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still the Imâm took no notice of us whatever, and there was nothing left for us but to retire.' This seclusion of the Imâm is divided into two periods, a shorter and a longer one. The former lasted up to the year A.H. 360, during which period he performed many wonderful acts, and cominunicated with the outer world by privileged persons, called ambassadors, the last of whom at his death left a letter he had received from the Mahdi himself, according to which no ambassador was to be appointed after him. The latter or longer period commenced with the death of the last ambassador, since which all communication with the outer world ceased, and it will last till his reappearance in the latter day, according to the eternal will of God. The Mahdi who is to appear in the last time is the same who has hitherto been in this retirement and seclusion. When he has come, Jesus also is to descend from heaven, and to appear on the earth.
On the accession of Moossah Kâzim to the caliphate a division ensued, many of Ismail's followers strongly espousing the cause of his children, through whom the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt claim their descent from Mohammed, and so from the family of the Koreish. This sect became notorious in history as the Assassins, and their ruler was styled the Chief of the Mountains, or the Ancient. This Ancient, whose name was Hussun Subah, resided in the lofty mountain fortress of Allahamout, and governed a band of more than fifty thousand loyal followers, who carried out with unflinching obedience and promptitude his orders for the murder of others obnoxious to himself, and even unhesitatingly sacrificed their own lives at his mandate. The historian of Persia, Malcolm, cites a striking proof of the immense power he possessed over his disciples. On one occasion his inveterate enemy, the Persian monarch, Malik Shah, sent an envoy to Hussun at Allahamout. The Chief of the Mountains, determined to convince the envoy that his sway was no vain boast, commanded one of his adherents to stab himself, and another to cast himself headlong from a precipice. Both orders were at once executed. • Go,' exclaimed Hussun to the astonished ambassador, "and explain to your master the character of my followers.' Hussun's son, Keah, and grandson, Mohammed, kept up the terror which was associated with their name, nor did it decrease under the rule of the Ismailian chiefs who succeeded them. An occurrence in the reign of Allah-udeen is an apt illustration of the absolute despotism they wielded. Fakhr Razee, a doctor of laws and an eminent divine, who used to be styled the “Imâm of Rhe' (his native town), had been supposed to lean to the opinions of the Ismailian sect, and, to do away with this impression, he thought it necessary to express his abhorrence of this race and their tenets in the pulpit. Some time after he had uttered this anathema, he was surprised to see a man, who had been one of his most attentive disciples for several days, enter his private chamber, and still more when, seizing him by the beard, and pointing a dagger to his breast, this person asked him if he knew who he
“I am quite ignorant who you are,' said the trembling divine;
6 and still less can I conjecture why you seek my life.' "You abused the sect of Ismail,' said the man. “I was wrong,' replied the learned doctor ; ' I repent, and will never do so again.' 'Swear by the holy prophet to what you have now said,' cried the assailant. I swear, said the Imâm. Very well,' said the man, quitting his hold; I have particular orders not to slay you, or my poignard should, before this, have been crimsoned with the blood of your heart. Allah-udeen desires me to present you his respects, and to ask if you are well informed of the tenets of that sect which you have dared to abuse. He advises you to be most careful of your future conduct; and as he has a respect for your character, he sends you this bag, which contains three hundred and sixty gold mohurs; and here is an order for a similar sum to be paid you annually by one of his agents.' The divine took the money, and continued for many years to receive his pension. His pupils could not but remark that, in his future lectures, he carefully abstained from any mention of the followers of Ismail. He was wont to observe, in reply to such observations, with a suppressed smile, that he had been convinced by some sharp and weighty arguments that it was better not to enter into any discussion regarding the doctrines of that sect. With the conquest of Kaher Shah, Allah-u-deen's son, the demolition of his strongholds, and the slaughter of over twelve thousand of his adherents by Hulakoo Khan, the power of the Ismailian family came to an end, and they have never again been able to retrieve their fallen fortunes.
Concerning the present pretender to the title of Imam Mahdi, numerous and conflicting theories have been afloat, some stating that he is by trade a carpenter, others a dealer in wild beasts, and that, like the fierce animals with which he has had to do, he sleeps all day and is astir and at work all night. But the most authentic account of him which has yet appeared is that by the Rev. H. Sheridan Patterson, who asserts that by birth he is a native of Dongola. When a boy, Mohammed Achmet received a severe beating from an uncle to whom he was apprenticed, whereupon he ran away to Khartoum, and entered himself a pupil of the faki of the free school of Hoghali, a village lying to the east of Khartoum, and so called from the adjoining tomb of Sheikh Hoghali, the patron saint of the semi-barbarous and, till recently, comparatively unknown town, now rendered famous by its association with the name of that gallant soldier, General Gordon. When he had sufficiently mastered in this seminary the theological dogmas of his creed, be transferred himself to Berber, where he continued for six months to prosecute his studies in another school.
In 1870 he joined himself to the Faki-Sheikh, Nur-elDaim, and was by him ordained a faki, or head, of a sect of dervishes. He now retired to the island of Abbas, on the White Nile, where he made himself a subterranean cave, into which he habitually retired, and commenced a series of prayers, fastings, and mortifications. Naturally, his eccentricities excited notoriety, and he acquired a wide reputation for sanctity; disciples rallied around him, wealth flowed in upon him, and he took to himself many wives of the daughters of influential sheikhs. As, however, Mohammed only allows four wives to each man, Achmet is in the habit of divorcing the surplus number, and remarrying them to himself as it suits his pleasure. In 1881 he assumed the title of Mahdi, and formally announced that he was the prophet foretold by the author of the Koran. The doctrines he proceeded to promulgate were his own divine mission for the reform of Islâm, the establishment of a universal equality, law, religion, and community of goods, and the indiscriminate destruction of all who doubted or disbelieved him.
