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

This reply delighted the Khalifa


It

was generally believed that Khalil had blamed the Khalifa for his ill-treatment and oppression of the Moslems, and had shown him how his rule was ruining the Sudan. He had begged him to abandon the evil of Mahdiism and return to the true orthodox religion. Whilst in confinement at Kererri he was frequently threatened with death. No one knew what his mission could be, and the Khalifa knew how to guard it secretly, so that gradually people began to forget all about him, and great was the surprise when one day Khalil and his companion appeared riding on mules at the great parade held during the Bairam festival.

The Khalifa brought Khalil here to show him how immense was his power and authority, and just before the parade was concluded Abdullah and all the cavalry galloped up to him, surrounded him, and asked whether he would not rather stay in the shadow of the Mahdi's dome than return to Egypt. Khalil, who had now been for upwards of five months in confinement, and thinking that he should never be allowed to leave, and at the same time longing to be allowed to return and report to the Government all he had seen, replied diplomatically that having once been in the light he had no wish to return to darkness.

This reply delighted the Khalifa, who ordered him to be set free, and at prayers in the mosque on that day he sat in the centre of the long line of Ansar just behind the Khalifa.

It

is the custom at festivals for all European prisoners, Greeks, Syrians, Jews, &c., to go and offer the Khalifa their good wishes. When they arrived on this occasion the Khalifa ordered them to be seated around him--he does not allow them to kiss his hand, as he might thereby become contaminated with their impurity; he usually makes a speech, pointing out the punishments which may fall upon them; but this time he was particularly gracious, asked how they were all getting on, and if they had met with ill-treatment or injustice at the hands of anyone. He gave them to understand that they must look on him as their protector, and that should they die their children would become their heirs, and that if a family had no children, the property would be sold and divided amongst the other prisoners.

This kindly speech was a great surprise to us all; but the astute Khalifa only wanted to show Khalil how well he treated his prisoners. It is possible, also, that Khalil had observed to him how badly we really were treated, but this is only surmise on my part. Abdullah's kindly speech, however, did us much good, for of course all he says goes the round of the whole town, and when the people knew that we had been well received, they showed us much greater kindness and respect. If, on the other hand, the Khalifa ever imputes a word of blame to any of us, the reaction on the people is immediate, and we are at once insulted and maltreated. It is always said that "the whites"--which is the name by which we are known in the Sudan--"live under the shadow of the sword."

The Khalifa then asked Khalil's companion if he wished to return or stay where he was. The man replied that he was a messenger, pure and simple, and that as such "he should return to him who sent him," and on the same day the Khalifa gave him permission to depart.


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