The Commentary on the New Testament was never finished, and the great work on Church and State itself remained a fragment. Dr. Arnold's active mind was diverted from political and theological speculations to the study of philology, and to historical composition. His Roman History, which he regarded as 'the chief monument of his historical fame', was based partly upon the researches of Niebuhr, and partly upon an aversion to Gibbon. 'My highest ambition,' he wrote, 'is to make my history the very reverse of Gibbon in this respect, that whereas the whole spirit of his work, from its low morality, is hostile to religion, without speaking directly against it, so my greatest desire would be, in my History, by its high morals and its general tone, to be of use to the cause without actually bringing it forward.' These efforts were rewarded, in 1841, by the Professorship of Modern History at Oxford. Meanwhile, he was engaged in the study of the Sanskrit and Slavonic languages, bringing out an elaborate edition of Thucydides, and carrying on a voluminous correspondence upon a multitude of topics with a large circle of men of learning. At his death, his published works, composed during such intervals as he could spare from the management of a great public school, filled, besides a large number of pamphlets and articles, no less than seventeen volumes. It was no wonder that Carlyle, after a visit to Rugby, should have characterised Dr. Arnold as a man of 'unhasting, unresting diligence'.
Mrs. Arnold, too, no doubt agreed with Carlyle. During the first eight years of their married life, she bore him six children; and four more were to follow. In this large and growing domestic circle his hours of relaxation were spent. There those who had only known him in his professional capacity were surprised to find him displaying the tenderness and jocosity of a parent. The dignified and stern headmaster was actually seen to dandle infants and to caracole upon the hearthrug on all fours. Yet, we are told, 'the sense of his authority as a father was never lost in his playfulness as a companion'. On more serious occasions, the voice of the spiritual teacher sometimes made itself heard. An intimate friend described how 'on a comparison having been made in his family circle, which seemed to place St. Paul above St. John,' the tears rushed to the Doctor's eyes and how, repeating one of the verses from St. John, he begged that the comparison might never again be made. The longer holidays were spent in Westmorland, where, rambling with his offspring among the mountains, gathering wild flowers, and pointing out the beauties of Nature, Dr. Arnold enjoyed, as he himself would often say, 'an almost awful happiness'. Music he did not appreciate, though he occasionally desired his eldest boy, Matthew, to sing him the Confirmation Hymn of Dr. Hinds, to which he had become endeared, owing to its use in Rugby Chapel. But his lack of ear was, he considered, amply recompensed by his love of flowers: 'they are my music,' he declared. Yet, in such a matter, he was careful to refrain from an excess of feeling, such as, in his opinion, marked the famous lines of Wordsworth:
'To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.'
He found the sentiment morbid. 'Life,' he said, 'is not long enough to take such intense interest in objects in themselves so little.' As for the animal world, his feelings towards it were of a very different cast. 'The whole subject,' he said, 'of the brute creation is to me one of such painful mystery, that I dare not approach it.' The Unitarians themselves were a less distressing thought.
Once or twice he found time to visit the Continent, and the letters and journals recording in minute detail his reflections and impressions in France or Italy show us that Dr. Arnold preserved, in spite of the distractions of foreign scenes and foreign manners, his accustomed habits of mind. Taking very little interest in works of art, he was occasionally moved by the beauty of natural objects; but his principal preoccupation remained with the moral aspects of things. From this point of view, he found much to reprehend in the conduct of his own countrymen. 'I fear,' he wrote, 'that our countrymen who live abroad are not in the best possible moral state, however much they may do in science or literature.' And this was unfortunate, because 'a thorough English gentleman—Christian, manly, and enlightened—is more, I believe, than Guizot or Sismondi could comprehend; it is a finer specimen of human nature than any other country, I believe, could furnish'. Nevertheless, our travellers would imitate foreign customs without discrimination, 'as in the absurd habit of not eating fish with a knife, borrowed from the French, who do it because they have no knives fit for use'. Places, no less than people, aroused similar reflections. By Pompeii, Dr. Arnold was not particularly impressed. 'There is only,' he observed, 'the same sort of interest with which one would see the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, but indeed there is less. One is not authorised to ascribe so solemn a character to the destruction of Pompeii.' The lake of Como moved him more profoundly. As he gazed upon the overwhelming beauty around him, he thought of 'moral evil', and was appalled by the contrast. 'May the sense of moral evil', he prayed, 'be as strong in me as my delight in external beauty, for in a deep sense of moral evil, more perhaps than in anything else, abides a saving knowledge of God!'
His prayer was answered: Dr. Arnold was never in any danger of losing his sense of moral evil. If the landscapes of Italy only served to remind him of it, how could he forget it among the boys at Rugby School? The daily sight of so many young creatures in the hands of the Evil One filled him with agitated grief. 'When the spring and activity of youth,' he wrote, 'is altogether unsanctified by anything pure and elevated in its desires, it becomes a spectacle that is as dizzying and almost more morally distressing than the shouts and gambols of a set of lunatics.' One thing struck him as particularly strange: 'It is very startling,' he said, 'to see so much of sin combined with so little of sorrow.' The naughtiest boys positively seemed to enjoy themselves most. There were moments when he almost lost faith in his whole system of education, when he began to doubt whether some far more radical reforms than any he had attempted might not be necessary, before the multitude of children under his charge— shouting and gambolling, and yet plunged all the while deep in moral evil— could ever be transformed into a set of Christian gentlemen. But then he remembered his general principles, the conduct of Jehovah with the Chosen People, and the childhood of the human race. No, it was for him to make himself, as one of his pupils afterwards described him, in the words of Bacon, 'kin to God in spirit'; he would rule the school majestically from on high. He would deliver a series of sermons analysing 'the six vices' by which 'great schools were corrupted, and changed from the likeness of God's temple to that of a den of thieves'. He would exhort, he would denounce, he would sweep through the corridors, he would turn the pages of Facciolati's Lexicon more imposingly than ever; and the rest he would leave to the Praepostors in the Sixth Form.
Upon the boys in the Sixth Form, indeed, a strange burden would seem to have fallen. Dr. Arnold himself was very well aware of this. 'I cannot deny,' he told them in a sermon, 'that you have an anxious duty— a duty which some might suppose was too heavy for your years'; and every term he pointed out to them, in a short address, the responsibilities of their position, and impressed upon them 'the enormous influence' they possessed 'for good or for evil'. Nevertheless most youths of seventeen, in spite of the warnings of their elders, have a singular trick of carrying moral burdens lightly. The Doctor might preach and look grave; but young Brooke was ready enough to preside at a fight behind the Chapel, though he was in the Sixth, and knew that fighting was against the rules. At their best, it may be supposed that the Praepostors administered a kind of barbaric justice; but they were not always at their best, and the pages of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" show us what was no doubt the normal condition of affairs under Dr. Arnold, when the boys in the Sixth Form were weak or brutal, and the blackguard Flashman, in the intervals of swigging brandy-punch with his boon companions, amused himself by toasting fags before the fire.
But there was an exceptional kind of boy, upon whom the high- pitched exhortations of Dr. Arnold produced a very different effect. A minority of susceptible and serious youths fell completely under his sway, responded like wax to the pressure of his influence, and moulded their whole lives with passionate reverence upon the teaching of their adored master. Conspicuous among these was Arthur Clough. Having been sent to Rugby at the age of ten, he quickly entered into every phase of school life, though, we are told, 'a weakness in his ankles prevented him from taking a prominent part in the games of the place'. At the age of sixteen, he was in the Sixth Form, and not merely a Praepostor, but head of the School House. Never did Dr. Arnold have an apter pupil. This earnest adolescent, with the weak ankles and the solemn face, lived entirely with the highest ends in view. He thought of nothing but moral good, moral evil, moral influence, and moral responsibility. Some of his early letters have been preserved, and they reveal both the intensity with which he felt the importance of his own position, and the strange stress of spirit under which he laboured. 'I have been in one continued state of excitement for at least the last three years,' he wrote when he was not yet seventeen, 'and now comes the time of exhaustion.' But he did not allow himself to rest, and a few months later he was writing to a schoolfellow as follows: 'I verily believe my whole being is soaked through with the wishing and hoping and striving to do the school good, or rather to keep it up and hinder it from falling in this, I do think, very critical time, so that my cares and affections and conversations, thoughts, words, and deeds look to that in voluntarily. I am afraid you will be inclined to think this "cant" and I am conscious that even one's truest feelings, if very frequently put out in the light, do make a bad and disagreeable appearance; but this, however, is true, and even if I am carrying it too far, I do not think it has made me really forgetful of my personal friends, such as, in particular, Gell and Burbidge and Walrond, and yourself, my dear Simpkinson .'
Perhaps it was not surprising that a young man brought up in such an atmosphere, should have fallen a prey at Oxford, to the frenzies of religious controversy; that he should have been driven almost out of his wits by the ratiocinations of W. G. Ward; that he should have lost his faith; that he should have spent the rest of his existence lamenting that loss, both in prose and verse; and that he should have eventually succumbed, conscientiously doing up brown paper parcels for Florence Nightingale.
In the earlier years of his headmastership Dr. Arnold had to face a good deal of opposition. His advanced religious views were disliked, and there were many parents to whom his system of school government did not commend itself. But in time this hostility melted away. Succeeding generations of favourite pupils began to spread his fame through the Universities. At Oxford especially, men were profoundly impressed by the pious aims of the boys from Rugby. It was a new thing to see undergraduates going to Chapel more often than they were obliged, and visiting the good poor. Their reverent admiration for Dr. Arnold was no less remarkable. Whenever two of his old pupils met, they joined in his praises; and the sight of his picture had been known to call forth, from one who had not even reached the Sixth, exclamations of rapture lasting for ten minutes and filling with astonishment the young men from other schools who happened to be present.
He became a celebrity; he became at last a great man. Rugby prospered; its numbers rose higher than ever before; and, after thirteen years as headmaster, Dr. Arnold began to feel that his work there was accomplished, and that he might look forward either to other labours or, perhaps, to a dignified retirement. But it was not to be.
