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Title: The Downfall of the Dervishes - or The Avenging of Gordon
Author: Bennett, Ernest N.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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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  _Art Photogravure C^o. L^{td}._

_Lord Kitchener of Khartoum._

_From a Photograph by Bassano._]











  H. R. H.


In the following pages I have aimed at furnishing some account of
the interesting experiences which fell to our lot during the recent
campaign in the Sudan.

My best thanks are due to several friends for the assistance they
have rendered me, and I feel especially grateful to H.H. Prince
Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein and Major Stuart-Wortley,
C.M.G., for their very kind help in supplying me with much additional
and interesting information about the work of the Gunboats and the
Friendly Tribes.

I must also acknowledge the courteous permission accorded me by the
Editor of the _Westminster Gazette_ to use in the compilation of
this book some of the letters which I had previously contributed to
the columns of his newspaper.


  _1st November 1898_.



  Correspondents' Permits--Academic Obstacles--Fellow-Passengers
  to Alexandria--French Animosity in
  Egypt--Indifferentism of Egyptian Natives--An
  Interesting Dinner--Preparations for the Campaign--Egyptian
  Magic--A Native "Medium"--Ali buys
  a Sword--Departure from Cairo--A Matrimonial
  Quarrel--Rumours about the Khalifa--Discomforts
  of the Night Journey--The Luxor Hotel--Malevolent
  Spiders--Karnak--By Rail to Shellal--Imbecility of
  Ali's Brother--Hospital Arrangements--Dreariness
  of a Nile Voyage--Cheerfulness of Tommy Atkins--A
  Classic Tale of Horror--Death of a Soldier--From
  Wady Halfa in a Cattle Truck--Abu Ahmed--First
  Night at the Atbara--Chequered Career of the _El
  Tahra_--Life at Atbara Camp--The Plagues of Egypt
  up to Date--Perverse Camels--Failure of our
  Attempts to overtake Lancers                                       1



  A Crowded _Ghyassa_--A Talking Mummy--Slatin Pasha--Animal
  Life on the Banks--The Pyramids of Meroe--Work
  for Archæologists--A Gaalin Sheikh--A
  Dervish Deserter--Abu Klea--A Sandstorm--Arrival
  at Wad Hamed--We meet the Sirdar--Types of the
  War Correspondent--Entomology--Insect Life in the
  Sudan--Desert Circulating Library--Fly-fishing in
  the Nile--Military "Fatigues"--Fugitives from
  Omdurman--Our Camp Life at Wad Hamed--Thirst
  in the Tropics--How we Dined--Good-bye to
  Wad Hamed                                                         56



  Embarkation of Friendlies--The Shabluka Cataract--Our
  Delay at Rojan Island--First Glimpse of Omdurman--The
  Evening Ride from Hagir--The Joys of
  Good Health--Sudanese Wives--Importance of the
  "Drink Camel"--An Adventurous Greekling--Mr.
  Villiers' Bicycle--Um Teref Camp--Sudanese Music--The
  First Dervish--Scorpion v. the "Father of
  Spiders"--A Cavalry Reconnaissance--A Rainy
  Night--Within Twenty-five Miles of Omdurman--Deserted
  Villages--A Disappointing Capture--Seg-et-Taib--The
  Water Question--Corpses in the River--The
  Khalifa's Army in Sight--The Ridge of Kerreri--Sururab--Gunboats
  at Work--Troublesome
  Donkeys--Sniping--A Tropical Downpour spoils our
  Rest--Mr. Villiers and Myself stung by Scorpions--Chasing
  Hares on the March--Cavalry Scouts on
  Kerreri--Howitzers in Action--Skirmishing with the
  Khalifa's Cavalry--Waiting for the Dervish Advance--The
  Khalifa halts--The Evening before the Battle--The
  Perils of a Night Attack--False Alarms                           105



  A Comfortable Breakfast--All ready for the Dervishes--Egyptian
  Cavalry engage the Enemy--Gunboats to
  the Rescue--The Joy of Battle--Here they come!--A
  Splendid Spectacle--The Dervishes open Fire--The
  First Shell--A Dervish Battery--Effect of our
  Shell Fire--Wounded Men--Curious Tricks played by
  Bullets--Maxims at Work--A Dervish Cavalry
  Charge--Persistent Sharpshooters--The Army leaves
  the Zeriba--The Lancers' Charge--Mutilation of the
  Dead--Wounded Horses--Killing the Wounded
  Dervishes--Renewal of the Fight--Steadiness of the
  Sudanese and Egyptians--Final Repulse of the
  Enemy--Dreadful Effects of our Fire--Men falling
  out--We halt beside a _Khor_--Regimental Music--Escape
  of the Khalifa--Death of Hon. Hubert
  Howard--A Champagne Dinner in the Street--The
  End of Mahdism                                                   156



  The Sirdar's Fleet--Difficulties of Navigation--The Loss
  of the _Zaphir_--Concentration of Friendlies at Wad
  Hamed--Their Love for Firearms--Rout of a Dervish
  Detachment--Gunboats shell the Kerreri Ridge and
  Riverside Villages--Some Faint-hearted Friendlies--Gallantry
  of the Gaalin--Tuti Island--The Shelling
  of the Mahdi's Tomb--Gunboats silence the Forts--Lyddite
  Shells--Maxim Fire upon the Fugitives--Gunboats
  proceed up the River--The Fate of Gordon's
  old Flotilla                                                     203



  The Mahdi's Tomb--A Wounded Man lands under False
  Pretences--Villiers' Bicycle in Omdurman--Loathsome
  Streets--The Arsenal--Dervish Ammunition--The
  "Man-stopping" Bullet--Awful Effects of Modern
  Rifle Fire--The Gordon Memorial Service--Varieties
  of Loot--A Tommy's Quaint Mistake--Enrolment
  of Dervishes under the Khedive's Flag--Charles
  Neufeld--The Austrian Sisters--Slatin Pasha in
  Camp--Good-bye to Omdurman--We strike on a
  Sandbank--Our Sleeping Arrangements--Failure of
  Attempts to move Gunboat--A Soldier Drowned--A
  Dead Egyptian--We get off the Bank--Loss of my
  Luggage--Cross goes to Hospital--Delays on Homeward
  Journey--Mohammedan Divorce Laws--A
  Camel dies from the Bite of an Asp--A Good Dinner--From
  Alexandria to Marseilles--Announcement of
  Cross's Death--The Future of the Sudan                           222


  THE NILE FROM THE ATBARA TO KHARTUM                 _Facing page 104_

  THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN (TWO PLANS)                  _Facing page 202_

  FRIENDLIES                                          _Facing page 214_




Towards the end of last July I heard to my great joy, from the editor
of the _Westminster Gazette_, that a permit had been granted me to
act as his special correspondent during the forthcoming campaign in
the Sudan. Sinister rumours had been afloat for a long time to the
effect that the utmost difficulty would be experienced in securing
such permission, and several officials at the Foreign Office had
warned applicants that even in the event of a formal pass beyond Wady
Halfa being accorded, there would be no certainty that correspondents
would be allowed to proceed actually to the front. The baselessness
of these apprehensions was amply shown by subsequent events. War
correspondents in the recent campaign had little to complain of on
the score of any curtailment of their liberty of movement, though the
Sirdar's subsequent refusal to take any pressmen to Fashoda may have
provoked some unreasonable criticism.

A day or two after the receipt of the Sirdar's permit I happened to
meet at dinner an old college acquaintance, Mr. Henry Cross, who
had rowed five in the 'Varsity boat of 1888. When I told him of my
intended visit to the Sudan, he was all eagerness to join me; but as
he was utterly inexperienced in the sort of travel that would fall
to our lot before Khartum was reached, I did my best to dissuade
him from making any rash resolves of the sort on the spur of the
moment. The daily round of a war correspondent's life amid a charming
environment of scenery and climate is simply delightful, when to the
joys of an open-air existence and abundant exercise there is added
the pleasant excitement which springs from a risk of danger. Such
delights as these I had experienced during the Cretan troubles in
the spring of 1897, but from what one knew personally of tropical
travel, and what one gathered from various accounts of the Sudan,
one realised that the forthcoming campaign would be in the Lancer's
words, already become historical, "no bloomin' picnic." Accordingly
I laid before Cross graphic and horrible pictures of sandstorms and
sunstroke and the other unpleasantnesses which one might expect to
meet amid the torrid plains of the Sudan. Would that my advice had
been acted upon and his bright young life preserved! As it was,
my friend secured a permit through the editor of the _Manchester
Guardian_, and rapidly made his preparations for departure. Our last
meeting before we left Charing Cross was at Bletchley Junction,
and over some railway tea and a couple of buns we made our final

The great difficulty which I had to surmount before leaving England
arose from a gigantic heap of examination papers which went far
towards filling up my college rooms. The limits of time imposed by
the authorities who preside over the destinies of University and
other examinations appear sometimes to the fevered imagination of the
anxious _employé_ to be strongly flavoured with the ancient Egyptian
spirit of "bricks without straw." Under time pressure of this kind
one's ethical system becomes quite distorted. How heartily one gets
to hate the good little boys and girls who write four or five pages
of cram! With what satisfaction one surveys the work of the stripling
whose indifference or ignorance has curtailed the product of his
mental training within the more reasonable limits of a few lines, to
be marked after a single synoptic glance! However, with the aid of
several hirelings, whose unskilled labour sufficed to execute the
merely clerical portion of my task, I contrived to break the back of
this obstacle to my happiness. The penultimate batch was finished
at the Charing Cross Hotel, the final lot completed just before our
train steamed into Folkestone.

I shook off the dust of these papers from my garments, and stepped
upon the steamer's deck a free agent. Away with lectures and pupils
and essays, the solemnity of the Senior Common Room, and the
good-humoured toleration of the smart undergraduate! Farewell for
many a week to dear Oxford--with its scouts and "bedders"--porters
and proctors--bursars and battels! Just as I was leaving the walls
of the college a copy reached me from a continental professor of
his _Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha_, to which I had furnished a slight
contribution some months ago. "Pray accept this trifle," I said to a
sorrowful friend, "for your own edification during the 'Long'; I am
now going to another region rich in apocryphal acts, to wit, those of
the war correspondent."

There is no need to dwell upon the trite journey to Alexandria.
Such a subject may well be left to the pen of the tourist, who,
under the capable management of Dr. Lunn, enjoys at the same time
economic and religious satisfaction, and travels at reduced fares to
further the reunion of Christendom. The Messageries steamer which
conveyed us from Marseilles carried, as is generally the case,
scarcely any passengers, except a conglomerate mass of human beings
at the foc'sle, and very little freight. Nevertheless, thanks to the
enormous subsidy furnished by the French Government, these half-empty
steamers invariably afford good accommodation and excellent
food. On board our boat were Major Mitford and Lieutenant Winston
Churchill. The latter gentleman was going out to be attached to the
21st Lancers, and in the intervals of campaigning conversation and
graphic accounts of his recent experiences on the Indian frontier,
he supplied us with luminous information as to the principles and
practice of Tory Democracy. Another fellow-passenger with whom I
was privileged to enjoy a good deal of pleasant conversation was an
Egyptian Bey of high official rank. As we neared Alexandria, he told
me a great many interesting facts about the bombardment of 1882. He
was present during the engagement, and ridiculed the ground which was
alleged at the time for the action of our ironclads. Sir Beauchamp
Seymour had been ordered from home to "prevent the construction of
fresh fortifications at all costs," and when a number of Arabi's
levies were seen to be shovelling some spadefuls of sand upon the
wretched mounds which stretched towards Ras-el-tin, the concentrated
fire of our warships opened upon the whole line of so-called
"fortifications." The Egyptian artillerymen did their best, although
some of their heaviest guns were not fired from ignorance of their
mechanism; nor was the assistance rendered them by a host of men,
women, and even children, of much practical utility. My friend
told me he saw one of these amateur gunners endeavouring to load a
breech-loading Krupp by shoving a shell wrong way about down the
mouth of the gun! The shell, of course, stuck fast, and its base
projected from the muzzle.

We reached Alexandria by August 2nd, on which day was fought, exactly
one hundred years before, the Battle of the Nile. The words which
were used to describe this achievement, "It was not a victory, it
was a conquest," might, exactly one month afterwards, have been
well used of another British triumph before the walls of Omdurman!
But whereas the Mahdist enemy has vanished never to reappear, our
ancient adversaries, the French, are still in Egypt with all their
traditional eagerness to thwart and injure us--an eagerness which
seems to be increased, if possible, by their realisation of the
fact that their power in Egypt is gradually waning. I learnt from
an authority of the highest standing that in a list of official
appointments made from day to day there is a marked decrease in the
number of French names, and of course a corresponding increase in
English ones. It is certain, too, that the vast majority of educated
Egyptians are coming to realise clearly the injury which is inflicted
on their country by the obstinacy and perversity of the French,
whose policy is one of sheer obstruction to any measure of progress
suggested by the British advisers of the Khedive, however reasonable
its conditions and beneficial its results. The present scheme of new
irrigation works at Philae, which will bring thousands of fresh acres
under cultivation and increase the revenue enormously, has, needless
to say, received the most violent opposition from the French. How
long are we going to tolerate this absurd political farce? When will
a British Government have the courage to inform the world that we
officially recognise what is already a _fait accompli_, and intend
to remain in sole and permanent possession of a country for which we
have done so much?

Several amusing stories are told in Cairo of the animosities which
often exist between Englishmen and Frenchmen as individuals. Some
time ago, a naval lieutenant in uniform entered the Bar Splendid,
near the Esbekiyeh Gardens, and called for some refreshment. Three
Frenchmen entered simultaneously, and as the lieutenant raised the
glass to his lips his arm was jogged so roughly that half the liquor
was spilt. He turned to the three Frenchmen, but as they did not
look at him he concluded that the occurrence was a mere accident due
to his neighbours' clumsiness, but unnoticed by them. He therefore
raised his half-filled glass once more, and this time actually
saw one of the Frenchmen deliberately jog his arm. Justly furious
at this uncalled for insult, the Englishman, who was an excellent
"bruiser," laid about him with such vigour and dexterity that in a
twinkling two of his assailants were sprawling on the sanded floor
of the restaurant. He turned to the third. "No, you're too small,"
said he, and forthwith seizing the diminutive Gaul by the back of
his collar, he slid him under one of the tables, and, leaving the
trio in their undignified positions, he walked quietly out of the
café and reported the occurrence to his superior officer. Next
day, three Frenchmen, whose features were somewhat discoloured and
bedraggled, rang the bell at the lieutenant's quarters with a view
to "demand satisfaction." But on the doorstep stood the lieutenant's
servant, a huge bluejacket, who informed the visitors that a British
officer could not cross swords with persons of their inferior social
standing. As the Frenchmen were persistent and noisy, the sailor
exclaimed, "Well, it was my master's day yesterday, but, strike me
blue, it's mine to-day!" and with that he cleared for action by
rolling up his sleeves. The sight, however, of his brawny arms,
coupled with a vivid recollection of _le box_ as practised by the
British, appeared to impress the three would-be duellists, and they
speedily withdrew.

We stayed for several days at Shepheard's, where the semi-comatose
servants gradually awoke from the lethargy which overtakes them out
of the season, and did their best to make us comfortable. The general
torpor which seizes upon Cairo during the hot summer months was
broken during our stay by the incessant despatch of troops to the
front. Every afternoon detachments of infantry and cavalry marched
briskly through the streets towards the station with drums and fifes,
and "Auld Lang Syne" was played as the train steamed away. It was
curious to notice how infinitesimal was the interest which seemed
to be aroused in the passers-by. The Egyptian natives scarcely took
the trouble to glance at the columns as they marched past in full
war kit and brown kharki uniforms. A little knot of Europeans, whose
smallness served to emphasise the emptiness of the hotel, would step
out upon the verandah--where, by the way, the temperature was nearly
100° in the shade--and follow with their eyes the passing battalions;
but otherwise no interest whatever seemed to be aroused by their
departure. The fact is, that it never occurs to Egyptians of the
lower classes that they have any share or lot in what is perpetrated
by the powers that be. They are, as Aristotle expressed it, "slaves
by nature," and centuries may roll by before any other political
sentiment is instilled into this most conservative of nations than
that of fear and acquiescence. At the same time, this lack of
interest is certainly not prevalent to the same extent amongst the
educated and enlightened sections of Egyptian society. Whatever may
be the divergency of opinion _à propos_ of various questions of
internal reform, or larger problems as to the ultimate government
of the country--whatever be the diverse opinions on topics such as
these amongst the educated natives--there is a practically unanimous
approval of two enterprises now in hand--the new _Barrage_ of the
Nile, and the recovery of the Sudan.

The social life of the upper classes in Egypt is gradually yielding
to European influences. Much has been accomplished in this direction
during the space of a single generation. Egyptian gentlemen, whose
fathers wore the turban and loose native dress, now get their tweed
suits and patent leather boots from English firms. The position of
women too is steadily improving as education advances, and home
life, to the dismay of the "Old Egyptian" party, is being slowly
but steadily revolutionised in the direction of greater freedom and
independence for the ladies. Some time ago I received a most kind
invitation from an Egyptian Pasha to dine with him. I dressed and
drove off to his house, thinking, of course, that I should merely
share a _tête-à-tête_ meal with His Excellency. What was my surprise
to meet in a kind of drawing-room the Pasha's wife and three charming
daughters, who all spoke English, French, German, and Arabic with
fluency! An excellent dinner was served, towards the end of which
a strange compound made its appearance in a large tureen. I was on
the point of declining this delicacy, when it flashed upon me that
the mess of pottage must be meant for plum-pudding, and had been
prepared expressly in my honour. It was even so. As I ladled some of
the pudding into a soup plate I expressed my keen satisfaction at the
appearance of this British dish; and I think that my enthusiastic
remarks led the family to believe that the staple article of diet in
English households was plum-pudding, served at all meals all the year
round. After dinner we returned to the drawing-room, where the Misses
Pasha played admirably a variety of selections from Grieg and Brahms,
and finally, "God Save the Queen," at the close of a very pleasant
evening, which gave me a vivid impression of the advancement which
is being gradually effected in the home life of the more enlightened
Egyptians, though, of course, the liberty enjoyed by my kind hostess
and her accomplished daughters is as yet the exception rather than
the rule.

Our few days in Cairo were fully taken up with preparations for
the campaign. One consequence of the inrush of officers and
correspondents was a dearth of horses. The neighbourhood had been
ransacked for animals, and if the demand continued it seemed as
though Ammianus' prediction, slightly altered, would become true of
Cairo, "_Creditur jam equos defuturos esse_." The price of riding
horses advanced by leaps and bounds, and as the Government had been
offering from £20 to £25 for them, I thought myself lucky when I
learnt from my friend, Mr. A. V. Houghton, that he had kindly secured
me a passable steed for £17, 10s. Beasts outworn, with irregular gait
and hair in scanty tufts, were being purchased by despairing voyagers
in default of better horseflesh.

Then came the choice of servants, and many of the individuals who
offered themselves were quaint enough. Before the final selection,
batches were paraded before me from time to time, some of whom were
alleged to be bilingual, nay, even trilingual; but in most cases a
little _viva voce_ examination revealed the fact that their English
consisted of little else than half a dozen "swear words"; others
again were persons with a "past," and so unsuitable for the future.
In Egypt one can rarely put any trust in written "characters," for
such documents, either forged or secured from former servants, can be
purchased in the bazaars at so much a dozen, the price, of course,
varying according to the social status of the master whose signature
they are alleged to bear. All that a disreputable Arab in search of
employment has to do is to ask the shopman for a testimonial to the
zeal and honesty of "Ali" or "Mahmoud," according as his name is one
or the other. After one's choice had fallen upon a comparatively
blameless Ethiopian from Dongola as cook, and a Cairene Egyptian as
_säis_, the rejected candidates were dispersed by the jubilant pair
amid a babel of imprecations heaped upon each others' relatives dead
and alive. Finally, the grateful cook came to me in the evening, and
amid the laughter of my friends, solemnly presented me with a worked
cholera belt, which, he declared, his swarthy daughter had expressly
knitted for my comfort in the Sudan. With many blushes I accepted
this useful present.

Our stores were purchased from Messrs. Walker of Cairo, a veritable
firm of Egyptian Whiteleys, from whom one can buy anything, from
condensed milk to a trotting camel. It is on occasions like this that
a bachelor, unaccustomed to anything like a quantitative analysis
of the food he consumes from day to day, deplores the absence of
feminine assistance. He knows _what_ he wants but not _how much_
of it. Acting under the prejudiced advice of a chocolate-coloured
shopman, we laid in large quantities of things comparatively useless,
and neglected the weightier matters. For example, our rice gave out
after three weeks, while we had enough pepper to last us a lifetime.

We were altogether very busy in Cairo, and had little time for any
side issues. This was a pity, as my companion wished to visit the
pyramids, the mosques, and so on, while I personally wanted to
see something of the magical practices which still prevail to a
considerable extent in Cairo.

Egyptian magic was, of course, famous in antiquity. The author of
Exodus speaks of it, and, at a later date, Celsus, the able opponent
of Christianity, declared, strangely enough, that Christ worked all
His miracles by means of magic which He had learnt in Egypt! I have
heard on excellent authority that necromancy is still practised in
Cairo, and if our departure could have been delayed I should have
done my best, with the aid of some Egyptian friends, to be present
at one of these _séances_ for the evocation of the dead. Another
species of magic consists of gazing into ink in order to see pictures
prophetic of the future. This practice is, after all, simply a
form of the katoptromancy or crystal-gazing which was used for
divination in the remotest antiquity, and still yields results full
of psychological, if no longer of supernatural, interest. Scripture
appears to contain several references to the curious phenomena which
frequently exist in connection with crystal-gazing. The Hebrew
divination by Urim and Thummim, and by cups, of which we read, was
almost certainly based on this ancient practice; and at a still later
period St. Paul compares our imperfect conceptions of what lies
beyond things temporal to the perplexing images which can be "seen
through a mirror in a riddle" (δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι).
Mr. Lane's delightful book, _The Modern Egyptians_, contains an
account of the ink-gazing which is still carried on by young boys.

I should like to add to these remarks on Egyptian magic a most
curious account which I had first-hand from an official who was high
in the favour of the late Khedive, Tewfik Pacha. During the critical
weeks which immediately preceded the bombardment of Alexandria, my
informant was suddenly summoned to an immediate audience with His
Highness. Several matters of vital importance were discussed between
the Khedive and his Minister, and the latter went home pledged to
the utmost secrecy with respect to what he had learnt. Soon after
entering his house, his wife mentioned to him that during the course
of the afternoon she had heard from another lady of a wonderful
medium, whom she had asked to call that evening. After a short time
the medium in question, an extremely old woman of the very poorest
class, arrived, and the Minister laughingly promised his wife to test
the genuineness of the visitor's gifts. When admitted to his presence
the old creature almost immediately fell down in a kind of fit, and
to his amazement he heard proceeding from her lips in strange tones,
quite unlike her normal voice, the very words spoken to himself
two hours before by the Khedive under pledge of the most stringent

Shortly before leaving Cairo my cook Ali appeared before me with a
huge two-handed Dervish sword, which he had purchased out of his
own money for twenty piastres. The creature had already the day
before begged me to buy him a rifle for defensive purposes, as I was
quite unable to eradicate from his mind the belief that his kitchen
utensils and himself might at any moment during the next six weeks
be exposed to an attack from a frenzied rush of Dervishes. I could
not see my way to gratify his wishes in this respect. To have a cook
bending over the fire with a belt full of cartridges, or walking
round one's tent with a loaded rifle--these were indeed added terrors
to the perils of a Sudan campaign. He was, however, permitted to wear
the gigantic sword, as I thought it might come in handy for cutting
wood or opening tins of meat.

We were not sorry to get out of Cairo. The moist heat which prevailed
in the town clogged all the pores of the skin and was extremely
trying. Just before we left, a detachment of the Grenadier Guards
entrained for the front. These fine fellows were marched from
Abbasseeyeh to the station--no great distance--in the hottest part
of the day, between twelve o'clock and two. When they reached the
station the perspiration was streaming from their faces, and they
were kept at "attention" to prevent them from drinking water in
this condition. But the heat had already begun to tell in several
cases; three men fell prostrate, and quite a number were attacked by
violent sickness. The drainage, too, of the city was in a deplorable
condition. The old native system had been recently abolished, and
during the period of transition sanitation was in a state of chaos.
Which things are an allegory! In consequence probably of the escape
of sewage into water-pipes, enteric fever and diphtheria were far
from infrequent, and quite recently two young officers of the 21st
Lancers had succumbed to these fatal diseases.

When we arrived at the railway station in the evening _en route_ for
the South, we found our servants already there. But how transformed!
Ali and the _säis_ had exchanged their native cotton garments
for brand new suits of yellow kharki, purchased at my expense.
From some association of ideas in connection with the forthcoming
campaign, they were "got up" in a pseudo-military fashion, with
brass buttons and shoulder straps. As Ali the cook stood before us
in his ill-fitting garments, with an enormous crusading sword in one
hand and a kitchen colander and soup ladle in the other,--a kind of
walking allegory of Peace and War,--we laughed so much that we could
scarcely ask for our tickets. At the last moment a native rushed into
the station closely pursued by his wife. The man was evidently bent
on securing a seat in the train, but his better half disapproved of
this, and as he was getting into the carriage she suddenly struck a
violent blow at his hand luggage. It was a most effective stroke.
The bundle he carried exploded like a shell, and its contents lay
scattered in hopeless confusion over the platform. Long before the
baffled husband could collect the _disjecta membra_ of his travelling
kit, the train steamed off into the darkness, and he was left to
settle matters with his triumphant wife.

We rapidly left Cairo behind us, and with it the joys and comforts
of civilisation. It was a positive relief to feel that we had now
commenced in real earnest to travel the twelve hundred miles which
separated us from our final goal far away in the Sudan. Still, at the
time of our departure from Cairo, no certainty was felt that there
would be any fighting at all. Rumours were persistently current that
the Khalifa and his forces had retreated from Omdurman. It would, as
somebody said, be simply a case of _cherchez la femme_. If the women
and children became panic-stricken and retired, it was certain that
the Dervishes would lose heart and make a poor show of resistance.
Take, for instance, the case of Berber. Here a vigorous defence
might reasonably have been expected, but it was afterwards found that
an exodus of the women brought about the total evacuation of the
town, which our advancing forces thus occupied without any fighting
whatever. Still it was too early to speculate on the amount of
opposition our troops were likely to encounter. Whether there would
be one or more sharp struggles before we found ourselves face to
face with the ramparts of Omdurman; whether even then those ramparts
would be held by Dervishes driven to bay and fighting with their old
desperate courage, or we should bivouac in a deserted city--all these
things, we felt, lay verily on the knees of the gods!

Our first taste of discomfort was provided by the night journey to
Luxor. Soon after leaving Cairo the motion of the train raises an
almost continuous cloud of dust, which penetrates into the carriages,
scheme one never so wisely. One may put the glass windows up or
merely raise the wooden venetians according as one prefers the
alternative of being almost asphyxiated by too little air or stifled
by too much dust. Even with the windows up the dust insinuates
itself into the compartment somehow; and if one can sleep through the
night one finds next morning a thick layer of dust over everything,
and reflects with astonishment and dismay on the condition of one's
lungs and internal economy in general. The train was not a "troop
train" in the special sense, but it contained a good many officers.
It is worth noticing, by the way, that Egyptian officers, even of
high military rank, travel second class with British sergeant-majors
and warrant officers. As no horse boxes would be available for the
conveyance of our animals for two days, we were compelled to stay a
couple of nights at the Luxor Hotel. The dreariness of this hotel out
of the season was still more marked than at Shepheard's. Outside,
all blistered by the heat, hung the quaint notice, as a warning to
that species of knicker-bockered tourist who shoots gulls from the
Clacton cliffs, "_Il est défendu de chasser dans le jardin_." The
servants shuffled listlessly about, the long corridors were covered
with dust, and forlorn notices about church services which were no
longer served, and trained nurses who had vanished, were almost the
only outward and visible signs of the past season, with its crowded
_table d'hôte_, the vulgar chatter of American globe-trotters, and
the irritating atmosphere of valetudinarianism.

At the hotel we met two hard-worked transport officers, Captain Hall
and Lieutenant Delavoy, busied night and day with the incessant
despatch of stores and ammunition to the front. People are often
apt to forget to what an extent the success of a campaign is due to
the honest work of the Army Service Corps and transport officials.
Upon these departmental troops fell the onerous labour of forwarding
for many weeks all the stores required for the feeding of some
twenty-three thousand men and several thousand animals.

Our recent campaigns in the Sudan have been unique in military
history from the fact that the army's line of communication with
its base was ultimately over twelve hundred miles in length. Every
ounce of food, with the exception of a little fresh meat occasionally
obtained along the line of march, had to be conveyed from Cairo by
river, rail, or camel. The best thanks of the public are due to the
indefatigable labours of the transport officers and men, many of whom
were not brought by their work within the area which will be covered
by the forthcoming medal.

As we sat at dinner in the cool of the evening under the palms
and tamarisks, somebody chanced to look under the table and saw a
number of large yellowish tarantulas waltzing about our feet. A
panic ensued, and the meeting rose as one man and got upon chairs,
until these repulsive insects were driven away by the waiters. The
incident forcibly recalled the famous congress of ladies which was
convened to demonstrate the Superiority of Woman over Man, and was
broken up by a small box of mice opened by a son of Belial in the
audience. These horrid spiders, whose bite is very painful, and,
in the case of young children, occasionally fatal, seemed to be
ubiquitous at Luxor; nor did they even respect the sanctity of our
bedrooms. Medical psychologists tell of a case in which a gentleman
suffering from hallucinations declared that he saw "pink pachyderms"
in his bath, but was unable to secure a specimen owing to the
rapidity of the creature's movements. But I had much rather see a
pink pachyderm--which may after all be merely subjective--inside my
tub than a brace of tortoiseshell tarantulas, whose objectivity is
undoubted, racing round and round the bath and cutting off one's

We took the opportunity afforded us by our enforced wait at Luxor to
visit the temples. No tickets were demanded, no touts clamoured at
one's heels and interfered with one's reflections. We rode to Karnak
in the moonlight, and after dismounting we were suddenly mobbed by
scores of dogs, who came rushing upon us from the Bedawin houses
near the ruins. The animals became so menacing and approached so
close that I was compelled to use my revolver. The pariah doggie in
Egypt does not seem to be quite like his Constantinople cousin, who
is probably descended partly from the jackals who accompanied the
Turkish armies from their Asiatic settlements. The puppies of these
pariah dogs are, by the way, the dearest little creatures in the
world, with rough woolly coats like tiny bears.

There is absolutely nothing in the world to compare with the
temple of Karnak in point of magnificence and grandeur. When one
gazes on the colossal pillars, the huge pylons, and the rows and
rows of sculptured sphinxes, it would be alike difficult and
painful to believe that all this mighty effort, this outcome of
the blood and sweat of thousands, could after all be based on a
mere delusion and groundless enthusiasm. On the contrary, one may
wonder whether the full force of the religious motive which raised
these giant structures has not been to some extent lost in later
ages. At anyrate, it seems certain that in the West our religious
consciousness has never been marked by that intense appreciation of
God's omnipotence which underlay the creation of such stupendous
monuments. On the contrary, there seems to be a tendency in modern
Christianity to anthropomorphise the Deity into the official Head of
a scheme of charity organisation, to which the belief in a future
life, so powerful a factor in the ancient religion of Egypt, is
attached as a subsequent phase of subsidiary importance. As the race
grows less and less disposed to endure physical pain and discomfort,
we clamour more and more for tangible and material blessings, and
refuse to be comforted by any contemplation of the problematic
joys of another world. There is something to be said for this point
of view, and much evil has undoubtedly been done by the reckless
bestowal on suffering humanity of "cheques to be cashed on the other
side of Jordan." Still, if this process continues, it is difficult
to realise how, in the conduct of future generations, any place can
be found for a religious and supernatural, as distinct from a merely
ethical, obligation.

