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THIS is the story of how a handful of white men jerked a nation out of the desert and the depths of despair, as though by its collar, set it on its feet, and taught it to play the game. It is the story of how northeast Africa—a region which God had seemingly forgotten—has been transformed into a prosperous and self-respecting country by giving it two things which it had always needed and had never known—justice and water. It is the chronicle of a thirty years' struggle, under disheartening conditions, against overwhelming odds, and when you have finished it you will agree with me, I think, that it is one of the wonder-tales of history. It is a drama in which English officials and Egyptian pashas and Arab sheikhs all have their greater or their lesser parts, and it is as full of romance and intrigue and treachery and fighting as any moving-picture play that was ever thrown upon a screen.

To my way of thinking, the rescue and rehabilitation of the Nile country is the most convincing proof of England's genius as a colonising nation. That you may be able to judge, by comparison, what she has accomplished, you must go back a third of a century or so, to the days when Ismail Pasha—he with the brow of a statesman and the chin of a libertine—still sat on the [Pg 109] throne of the Pharaohs, wielding an extravagant, vacillating, and ineffectual rule over a region which stretched from the Mediterranean seaboard southward to Uganda and the sleeping-sickness, and from the Red Sea shore westward until it lost itself in the sand wastes of the Great Sahara. Of the one million three hundred and fifty thousand square miles at that time included within the Egyptian borders, less than five thousand were cultivated land; the rest was yellow desert and nothing more. The seven millions of blacks and browns who composed the population were so poor that the dwellers in the slums of Whitechapel were affluent when compared to them; they lived, for the most part, in wretched hovels of sun-dried mud scattered along the banks of the Nile, maintaining a hand-to-mouth existence by raising a low grade of cotton on a few feddans of land which they irrigated by hand, at an appalling cost of time and labour, with water drawn up in buckets from the river. As a result of the corvée, or system of forced labour on public works which prevailed, a large part of the population was virtually in a state of slavery; the taxes, which were unjustly assessed and incredibly exorbitant, could only be collected with the aid of the kourbash, as the terrible whip of rhino hide used by the slave-dealers was known. Barring the single line of ramshackle railway which connected Cairo with Alexandria and with the Suez Canal, the only means of transportation were the puffing river-boats and the plodding caravans. The unpaid and ill-disciplined army was a synonym for cowardice, as proved by its [Pg 110] defeats by the tribesmen of Abyssinia and the Sudan. The Khedive was a profligate and a spendthrift; his ministers and governors were cruel, dishonest, and tyrannical; the national resources had been dissipated in a veritable debauch of extravagance and corruption. I doubt, indeed, if the sun ever shone on a more decadent, demoralised, and discouraged nation than was Egypt on that June day in 1879, when a cablegram from Constantinople, addressed, significantly enough, to “Ismail Pasha, ex-Khedive of Egypt,” brought the Sultan's demand for his immediate abdication in favour of his son Tewfik. Called to a heritage of bankruptcy and wide-spread discontent, the new ruler, anxious though he undoubtedly was to use his prerogatives for his people's good, found himself forced to decide between European intervention and native rebellion. The question was decided for him, however, for, in the spring of 1882, Arabi and his lawless soldiery broke loose and overran the land.
Dance of Nuba women, Kordofan.
Shilluk warriors, Blue Nile.
Bread-making in the Lado Enclave, Sudan.

Whether this Arabi Pasha was at heart a patriot or a plunderer is a question which has never been satisfactorily decided, nor is it one which particularly concerns us, although, if you ever happen to find yourself at Kandy, in the hills of Ceylon, where he still lives in exile, I would recommend you to call upon him, for he will receive you with marked hospitality and will talk to you quite frankly about those stirring events in which he played so prominent a part. As this is a story of the present, rather than of the past, suffice it to say that Arabi, then an officer in the Egyptian army, instigated [Pg 111] a military revolt which had as its object the ending of European influence in the affairs of Egypt. So rapidly did this propaganda of “Egypt for the Egyptians!” spread among the lower classes of the population, and so perilous became the position of foreigners resident in the country, that, upon Alexandria being captured and looted by the revolutionists, a British squadron bombarded and partially destroyed that city, while a British army, hurried from Malta for the protection of the Canal, in which England held the dominating interest, dispersed Arabi's forces at Tel-el-Kebir, pushed on across the desert to Cairo, stamped out the remaining embers of the revolt, and restored in a measure the authority of the Khedive, though not without taking the precaution of surrounding him with British “advisers” and garrisoning his cities with British troops. Such, in tabloid form, is the story of the beginnings of British domination in the land of the Valley of the Nile.

In view of the chaotic condition of the country, England naturally decided that the only way to insure the safety of her subjects, as well as of her great financial and political interests in that region, was to continue the military occupation of Egypt, for the time being at least, and boldly to begin the task of its financial, judicial, political, and military reconstruction. The form of government which has resulted is, I suppose, the most extraordinary in the history of nations.

Nominally a province of the Turkish Empire, and administered by a viceroy who theoretically derives his power from the Turkish sovereign, Egypt is autonomous [Pg 112] (so far as Turkey is concerned), though it still pays annual tribute of about three million five hundred thousand dollars to the Sultan. Though the title “khedive” means sovereign or king, without qualification or limitation, the real ruler of Egypt is not his Highness Abbas Hilmi II, but his Britannic Majesty's Agent and Consul-General—at present Lord Kitchener of Khartoum—who, though officially Britain's diplomatic representative in Egypt and nothing more, in reality exercises almost unlimited authority and power. In other words, England has assumed the position of a receiver for Egypt's foreign creditors and has apparently made the receivership—which has never been agreeable to the khedivial government—a permanent one. Egypt's situation might, indeed, be quite aptly compared to a railway system which has been forced into bankruptcy by the extravagant methods of its directors, and one of whose largest creditors has become receiver with full power to reorganise the system for its stockholders' and its creditors' best good.

