. There is a Sudan proverb which runs, "El Fiki yefik ed Din"
(_i.e._ "The Fiki analyses religion"), and the Khalifa knew well how
these fikis imposed on the minds of the people, how they wrote amulets
for preservation against the evil-eye, witchcraft, diseases, and
ill-luck; how they pretended to be able to give women the means of
taking revenge on their husbands whose love had grown cold, and help
those who desired to secure the sole affection of their husbands.
Abdullah well knew how credulous were the Sudanese in such matters;
already the Mahdi had given the strictest injunctions that the practice
of writing amulets was to be discontinued, and now the Khalifa was even
more severe; he decreed that any fiki found writing an amulet should
lose his right hand, but in spite of these stringent measures it is
almost impossible to eradicate the people's belief in these
superstitions; the Khalifa himself has openly declared that he has not
the smallest belief in witchcraft, amulets, &c., and that God, who is
alone the Judge of right and wrong, has alone the power to reward or
punish. However, he is a believer in the power of the evil-eye, and will
never permit a one-eyed man in his presence, as it is said the one eye
that is good can do great damage.

The Khalifa, like the Mahdi, is bent on the destruction of the old
towns, so as to further wrap in oblivion the former Government rule.
Thus old Berber has been long since deserted, and a new Berber has been
built just to the north of the old town. Of course Omdurman--the Dervish
Khartum--is by far the most important of all the towns; and being the
place of the death and burial of the Mahdi, it is quite right that it
should be the capital of the kingdom which he founded. Just as Medina is
one of the most holy places of Islam, so is it considered advisable to
raise Omdurman to a similar position.

By far the most important and conspicuous structure in Omdurman is the
Mahdi's tomb; and in spite of the Khalifa's divergence from his Master's
views, still he considers it politic to show that he is grateful to his
benefactor. His desire was to build a tomb which should excel everything
between Omdurman and Alexandria. It is said that the dome can be seen
three days' journey from Omdurman, but on this point I am not prepared
to give an opinion, as I never went beyond Khartum. From here, of
course, the dome, rising high above the miserable mud hovels and straw
huts, is a most conspicuous object, and it is certainly the tallest of
all the buildings in the Sudan.

Abdullah spared no expense in erecting this structure. He first ordered
the plans to be drawn out, and selected that of the engineer Ismail, who
was the architect of the Sidi Hassan dome at Kassala. Omar, the former
Government architect, was lent to Ismail to assist him. Laying the
foundation stone was a great spectacle, and was celebrated with general
rejoicing and festivity. Enormous crowds collected to witness the
ceremony. Several people were crushed to death, and were looked upon as
fortunate to have died on such a day.

The work of construction was now vigorously taken in hand. Khartum
supplied the materials. Thousands of people were sent there, and the
work of destruction went on apace. Walls were pulled down in order to
procure the burnt bricks, which were sent across to Omdurman. The corner
stones of Government house were pulled out and used as the corner stones
of the dome. The woodwork was made by carpenter Mohammed Bornawi. The
masons were for the most part Egyptians who had learnt their trade in
the construction of the Mission house and church in Khartum; and by them
the Dervish workmen were instructed how to break down walls without
destroying the bricks. The foreman of works was in the habit of secretly
chewing tobacco, and one day he rather unguardedly put a piece into his
mouth; but he had been observed by some of the Dervishes, who fell upon
him, knocked him down, and would have torn him to pieces had not Wad
Adlan interposed and taken him off to the steamer, where he concealed

In the eyes of the Dervishes it was an unpardonable crime to chew the
forbidden weed whilst working at the dome of the Mahdi's tomb. Most of
the Dervishes worked without pay--"Fi shan Allah" ("For the sake of
God"), as they say. A small quantity of dhurra was allowed them; but the
masons received pay. Lime was obtained from Omdurman itself.

In order to push forward the work, Khalifa Abdullah, accompanied by the
two other Khalifas, and all the emirs and judges, went to the river bank
and assisted to carry the stones to the dome. Of course the whole town
followed them. Abdullah put a great stone on his shoulder and marched
off with it. The others all followed his example; and in this way it
took no time to bring up all the stones required. The Khalifa promised
the Mahdi's blessing to all who assisted in this work; and he solemnly
assured the labourers that they should be possessors of as many palaces
in paradise as stones which they carried to the dome. The women carried
the water required for the work. The tomb is built much in the same
style as all Mohammedan domes erected to the memory of some holy sheikh.

Several of the domes in the Sudan are made of clay; but the Khalifa had
determined that the Mahdi's dome should be the grandest in the Sudan.
The mud hut in which the Mahdi had died was pulled down, and a square
structure about thirty feet high built round the spot, with large
windows. Above this superstructure rose the dome some eighty feet above
the ground. The foundations were laid very deep, and the walls were
immensely thick. On the four corners of the superstructure, and just
where the dome begins, are four round balls supported on four small
pillars. On the summit of the dome are three large balls, the centre one
being the largest; and above these again is a gigantic gilt spear-head
resting on the balls.

The doorway is really a work of art which does credit to Sudanese
labour. It is painted in bright colours, and was made in the arsenal at
Khartum; and when it was finished, Yakub, the Khalifa's brother, himself
went to fetch it, and rewarded handsomely the men entrusted with the
work. The outside walls of the building are white. At first they
attempted to paint the tomb with oil-colours; but as they were not
properly prepared, the paint soon peeled off when it was dry, and so
they had to be content with simple whitewash. The fanatics said that
there had been some evil Christian substance mixed with the paint, which
prevented it sticking; and by its falling off, it proved that it was not
acceptable to the Mahdi.

The large windows admit a quantity of light into the tomb, which is
decorated inside with the most glaring colours. The actual grave is not
situated quite in the centre of the building, and is covered by a
painted wooden catafalque. To reduce the glare, the windows are well
curtained. Every night, and all through the night, quantities of
candles are kept burning; and it is impossible not to be impressed with
the solemnity of the tomb. The walls are so thick that the tropical sun
cannot penetrate, and there is always a cool refreshing breeze inside.
The rich perfumes with which the tomb is being continually sprinkled
fill the air with the most agreeable odours. The surrounding wall, which
marks the limits of the Mahdi's original enclosure, is so high as to
conceal the superstructure on which the dome rests.

This tomb means to the Sudan Moslems what the Kaba at Mecca means to the
thousands of pilgrims who visit it; but pilgrimage is not enjoined to
the Mahdi's tomb. To come to Omdurman is quite sufficient without being
obliged to go through various ceremonies. Omdurman is detested in the
Sudan; and no one who is not obliged to live there would stay for a day
longer than he could help; and the farther people can distance
themselves from it, the better they like it.

Since the Mahdi appeared, pilgrimage to Mecca ceased, because, while he
was alive, a visit to him was supposed to supply all its advantages. And
when he died, a visit to his tomb was supposed to confer even greater
benefits than the pilgrimage to Mecca. Several of the Fallata, who came
from distant parts of Bornu, Wadai, &c., were stopped at Omdurman when
on their way to Mecca.

Thus have the Sudanese become schismatic to the orthodox Moslem
religion, asserting that those who do not believe in the Mahdi, even
though they be Moslems, are unbelievers. Now, of course, all these ideas
have quite disappeared, and all true friends of Islam in the Sudan
bitterly deplore the present state of affairs. Several people used to
say to us, "Our position is a most miserable one! You Christians have
nothing to reproach yourselves with on the score of religion, but with
us Moslems such a state of affairs as the present is too dreadful to
contemplate, and we know no rest." A great number of people now repeat,
in the privacy of their own homes, the daily prayers, although they
have gone all through them in the mosque; but as they do not believe in
the Mahdi, they consider the prayers said in his mosque to be valueless.

Quantities of women visit the Mahdi's tomb; for, though most of them no
longer believe in him as the Mahdi, they still look upon him, on account
of his great victories, as a saint to whom God has given a great
position in the other world because of his holiness. But, after all,
these ideas are held for the most part by his enormous circle of
relations, whose motives are always somewhat interested.

Khalifa Abdullah did not, however, confine himself only to beautifying
the Mahdi's tomb. Being now the sole monarch, he desired also to
beautify his own residence. It will be remembered how, with Wad Adlan's
assistance, he had organized the beit el mal. Now, close to the Mahdi's
tomb, was the great mosque--not a mosque in its usual sense, but an
immense yard, which would hold upwards of 70,000 men extended in long
rows of 1,000. It was roofed in by enormous mats, held up on innumerable
forked sticks, which gave it the appearance of a forest. This "rukuba,"
or kneeling-place, was capable of holding 30,000 men, whose murmuring
sounded like distant thunder. At first the great enclosing wall was made
of mud; but afterwards Khalifa Abdullah had it pulled down, and a good
wall made of burnt bricks and lime.

The mihrab, or niche, marking the direction of Mecca, in which the Mahdi
repeated prayers, is situated a little to the east of the centre, and is
square in shape with mud walls, and a gable roof, made of iron plates
from the Khartum arsenal; gates open in the walls on the north, south,
east, and west. The mihrab is entered from the west, but is well
protected by branches of trees, so as to prevent the Ansar from crowding
up too close. The floor is sprinkled with fine sand; the Khalifa repeats
prayers in the big mosque on Friday at noon; but he says daily prayers
in the rukuba, in which there is a whitewashed platform about six feet
high, on which he stands.

Close to the rukuba is a square building with thatched gable roof
supported by two pillars. This is open on three sides, but surrounded by
well-carved and painted wooden railings: in this there is a seat about
three feet high, in which the Khalifa sits when he addresses the Ansar.
As one leaves the east gate of the rukuba, the Khalifa's palace gate is
visible, being built quite close to the mosque.

The Khalifa's palace is known as the "Bab," just as the Sultan's palace
is known as the Bab Ali, or Porte. This palace contains a number of
different divisions, all built of mud besmeared with red sand. Just
within the great gate is the only two-storied house in Omdurman, which
the Khalifa has purposely built in order to overlook the whole town, and
from here he can see as far as Kererri to the north, and as far as
Omdurman fort to the south. Gordon's ruined palace in Khartum is also
visible. Near the great gate, and close to the outside wall of the
mosque, is a building surrounded by wooden railings, in which the judge
sits and carries on his court.

The Khalifa is very fond of going about to different parts of the town,
accompanied by crowds of people, and as he found the narrow streets
impeded his progress, and detracted from his splendour, he ordered his
engineer Omar to construct broad straight roads to all the principal
places. This necessitated the removal of thousands of mud huts, which
were immediately demolished; but I never heard that the proprietors
received any indemnity for the losses they sustained. A broad road now
leads from the north gate of the mosque to the Hejira (or place from
which expeditions start) near the Khor Shambat. This road, as I
previously mentioned, is called "the Martyr's Road." The second large
road leads from the west gate of the mosque to the Arda (or parade
place), and is known as the "Darb el Arda." A third main road leads to
the southern Hejira, whence expeditions leave for Kordofan, Darfur, &c.

In addition to these main roads are innumerable winding streets and
lanes, to traverse which a guide is absolutely necessary. The great
Mahdi's dome forms an excellent landmark.

The Khalifa pays the most special attention to the requisites necessary
for war, and for this purpose he has had a large building constructed a
little to the south of the mosque, consisting of a large hall supported
by pillars, and built of burnt bricks. This is known as the "beit el
amana," and it is subdivided into various compartments, in which are
stored powder, ammunition, guns, rifles, and other implements of war.
This building is entered through a large vaulted gate, and no other
houses are allowed to be built near it. It is surrounded by a high wall,
and is carefully guarded night and day by detachments of soldiers.
Within the yard the flags are all firmly planted in the ground, and
present the appearance of a small forest of staves. The great black flag
of the Khalifa Abdullah towers high above them all. Near the flag yard
is a small two-storied building, in which the war-drums are stored, and
they are purposely put high up so that they may be heard from a greater
distance. In front of the beit el amana is a large open square connected
with the mosque by one of the main roads.

Besides his palace, Abdullah possesses a number of other houses, which
he visits from time to time. Of these one is situated close to the bank
of the White Nile, and its roof is ornamented with two gigantic
hippopotamus heads. He has another house at the beit el mal, from which
he can easily reach the river, and embark on one of his steamers to
visit his Eastern Hejira, whence expeditions start for the Gezireh, or
for Abyssinia. And, lastly, he possesses a large house on the Arda, or
parade ground, and at the northern Hejira. In all these houses he keeps
up a large establishment of women.

Omdurman is built almost entirely of mud, the straw huts or tokuls have
disappeared. Every house-owner surrounds his yard with a wall, in order
to keep out thieves and spies with which the city abounds. It is not
permitted to build good houses, as they might prove a temptation to
their owners to hide money. Whenever a man is known to be well off, or
prosperous, he is almost certain to have his wealth taken from him.

One of the most important places in Omdurman is the market, to which a
broad road leads from the mosque. It is a place full of life, abounding
in buyers and sellers, as well as idlers, who come to tattle and pick up
any news they can. The proof that Mahdieh is not considered to be a
durable régime is evident from the feverish anxiety of everyone to hear
the latest news, and the market is the rendezvous for all news-seekers.
Here are collected merchants from Kordofan and the Gezireh, from Berber,
Dongola, and Sawakin, all earnestly occupied in learning each other's

It is impossible to give an idea of the wild rumours which are
continually flying hither and thither. It is equally impossible to
separate the false news from the true. On this account the market is
looked upon by the Khalifa with the utmost distrust, and he would
readily abolish it if he thought it was possible to do so. It consists
of a strange medley of shops and stalls, workshops and straw huts.
Khalifa Ali Wad Helu has been put in charge of the place, he has
apportioned special quarters for each variety of goods, and the
different marts are now separated off in lines.

At night all goods, working tools, &c., are removed, as it would never
be safe to leave them there, so that in the daytime the market is the
very life of Omdurman, while at night it is absolutely empty and
deserted. Since, however, Wad Helu has taken it in hand, small brick
huts have been run up in which some merchants lock up their goods, and
leave them in charge of caretakers. Cloth dealers, druggists,
greengrocers, salt and meat vendors, all have their special quarters
now, as well as gold-and silversmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors,
and barbers. There are also special quarters for public eating-houses,
coffee-shops, firewood vendors, builders, and shoemakers.

The women have their own separate divisions, and for the last few years
men have been forbidden to have any dealings with them. For the
settlement of quarrels and disputes which frequently occur in the
market, there is a special market court, presided over by a judge, and
all delinquents are interned in a large zariba quite open to the sun's
burning rays. Close to the zariba are three sets of gallows, besides two
others in different parts of the town. The gallows are erected close to
the market, in the hope that if the executions are seen by the masses,
it will have a deterrent effect on crime.

The inhabitants of Omdurman are a conglomeration of every race and
nationality in the Sudan: Fellata, Takruris, natives of Bornu, Wadai,
Borgo, and Darfur; Sudanese from the Sawakin districts, and from
Massawah; niggers as black as ebony, down to a light chocolate colour,
Niam Niam and Mombuttu cannibals, Bazeh, Dinka, Shilluk, Kara, Janghé,
Nuba, Berta, and Masalit; Arabs of every tribe--Baggara, Rizeghat,
Taisha, Homr, Howazma, Miserieh, Kababish, Habbanieh, Degheim, Kenana,
Gowameh, Bederieh, Beni Jerrar, Gehena, inhabitants of Beni Shangul, and
of Gezireh, Shukrieh, Batahin, Hadarba, Hadendoa, Barabra, Jaalin,
Danagla, Egyptians, Abyssinians, Turks, Mecca Arabs, Syrians, Indians,
Europeans, Jews; and all these various nationalities have their own
quarters, and marry into their own tribes and sections. Arabic is the
universal language, and all free inhabitants of the Sudan speak it or
corrupt dialects of it.

The Danagla, Barabra, and Hadendoa have their own special languages; but
being derived from Arabic, they are called "rotan," as if Arabic were
the only original language in the world--the language of Adam and Eve,
and the language of paradise. Arabic is not compulsory, so the blacks
still talk in their local dialects.

The population of Omdurman amounts to about one hundred and fifty
thousand persons; but it is by no means fixed, for during the winter
numbers quit the town and go off into the Kordofan or Gezireh districts
to cultivate. But when the Khalifa orders a general assembly, the
numbers of course increase considerably. In 1888 the city was perhaps
larger than at any other time, for in that year the Khalifa ordered all
the inhabitants of the Gezireh to come and live in Omdurman. The reason
for this was never exactly known, but it was thought he feared a revolt
on the part of the Ashraf.

All the principal towns and villages on the Blue Nile as far south as
Karkoj have been destroyed, such as Kemlin, Messalamieh, Wad Medina, Abu
Haraz, Wad el Abbas and Rufaa; the inhabitants of all these towns, men,
women, and children, under great fatigue, had to come to Omdurman, where
they settled in the north of the town near Khor Shambat.

All these severe measures quite alienated the people from the Khalifa;
wives were furious with their husbands for having so abjectly submitted
to his yoke, and it was now quite plain that they feared him greatly.
One word from him was sufficient to make them pull down their houses,
pack up their goods, load them on camels, donkeys, and mules, and
transport them to hated and dreaded Omdurman. How they longed for the
Government they had so bitterly abused. "Alf turba wala rial tulba"
("Thousands of graves are better than a dollar tax") had been their
watchword in the beginning of the revolt; it had proved true with a
vengeance, and how bitterly they repented of their folly when it was too
late! Khalifa Abdullah now gripped them in the palm of his hand, and the
utter disunion and discord which he created between tribes and
nationalities, made all hope of future liberty and freedom quite out of
the question.

Those who detested Mahdiism prior to 1888 had much greater cause to do
so in 1889 and 1890; the first of these years brought a terrible famine
on the land, and in 1890, though the actual period of want had passed
away, everything was excessively dear.

The 1888 harvest had turned out badly; during the summer of that year
the Khalifa had issued stringent orders that no one should keep more
than one ardeb of dhurra in his own house, under penalty of severe
punishment; all over and above that amount was ordered to be brought to
the landing-stage at Omdurman; and as there were but few transport
animals to carry the dhurra into the town, their owners charged
exorbitant rates for its carriage, consequently large stores of it lay
on the bank, and quantities were stolen.

Soon the price per ardeb rose from twelve to twenty dollars, and
latterly to sixty dollars. Even the most aged people, in the whole
course of their existence, had never seen such a famine as now fell on
the land. Continual wars had prevented cultivation, and want of rain
into the bargain were the main causes of this terrible calamity. In
1878, when there was a scarcity of rain, the price of dhurra never
exceeded sixteen dollars the ardeb, now the price was almost four times
as great. The supplies of corn received from Fashoda alone saved
Omdurman from absolute starvation. The supplies from the Blue Nile were
quite exhausted. Up to 1889, Fashoda continued the supply mart; the
native cultivators receiving in exchange glass beads, pieces of copper,
iron, cowries, and old Medjidie dollars; and in return for all this, the
Khalifa despatched Zeki Tummal and an army from Galabat, who
treacherously murdered their king, and fought these people who had
actually saved him and his capital from the jaws of death!

The dhurra thus imported to Omdurman by the merchants was unloaded there
under the strictest watch, and was sold to the Baggaras only at six
dollars the ardeb, under absolute compulsion, whilst the other tribes
had to purchase it at ten times that amount. This called forth the
bitterest complaints against the Khalifa's injustice.

The awful scenes enacted by the starving inhabitants in the market-place
at Omdurman are beyond description. People flocked from Berber, Kassala,
Galabat, and Karkoj, thinking that the distress would be less there than
it was in the provinces; but here they were quite mistaken. As one
walked along, one could count fifty dead bodies lying in the streets,
and this quite irrespective of those who died in their own homes.

In the provision market the sellers stood over their goods with big
sticks in their hands, to turn away the poor wretched skeletons who,
with eyes deeply sunk in the back of their heads, would cast wistful
glances at the food which was denied them. Sometimes twenty or thirty of
these miserable starving people would join together, and, regardless of
the blows showered upon them, which covered their bodies with wounds and
bruises, they would wildly attack the sellers, madly seize whatever they
could lay their hands upon, and swallow it on the spot, begrimed with
dust, and probably besmeared with their own blood.

Others would sneak about like wild beasts, their loins covered with the
merest rag, and if they saw anyone alone carrying eatables, they would
pounce down on him like tigers, content even to seize a handful. These
were called "Khatafin" (_i.e._ snatchers, or birds of prey), and at
first they were fairly successful in their sudden attacks; but gradually
people understood what to be prepared for, and the wretched creatures
would be beaten off with sticks: hunger seemed to make them insensible
to pain.

One could see hundreds of these starving people wandering about, mere
bags of skin and bone, and almost shapeless; they would eat anything, no
matter how repulsive. The skins of the camels which had been killed
after the defeat of the Kababish and Gehena, and which had been used as
coverings for the roofs of the houses, were now taken down, roasted, and
eaten in that condition.

Perhaps the most horrible scenes occurred at the places where animals
were slaughtered. Hundreds of starving men and women would be seen
standing around with cups or gourds in their hands, ready to catch the
blood before it fell, and then, as the animal would be writhing on the
ground in its death-agony, they would fall upon it to catch the blood as
it flowed out of its wound, whilst a crowd would be seen struggling on
the ground for the few drops which had escaped and become mixed up with
the dust and sand; these struggles generally ended in fights, in which
the receptacles were broken, and the people besmeared with their
contents, which added to the grim ghastliness of this dreadful sight. No
power on earth could have restrained these poor sufferers--the pangs of
hunger had driven them mad.

Although famine swept off hundreds, still people poured in from the
provinces. Male camels and bullocks had become scarce, and the females
were now slaughtered without mercy, even should they be with young. Old
bones of animals were ground to powder and made into a sort of bread,
which was eaten with avidity; even the decaying carcases of donkeys were
consumed in this terrible struggle for food.

But in all this wretched misery the Khalifa showed no mercy, pity, or a
desire to relieve these terrible sufferings. He took good care that his
Baggaras should be fed, but for the others he cared not a jot. Hunger
certainly had the effect of bringing to the front all manner of
inventive genius; as it was now no longer possible to rob and steal, the
khatafin decided to let the sellers alone, provided they would not
hinder them in their attempts to get what they could out of the buyers.

Omdurman was full of strangers who had no notion of the existence of the
"khatafin," and would carelessly go to market to buy their food; but no
sooner had they placed their money in the shopman's hands than the
"khatafin," with wild yells, would seize the money in a trice, and leave
the purchaser standing with empty hands. Naturally, the shopmen would
not deliver to them the goods, the price of which had been stolen by the

One could fill a book with the thousands of strange episodes which
occurred during this awful famine. Children, deserted by their
mothers--poor, wretched, starving little things--would beg in the most
pitiful, heart-breaking way for alms. Beggars would follow one about
till late at night, and would stand about one's house; they would beg
for hours even for a grain of food. A poor naked little boy one day
broke into our house, crying, "Gian Gowi!" ("I'm very hungry!") The
tone in which it was said, the wistful, sunken eyes, and the wretched
condition of the boy, could not but excite our pity, though hundreds of
beggars had been turned away before he came; we fed him, and he survived
the terrible year of famine, but he had forgotten his name, so we always
called him "Gian Gowi." Often did I see poor little skeletons of infants
trying to get nourishment from their dead mother's breasts.

The following instance will give the reader some insight into the
horrors of this famine. One day a poor woman came to me with three
starving children; she carried one in each arm, while the eldest clung
to her skirt, the whole four looked like wandering skeletons. With a
voice of agonised supplication, which could come from a mother only, she
earnestly begged me to take the boy and feed him, and that if he
survived he could remain for ever my slave. Here was a poor mother who
preferred to see her child a slave than to look on whilst he died of
starvation before her eyes. This touched me to the very heart, but I
could not accept the offer, for I had scarcely enough food for myself,
so I dismissed her with a handful of dhurra.

The next day the mother came with one child less, and the third day she
came with one child only; and at last she came alone, saying that she
was now going to follow her three loved children. After that I never saw
her again. If grief did not kill her, hunger must certainly have claimed
her as a victim.

One day a girl presented herself before the judge of the market court,
and reported that her mother had roasted her little brother and eaten
him, and that now she had run away, as she was afraid she might suffer
the same fate. The Kadi at once sent some soldiers with the girl to
seize the unnatural mother; they found a poor half-starved woman with an
ear and a piece of a leg. She was taken before the Kadi, and took a
solemn oath that the only child she ever had was the girl; she was
immediately interned in the zariba, and the matter reported to the
Grand Kadi, who ordered the leg and ear to be exposed on the gallows.
Even the savage blacks, who were hardened by constant warfare, were
impressed with the horror of the poor woman's action, and crowded round
the zariba to gaze at her; but it was soon discovered that the wretched
creature was raving mad, so the Khalifa pardoned her, but she died a few
days afterwards.

It was never safe for children to appear in the streets at night, or
they would certainly have been seized by the starving people. One
evening I heard a cry at my door, and myself and several neighbours at
once ran out to see what was the matter. We saw a man dragging a boy
away: we at once gave chase, and the man dropped the boy and fled; he
intended to have a good meal off the boy that night.

During the famine several sold themselves or their children into
slavery; but when it was all over, the Khalifa ordered all such to be
set free without remuneration to their masters.

Dervishes, who had heaped insults on the Turks during the siege of El
Obeid for eating donkeys, and other unclean animals, were now feeling
Heaven's vengeance, for not only did they eat unclean animals, but their
own children as well. There were so many dead bodies about that it was
not possible to bury them all. At first they used to bury them within
the city, but the Khalifa put a stop to this, and they were then taken
out to the north-west side, and up to this day, if anyone walks in that
direction he will find the plain scattered with innumerable skulls and
human bones, which lie there glistening in the sun, as white as snow;
the driving sand and burning sun have polished them like glass.

How many dead bodies were carried away by the Nile, God only knows; if
people thought of it I do not think they would ever eat any more fish,
for the fish must have had a surfeit of human flesh. The scent of the
dead bodies brought hyenas everywhere, and they became so bold that
they would come almost up to my door. As for the vultures, their name
was legion, but even they with the help of the hyenas were unable to
consume all the bodies.

Let us leave Omdurman for a moment and trace the course of the famine in
the provinces. In Dongola and Berber the price of dhurra rose to one
hundred dollars an ardeb.

The entire districts between Omdurman and Berber had become depopulated.
In a hut might be found a man, his wife and children all lying dead on
their angaribs. Even in the salt districts near Shendi, almost the
entire population had died of hunger. In Kassala and Galabat matters
were even worse; here the price of an ardeb had gone up to two hundred
and fifty dollars, and even for this enormous price it was almost
impossible to get it, for there was really none in the country. The
great Shukrieh tribe had eaten almost all their camels, and its numbers
had dwindled from forty thousand to four thousand souls.

The large tribe of Wad Zayid (the Debaineh) in the neighbourhood of
Gedaref, who for his opposition to Mahdiism had been thrown into prison
in Omdurman, had become almost extinct. The population of Kassala,
Galabat, and Gedaref had dwindled almost to nothing. Zeki Tummal, to
obtain food for his troops, had mercilessly robbed the corn merchants
and compelled them to give up their very last supplies; he left them
without even a handful.

Around Galabat the hyenas became so bold that they would sneak into the
villages almost before the sun was down and drag off the wretched
half-dead people. Out of Zeki's force of eighty-seven thousand souls
before the famine there remained, after it was over, only ten thousand,
including women and children. Karkoj and Sennar, which were generally
called the granaries of the Sudan, were desolated by famine. It was,
indeed, Heaven's terrible retribution on a people who had practised
untold cruelties and shed rivers of innocent blood.

So great was the distress that it became a general saying that any one
who did not die in 1889 would never die; and this year, corresponding to
the year 1306 Moslem era, will remain engraven for ever on the minds of
those who went through the famine in the Sudan and had the good fortune
to survive it.

When the first supplies of the new harvest reached the market, there was
the most heartfelt joy throughout the country, and every one
congratulated his neighbour on the termination of their distress; but
even the new harvest was not good, and dhurra did not go below
twenty-four dollars the ardeb. The locusts did much harm to the harvest,
and this plague has devastated the land now for nearly four years.

There are two sorts of locusts, the yellow and the bright red, and they
have infested the whole country from Kordofan to Dongola and to Tokar.
They came in such swarms that at times the sun was obscured; on one
occasion they passed through Omdurman, and took from two to three hours
to do so. The rushing sound they made alarmed the people greatly, and
wherever they established themselves they left the place completely
bare. They demolished the hard palm leaves so completely that it seemed
as if they had been cut with a pair of scissors; even the bark of the
trees they did not spare. Where-ever they settle they look like a big
cloud, which completely covers streets, roofs, and walls. Sudanese, as a
rule, sleep out of doors, so that their beds were covered as well, and
as soon as one swarm was driven off another settled.

Locusts are considered by the Sudanese as a great delicacy, and when
well roasted in butter they taste like fried fish; the locusts generally
came between June and September, just when the harvest is ripening or
the new crops sprouting after the rains. There is no attempt made to
destroy their eggs. Another plague was mice: these little animals, which
are of a reddish colour, came in such quantities as to drive the
cultivators to despair. No sooner was the seed in the ground than the
mice had rooted it up and eaten it. Often the fields had to be planted
two and three times over; and then when a heavy rain came the mice would
all be drowned, and as the water subsided the ground would be covered
with the dead bodies of these little animals.

It seemed as if the entire Sudan lay under a curse. The people knew it
too, and looked upon it as God's righteous judgment on them for the evil
deeds they had been prompted to do at the instigation of a wicked and
false Mahdi.



     The Khalifa's system of government--His household--An outline of
     his character--His system of prayers in the mosque--His visions and
     dreams--His espionage system--His household troops--His great
     activity and circumspection--The great Friday review described--The
     emigration of the Baggara and western tribes to Omdurman--The
     flight of Sheikh Ghazali--Management of the beit el mal--System of

This chapter I propose to devote to a brief description of Khalifa
Abdullah and his system of government.

Abdullah is a Baggara of dark chocolate-coloured complexion, with a long
and prominent nose; he wears a short beard cut according to the Moslem
custom. When I first saw him at the siege of El Obeid he was very thin,
but now he is extremely stout, and his skin hangs in great folds
underneath his eyes; he has a strong clear voice, and though well
instructed in Arabic, he cannot conceal his Baggara dialect and accent.

His dress consists of the usual Dervish jibbeh and drawers, he also
wears sandals, and over his jibbeh, which is generally reeking with
grease and fat, he wears a tob or light cotton cloth; on his head is the
usual Mecca takia, round which a turban is bound.

As regards food, the Khalifa is more moderate and simple than the Mahdi;
he still adheres to his native dishes--asida (a sort of polenta), eaten
with milk or meat, over which a strong sauce full of spices and pepper
is poured. Sometimes he eats roasted chicken and drinks quantities of
milk and sugar, especially camels' milk, to which all Baggaras are
devoted. He has no fixed hours for food, but eats whenever he feels so
inclined; and it is perfectly astonishing the amount of food which a
Sudanese can consume at a sitting.

Like his master the Mahdi and all important persons in the Sudan, the
Khalifa is much addicted to harem life. Shortly after he had established
himself as supreme ruler, he thought to surround himself with all the
pomp and splendour of a Sudanese Sultan, of which the most important
item is a very extensive harem. As the Mahdi had done before, so did he
take to himself numbers of wives. Wherever a pretty woman is to be
found, he at once gets information about her from his spies, and she is
immediately brought to the harem.

Each of his wives has her own house, kitchen, and slaves quite apart
from the rest, consequently the expenditure of his household is
considerable. His first wife is head of all the other wives, who now
number one hundred and fifty. She is a Baggara woman, and is waited on
by numbers of eunuchs, who were formerly in the service of the Turkish
and Egyptian pashas; and although the making of eunuchs is strictly
prohibited by Mahdi law, nevertheless the Khalifa secretly employs
numbers of persons who arrange to supply eunuchs when required.

The chief eunuch is a certain Abdel Gayum, who is head of the entire
household. He has under his orders numbers of female slaves, who grind
dhurra and prepare the food; it is estimated that three ardebs of dhurra
a day are consumed in the Khalifa's household.

Abdullah is endowed by nature with a good constitution, but his
irregular mode of life has gone far to destroy it. Twice he has had
severe attacks which have all but killed him; on both occasions he was
delirious, and his body became enormously distended. The last time he
was ill all hope of his recovery had been given up, and the doctor who
was attending him, and had given him a purgative, was on the point of
being beheaded, when at the last moment the medicine took effect, and
was the happy means of saving the lives of both the Khalifa and his

The Khalifa's illnesses are always kept secret, so that whenever he
fails to attend prayers, it is generally thought that he is sick.
Fifteen days after the last crisis, and when all danger was over,
Abdullah summoned the other two Khalifas and the judges to show them
that he had recovered, whereupon Khalifa Ali at once offered up a prayer
of thanksgiving, though, if his real feelings had been analysed, it
would have been found that he was anything but thankful. After leaving
Abdullah, the Khalifas announced to the people in the mosque that he had
been very dangerously ill, but that God in His mercy had spared him.

This news was the signal for a wild shout of delight, which reached the
Khalifa's ears and pleased him not a little. Eight days afterwards he
appeared for the first time in the mosque, then the rejoicings knew no
bounds, and the shouts were heard miles off; all the emirs congratulated
him on his recovery, and the air resounded with the cries of "Allah
etawil Omrak!" ("May God prolong your life!") All this flattery pleased
the Khalifa immensely, and this eye-service is a particularly
highly-developed characteristic of the Sudanese.

And now a few words as to the Khalifa's character: he is an intensely
vain and proud man, very cruel and quick-tempered. Occasionally his
ideas are good, but he is surrounded by so many fanatics that his ideas,
however good they may be, generally die almost before they are born. He
is of a most distrustful nature, because he knows he is surrounded by
enemies--thus he is a curious mixture of resolution and inconstancy. He
listens eagerly to calumnies, and delights in hearing evil spoken of
other people; this causes his decisions to be changeable and capricious;
he is guided a good deal by what low slanderers tell him, but they have
to watch his temper very closely, and have become great adepts at
humouring him. He is fearful and jealous of his authority, and the very
smallest infringement of it is looked upon as a most serious crime and
punished accordingly. He has surrounded himself with spies, who pander
to his jealous and tyrannical nature.

These spies are everywhere, they get into private houses, attend every
meeting, and often start a discussion against the Khalifa and against
Mahdiism, merely to draw the unwary into a trap and make them divulge
their real feelings and opinions. He is told about the most trivial
thing, and sometimes during his speeches and sermons he will give way to
the wildest denunciation of his unfavourable critics. He knows perfectly
well that he is hated, but he will never allow it to be said openly;
for, though he cares little whether he is liked or disliked, he does not
wish anything to intervene between him and his authority.

The Khalifa adheres most strictly to the prescribed forms of prayer;
every day he attends five times in the mosque and enforces the presence
of all the principal emirs. He does not like the Ansar to get into
comfortable and luxurious modes of life, but insists on their always
being hardened and in readiness to withstand the fatigues of war; all
prayers end with the "fatha,"[N] after which is an invocation for the
victory of religion, the long life of the Khalifa, and the continual
success of his arms; then follows a prayer calling down God's vengeance
on unbelievers and those who have erred from the paths of Mahdiism, and
asking that their wives and children may be given as booty to the true
believers; at the end of the prayers the whole congregation joins in a
loud "Amen."

After afternoon and evening prayers, the Khalifa generally holds short
political conversations, in which the affairs of the empire and of the
capital are discussed; he receives his emirs and gives them
instructions; he frequently gives discourses from the place in which he
repeats prayers, and sometimes turns and addresses in the most
benevolent manner those who are gathered around him with heads bent in
obedient submission. If he bears any one a grudge, he never attempts to
conceal it, but refers to it in the most open manner in the mosque, when
the culprit generally comes hurriedly forward, throws himself at his
feet, and implores forgiveness: if he fails to do this, he is generally
threatened with imprisonment.

The mosque is at the same time both barracks and prison, for here he
teaches his followers humbleness, obedience, and submission. He
frequently repeats his orders that all should be most punctual in their
attendance at the mosque, and if, when the appointed hour comes, people
are found in the streets, they are invariably flogged and carried off to
the zariba. This is the way the Khalifa tests the obedience of his
people, and assures himself that they are at all times ready to obey his
smallest behest.

The highest punishment possible for an absentee is that he shall attend
regularly at the mosque five times a day for eighteen months, under a
police guard, who is as a rule a Baggara, and who never lets him out of
his sight. A man under such a sentence may, if he have money, pay a fine
or bribe his guard; but if he cannot do this he must attend, no matter
how far off his house may be. Some unfortunate people who live a long
way off spend their whole day in going backwards and forwards between
their dwellings and the mosque. The emirs even, if they neglect this
order, are very severely dealt with. This enforced attendance at prayers
has greatly added to the unpopularity of the Khalifa, for work is being
continually interrupted, and all real feelings of religion are

Formerly every important emir and fiki had his own rukuba, in which he
prayed with his own people; but the Khalifa put a stop to this, fearing
that all such meetings would have a tendency to conspiracy and mutiny.
He himself is much more a supporter of authority than of religion, but
he induces the former through the latter. Personally, he cares little
for religion. All his absurd dreams and imaginary visions only make him
a laughing-stock of the people, and he is considered by the orthodox
Moslems to be an absolute heretic.

On one occasion, when his spies reported to him that he was very
unpopular, and that it was the general wish that he should die, he
withdrew for three days. This considerably alarmed the people, for they
had no notion what form of revenge he might not be preparing for them.
At the end of this period he reappeared, and from his place in the
mosque he announced as follows:--

"I have been taken in the spirit to the third heaven, where I beheld the
Mahdi, the Prophet Elias, and Jesus Christ; when I saluted the Mahdi, he
introduced me at once to the two prophets; the Prophet Elias had a very
ruddy and sunburnt appearance, and took me very roughly by the hand; but
the Prophet Jesus was white and soft as wool. These two prophets were
pleased to know me, and I represented to the Mahdi that I had no desire
to quit this pleasant heaven; I begged him, therefore, to send some one
to rule my people instead of me, as I was tired and exhausted by trying
to govern people who did not care for me; but the Mahdi told me not to
lose heart, and that he would give me power to please all; the Mahdi
also told me that he was quite satisfied with my ruling. He afterwards
took me into the presence of God, who also showed pleasure at knowing
the Khalifa of the Mahdi."

All true Moslems who heard this extraordinary tissue of lies were very
angry that he should dare to take God's name in vain in this way, and
thoroughly understood his reasons for having such absurd and blasphemous

On another occasion he was told that the two Khalifas were very
dissatisfied with his arbitrary ruling, and resented being excluded from
a share in the government of the country. This induced another vision,
in which he declared that the Mahdi had told him he should live eight
years more, after which the Prophet Jesus would appear. In this way he
gave them to understand that they had not much hope of being given any
authority; but this vision appeared to have exactly the opposite effect
on the Khalifas, who became more clamorous than ever. He therefore
instructed his "vision secretary" to withdraw this vision from
circulation, and added that should any one ever be heard talking on this
subject again, he would be punished by the loss of a hand and a foot.
And then he tried to justify his action by declaring that it was the
fault of his secretaries, who had put an entirely different construction
on the vision to what he had intended, and indeed to what he had
actually seen!

After noonday prayers he ordered extracts to be read from the book
dealing with the early wars of Islam. This was quite a new departure. To
keep any book on religion or religious history, it was necessary, in the
first instance, to obtain the Khalifa's permission; and indeed it was
very difficult to keep any such books safe from the wild fanaticism of
the Dervishes. It was the Mahdi's intention to destroy, as far as
possible, everything which would serve to remind his people of the old
days, so that they should believe the more readily in his revelations

The Khalifa will not accept written petitions, as he himself cannot
read. If any one has a complaint to make, he must call out, as the
Khalifa enters the mosque for prayers, "Khalifat el Mahdi!" or "Sidi!"
or he may cry out, "Ya Sidi ana mazlum!" ("Master, I am oppressed!")
Abdullah then listens to what he has to say, and decides the matter.
Whether the decision be favourable or not to the complainant, he must be
satisfied with it.