The railway journey from Luxor to Shellal, a village on the river
bank just above the first cataract, where the railway terminates,
ought to have taken about eight hours, but it took over sixteen.
All the trains have third-class carriages or rather trucks, and an
excellent object lesson in Oriental procrastination was afforded at
the moment when the train started. All night long crowds of natives
had been sleeping on the ground just outside the station with all
their curious goods and chattels--beds and bundles and babies--around
them. Scarcely one of them made the slightest effort to get on board
the train until the whistle went, and then a terrific scramble
took place. "Gyppies" of all sizes, sexes, and ages rushed wildly
down the line, trying to hurl their baggage into the carriages
and then climb up after it. This went on for some three hundred
yards, and despite the increasing speed of the train most of these
procrastinating creatures contrived to find some sort of place on
it. If they failed, they simply went to sleep again till the day
following, when they tried again.

The traffic on this line was enormous, and the rolling stock
available could scarcely bear the unusual strain put upon it. We were
repeatedly stopped on the way by a variety of accidents. First of all
a carriage got off the rails; then an axle became red hot from lack
of grease, and set fire to the woodwork; and finally a train in front
of us left the metals, and a long interval elapsed while two lengths
of rail were taken up and straightened. The line has, from motives
of false economy, been laid in a miserably inefficient manner, and
an official casually informed me that trains ran off the rails about
three times a week. One of the most difficult things to deal with
was the transport of horses and mules. Sometimes one saw a loose box
filled with sixteen mules all kicking together, and on the steamers
accidents continually happened amongst the crowded horses.

As we ran past Assouan down to the water's edge at Shellal, the
graceful temple of Philae in midstream was flooded with an orange
glow from the setting sun. Along the bank a forest of slender masts
and lateen sails stood out against the sky. Across the river the
strange rocks, bared of all earth and vegetation and polished smooth
by the flying sand, have assumed the oddest shapes, and look for all
the world like the primeval work of some Titanic infant at play.

The sight of a luggage van at a terminus was enough to drive any
inexperienced voyager to utter despair. When we arrived at Shellal
the moon had not yet risen, and the feeble light of a few lanterns
was all we had wherewith to disentangle our separate lots of luggage
and stores from the general _mélange_. The chaos of luggage was
fearful. Under the weight of two of our store cases an officer's
sword had been bent almost into the prophetic pruning hook, and a
band-box belonging to our one lady passenger had, with all that it
contained, been squashed absolutely flat. Everybody had to see after
his own possessions or he was lost. Later on, as the boat steamed off
from Shellal, an officer who had entrusted the embarkation of his
horse to his _säis_ was horrified to see the man calmly sitting on
the bank smoking a cigarette with the horse beside him.

During our stay at Shellal we slept in the garden of a shabby
one-storeyed house, dignified with the title of the "Spiro Hotel."
This was run by one of those ubiquitous Greeks who invariably turn
up in the East where there is any chance of making money. All along
the line of advance to Omdurman we were accompanied by Greeks, who
trafficked in bread, fresh meat, and the like. Like the Irishman
and the Jew, the Greek seems to flourish the more the further he is
removed from his native country.

By this time our horses had caused us such signal inconvenience,
and it was becoming so difficult amid the congested traffic to find
room for them, that Cross and I determined to do without our mounts.
Accordingly, we sold one to an officer at a slight profit, and sent
the other back to Cairo. If British officers could march on foot to
Khartum from the point where rail and river failed us, why shouldn't
we? If one is taking part in a campaign where there is a probability
of a reverse, a sound horse may be useful; but one felt on the
present occasion that, if any running away was to be done, it would
not fall to our lot.

At Shellal a brother of Ali's, called Mahmoud, suddenly turned up
from some quarter or other, and we annexed him at a moderate rate
of pay. His was the most unskilled labour I have ever witnessed. He
generally drove the tent pegs into the ground sloping inwards, and
with the notches inside instead of out! When he loaded a camel, he
would place a Gladstone bag on one side and a heavy box of stores on
the other, and then looked quite surprised when the camel rose and
the whole structure fell with a crash to the ground. At times like
these his imbecile features would be illumined with a fearful smile,
and if we rebuked his folly and menaced him with punishment, his grin
became broader and broader. When on one occasion I smote him with a
thorn stick, his mirth became so uproarious that we abandoned all
hope of his reformation, and merely gave Ali orders that in future
his brother's activities were to be strictly confined to the hewing
of wood and drawing of water.

A large base hospital, with two hundred beds, had been established at
Assouan, and throughout the line of advance strenuous efforts were
being made to cope with any demands upon the medical service. It is
generally admitted that at the Atbara fight the medical arrangements
were not as complete as they might have been, and considerable
confusion is said to have been produced by the inadequacy of the
accommodation for the wounded. This time, however, Surgeon-General
Taylor had arrived on the scene, and throughout the campaign there
was no cause for complaint. In addition to base hospitals at Assouan,
Atbara, Rojan Island, and elsewhere, each brigade had no less than
five field hospitals attached to it. The National Aid Society
proffered its assistance, undertaking to send its own transport; but
the Sirdar refused the offer, with the idea probably that an army in
the field ought to supply its own medical requirements. Some of the
officials of the Society were, I heard, incensed at this refusal;
for they alleged, with some reason, that during a campaign nobody
"goes sick" unless he is practically too ill to move about, and
that the voluntary assistance rendered by the Society may be of
the greatest service to a large number of devoted men who, despite
their sufferings, are too keen and patriotic to enrol themselves
on the sick-list--the only means of securing treatment from the
Army Medical Corps. Just before we embarked, a batch of invalided
men passed northwards on their way to Cyprus, where the climate is
comparatively cool in August. Sunstroke was beginning to claim its
victims; a sergeant and a private of the Northumberland Fusiliers had
already succumbed to the heat, which, amid the rocks of Philæ, was
driving the quicksilver up to 110° in the shade. The Nile was still
rising perceptibly day by day, and in one spot I saw hundreds of tons
of Government stores--reserve supplies for ten thousand men--which
would have to be moved, as the waters gave promise of reaching an
abnormal height this year. Scores of natives found employment about
the landing-stage as porters, and were perpetually fighting over the
division of the luggage and the _bakshish_. I noticed four of these
men, during a frantic struggle on the river bank, collapse into the
water, where they still continued their combat of words and blows,
even when occasionally submerged--

      Quamquam sunt sub aqua sub aqua maledicere tentant.

We journeyed towards Wady Halfa in the old stern-wheeler _Ibis_,
which was crowded with officers of the Lancashire Fusiliers, and
as it towed a large barge on either side full of the rank and file
of the 2nd Battalion, we made slow progress. There is but little
incident to chronicle on a Nile voyage, and it is difficult to
understand why, even in winter, people select the Nile as the river
_par excellence_ for steamboat tours. The eye falls continually
upon bleak hills and dreary sand plains on either bank, relieved
only by occasional patches of _dhurra_ and date palms, while the
monotony which hangs like a pall over everything Egyptian--landscape,
architecture, sculpture--becomes in time most oppressive and
wearisome. The fact is, that were it not for the social pleasures
one may, or may not, derive from several weeks' sojourn on one of
Cook's steamers, nobody except a few souls really interested in the
antiquities of Upper Egypt would undertake this voyage.

The Tommy Atkinses were packed like sardines on the barges, but
seemed to be in excellent spirits throughout the voyage. They
continually talked about the coming battle, and were as keen as
possible to get a sight of the Dervishes. All this arose, of course,
from sheer love of adventure and fighting, for the campaign could
scarcely be regarded as undertaken in defence of "our hearth and
home," and was only indirectly waged for the sake of our country. As
we advanced up the river the soldiers grew more musical day by day.
Local lyrics from the North alternated with Moody and Sankey hymns,
and occasionally some very fair attempts at harmony helped to beguile
the tedium and discomfort of the voyage. In one respect the result of
the "territorial system" in our British regiments is not altogether
good. Numerous little _coteries_ exist amongst the men enlisted from
the same families and districts, and the result is that the bonds of
discipline between non-commissioned officers and privates tend to
become relaxed. I noticed, for instance, to my surprise, that some of
the sergeants were sitting down on the deck playing cards with the
men--a species of _camaraderie_ which is certainly not desirable.

A few hours before we reached Assouan the ruins of Kumombo had come
in sight. This town, the ancient Ombi, was once, if we may trust an
unknown imitator of Juvenal, the scene of a strange and horrible
fight between the residents and some malevolent visitors from
Denderah, a hundred miles farther down the river. The cause of the
encounter has quite a modern flavour about it--each town imagined it
had secured the sole and exclusive means of Salvation--

      Inde furor vulgo quod numina vicinorum
      Odit uterque locus, cum solos credat habendos
      Esse deos quos ipse colit.

The pious citizens of Ombi worshipped the crocodile. At Tentyra
this ugly beast appeared on the dinner-table, and was devoured with
all the added relish which would arise from cooking and eating the
deity of a hostile sect. The Tentyrites, in fact, specialised in
crocodiles. Plunging into the river they climbed upon the saurians'
backs--so Pliny tells us,--and when the crocodile opened his jaws
they neatly placed a cudgel across his back teeth, and so steered
their captive to the shore. After landing they stood round in a
circle and swore roundly at the crocodile, and this scolding so
alarmed the timid monster that it "threw up" all the bodies it had
eaten, which thus secured a respectable funeral.

Our four days' journey by river from Wady Halfa was only twice
broken, once by an hour's halt at Korosko to send off telegrams and
take on board some chickens and fresh limes. The other halt was a sad
one. A young private of the Fusiliers, after a brief illness, died
of internal hæmorrhage, caused, possibly, by lifting heavy luggage.
There were, of course, no hospital arrangements on board the crowded
barges, but his comrades placed the sick man in as cool a spot as
could be found, and tended him as well as they could. But the case
was hopeless, and on 11th August the poor fellow died. The steamer
drew up beside the bank, and a section of the dead man's company
speedily dug a grave in the dry sand. The colonel read the burial
service, and after a little heap of stones had been piled above the
grave, soon to be obliterated by the drifting sand of the desert,
we steamed on our way southwards. Amid the excitement of battle and
sudden death, one looks with something akin to indifference as men
are struck down by shell-splinter and bullet--it is all part of
the day's work, and all must take their chance. But amid quieter
surroundings the feelings have freer play, and we all felt, I think,
that there was a peculiar element of sadness about this young
soldier's death. As the end approached he lay half conscious in a
corner of the deck, unmindful of all that passed around him--the
swirl and rush of the torrent, and the ceaseless chatter of his

                                      His eyes
      Were with his heart, and that was far away--

away, perhaps, in the far-off Lancashire village where his boyhood
was spent and his friends awaited his return.

On 12th August universal dismay was caused on board by the news
that our supply of ice had given out. The Arab _restaurateur_ was
promptly kicked for his gross negligence, but this did little
good. The weather was stifling hot, and unless we wished to drink
lukewarm soda water some means had to be devised. The best thing
to do if one cannot secure ice in the Sudan is to put one's bottles
into a canvas bucket, full of water. The sides are slightly porous
and the consequent evaporation brings down the temperature of the
contents. Otherwise, merely placing the bottles in straw cases, and
then immersing them up to the neck in water, serves to keep the
drink fairly cool. The _restaurateur_, who charged us no less than
eight shillings a day for food, really deserved the kicking which
he received, for ever since the commencement of the voyage he had
consistently dropped one course a day from the dinner, so that if
the journey had been prolonged much further, our dinner promised to
become a negative quantity.

We were not sorry to leave the _Ibis_ at Wady Halfa, and the
Tommies must have been delighted to get, even for an hour or so,
an opportunity of stretching their limbs. The train, consisting of
a number of horse boxes and open trucks, stood waiting for us, and
after a brief delay we steamed off for our thirty-six hours' run
across the open desert to the Atbara. Cross, Major Stuart-Wortley,
and I found ourselves ensconced in a covered cattle-truck, half full
of baggage; but we got our beds out, and speedily made ourselves as
comfortable as possible under the circumstances. In the middle of
the truck stood a big "zia," and we managed to have this filled with
decent water before we left--a sensible precaution, as only two wells
exist along these three hundred and fifty miles of desert railway;
and when three men have to cook and "wash up" and cool their drinks,
not to mention a succession of personal ablutions, the possession
of a big "zia" full of good water is a great alleviation of the
cattle-truck's discomforts.

In the old days of vacillation and weakness, which ended in the
surrender of the Sudan, and thus spread untold miseries over
thousands and thousands of square miles, the selection of Wady
Halfa as the frontier of Egypt was made in defiance of the best
expert opinion on the subject. But if the advice of, at anyrate,
one of the experts consulted by the Conservative Government of the
day had reached England a little earlier, it seems very probable
that El Debbeh, the obvious and natural frontier post under the
circumstances of the time, would have been chosen instead of a spot
two hundred and fifty miles farther north. The advice in question
was, I believe, given to Lord Salisbury on a Monday; but as the fate
of the Government was already sealed, and it was known that the
Thursday following would see the Ministry out of office, there was
no time to effect the proposed change, and Wady Halfa was thus left
as the temporary frontier town of the Khedive's loyal provinces, and
an enormous tract of country, which would have been protected by a
garrison at El Debbeh, was left to Dervish control and devastation.

As we neared the end of our journey the train again skirted the Nile,
and whenever we halted crowds of natives grouped themselves along the
line, either to sell eggs and dates or simply to stare. The railway
is still a source of never-ending wonderment. The simple unmechanical
minds of these Arabs seem to regard an engine as a being endowed with
life and will-power; and quite recently a village sheikh near Berber
protested to a railway official against the cruelty of forcing a
small engine to draw a long line of heavily laden trucks. All these
people are really ex-Dervishes, and I noticed a fair number of the
genuine "fuzzy-wuzzies" amongst them. One of their sheikhs came up
and informed us that when we got to Omdurman the Khalifa would fight
like _Sheitan_ (the devil). These natives appeared to vastly enjoy
the blessings of peace. How vividly impressed they must have been by
the constant succession of trains passing across the desert, laden
with fighting men and countless tons of stores, visible evidences of
the power and wealth of the conquering _Inglizi_!

As we approached Abu Hamed, the scene of the sharp, brief fight last
year, we noticed some object roll along the side of the line; and
when the train pulled up we learnt that a non-commissioned officer
had fallen off one of the carriages. In a few minutes the missing
Fusilier picked us up, walking along quite coolly without having
sustained a scratch. On a subsequent journey another poor fellow was
not so lucky, for he fell off in the same way, and was instantly cut
to pieces by the wheels.

The sun was setting as we neared Berber, and in the distance across
the river the outlines of "Slatin's Hill" stood sharply out against
the sky. This was the spot where the fugitive took shelter at a
critical moment when pursuit seemed close upon his heels and
capture imminent. On our own side of the stream the train ran slowly
through the scattered suburbs of Berber, and one realised how, as on
every occasion during the Khalifa's attempts to oppose our advance,
the Dervishes had blundered, by selecting Abu Hamed for the fight
instead of Berber. At the latter place there were fully five miles
of detached mud-huts extending inland from the river. Not a particle
of cover would have been available for an attacking force, and the
expulsion of a resolute body of Dervishes from the shelter of these
mud walls would have cost us dear.

When the train finally crawled into the vast area covered by the
Atbara camp, it was quite dark, and, amid the confusion, Cross and
I, with two officers, thought it best to sleep as we were on the
ground beside the railway. However, as bad luck would have it, a
heavy shower of rain descended upon our devoted selves just as we
had fallen off to sleep, and the downpour was followed by a strong
wind from the river, which covered our quaternion with a thick layer
of sand and dust. A more unpleasant night it would be difficult to
imagine, as, beside the dust and wet, it was extremely difficult to
breathe amid the clouds of sand. At last I could stand the discomfort
no longer, and, jumping up, I seized my bed and bolted for an
enclosure hard by. Here my onset was suddenly barred by the bayonet
of a sentry, who brought his rifle down to the "charge"; but a little
explanation secured a passage for myself and my half-soaked bed, and
I found an empty tent, to which my three companions came running like

We enjoyed a few hours' sleep before dawn, and then reported
ourselves to Colonel Wingate and General Rundle, the commandant. We
learnt from the former that the 21st Lancers and some gunners had
crossed the river that day with the intention of making their way
by land to the proposed camp just north of Shabluka. As these were
the last troops who would ascend the left bank of the river, it was
imperative that the two camels which we had purchased for our stores
should proceed at once by the same route; and as this route promised
to be an interesting one, Cross and I determined to accompany our
beasts of burden on foot in the absence of our horses. Accordingly
we secured an order for the transport across the river of ourselves,
our servants, camels, and stores in the old paddle-boat _El Tahra_.
This ancient tub had a rather peculiar history. She had fifteen years
ago formed one of the Government flotilla on the upper Nile. When the
evacuation of the Sudan took place an Egyptian battery fired half a
dozen shells into her and sank her at Rafia to prevent the Dervishes
from making use of her. The _El Tahra_, however, was destined for
something better than this inglorious fate, and she was raised,
patched up, and throughout the recent campaign performed much useful
service. Amongst her more notable achievements was the embarkation of
the officers and crew of the ill-fated _Zaphir_ after they were left
stranded on the bank without an ounce of baggage. The scars inflicted
by her former masters were quite visible, as the big holes torn by
the shells had been neatly covered with iron plating.

Orientals are wonderfully good at renovating old vessels. A few years
ago I crossed from Galata to Scutari in a vessel which twenty years
ago had been condemned as unseaworthy by our Board of Trade. She
was then bought for a mere song by a Turkish company, which began to
patch her up. In the middle of this process the venerable craft broke
her back and fell in two; but the Orientals were not discouraged.
They set to work again and put the fragments together, and the result
of their zeal and patience has now been steaming to and fro between
Europe and Asia amongst the choppy waters of the Sea of Marmora for
several years.

The prospect of speedily leaving the Atbara camp behind us was a
pleasant one. The place was absolutely detestable; no one had a good
word for it. The air was full of flying clouds of dust raised by an
interminable succession of blasts from the river. Often before one
could get a cup of coffee to one's lips it was coated with a layer of
dust. In order to keep the eyes from being inflamed one was driven to
wear huge goggles or a gossamer veil over the face.

In addition to the moral training which is alleged to result from
all forms of worry and vexation, our discomforts during the campaign
frequently possessed an exegetical value. One realised more forcibly
than hitherto the meaning of some of the "Plagues of Egypt." Nile
boils are only too well known amongst the hapless officials who dwell
along the banks of the river. Again, as the ancient narrative speaks
of the dust as the vehicle of malignant forms of insect life, so now
bacilli are spread broadcast by this means. When we woke up in the
morning and shook an inch of dust from our blankets, we were lucky
not to find in addition that our mouths and throats were ulcerated;
and men suffering from enteric fever and other internal inflammations
found their recovery retarded, and often, I am afraid, prevented,
by the penetrating dust which they were compelled to swallow and
breathe, however fast tents were tied up or windows fastened.

Another abomination was the plague of flies. At meals one made a
sweep to get rid of these beasties and then a rush to convey the
food to one's lips; but even in this brief space a couple of flies
often found time to get their beaks into the morsel and so perished
miserably. Tobacco was useless against these Sudanese flies; they
seemed to enjoy the fumes. The only way to circumvent them was to
sacrifice a little jam on a bit of bread and put it aside to attract
the vermin. In a twinkling bread and jam had become invisible.
Nothing was to be seen but a thick bunch of greedy flies jostling
each other like people at an "early door."

On 16th August, owing to a series of those vexatious delays which
are inseparable from Eastern travel, we did not get our two camels
to the water's edge until nearly six o'clock, and even then the
perverse beasts absolutely refused to get into the barge which was to
convey them to the other side. At length we tied their legs together,
and then dragged and shoved them over the plank by main force. How
utterly one loathes a camel sometimes! Its disposition is morose and
malignant even from its birth; it is full of original sin, and any
affection lavished upon it is quite wasted. In a word, the camel is a
hopelessly depraved beast--

      Monstrum nulla virtute redemptum.

The other day I came across a magazine article by a writer who
claimed to know all about camels, and he spoke sympathetically of
the "soft, purring sound" which issued from the animal's lips. What
an amazing euphemism for the horrid guttural snorts with which the
peevish brute protests against any attempt to control its movements
or put a load upon its back. There is no chivalry in the camel's
breast. It will bite a pound of flesh out of you as you lie asleep,
or if you are riding will suddenly turn round as you are admiring the
scenery and nibble your legs.

At length the obstinate creatures were ferried over the river, but
before they were loaded and ready to start it was already dark. On
the bank I met Howard for the first time since his Balliol days, and
he most kindly offered to lend me his second horse if I cared to ride
after the Lancers; but as Cross had no horse I decided to stay with

As Cross, Howard, and myself stood there in the brief twilight, how
little we dreamt that I alone of the trio should live to return from
the campaign! No thought of coming disaster overshadowed us as we
laughed and chatted together. It is not always so. I have personally
known three cases in which brave men, accustomed to the perils of
battle, suddenly experienced a vivid presentiment that they would be
struck down in the approaching fight, and in each case a bullet found
its mark in their bodies.

Howard rode off, and then Cross and I set out to overtake the column
already encamped thirteen miles away. The general lie of the ground I
knew. If we followed the telegraph lines we should reach the village
of Abu Selim, and thence a sharp turn to the left would bring us to
the Lancers' camp beside the Nile. Starting as we did at seven, we
hoped to reach our goal by midnight, and then a few hours' sleep
would have intervened before a fresh move forward at four next
morning. But the scheme fell through. None of the servants knew the
way in the dark; there was no moon, and the starlight was not strong
enough to show the telegraph posts. We struggled on in the uneven
scrub, pushing through mimosa thorns and falling over logs of palm
wood, while our servants struck matches to look for the hoof-marks of
the cavalry. After two hours of this wearisome work we had advanced
less than three miles, and we saw that the enterprise was hopeless.
We sat down on a stump and reviewed the situation. Neither of us
had been overfed that day. Cross had had some cocoa at dawn, a cup
of bovril at midday, and tea and bread at four o'clock. My own diet
had been the same as his, minus the afternoon meal. I have a great
belief, personally, in the hygienic value of temporary starvation,
but as we sat there in the dark, Cross paid scant attention to my
eulogies upon the utility of emptiness, and very wisely voted for
our immediate return to the starting-place. I did not like to give
up our scheme, but there was not much in the way of alternative,
so after a noisy palaver with our servants, reinforced by three
suspicious-looking Arabs, who emerged from the bush, we finally sent
one camel and two servants along the bank, and after another two
hours' floundering through the scrub, found ourselves again opposite
the junction of the Atbara and Nile. We felt that the stores would
probably pick up the column sooner or later, but as for ourselves,
it would be foolish to be wandering about the west bank, nearer the
Dervish country, without military escort. Woe betide any stragglers
who chanced to fall into the hands of the Dervishes at present! The
best thing to do would be to empty five chambers of one's revolver
and keep the sixth for one's self!

One of the suspicious-looking Arabs walked back with us and showed us
a dear little hut made of wattled branches, which would shelter us
for the night. Our guide turned out to be a native who had suffered
at the hands of the cruel Mahmoud just before that scoundrel was
defeated and captured at the battle of the Atbara in the spring. He
bared his arm and showed us a hideous wound, now healed over, where a
Dervish spear had cut through his flesh from shoulder to elbow. The
poor man had lost his wife and child--slain, both of them, by the
savage Baggaras. This incident, one among thousands of the same kind,
may give one some idea of the cruel sufferings to which whole tribes
were abandoned by our cowardly evacuation of the Sudan. We had put
our hand to the plough, and then drew back.

We had a good square meal, washed down by a bottle of claret, the
solitary survivor of four. Its three companions had fallen from the
camel's back, and lay shattered on the ground, with their life-juice
ebbing fast. That night I dreamt that I was shooting rabbits amongst
bracken in Essex, and suddenly awoke, to find myself covered with a
quantity of vegetable matter. Everyone has experienced the curious
feeling of hopeless bewilderment which occasionally comes over a man
when he wakes in the dark amid fresh surroundings, and wonders where
on earth and what on earth he is; whether he is in this world or the
next. I found ultimately that the camel had literally eaten us out of
house and home, for it had ambled up in the night and devoured the
wattled branches of our hut to such an extent that the sides and roof
suddenly collapsed upon our sleeping forms.



Early on the morning of the 17th our old friend the _El Tahra_ came
in sight, and we hailed her and crossed again to the Atbara. Next
day, with the rest of the correspondents still remaining in the camp,
we embarked on board a native _ghyassa_ which was towed up the river
by the gunboat _Tamai_. We were thoroughly crowded and uncomfortable
on this miserable barge, and even when we stepped on to the lower
deck of the gunboat the dirt and confusion was indescribable. The
first night I attempted in the dark to get a little exercise in this
way, but I fell over a live goat into the middle of a dead sheep
newly slaughtered, and resolved to do without any further exercise
until I landed.

The Arab servants were quite happy amid these horrid surroundings,
and according to their wont would sit about in groups telling
stories till the small hours of the morning. One of their tales,
I learnt, concerned a mummy which arose and talked to the Bedawin
who unearthed it. In view of certain evidence which has lately been
forthcoming, it is just possible that some substratum of truth may
have underlaid this weird story. The evidence to which I allude is
contained in the following account, which is alleged to be authentic.

A short time ago an Englishman who was travelling in Mexico happened
to discover a mummied body of which the extremities were missing. He
carried off his find to the home of a Mexican friend whose guest he
was, and after dinner showed the mummy to the master and mistress
of the house. The case with its contents was placed on the billiard
table, and the trio sat on a couch some distance off, when suddenly
a voice seemed to issue from the box. The Englishman turned to his
host to compliment him on his supposed ventriloquism, when he saw
that both the Mexican and his wife were deadly pale, and the lady in
a fainting condition. He rushed to the case on the table and declares
that as he stooped over it he heard articulate speech issue from
the mummied form inside! The voice, however, was only momentary, and
after a time his host informed him that already before he entered the
room the sound had been heard by his wife and himself proceeding from
the box.

This mummy is now, I hear, in England, and one authority who has
been consulted suggests that the employment of the Röntgen rays
might perhaps reveal in the mummy's interior some mechanical device
employed by the ancients to produce the semblance of the human voice.
That some contrivance of this kind was known in antiquity seems
almost certain. Priestcraft sometimes caused the statues of gods to
talk, as, for example, the famous statue of Memnon amongst the ruins
of Thebes. In the case before us some vibration may have started
this venerable clockwork into renewed activity, just as nowadays the
pressure of infantile fingers causes the mechanical doll to squeak
and gibber, or cry "Papa," "Mamma."

At length Colonel Wingate took pity on our abject position in the
_ghyassa_, and we were permitted to leave the society of "Gyppy"
officers and native servants, and have our meals on the upper deck.

The gunboat conveyed the Staff of the Intelligence Department,
including Slatin Pasha. The long years of hardship endured at
Omdurman have left few traces on Slatin; he is always in excellent
spirits, and a most kind and unselfish travelling companion. He
told me that he was utterly weary of the Sudan, and would, like
many others, be heartily glad to see the last of campaigning in
these torrid regions. He told me, too, many interesting things about
Omdurman and the prisoners still in the Dervishes' power; and how the
Austrian mission-sister had been compelled to marry a Greek by the
Khalifa on the quaint ground that it was indecorous for an unmarried
lady to reside at Omdurman without adequate protection.

The Nile becomes much more interesting above the Atbara, and the
banks in places are clothed with dense vegetation. We stopped
several times to take in wood for the engine, and at one of our
halting-places, Zeibad, during a ramble on shore, I found the
bushes full of little doves (_turtur Senegalensis_), and a flock
of wild geese got up, offering a fine shot had one carried a gun.
A few hundred yards away I noticed a line of huge Marabout storks.
The plumage of these birds is very striking, and I have heard it
suggested that when on one occasion during the Atbara campaign a
correspondent rode back to camp in hot haste with the report that he
had been chased by Dervishes, he had really fallen in with a line
of Marabout storks, and mistaken their mottled plumage for Arab
"gibbehs." Farther along the bank we skirted a huge marsh--a perfect
paradise for a sportsman: teal, duck, and snipe rose in vast coveys;
on a tall bush a large fishing eagle was perched, which paid scant
attention to the steamer; while at the foot two small crocodiles or
very large water-lizards lay basking in the sunshine. On every side
a multitude of cranes, secretary birds, and the sacred ibis stalked
solemnly about in dignified silence. The whole formed a charming
picture of animal life undisturbed by the presence of man--every
creature working out its own perfection in "delight and liberty."

The voyage was full of interest. By day we wrote up our diaries, took
photographs of interesting bits of river scenery, or occasionally
got a shot at a wild duck or goose, which formed a welcome addition
to our larder. About half-way to Shabluka we sighted the curious
pyramids of Meroe, thirteen or fourteen in number. These seem to
be often irregular in shape, and are not nearly so large as the
pyramids of Ghizeh or Sakhara. They stand all solitary in a waste
of sand and rock, strange enigmatic relics of a vanished race. The
region of Meroe once formed a kingdom in itself, which succeeded the
Ethiopian kingdom of Napata, lower down the river. The dynasties of
the Meroitic kings attained considerable power, and were able to
retain their independence when the rest of Egypt became subject to
foreign control. Meroe was formerly a flourishing centre for caravan
and river-borne trade, but this seems to have disappeared by the
Christian era, for in Nero's time it is described as a desolate
wilderness, and this fact seems to render untenable the belief that
the Queen Candace mentioned in the Acts was the sovereign of Meroe.
From the time of Justinian to the 14th century Meroe was absorbed in
the kingdom of Dongola, whose inhabitants professed the Jacobite form
of Christianity. Quite recently I heard that an altar had been found
somewhere in the Meroe region with an inscription to Isa (Jesus), who
still lives in the tradition of the country as a great Sheikh. Now
that the Sudan has been opened up, and travellers need not fear a
compulsory experience of the Khalifa's hospitality at Omdurman, one
of the first steps which English archæologists ought to undertake is
the investigation of the countless ruins, tombs, inscriptions, and so
forth, which exist south of Wady Halfa. No one, for instance, has yet
deciphered the script which is met with amongst the ruins in the Wady
Ben Naga. Lepsius explored these ruins in 1844, and published some of
the curious inscriptions in his _Denkmäler_; but until a bilingual
inscription is discovered which will, like the Rosetta Stone, furnish
a clue to this mysterious writing, Egyptologists will continue to
sigh over its inscrutable characters. Professor Sayce had asked me
to bring back some "squeezes" and photographs from the Meroitic
inscriptions; but, alas, on the return journey the squeeze paper and
photographic apparatus were lost by the capsizing of some _ghyassas_,
and so I could do nothing in the cause of palæography.

A short distance past the pyramids we caught up a curious procession
wending its way along the bank. A famous Gaalin sheikh, Hamara Wad
Abu Sin, was journeying southwards to join the Anglo-Egyptian forces.
This important ally led the way on foot, followed by a retainer armed
with a Remington. Then came a baggage camel carrying the personal
luggage of the chieftain, and the rear was brought up by two men and
two boys. When the gunboat got opposite the old sheikh, he at once
jumped into the river and swam to us, followed by one of the small
boys, who kept his master's bundle of clothes out of the water. Wad
Abu Sin is head of the Shukryeh tribe, and is noted throughout the
Sudan for his personal bravery. His father was _mudir_ of Khartum
under Gordon, and he himself was a prisoner in that town until he
managed to escape through Abyssinia. It was touching to see the old
man's joy at meeting Slatin, his fellow-sufferer under the cruel
tyranny of the Khalifa.

