The Digital Adventures

Love of Siam-CH42

Chapter 25C
The Undiplomatic Ambassador

“Your Majesty,” Chaumont interrupted, “such matters of trade you should assign to someone else as I have more important things for Your Majesty to consider.”

Ambassador Chaumont may have started off on the right foot, but with the next step he stumbled. Phaulkon and the bishop could see it coming.

“More important than trade,” King Narai declared. “And what might they be?

Chaumont was straight to the point. “Your Majesty,” he began, “the object of my mission, as decreed by my master, the King of France, is to have the King of Siam consent to the study of the Christian religion.”

What happened next was abrupt and totally unexpected. Without uttering a word, King Narai got up from his throne, turned his back and left the audience hall. He left Chaumont standing there, dumbfounded, with Phaulkon and Bishop Laneau at his side.

The next day King Narai summoned Phaulkon to his chambers, He instructed him that he must go to Ambassador Chaumont and seek a trade agreement as soon as possible. This was one way to hold off the Dutch. When Phaulkon confronted the ambassador later that day, Chaumont said to tell King Narai he will have his embassy prepare a memorandum immediately covering trade issues. He would notify Phaulkon when the memorandum was ready. Progress at last, Phaulkon thought.

That night Phaulkon was in his study reading the Bible when Marie came unnoticed into the room. “My dear,” she said, interrupting him, “you are making it more difficult for yourself than need be. Follow Chaumont’s instructions and put aside your own ideas and beliefs and your job would be so much easier.” Phaulkon gave it some thought and after a time wondered if she might be right. Should he not back off? Easily said but while he sat with Marie in his study in Louvo, far away deep in the jungle, a band of thirty or more unruly men were huddled around a campfire. The flames leaped into the sky and cast a reflection upon the dense foliage of the jungle that surrounded them. It was like a dome, sealing them in and isolating them from the world outside. It gave them comfort and a false feeling of security. They were Makassars; the remnants of the rebel band of Muslims that had struck at the elephant hunt months before and a growing number of new recruits. Their numbers had increased and they were plotting against the Kingdom of Siam. Tempers were running high. Their leader was standing, waving a sword above his head, shouting at the top of his voice. “It’s time to strike,” he declared with vengeance. The man with the sword, the man doing the shouting, was Mosafat. He meant business. His men stood up, withdrew their weapons and swung them high above their heads. “The French are making an alliance with the king,” he continued, “and if they succeed, they will bring the Christian religion to the Siamese. Does the king make an alliance with Islam? No!” he shouted. “Do you see how the king welcomes these Christian devils with splendor and with honor? Did the king treat the Persian embassy with the same honor? No! Is this not a sign that the King of Siam has more affection for Christians than for Muslims? Yes! It is time to strike! Remember our brothers who were slaughtered by the king’s general and his son, after taking the word of the Greek minister? They must pay!

They must pay in blood!”

“Pay in blood, Christian traitors,” the men took up the chant and began shouting-“Pay in blood! Pay in blood!”

“Yes! Yes!” shouted Mosafat. “We must spill their blood and mix it with the dung of the wild beasts. And the man who is the Greek must die before them, and he shall die by my hands. Leave him to me and I shall kill him in the name of Allah.”

The morning after Phaulkon had his talk with Marie, Ambassador Chaumont informed him that he and the embassy had completed drafting the memorandum and that it was ready for his perusal. Phaulkon went with Bishop Laneau to the ambassador’s residence in Louvo. Chaumont handed Phaulkon the memorandum the moment they came through the door. He was smiling from ear to ear, like a proud father who has seen his child take his first step. Phaulkon read the memorandum and, unable to control himself any longer, went into a rage. He cared not that he was in the presence of an ambassador. In one burst of anger he cast diplomacy to the wind. The memorandum dealt exclusively with religion and very little with trade. “This is ridiculous,” Phaulkon shouted. Bishop Laneau didn’t need to translate. The ambassador lost the smile and snapped at Phaulkon.

“I am not one to be humiliated,” he said gravely. “I have given the King of Siam a memorandum as requested and those are the terms.”

“You mean an ultimatum,” Phaulkon snapped. “And you state that I shall help with the conversion of King Narai, or else the king should forget help from King Louis.”

“That is correct,” he replied. “Now, if you please, take this to your king and I shall be waiting for a reply.” There was no more to be said.

With no other choice, Phaulkon took Chaumont’s memorandum to the king, as he was directed to do by the ambassador. Bishop Laneau accompanied him to do the translating. When they entered King Narai’s chambers, they threw themselves at the king’s feet, with Phaulkon addressing him most humbly. He told the king that he brought this disgraceful document against his will. He asked the king’s permission for Bishop Laneau to read the document and translated it from French into the Tai language. The king agreed.

When Bishop Laneau finished reading, Phaulkon told the king that although he shared the same faith with the King of France and believed in the same God, and though it has been placed upon him by the French to instruct His Majesty in the Christian faith, he could not rightfully do so. He admitted to the king that he himself did not fully understand the teachings of his faith and that he had only accepted it blindly to marry Marie.

Surprisingly, the king was sympathetic. He dismissed Bishop Laneau and commanded Phaulkon to be seated. He told Phaulkon he appreciated his honesty and his faithfulness to his God. However, he asked Phaulkon what could have made the King of France assume he would leave his faith that has been the religion of his kingdom for more than twenty centuries.

Phaulkon explained that King Louis heard of His Majesty’s support given to the French missionaries, the churches he allowed to be built and the alms he gives generously to the expansion of the Catholic faith. “This, Your Majesty, has made your most trusted friend, the King of France, believe you were inclined to the Catholic faith.”

King Narai wanted to know what the French ambassador said when Phaulkon told him that he, the King of Siam, could not leave the religion of his ancestors for another belief.

Phaulkon replied, “The ambassador believes it is only natural that you would react this way, but nothing should prevent him from carrying out his master’s instruction to teach Your Majesty the doctrine of the Catholic faith.” Phaulkon further explained that King Louis of France had given his ambassador specific instructions not to delay in carrying out his mission as word had reached him that the Persian Ambassador had arrived in Siam bringing with him the Koran. “It is feared, Your Majesty, that you may adopt the Muslim faith. This is why the French ambassador feels very much obliged to show Your Majesty the way to embrace the Catholic faith.”

“It’s true, the Persian ambassador brought the Koran,” the king admitted. “Ha!”-he gave a hearty laugh-“Were I to leave my religion for another, it certainly would not be for Islam. That much I would like to assure my most honorable Christian friend, King Louis. You can inform the ambassador I will do all that I can to uphold the friendship bestowed by his most Christian Majesty, the King of France. I regret, however, that he has made me a most difficult proposal, wanting an answer that is not mine to give. It belongs to the people I represent. It’s a matter so delicate, yet one that is very strong in the hearts of my people who have followed the religion of Siam for more than two thousand years. Being a king himself, he should understand the complexities of such matters as changing one’s religion.”

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