CHAPTER SIX Tonking, to September 1883

BETWEEN 1882 and 1884, the northern frontier crisis was repeated, with variations, from the south. In the great peninsula where the Hindu and Chinese civilisations shade into each other, France had long been busy trying to compensate herself for the loss of India. By various methods of fraud and violence, her power was gradually extending itself in the sun-drowsed, jungle-hidden seclusion of Cambodia and Annam. There, where the tropical heat seemed to melt everything into a languid indistinctness, ambitions grew with a tropical luxuriance and found no fixed limits. The idea once formed, of taking over as it were the family ancestors with the estate--of assuming the time--blurred pretensions of the antique capitals occupied--gorgeous vistas opened, for each of the somnolent kingdoms of Indo-China had once been an imperial mistress, and the ghosts of many vanished realms haunted this world of ruins.1 Thus, by an imitation of the Chambres de Réunion of Louis XIV, Frenchmen made their way farther and farther, as though pushing a path merely through so much yielding vegetation. The rice country was rich; among the hills minerals lay hidden;2 and beyond--here was half the seduction-- stretched South China and all the unsounded, thrilling promises of its commerce.3' Partly the advance was the unordered work

____________________
1
There was still a woman in Annam, descended from the ancient Cham rulers who ruled before the name of Annam was known, saluted as Queen by a few mountain villagers. ( Norden, Wanderer in Indo-China, 76.)
2
Mining experts of the French Government were at work from November 1881 to March 1882, and presented a rosy report. "These deposits", commented the Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, "may prove to be of enormous value for the supply of fuel to steamships in the far East." (Vol. II of 1883.)
3'
Tseng said to Granville in March 1884"that the object of the French was and had been from the origin the Chinese province of Yunnan". ( F.O. to Peking 60, 13.3. 84), 17. 947.)

-86-

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