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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Soudan Gordon

Soudan Gordon.

About five years ago there was a portrait of Chinese Gordon in Vanity Fair. All we recollect about it was that he had on a very conspicuous yellow necktie, in compliment to China, and was labelled as the most distinguished living Englishman. Since then he has pursued a course of getting his name up. Piety and pig-sticking, spitting Arab cockchafers, have been ingredients. Our readers have probably looked up Egmont Hake's memoir of him, and the smart boil down by Forbes. After trial gallops in the Crimea he won great events in China. Then the English Government shelved him as being too clever. Next he burst out in the Soudan, with his miraculous power of wielding men. Again came a relapse. Gordon was played out. Besides, his religious notions were so utterly absurd in an age when no one believes in futurity. They were enough in themselves to keep him from any practical employment. Plenty of Wolseleys and Robertses were available.

We have been trying to strike in at the commencement of the Soudan embroglio for the purpose of this article, but find we must hark back to Egypt. The dual control, England and France, nicely balanced and poised, was broken up by the intrigues of Arabi. But who pulled the strings which worked the Arabi marionette? Any name beginning with a B? The modern Boney Bogie has a lot to answer for.

Gambetta had very pronounced ideas about Egypt. The Prince of Wales is reported to have said that if Gambetta remained six months more in power there would have been a general war. Gambetta was determined to fling a French army into Egypt, with or without England. The British were left to act alone, pound Alexandria, and crush Arabi. It was all over but the shouting. Mr. Gladstone declared how comfortably and patly the English forces were to be withdrawn from Egypt.

But the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water. page 48 Your smug and business-like Gladstone is a mere straw on the torrent. Arabi's adherents managed to foment the Soudan trouble. European influence was there, too, without a shadow of doubt. The nations love one another so much. This Soudan war is Egyptian. Egypt, like Richelieu in the play, eked out the lion's skin with the fox's. It is a patriotic war. The sympathy of all Cairo is with the Mahdi, who plays the same game that Te Whiti tried to play in New Zealand.

The situation bears some degree of resemblance—a suggestion of resemblance—to that in Russia when invaded by Napoleon. The Czar said he would engulf the invaders in the snows. The Egyptians say they will engulf their invaders in the sands. The affair has to be fought out as a war with Egypt, let that be kept in mind, and you will imagine how near it is to a conclusion.

The successes of Graham did not outweigh the disaster of Baker. The event tobe obliterated, however, is that unparalleled holocaust when Hicks Pasha's ten thousand were slaughtered. This suggested our paper on "Xenophon's Ten Thousand," showing how brilliantly they were extricated from difficulties to which those of Hicks were child's play. Hicks, though, fell into Chelmsford's fault at Isandl wana, of over-confidence.

The fate of the Gladstone Cabinet trembled in the balance when they resolved that some desperate coup must be adopted in the Soudan. Gordon was visiting Brussels at the time. They decided to send for him. The time and the man met.

Gordon was summoned as the adviser. He made the astounding offer of going alone to Khartoum, in the heart of the Soudan, and thus trying to rally all the friendly influences. The real pinch was in the fear of the Gladstone government that more garrisons—which included helpless women and children—would be massacred. They knew the British people would not stand much of that kind of thing.

Gordon's heroic, superb feat of the lonely trip to Khartoum can only be appreciated as we follow the march, or rather voyage, of Wolseley's army. Mr. Gladstone thought Gordon ought only to walk up the hill and down again, after the fashion of dodging politicans. Gordon, however, was in for notoriety, fame, immortality. He knew well enough how to play his own cards, and take his revenge for long years of neglect and contumely.

He gazed right over the heads of Gladstone and Co. and all political intriguers, upon the English people. Gladstone said,' "Die, you fool." Gordon said he would see about that. He trusted to the instinct, sympathy, and passion of the nation. Gladstone's hand was forced. He had to despatch the expedition. Here let us drop a tear over the worries which harass the closing years of the statesman. Out, brief candle.

page 49

Although this war happens to be waged in a desert region, suitable to the Arab, or rather Egyptian tactics, the Soudan presents glorious tracts of country for settlement, with forests, rivers, and rich soil. The Wolseley expedition is part of the general scheme of the world for the redemption of Africa. That continent is wakening up all over and shaking itself England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, all have fingers in the pie.