We have been here six months now, and my lord was saying but a few days since that as soon as the rest of the crops were gathered he should send those who are not fit to travel to El Bahr Nile, and should leave you there and should start with the camels to Khartoum, sell our crops there, and then carry merchandise to El-Obeid or some other distant place.
It was a source of much gratification that the Egyptian fellaheen had proved themselves so courageous and well disciplined in the encounter with the fierce hosts of the desert. In October, 1886, Wad en Nejumi, the victor of El-Obeid, was sent by the califa to invade Egypt.
I must pay for my fault, though I cannot think that the commander at El-Obeid would be hard upon one who has erred from ignorance. However, as it is urgent for me to press on my journey, I will relinquish to you one-third of my camels and their burdens if you will let us travel on with the others, and give us a permit from yourself so that none may molest us in future."
But how is he to do it when a handful of white soldiers defeated thousands of his men in the desert? What would it be were he to meet a great army of them? It is one thing to fight the Egyptians as they did at El-Obeid, but another when it is your soldiers. I hear that multitudes of Osman Digma's men were slain down by the sea, and yet they say they fought well."
Two or three of the usual ceremonial sentences were repeated on both sides. "My brother's name is El Bakhat?" the new-comer said. "My name is my own," the sheik replied, "and is no concern of strangers." "I come as a friend," the Arab said. "I arrived at El-Obeid yesterday and heard that a body of horsemen had set out in pursuit of you.
When they were within a day's journey of El-Obeid they met one of the sheik's followers who had left the wady four days before the rest with instructions to go to the city and find out whether it would be safe to enter. He halted his camel when he reached that of the sheik. "You must go no nearer the city, my father," he said.
In 1845, John Pethrick, a Welshman, explored the Nile for coal and precious metals in the interest of Mehemet Ali. After the death of this pasha, Pethrick visited El-Obeid in Kordofan as a trader, and remained there for five years. In 1853 he ventured upon an enterprise relating to the ivory trade.
You see if we are taken to El-Obeid, where they have had news of the expedition sent from Khartoum, and its disappearance in the desert, my husband would be sent in chains to the Mahdi, and you know what his fate would then be, while the least that will befall us all will be to be sold into slavery. What then do you advise?" "With your permission I will think it over," Edgar replied.
They were now following a track which would, the sheik said, lead them after a few miles into the main road between El-Obeid and Khartoum. This time the halt was of but a few hours' duration, as they hoped that they had baffled their pursuers and could now travel without attracting any special attention.
There is neither law nor order in the land. I shall journey on to El-Obeid or Kassala; I shall get what price I like to ask there." The traders poured out a torrent of expostulation.