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"WEEPING MAY ENDURE FOR A NIGHT, BUT JOY
COMETH IN THE MORNING."
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 Phaya M‚ndtree.
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 heals 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 Saduman 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 Sm‚yŠtee'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 Sm‚yŠtee 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 Saduman 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; lie is strangely moved to-day.
Yet another year, and in this same palace nowhere will you find a trace of either Dhamaphat, Sm‚yŠtee, 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 Sm‚yŠtee, rocking a little boy to sleep in a rude Laotian crib, with a mystic Hindoo triform suspended over it, ó 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, ó 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.
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 D‚vee and Dhupiy‚ 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: ó
"To Thee are all my acts, my days,
And all my love, and all my praise,
My food, my gifts, my sacrifice,
And all my helplessness and cries.
D‚vee! leave my spirit free,
And thy pure soul bequeath to me
Unshackled. Lot me in thine essence share,
Let me dwell in thee forever,
And thou, D‚vee! dwell in me."