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Title: The English Governess at the Siamese Court - Being Recollections of Six Years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok
Author: Leonowens, Anna Harriette
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE ENGLISH GOVERNESS AT THE SIAMESE COURT

BEING RECOLLECTIONS OF SIX YEARS IN THE ROYAL

IN THE ROYAL PALACE AT BANGKOK

BY

ANNA HARRIETTE LEONOWENS.



With Illustrations,
FROM PHOTOGRAPHS PRESENTED TO THE AUTHOR BY
THE KING OF SIAM.


[Illustration: Gateway Of the Old Palace.]



TO MRS. KATHERINE S. COBB.

I have not asked your leave, dear friend, to dedicate to you these pages
of my experience in the heart of an Asiatic court; but I know you will
indulge me when I tell you that my single object in inscribing your name
here is to evince my grateful appreciation of the kindness that led you
to urge me to try the resources of your country instead of returning to
Siam, and to plead so tenderly in behalf of my children.

I wish the offering were more worthy of your acceptance. But to
associate your name with the work your cordial sympathy has fostered,
and thus pleasantly to retrace even the saddest of my recollections,
amid the happiness that now surrounds me,--a happiness I owe to the
generous friendship of noble-hearted American women,--is indeed a
privilege and a compensation.

I remain, with true affection, gratitude, and admiration,

Your friend, A. H. L.

26th July, 1870.



PREFACE.

His Majesty, Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, the Supreme King of
Siam, having sent to Singapore for an English lady to undertake the
education of his children, my friends pointed to me. At first it was
with much reluctance that I consented to entertain the project; but,
strange as it may seem, the more I reflected upon it the more feasible
it appeared, until at length I began to look forward, even with a glow
of enthusiasm, toward the new and untried field I was about to enter.

The Siamese Consul at Singapore, Hon. W. Tan Kim-Ching, had written
strongly in my favor to the Court of Siam, and in response I received
the following letter from the King himself:--


"ENGLISH ERA, 1862, 26th February.
GRAND ROYAL PALACE, BANGKOK.

"To MRS. A. H. LEONOWENS:--

"MADAM: We are in good pleasure, and satisfaction in heart, that you are
in willingness to undertake the education of our beloved royal children.
And we hope that in doing your education on us and on our children (whom
English, call inhabitants of benighted land) you will do your best
endeavor for knowledge of English language, science, and literature, and
not for conversion to Christianity; as the followers of Buddha are
mostly aware of the powerfulness of truth and virtue, as well as the
followers of Christ, and are desirous to have facility of English
language and literature, more than new religions.

"We beg to invite you to our royal palace to do your best endeavorment
upon us and our children. We shall expect to see you here on return of
Siamese steamer Chow Phya.

"We have written to Mr. William Adamson, and to our consul at Singapore,
to authorize to do best arrangement for you and ourselves.

"Believe me

"Your faithfully, (Signed)

"S. S. P. P. MAHA MONGKUT."


About a week before our departure for Bangkok, the captain and mate of
the steamer Rainbow called upon me. One of these gentlemen had for
several years served the government of Siam, and they came to warn me of
the trials and dangers that must inevitably attend the enterprise in
which I was embarking. Though it was now too late to deter me from the
undertaking by any arguments addressed to my fears, I can nevertheless
never forget the generous impulse of the honest seamen, who said:
"Madam, be advised even by strangers, who have proved what sufferings
await you, and shake your hands of this mad undertaking." By the next
steamer I sailed for the Court of Siam.

In the following pages I have tried to give a full and faithful account
of the scenes and the characters that were gradually unfolded to me as I
began to understand the language, and by all other means to attain a
clearer insight into the secret life of the court. I was thankful to
find, even in this citadel of Buddhism, men, and above all women, who
were "lovely in their lives," who, amid infinite difficulties, in the
bosom of a most corrupt society, and enslaved to a capricious and often
cruel will, yet devoted themselves to an earnest search after truth. On
the other hand, I have to confess with sorrow and shame, how far we,
with all our boasted enlightenment, fall short, in true nobility and
piety, of some of our "benighted" sisters of the East. With many of
them, Love, Truth, and Wisdom are not mere synonyms but "living gods,"
for whom they long with lively ardor, and, when found, embrace with joy.

Those of my readers who may find themselves interested in the wonderful
ruins recently discovered in Cambodia are indebted to the earlier
travellers, M. Henri Mouhot, Dr. A. Bastian, and the able English
photographer. James Thomson, F. R. G. S. L., almost as much as to
myself.

To the Hon. George William Curtis of New York, and to all my other true
friends, abroad and in America, I feel very grateful.

And finally, I would acknowledge the deep obligation I am under to Dr.
J. W. Palmer, whose literary experience and skill have been of so great
service to me in revising and preparing my manuscript for the press. A.
H. L.



CONTENTS.

     I. ON THE THRESHOLD
    II. A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME
   III. A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY
    IV. HIS EXCELLENCY'S HAREM AND HELPMEET
     V. THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING AND THE EMERALD IDOLS
    VI. THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS
   VII. MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS
  VIII. OUR HOME IN BANGKOK
    IX. OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE
     X. MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL
    XI. THE WAYS OF THE PALACE
   XII. SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM
  XIII. FA-YING, THE KING'S DARLING
   XIV. AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING
    XV. THE CITY OF BANGKOK
   XVI. THE WHITE ELEPHANT
  XVII. THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION
 XVIII. THE QUEEN CONSORT
   XIX. THE HEIR-APPARENT.--ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING
    XX. AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT
   XXI. SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART
  XXII. BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP
 XXIII. CREMATION
  XXIV. CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS
   XXV. THE SUBORDINATE KING
  XXVI. THE SUPREME KING: HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION
 XXVII. MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE
XXVIII. THE KINGDOM OF SIAM
  XXIX. THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA.--AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT
   XXX. THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON

[Illustration: Fac-Simile of Letter from present Supreme King of Siam:
Transcription follows:]

Amarinde Winschley
Palace Bangkok
March 6th 1869

Mrs. A. H. Leonowens
New York

Dear Madam,

I have great pleasure in condescending to answer your sympathising
letter of 25th November last wherein the sorrowful expressions of your
heart in relation to my most beloved Sovereign Father in demise which is
a venerated burden and I have left to this day and ever more shall bear
this most unexpressable loss in mind, with the deepest respect and
lamentation, and resignation to the will of divine Providence;--are very
loyal to you too to ful, and share your grief in behalf the affection
you have for your royal pupils, and the kind remembrances you have made
of them in your letter, loves you too with that respect and love your
are held in ther esteem, for such disinterestioness in imparting
knowledge to them during your stay here with us. I have the pleasure
also, to mention you that our Government in counsel has elected me to
assume the reins of Government notwithstanding my juvenility; and I am
pleased to see the love the people have for me, most undoubtedly arising
from the respect and veneration they have had for my beloved royal
Father and I hope to render them prosperity and peace, and equal
measure, they have enjoyed since the last reign in return.

May you and your beloved children be in the peace of the divine
Providence.

I beg to remain,

Yours sincerely

Somdetch Phra Chulalonkorn Klou Chow-yu Hua
Supreme King of Siam
on 114th day of reign



I. ON THE THRESHOLD.


MARCH 15, 1862.--On board the small Siamese steamer Chow Phya, in the
Gulf of Siam.

I rose before the sun, and ran on deck to catch an early glimpse of the
strange land we were nearing; and as I peered eagerly, not through mist
and haze, but straight into the clear, bright, many-tinted ether, there
came the first faint, tremulous blush of dawn, behind her rosy veil; and
presently the welcome face shines boldly out, glad, glorious, beautiful,
and aureoled with flaming hues of orange, fringed with amber and gold,
wherefrom flossy webs of color float wide through the sky, paling as
they go. A vision of comfort and gladness, that tropical March morning,
genial as a July dawn in my own less ardent clime; but the memory of two
round, tender arms, and two little dimpled hands, that so lately had
made themselves loving fetters round my neck, in the vain hope of
holding mamma fast, blinded my outlook; and as, with a nervous tremor
and a rude jerk, we came to anchor there, so with a shock and a tremor I
came to my hard realities.

The captain told us we must wait for the afternoon tide to carry us over
the bar. I lingered on deck, as  long as I could dodge the fiery spears
that flashed through our tattered awning, and bear the bustle and the
boisterous jests of some circus people, our fellow-passengers, who came
by express invitation of the king to astonish and amuse the royal
household and the court.

Scarcely less intelligent, and certainly more entertaining, than these
were the dogs of our company,-? brutes of diverse temperament,
experience, and behavior. There were the captain's two, Trumpet and Jip,
who, by virtue of their reflected rank and authority, held places of
privilege and pickings under the table, and were jealous and overbearing
as became a captain's favorites, snubbing and bullying their more
accomplished and versatile guests, the circus dogs, with skipper-like
growls and snarls and snaps. And there was our own true Bessy,--a
Newfoundland, great and good,--discreet, reposeful, dignified,
fastidious, not to be cajoled into confidences and familiarities with
strange dogs, whether official or professional. Very human was her
gentle countenance, and very loyal, I doubt not, her sense of
responsibility, as she followed anxiously my boy and me, interpreting
with her heart the thoughts she read in our faces, and responding with
her sympathetic eyes.

In the afternoon, when we dined on deck, the land was plainly visible;
and now, as with a favoring tide we glided toward the beautiful Meinam
("Mother of Waters"), the air grew brighter, and the picture lived and
moved; trees _grew_ on the banks, more and more verdure, monkeys swung
from bough to bough, birds flashed and piped among the thickets.

Though the reddish-brown water over the "banks" is very shallow at low
tide, craft of moderate burden, with the aid of a pilot, cast anchor
commonly in the very heart of the capital, in from ten to twelve fathoms
of water.

The world has few rivers so deep, commodious, and safe as the Meinam;
and when we arrived the authorities were contemplating the erection of
beacons on the bar, as well as a lighthouse for the benefit of vessels
entering the port of Bangkok. The stream is rich in fish of excellent
quality and flavor, such as is found in most of the great rivers of
Asia; and is especially noted for its _platoo_, a kind of sardine, so
abundant and cheap that it forms a common seasoning to the laborer's
bowl of rice. The Siamese are expert in modes of drying and salting fish
of all kinds, and large quantities are exported annually to Java,
Sumatra, Malacca, and China.

In half an hour from the time when the twin banks of the river, in their
raiment of bright green, seemed to open their beautiful arms to receive
us, we came to anchor opposite the mean, shabby, irregular town of
Paknam, or Sumuttra P'hra-kan ("Ocean Affairs"). Here the captain went
ashore to report himself to the Governor, and the officials of the
custom-house, and the mail-boat came out to us. My boy became impatient
for _couay_ (cake); Moonshee, my Persian teacher, and Beebe, my gay
Hindostanee nurse, expressed their disappointment and disgust, Moonshee
being absurdly dramatic in his wrath, as, fairly shaking his fist at the
town, he demanded, "What is this?"

Near this place are two islands. The one on the right is fortified, yet
withal so green and pretty, and seemingly so innocent of bellicose
designs, that one may fancy Nature has taken peculiar pains to heal and
hide the disfigurements grim Art has made in her beauty. On the other,
which at first I took for a floating shrine of white marble, is perhaps
the most unique and graceful object of architecture in Siam; shining
like a jewel on the broad bosom of the river, a temple all of purest
white, its lofty spire, fantastic and gilded, flashing back the glory of
the sun, and duplicated in shifting, quivering shadows in the limpid
waters below. Add to these the fitful ripple of the coquettish breeze,
the burnished blazonry of the surrounding vegetation, the budding charms
of spring joined to the sensuous opulence of autumn, and you have a
scene of lovely glamour it were but vain impertinence to describe. Earth
seemed to have gathered for her adorning here elements more
intellectual, poetic, and inspiring than she commonly displays to pagan
eyes.

These islands at the gateway of the river are, like the bank in the
gulf, but accumulations of the sand borne down before the torrent, that,
suddenly swollen by the rains, rushes annually to the sea. The one on
which the temple stands is partly artificial, having been raised from
the bed of the Meinam by the king P'hra Chow Phra-sat-thong, as a work
of "merit." Visiting this island some years later, I found that this
temple, like all other pyramidal structures in this part of the world,
consists of solid masonry of brick and mortar. The bricks made here are
remarkable, being fully eight inches long and nearly four broad, and of
fine grain,--altogether not unlike the "tavellae" brick of the Egyptians
and ancient Romans. There are cornices on all sides, with steps to
ascend to the top, where a long inscription proclaims the name, rank,
and virtues of the founder, with dates of the commencement of the island
and the shrine. The whole of the space, extending to the low stone
breakwater that surrounds the island, is paved with the same kind of
brick, and encloses, in addition to the P'hra-Cha-dei ("The Lord's
Delight"), a smaller temple with a brass image of the sitting Buddha. It
also affords accommodation to the numerous retinue of princes, nobles,
retainers, and pages who attend the king in his annual visits to the
temple, to worship, and make votive offerings and donations to the
priests. A charming spot, yet not one to be contemplated with unalloyed
pleasure; for here also are the wretched people, who pass up and down in
boats, averting their eyes, pressing their hard, labor-grimed hands
against their sweating foreheads, and lowly louting in blind awe to
these whited bricks. Even the naked children hush and crouch, and lay
their little foreheads against the bottom of the boat.

His Majesty Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, the late Supreme
King, contributed interesting _souvenirs_ to the enlargement and
adornment of this temple.

The town, which the twin islands redeem from the ignominy it otherwise
deserves, lies on the east bank of the river, and by its long lines of
low ramparts that face the water seems to have been at one time
substantially fortified; but the works are now dilapidated and
neglected. They were constructed in the first instance, I am told, with
fatal ingenuity; in the event of an attack the garrison would find them
as dangerous to abandon as to defend. Paknam is indebted for its
importance rather to its natural position, and its possibilities of
improvement under the abler hands into which it is gradually falling,
than to any advantage or promise in itself; for a more disgusting,
repulsive place is scarcely to be found on Asian ground.

The houses are built partly of mud, partly of wood, and, as in those of
Malacca, only the upper story is habitable, the ground floor being the
abode of pigs, dogs, fowls, and noisome reptiles. The "Government House"
was originally of stone, but all the more recent additions have been
shabbily constructed of rough timber and mud. This is one of the few
houses in Paknam which one may enter without mounting a ladder or a
clumsy staircase, and which have rooms in the lower as well as in the
upper story.

The Custom-House is an open _sala_, or shed, where interpreters,
inspectors, and tidewaiters lounge away the day on cool mats, chewing
areca, betel, and tobacco, and extorting moneys, goods, or provisions
from the unhappy proprietors of native trading craft, large or small;
but Europeans are protected from their rascally and insolent exactions
by the intelligence and energy of their respective consuls.

The hotel is a whitewashed brick building, originally designed to
accommodate foreign ambassadors and other official personages visiting
the Court of Siam. The king's summer-house, fronting the islands, is the
largest edifice to be seen, but it has neither dignity nor beauty. A
number of inferior temples and monasteries occupy the background, and
are crowded with a rabble of priests, in yellow robes and with shaven
pates; packs of mangy pariah-dogs attend them. These monasteries consist
of many small rooms or cells, containing merely a mat and wooden pillow
for each occupant. The refuse of the food, which the priests beg during
the day, is cast to the dogs at night; and what _they_ refuse is left to
putrefy. Unimaginable are the stenches the sun of Siam engenders in such
conditions.

A village so happily situated might, under better management, become a
thriving and pleasing port; but neglect, cupidity, and misrule have
shockingly deformed and degraded it. Nevertheless, by its picturesque
site and surroundings of beauty, it retains its hold upon the regretful
admiration of many Europeans and Americans, who in ill health have found
strength and cheer in its sea-breezes.

We heartily enjoyed the delightful freshness of the evening air as we
glided up the Meinam, though the river view at this point is somewhat
marred by the wooden piers and quays that line it on either side, and
the floating houses, representing elongated A's. From the deck, at a
convenient height above the level of the river and the narrow serpentine
canals and creeks, we looked down upon conical roofs thatched with
attaps, and diversified by the pyramids and spires and fantastic turrets
of the more important buildings. The valley of the Meinam, not over six
hundred miles in length, is as a long deep dent or fissure in the
alluvial soil. At its southern extremity we have the climate and
vegetation of the tropics, while its northern end, on the brow of the
Yunan, is a region of perpetual snow. The surrounding country is
remarkable for the bountiful productiveness of its unctuous loam. The
scenery, though not wild nor grand, is very picturesque and charming in
the peculiar golden haze of its atmosphere. I surveyed with more and
more admiration each new scene of blended luxuriance and
beauty,--plantations spreading on either hand as far as the eye could
reach, and level fields of living green, billowy with crops of rice and
maize, and sugar-cane and coffee, and cotton and tobacco; and the wide
irregular river, a kaleidoscope of evanescent form and color, where
land, water, and sky joined or parted in a thousand charming surprises
of shapes and shadows.

The sun was already sinking in the west, when we caught sight of a tall
roof of familiar European fashion; and presently a lowly white chapel
with green windows, freshly painted, peeped out beside two pleasant
dwellings. Chapel and homes belong to the American Presbyterian Mission.
A forest of graceful boughs filled the background; the last faint rays
of the departing sun fell on the Mission pathway, and the gentle swaying
of the tall trees over the chapel imparted a promise of safety and
peace, as the glamour of the approaching night and the gloom and mystery
of the pagan land into which we were penetrating filled me with an
indefinable dread. I almost trembled, as the unfriendly clouds drove out
the lingering tints of day. Here were the strange floating city, with
its stranger people on all the open porches, quays, and jetties; the
innumerable rafts and boats, canoes and gondolas, junks, and ships; the
pall of black smoke from the steamer, the burly roar of the engine, and
the murmur and the jar; the bewildering cries of men, women, and
children, the shouting of the Chinamen, and the barking of the
dogs,--yet no one seemed troubled but me. I knew it was wisest to hide
my fears. It was the old story. How many of our sisters, how many of our
daughters, how many of our hearts' darlings, are thus, without friend or
guide or guard or asylum, turning into untried paths with untold stories
of trouble and pain!

We dropped anchor in deep water near an island. In a moment the river
was alive with nondescript craft, worked by amphibious creatures, half
naked, swarthy, and grim, who rent the air with shrill, wild jargon as
they scrambled toward us. In the distance were several hulks of Siamese
men-of-war, seemingly as old as the flood; and on the right towered,
tier over tier, the broad roofs of the grand Royal Palace of
Bangkok,--my future "home" and the scene of my future labors.

The circus people are preparing to land; and the dogs, running to and
fro with anxious glances, have an air of leave-taking also. Now the
China coolies, with pigtails braided and coiled round their low,
receding brows, begin their uncouth bustle, and into the small hours of
the morning enliven the time of waiting with frantic shouts and
gestures.

Before long a showy gondola, fashioned like a dragon, with flashing
torches and many paddles, approached; and a Siamese official mounted the
side, swaying himself with an absolute air. The red _langoutee_, or
skirt, loosely folded about his person, did not reach his ankles; and to
cover his audacious chest and shoulders he had only his own brown
polished skin. He was followed by a dozen attendants, who, the moment
they stepped from the gangway, sprawled on the deck like huge toads,
doubling their arms and legs under them, and pressing their noses
against the boards, as if intent on making themselves small by degrees
and hideously less. Every Asiatic on deck, coolies and all, prostrates
himself, except my two servants, who are bewildered. Moonshee covertly
mumbles his five prayers, ejaculating between, _Mash-Allah! A Tala-yea
kia hai?_ [Footnote: "Great God! what is this?"] and Beebe shrinks, and
draws her veil of spotted muslin jealously over her charms.

The captain stepped forward and introduced us. "His Excellency Chow Phya
Sri Sury Wongse, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Siam!"

Half naked as he was, and without an emblem to denote his rank, there
was yet something remarkable about this native chief, by virtue of which
he compelled our respect from the first glance,--a sensibly magnetic
quality of tone or look. With an air of command oddly at variance with
his almost indecent attire, of which he seemed superbly unconscious, he
beckoned to a young attendant, who crawled to him as a dog crawls to an
angry master. This was an interpreter, who at a word from his lord began
to question me in English.

"Are you the lady who is to teach in the royal family?"

On my replying in the affirmative, he asked, "Have you friends in
Bangkok?"

Finding I had none, he was silent for a minute or two; then demanded:
"What will you do? Where will you sleep to-night?"

"Indeed I cannot tell," I said. "I am a stranger here. But I understood
from his Majesty's letter that a residence would be provided for us on
our arrival; and he has been duly informed that we were to arrive at
this time."

"His Majesty cannot remember everything," said his Excellency; the
interpreter added, "You can go where you like." And away went master and
slaves. I was dumfoundered, without even voice to inquire if there was a
hotel in the city; and my servants were scornfully mute. My kind friend
the captain was sorely puzzled. He would have sheltered us if he could;
but a cloud of coal-dust and the stamping and screaming of a hundred and
fifty Chinamen made hospitality impracticable; so I made a little bed
for my child on deck, and prepared to pass the night with him under a
canopy of stars.

The situation was as Oriental as the scene,--heartless arbitrary
insolence on the part of my employers; homelessness, forlornness,
helplessness, mortification, indignation, on mine. Fears and misgivings
crowded and stunned me. My tears fell thick and fast, and, weary and
despairing, I closed my eyes, and tried to shut out heaven and earth;
but the reflection would return to mock and goad me, that by my own act,
and against the advice of my friends, I had placed myself in this
position.

The good captain of the Chow Phya, much troubled by the conduct of the
minister, paced the deck (which usually, on these occasions, he left to
the supercargo) for more than an hour. Presently a boat approached, and
he hailed it. In a moment it was at the gangway, and with robust, hearty
greetings on both sides, Captain B----, a cheery Englishman, with a
round, ruddy, rousing face, sprang on board; in a few words our
predicament was explained to him, and at once he invited us to share his
house, for the night at least, assuring us of a cordial welcome from his
wife. In the beautiful gondola of our "friend in need" we were pulled by
four men, standing to their oars, through a dream-like scene, peculiar
to this Venice of the East. Larger boats, in an endless variety of form
and adornment, with prows high, tapering, and elaborately carved, and
pretty little gondolas and canoes, passed us continually on the right
and left; yet amid so many signs of life, motion, traffic, bustle, the
sweet sound of the rippling waters alone fell on the ear. No rumbling of
wheels, nor clatter of hoofs, nor clangor of bells, nor roar and scream
of engines to shock the soothing fairy-like illusion. The double charm
of stillness and starlight was perfect.

"By the by," broke in my cheery new friend, "you'll have to go with me
to the play, ma'm; because my wife is there with the boys, and the
house-key is in her pocket."

"To the play!"

"O, don't be alarmed, ma'm! It's not a regular theatre; only a
catchpenny show, got up by a Frenchman, who came from Singapore a
fortnight since. And having so little amusement here, we are grateful
for anything that may help to break the monotony. The temporary
playhouse is within the palace grounds of his Royal Highness Prince Krom
Lhuang Wongse; and I hope to have an opportunity to introduce you to the
Prince, who I believe is to be present with his family."

The intelligence was not gratifying, a Siamese prince had too lately
disturbed my moral equilibrium; but I held my peace and awaited the
result with resignation. A few strokes of the oars, seconded by the
swift though silent current, brought us to a wooden pier surmounted by
two glaring lanterns. Captain B---- handed us out. My child, startled
from a deep sleep, was refractory, and would not trust himself out of my
fond keeping. When finally I had struggled with him in my arms to the
landing, I saw in the shadow a form coiled on a piece of striped
matting. Was it a bear? No, a prince! For the clumsy mass of reddish-
brown flesh unrolled and uplifted itself, and held out a human arm, with
a fat hand at the end of it, when Captain B---- presented me to "his
Royal Highness." Near by was his Excellency the Prime Minister, in the
identical costume that had disgraced our unpleasant interview on the
Chow Phya; he was smoking a European pipe, and plainly enjoying our
terrors. My stalwart friend contrived to squeeze us, and even himself,
first through a bamboo door, and then through a crowd of hot people, to
seats fronting a sort of altar, consecrated to the arts of jugglery. A
number of Chinamen of respectable appearance occupied the more distant
places, while those immediately behind us were filled by the ladies and
gentlemen of the foreign community. On a raised dais hung with kincob
[Footnote: Silk, embroidered with, gold flowers.] curtains, the ladies
of the Prince's harem reclined; while their children, shining in silk
and ornaments of gold, laughed, prattled, and gesticulated, until the
juggler appeared, when they were stunned with sudden wonder. Under the
eaves on all sides human heads were packed, on every head its cherished
tuft of hair, like a stiff black brush inverted, in every mouth its
delicious cud of areca-nut and betel, which the human cattle ruminated
with industrious content. The juggler, a keen little Frenchman, plied
his arts nimbly, and what with his ventriloquial doll, his empty bag
full of eggs, his stones that were candies, and his candies that were
stones, and his stuffed birds that sang, astonished and delighted his
unsophisticated patrons, whose applauding murmurs were diversified by
familiarly silly shrieks--the true Siamese Did-you-ever!--from behind
the kincob curtains.

But I was weary and disheartened, and welcomed with a sigh of relief the
closing of the show. As we passed out with our guide, the glare of many
torches falling on the dark silent river made the swarthy forms of the
boatmen weird and Charon-like. Mrs. B---- welcomed us with a pleasant
smile to her little heaven of home across the river, and by the
simplicity and gentleness of her manners dispelled in a measure my
feeling of forlornness. When at last I found myself alone, I would have
sought the sleep I so much needed, but the strange scenes of the day
chased each other in agitating confusion through my brain. Then I
quitted the side of my sleeping boy, triumphant in his dreamless
innocence, and sat defeated by the window, to crave counsel and help
from the ever-present Friend; and as I waited I sank into a tumultuous
slumber, from which at last I started to find the long-tarrying dawn
climbing over a low wall and creeping through a half-open shutter.



II. A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME.


I started up, arranged my dress, and smoothed my hair; though no water
nor any after-touches could remove the shadow that night of gloom and
loneliness had left upon my face. But my boy awoke with eager,
questioning eyes, his smile bright and his hair lustrous. As we knelt
together by the window at the feet of "Our Father," I could not but ask
in the darkness of my trouble, did it need so bitter a baptism as ours
to purify so young a soul?

In an outer room we met Mrs. B---- _en déshabillé_, and scarcely so
pretty as at our first meeting, but for her smile, remarkable for its
subtile, evanescent sweetness. At breakfast our host joined us, and,
after laughing at our late predicament and fright, assured me of that
which I have since experienced,--the genuine goodness of the Prince Krom
Lhuang Wongse. Every foreign resident of Bangkok, who at any time has
had friendly acquaintance or business with him, would, I doubt not, join
me in expressions of admiration and regard for one who has maintained
through circumstances so trying and under a system so oppressive an
exemplary reputation for liberality, integrity, justice, and humanity.

Soon after breakfast the Prime Minister's boat, with the slave
interpreter who had questioned me on the steamer, arrived to take us to
his Excellency's palace.

[Illustration: THE PRIME MINISTER.]

In about a quarter of an hour we found ourselves in front of a low
gateway, which opened on a wide courtyard, or "compound," paved with
rough-hewn slabs of stone. A brace of Chinese mandarins of ferocious
aspect, cut in stone and mounted on stone horses, guarded the entrance.
Farther on, a pair of men-at-arms in bass-relief challenged us; and near
these were posted two living sentries, in European costume, but without
shoes. On the left was a pavilion for theatrical entertainments, one
entire wall being covered with scenic pictures. On the right of this
stood the palace of the Prime Minister, displaying a semicircular
_façade_; in the background a range of buildings of considerable extent,
comprising the lodgings of his numerous wives. Attached to the largest
of these houses was a charming garden of flowers, in the midst of which
a refreshing fountain played. His Excellency's residence abounded within
in carvings and gildings, elegant in design and color, that blended and
harmonized in pleasing effects with the luxurious draperies that hung in
rich folds from the windows.

We moved softly, as the interpreter led us through a suite of spacious
saloons, disposed in ascending tiers, and all carpeted, candelabraed,
and appointed in the most costly European fashion. A superb vase of
silver, embossed and burnished, stood on a table inlaid with
mother-of-pearl and chased with silver. Flowers of great variety and
beauty filled the rooms with a delicious though slightly oppressive
fragrance. On every side my eyes were delighted with rare vases,
jewelled cups and boxes, burnished chalices, dainty statuettes,--
_objets de virtu_, Oriental and European, antique and modern, blending
the old barbaric splendors with the graces of the younger arts.

As we waited, fascinated and bewildered, the Prime Minister suddenly
stood before us,--the semi-nude barbarian of last night. I lost my
presence of mind, and in my embarrassment would have left the room. But
he held out his hand, saying, "Good morning, _sir_! Take a seat, _sir_!"
which I did somewhat shyly, but not without a smile for his comical
"sir." I spied a number of young girls peeping at us from behind
curtains, while the male attendants, among whom were his younger
brothers, nephews, and cousins, crouched in the antechamber on all
fours. His Excellency, with an expression of pleased curiosity, and that
same grand unconsciousness of his alarming poverty of costume,
approached us nearly, and, with a kindly smile patting Boy on the head,
asked him his name. But the child cried aloud, "Mamma, come home!
Please, mamma, come home!" and I found it not easy to quiet him.

Presently, mustering courage for myself also, I ventured to express my
wish for a quiet house or apartments, where I might be free from
intrusion, and at perfect liberty before and after school-hours.

When this reasonable request was interpreted to him--seemingly in a few
monosyllables--he stood looking at me, smiling, as if surprised and
amused that I should have notions on the subject of liberty. Quickly
this look became inquisitive and significant, so that I began to fancy
he had doubts as to the use I might make of my stipulated freedom, and
was puzzled to conjecture why a woman should wish to be free at all.
Some such thought must have passed through his mind, for he said
abruptly, "You not married!"

I bowed.

"Then where will you go in the evening?"

"Not anywhere, your Excellency. I simply desire to secure for myself and
my child some hours of privacy and rest, when my duties do not require
my presence elsewhere."

"How many years your husband has been dead?" he asked.

I replied that his Excellency had no right to pry into my domestic
concerns. His business was with me as a governess only; on any other
subject I declined conversing. I enjoyed the expression of blank
amazement with which he regarded me on receiving this somewhat defiant
reply. "_Tam chai!_" ("Please yourself!") he said, and proceeded to pace
to and fro, but without turning his eyes from my face, or ceasing to
smile. Then he said something to his attendants, five or six of whom,
raising themselves on their knees, with their eyes fixed upon the
carpet, crawled backward till they reached the steps, bobbed their heads
and shoulders, started spasmodically to their feet, and fled from the
apartment. My boy, who had been awed and terrified, began to cry, and I
too was startled. Again he uttered the harsh gutturals, and instantly,
as with an electric shock, another half-dozen of the prostrate slaves
sprang up and ran. Then he resumed his mysterious promenade, still
carefully keeping an eye upon us, and smiling by way of conversation. It
was long before I could imagine what we were to do. Boy, fairly
tortured, cried "Come home, mamma! why don't you come home? I don't like
that man." His Excellency halted, and sinking his voice ominously, said,
"You no can go!" Boy clutched my dress, and hid his face and smothered
his sobs in my lap; and yet, attracted, fascinated, the poor little
fellow from time to time looked up, only to shudder, tremble, and hide
his face again. For his sake I was glad when the interpreter returned on
all fours. Pushing one elbow straight out before the other, in the
manner of these people, he approached his master with such a salutation
as might be offered to deity; and with a few more unintelligible
utterances, his Excellency bowed to us, and disappeared behind a mirror.
All the curious, peering eyes that had been directed upon us from every
nook and corner where a curtain hung, instantly vanished; and at the
same time sweet, wild music, like the tinkling of silver bells in the
distance, fell upon our ears.

To my astonishment the interpreter stood boldly upright, and began to
contemplate his irresistible face and figure in a glass, and arrange
with cool coxcombry his darling tuft of hair; which done, he approached
us with a mild swagger, and proceeded to address me with a freedom which
I found it expedient to snub. I told him that, although I did not
require any human being to go down on his face and hands before me, I
should nevertheless tolerate no familiarity or disrespect from any one.
The fellow understood me well enough, but did not permit me to recover
immediately from my surprise at the sudden change in his bearing and
tone. As he led us to the two elegant rooms reserved for us in the west
end of the palace, he informed us that he was the Premier's
half-brother, and hinted that I would be wise to conciliate him if I
wished to have my own way. In the act of entering one of the rooms, I
turned upon him angrily, and bade him be off. The next moment this
half-brother of a Siamese magnate was kneeling in abject supplication in
the half-open doorway, imploring me not to report him to his Excellency,
and promising never to offend again. Here was a miracle of repentance I
had not looked for; but the miracle was sham. Rage, cunning, insolence,
servility, and hypocrisy were vilely mixed in the minion.

Our chambers opened on a quiet piazza, shaded by fruit-trees in blossom,
and overlooking a small artificial lake stocked with pretty, sportive
fish.

To be free to make a stunning din is a Siamese woman's idea of perfect
enjoyment. Hardly were we installed in our apartments when, with a
pell-mell rush and screams of laughter, the ladies of his Excellency's
private Utah reconnoitred us in force. Crowding in through the half-open
door, they scrambled for me with eager curiosity, all trying at once to
embrace me boisterously, and promiscuously chattering in shrill
Siamese,--a bedlam of parrots; while I endeavored to make myself
impartially agreeable in the language of signs and glances. Nearly all
were young; and in symmetry of form, delicacy of feature, and fairness
of complexion, decidedly superior to the Malay women I had been
accustomed to. Most of them might have been positively attractive, but
for their ingeniously ugly mode of clipping the hair and blackening the
teeth.

The youngest were mere children, hardly more than fourteen years old.
All were arrayed in rich materials, though the fashion did not differ
from that of their slaves, numbers of whom were prostrate in the rooms
and passages. My apartments were ablaze with their crimson, blue,
orange, and purple, their ornaments of gold, their rings and brilliants,
and their jewelled boxes. Two or three of the younger girls satisfied my
Western ideas of beauty, with their clear, mellow, olive complexions,
and their almond-shaped eyes, so dark yet glowing. Those among them who
were really old were simply hideous and repulsive. One wretched crone
shuffled through the noisy throng with an air of authority, and pointing
to Boy lying in my lap, cried, "_Moolay, moolay!_" "Beautiful,
beautiful!" The familiar Malay word fell pleasantly on my ear, and I was
delighted to find some one through whom I might possibly control the
disorderly bevy around me. I addressed her in Malay. Instantly my
visitors were silent, and waiting in attitudes of eager attention.

She told me she was one of the many custodians of the harem. She was a
native of Quedah; and "some sixty years ago," she and her sister,
together with other young Malay girls, were captured while working in
the fields by a party of Siamese adventurers. They were brought to Siam
and sold as slaves. At first she mourned miserably for her home and
parents. But while she was yet young and attractive she became a
favorite of the late Somdetch Ong Yai, father of her present lord, and
bore him two sons, just as "moolay, moolay" as my own darling. But they
were dead. (Here, with the end of her soiled silk scarf she furtively
wiped a tear from her face, no longer ugly.) And her gracious lord was
dead also; it was he who gave her this beautiful gold betel-box.

"But how is it that you are still a slave?" I asked.

"I am old and ugly and childless: and therefore, to be trusted by my
dead lord's son, the beneficent prince, upon whose head be
blessings,"--clasping her withered hands, and turning toward that part
of the palace where, no doubt, he was enjoying a "beneficent" nap.

"And now it is my privilege to watch and guard these favored ones, that
they see no man but their lord."

The repulsive uncomeliness of this woman had been wrought by oppression
out of that which must have been beautiful once; for the spirit of
beauty came back to her for a moment, with the passing memories that
brought her long-lost treasures with them. In the brutal tragedy of a
slave's experience,--a female slave in the harem of an Asian
despot,--the native angel in her had been bruised, mutilated, defaced,
deformed, but not quite obliterated.

Her story ended, the younger women, to whom her language had been
strange, could no longer suppress their merriment, nor preserve the
decorum due to her age and authority. Again they swarmed about me like
bees, plying me pertinaciously with questions, as to my age, husband,
children, country, customs, possessions; and presently crowned the
inquisitorial performance by asking, in all seriousness, if I should not
like to be the wife of the prince, their lord, rather than of the
terrible Chow-che-witt. [Footnote: Chow-che-witt,--"Prince of
life,"--the supreme king.]

Here was a monstrous suggestion that struck me dumb. Without replying, I
rose and shook them off, retiring with my boy into the inner chamber.
But they pursued me without compunction, repeating the extraordinary
"conundrum," and dragging the Malay duenna along with them to interpret
my answer. The intrusion provoked me; but, considering their beggarly
poverty of true life and liberty, of hopes and joys, and loves and
memories, and holy fears and sorrows, with which a full and true
response might have twitted them, I was ashamed to be vexed.

Seeing it impossible to rid myself of them, I promised to answer their
question, on condition that they would leave me for that day.
Immediately all eyes were fixed upon me.

"The prince, your lord, and the king, your Chow-che-witt, are pagans," I
said. "An English, that is a Christian, woman would rather be put to the
torture, chained and dungeoned for life, or suffer a death the slowest
and most painful you Siamese know, than be the wife of either."

They remained silent in astonishment, seemingly withheld from speaking
by an instinctive sentiment of respect; until one, more volatile than
the rest, cried, "What! not if he gave you all these jewelled rings and
boxes, and these golden things?"

When the old woman, fearing to offend, whispered this test question in
Malay to me, I laughed at the earnest eyes around, and said: "No, not
even then. I am only here to teach the royal family. I am not like you.
You have nothing to do but to play and sing and dance for your master;
but I have to work for my children; and one little one is now on the
great ocean, and I am very sad."

Shades of sympathy, more or less deep, flitted across the faces of my
audience, and for a moment they regarded me as something they could
neither convince nor comfort nor understand. Then softly repeating
_Poot-thoo! Poot-thoo!_ "Dear God! dear God!" they quietly left me. A
minute more, and I heard them laughing and shouting in the halls.

Relieved of my curious and exacting visitors, I lay down and fell into a
deep sleep, from which I was suddenly awakened, in the afternoon, by the
cries of Beebe, who rushed into the chamber, her head bare, her fine
muslin veil trampled under her feet, and her face dramatically
expressive of terror and despair. Moonshee, her husband, ignorant alike
of the topography, the language, and the rules of the place, had by
mistake intruded in the sacred penetralia where lounged the favorite of
the harem, to the lively horror of that shrinking Nourmahal, and the
general wrath of the old women on guard, two of whom, the ugliest,
fiercest, and most muscular, had dragged him, daft and trembling, to
summary inquisition.

I followed Beebe headlong to an open sala, where we found that
respectable servant of the Prophet, his hands tied, his turban off,
woe-begone but resigned; faithful and philosophic Moslem that he was, he
only waited for his throat to be cut, since it was his _kismut_, his
perverse destiny, that had brought him to such a region of _Kafirs_,
(infidels). Assuring him that there was nothing to fear, I despatched a
messenger in search of the interpreter, while Beebe wept and protested.
Presently an imposing personage stalked upon the scene, whose appearance
matched his temper and his conduct. This was the judge. In vain I strove
to explain to him by signs and gestures that my servant had offended
unwittingly; he could not or would not understand me; but stormed away
at our poor old man, who bore his abuse with the calm indifference of
profound ignorance, having never before been cursed in a foreign
language.

The loafers of the yards and porches shook off their lazy naps and
gathered round us; and among them came the interpreter, insolent
satisfaction beaming in his bad face. He coolly declined to interfere,
protesting that it was not his business, and that the judge would be
offended if he offered to take part in the proceedings. Moonshee was
condemned to be stripped, and beaten with twenty strokes. Here was an
end to my patience. Going straight up to the judge, I told him that if a
single lash was laid upon the old man's back (which was bared as I
spoke), he should suffer tenfold, for I would immediately lay the matter
before the British Consul. Though I spoke in English, he caught the
familiar words "British Consul," and turning to the interpreter,
demanded the explanation he should have listened to before he pronounced
sentence. But even as the interpreter was jabbering away to the
unreasonable functionary, the assembly was agitated with what the French
term a "sensation." Judge, interpreter, and all fell upon their faces,
doubling themselves up; and there stood the Premier, who took in the
situation at a glance, ordered Moonshee to be released, and permitted
him at my request to retire to the room allotted to Beebe. While the
slaves were alert in the execution of these benevolent commands, the
interpreter slunk away on his face and elbows. But the old Moslem, as
soon as his hands were free, picked up his turban, advanced, and laid it
at the feet of his deliverer, with the graceful salutation of his
people, "Peace be with thee, O Vizier of a wise king!" The mild and
venerable aspect of the Moonshee, and his snow-white beard falling low
upon his breast, must have inspired the Siamese statesman with abiding
feelings of respect and consideration, for he was ever afterward
indulgent to that Oriental Dominie Sampson of my little household.

Dinner at the Premier's was composed and served with the same
incongruous blending of the barbaric and the refined, the Oriental and
the European, that characterized the furniture and adornments of his
palace. The saucy little pages who handled the dishes had cigarettes
between their pouting lips, and from time to time hopped over the heads
of Medusæ to expectorate. When I pointed reproachfully to the double
peccadillo, they only laughed and scampered off. Another detachment of
these lads brought in fruits, and, when they had set the baskets or
dishes on the table, retired to sofas to lounge till we had dined. But
finding I objected to such manners, they giggled gayly, performed
several acrobatic feats on the carpet, and left us to wait on ourselves.

Twilight on my pretty piazza. The fiery sun is setting, and long pencils
of color, from palettes of painted glass, touch with rose and gold the
low brow and downcast eyes and dainty bosom of a bust of Clyte. Beebe
and Moonshee are preparing below in the open air their evening meal; and
the smoke of their pottage is borne slowly, heavily on the hot still
air, stirred only by the careless laughter of girls plunging and
paddling in the dimpled lake. The blended gloom and brightness without
enter, and interweave themselves with the blended gloom and brightness
within, where lights and shadows lie half asleep and half awake, and
life breathes itself sluggishly away, or drifts on a slumberous stream
toward its ocean of death.



III. A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY.


Before inducting the reader to more particular acquaintance with his
Excellency Chow Phya Sri-Sury Wongse Samuha-P'hra Kralahome, I have
thought that "an abstract and brief chronicle" of the times of the
strange people over whom he is not less than second in dignity and
power, would not be out of place.

In the opinion of Pickering, the Siamese are undoubtedly Malay; but a
majority of the intelligent Europeans who have lived long among them
regard the native population as mainly Mongolian. They are generally of
medium stature, the face broad, the forehead low, the eyes black, the
cheekbones prominent, the chin retreating, the mouth large, the lips
thick, and the beard scanty. In common with most of the Asiatic races,
they are apt to be indolent, improvident, greedy, intemperate, servile,
cruel, vain, inquisitive, superstitious, and cowardly; but individual
variations from the more repulsive types are happily not rare. In public
they are scrupulously polite and decorous according to their own notions
of good manners, respectful to the aged, affectionate to their kindred,
and bountiful to their priests, of whom more than twenty thousand are
supported by voluntary contributions in Bangkok alone. Marriage is
contracted at sixteen for males, and fourteen for females, and polygamy
is the common practice, without limit to the number of wives except such
as may be imposed by the humble estate or poverty of the husband; the
women are generally treated with consideration.

The bodies of the dead are burned; and the badges of mourning are white
robes for those of the family or kinfolk who are younger than the
deceased, black for those who are older, and shaven heads for all who
are in inferior degrees connected with the dead, either as descendants,
dependents, servants, or slaves. When a king dies the entire population,
with the exception of very young children, must display this tonsorial
uniform.

Every ancient or famous city of Siam has a story of its founding, woven
for it from tradition or fable; and each of these legends is
distinguished from the others by peculiar features. The religion,
customs, arts, and literature of a people naturally impart to their
annals a spirit all their own. Especially is this the case in the
Orient, where the most original and suggestive thought is half disguised
in the garb of metaphor, and where, in spite of vivid fancies and fiery
passions, the people affect taciturnity or reticence, and delight in the
metaphysical and the mystic. Hence the early annals of the Siamese, or
Sajamese, abound in fables of heroes, demigods, giants, and genii, and
afford but few facts of practical value. Swayed by religious influences,
they joined, in the spirit of the Hebrews, the name of God to the titles
of their rulers and princes, whom they almost deified after death. But
the skeleton sketch of the history of Siam that follows is of
comparatively modern date, and may be accepted as in the main authentic.

In the year 712 of the Siamese, and 1350 of the Christian era,
Phya-Othong founded, near the river Meinam, about sixty miles from the
Gulf of Siam, the city of Ayudia or Ayuthia ("the Abode of the Gods");
at the same time he assumed the title of P'hra Rama Thibodi. This
capital and stronghold was continually exposed to storms of civil war
and foreign invasion; and its turreted battlements and ponderous gates,
with the wide deep moat spanned by drawbridges, where now is a forest of
great trees, were but the necessary fences behind which court and
garrison took shelter from the tempestuous barbarism in the midst of
which they lived. But before any portion of the city, except that facing
the river, could boast of a fortified enclosure, hostile enterprises
were directed against it. Birman pirates, ascending the Meinam in
formidable flotillas, harassed it. Thrice they ravaged the country
around; but on the last of these occasions great numbers of them were
captured and put to cruel death by P'hra Rama Suen, successor to
Thibodi, who pursued the routed remnant to the very citadel of
Chiengmai, then a tributary of the Birman Empire. Having made successful
war upon this province, and impressed thousands of Laotian captives, he
next turned his arms against Cambodia, took the capital by storm, slew
every male capable of bearing arms, and carried off enormous treasures
in plate gold, with which, on his return to his kingdom, he erected a
remarkable pagoda, called to this day "The Mountain of Gold."

P'hra Rama Suen was succeeded by his son Phya Ram, who reigned fourteen
years, and was assassinated by his uncle, Inthra Racha, the governor or
feudal lord of the city, who had snatched the reins of government and
sent three of his sons to rule over the northern provinces. At the death
of Inthra Racha, in 780, two of these princes set out simultaneously,
with the design of seizing and occupying the vacant throne. Mounted on
elephants, they met in the dusk of evening on a bridge leading to the
Royal Palace; and each instantly divining his brother's purpose, they
dismounted, and with their naked swords fell upon each other with such
fury that both were slain on the spot. The political and social
disorganization that prevailed at this period was aggravated by the
vulnerable condition of the monarchy, then recently transferred to a new
line. Princes of the blood royal were for a long time engaged, brother
against brother, in fierce family feuds. Ayuthia suffered gravely from
these unnatural contentions, but even more from the universal license
and riot that reigned among the nobility and the proud proprietors of
the soil. In the distracted and enfeebled state of all authority, royal
and magisterial, the fields around remained for many years untilled; and
the only evidence the land presented of the abode of man was here and
there the bristling den of some feudal chief, a mere outlaw and dacoit,
who rarely sallied from it but to carry torch and pillage wherever there
was aught to sack or burn.

In 834 the undisputed sovereignty of the kingdom fell to another P'hra
Rama Thibodi, who reigned thirty years, and is famous in Siamese annals
for the casting of a great image of Buddha, fifty cubits high, of gold
very moderately alloyed with copper. On an isolated hill, in a sacred
enclosure, he erected for this image a stately temple of the purest
white marble, approached by a graceful flight of steps. From the ruins
of its eastern front, which are still visible, it appears to have had
six columns at either end and thirteen on each side; the eastern
pediment is adorned with sculptures, as are also the ten metopes.

P'hra Rama Thibodi was succeeded by his son, P'hra Racha Kuman, whose
reign was short, and chiefly memorable for a tremendous conflagration
that devastated Ayuthia. It raged three days, and destroyed more than a
hundred thousand houses.

This monarch left at his death but one son, P'hra Yot-Fa, a lad of
twelve, whose mother, the Queen Sisudah-Chand, was appointed regent
during his minority.

The devil of ambition has rarely possessed the heart of an Eastern queen
more absolutely than it did that of this infamous woman,--infamous even
in heathen annals. She is said to have graced her exalted station alike
by the beauty of her person and the charm of her manner; but in pursuit
of the most arbitrary and audacious purposes she moved with the
recklessness their nature demanded, and with equal impatience trampled
on friend and rival. Blind superstition was the only weak point in her
character; but though her deference to the imaginary instructions or
warnings of the stars was slavish, it does not seem to have deterred her
from any false or cruel course; indeed, a cunning astrologer of her
court, by scaring her with visionary perils, contrived to obtain a
monstrous ascendency over her mind, only to plunge her into crime more
deeply than by her own weight of wickedness she might have sunk. She
ordered the secret assassination of every member of the royal household
(not excepting her mother and sisters), who, however mildly, opposed her
will. Besotted with fear, that fruitful mother of crime, she ended by
putting to death the young king, her son, and publicly calling her
paramour (the court astrologer, in whose thoughts, she believed, were
hidden all the secrets of divination) to the throne of the P'hrabatts.

This double crime filled the measure of her impunity. The nobility
revolted. The strength of their faction lay, not within the palace,
which was filled with the queen's parasites, but with the feudal
proprietors of the soil, who, exasperated by the abominations of the
court, only waited for a chance to crush it. One day, as the queen and
her paramour were proceeding in a barge on their customary visit to her
private pagoda and garden,--a paradise of all the floral wonders of the
tropics,--a nobleman, who had followed them, hailed the royal gondola,
as if for instructions, and, being permitted to approach, suddenly
sprang upon the guilty pair, drew his sword, and dispatched them both,
careless of their loud cries for help. Almost simultaneously with the
performance of this tragic exploit, the nobles offered the crown to an
uncle of the murdered heir, who had fled from the court and taken refuge
in a monastery. Having accepted it and assumed the title of
Maha-Charapât Racha-therat, he invaded Pegu with a hundred thousand
men-at-arms, five thousand war elephants, and seven thousand horse. With
this mighty host he marched against Henzawadi, the capital of Pegu,
laying waste the country as he went with fire and sword. The king of
Pegu came out to meet him, accompanied by his romantic and intrepid
queen, Maha Chandra, and supported by the few devoted followers that on
so short a notice he could bring together. In consideration of this
great disparity of forces, the two kings agreed, in the chivalric spirit
of the time, to decide the fortune of the day by single combat. Hardly
had they encountered, when the elephant on which the king of Pegu was
mounted took fright and fled the field; but his queen promptly took his
place, and fighting rashly, fell, speared through the right breast. She
was borne off amid the clash of cymbals and flourish of trumpets that
hailed the victor.

Maha-Charapât Racha-therat was a great prince. His wisdom, valor, and
heroic exploits supplied the native bards with inspiring themes. By his
magnanimity he extinguished the envy of the neighboring princes and
transformed rivals into friends. Jealous rulers became his willing
vassals, not from fear of his power, but in admiration for his virtues.
Malacca, Tenasserim, Ligor, Thavai, Martaban, Maulmain, Songkhla,
Chantaboon, Phitsanulok, Look-Kho-Thai, Phi-chi, Savan Khalok, Phechit,
Cambodia, and Nakhon Savan were all dependencies of Siam under his
reign.

In the year 1568 of the Christian era the Siamese territory was invaded
and laid under tribute by a Birman king named Mandanahgri, who must have
been a warrior of Napoleonic genius, for he extended his dominion as far
as the confines of China. It is remarkable that the flower of his army
was composed of several thousand Portuguese, tried troops in good
discipline, commanded by the noted Don Diego Suanes. These, like the
famous Scotch Legion of Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years' War, were
mercenaries, and doubtless contributed importantly to the success of the
Birman arms. Theirs is by no means the only case of Portuguese soldiers
serving for hire in the armies of the East. Their commander, Suanes,
seems to have been a brave and accomplished officer, and to have been
intrusted with undivided control of the Birmese forces.

Mandanahgri held the queen of Siam and her two sons as hostages for the
payment of the tribute he had levied; but the princes were permitted to
return to Siam after a few years of captivity in Birmah, and in 1583
their captor died. His successor struggled with an uncle for possession
of the throne, and the king of Siam, seizing the opportunity, declared
himself independent; wherefore a more formidable army was shortly sent
against him, under command of the eldest son of the king of Birmah. But
one of the young princes who had been led into captivity by Mandanahgri
now sat on the throne of Siam. In his youth he had been styled "the
Black Prince," a title of distinction which seems to have fitted his
characteristics not less appropriately than it did those of the English
Edward. Undismayed by the strength and fury of the enemy, he attacked
and routed them in a pitched battle, killing their leader with his own
hands, invaded Pegu, and besieged its capital; but was finally compelled
to retire with considerable loss. The Black Prince was succeeded by "the
White King," who reigned peacefully for many years.

The next monarch especially worthy of notice is P'hra Narai, who sent
ambassadors to Goa, the most important of the Portuguese
trading-stations in the East Indies, chiefly to invite the Portuguese of
Malacca to establish themselves in Siam for mutual advantages of trade.
The welcome emissaries were sumptuously entertained, and a Dominican
friar accompanied them on their return, with costly presents for the
king. This friar found P'hra Narai much more liberal in his ideas than
later ambassadors, even to this day, have found any other ruler of Siam.
He agreed not only to permit all Portuguese merchants to establish
themselves anywhere in his dominions, but to exempt their goods and
wares from duty. The Dominican monks were likewise invited to build
churches and preach Christianity in Siam.

Soon after this extraordinary display of liberal statesmanship P'hra
Narai narrowly escaped death by a strange conspiracy. Four or five
hundred Japanese adventurers were secretly introduced into the country
by an ambitious feudal proprietor, who had conceived the mad design of
dethroning the monarch and reigning in his stead; but the king, warned
of the planned attack upon the palace, seized the native conspirator and
put him to death. The Japanese, on the contrary, were enrolled as a kind
of praetorian guard, or janissaries; in this character, however, their
pride and power became so formidable that the king grew uneasy and
disbanded them.

P'hra Narai, from all accounts, was a man to be respected and esteemed.
The events and the _dramatis personae_ of his reign form a story so
romantic, so exceptional even in Eastern annals, that, but for the
undoubted authenticity of this chapter of Siamese history, it would be
incredible. It was during his reign that the whimsical attempt was made
by Louis XIV. to conquer Siam and proselyte her king. An extraordinary
spectacle! One of the most licentious monarchs of France, who to the
last breathed an atmosphere poisoned with scepticism, and more than
Buddhism itself subversive of the true principles of Christianity, is
suddenly inspired with an apparently devout longing to be the instrument
of converting to the true faith the princes of the East. To this end he
employs that wily, powerful, and indefatigable body of daring priests,
the Jesuits, who were then in the very ardor of their missionary
schemes.

Ostensibly for the purpose of propagating the Gospel, but with more
reality aspiring to extend their subtile influence over all mankind,
this society, with means the most slender and in the face of obstacles
the most disheartening, have, with indomitable courage and supernatural
patience, accomplished labors unparalleled in the achievements of mind.
Now, in the wilds of Western America, taming and teaching races of whose
existence the world of refinement had never heard; now climbing the icy
steeps and tracking the wastes and wildernesses of Siberia, or with the
evangel of John in one hand and the art of Luke in the other, bringing
life to the bodies and souls of perishing multitudes under a scorching
equatorial sun,--there is not a spot of earth in which European
civilization has taken root where traces of Jesuit forethought and
careful, patient husbandry may not be found. So in Siam, we discover a
monarch of consummate acumen, more European than Asiatic in his ideas,
sedulously cultivating the friendship of these foreign workers of
wonders; and finally we find a Greek adventurer officiating as prime
minister to this same king, and conducting his affairs with that ability
and success which must have commanded intellectual admiration, even if
they had not been inspired and promoted by motives of integrity toward
the monarch who had so implicitly confided in his wisdom and fidelity.

Constantine Phaulkon was the son of respectable parents, natives of the
island of Cephalonia, where he was born in 1630. The geography, if not
the very name, of the kingdom whose affairs he was destined to direct
was quite unknown to his compatriots of the Ionian Isles,--even when as
a mariner, wrecked on the coast of Malabar, he became a fellow-passenger
with a party of Siamese officials, his companions in disaster, who were
returning to their country from an embassy. The facile Greek quickly
learned to talk with his new-found friends in their own tongue, and by
his accomplishments and adroitness made a place for himself in their
admiration and influence, so that he was received with flattering
consideration at the Court of P'hra Narai, and very soon invited to take
service under government. By his sagacity, tact, and diligence in the
management of all affairs intrusted to him, he rapidly rose in favor
with his patron, who finally elevated him to the highest post of honor
in the state: he was made premier.

The star of the Cephalonian waif and adventurer had now mounted to the
zenith, and was safe to shine for many years with unabated brilliancy;
to this day he is remembered by the expressive term _Vicha-yen_, "the
cool wisdom." The French priests, elated at his success, spared no
promises or arts to retain him secretly in their interest. Under
circumstances so extraordinary and auspicious, the plans of the Jesuits
for the conversion of all Eastern Asia were put in execution. From the
Vatican bishops were appointed, and sent out to Cochin China, Cambodia,
Siam, and Pegu, while the people of those several kingdoms were yet
profoundly ignorant of the amiable intentions of the Pope. Francis
Pallu, M. De la Motte Lambert, and Ignatius Cotolendy were the
respective exponents of this pious idea, under the imposing titles of
Bishops of Heliopolis, Borytus, Byzantium, and Metellopolis,--all
Frenchmen, for Louis XIV. insisted that the glory of the enterprise
should be ascribed exclusively to France and to himself.

But all their efforts to convert the king were of no avail. The Jesuits,
however, opened schools, and have ever since labored assiduously and
with success to introduce the ideas and the arts of Europe into those
countries.

After some years P'hra Narai sent an embassy to the Court of Louis, who
was so sensible of the flattery that he immediately reciprocated with an
embassy of his own, with more priests, headed by the Chevalier De
Chaumont and the Père Tachard. The French fleet of five ships cast
anchor in the Meinam on the 27th of September, 1687, and the Chevalier
and his reverend colleague, attended by Jesuits, were promptly and
graciously received by the king, who, however, expressed his "fears"
that the chief object of their mission might not prove so easy of
attainment as they had been led to believe. As for Phaulkon, he had
adroitly deceived the Jesuits from the first, and made all parties
instruments to promote his own shrewd and secret plans.

