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FÂ-YING, THE KING'S DARLING.
"WILL you teach me to draw?" said an irresistible young voice to me, as I sat at the school-room table, one bright afternoon. "It is so much more pleasant to sit by you than to go to my Sanskrit class. My Sanskrit teacher is not like my English teacher; she bends my hands back when I make mistakes. I don't like Sanskrit, I like English. There are so many pretty pictures in your books. Will you take me to England with you, Mam cha?"1 pleaded the engaging little prattler.
"I am afraid his Majesty will not let you go with me," I replied.
"O yes, he will!" said the child with smiling confidence. "He lets me do as I like. You know I am the Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying; he loves me best of all; he will let me go."
"I am glad to hear it," said I, "and very glad to hear that you love English and drawing. Let us go up and ask his Majesty if you may learn drawing instead of Sanskrit."
With sparkling eyes and a happy smile, she sprang from my lap, and, seizing my hand eagerly, said, "O yea I let us go now." We went, and our prayer was granted.
Never did work seem more like pleasure than it did to me as I sat with this sweet, bright little princess, day after day, at the hour when all her brothers and sisters were at their Sanskrit, drawing herself, as the hum& seized her, or watching me draw; but oftener listening, her large questioning eyes fixed upon my face, as step by step I led her out of the shadow-land of myth into the realm of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God"; and I felt that this child of smiles and tears, all unbaptized and unblessed as she was, was nearer and dearer to her Father in heaven than to her father on earth.
This was the Somdetch Chowfa Chandrmondol, best known in the palace by her pet name of Fâ-ying. Her mother, the late queen consort, in dying, left three sons and this one daughter, whom, with peculiar tenderness and anxiety, she commended to the loving-kindness of the king; and now the child was the fondled darling of the lonely, bitter man, having quickly won her way to his heart by the charm of her fearless innocence and trustfulness, her sprightly intelligence and changeful grace.
Morning dawned fair on the river, the sunshine flickering on the silver ripples, and gilding the boats of the market people as they softly glide up or down to the lazy swing of the oars. The floating shops were all awake, displaying their various and fantastic wares to attract the. passing citizen or stranger. Priests in yellow rob
moved noiselessly from door to door, receiving without asking and without thanks the alms wherewith their pious clients hoped to lay up treasures in heaven, or, in Buddhist parlance, to "make merit." Slaves hurried hither and thither in the various bustle of errands. Worshippers thronged the gates and vestibules of the many temples of this city of pagodas and p'hra-cha-dees, and myriads of fan-shaped bells scattered æolian melodies on the passing breeze.
As Boy and I gazed from our piazza on this strangely picturesque panorama, there swept across the river a royal barge filled with slaves, who, the moment they had landed, hurried up to me.
"My lady," they cried, "there is cholera in the palace! Three slaves are lying dead in the princesses' court; and her Highness, the young Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying, was seized this morning. She sends for you. O, come to her, quickly!" and with that they put into my hand a scrap of paper; it was from his Majesty.
"MY DEAR MAM, — Our well-beloved daughter, your favorite pupil, is attacked with cholera, and has earnest desire to see you, and is heard much to make frequent repetition of your name. I beg that you will favor her wish. I fear her illness is mortal, as there has been three deaths since morning. She is best beloved of my children.
"I am your afflicted friend,
"S. S. P. P. MAHA MONGKUT."
In a moment I was in my boat. I entreated, I flattered, I scolded, the rowers. How slow they were! how strong the opposing current! And when we did reach those heavy gates, how slowly they moved, with what suspicious caution they admitted me! I was fierce with impatience. And when at last I stood panting at the door of my Fâ-ying's chamber — too late! even Dr. Campbell (the surgeon of the British consulate) had come too late.
There was no need to prolong that anxious wail in the ear of the deaf child, "P'hra-Arahang! P'hra-Arahang!"2 She would not forget her way; she would nevermore lose herself on the road to Heaven. Beyond, above the P'hra Arahang, she had soared into the eternal, tender arms of the P'hra-Jesus, of whom she was wont to say in her infantine wonder and eagerness, Mam cha, chân râk P'hra-Jesus mâk ("Mam dear, I love your holy Jesus.")
