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of the two Pashas."

The workings of his conscience did indeed take on sur-
prising shapes. Of the three ex-governors of Darfour,
Bahr-el-Ghazal, and Equatoria, Emin Pasha had dis-
appeared, Lupton Bey had died, and Slatin Pasha was held
in captivity by the Mahdi. By birth an Austrian and a
Catholic, Slatin, in the last desperate stages of his resist-
ance, had adopted the expedient of announcing his con-
version to Mohammedanism, in order to win the
confidence of his native troops. On his capture, the fact



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 329

of his conversion procured him some degree of considera-
tion; and, though he occasionally suffered from the ca-
prices of his masters, he had so far escaped the terrible
punishment which had been meted out to some other of
the Mahdi's European prisoners — that of close confine-
ment in the common gaol. He was now kept prisoner in
one of the camps in the neighbourhood of Khartoum. He
managed to smuggle through a letter to Gordon, asking
for assistance, in case he could make his escape. To this
letter Gordon did not reply. Slatin wrote again and again;
his piteous appeals, couched in no less piteous French, made
no effect upon the heart of the Governor-General.

Excellence! [he wrote]. J'ai envoye deux lettres, sans avoir regu
une reponse de votre excellence. . . . Excellence! j'ai me battu
27 fois pour le gouvernement contre I'ennemi- -on m'a feri
deux fois, et j'ai rien fait contre I'honneur — rien de chose qui
doit empeche votre excellence de m'ecrir une reponse que je
sais quoi faire. . . . Je voiis prie, Excellence, de m'honore avec
une reponse. . . . P.S. Si votre Excellence ont peutetre entendu
que j'ai fait quelque chose contre I'honneur d'un officier et cela
vous empeche de m'ecrir, je vous prie de me donner I'occasion de
me defendre, et juges apres la verite.

The unfortunate Slatin understood well enough the cause
of Gordon's silence. It was in vain that he explained the
motives of his conversion, in vain that he pointed out
that it had been made easier for him since he had "perhaps
unhappily, not received a strict religious education at
home." Gordon was adamant. Slatin had "denied his
Lord," and that was enough. His communications with
Khartoum were discovered and he was put in chains.
When Gordon heard of it, he noted the fact grimly in his
diary, without a comment.

A more ghastly fate awaited another European who had



330 EMINENT VICTORIANS

fallen into the hands of the Mahdi. Olivier Pain, a French
adventurer, who had taken part in the Commune, and
who was now wandering, for reasons which have never
been discovered, in the wastes of the Sudan, was seized
by the Arabs, made prisoner, and hurried from camp to
camp. He was attacked by fever; but mercy was not
among the virtues of the savage soldiers who held him in
their power. Hoisted upon the back of a camel, he was
being carried across the desert, when, overcome by weak-
ness, he lost his hold, and fell to the ground. Time or
trouble were not to be wasted upon an infidel. Orders
were given that he should be immediately buried; the
orders were carried out; and in a few moments the caval-
cade had left the little hillock far behind. But some of those
who were present believed that Olivier Pain had been still
breathing when his body was covered with the sand.

Gordon, on hearing that a Frenchman had been cap-
tured by the Mahdi, became extremely interested. The idea
occurred to him that this mysterious individual was none
other than Ernest Renan, "who," he wrote, "in his last
publication takes leave of the world, and is said to have
gone into Africa, not to reappear again." He had met
Renan at the rooms of the Royal Geographical Society,
had noticed that he looked bored — the result, no doubt,
of too much admiration — and had felt an instinct that he
would meet him again. The instinct now seemed to be
justified. There could hardly be any doubt that it tvas
Renan; who else could it be? "If he comes to the lines,"
he decided, "and it is Renan, I shall go and see him, for
whatever one may think of his unbelief in our Lord, he
certainly dared to say what he thought, and has not
changed his creed to save his life." That the mellifluous
author of the Vie de Jesus should have determined to end



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 33I

his days in the depths of Africa, and have come, in accord-
ance with an intuition, to renew his acquaintance with
General Gordon in the hnes of Khartoum, would indeed
have been a strange occurrence; but who shall limit the
strangeness of the possibilities that lie in wait for the
sons of men? At that very moment, in the southeastern
corner of the Sudan, another Frenchman, of a peculiar
eminence, was fulfilling a destiny more extraordinary
than the wildest romance. In the town of Harrar, near
the Red Sea, Arthur Rimbaud surveyed with splenetic
impatience the tragedy of Khartoum.

