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  • 1870
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of 1867, he addressed this kindly greeting:–


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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

“Given at the Royal Audience Hall, ‘Anant Samagome’ Grand Palace, Bangkok,” etc., etc.

* * * * *

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

“_I_ an absolute monarch! For I have no power over French. Siam is like a mouse before an elephant! Am I an absolute monarch? What shall you consider me?”

Now, as I considered him a particularly absolute and despotic king, that was a trying Question; so I discreetly held my peace, fearing less to be classed with those obnoxious savans who compile geographies than to provoke him afresh.

“I have no power.” he scolded; “I am not absolute! If I point the end of my walking-stick at a man whom, being my enemy, I wish to die, he does not die, but lives on, in spite of my ‘absolute’ will to the contrary. What does Geographies mean? How can I be an absolute monarchy?”

Such a conversation we were having one day as he “assisted” at the founding of a temple; and while he reproached his fate that he was powerless to “point the end of his walking-stick” with absolute power at the peppery and presumptuous Monsieur Aubaret, he vacantly flung gold and silver coins among the work-women.

In another moment he forgot all French encroachments, and the imbecility of geographers in general, as his glance chanced to fall upon a young woman of fresh and striking beauty, and delightful piquancy of ways and expression, who with a clumsy club was pounding fragments of pottery–urns, vases, and goglets–for the foundation of the _watt._ Very artless and happy she seemed, and free as she was lovely; but the instant she perceived she had attracted the notice of the king, she sank down and hid her face in the earth, forgetting or disregarding the falling vessels that threatened to crush or wound her. But the king merely diverted himself with inquiring her name and parentage; and some one answering for her, he turned away.

Almost to the latest hour of his life his Majesty suffered, in his morbid egotism, various and keen annoyance, by reason of his sensitiveness to the opinions of foreigners, the encroachments of foreign officials, and the strictures of the foreign press. He was agitated by a restless craving for their sympathy on the one hand, and by a futile resentment of their criticisms or their claims on the other.

An article in a Singapore paper had administered moral correction to his Majesty on the strength of a rumor that “the king has his eye upon another princess of the highest rank, with a view to constituting her a queen consort.” And the Bangkok Recorder had said: “Now, considering that he is full threescore and three years of age, that he has already scores of concubines and about fourscore sons and daughters, with several Chowfas among them, and hence eligible to the highest posts of honor in the kingdom, this rumor seems too monstrous to be credited. But the truth is, there is scarcely anything too monstrous for the royal polygamy of Siam to bring forth.” By the light of this explanation the meaning of the following extract from the postscript of a letter which the king wrote in April, 1866, will be clear to the reader, who, at the same time, in justice to me, will remember that by the death of his Majesty, on the 1st of October, 1868, the seal of secrecy was broken.


“There is a newspaper of Singapore entitled Daily News just published after last arrival of the steamer Chowphya in Singapore, in which paper, a correspondence from an Individual resident at Bangkok dated 16th March 1866 was shown, but I have none of that paper in my possession … I did not noticed its number & date to state to you now, but I trust such the paper must be in hand of several foreigners in Bangkok, may you have read it perhaps–other wise you can obtain the same from any one or by order to obtain from Singapore; after perusal thereof you will not be able to deny my statement forementioned more over as general people both native & foreigners here seem to have less pleasure on me & my descendant, than their pleasure and hope on other amiable family to them until the present day. What was said there in for a princess considered by the Speaker or Writer as proper or suitable to be head on my _harem_ (a room or part for confinement of Women of Eastern monarch) [Footnote: A parenthetical drollery inspired by the dictionary.] there is no least intention occurred to me even once or in my dream indeed! I think if I do so, I will die soon perhaps!

* * * * *

“This my handwriting or content hereof shall be kept secretly.

“I beg to remain

“Your faithful & well-wisher

“S. P. P. M. MONGKUT E. S.

“on 5441th day of reign.

“the writer here of beg to place his confidence on you alway.”

As a true friend to his Majesty, I deplore the weakness which betrayed him into so transparent a sham of virtuous indignation. The “princess of the highest rank,” whom the writer of the article plainly meant, was the Princess of Chiengmai; but from lack of accurate information he was misled into confounding her with the Princess Tui Duang Prabha, his Majesty’s niece. The king could honestly deny any such intention on his part with regard to his niece; but, at the same time, he well knew that the writer erred only as to the individual, and not as to the main fact of the case. The Princess of Chiengmai was the wife, and the Princess Tui Duang the daughter, of his full brother, the Second King, lately deceased.

Much more agreeable is it–to the reader, I doubt not, not less than to the writer–to turn from the king, in the exercise of his slavish function of training honest words to play the hypocrite for ignoble thoughts, to the gentleman, the friend, the father, giving his heart a holiday in the relaxations of simple kindness and free affection,–as in the following note:–

“Dated RANCHAUPURY 34th February 1865.

“To LADY L—- & HER SON LUISE, _Bangkok_.

“We having very pleasant journey … to be here which is a township called as above named by men of republick affairs in Siam, & called by common people as ‘Parkphrieck’ where we have our stay a few days & will take our departure from hence at dawn of next day. We thinking of you both regardfully & beg to send here with some wild aples & barries which are delicate for tasting & some tobacco which were and are principal product of this region for your kind acceptance hoping this wild present will be acceptable to you both.

“We will be arrived at our home Bangkok on early part of March.

“We beg to remain

“Your faithful

“S. P. P. M. MONGKUT E. S.

“in 5035th day of reign.

“And your affectionate pupils

CHULALONKORK [Footnote: The present king.] KRITAHINIHAR.


In 1864 I found that my labors had greatly increased; I had often to work till ten o’clock at night to accomplish the endless translations required of me. I also began to perceive how continually and closely I was watched, but how and by whom it seemed impossible to discover. Among the inducements to me to accept the position of teacher to the royal family was his Majesty’s assurance, that, if I gave satisfaction, he would increase my salary after a year’s trial. Nearly three years had passed when I first ventured to remind the king of this promise. To my astonishment he bluntly informed me that I had not given satisfaction, that I was “difficult” and unmanageable, “more careful about what was right and what was wrong than for the obedience and submission.” And as to salary, he continued: “Why you should be poor? You come into my presence every day with some petition, some case of hardship or injustice, and you demand ‘your Majesty shall most kindly investigate, and cause redress to be made’; and I have granted to you because you are important to me for translations, and so forth. And now you declare you must have increase of salary! Must you have everything in this world? Why you do not make _them_ pay you? If I grant you all your petition for the poor, you ought to be rich, or you have no wisdom.”

At a loss what answer to make to this very unsympathetic view of my conduct, I quietly returned to my duties, which, grew daily in variety and responsibility. What with translating, correcting, copying, dictating, reading, I had hardly a moment I could call my own; and if at any time I rebelled, I brought down swift vengeance on the head of the helpless native secretary.

But it was my consolation to know that I could befriend the women and children of the palace, who, when they saw that I was not afraid to oppose the king in his more outrageous caprices of tyranny, imagined me endued with supernatural powers, and secretly came to me with their grievances, in full assurance that sooner or later I would see them redressed. And so, with no intention on my part, and almost without my own consent, I suffered myself to be set up between the oppressor and the oppressed. From that time I had no peace. Day after day I was called upon to resist the wanton cruelty of judges and magistrates, till at last I found myself at feud with the whole “San Luang.” In cases of torture, imprisonment, extortion, I tried again and again to excuse myself from interfering, but still the mothers or sisters prevailed, and I had no choice left but to try to help them. Sometimes I sent Boy with my clients, sometimes I went myself; and in no single instance was justice granted from a sense of right, but always through fear of my supposed influence with the king. My Siamese and European friends said I was amassing a fortune. It seemed not worth my while to contradict them, though the inference was painful to me, for in truth my championship was not purely disinterested; I suffered from continual contact with the sufferings of others, and came to the rescue in self-defence and in pity for myself not less than for them.

A Chinaman had been cruelly murdered and robbed by a favorite slave in the household of the prime minister’s brother, leaving the brother, wife, and children of the victim in helpless poverty and terror. The murderer had screened himself and his accomplices by sharing the plunder with his master. The widow cried for redress in vain. The ears of magistrates were stopped against her, and she was too poor to pay her way; but still she went from one court to another, until her importunity irritated the judges, who, to intimidate her, seized her eldest son, on some monstrous pretext, and cast him into prison. This double cruelty completed the despair of the unhappy mother. She came to me fairly frenzied, and “commanded” me to go at once into the presence of the king and demand her stolen child; and then, in a sudden paroxysm of grief, she embraced my knees, wailing, and praying to me to help her. It was not in human nature to reject that maternal claim. With no little trouble I procured the liberation of her son; but to keep him out of harm’s way I had to take him into my own home and change his name. I called him Timothy, which by a Chinese abbreviation became Ti.

When I went with this woman and the brother of the murdered man to the palace of the premier, we found that distinguished personage half naked and playing chess. Seeing me enter, he ordered one of his slaves to bring him a jacket, into which he thrust his arms, and went on with the game; and not until that was finished did he attend to me. When I explained my errand he seemed vexed, but sent for his brother, had a long talk with him, and concluded by warning my unhappy _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, as of some one in the room. Looking round, I saw, to my amazement, one of the inferior judges of the prime minister’s court crouching by the piano. I asked how he dared to enter my house unannounced. “Mam,” said he, “your servants admitted me; they know from whom I come, and would not venture to refuse me. And now it is for you to know that I am here from his Excellency Chow Phya Kralahome, to request you to send in your resignation at the end of this month.”

