The Digital Adventures

Love of Siam-CH56

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Chapter 32

General Phetracha appeared at Arun temple and met with the chief monk. The monk had received his message and was waiting for him at the entrance. The general was dressed in his finest military uniform with his sword hanging from a shoulder belt across his chest. He was perspiring heavily. “You come because you have found your enemy,” the monk said, and they went inside the temple to pray.

“I must do what I am to do for Siam,” Phetracha said and the chief monk, saying nothing, blessed him.

When Phetracha came out of the temple into the harsh sunlight, Sorasak and his soldiers were waiting. Phetracha instructed them to follow him and together they marched en masse to the palace. Phetracha had acted on a hunch and it paid off. He had sent a European servant boy dressed as a French soldier bearing a message to the commander of the Bombardiers at the palace telling him his soldiers were needed back at the fort. They withdrew without suspicion or question, leaving the palace guarded by the king’s men. Phetracha then instructed Sorasak to have his soldiers take over the gates and replace the king’s guards. ”Any who resists, kill them,” he shouted for everyone to hear, including the bystanders who were gathering in the streets. Phetracha’s revolt was gathering momentum, much like a fire that feeds upon itself for its strength. And Sorasak was feeding the fire, becoming engaged in the frenzy like a lunatic escaped from an asylum. The fire soon became out of control.

Within an hour the king’s guards were overpowered and, without a fight, surrendered. The commotion at the gates below the palace walls aroused the king’s sister and daughter who were at the king’s side in his bedroom. They rushed out into the hallways to investigate only to find that Sorasak’s soldiers were everywhere. Upon seeing them, an officer rushed forth and commanded them to go back into the room with the warning that no one was to leave.

The women hurriedly ran to the king’s bed and awakened him to tell him the palace was under siege. The king, shaking himself from his slumber, yelled for the women to get word to Phaulkon immediately. Sadly they had to tell him that was not possible, as Phetracha’s men had already surrounded the palace and that Sorasak was with him.

With utmost effort the king forced himself to stand and then commanded his servants, against the protests of his sister and daughter, to bring his military dress and his sword. The servants obligingly began to suit him up. They laced his leather vest into place and helped him into his long waistcoat that reached down to his knees. They placed upon his feet his war slippers, worn so often into battle. They handed him his helmet with chainmail that reached to his shoulders and strapped his sword, in its jeweled scabbard, around his waist. When he was fully dressed, weak and wobbly on his feet, he pushed open the doors and dramatically stepped out into the hallway. He demanded from the guards that Phetracha, whom he called a traitor and coward for hiding, be brought before him. He realized then that the guards were not his guards. “Where are my guards?” he shouted, but there was no reply. “Answer me!” he shouted again. “This is your king speaking!” His body trembled with anger. His sister and his daughter raced to his side and stood beside him holding him up.

Suddenly, far down the corridor, Phetracha and Sorasak appeared and, seeing the two women holding up the king, rushed forth. Sorasak immediately ordered the women to leave the king and go back into their room. They refused. Upon hearing Sorasak’s voice, the king’s anger flared. “I am the one to give orders, not you,” he shouted. He then drew his sword, and looking directly at Phetracha, he accused him, his once former friend, of treason. Poor King Narai, he did his best to be the warrior that he once was but didn’t have the strength to raise his sword above his head.

He collapsed and fell to the floor. Phetracha stepped forth and looked down upon the helpless form of the great king. Then, like a defiant gladiator in the arena, he raised his head and looking at the king’s daughter and sister and the soldiers who had now gathered around him, he smiled victoriously. He had won. It was written across his face. The king was not dead but Phetracha had won. He next ordered the women to pick up their king and take him inside, unless, he boasted, they wanted the guards to drag him off to prison.

At that moment the king’s adopted son, Mom Pi, appeared in the doorway. For the last days, during all the confusion, King Narai had kept his son hidden in a back room out of harm’s way. Mom Pi, suspecting something was wrong, came out of hiding and seeing the king in a heap upon the floor ran up to him and fell on his knees. He began sobbing pitifully, tears streaming down his cheeks, crying for the king to wake up. “Please, please, Sir, it’s me, Mom Pi, wake up, wake up,” he cried, shaking his father, pleading.