Another feature of Egypt's complex form of government is the International Debt Commission, which consists of delegates from England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Italy, who are stationed at Cairo for the purpose of keeping an eye on the national revenues and periodically collecting a share of them, over and above the actual running expenses of the government, to pay the interest on the Egyptian bonds held in those countries.

To this administrative medley must be added the [Pg 113] complications caused by the Ottoman Capitulations—by which fourteen foreign governments, including our own, exercise almost sovereign rights in Egypt, the International Tribunals, or “Mixed Courts,” in the control of which Egypt has almost nothing to say, giving them complete jurisdiction in all civil cases in which aliens may be involved with each other or with Egyptians, while the foreign consuls possess absolute authority in criminal cases where their nationals are concerned.

The Capitulations, many of which date back to the early days of Turkish power, are nothing less than guarantees to foreigners within the Ottoman dominions of full and complete immunity from the laws governing Turkish subjects. No reciprocal obligation was constituted by a Capitulation (which, by the way, means the instrument containing the terms of an agreement), as it was intended to be a purely gratuitous concession granted to Christians, by virtue of which they were tolerated upon the soil of Islam. Though the Capitulations were never regarded by the Turks as treaties—it being obvious that the Commander of the Faithful, who is likewise the Successor of the Prophet and the Shadow of Allah, could never treat a Christian ruler as an equal—they have all the character and force of treaties nevertheless, inviolability of domicile, freedom from taxation of every sort, and immunity from arrest for any offence whatsoever being but items in the comprehensive promise not to molest the foreigner. In short, the Capitulations give to the nations possessing them as complete jurisdiction over their citizens as [Pg 114] they exercise at home, the Egyptian Government being powerless to lay so much as a finger on a foreigner who breaks its laws.

Should an American sailor, for example, become involved in a drunken affray, as sometimes happens, and wound or kill an Egyptian, the Egyptian police would no more arrest him than they would the Khedive. They would merely keep him under surveillance, meanwhile notifying the American consul, who would despatch his kavasses, as the armed guards which are attached—also by virtue of the Capitulations—to the various consulates are called, to effect the man's arrest. He would then be tried by the consul, who possesses magisterial powers, before a jury drawn from American residents or tourists, and, if found guilty, would be confined in one of the several consular prisons which the United States maintains in the Turkish Empire, although, if the sentence were a long one, he would probably be sent to a prison in this country to serve it out.

Though the Egyptian police may be perfectly aware that Georgios Miltiades runs a roulette game in the back room of his café, and keeps a disorderly house up-stairs, he can lounge in his doorway and jeer at them with perfect safety for the simple reason that he is a Greek subject, and therefore his café is as much on Greek soil as though it were in the Odos Ammonia in Athens, his consul alone possessing the right to enter it, to cause his arrest, and to inflict imprisonment or fine.

Notwithstanding the fact that the importation of [Pg 115] hasheesh into Egypt is strictly prohibited, the government making every effort to stamp out its use by the natives, the Italian smuggler who drops anchor in Alexandria harbour with a cargo of it aboard knows perfectly well that the arm of the Egyptian law is not long enough to reach him. If, however, he is caught by the local police in the act of taking the contraband ashore, it will be confiscated, though he himself can be arrested and punished only by the Italian consular official resident at that port.

As a result of the privileges granted to foreigners by the Capitulations, the consuls stationed in Egypt, as well as in other parts of the Turkish Empire, are virtually the governors of their respective colonies, possessing powers which cause their wishes to be respected and their orders obeyed. They are expected to keep a watchful eye on the doings of their nationals, especially those who keep saloons, dance-halls, or cafés; to settle, either in or out of court, their quarrels and even their domestic disputes; to inspect the sanitary condition of their houses; to perform the marriage service for those who prefer a civil to a religious ceremony; and to attend to their burial and the administration of their estates when they die. It is scarcely necessary to add that, as a result of this anomalous state of affairs, there is constant friction and frequent conflicts of authority between the foreign consuls and the local authorities. So jealously, indeed, do the foreign powers guard the privileges conferred upon them by the Capitulations, that Cairo can have no modern drainage system because [Pg 116] certain of the European governments refuse to give the Egyptian sanitary inspectors permission to enter the houses of their subjects.

In matters of personal law, such as marriage, divorce, guardianship, succession, and the like, foreigners are, in general, subject to their own patriarchs or other religious heads, while similar questions are decided for the natives by the native courts known as Mehkemmehs, which are presided over by the Cadis. In other matters Egyptians are justiciable before the ordinary native tribunals, which now consist of forty-six summary courts having civil jurisdiction in matters up to two thousand five hundred dollars in value and criminal jurisdiction in offences punishable by a fine or by imprisonment up to three years; seven central tribunals, each of the chambers of which consists of three judges; and a court of appeals at Cairo, about half of whose members are European. Since its reorganisation, the native Egyptian bench has won an enviable record for honesty, energy, and efficiency, and would, if granted complete jurisdictional powers, prove a great influence for good in the land.