Gifts and alms are frequently besought of the Khalifa, chiefly because
he is not of such a benevolent nature as the Mahdi, and moreover, he has
less to dispose of than his predecessor.

If the Khalifa does not at once dispose of a case that is brought before
him, it is a sure sign that he has no intention of giving a decision on
it, and woe to him who dares to again bring forward the question!
Abdullah gets very angry if he is interrupted when speaking. The various
expressions of content, restlessness, and revenge are so clearly
portrayed on his face that one seldom mistakes the frame of mind he is
in at any particular time, though he often vainly tries to conceal his
actual feelings.

There are some people in Omdurman who make the expressions of the
Khalifa's face their study, and are wonderful adepts at knowing what is
passing in his mind. They listen attentively to every word he says, and
their estimates of his moods go the round of their friends, but are
often rather distorted in course of transmission. These thought-readers
assign causes to his various moods, which they put down to a variety of
reasons, such as ill-health, a disaster, or a quarrel with one of his
many wives. All these reports spread at once throughout the country, and
one would think that the people had nothing else to do but to discuss
the Khalifa and every incident of his daily life. And perhaps this is
not to be wondered at, since he exercises so indiscriminately the powers
of life and death. One word from the Khalifa is able to rouse up the
energies of all those spies whose special duty it is to report the
smokers and marissa-drinkers. The liberal payment to them of bribes by
these law-breakers occasionally serves to make them neglect their
duties; but should the Khalifa wish to replenish the waning supplies of
the beit el mal, the reporting of a few delinquents rapidly fills the
exchequer again.

The Khalifa is a man of great activity, and personally directs all
important matters. He receives reports on the most trivial affairs, and
is always overwhelmed with business. This, however, helps to keep him in
health, and prevents him leading a life of sensual ease to which his
inclinations undoubtedly tend. He has nothing but his activity to thank
for the fact that he is still alive, though during the last few years he
has greatly deteriorated in this respect, consequent on his indulging
more than usual his uxorious appetites.

After morning prayers he generally takes a short sleep, and during the
remainder of the day he is busy with the affairs of State. Posts are
continually coming and going; and the telegraph having been destroyed, a
camel postal service has been organised, but is exclusively used for
official letters. Any one who wishes to send private letters must do so
through the intermediary of merchants and travellers.

After the day's work is over, the Khalifa delights in gossiping till
late in the night, surrounded by his emirs and judges. Sometimes just
before midnight he will again enter the mosque, and will summon the
poets to sing his praises. He delights in music, and keeps a number of
Dar Fertit and Niam Niam singers, who accompany themselves on the rubaba
(a sort of native guitar), and their strange and weird melodies delight
the Khalifa's soul. These native musicians have a sort of school of
music, in which they practise all day; but they never seem to learn
anything new.

Abdullah is by no means a ruler in name only. His palace is crowded with
male and female servants, slaves, eunuchs, and young boys, who
continually wait upon him, and carry after him the inevitable "ibrik."
One slave is especially told off to carry the "farwa" or sheepskin to
the mosque. The other servants are called mulazimin, and act rather in
the capacity of spies than personal attendants. A good or bad word from
them has no small weight with the Khalifa. Of course they are all
submission to their master; and if they have been brought up in the
Khalifa's service, when the time comes he permits them to marry, and
gives them a horse as well--the two things they long for most. The
Khalifa has also his special barber, who is a slave; and his master of
the horse, who is an immensely tall Dinka. He has also a sort of giant
slave who lifts him on and off his horse. His life-guards consist of 500
black slaves armed with Remington rifles, who always accompany the
Khalifa whenever he rides out. They wear a very short jibbeh--not unlike
a soldier's tunic--and short knickerbockers. Amongst them are about 100
Taisha and Homr Arabs, whose special duty is to prevent any one
approaching the Khalifa's person. To further add to his prestige, he has
also appointed an honourable council, composed of all the principal
sheikhs of the great Sudan tribes.

His mulazimin el bab, or "household cavalry," are obliged to be in
continual attendance at the great gate of the palace, and never quit
their posts until Abdullah has retired for the night. He occasionally
selects one or two of their principal officers to despatch on important
missions into the provinces. The household cavalry rank next to the
judges in the mosque precedence. If any man seek employment, he must
attend at the mosque at prayer-time and humbly make known his request to
the Khalifa; and if he wishes to succeed, he must not be sparing in the
lavishness of the compliments with which he prefaces his demand. The
Khalifa is specially open to such eye-service, and always selects for
his servants persons who possess this qualification in a marked degree.

The business affairs of State are conducted by an army of clerks, of
whom the most influential are Fauzi, Muntasser, Abu el Gharem, and
Ahmed; these are all men who possess a good knowledge of Arabic, and
know something of history and the Moslem laws; they read all incoming
letters to the Khalifa, and answer them in accordance with his
directions; one of these clerks is his special seal-bearer; all letters
are supposed to be strictly confidential, as well as the deliberations
and discussions of the council. If he ever mentions a matter in public,
in which he conveys blame or censure, then it is understood that this is
merely a warning; if he wishes to inflict punishment, then the culprit
is seized unawares, and the chastisement or imprisonment inflicted
without further ado; thus does he bring the men of the Sudan low before
him, and tramples on their necks.

Abdullah specially delights in a display of magnificence; whenever large
expeditions start from any of the hejiras, he generally proceeds there
in the afternoon, returning in the evening. Latterly he has made fewer
of these excursions, as much work and an irregular life are beginning to
tell upon him. He never announces beforehand what he intends to do, but
just before noonday prayers the onbeïa is sounded, and a herald shouts
"Khalifat el Mahdi yerkab" ("The Khalifa of the Mahdi is about to ride
out"); then everyone who owns a horse prepares to mount and accompany
him. The horses in Omdurman have become so accustomed to the sound that
whenever they hear the onbeïa they begin to neigh and prance, as if
rejoicing in the honour of being allowed to join the Khalifa's ride.

Immediately after prayers the giant slave puts him on his horse, and as
he proceeds, hundreds of horsemen and thousands of men on foot follow
him shouting and showing all the signs of joy. He always carries a large
spear, and is little different from other riders. These latter do not
march quietly behind, but continually dash forward in groups of four and
eight, their spears poised to strike, then suddenly pull up and re-enter
the ranks; this "fantasia" delights the mob, who shout the most violent

During these excursions the Khalifa observes carefully all that is going
on around him and what the people are doing. On one occasion, when he
rode to the beit el mal and was surveying the mighty river, a woman
wearing man's clothes was brought to him from a ship close by. In reply
to the Khalifa's question what she was doing, she said she was preparing
the crew's food; he then asked if she was married, and she said no,
thereupon he began joking and presented her to Wad Adlan; but the
latter, seeing that she was neither young nor pretty, readily answered
that he was already possessor of the four lawful wives. The Khalifa
could not of course violate the law, so he summoned the captain of the
ship and insisted on him marrying this old creature on the spot; he also
casually remarked that the sailors had a noggara (copper drum) on board,
and he immediately gave a general order that no drums were to be allowed
on board boats.

On another occasion he noticed a very thick cloud of smoke, and on
inquiry he found that it came from a soap manufactory; he therefore
immediately issued orders that the soap monopoly rested with the beit el
mal, and that any other manufactory was prohibited. In this way he
deprived numbers of people of a means of livelihood.

One day he remarked a large heap of sewage in the centre of the town,
which spread a most foul odour all around; this was the cause of the
Khalifa himself stating in the mosque that if, when he inspected the
town three days hence, he found any refuse, the trespassers should be
very severely punished.

Everyone now became directly responsible for the cleanliness of his own
dwelling and its vicinity, and this order had a most excellent effect;
it was further enforced by the presence of horsemen, who took good care
to see that the instructions were carefully carried out. The Khalifa
also went so far as to order that if any impurity should be found in the
public streets, the owner of the defiled place should carry it away
himself with his own hands to the appointed place. This was a cause of
great delight to the street-arabs, who heaped insults on the disgraced
individual by shouting after him "Shalhu!" ("He has taken it away!") But
as it was with the Mahdi, so it is with the Khalifa--at first orders are
obeyed with the greatest alacrity, and then people get as careless as
ever. Omdurman at the present time is by no means a particularly clean
or sanitary town.

The occasions on which the Khalifa appears in the greatest splendour are
when he rides to parade. In accordance with the Mahdi's orders, these
reviews have always taken place on Fridays, no matter what the weather
may be, rain, sunshine, or sandstorm. The review, or "Arda," as it is
called, is a religious ceremony, and those who take part in it are
supposed to obtain special blessings and advantages. The Mahdi of course
wanted to keep up the martial spirit of his followers, and therefore he
based his reviews on religious grounds. Sometimes Khalifa Abdullah is
absent from these parades, in which case his brother Yakub takes his


On parade days the great war-drums begin beating two hours before
sunrise, and the slaves whose duty it is to beat them have two
varieties of cadence, whilst a small drum beaten in quick time completes
the call to arms. The people apply all sorts of expressions to the
beating in quick time, such as "Nakelkum" or "Naktulkum" ("We will eat
you up," or "We will kill you"), _i.e._ their enemies. In the stillness
of the night these drums are heard a very long way off, and in the
terrible times of the Mahdi wars their weird and monotonous roll created
a most sad and depressing effect on me.

Immediately after morning prayers the leaders proceed to the flag yard,
each takes his flag, and they all stand in line in the open space in
front of the beit el amana.

The flags of the Khalifas Abdullah and Ali Wad Helu are kept quite
apart. Khalifa Sherif seldom goes out, and keeps himself as much as
possible from appearing anywhere in public with Abdullah, with whom he
is on very bad terms, because he has been deprived of all authority.

The four drum-beaters stand in front of the flags, and gradually the
followers all collect round their respective leaders. As soon as the sun
rises they begin shouting, and then march to the parade ground. Arrived
here, the flags are all placed in line. The horsemen follow Yakub or any
other person whom the Khalifa may delegate.

The Ansar are drawn up in a long line facing eastwards, and all the
people immediately rush to get into the various divisions to which they
belong. Then the onbeïa sounds to indicate that the great master himself
is arriving; this is the signal for all those who have stayed behind,
attempting to shirk parade, to rush helter-skelter to the ranks, as the
Khalifa gets very angry unless the review is well attended. He is
generally mounted on a very good camel led by Wad Beshir; he sits with
drawn sword, and moves very slowly, surrounded by his black life-guards
formed in square.

The four onbeïa-blowers march just in front, and take it in turns to
sound the great elephant's tusk. Behind the Khalifa follow the mulazimin
riding. Arrived on parade he first inspects the whole line, and
occasionally performs some cavalry manoeuvres in the hills which
stretch towards Kererri. These hills are supposed to be the abode of the
Jinns,[O] who are said to be the Khalifa's auxiliaries in battle, and he
frequently indulges in visions, retiring into a small hut, while the
Ansar have to stand outside waiting for hours in the burning sun.

At length he gives the signal to march off; again the flags unite in two
groups, followed by the shouting Dervishes. The horsemen keep dashing
round the flanks to see that no one goes away. All must march back to
the beit el amana, where they await the Khalifa's arrival to be

The orders respecting the arms and equipment to be carried by the Ansar
on parade are all strictly adhered to; everyone must carry at least
three spears, _i.e._ one large and two small ones; also a sword, which
is slung round the shoulder, and a girth as well; anyone appearing
deficient of any of these articles is flogged.

At large festivals the reviews are most imposing. Months before, orders
are sent in all directions for the Ansar to assemble. On these occasions
there are generally about 1,000 horsemen. The Khalifa, wearing a suit of
mail armour and a helmet, is generally mounted on a good charger, and is
surrounded by some 200 horsemen, also clad in mail, wearing helmets and
greaves; the horses also wear brass head-armour lined with
thickly-quilted stuffs, which are intended to protect from sword-cuts.

The riders wear thick red turbans, which they wind round the helmet, and
then tie tightly under the chin, thus leaving only very little of their
face exposed; they also wear red girdles, which they throw over their
shoulders. The combination of red with the dark Baggara complexion is
peculiarly effective, and gives them a most martial appearance. The red
turban and girdle are entirely the Khalifa's idea. At first the horses
were not shod, but recently Abdullah ordered some thousands of
horse-shoes to be made in the arsenal.

The wild excitement and confusion prevailing on these occasions can
readily be understood. The guns are all brought out, arms distributed
amongst the Ansar, and the shouting and yelling is endless; crowds of
horsemen dash hither and thither at a wild gallop, raising clouds of

Horses and horsemanship are a great delight to the Sudanese; the best
breeds are from Dongola and Abyssinia. At one time there were quantities
in Darfur, and there was no difficulty in raising 4,000 of them, but
since Mahdiism has fallen on the land the numbers have greatly
decreased. Every horse-owner is entitled to half an ardeb of dhurra from
the beit el mal.

The reviews which I have just described tend to keep alive enthusiasm,
and also to intimidate those who are secretly opposed to the Khalifa,
and whom the sight of such numbers of foot-and horsemen cannot fail to
impress. The best riders are the Khalifa's own countrymen--the
Baggaras--who are brought up on horses from their early childhood. The
Khalifa has craftily arranged that all horses remain in the hands of the
Baggaras. At first not many of this tribe joined the Mahdi, they
preferred to remain in their own happy hunting-grounds, rearing horses,
and living in unfettered liberty in their great plains and forests, and
in consequence the Arabs nicknamed them "Arab el Shedera" (Arabs of the
forests), but when the Khalifa succeeded to supreme power, he thought
that his authority would be considerably strengthened by collecting his
own countrymen around him.

After conquering Sultan Yusef, of Darfur, the Khalifa ordered Osman Wad
Adam to gather his own countrymen--the Taisha--nearer Omdurman. The
youthful Osman gave to those wild nomads a most glowing account of the
magnificent countries near the Nile, and of the Khalifa's enormous power
and authority, and to prove the truth of what he said, he showed them
all sorts of glittering dollars, and various kinds of cloths; nor did
he rest until he at last persuaded them to leave their homes.

They set out with all their movable property--women, children, and
flocks--all bound for Omdurman; they plundered the inhabitants of the
various countries through which they passed, and forcibly seized their
camels for transport. The Dar Hameda tribe alone, through whose country
they passed, lost 4,000 camels. When they reached El Obeid, a special
tax was levied for their maintenance, but, quite regardless of this,
they broke into the houses, and laid hands on all they could find.

From El Obeid they passed on to Tayara and Shatt, whence the Khalifa had
them conveyed in steamers to Omdurman. There were, in all, 7,000
warriors, exclusive of women and children; their arrival in Omdurman was
viewed with a certain amount of alarm, and not without reason. As the
Arnauts and the Bashi Bazuks were utilized by the Government in the old
days, so were the Taisha to be now utilised under the Khalifa's rule; he
favoured them in every possible way, the beit el mal was made
responsible for their maintenance and pay. After they had partially
settled down, and some had been given the richest patches on the Nile
banks, as well as several of the islands, the others were then removed
to Berber, Abu Hamed, Dongola, and the Gezireh.

In all these places they very soon made themselves masters of the
situation, and the Khalifa gave them the most important Government posts
to fill; but notwithstanding all this favoured treatment, still they
were not content: the more they had, the more they wanted. Upwards of
4,000 of them deserted from Omdurman, to proceed to their own country;
but they were overtaken, and, as an example to the remainder, the right
hand and left foot of three of them were cut off, though it was with the
greatest reluctance that he ever punished his own countrymen in this
way. Two hundred of the deserters were put in prison, where some of them
died in a few days: the horrors of this prison so impressed these wild
children of the desert, that to this day they tremble at the thought of

The sheikh of the Taisha was a man named Ghazali, who was by no means
happy in his new position; and though he was well received by Abdullah,
still he could not brook the feeling of being under the authority of a
man who at one time had been one of his lowest menials. It was reported
to the Khalifa that he was discontented, he was therefore summoned
before him, and addressed as follows:--

"When you were sheikh in your own country, were we not obliged to kiss
your hand, and show you all reverence and respect? Yes: and it was quite
right to do so. But now God has placed me over you as your master, then
why do you now refuse to give me the same honour and respect which you
required of your own subjects when you were in a similar position?"

Ghazali made no reply, but then and there decided to run away. This
showed a spirit of independence which had been dead amongst the Arabs
for centuries, and to find it we have to go back to the time of Saladin.
Sheikh Ghazali was a man who knew no fear, and he confided his plans to
his wife and daughter, and they--far from deterring him--rather
encouraged him to carry it out. His wife saddled his horse, and urged
him rather to die than to submit to a position so far beneath him.

Ghazali, accompanied by two of his relatives, mounted his horse in the
middle of the night; without shedding a tear, his wife bade him
farewell, and wished him all success in his undertaking. In order to put
his enemies off his track, he at first went in a northerly direction
till just below Kererri, then turned south-west, and made for Kordofan.
But Ghazali made a fatal mistake in using horses for such an enterprise,
for, winter being over, there was a scarcity of water in the desert; it
would have been far better had he used camels.

The poor man had to pay dearly for his error. Scarcely was he out of
Omdurman than one of his own tribesmen reported his flight to the
Khalifa, who became very angry, cursed the Taisha for their
ingratitude, and ordered the fugitives to be pursued at once. They
searched the desert around Omdurman in every direction, and, thinking
they must have taken camels, they did not at first take any notice of
the horses' tracks, but eventually they decided to follow up the latter,
and were soon convinced that they were on the fugitives' heels.

Some distance after leaving Kererri, they came up with the horses which
Ghazali and his companions, owing to their fatigue, had abandoned, and
had continued their flight on foot. The pursuers were now two days
distant from Omdurman, and were on the point of giving up the chase,
when they heard a shot fired from a thickly-wooded khor. It was Ghazali,
who, suffering greatly from thirst, had separated from his companions in
search of water; he had been digging about in the sand, and, discovering
the longed-for liquid, he had fired a shot to let his companions know he
had been successful.

This shot was his betrayer; the pursuers rushed to the spot, surrounded
him, and although he killed and wounded several, he was overpowered and
fell riddled with bullets. His head was cut off, for the Khalifa had
given orders that on no account was he to be brought back alive. His two
relations submitted, and were subsequently pardoned by the Khalifa, who
is always more lenient to his own tribesmen than to others. Ghazali's
head was brought to Omdurman, and thrown amongst the heap of
"unbelievers'" heads.

There is no doubt that if Ghazali had succeeded in regaining his own
country, he would have become a dangerous rival to Abdullah. Most of the
Taisha infinitely prefer the liberty of their native forests to holding
high posts in Omdurman, and would have rejoined Ghazali in large

One of the most important measures taken by the Khalifa to get all power
into his own hands was his attempt to gain possession of all firearms.
He had over and over again given orders that any one found with a gun
would be punished by the loss of a hand and a foot, and, of course, the
natural result was that every one feared to deliver up his gun, dreading
the punishment which would inevitably follow. This plan having failed,
the Khalifa then ordered two Jew merchants to buy up all firearms for
the beit el mal, and the people having no fear of Jews freely sold them.

In this way about 1,000 Remington rifles were secured: in a like manner
the Khalifa got possession of the coats of mail; but, as may well be
imagined, the Jews did not make much profit out of the business. They
were put into chains for eight months, and had to pay back a
considerable sum of money as well.

Thus did the Khalifa gradually concentrate all power in himself. The
emin beit el mal is obliged to give him a daily statement showing all
revenue and expenditure; the Sheikh es Suk (or sheikh of the market) has
to render a daily report of everything that has taken place in the
market, and the chief judge must keep the Khalifa fully informed of all
important cases which come under his notice. The Khalifa reserves to
himself the powers of life and death, although the judge passes the

Every province has a governor or emir, _i.e._ Dongola, Berber, Galabat,
Karkoj, Gezireh, Fashoda, Kordofan, Lado, and Jebel Regaf. All these
emirs are Baggara, and have several emirs under their commands. Each
emir has his own beit el mal, and has the power of appointing his own
emin beit el mal and kadi (judge). The emir is the supreme civil and
military governor of his province, and is entirely responsible for its

The beit el mal at Omdurman is known as the "Beit el mal el Um[^u]m,"
and the head of it gives orders direct to all his provincial assistants.
Each emir is obliged to report all events of importance to the Khalifa,
they are frequently summoned to Omdurman to give an account of their
administration, and to take the Khalifa's instructions.

Abdullah watches most carefully all events in frontier provinces, such
as Dongola, Berber, &c., and spies, disguised as merchants, are
continually sent to Egypt to get the Arabic newspapers, which are always
read to the Khalifa by his secretaries. An emir should never pay a visit
to Omdurman empty-handed, or he is likely to fall into serious disgrace.

In addition to the emirs are the omala (tax-gatherers), who visit the
provinces annually and collect the ushr (one-tenth) and the zeka (alms
for the poor, two and a-half per cent.). These appointments are let to
the holders at an enormous rate--several thousand dollars a year. The
omala have to cover all their own expenses, which they do, and get a
very considerable profit besides.

It is therefore apparent that the inhabitants are grievously oppressed.
The emirs and omala act in the most arbitrary manner in their own
provinces; their will is absolute, and horrible systems of cruelty
prevail everywhere. One of the omala, Wad Hamdu Allah, by way of
extorting money from a man, bound his hands so tightly behind his back
that when released they remained quite powerless. The poor man went to
Omdurman to seek redress, and the Khalifa, on the principle of "an eye
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," ordered that the amil's hands
should be cut off, or that he should pay the injured man a sum of money.
The man, of course, chose the latter, as the cutting off of his
oppressor's hands could not have done him any practical good; so he
received 200 dollars compensation and four slaves. But this is an
exceptional case; as a rule these cruelties seldom reach the Khalifa's
ears, and if the instigator of the crime is a Baggara it is never

The Khalifa's brother Yakub is his principal supporter. He and Abdullah
are not of the same mother, and Yakub is a few years the senior; he has
a somewhat lighter complexion, but if possible he is even more cruel
than his brother, and is in charge of the harem. The two brothers work
entirely together, and Abdullah, being satisfied with Yakub's integrity,
gives him the fullest liberty. Orders given by Yakub are carried out
with the same alacrity as if they were given by Abdullah. He receives
every day from the emin beit el mal all surplus cash, and moreover has
charge of spare leather, sacking, &c., with which to supply the wants of
the Baggaras. It is said that Yakub is already possessor of great stores
of wealth.

Thus do the brothers, Abdullah and Yakub, hold the entire Sudan in the
most cruel bondage, whilst the inhabitants are harassed by the merciless
Baggaras, who have made themselves the ruthless masters of the whole


[N] The first chapter in the Kuran; it is held in great
veneration by Mohammedans, and is used by them very much as the
Paternoster is recited by Roman Catholics.

[O] Jinn is the Arabic equivalent for genii, in the existence
of whom the Mohammedans are believers, and by whom they are divided,
into "believers" and "unbelievers." The Mahdi always asserted that in
battle thousands of Jinns fought on the side of the Dervishes.



     The revolt of the Batahin tribe--Revolt suppressed with appalling
     cruelty--Wholesale executions--Method of hanging--Punishment by
     mutilation--The execution of Abdel Nur--Trade with Egypt--Wad
     Adlan, the emin beit el mal--His imprisonment and death.

Another example of the Khalifa's cruel and merciless treatment of all
who oppose him is shown by the manner in which he dealt with the Batahin

This small but warlike tribe inhabits the right bank of the Blue Nile
near its confluence with the White, and extends as far as Rufaa; also
portions of this tribe are found scattered in the Gezireh. They are the
most daring robbers, and, mounted on swift camels, they lie in ambush
awaiting caravans and merchants, whom they generally kill and make off
with their goods. Bruce, in his 'Travels,' remarks that the wooded
country around Omdurman was their favourite haunt. They were the
staunchest adherents of the Sheikh el Obeid, whom Gordon's "fighting
pasha," Mohammed Ali, had so severely defeated.

During the massacre in Khartum the Batahin were most cruel and pitiless,
and for their evil deeds God's just vengeance overtook them before long.
Abdullah had sent an emir with a few soldiers to collect the ushr tax,
but the wild Batahin, whose own system was to rob and plunder the poor,
leaving them not even the wherewithal to live, resisted the emir and his
men, and forced them to flee their country. When this news reached the
Khalifa, he was infuriated, and determined to deal in the harshest
possible manner with this rebellious tribe. He therefore despatched the
emir Abdel Baki with a considerable force, with instructions to seize
every Batahin he could find, put him in chains, and bring him to


This tribe was now hunted down over the whole country, and Abdel Baki
succeeded in securing a few hundred of them, as well as Taher Wad Sheikh
el Obeid, who had been instigating them, and these were all brought to
the capital. The influential El Obeid family had taken a very prominent
part in the siege of Khartum, but after the Mahdi's death they had
become discontented and were not on good terms with the Khalifa; Taher
had, therefore, been ordered to leave Rufaa and settle in Omdurman.

On reaching Khojali, which is just opposite to Omdurman on the other
bank, he wrote to the Khalifa to say that his father, who since his
death had been revered as a saint in the Gezireh on account of his
holiness, and who had received innumerable presents on account of his
power in preserving the lives of infants, had appeared to him in a
dream, telling him to stay at Khojali and make that the headquarters of
the family; he was not, therefore, able to come to Omdurman. Taher
showed his sagacity in refusing to comply with the order; but Abdullah,
whose earnest desire it was to abolish the "saints" of the Sudan, agreed
to give Taher twenty-four hours to decide whether he would come to
Omdurman or not, so there was nothing for it but to go. However, after a
time he was permitted to return to Rufaa, leaving his family as hostages
in Omdurman. This is the Khalifa's usual mode of acting with all
influential persons whom he suspects of disloyalty.

But to return to the Batahin. Most of them died of starvation and
ill-treatment, sixty-nine were taken to the square opposite the beit el
amana, where they were kept under a soldiers' guard whilst the Khalifa
held a consultation regarding their fate. No decision was come to for
some time, and this was because more gallows were being prepared.
Hitherto there was only one, now there were three near the "court"
zariba--two at the south end of the market-place, and one at the west
end; all were provided with camel-hair ropes.

Early the following morning the war-drums were beaten, the onbeïa
sounded, and eighteen Batahin were executed, three on each gallows. Such
executions have always a great attraction for the Sudanese. The
eighteen men were all brought up to the gallows with their hands tied
behind their backs. Without a sound or even a change of expression, they
gave themselves up to their fate, or, as the Moslem says, they gave
themselves up to "El Mektub" (_i.e._ "to that which is written"), for it
is supposed that God writes down in a book the birth, experiences, and
death of everyone, which things cannot be changed.

Below the gallows is an angarib, on which the condemned stands, while an
immensely tall Dinka called Bringi puts the noose round the man's head,
pulls it tight, fastens it to the gallows, and then draws away the
angarib; and in this way the whole eighteen were soon swinging in the
air, whilst the assembled masses sent up shout after shout of

It was a most horrible sight. The poor creatures wore only a miserable
cloth round their loins; they had had nothing to eat for some days, and
presented a most wretched condition as the wind blew their emaciated
bodies backwards and forwards. All were powerful young men, and the
bystanders--as is always the way with the Dervishes--vituperated them
freely, accusing them of every description of wanton cruelty, whereas it
is more than probable that all these just executed were entirely
innocent, and were expiating the crimes of those who had been fortunate
enough to escape. When all contortions were over, the bodies were untied
to make room for the remainder, who had been quietly gazing at the fate
of their brothers which was so soon to be theirs.

On this occasion--as it had often happened before--the cord broke under
the last man's weight; but Bringi was very quick, he lost no time in
joining the ends and completed his brutal work. The impressions which
all those dreadful scenes left on my mind can never be obliterated. But
if the fate of the eighteen was cruel, the fate of the remaining
fifty-one was even worse.

The Khalifa now rode out accompanied by the cavalry and thousands of
spearmen, and taking the wretched Batahin with them they marched
towards the parade ground. Every now and then on the way he ordered one
of them to be decapitated, and in this way twenty-four more were killed;
there were now only twenty-seven left, and on arriving on the ground he
sent for the butchers to cut off their hands and feet; soon there was a
heap of these bleeding members, whilst the bodies of the poor Batahin
lay writhing on the ground, beads of anguish pouring from their brows;
yet not a cry did they utter; most of them died in a very short time.
Even the most stony hearts were touched on beholding this terrible
spectacle, but no one dared show it--in fact everyone tried to force a
laugh or a jeer, because the Khalifa himself revelled in scenes of
useless bloodshed and cruelty, while in truth the whole population of
Omdurman secretly lamented it.

The bodies hung on the gallows for a day, so that everyone might see
them, whilst the mothers and sisters of those who had been mutilated on
the parade ground begged the Khalifa's permission to go to the spot and
see if any of their relatives were still alive; they were allowed to go,
and there they found a few still living; they dressed their bleeding
limbs and carried them on their backs to the market-place, where they
begged food for them.

Never shall I forget the face of one poor woman. With tearless eyes she
bore her mutilated son in her arms, and it would be hard to say which of
the two was suffering more--the mother or the son--the latter lifting up
his mutilated right arm while he rested his mutilated left leg on his
right to prevent anything striking the wounded stump.

It was indeed a shocking and pitiful sight. Several of the survivors of
Khartum would pass by these wretched people, and staring at their wounds
would shout out, "Have you forgotten Khartum?" Long after this I used to
see these poor creatures dragging themselves about in the market-place
begging for alms.

Soon after this the Khalifa pardoned the Batahin, and sent Ahmed Wad el
Bedri to try to persuade them to come and settle in Omdurman; eventually
they formed part of Nejumi's force, and were almost all killed at
Toski. Thus did God's vengeance overtake them for their untold cruelties
during the massacre in Khartum. It is said that the Khalifa has repented
of his wanton slaughter of this tribe.

After this, fear took possession of even the bravest, and no further
attempts at resistance were made; discontent was everywhere rife, not in
Omdurman only, but throughout the provinces, and even the Baggara, who
were favoured in every way, and given every possible advantage, longed
to return to their own country.

It is usual, when the day's work is done, for neighbours to collect
together in the lovely moonlight nights, for which the Sudan is so
famed, and talk over matters. The conversation always turns to politics;
the latest news from all directions is eagerly discussed, and often the
most unlikely and impossible stories are credited. The fact is that the
people long for freedom, and their smallest hopes become exaggerated
into not only possibilities, but certainties. The proverb, "El gharkan
yemsik fi shaaru" (_i.e._ "The drowning man catches at a
straw"--literally, a hair), is being continually exemplified. Talk also
turns much on what the Khalifa said and did, what he intends to do, what
has taken place in the last council, &c. But the Khalifa, fearing that
all these conversations might lead to conspiracies, ordered them to be
discontinued. But nevertheless they are still carried on secretly.

Near the market-place there lived a certain fiki named Abdel Nur (_i.e._
the slave of light--that is to say, the slave of the light of the
Prophet; though, when the Copts are called by this name, the reference
is to the light of the Redeemer). The fiki's neighbours used to assemble
in his house every evening, and of course the conversation always turned
on Mahdiism, and the Khalifa was abused freely. Abdel Nur would talk
more excitedly than the rest, and used to say that the Sudan no longer
formed part of Islam, that both the Khalifa and the Mahdi were
unbelievers, and this he proved by quotations from the sacred books.
All this was reported by a spy to the Khalifa, who at once despatched a
company of soldiers by whom the unsuspecting party were suddenly
surrounded and carried off to prison.

Early the following morning Abdel Nur was brought before the judges, who
asked him if he had really spoken against Mahdiism. Seeing that he was
now lost, he thought this a good opportunity, in the presence of such a
large audience, to prove his assertion; he declared that the true Mahdi
should not die in Omdurman, and that true Mahdiism would not be confined
to the Sudan alone; that the people having been once deceived, the paths
of wickedness should be avoided, the paths of truth followed, and the
oppression of the Moslems abandoned once and for all.

The judges, who in their own hearts were convinced of the truth of Abdel
Nur's assertions, were unable to browbeat him, whilst all those who
listened had little doubt in their own minds of the truth of the
statements of this outspoken man, but fear of the Khalifa intervened to
stop them from admitting their convictions. One of the judges at length
stood up, and, desiring to make an end of this dangerous and humiliating
position, said to Abdel Nur: "We are with the Prophet, the Mahdi, and
his Khalifa; are you with us or not?" The fiki replied, "I am not with
you," whereupon the Khalifa sentenced him to death, and at ten o'clock
the same morning his body was dangling from the gallows; his friends
were not executed, but were severely reprimanded.

This execution was so sudden and unexpected that everyone was asking
what his crime could have been, but the Khalifa was careful to send
spies to all quarters to spread false reports about him, to the effect
that he was an unbeliever and a magician; these spies were also told to
ascertain exactly what the people said, but the latter knew they were
being watched, so they said nothing and retired; the spies set fire to
the fiki's clothes, and the next morning reported to the Khalifa that
hell-fire had burnt them up.

But the matter was not ended here; according to the Moslem law, if an
unbeliever be discovered, all his neighbours within a forty yards'
radius are considered guilty, and their houses may be plundered and
destroyed. This law was carried out in the fiki's case, and several
families with all their goods were dragged off to the beit el mal, while
their homes were occupied by the soldiers; several men were threatened
with the gallows, and there was a good deal of disturbance in the town.
The Khalifa's adherents were shouting, "Away with these unbelievers!"
Several suspected persons were seized and kept for three days in
continual fear of death.

On the third day several of the wives and families came to the Khalifa
and begged his forgiveness, throwing dust on their heads and making
every show of Oriental grief. On this occasion the Khalifa thought it
was sufficient to thoroughly frighten them all, so on the expiration of
the three days he released them and returned their property. He took
this opportunity of giving an order that it was the duty of every one to
report to him any fiki who was in the habit of writing amulets; spies
and informers soon produced numbers of such fikis, who only saved their
lives by making most solemn promises to the Khalifa that they would
never again be guilty of this disobedience of orders.

On another occasion a boat-boy was accused of having said something
against Mahdiism; he was hurried before the judge, confessed his crime,
and was then taken off to the parade-ground, where the Khalifa ordered
him to be beheaded. Ahmed el Talia was the executioner, but he made a
false stroke and only gashed the youth's shoulder, but with the second
blow the head was clean severed from the body.

Abdullah's jealousy and alarm for the safety of his kingdom now induced
him to turn his attention to Wad Adlan. As I have already narrated,
Adlan had rendered the Khalifa great services: he had put the beit el
mal in good order, had regulated the accounts on the old Government
system, and in order to increase the revenue without having recourse to
force, he had persuaded him to open trade with Egypt.

It had been the Khalifa's original idea to erect a sort of great wall of
China between Egypt and the Sudan, to prevent all ingress into his
newly-acquired dominions; but Adlan was a very tactful man, and by
degrees he induced the Khalifa to agree to his proposal. Ivory and gum
were declared to be the monopoly of the beit el mal. Ivory comes in
small quantities from Regaf and Lado, while gum, which is purchased by
the beit el mal for five dollars a hundredweight, is sold out by the
beit el mal to merchants for twenty dollars; the beit el mal will also
accept gum as payment in lieu of money. A lively trade soon sprang up
between Berber, Sawakin, Assuan, and Korosko; and Omdurman merchants
were allowed to come to Sawakin and purchase goods; the beit el mal made
considerable profits, and the people were less oppressed than before.

Thus did Adlan render a great service to the inhabitants of the Sudan,
and through his influence many of the cruel measures of the Khalifa were
altered. As long as he was in charge of the beit el mal he was very
popular with all, the capital was in good hands, the markets throve, and
even when the funds in the exchequer were low he had no difficulty in
raising loans from rich merchants on payment of bills of exchange.
Usually a loan of 5,000 to 6,000 dollars could be raised between fifteen
or twenty merchants with ease, because of the feeling of security which
Adlan's presence induced. The white people also owe him a deep debt of
gratitude, for he gave them continuous protection.

On one occasion, when it was rumoured that the Sudan was to be invaded
by Egypt, the Khalifa proposed separating all the whites and scattering
them amongst the Arabs in various parts of the country, but Adlan
impressed upon him the necessity of retaining them all under his own eye
in Omdurman, and thereby he rendered us an immense service; his main
idea was to lighten the Mahdiist yoke and relieve the oppression of the

But this growing contentment gradually began to be displeasing to
Abdullah, whose main object was to reduce every one to poverty and to
enrich his own tribe, the Baggara; thus his and Adlan's views frequently
clashed, but Adlan was most prudent, and knew when to give way. What
displeased the Khalifa most was to see numbers of people assembling
every morning outside Adlan's door waiting for him to go to the beit el
mal, where they would lay their complaints before him.

The honour they paid and the praises they heaped upon him excited the
Khalifa's jealousy, and the latter frequently rebuked him sharply; but
he took no notice of these outbursts, and in a fit of anger he was, on
one occasion, thrown into chains for fourteen days. On his release Adlan
now thought that the Khalifa could not get on without him, and began to
show less submission to his master's will than before. This still
further widened the breach between him and Abdullah, which was made
worse by Adlan's many enemies, who envied him his high position.

The Khalifa's brother Yakub was his most dangerous rival, as Adlan's
popularity had rather detracted from his authority. He and others
represented him to the Khalifa as a dangerous man, who might at any
moment bring his influence to bear in direct opposition to the Khalifa.
It is therefore not to be wondered at that Abdullah grew suspicious, and
one day, when Adlan was presenting his daily report, the Khalifa took
occasion to tell him that he was far from pleased with him, and blamed
him for his delay in sending corn to the starving Dervishes in Dongola.
Adlan answered: "What can I do? The people won't have Mahdiism any
longer, and that is why I meet with so much opposition." Some say that
he even said much more than this; but the Khalifa was not accustomed to
be talked to in this way, so he ordered Adlan to give up his sword, and
the same night he sent him to prison. This gave his rivals ample
occasion to speak against him, and Yakub insisted that he should suffer

Adlan was very heavily chained, and forbidden all intercourse with the
outside world. His arrest did not at first create much excitement, but
this was due to the many false reports which were circulated regarding
the cause. On the following day it was announced that he might have to
suffer death, on the third day this sentence was confirmed, and a
messenger was sent to Adlan to ask him if he had any choice between
being hanged or having his hand and foot cut off. Adlan chose the

To the beating of war-drums and the sound of the onbeïa, he was led,
with his hands bound, to the market-place. Here numbers of Baggara
horsemen formed a square round the scaffold, and Adlan, escorted by a
guard, entered the square with firm footsteps. When he reached the foot
of the gallows, the judge called on him to repeat the Shahada or Moslem
creed, which he did with a clear voice, then jumped on to the angarib,
adjusted the noose himself, which Bringi pulled taut, and he swung into
space, whilst at the same instant the Baggaras drew their swords and
flourished them in the air, to signify that a like fate would surely
befall all the Khalifa's enemies. But grief was read on every face, and
never before had there been such heartfelt lamentations in Omdurman.

Ibrahim Wad Adlan was a most intelligent Sudanese, with black face and
aquiline nose. He was about thirty-five years of age.

After his body had been suspended for half-an-hour, Yakub, accompanied
by several others, took it down, and laid it out on the angarib; the
bystanders say that Yakub could not conceal his look of half repentance,
half terror, as he gazed on the corpse of his victim. It was wrapped in
a cotton shroud, and taken to the cemetery outside the city, where it
was buried, Yakub leading the procession. That night robbers pulled out
the body and stole the clothes in which it was laid, leaving the corpse
on the sand to be food for hyenas.

The Khalifa's reason for sending Yakub to attend Adlan's funeral could
not well be misunderstood, for every one knew that Yakub had been the
prime instigator in securing his condemnation; and yet Abdullah was
short-sighted enough to imagine that in thus sending his brother he
might to some extent dissipate the bad impression which Adlan's
execution had created.

The mourning for Adlan was both general and sincere; during his whole
administration he had done no harm to anyone; he had done his utmost to
smooth over difficulties and lighten oppression, and I can confidently
affirm that he is the only man of whom this can be said, for, as a rule,
Sudanese who rise to positions of power and authority invariably become
most cruel and arbitrary.

