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to my seeing the Pasha express surprise for the only time, and then not avowedly. Once or twice a year in those days heavy gun practice took place from the Rock at a floating target built to scale to represent a battleship, which was trailed a long way astern of a tug at a remote distance from the shore-something like three miles or so.
This operation was a sort of general holiday, and everybody used to turn out to watch the proceedings from Europa Point, householders trembling agreeably for the safety of their windows. Under strict orders from the authorities at home, Zobeir was not allowed outside the precincts of the Governor's cottage, which are narrow and monotonous to a degree, with little to please the eye and nothing to entertain the mind. So on this occasion I had asked the Governor, Sir John Adye, whether I might take the Pasha and his two sons, who shared his captivity—and who, not being engaged upon a commentary of the Koran like their sire, had literally nothing to do—to Europa to see whatever there was to be seen. The permission was most readily granted, and we set out in two of the Gibraltar one-horse hackney carriages, the Pasha and I and Hamed in one, and Faddel and Ali and the Secretary in the other. We arrived in good time, only two or three shots having been fired, and the proceedings still being, we were told, in the range-finding zone. However, the very first shot after we arrived, from a monster gun laid, as I was told, by a young officer who had only joined his battery from Shoeburyness by the last P. and 0. steamer, blew the floating target into smithereens. As no one in authority had anticipated for an instant the possibility of such an occurrence, the proceedings terminated perforce, and, after a brief half-hour in the outer world, I had to drive my little party back to the Governor's cottage, and summon the officer of the guard to unlock the heavy spar gates and let us in. I may add that Hamed, although he could never have seen anything of this sort in the Zoological Gardens, like the Pasha, evinced no outward token of astonishment or admiration.
At the same time, Zobeir had extremely quick eyes to see and ears to hear. The perpetual movement of troops and ships of war, the ceaseless order and array of life in a great fortress, the genius loci of a place of arms, were teaching Zobeir new lessons and new notions. Now that he knew the English, now that he had seen evidence of England's power and might, of which he had not dreamed from the previous experiences of his fighting days with Gordon and Gessi, he began to feel certain that by identifying himself with England's cause and service he would be serving his own close interests. That seemed to me to be Zobeir's growing conviction—a conviction which seemed sincere, reared, as it must have been, on a ruin of old prepossessions. In addition, Zobeir was grateful for kindness and consideration, more especially from Sir John Adye, the Governor of Gibraltar, which he had not anticipated, and which, to some
extent, he referred to the greatness of soul and benevolence of the English Government–at all events, he did so in conversation with
In short, ascribe it as you please to gratitude, or to cunning, or to the anticipation of possible favours to come, Zobeir's desire to serve England at this time, if only the opportunity were given him, amounted almost to zeal.
Mr. Sidney Low tells us that there is reason to believe that Zobeir might have been successful, as the only man who could act as a counterpoise to the Mahdi and make a rallying-point for the tribesmen against him; and Mr. Low also tells us that Zobeir himself declared that he had no doubts on the subject, and that, as the conqueror of Darfur and a great notable in Kordofan, Berber, and Khartoum, his influence at that time—in 1885—was still very great.
I am by no means so sure of this. Hamed certainly did not think
He thought 'Pasha away too long in Cairo.' The conquest of Darfur was almost ancient history in 1885, and the conqueror had been detained the intervening nine or ten years, a prisoner at large in theory, but under constant and almost fierce surveillance at Cairo. Even at this distance of time the course of these events may be worth recalling briefly.
Darfur enjoyed a celebrity not only as a centre of commerce, but also as a large slave entrepôt of long renown,' and in 1874 a serious rupture took place over the slave trade between the Sultan and the Egyptian Government. A state of war was proclaimed in Darfur, an embargo on corn and merchandise being placed along its southern frontiers (which marched with Zobeir's territory in the Bahr-elGhazal and sphere of influence generally) by the Sultan of Darfur. This incensed the slave dealers who acknowledged Zobeir as their chief, who by this time was so powerful as to refuse to pay tribute of any kind to the Egyptian Government.