As I stooped to imprint a parting kiss on the little face that had been so fair to me, her kindred and slaves exchanged their appealing "P'hra-Arahang" for a sudden burst of heart-rending cries.
An attendant hurried me to the king, who, reading the heavy tidings in my silence, covered his face with his hands and wept passionately. Strange and terrible were the tears of such a man, welling up from a heart from which all natural affections had seemed to be expelled, to make room for his own exacting, engrossing conceit of self.
Bitterly he bewailed his darling, calling her by such tender, touching epithets as the lips of loving Christian mothers use. What could I say? What could I do but weep with him, and then steal quietly away and leave the king to the Father?
"The moreover very sad & mournful Circular3 from His Gracious Majesty Somdetch P'hra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, the reigning Supreme King of Siam, intimating the recent death of Her Celestial Royal Highness, Princess Somdetch Chowfa Chandrmondol Sobhon Baghiawati, who was His Majesty's most affectionate & well beloved 9th Royal daughter or 16th offspring, and the second Royal child by His Majesty's late Queen consort Rambery Bhamarabhiramy who deceased in the year 1861. Both mother and daughter have been known to many foreign friends of His Majesty.
"To all the foreign friends of His Majesty, residing or trading in Siam, or in Singapore, Malacca, Pinang, Ceylon, Batavia, Saigon, Macao, Hong-kong, & various regions in China. Europe, America, &c. &c
"Her Celestial Royal Highness, having been born on the 24th April, 1855, grew up in happy condition of her royal valued life, under the care of her Royal parents, as well as her elder and younger three full brothers; and on the demise of her royal mother on the forementioned date, she was almost always with her Royal father everywhere day & night. All things which belonged to her late mother suitable for female use were transferred to her as the most lawful inheritor of her late royal mother; She grew up to the age of 8 years & 20 days. On the ceremony of the funeral service of her elder late royal half brother forenamed, She accompanied her royal esteemed father & her royal brothers and sisters in customary service, cheerfully during three days of the ceremony, from the 11th to 13th May. On the night of the latter day, when she was returning from the royal funeral place to the royal residence in the same sedan with her Royal father at 10 o'clock P. M. she yet appeared happy, but alas! on her arrival at the royal residence, she was attacked by most violent & awful cholera, and sunk rapidly before the arrival of the physicians who were called on that night for treatment. Her disease or illness of cholera increased so strong that it did not give way to the treatment of any one, or even to the Chlorodine administered to her by Doctor James Campbell the Surgeon of the British Consulate. She expired at 4 o'clock P. M., on the 14th May, when her elder royal half brother's remains were burning at the funeral hall outside of the royal palace, according to the determined time for the assembling of the great congregation of the whole of the royalty & nobility, and native & foreign friends, before the occurrence of the unforeseen sudden misfortune or mournful event.
"The sudden death of the said most affectionate and lamented royal daughter has caused greater regret and sorrow to her Royal father than several losses sustained by him before, as this beloved Royal amiable daughter was brought up almost by the hands of His Majesty himself, since she was aged only 4 to 5 months, His Majesty has carried her to and fro by his hand and on the lap and placed her by his side in every one of the Royal seats, where ever he went; whatever could be done in the way of nursing His Majesty has done himself, by feeding her with milk obtained from her nurse, and sometimes with the milk of the cow, goat &c. poured in a teacup from which His Majesty fed her by means of a spoon, so this Royal daughter was as familiar with her father in her infancy, as with her nurses.
"On her being only aged six months, his Majesty took this Princess with him and went to Ayudia on affairs there; after that time when she became grown up His Majesty had the princess seated on his lap when he was in his chair at the breakfast, dinner & supper table, and fed her at the same time of breakfast &c, almost every day, except when she became sick of colds &c. until the last days of her life she always eat at same table with her father. Where ever His Majesty went, this princess always accompanied her father upon the same, sedan, carriage, Royal boat, yacht &c. and on her being grown up she became more prudent than other children of the same age, she paid every affectionate attention to her affectionate and esteemed father in every thing where her ability allowed; she was well educated in the vernacular Siamese literature which she commenced to study when she was 3 years old, and in last year she commenced to study in the English School where the schoolmistress, Lady L — has observed that she was more skillful than the other royal Children, she pronounced & spoke English in articulate & clever manner which pleased the schoolmistress exceedingly, so that the schoolmistress on the loss of this her beloved pupil, was in great sorrow and wept much.