Now what good could this execution have done for Mahdiism? No doubt the
Khalifa thought to justify himself in the public estimation, because
Adlan was too popular, but the real reason was, that the Khalifa feared
him, for he knew that his justice and prudence had made him beloved by
the people.

With the one exception that Adlan had opened commerce with Egypt,
chiefly through the secret intermediary of a former Khartum merchant
named Abdel Majid, I do not believe there was anything else against him.
It was said that letters had been found, purporting to have been written
by Adlan, in which he had begged the Egyptian Government to retake
possession of the Sudan; but this statement, had it been true, would
have been announced far and wide by the Khalifa; this, however, had not
been done, and it was generally agreed that it was entirely fear on the
Khalifa's part which prompted him to take Adlan's life.

All his property was confiscated, and his friends persecuted. Some of
the latter, after his death, remembered that he had told them how, when
studying in Cairo, an old woman had foretold that he would die a violent
death. For long he paid little attention to this prophecy; but during
the siege of El Obeid, he called it to mind, and thought it would
perhaps be fulfilled there. But when he eventually rose to high position
in Omdurman, he used to laugh at the old woman's saying. However,
during his last imprisonment, he had been firmly convinced it would come
true, and that was what made him so bold and firm when he actually came
to look death in the face.

In place of Adlan, the Khalifa nominated his relative Ez Zaki, now Emir
of Berber; but he fell ill shortly afterwards, and resigned. The Khalifa
then appointed Nur el Gereifawi (that is, a native of Gereif, near
Khartum). He had been in charge of the beit el mal at Berber; as Nur was
an intimate friend of Adlan's, it was thought that he might suffer a
like fate, but he was a crafty individual, and had sent the Khalifa
30,000 dollars, which he knew would have the desired effect.

On arrival at Omdurman he stood by the great gate to see the Khalifa;
but Abdullah did not summon him that evening, so he lay that night on
the ground beside the Khalifa's door--an act of humility which quite won
his heart--and the next morning Nur was officially appointed Adlan's
successor. In order to thoroughly impress Nur with the dangers of his
new situation, the Khalifa announced to him that on the previous night
he had beheld a vision, in which he had seen hell, and Ibrahim Adlan
suffering untold agonies in the lowest abyss, with a long chain fastened
round his neck; Nur was shackled to the other end of the chain, and
Adlan was trying to drag him down into the abyss; but the Khalifa had
unfastened the chain and released him.

Thus was Nur completely overawed, and did his utmost to comply with the
Khalifa's and Yakub's wishes. He discharged all the Copts employed in
the beit el mal, and replaced them by blacks. Awad, formerly head clerk
of the Kassala Mudirieh, he appointed as his assistant, and through his
astuteness and knavery he lost no opportunity of forcibly extracting
money from the people.



     System of public security and justice in Omdurman--The court of
     small causes--Bribery and corruption--The story of the slave and
     her mistress--How the Khalifa deals with quarrelsome
     persons--Thieves and pickpockets--The story of Zogheir--Usurers and
     their trade--The chief of police--Brigandage--Disproportion of
     males to females in Omdurman--How the Khalifa overcame the
     difficulty--Immorality--The marriage ceremony.

It may be imagined that fear of the Khalifa and his tyrannical rule
would produce at least a feeling of public security and immunity from
lawlessness; but the following chapter will show that this is not the

In the early years of Mahdiism there was no discipline, and laws were
entirely put aside, because the whole population was at war and everyone
on the move. They were living on the captured wealth and prosperity of
the Government. At that time there were not many robbers. When we were
living in Kordofan we were perfectly safe, and could sleep with our
doors open at night. No one ever thought of taking precautions against
thieves, though nothing would have been easier than to break into our
loosely-built straw huts.

After the capture of Khartum, and when Omdurman became a large city, the
former prosperity of the country gradually began to wane, famine broke
out, and then public security became seriously threatened. Thieves
increased in such alarming numbers as to be a terror to all; and in
1888-89 they became so bad that people scarcely dared to go to sleep. It
is true the punishment of cutting off hands and feet was freely
exercised; but even this had little effect, chiefly because robbery and
corruption went hand in hand, and a thief had no difficulty in disposing
of a bribe.

As I have already narrated, the Khalifa nominated his own judges, with
Ahmed the Kadi el Islam as their head; a special court was also
established to deal with the innumerable marriage disputes which form so
large a part of Moslem legislation. Abdullah specially instructed his
judges to consider these cases from their external rather than from
their internal aspect.

The usual proofs required are the evidence on oath of witnesses. The
witness is obliged to wash himself before taking an oath, so that he may
be pure. He then places his right hand on the Kuran, and says, "Hakk
kitab Allah" ("By God's book"), following it by his statement. In cases
of complaints, the defendant only has the right to take an oath, whereas
the complainant must produce witnesses. If no witnesses are forthcoming,
the defendant has only to take an oath, and is then acquitted.

The real sense and meaning of an oath is absolutely ignored. Hundreds of
oaths are taken every day in the market court on the smallest trifle,
perhaps not exceeding a piastre. The falsehood of the individual taking
the oath is frequently quite apparent; but unless the witnesses come
forward, the most flagrant case will go unpunished.

It is the popular idea that if a man swears falsely on the Kuran, he
will immediately fall down dead. This constant perjury is very clear
evidence of the depth of moral degradation and religious decadence which
the followers of the Mahdi have now reached.

In cases relating to debt, acknowledgment on the part of the debtor of
his liability is considered sufficient; but if this is not forthcoming,
then two witnesses are required. As a consequence of the widespread
mistrust and duplicity which exists, everything, even to the smallest
matter, is generally written down on paper; or a bargain may be struck
in the presence of witnesses; but this is not considered a safe
proceeding, owing to the prevalence of bribery. The Khalifa has given
very strict injunctions that all debts must be repaid, and if there be a
delay, the debtor is to be put in prison, and brought to reason by

Let us glance for an instant into the court of justice in the
market-place of Omdurman, where most of the small cases are tried. Here
we find the sheikh es suk (or sheikh of the market), together with the
judge, some soldiers, and (latterly only) a few Arabs, as a police
guard. The sheikh generally rides to the court at eight o'clock every
morning on a donkey. One of his guards places his sheepskin on a small
straw rukuba (latterly this has been constructed of clay), and on this
the sheikh seats himself. He has the Kuran beside him.

The parties in dispute arrive, and the case turns, for example, on
fraudulent dealing, debts, payment in false coinage, &c. As there are no
lawyers, each party must defend himself. As a rule the Sudanese are
clever and astute in their conversation, and the man who can talk best
has already gained half the victory. The noise and shouting is
deafening; and the Sudanese have a wonderful display of sly cunning. The
sheikh's last resource is the Kuran.

Sometimes bystanders attempt to mediate between the disputing parties,
and this course generally prolongs the talk and noise indefinitely, and
does not often succeed. The usual punishment is flogging, which is
inflicted on the spot. Marissa-drinkers and tobacco-smokers receive
eighty lashes. The individual sentenced has to lie prone on the ground,
supporting his head with his hands, while two slaves take it in turns to
belabour him with whips made of hippopotamus hide. The first few strokes
generally draw blood, but as a rule the victim remains immovable, whilst
the bystanders applaud him for his courage. If he utters a cry or a moan
he is laughed at and derided. The sheikh and his supporters are much
addicted to bakshish, which enables many a culprit to escape punishment.

Should the dispute be of a very serious nature, it is brought before
the high court at the Bab el Khalifa; but here money plays even a more
important part than in the smaller court. The success or failure of the
case depends on the ability with which the opposing mediators influence
the judgment; a hint or a sign with the hand is quite sufficient to make
the judge understand, and with marvellous astuteness he will contrive to
give the case an entirely new aspect, and one which, probably, only a
few moments before he has most strongly condemned, but which now he
thinks it advisable, under the circumstances, to adopt; and this change
of front is carried out without the smallest hesitation.

I will here give an example of what is considered justice in Omdurman. A
female slave who had for a long time had a quarrel with her mistress
decided to have her revenge, and the fact that her mistress was in the
habit of smoking and wearing jewels aided her in her design. She took
her lady's tobacco and cigarette papers, which were generally kept
hidden under ground, tied them in a little bundle, ran off with them to
a soldier who was her relative, and who belonged to Yakub's bodyguard,
and reported her mistress's evil doings.

Meanwhile the lady, finding that her slave had run away, sent her
brother-in-law in search of her. The family were now thoroughly
disturbed, and anticipated all sorts of bad consequences. The lady's
husband hastened to Yakub's house, thinking that perhaps the slave might
have gone there, and there, sure enough, he found her, surrounded by a
crowd of Ansar. The latter, espying Ahmed (as we may call him),
surrounded him and were carrying him before Yakub, when Ahmed, who did
not lose his head, explained to the Ansar that he had always been under
the impression that the Khalifa had appointed a judge to inquire into
all such matters, and that he was ready to bow to the judge's decision;
so he, the female slave, and the Ansar all went to the court. The slave
produced from her pocket the bundle, laid it before the Kadi, and then
stated her complaint against her mistress.

Meanwhile Ahmed had met a friend, and told him how that for a long time
the slave had been on bad terms with her mistress, and had seized this
opportunity for revenging herself on her, adding that she had probably
obtained the tobacco and cigarette papers from elsewhere, and had
trumped up this case to harm her mistress, who had never smoked in her
life nor worn jewels; indeed, if they liked they might go and inspect
the house.

The mediator gave a sign to the judge, who at once decided the case in
Ahmed's favour, and ordered him to go to the sheikh es suk, who had been
instructed to send some one to inspect his house.

It was not a difficult matter to circumvent the sheikh es suk, and when
they all arrived at the house, the slave was called upon to show the
place in which she had been ordered to hide her mistress's tobacco.
Without a moment's hesitation the slave came forward and began scraping
away the earth in a corner. It was evident that she had often done this
before, and that the hiding-place had been carefully prepared--indeed,
the slave found some tobacco still there which she had not noticed
before, and this she exultingly produced; but at that instant one of the
Ansar gave her a slap on the face, saying, "Look at this bint el kelb
(daughter of a dog), she brought some tobacco here which she purposely
dropped into the hole whilst she was clearing the earth away." Heaped
with insults by the bystanders, the poor slave was dragged off to the
market-place, where she received eighty lashes because she had failed to
prove the truth of her assertion. Such is Omdurman justice.

Although this is but one amongst thousands of cases of the most
disgraceful corruption, still all this serves to keep the slaves in
order, and were it not so, there is little doubt that masters would
stand in constant danger, and would be at the mercy of their slaves.
Indeed, many slaves have succeeded in getting their masters into great
disfavour by informing on them, and this makes the masters in great fear
of their slaves Even if a slave has been born and brought up in his
master's house he cannot be trusted, and if he receive some slight
punishment, it is more than probable he will go off and report his
master as a smoker, marissa-drinker, or that he has become lax in the
cause of Mahdiism; and, as likely as not, he will be flogged, or receive
some worse punishment.

According to Moslem law a slave's evidence against his master is
considered invalid; but this law, as well as all other laws, is only
applied according to the Khalifa's wishes and the circumstances of the
case: the same remark applies to the value of evidence given under

Curiously enough, murders are seldom committed, and when the wild nature
of the Sudanese is considered, it is contrary to what one would expect.
Quarrels and disputes are endless, but in spite of being armed, both
parties seem to expend their energy in violent talking and
gesticulation. The Khalifa has given the strictest orders regarding
"assault and battery;" if a man hits another man, he will be liable to
have his hand cut off, and this order is generally unflinchingly carried
out, unless the condemned man be well off, and he will then have his
property confiscated, as the following case will show:--

A dispute once arose between a merchant named Yusef Kurdi and a certain
Mohammed, son of the rich Ben en Naga; both were intoxicated at the
time, had drawn their swords and slightly wounded each other. The affair
reached the Khalifa's ears; he ordered both of them to be arrested, and
threatened to cut off their hands; but, as a matter of fact, he really
wanted to secure some of their money. Old Ben en Naga, a man of ninety
years of age, threw himself at the Khalifa's feet and begged that his
son's punishment might be altered, and after a few days' confinement and
continued threats, the Khalifa was at length graciously pleased to
commute the sentence into confiscation of property. Yusef Kurdi paid
6,000 dollars and Ben en Naga's son 5,000 dollars, while both of them
were kept in prison for many months to expiate their hasty step. With
no less energy did the Khalifa deal with thieves and swindlers.

There are various classes of thieves: there are the pickpockets, whose
field of labour lies principally in the markets, the small bazaars, and
landing-places. They are principally Khartum people or Egyptians, and
their feats of dexterity are marvellous. The removal and cutting out of
purses and money-bags is for them a quite simple operation, and is
generally performed when people are engaged in a violent dispute. The
thief has generally a confederate with whom he works. They will sit in
the crowded ferry-boats, and whilst one of them attracts the attention
of his fellow-passengers by singing or telling an exciting story, the
accomplice is busily engaged in pocket-picking; or sometimes one of them
will begin rocking the boat whilst the other takes advantage of the
passengers' alarm by robbing them. They hover about all day long in the
market, watching their opportunities to steal both from purchasers and
vendors. Stolen goods are sold to a particular set of men who are in
league with the thieves, and the money obtained is quickly squandered.
The art of pocket-picking has become quite a science, and so skilful are
they that detection is almost impossible. The stolen goods are passed on
so readily from hand to hand that even if the original thief is caught
the person robbed will probably never secure what he has lost. Over and
over again thieves are apprehended _in flagrante_, but when brought up
before the judge, no trace of the stolen article is ever found.
Frequently the judge does not fail to get his share of thieves' profits;
so that the latter have every inducement to continue their nefarious

But far more dangerous than the pickpockets are the housebreakers. Of
the latter there is a regularly organized body, of whom the chief is
known as the Sheikh el Haramieh. The band is made up of strong and bold
slaves, who are experts at breaking through walls or climbing over them,
armed with a long knife, with which they would not fail to stick anyone
who attempted to stop them. They employ women and children as spies, who
go about begging from house to house, and then give the housebreakers
full information, whereupon the thieves, stripped almost naked, and
armed with swords and daggers, break into the house. One of them is
always told off to stand over the sleeping owner, and to give him his
quietus if he should attempt to rise, whilst the others ransack the
dwelling, and are off again as quickly as they came, to divide the
spoil. Whenever the cry of "El Harami" ("Thieves") is heard at night,
all sleep is banished, and a careful watch kept till morning.

Formerly watch-dogs were most useful to warn against housebreakers, but
the Khalifa decreed that they were impure animals, and forbade them to
be kept. Not a dog is now to be seen in the whole of Omdurman; but in
spite of this injunction, the Arabs living in the desert still keep
them. If one of these poor animals by chance strays into the town he is
at once pursued by a multitude armed with spears, shouting "Arian!"
("Naked!") and he is soon despatched.

A man called Zogheir--an Egyptian, born at Bara--became quite one of the
most celebrated of thieves. From an early age he was brought up to
steal, and became most skilful. To a strong constitution he added a
courage which was worthy of higher things. As head of a band of thieves
he led many a daring undertaking, and had the most wonderful knack of
always escaping all harm himself. On one occasion, when there were
scores of complaints made against him, he was sent to the lock-up of the
market. The sheikh es suk, who was at that time rather short of money,
promised to release the prisoners if they could collect fifty dollars
amongst them.

Zogheir agreed to get the money, and was given one hour's release from
prison. He at once went to the market, and very soon found a victim in
the person of a dammur (cloth) vendor, who had sold almost all his
goods, and sat with his purse full of money in front of him. Zogheir
seated himself down beside him, and started a conversation about the
cloth, which he began turning over piece by piece, and with great
dexterity he succeeded in seizing the purse, which he secreted under his
jibbeh. He then went off to the judge, to whom he presented the purse,
in which were seventy dollars, and then quietly returned to the lock-up,
and told his guard to again put his chains on.

The cloth merchant soon discovered the theft, rushed off madly to the
market court, and there represented that a thief--and it could have been
no one else but Zogheir, for he had been sitting with him--had stolen
his money. The sheikh severely reprimanded the merchant for making a
false accusation, asking whether he was a liar or was mad, and then,
taking him off to the prison, he showed him Zogheir heavily bound in
chains; and after this the unfortunate merchant had to thank his good
fortune that he himself did not receive a flogging.

During the famine Zogheir drove a thriving trade. On one occasion he
discovered some Arabs in the market who had just sold a quantity of
dhurra, and were counting out their money, which amounted to 700
dollars, which they were carefully examining, to see that all were good.
This sight made Zogheir long to get the money, so he winked to his
accomplice, and then seated himself near the Arabs, and began asking
them whether he could offer them "Medjidie" in exchange for "Makbul"

When the agreement was nearly concluded, Zogheir took two dollars out of
his pocket and gave them to one of his accomplices, to buy some dates,
and when the man returned with the dates he began throwing them about in
all directions, calling out "Karama! Karama!" ("Alms! Alms!"). The
starving beggars flocked to him in crowds, and began quarrelling over
the dates, whilst the leather bag in which were the 700 dollars suddenly

The cries of the Arabs, searching for their lost money, could scarcely
be heard in the frightful din occasioned by the distribution of the
dates, and all this time Zogheir kept on condoling with the Arabs over
their loss, and then he seized a favourable moment to make off and
divide the contents of the leather bag amongst his friends. At length
complaints against him became so numerous that he was sentenced to have
his right hand and left foot cut off. He submitted quite cheerfully to
the operation, which is really a very simple one.

A butcher is called up, who ties the arm and foot tightly with string
just above the place where the cut is to be made. This butcher, who has
had an immensity of practice, knows exactly where to cut, and it takes
only a very few moments to sever the hand and foot at the joints. The
tightly-tied string keeps the victim from bleeding profusely, and in
order to prevent gangrene or mortification setting in, the mutilated
members are at once dipped into boiling oil or fat, and are then smeared
over with katran (a sort of mixture of tar and grease), or sesame. In
the course of about two months the cure is complete--that is to say, the
cure of those who survive the first shock; but several succumb as well.
However, the enormous number of cripples in Omdurman is practical
evidence that the nerves of Sudanese are strong.

Zogheir survived the operation, but hardly had he recovered than he
began his old tricks again. He now was possessor of a fine donkey, on
which he rode about in far better clothes than he had before, and
altogether, with his diminished members, his condition seemed to have
generally improved. But continual thefts again drove him into prison,
where he wore two chains on his foot and two on his neck; still he
thought it beneath him to take to crutches, and contented himself with
hopping about on one leg. He remained in prison for two years, and
during the whole of that time he was well looked after by his friends,
who supplied all his wants. At last he was released, and is once more
the best professional thief in the Sudan.

But thieves are not all--there are swindlers as well. Several people
wished to give their money out to interest, and of course there were
numbers found ready to give them what they asked. The Prophet, however,
forbids money to be lent out at a monthly rate of interest, and the
Mahdi renewed this injunction with threats that an infringement of it
would involve confiscation of property; this led the swindlers to adopt
a variety of subterfuges. For instance, some men would induce the Arabs
to give them 200 to 300 dollars, with which they set up a restaurant,
promising the lenders half profits in the concern. As long as the cook
has money in hand everything goes on well, and the Arab will probably
make daily inquiries as to the progress of the business. "It is going on
capitally," is the reply, and the cook entertains his patron, who in
turn is much gratified at his generosity, and generally makes a very
excellent meal.

A careful account is kept, and prices are high. At the end of the month
the profits are divided, and the Arab gets from say eight to fifteen
dollars. The business goes on perhaps for a year, the Arab is content
and lavish in his praises, but he is not aware that the cook has paid
him his share of the profits out of the original money he put into the
concern. At the end of about a year the cook begins to complain that "es
suk barid" ("The market is getting cold")--_i.e._ business is slack,
meat is dear, customers are few, and instead of profit there is a
distinct loss. Finding he is the only customer, the Arab patron eats
quickly and goes away. At last the shop is closed, and the Arab, coming
for his money, is met with the simple answer, "There is none." The case
is brought before the judge, the cook hands in a statement of his
accounts, showing that the profit amounted to 150 dollars, of which
eighty were passed to the credit of the patron in food, and the rest had
been lost owing to general depression of trade. The accounts are all
right, and the Arab is thoroughly puzzled as to why he should have to
pay so dearly for his cook's proffered kindness.

Several Arabs, who have considerably less knowledge of the world than
the Gellabas, have lost all they possessed by these swindles. The
Omdurman market is, I suppose, the scene of more swindling and deception
than any other place of its size in the world. There is no shame in
being a thief or a swindler; it is only when one is found out that some
shame attaches.

Several masters keep slaves for the express purpose of getting them to
rob and steal, and share the profits with them. Slaves of this
description are valuable commodities, as, if they are discovered, it is
generally pretty certain that their master can bribe the judges; but
this, of course, all depends on the relations which exist between the
individual and the local authorities. Thus tobacco-smokers and
marissa-drinkers must pay a monthly sum to the sheikh es suk, which
enables them to carry out their lawless practices with impunity. If any
such individual refuse to pay, his habits are at once reported, and he
is severely punished, the confiscated tobacco being then sold by the

Complaints against these evil practices, and regarding the absence of
public security in Omdurman, grew so continuous and so serious, that at
length the Khalifa was obliged to interfere, and the following case
brought the matter to a head. A drunken slave had shot one of his fellow
slaves. In accordance with the law, the master is permitted to take the
offending slave's life; but he forgave him, because he did not wish to
lose two slaves at once.

When the Khalifa heard of the case, he at once ordered the slave to be
executed. After this, every one came and told him about the smokers and
marissa-drinkers; and then and there he appointed a certain Wad er Reis,
also named Hussein Wad ed Dayim, as sheikh of the market.

This man, who had been formerly Mamur of the Berber police, succeeded in
making himself feared by the thieves. He openly told the Khalifa that it
would never do to treat thieves according to the law, and that only the
strongest and most energetic measures would effect the breaking up of
the band.

The Khalifa agreed; and at once the new chief of police seized all the
well-known thieves and put them in chains. They were then bastinadoed,
and forced to confess what they had stolen, to whom the goods had been
sold, and their value. And thus they got to know the names of almost all
the thieves in the town.

These measures created a great sensation in Omdurman, for it was found
that several people in high places were implicated, and they were
convicted. The thieves, too, seized this opportunity for extorting
hush-money; but Wad er Reis soon re-established public security. To
increase the supervision, he divided the market into quarters, over
which he appointed sub-sheikhs (known as sheikh el hara), who were
responsible, with the assistance of the inhabitants of the quarter, for
preserving security at night. Numbers of marissa-drinkers were
apprehended, and a large quantity of confiscated tobacco was publicly
burnt in the market-place. All the principal thieves were transported to
the convict-station at Regaf, a course which the Khalifa thought
preferable to mutilation of the hand and foot.

Just about this time an Egyptian convict, who had escaped from Sawakin,
arrived in Omdurman. He had been convicted of false coining in Egypt,
and had been sentenced to ten years penal servitude at Sawakin. While in
the prison there, he and a companion had come to an agreement with the
soldier guarding them, and all three had escaped and set off for Berber.
The soldier and the other man had died on the journey, and the survivor,
having reached Omdurman, begged to be presented to the Khalifa; but
Abdullah thought it beneath his dignity to interview an escaped convict.
He was therefore transferred at once to the steamer bound for Regaf with
all the thieves and other exiles, whilst the Khalifa was heard to remark
that anyone who came from Egypt was invariably a criminal or dishonest

The new posts of sheikh el hara were unpaid, and as the holders had to
live, they were forced to make money by unfair means. This led to the
old tobacco and marissa abuse, so that matters soon drifted back into
much the same condition as before.

The caravan roads into the interior are fairly safe, but merchants
always prefer to travel in parties of twenty to thirty; though, as a
matter of fact, the Baggara garrisons at the various posts are a much
greater source of danger to the merchants than are the thieves and
brigands. These Baggara wring money out of the merchants, and steal
their goods; but if the caravan is large, they are afraid to do anything
which may lead to reprisals. The Khalifa has, however, done much to
improve public security in the provinces, and punishes severely when
cases are brought to his notice.

The state of public morality in the Sudan is very bad, and in Omdurman
it could not well be worse. Before the Mahdi appeared, matters were bad
enough. Almost all the large towns, such as Khartum, Messalamieh,
Metemmeh, and El Obeid--especially the latter--were hotbeds of
immorality of the very worst description.

The Mahdi was utterly opposed to all these evil habits, and during his
life matters greatly improved; but this was due rather to the fact that
the whole country was under arms, and that the towns were practically
deserted. Besides, punishment for such crimes was ungrudgingly given,
and the stoppage of marissa-drinking also tended to lessen the evils.
Marriage ceremonies were simplified and made less expensive, and a
distinct advance in public morality was apparent.

But when the principal fighting was over, and the victorious emirs gave
themselves over to a life of luxury and debauchery, when idle town life
took the place of religious campaigns, when houses were built of mud and
bricks instead of rough straw huts, and when the Mahdi died, then
immorality broke forth with the redoubled violence of long compression,
and the state of affairs became infinitely worse than it had ever been
in the old Government days. I refer especially to Omdurman. Constant
warfare had greatly diminished the male population. Omdurman was full of
women who had neither husbands nor male relations; and this is the real
cause of the evil state of affairs.

Matters reached such a pitch in 1888 that the Khalifa issued an order
that every unmarried woman must be provided with a husband within three
days, or she would be handed over to a Baggara as a slave or concubine.
In consequence of this order, for the space of three days the whole town
was continuously occupied in marriage ceremonies. Men seized this
opportunity of taking women whom they would never, under other
circumstances, have been allowed to marry; and of course these forced
marriages could not be of long duration--in a month or two most of the
couples were separated.

Another cause which tended towards immorality was the fact that numbers
of men had been sent off to far-distant parts of the country on
expeditions, unaccompanied by their wives, most of whom were left in
Omdurman for years; and it is hardly to be wondered at if in time they
began to forget their husbands and to form unlawful connections, in
which the Khalifa had frequently to interfere.

On one occasion upwards of eighty women, whose infidelity to their
husbands was unquestionable, were put in prison, and a council held to
consider what should be done to them. It was decided to make an example
of one, and the victim selected was an unfortunate who had borne two
illegitimate children. The poor creature was led into the women's
quarter of the market, and there she was lowered into a grave with her
last child tied to her bosom, and both stoned to death by a cruel and
hard-hearted crowd, who seemed to take a fiendish delight in this
inhuman piece of work.

This, however, was the only execution of the sort which took place
during Mahdiism. The other women were released; but the only effect of
the above example was to induce women to take criminal means to rid
themselves of these evidences of illicit connection; and the open sale
of abortive medicines only tended to further increase the moral
decadence of the people. One can truthfully say that feelings of horror
and shame scarcely exist in the Sudan. From slaves of all ages and
sexes, to the little child of six years old, all are instructed in the
very worst forms of immorality; but on this painful and disgusting
subject I will say no more.

Gradually the simple marriage laws introduced by the Mahdi gave place to
the old former customs. For example, the Emir of Berber, Abdel Majid,
married the daughter of Abderrahman Bey Ben en Naga, and received from
her father 2,000 grammes of gold. The marriage ceremony, which was
celebrated with dancing and singing, lasted about a month; but when the
Khalifa heard of it, he had the emir imprisoned for some months,
declared the marriage dissolved, sent the bride back to her father, and
forbade him to let the bridegroom ever take her again.

But the Sudanese have a passion for such ceremonies involving dancing
and singing, and will never be restrained by any of these new laws. The
women wear jewellery as before; they dance, sing, and prepare marissa;
games of chance too are quite in vogue; but of course everything is
carried on secretly. From time to time the Khalifa raises his voice
against it, and then for a few days everything stops; but it soon breaks
out again, and goes on just as before.

The festivals consequent on the termination of Ramadan, on Bairam, on
the occasion of births, circumcisions, &c., are not carried out with any
degree of their former brilliance. Perhaps a meat meal is given, and
visits paid two or three times in the year. The old days of rejoicing
have vanished, all is anguish and fear, no man's life and property are
secure; every one has perforce to break the laws, which are most of them
quite impracticable, and at the same time are in constant fear of spies,
who are everywhere. There is no security, justice, or liberty; and
happiness and content are unknown.



     Description of the prison, or "Saier"--The "Abu Haggar"--The
     imprisonment of Charles Neufeld--Terrible sufferings of the
     prisoners--Domenico Polinari--The danger of corresponding with the
     European prisoners--Neufeld threatened with death--He is given
     charge of the saltpetre pits--The fate of Sheikh Khalil, the
     Egyptian envoy--The Khalifa's treatment of the "Whites"--Exile to
     the White Nile.

In the preceding pages frequent reference has been made to the prison.
This is an institution of so much importance in connection with Mahdiism
that it merits a description in detail.

"Saier!" In the Sudan the bare mention of this word causes a shudder.
The ordinary word for prison is "siggen," but Saier is really a
contraction for beit es Saier (_i.e._ the house of the Saier). Saier is
the name of a terrible individual of the Gowameh tribe of Kordofan, who
has been gaoler since the early days of the Mahdi, and his name has
become the synonym of the horrible place of which he is the guardian.

A curious story is told about his name which is said to be true. The
Gowameh women are not renowned for moral virtue, and when Saier was born
his mother was asked whose son he was; she was unable to say, and when
brought before the authorities and again questioned, she replied that it
was "Saier" (_i.e._ it was the custom of her country); the boy was
therefore called Saier, and the name clung to him.

Up to the time of the fall of Khartum, the prison had been merely a
large zariba, and it was only after the Mahdi's death that a wall, built
by the prisoners themselves, took the place of the thorn hedge. It is
situated on the river bank, and consists of a large yard, in the centre
of which is a building made of mud, straw, and stones, known as "abu
haggar" (or the stone hut), with small square openings for a window and
a door; near the hut is a well. In one corner are the cells, which are
scarcely large enough to contain a man, and which had been built by
Charles Neufeld.

The ordinary prisoners are not kept apart, but lie under the shade of
the wall during the day, and at night they are packed, some into the abu
haggar and some left to lie about in the yard. A few of the well-off
prisoners, who are in for long terms of imprisonment, have been allowed
to build little huts for themselves. And just behind the gate is a small
sun-dried brick building, which belonged to Wad Gazuli, late sub-Mudir
of Khartum, who deserted to the Mahdi before Gordon's arrival; this hut
is only big enough for two people, and so low that it is impossible to
stand upright in it.

It is considered a very great favour to be given a hut of this
description--a favour which is only conferred on very privileged
prisoners; it is, moreover, very expensive, but it has this merit, that
the occupier can at any rate live separately. There are only three huts
of this description in the prison.

Prisoners are not allowed to use mattresses, but the owner of a hut can
have a small platform slightly raised from the ground, on which he is
allowed to sleep. The ordinary prisoners generally lie on their
sheepskins or on mats stretched on the ground.

All prisoners are in chains, the number of which depends on the nature
of the crime committed. The chains, called makias, consist of large iron
rings forged to the ankles, and joined by one and sometimes two thick
iron bars. The whole thing is very cumbersome and heavy, and most tiring
to walk with. To lighten this difficulty, the prisoners generally attach
a piece of string to the chains, with which they lift them up as they
walk. If the connecting bar is twelve inches long walking is greatly
facilitated. Prisoners who have fallen under the Khalifa's special
displeasure are generally laden with four makias, which make it almost
impossible to rise; besides these, a long heavy chain is fastened round
the neck, and to prevent the skin being chafed, leather stocks can be
bought of the prison warders. Close to the prison gate is a large anvil
and several hammers; the foot is placed in the open ring, the ends of
which are so tightly hammered together that it is quite impossible to
withdraw the foot; the anvil is in such constant use every day that it
is almost worn out.

Prisoners have to arrange for their own food; if they have any relations
or friends they are generally supplied by them, or if they have any
money they can buy their own food from hawkers who are permitted to come
into the prison. But woe to the unfortunate prisoner who has neither
relations nor friends--he must inevitably die of starvation.

At night, as I have remarked, the prisoners are locked up in the stone
hut, and sometimes the Saier crowds it up to such an extent that the
inmates are almost suffocated or crushed to death. When he is in want of
money he does this, for a man will give anything to be released from
this awful black hole, in which he packs them like sardines in a box and
then closes the door. The walls of the hut become heated during the day,
so that within the temperature is like an oven. A little air gets in
through the small opening, but the pestiferous atmosphere caused by
scores of perspiring human beings tightly huddled together is beyond
measure unbearable. Several may be suffering from various illnesses, but
there is no possibility of getting out once the door is closed. These
horrible scenes can, however, be better imagined than described; suffice
it to say that the noise and quarrelling amongst the prisoners,
occasioned by the revolting operations which go on, is generally quelled
by the guards coming in with whips, with which they lay about them
roundly, and then go out and close the door again.

Sleep is almost quite out of the question, for there is no room to
stretch out the legs, the heat is unbearable; scorpions abound, and
every now and then a yell shows that some unfortunate individual has
been stung; but no one takes any notice. Cases of heat apoplexy often
occur, and deaths on this account are frequent. When a person falls down
in a fit, the only remark passed is, "ed dam darabu" ("The blood has
beaten him"). Thus, in utter anguish and misery, the night is dragged
through. The moment the door is opened a rush is made for the open air,
the dead are dragged out, their chains knocked off, and then they are

Prisoners who have special permission to sleep outside are all chained
together to prevent flight, and are guarded by numbers of soldiers. The
slightest show of resistance on the part of a prisoner is punished by
flogging. Unless the Khalifa gives special orders to the contrary,
prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their friends and
relatives. There are no fixed periods of imprisonment, except in the
case of smokers and marissa-drinkers, the usual punishment for them
being confiscation of property, eighty lashes, and forty days
imprisonment; but latterly a fine, estimated at the value of their
property, is levied instead of complete confiscation; the two other
portions of the sentence are, however, always inflicted.

Prisoners are generally divided into three classes: the first class
comprise those who are sentenced by the chief of the beit el mal, and
although there is a special prison for offenders against the beit el
mal, all serious cases are brought to the Saier.

Second-class prisoners are those undergoing sentences of the judges;
both these classes hope for release whenever a sufficiently influential
person will pay a sum of money for them, which sum must also be
accompanied by a certificate from the Saier that they have been
conducting themselves properly during their stay in prison.

The third class are those on whom the vials of the Khalifa's wrath have
been poured out; their crimes are for the most part political, and all
mediation in their cases is quite useless, no one, not even the judge,
is allowed to say a good word for them to the Khalifa. It is only when
his wrath is somewhat abated that it may occur to himself to make
inquiries about them, and then, perhaps, he may consider recommendations
for their release; but the Saier's opinion goes for much more than any
other person's, and therefore it is a great point to secure this
individual's favour and get into his good graces. One bad word from the
Saier can do an infinity of harm, and may indefinitely postpone a
release which has been on the point of being made.

The Saier thoroughly understands how to work his influence, for he
benefits considerably by his exercise of power; he receives no pay, and
therefore he is entirely dependent on what he can make out of the
prisoners. The richer his victims, the more pleased he is, for he knows
he can wring money out of them freely. Once a month the judge or his
representative goes with a clerk to the Saier and makes a list of all
the prisoners, showing how long each prisoner has been in confinement.
On these occasions numbers of the inmates throw themselves at the feet
of the judges and beg to be released because they are starving. This
list is shown by the judge to the Khalifa, and Charles Neufeld's name
always appears at the top. Abdullah goes through the list, makes careful
inquiries about the prisoners, some are released and others passed over
in silence, a sign which bodes them no good.

The Saier has seen and heard not a few of the misfortunes of both
Sudanese and Europeans. The first Europeans he knew were Slatin Bey and
Lupton Bey. Gustav Klootz was put into chains in Abu Girgeh's camp.
During the siege of Khartum it was thought the Europeans might attempt
to escape to Gordon, they were therefore put in chains; both Slatin and
Lupton spent upwards of ten months in chains under the Saier; they
suffered dreadfully from hunger and ill-treatment, and were frequently
threatened with death. After the fall of Khartum they were released, and
were told by the Khalifa that they should feel thankful to have been in
prison, otherwise they would undoubtedly have shared Gordon's fate.

One of our Mission brothers, Domenico Polinari, was also kept in prison
for six months; he was imprisoned the same day that I arrived from

After the fall of Khartum, Polinari's brother had been working as
gardener in the Mission grounds, under his new master, the Khalifa
Sherif. The former gardener, a Dongolawi, had been dismissed for
dishonesty, and before he left, Sherif ordered him to be carefully
examined, as it was thought he might have taken some of his master's
property. Polinari, who was a most conscientious man, and had never even
taken a lemon without his master's permission, carried out the search
most carefully, and succeeded in getting back quantities of things the
thief had made away with. For a time the thief said nothing, but soon
his innate Danagla astuteness came to his assistance, and he concocted a
plan to revenge himself on Polinari, and again become chief gardener.

The war material, just as it had been left by Gordon in the Mission
house, was still there, and it happened that one day some powder was
stolen. In spite of the most careful inquiries, it was impossible to
trace the thief, and now the ex-gardener began to throw out hints that
Polinari was implicated in the theft. A certain Hajji Zubeir was
entrusted with the inquiry. Polinari's hut was overhauled, but nothing
found in it; his honesty was so well known that no one would credit any
evil reports or slander against him. But the ex-gardener was not to be
put off. Having failed in his first accusation, he now began to spread
reports that Polinari drank liquor and chewed tobacco, and in proof of
this he produced a large glass bottle and some dried herbs; there were
some fresh dates in the bottle, with which Polinari intended making
vinegar, which the gardener insisted was liquor; the dried vegetable was
a sort of cabbage which Polinari intended cooking for his food, but this
the Dongolawi asserted to be tobacco.

The unfortunate Polinari was obliged to walk through Omdurman with the
bottle on his head, followed by an insulting and disorderly crowd, until
he came before the judge. Kadi Ahmed, who was well known for his
partiality to Europeans, at once recognised that this was all a
trumped-up slander, and was anxious to release Polinari; but Hajji
Zubeir, who had still great influence with the Khalifa, and instigated
by the ex-gardener, sent him off to the Saier. Every other day we used
to send him some bread and dates, but the slave to whom the food had
been consigned never delivered it, as we afterwards discovered, and had
it not been that two of the sheikhs, who were fellow-prisoners with him,
had given him some of their food, he must have died of starvation.

Amongst the many Sudanese who have at various times been inmates of the
Saier, may be mentioned the aged sheikh of the Shukrieh, who had been
most loyal to Gordon, Awad el Kerim Abu Sin--he died in prison; Wad
Zaid, of the Debaineh tribe, had been kept in prison four years; then
there were Ahmed Wad Suleiman, who had been the Mahdi's chief of the
beit el mal; Saleh Pasha Wad el Mek, one of Gordon's principal officers;
the Ashraf Sayid Abdel Kader and Sayid Abdel Kerim; Wad Adlan we have
already referred to; Jabrallah, Sultan of Darfur, and his five sons,
most of whom died; Wad en Nejumi; Sheikh Idris; Makin Wad en Nur, and
many others.

When the Khalifa's tribe, the Taisha, first arrived, they plundered the
market, and Abdullah threw 200 of them into prison, "to teach them," he
said, "the right way." Every night fifty of them were driven into the
stone hut, which was, indeed, a terrible change from their forests and
plains. Every day several died of typhus fever, and now the mere mention
of Saier makes them tremble; even their head sheikh, El Ghazali, whose
misfortunes I have already narrated, spent some months in prison before
he made his unsuccessful attempt to escape.

Yasin, a Jaali, who had fallen into the hands of the English at Toski,
and who was subsequently released, and given a letter to take to the
Khalifa from the Egyptian Government, had to pay dearly for saying to
Abdullah that they could not fight against the English.

