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The Old Saloon : French Contemporary Novelists.
earlier part, which is purely mili- srom the army as unworthy to bear tary, and by far the most interest- arms. He is marched along the ing, treating of his gradual ad- head of the regiment, drawn up vancement till he receives his in line to witness his degradation. promotion. From that point he begins to fall. The author ap- “On the quay he turned right pears by this time to have ex
round as if he had been shot. They hausted his originality, and falls pushed him on, but it was impossible
to make him go further. He stood back upon the stock subject of
fast like a stone built in to the pavehis confrères, whose motto usually ment. seems to be that it is no matter “ The 21st marched past,—first how dull a book may be, provided the trumpeters, then the first troop, it be sufficiently indecent. We then the second, then the others, four do not suppose that a French abreast. The regiment passed before novelist of the present day, except the barrack-square, under the kingly
Miserey, proud as it stood long ago in with a very firmly established glance of the Comte de Vermandois
, reputation, would venture to pub- triumphant as in the plains of Pacy. lish a book in which there was Miserey stretched out his hands to it nothing risqué, but we may be one last time in despairing supplicaallowed to regret that we cannot tion. But it passed inflexible, living have one break in that long mono
and glorious, in the apotheosis of its tony of cheerless dirt which char- sounding trumpets and its triumphal
flourishes." acterises contemporary fiction in France. So M. Hermant ploughs We have scarcely touched at all his way along through the mire till upon the reigning school of French he shakes himself free at last, and fiction in these notes upon some of regains his former liveliness and the books of the day. It is an reality of description in the final agreeable surprise even to the scene of all, when Miserey, in the writer to find so many which can face of his regiment, is expelled be handled without contamination.
It appears scarcely too much to this fate befel even or two say that the results of the winter British subjects who were taken campaign of 1886–87 in Upper prisoners),-such were some of the Burma have fully equalled the main features of the existence of most sanguine expectations of all the rebel Burmese forces. who are most interested in the I say “rebel," because such is pacification of that country. The the term in vogue. But, as change that has come over its face matter of fact, up to the close during the past few months may of the winter of 1886–87, the reasonably be said to be a sur- annexation of Upper Burma was prise, a pleasing surprise, to those rather nominal than real. The who were eye-witnesses of its dis- brief lull that followed the occuturbed condition during the hot pation of Mandalay and the deand rainy season of 1886, and who position of Theebaw in Novemhave since seen the flame of rebel- ber 1885, followed by the peacelion brought well under control by ful visit of his Excellency the a brief but arduous and energetic Viceroy of India in January and campaign of barely two months' February 1886, was but a temduration. 1, of course, except porary delusion. The rebel leaders, from the number of those to who have now become notorious whom this surprise has afforded by their prolonged and successful gratification the rebel leaders them- resistance to British domination, selves and their adherents. What no doubt required time to collect a change has come over the spirit and organise their followers, and of their dream! A few months prepare a plan of operations. The ago all, or almost all, was for them fire of rebellion was but smouldercouleur de rose. To loot mails and ing, and the august visitors from convoys, ambuscade small bodies India had barely shaken off the of troops, shoot down officers and Burmese dust (it really was dust men from almost inaccessible places then, though if the British soldier in scarcely penetrable jungle, to were asked for what Burma is rush on unprotected and weakly most remarkable, he would say garrisoned posts, to shoot sentries emphatically “mud ") from their at night, to fire and pillage villages feet, when it burst forth into a friendly to or under the protection flame, strong, lurid, and menacing. of the British forces, and massacre From February to November 1886 their inhabitants; to quarter them- almost every day was marked by selves and their adherents on any some skirmish or engagement with unprotected village, extorting sup- the rebels. It has been the cusplies, money, arms, and recruits, tom to designate the Burmese the penalty of refusal being death forces who took the field against and destruction of property by fire us when King Theebaw's army or plunder; to make stern ex- was broken up, as dacoits. Such amples of those Burmans whom a term is erroneous. Undoubtedly they deemed traitors to the na- some of the Burmese leaders were tional cause by putting them to dacoits under Theebaw's rule; but the horrible death of crucifixion à in taking up arms against the la Burmese (it is to be feared that British army of annexation they may reasonably be credited with seems to have weighed somewhat at least partially patriotic motives. on the mind of Horace, conveys no The British troops were very far sense of shame to the Burmese from being invariably successful in conception of honour and duty. these brushes. In many instances With him all is fair in war, even they were greatly outnumbered, in a weaponless flight. His first others hampered by the long and motto may be “Slay;" his second inevitably straggling convoys that certainly is “He that fights they had to protect; and, further- and runs away, will live to fight more, in almost every case where another day.” It is in conformthe rebels attacked or stood to ity with these principles that the fight, they were in a position Burmese never, or hardly ever, naturally advantageous, hard of commit themselves to the defence access, and from which a safe of a position in which they can be retreat was easily effected.
