The Digital Adventures

Love of Siam-CH12

Chapter 8B
Getting Closer

At the Fanique residence, Marie was with her father in the courtyard with her maid when they heard someone at the back entrance. She knew who it might be for she had heard a messenger earlier in the day announce that the shipment of cloth was arriving, and George White and his assistant were bringing it in person. She wondered if the assistant might be the young foreign man she saw around town, the stranger who brought the wine two nights ago.

“Father, I think it is your friend again,” she said in an anxious voice.

“Marie, my dear daughter, must I tell you they are not my friends,” he replied. “Mr. White is a trader and he happens to have some merchandise that interests me, and which you also might like to see.”

George White entered the yard, bowed graciously toward Fanique and his daughter, and with a flourish of a hand he motioned for the others to come forth.

Phaulkon stepped out from the darkened doorway, followed by a procession of six assistants carrying bolts of cloth. When Fanique saw that Phaulkon was one of them, he was not pleased. Taking his daughter by the hand, he called for her maid to come and take her away. “Step back, step back, my dear,” he said. “Let these men work and I shall call you when we are ready.” She stepped back with her maid at her side, but only a short distance. She caught Phaulkon looking at her and, seeing her father’s attention was elsewhere, gave him a warm smile.

Phaulkon had not seen Marie face to face until now. Before it was always from afar. She was even more beautiful that he imagined. She wore a simple light green gown and had her hair braided with a ribbon of the same color. There was a moment of silence, and then, before anyone could say a word, Phaulkon boldly took a step forward. Addressing Marie and her father, in sweeping gesture, like a coachman opening a door, he said in a convincing voice, “I am at your service. My name is Constantine Phaulkon.” But he was no coachman.

White’s face turned ashen. He could see the sale of the silk to Fanique vanish before his eyes. Fanique was too bewildered to say or do anything. Marie, on the other hand, blushed and lowered her eyes. Her long lashes fluttered as she did. She curtsied, holding the ends of her gown outward. Phaulkon was prepared for the occasion. White hadn’t paid attention to him when they met earlier in the evening. He hadn’t noticed that his protege wore a scarlet vest and long waistcoat, and that his boots-boots that reached to his knees-were polished to sheen. He hadn’t thought about the peaked officer’s cap which Phaulkon wore, and which he now waved about with one hand as he spoke. Tall and handsome, White had to admit, he did make a fine show, standing there before Fanique and his daughter, his lovely daughter Marie.

“Shall we begin, gentlemen,” White spoke up quickly, breaking the silence that had fallen over everyone. “These are the finest silks from India,” he began, ranting on. “There are no finer in all the lands.”

Phaulkon motioned with a nod for Marie to step aside, away from the others. She was hesitant, glancing at her father, but his attention no longer centered on Phaulkon nor upon her. His eyes fell upon the bolts of silk the attendants began unrolling at his feet. He was delighted, mesmerized, by the river of beautiful colors that flowed across the floor at his feet. He bent down upon one knee to feel the silk’s softness, its smoothness. Marie holding on to her maid slipped away with Phaulkon. He had offered her his arm, but she declined. She lowered her head like a schoolgirl and she and her maid followed him to a corner.

“Your lady is very pretty,” Phaulkon said to the maid. Marie blushed. “And she likes pretty things.”

The smile faded from Marie’s face. She addressed the maid. “Why would anyone who doesn’t know me say that I like pretty things?” “The general’s son is very lavish with gifts,” Phaulkon said to the maid. “He gives your lady fine gifts and she seems very happy, as she was when I saw them together the other night.”

“Maybe you mean that necklace. What you did not see was that I gave it back,” she said, speaking directly at Phaulkon at which the maid admonished her.

“Never mind,” Phaulkon said to the maid. “She has spirit, and I like that in women.”

Marie, pretending not to hear him, continued talking to the maid. “What girl wouldn’t like beautiful things,” she said. “But only those gifts when they came from the right person. Nothing that Sorasak gives me would I like. You might tell Mr. Phaulkon this.”

“Her father doesn’t think so,” Phaulkon said to the maid. “My father is a businessman,” she replied curtly.