Another of the captives taken at Toski, but who also returned to
Omdurman, was much more crafty in his interview with the Khalifa; this
individual related that, when in Cairo, an old monk had said to him, "Is
not the Khalifa of the Mahdi called Abdullah?" to which he replied,
"Yes; it is so." "Is he not slightly lame?" "Yes." "Is he not marked
with small-pox?" "Yes." Then the monk said, "Do you see this book? It
contains the history of the Mahdi and his successor, and it is stated in
it that Khalifa Abdullah shall conquer Egypt, Syria, and Mecca." The
Khalifa was so delighted with the story that, turning round to his
people, he said, "You see the Christians know perfectly well that
Mahdiism is not false." The wily author of the story was then given a
present of money.

Occasionally the Saier treats his prisoners very cruelly. Two fikis who
were suspected of being unbelievers were given 1,000 lashes each; one
died on the spot, and the other a few days afterwards. Occasionally he
relieves the monotony by giving his prisoners 400 lashes, which is not
considered an out-of-the-way punishment.

On one occasion, two Ababdeh Arabs coming from Korosko as merchants,
were discovered south of Metemmeh with rifles in parts, carefully
concealed in bales of cloth; letters were also found on them. They were
at once considered to be spies, and taken before the Khalifa. As soon as
it was rumoured that Arabs carrying letters for the Europeans had been
caught, a friend came to me at once, and told me that the letters were
sure to be addressed to me. This threw me into a fever of anguish and
alarm; I was made a prisoner, and spent that night in the greatest
terror. The Khalifa had warned us most distinctly not to correspond with
Egypt, and threatened to imprison us if a letter should ever be

On this occasion I had every reason to be alarmed, for I had already had
a similar experience. After Father Bonomi had escaped, he sent a
Kababish Arab to Kordofan to try and secure my escape. The Arab remained
with Sheikh Saleh Bey, and did not, to my knowledge, ever come to El
Obeid. When Saleh was killed in 1887, they found amongst his papers a
letter from Father Bonomi to me, advising me to trust the Arab, who
would not fail to guide me safely to Halfa. This letter was brought,
with the other correspondence, to the Khalifa, and was translated to
him: he was furious, and had not my guardian angel protected me, I must
have been relegated to prison.

Arabic letters are less dangerous, for they are read out to the Khalifa
by his secretary, but he is always mistrustful that European letters are
correctly translated. How I had longed for letters, even a word from the
outside world, or from my relations or friends; but now in my captivity
how earnestly I prayed that no letter for me should be found amongst
those brought by the Arabs!

As soon as it was daylight I went out in search of news, and to my
delight was told that the letters were in Arabic and were not for me,
but for some one whom I knew very well. The contents of the letters were
quite harmless, merely an interchange of compliments between families in
Cairo and Omdurman, and news of a wedding which had taken place in
Cairo. However, the two men who brought the letters were in no little
fear, thinking they would certainly be executed; but the Khalifa had
thoroughly mastered their contents, and though it was evening, he
mounted his big white horse, in which position he usually made his
important speeches to the Ansar, and he told them that letters had been
captured which had come from Egypt and were addressed to the "Ansar el
Gudad" (_i.e._ the "new Ansar," or inhabitants of Khartum and the Blue
Nile, in contra-distinction to the "Ansar el Gudum," or old Ansar of
Kordofan, who were the original adherents of the Mahdi); that he did not
intend to mention the names of the persons to whom the letters were
addressed, but he was sure they would spend a sleepless night.

The next morning the two Arabs were sent to the Saier, but their lives
were spared. A few days later I went to see Neufeld in prison and
inquired about the Arabs. I saw them both chained, and when they saw me
they at once asked me for something, addressing me as Baladieh (_i.e._
one of their own countrymen), as they took me for an Egyptian; and then
they told me in strict secrecy that they had come with the intention of
securing the flight of two persons--one Mankarius Gottas, who had died
in Galabat, and the other a resident in Berber, by whose imprudence they
had been betrayed; these unfortunate men had had nothing to eat for
three days, so I gave them a few piastres which I had brought for
Neufeld, and as I did not dare to stay longer with them I begged Zogheir
to look after them.

Fifteen days afterwards I returned and found the poor men stretched out
dead under the wall, they had died of starvation, and the guards had
just come to knock off their chains and carry their bodies out of the
yard. The sight of these two Ababdehs filled my heart with sadness;
there they lay, nothing but a mass of skin and bone; they had come to
help poor captives to escape, and this was their own miserable end.
This, indeed, was a warning to me to act with increased prudence and

An Egyptian, born in the Sudan, was also sent to the Saier for a few
months for declaring that he was the fourth Khalifa--_i.e._ the Khalifa
Osman. One day this individual had presented himself to the Khalifa and
begged to be heard for a few moments as he wished to tell him of a dream
he had had. It is quite an ordinary occurrence for the Ansar to relate
dreams flattering to the Khalifa, in the hope of getting some bakshish.

Thus did our Khalifa Osman relate that in his dream or vision he had
beheld the Mahdi, who told him to declare himself the fourth Khalifa,
and therefore he begged that Abdullah would confirm him as such and
permit him to take his share of authority with the other Khalifas; he
also begged that all the honour due to him as Khalifa Osman should be
forthwith paid to him.

[Illustration: CHARLES NEUFELD.]

This poor madman paid dearly for his dream. Abdullah merely made a sign
to one of his body-guard, on which he was hurried off to the Saier,
where he received fifty lashes twice a day, and was eventually obliged
to confess that the devil had tempted him to strive after this position.

Charles Neufeld remained in the prison longer than any one else. I have
narrated in a previous chapter how he had daringly joined Saleh's people
with the intention of establishing commercial relations with the Arabs,
and how he was entrapped by the Dervishes at the oasis of Selimeh. This
good man knew nothing of the Sudan and nothing about Mahdiism, and it
was just at this time that the Khalifa had made up his mind to crush
Saleh and his Kababish.

On the 7th of March, Neufeld arrived in Omdurman--a prisoner under a
strong escort. News spread like wildfire that an English pasha had been
captured, and this caused a great stir in the capital. The Khalifa
considered him a most important capture, and Neufeld was ushered into
the presence of the three Khalifas and two Europeans, who were entrusted
with the examination of his papers. Neufeld spoke Arabic, and was quite
fearless. His papers showed that he was a Prussian and had studied in
the Leipzig University. All the documents were most carefully translated
to the Khalifa, as it was most important to assure him that Neufeld was
not an Englishman, as otherwise it would have gone very hardly with him.
There was one letter, however, in English, which, if it had been
truthfully translated, would have probably got him into great danger.

After the preliminary examination, Abdullah's mind seemed to have been
put at rest, for he delivered from his high seat a long speech to the
inquisitive Ansar regarding this great English pasha, who he said had
come to the Sudan with arms and ammunition, intending to seize Kordofan
and fight against Mahdiism, but fortunately the brave troops of Wad en
Nejumi had met him near Dongola, killed his soldiers, and captured him.

It was the Khalifa's habit to exaggerate facts and thereby encourage the
Ansar; he also made out his capture was a most important event, for
hitherto they had not succeeded in taking even one of the hated English.
Poor Neufeld was therefore thrown into chains and carefully guarded by
soldiers; during the whole of that night a fanatical Dinka negress, who
used to dress in men's clothes and wear a sword, shrieked continuously
at him, "Allah hu akbar alal kufar!" ("God's power is most great over
the unbelievers.")

It was decided that Neufeld was to be hanged the next morning. Very
early the Khalifa sent orders that the great drum should be beaten,
while the blast of the huge onbeïa close to Neufeld's ears almost made
him fall down from fright. The slaves made game of him as if he were a
monkey; but he still kept up courage and answered all these insults with
a manly spirit; the rope had been fixed on to the scaffold, and already
crowds of people were collected to see the Englishman executed. But the
condemned man had not yet arrived, for the Khalifa's final decision had
not been taken. Hitherto he had never executed a white man in this open
way, and he delayed, because he was still uncertain about his being a
Prussian. Had Neufeld been an Englishman, there is not the smallest
doubt he would have been killed.

At length Abdullah made up his mind not to kill him, but he determined
to frighten him; about midday, therefore, Neufeld was taken to the
market-place escorted by horsemen; the crowd raised a yell of delight
when he appeared, but Neufeld fearlessly walked on, and on reaching the
gallows he jumped on to the angarib and bent his head so that Bringi
might adjust the rope round his neck. Just at the last moment the judge
stepped forward and said that the Khalifa had been graciously pleased to
repeal the sentence of execution, and Neufeld was, therefore, again
removed to the lock-up.

Three days later he was laden with three heavy chains, put on to a
camel, and led through all the streets of Omdurman, so that every one
might see him. He was also taken to a review where the Khalifa asked him
if the Turks possessed as many troops as he now saw before him, to which
Neufeld replied that the Khalifa's troops were more numerous, but that
they were not so well drilled in exercises and movements as the Turks

This answer did not please the Khalifa; and in order to make him take an
interest in the Mahdi and his Khalifa, he was taken over to Khartum and
was there shown the Mission building, which the Mahdi had seized; he was
then taken back to the prison, where he remained four years. He was
frequently attacked with typhus fever, dysentery, and other ailments,
and was terribly stung by scorpions; had not the Europeans in Omdurman
supported him he must have starved to death.

The depth of misery to which poor Neufeld was reduced may be readily
understood when it is known that he spent a whole year in the stone hut,
and it was not until he had completed two years in prison that, through
the intermediary of a friend, he was allowed to build a little cell for
himself in one of the corners of the yard, where he could sleep away
from the other prisoners. This little building was about twelve feet
square and very low, and here poor Neufeld used to sit all day long; his
jibbeh was very dirty and swarming with insects, which allowed him
little rest at night, and in despair he used to get one of his
companions in adversity to rub him with wet sand, which made his skin
less irritable; some sympathizing Arabs told him to soak crushed cloves
in water and then rub his body with the paste; this Neufeld found a
capital remedy, though it made his skin smart a great deal at first.
Neufeld's kindness of heart soon won over his guards, and often they
allowed him to remain undisturbed in his little hut for the night
instead of dragging him off to the stone hut.

One evening, hearing that the Saier was in a bad humour, he told his
guards that he wanted to spend that night in the stone hut; but the
soldiers assured him that the moment they knew there was to be an
inspection they would at once let him know. So Neufeld settled himself
to sleep in his cell, when suddenly, about midnight, one of his guards
awoke him, saying, "Get up quickly! the Saier has sworn he will give any
one he finds outside the stone hut 100 lashes."

Neufeld got up as quickly as possible and made his way to the hut, but
the chains prevented him from moving rapidly, and when he got to the
door he could not turn the key; just at that moment the Saier came into
the yard, and seeing him, ordered him to be given 100 lashes on the
spot; but the soldiers refused to obey--one said he had fever, and the
other said that he had been flogging people all day and was too tired.
The Saier was therefore obliged to call slaves from his own house, who
administered the 100 lashes, and left poor Neufeld covered with deep
scores all over his body.

In 1889 Neufeld obtained a new companion in adversity in the person of a
Bohemian baker, who had been employed with some Greeks at Halfa. One
day, in a state of semi-intoxication, the baker had left Halfa with
nothing but his violin, intending to go to Sawakin; but he lost his way
in the desert, was overcome by thirst, and wandered towards the Nile,
which he at length reached. Quite ignorant of the direction in which he
was going, he struck out towards the south, and fell in with a patrol of
Dervishes, by whom he was passed on to Omdurman.

On his arrival the Khalifa sent him to prison, where he remained two
years. Neufeld shared his every mouthful with him; but during the famine
he suffered dreadfully from want. At length, through the intermediary of
the mukuddum in charge of the Europeans, he was released; but a few
months afterwards he made off to the Gezireh. The mukuddum, who had
guaranteed him with his head, sent several camelmen in search of him;
but there was no trace to be found of him. After a time it was reported
that he had died of starvation at Rufaa on the Blue Nile, and this
information greatly relieved the Khalifa's mind.

As for Neufeld, we did our utmost to obtain his release; but the Khalifa
would not hear of it; moreover, false reports were circulated about him.
Some people who came from Dongola said that Neufeld, in disguise, had
been sent by the Egyptian Government to find out whether the
Mudir--Mustafa Yawer--was still loyal or had thrown in his lot with the
Dervishes; but in reality it was Kitchener Pasha who had been entrusted
with this mission.

On another occasion an Arabic newspaper, printed in Cairo, was brought
to him, containing a paragraph to the effect that an English officer had
been captured by the Dervishes in Dongola. This amazed the Khalifa
greatly, for at once he believed that he had been deceived and that
Neufeld was actually an Englishman. Being, in truth, a mere savage and
an ignorant man, he believed that all news in a newspaper must be true,
and blamed himself for not having executed Neufeld in the first
instance; he ordered him, however, to be more heavily chained than

Others again spread rumours abroad that Neufeld had come with the
intention of aiding Slatin to escape--news which enraged the Khalifa
perhaps more than anything else. Thus did Neufeld spend four years in
prison, and his release seemed hopeless; but we left no stone unturned.
We secured the good-will of all the most influential people in Omdurman,
including even the Om el Muminin (Mother of the Faithful--_i.e._ the
Mahdi's widow) and the Sherifa Sitt Nefisa (the daughter of Sidi Hassan
el Morghani), who petitioned very earnestly for his release; but the
Khalifa would listen to no one.

When powder was scarce in Omdurman, some one suggested, at one of the
Khalifa's councils, that it would be much better to make the unbelievers
work for religion instead of remaining all day long idle in the Saier,
and that Neufeld ought to undertake the saltpetre refinery. The Khalifa
said, "Do what you think right--I am content." And on the same day
Neufeld was sent to Halfaieh in search of saltpetre; he found some, and
a month later was moved to Khartum, where he is now working in the old
Mission-house with an Egyptian assistant named Said. He still wears one
chain on the feet, which, from constant rubbing, has become as bright as
silver, while there are great black marks round his ankles. In Khartum
he is allowed greater liberty than he had in Omdurman.

In 1891 a Jewish merchant came from Massawa to Kassala, where the Emir
Abu Girgeh was then commanding. The latter was in favour of opening
commercial relations by means of Jews, and permitting non-Mussulman
dealers to come and sell their goods at Kassala, or let them go on
further into the country. When, therefore, the Jew had disposed of his
goods, he went, on Abu Girgeh's advice, to Omdurman. On being presented,
the Khalifa summoned another Jew, named Passioni, whom he made
responsible for the new arrival. But, as usual, the voice of slander was
not silent; it was whispered that he was an Italian spy, and that it
would have been better to have him under surveillance. He had scarcely
left the Khalifa's presence, when he was recalled and sent to the Saier,
there to be "educated as a true Ansar."

The fate of Olivier Pain and the experiences of Neufeld and this Jew are
sufficient evidence to prove the utter uselessness of attempting to
personally enter into commercial relations with the present ruler of the
Sudan. Any one who comes to Omdurman need expect nothing but chains, the
most terrible form of imprisonment, insults and ignominy from the

A still worse fate befell Sheikh Khalil, who was sent from Egypt to the
Sudan on a special mission to the Khalifa. In company with an Ababdeh
sheikh, he arrived at Abu Hamed, where Zogal was at the time. The latter
being accurately informed of the nature of his mission, allowed the two
messengers to travel without escort to Omdurman, and on the journey
Khalil had opportunities of speaking to the people, and ascertaining how
they were disposed to the Egyptian Government. He saw with his own eyes
the devastation wrought by the Dervishes and by famine in all the towns
and villages along the Nile. For some days before he actually reached
Omdurman, we heard of his approach, which occasioned no small stir in
the place. Some people thought he was bringing proposals of peace,
which, if refused by the Khalifa, would oblige the Egyptian Government
to again advance into the Sudan; rumours of all sorts were rife, but
there was no possible means of knowing the truth.

Late one evening Khalil arrived, dressed as an Egyptian, with a long
flowing abayeh (mantle). He was taken before Yakub, to whom he made over
his letter, and was then taken before the Khalifa, to whom, it is said,
he freely spoke his mind. That same evening he was sent under escort to
Kererri, where he was put into a hut under a strong guard, but he was
not chained. He was supplied with meat, butter, corn and sugar, and a
female slave was placed at his disposal by the Khalifa, who had
purposely sent him out of Omdurman to prevent him conversing with
anyone, and to keep all information regarding his mission quite
secret.[P] In this way the Khalifa thought he would give him a different
impression of Mahdiism, while Hajji Zubeir was told off as intermediary
between Khalil and Abdullah.

It was generally believed that Khalil had blamed the Khalifa for his
ill-treatment and oppression of the Moslems, and had shown him how his
rule was ruining the Sudan. He had begged him to abandon the evil of
Mahdiism and return to the true orthodox religion. Whilst in confinement
at Kererri he was frequently threatened with death. No one knew what his
mission could be, and the Khalifa knew how to guard it secretly, so that
gradually people began to forget all about him, and great was the
surprise when one day Khalil and his companion appeared riding on mules
at the great parade held during the Bairam festival.

The Khalifa brought Khalil here to show him how immense was his power
and authority, and just before the parade was concluded Abdullah and all
the cavalry galloped up to him, surrounded him, and asked whether he
would not rather stay in the shadow of the Mahdi's dome than return to
Egypt. Khalil, who had now been for upwards of five months in
confinement, and thinking that he should never be allowed to leave, and
at the same time longing to be allowed to return and report to the
Government all he had seen, replied diplomatically that having once been
in the light he had no wish to return to darkness.

This reply delighted the Khalifa, who ordered him to be set free, and at
prayers in the mosque on that day he sat in the centre of the long line
of Ansar just behind the Khalifa.

It is the custom at festivals for all European prisoners, Greeks,
Syrians, Jews, &c., to go and offer the Khalifa their good wishes. When
they arrived on this occasion the Khalifa ordered them to be seated
around him--he does not allow them to kiss his hand, as he might thereby
become contaminated with their impurity; he usually makes a speech,
pointing out the punishments which may fall upon them; but this time he
was particularly gracious, asked how they were all getting on, and if
they had met with ill-treatment or injustice at the hands of anyone. He
gave them to understand that they must look on him as their protector,
and that should they die their children would become their heirs, and
that if a family had no children, the property would be sold and divided
amongst the other prisoners.

This kindly speech was a great surprise to us all; but the astute
Khalifa only wanted to show Khalil how well he treated his prisoners. It
is possible, also, that Khalil had observed to him how badly we really
were treated, but this is only surmise on my part. Abdullah's kindly
speech, however, did us much good, for of course all he says goes the
round of the whole town, and when the people knew that we had been well
received, they showed us much greater kindness and respect. If, on the
other hand, the Khalifa ever imputes a word of blame to any of us, the
reaction on the people is immediate, and we are at once insulted and
maltreated. It is always said that "the whites"--which is the name by
which we are known in the Sudan--"live under the shadow of the sword."

The Khalifa then asked Khalil's companion if he wished to return or stay
where he was. The man replied that he was a messenger, pure and simple,
and that as such "he should return to him who sent him," and on the same
day the Khalifa gave him permission to depart.

But now evil reports were spread abroad regarding Khalil. It was said
that he was a great friend of Mustafa Yawer, the ex-Mudir of Dongola,
and that it was mainly through his influence that he prevented him
adopting Mahdiism; it was also said that he was the chief of the spies
sent by the English, and a bitter enemy to the Mahdi. It was imprudent
under such circumstances of Khalil to go as an envoy to Omdurman. He had
given his services to the Government for this purpose, and he bravely
adhered to it; but he was well known to the inhabitants of Dongola and
Dar Shaggieh, and it was quite certain that the Khalifa would never
permit such a man to return to Egypt. Even in Omdurman he would not
allow him to be at large.

Two days later the judges were assembled to consider Khalil's case:
false witnesses came forward who asserted that they had seen Khalil
worshipping the sun and frequently turning towards the west at prayers,
and all sorts of stories were trumped up to induce the Khalifa to put
Khalil in chains.

The pliable judges condemned the sheikh, and he was relegated to the
Saier. Neufeld had to give up his cell, which was made over to Khalil.
None of the prisoners were allowed to speak to him--thus was the poor
man left without a friend or acquaintance to help him; everyone shunned
him as if he were the victim of some foul disease. From the earliest
days of Mahdiism it was always the fate of those who fell in favour to
be deserted by all, and this was more especially the case with all those
on whom the Khalifa's wrath fell. Thus everyone--fearing for his own
life--avoids all intercourse with such prisoners.

When Khalil had expended the little money he possessed, he sold his
sword, sheepskin, and clothes, and bought bread--such bread too!--even
Sudanese, who are accustomed to eat all sorts of stuff, could only eat
prison bread when hunger had made them like ravenous wolves; but Khalil
had come from Egypt and its flesh-pots, and the Sudan bread made him

At length he had no more money to buy even bread, and then he suffered
the pangs of hunger. For a month before his death his beard had grown
quite white, and he himself had become like a skeleton. His wretchedness
and loneliness brought on sickness, and he died a miserable death. It
occurred on a Friday whilst the Khalifa was attending a review, and
Abdullah accidentally fell from his horse on that day, but was caught
before he reached the ground. This was considered a very bad omen by the
people, who thought that Khalil had been unjustly condemned. They
believed it pointed to the overthrow of the Khalifa's rule, and he
himself was very much disturbed.

The disloyal Ababdehs of Hassan Khalifa were also locked up in the
Saier. Hassan was a nephew of the former Mudir of Berber, had been for a
long time emir of Abu Hamed, and during Nejumi's advance on Egypt had
occupied the wells of Murat. It was said that when there, he had acted
in a most reprehensible manner, and had wrung quantities of money out of
the merchants. It was also said that when Saleh Bey advanced from
Korosko on Murat, he came to an arrangement with him--for he was not a
Mahdiist at heart--and had retired on Abu Hamed without attempting to

All sorts of reports about him reached the Khalifa's ears, but he
refused to believe them. When, however, a certain Abadi named Karrar,
one of the Khalifa's spies, who had been captured by Saleh at Murat, for
having letters in his possession for the sheikhs in Egypt, and had been
kept in prison for some months, was released and returned to Omdurman,
the Khalifa then became convinced of Hassan Khalifa's disloyalty; he
sent four of his mulazimin to Abu Hamed, arrested him and his people,
and confiscated all their property. About forty men were thrown into
chains, dragged to Omdurman and there relegated to the Saier; several
died of typhus, and the remainder, after two years' imprisonment, were
sent as exiles to Fashoda, except Hassan, who still remains in prison at

Near the Saier is another small prison for females, but there are not so
many of them.


[P] Khalil had been entrusted with a few lines of a purely
non-political nature, politely asking the Khalifa to return to the
bearer any clothes, papers, &c., belonging to the late General Gordon,
which his family were very desirous of procuring. He was also given
lists of all prisoners captured at Toski, showing how they were disposed
of in Egypt, and a remark was added that when peace and tranquillity
were restored between the two countries, they would be permitted to
return, but in the meantime they were well cared for.--F. R. W.



     The Khalifa's powder and ammunition begin to fail--Lupton Bey makes
     fulminate--Unsuccessful attempts to make powder--Yusef Pertekachi
     at last succeeds--The explosion in the powder factory.

As a result of constant warfare and the careless expenditure of
ammunition, the want of it now began to be sensibly felt by the Khalifa,
and it eventually became an all-important question. The principal want
was caps for the Remington cartridges, for, though there were quantities
of empty cases there was scarcely any fulminate left.

Many a starving Egyptian began to try and invent some substance which
would act as fulminate; there were still a few books on chemistry to be
found, but all attempts failed to produce satisfactory results. At last,
a certain Hassan Zeki, who had formerly been a doctor in Khartum,
invented the substance required. The Khalifa told off Lupton Bey, who at
that time was living in the most abject poverty, as his assistant.

The first trials of the new fulminate were made in the presence of
Yakub, and were most successful; the invention proved of the greatest
use to the Khalifa. The unfortunate Lupton Bey died on the 8th of May,
1888, and Hassan Zeki continued the work. Within a comparatively short
time he prepared a very large number of caps. Abdullah had a special
laboratory made, and employed a number of boys as cartridge fillers. It
was principally owing to this invention that the Khalifa was enabled to
conduct his successful campaigns against Abyssinia.

And now another difficulty arose--this was the scarcity of powder;
numbers of persons presented themselves as prepared to make this
commodity. An Indian, named Kamal ed Din, came forward amongst others;
he had come from India to join the Mahdi, passed himself off as a doctor
and proudly called himself "Physician-in-chief to the Khalifa." He had a
ready tongue, and soon acquired respect and wealth; he painted his beard
red with henna.[Q] He had immense powers of persuasion, and thereby
obtained a concession from Abdullah to make powder. He demanded that a
special laboratory should be built for him in Khartum, so as to be quite
out of observation, and he asked for a quantity of money for the
purchase of the chemicals he required.

The laboratory was built in the course of a month in the old corn store
in Khartum, and the work was taken in hand. The Indian declared that it
was most necessary to obtain phosphorus, and therefore he had all the
bones and skulls of the people who had been massacred in Khartum,
collected, and these he pounded in mortars into very fine flour, much to
the annoyance of people who objected to this desecration of the dead.

Every now and then he applied for more money from the beit el mal, which
was supplied to him at once, and now he began to work quite alone and in
secret; he put the bone flour in earthenware vessels, poured water on
it, and then sealed the vessels hermetically; he now declared that to
prepare the chemical substance only, another month was necessary. He
therefore stopped work and lived at his ease. At the expiration of the
month he secretly opened the vessels; no one had a notion what he was
going to do with the bone-paste, but he affirmed that so far everything
was most successful, and invited the head of the beit el mal, as well as
several emirs, to be present at the trial of the powder.

The emirs came and sat in a circle round a furnace which slaves were
blowing up with bellows; then the Indian produced the vessel, asked the
emirs to take some of the substance and throw it into the fire. This
they did, and it exploded with a loud report, which greatly astonished
the spectators, one of whom then and there, knelt down and offered up a
prayer of thanksgiving for the success of the invention.

The emirs accompanied Kamal ed Din to Omdurman in triumph, where he also
gave proof of the excellence of his powder in the presence of the
Khalifa. Abdullah was wild with joy, and presented the inventor with 200
dollars and a concubine. The Indian now returned to Khartum with profuse
promises that he would supply several hundredweight of the new powder in
the course of a month.

But soon people began to talk of him as being a cheat and a deceiver; a
month passed and the powder was not delivered; the head of the beit el
mal became anxious, and reported the matter to the Khalifa, who at once
sent his brother Yakub and Wad Adlan to make inquiries on the spot; they
went, and it was very evident that the Indian had been duping them all
the time. He was brought before the Khalifa, and, strange to say, was
not punished. Abdullah merely remarked that he was a poor foreigner,
and, of course, had to do his best to make a living. It is a curious
thing that Abdullah has a much greater insight into the ways of
foreigners than most natives.

A certain mukuddum, however, of the Jaalin tribe did not get off so
easily. In the days of the Government he had practised an extensive
fraud in Khartum, and also in Sennar as an alchemist, and now he came
forward to offer his services for the manufacture of lead. At first he
had been occupied in making gold, but now to the Khalifa lead was even
more precious than gold, and the want of it was causing him grave

The mukuddum's offer was accepted, he received presents from the beit el
mal, where he was given a special place in which to carry on his work,
and numbers of slaves were placed at his disposal; he was given all the
money he required to purchase various things in connection with the
manufacture, and which he asserted were absolutely essential. Four
slaves were told off to keep up an enormous furnace, whilst the
mukuddum, his head and shoulders swathed in a great mantle, beat the
ground madly with a long whip in order to call the Jinns to his
assistance. His curious antics greatly astonished the people, and he
soon became the principal topic of conversation in Omdurman. After
fourteen days an enormous lump of lead was drawn out from the furnace,
and his reputation was made.

The Sudanese are great believers in alchemy; and it was thought that the
preparation of one of the ingredients required the greatest secrecy. The
mukuddum, therefore, worked fully on the superstitious nature of the
people, and a thick cloud of foul-smelling smoke was seen continually
issuing from his mysterious and dark laboratory. The lead was at once
sent to the Khalifa, who appeared thoroughly convinced of the miraculous
power of the maker, and indeed had the piece brought into the mosque to
expose it publicly. The sycophants of course told him that this was an
undeniable miracle on the part of the Mahdi, who had been the means of
supplying the precious metal to his successor through this mukuddum.

The manufacturer was now in high favour, the Khalifa pressed him to
continue the work, and supplied him liberally with money and female
slaves. One of the Europeans had urged him to desist, telling him that
it was quite impossible to manufacture lead; but the mukuddum answered
him three times in the most solemn manner: "Do you think that you know
the knowledge of God?" and then went on with his work. From time to time
he continued to send pieces of lead to the Khalifa, but his supply only
lasted a few months; the more sensible people began to talk, they urged
that if he could make one piece of lead, he could also make several
hundred-weight. The voice of the detractors grew stronger, the Khalifa's
suspicions were aroused, and the mukuddum was summoned into his
presence. He asked him in the most kind manner if it was a fact that he
really knew how to make lead, or if he was only attempting to deceive;
if the latter--and he confessed to it--then he might receive

But this kindly warning was entirely without effect; the mukuddum boldly
answered that he did know how to make lead, and moreover abused his
detractors, calling them enemies of Mahdiism, who hated the Khalifa, and
did not wish him to be possessor of the precious metal. He added that,
if given sufficient time, he would prove his enemies to be liars. The
Khalifa permitted him to continue his work a little longer; but the
results were still the same, and he was again summoned before Abdullah,
who now threatened to cut off his hand and foot unless he confessed that
he had been practising a fraud; but still the mukuddum persisted in his
denial, and the Khalifa ordered three chains to be forged for his feet,
and had him sent back to his laboratory under a strong escort; he was to
be permitted to work for three days longer.

He now redoubled his antics, making the dust whirl in clouds about him,
and crying on the spirits to aid him. He put a few pounds of substance
into the fire--all that was left of his lead-scrapings--but this time
the spirits left him in the lurch. Bathed in perspiration, he anxiously
raked about the coals; but there was no lead to be seen. He begged and
prayed for more time, which was granted. But at length one of his slaves
let out the secret; he said that the mukuddum used to purchase in the
market the lead bullets which had been dug out of Khartum, he filed them
into thin shavings, mixed them with some concoction, and threw them into
the furnace; the melted lead was then drawn off and allowed to cool. On
the last occasion he had failed, and now his fraud was fully exposed;
the Khalifa ordered his hand and foot to be cut off, "not," he said, "so
much for the fraud, as for the continual denials." The operation was
carried out, but the mukuddum died eight days afterwards of tetanus.

The failures of this man and of the Indian to manufacture powder and
lead did not deter others from continuing their experiments, and amongst
the latter was a Greek named Yusef Pertekachi, who continued working on
with the most dogged determination. He had tried every plan to gain a
livelihood; but whatever he put his hand to, it seemed to fail, and he
was soon deeply involved in debt. In his desperate position he
determined to study the manufacture of gunpowder. For a whole year he
continued his experiments, and in his case the truth of the proverb,
"Necessity is the mother of invention," was fully exemplified; he
succeeded in making fairly good powder.

The experiences of the Indian and the mukuddum pointed to extreme
caution; he did not, therefore, tell Adlan, who he thought would not
believe him, but after his death he applied to Yakub.

Yakub is a man whom even the leaders of Mahdiism find a difficulty in
approaching, and poor Pertekachi tried for months before he obtained a
hearing; but at length he was attended to, and the various trials and
experiments of the new powder, both in guns and Remington rifles, proved
most satisfactory.

Pertekachi at once rose in favour in the eyes of Abdullah and Yakub, and
was soon comparatively well off. The Khalifa ordered a bottle of the
powder to be placed in the Antik Khana, on which was written: "Powder
invented by the Osta (Master) Pertekachi."

At first Pertekachi set to work to improve the damaged powder, of which
there were quantities of old barrels taken out of the Government
magazines, but, having been left in damp places, it had become crusted.
For several months he continued his work, to the complete satisfaction
of Abdullah, but the poor man was soon to come to a terrible end.

On the 26th of January, 1891, Pertekachi as usual went to the
market-place at an early hour to have a chat with the other Europeans.
He happened to say: "To-day is the anniversary of the fall of
Khartum--Gordon's day--a black day!" In the Sudan it is the custom to
call a day on which a misfortune has occurred "Yom aswad" (a black day).
And to the survivors of Khartum, the 26th of January is always looked
upon as a day of grief and sorrow; several people give alms for the rest
of the souls of their murdered friends.

Pertekachi had intended to go and look at the new house he had just
built; but being the 26th of January, he would not go to it, and decided
to go to the beit el mal instead, where he had some work to do. He found
the workmen busy opening one of the barrels of damaged powder, and after
taking a cup of coffee, he went to help them, as they seemed to be in
difficulty. He had scarcely reached the spot when--owing to a sudden
blow or shock, or clumsiness on the part of the workmen--the powder blew
up with a most terrific explosion which shook the whole town, and
terrified the inhabitants, who rushed wildly about in all directions to
see what had occurred. I happened at the time to be sitting at my loom,
and at once ran up to the roof of my house, and there, in the direction
of the beit el mal, I saw a column of thick smoke ascending.

My first thought was for poor Yusef. I hastened to the beit el mal,
which was half an hour's walk from my hut, and found crowds going in the
same direction. The Khalifa himself appeared on the scene, he came
riding along on a donkey, with only one or two men. His first question
was, "Osta Yusef fi?" ("Is the Master Yusef alive?") "Taish enta!" ("May
you live!") was the reply. These are the words in which Arabs always
announce a death.

A poor Egyptian woman, whose only son was employed as Pertekachi's clerk
and had been killed, was weeping and wailing in the most heart-rending
way--her husband and another son had been murdered in Khartum--and now
wild with grief she was cursing the Mahdi, through whom her dear ones
had been brought to an untimely end. Some of the Ansar approached, and
threatened to beat her with a whip if she did not stop. But she shouted
at them, "Kill me as well! Why should I live any longer? You have
killed my dear ones--may God kill you!"

The Khalifa, who was standing near, rebuked his officious followers,
saying: "Let her weep, she is 'mahar[=u]ka'" (_i.e._ consumed with the
pain of affliction). He did not stay long at the scene of the accident,
but went away very sadly.

All Pertekachi's fellow-countrymen hastened to the spot. Of the large
square house built of rough sun-dried bricks, only the four walls were
left standing; the wooden roof had been blown to pieces, and it was no
small difficulty to collect the shattered remains of those who had been
victimized. A pair of legs were found fifty yards away, a head was found
half buried in the wall; there was not a hand to be found anywhere.

Another Greek had been killed with Pertekachi, named Yusef Angeli. His
head and feet had disappeared, and his body was so shattered as to be
almost unrecognizable; he had been in chains, and his foot makia was
found fixed in his leg. Poor Angeli had led a miserable life in
Omdurman; he had neither home nor friends, and had lived in the market
as a Greek hawker. Towards the end of 1890 he had been sent by another
Greek to Berber, to try and recover a debt for him. This mission was to
be carried out in secret, for Europeans are strictly forbidden to leave
Omdurman, and the mukuddum in charge is obliged at once to report any

But Angeli was a man of no account, and could easily have gone to Berber
and back without anyone being any the wiser. A Syrian, however, who bore
a grudge to the Greeks, hearing that Angeli had left, went secretly to
the Khalifa, but as he was at that time staying at his house in the
northern hejira, he saw Yakub instead; he said that, in accordance with
the orders of the Khalifa el Mahdi, he had to report that Yusef had
deserted to Berber in a sailing boat. Yakub at once informed the
Khalifa, who imagined that it was I who had deserted (my Arabic name
being Yusef), and at once ordered Nur el Gereifawi, head of the beit el
mal, to send camelmen in pursuit. The latter was eventually very
annoyed when they found out which Yusef it was, for he would not have
thought it worth while to send after Angeli. The pursuers, however, had
gone, and found Angeli in the market at Berber; they secured him and
brought him back to Omdurman.

Pertekachi, who was a countryman of Angeli's, had begged that he might
be spared, and had obtained a promise from Yakub that he should come to
no harm. He was brought before the Khalifa, and said that he was very
poor, and had only gone to Berber to recover a debt, in proof of which
statement he produced the man's written receipt for the money; but when
the camel-men who had captured Yusef were asked whether they found any
letters on him, they denied it, and in consequence Yusef had been sent
to the lock-up in the beit el mal. This was only a very special favour,
for the _régime_ here is not so severe as in the Saier, and prisoners
confined in this place generally obtain a speedy release.

Angeli had to thank no one but Pertekachi for this lenient treatment,
and his benefactor did not cease begging until he procured the Khalifa's
permission for him to work at the powder factory at a fixed monthly rate
of pay; but he had still to wear one makia, and this Pertekachi was
arranging to have removed when the terrible catastrophe occurred--he had
only been working for three days altogether in the factory. There were,
of course, slanderers found, who affirmed that Angeli used to smoke
cigarettes, and had purposely set fire to the powder in revenge for his
captivity, but this time the Khalifa would not listen to them. He merely
said it is "Amr Allah" ("God's will"), and added that he was sure Yusef
would never have deliberately tried to destroy his own and his
countryman's life. The force of the explosion had driven the iron into
Yusef's leg, and it was impossible to take it off; we therefore
collected all that remained of the two poor fellows and buried them.

The Khalifa's enemies secretly rejoiced over his misfortune about the
powder, for now, they thought, there will be no one to make it; but one
of Pertekachi's labourers, who had learnt the manufacture from his
master, replaced him as head of the factory. After the catastrophe the
factory was removed to Tuti Island, where a large yard was built, around
which the necessary workshops were constructed.


[Q] This worthy was taken prisoner by the Egyptian troops at
the capture of Tokar in February 1891.



     Remarks on the agriculture and commerce of the Mahdiist kingdom--A
     sandstorm in Omdurman--The paucity of cattle--System of taxation on
     imports--Provincial beit el mals--Local manufactures--Slavery and
     the slave-markets--Torture of slaves.

In the following chapter I propose to make a few remarks on the
agriculture, commerce, and business of the Mahdiist kingdom. The greater
part of the Sudanese live by agriculture and cattle-breeding.
Agriculture goes on most of the year; the lands are sown during the
tropical rains. The winter is called the "kharif," and in Omdurman
begins in July and lasts till the end of September. During this period
there are three or four very heavy falls of rain, usually at night, and
occasionally during the day there are heavy storms, which are at times
very grand.

These outbursts are preceded by great sultriness, the whole ground is
hot, everything is burning, even in the shade one dare not touch metal;
then in the east a cloud of dust arises, which indicates the coming
storm; the clouds bank up with astonishing rapidity, and now it is time
for people to make the best of their way home as quickly as they can.
The dust-clouds, lighted up by the evening sun, show the exact direction
of the storm; some are of an inky black, others gray, and in the
distance they can be seen dashing up against one another, and forming,
as it were, a series of hills and valleys; yet there is scarcely a leaf
moving, and all nature seems hushed.

Then the storm-clouds seem to touch the earth, there is a sudden
rustling of the leaves; the distant houses are lost in obscurity, and
now it is time to shut oneself up in one's house. In a few minutes day
has been turned into night, the wind howls round the house, windows and
doors creak and rattle, till one begins to think in another moment the
house will fall about one's ears. Lights are used, for now it is blacker
than the darkest night; the fine dust penetrates everywhere and covers
everything; the heat is overpowering, one perspires at every pore, and
the dust cakes on one's face and hands, giving one the feeling of being
intensely begrimed and dirty; but there is nothing for it but to wait
patiently for the return of daylight, when one rises with one's eyes and
mouth full of dust, and nothing but a complete bath makes one feel in
any degree clean again. These sand-storms are generally followed by
heavy showers, which completely lay the dust.

A tropical thunderstorm is also full of solemn grandeur--deafening peals
of thunder and howling wind, followed by a veritable deluge, which seems
to transform the country into a lake in a few minutes.