So far as the Khedive is concerned, he has about as much to say in the direction of the government as the child Emperor of China had before the revolution put a president in his stead. Not only is Abbas Hilmi surrounded by English secretaries and advisers, without whose permission he may scarcely change his mind, but he is compelled to yield to England even in choosing the members of his ministry, the one or two attempts [Pg 117] which he has made to assert his right to independence of action in this respect having been met by England with a military demonstration in the streets of his capital which was not abated until the office was filled by an Egyptian satisfactory to the British Consul-General.

Some years ago, when that grim old statesman, Lord Cromer, was still deus ex machina in Egypt, the Khedive, emboldened by the rapid spread of the Nationalist movement, which has for its slogan “Egypt for the Egyptians!” flatly declined to give a cabinet portfolio to a certain Egyptian politician whose appointment had been urged by the British Consul-General and who was notoriously a British tool. The following morning Lord Cromer drove to the Abdin Palace and demanded an audience with the Khedive. There were no euphemisms employed in the interview which ensued.

“I have come to obtain your Highness's signature to this decree,” announced Lord Cromer, in the blunt and aggressive manner so characteristic of him.

“Suppose, my lord,” the Khedive asked quietly, “that I decline to make an appointment which is not for the good of Egypt—what then?”

“Then, your Highness,” said Cromer menacingly, “Ceylon.”

“But suppose, my lord,” Abbas Hilmi again inquired, his face pale with anger, “that I disregard your threat to exile me to Ceylon and still refuse to sign this commission?”

Lord Cromer strode across the room to a window [Pg 118] which commanded a view of Abdin Square and threw back the curtain. “Will your Highness look out of this window before you give me a final answer?” he asked.

The Khedive stepped to the window and looked down. There, drawn up in motionless ranks which stretched from end to end of the great square, was a brigade of British infantry, the Egyptian sun blazing down on the rows of brown helmets, on the business-like uniforms of khaki, and on the slanting lines of steel. For five full minutes Abbas Hilmi stood in silence, looking down on that grim display of power. Then he turned slowly to Lord Cromer. “Give me the pen,” he said.
The real ruler of Egypt, His Excellency Field Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, British Agent and Consul-General in Egypt, inspecting a guard of honour upon his recent visit to the battle-field of Omdurman.
“Riflemen made from mud.” A march past of Sudanese infantry.

Here is another example of the harshness of the attitude which England has seen fit to adopt in her dealings with the Egyptian sovereign. In the days when Lord Kitchener, fresh from his triumphs in the Sudan, was still Sirdar of the Egyptian army, the Khedive announced that he would utilise the occasion of his approaching visit to Khartoum to review the troops of the garrison. For hours the sinewy, brown-faced soldiery marched and countermarched before the Khedive on the field of Omdurman. The infantry in their sand-coloured uniforms swept by with the swing of veterans; the field batteries—the same that had mown down the Mahdi's fanatic tribesmen—rumbled by at a gallop; the camel corps, the riders swaying on their strange mounts like vessels in a gale, paced past; then the cavalry came, as fast as the horses could lay [Pg 119] foot to ground, lances levelled, the troopers cheering like madmen, thundering past the reviewing party in a whirlwind of colour and dust and noise. It was a fine exhibition and one of which any commanding officer might well have been proud, but the Khedive had received his military education in Austria, where faultless alignment and the ability to execute intricate parade movements are reckoned among the first requisites of a soldier; so when Lord Kitchener, the conqueror of the Sudan and the maker of the Egyptian army, reined up his charger before him, saluted, and perfunctorily asked, “I trust that your Highness is satisfied with the discipline and appearance of your forces?” Abbas Hilmi, probably as much from a spirit of hostility to the English as for any other reason, answered in a voice loud enough to be heard by all around him, “They are a fine body of men, Lord Kitchener, but I am far from satisfied with their discipline.” Officers who witnessed this incident have told me that Lord Kitchener was as amazed as though he had received a slap in the face. Within an hour his resignation as Sirdar was in the hands of the Khedive, who as promptly accepted it. But England could never permit her foremost soldier to be so wantonly and so publicly affronted, for to do so would be dangerously to impair her prestige among all classes of Egyptians. So the cable flashed a message from Downing Street to the British Agency in Cairo and a few hours later the Khedive was peremptorily informed that he could choose between apologising to Lord Kitchener and requesting him to withdraw his [Pg 120] resignation or of abdicating in favour of his brother. Appreciating that it was wiser to apologise and keep his throne than to remain stubborn and lose it, Abbas Hilmi requested Kitchener to remain on as Sirdar—and he himself remained on as Khedive.

The men who really transact the business of the Egyptian Government are not the holders of cabinet portfolios, but the departmental under-secretaries, all of whom are English, their plans being perfunctorily submitted to their Egyptian chiefs for their approval, though they would be used whether they received it or not. The national revenues and expenditures are controlled by an English financial adviser, without whose permission the Khedive and his ministers cannot spend so much as a piastre of government funds. Similarly, the ministries of the interior, of justice, of communications, and of agriculture are dictated by English “advisers.” For upward of thirty years, in fact, the Nile country has been more absolutely governed from London than has India, or Canada, or Australia, or South Africa, or any of the Crown colonies, and this despite the fact that between England and Egypt there is no tie that is officially recognised by any foreign power. Now, thirty years is a considerable lapse of time anywhere, particularly in the East, where men mature rapidly, so that those who were children when the British came are in the prime of life now. The fact that in that interim England has had ample time to train them for the duties of governmental administration, as witness what we have accomplished among the Filipinos [Pg 121] in less than half that time, but that she has made little, if any, effort to do so, is quite naturally taken by all thinking Egyptians as a proof that there is no sincerity back of her repeated assertions that she intends to turn Egypt over to them as soon as they are fitted to administer it. In fact, I have heard responsible British officials assert that, to their way of thinking, the natives were getting altogether too much education as it was, and that the less they were taught to think the easier it would be for England to hold the country. Frankly stated, England's attitude toward the Egyptians has been “You cannot go near the water until you know how to swim.”

