The Whole Riverside Was
Filled By A Forest Of Masts.
Crowds of gyassas, barges, and steamers were
moored closely together; and while looking at the furled sails, the tangled
riggings, and the tall funnels it was easy for the spectator to imagine
that this was the docks of some populous city in a well-developed
and civilised land.
But the significance of the picture grew when the mind, outstripping the
eye, passed beyond the long, low heights of the gorge and cataract of
Shabluka and contemplated the ruins of Khartoum and the city of Omdurman.
There were known to be at least 50,000 fighting men collected in their last
stronghold. We might imagine the scene of excitement, rumour, and resolve
in the threatened capital. The Khalifa declares that he will destroy the
impudent invaders. The Mahdi has appeared to him in a dream. Countless
angelic warriors will charge with those of Islam. The 'enemies of God'
will perish and their bones will whiten the broad plain. Loud is the
boasting, and many are the oaths which are taken, as to what treatment
the infidel dogs shall have when they are come to the city walls.
The streets swarm with men and resound with their voices. Everywhere is
preparation and defiance. And yet over all hangs the dark shadow of fear.
Nearer and nearer comes this great serpent of an army, moving so slowly and
with such terrible deliberation, but always moving. A week ago it was sixty
miles away, now it is but fifty.
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