“By what authority does he send me this message?” I asked.

“I know not; but it were best that you obey.”

“Tell him,” I replied, unable to control my anger at the cowardly trick to intimidate me, “I shall leave Siam when I please, and that no man shall set the time for me.”

The man departed, cringing and crouching, and excusing himself. This was the same wretch at whose instigation poor Moonshee had been so shamefully beaten.

I did not close my eyes that night. Again and again prudence advised me to seek safety in flight, but the argument ended in my turning my back on the timid monitor, and resolving to stay.

About three weeks after this occurrence, his Majesty was going on an excursion “up country,” and as he wished me to accompany my pupils, the prime minister was required to prepare a cabin for me and my boy on his steamer, the Volant. Before we left the palace one of my anxious friends made me promise her that I would partake of no food nor taste a drop of wine on board the steamer,–an injunction in the sequel easy to fulfil, as our wants were amply provided for at the Grand Palace, where we spent the whole day. But I cite this incident to show the state of mind which led me to prolong my stay, hateful as it had become.

After this, affairs in the royal household went smoothly enough for some time; but still my tasks increased, and my health began to fail. When I informed his Majesty that I needed at least a month of rest, and that I thought of making a trip to Singapore, he was so unwilling that I should rate highly the services I rendered him, that he was careful to assure me I had not “favored” him in any way, nor given him satisfaction; and that if I must be idle for a month, he certainly should not pay me for the time; and he kept his word. Nevertheless, while I was at Singapore he wrote to me most kindly, assuring me that his wives and children were anxious for my return.

After the sad death of the dear little princess, Chow 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 Siam in England; and again for declining to address the Earl of Clarendon in relation to a certain British officer then in Siam–he threatened to have me tried at the British Consulate, and was so violent that I was in real fear for my life. For three days I waited, with doors and windows barred, for I knew not what explosion.

After the death of the Second King, his Majesty behaved very disgracefully. It was well known that the ladies of the prince’s harem were of the most beautiful of the women of Laos, Pegu, and Birmah; above all, the Princess of Chiengmai was famed for her manifold graces of person and character. Etiquette forbade the royal brothers to pry into the constitution of each other’s _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, privately married to the prince, he was not restrained by any scruple of morality or delicacy from manifesting his jealousy and pique. [Footnote: See portrait, Chap. XXV.] Moreover, this disgraceful feeling was fostered by other considerations than those of mere sensuality or ostentation. Her father, the tributary ruler of Chiengmai, had on several occasions confronted his aggressive authority with a haughty and intrepid spirit; and once, when Maha Mongkut required that he should send his eldest son to Bangkok as a hostage for the father’s loyalty, and good conduct, the unterrified chief replied that he would be his own hostage. On the summons being repeated in imperative terms, the young prince fled from his father’s court and took refuge with the Second King in his stronghold of Ban Sitha, where he was most courteously received and entertained until he found it expedient to seek some securer or less compromising place of refuge.

The friendship thus founded between two proud and daring princes soon became strong and enduring, and resulted in the marriage of the Princess Sunartha Vismita (very willingly on her part) to the Second King, about a year before his death.

The son of the King of Chiengmai never made his appearance at the court of Siam; but the stout old chief, attended by trusty followers, boldly brought his own “hostage” thither; and Maha Mongkut, though secretly chafing, accepted the situation with a show of graciousness, and overlooked the absence of the younger vassal.

With the remembrance of these floutings still galling him, the Supreme King frequently repaired to the Second King’s palace on the pretext of arranging certain “family affairs” intrusted to him by his late brother, but in reality to acquaint himself with the charms of several female members of the prince’s household; and, scandalous as it should have seemed even to Siamese notions of the divine right of kings, the most attractive and accomplished of those women were quietly transferred to his own harem. For some time I heard nothing more of the Princess of Chiengmai; but it was curious, even amusing, to observe the serene contempt with which the “interlopers” were received by the rival incumbents of the royal gynecium,–especially the Laotian women, who are of a finer type and much handsomer than their Siamese sisters.

Meantime his Majesty took up his abode for a fortnight at the Second King’s palace, thereby provoking dangerous gossip in his own establishment; so that his “head wife,” the Lady Thieng, even made bold to hint that he might come to the fate of his brother, and die by slow poison. His harem was agitated and excited throughout,–some of the women abandoning themselves to unaccustomed and unnatural gayety, while others sent their confidential slaves to consult the astrologers and soothsayers of the court; and by the aid of significant glances and shrugging of shoulders, and interchange of signs and whispers, with feminine telegraphy and secret service, most of those interested arrived at the sage conclusion that their lord had fallen under the spells of a witch or enchantress.

Such was the domestic situation when his Majesty suddenly and without warning returned to his palace, but in a mood so perplexing as to surpass all precedent and baffle all tact. I had for some time performed with surprising success a leading part in a pretty little court play, of which the well-meant plot had been devised by the Lady Thieng. Whenever the king should be dangerously enraged, and ready to let loose upon some tender culprit of the harem the monstrous lash or chain, I–at a secret cue from the head wife–was to enter upon his Majesty, book in hand, to consult his infallibility in a pressing predicament of translation into Sanskrit, Siamese, or English. Absurdly transparent as it was,–perhaps the happier for its very childishness,–under cover of this naive device from time to time a hapless girl escaped the fatal burst of his wrath. Midway in the rising storm of curses and abuse he would turn with comical abruptness to the attractive interruption with all the zest of a scholar. I often trembled lest he should see through the thinly covered trick, but he never did. On his return from the prince’s palace, however, even this innocent stratagem failed us; and on one occasion of my having recourse to it he peremptorily ordered me away, and forbade my coming into his presence again unless sent for. Daily, after this, one or more of the women suffered from his petty tyranny, cruelty, and spite. On every hand I heard sighs and sobs from young and old; and not a woman there but believed he was bewitched and beside himself.

I had struggled through many exacting tasks since I came to Siam, but never any that so taxed my powers of endurance as my duties at this time, in my double office of governess and private secretary to his Majesty. His moods were so fickle and unjust, his temper so tyrannical, that it seemed impossible to please him; from one hour to another I never knew what to expect. And yet he persevered in his studies, especially in his English correspondence, which was ever his solace, his pleasure, and his pride. To an interested observer it might have afforded rare entertainment to note how fluently, though oddly, he spoke and wrote in a foreign language, but for his caprices, which at times were so ridiculous, however, as to be scarcely disagreeable. He would indite letters, sign them, affix his seal, and despatch them in his own mail-bags to Europe, America, or elsewhere; and, months afterward, insist on my writing to the parties addressed, to say that the instructions they contained were _my_ mistake,–errors of translation, transcription, anything but his intention. In one or two instances, finding that the case really admitted of explanation or apology from his Majesty, I slyly so worded my letter, that, without compromising him, I yet managed to repair the mischief he had done. But I felt this could not continue long. Always, on foreign-mail days, I spent from eight to ten hours in this most delicate and vexatious work. At length the crash came.

The king had promised to Sir John Bowring the appointment of Plenipotentiary to the Court of France, to negotiate, on behalf of Siam, new treaties concerning the Cambodian possessions. With characteristic irresolution he changed his mind, and decided to send a Siamese Embassy, headed by his Lordship P’hra Nan Why, now known as his Excellency Chow Phya Sri Sury-wongse. No sooner had he entertained this fancy than he sent for me, and coolly directed me to write and explain the matter to Sir John, if possible attributing his new views and purpose to the advice of her Britannic Majesty’s Consul; or, if I had scruples on that head, I might say the advice was my own,–or “anything I liked,” so that I justified his conduct.

At this distance of time I cannot clearly recall all the effect upon my feelings of so outrageous a proposition; but I do remember that I found myself emphatically declining to do “anything of the kind.” Then, warned by his gathering rage, I added that I would express to Sir John his Majesty’s regrets, but to attribute the blame to those who had had no part in the matter, that I could never do. At this his fury was grotesque. His talent for invective was always formidable, and he tried to overpower me with threats. But a kindred spirit of resistance was aroused in me. I withdrew from the palace, and patiently abided the issue, resolved, in any event, to be firm.

His Majesty’s anger was without bounds; and in the interval so fraught with anxiety and apprehension to me, when I knew that a considerable party in the palace–judges, magistrates, and officers about the person of the king–regarded me as an eminently proper person to behead or drown, he condescended to accuse me of abstracting a book that he chanced just then to miss from his library, and also of honoring and favoring the British Consul at the expense of his American colleague, then resident at Bangkok. In support of the latter charge, he alleged that I had written the American Consul’s name at the bottom of a royal circular, after carefully displaying my own and the British functionary’s at the top of it.

The circular in question, which had given just umbrage to the American official, was fortunately in the keeping of the Honorable [Footnote: Here the title is Siamese.] Mr. Bush, and was written by the king’s own hand, as was well known to all whom it concerned. These charges, with others of a more frivolous nature,–such as disobeying, thwarting, scolding his Majesty, treating him with disrespect, as by standing while he was seated, thinking evil of him, slandering him, and calling him wicked,–the king caused to be reduced to writing and sent to me, with an intimation that I must forthwith acknowledge my ingratitude and guilt, and make atonement by prompt compliance with his wishes. The secretary who brought the document to my house was accompanied by a number of the female slaves of the palace, who besought me, in the name of their mistresses, the wives of the “Celestial Supreme,” to yield, and do all that might be required of me.

Seeing this shaft miss its mark, the secretary, being a man of resources, produced the other string to his bow. He offered to bribe me, and actually spent two hours in that respectable business; but finally departed in despair, convinced that the amount was inadequate to the cupidity of an insatiable European, and mourning for himself that he must return discomfited to the king.