Let it be perfectly clear, however, that nothing is farther from my intention than to intimate that British rule has not been beneficial to Egypt. No fair-minded person who was familiar with the appalling condition of the country and its people before the English came, and with their present state of prosperity, would cast so much as the shadow of a doubt on the wonderful improvement which has been brought about. The story of Egypt's rise from practical bankruptcy until its securities are now quoted nearly as high as English consols reads like a romance of the gold fields. During the last few years the country has been experiencing a land boom equal to that of southern California, property in Alexandria having sold at the rate of one hundred dollars a square yard; scientific irrigation, combined with the completion of the great dam at Assuan, has enormously enlarged the area of cultivation and [Pg 122] has made Egypt the second greatest cotton-producing country in the world; the national debt has been materially reduced; and, most significant of all, Egypt's European bondholders have consented to have the interest on their bonds reduced from seven to three and a half per cent. Life and property have been made as safe in Port Said and Zagazig and the Fayoum as they are in Yonkers or Salem or New Rochelle; slavery has been abolished; official corruption has been rooted out; forced labour for public works is no longer permitted; an admirable system of railways brings the entire cultivated area within reach of the coast; hospitals have been established in all of the larger towns; while every phase of the public health has been so closely watched that the population of the country has actually doubled in the thirty years since the English came.

To my way of thinking, the most interesting chapter in the history of present-day Egypt is that which records the development of scientific irrigation. Northeast Africa being practically rainless, its sole source of water supply is the Nile, this mighty river created by torrential rains in the mountains of Abyssinia and by the overflow of equatorial lakes, and which is without tributaries in Egypt proper, having an overflow which varies with the seasons. For four months the flood rushing seaward, which is known as “high Nile,” enriches hundreds of square miles of what would otherwise be arid and worthless land. Then come eight months of low Nile, which, were it not for the genius of an English engineer, would mean unwatered fields, [Pg 123] scanty crops, and probably famine. The British administrators, appreciating from the very outset that Egypt's entire future depended upon its agricultural prosperity, and that this, in turn, depended upon the fellaheen having an ample and steady supply of water for their farms, set their engineers at the task of devising some scheme for compelling the great river to pay tribute to the land through which it passed instead of wasting its fertilising waters in the Mediterranean. Hence the great barrage at Assuan, suggested by Sir William Willcocks, designed by Sir Benjamin Baker, built by Sir John Aird, and financed by Sir Ernest Cassel. A mile and a quarter long, containing a million tons of stone and creating a reservoir three times the area of the Lake of Geneva, this titanic barrier permits the additional irrigation of one million six hundred thousand acres of land. Though its cost was twelve million five hundred thousand dollars, it has already increased the earning power of Egypt fully thirteen million dollars annually, so it will be seen that it more than pays for itself to the country every twelvemonth. The systematic liberation, during the burning summer months, of the water thus conserved, means unfailing prosperity for Egypt, for it is almost unbelievable, to one who has not seen it with his own eyes, what agricultural magic water can work in this naturally fertile soil. As the regions capable of responding to irrigation are almost boundless, and as the water supply is almost inexhaustible, and as the engineers—and, what is far more important, the financiers—have come to appreciate [Pg 124] that the pregnant soil can be made to pay for the cost of any reservoir, or series of reservoirs, which they may construct, it is only reasonable to assume that the great dam at Assuan is but the forerunner of many others, so that eventually the Valley of the Nile will be white with cotton and yellow with grain from the Delta to the Sudd.

But if Upper Egypt suffers from being too dry, Lower Egypt suffers from being too wet. The prosperity of the country, remember, depends almost entirely upon its cotton crop, which has an approximate value of one hundred million dollars annually, the cotton fields covering some one million six hundred thousand acres, most of which are in the Delta. That this source of revenue may be increased, the Egyptian Government has recently undertaken a huge drainage project, which will, it is estimated, when completed in 1915, redeem a great tract of flooded and hitherto worthless land, bringing a million additional acres under cultivation, almost doubling the production of cotton, and, incidentally, draining Lake Mariout, that historic body of water disappearing forever.

Agriculture and its attendant problems of irrigation and fertilisation constitute the sole hobby and amusement of the present Khedive, Abbas Hilmi II, and, consequently, he is keenly interested in anything that pertains to it, being a ready and liberal purchaser of all improved types of agricultural machinery, which he puts to practical use on the great estates which he owns near Alexandria, in the Delta, and in the Western [Pg 125] Desert. It so happened that, while I was the consular representative of the United States at Alexandria, I received a call one morning from the president of an American concern engaged in the manufacture of agricultural and well-drilling machinery who explained that he was passing through Egypt and asked if it would be possible for me to obtain him an audience with the Khedive. The request was duly transmitted to the Grand Master of Ceremonies, and shortly thereafter a reply reached me naming the day and hour when his Highness would receive my compatriot and myself at the palace of Ras-el-Tin. Frock-coated and top-hatted, we drove to the palace on the day appointed, were received by the officials of the khedivial household, and shown into the salle de réception, where Abbas Hilmi stood awaiting us. After a cordial greeting—for the Khedive makes no secret of his liking for Americans—he drew me down beside him on a small sofa, motioning my companion to take a chair opposite us.

