chapter  XIII
The Debt Inquiry
Pages 9

I s m a i l sent his equerry to meet Gordon at the railway station. A command was conveyed to him to dine that evening at the palace. It was then after nine o’clock. Dirty and tired as the traveller was after a train journey of 350 miles, he had to obey. He was also no doubt quite hungry, but-

“ Before dinner,” he wrote, “ late as it was, His Highness took me aside, and asked me to be President of an Inquiry into the state of the finances of the country ; but said that the Commissioners of the Dette had proven so hostile to him, that His Highness wished me to object to their being on the Commission of Inquiry, saying that they had written against him in the papers, etc. I said ‘ I would accept the Commission of Inquiry as President and His Highness said ‘ You see Lesseps, who will act with you ’. . . . I said ‘ Yes ’ and accepted the mission with the agreement that the Commissioners of the Dette were not to be on the Inquiry. I was angry with the Commissioners of the Dette because I thought that they had been too hard on His Highness.” 1

It is thus clear that while Gordon would probably have preferred to have had this conversation on a full stomach, the Khedive’s views fitted in perfectly with his. When he asserted that he was angry with the Commissioners of the Dette he meant exactly what he said. There was nothing personal about his ire. It was of that impersonal, objective character that burns

into a white flame and that nothing can quench. The Lesseps referred to by the Khedive was Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man whose diplomatic skill and fighting spirit had brought the Suez Canal into being. Gordon had therefore willingly accepted the suggestion that his coadjutor in the contest with the official champions of the bondholders should be this resourceful Frenchman.