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THERE is something sporting and safe, almost comfortable, in the very sound of the phrase -bushwhacking, thicketthumping! It calls up a picture of the burly beaters crashing through the coverts, whooping and lu-lu-lu-ing, keeping their sticks and their big feet working, and marking the rabbits out, and the cocks over for the waiting guns beyond. It sounds such an easy, such a one-sided game, that it is difficult to associate it with the idea of any heavy risk to those who take part in it; and when you learn that men at a distance from the scene of action speak of it familiarly as the fun or the show, there seems to
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the inexperienced onlooker to be nothing inappropriate in the expression. That is the beauty of phrase-making-it introduces an element of romance into things unromantic, puts a cheap gloss on things unlovely; it converts the impossible and the abominable into the attractive, and ends by luring sensible men into "forgotten guts and creeks no decent soul would dream of visiting."
I sit in the bow-window of my club, the leather padding of my arm-chair propping me cosily, my thoughts straying hither and thither listlessly, with the languid enjoyment known only to a busy man who, for a little space, does
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well to be idle. Below me the irregular triangle of Hyde Park Corner sprawls at ease, with wide-flung arms and legs. The gates of the park face those of Constitution Hill; between them on an island of grey asphalte rises the statue of Wellington, with a sea of light brown wooden pavement hemming it in. Bulky, dust-coloured buildings are grouped in solid masses in the direction of Piccadilly, with window-panes glinting feebly, surmounted by a jumble of slate roofs and a confused up-crop of chimneystacks. In the parks on either hand the tree-tops are sootstained a dingy green. Hurrying foot-passengers push their way along the side-walks in contending streams; a streams; a little knot of people at one corner stand awaiting a 'bus; men and women scurry across the road like rabbits bolting from a brake. There is a block of clumsy vehicles at the corner of Hamilton Place; cabs, carts, vans, drays, omnibuses, with a stray motor-car spitting and rattling among them-all the ingredients of the wonderful London traffic-make a ceaseless roar and rumble, the hum of the busy life, the heart-beat of the vast city; and over all hangs the low smoke-blurred sky, while even the near distance is softened and made hazy by the dim grey mirk which, to the Londoner born who has had too much of sunglare and of exile, is among the most beautiful of all artistic effects. The centre of the great World is at my feet; the pulsing of its life's blood is in my
ears; but my memory has spirited me away many weary miles from Hyde Park Corner, over strange lands and jostling seas, and time has slipped back more than half-a-dozen years. It is no longer the asphalte and the wooden pavements that lie below me, for my feet are treading the war-path; the rumble of the streets is hushed, and it is the yell of the enemy which is ringing through the forest; my arm-chair is a bed of boughs, and I am sleeping beneath tangled branches, my head in one puddle and my feet in another, with an obstinate root wedged into the small of my back. I am bushwhacking once more in the Malay Peninsula, the "jumping-off-place" of southern Asia, -and London, and all the civilised universe of which it is the core, have sunk into total insignificance, swallowed up by the absorbing and vital interest of an obscure but personal experience. Through the curling columns of my tobacco-smoke pictures of the past arise, glimmer for a moment before me with intense reality, fade, and disappear. The blurring finger of memory comes to soften the hardships, the anxieties, the troubles of that heavy time; Romance casts her glamour over days long done; the strain, the toil, the horror are wellnigh forgotten-only the excitement remains as vivid as of old and thus it is with a feeling akin to pleasure that I look back, out of the comfortable present, upon the things which at the time we suffered with little gladness.
