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Full text of "The English governess at the Siamese court : being recollections of six years in the royal palace at Bangkok"

GIFT OF 








THE SUPREME KING 






THE 



ENGLISH GOVERNESS 



AT 



THE SIAMESE COURT: 

BEING 

RECOLLECTIONS OF SIX YEARS IN THE ROYAL 
PALACE AT BANGKOK. 



ANNA HARRIETTS LEONOWENS. 

M 



itl) Illustration*, 



FROM PHOTOGRAPHS PRESENTED TO THE AUTHOR BY THE 
KING OF SIAM. 



BOSTON: 

FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO. 
1870. 



t) 












Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, 

BY FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO., 
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & Co. 

CAMBRIDGE. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



I. THE SUPREME KING Frontispiece. 

II. THE PRIME MINISTER .... . Page H 

III. THE TEMPLE OF THE SLEEPING IDOL .... 49 

IV. THE BEAUTIFUL GATE OF THE TEMPLE ... 52 
V. A PUPIL OF THE ROYAL SCHOOL 78 

VI. PRESENTATION OF A PRINCESS ..... 102 

VII. GATEWAY OF THE OLD PALACE 129 

VIII. A WAR ELEPHANT 140 

IX. THE HEIR-APPARENT 154 

X. SIAMESE ACTOR AND ACTRESS 176 

XL SPIRE OF THE TEMPLE WATT-POH .... 180 

XII. PRIESTS AT BREAKFAST 203 

XIII. THE PRINCESS OF CHIENGMAI 223 

XIV. A ROYAL BARGE . 295 

XV. RUINS OF THE NAGHKON WATT. (Double.) . . . 306 

XVI. SCULPTURES OF THE NAGHKON WATT. (Double.) . 310 



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 appre 
ciation 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 ten 
derly 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 hap 
piness 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. 



"T j~TS Majesty, Somdetch P hra Paramendr Maha 
-* *- Mongkut, the Supreme King of Siam, having sent 
to Singapore for an English lady to undertake the educa 
tion 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 re- 
ilected upon it the more feasible it appeared, until at 
length I began to look forward, even with a glow of en 
thusiasm, 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. 
GIIAND 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 



VI PREFACE. 

(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 arrange 
ment 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 en 
terprise in which I was embarking. Though it was now 
too late to deter me from the undertaking by any argu 
ments 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 



PREFACE. Vll 

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 thank 
ful 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 cor 
rupt 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 enlighten 
ment, 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. E. 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. 



Vlll PKEFACE. 

And finally, I would acknowledge the deep obligation 
I am under to Dr. J. W. Palmer, whose literary experi 
ence and skill have been of so great service to me in re 
vising and preparing my manuscript for the press. 

A. H. L. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

I. ON THE THRESHOLD . . . . . . . 1 

II. A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME . . . . 14 

III. A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY 25 

IV. His EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET . .42 

V. THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING AND THE EMERALD 

IDOLS 49 

VI. THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS .... 54 
VII. MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS .... 67 

VIII. OUR HOME IN BANGKOK 73 

IX. OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE 78 

X. MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL ... 88 

XI. THE WAYS OF THE PALACE . . . ... 93 

XII. SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM . . 102 

XIII. FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING 116 

XIV. AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING . . . . 125 
XV. THE CITY OF BANGKOK 129 

XVI. THE WHITE ELEPHANT . . . . . .140 

XVII. THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION . . . . 146 

XVIII. THE QUEEN CONSORT 151 

XIX. THE HEIR-APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING . 154 

XX. AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT 167 

XXI. SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART . . . . 175 



X CONTENTS. 

XXII. BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP . .183 

XXIII. CREMATION 204 

XXIV. CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS 217 

XXV. THE SUBORDINATE KING 222 

XXVI. THE SUPREME KING : HIS CHARACTER AND ADMIN 
ISTRATION 237 

XXVII. MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE . . . 269 

XXVIII. THE KINGDOM OF SIAM 286 

XXIX. THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. Ax EXCURSION TO THE 

NAGHKON WATT 300 

XXX. THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON . 314 



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THE ENGLISH GOVERNESS 

AT THE SIAMESE COUKT. 



I. 

ON THE THRESHOLD. 

MAECH 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 

1 A 



2 OX THE THRESHOLD. 

long as I could dodge the fiery spears that flashed through 
our tattered awning, and bear the bustle and the boister 
ous 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 entertain 
ing, 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 privi 
lege 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 New 
foundland, great and good, discreet, reposeful, dignified, 
fastidious, not to be cajoled into confidences and famili 
arities 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 



OX THE THRESHOLD. 3 

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 enter 
ing 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 annu 
ally 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 an 
chor opposite the mean, shabby, irregular town of Pak- 
nam, 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 de 
manded, " 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 Na 
ture has taken peculiar pains to heal and hide the dis 
figurements 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 



4 ON THE THRESHOLD. 

of the sun, and duplicated in shifting, quivering shadows 
in the limpid waters below. Add to these the fitful rip 
ple 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 imper 
tinence 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 py 
ramidal 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 un 
like the "tavellae" brick of the Egyptians and ancient 
Eomans. 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 accommoda 
tion 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 dona 
tions to the priests. 



ON THE THRESHOLD. 5 

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, press 
ing 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 Malm Mong- 
kut, the late Supreme King, contributed interesting souve 
nirs 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 neg 
lected. 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 habit 
able, 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 sola, or shed, where 



6 ON THE THRESHOLD. 

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 respec 
tive 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. Un 
imaginable are the stenches the sun of Siam engenders 
in such conditions. 

A village so happily situated might, under better man 
agement, become a thriving and pleasing port ; but neg 
lect, cupidity, and misrule have shockingly deformed and 
degraded it. Nevertheless, by its picturesque site and 
surroundings of beauty, it retains its hold upon the regret 
ful 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 As. From the deck, at a 



ON THE THRESHOLD. 7 

convenient height above the level of the river and the nar 
row 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 im 
portant buildings. The valley of the Meinam, riot 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 north 
ern end, on the brow of the Yunan, is a region of per 
petual 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 atmos 
phere. I surveyed with more and more admiration each 
new scene of blended luxuriance and beauty, planta 
tions 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 dwell 
ings. Chapel and homes belong to the American Presbyte 
rian Mission. A forest of graceful boughs filled the back 
ground ; 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 



8 ON THE THRESHOLD. 

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 gon 
dolas, 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 daugh 
ters, 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 Eoyal 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 



ON THE THRESHOLD. 

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, ex 
cept my two servants, who are bewildered. Moonshee 
covertly mumbles his five prayers, ejaculating between, 
Mask-Allah ! A Tala-yea Jcia Jiai?* 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 de 
note 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 qual 
ity 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 at 
tendant, 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 resi- 

* " Great God ! what is this ? " 
1* 



10 ON^ THE THRESHOLD. 

dence would be provided for us on our arrival ; and he 
lias 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 ; home- 
lessness, forlornness, helplessness, mortification, indigna 
tion, on mine. Fears and misgivings crowded and stunned 
,me. My tears fell thick and fast, and, weary and despair 
ing, 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 usu 
ally, 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, 



ON THE THRESHOLD. 11 

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. Xo 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 11 
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 ! " 

" 0, don t be alarmed, ma m ! It s not a regular thea 
tre ; 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 Llmang "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 land 
ing, I saw in the shadow a form coiled on a piece of 
striped matting. Was it a bear ? No, a prince ! For the 



12 ON THE THRESHOLD. 

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 Ptoyal 
Highness." Near by was his Excellency the Prime Min 
ister, in the identical costume that had disgraced our 
unpleasant interview on the Chow Phya ; he was smok 
ing 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, con 
secrated 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 * 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 con 
tent. 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 be 
hind 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 

* Silk, embroidered with gold flowers. 



ON THE THRESHOLD. 13 

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 man 
ners 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, tri 
umphant 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. 



i 



II. 

A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 desh,alrill, 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 a,t our 
late predicament and fright, assured me of that which I 
have since experienced, the genuine goodness of the 
Prince Krom Lhuang "Wbngse. Every foreign resident of 
Bangkok, who at any time has had friendly acquaintance or 
business with him, would, I doubt not, join me in expres 
sions of admiration and regard for one who lias main 
tained through circumstances so trying and under a 
system so oppressive an exemplary reputation for liber 
ality, 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. 

In about a quarter of an hour we found ourselves in 




THE PRIME MINISTER. 



A SIAMESE PKEMIER AT HOME. 15 

front of a low gateway, which opened on a wide court 
yard, 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 facade; 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 Excel 
lency s residence abounded within in carvings and gild 
ings, elegant in design and color, that blended and har 
monized 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, em 
bossed 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 bar 
barian of last night. I lost my presence of mind, and in 



16 A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 with 
out 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 ante 
chamber on all fours. His Excellency, with an expres 
sion of pleased curiosity, and that same grand uncon 
sciousness 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 ven 
tured to express my wish for a quiet house or apartments, 
where I might be free from intrusion, and at perfect lib 
erty 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 else 
where." 

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



A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 17 

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 convers 
ing. I enjoyed the expression of blank amazement with 
which he regarded me on receiving this somewhat defiant 
reply. " Tain cliai ! " (" 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 some 
thing to his attendants, five or six of whom, raising them 
selves 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 in 
stantly, 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, fasci 
nated, 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 



18 A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 up 
right, 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 free 
dom 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 never 
theless tolerate no familiarity or disrespect from any one. 
The fellow understood me well enough, but did not per 
mit 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. Eage, 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 



A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 19 

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 Sia 
mese, 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 ac 
customed 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 complex 
ions, 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, " Moolaij, 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 disor 
derly bevy around me. I addressed her in Malay. In 
stantly 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 



20 A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 Oug 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 iny 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 oblit 
erated. 

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, ply 
ing me pertinaciously with questions, as to my age, hus 
band, children, country, customs, possessions ; and pres 
ently crowned the inquisitorial performance by asking, in 



A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME 21 

all seriousness, if I should not like to be the wife of the 
prince, their lord, rather than of the terrible Chow-che- 
witt.* 

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 "co 
nundrum," 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 with 
held from speaking by an instinctive sentiment of re 
spect ; 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 

* Chow-che-ivitt, " Trincc of life," the supreme king. 



22 A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 re 
garded me as something they could neither convince nor 
comfort nor understand. Then softly repeating Poot- 
thoo I Poot-tJioo ! " 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 sud 
denly 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 dramat 
ically 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 impos 
ing 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 



A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 23 

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 turn 
ing 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 un 
reasonable 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 



24 A SIAMESE PREMIER AT HOME. 

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 Medusae to expectorate. When I pointed re 
proachfully 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 gig 
gled 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 even 
ing 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 HISTOEY. 

BEFORE inducting the reader to more particular ac 
quaintance 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 undoubt 
edly Malay ; but a majority of the intelligent Europeans 
who have lived long among them regard the native popu 
lation as mainly Mongolian. They are generally of me 
dium 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 kin 
dred, and bountiful to their priests, of whom more than 
twenty thousand are supported by voluntary contribu 
tions in Bangkok alone. Marriage is contracted at six 
teen for males, and fourteen for females, and polygamy is 
the common practice, without limit to the number of 

2 



26 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

wives except such as may be imposed by the humble 
estate or poverty of the husband; the women are gen 
erally treated with consideration. 

The bodies of the dead are burned ; and the badges of 
mourning are white robes for those of the family or kin- 
folk 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 chil 
dren, 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 litera 
ture 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 taci 
turnity 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 Chris 
tian 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 Kama Thibodi. 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 27 

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 formida 
ble flotillas, harassed it. Thrice they ravaged the coun 
try around ; but on the last of these occasions great num 
bers of them were captured and put to cruel death by 
P hraRama Suen, successor to Thibodi, who pursued the 
routed remnant to the very citadel of Chiengmai, then a 
tributary of the Birman Empire. Having made success 
ful war upon this province, and impressed thousands of 
Laotian captives, he next turned his arms against Cam 
bodia, 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 Kama Suen was succeeded by his son Phya 
Earn, 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. 



28 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

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 Kama 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 moder 
ately 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 mem 
orable 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 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 29 

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 pur 
poses she moved with the recklessness their nature de 
manded, 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 wick 
edness 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 hra- 
batts. 

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 no 
bleman, who had followed them, hailed the royal gondola, 
as if for instructions, and, being permitted to approach, 



30 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

suddenly sprang up.on 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-Charapat Eacha-therat, 
he invaded Pegu with a hundred thousand men-at-arrns, 
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 to 
gether. 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-Charapat Eacha-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 ad 
miration for his virtues. Malacca, Tenasserim, Ligor, Tha- 
vai, Martaban, Maulmain, Songkhla, Chantaboon, Phitsa- 
nulok, Look-Kho-Thai, Phi-chi, Savan Khalok, Phechit, 
Cambodia, and Nakhon Savan were all dependencies of 
Siarn under his reign. 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 31 

In the year 1568 of the Christian era the Siamese ter 
ritory 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 Por 
tuguese, 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 impor 
tantly to the success of the Birnian arms. Theirs is by 
no means the only case of Portuguese soldiers serving for 
hire in the armies of the East. Their commander, Sua 
nes, 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 cap 
tor died. His successor struggled with an uncle for pos 
session 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 cap 
tivity 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 charac 
teristics 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 



32 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

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 Domini 
can monks were likewise invited to build churches and 
preach Christianity in Siam. 

Soon after this extraordinary display of liberal states 
manship P hra Xarai 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, how 
ever, 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 re 
spected and esteemed. The events and the dramatis 
pcrsoncc of his reign form a story so romantic, so excep 
tional 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 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HIST011Y. 33 

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 con 
verting 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 in 
fluence over all mankind, this society, with means the 
most slender and in the face of obstacles the most dis 
heartening, have, with indomitable courage and supernat 
ural 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 equa 
torial sun, there is not a spot of earth in which Euro 
pean 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 consum 
mate acumen, more European than Asiatic in his ideas, 
sedulously cultivating the friendship of these foreign 
workers of wonders ; and finally we find a Greek adven 
turer 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 
2* c 



34 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

integrity toward the monarch who had so implicitly con 
fided in his wisdom and fidelity. 