At first his pretensions were regarded by the Egyptian Government with contempt, but the large number of accessions to his ranks, and his insurrectionary operations, at length alarmed Reouf Pasha, and a force was despatched to oppose him.
His career has hitherto been a somewhat chequered one, but if he and his lieutenant, Osman Digna, have sustained serious reverses, they can also boast of considerable successes. The Mahdi's influence is great, and as, according to his own assertion, it will take forty years to establish his kingdom, he has still thirty-eight before him in which to carry out his designs. To those who perish in his cause he has promised an immediate entrance into Paradise—a fact which doubtless accounts for the wonderful courage and valour displayed by the Arabs during their recent engagements with the English in the Soudan, and also for their utter disregard of death.
The Turks—who, as bas before been mentioned, differ materially in their tenets from those of the Shiites which are prevalent in Upper Egypt, and whose sultan cannot claim his descent from the Koreish -are, for the present, necessarily compelled to stand aloof. Their interference would probably be the signal for a sanguinary religious war, the results of which it is impossible to estimate or foretell. What will be the termination of the complications in the Soudan, which originally resembled a little cloud no bigger than a man's hand, is beyond human foresight to predict; but one thing is evident: the clouds are gathering blackness, and it will not be such an easy matter as was at first imagined to disperse them.
C. E. STERN.
A VOYAGE IN THE SUNBEAM'
HAVING become perhaps a little restless in the strict confinement of the Admiralty, and believing that an inspection of foreign establishments is an appropriate holiday for the Civil Lord, I left London in a steamer of the Peninsular and Oriental Company on the 5th, and joined the Sunbeam'at Malta on the 14th of September. The following day was devoted to the dockyard. The naval establishment at Malta is of considerable importance. We spend 76,0001. a year on labour alone, and the number of men employed has been recently increased from 856 to 1,271. There are two graving docks, one of which, constructed when the Duke of Somerset was at the Admiralty, is capable of holding the largest ironclad. We are about to commence another graving dock of equal dimensions. The resources of the dockyard have been sufficient to make good all the damage sustained by the fleet during the bombardment of Alexandria.
We sailed from Malta on the 15th of September, and on the 25th we cast anchor inside the new mole of Gibraltar.
The 26th of September was devoted to an inspection of the dockyard and the naval victualling establishment. Gibraltar, though not so important as Malta, might be expanded, if the necessity arose, into an efficient naval yard. Our present expenditure on labour is under 9,0001. a year, but the workshops are well equipped with machinery and the artisans permanently employed receive assistance from the artificers of the ships when repairs are required.
After a busy day, we sailed at six P.M. It was a lovely evening, and our isolated and impregnable rock fortress, which stands like a sentry confronting the tall mountains of Africa, was never seen to greater advantage. We made a rapid run before à favourable gale, and arrived at Madeira on the afternoon of the 29th, reaching the anchorage off Funchal under canvas.
Abstract of Log. Gibraltar to Madeira.
27 28 29 30
7.4 W. 11:31 W. 16.6 W. 16.44 W.
At Madeira, within the limits of a comparatively small island, Nature presents herself to the delighted traveller under aspects of inconceivable variety and beauty. A continuous chain of mountains extends from east to west, the highest summits attaining an elevation of 7,000 feet. The vegetation at successive elevations gradually changes. froin the sugar-cane, the banana, the date palm, the bougainvillea, and the orchid of the tropics, to the maize, the fig-tree, the orange, and the vine of Southern Europe, and to the cereals and the hardy forest-trees of our own more vigorous climate. The prevailing winds are from the north. To this cause it is due that the northern shores are copiously watered, while the southern shores are comparatively dry and hot. The scenery is not less varied than the vegetation and the climate. In one park-like residence, not far from Funchal, imagination recalls the Forest of Fontainebleau. Not far away the scene might be laid among the hedgerows of Brittany; on the crests of the hills you are reminded of the Tyrol, and on the southern coast of the populous shores of Sicily.
Throughout our stay the Bay of Funchal was constantly enlivened. by the movements of shipping. Several steamers called daily, mainly for the purpose of coaling, and all but two bore the British flag. For several days a large sailing ship, under charter to carry 500 emigrants direct from Dundee to Brisbane, lay at anchor in the bay. This vessel had come round the Orkneys, and had been twenty-eight days at sea. The distilling apparatus had broken down, and the water in the tanks was unfit for consumption. The accommodation for the emigrants was of the roughest description. The Swedish flag was represented by a small and worn-out barque, which sailed two days before us for New Orleans. These Scandinavian vessels are worked with reckless economy, and are, perhaps, our most serious competitors in the carriage of cheap and bulky commodities.
We sailed from Madeira at midnight on the 11th of October. In making the passage to the West Indies, the great object is to pick up the north-east Trades as soon, and to keep them as long, as possible. The prevalent breezes of Madeira are from the north-east, and may be regarded as the heginning of the Trades. In our rapid run from Gibraltar we had strong and favourable winds, which would have carried us in a day from Madeira into the latitude of the steady Trades. A week later, when we started for Trinidad, the breeze was: from the same quarter, but feeble and intermittent. The summary of our daily runs will show that, as we advanced to the south, on the track recommended by Lieutenant Maury, the Trade winds gradually freshened; but while we looked for winds on the beam and quarter from the north-east, we rarely had the wind to the north ward of east, and its force was always so moderate that the fore-and-aft canvas was. seldom filled with a steady breeze, and an open boat could have kept the sea in safety.