At Magyrich, on the western bank, we found the Lancers encamped in a
beautiful palm grove, and Cross and I were especially glad to see our
camel with the two servants, who had evidently managed to pick up the
column. Some distance lower down than Magyrich we had already passed
two little groups of Lancers. One batch of twelve stood on the bank,
and asked us to take them on board, as their horses had broken down;
the other party consisted of only two men, whose comrade had just
died of sunstroke, and been buried by the survivors under a mimosa

At 5 a.m. a man swam to the boat from the shore, who turned out to
be a deserter from Omdurman. He stated that when he left two of the
Dervish boats were on the point of starting to the South, in order,
perhaps, to fetch grain, and that the Khalifa was at present with his
army, at the outermost of the Omdurman lines of defence, about three
miles to the north of the town. This seemed to confirm the general
belief, which was afterwards verified, that the decisive battle would
not be fought in front of the Kerreri ridge, some ten miles north of
the capital, but in front of Omdurman itself.

The sight of Metemmeh was full of interest. On the opposite bank lay
the ingeniously constructed forts of Shendy, with solid mud walls,
thirty-five feet thick. Miles back beyond Metemmeh, in the desert,
lay Abu Klea, and between the two the hamlets of Abu Kru and Gubat.
The fighting which we were destined to experience before Omdurman was
as nothing compared with the desperate struggles in 1885, when the
gallant column of British troops fought its way through overwhelming
numbers from Abu Klea to the Nile. Englishmen may well be proud of
this splendid feat of arms, unexampled as it is in the history of the
Sudan campaigns. Major Stuart-Wortley, who was present at the series
of fights from Abu Klea to the Nile, pointed out to me the mud-hut
to which Sir Herbert Stewart had been carried. How pitiful to think
that the lives of this gallant leader and many another brave man were
sacrificed in vain! Instead of helping to save the beleaguered city
and rescue Gordon, the dearly-won victory of Abu Klea only seemed
to hasten the destruction of Khartum. The Mahdist forces were so
incensed by the sight of their wounded comrades brought back after
the battle, that they demanded to be led at once to the assault, and
captured the town almost without resistance.

We heard, by the way, at Nasri that all the graves of the gallant
men who fell in the fighting from Abu Klea to Metemmeh had been
desecrated by the Dervishes, and that the white bones lay scattered
over the desert. One exception, however, had been made. The
resting-place of Sir Herbert Stewart had not been molested.

The above news was, I believe, embodied in several telegrams, but was
struck out by the Press Censor, as it was thought likely to cause
pain to many in England whose relatives had fallen in the Abu Klea
campaign. Afterwards, too, some doubts were thrown upon the truth
of the report; but even if the story was well founded, it matters
little. Of our valiant dead we may surely say, in the immortal words
of the Athenian statesman, "They received each one for himself the
noblest of all sepulchres. I speak not of that in which their
remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives.... For
the whole earth is a sepulchre of famous men: not only are they
commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an
unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone, but in the hearts of

The evening before we reached Nasri Island we were suddenly overtaken
by a terrific sandstorm. Two vast columns of sand rose straight up
from the desert and swept rapidly towards us. The sky was black with
clouds, birds ceased to sing, and the grasshoppers chirruped no
more, as all living creatures, from ourselves downward, prepared for
the coming terror. The _Tamai_ at once tied up to the bank, and we
waited for the hurricane. Suddenly it came rushing upon us. Everyone
clutched books, camp-chairs, cameras, plates, bottles--whatever lay
within reach--and sat tight, while the gunboat heeled over beneath
the shock. The storm was shortlived; streams of sunshine broke
afresh through the clouds, and birds and insects came forth from
their hiding-places, and rejoiced that the tyranny was overpast. We
speedily collected our scattered properties and went on our way. Yet
all night long the lightning flashed incessantly, showing up every
bush and rock on the river bank as clearly as at noonday.

Nasri Island had been converted into a vast depôt for stores. All
the people who were obliged to remain at this station throughout the
campaign seemed very depressed. There was nothing whatever to do out
of work hours except to prowl along the river bank, on the chance
of slaying a goose or catching a fish. One of the officers came on
board, and, in answer to our query as to his welfare, said he felt
"a bit cheap," as in addition to being soaked to the skin as he lay
in bed, he had been stung by two scorpions during the night. As the
_Tamai's_ condensers had gone wrong, and the engineer seemed to have
lost his head altogether, we tied up to the bank until 2 a.m., and
four more hours brought us to Wad Hamed, where the Sirdar's forces
were to be finally concentrated before the march upon Omdurman.

We thoroughly enjoyed the week's sojourn at Wad Hamed, as the camp
seemed healthy, and along the Nile there were many charming bits of
scenery. In fact, in some places where the enormous breadth of the
river was broken up into narrower channels, one might almost imagine
oneself on the Thames. The banks were clothed with the bright green
foliage of the nebek and mimosa bushes, which afforded shelter to
innumerable birds. The thorns of the nebek are worse even than those
of the mimosa; they curl inwards, and are very strong. Nevertheless,
the camel rejoices exceedingly when it can seize a mouthful of this
prickly tree, and the yellow berries are not to be despised by human
beings when they are really hungry. There is, however, one feature
which is sadly lacking even in the nicest bits of Nile scenery; there
are no flowers.

After we had pitched our tents amongst some mimosa scrub, during
which process our barefooted servants leapt about like cats on
hot bricks, we were informed that the Sirdar would receive the
correspondents in his tent. Bennett-Burleigh had arrived in the
meantime, having stolen away from the Lancers' camp and the other
correspondents, and ridden forty miles that day--a fine performance,
if not strictly in accord with military discipline. We thereupon
collected our little cohort of fifteen, and went off to meet the
General. I did not enjoy the interview, which was as barren of
results as it was humiliating. The only parallel to it which I can
think of is that of a row of curates before a brusque and autocratic
bishop. During the brief commonplaces which passed between us, the
general impression conveyed to me was the immeasurable condescension
of our chief in even deigning to address the representatives of
a Press which has never failed to extol even to the verge of
exaggeration the achievements of the Anglo-Egyptian Army and its
leader! How deep the gulf which appeared to separate the Egyptian
commander-in-chief from the civilian correspondent! In short, I
should advise anybody who cannot put his pride in his pocket to avoid
the rôle of amateur war correspondent in Egypt. The professionals
are, I suppose, to some extent inoculated by this time, and cling to
the delusion that correspondents during a campaign are treated like

At the same time, I am bound to confess that if I were a
commanding officer I should not be favourably impressed with the
_genus_ "correspondent" as a whole. There is sometimes a blatant
self-conceit and vulgar swagger about a war correspondent which is
very irritating, while in other cases intolerance of discipline
and incessant attempts to override military regulations for mere
private ends have gone far to justify Lord Wolseley's _dictum_ that
correspondents are "the curse of modern warfare." Of course there
are delightful exceptions to this sort of thing to be met with in
a war correspondent's camp. Some of the men who engage in this
most delightful occupation are good fellows in every sense of the
phrase,--brave, generous, and clever,--and it is a privilege to enjoy
the companionship of men like Steevens, Scudamore, Villiers, and
others whom I could name.

Altogether, the little _kosmos_ of our camp was full of interest,
as the types of war correspondent one meets with vary considerably.
There is the rough man who glories in his roughness, scorns luxury,
and doesn't wash. An excellent fellow in his way, he yet renders
himself more unhappy than he need be by his unstinted devotion to
discomfort. To imitate an ancient Eremite by never changing one's
shirt when you can purchase one for 2s. 11¾d., and to sleep on the
ground when you have got plenty of money to buy a valise bed, may
have certain charms when the weather is fair and you haven't got
fever; but when rain is falling upon you, as it knows how to fall in
the tropics, or you would give half your income for a little shade
from the midday sun, which has got you by the back of the neck and
made you limp and listless--it is then that the swashbuckler and old
campaigner theory breaks down.

In signal contrast with the above type, one finds the war
correspondent who makes himself as comfortable as possible. His
editor does not grudge the supply, nor he the expenditure, of large
sums of money. He puts on a clean shirt every day, and has his boots
polished in the heart of the desert. He wears beautiful cummerbunds,
and is all glorious within; his underclothing is of wrought silk.
When less fortunate mortals drink muddy water this Sybarite calls for
a whisky and Rosbach, and finishes off a dinner of five courses with
a glass of excellent liqueur. But, after all, why shouldn't a man
make his camp life as pleasant as possible as long as his comforts
don't interfere with other people's? Indeed, so far from this being
the case, the "comfortable" correspondent--as far as my experience
goes--is often a really kind and generous fellow, who never grudges a
friend a share in his good things; and as to his picturesque costume
and careful toilette, a man preserves his self-respect all the better
when he is clean and nicely dressed. The hospitality, too, which,
when camels and servants abound, can be generously dispensed to
agreeable and communicative officers, is a most valuable factor in
the success of a war correspondent's career; its quality is like that
of mercy--it blesses him that gives as well as him that takes.

Another type meets us in the veterans, the self-constituted _doyens_
of the pressmen, who claim to regulate the camp and lay down the law
generally. Some old persons of this sort, on the strength of their
own antiquity and their experience of half a dozen campaigns, are
loud in their denunciation of all "interlopers," as they are pleased
to call all gentlemen who pay their own expenses and do literary work
in connection with the campaign.

Again, all campaigners must know the type of correspondent,
who, ignorant of any language except his own, and speaking that
imperfectly, ill-treats his servants when they fail to understand his
orders. Such persons as this are either too stupid or too lazy to
master even a few common words of the vernacular, yet they imagine
that for £2, 10s. a month they can secure an accomplished linguist
as a servant! "Untwist that knot; not that knot, that other knot!
Great Scot! You," etc. etc. The poor Arab boy stands perplexed and
fearful--he cannot understand this bewildering utterance, and becomes
helpless or makes a bad shot and begins to open a tin of marmalade
or lay the table. Then "thud, thud," as a heavy stick falls on the
servant's bare flesh, or the wretched boy emerges from the tent, his
face streaming with blood from a cowardly blow by his master's fist.
I have known an Arab servant to be followed for yards and beaten most
cruelly with a heavy stick, because, owing to a breakdown of the
telegraph, he was unable to forward a message sent by his master.
The boy was absolutely blameless in the matter, but his master would
not listen to a word of explanation, and the sound of the brutal
strokes he showered upon the servant were audible far away. The
foul abuse bellowed at servants frequently made our camp a disgrace
to the zeriba. Everybody in the East swears at his servants, but
still--whether the proposition be ethically sound or not--there is a
gentlemanly way of swearing--brief and incisive, and not intended to
reach the ears of others than the delinquent.

Moreover, if one treats one's Arab servants with kindness and
firmness withal, they generally do their best, and often become quite
devoted to their master. When after the battle Mr. Villiers was lost
for some time, and fears were entertained about him, his servant was
full of genuine distress and anxiety. If, on the other hand, no tie
exists between master and servant except fear of the _kurbash_ and
the loss of the paltry wages, what can one expect in the way of zeal
and devotion?

The yells and screams of fury which commenced at daybreak, and often
made night hideous in the correspondents' camp, were never heard
amongst the officers, who surely had infinitely more to put up
with in the way of discomfort than we had. In short, disgust was
often the prevailing sentiment with which one could contemplate our
own camp, and it was a delightful relief to get away for a quiet,
pleasant chat with one's officer friends.

There are other types also. The "new hand," some peaceful-looking
journalist who has never fired a shot in his life, even at a bunny,
stands before the door of his tent clad in all the trappings with
which Messrs. Silver adorn the noumenal war correspondent of their
imagination. Every strap in the brand new kit is in its place, and
the poor man is so festooned with cameras and field-glasses and
revolvers and haversacks that respiration must be difficult, as he
bumps along on his gee-gee in an enormous helmet. He cannot ride, to
walk he is ashamed. Yet, if the "new hand's" enthusiasm for a war
correspondent's career is not disillusioned by the stern realities
of a Sudan campaign, he will appear in our next "little war" as an
old hand, and will be all the happier for having left behind him the
outfit dear to the war correspondent of comic opera, and donned a
less intricate but more effective costume.

Once more, there is the non-journalistic amateur, who, in order to go
through the campaign, has secured a permit to act as a correspondent
for some newspaper. As I was myself a humble member of this class, I
will refrain from criticising its merits and defects, though later on
a brief tribute may well be paid to the memory of two of its members,
who, alas, did not return--Cross and Howard.

Now, concerning war correspondents enough has been said. Let no one
be offended by fair criticism and good-natured banter--

      Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, voluptas,
      Gaudia, discursus, nostri est farrago libelli.

At the same time it seems likely that the day of the highly paid war
correspondent, with _carte blanche_ to spend as much as he likes, is
almost over. Scores of capable men with a 'Varsity education would
be delighted to do war correspondent's work for a tithe of what is
paid to some of these gentlemen; and as agencies like Reuter supply
excellent telegrams, there is no crying need for additional "wires."
At least one of our leading newspapers was quite uncertain for a long
time as to whether it would send a special correspondent to the
Sudan or not, and an editor remarked to me that the copy sent was
often scarcely worth the outlay. "We don't want to read," said he,
"how our correspondent was bitten by mosquitoes, or left his pyjamas
behind him."

As my friend Professor Poulton of Oxford had kindly bestowed upon
me a small net and a "killing bottle," I resolved to collect some
butterflies and insects for the University Museum, and made frequent
excursions outside Wad Hamed camp for the purpose. But ill-luck
pursued my untrained efforts at practical entomology. The only thing
the bottle came within measurable distance of killing was myself,
for it got broken almost at the start, and my cook, thinking the
strong-smelling concoction at the bottom was some form of curry
powder or seasoning, had carefully annexed the _débris_ of the
bottle, and was proceeding to use it for culinary purposes, when I
seized the stuff and hurled it into the river.

The butterfly net also fell upon evil days, for the donkey which
carried it began to roll one evening before its load was removed,
and the apparatus was utterly smashed. The stick and brasswork I
reluctantly left on the field, but the green gauze served to protect
one's eyes and complexion when sandstorms swept through the air.

In consequence of these disasters my entomology had to be carried out
with ruder implements--to wit, a bath towel and a thick stick. If
a butterfly settled on the ground I stalked it carefully, and then
fell upon it with the towel; but I often rose from the earth with
no butterfly, and nothing in my hands except half a dozen mimosa
thorns. Incensed at failure, one struck at the gaudy insects as
they fluttered past, and sometimes succeeded in braining a few; but
as I gathered up the scattered remains I trembled to think of the
Professor's sarcasms upon the condition of my Sudanese specimens.
The natives used to gaze upon my pursuit of butterflies with looks
of amusement and surprise. What could the Englishman want with these
worthless insects? Were they his totems or fetiches? did he collect
them for gastronomic purposes, or as material for magical rites? I
sometimes offered some trifling _bakshish_ for butterflies, but the
Arabs could never be brought to realise that I wanted variety and
quality as well as quantity. On one occasion a struggling mass of
fifteen or twenty common white butterflies in a matchbox--all exactly
the same--was triumphantly brought me by a small boy. I liberated the
unhappy prisoners, and rewarded the boy with one penny and a severe

As to the other insects in my collection, many of these were so
appallingly ugly and malignant in appearance that one had to pull
oneself together to attempt their capture. A soda-water bottle had
been filled with whisky amid the protests of Cross, who thought this
a waste of good liquor, and when some grisly insect with a striped
body, projecting eyes, and aggressive antennæ appeared inside the
tent, something like this conversation used to take place:--

E. N. B.--"Do you mind catching that harmless lepidopt, Cross, while
I hold the bottle?"

H. C.--"I think, somehow, that you're better at catching those
beasts than I am; give me the bottle."

As I had decreed death as the penalty for any creeping thing which
invaded our tent, the noisome creature was, as a rule, gingerly
secured and forced into the spirit, where it speedily died of
_delirium tremens_. Nothing is more unpleasant in tropical countries
than to have a winged insect of great size and energy enter one's
tent in the dark. _Omne ignotum pro terribili_: suddenly the Unknown
makes its presence felt by rising up from the ground with a loud
buzz; it necessarily strikes against the tent pole or the canvas, and
immediately collapses with a thud on the bedclothes or one's face;
and then, after a brief interval for recovery, it recommences its
clumsy gambols and aërial flights.

Our stock of literature in the Wad Hamed camp was of amazing variety.
We established by usage a sort of Desert Circulating Library, and
novels, old magazines, and even newspapers of venerable antiquity
were eagerly sought for and exchanged. My own parcel of books on
board the _Tamai_ consisted of Whyte Melville's _Holmby House_,
_The Juggler and the Soul_, by Helen Mathers, and a penny edition
of _Quentin Durward_. I was surprised on one occasion to find a
Scotchman engaged in reading Horace's _Satires_ in a new translation
by Mr. Coutts. He knew nothing of the original Latin, but had
purchased the volume, and was wading through the archaic material
with apparent relish. Possibly the jokes of antiquity may have
succeeded in striking that chord in a Scottish temperament which is
so often unresponsive to contemporary humour! Whenever one got a
periodical of any sort, such as _The Wide World_, one did not toy
with it in a dilettante fashion. Every line of it was read from cover
to cover, and even the advertisements of life assurance offices were
perused with some degree of interest amid this comparative dearth of
intellectual pabulum.

One evening, in an interval of leisure before dinner, I strolled
along the Nile to see if I could add a little fresh fish to our
_ménu_. I had with me one of the excellent rods made for a few
shillings by Slater of Newark-on-Trent, which pack up into very
small compass, and can easily be carried in a hold-all or Gladstone
bag. The river was much too muddy for fly fishing, and one of my
officer friends remarked that the fish would have to jump a foot out
of the water before they saw the fly. Nevertheless I tried a few
casts with a Zulu and a nondescript chub-fly, and after a couple
of rises managed to land a curious fish of the carp (?) tribe with
long barbules, which is called by the Arabs "Abu Shenab" (Father of
Moustaches). There is another very common fish in the Nile of the
bream species. It is shaped like a pair of bellows, and has about the
same flavour when cooked.

It is always worth while to try a cast or two on unknown waters in
the course of one's travels. This spring I was fortunate enough to
get some excellent sport from a few hours' fly fishing in the Waters
of Merom and the Jordan. The latter river simply teems with fish of
seventeen different species, some of which, including the "Father
of Moustaches," are found elsewhere only in the Nile--a fact which
seems to indicate a connection between the two streams at some remote

Sir Francis Grenfell told me that a friend of his had landed some
huge fish at the junction of the Nile and Atbara, and during our
stay there a native caught a fish weighing nearly a hundred pounds,
which was served up, I believe, at the Guards' mess. When the Nile
gets lower, some splendid sport might be enjoyed with these monstrous
fish. In fact, when one fishes in a stream like the Atbara, there is
a delightful uncertainty about the nature of the prospective catch.
One never knows what is coming up. That keen sportsman, the late
Sir Samuel Baker, fished in this stream with a live bait 2 lbs. in
weight, and landed fish up to 180 lbs.! On one occasion he tells how
something seized the bait, and would not budge an inch. The dead
weight on the line was tremendous, and Sir Samuel says it felt "as if
the devil himself had got hold of the hook." At last, after placing
his feet against a rock and pulling, something moved upwards in the
water which looked for all the world like a cart wheel. Finally, up
came a huge water-tortoise, which gave one plunge, and broke away
with the hook and several yards of line.

By day the vast area occupied by the two British brigades, and
various battalions of Sudanese and Egyptians, was full of ceaseless
work, accompanied by a perfect babel of sounds, as fatigue parties
hurried in various directions, and long strings of native labourers
carried loads or hauled at ropes, with their monotonous sing-song
recitation of Koran fragments. The Gregorian chant, which secures the
exclusive devotion of some Churchmen, is doubtless an approximation
to the music of the primitive Church, but solely because that Church
happened to find its earliest home in the East, where no other type
of music has ever been known or appreciated. But there is no more
reason why an Englishman should feel bound to sing ugly Gregorians
than that he should chant the psalms in loose cotton garments without
his boots. In either case the "local colour" is quite un-Western.

In this, as in all other Sudan campaigns, some difficulty was
experienced by the officers in keeping the soldiers from becoming
almost amphibious creatures. If he had his own way, Tommy Atkins
would have spent the greater part of his time in floundering about
the muddy river. The spirit of sport, so deeply ingrained in the
Englishman, found few outlets during the campaign; but now and then,
in order to witness a good swimming race, Mr. Atkins would gladly
cast a large lump of his rations--bread or biscuit upon the waters.
Arab urchins swim admirably, with that quick hand-over-hand stroke
which primitive tribes always employ; and they judge their distances
so accurately that they rarely miss a crust, even where the stream is
running at the rate of many miles an hour.

But the troops were, as a matter of fact, always far too busy to get
much time for relaxation, in or out of the water. It is astonishing
that the authorities should have found it necessary to assign such
an enormous amount of work to the officers and men during the
concentration at Wad Hamed. On some days the British troops had no
less than twelve hours' fatigue work! Take, for example, the casual
record of one day's round of work, got through by a certain battalion
in the heat of a Sudan August. The troops were on parade from 4.30
to 8. They then returned to the camp, and, without being allowed any
breakfast, were set to cut grass. Ten minutes were then allotted for
the morning meal. The next item was wood-cutting, and the digging
of trenches for camp purposes. This fatigue continued till the
midday dinner, and from two o'clock to dark the men were practised
in loading camels. Next morning reveille sounded at four, and then,
although the battalion was on the point of leaving the camp, they
were actually ordered, before their departure, to cut a number of
tree-stumps out of the ground! I do not mention these facts with any
intent to dispute their utility or expediency. The British soldier
does, under normal conditions during peace, infinitely less work
than falls to the lot of his continental brethren. When the Russian
soldier has finished his parades he is set to build walls and make
roads, while Atkins is disporting himself in the cricket or football
field. So it is perhaps not undesirable that our men should learn the
meaning of really hard work occasionally. But it was pleasant to see
how cheerfully the Tommies bore it, at anyrate outwardly; for I never
heard a word of grumbling or "grousing," as they phrase it. Moreover,
from a hygienic point of view, their round of heavy fatigues most
certainly agreed with them. Wonderfully little sickness prevailed in
the ranks, in spite of the fierce heat and the indifferent water,
though the wear and tear removed every ounce of superfluous flesh,
and reduced our men to the condition of those "lean and wiry dogs"
which Plato regarded as a model in the selection of his Republican

The Sudanese, on the other hand, grumbled a good deal. Their
conception of military discipline and obedience are somewhat
rudimentary, and manual labour is distasteful to them. The discontent
which was caused in their ranks by what they deemed excessive fatigue
work culminated finally in a number of desertions. In Wad Hamed
alone there were, I believe, no less than twenty cases of desertion,
and three at least of the scoundrels were recaptured and shot. The
deserters were doubtless making off southwards to join the Khalifa,
for the life of a Baggara Dervish in prosperous times--a mere round
of eating, sleeping, and fighting--would form an ideal existence in
the eyes of an animal like the average Sudanese soldier.

On the other hand, a constant stream of fugitives began to reach the
camp from the south; in Wad Hamed there were some thirteen hundred
deserters from the Khalifa's dominions. Many of them came down the
river, a motley herd of women and children, with a sprinkling of men
all packed together in native barges. What these poor creatures lived
on I do not know, but I strolled amongst some hundreds of them one
evening, and they all seemed in excellent spirits and quite convinced
that this time, at anyrate, they had put their money on the right
horse. The presence of these uninvited guests caused considerable
embarrassment to the Army Service Corps, but the authorities did
the best they could for them, and in a big camp there are always
a good many pickings which the refugees and vultures might share
between them, though our feathered visitors had rather a pull over
the other bipeds, as they rose betimes, and, according to the ancient
adage, the early bird got the "bully" beef. This beef, by the way,
was always to be picked up. It was issued to the men, for greater
convenience of transport, in 3-lb. tins, which were trisected with a
hammer and chisel for three rations. But, as the men soon got tired
of the meat, and it speedily, after being opened, became uneatable
from the heat, vast quantities of it were thrown away; and I noticed
that the line of railway was often marked for hundreds of yards with
tins of "bully" beef more or less full, which were speedily pounced
upon by Arabs; if any village chanced to be close at hand.

Occasionally the soldiers got rations of fresh meat, and, what was
almost more welcome, fresh bread, with now and then the additional
luxury--oh, blissful moment!--of a little marmalade. Once a week,
too, a tot of rum was served out, and happy was the orderly whose
task it was to convey the rum rations to his superiors; for the
officers rarely drank the fiery spirit, and when it was given back
it was not wasted. This small weekly allowance was the only strong
drink which Tommy Atkins imbibed throughout the campaign. The deadly
effects of alcoholic excess in a climate like that of the Sudan
are, of course, well known, and in a previous campaign the danger
of allowing the men the use of intoxicants had been so unpleasantly
demonstrated in the case of a certain British battalion, that the
Sirdar very wisely established a system of "total prohibition"
amongst the rank and file. Some rascally Greeks brought casks of
whisky and beer to the Atbara, but the authorities soon discovered
their little game. Most of the alcohol was sent back to Cairo, and
of the remainder, some was put under the military seal and the rest
simply emptied into the sand!

At Wad Hamed officers and correspondents alike enjoyed a life of
comparative comfort and refinement, which was necessarily impossible
in our subsequent camps during the final week of the campaign. On
ordinary days we woke about five o'clock, when Ali brought us a mug
of cocoa and a biscuit. The biscuit supplied to the Egyptian troops
was of a dark brown colour, and hard as a brick. On leaving Wad
Hamed, Ali went by mistake to the wrong canteen, and brought us a bag
of "Gyppy" biscuit, on which Cross and I subsisted for several days,
and were thankful at the end that we had only lost one tooth each in
that period. The British biscuit was much nicer, comparatively white,
and quite free from "weevils"; for I used to shake my biscuits to
see if I could extract one of these insects, which I much wished to
see. No weevil ever emerged, and I am under the impression that this
insect, which figures so prominently in tales about pirates and "sea
dogs," must be a semi-fabulous creature, to be placed under the same
category as the basilisk and the Barometz lamb.

After dressing we generally strolled about the camp on the banks
of the river for an hour or so, and then we were quite ready for
breakfast, which ordinarily meant porridge, sardines, bread or
biscuit, marmalade, and tea. As at this time of the day one could
generally secure a little hot water or the remaining contents of the
teapot, I used to devote some time to shaving. This operation was
quite an ordeal in the Sudan. Lather manufactured from muddy Nile
water spread a layer of fine sand over one's face, which speedily
blunted the best steel, and towards the end of the campaign I might
as well have used a piece of hoop iron as try to make my razors work
with cold water. With warm water the torture was somewhat less acute.

Perhaps it is worth while mentioning in connection with our biscuit
supply that any traveller or explorer who cannot secure flour as he
proceeds, can easily make certain of having a continual supply of
decent bread by the following means. Let him order a quantity of
thick, flat cakes to be made of ordinary bread dough. When these are
thoroughly baked they must be gradually dried either by artificial
heat or by the sun, if its rays are strong enough, until every
particle of moisture is dried up. Bread thus desiccated will last
for months, and when it is wanted a lump is sprinkled with a little
water, and one finds nice spongy bread for breakfast instead of the
hard and monotonous biscuit. Mrs. Theodore Bent first taught me this
bread-lore, and when I explored Sokotra in company with herself and
her husband, we took several sacks of these flat cakes, and were in
consequence never without nice fresh bread.

In the interval between breakfast and midday we got through a good
deal of work in the way of letter-writing or telegraphing. If one
had nothing to do oneself there was always a certain psychological
interest attaching to the study of one's fellow-correspondents and
their mysterious movements. One of them, after a successful prowl
for news, would appear walking towards his tent with an air of
_nonchalance_ intended to conceal his eagerness to find telegraph
forms. He would dive within the canvas, and then dispatch a servant
with a telegram, which five hours afterwards would be received in
London, and next morning would be read by thousands of eager eyes;
for surely no Sudan campaign has ever possessed a quarter of the
interest which, for some reason or other, the present one has aroused
in the British public. Of course all telegrams had to be brought
to Colonel Wingate and receive his official _visé_ and approval
before being put upon the wires. The utmost precautions were taken
throughout the campaign against any bad faith on the part of the
operatives. All the clerks employed in this service were bound over
in sureties of £240 not to divulge the contents of any telegram. This
was found necessary, inasmuch as during the last campaign several
important telegrams--so I was informed--between the Sirdar and Sir
Francis Grenfell were revealed to others than the lawful recipients.

After a light lunch about 12.30, everybody, soldier and civilian
alike, lolled about in shirt-sleeves or went to sleep well under
cover of his canvas. Outside the sun blazed down in fury on the
desert, till the rocks became too hot to be touched, and the
rarefied air quivered over the yellow sand. To walk twenty yards in
the open without a helmet might mean death, and even inside one's
tent the heat which penetrated a double roof of thick green canvas
was so intense that a wet towel was very welcome as a protection
for the head. Whenever the surrounding temperature exceeds that of
the surface of one's body there is always a risk of sunstroke, and
it is amazing that during the heat which has prevailed in England
during August and September few people took the trouble to protect
their heads by any additional covering beyond a straw hat. In fact,
Surgeon-Major Parkes states that he had come across many more cases
of sunstroke in England than in Africa, where he had spent many years
amid the vicissitudes of travel and exploration. Furthermore, a
"spinal pad" is almost of as much importance as a good helmet against
sunstroke, yet in the Sudan the use of the spinal pad supplied by
the Government was rather the exception than the rule, and men
walked about in the tropical sun with a helmet on their heads while
their back was protected only by a flannel shirt. Sunstroke acts in
different ways. I have seen the quartermaster of a P. and O. in the
Red Sea suddenly drop as if he had been shot; but, in most cases,
the initial stages--loss of appetite, nausea, and headache--give one
full warning, and if the patient can at once get under some shade
and secure medical assistance, the "touch of the sun," which has
upset him for the time being, passes away without leaving any effects
behind it except a general lassitude for some time.

About four o'clock the hottest part was over, but the danger of
sunstroke was, if anything, greater, because the oblique rays of
the sun fell upon one's neck, unless, indeed, as was the case with
the rank and file, a "curtain" was attached to the helmet. Nearly
everybody drank tea about this time. There is a kind of notion
abroad that this beverage serves to cool one, but the general effect
produced in the Sudan seemed quite the reverse. Any perspiration
left in one's sebaceous follicles after the genial warmth of the
Sudan had kept us in a sort of natural Turkish bath for six hours,
was elicited by the warm tea, and one realised how easy under such
conditions it would be to lose every particle of one's existing body
in even less than the seven years indicated by medical statistics,
and thus, on good Bishop Butler's showing, secure, together with
revaccination, a frequently recurring proof of one's immortality.

After tea we were amply compensated for the discomforts of the day
by the delights of a tropical evening. The air was deliciously cool,
and the soft tints of sunset coloured all the landscape. Everyone
recovered his temper, and such pleasures and duties of social life
as survived in the desert occupied our attention from this hour
till bedtime. Men dropped in to see each other all over the camp,
and there was a general atmosphere of "Have a drink, old chap." The
amount of fluid one can consume in these tropical regions is amazing.
Nobody, of course, who has any common sense thinks of drinking much
alcohol in the heat of the day. Lime juice and soda is often taken
at lunch, while some claret or sauterne, or a whisky and Rosbach,
are common beverages in the evening. It is often very difficult
indeed--especially when one is on the march--to keep such luxuries
cool, but the ingenious "sparklets," which were brought out to the
Sudan in thousands, will always, if fairly good water can be got,
provide one with a decent drink, as the sudden liberation of the
compressed gas cools the water as well as aërates it.