Constantine Phaulkon was the son of respectable par 
ents, 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 adroit 
ness made a place for himself in their admiration and 
influence, so that he was received with flattering con 
sideration at the Court of P hra Narai, and very soon in 
vited to take service under government. By his sagacity, 
tact, and diligence in the management of all affairs in 
trusted 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 Viclia-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 au 
spicious, the plans of the Jesuits for the conversion of 
all Eastern Asia were put in execution. From the Vat 
ican 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 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 35 

respective exponents of this pious idea, under the impos 
ing titles of Bishops of Heliopolis, Borytus, Byzantium, 
and Metellopolis, all Frenchmen, for Louis XIV. in 
sisted 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 in 
troduce 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 Pere Tachard. The French fleet of five ships cast 
anchor in the Meinam on the 27th of September, 1G87, 
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 attain 
ment 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 Eevolution 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 con 
trol ; 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 pow- 



36 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

erf ul 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 Eevolt of the Macassars, 
which materially promoted the ripening of the revolu 
tion 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 arbi 
trarily dethroned by the Dutch ; and the sons of the 
injured monarch, taking refuge in Siam, secretly encour 
aged the growing enmity of the nobles against the 
French. 

Meanwhile Phaulkon, by his address, and skilful 
management of public affairs, continued to exercise par 
amount influence over the mind of the king. He per 
suaded P hra Narai to send another embassy to France, 
which arrived happily (the former having been ship 
wrecked 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 fac 
tories 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 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 37 

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 Lopha- 
buree, consisting of two lofty edilices, square, with pillars 
on all sides ; each pillar was made to represent a succes 
sion of shafts by the intervention of salient blocks, form 
ing capitals to what they surmounted and pedestals to 
what they supported. The apartments within were gor 
geously gilt and sumptuously furnished. There yet re 
mains, 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 build 
ings, which have been restored, but which now display 
the fantastic rather than the grand style which distin 
guished 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." 



38 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 

But the luxury in which the haughty statesman rev 
elled, his towering ambition, and the wealth he lav 
ished on his private abodes, joined to the lofty, conde 
scending air he assumed toward the nobles, soon provoked 
their jealous inurmurings 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 de 
served and genuine praise. 

Turning from the corpse of the king, the baffled regi 
cides 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 ago 
nized 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 devo 
tions, 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 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 39 

and her brain grew numb between the gashes and the 
groans, she still cheered him with her passionate endear 
ments ; and, holding before his eyes a cross of gold that al 
ways 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 super 
natural courage and contempt of pain from the miracu 
lous 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 be 
sieging 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 Tak, 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 moun 
tain 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 Bang- 
plasoi, and the people of that place came out with gifts 
of treasure and hailed him as their sovereign. Thence 
he sailed to Eajong, strengthened his small force with 
volunteers in great numbers, marched against Chanta- 
boon, whose governor had disputed his authority, and 
executed that indiscreet official; levied another large 
army; built and equipped a hundred vessels of war; 



40 A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTOliY. 

and set sail a part of his army preceding him over 
land 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 Sabato, or Sabbath, he issued a solemn proc 
lamation to his army, assuring them that he would that 
evening worship in the temple of the famous emerald 
idol, P hra Keau. 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 fol 
lowed 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 adja 
cent 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 indefati 
gable 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 ren 
dered 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 put 
ting 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 pal- 



A SKETCH OF SIAMESE HISTORY. 41 

ace, from which lie fled by a secret passage to an ad 
joining 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 invaria 
bly 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 HAEEM AND HELPMEET. 

~TT7~HEN the Senabawdee, or Royal Council, by ele- 
V V vating to the throne the priest-prince Ghowfa 
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 pre 
mier. 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 Sonidetch 
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 imme 
diately beguile him from his moodiness, for a time di 
verted 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 



HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET. 43 

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 ac 
cepted, 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 re 
markable executive faculty, seconding the enlightened 
policy of the king, would doubtless have inaugurated a 
golden age for his country, but for the aggressive med 
dling of French diplomacy in the quarrels between the 
princes of Cochin China and Cambodia ; by which exas 
perating measure Siam is in the way to lose one of her 
richest possessions,* 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 inquisi 
tive 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- 

* Cambodia. 



44 HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET. 

lighted and suggestive shadows, we discover in the centre 
of the hall a long line of girls with skins of olive, crea 
tures who in years and physical proportions are yet but 
children, but by training developed into women and ac 
complished 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, taper 
ing 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 be 
hind 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 mili 
tary 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 car 
pet with their toes in time to the music. Next follows a 






HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET 45 

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 ecldies 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 Malm Mongkut * 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 fan 
tastic phantoms, the overcoming sentiment, all the poetry 
and the pity of the scene, the formless longing, the un 
defined 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 Mighty Crown." 



46 HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET. 

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 coun 
tenance. 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. Piising 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 Thou 
sand " ) 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 legiti 
macy 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 ex 
pression of her eyes and mouth. Around her pretty resi 
dence, adjoining the Premier s palace, bloomed the most 
charming garden I saw in Siam, with shrubberies, foun- 



HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET. 47 

tains, and nooks, designed by a true artist; though the 
work of the native florists -is usually fantastic and gro 
tesque, 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 im 
parted a pensive sentiment to the place. There were 
neither carpets nor mirrors ; and the only articles of fur 
niture were some sofa-beds, low marble couches, tables, 
and a few arm-chairs, but all of forms antique and deli 
cate. 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, super 
stition, slavery, and death. 



48 HIS EXCELLENCY S HAREM AND HELPMEET. 

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 re 
proachful significance, P hra Nah Why, " the Lord en 
dures." 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. 



Y. 



THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING AND THE 
EMEEALD IDOLS. 

THE day had come for my presentation to the su 
preme 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 dis 
tance 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, en 
tirely 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 

3 D 



50 THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING 

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. Sam ma Sam-Putho, Cognizant of the laws of 
Nature, Infallible, Unchangeable, True. 

3. Yicliaranah Sampanoh, Endowed with all Knowl 
edge, all Science. 

4. Lukha-tho, Excellence, Perfection. 

5. Lok-havi-tho, Cognizant of the mystery of Crea 
tion. 

6. Annutharo, Inconceivably Pure, without Sin. 

7. Purisah tham-mah Sarathi, Unconquerable, In 
vincible, 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. Pak-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 pal 
ace) 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 Ke au, 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 accessi- 



AND THE EMERALD IDOLS, 51 

ble 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 pic 
torial and hieroglyphic embellishment within. The ceil 
ing 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 an 
cients ; these revolve round a central sun in the form of 
a lotos, called by the Siamese Dok Atliit (sun-flower), be 
cause 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 bor 
rowed 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 flourished before pantheism ! 

The floor is paved with diamonds of polished brass, 



52 THE TEMPLES OF THE SLEEPING 

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 overwhelm 
ing. 

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 har 
monious 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 
Nyam, " 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 Thavtidali, " 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," * 
he said ; whereupon the tribe of little ones folded their 
hands devoutly, and made obeisance before the effigy of 
Saint Peter. 

* Saint, or Lord. 




THE BEAUTIFUL GATE OF THE TEMPLE. 



AND THE EMERALD IDOLS. 53 

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 un 
lovely, 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. 



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 acknowl 
edged queen, and therefore by courtesy and honored cus 
tom, if not by absolute right, the legitimate successor to 
the throne of the P hra-batts.* 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 Sena- 
bawdee, 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 gov 
ernment 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, unchal 
lenged by any claim from the king that should be, until 

* The Golden-footed. 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 55 

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 disabili 
ties, as extreme youth, effeminacy, imbecility, intem 
perance, profligacy. Nevertheless, the election is popu 
larly expected to result in the choice of the eldest son of 
the queen, though an interregnum or a regency is a con 
tingency 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, 



56 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

as "most honorable and promising"), in spite of the 
bitter vexation of his lordship Chow Pliya Sri Sury 
Wongse, so soon to be premier, the prince Chowfa Mong- 
kut dolled his sacerdotal robes, emerged from his cloister, 
and Avas crowned, with the title of Somdetch Phra Para- 
mendr Maha Mongkut.* 

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 prof 
itable 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 in 
fluences 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 pri 
vate 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 

* Duke, and royal bearer of the great crown. 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 57 

which suggested, quite naturally, an English governess for 
the 6lite 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, ac 
companied 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 mo 
tionless 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 im 
mediately proceeded to march up and down in quick step, 
putting one foot before the other with mathematical precis 
ion, 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 ab 
surd, and with my sex s distaste for so serious a question, 
I demurely replied, " One hundred and fifty years old." 

3* 



58 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

Had I made myself much younger, he might have ridi 
culed or assailed me ; but now he stood surprised and 
embarrassed for a few moments, then resumed Ids 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 sig 
nificant 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 
4lan. 

" 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 wlcns, 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 Ttilap. 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 59 

She desires to be educated in English. She is as pleas 
ing for her talents as for her beauty, and it is our pleas 
ure to make her a good English scholar. You shall edu 
cate 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 curi 
osity. 

" I have sixty-seven children," said his Majesty, when 
we had returned to the Audience Hall. " You shall edu 
cate 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 even 
ing. 

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 



60 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

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 re 
pulsive 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 siy ok (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 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 61 

Malay fluently, it was wonderful with what aptness he 
acquired it. 

When next I " interviewed " the king, I was accom 
panied 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 in 
formed 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 tea 
pot, a pretty gold tray containing two tiny porcelain cups 
with covers, her betel-box, also of gold, and !wo 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 re 
peating 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 " squat 
ted" 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. 



62 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

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 enter 
tainment 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 begin 
ning, God created the heavens and the earth." 

This meritorious but disjointed performance was fol- 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 63 

lowed 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 Ameri 
can 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 in- 
defatigably 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 la 
dies 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 inex 
pressibly 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 awa 
kening from his forenoon slumber, sent to the Watt P lira 
Keau. This apparition was the signal for much stir. 
The Lady Talap started to her feet and fled, and we were 
left alone with the premier s sister and the slaves in wait 
ing. The entire household seemed to awake on the in- 



64 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

stant, 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 ya\vned, 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. At 
tendants, nurses, slaves, vanished through doors, around 
corners, behind pillars, under stairways ; and at last, pre 
ceded 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 pre 
mier s sister, and conversed at some length with her, she 



THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 65 

apparently acquiescing in all that he had to say. He 
then approached ine, and said, in a loud and domineer 
ing 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 shud 
der at the idea of sleeping within those walls ; " but I 
am afraid I could not do it. I beg your Majesty will re 
member 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 pre 
pared 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 undertak 
ing, in the estimation of our astrologers." 

With that, he addressed, in a frantic manner, com 
mands, unintelligible to me, to some of the old women 



66 THE KING AND THE GOVERNESS. 

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, shak 
ing her finger in my face, and crying, " My di ! my di ! " * 
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 " can- 
tankerousness," and in due time my ultimatum was ac 
cepted. 

* "Bad, bad!" 



VII. 

MAEBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 

~TTT~ELL ! by this time I was awake to the realities of 
VV time, place, and circumstance. The palace and 
its spells, the impracticable despot, the impassible pre 
mier, 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 gra 
cious 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 monoto 
nously 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 



68 MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 

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 mes 
senger 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 fol 
low 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 



MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 69 

kitchen. And this was the residence sumptuously ap 
pointed 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 I 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, inquisi 
tive 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 



70 MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 

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 neigh 
borhood, 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 Sia 
mese, 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 op 
portunity 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 cour 
teous 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 1 " 



MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 71 

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 desper 
ately 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, compli 
mented 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 aflair 
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 noth 
ing 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 



72 MARBLE HALLS AND FISH-STALLS. 

both feared and loved him. He displayed a kind of pas 
sive 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 phenom 
enon 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. 

OUK HOME IN BANGKOK. 

~T~) EBUKED and saddened, I abandoned my long-cher- 
JL\ ished 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 anticipa 
tions with which I had accepted the position of gover 
ness 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 1 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. 

4 



7-4 OUR HOME IN BANGKOK. 

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 al 
most picturesque. On entering, however, we found our 
selves face to face with overpowering filth. Poor Moon- 
shee 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 an 
other 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 mak 
ing of a home for us. Beebe and Boy were hopeful, and 
promptly put a full stop to the rhetorical outcry of Moon- 
shee by requesting him to enlist the services of his ad 
miring 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 promiscu 
ously 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 



OUR HOME IN BANGKOK. 75 

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 puri 
fied, the general raggedness repaired, the general shabbi- 
ness 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 " damned 
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 Sin 
gapore, 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 arm 
chairs, hospitably embracing ; a pair of silver candle 
sticks, 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 sun 
light from the window gilding and gladdening all, be 
hold our home in Siam ! 

I worked exultingly till the setting sun slanted his 
long shadows across the piazza. Then came comfortable 



76 OUR HOME IN BANGKOK. 

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 sweet 
ness, his hands and face as dirty as a healthy, well-regu 
lated 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 faith 
ful 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 infer 
ence 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 ; 



OUR HOME IN BANGKOK. 77 

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) pavil 
ion, 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 struct 
ure, 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 architec 
tural anachronism that has piled so many young heads 
upon their time-worn shoulders. 



IX. 

OUE SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 

r I ^HE 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 ac 
cepted through their willingness, not only to receive in 
struction 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 monosylla 
bic ; but as the Pali or Sanskrit has been liberally en 
grafted 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 re 
dundancy 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 uni 
versal application. Every Siamese writer spells to please 




A PUPIL OF THE ROYAL SCHOOL. 



OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 79 

himself, and the purism of one is the slang or gibberish 
of another. 

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 en 
graved 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 Eit- 
ual, a work for the priesthood only, and therefore, like 
others of the Vinnaya, little known, contains the vital 
elements of the Buddhist Moral Code, and, per se, is per 
fect ; 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 "Dhamma- 
Padam," * 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 Debats of April 4, 

* Properly Dharmna, " Footsteps of the Law." 



80 OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 

1853, on a work known by the title of "Dharmna Maitrl/ 
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, modera 
tion in time of prosperity, resignation and fortitude in 
time of trial, equanimity at all times, but virtues un 
known 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 maitri, and this 
maitri 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 maitri, 
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 willing 
ness to help them." 