His father had died suddenly at the age of fifty-three from angina pectoris; and he himself was haunted by forebodings of an early death. To be snatched away without a warning, to come in a moment from the seductions of this World to the presence of Eternity— his most ordinary actions, the most casual remarks, served to keep him in remembrance of that dreadful possibility. When one of his little boys clapped his hands at the thought of the approaching holidays, the Doctor gently checked him, and repeated the story of his own early childhood; how his own father had made him read aloud a sermon on the text 'Boast not thyself of tomorrow"; and how, within the week, his father was dead. On the title page of his MS. volume of sermons, he was always careful to write the date of its commencement, leaving a blank for that of its completion. One of his children asked him the meaning of this. 'It is one of the most solemn things I do,' he replied, 'to write the beginning of that sentence, and think that I may perhaps not live to finish it.'
It was noticed that in the spring of 1842 such thoughts seemed to be even more frequently in his mind than usual. He was only in his forty-seventh year, but he dwelt darkly on the fragility of human existence. Towards the end of May, he began to keep a diary—a private memorandum of his intimate communings with the Almighty. Here, evening after evening, in the traditional language of religious devotion, he humbled himself before God, prayed for strength and purity, and threw himself upon the mercy of the Most High. 'Another day and another month succeed', he wrote on May 31st. 'May God keep my mind and heart fixed on Him, and cleanse me from all sin. I would wish to keep a watch over my tongue, as to vehement speaking and censuring of others...I would desire to remember my latter end to which I am approaching... May God keep me in the hour of death, through Jesus Christ; and preserve me from every fear, as well as from presumption.' On June 2nd he wrote, 'Again the day is over and I am going to rest. Oh Lord, preserve me this night, and strengthen me to bear whatever Thou shalt see fit to lay on me, whether pain, sickness, danger, or distress.' On Sunday, June 5th, the reading of the newspaper aroused 'painful and solemn' reflections... 'So much of sin and so much of suffering in the world, as are there displayed, and no one seems able to remedy either. And then the thought of my own private life, so full of comforts, is very startling.' He was puzzled; but he concluded with a prayer: 'May I be kept humble and zealous, and may God give me grace to labour in my generation for the good of my brethren and for His Glory!'
The end of the term was approaching, and to all appearance the Doctor was in excellent spirits. On June 11th, after a hard day's work, he spent the evening with a friend in the discussion of various topics upon which he often touched in his conversation the comparison of the art of medicine in barbarous and civilised ages, the philological importance of provincial vocabularies, and the threatening prospect of the moral condition of the United States. Left alone, he turned to his diary. 'The day after tomorrow,' he wrote, 'is my birthday, if I am permitted to live to see it— my forty-seventh birthday since my birth. How large a portion of my life on earth is already passed! And then— what is to follow this life? How visibly my outward work seems contracting and softening away into the gentler employments of old age. In one sense how nearly can I now say, "Vivi". And I thank God that, as far as ambition is concerned, it is, I trust, fully mortified; I have no desire other than to step back from my present place in the world, and not to rise to a higher. Still there are works which, with God's permission, I would do before the night cometh.' Dr. Arnold was thinking of his great work on Church and State.
Early next morning he awoke with a sharp pain in his chest. The pain increasing, a physician was sent for; and in the meantime Mrs. Arnold read aloud to her husband the Fifty-first Psalm. Upon one of their boys coming into the room, 'My son, thank God for me,' said Dr. Arnold; and as the boy did not at once catch his meaning, he added, 'Thank God, Tom, for giving me this pain; I have suffered so little pain in my life that I feel it is very good for me. Now God has given it to me, and I do so thank Him for it.' Then Mrs. Arnold read from the Prayer-book the 'Visitation of the Sick', her husband listening with deep attention, and assenting with an emphatic 'Yes' at the end of many of the sentences. When the physician arrived, he perceived at once the gravity of the case: it was an attack of angina pectoris. He began to prepare some laudanum, while Mrs. Arnold went out to fetch the children. All at once, as the medical man was bending over his glasses, there was a rattle from the bed; a convulsive struggle followed; and, when the unhappy woman, with the children, and all the servants, rushed into the room, Dr. Arnold had passed from his perplexities forever.
There can be little doubt that what he had achieved justified the prediction of the Provost of Oriel that he would 'change the face of education all through the public schools of England'. It is true that, so far as the actual machinery of education was concerned, Dr. Arnold not only failed to effect a change, but deliberately adhered to the old system. The monastic and literary conceptions of education, which had their roots in the Middle Ages, and had been accepted and strengthened at the revival of Learning, he adopted almost without hesitation. Under him, the public school remained, in essentials, a conventional establishment, devoted to the teaching of Greek and Latin grammar. Had he set on foot reforms in these directions, it seems probable that he might have succeeded in carrying the parents of England with him. The moment was ripe; there was a general desire for educational changes; and Dr. Arnold's great reputation could hardly have been resisted. As it was, he threw the whole weight of his influence into the opposite scale, and the ancient system became more firmly established than ever.
The changes which he did effect were of a very different nature. By introducing morals and religion into his scheme of education, he altered the whole atmosphere of public-school life. Henceforward the old rough-and-tumble, which was typified by the regime of Keate at Eton, became impossible. After Dr. Arnold, no public school could venture to ignore the virtues of respectability. Again, by his introduction of the prefectorial system, Dr. Arnold produced far-reaching effects—effects which he himself, perhaps, would have found perplexing. In his day, when the school hours were over, the boys were free to enjoy themselves as they liked; to bathe, to fish, to ramble for long afternoons in the country, collecting eggs or gathering flowers. 'The taste of the boys at this period,' writes an old Rugbaean who had been under Arnold, 'leaned strongly towards flowers'. The words have an odd look today. 'The modern reader of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" searches in vain for any reference to compulsory games, house colours, or cricket averages. In those days, when boys played games they played them for pleasure; but in those days the prefectorial system— the system which hands over the life of a school to an oligarchy of a dozen youths of seventeen— was still in its infancy, and had not yet borne its fruit.
Teachers and prophets have strange after-histories; and that of Dr. Arnold has been no exception. The earnest enthusiast who strove to make his pupils Christian gentlemen and who governed his school according to the principles of the Old Testament, has proved to be the founder of the worship of athletics and the worship of good form. Upon those two poles our public schools have turned for so long that we have almost come to believe that such is their essential nature, and that an English public schoolboy who wears the wrong clothes and takes no interest in football, is a contradiction in terms. Yet it was not so before Dr. Arnold; will it always be so after him? We shall see.
Dean Stanley. Life and Correspondence of Dr Arnold. Thomas Hughes. Tom Brown's Schooldays. Sir H. Maxwell-Lyte. History of Eton College. Wilfrid Ward. W. G. Ward and the Oxford Movement. H. Clough. Letters. An Old Rugbaean. Recollections of Rugby. Thomas Arnold. Passages in a Wandering Life.
The End of General Gordon
DURING the year 1883 a solitary English gentleman was to be seen,
wandering, with a thick book under his arm, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. His unassuming figure, short and slight, with its half-gliding, half-tripping motion, gave him a boyish aspect, which contrasted, oddly, but not unpleasantly, with the touch of grey on his hair and whiskers. There was the same contrast— enigmatic and attractive—between the sunburnt brick-red complexion—the hue of the seasoned traveller—and the large blue
eyes, with their look of almost childish sincerity. To the friendly inquirer, he would explain, in a row, soft, and very distinct voice, that he was engaged in elucidating four questions—the site of the Crucifixion, the line of division between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the identification of Gideon, and the position of the Garden of Eden. He was also, he would add, most anxious to discover the spot where the Ark first touched ground, after the subsidence of the Flood: he believed, indeed, that he had solved that problem, as a reference to some passages in the book which he was carrying would show.
This singular person was General Gordon, and his book was the Holy Bible.
In such complete retirement from the world and the ways of men, it might have seemed that a life of inordinate activity had found
at last a longed-for, final peacefulness. For month after month, for an entire year, the General lingered by the banks of the Jordan. But then the enchantment was suddenly broken. Once more adventure claimed him; he plunged into the whirl of high affairs; his fate was mingled with the frenzies of Empire and the
doom of peoples. And it was not in peace and rest, but in ruin and horror, that he reached his end.
The circumstances of that tragic history, so famous, so bitterly debated, so often and so controversially described, remain full of suggestion for the curious examiner of the past. There emerges
from those obscure, unhappy records an interest, not merely political and historical, but human and dramatic. One catches a vision of strange characters, moved by mysterious impulses, interacting in queer complication, and hurrying at last—so it almost seems—like creatures in a puppet show to a predestined catastrophe. The characters, too, have a charm of their own: they
are curiously English. What other nation on the face of the earth
could have produced Mr. Gladstone and Sir Evelyn Baring and Lord Hartington and General Gordon? Alike in their emphasis and their lack of emphasis, in their eccentricity and their conventionality, in their matter-of-factness and their romance, these four figures
seem to embody the mingling contradictions of the English spirit.
As for the mise-en-scene, it is perfectly appropriate. But first,
let us glance at the earlier adventures of the hero of the piece.
Charles George Gordon was born in 1833. His father, of Highland and military descent, was himself a Lieutenant-General; his mother came of a family of merchants, distinguished for their sea
voyages into remote regions of the Globe. As a boy, Charlie was remarkable for his high spirits, pluck, and love of mischief. Destined for the Artillery, he was sent to the Academy at Woolwich, where some other characteristics made their appearance.
On one occasion, when the cadets had been forbidden to leave the dining-room and the senior corporal stood with outstretched arms in the doorway to prevent their exit, Charlie Gordon put his head
down, and, butting the officer in the pit of the stomach, projected him down a flight of stairs and through a glass door at
the bottom. For this act of insubordination he was nearly dismissed— while the captain of his company predicted that he would never make an officer. A little later, when he was eighteen, it came to the knowledge of the authorities that bullying was rife at the Academy. The new-comers were questioned,
and one of them said that Charlie Gordon had hit him over the head with a clothes-brush. He had worked well, and his record was
on the whole a good one; but the authorities took a serious view of the case, and held back his commission for six months. It was owing to this delay that he went into the Royal Engineers, instead of the Royal Artillery.
