WEEPING MAY ENDURE FOR A NIGH

Mai Chandra, Smâyâtee’s new friend, redoubled her tenderness and
sisterly love for the poor, forlorn girl when she found that she
was asleep. As midnight approached, she gently placed her head on a
cushion, and then went home to her supper, deeply in love with the
beautiful stranger.

The Duke Chow P’haya Mândtree’s pavilion was thronged, as usual, with
courtiers and nobles. All manner of attractions and diversions were
there. The duke himself, partly intoxicated, sat amidst them, boasting
of the rare purchase he had made that day: “She is so beautiful,” said
he to one of his boon companions, “that she inspires me as this glass
of English brandy does.” And he filled and refilled the jewelled goblet
out of which he drank.

This man, in his whole person, was a type of many who may be seen any
day in Siam,–a human being sunk in the lowest depths of sensualism
and savage barbarity. From his hair, which was a dull gray, his
wrinkled brow, his livid lips and watery eyes, there breathed forth an
atmosphere which would have repelled even the mother who bore him.

At one time it was his intention to have Smâyâtee brought into the
pavilion, that his friends might judge of her beauty; but, with his
faculties already greatly enfeebled by the immoderate use of English
brandy, he forgot his purpose.

At length the distant sounds of trumpets, conch-shells, and the
ringing of multitudinous pagoda-bells proclaimed the last hour of
day,–i.e. midnight. The nobles, courtiers, and friends retired and
some elderly female attendants appeared; to them the duke gave orders
to have the new slave-girl conducted to the upper story of his summer
tower.

The day had been hot and sultry; no clouds were to be seen, except low
on the eastern horizon, where they stretched in lengthened ridges of
gold and purple, like the border between earth and sky.

As the women departed on their mission, a dark, heavy mass of clouds
rose in the black outline of the distant hills. A sudden gust of wind,
in fits and starts and snatches, came sweeping up the river, and tossed
its waters wildly against the banks; then flashed incessant lightnings,
and the winds rang and roared as though they heralded with joy the
coming thunder-storm. Suddenly the moon was blurred with clouds,
and the tempest raged outright. In the midst of the storm the poor
terrified girl was roused from her slumbers, led to the lofty chamber,
and left alone, while the attendants retired to one of the little
alcoves to be in waiting.

Rama–who had that day made a circuit of the walls, and had promenaded
every nook and corner in the vain hope of finding some means of
getting, unseen, into the duke’s palace, had hired a boat, and was
sailing wildly up and down the river in front of it, laying desperate
plans of finding his daughter and carrying her off at any risk and
peril–was at the same moment, by one mighty sweep of the water, dashed
on the banks that bounded on one side the gardens and temples of the
palace. He staggered to his feet, and raised his head to the dreadful
sky. A sudden flash of lightning revealed the gilded top of the lofty
summer tower and the tapering summits of the Buddhist and Hindoo
temples.

With a dreadful purpose burning in his heart, he walked straight on
to the latter building, which was dimly lighted, and stood open as if
inviting him to take shelter under its sacred roof. He entered. Happy
memories, every sweet emotion he had known, came crowding upon him, as
he once more recognized, in the partial darkness, the faint outlines of
the images of his long-forgotten gods, Dâvee and Indra and Dhupiyâ.

There is compensation in all things. He had lost his child, and found
his gods. Joy and sorrow are bound up in every event of life,–even
as opposite poles are inseparable in the magnet. The pity is that the
night of trouble is at times so dark that the interwoven gold with
which Providence relieves the woof of calamity remains undiscovered.

Thus it was with Rama; there was joy and sorrow in his heart as he
bowed before the gods of his fathers, but there was hatred and revenge
there too, mingled with dark and bloody thoughts.

“Life is now a useless gift, an insupportable burden,” groaned Rama.

In how many lives there lurks a hidden romance or a hidden terror. No
one was near to mark the secret workings of this terrible man’s nature.
He recalled his home on the hills of Orissa, the yearly sacrifice that
his fathers had been wont to offer up on Dâvee’s altar, and he suddenly
resolved that he would himself be the sacrifice to his long-forgotten
and neglected gods.

Only one person could have saved him from his rash purpose, and she was
sitting up there alone, midway between earth and heaven. He slowly drew
out from his cumberbund a glittering knife, and his expression became
exultant as he felt its sharp edge.

Not all the gods, not all the love-lit eyes, not all the hills of
Orissa, can move him from his purpose now. He laid the knife upon the
altar, and cried aloud to the insatiable Earth Goddess.

“O Dâvee, thou hast been unworshipped for years; multitudes crowd thy
sister temples, but thine they pass unnoticed by. Behold my child now
in the grasp of the spoiler. Defend, preserve her, that her honor may
shine bright among men, and I will pour out to thee the life of my
heart. Drink of my blood, and be revenged on the defiler of my house
and my race.”

