VOL. 1 OCTOBER 28, 1897. NO. 51
Copyright, 1897, by THE GREAT ROUND WORLD Publishing Company.
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General Weyler's efforts to remain in Cuba have not met with success.
In the face of the letters and petitions from his admirers in Cuba, and the demonstrations made by the soldiers in his favor, Senor Sagasta, the Spanish Prime Minister, has decided to recall him, and send out General Ramon Blanco in his stead.
The news was received with delightful surprise by the many people who disapprove of Weyler's cruel conduct of the Cuban war. It had been feared that the efforts of his friends would have had weight with the new minister, and prevented Weyler's removal for the present.
Senor Sagasta seems to be a man of his word. He stated that if he were called to take charge of the affairs of Spain his first act should be to recall Weyler, and he has not swerved from his determination.
As we told you last week, General Weyler sent a despatch to Senor Sagasta announcing that he would not resign his office, and offering his services to the new Government.
The day after the despatch was received, a cabinet meeting was held, at which it was decided that General Weyler must be recalled.
The matter was therefore arranged with the utmost politeness on both sides.
General Weyler in his message stated that it was impossible for him to offer his resignation to the ministry, because he was not merely acting as the Governor of Cuba, but as Commander-in-Chief of an army engaged in war, and in the last capacity he could never allow it to be said of him that he had offered to resign while in the face of an enemy.
He added that he knew that he had the approval of the people of Spain and of some of the parties in power, but that he would also like to feel that he had the confidence of the ministers. This confidence, he declared, would enable him to finish the war, which he stated to be almost at an end.
This very artful letter had no effect on either Sagasta or the Government. The sentence about the approval of the people of Spain and of some of the parties in power was undoubtedly meant as a hint to the Prime Minister that the General had powerful friends, and that it would not be a wise thing to interfere with him.
Sagasta, however, replied to him, that while the ministry recognized and valued the work he had done for Spain, a change was considered desirable, and so he had decided to recall him.
When the news of Sagasta's action reached the people, there was much excitement both in Spain and Cuba.
In Spain it was reported that General Weyler meant to defy the Government, and keep his post in spite of Sagasta's orders, and that he had threatened that he would use his influence with the soldiers, and carry them with him over to the Carlists, if Sagasta did not instantly withdraw the recall.
The Cubans, on their part, were panic-stricken. They have such a dread of Weyler that they expected he would revenge himself on them for his disgrace.
In Havana some of the Cubans hired armed men to protect them from attack, and others crowded the steamship offices in an endeavor to escape from the country before the catastrophe came.
The fears of the people were, however, set at rest by a statement from the Captain-General that he would never be guilty of any act which could cause his Government trouble. He therefore hastened to assure Senor Sagasta of his willingness to obey the wishes of the Government, and gave up his command in Cuba.
He asked permission to leave the island at once, but Sagasta cabled to him that he must remain where he was until Oct. 20th.
General Ramon Blanco will sail for Cuba on Oct. 15th.
The newly appointed commander of the forces in Cuba was Governor-General of the Philippine Islands at the outbreak of the war there, but was recalled for political reasons.
Unfortunately, his record for cruelty is not far behind Weyler's, and so the savage character of the war in Cuba is not likely to be changed by the change of commanders.
The Cubans know Barman Blanco well. He was Captain-General of the island in 1879, when the second insurrection against the Spaniards started.
Under him was Camilo Polavieja, who as Governor of the Philippines has made for himself an unenviable reputation for cruelty.
To these two men was intrusted the task of suppressing the revolt.
The insurrection of 1879 was not a very serious affair; the Cubans as a body took no part in it; but notwithstanding this fact, which was well known to the authorities, fully fifteen hundred men of position in Cuba were arrested, and many of them put to death without being tried or given an opportunity to prove their innocence.
The Cubans have not forgotten this, and they have little to hope from General Blanco, especially as he has announced his intention of dealing with the present trouble in the same manner that he did with the revolt of 1879.
He will find, however, that matters have changed considerably since 1879.
In those days a mere handful of the Cuban people were in arms against Spain; now he will find himself among a people who are unfriendly to the cause he represents, and who have besides organized themselves until they have a government to direct their movements, and an army of veterans to protect them.
