Lamarche repaired forthwith to the consul, and reported that the king had spoken disrespectfully, not only of his Imperial Majesty’s consul, but of the Emperor himself, besides outrageously insulting a French messenger. Then the fire-eating functionary addressed another despatch to his Majesty, the purport of which was, that in expelling Lamarche from the palace, the king of Siam had been guilty of a political misdemeanor, and had rudely disturbed the friendly relations existing between France and Siam; that he should leave Bangkok for Paris, and in six weeks lay his grievance before the Emperor; but should first proceed to Saigon, and engage the French admiral there to attend to any emergency that might arise in Bangkok.
His Majesty, who knew how to confront the uproar of vulgarity and folly with the repose of wisdom and dignity, sent his own cousin, the Prince Mom Rachoday, Chief Judge of the Royal Court of Equity, to M. Aubaret, to disabuse his mind, and impart to him all the truth of the case. But the “furious Frank” seized the imposing magnate by the hair, drove him from his door, and flung his betel-box after him,— a reckless impulse of outrage as monstrous as the most ingenious and deliberate brutality could have devised. Rudely to seize a Siamese by the hair is an indignity as grave as to spit in the face of a European; and the betel-box, beside being a royal present, was an essential part of the insignia of the prince’s judicial office.
On a later occasion this same Aubaret seized the opportunity a royal procession afforded to provoke the king to an ill-timed discussion of politics, and to prefer an intemperate complaint against the Kalahome, or Prime Minister. This characteristic flourish of ill temper and bad manners, from the representative of the politest of nations, naturally excited lively indignation and disgust among all respectable dwellers, native or foreign, near the court, and a serious disturbance was imminent. But a single dose of the King’s English sufficed to soothe the spasmodic official, and reduce him to “a sense of his situation.”
“To THE HON. THE MONSIEUR AUBARET,
the Consul for H.I.M.
“SIR:—The verbal insult or bad words without any step more over from lower or lowest person is considered very slight & inconsiderable.
“The person standing on the surface of the ground or floor Cannot injure the heavenly bodies or any highly hanging Lamp or glope by ejecting his spit from his mouth upward it will only injure his own face without attempting of Heavenly bodies—&c.
“The Siamese are knowing of being lower than heaven do not endeavor to injure heavenly bodies with their spit from mouth.
“A person who is known to be powerless by every one as they who have no arms or legs to move oppose or injure or deaf or blind &c. &c. Cannot be considered and said that they are our enemies even for their madness in vain—it might be considered as easily agitation or uneasiness.
“Persons under strong desires without any limit or acting under illimited anger sometimes cannot be believed at once without testimony or witness if they stated against any one verbally from such the statements of the most desirous or persons most illimitedly angry hesitation and mild enquiry is very prudent from persons of considerable rank.”
Never were simplicity with shrewdness, and unconscious humor with pathos, and candor with irony, and political economy with the sense of an awful bore, more quaintly blended than in the following extraordinary hint, written and printed by his Majesty, and freely distributed for the snubbing of visionary or speculative adventurers:—
“When the general rumor was and is spread out from Siam, circulated among the foreigners to Siam, chiefly Europeans, Chinese, &c, in three points—
“1. That Siam is under quite absolute Monarchy. Whatever her Supreme Sovereign commanded, allowed &c, all cannot be resisted by any one of his Subjects.
“2. The Treasury of the Sovereign of Siam, was full for money, like a mountain of gold and silver; Her Sovereign most wealthy.
“3. The present reigning Monarch of Siam is shallow minded and admirer of almost everything of curiosity, and most admirer of European usages, customs, sciences, arts and literature &c, without limit. He is fond of flattering term and ambitious of honor, so that there are now many opportunities and operations to be embraced for drawing great money from Royal Treasury of Siam, &c.
“The most many foreigners being under belief of such general rum our, were endeavoring to draw money from him in various operations, as alluring him with valuable curiosities and expectations of interest, and flattering him, to be glad of them, and deceiving him in various ways; almost on every opportunity of Steamer Coming to Siam, various foreigners partly known to him and acquainted with him, and generally unknown to him, boldly wrote to him in such the term of various application and treatment, so that he can conclude that the chief object of all letters written to him, is generally to draw money from him, even unreasonable. Several instances and testimonies can be shown for being example on this subject—the foreigners letters addressed to him, come by every one steamer of Siam, and of foreign steamers visiting Siam; 10 and 12 at least and 40 at highest number, urging him in various ways; so he concluded that foreigners must consider him only as a mad king of a wild land!
“He now states that he cannot be so mad more, as he knows and observes the consideration of the foreigners towards him. Also he now became of old age, (he was sixty-two at this time) and was very sorry to lose his principal members of his family namely, his two Queens, twice, and his younger brother the late Second King, and his late second son and beloved daughter, and moreover now he fear of sickness of his eldest son, he is now unhappy and must solicit his friends in correspondence and others who please to write for the foresaid purpose, that they should know suitable reason in writing to him, and shall not urge him as they would urge a madman! And the general rumours forementioned are some exaggerated and some entirely false; they shall not believe such the rumours, deeply and ascertainedly.
“ROYAL RESIDENCE GRAND PALACE
BANGKOK 2nd JULY 1867.”
And now observe with what gracious ease this most astute and discriminating prince could fit his tone to the sense of those who, familiar with his opinions, and reconciled to his temper and his ways, however peculiar, could reciprocate the catholicity of his sympathies, and appreciate his enlightened efforts to fling off that tenacious old-man-of-the-sea custom, and extricate himself from the predicament of conflicting responsibilities. To these, on the Christian New Year’s day of 1867, he addressed this kindly greeting:—
“S. P. P. M. MONGKUT:
“Called in Siamese ‘Phra-Chomklau chao-yuhua,’ In Magadhi or language of Pali ‘Siamikanam Maha Rajah,’ In Latin ‘Rex Siamensium,’ In French ‘Le Roi de Siam,’ In English ‘The King of Siam,’ and in Malayan ‘Rajah Maha Pasah’ &c.
“Begs to present his respectful and regardful compliments and congratulations in happy lives during immediately last year, and wishes the continuing thereof during the commencing New Year, and ensuing and succeeding many years, to his foreign friends, both now in Siam namely, the functionary and acting Consuls and consular officers of various distinguished nations in Treaty Power with Siam and certain foreign persons under our salary, in service in any manner here, and several Gentlemen and Ladies who are resident in Siam in various stations: namely, the Priests, preachers of religion, Masters and Mistresses of Schools, Workmen and Merchants, &c, and now abroad in various foreign countries and ports, who are our noble and common friends, acquainted either by ever having had correspondences mutually with us some time, at any where and remaining in our friendly remembrance or mutual remembrance, and whosoever are in service to us as our Consuls, vice consuls and consular assistants, in various foreign ports. Let them know our remembrance and good wishes toward them all.