He was sent to Pembroke, to work at the erection of fortifications; and at Pembroke those religious convictions, which never afterwards left him, first gained a hold upon his mind. Under the influence of his sister Augusta and of a 'very religious captain of the name of Drew', he began to reflect upon his sins, look up texts, and hope for salvation. Though he had never been confirmed— he never was confirmed— he took the sacrament every Sunday; and he eagerly perused the Priceless Diamond, Scott's Commentaries, and The Remains of the Rev. R. McCheyne. 'No novels or worldly books,' he wrote to his sister, 'come up to the Commentaries of Scott.... I, remember well when you used to get them in numbers, and I used to laugh at them; but, thank God, it is different with me now. I feel much happier and more contented than I used to do. I did not like Pembroke, but now I would not wish for any prettier place. I have got a horse and gig, and Drew and myself drive all about the country. I
hope my dear father and mother think of eternal things... Dearest Augusta, pray for me, I beg of you.'
He was twenty-one; the Crimean War broke out; and before the year
was over, he had managed to get himself transferred to Balaclava.
During the siege of Sebastopol he behaved with conspicuous gallantry. Upon the declaration of peace, he was sent to Bessarabia to assist in determining the frontier between Russia and Turkey, in accordance with the Treaty of Paris; and upon this
duty he was occupied for nearly two years. Not long after his return home, in 1860, war was declared upon China. Captain Gordon
was dispatched to the scene of operations, but the fighting was over before he arrived. Nevertheless, he was to remain for the next four years in China, where he was to lay the foundations of extraordinary renown.
Though he was too late to take part in the capture of the Taku Forts, he was in time to witness the destruction of the Summer Palace at Peking—the act by which Lord Elgin, in the name of European civilisation, took vengeance upon the barbarism of the East.
The war was over; but the British Army remained in the country, until the payment of an indemnity by the Chinese Government was completed. A camp was formed at Tientsin, and Gordon was occupied
in setting up huts for the troops. While he was thus engaged, he had a slight attack of smallpox. 'I am glad to say,' he told his sister, 'that this disease has brought me back to my Saviour, and
I trust in future to be a better Christian than I have been hitherto.'
Curiously enough a similar circumstance had, more than twenty years earlier, brought about a singular succession of events which were now upon the point of opening the way to Gordon's first great adventure. In 1837, a village schoolmaster near Canton had been attacked by illness; and, as in the case of Gordon, illness had been followed by a religious revulsion. Hong- Siu-Tsuen— for such was his name— saw visions, went into ecstasies, and entered into relations with the Deity. Shortly afterwards, he fell in with a Methodist missionary from America, who instructed him in the Christian religion. The new doctrine, working upon the mystical ferment already in Hong's mind, produced a remarkable result. He was, he declared, the prophet of
God; he was more— he was the Son of God; he was Tien Wang, the Celestial King; he was the younger brother of Jesus.
The times were propitious, and proselytes soon gathered around him. Having conceived a grudge against the Government, owing to his failure in an examination, Hong gave a political turn to his teaching, which soon developed into a propaganda of rebellion against the rule of the Manchus and the Mandarins. The authorities took fright, attempted to suppress Hong by force, and failed. The movement spread. By 1850 the rebels were overrunning the populous
and flourishing delta of the Yangtse Kiang, and had become a formidable force. In 1853 they captured Nankin, which was henceforth their capital. The Tien Wang, established himself in a
splendid palace, and proclaimed his new evangel. His theogony included the wife of God, or the celestial Mother, the wife of Jesus, or the celestial daughter-in-law, and a sister of Jesus, whom he married to one of his lieutenants, who thus became the celestial son-in-law; the Holy Ghost, however, was eliminated.
His mission was to root out Demons and Manchus from the face of the earth, and to establish Taiping, the reign of eternal peace. In the meantime, retiring into the depths of his palace, he left the further conduct of earthly operations to his lieutenants, upon whom he bestowed the title of 'Wangs' (kings), while he himself, surrounded by thirty wives and one hundred concubines, devoted his energies to the spiritual side of his mission. The Taiping Rebellion, as it came to be called, had now reached its furthest extent. The rebels were even able to occupy, for more than a year, the semi-European city of Shanghai.
But then the tide turned. The latent forces of theEmpire gradually asserted themselves. The rebels lost ground, their armies were defeated, and in 1859 Nankin itself was besieged, and the Celestial King trembled in his palace. The end seemed to be at hand, when there was a sudden twist of Fortune's wheel. The war of 860, the invasion of China by European armies, their march into the interior, and their occupation of Peking, not only saved the rebels from destruction, but allowed them to recover the greater part of what they had lost. Once more they seized upon the provinces of the delta, once more they menaced Shanghai. It was clear that the Imperial army was incompetent, and the Shanghai merchants determined to provide for their own safety as best they could. They accordingly got together a body of troops, partly Chinese and partly European, and under European
officers, to which they entrusted the defence of the town. This small force, which, after a few preliminary successes, received from the Chinese Government the title of the 'Ever Victorious Army', was able to hold the rebels at bay, but it could do no more.
For two years Shanghai was in constant danger. The Taipings, steadily growing in power, were spreading destruction far and wide. The Ever Victorious Army was the only force capable of opposing them, and the Ever Victorious Army was defeated more often than not. Its first European leader had been killed; his successor quarrelled with the Chinese
Governor, Li Hung Chang, and was dismissed. At last it was determined to ask the General at the head of the British Army of Occupation for the loan of an officer to command the force. The English, who had been at first inclined to favour the Taipings, on religious grounds, were now convinced, on practical grounds, of the necessity of suppressing them. It was in these circumstances that, early in 1863, the command of the Ever Victorious Army was offered to Gordon. He accepted it, received the title of General from the Chinese authorities, and entered forthwith upon his new task. He was just
In eighteen months, he told Li Hung Chang, the business would be finished; and he was as good as his word. The difficulties before
him were very great. A vast tract of country was in the possession of the rebels— an area, at the lowest estimate, of 14,000 square miles with a population of 20,000,000. For centuries this low-lying plain of the Yangtse delta, rich in silk
and tea, fertilised by elaborate irrigation, and covered with great walled cities, had been one of the most flourishing districts in China. Though it was now being rapidly ruined by the
depredations of the Taipings, its strategic strength was obviously enormous. Gordon, however, with the eye of a born general, perceived that he could convert the very feature of the country which, on the face of it, most favoured an army on the defence— its complicated geographical system of interlacing roads and waterways, canals, lakes and rivers— into a means of offensive warfare. The force at his disposal was small, but it was mobile. He had a passion for map-making, and had already, in his leisure hours, made a careful survey of the country round Shanghai; he was thus able to execute a series of manoeuvres which proved fatal to the enemy. By swift marches and counter- marches, by sudden attacks and surprises, above all by the dispatch of armed steamboats up the circuitous waterways into positions from which they could fall upon the enemy in reverse, he was able gradually to force back the rebels, to cut them off piecemeal in the field, and to seize upon their cities.
But, brilliant as these operations were, Gordon's military genius
showed itself no less unmistakably in other directions. The Ever Victorious Army, recruited from the riff-raff of Shanghai, was an
ill-disciplined, ill-organised body of about three thousand men, constantly on the verge of mutiny, supporting itself on plunder, and, at the slightest provocation, melting into thin air. Gordon,
by sheer force of character, established over this incoherent mass of ruffians an extraordinary ascendancy. He drilled them with rigid severity; he put them into a uniform, armed them systematically, substituted pay for loot, and was even able, at last, to introduce regulations of a sanitary kind. There were some terrible scenes, in which the General, alone, faced the whole furious army, and quelled scenes of rage, desperation, towering courage, and summary execution. Eventually he attained an almost magical prestige. Walking at the head of his troops with nothing but a light cane in his hand, he seemed to pass through every danger with the scatheless equanimity of a demi- god. The Taipings themselves were awed into a strange reverence. More than once their leaders, in a frenzy of fear and admiration,
ordered the sharp-shooters not to take aim at the advancing figure of the faintly smiling Englishman.
It is significant that Gordon found it easier to win battles and to crush mutineers than to keep on good terms with the Chinese authorities. He had to act in cooperation with a large native force; and it was only natural that the general at the head of it
should grow more and more jealous and angry as the Englishman's successes revealed more and more clearly his own incompetence. At
first, indeed, Gordon could rely upon the support of the Governor. Li Flung Chang's experience of Europeans had been hitherto limited to low-class adventurers, and Gordon came as a revelation. 'It is a direct blessing from Heaven,' he noted in his diary, 'the coming of this British Gordon. ... He is superior
in manner and bearing to any of the foreigners whom I have come into contact with, and does not show outwardly that conceit which
makes most of them repugnant in my sight.' A few months later, after he had accompanied Gordon on a victorious expedition, the Mandarin's enthusiasm burst forth. 'What a sight for tired eyes,'
he wrote, 'what an elixir for a heavy heart— to see this splendid Englishman fight! ... If there is anything that I admire
nearly as much as the superb scholarship of Tseng Kuofan, it is the military qualities of this fine officer. He is a glorious fellow!' In his emotion, Li Hung Chang addressed Gordon as his brother, declaring that he 'considered him worthy to fill the place of the brother who is departed. Could I have said more in all the words of the world?'
Then something happened which impressed and mystified the sensitive Chinaman. 'The Englishman's face was first filled with a deep pleasure, and then he seemed to be thinking), of something depressing and sad; for the smile went from his mouth and there were tears in his eyes when he thanked me for what I had said. Can it be that he has, or has had, some great trouble in his life, and that he fights recklessly to forget it, or that Death has no terrors for him?' But, as time went on, Li Hung Chang's attitude began to change. 'General Gordon,' he notes in July, 'must control his tongue, even if he lets his mind run loose.' The Englishman had accused him of intriguing with the Chinese general, and of withholding money due
to the Ever Victorious Army. 'Why does he not accord me the honours that are due to me, as head of the military and civil authority in these parts?' By September, the Governor's earlier transports have been replaced by a more judicial frame of mind. 'With his many faults, his pride, his temper, and his never- ending demand for money, (for one is a noble man, and in spite of all I have said to him or about him) I will ever think most highly of
him. ... He is an honest man, but difficult to get on with.'