C'est justement les Anglais [he wrote] avec leur absurde poli-
tique, qui minent desormais le commerce de toutes ces cotes. lis
ont voulu tout remanier et ils sont arrives a faire pire que les
Egyptiens et les Turcs, ruines par eux. Leur Gordon est un idiot,
leur Wolseley un ane, et toutes leurs entreprises une suite in-
sensee d'absurdites et de depredations.

So wrote the amazing poet of the Saison D'Eiifer amid
those futile turmoUs of petty commerce, in which, with
an inexplicable deliberation, he had forgotten the enchant-
ments of an unparalleled adolescence, forgotten the fogs
of London and the streets of Brussels, forgotten Paris,
forgotten the subtleties and the frenzies of inspiration,
forgotten the agonised embraces of Verlaine.

When the contents of Colonel Stewart's papers had
been interpreted to the Mahdi, he realised the serious con-
dition of Khartoum, and decided that the time had come
to press the siege to a final conclusion. At the end of
October, he himself, at the head of a fresh army, appeared
outside the town. From that moment, the investment
assumed a more and more menacing character. The lack of
provisions now for the first time began to make itself felt.



332 EMINENT VICTORIANS

November 30th — the date fixed by Gordon as the last
possible moment of his resistance — came and went! the
Expeditionary Force had made no sign. The fortunate
discovery of a large store of grain, concealed by some mer-
chants for purposes of speculation, once more postponed
the catastrophe. But the attacking army grew daily more
active, the skirmishes round the lines and on the river
more damaging to the besieged, and the Mahdi's guns
began an intermittent bombardment of the palace. By
December loth it was calculated that there was not fif-
teen days' food in the town; "truly I am worn to a shadow
with the food question," Gordon wrote; "it is one con-
tinued demand." At the same time he received the ominous
news that five of his soldiers had deserted to the Mahdi.
His predicament was terrible; but he calculated, from a
few dubious messages that had reached him, that the re-
lieving force could not be very far away. Accordingly, on
the 14th, he decided to send down one of his four remain-
ing steamers, the Bordecn, to meet it at Metemmah, in
order to deliver to the officer in command the latest in-
formation as to the condition of the town. The Bordeen
carried down the last portion of the Journals, and Gor-
don's final messages to his friends. Owing to a mis-
understanding, he believed that Sir Evelyn Baring was
accompanying the expedition from Egypt, and some of
his latest and most successful satirical fancies played round
the vision of the distressed Consul-General perched for
two days upon the painful eminence of a camel's hump.
"There was a slight laugh when Khartoum heard Baring
was bumping his way up here — a regular Nemesis." But,
when Sir Evelyn Baring actually arrived — in whatever
condition — what would happen? Gordon lost himself in
the multitude of his speculations. His own object, he de-



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 333

clared, was "of course, to make tracks." Then in one of his
strange premonitory rhapsodies, he threw out, half in jest
and half in earnest, that the best solution of all the diffi-
culties of the future would be the appointment of Major
Kitchener as Governor-General of the Sudan. The Journal
ended upon a note of menace and disdain.

Now MARK THIS, if the Expeditionary Force, and I ask for no
more than two hundred men, does not come in ten days, the
town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of
our country. Good-bye. — C. G. Gordon.

You sent me no information, though you have lots of money.
— C. G. G.

To his sister Augusta, he was more explicit.

[ decline to agree [he told her] that the expedition comes for
my relief; it comes for the relief of the garrisons, which I failed
to accomplish. I expect Her Majesty's Government are in a
precious rage with me for holding out and forcing their hand.

The admission is significant. And then came the final
adieux.

This may be the last letter you will receive from me, for we
are on our last legs, owing to the delay of the expedition. How-
ever, God rules all, and, as He will rule to His glory and our
welfare. His will be done. I fear, owing to circumstances, that
my affairs are pecuniarily not over bright . . . your affectionate
brother, C. G. Gordon.

P.S. — I am quite happy, thank God, and, like Lawrence, I
have tried to do my duty.