Next morning, my boy and I presented ourselves as usual at the inner gate of the palace leading to the school, and were confronted there by a party of rude fellows and soldiers, who thrust us back with threats, and even took up stones to throw at us. I dare not think what might have been our fate, but for the generous rescue of a crowd of the poorest slaves, who at that hour were waiting for the opening of the gate. These rallied round us, and guarded us back to our home. It was, indeed, a time of terror for us. I felt that my life was in great danger; and so difficult did I find it to prevent the continual intrusion of the rabble, both men and women, into my house, that I had at length to bar my doors and windows, and have double locks and fastenings added. I became nervous and excited as I had never been before.

My first impulse was to write to the British Consul and invoke his protection; but that looked cowardly. Nevertheless, I did prepare the letter, ready to be despatched at the first attempt upon our lives or liberty. I wrote also to Mr. Bush, asking him to find without delay the obnoxious circular, and bring it to my house. He came that very evening, the paper in his hand. With infinite difficulty I persuaded the native secretary, whom I had again and again befriended in like extremities, to procure for him an audience with the king.

On coming into the presence of his Majesty, Mr. Bush simply handed him the circular, saying, “Mam tells me you wish to see this.” The moment the caption of the document met his eye, his Majesty’s countenance assumed a blank, bewildered expression peculiar to it, and he seemed to look to my friend for an explanation; but that gentleman had none to offer, for I had made none to him.

And to crown all, even as the king was pointing to his brow to signify that he had forgotten having written it, one of the little princesses came crouching and crawling into the room with the missing volume in her hand. It had been found in one of the numerous sleeping-apartments of the king, beside his pillow, just in time!

Mr. Bush soon returned, bringing me assurances of his Majesty’s cordial reconciliation; but I still doubted his sincerity, and for weeks did not offer to enter the palace. When, however, on the arrival of the Chow Phya steamer with the mail, I was formally summoned by the king to return to my duties, I quietly obeyed, making no allusion to my “bygones.”

As I sat at my familiar table, copying, his Majesty approached, and addressed me in these words:–

“Mam! you are one great difficulty. I have much pleasure and favor on you, but you are too obstinate. You are not wise. Wherefore are you so difficult? You are only a woman. It is very bad you can be so strong-headed. Will you now have any objection to write to Sir John, and tell him I am his very good friend?”

“None whatever,” I replied, “if it is to be simply a letter of good wishes on the part of your Majesty.”

I wrote the letter, and handed it to him for perusal. He was hardly satisfied, for with only a significant grunt he returned it to me, and left the apartment at once,–to vent his spite on some one who had nothing to do with the matter.

In due time the following very considerate but significant reply (addressed to his Majesty’s “one great difficulty “) was received from Sir John Bowring:–

CLAREMONT, EXETER, 30 June, 1867.

DEAR MADAM:–Your letter of 12th May demands from me the attention of a courteous reply. I am quite sure the ancient friendship of the King of Siam would never allow a slight, or indeed an unkindness, to me; and I hope to have opportunities of showing his Majesty that I feel a deep interest in his welfare.

As regards the diplomacy of European courts, it is but natural that those associated with them should be more at home, and better able to direct their course, than strangers from a distance, however personally estimable; and though, in the case in question, the mission of a Siamese Ambassador to Paris was no doubt well intended, and could never have been meant to give me annoyance, it was not to be expected he would be placed in that position of free and confidential intercourse which my long acquaintance with public life would enable me to occupy. In remote regions, people with little knowledge of official matters in high quarters often take upon themselves to give advice in great ignorance of facts, and speak very unadvisedly on topics on which their opinions are worthless and their influence valueless.

As regards M. Aubaret’s offensive proceedings, I doubt not he has received a caution [Footnote: Aubaret, French Consul at Bangkok, whose overbearing conduct has been described elsewhere.] on my representation, and that he, and others of his nation, would not be very willing that the Emperor–an old acquaintance of mine–should hear from my lips what I might have to say. The will of the Emperor is supreme, and I am afraid the Cambodian question is now referred back to Siam. It might have been better for me to have discussed it with his Imperial Majesty. However, the past is past. Personal influence, as you are aware, is not transferable; but when by the proper powers I am placed in a position to act, his Majesty may be assured–as I have assured himself–that his interests will not suffer in my hands.

I am obliged to you for the manner in which you have conveyed to me his Majesty’s gracious expressions.

And you will believe me to be

Yours very truly,


No friend of mine knew at that time how hard it was for me to bear up, in the utter loneliness and forlornness of my life, under the load of cares and provocations and fears that gradually accumulated upon me.

But ah! if any germ of love and truth fell from my heart into the heart of even the meanest of those wives and concubines and children of a king, if by any word of mine the least of them was won to look up, out of the depths of their miserable life, to a higher, clearer, brighter light than their Buddha casts upon their path, then indeed I did not labor in vain among them.

In the summer of 1866 my health suddenly broke down, and for a time, it was thought that I must die. When good Dr. Campbell gave me the solemn warning all my trouble seemed to cease, and but for one sharp pang for my children,–one in England, the other in Siam,–I should have derived pure and perfect pleasure from the prospect of eternal rest, so weary was I of my tumultuous life in the East; and though in the end I regained my strength in a measure, I was no longer able to comply with the pitiless exactions of the king. And so, yielding to the urgent entreaties of my friends, I decided to return to England.

It took me half a year to get his Majesty’s consent; and it was not without tiresome accusations of ingratitude and idleness that he granted me leave of absence for six months.

I had hardly courage to face the women and children the day I told them I was going away. It was hard to be with them; but it seemed cowardly to leave them. For some time most of them refused to believe that I was really going; but when they could doubt no longer, they displayed the most touching tenderness and thoughtfulness. Many sent me small sums of money to help me on the journey. The poorest and meanest slaves brought me rice cakes, dried beans, cocoanuts, and sugar. It was in vain that I assured them I could not carry such things away with me; still the supplies poured in.

The king himself, who had been silent and sullen until the morning of my departure, relented when the time came to say good by. He embraced Boy with cordial kindness, and gave him a silver buckle, and a bag containing a hundred dollars to buy sweetmeats on the way. Then turning to me, he said (as if forgetting himself): “Mam! you much beloved by our common people, and all inhabitants of palace and royal children. Every one is in affliction of your departure; and even that opium-eating secretary, P’hra-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 confidence on you every day. Good by!” I could not reply; my eyes filled with tears.

Then came the parting with my pupils, the women and the children. That was painful enough, even while the king was present; but when he abruptly withdrew, great was the uproar. What could I do, but stand still and submit to kisses, embraces, reproaches, from princesses and slaves? At last I rushed through the gate, the women screaming after me, “Come back!” and the children, “Don’t go!” I hurried to the residence of the heir-apparent, to the most trying scene of all. His regret seemed too deep for words, and the few he did utter were very touching. Taking both my hands and laying his brow upon them, he said, after a long interval of silence, “_Mam cha klap ma thort!_”–“Mam dear, come back, please!” “Keep a brave and true heart, my prince!” was all that I could say; and my last “God bless _you!_” was addressed to the royal palace of Siam.

To this young prince, Chowfa Chulalonkorn, I was strongly attached. He often deplored with me the cruelty with which the slaves were treated, and, young as he was, did much to inculcate kindness toward them among his immediate attendants. He was a conscientious lad, of pensive habit and gentle temper; many of my poor clients I bequeathed to his care, particularly the Chinese lad Ti. Speaking of slavery one day, he said to me: “These are not slaves, but nobles; they know how to bear. It is we, the princes, who have yet to learn which is the more noble, the oppressor or the oppressed.”

When I left the palace the king was fast failing in body and mind, and, in spite of his seeming vigor, there was no real health in his rule, while he had his own way. All the substantial success we find in his administration is due to the ability and energy of his accomplished premier, Phya Kralahome, and even his strength has been wasted. The native arts and literature have retrograded; in the mechanic arts much has been lost; and the whole nation is given up to gambling.

The capacity of the Siamese race for improvement in any direction has been sufficiently demonstrated, and the government has made fair progress in political and moral reforms; but the condition of the slaves is such as to excite astonishment and horror. What may be the ultimate fate of Siam under this accursed system, whether she will ever emancipate herself while the world lasts, there is no guessing. The happy examples free intercourse affords, the influence of European ideas, and the compulsion of public opinion, may yet work wonders.

On the 5th of July, 1867, we left Bangkok in the steamer Chow Phya. All our European friends accompanied us to the Gulf of Siam, where we parted, with much regret on my side; and of all those whose kindness had bravely cheered us during our long (I am tempted to write) _captivity_, the last to bid us God-speed was the good Captain Orton, to whom I here tender my heartfelt thanks.


With her despotic ruler, priest and king; her religion of contradictions, at once pure and corrupt, lovely and cruel, ennobling and debasing; her laws, wherein wisdom is so perversely blended with blindness, enlightenment with barbarism, strength with weakness, justice with oppression; her profound scrutiny into mystic forms of philosophy, her ancient culture of physics, borrowed from the primitive speculations of Brahminism;–Siam is, beyond a peradventure, one of the most remarkable and thought-compelling of the empires of the Orient; a fascinating and provoking enigma, alike to the theologian and the political economist. Like a troubled dream, delirious in contrast with the coherence and stability of Western life, the land and its people seem to be conjured out of a secret of darkness, a wonder to the senses and a mystery to the mind.