Disagreements of this kind might perhaps have been tided over until the end of the campaign; but an unfortunate incident suddenly led to a more serious quarrel. Gordon's advance had been
fiercely contested, but it had been constant; he had captured several important towns; and in October lice laid siege to the city of Soo-chow, once one of the most famous and splendid in China. In December, its fall being obviously imminent, the Taiping leaders agreed to surrender it on condition that their lives were spared. Gordon was a party to the agreement, and laid special stress upon his presence with the Imperial forces as a pledge of its fulfilment. No sooner, however, was the city surrendered than the rebel 'Wangs' were assassinated. In his fury, it is said that Gordon searched everywhere for Li Hung Chang with a loaded pistol in his hand. He was convinced of the complicity of the Governor, who, on his side, denied that he was responsible for what had happened. 'I asked him why I should plot, and go around a mountain, when a mere order, written with five strokes of the quill, would have accomplished the same thing. He did not answer, but he insulted me, and said he would report my treachery, as he called it, to Shanghai and England. Let him do so; he cannot bring the crazy Wangs back.' The agitated Mandarin hoped to placate Gordon by a large gratuity and
an Imperial medal; but the plan was not successful. 'General Gordon,' he writes, 'called upon me in his angriest mood. He repeated his former speeches about the Wangs. I did not attempt to argue with him... He refused the 10,000 taels, which I had ready for him, and, with an oath, said that he did not want the Throne's medal. This is showing the greatest disrespect.'
Gordon resigned his command; and it was only with the utmost reluctance that he agreed at last to resume it. An arduous and terrible series of operations followed; but they were successful,
and by June, 1864, the Ever Victorious Army, having accomplished its task, was disbanded. The Imperial forces now closed round Nankin; the last hopes of the Tien Wang had vanished. In the recesses of his seraglio, the Celestial King, judging that the time had come for the conclusion of his mission, swallowed gold leaf until he ascended to Heaven. In July, Nankin was taken, the remaining chiefs were executed, and the rebellion was at an end. The Chinese Government gave Gordon the highest rank in its military hierarchy, and invested him with the yellow jacket and the peacock's feather. He rejected an enormous offer of money; but he could not refuse a great gold medal, specially struck in his honour by order of the Emperor. At the end of the year he returned to England, where the conqueror of the Taipings was made
a Companion of the Bath.
That the English authorities should have seen fit to recognise Gordon's services by the reward usually reserved for industrious clerks was typical of their attitude towards him until the very end of his career. Perhaps if he had been ready to make the most of the wave of popularity which greeted him on his return—if he had advertised his fame and, amid high circles, played the part of Chinese Gordon in a becoming manner— the results would have been different. But he was by nature farouche; his soul revolted against dinner parties and stiff shirts; and the presence of ladies— especially of fashionable ladies— filled him with uneasiness. He had, besides, a deeper dread of the world's contaminations. And so, when he was appointed to Gravesend to supervise the erection of a system of forts at the mouth of the Thames, he remained there quietly for six years, and at last was almost forgotten. The forts, which were extremely expensive and quite useless, occupied his working hours; his leisure he devoted
to acts of charity and to religious contemplation. The neighbourhood was a poverty-stricken one, and the kind Colonel, with his tripping step and simple manner, was soon a familiar figure in it, chatting with the seamen, taking provisions to starving families, or visiting some bedridden old woman to light her fire. He was particularly fond of boys. Ragged street arabs and rough sailor-lads crowded about him. They were made free of his house and garden; they visited him in the evenings for lessons and advice; he helped them, found them employment, corresponded with them when they went out into the world. They were, he said, his Wangs. It was only by a singular austerity of living that he was able to afford such a variety of charitable expenses. The easy luxuries of his class and station were unknown
to him: his clothes verged upon the shabby; and his frugal meals were eaten at a table with a drawer, into which the loaf and plate were quickly swept at the approach of his poor visitors. Special occasions demanded special sacrifices. When, during the Lancashire famine, a public subscription was opened, finding that he had no ready money, he remembered his Chinese medal, and, after effacing the inscription, dispatched it as an anonymous gift.
Except for his boys and his paupers, he lived alone. In his solitude, he ruminated upon the mysteries of the universe; and those religious tendencies, which had already shown themselves, now became a fixed and dominating factor in his life. His reading
was confined almost entirely to the Bible; but the Bible he read and re-read with an untiring, unending assiduity. There, he was convinced, all truth was to be found; and he was equally convinced that he could find it. The doubts of philosophers, the investigations of commentators, the smiles of men of the world, the dogmas of Churches— such things meant nothing to the Colonel. Two facts alone were evident: there was the Bible, and there was himself; and all that remained to be done was for him to discover
what were the Bible's instructions, and to act accordingly. In order to make this discovery it was only necessary for him to read the Bible over and over again; and therefore, for the rest of his life, he did so.
The faith that he evolved was mystical and fatalistic; it was also highly unconventional. His creed, based upon the narrow foundations of Jewish Scripture, eked out occasionally by some English evangelical manual, was yet wide enough to ignore every doctrinal difference, and even, at moments, to transcend the bounds of Christianity itself. The just man was he who submitted to the Will of God, and the Will of God, inscrutable and absolute, could be served aright only by those who turned away from earthly desires and temporal temptations, to rest themselves
whole-heartedly upon the in-dwelling Spirit. Human beings were the transitory embodiments of souls who had existed through an infinite past, and would continue to exist through an infinite future.
The world was vanity; the flesh was dust and ashes. 'A man,' Gordon wrote to his sister, 'who knows not the secret, who has not the in-dwelling of God revealed to him, is like this—[picture of a circle with Body and Soul written within it]. He takes the promises and curses as addressed to him as one man, and will not hear of there being any birth before his natural birth, in any existence except with the body he is in. The man to whom the secret (the indwelling of God) is revealed is like this: [picture of a circle with soul and body enclosed in two separate circles].
He applies the promises to one and the curses to the other, if disobedient, which he must be, except the soul is enabled by God to rule. He then sees he is not of this world; for when he speaks
of himself he quite disregards the body his soul lives in, which is earthly.' Such conceptions are familiar enough in the history of religious thought: they are those of the hermit and the fakir;
and it might have been expected that, when once they had taken hold upon his mind, Gordon would have been content to lay aside the activities of his profession, and would have relapsed at last
into the complete retirement of holy meditation. But there were other elements in his nature which urged him towards a very different course. He was no simple quietist. He was an English gentleman, an officer, a man of energy and action, a lover of danger and the audacities that defeat danger; a passionate creature, flowing over with the self-assertiveness of independent
judgment and the arbitrary temper of command.
Whatever he might find in his pocket-Bible, it was not for such as he to dream out his days in devout obscurity. But, conveniently enough, he found nothing in his pocket-Bible indicating that he should. What he did find was that the Will of God was inscrutable and absolute; that it was man's duty to follow where God's hand led; and, if God's hand led towards violent excitements and extraordinary vicissitudes, that it was not only futile, it was impious to turn another way. Fatalism is always apt to be a double-edged philosophy; for while, on the one hand, it reveals the minutest occurrences as the immutable result of a rigid chain of infinitely predestined causes, on the other, it invests the wildest incoherences of conduct or of circumstance with the sanctity of eternal law. And Gordon's fatalism was no exception. The same doctrine that led him to dally with omens, to search for
prophetic texts, and to append, in brackets, the apotropaic initials D.V. after every statement in his letters implying futurity, led him also to envisage his moods and his desires, his
passing reckless whims and his deep unconscious instincts, as the
mysterious manifestations of the indwelling God. That there was danger lurking in such a creed he was very well aware. The grosser temptations of the world— money and the vulgar attributes of power— had, indeed, no charms for him; but there were subtler
and more insinuating allurements which it was not so easy to resist. More than one observer declared that ambition was, in reality, the essential motive in his life: ambition, neither for wealth nor titles, but for fame and influence, for the swaying of
multitudes, and for that kind of enlarged and intensified existence 'where breath breathes most even in the mouths of men'. Was it so? In the depths of Gordon's soul there were intertwining
contradictions— intricate recesses where egoism and renunciation
melted into one another, where the flesh lost itself in the spirit, and the spirit in the flesh. What was the Will of God? The question, which first became insistent during his retirement at Gravesend, never afterwards left him; it might almost be said that he spent the remainder of his life in searching for the answer to it. In all his Odysseys, in all his strange and agitated adventures, a day never passed on which he neglected the
voice of eternal wisdom as it spoke through the words of Paul or Solomon, of Jonah or Habakkuk. He opened his Bible, he read, and then he noted down his reflections upon scraps of paper, which, periodically pinned together, he dispatched to one or other of his religious friends, and particularly his sister Augusta. The published extracts from these voluminous outpourings lay bare the
inner history of Gordon's spirit, and reveal the pious visionary of Gravesend in the restless hero of three continents.
His seclusion came to an end in a distinctly providential manner.
