« PreviousContinue »
Sudan Government. One fourth of the British military and civil staff-there were fewer than four hundred in all—had been allowed to return home to rejoin regiments or to volunteer. No increase in the British effectives had been asked for or was contemplated. For nearly a million square miles there were fewer than a thousand British soldiers. At the beginning of the entrance of Turkey into the war the sirdar received telegrams and letters from the principal chiefs of the Sudan, condemning the action of the Young Turks and expressing whole-hearted loy alty to the British Empire. Of all who came forward at that time with declarations of sympathy and loyalty only two have since been put under formal restraint for political intrigue with the enemy.
Seeing is believing. The Egyptians are so unwarlike a race and so lacking in personal courage that it was easy enough to discount the German stories of the storm that was going to break in Cairo. I did not have to go to Egypt to reassure myself on this point. But the Sudanese, from the blackest of blacks to the most chocolatecolored of Arabs, have no fear of death, and are heroes of many a charge that surpasses Balaklava. The Sudanese, too, are fanatical Moslems, with the zeal and enthusiasm of primitive races and neophytes. I had been living for years in an atmosphere where Panislamism was the absorbing topic of conversation and the nightmare of my British official friends. So I needed to go to Khartum.
By pure chance the trip into the Sudan was well timed. I was there for the two important fêtes of the year, the birthday of the prophet (muled-el-Nebi) and the anniversary of the visit of the King and Queen of England, who had stopped at Port Sudan on the way back from India, and had held a review at Sinkat, on January 17, 1912. King's day was celebrated by an impressive service at the Khartum Cathedral. The garrison stood on parade, and the sirdar read a cablegram from the king. It was a stirring sight to see these few hundred British soldiers, the only military evidence of British power in the
midst of war in one of the largest Moslem regions of Africa.
After dinner, on the evening of King's day, Sir Reginald took me down into the palace garden to see the Sudanese band that had been playing during the meal. We passed through the circle around the conductor, and stood among them while they played the Nyam-Nyam marches. The sirdar was in full-dress uniform and bareheaded. A couple of torches gave light. The black faces and weird music made me feel that I was certainly surrounded by savages in the heart of Africa. But they were savages whose affection for their big chief was evident in the way they looked at him and the vim with which they played. I thought back a year, and I was in the Vaterland Café in Berlin. There was music, too, and I was listening to an authority on the near East.
"The Sudanese, you know," he said, "are certainly coming in with us when they realize that the sultan has raised the green standard. They are devils, and the black pagan tribes will readily follow the Moslems. They really hate the British rule. What happened to Gordon will seem little beside this approaching tragedy, just as the Sepoy Mutiny will seem little compared with what is going to happen in India."
Sir Reginald Wingate asked me to accompany him to Omdurman to the dervish celebration of the prophet's birthday. We were a party of about thirty. We left the palace steps at nine o'clock in the evening for the trip on the Blue Nile to Omdurman. Our steamer was the Elfin, which was used by Gordon more than thirty years ago.
At the landing-stage, about half a mile from the city walls, a great crowd of white-robed dervishes was waiting to form the guard of honor. Each held a flaming torch. The Sudan women, harking back to the jungle days, greeted the sirdar with a shrill cry, which they made tremolo by pressing fingers on their lips. Into the city, past the Mahdi's tomb and the Khalifa's ruined palace, we rode to a large open space, where hundreds of gay tents
were dressed for the celebration. The Omdurman municipality, the important omdehs (head-men) of the neighboring villages and tribes, and the sheiks of many religious orders had their separate tents. With untiring physical energy and good humor and capacity for a sort of "pink lemonade" of the good old circus variety, which was forced on us in every tent, Sir Reginald led us from place to place. No tent was too humble to be omitted, no sheik too insignificant to be passed over. One leader, who received the sirdar as an equal, is a cook in private life. "And a good cook, too," the sirdar told me.
When Sir Reginald Wingate explained to the sheiks who I was and what I had come to the Sudan for, they nodded their heads with satisfaction and laughed.
"Tell him to write what he sees," they declared. "We are glad that he came to our feast, for he can give London a good report of us."
The last tent we visited was the most important, and around it were gathered all the people of Omdurman and of the tribes who had come into the city for the festivities. Thousands of white-robed howling dervishes were dancing and barking, and had reached the point of frenzy.
We sat sipping coffee in the midst of a crowd of sixty thousand Moslems who had been followers of the Mahdi and believers in the Khalifa. The sirdar's guard of honor was four mounted Sudanese lancers. There were no troops, Egyptian or British. None of our party was armed. The people of Omdurman, at the moment of the greatest religious exaltation of the year, had in their power the governorgeneral and the chief representatives of British military and civil authority in the Sudan.
I know the feeling of Moslem fanaticism in an Oriental crowd. I have experienced it more than once when I knew that I was facing death. That feeling was not here. There was real love for the sirdar, and no hostility to the rest of us.
As we were leaving the tent, one of the turbaned dervish chieftains who had followed the sirdar to the entrance, put his left hand on my shoulder as he shook hands, and said:
"I hope you have enjoyed the feast at Omdurman and will come again."
"Who is that sheik?" I asked Sir Reginald.
"One of the Mahdi's sons," he answered.
(Dr. Gibbons's next article in his series on the problems of reconstruction in Europe will answer the question "Constantinople: Principle or Pawn?'')