Sorasak took no pity on the boy and pulled him, clawing and kicking madly, away from the king. The women could do little to help the boy. They were preoccupied dragging King Narai back into his room. But they did see Sorasak hand the sobbing boy over to Phetracha. Then, as they reached the door, they hesitated, only for a moment, but long enough to look back, and their mouths dropped in horror and disbelief. They saw Phetracha pick up the boy, carry him to the railing on the balcony and toss him over the side to his death on the cobblestone pavement sixty feet below. They could hear the boy screaming as he fell, and then there was silence. The king, still unconscious, was unaware of what had happened.

After relaying Phaulkon’s messages to Des Farges, Christoph hurried as quickly as he could to Louvo. While passing through Ayutthaya he had heard the terrible news about Phetracha storming the palace. Phaulkon and Diego were at the house with Marie when he arrived. Christoph dreaded breaking the news to them, but to soften the blow he assured them that Des Farges and his soldiers would soon arrive in Louvo, if they hadn’t already. With the vast number of soldiers Des Farges had in his detachment he could easily retake the palace from Phetracha.

Diego pleaded with Phaulkon, a thing he never done before, to listen to the advice of his friends and leave Siam with his family. “That is very kind of you to think of me and my family,” Phaulkon said, “but I cannot leave the king, especially now that he needs help.”

Now came Phaulkon’s toughest task. He had to tell Marie that he must go to the king and protect him until Des Farges arrived with his soldiers. Help was on the way and it was only a matter of time and it would be over. He laid out a plan with Christoph and Diego. Diego and his men would remain behind with Marie and George. Christoph and eight men would go with him to protect the king. Marie wanted to know how it would be possible for Phaulkon and his men to reach the king if Phetracha had already placed his own men around the palace. Phaulkon explained that he knew of a hidden entrance that led to the king’s quarters. Only he and a very few other people knew about it.

There was still hope, until a messenger arrived bringing news that Des Farges and his troops were not coming to Louvo but instead were in Ayutthaya putting down an uprising and trying to arrest everybody. Des Farges had done exactly what Phaulkon told him not to do: he listened to rumors. The messenger also sadly reported that Siamese soldiers in Ayutthaya, soldiers once loyal to Phaulkon were, at the urging of Phetracha and Sorasak, beginning to suspect that he had given Siam to the French. The soldiers were rapidly changing sides.

Phaulkon had to take a chance and, hoping the king could hold out, he and his guards rushed to Ayutthaya to confront Des Farges. “Listen to you, giving orders,” Des Farges laughed when they met. “I am not compelled to listen to you.”

“But I have been waiting for you as agreed in Louvo,” Phaulkon said. “I was waiting for you and your troops to arrive. Phetracha has taken over the palace and he has placed the king under arrest.”

“So he had the king arrested. Good!” Des Farges declared. “The king is old and too sick anyway to rule. It’s better that he should die, in which case my orders are to take Siam by force.”

Phaulkon could not believe his ears. Only days before, this man who drank his wine and received his gifts was his friend. Where was his loyalty now, this general of the so-called fearless French Bombardiers? Phaulkon went into a frenzy. Des Farges was unprepared for what was to come next. It was unheard of that someone would dare strike a French officer but that was exactly what Phaulkon did. He struck the French officer a full crushing blow to the jaw and sent him flying back into the arms of his men who were standing by. Phaulkon quickly withdrew his flintlock pistol and pointed it at Des Farges’ temple. “I should kill you now but I will let you live in fear for the Siamese will do that.” He stepped back, waving his pistol around the room. “Now tell your men to let me pass. The fight is not over and remember whose soil you are standing on.”

“Your time is up, Monsieur Phaulkon,” Des Farges replied getting to his feet. “I am master now, under orders from the King of France to take Siam by force. But you already know that.”

“Only in the event the King of Siam dies,” Phaulkon reminded him.

“He’s as good as dead if Phetracha hasn’t poisoned him already. Give it up! You can keep your position until King Louis sends Siam a new ruler.

“Good as dead is not dead,” Phaulkon cried. “You have no right or authority to alter the orders of what King Louis has decreed.”

“Give it up, Phaulkon,” Des Farges continued. “You can keep your position until King Louis sends Siam’s new ruler. You can’t tame these heathens. You have failed and even the French ambassadors have failed in their mission, all because of you.”

“Heathens or not, this is their kingdom. Siam belongs to the Siamese,” Phaulkon insisted. “It always has been and it will continue to be.”

