Gordon—The Hero of Khartum
O N his way to India, to attend the Coronation Durbar, the Duke of Connaught had stopped in Egypt, to be present at the opening of the famous Asuan dam, which has so benefited the dwellers by the mighty Nile. Let us glance at Egypt for a moment.
Egypt was governed by one Ismail, a Khedive or Sovereign, who ruled the country subject to the Sultan of
Turkey. The opening of the
To make a long story short, Ismail was finally deposed in 1879, his eldest son Tewfik was made Khedive, and
England and France jointly assumed the task of controlling the new Government. But this interference was
resented by Arabi the Egyptian, under whom a rebellion now broke out. Force
became necessary. A British fleet bombarded the forts defending Alexandria, which had been strongly fortified
by Arabi. From dawn to sunset, through the hot hours of that July day, the great English guns boomed over the
city. The forts were silenced, but for two nights and a day, the European inhabitants were exposed to the fury
of Arabi's soldiers, and part of the city was burned to the ground. Two months later, the British army under
Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had so successfully led the expedition in Canada against Louis Riel, defeated the
"It is by such action, that the British nation realises its Imperial ideal of duty."
Meanwhile in the Sudan, a Mohammedan fanatic, calling himself the Mandi, roused his Mohammedan followers
against the Government, which extended
over the Sudan beyond Khartum at the junction of the Blue and White Niles. Preparations were made in Cairo at
once to crush the rebellion. A force of
"Chinese Gordon" had already spent years in the Sudan. On the death of Livingstone, he had been made Governor-General of the Sudan, for the suppression of the slave trade. He loved the black men of the Sudan, and now, in hopes of saving the loyal garrison at Khartum, he left England for Cairo. It was January 24, 1884, when he arrived. Two days later, a few faithful friends bid farewell to him and his one companion, Colonel Stewart, little thinking, as the train rolled away into the night, that they had looked their last on the two cheerful determined faces of the men, who were giving their lives to a "task of mercy beyond human strength."
That day year, Gordon stood face to face with death, away in lonely Khartum. To the panic-stricken garrison, Gordon had sent a telegram—"Be not afraid, I am coming." Arrived at Korosko, he plunged into the silent desert on his camel: every moment was precious. Never did man ride on so urgent and desperate an undertaking before. At last he arrived at Khartum. As he entered his capital, people crowded enthusiastically about him, kissing his hands, and greeting him as the saviour of the Sudan.
"I come without soldiers, but with God on my side, to redress the evils of this land," he cried to his faithful blacks; "I will not fight with any weapons save justice."
But the times were more anxious than even Gordon recognised. Daily, the rebel force was growing in strength. Within a fortnight, telegraphic communication between the little white city in the burning desert and Cairo was cut off. By April, Khartum was closely invested by the Mandi's troops. The whole of the Sudan, except Khartum and the Red Sea ports, were in the hands of the Mandi. For the next five months, a great silence fell over the little desert city, within which, two brave men were busy strengthening their defences and cheering the little garrison. The Nile rose and fell. In September, Gordon despatched a steamer under Colonel Stewart, to make its way to Cairo for help. But the little "Abbas" never reached its destination. Colonel Stewart was treacherously killed near Abu Hamed, and the silence between Cairo and Khartum remained unbroken.
Gordon was now alone—the only Englishman in that
A relief expedition under Lord
Wolseley had already started, and Gordon always felt there was the possibility that one day, "after the golden
An expedition was indeed struggling forwards to his relief. The British forces under Wolseley, helped by Canadian boatmen, were pushing on by river and desert.
Sunday, January 25, arrived. While the city slept, the Mandi's men, known as dervishes, were creeping towards the parapets of Khartum. The moon had gone down: the night was dark. There was little enough to impede their progress: only a few starving soldiers looked wearily over the parapet. With yells and screams, the dervishes rushed upon the sleeping people. In a surging mass, they threw themselves on to the palace, where Gordon kept watch. And just as the red sun was rising over the dark horizon, they killed him, cut off his head, and carried it to the Mandi in triumph. Two days later—it was Gordon's birthday—a few Englishmen from the relief expedition pushed their way to Khartum, to find they were too late. A massacre of the garrison had taken place, and the man they had come to save, had fallen at his post of duty—faithful unto death.
The Mandi had established his kingdom from Egypt to the