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

When he was recalled and sent to the Saier


When

powder was scarce in Omdurman, some one suggested, at one of the Khalifa's councils, that it would be much better to make the unbelievers work for religion instead of remaining all day long idle in the Saier, and that Neufeld ought to undertake the saltpetre refinery. The Khalifa said, "Do what you think right--I am content." And on the same day Neufeld was sent to Halfaieh in search of saltpetre; he found some, and a month later was moved to Khartum, where he is now working in the old Mission-house with an Egyptian assistant named Said. He still wears one chain on the feet, which, from constant rubbing, has become as bright as silver, while there are great black marks round his ankles. In Khartum he is allowed greater liberty than he had in Omdurman.

In 1891 a Jewish merchant came from Massawa to Kassala, where the Emir Abu Girgeh was then commanding. The latter was in favour of opening commercial relations by means of Jews, and permitting non-Mussulman dealers to come and sell their goods at Kassala, or let them go on further into the country. When, therefore, the Jew had disposed of his goods, he went, on Abu Girgeh's advice, to Omdurman. On being presented, the Khalifa summoned another Jew, named Passioni, whom he made responsible for the new arrival. But, as usual, the voice of slander was not silent; it was whispered that he was an Italian spy, and that it would have been better to have him under surveillance. He had scarcely left the Khalifa's

presence, when he was recalled and sent to the Saier, there to be "educated as a true Ansar."

The fate of Olivier Pain and the experiences of Neufeld and this Jew are sufficient evidence to prove the utter uselessness of attempting to personally enter into commercial relations with the present ruler of the Sudan. Any one who comes to Omdurman need expect nothing but chains, the most terrible form of imprisonment, insults and ignominy from the Sudanese.

A still worse fate befell Sheikh Khalil, who was sent from Egypt to the Sudan on a special mission to the Khalifa. In company with an Ababdeh sheikh, he arrived at Abu Hamed, where Zogal was at the time. The latter being accurately informed of the nature of his mission, allowed the two messengers to travel without escort to Omdurman, and on the journey Khalil had opportunities of speaking to the people, and ascertaining how they were disposed to the Egyptian Government. He saw with his own eyes the devastation wrought by the Dervishes and by famine in all the towns and villages along the Nile. For some days before he actually reached Omdurman, we heard of his approach, which occasioned no small stir in the place. Some people thought he was bringing proposals of peace, which, if refused by the Khalifa, would oblige the Egyptian Government to again advance into the Sudan; rumours of all sorts were rife, but there was no possible means of knowing the truth.

Late one evening Khalil arrived, dressed as an Egyptian, with a long flowing abayeh (mantle). He was taken before Yakub, to whom he made over his letter, and was then taken before the Khalifa, to whom, it is said, he freely spoke his mind. That same evening he was sent under escort to Kererri, where he was put into a hut under a strong guard, but he was not chained. He was supplied with meat, butter, corn and sugar, and a female slave was placed at his disposal by the Khalifa, who had purposely sent him out of Omdurman to prevent him conversing with anyone, and to keep all information regarding his mission quite secret.[P] In this way the Khalifa thought he would give him a different impression of Mahdiism, while Hajji Zubeir was told off as intermediary between Khalil and Abdullah.


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