“It gives me particular pleasure,” I began, “to present Mr. K—— to your Highness, particularly as he is an authority on agricultural machinery—a subject in which your Highness is, I know, considerably interested.”

“Say, Khedive,” exclaimed my fellow-countryman, suddenly leaning forward and emphasising every sentence by waggling his finger under Abbas Hilmi's august nose, “I've got the niftiest little proposition in well-drilling machinery that ever struck this burg, and if you don't jump at a chance to get in on the ground [Pg 126] floor, then all I've got to say is that you're throwing away the chance of your lifetime.”

The Khedive, being, naturally, quite unaccustomed to this form of verbal assault and still more unaccustomed to having any one waggle a finger under his nose, at first drew back haughtily; then the humour of the situation dawned upon him, and, as the river of talk which is one of the chief assets of the trained American salesman flowed steadily on, he became interested in spite of himself, now and then interjecting a pertinent question, and terminating the audience by giving the American an order for several thousand dollars' worth of American machinery, which, the last I heard of it, was giving excellent satisfaction on the royal farms.

If it is difficult to fix the exact legal status of Egypt, it is still more difficult to explain that of the Sudan, which is described in the official blue-books as “an Anglo-Egyptian condominium.” Until 1882 the Sudan was as much a part of Egypt proper as Florida is a part of the United States, but in that year Egyptian rule was interrupted by the revolt of the Mahdi, who, with his successor the Khalifa, held the country for sixteen years under a bloody and desolating tyranny. In 1896 an Anglo-Egyptian army under Sir Herbert Kitchener began operations for the recovery of the lost provinces, and, on September 2, 1898, the overthrow of the Dervish power was completed on the battle-field of Omdurman. In the following year the pleasing farce was presented [Pg 127] of a convention being signed by the British and Egyptian Governments (or, in other words, by Lord Cromer as the representative of England in Egypt and by Lord Cromer as the virtual dictator of Egypt) which provides for the administration of the territory south of the twenty-second parallel of latitude by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with the assent of England; and which declares that the British and Egyptian flags shall be used together; that laws shall be made by proclamation; that no duties shall be levied on imports from Egypt; and that slavery is prohibited. In view of England's absolute domination of Egypt, it is obvious that the term “condominium,” as applied to the Sudan, is a euphemism for “British possession,” and that England controls this great region as completely as though her flag alone flew over it and King George's picture ornamented its stamps.

The name Sudan is short for Beled-es-Sudan, which means the Land of the Blacks. Extending from the southern frontier of Egypt to Uganda, a distance equal to that from Saint Paul to New Orleans, and from the shores of the Red Sea to the confines of the great central African kingdom of Wadai, or as far as from Chicago to Denver, the Sudan boasts an area three times that of Texas. This area, prior to the Dervish oppression, had a population estimated at eight and a half millions, but, as a result of the wholesale massacres perpetrated by the Mahdi and his followers, it has to-day less than two and a half millions. Since the return of peace, however, the Sudan is gradually recovering from the effects of the [Pg 128] Dervishes' barbaric rule, during which the whole country was depopulated, wide tracts of land went out of cultivation, and trade was largely abandoned.

At present the poverty, the scanty population, and the lack of irrigation in the Sudan form a striking contrast to the wealth, the density of population, and the high state of cultivation found in Egypt. But, though it has been, until very recently, little better than an abandoned estate, with practically no market value, the money and labour which its British proprietors are expending upon it are already beginning to produce highly promising results. As a matter of fact, the agricultural resources of this inland empire are hardly guessed at, for the fact is too apt to be overlooked that, beyond the sandy deserts which guard its northern frontier, there exist extensive and fertile regions which, in the provinces of Gezire and Sennar alone, are estimated at fifteen millions of acres. Added to this, the Sudan is particularly fortunate in possessing, in the Blue and the White Nile, two great waterways which are destined to prove invaluable as mediums of fertilisation and transportation. There is, indeed, no room for doubt that the Sudan is destined to be in time a great agricultural centre, for cotton, wheat, and sugar-cane are staple and give every promise of prolific crops—many English experts prophesying that, when provided with facilities for irrigation, it will supplant the United States as the chief cotton-growing country of the world—while, farther afield, there are excellent cattle ranges and untold wealth in forest lands. But although much [Pg 129] money has already been spent upon the Sudan, much more will have to be spent before it can have more than a speaking acquaintance with prosperity, for none of its three great needs—population, irrigation, and transportation—can be provided for nothing or in a hurry.
Fighting-men of the Emir of Wadai. (“They are wearing helmets and chain mail captured by their Saracenic ancestors from the Crusaders. The quilted armour on the horses will turn anything short of a bullet.”)
A gift from Ali Dinar, Sultan of Darfur, to the Sirdar of the Sudan. (The Sultan of Darfur is a semi-independent and powerful native ruler of the Southwestern Sudan.)

I was told so repeatedly by people in other and more favoured parts of Africa that the Sudan was nothing but a waste of sun-scorched sand, that I went there as much to see if the description were a true one as for any other reason. You don't have to search for romance in the Sudan; it's there waiting for you when you arrive. It met me on the station platform at Wady Halfa, which is the first town across the Sudanese frontier, in the form of a fair-haired, moon-faced, khaki-clad guard on the Khartoum express, who spurned the tip I proffered him to secure a compartment to myself as insolently as the poor but virtuous heroine of the melodrama spurns the villain's gold. He drew back as though the silver I offered him were a rattlesnake in working order and his face flushed a dull brick-red; then, bowing stiffly from the waist, as a Prussian officer does when he is introduced, he turned on his heel and strode away. “I say, you got the wrong one that time, old chap,” remarked an Englishman who had witnessed the little incident and who, judging from his pith helmet and riding-breeches, was of the country. “You probably didn't know that you were offering a tip to a former captain in his German Majesty's garde du corps?” I remarked that a month before a former general of division of the Bey of Tunis had accepted [Pg 130] with marked gratitude a tip not half so large for showing me through the Palace of the Bardo.