“Who are you fooling?” Des Farges questioned. “If Siam belongs to the Siamese, why do you, a Greek adventurer, have any influence over them? Does their king really listen to you? He uses you, like he uses a pawn. You are his pawn and nothing more. Can’t you hear the Siamese people laughing at you? They don’t respect you; they hate you just like they hate the French because we’re all foreigners. Don’t you get that? We will never be a part of them no matter how much we try. You will never be Siamese.”

“I may not look Siamese, but I am more Siamese than anyone will ever know. I would rather be a proud Siamese than an arrogant Frenchman like I have standing before me. I would rather be an innocent heathen than a thieving Christian.”

“Watch your tongue,” Des Farges called. “Be what you have to do Phaulkon, that’s your choice. These people hate you. I will set up camp here in Ayutthaya. All the Europeans are waiting for your signal but, if you wait much longer, soon they will pledge their allegiance to France. France offers foreigners what you can’t. You don’t have much time. My men can protect you and your family from Phetracha. You and your family will have a safe passage all the way to France. Worry about your own lives and leave the lives of the heathens to France. They’re not going to listen to you any longer, Monsieur Phaulkon.”

Phaulkon replaced his pistol in his sash, mounted his horse and gave the signal for his men to do the same. He then gave Des Farges his last advice. “I have my orders and so do you,” he said. “Your orders are only to be carried out in the event of King Narai’s death. Let’s see if you know how to listen to your king’s orders.”

Phaulkon rode at full gallop back to Louvo. Fanique and five of his samurai were at the house discussing their defense with Diego when Phaulkon arrived. They exchanged greeting, stern and confident, warriors ready for battle. Phaulkon explained to Marie the danger they might be in. He expressed his desire for her to take their son and leave with Diego and go to the Bangkok fort where she and George would be safe. She must try to take a ship to France and wait for him there. He had, the day before, written a letter to King Louis. He went to his desk, took the letter and gave it to her. Fanique agreed to accompany them to Ayutthaya. Phaulkon gave Diego instructions for the two parties to split up and take different routes to the city.

Phaulkon embraced Marie and his son. Once more Marie pleaded with him to go with them but she knew, deep down, that it would do no good. Phaulkon again explained that he couldn’t desert the king. He then sent her and George off with Fanique, Diego and six loyal guards. Fanique’s men took another route to serve as a decoy. Once Marie was safe in Ayutthaya, the plan was for Fanique to summon help from the Europeans and from Abu Omar’s forces and together they would march on Louvo. Hopefully they would meet Phaulkon at the palace at sunrise.

After the two groups left for Ayutthaya, Phaulkon called his guards together and explained to them how the French had betrayed them. The French, he said, led him to believe their troops were in Siam for the king’s needs and to train Siamese soldiers, but that was their subterfuge. Their missionaries were there to instruct the people on the doctrine of the Catholic faith but not to force their religion upon the people. The soldiers were solemn and listened quietly. Phaulkon then outlined his plan. It was no secret that both the French and Phetracha were fighting over the King’s throne. Although Phetracha was obviously a traitor, the dying king would rather see the throne go to him than to find his kingdom had fallen into the hands of foreigners, the same foreigners he had trusted, the same foreigners who swore allegiance to him.

Phaulkon explained to his guards that they would storm the palace and recapture it from Phetracha with the help of the Europeans and Abu Omar. They could not count on the French. They would arrest Phetracha and Sorasak and have them tried for treason. If they succeeded and could keep the king alive, they would have the power to send the French back to where they came from. He sent a message to Abu Omar and the interlopers and told them to come to Louvo with their best men, but to come in small groups so as not to cause suspicion. Phaulkon would make his way inside the palace. At his signal, they would strike at dawn.

Meanwhile, on the road to Ayutthaya, Marie, holding her son and clutching her Bible, her father on one side and Diego on the other, suddenly and without warning gave the command for the driver to stop the carriage. In an outburst of tears and panic she yelled to the driver to turn around. She announced that she had changed her mind. She must stay in Louvo to be with her husband no matter what happened. Fanique and Diego tried to reason with her. Phaulkon’s orders were for her to take their child to safety and she must obey them. She refused to listen and threatened to walk back alone if they didn’t take her back. They were defeated. They told the driver to turn around and head back to Louvo. “What happened to my beautiful little daughter who used to listen to me?” Fanique sighed.

“Father,” she replied, leaning her head on his shoulder, “you forget, you taught me to be brave.” “So I did,” he said.

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