I may here add the testimony of Barthelemy Saint- 
Hilaire : " I do not hesitate to add," he writes, " that, save 
the Christ alone, there is not among the founders of re 
ligion 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 ex 
tols is false, the personal examples he affords are irre 
proachable. He is the accomplished model of all the 
virtues he preaches ; his abnegation, his charity, his unal 
terable sweetness, never belie themselves. At the age of 



OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 81 

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 medi 
tation. 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 " Para- 
jika," 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 "Ac 
complishment of Reason," or " Transcendental Wisdom,)" 
and other works in abstruse philosophy. The " Lalita Vis- 
tara " 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-pundi- 
kara " (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 "Mrwana" 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 transla 
tion of the Sanskrit symbolic word, Om, " Circle." There 
are twenty-two volumes, treating exclusively of mystics 
and mystical worship. 

4* 



OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 

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 Kome, the writers 
are careful to furnish a particular account of all signs, 
omens, and predictions relating to the several events re 
corded. They possess also a few translated works in Chi 
nese history. 

The late king was an authority on all questions of re 
ligion, law, and custom, and was familiar with the writ 
ings 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 intro 
duced, the favorite subjects being passages from the Hin 
doo Avatars, the epic " Eamayana," and the " Mahabha- 
rata " ; 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 Eoyal 
Palace at Bangkok. In Siam, all schools, literary socie 
ties, monasteries, even factories, all intellectual and pro 
gressive enterprises of whatever nature and intention, are 
opened and begun on Thursday, " One P ra Hatt " ; be 
cause that day is sacred to the goddess of Mind or Wis- 



OUR SCHOOL IX THE PALACE. 83 

dom, 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 es 
cort us to a pavilion or, more correctly, temple dedi 
cated to the wives and daughters of Siam.* 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 Blio tree/f- 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 Sah. 

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. 

* Watt Khoon Choom Manda Thai, "Temple of the Mothers of 
the Free." 

t The sacred tree under which Guadama discoursed with his disciples. 



84 OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 

A word or two, dropped from his lips, bowed every head 
and dispersed the attendants. But they presently re 
turned 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";* and then a burst of 
music announced the entrance of the princes and prin 
cesses, 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 fore 
head ; 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, ad 
dress, 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, 

* "Accomplishment of Reason," or "Transcendental Wisdom." 



OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 85 

turn over the leaves of books, and chatter and giggle to 
gether. 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 seri 
ous business of my school began on the following Thurs 
day. 

1 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 admit 
ting 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 new several ven 
erable 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 famil 
iar to himself. 

About noon, a number of young women were brought 
to me, to be taught like the rest. I received them sym- 



86 OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 

pathetically, 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 immedi 
ately to allay, my knowledge of their language being con 
fined 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 bois 
terously. A grim duenna, who had heard the noise,, bus 
tled wrathfully into the pavilion. Instantly hat, cloak, 
veil, gloves, were flung right and left, and the young wo 
men 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, de 
manded 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 les 
son 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 



OUR SCHOOL IN THE PALACE. 87 

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. 



MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABEIEL. 

OUE 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 de 
meanor, 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 conse 
crated 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 
debris 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 promiscu 
ous rubbish every day, we sometimes found surfaces of 
stone bearing Siamese or Cambodian inscriptions ; others 
with grotesque figures in bass-relief, taken from the my 
thology of the Hindoos. Had these relics a charm for 
Moonshee, and was he animated by the antiquarian s en- 



MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL. 89 

thusiasm, that he delved away hour after hour, unearth 
ing, 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 pur 
suit, 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 ring 
ing 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 disappoint 
ment, 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 ex 
ertions 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 Moon 
shee, 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 en 
thusiast 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." 



90 MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL. 

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 Fa-ying,* 
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 some 
thing 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 ? " 

" 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 

* "First-Born of the Skies." 



MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL. 91 

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 Faith 
ful, and of no use on earth but to confound philosophers 
and Moonshees ? " 

" Sunnoh, sunnoli ! * Mem Sahib ! No human tongue 
revealed it to me. It was the Ange Gibhrayeel.-f He 
came to me last night as I slept, and said, son ol Jaflur 
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 over 
powered 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, 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 ap 
peared 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,^ 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." 

* " Listen, listen !" $ Fire-balls. 

t The Angel Gabriel. Thanksgivings. 



92 MOONSHEE AND THE ANGEL GABRIEL. 

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 ac 
cepted 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 house 
hold, 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 Thep ha Maha-Nakhon Si-ayut-thia 
Maha-dilok Eacha-thani, The City of the Royal, In 
vincible, 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 Ke au, and the Maha P hrasat. 

The Maha Phrasat is an immense structure of quadran 
gular facades, 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 cere 
monies performed. On certain high holidays and occa 
sions 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 



94 THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 

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 * 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 Ben 
gal, 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 sensa 
tional collection ; but when I took my leave of Bangkok, 
in 1868, the coveted specimen had not yet appeared in the 

* All that is here written applies to Maha Mongktit, the supreme king, 
who died October, 1868 ; not to his successor (and my pupil), the present 
king. 



THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 95 

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 whim 
sical Majesty entertained a lively horror of French in 
trigue, 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 hra- 
batts. 

The king, as well as most of the principal members of 
his household, rose at five in the morning, and imme 
diately 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 an 
other. On his Majesty s left were ranged, first, his chil 
dren 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 con 
taining 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 



96 THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 

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 pre 
sented 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 sweet 
meats. 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 acknowledg 
ment, 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,* so called 
because it was dedicated by his Majesty to the memory 
of his mother. This is an edifice of unique and charming 
beauty, decorate/1 throughout by artists from Japan, who 
have represented on the walls, in designs as diverse and 
ingenious as they are costly, the numerous metempsy 
choses 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 

* "Temple in Memory of Mother." 



THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 97 

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 ante 
chamber adjoining a noble hall, rich in grotesque carvings 
and gildings, a throng of females waited, while his Maj 
esty 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 sim 
plicity 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 in 
terest derived from his studies, or in reading or translat 
ing. 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 engen 
dered in his mind an extreme scepticism concerning all 
existing religious systems. In inborn integrity and stead- 

5 G 



98 THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 

fast principle he had no faith whatever. He sincerely 
believed that every man strove to compass his own ends, 
per fas ct ncfas. The mens sibi conscia recti was to him 
an hallucination, for which he entertained profound con 
tempt ; and he honestly pitied the delusion that pinned 
its faith on human truth and virtue. He was a provok 
ing melange of antiquarian attainments and modern scep 
ticism. 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 edu 
cation 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 lie 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 concu- 



THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 99 

bines, 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 for 
lorn despot. They appealed to him by their beauty and 
their trustfulness, they refreshed him with the bold inno 
cence 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 con 
sider official matters. Twice a week at sunset he ap 
peared at one of the gates of the palace to hear the com 
plaints 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 terrify 
ing 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 as not 
merely enthroned, he is enshrined. To the nobility he is 
omnipotence, and to the rabble mystery. Since the occu 
pation 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 



100 THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 

is an inquisition, not overt, audacious, like that of 
Eome, but nocturnal, invisible, subtle, ubiquitous, like 
that of Spain ; proceeding without witnesses or warning ; 
kidnapping a subject, not arresting him, and then incar 
cerating, 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 opera 
tion 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 
stances 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 citi 
zen 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 Ev 
ery citizen suspects and fears always his neighbor, some 
times 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 cour 
tiers, I observed that they rapped, or tapped, in a pecu 
liar 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 ima 
gined 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 



THE WAYS OF THE PALACE. 101 

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 prep 
aration 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 en 
tertainments of the Court are usually given on occasions 
of public devotion, and form a part of these. 



XII. 

SHADOWS AND WHISPEES OF THE HAEEM. 

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 dis 
plays to the eye only a formless confusion, a chaos of 
colors, but by force of much looking and tracing and join 
ing and separating, first objects and then groups are dis 
covered in their proper identity and relation, until the 
whole stands out, clear, true, and informing in its cohe 
rent significance of light and shade. Thus, by slow pro 
cesses, as one whose sight has been imperceptibly restored, 
I aw^oke 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. 

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 







PRESENTATION OF A PRINCKSS. 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 103 

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 free 
dom 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 
2itizens 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 tri 
umphs 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,"* a slave sobbing 
before a deaf idol. And 0, 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, im 
prisoned without a crime ! If they could but have re 
joiced 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 en 
tered those royal dungeons, never again to come forth 

* P hra-ong. 



104 SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 

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 si^ht. 

o 

Only twenty minutes between bondage and freedom, 
such freedom as may be found in Siam ! only twenty min 
utes 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, de 
formity, darkness, death, and eternal emptiness, a dark 
ness 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 wretched 
ness 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 treas 
ure. 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 artless- 
ness, its engaging waywardness ; and in their place in- 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM 105 

stils silence, submission, self-constraint, suspicion, cun 
ning, carefulness, and an ever-vigilant fear. And the 
result is a spectacle of unnatural discipline simply appall 
ing. The life of such a child is an egg-shell on an ocean ; 
to its helpless speck of experience all horrors are possi 
ble. Its passing moment is its eternity ; and that over 
whelmed 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 extraor 
dinary. 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, surren 
dered 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 w T as a moving one. 

It was my habit to visit her twice a week at her resi 
dence,* for I was indebted to her for much intelligent as 
sistance 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 

* Each of the ladies of the harem has her own exclusive domicile, 
within the inner walls of the palace. 
5* 



106 SHADOWS AND WHISPEES OF THE HAREM. 

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 
Talap, 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 mot 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 11 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 Sdsdndh Thai, " The Eeligion 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 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 107 

worshippers bowing, I passed a young mother with a 
sleeping babe, some slave-girls playing at sabdh * 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 night- 
mared 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 ef 
fectually 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 ; 

* Marbles, played with the knee instead of the fingers. 



108 SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 

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 pil 
low, 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 slip 
pery and my brain swam. Touching the silent, motion 
less 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. Xo 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,* that an 
appointment held by her late uncle, Phya Khien, might 
be bestowed on her elder brother, not knowing that an 
other noble had already been preferred to the post by his 
Majesty. 

Had she been, guilty of the gravest crime, her punish 
ment 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 trem 
bling 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 

* A privilege granted to all the concubines. 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 109 

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 treach 
erous plot ; but the stripes were administered so tenderly,* 
that the only confession they extorted was a meek protes 
tation 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 ex- 

* Tn these caseS the executioners are women, who generally spare each 
other if they dare. 



110 SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 

plained 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 inter 
fered ; I have only come to you for justice. She did not 
know of the appointment until she had sent in her peti 
tion ; and to punish one woman for that which is permit 
ted and encouraged in another is gross injustice." There 
upon he sent for his secretary, and having satisfied him 
self that the appointment had not been published, was 
good enough to promise that he would explain to his Maj 
esty 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 pre 
mier 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 * he repaired to the 
Grand Palace, and explained the delay to the king, with 
out appearing to be aware of the concubine s punish 
ment. 

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 remem 
ber your thankful friend." 

* All consultations on matters of state and of court discipline are 
held in the royal palace at night. 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. Ill 

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 
arid 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 Batana 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 gam 
bling, 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 im 
prisonment of the degraded favorite had expired that 
Wanne ventured to appear at a royal levde. 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 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 

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 noth 
ing 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 trans 
late 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 fete days, she was my only 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 113 

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 
d< y, 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 



114 SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 

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 ex 
plain, 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, Tim Moom I * Poot-thoo ti chan, Tha Mom ! 
(" Strike me, my father ! Pray, strike me, my father ! " ) 

The pause of fear that followed was only broken by 
my boy, who, with a convulsive cry, buried his face des 
perately 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, 

* Tha Mom or Moom, used by children in addressing a royal father. 



SHADOWS AND WHISPERS OF THE HAREM. 115 

shuddering, stupefied, dismayed, in silence and darkness, 
animated, enlightened only by the deep whispering heart 
of maternity, and not be moved with mournful yearn 



ing ? 



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, my father ! " 
His quick, clear sagacity measured instantly all the dan 
ger 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. 

EA-YING, THE KING S DAELING. 

"~T1TT~ILL you teach me to draw ? " said an irresistible 

VV 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 San 
skrit 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 pic 
tures in your books. Will you take me to England 
with you, Mam cha ? " * pleaded the engaging little 
prattler. 

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

" yes, he will ! " said the child with smiling con 
fidence. " He lets me do as I like. You know I am the 
Somdetch Chow Fa-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, " 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 

* "Lady dear." 



FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 117 

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 wis 
dom of this world is foolishness with God " ; and I felt 
that this child of smiles and tears, all nnbaptized 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 Fa-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 trust 
fulness, her sprightly intelligence and changeful grace. 

Morning dawned fair on the river, the sunshine flicker 
ing 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 Tip treasures in heaven, or, in Budd 
hist parlance, to "make merit." Slaves hurried hither 
and thither in the various bustle of errands. Worship 
pers thronged the gates and vestibules of the many tem 
ples of this city of pagodas and p hra-cha-dees, and myr 
iads of fan-shaped bells scattered aeolian melodies on the 
passing breeze. 



118 FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 

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 Fa-ying, was 
seized this morning. She sends for you. 0, 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 niy 
children. 

" I am your afflicted friend, 

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

In a moment I was in my boat. I entreated, I flat 
tered, 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 Fa-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 ! " * 
She would not forget her way ; she would nevermore lose 
herself on the road to Heaven. Beyond, SPbove the P hra- 

* 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. 



FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 119 

Arahang, she had soared into the eternal, tender arms of 
the P hra-Jesus, of whom she was wont to say in her in 
fantine wonder and eagerness, Mam cha, chdn rdk P hra- 
Jcsus mdk (" 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 ex 
changed 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* from 
His Gracious Majesty Somdetch P hra Pararnendr Maha 
Mongkut, the reigning Supreme King of Siam, intimating 
the recent death of Her Celestial Royal Highness, Prin 
cess 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 
Bhainarabhiramy 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, Cey 
lon, Batavia, Saigon, Macao, Hong-kong, & various regions 
in China, Europe, America, &c. &c 

* From the pen of the king. 