“Well, this Johnnie won't,” was the reply. “He may not have much money, but he's loaded to the gunwales with pride. The story of his career sounds as if it had served as a model for one of Ouida's novels. Refused to marry the girl his parents had picked out for him, so his father cut off his allowance and left him to shift for himself. He sent in his papers, went to Algeria, and enlisted—of all fool things!—in that regiment of earth's hard cases called the Foreign Legion. It didn't take him long to get all he wanted of that kind of soldiering, so one day, when he was sent down to Oran in charge of a prisoner, he swam out to a British steamer lying in the harbour, worked his passage to Alexandria, enlisted in a British cavalry regiment, took part in Kitchener's campaign against the Khalifa, was wounded in the shindy at Omdurman, and retired on a pension. Now he wears a guard's uniform and carries a green flag and walks up and down the platform shouting 'All aboard for Khartoum!' And at home he would have a coronet on his visiting-cards and spend his afternoons swaggering along Unter den Linden. Extraordinary what a man will do if he has to, isn't it? But you'll find lots more of the same kind in the Sudan. It's no place for idlers down here; every one works or gets out.”

That struck me as a pretty promising introduction to a country which, so I had been assured elsewhere, had nothing more interesting to recommend it than sun and sand, and it was with a marked rise in my anticipations [Pg 131] that I saw my luggage stowed away in a compartment of one of the long railway carriages, which are painted white for the same reason that a man wears a white suit in the tropics, which have windows of blue glass to prevent the sun-glare from injuring the passengers' eyes, and which are provided with both outside and inside blinds in an attempt to keep out a little of the heat. Looked at from any stand-point that you please, the thirty hours' railway journey from Wady Halfa to Khartoum is far from being an enjoyable experience, for a light in your compartment means a plague of flies, while any attempt to get air, other than that kicked up by the electric fan, means suffocating dust. It being too dark to read and too hot to sleep, the only alternative is to sit in your pajamas, swelter, and smoke.

Considering the obstacles it has had to overcome, the Sudan government deserves great credit for the railways it has built and the trains it operates. The construction of the railway to Khartoum was undertaken by General Kitchener in 1896, in order to support the advance of his army, and, in spite of the difficulty of laying a railway line across the sandy and stony surface of the desert, the work was so energetically carried on that the line advanced at the rate of a mile a day. The most serious obstacle was, of course, the provision of an adequate supply of water for the engines and workmen, so a series of watering-stations was established, at which wells, sunk to a depth of eighty feet or more, tap the subterranean water. These stations are so far apart, however, that to supply the engines it is necessary [Pg 132] to attach two or more tank-cars to each train. Still another difficulty is the shifting sand, which, during the period of the khamsin, or desert wind, proves as disastrous to railroading in the Sudan as snow does to the railroads of our own Northwest, an inch of sand throwing an engine from the rails far more effectually than a yard of snow.

It was my fortune, by the way, to encounter one of the huboubs, or sand-storms, for which the Sudan is famous. To give an adequate idea of it, however, is as impossible as it is to describe any other overwhelming phenomenon of nature. Far off across the desert we saw it approaching at the speed of a galloping horse—a great fleecy, yellowish-brown cloud which looked for all the world like the smoke of some gigantic conflagration. A distant humming, which sounded at first like the drone of a million sewing-machines, gradually rose into such a roar as might be made by a million motor-cars, and then the storm was upon us. The sand poured down as though shaken through a sieve; the landscape was blotted out; the sun was obscured and there came a yellow darkness, like that of a London fog; men and animals threw themselves, or were hurled, to the ground before the fury of the wind, while a mantle of sand, inches thick, settled upon every animate and inanimate thing. Then it was gone, as suddenly as it had come, and we were left dizzy, bewildered, blinded, half-strangled, and gasping for breath, amid a landscape which was as completely shrouded in yellow sand as an American countryside in winter is covered with snow. [Pg 133] Under any circumstances a sand-storm is a disagreeable experience, but out on the desert, where the traveller's life frequently depends upon the plainness of the caravan trails, it ofttimes brings death in its train.

It is a gratifying compliment to American mechanical skill that the running-time between Wady Halfa and Khartoum has been shortened four hours by the recent adoption of American locomotives, which run, fittingly enough, over American-made rails. In the construction of its trains the Sudan government has avoided the irksome privacy of the European compartment car and the unremitting publicity of the American Pullman by designing a car which combines the best features of both. The first-class cars on the Sudanese express trains contain a series of coupés, each somewhat roomier than the drawing-room in a Pullman sleeper and each opening into a spacious corridor which runs the length of the car. For day use there is one long cushioned seat running crosswise of each compartment, which at night forms the lower berth, the back of the seat swinging up on hinges to form the upper. Each coupé is provided with running water, a folding table, two arm-chairs of wicker, and an electric fan, without which last, owing to the almost incredible dust which a train sets in motion, one would all but suffocate. At several stations along the line are well-equipped baths, at which the trains stop long enough for the passengers hurriedly to refresh themselves.