And yet it is a strangely beautiful reality. The enchanting variety of its scenery, joined to the inexhaustible productiveness of its soil, constitutes a challenge to the charms of every other region, except, perhaps, the country watered by the great river of China. Through an immense, continuous level of unfailing fertility, the Meinam rolls slowly, reposefully, grandly, in its course receiving draughts from many a lesser stream, filling many a useful canal in its turn, and, from the abundance the generous rains bestow, distributing supplies of refreshment and fatness to innumerable acres.

In a soil at once so rich and so well watered, the sun, with its vivifying heats, engenders a mighty vegetation, delighting the eye for more than half the year with endless undulations of grain and a great golden Eden of fruit. Its staples are solid blessings: rice, the Asiatic’s staff of life; sugar, most popular of dietetic luxuries; indigo, most valuable of dyes; in the drier tracts, cotton, tobacco, coffee, a variety of palms (from one species of which sugar not unlike that of the maple is extracted), the wild olive, and the fig. Then there are vast forests of teak, that enduring monarch of the vegetable kingdom, ebony, satin-wood, eagle-wood; beside ivory, beeswax and honey, raw silk, and many aromatic gums and fragrant spices. And though the scenery is less various and picturesque than that of the regions of Gangetic India, where ranges of noble mountains make the land majestic, nevertheless nature riots here in bewildering luxuriances of vegetable forms and colors. Vast tracts, shady and cool with dense dark foliage; trees, tall and strong, spreading their giant arms abroad, with prickly, shining shrubs between, while parasites and creepers, wild, bright, and beautiful, trail from the highest boughs to the ground; the bamboo, shooting to the height of sixty feet and upward, with branches gracefully drooping; the generous, kind banana; fairy forests of ferns of a thousand forms; tall grasses, with their pale and plumy blossoms; the many-trunked and many-rooted banyan; the boh, sacred to Buddha,–all combine to form a garden that Adam might have dressed and kept, and only Eve could spoil.

It is only when he approaches the borders of the land that the traveller is greeted by grand mountains, crowned with impenetrable forests, and forming an amphitheatre around the graceful plains. Along the coast the view is more diversified; islands, the most picturesque, and rich with diversified vegetation, make happy, striking contrasts, here and there, with the deep blue sea around them.

The extent and boundaries of the kingdom and its dependencies have been variously described; but according to the statement of his Majesty Maha Mongkut, the dominion of his predecessors, before the possession of Malacca by the Portuguese, extended over the whole of the Malayan peninsula, including the islands of Singapore and Pinang, which at that time formed a part of the realm of the Rajah of Quedah, who still pays tribute to the crown of Siam. It was at the instigation of English settlers that the states of Johore, Singapore, Rambo, Talangore, Pahang, and Puah became subject to British rule; so that to-day the Siamese dominion, starting from the little kingdom of Tringamu, extends from the fourth to the twenty-second degree of north latitude, giving about 1,350 miles of length, while from east to west its greatest breadth is about 450 miles. On the north it is bounded by several provinces of Laos, tributaries of Ava and China; on the east by the empire of Anam; on the west by the sea and British possessions; on the south by the petty states of Pahang and Puah. Beyond Siam proper are the kingdom of Ligor and the four small states, Quedah, Patan, Calantan, and Yeingana; on the east a part of the kingdom of Cambodia, Muang Korat, and several provinces of Laos; on the north the kingdoms of Chiengmai, Laphun, Lakhon, Muang 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 imparts so picturesque an aspect to the Laos country. This plain is watered by the river Meinam, [Footnote: “Mother of Waters,”–a common Siamese term for all large streams.] or Chow Phya, whose innumerable branches, great and small, and the many canals which, fed by it, intersect the capital in all directions, constitute it the high-road of the Empire. For many miles its banks are fringed with the graceful bamboo, the tamarind, the palm, and the peepul, the homes of myriads of birds of the land and of the water,–creatures of brilliant plumage and delightful song.

Siam has some excellent harbors, though the principal one, on the gulf, is partially obstructed by great banks of sand that have accumulated at the mouth of the Chow Phya. Ships of ordinary burden, however, can cross these banks at high tide, and in a few hours cast anchor in the heart of the capital, in from sixty to seventy feet of water. Here they are snug and safe. Besides, the gulf itself is free from the typhoons so destructive to shipping on the China seas.

In all the Malayan Islands there are numerous unimportant streams, which, though limited in their course, form excellent harbors at their debouchement on the coast. The eastern regions of Laos and Cambodia are watered by the river Meikhong, which has a course of nearly a thousand miles; but its navigation, like that of the Meinam at its mouth, is impeded by sand-banks. The smaller streams, Chantabun, Pet Rue, and Tha Chang, all run into the Meikhong, which, mingling its waters with those of the Meinam, flows through Chiengmai, receives the waters of Phitsalok, and then, diverging by many channels, inundates the great plain of Siam once every year, in the month of June. By the end of August this entire region has become one vast sheet of water, so that boats traverse it in every direction without injury to the young rice springing up beneath them.

The climate of Siam is more or less hot according to the latitude; only continual bathing can render it endurable. There are but two seasons, the wet and the dry. As soon as the southwest monsoon sets in, masses of spongy _cumuli_ gather on the summits of the western mountains, giving rise to furious squalls about sunset, and dispersing in peals of thunder and torrents of refreshing rain. From the beginning to the end of the rainy season, this succession of phenomena is repeated every evening. The monsoon from the north brings an excess of rain, and the thermometer falls. With the return of the dry season the air becomes comparatively cool, and most favorable to health; this continues from October to January. The dews are extremely heavy in the months of March and April. At dawn the atmosphere is impregnated with a thick fog, which, as the sun rises, descends in dews so abundant that trees, plants, and grass drip as from a recent shower of rain.

The population of Siam is still a matter of uncertainty; but it is officially estimated at from six to seven millions of souls, comprising Siamese or Thai-Malay, Laotians, Cambodians, Peguans, Kariens, Shans, and Loas.

Siam produces enormous quantities of excellent rice, of which there are forty distinct varieties; and her sugar is esteemed the best in the world. Her rivers and lakes abound in fish, as well as in turtles and aquatic birds. The exports are rice, sugar, cotton, tobacco, hemp, cutch, fish (salted and dried), cocoanut oil, beeswax, dried fruits, gamboge, cardamoms, betel-nuts, pepper, various gums and barks, sapan-wood, eagle-wood, rosewood, krachee-wood, ebony, ivory, raw silk, buffalo-hides, tiger-skins, armadillo-skins, elephants’ tusks and bones, rhinoceros bones, turtle-shells, peacocks’ tails, bird’s-nests, king-fishers’ feathers, &c.

The revenue arising from duties and tolls on imported and native produce being mostly collected in kind, only a small part is converted into specie; the rest is distributed in part payment of salaries to the dependants of the court, whose name is legion. Princes of the blood royal, high officers of state, provincial governors, and most of the judges, receive grants of provinces, districts, villages, and farms, to support their several dignities and reward their services; and the rents, fees, fines, bribes, and sops of these assignments are collected by them for their own behoof. Thus, to one man are given the fees, to another the fines or bribes, which custom has attached to his functions; to others are alloted offices, by virtue of which certain imposts are levied; to this man the land; to another the waters of rivers and canals; to a third the fruit-bearing trees. But money is distributed with a niggard hand, and only once a year. Every officer of revenue is permitted to pocket, and “charge to salary,” a part of all that he collects in taxes, fines, extortions, bribes, gifts, and “testimonials.”

The rulers of Laos pay to the crown of Siam a tribute of gold and silver “trees,” rings set with gems, and chains of solid gold. The trees, which appear to be composed entirely of the precious metals, are really nothing more than cylinders and tubes of tin, substantially gilt or plated, designed to represent the graceful clove-tree indigenous to that part of the country; the leaves and blossoms, however, are of solid gold and silver. Each tree is planted in an artificial gilt mound, and is worth from five hundred to seven hundred ticals, while the chains and rings are decorated with large and pure rubies.

The raw silk, elephants’ tusks, and other rare products of Siam, are highly prized by the Mohammedan traders, who compete one with another in shipping them for the Bombay markets. They are usually put up at auction; and, strange to say, the auctioneers are women of the royal harem, the favorite concubines of the First King. The shrewd Moslem broker, turning a longing eye upon the precious stores of the royal warehouses, employs his wife, or a trusty slave, to approach this Nourmahal or that Rose-in-bloom with presents, and promises of generous premium to her whose influence shall procure for the bidder the acceptance of his proposal. By a system of secret service peculiar to these traders, the amount of the last offer is easily discovered, and the new bidder “sees that” (if I may be permitted to amuse myself with the phraseology of the Mississippi bluff-player) and “goes” a few ticals “better.” There are always several enterprising Stars of the Harem ready to vary the monotony by engaging in this unromantic business; and the agitation among the “sealed” sisterhood, though by no means boisterous, is lively, though all have tact to appear indifferent in the presence of their awful lord. The meagreness of the royal allowance of pin-money is the consideration that renders the prize important in the eyes of each of the competitors; and yet it is strange, in all the feminine vanity and vexation of spirit that the occasion engenders, how little of jealous bitterness and heartburning is directed against the lucky lady. The competitors agree upon a favorable opportunity to present the tenders of their respective clients to his Majesty. Each selecting the most costly and attractive of her bribes, and displaying them to advantage on a tray of gold, lays the written bid on the top; or with a shrewd device of the maternal instinct, so fertile in pretty tricks of artfulness, places it in the hands of a pet child, who is taught to present it winningly as the king descends to his midday meal. The attention of his Majesty is attracted by the display of showy toys; he deigns to inquire as to the donors; the “sealed proposals” are respectfully, and doubtless with more or less coquetry, pressed upon him; and the matter is then and there concluded, almost invariably in favor of the highest bidder. This semi-romantic mode of traffic was gravely encouraged by his late Majesty, for the benefit of his favorites of the harem; and great store of produce, of the finer varieties, was thus disposed of in the palace.