In accordance with a stipulation in the Treaty of Paris, an international commission had been appointed to improve the navigation of the Danube; and Gordon, who had acted on a similar body fifteen years earlier, was sent out to represent Great Britain. At Constantinople, he chanced to meet the Egyptian minister, Nubar Pasha. The Governorship of the Equatorial Provinces of the Sudan was about to fall vacant; and Nubar offered the post to Gordon, who accepted it. 'For some wise design,' he wrote to his sister, 'God turns events one way or another, whether man likes it or not, as a man driving a horse turns it to right or left without consideration as to whether the
horse likes that way or not. To be happy, a man must be like a well-broken, willing horse, ready for anything. Events will go as
And then followed six years of extraordinary, desperate, unceasing, and ungrateful labour. The unexplored and pestilential
region of Equatoria, stretching southwards to the Great Lakes and
the sources of the Nile, had been annexed to Egypt by the Khedive
Ismail, who, while he squandered his millions on Parisian ballet- dancers, dreamt strange dreams of glory and empire. Those dim tracts of swamp and forest in Central Africa were— so he declared— to be 'opened up'; they were to receive the blessings of civilisation, they were to become a source of eternal honour to himself and Egypt. The slave-trade, which flourished there, was to be put down; the savage inhabitants were to become acquainted with freedom, justice, and prosperity. Incidentally, a
government monopoly in ivory was to be established, and the place
was to be made a paying concern. Ismail, hopelessly in debt to a horde of European creditors, looked to Europe to support him in his schemes. Europe, and, in particular, England, with her passion for extraneous philanthropy, was not averse.
Sir Samuel Baker became the first Governor of Equatoria, and now Gordon was to carry on the good work. In such circumstances it was only natural that Gordon should consider himself a special instrument in God's band. To put his disinterestedness beyond doubt, he reduced his salary, which had been fixed at 10,000, to 2,000. He took over his new duties early in 1874, and it was not long before he had a first hint of disillusionment. On his way up the Nile, he was received in state at Khartoum by the Egyptian Governor— General of the Sudan, his immediate official superior.
The function ended in a prolonged banquet, followed by a mixed ballet of soldiers and completely naked young women, who danced in a circle, beat time with their feet, and accompanied their gestures with a curious sound of clucking. At last the Austrian Consul, overcome by the exhilaration of the scene, flung himself in a frenzy among the dancers; the Governor-General, shouting with delight, seemed about to follow suit, when Gordon abruptly left the room, and the party broke up in confusion.
When, 1,500 miles to the southward, Gordon reached the seat of his government, and the desolation of the Tropics closed over him, the agonising nature of his task stood fully revealed. For the next three years he struggled with enormous difficulties— with the confused and horrible country, the appalling climate, the maddening insects and the loathsome diseases, the indifference of subordinates and superiors, the savagery of the slave-traders, and the hatred of the inhabitants. One by one the small company of his European staff succumbed. With a few hundred
Egyptian soldiers he had to suppress insurrections, make roads, establish fortified posts, and enforce the government monopoly of
ivory. All this he accomplished; he even succeeded in sending enough money to Cairo to pay for the expenses of the expedition.
But a deep gloom had fallen upon his spirit. When, after a series
of incredible obstacles had been overcome, a steamer was launched
upon the unexplored Albert Nyanza, he turned his back upon the lake, leaving the glory of its navigation to his Italian lieutenant, Gessi. 'I wish,' he wrote, 'to give a practical proof
of what I think regarding the inordinate praise which is given to
an explorer.' Among his distresses and self-mortifications, he loathed the thought of all such honours, and remembered the attentions of English society with a snarl. 'When, D.V., I get home, I do not dine out. My reminiscences of these lands will not be more pleasant to me than the China ones. What I shall have
done, will be what I have done. Men think giving dinners is conferring a favour on you... Why not give dinners to those who need them?' No! His heart was set upon a very different object. 'To each is allotted a distinct work, to each a destined goal; to
some the seat at the right hand or left hand of the Saviour. (It was not His to give; it was already given— Matthew xx, 23. Again, Judas went to "HIS OWN PLACE"—Acts i, 25.) It is difficult for the flesh to accept: "Ye are dead, ye have naught to do with the world". How difficult for anyone to be circumcised from the world, to be as indifferent to its pleasures, its sorrows, and its comforts as a corpse is! That is to know the resurrection.'
But the Holy Bible was not his only solace. For now, under the parching African sun, we catch glimpses, for the first time, of Gordon's hand stretching out towards stimulants of a more material quality. For months together, we are told, he would drink nothing but pure water; and then ... water that was not so pure. In his fits of melancholy, he would shut himself up in his tent for days at a time, with a hatchet and a flag placed at the door to indicate that he was not to be disturbed for any reason whatever; until at last the cloud would lift, the signals would be removed, and the Governor would reappear, brisk and cheerful.
During, one of these retirements, there was grave danger of a native attack upon the camp. Colonel Long, the Chief of Staff, ventured, after some hesitation, to ignore the flag and hatchet, and to enter the forbidden tent. He found Gordon seated at a table, upon which were an open Bible and an open bottle of brandy. Long explained the circumstances, but could obtain no answer beyond the abrupt words—'You are commander of the camp'— and was obliged to retire, nonplussed, to deal with the situation
as best he could. On the following morning, Gordon, cleanly shaven, and in the full-dress uniform of the Royal Engineers, entered Long's hut with his usual tripping step, exclaiming 'Old fellow, now don't be angry with me. I was very low last night. Let's have a good breakfast—a little b. and s. Do you feel up to
it?' And, with these veering moods and dangerous restoratives, there came an intensification of the queer and violent elements in the temper of the man.
His eccentricities grew upon him. He found it more and more uncomfortable to follow the ordinary course. Official routine was an agony to him. His caustic and satirical humour expressed itself in a style that astounded government departments. While he jibed at his superiors, his subordinates learned to dread the explosions of his wrath. There were moments when his passion became utterly ungovernable; and the gentle soldier of God, who had spent the day in quoting texts for the edification of his sister, would slap the face of his Arab aide-de-camp in a sudden access of fury, or set upon his Alsatian servant and kick him until he screamed.
At the end of three years, Gordon resigned his post in Equatoria,
and prepared to return home. But again Providence intervened: the
Khedive offered him, as an inducement to remain in the Egyptian service, a position of still higher consequence— the Governor- Generalship of the whole Sudan; and Gordon once more took up his task. Another three years were passed in grappling with vast revolting provinces, with the ineradicable iniquities of the slave-trade, and with all the complications of weakness and corruption incident to an oriental administration extending over almost boundless tracts of savage territory which had never been effectively subdued. His headquarters were fixed in the palace at
Khartoum; but there were various interludes in his government. Once, when the Khedive's finances had become peculiarly embroiled, he summoned Gordon to Cairo to preside over a commission which should set matters to rights.
Gordon accepted the post, but soon found that his situation was untenable. He was between the devil and the deep sea— between the unscrupulous cunning of the Egyptian Pashas, and the immeasurable
immensity of the Khedive's debts to his European creditors. The Pashas were anxious to use him as a respectable mask for their own nefarious dealings; and the representatives of the European creditors, who looked upon him as an irresponsible intruder, were anxious simply to get rid of him as soon as they could. One of these representatives was Sir Evelyn Baring, whom Gordon now met for the first time. An immediate antagonism flashed out between the two men. But their hostility had no time to mature; for Gordon, baffled on all sides, and deserted even by the Khedive, precipitately returned to his Governor-Generalship. Whatever else Providence might have decreed, it had certainly not decided that he should be a financier.
His tastes and his talents were indeed of a very different kind. In his absence, a rebellion had broken out in Darfur— one of the
vast outlying provinces of his government— where a native chieftain, Zobeir, had erected, on a basis of slave-traffic, a dangerous military power. Zobeir himself had been lured to Cairo,
where he was detained in a state of semi-captivity; but his son, Suleiman, ruled in his stead, and was now defying the Governor- General. Gordon determined upon a hazardous stroke. He mounted a camel, and rode, alone, in the blazing heat, across eighty-five miles of desert, to Suleiman's camp. His sudden apparition dumbfounded the rebels; his imperious bearing overawed them; he signified to them that in two days they must disarm and disperse;
and the whole host obeyed. Gordon returned to Khartoum in triumph. But he had not heard the last of Suleiman. Flying southwards from
Darfur to the neighbouring province of Bahr-el-Ghazal, the young man was soon once more at the head of a formidable force. A prolonged campaign of extreme difficulty and danger followed. Eventually, Gordon, summoned again to Cairo, was obliged to leave
to Gessi the task of finally crushing the revolt. After a brilliant campaign, Gessi forced Suleiman to surrender, and then shot him as a rebel. The deed was to exercise a curious influence
upon Gordon's fate.
Though Suleiman had been killed and his power broken, the slave- trade still flourished in the Sudan. Gordon's efforts to suppress
it resembled the palliatives of an empiric treating the superficial symptoms of some profound constitutional disease. The
root of the malady lay in the slave-markets of Cairo and Constantinople: the supply followed the demand. Gordon, after years of labour, might here and there stop up a spring or divert a tributary, but, somehow or other the waters would reach the river-bed. In the end, he himself came to recognise this. 'When you have got the ink that has soaked into blotting-paper out of it,' he said, 'then slavery will cease in these lands.' And yet he struggled desperately on; it was not for him to murmur. 'I feel my own weakness, and look to Him who is Almighty, and I leave the issue without inordinate care to Him.'
Relief came at last. The Khedive Ismail was deposed; and Gordon felt at liberty to send in his resignation. Before he left Egypt, however, he was to experience yet one more remarkable adventure. At his own request, he set out on a diplomatic mission to the Negus of Abyssinia. The mission was a complete failure. The Negus was intractable, and, when his bribes were refused, furious. Gordon was ignominiously dismissed; every insult was heaped on him; he was arrested, and obliged to traverse the Abyssinian Mountains in the depth of winter under the escort of a savage troop of horse. When, after great hardships and dangers, he reached Cairo, he found the whole official world up in arms against him. The Pashas had determined at last that they had no further use for this honest and peculiar
Englishman. It was arranged that one of his confidential dispatches should be published in the newspapers; naturally, it contained indiscretions; there was a universal outcry— the man was insubordinate, and mad. He departed under a storm of obloquy.
It seemed impossible that he should ever return to Egypt.
On his way home he stopped in Paris, saw the English Ambassador, Lord Lyons, and speedily came into conflict with him over Egyptian affairs. There ensued a heated correspondence, which was finally closed by a letter from Gordon, ending as follows: 'I have some comfort in thinking that in ten or fifteen years' time it will matter little to either of us. A black box, six feet six by three feet wide, will then contain all that is left of Ambassador, or Cabinet Minister, or of your humble and obedient servant.'