It is worth while being really thirsty and hungry to understand the
pleasures of drink and food. Our English meals follow each other
with such regularity and diversity that one seldom realises what it
means to crave for food and drink as a primary instinct. But oh! the
joy of a deep draught of cool water after long hours of abstention
in the desert, or, what is almost as bad, a long course of brackish
water--saline water, which quenches one's thirst for the moment only
to increase it by the after-taste. Once when I was travelling with
Mr. Bent, I remember how I was walking in a stony ravine after six
days of nothing but brackish water; suddenly, to my delighted vision,
a little brook of limpid water appeared running down to the sea. One
threw oneself flat upon the bank and drank, and drank, and drank!
Hunger is much more easily endured than thirst, and Æschylus did well
to class amongst the most joyful of human experiences the sight of
running water to a thirsty traveller--

      ὁδοιπόρῳ διψῶντι πηγαῖον ῥέος.

At the same time, indiscriminate drinking is a tiresome habit,
which can be shaken off with a little practice and determination.
The inexperienced traveller in the East always carries a huge
water-bottle, from which he is continually drinking copious draughts;
but after a few months he learns to drink at meal times, and not to
encumber himself with his water-bottle on every occasion when he is
away from the tent. Education and self-control go largely hand in
hand. Officers stand hunger and thirst much better than the rank
and file, who, in the Sudan, exercised very little self-control in
the matter of drink. Whenever they could get it, the soldiers were
perpetually dipping their tin mugs in the large "zias" or "fantasias"
provided for their use.

Just before the evening shadows cooled the air too much and made
a chill possible, we spread our india-rubber baths on the ground
and enjoyed the refreshment of a good "tub." The Nile water was so
saturated with mud that when one stood in one's bath upon a thick
precipitate of sand the sensation recalled the seaside paddling of
one's childhood.

The tropical twilight was all too brief, and darkness fell suddenly
like a pall upon the landscape. Then out came candlesticks and
lanterns, and the one substantial meal of the day made its
appearance. The quality of our _cuisine_ varied considerably. At a
stationary camp like Wad Hamed we sometimes purchased fresh meat
from an enterprising Greek called Loisa, but this was always very
lean and tough, and these fleshpots of Egypt had few charms for us.
The Arabs devour any sort of meat, whatever be the condition of the
beast which supplies it. Two days after the battle of Omdurman, Ali
appeared before the tent with a wretched kid in the last stage of a
rapid decline. He knew I disapproved of loot, and declared that he
had purchased the animal, and intended to fry the liver for me for
to-morrow's breakfast. As the poor kid was far too ill and weak even
to stand on its legs, I declined the suggested dainty. There were
quite enough bacilli prowling around in Omdurman without incurring
the risk of trichinosis. In less than an hour I saw our quaternion
of servants with several guests enjoying a ghoulish banquet off the
remains of the invalid animal.

Sometimes we had splendid dinners of tinned curry, preserved
pine-apple, and other delicacies; and except on the evening of the
battle, nobody, as far as I know, ever went without his dinner if he
was well enough to eat it. Occasionally, if there was a downpour of
rain or other cause which rendered cooking difficult, we sank to this
sort of level--

    Potage à la Khalifa.

(Ingredients--a morsel of emaciated goat with some onions; simmer as
long as possible. Sufficient for two. Seasonable, when one is very

    Bully Beef au naturel.


    Biscuit à discrétion.

    Whisky. Sparklets. Lime juice. Nile water.

On the 26th of August we were told to hold ourselves in readiness to
embark on the _Metemmeh_ next morning. The Gyppy troops and Sudanese
had already gone, and a general exodus of the British battalions
was taking place. On the evening before our departure I strolled
once more along the river. Scarcely a sound broke the silence;
the busy scene of the day's restless activity was still. The rows
and rows of tents and mountainous heaps of baggage had vanished
like magic; little remained to show that for more than a week some
twenty-two thousand men had lived and moved within this vast area.
Here and there various relics of the encampment lay scattered
about,--soda-water bottles, empty tins, old newspapers, the framework
of blanket tents, and so on,--but the only permanent structure which
marked, and perhaps still marks, the site of the abandoned camp was a
wattled hut which Howard's servant built for him, as his master had
arrived at Wad Hamed without a tent of any kind. An army of vultures
had spread over all the space within the zeriba, and seemed to be
having a good time amongst old sardine tins and fragments of offal
and similar dainties.

The glow of a tropical sunset was falling on the Nile; yet, beautiful
as it was, the scene lost something from the dead level of the
surrounding prospect. For an ideally beautiful effect of the kind one
needs mountains as well as water. Who, for example, that has ever
seen it, can forget the play of moonbeam and starlight on the lake--

      When the blue waves roll nightly on deep Galilee?

It was strange to think that within a week the campaign would be
ended, Gordon avenged, and the Crescent flag flying over the ramparts
of Omdurman--the final goal of all this vast congeries of men and
stores, guns and ammunition. As the postal connection with the
outside world was now to cease until the capture of Omdurman, many
letters had been sent off on the previous day, and for several of
the writers the message which sped home was a final one. Later on,
when the battle had been fought, a man whom I knew showed me a letter
which he was sending off to his widowed mother to tell her that he
had come safe through the fight and was on the point of returning
home. This note reached its destination a day after the receipt
of a telegram announcing his death from fever! Surely it would be
difficult to meet with a sadder and more pathetic instance of the
vicissitudes and uncertainty of human life!


[1] A brief list of the entomological specimens brought back from the
campaign is given on p. 253.


  from the Atbara to Khartum.
  Scale 1 : 1,500,000.

_R. V. Darbishire 1898._]



We said good-bye to Wad Hamed on 26th August. Cross and I had,
with several others, selected to go by river rather than by land,
as this would afford us an opportunity of seeing the cataract of
Shabluka, which had become a household word in the army because
of the possibility of Dervish resistance at this point. The rest
of the correspondents accompanied the two British brigades toward
Beled Hagir, our next camping site, just south of the cataract, and
opposite Rojan Island.

As we were leaving Wad Hamed about forty Gaalins arrived on the
bank, and were embarked on the _Metemmeh_. These friendlies were
wonderfully spick and span, with nice clean clothes. Some of them
were equipped with large Dervish swords, while others had only
sticks, which they carried with a jaunty air at the "shoulder," in
anticipation, no doubt, of the Remington rifles which would be issued
to them before the fight. They were accompanied to the bank by a fine
old sheikh in flowing snow-white robes, and their farewells to the
venerable chieftain were very impressive. In the Sudan people are not
content with a single handshake. When one group is saying good-bye to
another the interchange of courtesies and caresses is interminable.
One man falls on the other's neck, without actually touching his
face or shoulder,--rather after the manner of a stage kiss,--and
then handshaking goes on _ad libitum_ all round, the same two people
often clasping and unclasping their hands half a dozen times or more,
according to the degree of intimacy.

The Shabluka cataract, through which the flooded Nile rushes with
amazing violence, lies in a gorge which has evidently in remote
ages been torn through the limestone ridge by the river. A width of
a thousand yards is here suddenly compressed into a hundred yards,
and in the face of the terrific current which is thus produced, our
gunboat could barely forge ahead at the rate of one and a half
miles an hour. It is an open secret that the new gunboats built for
the Nile service by Thorneycrofts are regarded as failures by naval
experts. One of them, the _Sheikh_, can only make two miles an hour
against the ordinary Nile current in August.

Even in the moonlight one could realise the amount of damage which
might have been inflicted by an effective occupation of Shabluka,
upon a force advancing up the river. When we passed the forts,
constructed, after the manner of Dervish engineers, on a level with
the water, we found them deserted, and their guns had been removed.
But if the enemy, who were posted here up to last May, had maintained
their position, we should have been compelled to halt and drive them
out of it from the land side, for none of our slow gunboats could
have forced the gorge had it been lined with artillery.

We arrived at Rojan Island before daybreak on the 28th, and were
aroused out of sleep in the dark by the pleasing intelligence that
an order had arrived from the Sirdar that we were to be turned out
of the gunboat, bag and baggage, as the vessel was wanted for other
purposes. Floundering about in the semi-darkness we got our luggage
together as well as we could, and in less than twenty minutes found
ourselves sitting on the river bank with our few goods and chattels
round us. It would not have taken the gunboat five minutes to land
us at Hagir on the opposite bank; in fact, after marooning us on the
island, it actually touched at the camp on its return down the Nile.
This was one of several instances in which, during the campaign,
correspondents were treated with an utter disregard of consideration
or even ordinary courtesy. It often seemed as if the Sirdar or his
subordinates went out of their way to cause all the inconvenience
they could to the representatives of the press. Certainly if this
conduct was merely due to oversight or thoughtlessness, it was
bad enough; if it was intentional, it was based upon a petty and
ungenerous abuse of authority. On the present occasion we were left
for seven mortal hours on this treeless island, although the _El
Tahra_ was lying off Hagir, and could easily have been sent across
the river for us. When at last the old ferry-boat came blundering
across, the official in charge, who seemed, from his manner, to have
caught the Sirdar's mental attitude towards correspondents, brusquely
refused to take us over to Hagir, because no one had given him orders
to do so. Consequently the _El Tahra_ left us and recrossed to the
camp with her precious commander, although one of our number was
suffering severely from the sun, and lay prostrate on the ground. As
all our baggage was on the other side of the river, having been sent
on by camels, we had absolutely nothing to protect us from the heat
as it grew fiercer and fiercer every moment, so we simply sat on the
ground and grilled in the sun. The misery of such an experience is
very real indeed when the thermometer stands at 115° in the shade! As
one lies amid a dreary waste of sand and rock,

          sub curru nimium propinqui
      Solis in terra domibus negata,

with the pitiless rays of noontide beating down upon one's head,
visions of iced cups and other delights rise like a mental mirage and
mock one's misery! The thoughts stray far away in fantasy from the
unlovely landscape, and rest upon an English tennis lawn, beside the
cool Cherwell or under the cedars of the Wadham Gardens--the pleasant
game, the refreshment of shade and drink which follows it!

As there was absolutely nothing else to do on the island--and it is
always a good thing to engage in some more or less arduous work when
one is inclined to take a pessimistic view of one's surroundings--I
scrambled up to the top of Gebel Rojan, a rocky hill about three
hundred feet high. From this Pisgah height one could trace far
away to the south the faint outlines of the hills of Omdurman, our
Promised Land! Below, on the desert plain, three Egyptian battalions
were marching forward, their right flank guarded by squadrons of
cavalry. The rifle barrels and steel scabbards glinted brightly in
the rising sunlight, and the columns themselves looked like sinuous
lines of ants threading their way through the scrub.

We were all very bad-tempered when the _El Tahra_ returned once more;
but this time, mercifully, the steamer was no longer in the hands
of the punctilious sapper, with his combination of red tape and
rudeness. The new commander ventured upon the independent exercise of
his own common sense, and most kindly conveyed us across the river
without further ado. Whether he was subsequently reprimanded by the
authorities for this act of ordinary politeness I do not know.

By the time we had landed from the steamer, and the servants had
discovered the whereabouts of our camels and luggage, it was nearly
two o'clock, and the camp had practically broken up. The native
battalions had left early in the morning, as I had seen from the
summit of Gebel Rojan, and had been followed by General Gatacre's
division. The Sirdar and his staff, the Intelligence Department,
the correspondents, and the baggage were to leave at four o'clock;
so there was barely time to get a scratch meal before we saw to
the loading of our camels, and again set out on our forward march
towards Omdurman. Both Cross and I had intended to walk, but Steevens
and Maud most kindly put a couple of their extra horses at our
disposal. The animal I rode was a polo pony from Cairo, in excellent
condition and full of "go." It hated to be alone for a moment,
and if in the scrub it found itself separated from the rest of the
column, either in the rear or on the flank, and the rein was at all
loose, it would suddenly, without any warning, make a clean bolt to
rejoin its companions; and when a borrowed horse tears at full gallop
through mimosa bushes and over the rough sandy soil intersected with
_nullahs_, one is precious glad to be able to return it to its owner
in the evening without a couple of broken knees or worse.

The air was delightfully cool, with a pleasant breeze from the river,
and this evening ride from Hagir will remain in one's memory as one
of the pleasant experiences of the campaign. The comparative novelty
of our surroundings, and the certainty that now at length we were
within measurable distance of the enemy, filled one with elation
and banished all the petty worries of the morning. As long as one
enjoyed good health, nothing could be more delightful than the simple
pleasures of our open-air existence, with all its hard work and
good-fellowship. But when fever or dysentery gets hold upon a man,
all the glamour of the campaign fades away, and one is forced to
realise all the sordid discomforts of the march. During the recent
advance upon Omdurman many a case of unobtrusive heroism occurred, in
which men, officers and privates alike, refused to avail themselves
of the field hospitals, which would have taken them for the time
being from their battalion, and preferred to march along with the
rest, though their heads were racked with pain and their strength
at vanishing point from fever. If a campaigner could secure from a
fairy godmother or other supra-mundane agency one supreme blessing,
he ought most certainly to ask for health. Yet there is one danger to
which the healthy man is exposed. He finds it difficult, sometimes,
to sympathise with others less fortunate than himself. To many who
enjoy vigorous health there is something positively irritating in a
sick man. It is a painful trait in some characters, and is a survival
possibly of that terrible instinct which leads almost every species
of lower animal to finish off those of their number who become
sick or maimed. I have known a man who experienced this peculiar
irritation in the presence of comrades who were ill, behave in the
most unselfish and generous way to the same men when they were in
sound health; and while he had to force himself, as it were, to show
sympathy with an ailing man, he would fetch water in his helmet for a
wounded donkey, and feel ready to weep at the sight of a dying horse.

As we rode along the edge of the Nile, well ahead of the crowd of
camels and the Lancer escort of the Sirdar, in order to avoid the
blinding clouds of dust which they raised, we noticed at intervals
along the line of march bands of Sudanese women. These faithful
creatures had managed by some means or other to accompany their
husbands to the front. Although unrecognised officially, and in
consequence not accorded any means of transport, they had contrived
to cross the Nile as stowaways, hidden under forage or flour sacks;
and they were now trudging slowly along with large bundles on
their heads, and in some cases a brace of babies slung over their
shoulders. When they arrived at the camp they cooked their husband's
food, mended his clothes, and introduced a general flavour of
domesticity into the rough camp life. The husbands seemed to be
very kind to their wives and children, and the Sudanese portion of
the camp was dotted with little family groups, each of them formed
under a tree and surrounded by a miniature zeriba. In fact, domestic
life has such charms in the eyes of the Sudanese warriors, that
they become quite depressed and morose if their women-folk are left
behind. The recent revolt in Uganda is alleged by some to have been
largely caused by the refusal of Major Macdonald to allow the wives
of the soldiers to accompany them on the advance northwards--a
refusal which, if it actually occurred, would most certainly run
counter to the military traditions of the Sudan.

During the earlier part of the day's march Mr. Scudamore's "drink
camel," _i.e._ the animal which carried his stores of alcohol and
soda water, occasionally came to a sudden halt and toyed with the
branches of a nebek or mimosa thorn. At such times his master showed
great kindness and forbearance; he did not urge on the hesitating
beast with gibes and blows, but calling several of us round him,
quietly dismounted and relieved the camel's load by "drinks all
round." How touching an example of humanity towards poor dumb
animals! Let the traveller and explorer, then, always remember that
when the whisky mule halts, it is a kindness to lighten his burden;
if after some hours he jibs and refuses to proceed, fate has clearly
marked out that spot for the site of the camp! The whisky mule must
not be left behind!

On the occasion of one of these halts I was astonished to see
a diminutive boy in very ragged clothes walking along with two
half-plucked pigeons in his hand and a large bag over his shoulder.
After mounting I rode beside him and found that he was a Greek. His
father and mother kept a small café in Cairo, and the boy, who was
only fourteen and very small for his age, had actually traversed some
twelve hundred miles by land and water in order to sell cigarettes
to the army. This adventurous urchin, Anastasios by name, became a
great pet with the Tommies, who bought his cigarettes and supplied
him with enough fragments of bully beef and biscuit to keep him going
throughout the campaign. As I spoke some Greek, I saw a good deal of
the boy subsequently, and succeeded in getting him allowed a passage
from Omdurman on board the _Metemmeh_; but at Atbara Camp some of
the officials rather needlessly refused to give him a place amongst
the baggage in the open trucks, and when I last saw the imp he was
being led away by a zaptieh, or native policeman, after a desperate
attempt to override authority and hide himself and the remainder of
his cigarette boxes under a heap of luggage.

During our advance by land from Hagir, Mr. Frederick Villiers'
bicycle was much in evidence. It is astonishing to what a number of
uses this versatile machine may be put in peace and war alike. An
Oxford professor, whose metaphysical researches are combined with
military enthusiasm and the study of minor tactics, has given to
the world a treatise in which is demonstrated with logical acumen
the value of the bicycle as a weapon or rather implement of defence
against a charge of cavalry. The academical tactician suggests, I
believe, that when the enemy's horse are galloping down upon you
their charge may be broken and rendered futile by the terrifying
aspect of a line of cyclists holding their machines in the air and
rapidly spinning the wheels round! No war-horse, it is maintained,
could face this fearsome spectacle, and utter discomfort would
overtake the charging squadrons! What a pity our 'Varsity cyclist
corps were not posted in front of the zeriba at Omdurman to obviate
the necessity of bullets when the Baggara horse came thundering down
upon us!

But the bicycle can be put to more regular uses in a campaign.
A correspondent, for example, who went through the whole of the
Greco-Turkish War was mounted on his machine, and published a book,
which, under the title of Ὁ Πόλεμος ἀπὸ Ποδηλάτου ("The War from a
Bicycle"), had a great sale in Athens. Still, despite their badness,
roads do exist between Larissa, Velestino, Domoko, etc., whereas in
the sandy, stony deserts of the Sudan the road is a very open one
indeed, and ill adapted for wheeled traffic. In consequence of this,
Mr. Villiers' bicycle, which was of a dull green tint, was usually to
be found in the charge of his servant, who had acquired considerable
skill in controlling the movements of his master's donkey with
one hand and his master's machine with the other. Certainly this
lugubrious-looking bicycle bore the battle and the breeze wonderfully
well, and the maker ought to secure a splendid advertisement out of
it; for tyres which can pass unpunctured through the terrors of the
mimosa scrub, and refrain from bursting under the rays of a Sudan sun
in August, may fairly be recommended for "strong roadster" work in
the country lanes of England.

It was almost dark when we reached the camp, which has been called
by everyone, as far as I know, "Um Teref," though this is incorrect,
for "Um Teref" is the name of the village on the opposite bank of
the river. Though it was difficult in the twilight to see far ahead
of our column, there was no possibility of mistaking the whereabouts
of the camp, for the wild music of the Sudanese bands was already
in full swing. The first thing these black troops do when they get
into camp is to strike up some of their unearthly tunes, and in the
absence of more normal appliances they have been known to fashion
old tin biscuit boxes into a species of wind instrument. Just as I
got within the zeriba, a squad of these blacks were giving hot chase
to a curious animal, which had been put up in the bush. The hunted
creature ran between my horse's legs; it had a fine brush, with
mottled fur, and looked like a wolverine or some beast of that kind.

The area required for some twenty-two thousand men, with hundreds
of camels, horses, and mules, was enormous, and we rode hopelessly
about in the gathering gloom, trying to find the space allotted
to correspondents. After a couple of hours' search we at length
succeeded in finding our camels and getting our tents pitched, and
then we did full justice to whatever sort of dinner the ingenuity of
our cooks could contrive for their hungry masters. The camp was an
extremely pretty one, and in places the vegetation by the river banks
was quite luxuriant. Bushes of all kinds, especially the "Dead Sea
apple," were dotted about; and as these prevented one from seeing
more than a hundred yards around, it was difficult to realise the
vast size of the camp. A zeriba had, of course, been formed, and just
behind it thousands of troops lay all night under arms, ready to
repulse any Dervish attempt to surprise the camp by a sudden rush.

Next morning a rumour got about that during the darkness a Dervish
had crept up to the zeriba and thrown his spear over with a shout of
defiance, and the veritable spear was produced by a sentry of the
Lancashire Fusiliers as a proof of the story's genuineness. The story
was substantially true, for whilst the troops were engaged in forming
the zeriba a Baggara cavalry scout, who, for some reason or other,
found himself within the enclosure, suddenly dashed at a gallop out
of the bush, knocking over several astonished Fusiliers, and hurling
his spear at them as he disappeared in the darkness.

Scorpions proved most troublesome in all our camps, but they were
especially numerous at Um Teref. In some places they simply swarmed,
and both officers and men, and, still more, native servants, suffered
from their painful stings. Those, like myself, who slept on a
raised bed--_e.g._ the "Salisbury" bed, made by Silvers--were not so
much exposed to risk as the possessors of the "Wolseley Valise"--a
mattress which lies on the ground, and forms a most inviting
hiding-place for creeping things innumerable. The pain experienced by
a European from a scorpion's sting is very acute while it lasts, but
passes off in a few hours. The natives were continually stung, and
one of the correspondents had attained a great reputation from the
skill with which he scarified the affected portions of native bodies,
prior to the application of Scrubb's Ammonia. One poor fellow--a
private in the Lancashire Fusiliers--was stung by a scorpion in three
places along his spine, and speedily died in a state of coma.

Another insect pest was a huge yellow spider of loathsome aspect and
malignant disposition, called by the natives "Abu Shebek" (Father
of Spiders). This creature was frequently captured and conveyed to
some regimental mess, where it was forced to engage in single combat
with a scorpion. These adversaries were, as a rule, pretty evenly
matched, and the "Warwickshire Pet," a monstrous spider, appeared to
be invincible until it was matched against the "Cameron Slogger," a
redoubtable scorpion, who vanquished his opponent after a desperate
struggle amid loud cheers from the victorious mess.

In the ordinary course of events we should have moved on from Um
Teref at daybreak on the 29th, but owing to a succession of storms on
the Nile the full complement of gunboats and _ghyassas_ laden with
stores and baggage had not yet arrived, and so the order to march
was countermanded, and we remained in the zeriba for another night.
The extra day, however, was not as pleasant as it might have been
amongst the shady trees, for the violent wind which was retarding
the progress of the gunboats swept incessant clouds of dust over the
camp all the morning. Later in the day, however, the wind sank, and I
enjoyed a delightful ramble along the river beyond the zeriba. Here I
found, amongst other treasures, an enormous brick-red beetle, which
clung to a tree with such pertinacity that I had to cut away a piece
of the branch and boil it and the beetle together before the latter
would abandon his hold and be duly pickled in the whisky.

Early in the morning some squadrons of Egyptian cavalry and the
Camel Corps had left the camp to make a reconnaissance, but none
of the correspondents were permitted to accompany this force. They
did not, however, lose much, for the cavalry brought back scarcely
any information, beyond the news that fresh tracks had been seen of
Dervish horsemen retreating southwards towards Omdurman.

On the morning of the 30th we were up by 4 a.m., and the camels
were loaded by lantern-light. Nobody was sorry to rise, for, acting
under orders, we had all struck our tents the night before to save
time in the morning, and, as bad luck would have it, a storm of rain
and lightning burst over the camp about midnight. There are few
things more disagreeable than to have rain pouring down upon one as
one sleeps, or tries to sleep, in the open. When the first heavy
drops begin to fall everybody knows what is to follow, and various
execrations are heard all around in the darkness, as the suddenly
awakened sleepers put some garments on, hide others under the pillow,
and do their best with a mackintosh to turn off the rain and keep
it from collecting in pools under their backs. The Arab servants
are always in the lowest depths of depression when it rains. Their
thin cotton garments soon get soaked through, but I felt somewhat
reluctant to lend them any of my wraps, as on a previous occasion,
during a tropical downpour, I told two Somali servants that they
might cover themselves with my waterproof, and during the night they
each rolled in a different direction, and split my splendid red-lined
mackintosh into two portions. These two Somali boys, by the way,
whenever a heavy shower overtook us in the daytime, always did their
very best to keep their heads dry. They would dash off and thrust
their shaven pates under a rock or inside an old packing-case, and
seemed to be comparatively indifferent about the rest of their black
bodies, which lay exposed to the weather.

When we left the camp _en masse_ at five, the rain gradually ceased,
and the sun rose in splendour across the Nile. The spectacle
before us was magnificent. Column after column of infantry--black,
chocolate, and white--advanced in perfect order, and squadrons
of cavalry scouted on the flanks and far ahead, searching out
every patch of scrub which might conceal a force of Dervishes. The
Sirdar and his staff advanced in front, and the numerous halts and
consultations which were made showed how carefully and cautiously
the army was advancing. The troops were actually marching in battle
order, ready at any moment to close into square formation if the
enemy appeared; and one realised, as never before during the
campaign, that we were really in a state of war. Our Lancer scouts
had at length come into touch with the enemy, and had even fired a
volley at one of several parties of Dervish horse who were sullenly
retreating through the bush towards Kerreri.

We were already well within twenty-five miles of Omdurman. Along
the line of march we came across several large Dervish villages,
abandoned by their inhabitants within the last day or two. In the
hurry of flight angaribs (native beds), calabashes, and even a
little food had been left behind. In some spots the fires which
had cooked the last meal of these unfortunate villagers were still
smouldering, and, either from accident or design, several of the
huts had been destroyed by fire. The ground was strewn with fragments
of earthenware cooking-pots, which the poor creatures had carefully
broken up before they fled away to the dubious protection of the
Omdurman walls. Close beside one of the deserted huts a tiny donkey
stood and gazed upon us--the sole surviving occupant of the village.
One of the servants, with a keen eye for loot, immediately annexed
the little donkey; but I refused to take it, as I thought it would
be happier amid its native surroundings, where it could eke out a
precarious living amongst the herbage on the river bank. As I rode
past several of the huts I noticed inside some strips of leather
rudely embroidered with cowries, which had been used to suspend a
gourd of water. The workmanship was so rough that I did not think
this loot worth taking, though several Lancers thought differently,
for I afterwards saw similar trophies hung over their saddles.

Towards the middle of this day's march a rather amusing incident
occurred. A small party of Lancers scouting in one of the deserted
villages suddenly came across an Arab clad in a fine _gibbeh_, with
a long spear in his hand. Here, at last, was a living Dervish within
five yards! He made no effort to escape, and was at once surrounded
and taken prisoner. On his being searched, five Maria Theresa dollars
were discovered in the folds of his clothing, and the triumphant
Lancers returned to the Sirdar and his staff with the proud
consciousness of having captured the first real Dervish prisoner of
the campaign. After a modest rehearsal of their achievement, they
begged that in memory of the event the _gibbeh_, dollars, and spear
of the captive might be handed over to themselves. No objection
being raised, the prisoner, who, throughout the affair, had looked
not at all alarmed, but only rather bored, was again led off to
be interrogated by the Intelligence Department, when the exultant
Lancers learned that the captive was one of Colonel Wingate's best
spies, and after doing some excellent work in front had been quietly
waiting to rejoin our forces! The five dollars had to be unearthed
from the depths of the Lancers' pockets, and the imitation Dervish
again strutted proudly about with his coat of many colours and his
broad-bladed spear.

The army advanced over the uneven ground in excellent order. The
long lines, now lost in the hollows, now broken for the moment by
impenetrable masses of thorn bush, kept their formation marvellously
well; and often, as they appeared over the crest of a sandy ridge,
the line was as perfect as on a field day at Aldershot. As regards
actual pace, the Sudanese blacks can easily outmarch the Tommies, and
would invariably have been well in the van if the _échelon_ formation
had not been carefully preserved.

The day's march on the 30th was not more than some eight or nine
miles. We halted for the night beside the river at a spot exactly
opposite a village called Merreh on the other bank. At some
little distance inland, on our right front, a hill rose up called
Seg-et-taib, and, for convenience, the camp has been generally named
after the hill. Trees and bushes grew abundantly within our zeriba,
and along the margin of the Nile large clumps of bright green grass
were greedily devoured by the ponies, which, like all Oriental
riding-horses, lashed out viciously at each other whenever their
tethering ropes allowed it, and sometimes fought and tore each other
with their teeth like tigers. The river banks at Seg-et-taib were
rather difficult of access, as strips of marshy land ran in every
direction parallel to the stream. Everyone who reached the water on
foot was covered with black slimy mud up to his knees; and as we rode
through the bog our horses sank up to their flanks in the soft ooze,
but managed somehow to flounder through it without rolling over with
their riders. A pleasant spot beneath some trees was assigned for
our camp, but when we reached it we found a bevy of Sudanese ladies
already in possession. A little _bakshish_, however, solved the
difficulty, and the fair ones withdrew, after cleverly tying up pots
and pans and babies within the folds of their voluminous garments.

At Seg-et-taib my companion Cross, who had been far from well for
some days past, and suffered especially from sleeplessness, became
so ill that I went off in search of his friend, Surgeon-General
Taylor, who throughout Cross' illness was invariably most kind and
thoughtful. This officer at once came to see the patient, and ordered
him to be placed on one of the hospital barges which were being sent
up the river to accompany the advance of the army. This was a great
relief to my mind, as our surroundings were most uncomfortable for a
sick man. We had left behind a good deal of baggage at Wad Hamed, and
all our tent except the outer fly, which afforded us only a feeble
shelter from sun or rain. On the hospital barges, of course, the
invalided men could get proper attention and diet--things practically
impossible in our rough camp life; and although I felt rather
solitary in the absence of my tent companion, I had every hope that
the illness which had attacked him would be speedily checked under
medical treatment.

During the latter portion of the advance upon Khartum, internal
disorders of various kinds were extremely common. Some of the
medical staff ascribed these derangements to the use of tinned
meat; but after all, the evidence of experts in England seems to
show conclusively that the virulent poison called "ptomaine" is so
rare, that the chance of injury from tinned meats is practically
infinitesimal. Others maintained, with greater probability, that the
drinking water was at fault. The native servants, to save themselves
trouble or a slight wetting, invariably filled their buckets from
the water close to the bank. Anyone who is acquainted with Oriental
habits can realise the peril of drinking such water as this, fouled
as it was by hundreds of horses, mules, and camels, and taken from a
river which is treated as a vast sewer by all the inhabitants along
its banks.

The water question was, indeed, a big one throughout the campaign.
Some filtered the muddy water as it was, but the process was a
very tedious one, for the Birkfeld filter became choked with mud
after about a pint of water had passed through it, and then all its
internal arrangements had to be cleaned. The native servants were so
stupid at any work of this sort, that one generally had to do one's
filtering for oneself; and the exercise was so vigorous that, by
the time one had filtered a pint, one was thirsty enough to drink
a quart. Another method was to precipitate the mud to some extent
by a few grains of alum; but there are hygienic reasons against the
employment of this astringent in drinking water. The safest plan is
to let the mud settle, and then boil the water. Yet, even if the
water is boiled, one is never secure from bacteria, for fresh germs
may enter it as it cools. Moreover, it is impossible to boil _all_
the water required for camp purposes; and if a servant "washes up"
the plates and cups in unboiled water, or one plunges one's head into
it, there can be no absolute guarantee against the intrusion of an
evil bacillus into one's system. The only hope is that one's internal
zeriba, so to speak, is well guarded by a valiant line of those good
bacilli whose chief delight--so bacteriologists tell us--is to gather
round the malignant invader and do him to death. Water taken from the
middle of the stream was said to be perfectly wholesome, but even
here the mud held in solution acted as an irritant. There was another
little thing, too, which rather set one against any Nile water at
the Atbara camp, to wit, the fact that almost every day a corpse or
two of the Dervishes killed at the fight--when the Atbara was nearly
empty--were caught up by the flooded stream, and carried down visibly
into the Nile. Still, these bodies were almost mummified from the
heat; so perhaps there was not much danger, after all, to be feared
from their presence in our water supply.