We did not call it a war, and beyond an odd paragraph or so in the 'Times' it never got into the English papers. Great Britain holds too many frontier lands in her vast clutch to be able to take count of all the petty skirmishes which are for ever going forward in one or another uncared-for corner of the empire. When regular troops are employed, the stay-at-home Britisher hears of it, for to some extent it affects the most sensitive portion of his person-his pocket. But when troubles, or disturbances as we prefer to call them, can be arranged without help from outside the sphere of conflict, no one worries himself about the depressing business, except the men who are in the thick of it, and the anxious folk, their kindred, who long for the news which is so slow in coming. The end of it all is usually a severe minute or two, "reasons in writing" in profusion, and a firm footing won where formerly Britain stood unsteadily. An incompetent man may be broken, a good one may be thanked, in the name of a Secretary of State who never heard of him, by one of the junior clerks in a public office; but, like Fuzzy Wuzzy, the bushwhacker "asn't got no medals nor rewards." The whole affair is squalid and petty, a matter of little moment; but to the men on the spot it looms big, obscuring all other earthly things. The bush-whacker has his game to play, his enemy to out-manoeuvre and overcome, his name to make, his duty to perform, his success to score, his failure to avoid. To him it is of equal importance
and inconvenience whether he chance to fall amid the world thunder of a second Waterloo or in some mismanaged border scrimmage, and his prospects of finding an early grave are greater than they would be were he to form one of an army corps. Therefore the strain and the excitement, the hard work mental and physical, and the measure of his responsibilities are more than sufficient for his needs. The troubles by which he is encompassed are, for the time, the only realities. The voice of the world of life beyond his narrow field of action has dwindled to a hushed whisper, distant and barely audible.
The thing itself is ugly but inevitable. Our experience in Asia has taught us that it is impossible to avoid making a little war of our own before we can hope to teach an unimaginative people the full blessings of peace. It is a pity, and, stated crudely, it has an ugly look to those who do not understand. Therefore, at each forward step which England makes, her sons thrust the past behind them, hope that the future will belie its experience, and decline to face the facts which history teaches all too plainly. Given, however, an oligarchy of native chiefs who have ruled a cowed brown people, melancholy and unresisting, for their own profit and for the satisfaction of their own lusts, with flinty hearts unfettered by conscience or principle; given a strong feudal spirit among the lower classes, the habits of centuries which bid them to obey unquestioningly; given a fear of the Un
known, which tells them white men may be even harder taskmasters than their hereditary oppressors, given these things, and an explosion of some sort must certainly occur. Add to them the presence of a slender band of Europeans, men callous of that personal dignity which most readily impresses oriental folk, striving to set up a new standard of ethics in a land where right and wrong have hitherto been things of little meaning, curbing the lawlessness of the chiefs, punishing the crimes of the community with an even-handed justice which disregards alike the convenience of friend and foe, and all the while unwittingly offending the susceptibilities of a most sensitive race, and the chances of peace become small indeed. To an Eastern people, with the tradition of centuries of war and rapine in their wake, bloodshed naturally appeals as the only conceivable exit from an impasse such as this, so we inaugurate our rule of peace with a heartbreaking little war.
The pictures of the past, my scattered memories of the warpath, come up singly, fix themselves upon my sight vividly as things very real and present, and then pass, giving place to others. Let me etch them in, each as it comes. Taken to gether they should make something like a connected whole, something like the broad view of those days of trouble as it appears to my mind's eye.
A steam-launch is labouring up-stream, bearing a body of Sikhs to the scene of the dis
turbances. The white man in charge comes up out of the stuffy little cabin, seats himself in a rattan - chair, and looks about him. His eyes are aching, for he has been hard at work all night preparing for the start at dawn, and the intruding daylight has robbed him of his sleep. It is nearly ten o'clock in the morning, and the glare upon the smooth surface of the water is blinding. On either hand, at a distance of some 300 yards, the jungle rises in vast tangles of blended greens and blacks, with dim bronze shadows lying upon the stream under the overhanging branches. Seen below the ragged fringes of the awning-canvas, the tall masses of foliage have the air of shutting in the burning glare between straitened walls, as though it were some golden molten fluid. You might think that the whole heat of the universe was concentrated in the gut of that forest-bound reach of river. The steady forefoot of the bow ploughs its course up-stream, cleaving the way before it into a brace of waves, smoothly curving, glittering, and to all appearances stationary. Astern a long line of ripples, bubbles, and foam-flecks run into the invisible base of a slim triangle, as though seen in inverted perspective. Ahead the narrow strip of white hot river spreads away to the next bend, whence it seems to flow towards you from under a lowering wall of jungle. Each reach looks like a thing apart, utterly severed from the rest of the created world by those black walls of forest. Up-stream the