surrounded and annihilated. Many Those who have watched the and many are the carefully laid course of the recent guerilla war- plans of continued operations for fare in Upper Burma will have attack on Burmese positions that remarked that only on rare oc- have been arranged, but few and casions did our troops succeed far between are those that have in inflicting heavy loss on the been crowned with success. Durenemy. This is mainly due to the ing the past year, any Burmese nature of the enemy's tactics. force occupying a position within With the Briton victory means possible striking distance of any the capture or the successful de- body of British troops has almost fence of a position, coupled, if pos- invariably been attacked, and genesible, with a minimum of loss to rally forced to withdraw. his own side, and a maximum of But on whose side was the loss loss and demoralisation on that of the heaviest ? I fear our the enemy. It may happen, how- side often.
side often. It would be exceedever, that the losses of the victor ingly interesting to peruse exceed those of the vanquished. Burmese account of We all know the historic exclama- year's warfare (were any such obtion of Pyrrhus—“One more such tainable), with details of losses victory, and I am undone !” The sustained and inflicted according Burman has, and rightly, a very to their reports. As it is, we different object in view. It mat- have only our own reports-at ters little to him who remains least officially—to go upon. It is master of the terrain, provided he a well-known and quite irresistible inflicts serious and sustains little tendency in warfare to minimise loss. He is an adept in jungle our own and magnify our enemy's warfare. He knows every track losses. And yet how often we and bypath through his native have seen in the account of an enforests; and with his small, wiry, gagement with our Burmese enemy scantily clad frame he readily the statement, “enemy's loss unevades the pursuit of the soldier known.” The reasons for this abor sepoy hampered with arms, sence of known loss are the followammunition, accoutrements, and ing: in many cases the engagement somewhat cumbersome clothing. resulted from a sudden attack, an If it is a close thing, the Burman ambuscade arranged by the Burpromptly abandons his arms. The mese. A column is marching along r relicta non bene parmula" that a narrow path or an open river
bed (Burmicè, chaung), flanked in are disposed and dissimulated, and either case by dense jungle, and in the severity of the wounds they the case of the chaung by high, inflict, are best realised when seen. often precipitous, banks. All who Such positions the Burmese defend have experience of Burmese war- only so long as their flanks and fare know that in very close jungle rear not threatened. The it is practically impossible to work means of retreat from them is flanking parties consistently with usually secure, and through or into the reasonably rapid progress of dense jungle where pursuit is imthe column. The flankers, too, are practicable. When their line of apt to get lost. Consequently the secure retreat has been threatened column pushes on with the usual or cut off, the Burmese have been advanced-guard. The Burmans known to conceal themselves in very soon learned by experience the jungle and let our troops pass that, provided their own line of close to them, without daring to retreat is not threatened, it is ad- fire a shot at them. It is hoped visable to let the advanced-guard that this description of Burmese pass on and reserve their fire for military tactics will explain why the main body, at whose head it has been found so very difficult marches an officer. On that officer to inflict severe loss on them, why the greater portion of their fire is the many little victories of our concentrated, and not improbably troops have been so barren of tanhe and several of his men fall. gible results, and why at one time The Burmese, having delivered the pursuit of the wily Burman their volley, bolt back through the seemed nearly as hopeless as that depse jungle. Not a man of them of the will-o'-the-wisp. There were is ever seen. Possibly a shot or many, I believe, who a few months two, or a volley or two, are fired at ago looked upon the destruction the spot whence their fire was de- and dissipation of the rebel bands livered ; but it is any odds to noth- as an impossibility. ing that such random fire is ineffec- The Burmese bullet, however, tual. If the column thus attacked is was very far from the worst enemy one unencumbered in any way, the with which our troops have had to Burmese probably would not ven- contend. The arch-foe has been, ture near it again. If, however, it and, I fear, will be again, during is escorting a convoy, which it can- the coming hot and rainy season, not for obvious reasons leave, the disease. It is unnecessary to enter enemy would often hang round it into detail about the ravages of in the jungle for several hours, and cholera, malarious fever, dysentery, fire on it as opportunity offered. heat-apoplexy, &c., &c. It is very It is in this sort of warfare that easy to produce statistics, if remany a good officer and soldier has quired. The average death-rate been laid low during the past year. from disease, from May to October