We again advanced with the utmost caution from Seg-et-taib. The
cavalry searched the scrub, and two gunboats steamed slowly up the
river in support. A party of the Lancers had climbed the hill of
Seg-et-taib, and from this point the Khalifa's forces were at length
seen by British eyes. A vast camp had been pitched about a mile and
a half from the river, in order, probably, to avoid the shells of
the gunboats. It stretched along the Wady Shamba, some three miles
in front of Omdurman. The alignment of the white tents was perfectly
visible with a good glass, and groups of Baggara horsemen were dotted
about the plain in front of the Dervish infantry. No incident worth
recording occurred during this day's advance along the plain, except,
perhaps, a rather gruesome find in one of several deserted villages
through which we passed. On the ground lay the corpse of one of
our native spies; the body was shockingly mutilated and partially
charred, so the poor wretch would seem to have been cruelly tortured
before death. Some six or seven miles ahead of us rose the bleak
ridge of Kerreri like a vast barrier across the line of our advance.
Here it was that the Khalifa had doubtless intended to await our
onslaught, but either his heart failed him at the last moment or the
rapidity of our advance upset his plans. Yet, in refusing to take his
stand on the hills of Kerreri, the Khalifa was acting in opposition
to the sentiment of his followers, who trusted in a prophecy of the
Mahdi, to the effect that one day Kerreri should be the scene of a
great victory over the infidel invaders. "It was called," writes Mr.
Bennett-Burleigh, "'the death-place of all infidels'; and thither at
least once a year repaired the Khalifa and his following, to look
over the coming battleground, and render thanks in anticipation for
the wholesale slaughter of the unbelievers, and the triumph of the
true Moslems."

_À propos_ of Kerreri, it may be worth noticing how misleading were
the accounts of this prospective battlefield which had appeared in
some newspapers, and how incorrect the maps were. One account stated
that along the _wady_ to the north of Kerreri white quartz stones lay
so thickly on the ground that at night-time the place appears to be
covered with snow. This description was simply absurd. There were
red quartz pebbles, but one came across very few white ones. Again,
the maps led one to suppose that the whole of the aforesaid _wady_
was densely overgrown with mimosa, whereas I did not see a bush of
any kind whatever as we crossed the gentle declivity leading up to
the ridge.

We had now arrived at the last camp which we occupied before leaving
Kerreri. Sururab was the least pleasant of all our halting-places,
and we pitched our tents on a bare piece of stony ground utterly
devoid of vegetation.

Suddenly, after lunch, as we sat under the shade and chatted, there
came borne to our ears the dull booming of artillery. The gunboats
which had accompanied us had advanced beyond Sururab, and were
hard at work shelling the Kerreri ridge, which was occupied by a
Dervish outpost. The sound of the guns was faint, and as the vessels
were some eight miles ahead of us, and the intervening ground was
uneven, we could not, alas, see the effect of their fire, though we
afterwards learnt all about it.

The space which was allotted to the correspondents at Sururab was so
confined that one could scarcely walk five yards without stumbling
across a camel or tripping over a tent-rope, and the donkeys brayed
so loudly that sleep was difficult. It was intensely annoying to
hear one ass lead off with a full-voiced bray, which died away in
spasmodic gasps. Almost immediately a brother donkey would lift up
his voice and utter a similar succession of notes, and then groups of
donkeys would join in the music, and a species of antiphonal braying
between the _decani_ and _cantoris_ donkeys ranged on either side
of one's tent would continue till one became absolutely savage, and
wished, like Balaam, that one had a sword in one's hand. If an ass
is permitted to get well on with its braying, you cannot stop it;
when in full voice it takes not the slightest notice of a good-sized
stone. I sometimes heard one of my correspondent colleagues call his
servant in the darkness, and say, "Hassan, take that moke away--right
away into the desert--or I'll kill it." The servant would seize the
offender and lead it, still braying, several hundred yards away. But
just as he got back again, the banished animal, dismayed to find
itself alone, would send forth an anxious bray of diabolical energy,
which reached the long ears of its companions, and made matters worse
than before.

At Sururab, as before, precautions were taken against night attack.
The order went round that lights were to be extinguished and tents
struck. Everyone lay down to rest as he was, in his clothes, and
officers slept with their swords and revolvers buckled on. Most of
us, I think, expected that the enemy, if they refrained from attack,
would at anyrate harass us by "sniping" into our camp during the
darkness. Nothing would have been easier, for, with the exception of
a few native spies, every soul in the army was within the zeriba, and
there was a quantity of scrub just along the river north of the camp
which would have afforded excellent cover for Dervish sharp-shooters.
Against "sniping," little, as a rule, can be done. No form of
retaliation is possible if the "snipers" are well concealed; one
simply has to sit still and take one's chance. Of course in our own
case, camped as we were in an absolutely flat plain, not commanded by
any rising ground, the risks from sniping were not considerable. In
the frontier wars of India, on the contrary, an appalling number of
casualties frequently result from the desultory fire of the hillmen
securely posted amongst the rocky heights above the camp.

As it happened, our evening at Sururab was scarcely troubled at all
by Dervish bullets. A few rifle shots came from the scrub, and a
bullet whistled overhead as I was chatting with Villiers--the first
one of the campaign! I heard two revolver shots during the night,
but these were accidental, and came from inside the camp. One of the
bullets unfortunately penetrated the thigh of a Warwickshire private,
but he ultimately recovered.

No one, I think, who experienced the subsequent wretchedness of the
night at Sururab is likely to forget it. There was a threatening look
about the clouds as the sun went down, but we struck our tents and
lay down to sleep hoping for the best. About ten o'clock, however,
we were awakened by heavy drops of rain splashing on our faces, and
then down came the torrent! I had, most fortunately, left my tent
loose upon the ground, so, after putting on my mackintosh, I dragged
a portion of the waterproof tent over me. The exclamations of many
of my colleagues around me showed that they were not so comfortably
bedded. Some had not brought waterproofs with them; others had
packed their tents over night. There is an undeniable satisfaction
during a heavy shower in feeling that one is on the right side of
a window pane, and witnessing the hurried passage along a street
of dripping pedestrians; and as I heard the rain beating down upon
the tent canvas drawn over my bed, I experienced the same sort of
selfish complacency. Clothed as I was in a kharki suit and boots,
and covered over with a blanket, a mackintosh, and the waterproof
canvas, I felt as if I was being boiled alive; but still I was safe
from any moisture _ab extra_. Nemesis, however, was close upon
me in my splendid isolation. I made a slight movement of my hand
under the rug, and instantly felt a sharp prick in the palm. At
the same moment, on the inside of the canvas within six inches of
my face, appeared a large scorpion. I had evidently disturbed the
beast, which stung me and then ran up the canvas. I felt perfectly
horrified for a moment. The idea that the scorpion might run over
my face was sickening. Fancy the effects of a scorpion's sting
in the eye! With a sudden sweep of my arm I dashed the whole tent
covering, scorpion and all, off the bed. Anything in the rain line
was better than scorpions as bed-fellows. All this time the pain in
my hand increased. I tied a piece of string tightly round the wrist
and sucked the wound hard, and then waited for the agony which I
fully expected. Fortunately, however, the pain in an hour's time or
so gradually wore off, and I think the scorpion must have stung me
through the blanket, and so failed to penetrate the hardened skin of
one's palm to an appreciable depth. We were now nearly all in the
same plight. Everybody in the camp, with few exceptions, was soaked
through that night. One general officer told me that, as he found
himself lying in a large pool of water which had collected under his
back, he got up and spent the night sitting in a camp-chair, without
getting a wink of sleep,--a cheerful experience, forsooth! It is
amazing that our men escaped fever after experiences such as these.
During the Emin Relief Expedition, it was noted that every wetting,
whether from wading a stream or a downpour of rain, invariably
resulted in fever to man and beast alike.

Despite the soaking rain, I dropped off to sleep, but was awaked
about one o'clock by a commotion on my left. Mr. Villiers had also
been stung in the neck by a scorpion, and was in great pain. He told
me the sting felt like a red-hot knife plunged into his flesh, and
the whole of his left side became temporarily paralysed. His faithful
servant rubbed some ammonia into the wound, and after somebody had
given him nearly a bottle of raw whisky, he managed to get to sleep.

Reveille sounded at 4 a.m., and we all rejoiced to see the dawn.
The rain still fell in sheets, but notwithstanding the inclement
weather, Mr. Scudamore was sitting and calmly shaving himself before
a looking-glass, with a piece of waterproof over his shoulders.
The dripping servants emerged from their nooks and crannies in the
lowest depths of depression, and the camels snorted with increased
petulance as they floundered through the mud to be loaded. The camel
hates wet almost as much as his masters. I have often been amused at
their cat-like unwillingness to put their feet into quite shallow
water. This is due, I believe, to the fact that the animal's feet, if
wetted, have a tendency to crack in the sun and become very painful.

How servants contrive to light fires with slush all round and rain
pouring down in torrents I cannot imagine, but Ali brought me a cup
of hot cocoa and some biscuit--a delicious meal when one is draped in
soaking garments.

Villiers awoke from the heavy sleep into which the raw spirit
had driven him, and he and I set out to march with the troops,
who were now streaming from the zeriba. He still suffered from a
semi-paralysis of the left side; but despite this and a general
weakness caused by the virus, he kept up on foot with the infantry

September 1st, drizzling rain and thick mud! The familiar
collocation, helped out by an occasional covey of sand-grouse in lieu
of partridges, brought one's thoughts back to the joys of English
stubble and turnip-field left four thousand miles behind us! As the
sun rose higher in the sky the rain gradually ceased, and as we dried
our spirits rose. The bushes along the line of our march were full
of many beautiful birds with vivid plumage, and a valuable collection
might probably have been put together if anyone had had a light
gun and time to use it. Every now and then, too, a hare would dart
up from its "form" and race across our front, pursued by two small
regimental doggies. These hares, like many other species of animal
in the Sudan, have assumed the colour of their sandy environment
most marvellously. It is almost impossible to see them sitting. They
have ears of extraordinary length, and are altogether odd-looking
creatures. They did not run as well as their British cousins, and
occasionally one was caught by a dog or clubbed by a Sudanese
soldier. I never tasted the flesh, but an officer told me he found it
very good eating.

Long before we reached Kerreri we saw the figures of several Lancer
scouts silhouetted against the sky-line along the summit of the
ridge. Our cavalry had, as usual, pushed on ahead through the scrub
and climbed the hills. Some of them rode up the lesser slopes
towards the east and west, while others, leaving their chargers
below, clambered up the steep crags in the middle. As Lieutenant
Montmorency and another officer reached the top a Dervish suddenly
fired a "right and left" at them from a huge elephant gun; but
fortunately he missed with both barrels, and then bolted. With the
exception of this man, who seemed to be a sort of "caretaker" in the
empty camp, there was not a Dervish to be seen. The shell fire of
the gunboats had rendered the ridge untenable. In every direction
lay the _débris_ of a deserted camp. Some of the fires were still
smoking, and here and there were dotted the small wattled shelters
which the Sudanese Arabs rejoice to make. In one place a feeble sort
of entrenchment had been commenced, but speedily abandoned.

By this time the dampness of the early morning had been succeeded
by blazing sunshine. The march was the longest and most tedious one
of the campaign, and scarcely a sound we heard except the muffled
tramp, tramp, of thousands of men traversing the sand. Suddenly,
as we were crossing a dried-up water-course in the Wady Suetne, a
little to the north of Kerreri, the roar of a heavy gun reached our
ears from the south--then another, and another! A general murmur of
satisfaction ran along the ranks. The tired men brightened up, and
stepped out with renewed vigour, while the Sudanese almost broke
into a run from excitement. Major Elmslie's Lyddite battery had got
into position, and was shelling the city from the other side of the
river. As I was a free agent, I ran as hard as I could up the rough
slopes, and reached the crest of the ridge. Little could be seen from
the lower slopes, but from the summit a splendid spectacle presented
itself. The terrible fifty-pounder shells had found the range, and
were playing havoc with the walls and public buildings of Omdurman.
Nothing can resist Lyddite. Thick walls were pierced like brown
paper, and the stones hurled high in the air amid clouds of dust
and flame. A shell had torn a vast hole through the lofty dome-like
structure which covered the Mahdi's sepulchre, the gilded top of
which had been carried clean away. The effect of the shells upon the
wretched people who chanced to be near to the Mahdi's tomb at the
time of the bombardment was truly awful, as I saw with my own eyes
two days afterwards.

Below on the vast plain, which, broken only by the mass of Gebel
Surgham, stretched from Kerreri to the outskirts of Omdurman our
cavalry were manœuvring with the Baggara horse "very prettily," as
one of the generals remarked. Our regiment of Lancers, three hundred
and twenty all told, would ride pluckily towards the dense masses
of the enemy, and then withdraw as lines of riflemen advanced to
meet them, or large bodies of mounted Baggaras attempted to cut off
their retreat. The Khalifa's entire army, incensed by the bombardment
and by the galling fire which our dismounted troopers took every
opportunity of pouring into them, were now moving forward to attack
and annihilate the infidels.

With Wauchope's Brigade in front, the infantry and artillery crossed
the ridge sloping down to the river. On the left was the village of
Kerreri, guarded by an ancient redoubt, and here we imagined would be
the site for the camp. But orders were given to continue the march,
so we trudged more than a mile farther, to the deserted hamlet of El
Genuaia. Without further ado, mimosa branches were cut and a zeriba
was formed on a small scale round the village. The heliograph from
the top of Gebel Surgham was flashing incessantly, and keeping the
Sirdar well informed of the whereabouts and progress of the enemy's
advance. The Lancers too came trotting in, having done their best
to delay the onset of the Dervishes. "We expect," said Colonel
Wingate to me, "to be attacked in half an hour." Meanwhile fatigue
parties dragged the bushes on the southern face of our zeriba much
farther away in the direction of Omdurman, and the result was a vast
zeriba extending along the Nile from El Genuaia to a small village
called--so I gathered from the maps--Geren Nebi. The length of the
rough semi-circle must have been over nine hundred yards. Nearer
Geren Nebi it enclosed a number of mud-huts, which were ultimately
used for hospital purposes; and between this part of the zeriba and
our original site, there was a gentle declivity terminating in a
small inlet of the Nile, with thick black mud along its margin. A
little beyond this inlet, towards the south, the plain shelved down
to the river, and within the hollow thus formed the majority of the
baggage animals and native servants were posted. The cover thus
afforded must have been excellent, for I do not think that a single
baggage animal was killed throughout the fight. On the extreme left
of our line lay a gap between the end of the zeriba and the river,
left purposely, I presume, in order to admit the cavalry. Not to go
into more detail than needful about the position of our troops--the
line began on the left side with the 32nd Field Battery R.A., and
an Egyptian battery of twelve-pounder Maxim-Nordenfeldts. Next in
order came the two British Brigades with two Maxim batteries, and the
remaining two-thirds of the zeriba was held by the various native
battalions. Towards the northern side of the zeriba an Egyptian
battery was posted on a little mound of sand. The British infantry
were protected solely by the zeriba, but in front of the native
battalions under Colonels Lewis, Maxwell, and Macdonald ran a shallow
trench. Colonel Collinson's brigade was posted as a reserve inside
the zeriba some distance to the rear of Macdonald's division.

Ammunition boxes lay in rows behind each company, bayonets had been
fixed, and everyone looked eagerly over the plain for a glimpse of
the advancing Dervishes. For some reason or other, which has never
been adequately explained, the Dervishes did not advance to the
attack that afternoon. The Khalifa's army, after marching forward a
couple of miles, came to a sudden halt, and subsequently withdrew
to its camp for the night. None of the Emirs in the enemy's lines,
with the exception of the wily Osman Digna, had had any previous
experience of British methods of warfare. Still, some at least of
the Dervish leaders must have passed a night of anxiety, full of
gloomy anticipations of coming disaster. The brave Wad-Ed-Nejumi,
just before the battle of Toski, addressed the followers whom he had
led across the terrible Bayuda desert, and warned them in simple,
soldierly words that each one must be prepared on the morrow to meet
his Maker. Thoughts such as this were surely, one would think, enough
to keep the Khalifa and his generals awake that night with the awful
sense of responsibility! Not that the Moslem fighting man, whether
of high or low degree, has any fear of death itself. From what I
have seen of him in action, I should imagine that the contingency of
death never enters into his head as a factor of the fight which need
be regarded. Absolutely convinced as he is of a future existence in
which bravery and devotion will be rewarded, the Dervish faces the
muzzles of Maxim guns with a sword in his hand. It is civilisation
which sets Death upon his throne of terror. The greater the sum of
life's enjoyments the greater the dread of losing them, and as the
nervous organism of mankind becomes relaxed and softened by the
æsthetic and sentimental influences of social progress, physical pain
is accentuated in reality, and dreaded all the more in anticipation.
The ordinary belief in a future life amongst Christian peoples
is, for the most part, so nebulous and indefinite that it fails
altogether as a mainspring of action amid the risks of battle. Thus,
unless other sentimental or utilitarian considerations can step in to
fill the gap, _e.g._ patriotism, or the preservation of hearth and
home, the Christian is invariably at a disadvantage in contending
with his Moslem enemy. Look at the spectacle presented by the
Ottoman Empire, in which millions of Christians have been dominated
for centuries by a small but valiant minority of Osmanlis.

When it was known that the Khalifa's army had postponed the attack,
a general feeling of disappointment pervaded the whole zeriba. The
men, both white and black, had been as keen as possible; we had all
been waiting for the enemy, and he hadn't come! We were robbed of
our show, and it was positively annoying to hear, instead of the
warlike commands which had prefaced the afternoon, the pacific order
for fatigue parties to leave the zeriba and cut wood for cooking
purposes! What awful bathos! From Khalifa to kitchen utensils, from
battle and murder to bully beef and biscuit!

Few of the twenty-three thousand men who passed that night within
the zeriba are likely to forget it. We felt certain of a battle on
the morrow, for all doubts as to whether the Khalifa would stand and
fight, or flee away into the uttermost parts of the Sudan, were now
set at rest. The two armies actually lay encamped within five miles
of each other on an almost dead level! The whole of our force, from
the Sirdar downwards, was fully conscious of its strength and its
ability to resist the Dervish assault in the morning. But what if
the Khalifa resolved after all to attack our zeriba under the cover
of night? When one remembers the thinness of our extended line,
our miserably inadequate defences, the stealthiness and rapidity
of the Dervish infantry, the impossibility of accurate fire in the
darkness, the preponderating numbers of the enemy and their splendid
valour,--when one thinks of these and other things which may not be
discussed _coram populo_, one cannot be sufficiently thankful that
the Khalifa refrained from attacking us on that memorable night! Had
such an assault taken place, I feel _absolutely certain_ that of the
brave fellows who in the morning advanced unflinchingly against the
most terrific fire of the century's warfare, a vast number would have
broken through the zeriba in the darkness. The result would have
been terrible beyond words! The cut and thrust of the Dervish sword
and spear, with the cross fire of our own men, might have ended in a
fulfilment of the Mahdi's prophecy, instead of a decisive and almost
bloodless victory for the British arms!

With the exception of sentries, who were doubled, the troops were
allowed to sleep, though their rest was broken by several alarms
during the night. Two friendly Arabs had been sent out beyond Geren
Nebi with orders, in the event of a Dervish onset, to raise the
peculiar trilling cry which one hears in a higher key from Sudanese
women. Suddenly the trilling sound was distinctly heard, the men
were instantly roused, and our spies came racing in at full speed,
and jumped clean over the zeriba! They pretended that the Khalifa's
army was close upon their heels, but no Dervishes appeared. In all
probability these worthless creatures had been alarmed by some
"sniping" shots from the river bank, or else thought it would be more
agreeable inside than outside the zeriba, and so resolved to get back
and spend a comfortable night. The alarm over, our men lay down once
more; and now a note of comedy was added to the anxiety, for in the
dark a camel, with its forelegs tied together, suddenly ran _amok_
through the camp, leaping with clumsy bounds over the officers'
_angaribs_, and causing much confusion and laughter.

During the earlier part of the evening an order had been passed
round that all lights were to be extinguished in five minutes; but,
as usual, a number of people were selfish enough to disobey orders,
and incur the risk of Dervish sniping, rather than get into bed by
starlight. As a matter of fact, a number of shots were fired into
the camp from the Surgham ridge, and some desultory sniping from the
bushes beyond Geren Nebi sent occasional bullets whistling over the
sleeping camp.

Before I fell asleep, I was astonished to see Cross walking up from
the bank. He seemed much better, and said that he had been terribly
worried all day by the thought that, after all, he might not be
present at the battle. The floating hospital in which he lay was
moored at an island opposite the zeriba, and it seemed doubtful at
one time whether the barge would be moved over to our side. "If it
hadn't," said Cross, "I had made up my mind to swim across the river
to you."



On 2nd September we rose from our broken slumbers in the dull grey
light of daybreak, and by the time the first sunlight had flushed the
surface of the Nile everybody was hard at work over his breakfast.
When one knows that within an hour or two the normal routine of
regular meals may be rudely interrupted by the exigencies of a whole
day's fighting, it behoves one to eat at least as substantial a
breakfast, if it can be got, as one does in London before catching a
morning express to Edinburgh. Certainly it is impossible to imagine a
more agreeable prelude to a battle than that which we experienced in
our zeriba. There was plenty of time for a really comfortable meal,
without being interrupted by an unpleasantly early visit from the

As Cross and I strolled up towards that part of the line held by
the British, I stopped for a few minutes at the huts which had been
converted into temporary shelters for the wounded. Everything was in
its place, and the _angaribs_ and stretchers ready for prospective
employment. Having just emerged from the floating hospital, Cross was
naturally very weak, and one of the medical staff, having noticed
this, gave him a dose of _sal volatile_. Every British soldier
carried on him a little packet of medical requisites for "first aid
to the wounded." The packet was a marvel of condensed utility--lint,
bandages, medicated silk, and other things, all compressed into a
tiny parcel about three inches square.

By the time I reached the British portion of the zeriba the men were
all in their places, with reserve companies in position a little to
the rear. Every officer had seen to the working of his revolver,
and all the Tommies had opened the breech of their Lee-Metfords and
tested the magazine action--a very necessary precaution amongst the
sand and dust of Egypt. The two batteries on the extreme left were
drawn up, with the grim muzzles of the fifteen-pounders and the
Maxim-Nordenfeldts pointing towards Gebel Surgham. Case upon case of
shells lay ready to hand, and a number of these missiles were spread
out on the sand close beside the gun-carriages.

Long before the advancing Dervishes came within range and sight of
our infantry, the Egyptian cavalry, some two thousand strong, had
left the northern side of the zeriba, and with the Camel Corps had
come in touch with a large body of the enemy under the Sheikh Ed-Din.
The Dervishes, certainly not less than fifteen thousand in number,
immediately advanced against the Khedival cavalry, expecting, no
doubt, an easy victory over the Egyptians: how often in the past
had the fellahin horsemen fled in utter rout before them! But now
the despised Egyptians retreated in excellent order, dismounting
and firing volleys as steadily as on the parade ground at Cairo.
The Camel Corps were blundering slowly along, scarcely able to keep
ahead of the native spearmen, and were threatened every moment with
annihilation. In fact, throughout the day's fighting, no troops were
exposed to more serious risk than the cumbrous Camel Corps. The
cavalry acted splendidly, halting repeatedly under a hot fire until
the camel men came up. Captain Ricardo of the 17th Lancers, who was
attached to the Egyptian cavalry, told me that he never wished to
command better troops than the "Gyppies" showed themselves to be
under these trying circumstances. Nevertheless, many saddles were
emptied by Dervish bullets, two field-guns had to be temporarily
abandoned, and it would have fared very ill with this gallant corps
if they had been compelled to rely solely on their own efforts. As
it was, the Egyptian battery posted on a knoll at the north-west
corner of the zeriba had got the range of the Kerreri ridge
accurately, and as the triumphant Dervishes appeared amongst the
rocks in full pursuit of the retreating cavalry, round after round
of twelve-pounder shells burst amongst them. At the same moment
the Melik and Sultan had trained their quick-firing guns upon the
Dervishes, and did splendid execution amongst the crowded ranks.
Under this combined fire the enemy wavered, but not for long. They
tried to dodge the projectiles and advance more cautiously under
cover of various rocky gullies amongst the broken ground. It was like
a terrible game of hide-and-seek. The white gibbehs, hidden for some
minutes behind the hill, suddenly reappeared by fresh exits from the
ridge; but shells met them at every turn, and finally the fanatics,
balked of their prey, sullenly withdrew beyond the hills altogether
with most of their wounded, leaving some twelve hundred of their
number dead or dying on the field.

Inside the zeriba we were all alert and ready. Breakfast was over,
and we simply waited for the enemy. I looked down into the hollow
beside the river where the baggage camels, camp followers, and
servants were stowed away in safety, and saw Ali grasping his
enormous sword. The faithful creature came up and informed me that
he intended to devote his attention exclusively to the defence of
my person during the coming fight. I gently restrained the vaulting
ambition of my cook, and pointed out to him the value of less
ostentatious heroism--the protection, for example, of the camels
from bullets, and the groceries from theft. Having shaken off this
enthusiast, I walked along the zeriba to a point some way below the
Lincolns. A large number of the Tommies had never been under fire
before, _e.g._ the Guards and the Lancashire Fusiliers, and there
was a curious look of suppressed excitement in some of the faces, as
they stared over the desert to catch a glimpse of the enemy they were
at last destined to behold, after many long marches by day and false
alarms by night. Now and then I caught in a man's eye the curious
gleam which comes from the joy of shedding blood--that mysterious
impulse which, despite all the veneer of civilisation, still holds
its own in a man's nature, whether he is killing rats with a terrier,
rejoicing in a prize fight, playing a salmon, or potting Dervishes.
It was a fine day, and we had come out to kill something. Call it
what you like, the experience is a big factor in the joy of living:
one speaks φωνᾶντα συνετοῖσι. Lower down the line the Sudanese showed
their white teeth as they grinned with delight at the prospect of

Suddenly the Lancers came trotting over the ridge between Gebel
Surgham and the Nile, while several officers galloped across the
plain and reported to the Sirdar that the Khalifa's forces were now
rapidly advancing. The signallers from Gebel Surgham had come in by
this time, and the cavalry, after a temporary halt beyond Geren Nebi,
entered the zeriba by the gap beyond the batteries, and there waited
ready for future emergencies.

"When they do show themselves," said an artillery officer, "we'll
give them beans," and "beans" they certainly got! Even as he spoke,
a long white streak far away in the distance suddenly spread itself
over the yellow sand; the longed-for moment had arrived! "Here they
come!" was on everybody's lips, and a rustle of excitement ran down
the ranks.

True enough, on either side of Gebel Surgham, and then on towards the
western slopes of Kerreri, line upon line of Dervish infantry and
cavalry appeared. Gigantic banners fluttered aloft, borne on lofty
flagstaffs. The rising sun glinted on sword blades and spearheads
innumerable, and as the mighty host drew nearer, black heads and
arms became visible amongst the white of the massed _gibbehs_. And
now, too, a dense volume of sound came rolling over the desert as
the fanatical Arabs raised continuous shouts of defiance, mingled
with chants to Allah and the Prophet--their final battle-cry before
the inevitable death awaiting them--the veritable requiem song of
Mahdism! In the clear morning air the pageant was truly magnificent,
a splendid panorama of some forty thousand barbarians moving forward
all undismayed to do battle with the largest army which Great
Britain has placed in the field for forty years. So marvellous
a picture--once seen, never to be seen again--must surely have
impressed itself indelibly upon the memory of all who witnessed it!

Our men stood unmoved within the zeriba. Suddenly a cloud of white
smoke massed itself along the enemy's front, and one realised that
the Dervishes had opened fire on us. The Khalifa's forces possessed
eighteen thousand Martinis and a still larger number of Remingtons,
captured from the ill-fated army of Hicks Pasha and the various
garrisons of the Sudan. But as none of the Dervishes understood the
sighting of their rifles, and many of them had actually knocked off
the back-sights as a useless encumbrance, their opening volleys at
over two thousand yards, being fired point blank, were useless. They
simply wasted ammunition; for most of the bullets of course struck
the sand hundreds of yards in front of us, and comparatively few got
as far as the zeriba. No response came from our silent ranks for
another five minutes. Then at 6.20 a roar came from the batteries on
the left, and a shell shrieked through the air and burst about twenty
yards in front of the formidable line advancing against the southern
face of the zeriba. Almost simultaneously the other batteries opened
fire on the dense masses of the enemy advancing round the western
slopes of Surgham, and still farther away towards the ridge of

The battle had now commenced in dire earnest. As the enemy rapidly
advanced, bullets of all sizes and shapes soon began to whistle over
the zeriba from the Martinis, Remingtons, and nondescript weapons of
the enemy. A battery, too, which they had placed on the western slope
of Surgham, fired at the portion of our line held by the Camerons
and Seaforths. More than forty rounds were fired from these Dervish
field guns, but the shells did little, if any, damage, as, although
the fuses were beautifully timed and the projectiles burst at an
excellent height above the ground, the range was too long, and they
all fell short. Moreover, after the fight some fragments of these
shells were picked up and found to be made of very thin brass casing;
so that the damage they could have inflicted, even had they reached
our lines, must have been inconsiderable. As it was, they burst like
maroons at the Crystal Palace, with a loud report and little else.

Our own artillery had very soon found the range accurately. The
British fifteen-pounders and the short Maxim-Nordenfeldts of the
Egyptian gunners were admirably worked, and the precision of the
shell fire was marvellous. Scores of shrapnel burst just over the
advancing line, and other shells struck the ground under their feet,
tearing huge gaps in the ranks and throwing up clouds of earth and
stones. The division of the enemy nearest to the zeriba was advancing
over the ridge between Surgham and the river, and with a good field
glass I could see the fearful havoc played by the fire of our guns.
Beneath the descending shower of bullets from a well-placed shrapnel,
a little crowd of men would fall torn and bleeding upon the sand,
and sometimes a shell splinter would crash into a horse and hurl the
animal with its rider to the ground. Despite this awful fire, the
brave Dervishes came steadily on down the slope, though the line of
their march was thickly strewn with dead and wounded. At length, to
complete their discomfiture, the enemy in this part of the field
came within long range of the rifles of the Guards, the Warwicks,
and other battalions lining the more southern face of the zeriba. As
withering volleys were poured into them, in addition to the incessant
shell fire, the remnants of this brave division seemed to realise the
hopelessness of a direct advance, and swerved to their left without
any disorder to join their comrades who had advanced round Surgham
from the west.

The main attack upon our position had now fully developed, and it
was at this juncture that the Egyptian cavalry and the Camel Corps
regained the shelter of their comrades' trenches after their lucky
escape from Sheikh Ed-Din's spearmen. Thousands upon thousands of
Dervish infantry and cavalry advanced all along the line in a rough
semicircle, with frenzied shouts and a continuous but irregular fire
upon the western face of the zeriba. Towards the left centre the
Khalifa's black ensign stood out above the white _gibbehs_ and red
sashes of his bodyguard--that heroic and devoted band who rallied to
the last round their leader's flag, and died to a man in its defence!

The din of battle was terrific. The roar of the artillery, the shriek
of shells, the crisp volleys of the Lee-Metfords, and the unceasing
rat-tat-tat of the deadly Maxims were so deafening that it was only
occasionally in brief intervals that one realised that bullets by
hundreds were flying around us.

Other proofs, however, of this were soon in evidence. In every
direction the medical service men were to be seen carrying the dead
and wounded on stretchers to the rear. As I walked across the zeriba
with the Rifle Brigade, who were ordered to reinforce the line
facing west, three men were hit by Dervish bullets, and immediately
afterwards I saw a corporal of the Camerons shot clean through
the head. As I said above, comparatively few bullets were heard,
but every now and then a man fell to the ground. Colonel Money's
horse was shot under him; he secured another mount, and in a few
minutes his second horse rolled over, pierced by another Dervish
bullet. Shortly afterwards, as I was watching the Maxim fire, a
Highlander suddenly fell over two yards to my left. He was, I think,
shot through the upper part of the arm; but what amused me was the
self-conscious, shamefaced look which came over his face when the
stretcher arrived. He looked sheepishly round to see if anybody
noticed it, and was evidently quite ashamed of being carried off!

