The Digital Adventures

Love of Siam-CH17

Chapter 11B

While they were still in custody in Ligor, word reached Abu Umar in Ayutthaya about the shipwreck and the capture of Phaulkon and his crew. Abu was certain they would be beheaded and when he learned to the contrary that they were being sent to Ayutthaya, he was appalled. This was not what he wanted to hear. He immediately ran to Burnaby and White. “He was going to set fire to the ship,” Abu ranted. “What could I do! Phaulkon blackmailed me into telling him that you supplied arms and to the rebels.”

“You what!” screamed White. In an instant he drew his dagger and was about to plunge it into Abu Umar but Burnaby grabbed him by both arms. White continued his harangue. “I ought to cut your liver out.”

Abu quickly gathered his composure. “Kill me if you will, and then you will both go down. Phaulkon is on his way back here. If I go down, you both will go down with me. Instead of threatening to kill me, I think you had better give thought to protecting me. I am the only one who can get you out of this.

Killing Abu, of course, would only compound the matter. They had to be there when the ship arrived and to meet Phaulkon and his crew. That was certain. They could confer with Phaulkon before he went to the Governor’s office and decide beforehand what course of action to follow. They made the bad mistake of underestimating Phaulkon, their own creation.

White and Burnaby were there when the ship arrived with Phaulkon and his men aboard. It was an awkward meeting but they all managed to show civility to one another and spoke kindly among themselves. Burnaby had a letter from the Barcalon that he presented to the officer-in-charge. It stated Phaulkon was at liberty to remain in his own quarters.

“You will be under guard, of course, until the matter is settled,” Burnaby announced with authority. “The Governor says he will take up the matter with the Barcalon and will have a hearing with everyone involved as soon as possible.”

”And my two men?” Phaulkon asked. “What about them?” “There is nothing more I could do about them,” Burnaby said.

“They must go to the lock up for now.” Four guards with leather collars and thongs circled the two men and began gruffly to push them about.

Phaulkon came to their defense and stood with them. “If they go to prison I will go with them,” he shouted to the guard in charge, and then to Burnaby and to White, “I mean it.”

Diego interceded. “No master,” he said. “You will do none of us good if you are locked away. Christoph and I can manage by ourselves.’

“No, Diego. They can go to hell, all of them,” Phaulkon said in earnest.

“Master,” Christoph spoke up, “don’t you remember, there is no hell.”

For the first time Phaulkon smiled. “I thought you had said that,” he said to Diego, and put an arm around them both. “Go then,” he said, “and I won’t forget you.”

Phaulkon and the guard followed White and Burnaby through the streets to Phaulkon’s quarters. No further words were passed among them. They walked in silence and the only sound came from water rushing through the klongs as they crossed over the foot bridges. Once they arrived at Phaulkon’s home, the guard took a position outside the door and they entered. Phaulkon dismissed his servants and they were alone to continue their discussions.

When White made certain the apartment was empty, he said, “Now we can talk.”

Burnaby nodded in agreement.

“Do you mean you will do the talking,” Phaulkon laughed. “You make it sound like you already have it figured out.”

“We have worked out a course,” White said.

”And what might that be?” Phaulkon asked.

“We are all somewhat in trouble,” White began. “We will all agree to that.” Phaulkon nodded. “Then we can proceed. We got you into Siam, and we can get you out.”

“Get me out! Is that what you propose?” Phaulkon asked bluntly. “Yes, precisely,” White said. Burnaby suddenly turned pale. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. He felt for his kerchief but couldn’t find it.

”Am I not still in the service of the East India Company? Does that not mean anything?” Phaulkon asked.

“Come off it, Gerakis, you are a smuggler like the rest of us,” White said. It was the first time he called him by his Greek name. “We are offering you a chance to get out of this.”

“The name is Phaulkon, or don’t you remember,” Phaulkon said sharply. “I do believe you are both sincere. Most noble. You want to save my skin, or should I say my head. I do applaud you. Now-” He rose to his feet and looked down at them. Burnaby slithered farther back in his seat. “Now, gentlemen, you both can go to hell. You hear-to hell. You sacrifice me to save yourselves. You are most generous. And may they take off all of our heads tomorrow.”

“Phaulkon, I think you had better listen to reason,” White said. Burnaby began to tremble.

“Listen to reason,” Phaulkon said in mockery. “So I am a smuggler, and how can I deny that. And so are the both of you, smugglers, and you cannot deny that either.” He hesitated, waiting for them to object, but they didn’t, and he went on. ”A smuggler yes. That’s what you are saying. But a traitor no, never, not to the country that opened its doors to me, a country that has given me a chance. So, my honorable, trustworthy friends, don’t ever begin to accuse me of being a traitor. Don’t ever do that.” Both White and Burnaby were a bit dumbfounded. They had never seen Phaulkon like this.

Still, White fired back and reminded Phaulkon again how he and Burnaby had smuggled him back into Siam, and that he should stop talking about Siam opening its doors to him. “We opened the doors for you, not them,” he shouted.

“I am grateful for what you have done,” Phaulkon replied. “You made it possible for me. But once I got to Siam I didn’t sit and wait for things to happen. I made things happen. I saw an opening, an opportunity and I took it. Now you want me to give up what I have. You think you can save me. The truth is you cannot save me, not at all. It comes down to a matter of trust. I have to put my trust into something, into someone. I don’t want to keep running. I have been doing that since I was twelve.”

White listened but didn’t agree. He continued his outrage:

“Trust! Who do you trust? Damn them. Damn them all. They’re all the same, Siamese, Burmese, Malays, rebels, Moors, Muslims- heathens all. Let them all kill one another! Who gives a damn?”

Phaulkon replied in anger, “Well, it’s not their judgment day, is it? It’s our heads we’re talking about. We could all lose our heads tomorrow. “

They started squabbling again, but lowered their voices when the guard looked in upon them. In a whisper, White said, “Phaulkon, we are here to discuss your defense. You have a chance.”

“How’s that, by helping me escape?” Phaulkon barked. “You’d like that. And who will shoot me in the back while trying to escape?” “Don’t you understand, we are your defense,” White said softening his voice.

“Now you listen,” Phaulkon said. “My defense is your defense too.” Before they could further protest, he continued. “At the trial, do you think by selling you out, by pointing a finger at you, that I’d save my own skin? I am not a fool. They’d execute me anyway.”

“So what do we do, sit idly by and listen to you make a fool of yourself?” White asked.

“It’s too late to change my defense now,” Phaulkon said sternly.

“I have already told the Governor in Ligor my own story.” He looked squarely at the two men sitting on edge before him. “Now gentlemen,” he continued, “if I can call you that, all you have to do is stay calm and play this game my way, and then everything will be fine.”

There was no more that anyone could say. White and Burnaby departed.

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