120 FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 

" 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 every 
where 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 es 
teemed father & her royal brothers and sisters in custom 
ary service, cheerfully during three days of the ceremony, 
from the llth 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 at 
tacked 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 treat 
ment of any one, or even to the Chlorocline 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 pal 
ace, 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 occur 
rence 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 



FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 121 

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 Maj 
esty 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 ill 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 al 
ways accompanied her father upon the same, sedan, car 
riage, 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 affection 
ate and esteemed father in every thing where her ability 
allowed ; she was well educated in the vernacular Siam 
ese 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 schoolmis 
tress exceedingly, so that the schoolmistress 011 the loss 
6 



122 FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 

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

Not long after our darling Fa-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 arriv 
ing 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 
Fa-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. 



FA-YIN G, THE KING S DARLING. 123 

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 Fa-ying. Then, 
bidding me " remain seated," much to the detriment of 
my white dress, in the sticky red chair, and carefully tak 
ing 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,* and finally, muttering something in San 
skrit, 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 per 
form 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 en 
joy unmolested and untaxed, while I continued to pur 
sue the even tenor of a " school-marm s " way, unagitated 
by my honorary title. In fact, the whole affair was ridicu 
lous ; 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 

* The conch or chank shelL 



124 FA-YING, THE KING S DARLING. 

given in the East Indies to certain varieties of the valuta 
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 Hin 
doos, from whom the Buddhists have adopted the shell for 
use in their religious or political ceremonies. They em 
ploy, 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 OUTEAGE 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 in 
dignant iteration. " Am I a beast ? Am I an unbeliev 
ing dog ? 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. 



126 AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING. 

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 vio 
lent 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 ! Bccbe 
maree / " * I endeavored to rise, but feeling dizzy and 
sick lay still for a while, taking Louis in my arms to re 
assure 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 cliota laba sahib .?") But I begged 
her to have done with her din and help me to the couch, 
which she did with touching tenderness and quiet, bath 
ing my head, which had bled so profusely that I sank, ex 
hausted, 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 

* Maree, "Come here" (Malay). t The little master. 



AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING. 127 

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 as 
sured 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 pre 
mier 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 con 
sulate, 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 per 
sons 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 con- 



128 AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING. 

tempt. " 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 tear 
ful eyes as she bade her husband adieu. "How could 
she," she asked, " leave her Mem and the chota laba sahib 
alone in a strange land ? " 



XV. 

THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

A SCEKDING the Meinam (or Chow Phya) from the 
JL\- gulf, and passing Paknam, the paltry but pictu 
resque seaport already described, we come next to Pak- 
lat 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 Bee- 
loo 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 prod 
ucts 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 
Eua-keng and the Eua-pet. The former resembles in all 
respects the Venetian gondola, while the Eua-pet has 

6* I 



130 THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

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 man 
groves, and in their swift descent threatening quick de 
struction 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 tama 
rind, 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 shad- 



THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 131 

ows 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 cour 
tier 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 cal 
dron 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 Eng 
lish 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. 



132 THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

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 plira-clui-dccs, 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 Ixoyal 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 cita 
del, 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 



THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 133 

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 Chi 
nese 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 dedi 
cated 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 mate 
rial 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 



134 THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

erection, to the memory of the good King P hra-Phen-den 
Klang, father of his late Majesty, Somdetch P hra-Para- 
mendr Malm Mongkut. 

On the outer skirt of the walled town stands the tem 
ple 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 Brahininical 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 
Sail Kate, 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 Siani. None but the initiated 



THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 135 

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 mon 
strous, are consummated. The walls are hung with 
human skeletons and the ground is strewed with human 
skulls. Here also are scraped together the horrid frag 
ments 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 thou 
sand 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 estab 
lished 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 privi 
lege of building on the banks is now confined to mem 
bers of the royal family, the nobility, and residents of 
acknowledged influence, political or commercial. 



136 THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

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 min 
arets, and, crowning all, the walls and towers of the Grand 
Palace, flash with countless charming tricks of light, arid 
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 to 
gether 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 appen 
dages 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 pro 
cessions of boats pass to and from the palace, and every 
where 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 prov 
ender, the free gift of every inhabitant of the city. 
Twenty thousand of them are supported by the alms of 
the city of Bangkok alone. 



THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 137 

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 crows 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 re 
viving 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 condi 
tion and the treatment of the unhappy wretches con 
fined 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 



138 THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 

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 depart 
ment, 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 Eoman 
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 whonrhe 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 chas 
tity, 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, hap 
pily recommending themselves by the alacrity with which 



THE CITY OF BANGKOK. 139 

they adopt, and make their own, usages which they may 
with propriety practise in common, whereby the Buddhist 
is nattered 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 Eoman 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 ele 
phant, as a deity, and worship it accordingly. The notion 
is erroneous, especially as it relates to Siam. The Buddh 
ists do not recognize God in any material form what 
ever, and are shocked at the idea of adoring an ele 
phant. Even Buddha, to whom they undoubtedly offer 
pious homage, they do not style " God," but on the con 
trary maintain that, though an emanation from a " subli 
mated ethereal being," he is by no means a deity. Ac 
cording 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, particu 
larly 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 redemp 
tion 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 ele 
phant, 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 



THE WHITE ELEPHANT. 141 

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. 

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 un 
dergoes 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 sumptu 
ously 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, sur 
mounted by a gorgeous roof and hung with crimson cur 
tains, awaits him. The roof is literally thatched with 
flowers ingeniously arranged so as to form symbols and 



142 THE WHITE ELEPHANT. 

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 malice, 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 (figura 
tively, " 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 se 
cured 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 custo 
dians 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 an- 



THE WHITE ELEPHANT. 143 

cient manner of the Buddhists, by pouring upon his fore 
head consecrated water from a chank-shell. 

The titles reserved for the Chang Phoouk vary accord 
ing to the purity of the complexion (for these favored crea 
tures 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 Miia Phya Sen Wongsah Ditsarah Krasaat, " August 
and Glorious Mother, .Descendant of Kings and Heroes." 

For seven or nine days, according to certain conditions, 
the Chang Phoouk is feted 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 con 
ducted with great pomp to his sumptuous quarters within 
the precincts of the first king s palace, where he is re 
ceived 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 attend 
ants robe him in a superb velvet cloak of purple, fringed 
with scarlet and gold ; and then his court prostrate them 
selves 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 



144 THE WHITE ELEPHANT. 

wave golden fans before him. On these occasions he is 
invariably preceded by musicians, who announce his ap 
proach 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-col 
ored 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 as 
tonishment 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 explan 
ation, 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 



THE WHITE ELEPHANT. 145 

not, 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 in 
dispensable 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 learn 
ing and the purity of his character, who was also first cous 
in to the Supreme King published a quaint pamphlet, 
describing England and her people, their manners and cus 
toms and dwellings, with a very particular report of the 
presentation of the embassy at court. Speaking of the per 
sonal appearance of Queen Victoria, he says : " One can 
not 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 bear 
ing, are those of a beautiful and majestic white elephant." 

7 j 



XVII. 

THE CEEEMONIES OF CORONATION. 

ON the morning of the 3d of April, 1851, the Chowfa 
Mongkut, after being formally apprised of his elec 
tion 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 follow 
ing month, as fixed by the court astrologers ; and when it 
came it was hailed by all classes of the people with im 
moderate 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 lan 
guage, Mangold Baghavat-thong, " the Golden Circlet of 
Power." Within this basin is deposited the ancient Plira- 
latt, or golden stool, the whole being surmounted by a quad 
rangular 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 



THE CEEEMONIES OF CORONATION. 147 

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 invert 
ing, 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. He is imitated, jfirst by the 
Brahmin priests, next by the princes and princesses royal, 
The vessels used for this purpose are of the chank or 
conch shell, richly ornamented. Then come the nobles 
of highest rank, bearing cups of gold, silver, earthen- ware, 
pinchbeck, samil, and tankwah (metallic compositions pe 
culiar to Siam). The materials of which, the vessels for 
this royal bath are composed must be of not less than 
seven kinds. Last of all, the prime minister of the realm 
advances with a cup of iron; and the sacred bath is 
finished. 

Now the king descends into the golden basin, " Man- 
gala Baghavat-thong," where he is anointed with nine va 
rieties of perfumed oil, and dipped in fine dust brought 



148 THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION. 

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 an 
other 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 thy 
self ! 

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

K. Inspire me with all knowledge, Thou the En 
lightened ! 

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

K. Inspire me, 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 con 
quered ! 

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

K. Through the merit of Thee, thou conqueror of 
Death ! * 

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 

* 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. 



THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION. 149 

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 roaT 
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 dia 
monds for each of his forefingers, and the various Siamese 
1 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 sol 
emnly 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 enthrone 
ment. His Majesty, attired more sumptuously than be 
fore, is presented to all his court, and to a more general 
audience. After the customary salutations by prostra 
tion and salutes of cannon and music, the premier and 
other principal ministers read short addresses, in deliver 
ing over to the king the control of their respective depart 
ments. 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 conse 
crated 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 



150 THE CEREMONIES OF CORONATION. 

the palace and city walls in a peculiar circumambulatory 
march of mystic significance, with feasting, dramatic en 
tertainments, 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 CONSOKT. 

"T~YT~HEN" a king of Siam would take unto himself a 
VV 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 astrol 
ogers, 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 emble 
matic 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 bless 
ing to her lord, and herself be richly blessed. Then she 
is hailed queen, with a burst of exultant music. 



152 THE QUEEN CONSORT. 

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 cus 
tom. 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 indispensa 
ble 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 gar 
lands, and prepare the silken sheets, the pillows and cush- 



THE QUEEN CONSORT. 153 

ions ; 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 omis 
sions and variations adapted to the rank of the parties. 

After three days the bride visits her parents, bear 
ing 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) accom 
panies 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 presents 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 Tain 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. 



7* 



XIX. 

THE HEIE-APPAEENT. EOYAL HAIE-CUTTING. 

THE Prince Somdetch Chowfa Chulalonkorn* 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 hand 
some 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 Cha- 
turont Easmi and Chowfa Bhangurangsi Swang Wongse, 
and their lovely young sister, the Princess Somdetch 
Chowfa Chandrmondol (" Fa-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, at 
tracted 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 
Fa-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 hesi 
tate to implore me to instil into the minds of her youth- 

* The present Supreme King. 




THE HEIR-APPARKNT. 



THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 155 

ful 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 child 
hood she was most scrupulous in her attendance and de 
votions 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. 

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, in 
fantile 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 hap 
pier Western children have begun to think. There were 
actual, though unnoticed and unconscious, intrepidity and 
fortitude in the manoeuvres 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 re 
warded, 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 be 
coming familiar, and out of the depths these royal chil 
dren 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 as 
pirations. From his studies, both in English and Pali, he 
derived an exalted ideal of life, and precocious and in 
expressible yearnings. Once he said to me he envied the 



156 THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

death of the venerable priest, his uncle ; he would rather 
be poor, he said, and have to earn his living, than be a 
king. 

" T is 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 en 
countered 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 knowl 
edge, 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 grad 
ually 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, 



THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 157 

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, in 
cluding the procession, provided for the representation of 
a sort of drama, borrowed partly from the Eamayana, and 
partly from the ancient observances of the kings of Cam 
bodia, 

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 per 
formance. 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-Laat, 
was raised in the centre of the palace gardens. On its 
summit was erected a golden temple or pagoda of exquis 
ite 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 va 
ries according to the rank of the child. For commoners 
it is called " Khone Chook " ; for the nobility and roy 
alty, "Soh-Khan," probably from the Sanskrit Soli 
Sdhtha Kam, " finding safe and sound." The custom is 



158 THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

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 di 
rected 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 pres 
ents 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 com 
pleted, 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 king 
dom, who, in bands or companies, were to serve alter 
nately, 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. 



THE HEIR-APPAKENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 159 

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 monot 
onous 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 Klioa tok, 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 Kurraweek, 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, imi 
tating the cries of birds, the sound of falling fruit, and 



160 THE HEIR-APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

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, spit 
toon, 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, daugh 
ters 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 Yaks. They 



THE HEIR-APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 161 

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 Yaks, performing a 
sort of war dance, and chanting in chorus : 

Orali Pho, diet pai Kra Lddt. 

" Let us go to the Sacred Mount ! " 

Whereupon the Yaks, or evil angels, point their won 
derful weapons at them, chanting in the same strain : 

Orali Pho, salope thdng pooany. 

" 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 
Koman 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 
Sache, but called in Siamese " Vis Summo Kam," 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 per 
sonages, representing winds and showers, lightning and 
thunder. The hill, Khoa Kra Laat, 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 



162 THE IIEIR-APPAREXT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

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, noth 
ing 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 Mphan ! " 

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 encir 
cling the altar, were passed into the hands of the officiat 
ing 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 medi 
tated upon in silence. 

Early on the third day all the princes, nobles, and 



THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 163 

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 charac 
ter of Fhra 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 prince 
ly banquet ; and then the nobility and common people 
were also feasted. About midday, two standards, called 
baisec, were set up within a circle of people. These are 
not unlike the sawekra chat, 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 can 
opy has a flat bottom, and within the receptacle thus 
formed custom requires that a little cooked rice, called 



164 THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

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 baisee, 
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 be 
fore 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 baisee, and, sprinkling it with cocoa- 
nut 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.* 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 distin 
guished princes and endowed noblemen, who have acquired 

* A tical is equivalent to sixty cents. 



THE HEIR-APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 165 

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 cere 
mony. 

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 Ke au, 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 be 
ing 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 w r as received by the high-priest, and with their hands 
mutually interfolded, one upon the other, lie vowed to re 
nounce, 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 



166 THE HEIR- APPARENT. ROYAL HAIR-CUTTING. 

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 even 
ing, at his " Hose-planting House " ; and even from this 
distant place and time I look back with comfort to those 
hours. 



XX. 

AMUSEMENTS OF THE COUKT. 

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. Fan 
tastic 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, Eamayana, are admirably ren 
dered in this style. In front of the royal palace an im 
mense transparent screen, mounted on great poles, is 



168 AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 

drawn across the esplanade, and behind this, at a moder 
ate distance, great tires are lighted. Between the screen 
and the tire masked figures, grotesquely costumed, en 
act the story of llama and Sita and the giant Rawuna, 
with Hanuinan 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 marvel 
lously ingenious in the manufacture of toys and dolls, of 
porcelain, stone, wood, bark, and paper. They make pa 
godas, 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, listen 
ing 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. 



AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 169 

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 amuse 
ment of children exclusively, is here, as in China and 
Birmah, the pastime of both sexes, and all ages and con 
ditions 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 competi 
tors. 

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 in- 

8 



170 AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 

verted and suspended by cords to a wooden frame. The 
performer strikes the bells with two little hammers cov 
ered with soft leather, producing an agreeable harmony. 
The hautboy player (who is usually a professional jug 
gler 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 instru 
ment, 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 mod 
erate 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 dif 
ferent 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. 



AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 171 

The taklie, 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), throw 
ing 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 cham 
pions, to whom, though well fed, sleep is jealously al 
lowanced 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 



172 AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 

enforced, and nothing is permitted contrary to the estab 
lished 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 Antaeus 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 sur 
render 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 dif 
fer materially from that which all mighty players have 



AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 173 

practised since Caesar s soldiers pitched quoits for ra 
tions. 

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 cir 
cle 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 
011 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 estima 
tion among the Siamese. Their public festivals, however 
solemn, are usually begun with races, which they culti 
vate 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. 



174 AMUSEMENTS OF THE COURT. 

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 distin 
guished 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 distinc 
tion usually dress expensively, in imported stuffs, elabo 
rately embroidered with silk and gold thread. They 
wear a small cap, and sometimes a strip of red, like the 
fillet of the Greeks and Eomans, 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 cheerful 
ness and kindness, which tends to promote genial fellow 
ship and foster friendships, and by bringing together all 
sorts of people, otherwise separated by diversity of cus 
tom, 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 his 
tory stands, I think, P hra Alack, or rather Che- 
ing 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 his 
tory of the reign of his patron and king, P hra Narai, 
(contemporary with Louis XIV.) and left a very curi 
ous 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 Lopha- 
buree. 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 



170 SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 

have boldly opened a way for himself, instead of follow 
ing (as modern Orientals, timid or servile, are so prone to 
do) the well-worn patli of the old Hindoo writers. In his 
tragedy (which I saw acted) of Manda-ihi-Nung, " The 
First Mother," there are passages of noble thought and 
true passion, expressed with a power and beauty pecu 
liarly his own. 

The entertainments of the theatre are devoured by the 
Siamese with insatiable appetite, and the popular pref 
erence 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, de 
lighted, 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 Kamawsha, a writer highly esteemed, did wonders 
for the Siamese drama. He translated the Eamayana, 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 




SIAMESE ACTOR AND ACTRESS. 



SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 177 

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 an 
ger, love, and pity. The plays of P hra Eamawsha 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. 

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 dis 
play in this respect, large sums being expended annually 
on their costumes, jewels, and other adornings. 

The development of native genius and skill, in the di 
rection 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 beau 
tiful in nature or in art, by no means slow or awk 
ward in imitating the graceful products of European 
taste and industry, are yet fettered by a peculiar oppres 
sion in their efforts to express in visible forms their 
artistic inspirations. No Siamese subject is to be con 
gratulated, 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 re 
ward or thanks, the former to serve the king, the latter 
to adorn the palace. Many ply in secret their danger- 

8* L 



178 SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 

ously 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 lira 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 installa 
tion at court. Thus all natural ambition has been stu 
pidly extinguished in the breasts of the artists of a land 
whose remaining monuments attest her ancient excel 
lence 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 Mali, or Mai, is espe 
cially noticeable. This temple was built by the grand 
mother of the late Malm Mongkut. The plant klieim 
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 discourage 
ments of poverty in himself and ignorance in his neigh- 



SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 179 

bors, "but found his reward at last in this engagement 
to embellish the walls of the Watt Kheim Mai. 

Nai Bang s must have been an original and indepen 
dent 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 w r e 
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, behold 
ing the miracle, kneel and adore him. Now lie 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-bar 
baric age. Every figure is instinct with character and 
action, and the whole is rendered with infinite ntiiwtt, 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 Birtli of Buddha. 



180 SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 

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 shad 
ows 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 na 
tional 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 paint 
ings 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 degen 
erated 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 re 
tain a fair knowledge of effect in fresco, tracing the out 
line 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 bril 
liant ground. The most remarkable work of this kind is, 
I imagine, that which is lavished on the temple Watt P hra 




SPIRE OF THE TEMPLE WATT-POH. 



SIAMESE LITERATURE AND ART. 181 

Keau, the walls, pillars, windows, roofs, towers, and gates 
being everywhere overlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory, 
and profusely gilded. The several facades 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. 

Among the older pictures, one in the Royal bedcham 
ber 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 repre 
sented, and here are several illuminated figures, human 
but gigantic. One of these, discontented with his spirit 
ual food, is seen tasting something, which we are told is 
" fragrant earth " ; after which, in another figure, he ap 
pears 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 permit 
ting 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 exam 
ples of it, many of them not unworthy of European art. 



182 SIAMESE LITERATURE AND 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 build 
ing 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. 



world is old, and all things old within it." We 
J- 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 " pass- 
eth understanding ! " The world s helpers must first 
become borrowers of God. The world s teachers must 
first learn of him that only wisdom, which conieth 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 expres 
sions 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 



184 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

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 de 
veloped 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 metaphys 
ical analysis of Mind had attained its noontide splen 
dor, while as yet experimental research had hardly 
dawned. Those ancient mystics did much to promote in 
tellectual emancipation, by insisting that Thought should 
not be imprisoned within the mere outlines of any single 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 185 

dogmatic system ; and they likewise availed, in no feeble 
measure, to keep alive the heart in the head, by demand 
ing 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 dis 
tinctions, 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 re 
sults to-day. There are more things in that subtile, mys 
tical 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 the 
ology, it were absurdly false to say the Buddhist has no 
God. His Decalogue* 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. 

* Translated from the Pali. 



186 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

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 lan 
guage. 

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 re 
venge, nor malice, nor the desire of thy neighbor s death 
or misfortune. 

X. Thou shalt not follow the doctrines of false ^ods. 

O 

Whosoever abstains from these forbidden things is said 
to " observe Silah " ; and whosoever shall faithfully ob 
serve 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. Eeverence 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 Talap, had invited me 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 187 

to accompany her to the royal private temple, Watt P hra 
Ke au, to witness the services held there on the Buddhist 
Sabato, 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 ap 
proached 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 Keau," I replied. " To see or to hear ? " 
" Both." And we entered. 

On a floor diamonded with polished brass sat a throng 
of women, the elite 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 chil 
dren, 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 Sah. In his hand he held a concave 
fan, lined with pale green silk, the back richly embroi 
dered, jewelled, and gilt.* He was draped in a yellow robe, 
not unlike the Ptoman 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 resem 
bling the scapular worn by certain orders of the Koman 

* The fan is used to cover the face. Jewelled fans are marks of dis 
tinction among the priesthood. 



188 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

Catholic clergy. At his side was an open watch of 
gold, the gift of his sovereign. At his feet sat seven 
teen 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 ; * 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 re 
paid 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 myste 
rious awe even his inquisitive young mind. The venera 
ble 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 gen 
tle 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 con 
gregation raised themselves on their knees and, all to 
gether, 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 sing 
ing, 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 

* " Put oft thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou 
standest is holy ground." 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 189 

closed. Indeed, there were faces there that expressed 
devotion and piety, the humblest and the purest, as 
the lips murmured : " Thou Eternal One, Thou per 
fection of Time, Thou truest Truth, Thou immutable es 
sence of all Change, Thou most excellent radiance of 
Mercy, Thou infinite Compassion, Thou Pity, Thou Char- 
ity!" 

T lost some of the responses in the simultaneous repe 
tition, and did but imperfectly comprehend the exhorta 
tion that followed, in which was inculcated the strictest 
practice of charity in a manner so pathetic and so gen 
tle as might be wisely imitated by the most orthodox of 
Christian priests. 

There was majesty in the humility of those pagan wor 
shippers, 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 tem 
ple, 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 expi 
ated by the appropriate punishment of the wretch to whose 
sacrilegious carelessness it was due ; nor was the sacred 
name rekindled until the reigu of P hra-Pooti-Yaut-Fa, 



190 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

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 thanksgiv 
ing, and so has burned on to this day. 

The lofty throne, on which the priceless P hra Ke au 
(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 per 
fumed 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 de 
vices, 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 initialed. 
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 con 
ceits 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 doc 
trine 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 apos 
tolic, for the truth of which many faithful witnesses had 
laid down their lives. It was, besides, the creed of an 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 191 

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 Eoman arrogance and indif 
ference. 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 appre 
ciate all the religious significance of his teachings. Tere- 
binthus declared there was " nothing in the pagan world to 
be compared with his (Buddha s) Phra-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, fuis- 
set 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 philoso 
phy of Buddha became entangled with the Egyptian my 
thology. 

Over the portal on the eastern facade of the Watt P hra 
Ke au 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 an 
cient 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 Anurnan or Hanu- 



192 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

man), and the souls of the wicked carried off by a 

Pig- 
In the city of Arsinoe in Upper Egypt (formerly Croco- 
dilopolis, now Medinet-el-Fayum), the crocodile is wor 
shipped ; 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 con 
secrated, is invariably pictured with the head of a croco 
dile ; 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 Siarn ; and a 
sacred crocodile, kept in a pond in the manner of the 
ancient Egyptians, is fed by Siamese priests, at whose call 
it conies 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 Phthali, 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 hiero 
glyphics, 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 scarabaei 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 dan 
ger 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 concep 
tion and manifestation of that being, or his attributes, in the 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 193 

form of idols. Next, the representation of all that be 
longs to spirits, good and bad. And finally, the cleiri cation 
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 scarabaeus, a crea 
ture 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,* 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 crea 
tion or generation was gradually overbuilt with arbitrary 
speculations and fantastic notions. In theory it degen 
erated 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 im 
portunate 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 over 
powering computation of his priests, did Buddha strug 
gle 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 diversi 
ties of transmigration in the animal, human, and angelic 
worlds, throughout the spaceless, timeless, numberless 
universe of visible and invisible life. According to He- 
raclides, Pythagoras used to say of himself, that he re- 

* Six rubies, exquisitely cut in the form of beetles, are worn as studs 
by the present King of Siam. 

9 M 



194 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

membered " not only all the men, "but all the animals and 
all the plants, his soul had passed through." That Py 
thagoras believed and taught the doctrine of transmigra 
tion may hardly be doubted, but that he originated it is 
very questionable. Herodotus intimates that both Or 
pheus and Pythagoras derived it from the Egyptians, but 
propounded it as their own, without acknowledgment. 

Nearly every male inhabitant of Siam enters the priest 
hood 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 mat 
rimonial bond is at once dissolved ; and with this advan 
tage, that after three or four months of probation they 
may be reconciled and reunited, to live together in the 
world again. 

Chow Khoon Sah, or " His Lordship the Lake," whose 
functions in the Watt P hra Ke au 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 de 
voting himself to the study of Sanskrit literature, and of 
escaping the fate, that otherwise awaited him, of becom 
ing 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, dis 
countenanced 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 re 
spect for his reverend cousin, whose title (" The Lake ") 
described justly, as well as poetically, the graceful seren 
ity and repose of his demeanor. 

Chow Khoon Sah lived at some distance from the pal- 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 195 

ace, at the Watt Brahmanee Waid. As the friendship be 
tween the cousins ripened, his Majesty considered that 
it would be well for him to have the contemplative stu 
dent, 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 vexa 
tions 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 Eajali-BaJi-dit-Sang, 
or " The King caused me to be built " ; and at the same 
time, as an appendage to the temple, a monastery in me 
diaeval style, the workmanship in both structures being 
most substantial and elaborate. 

The sculptures and carvings on the pillars and facades 

half-fabulous, half-historical figures, conveying ingen 
ious 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 mon 
astery of Eajah-Bah-dit-Sang was the occasion of ex 
traordinary 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 can 
opy ; 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 partici 
pate in the rejoicings in the midst of which the good 
work went on. 



196 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

After the several services of mass had been per 
formed, and the corner-stones consecrated by the pouring 
on of oil and water,* 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 Avine, 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, fling 
ing them into the foundations, united with zeal and re 
joicing 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 maitri, as 
your apostle St. Paul explains it in the thirteenth chap 
ter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians ? " said his Maj 
esty 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 prof- 
iteth 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." 

* Oil is the emblem of life and love ; water, of purity. 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 197 

" You have said well. It is the highest act of devo 
tion 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 popu 
lar 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 conse 
crates 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 in 
quiry 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 maitrt, or 
maikrce, 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 



198 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

of untold riches. In his youth he felt such pity for the 
poor, the old, the sick, and such as were troubled and sor 
rowful, that lie became melancholy, and after spending 
several years in the continual relief of the needy and 
helpless, lie, 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 com 
prehend in its fulness, the Buddhist word maitri. 

" 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 nine 
ty-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 Chris 
tian 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 in 
quired 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 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 199 

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 argu 
ment, 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 
Eajah-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 impetu 
ous 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 ; 



200 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 

and as we traversed the long, low passages that separate 
the cells of the priests, the weird sound of voices, chant 
ing the hymns of the Buddhist liturgy, fell upon my ear. 
The darkness, the loneliness, the measured monotone, dis 
tant 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 oft 1 my shoes ; at the same time prostrating himself 
with a movement and expression of the most abject hu 
mility before the door, where he remained, without chan 
ging 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 fold 
ed on his breast ; his head was bald, and the few blanched 
hairs that might have remained to fringe his sunken tem 
ples 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, absorp 
tion. 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, 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 201 

freshly gathered : these were offerings from the king. 
One of the lilies had been laid on his breast, and con 
trasted touchingly with the dingy, faded yellow of his 
robe. Just over the region of the heart lay a coil of un- 
spun cotton thread, which, being divided into seventy- 
seven filaments, was distributed to the hands of the 
priests, who, closely seated, quite filled the cell, 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. Sang-Khang sara nang gach cha mi ! 
(Thou Excellence, or Perfection ! I take refuge in thee.) 

All. Kama Pootho sang-Khang sara nang gach cha 
mi ! (Thou who art named Poot-tho ! either God, 
Buddha, or Mercy, I take refuge in thee.) 

First Voice. Tuti ampi sang-Khang sara nang gach 
cha mi ! (Thou Holy One ! I take refuge in thee.) 

All. Te satiya sang-Khang sara nang gach cha mi! 
(Thou Truth, I take refuge in thee.) 