De Chaumont, disheartened by his failure, sailed back to France, where
he arrived in 1688, in the height of the agitation attending the English
Revolution of that year.

Phaulkon, finding that he could no longer conceal from the Jesuits the
king's repugnance to their plans for his conversion, placed himself
under their direction and control; for though he had not as yet
conceived the idea of seizing upon the crown, it was plain that he
aspired to honors higher than the premiership. Then rumors of
disaffection among the nobles were diligently propagated by the French
priests, who, although not sufficiently powerful to dethrone the king,
were nevertheless dangerous inciters of rebellion among the common
people.

Meanwhile the king of Johore, then a tributary of Siam, instigated by
the Dutch, who, from the first, had watched with jealousy the
machinations of the French, sent envoys to P'hra Narai, to advise the
extermination or expulsion of the French, and to proffer the aid of his
troops; but the proposition was rejected with indignation.

These events were immediately followed by another, known in Siamese
history as the Revolt of the Macassars, which materially promoted the
ripening of the revolution of which the French had sown the seeds.
Celebes, a large, irregular island east of Borneo, includes a district
known as Macassar, the ruler of which had been arbitrarily dethroned by
the Dutch; and the sons of the injured monarch, taking refuge in Siam,
secretly encouraged the growing enmity of the nobles against the French.

Meanwhile Phaulkon, by his address, and skilful management of public
affairs, continued to exercise paramount influence over the mind of the
king. He persuaded P'hra Narai to send another embassy to France, which
arrived happily (the former having been shipwrecked off the Cape of Good
Hope) at the Court of Louis XIV. in 1689. He also diligently and ably
advanced the commercial strength of the country; merchants from all
parts of the world were invited to settle in Siam, and factories of
every nation were established along the banks of the Meinam. Both Ayudia
and Lophaburee became busy and flourishing. He was careful to keep the
people employed, and applied himself with vigor to improving the
agriculture of the country. Rice, sugar, corn, and palm-oil constituting
the most fruitful and regular source of revenue, he wisely regulated the
traffic in those staples, and was studious to promote the security and
happiness of the great body of the population engaged or concerned in
their production. The laws he framed were so sound and stable, and at
the same time so wisely conformable to the interests alike of king and
subject, that to this day they constitute the fundamental law of the
land.

Phaulkon designed and built the palaces at Lophaburee, consisting of two
lofty edifices, square, with pillars on all sides; each pillar was made
to represent a succession of shafts by the intervention of salient
blocks, forming capitals to what they surmounted and pedestals to what
they supported. The apartments within were gorgeously gilt and
sumptuously furnished. There yet remains, in remarkable preservation, a
vermilion chamber looking toward the east; though, otherwise, a forest
of stately trees and several broken arches alone mark the spot where
dwelt in regal splendor this foreign favorite of P'hra Narai.

He also erected the famous castle on the west of the town, on a piece of
ground, near the north bank of the river, which formerly belonged to a
Buddhist monastery.

Finally, to keep off the Birman invaders, he built a wall, surmounted
along its whole extent by a parapet, and fortified with towers at
regular intervals of forty fathoms, as well as by four larger ones at
its extremities on the banks of the river, below the two bridges. Its
gates appear to have been twelve or thirteen in number, and the extent
of the southern portion is fixed at two thousand fathoms. Suburban
villages still exist on both sides of the river, and, beyond these, the
religious buildings, which have been restored, but which now display the
fantastic rather than the grand style which distinguished the
architecture of this consummate Grecian, whom the people name with
wonder,--all marvellous works being by them attributed to gods, genii,
devils, or the "Vicha-yen."

But the luxury in which the haughty statesman revelled, his towering
ambition, and the wealth he lavished on his private abodes, joined to
the lofty, condescending air he assumed toward the nobles, soon provoked
their jealous murmurings against him and his too partial master; and
when, at last, the king, falling ill, repaired to the premier's palace
at Lophaburee, some of the more disaffected nobles, headed by a natural
son of P'hra Narai and the two princes of Macassar, forced their way
into the palace to slay the monarch. But the brave old man, at a glance
divining their purpose, leaped from his couch and, seizing his sword,
threw himself upon it, and died as his assassins entered.

In the picturesque drama of Siamese history no figure appears so truly
noble and brilliant as this king, not merely renowned by the glory of
his military exploits and the happy success of his more peaceful
undertakings, but beloved for his affectionate concern for the welfare
of his subjects, his liberality, his moderation, his modesty, his
indifference to the formal honors due to his royal state, and (what is
most rare in Asiatic character) his sincere aversion to flattery, his
shyness even toward deserved and genuine praise.

Turning from the corpse of the king, the baffled regicides dashed at the
luxurious apartment where Phaulkon slumbered, as was his custom of an
afternoon, unattended save by his fair young daughter Constantia.
Breaking in, they tore the sleeping father from the arms of his agonized
child, who with piteous implorings offered her life for his, bound him
with cords, dragged him to the woods beyond his garden, and there,
within sight of the lovely little Greek chapel he had erected for his
private devotions, first tortured him like fiends, and then, dispatching
him, flung his body into a pit. His daughter, following them, clung fast
to her father, and, though her heart bled and her brain grew numb
between the gashes and the groans, she still cheered him with her
passionate endearments; and, holding before his eyes a cross of gold
that always hung on her bosom, inspired him to die like a brave man and
a Christian. After that the lovely heroine was dragged into slavery and
concubinage by the infamous Chow Dua, one of the bloodiest of the gang.

Even pagan chroniclers do not fail to render homage to so brave a man,
of whom they tell that "he bore all with a fortitude and defiance that
astounded the monsters who slew him, and convinced them that he derived
his supernatural courage and contempt of pain from the miraculous
virtues of his daughter's golden cross."  After the death of the able
premier, the Birmese again overran the land, laying waste the fields,
and besieging the city of Ayuthia for two years. Finding they could not
reduce it by famine, they tried flames, and the burning is said to have
lasted two whole months. One of the feudal lords of Siam, Phya Tâk, a
Chinese adventurer, who had amassed wealth, and held the office of
governor of the northern provinces under the late king, seeing the
impending ruin of the country, assembled his personal followers and
dependants, and with about a thousand hardy and resolute warriors
retired to the mountain fastness of Naghon Najok, whence from time to
time he swooped down to harass the encampments of the Birmese, who were
almost invariably worsted in the skirmishes he provoked. He then moved
upon Bangplasoi, and the people of that place came out with gifts of
treasure and hailed him as their sovereign. Thence he sailed to Rajong,
strengthened his small force with volunteers in great numbers, marched
against Chantaboon, whose governor had disputed his authority, and
executed that indiscreet official; levied another large army; built and
equipped a hundred vessels of war; and set sail--a part of his army
preceding him overland--for Kankhoa, on the confines of Cochin China,
which place he brought to terms in less than three hours. Thence he
pushed on to Cambodia, and arriving there on the Siamese Sabâto, or
Sabbath, he issued a solemn proclamation to his army, assuring them that
he would that evening worship in the temple of the famous emerald idol,
P'hra Këau. Every man was ordered to arm as if for battle, but to wear
the sacred robe,--white for the laity, yellow for the clergy; and all
the priests who followed his fortunes were required to lead the way into
the grand temple through the southern portico, over which stood a
triple-headed tower. Then the conqueror, having prepared himself by
fasting and purification, clad in his sacred robes and armed to the
teeth, followed and made his words good.  Almost his first act was to
send his ships to the adjacent provinces for supplies of rice and grain,
which he dispensed so bountifully to the famishing people that they
gratefully accepted his rule.

This king is described as an enthusiastic and indefatigable warrior,
scorning palaces, and only happy in camp or at the head of his army. His
people found in him a true friend, he was ever kind and generous to the
poor, and to his soldiers he paid fivefold the rates of former reigns.
But toward the nobles he was haughty, rude, exacting. It is supposed
that his prime minister, fearing to oppose him openly, corrupted his
chief concubine, and with her assistance drugged his food; so that he
was rendered insane, and, imagining himself a god, insisted that
sacrifices and offerings should be made to him, and began to levy upon
the nobility for enormous sums, often putting them to the torture to
extort treasure. Instigated by their infuriated lords, the people now
rebelled against their lately idolized master, and attacked him in his
palace, from, which he fled by a secret passage to an adjoining
monastery, in the disguise of a priest. But the premier, to whom he was
presently betrayed, had him put to death, on the pretext that he might
cause still greater scandal and disaster, but in reality to establish
himself in undisputed possession of the throne, which he now usurped
under the title of P'hra-Phuthi-Chow-Luang, and removed the palace from
the west to the east bank of the Meinam. During his reign the Birmese
made several attempts to invade the country, but were invariably
repulsed with loss.

This brings us to the uneventful reign of Phen-den-Klang; and by his
death, in 1825, to the beginning of the story of his Majesty, Maha
Mongkut, the late supreme king, and my employer, with whom, in these
pages, we shall have much to do.



IV. HIS EXCELLENCY'S HAREM AND HELPMEET.


When the Senabawdee, or Royal Council, by elevating to the throne the
priest-prince Chowfa Mongkut, frustrated the machinations of the son of
his predecessor, they by the same stroke crushed the secret hopes of
Chow Phya Sri Sury Wongse, the present premier. It is whispered to this
day--for no native, prince or peasant, may venture to approach the
subject openly--that, on the day of coronation, his Excellency retired
to his private chambers, and there remained, shut up with his chagrin
and grief, for three days. On the fourth, arrayed in his court robes and
attended by a numerous retinue, he presented himself at the palace to
take part in the ceremonies with which the coronation was celebrated.
The astute young king, who in his priestly character had penetrated many
state secrets, advanced to greet him, and with the double purpose of
procuring the adherence and testing the fidelity of this discontented
and wavering son of his stanch old champion, the Duke Somdetch Ong Yai,
appointed him on the spot to the command of the army, under the title of
Phya P'hra Kralahome.

This flattering distinction, though it did not immediately beguile him
from his moodiness, for a time diverted his dangerous fancies into
channels of activity, and he found a safe expression for his annoyance
in a useful restlessness. But after he had done more than any of his
predecessors to remodel and perfect the army, he relapsed into morbid
melancholy, from which he was once more aroused by the call of his royal
master, who invited him to share the labors and the honors of government
in the highest civil office, that of prime minister. He accepted, and
has ever since shown himself prolific in devices to augment the revenue,
secure the co-operation of the nobility, and confirm his own power. His
remarkable executive faculty, seconding the enlightened policy of the
king, would doubtless have inaugurated a golden age for his country, but
for the aggressive meddling of French diplomacy in the quarrels between
the princes of Cochin China and Cambodia; by which exasperating measure
Siam is in the way to lose one of her richest possessions, [Footnote:
Cambodia.] and may in time become, herself, the brightest and most
costly jewel in the crown of France.

Such was Chow Phya Sri Sury Wongse when I was first presented to him: a
natural king among the dusky forms that surrounded him, the actual ruler
of that semi-barbarous realm, and the prime contriver of its arbitrary
policy. Black, but comely, robust, and vigorous, neck short and thick,
nose large and nostrils wide, eyes inquisitive and penetrating, his was
the massive brain proper to an intellect deliberate and systematic. Well
found in the best idioms of his native tongue, he expressed strong,
discriminative thoughts in words at once accurate and abundant. His only
vanity was his English, with which he so interlarded his native speech,
as often to impart the effect of levity to ideas that, in themselves,
were grave, judicious, and impressive.

Let me conduct the reader into one of the saloons of the palace, where
we shall find this intellectual sensualist in the moral relaxation of
his harem, with his latest pets and playthings about him.

Peering into a twilight, studiously contrived, of dimly-lighted and
suggestive shadows, we discover in the centre of the hall a long line of
girls with skins of olive,--creatures who in years and physical
proportions are yet but children, but by training developed into women
and accomplished actresses. There are some twenty of them, in
transparent draperies with golden girdles, their arms and bosoms, wholly
nude, flashing, as they wave and heave, with barbaric ornaments of gold.
The heads are modestly inclined, the hands are humbly folded, and the
eyes droop timidly beneath long lashes. Their only garment, the lower
skirt, floating in light folds about their limbs, is of very costly
material bordered heavily with gold. On the ends of their fingers they
wear long "nails" of gold, tapering sharply like the claws of a bird.
The apartment is illuminated by means of candelabras, hung so high that
the light falls in a soft hazy mist on the tender faces and pliant forms
below.

Another group of maidens, comely and merry, sit behind musical
instruments, of so great variety as to recall the "cornet, flute,
sackbut, harp, psaltery, and dulcimer" of Scripture. The "head wife" of
the premier, earnestly engaged in creaming her lips, reclines apart on a
dais, attended by many waiting-women.

From the folds of a great curtain a single flute opens the entertainment
with low tender strains, and from the recesses twelve damsels appear,
bearing gold and silver fans, with which, seated in order, they fan the
central group.

Now the dancers, a burst of joyous music being the signal, form in two
lines, and simultaneously, with military precision, kneel, fold and
raise their hands, and bow till their foreheads touch the carpet before
their lord. Then suddenly springing to their feet, they describe a
succession of rapid and intricate circles, tapping the carpet with their
toes in time to the music. Next follows a miracle of art, such as may be
found only among pupils of the highest physical training; a dance in
which every motion is poetry, every attitude an expression of love, even
rest but the eloquence of passion overcome by its own fervor. The music
swelling into a rapturous tumult preludes the choral climax, wherein the
dancers, raising their delicate feet, and curving their arms and fingers
in seemingly impossible flexures, sway like withes of willow, and
agitate all the muscles of the body like the fluttering of leaves in a
soft breeze. Their eyes glow as with an inner light; the soft brown
complexion, the rosy lips half parted, the heaving bosom, and the waving
arms, as they float round and round in wild eddies of dance, impart to
them the aspect of fair young fiends.

And there sits the Kralahome, like the idol of ebony before the demon
had entered it! while around him these elfin worshippers, with flushed
cheeks and flashing eyes, tossing arms and panting bosoms, whirl in
their witching waltz. He is a man to be wondered at,--stony and grim,
his huge hands resting on his knees in statuesque repose, as though he
supported on his well-poised head the whole weight of the Maha Mongkut
[Footnote: "The Mighty Crown."] itself, while at his feet these brown
leaves of humanity lie quivering.

Is it all _maya_,--delusion? I open wide my eyes, then close them, then
open them again. There still lie the living puppets, not daring to look
up to the face of their silent god, where scorn and passion contend for
place. The dim lights, the shadows blending with them, the fine harmony
of colors, the wild harmony of sounds, the fantastic phantoms, the
overcoming sentiment, all the poetry and the pity of the scene,--the
formless longing, the undefined sense of wrong! Poor things, poor
things!

The prime minister of Siam enjoys no exemption from that mocking law
which condemns the hero strutting on the stage of the world to cut but a
sorry figure at home. Toward these helpless slaves of his nod his
deportment was studiously ungracious and mean. No smile of pleased
surprise or approbation ever brightened his gloomy countenance. True,
the fire of his native ardor burns there still, but through no crevice
of the outward man may one catch a glimpse of its light. Though he rage
as a fiery furnace within, externally he is calm as a lake, too deep to
be troubled by the skipping, singing brooks that flow into it. Rising
automatically, he abruptly retired, bored. And those youthful, tender
forms, glowing and panting there,--in what glorious robes might not
their proper loveliness have arrayed them, if only their hearts had
looked upward in freedom, and not, like their trained eyes, downward in
blind homage.

Koon Ying Phan (literally, "The Lady in One Thousand") was the head wife
of the Premier. He married her, after repudiating the companion of his
more grateful years, the mother of his only child, a son--the legitimacy
of whose birth he doubted, and so, for a grim jest, named the lad _My
Chi_, "Not So." He would have put the mother to death, but finding no
real grounds for his suspicion, let her off with a public "putting
away." The divorced woman, having nothing left but her disowned baby,
carefully changed the _My Chi_ to _Ny Chi_ ("Not So" to "Master So
"),--a cunning trick of pride, but a doubtful improvement.

Koon Ying Phan had neither beauty nor grace; but her habits were
domestic, and her temper extremely mild. When I first knew her she was
perhaps forty years old,--stout, heavy, dark,--her only attraction the
gentle expression of her eyes and mouth. Around her pretty residence,
adjoining the Premier's palace, bloomed the most charming garden I saw
in Siam, with shrubberies, fountains, and nooks, designed by a true
artist; though the work of the native florists is usually fantastic and
grotesque, with an excess of dwarfed trees in Chinese vases. There was,
besides, a cool, shaded walk, leading to a more extensive garden,
adorned with curious lattice-work, and abounding in shrubs of great
variety and beauty. Koon Ying Phan had a lively love for flowers, which
she styled the children of her heart; "for my lord is childless," she
whispered.

In her apartments the same subdued lights and mellow half-tints
prevailed that in her husband's saloons imparted a pensive sentiment to
the place. There were neither carpets nor mirrors; and the only articles
of furniture were some sofa-beds, low marble couches, tables, and a few
arm-chairs, but all of forms antique and delicate. The combined effect
was one of delicious coolness, retirement, and repose, even despite the
glaring rays that strove to invade the sweet refuge through the silken
window-nets.

This lady, to whom belonged the undivided supervision of the premier's
household, was kind to the younger women of her husband's harem, in
whose welfare she manifested a most amiable interest,--living among them
happily, as a mother among her daughters, sharing their confidences, and
often pleading their cause with her lord and theirs, over whom she
exercised a very cautious but positive influence.

I learned gladly and with pride to admire and love this lady, to accept
her as the type of a most precious truth. For to behold, even afar off,
"silent upon a peak" of sympathy, the ocean of love and pathos, of
passion and patience, on which the lives of these our pagan sisters
drift, is to be gratefully sensible of a loving, pitying, and sufficing
Presence, even in the darkness of error, superstition, slavery, and
death. Shortly after her marriage, Koon Ying Phan, moved partly by
compassion for the wrongs of her predecessor, partly by the "aching
void" of her own life, adopted the disowned son of the premier, and
called him, with reproachful significance, P'hra Nah Why, "the Lord
endures." And her strong friend, Nature, who had already knit together,
by nerve and vein and bone and sinew, the father and the child, now came
to her aid, and united them by the finer but scarcely weaker ties of
habit and companionship and home affections.

[Illustration: THE TEMPLE OF THE SLEEPING IDOL.]



V. THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING AND THE EMERALD IDOLS.


The day had come for my presentation to the supreme king. After much
preliminary talk between the Kralahome and myself, through the medium of
the interpreter, it had been arranged that my straightforward friend,
Captain B----, should conduct us to the royal palace, and procure the
interview. Our cheerful escort arrived duly, and we proceeded up the
river,--my boy maintaining an ominous silence all the while, except
once, when he shyly confessed he was afraid to go.

At the landing we found a large party of priests, some bathing, some
wringing their yellow garments; graceful girls balancing on their heads
vessels of water; others, less pleasing, carrying bundles of grass, or
baskets of fruit and nuts; noblemen in gilded sedans, borne on men's
shoulders, hurrying toward the palace; in the distance a troop of
horsemen, with long glittering spears.

Passing the covered gangway at the landing, we came upon a clean brick
road, bounded by two high walls, the one on the left enclosing the abode
of royalty, the other the temple Watt Poh, where reposes in gigantic
state the wondrous Sleeping Idol. Imagine a reclining figure one hundred
and fifty feet long and forty feet high, entirely overlaid with plate
gold; the soles of its monstrous feet covered with bass-reliefs inlaid
with mother-of-pearl and chased with gold; each separate design
distinctly representing one of the many transmigrations of Buddha
whereby he obtained Niphan. On the nails are graven his divine
attributes, ten in number:

1. Arahang,--Immaculate, Pure, Chaste.
2. Samma Sam-Putho,--Cognizant of the laws of Nature, Infallible,
   Unchangeable, True.
3. Vicharanah Sampanoh,--Endowed with all Knowledge, all Science.
4. Lukha-tho,--Excellence, Perfection.
5. Lôk-havi-tho,--Cognizant of the mystery of Creation.
6. Annutharo,--Inconceivably Pure, without Sin.
7. Purisah tham-mah Sarathi,--Unconquerable, Invincible, before whom the
   angels bow.
8. Sassahdah,--Father of Beatitude, Teacher of the ways to bliss.
9. Poodh-tho,--Endowed with boundless Compassion, Pitiful, Tender, Loving,
   Merciful, Benevolent.
10. Pâk-havah,--Glorious, endowed with inconceivable Merit, Adorable.

Leaving this temple, we approached a low circular fort near the palace,
--a miniature model of a great citadel, with bastions, battlements, and
towers, showing confusedly over a crenellated wall. Entering by a curious
wooden gate, bossed with great flat-headed nails, we reached by a stony
pathway the stables (or, more correctly, the palace) of the White
Elephant, where the huge creature--indebted for its "whiteness" to
tradition rather than to nature--is housed royally. Passing these, we
next came to the famous Watt P'hra Këau, or temple of the Emerald Idol.

An inner wall separates this temple from the military depot attached to
the palace; but it is connected by a secret passage with the most
private apartments of his Majesty's harem, which, enclosed on all sides,
is accessible only to women. The temple itself is unquestionably one of
the most remarkable and beautiful structures of its class in the Orient;
the lofty octagonal pillars, the quaint Gothic doors and windows, the
tapering and gilded roofs, are carved in an infinite variety of emblems,
the lotos and the palm predominating. The adornment of the exterior is
only equalled in its profusion by the pictorial and hieroglyphic
embellishment within. The ceiling is covered with mythological figures
and symbols. Most conspicuous among the latter are the luminous circles,
resembling the mystic orb of the Hindoos, and representing the seven
constellations known to the ancients; these revolve round a central sun
in the form of a lotos, called by the Siamese _Dok Âthit_ (sun-flower),
because it expands its leaves to the rising sun and contracts them as he
sets. On the cornices are displayed the twelve signs of the zodiac.

The altar is a wonder of dimensions and splendor,--a pyramid one hundred
feet high, terminating in a fine spire of gold, and surrounded on every
side by idols, all curious and precious, from the bijou image in
sapphire to the colossal statue in plate gold. A series of trophies
these, gathered from the triumphs of Buddhism over the proudest forms of
worship in the old pagan world. In the pillars that surround the temple,
and the spires that taper far aloft, may be traced types and emblems
borrowed from the Temple of the Sun at Baalbec, the proud fane of Diana
at Ephesus, the shrines of the Delian Apollo; but the Brahminical
symbols and interpretations prevail. Strange that it should be so, with
a sect that suffered by the slayings and the outcastings of a ruthless
persecution, at the hands of their Brahmin fathers, for the cause of
restoring the culture of that simple and pure philosophy which nourished
before pantheism!

The floor is paved with diamonds of polished brass, which reflect the
light of tall tapers that have burned on for more than a hundred years,
so closely is the sacred fire watched. The floods of light and depths of
shadow about the altar are extreme, and the effect overwhelming.

The Emerald Idol is about twelve inches high and eight in width. Into
the virgin gold of which its hair and collar are composed must have been
stirred, while the metal was yet molten, crystals, topazes, sapphires,
rubies, onyxes, amethysts, and diamonds,--the stones crude, or rudely
cut, and blended in such proportions as might enhance to the utmost
imaginable limit the beauty and the cost of the adored effigy. The
combination is as harmonious as it is splendid. No wonder it is commonly
believed that Buddha himself alighted on the spot in the form of a great
emerald, and by a flash of lightning conjured the glittering edifice and
altar in an instant from the earth, to house and throne him there!

On either side of the eastern entrance--called _Patoo Ngam_, "The
Beautiful Gate"--stands a modern statue; one of Saint Peter, with
flowing mantle and sandalled feet, in an attitude of sorrow, as when "he
turned away his face and wept"; the other of Ceres, scattering flowers.
The western entrance, which admits only ladies, is styled _Patoo
Thavâdah_, "The Angels' Gate," and is guarded by genii of ferocious
aspect.

At a later period, visiting this temple in company with the king and his
family, I called his Majesty's attention to the statue at the Beautiful
Gate, as that of a Christian saint with whose story he was not
unfamiliar. Turning quickly to his children, and addressing them gently,
he bade them salute it reverently. "It is Mam's P'hra," [Footnote:
Saint, or Lord.] he said; whereupon the tribe of little ones folded
their hands devoutly, and made obeisance before the effigy of Saint
Peter. As often as my thought reverts to this inspiring shrine, reposing
in its lonely loveliness amid the shadows and the silence of its
consecrated groves, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn, however
illusive the object, but rather I rejoice to admire and applaud, the
bent of that devotion which could erect so proud and beautiful a fane in
the midst of moral surroundings so ignoble and unlovely,--a spiritual
remembrance perhaps older and truer than paganism, ennobling the pagan
mind with the idea of an architectural Sabbath, so to speak, such as a
heathen may purely enjoy and a Christian may not wisely despise.

[Illustration: THE BEAUTIFUL GATE OF THE TEMPLE.]



VI. THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS.


In 1825 a royal prince of Siam (his birthright wrested from him, and his
life imperilled) took refuge in a Buddhist monastery and assumed the
yellow garb of a priest. His father, commonly known as Phen-den-Klang,
first or supreme king of Siam, had just died, leaving this prince,
Chowfa Mongkut, at the age of twenty, lawful heir to the crown; for he
was the eldest son of the acknowledged queen, and therefore by courtesy
and honored custom, if not by absolute right, the legitimate successor
to the throne of the P'hra-batts. [Footnote: The Golden-footed.] But he
had an elder half-brother, who, through the intrigues of his mother, had
already obtained control of the royal treasury, and now, with the
connivance, if not by the authority, of the Senabawdee, the Grand
Council of the kingdom, proclaimed himself king. He had the grace,
however, to promise his plundered brother--such royal promises being a
cheap form of propitiation in Siam--to hold the reins of government only
until Chowfa Mongkut should be of years and strength and skill to manage
them. But, once firmly seated on the throne, the usurper saw in his
patient but proud and astute kinsman only a hindrance and a peril in the
path of his own cruder and fiercer aspirations. Hence the forewarning
and the flight, the cloister and the yellow robes. And so the usurper
continued to reign, unchallenged by any claim from the king that should
be, until March, 1851, when, a mortal illness having overtaken him, he
convoked the Grand Council of princes and nobles around his couch, and
proposed his favorite son as his successor. Then the safe asses of the
court kicked the dying lion with seven words of sententious scorn,--"The
crown has already its rightful owner"; whereupon the king literally
cursed himself to death, for it was almost in the convulsion, of his
chagrin and rage that he came to his end, on the 3d of April.

In Siam there is no such personage as an heir-apparent to the throne, in
the definite meaning and positive value which attaches to that phrase in
Europe,--no prince with an absolute and exclusive title, by birth,
adoption, or nomination, to succeed to the crown. And while it is true
that the eldest living son of a Siamese sovereign by his queen or queen
consort is recognized by all custom, ancient and modern, as the
_probable_ successor to the high seat of his royal sire, he cannot be
said to have a clear and indefeasible right to it, because the question
of his accession has yet to be decided by the electing voice of the
Senabawdee, in whose judgment he may be ineligible, by reason of certain
physical, mental, or moral disabilities,--as extreme youth, effeminacy,
imbecility, intemperance, profligacy. Nevertheless, the election is
popularly expected to result in the choice of the eldest son of the
queen, though an interregnum or a regency is a contingency by no means
unusual.

It was in view of this jurisdiction of the Senabawdee, exercised in
deference to a just and honored usage, that the voice of the oracle fell
upon the ear of the dying monarch with a disappointing and offensive
significance; for he well knew who was meant by the "rightful owner" of
the crown. Hardly had he breathed his last when, in spite of the busy
intrigues of his eldest son (whom we find described in the _Bangkok
Recorder_ of July 26, 1866, as "most honorable and promising"), in spite
of the bitter vexation of his lordship Chow Phya Sri Sury Wongse, so
soon to be premier, the prince Chowfa Mongkut doffed his sacerdotal
robes, emerged from his cloister, and was crowned, with the title of
Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut.[Footnote: Duke, and royal bearer
of the great crown.]

For twenty-five years had the true heir to the throne of the
P'hra-batts, patiently biding his time, lain _perdu_ in his monastery,
diligently devoting himself to the study of Sanskrit, Pali, theology,
history, geology, chemistry, and especially astronomy. He had been a
familiar visitor at the houses of the American missionaries, two of whom
(Dr. House and Mr. Mattoon) were, throughout his reign and life,
gratefully revered by him for that pleasant and profitable converse
which helped to unlock to him the secrets of European vigor and
advancement, and to make straight and easy the paths of knowledge he had
started upon. Not even the essential arrogance of his Siamese nature
could prevent him from accepting cordially the happy influences these
good and true men inspired; and doubtless he would have gone more than
half-way to meet them, but for the dazzle of the golden throne in the
distance which arrested him midway between Christianity and Buddhism,
between truth and delusion, between light and darkness, between life and
death.

In the Oriental tongues this progressive king was eminently proficient;
and toward priests, preachers, and teachers, of all creeds, sects, and
sciences, an enlightened exemplar of tolerance. It was likewise his
peculiar vanity to pass for an accomplished English scholar, and to this
end he maintained in his palace at Bangkok a private printing
establishment, with fonts of English type, which, as may be perceived
presently, he was at no loss to keep in "copy." Perhaps it was the
printing-office which suggested, quite naturally, an English governess
for the _élite_ of his wives and concubines, and their offspring,--in
number amply adequate to the constitution of a royal school, and in
material most attractively fresh and romantic. Happy thought! Wherefore,
behold me, just after sunset on a pleasant day in April, 1862, on the
threshold of the outer court of the Grand Palace, accompanied by my own
brave little boy, and escorted by a compatriot.

A flood of light sweeping through the spacious Hall of Audience
displayed a throng of noblemen in waiting. None turned a glance, or
seemingly a thought, on us, and, my child being tired and hungry, I
urged Captain B---- to present us without delay. At once we mounted the
marble steps, and entered the brilliant hall unannounced. Ranged on the
carpet were many prostrate, mute, and motionless forms, over whose heads
to step was a temptation as drolly natural as it was dangerous. His
Majesty spied us quickly, and advanced abruptly, petulantly screaming,
"Who? who? who?"

Captain B---- (who, by the by, is a titled nobleman of Siam) introduced
me as the English governess, engaged for the royal family. The king
shook hands with us, and immediately proceeded to march up and down in
quick step, putting one foot before the other with mathematical
precision, as if under drill. "Forewarned, forearmed!" my friend
whispered that I should prepare myself for a sharp cross-questioning as
to my age, my husband, children, and other strictly personal concerns.
Suddenly his Majesty, having cogitated sufficiently in his peculiar
manner, with one long final stride halted in front of us, and pointing
straight at me with his forefinger, asked, "How old shall you be?"

Scarcely able to repress a smile at a proceeding so absurd, and with my
sex's distaste for so serious a question, I demurely replied, "One
hundred and fifty years old."

Had I made myself much younger, he might have ridiculed or assailed me;
but now he stood surprised and embarrassed for a few moments, then
resumed his queer march; and at last, beginning to perceive the jest,
coughed, laughed, coughed again, and in a high, sharp key asked, "In
what year were you borned?"

Instantly I struck a mental balance, and answered, as gravely as I
could, "In 1788."

At this point the expression of his Majesty's face was indescribably
comical. Captain B---- slipped behind a pillar to laugh; but the king
only coughed, with a significant emphasis that startled me, and
addressed a few words to his prostrate courtiers, who smiled at the
carpet,--all except the prime minister, who turned to look at me. But
his Majesty was not to be baffled so: again he marched with vigor, and
then returned to the attack with _élan_.

"How many years shall you be married?"

"For several years, your Majesty."

He fell into a brown study; then, laughing, rushed at me, and demanded
triumphantly:--

"Ha! How many grandchildren shall you now have? Ha, ha! How many? How
many? Ha, ha, ha!"

Of course we all laughed with him; but the general hilarity admitted of
a variety of constructions.

Then suddenly he seized my hand, and dragged me, _nolens volens_, my
little Louis holding fast by my skirt, through several sombre passages,
along which crouched duennas, shrivelled and grotesque, and many
youthful women, covering their faces, as if blinded by the splendor of
the passing Majesty. At length he stopped before one of the
many-curtained recesses, and, drawing aside the hangings, disclosed a
lovely, childlike form. He stooped and took her hand, (she naively
hiding her face), and placing it in mine, said, "This is my wife, the
Lady Tâlâp. She desires to be educated in English. She is as pleasing
for her talents as for her beauty, and it is our pleasure to make her a
good English scholar. You shall educate her for me."

I replied that the office would give me much pleasure; for nothing could
be more eloquently winning than the modest, timid bearing of that tender
young creature in the presence of her lord. She laughed low and
pleasantly as he translated my sympathetic words to her, and seemed so
enraptured with the graciousness of his act that I took my leave of her
with a sentiment of profound pity.

He led me back by the way we had come; and now we met many children, who
put my patient boy to much childish torture for the gratification of
their startled curiosity.

"I have sixty-seven children," said his Majesty, when we had returned to
the Audience Hall. "You shall educate them, and as many of my wives,
likewise, as may wish to learn English. And I have much correspondence
in which you must assist me. And, moreover, I have much difficulty for
reading and translating French letters; for French are fond of using
gloomily deceiving terms. You must undertake; and you shall make all
their murky sentences and gloomily deceiving propositions clear to me.
And, furthermore, I have by every mail foreign letters whose writing is
not easily read by me. You shall copy on round hand, for my readily
perusal thereof."

_Nil desperandum_; but I began by despairing of my ability to accomplish
tasks so multifarious. I simply bowed, however, and so dismissed myself
for that evening.

One tempting morning, when the air was cool, my boy and I ventured some
distance beyond the bounds of our usual cautious promenade, close to the
palace of the premier. Some forty or fifty carpenters, building boats
under a long low shed, attracted the child's attention. We tarried
awhile, watching their work, and then strolled to a stone bridge hard
by, where we found a gang of repulsive wretches, all men, coupled by
means of iron collars and short but heavy fetters, in which they moved
with difficulty, if not with positive pain. They were carrying stone
from the canal to the bridge, and as they stopped to deposit their
burdens, I observed that most of them had hard, defiant faces, though
here and there were sad and gentle eyes that bespoke sympathy. One of
them approached us, holding out his hand, into which Boy dropped the few
coins he had. Instantly, with a greedy shout, the whole gang were upon
us, crowding us on all sides, wrangling, yelling. I was exceedingly
alarmed, and having no more money there, knew not what to do, except to
take my child in my arms, and strive again and again to break through
the press; but still I fell back baffled, and sickened by the
insufferable odors that emanated from their disgusting persons; and
still they pressed and scrambled and screamed, and clanked their horrid
chains. But behold! suddenly, as if struck by lightning, every man of
them fell on his face, and officers flew among them pell-mell, swingeing
with hard, heavy thongs the naked wincing backs.

It was with a sense of infinite relief that we found ourselves safe in
our rooms at last; but the breakfast tasted earthy and the atmosphere
was choking, and our very hearts were parched. At night Boy lay burning
on his little bed, moaning for _aiyer sujok_ (cold water), while I
fainted for a breath of fresh, sweet air. But God blesses these Eastern
prison-houses not at all; the air that visits them is no better than the
life within,--heavy, stifling, stupefying. For relief I betook me to the
study of the Siamese language, an occupation I had found very pleasant
and inspiring. As for Boy, who spoke Malay fluently, it was wonderful
with what aptness he acquired it.

When next I "interviewed" the king, I was accompanied by the premier's
sister, a fair and friendly woman, whose whole stock of English was,
"Good morning, sir"; and with this somewhat irrelevant greeting, a dozen
times in an hour, though the hour were night, she relieved her pent-up
feelings, and gave expression to her sympathy and regard for me.

Mr. Hunter, private secretary to the premier, had informed me, speaking
for his Excellency, that I should prepare to enter upon my duties at the
royal palace without delay. Accordingly, next morning, the elder sister
of the Kralahome came for us. She led the way to the river, followed by
slave-girls bearing a gold teapot, a pretty gold tray containing two
tiny porcelain cups with covers, her betel-box, also of gold, and two
large fans. When we were seated in the closely covered basket-boat, she
took up one of the books I had brought with me, and, turning over the
leaves, came upon the alphabet; whereat, with a look of pleased
surprise, she began repeating the letters. I helped her, and for a while
she seemed amused and gratified; but presently, growing weary of it, she
abruptly closed the book, and, offering me her hand, said, "Good
morning, sir!" I replied with equal cordiality, and I think we bade each
other good morning at least a dozen times before we reached the palace.

We landed at a showy pavilion, and after traversing several covered
passages came to a barrier guarded by Amazons, to whom the old lady was
evidently well known, for they threw open the gate for us, and
"squatted" till we passed. A hot walk of twenty minutes brought us to a
curious oval door of polished brass, which opened and shut noiselessly
in a highly ornate frame. This admitted us to a cool retreat, on one
side of which were several temples or chapels in antique styles, and on
the other a long dim gallery. On the marble floor of this pavilion a
number of interesting children sat or sprawled, and quaint babies slept
or frolicked in their nurses' arms. It was, indeed, a grateful change
from the oppressive, irritating heat and glare through which we had just
passed.

The loungers started up to greet our motherly guide, who humbly
prostrated herself before them; and then refreshments were brought in on
large silver trays, with covers of scarlet silk in the form of a
bee-hive. As no knife or fork or spoon was visible, Boy and I were fain
to content ourselves with oranges, wherewith we made ourselves an
unexpected but cheerful show for the entertainment and edification of
those juvenile spectators of the royal family of Siam. I smiled and held
out my hand to them, for they were, almost without exception, attractive
children; but they shyly shrank from me.

Meanwhile the "child-wife," to whom his Majesty had presented me at my
first audience, appeared, and after saluting profoundly the sister of
the Kralahome, and conversing with her for some minutes, lay down on the
cool floor, and, using her betel-box for a pillow, beckoned to me. As I
approached, and seated myself beside her, she said: "I am very glad to
see you. It is long time I not see. Why you come so late?" to all of
which she evidently expected no reply. I tried baby-talk, in the hope of
making my amiable sentiments intelligible to so infantile a creature,
but in vain. Seeing me disappointed and embarrassed, she oddly sang a
scrap of the Sunday-school hymn, "There is a Happy Land, far, far away";
and then said, "I think of you very often. In the beginning, God created
the heavens and the earth."

This meritorious but disjointed performance was followed by a protracted
and trying silence, I sitting patient, and Boy wondering in my lap. At
last she half rose, and, looking around, cautiously whispered, "Dear Mam
Mattoon! I love you. I think of you. Your boy dead, you come to palace;
you cry--I love you"; and laying her finger on her lips, and her head on
the betel-box again, again she sang, "There is a Happy Land, far, far
away!"

Mrs. Mattoon is the wife of that good and true American apostle who has
nobly served the cause of missions in Siam as a co-laborer with the
excellent Dr. Samuel House. While the wife of the latter devoted herself
indefatigably to the improvement of schools for the native children whom
the mission had gathered round it, Mrs. Mattoon shared her labors by
occasionally teaching in the palace, which was for some time thrown open
to the ladies of her faithful sisterhood. Here, as elsewhere, the
blended force and gentleness of her character wrought marvels in the
impressible and grateful minds to which she had access.

So spontaneous and ingenuous a tribute of reverence and affection from a
pagan to a Christian lady was inexpressibly charming to me.

Thus the better part of the day passed. The longer I rested dreaming
there, the more enchanted seemed the world within those walls. I was
aroused by a slight noise proceeding from the covered gallery, whence an
old lady appeared bearing a candlestick of gold, with branches
supporting four lighted candles. I afterward learned that these were
daily offerings, which the king, on awakening from his forenoon slumber,
sent to the Watt P'hra Këau. This apparition was the signal for much
stir. The Lady Tâlâp started to her feet and fled, and we were left
alone with the premier's sister and the slaves in waiting. The entire
household seemed to awake on the instant, as in the "Sleeping Palace" of
Tennyson, at the kiss of the Fairy Prince,--

  "The maid and page renewed their strife;
    The palace banged, and buzzed, and clackt;
   And all the long-pent stream of life
    Dashed downward in a cataract."

A various procession of women and children--some pale and downcast,
others bright and blooming, more moody and hardened--moved in the one
direction; none tarried to chat, none loitered or looked back; the lord
was awake.

  "And last with these the king awoke,
    And in his chair himself upreared,
   And yawned, and rubbed his face, and spoke."

Presently the child-wife reappeared,--arrayed now in dark blue silk,
which contrasted well with the soft olive of her complexion,--and
quickly followed the others, with a certain anxious alacrity expressed
in her baby face. I readily guessed that his Majesty was the awful cause
of all this careful bustle, and began to feel uneasy myself, as my
ordeal approached. For an hour I stood on thorns. Then there was a
general frantic rush. Attendants, nurses, slaves, vanished through
doors, around corners, behind pillars, under stairways; and at last,
preceded by a sharp, "cross" cough, behold the king!

We found his Majesty in a less genial mood than at my first reception.
He approached us coughing loudly and repeatedly, a sufficiently ominous
fashion of announcing himself, which greatly discouraged my darling boy,
who clung to me anxiously. He was followed by a numerous "tail" of women
and children, who formally prostrated themselves around him. Shaking
hands with me coldly, but remarking upon the beauty of the child's hair,
half buried in the folds of my dress, he turned to the premier's sister,
and conversed at some length with her, she apparently acquiescing in all
that he had to say. He then approached me, and said, in a loud and
domineering tone:--

"It is our pleasure that you shall reside within this palace with our
family."

I replied that it would be quite impossible for me to do so; that, being
as yet unable to speak the language, and the gates being shut every
evening, I should feel like an unhappy prisoner in the palace.

"Where do you go every evening?" he demanded.

"Not anywhere, your Majesty. I am a stranger here."

"Then why you shall object to the gates being shut?"

"I do not clearly know," I replied, with a secret shudder at the idea of
sleeping within those walls; "but I am afraid I could not do it. I beg
your Majesty will remember that in your gracious letter you promised me
'a residence adjoining the royal palace,' not within it."

He turned and looked at me, his face growing almost purple with rage. "I
do not know I have promised. I do not know former condition. I do not
know anything but you are our servant; and it is our pleasure that you
must live in this palace, and--_you shall obey_." Those last three words
he fairly screamed.

I trembled in every limb, and for some time knew not how to reply. At
length I ventured to say, "I am prepared to obey all your Majesty's
commands within the obligation of my duty to your family, but beyond
that I can promise no obedience."

"You _shall_ live in palace," he roared,--"you _shall _live in palace! I
will give woman slaves to wait on you. You shall commence royal school
in this pavilion on Thursday next. That is the best day for such
undertaking, in the estimation of our astrologers."

With that, he addressed, in a frantic manner, commands, unintelligible
to me, to some of the old women about the pavilion. My boy began to cry;
tears filled my own eyes; and the premier's sister, so kind but an hour
before, cast fierce glances at us both. I turned and led my child toward
the oval brass door. We heard voices behind us crying. "Mam! Mam!" I
turned again, and saw the king beckoning and calling to me. I bowed to
him profoundly, but passed on through the brass door. The prime
minister's sister bounced after us in a distraction of excitement,
tugging at my cloak, shaking her finger in my face, and crying, "_My di!
my di!_" [Footnote: "Bad, bad!"] All the way back, in the boat, and on
the street, to the very door of my apartments, instead of her jocund
"Good morning, sir," I had nothing but _my di_.

But kings, who are not mad, have their sober second-thoughts like other
rational people. His Golden-footed Majesty presently repented him of his
arbitrary "cantankerousness," and in due time my ultimatum was accepted.



VII. MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS.


Well! by this time I was awake to the realities of time, place, and
circumstance. The palace and its spells, the impracticable despot, the
impassible premier, were not the phantasms of a witching night, but the
hard facts of noonday. Here were the very Apollyons of paganry in the
way, and only the Great Hearts of a lonely woman and a loving child to
challenge them.

With a heart heavy with regret for the comparatively happy home I had
left in Malacca, I sought an interview with the Kralahome, and told him
(through his secretary, Mr. Hunter) how impossible it would be for me
and my child to lodge within the walls of the Grand Palace; and that he
was bound in honor to make good the conditions on which I had been
induced to leave Singapore. At last I succeeded in interesting him, and
he accorded me a gracious hearing. My objection to the palace, as a
place of residence as well as of business, seemed to strike him as
reasonable enough; and he promised to plead my cause with his Majesty,
bidding me kindly "give myself no further trouble about the matter, for
he would make it right."

Thus passed a few days more, while I waited monotonously under the roof
of the premier, teaching Boy, studying Siamese, paying stated visits to
the good Koon Ying Phan, and suffering tumultuous invasions from my
"intimate enemies" of the harem, who came upon us like a flight of
locusts, and rarely left without booty, in the shape of trifles they had
begged of me. But things get themselves done, after a fashion, even in
Siam; and so, one morning, came the slow but welcome news that the king
was reconciled to the idea of my living outside the palace, that a house
had been selected for me, and a messenger waited to conduct me to it.

Hastily donning our walking-gear, we found an elderly man, of somewhat
sinister aspect, in a dingy red coat with faded facings of yellow,
impatient to guide us to our unimaginable quarters. As we passed out, we
met the premier, whose countenance wore a quizzing expression, which I
afterward understood; but at the moment I saw in it only the
characteristic conundrum that I had neither the time nor the talent to
guess. It was with a lively sense of relief that I followed our
conductor, in whom, by a desperate exploit of imagination, I discovered
a promise of privacy and "home."

In a long, slender boat, with a high, uneven covering of wood, we stowed
ourselves in the Oriental manner, my dress and appearance affording
infinite amusement to the ten rowers as they plied their paddles, while
our escort stood in the entrance chewing betel, and looking more
ill-omened than ever. We alighted at the king's pavilion facing the
river, and were led, by a long, circuitous, and unpleasant road, through
two tall gates, into a street which, from the offensive odors that
assailed us, I took to be a fish-market. The sun burned, the air
stifled, the dust choked us, the ground blistered our feet; we were
parching and suffocating, when our guide stopped at the end of this most
execrable lane, and signed to us to follow him up three broken steps of
brick. From a pouch in his dingy coat he produced a key, applied it to a
door, and opened to us two small rooms, without a window in either,
without a leaf to shade, without bath-closet or kitchen. And this was
the residence sumptuously appointed for the English governess to the
royal family of Siam!

And furnished! and garnished! In one room, on a remnant of filthy
matting, stood the wreck of a table, superannuated, and maimed of a leg,
but propped by two chairs that with broken arms sympathized with each
other. In the other, a cheap excess of Chinese bedstead, that took the
whole room to itself; and a mattress!--a mutilated epitome of a
Lazarine hospital.

My stock of Siamese words was small, but strong. I gratefully recalled
the emphatic monosyllables wherewith the premier's sister had so berated
me; and turning upon the king's messenger with her tremendous _my di! my
di!_ dashed the key from his hand, as, inanely grinning, he held it out
to me, caught my boy up in my arms, cleared the steps in a bound, and
fled anywhere, anywhere, until I was stopped by the crowd of men, women,
and children, half naked, who gathered around me, wondering. Then,
remembering my adventure with the chain-gang, I was glad to accept the
protection of my insulted escort, and escape from that suburb of
disgust. All the way back to the premier's our guide grinned at us
fiendishly, whether in token of apology or ridicule I knew not; and
landing us safely, he departed to our great relief, still grinning.

Straight went I to the Kralahome, whose shy, inquisitive smile was more
and more provoking. In a few sharp words I told him, through the
interpreter, what I thought of the lodging provided for me, and that
nothing should induce me to live in such a slum. To which, with cool,
deliberate audacity, he replied that nothing prevented me from living
where I was. I started from the low seat I had taken (in order to
converse with him at my ease, he sitting on the floor), and not without
difficulty found voice to say that neither his palace nor the den in the
fish-market would suit me, and that I demanded suitable and independent
accommodations, in a respectable neighborhood, for myself and my child.
My rage only amused him. Smiling insolently, he rose, bade me, "Never
mind: it will be all right by and by," and retired to an inner chamber.

My head throbbed with pain, my pulse bounded, my throat burned. I
staggered to my rooms, exhausted and despairing, there to lie, for
almost a week, prostrated with fever, and tortured day and night with
frightful fancies and dreams. Beebe and the gentle Koon Ying Phan nursed
me tenderly, bringing me water, deliciously cool, in which the fragrant
flower of the jessamine had been steeped, both to drink and to bathe my
temples. As soon as I began to recover, I caressed the soft hand of the
dear pagan lady, and implored her, partly in Siamese, partly in English,
to intercede for me with her husband, that a decent home might be
provided for us. She assured me, while she smoothed my hair and patted
my cheek as though I were a helpless child, that she would do her best
with him, begging me meanwhile to be patient. But that I could not be;
and I spared no opportunity to expostulate with the premier on the
subject of my future abode and duties, telling him that the life I was
leading under his roof was insupportable to me; though, indeed, I was
not ungrateful for the many offices of affection I received from the
ladies of his harem, who in my trouble were sympathetic and tender. From
that time forth the imperturbable Kralahome was ever courteous to me.
Nevertheless, when from time to time I grew warm again on the
irrepressible topic, he would smile slyly, tap the ashes from his pipe,
and say, "Yes, sir! Never mind, sir! You not like, you can live in
fish-market, sir!" The apathy and supineness of these people oppressed
me intolerably. Never well practised in patience, I chafed at the
_sang-froid_ of the deliberate premier. Without compromising my dignity,
I did much to enrage him; but he bore all with a _nonchalance_ that was
the more irritating because it was not put on.

Thus more than two months passed, and I had desperately settled down to
my Oriental studies, content to snub the Kralahome with his own
indifference, whilst he, on the other hand, blandly ignored our
existence, when, to my surprise, he paid me a visit one afternoon,
complimented me on my progress in the language, and on my "great
heart,"--or _chi yai_, as he called it,--and told me his Majesty was
highly incensed at my conduct in the affair of the fish-market, and
that he had found me something to do. I thanked him so cordially that he
expressed his surprise, saying, "Siamese lady no like work; love play,
love sleep. Why you no love play?"

I assured him that I liked play well enough when I was in the humor for
play; but that at present I was not disposed to disport myself, being
weary of my life in his palace, and sick of Siam altogether. He received
my candor with his characteristic smile and a good-humored "Good by,
sir!"

Next morning ten Siamese lads and a little girl came to my room. The
former were the half-brothers, nephews, and other "encumbrances" of the
Kralahome; the latter their sister, a simple child of nine or ten.
Surely it was with no snobbery of condescension that I received these
poor children, but rather gratefully, as a comfort and a wholesome
discipline.

And so another month went by, and still I heard nothing from his
Majesty. But the premier began to interest me. The more I saw of him the
more he puzzled me. It was plain that all who came in contact with him
both feared and loved him. He displayed a kind of passive amiability of
which he seemed always conscious, which he made his _forte_. By what
means he exacted such prompt obedience, and so completely controlled a
people whom he seemed to drive with reins so loose and careless, was a
mystery to me. But that his influence and the prestige of his name
penetrated to every nook of that vast yet undeveloped kingdom was the
phenomenon which slowly but surely impressed me. I was but a passing
traveller, surveying from a distance and at large that vast plain of
humanity; but I could see that it was systematically tilled by one
master mind.



VIII. OUR HOME IN BANGKOK


Rebuked and saddened, I abandoned my long-cherished hope of a home, and
resigned myself with no good grace to my routine of study and
instruction. Where were all the romantic fancies and proud anticipations
with which I had accepted the position of governess to the royal family
of Siam? Alas! in two squalid rooms at the end of a Bangkok fish-market.
I failed to find the fresh strength and courage that lay in the hope of
improving the interesting children whose education had been intrusted to
me, and day by day grew more and more desponding, less and less equal to
the simple task my "mission" had set me. I was fairly sick at heart and
ready to surrender that morning when the good Koon Ying Phan came
unannounced into our rooms to tell us that a tolerable house was found
for us at last. I cannot describe with what an access of joy I heard the
glad tidings, nor how I thanked the messenger, nor how in a moment I
forgot all my chagrin and repining, and hugged my boy and covered him
with kisses. It was not until that "order for release" arrived, that I
truly felt how offensive and galling had been the life I had led in the
premier's palace. It was with unutterable gladness that I followed a
half-brother of the Kralahome, Moonshee leading Boy by the hand, to our
new house. Passing several streets, we entered a walled enclosure,
abounding in broken bricks, stone, lime, mortar, and various rubbish.

A tall, dingy storehouse occupied one side of the wall; in the other, a
low door opened toward the river; and at the farther end stood the
house, sheltered by a few fine trees, that, drooping over the piazza,
made the place almost picturesque. On entering, however, we found
ourselves face to face with overpowering filth. Poor Moonshee stood
aghast. "It must be a paradise," he had said when we set out, "since the
great Vizier bestows it upon the Mem Sahib, whom he delights to honor."
Now he cursed his fate, and reviled all viziers. I turned to see to whom
his lamentations were addressed, and beheld another Mohammedan seated on
the floor, and attending with an attitude and air of devout respect. The
scene reminded Boy and me of our old home, and we laughed heartily. On
making a tour of inspection, we found nine rooms, some of them pleasant
and airy, and with every "modern convenience" (though somewhat Oriental
as to style) of bath, kitchen, etc. It was clear that soap and water
without stint would do much here toward the making of a home for us.
Beebe and Boy were hopeful, and promptly put a full stop to the
rhetorical outcry of Moonshee by requesting him to enlist the services
of his admiring friend and two China coolies to fetch water. But there
were no buckets. With a few dollars that I gave him, Moonshee, with all
a Moslem's resignation to any new turn in his fate, departed to explore
for the required utensils, while the brother of the awful Kralahome,
perched on the piazza railing, adjusted his anatomy for a comfortable
oversight of the proceedings. Boy, with his "pinny" on, ran off in glee
to make himself promiscuously useful, and I sat down to plan an attack.

Where to begin?--that was the question. It was such filthy filth, so
monstrous in quantity and kind,--dirt to be stared at, defied, savagely
assaulted with rage and havoc. Suddenly I arose, shook my head
dangerously at the prime minister's brother,--who, fascinated, had
advanced into the room,--marched through a broken door, hung my hat and
mantle on a rusty nail, doffed my neat half-mourning, slipped on an old
wrapper, dashed at the vile matting that in ulcerous patches afflicted
the floor, and began fiercely tearing it up.

In good time Moonshee and his new friend returned with half a dozen
buckets, but no coolies; in place of the latter came a neat and pleasant
Siamese lady, Mrs. Hunter, wife of the premier's secretary, bringing her
slaves to help, and some rolls of fresh, sweet China matting for the
floor. How quickly the general foulness was purified, the general
raggedness repaired, the general shabbiness made "good as new"! The
floors, that had been buried under immemorial dust, arose again under
the excavating labors of the sweepers; and the walls, that had been gory
with expectorations of betel, hid their "damnéd spots" under innocent
veils of whitewash.

Moonshee, who had evidently been beguiled by a cheap and spurious
variety of the wine of Shiraz, and now sat maudlin on the steps, weeping
for his home in Singapore, I despatched peremptorily in search of Beebe,
bedsteads, and boxes. But the Kralahome's brother had vanished,
doubtless routed by the brooms.

Bright, fresh, fragrant matting; a table neither too low to be pretty
nor too high to be useful; a couple of armchairs, hospitably embracing;
a pair of silver candlesticks, quaint and homely; a goodly company of
pleasant books; a piano, just escaping from its travelling-cage, with
all its pent-up music in its bosom; a cosey little cot clinging to its
ampler mother; a stream of generous sunlight from the window gilding and
gladdening all,--behold our home in Siam!

I worked exultingly till the setting sun slanted his long shadows across
the piazza. Then came comfortable Beebe with the soup and dainties she
had prepared with the help of a "Bombay man." Boy slept soundly in an
empty room, overcome by the spell of its sudden sweetness, his hands and
face as dirty as a healthy, well-regulated boy could desire.
Triumphantly I bore him to his own pretty couch, adjusted my hair,
resumed my royal robes of mauve muslin, and prepared to queen it in my
own palace.

And even as I stood, smiling at my own small grandeur, came tender
memories crowding thick upon me,--of a soft, warm lap, in which I had
once loved to lay my head; of a face, fair, pensive, loving, lovely; of
eyes whose deep and quiet light a shadow of unkindness never crossed; of
lips that sweetly crooned the songs of a far-off, happy land; of a
presence full of comfort, hope, strength, courage, victory, peace, that
perfect harmony that comes of perfect faith,--a child's trust in its
mother.

Passionately I clasped my child in my arms, and awoke him with pious
promises that took the form of kisses. Beebe, soup, teapot,
candlesticks, teacups, and dear faithful Bessy, looked on and smiled.

Hardly had we finished this, our first and finest feast, in celebration
of our glorious independence, when our late guide of fish-market fame,
he of the seedy red coat and faded yellow facings, appeared on the
piazza, saluted us with that vacant chuckle and grin wherefrom no
inference could be drawn, and delivered his Majesty's order that I
should now come to the school.

Unterrified and deliberate, we lingered yet a little over that famous
breakfast, then rose, and prepared to follow the mechanical old ape. Boy
hugged Bessy fondly by way of good-by, and, leaving Beebe on guard, we
went forth. The same long, narrow, tall, and very crank boat received
us. The sun was hot enough to daunt a sepoy; down the bare backs of the
oarsmen flowed miniature Meinams of sweat, as they tugged, grunting,
against the strong current. We landed at the familiar (king's) pavilion,
the front of which projects into the river by a low portico. The roof,
rising in several tiers, half shelters, half bridges the detached and
dilapidated parts of the structure, which presents throughout a very
ancient aspect, parts of the roof having evidently been renewed, and the
gables showing traces of recent repairs, while the rickety pillars seem
to protest with groans against the architectural anachronism that has
piled so many young heads upon their time-worn shoulders.