The mention of these railway baths recalls an incident which seems amusing enough to relate. I once [Pg 134] had as a fellow-passenger on the journey from Khartoum northward a red-faced, white-moustached, choleric-tempered English globe-trotter, who was constitutionally opposed to the practice of tipping, which he took occasion to characterise on every possible occasion as “An outrage—a damnable outrage, sir!” Now, at these wayside bath stations it has long been the accepted custom to give the equivalent of five cents to the silent-footed native who fills the tub, brings you your soap and towels, and brushes your garments. But this the irascible Englishman, true to his principles, refused to do, still further unpopularising himself by loudly cursing the cleanliness of the tub, the warmth of the water, the size of the towels, and the slowness of the Sudanese attendant. Five minutes before the time for the train to leave the whistle gave due warning and the passengers scrambled from the bath into their clothes, which the native attendants were accustomed to brush and leave outside the bath-room doors. Every one hurried into his clothes, as I have remarked, except the anti-tipping Englishman, who almost choked with blasphemy when he found that his garments had mysteriously disappeared. Though a hasty search was instituted, not a trace of them could be found, the impassive Sudanese stolidly declaring that they had seen nothing of the effendi's missing apparel. The engine shrieked its final warning and the laughing travellers piled aboard—all, that is, but the Englishman, who rushed onto the platform clad in a bath towel, only to retreat before the shocked glances of the women passengers. My last [Pg 135] impression of that God-forsaken, sun-blistered bath station in the desert was the rapidly diminishing sound of his imprecations as he continued his fruitless search for his garments. There was no other train, I should add, for three days. Weeks later I heard that his clothes were eventually returned to him by a native, who said that he had found them, neatly folded, underneath a near-by culvert.

Nowhere is the overpowering romance of the land brought more vividly before you than in the dining-cars or on the decks of the river steamers. The tall young Englishman in flannels who sits opposite you at table remarks casually that he is using a four months' leave of absence to go up Gondokoro-way after elephant, and a French marquis who is sitting near by, happening to overhear the conversation, leans across to inquire about the chances for sport on the Abyssinian frontier. “You can't go across there, you know,” interrupts a bimbashi, whose freckled Irish face looks strangely out of place beneath the tarboosh which denotes an officer in the Egyptian service. “The Hadendowas are on the rampage again and the Sirdar has issued orders that no one is to be permitted to cross into Menelik's territory until things have quieted down. There's no use your trying it, for the camel police are jolly well certain to turn you back.” The bearded man in the ill-fitting clothes, who would be taken almost anywhere for a commercial traveller, is, you are told, one of the most celebrated big-game shots in the world, and just now is on his way to the Lado Enclave in search of a [Pg 136] certain rare species of antelope for the Berlin museum. The grizzled Egyptian officer sitting by himself—for the British no more mingle socially with the Egyptians than Americans do with negroes—once served under Gordon, as the bit of faded blue ribbon on the breast of his tunic denotes; the brown-faced Englishman in riding-clothes, with the wrinkles about his eyes which come from staring out across the sands under a tropic sun, is a pasha and the governor of a province as large as many a European kingdom, and farther up the line he will get off the train and disappear into the desert on one of his periodical tours of inspection, perhaps not seeing another white face for three months or more. It struck me that there was something particularly fine and manly and self-reliant about these young Englishmen who are acting as policemen and judges and administrators and agricultural experts rolled into one, out there at the Back of Beyond. “It's only the hard work that makes it bearable,” said one of them in answer to my question. “What with the heat and the flies and the never-ending vista of yellow sand and the lack of companionship, we should die from sheer loneliness if we didn't work from dawn until bedtime. Besides, every two years we get long enough leave to go home.” (And oh, the caress in that word home.) Then he asked me with pathetic eagerness about the latest song-hits at the London music-halls, and was this new Russian dancer at Covent Garden as wonderful as the illustrated weeklies made her out, and honestly, now, did I think the government was [Pg 137] going to be such a bally ass as to give the Irish home rule? That young man—he was twenty-four on his last birthday, he told me—has charge of a province four times as large as New York State, and in it he wields a power which is a strange cross between the patriarchal and the despotic. With a score or so of camel police he maintains law and order among a population which, until very recent years, were as savage and intractable as the Sioux; he holds the high justice, the middle, and the low; and he is, incidentally, a practical authority on such varied subjects as wheat-growing, cotton-raising, camel-breeding, fertilising, and irrigation. Nor would I fail to call attention to the little-known but wonderful work of a handful of British officers, who, working continuously since 1898, in those fever-ridden swamps near Lake No, have finally succeeded in removing the last block of Sudd, [2] twenty-four miles long, thus making the Nile a free, navigable waterway from Khartoum to Rejaf, in Uganda, a distance of twelve hundred miles. And these young men, remember, are but isolated examples of the thousands, in Africa, in Asia, in America, and in Oceanica, who are binding together Britain's colonial empire.

[2] The name given to the dense masses of water plants which have long obstructed the upper reaches of the Nile.

