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

We sat gossiping with the Ababdehs


Just

before sunset we turned down the khor which leads to Murat; the fort covering the wells was visible on the hills, surmounted by the red flag with the white crescent and star in the centre. "Ahmed," I cried, "greet the flag of freedom!" and our courageous deliverer seized his gun and fired shot after shot into the air, to announce our arrival to the Egyptian garrison. The echo of these shots resounded again and again in the deep valleys, as if joining with us in our joy at deliverance from the hands of the cruel Khalifa Abdullah. They seemed to announce the "release of our spirits from beneath his sheepskin." This was an expression which the Khalifa delighted to use when talking of his captured enemies, whose souls, he said, lay beneath his "furwa," meaning that their lives were entirely in his hands.

Now we were actually in safety. A prayer of the deepest gratitude went up from the very depths of our thankful hearts; it is quite impossible to find words to express what we then felt. Our camels seemed to pull themselves together for a final effort, so as to present us honourably to the Ababdehs, who were now coming out to meet us.

The reports of our rifles had at first caused some stir in the little garrison, who feared a sudden attack, and had come out fully armed; but they soon recognized us, and answered our salute by discharging their guns in the air. These good people received us most kindly, asked us a

thousand questions, and, surrounding us, brought us to the commandant's hut. Here, on the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we alighted from our camels, and the hopes which had kept us alive for years, were at last realized. This supreme moment, about which we had so often talked with our companions in adversity, which we had thought about, dreamed about, and pictured to ourselves, this delicious moment had come at last, and we were free!

But the effects of hunger, fatigue, and the sights and scenes we had gone through during the last month, did not disappear so easily; our senses seemed dulled, and our first thought on entering the commandant's hut was to lie down on the floor and go to sleep, but, strange to say, that wonderful restorer would not come; we sat gossiping with the Ababdehs, who could scarcely credit that we, especially the sisters, could have survived such a ride. We had covered the entire distance of 500 miles between Omdurman and Murat in seven days, including the day we had spent wandering about in the hills before crossing the river.

The staying power of our camels had astonished me; how easily one of them might have stumbled and broken its leg as we trotted hard through the dark nights, unable to see where we were going! But Ahmed and his companions had used all their knowledge in securing thoroughly good animals; our excellent guides had been ever ready to help and assist us; full of energy and pluck, they had carried out their enterprise with the utmost sagacity and integrity.


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