IX. OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE.


The fact is remarkable, that though education in its higher degrees is
popularly neglected in Siam, there is scarcely a man or woman in the
empire who cannot read and write. Though a vain people, they are neither
bigoted nor shallow; and I think the day is not far off when the
enlightening influences applied to them, and accepted through their
willingness, not only to receive instruction from Europeans, but even to
adopt in a measure their customs and their habits of thought, will raise
them to the rank of a superior nation. The language of this people
advances but slowly in the direction of grammatical perfection. Like
many other Oriental tongues, it was at first purely monosyllabic; but as
the Pali or Sanskrit has been liberally engrafted on it, polysyllabic
words have been formed. Its pronouns and particles are peculiar, its
idioms few and simple, its metaphors very obvious. It is copious to
redundancy in terms expressive of royalty, rank, dignity--in fact, a
distinct phraseology is required in addressing personages of exalted
station; repetitions of word and phrase are affected, rather than
shunned. Sententious brevity and simplicity of expression belong to the
pure spirit of the language, and when employed impart to it much dignity
and beauty; but there is no standard of orthography, nor any grammar,
and but few rules of universal application. Every Siamese writer spells
to please himself, and the purism of one is the slang or gibberish of
another.

[Illustration: A PUPIL OF THE ROYAL SCHOOL.]

The Siamese write from left to right, the words running together in a
line unbroken by spaces, points, or capitals; so that, as in ancient
Sanskrit, an entire paragraph appears as one protracted word,

"That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along."

When not written with a reed on dark native paper, the characters are
engraved with a style (of brass or iron, one end sharp for writing, the
other flat for erasing) on palm-leaves prepared for the purpose.

In all parts of the empire the boys are taught by priests to read,
write, and cipher. Every monastery is provided with a library, more or
less standard. The more elegant books are composed of tablets of ivory,
or of palmyra leaves delicately prepared; the characters engraved on
these are gilt, the margins and edges adorned with heavy gilding or with
flowers in bright colors.

The literature of the Siamese deals principally with religious topics.
The "Kammarakya," or Buddhist Ritual,--a work for the priesthood only,
and therefore, like others of the Vinnâyâ, little known,--contains the
vital elements of the Buddhist Moral Code, and, _per se_, is perfect; on
this point all writers, whether partial or captious, are of one mind.
Spence Hardy, a Wesleyan missionary, speaking of that part of the work
entitled "Dhammâ-Padam," [Footnote: Properly _Dharmna_,--"Footsteps of
the Law."] which is freely taught in the schools attached to the
monasteries, admits that a compilation might be made from its precepts,
"which in the purity of its ethics could hardly be equalled from any
other heathen author."

M. Laboulaye, one of the most distinguished members of the French
Academy, remarks, in the _Débats_ of April 4, 1853, on a work known by
the title of "Dharmna Maitrî," or "Law of Charity":--

"It is difficult to comprehend how men, not aided by revelation, could
have soared so high and approached so near the truth. Beside the five
great commandments,--not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery,
not to lie, not to get drunk,--every shade of vice, hypocrisy, anger,
pride, suspicion, greed, gossip, cruelty to animals, is guarded against
by special precepts. Among the virtues commended we find, not only
reverence for parents, care for children, submission to authority,
gratitude, moderation in time of prosperity, resignation and fortitude
in time of trial, equanimity at all times, but virtues unknown to any
heathen system of morality, such as the duty of forgiving insults, and
of rewarding evil with good."

All virtues, we are told, spring from _maitrî_, and this _maitrî_ can
only be rendered by charity and love.

"I do not hesitate," says Burnouf, in his _Lotus de la Bonne Loi_, "to
translate by 'charity' the word _maitrî_, which expresses, not merely
friendship, or the feeling of particular affection which a man has for
one or more of his fellow-creatures, but that universal feeling which
inspires us with good-will toward all men and a constant willingness to
help them."

I may here add the testimony of Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire: "I do not
hesitate to add," he writes, "that, save the Christ alone, there is not
among the founders of religion a figure more pure, more touching, than
that of Buddha. His life is without blemish; his constant heroism equals
his conviction; and if the theory he extols is false, the personal
examples he affords are irreproachable. He is the accomplished model of
all the virtues he preaches; his abnegation, his charity, his
unalterable sweetness, never belie themselves. At the age of twenty-nine
he retires from the court of the king, his father, to become a devotee
and a beggar. He silently prepares his doctrine by six years of
seclusion and meditation. He propagates it, by the unaided power of
speech and persuasion, for more than half a century; and when he dies in
the arms of his disciples, it is with the serenity of a sage who has
practised goodness all his life, and knows that he has found Truth."

Another work, as sacred and more mystic, is the "Parajikâ," read in the
temples with closed doors by the chief priests exclusively, and only to
such devotees as have entered the monastic schools for life.

Then there are the "P'ra-jana Para-mita," (the "Accomplishment of
Reason," or "Transcendental Wisdom,)" and other works in abstruse
philosophy. The "Lalita Vistara" contains the life of Buddha, and is
esteemed the highest authority as to the more remarkable events in the
career of the great reformer. The "Saddharma-pundikara" (or _pundariki_
in Ceylon), "The White Lotos of the True Religion," presents the
incidents of Buddha's life in the form of legend and fable.

The "Ganda-Veyuha," but little known, consists of remarkable and very
beautiful forms of prayer and thanksgiving, with psalms of praise
addressed to the Perfection of the Infinite and to the Invisible, by
Sakya Muni, the Buddha. The "Nirwana" treats of the end of material
existence, and is universally read, and highly esteemed by Buddhists as
a treatise of rare merit.

But the most important parts of the theological study of the Siamese
priesthood are found in a work revered under the titles of "Tautras" and
"Kala-Chakara,"--that is, "Circles of Time, Matter, Space"; probably a
translation of the Sanskrit symbolic word, _Om_, "Circle." There are
twenty-two volumes, treating exclusively of mystics and mystical
worship.

The libraries of the monasteries are rich in works on the theory and
practice of medicine; but very poor in historical books, the few
preserved dealing mainly with the lives and actions of Siamese rulers,
oddly associated with the genii and heroes of the Hindoo mythology. Like
the early historians of Greece and Rome, the writers are careful to
furnish a particular account of all signs, omens, and predictions
relating to the several events recorded. They possess also a few
translated works in Chinese history.

The late king was an authority on all questions of religion, law, and
custom, and was familiar with the writings of Pythagoras and Aristotle.

The Siamese have an extravagant fondness for the drama, and for poetry
of every kind. In all the lyric form predominates, and their
compositions are commonly adapted for instrumental accompaniment. Their
dramatic entertainments are mainly musical, combining rudely the opera
with the ballet,--monotonous singing, and listless, mechanical dancing.
Dialogue is occasionally introduced, the favorite subjects being
passages from the Hindoo Avatars, the epic "Ramayana," and the
"Mahabharata"; or from legends, peculiar to Siam, of gods, heroes, and
demons. Throughout their literature, mythology is the all-pervading
element; history, science, arts, customs, conversation, opinion,
doctrine, are alike colored and flavored with it.

With so brief and meagre a sketch of the literature of Siam, I would
fain prepare the reader to appreciate the peculiarities of an English
classical school in the Royal Palace at Bangkok. In Siam, all schools,
literary societies, monasteries, even factories, all intellectual and
progressive enterprises of whatever nature and intention, are opened and
begun on Thursday, "One P'ra Hatt"; because that day is sacred to the
goddess of Mind or Wisdom, probably the Hindoo Saraswati. On the
Thursday appointed for the opening of my classes in the palace, one of
the king's barges conveyed us across the Meinam. At the landing I was
met by slave-girls, who conducted me to the palace through the gate
called Patoo Sap, "Gate of Knowledge." Here I was received by some
Amazons, who in turn gave notice to other slave-girls waiting to escort
us to a pavilion--or, more correctly, temple--dedicated to the wives and
daughters of Siam. [Footnote: _Watt Khoon Choom Manda Thai_,--"Temple of
the Mothers of the Free."] The profound solitude of this refuge,
embowered in its twilight grove of orange and palm trees, was strangely
tranquillizing. The religion of the place seemed to overcome us, as we
waited among the tall, gilded pillars of the temple. On one side was an
altar, enriched with some of the most curious and precious offerings of
art to be found in the East. There was a gilded rostrum also, from which
the priests daily officiated; and near by, on the summit of a curiously
carved trunk of an old Bho tree, [Footnote: The sacred tree under which
Guadama discoursed with his disciples.] the goddess of Mind presided.

The floor of this beautiful temple was a somewhat gaudy mosaic of
variegated marble and precious stones; but the gilded pillars, the
friezes that surmounted them, and the vaulted roof of gilded arabesques,
seemed to tone down the whole to their own chaste harmony of design.

In the centre of the temple stood a long table, finely carved, and some
gilt chairs. The king and most of the nobler ladies of the court were
present, with a few of the chief priests, among whom I recognized, for
the first time, his Lordship Chow Khoon Sâh.

His Majesty received me and my little boy most kindly. After an interval
of silence he clapped his hands lightly, and instantly the lower hall
was filled with female slaves. A word or two, dropped from his lips,
bowed every head and dispersed the attendants. But they presently
returned laden, some with boxes containing books, slates, pens, pencils,
and ink; others with lighted tapers and vases filled with the white
lotos, which they set down before the gilded chairs.

At a signal from the king, the priests chanted a hymn from the
"P'ra-jana Para-mita"; [Footnote: "Accomplishment of Reason," or
"Transcendental Wisdom."] and then a burst of music announced the
entrance of the princes and princesses, my future pupils. They advanced
in the order of their ages. The Princess Ying You Wahlacks ("First-born
among Women"), having precedence, approached and prostrated herself
before her royal father, the others following her example. I admired the
beauty of her skin, the delicacy of her form, and the subdued lustre of
her dreamy eyes. The king took her gently by the hand, and presented me
to her, saying simply, "The English teacher." Her greeting was quiet and
self-possessed. Taking both my hands, she bowed, and touched them with
her forehead; then, at a word from the king, retired to her place on the
right. One by one, in like manner, all the royal children were presented
and saluted me; and the music ceased.

His Majesty then spoke briefly, to this effect: "Dear children, as this
is to be an English school, you will have to learn and observe the
English modes of salutation, address, conversation, and etiquette; and
each and every one of you shall be at liberty to sit in my presence,
unless it be your own pleasure not to do so." The children all bowed,
and touched their foreheads with their folded palms, in acquiescence.

Then his Majesty departed with the priests; and the moment he was fairly
out of sight, the ladies of the court began, with much noise and
confusion, to ask questions, turn over the leaves of books, and chatter
and giggle together. Of course, no teaching was possible in such a din;
my young princes and princesses disappeared in the arms of their nurses
and slaves, and I retired to my apartments in the prime minister's
palace. But the serious business of my school began on the following
Thursday.

On that day a crowd of half-naked children followed me and my Louis to
the palace gates, where our guide gave us in charge to a consequential
female slave, at whose request the ponderous portal was opened barely
wide enough to admit one person at a time. On entering we were jealously
scrutinized by the Amazonian guard, and a "high private" questioned the
propriety of admitting my boy; whereat a general tittering, and we
passed on. We advanced through the noiseless oval door, and entered the
dim, cool pavilion, in the centre of which the tables were arranged for
school. Away flew several venerable dames who had awaited our arrival,
and in about an hour returned, bringing with them twenty-one scions of
Siamese royalty, to be initiated into the mysteries of reading, writing,
and arithmetic, after the European, and especially the English manner.

It was not long before my scholars were ranged in chairs around the long
table, with Webster's far-famed spelling-books before them, repeating
audibly after me the letters of the alphabet. While I stood at one end
of the table, my little Louis at the other, mounted on a chair, the
better to command his division, mimicked me with a fidelity of tone and
manner very quaint and charming. Patiently his small finger pointed out
to his class the characters so strange to them, and not yet perfectly
familiar to himself.

About noon, a number of young women were brought to me, to be taught
like the rest. I received them sympathetically, at the same time making
a memorandum of their names in a book of my own. This created a general
and lively alarm, which it was not in my power immediately to allay, my
knowledge of their language being confined to a few simple sentences;
but when at last their courage and confidence were restored, they began
to take observations and an inventory of me that were by no means
agreeable. They fingered my hair and dress, my collar, belt, and rings.
One donned my hat and cloak, and made a promenade of the pavilion;
another pounced upon my gloves and veil, and disguised herself in them,
to the great delight of the little ones, who laughed boisterously. A
grim duenna, who had heard the noise, bustled wrathfully into the
pavilion. Instantly hat, cloak, veil, gloves, were flung right and left,
and the young women dropped on the floor, repeating shrilly, like truant
urchins caught in the act, their "ba, be, bi, bo."

One who seemed the infant phenomenon of the royal harem, so juvenile and
artless were her looks and ways, despising a performance so rudimentary
as the a, b, c, demanded to be steered at once into the mid-ocean of the
book; but when I left her without pilot in an archipelago of hard words,
she soon showed signals of distress.

At the far end of the table, bending over a little prince, her eyes
riveted on the letters my boy was naming to her, stood a pale young
woman, whose aspect was dejected and forlorn. She had entered
unannounced and unnoticed, as one who had no interest in common with the
others; and now she stood apart and alone, intent only on mastering the
alphabet with the help of her small teacher. When we were about to
dismiss the school, she repeated her lesson to my wise lad, who listened
with imposing gravity, pronounced her a "very good child," and said she
might go now. But when she perceived that I observed her curiously, she
crouched almost under the table, as though owning she had no right to be
there, and was worthy to pick only the crumbs of knowledge that might
fall from it. She was neither very young nor pretty, save that her dark
eyes were profound and expressive, and now the more interesting by their
touching sadness. Esteeming it the part of prudence as well as of
kindness to appear unconscious of her presence, and so encourage her to
come again, I left the palace without accosting her, before his Majesty
had awakened from his forenoon nap. This crushed creature had fallen
under the displeasure of the king, and the after chapters of her story,
which shall be related in their proper connection, were romantic and
mournful.



X. MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL.


Our blue chamber overlooked the attap roofs of a long row of houses,
badly disfigured by the stains and wear of many a wet season, in which
our next neighbor, a Mohammedan of patriarchal aspect and demeanor,
stored bags of sugar, waiting for a rise in the market. This worthy paid
us the honor of a visit every afternoon, and in the snug little eastern
chamber consecrated to the studies and meditations of my Persian teacher
propounded solemn problems from the Alkoran.

Under Moonshee's window the tops of houses huddled, presenting forms
more or less fantastic according to the purse or caprice of the
proprietors. The shrewd old man was not long in finding tenants for all
these roofs, and could even tell the social status and the means of
each. It tickled his vanity to find himself domiciled in so aristocratic
a quarter. Our house--more Oriental than European in its
architecture--was comparatively new, having been erected upon the site
of the old palace, the _débris_ of which had furnished the materials of
which it was constructed. Among the loose slabs of marble and fragments
of pottery that turned up with the promiscuous rubbish every day, we
sometimes found surfaces of stone bearing Siamese or Cambodian
inscriptions; others with grotesque figures in bass-relief, taken from
the mythology of the Hindoos. Had these relics a charm for Moonshee, and
was he animated by the antiquarian's enthusiasm, that he delved away
hour after hour, unearthing, with his spade, bricks and stones and tiles
and slabs? I was at a loss to account for this new freak in the old man;
but seeing him infatuated with his eccentric pursuit, and Boy enraptured
over grubs and snails and bits of broken figures, the resurrections of
the nimble spade, I left them to their cheap and harmless bliss.

One evening, as I sat musing in the piazza, with my book unopened on my
lap, I heard Boy's clear voice ringing in happy, musical peals of
laughter that drew me to him. On the edge of a deep hole, in a corner of
the compound, sat Moonshee, an effigy of doleful disappointment, and
beside him stood the lad, clapping his little hands and laughing
merrily. The old child had taken the young one into his confidence, and
by their joint exertions they had dug this hole in search of treasure;
and lo! at the bottom lay something that looked like a rusty purse. With
a long look and a throbbing heart Moonshee, after several empty hauls,
had fished it up; and it was--a toad! a huge, unsightly, yellow toad!

"May the foul fiend fly away with thee!" cried the enthusiast in his
rage, as he flung the astonished reptile back into the pit, and sat down
to bewail his _kismut_, while Boy made merry with his groans.

For some days the spade was neglected, though I observed, from the
cautious drift of his remarks at the conclusion of our evening lesson,
that Moonshee's thoughts still harped on hidden treasure. The fervid
imagination of the child had uncovered to his mind's eye mines of
wealth, awaiting only the touch of the magic spade to bare their golden
veins to the needs of his Mem Sahib and himself. There was no dispelling
his golden visions by any shock of hard sense; the more he dreamed the
more he believed. But the spot? the right spot? "Only wait."

Another week elapsed, and Boy and I worked harder than ever in our
school in the cool pavilion. I had flung off the dead weight of my
stubborn repinings, and my heart was light again. There were delightful
discoveries of beauty in the artless, childish faces that greeted us
every morning; and now the only wonder was that I had been so slow to
penetrate the secret of their charm. That eager, radiant elf, the
Princess Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying, [Footnote: "First-Born of the Skies."]
the king's darling (of whom, by and by, I shall have a sadder tale to
tell), had become a sprite of sunshine and gladness amid the sombre
shadows of those walls. In her deep, dark, lustrous eyes, her simple,
trusting ways, there was a springtide of refreshment, a pure, pervading
radiance, that brightened the darkest thing it touched. Even the grim
hags of the harem felt its influence, and softened in her presence.

As Boy was reciting his tasks one morning before breakfast, Moonshee
entered the room with one of his profoundest salaams, and an expression
at once so earnest and so comical that I anxiously asked him what was
the matter. Panting alike with the eagerness of childhood and the
feebleness of age, he stammered, "I have something of the greatest
importance to confide to you, Mem Sahib! Now is the time! Now you shall
prove the devotion of your faithful Moonshee, who swears by Allah not to
touch a grain of gold without your leave, in all those bursting sacks,
if Mem Sahib will but lend him ten ticals, only ten ticals, to buy a
screw-driver!"

"What in the world can you want with a screw-driver, Moonshee?"

"O Mem, listen to me!" he cried, his face glowing with the very rapture
of possession; "I have discovered the exact spot on which the old duke,
Somdetch Ong Yai, expired. It is a secret, a wonderful secret, Mem
Sahib; not a creature in all Siam knows it."

"Then how came you by it," I inquired, "seeing that you know not one
word of the language, which you have bravely scorned as unworthy to be
uttered by the Faithful, and of no use on earth but to confound
philosophers and Moonshees?"

"_Sunnoh, sunnoh!_ [Footnote: "Listen, listen!"] Mem Sahib! No human
tongue revealed it to me. It was the Angè Gibhrayeel. [Footnote: The
Angel Gabriel.] He came to me last night as I slept, and said, 'O son of
Jaffur Khan! to your prayers is granted the knowledge that, for all
these years, has been denied to Kafirs. Arise! obey! and with humility
receive the treasures reserved for thee, thou faithful follower of the
Prophet!' And so saying he struck the golden palms he bore in his hand;
and though I was now awake, Mem Sahib, I was so overpowered by the
beauty and effulgence of his person, that I was as one about to die. The
radiant glory of his wings, which were of the hue of sapphires, blinded
my vision; I could neither speak nor see. But I felt the glow of his
presence and heard the rustle of his pinions, as once more he beat the
golden palms and cried, 'Behold, O son of Jaffur Khan! behold the spot
where lie the treasures of that haughty Kafir chief!' I arose, and
immediately the angel flashed from my sight; and as I gazed there
appeared a luminous golden hen with six golden chickens, which pecked at
bits of blazing coal that, as they cooled, became nuggets of pure gold.
When suddenly I beheld a great light as of _rooshnees_, [Footnote:
Fire-balls.] and it burst upon the spot where the hen had been; and then
all was darkness again. Mem Sahib, your servant ran down and placed a
stone upon that spot, and kneeling on that stone, with his face to the
south, repeated his five Kalemahs." [Footnote: Thanksgivings.]

I am ashamed to say I laughed; whereat the old man was so mortified that
he vowed the next time the angel appeared to him, he would call us all
to see. I accepted the condition; and even promised that if I saw the
nuggets of pure gold that Gabriel's chickens pecked, I would immediately
accommodate him with the ten ticals to invest in a screw-driver. So
perfect was his faith in the vision, that he accepted the promise with
complete satisfaction.

Not many nights after this extraordinary apparition, we were aroused by
Beebe and her husband calling, "Awake, awake!" Thinking the house was on
fire, I threw on my dressing-gown and ran into the next room with Boy in
my arms. There was indeed a fire, but it was in a distant corner of the
yard. The night was dark, a thick mist rose from the river, and the
gusty puffs of wind that now and then swept through the compound caused
the wood fire to flare up and flicker, casting fitful and fantastic
shadows around. Moonshee stared, with fixed eyes, expecting every moment
the reappearance of the supernatural poultry; but I, being as yet
sceptical, descended the stairs, followed by my trembling household, and
approached the spot.

On a remnant of matting, with a stone for a pillow, lay an old Siamese
woman asleep. Driven by the heat to the relief of the open air, she had
kindled a fire to keep off the mosquitoes.

"Now, Moonshee," said I, "here is your Angel Gabriel. Don't you ever
again trouble me for ticals to invest in screw-drivers."



XI. THE WAYS OF THE PALACE.


The city of Bangkok is commonly supposed to have inherited the name of
the ancient capital, Ayudia; but in the royal archives, to which I have
had free access, it is given as Krung Thèp'ha Maha-Nakhon Si-ayut-thia
Maha-dilok Racha-thani,--"The City of the Royal, Invincible, and
Beautiful Archangel." It is ramparted with walls within and without,
which divide it into an inner and an outer city, the inner wall being
thirty feet high, and flanked with circular forts mounted with cannon,
making a respectable show of defence. Centre of all, the heart of the
citadel, is the grand palace, encompassed by a third wall, which
encloses only the royal edifice, the harems, the temple of Watt P'hra
Këau, and the Maha P'hrasat.

The Maha Phrasat is an immense structure of quadrangular façades,
surmounted by a tall spire of very chaste and harmonious design. It is
consecrated; and here dead sovereigns of Siam lie in state, waiting
twelve months for their cremation; here also their ashes are deposited,
in urns of gold, after that fiery consummation. In the Maha Phrasat the
supreme king is crowned and all court ceremonies performed. On certain
high holidays and occasions of state, the high-priest administers here
a sort of mass, at which the whole court attend, even the chief ladies
of the harem, who, behind heavy curtains of silk and gold that hang from
the ceiling to the floor, whisper and giggle and peep and chew betel,
and have the wonted little raptures of their sex over furtive, piquant
glimpses of the world; for, despite the strict confinement and jealous
surveillance to which they are subject, the outer life, with all its
bustle, passion, and romance, will now and then steal, like a vagrant,
curious ray of light, into the heart's darkness of these tabooed women,
thrilling their childish minds with eager wonderment and formless
longings.

Within these walls lurked lately fugitives of every class, profligates
from all quarters of the city, to whom discovery was death; but here
their "sanctuary" was impenetrable. Here were women disguised as men,
and men in the attire of women, hiding vice of every vileness and crime
of every enormity,--at once the most disgusting, the most appalling, and
the most unnatural that the heart of man has conceived. It was death in
life, a charnel-house of quick corruption; a place of gloom and solitude
indeed, wherefrom happiness, hope, courage, liberty, truth, were forever
excluded, and only mother's love was left.

The king [Footnote: All that is here written applies to Maha Mongkut,
the supreme king, who died October, 1868; not to his successor (and my
pupil), the present king.] was the disk of light and life round which
these strange flies swarmed. Most of the women who composed his harem
were of gentle blood,--the fairest of the daughters of Siamese nobles
and of princes of the adjacent tributary states; the late queen consort
was his own half-sister. Beside many choice Chinese and Indian girls,
purchased annually for the royal harem by agents stationed at Peking,
Foo-chou, and different points in Bengal, enormous sums were offered,
year after year, through "solicitors" at Bangkok and Singapore, for an
English woman of beauty and good parentage to crown the sensational
collection; but when I took my leave of Bangkok, in 1868, the coveted
specimen had not yet appeared in the market. The cunning
_commissionnaires_ contrived to keep their places and make a living by
sending his Majesty, now and then, a piquant photograph of some British
Nourmahal of the period, freshly caught, and duly shipped, in good order
for the harem; but the goods never arrived.

Had the king's tastes been Gallic, his requisition might have been
filled. I remember a score of genuine offers from French demoiselles,
who enclosed their _cartes_ in billets more surprising and enterprising
than any other "proposals" it was my office to translate. But his
whimsical Majesty entertained a lively horror of French intrigue,
whether of priests, consuls, or _lionnes_, and stood in vigilant fear of
being beguiled, through one of these adventurous sirens, into fathering
the innovation of a Franco-Siamese heir to the throne of the celestial
P'hrabatts.

The king, as well as most of the principal members of his household,
rose at five in the morning, and immediately partook of a slight repast,
served by the ladies who had been in waiting through the night; after
which, attended by them and his sisters and elder children, he descended
and took his station on a long strip of matting, laid from one of the
gates through all the avenues to another. On his Majesty's left were
ranged, first, his children in the order of rank; then the princesses,
his sisters; and, lastly, his concubines, his maids of honor, and their
slaves. Before each was placed a large silver tray containing offerings
of boiled rice, fruit, cakes, and the seri leaf; some even had cigars.

A little after five, the Patoo Dharmina ("Gate of Merit," called by the
populace "Patoo Boon") was thrown open and the Amazons of the guard
drawn up on either side. Then the priests entered, always by that
gate,--one hundred and ninety-nine of them, escorted on the right and
left by men armed with swords and clubs,--and as they entered they
chanted: "Take thy meat, but think it dust! Eat but to live, and but to
know thyself, and what thou art below! And say withal unto thy heart, It
is earth I eat, that to the earth I may new life impart."

Then the chief priest, who led the procession, advanced with downcast
eyes and lowly mien, and very simply presented his bowl (slung from his
neck by a cord, and until that moment quite hidden under the folds of
his yellow robe) to the members of the royal household, who _offered_
their fruit or cakes, or their spoonfuls of rice or sweetmeats. In like
manner did all his brethren. If, by any chance, one before whom a tray
was placed was not ready and waiting with an offering, no priest
stopped, but all continued to advance slowly, taking only what was
freely offered, without thanks or even a look of acknowledgment, until
the end of the royal train was reached, when the procession retired,
chanting as before, by the gate called Dinn, or, in the Court language,
_Prithri_, "Gate of Earth."

After this, the king and all his company repaired to his private temple,
Watt Sasmiras Manda-thung, [Footnote: "Temple in Memory of Mother."] so
called because it was dedicated by his Majesty to the memory of his
mother. This is an edifice of unique and charming beauty, decorated
throughout by artists from Japan, who have represented on the walls, in
designs as diverse and ingenious as they are costly, the numerous
metempsychoses of Buddha.

Here his Majesty ascended alone the steps of the altar, rang a bell to
announce the hour of devotion, lighted the consecrated tapers, and
offered the white lotos and the roses. Then he spent an hour in prayer,
and in reading texts from the P'ra-jana Para-mita and the
P'hra-ti-Mok-sha.

This service over, he retired for another nap, attended by a fresh
detail of women,--those who had waited the night before being dismissed,
not to be recalled for a month, or at least a fortnight, save as a
peculiar mark of preference or favor to some one who had had the good
fortune to please or amuse him; but most of that party voluntarily
waited upon him every day.

His Majesty usually passed his mornings in study, or in dictating or
writing English letters and despatches. His breakfast, though a repast
sufficiently frugal for Oriental royalty, was served with awesome forms.
In an antechamber adjoining a noble hall, rich in grotesque carvings and
gildings, a throng of females waited, while his Majesty sat at a long
table, near which knelt twelve women before great silver trays laden
with twelve varieties of viands,--soups, meats, game, poultry, fish,
vegetables, cakes, jellies, preserves, sauces, fruits, and teas. Each
tray, in its order, was passed by three ladies to the head wife or
concubine, who removed the silver covers, and at least seemed to taste
the contents of each dish; and then, advancing on her knees, she set
them on the long table before the king.

But his Majesty was notably temperate in his diet, and by no means a
gastronome. In his long seclusion in a Buddhist cloister he had acquired
habits of severe simplicity and frugality, as a preparation for the
exercise of those powers of mental concentration for which he was
remarkable. At these morning repasts it was his custom to detain me in
conversation relating to some topic of interest derived from his
studies, or in reading or translating. He was more systematically
educated, and a more capacious devourer of books and news, than perhaps
any man of equal rank in our day. But much learning had made him morally
mad; his extensive reading had engendered in his mind an extreme
scepticism concerning all existing religious systems. In inborn
integrity and steadfast principle he had no faith whatever. He sincerely
believed that every man strove to compass his own ends, _per fas et
nefas_. The _mens sibi conscia recti_ was to him an hallucination, for
which he entertained profound contempt; and he honestly pitied the
delusion that pinned its faith on human truth and virtue. He was a
provoking _mélange_ of antiquarian attainments and modern scepticism.
When, sometimes, I ventured to disabuse his mind of his darling scorn
for motive and responsibility, I had the mortification to discover that
I had but helped him to an argument against myself: it was simply "my
peculiar interest to do so." Money, money, money! that could procure
anything.

But aside from the too manifest bias of his early education and
experience, it is due to his memory to say that his practice was less
faithless than his profession, toward those persons and principles to
which he was attracted by a just regard. In many grave considerations he
displayed soundness of understanding and clearness of judgment,--a
genuine nobility of mind, established upon universal ethics and
philosophic reason,--where his passions were not dominant; but when
these broke in between the man and the majesty, they effectually barred
his advance in the direction of true greatness; beyond them he could
not, or would not, make way.

Ah, if this man could but have cast off the cramping yoke of his
intellectual egotism, and been loyal to the free government of his own
true heart, what a demi-god might he not have been among the lower
animals of Asiatic royalty!

At two o'clock he bestirred himself, and with the aid of his women
bathed and anointed his person. Then he descended to a breakfast-
chamber, where he was served with the most substantial meal of the
day. Here he chatted with his favorites among the wives and concubines,
and caressed his children, taking them in his arms, embracing them,
plying them with puzzling or funny questions, and making droll faces
at the babies: the more agreeable the mother, the dearer the child.
The love of children was the constant and hearty virtue of this
forlorn despot. They appealed to him by their beauty and their
trustfulness, they refreshed him with the bold innocence of their ways,
so frolicsome, graceful, and quaint.

From this delusive scene of domestic condescension and kindliness he
passed to his Hall of Audience to consider official matters. Twice a
week at sunset he appeared at one of the gates of the palace to hear the
complaints and petitions of the poorest of his subjects, who at no other
time or place could reach his ear. It was most pitiful to see the
helpless, awe-stricken wretches, prostrate and abject as toads, many too
terrified to present the precious petition after all.

At nine he retired to his private apartments, whence issued immediately
peculiar domestic bulletins, in which were named the women whose
presence he particularly desired, in addition to those whose turn it was
to "wait" that night.

And twice a week he held a secret council, or court, at midnight. Of the
proceedings of those dark and terrifying sittings I can, of course, give
no exact account. I permit myself to speak only of those things which
were but too plain to one who lived for six years in or near the palace.

In Siam, the king--Maha Mongkut especially--is not merely enthroned, he
is enshrined. To the nobility he is omnipotence, and to the rabble
mystery. Since the occupation of the country by the Jesuits, many
foreigners have fancied that the government is becoming more and more
silent, insidious, secretive; and that this midnight council is but the
expression of a "policy of stifling." It is an inquisition,--not overt,
audacious, like that of Rome, but nocturnal, invisible, subtle,
ubiquitous, like that of Spain; proceeding without witnesses or warning;
kidnapping a subject, not arresting him, and then incarcerating,
chaining, torturing him, to extort confession or denunciation. If any
Siamese citizen utter one word against the "San Luang," (the royal
judges), and escape, forthwith his house is sacked and his wife and
children kidnapped. Should he be captured, he is brought to secret
trial, to which no one is admitted who is not in the patronage and
confidence of the royal judges. In themselves the laws are tolerable;
but in their operation they are frustrated or circumvented by arbitrary
and capricious power in the king, or craft or cruelty in the Council. No
one not initiated in the mystic _séances_ of the San Luang can depend
upon Siamese law for justice. No man will consent to appear there, even
as a true witness, save for large reward. The citizen who would enjoy,
safe from legal plunder, his private income, must be careful to find a
patron and protector in the king, the prime minister, or some other
formidable friend at court. Spies in the employ of the San Luang
penetrate into every family of wealth and influence. Every citizen
suspects and fears always his neighbor, sometimes his wife. On more than
one occasion when, vexed by some act of the king's, more than usually
wanton and unjust, I instinctively gave expression to my feelings by
word or look in the presence of certain officers and courtiers, I
observed that they rapped, or tapped, in a peculiar and stealthy manner.
This I afterward discovered was one of the secret signs of the San
Luang; and the warning signal was addressed to me, because they imagined
that I also was a member of the Council.

_En passant_, a word as to the ordinary and familiar costumes of the
palace. Men and women alike wear a sort of kilt, like the _pu'sho_ of
the Birmans, with a short upper tunic, over which the women draw a broad
silk scarf, which is closely bound round the chest and descends in long,
waving folds almost to the feet. Neither sex wears any covering on the
head. The uniform of the Amazons of the harem is green and gold, and for
the soldiers scarlet and purple.

There are usually four meals: breakfast about sunrise; a sort of tiffin
at noon; a more substantial repast in the afternoon; and supper after
the business of the day is over. Wine and tea are drunk freely, and
perfumed liquors are used by the wealthy. An indispensable preparation
for polite repast is by bathing and anointing the body. When guests are
invited, the sexes are never brought together; for Siamese women of rank
very rarely appear in strange company; they are confined to remote and
unapproachable halls and chambers, where nothing human, being male, may
ever enter. The convivial entertainments of the Court are usually given
on occasions of public devotion, and form a part of these.



XII. SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM.


As, month, after month, I continued to teach in the palace,--especially
as the language of my pupils, its idioms and characteristic forms of
expression, began to be familiar to me,--all the dim life of the place
"came out" to my ken, like a faint picture, which at first displays to
the eye only a formless confusion, a chaos of colors, but by force of
much looking and tracing and joining and separating, first objects and
then groups are discovered in their proper identity and relation, until
the whole stands out, clear, true, and informing in its coherent
significance of light and shade. Thus, by slow processes, as one whose
sight has been imperceptibly restored, I awoke to a clearer and truer
sense of the life within "the city of the beautiful and invincible
angel."

Sitting at one end of the table in my school-room, with Boy at the
other, and all those far-off faces between, I felt as though we were
twenty thousand miles away from the world that lay but a twenty minutes'
walk from the door; the distance was but a speck in space, but the
separation was tremendous. It always seemed to me that here was a
sudden, harsh suspension of nature's fundamental law,--the human heart
arrested in its functions, ceasing to throb, and yet alive.

[Illustration: PRESENTATION OF A PRINCESS.]

The fields beyond are fresh and green, and bright with flowers. The sun
of summer, rising exultant, greets them with rejoicing; and evening
shadows, falling soft among the dewy petals, linger to kiss them
good-night. There the children of the poor--naked, rude, neglected
though they be--are rich in the freedom of the bounteous earth, rich in
the freedom of the fair blue sky, rich in the freedom of the limpid
ocean of air above and around them. But within the close and gloomy
lanes of this city within a city, through which many lovely women are
wont to come and go, many little feet to patter, and many baby citizens
to be borne in the arms of their dodging slaves, there is but cloud and
chill, and famishing and stinting, and beating of wings against golden
bars. In the order of nature, evening melts softly into night, and
darkness retreats with dignity and grace before the advancing triumphs
of the morning; but here light and darkness are monstrously mixed, and
the result is a glaring gloom that is neither of the day nor of the
night, nor of life nor of death, nor of earth nor of--yes, hell!

In the long galleries and corridors, bewildering with their everlasting
twilight of the eye and of the mind, one is forever coming upon shocks
of sudden sunshine or shocks of sudden shadow,--the smile yet dimpling
in a baby's face, a sister bearing a brother's scourging; a mother
singing to her "sacred infant," [Footnote: P'hra-ong.] a slave sobbing
before a deaf idol. And O, the forlornness of it all! You who have never
beheld these things know not the utterness of loneliness. Compared with
the predicament of some who were my daily companions, the sea were a
home and an iceberg a hearth.

How I have pitied those ill-fated sisters of mine, imprisoned without a
crime! If they could but have rejoiced once more in the freedom of the
fields and woods, what new births of gladness might have been
theirs,--they who with a gasp of despair and moral death first entered
those royal dungeons, never again to come forth alive! And yet have I
known more than one among them who accepted her fate with a repose of
manner and a sweetness of smile that told how dead must be the heart
under that still exterior. And I wondered at the sight. Only twenty
minutes between bondage and freedom,--such freedom as may be found in
Siam! only twenty minutes between those gloomy, hateful cells and the
fair fields and the radiant skies! only twenty minutes between the
cramping and the suffocation and the fear, and the full, deep, glorious
inspirations of freedom and safety!

I had never beheld misery till I found it here; I had never looked upon
the sickening hideousness of slavery till I encountered its features
here; nor, above all, had I comprehended the perfection of the life,
light, blessedness and beauty, the all-sufficing fulness of the love of
God as it is in Jesus, until I felt the contrast here,--pain, deformity,
darkness, death, and eternal emptiness, a darkness to which there is
neither beginning nor end, a living which is neither of this world nor
of the next. The misery which checks the pulse and thrills the heart
with pity in one's common walks about the great cities of Europe is
hardly so saddening as the nameless, mocking wretchedness of these
women, to whom poverty were a luxury, and houselessness as a draught of
pure, free air.

And yet their lot is light indeed compared with that of their children.
The single aim of such a hapless mother, howsoever tender and devoted
she may by nature be, is to form her child after the one strict pattern
her fate has set her,--her master's will; since, otherwise, she dare not
contemplate the perils which might overtake her treasure. Pitiful
indeed, therefore, is the pitiless inflexibility of purpose with which
she wings from her child's heart all the dangerous endearments of
childhood,--its merry laughter, its sparkling tears, its trustfulness,
its artlessness, its engaging waywardness; and in their place instils
silence, submission, self-constraint, suspicion, cunning, carefulness,
and an ever-vigilant fear. And the result is a spectacle of unnatural
discipline simply appalling. The life of such a child is an egg-shell on
an ocean; to its helpless speck of experience all horrors are possible.
Its passing moment is its eternity; and that overwhelmed with terrors,
real or imaginary, what is left but that poor little floating wreck, a
child's despair?

I was often alone in the school-room, long after my other charges had
departed, with a pale, dejected woman, whose name translated was
"Hidden-Perfume." As a pupil she was remarkably diligent and attentive,
and in reading and translating English, her progress was extraordinary.
Only in her eager, inquisitive glances was she child-like; otherwise,
her expression and demeanor were anxious and aged. She had long been out
of favor with her "lord"; and now, without hope from him, surrendered
herself wholly to her fondness for a son she had borne him in her more
youthful and attractive days. In this young prince, who was about ten
years old, the same air of timidity and restraint was apparent as in his
mother, whom he strikingly resembled, only lacking that cast of pensive
sadness which rendered her so attractive, and her pride, which closed
her lips upon the past, though the story of her wrongs was a moving one.

It was my habit to visit her twice a week at her residence, [Footnote:
Each of the ladies of the harem has her own exclusive domicile, within
the inner walls of the palace.] for I was indebted to her for much
intelligent assistance in my study of the Siamese language. On going to
her abode one afternoon, I found her absent; only the young prince was
there, sitting sadly by the window.

"Where is your mother, dear?" I inquired.

"With his Majesty up stairs, I think," he replied, still looking
anxiously in one direction, as though watching for her.

This was an unusual circumstance for my sad, lonely friend, and I
returned home without my lesson for that day.

Next morning, passing the house again, I saw the lad sitting in the same
attitude at the window, his eyes bent in the same direction, only more
wistful and weary than before. On questioning him, I found his mother
had not yet returned. At the pavilion I was met by the Lady Tâlâp, who,
seizing my hand, said, "Hidden-Perfume is in trouble."

"What is the matter?" I inquired.

"She is in prison," she whispered, drawing me closely to her. "She is
not prudent, you know,--like you and me," in a tone which expressed both
triumph and fear.

"Can I see her?" I asked.

"Yes, yes! if you bribe the jailers. But don't give them more than a
tical each. They'll demand two; give them only one."

In the pavilion, which served as a private chapel for the ladies of the
harem, priests were reading prayers and reciting homilies from that
sacred book of Buddha called _Sâsânâh Thai_, "The Religion of the Free";
while the ladies sat on velvet cushions with their hands folded, a vase
of flowers in front of each, and a pair of odoriferous candles, lighted.
Prayers are held daily in this place, and three times a day during the
Buddhist Lent. The priests are escorted to the pavilion by Amazons, and
two warriors, armed with swords and clubs, remain on guard till the
service is ended. The latter, who are eunuchs, also attend the priests
when they enter the palace, in the afternoon, to sprinkle the inmates
with consecrated water.

Leaving the priests reciting and chanting, and the rapt worshippers
bowing, I passed a young mother with a sleeping babe, some slave-girls
playing at _sabâh_ [Footnote: Marbles, played with the knee instead of
the fingers.] on the stone pavement, and two princesses borne in the
arms of their slaves, though almost women grown, on my way to the palace
prison.

If it ever should be the reader's fortune, good or ill, to visit a
Siamese dungeon, whether allotted to prince or peasant, his attention
will be first attracted to the rude designs on the rough stone walls
(otherwise decorated only with moss and fungi and loathsome reptiles) of
some nightmared painter, who has exhausted his dyspeptic fancy in
portraying hideous personifications of Hunger, Terror, Old Age, Despair,
Disease, and Death, tormented by furies and avengers, with hair of
snakes and whips of scorpions,--all beyond expression devilish. Floor it
has none, nor ceiling, for, with the Meinam so near, neither boards nor
plaster can keep out the ooze. Underfoot, a few planks, loosely laid,
are already as soft as the mud they are meant to cover; the damp has
rotted them through and through. Overhead, the roof is black, but not
with smoke; for here, where the close steam of the soggy earth and the
reeking walls is almost intolerable, no fire is needed in the coldest
season. The cell is lighted by one small window, so heavily grated on
the outer side as effectually to bar the ingress of fresh air. A pair of
wooden trestles, supporting rough boards, form a makeshift for a
bedstead, and a mat (which may be clean or dirty, the ticals of the
prisoner must settle that) is all the bed.

In such a cell, on such a couch, lay the concubine of a supreme king and
the mother of a royal prince of Siam, her feet covered with a silk
mantle, her head supported by a pillow of glazed leather, her face
turned to the clammy wall.

There was no door to grate upon her quivering nerves; a trap-door in the
street overhead had opened to the magic of silver, and I had descended a
flight of broken steps of stone. At her head, a little higher than the
pillow, were a vase of flowers, half faded, a pair of candles burning in
gold candlesticks, and a small image of the Buddha. She had brought her
god with her. Well, she needed his presence.

I could hardly keep my feet, for the footing was slippery and my brain
swam. Touching the silent, motionless form, in a voice scarcely audible
I pronounced her name. She turned with difficulty, and a slight sound of
clanking explained the covering on the feet. She was chained to one of
the trestles.

Sitting up, she made room for me beside her. No tears were in her eyes;
only the habitual sadness of her face was deepened. Here, truly, was a
perfect work of misery, meekness, and patience.

Astonished at seeing me, she imagined me capable of yet greater things,
and folding her hands in an attitude of supplication, implored me to
help her. The offence for which she was imprisoned was briefly this:--

She had been led to petition, through her son, [Footnote: A privilege
granted to all the concubines.] that an appointment held by her late
uncle, Phya Khien, might be bestowed on her elder brother, not knowing
that another noble had already been preferred to the post by his
Majesty.

Had she been guilty of the gravest crime, her punishment could not have
been more severe. It was plain that a stupid grudge was at the bottom of
this cruel business. The king, on reading the petition, presented by the
trembling lad on his knees, became furious, and, dashing it back into
the child's face, accused the mother of plotting to undermine his power,
saying he knew her to be at heart a rebel, who hated him and his dynasty
with all the rancor of her Peguan ancestors, the natural enemies of
Siam. Thus lashing himself into a rage of hypocritical patriotism, and
seeking to justify himself by condemning her, he sent one of his judges
to bring her to him. But before the myrmidon could go and come,
concluding to dispense with forms, he anticipated the result of that
mandate with another,--to chain and imprison her. No sooner was she
dragged to this deadly cell, than a third order was issued to flog her
till she confessed her treacherous plot; but the stripes were
administered so tenderly, [Footnote: In these cases the executioners are
women, who generally spare each other if they dare.] that the only
confession they extorted was a meek protestation that she was "his
meanest slave, and ready to give her life for his pleasure."

"Beat her on the mouth with a slipper for lying!" roared the royal
tiger; and they did, in the letter, if not in the spirit, of the brutal
sentence. She bore it meekly, hanging down her head. "I am degraded
forever!" she said to me.

When once the king was enraged, there was nothing to be done but to wait
in patience until the storm should exhaust itself by its own fury. But
it was horrible to witness such an abuse of power at the hands of one
who was the only source of justice in the land. It was a crime against
all humanity, the outrage of the strong upon the helpless. His madness
sometimes lasted a week; but weeks have their endings. Besides, he
really had a conscience, tough and shrunken as it was; and she had, what
was more to the purpose, a whole tribe of powerful connections.

As for myself, there was but one thing I could do; and that was to
intercede privately with the Kralahome. The same evening, immediately on
returning from my visit to the dungeon, I called on him; but when I
explained the object of my visit he rebuked me sharply for interfering
between his Majesty and his wives.

"She is my pupil," I replied. "But I have not interfered; I have only
come to you for justice. She did not know of the appointment until she
had sent in her petition; and to punish one woman for that which is
permitted and encouraged in another is gross injustice." Thereupon he
sent for his secretary, and having satisfied himself that the
appointment had not been published, was good enough to promise that he
would explain to his Majesty that "there had been delay in making known
to the Court the royal pleasure in this matter"; but he spoke with
indifference, as if thinking of something else.

I felt chilled and hurt as I left the premier's palace, and more anxious
than ever when I thought of the weary eyes of the lonely lad watching
for his mother's return; for no one dared tell him the truth. But, to do
the premier justice, he was more troubled than he would permit me to
discover at the mistake the poor woman had made; for there was good
stuff in the moral fabric of the man,--stern rectitude, and a judgment,
unlike the king's, not warped by passion. That very night [Footnote: All
consultations on matters of state and of court discipline are held in
the royal palace at night.] he repaired to the Grand Palace, and
explained the delay to the king, without appearing to be aware of the
concubine's punishment.

On Monday morning, when I came to school in the pavilion, I found, to my
great joy, that Hidden-Perfume had been liberated, and was at home again
with her child. The poor creature embraced me ardently, glorifying me
with grateful epithets from the extravagant vocabulary of her people;
and, taking an emerald ring from her finger, she put it upon mine,
saying, "By this you will remember your thankful friend." On the
following day she also sent me a small purse of gold thread netted, in
which were a few Siamese coins, and a scrap of paper inscribed with
cabalistic characters,--an infallible charm to preserve the wearer from
poverty and distress.

Among my pupils was a little girl about eight or nine years old, of
delicate frame, and with the low voice and subdued manner of one who had
already had experience of sorrow. She was not among those presented to
me at the opening of the school. Wanne Ratâna Kania was her name ("Sweet
Promise of my Hopes"), and very engaging and persuasive was she in her
patient, timid loveliness. Her mother, the Lady Khoon Chom Kioa, who had
once found favor with the king, had, at the time of my coming to the
palace, fallen into disgrace by reason of her gambling, in which she had
squandered all the patrimony of the little princess. This fact, instead
of inspiring the royal father with pity for his child, seemed to attract
to her all that was most cruel in his insane temper. The offence of the
mother had made the daughter offensive in his sight; and it was not
until long after the term of imprisonment of the degraded favorite had
expired that Wanne ventured to appear at a royal _levée_. The moment the
king caught sight of the little form, so piteously prostrated there, he
drove her rudely from his presence, taunting her with the delinquencies
of her mother with a coarseness that would have been cruel enough if she
had been responsible for them and a gainer by them, but against one of
her tender years, innocent toward both, and injured by both, it was
inconceivably atrocious.

On her first appearance at school she was so timid and wistful that I
felt constrained to notice and encourage her more than those whom I had
already with me. But I found this no easy part to play; for very soon
one of the court ladies in the confidence of the king took me quietly
aside and warned me to be less demonstrative in favor of the little
princess, saying, "Surely you would not bring trouble upon that wounded
lamb."

It was a sore trial to me to witness the oppression of one so
unoffending and so helpless. Yet our Wanne was neither thin nor pale.
There was a freshness in her childish beauty, and a bloom in the
transparent olive of her cheek, that were at times bewitching. She loved
her father, and in her visions of baby faith beheld him almost as a god.
It was true joy to her to fold her hands and bow before the chamber
where he slept. With that steadfast hopefulness of childhood which can
be deceived without being discouraged, she would say, "How glad he will
be when I can read!" and yet she had known nothing but despair.

Her memory was extraordinary; she delighted in all that was remarkable,
and with careful wisdom gathered up facts and precepts and saved them
for future use. She seemed to have built around her an invisible temple
of her own design, and to have illuminated it with the rushlight of her
childish love. Among the books she read to me, rendering it from English
into Siamese, was one called "Spring-time." On translating the line,
"Whom He loveth he chasteneth," she looked up in my face, and asked
anxiously: "Does thy God do that? Ah! lady, are _all_ the gods angry and
cruel? Has he no pity, even for those who love him? He must be like my
father; _he_ loves us, so he has to be _rye_ (cruel), that we may fear
evil and avoid it."

Meanwhile little Wanne learned to spell, read, and translate almost
intuitively; for there were novelty and hope to help the Buddhist child,
and love to help the English woman. The sad look left her face, her life
had found an interest; and very often, on _fête_ days, she was my only
pupil;--when suddenly an ominous cloud obscured the sky of her transient
gladness. Wanne was poor; and her gifts to me were of the riches of
poverty,--fruits and flowers. But she owned some female slaves; and one
among them, a woman of twenty-five perhaps (who had already made a place
for herself in my regard), seemed devotedly attached to her youthful
mistress, and not only attended her to the school day after day, but
shared her scholarly enthusiasm, even studied with her, sitting at her
feet by the table. Steadily the slave kept pace with the princess. All
that Wanne learned at school in the day was lovingly taught to Mai Noie
in the nursery at night; and it was not long before I found, to my
astonishment, that the slave read and translated as correctly as her
mistress.

Very delightful were the demonstrations of attachment interchanged
between these two. Mai Noie bore the child in her arms to and from the
school, fed her, humored her every whim, fanned her naps, bathed and
perfumed her every night, and then rocked her to sleep on her careful
bosom, as tenderly as she would have done for her own baby. And then it
was charming to watch the child's face kindle with love and comfort as
the sound of her friend's step approached.

Suddenly a change; the little princess came to school as usual, but a
strange woman attended her, and I saw no more of Mai Noie there. The
child grew so listless and wretched that I was forced to ask the cause
of her darling's absence; she burst into a passion of tears, but replied
not a word. Then I inquired of the stranger, and she answered in two
syllables,--_My ru_ ("I know not").

Shortly afterward, as I entered the school-room one day, I perceived
that something unusual was happening. I turned toward the princes' door,
and stood still, fairly holding my breath. There was the king, furious,
striding up and down. All the female judges of the palace were present,
and a crowd of mothers and royal children. On all the steps around,
innumerable slave-women, old and young, crouched and hid their faces.

But the object most conspicuous was little Wanne's mother, manacled, and
prostrate on the polished marble pavement. There, too, was my poor
little princess, her hands clasped helplessly, her eyes tearless but
downcast, palpitating, trembling, shivering. Sorrow and horror had
transformed the child.

As well as I could understand, where no one dared explain, the wretched
woman had been gambling again, and had even staked and lost her
daughter's slaves. At last I understood Wanne's silence when I asked her
where Mai Noie was. By some means--spies probably--the whole matter had
come to the king's ears, and his rage was wild, not because he loved the
child, but that he hated the mother.

Promptly the order was given to lash the woman; and two Amazons advanced
to execute it. The first stripe was delivered with savage skill; but
before the thong could descend again, the child sprang forward and flung
herself across the bare and quivering back of her mother.

_Ti chan, Tha Moom! [Footnote: Tha Mom or Moom, used by children in
addressing a royal father.] Poot-thoo ti chan, Tha Mom!_ ("Strike _me_,
my father! Pray, strike me, O my father!")

The pause of fear that followed was only broken by my boy, who, with a
convulsive cry, buried his face desperately in the folds of my skirt.

There indeed was a case for prayer, any prayer!--the prostrate woman,
the hesitating lash, the tearless anguish of the Siamese child, the
heart-rending cry of the English child, all those mothers with
grovelling brows, but hearts uplifted among the stars, on the wings of
the Angel of Prayer. Who could behold so many women crouching,
shuddering, stupefied, dismayed, in silence and darkness, animated,
enlightened only by the deep whispering heart of maternity, and not be
moved with mournful yearning?

The child's prayer was vain. As demons tremble in the presence of a god,
so the king comprehended that he had now to deal with a power of
weakness, pity, beauty, courage, and eloquence. "Strike _me_, O my
father!" His quick, clear sagacity measured instantly all the danger in
that challenge; and though his voice was thick and agitated (for,
monster as he was at that moment, he could not but shrink from striking
at every mother's heart at his feet), he nervously gave the word to
remove the child, and bind her. The united strength of several women was
not more than enough to loose the clasp of those loving arms from the
neck of an unworthy mother. The tender hands and feet were bound, and
the tender heart was broken. The lash descended then, unforbidden by any
cry.



XIII. FÂ-YING, THE KING'S DARLING.


"Will you teach me to draw?" said an irresistible young voice to me, as
I sat at the school-room table, one bright afternoon. "It is so much
more pleasant to sit by you than to go to my Sanskrit class. My Sanskrit
teacher is not like my English teacher; she bends my hands back when I
make mistakes. I don't like Sanskrit, I like English. There are so many
pretty pictures in your books. Will you take me to England with you, Mam
cha?" [Footnote: "Lady, dear."] pleaded the engaging little prattler.

"I am afraid his Majesty will not let you go with me," I replied.

"O yes, he will!" said the child with smiling confidence. "He lets me do
as I like. You know I am the Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying; he loves me best of
all; he will let me go."

"I am glad to hear it," said I, "and very glad to hear that you love
English and drawing. Let us go up and ask his Majesty if you may learn
drawing instead of Sanskrit."

With sparkling eyes and a happy smile, she sprang from my lap, and,
seizing my hand eagerly, said, "O yes! let us go now." We went, and our
prayer was granted.

Never did work seem more like pleasure than it did to me as I sat with
this sweet, bright little princess, day after day, at the hour when all
her brothers and sisters were at their Sanskrit, drawing herself, as the
humor seized her, or watching me draw; but oftener listening, her large
questioning eyes fixed upon my face, as step by step I led her out of
the shadow-land of myth into the realm of the truth as it is in Christ
Jesus. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God"; and I felt
that this child of smiles and tears, all unbaptized and unblessed as she
was, was nearer and dearer to her Father in heaven than to her father on
earth.

This was the Somdetch Chowfa Chandrmondol, best known in the palace by
her pet name of Fâ-ying. Her mother, the late queen consort, in dying,
left three sons and this one daughter, whom, with peculiar tenderness
and anxiety, she commended to the loving kindness of the king; and now
the child was the fondled darling of the lonely, bitter man, having
quickly won her way to his heart by the charm of her fearless innocence
and trustfulness, her sprightly intelligence and changeful grace.

Morning dawned fair on the river, the sunshine flickering on the silver
ripples, and gilding the boats of the market people as they softly glide
up or down to the lazy swing of the oars. The floating shops were all
awake, displaying their various and fantastic wares to attract the
passing citizen or stranger. Priests in yellow robes moved noiselessly
from door to door, receiving without asking and without thanks the alms
wherewith their pious clients hoped to lay up treasures in heaven, or,
in Buddhist parlance, to "make merit." Slaves hurried hither and thither
in the various bustle of errands. Worshippers thronged the gates and
vestibules of the many temples of this city of pagodas and _p'hra-
cha-dees_, and myriads of fan-shaped bells scattered aeolian melodies on
the passing breeze. As Boy and I gazed from our piazza on this strangely
picturesque panorama, there swept across the river a royal barge filled
with slaves, who, the moment they had landed, hurried up to me.

"My lady," they cried, "there is cholera in the palace! Three slaves are
lying dead in the princesses' court; and her Highness, the young
Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying, was seized this morning. She sends for you. O,
come to her, quickly!" and with that they put into my hand a scrap of
paper; it was from his Majesty.

"MY DEAR MAM,--Our well-beloved daughter, your favorite pupil, is
attacked with cholera, and has earnest desire to see you, and is heard
much to make frequent repetition of your name. I beg that you will favor
her wish. I fear her illness is mortal, as there has been three deaths
since morning. She is best beloved of my children.

"I am your afflicted friend,

"S. S. P. P. MAHA MONGKUT."

In a moment I was in my boat. I entreated, I flattered, I scolded, the
rowers. How slow they were! how strong the opposing current! And when we
did reach those heavy gates, how slowly they moved, with what suspicious
caution they admitted me! I was fierce with impatience. And when at last
I stood panting at the door of my Fâ-ying's chamber--too late! even Dr.
Campbell (the surgeon of the British consulate) had come too late.