It was interesting to hear various occasional remarks which were
made as flying bullets whistled overhead or made a splash in the
loose sand of the zeriba. After a little experience in being under
fire the ear gets to appreciate the relative distances of these
invisible messengers, but the tendency at first is to imagine that
the passing bullet is much nearer to one than it really is. I
remember hearing a young soldier remark as a bullet whizzed over
us, "By Jove, that nearly got me on the head!" whereas the missile
was yards up in the air. It is, indeed, always satisfactory under
such circumstances to note the whizz of bullets through the air;
for, of course, if you hear the missile, it can't do you any harm.
Some of the Dervish bullets played the oddest tricks. My friend,
Captain Maclachlan of the Camerons, suddenly felt his side drenched
with water, and, looking down, found that his water-bottle had been
pierced from side to side. I found that this little anecdote had
already reached England when I arrived, and had, moreover, been duly
improved upon; for an old lady in the train spoke in sympathetic
tones of the providential escape of the poor invalid officer who had
been saved from a bullet as he lay in bed by the _hot water bottle_
applied to his side! Another bullet passed through an ammunition
pouch, cutting eight cartridges in half just between the lead and the
cordite without exploding a single one. In another case, a Dervish
bullet bored a hole through the helmet of the man in front, tore the
shoulder-strap from the man behind, then wounded a sergeant in the
leg, and finally dropped harmlessly on the toes of a private in the

Between the two Highland battalions was posted a battery of Maxims
under Captain Smeaton, whom I had seen in Crete a year and a half
ago. Just behind the Maxims a detachment of Engineers did excellent
work in organising the ammunition supply. One is always glad to
hear the conduct of this fine corps appreciated, for frequently the
sappers, from the nature of their work, are not sufficiently noticed
in the literature of our "little wars." They did much excellent work
at the Atbara, with scarcely a word of subsequent recognition from
the Press; and here in the Omdurman zeriba they were posted in the
middle of the fighting line, and took their chance as well as anyone

The Maxims poured forth an unceasing stream of bullets. A belt of
cartridges was fixed, and instantly began to glide through the breech
mechanism; then ta-ta-ta-ta-ta--the belt was empty and thrown aside
to make way for another. It was not difficult to see how the gun was
doing its terrible work, for if the aim became unduly depressed, a
screen of dust and sand was thrown up in front of the enemy's line,
and the only thing needed was a trifling elevation of the barrel.

There is a sort of fascination about a Maxim in full swing. Water is
placed round the barrel in a metal casing, in order to keep the steel
from becoming red hot. As it is, in three minutes after the water is
poured in it boils furiously, and steam rushes out of the valves.
Still, as long as the barrel is in contact with water of any kind,
all goes well. In the midst of the Dervish attack the water suddenly
gave out in Captain Smeaton's battery, and the machinery would
speedily have ceased work from overheating but for the ready help of
the men who stood by, and immediately emptied their water-bottles
into the empty tubing. The Maxims, thus refreshed, continued their
work, and up to 8.30 a.m. no less than ninety thousand rounds of
ammunition had been fired from these weapons alone.

About seven o'clock a marvellous attempt to break our lines was made
by the enemy. The Dervish leader in the centre--perhaps Yakub, the
Khalifa's brother--actually dispatched a body of about one hundred
and fifty cavalry against the British position. That any sane man
could be guilty of such criminal folly is almost incredible. The
devoted band galloped towards the zeriba over the open desert in
the very teeth of Maxims and Lee-Metford volleys! Needless to say,
not one of these brave fellows got within five hundred yards of our
lines. The Maxims and rifles rained bullets upon them, the murderous
sheet of lead mowed them down, and they simply vanished from sight.
One heroic leader struggled on in front of his comrades, until he
too, with his beautiful Arab charger, went down like the rest,
and lay there, a silent witness to the magnificent valour of the
Khalifa's followers. Not one man in twenty returned from this wild
charge, which, for the utter recklessness of its bravery, must be
almost unexampled in military history.

The interchange of shots continued until about 8.30, by which time
the Dervish forces had been practically annihilated, with the
exception of two or three large masses, which had retreated in
excellent order behind the hills on the south-west and north-west.
In fact, during the last half-hour of this portion of the engagement,
the actual rifle fire of the Dervishes had been confined almost
exclusively to a small body of sharpshooters, who had ensconced
themselves in a sandy hollow some nine hundred yards away on our left
centre. These riflemen, being sheltered from the hail of bullets
which whizzed over their heads, continued to make very fair practice
on our ranks for some time. At last a shell from Major Williams'
battery pitched right into the middle of their retreat. What exactly
happened I do not know, but, at anyrate, we were troubled by no more
bullets from _that_ quarter. Throughout the fighting up to this point
I never saw a Dervish _run_; whenever he retreated he simply walked
off the field. I noticed many of the wounded struggle to their feet,
attempt to walk away, and then fall to rise no more as merciless
volleys again struck them to the ground.

As the Sirdar appeared to think that all danger from Dervish attack
was now past and over, the entire army received orders to leave
the zeriba and march in _échelon_ straight on Omdurman. Meanwhile,
however, the Lancers had advanced over the ridge towards the river,
with orders to harass the enemy and head them off from Omdurman as
far as possible. The troopers trotted off in excellent spirits, glad
to get a chance of some fighting after their forced inaction under
cover during the assault upon the zeriba.

And now occurred the most graphic and sensational bit of fighting in
the whole battle. A continuous stream of Dervishes was traversing the
plain between Gebel Surgham and the suburbs of Omdurman. But before
the Lancers had advanced far upon the flank of these fugitives they
noticed what appeared to be a body of some two hundred spearmen, who
were partly under cover of a low ridge of sand. These Dervishes soon
showed that they had rifles as well as spears, for a hot fire was
opened upon the cavalry. A charge was at once ordered, and the line
of Lancers galloped down upon the enemy. Before they had reached
the hollow, however, they saw beyond the riflemen a considerable
body of Dervishes, whose presence, thanks to a further inequality
in the ground, had not been revealed till that moment. I have heard
it said that, previous to falling foul of these partly concealed
Dervishes, the Lancers had advanced without any scouts being thrown
forward who might have easily discovered how the land lay. Again,
even when the white mass of men, some fifteen deep, suddenly rose
up before the eyes of the cavalry, there would have been absolutely
no shadow of discredit in retiring; for cavalry are not ordinarily
required to charge unbroken infantry, nor was this course rendered
necessary by the Sirdar's orders. There can be little doubt that if
our men, immediately on sighting the large compact body in the rear
of the riflemen, had withdrawn, dismounted, and poured volleys from
their carbines into the massed ranks of the enemy, they would have
inflicted far greater damage upon the Dervishes, with scarcely any
appreciable loss to themselves. This course was not taken. So far
from halting and retreating, our gallant Lancers quickened their
chargers' pace, and hurled themselves boldly against the double
rampart of fighting men. Colonel Martin led the way, riding well
ahead of his regiment, and, without attempting to use his weapons,
forced a passage through the dense masses in front of him. He did
not, I believe, receive a scratch during this perilous exploit,
though it was almost a miracle that he escaped with his life. A
friend of mine who took part in this famous charge told me that as
the cavalry galloped forward they were met by a perfect hail of
bullets from the riflemen in front, which ought to have emptied
many a saddle, but for the most part flew harmlessly overhead. As
is usually the case in desperate fighting, none of the men who came
safely through the charge appeared to know much about its details.
My informant told me that he noticed an officer--probably Lieutenant
Grenfell--standing a little on one side and fighting with a ring
of Dervishes, three of whom suddenly turned upon himself. As they
advanced he realised that he had better make some use of his weapons,
so whipped out his revolver and shot the foremost Dervish. After this
his horse struggled onward past the rest of the assailants. Until he
had shot this man, he had quite forgotten to draw either sword or

The outer line of the enemy was soon broken up by the impact of
the cavalry, and the riflemen tumbled head over heels amongst the
horses' feet. But much greater resistance came from the two thousand
Dervishes at the back. The confusion was terrible. Lances are not
of much use in a crowd, and if our troopers had used their sabres
they would have suffered less from the heavy sword blades which were
hacking their bodies and hamstringing their horses. If any man was
unhorsed he was as good as dead. The furious Arabs leapt upon him
and slashed at his face till his features disappeared and his flesh
hung in strips. Lieutenant Clerk's charger stumbled and fell forward
as it breasted the edge of the _nullah_, but most fortunately its
master kept his seat, and managed to get through the _mêlée_ unhurt.
This officer was on September 2nd far too ill and weak for any sort
of military duty, but he pluckily kept to his regiment till the day's
arduous work was over, and was then obliged to go into hospital worse
than before. The fighting through the brief period of this charge--a
few minutes all told from beginning to end--was wild and fierce. The
Lancers never flinched in the face of an enemy six times as numerous
as themselves, and, doing what they could with the clumsy lances,
forced a path for their squadrons through the crowd in front. On
the other hand, the Dervishes rejoiced, no doubt, to get to close
quarters with the hated infidels after all the futile attempts and
cruel losses of the morning. Their eyes gleamed with fury as they
crowded round the hated Englishmen, and showered spear thrusts and
sword cuts upon man and beast alike. The cross-handled Dervish sword
is terribly heavy, and the long straight blades of several which I
picked up had been freshly ground for subsequent employment upon the
person of Tommy Atkins. The large Dervish spear, too, when properly
handled, is a most formidable weapon, and if a thrust is driven well
home into the body, the wound from the broad iron head is so wide and
deep that a man has little chance of recovery.

My readers have all read in the newspapers of some of the many acts
of heroism and narrow escapes which were crowded into the space of
a few minutes. They have heard how gallantly men like Lieutenant
Montmorency and Private Peddar, who had fought their way unhurt
through the Dervishes' line, turned back to save their wounded and
dismounted comrades--how Major Wyndham, when his horse fell dead
beneath him, managed with the help of his friends to push his way
through the press and escape the death which overtook almost every
other Lancer who was unhorsed.

The enemy's line was completely broken up by the cavalry, and about
seventy of the Dervishes were killed or wounded. But when the Lancers
formed up some three hundred yards on the other side of the hollow,
it was evident from even a cursory glance that the gallant charge
had cost them dear. Lieutenant Grenfell with twenty troopers were
missing, and of the fifty wounded men many were streaming with blood
and scarcely able to keep their saddles. No less than one hundred
and nineteen horses out of three hundred and twenty were killed or
hopelessly wounded, and in some cases the faithful creatures, who
had carried their masters safely through the fight, just managed to
rejoin the ranks and then fell dead.

After the charge Colonel Martin ordered his men to dismount and fire
volleys at the enemy, who still held their ground. The magazine fire
of the carbines speedily dispersed the Dervishes, and the victorious
Lancers returned to the scene of their charge and recovered the
dead. All the bodies had been horribly mutilated; the faces were
quite unrecognisable, and the flesh of the neck and shoulders was
scored and lacerated in every direction with sword cuts and spear

Indignation against the Dervishes for such mutilations may easily be
exaggerated. Sickening as it is to gaze upon a comrade's features
hacked out of all human semblance, one cannot forget that the men
who did the deed had seen thousands of their brethren slain by
our awful fire without a possibility of retaliation. It is worth
remembering, too, that the mutilation of the human body is not
the exclusive monopoly of barbaric peoples; anyone who has seen
the effects of shell fire--bodies ripped open, jaws torn off,
and kindred horrors--may find it difficult to differentiate very
markedly between the accursed usages inseparable from every system of
warfare--civilised and barbarous alike.

While the Lancers had met and engaged the enemy beyond Gebel
Surgham, the whole of the infantry, artillery, and baggage-train
had left the zeriba and advanced in _échelon_ upon Omdurman. The
British battalions led the way on the left; on the right marched the
Egyptians and Sudanese--Maxwell's brigade in front, Lewis's next,
and Macdonald's bringing up the rear. I joined Lewis's men, and as
the line of our advance led us over the ground covered by a portion
of the attack, we speedily found ourselves amongst dead and dying
Dervishes. The first of these I came across was the brave leader
who had led the charge of the Baggara cavalry. He and his horse
were quite dead--both of them riddled with bullets. His spear lay
beside him, and was seized by a Sudanese soldier as a present for
his _bimbashi_. As we marched towards Gebel Surgham, and further out
upon the plain, the efficacy of our shell and rifle fire became more
apparent every yard we advanced. In every direction rows and clusters
of white _gibbehs_ and black bodies lay scattered over the sand.

Here and there, too, horses were stretched motionless, or else tossed
restlessly to and fro, unable to rise. I cannot account for the fact,
but the sight of a wounded horse is much more painful to myself,
and, I know, to many other men, than the sight of a wounded man. As
one walks over a battlefield one gazes with indifference or vague
curiosity on mangled heaps of human bodies, but where one sees a
horse cruelly torn by a shell splinter, raising and drooping its head
upon the sand, with terror and anguish in its beautiful eyes--such a
sight as this must fill the heart of any lover of animals with pain
and pity.

Our native battalions were soon busily engaged in killing the
wounded. The Sudanese undertook this task with evident relish, and
never spared a single Dervish along their path. On our left front,
at the foot of the Surgham slope, where the opening shell fire of
the batteries on the left had covered the hillside with dead and
wounded, a large number of servants and camp followers were also
busy. These harpies, intent solely on loot, had armed themselves with
various weapons. Some carried clubs or spears, others had managed
to secure old rifles. They advanced with great caution, and I saw
them fire repeatedly into bodies which were already quite dead,
before they dared to rush in and strip the corpse of its arms and
clothing. These cowardly wretches ought most certainly to have been
prevented from carrying on this irresponsible shooting. They fired
anyhow, without looking to see who was in front, and their bullets
continually ricochetted against the rocks. One of these bullets
passed quite close to the front of our brigade as we advanced, and I
heard that an officer was wounded by another.

The barbarous usage of killing the wounded has become traditional
in Sudanese warfare, and in some cases it must be looked upon as
a painful necessity. The wounded Dervishes--as I saw with my own
eyes, and on one occasion nearly felt with my own body--sometimes
raised themselves and fired one last round at our advancing line. On
one occasion a wounded Baggara suddenly rose up from a little heap
of bodies and stabbed no less than seven Egyptian cavalry troopers
before he was finally dispatched. Still, when all has been said in
defence of this practice, it is certain that in many cases wounded
Dervishes, unarmed and helpless, were butchered from sheer wantonness
and lust of bloodshed. The whole formed a hideous picture, not easy
to forget.

Some of the wounded turned wearily over, and paid no attention to
our advance. For many of them, indeed, the bitterness of death was
already past. They lay in the scorching heat, with shattered bodies
and shattered hopes, awaiting the final thrust of the merciless
bayonet. Many of them were doubtless good as well as brave men. They
had trusted in Allah that he would deliver them, but their prayer had
been in vain. There are few experiences in this world more cruel than
the sudden extinction of religious hope, and the dying thoughts of
some of these Dervishes must have been exceeding bitter.

As I tramped along with Lewis's brigade towards Omdurman, we were
suddenly aware that something had gone wrong on the right flank and
rear of the column. The "ispt," "ispt" of bullets was heard in every
direction, and men began to fall. Turning round, I soon saw what had
happened. The enemy had actually renewed the fight, and an orderly
attack was being made on Macdonald's brigade by the large Dervish
force under Sheikh Ed-Din, which had retreated under the fire of
the gunboats at the beginning of the engagement, and held itself
in readiness behind the Kerreri ridge for this flank attack. At the
same time several other bodies of Dervishes appeared to the west of
Surgham, and also from behind the low hills straight in front.

The brunt of this fresh attack fell upon the rear brigade. Colonel
Macdonald did not lose a moment. His blacks were at once formed into
two lines, meeting at an obtuse angle, and a steady fire was opened
on the enemy, who advanced with marvellous rapidity. Towards the left
centre, the black standard of the Khalifa rose again to view, and
behind this, and on either flank, line after line of infantry swept
once more over the undulating desert.

This was the only portion of the fight in which any part of our
position was seriously threatened, and during this second battle--for
it practically amounted to this--the Sudanese and Egyptian infantry
had most of the fighting to themselves. Right well they fought--one
native brigade against some twenty-five thousand Dervishes. Any
wavering or panic on the part of these battalions would have been
fatal, for during the really critical period of the fight they were
quite isolated. Lewis's brigade--their nearest support--was at
least nine hundred yards away, and most of the British columns were
actually out of sight, advancing along the river a mile and a half
in front. The men of the brigade, which comprised the 9th, 10th, and
11th Sudanese and the 2nd Egyptians, were armed with Martinis; and
the smoke of the black powder they used interfered to some extent
with the accuracy of their fire, which always tends, in the case of
native troops, to become rather wild as the excitement of battle
grows upon them. Thus it happened that the enemy managed to get to
much closer quarters with us than previously. Their foremost ranks
sometimes seemed to advance within one hundred and fifty yards of the
Sudanese, and when a perfect flood of Sheikh Ed-Din's infantry was
let loose from the Kerreri slopes upon Macdonald's rear, some of the
Dervishes, despite the withering rifle fire, actually ran up and used
their spears against our men, until they were bayoneted or shot down
at the very muzzles of the rifles. Another brilliant attempt was made
by the Khalifa's cavalry to break the Sudanese lines, and some of the
horsemen got within a few yards of the line before they were shot
down in detail. One determined standard-bearer, with nothing in his
hands except his flagstaff, struggled on heroically to within a dozen
yards of the blacks before he fell, riddled with bullets.

Efforts had, of course, been made all along the line to lend
assistance to Macdonald in his one-handed struggle. The gunboats had
joined with his own three batteries in shelling the dense masses
under Sheikh Ed-Din, while on the left other batteries had galloped
up, and now from the northern slopes of Surgham poured round after
round of shell upon the indomitable enemy. Three battalions, too, of
the 1st British Brigade had come up at the double, and the Lincolns
had been dispatched to aid in the final dispersion of Ed-Din's
Dervishes amongst the rugged slopes of Kerreri.

Still, valuable as this help was in completing the rout of the
Dervishes, and driving them off finally beyond the hills to the
west, there is no doubt that the repulse of the enemy was already a
_fait accompli_ long before the British battalions had wheeled to
the right and traversed the long distance--at least one and a half
miles--between their position near the river and the rear of our
advance on the right. Colonel Macdonald had proved once more his
sterling qualities as a leader. The Sudanese had shown that they
could stand absolutely steady under a prolonged fire as well as rush
impetuously to an attack. The "Gyppies," who in the old days of El
Teb and Hicks Pasha's disaster threw away their rifles and were
butchered as they fled or knelt to beg for mercy--these very Fellahin
soldiers, now disciplined and taught the value of self-respect by
British officers, fired regular volleys and stood firm as a rock
against the stream of Dervishes which threatened every moment to
engulf them.

I noticed, by the way, one very smart bit of fighting during the
movement in support of Macdonald. The brigade under Colonel Maxwell
advanced almost directly upon Gebel Surgham, and a number of Sudanese
were ordered to clear the hill of Dervishes. Up went the blacks like
monkeys. The whole eastern slope of Surgham was dotted with little
white puffs of smoke as the lithe creatures leapt from boulder to
boulder and drove the enemy before them. At the top of the hill the
surviving Dervishes, under the Emir Osman Azrak, made a desperate
stand, but were killed to a man.

It was not till nearly midday that "Cease fire" again sounded, and
the victorious march to Omdurman was resumed. Scattered bands of
Dervishes were to be seen in the distance, making westward to the
shelter of the hills. Upon the rear of these fugitives the Egyptian
cavalry was let loose; and as they galloped away to the right, and
cut up the stragglers, they felt, no doubt, that they were getting
some sort of compensation for their bad luck in the early morning.
Captain Smeaton lent me his field glasses, which were more powerful
than my own, and far away in front, on a ridge of rock, safe from
cavalry and rifle bullets, I saw a little band of Dervishes--some
sixty in all--painfully making their way to the west. With the
fine binoculars in my hand I could even see the faces of the poor
wretches, the majority of whom seemed to be wounded. Some limped
along unaided over the rough hillside, others were supported by
their comrades. How many hundreds, nay, thousands, of these wounded
Dervishes ultimately succumbed to the fearful injuries inflicted
by the "man-stopping" bullet, no one, I suppose, will ever know
accurately; but one may be tolerably sure that behind the hills many
a poor creature lay down to die.

In handing Captain Smeaton's glasses back, I noticed that one of
the mules harnessed to the Maxims had just been struck by a bullet,
which passed clean through the animal's neck. The wounded mule, by
name Tommy, was evidently quite a pet amongst the gunners, and though
it looked rather anxious and depressed, it dragged the Maxim with
unabated vigour.

In places, as we marched along, the ground was strewn thickly with
bodies, as the fire had struck the enemy down in little heaps. In
one spot I saw a ring of nine men and three horses, all evidently
slain by the explosion of a single shell. One Dervish, as I passed,
raised his face to mine with a ghastly smile, as if deprecating our
vengeance, and throwing his _gibbeh_ on one side, displayed an awful
wound. A shell splinter had struck the miserable man full in front,
and literally ripped his body open from side to side. Another man
lay face downward upon the sand, breathing bubbles through a pool of
gore, and actually drowning in his own blood! As a rule, however, the
features of the dead were not distorted. They lay as if asleep, with
a peaceful look upon their faces, and many of them were handsome men
of magnificent build.

The sun by this time was terribly hot, and, after the excitement of
the fight, the fatigue of the day's work, and the absence of sleep
on the previous night began to tell upon the men. Several halts were
made, and at last a string of camels laden with _fantasias_ (metal
water tanks) made their appearance. The men crowded round, and filled
their bottles to the brim. The water was quite warm, but the troops
drank it with avidity. I filled my bottle, and then, plunging the
whole thing into a bucket, waited till evaporation should cool the
contents. Meanwhile I crawled under a Maxim carriage. The scanty
shade was perfectly delicious, and I should have gone to sleep but
for the mules, which became restless, and kicked out occasionally
with their hoofs in unpleasant proximity to my head.

After half an hour's halt the onward march was resumed, and we saw
the troops in front about two hundred yards away actually marching
through a mirage of water, rocks, and bushes! Cross tried to
photograph the curious scene, but the result did not prove a success.
Why does one never get a decent photograph of a mirage in the desert?
Men still fell out of the ranks from sheer exhaustion. One would see
a soldier totter on for some yards, trying to pull himself together,
and then suddenly step to one side and sink down on the sand, saying,
"It's no good; I can't go on." On two occasions when this happened,
the exhausted man had drained the entire contents of his bottle,
which had been full an hour ago, and not a drop of water was to
be got from any of the soldiers near! I mention this to show the
utter lack of self-control in the matter of drink which prevailed
amongst the "Tommies." My own bottle was the only one within reach
that contained any water at all, and of course I did what everyone
else would have done, and divided what remained between the two
men, who seemed to be actually dying of thirst. They then got up and
managed to struggle on to Omdurman, their rifles being carried for
them by some of their comrades. A private of the Warwicks suddenly
dropped down dead from heat apoplexy, and was buried on the spot. The
comparatively mild sufferings of our own men turned one's thoughts to
the crowded heaps of wounded wretches left behind us in the desert
to the added tortures of that thirst which invariably accompanies
gunshot wounds. How many thousands, too, of women and children would
soon be weeping with all the wild lamentation of the East over the
brave men who lay in the sleep of death far away upon the plain!
Sorrow is the same all the world over--that dread factor in human
life--and the terrific carnage of the day's fighting had taken away
the bread-winner and protector from thousands of poor homes in the
Sudan, and doomed many a household to starvation.

The battle was now to all intents and purposes over, and already
vast flocks of vultures were wheeling round and round over the
expanse of desert. Another halt was made on the edge of a _khor_
on the outskirts of Omdurman. The water of this inlet was thick and
yellow, and in the shallower parts dead animals--horses, mules, and
donkeys--lay about in various stages of decay. Nevertheless, the
thirsty troops rushed down the bank and drank greedily of the foul
water. The want of self-control and common sense at this _khor_ may
quite well be partly responsible for the large number of typhoid
cases which subsequently occurred. As I thought that ten minutes more
of dry throat and parched lips were better than the chance of enteric
fever, I walked down to the Nile. Here I found Captain Ricardo, Lord
Tullibardine, and one or two others sitting under the scanty shade
of a mud-hut, where I joined them after some tremendous draughts of
running water, drunk out of a calabash which I had cut from the neck
of a dead Dervish. Lord Tullibardine kindly gave me some brandy to
flavour the water, and Captain Ricardo recounted the good deeds of
the "Gyppy" cavalry. Then we all lay at full length and indulged in a
little siesta.

The bugles soon sounded the "advance," and the final order came
that the army was to occupy Omdurman forthwith. The weary troops
advanced once more, and we all waded through the muddy _khor_. The
water reached to our knees, and was very refreshing after the long
tramp over the hot sand. Alongside one of the battalions rode the
Presbyterian chaplain, mounted--oh tell it not in the Kirk, neither
publish it amongst the Elders--upon a looted pony! It was, I think,
a colt which I had seen earlier in the day standing unhurt amongst
a heap of dead Dervishes, and calmly nibbling some scanty blades of
desert grass.

As we marched on through the apparently interminable suburbs of the
city, the regimental drums and fifes and the Highlanders' bagpipes
struck up some lively tunes. The effect of music at such a time was
simply marvellous: it put fresh heart and vigour into all of us. The
Sudanese, with broad grins on their shiny black faces, played the
various marching tunes of the British regiments, and were loudly
cheered by their white comrades. All along the broad street which
runs through Omdurman to the central square we were greeted by bands
of women, who stood in clusters at the doors, and welcomed us with
curious trilling cries of joy.

The Khalifa had escaped from the southern end of the town about an
hour before our foremost troops arrived, and had been followed by
a panic-stricken mob of men, women, and children, with camels and
donkeys. In spite, however, of this exodus, the advance battalions,
with the Sirdar and his staff, had met with some resistance from
Dervishes still concealed in the houses along the main street. Here
and there bullets were fired from windows and roofs across the line
of our advance, and troops had to be detailed to clear out these
dangerous assailants. Fortunately, a little light still came from the
setting sun, and the Sudanese were soon able to rid themselves of
their antagonists. Bullets had been repeatedly fired at the Sirdar
and his staff as they advanced, and a little further on destruction
nearly overtook them from the shells of our own field guns. The
Sirdar had ordered the 32nd battery to shell the Khalifa's palace,
and nevertheless saw fit to advance with his staff into the zone
of fire. Suddenly four shells burst in rapid succession above their
heads, close to the Mahdi's tomb and the great square. Everyone
hurried away to shelter, but Howard had already dismounted and
reached an upper room in the Khalifa's palace. Another shell screamed
over the houses, and as it burst a fragment struck Howard on the
back of the head, and killed him instantly--a tragic and untimely
death, when the perils of the day seemed over and rest nigh at hand!
Thus perished a man who was, I believe, absolutely fearless in the
presence of danger. He was my junior at Oxford, but I remember that
as an undergraduate at Balliol he was known for that reckless daring
and courage which in after years led him to seek for adventure in
Cuba, Matabeleland, and finally the Sudan. During the campaign in
South Africa Howard displayed signal ability as adjutant of his
corps; in fact, the splendid courage and unceasing energy which
marked his whole career gave every promise of ultimately securing for
him a still higher fame and distinction. As it was, his young life
was cut short in the very midst of his restless activity, and he
died as he had lived, eager to do his best, and utterly fearless of
everything except failure.

      "The untented Kosmos his abode
        He passed, a wilful stranger--
      His mistress still the open road
        And the bright eyes of Danger!"

Our little band of fifteen had received, indeed, more than its fair
share of casualties in the day's fighting. In addition to Howard's
death, Colonel Rhodes had been shot through the shoulder, and another
correspondent had been slightly wounded in the face with a spent

The street fighting was over, darkness had fallen upon the city, and
the weary troops at length bivouacked for the night. In addition to
the wear and tear of the actual fighting, they had marched at least
fifteen miles, for the most part in the full heat of the sun. Many of
the men simply lay down as they were, and at once fell fast asleep.
After the army an apparently endless succession of baggage animals
filed wearily through the town. I gave up all hope of finding camels
and servants amid the general confusion, and betook myself to the
Camerons. The other correspondents went on, and, failing to discover
their baggage, had to sleep on the ground without food or blankets. I
fared much better. Inside my pocket was a small tin of potted meat,
and, as Captain Maclachlan had some biscuits, we intended to devour
these before going to sleep with our helmets for pillows. But a
joyful surprise was in store for us. By a great piece of good luck,
some of the regimental baggage camels happened to pass by, and these
were speedily annexed, with splendid results. My kind host invited
me to dinner, and what a meal we had! On a central packing-case,
which served as a _buffet_, stood several tins of "Suffolk pie"
and ox tongue, and for every man a biscuit or two. How delightful
it was to eat these tinned dainties--the only meat-food which had
passed our lips that day! Then came the crowning mercy. Maclachlan
unearthed a bottle of champagne from some mysterious source, and we
shared the generous wine between us. Our tumblers were the lower
halves of whisky bottles, cut round by string soaked in turpentine
and then set alight. We drank many toasts--the Sirdar, the Army,
Friends in England now Abed, etc. Our fatigues were all forgotten,
and we felt so amiable that I really think that if the Khalifa had
been within reach we should have sent him an invitation to join us,
and bring Osman Digna with him. This dinner-party in the open street
of Omdurman was one of the pleasantest I have ever attended--_olim
meminisse juvabit_!

At length we wrapped ourselves in blankets for the night, and lay
down upon the sand. All around was heard the heavy, regular breathing
of strong men, utterly tired out by the excitement and labours of the
eventful day. With the exception of occasional shots from Sudanese
looters or Dervish "snipers" across the river, perfect stillness
reigned over the thousands of men who lay in the large open spaces of
the city. Not a sound broke the silence--the camp was asleep, and

      "All that mighty heart was lying still!"

The moon had risen, and far away on the horizon gleamed the Southern
Cross, like that celestial symbol which inspired the Roman Conqueror
in his bivouac centuries ago, and helped to shape the destinies
of Christendom. _Per hoc vince_--good men of our victory's true
worth, and presage of our future work in these unhappy regions! The
day's carnage had indeed been cruel; blood had been poured out like
water; but there is a mysterious law in the working of Providence
which forbids the continued existence of systems which have ceased
to subserve the cause of progress. Mahdism has proved the most
shameful and terrible instrument of bloodshed and oppression which
the modern world has ever witnessed. It has reduced whole provinces
to utter desolation, so that tracts once smiling and fertile are
now but solitary wastes, the habitation of wild beasts. Thousands
upon thousands of homesteads have been laid in ruins, and the
innocent villagers outraged and tortured and murdered. As I entered
the Mahdi's tomb on the following morning, I saw a band of natives
casting stones with loud curses upon the spot where his body lay;
and scores of unhappy creatures who on the night of the battle
were liberated, after long years of imprisonment, lifted up their
hands, and with streaming eyes thanked God for the destruction of
their oppressor's rule. Mahdism has vanished, never to return,
and once more the arms of Great Britain have advanced the cause of
civilisation and "made for righteousness" in the history of the

  Battle of Omdurman.
  First Dervish attack.

  Battle of Omdurman.
  Second Dervish attack.

_R. V. Darbishire 1898._]



No account of the recent campaign could be in any way complete if
it did not include some mention of the valuable assistance rendered
to the Sirdar and the Anglo-Egyptian forces by the gunboats and the
Friendlies. I have thought it better to keep this portion of the
narrative distinct from the rest, and to mould the present chapter
more or less into the form of a diary.