Its discomforts notwithstanding, the railway journey from Wady Halfa to Khartoum is filled with interest, comparing not at all unfavourably with that other remarkable desert journey by the Trans-Caspian railway from Krasnovodsk to Samarkand. For two hundred miles or more after leaving Wady Halfa we see [Pg 138] through the blue glass of the windows nothing but endless wastes of black rocks and orange sand. Then the desert gives place to undulating sand-hills, and these in turn to clusters of dom-palms, to fields of barley, to conical acacias, and finally a fringe of palms announces the proximity of the river. We pass in turn Gebel Barka, the sacred mountain of the ancient Egyptians, and, at its base, the ruins of Napata, once the capital of an Ethiopian kingdom. A few miles south of Atbara, which is the junction of the railway to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, we pass the so-called Island of Meroe, with its score of pyramids, beside which the majestic monuments of Egypt are but the creations of yesterday, for this region, remember, was the cradle of the Egyptian arts and sciences. In the settlements along the banks we now begin to see the typical round straw huts of Central Africa, with their pointed roofs and airy recubas, or porches. The peoples change with the scenery, the slender, tarbooshed Nubian giving way to the fierce-faced, shock-headed Hadendowas, that savage fighting-clan who hold the country between the Nile and the Red Sea, and they, in turn, to the Kabbabish Bedouins, those freebooters of the desert, who, perched high on their lean white racing camels, were the terror of every caravan in the days before the British came. The cultivated patches become thicker, the signs of civilisation grow increasingly frequent, the train rumbles across a long iron bridge which spans the river, and slowing, comes to a halt before a long, low station building on which is the word “Khartoum.”

Like another Ph?nix, Khartoum has risen from its [Pg 139] ashes on the site of that city which formed the funeral pyre of the heroic Gordon. The name—“elephant's trunk”—refers to the shape of the long peninsula on which the city stands and which forms the point of separation of the Nile into its Blue and White branches. It is a brand-new city which the British engineers have constructed; a city with a ground plan as mathematically laid out and with streets as broad as Washington; a city with pavements and sidewalks and gutters and sewers and lighting facilities on the most modern lines. As all the buildings are of a dust-coloured brick, the business portion of the city has a certain air of substantial permanence, but so uncompromising is the architecture and so destitute of shade are the streets that it looks more like a Russian penal settlement than like an African capital. In the residential quarter, however, the picturesque has not been sacrificed to the utilitarian, for along the bank of the Blue Nile a splendid boulevard—a sort of African Riverside Drive—has been constructed, and here no business or commercial trespass will be permitted, for from the Grand Hotel to the Palace, a distance of a mile or more, it is lined with the residences of the British officials, low-roofed, broad-verandaed bungalows nestling in luxuriant gardens. The thing that impresses one most about Khartoum is the extraordinary width of its streets and diagonal avenues and the frequency of its open circles, but the British will tell you quite frankly that military considerations, rather than beauty, guided them in planning it and that a few field-guns, properly placed, can sweep the [Pg 140] entire city. There are two buildings in Khartoum which seem to me to be more significant of the new era which has begun for the Sudan than all the other features of the city combined. One is the Gordon Memorial College, built with the object of training the sons of the Sudanese sheikhs and chieftains along those lines which are best calculated to make for the future peace, progress, and prosperity of the country. With his laurels as the victor of Omdurman still fresh upon him, Lord Kitchener appealed to his countrymen for one hundred thousand pounds for the establishment of this institution, which he felt that England owed to the memory of Gordon, and, so prompt and general was the response, the entire sum was subscribed within a few days. The other building to which I referred is the recently completed Anglican Cathedral, which stands as a recognition of Gordon's great work as a missionary and as an impressive exhibition of the advance of the Christian faith. Could Gordon have returned to life on the occasion of the consecration of this cathedral, and have seen harmoniously gathered beneath its lofty roof religious dignitaries of such different minds and faiths as the Bishop of London, the Coptic Archbishop of Alexandria, the Greek Patriarch of Abyssinia, and the Grand Cadi and the Grand Mufti, the heads of the Mohammedan community in the Sudan, he might well have exclaimed, “I did not die in vain.”

I have now sketched for you the conditions which prevailed in the Valley of the Nile before the English [Pg 141] came and those which obtain there to-day. What its future is to be depends wholly upon the action of England. Were she to leave the country now, or within the near future, she would leave it under conditions which would soon result in chaos, and the good that she has done would be largely lost. The extensive schemes of irrigation upon which she has entered, and upon which the prosperity of this whole region so largely depends, could never be financed by an independent Egypt, and the same is true of the question of transportation, which is at the bottom of all the problems of economic development in the Sudan.

That England's position in the Nile country is illegal and illogical her stanchest supporters do not attempt to deny, but those who are really familiar with Egyptian conditions and character will agree with me, I think, that Egypt could suffer no greater calamity than to have the English go. Not that I think that there is the slightest probability of their doing so, for Italy's aggression in Tripolitania, combined with the attitude of the other members of the Triple Alliance, has resulted in Britain strengthening, rather than relaxing, her grip on Egypt and the Suez Canal. The canal provides, indeed, the key to the entire Egyptian situation, for upon her control of it depends England's entire scheme of administration in India and the Farther East. To withdraw her forces from Egypt would be tantamount to leaving the gateway to her Eastern possessions unguarded, and that, I am convinced, she will never do. Two lesser, though in themselves important, [Pg 142] reasons militate against her surrendering the control of the Valley of the Nile. One is her hope of eventually realising, in spite of German opposition, Cecil Rhodes's dream of an “All Red” route from the Cape to Cairo, of which Egypt and the Sudan would be the northern links. The other is the belief that in the scientific irrigation and cultivation of the fertile Nile lands lie the means of freeing British manufacturers from their dependence on American cotton. I am inclined to believe, therefore, that in the not far-distant future England will become convinced that candour is a better policy than hypocrisy, and will frankly add to her globe-girdling chain of colonial possessions the whole of that vast region lying between the mouths of the Nile and the swamps of the Sudd.

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