The Digital Adventures

Love of Siam-CH50

Chapter 28A

Marie was asleep on a couch in the foyer, holding the English Bible in her arms, waiting for news about Phaulkon when she was awakened by the sound of approaching horses in the street. She was thrilled; Phaulkon was back. She rushed to the window, but it was not her husband she saw. It was Sorasak with a dozen of his soldiers. He began shouting, ordering Diego and the guards to open the gates. Diego’s voice echoed strong and determined. He was not going to open the gate. He reminded Sorasak that he was guarding the home of the Foreign Minister of Siam, and that his orders were not to open the gates for anyone but the master.

“Your order is not to open the gates to the Makassars, you imbecile!” Sorasak shouted. “I am a prince of Siam. I come only to keep the madam company in case she is concerned and lonely.”

Marie heard his remarks and fearing a struggle might ensue stepped out of the door and ordered Diego to open the gates. Sorasak and his men rode into the yard. Marie greeted them with a forced surprised tone to her voice. “Thank you for coming,” she said, “but there is no need, really, for your concern.” Upon seeing Marie standing there, Sorasak lost his belligerency. He was startled by her sudden appearance, and by her beauty. As she stood there in the soft light, her slender figure reflected the glow of the oil lamps in the yard. She looked more spiritual than real. Before Sorasak could respond, she continued. “I am fine and safe in the hands of my husband’s most trusted men. No, Prince Sorasak, I am not entirely alone. I am with my son.” She thanked him for his kind consideration, excused herself and withdrew into the house. Sorasak and his men rode away.

A few hours later, Phaulkon returned with some dozen of his men, haggard and worn from battle. She threw her arms around her husband but, upon seeing the men with their wounds, there was no time for sobbing. She knew she had much to do. She looked around. Her father, where was her father? Phaulkon grabbed hold of her and took her in his arms. “He is safe and well,” he assured her, and then added, “and a most noble samurai.” She couldn’t stop the flood of tears.

Marie immediately turned to doctoring the wounded. In a short time the courtyard became a hospital ward. She and Nana worked diligently attending to the wounds.

The next morning Diego told Phaulkon about the incident with Sorasak. Phaulkon questioned Marie about it. She asked that he not worry himself over such details. She assured him that she could handle those problems without bothering him. She mentioned that ever since she began reading the Bible, she had found strength from within.

But when they were alone that night, she was not so sure of herself. She asked solemnly when it would all end, the killing, the bloodshed, the persecution for religious beliefs. “My father thought when he escaped from Japan it would all end,” she said. “We can only imagine the agony my family went through.”

“No, but tell me,” Phaulkon said. “You have kept it quiet all these years.”

She began sobbing, and in between tears she told about the brutality of the shoguns. Troubles began when an American vessel carrying Catholic missionaries became shipwrecked on a rocky, isolated coast of Japan. The survivors were taken in by the villagers and given shelter and comfort. In time they converted the villagers to Christianity and the fishermen and their families became devout Catholics. One of the shipwrecked crew was a handsome young man, a Bengalese, and he fell in love with a young girl of the village. His name was Gimard and the Japanese woman was Ursula Yamada. Gimard was Muslim but in time he too converted. Now, both being Catholics, they married, and Ursula gave birth to a son. They named him Fanique.

In reverence to their Christian God, the villagers built a stone church and while all seemed serene and peaceful on the surface, there was trouble brewing in the land of feudal warlords.

Phaulkon knew little about Marie’s family history but he did know about Japan’s time of troubles. It was the Tokugawa period when strict class hierarchy reigned and only members of the Samurai class could bear arms. The warrior-caste of Samurai was at the top. Then in 1637 a young Christian boy named Amakusa Shiro Tokisada led what was to be known as the Shimabara Rebellion, when peasants rose against their masters.

More than twenty-seven thousand Japanese, mostly Christian converts, had joined the uprising. The shogunate military arrived with two hundred soldiers. The rebels held out and caused heavy casualties until they were finally routed. The shogunate forces then beheaded an estimated thirty-seven Christians and their sympathizers. Amakusa Shiro was among them. The shogunate banned the Christian religion and Christianity in Japan survived only by going underground, turning into something called kakure kirishitan.

Phaulkon had not connected Marie’s background with Japanese history until now.