". . . . But alas! her life was very short. She was only aged 8 years & 20 days, reckoning from her birth day & hour, she lived in this world 2942 days & 18 hours. But it is known that the nature of human lives is like the flames of candles lighted in open air without any protection above & every side, so it is certain that this path ought to be followed by every one of human beings in a short or long while which cannot be ascertained by prediction, Alas!
"Dated Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, 16th May, Anno Christi 1863."
Not long after our darling Flying was taken from us, the same royal barge, freighted with the same female slaves who had summoned us to her death-bed, came in haste to our house. His Majesty had sent them to find and bring us. We must hurry to the palace. On arriving there, we found the school pavilion strangely decorated with flowers. My chair of office had been freshly painted a glaring red, and on the back and round the arms and legs-fresh flowers were twined. The books the Princess Fâ-ying had lately conned were carefully displayed in front of my accustomed seat, and upon them were laid fresh roses and fragrant lilies. Some of the ladies in waiting informed me that an extraordinary honor was about to be conferred on me. Not relishing the prospect of favors that might place me in a false position, and still all in the dark, I submitted quietly, but not without misgivings on my own part and positive opposition on Boy's, to be enthroned in the gorgeous chair, whereof the paint was hardly dry. Presently his Majesty sent to inquire if we had arrived, and being apprised of our presence, came down at once, followed by all my pupils and a formidable staff of noble dowagers, — his sisters, half-sisters, and aunts, paternal and maternal.
Having shaken hands with me and with my child, he proceeded to enlighten us. He was about to confer a distinction upon me, for my "courage and conduct," as he expressed it, at the death-bed of her Highness, his well-beloved royal child, the Somdetch Chow Fâ-ying. Then, bidding me "remain seated," much to the detriment of my white dress, in the sticky red chair, and carefully taking the ends of seven threads of unspun cotton (whereof the other ends were passed over my head, and over the dead child's books, into the hands of seven of his elder sisters), he proceeded to wind them round my brow and temples. Next he waved mysteriously a few gold coins, then dropped twenty-one drops of cold water out of a jewelled shell,4 and finally, muttering something in Sanskrit, and placing in my hand a small silk bag containing a title of nobility and the number and description of the roods of lands pertaining to it, bade me rise, "Chow noon Crue Yai."
My estate was in the district of Lophaburee and P'hra Batt, and I found afterward that to reach it I must perform a tedious journey overland, through a wild, dense jungle, on the back of an elephant. So, with wise munificence, I left it to my people, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, wild boars, armadillos, and monkeys to enjoy unmolested and untaxed, while I continued to pursue the even tenor of a "school-marm's" way, unagitated by my honorary title. In fact, the whole affair was ridiculous; and I was inclined to feel a little ashamed of the distinction, when I reflected on the absurd figure I must have cut, with my head in a string like a grocer's parcel, and Boy imploring me, with all his astonished eyes, not to submit to so silly an operation. So he and I tacitly agreed to hush the matter up between us.
Speaking of the "chank" shell, that is the name given in the East Indies to certain varieties of the voluta gravis, fished up by divers in the Gulf of Manaar, on the northwest coast of Ceylon. There are two kinds, payel and patty, — the one red, the other white; the latter is of small value. These shells are exported to Calcutta and Bombay, where they are sawed into rings of various sizes, and worn on the arms, legs, fingers, and toes by the Hindoos, from whom the Buddhists have adopted the shell for use in their religious or political ceremonies. They employ, however, a third species, which opens to the right, and is rare and costly. The demand for these shells, created by the innumerable poojahs and pageants of the Hindoos and Buddhists, was formerly so great that a bounty of sixty thousand rix dollars per annum was paid to the British government for the privilege of fishing for them; but this demand finally ceased, and the revenue became not worth collecting. The fishing is now free to all.
1 "Lady dear."
2 One of the most sacred of the many titles of Buddha, repeated by the nearest relative in the ear of the dying till life is quite extinct.
3 From the pen of the king
4 The conch or thank shell