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

He received presents from the beit el mal


laboratory was built in the course of a month in the old corn store in Khartum, and the work was taken in hand. The Indian declared that it was most necessary to obtain phosphorus, and therefore he had all the bones and skulls of the people who had been massacred in Khartum, collected, and these he pounded in mortars into very fine flour, much to the annoyance of people who objected to this desecration of the dead.

Every now and then he applied for more money from the beit el mal, which was supplied to him at once, and now he began to work quite alone and in secret; he put the bone flour in earthenware vessels, poured water on it, and then sealed the vessels hermetically; he now declared that to prepare the chemical substance only, another month was necessary. He therefore stopped work and lived at his ease. At the expiration of the month he secretly opened the vessels; no one had a notion what he was going to do with the bone-paste, but he affirmed that so far everything was most successful, and invited the head of the beit el mal, as well as several emirs, to be present at the trial of the powder.

The emirs came and sat in a circle round a furnace which slaves were blowing up with bellows; then the Indian produced the vessel, asked the emirs to take some of the substance and throw it into the fire. This they did, and it exploded with a loud report, which greatly astonished the spectators, one of whom then

and there, knelt down and offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for the success of the invention.

The emirs accompanied Kamal ed Din to Omdurman in triumph, where he also gave proof of the excellence of his powder in the presence of the Khalifa. Abdullah was wild with joy, and presented the inventor with 200 dollars and a concubine. The Indian now returned to Khartum with profuse promises that he would supply several hundredweight of the new powder in the course of a month.

But soon people began to talk of him as being a cheat and a deceiver; a month passed and the powder was not delivered; the head of the beit el mal became anxious, and reported the matter to the Khalifa, who at once sent his brother Yakub and Wad Adlan to make inquiries on the spot; they went, and it was very evident that the Indian had been duping them all the time. He was brought before the Khalifa, and, strange to say, was not punished. Abdullah merely remarked that he was a poor foreigner, and, of course, had to do his best to make a living. It is a curious thing that Abdullah has a much greater insight into the ways of foreigners than most natives.

A certain mukuddum, however, of the Jaalin tribe did not get off so easily. In the days of the Government he had practised an extensive fraud in Khartum, and also in Sennar as an alchemist, and now he came forward to offer his services for the manufacture of lead. At first he had been occupied in making gold, but now to the Khalifa lead was even more precious than gold, and the want of it was causing him grave apprehension.

The mukuddum's offer was accepted, he received presents from the beit el mal, where he was given a special place in which to carry on his work, and numbers of slaves were placed at his disposal; he was given all the money he required to purchase various things in connection with the manufacture, and which he asserted were absolutely essential. Four slaves were told off to keep up an enormous furnace, whilst the mukuddum, his head and shoulders swathed in a great mantle, beat the ground madly with a long whip in order to call the Jinns to his assistance. His curious antics greatly astonished the people, and he soon became the principal topic of conversation in Omdurman. After fourteen days an enormous lump of lead was drawn out from the furnace, and his reputation was made.

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