The Sirdar's fleet at the end of the campaign consisted of the
following gunboats:--_Sultan_, _Sheikh_, _Melik_, _Fatteh_, _Nasr_,
_Hafir_, _Tamai_, _Metemmeh_, and _Abu Klea_. In addition to these
were the old unarmed _El Tahra_ and, up to 25th August, the gunboat

The navigation of the Nile was full of difficulty. The river charts
were bad or non-existent, and no _reis_, or native captain, could
really be trusted to keep his boat in the deep channels with any
certainty. Still, it must be remembered that the bed of the Nile is
continually changing its position, and what are deep holes one year
may be turned by next year's flood into shallow pools. On the whole,
it is astonishing that the river service was not frequently overtaken
by disaster. The engines on a boat like the _Tamai_ were always on
the verge of dissolution, the current was terrific, and all the
vessels--gunboats, barges, and _ghyassas_--were loaded down to the
water's edge. The barges, on which the troops were packed together
with barely room to turn themselves, were especially liable to
accident, as they were exceedingly top-heavy and loosely constructed.
I remember seeing a gunboat gently collide with one of these barges
as it lay, fortunately without any crew, off the bank at Wad Hamed.
The whole structure collapsed at once; the top platform fell off, and
in less than two minutes the remains of the barge and all its cargo
that would float were drifting rapidly down the Nile.

One gunboat alone, the _Zaphir_, was overtaken by serious disaster.
It happened as follows: On 23rd August the _Zaphir_ left the
Atbara at 4 p.m. The officers on board consisted of General Rundle,
Prince Christian Victor, Lieutenant Micklem, R.E., Major Dodd,
R.A.M.C., and, in command of the vessel, Commander Keppel, R.N.
In the _ghyassas_, which were lashed to the gunboat, were packed
"details" of various native battalions. All went well for two nights,
although on the 23rd the _Zaphir_ tied up to the bank in the midst
of a violent storm of wind which suddenly swept over the river from
the desert. At 4.45 p.m. on the 25th of August the officers were
sitting on the upper deck taking tea, when Mr. Poole, the engineer,
suddenly asked Commander Keppel to come below at once. Prince
Christian meanwhile walked forward, and noticed that the ship lay
very low in the water, so much so, in fact, that the rapid current
was washing over the bows. As he walked back to General Rundle,
Commander Keppel rushed up from the lower deck and informed the
assembled officers that water had found its way into the hold, and
the gunboat might go down any moment; meanwhile, he had ordered the
engineer to make for the shore at full speed. On the receipt of
this startling information the officers walked to the side of the
vessel, and as they did so, the _Zaphir_, which was floundering in
a clumsy fashion towards the bank, suddenly gave a heavy lurch to
starboard, and seemed on the point of "turning turtle." A general
exodus of natives followed; servants, sailors, and "Gyppy" soldiers
sprang out of the nooks and crannies in which they hide themselves
on board, and, leaping into the stream, swam easily to the shore. At
the same instant General Rundle, Major Dodd, and Lieutenant Micklem
jumped from the deck on to the _ghyassas_ at the side. The _Zaphir_,
however, righted herself again, but as the fires had been put out
by the inrush of water, she drifted slightly and began to settle
down. An attempt to get a rope from the ship to the shore failed.
Prince Christian then jumped upon a _ghyassa_, and lastly, just as
the gunboat sank within thirty yards of the bank, Commander Keppel
followed his example. Most fortunately, someone had the presence of
mind to cut the _ghyassas_ adrift, otherwise they would certainly
have been dragged down with the vessel as she foundered. On the
return journey from Omdurman I noticed that part of the funnel was
still out of the water, and a twelve-pounder gun projected from the
stern battery a couple of feet above the stream. The whole party
bivouacked on shore that night in rather a destitute condition.
Nobody seemed to know how the leak was caused, but from the time the
inrush of water was noticed, at 5.40, only eleven minutes elapsed
before the vessel sank. A few stores had been saved, and off these
the shipwrecked officers made a meal. Everyone by good luck had
managed to land in his helmet, but otherwise the clothing of the
party was rather nondescript. Prince Christian, for example, had
nothing left except a pair of trousers and a canvas shirt. Next
morning the natives dived about the wreck and fished out some odds
and ends of clothing and baggage. At midday on the 26th, Major
Drage, D.S.O., happened to pass up the river in the _El Tahra_, and
conveyed the _Zaphir's_ crew to Rojan Island, where Commander Keppel
transferred his flag to the _Sultan_, accompanied by Prince Christian
and Major Dodd.

On the day before the loss of the _Zaphir_, the "Irregulars" or
"Friendlies" had assembled at Wad Hamed. This motley corps was
composed of detachments from the following tribes:--Gaalin, Ababdeh,
Shukriyeh, Batahin, Bishariyeh, Mersalamieh, Gimiab, and a few
Hassaniyeh. All these tribes have for thirteen years been bitterly
hostile to the English and Egyptians, but, thanks to the impolitic
conduct of the Khalifa and the cruel devastation practised by his
generals, many of his adherents amongst these Arab tribes have been
alienated from the Mahdi's successor, and now look forward to an era
of peace and security under a settled government. By far the most
useful and important section of these Friendlies was furnished by
the Gaalin, a brave and warlike tribe, who fought gallantly against
the British at Abu Klea, Abu Kru, and Gubat in January 1885. In July
1897 Khalifa's army under the brutal Mahmoud--who was captured at the
Atbara, and is now imprisoned at Wady Halfa--suddenly, on their march
northwards, attacked the Gaalin, and butchered a large number of them
at Metemmeh. Ever since this treacherous massacre a deadly feud had
existed between this tribe and the Khalifa's government.

As a fighting force the Irregulars, numbering about two thousand
five hundred, presented a rather quaint appearance. They were
armed with every imaginable weapon. Some had rifles, others were
equipped with old flint and steel muskets, elephant guns, ancient
muzzle-loading pistols, spears, swords, and daggers. Their methods
of locomotion were almost as varied as their accoutrements. Some
were mounted on horses, some marched on foot, others ambled along
on camels, mules, and donkeys. About twelve hundred Remingtons
were supplied at Wad Hamed for distribution amongst the tribes in
proportion to their numbers, and it was a proud day for many of these
picturesque ruffians when they secured one of these rifles. The
possession of guns always seems to exercise a peculiar fascination
over semi-barbarous peoples. A friend and myself once bestowed three
ancient Snider carbines, rubbed bright with Monkey Brand Soap, upon
a small Arabian potentate, who was delighted with the present and
had the rifles carried after him by three almost naked courtiers
wherever he went. We took good care not to give the monarch any
cartridges, but his attendants did not seem to mind the absence of
ammunition. What they liked was to swagger about with the Sniders,
and use them as a sort of glorified walking-stick with the muzzle
stuck into the ground.

For the command of this extraordinary army the Sirdar had selected
Major Stuart-Wortley, whose military ability and almost unique
experience of Sudan campaigns marked him out as the proper man for
the work of impressing some order and discipline upon the rough and
turbulent material of the Friendly Contingents. Lieutenant Wood also
accompanied the force as staff officer.

The Gaalin and the other Friendlies crossed over from Wad Hamed, and
were ordered to proceed along the river parallel to the advance of
the Anglo-Egyptian forces on the opposite bank. The various tribal
contingents marched separately under their own sheikhs, and presented
a most picturesque appearance across the river as their white-clad
columns moved in and out of the green bushes. They first came into
touch with the enemy on 29th August, when the village of Gaali was
found to be occupied by a small detachment of Jehadieh infantry and
Dervish cavalry. These were speedily routed by the Friendlies, who
attacked the small force before them in fine style, and captured ten

On 31st August three gunboats--the _Sultan_, _Melik_, and
_Fatteh_--were ordered to advance up the river from Seg-et-taib and
shell the advance post held by the Dervishes on the Kerreri ridge.
Before midday the gunboats took up a position opposite Kerreri
village, and proceeded to enfilade the Dervish camp on the hill. Some
splendid practice was made, and great confusion was produced by the
twelve-pounder shells as they burst in rapid succession amongst the
enemy, who could be seen rushing about, collecting their property and
striking their tents. The camp was soon rendered untenable by our
fire, and as the Dervishes fled over the plain towards Omdurman, they
were followed by shells from the gunboats, which knocked over about a
dozen cavalry.

On 1st September some excellent work was done by an effective
co-operation between the gunboats and the Friendlies. At 5.30 a.m.
the _Sultan_, _Sheikh_, _Melik_, _Fatteh_, and _Nasr_ steamed up the
right bank of the river and met Major Stuart-Wortley. It was arranged
that the gunboats should steam on ahead and shell the villages and
forts from the river, while the Friendlies advanced along the bank.
At 9.30 the vessels engaged and utterly destroyed a fort to the
south of Halfayah. The villages of Hejra el Sharg and Halfayah were
next shelled, and as a body of Dervish cavalry emerged into the open
ground, some forty or fifty of them were knocked over by shrapnel.

On land, meanwhile, the Irregulars had not been idle. Notwithstanding
the shells of the gunboats, several of the villages south of Halfayah
were found to be held in considerable force by the enemy. Major
Stuart-Wortley drew up his men for the attack, but an unexpected
hitch occurred, as the Mersalamieh and Gimiab contingents posted in
front did not seem at all disposed to advance against the Dervishes,
who were waiting for them behind the shelter of numerous mud-houses.
Instead of rushing to the attack, they suddenly halted and danced
a "fantasia" instead! Major Stuart-Wortley did not waste time over
these faint-hearted warriors, but brought up his trusty Gaalin, who,
supported by the other tribes, gallantly attacked house after house,
and routed the enemy, killing a large number, including Isa Zachnieh,
a cousin of the Khalifa, and losing themselves over sixty killed and

The Gaalin made very little use of their rifles in the desperate
fighting which practically cleared the right bank of the Dervishes.
They loaded their guns and fired them into the air, calling upon
Allah to direct the course of the bullets! Then throwing their
Remingtons on one side, they gripped their broad-bladed spears, and
used them so effectively that after the fight the Dervish casualties
stood at three hundred and fifty killed, wounded none! At one moment
Major Stuart-Wortley and Lieutenant Wood were in great danger. A
troop of Baggara horsemen suddenly charged down upon the spot where
they were standing, and the Ababdeh Arabs who were with the two
officers, instead of waiting for the cavalry, simply turned tail and
fled. Immediately after this fighting round Halfayah, two hundred
and fifty Shukriyeh Friendlies were dispatched up the Blue Nile in
pursuit of the Dervishes who had fled.

By 11.30 on the 1st, the fighting on the right bank was to all
intents and purposes over. Five hundred Gaalin and one hundred and
seventy-five British infantry, made up of details from the Guards,
Rifle Brigade, Highlanders, etc., were embarked on the five gunboats.
The original plan had been to land Stuart-Wortley's levies on Tuti
Island, but this was abandoned owing to the close proximity of the
Omdurman forts--a fact not disclosed on the Intelligence maps--and
the presence on the island of a large force of Dervishes.

[Illustration: Plan of


to illustrate

The operations of the gunboats and the Friendlies.

  1. Khartum.            |   6. Mosque.
  2. Omdurman.           |   7. Mahdi's Tomb.
  3. Gordon's House.     |   8. Khalifa's House.
  4. Tuti Island.        |   9. Khojali.
  5. Great Wall.         |  10. Hejra el Sharg.

_R. V. Darbishire 1898._]

Meanwhile Major Elmslie's battery of howitzers had taken up a
position on the bank opposite the centre of Omdurman, and at 1.30
opened fire on the Mahdi's tomb, at a range of three thousand one
hundred and fifty yards. The two first shells missed their mark,
but played havoc with the neighbouring buildings; the third
wrecked the apex of the dome, and carried away the gilded ornaments
which surmounted it. Later on three other shells crashed into the
structure, tearing enormous holes in the stonework, and utterly
destroying the whole of the interior. Subsequently the howitzers
abandoned their artillery practice on tombs and their violation of
the dead, and engaged in the more satisfactory demolition of the
Omdurman ramparts. Vast breaches were torn in the big wall which ran
along the river, and many of the principal buildings were utterly

At 2 p.m. the gunboats, with the _Sultan_ leading, advanced farther
up the stream in order to shell the forts of Omdurman. As they
steamed slowly up past the city, the boats were met by a heavy shell
fire, and occasional volleys from Dervish riflemen. The enemy's
shells burst all round the boats, but they only succeeded in scoring
two hits the whole day, one of which splintered some woodwork on a
barge, while the other struck an iron mantlet at an angle and glanced
harmlessly off into the water. At such short range the Dervish
gunners ought most certainly to have made better practice, but the
fact is, that the aim of our quick-firing guns was so marvellously
accurate that it was almost impossible for the enemy to work their
artillery. Thanks very largely to the skill of two Royal Marine
sergeants, our fire silenced one battery after another. In some cases
actually two shells out of three penetrated the embrasures of the
forts, dismounting the guns inside, and doing terrible execution
amongst the Dervish gunners.

While the twelve-pounder guns were demolishing the forts, the
Maxims were turned with deadly effect on the Dervishes who were
running about the banks. As two more forts in Khartum--one at the
juncture of the Blue and White Nile, the other close to Gordon's
palace--continued to fire upon us, the gunboats steamed past the
ruined city, and speedily converted these last defences of the enemy
into mere heaps of rubbish. At 5 p.m. the Friendlies were disembarked
on the right bank, where they remained with the howitzer battery and
the British detachment under Captain Ferguson of the Northumberland
Fusiliers. The five gunboats then returned and took up a position
off El Genuaia opposite to the zeriba.

During the battle on the morning of 2nd September, the gunboats were
posted at both ends of the zeriba, and made themselves extremely
useful. As was mentioned above, the fire of these boats lying off
Kerreri village practically saved the Camel Corps from annihilation.
Throughout the rest of the fight, too, a galling shell fire was kept
up on the Dervish forces advancing from the north-west and, more
especially, from the south, over the sandy ridge between Surgham and
the Nile.

Meanwhile the howitzer battery had again opened fire at daybreak, and
continued its work of destruction amongst the buildings of Omdurman.
The effect of the Lyddite shells was so terrible that the Khalifa
seems to have abandoned his plan of falling back behind the walls
of his capital. This was a most fortunate thing, so far as we were
concerned, for if, after the fearful slaughter of his troops in the
first half of the engagement, the Khalifa had retreated with ten or
fifteen thousand men inside the tortuous streets and crowded houses
of Omdurman, we should have had the utmost difficulty in driving the
enemy out, and could not, in all probability, have occupied Omdurman
on the evening of the 2nd. House-to-house fighting is always a
costly and dangerous business, and had it taken place, the prophetic
estimate popularly attributed to the Sirdar of "one thousand
casualties before Khartum is ours," might well have been realised in
fact. As it was, the Dervishes prepared to take their chance in the
open desert, rather than await our onset under a continual fire of
fifty-pounder shells which burst amid sheets of flame and clouds of
dust, and sent huge fragments for hundreds of yards, wrecking every
obstacle in their path.

When the battle was over, the gunboats steamed up side by side with
the general advance, and were met at Omdurman by a hot rifle fire
from Dervishes concealed in the houses along the margin of the
river. The streets leading to the southern exit of the town were by
this time crowded with a mass of fugitives. In addition to mounted
Baggaras and Dervish infantry, a mob of inhabitants--men, women,
and children, dragging after them camels, horses, and donkeys laden
with goods and chattels--all this confused stream of human beings and
animals was pressing madly forward in panic-stricken flight. Orders
were given to fire upon the fugitives, and as the artillerymen on the
gunboats, from their raised position, could see well over the walls,
a deadly fire was opened upon the crowded thoroughfares. One street
especially, which led down to the river, was swept by a frightful
hail of Maxim bullets, which mowed the poor wretches down in scores.

After taking part in the battle and the subsequent destruction of
fugitives, the gunboats proceeded, on the night of the 2nd, about one
hundred miles farther up the river, and returned to Omdurman on 5th
September with the report that they had seen no more Dervishes.

During the fighting off Omdurman on the 1st, two of the Khalifa's
gunboats were destroyed. There was a pathetic interest attached to
old vessels like the _Bordein_ and _Ismailia_, as they had formed a
part of Gordon's little fleet in the old days of thirteen years ago!
The _Bordein_ had been despatched northwards by Gordon, but, like
the _Abbas_, had been wrecked. She struck on a rock in the Shabluka
Cataract, on 30th January 1885, and foundered, but was subsequently
raised by the Dervishes. When our gunners came within sight of the
vessel, voices were raised to save the old boat for Gordon's sake.
"Don't let us fire on the poor old _Bordein_!" But there is little
room for sentiment or loving-kindness amid the exigencies of warfare,
and under our fire the _Bordein_ was headed for the shore, and sank
as she reached it.

A still worse fate overtook the _Ismailia_. In some way or other
she fouled one of the mines laid down by the Khalifa's engineers in
midstream; the mine exploded, and the _Ismailia_, literally hoist by
its own petard, was blown out of the water. Two other mines had also
been laid in the channel, near the right bank opposite Omdurman. The
ropes connecting these with the shore were afterwards found inside
the ruined forts, but all our attempts to explode them were futile.
The Dervish steamer which was subsequently captured by the Sirdar on
his way to Fashoda was, I believe, the solitary survivor of Gordon's
ill-starred flotilla. The _Talawahiyah_ had been sunk off Rojan
Island, on 29th January 1885, and was never recovered. The _Abbas_,
which set out from Khartum with Colonel Stewart and Mr. Power on
board,--the one last desperate attempt to reopen communications with
the North,--was wrecked at Hebbeh, between Abu Hamed and Kirbekan,
and now lies there, keel uppermost.



On the morning of 3rd September our troops moved out of Omdurman and
encamped on the banks of the river some two miles to the north. The
moment I had finished breakfast I made for the Mahdi's tomb. The
interior was an absolute wreck. Vast quantities of stones and mortar,
torn away by the Lyddite shells, were heaped upon the floor, and of
the superstructure over the Mahdi's grave only the wooden framework
remained. Some pieces of tawdry drapery which had covered the tomb
lay on the ground, and these I brought away. Outside the tomb, a
little to the right, I came across a truly awful spectacle. One of
the terrible Lyddite shells had burst amongst some unfortunate Arabs
near the Khalifa's palace. Eight men lay dead in a ghastly ring, some
of them torn by horrid mutilations; but the curious point about some
of the bodies was that they were not lying flat, but were sitting on
the ground with fearfully contorted limbs and features. Could this be
due to the deadly fumes of the picric acid contained in the Lyddite?
The stonework of the tomb and the surrounding buildings was often
stained yellow by this chemical. Outside in the open street fragments
of Koran manuscripts were lying about in every direction.

I then set out to find Cross and the other correspondents. It was
said that they were with the Staff, in strange and unwonted proximity
to the Sirdar's tent. However, as nobody seemed to know where the
Staff was, I wandered about for hours seeking my colleagues in vain.

As I passed along the river a barge drew up alongside to land the
bodies of the British soldiers who had been killed. From some
misunderstanding a wounded man slid out of the boat amongst the
corpses, and began to walk up the bank, but was promptly sent
back with the reprimand--"D----n you, what do you mean by coming
ashore with this lot? You aren't dead!" Even amid such gruesome
surroundings it was quite funny to see the disappointed look of the
man as he returned to the barge to take his place under a separate

At last I came by accident upon Cross. The poor fellow was again
in a state of prostration, and was lying under the blanket-tent of
Captain Luther, R.A.M.C., in the camp of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
The officers of this battalion had been most kind to Cross, and as
the day was terribly hot he remained under the shelter of their
tents until the evening, when he rejoined me in our own camp. He
told me that on the previous night he had, like the rest of the
correspondents, failed to get any food, and had slept on the sand
without a blanket, though Steevens, with his usual kindness, had lent
him an overcoat when the night air became chilly.

At length, after wandering up and down for miles in the blazing heat,
I discovered the whereabouts of our camp out in the desert to the
south-west of the town. All my colleagues were here except Villiers.
Nobody seemed to know what had become him, and as the hours passed
and he failed to turn up we began to get alarmed. His servant had
pitched Villiers' umbrella tent, and beside it stood the bicycle,
which was disfigured by an honourable scar, for the top of the valve
was gone, and Hassan declared that it had been carried away by a
Dervish bullet. I mounted the famous machine, intending to go for
a ride to the execution ground, where several fine gibbets were
standing, but as the back wheel was "buckled" I soon dismounted--with
the proud consciousness, however, of being the first cyclist in

The streets of the town were perfectly loathsome. In every direction
lay the decaying bodies of dead animals, and the stench was terrible.
Moslems, from a curious intermixture of humanity and cruelty, never
give a dying animal a _coup de grâce_, and they seldom take the
trouble to bury the carcass. Moreover, in some parts of the town one
could scarcely walk fifty yards without coming across the bodies of
men, and occasionally, I am sorry to say, those of women and little
children. At least five hundred dead people lay scattered about the
streets, some destroyed by Lyddite shells, but the majority pierced
with bullets. I saw some of these corpses lying in the shallow water
near the bank of the river, and as it seemed to be nobody's business
to bury them, it is not surprising that our Guardsmen and other
soldiers contracted the germs of enteric fever at Omdurman!

Inside the Khalifa's arsenal there were many curious things--spears,
bows and arrows, coats of chain mail, machine guns, Krupps, various
kinds of ammunition, and other warlike apparatus, ancient and modern.
Three carriages of European make were also visible, which were said
to have been used by the Khalifa on state occasions, though these
vehicles could never have got beyond the main streets, for the simple
reason that outside the town no roads exist.

Most of the Dervish ammunition used in the battle seems to have been
of home manufacture. All the Martini cartridges I picked up amongst
their dead were extremely well made of "solid drawn" brass, and
stamped with a Κ and a Π. I imagine that these letters may stand
for Khartum and Pentekachi, the unfortunate Greek who succeeded in
manufacturing gunpowder for the Mahdi, and was finally blown to
atoms by an explosion of the magazine. On a Martini rifle which I
secured from the battlefield, the Enfield stamp is still visible.
Some disgraceful facts were revealed at the time when Berber was
occupied, and the public documents fell into our hands, for, in
addition to various offers of assistance addressed to the Khalifa
from people in high positions at Cairo, some invoices were discovered
which showed clearly that a certain Manchester firm had supplied the
Khalifa with lead for the manufacture of bullets! It is difficult
to believe that an Englishman could sink so low as to supply his
country's enemy with munitions of war for the sake of filthy lucre!

A new bullet, by the way, was used in the recent campaign. Its title
is sufficiently significant. It is called the "man-stopping bullet,"
and simply means that an ordinary .303 Lee-Metford bullet is scooped
out at the end to the depth of about half an inch. When this missile
strikes an object the hollow nose instantly expands like an umbrella,
inflicting a tremendous shock, which was frequently not secured when
the ordinary solid bullet, with its enormous velocity (two thousand
feet a second at the muzzle), passed clean through an enemy's body,
but failed to administer a sufficiently crushing blow. At Krugersdorp
an ordinary Lee-Metford bullet was driven right through the brain
of a Boer; and so far was the tiny puncture from being immediately
fatal, that the Dutchman walked to church next Sunday--though it is
true that on the Sunday following he went there again in a coffin. Of
course this solid bullet, when it chanced to come in contact with a
bone, served its purpose well, and shattered the bone to atoms. The
first occasion, I believe, on which the Lee-Metford bullet was fired
into a human body was at the well-known Featherstone riots; and I
remember seeing a drawing made by a medical man at the time of the
foot of one of the rioters, which had been struck. Not only was the
lower part of the leg bone completely smashed, but almost every bone
in the foot had been broken more or less by the terrific force of the

_À propos_ of dum-dum bullets, man-stopping bullets, _et hoc genus
omne_, a good deal of false sentiment has been evoked in England
and France. The main object of a soldier in battle is to put his
opponent out of action, and it is found by experience that the
ordinary bullet does not adequately secure this result when employed
against barbarous or semi-barbarous enemies. A civilised combatant,
when he is struck by a bullet--even if the wound be a comparatively
slight one, say through the shoulder--almost invariably sits down
on the ground; but the nervous system of the savage is a far less
delicate organism, and nothing short of a crushing blow will check
his wild onset. Even in the Martini-Henry days scores of Dervishes
rushed upon the British troops at Abu Klea and elsewhere, with the
blood spurting from seven or eight bullet wounds, and then cut and
thrust with deadly effect until loss of blood told, and they fell
dead in or about the square. One of the two British officers who
lost their lives at the Atbara fight was killed by a large elephant
bullet, the hollow base of which had been filled with a fulminate.
This was an _explosive_ bullet, quite a distinct species from the
missile described above.

The fire from our zeriba, which mowed the Dervishes down in rows and
heaps, must have been simply appalling. The ordinary metaphors of
"rain" and "hail" are scarcely adequate to describe the awful effect
of modern rifles and machine guns when their fire is steady and
concentrated. It is rather a wall of lead than a rain, which, as it
advances, sweeps everything instantly from its track. There must be
a limit to human endurance, one would think, even in the excitement
of battle, and the time may well come when human art will prove
superior to human courage and discipline, and civilised troops will
refuse to expose themselves to what may have become practically the
certainty of death or wounds, or, at anyrate, of enormous risk. The
educational and social forces at work in modern life certainly do not
tend to foster the old-fashioned virtue of unquestioning obedience,
or the consolations to be derived from religious faith. Yet it is
precisely these two things which alone have often enabled a leader to
count with confidence upon a response to his call when he summons his
followers to almost certain destruction--the surrender of life and
all that life holds dear.

On 4th September, at 9.15 a.m., four gunboats conveyed the Sirdar
and various detachments of troops, with most of the correspondents,
across the Nile to Khartum. We moved alongside the quay in front
of the ruins of Gordon's palace, and the troops formed a rough
semicircle, with the Sirdar, his Staff, and the two foreign
_Attachés_ inside. Four chaplains took their stand with their faces
to the river, ready to conduct a memorial service. At ten o'clock the
Union Jack was run up from one of the flagstaffs which surmounted
the ruined façade of the palace, and almost immediately afterwards
the Crescent flag of Egypt was unfurled. The gunboat _Melik_ fired
twenty-one guns, but as no blank ammunition was forthcoming,
twenty-one shells were sent screaming up the Nile--a most unique and
realistic form of salute! After this hearty cheers were given for Her
Gracious Majesty the Queen and His Highness the Khedive. Then came a
brief and simple service to the memory of the brave man who, thirteen
long years ago, had so often stood on the very terrace which lay in
ruins before us, and, hoping against hope, looked northwards over the
desert--but in vain--for any sign of help from England! The air of
Gordon's favourite hymn was played, and as its cadence fell upon the
ears, one's thoughts recalled the words of the exquisite verses--

      "I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless,
      Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
             *       *       *       *       *
      When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
      Help of the helpless, oh abide with me!"

How truly must the spirit of these lines have been felt by Gordon,
that noble and sincere Christian, deserted by man, yet doubtless
sustained by the abiding presence of his Master in life and death.

During our brief stay at Omdurman every variety of loot was hawked
about the camp for sale. Huge shields of hippopotamus hide, spears,
swords, old rifles, Mahdist coins, and other trophies of battle or
pillage, found ready purchasers. A negro paid me a visit who was
clad in chain mail, cut rather after the fashion of a dress coat.
There was, indeed, quite a flavour of the Margate sands about the
appearance of this Ethiopian, with his striped cotton trousers and
his metallic coat, the tails of which, like those of Burnand's hero,
"positively swept the ground." These suits of mail were beautifully
made of steel rings, and could be purchased for about twenty-five
shillings each; but they were very heavy and awkward things to carry
about. Everybody brought back a Dervish sword or two, which were
often very interesting. Some blades had the famous Ferrara stamp,
others were marked by the mail-clad figure which is said to belong
to the period of the Crusades, from which, at anyrate, the general
pattern of Dervish swords--a straight blade with a plain cross
hilt--seems to date. The pretty _gibbehs_, too, were brought home in
large numbers; there were nearly eleven thousand of them available
for selection on the sandy plain three miles away! The history of
the Dervish _gibbeh_ is rather a quaint one. The original garment
was, of course, the plain white cotton coat of the Arab; but the
Mahdi, who was somewhat ascetic--in theory, at anyrate, if not in
practice--ordered his followers to sew black patches upon their nice
white coats, as tokens of humility. But alas for human frailty, what
was intended to curb the spiritual pride of the faithful became a
direct incentive to the vainglorious adornment of their persons!
The ladies of Omdurman were strongly opposed to the dowdiness of
the black patches upon their husbands and lovers, and, under the
influence of the more æsthetic circles of Dervish society, the white
_gibbehs_ were gradually tricked out with gaudy squares of blue, red,
and purple.

Many of the dead bodies in the field had rosaries round their necks,
usually made of box or sandal wood. Nobody paid much attention to
these ornaments, but from one point of view they are interesting. Was
the use of a row of beads for religious purposes borrowed from the
Christians by the Moslems, or _vice versâ_? Another curious relic was
an insulator from a Dervish field telegraph, which had been worked
between a point near Gebel Surgham and Omdurman during the battle.
Many of the dead Emirs wore watches, one of which was marked "Dent,

Our soldiers seemed to thoroughly enjoy the rest at Omdurman. They
had probably some very quaint ideas of our geographical surroundings
and the reason for our presence in the Sudan. On 4th September some
companies of Sudanese who had been sent up the river in pursuit of
the Khalifa were seen returning in the distance with a long string
of Dervish prisoners. There was great excitement amongst the British
troops; whole battalions ran wildly over the sand expecting to catch
a glimpse of the Dervish leader, and I heard one Tommy Atkins say to
his comrade, "'Urry up, Bill, come along; they've cotched the bloody

In addition to Dervish prisoners who were captured by the active
Sudanese, hundreds came in voluntarily and surrendered themselves.
Many were wounded more or less seriously, but of the rest a large
number were enrolled as soldiers of the Khedive! What amazing
versatility! On one day the Dervish rushes boldly against our shells
and bullets, and on the next he joins us as a comrade in arms!
Some of the French papers declared ungenerously that the Sirdar
had armed these Dervish allies in order to dispatch them against
Major Marchand. Such an act would under the circumstances have been
legitimate, and had these newly enrolled soldiers of the Khedive
been given a free hand, "the evacuation of Fashoda" would have been
ancient history by this time! But of course no such intention ever
entered the Sirdar's head. The brave Marchand certainly deserved a
better fate than to be wiped out by ex-Dervishes.

The prisoners were released from their fetters on the night of
the battle. Amongst them were a number of jet black Abyssinians,
survivors of the sanguinary battle of Galabat. I saw Charles Neufeld,
and he looked very little the worse for his stay at Omdurman. A
great deal of English sympathy has been wasted on this person. The
harrowing stories we have read in the papers of the poor captive
languishing in hopeless captivity are sheer nonsense. On two separate
occasions Neufeld had the chance of escape, for a clever and
courageous Arab called Oman had been dispatched by the Intelligence
Department to rescue the captive. Neufeld, however, refused to leave
Omdurman unless he was accompanied by a black woman, with whom he
lived. This was obviously out of the question. So Father Rossignoli
was rescued instead, and brought safely to Assouan.

An infinitely more pathetic case was that of the two Austrian
Sisters who had been compelled to marry Greeks. One of these, who
was childless, returned to Cairo; but the other, who had borne her
husband three children, elected--so I heard--to remain for good
at Omdurman. The poor woman felt that she could never face her
co-religionists at home after her vows of celibacy had been broken. I
remember as I walked along the bazaar on the morning after the fight
I noticed a European woman in Arab dress standing amongst a crowd
of natives. She looked wistfully and sadly at the British as they
passed, and I always regret that I did not speak to her.

Slatin Pasha soon returned from his pursuit of the Khalifa. The
Egyptian cavalry had followed the tracks of the fugitive for thirty
miles up the river, but as the horses were dead beat and no forage
could be landed from the gunboat accompanying the pursuit, owing to a
long stretch of marshy ground, the squadrons were compelled to return
without the Khalifa. I happened to be strolling past Slatin's tent at
the time, and he called me in and told me how terribly disappointed
he was at the failure of the pursuit. He was kept very busy all the
time we were at Omdurman by continual visits from many old Dervish
friends and acquaintances. One day when I was with him a handsome old
Arab with a white beard came into the tent, and sinking down without
a word, bent his head over Slatin's shoulder and wept. At length
he found words to tell us that his only son had been killed in the
fighting. "Oh, Hassan," said Slatin, and could get no further--his
kind heart was too full of pity; and as he placed his hand on to his
old friend's shoulder and tried to soothe his sorrow, I turned away,
unable to bear the sight of the father's grief.