He arrived in England early in 1880 ill and exhausted; and it might have been supposed that after the terrible activities of his African exile he would have been ready to rest. But the very opposite was the case; the next three years were the most momentous of his life. He hurried from post to post, from enterprise to enterprise, from continent to continent, with a vertiginous rapidity. He accepted the Private Secretaryship to Lord Ripon, the new Viceroy of India, and, three days after his arrival at Bombay, he resigned. He had suddenly realised that he was not cut out for a Private Secretary, when, on an address being sent in from some deputation, he was asked to say that the Viceroy had read it with interest. 'You know perfectly,' he said to Lord William Beresford, 'that Lord Ripon has never read it, and I can't say that sort of thing; so I will resign, and you take in my resignation.' He confessed to Lord William that the world was not big enough for him, that there was 'no king or country big enough'; and then he added, hitting him on the shoulder, 'Yes, that is flesh, that is what I hate, and what makes me wish to die.'
Two days later, he was off for Pekin. 'Every one will say I am mad,' were his last words to Lord William Beresford; 'but you say
I am not.' The position in China was critical; war with Russia appeared to be imminent; and Gordon had been appealed to in order to use his influence on the side of peace. He was welcomed by many old friends of former days, among them Li Hung Chang, whose diplomatic views coincided with his own. Li's diplomatic language, however, was less unconventional. In an interview with the Ministers, Gordon's expressions were such that the interpreter shook with terror, upset a cup of tea, and finally refused to translate the dreadful words; upon which Gordon snatched up a dictionary, and, with his finger on the word 'idiocy', showed it to the startled Mandarins. A few weeks later, Li Hung Chang was in power, and peace was assured. Gordon had spent two and a half days in Pekin, and was whirling through China, when a telegram arrived from the home authorities, who viewed his movements with uneasiness, ordering him to return at once to England. 'It did not produce a twitter in me,' he wrote to his sister; 'I died long ago, and it will not make any difference to me; I am prepared to follow the unrolling of the scroll.' The world, perhaps, was not big enough for him; and yet how clearly he recognised that he was 'a poor insect!' 'My heart tells me that, and I am glad of it.'
On his return to England, he telegraphed to the Government of the
Cape of Good Hope, which had become involved in a war with the Basutos, offering his services; but his telegram received no reply. Just then, Sir Howard Elphinstone was appointed to the command of the Royal Engineers in Mauritius. it was a thankless and insignificant post; and, rather than accept it, Elphinstone was prepared to retire from the Army— unless some other officer could be induced, in return for 800, to act as his substitute. Gordon, who was an old friend, agreed to undertake the work upon one condition: that he should receive nothing from Elphinstone; and accordingly, he spent the next year in that remote and unhealthy island, looking after the barrack repairs and testing the drains.
While he was thus engaged, the Cape Government, whose difficulties had been increasing, changed its mind, and early in 1882, begged for Gordon's help. Once more he was involved in great affairs: a new field of action opened before him; and then, in a moment, there was another shift of the kaleidoscope, and again he was thrown upon the world. Within a few weeks, after a violent quarrel with the Cape authorities, his mission had come to an end. What should he do next? To what remote corner or what enormous stage, to what self-sacrificing drudgeries or what resounding exploits, would the hand of God lead him now? He waited, in an odd hesitation. He opened the Bible, but neither the prophecies of Hosea nor the epistles to Timothy gave him any advice. The King of the Belgians asked if he would be willing to go to the Congo. He was perfectly willing; he would go whenever the King of the Belgians sent for him; his services, however, were not required yet. It was at this juncture that he betook himself to Palestine. His studies there were embodied in a correspondence with the Rev. Mr. Barnes, filling over 2,000 pages of manuscript— a correspondence which was only put an end to when, at last, the summons from the King of the Belgians came. He
hurried back to England; but it was not to the Congo that he was being led by the hand of God.
Gordon's last great adventure, like his first, was occasioned by a religious revolt. At the very moment when, apparently forever, he was shaking the dust of Egypt from his feet, Mahommed Ahmed was starting upon his extraordinary career in the Sudan. The time
was propitious for revolutions. The effete Egyptian Empire was hovering upon the verge of collapse. The enormous territories of the Sudan were seething with discontent. Gordon's administration had, by its very vigour, only helped to precipitate the inevitable disaster. His attacks upon the slave-trade, his establishment of a government monopoly in ivory, his hostility to
the Egyptian officials, had been so many shocks, shaking to its foundations the whole rickety machine. The result of all his efforts had been, on the one hand, to fill the most powerful classes in the community— the dealers in slaves and, ivory— with a hatred of the government, and on the other to awaken among the mass of the inhabitants a new perception of the dishonesty and incompetence of their Egyptian masters.
When, after Gordon's removal, the rule of the Pashas once more asserted itself over the Sudan, a general combustion became inevitable: the first spark would set off the blaze. Just then it happened that Mahommed Ahmed, the son of an insignificant priest in Dongola, having quarrelled with the Sheikh from whom he was receiving religious instruction, set up as an independent preacher, with his headquarters at Abba Island, on the Nile, 150 miles above Khartoum. Like Hong-siu-tsuen, he began as a religious reformer, and ended as a rebel king. It was his mission, he declared, to purge the true Faith of its worldliness and corruptions, to lead the followers of the prophet into the paths of chastity, simplicity, and holiness; with the puritanical zeal of a Calvin, be denounced junketings and merrymakings, songs and dances, lewd living and all the delights of the flesh. He fell into trances, he saw visions, he saw the prophet and Jesus, and the Angel Izrail accompanying him and watching over him forever. He prophesied and performed miracles, and his fame spread through the land.
There is an ancient tradition in the Mohammedan world, telling of
a mysterious being, the last in succession of the twelve holy Imams, who, untouched by death and withdrawn into the recesses of
a mountain, was destined, at the appointted hour, to come forth again among men. His title was the Mahdi, the guide; some believed that he would be the forerunner of the Messiah; others believed that he would be Christ himself. Already various Mahdis
had made their appearance; several had been highly successful, and two, in medieval times, had founded dynasties in Egypt. But who could tell whether ail these were not impostors? Might not the twelfth Imam be still waiting, in mystical concealment, ready to emerge, at any moment, at the bidding of God? There were signs by which the true Mahdi might be recognised— unmistakable signs, if one could but read them aright. He must be of the family of the prophet; he must possess miraculous powers of no common kind; and
his person must be overflowing with a peculiar sanctity. The pious dwellers beside those distant waters, where holy men by dint of a constant repetition of one of the ninety-nine names of God, secured the protection of guardian angels, and where groups of devotees, shaking their heads with a violence which would unseat the reason of less athletic worshippers, attained to an extraordinary beatitude, heard with awe of the young preacher whose saintliness was almost more than mortal and whose miracles brought amazement to the mind. Was he not also of the family of the prophet? He himself had said so, and who would disbelieve the
holy man? When he appeared in person, every doubt was swept away.
There was a strange splendour in his presence, an overpowering passion in the torrent of his speech. Great was the wickedness of
the people, and great was their punishment! Surely their miseries
were a visible sign of the wrath of the Lord. They had sinned, and the cruel tax gatherers had come among them, and the corrupt governors, and all the oppressions of the Egyptians. Yet these things, 'Too, should have an end. The Lord would raise up his chosen deliverer; the hearts of the people would be purified, and
their enemies would be laid low. The accursed Egyptian would be driven from the land. Let the faithful take heart and make ready.
How soon might not the long-predestined hour strike, when the twelfth Imam, the guide, the Mahdi, would reveal himself to the world?' In that hour, the righteous 'Would triumph and the guilty
be laid low forever.' Such was the teaching of Mohammed Ahmed. A band of enthusiastic disciples gathered round him, eagerly waiting for the revelation which would crown their hopes. At last, the moment came. One evening, at Abba Island, taking aside the foremost of his followers, the Master whispered the portentous news. He was the Mahdi.
The Egyptian Governor-General at Khartoum, hearing that a religious movement was afoot, grew disquieted, and dispatched an emissary to Abba Island to summon the impostor to his presence. The emissary was courteously received. Mohammed Ahmed, he said, must come at once to Khartoum. 'Must!' exclaimed the Mahdi, starting to his feet, with a strange look in his eyes. The
look was so strange that the emissary thought it advisable to cut
short the interview and to return to Khartoum empty-handed. Thereupon, the Governor-General sent 200 soldiers to seize the audacious rebel by force. With his handful of friends, the Mahdi fell upon the soldiers and cut them to pieces. The news spread like wild-fire through the country: the Mahdi had arisen, the Egyptians were destroyed. But it was clear to the little band of enthusiasts at Abba Island that their position on the river was no longer tenable. The Mahdi, deciding upon a second Hegira, retreated south-westward, into the depths of Kordofan.
The retreat was a triumphal progress. The country, groaning under
alien misgovernment and vibrating with religious excitement, suddenly found in this rebellious prophet a rallying-point, a hero, a deliverer. And now another element was added to the forces of insurrection. The Baggara tribes of Kordofan, cattle- owners and slave-traders, the most warlike and vigorous of the inhabitants of the Sudan, threw in their lot with the Mahdi. Their powerful Emirs, still smarting from the blows of Gordon, saw that the opportunity for revenge had come. A holy war was proclaimed against the Egyptian misbelievers. The followers of the Mahdi, dressed, in token of a new austerity of living, in the
'jibbeh', or white smock of coarse cloth, patched with variously shaped and coloured patches, were rapidly organised into a formidable army. Several attacks from Khartoum were repulsed; and
at last, the Mahdi felt strong enough to advance against the enemy. While his lieutenants led detachments into the vast provinces lying to the west and the south—Darfur and Bahr-el- Ghazal—he himself marched upon El Obeid, the capital of Kordofan. It was in vain that reinforcements were hurried from Khartoum to the assistance of the garrison: there was some severe
fighting; the town was completely cut off; and, after a six months' siege, it surrendered. A great quantity of guns and ammunition and 100,000 in spices fell into the hands of the Mahdi. He was master of Kordofan: he was at the head of a great army; he was rich; he was worshipped. A dazzling future opened before him. No possibility seemed too remote, no fortune too magnificent. A vision of universal empire hovered before his eyes. Allah, whose servant he was, who had led him thus far, would lead him onward still, to the glorious end.