These sudden storms are a source of no small danger to Omdurman,
especially in the quarter where the mosque and market are situated. Here
there is no outlet for the water, which overflows into the yards and
houses, and melts the mud-built walls like sugar. During the first year
or two of Omdurman's existence, and before the people had much
experience, several of the huts collapsed during a storm, burying the
inhabitants in their ruins. The intense obscurity which always
accompanies these deluges adds still more to the general alarm. However,
after about two days the whole town becomes dry again; the hot sun and
thirsty earth soon absorb all the moisture, and one would scarcely know
that rain had fallen.

Generally about a month before the rains begin, and when the Khalifa
permits it, the people leave the town in crowds and repair to the
fields, which they set to work to clear. After the famine year of 1889
the Khalifa did everything in his power to induce the people to turn
their attention to agriculture. Plentiful rain and hard work produced
excellent crops in 1890. Dhurra, dukhn, cotton, sesame, onions, and
various sorts of beans are grown.

The operation of sowing requires little time or trouble; the fields are
cleared of all the stumps, roots, &c., of the preceding harvest, which
are burnt, then every one raises a small bank of earth around his
ground, so as to retain the water and enable the earth to become
thoroughly saturated. This measure is specially necessary in the
Gezireh, where the clay soil does not absorb quickly, whilst in the
sandy plains of Kordofan it is exactly the reverse.

As soon as the parched ground has absorbed the first rains, sowing is
begun without delay; the soil is turned over with iron or wooden hoes,
and the seed thrown down. Weeds spring up in great profusion, and it
requires endless trouble to prevent their choking the young growth.
Dhurra ripens in about two months, dukhn in three. The fine quality,
such as Shilluk dhurra, takes six months to come to maturity. The
gathered corn is threshed, and then stored in holes in the ground, where
it can be kept without deteriorating for upwards of ten years.

Along the Nile, sowing and reaping goes on the whole year through. Water
is drawn up by the sakiehs, or water-wheels, and distributed over the
fields. After the wars, numbers of these water-wheels which had been
destroyed, were reconstructed. Now there are a great number in working
order, and the banks are covered with green. All work is done with the
iron or wooden hoe, and the plough is not used at all. The only plough I
ever saw in the Sudan was one worked by an Egyptian in Khartum, and it
caused no small astonishment amongst the natives. Wheat and maize--or,
as it is called in the Sudan, "Aish er rif" (Egyptian bread)--ripens in
forty days.

In Kordofan quantities of broad beans are grown, as well as sesame,
sugar-cane, cotton, onions, garlic, bamiahs, radishes, tomatoes,
cucumbers, and water-melons; while Indian figs, pomegranates, lemons,
oranges, citrons, bananas, and grapes are grown in profusion in the
Khartum gardens. Date-palms are plentiful on the Blue Nile and further
south; but it is not possible to dry them, for they at once become full
of insects. Rain often spoils the date harvest.

Besides agriculture and cattle-breeding, the Sudanese may be called a
thoroughly pastoral nation. During the long wars against the Government,
as well as in the internal disturbances, the camels and oxen were almost
exterminated; and in 1889 a cattle plague still further reduced the

When Fashoda was occupied, quantities of cows were taken from the
Shilluks and sent either to Gezireh or on to the Berber market, in order
to try and stimulate breeding. There are quantities of goats and sheep,
as only a comparatively small number of these have been killed; but the
greatest loss has been in camels, and it is not so easy to replenish the
country in this respect. There are still a considerable number of
donkeys, which are used both for riding and as pack-animals. A good
donkey will fetch from forty to two hundred dollars.

The Sudanese are born traders and dealers; it is almost a passion with
them, and they like the travelling which trade involves. Of course the
flourishing commerce of the old days has been quite destroyed. The
import of goods to the Sudan from the north and east was formerly in the
hands of one merchant. The Berber-Sawakin and Berber-Korosko roads were
opened through Wad Adlan, and the re-occupation of Tokar by Egypt has
done a great deal to help commerce. Wad Adlan's successor, Nur
Gereifawi, established the ushr (or one-tenth tax) on all important
goods, in addition to the "zeka," or two and a-half per cent., which was
formerly the only tax levied.

This increase in taxation has rather impaired than improved trade, but
it is still fairly brisk. However, the "ushr" was levied twice, in both
Omdurman and Berber, so that the beit el mal obtained twenty-two and
a-half per cent. profit on all imported goods. This exorbitant taxation
led to goods being smuggled into the town by night. In spite of every
precaution being taken, smuggling still continued; and at last it was
decided that all merchants should have their goods stamped at the beit
el mal.

This stamp bears the words, "Ushr beit el mal el umum" ("The
tenth--general beit el mal"), and no goods are allowed to be sold unless
they are thus marked. The head of the beit el mal himself also went to
the market and personally stamped all the private goods of merchants;
and in this way the fraud was stopped. A merchant selling unstamped
goods would have all his property confiscated.

All went well for a time; but soon it was discovered that false stamps
were in use. This led to another inspection of all goods in the market,
and the confiscation of a considerable quantity of property, an
operation which caused business to be suspended for about eight days.

Large quantities of printed cotton stuffs are imported; also perfumes,
medicines, cloves, rice, sugar, and dried fruits. The home-trade is, of
course, much brisker than imported trade, and consists for the most part
of provision dealing. Dongola and Dar Shaggieh supply Omdurman with
dates; Berber sends salt, mats and baskets made of palm leaves; from
Kordofan comes gum, sesame, and dukhn; the Gezireh exports dhurra,
dammur, and cotton; Karkoj supplies sesame and a small quantity of gold.
Omdurman is thus the great wholesale and retail mart, which in turn
supplies the provinces. Here the whole population--men, women, and
children from eight years of age--are all dealers.

The older women have their own quarter of the market, in which they sell
oil, grease, pearls, vegetables, drugs, dhurra, and dates. Young women
are not allowed to go to the market; but they send their slaves, who
take charge of the goods. The latter are obliged to render full accounts
when they return in the evening; and woe to the unfortunate slave who
makes a mistake in his calculations! Quantities of vegetables are grown
in the gardens in Khartum, Buri, and Gereif, and are brought to Omdurman
for sale. The Baggara women are naturally good dealers, and have now
secured almost the entire custom.

In the early days of Mahdiism everyone lived in the most simple way, and
dressed even more simply. The staple article of food is dhurra, which is
merely boiled, made into a cake and eaten. Bread, which is generally
known as "kesra," is eaten with a sauce which is usually made of pounded
bamiehs boiled with red pepper and salt. Sometimes beans are used
instead of bamiehs. Meat is scarce, but a meat sauce boiled in milk and
mixed with pounded dried fish is a favourite dish. Quantities of fish
are obtained from the Nile, and tortoises, which sometimes take the
place of meat, are not uncommon. But whilst the rich live in comparative
luxury, the poor people exist in the greatest want and misery.

Good clothing is seldom considered; the richer a man is, the dirtier
will his dress be. This is, of course, meant to blind the eyes of
inquisitive slanderers. The Baggara chiefs have no reason to conceal
anything; but it must be quite apparent to all that a form of government
which preaches a continual despising of the good things of this life is
not likely to promote any of the higher comforts of civilization.

In matters, however, regarding war and the preparations required for a
jehad, it is entirely different. Blacksmiths are always busy forging
spears and knives; and in this description of work the results are
remarkable. Saddlers make every description of leather ornament for
horse and camel decoration; tanners prepare the leather, and dye it red
or black; tailors now make much better jibbehs than before; the patches
are generally made of good cloth, and the best garments are now valued
at about sixteen dollars each. The women spin the cotton, and the men
weave the dammur from it. The best dammur comes from Berber and
Metemmeh. The Darfur women are also famed for their good and even
spinning; but Abyssinian dammur is generally considered better than any
of Sudan manufacture.

Tin-smiths make drinking cups and tin receptacles of various sorts for
household use. Cooking-pots are made of copper. Jewellers make gold and
silver filigree work for the ladies; but this work is not nearly as good
as it used to be in the days of the Egyptian Government. All these
various trades are carried on in the market.


Mahdiism has re-established the slave trade, which is now in full
vigour, and almost all those slaves who were liberated in the
Government days have been sold again as slaves. Wherever there is a beit
el mal there is also a slave-market. The largest is, of course, in
Omdurman, to which all captured slaves are sent. The beit el mal sells
the slaves by auction. Well-grown male slaves are generally taken into
the army.

Close to the beit el mal is the female slave-market, where generally
fifty or sixty women of various ages are to be found. The slave-dealers
are for the most part Egyptians. The slaves are arranged in lines under
the open sky; their bodies are generally well bathed in oil to preserve
the gloss of their skin. Intending purchasers make the most careful and
minute examination, and the price varies from twenty to a hundred

Young females are kept apart from the rest, as they are generally
selected as concubines, and as such they are subjected to a most
critical scrutiny; the shape of their hands and feet, and the form of
their mouth, nose, ears and teeth are all carefully noted. Black are
preferable to copper-coloured slaves, and the latter colour necessitates
a considerable reduction in price.

Young male slaves are sold at from thirty to sixty dollars each, and
these have generally to learn a trade. Purchasers ask all sorts of
searching questions as to whether they have good moral qualities, are
likely to run away, &c., &c. The salesman must produce a certificate
showing the tribe, a full descriptive return, and the legal authority
entitling to ownership.

During the early days of Mahdiism the slave trade received an enormous
impetus, more especially subsequent to the capture of Bahr el Ghazal and
the occupation of Darfur. After Gessi Pasha's victory over Zubeir
Pasha's son and the dispersion of the slave-dealers, several of the
latter fled into the interior, where pursuit was impossible; then
followed the era of liberty under the Mahdi's banner, the slave-dealers
emerged from their hiding-places, and, with quantities of slaves,
proceeded to Omdurman.

When at El Obeid I often saw as many as 500 of them marching along to
the sound of music. Slaves were dragged from Darfur, bound together
with leather thongs round their necks in batches of thirty. Abu Anga
brought thousands of them from the Nuba hills. The only districts
untouched hitherto were those in the vicinity of the White Nile, but
quite recently the garrisons of Fashoda, Regaf, and Lado have been
busily engaged in this human traffic; these blacks, however, who during
the intervals of peace had been gradually recovering their strength, now
determined to resist the Dervish authority, which was not very strong in
those far-distant districts. It would have been a great thing if the
Dervishes could have been turned out of Lado and Regaf. The Abyssinian
campaigns also brought quantities of slaves to Omdurman, but these are
little fitted for hard work, and are employed for the most part in
grinding corn, carrying water, and as concubines.

Slave-hunting, too, is not carried on in the same way as it used to be.
The Khalifa is too knowing to send large raiding expeditions for slaves
into the distant provinces, as he fears they might possibly become
independent and turn upon him; besides, private individuals are no
longer permitted to be in possession of firearms.

Blacks captured in the Khalifa's various wars are sold as slaves, and,
while the free Mussulman tribes have been greatly weakened and reduced
in numbers by war and famine, the blacks have, on the other hand, been
growing both in numbers and in strength. There is abundant proof of this
in the great difficulties which the Dervish force at Fashoda is now
experiencing, being scarcely strong enough to quit their steamers and
sailing boats. The inhabitants of Jebel Nuba are once more almost
independent, and now the Dervishes do not dare even to go to the foot of
the hills. The withdrawal also of the various Baggara tribes from the
neighbourhood of Shakka, &c., to Omdurman has rid the local blacks of
their hated presence in their country.

The once notorious Jaalin and Danagla slave-hunters are now beginning to
experience in a degree what a slave's life is, and, indeed, it almost
seems as if the Khalifa Abdullah was an instrument of Heaven's
vengeance on those bloodthirsty and ruthless slave-hunters.

The lot of a slave is indeed a miserable one. He is looked upon as an
animal created, as the Sudanese say, to make the life of Moslems easy;
he must do all the hard work, both in the household and in the field. It
is the idea of the Sudanese, that if a slave gets sufficient food he
always becomes proud and unmanageable. His dress consists merely of a
rag tied round his loins: whatever money he may make by his work is the
property of his master.

The female slaves carry water and grind corn, in return they are
continually blamed and cursed; any disobedience or dishonesty is
punished by flogging, or their bodies are gashed with razors, salt being
rubbed into the wounds, and, lest they should have any cause to forget,
their half-healed cuts are often ripped open again and salt rubbed in

In the treatment of their slaves women are more cruel than men, more
especially if jealousy is the cause of their anger. Woe to the
unfortunate female slave who shows any love for her master! She suffers
a species of torture which it would be impossible for me to describe
here, and what wonder is it that in despair they often fly from their
masters and mistresses?

Yet it is only by this harsh treatment that slaves can be made obedient;
it is a very true saying that a person who is forcibly deprived of
liberty can only be brought into subjection by force. Slaves under
Mahdiist _régime_ have so many different ways of revenging themselves on
their masters that they never fail to seize an opportunity when it is

The immorality of slaves is quite beyond description; but it cannot be
the fault of the unfortunate creatures themselves, for in their own
savage homes it is not so. They learn all the vices of their masters,
and, indeed, are forced to participate in them or submit to a flogging;
consequently, disease of the most loathsome kind is everywhere
prevalent, and to be free from it is thought to be the mark of a poor
creature. In many cases which have come within my own knowledge, the
offspring of such people die young, putrid by disease; of fifteen
children of one father, thirteen died in five years. At first the
Baggara were not infected to any large extent, but contact with the
inhabitants of the Nile valley has communicated the pest, which is now
eating into the constitutions of this, the most powerful and warlike
tribe in the Sudan.[R]

Export of slaves to Egypt and the Red Sea is forbidden, because the
Khalifa fears that the English may intercept them and make soldiers of
them; but a certain number of female slaves are still smuggled through.
By the re-occupation of Tokar the Red Sea route, which had been
extensively used, was closed to the Dervishes. It is permissible to give
male and female slaves papers of freedom, but the custom is never
practised. If a female slave bear a child to her master she cannot be
sold, and after her master's death she becomes a free woman; if she bear
a child to a freed man, who is not a black, her position remains
unaltered, and the child grows up a slave, because it is considered to
be illegitimate.

Omdurman is full of slaves; even in the poorest houses one female slave
at least will be found. Hard work and ill-treatment ages them very
rapidly. Many of them long for their native homes and detest slavery,
but the great majority of them submit without a murmur to their wretched


[R] The disease lies dormant in the summer, but acquires
virulence with cold weather. The medicines used are iodide of potassium
and sarsaparilla.



     Relations between Abdullah and the rival Khalifas--Mahdiism
     practically dead--The Khalifa's son, Osman--His marriage to Yakub's
     daughter--His intentions regarding the succession--The Baggara and
     the Aulad-Belad--The Baggara masters of the Sudan--Examples of
     their tyranny--Emigration of the Rizighat tribe--Hostility between
     the Khalifa's and the late Mahdi's households--The Ashraf
     conspiracy--Witchcraft--The dispute between the Khalifas--Riots in
     Omdurman--The Mahdi's widows.

I propose to devote this chapter to a brief outline of the relations
which exist between the ruling powers in Omdurman, and a description of
the present situation in the Sudan. The overthrow of Nejumi at Toski,
the destruction of Abu Anga's immense army during his constant campaigns
in Abyssinia, the year of famine in 1889, and finally the capture of
Tokar and total defeat of Osman Digna in February 1891, have all tended
largely towards the diminution of Khalifa Abdullah's power.

Whilst the operations against Abyssinia and Egypt were being carried on,
the provinces in the interior of the Sudan were slowly recovering from
the terrible strain through which they had passed. Dongola, Kassala, and
Darfur suffered most. The depredations of Nejumi's wild Dervishes had
entirely desolated the once fertile province of Dongola, and is it any
wonder that its wretched inhabitants should cast longing eyes towards
wealthy and prosperous Egypt?

But the cunning Khalifa was quite capable of coping with this revulsion
of feeling on the part of the inhabitants, who were now thoroughly tired
of Mahdiism, and who were undoubtedly desirous that the rule of the
Government should again be extended to them. He decided to change the
policy of oppression, and to establish a milder rule. For this purpose
he had a convenient vision, in which he affirmed that he had been
instructed to appoint Zogal as emir of the province.

This man, it will be remembered, was a native of Dongola, an uncle of
the late Mahdi; had been a Government official in Darfur, and had more
liberal and enlightened views than most of the Dervish leaders. The
Khalifa thought--and thought rightly--that he alone would be able to
re-establish contentment in Dongola. Thither Zogal proceeded,
accompanied by an enormous family, and under his mild and just rule the
province rapidly recovered.

The Sudan, as a whole, has considerable recuperative power, and, in
spite of the Khalifa's senseless rule, would soon recover if placed
under good subordinate governors. The desolation in Darfur, however, had
been more widespread; there was not enough cultivation even to supply
the wants of the garrison required for its occupation; it was therefore
abandoned, but the Khalifa is still very anxious to re-occupy it when he

Abdullah employed himself, during the period of rest and cessation from
war, in consolidating his power, and from the various means which he
employs it is quite evident that his intentions are to establish an
empire for himself, his family, and his Baggaras; he proceeded, however,
in this task with prudence and caution.

It is natural that the struggle for mastery between the spiritual
authority represented by the religious side of Mahdiism, and the
temporal authority of the Khalifa, should constantly clash and lead to a
state of insecurity and uncertainty throughout the Sudan. What the
inhabitants desire is that the Khalifa should tell them the truth
plainly; let him abolish Mahdiism, which exists merely in name, and let
him proclaim himself Sultan of the Sudan. He has the power and authority
sufficient to do this, but he fears that it might give his enemies
another arm which might be turned against him; he therefore advances
very slowly with the project on which his mind is bent.

From the way in which his eldest son Osman is being brought up, it is
evident that Abdullah seeks to establish an hereditary succession. This
youth was, until recently, of a most overbearing disposition. Whenever
he saw anything he wanted, he insisted on its being given to him. If he
saw someone riding a good donkey, he would order the rider to dismount,
and would deliberately cut the poor animal's throat; but in spite of
these foolish and cruel acts, his favour was much sought after, and many
a present did he receive from people who looked for a favourable means
of bringing their demands before the Khalifa; but the latter eventually
became exasperated by his son's conduct. He rebuked him openly in the
mosque, forbade everyone, under pain of severe punishment, to give him a
present of any sort, and he made him over to a tutor with a few Taisha

This strict _régime_ has already done the boy good. He is now about
eighteen years of age. It was said that the Khalifa's brother Yakub was
very jealous of his nephew, for he had looked on himself as Abdullah's
successor; but, to flatter Yakub and curb his jealousy, the Khalifa
expressed a wish that Osman should be betrothed to his daughter. This
proposition was most acceptable to Yakub; and further, the Khalifa
arranged that his daughter should be married to the Mahdi's son.

Great were the preparations for these princely weddings, which were
carried out with a splendour entirely at variance with the late Mahdi's
laws. The betrothal ceremony was accompanied by dancing and merry-making
in both the Mahdi's and the Khalifa's households, and the air reeked
with perfumes. All the principal merchants and emirs gave rich presents
in the shape of brides' dresses and varieties of costly perfumes; nor
were gold and silver ornaments and velvet missing. The goldsmiths have
invented a new form of jewellery, which has been named "the Khalifa's
stirrups." These ornaments, although absolutely opposed to Mahdi laws,
are extensively worn in both households. Hundredweights of sugar were
brought to Yakub's house, besides dhurra, wheat, butter, oxen, and
fat-tailed sheep, which latter are valued at from twenty to thirty
dollars a head.

It is usual for the bridegroom, or the bridegroom's father, to offer
presents of provisions to the bride, as well as clothes and ornaments,
which are all handed over to her with great ceremony on an appointed
day. Then there is the festival of "tefail," to which women only are
admitted, after which comes "henna day," when the hands and feet of the
bride are dyed red with henna. All these ceremonies are accompanied by
banquets, dancing, and singing. Every evening Yakub entertained hundreds
of the Ansar with rich food, and distributed several ardebs of dates.

On the occasion of the "dakhul" the bride is taken to the bridegroom's
house late in the evening; for seven days afterwards they receive the
congratulations of their friends, and then the ceremony and festival are

From the pomp and ceremony with which the Khalifa surrounded his son's
wedding, it is evident to all who thought about the matter that he had
secret intentions. After the wedding he had a princely house built for
his son, in the place known as Abu Anga's yard, near the mosque; this he
quite disfigured by building houses all around it, which are considered
the best in the town. When the palace was completed, the "heir
apparent," who had hitherto been living with his father, moved into it
with great ceremony. The Khalifa gave alms in a most liberal manner, so
that his son's residence might be blessed.

Sayid Osman already takes part in the conduct of affairs, and opens and
reads the letters to the clerks. Almost every morning he rides round
with the Governor on his inspections, but he does not live much amongst
the people. The Khalifa has changed his name into Sheikh Ed Din Sayid
Osman, and now he is generally known as Sheikh Ed Din only; he quite
understands the _rôle_ he has to play. He is a lover of good food, and
rejoices in the little specialities which the merchants bring from
Sawakin and Egypt, such as kamar ed din, dried figs, raisins, and all
sorts of cakes and biscuits, which are brought in abundance to Yakub's
house. The Khalifa treats him with marked respect, occasionally hands
over the command of the parade to him, and the soldiers always present
arms to him.

From the above it is quite evident that Abdullah wishes to secure the
succession to his son. This is perfectly understood by the people, who
make no secret of it. The Khalifa's plan is to go slowly but surely. He
wants to secure the ascendency of the Baggara over the Jaalin, Danagla,
Barabra, and other smaller tribes of the Sudan.

Until the appearance of the Mahdi, the Baggara were, perhaps, the most
despised of all the Arab tribes. The "Aulad-belad," as the Jaalin,
Danagla, and Barabra are called, had become more civilized in virtue of
their geographical position, and are far more crafty by nature than the
Baggara; they despised the latter, and under the leadership of Zubeir
Pasha, they defeated the great tribes in the neighbourhood of Shakka,
and it is these same Baggara who are now their masters.

All the Mahdi's early victories had been gained by the Aulad-belad, who
held the Baggaras in much the same contempt as they did the Fellahin of
Egypt. They are cunning, corrupt, and utterly untrustworthy, and from
the beginning have practised far more cruelty than the others. Even now
they are still the Khalifa's spies and advisers--indeed, he was brought
up entirely in their school, but has now completely turned the tables on
them. The intertribal discord and mutual distrust which prevails amongst
the Aulad-belad only tend to further the ends the Khalifa has in view.
Wherever craft and subtlety are required, thither he despatches them, in
the full assurance that as long as they are engaged in finding out the
misdeeds of their own countrymen he will be well and loyally served by

When the Baggara are sent to search a house in which it is supposed
marissa-drinking or smoking is going on, they are almost certain to find
out nothing; but with the Aulad-belad it is exactly the reverse; they
poke into the walls and tap the ground to hear if there is any
hollowness in the sound; they search every corner most thoroughly, and
seldom leave empty-handed; but the Baggaras have now got the upper hand,
and the Aulad-belad must bow down before them. In spite of this,
however, they manage to deceive their new masters, and in all matters
where cunning is required they are far superior to them.

It is only right that the Baggara, who have been brought up in the
forests and plains, and who are far more simple-minded, honest
individuals, should rule the corrupt Aulad-belad; their emigration to
Omdurman and their submission to the Khalifa's rule has had the
advantage of taming them, and their advances in civilization are quite
astounding. Being now possessed of power and money, they have begun to
build better houses, to wear cleaner clothing, and to occasionally wash
their jibbehs, which were reeking and besmeared with oil and fat; the
Khalifa has done much to improve their manners and customs in this
respect. Their west-country Arabic dialect has greatly improved; now the
two opposition parties can thoroughly understand each other, and the
Aulad-belad no longer make a laughing-stock of their western brethren.

The Khalifa's policy is to weaken the power of the Aulad-belad and to
strengthen the Baggaras. Just as a good father watches his children, so
does Abdullah watch for every opportunity to further these ends by a
clever combination of leniency and severity. He frequently blames his
own countrymen for their want of gratitude to their benefactor, who has
heaped favours upon them at the expense of the Aulad-belad. On one
occasion he cursed the day on which he had brought them to Omdurman,
calling it a "black day;" but, in point of fact, he is not really
serious when he upbraids them, he rather does it to satisfy the
complainers, and he takes every opportunity of sending the Aulad-belad
as far away from headquarters as possible, so as to strengthen his
central authority by the presence of Baggaras only.

I have already narrated how in the famine year he made the Baggaras pay
only six dollars for an ardeb of dhurra, whilst everyone else had to pay
sixty dollars for the same quantity; thus the Baggara suffered no
hardships and want during that terrible time. They do not like dhurra as
well as dukhn, which is more nourishing, and which they grind in wooden
mortars. During that period of awful want, when hundreds of natives were
dying of starvation in the streets, these great strong Baggaras were
eating to their hearts' content, completely regardless of all the
suffering creatures around them.

The revenue of the beit el mal is expended almost entirely on the
Baggaras; all the fertile islands in the neighbourhood, and the
best-cultivated portions of the Nile banks as far as Berber, have been
made over to them, whilst the original owners of the soil have been
turned out without a piastre's compensation; they are, therefore, owners
of all the best lands, and serve as a foreign garrison in occupation of
a conquered country.

Woe to the native who happens to have a Baggara as his neighbour! His
cattle are robbed, and he must share the product of the fields with his
overbearing master; wherever they go the Baggaras take their horses with
them, which must be fed and cared for at the expense of the local
inhabitants; complaints against Baggaras are not taken the slightest
notice of, or--as it more often happens--the complainant receives a
heavy punishment for having ventured to make a statement which is
invariably construed as untrue and incorrect. Thus these bold tribesmen
have every inducement to become more and more truculent the further
removed they are from the Khalifa's supervision. I will cite an example.

A rich native of the Gezireh had a dispute with a Baggara, and struck
his oppressor a blow with a stick in self-defence. Fate decreed that the
Baggara should die twenty-eight days afterwards, but his death was not
caused by the blow; the other Baggaras, however, seized the opportunity
of demanding blood-money, and if refused they threatened to report the
matter to the Khalifa. The stupid native was actually intimidated into
giving the Baggara 10,000 dollars, and the matter was declared to be
ended; but somehow it came to Yakub's ears, and learning that the
supposed murderer was a very rich man, he advised the friends of the
deceased Baggara not to accept blood-money, but to insist on the
native's death. This was agreed to. The poor man was arrested, dragged
to Omdurman, and hanged; whilst his property, consisting of a number of
goats and 30,000 dollars, was confiscated.

Not content with this, the Khalifa also ordered that the seven villages
in the neighbourhood should be burnt, on the plea that the inhabitants
had made common cause with the murderer in resisting lawfully
constituted authority; and it was only when the inhabitants of these
villages went _en masse_ to the Khalifa, begging to be spared, that he
at length acceded to their request.

When it was found that the revenue of the beit el mal was insufficient
to provide for the rapidly-increasing Baggara population, Abdullah
ordered half the produce of the Gezireh lands to be given to the beit el
mal, the other half being retained by the owners. This was published as
a solemn decree, and all judges enjoined to see that it was properly
carried out. Ibrahim Nur, the son of Nur Gereifawi, was sent with a body
of soldiers and Baggara to assist in carrying out the order in the
Gezireh, and he gained an unenviable notoriety for the ruthless severity
with which he enforced his authority.

In accordance with the Khalifa's instructions, out of every hundred
ardebs he seized a half, and on the remaining half he levied the "ushr"
and "zeka" taxes, so that eventually the unfortunate cultivator retained
only thirty-seven and a half per cent. of his original quantity;
besides, he was made responsible for the transport to the river of the
sixty-two and a-half per cent. Frequently the fields were far distant
from the river, which involved hiring camels to carry the grain, so that
finally the owner was probably left with absolutely nothing. In this way
Ibrahim gathered upwards of 60,000 ardebs from the Blue and White Niles.

Ibrahim gained the title of the "Gordon of the Gezireh" from the
extraordinarily rapid way in which he moved from one village to the
other and gave his instructions.

Here is another proof of the Khalifa's injustice when dealing in matters
concerning his own countrymen. About two days' journey from Omdurman up
the White Nile are certain very highly-cultivated districts, and it
occurred to the Khalifa to send there the Taisha who were not then
employed, so that they might cultivate and at the same time remain in
touch with him. He therefore sent a certain Sheikh Wad el Bedri to
select the most favoured spots in which the Taisha were to settle.

When the inhabitants of these districts learnt what was intended, they
begged and prayed Wad el Bedri to avert this terrible calamity which
threatened them, assuring him that if he would assist them they would do
anything he wanted, short of having the Baggara as settlers in their
country; this request they accompanied with a good round sum of money.

Bedri then returned to Omdurman, waited on the Khalifa with a most
beaming countenance, and reported that the inhabitants of the White Nile
were very pleased that the Khalifa of the Mahdi[S] had been graciously
pleased to think of sending the Taisha to their country; but at the same
time they most humbly begged to submit to him that possibly the Taisha
might find it a trouble to move so far with their families and
followers. If, therefore, the Khalifat el Mahdi should, in his great
wisdom, deem it advisable, they were quite ready to send to their
masters everything they required, and so spare them the toil of making
this extended emigration.

Abdullah seemed delighted with this proposal, praised Sheikh Wad el
Bedri for his services, and agreed that his suggestion should be carried
out. The sheikh appealed to his countrymen, and in one year collected
over 20,000 ardebs of dhurra, besides a quantity of money, which was
distributed amongst the Taisha, who from that day looked on him as one
of their best friends.

There is among the Baggara a curious ejaculation of "Hai! hai!"
constantly interspersed throughout their conversation. The Sudani feels
far more terror at this sound than he ever felt at the sight of the
Egyptian officials' red tarbush.

All high posts are in the Baggaras' hands, or rather in the hands of the
Khalifa's nearest relatives. The emirs of Kordofan, Regaf, Fashoda,
Galabat, Kassala, and Berber, are all Abdullah's relatives. Dongola was
the only place of importance not confided to a Baggara, but now Zogal
has fallen in favour and has been replaced by the Baggari Yunis. Some of
the subordinate posts are, however, still in the hands of the
Aulad-belad, but, gradually, as the Baggaras become capable of carrying
out the duties, they will replace the natives.

Not content with having brought the Taisha, Homr, and Habbanieh Arabs
from the west to the Nile, he has still further weakened the Aulad-belad
by obliging the powerful Rizighat tribe to emigrate from their country,
south of Darfur, to Omdurman. Their young Sheikh Musa--son of Madibbo,
who had been killed by Abu Anga at El Obeid--was entrusted with this
mission, and he marched through Kordofan with some 30,000 souls, besides
quantities of horses and cattle; his vanguard had reached Shatt on the
White Nile just at the time that I effected my escape.

The Khalifa had appointed a committee under the notorious Hajji Zubeir
to organize a great reception for the new arrivals, and had made a long
speech in the mosque calling on everyone to come forward liberally with
gifts for their brethren. He urged that alms should not be stinted, but
that clothes, corn, and all sorts of provisions would be gratefully
accepted, even to the "fartaga" (or smallest copper which is coined).

Every emir was instructed to let his followers know of the Khalifa's
wishes; he was to collect the gifts and hand them over to the committee.
If the gifts were considered too small they were returned with a strong
hint that it would be advisable to increase them. Merchants were
especially called upon to give largely, and if they failed to comply
they invariably incurred his displeasure.

The list of gifts was scrutinised by the Khalifa daily, and his favours
apportioned in accordance with what he found there. He was careful not
to allow the rich to give sparingly; for instance, Kadi Ahmed presented
200 ardebs of dhurra, 100 complete suits of clothes, consisting of 100
takias, 100 turbans, 100 jibbehs, 100 pairs of drawers, 100 leather
girths, and 100 pairs of sandals; still Abdullah was not satisfied and
asked why he had not given any money, and immediately the Kadi,
terrified at the Khalifa's displeasure, laid a considerable sum at Hajji
Zubeir's feet.

The merchant Omar Kesha, who had acquired much wealth, had on one
occasion been deprived of 30,000 dollars by the Khalifa on the plea that
much money was apt to take his mind off heavenly considerations. Two
years later a similar sum was again taken from him. On the occasion of
the arrival of the Rizighat, however, he presented a camel-load of
sugar, a camel-load of white muslin, and another of indigo-dyed calico,
besides a quantity of kamar ed din, 50 ardebs of dhurra, a camel-load of
dammur, and a completely-equipped war-horse with its attendant.

Wealthy men offer lavish gifts, in the hope of immunity from plunder,
and Omar Kesha, in addition to his generosity on this occasion, does not
fail to frequently offer valuable gifts to Yakub. As for the Khalifa, he
is perfectly aware that with one word he can, with absolute right,
demand anything and everything he requires, for had not the Sudanese
solemnly pledged their property, their children, and their own lives to
the cause of the Mahdi and his successor?

[Illustration: A BAGGARA WOMAN.]

While in Kordofan the Mahdi had professed that he was virtually the
owner of all property, but that he left it in the hands of its original
tenants that they might administer it until he should require it; and
now no stone is left unturned to enforce his theory of the true
ownership. The Khalifa directs his special attention to the merchants,
who, he supposes, make large profits out of commerce and trade.

Hitherto the Baggaras have had nothing to do with external commerce,
they never go to Sawakin or to Egypt. All trade with the outside world
is conducted by Hadarba, Jaalin, Danagla, and Barabra merchants, also
on the southern frontier of Egypt by Ababdeh and Kenuz people; but in
Omdurman itself the Baggaras, and especially the women, take a large
share in the retail business. Although they have scarcely ever owned a
piastre in their lives, the shining dollar has excited the most
inordinate cupidity amongst them. They are very quick to learn, and
already surpass the Aulad-belad in many branches of trade; this fact has
delighted the Khalifa, and he encourages it to the fullest extent.

The continuous support which the Khalifa gives to his own compatriots at
the expense of the rest of his subjects not unnaturally irritates the
latter, and out of their oppression a species of courage has sprung. The
Khalifa Sherif bitterly resents being debarred from all share in the
government of the country. He is highly favoured amongst the late
Mahdi's widows, and the Ashraf look to him as their head.

Abdullah, however, employs every means to lower his position and
diminish the respect in which he is held by the Ashraf, whose loose mode
of life he never loses an opportunity of exposing. For instance, Ahmed
Sharfi's second son had a concubine to whom he was much devoted, and who
used to saddle his horse for him herself; but in secret she was not
always faithful to her master, and when one day he returned to find her
absent, he revenged himself on her return by hanging her with his own
hands. When this outrage came to the Khalifa's ears, he ordered the
perpetrator to be imprisoned and all his property confiscated, whereas,
according to Mahdi law, a master has complete power to deal as he likes
with his own slaves. Another of Ahmed Sharfi's sons was discovered to be
leading a very immoral life, and he was exiled up the White Nile.

Another similar and even worse discovery, of which the principal agent
was one of the Mahdi's near relatives, gave Abdullah an opportunity of
openly accusing the Ashraf of leading lives which did not entitle them
to the smallest respect; and having established this fact, he set to
work in the most public manner to show them every mark of disrespect.

The Mahdi's uncle, Sayid Abdel Kader, a very proud man, who prior to,
the Mahdi's appearance had gained a livelihood by doctoring donkeys,
thought, under the altered circumstances, that his profession was not a
very honourable one; he therefore took to doctoring human beings with
the aid of a few old Arabic books on medicine which he possessed. He
made no secret of his dislike of Abdullah, and openly deplored the decay
of true Mahdiism; he never attended at the mosque, and studiously
avoided the Khalifa on every occasion. Abdullah, however, was fully
alive to the situation, Sayid's every step was dogged by spies, and at
length, when his impudence got beyond all bounds, the Khalifa suddenly
summoned him to the mosque, and addressed him publicly as follows--"Why
should you not come to the mosque twice a week and greet me
occasionally?" The Sayid replied proudly, "I worship God and pray to Him
daily in my house."

This speech greatly annoyed the Khalifa, who replied, "Pray in your
house; but I shall cut off the hand and foot of everyone who associates
with you, whether in your house or out of it, and I shall send to your
house to have all these Arabic books removed; you can then pray to God
without distraction." Suiting the action to the word, he at once had the
Sayid's books seized and burnt. After this Abdel Kader thought it as
well to pray five times a-day in the Mahdi's mosque.

Thus the breach between the Mahdi's and the Khalifa's households is
widening daily; the former are continually holding secret meetings and
consultations, of which the latter takes good care to be fully apprized.

Another individual--a certain Ismail el Kheir--who had been one of the
Mahdi's most fanatical adherents, but who, after the Mahdi's death, had
shown a tendency to side with the Khalifa Sherif and to be unfriendly to
Khalifa Abdullah, was one day suddenly ordered to be ready to start for
Regaf in half an hour. It was rumoured that Abdullah had discovered he
had been attending the secret meetings of the Ashraf.

I will cite yet another case. A certain Wad el Banna, a good man and a
well-educated Moslem, had the Khalifa's special permission to retain a
number of historical works on Islam, which he frequently read to him and
the Ansar after prayers in the mosque. Being in high favour, and a great
personal friend, the Khalifa sent him late one night a very beautiful
female slave; but when she arrived at the house, Wad el Banna was
nowhere to be found, and it was discovered that he was with the Khalifa
Sherif. The next morning Abdullah announced that he deserved to be
hanged; but as he had been very fond of him, he forgave him for the
Mahdi's sake; but ordered all the books to be burnt, and that he should
be transported to Regaf. Just as the steamer was about to sail with Wad
el Banna on board, the Khalifa recalled and pardoned him.

There was now little doubt that the Ashraf were forming a conspiracy;
the immediate result of this discovery was the sudden arrest and
imprisonment of Zogal, which caused no small stir. Then followed the
arrest of Fadl Maula (afterwards known as Abdel Maula), which created
still more excitement. Fadl Maula was the late Abu Anga's brother, and
commanded the black troops in Omdurman. He was a man of great influence,
not only on account of his brother's reputation, but he had also
performed a number of valuable services for the Khalifa, notably at the
time of the dispute regarding the Mahdi's successor. He lived near
Gordon's fort of Omdurman, enjoyed a high position, and acquired a large
number of the most handsome women in the Sudan for his harem.

These ladies lived in the highest luxury. He built good houses for them,
and in the evening he had a band of Fertit blacks, who played before
them on a variety of instruments. He was perhaps of all the emirs the
most favoured. He had no scruples in going round his men's quarters
picking out the good-looking women and sending them to his harem; but
this debauched and extravagant mode of living soon brought its reward,
and he became affected by a sort of leprosy which seemed to have touched
his brain. He became violent, and had to be put in chains. He lay for
months in this condition, and no medicine was given to him to ease his

At length a fiki was summoned who declared the disease to be the result
of witchcraft, and he volunteered to find out by whom this evil had been
practised on him. One of Abdel Maula's wives was a young girl of great
beauty, who was preferred to all the rest, and who lived with her
mother. Love, however, soon grew cold, and he became enamoured of
another of his wives; but the mother of the cast-off girl determined to
be revenged, and to aid her in her object, she sought the assistance of
a fiki, who gave her a number of amulets, for which she paid him well.
These bits of paper she placed under the iron platter on which Abdel
Maula's bread was baked, and gradually he grew worse and worse in
health. At length the papers were discovered, and everyone was convinced
that his illness had been caused by witchcraft. The woman was tried,
found guilty, and had her hand and foot cut off. Abdel Maula did not
recover for many months, and the unfortunate woman had been sacrificed
to the fiki's deception.

The people are still very credulous, and it is impossible to make them
give up their belief in these superstitious fikis. Once, out of pure
curiosity, I quite convinced myself that this supposed witchcraft was a
mere deception on the part of a clever fiki. Abu Anga's death and Abdel
Maula's illness greatly affected the latter's influence, besides he was
looked upon with jealous eyes by the Taisha. His overbearing manner to
Yakub, which made the latter his sworn enemy, also contributed to his
downfall. Detractors were not wanting who declared that he appropriated
the dhurra issued by the beit el mal for his troops. The Khalifa
therefore ordered his property to be confiscated, and reduced the number
of his wives from thirty-one to three. Irritated beyond measure at this
treatment, he openly abused the Khalifa and Yakub; but was thrown into
chains and delivered over to the tender mercies of the Saier.