There was no need to prolong that anxious wail in the ear of the deaf
child, "P'hra-Arahang! P'hra-Arahang!" [Footnote: One of the most sacred
of the many titles of Buddha, repeated by the nearest relative in the
ear of the dying till life is quite extinct.] She would not forget her
way; she would nevermore lose herself on the road to Heaven. Beyond,
above the P'hra-Arahang, she had soared into the eternal, tender arms of
the P'hra-Jesus, of whom she was wont to say in her infantine wonder and
eagerness, _Mam cha, chân râk P'hra-Jesus mâk_ ("Mam dear, I love your
holy Jesus.")

As I stooped to imprint a parting kiss on the little face that had been
so fair to me, her kindred and slaves exchanged their appealing
"P'hra-Arahang" for a sudden burst of heart-rending cries.

An attendant hurried me to the king, who, reading the heavy tidings in
my silence, covered his face with his hands and wept passionately.
Strange and terrible were the tears of such a man, welling up from a
heart from which all natural affections had seemed to be expelled, to
make room for his own exacting, engrossing conceit of self.

Bitterly he bewailed his darling, calling her by such tender, touching
epithets as the lips of loving Christian mothers use. What could I say?
What could I do but weep with him, and then steal quietly away and leave
the king to the Father?

"The moreover very sad & mournful Circular [Footnote: From the pen of
the king.] from His Gracious Majesty Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha
Mongkut, the reigning Supreme King of Siam, intimating the recent death
of Her Celestial Royal Highness, Princess Somdetch Chowfa Chandrmondol
Sobhon Baghiawati, who was His Majesty's most affectionate & well
beloved 9th Royal daughter or 16th offspring, and the second Royal child
by His Majesty's late Queen consort Rambery Bhamarabhiramy who deceased
in the year 1861. Both mother and daughter have been known to many
foreign friends of His Majesty.

"To all the foreign friends of His Majesty, residing or trading in Siam,
or in Singapore, Malacca, Pinang, Ceylon, Batavia, Saigon, Macao,
Hong-kong, & various regions in China, Europe, America, &c. &c....

"Her Celestial Royal Highness, having been born on the 24th April, 1855,
grew up in happy condition of her royal valued life, under the care of
her Royal parents, as well as her elder and younger three full brothers;
and on the demise of her royal mother on the forementioned date, she was
almost always with her Royal father everywhere day & night. All things
which belonged to her late mother suitable for female use were
transferred to her as the most lawful inheritor of her late royal
mother; She grew up to the age of 8 years & 20 days. On the ceremony of
the funeral service of her elder late royal half brother forenamed, She
accompanied her royal esteemed father & her royal brothers and sisters
in customary service, cheerfully during three days of the ceremony, from
the 11th to 13th May. On the night of the latter day, when she was
returning from the royal funeral place to the royal residence in the
same sedan with her Royal father at 10 o'clock P.M. she yet appeared
happy, but alas! on her arrival at the royal residence, she was attacked
by most violent & awful cholera, and sunk rapidly before the arrival of
the physicians who were called on that night for treatment. Her disease
or illness of cholera increased so strong that it did not give way to
the treatment of any one, or even to the Chlorodine administered to her
by Doctor James Campbell the Surgeon of the British Consulate. She
expired at 4 o'clock P.M., on the 14th May, when her elder royal half
brother's remains were burning at the funeral hall outside of the royal
palace, according to the determined time for the assembling of the great
congregation of the whole of the royalty & nobility, and native &
foreign friends, before the occurrence of the unforeseen sudden
misfortune or mournful event.

"The sudden death of the said most affectionate and lamented royal
daughter has caused greater regret and sorrow to her Royal father than
several losses sustained by him before, as this beloved Royal amiable
daughter was brought up almost by the hands of His Majesty himself,
since she was aged only 4 to 5 months, His Majesty has carried her to
and fro by his hand and on the lap and placed her by his side in every
one of the Royal seats, where ever he went; whatever could be done in
the way of nursing His Majesty has done himself, by feeding her with
milk obtained from her nurse, and sometimes with the milk of the cow,
goat &c. poured in a teacup from which His Majesty fed her by means of a
spoon, so this Royal daughter was as familiar with her father in her
infancy, as with her nurses.

"On her being only aged six months, his Majesty took this Princess with
him and went to Ayudia on affairs there; after that time when she became
grown up His Majesty had the princess seated on his lap when he was in
his chair at the breakfast, dinner & supper table, and fed her at the
same time of breakfast &c, almost every day, except when she became sick
of colds &c. until the last days of her life she always eat at same
table with her father. Where ever His Majesty went, this princess always
accompanied her father upon the same, sedan, carriage, Royal boat, yacht
&c. and on her being grown up she became more prudent than other
children of the same age, she paid every affectionate attention to her
affectionate and esteemed father in every thing where her ability
allowed; she was well educated in the vernacular Siamese literature
which she commenced to study when she was 3 years old, and in last year
she commenced to study in the English School where the schoolmistress,
Lady L---- has observed that she was more skillful than the other royal
Children, she pronounced & spoke English in articulate & clever manner
which pleased the schoolmistress exceedingly, so that the schoolmistress
on the loss of this her beloved pupil, was in great sorrow and wept
much.

".... But alas! her life was very short. She was only aged 8 years & 20
days, reckoning from her birth day & hour, she lived in this world 2942
days & 18 hours. But it is known that the nature of human lives is like
the flames of candles lighted in open air without any protection above &
every side, so it is certain that this path ought to be followed by
every one of human beings in a short or long while which cannot be
ascertained by prediction, Alas!

"Dated Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, 16th May, Anno Christi 1863."


Not long after our darling Fâ-ying was taken from us, the same royal
barge, freighted with the same female slaves who had summoned us to her
death-bed, came in haste to our house. His Majesty had sent them to find
and bring us. We must hurry to the palace. On arriving there, we found
the school pavilion strangely decorated with flowers. My chair of office
had been freshly painted a glaring red, and on the back and round the
arms and legs fresh flowers were twined. The books the Princess Fâ-ying
had lately conned were carefully displayed in front of my accustomed
seat, and upon them were laid fresh roses and fragrant lilies. Some of
the ladies in waiting informed me that an extraordinary honor was about
to be conferred on me. Not relishing the prospect of favors that might
place me in a false position, and still all in the dark, I submitted
quietly, but not without misgivings on my own part and positive
opposition on Boy's, to be enthroned in the gorgeous chair, whereof the
paint was hardly dry. Presently his Majesty sent to inquire if we had
arrived, and being apprised of our presence, came down at once, followed
by all my pupils and a formidable staff of noble dowagers,--his sisters,
half-sisters, and aunts, paternal and maternal.

Having shaken hands with me and with my child, he proceeded to enlighten
us. He was about to confer a distinction upon me, for my "courage and
conduct," as he expressed it, at the death-bed of her Highness, his
well-beloved royal child, the Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying. Then, bidding me
"remain seated," much to the detriment of my white dress, in the sticky
red chair, and carefully taking the ends of seven threads of unspun
cotton (whereof the other ends were passed over my head, and over the
dead child's books, into the hands of seven of his elder sisters), he
proceeded to wind them round my brow and temples. Next he waved
mysteriously a few gold coins, then dropped twenty-one drops of cold
water out of a jewelled shell, [Footnote: The conch, or chank shell] and
finally, muttering something in Sanskrit, and placing in my hand a small
silk bag containing a title of nobility and the number and description
of the roods of lands pertaining to it, bade me rise, "Chow Khoon Crue
Yai"!

My estate was in the district of Lophaburee and P'hra Batt, and I found
afterward that to reach it I must perform a tedious journey overland,
through a wild, dense jungle, on the back of an elephant. So, with wise
munificence, I left it to my people, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses,
wild boars, armadillos, and monkeys to enjoy unmolested and untaxed,
while I continued to pursue the even tenor of a "school-marm's" way,
unagitated by my honorary title. In fact, the whole affair was
ridiculous; and I was inclined to feel a little ashamed of the
distinction, when I reflected on the absurd figure I must have cut, with
my head in a string like a grocer's parcel, and Boy imploring me, with
all his astonished eyes, not to submit to so silly an operation. So he
and I tacitly agreed to hush the matter up between us.

Speaking of the "chank" shell, that is the name given in the East Indies
to certain varieties of the _voluta gravis_, fished up by divers in the
Gulf of Manaar, on the northwest coast of Ceylon. There are two kinds,
_payel_ and _patty,_--the one red, the other white; the latter is of
small value. These shells are exported to Calcutta and Bombay, where
they are sawed into rings of various sizes, and worn on the arms, legs,
fingers, and toes by the Hindoos, from whom the Buddhists have adopted
the shell for use in their religious or political ceremonies. They
employ, however, a third species, which opens to the right, and is rare
and costly. The demand for these shells, created by the innumerable
poojahs and pageants of the Hindoos and Buddhists, was formerly so great
that a bounty of sixty thousand rix dollars per annum was paid to the
British government for the privilege of fishing for them; but this
demand finally ceased, and the revenue became not worth collecting. The
fishing is now free to all.



XIV. AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING.


One morning we were startled by a great outcry, from which we presently
began to pick out, here and there, a coherent word, which, put together,
signified that Moonshee was once more in trouble. I ran down into the
compound, and found that the old man had been cruelly beaten, by order
of one of the premier's half-brothers, for refusing to bow down before
him. Exhausted as he was, he found voice to express his sense of the
outrage in indignant iteration. "Am I a beast? Am I an unbelieving dog?
O son of Jaffur Khan, how hast thou fallen!"

I felt so shocked and insulted that I went at once, and without
ceremony, to the Kralahome, and complained. To my surprise and disgust,
his Excellency made light of the matter, saying that the old man was a
fool; that he had no time to waste upon such trifles; and that I must
not trouble him so often with my meddling in matters of no moment, and
which did not concern me.

When he was done with this explosion of petulance and brow-beating, I
endeavored to demonstrate to him the unfairness of his remarks, and the
disadvantage to himself if he should appear to connive at the ruffianly
behavior of his people. But I assured him that in future I should not
trouble him with my complaints, but take them directly to the British
Consul. And so saying I left this unreasonable prime minister, meeting
the cause of all our woes (the half-brother) coming in as I went out.
That same evening, as I sat in our little piazza, where it was cooler
than in the house, embroidering a new coat for Boy to wear on his
approaching birthday, I felt a violent blow on my head, and fell from my
chair stunned, overturning the small table at which I was working, and
the heavy Argand lamp that stood on it.

On recovering my senses I found myself in the dark, and Boy, with all
his little strength, trying to lift me from the floor, while he
screamed, "_Beebe maree! Beebe maree!_" [Footnote: Maree, "Come here"
(Malay).] I endeavored to rise, but feeling dizzy and sick lay still for
a while, taking Louis in my arms to reassure him.

When Beebe came from the river, where she had been bathing, she struck a
light, and found that the mischief had been done with a large stone,
about four inches long and two wide; but by whom or why it had been
thrown we could not for some time conjecture. Beebe raised the
neighborhood with her cries: "First my husband, then my mistress! It
will be my turn next; and then what will become of the _chota baba
sahib?_" [Footnote: The little master.] But I begged her to have done
with her din and help me to the couch, which she did with touching
tenderness and quiet, bathing my head, which had bled so profusely that
I sank, exhausted, into a deep sleep, though the sight of my boy's pale,
anxious face, as he insisted on sharing Beebe's vigil, would have been
more than enough to keep me awake at any other time. When I awoke in the
morning, there sat the dear little fellow in a chair asleep, but
dressed, his head resting on my pillow.

I now felt so much better, though my head was badly swollen, that I rose
and paid a visit to Moonshee, who was really ill, though not dying, as
his wife declared. The shame and outrage of his beating was the occasion
of much sorrow and trouble to me, for my Persian teacher now begged to
be sent back to Singapore, and I thought that Beebe could not be
persuaded to let him go alone, though my heart had been set on keeping
them with me as long as I remained in Siam. It was in vain that I tried
to convince the terrified old man that such a catastrophe could hardly
happen again; he would not be beguiled, but, shedding faithful tears at
the sight of my bandaged head, declared we should all be murdered if we
tarried another day in a land of such barbarous Kafirs. I assured him
that my wound was but skin-deep, and that I apprehended no further
violence. But all to no purpose; I was obliged to promise them that they
should depart by the next trip of the Chow Phya steamer.

I deemed it prudent, however, to send for the premier's secretary, and
warn him, in his official capacity, that if a repetition of the outrage
already perpetrated upon members of my household should be attempted
from any quarter, I would at once take refuge at the British consulate,
and lodge a complaint against the government of Siam.

Mr. Hunter, who was always very serious when he was sober and very
volatile when he was not, took the matter to heart, stared long and
thoughtfully at my bandaged head and pallid countenance, and abruptly
started for the premier's palace, whence he returned on the following
day with several copies of a proclamation in the Siamese language,
signed by his Excellency, to the effect that persons found injuring or
in any way molesting any member of my household should be severely
punished. I desired him to leave one or two of them, in a friendly way,
at the house of my neighbor on the left, the Kralahome's half-brother;
for it was he, and no other, who had committed this most cowardly act of
revenge. The expression of Mr. Hunter's face, as the truth slowly dawned
upon him, was rich in its blending of indignation, disgust, and
contempt. "The pusillanimous rascal!" he exclaimed, as he hurried off in
the direction indicated.

"The darkest hour is just before day." So the gloom now cast over our
little circle by Moonshee's departure was quickly followed by the light
of love in Beebe's tearful eyes as she bade her husband adieu. "How
could she," she asked, "leave her Mem and the _chota baba sahib_ alone in
a strange land?"



XV. THE CITY OF BANGKOK.


Ascending the Meinam (or Chow Phya) from the gulf, and passing Paknam,
the paltry but picturesque seaport already described, we come next to
Paklat Beeloo, or "Little Paklat," so styled to distinguish it from
Paklat Boon, a considerable town higher up the river, which we shall
presently inspect as we steam toward Bangkok. Though, strictly speaking,
Paklat Beeloo is a mere cluster of huts, the humble dwellings of a
colony of farmers and rice-planters, it is nevertheless a place of
considerable importance as a depot for the products of the ample fields
and gardens which surround it on every side. The rice and vegetables
which these supply are shipped for the markets of Bangkok and Ayudia. At
Paklat Beeloo that bustle of traffic begins which, more and more as we
approach the capital, imparts to the river its characteristic aspect of
activity and thrift,--an animated procession of boats of various form
and size, deeply laden with grain, garden stuffs, and fruits, drifting
with the friendly helping tide, and requiring little or no manual labor
for their navigation, as they sweep along tranquilly, steadily, from
bank to bank, from village to village.

Diverse as are the styles and uses of these boats, the most convenient,
and therefore the most common, are the Rua-keng and the Rua-pêt. The
former resembles in all respects the Venetian gondola, while the Rua-pêt
has either a square house with, windows amidships, or (more commonly) a
basket cover, long and round, like the tent-top of some Western wagons.
The dimensions of many of these boats are sufficient to accommodate an
entire family, with their household goods and merchandise, yet one
seldom sees more than a single individual in charge of them. The tide,
running strongly up or down, affords the motive-power; "the crew" has
but to steer. Often unwieldy, and piled clumsily with cargo, one might
reasonably suppose their safe piloting to be a nautical impossibility;
yet so perfect is the skill--the instinct, rather--of these almost
amphibious river-folk, that a little child, not uncommonly a girl,
shall lead them. Accidents are marvellously rare, considering the
thousands of large, heavy, handsome keng boats that ply continually
between the gulf and the capital, now lost in a sudden bend of the
stream, now emerging from behind a screen of mangroves, and in their
swift descent threatening quick destruction to the small and fragile
market-boats, freighted with fish and poultry, fruit and vegetables.

From Paklat Beeloo a great canal penetrates directly to the heart of
Bangkok, cutting off thirty miles from the circuitous river route. But
the traveller, faithful to the picturesque, will cling to the beautiful
Meinam, which will entertain him with scenery more and more charming as
he approaches the capital,--higher lands, a neater cultivation, hamlets
and villages quaintly pretty, fantastic temples and pagodas dotting the
plain, fine Oriental effects of form and color, scattered Edens of
fruit-trees,--the mango, the mangostein, the bread-fruit, the durian the
orange,--their dark foliage contrasting boldly with the more lively and
lovely green of the betel, the tamarind, and the banana. Every curve of
the river is beautiful with an unexpectedness of its own,--here the
sugar-cane swaying gracefully, there the billow-like lights and shadows
of the supple, feathery bamboo, and everywhere ideal paradises of
refreshment and repose. As we drift on the flowing thoroughfare toward
the golden spires of Bangkok, kaleidoscopic surprises of summer salute
us on either hand.

Presently we come to Paklat Boon, a place of detached cottages and
orchards, fondly courting the river, the pretty homesteads of husbandmen
and gardeners. Here, too, is a dock-yard for the construction of royal
barges and war-boats, some of them more than eighty feet long, with less
than twelve feet beam.

From Paklat Boon to Bangkok the scene is one of ever-increasing
splendor, the glorious river seeming to array itself more and more
grandly, as for the admiration of kings, and proudly spreading its
waters wide, as a courtier spreads his robes. Its lake-like expanses,
without a spiteful rock or shoal, are alive with ships, barks, brigs,
junks, proas, sampans, canoes; and the stranger is beset by a flotilla
of river pedlers, expertly sculling under the stern of the steamer, and
shrilly screaming the praises of their wares; while here and there, in
the thick of the bustle and scramble and din, a cunning, quick-handed
Chinaman, in a crank canoe, ladles from a steaming caldron his savory
chow-chow soup, and serves it out in small white bowls to hungry
customers, who hold their peace for a time and loll upon their oars,
enraptured by the penetrating brew.

Three miles below the capital are the royal dock-yards, where most of
the ships composing the Siamese navy and merchant marine are built,
under the supervision of English shipwrights. Here, also, craft from
Hong-Kong, Canton, Singapore, Rangoon, and other ports, that have been
disabled at sea, are repaired more thoroughly and cheaply than in any
other port in the East. There are, likewise, several dry-docks, and, in
fact, an establishment completely equipped and intelligently managed. A
short distance below the dock-yards is the American Mission, comprising
the dwellings of the missionaries and a modest school-house and chapel,
the latter having a fair attendance of consuls and their children. Above
the dock-yards is the Roman Catholic establishment, a quiet little
settlement clustered about a small cross-crowned sanctuary.

Yet one more bend of the tortuous river, and the strange panorama of the
floating city unrolls like a great painted canvas before us,--piers and
rafts of open shops, with curious wares and fabrics exposed at the very
water's edge; and beyond and above these the magnificent "watts" and
pagodas with which the capital abounds.

These pagodas, and the _p'hra-cha-dees_, or minarets, that crown some of
the temples, are in many cases true wonders of cunning workmanship and
profuse adornment--displaying mosaics of fine porcelain, inlaid with
ivory, gold, and silver, while the lofty doors and windows are overlaid
with sculptures of grotesque figures from the Buddhist and Brahminical
mythologies. Near the Grand Palace are three tall pillars of elegant
design, everywhere inlaid with variegated stones, and so richly gilt
that they are the wonder and the pride of all the country round. These
monuments mark the places of deposit of a few charred bones that once
were three demigods of Siam,--the kings P'hra Rama Thibodi, P'hra Narai,
and P'hra Phya Tak, who did doughty deeds of valor and prowess in
earlier periods of Siamese history.

The Grand Royal Palace, the semi-castellated residence of the Supreme
King of Siam, with its roofs and spires pointed with what seem to be the
horns of animals, towers pre-eminent over all the city. It is a great
citadel, surrounded by a triplet of walls, fortified with many bastions.
Each of the separate buildings it comprises is cruciform; and even the
palace lately erected in the style of Windsor Castle forms with the old
palace the arms of a cross, as the latter does with the Phrasat,--and so
on down to an odd little conceit in architecture, in the Chinese style
throughout.

In front of the old palace is an ample enclosure, paved, and surrounded
with beautiful trees and rare plants. A gateway, guarded by a pair of
colossal lions and two gigantic and frightful nondescripts, half demon,
half human, leads to the old palace, now almost abandoned. Beyond this,
and within the third or innermost wall, is the true heart of the
citadel, the quarters of the women of the harem. This is in itself a
sort of miniature city, with streets, shops, bazaars, and gardens, all
occupied and tended by women only. Outside are the observatory and
watch-tower.

Some of the grandest and most beautiful temples and pagodas of Siam are
in this part of the city. On one side of the palace are the temples and
monasteries dedicated to the huge Sleeping Idol, and on the other the
mass of buildings that constitute the palace and harem of the Second
King. From these two palaces broad streets extend for several miles,
occupied on either side by the principal shops and bazaars of Bangkok.

Leaving the Grand Palace, a short walk to the right brings us to the
monuments, already mentioned, of the three warrior kings. From noble
pedestals of fine black granite, adorned at top and bottom with cornices
and rings of ivory, carved in mythological forms of animals, birds, and
flowers, rise conical pillars about fifty feet high.

The columns themselves are in mosaic, with diverse material inlaid upon
the solid masonry so carefully that the cement can hardly be detected.
No two patterns are the same, striking effects of form and color have
been studied, and the result is beautiful beyond description. Close
beside these a third pillar was lately in process of erection, to the
memory of the good King P'hra-Phen-den Klang, father of his late
Majesty, Somdetch P'hra-Paramendr Maha Mongkut.

On the outer skirt of the walled town stands the temple Watt Brahmanee
Waid, dedicated to the divinity to whom the control of the universe has
been ascribed from the most ancient times. His temple is the only shrine
of a Brahminical deity that the followers of Buddha have not dared to
abolish. Intelligent Buddhists hold that he exists in the latent forces
of nature, that his only attribute is benevolence, though he is capable
of a just indignation, and that within the scope of his mental vision
are myriads of worlds yet to come. But he is said to have no form, no
voice, no odor, no color, no active creative power,--a subtile,
fundamental principle of nature, pervading all things, influencing all
things. This belief in Brahma is so closely interwoven with all that is
best in the morals and customs of the people, that it would seem as
though Buddha himself had been careful to leave unchallenged this one
idea in the mythology of the Hindoos. The temple includes a royal
monastery, which only the sons of kings can enter.

Opposite the Brahmanee Watt, at the distance of about a mile, are the
extensive grounds and buildings of Watt Sah Kâte, the great national
burning-place of the dead. Within these mysterious precincts the
Buddhist rite of cremation is performed, with circumstances more or less
horrible, according to the condition or the superstition of the
deceased. A broad canal surrounds the temple and yards, and here, night
and day, priests watch and pray for the regeneration of mankind. Not
alone the dead, but the living likewise, are given to be burned in
secret here; and into this canal, at dead of night, are flung the rash
wretches who have madly dared to oppose with speech or act the powers
that rule in Siam. None but the initiated will approach, these grounds
after sunset, so universal and profound is the horror the place
inspires,--a place the most frightful and offensive known to mortal
eyes; for here the vows of dead men, howsoever ghoulish and monstrous,
are consummated. The walls are hung with human skeletons and the ground
is strewed with human skulls. Here also are scraped together the horrid
fragments of those who have bequeathed their carcasses to the hungry
dogs and vultures, that hover, and prowl, and swoop, and pounce, and
snarl, and scream, and tear. The half-picked bones are gathered and
burned by the outcast keepers of the temple (not priests), who receive
from the nearest relative of the infatuated testator a small fee for
that final service; and so a Buddhist vow is fulfilled, and a Buddhist
"deed of merit" accomplished.

Bangkok, the modern seat of government of Siam, has (according to the
best authorities) two hundred thousand floating dwellings and shops,--to
each house an average of five souls,--making the population of the city
about one million; of which number more than eighty thousand are
Chinese, twenty thousand Birmese, fifteen thousand Arabs and Indians,
and the remainder Siamese. These figures are from the latest census,
which, however, must not be accepted as perfectly accurate.

The situation of the city is unique and picturesque. When Ayudia was
"extinguished," and the capital established at Bangkok, the houses were
at first built on the banks of the river. But so frequent were the
invasions of cholera, that one of the kings happily commanded the people
to build on the river itself, that they might have greater cleanliness
and better ventilation. The result quickly proved the wisdom of the
measure. The privilege of building on the banks is now confined to
members of the royal family, the nobility, and residents of acknowledged
influence, political or commercial.

At night the city is hung with thousands of covered lights, that
illuminate the wide river from shore to shore. Lamps and lanterns of all
imaginable shapes, colors, and sizes combine to form a fairy spectacle
of enchanting brilliancy and beauty. The floating tenements and shops,
the masts of vessels, the tall, fantastic pagodas and minarets, and,
crowning all, the walls and towers of the Grand Palace, flash with
countless charming tricks of light, and compose a scene of more than
magic novelty and beauty. So oriental fancy and profusion deal with
things of use, and make a wonder of a commonplace.

A double, and in some parts a triple, row of floating houses extends for
miles along the banks of the river. These are wooden structures,
tastefully designed and painted, raised on substantial rafts of bamboo
linked together with chains, which, in turn, are made fast to great
piles planted in the bed of the stream. The Meinam itself forms the main
avenue, and the floating shops on either side constitute the great
bazaar of the city, where all imaginable and unimaginable articles from
India, China, Malacca, Birmah, Paris, Liverpool, and New York are
displayed in stalls.

Naturally, boats and canoes are indispensable appendages to such houses;
the nobility possess a fleet of them, and to every little water-cottage
a canoe is tethered, for errands and visits. At all hours of the day and
night processions of boats pass to and from the palace, and everywhere
bustling traders and agents ply their dingy little craft, and proclaim
their several callings in a Babel of cries.

Daily, at sunrise, a flotilla of canoes, filled with shaven men in
yellow garments, visits every house along the banks. These are the
priests gathering their various provender, the free gift of every
inhabitant of the city. Twenty thousand of them are supported by the
alms of the city of Bangkok alone.

At noon, all the clamor of the city is suddenly stilled, and perfect
silence reigns. Men, women, and children are hushed in their afternoon
nap. From the stifling heat of a tropical midday the still cattle seek
shelter and repose under shady boughs, and even the prows cease their
obstreperous clanging. The only sound that breaks the drowsy stillness
of the hour is the rippling of the glaring river as it ebbs or flows
under the steaming banks.

About three in the afternoon the sea-breeze sets in, bringing
refreshment to the fevered, thirsty land, and reviving animal and
vegetable life with its compassionate breath. Then once more the
floating city awakes and stirs, and an animation rivalling that of the
morning is prolonged far into the night,--the busy, gay, delightful
night of Bangkok.

The streets are few compared with the number of canals that intersect
the city in all directions. The most remarkable of the former is one
that runs parallel with the Grand Palace, and terminates in what is now
known as "Sanon Mai," or the New Road, which extends from Bangkok to
Paknam, about forty miles, and crosses the canals on movable iron
bridges. Almost every other house along this road is a shop, and at the
close of the wet season Bangkok has no rival in the abundance of
vegetables and fruits with which its markets are stocked.

I could wish for a special dispensation to pass without mention the
public prisons of Bangkok, for their condition and the treatment of the
unhappy wretches confined in them are the foulest blots on the character
of the government. Some of these grated abominations are hung like
bird-cages over the water; and those on land, with their gangs of living
corpses chained together like wild beasts, are too horrible to be
pictured here. How European officials, representatives of Christian
ideas of humanity and decency, can continue to countenance the apathy or
wilful brutality of the prime minister, who, as the executive officer of
the government in this department, is mainly responsible for the
cruelties and outrages I may not even name, I cannot conceive.

The American Protestant missionaries have as yet made no remarkable
impression on the religious mind of the Siamese. Devoted, persevering,
and patient laborers, the field they have so faithfully tilled has
rewarded them with but scanty fruits. Nor will the fact, thankless
though it be, appear surprising to those whose privilege it has been to
observe the Buddhist and the Roman Catholic side by side in the East,
and to note how, even on the score of doctrine, they meet without a jar
at many points. The average Siamese citizen, entering a Roman Catholic
chapel in Bangkok, finds nothing there to shock his prejudices. He is
introduced to certain forms and ceremonies, almost the counterpart of
which he piously reveres in his own temple,--genuflections,
prostrations, decorated shrines, lighted candles, smoking incense, holy
water; while the prayers he hears are at least not less intelligible to
him than those he hears mumbled in Pali by his own priests. He beholds
familiar images too, and pictures of a Saviour in whom he charitably
recognizes the stranger's Buddha. And if he happen to be a philosophic
inquirer, how surprised and pleased is he to learn that the priests of
this faith (like his own) are vowed to chastity, poverty, and obedience,
and, like his own, devoted to the doing of good works, penance, and
alms. There are many thousands of native converts to Catholicism in
Siam; even the priests of Buddhism do not always turn a deaf ear to the
persuasions of teachers bound with them in the bonds of celibacy,
penance, and deeds of merit. And those teachers are quick to meet them
half-way, happily recommending themselves by the alacrity with which
they adopt, and make their own, usages which they may with propriety
practise in common, whereby the Buddhist is flattered while the
Christian is not offended. Such, for example, is the monastic custom of
the uncovered head. As it is deemed sacrilege to touch the head of
royalty, so the head of the priest may not without dishonor pass under
anything less hallowed than the canopy of heaven; and in this Buddhist
and Roman Catholic accord.

The residences of the British, French, American, and Portuguese Consuls
are pleasantly situated in a bend of the river, where a flight of wooden
steps in good repair leads directly to the houses of the officials and
European merchants of that quarter. Most influential among the latter is
the managing firm of the Borneo Company, whose factories and warehouses
for rice, sugar, and cotton are extensive and prosperous.

The more opulent of the native merchants are grossly addicted to
gambling and opium-smoking. Though the legal penalties prescribed for
all who indulge in these destructive vices are severe, they do not avail
to deter even respectable officers of the government from staking heavy
sums on the turn of a card; and long before the game is ended the
opium-pipe is introduced. One of the king's secretaries, who was a
confirmed opium-smoker, assured me he would rather die at once than be
excluded from the region of raptures his pipe opened to him.



XVI. THE WHITE ELEPHANT.


It is commonly supposed that the Buddhists of Siam and Birmah regard the
Chang Phoouk, or white elephant, as a deity, and worship it accordingly.
The notion is erroneous, especially as it relates to Siam. The Buddhists
do not recognize God in any material form whatever, and are shocked at
the idea of adoring an elephant. Even Buddha, to whom they undoubtedly
offer pious homage, they do not style "God" but on the contrary maintain
that, though an emanation from a "sublimated ethereal being," he is by
no means a deity. According to their philosophy of metempsychosis,
however, each successive Buddha, in passing through a series of
transmigrations, must necessarily have occupied in turn the forms of
white animals of a certain class,--particularly the swan, the stork, the
white sparrow, the dove, the monkey, and the elephant. But there is much
obscurity and diversity in the views of their ancient writers on this
subject. Only one thing is certain, that the forms of these nobler and
purer creatures are reserved for the souls of the good and great, who
find in them a kind of redemption from the baser animal life. Thus
almost all white animals are held in reverence by the Siamese, because
they were once superior human beings, and the white elephant, in
particular, is supposed to be animated by the spirit of some king or
hero. Having once been a great man, he is thought to be familiar with
the dangers that surround the great, and to know what is best and safest
for those whose condition in all respects was once his own. He is hence
supposed to avert national calamity, and bring prosperity and peace to a
people.

[Illustration: A WAR ELEPHANT ]

From the earliest times the kings of Siam and Birmah have anxiously
sought for the white elephant, and having had the rare fortune to
procure one, have loaded it with gifts and dignities, as though it were
a conscious favorite of the throne. When the governor of a province of
Siam is notified of the appearance of a white elephant within his
bailiwick, he immediately commands that prayers and offerings shall be
made in all the temples, while he sends out a formidable expedition of
hunters and slaves to take the precious beast, and bring it in in
triumph. As soon as he is informed of its capture, a special messenger
is despatched to inform the king of its sex, probable age, size,
complexion, deportment, looks, and ways; and in the presence of his
Majesty this bearer of glorious tidings undergoes the painfully pleasant
operation of having his mouth, ears, and nostrils stuffed with gold.
Especially is the lucky wight--perhaps some half-wild woodsman--who was
first to spy the illustrious monster munificently rewarded. Orders are
promptly issued to the woons and wongses of the several districts
through which he must pass to prepare to receive him royally, and a wide
path is cut for him through the forests he must traverse on his way to
the capital. Wherever he rests he is sumptuously entertained, and
everywhere he is escorted and served by a host of attendants, who sing,
dance, play upon instruments, and perform feats of strength or skill for
his amusement, until he reaches the banks of the Meinam, where a great
floating palace of wood, surmounted by a gorgeous roof and hung with
crimson curtains, awaits him. The roof is literally thatched with
flowers ingeniously arranged so as to form symbols and mottoes, which
the superior beast is supposed to decipher with ease. The floor of this
splendid float is laid with gilt matting curiously woven, in the centre
of which his four-footed lordship is installed in state, surrounded by
an obsequious and enraptured crowd of mere bipeds, who bathe him,
perfume him, fan him, feed him, sing and play to him, flatter him. His
food consists of the finest herbs, the tenderest grass, the sweetest
sugar-cane, the mellowest plantains, the brownest cakes of wheat, served
on huge trays of gold and silver; and his drink is perfumed with the
fragrant flower of the _dok mallee_, the large native jessamine.

Thus, in more than princely state, he is floated down the river to a
point within seventy miles of the capital, where the king and his court,
all the chief personages of the kingdom, and a multitude of priests,
both Buddhist and Brahmin, accompanied by troops of players and
musicians, come out to meet him, and conduct him with all the honors to
his stable-palace. A great number of cords and ropes of all qualities
and lengths are attached to the raft, those in the centre being of fine
silk (figuratively, "spun from a spider's web"). These are for the king
and his noble retinue, who with their own hands make them fast to their
gilded barges; the rest are secured to the great fleet of lesser boats.
And so, with shouts of joy, beating of drums, blare of trumpets, boom of
cannon, a hallelujah of music, and various splendid revelry, the great
Chang Phoouk is conducted in triumph to the capital.

Here in a pavilion, temporary but very beautiful, he is welcomed with
imposing ceremonies by the custodians of the palace and the principal
personages of the royal household. The king, his courtiers, and the
chief priests being gathered round him, thanksgiving is offered up; and
then the lordly beast is knighted, after the ancient manner of the
Buddhists, by pouring upon his forehead consecrated water from a
chank-shell.

The titles reserved for the Chang Phoouk vary according to the purity of
the complexion (for these favored creatures are rarely true
albinos,--salmon or flesh-color being the nearest approach to white in
almost all the historic "white elephants" of the courts of Birmah and
Siam) and the sex; for though one naturally has recourse to the
masculine pronoun in writing of a transmigrated prince or warrior, it
often happens that prince or warrior has, in the medlied mask of
metempsychosis, assumed a female form. Such, in fact, was the case with
the stately occupant of the stable-palace at the court of Maha Mongkut;
and she was distinguished by the high-sounding appellation of Mââ Phya
Seri Wongsah Ditsarah Krasâat,--"August and Glorious Mother, Descendant
of Kings and Heroes."

For seven or nine days, according to certain conditions, the Chang
Phoouk is fêted at the temporary pavilion, and entertained with a
variety of dramatic performances; and these days are observed as a
general holiday throughout the land. At the expiration of this period he
is conducted with great pomp to his sumptuous quarters within the
precincts of the first king's palace, where he is received by his own
court of officers, attendants, and slaves, who install him in his fine
lodgings, and at once proceed to robe and decorate him. First, the court
jeweller rings his tremendous tusks with massive gold, crowns him with a
diadem of beaten gold of perfect purity, and adorns his burly neck with
heavy golden chains. Next his attendants robe him in a superb velvet
cloak of purple, fringed with scarlet and gold; and then his court
prostrate themselves around him, and offer him royal homage.

When his lordship would refresh his portly person in the bath, an
officer of high rank shelters his noble head with a great umbrella of
crimson and gold, while others wave golden fans before him. On these
occasions he is invariably preceded by musicians, who announce his
approach with cheerful minstrelsy and songs.

If he falls ill, the king's own leech prescribes for him, and the chief
priests repair daily to his palace to pray for his safe deliverance, and
sprinkle him with consecrated waters and anoint him with consecrated
oils. Should he die, all Siam is bereaved, and the nation, as one man,
goes into mourning for him. But his body is not burned; only his brains
and heart are thought worthy of that last and highest honor. The
carcass, shrouded in fine white linen, and laid on a bier, is carried
down the river with much wailing and many mournful dirges, to be thrown
into the Gulf of Siam.

In 1862 a magnificent white--or, rather, salmon-colored--elephant was
"bagged," and preparations on a gorgeous scale were made to receive him.
A temporary pavilion of extraordinary splendor sprang up, as if by
magic, before the eastern gate of the palace; and the whole nation was
wild with joy; when suddenly came awful tidings,--he had died!

No man dared tell the king. But the Kralahome--that man of prompt
expedients and unfailing presence of mind--commanded that the
preparations should cease instantly, and that the building should vanish
with the builders. In the evening his Majesty came forth, as usual, to
exult in the glorious work. What was his astonishment to find no vestige
of the splendid structure that had been so nearly completed the night
before. He turned, bewildered, to his courtiers, to demand an
explanation, when suddenly the terrible truth flashed into his mind.
With a cry of pain he sank down upon a stone, and gave vent to an
hysterical passion of tears; but was presently consoled by one of his
children, who, carefully prompted in his part, knelt before him and
said: "Weep not, O my father! The stranger lord may have left us but for
a time." The stranger lord, fatally pampered, had succumbed to
astonishment and indigestion.

A few days after this mournful event the king read to me a curious
description of the defunct monster, and showed me parts of his skin
preserved, and his tusks, which in size and whiteness surpassed the
finest I had ever seen. His (that is, the elephant's) eyes were light
blue, surrounded by salmon-color; his hair fine, soft, and white; his
complexion pinkish white; his tusks like long pearls; his ears like
silver shields; his trunk like a comet's tail; his legs like the feet of
the skies; his tread like the sound of thunder; his looks full of
meditation; his expression full of tenderness; his voice the voice of a
mighty warrior; and his bearing that of an illustrious monarch.

That was a terrible affliction, to the people not less than to the king.

On all occasions of state,--court receptions, for example,--the white
elephant, gorgeously arrayed, is stationed on the right of the inner
gate of the palace, and forms an indispensable as well as a conspicuous
figure in the picture.

When the Siamese ambassadors returned from England, the chief of the
embassy--a man remarkable for his learning and the purity of his
character, who was also first cousin to the Supreme King--published a
quaint pamphlet, describing England and her people, their manners and
customs and dwellings, with a very particular report of the presentation
of the embassy at court. Speaking of the personal appearance of Queen
Victoria, he says: "One cannot but be struck with the aspect of the
august Queen of England, or fail to observe that she must be of pure
descent from a race of goodly and warlike kings and rulers of the earth,
in that her eyes, complexion, and above all her bearing, are those of a
beautiful and majestic white elephant."



XVII. THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION.


On the morning of the 3d of April, 1851, the Chowfa Mongkut, after being
formally apprised of his election by the Senabawdee to the supreme
throne, was borne in state to a residence adjoining the Phrasat, to
await the auspicious day of coronation,--the 15th of the following
month, as fixed by the court astrologers; and when it came it was hailed
by all classes of the people with immoderate demonstrations of joy; for
to their priest king, more sacred than a conqueror, they were drawn by
bonds of superstition as well as of pride and affection.

The ceremony of coronation is very peculiar.

In the centre of the inner Hall of Audience of the royal palace, on a
high platform richly gilded and adorned, is placed a circular golden
basin, called, in the court language, _Mangala Baghavat-thong_, "the
Golden Circlet of Power." Within this basin is deposited the ancient
_P'hra-batt_, or golden stool, the whole being surmounted by a
quadrangular canopy, under a tapering, nine-storied umbrella in the form
of a pagoda, from ten to twelve feet high and profusely gilt. Directly
over the centre of the canopy is deposited a vase containing consecrated
waters, which have been prayed over nine times, and poured through nine
different circular vessels in their passage to the sacred receptacle.
These waters must be drawn from the very sources of the chief rivers of
Siam; and reservoirs for their preservation are provided in the
precincts of the temples at Bangkok. In the mouth of this vessel is a
tube representing the pericarp of a lotos after its petals have fallen
off; and this, called _Sukla Utapala Atmano_, "the White Lotos of Life,"
symbolizes the beauty of pure conduct.

The king elect, arrayed in a simple white robe, takes his seat on the
golden stool. A Brahmin priest then presents to him some water in a
small cup of gold, lotos-shaped. This water has previously been filtered
through nine different forms of matter, commencing with earth, then
ashes, wheaten flour, rice flour, powdered lotos and jessamine, dust of
iron, gold, and charcoal, and finally flame; each a symbol, not merely
of the indestructibility of the element, but also of its presence in all
animate or inanimate matter. Into this water the king elect dips his
right hand, and passes it over his head. Immediately the choir join in
an inspiring chant, the signal for the inverting, by means of a pulley,
of the vessel over the canopy; and the consecrated waters descend
through another lotos flower, in a lively shower, on the head of the
king. This shower represents celestial blessings.

A Buddhist priest then advances and pours a goblet of water over the
royal person from the bed of the Ganges. He is then arrayed in regal
robes.

On the throne, which is in the south end of the hall, and octagonal,
having eight seats corresponding to eight points of the compass, the
king first seats himself facing the north, and so on, moving eastward,
facing each point in its order. On the top step of each seat crouch two
priests, Buddhist and Brahmin, who present to him another bowl of water,
which he drinks and sprinkles on his face, each time repeating, by
responses with the priests, the following prayer:--


_Priests_. Be thou learned in the laws of nature and of the universe.

_King_. Inspire me, O Thou who wert a Law unto thyself!

_P_. Be thou endowed with all wisdom, and all acts of industry!

_K_. Inspire me with all knowledge, O Thou the Enlightened!

_P_. Let Mercy and Truth be thy right and left arms of life!

_K_. Inspire me, O Thou who hast proved all Truth and all Mercy!

_P_. Let the Sun, Moon, and Stars bless thee!

_K_. All praise to Thee, through whom all forms are conquered!

_P_. Let the earth, air, and waters bless thee!

_K_. Through the merit of Thee, O thou conqueror of Death! [Footnote:
For these translations I am indebted to his Majesty, Maha Mongkut; as
well as for the interpretation of the several symbols used in this and
other solemn rites of the Buddhists.]


These prayers ended, the priests conduct the king to another throne,
facing the east, and still more magnificent. Here the insignia of his
sovereignty are presented to him,--first the sword, then the sceptre;
two massive chains are suspended from his neck; and lastly the crown is
set upon his head, when instantly he is saluted by roar of cannon
without and music within.

Then he is presented with the golden slippers, the fan, and the umbrella
of royalty, rings set with huge diamonds for each of his forefingers,
and the various Siamese weapons of war: these he merely accepts, and
returns to his attendants.

The ceremony concludes with an address from the priests, exhorting him
to be pure in his sovereign and sacred office; and a reply from himself,
wherein he solemnly vows to be a just, upright, and faithful ruler of
his people. Last of all, a golden tray is handed to him, from which, as
he descends from the throne, he scatters gold and silver flowers among
the audience.

The following day is devoted to a more public enthronement. His Majesty,
attired more sumptuously than before, is presented to all his court, and
to a more general audience. After the customary salutations by
prostration and salutes of cannon and music, the premier and other
principal ministers read short addresses, in delivering over to the king
the control of their respective departments. His Majesty replies
briefly; there is a general salute from all forts, war vessels, and
merchant shipping; and the remainder of the day is devoted to feasting
and various enjoyment.

Immediately after the crowning of Maha Mongkut, his Majesty repaired to
the palace of the Second King, where the ceremony of subordinate
coronation differed from that just described only in the circumstance
that the consecrated waters were poured over the person of the Second
King, and the insignia presented to him, by the supreme sovereign.

Five days later a public procession made the circuit of the palace and
city walls in a peculiar circumambulatory march of mystic significance,
with feasting, dramatic entertainments, and fireworks. The concourse
assembled to take part in those brilliant demonstrations has never since
been equalled in any public display in Siam.



XVIII. THE QUEEN CONSORT.


When a king of Siam would take unto himself a wife, he chooses a maiden
from a family of the highest rank, and of royal pedigree, and, inviting
her into the guarded circle of his women, entertains her there in that
peculiar state of probation which is his prerogative and her
opportunity. Should she prove so fortunate as to engage his preference,
it may be his pleasure to exalt her to the throne; in which event he
appoints a day for the formal consummation of his gracious purpose, when
the principal officers, male and female, of the court, with the priests,
Brahmin as well as Buddhist, and the royal astrologers, attend to play
their several parts in the important drama.

The princess, robed in pure white, is seated on a throne elevated on a
high platform. Over this throne is spread a canopy of white muslin,
decorated with white and fragrant flowers, and through this canopy are
gently showered the typical waters of consecration, in which have been
previously infused certain leaves and shrubs emblematic of purity,
usefulness, and sweetness. While the princess is thus delicately
sprinkled with compliments, the priests enumerate, with nice
discrimination, the various graces of mind and person which henceforth
she must study to acquire; and pray that she may prove a blessing to her
lord, and herself be richly blessed. Then she is hailed queen, with a
burst of exultant music. Now the sisters of the king conduct her by a
screened passage to a chamber regally appointed, where she is divested
of her dripping apparel, and arrayed in robes becoming her queenly
state,--robes of silk, heavy with gold, and sparkling with diamonds and
rubies. Then the king is ushered into her presence by the ladies of the
court; and at the moment of his entrance she rises to throw herself at
his feet, according to the universal custom. But he prevents her; and
taking her right hand, and embracing her, seats her beside him, on his
right. There she receives the formal congratulations of the court, with
which the ceremonies of the day terminate. The evening is devoted to
feasting and merriment.

A Siamese king may have two queens at the same time; in which case the
more favored lady is styled the "right hand," and the other the "left
hand," of the throne. His late Majesty, Maha Mongkut, had two queens,
but not "in conjunction." The first was of the right hand; the second,
though chosen in the lifetime of the first, was not elevated to the
throne until after the death of her predecessor.

When the bride is a foreign princess, the ceremonies are more public,
being conducted in the Hall of Audience, instead of the Ladies' Temple,
or private chapel.

The royal nuptial couch is consecrated with peculiar forms. The mystic
thread of unspun cotton is wound around the bed seventy-seven times, and
the ends held in the hands of priests, who, bowing over the sacred
symbol, invoke blessings on the bridal pair. Then the nearest relatives
of the bride are admitted, accompanied by a couple who, to use the
obstetrical figure of the indispensable Mrs. Gamp, have their parental
quiver "full of sich." These salute the bed, sprinkle it with the
consecrated waters, festoon the crimson curtains with flowery garlands,
and prepare the silken sheets, the pillows and cushions; which done,
they lead in the bride, who has not presided at the entertainments, but
waited with her ladies in a screened apartment.

On entering the awful chamber, she first falls on her knees, and thrice
salutes the royal couch with folded hands, and then invokes protection
for herself, that she may be preserved from every deadly sin. Finally,
she is disrobed, and left praying on the floor before the bed, while the
king is conducted to her by his courtiers, who immediately retire.

The same ceremony is observed in nearly all Siamese families of
respectability, with, of course, certain omissions and variations
adapted to the rank of the parties.

After three days the bride visits her parents, bearing presents to them
from the various members of her husband's family. Then she visits the
parents of her husband, who greet her with costly gifts. In her next
excursion of this kind her husband (unless a king) accompanies her, and
valuable presents are mutually bestowed. A large sum of money, with
jewels and other finery, is deposited with the father and mother of the
bride. This is denominated _Zoon_, and at the birth of her first child
it is restored to the young mother by the grandparents.

The king visits his youthful queen just one month after the birth of a
prince or princess. She present the babe to him, and he, in turn, places
a costly ring on the third finger of her left hand. In like manner, most
of the relatives, of both families, bring to the babe gifts of money,
jewels, gold and silver ornaments, etc., which is termed _Tam Kwaan_.
Even so early the infant's hair is shaved off, except the top-knot,
which is permitted to grow until the child has arrived at the age of
puberty.



XIX. THE HEIR-APPARENT.--ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING.


The Prince Somdetch Chowfa Chulalonkorn [Footnote: The present Supreme
King.] was about ten years old when I was appointed to teach him. Being
the eldest son of the queen consort, he held the first rank among the
children of the king, as heir-apparent to the throne. For a Siamese, he
was a handsome lad; of stature neither noticeably tall nor short; figure
symmetrical and compact, and dark complexion. He was, moreover, modest
and affectionate, eager to learn, and easy to influence.

His mother dying when he was about nine years old, he, with his younger
brothers, the Princes Chowfa Chaturont Rasmi and Chowfa Bhangurangsi
Swang Wongse, and their lovely young sister, the Princess Somdetch
Chowfa Chandrmondol ("Fâ-ying"), were left to the care of a grand-aunt,
Somdetch Ying Noie, a princess by the father's side. This was a
tranquil, cheerful old soul, attracted toward everything that was bright
and pretty, and ever busy among flowers, poetry, and those darlings of
her loving life, her niece's children. Of these the little Fâ-ying
(whose sudden death by cholera I have described) was her favorite; and
after her death the faithful creature turned her dimmed eyes and
chastened pride to the young prince Chulalonkorn. Many an earnest talk
had the venerable duchess and I, in which she did not hesitate to
implore me to instil into the minds of her youthful wards--and
especially this king that was to be--the purest principles of Christian
faith and precept. Yet with all the freshness of the religious habit of
her childhood she was most scrupulous in her attendance and devotions at
the temple. Her grief for the death of her darling was deep and lasting,
and by the simple force of her love she exerted a potent influence over
the mind of the royal lad.

[Illustration: THE HEIR-APPARENT.]

A very stern thing is life to the children of royalty in Siam. To watch
and be silent, when it has most need of confidence and freedom,--a
horrible necessity for a child! The very babe in the cradle is taught
mysterious and terrible things by the mother that bore it,--infantile
experiences of distrust and terror, out of which a few come up noble,
the many infamous. Here are baby heroes and heroines who do great deeds
before our happier Western children have begun to think. There were
actual, though unnoticed and unconscious, intrepidity and fortitude in
the manœuvres and the stands with which those little ones, on their own
ground, flanked or checked that fatal enemy, their father. Angelic
indeed were the spiritual triumphs that no eye noted, nor any smile
rewarded, save the anxious eye and the prayerful smile of that sleepless
maternity that misery had bound with them. But even misery becomes
tolerable by first becoming familiar, and out of the depths these royal
children laughed and prattled and frolicked and were glad. As for the
old duchess, she loved too well and too wisely not to be timid and
troubled all her life long, first for the mother, then for the children.

Such was the early training of the young prince, and for a time it
availed to direct his thoughts to noble aspirations. From his studies,
both in English and Pali, he derived an exalted ideal of life, and
precocious and inexpressible yearnings. Once he said to me he envied the
death of the venerable priest, his uncle; he would rather be poor, he
said, and have to earn his living, than be a king.

"'Tis true, a poor man must work hard for his daily bread; but then he
is free. And his food is all he has to lose or win. He can possess all
things in possessing Him who pervades all things,--earth, and sky, and
stars, and flowers, and children. I can understand that I am great in
that I am a part of the Infinite, and in that alone; and that all I see
is mine, and I am in it and of it. How much of content and happiness
should I not gain if I could but be a poor boy!"

He was attentive to his studies, serene, and gentle, invariably
affectionate to his old aunt and his younger brothers, and for the poor
ever sympathetic, with a warm, generous heart. He pursued his studies
assiduously, and seemed to overcome the difficulties and obstacles he
encountered in the course of them with a resolution that gained strength
as his mind gained ideas. As often as he effectually accomplished
something, he indulged in ecstasies of rejoicing over the new thought,
that was an inspiring discovery to him of his actual poverty of
knowledge, his possibilities of intellectual opulence. But it was clear
to me--and I saw it with sorrow--that for his ardent nature this was
but a transitory condition, and that soon the shock must come, against
the inevitable destiny in store for him, that would either confirm or
crush all that seemed so fair in the promise of the royal boy.

When the time came for the ceremony of hair-cutting, customary for young
Siamese princes, the lad was gradually withdrawn, more and more, from my
influence. The king had determined to celebrate the heir's majority with
displays of unusual magnificence. To this end he explored the annals and
records of Siam and Cambodia, and compiled from them a detailed
description of a very curious procession that attended a certain prince
of Siam centuries ago, on the occasion of his hair-cutting; and
forthwith projected a similar show for his son, but on a more elaborate
and costly scale. The programme, including the procession, provided for
the representation of a sort of drama, borrowed partly from the
Ramayana, and partly from the ancient observances of the kings of
Cambodia.

The whole royal establishment was set in motion. About nine thousand
young women, among them the most beautiful of the concubines, were cast
for parts in the mammoth play. Boys and girls were invited or hired from
all quarters of the kingdom to "assist" in the performance. Every nation
under the sun was represented in the grand procession. In our school the
regular studies were abandoned, and in their place we had rehearsals of
singing, dancing, recitation, and pantomime.

An artificial hill, of great height, called Khoa-Kra-Lâât, was raised in
the centre of the palace gardens. On its summit was erected a golden
temple or pagoda of exquisite beauty, richly hung with tapestries,
displaying on the east the rising sun, on the west a moon of silver. The
cardinal points of the hill were guarded by the white elephant, the
sacred ox, the horse, and the lion. These figures were so contrived that
they could be brought close together and turned on a pivot; and thus the
sacred waters, brought for that purpose from the Brahmapootra, were to
be showered on the prince, after the solemn hair-cutting, and received
in a noble basin of marble.

The name given to the ceremony of hair-cutting varies according to the
rank of the child. For commoners it is called "Khone Chook"; for the
nobility and royalty, "Soh-Khan," probably from the Sanskrit _Sôh Sâhtha
Kam_, "finding safe and sound." The custom is said to be extremely
ancient, and to have originated with a certain Brahmin, whose only
child, being sick unto death, was given over by the physicians as in the
power of evil spirits. In his heart's trouble the father consulted a
holy man, who had been among the earliest converts to Buddhism, if aught
might yet be done to save his darling from torment and perdition. The
venerable saint directed him to pray, and to have prayers offered, for
the lad, and to cause that part of his hair which had never been touched
with razor or shears since his birth to be shaved quite off. The result
was a joyful rescue for the child; others pursued the same treatment in
like cases with the same effect, and hence the custom of hair-cutting.
The children of princes are forbidden to have the top-knot cut at all,
until the time when they are about to pass into manhood or womanhood.
Then valuable presents are made to them by all who are related to their
families by blood, marriage, or friendship.

When all the preparations necessary to the successful presentation of
the dramatic entertainment were completed, the king, having taken
counsel of his astrologers, sent heralds to the governors of all the
provinces of Siam, to notify those dignitaries of the time appointed for
the jubilee, and request their presence and co-operation. A similar
summons was sent to all the priests of the kingdom, who, in bands or
companies, were to serve alternately, on the several days of the
festival.

Early in the forenoon of the auspicious day the prince was borne in
state, in a gorgeous chair of gold, to the Maha Phrasat, the order of
the procession being as follows:--

First came the bearers of the gold umbrellas, fans, and great golden
sunshades.

Next, twelve gentlemen, superbly attired, selected from the first rank
of the nobility, six on either side of the golden chair, as a body-guard
to the prince.

Then, four hundred Amazons arrayed in green and gold, and gleaming
armor.

These were followed by twelve maidens, attired in cloth of gold, with
fantastic head-gear adorned with precious stones, who danced before the
prince to the gentle monotonous movement of the _bandos_. In the centre
of this group moved three lovely girls, of whom one held a superb
peacock's tail, and the two others branches of gold and silver,
sparkling with leaves and rare flowers. These damsels were guarded by
two duennas on either side.

After these stalked a stately body of Brahmins, bearing golden vases
filled with _Khoa tôk_, or roasted rice, which they scattered on either
side, as an emblem of plenty.

Another troop of Brahmins with bandos, which they rattled as they moved
along.

Two young nobles, splendidly robed, who also bore gold vases,
lotos-shaped, in which nestled the bird of paradise called Nok
Kurraweèk, the sweetness of whose song is supposed to entrance even
beasts of prey.

A troop of lads, the rising nobility of Siam, fairly covered with gold
collars and necklaces.

The king's Japanese body-guard.

Another line of boys, representing natives of Hindostan in costume.

Malayan lads in costume.

Chinese lads in costume.

Siamese boys in English costume.

The king's infantry, headed by pioneers, in European costume.

Outside of this line marched about five thousand men in long
rose-colored robes, with tall tapering caps. These represented
guardian-angels attending on the different nations.

Then came bands of musicians dressed in scarlet, imitating the cries of
birds, the sound of falling fruit, and the murmur of distant waters, in
the imaginary forest they were supposed to traverse on their way to the
Sacred Mount.

The order of the procession behind the golden sedan in which the prince
was borne, was nearly as follows:--

Next after the chair of state came four young damsels of the highest
rank, bearing the prince's betel-box, spittoon, fan, and swords. Then
followed seventy other maidens, carrying reverently in both hands the
vessels of pure gold, and all the insignia of rank and office proper to
a prince of the blood royal; and yet more, holding over their right
shoulders golden fans.

In the train of these tripped troops of children, daughters of the
nobility, dressed and decorated with fantastic splendor.

Then the maids of honor, personal attendants, and concubines of the
king, chastely dressed, though crowned with gold, and decorated with
massive gold chains and rings of great price and beauty.

A crowd of Siamese women, painted and rouged, in European costume.

Troops of children in corresponding attire.

Ladies in Chinese costume.

Japanese ladies in rich robes.

Malay women in their national dress.

Women of Hindostan.

Then the Kariens.

And, last of all, the female slaves and dependants of the prince.

At the foot of the hill a most extraordinary spectacle was presented.

On the east appeared a number of hideous monsters, riding on gigantic
eagles. These nondescripts, whose heads reached almost to their knees,
and whose hands grasped indescribable weapons, are called Yâks. They are
appointed to guard the Sacred Mount from all vulgar approach.

A little farther on, around a pair of stuffed peacocks, were a number of
youthful warriors, representing kings, governors, and chiefs of the
several dependencies of Siam.

