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

My first thought was for poor Yusef


My

first thought was for poor Yusef. I hastened to the beit el mal, which was half an hour's walk from my hut, and found crowds going in the same direction. The Khalifa himself appeared on the scene, he came riding along on a donkey, with only one or two men. His first question was, "Osta Yusef fi?" ("Is the Master Yusef alive?") "Taish enta!" ("May you live!") was the reply. These are the words in which Arabs always announce a death.

A poor Egyptian woman, whose only son was employed as Pertekachi's clerk and had been killed, was weeping and wailing in the most heart-rending way--her husband and another son had been murdered in Khartum--and now wild with grief she was cursing the Mahdi, through whom her dear ones had been brought to an untimely end. Some of the Ansar approached, and threatened to beat her with a whip if she did not stop. But she shouted at them, "Kill me as well! Why should I live any longer? You have killed my dear ones--may God kill you!"

The Khalifa, who was standing near, rebuked his officious followers, saying: "Let her weep, she is 'mahar[=u]ka'" (_i.e._ consumed with the pain of affliction). He did not stay long at the scene of the accident, but went away very sadly.

All Pertekachi's fellow-countrymen hastened to the spot. Of the large square house built of rough sun-dried bricks, only the four walls were left standing; the wooden roof had been blown to

pieces, and it was no small difficulty to collect the shattered remains of those who had been victimized. A pair of legs were found fifty yards away, a head was found half buried in the wall; there was not a hand to be found anywhere.

Another Greek had been killed with Pertekachi, named Yusef Angeli. His head and feet had disappeared, and his body was so shattered as to be almost unrecognizable; he had been in chains, and his foot makia was found fixed in his leg. Poor Angeli had led a miserable life in Omdurman; he had neither home nor friends, and had lived in the market as a Greek hawker. Towards the end of 1890 he had been sent by another Greek to Berber, to try and recover a debt for him. This mission was to be carried out in secret, for Europeans are strictly forbidden to leave Omdurman, and the mukuddum in charge is obliged at once to report any absentees.

But Angeli was a man of no account, and could easily have gone to Berber and back without anyone being any the wiser. A Syrian, however, who bore a grudge to the Greeks, hearing that Angeli had left, went secretly to the Khalifa, but as he was at that time staying at his house in the northern hejira, he saw Yakub instead; he said that, in accordance with the orders of the Khalifa el Mahdi, he had to report that Yusef had deserted to Berber in a sailing boat. Yakub at once informed the Khalifa, who imagined that it was I who had deserted (my Arabic name being Yusef), and at once ordered Nur el Gereifawi, head of the beit el mal, to send camelmen in pursuit. The latter was eventually very annoyed when they found out which Yusef it was, for he would not have thought it worth while to send after Angeli. The pursuers, however, had gone, and found Angeli in the market at Berber; they secured him and brought him back to Omdurman.


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