The upshot of a meeting of the three Khalifas and the Kadi in Ahmed
Sharfi's house, still further widened the breach. Sharfi is known as the
"Gidd el Ashraf" (or grandfather of the Ashraf), because his daughter
was the Mahdi's mother--Abdullah himself generally addresses him as
"Gidd," and, by way of a joke, his house is known as the "Mudirieh,"
because it is a large square yard with numbers of small rooms ranged
around the inside walls in which the numerous wives dwell.

Sharfi is an astute and crafty old man; he sees perfectly well that,
under existing circumstances, it is quite useless to try and overturn
the present Baggara authority. He flatters the Khalifa in the most
obsequious manner, constantly gives him presents, and has even gone as
far as to give up associating with the Mahdi's household, lest suspicion
should rest upon him.

But to return. The four met one evening, the great gate was closed, the
mulazim kept guard outside, while within the discussion waxed hot.
Khalifa Sherif reproached Abdullah bitterly for non-adherence to the
Mahdi's precepts. He accused him of oppressing the people, and governing
without the co-operation of himself and Ali Wad Helu. He urged that the
proceeds of the beit el mal were reserved exclusively for him and his
Baggaras; that he had built good houses for himself and his emirs,
whilst the Mahdi's household continued to live in a zariba; that his
brother Yakub had considerably more authority than either of the two
Khalifas; that the Mahdi's wives were living in absolute want whilst the
Baggaras had every luxury; in short, he accused Abdullah of having made
Mahdiism into an entirely worldly and temporal power, instead of
upholding the religious precepts on which it had been founded. These
unreserved expressions led to a fierce dispute, swords were on the point
of being drawn, when Ahmed Sharfi and the Kadi with tears implored them
to stop quarrelling.

It was now past midnight, and Yakub, alarmed at Abdullah's absence,
arrived with a party of soldiers and several Baggaras at the great gate,
and began rapping violently with their spears; they shouted, "Let our
Khalifa out!" The noise outside had an instantaneous effect on the
disputants within. Abdullah solemnly swore on the Kuran that he would
act entirely on the advice of his colleagues in the matter, and with
that assurance the stormy meeting broke up. His appearance at the gate
was hailed with delight, and he was conducted home with rejoicing.

But in spite of these events there was no real reconciliation. Sherif
continued to agitate secretly, whilst the Mahdi's wives, who looked upon
him as their protector solemnly appointed by the Mahdi, added fuel to
the fire. They had some cause for discontent. After the Mahdi's death
they were taken little notice of; Abdullah did not trouble himself about
their wants and had it not been for Ahmed Sharfi, they must have
starved. Being the Mahdi's widows, they were not allowed to marry again,
and were not even permitted to move beyond the palace precincts.

This enforced confinement so irritated these good women that they
decided to go _en masse_ to the Khalifa, and demand either their liberty
or that they should be well treated. Ahmed Sharfi, learning of their
resolution, did all in his power to quiet them, and promised that he
would intercede with the Khalifa for them. This he did, and Abdullah
feigned complete surprise, said he had been under the impression that
they had been supplied from the beit el mal with all they required, and
that he himself had repeatedly given orders to Nur Gereifawi to that
effect. This was a fact, but--as it frequently happens--Yakub had taken
it upon himself to give counter-orders; the blame was, of course, laid
on Gereifawi, who was ordered to at once issue 600 dollars to the
widows, half in clothes and half in cash, and so these noble ladies were
for the time being satisfied.

About a month after the meeting I have just described the smouldering
fire broke out with renewed vigour. About two days before the actual
climax, I was told in the greatest secrecy by a friend, that in a few
days a rupture must occur, that Khalifas Sherif and Ali Wad Helu, as
well as the principal Aulad-belad emirs, had solemnly sworn on the Kuran
either to overturn Khalifa Abdullah, or die in the attempt. I could
scarcely credit this news, for Sherif was a young and inexperienced man,
and had hitherto given no proof of any special ability which would
induce the confidence of others; he appeared to me as a man utterly
absorbed in a life of sensual pleasure. But the following day my friend
again told me that his first information was quite correct; however, I
persisted in saying that I would not believe it till I saw it. So well
had the secret been kept, that the Aulad-belad merchants were
unconcernedly taking their goods away from the market as usual, and the
Khalifa and his household knew nothing of it, for one of my friends, who
lived close to the palace, declared to me that the whole matter was pure

On Tuesday, the 24th of November, 1891, a rumour suddenly spread through
the town that Sherif had decided to resist. The market was at once
closed, and people went to their homes as quickly as possible. The whole
place was in a state of alarm and excitement. Baggaras seized the
opportunity to plunder and rob, and I could not learn the actual
circumstances which led to the outbreak, as all that day I remained in
my hut, and the following day I made my escape.

Some said that the people had risen because the Khalifa intended to
execute Zogal; others, that Abdullah had secretly intended to proclaim
his son as his successor, but that Sherif had violently opposed the
idea. Possibly it may have been that the Khalifa--on the principle of
weakening the power of the Aulad-belad--had ordered that an expedition
of 3,000 of them, under the command of Wad el Ireik, should proceed to
Kassala to fight against the Italians; besides, Abdullah had the
intention of sending Karamallah--the capturer of Lupton Bey--and his
brother Kerkesawi, with a force to Bahr el Ghazal, and it was thought
that these two most deliberate attempts to get the Aulad-belad out of
Omdurman had been the real cause of the outbreak.

Tuesday passed without disturbance, but every one was prepared for
Wednesday. On that day the Khalifa ordered that everyone should stand to
his flag, and that all the Ansar should attend at the mosque. But the
whole affair turned out to be a ridiculous farce. Khalifa Sherif with a
few Danagla had barricaded himself in the Mahdi's zariba; he had
altogether about fifty Remington rifles. How could he attempt resistance
with a feeble force of this description? He had acted most imprudently;
still, in secret, the Aulad-belad would all have liked to support him,
but not one of them had the courage to come forward, though there were a
very large number of them in Omdurman. The Mahdi's widows, however,
showed far more determination. They dressed themselves in jibbehs, armed
themselves with swords, and, forming a compact little body, they swore
rather to die than submit.

In accordance with the Khalifa's orders, the palace, the mosque, and the
road between the Mahdi's dome and the mosque, were all occupied by the
Ansar on Wednesday, whilst the black troops completely surrounded the
mosque. Yakub was made responsible for distributing ammunition. Possibly
Sherif may have thought that the Aulad-belad would have joined him, but
not one of them dared to leave the ranks. Numerous horsemen wearing
coats of mail and helmets were entertaining the crowds by their furious
galloping, and in Abdullah's entire force there was general rejoicing.
At about 10 A.M. Sherif opened fire, and seventeen Baggaras fell; the
blacks returned the fire, and killed seven of Sherif's men. Abdullah
would not allow the Ansar to fire, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that he succeeded in holding back the wild Baggaras.

The few shots that had been fired startled the whole of Omdurman;
everyone went to his house and armed himself as best he could. Meanwhile
the Baggara horsemen had left the actual scene of action, and were now
scattered about the town looting, robbing, breaking into houses,
wounding people, and seizing women, slaves, ornaments, &c. When Abdullah
heard of this, he lost no time in sending Yakub's horsemen to keep
order; but many of the robbers made off with their booty. In the evening
it was rumoured that a reconciliation had been effected. Khalifa Helu,
Ahmed Sharfi, and Sayid el Mek had been the mediators. Sharfi had
attempted to explain to the Mahdi's widows that all resistance was
useless, but they tore his jibbeh, and drove him off.

On Thursday the Khalifas all met under the Mahdi's dome, and there
Abdullah, with tears in his eyes, solemnly swore to accede to all his
opponent's wishes, which were that he should receive one-third of the
army, one-third of the arms, and of the beit el mal revenue, and that,
moreover, he should take part in all meetings and deliberations. It was
quite apparent that Abdullah never seriously intended to fulfil these
conditions. He could have instantly suppressed the outbreak had he
wished to do so, but he wanted to show that he still greatly honoured
and respected the Mahdi's family.

At noon the mulazimin marched through the town, heralds announced that
tranquillity had been restored, and that people should return to their
daily avocations. On Friday the usual review took place, but none of the
notables were present, and most of the troops continued in occupation of
the mosque and palace. On Saturday there was another alarm, for Sherif
had declined to hand over his arms, but that evening his submission was
publicly announced. I did not hear the details, for on Sunday, the 29th
of November, 1891, I quitted Omdurman in the dead of night.


[S] Abdullah does not like being addressed as Khalifa only, but
if he be approached as Khalifat el Mahdi, and if the words "aleh es
salam" ("on whom be peace") be added--a term which is only used when
speaking of the Prophet--he is even more gratified.



     Ohrwalder forms plans for escape--The fate of other Europeans
     attempting to fly--Stricter surveillance--Ohrwalder's means of
     livelihood--Letters from Cairo--The faithful Ahmed Hassan discloses
     his plan--Archbishop Sogaro--Miseries of captivity in
     Omdurman--Death of Sister Concetta Corsi--Preparations for flight.

The reader will readily understand that all this time I had not lost
sight of the object which had been next my heart, which was to regain my
liberty and escape from my miserable surroundings.

When I quitted El Obeid, I then thought that, once in Omdurman, escape
would not be so difficult, and during my long journey to the Mahdi's
capital this thought had buoyed me up. At any rate I was one step nearer
attaining my wish, for at that time the restrictions on Europeans were
not so severe, and they were permitted to trade and travel as far as Ed
Damer, to which place Egyptian merchants freely came and went.

On my arrival in Omdurman, a Greek offered me hospitality, which I
gratefully accepted. I had resolved to search about in the town for a
trusty friend, who would help me towards the attainment of my object. It
had occurred to me that I might accompany a Greek or Syrian merchant to
Damer, and from thence make my escape, but unfortunately at that time I
had no money and little experience. I did not actually give way to
despair, but I could find no one ready to give me the assistance I
required; they all feared the Khalifa's vengeance in case of discovery.


I made inquiries of boatmen, with a view to going to Berber on a
supposed trading journey, but none of them trusted me; and, indeed, I
was afterwards thankful that they had not spoken of my design. However,
in spite of failure, I did not give up hope; and during the long days,
and often sleepless nights, I turned various plans over and over in my
mind. On one occasion Gustav Klootz and I decided to make an attempt to
reach Galabat, and escape thence into Abyssinia, but at the last moment
the plan seemed impracticable. Klootz, however, set off, and without any
money he begged his way from place to place; at length, utterly
exhausted, he reached Galabat, only to die a few days afterwards.

I spent about eight months with the Greek, and then thought it was not
fair to trespass further on his hospitality. Besides, it had occurred to
me that in case a favourable opportunity for escape arrived, he would
most certainly have been accused of complicity, and might have suffered
on my account; I therefore built a small straw hut for myself, and lived
with a Mission brother who had a small shop in the market. For almost
five months an Arab held out hopes of assisting me to escape, but I
eventually ascertained that he never really meant to help me. For nearly
two years I had suffered from incessant diarrhoea, which had greatly
wasted my strength.

Meanwhile I had managed to send one of the Mission brothers to Berber,
nominally to gain a living by repairing watches, but actually to find
out whether flight from there was possible. It took him twenty-six days
in a boat to reach Berber, and after staying there for a time he
succeeded in escaping to Sawakin, whence he despatched a man with money
and goods who was to aid in my escape; but the man never came, and must
have stolen all that had been given to him.

The Mission brother's escape reached the Khalifa's ears, and at the same
time certain Greeks petitioned him that their bakery might not be pulled
down when the market was being repaired. The Khalifa sent for the
mukuddum to inquire about the matter, and casually asked about the other
Greeks, and where they were? The mukuddum replied that some were ill,
others were travelling. This greatly annoyed the Khalifa, who ordered
all who were in Omdurman to be brought before him the following day.
Finding several absentees, his eyes seemed to be opened to the danger;
he severely blamed the mukuddum for allowing the lay-brother to escape;
said that he should have given immediate information, and then turning
on us he threatened to cast us into the river, or cut off our hands. His
actual words were, "What prevents me now from throwing you into the
river, and making you food for fishes?" He spoke against us in a most
vehement manner for about half an hour, and ended by saying that we
should not in future be permitted to move one step south of Omdurman
fort, or north of Khor Shambat. Any Europeans known to be beyond the
limits of his capital, he ordered to be forcibly brought back, alive or
dead. This sudden change of front obliged us to put aside for the time
all idea of escape.

A Sherif of Mecca, who had come to greet the Mahdi and who had become
thoroughly convinced of the falseness of his claims, expressed a desire
to be allowed to return; his request was not granted, so he decided to
make his escape; he bought a donkey and gaily set out on his journey. On
reaching Kererri, some four hours' distance, he was stopped and asked
where he was going; he replied that he was come to pay a visit to Sheikh
el Tayeb's tomb at Kererri; but his story was not credited. He was
brought back to the Khalifa, who handed him over to the Saier, where he
died a few days afterwards.

This event made Abdullah exert a still stricter surveillance over the
"whites," and now escape became more difficult than ever. Moreover, Wad
en Nejumi's expedition to Egypt closed the road to pilgrims, and during
that period flight would have been a pure impossibility. In the meantime
I had to do something to gain a livelihood. Lupton advised me to try
soap-boiling; so I went into partnership with him, changed my house,
and now took up my abode just beyond the Greek and Syrian quarter.

I was always thinking of escape, and in consequence kept a great deal to
myself, seldom paid visits, and was seldom called upon. Two of the
Mission sisters were living near me; they earned a precarious living by
needlework; but this hardly brought in enough money to purchase the bare
necessities of life, for several of the women who had survived the
Khartum massacre were employed at similar work, and the competition was

Poor Lupton died very suddenly, so our soap-boiling plan had to be
abandoned, and I had to turn my thoughts to something else. It occurred
to me to make hooks out of telegraph wire, which the sisters sewed on to
purses, takias, &c., and this being a novelty was for a time a fairly
lucrative business: but it was long and tedious work. Gradually the
novelty wore off, and the demand grew less; provisions were expensive,
and a famine close at hand. All idea of mutual support had come to an
end, for the Greeks, Syrians, and Jews had been prohibited from leaving
the town, and nothing was to be made out of trade in Omdurman itself.
Thus my condition went from bad to worse, the famine was now raging, and
in desperation I had to do something to gain enough to keep body and
soul together.

It was the fashion for the women in Omdurman to wear long garments
trimmed with various sorts of ribbons, and it occurred to me to learn
how to make these ribbons; for this purpose I acquired a small and
simple loom. The few men in the market, who had the monopoly of this
trade, regarded my acquisition with great jealousy, and would not teach
it to any one under a less payment than forty or fifty dollars, and this
sum I was quite unable to raise; however, necessity knows no law, and
hunger sharpens the inventive faculties. I carefully unravelled a piece
of ribbon and studied the way it was made with the greatest attention. I
had a dim and hazy recollection of European looms, and, after many vain
attempts, I at length succeeded in making one. The work is very trying,
and at first I thought my back would break from the exertion; it was
only with the greatest difficulty that I managed, after working all day,
to turn out four yards, which I sold for four piastres, out of which I
had to purchase the thread. However, after continuous practice, I
succeeded, at the end of a month, in turning out sixteen yards a day.
But loom work should be learnt when one is young, and to begin it at my
age was a terrible strain on my back; still, it brought in sufficient
money to keep us alive.

For seven months we lived on dhurra bread and a few boiled vegetables,
without oil, butter, or meat. Hard work and insufficient food were
telling on our strength: however, we were far better off than hundreds
of others, who were willing to work, but, finding nothing to do, were
obliged to starve. During all this time I never once abandoned hope of
escape, and again succeeded in getting some one to take a message from
me to Cairo seeking advice; but the undertaking was so beset with
difficulties that it seemed next to impossible.

My companions in adversity watched me closely--they often volunteered to
attempt an escape with the sisters; but as I was responsible for them to
the Khalifa, this could not be done, and the idea of myself and the two
sisters ever escaping alone seemed too absurd to be thought of. It
seemed most improbable that the Government would again take possession
of the Sudan; though I confess that a ray of hope was kindled when Saleh
Bey of Korosko suddenly arrived at Abu Hamed with his Ababdehs and
killed the notorious Suleiman Wad Naaman, the murderer of Colonel
Stewart and his companions. The news of this affair caused the greatest
excitement in Omdurman, and we really believed that the time for our
release was approaching; but Saleh Bey disappeared as quickly as he

The capture of Tokar, in February 1891, also raised our hopes; but we
were again doomed to disappointment. In 1890 a young Ababdeh Arab had
come to Omdurman and had asked me to give him a letter to my friends in
Cairo. I did not trust him, for I had written several letters which were
entirely without result. I had learnt by experience that the Arabs were
untrustworthy, and that the letters never reached those for whom they
were intended. It also occurred to me that the man might be a spy, so I
sent him away with the answer "Neshauer" (_i.e._ "I shall think about
it"), a word very often used by the Sudanese when they wish to gain time
to consider a matter.

Meanwhile I made full inquiries about the man, and heard nothing but
good of him. Soon afterwards he returned and asked me to give him a few
lines of greeting to my friends. I was told that the man expected to get
some reward if he succeeded in bringing letters to the Government from
the prisoners, which might give them some information on the situation
in the Sudan. When I was thoroughly convinced as to his trustworthiness,
we then had a consultation, of which the upshot was that I would, with
his assistance, attempt to escape, provided he could obtain the
necessary support from Cairo; I therefore gave him a letter to our
Reverend Vicar Apostolic, Franz Sogaro, and commissioned him to
negotiate verbally with him.

The man's plan was to return when the Nile was high--that is to say,
almost a year later--escape in a boat or on a raft, which the swift
current would carry to Berber in about three days, where camels would be
in readiness to take us across the desert to Korosko. I urged him to
keep these plans absolutely secret, for their disclosure would bring
most certain punishment on our heads, and I further urged him to provide
arms for the journey.

Ahmed Hassan--for that was the man's name--went off, and, to tell the
truth, I had little hope that he would do anything more than others had
done before him. Besides, who could say what changes might not take
place in a year in Omdurman, which might entirely frustrate our plans?
The sword of Damocles was for ever hanging over our heads. Then might
not death intervene any day? Both the sisters and myself were
thoroughly debilitated by constant work and hardship, and it was always
possible that a slight fever might extinguish the spark of life which
was then burning but dimly.

A few days after Ahmed's departure the whole matter went quite out of
our heads, and before long I was again negotiating with another Arab to
assist us to escape, for I did not wish to leave a stone unturned. If it
had been a question of my flight alone, there would not have been so
much difficulty. As a man I could have stained my naturally brown
complexion, dressed in rags, and begged my way along the banks of the
Blue Nile to Abyssinia; but I could not leave the poor sisters behind,
and therefore resolved to wait patiently until a deliverer should come.

Several of the merchants who had been to Egypt told me that Archbishop
Sogaro had often sent us money _viâ_ Korosko, Halfa, and Sawakin; but
the dishonest Arabs had always appropriated it for themselves. In fact,
ever since 1884 our good Archbishop had never ceased in his efforts to
assist us and to make our captivity more bearable. He left no stone
unturned, and moved Moslems, Christians, the Government, and indeed His
Holiness the Pope, on our behalf, and one of the missionaries was
maintained on the Egyptian frontier with the special object of
endeavouring to procure our release; they took it in turns to relieve
each other, and were Fathers Dominicus Vicentini, Yohann Dichtl, Xavier
Geyer, Alois Bonomi, Leon Henriot, and Alois Specke, the last of whom
died at Assuan. We had many great difficulties, but perhaps the greatest
was the continual bad faith of the Arabs.

The transport of letters endangered the lives not only of the bearers,
but of the receivers as well, and any letter addressed to a European
would, if discovered, undoubtedly end either in the intended recipient's
death or imprisonment for life. But Archbishop Sogaro worked on with
indefatigable earnestness. Early in 1890 he sent one of our Coptic
Mission teachers, named Hanna Arraga, with money and goods to the
frontier, whence, if possible, he was to proceed to Omdurman and assist
us. It was thought the plan might succeed, for at that time Zogal was
Emir of Dongola, and he was desirous of opening trade with Halfa. Hanna
therefore sent an Arab on to find out how matters stood, while he
himself remained on the frontier; but the Arab never returned.

It so happened that just at this time Zogal and the two Baggara emirs
sent to watch him had a violent dispute, which resulted in all of them
being recalled to Omdurman. The Khalifa decided in favour of the
Baggaras, Zogal was thrown into chains, and Abdullah's nephew, Yunis,
was appointed Emir of Dongola; the latter held very different views with
regard to intercourse with Egypt, and that is why the Arab never
returned to Halfa. About fifteen days, however, before I effected my
escape, the Arab came to Omdurman and told me about the matter. His own
master and son had been implicated in the Dongola dispute and had been
thrown into chains; that was his reason for not returning, and after
that I never saw him again.[T]

Meanwhile, Ahmed Hassan, whom I had sent to Cairo with the letter, duly
delivered it to Archbishop Sogaro, who made a written agreement with him
for our release; he also instructed Hanna to proceed from Halfa to
Korosko, and there hand over to Ahmed Hassan the goods valued at £100.
Through Archbishop Sogaro's intermediary, Ahmed Hassan was given every
support by the Egyptian military authorities, who presented him with £20
and gave him a free passage to Korosko. On the 15th of September, 1891,
he left that place for Omdurman with the goods.

At Omdurman the winter had come and gone, the Nile had risen to its full
height and had subsided, but there was no sign of Ahmed. I was not
surprised, for I had long been accustomed to disappointments of this
sort. I merely remarked to myself that the number of persons who had
deceived us had been increased by one, and that if a deliverer did not
soon come from Egypt, there was another deliverer--death--whose approach
was certain. The heavy work was sapping our waning strength, I began to
spit blood, felt severe pains in my chest, and was little else than skin
and bone.

The poor sisters were still nearer the grave. Our moral and physical
sufferings during these ten long years of captivity had told on us
terribly; death was what we most longed for and for which we patiently
waited. The sad prospect of never regaining our liberty, of living a
life of slavery, debarred from all the advantages and progress of the
world, never again to worship in our grand churches and enjoy the
comforts of our holy religion; but to live and die amongst the fiery
rocks and sand of Omdurman, where the burning sun turned dead bodies
into mummies--to die and be buried in slavery--the prospect of living
was indeed unattractive, and what wonder we should long for death to
free us from such misery!

After all these sufferings it was indeed hard to see our
will-o'-the-wisp-like hope, which we had pursued so often, dissolve into
nothing, and to find ourselves once more the victims of a fraud and
deception. How fortunate we thought those who had been killed in battle,
or had died of starvation or disease! We even envied the lot of those
who had been massacred in Khartum. After all, the anguish of death had
been but momentary, and now all suffering and pain was over, while we
seemed to have passed through a hundred deaths, we had been in his
clutches over and over again; hunger, thirst, and disease had all, at
one time or another, almost claimed us as their victims. We had
witnessed the destruction of cities, the annihilation of armies, the
slaughter of thousands, and the ruthless massacre and bloodshed of
innocent people; man's dignity trodden under foot, and human life valued
far below that of a sheep or a goat. And after all this we must live
and die forgotten and unknown, our lasting resting-place a strange land,
and our bodies in all likelihood food for hyenas. Thus we longed for
death to remove us from these scenes of perpetual cruelty and
oppression. Our nerves had become so strained that the slightest knock
at the door would make us start; the sound of the great onbeïa made us
positively tremble. Almost half the total number of Europeans, Greeks,
Syrians, and Jews were dead, and all we hoped for was that we should
soon follow them.

The death of one of our sisters only increased in me the desire to die
as well. On the 4th of October, 1891, Sister Concetta Corsi, who was in
a very weak state of health, was suddenly carried off by typhus.
According to the Sudan custom, we wound her body in a cloth, tied it up
in a mat (for there were no coffins to be had), and carried her, almost
immediately after death, to a spot some six miles north of the town--the
direction in which her eyes in lifetime had been so often turned. All
the Greeks and Syrians followed, and there in the stillness of the
desert we laid her in the warm sand, protecting her body from the
ravenous hyenas by a few thorns. A short prayer was offered up for her
and for the souls of those who had gone before; then we turned sadly
back, hoping that before long we too might be lying beside her.

But I felt that my life was in God's hands, and comforted myself with
the belief that God was dealing with me as He thought best, and that I
must submit to His Divine will. My hut was gloomy in the extreme; for
several days I did not speak to any one, and when night came I threw
myself down on my angarib, but sleep would not come to me; then I would
gaze up into the great vault of heaven and think that this same sky was
over my fatherland, from which I was an exile, surrounded by suffering
and sickness.

On the night of the 28th of October, 1891, Ahmed Hassan quite
unexpectedly made his appearance. I took him to my hut, and after the
usual Arabic greetings, he said to me, "Here I am, are you coming?" For
a moment I was speechless, I quite understood what he meant; but a
thousand thoughts flashed through my mind, my heart was beating
violently, the dangers to which my frail companions in adversity would
be subjected loomed before me, and for a few moments I could make no
reply; then I collected my wandering thoughts and said: "If I did not
intend to go with you I would not have sent you."

Then I began asking him all sorts of questions about Cairo, and he
informed me briefly that he had seen Archbishop Sogaro and had made an
arrangement with him regarding our release; that he had given up the
plan of descending to Berber by boat, and that he had received £100 to
purchase camels. He further told me that he had not brought any letter
with him. He asked about the sisters, and when I told him that one had
died almost a month ago, he almost wept, and striking his forehead with
his hand, said, "Oh, that I had come a month earlier!" But I told him
that I would take another sister in her place.

We then set to talking earnestly about our plans; I told him to purchase
at least five good camels and to see that he had sufficient arms. In
anticipation of flight, I had a long time ago secured and carefully
concealed a hundred Remington cartridges. When Ahmed left the hut I
began to doubt if he was really sincere; it seemed almost incredible
that they should have sent him from Cairo without a line or even a
signature on such an important undertaking.

The next day Ahmed reappeared, bringing with him two Arabs whom he had
engaged in the cause, one at Korosko and the other at Berber. Ahmed
seemed a little afraid that we would not dare to undertake the flight;
he told me that he had brought a letter from Archbishop Sogaro, but had
left it at Berber. The main difficulty for the Arabs would be leaving
the house without being observed, but I reassured them on that point. It
was almost full moon at that time, so it was decided to delay our
departure until it should be on the decline, and we should thus be able
to make our way out under cover of obscurity. I begged Ahmed not to come
to us any more, to avoid exciting suspicion.

I now began to make preparations. My first object was to get one of the
sisters, who was at that time living in a Greek's house, to come to my
house. This was not an easy matter, for I dared not mention one word
about our intentions to a soul, or our plans would undoubtedly have been
frustrated. I therefore feigned illness, and said I could no longer
carry on this hard work alone, so the sister was allowed to come, and,
quite unwittingly, the Greek gladly lent me her services. She had now
been with me some twenty days, so I felt that the Greek could not be
held responsible for her disappearance, which occurred a few days later.

Ahmed gave me Archbishop Sogaro's letter, which he had procured from
Berber, and with intense excitement I read the few lines, in which he
wished me all success in the undertaking. This letter encouraged me
greatly, and I had now no doubt of Ahmed's sincerity. We counted the
days and hours preceding our departure, and I could not bear to think of
the trials the sisters would have to undergo during the journey. I had
also a little black girl, whom it would have been impossible for me to
have left behind, as our departure would undoubtedly have been betrayed.
She was named Adila, and had been born in the Khartum Mission house.
After the fall of Khartum, she and her mother had been sold as slaves
and sent to Gedaref.

Amongst Abu Anga's troops was a certain Panerazio Yusef, a very bright
and intelligent young soldier, who subsequently rose to the rank of an
emir; he had been told about Adila, bought her for five dollars, and
took her with him when he accompanied the emir Zaki to Omdurman. On his
arrival he presented her to me as a remembrance of former kindness; he
also gave me a quantity of coffee, for which I was truly grateful.

The day of our intended departure was approaching, and we looked forward
to it with almost breathless impatience. We had lost all appetite for
food; fear, mental anguish, and the idea that we should be free, kept us
in a perfect fever of excitement. I could not help thinking of my
companions in adversity whom I should be obliged to leave behind, and
who might, I thought, perhaps suffer after our departure. These had been
constantly with us for the last ten years, sharing our life of pain and
wretchedness, and now I could not but feel pained at the thought of
separation. But all these feelings had to be put aside, and we had to
concentrate all our thoughts on the present. I longed to be off, if only
to be free from this feverish anxiety which was rending our very souls.
Then Ahmed came just the day before we were to have started, and said
that the Arabs with whom he had come from Korosko had not yet returned,
and that we must await their departure before setting out.

I now began to think that our plans had been frustrated. Several
Egyptians, including some women, had attempted to fly to Berber, whence
they intended making their way back to Egypt, but had been intercepted,
brought back and thrown into chains. It also happened that some Greeks
who had been living at Gedaref, and had had their goods stolen, were
also brought to Omdurman and put in prison, because it was thought that
they had intended to escape to the Italians.

All this alarmed me, and I thought it probable the Khalifa would issue
more stringent orders against Europeans. Ahmed told me that he had had
considerable difficulty in purchasing the camels; he did not dare buy
them in the market, as that would have aroused suspicion; he had also
great difficulty in feeding them, for it would have certainly excited
comment if he had collected them all in one place. He had, however,
managed very well. When he saw a good-looking camel, towards evening he
would follow it until he reached the owner's house, then early the next
morning he would return and bargain for it; in this way he had acquired
three good camels at from 120 to 150 dollars a piece, which he
distributed amongst his various friends, and fed them up well. Meanwhile
he used occasionally to come and see us, and bid us keep up a good hope
in spite of our enforced delay.

On the 24th of November occurred the disturbance between the Khalifas
which I have already narrated, and this seemed a most favourable moment
to escape; but Ahmed did not come, and I was wildly impatient, for I
could not even find out where he lived without exciting suspicion. In
all this confusion we were lost sight of, and I avoided going to see
anyone lest I should become involved in anything that was going on. I
had no further preparations to make, for Ahmed had promised to provide

At last, on Friday the 27th, he came to my hut, and it was decided we
should leave on Monday evening. When I reproached him for not coming
during the first day or two of the disturbances, he said that he too had
thought of it, but that one of his friends had been locked up for being
engaged in a quarrel, and he was obliged to wait until he was released.

Ahmed also told me a most important piece of news. There were no riding
camels in the beit el mal. All had been despatched to the provinces on
business connected with quelling the disturbances. It would not,
therefore, be possible to pursue us at once. These disturbances had made
all the other captives think that it was a favourable opportunity to
fly, but, with one exception, none of them knew that my preparations
were all made and that the next day I should be gone.


[T] The Arab undoubtedly meant well. For he was at the same
time entrusted by me with a letter to give to another European prisoner,
and, as I write, a reply to this letter, which was delivered to him only
two months ago in Omdurman, has just reached Cairo.--F. R. W.



     Father Ohrwalder and Sisters Venturini and Chincarini escape--The
     ride for life--The rencontre with the Dervish guard near Abu
     Hamed--Alarm of the party--The journey across the great Nubian
     desert--Five hundred miles on camel-back in seven days--Arrival at
     the Egyptian outpost at Murat--Safe at last--Arrival in Cairo.

On Sunday evening I went to see a friend and returned at nine o'clock;
this happened to be the last visit I was to make in Omdurman. Just as I
stepped into my yard, there I saw Ahmed standing before me. In a few
hasty words he told me to get ready as soon as possible; his friends had
made a mistake and had come a day earlier with the camels. The sisters
and Adila were all ready; I gave Ahmed the few small things I had as
well as my arms, and told him to take the sisters to the appointed
place, which was only about thirty yards from the hut, whilst I went off
and informed the only person who was in the secret, of our sudden
decision to leave a day earlier.

All fear had now gone, and, almost beside myself with excitement, I
hastened to my friend's house and knocked at the door. "Who's there?" he
asked. And when he knew who it was he was greatly surprised, and asked
why I came so late. As some one else was standing near, I said that I
had been seized with a violent pain, and had come to beg a few drops of
laudanum, and then I approached him, pressed his hand, and whispered in
his ear that we were on the point of starting.

The poor man received such a start, that had he not caught hold of
something, he would have fallen; but I roused him by asking him loudly
to get me the laudanum at once; so he went off to his room, and there,
with a trembling hand, he put a few drops on a piece of sugar. I took it
back to the house, which I found the sister had just left. Then wrapping
myself in a black mantle, I locked the door, and took the key with me. I
saw something dark in the distance, which I knew must be the camels, and
thither I picked my way. In a few moments I had reached the spot, and a
man whom I did not know helped me on to my camel; but there was no time
to ask questions. Ahmed put the sisters on the camels, on which the two
other Arabs rode, whilst I took Adila behind me on my camel.

Not thirty yards from where we were was a well, around which a number of
female slaves were gathered; but the little noise we made was drowned by
their laughter. The moment of mounting was perhaps the most dangerous
time, for the camels were restive, and longing to be off. It was with
the greatest difficulty the Arabs managed to keep their mouths closed,
and no sooner were we on their backs than we glided swiftly away into
the darkness. Now and then we saw fires, at which the people were
cooking their food, or sitting around gossiping; fortunately it was a
cold night, so most of the people were in their huts. We passed the spot
where we had laid the poor sister who had recently died; it was sad to
think that she was not with us now. We kept steadily moving forward, not
a word had passed our lips; the camels had been well fed up on dhurra,
and went so quickly that we could scarcely hold them in. I tried to peer
through the darkness, while my ear was ready to catch the slightest
sound of possible pursuers.

Soon we had left Omdurman far behind, and in the soft sand-bed of Khor
Shambat we dismounted to have our saddles re-arranged; then we mounted
again, and pursued our journey at a rapid pace northwards along the
river bank. We were in all seven persons and four camels: the guide
Ahmed Hassan, his two friends Hamed and Awad; Sister Catterina
Chincarini and Sister Elizabetta Venturini; myself and Adila.

A cold north wind was blowing, which our rapid advance made quite
cutting. I followed the Arab custom, and bound a large turban round my
head, leaving only the eyes exposed. We passed several villages, but the
barking of the dogs always gave us warning, and so we avoided them. I
had not heard a dog bark for years, and the sound was quite pleasing to
me. We met some Gellabas riding on donkeys, on their way to Omdurman,
but in the darkness they could not see who we were, and we passed them
rapidly; only Ahmed remained behind, to greet them and exchange news.

Now the narrow track led through thick bushes, which we could not
rightly see; our clothes, hands, and feet got torn and scratched by the
thorns; but we never checked the pace, and continued our course steadily
northwards. "Time is money," they say, but in our case time was life; we
crossed dry beds of streams, over which the animals would sometimes
stumble and fall, the riders with them; but there was no time to think
of pains and bruises; to pick oneself up, catch and mount the camel,
which might easily have been lost in the desert, was all one had time to
think about. None of us had watches, but during the many sleepless
nights I had passed, I had become used to observing the stars, and could
tell the time almost to within five minutes.

Just at dawn we neared the village of Wad Bishara, and pushed on quicker
so as to pass it before daybreak. This village is generally considered
two days north of Omdurman. We then left the ordinary track, and turned
towards the desert, as we dared not go along the river bank during the
daytime. At sunrise we could just see the thin strip of green which
marked the course of the stream; still we did not alight, but pushed on
and on, up and down hills, across long stretches of sandy plain. Our
eyes became so red and swollen we could scarcely see, and they pained us

At length, after some hours, we drew up, dismounted ate a little
biscuit, and drank some water, readjusted our saddles, then up and away
again. My mind travelled back to Omdurman. Had our flight been
discovered at once? What would happen to those left behind? How
astonished they would be to find we had gone! But this train of thought
was suddenly interrupted; one of the sisters had fallen off her camel,
and was lying insensible on the ground; we picked her up, splashed her
with water, and after a time brought her to; we then put her on to the
camel again, and tied her firmly to the saddle; there was nothing else
to be done--it was a question of life and death. So we rode continuously
forward, in the desert by day and along the river bank by night.

I had asked Ahmed about the stranger who had helped me to mount my camel
in Omdurman, and he told me that the animals had become so restive by
good feeding that it was impossible for one man to hold them whilst the
other two came to the hut to fetch us; he had therefore taken two
friends into his confidence, and made them swear on the Kuran that they
would not betray us. Just after sunset they had ridden the camels quite
openly through the market-place, with their arms slung across the
saddles, so that people should think they were post-camels, and no
suspicion would be created.

Ahmed told me more too about the difficulties he had had in stabling the
camels prior to our flight; two of them had been tethered in a poor
woman's yard, and the two others he had placed in charge of one of his
friends; but these caretakers had guessed that something was about to
happen, and had urged Ahmed to depart as soon as possible, for they
began to think they might become involved in the matter. Ahmed had paid
them most liberally for their services; he had also had recourse to
magic, summoned the spirits, and consulted a fiki, who prophesied the
journey would be "as white as milk," that is to say, that no mishap
would occur, for which statement Ahmed had given him a considerable

We continued our journey always along the left bank of the Nile, there
was no time to stop for sleep. Occasionally we came across Arab
shepherds in the desert tending their herds of goats. They gazed
wonderingly at us, and asked questions of Ahmed, who purposely always
remained a short way behind. Ahmed drew a gloomy picture of the recent
rising in Omdurman, describing how the two Khalifas had openly fought
with each other, how nothing was heard night and day but the roar of
cannon and the rattle of musketry, while the slaughter had been terrible
beyond words. He represented that we were fugitives who had left the
ordinary roads, fearing that the disturbed state of the country might
make them unsafe, for bands of brigands were known to be roaming about.

These simple people, thoroughly detesting Mahdiism, believed every word
Ahmed told them, thought we were wise to fly, and gave him as much milk
as he wanted, a fact which he also regarded as a good omen.

Although Ahmed and his friends knew the usual roads well, they had never
been on exactly the track we had been forced to take to avoid the
inhabited places. Thus it happened that we approached the river sooner
than we expected; in fact, almost before we knew it, we found ourselves
amongst houses in the village of Makani, which was so concealed by trees
that we had not seen it. We then met a party of Gellabas, and at Ahmed's
advice at once slowed our pace so as not to provoke mistrust. These
Gellabas looked at us somewhat suspiciously, and tried in vain to find
out the object of our journey. Probably they remembered us afterwards
when our flight became known.

At length, after some difficulty, we emerged from the village and again
turned into the desert; but when I blamed Ahmed for misguiding us, he
merely answered cheerfully, "Allah marakna!" ("God has delivered us!")

When we had got some distance from the river, we dismounted and had a
slight meal of dates and water. Our limbs were so stiff we could not
stand up straight, and our clothes were sticking to the wounds we had
received when riding through the bush. How delightful it was to be on
the ground again and stretch our cramped legs, and how pleasant would a
short sleep have been! But no sooner had the camels swallowed a little
dhurra than we were up and off again. We still went in a northerly
direction, and as our scratches warmed again they pained us
considerably; but the feeling that we were not pursued, and the growing
hope that we should really escape, encouraged us to overcome every
difficulty. We watered at Gubat on the Nile, where the English had
encamped in 1885, and then we rode cautiously, well outside the great
village of Metemmeh. The barking and howling of the dogs made the camels
quicken their pace, and soon we were out of sight of the Jaalin capital.

We then began to discuss how we were to cross the Nile. Ahmed had a
friend living in a village just south of Berber, and it occurred to him
that we might cross there. We trotted quietly on towards this village,
when a man suddenly sprang out in front of us and cried, "Enta min?"
("Who are you?") But we soon found out that the man was afraid, and had
taken us for robbers. His sudden appearance had given us a great start,
and we at once thought that our pursuers had caught us up, and that we
were about to be recaptured. Ahmed, however, approached the man, and as
we rode on, he turned, spoke to him, and allayed his fears.