Zobeir at once prepared for the invasion and subjugation of Darfur. Upon this the Egyptian Government, foreseeing the dangers of his acquiring fresh strength, determined to take the conquest of Darfur into their own hands, and a sort of working agreement was entered into with Zobeir, by which, according to his own account to me, he was to do the bulk of the fighting, military efficiency not being at that time one of the strongest points of the Government in Cairo.
Be that as it may, the Sultan of Darfur was menaced by a small Egyptian force under Ismail Yacub Pasha from the north, and assailed by a larger and much more warlike force under Zobeir from the south ; the Sultan and two of his sons being almost immediately killed in a battle with Zobeir.
* Au Sultan du Darfour 12 Messidor an VII. au nom de Dieu clément et
miséricordieux, il n'y a d'autre Dieu que Dieu ! au Sultan du Darfour Abd-el-Rahman.
J'ai reçu votre lettre : J'en ai compris le contenu : lorsque votre caravane est arrivée j'étais absent ayant été en Syrie pour punir et détruire nos ennemis. Je vous prie de m'envoyer par la première caravane 2000 esclaves noirs--ayant plus de 16 ans -- forts et vigouroux : Je les achéterai pour mon compte. Le Général-en-Chef,
Darfur became an Egyptian province, and Zobeir was made a pasha. But he claimed to be made Governor-General of the new province, and his power and influence made his request formidable. However, it was refused. Zobeir then decided to go up himself to Cairo–he had never been there in his life—to push his claim, taking 100,0001. with him to bribe the officials at headquarters and two of the Dem-Zobeir lions as a present to the Khedive Ismail. Gessi says he was “invited' by the Government to come to Cairo and talk things over. Anyhow, he was received with much distinction and with the honours due to a prince; a palace was placed at his disposal ; but he was forbidden, on pain of death, to return to the Soudan.
But before leaving his own people Zobeir had a presentiment that he would be detained in Lower Egypt, and two hours before taking leave of his chiefs and vassals he gathered them together under a large tamarind tree at Shakka to give them his last orders in case he never returned-orders which they promised to execute. The orders were sent, and the Bahr-el-Ghazal rose under his son Suleiman, and papers which came into Gessi's possession proved that 'the strings were moved' from Zobeir's palace in Cairo.5
Gordon, when he heard of Suleiman's insurrection at the head of 6,000 well-armed fighting men, sent a small force in 1878,9 under Gessi, and after much sporadic and savage fighting Suleiman was captured by Gessi on the 15th of July 1880, by a surprise, and with ten of the ringleaders was shot; this was done, if not by Gordon's direct orders, at all events with his cognisance and assent.
I only refer to the Suleiman episode because it was thought, and not unnaturally, by many persons competent to form opinions, that Zobeir would not play fair with Gordon, and that on this personal account and blood-feud' considerations grave risks must at the outset be taken in bringing the two men into close relations. Zobeir, however, told me that he and 'Mr. Gordon' had talked over the unfortunate occurrence together when they met in Cairo and Gordon was on his hasty way to Khartoum, and, although it could hardly be explained away, they had agreed to let bygones be bygones. Mr. Gordon,' said Hamed, 'told Pasha he very sorry he shot Suleiman; he very fine young man, but was will of Gard.'
I had not the privilege of knowing General Gordon, but I imagine
The last letter from Zobeir to his son ran thus: Free the Bahr-el-Ghazal from the Egyptian troops, attack and make yourself master of Shakka.' (Gessi, Seven Years in the Soudan.)
