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It was just as well that we did not put too much faith in the story
that the war on the Indian frontier would be ended with the defeat of
the Haddah Mullah.
News has reached us that the British forces have once again been checked
by the tribesmen.
This time it was the Mohmads who were the victors. These men, if you
remember, professed themselves ready to submit to English rule, and when
the troops arrived in their neighborhood, offered their allegiance to
the British officers.
They were, however, told that to prove their good faith they must, one
and all, give up their rifles. Upon hearing this they became sulky, and
refused to do anything of the sort.
The British waited the two days they had promised, and then began to
destroy the villages of the rebellious tribesmen. On one of these
expeditions they were in turn attacked by the Afridis, and defeated.
In the meanwhile the Ameer of Afghanistan is uneasy over the advance of
the British into the hills that form his frontier. He is afraid that the
British will not be satisfied with punishing the tribesmen, but will
endeavor to take possession of lands belonging to him. He has therefore
sought the aid of Russia, and has obtained the Czar's promise to help
him in case the British attempt to encroach on Afghanistan.
He is at the same time keeping faith with the English. He has issued a
proclamation, forbidding his subjects to leave the country under penalty
of a heavy fine, so that it will not be possible for them to go and join
the tribesmen. He is doing all in his power to keep faith with England,
but it is said that he is much pleased that he has secured the aid of
Russia to protect him in case of need.
* * * * *
In the Soudan, the English are steadily advancing on Khartoum.
The Mahdists are making a strong stand there, and it is expected that
the decisive battle will be fought in the near neighborhood of that
A newspaper correspondent who is with the Soudan expedition writes a
most interesting account of the rapid way the soldiers are building a
railroad across the desert. The road is being finished at the rate of
nearly two miles a day, and when completed will enable the army to bring
men and supplies from Cairo in a few days instead of the many weary
weeks which are now required.
The building of the railway through the desert has been entrusted to the
engineer corps. These engineers are soldiers whose duty it is to build
fortifications, railroads, bridges, or any works which the commander of
the force may think necessary.
In building a railroad the first thing to be done is to prepare the
road-bed, so that it will not give way under the weight of the trains
that are to pass over it. This is done by digging out or banking up the
earth so that the bed shall be level. When the earth-bank has been made
as high and as solid as necessary, huge wooden beams, called sleepers,
are placed across it at regular intervals, and on these sleepers the
rails are laid.
The correspondent describes the laying of the rails as follows:
"A great sight was the actual work of laying the line. We went out in a
car drawn by a spare engine, to see this at the place where the work was
in progress. The second construction train had reached the scene of
active operations just before we arrived, and the desert fairly hummed
with busy turmoil. It has been given but to few to see a railway line
made and used while you wait. Yet we had that experience on this
afternoon. Everything was done at once. The long train moves slowly
toward the end of the rails, getting as near to the bare bank as is
possible. So soon as she stops, an eager army of workers attack her,
with, of course, much wild noise of strange rhythmic chant. To the
uninitiated this onslaught of the workers on the train bears all the
appearance of a raid, yet, should one watch awhile, it gradually dawns
upon one that marvellous orderliness and most studied method underlie
every seemingly wild movement. The engine stops--say, ten rail lengths
from the end of the track--and the game begins. The rail-cars are in
front, just behind the tender, with the rails neatly ranged on racks. At
once to either side of each rail-car rushes a party of, if Egyptians,
eight men, if blacks, ten, upon whose padded shoulders the ton of
sun-heated metal is placed by the car party. Then they run--they do
literally run--away with the unwieldy thing to its destined place,
where, once it is placed on the sleepers, the gaugers and strikers get
at it, and it is put in position and pinned (to each alternate sleeper,
the operation being completed after the heavy train has passed over the
newly laid rails) in an incredibly short time, at the end of which a
bugle sounds, the steam whistle blows, the engine moves slowly forward
over the rails that less than five minutes ago were stacked on the cars
behind her, and the whole operation is repeated."
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