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The Death of Gordon page 4

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For days the wildest debaucheries were indulged, until all the vicious passions had been satiated. The Mahdi endeavoured to keep it secret that all the loot of the city was in the possession of those who had vowed to be poor and pure, who had started a Holy War by the preaching of renunciation and abandonment of the pleasures of life. But, confident that Gordon would not be avenged, they began, to enlarge their possessions, and to settle down to enjoy them.

The Mahdi himself was the first to go, although all his followers expected him to live long and to fulfil his prophecy of vanquishing the big cities of the Infidel, before dying peaceably at Kufa. Soon it was noticed that the Mahdi did riot appear at the Mosque to receive the homage of hi.; people. It was whispered that he was ill, that typhus had caught him. Six days later the people were commanded to pray for his life. The Khalifas were sent for, and he appointed his successor. "May God have mercy on me," he cried, and gathering up all his remaining strength, repeated his creed, and died.

But the British troops at this time had wisely retired to Egypt leaving the Dervishes in possession for awhile of the Sudan. They flashed the news of Gordon's death to England.

It reached Queen Victoria who was stunned. Walking into the cottage of her secretary she stood with a terrifying expression on her features. "Too late," she gasped. But it was not too late to vent her indignation on Gladstone and his ministers in telegrams, not in cypher, which could be read by any clerk in the Post Office that handled them. She also sent a cutting verbal message by her secretary. Did Mr Gladstone feel the death of Gordon?

But England had made up its mind. The death of Gordon at Khartoum meant the end of the Dervish power in the Sudan. Quietly preparations were made to resist the next attempt of the Khalifa to extend the Dervish Kingdom. His march on Egypt was met and stopped. The Dervishes returned to Khartoum.

When Gordon sent his steamer down the Nile with his S.O.S. for instant help the men on board, had they not been, decoyed and murdered, would have presently met a tall major of sappers whose duty it then was to keep the desert open for the expedition which was being prepared. He was destined to become Gordon's successor and avenger. He was a lean man and tall, with long legs and narrow sloping shoulders. There was a cast in one eye and his face was so much tanned that his moustache, big and fair, seemed to be almost white. Gordon would have made this Major Kitchener Governor-General of the Sudan. The British Government made Kitchener the leader of the avenging expedition which struck the Khalifa, first at Atbara, and later at Omdurman Fort. Here where the negro defender had fought so valiantly and within sight of the yellow-pointed tomb erected to the dead Mahdi, Kitchener's forces almost annihilated the men who slew Gordon and massacred his sleeping people.

Kitchener won back the sprawling city of Khartoum with the loss of about 200 British troops, and the son of the fanatical Mahdi, in 1919, offered his father's sword to the conquering British in token of fealty. So ended a rebellion which won and lost a vast country and ruined it in a space of about twenty years.

Where once the hours of the day and night were made terrible by the rattle of musketry, by the hideous cries of bloodthirsty fanatics, by sword and fire, there is now peace by the blue waters of the two Niles.

The champions of both contending causes erected memorials to the two men who met in conflict here - Gordon and the Mahdi. But in the world to which they have gone there should now be no need for one to call the other - Infidel.

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