When we approached the village, we dismounted and hid behind some thick
bushes, whilst Ahmed went in search of his friend who was to ferry us
across. In about half an hour he returned, saying that it was
impossible, as the boat was on the other side. Besides, he had heard
that two boats had just passed down on their way to Berber, and that all
disturbances in Omdurman were at an end. However, they had heard nothing
about our flight. We therefore mounted again, and continued marching
north the whole of that night and the following day.

On this, the third day of our journey, we came in sight of Berber, and
towards evening descended to the river almost exactly opposite the town,
filled our waterskins, and then made for the desert again. We did not
dare keep near the river here, as numbers of Baggara were living in the
neighbourhood. At about midnight we alighted, as Ahmed did not know the
road. We fed the camels, and indulged in our usual meal of biscuits,
dates, and water. Ahmed had also succeeded in procuring from his friend
some tobacco and small earthenware pipes; so we smoked with impunity,
and began to feel that our escape was now almost assured.

But we had still before us the crossing of the river, which our Arab
friends in Omdurman had warned us would be one of the most critical and
dangerous parts of our plan. We were in the saddle again at dawn, and
continued our journey over a stony plateau which our guides did not
recognize. Then all day we marched through narrow valleys, full of large
stones washed down by the torrents. At length towards evening we sighted
the river again, and descended towards it through a narrow gorge, where
we had to dismount, as the camels could scarcely make their way across
the great boulders which blocked the path. Once on the plain, our guides
recognised the road, and we found ourselves near the village of Benga,
where we hoped to be able to secure boats to take us across.

We advanced now very cautiously, looking round in every direction; and I
espied three camelmen setting off evidently in the direction of Abu
Hamed. I at once called Ahmed's attention to this; and although they
were some way off, they could have seen us, so Ahmed advised us to
alight at once, which we did, and concealed ourselves in a khor amongst
some bushes.

Ahmed and his companions were, I could see, not a little alarmed by the
appearance of the camelmen, and began to speak to each other in their
own dialect; but I guessed by the expressions on their faces what they
thought--viz. that our flight had been discovered, news had been sent to
Berber, and now the camelmen were on their way to warn the emir of Abu
Hamed to intercept us. I endeavoured to prove to them that it was quite
impossible for the news to have reached Berber yet, even if our flight
had been reported to the Khalifa the morning after we had left. It was
most unlikely that the pursuit would have been begun before the evening,
and we had thus got a good twenty-four hours' start. We were then just
four hours north of Berber, and had been three and a half days out from
Omdurman. Our pursuers therefore, even if they had ridden as rapidly and
as persistently as we had, could not possibly have reached Berber yet.
But my calculations by no means convinced our guides; and after a long
consultation, Ahmed and Awad went towards the river about four miles
distant, while Hamed stayed behind to look after the camels.

Now was the time to take a few hours' sleep before night came on. During
the three and a half days we had been on the journey we had had only
four hours' sleep. We were quite worn out; our simple meals of biscuit
and water did not give us much nourishment, our limbs were so stiff that
we could scarcely move, and our wounds proved most irritating. Under
such circumstances it can well be understood how welcome sleep would
have been; but the appearance of these three camels, the alarm of the
guides, and our anxiety about crossing the river, drove away all idea of
rest, and all we could do was to await with what patience we knew the
return of the two Arabs.

At length, just as the sun was setting, Ahmed and Awad returned, much
rejoiced. They had made inquiries about the three camelmen, and had
found out that they had nothing to do with us, and that nothing was
known yet of our flight. They had arranged with a boatman to ferry us
across, under the pretext that they were conducting a small party of
slaves whom they were going to hand over to the emir of Abu Hamed. This
most satisfactory news quite dissipated our fatigue, and we ate our
wretched biscuit and dates with an excellent appetite. As soon as it was
dark we moved towards the river, and dismounted close to the water's
edge. As yet there was no sign of the boatman, but we saw two boys
rowing towards us.

Meanwhile Ahmed had gone to a house close by to get some dhurra. Then
the boatman came and announced that he could not take us across that
night, but we must wait till the morning. This would never have done;
not only should we have lost a whole night, but we should undoubtedly
have been recognised in daylight. However, it was no use talking, and
the man went off to his hut; but we did not get discouraged, for if the
worst came to the worst, we could row ourselves across.

By this time the two boys had reached the bank, and they now came
forward and offered to take us across; of course we accepted, and in an
incredibly short space of time our guides had got the camels on board.
It was a large boat, so we all crossed together, and on reaching the
opposite bank Ahmed gave the boys two dollars, with which they seemed
highly pleased, kissed our hands, wished us a pleasant journey, and then
returned to the west bank. We watered the animals, filled our skins,
mounted, and again set our faces northwards.

It was now past midnight. The camels, refreshed by their rest and good
feed, pushed on quickly, and during that night and the whole of the next
day we rode on without any interruption or mishap. Not a soul was to be
seen in this lonely desert, but we often came across herds of antelopes,
rabbits, and a few hyenas; the antelopes would stand about twenty paces
off, prick up their ears, and look inquisitively at the strange caravan.

It was quite cool when we left Omdurman, but now the weather had quite
changed, and we felt it oppressively hot; we saw mirages constantly, and
were often deceived by them. Our camels and ourselves now began to
suffer. I was much struck by the change in the appearance of these
animals; the high, fat hump and thick neck they had in Omdurman had both
grown to half the size. At first we had the greatest difficulty in
holding them in; now they were so tired that we had to keep flogging
them all the time; their feet had got so worn that treading on a stone
made them jump sideways, and to ease them we four men alternately
dismounted and led them for some distance.

Our track lay across a broad plain, dotted about with small shrubs, and
as we passed one of these, Ahmed noticed a snake, scared by our
approach, trying to escape; he at once killed the reptile with a blow of
his sword, then stretched out its body and jumped over it three times in
a most excited way. Thereupon the guides congratulated each other,
saying there was now nothing more to fear, and that we had conquered our
enemies. This exhibition of courage on the part of the guides pleased me
greatly. Once more we mounted and made our way towards Abu Hamed, where
we intended to take water for the last time before entering the great
Nubian desert.

The next night another snake episode occurred, but it ended rather
differently. We were going across a stony place, when the leading camel
suddenly swerved to one side, and we heard a hissing sound, which we
knew must be a snake, but it was too dark to attempt to catch it. This
greatly alarmed the Arabs, who looked upon it as an evil omen, and
curiously enough, when close to Abu Hamed, an event did occur which
quite confirmed their superstitions.

The next day, at about nine o'clock in the morning, we sighted the
mountain which was our landmark indicating the place at which we
intended to water. We anticipated reaching it in three hours, and there
we intended to rest whilst the Arabs took the camels down to water; but
somehow we went too far to the east, did not discover our mistake for
some time, and it was midnight instead of midday when we reached the
hill. This hill is shaped rather like two skittles, between which the
road runs, and the wind, blowing through this narrow funnel, almost
carried us off our camels.

Ahmed warned us to keep perfect silence as we scrambled down the rocky
slope, and reached the river at last; here the mighty stream flows
rapidly and silently at the foot of a great rock cliff, the stillness
being occasionally broken by the splash of the many fish which delight
to disport themselves in these cool depths. This watering-place is known
as Meshra Dehesh, and is about six miles south of Abu Hamed. A few dôm
palms and shrubs have gained a slender footing on the steep bank, and
the reflection of the bright stars in the silent river could not but
make one feel impressed with the grand solitude of the place. I bent
down, scooped up the water in my hands, and refreshed my parched throat;
then we took the saddles off the camels, filled our water-skins, and ate
some biscuits; I wanted to bathe my face and eyes, which ached with the
burning of the sun and sand, but Ahmed gave the word to mount.

We were too stiff and weak to be able to stand upright, and as for the
poor sisters, Ahmed had to lift them bodily off the ground and put them
on their camels; they were far too exhausted to speak; we led the camels
out of the stony gorge, intending to mount when we reached the level. It
was long past midnight, and we were congratulating ourselves on having
passed the last critical point, hoping that by dawn we should have left
the river, which here bends to the west, far behind us.


We had scarcely gone twenty paces from the river, when suddenly we heard
the sound of a camel. We were almost ready to drop with fright, but
Ahmed and the guides went towards the spot from whence the sound had
come, and there they saw a camelman mounted, armed with a Remington, and
peering at us from behind a dôm palm, but it was too dark for him to
have recognized our white faces. Ahmed at once approached him, seized
his rifle with his left hand, and extended his right to greet him,
asking him at the same time to alight.

The man, alarmed probably at Ahmed's energetic bearing, at once
dismounted and joined the guides. At first we thought orders must have
come from Omdurman to intercept us, but fortunately it was not so; the
guard (for such he proved to be) said he had been sent from Berber to
see that Egyptian merchants did not export slaves from the Sudan to
Egypt. He related how, the day previous, a merchant with five slaves had
been captured, but had been set free again on depositing the value of
the slaves. The guard then asked Ahmed if he had brought any slaves, to
which he replied in the affirmative.

The guard now insisted that Ahmed should go to Abu Hamed to see the emir
there, and no amount of argument would convince him that it was
unnecessary to do so. Hamed now came and told me about the occurrence,
but, being somewhat confused, he happened to say we were lost. These
words reached the ears of one of the sisters, and so startled her that
she fell off her camel, and might have been very seriously injured had
we not caught her.

I gave Hamed my long knife, and told him to do what he could to win the
man over with money, but that if he found this was useless, "Well! we
were four men to one." Hamed quite understood what I meant, and then
returned to the others. The conversation still continued for a long
time. At length our Arabs returned; we put the sisters on the camels at
once, and then mounted ourselves. Our fatigue had fled; even the camels
seemed to scent danger, for we set off at a quick pace and were soon out
of sight.

This episode served to remind us very forcibly that we were still in the
Khalifa's territory. Strange thoughts passed through my mind in quick
succession: Omdurman, the Khalifa, the Saier, unbearable insults, then
death. All these awaited us if we failed in our attempt; but then I
comforted myself with the thought we should never be taken alive; we had
solemnly agreed never to submit. It was in this frame of mind that we
quitted Meshra Dehesh and rode for our lives night and day; the poor
camels were reduced to skeletons, and we ourselves were nothing but skin
and bone.

Ahmed told me that when the guard recognized him he showed himself
kindly disposed, and promised not to betray us; but Ahmed did not trust
him, and would not, therefore, let him go until he had accepted some
money; he had pressed twenty dollars into his hand. The guard accepted
the money after extracting a solemn promise from Ahmed and his
companions that they would not attempt to revenge themselves on him or
his tribe--the Monasir--on their return to Korosko. The guard also swore
solemnly that he would not betray or pursue us, and moreover agreed to
prevent the patrols going into the desert for three days, so as to keep
us out of danger's way; they had then embraced and kissed each other as
a sign of sincerity.

In spite, however, of all these solemn oaths, I did not trust the man;
the fate of poor Colonel Stewart and his companions came into my mind,
and I remembered that they had been cruelly done to death by the
cowardly and treacherous Monasir; we therefore hurried forward our
camels with all possible speed, leaving Abu Hamed far away on our left.

The day broke as usual, and soon the sun was risen and burning more
fiercely than ever, but that did not trouble us. We were far too much
absorbed in the momentous event which had just occurred. Our track ran
through a perfectly flat plain, in which not a shrub or blade of grass
was to be seen. We passed the tracks of the captured slave-dealer and
the patrols, and that evening entered on the caravan road leading from
Abu Hamed to Korosko. The track ran through great bare hills and
solitary valleys; the wind had driven the sand almost to the tops of the
hills, and had filled up all the crevices with sand-drifts.

Once within the hills, our courage returned, for we knew we would be
able to defend ourselves; so we dismounted and ate our last mouthful of
biscuit, and now all we had was our water, which, by the way, we
jokingly remarked was somewhat dear, as it had cost us twenty dollars.

After a short rest we set off again, but both we and our camels were
utterly exhausted; my right arm ached from continually whipping up the
poor beast. Our Arab companions lightened the way with hundreds of
interesting anecdotes of their own deserts. They related how, when
Berber fell, an Arab and six Egyptian women had fled; but the man had
brought only a camel or two and very little water, so four of them had
died of thirst. They pointed out the spot which Rundle Bey had reached
when he reconnoitred Abu Hamed in 1885. The road was plainly marked out
by the bones of camels and donkeys, and, prior to the appearance of the
Mahdi, had been a much-used trade route.

Mohammed Ali Pasha had ridden along this road under the guidance of
Hussein Pasha Khalifa. Mohammed Ali had constantly expressed a desire to
halt, but his guide would not allow him to dismount, except at certain
places, saying, "I am commander here;" and to this Mohammed Ali had
willingly consented, for he well knew that a refusal to do as he was
told by the sheikh of the desert, in that awful wilderness, might have
been followed by very serious results.

Our approach to a haven of safety gave us courage to undergo most
terrible fatigue. By far our worst enemy was sleep; it is quite
impossible for me to describe the fearful attacks this tyrannical foe
made upon us. We tried every means in our power to keep awake; we
shouted and talked loudly to each other; we tried to startle ourselves
by giving a sudden jerk; we pinched ourselves till the blood ran down,
but our eyelids weighed down like balls of lead, and it required a
fearful effort to keep them open. "Ma tenamu" ("Don't sleep"), Ahmed
kept repeating, "or you will fall off and break your leg."

But it was all no good; the conversation would flag, and silence follow.
The camels seemed to know their riders were asleep, and instinctively
fell into slower pace; the head kept nodding, until it sunk upon the
chest; with a sudden start, the equilibrium which had been almost lost
would be recovered, and then sleep vanished.

At times we would shout out to one another words of encouragement, then
we would whip up our camels and on again, up and down, through sandy
plains and rocky gorges, where the echoes seemed to repeat themselves a
hundred times. Our destination was Murat, where we remembered Gordon had
given orders for a well to be dug, but it had never been done.

Ahmed said that we should be at Murat on the morning of the 7th of
December. He told us how the Dervishes had sometimes pursued fugitives
as far as this, and not long ago had killed one near here. Our poor
camels were now dragging their weary limbs very slowly; the whip was now
quite useless, as it had not the smallest effect in increasing their
pace. Besides, it was pain to me to beat the good creatures that had
helped us to escape. We were so utterly fatigued that it was with the
greatest difficulty we succeeded in keeping on our camels at all;
hunger, sleeplessness, and absolute lassitude had completely conquered
us, and our wounds pained and irritated us; but the feeling that we were
almost safe was as balm to both mind and body.

Just before sunset we turned down the khor which leads to Murat; the
fort covering the wells was visible on the hills, surmounted by the red
flag with the white crescent and star in the centre. "Ahmed," I cried,
"greet the flag of freedom!" and our courageous deliverer seized his gun
and fired shot after shot into the air, to announce our arrival to the
Egyptian garrison. The echo of these shots resounded again and again in
the deep valleys, as if joining with us in our joy at deliverance from
the hands of the cruel Khalifa Abdullah. They seemed to announce the
"release of our spirits from beneath his sheepskin." This was an
expression which the Khalifa delighted to use when talking of his
captured enemies, whose souls, he said, lay beneath his "furwa," meaning
that their lives were entirely in his hands.

Now we were actually in safety. A prayer of the deepest gratitude went
up from the very depths of our thankful hearts; it is quite impossible
to find words to express what we then felt. Our camels seemed to pull
themselves together for a final effort, so as to present us honourably
to the Ababdehs, who were now coming out to meet us.

The reports of our rifles had at first caused some stir in the little
garrison, who feared a sudden attack, and had come out fully armed; but
they soon recognized us, and answered our salute by discharging their
guns in the air. These good people received us most kindly, asked us a
thousand questions, and, surrounding us, brought us to the commandant's
hut. Here, on the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate
Conception, we alighted from our camels, and the hopes which had kept us
alive for years, were at last realized. This supreme moment, about which
we had so often talked with our companions in adversity, which we had
thought about, dreamed about, and pictured to ourselves, this delicious
moment had come at last, and we were free!

But the effects of hunger, fatigue, and the sights and scenes we had
gone through during the last month, did not disappear so easily; our
senses seemed dulled, and our first thought on entering the commandant's
hut was to lie down on the floor and go to sleep, but, strange to say,
that wonderful restorer would not come; we sat gossiping with the
Ababdehs, who could scarcely credit that we, especially the sisters,
could have survived such a ride. We had covered the entire distance of
500 miles between Omdurman and Murat in seven days, including the day we
had spent wandering about in the hills before crossing the river.

The staying power of our camels had astonished me; how easily one of
them might have stumbled and broken its leg as we trotted hard through
the dark nights, unable to see where we were going! But Ahmed and his
companions had used all their knowledge in securing thoroughly good
animals; our excellent guides had been ever ready to help and assist us;
full of energy and pluck, they had carried out their enterprise with the
utmost sagacity and integrity.

Poor Ahmed had dwindled down almost to a skeleton, and when he
dismounted at Murat was overcome by a fit of dizziness, from which he
did not recover for an hour.

Meanwhile we had refreshed ourselves with a cup of coffee and some bread
and milk which the commandant, Mohammed Saleh, had offered us, and
which had revived us considerably. Murat is situated in the desert,
about midway between Korosko and Abu Hamed; here three valleys unite in
a sort of crater, and the hill-tops are crowned with small forts built
by the Ababdehs, from whence they can keep guard over the main wells,
and, besides, see for an immense distance all around.

This, the most advanced Egyptian outpost, is garrisoned by the Ababdeh
Arabs of Saleh Bey, the son of Hussein Pasha Khalifa; these people live
very simply in the midst of this great desert, drawing their provisions
monthly from Korosko. There are a number of wells, but the water is
brackish and in summer almost undrinkable, though it is not so bad in
the winter; but we had still some of our Nile water, which had cost us
so dearly at Meshra Dehesh. Close to the wells is a little hut, built by
Gordon's orders.

Murat is a most desolate and lonely spot, unbearably hot in the summer,
when the fierce rays of the sun are reflected from all sides of the deep
crater-like valley in which it lies. The same day that we arrived one of
Ahmed Hassan's nephews had reached Murat from Korosko, and gave us some
of the dates and flour he was taking into the Sudan; he left for Abu
Hamed the next day, and no doubt the news of our safe arrival was soon
announced in Omdurman.

During the 8th and 9th of December we rested. Mohammed Saleh supplied us
with some biscuit, and on the 9th we again set off from Murat towards
Korosko. Our rest had greatly refreshed us, and now we could ride
quietly without any fear of pursuit. One of our guides was mounted on a
she-camel, which the commander had supplied, and she gave us plenty of
milk. A few days before starting her little baby-camel had died, the
owner had skinned it, and now whenever we required milk, we had only to
stretch out the skin in front of her and let her smell it.

We now rode only by day, and rested at night. Heavy rain had fallen
about a month before, and we found a reservoir of good water about a day
out of Murat. Some of the Murat garrison had, previous to our arrival,
gone into Korosko to get their monthly pay and were now returning; they
happened to encamp near this natural reservoir, and seeing us took us
for Dervishes, rushed to their arms, took up a position behind a rock
and levelled their rifles at us, but Ahmed, who knew them at once,
called out and they hurried up to us, begging pardon for the mistake
they had made. They gave us some of their flour, dates, and tobacco, and
we chatted with them till nightfall.

We made no further extended halt, and on the early morning of the 13th
of December reached Korosko. In the deep valley which debouches suddenly
on to the Nile at this place we alighted, cleaned ourselves as best we
could, and then mounted our camels for the last time, and soon came in
sight first of the palm-trees and then of the Nile, which we had last
seen at Abu Hamed. We were at once surrounded by numbers of people, who
bore us off to the fort, and here the commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Ali
Bey Haider, greeted us most cordially, and for the first time for many
years we found ourselves in comfortable rooms again, and listening to
the regimental band, which we greatly enjoyed.

On the evening of the 15th of December we got on board a steamer which
took us down most comfortably to Assiut. Here we were greeted by Mr.
Santoni and Brother Sayer, who had been directed by the Cairo Mission to
come on board and welcome us. From Assiut we took the train to Cairo,
where we arrived safely on the 21st of December, 1891.

The rapid transition from barbarism to civilization, our pleasant
journey from Korosko to Cairo, intercourse with educated people, the
incessant change of scene, all affected us greatly; but our joy and
delight at being free was somewhat saddened by the thought of the
sufferings of our poor companions in our adversity, whom we had left
behind in slavery and captivity. Our guides accompanied us to Cairo,
where they received the money agreed upon, and we felt full of
thankfulness to the energetic Ahmed Hassan and his two companions; but
to our good Archbishop Sogaro we owe a deep debt of gratitude, for it
was through his intermediary all arrangements for our happy release had
been effected.

It may be as well to insert here the terms of agreement made in Arabic
between Monsignor Sogaro and Ahmed Hassan regarding our release. The
wording is as follows:--

     "I, the undersigned, Ahmed Hassan el Abbadi, of Bashri Mohammed
     Ali's Arabs, agree to proceed at once to Omdurman to bring Father
     Ohrwalder and the two nuns from Omdurman to Cairo. I agree to take
     care of them on the journey, and to do all in my power to bring
     them here and to give them every satisfaction. As a reward and to
     recompense me for the expenses which I shall incur between Omdurman
     and Cairo, Monsignor Sogaro has agreed to give me:--

     "1. All the goods to the value of £100 now in possession of Sheikh
     Abdel Hadi at Korosko.

     "2. £20 in advance before leaving Cairo.

     "3. On my return from Omdurman with Father Ohrwalder and the two
     nuns, a sum of £300, _i.e._ £100 for each person.

     "This is the agreement between me and Monsignor Sogaro, and I have
     made it of my own free will and accord, and have been in no way
     forced to do so by any one. Monsignor Sogaro and myself signed this
     agreement, and Wingate Bey, Assistant Adjutant-General,
     Intelligence, stands as a witness. This agreement will be kept in
     the War Office until I return from Omdurman with the three persons
     above-named, and I shall be dealt with in accordance with its

         "Signed,  AHMED HASSAN EL ABBADI,
                   "of Sayala, Frontier Mudirieh.
                   "LÉON HENRIOT (for Monsignor Sogaro).
         "Cairo, 9th July, 1891."

Below is written in English:--

     "This is a private agreement between Monsignor Sogaro and Ahmed
     Hassan el Abbadi, who leaves Cairo for Omdurman on Friday, the 20th
     July, 1891, and will attempt to bring Father Ohrwalder to Egypt.

         "Witnessed by me,  F. R. WINGATE,
                            "A. A.-G., Intelligence, Egyptian Army.
         "War Office,
         "9th July, 1891."

I was, of course, intensely anxious to hear what had occurred in
Omdurman after our departure. I thought that our flight would have
remained undiscovered that night, the following day, and possibly the
following night; but it was not so. Early in the morning on the 30th of
November our absence was discovered by some women who had been standing
before the door of my house. They had seen us and were surprised,
because we did not usually leave the house after sunset.

The idea of flight did not probably at once occur to them, but their
suspicions were aroused. Early in the morning they had knocked at my
door, and receiving no answer, related what they had seen to my
neighbour's slave, who in turn informed her master. He, in great terror,
carried the information to the mukuddum of the Europeans. This man,
accompanied by many of my friends, hastened to my house, and, breaking
open the door, was assured of my flight by finding a letter which I had

The poor man had, to save his life, to at once inform the Khalifa, who
ordered the sheikh of the market to find us even should we be buried in
the earth. Wad er Rais therefore closed all the houses and arrested
every one who could possibly have known of my flight, and threw them
into chains, with threats of the gallows and the knife. My neighbours
were also arrested. When he could get no information whatever from these
people, the Khalifa sent to Metemmeh a certain Ibrahim Wad el Ahmer,
who had three camels, and was ordered to bring us back at all hazards.
But the beit el mal had first to buy the camels at very high
prices--120, 110, and 87 dollars respectively--and before they could
start some busybody told the Khalifa that Khalifa Sherif had concealed
me in a boat belonging to a certain Osman Fauzi, and had aided my flight
in order that I should move the Egyptian Government to the support of
his oppressed party. Another declared that he had seen white faces in
the boat.

These statements impressed the Khalifa, who sent men at once to
recapture the boat and examine the passengers. The boat was captured
near Omdurman and examined, of course, with no result, on which the
Khalifa was pacified, and sent off the camels. Ibrahim inquired minutely
along the route to Metemmeh, but could get no information. In the
meantime those well disposed towards us lived in the keenest
apprehension lest we should be recaptured. Only on Ibrahim's return
without any news could our friends breathe freely and feel sure that we
must have got away safely. Then those who had been imprisoned were

Later on I received a letter from Omdurman telling me that our flight
had raised a commotion throughout the whole city, and that the prisoners
had to suffer very much. It may be learned from this what grave
consequences had to be considered before I took the important step of
flight. Should anyone else attempt it, those who remain must suffer. May
God protect our poor companions!


[U] This contract and all correspondence connected with it was
kept sealed in the Intelligence Office, and was opened by General Sir F.
Grenfell, Sirdar, on the 14th day of December, 1891, when the news of
the arrival of the party at Korosko reached Cairo.--F. R. W.



     [The reader is reminded that all opinions expressed are those of
     Father Ohrwalder.--F. R. W.]

     Reflections on the situation in the Sudan--The horrors of the
     present Khalifa's rule--How long shall it continue?

In the foregoing pages we have glanced at a bloody period in the history
of the Sudan--the rise of the Mahdi, his victorious career through
Kordofan, and his conquest of Khartum. We have sketched the development
of his mighty empire, founded in bloodshed and revolution, and we have
seen him honoured as a messenger of God by the millions of the Sudan;
glorified--nay, almost worshipped--by his own people, and watched by the
Muslim neighbours of his empire with an admiration mingled with the
keenest anxiety. Then, in the full enjoyment of his victories, at the
supreme moment of his power, while seated in his capital of Omdurman, he
revolved schemes of conquest of the whole world he knew; then dead--dead
of debauchery and disease, dead at an age when most lives' promises are
brightest. Then we have seen the empire tottering, Abdullah rising to
its support, slowly but firmly strengthening the trembling power, and,
with the strength of bigotry and ignorance, replacing a shattered
superstition by the iron rule of might.

Here I may properly submit some reflections on the general situation.

Mohammed Ali conquered the Sudan, and in the train of his conquest
followed all the triumphs of progress and civilization. Wide new
territories were discovered, fertile and thickly populated; explorers
and missionaries advanced to the very heart of negro-land; Nile's
solitudes were rippled by the advancing steamer. Far beyond the Equator
reached the telegraph, and the metropolis of the Sudan formed part of
the international postal system. Trade blossomed in security, and the
white man could march to the countries of the Niam Niam, and there join
hands with his brother from the Congo. European culture spread
throughout, and the religion of Christ planted the world-saving banner
in remotest frontiers.

The progress of fifty years was ruined by the Mahdi's revolt. The Sudan
fell back into the darkness from which philanthropy had rescued it.
Civilization was swamped in the flood of fanaticism. The sign of
salvation was blotted out, the bearers of it chained as slaves, and the
flag of tyranny waved over smoking ruins from Darfur to the Red Sea, and
from Regaf northwards to the second cataract. Bands of fanatics have
swept over the face of the land, destroying every Christian sign. The
Sudan lies open in its desolation and nakedness. Everything but a little
cloth and a little corn is superfluous,--nay wicked,--for those who
accept the Mahdi's promise of eternal life. The minds of men are savage
through years of warfare. The ignorant Baggara rule and the gentler
Jaalin and Danagla are oppressed; the land is fallen back to wilderness.

The present ruler, Abdullah, is marching steadily in the path of
desolation. He roots out eagerly every vestige of Egyptian rule; all
foreign influence he keeps at a distance, for he will rule over an
ignorant people. He wants nothing from beyond his own boundaries. If he
has no money, cloth becomes the medium of exchange; ammunition he makes
himself. With his Baggaras he rules with an iron hand. Those who resist
are pitilessly robbed, imprisoned, or exiled.

Abdullah rules in the name of the Mahdi, whose religious prestige is the
readiest weapon for swaying the multitude. He keeps unaltered the
decisions, the visions, the wild dreams which so powerfully established
the imposture. The pilgrimage to Mecca he regards as dangerous. Even
from such enlightenment as they might find at the shrine of their
faith, his people are heedfully kept away.

A Spartan habit of life was enjoined by the Mahdi. This Abdullah still
attempts to maintain, for he wishes the people to be ready to follow
him, and is careful that they shall have no inducement to stay at home.
Like the Mahdi, the Khalifa puts his orders in the form of visions,
which have the weight of divine manifestations. Often he locks himself
in darkness in the Mahdi's tomb, and spends nights in pretended commune
with his master.

The policy of Abdullah is directed to strengthening his power and
concentrating it in the hands of his Baggaras. Once he is sure of what
he has got, he will try to enlarge his dominion. Barbarism and
desolation will be extended to provinces which internal difficulties
have so far prevented him from absorbing. He thinks of nothing but war.
Omdurman is one vast camp. All men bear arms or are flogged; whoso rides
must carry a spear and five javelins. Speeches and harangues all raise
the spirit of war.

The weakness of the monarchy lies in the dissensions between the Baggara
and the Aulad-belad--that is, the Jaalin, Danagla, and others. The
Danagla are objects of the Khalifa's special aversion, and he would
gladly exterminate them. But with his Baggaras he can at present
maintain himself with ease.

Mahdiism is founded on plunder and violence, and by plunder and violence
it is carried on. In some districts half the people are dead, in others
the loss of life is even greater. Whole tribes have been completely
blotted out, and in their places roam the wild beasts, spreading and
increasing in fierceness and in numbers, until they bid fair to finish
the destruction of the human race; for they enter huts, and women and
children are no longer safe.

How long shall this condition of affairs continue? Negotiation with
Abdullah is hopeless; that has been proved by many well-intentioned
efforts, but shall savagery and desolation continue for ever? Shall the
roads remain always closed that lead from Halfa and Sawakin to the
richest provinces of Africa? The Sudan has lost faith in the humanity of
Europe, nor does it cease from wonder why Europe has not yet stepped in.
Consuls of the greatest nations have been murdered, their flags torn
down, their agents kept in slavery.

Interference while the revolt was at its height could not perhaps be
efficient--that is understood. But now the face of things is changed.
The Sudanese have been heavily punished for their mistaken trust; they
have suffered to the bitter end. Where may they look for a deliverer?

For the sake of three people did not England undertake a costly and
difficult war? Is not even a more worthy object the punishment of
Abdullah and the delivery of the enslaved and decimated peoples? I have
pined ten years in bondage, and now, by the help of God, I have escaped.
In the names of the companions with whom I suffered, in the name of the
Sudan people, whose misery I have seen, and in the name of all civilized
nations, I ask this question:

How long shall Europe--and above all that nation which has first part in
Egypt and the Sudan--which stands deservedly first in civilizing savage
races, how long shall Europe and Great Britain watch unmoved the
outrages of the Khalifa and the destruction of the Sudan people?


  Ababdeh tribe, 124-5, 213, 351, 353, 360, 399, 440-2.

  Abba Island, 6-7, 98.

  _Abbas_, steamer, 127-8.

  Abdel Baki, emir, 315-9.

  Abdel Gayum, eunuch, 294.

  Abdel Hadi (Arab), 263.

  Abdel Halim, Emir, 76, 78, 86, 88, 102, 260.

  Abdel Kader Pasha, 50, 164.

  Abdel Kader (Mahdi's uncle), 59, 155, 164, 214, 350, 400.

  Abdel Kader Guru, death of, 262.

  Abdel Karim (Mahdi's uncle), 160, 164-5.

  Abdel Majid, 256, 326, 343.

  Abdel Maula, 228.

  Abdel Nur, 320-322.

  Abdel Samad, 93.

  Abderrahman Wad Abu Degel, 253.

  Abderrahman Wad en Nejumi, 16, 60, 96, 98, 125-6, 130, 141, 145, 149,
    165, 171, 206, 233, 255-61, 350, 387, 412;
    vanquished at Argin, 262-5;
    death of, 263.

  Abdullah et Taishi, Khalifa, 10-1, 14, 43-6, 64, 66, 69-71, 87, 96,
    120, 131, 146, 149, 151;
    and King Adam, 95;
    and the sisters, 100;
    and Father Ohrwalder, 116-7;
    succeeds the Mahdi, 162-3, 185, 188;
    and revolt of black soldiers of old Sudan army, 193-200;
    at Omdurman, 202-3, 206;
    and Wad Suleiman, 206-7;
    Ibrahim Wad Adlan, 207-8, 323-7;
    and coinage at Omdurman, 210-3;
    system of justice, 214-5, 328-335;
    and Fiki Medawi, 218;
    and Yunis emir, 219-20;
    and King John, 221;
    and Abu Anga, 224;
    grand review at Omdurman, 225-6;
    war with Abyssinia, 228-31, 242-52;
    and Saleh Bey, 232-4;
    and Darfur, 235-41;
    and Egypt, 254-6, 258-69;
    letters from, 257;
    sends expedition up the White Nile, 269-72;
    and the Mahdi's decrees, 273;
    followers of, 274;
    and the Mahdi's tomb, 275-9;
    palace and houses of, 280-1;
    and war requisites, 281, 366-75;
    and the famine in Omdurman, 287-92;
    description of, 293;
    dress and food of, 293-4;
    harem of, 294;
    illnesses of, 294-5;
    character, 295-6;
    spies of, 295;
    and political conversations, 296, 320;
    mosque at Omdurman, 297-8;
    and visions, 298-9;
    a man of great activity, 300;
    fondness for music, 301;
    his barber, 301;
    life-guards and household cavalry of, 301-2;
    and business affairs of the State, 302;
    displays of magnificence, 302-4;
    cleanliness of, 304;
    grand reviews at Omdurman, 307-8;
    and the Taisha Arabs, 308-11;
    and firearms, 311-2;
    his brother, _see_ "Yakub";
    and the Batahin tribe, 315-20;
    and Abdel Nur, 321-2;
    and the Saier at Omdurman, 347-52;
    and Charles Neufeld, 355-60;
    and Sheikh Khalil, 361-4;
    and the slave trade, 384-5;
    and the Baggaras, 387-405;
    his son Osman, 390-1;
    strict surveillance over the whites, 412-3;
    horrors of his rule, 447-50.

  Abdullah Wad en Nur, 60, 98, 100, 115, 125, 143.

  Abdullah Wad Ibrahim, 38, 223, 225, 227, 229;
    and Abyssinia, 247, 252-3.

  Abu Anga (commander-in-chief of Mahdi's forces), 60, 85-9, 98, 111-2,
    125, 131, 164, 171, 175, 202, 402;
    description and history of, 221-31;
    and Abyssinia, 242-4;
    death of, 245-6;
    and slave trade, 384.

  Abu Gemaizeh, religious reformer, 237-40.

  Abu Girgeh, emir, 76, 81, 94, 125, 167-8, 218, 267, 360.

  Abu Habl, the Khor, 3, 78-9.

  Abu Hamed, 364, 433;
    rebels at, 120, 128.

  Abu Haraz, 219, 229.

  Abu Klea, battle of, 134, 147-8, 177.

  Abu Kru, battle of, 16, 134.

  Abu Kuka, 56.

  Abu Saud, 7.

  Abyssinia, and Kassala garrisons, 166-7;
    and Galabat, 217-20;
    Abu Anga and, 229-31, 241-4;
    defeat of King John's army, 245-53.

  Adam, King, of Tagalla, 95, 102, 223.

  Adansonia trees, 34, 40, 76, 88, 170, 198.

  Adila, girl at the Khartum Mission, 421, 424, 426.

  Adultery, the Mahdi's punishment for, 62.

  Agriculture in the Mahdiist kingdom, 376-85.

  Ahmed Bey Daffallah, 10, 21, 35, 38, 59, 252.

  Ahmed Bey Defterdar, 234.

  Ahmed Hassan and escape of Father Ohrwalder, 415-45.

  Ahmed Sharfi, 7, 140, 403-7.

  Ahmed Wad Suleiman, 63, 82-4, 96-7, 111, 139, 143-5, 161, 206-7, 350.

  Aigella, 77, 174.

  Aisha, the Mahdi's principal wife, 157, 159.

  Ala ed Din Pasha, 1, 77, 88.

  Alchemy, Sudanese and, 369.

  Alcoholic drinks, the Sudanese and, 17;
    _see also_ Marissa.

  Ali Bakhit, 172, 174, 199.

  Ali Bey Haider, Lieut-Col., 443.

  Ali Esh Sherif, Khalifa, 14-5, 37, 41, 59, 66, 69, 88, 93, 100, 146,
    at Omdurman, 202-3, 254, 306, 349, 399-407, 446.

  Ali Pasha, 127.

  Ali Wad Helu, Khalifa, 14, 146, 163, 282, 306, 403-7.

  Allegiance, sheikhs' oath of, 70.

  Aluba, Hicks at, 85.

  Amarar Arabs, 266-7.

  Andreis, Sister A., 48.

  Amhara, the chief of, 217.

  Amina (a black girl), 73.

  Ammunition, the Khalifa's, 366-75.

  Amulets, the fikis and, 274-5, 402.

  Ansar, the, 306-8, 353.

  Arabi, Baggara called, 265.

  Arabi Pasha, 77.

  Arabs; in Omdurman, 283;
    _see_ "Baggaras," "Bederieh," "Beni Jerrar," "Dar Hamed," "Ghodiat,"
    "Gowameh," "Hawazma," "Kababish," &c.

  Argin, battle of, 115, 262.

  Aser, American Consul, 141.

  Ashaf Station, 11.

  Ashraf, the, 149, 214.

  Assiut, 443.

  Assuan, 174, 256.

  Atbara River, 249.

  Aulad-belad, the, 391-2, 405-6, 449.

  Austrian Mission, at Delen, 4-5, 24-30;
    church at Khartum, 137-8;
    at El Obeid, 200;
    _see also_ "Sisters."

  Awad el Kerim Abu Sin, 350.

  Baggara tribe, 3, 14-5, 20, 25-6, 32, 49, 78, 106, 162-3, 178, 221,
    255, 258, 266, 287, 293, 314, 325, 341;
    horsemanship of, 308;
    emirs, 312;
    women, 381;
    masters of the Sudan, 387-407, 449;
    _see also_ "Taisha Arabs."

  Bahr el Arab, 3.

  Bahr el Ghazal, slave trade in, 8-9, 12, 176, 383;
    revolt in, 241.

  Bahr el Karrar, 257-8.

  Baker Pasha, General Valentine, defeat of, 119;
    at El Teb, 266.

  Banners of the Mahdi's Khalifas, _see_ "Flags."

  Bara town, 11, 55, 77, 200-2, 235;
    fall of, 56.

  Barabra tribe, 125, 255, 391, 399;
    language of, 283.

  Bashra, the Mahdi's son, 159.

  Batahin tribe, 205, 260, 315-20.

  Bayuda Desert, 16.

  Bederieh Arabs, the, 3, 11, 20, 106, 167.

  Beit el mal at Omdurman, 208-14, 312, 323, 380, 393-5.

  Ben en Naga Bey, 21, 88-9;
    son of, 333;
    daughter of, 343.

  Benga village, 430.

  Beni Helba tribe, 240.

  Beni Jerrar Arabs, 35, 238.

  Berber, 1, 14;
    fall of, 121, 124-5;
    Gordon at, 123, 208, 256, 312, 380, 396, 430, 439;
    Osman Digna at, 266, 268;
    old, 275;
    famine in, 290.

  Berghof, a German, 9.

  Birket, 3, 11, 20-1, 28, 34, 86, 91.

  Bishir, 197, 224, 227.

  Bishir Bey, 259.

  Blue Nile, 126, 133-4, 150, 204, 227, 379;
    towns on the, 284.

  Bonomi, Father, 1, 5, 27, 31-2, 43, 50, 56, 68-71, 73, 97, 100, 118,
    170, 172-3;
    escape of, 178-84, 186, 352.

  Books, the Mahdi and, 63;
    Khalifa Abdullah and, 299, 400-1.

  Borgo, Sultan of, 12, 237.