Desirous of witnessing the sublime ceremony of hair-cutting, they
cautiously approach the Yâks, performing a sort of war dance, and
chanting in chorus:--

_Orah Pho, cha pai Kra Lâât_. "Let us go to the Sacred Mount!"

Whereupon the Yâks, or evil angels, point their wonderful weapons at
them, chanting in the same strain:--

_Orah Pho, salope thâng pooang_. "Let us slay them all!"

They then make a show of striking and thrusting, and princes, rajahs,
and governors drop as if wounded.

The principal parts in the drama were assumed by his Majesty, and their
excellencies the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The
king was dressed for the character of P'hra Inn Suen, the Hindoo Indra,
or Lord of the Sky, who has also the attributes of the Roman Genius; but
most of his epithets in Sanskrit are identical with those of the
Olympian Jove. He was attended by the Prime Minister, personating the
Sanskrit Saché, but called in Siamese "Vis Summo Kâm," and the Minister
of Foreign Affairs as his charioteer, Ma Talee. His imperial elephant,
called Aisarat, caparisoned in velvet and gold, and bearing the
supernatural weapons,--_Vagra_, the thunderbolts,--was led by
allegorical personages, representing winds and showers, lightning and
thunder. The hill, Khoa Kra Lâât, is the Sanskrit Meru, described as a
mountain of gold and gems.

His Majesty received the prince from the hands of his nobles, set him on
his right hand, and presented him to the people, who offered homage.
Afterward, two ladies of the court led him down the flight of marble
steps, where two maidens washed his feet with pure water in a gold
basin, and wiped them with fine linen.

On his way to the Maha Phrasat he was met by a group of girls in
charming attire, who held before him tufts of palm and branches of gold
and silver. Thus he was conducted to an inner chamber of the temple, and
seated on a costly carpet heavily fringed with gold, before an altar on
which were lighted tapers and offerings of all descriptions. In his hand
was placed a strip of palmyra leaf, on which were inscribed these mystic
words: "Even I was, even from the first, and not any other thing: that
which existed unperceived, supreme. Afterwards, I am that which is, and
He that was, and He who must remain am I."

"Know that except Me, who am the First Cause, nothing that appears or
does not appear in the mind can be trusted; it is the mind's Maya or
delusion,--as Light is to Darkness."

On the reverse was inscribed this sentence:--

"Keep me still meditating on Thy infinite greatness and my own
nothingness, so that all the questions of my life may be answered and my
mind abundantly instructed in the path of Niphan!"

In his hands was placed a ball of unspun thread, the ends of which were
carried round the sacred hill, and thence round the temple, and into the
inner chamber, where it was bound round the head of the young prince.
Thence again nine threads were taken, which, after encircling the altar,
were passed into the hands of the officiating priests. These latter
threads, forming circles within circles, symbolize the mystic word _Om_,
which may not escape the lips even of the purest, but must be meditated
upon in silence.

Early on the third day all the princes, nobles, and officers of
government, together with the third company of priests, assembled to
witness the ceremony of shaving the royal top-knot. The royal sire
handed first the golden shears and then a gilded razor to the happy
hair-cutter, who immediately addressed himself to his honorable
function. Meanwhile the musicians, with the trumpeters and
conch-blowers, exerted all their noisy faculties to beguile the patient
heir.

The tonsorial operation concluded, the prince was robed in white, and
conducted to the marble basin at the foot of the Sacred Mount, where the
white elephant, the ox, the horse, and the lion, guarding the cardinal
points, were brought together, and from their mouths baptized him in the
sacred waters. He was then arrayed in silk, still white, by women of
rank, and escorted to a golden pagoda on the summit of the hill, where
the king, in the character of P'hra Inn Suen, waited to bestow his
blessing on the heir. With one hand raised to heaven, and the other on
the bowed head of his son, he solemnly uttered words of Pali, which may
be translated thus:--

"Thou who art come out of the pure waters, be thy offences washed away!
Be thou relieved from other births! Bear thou in thy bosom the
brightness of that light which shall lead thee, even as it led the
sublime Buddha, to Niphan, at once and forever!"

These rites ended, the priests were served with a princely banquet; and
then the nobility and common people were also feasted. About midday, two
standards, called _baisêe_, were set up within a circle of people. These
are not unlike the _sawekra chât_, or royal umbrella, one of the five
insignia of royalty in Siam. They are about five cubits high, and have
from three to five canopies. The staff is fixed in a wooden pedestal.
Each circle or canopy has a flat bottom, and within the receptacle thus
formed custom requires that a little cooked rice, called _k'ow k'wan_,
shall be placed, together with a few cakes, a little sweet-scented oil,
a handful of fragrant flour, and some young cocoanuts and plantains.
Other edibles of many kinds are brought and arranged about the _baisêe_,
and a beautiful bouquet adorns the top of each of the umbrella-like
canopies.

Then a procession was formed, of princes, noblemen, and others, who
marched around the standards nine times. As they went, seven golden
candlesticks, with the candles lighted, were carried by princes, and
passed from one to another; and as often as they came in front of the
prince, who sat between the standards, they waved the light before him.
This procession is but another form of the _Om_ symbol.

Afterwards the eldest priest or brahmin took a portion of the rice from
the _baisêe_, and, sprinkling it with cocoanut water, gave the lad a
spoonful of it. Then dipping his finger, first in the scented oil and
then in the fragrant flour, he touched the right foot of the prince, at
the same time exhorting him to be manly and strong, and to bear himself
bravely in "the conflict of feeling."

Now presents of silver and gold were laid at the feet of the lad,--every
prince not of the royal family, and every nobleman and high officer in
the kingdom, being expected to appear with gifts. A chowfa might
receive, in the aggregate, from five hundred thousand to a million
ticals. [Footnote: A tical is equivalent to sixty cents.] It should be
remarked in this connection, that the late king commanded that careful
note be kept of all sums of money presented by officers of his
government to his children at the time of Soh-Khan, that the full amount
might be refunded with the next semi-annual payment of salary. But this
decree does not relieve the more distinguished princes and endowed
noblemen, who have acquired a sort of complimentary relationship to his
Majesty through their daughters and nieces accepted as concubines.

The children of plain citizens, who cannot afford the luxury of a public
hair-cutting, are taken to a temple, where a priest shaves the tuft,
with a brief religious ceremony.

Hardly had the prince recovered his wonted frame of mind, after an event
so pregnant with significance and agitation to him, when the time
arrived for his induction into the priesthood. For this the rites,
though simpler, were more solemn. The hair, which had been suffered to
grow on the top of his young pate like an inverted brush, was now shorn
close, and his eyebrows were shaven also. Arrayed in costly robes and
ornaments, similar to those worn at a coronation, he was taken in charge
by a body of priests at his father's palace, and by them conducted to
the temple Watt P'hra Këau, his yellow-robed and barefooted escort
chanting, on the way, hymns from the Buddhist liturgy. At the threshold
of the temple another band of priests divested him of his fine robes and
clad him in simple white, all the while still chanting. The circle being
characteristic of a Buddhist ceremonial, as the cross is of their
religious architecture, these priests formed a circle, standing, and
holding lighted tapers in their folded palms, the high-priest in the
centre. Then the prince advanced meekly, timidly, bowing low, to enter
the holy ring. Here he was received by the high-priest, and with their
hands mutually interfolded, one upon the other, he vowed to renounce,
then and there, the world with all its cares and temptations, and to
observe with obedience the doctrines of Buddha. This done, he was clad
afresh in sackcloth, and led from the temple to the royal monastery,
Watt Brahmanee Waid; with bare feet and eyes downcast he went, still
chanting those weird hymns.

Here he remained recluse for six months. When he returned to the world,
and to the residence assigned him, he seemed no longer the impressible,
ardent boy who was once my bright, ambitious scholar. Though still
anxious to prosecute his English studies, he was pronounced too old to
unite with his brothers and sisters in the school. For a year I taught
him, from seven to ten in the evening, at his "Rose-planting House"; and
even from this distant place and time I look back with comfort to those
hours.



XX. AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT.


Of all the diversions of the court the most polite, and at the same time
the most engrossing, is the drama.

In a great sala, or hall, which serves as a theatre, the actors and
actresses assemble, their faces and bodies anointed with a creamy,
maize-colored cosmetic. Fantastic extravagance of attire constitutes the
great gun in their arsenal of attractions. Hence ear-rings, bracelets,
massive chains and collars, tapering crowns with wings, spangled robes,
curious finger-rings, and, strangest of all, long tapering nails of
gold, are joined to complete their elaborate adornment. The play, in
which are invariably enacted the adventures of gods, kings, heroes,
genii, demons, and a multitude of characters mythical and fabulous, is
often performed in lively pantomime, the interludes being filled by a
strong chorus, with songs and instrumental accompaniment. At other times
the players, in grotesque masks, give burlesque versions of the graver
epics, to the great amusement of the audience.

Chinese comedies, termed Ngiu, attract the Siamese in crowds; but the
foreign is decidedly inferior to the native talent. "Nang," so called,
is a sort of tableau, masked, representing characters from the Hindoo
mythology. Parts of the popular epic, Ramayana, are admirably rendered
in this style. In front of the royal palace an immense transparent
screen, mounted on great poles, is drawn across the esplanade, and
behind this, at a moderate distance, great fires are lighted. Between
the screen and the fire masked figures, grotesquely costumed, enact the
story of Rama and Sita and the giant Rawuna, with Hanuman and his army
of apes bridging the Gulf of Manaar and piling up the Himalayas, while
the bards, in measured story, describe the several exploits.

A great variety of puppet-shows are contrived for the delectation of the
children; and the Siamese are marvellously ingenious in the manufacture
of toys and dolls, of porcelain, stone, wood, bark, and paper. They make
pagodas, temples, boats, and floating houses, with miniature families to
occupy them, and all true to the life in every apartment and occupation;
watts, with idols and priests; palaces, with kings, queens, concubines,
royal children, courtiers, and slaves, all complete in costume and
attitude.

The royal children observe with grave formalities the eventful custom of
"hair-cutting" for their favorite dolls; and dramas, improvised for the
occasion by ingenious slaves, are the crowning glory of those high
holidays of toddling princes and princesses.

The ladies of the harem amuse themselves in the early and late hours of
the day by gathering flowers in the palace gardens, feeding the birds in
the aviaries and the gold-fishes in the ponds, twining garlands to adorn
the heads of their children, arranging bouquets, singing songs of love
or glory, dancing to the music of the guitar, listening to their slaves'
reading, strolling with their little ones through the parks and
_parterres_, and especially in bathing. When the heat is least
oppressive they plunge into the waters of the pretty retired lakes,
swimming and diving like flocks of brown water-fowl.

Chess and backgammon, Chinese cards and dice, afford a continual
diversion to both sexes at the court, and there are many skilful players
among them. The Chinese have established a sort of "lottery," of which
they have the monopoly. It is little better than a "sweat-cloth," with
thirteen figures, on which money is staked at the option of the gambler.
The winning figure pays its stake thirty-fold, the rest is lost.

Kite-flying, which in Europe and America is the amusement of children
exclusively, is here, as in China and Birmah, the pastime of both sexes,
and all ages and conditions of people. At the season when the south-wind
prevails steadily, innumerable kites of diverse forms, many of them
representing gigantic butterflies, may be seen sailing and darting over
every quarter of the city, and most thickly over the palace and its
appendages. Parties of young noblemen devote themselves with ardor to
the sport, betting bravely on results of skill or luck; and it is most
entertaining to observe how cleverly they manage the huge paper toys,
entangling and capturing each other's kites, and dragging them disabled
to the earth.

Combats of bulls and elephants, though very popular, are not commonly
exhibited at court. At certain seasons fairs are held, where exhibitions
of wrestling, boxing, fencing, and dancing are given by professional
competitors.

The Siamese, naturally imaginative and gay, cultivate music with great
zest. Every village has its orchestra, every prince and noble his band
of musicians, and in every part of Bangkok the sound of strange
instruments is heard continually. Their music is not in parts like ours,
but there is always harmony with good expression, and an agreeable
variety of movement and volume is derived from the diversity of
instruments and the taste of the players.

The principal instrument, the _khong-vong_, is composed of a series of
hemispherical metallic bells or cups inverted and suspended by cords to
a wooden frame. The performer strikes the bells with two little hammers
covered with soft leather, producing an agreeable harmony. The hautboy
player (who is usually a professional juggler and snake-charmer also)
commonly leads the band. Kneeling and swaying his body forward and
backward, and from side to side, he keeps time to the movement of the
music. His instrument has six holes, but no keys, and may be either
rough or smoothly finished.

The _ranat_, or harmonicon, is a wooden instrument, with keys made of
wood from the bashoo-nut tree. These, varying in size from six inches by
one to fifteen by two, are connected by pieces of twine, and so fastened
to a hollow case of wood about three feet in length and a foot high. The
music is "conjured" by the aid of two small hammers corked with leather,
like those of the khong-vong. The notes are clear and fine, and the
instrument admits of much delicacy of touch.

Beside these the Siamese have the guitar, the violin, the flute, the
cymbals, the trumpet, and the conch-shell. There is the _luptima_ also,
another very curious instrument, formed of a dozen long perforated reeds
joined with bands and cemented at the joints with wax. The orifice at
one end is applied to the lips, and a very moderate degree of skill
produces notes so strong and sweet as to remind one of the swell of a
church organ.

The Laos people have organs and tambourines of different forms; their
guitar is almost as agreeable as that of Europe; and of their flutes of
several kinds, one is played with the nostril instead of the lips.
Another instrument, resembling the banjo of the American negroes, is
made from a large long-necked gourd, cut in halves while green, cleaned,
dried in the sun, covered with parchment, and strung with from four to
six strings. Its notes are pleasing.

The _takhè_, a long guitar with metallic strings, is laid on the floor,
and high-born ladies, with fingers armed with shields or nails of gold,
draw from it the softest and sweetest sounds.

In their funeral ceremonies the chanting of the priests is usually
accompanied by the lugubrious wailing music of a sort of clarionet.

The songs of Siam are either heroic or amatory; the former celebrating
the martial exploits, the latter the more tender adventures, of heroes.

Athletic games and the contests of the arena and the course form so
conspicuous a feature in all ceremonies, solemn or festal, of this
people, that a description of them may not with advantage be wholly
omitted here. The Siamese are by nature warlike, and their government
has thoughtfully and liberally fostered those manly sports and exercises
which constitute the natural preparation for the profession of arms. Of
these the most popular are wrestling, boxing (in which both sexes take
part), throwing the discus or quoit, foot-shuttlecock, and racing on
foot or horseback or in chariots; to which may be added vaulting and
tumbling, throwing the dart, and leaping through wheels or circles of
fire.

The professional athletes and gymnasts are exercised at a tender age
under male or female trainers, who employ the most approved methods of
limbering and quickening and strengthening and toughening their
incipient champions, to whom, though well fed, sleep is jealously
allowanced and intoxicating drinks absolutely forbidden. Their bodies
are rubbed with oils and unguents to render them supple; and a short
langoutee with a belt forms the sum of their clothing. None but the
children of Siamese or Laotians are admitted to the gymnasia. The code
of laws for the government of the several classes is strictly enforced,
and nothing is permitted contrary to the established order and
regulations of the games. Excessive violence is mercifully forbidden,
and those who enter to wrestle or box, race or leap, for the prize, draw
lots for precedence and position.

The Siamese practise wrestling in its rude simplicity, the advantage
being with weight and strength, rather than skill and address. The
wrestlers, before engaging, are rubbed and shampooed, the joints bent
backward and all the muscles relaxed, and the body and limbs freely
oiled; but after the latter operation they roll in the dust, or are
sprinkled with earth, ground and sifted, that they may be grappled the
more firmly. They are matched in pairs, and several couples contend at
the same time. Their struggles afford superb displays of the anatomy of
action, and the perfection of strength and skill and fierce grace in the
trained animal. Though one be seized by the heel and thrown,--which the
Siamese applaud as the climax of the wrestler's adroitness,--they still
struggle grandly on the ground, a double Antæus of arms and legs, till
one be turned upon his back and slapped upon the breast. That is the
accepted signal of the victor.

In boxing, the Siamese cover their hands with a kind of glove of ribbed
leather, sometimes lined with brass. On their heads they wear a leather
turban, to protect the temples and ears, the assault being directed
mainly at the head and face. Besides the usual "getting away" of the
British bruiser, blows are caught with surprising address and strength
in the gloved hand. The boxer who by overreaching, or missing a blow he
has put his weight into, throws himself, is beaten; or he may surrender
by simply lowering his arms.

The Siamese discus, or quoit, is round, and of wood, stone, or iron.
Their manner of hurling it does not differ materially from that which
all mighty players have practised since Caesar's soldiers pitched quoits
for rations.

Quite otherwise, in its curious novelty, is their spirited and
picturesque sport of foot-shuttlecock,--a game which may be witnessed
only in Asia, and in the perfection of its skill and agility only in
Birmah and Siam.

The shuttlecock is like our own, but the battledore is the sole of the
foot. A number of young men form a circle on a clear plot of ground. One
of them opens the game by throwing the feathered toy to the player
opposite him, who, turning quickly and raising his leg, receives it on
the sole of his foot, and sends it like a shot to another, and he to
another; and so it is kept flying for an hour or more, without once
falling to the ground.

Speed, whether of two legs or four, is in high estimation among the
Siamese. Their public festivals, however solemn, are usually begun with
races, which they cultivate with ardor and enjoy with enthusiasm. They
have the foot-race, the horse-race, and the chariot-race. In the first,
the runners, having drawn lots for places, range themselves across the
course, and, while waiting for the starting signal, excite themselves by
leaping. At the word "Go," they make play with astonishing speed and
spirit.

The race of a single horse, "against time," with or without saddle, is a
favorite sport. The rider, scorning stirrup or bridle, grips the sides
of his steed with his knees, and, with his right arm and forefinger
stretched eagerly toward the goal, flies alone,--an inspiring picture.
Sometimes two horsemen ride abreast, and at full speed change horses by
vaulting from one to the other.

In the chariot-races from two to four horses are driven abreast, and the
art consists in winning and keeping the advantage of ground without
collision. This kind of racing is not so common as the others.

The favorite pastime of the late Second King, who greatly delighted in
equestrian exercises and feats, was Croquet on Horseback,--a sport in
which he distinguished himself by his brilliant skill and style, as he
did in racing and hunting. This unique equestrian game is played
exclusively by princes and noblemen. There are a number of small balls
which must be croqueted into two deep holes, with the aid of long
slender mallets. The limits of the ground are marked by a line drawn
around it; and the only conditions necessary to render the sport
exciting and the skill remarkable are narrow bounds and restive steeds.

The Siamese, like other Orientals, ride with loose rein and short
stirrups. Their saddles are high and hard, and have two large circular
flaps, gilded and otherwise adorned, according to the rank of the rider.
Cavaliers of distinction usually dress expensively, in imported stuffs,
elaborately embroidered with silk and gold thread. They wear a small
cap, and sometimes a strip of red, like the fillet of the Greeks and
Romans, bound round the brows.

Prizes for the victors in the games and combats are of several
kinds,--purses of gold and silver, suits of apparel, umbrellas, and,
more rarely, a gold or silver cup.

In concluding this imperfect sketch, I feel that a word of praise is due
to the spirit of moderation and humanity which seems to govern such
exhibitions in Siam. Even in their gravest festivals there is an element
of cheerfulness and kindness, which tends to promote genial fellowship
and foster friendships, and by bringing together all sorts of people,
otherwise separated by diversity of custom, prejudice, and interest,
unquestionably avails to weld the several small states and dependencies
of Siam into one compact and stable nation.



XXI. SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART.


At the head of the Siamese writers of profane history stands, I think,
P'hra Alack, or rather Cheing Meing,--P'hra Alack being the generic term
for all writers. In early life he was a priest, but was appointed
historian to the court, and in that capacity wrote a history of the
reign of his patron and king, P'hra Narai,--(contemporary with Louis
XIV.)--and left a very curious though unfinished autobiography.

Seri Manthara, celebrated as a military leader, wrote nine books of
essays, on subjects relating to agriculture and the arts and sciences.
Some of these, translated into the languages of Birmah and Pegu, are
still extant.

Among a host of dramatic writers, Phya Doong, better known as P'hra
Khein Lakonlen, is entitled to the first rank. He composed about
forty-nine books in lyric and dramatic verse, besides epigrams and
elegies. Of his many poems, the few that remain afford passages of much
elegance and sweetness, and even of sublimity,--almost sufficient to
atone for the taint of grossness he derived from the licentious
imagination of his land and time. While yet hardly out of his infancy,
he was laid at the feet of the monarch, and reared in the palace at
Lophaburee. Some dramatic pieces composed by the lad for his playmates
to act attracted the notice of the king, who engaged teachers to
instruct him thoroughly in the ancient literature of India and Persia.
But he seems to have boldly opened a way for himself, instead of
following (as modern Orientals, timid or servile, are so prone to do)
the well-worn path of the old Hindoo writers. In his tragedy (which I
saw acted) of _Manda-thi-Nung_, "The First Mother," there are passages
of noble thought and true passion, expressed with a power and beauty
peculiarly his own.

The entertainments of the theatre are devoured by the Siamese with
insatiable appetite, and the popular preference is awarded to those
intellectual contests in which the tragic and comic poets compete for
the prize. The laughter or the tears of the sympathetic groundlings are
accepted as the expression of an infallible criticism, and by their
verdict the play is crowned or damned. The common people, such is their
passion for the drama, get whole tragedies or comedies "by heart." Every
day in the year, and in every street of Bangkok, and all along the
river, booths and floating salas may be seen, in which tragedy, comedy,
and satirical burlesques, are enacted for the entertainment of great
audiences, who are thrilled, delighted, or amused. In compositions
strictly dramatic the characters, as with us, speak and act for
themselves; but in the epic the poet recites the adventures of his
heroes.

Judges are appointed by the king to determine the merits of new plays
before they are performed at court; and on the grand occasion of the
hair-cutting of the heir-apparent (now king) his late Majesty caused the
poem "Kraelasah" to be modernized and adapted to grace the ceremonies.

P'hra Ramawsha, a writer highly esteemed, did wonders for the Siamese
drama. He translated the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and portions of the
Cambodian lyrics into Siamese; introduced masks, with magnificence of
costume and ornament; substituted theatres, or rather salas, for the
temporary booth or the open plain; and elevated the matter and the style
of dramatic compositions from the burlesque and buffoonery to the
sentimental and majestic. He was also the first to impart spirit and
variety to the dialogue, and to teach actors to express like artists,
and not like mere animals, the strong _human_ passions of anger, love,
and pity. The plays of P'hra Ramawsha are highly esteemed at court. In
his management of amorous incidents and intrigues, he is, if not
positively refined, at least less gross than other Siamese dramatists.

[Illustration: SIAMESE ACTOR AND ACTRESS.]

The dress of the players is always rich, and in the fashion of that worn
at court. The actors and actresses attached to the royal establishment
make a splendid display in this respect, large sums being expended
annually on their costumes, jewels, and other adornings.

The development of native genius and skill, in the direction of the fine
arts, has greatly declined, if it has not been absolutely arrested,
since the reign of P'hra Narai, the enlightened founder of Lophaburee;
and almost all the vestiges of art, purely national, to be found in the
country now, may be traced to that golden age of Siam. The Siamese,
though intelligent, clever, facile, and in a notable degree susceptible
to the influences of the beautiful in nature or in art, by no means slow
or awkward in imitating the graceful products of European taste and
industry, are yet fettered by a peculiar oppression in their efforts to
express in visible forms their artistic inspirations. No Siamese subject
is to be congratulated, who by his talent or his skill has won popular
applause in any branch of industry. No such man, having extraordinary
cleverness or taste, dare display it to the public in works of novel
utility or beauty; because he and his inventions may alike be
appropriated, without reward or thanks,--the former to serve the king,
the latter to adorn the palace. Many ply in secret their dangerously
graceful callings, and destroy their work when it is done, rather than
see it wrested from them, and with it all that is left to them of
freedom, to serve the whim of a covetous and cruel master. All that
P'hra Narai did to foster the sciences and arts in his land has been
undone by the ruinous selfishness of his successors; and of the few
suicides recorded in the annals of Siam since his time, one of the most
remarkable is that of a famous painter, who poisoned himself the day
after his installation at court. Thus all natural ambition has been
stupidly extinguished in the breasts of the artists of a land whose
remaining monuments attest her ancient excellence in architecture,
sculpture, and painting.

The most remarkable examples of Siamese painting are presented in the
cartoons to be found on the walls of the ancient temples, decorated with
the brush before the introduction of wall-paper from Birmah. One that is
still to be seen in the Watt Kheim Mah, or Mai, is especially
noticeable. This temple was built by the grandmother of the late Maha
Mongkut. The plant _kheim mai_ (indigenous to Siam), which bears a
lovely little blossom, was one of her favorite flowers, and she called
her temple by its name. Being a liberal patron of the arts, she employed
a promising young painter named Nai Dang to decorate the Watt. The man
would hardly be remembered now but for a poem he wrote and dedicated to
the queen mother, in which her beauty and goodness are extolled. I could
learn of him no more than that he was self-educated, and by unaided
perseverance attained a respectable proficiency in drawing and design.
He had also a fair knowledge of chemistry as it is practised in the
East; but, aspiring to fame and fortune, he abandoned that study and
devoted himself exclusively to painting. For years he struggled
desperately against the discouragements of poverty in himself and
ignorance in his neighbors, but found his reward at last in this
engagement to embellish the walls of the Watt Kheim Mai.

Nai Dang's must have been an original and independent mind, for his
conceptions in this cartoon are as bold as his handling is vigorous and
effective, while his colors are more true to nature than any that I have
seen in Chinese or Japanese art.

He has grandly chosen for his subject the Birth of Buddha. The mother of
the divine teacher being on a journey, is overtaken with the pangs of
childbirth. Her attendants and slaves have gathered about her; but she,
as if conscious of the august nature of the babe she is about to bestow
upon the world, retires alone to the shade of an orange grove, where,
clinging to the friendly boughs, with a look of blended rapture and
pain, she gives birth to the great reformer. A few steps farther on, a
circle of light is seen glowing round the feet of the infant, as it
attempts to rise and walk alone. Next we find the child in a rustic
cradle; a branch of the tree under which he is sleeping bends low, to
shield him from the fierce rays of the sun, and his royal parents,
beholding the miracle, kneel and adore him. Now he is a youthful prince,
beautiful and gentle, troubled with pity for the poor, the afflicted,
and the aged, as they rest by the roadside. And finally, as a hermit, he
sits in the shade of a boh-tree, rapt in divine contemplation.

It is a great work, full of imagination, truth, and power, if justly
contemplated by the light of a semi-barbaric age. Every figure is
instinct with character and action, and the whole is rendered with
infinite _naïveté_, as though it represented undisputed and familiar
facts.

On the opposite wall another great cartoon represents the Hell of the
Buddhists, with demons whose hideous heads are those of fabulous beasts
and creeping things. As a work of imagination and force this is worthy
to be the companion of the Birth of Buddha.

The roof is painted as a firmament,--stars in a blue ground; and here it
is that the charm of pure feeling and noble treatment is most apparent.
With five colors the artist has produced all the variety we see. No cast
shadows are shown, the forms themselves are but partially shaded, yet
wonderful harmony and beauty pervade the whole. All honor to Nai Dang!
who alone, amid the national decay of art and culture, preserved this
germ of glorious life and strength, wrapped in his own obscure,
neglected life!

The practice of decorating walls and ceilings with paintings may be
traced to a remote period in the history of Siamese art. In an ancient
temple at Lophaburee is a curious picture, of less merit than those of
Nai Dang, representing the marriage of Buddha with the princess Thiwadi,
beside many of the transmigrations of the Buddhas; and there are
elsewhere one or two pictures well worthy of notice, by masters whose
names have not been kept in remembrance. Thus art in Siam has
degenerated for want of kind, fostering patrons, and faithful,
sympathetic chroniclers, till it has become a thing of mere tools and
technics.

Nevertheless, they still paint with some cleverness on wood, cloth,
parchment, ivory, and plastic material, as well as on gold and
silver,--a sort of enamelling. They also retain a fair knowledge of
effect in fresco, tracing the outline on the wet ground, and laying on
the color in a thin glue; in some of their later work of this kind that
I have seen, the idea of the designer is expressed with much vigor.

Their mosaics, executed in colored porcelain of several varieties, glass
of all kinds, mother-of-pearl, and colored marbles, represent chiefly
flowers and sprays on a brilliant ground. The most remarkable work of
this kind is, I imagine, that which is lavished on the temple Watt P'hra
Këau,--the walls, pillars, windows, roofs, towers, and gates being
everywhere overlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory, and profusely
gilded. The several façades are likewise inlaid with ivory, glass, and
mother-of-pearl, fixed with cement in the mortar, which serves as a
base. In all cases these works are characterized by a touching
simplicity, which seems to struggle through much, that is obscure and
illegible to get nearer to nature and truth. Most of the tiles employed
in the roofing of temples and palaces are colored and gilt.

[Illustration: SPIRE OF THE TEMPLE WATT-POH.]

Among the older pictures, one in the Royal bedchamber of the abandoned
palace deserves a parting glance. It is a cartoon (much defaced, and
here and there re-touched by clumsy Chinese hands) of The First Sin. In
the foreground a newly created world is rudely represented, and here are
several illuminated figures, human but gigantic. One of these,
discontented with his spiritual food, is seen tasting something, which
we are told is "fragrant earth"; after which, in another figure, he
appears to be electrified, and here his monstrous anatomy is depicted
with ludicrous attempts at detail. No one could tell me by whom or when
this cartoon was painted, and the painting itself is so little
appreciated that I might never have seen or heard of it but for a happy
chance.

A characteristic effect in the few great works by Siamese painters
appears in their management of shade. They impart to darkness a
pervading inner light or clearness, and heighten the effect of the
deeper shadows by permitting objects to be seen through them. In
addition to the pictures I have described, one or two of some merit are
to be found in the Watt Brahmanee Waid.

The florid style of architecture seems to have been familiar to the
Siamese from a very early period. Their palaces, temples, and pagodas
afford innumerable examples of it, many of them not unworthy of European
art. They build generally in brick, using a cement composed of sand,
chalk, and molasses, in which the skin of the buffalo has been steeped.
Their structures are the most solid and durable imaginable. When the
masons building a wall round the new palace at Ayuthia found their
bricks falling short, they tried in vain to detach a supply from the
ruined temples and walls of that ancient city.

In the art of sculpture the Siamese are in advance of their
civilization. Not only in their palaces, temples, and pagodas, but in
their shops and dwellings likewise, and even in their ships and boats,
all sorts of figures are to be seen, modelled and finished with more or
less delicacy.



XXII. BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP.


"The world is old, and all things old within it." We plod a trodden
path. No truth is new to-day, save only that one which as a mantle
covers the face of God, lest we be blinded by the unveiled glory. How
many of earth's departed great, buried out of remembrance, might have
lived to-day in the love of the wise and just, had theirs but been that
perfect quickening which is the breath of his Spirit upon the heart, the
gift that "passeth understanding!" The world's helpers must first become
borrowers of God. The world's teachers must first learn of him that only
wisdom, which cometh not of books nor jealous cloister cells, but out of
the heart of man as it opens yearningly to the cry of humanity,--the
Wisdom of Love. This alone may challenge a superior mind, prizing truths
not merely for their facts, but for their motives,--motives for which
individuals or great communities either act or suffer,--to explore with
a calm and kindly judgment the spirit of the religion of the Buddhists;
and not its spirit only, but its every look and tone and motion as well,
being so many complex expressions of the religious character in all its
peculiar thoughts and feelings.

"Who, of himself, can interpret the symbol expressed by the wings of the
air-sylph forming within the case of the caterpillar? Only he who feels
in his own soul the same instinct which impels the horned fly to leave
room in its involucrum for antennae yet to come." Such a man knows and
feels that the potential works in him even as the actual works on him.
As all the organs of sense are framed for a correspondent world of
sense, so all the organs of the spirit are framed for a correspondent
world of spirit; and though these latter be not equally developed in us
all, yet they surely exist in all; else how is it that even the
ignorant, the depraved, and the cruel will contemplate the man of
unselfish and exalted goodness with contradictory emotions of pity and
respect?

We are prone to ignore or to condemn that which we do not clearly
understand; and thus it is, and on no better ground, that we deny that
there are influences in the religions of the East to render their
followers wiser, nobler, purer. And yet no one of respectable
intelligence will question that there have been, in all ages, individual
pagans who, by the simplicity of their doctrine and the purity of their
practice, have approached very nearly to the perfection of the Christian
graces; and that they were, if not so much the better for the religion
they had, at least far, far better than if they had had no religion at
all.

It is not, however, in human nature to approve and admire any course of
life without inquiring into the spirit of the law that regulates it. Nor
may it suffice that the spirit is there, if not likewise the
letter,--that is to say, the practice. The best doctrine may become the
worst, if imperfectly understood, erroneously interpreted, or
superstitiously followed.

In Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and India, the metaphysical analysis of
Mind had attained its noontide splendor, while as yet experimental
research had hardly dawned. Those ancient mystics did much to promote
intellectual emancipation, by insisting that Thought should not be
imprisoned within the mere outlines of any single dogmatic system; and
they likewise availed, in no feeble measure, to keep alive the heart in
the head, by demanding an impartial reverence for every attribute of the
mind, till, by converting these into symbols to impress the ignorant and
stupid, they came at last to deify them. Thus, with the uninitiated,
their system degenerated into an ignoble pantheism.

The renascence of Buddhism sought to eliminate from the arrogant and
impious pantheisms of Egypt, India, and Greece a simple and pure
philosophy, upholding virtue as man's greatest good and highest reward.
It taught that the only object worthy of his noblest aspirations was to
render the soul (itself an emanation from God) fit to be absorbed back
again into the Divine essence from which it sprang. The single aim,
therefore, of pure Buddhism seems to have been to rouse men to an inward
contemplation of the divinity of their own nature; to fix their thoughts
on the spiritual life within as the only real and true life; to teach
them to disregard all earthly distinctions, conditions, privileges,
enjoyments, privations, sorrows, sufferings; and thus to incite them to
continual efforts in the direction of the highest ideals of patience,
purity, self-denial.

Buddhism cannot be clearly defined by its visible results today. There
are more things in that subtile, mystical enigma called in the Pali
_Nirwana_, in the Birmese _Niban_, in the Siamese _Niphan_, than are
dreamed of in our philosophy. With the idea of Niphan in his theology,
it were absurdly false to say the Buddhist has no God. His Decalogue
[FOOTNOTE: Translated from the Pali.] is as plain and imperative as the
Christian's :--

I. From the meanest insect up to man thou shalt kill no animal
whatsoever.

II. Thou shalt not steal.

III. Thou shalt not violate the wife of another, nor his concubine.

IV. Thou shalt speak no word that is false.

V. Thou shalt not drink wine, nor anything that may intoxicate.

VI. Thou shalt avoid all anger, hatred, and bitter language.

VII. Thou shalt not indulge in idle and vain talk.

VIII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

IX. Thou shalt not harbor envy, nor pride, nor revenge, nor malice, nor
the desire of thy neighbor's death or misfortune.

X. Thou shalt not follow the doctrines of false gods.

Whosoever abstains from these forbidden things is said to "observe
Silah"; and whosoever shall faithfully observe Silah, in all his
successive metempsychoses, shall continually increase in virtue and
purity, until at length he shall become worthy to behold God, and hear
his voice; and so he shall obtain Niphan. "Be assiduous in bestowing
alms, in practising virtue, in observing Silah, in performing Bavana,
prayer; and above all in adoring Guadama, the true God. Reverence
likewise his laws and his priests."

Many have missed seeing what is true and wise in the doctrine of Buddha
because they preferred to observe it from the standpoint and in the
attitude of an antagonist, rather than of an inquirer. To understand
aright the earnest creed and hope of any man, one must be at least
sympathetically _en rapport_ with him,--must be willing to feel, and to
confess within one's self, the germs of those errors whose growth seems
so rank in him. In the humble spirit of this fellowship of fallibility
let us draw as near as we may to the hearts of these devotees and the
heart of their mystery.

My interesting pupil, the Lady Tâlâp, had invited me to accompany her to
the royal private temple, Watt P'hra Këau, to witness the services held
there on the Buddhist Sabâto, or One-thu-sin. Accordingly we repaired
together to the temple on the day appointed. The day was young, and the
air was cool and fresh; and as we approached the place of worship, the
clustered bells of the pagodas made breezy gushes of music aloft. One of
the court pages, meeting us, inquired our destination. "The Watt P'hra
Këau," I replied. "To see or to hear?" "Both." And we entered.

On a floor diamonded with polished brass sat a throng of women, the
_élite_ of Siam. All were robed in pure white, with white silk scarfs
drawn from the left shoulder in careful folds across the bust and back,
and thrown gracefully over the right. A little apart sat their female
slaves, of whom many were inferior to their mistresses only in social
consideration and worldly gear, being their half-sisters,--children of
the same father by a slave mother.

The women sat in circles, and each displayed her vase of flowers and her
lighted taper before her. In front of all were a number of my younger
pupils, the royal children, in circles also. Close by the altar, on a
low square stool, overlaid with a thin cushion of silk, sat the
high-priest, Chow Khoon Sâh. In his hand he held a concave fan, lined
with pale green silk, the back richly embroidered, jewelled, and gilt.
[Footnote: The fan is used to cover the face. Jewelled fans are marks of
distinction among the priesthood.] He was draped in a yellow robe, not
unlike the Roman toga, a loose and flowing habit, closed below the
waist, but open from the throat to the girdle, which was simply a band
of yellow cloth, bound tightly. From the shoulders hung two narrow
strips, also yellow, descending over the robe to the feet, and
resembling the scapular worn by certain orders of the Roman Catholic
clergy. At his side was an open watch of gold, the gift of his
sovereign. At his feet sat seventeen disciples, shading their faces with
fans less richly adorned.

We put off our shoes,--my child and I,--having respect for the ancient
prejudice against them; [Footnote: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet,
for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."] feeling not so
much reverence for the place as for the hearts that worshipped there,
caring to display not so much the love of wisdom as the wisdom of love;
and well were we repaid by the grateful smile of recognition that
greeted us as we entered.

We sat down cross-legged. No need to hush my boy,--the silence there, so
subduing, checked with its mysterious awe even his inquisitive young
mind. The venerable high-priest sat with his face jealously covered,
lest his eyes should tempt his thoughts to stray. I changed my position
to catch a glimpse of his countenance; he drew his fan-veil more
closely, giving me a quick but gentle half-glance of remonstrance. Then
raising his eyes, with lids nearly closed, he chanted in an infantile,
wailing tone.

That was the opening prayer. At once the whole congregation raised
themselves on their knees and, all together, prostrated themselves
thrice profoundly, thrice touching the polished brass floor with their
foreheads; and then, with heads bowed and palms folded and eyes closed,
they delivered the responses after the priest, much in the manner of the
English liturgy, first the priest, then the people, and finally all
together. There was no singing, no standing up and sitting down, no
changing of robes or places, no turning the face to the altar, nor
north, nor south, nor east, nor west. All knelt _still_, with hands
folded straight before them, and eyes strictly, tightly closed. Indeed,
there were faces there that expressed devotion and piety, the humblest
and the purest, as the lips murmured: "O Thou Eternal One, Thou
perfection of Time, Thou truest Truth, Thou immutable essence of all
Change, Thou most excellent radiance of Mercy, Thou infinite Compassion,
Thou Pity, Thou Charity!"

I lost some of the responses in the simultaneous repetition, and did but
imperfectly comprehend the exhortation that followed, in which was
inculcated the strictest practice of charity in a manner so pathetic and
so gentle as might be wisely imitated by the most orthodox of Christian
priests.

There was majesty in the humility of those pagan worshippers, and in
their shame of self they were sublime. I leave both the truth and the
error to Him who alone can soar to the bright heights of the one and
sound the dark depths of the other, and take to myself the lesson, to be
read in the shrinking forms and hidden faces of those patient waiters
for a far-off glimmering _Light_,--the lesson wherefrom I learn, in
thanking God for the light of Christianity, to thank him for its shadow
too, which is Buddhism.

Around the porches and vestibules of the temple lounged the Amazonian
guard, intent only on irreverent amusement, even in the form of a
grotesque and grim flirtation here and there with the custodians of the
temple, who have charge of the sacred fire that burns before the altar.
About eighty-five years ago this fire went out. It was a calamity of
direful presage, and thereupon all Siam went into a consternation of
mourning. All public spectacles were forbidden until the crime could be
expiated by the appropriate punishment of the wretch to whose
sacrilegious carelessness it was due; nor was the sacred flame rekindled
until the reign of P'hra-Pooti-Yaut-Fa, grandfather of his late Majesty,
when the royal Hall of Audience was destroyed by lightning. From that
fire of heaven it was relighted with joyful thanksgiving, and so has
burned on to this day.

The lofty throne, on which the priceless P'hra Këau (the Emerald Idol)
blazed in its glory of gold and gems, shone resplendent in the forenoon
light. Everything above, around it,--even the vases of flowers and the
perfumed tapers on the floor,--was reflected as if by magic in its
kaleidoscopic surface, now pensive, pale, and silvery as with moonlight,
now flashing, fantastic, with the party-colored splendors of a thousand
lamps.

The ceiling was wholly covered with hieroglyphic devices,--luminous
circles and triangles, globes, rings, stars, flowers, figures of
animals, even parts of the human body,--mystic symbols, to be deciphered
only by the initiated. Ah! could I but have read them as in a book,
construing all their allegorical significance, how near might I not have
come to the distracting secret of this people! Gazing upon them, my
thought flew back a thousand years, and my feeble, foolish conjectures,
like butterflies at sea, were lost in mists of old myth.

Not that Buddhism has escaped the guessing and conceits of a multitude
of writers, most trustworthy of whom are the early Christian Fathers,
who, to the end that they might arouse the attention of the sleeping
nations, yielded a reluctant, but impartial and graceful, tribute to the
long-forgotten creeds of Chaldea, Phenicia, Assyria, and Egypt.
Nevertheless, they would never have appealed to the doctrine of Buddha
as being most like to Christianity in its rejection of the claims of
race, had they not found in its simple ritual another and a stronger
bond of brotherhood. Like Christianity, too, it was a religion catholic
and apostolic, for the truth of which many faithful witnesses had laid
down their lives. It was, besides, the creed of an ancient race; and the
mystery that shrouded it had a charm to pique the vanity even of
self-sufficient Greeks, and stir up curiosity even in Roman arrogance
and indifference. The doctrines of Buddha were eminently fitted to
elucidate the doctrines of Christ, and therefore worthy to engage the
interest of Christian writers; accordingly, among the earliest of these
mention is made of the Buddha or Phthah, though there were as yet few or
none to appreciate all the religious significance of his teachings.
Terebinthus declared there was nothing in the pagan world to be compared
with his (Buddha's) _P'hra-ti-moksha_, or Code of Discipline, which in
some respects resembled the rules that governed the lives of the monks
of Christendom; Marco Polo says of Buddha, "Si fuisset Christianus,
fuisset apud Deum maximus factus"; and later, Malcolm, the devoted
missionary, said of his doctrine, "In almost every respect it seems to
be the best religion which man has ever invented." Mark the "invented"
of the wary Christian!

But errors, that in time crept in, corrupted the pure doctrine, and
disciples, ignorant or stupid, perverted its meaning and intent, and
blind or treacherous guides led the simple astray, till at last the true
and plain philosophy of Buddha became entangled with the Egyptian
mythology.

Over the portal on the eastern facade of the Watt P'hra Këau is a
bass-relief representing the Last Judgment, in which are figures of a
devil with a pig's head dragging the wicked to hell, and an angel
weighing mankind in a pair of scales. Now we know that in the mythology
of ancient Egypt the Pig was the emblem of the Evil Spirit, and this
bass-relief of the Siamese watt could hardly fail to remind the
Egyptologist of kindred compositions in old sculptures wherein the good
and bad deeds of the dead are weighed by Anubis (the Siamese Anuman or
Hanuman), and the souls of the wicked carried off by a pig.

In the city of Arsinoe in Upper Egypt (formerly Crocodilopolis, now
Medinet-el-Fayum), the crocodile is worshipped; and a sacred crocodile,
kept in a pond, is perfectly tame and familiar with the priests. He is
called Suchus, and they feed him with meat and corn and wine, the
contributions of strangers. One of the Egyptian divinities, apparently
that to whom the beast was consecrated, is invariably pictured with the
head of a crocodile; and in hieroglyphic inscriptions is represented by
that animal with the tail turned under the body. A similar figure is
common in the temples of Siam; and a sacred crocodile, kept in a pond in
the manner of the ancient Egyptians, is fed by Siamese priests, at whose
call it comes to the surface to receive the rice, fruit, and wine that
are brought to it daily.

The Beetle, an insect peculiarly sacred to the Buddhists, was the
Egyptian sign of Phthah, the Father of Gods; and in the hieroglyphics it
stands for the name of that deity, whose head is either surmounted by a
beetle, or is itself in the form of a beetle. Elsewhere in the
hieroglyphics, where it does not represent Buddha, it evidently appears
as the symbol of generation or reproduction, the meaning most anciently
attached to it; whence Dr. Young, in his "Hieroglyphical Researches,"
inferred its relation to Buddha. Mrs. Hamilton Gray, in her work on the
Sepulchres of Etruria, observes: "As scarabæi existed long before we had
any account of idols, I do not doubt that they were originally the
invention of some really devout mind; and they speak to us in strong
language of the danger of making material symbols of immaterial things.
First, the symbol came to be trusted in, instead of the being of whom it
was the sign. Then came the bodily conception and manifestation of that
being, or his attributes, in the form of idols. Next, the representation
of all that belongs to spirits, good and bad. And finally, the
deification of every imagination of the heart of man,--a written and
accredited system of polytheism, and a monstrous and hydra-headed
idolatry."

Such is the religious history of the scarabæus, a creature that so early
attracted the notice of man by its ingenious and industrious habits,
that it was selected by him to symbolize the Creator; and cutting stones
to represent it, [FOOTNOTE: Six rubies, exquisitely cut in the form of
beetles, are worn as studs by the present King of Siam.] he wore them in
token of his belief in a creator of all things, and in recognition of
the Divine Presence, probably attaching to them at first no more
mysterious import or virtue. There is sound reason for believing that in
this form the symbol existed before Abraham, and that its fundamental
signification of creation or generation was gradually overbuilt with
arbitrary speculations and fantastic notions. In theory it degenerated
into a crude egoism, a vaunting and hyper-stoic hostility to nature,
which, though intellectually godless, was not without that universal
instinct for divinity which, by countless ways, seeks with an
ever-present and importunate longing for the one sublimated and eternal
source from which it sprang.

Through twenty-five million six hundred thousand Asongkhies, or
metempsychoses,--according to the overpowering computation of his
priests,--did Buddha struggle to attain the divine omniscience of
Niphan, by virtue of which he remembers every form he ever entered, and
beholds with the clear eyes of a god the endless diversities of
transmigration in the animal, human, and angelic worlds, throughout the
spaceless, timeless, numberless universe of visible and invisible life.
According to Heraclides, Pythagoras used to say of himself, that he
remembered "not only all the men, but all the animals and all the
plants, his soul had passed through." That Pythagoras believed and
taught the doctrine of transmigration may hardly be doubted, but that he
originated it is very questionable. Herodotus intimates that both
Orpheus and Pythagoras derived it from the Egyptians, but propounded it
as their own, without acknowledgment.

Nearly every male inhabitant of Siam enters the priesthood at least once
in his lifetime. Instead of the more vexatious and scandalous forms of
divorce, the party aggrieved may become a priest or a nun, and thus the
matrimonial bond is at once dissolved; and with this advantage, that
after three or four months of probation they may be reconciled and
reunited, to live together in the world again.

Chow Khoon Sâh, or "His Lordship the Lake," whose functions in the Watt
P'hra Këau I have described, was the High-Priest of Siam, and in high
favor with his Majesty. He had taken holy orders with the double motive
of devoting himself to the study of Sanskrit literature, and of escaping
the fate, that otherwise awaited him, of becoming the mere thrall of his
more fortunate cousin, the king. In the palace it was whispered that he
and the late queen consort had been tenderly attached to each other, but
that the lady's parents, for prudential considerations, discountenanced
the match; "and so," on the eve of her betrothal to his Majesty, her
lover had sought seclusion and consolation in a Buddhist monastery.
However that may be, it is certain that the king and the high-priest
were now fast friends. The latter entertained great respect for his
reverend cousin, whose title ("The Lake") described justly, as well as
poetically, the graceful serenity and repose of his demeanor.

Chow Khoon Sâh lived at some distance from the palace, at the Watt
Brahmanee Waid. As the friendship between the cousins ripened, his
Majesty considered that it would be well for him to have the
contemplative student, prudent adviser, and able reasoner nearer to him.
With this idea, and for a surprise to one to whom all surprises had long
since become but vanities and vexations of spirit, he caused to be
erected, about forty yards from the Grand Palace, on the eastern side of
the Meinam, a temple which he named _Rajah-Bah-dit-Sang_, or "The King
caused me to be built"; and at the same time, as an appendage to the
temple, a monastery in mediaeval style, the workmanship in both
structures being most substantial and elaborate.

The sculptures and carvings on the pillars and façades--half-fabulous,
half-historical figures, conveying ingenious allegories of the triumph
of virtue over the passions--constituted a singular tribute to the
exemplary fame of the high-priest. The grounds were planted with trees
and shrubs, and the walks gravelled, thus inviting the contemplative
recluse to tranquil, soothing strolls. These grounds were accessible by
four gates, the principal one facing the east, and a private portal
opening on the canal.

The laying of the foundation of the temple and monastery of
Rajah-Bah-dit-Sang was the occasion of extraordinary festivities,
consisting of theatrical spectacles and performances, a carnival of
dancing, mass around every corner-stone, banquets to priests, and
distributions of clothing, food, and money to the poor. The king
presided every morning and evening under a silken canopy; and even those
favorites of the harem who were admitted to the royal confidence were
provided with tents, whence they could witness the shows, and
participate in the rejoicings in the midst of which the good work went
on. After the several services of mass had been performed, and the
corner-stones consecrated by the pouring on of oil and water, [Footnote:
Oil is the emblem of life and love; water, of purity.] seven tall lamps
were lighted to burn above them seven days and nights, and seventy
priests in groups of seven, forming a perfect circle, prayed
continually, holding in their hands the mystic web of seven threads,
that weird circlet of life and death.

Then the youngest and fairest virgins of the land brought offerings of
corn and wine, milk, honey, and flowers, and poured them on the
consecrated stones. And after that, they brought pottery of all
kinds,--vases, urns, ewers, goglets, bowls, cups, and dishes,--and,
flinging them into the foundations, united with zeal and rejoicing in
the "meritorious" work of pounding them into fine dust; and while the
instruments of music and the voices of the male and female singers of
the court kept time to the measured crash and thud of the wooden clubs
in those young and tender hands, the king cast into the foundation coins
and ingots of gold and silver.

"Do you understand the word 'charity,' or _maitrî_, as your apostle St.
Paul explains it in the thirteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the
Corinthians?" said his Majesty to me one morning, when he had been
discussing the religion of Sakyamuni, the Buddha.

"I believe I do, your Majesty," was my reply.

"Then, tell me, what does St. Paul really mean, to what custom does he
allude, when he says, 'Even if I give my body to be burned, and have not
charity, it profiteth me nothing'?"

"Custom!" said I. "I do not know of any _custom_. The giving of the body
to be burned is by him esteemed the highest act of devotion, the purest
sacrifice man can make for man."

"You have said well. It is the highest act of devotion that can be made,
or performed, by man for man,--that giving of his body to be burned. But
if it is done from a spirit of opposition, for the sake of fame, or
popular applause, or for any other such motive, is it still to be
regarded as the highest act of sacrifice?"

"That is just what St. Paul means: the motive consecrates the deed."

"But all men are not fortified with the self-control which should fit
them to be great exemplars; and of the many who have appeared in that
character, if strict inquiry were made, their virtue would be found to
proceed from any other than the true and pure spirit. Sometimes it is
indolence, sometimes restlessness, sometimes vanity impatient for its
gratification, and rushing to assume the part of humility for the
purpose of self-delusion."

"Now" said the King, taking several of his long strides in the vestibule
of his library, and declaiming with his habitual emphasis, "St Paul, in
this chapter, evidently and strongly applies the Buddhist's word
_maitrî_, or _maikree_, as pronounced by some Sanskrit scholars; and
explains it through the Buddhist's custom of giving the body to be
burned, which was practised centuries before the Christian era, and is
found unchanged in parts of China, Ceylon, and Siam to this day. The
giving of the body to be burned has ever been considered by devout
Buddhists the most exalted act of self-abnegation.

"To give all one's goods to feed the poor is common in this country,
with princes and people,--who often keep back nothing (not even one
_cowree_, the thousandth part of a cent) to provide for themselves a
handful of rice. But then they stand in no fear of starvation; for death
by hunger is unknown where Buddhism is preached and _practised_.

"I know a man, of royal parentage, and once possessed of untold riches.
In his youth he felt such pity for the poor, the old, the sick, and such
as were troubled and sorrowful, that he became melancholy, and after
spending several years in the continual relief of the needy and
helpless, he, in a moment, gave all his goods,--in a word, ALL,--'to
feed the poor.' This man has never heard of St. Paul or his writings;
but he knows, and tries to comprehend in its fulness, the Buddhist word
_maitrî_.

"At thirty he became a priest. For five years he had toiled as a
gardener; for that was the occupation he preferred, because in the
pursuit of it he acquired much useful knowledge of the medicinal
properties of plants, and so became a ready physician to those who could
not pay for their healing. But he could not rest content with so
imperfect a life, while the way to perfect knowledge of excellence,
truth, and charity remained open to him; so he became a priest.

"This happened sixty-five years ago. Now he is ninety-five years old;
and, I fear, has not yet found the truth and excellence he has been in
search of so long. But I know no greater man than he. He is great in the
Christian sense,--loving, pitiful, forbearing, pure.

"Once, when he was a gardener, he was robbed of his few poor tools by
one whom he had befriended in many ways. Some time after that, the king
met him, and inquired of his necessities. He said he needed tools for
his gardening. A great abundance of such implements was sent to him; and
immediately he shared them with his neighbors, taking care to send the
most and best to the man who had robbed him.

"Of the little that remained to him, he gave freely to all who lacked.
Not his own, but another's wants, were his sole argument in asking or
bestowing. Now, he is great in the Buddhist sense also,--not loving life
nor fearing death, desiring nothing the world can give, beyond the peace
of a beatified spirit. This man--who is now the High-Priest of
Siam--would, without so much as a thought of shrinking, give his body,
alive or dead, to be burned, if so he might obtain one glimpse of
eternal truth, or save one soul from death or sorrow."

More than eighteen months after the First King of Siam had entertained
me with this essentially Buddhistic argument, and its simple and
impressive illustration, a party of pages hurried me away with them,
just as the setting sun was trailing his last long, lingering shadows
through the porches of the palace. His Majesty required my presence; and
his Majesty's commands were absolute and instant. "Find and fetch!" No
delay was to be thought of, no question answered, no explanation
afforded, no excuse entertained. So with resignation I followed my
guides, who led the way to the monastery of Watt Rajah-Bah-dit-Sang. But
having some experience of the moods and humors of his Majesty, my mind
was not wholly free from uneasiness. Generally, such impetuous summoning
foreboded an interview the reverse of agreeable.

The sun had set in glory below the red horizon when I entered the
extensive range of monastic buildings that adjoin the temple. Wide
tracts of waving corn and avenues of oleanders screened from view the
distant city, with its pagodas and palaces. The air was fresh and balmy,
and seemed to sigh plaintively among the betel and cocoa palms that
skirt the monastery.

The pages left me seated on a stone step, and ran to announce my
presence to the king. Long after the moon had come out clear and cool,
and I had begun to wonder where all this would end, a young man, robed
in pure white, and bearing in one hand a small lighted taper and a lily
in the other, beckoned me to enter, and follow him; and as we traversed
the long, low passages that separate the cells of the priests, the weird
sound of voices, chanting the hymns of the Buddhist liturgy, fell upon
my ear. The darkness, the loneliness, the measured monotone, distant and
dreamy, all was most romantic and exciting, even to a matter-of-fact
English woman like myself.

As the page approached the threshold of one of the cells, he whispered
to me, in a voice full of entreaty, to put off my shoes; at the same
time prostrating himself with a movement and expression of the most
abject humility before the door, where he remained, without changing his
posture. I stooped involuntarily, and scanned curiously, anxiously, the
scene within the cell. There sat the king; and at a sign from him I
presently entered, and sat down beside him.

On a rude pallet, about six and a half feet long, and not more than
three feet wide, and with a bare block of wood for a pillow, lay a dying
priest. A simple garment of faded yellow covered his person; his hands
were folded on his breast; his head was bald, and the few blanched hairs
that might have remained to fringe his sunken temples had been carefully
shorn,--his eyebrows, too, were closely shaven; his feet were bare and
exposed; his eyes were fixed, not in the vacant stare of death, but with
solemn contemplation or scrutiny, upward. No sign of disquiet was there,
no external suggestion of pain or trouble; I was at once startled and
puzzled. Was he dying, or acting?

In the attitude of his person, in the expression of his countenance, I
beheld sublime reverence, repose, absorption. He seemed to be communing
with some spiritual presence.

My entrance and approach made no change in him. At his right side was a
dim taper in a gold candlestick; on the left a dainty golden vase,
filled with white lilies, freshly gathered: these were offerings from
the king. One of the lilies had been laid on his breast, and contrasted
touchingly with the dingy, faded yellow of his robe. Just over the
region of the heart lay a coil of unspun cotton thread, which, being
divided into seventy-seven filaments, was distributed to the hands of
the priests, who, closely seated, quite filled the ell, so that none
could have moved without difficulty. Before each priest were a lighted
taper and a lily, symbols of faith and purity. From time to time one or
other of that solemn company raised his voice, and chanted strangely;
and all the choir responded in unison. These were the words, as they
were afterward translated for me by the king.