Then, snatching up the knife, he waved it thrice over his head, and
thrust it into his side. Leaning forward, he tried to picture his
child’s face, but could not for the light that love threw around her,
and the mist that death wrapped round him; he drew nearer to his
childhood’s God, and, drawing out the knife, fell down at its feet,
turning up his face to it, reverently, lovingly; and there was joy–joy
of conscious strength, of victory–mingling with the life-blood of the
heart that was fast flowing away forever.

It is two o’clock. The night is changed. The storms and clouds and
darkness are all dispersed. The blue sky has thrown aside her veils,
and the moon rides serenely in limitless range, undimmed by a single
fleck of cloud. The very air breathes sweetness and perfume and peace.

But of all the mysteries of the night there is one yet to be solved.

Smâyâtee still sits on one of the sills of the arches in the topmost
chamber of the summer tower, nearest to where the women have retired
out of sight. She hears them whispering. She hears, too, some one
slowly mounting the stairs; the footsteps are heavy, and sound like
those of an aged man. She looks around to see if there is any way by
which she may escape. The tower has but a single spiral stairway.
She remains still and motionless. In a few minutes the sound of the
footsteps comes nearer; through the archway opposite, the tottering
figure of a dark, heavy man enters and approaches her. In the dim light
she looks up at him with a terror-stricken, pleading face, daring
neither to breathe nor speak; she shrinks away to the other side, where
the women are in waiting. The duke, rather admiring her coyness, laughs
a drunken laugh, and attempts to follow her. In crossing the threshold
he stumbles. In trying to recover his footing he is thrown back. His
head strikes violently against a massive gold spittoon.

A wild cry, and Smâyâtee rushes from her hiding-place, springs across
the prostrate figure, down the flights of stairs, and through the
labyrinths of flowering shrubs and plants, to hide herself beside a low
tank of water.

The attendants and slaves who were lying around heard wild cries for
help proceeding from the summer tower, and hurried to the spot with
lamps and lanterns. All the piazzas, streets, gardens, and avenues are
alive with anxious faces and inquiring looks.

The duchess’s fears are aroused. She too summons her maidens with their
lanterns, and sets out for the tower.

Suddenly she stops.

A few steps from her she sees an object dressed in bright colors,
crouching in a pool of rain-water by the tank. She stooped to
scrutinize the figure, and found it was that of a young and strange
girl. She bent over her again, and said, gently, “Why art thou hiding
here, my child?”

“I am afraid of him, dear lady,” replied the girl, pointing to the
lofty chamber.

“Afraid! art thou, indeed?” said she, a little coldly, remembering the
news of the day; “didst thou not sell thyself to the duke in spite of
thy father’s wishes?”



“O yes, I did, dear lady,” replied Smâyâtee; “but–” and she began to
cry bitterly, and could not say another word for her tears and sobs.

The true woman triumphed in the “wife,” for she put out her arms,
and raised the forlorn stranger to her bosom, and comforted her with
such words as women who have great and loving hearts only can. Then,
confiding her to the tender care of her own women, she went on her way
to find out the meaning of those dreadful cries.

Nai Dhamaphat, who had been watching in sadness and despair the
marvellous expression of Nature’s tears and smiles, was the first to
mount the spiral staircase, to find his father in the last agonies of
death. He takes him up gently, with the assistance of the women, and
places him on his luxurious couch.

The duke is dead.

Everything is forgotten. He sees the pale face of the duchess, his
mother, that silent woman, and, catching a glimpse of the bitter sorrow
of that patient soul, who was so worthy of his father’s love in her
right of youth and beauty,–the foremost to love him, the last and only
woman of all those whom he had wronged to mourn him,–he bows his head
and weeps. The son and the mother are drawn closer than ever. They two
had suffered in silence apart. Now they sorrowed together.

A year has passed since the occurrence of the fearful events here
related.

The river in front of the palace is thronged with a numerous procession
of gayly gilded boats and barges.

It is the morning after the cremation of the Duke Chow P’haya Mândtree.

The king, with sixty or more nobles and princes of the land, all armed
and in regal attire, presides in the grand hall of the late duke’s
palace.

The duchess and her two sons, and a fair sprinkling of Siamese ladies
and children, are here assembled. A vast number of serfs, soldiers,
pages, and women are in waiting.

Around the deep embrasure formed by the windows in the massive wall,
there ran a low seat, the space thus occupied being raised as a kind of
dais above the general level of the floor. Here were seated on either
side of the wall the principal officers, male and female, of the duke’s
household, headed by the priests of Brahma and of Buddha, who were to
play a part in the important drama of the day.