Marie explained that in her father’s village the people were ordered to denounce their religion. If they chose not to, they faced exile or else death by the sword. King Prasart Thong of Siam, King Narai’s father, offered asylum to those who could survive the voyage. They migrated to Siam. There were 400 refugees. They were given land and settled in an area outside the city walls of Ayutthaya which became known as the Japanese quarter. With the emigres were a number of Samurai who also defected and they became the heart and soul of the new community, teaching Japanese ways and customs in an alien land. The boy Fanique, Marie’s father, grew up with the heart of a Samurai.

Phaulkon was in his office when Samuel White entered. This was not a day that Phaulkon had been looking forward to. He had some serious matters that he had to settle with Samuel. It was an ugly business. Phaulkon knew that he had no choice but to relieve Samuel of his command in Mergui. When Samuel entered Phaulkon’s office he was oblivious to the fact that Phaulkon had uncovered his covert activities in the Bay of Bengal. Samuel stepped through the door bubbling over with cheer. “I congratulate you for your fine performance and for subduing the Makassars.” He then expressed his regret for not being able to arrive in time to help quell the uprising. He expected Phaulkon to respond with cheerfulness but Phaulkon could only stare him down. Samuel knew at that moment that his front had been uncovered.

“I am sorry to hear about the death of your wife,” Phaulkon said. It was sad to hear the news. Samuel’s wife had died the month before, leaving him with two daughters to raise. This only made Phaulkon’s task more difficult.

Samuel hesitated, and then after some thought said, ”I’ll be going back to Mergui.”

Phaulkon hit home, straight to the point. “You can go back to Mergui to pick up your daughters. I will grant you that. But you cannot remain, nor can you go to any other place in Siam. After Mergui you are to leave the kingdom without delay.”

“You are judging me. You don’t want to listen to what I have to say?” Samuel said.

“You have nothing to say that will change matters,” Phaulkon replied.

“Come on now, Constantine Gerakis,” Samuel cried, “don’t pull the Almighty with me. You are going to say-“

“I am going to say to you that you are finished. The King of Siam entrusted you with the post of Shahbandar. You were given total command of Mergui and of Royal Navy in the Bay of Bengal. You pursued a bold and reckless course designed to enrich yourself. You stole from the king, you stole from the Muslims and Hindu merchants of Mergui and you stole from the East India Company. You have become little more than a common pirate in spite of your title.”

“I have every right to return to Mergui. You cannot take away from me what the king has given.”

“Fine. Shall I take you to the king? You want to appear before the royal court? No, you wouldn’t want to do that. You know you would be arrested and put in irons.”

“You, you Greek cabin boy, do you forget you are no better than any of us? You forget how you got to Ayutthaya. Why are you trying to be Siamese in a white man’s skin? You are a Greek, a white man, and not an Asian. Do you seriously think that in the end you will win out over these heathens? No, don’t answer. I do believe you think you will.”

“What I believe and what I do is my decision. But you make it very difficult for me. I am grateful for what you and your brother have done for me and I have felt indebted to you, but how far can a debt go? What I owe to your brother I do not owe to you. You have been rewarded well. Now tell me when will these favors stop? It seems that they never will. You are a mercenary. You have a country to return to. Siam, you forget, is my home. I made that choice. How long can I close my eyes?”

Phaulkon reached into his desk and pulled a stack of documents. “Look, look at these,” he roared. “Look, complaints from Siamese authorities against your illegal activities in Mergui. Records state that you Samuel White illegally confiscated a dozen ships and looted dozens more. The ultimate responsibility for order in Mergui rested on your shoulders and you have abused that trust. If you were a Chinese or Makassar pirate who had done the same and was caught, you would be executed on the spot. You are hiding behind your white supremacy and you expect me to close my eyes. It is my duty to have you arrested and punished for these crimes.” Phaulkon got up from his seat and walked once around Samuel. “However, owing my life to your brother George, I will let you off, under one condition, that you resign from your post and leave Siam immediately There is a ship sailing in a few days. Be on it. Wait longer and I cannot guarantee your safety.”

Samuel White protested vehemently. He had been seated but now stood up, clenching his fists. Sweat poured from his brow; his jacket was soaked with perspiration. Phaulkon was prepared. “Go ahead! Go ahead and swing at me,” Phaulkon shouted. “You want to make this personal, we can do that. Go ahead, swing.” Diego, upon hearing the scuffing of chairs, burst into the office. He saw the two men squaring off at one another. Phaulkon motioned for him to leave them alone. Against his judgment, Diego left the room and dosed the door.

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