The poll-tax on the Chinese, levied once in three years, is paid in bullion.

The annual income of the public treasury rarely exceeds the outgo; but whatever the state of the exchequer, and of the funds reserved for the service of the state, the personal resources of the monarch are always most abundant. Nor do the great sums lavished upon his favorites and children deplete, in any respect, his vast treasures, because they are all supported by grants of land, monopolies of market, special taxes, tithes, _douceurs_, and other patrimonial or tributary provisions. A certain emolument is also derived from the valuable mines of the country, though, poorly worked as they are, but small importance has as yet been ascribed to these as a source of revenue; yet the gold of Bhangtaphan is esteemed the purest and most ductile in the world. Beside mines of iron, antimony, gold, and silver, there are quarries of white marble. The extraordinary number of idols and works of art cast in metal seems to indicate that these mines were once largely worked; and it is believed that the vast quantities of gold which for centuries has been consumed in the construction of images and the adornment of temples, pagodas, and palaces, were drawn from them. The country abounds in pits, bearing marks of great age; and there are also remains of many furnaces, which are said to have been abandoned in the wars with Pegu. Mineral springs–copious and, no doubt, valuable–are numerous in some parts of the country.

The exports of Siam are various and profitable; and of the raw materials, teak timber is entitled to the first consideration. The domestic consumption of this most useful wood in the construction of dwellings, sacred edifices, ships, and boats, is enormous; yet the forests traversed by the great rivers seem inexhaustible, and the supply continues so abundant that the variations in the price are very slight. The advantage the country must derive from her extensive commerce in a commodity so valuable may hardly be overrated.

Next in importance are the native sugars, rice, cotton, and silk, which find their way in large quantities to the markets of China and Hindostan. Among other articles of crude produce may be mentioned ivory [Footnote: In Siam reserved as a royal appropriation.] (a single fine tusk being often valued at five thousand dollars), wax, lead, copper, tin, amber, indigo, tobacco, honey, and bird’s-nests. There are also precious stones of several varieties, and the famous gold of Bhangtaphan. Forty different kinds of rice are named, but these may properly be reduced to four classes, the Common or table, the Small-grained or mountain, the Glutinous, and the Vermilion rice. From the glutinous rice arrack is distilled. The areca, or pinang-nut, and the betel, are used almost universally, chewed with lime, the lime,–being dyed with turmeric, which imparts to it a rich vermilion tint; the areca-nut is also used in dying cotton thread.

The characteristic traits of the Siamese Court are _hauteur_, insolent indifference, and ostentation, the natural features and expression of tyranny; and every artifice that power and opulence can devise is employed to inspire the minds of the common people with trembling awe and devout veneration for their sovereign master. Though the late Supreme King wisely reformed certain of the stunning customs of the court with more modest innovations, nevertheless he rarely went abroad without extravagant display, especially in his annual visitations to the temples. These were performed in a style studiously contrived to strike the beholder with astonishment and admiration.

The royal state barge, one hundred cubits long, beside being elaborately carved, and inlaid with bits of crystal, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, and jade, is richly enamelled and gilt. The stem, which rises ten or eleven feet from the bows, represents the _nagha mustakha sapta_, the seven-headed serpent or alligator. A phrasat, or elevated throne (also termed _p’hra-the-nang_), occupies the centre, supported by four pillars. The extraordinary beauty of the inlaying of shells, mother-of-pearl, crystal, and precious stones of every color, the splendor of the gilding, and the elegance of the costly kinkob curtains with which it is hung, combine to render this one of the most striking and beautiful objects to be seen on the Meinam. The barge is usually manned by one hundred and fifty men, their paddles gilt and silver-tipped.

[Illustration: A ROYAL BARGE]

This government reproduces, in many of its shows of power, pride, and ostentation, a _tableau vivant_ of European rule in the darker ages, when, on the decline of Roman dominance, the principles of feudal dependence were established by barbarians from the North. Under such a system, it is impossible to ascertain, or to represent by any standards of currency, the amount of the royal revenues and treasures. But it is known that the riches of the Siamese monarch are immense, and that a magnificent share of the legal plunder drawn into the royal treasury is sunk there, and never returns into circulation again. The hoarding of money seems to be the cherished practice of all Oriental rulers, and even a maxim of state policy; and that the general diffusion of property among his subjects offers the only safe assurance of prosperity for himself and stability for his throne is the last precept of prudence an Asiatic monarch ever learns.

The armies of Siam are raised on the spur of the moment, as it were, for any pressing emergency. When troops are to be called out, a royal command, addressed to all viceroys and governors, requires them to raise their respective quotas, and report to a commander-in-chief at a general rendezvous. These recruits are clothed, equipped with arms and ammunition, and “subsisted” with daily rations of rice, oil, etc., but are not otherwise paid. The small standing army, which serves as the nucleus upon which these irregulars are gathered and formed, consists of infantry, cavalry, elephant-riders, archers, and private body-guards, paid at the rate of from five to ten dollars a month, with clothing and rations. The infantry are armed with muskets and sabres; the cavalry, with bows and arrows as well as spears; but the spear, which is from six to seven feet long, is the favorite weapon of this arm of the service, and they handle it with astonishing dexterity. The king’s private body-guards are well paid, clothed, and quartered, having their stations and barracks within the palace walls and near the most attractive streets and avenues, while other troops are lodged outside.

It is customary to detain the families of conscripts in the districts to which they belong, as prisoners on parole,–hostages for the good conduct of their young men in the army; and for the desertion or treachery of the soldier, his wife or children, mother or sisters, as the case may be, are tortured, or even executed, without compunction or remorse. The long and peaceful reign of the late king, however, has almost effaced from the minds of the youth of Siam the remembrance of such monstrous oppressions.

The Siamese are but indifferent sailors, their nautical excursions being mainly confined to short coasting trips, or boating in safe and familiar channels. The more adventurous export trade is carried on almost wholly by foreigners. About one thousand war-boats constitute the bulk of the navy. These are constructed from the solid bole of the teak-tree, excavated partly with fire, partly with the adze; and, while they are commonly from eighty to a hundred feet long, the breadth rarely exceeds eight or nine feet, though the apparent width is increased by the addition of a sort of light gallery. They are made to carry fifty or sixty rowers, with short oars working on a pivot. The prow, which is solid, has a flat terrace, on which, for the king’s up-country excursions, they mount a small field-piece, a nine or a twelve pounder. There are also several men-of-war belonging to the government, built by European engineers.

The number of vessels in the merchant marine cannot be great. Dwelling so long in peace and security at home, the tastes and the energies of the Siamese people have been confirmed, by their political circumstances, in that inclination toward agricultural rather than commercial pursuits which their geographical conditions naturally engender. The extreme fertility of the soil, watered by innumerable streams, and intersected in every direction by a network of capacious canals (of which the Klong Yai, Klong Bangkok-noi, and Klong P’hra- cha-dee, are the most remarkable); the generating heats of the climate; the teeming plains of the upper provinces, bulwarked by mighty mountains; and, above all, that magnificent mother, the Meinam, winding in her beauty and bounty through a vast and lovely vale to the sea, in her course subjecting all things to the enriching and adorning influence of her touch,–all combine by their irresistible inducements to determine the native to the tilling of the ground.

Nothing can be more delightful than an excursion through the country immediately after the subsidence of the floods. Then nature is draped in hues as charming as they are various, from the palest olive to the liveliest green; broad fields wave with tall golden spires of grain, or are dotted with tufted sheaves heavy with generous crops; the refreshed air is perfumed with the fragrance of the orange, lemon, citron, and other tropical fruits and flowers; and on every side the landscape is a scene of lovely meadows, alive with flocks and herds, and busy with herdsmen, husbandmen, and gardeners.

The most considerable of the many canals by which communication is maintained with all parts of the country is Klong Yai, the Great Canal, supposed to have been begun in the reign of Phya 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 studding the banks of the Meinam, but the remoter hamlets as well, even to the confines of the kingdom, have each its own canals. In fact, the lands annually inundated by the Mother of Waters are so extensive, and for the most part lie so low, and the number of water-ducts, natural and artificial, is so great, that of all the torrents that descend upon the country in the months of June, July, and August (when the whole land is as a sea, in which towns and villages show like docks connected by drawbridges, with little islets between of groves and orchards, whose tops alone are visible), not a tithe ever returns to the ocean.

The modern bridges of Siam, which are mostly of iron in the European style, are made to be drawn for the passage of the King’s barge, since the royal head may not without desecration pass under anything trodden by the foot of man. The more ancient bridges, however, are of stone and brick; and here and there are strange artificial lakes, partly filled up with the debris of temples that once stood on their banks. Of roads there are but few that are good, and all are of comparatively recent construction.


[Footnote: The Cambodian was, without doubt, in its day, one of the most powerful of the empires of the East. As to its antiquity, two opinions prevail,–one ascribing to it a duration of 1,300 years, the other of 2,400. The native historians reckon 2,400 years from the building of the Naghkon Watt, or Naghkon Ongkhoor; but this computation, not agreeing with the mythological traditions of the country, which date from the Year of the World 205, is not accepted as authentic by the more learned Cambodians.]

