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!   i                                   148                    THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                CHAP.
!   I
I   |                                his honour under the significant presidency of Hamid
I   \                                Pasha el Bassal, a member of the Legislative^ Assembly,
1   '                                and, what is far more important, a Beduin chief of great
influence amongst the tribes   to the east of the Nile. Local committees had been formed and public meetings held all over the provinces, and mass signatures collected, until  the  authorities  interfered,   for  the   " mandate" formally investing the Delegation with authority to act on behalf   of  the   " nation."     The  great  majority of the  native Press joined in the campaign with all its wonted vehemence.    So far, however, as the Nationalists are quite justified in pointing out, the movement had been kept within lawful bounds.   Probably for that very reason its significance was underrated, though it had assumed alarming dimensions.   In unofficial circles and amongst the   older   Anglo-Egyptian   officials   outside  the  inner ring there were some who saw danger   signals ahead. But they had no access to the small group who were in authority, and of these none apparently could read the writing on the waU.    The British Adviser to the Ministry of the Interior, the Department specially responsible for law and order, scouted the idea of any serious trouble. Sir Eeginald Wingate had been already brought back to England in order, it was officially stated, that Govem-
•|j( ';';'                                    ment should confer with him, though his friends declare
jjjj jijr,    i                               that his wiser counsels were not listened to, perhaps be-
cause they were not urged with sufficient insistence. The Egyptian official world was in the throes of a Ministerial crisis, and there was no Egyptian Government to share even nominally the responsibilities of British policy.
Yet this was the time that was chosen for a most momentous decision. The British Government, still believing apparently that the Nationalist movement was merely the outcome of a shallow propaganda engineered by a handful of discontented politicians, imagined they could stamp it out by striking at the leaders. At six o'clock on the afternoon of March 6th,it  of   havin