|The Growth of the British Empire|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book V of the Story of the World Series. Treats the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. Ages 13-18 |
GORDON—THE HERO OF KHARTUM
"Warrior of God, man's friend, not here below
But somewhere dead far in the waste Sudan,
Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
This earth hath borne no simpler, nobler man."
 ON 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 Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, in 1869, drew the
eyes of Europe to this old country of the Pharaohs, which was being sorely misgoverned by Ismail. Indeed, so
reckless and extravagant was his expenditure, that Egypt was threatened with ruin, and it became necessary for
European powers to interfere with the Government.
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
Egyptians at Tel-el-Kebir, and with "one brilliant dash scattered to the winds the hopes and forces" of Arabi.
Next day, the British cavalry rode in hot haste across the thirty miles of scorching desert to Cairo, where
Arabi surrendered himself with 10,000 Egyptians. The Khedive's authority was thus restored, and Arabi was
transported to Ceylon. England was now obliged to assume the protectorate of Egypt, to assure the future
progress of the country in which, by reason of the Suez Canal, she had so much interest. She helped the Khedive
to improve the condition of his wretched people, to replace injustice and oppression by justice and mercy.
"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 10,000 men was hurriedly collected. Unwilling recruits were forced into
the ranks, Egyptian peasants were taken from the fields, the very donkey-boys of Cairo were armed to swell this
unwieldy rabble army, which was placed under the command of Colonel Hicks. But the Egyptian Government little
realised the size and strength of the rebel army awaiting their prey in the solitude of the vast desert. Hicks
Pasha and his 10,000 men went bravely forth to "dare the impossible," and were never seen again. With the
complete destruction of the army, consternation fell upon Cairo. The Khedive's power over the Sudan seemed at
an end, and it was at last decided to withdraw from this desert land in the south altogether. Still there were
isolated European garrisons in distant provinces: there was loyal Khartum itself, and from these arose a cry
for help, which reached the ears of one Englishman—the heroic and enthusiastic Gordon.
"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'S LONELY WATCH OVER THE RAMPARTS.
Gordon was now alone—the only Englishman in that far-off desert city. His last pathetic journals describe
his days during those long sad weeks. Busy all day in defending the town and ministering to the wants of his
people, every night he mounted to the palace roof, and there, "alone with his duty and his God," he kept his
long lonely watch over the ramparts, praying for the help that never came. A relief expedition under Lord
Wolseley had already started, and Gordon always felt there was the possibility that one day, "after the golden
after-glow or in the solemn whitening of the dawn," his watchful eye might detect a cloud of dust, a movement
of shadows, or the sudden flash of a bayonet, to show he had not been forgotten, that help was coming and the
dreary siege should end.
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.
"By those for whom he lived, he died. His land
Awoke too late, and crowned dead brows with praise.
He, 'neath the blue that burns o'er Libyan sand,
Put off the burden of heroic days."
The Mandi had established his kingdom from Egypt to the Bahr-el-Ghazal, from Darfur to the Red Sea, and the
British withdrew to Wady Halfa on the Nile—for a time.
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