For some months he remained at El Obeid, consolidating his dominion. In a series of circular letters, he described his colloquies with the Almighty and laid down the rule of living which his followers were to pursue. The faithful, under pain of severe punishment, were to return to the ascetic simplicity of ancient times. A criminal code was drawn up, meting out executions, mutilations, and floggings with a barbaric zeal. The blasphemer was to be instantly hanged, the adulterer was to be scourged with whips of rhinoceros hide, the thief was to have his
right hand and his left foot hacked off in the marketplace. No more were marriages to be celebrated with pomp and feasting, no more was the youthful warrior to swagger with flowing hair; henceforth, the believer must banquet on dates and milk, and his head must be kept shaved. Minor transgressions were punished by confiscation of property or by imprisonment and chains. But the rhinoceros whip was the favourite instrument of chastisement. Men
were flogged for drinking a glass of wine, they were flogged for smoking; if they swore, they received eighty lashes for every expletive; and after eighty lashes it was a common thing to die. Before long, flogging grew to be so everyday an incident that the
young men made a game of it, as a test of their endurance of pain.
With this Spartan ferocity there was mingled the glamour and the mystery of the East. The Mahdi himself, his four Khalifas, and the principal Emirs, masters of sudden riches, surrounded themselves with slaves and women, with trains of horses and asses, with body guards and glittering arms. There were rumours of debaucheries in high places— of the Mahdi, forgetful of his own ordinances, revelling in the recesses of his
harem, and quaffing date syrup mixed with ginger out of the silver cups looted from the church of the Christians. But that imposing figure had only to show itself for the tongue of scandal
to be stilled. The tall, broad-shouldered, majestic man, with the
dark face and black beard and great eyes—who could doubt that he
was the embodiment of a superhuman power? Fascination dwelt in every movement, every glance. The eyes, painted with antimony, flashed extraordinary fires; the exquisite smile revealed, beneath the vigorous lips, white upper teeth with a V-shaped space between them— the certain sign of fortune. His turban was folded with faultless art, his jibbeh, speckless, was perfumed with sandal-wood, musk, and attar of roses. He was at once all courtesy and all command. Thousands followed him, thousands prostrated themselves before him; thousands, when he lifted up his voice in solemn worship, knew that the heavens were opened and that they had come near to God. Then all at once the onbeia—
the elephant's-tusk trumpet—would give out its enormous sound. The nahas—the brazen wardrums— would summon, with their weird rolling, the whole host to arms. The green flag and the red flag and the black flag would rise over the multitude. The great army would move forward, coloured, glistening, dark, violent, proud, beautiful. The drunkenness, the madness of religion would blaze on every face; and the Mahdi, immovable on his charger, would let
the scene grow under his eyes in silence.
El Obeid fell in January, 1883. Meanwhile, events of the deepest importance had occurred in Egypt. The rise of Arabi had synchronised with that of the Mahdi. Both movements were nationalist; both were directed against alien rulers who had shown themselves unfit to rule. While the Sudanese were shaking off the yoke of Egypt, the Egyptians themselves grew impatient of
their own masters— the Turkish and Circassian Pashas who filled with their incompetence all the high offices of state. The army led by Ahmed Arabi, a Colonel of fellah origin, mutinied, the Khedive gave way, and it seemed as if a new order were about to be established. A new order was indeed upon the point of appearing: but it was of a kind undreamt of in Arabi's philosophy. At the critical moment, the English Government intervened. An English fleet bombarded Alexandria, an English army landed under Lord Wolseley, and defeated Arabi and his supporters at Tel-el-kebir. The rule of the Pashas was nominally restored; but henceforth, in effect, the English were masters of Egypt.
Nevertheless, the English themselves were slow to recognise this fact: their Government had intervened unwillingly; the occupation
of the country was a merely temporary measure; their army was to be withdrawn as soon as a tolerable administration had been set up. But a tolerable administration, presided over by the Pashas, seemed long in coming, and the English army remained. In the meantime, the Mahdi had entered El Obeid, and his dominion was rapidly spreading over the greater part of the Sudan.
Then a terrible catastrophe took place. The Pashas, happy once more in Cairo, pulling the old strings and growing fat over the old flesh-pots, decided to give the world an unmistakable proof of their renewed vigour. They would tolerate the insurrection in the Sudan no longer; they would destroy the Mahdi, reduce his followers to submission, and re-establish their own beneficent rule over the whole country. To this end they collected together an army of 10,000 men, and placed it under the command of Colonel
Hicks, a retired English officer. He was ordered to advance and suppress the rebellion. In these proceedings the English Government refused to take any part. Unable, or unwilling, to realise that, so long as there was an English army in Egypt they could not avoid the responsibilities of supreme power, they declared that the domestic policy of the Egyptian administration was no concern of theirs. It was a fatal error—an error which they themselves, before many weeks were over, were to be forced by the hard logic of events to admit. The Pashas, left to their own devices, mismanaged the Hicks expedition to their hearts' content. The miserable troops, swept together from the relics of Arabi's disbanded army, were dispatched to Khartoum in chains.
After a month's drilling, they were pronounced to be fit to attack the fanatics of the Sudan. Colonel Hicks was a brave man; urged on by the authorities in Cairo, he shut his eyes to the danger ahead of him, and marched out from Khartoum in the direction of El Obeid at the beginning of September, 1883. Abandoning his communications, he was soon deep in the desolate wastes of Kordofan. As he advanced, his difficulties increased; the guides were treacherous, the troops grew exhausted, the supply of water gave out. He pressed on, and at last, on November 5th, not far from El Obeid, the harassed, fainting, almost desperate army plunged into a vast forest of gumtrees and mimosa scrub. There was a sudden, appalling yell; the Mahdi, with 40,000 of his finest men, sprang from their ambush. The Egyptians were surrounded, and immediately overpowered. It was not a defeat, but an annihilation. Hicks and his European staff were slaughtered; the whole army was slaughtered; 300 wounded wretches
crept away into the forest.
The consequences of this event were felt in every part of the Sudan. To the westward, in Darfur, the Governor, Slatin Pasha, after a prolonged and valiant resistance, was forced to surrender, and the whole province fell into the hands of the rebels. Southwards, in the Bahr-el-Ghazal, Lupton Bey was shut up
in a remote stronghold, while the country was overrun. The Mahdi's triumphs were beginning to penetrate even into the tropical regions of Equatoria; the tribes were rising, and Emir Pasha was preparing to retreat towards the Great Lakes. On the cast, Osman Digna pushed the insurrection right up to the shores of the Red Sea and laid siege to Suakin. Before the year was over, with the exception of a few isolated and surrounded garrisons, the Mahdi was absolute lord of a territory equal to the combined area of Spain, France, and Germany; and his victorious armies were rapidly closing round Khartoum.
When the news of the Hicks disaster reached Cairo, the Pashas calmly announced that they would collect another army of 10,000 men, and again attack the Mahdi; but the English Government understood at last the gravity of the case. They saw that a crisis was upon them, and that they could no longer escape the implications of their position in Egypt. What were they to do? Were they to allow the Egyptians to become more and more deeply involved in a ruinous, perhaps ultimately a fatal, war with the Mahdi? And, if not, what steps were they to take?
A small minority of the party then in power in England— the Liberal Party— were anxious to withdraw from Egypt altogether and at once. On the other hand, another and a more influential minority, with representatives in the Cabinet, were in favour of a more active intervention in Egyptian affairs— of the deliberate use of the power of England to give to Egypt internal stability and external
security; they were ready, if necessary, to take the field against the Mahdi with English troops. But the great bulk of the party, and the Cabinet, with Mr. Gladstone at their head, preferred a middle course. Realising the impracticality of an immediate withdrawal, they were nevertheless determined to remain
in Egypt not a moment longer than was necessary, and, in the meantime, to interfere as little as possible in Egyptian affairs. From a campaign in the Sudan conducted by an English army they were altogether averse. If, therefore, the English army was not to be used, and the Egyptian army was not fit to be used against the Mahdi, it followed that any attempt to reconquer the Sudan must be abandoned; the remaining Egyptian troops must be withdrawn, and in future military operations must be limited to those of a strictly defensive kind. Such was the decision of the English Government. Their determination was strengthened by two considerations: in the first place, they saw that the Mahdi's rebellion was largely a nationalist movement, directed against an
alien power, and, in the second place, the policy of withdrawal from the Sudan was the policy of their own representative in Egypt, Sir Evelyn Baring, who had lately been appointed Consul- General at Cairo. There was only one serious obstacle in the way— the attitude of the Pashas at the head of the Egyptian Government. The infatuated old men were convinced that they would
have better luck next time, that another army and another Hicks would certainly destroy the Mahdi, and that, even if the Mahdi were again victorious, yet another army and yet another Hicks would no doubt be forthcoming, and that THEY would do the trick, or, failing that ... but they refused to consider eventualities any further. In the face of such opposition, the English Government, unwilling as they were to interfere, saw that there was no choice open to them but to exercise pressure. They therefore instructed Sir Evelyn Baring, in the event of the Egyptian Government refusing to withdraw from the Sudan, to insist upon the Khedive's appointing other Ministers who would be
willing to do so.
