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

But when the Khalifa heard of it


On

one occasion upwards of eighty women, whose infidelity to their husbands was unquestionable, were put in prison, and a council held to consider what should be done to them. It was decided to make an example of one, and the victim selected was an unfortunate who had borne two illegitimate children. The poor creature was led into the women's quarter of the market, and there she was lowered into a grave with her last child tied to her bosom, and both stoned to death by a cruel and hard-hearted crowd, who seemed to take a fiendish delight in this inhuman piece of work.

This, however, was the only execution of the sort which took place during Mahdiism. The other women were released; but the only effect of the above example was to induce women to take criminal means to rid themselves of these evidences of illicit connection; and the open sale of abortive medicines only tended to further increase the moral decadence of the people. One can truthfully say that feelings of horror and shame scarcely exist in the Sudan. From slaves of all ages and sexes, to the little child of six years old, all are instructed in the very worst forms of immorality; but on this painful and disgusting subject I will say no more.

Gradually the simple marriage laws introduced by the Mahdi gave place to the old former customs. For example, the Emir of Berber, Abdel Majid, married the daughter of Abderrahman Bey Ben en Naga, and received from

her father 2,000 grammes of gold. The marriage ceremony, which was celebrated with dancing and singing, lasted about a month; but when the Khalifa heard of it, he had the emir imprisoned for some months, declared the marriage dissolved, sent the bride back to her father, and forbade him to let the bridegroom ever take her again.

But the Sudanese have a passion for such ceremonies involving dancing and singing, and will never be restrained by any of these new laws. The women wear jewellery as before; they dance, sing, and prepare marissa; games of chance too are quite in vogue; but of course everything is carried on secretly. From time to time the Khalifa raises his voice against it, and then for a few days everything stops; but it soon breaks out again, and goes on just as before.

The festivals consequent on the termination of Ramadan, on Bairam, on the occasion of births, circumcisions, &c., are not carried out with any degree of their former brilliance. Perhaps a meat meal is given, and visits paid two or three times in the year. The old days of rejoicing have vanished, all is anguish and fear, no man's life and property are secure; every one has perforce to break the laws, which are most of them quite impracticable, and at the same time are in constant fear of spies, who are everywhere. There is no security, justice, or liberty; and happiness and content are unknown.

CHAPTER XX.

THE KHALIFA'S TREATMENT OF THE WHITE CAPTIVES.


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