Were this not enough to make his task a difficult one, he will find to his cost that the soldiers of Spain on whom he must rely are ill, poorly fed, and angry with the Government because it does not even pay them the pittance due in return for their services and sufferings.
It is true that General Blanco is to take twenty thousand fresh troops with him. But sickness and disease are ravaging Cuba, and the new-comers, unused to the climate, are likely to be the first to fall victims to the fevers and plagues that are turning the beautiful island into a pest-house.
It is said that Sagasta has ordered General Blanco to continue the war as long as there is an insurgent in arms against Spain, but that he does not intend to conquer the people by force of arms alone.
The soldiers are to punish the Cubans if they will not obey the Government, but Senor Sagasta means to try and win the friendship of the people by giving them a kind and liberal form of government under which they may prosper and be happy. With this policy he hopes to bring the war to a speedy end.
General Blanco's first act is to be to repeal some of the cruel laws made by Weyler, especially those which have driven the unfortunate peasants into the towns to starve, while their ungathered crops lie rotting in the fields.
Whether these efforts to secure the friendship of the Cubans will be successful or not, the future alone can tell.
At present the Cubans are not disposed to listen to any offers. They persist in their declaration that they are fighting for freedom, and that the change of ministers or captains-general makes no difference to them. They are not going to lay down their arms because Weyler is recalled, nor yet because Sagasta offers them Home Rule.
As a last act before he leaves the island, General Weyler has pardoned a great number of Cubans whom he had exiled from their country, and these men are now free to return to their homes.
In the mean while the Cubans have won two brilliant victories in Havana Province, and have also gained possession of a seaport town called Santa Maria, in the province of Pijar del Rio.
General Weyler has stated that he has pacified the eastern part of the island, and has only a little more work to do before he will have the west completely subdued.
In direct contradiction of this statement comes the news that Bayamo, Holguin, Jiguani, and other towns held by the Spanish in Santiago province (which is Eastern Cuba) have all been abandoned by the Spanish troops since the fall of Victoria de las Tunas.
With these towns abandoned, the insurgents do not need such a large body of troops in Santiago, and so a strong force under the leadership of General Garcia is making its way westward to join the army in Havana and Pinar del Rio.
This army crossed the trocha without any difficulty, attacked the town of Taguayabon in Santa Clara, captured it and plundered it with very little opposition from the Spaniards, and marched triumphantly on toward Matanzas province.
The news has reached Havana that this body of men which is marching toward the city is the flower of the insurgent army. It is stated that it consists of infantry, cavalry, and three batteries of artillery, and is well supplied with arms and ammunition captured from Las Tunas.
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A messenger from Cuba has arrived in this country, who states positively that the elections have been delayed, and that as yet no one has been chosen to fill the office of President. He adds that Senor Bartolome Maso is the favorite, and it is supposed that he will be the successful candidate. The news of the election of Senor Capote may not have been true, after all.
This messenger, who is named Aguirre, says he is the bearer of some important messages and papers to the Cubans in America, but he will not say what they are until he has laid them before the proper authorities. It is thought that they may have something to do with the exchange of prisoners, and the recognition of the belligerency of the Cubans by the Spanish army.
There has been great rejoicing during the last few days over the escape from prison of a young Cuban, Evangelina Cisneros.
This girl displeased the Spanish commanders, and in revenge they accused her of being a dangerous rebel, and had her thrown into prison.
She is a very young girl, but a little over fifteen years of age, but the Spaniards thrust her into the prison where all the worst women criminals were kept, and she had for her companions tipsy negresses and all the roughest and worst kinds of women, white and colored.
Every one who heard of this thought it such a shameful thing for a delicate young girl to be forced to spend her days in the society of such terrible companions that the women of this country got up a monster petition, thousands signing it, and sent it to the Queen of Spain.
This petition urged the Queen to have little Miss Cisneros removed to a more suitable prison, and to order that she be given a speedy trial, so that she might have an opportunity of proving her innocence.
Her Majesty, Queen Christine, did order that the girl should be less hardly used, but General Weyler saw fit to disregard the royal instructions, and the child was kept locked up in this horrid prison.
