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AN OUTRAGE AND A WARNING.
ONE morning we were startled by a great outcry, from which we presently began to pick out, here and there, a coherent word, which, put together, signified that Moonshee was once more in trouble. I ran down into the compound, and found that the old man had been cruelly beaten, by order of one of the premier's half-brothers, for refusing to bow down before him. Exhausted as he was, he found voice to express his sense of the outrage in indignant iteration. "Am I a beast? Am I an unbelieving dog? O son of Jaffur Khan, how hast thou fallen!"
I felt so shocked and insulted that I went at once, and without ceremony, to the Kralahome, and complained. To my surprise and disgust, his Excellency made light of the matter, saying that the old man was a fool; that he had no time to waste upon such trifles; and that I must not trouble him so often with my meddling in matters of no moment, and which did not concern me.
When he was done with this explosion of petulance and brow-beating, I endeavored to demonstrate to him the unfairness of his remarks, and the disadvantage to himself if he should appear to connive at the ruffianly behavior of his people. But I assured him that in future I should not trouble him with my complaints, but take them directly to the British Consul. And so saying I left this unreasonable prime minister, meeting the cause of all our woes (the half-brother) coming in as I went out.
That same evening, as I sat in our little piazza, where it was cooler than in the house, embroidering a new coat for Boy to wear on his approaching birthday, I felt a violent blow on my head, and fell from my chair stunned, overturning the small table at which I was working, and the heavy Argand lamp that stood on it.
On recovering my senses I found myself in the dark, and Boy, with all his little strength, trying to lift me from the floor, while he screamed, "Beebe maree! Beebe maree!"1 I endeavored to rise, but feeling dizzy and sick lay still for a while, taking Louis in my arms to reassure him.
When Beebe came from the river, where she had been bathing, she struck a light, and found that the mischief had been done with a large stone, about four inches long and two wide; but by whom or why it had been thrown we could not for some time conjecture. Beebe raised the neighborhood with her cries: "First my husband, then my mistress! It will be my turn next; and then what will become of the chota baba sahib?"2 But I begged her to have done with her din and help me to the couch, which she did with touching tenderness and quiet, bathing my head, which had bled so profusely that I sank, exhausted, into a deep sleep, though the sight of my boy's pale, anxious face, as he insisted on sharing Beebe's vigil, would have been more than enough to keep me awake at any other time. When I awoke in the morning, there sat the dear little fellow in a chair asleep, but dressed, his head resting on my pillow.
I now felt so much better, though my head was badly swollen, that I rose and paid a visit to Moonshee, who was really ill, though not dying, as his wife declared. The shame and outrage of his beating was the occasion of much sorrow and trouble to me, for my Persian teacher now begged to be sent back to Singapore, and I thought that Beebe could not be persuaded to let him go alone, though my heart had been set on keeping them with me as long as I remained in Siam. It was in vain that I tried to convince the terrified old man that such a catastrophe could hardly happen again; he would not be beguiled, but, shedding faithful tears at the sight of my bandaged head, declared we should all be murdered if we tarried another day in a land of such barbarous Kafirs. I assured him that my wound was but skin-deep, and that I apprehended no further violence. But all to no purpose; I was obliged to promise them that they should depart by the next trip of the Chow Phya steamer.
I deemed it prudent, however, to send for the premier's secretary, and warn him, in his official capacity, that if a repetition of the outrage already perpetrated upon members of my household should be attempted from any quarter, I would at once take refuge at the British consulate, and lodge a complaint against the government of Siam.
Mr. Hunter, who was always very serious when he was sober and very volatile when he was not, took the matter to heart, stared long and thoughtfully at my bandaged head and pallid countenance, and abruptly started for the premier's palace, whence he returned on the following day with several copies of a proclamation in the Siamese language, signed by his Excellency, to the effect that persons found injuring or in any way molesting any member of my household should be severely punished. I desired him to leave one or two of them, in a friendly way, at the house of my neighbor on the left, the Kralahome's half-brother; for it was he, and no other, who had committed this most cowardly act of revenge. The expression of Mr. Hunter's face, as the truth slowly dawned upon him, was rich in its blending of indignation, disgust, and contempt. "The pusillanimous rascal!" he exclaimed, as he hurried off in the direction indicated.
"The darkest hour is just before day." So the gloom now cast over our little circle by Moonshee's departure was quickly followed by the light of love in Beebe's tearful eyes as she bade her husband adieu. "How could she," she asked, "leave her Mem and the chota baba sahib alone in a strange land?"
GATEWAY OF THE OLD PALACE.
1 Maree, "Come here" (Malay).
2 The little master.