“Yes, I know,” Phaulkon said, at first in Siamese and then Portuguese. “You must excuse me, my dear lady. I do not intend to be rude.”

“You are good with languages, I heard,” Marie said. “Is that all you heard?” he asked.

She avoided the question. ”And what about Japanese, do you know Japanese as well?” She then spoke to him in Japanese.

“No Japanese,” he said with reproach, “but that will come next. I shall require a teacher. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Yes, of course,” she replied smartly. “You can make use of my teacher. I shall loan him to you. He is old, very old, not pretty at all, and crippled, but he is a very good teacher.”

They both laughed. Marie, who had been shy until now found herself at ease with Phaulkon. He made her laugh. He was different, far more different than anyone else she had met. She liked his company.

There was no time for further conversation. Fanique was pleased with the silk and turned to look about, and saw his daughter in a corner with Phaulkon. His radiance showed displeasure. He came bolting across the room and grabbing her by the arm, shouted at her in Japanese and then at the maid in Portuguese. Like an obedient daughter, Marie listened to her father with bowed head. It was uncomfortable for everyone there. Fanique then announced the meeting was over. He informed White he would send a messenger to his office with his decision about the sale the next day. He curtly bid everyone good-bye, with the exception of Phaulkon. He ignored him.

He then had his servant lead White, his assistants and Phaulkon to the back gate. When Phaulkon looked back, hoping for a last glimpse at Marie, she was not about. Her father had ushered her and her maid away. The courtyard was empty.

“You do not give up easily,” White said to Phaulkon when they were on their way back to White’s apartment for a drink.

“I do not intend to. I am not easily daunted,” Phaulkon replied in a voice of determination.

“I could see that. I might say you even enjoyed it,” White said.

He thought for a moment and continued. “If you are that determined, and you want to succeed, then I fear you have to make some changes.”


“Yes, changes.”

“What do you mean, changes?” Phaulkon asked, “What do I have to change? You told me I already have the best tailor in the kingdom.”

”And you have done well, but let me tell you, dress is only part of the show. The other is manners. You are rough around the edges. You have not been schooled in the graces of Siamese court life. You are gruff, and might I say, even ill mannered. You point with your toes and pat kids on the head. What you are lacking is culture. Marie is cultured; she likes nice things, it’s true, but she likes music and poetry as well. That is culture.”

“That is all,” Phaulkon said with sarcasm. “Is that what culture is, music and poetry? Tell me, perhaps I should have stayed home in Greece. There’s beauty everywhere there. And even the poorest farmer, the worker pressing wine in the vineyard, they all can recite the Greek poets. Is that the culture you mean, the culture I fled from?”

“You want to get off your high horse. You want to listen? If you are looking for an argument I’ll stop here. You know damn well that is not what I mean.”

“What do you mean then?” Phaulkon asked, more confused than ever. ”Are you saying that I should be more like Sorasak?”

“Sorasak is a bully. I wouldn’t ask anyone to emulate him nor the likes of him. The culture I am talking about is knowing and liking nice things. You are read, Phaulkon, more perhaps than many missionaries here. You know the poets and fine wines, you have good taste. So why don’t you show it? Stop being a seaman. For some it takes a lifetime to master these things, and some may never get to know them. You are an exception.”

”And what about you?” Phaulkon asked.

“Damn you, Phaulkon. There you go again, always on the defensive. We are not talking about me,” White answered abruptly. “We are talking about you. Do you want to listen? Do you want to learn?”

“Of course, if that is what it takes,” Phaulkon replied. “I am sorry if I give the wrong impression. Time is against me. I don’t want to linger any longer.”

“Then you had better not waste any more time. You have to get started immediately,” White said emphatically.

“I know I can learn. I know I can.” Phaulkon said with earnest. He remembered what Captain Hollingsworth aboard the Northumbrian had told him, that everything he needs to know he can find in books. But there were no books in Ayutthaya.

“You can learn certainly,” White said again. “But all depends how determined you are, and if you have a good teacher. That’s important, a good teacher.”

”And how do I find such a person as that?” Phaulkon asked, a bit down hearted.

“Don’t be so glum,” White said with a laugh and a slap on Phaulkon’s shoulder. “I know just the person, and the best.”

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