6 War Office Report on the Egyptian Provinces in the Soudan, Red Sea, and Equator, July 1884.
that the two men would come together at an unexpected point of contact. Both were alike convinced of the operation ever around and about us of a Providential design ; both alike were prepared to place reliance in the propriety of its decrees, however harsh and mysterious. Thus, it seems to me probable that Zobeir spoke with all sincerity and deliberate intention when he told me that he would start with General Gordon on, as it were, a clean slate. But I repeat that, given his best intentions and his best efforts, the ten years which had elapsed since the conquest of Darfur, his absence in Cairo in captivity, however distinguished, must have materially weakened his influence and prestige. At the best it was a gamble. In racing parlance, I believe he would have run straight, but that he could not have got the distance; the weight was too much for him. My own impression, based upon Zobeir's utterances on unsunny days and from conversations with Hamed in the Pasha's absence, is that, useful as he might have been as a Commissioner at the time I knew him best, his going to Khartoum to join General Gordon would only have added to the general confusion, and formed a rallying-point for fresh and incalculable complications. In his inmost “ingenium Zobeir, I fancy, thought so himself. Moreover, bold man as he was, he must have felt rather nervous about it. Writing on the 19th of September 1884, Gordon says, “ As for Zobeir refusing to come up, I put it down to some intrigue, and I consider he was forced into saying so.' Gordon was very near the mark. Zobeir told me that one day, when it was settled that he should go-as he understood from Nubarhe received a call from an acquaintance the same evening, who warned him in a friendly but impressive way that, although he might start for Khartoum, he would not be allowed to get there. This, as Hamed explained, “Pasha not like-he think this very bad,' and he accompanied these observations by gestures which signified the means which would probably be adopted to stay the traveller.
In examining the question of how much Mr. Gladstone and his Cabinet gave way to an up-in-arms public opinion in this country hostile to the employment in any capacity of Zobeir Pasha, Mr. Low asks, 'How many people were there who knew or cared what Zobeir Pasha was ?' Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Gladstone himself was under quite a different impression as to the extent of the public's information. On my return from Gibraltar I had a longish talk with him on the subject of Zobeir's appointment and the possibilities of his usefulness. No doubt, as Mr. Morley tells us, Mr. Gladstone was
a convert to the plan of sending Zobeir,' but I recollect, as clearly as if it were yesterday, what he said to me about it all, and the reasons he gave me for the Government's non-compliance with Gordon's request at the time. This is all far-off and unhappy history now, and there is no object in recording in any detail my recollections of this conversation ; but Mr. Gladstone's views were definite enough, and
they certainly did not leave the impression on my mind which Mr. Sidney Low would seek to convey-namely, that he was not interested or fully informed about the Soudan perplexities of the Government. As to his being at the time seventy-five years old, and exhibiting something of the elderly habit of his age, anybody who heard him, as I did, introduce his Home Rule Bill ten years later would hardly attach very much to that explanation of his indifference to the course and the issues of affairs in the Soudan. His being absorbed in reading Sybil is Mr. Sidney Low's second string; had he been contemplating a scheme for old-age pensions, or the solution of the problem of non-employment, much might be said in favour of this hypothesis. As he was not so engaged, and as Mr. Gladstone always read novels all through his life, this is not a satisfying explanation either.
Zobeir always told me that anarchy must of necessity convulse the Soudan until many real grievances were defined, many imaginary wrongs explained, and until boundaries, territories, and jurisdiction were reconstituted. Further, he declared that anarchy must convulse the Soudan so long as alarm and misconception of British interference remained unallayed. I asked him whether he saw any way to a solution.
Yes (he said) ; let some wise man go who knows the English ; let him tell the Arabs that war with the English people means ruin and trouble ; that peace means trade up and down the Nile, the wealth of individuals, the prosperity of a nation. The Arabs are not a savage or a stupid people. They will listen to reason ; but reason must speak in peace, and not in arms, for the Arab is brave.
No doubt Zobeir had it in his mind that he should himself be this wise man, and that he might be allowed to carry out his own advice. But I do not think he could have succeeded alone, even had he been sent to Khartoum as the plenipotentiary of peace and promised reforms. He held himself that the English people had shed too much blood and done too much harm in Upper Egypt for the chiefs and merchants, whom we had driven to defiance, to believe all at once, and merely on his authority and on hearsay from Khartoum, that England had no designs upon their religion or their liberties and their fortunes. In mind, body, and estate the Soudan Provinces had reason at that time to detest the very name of England for many hundreds of miles. To restore confidence by friendly words would take time, and more than one man would have to speak to do so. Thus Zobeir approved the sending of missions to Korosko, to Dongola,
; 'Lord Ribblesdale has asked me questions about the Soudan and the ways of making it quiet. I have given him answers and reasons which I believe to be right. With regard to what I see in the Gibraltar newspapers (as to the appointment of a Commission), the Government will do well to make use of either Sir Mustapha Yur, Hussein Khalifa Pasha, or Abd-el-Kader Pasha. Of this I am certain : experience convinces me they are all capable men, well acquainted with the habits,