_First Voice._ Sâng-Khâng sârâ nang gâch' châ mi! (Thou Excellence, or
Perfection! I take refuge in thee.)

_All._ Nama Poothô sâng-Khâng sârâ nang gâch' châ mi! (Thou who art
named Poot-tho!--either God, Buddha, or Mercy,--I take refuge in thee.)

_First Voice._ Tuti âmpi sâng-Khâng sârâ nang gâch' cha mi! (Thou Holy
One! I take refuge in thee.)

_All._ Tè sâtiyâ sâng-Khâng sârâ nang gâch' châ mi! (Thou Truth, I take
refuge in thee.)

As the sound of the prayer fell on his ear, a nickering smile lit up the
pale, sallow countenance of the dying man with a visible mild radiance,
as though the charity and humility of his nature, in departing, left the
light of their loveliness there. The absorbing rapture of that look,
which seemed to overtake the invisible, was almost too holy to gaze
upon. Riches, station, honors, kindred, he had resigned them all, more
than half a century since, in his love for the poor and his longing
after truth. Here was none of the wavering or vagueness or incoherence
of a wandering, delirious death. He was going to his clear, eternal
calm. With a smile of perfect peace he said: "To your Majesty I commend
the poor; and this that remains of me I give to be burned." And that,
his last gift, was indeed his all.

I can imagine no spectacle more worthy to excite a compassionate
emotion, to impart an abiding impression of reverence, than the tranquil
dying of that good old "pagan." Gradually his breathing became more
laborious; and presently, turning with a great effort toward the king,
he said, _Chan cha pi dauni!_--"I will go now!" Instantly the priests
joined in a loud psalm and chant, "P'hra Arahang sâng-Khâng sârâ nang
gâch' châ mi!" (Thou Sacred One, I take refuge in thee.) A few minutes
more, and the spirit of the High-Priest of Siam had calmly breathed
itself away. The eyes were open and fixed; the hands still clasped; the
expression sweetly content. My heart and eyes were full of tears, yet I
was comforted. By what hope? I know not, for I dared not question it.

On the afternoon of the next day I was again summoned by his Majesty to
witness the burning of that body.

It was carried to the cemetery Watt Sah Kâte; and there men, hired to do
such dreadful offices upon the dead, cut off all the flesh and flung it
to the hungry dogs that haunt that monstrous garbage-field of Buddhism.
The bones, and all that remained upon them, were thoroughly burned; and
the ashes, carefully gathered in an earthen pot, were scattered in the
little gardens of wretches too poor to buy manure. All that was left now
of the venerable devotee was the remembrance of a look.

"This," said the King, as I turned away sickened and sorrowful, "is to
give one's body to be burned. This is what your St. Paul had in his
mind,--this custom of our Buddhist ancestors, this complete
self-abnegation in life and in death,--when he said, 'Even if I give my
body to be burned, and have not charity [maitrî], it profiteth me
nothing.'"

[Illustration: Priests at Breakfast.]



COMMON MAXIMS OF THE PRIESTS OF SIAM.


Glory not in thyself, but rather in thy neighbor.

Dig not the earth, which is the source of life and the mother of all.

Cause no tree to die.

Kill no beast, nor insect, not even the smallest ant or fly.

Eat nothing between meals.

Regard not singers, dancers, nor players on instruments.

Use no perfume but sweetness of thoughts.

Neither sit nor sleep in high places.

Be lowly in thy heart, that thou mayst be lowly in thy act.

Hoard neither silver nor gold.

Entertain not thy thoughts with worldly things.

Do no work but the work of charity and truth.

Give not flowers unto women, but rather prayers.

Contract no friendship with the hope of gain.

Borrow nothing, but rather deny thy want.

Lend not unto usury.

Keep neither lance, nor sword, nor any deadly weapon.

Judge not thy neighbor.

Bake not, nor burn.

Wink not. Be not familiar nor contemptuous.

Labor not for hire, but for charity.

Look not upon women unchastely.

Make no incisions that may draw blood or sap, which is the life of man
and nature.

Give no medicines which contain poison, but study to acquire the true
art of healing, which is the highest of all arts, and pertains to the
wise and benevolent.

Love all men equally.

Perform not thy meditations in public places.

Make no idols of any kind.



XXIII. CREMATION.


As soon as his Majesty had recovered from his genuine convulsion of
grief for the death of his sweet little princess, Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying,
he proceeded, habited in white, with all his family, to visit the
chamber of mourning. The grand-aunt of the dead child, who seemed the
most profoundly afflicted of all that numerous household, still lay
prostrate at the feet of her pale cold darling, and would not be
comforted. As his Majesty entered, silently ushered, she moved, and
mutely laid her head upon his feet, moaning, _Poot-tho! Poot-tho!_
There were tears and sighs and heart-wrung sobs around. Speechless, but
with trembling lips, the royal father took gently in his arms the little
corpse, and bathed it in the Siamese manner, by pouring cold water upon
it. In this he was followed by other members of the royal family, the
more distant relatives, and such ladies of the harem as chanced to be in
waiting,--each advancing in the order of rank, and pouring pure cold
water from a silver bowl over the slender body. Two sisters of the king
then shrouded the corpse in a sitting posture, overlaid it with perfumes
and odoriferous gums, frankincense and myrrh, and, lastly, swaddled it
in a fine winding-sheet. Finally it was deposited in a golden urn, and
this again in an-other of finer gold, richly adorned with precious
stones. The inner urn has an iron grating in the bottom, and the outer
an orifice at its most pendent point, through which by means of a tap or
stop-cock, the fluids are drawn off daily, until the _cadavre_ has
become quite dry.

This double rim was borne on a gilt sedan, under a royal gilt umbrella,
to the temple of the Maha Phrasat, where it was mounted on a graduated
platform about six feet high. During this part of the ceremony, and
while the trumpeters and the blowers of conch-shells performed their
lugubrious parts, his Majesty sat apart, his face buried in his hands,
confessing a keener anguish than had ever before cut his selfish heart.

The urn being thus elevated, all the insignia pertaining to the rank of
the little princess were disposed in formal order below it, as though at
her feet. Then the musicians struck up a passionate passage, ending in a
plaintive and truly solemn dirge; after which his Majesty and all the
princely company retired, leaving the poor clod to await, in its pagan
gauds and mockery, the last offices of friendship. But not always alone;
for thrice daily--at early dawn, and noon, and gloaming--the musicians
came to perform a requiem for the soul of the dead,--"that it may soar
on high, from the naming, fragrant pyre for which it is reserved, and
return to its foster parents, Ocean, Earth, Air, Sky." With these is
joined a concert of mourning women, who bewail the early dead, extolling
her beauty, graces, virtues; while in the intervals, four priests (who
are relieved every fourth hour) chant the praises of Buddha, bidding the
gentle spirit "Pass on! Pass on!" and boldly speed through the labyrinth
before it, "through high, deep, and famous things, through good and evil
things, through truth and error, through wisdom and folly, through
sorrow, suffering, hope, life, joy, love, death, through endless
mutability, into immutability!"

These services are performed with religious care daily for six months;
[Footnote: Twelve months for a king.] that is, until the time appointed
for cremation. Meanwhile, in the obsequies of the Princess Fâ-ying,
arrangements were made for the erection of the customary
_P'hra-mène_,--a temporary structure of great splendor, where the body
lies in state for several days, on a throne dazzling with gold and
silver ornaments and precious stones.

For the funeral honors of royalty it is imperative that the P'hra-mène
be constructed of virgin timber. Trunks of teak, from two hundred to two
hundred and fifty feet in length, and of proportionate girth, are felled
in the forests of Myolonghee, and brought down the Meinam in rafts.
These trunks, planted thirty feet deep, one at each corner of a square,
serve as pillars, not less than a hundred and seventy feet high, to
support a sixty-foot spire, an octagonal pyramid, covered with gold
leaf. Attached to this pyramid are four wings, forty feet long, with
handsome porches looking to the cardinal points of the compass; here
also are four colossal figures of heroic myths, each with a lion
couchant at its feet.

On one side of the square reserved for the P'hra-mène, a vast hall is
erected to accommodate the Supreme King and his family while attending
the funeral ceremonies. The several roofs of this temporary edifice have
peculiar horn-like projections at the ends, and are covered with crimson
cloth, while golden draperies are suspended from the ceiling. The entire
space around the P'hra-mène is matted with bamboo wicker-work, and
decorated with innumerable standards peculiar to Siam. Here and there
may be seen grotesque cartoons of the wars of gods and giants, and rude
landscapes supposed to represent the Buddhist's heaven, with lakes and
groves and gardens. Beyond these are playhouses for theatrical displays,
puppet-shows, masquerades, posturing, somersaulting, leaping, wrestling,
balancing on ropes and wires, and the tricks of professional buffoons.
Here also are restaurants, or cook-shops, for all classes of people
above the degree of boors; and these are open day and night during the
period devoted to the funeral rites.

The grand lodge erected for the Second King and his household, at the
cremation of his little niece, resembled that of his brother, the
Supreme King, in the regal style of its decorations.

The centre of the P'hra-mène is a lofty octagon; and directly under the
great spire is a gorgeous eight-sided pyramid, diminishing by
right-angled gradations to a truncated top, its base being fifty or
sixty feet in circumference, and higher by twenty feet than the
surrounding buildings. On this pyramid stood the urn of gold containing
the remains of the royal child. Above the urn a golden canopy hung from
the lofty ceiling, and far above this again a circular white awning was
spread, representing the firmament studded with silver stars. Under the
canopy, and just over little Fâ-ying's urn, the whitest and most
fragrant flowers, gathered and arranged by those who loved her best in
life, formed a bright odoriferous bower. The pyramid itself was
decorated with rare and beautiful gifts, of glass, porcelain, alabaster,
silver, gold, and artificial flowers, with images of birds, beasts, men,
women, children, and angels. Splendid chandeliers suspended from the
ceiling, and lesser lights on the angles of the pyramid, illuminated the
funeral hall.

These showy preparations completed, the royal mourners only waited for
the appointed time when the remains must be laid in state upon the
consecrated pyre. At dawn of that day, all the princes, nobles,
governors, and superior priests of the kingdom, with throngs of baser
men, women, and children, in their holiday attire, came to grace the
"fiery consummation" of little Fâ-ying. A royal barge conveyed me, with
my boy, to the palace, whence we followed on foot.

The gold urn, in an ivory chariot of antique fashion, richly gilt, was
drawn by a pair of milk-white horses, and followed and attended by
hundreds of men clad in pure white. It was preceded by two other
chariots; in the first sat the high-priest, reading short, pithy
aphorisms and precepts from the sacred books; in the other followed the
full brothers of the deceased. A strip of silver cloth, six inches wide,
attached to the urn, was loosely extended to the seats of the royal
mourners in this second chariot, and thence to the chariot of the high-
priest, on whose lap the ends were laid, symbolizing the mystic union
between death, life, and the Buddha.

Next after the urn came a chariot laden with the sacred sandal-wood, the
aromatic gums, and the wax tapers. The wood was profusely carved with
emblems of the indestructibility of matter; for though the fire
apparently consumes the pile, and with it the body, the priests are
careful to interpret the process as that by which both are endued with
new vitality; thus everything consecrated to the religious observances
of Buddhism is made to typify some latent truth.

Then came a long procession of mythological figures, nondescripts drawn
on small wooden wheels, and covered with offerings for the priests.
These were followed by crowds of both sexes and all ages, bearing in
their hands the mystic triform flower, emblematic of the sacred circle,
_Om_, or Aum. To hold this mystic flower above the head, and describe
with it endless circles in the air, is regarded as a performance of
peculiar virtue and "merit," and one of the most signal acts of devotion
possible to a Buddhist. And yet, as the symbol of One great Central
Spirit, whose name it is profanation to utter, the symbol is strangely
at variance with the doctrines of Buddhism.

The moment the strange concourse, human and mythological, began to move,
the conch-shells, horns, trumpets, sackbuts, pipes, dulcimers, flutes,
and harps rent the air with wild wailing; but above the din rose the
deep, booming, measured beat of the death-drums. Very subtile, and
indescribably stirring is this ancient music, with its various weird and
prolonged cadences, and that solemn thundering boom enhancing the
peculiar sweetness of the dirge as it rises and falls.

Under the spell of such sounds as these the procession moved slowly to
the P'hra-mène. Here the urn was lifted by means of pulleys, and
enthroned on the splendid pedestal prepared for it. The silver cloth
from the chariot of the high-priest was laid upon it, the ends drooping
on the eastern and western sides to the rich carpet of the floor. A
hundred priests, fifty on either hand, rehearsed in concert, seated on
the floor, long hymns in Pali from the sacred books, principally
embodying melancholy reflections on the brevity and uncertainty of human
life. After which, holding the silver cloth between the thumb and
forefinger, they joined in silent prayer, thereby, as they suppose,
communicating a saving virtue to the cloth, which conveys it to the dead
within the urn. They continued thus engaged for about an hour, and then
withdrew to give place to another hundred, and so on, until thousands of
priests had taken part in the solemn exercises. Meanwhile the four
already mentioned still prayed, day and night, at the Maha Phrasat. A
service was likewise performed for the royal family twice a day, in an
adjacent temporary chapel, where all the court attended,--including the
noble ladies of the harem, who occupy private oratories, hung with
golden draperies, behind which they can see and hear without being seen.
As long as these funeral ceremonies last, the numerous concourse of
priests is sumptuously entertained.

At nightfall the P'hra-mène is brilliantly illuminated, within and
without, and the people are entertained with dramatic spectacles derived
from the Chinese, Hindoo, Malayan, and Persian classics. Effigies of the
fabulous Hydra, or dragon with seven heads, illuminated, and animated by
men concealed within, are seen endeavoring to swallow the moon,
represented by a globe of fire. Another monster, probably the Chimæra,
with the head and breast of a lion and the body of a goat, vomits flame
and smoke. There are also figures of Echidna and Cerberus, the former
represented as a beautiful nymph, but terminating below the waist in the
coils of a dragon or python; and the latter as a triple-headed dog,
evidently the canine bugaboo that is supposed to have guarded Pluto's
dreadful gates.

About nine o'clock fireworks were ignited by the king's own hand,--a
very beautiful display, representing, among other graceful forms, a
variety of shrubbery, which gradually blossomed with roses, dahlias,
oleanders, and other flowers.

The flinging of money and trinkets to the rabble is usually the most
exciting of the pranks which diversify the funeral ceremonies of Siamese
royalty; in this _mal à propos_ pastime his Majesty took a lively part.
The personal effects of the deceased are divided into two or more equal
portions, one of which is bestowed on the poor, another on the priests;
memorials and complimentary tokens are presented to the princes and
nobles, and the friends of the royal family. The more costly articles
are ticketed and distributed by lottery; and smaller objects, such as
rings and gold and silver coins, are put into lemons, which his Majesty,
standing on the piazza of his temporary palace, flings among the sea of
heads below. There is also at each of the four corners of the
P'hra-mène, an artificial tree, bearing gold and silver fruit, which is
plucked by officers of the court, and tossed to the poor on every side.
Each throw is hailed by a wild shout from the multitude, and followed by
a mad scramble.

In this connection the following "notification" from the king's hand
will be intelligible to the reader.


"THE NOTIFICATION

"In regard to the mourning distribution and donation in funeral service
or ceremony of cremation of the remains of Her late Royal Highness
celestial Princess Somdetch Chowfa Chandrmondol Sobhon Bhagiawati,
[Footnote: Fâ-ying.] whose death took place on the 12th May, Anno
Christi 1863.

"This Part consisting of a glasscoverbox enclosing a idol of Chinese
fabulousquadruped called 'sai' or Lion, covered with goldleaf ornamented
with coined pieces of silver & rings a black bag of funeral balls
enclosing some pieces of gold and silver coins &c., in funeral service
of Her late Royal Highness the forenamed princess, the ninth daughter or
sixteenth offspring of His Majesty the reigning Supreme King of Siam,
which took place in ceremony continued from 16th to 21st day of February
Anno Christi 1864. prepared ex-property of Her late lamented Royal
Highness the deceased, and assistant funds from certain members of the
Royal Family, designed from his Gracious Majesty Somdetch P'hra
Paramendr Maha Mongkut, Her late Royal Highness' bereaved Royal father.
Their Royal Highnesses celestial princes Somdetch Chowfa Chulalonkorn
the full elder brother, Chowfa Chaturont Rasmi, and Chowfa Bhangurangsi
Swang-wongse, the two younger full brothers, and His Royal Highness
Prince Nobhawongs Krommun Maha-suarsivivalas the eldest half brother.
Their Royal Highnesses twenty-five princes, Krita-bhinihar, Gaganang
Yugol &c. the younger half-brothers, and their Royal Highnesses seven
princesses, Yingyawlacks, Dacksinja, and Somawati, &c., the elder
sisters, 18 princesses, Srinagswasti, &c., the younger half-sisters of
Her late Royal Highness the deceased, for friendly acceptance of--who is
one of His present Siamese Majesty's friends who either have ever been
acquainted in person or through means of correspondence &c. certain of
whom have ever seen Her late Royal Highness, and some have been
acquainted with certain of her late Royal Highness the deceased's elder
or younger brothers and sisters.

"His Siamese Majesty, with his 29 sons, and 25 daughters above partly
named, trusts that this part will be acceptable to every one of His
Gracious Majesty's and their Royal Highnesses' friends who ever have
been acquainted with his present Majesty, and certain of Their Royal
Highnesses or Her late Royal Highness the deceased, either in person or
by correspondence, or only by name through cards &c. for a token of
remembrance of Her late Royal Highness the deceased and for feeling of
Emotion that this path ought to be followed by every one of human beings
after long or short time, as the lights of lives of all living beings
are like flames of candles lighted in opening air without covering and
Protecting on every side, so it shall be considered with great emotion
by the readers.

"Dated ROYAL FUNERAL PLACE. BANGKOK, 20th February, Anno Christi 1864."


Thus twelve days were passed in feasting, drinking, praying, preaching,
sporting, gambling and scrambling. On the thirteenth, the double urn,
with its melancholy moral, was removed from the pyramid, and the inner
one, with the grating, was laid on a bed of fragrant sandalwood, and
aromatic gums, connected with a train of gunpowder, which the king
ignited with a match from the sacred fire that burns continually in the
temple Watt P'hra Këau. The Second King then lighted his candles from
the same torch, and laid them on the pyre; and so on, in the order of
rank, down to the meanest slave, until many hundreds of wax candles and
boxes of precious spices and fragrant gums were cast into the flames.
The funeral orchestra then played a wailing dirge, and the mourning
women broke into a concerted and prolonged keen, of the most
ear-piercing and heart-rending description.

When the fire had quite burned itself out, all that remained of the
bones, charred and blackened, was carefully gathered, deposited in a
third and smaller urn of gold, and again conveyed in great state to the
Maha Phrasat. The ashes were also collected with scrupulous pains in a
pure cloth of white muslin, and laid in a gold dish; afterward, attended
by all the mourning women and musicians, and escorted by a procession of
barges, it was floated some miles down the river, and there committed to
the waters.

Nothing left of our lovely darling but a few charred bits of rubbish!
But in memory I still catch glimpses of the sylph-like form, half veiled
in the shroud of flame that wrapped her last, but with the innocent,
questioning eyes still turned to me; and as I look back into their
depths of purity and love, again and again I mourn, as at first, for
that which made me feel, more and more by its sympathy, the peculiar
desolation of my life in the palace.

Immediately on the death of a Supreme King an order is issued for the
universal shaving of the bristly tuft from the heads of all male
subjects. Only those princes who are older than their deceased sovereign
are exempt from the operation of this law.

Upon his successor devolves the duty of providing for the erection of
the royal P'hra-mène--as to the proportions and adornment of which he is
supposed to be guided by regard for the august rank of the deceased, and
the public estimation in which his name and fame are held. Royal
despatches are forthwith sent to the governors of four different
provinces in the extreme north, where the noblest timber abounds,
commanding each of them to furnish one of the great pillars for the
P'hra-mène. These must be of the finest wood, perfectly straight, from
two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet long, and not less than twelve
feet in circumference.

At the same time twelve pillars, somewhat smaller, are required from the
governors of twelve other provinces; besides much timber in other forms
necessary to the construction of the grand funeral hall and its numerous
supplementary buildings. As sacred custom will not tolerate the presence
of pillars that have already been used for any purpose whatever, it is
indispensable that fresh ones, "virgin trunks," be procured for every
new occasion of the obsequies of royalty. These four great trunks are
hard to find, and can be floated down the Meinam to the capital only at
the seasons when that stream and its tributaries are high. This is
perhaps the natural cause of the long interval that elapses--twelve
months--between the death and the cremation of a Siamese king.

The "giant boles" are dragged in primitive fashion to the banks of the
stream by elephants and buffaloes, and shipped in rafts. Arrived at
Bangkok, they are hauled on rollers inch by inch, by men working with a
rude windlass and levers, to the site of the P'hra-mène.

The following description of the cremation, at Bejrepuri, of a man "in
the middle walks of life," is taken from the _Bangkok Recorder_ of May
24, 1866:--"The corpse was first to be offered to the vultures, a
hundred or more. Before the coffin was opened the filthy and horrible
gang had assembled, 'for wheresoever the carcass is, there will the
eagles (vultures) be gathered together.' They were perched on the ridges
of the temple, and even on small trees and bushes, within a few feet of
the body; and so greedy were they that the sexton and his assistants had
to beat them off many times before the coffin could be opened. They
seemed to know that there would be but a mouthful for each, if divided
among them all, and the pack of greedy dogs besides, that waited for
their share. The body was taken from the coffin and laid on a pile of
wood that had been prepared on a small temporary altar. Then the birds
were allowed to descend upon the corpse and tear it as they liked. For a
while it was quite hidden in the rush. But each bird, grabbing its part
with bill and claws, spread its wings and mounted to some quiet place to
eat. The sexton seemed to think that he too was 'making merit' by
cutting off parts of the body and throwing them to the hungry dogs, as
the dying man had done in bequeathing his body to those carrion-feeders.
The birds, not satisfied with what they got from the altar, came down
and quarrelled with the curs for their share.

"While this was going on, the mourners stood waiting, with wax candles
and incense sticks, to pay their last tribute of respect to the deceased
by assisting in the burning of the bones after the vultures and dogs had
stripped them. The sexton, with the assistance of another, gathered up
the skeleton and put it back into the coffin, which was lifted by four
men and carried around the funeral pile three times. It was then laid on
the pile of wood, and a few sticks were put into the coffin to aid in
burning the bones. Then a lighted torch was applied to the pile, and the
relatives and other mourners advanced, and laid each a wax candle by the
torch. Others brought incense and cast it on the pile.

"The vultures, having had but a scanty breakfast, lingered around the
place until the fire had left nothing more for them, when they shook
their ugly heads, and hopping a few steps, to get up a momentum, flapped
their harpy wings and flew away."



XXIV. CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS.


MY friend Maha Mongkut used to maintain, with the doctors and sophists
of his sect, that the Buddhist priesthood have no superstitions; that
though they do not accept the Christian's "Providence," they do believe
in a Creator (_P'hra-Tham_), at whose will all crude matter sprang into
existence, but who exercises no further control over it; that man is but
one of the endless mutations of matter,--was not created, but has
existed from the beginning, and will continue to exist to all eternity;
that though he was not born in sin, he is held by the secondary law of
retribution accountable for offences committed in his person, and these
he must expiate through subsequent transmigrations, until, by
sublimation, he is absorbed again into the primal source of his being;
and that mutability is an essential and absolute law of the universe.

In like manner they protest that they are not idolaters, any more than
the Roman Catholics are pagans; that the image of Buddha, their Teacher
and High-Priest, is to them what the crucifix is to the Jesuit; neither
more nor less. They scout the idea that they worship the white elephant,
but acknowledge that they hold the beast sacred, as one of the
incarnations of their great reformer.

Nevertheless, no nation or tribe of all the human race has ever been
more profoundly inoculated with a superstition the most depraving and
malignant than the Siamese. They have peopled their spiritual world with
grotesques, conceived in hallucination and brought forth in nightmare,
the monstrous devices of mischief on the one hand and misery on the
other,--gods, demons, genii, goblins, wraiths; and to flatter or
propitiate these, especially to enlist their tutelary offices, they
commit or connive at crimes of fantastic enormity.

While residing within the walls of Bangkok, I learned of the existence
of a custom having all the stability and force of a Medo-Persic law.
Whenever a command has gone forth from the throne for the erection of a
new fort or a new gate, or the reconstruction of an old one, this
ancient custom demands, as the first step in the procedure, that three
innocent men shall be immolated on the site selected by the court
astrologers, and at their "auspicious" hour.

In 1865, his Majesty and the French Consul at Bangkok had a grave
misunderstanding about a proposed modification of a treaty relating to
Cambodia. The consul demanded the removal of the prime minister from the
commission appointed to arrange the terms of this treaty. The king
replied that it was beyond his power to remove the Kralahome. Afterward,
the consul, always irritable and insolent, having nursed his wrath to
keep it warm, waylaid the king as he was returning from a temple, and
threatened him with war, and what not, if he did not accede to his
demands. Whereupon, the poor king, effectually intimidated, took refuge
in his palace behind barred gates; and forthwith sent messengers to his
astrologers, magicians, and soothsayers, to inquire what the situation
prognosticated.

The magi and the augurs, and all the seventh sons of seventh sons,
having shrewedly pumped the officers, and made a solemn show of
consulting their oracles, replied: "The times are full of omen. Danger
approaches from afar. Let his Majesty erect a third gate, on the east
and on the west."

Next morning, betimes, pick and spade were busy, digging deep trenches
outside the pair of gates that, on the east and west alike, already
protected the palace.

Meanwhile, the consul either quite forgot his threats, or cooled in the
cuddling of them; yet day and night the king's people plied pick and
spade and basket in the new foundations. When all was ready, the _San
Luang_, or secret council of Royal Judges, met at midnight in the
palace, and despatched twelve officers to lurk around the new gates
until dawn. Two, stationed just within the entrance, assume the
character of neighbors and friends, calling loudly to this or that
passenger, and continually repeating familiar names. The peasants and
market folk, who are always passing at that hour, hearing these calls,
stop, and turn to see who is wanted. Instantly the myrmidons of the san
luang rush from their hiding-places, and arrest, hap-hazard, six of
them--three for each gate. From that moment the doom of these
astonished, trembling wretches is sealed. No petitions, payments,
prayers, can save them.

In the centre of the gateway a deep fosse or ditch is dug, and over it
is suspended by two cords an enormous beam. On the "auspicious" day for
the sacrifice, the innocent, unresisting victims--"hinds and churls"
perhaps, of the lowest degree in Bangkok--are mocked with a dainty and
elaborate banquet, and then conducted in state to their fatal post of
honor. The king and all the court make profound obeisance before them,
his Majesty adjuring them earnestly "to guard with devotion the gate,
now about to be intrusted to their keeping, from all dangers and
calamities; and to come in season to forewarn him, if either traitors
within or enemies without should conspire against the peace of his
people or the safety of his throne." Even as the last word of this
exhortation falls from the royal lips, the cords are cut, the ponderous
engine "squelches" the heads of the distinguished wretches, and three
Bangkok ragamuffins are metempsychosed into three guardian-angels
(_Thevedah_).

Siamese citizens of wealth and influence often bury treasure in the
earth, to save it from arbitrary confiscation. In such cases a slave is
generally immolated on the spot, to make a guardian genius. Among
certain classes, not always the lowest, we find a greedy passion that
expends itself in indefatigable digging for such precious _caches_, in
the environs of abandoned temples, or among the ruins of the ancient
capital, Ayudia. These treasure-seekers first pass a night near the
supposed place of concealment, having offered at sunset to the genius of
the spot oblations of candles, perfumed tapers, and roasted rice. They
then betake themselves to slumber; and in their dreams the genie is
expected to appear, and indicate precisely the hiding-place of his
golden charge, at the same time offering to wink at its sacking in
consideration of the regular perquisite,--"one pig's head and two
bottles of arrack." On the other hand, the genie may appear in an angry
aspect, flourishing the conventional club in a style that means
business, and demanding by what right the intruders would tamper with
his charge; whereat sudden waking and dishevelled flight.

Another and more barbarous superstition relates to premature delivery.
In such a case the embarrassed mother calls in a female magician, who
declares that an evil spirit has practised a spiteful joke upon the
married pair, with a design upon the life of the mother. So saying, she
pops the still-born into an earthen pot, and with that in her left hand
and a sword in her right, makes for the margin of a deep stream, where,
with an approved imprecation upon the fiend and a savage slash at the
manikin, she tosses the pot and its untimely contents into the flood.

By such witches as this, sorceries of all kinds are practised for fee.
They are likewise supposed to be skilled in the art of healing, and are
notable compounders of love-philters and potions.

The king supports a certain number of astrologers, whose duties consist
in the prediction of events, whether great or small, from war or peace
to rain or drought, and in indicating or determining future
possibilities by the aspect and position of the stars. The people
universally wear charms and talismans, to which they ascribe
supernatural virtues. A patient in fever with delirium is said to be
possessed of a devil; and should he grow frantic and unmanageable in the
paroxysms, the one becomes a legion. At the close of each year, a thread
of unspun cotton, of seven fibres, consecrated by priests, is reeled
round all the walls of the palace; and from sunset until dawn a
continuous cannonading is kept up from all the forts within hearing, to
rout the evil spirits that have infested the departing year.



XXV. THE SUBORDINATE KING


A second or subordinate kingship is an anomalous device or provision of
sovereignty peculiar to Siam, Cambodia, and Laos. Inferior in station to
the Supreme King only, and apparently deriving from the throne of the
Phra-batts, to which he may approach so near, a reflected majesty and
prestige not clearly understood by his subjects nor easily defined by
foreigners, the Second King seems to be, nevertheless, belittled by the
very significance of the one exclusive privilege that should distinguish
him,--that of exemption from the customary prostrations before the First
King, whom he may salute by simply raising his hands and joining them
above his head. Here his proper right of royalty begins and ends. The
part that he may play in the drama of government is cast to him in the
necessity, discretion, or caprice of his absolute chief next, and yet so
far, above him; it may be important, insignificant, or wholly omitted.
Like any lesser _ducus_ of the realm, he must appear before his lord
twice a year to renew his oath of allegiance. In law, he is as mere a
subject as the slave who bears his betel-box; or that other slave who,
on his knees, and with averted face, presents his spittoon. In history,
he shall be what circumstance or his own mind may make him: the shadow
or the soul of sovereignty, even as the intellectual and moral weakness
or strength may have been apportioned between him and his colleague.
From his rank he derives no advantage but the _chance_.

[Illustration: The Princess of Chiengmai.]

Somdetch P'hra Pawarendr Ramesr Mahiswarer, the subordinate king of
Siam, who died on the 29th of December, 1865, was the legitimate son of
the supreme king, second of his dynasty, who reigned from 1809 to 1824.
His father had been second king to his grandfather, "grand supreme" of
Siam, and first of the reigning line. His mother was "lawful first queen
consort"; and the late first or major king, Somdetch-P'hra Paramendr
Maha Mongkut, was his elder full brother. Being alike legitimate
offspring of the first queen, these two lads were styled _Somdetch
Chowfas_, "Celestial Royal Princes"; and during the second and third
reigns they were distinguished by the titles of courtesy pertaining to
their royal status and relation, the elder as Chowfa Mongkut, the
younger as Chowfa Chudha-Mani: _Mongkut_ signifying "Royal Crown," and
_Chudha-Mani_ "Royal Hair-pin."

On the death of their father (in 1824), and the accession, by intrigue,
of their elder half-brother, the Chowfa Mongkut entered the Buddhist
priesthood; but his brother, more ardent, inquisitive, and restless,
took active service with the king, in the military as well as in the
diplomatic department of government. He was appointed Superintendent of
Artillery and Malayan Infantry on the one hand; and on the other,
Translator of English Documents and Secretary for English
Correspondence.

In a cautious and verbose sketch of his character and services, written
after his death by his jealous brother, the priest-king, wherein he is
by turns meanly disparaged and damned with faint praise, we find this
curious statement:--

"After that time (1821) he became acquainted with certain parties of
English and East Indian merchants, who made their appearance or first
commenced trading on late of second reign, after the former trade with
Siam which had been stopped or postponed several years in consequence of
some misunderstanding before. He became acquainted with certain parts of
English language and literature, and certain parts of Hindoo or Bengali
language, as sufficient for some unimportant conversation with English
and Indian strangers who were visitors of Siam, upon the latter part of
the reign of his royal father; but his royal father did not know that he
possessed such knowledge of foreign language, which had been concealed
to the native persons in republic affairs, whose jealousy seemed to be
strong against strangers, so he was not employed in any terms with those
strangers foreign affairs,"--that is, during the life of his father, at
whose death he was just sixteen years old.

Early in the third reign he was sent to Meeklong to superintend the
construction of important works of defence near the mouth of the
Meeklong River. He pushed this work with vigor, and completed it in
1835. In 1842 he commanded successfully an expedition against the
Cochin-Chinese, and, in returning, brought with him to Siam many
families of refugees from the eastern coast. Then he was commissioned by
the king to reconstruct, "after Western models," the ancient
fortifications at Paknam; and having to this end engaged a corps of
European engineers and artisans, he eagerly seized the advantage the
situation afforded him, by free and intelligent intercourse with his
foreign assistants, to master the English language,--so that, at his
death, he notably excelled the first king in the facility with which he
spoke, read, and wrote it,--and to improve his acquaintance with the
Western sciences and arts of navigation, naval construction and
armament, coast and inland defence, engineering, transportation, and
telegraphy, the working and casting of iron, etc.

On the 26th of May, 1851, twelve days after the coronation of his elder
brother, the student and priest Maha Mongkut, he was called by the
unanimous voice of "the king and council" to be Second King; and
throughout his subordinate reign his sagacious and alert inquiry, his
quick apprehension, his energetic and liberal spirit of improvement,
engaged the admiration of foreigners; whilst his handsome person, his
generous temper, his gallant preference for the skilful and the brave,
his enthusiasm and princely profusion in sports and shows, endeared him
more and more to his people. Maha Mongkut--at no time inclined to praise
him beyond his deserts, and least of all in the latter years of his
life, imbittered to both by mutual jealousy and distrust--wrote almost
handsomely of him under the pressure of this public opinion.

"He made everything new and beautiful, and of curious appearance, and of
a good style of architecture, and much stronger than they had formerly
been constructed by his three predecessors, the second kings of the last
three reigns, for the space of time that he was second king. He had
introduced and collected many and many things, being articles of great
curiosity, and things useful for various purposes of military acts and
affairs, from Europe and America, China, and other states, and placed
them in various departments and rooms or buildings suitable for those
articles, and placed officers for maintaining and preserving the various
things neatly and carefully. He has constructed several buildings in
European fashion and Chinese fashion, and ornamented them with various
useful ornaments for his pleasure, and has constructed two steamers in
manner of men-of-war, and two steam-yachts, and several rowing
state-boats in Siamese and Cochin-Chinese fashion, for his pleasure at
sea and rivers of Siam; and caused several articles of gold and silver
being vessels and various wares and weapons to be made up by the Siamese
and Malayan goldsmiths, for employ and dress of himself and his family,
by his direction and skilful contrivance and ability. He became
celebrated and spread out more and more to various regions of the
Siamese kingdom, adjacent States around, and far-famed to foreign
countries, even at far distance, as he became acquainted with many and
many foreigners, who came from various quarters of the world where his
name became known to most as a very clever and bravest Prince of
Siam....

"As he pleased mostly with firing of cannon and acts of Marine power and
seamen, which he has imitated to his steamers which were made in manner
of the man-of-war, after he has seen various things curious and useful,
and learned Marine customs on board the foreign vessels of war, his
steamers conveyed him to sea, where he has enjoyed playing of firing in
cannon very often....

"He pleased very much in and was playful of almost everything, some
important and some unimportant, as riding on Elephants and Horses and
Ponies, racing of them and racing of rowing boats, firing on birds and
beasts of prey, dancing and singing in various ways pleasantly, and
various curiosity of almost everything, and music of every description,
and in taming of dogs, monkeys, &c., &c., that is to say briefly that he
has tested almost everything eatable except entirely testing of Opium
and play.

"Also he has visited regions of Northeastern Province of Sarapury and
Gorath very often for enjoyment of pleasant riding on Elephants and
Horses, at forests in chasing animals of prey, fowling, and playing
music and singing with Laos people of that region and obtaining young
wives from there."

What follows is not more curious as to its form of expression than
suspicious as to its meaning and motive. To all who know with what
pusillanimity at times the First King shrank from the approach of
Christian foreigners,--especially the French priests,--with what
servility in his moody way he courted their favor, it will appear of
very doubtful sincerity. To those who are familiar with the
circumstances under which it was written, and to whom the attitude of
jealous reserve that the brothers occupied toward each other at the time
of the Second King's death was no secret, it may seem (even after due
allowance is made for the prejudices or the obligations of the priest)
to cover an insidious, though scarcely adroit, design to undermine the
honorable reputation the younger enjoyed among the missionaries, and the
cordial friendship with which he had been regarded by several of the
purest of them. Certainly it is suspiciously "of a piece" with other
passages, quoted further on, in which the king's purpose to disparage
the merits of his brother, and damage the influence of his name abroad,
is sufficiently transparent. In this connection the reader may derive a
ray of light from the fact that on the birth of the Second King's first
son, an American missionary, who was on terms of intimacy with the
father, named the child "George Washington"; and that child, the Prince
George Washington Krom Mu'n Pawarwijagan, is the present Second King of
Siam. But to Maha Mongkut, and his "art of putting things":--

"He was rumored to be baptized or near to be baptized in Christianity,
but the fact it is false. He was a Buddhist, but his faith and belief
changed very often in favor of various sects of Buddhism by the
association of his wives and various families and of persons who were
believers in various sects of the established religion of the Siamese
and Laos, Peguan and Burmese countries. Why should he become a
Christian? when his pleasures consisted in polygamy and enjoyment, and
with young women who were practised in pleasant dancing and singing, and
who could not be easily given up at any time.

"He was very desirous of having his sons to be English scholars and to
be learned the art of speaking, reading and writing in English well like
himself, but he said he cannot allow his sons to enter the Christian
Missionary-School, as he feared his descendants might be induced to the
Christianity in which he did not please to believe."

Pawarendr Ramesr had ever been the favorite and darling of his mother,
and it was in his infancy that the seeds of that ignoble jealousy were
sown between the royal brothers, which nourished so rankly and bore such
noxious fruit in their manhood. From his tenderest years the younger
prince was remarkable for his personal beauty and his bright
intelligence, and before his thirteenth birthday had already learned all
that his several masters could teach him. From an old priest, named
P'hra Naitt, I gathered many pleasant anecdotes of his childhood.

For example, he related with peculiar pride how the young prince, then
but twelve years old, being borne one day in state through the eastern
gate of the city to visit his mother's lotos-gardens, observed an old
man, half blind, resting by the roadside. Commanding his bearers to
halt, he alighted from his sedan and kindly accosted the poor creature.
Finding him destitute and helpless, a stranger and a wayfarer in the
land, he caused him to be seated in his own sedan, and borne to the
gardens, while he followed on foot. Here he had the old man bathed, clad
in fresh linen, and entertained with a substantial meal; and afterward
he took his astonished client into his service, as keeper of his cattle.

Later in life the generous and romantic prince diverted himself with the
adventurous beneficence of Haroun al Raschid, visiting the poor in
disguise, listening to the recital of their sufferings and wrongs, and
relieving them with ready largesse of charity and justice; and nothing
so pleased and flattered him as to be called, in his assumed name of Nak
Pratt, "the wise," to take part in their sports and fêtes. The
affectionate enthusiasm with which the venerable poonghee remembered his
royal pupil was inspiring; and to see his eyes sparkle and his face glow
with sympathetic triumph, as he described the lad's exploits of strength
or skill in riding, fencing, boxing, was a fine sight. But it was with
saddened look and tone that he whispered to me, that, at the prince's
birth, the astrologer who cast his horoscope had foretold for him an
unnatural death. This, he said, was the secret of the watchful devotion
and imprudent partiality his mother had always manifested for him.

For such a prince to come into even the empty name of power was to
become subject to the evil eye of his fraternal lord and rival, for
whose favor officious friends and superserviceable lackeys contended in
scandalous and treacherous spyings of the Second King's every action.
Yet, meanly beset as he was, he contrived to find means and opportunity
to enlarge his understanding and multiply his attainments; and in the
end his proficiency in languages, European and Oriental, became as
remarkable as it was laudable. It was by Mr. Hunter, secretary to the
prime minister, that he was introduced to the study of the English
language and literature, and by this gentleman's intelligent aid he
procured the text-books which constituted the foundation of his
educational course.

In person he was handsome, for a Siamese; of medium stature, compact and
symmetrical figure, and rather dark complexion. His conversation and
deportment denoted the cultivation, delicacy, and graceful poise of an
accomplished gentleman; and he delivered his English with a correctness
and fluency very noticeably free from the peculiar spasmodic effort that
marked his royal brother's exploits in the language of Shakespeare.

In his palace, which, he had rebuilt after the model of an English
nobleman's residence, he led the life of a healthy, practical, and
systematic student. His library, more judiciously selected than that of
his brother, abounded in works of science, embracing the latest
discoveries. Here he passed many hours, cultivating a sound acquaintance
with the results of investigation and experiment in the Western world.
His partiality for English literature in all its branches was extreme.
The freshest publications of London found their way to his tables, and
he heartily enjoyed the creations of Dickens.

For robust and exhilarating enjoyment, however, he had recourse to
hunting expeditions, and martial exercises in the drilling of his
private troops. Punctually at daybreak every morning he appeared on the
parade-ground, and proceeded to review his little army with scrupulous
precision, according to European tactics; after which he led his
well-trained files to their barracks within the palace walls, where the
soldiers exchanged their uniform for a working-dress. Then he marched
them to the armory, where muskets, bayonets, and sabres were brought out
and severely scoured. That done, the men were dismissed till the morrow.

Among his courtiers were several gentlemen of Siam and Laos, who had
acquired such a smattering of English as qualified them to assist the
prince in his scientific diversions. Opposite the armory stood a pretty
little cottage, quite English-looking, lighted with glass windows, and
equipped with European furniture. Over the entrance to this quaint
tenement hung a painted sign, in triumphant English, "WATCHES AND CLOCKS
MADE AND REPAIRED HERE"; and hither came frequently the Second King and
his favorites, to pursue assiduously their harmless occupation of
_horlogerie_. Sometimes this eccentric entertainment was diversified
with music, in which his Majesty took a leading part, playing with taste
and skill on the flute, and several instruments of the Laos people.

Such a prince should have been happy, in the innocence of his pastimes
and the dignity of his pursuits. But the same accident of birth and
station to which he owed his privileges and his opportunities imposed
its peculiar disabilities and hindrances. His troubles were the troubles
of a second king, who chanced to be also an ardent and aspiring man.
Weary with disappointment, disheartened in his honorable longing for
just appreciation, vexed with the caprice and suspicions of his elder
brother; oppressed by the ever-present tyranny of the thought--so hard
for such a man to bear--that the woman he loved best in the land he was
inexorably forbidden to marry, because, being a princess of the first
rank, she might be offered and accepted to grace the harem of his
brother; a mere prisoner of state, watched by the baleful eye of
jealousy, and traduced by the venal tongues of courtiers; dwelling in a
torment of uncertainty as to the fate to which his brother's explosive
temper and irresponsible power might devote him, hoping for no repose or
safety but in his funeral-urn,--he began to grow hard and defiant, and
that which, in the native freedom of his soul, should have been his
noble steadfastness degenerated into ignoble obstinacy.

Among the innumerable mean torments with which his pride was persecuted
was the continual presence of a certain doctor, who, by the king's
command, attended him at all times and places, compelling him to use
remedies that were most distasteful to him.

He was gallantly kind and courteous toward women; no act of cruelty to
any woman was ever attributed to him. His children he ruled wisely,
though somewhat sternly, rendering his occasional tenderness and
indulgence so much the more precious and delightful to them.

Never had Siam a more popular prince. He was the embodiment of the most
hopeful qualities, moral and intellectual, of his nation; especially was
he the exponent and promise of its most progressive tendencies; and his
people regarded him with love and reverence, as their trusty stay and
support. His talents as a statesman commanded the unqualified admiration
of foreigners; and it was simply the jealous and tyrannical temper of
Maha Mongkut that forced him to retire from all participation in the
affairs of government.

At last the mutual reserve and distrust of the royal brothers broke out
in open quarrel, provoked by the refusal of the First King to permit the
Second to borrow from the royal treasury a considerable sum of money. On
the day after his order was dishonored, the prince set out with his
congenial and confidential courtiers on a hunting expedition to the Laos
province of Chiengmai, scornfully threatening to entrap one of the royal
white elephants, and sell it to his Supreme Majesty for the sum he would
not loan.

At Chiengmai he was regally entertained by the tributary prince of that
province; and no sooner was his grievance known, than the money he
required was laid at his feet. Too manly to accept the entire sum, he
borrowed but a portion of it; and instead of taking it out of the
country, decided to sojourn there for a time, that he might spend it to
the advantage of the people. To this end he selected a lovely spot in
the vicinity of Chiengmai, called Saraburee, itself a city of some
consideration, where bamboo houses line the banks of a beautiful river,
that traverses teak forests alive with large game. On an elevation near
at hand the Second King erected a palace substantially fortified, which
he named Ban Sitha (the Home of the Goddess Sitha), and caused a canal
to be cut to the eastern slope.

Here he indulged freely, and on an imposing scale, in his favorite
pastime of hunting, and privately took to wife the daughter of the king
of Chiengmai, the Princess Sunartha Vismita. And here he was happy, only
returning to Bangkok when called thither by affairs of state, or to take
the semi-annual oath of allegiance.

Among the prince's concubines at this time was a woman named Kliep,
envious, intriguing, and ambitious, who by consummate arts had obtained
control of his Majesty's _cuisine_,--an appointment of peculiar
importance and trust in the household of an Oriental prince. Finding
that by no feminine devices could she procure the influence she coveted
over her master's mind and affections, she finally had recourse to an
old and infamous sorcerer, styled Khoon Hâte-nah ("Lord of Future
Events"), an adept of the black art much consulted by women of rank from
all parts of the country; and he, in consideration of an extraordinary
fee, prepared for her a variety of charms, incantations, philters, to be
administered to the prince, in whose food daily, for years, she mixed
the abominable nostrums. The poison did its work slowly but surely, and
his sturdy life was gradually undermined. His strength quite gone, and
his spirit broken, his despondency became so profound that he lost all
taste for the occupations and diversions that had once delighted him,
and sought relief in restless changing from one palace to another, and
in consulting every physician he could find.

It was during a visit to his favorite residence at Saraburee that the
signs of approaching dissolution appeared, and the king's physician,
fearing he might die there, took hurried steps to remove him to his
palace at Bangkok. He was bound in a sedan, and lowered from his high
chamber in the castle into his barge on the canal at the foot of the
cliff; and so, with all his household in train, transported to the
palace of Krom Hluang Wongse, physician to the king, and one of his
half-brothers. Now miserably unnerved, the prince, once so patient,
brave, and proud, threw his arms round his kinsman's neck, and, weeping
bitterly, implored him to save him. But he was presently removed to his
own palace, and laid in a chamber looking to the east.

That night the prince expressed a wish to see his royal brother. The
king hastened to his bedside in company with his Excellency Chow Phya
Sri Sury-Wongse, the Kralahome, or prime minister; and then and there a
silent and solemn reconciliation took place. No words were spoken; only
the brothers embraced each other, and the elder wept bitterly. But from
the facts brought to light in that impressive meeting and parting, it
was made plain that the Second King died by slow poison, administered by
the woman Kliep,--plain to all but the Second King himself, who died in
ignorance of the means by which the tragic prophecy of his horoscope had
been made good.

In the very full account of his brother's death which Maha Mongkut
thought it necessary to write, he was careful to conceal from the public
the true cause of the calamity, fearing the foreign populace, and, most
of all, the Laotians and Peguans, who were devoted to the prince, and
might attach suspicion to himself, on the ground of his notorious
jealousy of the Second King. The royal physicians and the Supreme
Council were sworn to secrecy; and the woman Kliep, and her accomplice
Khoon Hâte-nah, together with nine female slaves, were tortured and
publicly paraded through the environs of Bangkok, though their crime was
never openly named. Afterward they were thrown into an open boat, towed
out on the Gulf of Siam, and there abandoned to the mercy of winds and
waves, or death by starvation. Among the women of the palace the current
report was, that celestial avengers had slain the murderous crew with
arrows of lightning and spears of fire.

In his Majesty's account of the last days of his royal brother, we have
the characteristic queerness of his English, and a scarcely less
characteristic passage of Pecksniffian cant:--


"The lamentable patient Second King ascertained himself that his
approaching death was inevitable; it was great misfortune to him and his
family indeed. His eldest son Prince George [Footnote: George
Washington.] Krom Mu'n Pawarwijagan, aged 27 years on that time, became
very sick of painful rheumatism by which he has his body almost steady
on his seat and bed, immovable to and fro, himself, since the month of
October, 1865, when his father was absent from Bangkok, being at Ban
Sitha as aforesaid. When his royal father returned from Ban Sitha he
arrived at his palace at Bangkok on 6th December. He can only being
lifted by two or three men and placed in the presence of his father who
was very ill, but the eldest son forenamed prince was little better, so
before death of his father as he can be raised to be stood by two men
and can cribble slowly on even or level surface, by securing and
supporting of two men on both sides.

"When his father became worse and approaching the point of death, upon
that time his father can see him scarcely; wherefore the Second King, on
his being worse, has said to his eldest and second daughters, the half
sisters of the eldest son, distempered so as he cannot be in the
presence of his father without difficulty, that he (the Second King)
forenamed on that time was hopeless and that he could not live more than
a few days. He did not wish to do his last will regarding his family and
property, particularly as he was strengthless to speak much, and
consider anything deeply and accurately: he beg'd to entreat all his
sons, daughters, and wives that none should be sorry for his death,
which comes by natural course, and should not fear for misery of
difficulty after his demise. All should throw themselves under their
faithful and affectionate uncle, the Supreme King of Siam, for
protection, in whom he had heartfelt confidence that he will do well to
his family after his death, as such the action or good protection to
several families of other princes and princesses in the royalty, who
deceased before. He beg'd only to recommend his sons and daughters, that
they should be always honest and faithful to his elder full brother, the
Supreme King of Siam, by the same affection as to himself, and that they
should have much more affection and respect toward Paternal relative
persons in royalty, than toward their maternal relative persons, who are
not royal descendants of his ancestors....

"On the 29th December 1865, in the afternoon, the Second King invited
His Majesty the Supreme King, his elder full brother, and his Excellency
Chow Phya Sri Sury-wongse Samuha P'hra-Kralahome, the Prime Minister,
who is the principal head of the Government and royal cousin, to seat
themselves near to his side on his bedstead where he lay, and other
principals of royalty and nobility, to seat themselves in that room
where he was lying, that they might be able to ascertain his speech by
hearing. Then he delivered his family and followers and the whole of his
property to His Majesty and His Excellency for protection and good
decision, according to consequences which they would well observe."

Not a word of that royal reconcilement, of that remorseful passion of
tears, of that mute mystery of humanity, the secret spell of a burdened
mother's love working too late in the hearts, of her headstrong boys!
Not a word of that crowning embrace, which made the subordinate king
supreme, by the grace of dying and forgiving!



XXVI. THE SUPREME KING: HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION.


OF Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, ate Supreme King of Siam, it
may safely be said (for all his capricious provocations of temper and
his snappish greed of power) that he was, in the best sense of the
epithet, the most remarkable of the Oriental princes of the present
century,--unquestionably the most progressive of all the supreme rulers
of Siam, of whom the native historians enumerate not less than forty,
reckoning from the founding of the ancient capital (Ayudia or Ayuo-deva,
"the abode of gods") in A.D. 1350.

He was the legitimate son of the king P'hra Chow-P'hra Pooti-lootlah,
commonly known as Phen-den-Klang; and his mother, daughter of the
youngest sister of the King Somdetch P'hra Bouromah Rajah P'hra Pooti
Yout Fah, was one of the most admired princesses of her time, and is
described as equally beautiful and virtuous. She devoted herself
assiduously to the education of her sons, of whom the second, the
subject of these notes, was born in 1804; and the youngest, her best
beloved, was the late Second King of Siam.

One of the first public acts of the King P'hra Pooti-lootlah was to
elevate to the highest honors of the state his eldest son (the Chowfa
Mongkut), and proclaim him heir-apparent to the throne. He then selected
twelve noblemen, distinguished for their attainments, prudence, and
virtue,--most conspicuous among them the venerable but energetic Duke
Somdetch Ong Yai,--to be tutors and guardians to the lad. By these he
was carefully taught in all the learning of his time; Sanskrit and Pali
formed his chief study, and from the first he aspired to proficiency in
Latin and English, for the pursuit of which he soon found opportunities
among the missionaries. His translations from the Sanskrit, Pali, and
Magadthi, mark him as an authority among Oriental linguists; and his
knowledge of English, though never perfect, became at least extensive
and varied; so that he could correspond, with credit to himself, with
Englishmen of distinction, such as the Earl of Clarendon and Lords
Stanley and Russell.

In his eighteenth year he married a noble lady, descended from the Phya
Tak Sinn, who bore him two sons.

Two years later the throne became vacant by the death of his father; but
(as the reader has already learned) his elder half-brother, who, through
the intrigues of his mother, had secured a footing in the favor of the
Senabawdee, was inducted by that "Royal Council" into power. Unequal to
the exploit of unseating the usurper, and fearing his unscrupulous
jealousy, the Chowfa Mongkut took refuge in a monastery, and entered the
priesthood, leaving his wife and two sons to mourn him as one dead to
them. In this self-imposed celibacy he lived throughout the long reign
of his half-brother, which lasted twenty-seven years.

In the calm retreat of his Buddhist cloister the contemplative tastes of
the royal scholar found fresh entertainment, his intellectual
aspirations a new incitement.

He labored with enthusiasm for the diffusion of religion and
enlightenment, and, above all, to promote a higher appreciation of the
teachings of Buddha, to whose doctrines lie devoted himself with
exemplary zeal throughout his sacerdotal career. From the Buddhist
scriptures he compiled with reverent care an impressive liturgy for his
own use. His private charities amounted annually to ten thousand ticals.
All the fortune he accumulated, from the time of his quitting the court
until his return to it to accept the diadem offered by the Senabawdee,
he expended either in charitable distributions or in the purchase of
books, sacred manuscripts, and relics for his monastery. [Footnote: "On
the third reign he [himself] served his eldest royal half-brother, by
superintending the construction and revision of royal sacred books in
royal libraries: so he was appointed the principal superintendent of
clergymen's acts and works of Buddhist religion, and selector of
religious learned wise men in the country, during the third
reign."--_From the pen of Maha Mongkut_.]

It was during his retirement that he wrote that notable treatise in
defence of the divinity of the revelations of Buddha, in which he essays
to prove that it was the single aim of the great reformer to deliver man
from all selfish and carnal passions, and in which he uses these words:
"These are the only obstacles in the search for Truth. The most solid
wisdom is to know this, and to apply one's self to the conquest of one's
self. This it is to become the _enlightened_,--the Buddha!" And he
concludes with the remark of Asoka, the Indian king: "That which has
been delivered unto us by Buddha, that alone is well said, and worthy of
our soul's profoundest homage."

In the pursuit of his appointed ends Maha Mongkut was active and
pertinacious; no labors wearied him nor pains deterred him. Before the
arrival of the Protestant missionaries, in 1820, he had acquired some
knowledge of Latin and the sciences from the Jesuits; but when the
Protestants came he manifested a positive preference for their methods
of instruction, inviting one or another of them daily to his temple, to
aid him in the study of English. Finally he placed himself under the
permanent tutorship of the Rev. Mr. Caswell, an American missionary;
and, in order to encourage his preceptor to visit him frequently, he
fitted up a convenient resting-place for him on the route to the temple,
where that excellent man might teach the poorer people who gathered to
hear him. Under Mr. Caswell he made extraordinary progress in advanced
and liberal ideas of government, commerce, even religion. He never
hesitated to express his respect for the fundamental principles of
Christianity; but once, when pressed too closely by his reverend
moonshee with what he regarded as the more pretentious and apocryphal
portions of the Bible, he checked that gentleman's advance with the
remark that has ever been remembered against him, "_I hate the Bible
mostly!_"

As High-Priest of Siam--the mystic and potential office to which he was
in the end exalted--he became the head of a new school, professing
strictly the pure philosophy inculcated by Buddha: "the law of
Compensation, of Many Births, and of final Niphan," [Footnote:
Attainment of beatitude.]--but not Nihilism, as the word and the idea
are commonly defined. It is only to the idea of God as an _ever-active_
Creator that the new school of Buddhists is opposed,--not to the Deity
as a primal source, from whose thought and pleasure sprang all forms of
matter; nor can they be brought to admit the need of miraculous
intervention in the order of nature.

In this connection, it may not be out of place to mention a remark that
the king (still speaking as a high-priest, having authority) once made
to me, on the subject of the miracles recorded in the Bible:

"You say that marriage is a holy institution; and I believe it is
esteemed a sacrament by one of the principal branches of your sect. It
is, of all the laws of the universe, the most wise and incontestable,
pervading all forms of animal and vegetable life. Yet your God (meaning
the Christian's God) has stigmatized it as unholy, in that he would not
permit his Son to be born in the ordinary way; but must needs perform a
miracle in order to give birth to one divinely inspired. Buddha was
divinely inspired, but he was only _man_. Thus it seems to me he is the
greater of the two, because out of his own heart he studied humanity,
which is but another form of divinity; and, the carnal mind being by
this contemplation subdued, he became the _Divinely Enlightened_."

When his teacher had begun to entertain hopes that he would one day
become a Christian, he came out openly against the idea, declaring that
he entertained no thought of such a change. He admonished the
missionaries not to deceive themselves, saying: "You must not imagine
that any of my party will ever become Christians. We cannot embrace what
we consider a foolish religion."