Finding that Weyler did not mean to help Senorita Cisneros, nor yet to give her a proper trial, some friends went to her rescue. Hiring a room opposite to her prison, two young men built a bridge of planks by which they were enabled to reach the window of her prison, and, as the story goes, after sending her drugged candies to give to her room-mates so that they might sleep heavily and not hear what was going on, these men sawed through the bars of her prison, lifted her out on the roof beside them, and hurried her away over the bridge to freedom.
She was kept in concealment for a day or two, and then, disguised as a boy, passed under the nose of the police officer who was watching the steamers to prevent her escape to this country. Once on board and safely out of sight of Cuba, she confessed her secret to the stewardess, who gave her some woman's clothes, and took care of her until she was safely landed in New York.
One of the New York papers, The Journal, claims the credit for the young girl's rescue, and states that the two men who freed her from her prison were reporters sent out from the paper to do the work. It is to be hoped that this is not true, for while we must sympathize with all unfortunate prisoners, we have no right to break open the jails of another country and free her criminals. If this story is true, Spain has a just cause of complaint against us.
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Senor Sagasta has published the contents of the note presented to him by General Woodford, and which was said by so many people to be practically a declaration of war. It turns out to have been merely a polite inquiry as to how much longer the war was going to last, and whether Spain saw a possibility of bringing it to a speedy close.
The Spanish Cabinet has not yet decided what answer shall be made to this note, but it is thought that Senor Sagasta will make a statement about the reforms that are about to be instituted in Cuba, and will ask that we wait and see the effect of these changes before we demand a positive answer to our letter.
The dry-dock has been heard from.
The builders of the dock have received a letter from the captain of the steamer that is towing it.
The letter was written at Madeira, an island off the western coast of Africa. In it the captain says that the dry-dock has excellent seagoing qualities, and that he has no further fear of being able to tow it safely into port.
Up to the time of writing, the captain had made eleven hundred miles with his tow, and as he considered the worst part of the voyage over, he expected to be able to increase the speed a little, and arrive in Cuba about the 8th of November.
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It is stated that his Holiness the Pope is trying to find some means of bringing the trouble about the excommunication of the Spanish Minister of Finance to a satisfactory conclusion.
It appears that the Carlists are making great capital out of the affair, and are using it to turn the Spanish peasants against the Government.
These people are very religious, and regard their priests with great respect and awe. They would not dream of disobeying their orders, and are led and advised by them to a very great extent.
That one of the great men who are governing them should dare to disobey the commands of the Church, and have to be punished by so awful a penalty as excommunication, is so extraordinary to them that they can hardly believe it. The Carlists' agents have worked on these feelings until they have made the peasants believe that no good can come to a country governed by such ungodly men.
Numbers of these peasants have become dissatisfied with the Government, and are turning toward Don Carlos, because they believe him to be a leader who will respect the laws of God as well as the laws of man.
The Queen of Spain, hearing of this, has sent an urgent message to his Holiness the Pope, asking his aid, and he has immediately set about smoothing the matter over.
* * * * *
England has sent a final refusal to take part in the conference on the seal question.
The British Foreign Office has notified our ambassador in England, that Great Britain must decline to take part in any sealing conference to which Russia and Japan are invited.
We told you a week or so ago that England had objected to the presence of Russia and Japan because she insisted that the conference that was called had reference to the Paris award. As there were only two parties to the Paris conference, herself and the United States, she declared that she could not see what business Russia or Japan had in the matter at all.
The Paris award, if you remember (see page 976), had to do with the right of the United States to prevent other ships from entering the Bering Sea.
The United States has called the attention of Great Britain to the fact that the Washington conference is in no way connected with the Paris award. It has been repeatedly stated that its object is to be merely to discover whether the seal herds are decreasing, and if so to decide upon a means of preserving them. Any decision that shall be arrived at at the Washington conference is to be binding on all nations interested in the sealing industry.
Great Britain will not listen to this. She takes the stand that by the terms of the Paris award the code of laws governing the sealing fisheries will have to be revised every five years anyhow, and as the first five years will be up in 1898, she does not see the use of entering into the matter now. She therefore positively declines to take part in the conference.