The other class of engagement is 1886, was, roughly speaking, from when our troops attacked the Bur- 100 to 150 a month. Of officers mese in their own defensive posi- who have been killed in action and tions, which were generally strength- succumbed to wounds or disease, ened by breastworks and stockades, the list is a long one. It is a façon and rendered difficult of access by de parler to expatiate on the ideal abattis and bamboo spikes or stakes. death of a soldier. I am under The latter are essentially Burmese; the impression that soldiers, as a and the ingenuity with which they rule, do not indulge in any ideal of death. On the contrary, they sin- Shwé, Buda Yaza, Hla-Oo, and cerely hope, at the commencement other prominent rebel-leaders. of a campaign or action, that they Before passing on to the milimay find themselves alive and well tary operations of the last two at the end of it. There is, however, months, which have so materially one thing regarding which I have contributed to the pacification of no doubts, and that is, that to be Upper Burma, there are one or shot down from behind a bush by t:vo questions affecting the condiBurman Aint or matchlock is the tion of the country that merit ideal death of no man. Such, how- some notice. Within a very short ever, has been the fate of many a time after the occupation of Mangood soldier and sepoy during the dalay, in November 1885, the basis past year.
of a Civil Government was estabIt were easy to enter into greater lished and martial law abolished. detail about the guerilla warsare This step having received the sancthat our troops have waged in Up- tion of the Government of India, per Burma throughout the hot and a retrograde movement became rainy season of 1886; to dwell on difficult, if not impossible. Neverthe intense stilling heat, so trying theless it was the opinion of a nuto Europeans; to strive to depict merous section of the Indian comthe awful state of the so-called munity', and one well qualified to roads, several feet deep in mud judge, that the step was premaand water, and for miles and miles ture. Sir Charles Bernard resotraversing a network of flooded lutely set his face against any rerice-fields; to describe the weary trogression. That was but natunight.marches, and the passage of ral, the forward step having been flooded streams and rivers. The taken at his instance, and he being refrain of the best known popular the chief representative of the civil air among the troops in Upper power. On the other hand, if ruBurma is, “One more river to mour be true, the supreme military cross.” But there are scenes and authority in Upper Burma advofacts to which no efforts of de- cated the restoration of martial scriptive power can do justice. law. This was also only natural. To be realised they must be ex- As a matter of fact, however, the perienced; and the experience is exercise of civil power has been dearly bought. I had an idea purely nominal. To all intents that we should, during the past and purposes martial law has prewinter, have seen a good many vailed up to the present time. In visitors in Upper Burma. But a country that is under civil govsuch has not been the case, de- ernment, it is an understcod thing spite the unprecedented number that the resources of that governof distinguished travellers who ment are sufficient to enforce order have spent the cold weather in In- and respect for the civil laws. dia. And yet nothing is simpler Such, as is well known, has not and easier than a voyage up the been the case. Early in 1886 Irrawaddy. Not that such a voy- large drafts of police—some seasage would afford the globe-trotter oned soldiers from the rative army any insight into the nature of mili- of India, others raw recruits from tary operations in Upper Burma. the Punjab and North-West ProThat can only be acquired by a vinces — were hastily raised and trip into the interior, where are, hurried off to Burma. When they or were, the fastnesses of Boh- arrived, they proved in the main