The delay of the expedition was even more serious than
Gordon had supposed. Lord Wolseley had made the most
elaborate preparations. He had collected together a picked
army of 10,000 of the finest British troops; he had ar-



334 EMINENT VICTORIANS

ranged a system of river transports with infinite care. For
it was his intention to take no risks; he would advance
in force up the Nile; he had determined that the fate of
Gordon should not depend upon the dangerous hazards
of a small and hasty exploit. There is no doubt — in view
of the opposition which the relieving force actually met
with — that his decision was a wise one; but unfortunately
he had miscalculated some of the essential elements in the
situation. When his preparations were at last complete, it
was found that the Nile had sunk so low that the flotillas,
over which so much care had been lavished, and upon
which depended the whole success of the campaign, would
be unable to surmount the cataracts. At the same time —
it was by then the middle of November — a message
arrived from Gordon indicating that Khartoum was in
serious straits. It was clear that an immediate advance was
necessary; the river route was out of the question; a swift
dash across the desert was the only possible expedient after
all. But no preparations for land transport had been made;
weeks elapsed before a sufficient number of camels could
be collected; and more weeks before those collected were
trained for a military march. It was not until December
30th — more than a fortnight after the last entry in Gor-
don's Journal — that Sir Herbert Stewart, at the head of
1 100 British troops, was able to leave Korti on his march
towards Metemmah, 170 miles across the desert. His ad-
rance was slow, and it was tenaciously disputed by the
Mahdi's forces. There was a desperate engagement on
January 17th at the wells of Abu Klea; the British square
was broken; for a moment victory hung in the balance;
but the Arabs were repulsed. On the 19th, there was an-
other furiously contested fight, in which Sir Herbert
Stewart was killed. On the 2 ist, the force, now diminished



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 335

by over 250 casualties, reached Metemmah. Three days
elapsed in reconnoitring the country, and strengthening
the position of the camp. On the 24th, Sir Charles Wilson,
who had succeeded to the command, embarked on the
Bordeen, and started up the river for Khartoum. On the
following evening, the vessel struck on a rock, causing
a further delay of twenty-four hours. It was not until
January 28 th that Sir Charles Wilson, arriving under a
heavy fire within sight of Khartoum, saw that the Egyp-
tian flag was not flying from the roof of the palace. The
signs of ruin and destruction on every hand showed clearly
enough that the town had fallen. The relief expedition was
two days late.

The details of what passed within Khartoum during the
last weeks of the siege are unknown to us. In the diary of
Bordeini Bey, a Levantine merchant, we catch a few
glimpses of the final stages of the catastrophe — of the
starving populace, the exhausted garrison, the fluctua-
tions of despair and hope, the dauntless energy of the
Governor-General. Still he worked on, indefatigably, ap-
portioning provisions, collecting ammunition, consulting
with the townspeople, encouraging the soldiers. His hair
had suddenly turned quite white, Late one evening, Bor-
deini Bey went to visit him in the palace, which was being
bombarded by the Mahdi's cannon. The high building,
brilliantly lighted up, afforded an excellent mark. As the
shot came whistling round the windows, the merchant
suggested that it would be advisable to stop them up with
boxes full of sand. Upon this, Gordon Pasha became
enraged.

He called up the guard and gave them orders to shoot me if I
moved; he then brought a very large lantern which would hold
twenty-four candles. He and I then put the candles into the



33^ EMINENT VICTORIANS

sockets, placed the lantern on the table in front of the window,
lit the candles, and then we sat down at the table. The Pasha
then said, "When God was portioning out fear to all the people
in the world, at last it came to my turn, and there was no fear
left to give me. Go, tell all the people in Khartoum that Gordon
fears nothing, for God has created him without fear."

On January 5 th, Omdurman, a village on the opposite
bank of the Nile, which had hitherto been occupied by
the besieged, was taken by the Arabs. The town was now
closely surrounded, and every chance of obtaining fresh
supplies was cut off. The famine became terrible; dogs,
donkeys, skins, gum, palm fibre, were devoured by the
desperate inhabitants. The soldiers stood on the fortifica-
tions like pieces of wood. Hundreds died of hunger daily:
their corpses filled the streets; and the survivors had not
the strength to bury the dead. On the 20th the news of the
battle of Abu Klea reached Khartoum. The English were
coming at last. Hope rose; every morning the Governor-
General assured the townspeople that one day more would
see the end of their sufferings; and night after night his
words were proved untrue.

On the 23 rd a rumour spread that a spy had arrived
with letters, and that the English army was at hand. A
merchant found a piece of newspaper lying in the road
in which it was stated that the strength of the relieving
forces was 15,000 men. For a moment, hope flickered up
again, only to relapse once more. The rumour, the letters,
the printed paper, all had been contrivances of Gordon
to inspire the garrison with the courage to hold out. On
the 25th, it was obvious that the Arabs were preparing
an attack, and a deputation of the principal inhabitants
waited upon the Governor-General. But he refused to see
them; Bordeini Bey was alone admitted to his presence.