The hall is hung with tapestry of the most original design, for the
birds and beasts and flowers which are pictured there had surely never
prototypes, unless in some lost geological formation, though patterns
very like them seemed to be unanimously adopted as models by all the
fair embroideresses of Siam.

In the middle of the dais were two ducal chairs of state. On one was
seated a young girl, very closely veiled, on the other the young duke,
now Chow P’haya Dhamaphat; over them is spread a canopy of white
muslin, decorated with the sweetest white flowers.

The girl, beneath her white veil, thinks it all perfection, and her
eyes light up, and her cheeks burn, and her heart beats in perplexing
fashion; and Dhamaphat believes that he alone holds the key to the
temple of Elysium.

It is one of those rare occasions when the whole assembly is rapt in
the regions of fancy.

The old priest, P’hra Chow Sâduman is there too, and he often raises
his eyes in admiration, and his heart in prophecy of a propitious
marriage. At length he begins the grand, old, harmonious nuptial chant,
and all the priests of Buddha and of Brahma join in sonorous concert,
and through the canopy over the happy couple the typical waters of
consecration, in which had been previously infused certain leaves and
shrubs emblematic of purity, sweetness, and usefulness, are gently
showered.

And now Smâyâtee’s earnest friend, Mai Chandra, with her tender
mother-in-law, the duchess, conduct her, all dripping, by a screened
passage, to a chamber magnificently appointed, where she is divested of
her former apparel, and arrayed in robes becoming her now lofty station.

Then Chow P’haya Dhamaphat is ushered in. At the moment of his entrance
Smâyâtee rises to throw herself at his feet, according to the custom of
the country; but he prevents her, embraces her in the European manner,
and presents her, standing upright by his side, to his relatives, with
which the ceremony for the day terminates.

There is a general move towards the gateway by which P’hra Chow Sâduman
is to pass. All, even the king, press to the front and fall on their
knees to ask his blessing. He blesses them in a broken voice; he is
strangely moved to-day.

Yet another year, and in this same palace nowhere will you find a
trace of either Dhamaphat, Smâyâtee, or the gentle duchess. A younger
brother fills his place, and is lord over all, following closely in the
footsteps of his late father.

Far away, near the suburbs of Bijree Puree, i.e. the Diamond City,
stands a lovely little cottage, where the ex-duke, his mother, and his
sweet wife reside. He has freely resigned all the splendor and state of
his position for the quiet and peace of a country life; and nothing is
wanting here. The grand old trees are dressed in tender green, and the
bright sun touches with its golden-yellow light every nook and corner
of the lovely scene around.

The cottage within is furnished partly in the European and partly in
the Oriental style. There are here no slaves, but hired servants, who
have an air of freedom, loyalty, and comfort about them very delightful
to witness.

In an inner chamber is Smâyâtee, rocking a little boy to sleep in a
rude Laotian crib, with a mystic Hindoo triform suspended over it,–she
cannot make up her mind to put him into the European cradle which
stands close by; she fears some secret evil influence may lurk about
its pretentious aspect,–and the boy, with his finger in his mouth,
looks at his mother as if he felt she was divinely beautiful, and could
not bring himself to shut his dreamy eyes for the light upon her face.

[Illustration: SMÂYÂTEE.]

Nai Dhamaphat has become a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, but his
pagan wife cannot be persuaded to forsake the gods who have brought her
so much happiness, to whom her father sacrificed his brave life, and
therefore she has raised an altar in her nursery to Dâvee and Dhupiyâ
and Indra. Her father’s ashes, too, rest here in a golden pagoda;
but with the true, loving, tender veneration of her womanly nature,
she has exalted over them all, in a niche on either side of the altar,
an image of the Christ, and another of the Virgin Mary with her infant
Son in her arms. These, in their symmetry and beauty, are to her the
most beautiful of the gods upon her altar. In those porcelain images of
the Christ, and the Mother with her tiny Infant, she feels that there
is something higher, purer, loftier, than in the forms of her own dear
gods, and she bows in worship, and trembles at the height to which her
thoughts of that Mother and her Son elevate her soul.

Her religion, you can see at a glance, is not a gloomy one like that
of her ancestors. There is a smile all over the chamber, and happiness
all over her sweet face. Loving everything in her purity, worshipping
everything in her humility, morning and evening she raises her eyes
and her heart from those sombre old gods of hers to the tender ones of
her husband; and this quiet pagan city has never before been lighted
up with such a gleam of heaven upon earth as when her evening prayer
bursts into song:–

“To Thee are all my acts, my days,
And all my lore, and all my praise,
My food, my gifts, my sacrifice,
And all my helplessness and cries.
Dâvee! leave my spirit free,
And thy pure soul bequeath to me
Unshackled. Let me in thine essence share,
Let me dwell in thee forever,
And thou, O Dâvee! dwell in me.”