Our journey from Bangkok to Kabin derived its memorable interest from those features and feelings which join to compose the characteristic romance of Eastern travel by unhackneyed ways,–the wild freedom of the plain, the tortuous, suspicious mountain track, the tangled jungle, the bewildering wastes and glooms of an unexplored region, with their suggestions of peril and adventure, and especially that glorious participation in the enlargement and liberty of an Eastern wanderer’s life which these afford. Once you begin to feel that, you will be happy, whether on an elephant or in a buffalo-cart,–the very privations and perils including a charm of excitement all unknown to the formal European tourist.

The rainbow mists of morning still lay low on the plain, as yet unlifted by the breeze that, laden with odor and song, gently rocked the higher branches in the forest, as our elephants pressed on, heavily but almost noiselessly, over a parti-colored carpet of wild-flowers. Strange birds darted from bough to bough among the wild myrtles and limes, and great green and golden lizards gleamed through the shrubbery as we approached Siemrap.

The more extensive and remarkable ruins of Cambodia seem concentrated in this part of the country, though they are by no means confined to it, but are found widely scattered over the neighboring territories.

From Sisuphon we diverged in a northeasterly direction, and at evening found ourselves in the quaint, antique town of 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 Reke, 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 Reke (“the Mountain, which Bears on the Shoulders,” the Cambodian Atlas) includes in its domain the Dong Phya Fai (“Forest of the Lord of Fire”), whence many tributary streams flow into the beautiful Pachim River.

At sunrise next morning we resumed our journey, and after a long day of toiling through treacherous marshes and tangled brushwood came at sunset upon an object whose presence there was a wonder, and its past a puzzle,–a ridge or embankment of ten or twelve feet elevation, which, to our astonishment, ran high and dry through the swampy lowlands. In the heart of an interminable forest it stretches along one side of the tangled trail, in some places walling it in, at others crossing it at right angles; now suddenly diving into the depths of the forest, now reappearing afar off, as if to mock our cautious progress, and invite us to follow it. The eye, wistfully pursuing its eccentric sweep, suddenly loses it in impenetrable shadows. There is not a vestige of any other ruin near it, and the long lines it here and there shows, ghostly white in the moonlight, seem like spectral strands of sand.

Our guides tell us this isolated ridge was once the great highway of ancient Cambodia, that it can be traced from the neighborhood of Nohk Burree to Naghkon Watt, and thence to the very heart of Cochin China; and one assures us that no man has ever seen the end of it.

So on we went, winding our devious way over pathless ground, now diving into shady valleys, now mounting to sunny eminences where the breeze blew free and the eye could range far and wide, but not to find aught that was human. Gradually the flowering shrubs forsook us, and dark forest trees pressed grimly around, as we traversed the noble stone bridges that those grand old Cambodians loved to build over comparatively insignificant streams. The moon, touching with fantastic light the crumbling arches and imparting a charm of illusion to the scene, the clear spangled sky, the startling voices of the night, and the influence of the unknown, the mysterious, and the weird, overcame us like a dream. Truly there is naught of the commonplace or vulgar in this land of ruins and legends, and the foretaste of the wonders we were about to behold met our view in the great bridges.

Taphan Hin (“the Stone Bridge”) and the finer and more artistic Taphan Thevadah (“the Angel’s Bridge”) are both imposing works. Arches, still resting firmly on their foundations, buttressed by fifty great pillars of stone, sup-port a structure about five hundred feet long and eighty broad. The road-bed of these bridges is formed of immense blocks or beams of stone, laid one upon another, and so adjusted that their very weight serves to keep the arches firm.

In a clearing in the forest, near a rivulet called by the Cambodians _Sthieng Sinn_ (“Sufficient to our Need”), we encamped; and, having rested and supped, again followed our guides over the foaming stream, and recrossed the Stone Bridge on foot, marvelling at the work of a race of whose existence the Western nations know nothing, who have no name in history, yet who builded in a style surpassing in boldness of conception, grandeur of proportions, and delicacy of design, the best works of the modern world,–stupendous, beautiful, enduring!

The material is mostly freestone, but a flinty conglomerate appears wherever the work is exposed to the action of the water.

Formerly a fine balustrade crowned the bridge on both sides, but it has been broken down. The ornamental parts of these massive structures seem to have been the only portions the invading vandals of the time could destroy.

The remains of the balustrade show that it consisted of a series of long quarry stones, on the ridges of which caryatidian pillars, representing the seven-headed serpent, supported other slabs grooved along the rim to receive semi-convex stones with arabesque sculptures, affording a hint of ancient Cambodian art.

On the left bank we found the remains of a staircase leading down to the water, not far from a spot where a temple formerly stood.

Next morning we crossed the Taphan Teph, or Heavenly Bridge,–like the Taphan Hin and the Taphan Thevadah a work of almost superhuman magnitude and solidity.

Leaving the bridges, our native pilots turned off from the ancient causeway to grope through narrow miry paths in the jungle.

On the afternoon of the same day we arrived at another stone bridge, over the Paleng River. This, according to our guides, was abandoned by the builders, because the country was invaded by the hostile hordes who destroyed Naghkon Watt. Slowly crumbling among the wild plantains and the pagan lotoses and lilies, these bridges seem to constitute the sole memorial, in the midst of that enchanting desolation, of a once proud and populous capital.

From the Paleng River, limpid and cheerful, a day’s journey brought us to the town of 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 Khaimain, of which the only traditions that remain describe in wild extravagances its boundless territory; its princes without number who paid tribute in gold, silver, and precious stuffs; its army of seventy thousand war elephants, two hundred thousand horsemen, and nearly six millions of foot soldiers; and its royal treasure-houses covering “three hundred miles of ground.” In the heart of this lonely region, in a district still bearing the name of Ongkoor, and quite apart from the ruined temples that abound hard by, we found architectural remains of such exceeding grandeur, with ruins of temples and palaces which must have been raised at so vast a cost of labor and treasure, that we were overwhelmed with astonishment and admiration.

What manner of people were these?

Whence came their civilization and their culture?

And why and whither did they disappear from among the nations of the earth?

The site of the city is in itself unique. Chosen originally for the strength of its position, it yet presents none of the features which should mark the metropolis of a powerful people. It seems to stand aloof from the world, exempt from its passions and aspirations, and shunning even its thrift. Confronting us with its towering portal, overlaid with colossal hieroglyphics, the majestic ruin, of the watt stands like a petrified dream of some Michael Angelo of the giants–more impressive in its loneliness, more elegant and animated in its grace, than aught that Greece and Home have left us, and addressing us with a significance all the sadder and more solemn for the desolation and barbarism which surround it.

Unhappily, the shocks of war, seconding the slowly grinding mills of time, have left but few of these noble monuments; and slowly, but ruthlessly, the work of destruction and decay goes on.

Vainly may we seek for any chronicle of the long line of monarchs who must have swayed the sceptre of the once powerful empire of Maha Naghkon. Only a vague tradition has come down, of a celestial prince to whom the fame of founding the great temple is supposed to belong; and of an Egyptian king, who, for his sacrilege, was changed into a leper. An interesting statue, representing the latter, still stands in one of the corridors,–somewhat mutilated, but sufficiently well preserved to display a marked contrast to the physical type of the present race of Cambodians.

The inscriptions with which some of the columns are covered are illegible; and if you question the natives as to the origin of Naghkon Watt, they will tell you that it was the work of the Leper King, or of P’hra-Inn-Suen, King of Heaven, or of giants, or that “it made itself.”

These magnificent edifices seem to have been designed for places of worship rather than of royal habitation, for nearly all are Buddhist temples.

The statues and sculptures on the walls of the outer corridor are in alto relievo, and generally life-size. The statue of the Leper King, set up in a sort of pavilion, is moderately colossal, and is seated in a tranquil and noble attitude; the head especially is a masterpiece, the features being classic and of manly beauty.

Approaching the temple of Ongkoor, the most beautiful and best preserved of these glorious remains, the traveller is compensated with full measure of wonder and delight for all the fatigues and hardships of his journey. Complete as is the desolation, a strange air of luxury hangs over all, as though the golden glow of sunshine amid the refreshing gloom were for the glory and the ease of kings.

At each angle of the temple are two enormous lions, hewn, pedestal and all, from a single block. A flight of stone steps leads up to the first platform of terraces. To reach the main entrance from the north staircase we traverse a noble causeway, which midway crosses a deep and wide moat that seems to surround the building.

The main entrance is by a long gallery, having a superb central tower, with two others of less height on each side. The portico of each of the three principal towers is formed by four projecting columns, with a spacious staircase between. At either extremity are similar porticos, and beyond these is a very lofty door, or gateway, covered with gigantic hieroglyphs, where gods and warriors hang as if self-supported between earth and sky. Then come groves of columns that in girth and height might rival the noblest oaks. Every pillar and every part of the wall is so crowded with sculptures that the whole temple seems hung with petrified tapestry.

On the west side, the long gallery is flanked by two rows of almost square columns. The blank windows are cut out of the wall, and finished with stone railings or balconies of curiously twisted columns; and the different compartments are equally covered with sculptures of subjects taken from the Ramayana. Here are Lakshman and Hanuman leading their warriors against Rawana,–some with ten heads, others with many arms. The monkeys are building the stone bridge over the sea. Rama is seen imploring the aid of the celestial protector, who sits on high, in grand and dreamy contemplation. Rama’s father is challenging the enemy, while Rawana is engaged in combat with the leader of the many-wheeled chariots. There are many other figures of eight-handed deities; and all are represented with marvellous skill in grouping and action.

[Illustration: Ruins of the Naghkon Watt.]