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 337

He was sitting on a divan, and, as Bordeini Bey came into
the room, he snatched the fez from his head and flung it
from him.

What more can I say? [he exclaimed, in a voice such as the
merchant had never heard before]. The people will no longer
believe me. I have told them over and over again that help would
be here, but it has never come, and now they must see I tell
them lies. I can do nothing more. Go, and collect all the people
you can on the lines, and make a good stand. Now leave me to
smoke these cigarettes.

Bordeini Bey knew then, he tells us, that Gordon Pasha
was in despair. He left the room, having looked upon the
Governor-General for the last time.

When the English force reached Metemmah, the Mahdi,
who had originally intended to reduce KJiartoum to sur-
render through starvation, decided to attempt its capture
by assault. The receding Nile had left one portion of the
town's circumference undefended; as the river withdrew,
the rampart had crumbled ; a broad expanse of mud was
left between the wall and the water, and the soldiers,
overcome by hunger and the lassitude of hopelessness, had
trusted to the morass to protect them, and neglected to
repair the breach. Early on the morning of the 26th, the
Arabs crossed the river at this point. The mud, partially
dried up, presented no obstacle ; nor did the ruined fortifi-
cation, feebly manned by some half-dying troops. Resist-
ance was futile, and it was scarcely offered: the Mahdi's
army swarmed into Khartoum. Gordon had long debated
with himself what his action should be at the supreme
moment. "I shall never (D.V.)," he had told Sir Evelyn
Baring, "be taken alive." He had had gun-powder put into
the cellars of the palace, so that the whole building might,
at a moment's notice, be blown into the air. But then mis-



338 EMINENT VICTORIANS

givings had come upon him; was It not his duty "to main-
tain the faith, and, if necessary, to suffer for it?" — to
remain a tortured and humiHated witness of his Lord in
the Mahdi's chains? The blowing up of the palace would
have, he thought, "more or less the taint of suicide," would
be, "in a way, taking things out of God's hands." He
remained undecided; and meanwhile, to be ready for every
contingency, he kept one of his little armoured vessels
close at hand on the river, with steam up, day and night, to
transport him, if so he should decide, southward, through
the enemy to the recesses of Equatoria. The sudden appear-
ance of the Arabs, the complete collapse of the defence,
saved him the necessity of making up his mind. He had
been on the roof, In his dressing-gown, when the attack
began; and he had only time to hurry to his bedroom to
slip on a white uniform, and to seize up a sword and a
revolver, before the foremost of the assailaAts were In the
palace. The crowd was led by four of the fiercest of the
Mahdi's followers — tall and swarthy Dervishes, splendid
In their many-coloured jibbehs, their great swords drawn
from their scabbards of brass and velvet, their spears
flourishing above their heads. Gordon met them at the top
of the staircase. For a moment, there was a deathly pause,
while he stood in silence, surveying his antagonists. Then
It Is said that Taha Shahin, the Dongolawi, cried in a loud
voice, "Mala' oun el yom yomek!" (O cursed one, your
time is come) , and plunged his spear into the Englishman's
body. His only gesture was a gesture of contempt. Another
spear transfixed him ; he fell, and the swords of the three
other Dervishes Instantly hacked him to death. Thus, If we
are to believe the official chroniclers, in the dignity of
unresisting disdain. General Gordon met his end. But It
is only fitting that the last moments of one whose whole



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 339

life was passed in contradiction should be involved in mys-
tery and doubt. Other witnesses told a very different
story. The man whom they saw die was not a saint but a
warrior. With intrepidity, with skill, with desperation, he
flew at his enemies. When his pistol was exhausted, he
fought on with his sword; he forced his way almost to
the bottom of the staircase; and, among a heap of corpses,
only succumbed at length to the sheer weight of the mul-
titudes against him.

That morning, while Slatin Pasha was sitting in his
chains in the camp at Omdurman, he saw a group of
Arabs approaching, one of whom was carrying something
wrapped up in a cloth. As the group passed him, they
stopped for a moment and railed at him in savage mock-
ery. Then the cloth was lifted, and he saw before him
Gordon's head. The trophy was taken to the Mahdi: at
last the two fanatics had indeed met face to face. The
Mahdi ordered the head to be fixed between the branches
of a tree in the public highway, and all who passed threw
stones at it. The hawks of the desert swept and circled
about it — those very hawks which the blue eyes had so
often watched.

