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

Cuzzi's Italian letter was concealed by Klootz


The

state of moral darkness in which we lived, the constant insults, being gazed upon by such multitudes, being at the mercy and sport of these savages, just as if one were a monkey or other curious animal, all had a dulling effect on one's spiritual nature, and I felt that I must be losing my mind; but yet in all these trials and afflictions God did not leave us. Again a ray of hope shone through the obscurity.

We had already heard something about English troops, but the information was very vague. One of the Mahdi's messengers, who took the Mahdi's answer back to Gordon in Khartum, told me that Gordon had received him well, had given him some bakshish, not like the God-forsaken Mohammed Said Pasha, who had executed the Mahdi's messengers; but, prior to his departure, Gordon had warned him in the following words:--"Go, tell the Mahdi that I have only to stamp my feet on the ground, and thousands of Englishmen will at once spring up." I believed this story, for I did not think the messenger was clever enough to invent it; besides, I felt sure that Gordon must have known quite well that he alone was utterly unable to extinguish the fire of this gigantic revolt. But at length all these reports were fully confirmed.

It was Friday. The Khalifas were out on parade, when two camels, carrying an English mail, arrived. Khalifa Abdullah at once left the review, and sent for Klootz to read the letters. Klootz came at once

to me and said that an entire English mail for Gordon had been captured near Omdurman. It was clear from several letters that English troops were advancing into the Sudan from three directions; that is to say, from Suakin to Berber, from Korosko to Abu Hamed, and from Dongola, where there were 20,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. There was a telegram from Cairo to Assuan announcing General Graham's advance; a touching little letter from a young girl to her father in Khartum, whose name I forget. In this letter she told of the alarm she felt for her father's safety, and how she prayed daily that her father might not meet the same fate as General Hicks. In another letter Gordon was informed that L60,000 had been sent to him.

All these letters had been sent from Berber to General Gordon by Joseph Cuzzi, who had written a letter to Gordon to that effect in Italian. One letter said that it was well known that the Khalifa Abdullah was the moving spirit of the revolt, and that the Mahdi merely supplied the religious element; but Klootz did not translate this in the Mahdi's presence. When the latter got up to go, Klootz translated this sentence to the Khalifa Abdullah, who was delighted with this flattering remark. Cuzzi's Italian letter was concealed by Klootz, who afterwards brought it to me. In this letter Cuzzi briefly informed General Gordon that he was forwarding the letters; that he had sent a messenger to Sawakin to come to an understanding with General Graham, and that the rebels at Abu Hamed had seized a number of the Government boats. He added that Gordon should have no anxiety about Berber, as long as Hussein Pasha Khalifa was Mudir. But in this matter he proved to have been completely deceived.

The general import of all these letters convinced the Mahdi that the English were in earnest. He therefore decided to take no action for a time, and to remove the camp to the foot of the mountain, where it was his intention to await their advance.


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