As Cross grew no better, and there was little else to do in Omdurman,
I asked Colonel Wingate to allow us a passage on the first gunboat
leaving for the North. Accordingly, on the morning of the 6th, Cross,
René Bull, and myself embarked on the _Metemmeh_, and steamed away
down the river. Nobody was sorry to say good-bye to the repulsive
streets of Omdurman.

Two barges packed with the rank and file of the Warwicks were lashed
to either side of the _Metemmeh_, which carried on board Colonel
Forbes and the officers of the battalion, together with Lieutenant
Clerk of the 21st Lancers. We were all in excellent spirits, and
fully expected to reach the Atbara in about thirty hours. As steam
and current bore us rapidly past the battlefield in the twilight, the
vultures circling over the distant plain and the broken zeriba by the
river's bank were the only visible signs which remained to tell of
our momentous victory.

We were not destined to reach the Atbara in thirty hours! The sun had
set, and the _reis_ had been advised to tie up to the banks for the
night; but the obstinate fellow denied the necessity of any stoppage
for another hour or two, so we went tearing down the stream at a
tremendous pace. Dinner was just over--a curious meal, supported
almost entirely by voluntary contributions of tinned meats, rice,
jams, etc.--when, without a moment's warning, a tremendous shock sent
everything and everybody sprawling over the deck. Loud cries of "We
are going over" came from the river, and through the semi-darkness
one could see that the troop barge had been wrenched from its
lashings by the shock, and was heeling over in a terrible manner.
Everybody on board the gunboat shouted "Sit down," "Keep still"; and
it was very fine to see how the soldiers immediately obeyed their
officers, though for the moment they fully expected to be capsized
into the flooded stream. By good luck the detached barge righted
itself and remained fixed in midstream, about thirty yards from the
gunboat and the other barge.

Nobody quite knew where we were or what had happened, but as it
seemed certain that we were not likely to go much further that night,
we all made preparations for going to sleep. The upper deck was
quite a small affair, and the space at our disposal was curtailed
by the presence of a large table and a number of camp chairs. Over
these few square yards of deck we had to dispose the recumbent forms
of some twenty-six human beings. The result was a sort of Chinese
puzzle. I had always heard that Nature, when she had any close
packing to do, employed the beautiful simplicity of the hexagon, and
suggested a trial of this system; but the theory, owing, probably, to
dissimilarities in our lengths and breadths, would not work at all.
We lay in wild disorder, but so tightly wedged together that it was
impossible to move about when one had finally secured one's berth in
this casual ward! A friend's boots gently reposed upon my pillow all
night, while my own feet were thrust against the ribs of a transverse
form below.

When the sun rose next morning we saw that the incompetent _reis_ had
run us right on to a sandy island which is submerged when the Nile
is in full flood. The whole of that day was spent in endeavouring to
drag the gunboat and the barges off the sandbank. The _Nasr_, under
the command of Lieutenant Hon. H. L. A. Hood, happened to come along,
and did her best to help us, but the only hawser available snapped
like a thread from the strain put upon it, and the _Nasr_ departed.
The troops were then ordered to get into the shallows and try to push
the barges off. What had been foreseen by several of us happened!
The soldiers managed to shove one of the barges into deep water,
and then several of them, unable to check their movements, found
themselves out of their depths in the strong current. One poor fellow
was drowned under our eyes, and two others were just rescued in a
state of utter exhaustion by natives with life-belts. The whole thing
was a complete muddle, and we all felt angry at the incompetence and
obstinacy which had brought about the needless loss of life.

Another night was spent on this depressing sandbank, and at dinner
we became aware that something dreadful had attached itself to the
vessel. We looked over the side, and from the space between the
gunboat and the left-hand barge emerged the body of an Egyptian
cavalry man. The corpse bobbed up and down on the swirling waters in
a horribly grotesque fashion. Its spurs had caught the woodwork of
the barge for a few moments and delayed its rapid passage down the
Nile. I remember we remarked, "Oh, it's only a dead Gyppy," and then
went back to our dinner.

Next day we made a desperate effort to get afloat, and finally
succeeded. Instead, however, of being the first to reach Atbara Camp,
and to secure the earliest train service to Wady Halfa, we had had
the mortification of seeing the Seaforth Highlanders pass us the day

At Nasri Island I landed to get the tent and other baggage which we
had left behind us on leaving Wad Hamed, but was informed that the
five _ghyassas_ containing officers' luggage--and our own unfortunate
belongings amongst it--had capsized two days before. My precious
tent, two Gladstone bags, and a case of stores lay fathoms deep in
the Nile, and all the consolation I had was to draw up a pathetic
claim for compensation from the impecunious Egyptian War Office.

By the time we arrived at the Atbara, Cross's illness had increased,
and his temperature had gone up to 100°. The army surgeon on board
the _Metemmeh_ advised him to stay in hospital at the Atbara for a
few days before proceeding to Cairo, and the officer in charge of
the hospital gave the same advice. I had already heard from another
medical man that he did not detect any traces of typhoid symptoms in
Cross; so one thought that he was merely suffering from the common
feverishness which comes from a "touch of the sun," and passes off
after a few days. I remained at the Atbara for a night, and then went
on with the Warwicks to Wady Halfa, leaving a servant with Cross,
who had arranged to follow by the next train in two days' time.

The remainder of our homeward journey was comparatively uneventful.
The bad luck, however, which seemed to follow the Warwicks delayed us
for twenty-four hours on our journey to Wady Halfa, for the wretched
engines which dragged our cattle pens (first class) and baggage
trucks (third class) repeatedly broke down from overheating and lack
of grease.

During a short wait at Shellal my servant called my attention to
a woman on the bank, who was apparently in great distress, and
told me that she was weeping because she had been divorced by her
husband. Such cases are often very cruel, for Mohammedan law allows
a husband to write his wife a bill of divorcement without pretext of
any sort. At the same time, he is bound to maintain her for three
months, and her dowry is restored. Many good Moslems deplore the
obsolete character of their divorce laws, which have outlived their
usefulness. Still, it must not be forgotten that in one respect
Moslem wives have for centuries enjoyed a privilege which was not
possessed by Englishwomen until a recent date, namely, the absolute
control of their own money and property. Female education, too, which
is increasing rapidly in the towns, and later on will spread to the
country districts, will doubtless serve to improve the status and
welfare of native women. Monogamy is already almost universal with
the fellahin, and is steadily gaining ground amongst the educated
classes. A good deal of false sentiment is often expended by good
people in England over the lot of their Mohammedan sisters, but they
may rest assured that women all the world over have the amelioration
of their condition very largely in their own hands. Further, a very
slight acquaintance at first hand with Oriental countries will show
one that Moslem home life is full of happiness, and that nowhere in
the world is greater devotion lavished by parents upon their children.

At Luxor the blessings of civilisation met us again, in the shape of
a nice breakfast at the hotel and a big bath. Most of us had slept
more or less in our ordinary clothes for several weeks, and everyone,
from the Colonel downwards, wallowed joyfully in an unlimited supply
of warm water. As we sat at breakfast, someone told me that a camel
had died just near the hotel from the bite of an asp. The snake, a
little creature some eight inches long, was lying under the sand,
according to its wont, with its head just above the ground. The poor
camel trod on it, and was bitten in the foot. It speedily died,
swollen to nearly double its ordinary size, and the natives lit a
fire over its carcass. The Arabs dread the little asp terribly,
and its bite is nearly always fatal. A special antitoxin has been
prepared by the _Institut Pasteur_ from the serum of horses bitten by
poisonous snakes. A subcutaneous injection of ten cubic centimetres
of this fluid is alleged to be a sure specific against the bite of
any known species of venomous land-snake. But this preparation is
practically useless in the Sudan, as it loses its efficacy if much
exposed to light or to a high degree of heat. Nor has it, so far as I
know, ever yet been tried in the case of any human being bitten by a
deadly snake. I took some with me last year when exploring in Sokotra
with the late Mr. Theodore Bent, but despite the glowing accounts
of the efficacy of _dowa Inglizi_ and offers of large bakshish,
the faith of the natives was never robust enough to allow them to
voluntarily submit to a snake bite for experimental purposes.

On the final stage of our railway journey from Luxor to Cairo,
Lieutenant Clerk and I shared a carriage between us, and were
extremely comfortable. Ali redoubled his efforts in the cooking line,
and for our final meal in the train, to which we invited a military
chaplain, the Rev. E. H. Pulling, we used up all our remaining tins,
and dined off _pâté de foie gras_, a curried blend of prawns and
chicken, and stewed apricots--a good instance of what a clever Arab
servant can turn out with a spirit-lamp and a couple of tin saucepans
in a crowded third-class carriage.

After waiting four days in Cairo, and receiving a telegram from
the Atbara which gave me no cause for the least apprehension about
Cross's condition, I left Alexandra on the 17th of September
for Marseilles. On board I renewed my acquaintance with Major
Stuart-Wortley, and amongst the other passengers were Prince Francis
of Teck and Prince Christian Victor. Prince Francis had been very
ill throughout the latter part of the campaign, but during the fight
had risen from his bed, in spite of medical advice, and worked a
Maxim gun with good effect.

We left Marseilles by the morning _rapide_ on the 21st, and as we
were crossing the Channel on the 22nd, Prince Christian handed me the
_Morning Post_, and pointed to a paragraph which announced the death
of Cross from enteric fever on the 20th.

The news took away for the time being all the joy of one's return.
Twice I have been fated to lose my travelling companion by death
when the work was finished which we set ourselves to do. Cross was
an old Hertford man, who had rowed five in the 'Varsity boat of
1889, and had afterwards been appointed to an assistant mastership
at Bedford. He had always been very loyal to his old college, and
our successes on the river were largely due to his "coaching." We
shall all--seniors and juniors alike--miss him greatly. In spite
of constant attacks of illness from exposure to the sun, each of
which left him weaker than before, Cross had refused to return
from the front, and, as I said above, had actually dragged himself
out of hospital in order to be present at the battle. But while
his natural vivacity and vigour were to some extent impaired by
physical debility, he was always unselfish in the "give and take"
of camp life, and bore uncomplainingly the many discomforts which
are necessarily experienced by the sick during the advance of an
army. Still side by side with his courageous endurance of physical
suffering, and the coolness which he showed when under fire for the
first time, the central thought which occupied Cross's mind was that
of returning to his beloved work at Bedford.

      "His was a soul whose master-bias leans
      To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes--
      More brave for this, that he had much to love!"

The Sudan campaign, which, thanks to the Sirdar's wonderful genius
for organisation, has been so thoroughly successful, cannot be
regarded as in any sense final. Unless our recovery of the Nile
banks as far as Omdurman is followed by the possession of the
Bahr-el-Ghazal, we may almost be said to have laboured in vain. If we
stayed our hand at Khartum, or even Fashoda, the same remark which
Lord Salisbury passed on the French possessions in the Sahara,
that "the soil was rather light," would apply equally well to our
arid conquests in the Sudan. The so-called French occupation of the
Bahr-el-Ghazal must not be allowed to count for anything. Their utter
failure as colonisers in French Congo, Senegal, and even Algeria,
and the selfish tariffs with which they seek to exclude foreign
industry from the regions which they reserve for Frenchmen who
never come--these things deprive them of any moral claim to further
annexations of vast territories in the interior of Africa. Moreover,
the Bahr-el-Ghazal was indubitably a province of Egypt before the
Mahdi's revolt, and must be restored to the Khedive intact. Under
British control this fertile province will be able to develop its
splendid resources. Coffee grows wild, timber abounds, and thousands
of square miles are ready for the cultivation of corn, two crops of
which can be grown in a single year. In ancient days Egypt was the
granary of Europe. Rome and Byzantium were dependent almost entirely
upon the Alexandrian corn-ships. In fact, one of the most serious
accusations which could be brought against a citizen was that he
was carrying on intrigues for the stoppage of these vessels. This
actual charge was levied against the great Athanasius himself, and
the philosopher Sopater, who was accused of delaying the corn supply
by magical rites, was promptly decapitated by Constantine "because he
was too clever" (δι' ὑπερβολὴν σοφίας). There is no reason why the
Bahr-el-Ghazal, when connected by river and rail with the sea, should
not take its place as one of the great corn-growing countries of the
world. Again, an exploration of the Nuba region to the north of the
province may lead to the discovery of mineral wealth. At anyrate,
during an earlier campaign, a Dervish caravan was captured by the
forces under Sir Francis Grenfell, and amongst the merchandise was
found a large quantity of gold which had been dug out of the Nuba

But even when the possession and organisation of the Bahr-el-Ghazal
has become an accomplished fact, we find ourselves barred by a belt
of territory some two hundred miles across, from Uganda to the north
of Lake Tanganyika. Despite the vital importance of securing a
road between Uganda and Nyassaland, Lord Salisbury allowed Germany
to make the western frontier of its East African possessions
conterminous with that of the Congo State, and thus completely bar
our advance from north or south. But in this case what was lost by
the weakness of one Government may be recovered by the firmness of
another; and if this result be happily secured, the territories
regained to civilisation by Lord Kitchener's genius will be united to
our vast possessions in the South, and Mr. Cecil Rhodes' magnificent
idea of a British Empire in Africa, stretching from Cairo to the
Cape, will at length be realised in actual fact.


I have handed over my small collection of insects to Professor
Poulton, F.R.S., of Oxford, who has had them set, and has kindly
supplied me with materials for the following list, which may possibly
be of some interest to any reader interested in Entomology.


Three specimens of _Limnas Chrysippus_, a Danaine butterfly,
found over all the warmer parts of the Old World. Of these three
butterflies, one is the brown type form (Wad Hamed); one the Alcippus
or Alcippoides variety, with white hind wings (Wad Hamed); one an
Alcippoides, with much less white (near Kerreri).

Three specimens of _Belenois mesentina_. Two males (Zeidab and Wad
Hamed) are typical. The female (near Pyramids of Meroe) is darker
than usual. The specimen in the Hope Collection nearest to it comes
from Somaliland.

One _Teracolus_. Very like _T. auxo_. The specimen is a male, small
and white, with orange tip to the fore wing (near Pyramids of Meroe).

Three very small species of _Lycænidæ_. Two males and two females
(two, Kerreri; two, Rojan Island).


_Noctuæ._--One _Grammodes stolida_ (Battlefield of Omdurman), exactly
like the Hope Specimens from India.

One dubious specimen, probably a species of _Pandesema_ (on gunboat
near Shabluka).

_Bombycidæ._--One small female moth (Luxor), somewhat resembling
_Trichiura cratægi_.

_Tineina._--Three small pale specimens (two, on gunboats near
Metemmeh; one, Wad Hamed).


_Trichoptera._--A few species, very pale in colour (Luxor and Abu


One Cicindela. A very small and pale species, not represented in the
Hope Collection (Wad Hamed).

One Buprestid, namely, _Sternocera irregularis_. A large brown
species, with irregular tufts of straw-coloured hair on elytra and
thorax (Um Teref).

One Longicorn. A large black shining _Prionus_, not represented in
Hope Collection.

Heteromera. Two species, as yet uncompared with Hope Collection.

Two Lamellicorns, apparently _melolontha_, or very similar.


One immature form of a large species, pale in colour.


Fulgoridæ. One small pale species.


Gryllidæ. Two pale species.

Acridiidæ. Two pale species.


One winged ant--dark, with sand-coloured patches.


Six species of spiders. One of these is a beautiful mimic of an ant.

The above list is necessarily imperfect. It had to be compiled
immediately for the publication of this volume, and there has been no
time to properly "work out" many of the species. It is interesting to
note the pale tint of so many of these Sudanese insects--a manifest
adaptation to environment, for purposes of concealment amid the
yellow sand of the desert.





  FORTHCOMING BOOKS,                                          3

  POETRY,                                                     9

  BELLES LETTRES, ANTHOLOGIES, ETC.,                         10

  ILLUSTRATED BOOKS,                                         11

  HISTORY,                                                   11

  BIOGRAPHY,                                                 14

  TRAVEL, ADVENTURE AND TOPOGRAPHY,                          15

  NAVAL AND MILITARY,                                        17

  GENERAL LITERATURE,                                        18

  SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY,                                    20

  PHILOSOPHY,                                                20

  THEOLOGY,                                                  21

  FICTION,                                                   24

  BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS,                                  33

  THE PEACOCK LIBRARY,                                       33

  UNIVERSITY EXTENSION SERIES,                               34

  SOCIAL QUESTIONS OF TO-DAY,                                35

  CLASSICAL TRANSLATIONS,                                    35

  EDUCATIONAL BOOKS,                                         36


  FEBRUARY 1899.


Travel and Adventure

THE HIGHEST ANDES. By E. A. FITZGERALD. With 40 Illustrations, 10 of
which are Photogravures, and a Large Map. _Royal 8vo. 30s. net._

Also, a Small Edition on Handmade Paper, limited to 50 Copies, _4to.
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  A narrative of the highest climb yet accomplished. The
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THE HEART OF ASIA. By F. H. SKRINE and E. D. ROSS. With Maps and many
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CHITRAL: The Story of a Minor Siege. By SIR G. S. ROBERTSON, K.C.S.I.
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  Extracts from reviews of this remarkable book will be found on
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and 5 Maps. Second and cheaper Edition. _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net._

THE CAROLINE ISLANDS. By F. W. CHRISTIAN. With many Illustrations and
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History and Biography

the Royal Academy. By his Son, J. G. MILLAIS. With nearly 300
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8vo. 32s. net._

A limited edition will also be printed. This will contain 22 of
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  In these two magnificent volumes is contained the authoritative
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Oxford Commentaries.

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Handbooks of Theology.

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The Library of Devotion.

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with an Introduction by C. BIGG, D.D., late Student of Christ Church.

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LYRA INNOCENTIUM. By JOHN KEBLE. Edited, with Introduction and Notes,
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General Literature

The Arden Shakespeare.

General Editor, EDWARD DOWDEN, Litt. D.

  MESSRS. METHUEN have in preparation an Edition of Shakespeare in
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  The first volumes will be:


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. By JANE AUSTEN. With an Introduction by E. V.
LUCAS. _Two Volumes._

VANITY FAIR. By W. M. THACKERAY. With an Introduction by S. GWYNN.
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EOTHEN. By A. W. KINGLAKE. With an Introduction.

CRANFORD. By Mrs. GASKELL. With an Introduction by E. V. LUCAS.

JANE EYRE. By CHARLOTTE BRONTÉ. With an Introduction by R. BAYNE.
_Two Volumes._

The Little Guides.

_Pott 8vo, cloth 3s.; leather 3s. 6d. net._



  Uniform with Mr. Wells' 'Oxford' and Mr. Thomson's 'Cambridge.'



  Messrs. METHUEN contemplate a very interesting experiment in
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A NEW NOVEL. By E. W. HORNUNG. _Demy 8vo. 6d._


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Consolation.' _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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=S. Baring Gould.= A BOOK OF FAIRY TALES retold by S. BARING GOULD.
With numerous Illustrations and Initial Letters by ARTHUR J. GASKIN.
_Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. Buckram. 6s._

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=S. Baring Gould.= OLD ENGLISH FAIRY TALES. Collected and edited
by S. BARING GOULD. With Numerous Illustrations by F. D. BEDFORD.
_Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. Buckram. 6s._

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=S. Baring Gould.= A BOOK OF NURSERY SONGS AND RHYMES. Edited by S.
BARING GOULD, and Illustrated by the Birmingham Art School. _Buckram,
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=H. C. Beeching.= A BOOK OF CHRISTMAS VERSE. Edited by H. C.
BEECHING, M.A., and Illustrated by WALTER CRANE. _Cr. 8vo. gilt top.
3s. 6d._

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Professor of Egyptology at University College. _Fully Illustrated. In
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With 120 Illustrations. _Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

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and his Companions.' _Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d._


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Travel, Adventure and Topography

=Sven Hedin.= THROUGH ASIA. By SVEN HEDIN, Gold Medallist of the
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Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society. With over 800
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  'Crowded with adventures and intensely interesting.'--_World._

  'An exciting and thoroughly well-arranged book.'--_St. James's

=G. S. Robertson.= CHITRAL: The Story of a Minor Siege. By Sir G. S.
ROBERTSON, K.C.S.I. With numerous Illustrations and a Map. _Second
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_Demy 8vo._ With Portrait. _10s. 6d._

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Translated by HAMLEY BENT, M.A. With 100 Illustrations and a Map.
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=R. S. S. Baden-Powell.= THE DOWNFALL OF PREMPEH. A Diary of Life in
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Map. _Cheaper Edition. Large Crown 8vo. 6s._

  'A compact, faithful, most readable record of the
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=R. S. S. Baden-Powell.= THE MATABELE CAMPAIGN, 1896. By Col.
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Plans, etc. _Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d._

Major A. ST. H. GIBBONS. With full-page Illustrations by C. WHYMPER,
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Lieut.-Colonel ALDERSON. With numerous Illustrations and Plans. _Demy
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=E. N. Bennett.= THE DOWNFALL OF THE DERVISHES: A Sketch of the Sudan
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Reuter's Correspondent. With Plans and 23 Illustrations. _Crown 8vo.

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Edited by A. W. HUTTON, M.A., and H. J. COHEN, M.A. With Portraits.
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=E. V. Zenker.= ANARCHISM. By E. V. ZENKER. _Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d._

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=J. Wells.= OXFORD AND OXFORD LIFE. By Members of the University.
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THOMPSON. With Illustrations by E. H. NEW. _Pott 8vo. 3s. Leather.
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Fellow of All Souls', Oxford. _With a Frontispiece. Pott 8vo. 3s. 6d._

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Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

=J. S. Shedlock.= THE PIANOFORTE SONATA: Its Origin and Development.
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=E. M. Bowden.= THE EXAMPLE OF BUDDHA: Being Quotations from Buddhist
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Science and Technology

=Freudenreich.= DAIRY BACTERIOLOGY. A Short Manual for the Use of
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M.A. _Illustrated. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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12 Coloured Plates. _Royal 8vo. 18s. net._

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A BOOK OF DEVOTIONS. By J. W. STANBRIDGE, M.A., Rector of Bainton,
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Leaders of Religion

Edited by H. C. BEECHING, M. A. _With Portraits, Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

A series of short biographies of the most prominent leaders of
religious life and thought of all ages and countries.

  The following are ready--

















Other volumes will be announced in due course.



Marie Corelli's Novels

_Large crown 8vo. 6s. each._

A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS. _Eighteenth Edition._

VENDETTA. _Fourteenth Edition._

THELMA. _Twentieth Edition._


THE SOUL OF LILITH. _Ninth Edition._

WORMWOOD. _Eighth Edition._


  'The tender reverence of the treatment and the imaginative
  beauty of the writing have reconciled us to the daring of the
  conception, and the conviction is forced on us that even so
  exalted a subject cannot be made too familiar to us, provided
  it be presented in the true spirit of Christian faith. The
  amplifications of the Scripture narrative are often conceived
  with high poetic insight, and this "Dream of the World's Tragedy"
  is a lofty and not inadequate paraphrase of the supreme climax of
  the inspired narrative.'--_Dublin Review._

THE SORROWS OF SATAN. _Thirty-ninth Edition._

  'A very powerful piece of work.... The conception is magnificent,
  and is likely to win an abiding place within the memory of
  man.... The author has immense command of language, and a
  limitless audacity.... This interesting and remarkable romance
  will live long after much of the ephemeral literature of the
  day is forgotten.... A literary phenomenon ... novel, and even
  sublime.'--W. T. STEAD in the _Review of Reviews_.

Anthony Hope's Novels

_Crown 8vo. 6s. each._

THE GOD IN THE CAR. _Eighth Edition._

  'A very remarkable book, deserving of critical analysis
  impossible within our limit; brilliant, but not superficial; well
  considered, but not elaborated; constructed with the proverbial
  art that conceals, but yet allows itself to be enjoyed by readers
  to whom fine literary method is a keen pleasure.'--_The World._

A CHANGE OF AIR. _Fifth Edition._

  'A graceful, vivacious comedy, true to human nature. The
  characters are traced with a masterly hand.'--_Times._

A MAN OF MARK. _Fourth Edition._

  'Of all Mr. Hope's books, "A Man of Mark" is the one which best
  compares with "The Prisoner of Zenda."'--_National Observer._


  'It is a perfectly enchanting story of love and chivalry, and
  pure romance. The Count is the most constant, desperate, and
  modest and tender of lovers, a peerless gentleman, an intrepid
  fighter, a faithful friend, and a magnanimous foe.'--_Guardian._

PHROSO. Illustrated by H. R. MILLAR. _Third Edition._

  'The tale is thoroughly fresh, quick with vitality, stirring the
  blood.'--_St. James's Gazette._

  'A story of adventure, every page of which is palpitating with

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SIMON DALE. Illustrated. _Third Edition._

  '"Simon Dale" is one of the best historical romances that have
  been written for a long while.'--_St. James's Gazette._

  'A brilliant novel. The story is rapid and most excellently told.
  As for the hero, he is a perfect hero of romance.'--_Athenæum._

  'There is searching analysis of human nature, with a most
  ingeniously constructed plot. Mr. Hope has drawn the contrasts of
  his women with marvellous subtlety and delicacy.'--_Times._

Gilbert Parker's Novels

_Crown 8vo. 6s. each._


  'Stories happily conceived and finely executed. There is strength
  and genius in Mr. Parker's style.'--_Daily Telegraph._

MRS. FALCHION. _Fourth Edition._

  'A splendid study of character.'--_Athenæum._

  'But little behind anything that has been done by any writer of
  our time.'--_Pall Mall Gazette._

  'A very striking and admirable novel.'--_St. James's Gazette._


  'The plot is original and one difficult to work out; but Mr.
  Parker has done it with great skill and delicacy. The reader who
  is not interested in this original, fresh, and well-told tale
  must be a dull person indeed.'--_Daily Chronicle._

THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD. Illustrated. _Sixth Edition._

  'A rousing and dramatic tale. A book like this, in which swords
  flash, great surprises are undertaken, and daring deeds done, in
  which men and women live and love in the old passionate way, is a
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WHEN VALMOND CAME TO PONTIAC: The Story of a Lost Napoleon. _Fourth

  'Here we find romance--real, breathing, living romance. The
  character of Valmond is drawn unerringly. The book must
  be read, we may say re-read, for any one thoroughly to
  appreciate Mr. Parker's delicate touch and innate sympathy with
  humanity.'--_Pall Mall Gazette._

AN ADVENTURER OF THE NORTH: The Last Adventures of 'Pretty Pierre.'
_Second Edition._

  'The present book is full of fine and moving stories of the
  great North, and it will add to Mr. Parker's already high
  reputation.'--_Glasgow Herald._

THE SEATS OF THE MIGHTY. Illustrated. _Ninth Edition._

  'The best thing he has done; one of the best things that any one
  has done lately.'--_St. James's Gazette._

  'Mr. Parker seems to become stronger and easier with every
  serious novel that he attempts. He shows the matured power which
  his former novels have led us to expect, and has produced a
  really fine historical novel.'--_Athenæum._

  'A great book.'--_Black and White._

  'One of the strongest stories of historical interest and
  adventure that we have read for many a day.... A notable and
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THE POMP OF THE LAVILETTES. _Second Edition. 3s. 6d._

  'Living, breathing romance, genuine and unforced pathos, and a
  deeper and more subtle knowledge of human nature than Mr. Parker
  has ever displayed before. It is, in a word, the work of a true
  artist.'--_Pall Mall Gazette._

THE BATTLE OF THE STRONG: a Romance of Two Kingdoms. Illustrated.
_Fourth Edition._

  'Mr. Gilbert Parker has a master's hand in weaving the threads of
  romantic fiction. There is scarcely a single character which does
  not convince us.'--_Daily Chronicle._

  'Such a splendid story, so splendidly told, will be read
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  reputation.'--_St. James's Gazette._

  'No one who takes a pleasure in literature but will read Mr.
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  from the interest of the tale.'--_Pall Mall Gazette._

  'Nothing more vigorous or more human has come from Mr. Gilbert
  Parker than this novel. It has all the graphic power of his
  last book, with truer feeling for the romance, both of human
  life and wild nature. There is no character without its unique
  and picturesque interest. Mr. Parker's style, especially his
  descriptive style, has in this book, perhaps even more than
  elsewhere, aptness and vitality.'--_Literature._

S. Baring Gould's Novels

_Crown 8vo. 6s. each._

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  painted with the loving eyes and skilled hands of a master of
  his art, that he is always fresh and never dull, and it is no
  wonder that readers have gained confidence in his power of
  amusing and satisfying them, and that year by year his popularity
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ARMINELL. _Fourth Edition._

URITH. _Fifth Edition._

IN THE ROAR OF THE SEA. _Sixth Edition._


CHEAP JACK ZITA. _Fourth Edition._

THE QUEEN OF LOVE. _Fourth Edition._

MARGERY OF QUETHER. _Third Edition._

JACQUETTA. _Third Edition._

KITTY ALONE. _Fifth Edition._

NOÉMI. Illustrated. _Third Edition._

THE BROOM-SQUIRE. Illustrated. _Fourth Edition._



GUAVAS THE TINNER. Illustrated. _Second Edition._

BLADYS. Illustrated. _Second Edition._

DOMITIA. Illustrated. _Second Edition._

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=Conan Doyle.= ROUND THE RED LAMP. By A. CONAN DOYLE. _Sixth Edition.
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=Stanley Weyman.= UNDER THE RED ROBE. By STANLEY WEYMAN, Author of
'A Gentleman of France.' With Illustrations by R. C. WOODVILLE.
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=Lucas Malet.= THE WAGES OF SIN. By LUCAS MALET. _Thirteenth Edition.
Crown 8vo. 6s._

=Lucas Malet.= THE CARISSIMA. By LUCAS MALET, Author of 'The Wages
of Sin,' etc. _Third Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

=George Gissing.= THE TOWN TRAVELLER. By GEORGE GISSING, Author of
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  'The spirit of Dickens is in it; his delight in good nature, his
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=S. R. Crockett.= LOCHINVAR. By S. R. CROCKETT, Author of 'The
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=S. R. Crockett.= THE STANDARD BEARER. By S. R. CROCKETT. _Crown 8vo.

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Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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=Arthur Morrison.= A CHILD OF THE JAGO. By ARTHUR MORRISON. _Third
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=Mrs. Clifford.= A FLASH OF SUMMER. By Mrs. W. K. CLIFFORD, Author of
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=Emily Lawless.= HURRISH. By the Honble. EMILY LAWLESS, Author of
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'Irish Idylls.' _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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'Irish Idylls' etc. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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FINDLATER. _Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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_Crown 8vo. 6s._

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=Mary Findlater.= OVER THE HILLS. By MARY FINDLATER. _Second Edition.
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OLLIVANT. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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  'Weird, thrilling, strikingly graphic.'--_Punch._

  'This fine romance of dogs and men.'--_Outlook._

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=B. M. Croker.= PEGGY OF THE BARTONS. By B. M. CROKER, Author of
'Diana Barrington.' _Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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=H. G. Wells.= THE STOLEN BACILLUS, and other Stories. By H. G.
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Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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DUNCAN, Author of 'An American Girl in London.' Illustrated. _Third
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  'A most delightfully bright book.'--_Daily Telegraph._

  'Eminently amusing and entertaining.'--_Outlook._

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=C. F. Keary.= THE JOURNALIST. By C. F. KEARY. _Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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_Sixteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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  'A perpetual feast of epigram and paradox.'--_Speaker._

=E. F. Benson.= THE VINTAGE. By E. F. BENSON, Author of 'Dodo.'
Illustrated by G. P. JACOMB-HOOD. _Third Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  'Full of fire, earnestness, and beauty.'--_The World._

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