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

Had Neufeld been an Englishman


It

was the Khalifa's habit to exaggerate facts and thereby encourage the Ansar; he also made out his capture was a most important event, for hitherto they had not succeeded in taking even one of the hated English. Poor Neufeld was therefore thrown into chains and carefully guarded by soldiers; during the whole of that night a fanatical Dinka negress, who used to dress in men's clothes and wear a sword, shrieked continuously at him, "Allah hu akbar alal kufar!" ("God's power is most great over the unbelievers.")

It was decided that Neufeld was to be hanged the next morning. Very early the Khalifa sent orders that the great drum should be beaten, while the blast of the huge onbeia close to Neufeld's ears almost made him fall down from fright. The slaves made game of him as if he were a monkey; but he still kept up courage and answered all these insults with a manly spirit; the rope had been fixed on to the scaffold, and already crowds of people were collected to see the Englishman executed. But the condemned man had not yet arrived, for the Khalifa's final decision had not been taken. Hitherto he had never executed a white man in this open way, and he delayed, because he was still uncertain about his being a Prussian. Had Neufeld been an Englishman, there is not the smallest doubt he would have been killed.

At length Abdullah made up his mind not to kill him, but he determined to frighten him; about midday, therefore,

Neufeld was taken to the market-place escorted by horsemen; the crowd raised a yell of delight when he appeared, but Neufeld fearlessly walked on, and on reaching the gallows he jumped on to the angarib and bent his head so that Bringi might adjust the rope round his neck. Just at the last moment the judge stepped forward and said that the Khalifa had been graciously pleased to repeal the sentence of execution, and Neufeld was, therefore, again removed to the lock-up.

Three days later he was laden with three heavy chains, put on to a camel, and led through all the streets of Omdurman, so that every one might see him. He was also taken to a review where the Khalifa asked him if the Turks possessed as many troops as he now saw before him, to which Neufeld replied that the Khalifa's troops were more numerous, but that they were not so well drilled in exercises and movements as the Turks were.

This answer did not please the Khalifa; and in order to make him take an interest in the Mahdi and his Khalifa, he was taken over to Khartum and was there shown the Mission building, which the Mahdi had seized; he was then taken back to the prison, where he remained four years. He was frequently attacked with typhus fever, dysentery, and other ailments, and was terribly stung by scorpions; had not the Europeans in Omdurman supported him he must have starved to death.

The depth of misery to which poor Neufeld was reduced may be readily understood when it is known that he spent a whole year in the stone hut, and it was not until he had completed two years in prison that, through the intermediary of a friend, he was allowed to build a little cell for himself in one of the corners of the yard, where he could sleep away from the other prisoners. This little building was about twelve feet square and very low, and here poor Neufeld used to sit all day long; his jibbeh was very dirty and swarming with insects, which allowed him little rest at night, and in despair he used to get one of his companions in adversity to rub him with wet sand, which made his skin less irritable; some sympathizing Arabs told him to soak crushed cloves in water and then rub his body with the paste; this Neufeld found a capital remedy, though it made his skin smart a great deal at first. Neufeld's kindness of heart soon won over his guards, and often they allowed him to remain undisturbed in his little hut for the night instead of dragging him off to the stone hut.


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