"Mr. Valentine Mott, scowling ferociously, made a fierce gesture toward his wife"
"If you don't Mind my Telling you"
By HOLWORTHY HALL
Illustrations by Arthur Litle
R. VALENTINE MOTT, scowling ferociously, made a fierce gesture toward his wife, five miles distant, and removed the hand which he had fitted over the transmitter as soon as the men in the nearest locker unit had begun to sing "How Dry I am!" in close and execrable harmony. Mr. Mott leaned in utter impatience against the wall, and glowered mercilessly at his distant wife, and forthwith interrupted her in a voice freighted with glucose and saccharin.
"Well, I'm awfully sorry," he said. "Yes, I know I promised to come back for lunch; I know all that I certainly did intend to come back, but- Well, you know how it is; I met this man, and he's a good customer of ours and he wants me to play another round with him. I was just getting ready to change my clothes when he- Oh, I could, but I don't like to offend a man; these buyers are so touchy you would n't- Well, of course; but it's the little personal attentions that count. It's a real opportunity to get solid with him. I don't see how I
can get out of it now; he 's waiting for me at the first tee this minute. I hope you don't think I'm enjoying it; it 's a cold-blooded business proposition; we 're not really paying any attention to golf; he just sort of wants to walk around for the exercise and talk between shots. Well, I would bring him home, but he wants the exercise. Oh, absolutely! Why, I'll take you anywhere you say; I had n't planned anything for to-morrow- Not to-night, dear; I can't go out anywhere to-night. Yes, to-morrow, and any night next week, too. I certainly don't! I did n't even expect to play this afternoon, and to-morrow I'll drive you anywhere youOh, it might easily mean a thousand dollars to me. Yes, a thousand. Just as soon as we finish- Oh, no, I would n't do that! The greens committee does n't like to have women on the course on Saturdays. I'll start home the minute we finish. All right; I 'm just as sorry as you are. Good-by!"
Mr. Mott hung up the receiver, exhaled in an abandon of relief, and smartly
accosted a cadaverous friend, who happened to be passing through the locker
"Oh, Smithson! Made up yet for the afternoon?" Smithson paused.
"I've got to go home, Val. Where's the crowd you had this morning?"
"They had to go home, too," said Mr. Mott, implying unutterable weakness on the part of the henpecked miscreants.
"How in thunder do you do it?" asked the cadaverous one in frank envy and injured righteousness. "If I ever managed to get in thirty-six holes just once-"
Mr. Mott waved the hand which had recently done duty as a silencer.
"Easiest thing in the world. Mott would n't any more think of spoiling my Saturdays than-well, she just would n't think of it. She knows I'm working like a dog all the week; a man 's got to have some recreation."
"That 's so; but I can't ever seem to get it over. Well, how were you shooting?"
"Pretty fair-for me." Mr. Mott nodded, moved off in the direction of the grill, and halted on the outskirts of a group which was actively engaged in filing demurrers and replications. "Everybody made up?" he inquired genially.
"I am. How's your game?"
"Not bad-that is, for me," said Mr. Mott. "Anybody looking for an extra man?"
"My foursome 's complete. Say, there's a special competition on for the afternoon; heard about it?"
"No," said Mr. Mott, alert. "I thought it was only morning. What is it?"
"Is that so? I'll have to see about it.
Well, how 're you hitting 'em?"
There was a choral response from the group:
"Never shot worse in my life!" "Don't speak of it!"
Mr. Mott shook his head in profound sympathy, and went on to the bulletin board, where he delayed for a moment to inspect the current handicap-list. As he
stood there, sniffing contemptuously at his own modest rating, a trio of late arrivals burst through the side door, and bore down upon him, laughing and talking and forecasting the future with that incorrigible golfing optimism which is Phoenixborn every day out of the black ashes of yesterday's sodden facts. Mr. Mott knew all three, and he hailed them cheerfully.
"Hello! Looking for a fourth man?" "No; somebody 's waiting for us. What's the event?"
"Two of 'em, morning and afternoon, both straight medal-play," said Mr. Mott. "Don't you fellows ever read the announcements?".
"Oh, pretty fair-for me, of course.”
The trio hurried away, and Mr. Mott, lingering only to make sure that the tabular results of the competition for the treasurer's cup still remained on the board, he had n't been put out until the semi-finals, and liked to see his name in the bracket, strolled into the grill, and cast about him for companionship.
The low-studded room, as Mr. Mott entered it, echoed the mad confusion of a political convention crossed with a dairy restaurant. Crockery clattered against wooden surfaces, plated silver clattered against crockery, tumblers clinked to tumblers, and hobnails grated on the redtiled floor. Men in knickerbockers and men in flannels huddled close to the round tables and bawled statistics at one another; men in street clothes dragged rattling caddy-bags through from the office; men flushed and perspiring stamped in from the eighteenth green, and clamored loudly at the bar. Disheveled waiters dodged aimlessly about in answer to the insistence of a dozen members simultaneously. Half a hundred voices swelled in extenuation, alibi, defense; half a hundred voices rang clear in joyous prophecy. Drifting clouds of light-gray smoke clung like a canopy to the ceiling. The atmosphere was surcharged with excitement, and Mr. Mott's nostrils dilated as he scented it. The air quivered to the un