Those who are in a position to know say that England has been forced into this position by Canada.
When Prof. D'Arcy Thompson returned from his trip to the seal islands this year, he brought with him information that completely upset his former statements and theories, and showed that the seals are decreasing rapidly.
Canada became convinced that Russia, Japan, and the United States would combine in an effort to have the seals carefully preserved, and therefore she urged England to refuse to take part in the conference, and thus give her time to consider what may be the best course for her to take under the circumstances.
Experts who have been in London examining the year's take of seal-skins are ready to state before the conference that eighty per cent of the skins sold by the Canadian companies are those of the mother seals, and that most of these animals have been shot.
This latter point is important, because it is in this way that the seals are killed in the deep-sea or pelagic sealing, which the United States is so anxious to put a stop to.
The conference will be held with or without England, but, feeling that Russia and Japan may also have cause for offence if England refuses to meet them, it is said that the State Department has written once more to the British Government, urging it to send some one to be present at the meetings.
It is also reported that Sir Julian Pauncefote is anxious that England should be represented, and has used his influence to get her to do so.
Our Government is inclined to think that England's refusal is not very polite. Lord Salisbury, however, says that he is entirely free from all blame in the matter, and that the whole trouble has been caused by a misunderstanding with our ambassador, Colonel Hay.
His Lordship declares that when Colonel Hay saw him in July last, and gave him the information that Russia and Japan had consented to take part in the conference, he immediately said:
"Oh, no, Great Britain will not take part on such conditions."
Our ambassador did not hear any such reply, and understood Lord Salisbury to consent.
In the mean while, the representatives of Russia and Japan have arrived in this country, and are waiting for the conference to begin.
The English papers express themselves as being very pleased that England has refused to be present at the meeting. They insist that we were setting a trap for England, and trying to get her to say or do something at the conference which would let us out of paying the $425,000 of the Paris award.
This is unkind of them, and not quite fair to us. By looking at page 926, you will see that it was agreed that about $425,000 should be paid to Canada as damages for keeping her out of the Bering Sea. This sum was to be paid subject to the approval of Congress.
When Congress came to look into the matter, it was found that Canada was not dealing quite fairly with us. A number of false claims were set up, and we were asked to pay for damage we had never done. A committee was appointed to look into the various claims, and is still at work on them. As soon as these matters are thoroughly sifted, the just claims will be paid.
It does not seem right to accuse us of trying to avoid paying our debts because we want the items of every bill we are asked to pay. Every business man throughout the country likes to know what he is paying for before he parts with his good money, and why should a nation be less careful than an individual?
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Since the Greek Boule accepted the terms of the treaty of peace, the business of settling these unfortunate affairs has been proceeding without any further hitch.
The new Prime Minister declared on his accepting office that his first act should be to secure the evacuation of Thessaly, that is, the removal of the Turkish troops.
He has set himself a task that would seem to be very difficult to perform, for it is reported that the Sultan has sent twenty thousand fresh troops into the territory within the last few days.
The explanation he gives for this act, which looks very like a breach of faith with the Powers, is that he has sent these men to replace the invalid and disabled soldiers who are among his troops.
The necessity for such action is not apparent to the European governments, as the terms of peace had been agreed on, and Greece had accepted them, so it did not seem as though the Sultan needed to keep a strong fighting force in Thessaly.
People in Europe are daily growing more fearful that the Sultan does not mean to keep his promises, and that he will force Greece to pay the large war indemnity, while he keeps possession of Thessaly, and rules the Cretans in exactly the same cruel manner that he did before the war.
A French journal has published an interesting account of the Sultan as a man.
The writer describes Abdul Hamid as a man who has so many sides that it is impossible to say just what he is or is not.
He is kind, amiable, and even attentive to those he likes, and takes pleasure in showering them with gifts, going to the trouble of finding out what present will be most acceptable to the recipients of his favors. At the same time he has such a frightful temper that his ministers are afraid of him.