As the sound of the prayer fell on his ear, a flickering 
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. Eiches, 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 incohe 
rence 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 

9* 



202 BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PRIESTS, AND WORSHIP 

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 labo 
rious -, and presently, turning with a great effort toward the 
king, he said, Chan cha pi daiini I "I will go now " 
Instantly the priests joined in a loud psalm and chant, 
" P hra Arahang sang-Khang sara nang gach cha mi ! " 
(Thou Sacred One, I take refuge in thee.) A few min 
utes 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 clay I was again sum 
moned by his Majesty to witness the burning of that body. 

It was carried to the cemetery Watt Sail Kate ; 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 ven 
erable devotee was the remembrance of a look. 

" Tliis/ 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 [maitri], it 
profited! me nothing. " 



BUDDHIST DOCTRINE, PHIESTS, AND WORSHIP. 203 



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. 

Eegard 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 un chastely. 

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 genu 
ine convulsion of grief for the death of his sweet 
little princess, Somdetch Chow Fa-ying, he proceeded, 
habited in white, with all his family, to visit the cham 
ber 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-tlw ! Poot-tlw ! 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 



CREMATION. 205 

which, by means of a tap or stop-cock, the fluids are 
drawn off daily, until the cadavre has become quite 
dry. 

This double urn 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 ail the 
princely company retired, leaving the poor clod to await, 
in its pagan gauds and mockery, the last offices of friend 
ship. 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 flaming, 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 immu 
tability ! " 

These services are performed with religious care daily 



206 CREMATION. 

for six months ; * that is, until the time appointed for 
cremation. Meanwhile, in the obsequies of the Princess 
Ea-ying, arrangements were made for the erection of the 
customary P hra-mene, 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-mene 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 hun 
dred 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-mene, 
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- 
mene 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, pup 
pet-shows, masquerades, posturing, somersaulting, leap- 

* Twelve months for a king. 



CREMATION. 207 

ing, 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-mene 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 circum 
ference, and higher by twenty feet than the surrounding 
buildings. On this pyramid stood the urn of gold con 
taining 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, represent 
ing the firmament studded with silver stars. Under the 
canopy, and just over little Fa-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 sus 
pended from the ceiling, and lesser lights on the angles 
of the pyramid, illuminated the funeral hall. 

These showy preparations completed, the royal mourn 
ers 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 Fa-ying. A 



208 CREMATION. 

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 fol 
lowed 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 sa 
cred sandal- wood, the aromatic gums, and the wax tapers. 
The wood was profusely carved with emblems of the in 
destructibility 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. 



CREMATION". 209 

The moment the strange concourse, human and mytho 
logical, 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-mene. Here the urn was lifted 
by means of pulleys, and enthroned on the splendid pedes 
tal 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 re 
flections 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 con 
tinued thus engaged for about an hour, and then with 
drew to give place to another hundred, and so on, until 
thousands of priests had taken part in the solemn exer 
cises. Meanwhile the four already mentioned still prayed, 
day and night, at the Maha Phrasat. A service was like 
wise 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 con 
course of priests is sumptuously entertained. 



210 CREMATION. 

At nightfall the P hra-mene is brilliantly illuminated, 
within and without, and the people are entertained with 
dramatic spectacles derived from the Chinese, Hindoo, Ma 
layan, and Persian classics. Effigies of the fabulous Hy 
dra, or dragon with seven heads, illuminated, and animated 
by men concealed within, are seen endeavoring to swal 
low the moon, represented by a globe of fire. Another 
monster, probably the Chimsera, 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 buga 
boo 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 gradu 
ally 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 a 
propos pastime his Majesty took a lively part. The per 
sonal 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- 
mene, an artificial tree, bearing gold and silver fruit, which 



CREMATION. 211 

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 re 
mains of Her late Koyal Highness celestial Princess Som- 
detch Chowfa Chandrmondol Sobhon Bhagiawati,* whose 
death took place on the 12th May, Anno Christ! 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 ser 
vice of Her late Eoyal 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 la 
mented Eoyal 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 Eoyal Highness bereaved Eoyal father. 
Their Eoyal Highnesses celestial princes Somdetch Chowfa 
Chtilalonkorn the full elder brother, Chowfa Chaturont 
Easmi, and Chowfa Bhangurangsi Swang-wongse, the two 
younger full brothers, and His Eoyal Highness Prince 
Nbbliawongs Krommun Maha-suarsivivalas the eldest half 
brother. Their Eoyal Highnesses twenty-five princes, 
Krita-bhinihar, Gaganang Yugol &c. the younger half- 

* Fa-yiug. 



212 CREMATION. 

brothers, and their Eoyal Highnesses seven princesses, 
Yingyawlacks, Dacksinja, and Somawati, &c., the elder 
sisters, 18 princesses, Srinagswasti, &c., the younger half- 
sisters of Her late Koyal Higliness 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 cor 
respondence &c. certain of whom have ever seen Her late 
Eoyal Highness, and some have been acquainted with 
certain of her late Eoyal 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 Maj 
esty s and their Eoyal Highnesses friends who ever have 
been acquainted with his present Majesty, and certain 
of Their Eoyal Highnesses or Her late Eoyal Highness 
the deceased, either in person or by correspondence, or 
only by name through cards &c. for a token of remem 
brance of Her late Eoyal 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 Pro 
tecting 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 saridal- 
wood, and aromatic gums, connected with a train of gun- 



CREMATION. 213 

powder, which the king ignited with a match from the 
sacred fire that burns continually in the temple Watt 
P hra Keau. 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 pre 
cious 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 pro 
longed keen, of the most ear-piercing and heart-rending 
description. 

When the fire had quite burned itself out, all that re 
mained of the bones, charred and blackened, was care 
fully gathered, deposited in a third and smaller urn of 
gold, and again conveyed in great state to the Maha Phra- 
sat. 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 mu 
sicians, 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, Mf 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. 



214 CREMATION. 

Upon his successor devolves the duty of providing for 
the erection of the royal P hra-mene as to the propor 
tions 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 gov 
ernors 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- 
mene. 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 circumfer 
ence. 

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 con 
struction of the grand funeral hall and its numerous sup 
plementary 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 trib 
utaries 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-mene. 

The following description of the cremation, at Bejre- 
puri, of a man " in the middle walks of life," is taken 
from the Bangkok Recorder of May 24, 1866 : 



CREMATION. 215 

" 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 tem 
ple, 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 burn 
ing of the bones after the vultures and dogs had stripped 
them. The sexton, with the assistance of another, gath 
ered 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 burn 
ing the bones. Then a lighted torch was applied to the 
pile, and the relatives and other mourners advanced, and 



216 CREMATION. 

laid each a wax candle by the torch. Others brought in 
cense and cast it on the pile. 

" The vultures, having had but a scanty breakfast, lin 
gered 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 (Phra-Tham), at whose will all crude mat 
ter sprang into existence, but who exercises no further 
control over it ; that man is but one of the endless muta 
tions 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 second 
ary law of retribution accountable for offences committed 
in his person, and these he must expiate through subse 
quent transmigrations, until, by sublimation, he is ab 
sorbed 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 re 
former. 

Nevertheless, no nation or tribe of all the human race 
has ever been more profoundly inoculated with a su- 
10 



218 CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS. 

perstition 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 natter or propitiate these, es 
pecially 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 proce 
dure, that three innocent men shall be immolated on the 
site selected by the court astrologers, and at their " aus 
picious " hour. 

In 1865, his Majesty and the French Consul at Bang 
kok had a grave misunderstanding about a proposed 
modification of a treaty relating to Cambodia. The con 
sul 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 ac 
cede to his demands. Whereupon, the poor king, effec 
tually 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 : 



CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS. 219 

" 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, dig 
ging 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 Eoyal 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 myr 
midons 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, trem 
bling 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 in 
nocent, unresisting victims " hinds and churls " per 
haps, 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 fore 
warn him, if either traitors within or enemies without 



220 CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS. 

should conspire against the peace of his people or the 
safety of his throne." Even as the last word of this ex 
hortation falls from the royal lips, the cords are cut, the 
ponderous engine " squelches " the heads of the distin 
guished wretches, and three Bangkok ragamuffins are 
metempsychosed into three guardian-angels (Thevedali). 

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 obla 
tions 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 reg 
ular perquisite, " one pig s head and two bottles of ar 
rack." 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 say 
ing, 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 



CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS. 221 

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 prac 
tised 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 super 
natural 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 sub 
jects nor easily defined by foreigners, the Second King 
seems to be, nevertheless, belittled by the very signifi 
cance of the one exclusive privilege that should distin 
guish him, that of exemption from the customary pros 
trations 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 abso 
lute chief next, and yet so far, above him ; it may be 
important, insignificant, or wholly omitted. Like any 
lesser clucus 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. 




THE PRINCESS OF CHIENGMAT. 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 223 

Somdetch P hra Pawarendr Ramesr Mahiswarer, the 
subordinate king of Siam, who died on the 29th of De 
cember. 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 legiti 
mate offspring of the first queen, these two lads were 
styled Somdetch Chovjfas, " Celestial Eoyal 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 acces 
sion, by intrigue, of their elder half-brother, the Chowfa 
Mongkut entered the Buddhist priesthood ; but his broth 
er, 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 Docu 
ments 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 state 
ment : 

" 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 



224 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

consequence of some misunderstanding before. He be 
came 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 con 
cealed 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 de 
fence near the mouth of the Meeklong Kiver. 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 Pak- 
nam ; and having to this end engaged a corps of Eu 
ropean engineers and artisans, he eagerly seized the ad 
vantage the situation afforded him, by free and intelligent 
intercourse with his foreign assistants, to master the Eng 
lish 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 construc 
tion 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 coro 
nation of his elder brother, the student and priest Maha 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 225 

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 im 
provement, 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 curi 
ous 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 suit 
able 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 
10* o 



226 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

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 ac 
quainted with many and many foreigners, who carne 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 en 
joyed 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 pleas 
antly, and various curiosity of almost everything, and 
music of every description, and in taming of dogs, mon 
keys, &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 ex 
pression 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 foreign- 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 227 

ers, 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 friend 
ship 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 Sec 
ond 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 bap 
tized 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 con 
sisted in polygamy and enjoyment, and with young 
women who were practised in pleasant dancing and sing 
ing, and who could not be easily given up at any time. 



228 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

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 dar 
ling of his mother, and it was in his infancy that the 
seeds of that ignoble jealous}^ were sown between the 
royal broth eis, which flourished 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 thir 
teenth 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 
Ease-hid, 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 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 229 

so pleased and flattered him as to be called, in his as 
sumed name of Nak Pratt, " the wise," to take part in 
their sports and fetes. 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 multi 
ply 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 gen 
tleman 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 accom 
plished 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. 



230 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

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 li 
brary, more judiciously selected than that of his brother, 
abounded in works of science, embracing the latest dis 
coveries. 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. 

Eor robust and exhilarating enjoyment, however, he had 
recourse to hunting expeditions, and martial exercises in 
the drilling of his private troops. Punctually at day 
break 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 dis 
missed 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 di 
versions. Opposite the armory stood a pretty little cot 
tage, quite English-looking, lighted with glass windows, 
and equipped with European furniture. Over the en 
trance 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 harm 
less occupation of horlogerie. Sometimes this eccentric 
entertainment was diversified with music, in which his 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 231 

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 inno 
cence 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 pe 
culiar 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 apprecia 
tion, 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 for 
bidden 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 uncertain 
ty 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 free 
dom 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 w T omen ; 
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 indul 
gence so much the more precious and delightful to them. 



232 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

Never had Siam a more popular prince. He was the 
embodiment of the most hopeful qualities, moral and in 
tellectual, 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 com 
manded 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 re 
fusal 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 tribu 
tary prince of that province ; and no sooner was his griev 
ance 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 lie 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 east 
ern slope. 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 233 

Here lie 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 Su- 
nartha Yismita. 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 Maj 
esty s cmtiine, an appointment of peculiar importance 
and trust in the household of an Oriental prince. Find 
ing that by no feminine devices could she procure the 
influence she coveted over her master s mind and affec 
tions, she finally had recourse to an old and infamous sor 
cerer, styled Khoon Hate-nab (" 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 considera 
tion 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 abom 
inable 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 despon 
dency 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 Sara- 
buree 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 Kroin Hluang Wongse, physician to the 



234 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

king, and one of his half-brothers. Now miserably un 
nerved, 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, adminis 
tered 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 
Hate-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 



THE SUBORDINATE KING. 235 

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 Eng 
lish, and a scarcely less characteristic passage of Peck- 
sniffian cant : 

" The lamentable patient Second King ascertained him 
self that his approaching death was inevitable ; it was 
great misfortune to him and his family indeed. His eld 
est son Prince George * Krom Mu n Pawarwijagan, aged 
27 years on that time, became very sick of painful rheu 
matism 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 support 
ing 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 sis 
ters 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 

* George Washington. 



236 THE SUBORDINATE KING. 

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 be 
fore. He beg d only to recommend his sons and daugh 
ters, 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 Samulia P hra-Kralahome, the Prime Minis 
ter, 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 re 
morseful passion of tears, of that mute mystery of human 
ity, 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 subordi 
nate king supreme, by the grace of dying and forgiving ! 



XXVI. 

THE SUPEEME KING: HIS CHAEACTEE AND 
ADMINISTRATION. 

OF Somdetcli P hra Paramendr Maha ]\Iongkut, late 
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 progres 
sive of all the supreme rulers of Siam, of whom the na 
tive 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 
Somdetcli P hra Bouromah Eajah P hra Pooti Yout Fah, 
was one of the most admired princesses of her time, and 
is described as equally beautiful and virtuous. She de 
voted 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, 



THE SUPREME KING : 

and virtue, most conspicuous among them the venera 
ble but energetic Duke Soindetch 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, de 
scended 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 Sena- 
bawdee, was inducted by that " Royal Council " into 
power. Unequal to the exploit of unseating the usurper, 
and fearing his unscrupulous jealousy, the Chowfa Mong- 
kut took refuge in a monastery, and entered the priest 
hood, 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 contem 
plative tastes of the royal scholar found fresh entertain 
ment, his intellectual aspirations a new incitement. 

