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

When I came from El Obeid to Omdurman I visited Khartum


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surging mass threw itself on the palace, overflowed into the lovely garden, and burst through the doors in wild search for their prey; but Gordon went alone to meet them. As they rushed up the stairs, he came towards them and tried to speak to them; but they could not or would not listen, and the first Arab plunged his huge spear into his body. He fell forward on his face, was dragged down the stairs, many stabbed him with their spears, and his head was cut off and sent to the Mahdi.

Such was the end of the brave defender of Khartum. When I came from El Obeid to Omdurman I visited Khartum, and went to the palace, where I was shown some black spots on the stairs which they told me were the traces of Gordon's blood.

On Gordon's head being brought to the Mahdi, he appeared to have been much displeased at his death--not because he felt pity for him, but he believed that Gordon might join his army. Had he not done so, he would have imprisoned him and reduced him to slavery. It was much better that Gordon should have died when he did than have remained a captive in the hands of these cruel and fanatical Arabs. Gordon's head was hung on a tree in Omdurman, and the wild multitude rejoiced in heaping curses on it and insulting it.

After the palace, the Mission building was the next principal object on which the wild, plunder-seeking Arabs vented their fury. General Gordon had some time

previously hired this building, which was of stone and bomb-proof, and turned it into a powder magazine and ammunition store. The Dervishes killed the guards mounted outside the garden, and then broke in, while others clambered over the high wall. A black who was employed in the Mission garden was lying on the point of death on his mattress in the garden; the Dervishes ended his life by ripping open his body.

The Mission gardener, brother Domenico Polinari, who had been left to take charge of the Mission property, on the first alarm, had rushed to the main gate of the garden to see what was the matter. He opened the gate slightly, and, seeing an array of lances, he slammed to the gate with all his might, and fled to a small hut in the garden which was full of hay, and he hid himself in the corner underneath the hay. Several slaves who were working in the garden followed his example; but they did not stay long, for, thinking it was not a sufficiently good hiding-place, they were running off to another hut when they were fallen upon and massacred. Domenico heard their shrieks and the click of the sword which beheaded them from his place of concealment; but he dared not move from the spot, though half choked with the dry grass in which he lay. Several Dervishes entered the hut and thrust their spears into the hay to search for any one in concealment.

One can realize the terror of poor Domenico as the naked spear-heads were forced through and almost touched him. He lay, however, undiscovered for some hours, and at last the noise and din of rifle-shots grew less. Though suffering agonies from thirst, he still did not dare to move till close on midnight, when he emerged from his bed of hay. All was still, the stillness of death. He could see the Dervish guard fires; and, as he crept along, he stumbled over the dead body of the black who had been working in the garden. Horror-stricken, he slowly moved forward again. At every step he saw a dead man, all of them labourers and watchmen who had attempted to escape when the Dervishes entered. Creeping under the shadow of the large lemon-trees, he reached the main gate, above which was a small hut which had been occupied by one of the black families belonging to the Mission. The windows of the hut looked into the garden, and Domenico scrambled through one of these into the room. Here he found one of the women, Halima, and begged her to give him some bread and water. He questioned her about the entrance of the Dervishes and the fate of the inhabitants. She replied in a few words that the town had been stormed, and numbers of the inhabitants, as well as General Gordon, Consul Hansal, and most of the Europeans, had been killed.


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