Abdul Hamid seems to be a very vain man, and likes to create an immense impression on his visitors. Any one who is to be admitted to the presence of the Sultan is therefore conducted through beautiful gardens and pavilions, past lines of fierce-looking soldiers, and on into a palace blazing with gold and splendor. Gradually his imagination is wrought up to such a pitch that he pictures the sovereign he is about to meet as a person robed in all the gorgeousness of the East, glittering with jewels, and a sort of Arabian-Nights figure of such splendor that he will hardly be able to rest his dazzled eyes upon him.
Instead, he is finally conducted into an apartment more beautiful and gilded than any of the others. Mirrors reflect the light and splendor from side to side, until it appears to be a veritable fairyland. And here, waiting for the brilliant Sultan to appear in all his pomp and majesty, he is suddenly confronted by a slight, pale-faced man, dressed entirely in black, who stands motionless before him, and gazes at him with stony, expressionless eyes.
The effect is said to be tremendous. Every one who has seen the Sultan says that this sudden contrast gives an awe-inspiring impression which it is impossible to describe. One Frenchman whom the Sultan wished to decorate almost fainted at the sight of the great man.
Those of you who have never approached royalty may fancy this description is exaggerated. But it is an absolute fact that there is something about the approach of majesty that stirs your blood, and makes your heart beat and then stand still, if for one moment the royal gaze rests on you.
In that moment you understand why men were glad to give up their lives and their fortunes for the sake of their kings, and you would be glad to drop on your knee or perform some act of self-abasement to relieve your own feelings. If these are the sensations that attack men when ordinary-looking people in ordinary-looking costumes come into the apartment, how much greater must the effect be after the long theatrical preparation which the Sultan makes his visitors pass through before they reach the presence.
The writer we have quoted from thus sums up the character of the Sultan:
"He is audacious and a coward, a dreamer and a man of business, a miser and a prodigal, a loving father and a sanguinary monster. In one day he condemned a nation to be slaughtered, signed a decree about decorating some ladies, and speculated in stocks, all with the same peaceful and contented manner."
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There is a report in South Africa that Dr. Jameson, the leader of the Transvaal Kid, will run for a seat in the Cape Town Assembly at the next election, and that the chances are that he will be elected by a large majority.
The Boers are likely to have more trouble with such a firebrand as that helping to direct the affairs of a neighboring state.
At the same time the news comes that Mr. Cecil Rhodes, the man who is accused of having planned the raid, is seriously ill in his home in Cape Town, and not expected to live.
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The Government of Siam has looked into the matter of the assault on Vice-Consul Kellet, and has decided to express regret to our Government that the trouble occurred.
We told you about this affair last spring. Vice-Consul Kellet went into the interior of Siam to settle the estate of Mr. Cheek, an American who had died in Siam, and who had left directions that Mr. Kellet was to arrange his affairs for him.
While in the performance of this duty, Mr. Kellet was attacked and beaten by Siamese soldiers.
One of our gunboats, the Raleigh, was sent out to Bangkok to investigate the matter, and to protect the interests of our citizens there.
At the time the trouble occurred, the then Secretary of State, Mr. Olney, thought that perhaps Mr. Kellet had been over-hasty, and the soldiers were not to blame.
The message from Bangkok which now reaches us shows that Mr. Olney was wrong.
The Siamese Government has decided that the soldiers were in the wrong, and a lieutenant and four privates who took part in the affair have been severely reprimanded, and suspended from their regiments without pay for several months.
The Siamese Government has offered to make the fullest amends for the outrage, and Consul-General Barret, in his despatches, says that Mr. Kellet's conduct throughout was all that could be desired.
The commission sent up to inquire into the matter declared that the viceroy of the district should have been able to check the ill-feeling of the soldiers, and he, too, has been reprimanded.
The story of the affair, as it now reaches us, is that Mr. Kellet's servant was arrested by the native troops who act as police in the town of Chang Mai, where the Vice-Consul had gone to look into the Cheek claim. Mr. Kellet's interference on behalf of his servant enraged the soldiers, who set upon him and beat him severely.
The Siamese Government has taken such a determined stand, and has offered such complete apologies for the offence, that there is now no ill-feeling about the matter, and the relations that exist between the two countries are more friendly than ever.
