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History of New Zealand. Vol. III.



“The Great Refusal” was published in London in 1890, with the signature “Vindex.” The author sent a copy of it by post to General Gordon's sister. She promptly wrote to the publishers: “Will you kindly convey my compliments and thanks to the author (Vindex) of the pamphlet entitled ‘The Great Refusal,’ which so accords with my feelings on the subject on which he has so ably and forcibly written. As I am unable to write direct, not knowing the author's name, I hope you will excuse my troubling you.”

The author thereupon wrote to Miss Gordon, who replied thus:—

“28th Nov., 1890.

Dear Mr. Rusden,—Your kind letter received this morning has gratified me very much. I was most anxious to convey my thanks to the author of ‘The Great Refusal,’ and doubly pleased to find it was from the pen of a friend. I sent a copy of it to Cairo a few days ago, where I think it will be appreciated. It is well to have such matters put concisely before the public, as in these days few will take the trouble to search for themselves, even when they have facilities for so doing.—Yours sincerely,

“M. A. Gordon.

G. W. Rusden, Esq., Athenæum Club, Pall Mall.”

Many other letters of thanks were received by the author, whose name was well known.

In the year 1891 a book was published, entitled “Mahdism and the Egyptian Soudan” (M'Millan and Co., London, page 442 1891), and the author examined it with interest, in order to ascertain whether in the opinion of an experienced soldier serving in Egypt the keeping of faith with Gordon by the English ministry might have been effectual in saving the garrisons in the Soudan, and enabling Gordon to accomplish the work which he was appointed to do.

Major Wingate, R.A., was Assistant Adjutant-General for Intelligence in the Egyptian army. A few brief extracts from his book will suffice to confirm the author's reflections in the note at page 414.

In Gordon's opinion there was but one man possible; … Zebehr was the one ruler. A quiet, far-seeing, thoughtful man, of iron will—a born ruler of men. The natural ruler of the Soudanese was Zebehr. If he were coming all would go well… But the tribes were threatening and impatient… Zebehr must come at once… Zebehr did not go, and from this arose grave consequences. Those consequences were sure and swift… One searches in vain for a single circumstance hopeful for Gordon. When the eye wanders over the huge and hostile Soudan, and notes the little pin-point garrisons, each smothered in a cloud of hostile spears, … and when it is remembered that one of these Englishmen sat resolute there for eleven months, and that no one could dislodge him, one is proud beyond measure of the exploit.”

But some one may say—“Of what value is Major Wingate's opinion?” In 1892, Mr. Alfred Milner testified to its value in a work—“England and Egypt,” by “Alfred Milner, late Under-Secretary for Finance in Egypt.” (London: Edward Arnold, 1892.) Speaking of Major Wingate's book, Mr. Milner wrote:—“No man could possibly have been better fitted to perform that task. A practical soldier, with long and varied experience of Soudanese warfare, Major Wingate has also been for a number of years the chief in the Intelligence Department of the Egyptian army. Knowing the language and the people, he has amassed and digested an amount of information which was not within the reach of any other man, and has presented it in a form which may safely be regarded as final.”

Major Wingate's statement—“The natural ruler of the Soudanese was Zebehr. If he were coming all would go well”—and Mr. Milner's testimony as to Major Wingate's competency to judge, make it unnecessary to alter a line in “The Great Refusal” as published in 1890.