  Brick-making at Delen, 5.

  Bringi, executioner at Omdurman, 318, 325, 356.

  British East Africa, Imperial, Co., 271.

  'Bruce's Travels' and the Batahin tribe, 315.

  Buri village, 125, 132.

  Busata village, 174.

  Cairo, 1, 254;
    merchants of, and El Obeid, 35;
    Ohrwalder's arrival at, 443.

  Camels, in Kordofan, 35-6, 379;
    of the Gehena tribe, 226, 228;
    of the Kababish tribe, 232, 234;
    for Ohrwalder's escape, 422, 427, 442.

  Cattle in Dar Nuba, 4;
    in Kordofan, 35;
    of the Arabs, 126;
    of the Gehena tribe, 226;
    breeding in the Sudan, 376-9;
    cows of the Shilluks, 379.

  Cemetery, European, at Khartum, 150.

  Chad Lake, 241.

  Chincarini, Sister C., 413-45.

  Clementino, George, 126, 142.

  Clothing in the Mahdi's kingdom, 381.

  Coins in Omdurman, 210-13.

  Comboni, Bishop, 1, 2, 24;
    grave of, at Khartum, 150.

  Combotti, Marietta, 118.

  Comet, a wonderful, 44.

  Commerce in the Mahdiist kingdom, 376-85.

  Corsi, Sister Concetta, 57, 419.

  Cripples in Omdurman, 337.

  Curios, museum of, at Omdurman, 213.

  Cuzzi, Joseph, 120, 125-6.

  Dabarosa bazaar, the, 258.

  Dabra Sin, battle of, 229.

  Dair, Jebel, 3.

  Damur, pieces of cloth, 381-2;
    used as coins, 210.

  Danagla, _see_ "Dongola."

  Dara, 93.

  Dar Fertit, singers from, 301.

  Darfur, 12, 35;
    Slatin Bey, Governor of, 2;
    the Mahdi conquers, 93-4, 98;
    historical sketch of, 234-41;
    Zogal and, 201-3;
    revolt in, 260, 387;
    horses in, 308;
    women and spinning, 381;
    slaves from, 384.

  Dar Homr (Arabs), 11, 20, 35, 106, 301, 309, 396.

  Dar Nauli tribe of Arabs, 106.

  Dar Nuba, _see_ "Nuba."

  Dar Shaggieh, 380.

  Dead, the Mahdi's law about the, 19.

  Debaineh tribe, 290.

  Degheim tribe, 14.

  Delen, arrival at, 3;
    Mission at, 4, 5;
    news of the Mahdi at, 7, 8;
    description of, 23-31;
    quicksilver at, 35, 178, 187, 197.

  Dervishes, the Mahdi's, 45;
    at El Obeid, 57-9;
    and Hicks Pasha's army, 88;
    in Khartum, 140;
    and Olivier Pain, 173;
    revolt against, 189-200;
    at Galabat, 217-9;
    review of, at Omdurman, 225-6;
    and tobacco chewing, 276;
    and the famine in Omdurman, 289;
    at Fashoda, 384.

  Dhurra in Omdurman, 285, 378, 381.

  Dichtl, Johann, 1.

  Dinka tribe, 176.

  Disease in the Sudan, 386.

  Dispensary at Omdurman, 213.

  Dobab mountain, 3, 102.

  Dogman mountain, 24, 28.

  Dogs, Mahdi's doctrine about, 143, 335.

  Doka, Sheikh Egeil and, 219.

  Dome to Mahdi's tomb at Omdurman, 275, 277.

  Dongola, 12, 14, 35, 94, 127, 163, 172, 178, 190, 255, 256, 257-65,
    268, 312, 380, 384, 387, 391, 396, 399, 449;
    famine in, 290;
    language, 283.

  Doorway of the Mahdi's tomb, 277.

  Dreams, the Mahdi and, 110-1, 353, 449.

  Drums of the Mahdi's Khalifas, 15, 44, 47, 281, 304-6.

  Dud Benga, Sultan, 184.

  Duem, 126;
    General Hicks at, 76.

  Dwarf, a, at Rahad, 110.

  Ed Din, Sheikh, _see_ "Osman, Khalifa."

  Egeil, sheikh, 218-9, 221.

  Egypt, and Delen, 4;
    and the Sudan, 34;
    Abdullah and, 254-6, 257-69;
    and the Sudan, 123, 323;
    Wad Adlan and, 326;
    the Mahdi and, 110.

  Egyptian troops, Hicks Pasha's, 77-90, 92-3.

  El Eilafun, 127.

  _El Fasher_, steamer, 128.

  El Merhdi Abu Rof, 164, 226-7.

  El Obeid, 2, 6;
    garrison of, 10, 21;
    the Mahdi and, 11, 20, 29, 36-41;
    description of, 34-6;
    siege of, 52-7, 232;
    Zogal at, 75;
    the Mahdi leaves, 85, 99-100;
    triumphal return to, 91-3, 170-2;
    King Adam at, 95;
    Lupton Bey at, 176;
    small-pox in, 183;
    revolt of black soldiers at, 189-200, 223;
    slaves at, 383-4.

  El Obeid, Sheikh, 124, 127, 130, 315.

  El Teb, battle of, 266.

  Elephants, 3; in Darfur, 241.

  Elias el Kurdi, 210.

  Elias Pasha, 10, 12, 21, 35, 40, 76, 88, 93;
    son of, 86.

  Elias Wad Kanuna, emir, 271.

  Emin Pasha, 11;
    Gordon and, 133;
    and Lupton Bey, 176;
    Khalifa Abdullah and, 269-72.

  Emirs, the, of the Sudan provinces, 46, 312.

  England and Egypt, 262;
    and the Sudan, 450.

  English mail, capture of an, 120.

  English Relief Expedition to Khartum, 147-9, 176-8;
    and Kababish tribe, 232;
    at Dongola, June 1885, 256.

  Equatoria, Abdullah's expedition to, 269-72.

  Exports from Kordofan, 35.

  Fadl Maula Bey, 163, 271, 401.

  Fallata tribe, 278, 283.

  Famines; in El Obeid, 183-4;
    in the Sudan, 252-3;
    in Dongola, 261;
    in Omdurman, 284-9;
    in Berber, 290;
    in the Provinces, 290-1.

  Farag Pasha, 135, 143.

  Faragallah Pasha, 131-2, 247.

  Farquhar, Colonel Arthur, 79, 80.

  Fasher, El, 94;
    besieged, 239-41.

  Fashoda, 9, 11, 29, 269, 272, 379, 384, 396;
    corn from, 285.

  Fedasi, 125.

  Festivals, Khalifa Abdullah and, 362.

  Fiki, Abdullah and the name, 274, 402.

  Flags of the Khalifas, 15, 16, 281, 306.

  Furs, annihilation of the, 236.

  Galabat, province and town, 167, 217-9, 230, 242, 244;
    attack on, 247-8, 396;
    famine at, 290.

  Gallows at Omdurman, 283, 317-8.

  Gedaref, garrison of, 216-7, 290.

  Gedir, Jebel, 3, 7, 10, 20, 223.

  Gehena tribe, 226-7, 260-1.

  Gellabas (traders), 14-5, 112, 189, 426, 428.

  Georges Bey, Dr., 86;
    son-in-law of, 141.

  Gessi Pasha, 2;
    and the slave trade, 8-9, 241, 383.

  Gezireh, the Mahdi and, 14, 64, 93-4, 229, 284, 315, 380, 390.

  Ghazali, Sheikh, 310-1, 350.

  Ghittas, festival known as, 218.

  Ghodiat Arabs, the, 3, 11, 20, 106.

  Gianzara Hill, 40, 46.

  Giegler Pasha, 2, 7.

  Giniss, battle of, 256.

  Girls in Khartum, Mahdi and, 144.

  Goats in Dar Nuba, 4;
    in the Sudan provinces, 379.

  Gold in Dar Nuba, 3.

  Golfan-Naïma, 22-3, 49, 197, 223-4.

  Gondar, 230-1, 248-9.

  Gordon, General, 57, 96;
    arrives at Khartum, 97, 121-2;
    letter to the Mahdi, 98;
    the Mahdi and, 111, 119, 126, 130;
    English letters to, 120;
    at Berber, 123-4;
    defeat of Gordon's troops, 124-5;
    successful attack by, 127;
    besieged, and death of, at Khartum, 131-54, 177, 207-8;
    Sheikh Khalil and, 361;
    at Murat, 440.

  Gordon Relief Expedition, 147-9, 176-8;
    viâ Berber, 266.

  Gowameh tribe, 11, 344.

  Graham, General, 120-1, 266.

  Greeks, the, at Khartum, 133, 142-3.

  Greger Hamed (Emir), 233.

  Grenfell, General Sir F., 256, 262, 444;
    battle at Toski, 263, 265.

  Gubat, 148, 154, 429.

  Guineas coined at Omdurman, 210.

  Gum, in Kordofan, 35;
    used as food at El Obeid, 53;
    at Omdurman, 323.

  Habbanieh tribe of Arabs, 73, 258.

  Hadarba merchants, 399.

  Hadendoa Arabs, 266, 283.

  Haimar Wells, 257.

  Haj Ali Wad Saad, 123-4.

  Hajji Abdullah Granteli, 210.

  Hajji Khaled (Emir), 21, 35, 46, 71;
    son of, 86.

  Hajji Mohammed Ben en Naga, 35.

  Hajji Selim (soldier), 49, 190-1.

  Hajji Zubeir, 240, 349-50, 396-7.

  Halfaya, 127.

  Hamran Arabs, 218.

  Handub, battle of, 267.

  Hansal (Austrian consul), 1, 67-9, 73, 118-9;
    death of, 139-40.

  Hashish, use of, 17.

  Hasib, emir, 271.

  Hassan Khalifa, 257, 364-5.

  Hassan en Nejumi (emir), 264.

  Hassan Husni (interpreter), 128, 130.

  Hassan Sadik, 164.

  Hassan Zeki, 366.

  Hebbeh village, 128.

  Heddai, sheikh, 129.

  Herlth, Major, extracts from diary of, 77-9, 86.

  Hicks Pasha, General, 1;
    and Wad Makashef, 73;
    expedition of, 75;
    at Duem, 76;
    at Rahad, 77-85;
    defeat and death of, 86-92, 121, 169, 176;
    white horse of, 91;
    Bible of, 100;
    stable, 157.

  Hilmi Gorab, 128.

  Horses, the Sudanese and, 308.

  Housebreakers in Omdurman, 334-5.

  Howazma Arabs, 20, 106, 222.

  Hussein Pasha, 120, 123, 125, 439;
    son of, 442.

  Hussein Wad ed Dayim, 339-40.

  Hyenas, 88, 289-90.

  Ibrahim Nur, 394-5.

  Ibrahim Pasha Fauzi, 143.

  Ibrahim Ramadan, 203.

  Ibrahim Wad Adlan, 35, 207-10, 214, 322-4, 350, 368;
    death of, 325-7.

  Ibrahim Wad Abu Tagalla, 225.

  Ibrahim Wad el Ahmer, 445-6.

  Idris (sheikh), 101, 111, 114-7, 260, 350;
    death of, 262.

  Imbrien, Bishop, of the Tyrol, 118.

  Immorality, Mahdi's law regarding, 62;
    in the Sudan, 341-3;
    of slaves, 385-6.

  Imports of the Mahdi's kingdom, 380.

  Insects, at Delen, 4, 5;
    Neufeld and, 357;
    white ants as food, 53;
    lizards, 150;
    flies, 114.

  Iron in Kordofan, 35.

  Isa, sheikh, 28.

  Isa, fiki, of the Shanabla, 194.

  Ismail el Kheir, 400.

  Ismail Wad el Andok, 22, 49, 59, 227, 229, 247.

  Ismail Pasha, 234-5.

  Italy and Kassala, 168.

  Ivory, expedition to Equatoria to collect, 271;
    at Omdurman, 323.

  Jaalin tribe, 123, 125, 255, 368, 384, 391, 399, 449.

  Jabrallah, Sultan, 236, 350.

  Jebel Dair, the Mahdi and, 111-2, 114, 199.

  Jebel Naïma, 197.

  Jerusalem, the Mahdi and, 110.

  Jew merchants at Omdurman, 312;
    at Kassala, 360.

  Jibbehs, the Mahdi and the manufacture of, 19.

  Jinns, the, 307.

  John, King of Abyssinia, throne of, 213;
    and Galabat, 217, 247-9;
    Abdullah and, 221, 242;
    and Abu Anga, 243;
    death of, 250-2.

  Justice, system of, at Omdurman, 214-5, 329-34.

  Kaba, 34, 36-7, 39.

  Kababish tribe (Arabs), 35, 55, 64, 78, 178;
    destruction of the, 232-4.

  Kadi Ahmed, 214-5, 246-7, 329, 350.

  Kakum of Delen, 4, 24, 26-8, 31-2, 178;
    death of, 186-7.

  Kalabsheh, village of, 257.

  Kalakala, 130-2.

  Kamal ed Din, and manufacture of powder, 367-8.

  Karamallah (slave-dealer), 176, 269, 406;
    in Darfur, 235-6.

  Karkoj, 226, 290, 380.

  Kashgeil, Hicks at, 85, 87.

  Kashm el Mus, Pasha, 148.

  Kassala, 154, 162, 164-5, 168, 387, 396;
    siege of, 166-7;
    Osman Digna at, 266;
    famine at, 290.

  Kavalli, Stanley's camp at, 271.

  Kawakla, natives called, 7.

  Kebkebieh, 94.

  Kedaro hill, 3.

  Kenana tribe, 14.

  Kererri, 12, 307, 311, 361, 412.

  Khabir, Pasha, of Darfur, 36.

  Khalifas in the Sudan, _see_ "Abdullah," "Ali Wad Helu," "Ali Esh
    Sherif," Hassan, "Osman," &c.

  Khalil, sheikh, 360-4.

  Khartum, 1, 6, 7, 72, 93-4, 96-7, 106;
    the Mahdi's advance on, 99, 121, 126-7, 130;
    Gordon arrives at, 121-3;
    siege and fall of, 131-54, 177, 348;
    in ruins, 204, 216;
    materials for Mahdi's tomb from, 276;
    the Batahin tribe and, 315, 320;
    Neufeld at, 357, 359;
    survivors of, 372.

  Khatafin (snatchers) in Omdurman, 286-8.

  Khojali, 130, 219, 317.

  Khojur, the, in Dar Nuba, 4, 24, 26, 28.

  Khor Musa, fort at, 259.

  Kirkesawi (slave-dealer), 176, 236, 406.

  Kitchener Pasha, 359;
    wounded at Handub, 267.

  Klein, tailor, of Khartum, 140-1.

  Klootz, Gustav, 80-5, 88, 91, 93, 96, 109, 120, 174-5, 206, 348, 411;
    death of, 219.

  Korbatsh, Mount, 34, 179, 200.

  Kordofan, 199, 234, 380, 398;
    deserts of, 2-3;
    military stations in, 11-2;
    the Mahdi and, 20, 28;
    mountains, 34;
    exports from, 35-6;
    camels in, 35-6, 72;
    agriculture in, 378-9.

  Korosko, 257, 442-3.

  Korsi, 68.

  Kudru hill, 32.

  Kumbo, King, 98-9, 117-8.

  Kuran, the, concerning ministers of Christianity, 104-6;
    first chapter in, 296.

  Kurun hill, 3.

  Lado Station, 272, 384.

  Languages in the Sudan provinces, 283.

  Laws made by the Mahdi, 17-20, 61-3.

  Lead, manufacture of, at Omdurman, 368-70.

  Legnani (Italian consul), 1.

  Leontides, Consul N., 126, 134, 140.

  Lime, near Delen, 5;
    pits in Omdurman, 205, 276.

  Limona, Bianca, 57.

  Locatelli (missionary), 54, 56-7.

  Locusts, plague of, in the Sudan, 291.

  Losi, Father Johann, 54, 58.

  Lugard, Captain, 271.

  Lupton Bey, 153, 175-7, 191, 202, 348, 412-3;
    death of, 366.

  Madibbo, sheikh, 235;
    son of, 396.

  Mahbas, wells of, 233.

  Mahdi, the, _see_ "Mohammed Ahmed."

  Mahdiism, belief in, 185;
    and Egypt, 265;
    in the Sudan, 255, 273, 326, 328, 403, 449;
    and the slave trade, 382-6.

  Mahdiist kingdom, agriculture and commerce in, 376-86.

  Mahmud Wad Ahmed, 240-1, 247-9.

  Mail, capture of an English, 120.

  Makada tribe, 241.

  Makani village, 428.

  Makbul dollar, the, in Omdurman, 210-4.

  Makias (chains), 345-6.

  Makin Wad en Nur, 260, 350.

  Manoli, a Greek, 142.

  _Mansureh_, steamer, 127.

  Marcopoli Bey, 2, 73.

  Mariani, Gabriel, 5, 41, 48.

  Marissa (a kind of beer), 4;
    the Mahdi and drinking of, 61, 330, 340.

  Market at Omdurman, 282, 339.

  Marquet, 2.

  Marriage ceremonies in the Sudan, 17-8, 341-3, 389-90.

  Masalit, Sultan of, 213; people, 237.

  Mecca, pilgrimage to, 278-9, 448;
    the Mahdi and, 110;
    a Sherif of, 412.

  Medawi, fiki, 124, 218, 221.

  Mek Omar, 28-32, 49-50, 178;
    son of, _see_ "Naser."

  Melbeis, 95, 196.

  Meshra Dehesh, 434, 437.

  Messalamieh gate at Khartum, 150.

  Metemmeh, 123, 268, 429.

  Miracles, the Mahdi and, 7-8;
    performed by Sid el Hassan, 166.

  Miserieh tribe of Arabs, 106, 222.

  Mice, plague of, at Omdurman, 291-2.

  Minneh, fiki, 11, 20, 37, 39-40, 46, 56, 59-60.

  Mint, the, at Omdurman, 209-13.

  Missionaries, at El Obeid, 40-51;
    _see also_ "Bonomi," "Losi," "Ohrwalder," "Rossignoli."

  Mission Stations; _see_ "Austrian Mission."

  Mohammed Ahmed, sheikh, 396.

  Mohammed Ahmed (the Mahdi), rise of, 7-9;
    and Kordofan, 10-12;
    antecedents of, 12;
    outward appearance of, 13;
    Khalifas of, 14-5;
    military organization of, 15-6;
    new laws made by, 17-20, 60-3, 273;
    summons El Obeid to surrender, 20-1;
    defeat of, before El Obeid, 34, 36-41;
    and the missionaries, 42-51;
    siege of El Obeid, 53-9;
    finances, 62-3;
    art of winning over people, 66-7;
    and Consul Hansal's letter, 68-71, 73;
    victory over Hicks Pasha, 75-90;

    triumphal entry into El Obeid, 91-2;
    and province of Darfur, 93-4;
    General Gordon and, 98, 130;
    and the sisters, 103-6;
    and Father Ohrwalder, on religion, 109-11;
    and Slatin Bey, 118;
    and violation of moral laws, 121;
    religious movement of, 122-3;
    and Cuzzi, 125-6;
    siege of Khartum, 126, 131-54;
    his life of ease and luxury, 60-4, 155-9, 449;
    principal wife of, 157;
    dwelling of, 157;
    harem, 158;
    death of, 160-62, 185;
    and Olivier Pain, 174-5;
    and Egypt, 254-6;
    tomb of, 275-80;
    and immorality, 341, 343;
    and property, 398;
    wives of, 404, 406;
    capital of the Mahdi's kingdom, _see_ "Omdurman."

  Mohammed Ali, 234, 315, 439, 447.

  Mohammed el Kheir, 125, 130, 256.

  Mohammed Pasha Khabir, 21.

  Mohammed Suleiman, 186.

  Monasir tribe, 128, 438.

  Monogamy in Dar Nuba, 4.

  Moral laws, the Mahdi and violation of, 121.

  Moslem law, 322;
    the killing of priests, 46;
    and justice, 61-2;
    Sudanese and, 279.

  Mosque at Omdurman, 279, 297.

  Mukran Fort, 126, 147.

  Munzinger Pasha, 189, 191.

  Murat, Saleh Bey and, 265;
    wells of, 364;
    Ohrwalder at, 440, 442.

  Murders in the Sudan provinces, 333.

  Musa, sheikh, 396.

  Musallem, Sultan, 234.

  Museum of curios at Omdurman, 213.

  Mussaid, Emir, 258.

  Mustafa Hadal, 166.

  Mustafa Yawer, 64-6, 358, 363.

  Nahut, in Kordofan, 240-1.

  Naïma Jebel, 3, 223.

  Naser (son of Mek Omar), 32-3, 40-1.

  Nasri, sheikh, 167-8.

  Nejumi, _see_ "Abderrahman Wad en Nejumi."

  Nesim, Major, 11.

  Neufeld, Charles, 233, 263, 345, 348, 353-60, 363.

  News, the Sudanese and, 72-3;
    in Omdurman, 282.

  Niam Niam, singers from, 301.

  Nile, _see_ "White Nile," "Blue Nile."

  Noaïa, sheikh, 222-3.

  Nuba, country and people of, 3-5, 22-32, 35, 48-9, 50, 95, 102,
    112-4, 117-8, 121, 171-2, 177, 186, 197-200, 223, 384.

  Nubian desert, crossing the, 433-42.

  Nur Angar, 16, 56, 112, 225, 247.

  Nur Bey, 164-5.

  Nur Gereifawi, 327, 379, 404;
    son of, 394.

  Nuri, sheikh, 247.

  Oath of allegiance, sheikhs taking the, 70;
    evidence on, at Omdurman, 329.

  Obeid, _see_ "El Obeid."

  O'Donovan, Mr. (_Daily News_ correspondent), 80, 96, 101.

  Ohrwalder, Father, visit to Mek Omar, 50;
    illtreated by a sheikh, 69-70;
    taken before Abdullah, 100;
    journey to Rahad, 101-3;
    interview with the Mahdi on religion, 109-11;
    treatment of, by various masters, 114-7;
    in Khartum, 149-50;
    farewell to Father Bonomi, 178-84;
    down with fever, 190;
    sent to Omdurman, 199;
    and famine in Omdurman, 288;
    made a prisoner, 351-2;
    departure from Omdurman, 407;
    plans of escape, 408-23;
    and Lupton, 412-3;
    escape of, to Cairo, 424-46;
    present situation in the Sudan, 447-450.

  Omala (tax-gatherers) in the Sudan, 313.

  Omar Kisha (merchant), 267, 397.

  Omar Saleh, 269-71.

  Omar Wad Elias, Pasha, 247.

  Omberer, a merchant, 35.

  Omdurman, the Dervish capital, 146, 151, 275, 281, 304, 328, 380;
    the Mahdi at, 35, 126, 127;
    surrender of fort at, 131, 142, 177, 222;
    small-pox in, 154-5;
    and the Mahdi's death, 162-3;
    events in, 202-3;
    hill of, 204;
    scarcity of small coins in, 210-3;
    museum at, 213;
    the beit el mal at, 208-9;
    Abyssinians in, 220-1;
    Abu Anga and, 224, 230-1;
    grand review at, 225-6;
    panic in, 248;
    Osman Digna at, 267-8;
    Mahdi's tomb at, 275-9;
    Khalifa's palace, 280;
    roads in, 280-1;
    market-place, 282;
    gallows at, 283, 317-8;
    inhabitants of, 283;
    population, 283-4;
    famine in, 284-9;
    plagues of locusts and mice in, 291-2;
    thieves in, 328-9, 334-5, 340;
    system of justice at, 329-33;
    cripples in, 337;

    immorality in, 341;
    marriages in, 341-3;
    Saier, or prison at, 344-65;
    Neufeld in, 355-60;
    scarcity of powder at, 367-75;
    sand-storms at, 376-7;
    slaves in, 383-6;
    the Greeks in, 412;
    dress of women in, 413;
    Ohrwalder's last day at, 424;
    flight from, 445, 449.

  Om Herezeh mountain, 34, 46.

  Om Sadik, 224.

  Omshanga, 94.

  Onbeïa (wind instrument), 15, 44, 306.

  Ongat wells, 259.

  Ornaments, the Mahdi and Sudanese, 18.

  Ornithology: Birds in Dar Nuba, 3-4;
    kites at El Obeid, 53;
    vultures, 77, 88, 290.

  Oshra Well, 40, 47.

  Osman, Khalifa, 308, 353-4, 389.

  Osman Azrak, 260.

  Osman Digna, 11, 64, 166-7;
    defeat of, 266-8.

  Osman Wad Adam, 199, 234, 236;
    and Abu Gemaizeh, 238-41;
    death of, 240.

  Osman Wad Dekeim, 167.

  Ostrich farms in Kordofan, 35.

  Pain, Olivier, at El Obeid, 172-75.

  Palace, the Khalifa's, at Omdurman, 280.

  Passioni, Jew named, 360.

  Pesavento, Sister E., 48.

  Pilgrims at Omdurman, 206.

  Pimezzoni, Franz, 1.

  Plagues in the Sudan: of locusts, 291;
    of mice, 291-2.

  Plough, a, in the Sudan, 378.

  Poetry, the Arabs and, 67.

  Polinari, Domenico, 138-40, 349-50.

  Postal service in the Mahdi's kingdom, 300-1.

  Powder, scarcity of, at Omdurman, 359, 367-75.

  Power, Consul, 99, 129-30.

  Prayers, the Mahdi and, 19;
    book of, 213;
    form of, 296.

  Printing press at Omdurman, 213.

  Prison at Omdurman, 344-65.

  Proclamation by the Mahdi, 76.

  Quicksilver found at Delen, 35.

  Rabeh Zubeir, 240, 241.

  Rahad, General Hicks at, 77-85;
    the road to, 101-3;
    the Mahdi at, 106-21, 125-6, 169.

  Rahma, fiki, 11.

  Rain in Dar Nuba, 3;
    in the Sudan, 376.

  Ramadan, fast of, 64, 158.

  Ras Adal, 247; and Galabat, 217-20.

  Ras Alula, 167, 247.

  Rashid Bey, 9.

  Ratibs (Mahdi's book of prayers), 213.

  Rauf Pasha, 1-2, 6-7.

  Regaf Station, 269, 271-2, 340, 384, 396.

  Religion, interview with the Mahdi on, 109-11.

  Reptiles, 150;
    snakes, 3-4, 433;
    scorpions, 114, 347.

  Review of Dervishes at Omdurman, 225-6, 307-8.

  Rizighat tribe of Arabs, 73, 221, 396-7.

  Roads in Omdurman, 280;
    in the Sudan, 341.

  Rognotto, Joseph, 100.

  Rossignoli, Father, 54, 57.

  Roversi (inspector of slaves), 22-3, 27-30, 48;
    death of, 49.

  Rundle Bey, 439.

  Saburi Mountain, 5.

  Saddlers at Omdurman, 381.

  _Safia_ steamer, 127.

  Said Bey Guma, 94, 202-3, 223, 236.

  Said Mohammed, 39.

  Said Pasha, 7, 10-1, 20-1, 29, 119;
    defence of El Obeid, 36-40, 49, 56, 58-9, 66.

  Said el Mek, 6.

  Saier at Omdurman, see "Prison."

  Saleh, sheikh, 55.

  Saleh Pasha Wad el Mek, 125, 153, 350.

  Saleh Bey, 217-8, 221, 352-3, 364, 414.

  Saleh Bey Fadlallah, 232-4, 265.

  Salem, sheikh, 55.

  Salisbury, Lord, letter to King John, 250-1.

  Sandalia, perfume called, 157.

  Sandstorm, a fearful, 203;
    in the Sudan, 376-7.

  Santoni, A., 443;
    and Father Bonomi, 178-9, 183.

  Sarras, Dervishes at, 257-8, 262.

  Sawakin, 1, 121, 166-7;
    Osman Digna besieges, 266-7.

  Sayer, Brother, 443.

  Sayid el Mek, 407.

  Sayid Hamed, 167-8.

  Sayid Osman, _see_ "Osman, Khalifa."

  "Sayidna Isa," 244-5.

  Schuver, Jean M., 2.

  Seckendorf, Baron, death of, 88;
    servant of, 80.

  Selima wells, 233.

  Selim Bey in Equatoria, 271.

  Sennar, 154, 160, 162, 164-5, 226, 256, 290.

  Senussi, sheikh, 4, 14, 173, 237.

  Shaggieh troops, 239.

  Shaggieh tribe, 143.

  Shakka, 35, 59, 235, 384, 391.

  Sharé River, 241.

  Shatt Station, 11, 35, 77, 126, 175.

  Shebba, a (forked wood), 97.

  Sheep of the Kababish tribe, 232, 234;
    in the Sudan provinces, 379.

  Shekan forest, battle near, 87, 92, 94, 171.

  Shendi, 290.

  Sherif, Khalifa, _see_ "Ali Esh Sherif."

  Sherif Mahmud, 20, 60, 86, 106, 169-72, 174, 176-8, 183, 186-9, 197;
    death of, 198-9, 206, 223.

  Shilluk tribe, 272, 379.

  Shirkeleh, 77, 80, 126.

  Shirra, Baggara chief, 187.

  Shukrieh tribe, 166, 216, 290, 350.

  Sideham, a Copt, 178.

  Sid el Hassan, the celebrated Moslem, 165-6.

  Sidi Hamdan, _see_ "Abu Anga."

  Sieges, _see_ "Bara," "El Fasher," "El Obeid," "Galabat," "Kassala,"
    "Khartum," "Sennar," "Sawakin," "Tokar," &c.

  Singiokai, 25, 32, 49, 59.

  Sisters of the Austrian Mission, before Abdullah, 100;
    at Rahad, 103-6;
    escape of, from Omdurman, 413-5, 418-45;
    _see also_ "Andreis," "Corsi," "Chincarini," "Pesavento,"

  Siwar ed Dahab, 21, 264.

  Skander Bey, 21.

  Skander, fate of Mulatte, 140.

  Slatin Bey, 2, 73-5, 93, 118, 153, 174-5, 177, 189, 206, 348;
    and Darfur, 235;
    and waterskins, 237.

  Slave trade, in Dar Nuba, 4;
    in the Bahr el Ghazal, 8-9, 12, 22;
    in the Sudan, 382-6.

  Slaves, the Mahdi's law regarding, 62;
    of Khartum, 143;
    at Omdurman, 208-9, 333, 339.

  Small-pox, in Omdurman, 154-5;
    in El Obeid, 183-4.

  Soap-boiling at Omdurman, 213-4, 303, 413.

  Sobei, the Khojur of, 187.

  Sogaro, Archbishop Franz, 415-7, 420, 444-5.

  Soil, of Dar Nuba, 3;
    of Bara, 200;
    in the Gezireh, 378.

  Stambuli, George, 42-8, 54, 58, 68-71, 84, 96-7, 269.

  Stanley, H. M., and Emin Pasha, 269, 271.

  Starvation in the Mahdi's camp, 154.

  Stewart, Col., murder of, 128-30, 177, 414, 438.

  Sudan, Egypt and the, 34, 123;
    the Mahdi master of the, 94;
    English troops in the, 120;
    custom to drink melted butter, 175;
    revolt of black soldiers of army of, 189-200;
    witchcraft in, 44, 274-5;
    famine in the, 290-2;
    horsemanship in the, 308;
    immorality in the, 341-3;
    cattle breeding in the, 376-9;
    disease in the, 386;
    present situation in the, 387-407, 447-50.

  Sudanese, the, marriage ceremony of, 17-8;
    and small-pox, 154-5;
    and alchemy, 369.

  Suez, 1.

  Suk Abu Sin, _see_ "Gedaref."

  Suleiman Bey, Gessi and, 9-10.

  Suleiman, Capt. M., 22, 27.

  Suleiman el Hejazi, 240.

  Suleiman Wad Naaman, sheikh, 129-30, 414.

  Superstition, in the Sudan, 44, 274-5;
    the Nubas and, 186;
    _see also_ "Witchcraft."

  Surur Effendi, 56.

  Swindlers in Omdurman, 334, 337-9.

  Syria, Sherif of, 111.

  Tagalla, Jebel, 3, 7, 77, 222-3, 225, 247;
    _see also_ "Adam, King."

  Taha, Sayid Mohammed, 91.

  Taher, sheikh, 316-7.

  Taisha Arabs, 14, 221, 301;
    Abdullah and, 308-11, 350, 395-6.

  Takruri tribe, 171-2, 217, 244, 248, 283.

  Tamai, battle of, 266.

  Tamarinds in Kordofan, 35.

  Taxation in the Mahdi's kingdom, 379-80.

  Tax-gatherers of the Sudan provinces, 313.

  Tax levied at Omdurman, 205.

  Tayara Station, 11, 35, 60.

  Testament, King John's copy of New, 250.

  Thieves in Omdurman, 328-9, 334-7, 339-40.

  "Three Holy Kings," festival of the, 218.

  Tira hill, 3.

  Tobacco, the Sudanese and, 17;
    chewing, 276;
    punishment of smokers of, 330.

  Tobji, Osman, 65-6.

  Todros Kasa, son of King Theodore, 242-5.

  Tokar, 267-8;
    capture of, 367, 386, 414.

  Tolodi, Jebel, 223.

  Tomb of the Mahdi at Omdurman, 275-80.

  Tome, sheikh, 55, 64;
    brother of, 232.

  Toski, battle at, 263, 320, 350, 361.

  Trades in Omdurman, 381-2.

  Treasure in Khartum, 145.

  Trees in Dar Nuba, 3.

  Tur el Hadra, 2.

  Tuti Island, 147, 375.

  "Turk," Arabs and the term, 263.

  Turkey, Sultan of, letter to, from Khalifa, 257.

  Uganda, events in, 271.

  Unyoro, events in, 271.

  Venturini, Sister E., 413-45.

  Victoria, Queen, and King John of Abyssinia, 250-1;
    letter to, from Abdullah, 257.

  Wad Ali, 246, 249.

  Wad Arbab, Emir, 217-8.

  Wad Bishara, village of, 426.

  Wad el Bedri, 10, 319, 395.

  Wad el Besir, 94, 124, 258, 306.

  Wadelai, 271.

  Wad el Areik (merchant), 21, 35, 131, 405.

  Wad el Banna, 401.

  Wad el Hashmi, Emir, 76, 190, 193-4, 199.

  Wad el Makashef, 11, 72, 164.

  Wad er Reis, 445;
    _see_ "Hussein Wad Dayim."

  Wad Gubara (Emir), 38-9, 85, 125, 130, 133, 260.

  Wad Gesuli, 96.

  Wad Guzuli, 345.

  Wad Hamdu Allah, 313.

  Wadi Gamr cataracts, 128.

  Wadi Halfa, 257, 260.

  Wad Nubawi (Emir), 233.

  Wad Zaid, 350.

  War materials at Omdurman, 349, 381.

  Waterskins, the Masalit people and, 237.

  Water-wheels along the Nile, 378.

  White Nile, 3, 6, 12, 93, 126, 133-5, 150, 204;
    expedition up the, 269-272.

  Witchcraft, the Mahdi's success attributed to, 94;
    the bark of Adansonia tree, 170;
    in the Sudan, 274-5, 402.

  Wodehouse, Colonel, 115, 259, 265;
    battle at Argin, 262.

  Wolseley (Lord), 'Soldier's Pocket-Book,' 101.

  Yakub (Khalifa Abdullah's brother), 243, 277, 304, 313-4, 324-6,
    361, 366, 368, 371-3, 389-90, 394, 402-7.

  Yesin, Major, 59.

  Yunis Ed Dekeim, 260, 265.

  Yusef Angeli (Greek), 373-4.

  Yusef Pertekachi, and manufacture of powder, 371-4.

  Yunis, Emir, 206, 219-20, 223, 396, 417;
    and Abu Anga, 244-5.

  Yusef, Sultan of Darfur, 213, 236, 308.

  Yusef Kurdi (merchant), 333-4.

  Yusef Pasha, 10-1, 42, 90.

  Zeki Tummal and Abyssinia, 225, 247, 249, 251-2, 272, 285, 290.

  Zeregga, 77.

  Zogal (the Mahdi's uncle), 75, 93-4, 164, 184, 223, 235, 265-7, 360,
    388, 396, 401, 417;
    and Darfur, 201-3.

  Zogheir (a celebrated thief), 335-7, 353.

  Zubeir, feast known as, 4.

  Zubeir Pasha, 172, 391;
    Abu Anga and, 221;
    and Kingdom of Shakka, 235.

  Zurbuchen, Dr., 2.


[Illustration: A PLAN OF OMDURMAN

Drawn in the Intelligence Department, Egyptian Army from descriptions
given by natives and revised by Father Ohrwalder

Scale 1/14400 or 1 to 400 yards]

[Illustration: THE NILE BASIN

shewing the course of Hicks Pasha's Expedition and the Flight of Father

London: Sampson Low & Co.]

[Illustration: Sketch Map showing correct Position of I.B.E.A. Co's
Forts & Boundary of Uganda

London: Sampson Low & Co. Limited

G. Philip & Son, London & Liverpool

NOTE--At the last moment when this book was passed for press, the
return to England of Captain Lugard enables me, through his courtesy, to
give the names and positions of the forts in Uganda and Unyoro now
occupied by the troops in the service of the Imperial British East
Africa Company.--F. R. W.]

Transcriber's Note

In this etext a u with circumflex is represented as [^u] and a
u with a macron [=u]

Illustrations have been moved near the relevant section of the text.

The question mark after "thousand men" on Page 115 has been retained.
Inconsistent use of quotes following "known as" have been left as-is.
Inconsistent capitalization has been retained for "sub-Mudir"
and "Sub-Mudir". The lack of an apostrophe after "days" in the
expression "days later" has been left unchanged. Inconsistent
hyphenation and use of separate words have been retained for
"anyone" / "any one", "bodyguard" / "body-guard", "camelmen" /
"camel-men", "contradistinction" / "contra-distinction",
"headquarters" / "head-quarters", "hundredweight" / "hundred-weight",
"nicknamed" / "nick-named", "reaction" / "re-action", "recaptured" /
"re-capture", "reoccupy" / "re-occupy", and "waterskins" /

Here is a list of the minor typographical corrections made:

  - Period added after "GOVERNMENT" on Page xi
  - Hyphen removed following "Emir" on Page 16
  - "forbad" changed to "forbade" on Page 18
  - "befel" changed to "befell" on Page 22
  - "Goverment" changed to "Government" on Page 22
  - Comma added after "age" on Page 24
  - "succeded" change to "succeeded" on Page 29
  - Comma changed to period after "merchants" on Page 36
  - "Madhi" changed to "Mahdi" on Page 42
  - "garrrison" changed to "garrison" on Page 54
  - Quote added after "Mahdi" on Page 66
  - "Madhi" changed to "Mahdi" on Page 95
  - Comma removed following "viz." on Page 98
  - Extra dash removed after "Khartum" on Page 131
  - "mattrass" changed to "mattress" on Page 138
  - Period added after "it" on Page 171
  - "the the" replaced by "the" on Page
  - "I.e" italicized on Page 189
  - Period added after "off" on Page 241
  - Period added after "defeated" on Page 263
  - "out-of-the way" changed to "out-of-the-way" on Page 351
  - Comma added after "army" on Page 451
  - "lifeguards" changed to "life-guards" on Page 451
  - Italics added to "also" and removed from "Marissa" on Page 452
  - Italics added to "also" on Page 452
  - Semicolon replaced by comma after "35" on Page 453
  - Corrected alphabetical order of "Emin Pasha" in index on Page 454
  - "and" removed before "Sheikh" on Page 454
  - Semicolon changed to comma after "4" on Page 454
  - Period inserted after "401" on Page 454
  - "skeikh" changed to "sheikh" on Page 455
  - Alphabetical order of "Nesim" corrected in index on Page 457
  - "sandstorms" changed to "sand-storms" on Page 458
  - "smallpox" changed to "small-pox" on Page 459
  - "power" changed to "powder" on Page 460
  - Space inserted before "2" on Page 460

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