Meanwhile, not only the Government, but the public in England were beginning to realise the alarming nature of the Egyptian situation. It was some time before the details of the Hicks expedition were fully known, but when they were, andwhen the appalling character of the disaster was understood, a thrill of horror ran through the country. The newspapers became full of articles on the Sudan, of personal descriptions of the Mahdi, of agitated letters from colonels and clergymen demanding vengeance, and of serious discussions of future policy in Egypt. Then, at the beginning of the new year, alarming messages began to arrive from Khartoum. Colonel Coetlogon, who was in command of the Egyptian troops, reported a menacing concentration of the enemy. Day by day, hour by hour, affairs grew worse. The Egyptians were obviously outnumbered: they could not maintain themselves in the field; Khartoum was in danger; at any moment, its investment might be complete. And, with Khartoum once cut off from communication with Egypt, what might not happen?
Colonel Coetlogon began to calculate how long the city would hold
out. Perhaps it could not resist the Mahdi for a month, perhaps for more than a month; but he began to talk of the necessity of a
speedy retreat. It was clear that a climax was approaching, and that measures must be taken to forestall it at once. Accordingly,
Sir Evelyn Baring, on receipt of final orders from England, presented an ultimatum to the Egyptian Government: the Ministry must either sanction the evacuation of the Sudan, or it must resign. The Ministry was obstinate, and, on January 7th, 1884, it resigned, to be replaced by a more pliable body of Pashas. On the same day, General Gordon arrived at Southampton. He was over fifty, and he was still, by the world's measurements, an unimportant man. In spite of his achievements, in spite of a certain celebrity— for 'Chinese Gordon' was still occasionally spoken of— he was unrecognised and almost unemployed.
He had spent a lifetime in the dubious services of foreign governments, punctuated by futile drudgeries at home; and now, after a long idleness, he had been sent for—to do what?—to look after the Congo for the King of the Belgians. At his age, even if he survived the work and the climate, he could hardly look forward to any subsequent appointment; he would return from the Congo, old and worn out, to a red-brick villa and
extinction. Such were General Gordon's prospects on January 7th, 1884. By January 18th, his name was on every tongue, he was the favourite of the nation, he had been declared to be the one living man capable of coping with the perils of the hour; he had been chosen, with unanimous approval, to perform a great task; and he had left England on a mission which was to bring him not only a boundless popularity, but an immortal fame. The circumstances which led to a change so sudden and so remarkable are less easily
explained than might have been wished. An ambiguity hangs over them— an ambiguity which the discretion of eminent persons has certainly not diminished. But some of the facts are clear enough.
The decision to withdraw from the Sudan had no sooner been taken than it had become evident that the operation would be a difficult and hazardous one, and that it would be necessary to send to Khartoum an emissary armed with special powers and possessed of special ability, to carry it out. Towards the end of
November, somebody at the War Office—it is not clear who—had suggested that this emissary should be General Gordon. Lord Granville, the Foreign Secretary, had thereupon telegraphed to Sir Evelyn Baring asking whether, in his opinion, the presence of
General Gordon would be useful in Egypt; Sir Evelyn Baring had replied that the Egyptian Government was averse to this proposal, and the matter had dropped.
There was no further reference to Gordon in the official dispatches until after his return to England. Nor, before that date, was any
allusion made to him as a possible unraveller of the Sudan difficulty, in the Press. In all the discussions which followed the news of the Hicks disaster, his name is only to be found in occasional and incidental references to his work "In the Sudan". The "Pall Mall Gazette", which, more than any other newspaper, interested itself
in Egyptian affairs, alluded to Gordon once or twice as a geographical expert; but, in an enumeration of the leading authorities on the Sudan, left him out of account altogether. Yet
it was from the "Pall Mall Gazette" that the impulsion which projected him into a blaze of publicity finally came. Mr. Stead, its enterprising editor, went down to Southampton the day after Gordon's arrival there, and obtained an interview. Now when he was in the mood— after a little b. and s., especially— no one was more capable than Gordon, with his facile speech and his free- and-easy manners, of furnishing good copy for a journalist; and Mr. Stead made the most of his opportunity. The interview, copious and pointed, was published next day in the most prominent part of
the paper, together with a leading article, demanding that the General should be immediately dispatched to Khartoum with the widest powers. The rest of the Press, both in London and in the provinces, at once took up the cry: General Gordon was a capable and energetic officer, he was a noble and God-fearing man, he was
a national asset, he was a statesman in the highest sense of the word; the occasion was pressing and perilous; General Gordon had been for years Governor-General of the Sudan; General Gordon alone had the knowledge, the courage, the virtue, which would save the situation; General Gordon must go to Khartoum. So, for a
week, the papers sang in chorus. But already those in high places
had taken a step. Mr. Stead's interview appeared on the afternoon
of January 9th, and on the morning of January 10th Lord Granville
telegraphed to Sir Evelyn Baring, proposing, for a second time, that Gordon's services should be utilised in Egypt. But Sir Evelyn Baring, for the second time, rejected the proposal.
While these messages were flashing to and fro, Gordon himself was
paying a visit to the Rev. Mr. Barnes at the Vicarage of Heavitree, near Exeter. The conversation ran chiefly on Biblical and spiritual matters— on the light thrown by the Old Testament upon the geography of Palestine, and on the relations between man
and his Maker; but, there were moments when topics of a more worldly interest arose. It happened that Sir Samuel Baker, Gordon's predecessor in Equatoria, lived in the neighbourhood. A meeting was arranged, and the two ex-Governors, with Mr. Barnes in attendance, went for a drive together. In the carriage, Sir Samuel Baker, taking up the tale of the "Pall Mall Gazette", dilated upon the necessity of his friend's returning to the Sudan
as Governor-General. Gordon was silent; but Mr. Barnes noticed that his blue eyes flashed, while an eager expression passed over
his face. Late that night, after the Vicar had retired to bed, he
was surprised by the door suddenly opening, and by the appearance
of his guest swiftly tripping into the room. 'You saw me today?' the low voice abruptly questioned. 'You mean in the carriage?' replied the startled Mr. Barnes. 'Yes,' came the reply; 'you saw ME—that was MYSELF—the self I want to get rid of.' There was a sliding movement, the door swung to, and the Vicar found himself alone again.
It was clear that a disturbing influence had found its way into Gordon's mind. His thoughts, wandering through Africa, flitted to
the Sudan; they did not linger at the Congo. During the same visit, he took the opportunity of calling upon Dr. Temple, the Bishop of Exeter, and asking him, merely as a hypothetical question, whether, in his opinion, Sudanese converts to Christianity might be permitted to keep three wives. His Lordship
answered that this would be uncanonical.
A few days later, it appeared that the conversation in the carriage at Heavitree had borne fruit. Gordon wrote a letter to Sir Samuel Baker, further elaborating the opinions on the Sudan which he had already expressed in his interview with Mr. Stead; the letter was clearly intended for publication, and published it
was in "The Times" of January 14th. On the same day, Gordon's name began once more to buzz along the wires in secret questions and answers to and from the highest quarters.
'Might it not be advisable,' telegraphed Lord Granville to Mr. Gladstone, to put a little pressure on Baring, to induce him to accept the assistance of General Gordon?' Mr. Gladstone replied, also by a telegram, in the affirmative; and on the 15th, Lord Wolseley telegraphed to Gordon begging him to come to London immediately. Lord Wolseley, who was one of Gordon's oldest friends, was at that time Adjutant-General of the Forces; there was a long interview; and, though the details of the conversation
have never transpired, it is known that, in the course of it, Lord Wolseley asked Gordon if he would be willing to go to the Sudan, to which Gordon replied that there was only one objection— his prior engagement to the King of the Belgians. Before nightfall, Lord Granville, by private telegram, had 'put a little
pressure on Baring'. 'He had,' he said, 'heard indirectly that Gordon was ready to go at once to the Sudan on the following rather vague terms: His mission to be to report to Her Majesty's Government on the military situation, and to return without any further engagement. He would be under you for instructions and will send letters through you under flying seal... He might be of use,' Lord Granville added, in informing you and us of the situation. It would be popular at home, but there may be countervailing objections. Tell me,' such was Lord Granville's concluding injunction, 'your real opinion.'
It was the third time of asking, and Sir Evelyn Baring resisted no longer. 'Gordon,' he telegraphed on the 16th, 'would be the best man if he will pledge himself to carry out the policy of withdrawing from the Sudan as quickly as is possible, consistently with saving life. He must also understand that he must take his instructions from the British representative in Egypt... I would rather have him than anyone else, provided there is a perfectly clear understanding with him as to what his position is to be and what line of policy he is to carry out. Otherwise, not... Whoever goes should be distinctly warned that he will undertake a service of great difficulty and danger.'
In the meantime, Gordon, with the Sudan upon his lips, with the Sudan in his imagination, had hurried to Brussels, to obtain from the King of the Belgians a reluctant consent to the postponement of his Congo mission. On the 17th he was recalled to London by a telegram from Lord Wolseley. On the 18th the final decision was made. 'At noon,' Gordon told the Rev.
Mr. Barnes, Wolseley came to me and took me to the Ministers. He went in and talked to the Ministers, and came back and said: "Her
Majesty's Government wants you to undertake this. Government is determined to evacuate the Sudan, for they will not guarantee future government. Will you go and do it?" I said: "Yes." He said: "Go in." I went in and saw them. They said: "Did Wolseley tell you your orders?" I said: "Yes." I said: "You will not guarantee future government of the Sudan, and you wish me to go up and evacuate now." They said: "Yes", and it was over.'
Such was the sequence of events which ended in General Gordon's last appointment. The precise motives of those responsible for these transactions are less easy to discern. It is difficult to understand what the reasons could have been which induced the Government, not only to override the hesitations of Sir Evelyn Baring, but to overlook the grave and obvious dangers involved in
sending such a man as Gordon to the Sudan. The whole history of his life, the whole bent of his character, seemed to disqualify him for the task for which he had been chosen. He was before all things a fighter, an enthusiast, a bold adventurer; and he was now to be entrusted with the conduct of an inglorious retreat. He
was alien to the subtleties of civilised statesmanship, he was unamenable to official control, he was incapable of the skilful management of delicate situations; and he was now to be placed in
a position of great complexity, requiring at once a cool judgment, a clear perception of fact, and a fixed determination to carry out a line of policy laid down from above. He had, it is