In the beginning of the year 1851 his supreme Majesty, Prabat Somdetch
P'hra Nang Klou, fell ill, and gradually declined until the 3d of April,
when he expired, and the throne was again vacant. The dying sovereign,
forgetting or disregarding his promise to his half-brother, the true
heir, had urged with all his influence that the succession should fall
to his eldest son; but in the assembly of the Senabawdee, Somdetch Ong
Yai (father of the present prime minister of Siam), supported by
Somdetch Ong Noi, vehemently declared himself in favor of the
high-priest Chowfa Mongkut.

This struck terror to the "illegitimates," and mainly availed to quell
the rising storm of partisan conflict. Moreover, Ong Yai had taken the
precaution to surround the persons of the princes with a formidable
guard, and to distribute an overwhelming force of militia in all
quarters of the city, ready for instant action at a signal from him.

Thus the two royal brothers, with views more liberal, as to religion,
education, foreign trade, and intercourse, than the most enlightened of
their predecessors had entertained, were firmly seated on the throne as
"first" and "second" kings; and every citizen, native or foreign, began
to look with confidence for the dawn of better times.

Nor did the newly crowned sovereign forget his friends and teachers, the
American missionaries. He sent for them, and thanked them cordially for
all that they had taught him, assuring them that it was his earnest
desire to administer his government after the model of the limited
monarchy of England; and to introduce schools, where the Siamese youth
might be well taught in the English language and literature and the
sciences of Europe. [Footnote: In this connection the Rev. Messrs.
Bradley, Caswell, House, Matoon, and Dean are entitled to special
mention. To their united influence Siam unquestionably owes much, if not
all, of her present advancement and prosperity. Nor would I be thought
to detract from the high praise that is due to their fellow-laborers in
the cause of Christianity, the Roman Catholic missionaries, who are, and
ever have been, indefatigable in their exertions for the good of the
country. Especially will the name of the excellent bishop, Monseigneur
Pallegoix, be held in honor and affection by people of all creeds and
tongues in Siam, as that of a pure and devoted follower of our common
Redeemer.]

There can be no just doubt that, at the time, it was his sincere purpose
to carry these generous impulses into practical effect; for certainly he
was, in every moral and intellectual respect, nobly superior to his
predecessor, and to his dying hour he was conspicuous for his attachment
to a sound philosophy and the purest maxims of Buddha. Yet we find in
him a deplorable example of the degrading influence on the human mind of
the greed of possessions and power, and of the infelicities that attend
it; for though he promptly set about the reforming of abuses in the
several departments of his government, and invited the ladies of the
American mission to teach in his new harem, nevertheless he soon began
to indulge his avaricious and sensual propensities, and cast a jealous
eye upon the influence of the prime minister, the son of his stanch old
friend, the Duke Ong Yai, to whom he owed almost the crown itself, and
of his younger brother, the Second King, and of the neighboring princes
of Chiengmai and Cochin China. He presently offended those who, by their
resolute display of loyalty in his hour of peril, had seated him safely
on the throne of his ancestors.

From this time he was continually exposed to disappointment,
mortification, slights, from abroad, and conspiracy at home. Had it not
been for the steadfast adherence of the Second King and the prime
minister, the sceptre would have been wrested from his grasp and
bestowed upon his more popular brother.

Yet, notwithstanding all this, he appeared, to those who observed him
only on the public stage of affairs, to rule with wisdom, to consult the
welfare of his subjects, to be concerned for the integrity of justice
and the purity of manners and conversation in his own court, and
careful, by a prudent administration, to confirm his power at home and
his prestige abroad. Considered apart from his domestic relations, he
was, in many respects, an able and virtuous ruler. His foreign policy
was liberal; he extended toleration to all religious sects; he expended
a generous portion of his revenues in public improvements,--
monasteries, temples, bazaars, canals, bridges, arose at his bidding on
every side; and though he fell short of his early promise, he did much
to improve the condition of his subjects.

For example, at the instance of her Britannic Majesty's Consul, the
Honorable Thomas George Knox, he removed the heavy boat-tax that had so
oppressed the poorer masses of the Siamese, and constructed good roads,
and improved the international chambers of judicature.

But as husband and kinsman his character assumes a most revolting
aspect. Envious, revengeful, subtle, he was as fickle and petulant as he
was suspicious and cruel. His brother, even the offspring of his
brother, became to him objects of jealousy, if not of hatred. Their
friends must, he thought, be his enemies, and applause bestowed upon
them was odious to his soul. There were many horrid tragedies in his
harem in which he enacted the part of a barbarian and a despot. Plainly,
his conduct as the head of a great family to whom his will was a law of
terror reflects abiding disgrace upon his name. Yet it had this
redeeming feature, that he tenderly loved those of his children whose
mothers had been agreeable to him. He never snubbed or slighted them;
and for the little princess, Chow Fâ-ying, whose mother had been to him
a most gentle and devoted wife, his affection was very strong and
enduring.

But to turn from the contemplation of his private traits, so
contradictory and offensive, to the consideration of his public acts, so
liberal and beneficent. Several commercial treaties of the first
importance were concluded with foreign powers during his reign. In the
first place, the Siamese government voluntarily reduced the measurement
duties on foreign shipping from nineteen hundred to one thousand ticals
per fathom of ship's beam. This was a brave stride in the direction of a
sound commercial policy, and an earnest of greater inducements to
enterprising traders from abroad. In 1855 a new treaty of commerce was
negotiated with his Majesty's government by H.B.M.'s plenipotentiary,
Sir John Bowring, which proved of very positive advantage to both
parties. On the 29th of May, 1856, a new treaty, substantially like that
with Great Britain, was procured by Townsend Harris, Esq., representing
the United States; and later in the same year still another, in favor of
France, through H. I. M.'s Envoy, M. Montigny.

Before that time Portugal had been the only foreign government having a
consul residing at Bangkok. Now the way was opened to admit a resident
consul of each of the treaty powers; and shortly millions of dollars
flowed into Siam annually by channels through which but a few tens of
thousands had been drawn before. Foreign traders and merchants flocked
to Bangkok and established rice-mills, factories for the production of
sugar and oil, and warehouses for the importation of European fabrics.
They found a ready market for their wares, and an aspect of thrift and
comfort began to enliven the once neglected and cheerless land.

A new and superb palace was erected, after the model of Windsor Castle,
together with numerous royal residences in different parts of the
country. The nobility began to emulate the activity and munificence of
their sovereign, and to compete with each other in the grandeur of their
dwellings and the splendor of their _cortéges_.

So prosperous did the country become under the benign influence of
foreign trade and civilization, that other treaties were speedily
concluded with almost every nation under the sun, and his Majesty found
it necessary to accredit Sir John Bowring as plenipotentiary for Siam
abroad.

Early in this reign the appointment of harbor-master at Bangkok was
conferred upon an English gentleman, who proved so efficient in his
functions that he was distinguished with the fifth title of a Siamese
noble. Next came a French commander and a French band-master for the
royal troops. Then a custom-house was established, and a "live Yankee"
installed at the head of it, who was also glorified with a title of
honor. Finally a police force was organized, composed of trusty Malays
hired from Singapore, and commanded by one of the most energetic
Englishmen to be found in the East,--a measure which has done more than
all others to promote a comfortable sense of "law and order" throughout
the city and outskirts of Bangkok. It is to be remembered, however, in
justice to the British Consul-General in Siam, Mr. Thomas George Knox,
that the sure though silent influence was his, whereby the minds of the
king and the prime minister were led to appreciate the benefits that
must accrue from these foreign innovations.

The privilege of constructing, on liberal terms, a line of telegraph
through Maulmain to Singapore, with a branch to Bangkok, has been
granted to the Singapore Telegraph Company; and finally a sanitarium has
been erected on the coast at Anghin, for the benefit of native and
foreign residents needing the invigoration of sea-air. [Footnote: "His
Excellency Chow Phya Bhibakrwongs Maha Kosa Dhipude, the P'hraklang,
Minister for Foreign Affairs, has built a sanitarium at Anghin for the
benefit of the public. It is for benefit of the Siamese, Europeans, or
Americans, to go and occupy, when unwell, to restore their health. All
are cordially invited to go there for a suitable length of time and be
happy; but are requested not to remain month after month and year after
year, and regard it as a place without an owner. To regard it in this
way cannot be allowed, for it is public property, and others should go
and stop there also."--_Advertisement, Siam Monitor_, August 29, 1868.]

During his retirement in the monastery the king had a stroke of
paralysis, from which he perfectly recovered; but it left its mark on
his face, in the form of a peculiar falling of the under lip on the
right side. In person he was of middle stature, slightly built, of
regular features and fair complexion. In early life he lost most of his
teeth, but he had had them replaced with a set made from sapan-wood,--a
secret that he kept very sensitively to the day of his death.

Capable at times of the noblest impulses, he was equally capable of the
basest actions. Extremely accessible to praise, he indiscriminately
entertained every form of flattery; but his fickleness was such that no
courtier could cajole him long. Among his favorite women was the
beautiful Princess Tongoo Soopia, sister to the unfortunate Sultan
Mahmoud, ex-rajah of Pahang. Falling fiercely in love with her on her
presentation at his court, he procured her for his harem against her
will, and as a hostage for the good faith of her brother; but as she,
being Mohammedan, ever maintained toward him a deportment of tranquil
indifference, he soon tired of her, and finally dismissed her to a
wretched life of obsoleteness and neglect within the palace walls.

The only woman who ever managed him with acknowledged edged success was
Khoon Chom Piem: hardly pretty, but well formed, and of versatile tact,
totally uneducated, of barely respectable birth,--being Chinese on her
father's side,--yet withal endowed with a nice intuitive appreciation
of character. Once conscious of her growing influence over the king, she
contrived to foster and exercise it for years, with but a slight rebuff
now and then. Being modest to a fault, even at times obnoxious to the
imputation of prudishness, she habitually feigned excuses for
non-attendance in his Majesty's chambers,--such as delicate health, the
nursing of her children, mourning for the death of this or that
relative,--and voluntarily visited him only at rare intervals. In the
course of six years she amassed considerable treasure, procured good
places at court for members of her family, and was the means of bringing
many Chinamen to the notice of the king. At the same time she lived in
continual fear, was warily humble and conciliating toward her rival
sisters, who pitied rather than envied her, and retained in her pay most
of the female executive force in the palace.

In his daily habits his Majesty was remarkably industrious and frugal.
His devotion to the study of astronomy never abated, and he calculated
with respectable accuracy the great solar eclipse of August, 1868.

The French government, having sent a special commission, under command
of the Baron Hugon le Tourneur, to observe the eclipse in Siam, the king
erected, at a place called _Hua Wânn_ ("The Whale's Head"), a commodious
observatory, besides numerous pavilions varying in size and
magnificence, for his Majesty and retinue, the French commission, the
Governor of Singapore (Colonel Ord) and suite, who had been invited to
Bangkok by the king, and for ministers and nobles of Siam. Provision was
made, at the cost of government, for the regal entertainment, in a town
of booths and tabernacles, of the vast concourse of natives and
Europeans who followed his Majesty from the capital to witness the
sublime phenomenon; and a herd of fifty noble elephants were brought
from the ancient city of Ayudia for service and display.

The prospect becoming dubious and gloomy just at the time of first
contact (ten o'clock), the prime minister archly invited the foreigners
who believed in an overruling Providence to pray to him "that he may be
pleased to disperse the clouds long enough to afford us a good view of
the grandest of eclipses." Presently the clouds were partially withdrawn
from the sun, and his Majesty observing that one twentieth of the disk
was obscured, announced the fact to his own people by firing a cannon;
and immediately pipes screamed and trumpets blared in the royal
pavilion,--a tribute of reverence to the traditional fable about the
Angel Rahoo swallowing the sun. Both the king and prime minister,
scorning the restraints of dignity, were fairly boisterous in their
demonstrations of triumph and delight; the latter skipping from point to
point to squint through his long telescope. At the instant of absolute
totality, when the very last ray of the sun had become extinct, his
Excellency shouted, "Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!" and scientifically
disgraced himself. Leaving his spyglass swinging, he ran through the
gateway of his pavilion, and cried to his prostate wives, "Henceforth
will you not believe the foreigner."

But that other Excellency, Chow Phya Bhudharabhay, Minister for Northern
Siam, more orthodox, sat in dumfoundered faith, and gaped at the awful
deglutition of the Angel Rahoo.

The government expended not less than a hundred thousand dollars on this
scientific expedition, and a delegation from the foreign community of
Bangkok approached his Majesty with an address of thanks for his
indiscriminate hospitality.

But the extraordinary excitement, and exposure to the noxious atmosphere
of the jungle, proved inimical to the constitution of the king. On his
return to Bangkok he complained of general weariness and prostration,
which was the prelude to fever. Foreign physicians were consulted, but
at no stage of the case was any European treatment employed. He rapidly
grew worse, and was soon past saving. On the day before his death he
called to his bedside his nearest relatives, and parted among them such
of his personal effects as were most prized by him, saying, "I have no
more need of these things. I must give up my life also." Buddhist
priests were constant in attendance, and he seemed to derive much
comfort from their prayers and exhortations. In the evening he wrote
with his own hand a tender farewell to the mothers of his many
children,--eighty-one in number. On the morning of his last day
(October 1, 1868) he dictated in the Pali language a farewell address to
the Buddhist priesthood, the spirit of which was admirable, and clearly
manifested the faith of the dying man in the doctrines of the Reformer;
for he hesitated not to say: "Farewell, ye faithful followers of Buddha,
to whom death is nothing, even as all earthly existence is vain, all
things mutable, and death inevitable. Presently I shall myself submit to
that stern necessity. Farewell! for I go only a little before you."

Feeling sure that he must die before midnight, he summoned his
half-brother, H. R. H. Krom Hluang Wongse, his Excellency the prime
minister, Chow Phya Kralahome, and others, and solemnly imposed upon
them the care of his eldest son, the Chowfa Chulalonkorn, and of his
kingdom; at the same time expressing his last earthly wish, that the
Senabawdee, in electing his successor, would give their voices for one
who should conciliate all parties, that the country might not be
distracted by dissensions on that question. He then told them he was
about to finish his course, and implored them not to give way to grief,
"nor to any sudden surprise," that he should leave them thus; "'tis an
event that must befall all creatures that come into this world, and may
not be avoided." Then turning his gaze upon a small image of his adored
teacher, he seemed for some time absorbed in awful contemplation. "Such
is life!" Those were actually the last words of this most remarkable
Buddhist king. He died like a philosopher, calmly and sententiously
soliloquizing on death and its inevitability. At the final moment, no
one being near save his adopted son, Phya Buroot, he raised his hands
before his face, as in his accustomed posture of devotion; then suddenly
his head dropped backward, and he was gone.

That very night, without disorder or debate, the Senabawdee elected his
eldest son, Somdetch Chowfa Chulalonkorn, to succeed him; and the Prince
George Washington, eldest son of the late Second King, to succeed to his
father's subordinate throne, under the title of Krom P'hra Raja Bowawn
Shathan Mongkoon. The title of the present supreme king (my amiable and
very promising scholar) is Prabat Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha
Chulalonkorn Kate Klou Chow-yu-Hua.

About a year after my first ill-omened interviews with Maha Mongkut, and
when I had become permanently installed in my double office of teacher
and scribe, I was one day busy with a letter from his Majesty to the
Earl of Clarendon, and finding that any attempt at partial correction
would but render his meaning more ambiguous, and impair the striking
originality of his style, I had abandoned the effort, and set about
copying it with literal exactness, only venturing to alter here and
there a word, such as "I hasten with _wilful_ pleasure to write in reply
to your Lordship's _well-wishing_ letter," etc. Whilst I was thus
evolving from the depths of my inner consciousness a satisfactory
solution to this conundrum in King's English, his Majesty's private
secretary lolled in the sunniest corner of the room, stretching his
dusky limbs and heavily nodding, in an ecstasy of ease-taking. Poor
P'hra-Alâck! I never knew him to be otherwise than sleepy, and his sleep
was always stolen. For his Majesty was the most capricious of kings as
to his working moods,--busy when the average man should be sleeping,
sleeping while letters, papers, despatches, messengers, mail-boats
waited. More than once had we been aroused at dead of night by noisy
female slaves, and dragged in hot haste and consternation to the Hall of
Audience, only to find that his Majesty was, not at his last gasp, as we
had feared, but simply bothered to find in Webster's Dictionary some
word that was to be found nowhere but in his own fertile brain; or
perhaps in excited chase of the classical term for some trifle he was on
the point of ordering from London,--and that word was sure to be a
stranger to my brain.

Before my arrival in Bangkok it had been his not uncommon practice to
send for a missionary at midnight, have him beguiled or abducted from
his bed, and conveyed by boat to the palace, some miles up the river, to
inquire if it would not be more elegant to write _murky_ instead of
_obscure_, or _gloomily dark_ rather than _not clearly apparent_. And if
the wretched man should venture to declare his honest preference for the
ordinary over the extraordinary form of expression, he was forthwith
dismissed with irony, arrogance, or even insult, and without a word of
apology for the rude invasion of his rest.

One night, a little after twelve o'clock, as he was on the point of
going to bed like any plain citizen of regular habits, his Majesty fell
to thinking how most accurately to render into English the troublesome
Siamese word _phi_, which admits of a variety of interpretations.
[Footnote: Ghost, spirit, soul, devil, evil angel.] After puzzling over
it for more than an hour, getting himself possessed with the word as
with the devil it stands for, and all to no purpose, he ordered one of
his lesser state barges to be manned and despatched with all speed for
the British Consul. That functionary, inspired with lively alarm by so
startling a summons, dressed himself with unceremonious celerity, and
hurried to the palace, conjecturing on the way all imaginable
possibilities of politics and diplomacy, revolution or invasion. To his
vexation, not less than his surprise, he found the king in dishabille,
engaged with a Siamese-English vocabulary, and mentally divided between
"deuce" and "devil," in the choice of an equivalent. His preposterous
Majesty gravely laid the case before the consul, who, though inwardly
chafing at what he termed "the confounded coolness" of the situation,
had no choice but to decide with grace, and go back to bed with
philosophy.

No wonder, then, that P'hra-Alâck experienced an access of gratitude for
the privilege of napping for two hours in a snuggery of sunshine.

"Mam-kha," [Footnote: Kha, "your slave."] he murmured drowsily, "I hope
that in the Chat-Nah [Footnote: The next state of existence.] I shall be
a freed man."

"I hope so sincerely, P'hra-Alâck," said I. "I hope you'll be an
Englishman or an American, for then you'll be sure to be independent."

It was impossible not to pity the poor old man,--stiff with continual
stooping to his task, and so subdued!--liable not only to be called at
any hour of the day or night, but to be threatened, cuffed, kicked,
beaten on the head, [Footnote: The greatest indignity a Siamese can
suffer.] every way abused and insulted, and the next moment to be taken
into favor, confidence, bosom-friendship, even as his Majesty's mood
might veer.

Alack for P'hra-Alâck! though usually he bore with equal patience his
greater and his lesser ills, there were occasions that sharply tried his
meekness, when his weak and goaded nature revolted, and he rushed to a
snug little home of his own, about forty yards from the Grand Palace,
there to snatch a respite of rest and refreshment in the society of his
young and lately wedded wife. Then the king would awake and send for
him, whereupon he would be suddenly ill, or not at home, strategically
hiding himself under a mountain of bedclothes, and detailing Mrs.
P'hra-Alâck to reconnoitre and report. He had tried this primitive trick
so often that its very staleness infuriated the king, who invariably
sent officers to seize the trembling accomplice and lock her up in a
dismal cell as a hostage for the scribe's appearance. At dusk the poor
fellow would emerge, contrite and terrified, and prostrate himself at
the gate of the palace. Then his Majesty (who, having spies posted in
every quarter of the town, knew as well as P'hra-Alâck himself what the
illness or the absence signified) leisurely strolled forth, and, finding
the patient on the threshold, flew always into a genuine rage, and
prescribed "decapitation on the spot," and "sixty lashes on the bare
back," both in the same breath. And while the attendants flew right and
left,--one for the blade, another for the thong,--the king, still
raging, seized whatever came most handy, and belabored his bosom-friend
on the head and shoulders. Having thus summarily relieved his mind, he
despatched the royal secretary for his ink-horn and papyrus, and began
inditing letters, orders, appointments, before scymitar or lash (which
were ever tenderly slow on these occasions) had made its appearance.
Perhaps in the very thick of his dictating he would remember the
connubial accomplice, and order his people to "release her, and let her
go."

Slavery in Siam is the lot of men of a much finer intellectual type than
any who have been its victims in modern times in societies farther west.
P'hra-Alâck had been his Majesty's slave when they were boys together.
Together they had played, studied, and entered the priesthood. At once
bondman, comrade, classmate, and confidant, he was the very man to fill
the office of private secretary to his royal crony. Virgil made a slave
of his a poet, and Horace was the son of an emancipated slave. The Roman
leech and chirurgeon were often slaves; so, too, the preceptor and the
pedagogue, the reader and the player, the clerk and the amanuensis, the
singer, the dancer, the wrestler, and the buffoon, the architect, the
smith, the weaver, and the shoemaker; even the _armiger_ or squire was a
slave. Educated slaves exercised their talents and pursued their
callings for the emolument of their masters; and thus it is to-day in
Siam. _Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur_, P'hra-Alâck!

The king's taste for English composition had, by much exercise,
developed itself into a passion. In the pursuit of it he was
indefatigable, rambling, and petulant. He had "Webster's Unabridged" on
the brain,--an exasperating form of king's evil. The little dingy slips
that emanated freely from the palace press were as indiscriminate as
they were quaint. No topic was too sublime or too ignoble for them. All
was "copy" that came to those cases,-from the glory of the heavenly
bodies to the nuisance of the busybodies who scolded his Majesty through
the columns of the Bangkok Recorder.

I have before me, as I write, a circular from his pen, and in the type
of his private press, which, being without caption or signature, may be
supposed to be addressed "to all whom it may concern." The American
missionaries had vexed his exact scholarship by their peculiar mode of
representing in English letters the name of a native city (_Prippri_, or
in Sanskrit _Bejrepuri_). Whence this droll circular, which begins with
a dogmatic line:--

"None should write the name of city of Prippri thus--P'et cha poory."

Then comes a pedantic demonstration of the derivation of the name from a
compound Sanskrit word, signifying "Diamond City." And the document
concludes with a characteristic explosion of impatience, at once
critical, royal, and anecdotal: "Ah! what the Romanization of American
system that P'etch' abury will be! Will whole human learned world become
the pupil of their corrupted Siamese teachers? It is very far from
correctness. Why they did not look in journal of Royal Asiatic Society,
where several words of Sanskrit and Pali were published continually?
Their Siamese priestly teachers considered all Europeans as very
heathen; to them far from sacred tongue, and were glad to have American
heathens to become their scholars or pupils; they thought they have
taught sacred language to the part of heathen; in fact, they themselves
are very far from sacred language, being sunk deeply in corruption of
sacred and learned language, for tongue of their former Laos and
Cambodian teachers, and very far from knowledge of Hindoostanee,
Cinghalese, and Royal Asiatic Society's knowledge in Sanskrit, as they
are considered by such the Siamese teachers as heathen; called by them
Mit ch'a thi-thi, &c., &c., i.e. wrongly seer or spectator, &c., &c."

In another slip, which is manifestly an outburst of the royal petulance,
his Majesty demands, in a "displayed" paragraph:--

"Why name of Mr. Knox [Thomas George Knox, Esq., British Consul] was not
published thus: Missa Nok or Nawk. If name of Chow Phya Bhudharabhay is
to be thus: P'raya P'oo t'a ra P'ie. And why the London was not
published thus: Lundun or Landan, if Bejrepuri is to be published
P'etch' abury."

In the same slip with the philological protest the following remarkable
paragraphs appear:--

"What has been published in No. 25 of Bangkok Recorder thus:--

"'The king of Siam, on reading from some European paper that the Pope
had lately suffered the loss of some precious jewels, in consequence of
a thief having got possession of his Holiness' keys, exclaimed, "What a
man! professing to keep the keys of Heaven, and cannot even keep his own
keys!"'

"The king on perusal thereof denied that it is false. He knows nothing
about his Holiness the Pope's sustaining loss of gems, &c., and has said
nothing about religious faith."

This is curious, in that it exposes the king's unworthy fear of the
French priesthood in Siam. The fact is that he did make the rather smart
remark, in precisely these words: "Ah! what a man! professing to keep
the keys of Heaven, and not able to guard those of his own bureau!" and
he was quite proud of his hit. But when it appeared in the Recorder, he
thought it prudent to bar it with a formal denial. Hence the politic
little item which he sent to all the foreigners in Bangkok, and
especially to the French priests.

His Majesty's mode of dealing with newspaper strictures (not always
just) and suggestions (not always pertinent) aimed at his administration
of public affairs, or the constitution and discipline of his household,
was characteristic. He snubbed them with sententious arrogance, leavened
with sarcasm.

When the Recorder recommended to the king the expediency of dispersing
his Solomonic harem, and abolishing polygamy in the royal family, his
Majesty retorted with a verbal message to the editor, to the purport
that "when the Recorder shall have dissuaded princes and noblemen from
offering their daughters to the king as concubines, the king will cease
to receive contributions of women in that capacity."

In August, 1865, an angry altercation occurred in the Royal Court of
Equity (sometimes styled the International Court) between a French
priest and Phya Wiset, a Siamese nobleman, of venerable years, but
positive spirit and energy. The priest gave Phya Wiset the lie, and Phya
Wiset gave it back to the priest, whereupon the priest became noisy.
Afterward he reported the affair to his consul at Bangkok, with the
embellishing statement that not only himself, but his religion, had been
grossly insulted. The consul, one Monsieur Aubaret, a peppery and
pugnacious Frenchman, immediately made a demand upon his Majesty for the
removal of Phya Wiset from office.

This despatch was sent late in the evening by the hand of Monsieur
Lamarche, commanding the troops at the royal palace; and that officer
had the consul's order to present it summarily. Lamarche managed to
procure admittance to the penetralia, and presented the note at two
o'clock in the morning, in violation of reason and courtesy as well as
of rules, excusing himself on the ground that the despatch was important
and his orders peremptory. His Majesty then read the despatch, and
remarked that the matter should be disposed of "to-morrow." Lamarche
replied, very presumptuously, that the affair required no investigation,
as _he_ had heard the offensive language of Phya Wiset, and that person
must be deposed without ceremony. Whereupon his Majesty ordered the
offensive foreigner to leave the palace.

Lamarche repaired forthwith to the consul, and reported that the king
had spoken disrespectfully, not only of his Imperial Majesty's consul,
but of the Emperor himself, besides outrageously insulting a French
messenger. Then the fire-eating functionary addressed another despatch
to his Majesty, the purport of which was, that, in expelling Lamarche
from the palace, the King of Siam had been guilty of a political
misdemeanor, and had rudely disturbed the friendly relations existing
between France and Siam; that he should leave Bangkok for Paris, and in
six weeks lay his grievance before the Emperor; but should first proceed
to Saigon, and engage the French admiral there to attend to any
emergency that might arise in Bangkok.

His Majesty, who knew how to confront the uproar of vulgarity and folly
with the repose of wisdom and dignity, sent his own cousin, the Prince
Mom Rachoday, Chief Judge of the Royal Court of Equity, to M. Aubaret,
to disabuse his mind, and impart to him all the truth of the case. But
the "furious Frank" seized the imposing magnate by the hair, drove him
from his door, and flung his betel-box after him,--a reckless impulse of
outrage as monstrous as the most ingenious and deliberate brutality
could have devised. Rudely to seize a Siamese by the hair is an
indignity as grave as to spit in the face of a European; and the betel-
box, beside being a royal present, was an essential part of the insignia
of the prince's judicial office.

On a later occasion this same Aubaret seized the opportunity a royal
procession afforded to provoke the king to an ill-timed discussion of
politics, and to prefer an intemperate complaint against the Kralahome,
or prime minister. This characteristic flourish of ill temper and bad
manners, from the representative of the politest of nations, naturally
excited lively indignation and disgust among all respectable dwellers,
native or foreign, near the court, and a serious disturbance was
imminent. But a single dose of the King's English sufficed to soothe the
spasmodic official, and reduce him to "a sense of his situation."


"TO THE HON. THE MONSIEUR AUBARET, _the Consul for H.I.M._

"SIR:--The verbal insult or bad words without any step more over from
lower or lowest person is considered very slight & inconsiderable.

"The person standing on the surface of the ground or floor Cannot injure
the heavenly bodies or any highly hanging Lamp or glope by ejecting his
spit from his mouth upward it will only injure his own face without
attempting of Heavenly bodies--&c.

"The Siamese are knowing of being lower than heaven do not endeavor to
injure heavenly bodies with their spit from mouth.

"A person who is known to be powerless by every one, as they who have no
arms or legs to move oppose or injure or deaf or blind &c. &c. cannot be
considered and said that they are our enemies even for their madness in
vain--it might be considered as easily agitation or uneasiness.

"Persons under strong desires without any limit or acting under
illimited anger sometimes cannot be believed at once without testimony
or witness if they stated against any one verbally from such the
statements of the most desirous or persons most illimitedly angry
hesitation and mild enquiry is very prudent from persons of considerable
rank."

_No signature._


Never were simplicity with shrewdness, and unconscious humor with
pathos, and candor with irony, and political economy with the sense of
an awful bore, more quaintly blended than in the following extraordinary
hint, written and printed by his Majesty, and freely distributed for the
snubbing of visionary or speculative adventurers:


"NOTICE.

"When the general rumor was and is spread out from Siam, circulated
among the foreigners to Siam, chiefly Europeans, Chinese, &c, in three
points:--

"1. That Siam is under quite absolute Monarchy. Whatever her Supreme
Sovereign commanded, allowed, &c all cannot be resisted by any one of
his Subjects.

"2. The Treasury of the Sovereign of Siam, was full for money, like a
mountain of gold and silver; Her Sovereign most wealthy.

"3. The present reigning Monarch of Siam is shallow minded and admirer
of almost everything of curiosity, and most admirer of European usages,
customs, sciences, arts and literature &c, without limit. He is fond of
flattering term and ambitious of honor, so that there are now many
opportunities and operations to be embraced for drawing great money from
Royal Treasury of Siam, &c.

"The most many foreigners being under belief of such general rumour,
were endeavoring to draw money from him in various operations, as aiming
him with valuable curiosities and expectations of interest, and
flattering him, to be glad of them, and deceiving him in various ways;
almost on every opportunity of Steamer coming to Siam, various
foreigners partly known to him and acquainted with him, and generally
unknown to him, boldly wrote to him in such the term of various
application and treatment, so that he can conclude that the chief object
of all letters written to him, is generally to draw money from him, even
unreasonable. Several instances and testimonies can be shown for being
example on this subject--the foreigners letters addressed to him, come
by every one steamer of Siam, and of foreign steamers visiting Siam; 10
and 12 at least and 40 at highest number, urging him in various ways; so
he concluded that foreigners must consider him only as a mad king of a
wild land!

"He now states that he cannot be so mad more, as he knows and observes
the consideration of the foreigners towards him. Also he now became of
old age,[Footnote: He was sixty-two at this time.] and was very sorry to
lose his principal members of his family namely, his two Queens, twice,
and his younger brother the late Second King, and his late second son
and beloved daughter, and moreover now he fear of sickness of his eldest
son, he is now unhappy and must solicit his friends in correspondence
and others who please to write for the foresaid purpose, that they
should know suitable reason in writing to him, and shall not urge him as
they would urge a madman! And the general rumours forementioned are some
exaggerated and some entirely false; they shall not believe such the
rumours, deeply and ascertainedly.

"ROYAL RESIDENCE GRAND PALACE BANGKOK 2nd July 1867."


And now observe with, what gracious ease this most astute and
discriminating prince could fit his tone to the sense of those who,
familiar with his opinions, and reconciled to his temper and his ways,
however peculiar, could reciprocate the catholicity of his sympathies,
and appreciate his enlightened efforts to fling off that tenacious
old-man-of-the-sea custom, and extricate himself from the predicament of
conflicting responsibilities. To these, on the Christian New Year's day
of 1867, he addressed this kindly greeting:--


"S.P.P.M. MONGKUT:

"Called in Siamese 'P'hra-Chomklau chao-yuhua' in Magadhi or language of
Pali 'Siamikanam Maha Rajah,' In Latin 'Rex Siamensium,' In French 'Le
Roi de Siam,' In English 'The King of Siam' and in Malayan 'Rajah Maha
Pasah' &c.

"Begs to present his respectful and regardful compliments and
congratulations in happy lives during immediately last year, and wishes
the continuing thereof during the commencing New Year, and ensuing and
succeeding many years, to his foreign friends, both now in Siam namely,
the functionary and acting Consuls and consular officers of various
distinguished nations in Treaty Power with Siam and certain foreign
persons under our salary, in service in any manner here, and several
Gentlemen and Ladies who are resident in Siam in various stations:
namely, the Priests, Preachers of religion, Masters and Mistresses of
Schools, Workmen and Merchants, &c, and now abroad in various foreign
countries and ports, who are our noble and common friends, acquainted
either by ever having had correspondences mutually with us some time, at
any where and remaining in our friendly remembrance or mutual
remembrance, and whosoever are in service to us as our Consuls, vice
consuls and consular assistants, in various foreign ports. Let them know
our remembrance and good wishes toward them all.


     *      *      *      *       *

"Though we are not Christians, the forenamed King was glad to arrive
this day in his valued life, as being the 22,720th day of his age,
during which he was aged sixty-two years and three months, and being the
5,711th day of his reign, during which he reigned upon his kingdom 15
years and 8 months up to the current month.

"In like manner he was very glad to see & know and hope for all his
Royal Family, kindred and friends of both native and foreign, living
near and far to him had arrived to this very remarkable anniversary of
the commencement of Solar Year in Anno Christi 1867.

"In their all being healthy and well living like himself, he begs to
express his royal congratulation and respect and graceful regards to all
his kindred friends both native and foreign, and hopes to receive such
the congratulation and expression of good wishes toward him and members
of his family in very like manner, as he trusts that the amity and grace
to one another of every of human beings who are innocent, is a great
merit, and is righteous and praiseworthy in religious system of all
civil religion, and best civilized laws and morality, &c.

"Given at the Royal Audience Hall, 'Anant Samagome' Grand Palace,
Bangkok," etc., etc.


     *      *      *      *      *

The remoter provinces of Siam constitute a source of continual anxiety
and much expense to the government; and to his Majesty (who, very
conscious of power, was proud to be able to say that the Malayan
territories and rajahs--Cambodia, with her marvellous cities, palaces,
and temples, once the stronghold of Siam's most formidable and
implacable foes; the Laos country, with its warlike princes and
chiefs--were alike dependencies and tributaries of his crown) it was
intolerably irritating to find Cambodia rebellious. So long as his
government could successfully maintain its supremacy there, that country
formed a sort of neutral ground between his people and the
Cochin-Chinese; a geographical condition which was not without its
political advantages. But now the unscrupulous French had strutted upon
the scene, and with a flourish of diplomacy and a stroke of the pen
appropriated to themselves the fairest portion of that most fertile
province. His Majesty, though secretly longing for the intervention and
protection of England, was deterred by his almost superstitious fear of
the French from complaining openly. But whenever he was more than
commonly annoyed by the pretensions and aggressive epistles of his
Imperial Majesty's consul he sent for me,--thinking, like all Orientals,
that, being English, my sympathy for him, and my hatred of the French,
were jointly a foregone conclusion. When I would have assured him that I
was utterly powerless to help him, he cut me short with a wise whisper
to "consult Mr. Thomas George Knox"; and when I protested that that
gentleman was too honorable to engage in a secret intrigue against a
colleague, even for the protection of British interests in Siam, he
would rave at my indifference, the cupidity of the French, the apathy of
the English, and the fatuity of all geographers in "setting down" the
form of government in Siam as an "absolute monarchy."

"_I_ an absolute monarch! For I have no power over French. Siam is like
a mouse before an elephant! Am I an absolute monarch? What shall you
consider me?"

Now, as I considered him a particularly absolute and despotic king, that
was a trying Question; so I discreetly held my peace, fearing less to be
classed with those obnoxious savans who compile geographies than to
provoke him afresh.

"I have no power." he scolded; "I am not absolute! If I point the end of
my walking-stick at a man whom, being my enemy, I wish to die, he does
not die, but lives on, in spite of my 'absolute' will to the contrary.
What does Geographies mean? How can I be an absolute monarchy?"

Such a conversation we were having one day as he "assisted" at the
founding of a temple; and while he reproached his fate that he was
powerless to "point the end of his walking-stick" with absolute power at
the peppery and presumptuous Monsieur Aubaret, he vacantly flung gold
and silver coins among the work-women.

In another moment he forgot all French encroachments, and the imbecility
of geographers in general, as his glance chanced to fall upon a young
woman of fresh and striking beauty, and delightful piquancy of ways and
expression, who with a clumsy club was pounding fragments of
pottery--urns, vases, and goglets--for the foundation of the _watt._
Very artless and happy she seemed, and free as she was lovely; but the
instant she perceived she had attracted the notice of the king, she sank
down and hid her face in the earth, forgetting or disregarding the
falling vessels that threatened to crush or wound her. But the king
merely diverted himself with inquiring her name and parentage; and some
one answering for her, he turned away.

Almost to the latest hour of his life his Majesty suffered, in his
morbid egotism, various and keen annoyance, by reason of his
sensitiveness to the opinions of foreigners, the encroachments of
foreign officials, and the strictures of the foreign press. He was
agitated by a restless craving for their sympathy on the one hand, and
by a futile resentment of their criticisms or their claims on the other.

An article in a Singapore paper had administered moral correction to his
Majesty on the strength of a rumor that "the king has his eye upon
another princess of the highest rank, with a view to constituting her a
queen consort." And the Bangkok Recorder had said: "Now, considering
that he is full threescore and three years of age, that he has already
scores of concubines and about fourscore sons and daughters, with
several Chowfas among them, and hence eligible to the highest posts of
honor in the kingdom, this rumor seems too monstrous to be credited. But
the truth is, there is scarcely anything too monstrous for the royal
polygamy of Siam to bring forth." By the light of this explanation the
meaning of the following extract from the postscript of a letter which
the king wrote in April, 1866, will be clear to the reader, who, at the
same time, in justice to me, will remember that by the death of his
Majesty, on the 1st of October, 1868, the seal of secrecy was broken.


"VERY PRIVATE POST SCRIPT.

"There is a newspaper of Singapore entitled Daily News just published
after last arrival of the steamer Chowphya in Singapore, in which paper,
a correspondence from an Individual resident at Bangkok dated 16th March
1866 was shown, but I have none of that paper in my possession ... I did
not noticed its number & date to state to you now, but I trust such the
paper must be in hand of several foreigners in Bangkok, may you have
read it perhaps--other wise you can obtain the same from any one or by
order to obtain from Singapore; after perusal thereof you will not be
able to deny my statement forementioned more over as general people both
native & foreigners here seem to have less pleasure on me & my
descendant, than their pleasure and hope on other amiable family to them
until the present day. What was said there in for a princess considered
by the Speaker or Writer as proper or suitable to be head on my _harem_
(a room or part for confinement of Women of Eastern monarch) [Footnote:
A parenthetical drollery inspired by the dictionary.] there is no least
intention occurred to me even once or in my dream indeed! I think if I
do so, I will die soon perhaps!


     *      *      *      *      *

"This my handwriting or content hereof shall be kept secretly.

"I beg to remain

"Your faithful & well-wisher

"S. P. P. M. MONGKUT E. S.

"on 5441th day of reign.

"the writer here of beg to place his confidence on you alway."


As a true friend to his Majesty, I deplore the weakness which betrayed
him into so transparent a sham of virtuous indignation. The "princess of
the highest rank," whom the writer of the article plainly meant, was the
Princess of Chiengmai; but from lack of accurate information he was
misled into confounding her with the Princess Tui Duang Prabha, his
Majesty's niece. The king could honestly deny any such intention on his
part with regard to his niece; but, at the same time, he well knew that
the writer erred only as to the individual, and not as to the main fact
of the case. The Princess of Chiengmai was the wife, and the Princess
Tui Duang the daughter, of his full brother, the Second King, lately
deceased.

Much more agreeable is it--to the reader, I doubt not, not less than to
the writer--to turn from the king, in the exercise of his slavish
function of training honest words to play the hypocrite for ignoble
thoughts, to the gentleman, the friend, the father, giving his heart a
holiday in the relaxations of simple kindness and free affection,--as in
the following note:--


"Dated RANCHAUPURY 34th February 1865.

"To LADY L---- & HER SON LUISE, _Bangkok_.

"We having very pleasant journey ... to be here which is a township
called as above named by men of republick affairs in Siam, & called by
common people as 'Parkphrieck' where we have our stay a few days & will
take our departure from hence at dawn of next day. We thinking of you
both regardfully & beg to send here with some wild aples & barries which
are delicate for tasting & some tobacco which were and are principal
product of this region for your kind acceptance hoping this wild present
will be acceptable to you both.

"We will be arrived at our home Bangkok on early part of March.

"We beg to remain

"Your faithful

"S. P. P. M. MONGKUT E. S.

"in 5035th day of reign.

"And your affectionate pupils

"YING YULACKS.
MANEABHADAHORN.
SOMDETCH CHOWFA
CHULALONKORK [Footnote: The present king.]
KRITAHINIHAR.
PRABHASSOR.
SOMAWATI."



XXVII. MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE.


In 1864 I found that my labors had greatly increased; I had often to
work till ten o'clock at night to accomplish the endless translations
required of me. I also began to perceive how continually and closely I
was watched, but how and by whom it seemed impossible to discover. Among
the inducements to me to accept the position of teacher to the royal
family was his Majesty's assurance, that, if I gave satisfaction, he
would increase my salary after a year's trial. Nearly three years had
passed when I first ventured to remind the king of this promise. To my
astonishment he bluntly informed me that I had not given satisfaction,
that I was "difficult" and unmanageable, "more careful about what was
right and what was wrong than for the obedience and submission." And as
to salary, he continued: "Why you should be poor? You come into my
presence every day with some petition, some case of hardship or
injustice, and you demand 'your Majesty shall most kindly investigate,
and cause redress to be made'; and I have granted to you because you are
important to me for translations, and so forth. And now you declare you
must have increase of salary! Must you have everything in this world?
Why you do not make _them_ pay you? If I grant you all your petition for
the poor, you ought to be rich, or you have no wisdom."

At a loss what answer to make to this very unsympathetic view of my
conduct, I quietly returned to my duties, which, grew daily in variety
and responsibility. What with translating, correcting, copying,
dictating, reading, I had hardly a moment I could call my own; and if at
any time I rebelled, I brought down swift vengeance on the head of the
helpless native secretary.

But it was my consolation to know that I could befriend the women and
children of the palace, who, when they saw that I was not afraid to
oppose the king in his more outrageous caprices of tyranny, imagined me
endued with supernatural powers, and secretly came to me with their
grievances, in full assurance that sooner or later I would see them
redressed. And so, with no intention on my part, and almost without my
own consent, I suffered myself to be set up between the oppressor and
the oppressed. From that time I had no peace. Day after day I was called
upon to resist the wanton cruelty of judges and magistrates, till at
last I found myself at feud with the whole "San Luang." In cases of
torture, imprisonment, extortion, I tried again and again to excuse
myself from interfering, but still the mothers or sisters prevailed, and
I had no choice left but to try to help them. Sometimes I sent Boy with
my clients, sometimes I went myself; and in no single instance was
justice granted from a sense of right, but always through fear of my
supposed influence with the king. My Siamese and European friends said I
was amassing a fortune. It seemed not worth my while to contradict them,
though the inference was painful to me, for in truth my championship was
not purely disinterested; I suffered from continual contact with the
sufferings of others, and came to the rescue in self-defence and in pity
for myself not less than for them.

A Chinaman had been cruelly murdered and robbed by a favorite slave in
the household of the prime minister's brother, leaving the brother,
wife, and children of the victim in helpless poverty and terror. The
murderer had screened himself and his accomplices by sharing the plunder
with his master. The widow cried for redress in vain. The ears of
magistrates were stopped against her, and she was too poor to pay her
way; but still she went from one court to another, until her importunity
irritated the judges, who, to intimidate her, seized her eldest son, on
some monstrous pretext, and cast him into prison. This double cruelty
completed the despair of the unhappy mother. She came to me fairly
frenzied, and "commanded" me to go at once into the presence of the king
and demand her stolen child; and then, in a sudden paroxysm of grief,
she embraced my knees, wailing, and praying to me to help her. It was
not in human nature to reject that maternal claim. With no little
trouble I procured the liberation of her son; but to keep him out of
harm's way I had to take him into my own home and change his name. I
called him Timothy, which by a Chinese abbreviation became Ti.

When I went with this woman and the brother of the murdered man to the
palace of the premier, we found that distinguished personage half naked
and playing chess. Seeing me enter, he ordered one of his slaves to
bring him a jacket, into which he thrust his arms, and went on with the
game; and not until that was finished did he attend to me. When I
explained my errand he seemed vexed, but sent for his brother, had a
long talk with him, and concluded by warning my unhappy _protégés_ that
if he heard any more complaints from them they should be flogged. Then
turning to me with a grim smile, he said: "Chinee too much bother. Good
by, sir!"

This surprised me exceedingly, for I had often known the premier to
award justice in spite of the king. That same evening, as I sat alone in
my drawing-room, making notes, as was my custom, I heard a slight
noise, as of some one in the room. Looking round, I saw, to my
amazement, one of the inferior judges of the prime minister's court
crouching by the piano. I asked how he dared to enter my house
unannounced. "Mam," said he, "your servants admitted me; they know from
whom I come, and would not venture to refuse me. And now it is for you
to know that I am here from his Excellency Chow Phya Kralahome, to
request you to send in your resignation at the end of this month."

"By what authority does he send me this message?" I asked.

"I know not; but it were best that you obey."

"Tell him," I replied, unable to control my anger at the cowardly trick
to intimidate me, "I shall leave Siam when I please, and that no man
shall set the time for me."

The man departed, cringing and crouching, and excusing himself. This was
the same wretch at whose instigation poor Moonshee had been so
shamefully beaten.

I did not close my eyes that night. Again and again prudence advised me
to seek safety in flight, but the argument ended in my turning my back
on the timid monitor, and resolving to stay.

About three weeks after this occurrence, his Majesty was going on an
excursion "up country," and as he wished me to accompany my pupils, the
prime minister was required to prepare a cabin for me and my boy on his
steamer, the Volant. Before we left the palace one of my anxious friends
made me promise her that I would partake of no food nor taste a drop of
wine on board the steamer,--an injunction in the sequel easy to fulfil,
as our wants were amply provided for at the Grand Palace, where we spent
the whole day. But I cite this incident to show the state of mind which
led me to prolong my stay, hateful as it had become.

After this, affairs in the royal household went smoothly enough for some
time; but still my tasks increased, and my health began to fail. When I
informed his Majesty that I needed at least a month of rest, and that I
thought of making a trip to Singapore, he was so unwilling that I should
rate highly the services I rendered him, that he was careful to assure
me I had not "favored" him in any way, nor given him satisfaction; and
that if I must be idle for a month, he certainly should not pay me for
the time; and he kept his word. Nevertheless, while I was at Singapore
he wrote to me most kindly, assuring me that his wives and children were
anxious for my return.

After the sad death of the dear little princess, Chow Fâ-ying, the king
had become more cordial; but the labor he imposed upon me was in
proportion to the confidence he reposed in me. At times he required of
me services, in my capacity of secretary, not to be thought of by a
European sovereign; and when I declined to perform them, he would curse
me, close the gates of the palace against me, and even subject me to the
insults and threats of the parasites and slaves who crawled about his
feet. On two occasions--first for refusing to write a false letter to
Sir John Bowring, now Plenipotentiary for the Court of Siam in England;
and again for declining to address the Earl of Clarendon in relation to
a certain British officer then in Siam--he threatened to have me tried
at the British Consulate, and was so violent that I was in real fear for
my life. For three days I waited, with doors and windows barred, for I
knew not what explosion.

After the death of the Second King, his Majesty behaved very
disgracefully. It was well known that the ladies of the prince's harem
were of the most beautiful of the women of Laos, Pegu, and Birmah; above
all, the Princess of Chiengmai was famed for her manifold graces of
person and character. Etiquette forbade the royal brothers to pry into
the constitution of each other's _sérail_, but by means most unworthy of
his station, and regardless of the privilege of his brother, Maha
Mongkut had learned of the acquisition to the subordinate king's
establishment of this celebrated and coveted beauty; and although she
was now his legitimate sister-in-law, privately married to the prince,
he was not restrained by any scruple of morality or delicacy from
manifesting his jealousy and pique. [Footnote: See portrait, Chap. XXV.]
Moreover, this disgraceful feeling was fostered by other considerations
than those of mere sensuality or ostentation. Her father, the tributary
ruler of Chiengmai, had on several occasions confronted his aggressive
authority with a haughty and intrepid spirit; and once, when Maha
Mongkut required that he should send his eldest son to Bangkok as a
hostage for the father's loyalty, and good conduct, the unterrified
chief replied that he would be his own hostage. On the summons being
repeated in imperative terms, the young prince fled from his father's
court and took refuge with the Second King in his stronghold of Ban
Sitha, where he was most courteously received and entertained until he
found it expedient to seek some securer or less compromising place of
refuge.

The friendship thus founded between two proud and daring princes soon
became strong and enduring, and resulted in the marriage of the Princess
Sunartha Vismita (very willingly on her part) to the Second King, about
a year before his death.

The son of the King of Chiengmai never made his appearance at the court
of Siam; but the stout old chief, attended by trusty followers, boldly
brought his own "hostage" thither; and Maha Mongkut, though secretly
chafing, accepted the situation with a show of graciousness, and
overlooked the absence of the younger vassal.

With the remembrance of these floutings still galling him, the Supreme
King frequently repaired to the Second King's palace on the pretext of
arranging certain "family affairs" intrusted to him by his late brother,
but in reality to acquaint himself with the charms of several female
members of the prince's household; and, scandalous as it should have
seemed even to Siamese notions of the divine right of kings, the most
attractive and accomplished of those women were quietly transferred to
his own harem. For some time I heard nothing more of the Princess of
Chiengmai; but it was curious, even amusing, to observe the serene
contempt with which the "interlopers" were received by the rival
incumbents of the royal gynecium,--especially the Laotian women, who are
of a finer type and much handsomer than their Siamese sisters.

Meantime his Majesty took up his abode for a fortnight at the Second
King's palace, thereby provoking dangerous gossip in his own
establishment; so that his "head wife," the Lady Thieng, even made bold
to hint that he might come to the fate of his brother, and die by slow
poison. His harem was agitated and excited throughout,--some of the
women abandoning themselves to unaccustomed and unnatural gayety, while
others sent their confidential slaves to consult the astrologers and
soothsayers of the court; and by the aid of significant glances and
shrugging of shoulders, and interchange of signs and whispers, with
feminine telegraphy and secret service, most of those interested arrived
at the sage conclusion that their lord had fallen under the spells of a
witch or enchantress.

Such was the domestic situation when his Majesty suddenly and without
warning returned to his palace, but in a mood so perplexing as to
surpass all precedent and baffle all tact. I had for some time performed
with surprising success a leading part in a pretty little court play, of
which the well-meant plot had been devised by the Lady Thieng. Whenever
the king should be dangerously enraged, and ready to let loose upon some
tender culprit of the harem the monstrous lash or chain, I--at a secret
cue from the head wife--was to enter upon his Majesty, book in hand, to
consult his infallibility in a pressing predicament of translation into
Sanskrit, Siamese, or English. Absurdly transparent as it was,--perhaps
the happier for its very childishness,--under cover of this naive device
from time to time a hapless girl escaped the fatal burst of his wrath.
Midway in the rising storm of curses and abuse he would turn with
comical abruptness to the attractive interruption with all the zest of a
scholar. I often trembled lest he should see through the thinly covered
trick, but he never did. On his return from the prince's palace,
however, even this innocent stratagem failed us; and on one occasion of
my having recourse to it he peremptorily ordered me away, and forbade my
coming into his presence again unless sent for. Daily, after this, one
or more of the women suffered from his petty tyranny, cruelty, and
spite. On every hand I heard sighs and sobs from young and old; and not
a woman there but believed he was bewitched and beside himself.

I had struggled through many exacting tasks since I came to Siam, but
never any that so taxed my powers of endurance as my duties at this
time, in my double office of governess and private secretary to his
Majesty. His moods were so fickle and unjust, his temper so tyrannical,
that it seemed impossible to please him; from one hour to another I
never knew what to expect. And yet he persevered in his studies,
especially in his English correspondence, which was ever his solace, his
pleasure, and his pride. To an interested observer it might have
afforded rare entertainment to note how fluently, though oddly, he spoke
and wrote in a foreign language, but for his caprices, which at times
were so ridiculous, however, as to be scarcely disagreeable. He would
indite letters, sign them, affix his seal, and despatch them in his own
mail-bags to Europe, America, or elsewhere; and, months afterward,
insist on my writing to the parties addressed, to say that the
instructions they contained were _my_ mistake,--errors of translation,
transcription, anything but his intention. In one or two instances,
finding that the case really admitted of explanation or apology from his
Majesty, I slyly so worded my letter, that, without compromising him, I
yet managed to repair the mischief he had done. But I felt this could
not continue long. Always, on foreign-mail days, I spent from eight to
ten hours in this most delicate and vexatious work. At length the crash
came.

The king had promised to Sir John Bowring the appointment of
Plenipotentiary to the Court of France, to negotiate, on behalf of Siam,
new treaties concerning the Cambodian possessions. With characteristic
irresolution he changed his mind, and decided to send a Siamese Embassy,
headed by his Lordship P'hra Nan Why, now known as his Excellency Chow
Phya Sri Sury-wongse. No sooner had he entertained this fancy than he
sent for me, and coolly directed me to write and explain the matter to
Sir John, if possible attributing his new views and purpose to the
advice of her Britannic Majesty's Consul; or, if I had scruples on that
head, I might say the advice was my own,--or "anything I liked," so that
I justified his conduct.

At this distance of time I cannot clearly recall all the effect upon my
feelings of so outrageous a proposition; but I do remember that I found
myself emphatically declining to do "anything of the kind." Then, warned
by his gathering rage, I added that I would express to Sir John his
Majesty's regrets, but to attribute the blame to those who had had no
part in the matter, that I could never do. At this his fury was
grotesque. His talent for invective was always formidable, and he tried
to overpower me with threats. But a kindred spirit of resistance was
aroused in me. I withdrew from the palace, and patiently abided the
issue, resolved, in any event, to be firm.

His Majesty's anger was without bounds; and in the interval so fraught
with anxiety and apprehension to me, when I knew that a considerable
party in the palace--judges, magistrates, and officers about the person
of the king--regarded me as an eminently proper person to behead or
drown, he condescended to accuse me of abstracting a book that he
chanced just then to miss from his library, and also of honoring and
favoring the British Consul at the expense of his American colleague,
then resident at Bangkok. In support of the latter charge, he alleged
that I had written the American Consul's name at the bottom of a royal
circular, after carefully displaying my own and the British
functionary's at the top of it.

The circular in question, which had given just umbrage to the American
official, was fortunately in the keeping of the Honorable [Footnote:
Here the title is Siamese.] Mr. Bush, and was written by the king's own
hand, as was well known to all whom it concerned. These charges, with
others of a more frivolous nature,--such as disobeying, thwarting,
scolding his Majesty, treating him with disrespect, as by standing while
he was seated, thinking evil of him, slandering him, and calling him
wicked,--the king caused to be reduced to writing and sent to me, with
an intimation that I must forthwith acknowledge my ingratitude and
guilt, and make atonement by prompt compliance with his wishes. The
secretary who brought the document to my house was accompanied by a
number of the female slaves of the palace, who besought me, in the name
of their mistresses, the wives of the "Celestial Supreme," to yield, and
do all that might be required of me.

Seeing this shaft miss its mark, the secretary, being a man of
resources, produced the other string to his bow. He offered to bribe me,
and actually spent two hours in that respectable business; but finally
departed in despair, convinced that the amount was inadequate to the
cupidity of an insatiable European, and mourning for himself that he
must return discomfited to the king.

Next morning, my boy and I presented ourselves as usual at the inner
gate of the palace leading to the school, and were confronted there by a
party of rude fellows and soldiers, who thrust us back with threats, and
even took up stones to throw at us. I dare not think what might have
been our fate, but for the generous rescue of a crowd of the poorest
slaves, who at that hour were waiting for the opening of the gate. These
rallied round us, and guarded us back to our home. It was, indeed, a
time of terror for us. I felt that my life was in great danger; and so
difficult did I find it to prevent the continual intrusion of the
rabble, both men and women, into my house, that I had at length to bar
my doors and windows, and have double locks and fastenings added. I
became nervous and excited as I had never been before.

My first impulse was to write to the British Consul and invoke his
protection; but that looked cowardly. Nevertheless, I did prepare the
letter, ready to be despatched at the first attempt upon our lives or
liberty. I wrote also to Mr. Bush, asking him to find without delay the
obnoxious circular, and bring it to my house. He came that very evening,
the paper in his hand. With infinite difficulty I persuaded the native
secretary, whom I had again and again befriended in like extremities, to
procure for him an audience with the king.

On coming into the presence of his Majesty, Mr. Bush simply handed him
the circular, saying, "Mam tells me you wish to see this." The moment
the caption of the document met his eye, his Majesty's countenance
assumed a blank, bewildered expression peculiar to it, and he seemed to
look to my friend for an explanation; but that gentleman had none to
offer, for I had made none to him.

And to crown all, even as the king was pointing to his brow to signify
that he had forgotten having written it, one of the little princesses
came crouching and crawling into the room with the missing volume in her
hand. It had been found in one of the numerous sleeping-apartments of
the king, beside his pillow, just in time!