The king of Siam, Chulalongkorn, who has been travelling through Europe since the jubilee celebrations, and of whose visit to Italy we told you in a former number, has made many friends for himself and his country by his intelligence and his charming manners.
This king has manifested a close interest in the progress of civilization throughout his travels, and his country will certainly benefit from his broadened views when he returns home. His two sons are being educated at Harrow, which is one of the great English public schools, and the rival of the famous Eton, of which you must have heard. Public school in England does not mean free school for the benefit of the public, as it does with us, but a high-class school where the classics are taught, and which is patronized principally by the wealthy and titled classes, because the fees are so high that they are beyond the reach of ordinary people.
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Reports are coming in from various sections of the country of the disastrous forest fires that are raging.
In Michigan and Indiana, the smoke from these fires is so dense that it lies over the surface of Lake Michigan like a thick fog, and the sailors have difficulty in finding their way through it.
In the southern part of Canada the losses have been terrible from these fires. Thousands of dollars' worth of timber has been destroyed, and many persons have lost their homes and their crops.
In Manitoba the flames are said to be spreading, and there is great fear that the fire will reach the more thickly populated districts. Every effort is being made to prevent the fire from getting a start on the Minnesota side of the boundary, but it is feared that it will be impossible to do so.
Settlers have been fighting the flames day and night for over a week, but have made little progress.
Some two thousand Canadians have been rendered homeless and ten persons have been burned to death. In their advance the terrible flames have destroyed the towns and villages that lay in their path, and the report from Ontario alone states that farms, dwellings, stores, churches, and schools have been swept away by this dreadful scourge.
The fall of the year is always the time when forest fires are to be dreaded. In dry seasons like the present, there is always a danger that some chance spark may light on the fallen leaves and the grass dried out by the heat of summer, and thus set the forests on fire.
The latter part of this year has been particularly dry. In the Western and Middle States they say that rain has not been so badly needed in years. In many sections of the country there has been no rain for months. Water-courses and wells are reported as dried up, and many of the live stock are dying, for want of water.
The grass has become so parched and dry that the farmers are having to feed their stock two months ahead of the usual time, and drive them miles to water. It is feared that later in the year there will be a fodder famine.
As a regular thing, the cattle graze in the fields and feed themselves until the frost comes, when the farmers begin to feed them. Enough fodder is raised during the season to carry the stock comfortably through until the grass is up again; but as the corn and roots are liable to rot or mould, little more is grown than is necessary. You can see that it is a serious business for the farmers to have had to touch their winter supplies two months ahead of time.
It is this drought which has caused the forest fires.
In those sections of the country that have as yet escaped the fire, the prairies are as dry as tinder, and the owners of the fields are in constant fear that a spark from a passing locomotive may set fire to them. Men are kept on the watch night and day to prevent such a calamity.
The Tonawanda Swamp is also on fire.
Tonawanda is in the northern part of New York State, in the neighborhood of Buffalo, and is a great lumber town.
The swamp covers twenty-five thousand acres, and adjoining it are many rich farm lands and valuable buildings.
The underbrush grows so thickly in this swamp that it has always been necessary to clear it out every little while, and so the people have been in the habit of setting it on fire every year a few days before the equinoctial storms were due. They had found from experience that by the time the storms came the fires had burnt out enough of the undergrowth for their purpose, and the heavy rains which usually accompany the storms put the fires out for them.
This year, however, the equinox brought no storm with it, and the lighted fires have continued to burn with such fierceness that not only the swamp, but the surrounding country, is in danger of being laid waste.
The equinox is that period in which the sun, in its yearly course, crosses the equator, and makes the day and the night of equal length. This occurs twice in the year,—about March 21st and September 22d,—and, as we have told you, is usually attended by high winds and severe storms.
In Virginia there is also a serious forest fire. The Dismal Swamp, as it is called, is on fire. The smoke has become so dense that the people on the trains which run through are forced to keep all the windows closed, and even then the smoke is almost unbearable.
The train hands report that the game and wild animals that have made their homes in the swamp are deserting it and fleeing in all directions.
All over these sections of the country the constant prayer is for rain, rain, rain!