He labored with enthusiasm for the diffusion of religion 
arid enlightenment, and, above all, to promote a higher 
appreciation of the teachings of Buddha,, to whose doc- 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 239 

trines 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 ex 
pended either in charitable distributions or in the pur 
chase of books, sacred manuscripts, and relics for his 
monastery.* 

It was during his retirement that he wrote that nota 
ble 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 

* "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 cler 
gymen 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 MaltM Mongkut. 



240 THE SUPREME KING: 

them daily to his temple, to aid him in the study of Eng 
lish. Finally he placed himself under the permanent 
tutorship of the Eev. Mr. Caswell, an American mission 
ary ; 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 ad 
vanced 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 ad 
vance with the remark that has ever been remembered 
against him, " / hate the Bible mostly I " 

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 Compen 
sation, of Many Births, and of final Niphan," * 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 pleas 
ure 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 men 
tion 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 

* Attainment of beatitude. 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 241 

branches of your sect. It is, of all the laws of the uni 
verse, the most wise and incontestable, pervading all 
forms of animal and vegetable life. Yet your God (mean 
ing the Christian s God) has stigmatized it as unholy, in 
that he would not permit his Son to be born in the or 
dinary way ; but must needs perform a miracle in order 
to give birth to one divinely inspired. Buddha was di 
vinely 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 contempla 
tion subdued, he became the Divinely Enlightened" 

When his teacher had begun to entertain hopes that 
lie 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 
Xoi, 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 quar- 
11 p 



242 THE SUPREME KING : 

ters 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 en 
tertained, were firmly seated on the throne as " first " and 
" second " kings ; and every citizen, native or foreign, be 
gan 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 Eu 
rope.* 

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 

* 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 affec 
tion by people of all creeds and tongues in Siam, as that of a pure and 
devoted follower of our common Redeemer. 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 24o 

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 Chienginai 
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 disap 
pointment, mortification, slights, from abroad, and con 
spiracy at home. Had it not been for the steadfast ad 
herence of the Second King and the prime minister, the 
sceptre would have been wrested from his grasp and be 
stowed 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 con 
cerned for the integrity of justice and the purity of man 
ners 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 tolera 
tion 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 prom 
ise, he did much to improve the condition of his subjects. 

For example, at the instance of her Britannic Majes 
ty s Consul, the Honorable Thomas George Knox, he re 
moved the heavy boat-tax that had so oppressed the 



244 THE SUPREME KING : 

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, lie 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 w r hose mothers had been agreeable to him. 
He never snubbed or slighted them ; and for the little 
princess, Chow Fa-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 com 
mercial treaties of the first importance were concluded 
with foreign powers during his reign. In the first place, 
the Siamese government voluntarily reduced the measure 
ment 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, arid an earnest of greater inducements to enter 
prising 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 245 

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 resi 
dences 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 gran 
deur of their dwellings and the splendor of their corteges. 

So prosperous did the country become under the be 
nign 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 ac 
credit 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 dis 
tinguished 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 



246 THE SUP11EME KING : 

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 out 
skirts 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 in 
fluence 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 irivigoration of sea-air.* 

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 lie had had them replaced with a set made from 
sapan-wood, a secret that he kept very sensitively to 
the day of his death. 

* " 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 re 
gard 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. 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 247 

Capable at times of the noblest impulses, he was equal 
ly capable of the basest actions. Extremely accessible to 
praise, he indiscriminately entertained every form of flat 
tery ; 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 pro 
cured her for his harem against her will, and as a hostage 
for the good faith of her brother ; but as she, being Mo 
hammedan, ever maintained toward him a deportment of 
tranquil indifference, he soon tired of her, and finally dis 
missed her to a wretched life of obsoleteness and neglect 
within the palace walls. 

The only woman who ever managed him with acknowl 
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 grow 
ing 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 msans of bringing many Chinamen to the no 
tice of the king. At the same time she lived in continual 
fear, was warily humble arid 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. 



248 THE SUPREME KING : 

111 his daily habits his Majesty was remarkably indus 
trious and frugal. His devotion to the study of astron 
omy never abated, and he calculated with respectable 
accuracy the great solar eclipse of August, 1868. 

The French government having sent a special commis 
sion, under command of the Baron Hugon le Tourneur, 
to observe the eclipse in Siam, the king erected, at a place 
called Hua Wdnn ("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 \vas 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 an 
cient 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 par 
tially 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 imme 
diately pipes screamed and trumpets blared in the royal 
pavilion, a tribute of reverence to the traditional fable 
about the Angel Eahoo 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 249 

absolute totality, when the very last ray of the sun had 
become extinct, his Excellency shouted, " Hurrah, hur 
rah, hurrah ! " and scientifically disgraced himself. Leav 
ing his spyglass swinging, he ran through the gateway of 
his pavilion, and cried to his prostrate wives, " Hence 
forth will you not believe the foreigners ? " 

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

The government expended not less than a hundred 
thousand dollars on this scientific expedition, and a dele 
gation from the foreign community of Bangkok approached 
his Majesty with an address of thanks for his indiscrimi 
nate 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 con 
sulted, 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, " T have no more need of these things. I 
must give up iny life also." Buddhist priests were con 
stant in attendance, and he seemed to derive much corn- 
fort from their prayers and exhortations. In the evening- 
lie 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 doc- 
11* 



THE SUPREME KING : 

trines 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 sum 
moned his half-brother, H. R H. Krom Hluang Wongse, 
his Excellency the prime minister, Chow Phya Kra- 
lahome, 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 succes 
sor, 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 ; " t is 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 actu 
ally the last words of this most remarkable Buddhist king. 
He died like a philosopher, calmly and sententiously so 
liloquizing 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 ac 
customed posture of devotion ; then suddenly his head 
dropped backward, and he was gone. 

That very night, without disorder or debate, the Sena 
bawdee elected his eldest son, Somdetch Chowfa Chula- 
lonkorri, to succeed him ; and the Prince George Wash 
ington, eldest son of the late Second King, to succeed to 
his father s subordinate throne, under the title of Krom 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 251 

P hra Eaja Bowawn Shathan Mongkoon. The title of the 
present supreme king (my amiable and very promising 
scholar) is Prabat Somdetch P hra Paramendr Maha Chu- 
lalonkorn Kate Klou Chow-yu-Hua. 

About a year after my first ill-omened interviews with 
Maha Mongkut, and when I had become permanently in 
stalled 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 Eng 
lish, his Majesty s private secretary lolled in the sunniest 
corner of the room, stretching his dusky limbs and heav 
ily nodding, in an ecstasy of ease-taking. Poor P hra- 
Alack ! 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 Diction 
ary 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 or 
dering from London, and that word was sure to be a 
stranger to my brain. 



252 THE SUPREME KING: 

Before my arrival in Bangkok it had been his not un 
common 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 appar 
ent. And if the wretched man should venture to declare 
his honest preference for the ordinary over the extraordi 
nary 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.* 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 live 
ly alarm by so startling a summons, dressed himself with 
unceremonious celerity, and hurried to the palace, conjec 
turing 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 situa 
tion, had no choice but to decide with grace, and go back 
to bed with philosophy. 

No wonder, then, that P hra- Alack experienced an ac- 

* Ghost, spirit, soul, devil, evil angel. 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 253 

cess of gratitude for the privilege of napping for two 
hours in a snuggery of sunshine. 

" Mam-kha," * he murmured drowsily, " I hope that in 
the Chat-Nah f I shall be a freed man." 

" I hope so sincerely, P hra- Alack," said I. " I hope 
you 11 be an Englishman or an American, for then you 11 
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, J 
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- Alack ! 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 Pal 
ace, 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- Alack to reconnoitre and report. He had tried 
this primitive trick so often that its very staleness infuri 
ated 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, 

* Kha, " your slave." 

t The next state of existence. 

The greatest indignity a Siamese can suffer. 



254 THE SUPREME KING : 

knew as well as P hra- Alack 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 indit 
ing 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 in 
tellectual type than any who have been its victims in 
modern times in societies farther west. P hra-Alack had 
been his Majesty s slave when they were boys together. 
Together they had played, studied, and entered the priest 
hood. At once bondman, comrade, classmate, and con 
fidant, 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 armigcr 
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 tefdbula narratur, P hra-Alack ! 

The king s taste for English composition had, by much 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 255 

exercise, developed itself into a passion. In the pursuit 
of it he was indefatigable, rambling, and petulant. Ho 
had " Webster s Unabridged " on the brain, an exasper 
ating form of king s evil. The little dingy slips that 
emanated freely from the palace press were as indiscrim 
inate as they w T ere 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 Eecorder. 

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 mission 
aries 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 sacerdotal : " Ah ! what the Ecmanization 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 Eoyal 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 be 
come their scholars or pupils ; they thought they have 
taught sacred language to the part of heathen ; in fact, 



256 THE SUPREME KING : 

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, Cingha- 
lese, 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 fol 
lowing remarkable paragraphs appear : 

" What has been published in No. 25 of Bangkok Re 
corder 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 sustain 
ing 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 257 

of Heaven, and not able to guard those of his own bu 
reau ! " 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 strict 
ures (not always just) and suggestions (not always perti 
nent) aimed at his administration of public affairs, or the 
constitution and discipline of his household, was charac 
teristic. He snubbed them with sententious arrogance, 
leavened with sarcasm. 

When the Recorder recommended to the king the ex 
pediency of dispersing his Solomonic harem, and abolish 
ing 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 Interna 
tional 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 



258 THE SUPREME KING : 

royal palace ; and that officer had the consul s order to 
present it summarily. Lamarche managed to procure ad 
mittance to the penetralia, and presented the note at two 
o clock in the morning, in violation of reason and cour 
tesy as well as of rules, excusing himself on the ground 
that the despatch was important and his orders peremp 
tory. His Majesty then read the despatch, and remarked 
that the matter should be disposed of " to-morrow." La 
marche replied, very presumptuously, that the affair 
required ho investigation, as he had heard the offensive 
language of Phya Wiset, and that person must be de 
posed without ceremony. Whereupon his Majesty or 
dered the offensive foreigner to leave the palace. 

Lamarche repaired forthwith to the consul, and report 
ed that the king had spoken disrespectfully, not only of 
his Imperial Majesty s consul, but of the Emperor him 
self, besides outrageously insulting a French messenger. 
Then the fire-eating functionary addressed another de 
spatch 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 Em 
peror ; 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 dig 
nity, sent his own cousin, the Prince Mom Rachoday, 
Chief Judge of the Royal Court of Equity, to M. Au- 
baret, 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 259 

of outrage as monstrous as the most ingenious and delib 
erate 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 oppor 
tunity a royal procession afforded to provoke the king to 
an ill-timed discussion of politics, and to prefer an intem 
perate complaint against the Kralahome, or prime minis 
ter. This characteristic flourish of ill temper and bad 
manners, from the representative of the politest of na 
tions, 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 sit 
uation." 

" To THE HON. TIIE 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 in 
jure or deaf or blind &c. &c. cannot be considered and 
?aid that they are our enemies even for their madness in 



260 THE SUPREME 

vain it might be considered as easily agitation or un 
easiness. 

"Persons under strong desires without any limit or act 
ing 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 consid- 
arable rank." No sigmiun 

Never were simplicity with shrewdness, and uncon 
scious 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 Sov 
ereign 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 flat 
tering term and ambitious of honor, so that there are now 
many opportunities and operations to be embraced for 
drawing great money from Eoyal Treasury of Siam, &c. 

" The most many foreigners being under belief of such 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 261 

general rumour, were endeavoring to draw money from 
him in various operations, as aluring 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 ac 
quainted 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 tes 
timonies 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,* 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 suit 
able 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. 

" KOYAL RESIDENCE GRAND PALACE 

BANGKOK 2nd July 1867." 

* He was sixty-two at this time. 



262 THE SUPREME KING : 

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 recon 
ciled to his temper and his ways, however peculiar, could 
reciprocate the catholicity of his sympathies, and appre 
ciate 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 Siainikanam Maha Rajah, 
In Latin Rex Siamensium, In French Le Roi de Siam/ 
In English The King of Siam/ and in Malayan Eajah 
Maha Pasali &c. 

"Begs to present his respectful and regardful compli 
ments and congratulations in happy lives during im 
mediately last year, and wishes the continuing thereof 
during the commencing New Year, and ensuing and suc 
ceeding 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 Gentle 
men and Ladies who are resident in Siam in various sta 
tions : 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 263 

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 Eoyal 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 Chris ti 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 na 
tive and foreign, and hopes to receive such the congrat 
ulation 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 hu 
man 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 Eoyal Audience Hall, Anant Sama- 
gome, 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 tribu- 



264 THE SUPREME KING : 

taries 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 un 
scrupulous French had strutted upon the scene, and with 
a flourish of diplomacy and a stroke of the pen appropri 
ated 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 complain 
ing 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 fore 
gone 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 honor 
able 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 geogra 
phers in " setting down " the form of government in Siam 
as an " absolute monarchy." 

" / 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 ob 
noxious savans who compile geographies than to provoke 
him afresh. 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 265 

" 1 Lave no power," lie scolded ; " I am not abso 
lute ! If I point the end of my walking-stick at a man 
whom, being my enemy, I wisli to die, he does not die, 
but lives on, in spite of my absolute will to the con 
trary. What does Geographies mean ? How can I be an 
absolute monarchy ? " 

Such a conversation we were having one day as he " as 
sisted " at the founding of a temple ; and while he re 
proached 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 an 
swering for her, he turned away. 

Almost to the latest hour of his life his Majesty suf 
fered, in his morbid egotism, various and keen annoyance, 
by reason of his sensitiveness to the opinions of foreign 
ers, the encroachments of foreign officials, and the strict 
ures 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 

12 



266 THE SUPREME KING : 

correction to his Majesty on the strength of a rumor that 
" the king has his eye upon another princess of the high 
est rank, with a view to constituting her a queen consort." 
And the Bangkok Eecorder 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 Cliowfas among them, and 
hence eligible to the highest posts of honor in the king 
dom, 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 pe 
rusal 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 



HIS CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. 267 

the Speaker or Writer as proper or suitable to be head 
on my liarcm (a room or part for confinement of Women 
of Eastern monarch *) 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 virtu 
ous 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 infor 
mation 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 

* A parenthetical drollery inspired by the dictionary. 



