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EGYPT AND THE SOUDAN

93

Of the many travellers whom I have known I

should place Mansfield Parkyns (1823-1894) as

perhaps the most gifted with natural advantages for that career. He easily held his own under difficulties, won hearts by his sympathy, and could touch any amount of pitch without being himself defiled. He was consequently an admirable guide in that then sink of iniquity, Khartum. The saying was that when a man was such a reprobate that he could not live in Europe, he went to Constantinople; if too bad to be tolerated in Constantinople, he went to Cairo, and thenceforward under similar compulsion to Khartum. Half a dozen or so of these trebly refined villains resided there as slave-dealers; they were pallid, haggard, fever-stricken, profane, and obscene. Mansfield Parkyns complacently tolerated and mastered them all. The abominations of their habitual conversation exceeded in a far-away degree any other I have ever listened to, but it was clever. When one of them was out of the room, the others freely related his adventures to us, in which some anecdote like this was frequent. " So he said, , Let us be friends; come drink a cup of coffee and smoke a pipe,' then he put poison into the coffee." There is a gourd whose dried seeds are said to be poisonous and not very unlike coffee in taste, which is particularly convenient in such cases. With all their villainy there was something of interest in their talk, but I had soon quite enough of it. Still, the experience was acceptable, for one wants to know the very worst of everything as well as the very best.

Some few years later, when trade had thriven and Khartum had become less barbarous, it was