Curious, is it not, that in one year we should have had a period of such heavy rain that dams were burst, rivers overflowed their banks, and the farmers lost their hay crops, and that this wet season should have been followed by such a severe drought that the forests have taken fire!
* * * * *
The latest news from Guatemala is that the government troops who are supporting Dictator Barrios have succeeded in recapturing the important city which the rebels had previously taken by storm.
It is necessary that you know the name of this city, but it is one of the hardest we have had to encounter so far. Quezaltenango is its name.
(Strange, isn't it, that foreign names should sound so funny to us, and be so difficult to pronounce? In many foreign tongues the e is pronounced a, and the a, ah. If you remember this it will help you to a correct pronunciation of many names and places.)
Quezaltenango being once more in the hands of the Government, Barrios has plucked up fresh courage, and attacked the insurgents with such vigor that one wing of their army has been defeated and driven into Mexico.
President Diaz does not, however, intend to allow the rebels to use his country as a refuge, and he is sending forces to the frontier to drive them back into Guatemala, to be captured by Barrios.
* * * * *
An interesting sham fight took place in Van Cortland Park last week.
The soldiers were divided into two forces, the attacking and the defending, and the object of the fight was to see what the commander's idea of defence would be, in case an enemy attacked the city.
A number of officers from the regular army attended the fight, and praised our citizen soldiers in high terms for the excellent work they did during the action.
The attacking party came up from the banks of the Hudson River at Riverdale, and endeavored to steal down the high-road to Kingsbridge, where they could cross over the Harlem River, and so find themselves on Manhattan Island, with the upper part of New York city at their mercy.
The defenders divided their forces into two divisions,—the army of the West and the army of the East: the one to check the invaders if it was their intention to march across the country to New Rochelle, and the other to prevent any attempt to reach New York city.
The general of the defending army took up his position on Woodlawn Heights, where he could see just which way the attacking army was going to move; and finding that the attempt was to be made on New York, sent troops to the roads and the fields through which the invaders must try to pass.
So well did he lay his plans that the invaders found themselves checked at every point. There was not a loophole left unguarded for them to creep through, and at last, after much good generalship had been displayed on both sides, the invaders were driven back, and the defenders claimed the victory.
The sham battle was followed by a review of the troops engaged, and when it was all over the citizen soldiers returned to the city, tired and dusty, but proud of their good day's work.
INVENTION AND DISCOVERY.
An interesting advance in the postal system of our country was made recently when the first of the pneumatic tubes which are to carry mail underground from one office to another was declared ready for use.
Some three hundred prominent men were present to see the first package of mail matter sent.
This tube extends from the Produce Exchange to the Post-Office Building, and the trip can be made from one office to the other in one minute and a quarter.
Mr. Chauncey Depew was present at the opening ceremonies, and having made an appropriate speech, sent off the first carrier of mail matter that passed through the tube.
In less time than it takes to tell the story the carrier returned, bringing a receipt for the mail that had been sent, and a pretty little kitten which arrived breathless from its spin through the tube.
The carriers are two feet long and seven inches round, and are made to fit the tube closely.
Other tubes are to be laid throughout the city, and before very long every post-office in the city will be connected with the general post-office by pneumatic tube, and letters will be posted in Harlem and sent flying down the seven miles to the City Hall in a few minutes.
Another ingenious postal device which has just been put on trial is the scheme for registering letters yourself.
The first thing to do is to put a ten-cent piece in the slot. The coin opens a small registering window, and reveals a pad on which you write the address of the registered letter, and also an aperture through which the letter is to be dropped. The letter must first have been stamped with a two-cent stamp.
After the letter is mailed the sender pulls a handle until a gong rings, and a receipt is then pushed out toward the sender. This receipt is in fact the second half of the order which he himself has written. As soon as the receipt is given the machine locks itself, and nothing will unlock it but a fresh dime in the slot.
Worn coins, or those that are not full size and weight, are instantly rejected by the machine.
The coin, after entering the machine, passes over a very delicate balance, and if it is found to be light or bad when it is weighed, the machine throws it out on the floor in front of the would-be registerer.
Three of these machines have been placed on trial: one in the Post-Office Building, one in the Equitable Building, and one in the branch office at Forty-second Street.