The entire structure is roofed with tiers of hewn stone, which is also sculptured; and remains of a ceiling may still be traced. The symmetrical wings terminate in three spacious pavilions and this imposing colonnade, which, by its great length, height, and harmonious proportions, is conspicuous from a great distance, and forms an appropriate vestibule to so grand a temple.

Traversing the building, we cross another and finer causeway, formed of great blocks of stone carefully joined, and bordered with a handsome balustrade, partly in ruins, very massive, and covered with sculptures.

On either side are six great platforms, with flights of steps; and on each we find remains of the seven-headed serpent,–in some parts mutilated, but on the whole sufficiently preserved to show distinctly the several heads, some erect as if guarding the entrance, others drawn back in a threatening attitude. A smaller specimen is nearly perfect and very beautiful.

We passed into an adytum, wardered by gigantic effigies whose mystic forms we could hardly trace; above us that ponderous roof, tier on tier of solid stone, upheld by enormous columns, and incrusted with strange carvings. Everywhere we found fresh objects of wonder, and each new spot, as we explored it, seemed the greatest wonder of all.

In the centre of the causeway are two elegant pavilions with porticos; and at the foot of the terrace we come upon two artificial lakes, which in the dry season must be supplied either by means of a subterranean aqueduct or by everlasting springs.

A balustrade not unlike that of the causeway, erected upon a sculptured basement, starts from the foot of the terrace and runs quite round the temple, with arms, or branches, descending at regular intervals.

The terrace opens into a grand court, crowded with a forest of magnificent columns with capitals, each hewn from a single block of stone. The basement, like every other part of the building, is ornamented in varied and animated styles; and every slab of the vast pile is covered with exquisite carvings representing the lotos, the lily, and the rose, with arabesques wrought with the chisel with astonishing taste and skill. The porticos are supported by sculptured columns; and the terraces, which form a cross, have three flights of steps, at each of which are four colossal lions, reclining upon pedestals.

The temple is thus seen to consist of three distinct parts, raised in terraces one above the other. The central tower of the five within the inner circle forms an octagon, with four larger and four smaller sides. On each of the four larger faces is a colossal figure of Buddha, which overlooks from its eminence the surrounding country.

This combination of four Buddhas occurs frequently among the ruins of Cambodia. The natives call it _P’hra Mook Bulu_ (“Lord of Four Faces”), though not only the face, but the whole body, is fourfold.

A four-faced god of majestic proportions presides over the principal entrance to the temple, and is called Bhrama, or, by corruption, _Phram_, signifying divine protection.

As the four cardinal points of the horizon naturally form a cross, called “phram,” so we invariably find the cross in the plan of these religious monuments of ancient Cambodia, and even in the corridors, intersecting each other at right angles. [Footnote: The cross is the distinctive character and sign for the Doctors of Reason in the primitive Buddhism of Kasyapa.] These corridors are roofed with great blocks of stone, projecting over each other so as to form an arch, and, though laid without cement, so accurately adjusted as to leave scarcely a trace of the joinings. The galleries of the temple also form a rectangle. The ceilings are vaulted, and the roofs supported by double rows of columns, cut from a single block.

There are five staircases on the west side, five on the east, and three on each of the remaining sides. Each of the porticos has three distinct roofs raised one above the other, thus nobly contributing to the monumental effect of the architecture.

In some of the compartments the entire space is occupied with representations of the struggle between angels and giants for possession of the snake-god, Sarpa-deva, more commonly called _Phya Naghk_. The angels are seen dragging the seven-headed monster by the tail, while the giants hold fast by the heads. In the midst is Vishnu, riding on the world-supporting turtle.

The most interesting of all the sculptures at Naghkon Watt are those that appear to represent a procession of warriors, some on foot, others mounted on horses, tigers, birds, and nondescript creatures, each chief on an elephant at the head of his followers. I counted more than a thousand figures in one compartment, and observed with admiration that the artist had succeeded in portraying the different races in all their physical characteristics, from the flat-nosed savage, and the short-haired and broad-faced Laotian, to the more classic profile of the Rajpoot, armed with sword and shield, and the bearded Moor. A panorama in life-size of the diverse nationalities, it yet displays, in the physical conformation of each race, a remarkable predominance of the Hellenic type–not in the features and profiles alone, but equally in the fine attitudes of the warriors and horsemen.

The bass-reliefs of another peristyle represent a combat between the king of apes and the king of angels, and if not the death, at least the defeat, of the former. On an adjoining slab is a boat filled with stalwart rowers with long beards,–a group very admirable in attitude and expression. In fact, it is in these bass-reliefs that the greatest delicacy of touch and the finest finish are manifest.

On the south side we found representations of an ancient military procession. The natives interpret these as three connected allegories, symbolizing heaven, earth, and hell; but it is more probable that they record the history of the methods by which the savage tribes were reclaimed by the colonizing foreigners, and that they have an intimate connection with the founding of these monuments.

One compartment represents an ovation: certain personages are seen seated on a dais, surrounded by many women, with caskets and fans in their hands, while the men bring flowers and bear children in their arms.

In another place, those who have rejected the new religion and its priests are precipitated into a pit of perdition, in the midst of which sits the judge, with his executioners, with swords in their hands, while the guilty are dragged before him by the hair and feet. In the distance is a furnace, and another crowd of “infidels” under punishment. But the converted (the “born again”) are conducted into palaces, which are represented on the upper compartments. In these happier figures the features as well as the attitudes denote profound repose, and in the faces of many of the women and children one may trace lines of beauty and tender grace.

[Illustration: Sculptures of the Naghkon Watt.]

On the east side a number of men, in groups on either hand, are in the act of dragging in contrary directions the great seven-headed dragon. One mighty angel watches the struggle with interest, while many lesser angels float overhead. Below is a great lake or ocean, in which are fishes, aquatic animals, and sea-monsters.

On another panel an angel is seated on a mountain (probably Mount Meru), and other angels, with several heads, assist or encourage those who are contending for possession of the serpent. To the right are another triumphal procession and a battle scene, with warriors mounted on elephants, unicorns, griffins, eagles with peacocks’ tails, and other fabulous creatures, while winged dragons draw the chariots.

On the north side is another battle-piece, the most conspicuous figure being that of a chief mounted on the shoulders of a giant, who holds in each hand the foot of another fighting giant. Near the middle of this peristyle is a noble effigy of a royal conqueror, with long flowing beard, attended by courtiers with hands clasped on their breasts. These figures are all in _alto relievo_, and well executed.

The greater galleries are connected with two smaller ones, which in turn communicate with two colonnades in the form of a cross; the roofs of these are vaulted. Four rows of square columns, each still hewn from a single block, extend along the sides of the temple. These are covered with statues and bass-reliefs, many of the former being in a state of dilapidation which, considering the extreme hardness of the stone, indicates great age, while others are true _chefs-d’oeuvre_.

The entire structure forms a square, and every part is admirable both in general effect and detail. There are twelve superb staircases, the four in the middle having from fifty to sixty steps, each step a single slab. At each angle is a tower. The central tower, larger and higher than the others, communicates with the lateral galleries by colonnades, covered, like the galleries themselves with a double roof. Opposite each of the twelve staircases is a portico with windows resembling in form and dimensions those described above.

In front of each colonnade connected with the tower is a dark, narrow chapel, to which there is an ascent of eight steps; each of these chapels (which do not communicate with each other) contains a gigantic idol, carved in the solid wall, and at its feet another, of the same proportions, sleeping.

This mighty pile, the wondrous Naghkon Watt, is nearly three miles in circumference; the walls are from seventy to eighty feet high, and twenty feet thick.

We wandered in astonishment, and almost with awe, through labyrinths of courts, cloisters, and chambers, encountering at every turn some new marvel, unheard of, undreamed of, until then. Even the walls of the outer courts were sculptured with whole histories of wars and conquests, in forms that seemed to live and fight again. Prodigious in size and number are the blocks of stone piled in those walls and towers. We counted five thousand and three hundred _solid_ columns. What a mighty host of builders must that have been! And what could have been their engines and their means of transport, seeing that the mountains from which the stone was quarried are nearly two days’ journey from the temple?

All the mouldings, sculptures, and bass-reliefs seem to to have been executed after the walls and pillars were in their places; and everywhere the stones are fitted together in a manner so perfect that the joinings are not easy to find. There is neither mortar nor mark of the chisel; the surfaces are as smooth as polished marble.

On a fallen column, under a lofty and most beautiful arch, we sat, and rested our weary, excited eyes on the wild but quiet landscape below; then slowly, reluctantly departed, feeling that the world contains no monument more impressive, more inspiring, than, in its desolation, and yet wondrous preservation, the temple of Maha Naghkon Watt.

Next morning our elephants bore us back to 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.


[Footnote: Translated from a MS. presented to the author by the Supreme King of Siam.]

Many hundreds of thousands of years ago, when P’hra Atheitt, the Sun-god, was nearer to earth than he is now, and the city of the gods could be seen with mortal eyes,–when the celestial sovereigns, P’hra Indara and P’hra Insawara, came down from Meru, the sacred mountain, to hold high converse with mortal kings, sages, and heroes,–when the moon and the stars brought tidings of good-will to men, and wisdom flourished, love and happiness were spread abroad, and sorrow, suffering, disease, old age, and death were almost banished,–there lived in Thaisiampois a mighty monarch whose years could hardly be numbered, so many were they and so long. And yet he was not old; such were the warmth and strength and vigor imparted by the near glories of the P’hra Atheitt, that the span of human life was lengthened unto a thousand, and even fifteen hundred years. The days of the King Sudarsana had been prolonged beyond those of the oldest of his predecessors, for the sake of his exceeding wisdom and goodness. But yet this King was troubled; he had no son, and the thought of dying without leaving behind him one worthy to represent his name and race was grievous to him. So, by the advice of the wise men of his kingdom, he caused prayers and offerings to be made in all the temples, and took to wife the beautiful Princess Thawadee.

