WHAT PRICE LOYALTY
Des Farges set up his makeshift camp in Ayutthaya to deal with the crisis and meanwhile he sent a messenger to Louvo to check what was happening at the palace. He was holding council with the Chief Superintendent of the French India Company and a dozen French missionaries when the messenger returned with the news. They were all eager to hear what he had to say. He reported that Louvo was quiet and that General Phetracha’s soldiers had dispersed and King Narai was still alive. Christoph arrived about the same time and likewise told them, as briefed by Phaulkon, that all was well in Louvo and the king was not only alive but doing well. He went a bit further. He said that Phaulkon was negotiating a deal with Phetracha. He reminded Des Farges not to listen to rumors since they are lies spread by Sorasak who had his eye on the throne and is trying to sabotage the negotiations.
“Looks like the French army is not needed,” Christoph added, hoping Des Farges would call off any last minute attempt to seize the kingdom. The Chief Superintendent and the missionaries agreed that Des Farges should not get involved in politics. He was pleased to take their advice, not having told them what his orders were from King Louis. Nor did they know his promise to Phaulkon. He called for the withdrawal of his men to the fort at Bangkok.
No one, no one at all, not the Siamese, not the French, and not Marie, were aware of what had happened at the palace that morning. Christoph realized it would be up to him to break the news to Marie. He returned from Ayutthaya to Louvo as fast as his horse could carry him and went directly to Phaulkon’s house. Diego was there with his soldiers guarding the area. Marie was sitting with George on her lap and when she saw Christoph her face lighted up.
“What news do you have for me?” she asked.
For the longest time, Christoph just stood there. Here was a man who had fought battles, who had survived shipwrecks, and who had seen men tortured and watched them die terrible deaths. He had spent as much time inside prisons and dungeons as he did out outside. He appeared to be stoic and one might even question if he was immune to the suffering he had come to know. But when he saw Marie, so happy to see him, he broke down completely, like the child who had been told his father had died. He fell to his knees and there he remained, daring not raise his head for fear those in the room would see the tears in his eyes. Marie reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Is he alive?” she asked, knowing some terrible fate had befallen her husband.
Christoph told her and the others that Phaulkon was alive but, to save the king, he had surrendered to Phetracha and was in prison. If there had been a battle and the king died-what General Phetracha wanted, the king to die so that he could usurp the throne-the French would have attacked and captured not only the palace but struck out at the entire kingdom as well. Those were the orders Des Farges had from King Louis of France-to seize the kingdom if and when King Narai died. “No,” he finally said, “Phaulkon is still alive.”
At first Marie sat motionless. No tears came. She did not cry. She just looked out into space, somewhere far beyond everyone in the room, far beyond even time. Fanique arrived and seeing his daughter in a daze tried to comfort her.
“It’s not over,” he said, shaking her to bring her back to reality. “We will find a way.” Fanique took little George into his own arms.
“I know the dungeon,” Diego suddenly spoke up. “I know the guards and I know how to sneak in. I will go talk to Phaulkon. I will tell him there is still hope. Maybe he has a plan.”
Upon hearing this, like an elixir that had been given to -her to drink, Marie sparked to life. “Yes,” she said, “tell him I am waiting for him. I didn’t leave. Tell him I am waiting for him, at his home, the home he built for George and me, at our home. George is waiting too. Tell him. Go, please go.”
Diego turned his command of the guards over to Christoph. But, before he could depart Marie asked that he wait until she wrote a letter. She went into the seclusion of her room and began writing. When she finished she gave the letter to Diego to give to her husband and wished him speed.
Diego knew the guards and they knew him. A few coins did wonders. They let him pass without escort after he assured them he could find his way alone. He felt his way, slowly, through the dark passage with only a small torch to light his way. He called out softly at each cell as he passed-“Master, it’s me, Diego.” He dared not call out Phaulkon’s name. Then, after one long passage, at the end cell he heard a voice, so very faint.
“Diego, I am here,” it said. “I am here.” Diego knew the voice at once. It was Phaulkon.
Through a small barred window high up Diego could talk to Phaulkon but he could not see him. He asked Phaulkon not to be angry but there was nothing that either he or Marie’s father, Fanique, could do. Marie and little George were at home in Louvo waiting for his return. He heard Phaulkon chuckle lightly.
“Master, the French troops are in Ayutthaya awaiting orders,” Diego said and asked him what he should tell Des Farges.
Phaulkon replied in a voice so faint it was hardly audible. He told Diego to inform Des Farges to return with his troops to the fort at Bangkok. Diego wanted to interrupt but he remembered so well Phaulkon telling him to follow his orders no matter how ridiculous they might seem to him at the time. Diego said he would do as Phaulkon ordered, he would tell Des Farges not to attack even though it meant Phaulkon’s certain death. How terrible a message he had to tell, a message that was his master’s death warrant. Diego passed Marie’s letter to him and departed. Out in the sunlight he could not look back at the prison. He went to Louvo and then to the fort at Bangkok, hoping to find that Des Farges had returned.
Diego thought his heart would break.
In his dark dungeon cell Phaulkon waited for the sun to rise and as soon as it was light enough for him to read he struggled through Marie’s letter. It tore him apart to read it.
‘”To my beloved Constantine: Please do not hold it against me for returning or against Diego or my father for not stopping me. All these years you taught me that Siam is my home, our home. You taught me that we belong here and here we will live and grow old and die. You taught me that we will bring up George in Siam, his only home, the only one he will ever have. You taught me all these things and I believed you. Must you ask me now to disbelieve you? Please don’t ask Diego to send me away from my very home, my land, my love. I will stay even if I have to die. I have no regrets, my beloved Constantine.”
“Nothing will ever separate us, remember? No gods, no kings not even death. I am not afraid to die either, my beloved, not any more. Please do not send away the French, the only hope we have. Please call the French troops back to help set you free and come back to me. I beg you. Your beloved, Marie”
Phaulkon fell against the wall and clawed the hard stone blocks with his fingers. He looked up at the light entering the room. With a heart that was tearing into pieces, a pain that he never knew possible, and with tears in his eyes, he cried, “You innocent fool, my beloved Marie. I have taught you too well. Why must you go through this for my lofty but unattainable ambitions? God, dear God, do not forsake her. She has done nothing wrong, except believe in me.”