The news of the catastrophe reached England, and a
great outcry arose. The public grief vied with the public
indignation. The Queen, in a letter to Miss Gordon, im-
mediately gave vent both to her own sentiments and those
of the nation.

How shall I write to you [she exclaimed], or how shall I attempt
to express what I feel! To think of your dear, noble, heroic
Brother, who served his Country and his Queen so truly, so
heroically, with a self-sacrifice so edifying to the World, ncrt
having been rescued. That the promises of support were not ful-
filled — which I so frequently and constantly pressed on those



340 EMINENT VICTORIANS

who asked him to go — is to me grief inexpressible! Indeed, it has
made me ill. . . . Would you express to your other sisters and
your elder Brother my true sympathy, and what I do so keenly
feel, the stain left upon England for your dear Brother's cruel,
though heroic, fate!

In reply, Miss Gordon presented the Queen with her
brother's Bible, which was placed in one of the corridors
at Windsor, open, on a white satin cushion, and enclosed
in a crystal case. In the meanwhile, Gordon was acclaimed
in every newspaper as a national martyr; state services
were held in his honour at Westminster and St. Paul's;
£20,000 was voted to his family; and a great sum of
money was raised by subscription to endow a chanty in
his memory. Wrath and execration fell, in particular, upon
the head of Mr. Gladstone. He was little better than a mur-
derer; he was a traitor; he was a heartless villain, who had
been seen at the play on the very night when Gordon's
death was announced. The storm passed; but Mr. Glad-
stone had soon to cope with a still more serious agitation.
The cry was raised on every side that the national honour
would be irreparably tarnished if the Mahdi were left in
the peaceful possession of Khartoum, and that the Expedi-
tionary Force should be at once employed to chastise the
false prophet and to conquer the Sudan. But it was in vain
that the imperialists clamoured, in vain that Lord Wolse-
ley wrote several dispatches, proving over and over again
that to leave the Mahdi unconquered must involve the
ruin of Egypt, in vain that Lord Hartington at last dis-
covered that he had come to the same conclusion. The old
man stood firm. Just then, a crisis with Russia on the
Afghan frontier supervened ; and Mr. Gladstone, pointing
out that every available soldier might be wanted at any
moment for a European war, withdrew Lord Wolseley and



THE END OF GENERAL GORDON 341

his army from Egypt. The Russian, crisis disappeared. The
Mahdi remained supreme lord of the Sudan.

And yet it was not with the Mahdi that the future lay.
Before six months were out, in the plenitude of his power,
he died, and the KJialifa Abdullahi reigned in his stead.
The future lay with Major Kitchener and his Maxim-
Nordenfeldt guns. Thirteen years later the Mahdi'a
empire was abolished for ever in the gigantic hecatomb
of Omdurman; after which it was thought proper vhat
a religious ceremony in honour of General Gordon should
be held at the Palace at Khartoum. The service was con-
ducted by four chaplains — of the Catholic, Anglican,
Presbyterian, and Methodist persuasions — and concluded
with a performance of "Abide with me" — rhe General's
favourite hymn — by a select company of Sudanese
buglers. Everyone agreed that General Gordon had been
avenged at last. Who could doubt it? General Gordon
himself, possibly, fluttering, in some remote Nirvana, the
pages of a phantasmal Bible, might have ventured on a
satirical remark. But General Gordon had always been
a contradictious person — even a little off his head, per-
haps, though a hero; and besides, he was no longer there
to contradict. ... At any rate it had all ended very hap-
pily — in a glorious slaughter of twenty thousand Arabs,
a vast addition to the British Empire, and a step in the
Peerage for Sir Evelyn Baring.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

General Gordon. Reflections in Palestine. Letters. Khartoum

Journals.
A. E. Hake. The Story of Chinese Gordon.
H. W. Gordon. Events in the Life of C. G. Gordon.



342 EMINENT VICTORIANS

D. C. Boulger. Life of General Gordon.
Sir W. Butler. General Gordon.

Rev. R. H. Barnes and C. E. Brown. Charles George Gordon:
A Sketch.

A. Bioves. Un Grand Aventurier.
Li Hung Chang. Memoirs.'"''

Colonel Chaille-Long. My Life in Fotir Continents.


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