At that very time P’hra Indara, ruler of the highest heaven, dreamed a dream; and behold! in his sleep a costly jewel fell from his mouth to the lower earth; whereat P’hra Indara was troubled. Assembling all the hosts of heaven, the angels, and the genii, he showed them his dream, but they could not interpret it. Last of all, he told it to his seven sons; but from them likewise its meaning was hidden. A second time P’hra Indara dreamed, and yet a third time, that a more and more costly jewel had fallen from his lips; and at last, when he awoke, the interpretation was revealed to his own thought,–that one of his sons should condescend to the form of humanity, and dwell on the earth, and be a great teacher of men.

Then the King of Heaven imparted to the celestial princes the meaning of the threefold vision, and demanded which of them would consent to become man.

The divine princes heard, and answered not a word; till the youngest and best-beloved of Heaven opened his lips and spake, saying: “Hear, O my Lord and Father! I have yearned toward the race thou hast created out of the fire and flame of thy breast and the smoke of thy nostrils. Let me go unto them, that I may teach them the wisdom of truth.”

Then P’hra Indara gave him leave to depart on his mission of love; and all the hosts of heaven, knowing that he should never more gladden their hearts with his presence, accompanied him, sorrowful, to the foot of Mount Meru; and immediately a blazing star shot from the mount, and burst over the palace of Thaisiampois.

That night the gracious Princess Thawadee conceived and became with child, and the P’hra Somannass was no longer a prince of the highest heaven.

The Princess Thawadee had been the only and darling daughter of a mighty king, and still mourned her separation from her beloved sire. Her only solace was to sit in the phrasat of the Grand Palace, and look with longing toward her early home. Here, day after day, she sat with her maidens, weaving flowers, and singing low the songs of her childhood. When this became known abroad among the multitude, they gathered from every side to behold one so famed for her goodness and beauty.

Thus by degrees her interest was aroused. She became thoughtful for her people, and presently found happiness in dispensing food, raiment, and comfort to the poor who flocked to see her.

One day, as she was reposing in the porch after her customary benefactions, a cloud of birds, flying eastward, fell dead as they passed over the phrasat. The sages and soothsayers of the court were terrified. What might the omen be? Long and anxious were their counsels, and grievous their perturbations one with another; until at last an aged warrior, who had conquered many armies and subjugated kingdoms, declaring that as faithful servants they should lay the weighty matter before their lord, bade all the court follow him, and approached his sovereign, saying:–

“Long live P’hra Chow P’hra Sudarsana, lord and king of our happy land, wherefrom sorrow and suffering and death are wellnigh banished! Let him investigate with a true spirit and a clear mind the matter we bring for judgment, even though it be to the tearing out of his own heart and casting it away from him.”

“Speak,” said the King, “and fear not! Has it ever been thought that evil is dearer unto me than good? Even to the tearing out of my heart and casting it to dogs shall justice be rendered in the land.”

Then the sages, soothsayers, and warriors spake as with one voice: “It is well known unto the lord our King, that the Queen, our lovely lady Thawadee, is with child.

“But what manner of birth, is this that she has conceived, in that it has already brought grief and death into the land? For as the Queen sat in the porch of the temple, a great flight of birds that hastened, thirsty, toward the valleys of the east, when they would have passed over the phrasat were struck dead, as by an unseen spirit of mischief. Let the King search this matter, and put away the strange thing of evil out of our land, lest it make a greater sorrow.”

When the King heard these words, he was sore smitten, and hung down his head, and knew not what to say; for the Queen, so gentle and beautiful, was very dear to him. But, remembering his royal word, he shook off his grief and took counsel with his astrologers, who had foretold that the unborn prince would prove either a glorious blessing or a dire curse to the land. And now, by the awful omen of the birds, they declared that the Queen had conceived the evil spirit Kala Mata, and that she must be put to death, she and the fiend with her.

Then the King in council commanded that the sweet young Thawadee should be set upon a floating raft, and given to the mercy of winds and waves.

But the brave chief who should have executed the sentence, overcome on beholding her beauty and innocence, interceded for her with the council; and it was finally decreed that, for pity’s sake, and because the Queen was unconscious of any evil, she should not be slain, but “put away,” after the dreadful birth. To this the stricken monarch thankfully agreed.

In due time the Queen was delivered of a male child, so beautiful that it filled all beholders with delight. His eyes were as sunshine, his forehead like the glow of the full moon, his lips like clustered roses, and his cry like the melody of many instruments; and the Queen loved him, and comforted herself with his beauty.

When the mother was strong again, the infant prince being then about a month old, the sentence of the council was carried into effect, and the poor princess and her child were banished forever from the beloved land of Thaisiampois.

Clasping her baby to her breast, she went forth, terrified and stunned. On and on, not knowing whither, she wandered, pressing her sleeping babe to her bosom, and moaning to the great gods above.

Then P’hra Indara, king of highest heaven, came down to earth, assumed the form and garb of a Bhramin, and followed her silently, shortening the miles and smoothing the rough places, until she reached the bank of a deep and rapid stream. Here, as she sat down, faint and foot-sore, to nurse her babe, there came to her a grave and venerable pilgrim, who gently questioned her sorrows and comforted her with thrilling words, saying her child was born to bring peace and happiness to earth, and not trouble and death.

Quickly Thawadee dried her tears, and consented to be led by the good old man, who had come to her as if from heaven. From under his garment he produced a shell filled with food from paradise, of which she partook with ecstasy; and gave her to drink water from everlasting springs, that overflowed her soul with perfect peace. Then he led her to a mountain, and prepared in the cleft of a rock a hiding-place for her and her child, and left her with a promise of quick return.

For fifty years she dwelt in the cave, knowing neither trouble nor weariness nor hunger, nor any of the ills of life. The young Somannass, as the good Bhramin had named him, grew to be a youth of wondrous beauty. The melody of his voice tamed the wild creatures of the forest, and charmed even the seven-headed dragons of the lake in which his mother bathed him every morning. Then again P’hra Indara appeared to them in the form and garb of the aged Bhramin; and he rejoiced in the strength and beauty of the young Somannass, and his heart yearned after his beloved son. But, hiding his emotion, he held pleasant converse with the Queen, and begged to be permitted to take the boy away with him for a season. She consented; and instantly, as in a flash of lightning, he transported the prince into the highest heaven, and Somannass found himself seated on a glorious throne by the side of P’hra Indara the Divine, before whom the hosts of heaven bowed in homage.

Here he was initiated in all the mysteries of life and death, with all wisdom and foresight. His celestial royal father showed him the stars coursing hither and thither on their errands of love and mercy; showed him comets with tails of fire flashing and whizzing through the centuries, spreading confusion and havoc in their path; showed him the spirits of rebellion and crime transfixed by the spears of the Omnipotent. He heard the music of the spheres, he tasted heavenly food, and drank of the river that flows from the footstool of the Most Highest.

And so he forgot the forlorn Queen, his mother, and desired to return to earth no more.

Then P’hra Indara laid his hand upon the brow of the lad, and showed him the generations yet to come, rejoicing in his prayers and precepts; and Somannass, beholding, stretched his arms to the earth again. And P’hra Indara promised to build him a palace hardly less grand and fair than the heavenly abode, a temple which should be the wonder of the world, a stupendous and everlasting monument of his love to men.

So Somannass returned to the Queen, his mother; and P’hra Indara sent down myriads of angels, with Phya Kralewana, chief of angels, to build a dwelling fit for the heavenly prince. In one night it was done, and the rising sun shone on domes like worlds and walls like armies. And because the seven-headed serpent, Phya Naghk, had shown the way to the mines of gold and silver and iron, and the quarries of marble and granite, the grateful builders laid the sign of the serpent on the foundations, terraces, and bridges; but on the walls they left the effigy of the Queen Thawadee, the beautiful and bountiful lady.

Then swift-winged angels flew to heaven, and, returning, brought fruits and flowers the most curious and exquisite; and immediately there bloomed a garden there, of such ravishing loveliness and perfume that the gods themselves delighted to visit it. Also they filled the great stables with white elephants and chargers. And then the angels transported Thawadee and Somannass to their new abode, the fame of which was so spread abroad that the great King Sudarsana, with all his court, and followers without number, and all his army, came to see it. And great was their astonishment to find again the fair and gentle Thawadee, who thus was reunited to her husband; and he took up his abode with her, and they lived together in love.

But the Prince Somannass built temples, and preached, and taught the people, and healed their infirmities, and led them in the paths of virtue and truth.

And the fame of his wisdom and goodness flew through all the lands, so that many kings became willing vassals unto him; but there came from a far-off country, where the heavens drop no rain, but where one great river suddenly floods the plains and then shrinks back into itself like a living thing, a king of lofty stature and exceeding craft. And the Prince Somannass was gracious toward him, and showed him many favors. But his heart was black and bad, and he would have turned the pure heart of the prince to worship the dragon and other beasts; wherefore Somannass changed him into a leper, and cast him out of his palace, and caused a stone statue to be made of him, which stands to this day, a warning to all tempters and evil-doers. And he caused the face of the great P’hra Indara to be carved on the north and on the south and on the east and on the west–so that all men might know the true God, who is God alone in heaven, Sevarg-Savan!