268 THE SUPREME KING. 

gentleman, the friend, the father, giving his heart a holi 
day in the relaxations of simple kindness and free affec 
tion, 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 prod 
uct 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. MANEABHADAHORX. 

SOMDETCH CHOWFA CHULALONKORX.* KRITAHINIHAR. 
PRABHASSOR. SOMAWATI." 

* The present king. 



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 ac 
complish 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 submis 
sion." 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 unsympa- 



270 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

thetic 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 ven 
geance 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 out 
rageous 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 disinter 
ested ; I suffered from continual contact with the suffer 
ings 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 vie- 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 271 

tim 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 irri 
tated 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 " com 
manded " me to go at once into the presence of the king 
and demand her stolen child; and then, in a sudden par 
oxysm of grief, she embraced my knees, wailing, and pray 
ing to me to help her. It was not in human nature to 
reject that maternal claim. With no little trouble I pro 
cured the liberation of her son ; but to keep him out of 
harm s way I had to take him into rny 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 proteges 
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, *is of some 



272 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

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 Krala- 
home, 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 excus 
ing himself. This was the same wretch at whose instiga 
tion 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 re 
quired 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 inci 
dent 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 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 273 

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 re 
turn. 

After the sad death of the dear little princess, Chow 
Fa-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 
Siain 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 Brit 
ish Consulate, and was so violent that I was in real fear for 
my life. Eor three days I waited, with doors and win 
dows barred, for I knew not what explosion. 

After the death of the Second King, his Majesty be 
haved 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 

12* B 



274 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

brothers to pry into the constitution of each other s 
serail, 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, pri 
vately married to the prince, he was not restrained by 
any scruple of morality or delicacy from manifesting his 
jealousy and pique.* 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 sum 
mons 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 compro 
mising place of refuge. 

The friendship thus founded between two proud and 
daring princes soon became strong and enduring, and re 
sulted 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 ap 
pearance 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 
charing, accepted the situation with a show of gracious- 
ness, and overlooked the absence of the younger vassal. 

* See portrait, Chap. XXV. 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 275 

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 real 
ity 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 fort 
night at the Second King s palace, thereby provoking dan 
gerous 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 con 
clusion 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 sur 
prising success a leading part in a pretty little court play, 



276 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

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 for 
bade 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. j 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 cor 
respondence, which was ever his solace, his pleasure, and 
his pride. To an interested observer it might have af 
forded rare enter tain inent to note how fluently, though 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 277 

oddly, he spoke and wrote in a foreign language, but for 
his caprices, which at times were so ridiculous, how 
ever, 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 ad 
dressed, to say that the instructions they contained w r ere 
my mistake, errors of translation, transcription, any 
thing 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, with 
out compromising him, I yet managed to repair the mis 
chief 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 ap 
pointment 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 Nah 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 pur 
pose 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 de 
clining to do " anything of the kind." Then, warned by 
his gathering rage, I added that I would express to Sir 



278 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

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 in 
vective 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 be 
head or drown, he condescended to accuse me of abstract 
ing 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 * Mr. Bush, and was written by the 
king s own hand, as was well known to all whom it con 
cerned. These charges, with others of a more frivolous 
nature, such as disobeying, thwarting, scolding his Ma 
jesty, 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 ac 
companied by a number of the female slaves of the pal- 

* Here the title is Siamese. 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 279 

ace, wlio 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 fel 
lows 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 res 
cue 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, in 
deed, 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 de 
spatched 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 in 
finite difficulty I persuaded the native secretary, whom I 
had again and again befriended in like extremities, to pro 
cure for him an audience with the king. 



280 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

On coming into the presence of his Majesty, Mr. Bush 
simply handed him the circular, saying, " Main 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-apart 
ments 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 
witli 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 ap 
proached, 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. 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 281 

In due time the following very considerate but signifi 
cant reply (addressed to his Majesty s " one great difficul 
ty ") 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 Siam 
ese 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 posi 
tion 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 worth 
less and their influence valueless. 

As regards M. Aubaret s offensive proceedings, I doubt 
not he has received a caution * on my representation, and 
that he, and others of his nation, would not be very will 
ing 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 

* Aubaret, French Consul at Bangkok, whose overbearing conduct has 
been described elsewhere. 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

might have been better for me to have discussed it with 
his Imperial Majesty. However, the past is past. Per 
sonal 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 him 
self 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 in 
deed 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 re 
gained 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. 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 283 

It took me half a year to get his Majesty s consent ; 
and it was not without tiresome accusations of ingrati 
tude 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 thoughtful- 
ness. 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 contain 
ing 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-Alack, 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 con 
fidence on you every day. Good by ! " I could not re 
ply ; my eyes filled with tears. 

Then came the parting with my pupils, the women and 
the children. That was painful enough, even while the 



284 MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 

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 touch 
ing. Taking both my hands and laying his brow upon 
them, he said, after a long interval of silence, " Mam cha 
klcqy ma thort I " " 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 



MY RETIREMENT FROM THE PALACE. 285 

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 ex 
cite 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 compul 
sion 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 accom 
panied 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. 

"TTTITH her despotic ruler, priest and king ; her re- 
V V ligion 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 mys 
tic forms of philosophy, her ancient culture of physics, 
borrowed from the primitive speculations of Brahminism ; 
- Siam is, beyond a peradventure, one of the most remark 
able and thought-compelling of the empires of the Orient ; 
a fascinating and provoking enigma, alike to the theo 
logian 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 en 
chanting variety of its scenery, joined to the inexhausti 
ble 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 KINGDOM OF SIAM. 287 

the generous rains bestow, distributing supplies of refresh 
ment 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 end 
less 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 



288 THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 

more diversified ; islands, the most picturesque, and rich 
with diversified vegetation, make happy, striking con 
trasts, here and there, with the deep blue sea around 
them. 

The extent and boundaries of the kingdom and its de 
pendencies 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 Eajah of Quedah, who still pays tribute to the 
crown of Siam. It was at the instigation of English set 
tlers that the states of Johore, Singapore, Piambo, Talan- 
gore, Paliang, 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, Que 
dah, Patan, Calantan, and Yeingana ; on the east a part of 
the kingdom of Cambodia, Muang Korat,and several prov 
inces of Laos ; on the north the kingdoms of Chiengmai, 
Laphun, Lakhon, Muang Phiee, 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 



THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 289 

imparts so picturesque an aspect to the Laos country. 
This plain is watered by the river Meinam,* 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 Em 
pire. 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 unim 
portant 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 Eue, 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 

* "Mother of Waters," a common Siamese term for all large 
streams. 

13 8 



290 THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 

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 en 
durable. 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 re 
cent 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 KINGIOM OF SIAM. 291 

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 func 
tions ; to others are alloted offices, by virtue of which cer 
tain imposts are levied; to this man the land; to another 
the waters of rivers and canals ; to a third the fruit-bear 
ing trees. But money is distributed with a niggard hand, 
and only once a year. Every officer of revenue is per 
mitted 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 in 
digenous 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 ; 



292 THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 

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 Nounnahal or 
that Kose-in-bloom with presents, and promises of gen 
erous 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 enterpris 
ing 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 bois 
terous, 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 di 
rected 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 display 
ing 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 win- 
ningly 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 



THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 293 

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 bene 
fit of his favorites of the harem ; and great store of prod 
uce, 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 ex 
ceeds 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 treas 
ures, because they are all supported by grants of land, 
monopolies of market, special taxes, tithes, douceurs, and 
other patrimonial or tributary provisions. A certain emol 
ument is also derived from the valuable mines of the 
country, though, poorly worked as they are, but small im 
portance 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 adorn 
ment 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, valu 
able are numerous in some parts of the country. 



294 THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 

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 edi 
fices, ships, and boats, is enormous ; yet the forests trav 
ersed 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 * (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 re 
duced 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 uni 
versally, 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 hau 
teur, 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 stun 
ning customs of the court with more modest innovations, 

* In Siam reserved as a royal appropriation. 



THE KINGDOM OF SI AM. 295 

nevertheless he rarely went abroad without extrava 
gant 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-tlie-nany), 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. 

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 Eoman 
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 reve 
nues 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 prac 
tice 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 



296 THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 

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 mo 
ment, 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 ra 
tions 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 in 
fantry, 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 dex 
terity. 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 out 
side. 

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 sol 
dier, his wife or children, mother or sisters, as the case 
may be, are tortured, or even executed, without compunc 
tion 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 oppres 
sions. 

The Siamese are but indifferent sailors, their nautical 



THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 297 

excursions being mainly confined to short coasting trips, 
or boating in safe and familiar channels. The more ad 
venturous 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 com 
mercial 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, bul 
warked by mighty mountains ; and, above all, that mag 
nificent 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 

O 

ground. 

13* 



298 THE KINGDOM OF SI AM. 

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 coun 
try is Klong Yai, the Great Canal, supposed to have been 
begun in the reign of Phya Tak. 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 stud 
ding 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 de 
scend 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 pas 
sage 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 



THE KINGDOM OF SIAM. 299 

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 con 
struction. 



XXIX. 

THE EUINS OF CAMBODIA.* AN EXCURSION 
TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 

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 ad 
venture, 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 ex 
citement 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 

* 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 Nagh- 
kon 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. 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 301 

darted from bough to bough among the wild myrtles and 
limes, and great green and golden lizards gleamed through 
the shrubbery as we approached Siemrtip. 

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 direc 
tion, and at evening found ourselves in the quaint, antique- 
town of Phanomsok, 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 
Keke, 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 Eeke (" 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 
Biver. 

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, arid 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 



302 THE 11UINS OF CAMBODIA. 

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 as 
sures 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. 

Taphaii 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 im 
mense 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 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 303 

Cambodians Sthicng 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 propor 
tions, and delicacy of design, the best works of the mod 
ern world, stupendous, beautiful, enduring ! 

The material is mostly freestone, but a flinty conglom 
erate 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 clown. 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 Heav 
enly Bridge, like the Taphan Hiii 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 an 
other stone bridge, over the Paleng River. This, accord- 



304 THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. 

ing to our guides, was abandoned by the builders, because 
the country was invaded by the hostile hordes who de 
stroyed 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 Siemrap ; 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 Khai- 
main, 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 pre 
cious 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 Ong 
koor, and quite apart from the ruined temples that abound 
hard by, we found architectural remains of such exceed 
ing grandeur, with ruins of temples and palaces which 
must have been raised at so vast a cost of labor and treas 
ure, 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 origi 
nally 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, 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON ^ATT. 305 

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 Rome have left us, and addressing us with a 
significance all the sadder and more solemn for the deso 
lation 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 de 
struction 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 be 
long ; 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, some 
what 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 



306 THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. 

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 feat 
ures being classic and of manly beauty. 

Approaching the temple of Ongkoor, the most beauti 
ful 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 
and 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 build 
ing. 

The main entrance is by a long gallery, having a su 
perb 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 por 
ticos, and beyond these is a very lofty door, or gateway, 
covered with gigantic hieroglyphs, where gods and war 
riors 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 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGIIKOX WATT. 307 

balconies of curiously twisted columns ; and the different 
compartments are equally covered with sculptures of sub 
jects taken from the Kamayana. Here are Lakshman 
and Hanuman leading their warriors against Eawana, 
some with ten heads, others with many arms. The mon 
keys are building the stone bridge over the sea. llama 
is seen imploring the aid of the celestial protector, who sits 
on high, in grand and dreamy contemplation. Kama s 
father is challenging the enemy, while Eawana 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. 

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 pro 
portions, 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 suffi 
ciently 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 effi 
gies 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. 



308 THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. 

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 pavil 
ions 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 aque 
duct 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 cov 
ered 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 Phra 
Hook Buln (" 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 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 309 

Bhrama, or, by corruption, Phrdm, signifying divine pro 
tection. 

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.* 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 rectan 
gle. 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 occu 
pied with representations of the struggle between angels 
and giants for possession of the snake-god, Sarpa-deva, 
more commonly called PJiya Naylik. 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 Xaghkon 
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 ele 
phant 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 portray 
ing the different races in all their physical characteristics, 

* The cross is the distinctive character and sign for the Doctors of 
Reason m the primitive Buddhism of Kasyapa. 



310 THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. 

from the flat-nosed savage, and the short-haired and broad- 
faced Laotian, to the more classic profile of the Eajpoot, 
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 re 
markable predominance of the Hellenic type not in the 
features and profiles alone, but equally in the fine atti 
tudes 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 mani 
fest. 

On the south side we found representations of an an 
cient 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 inti 
mate connection with the founding of these monuments. 

One compartment represents an ovation : certain person 
ages 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 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 311 

upper compartments. In these happier figures the feat 
ures 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. 

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 pea 
cocks tails, and other fabulous creatures, while winged 
dragons draw the chariots. 

On the north side is another battle-piece, the most con 
spicuous 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 exe 
cuted. 

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. 



312 THE RUINS OF CAMBODIA. 

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 them 
selves 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, en 
countering 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 thou 
sand 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 



AN EXCURSION TO THE NAGHKON WATT. 313 

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 Siemrap 
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 NAGHKOK* 

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 mor 
tal eyes, when the celestial sovereigns, P hra Indara and 
P hra Insawara, came down from Meru, the sacred moun 
tain, 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 hap 
piness 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 thou 
sand, 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. 

* Translated from a MS. presented to the author by the Supreme King 
of Siam. 



THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON. 31 

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 de 
manded 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, 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 mis 
sion of love ; and all the hosts of heaven, knowing that 
he should never more gladden their hearts with his pres 
ence, accompanied him, sorrowful, to the foot of Mount 
Mem; 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 separa- 



316 THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON. 

tion 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 ser 
vants 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. 



THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON". 317 

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 mis 
chief. 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 inno 
cence, 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 clue 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. 



318 THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON. 

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 wan 
dered, pressing her sleeping babe to her bosom, and moan 
ing 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 fol 
lowed 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 everlast 
ing 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 



THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON. 310 

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 per 
mitted 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 cen 
turies, 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, rejoic 
ing in his prayers and precepts ; and Somannass, behold 
ing, 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 



320 THE LEGEND OF THE MAIIA NAGHKON. 

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 an 
gels 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, arid 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 sud 
denly 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 ; 



THE LEGEND OF THE MAHA NAGHKON. 321 

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 ! 



THE END. 



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