Mr. Bush soon returned, bringing me assurances of his Majesty's cordial
reconciliation; but I still doubted his sincerity, and for weeks did not
offer to enter the palace. When, however, on the arrival of the Chow
Phya steamer with the mail, I was formally summoned by the king to
return to my duties, I quietly obeyed, making no allusion to my
"bygones."

As I sat at my familiar table, copying, his Majesty approached, and
addressed me in these words:--

"Mam! you are one great difficulty. I have much pleasure and favor on
you, but you are too obstinate. You are not wise. Wherefore are you so
difficult? You are only a woman. It is very bad you can be so
strong-headed. Will you now have any objection to write to Sir John, and
tell him I am his very good friend?"

"None whatever," I replied, "if it is to be simply a letter of good
wishes on the part of your Majesty."

I wrote the letter, and handed it to him for perusal. He was hardly
satisfied, for with only a significant grunt he returned it to me, and
left the apartment at once,--to vent his spite on some one who had
nothing to do with the matter.

In due time the following very considerate but significant reply
(addressed to his Majesty's "one great difficulty ") was received from
Sir John Bowring:--


CLAREMONT, EXETER, 30 June, 1867.

DEAR MADAM:--Your letter of 12th May demands from me the attention of a
courteous reply. I am quite sure the ancient friendship of the King of
Siam would never allow a slight, or indeed an unkindness, to me; and I
hope to have opportunities of showing his Majesty that I feel a deep
interest in his welfare.

As regards the diplomacy of European courts, it is but natural that
those associated with them should be more at home, and better able to
direct their course, than strangers from a distance, however personally
estimable; and though, in the case in question, the mission of a Siamese
Ambassador to Paris was no doubt well intended, and could never have
been meant to give me annoyance, it was not to be expected he would be
placed in that position of free and confidential intercourse which my
long acquaintance with public life would enable me to occupy. In remote
regions, people with little knowledge of official matters in high
quarters often take upon themselves to give advice in great ignorance of
facts, and speak very unadvisedly on topics on which their opinions are
worthless and their influence valueless.

As regards M. Aubaret's offensive proceedings, I doubt not he has
received a caution [Footnote: Aubaret, French Consul at Bangkok, whose
overbearing conduct has been described elsewhere.] on my representation,
and that he, and others of his nation, would not be very willing that
the Emperor--an old acquaintance of mine--should hear from my lips what
I might have to say. The will of the Emperor is supreme, and I am afraid
the Cambodian question is now referred back to Siam. It might have been
better for me to have discussed it with his Imperial Majesty. However,
the past is past. Personal influence, as you are aware, is not
transferable; but when by the proper powers I am placed in a position to
act, his Majesty may be assured--as I have assured himself--that his
interests will not suffer in my hands.

I am obliged to you for the manner in which you have conveyed to me his
Majesty's gracious expressions.

And you will believe me to be

Yours very truly,

JOHN BOWRING.


No friend of mine knew at that time how hard it was for me to bear up,
in the utter loneliness and forlornness of my life, under the load of
cares and provocations and fears that gradually accumulated upon me.

But ah! if any germ of love and truth fell from my heart into the heart
of even the meanest of those wives and concubines and children of a
king, if by any word of mine the least of them was won to look up, out
of the depths of their miserable life, to a higher, clearer, brighter
light than their Buddha casts upon their path, then indeed I did not
labor in vain among them.

In the summer of 1866 my health suddenly broke down, and for a time, it
was thought that I must die. When good Dr. Campbell gave me the solemn
warning all my trouble seemed to cease, and but for one sharp pang for
my children,--one in England, the other in Siam,--I should have derived
pure and perfect pleasure from the prospect of eternal rest, so weary
was I of my tumultuous life in the East; and though in the end I
regained my strength in a measure, I was no longer able to comply with
the pitiless exactions of the king. And so, yielding to the urgent
entreaties of my friends, I decided to return to England.

It took me half a year to get his Majesty's consent; and it was not
without tiresome accusations of ingratitude and idleness that he granted
me leave of absence for six months.

I had hardly courage to face the women and children the day I told them
I was going away. It was hard to be with them; but it seemed cowardly to
leave them. For some time most of them refused to believe that I was
really going; but when they could doubt no longer, they displayed the
most touching tenderness and thoughtfulness. Many sent me small sums of
money to help me on the journey. The poorest and meanest slaves brought
me rice cakes, dried beans, cocoanuts, and sugar. It was in vain that I
assured them I could not carry such things away with me; still the
supplies poured in.

The king himself, who had been silent and sullen until the morning of my
departure, relented when the time came to say good by. He embraced Boy
with cordial kindness, and gave him a silver buckle, and a bag
containing a hundred dollars to buy sweetmeats on the way. Then turning
to me, he said (as if forgetting himself): "Mam! you much beloved by our
common people, and all inhabitants of palace and royal children. Every
one is in affliction of your departure; and even that opium-eating
secretary, P'hra-Alâck, is very low down in his heart because you will
go. It shall be because you must be a good and true lady. I am often
angry on you, and lose my temper, though I have large respect for you.
But nevertheless you ought to know you are difficult woman, and more
difficult than generality. But you will forget, and come back to my
service, for I have more confidence on you every day. Good by!" I could
not reply; my eyes filled with tears.

Then came the parting with my pupils, the women and the children. That
was painful enough, even while the king was present; but when he
abruptly withdrew, great was the uproar. What could I do, but stand
still and submit to kisses, embraces, reproaches, from princesses and
slaves? At last I rushed through the gate, the women screaming after me,
"Come back!" and the children, "Don't go!" I hurried to the residence of
the heir-apparent, to the most trying scene of all. His regret seemed
too deep for words, and the few he did utter were very touching. Taking
both my hands and laying his brow upon them, he said, after a long
interval of silence, "_Mam cha klap ma thort!_"--"Mam dear, come back,
please!" "Keep a brave and true heart, my prince!" was all that I could
say; and my last "God bless _you!_" was addressed to the royal palace of
Siam.

To this young prince, Chowfa Chulalonkorn, I was strongly attached. He
often deplored with me the cruelty with which the slaves were treated,
and, young as he was, did much to inculcate kindness toward them among
his immediate attendants. He was a conscientious lad, of pensive habit
and gentle temper; many of my poor clients I bequeathed to his care,
particularly the Chinese lad Ti. Speaking of slavery one day, he said to
me: "These are not slaves, but nobles; they know how to bear. It is we,
the princes, who have yet to learn which is the more noble, the
oppressor or the oppressed."

When I left the palace the king was fast failing in body and mind, and,
in spite of his seeming vigor, there was no real health in his rule,
while he had his own way. All the substantial success we find in his
administration is due to the ability and energy of his accomplished
premier, Phya Kralahome, and even his strength has been wasted. The
native arts and literature have retrograded; in the mechanic arts much
has been lost; and the whole nation is given up to gambling.

The capacity of the Siamese race for improvement in any direction has
been sufficiently demonstrated, and the government has made fair
progress in political and moral reforms; but the condition of the slaves
is such as to excite astonishment and horror. What may be the ultimate
fate of Siam under this accursed system, whether she will ever
emancipate herself while the world lasts, there is no guessing. The
happy examples free intercourse affords, the influence of European
ideas, and the compulsion of public opinion, may yet work wonders.

On the 5th of July, 1867, we left Bangkok in the steamer Chow Phya. All
our European friends accompanied us to the Gulf of Siam, where we
parted, with much regret on my side; and of all those whose kindness had
bravely cheered us during our long (I am tempted to write) _captivity_,
the last to bid us God-speed was the good Captain Orton, to whom I here
tender my heartfelt thanks.



XXVIII. THE KINGDOM OF SIAM.


With her despotic ruler, priest and king; her religion of
contradictions, at once pure and corrupt, lovely and cruel, ennobling
and debasing; her laws, wherein wisdom is so perversely blended with
blindness, enlightenment with barbarism, strength with weakness, justice
with oppression; her profound scrutiny into mystic forms of philosophy,
her ancient culture of physics, borrowed from the primitive speculations
of Brahminism;--Siam is, beyond a peradventure, one of the most
remarkable and thought-compelling of the empires of the Orient; a
fascinating and provoking enigma, alike to the theologian and the
political economist. Like a troubled dream, delirious in contrast with
the coherence and stability of Western life, the land and its people
seem to be conjured out of a secret of darkness, a wonder to the senses
and a mystery to the mind.

And yet it is a strangely beautiful reality. The enchanting variety of
its scenery, joined to the inexhaustible productiveness of its soil,
constitutes a challenge to the charms of every other region, except,
perhaps, the country watered by the great river of China. Through an
immense, continuous level of unfailing fertility, the Meinam rolls
slowly, reposefully, grandly, in its course receiving draughts from many
a lesser stream, filling many a useful canal in its turn, and, from the
abundance the generous rains bestow, distributing supplies of
refreshment and fatness to innumerable acres.

In a soil at once so rich and so well watered, the sun, with its
vivifying heats, engenders a mighty vegetation, delighting the eye for
more than half the year with endless undulations of grain and a great
golden Eden of fruit. Its staples are solid blessings: rice, the
Asiatic's staff of life; sugar, most popular of dietetic luxuries;
indigo, most valuable of dyes; in the drier tracts, cotton, tobacco,
coffee, a variety of palms (from one species of which sugar not unlike
that of the maple is extracted), the wild olive, and the fig. Then there
are vast forests of teak, that enduring monarch of the vegetable
kingdom, ebony, satin-wood, eagle-wood; beside ivory, beeswax and honey,
raw silk, and many aromatic gums and fragrant spices. And though the
scenery is less various and picturesque than that of the regions of
Gangetic India, where ranges of noble mountains make the land majestic,
nevertheless nature riots here in bewildering luxuriances of vegetable
forms and colors. Vast tracts, shady and cool with dense dark foliage;
trees, tall and strong, spreading their giant arms abroad, with prickly,
shining shrubs between, while parasites and creepers, wild, bright, and
beautiful, trail from the highest boughs to the ground; the bamboo,
shooting to the height of sixty feet and upward, with branches
gracefully drooping; the generous, kind banana; fairy forests of ferns
of a thousand forms; tall grasses, with their pale and plumy blossoms;
the many-trunked and many-rooted banyan; the boh, sacred to
Buddha,--all combine to form a garden that Adam might have dressed and
kept, and only Eve could spoil.

It is only when he approaches the borders of the land that the traveller
is greeted by grand mountains, crowned with impenetrable forests, and
forming an amphitheatre around the graceful plains. Along the coast the
view is more diversified; islands, the most picturesque, and rich with
diversified vegetation, make happy, striking contrasts, here and there,
with the deep blue sea around them.

The extent and boundaries of the kingdom and its dependencies have been
variously described; but according to the statement of his Majesty Maha
Mongkut, the dominion of his predecessors, before the possession of
Malacca by the Portuguese, extended over the whole of the Malayan
peninsula, including the islands of Singapore and Pinang, which at that
time formed a part of the realm of the Rajah of Quedah, who still pays
tribute to the crown of Siam. It was at the instigation of English
settlers that the states of Johore, Singapore, Rambo, Talangore, Pahang,
and Puah became subject to British rule; so that to-day the Siamese
dominion, starting from the little kingdom of Tringamu, extends from the
fourth to the twenty-second degree of north latitude, giving about 1,350
miles of length, while from east to west its greatest breadth is about
450 miles. On the north it is bounded by several provinces of Laos,
tributaries of Ava and China; on the east by the empire of Anam; on the
west by the sea and British possessions; on the south by the petty
states of Pahang and Puah. Beyond Siam proper are the kingdom of Ligor
and the four small states, Quedah, Patan, Calantan, and Yeingana; on the
east a part of the kingdom of Cambodia, Muang Korat, and several
provinces of Laos; on the north the kingdoms of Chiengmai, Laphun,
Lakhon, Muang Phiëé, Muang Naun, Muang Loan, and Luang Phrabang. The
great plain of Siam is bounded on the east by a spur of the Himalayan
range, which breaks off in Cambodia, and is found again in the west,
extending almost to the extremity of the Malayan states; on the north
these two mountain ranges approach each other, and form that multitude
of small hills which imparts so picturesque an aspect to the Laos
country. This plain is watered by the river Meinam, [Footnote: "Mother
of Waters,"--a common Siamese term for all large streams.] or Chow Phya,
whose innumerable branches, great and small, and the many canals which,
fed by it, intersect the capital in all directions, constitute it the
high-road of the Empire. For many miles its banks are fringed with the
graceful bamboo, the tamarind, the palm, and the peepul, the homes of
myriads of birds of the land and of the water,--creatures of brilliant
plumage and delightful song.

Siam has some excellent harbors, though the principal one, on the gulf,
is partially obstructed by great banks of sand that have accumulated at
the mouth of the Chow Phya. Ships of ordinary burden, however, can cross
these banks at high tide, and in a few hours cast anchor in the heart of
the capital, in from sixty to seventy feet of water. Here they are snug
and safe. Besides, the gulf itself is free from the typhoons so
destructive to shipping on the China seas.

In all the Malayan Islands there are numerous unimportant streams,
which, though limited in their course, form excellent harbors at their
debouchement on the coast. The eastern regions of Laos and Cambodia are
watered by the river Meikhong, which has a course of nearly a thousand
miles; but its navigation, like that of the Meinam at its mouth, is
impeded by sand-banks. The smaller streams, Chantabun, Pet Rue, and Tha
Chang, all run into the Meikhong, which, mingling its waters with those
of the Meinam, flows through Chiengmai, receives the waters of
Phitsalok, and then, diverging by many channels, inundates the great
plain of Siam once every year, in the month of June. By the end of
August this entire region has become one vast sheet of water, so that
boats traverse it in every direction without injury to the young rice
springing up beneath them.

The climate of Siam is more or less hot according to the latitude; only
continual bathing can render it endurable. There are but two seasons,
the wet and the dry. As soon as the southwest monsoon sets in, masses of
spongy _cumuli_ gather on the summits of the western mountains, giving
rise to furious squalls about sunset, and dispersing in peals of thunder
and torrents of refreshing rain. From the beginning to the end of the
rainy season, this succession of phenomena is repeated every evening.
The monsoon from the north brings an excess of rain, and the thermometer
falls. With the return of the dry season the air becomes comparatively
cool, and most favorable to health; this continues from October to
January. The dews are extremely heavy in the months of March and April.
At dawn the atmosphere is impregnated with a thick fog, which, as the
sun rises, descends in dews so abundant that trees, plants, and grass
drip as from a recent shower of rain.

The population of Siam is still a matter of uncertainty; but it is
officially estimated at from six to seven millions of souls, comprising
Siamese or Thai-Malay, Laotians, Cambodians, Peguans, Kariens, Shans,
and Loas.

Siam produces enormous quantities of excellent rice, of which there are
forty distinct varieties; and her sugar is esteemed the best in the
world. Her rivers and lakes abound in fish, as well as in turtles and
aquatic birds. The exports are rice, sugar, cotton, tobacco, hemp,
cutch, fish (salted and dried), cocoanut oil, beeswax, dried fruits,
gamboge, cardamoms, betel-nuts, pepper, various gums and barks,
sapan-wood, eagle-wood, rosewood, krachee-wood, ebony, ivory, raw silk,
buffalo-hides, tiger-skins, armadillo-skins, elephants' tusks and bones,
rhinoceros bones, turtle-shells, peacocks' tails, bird's-nests,
king-fishers' feathers, &c.

The revenue arising from duties and tolls on imported and native produce
being mostly collected in kind, only a small part is converted into
specie; the rest is distributed in part payment of salaries to the
dependants of the court, whose name is legion. Princes of the blood
royal, high officers of state, provincial governors, and most of the
judges, receive grants of provinces, districts, villages, and farms, to
support their several dignities and reward their services; and the
rents, fees, fines, bribes, and sops of these assignments are collected
by them for their own behoof. Thus, to one man are given the fees, to
another the fines or bribes, which custom has attached to his functions;
to others are alloted offices, by virtue of which certain imposts are
levied; to this man the land; to another the waters of rivers and
canals; to a third the fruit-bearing trees. But money is distributed
with a niggard hand, and only once a year. Every officer of revenue is
permitted to pocket, and "charge to salary," a part of all that he
collects in taxes, fines, extortions, bribes, gifts, and "testimonials."

The rulers of Laos pay to the crown of Siam a tribute of gold and silver
"trees," rings set with gems, and chains of solid gold. The trees, which
appear to be composed entirely of the precious metals, are really
nothing more than cylinders and tubes of tin, substantially gilt or
plated, designed to represent the graceful clove-tree indigenous to that
part of the country; the leaves and blossoms, however, are of solid gold
and silver. Each tree is planted in an artificial gilt mound, and is
worth from five hundred to seven hundred ticals, while the chains and
rings are decorated with large and pure rubies.

The raw silk, elephants' tusks, and other rare products of Siam, are
highly prized by the Mohammedan traders, who compete one with another in
shipping them for the Bombay markets. They are usually put up at
auction; and, strange to say, the auctioneers are women of the royal
harem, the favorite concubines of the First King. The shrewd Moslem
broker, turning a longing eye upon the precious stores of the royal
warehouses, employs his wife, or a trusty slave, to approach this
Nourmahal or that Rose-in-bloom with presents, and promises of generous
premium to her whose influence shall procure for the bidder the
acceptance of his proposal. By a system of secret service peculiar to
these traders, the amount of the last offer is easily discovered, and
the new bidder "sees that" (if I may be permitted to amuse myself with
the phraseology of the Mississippi bluff-player) and "goes" a few ticals
"better." There are always several enterprising Stars of the Harem ready
to vary the monotony by engaging in this unromantic business; and the
agitation among the "sealed" sisterhood, though by no means boisterous,
is lively, though all have tact to appear indifferent in the presence of
their awful lord. The meagreness of the royal allowance of pin-money is
the consideration that renders the prize important in the eyes of each
of the competitors; and yet it is strange, in all the feminine vanity
and vexation of spirit that the occasion engenders, how little of
jealous bitterness and heartburning is directed against the lucky lady.
The competitors agree upon a favorable opportunity to present the
tenders of their respective clients to his Majesty. Each selecting the
most costly and attractive of her bribes, and displaying them to
advantage on a tray of gold, lays the written bid on the top; or with a
shrewd device of the maternal instinct, so fertile in pretty tricks of
artfulness, places it in the hands of a pet child, who is taught to
present it winningly as the king descends to his midday meal. The
attention of his Majesty is attracted by the display of showy toys; he
deigns to inquire as to the donors; the "sealed proposals" are
respectfully, and doubtless with more or less coquetry, pressed upon
him; and the matter is then and there concluded, almost invariably in
favor of the highest bidder. This semi-romantic mode of traffic was
gravely encouraged by his late Majesty, for the benefit of his favorites
of the harem; and great store of produce, of the finer varieties, was
thus disposed of in the palace.

The poll-tax on the Chinese, levied once in three years, is paid in
bullion.

The annual income of the public treasury rarely exceeds the outgo; but
whatever the state of the exchequer, and of the funds reserved for the
service of the state, the personal resources of the monarch are always
most abundant. Nor do the great sums lavished upon his favorites and
children deplete, in any respect, his vast treasures, because they are
all supported by grants of land, monopolies of market, special taxes,
tithes, _douceurs_, and other patrimonial or tributary provisions. A
certain emolument is also derived from the valuable mines of the
country, though, poorly worked as they are, but small importance has as
yet been ascribed to these as a source of revenue; yet the gold of
Bhangtaphan is esteemed the purest and most ductile in the world. Beside
mines of iron, antimony, gold, and silver, there are quarries of white
marble. The extraordinary number of idols and works of art cast in metal
seems to indicate that these mines were once largely worked; and it is
believed that the vast quantities of gold which for centuries has been
consumed in the construction of images and the adornment of temples,
pagodas, and palaces, were drawn from them. The country abounds in pits,
bearing marks of great age; and there are also remains of many furnaces,
which are said to have been abandoned in the wars with Pegu. Mineral
springs--copious and, no doubt, valuable--are numerous in some parts of
the country.

The exports of Siam are various and profitable; and of the raw
materials, teak timber is entitled to the first consideration. The
domestic consumption of this most useful wood in the construction of
dwellings, sacred edifices, ships, and boats, is enormous; yet the
forests traversed by the great rivers seem inexhaustible, and the supply
continues so abundant that the variations in the price are very slight.
The advantage the country must derive from her extensive commerce in a
commodity so valuable may hardly be overrated.

Next in importance are the native sugars, rice, cotton, and silk, which
find their way in large quantities to the markets of China and
Hindostan. Among other articles of crude produce may be mentioned ivory
[Footnote: In Siam reserved as a royal appropriation.] (a single fine
tusk being often valued at five thousand dollars), wax, lead, copper,
tin, amber, indigo, tobacco, honey, and bird's-nests. There are also
precious stones of several varieties, and the famous gold of
Bhangtaphan. Forty different kinds of rice are named, but these may
properly be reduced to four classes, the Common or table, the
Small-grained or mountain, the Glutinous, and the Vermilion rice. From
the glutinous rice arrack is distilled. The areca, or pinang-nut, and
the betel, are used almost universally, chewed with lime, the
lime,--being dyed with turmeric, which imparts to it a rich vermilion
tint; the areca-nut is also used in dying cotton thread.

The characteristic traits of the Siamese Court are _hauteur_, insolent
indifference, and ostentation, the natural features and expression of
tyranny; and every artifice that power and opulence can devise is
employed to inspire the minds of the common people with trembling awe
and devout veneration for their sovereign master. Though the late
Supreme King wisely reformed certain of the stunning customs of the
court with more modest innovations, nevertheless he rarely went abroad
without extravagant display, especially in his annual visitations to the
temples. These were performed in a style studiously contrived to strike
the beholder with astonishment and admiration.

The royal state barge, one hundred cubits long, beside being elaborately
carved, and inlaid with bits of crystal, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, and
jade, is richly enamelled and gilt. The stem, which rises ten or eleven
feet from the bows, represents the _nagha mustakha sapta_, the
seven-headed serpent or alligator. A phrasat, or elevated throne (also
termed _p'hra-the-nang_), occupies the centre, supported by four
pillars. The extraordinary beauty of the inlaying of shells,
mother-of-pearl, crystal, and precious stones of every color, the
splendor of the gilding, and the elegance of the costly kinkob curtains
with which it is hung, combine to render this one of the most striking
and beautiful objects to be seen on the Meinam. The barge is usually
manned by one hundred and fifty men, their paddles gilt and
silver-tipped.

[Illustration: A ROYAL BARGE]

This government reproduces, in many of its shows of power, pride, and
ostentation, a _tableau vivant_ of European rule in the darker ages,
when, on the decline of Roman dominance, the principles of feudal
dependence were established by barbarians from the North. Under such a
system, it is impossible to ascertain, or to represent by any standards
of currency, the amount of the royal revenues and treasures. But it is
known that the riches of the Siamese monarch are immense, and that a
magnificent share of the legal plunder drawn into the royal treasury is
sunk there, and never returns into circulation again. The hoarding of
money seems to be the cherished practice of all Oriental rulers, and
even a maxim of state policy; and that the general diffusion of property
among his subjects offers the only safe assurance of prosperity for
himself and stability for his throne is the last precept of prudence an
Asiatic monarch ever learns.

The armies of Siam are raised on the spur of the moment, as it were, for
any pressing emergency. When troops are to be called out, a royal
command, addressed to all viceroys and governors, requires them to raise
their respective quotas, and report to a commander-in-chief at a general
rendezvous. These recruits are clothed, equipped with arms and
ammunition, and "subsisted" with daily rations of rice, oil, etc., but
are not otherwise paid. The small standing army, which serves as the
nucleus upon which these irregulars are gathered and formed, consists of
infantry, cavalry, elephant-riders, archers, and private body-guards,
paid at the rate of from five to ten dollars a month, with clothing and
rations. The infantry are armed with muskets and sabres; the cavalry,
with bows and arrows as well as spears; but the spear, which is from six
to seven feet long, is the favorite weapon of this arm of the service,
and they handle it with astonishing dexterity. The king's private
body-guards are well paid, clothed, and quartered, having their stations
and barracks within the palace walls and near the most attractive
streets and avenues, while other troops are lodged outside.

It is customary to detain the families of conscripts in the districts to
which they belong, as prisoners on parole,--hostages for the good
conduct of their young men in the army; and for the desertion or
treachery of the soldier, his wife or children, mother or sisters, as
the case may be, are tortured, or even executed, without compunction or
remorse. The long and peaceful reign of the late king, however, has
almost effaced from the minds of the youth of Siam the remembrance of
such monstrous oppressions.

The Siamese are but indifferent sailors, their nautical excursions being
mainly confined to short coasting trips, or boating in safe and familiar
channels. The more adventurous export trade is carried on almost wholly
by foreigners. About one thousand war-boats constitute the bulk of the
navy. These are constructed from the solid bole of the teak-tree,
excavated partly with fire, partly with the adze; and, while they are
commonly from eighty to a hundred feet long, the breadth rarely exceeds
eight or nine feet, though the apparent width is increased by the
addition of a sort of light gallery. They are made to carry fifty or
sixty rowers, with short oars working on a pivot. The prow, which is
solid, has a flat terrace, on which, for the king's up-country
excursions, they mount a small field-piece, a nine or a twelve pounder.
There are also several men-of-war belonging to the government, built by
European engineers.

The number of vessels in the merchant marine cannot be great. Dwelling
so long in peace and security at home, the tastes and the energies of
the Siamese people have been confirmed, by their political
circumstances, in that inclination toward agricultural rather than
commercial pursuits which their geographical conditions naturally
engender. The extreme fertility of the soil, watered by innumerable
streams, and intersected in every direction by a network of capacious
canals (of which the Klong Yai, Klong Bangkok-noi, and Klong P'hra-
cha-dee, are the most remarkable); the generating heats of the climate;
the teeming plains of the upper provinces, bulwarked by mighty
mountains; and, above all, that magnificent mother, the Meinam, winding
in her beauty and bounty through a vast and lovely vale to the sea, in
her course subjecting all things to the enriching and adorning influence
of her touch,--all combine by their irresistible inducements to
determine the native to the tilling of the ground.

Nothing can be more delightful than an excursion through the country
immediately after the subsidence of the floods. Then nature is draped in
hues as charming as they are various, from the palest olive to the
liveliest green; broad fields wave with tall golden spires of grain, or
are dotted with tufted sheaves heavy with generous crops; the refreshed
air is perfumed with the fragrance of the orange, lemon, citron, and
other tropical fruits and flowers; and on every side the landscape is a
scene of lovely meadows, alive with flocks and herds, and busy with
herdsmen, husbandmen, and gardeners.

The most considerable of the many canals by which communication is
maintained with all parts of the country is Klong Yai, the Great Canal,
supposed to have been begun in the reign of Phya Tâk. It is nearly a
hundred cubits deep, twenty Siamese fathoms broad, and forty miles long.
Bangkok has been aptly styled "the Venice of the Orient"; for not only
the villages thickly studding the banks of the Meinam, but the remoter
hamlets as well, even to the confines of the kingdom, have each its own
canals. In fact, the lands annually inundated by the Mother of Waters
are so extensive, and for the most part lie so low, and the number of
water-ducts, natural and artificial, is so great, that of all the
torrents that descend upon the country in the months of June, July, and
August (when the whole land is as a sea, in which towns and villages
show like docks connected by drawbridges, with little islets between of
groves and orchards, whose tops alone are visible), not a tithe ever
returns to the ocean.

The modern bridges of Siam, which are mostly of iron in the European
style, are made to be drawn for the passage of the King's barge, since
the royal head may not without desecration pass under anything trodden
by the foot of man. The more ancient bridges, however, are of stone and
brick; and here and there are strange artificial lakes, partly filled up
with the debris of temples that once stood on their banks. Of roads
there are but few that are good, and all are of comparatively recent
construction.



XXIX. THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA.--AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT.



[Footnote: The Cambodian was, without doubt, in its day, one of the most
powerful of the empires of the East. As to its antiquity, two opinions
prevail,--one ascribing to it a duration of 1,300 years, the other of
2,400. The native historians reckon 2,400 years from the building of the
Naghkon Watt, or Naghkon Ongkhoor; but this computation, not agreeing
with the mythological traditions of the country, which date from the
Year of the World 205, is not accepted as authentic by the more learned
Cambodians.]


Our journey from Bangkok to Kabin derived its memorable interest from
those features and feelings which join to compose the characteristic
romance of Eastern travel by unhackneyed ways,--the wild freedom of the
plain, the tortuous, suspicious mountain track, the tangled jungle, the
bewildering wastes and glooms of an unexplored region, with their
suggestions of peril and adventure, and especially that glorious
participation in the enlargement and liberty of an Eastern wanderer's
life which these afford. Once you begin to feel that, you will be happy,
whether on an elephant or in a buffalo-cart,--the very privations and
perils including a charm of excitement all unknown to the formal
European tourist.

The rainbow mists of morning still lay low on the plain, as yet unlifted
by the breeze that, laden with odor and song, gently rocked the higher
branches in the forest, as our elephants pressed on, heavily but almost
noiselessly, over a parti-colored carpet of wild-flowers. Strange birds
darted from bough to bough among the wild myrtles and limes, and great
green and golden lizards gleamed through the shrubbery as we approached
Siemrâp.

The more extensive and remarkable ruins of Cambodia seem concentrated in
this part of the country, though they are by no means confined to it,
but are found widely scattered over the neighboring territories.

From Sisuphon we diverged in a northeasterly direction, and at evening
found ourselves in the quaint, antique town of Phanomsôk, half ruined
and deserted, where the remains of a magnificent palace can still be
traced.

The country between Cambodia and Siam is an inclined plane falling off
to the sea, beginning from the Khoa Don Rèke, or highlands of Korat,
which constitutes the first platform of the terraces that gradually
ascend to the mountain chain of Laos, and thence to the stupendous
Himalayas.

Khoa Don Rèke ("the Mountain, which Bears on the Shoulders," the
Cambodian Atlas) includes in its domain the Dong Phya Fai ("Forest of
the Lord of Fire"), whence many tributary streams flow into the
beautiful Pachim River.

At sunrise next morning we resumed our journey, and after a long day of
toiling through treacherous marshes and tangled brushwood came at sunset
upon an object whose presence there was a wonder, and its past a
puzzle,--a ridge or embankment of ten or twelve feet elevation, which,
to our astonishment, ran high and dry through the swampy lowlands. In
the heart of an interminable forest it stretches along one side of the
tangled trail, in some places walling it in, at others crossing it at
right angles; now suddenly diving into the depths of the forest, now
reappearing afar off, as if to mock our cautious progress, and invite us
to follow it. The eye, wistfully pursuing its eccentric sweep, suddenly
loses it in impenetrable shadows. There is not a vestige of any other
ruin near it, and the long lines it here and there shows, ghostly white
in the moonlight, seem like spectral strands of sand.

Our guides tell us this isolated ridge was once the great highway of
ancient Cambodia, that it can be traced from the neighborhood of Nohk
Burree to Naghkon Watt, and thence to the very heart of Cochin China;
and one assures us that no man has ever seen the end of it.

So on we went, winding our devious way over pathless ground, now diving
into shady valleys, now mounting to sunny eminences where the breeze
blew free and the eye could range far and wide, but not to find aught
that was human. Gradually the flowering shrubs forsook us, and dark
forest trees pressed grimly around, as we traversed the noble stone
bridges that those grand old Cambodians loved to build over
comparatively insignificant streams. The moon, touching with fantastic
light the crumbling arches and imparting a charm of illusion to the
scene, the clear spangled sky, the startling voices of the night, and
the influence of the unknown, the mysterious, and the weird, overcame us
like a dream. Truly there is naught of the commonplace or vulgar in this
land of ruins and legends, and the foretaste of the wonders we were
about to behold met our view in the great bridges.

Taphan Hin ("the Stone Bridge") and the finer and more artistic Taphan
Thevadah ("the Angel's Bridge") are both imposing works. Arches, still
resting firmly on their foundations, buttressed by fifty great pillars
of stone, sup-port a structure about five hundred feet long and eighty
broad. The road-bed of these bridges is formed of immense blocks or
beams of stone, laid one upon another, and so adjusted that their very
weight serves to keep the arches firm.

In a clearing in the forest, near a rivulet called by the Cambodians
_Sthieng Sinn_ ("Sufficient to our Need"), we encamped; and, having
rested and supped, again followed our guides over the foaming stream,
and recrossed the Stone Bridge on foot, marvelling at the work of a race
of whose existence the Western nations know nothing, who have no name in
history, yet who builded in a style surpassing in boldness of
conception, grandeur of proportions, and delicacy of design, the best
works of the modern world,--stupendous, beautiful, enduring!

The material is mostly freestone, but a flinty conglomerate appears
wherever the work is exposed to the action of the water.

Formerly a fine balustrade crowned the bridge on both sides, but it has
been broken down. The ornamental parts of these massive structures seem
to have been the only portions the invading vandals of the time could
destroy.

The remains of the balustrade show that it consisted of a series of long
quarry stones, on the ridges of which caryatidian pillars, representing
the seven-headed serpent, supported other slabs grooved along the rim
to receive semi-convex stones with arabesque sculptures, affording a
hint of ancient Cambodian art.

On the left bank we found the remains of a staircase leading down to the
water, not far from a spot where a temple formerly stood.

Next morning we crossed the Taphan Teph, or Heavenly Bridge,--like the
Taphan Hin and the Taphan Thevadah a work of almost superhuman magnitude
and solidity.

Leaving the bridges, our native pilots turned off from the ancient
causeway to grope through narrow miry paths in the jungle.

On the afternoon of the same day we arrived at another stone bridge,
over the Paleng River. This, according to our guides, was abandoned by
the builders, because the country was invaded by the hostile hordes who
destroyed Naghkon Watt. Slowly crumbling among the wild plantains and
the pagan lotoses and lilies, these bridges seem to constitute the sole
memorial, in the midst of that enchanting desolation, of a once proud
and populous capital.

From the Paleng River, limpid and cheerful, a day's journey brought us
to the town of Siemrâp; and, after an unnecessary delay of several
hours, we started with lighter pockets for the ruins of Naghkon Watt.

Naghkon, or Ongkoor, is supposed to have been the royal city of the
ancient kingdom of Cambodia, or Khaimain, of which the only traditions
that remain describe in wild extravagances its boundless territory; its
princes without number who paid tribute in gold, silver, and precious
stuffs; its army of seventy thousand war elephants, two hundred thousand
horsemen, and nearly six millions of foot soldiers; and its royal
treasure-houses covering "three hundred miles of ground." In the heart
of this lonely region, in a district still bearing the name of Ongkoor,
and quite apart from the ruined temples that abound hard by, we found
architectural remains of such exceeding grandeur, with ruins of temples
and palaces which must have been raised at so vast a cost of labor and
treasure, that we were overwhelmed with astonishment and admiration.

What manner of people were these?

Whence came their civilization and their culture?

And why and whither did they disappear from among the nations of the
earth?

The site of the city is in itself unique. Chosen originally for the
strength of its position, it yet presents none of the features which
should mark the metropolis of a powerful people. It seems to stand aloof
from the world, exempt from its passions and aspirations, and shunning
even its thrift. Confronting us with its towering portal, overlaid with
colossal hieroglyphics, the majestic ruin, of the watt stands like a
petrified dream of some Michael Angelo of the giants--more impressive in
its loneliness, more elegant and animated in its grace, than aught that
Greece and Home have left us, and addressing us with a significance all
the sadder and more solemn for the desolation and barbarism which
surround it.

Unhappily, the shocks of war, seconding the slowly grinding mills of
time, have left but few of these noble monuments; and slowly, but
ruthlessly, the work of destruction and decay goes on.

Vainly may we seek for any chronicle of the long line of monarchs who
must have swayed the sceptre of the once powerful empire of Maha
Naghkon. Only a vague tradition has come down, of a celestial prince to
whom the fame of founding the great temple is supposed to belong; and of
an Egyptian king, who, for his sacrilege, was changed into a leper. An
interesting statue, representing the latter, still stands in one of the
corridors,--somewhat mutilated, but sufficiently well preserved to
display a marked contrast to the physical type of the present race of
Cambodians.

The inscriptions with which some of the columns are covered are
illegible; and if you question the natives as to the origin of Naghkon
Watt, they will tell you that it was the work of the Leper King, or of
P'hra-Inn-Suen, King of Heaven, or of giants, or that "it made itself."

These magnificent edifices seem to have been designed for places of
worship rather than of royal habitation, for nearly all are Buddhist
temples.

The statues and sculptures on the walls of the outer corridor are in
alto relievo, and generally life-size. The statue of the Leper King, set
up in a sort of pavilion, is moderately colossal, and is seated in a
tranquil and noble attitude; the head especially is a masterpiece, the
features being classic and of manly beauty.

Approaching the temple of Ongkoor, the most beautiful and best preserved
of these glorious remains, the traveller is compensated with full
measure of wonder and delight for all the fatigues and hardships of his
journey. Complete as is the desolation, a strange air of luxury hangs
over all, as though the golden glow of sunshine amid the refreshing
gloom were for the glory and the ease of kings.

At each angle of the temple are two enormous lions, hewn, pedestal and
all, from a single block. A flight of stone steps leads up to the first
platform of terraces. To reach the main entrance from the north
staircase we traverse a noble causeway, which midway crosses a deep and
wide moat that seems to surround the building.

The main entrance is by a long gallery, having a superb central tower,
with two others of less height on each side. The portico of each of the
three principal towers is formed by four projecting columns, with a
spacious staircase between. At either extremity are similar porticos,
and beyond these is a very lofty door, or gateway, covered with gigantic
hieroglyphs, where gods and warriors hang as if self-supported between
earth and sky. Then come groves of columns that in girth and height
might rival the noblest oaks. Every pillar and every part of the wall is
so crowded with sculptures that the whole temple seems hung with
petrified tapestry.

On the west side, the long gallery is flanked by two rows of almost
square columns. The blank windows are cut out of the wall, and finished
with stone railings or balconies of curiously twisted columns; and the
different compartments are equally covered with sculptures of subjects
taken from the Ramayâna. Here are Lakshman and Hanuman leading their
warriors against Rawana,--some with ten heads, others with many arms.
The monkeys are building the stone bridge over the sea. Rama is seen
imploring the aid of the celestial protector, who sits on high, in grand
and dreamy contemplation. Rama's father is challenging the enemy, while
Rawana is engaged in combat with the leader of the many-wheeled
chariots. There are many other figures of eight-handed deities; and all
are represented with marvellous skill in grouping and action.

[Illustration: Ruins of the Naghkon Watt.]

The entire structure is roofed with tiers of hewn stone, which is also
sculptured; and remains of a ceiling may still be traced. The
symmetrical wings terminate in three spacious pavilions and this
imposing colonnade, which, by its great length, height, and harmonious
proportions, is conspicuous from a great distance, and forms an
appropriate vestibule to so grand a temple.

Traversing the building, we cross another and finer causeway, formed of
great blocks of stone carefully joined, and bordered with a handsome
balustrade, partly in ruins, very massive, and covered with sculptures.

On either side are six great platforms, with flights of steps; and on
each we find remains of the seven-headed serpent,--in some parts
mutilated, but on the whole sufficiently preserved to show distinctly
the several heads, some erect as if guarding the entrance, others drawn
back in a threatening attitude. A smaller specimen is nearly perfect and
very beautiful.

We passed into an adytum, wardered by gigantic effigies whose mystic
forms we could hardly trace; above us that ponderous roof, tier on tier
of solid stone, upheld by enormous columns, and incrusted with strange
carvings. Everywhere we found fresh objects of wonder, and each new
spot, as we explored it, seemed the greatest wonder of all.

In the centre of the causeway are two elegant pavilions with porticos;
and at the foot of the terrace we come upon two artificial lakes, which
in the dry season must be supplied either by means of a subterranean
aqueduct or by everlasting springs.

A balustrade not unlike that of the causeway, erected upon a sculptured
basement, starts from the foot of the terrace and runs quite round the
temple, with arms, or branches, descending at regular intervals.

The terrace opens into a grand court, crowded with a forest of
magnificent columns with capitals, each hewn from a single block of
stone. The basement, like every other part of the building, is
ornamented in varied and animated styles; and every slab of the vast
pile is covered with exquisite carvings representing the lotos, the
lily, and the rose, with arabesques wrought with the chisel with
astonishing taste and skill. The porticos are supported by sculptured
columns; and the terraces, which form a cross, have three flights of
steps, at each of which are four colossal lions, reclining upon
pedestals.

The temple is thus seen to consist of three distinct parts, raised in
terraces one above the other. The central tower of the five within the
inner circle forms an octagon, with four larger and four smaller sides.
On each of the four larger faces is a colossal figure of Buddha, which
overlooks from its eminence the surrounding country.

This combination of four Buddhas occurs frequently among the ruins of
Cambodia. The natives call it _P'hra Mook Bulu_ ("Lord of Four Faces"),
though not only the face, but the whole body, is fourfold.

A four-faced god of majestic proportions presides over the principal
entrance to the temple, and is called Bhrama, or, by corruption,
_Phrâm_, signifying divine protection.

As the four cardinal points of the horizon naturally form a cross,
called "phram," so we invariably find the cross in the plan of these
religious monuments of ancient Cambodia, and even in the corridors,
intersecting each other at right angles. [Footnote: The cross is the
distinctive character and sign for the Doctors of Reason in the
primitive Buddhism of Kasyapa.] These corridors are roofed with great
blocks of stone, projecting over each other so as to form an arch, and,
though laid without cement, so accurately adjusted as to leave scarcely
a trace of the joinings. The galleries of the temple also form a
rectangle. The ceilings are vaulted, and the roofs supported by double
rows of columns, cut from a single block.

There are five staircases on the west side, five on the east, and three
on each of the remaining sides. Each of the porticos has three distinct
roofs raised one above the other, thus nobly contributing to the
monumental effect of the architecture.

In some of the compartments the entire space is occupied with
representations of the struggle between angels and giants for possession
of the snake-god, Sarpa-deva, more commonly called _Phya Naghk_. The
angels are seen dragging the seven-headed monster by the tail, while the
giants hold fast by the heads. In the midst is Vishnu, riding on the
world-supporting turtle.

The most interesting of all the sculptures at Naghkon Watt are those
that appear to represent a procession of warriors, some on foot, others
mounted on horses, tigers, birds, and nondescript creatures, each chief
on an elephant at the head of his followers. I counted more than a
thousand figures in one compartment, and observed with admiration that
the artist had succeeded in portraying the different races in all their
physical characteristics, from the flat-nosed savage, and the
short-haired and broad-faced Laotian, to the more classic profile of the
Rajpoot, armed with sword and shield, and the bearded Moor. A panorama
in life-size of the diverse nationalities, it yet displays, in the
physical conformation of each race, a remarkable predominance of the
Hellenic type--not in the features and profiles alone, but equally in
the fine attitudes of the warriors and horsemen.

The bass-reliefs of another peristyle represent a combat between the
king of apes and the king of angels, and if not the death, at least the
defeat, of the former. On an adjoining slab is a boat filled with
stalwart rowers with long beards,--a group very admirable in attitude
and expression. In fact, it is in these bass-reliefs that the greatest
delicacy of touch and the finest finish are manifest.

On the south side we found representations of an ancient military
procession. The natives interpret these as three connected allegories,
symbolizing heaven, earth, and hell; but it is more probable that they
record the history of the methods by which the savage tribes were
reclaimed by the colonizing foreigners, and that they have an intimate
connection with the founding of these monuments.

One compartment represents an ovation: certain personages are seen
seated on a dais, surrounded by many women, with caskets and fans in
their hands, while the men bring flowers and bear children in their
arms.

In another place, those who have rejected the new religion and its
priests are precipitated into a pit of perdition, in the midst of which
sits the judge, with his executioners, with swords in their hands, while
the guilty are dragged before him by the hair and feet. In the distance
is a furnace, and another crowd of "infidels" under punishment. But the
converted (the "born again") are conducted into palaces, which are
represented on the upper compartments. In these happier figures the
features as well as the attitudes denote profound repose, and in the
faces of many of the women and children one may trace lines of beauty
and tender grace.

[Illustration: Sculptures of the Naghkon Watt.]

On the east side a number of men, in groups on either hand, are in the
act of dragging in contrary directions the great seven-headed dragon.
One mighty angel watches the struggle with interest, while many lesser
angels float overhead. Below is a great lake or ocean, in which are
fishes, aquatic animals, and sea-monsters.

On another panel an angel is seated on a mountain (probably Mount Meru),
and other angels, with several heads, assist or encourage those who are
contending for possession of the serpent. To the right are another
triumphal procession and a battle scene, with warriors mounted on
elephants, unicorns, griffins, eagles with peacocks' tails, and other
fabulous creatures, while winged dragons draw the chariots.

On the north side is another battle-piece, the most conspicuous figure
being that of a chief mounted on the shoulders of a giant, who holds in
each hand the foot of another fighting giant. Near the middle of this
peristyle is a noble effigy of a royal conqueror, with long flowing
beard, attended by courtiers with hands clasped on their breasts. These
figures are all in _alto relievo_, and well executed.

The greater galleries are connected with two smaller ones, which in turn
communicate with two colonnades in the form of a cross; the roofs of
these are vaulted. Four rows of square columns, each still hewn from a
single block, extend along the sides of the temple. These are covered
with statues and bass-reliefs, many of the former being in a state of
dilapidation which, considering the extreme hardness of the stone,
indicates great age, while others are true _chefs-d'oeuvre_.

The entire structure forms a square, and every part is admirable both in
general effect and detail. There are twelve superb staircases, the four
in the middle having from fifty to sixty steps, each step a single slab.
At each angle is a tower. The central tower, larger and higher than the
others, communicates with the lateral galleries by colonnades, covered,
like the galleries themselves with a double roof. Opposite each of the
twelve staircases is a portico with windows resembling in form and
dimensions those described above.

In front of each colonnade connected with the tower is a dark, narrow
chapel, to which there is an ascent of eight steps; each of these
chapels (which do not communicate with each other) contains a gigantic
idol, carved in the solid wall, and at its feet another, of the same
proportions, sleeping.

This mighty pile, the wondrous Naghkon Watt, is nearly three miles in
circumference; the walls are from seventy to eighty feet high, and
twenty feet thick.

We wandered in astonishment, and almost with awe, through labyrinths of
courts, cloisters, and chambers, encountering at every turn some new
marvel, unheard of, undreamed of, until then. Even the walls of the
outer courts were sculptured with whole histories of wars and conquests,
in forms that seemed to live and fight again. Prodigious in size and
number are the blocks of stone piled in those walls and towers. We
counted five thousand and three hundred _solid_ columns. What a mighty
host of builders must that have been! And what could have been their
engines and their means of transport, seeing that the mountains from
which the stone was quarried are nearly two days' journey from the
temple?

All the mouldings, sculptures, and bass-reliefs seem to to have been
executed after the walls and pillars were in their places; and
everywhere the stones are fitted together in a manner so perfect that
the joinings are not easy to find. There is neither mortar nor mark of
the chisel; the surfaces are as smooth as polished marble.

On a fallen column, under a lofty and most beautiful arch, we sat, and
rested our weary, excited eyes on the wild but quiet landscape below;
then slowly, reluctantly departed, feeling that the world contains no
monument more impressive, more inspiring, than, in its desolation, and
yet wondrous preservation, the temple of Maha Naghkon Watt.

Next morning our elephants bore us back to Siemrâp through an avenue of
colonnades similar to that by which we had come; and as we advanced we
could still descry other gates and pillars far in the distance, marking
the line of some ancient avenue to this amazing temple.



XXX. THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAUGKON

[Footnote: Translated from a MS. presented to the author by the Supreme
King of Siam.]


Many hundreds of thousands of years ago, when P'hra Atheitt, the
Sun-god, was nearer to earth than he is now, and the city of the gods
could be seen with mortal eyes,--when the celestial sovereigns, P'hra
Indara and P'hra Insawara, came down from Meru, the sacred mountain, to
hold high converse with mortal kings, sages, and heroes,--when the moon
and the stars brought tidings of good-will to men, and wisdom
flourished, love and happiness were spread abroad, and sorrow,
suffering, disease, old age, and death were almost banished,--there
lived in Thaisiampois a mighty monarch whose years could hardly be
numbered, so many were they and so long. And yet he was not old; such
were the warmth and strength and vigor imparted by the near glories of
the P'hra Atheitt, that the span of human life was lengthened unto a
thousand, and even fifteen hundred years. The days of the King Sudarsana
had been prolonged beyond those of the oldest of his predecessors, for
the sake of his exceeding wisdom and goodness. But yet this King was
troubled; he had no son, and the thought of dying without leaving behind
him one worthy to represent his name and race was grievous to him. So,
by the advice of the wise men of his kingdom, he caused prayers and
offerings to be made in all the temples, and took to wife the beautiful
Princess Thawadee.

At that very time P'hra Indara, ruler of the highest heaven, dreamed a
dream; and behold! in his sleep a costly jewel fell from his mouth to
the lower earth; whereat P'hra Indara was troubled. Assembling all the
hosts of heaven, the angels, and the genii, he showed them his dream,
but they could not interpret it. Last of all, he told it to his seven
sons; but from them likewise its meaning was hidden. A second time P'hra
Indara dreamed, and yet a third time, that a more and more costly jewel
had fallen from his lips; and at last, when he awoke, the interpretation
was revealed to his own thought,--that one of his sons should condescend
to the form of humanity, and dwell on the earth, and be a great teacher
of men.

Then the King of Heaven imparted to the celestial princes the meaning of
the threefold vision, and demanded which of them would consent to become
man.

The divine princes heard, and answered not a word; till the youngest and
best-beloved of Heaven opened his lips and spake, saying: "Hear, O my
Lord and Father! I have yearned toward the race thou hast created out of
the fire and flame of thy breast and the smoke of thy nostrils. Let me
go unto them, that I may teach them the wisdom of truth."

Then P'hra Indara gave him leave to depart on his mission of love; and
all the hosts of heaven, knowing that he should never more gladden their
hearts with his presence, accompanied him, sorrowful, to the foot of
Mount Meru; and immediately a blazing star shot from the mount, and
burst over the palace of Thaisiampois.

That night the gracious Princess Thawadee conceived and became with
child, and the P'hra Somannass was no longer a prince of the highest
heaven.

The Princess Thawadee had been the only and darling daughter of a mighty
king, and still mourned her separation from her beloved sire. Her only
solace was to sit in the phrasat of the Grand Palace, and look with
longing toward her early home. Here, day after day, she sat with her
maidens, weaving flowers, and singing low the songs of her childhood.
When this became known abroad among the multitude, they gathered from
every side to behold one so famed for her goodness and beauty.

Thus by degrees her interest was aroused. She became thoughtful for her
people, and presently found happiness in dispensing food, raiment, and
comfort to the poor who flocked to see her.

One day, as she was reposing in the porch after her customary
benefactions, a cloud of birds, flying eastward, fell dead as they
passed over the phrasat. The sages and soothsayers of the court were
terrified. What might the omen be? Long and anxious were their counsels,
and grievous their perturbations one with another; until at last an aged
warrior, who had conquered many armies and subjugated kingdoms,
declaring that as faithful servants they should lay the weighty matter
before their lord, bade all the court follow him, and approached his
sovereign, saying:--

"Long live P'hra Chow P'hra Sudarsana, lord and king of our happy land,
wherefrom sorrow and suffering and death are wellnigh banished! Let him
investigate with a true spirit and a clear mind the matter we bring for
judgment, even though it be to the tearing out of his own heart and
casting it away from him."

"Speak," said the King, "and fear not! Has it ever been thought that
evil is dearer unto me than good? Even to the tearing out of my heart
and casting it to dogs shall justice be rendered in the land."

Then the sages, soothsayers, and warriors spake as with one voice: "It
is well known unto the lord our King, that the Queen, our lovely lady
Thawadee, is with child.

"But what manner of birth, is this that she has conceived, in that it
has already brought grief and death into the land? For as the Queen sat
in the porch of the temple, a great flight of birds that hastened,
thirsty, toward the valleys of the east, when they would have passed
over the phrasat were struck dead, as by an unseen spirit of mischief.
Let the King search this matter, and put away the strange thing of evil
out of our land, lest it make a greater sorrow."

When the King heard these words, he was sore smitten, and hung down his
head, and knew not what to say; for the Queen, so gentle and beautiful,
was very dear to him. But, remembering his royal word, he shook off his
grief and took counsel with his astrologers, who had foretold that the
unborn prince would prove either a glorious blessing or a dire curse to
the land. And now, by the awful omen of the birds, they declared that
the Queen had conceived the evil spirit Kala Mata, and that she must be
put to death, she and the fiend with her.

Then the King in council commanded that the sweet young Thawadee should
be set upon a floating raft, and given to the mercy of winds and waves.

But the brave chief who should have executed the sentence, overcome on
beholding her beauty and innocence, interceded for her with the council;
and it was finally decreed that, for pity's sake, and because the Queen
was unconscious of any evil, she should not be slain, but "put away,"
after the dreadful birth. To this the stricken monarch thankfully
agreed.

In due time the Queen was delivered of a male child, so beautiful that
it filled all beholders with delight. His eyes were as sunshine, his
forehead like the glow of the full moon, his lips like clustered roses,
and his cry like the melody of many instruments; and the Queen loved
him, and comforted herself with his beauty.

When the mother was strong again, the infant prince being then about a
month old, the sentence of the council was carried into effect, and the
poor princess and her child were banished forever from the beloved land
of Thaisiampois.

Clasping her baby to her breast, she went forth, terrified and stunned.
On and on, not knowing whither, she wandered, pressing her sleeping babe
to her bosom, and moaning to the great gods above.

Then P'hra Indara, king of highest heaven, came down to earth, assumed
the form and garb of a Bhramin, and followed her silently, shortening
the miles and smoothing the rough places, until she reached the bank of
a deep and rapid stream. Here, as she sat down, faint and foot-sore, to
nurse her babe, there came to her a grave and venerable pilgrim, who
gently questioned her sorrows and comforted her with thrilling words,
saying her child was born to bring peace and happiness to earth, and not
trouble and death.

Quickly Thawadee dried her tears, and consented to be led by the good
old man, who had come to her as if from heaven. From under his garment
he produced a shell filled with food from paradise, of which she partook
with ecstasy; and gave her to drink water from everlasting springs, that
overflowed her soul with perfect peace. Then he led her to a mountain,
and prepared in the cleft of a rock a hiding-place for her and her
child, and left her with a promise of quick return.

For fifty years she dwelt in the cave, knowing neither trouble nor
weariness nor hunger, nor any of the ills of life. The young Somannass,
as the good Bhramin had named him, grew to be a youth of wondrous
beauty. The melody of his voice tamed the wild creatures of the forest,
and charmed even the seven-headed dragons of the lake in which his
mother bathed him every morning. Then again P'hra Indara appeared to
them in the form and garb of the aged Bhramin; and he rejoiced in the
strength and beauty of the young Somannass, and his heart yearned after
his beloved son. But, hiding his emotion, he held pleasant converse with
the Queen, and begged to be permitted to take the boy away with him for
a season. She consented; and instantly, as in a flash of lightning, he
transported the prince into the highest heaven, and Somannass found
himself seated on a glorious throne by the side of P'hra Indara the
Divine, before whom the hosts of heaven bowed in homage.

Here he was initiated in all the mysteries of life and death, with all
wisdom and foresight. His celestial royal father showed him the stars
coursing hither and thither on their errands of love and mercy; showed
him comets with tails of fire flashing and whizzing through the
centuries, spreading confusion and havoc in their path; showed him the
spirits of rebellion and crime transfixed by the spears of the
Omnipotent. He heard the music of the spheres, he tasted heavenly food,
and drank of the river that flows from the footstool of the Most
Highest.

And so he forgot the forlorn Queen, his mother, and desired to return to
earth no more.

Then P'hra Indara laid his hand upon the brow of the lad, and showed him
the generations yet to come, rejoicing in his prayers and precepts; and
Somannass, beholding, stretched his arms to the earth again. And P'hra
Indara promised to build him a palace hardly less grand and fair than
the heavenly abode, a temple which should be the wonder of the world, a
stupendous and everlasting monument of his love to men.

So Somannass returned to the Queen, his mother; and P'hra Indara sent
down myriads of angels, with Phya Kralewana, chief of angels, to build a
dwelling fit for the heavenly prince. In one night it was done, and the
rising sun shone on domes like worlds and walls like armies. And because
the seven-headed serpent, Phya Naghk, had shown the way to the mines of
gold and silver and iron, and the quarries of marble and granite, the
grateful builders laid the sign of the serpent on the foundations,
terraces, and bridges; but on the walls they left the effigy of the
Queen Thawadee, the beautiful and bountiful lady.

Then swift-winged angels flew to heaven, and, returning, brought fruits
and flowers the most curious and exquisite; and immediately there
bloomed a garden there, of such ravishing loveliness and perfume that
the gods themselves delighted to visit it. Also they filled the great
stables with white elephants and chargers. And then the angels
transported Thawadee and Somannass to their new abode, the fame of which
was so spread abroad that the great King Sudarsana, with all his court,
and followers without number, and all his army, came to see it. And
great was their astonishment to find again the fair and gentle Thawadee,
who thus was reunited to her husband; and he took up his abode with her,
and they lived together in love.

But the Prince Somannass built temples, and preached, and taught the
people, and healed their infirmities, and led them in the paths of
virtue and truth.

And the fame of his wisdom and goodness flew through all the lands, so
that many kings became willing vassals unto him; but there came from a
far-off country, where the heavens drop no rain, but where one great
river suddenly floods the plains and then shrinks back into itself like
a living thing, a king of lofty stature and exceeding craft. And the
Prince Somannass was gracious toward him, and showed him many favors.
But his heart was black and bad, and he would have turned the pure heart
of the prince to worship the dragon and other beasts; wherefore
Somannass changed him into a leper, and cast him out of his palace, and
caused a stone statue to be made of him, which stands to this day, a
warning to all tempters and evil-doers. And he caused the face of the
great P'hra Indara to be carved on the north and on the south and on the
east and on the west--so that all men might know the true God, who is
God alone in heaven, Sevarg-Savan!





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