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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

So he winked to his accomplice


Formerly

watch-dogs were most useful to warn against housebreakers, but the Khalifa decreed that they were impure animals, and forbade them to be kept. Not a dog is now to be seen in the whole of Omdurman; but in spite of this injunction, the Arabs living in the desert still keep them. If one of these poor animals by chance strays into the town he is at once pursued by a multitude armed with spears, shouting "Arian!" ("Naked!") and he is soon despatched.

A man called Zogheir--an Egyptian, born at Bara--became quite one of the most celebrated of thieves. From an early age he was brought up to steal, and became most skilful. To a strong constitution he added a courage which was worthy of higher things. As head of a band of thieves he led many a daring undertaking, and had the most wonderful knack of always escaping all harm himself. On one occasion, when there were scores of complaints made against him, he was sent to the lock-up of the market. The sheikh es suk, who was at that time rather short of money, promised to release the prisoners if they could collect fifty dollars amongst them.

Zogheir agreed to get the money, and was given one hour's release from prison. He at once went to the market, and very soon found a victim in the person of a dammur (cloth) vendor, who had sold almost all his goods, and sat with his purse full of money in front of him. Zogheir seated himself down beside him, and started a conversation

about the cloth, which he began turning over piece by piece, and with great dexterity he succeeded in seizing the purse, which he secreted under his jibbeh. He then went off to the judge, to whom he presented the purse, in which were seventy dollars, and then quietly returned to the lock-up, and told his guard to again put his chains on.

The cloth merchant soon discovered the theft, rushed off madly to the market court, and there represented that a thief--and it could have been no one else but Zogheir, for he had been sitting with him--had stolen his money. The sheikh severely reprimanded the merchant for making a false accusation, asking whether he was a liar or was mad, and then, taking him off to the prison, he showed him Zogheir heavily bound in chains; and after this the unfortunate merchant had to thank his good fortune that he himself did not receive a flogging.

During the famine Zogheir drove a thriving trade. On one occasion he discovered some Arabs in the market who had just sold a quantity of dhurra, and were counting out their money, which amounted to 700 dollars, which they were carefully examining, to see that all were good. This sight made Zogheir long to get the money, so he winked to his accomplice, and then seated himself near the Arabs, and began asking them whether he could offer them "Medjidie" in exchange for "Makbul" dollars.

When the agreement was nearly concluded, Zogheir took two dollars out of his pocket and gave them to one of his accomplices, to buy some dates, and when the man returned with the dates he began throwing them about in all directions, calling out "Karama! Karama!" ("Alms! Alms!"). The starving beggars flocked to him in crowds, and began quarrelling over the dates, whilst the leather bag in which were the 700 dollars suddenly disappeared.

The cries of the Arabs, searching for their lost money, could scarcely be heard in the frightful din occasioned by the distribution of the dates, and all this time Zogheir kept on condoling with the Arabs over their loss, and then he seized a favourable moment to make off and divide the contents of the leather bag amongst his friends. At length complaints against him became so numerous that he was sentenced to have his right hand and left foot cut off. He submitted quite cheerfully to the operation, which is really a very simple one.


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