Les troupes annamites du Cambodge

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Audience with the King of Cambodia

In a room about the centre of the palace, at a small round table, sat the King, a pleasant-looking person – thirty-six years of age, as he afterwards told me. He was a little man with intelligent and expressive features ; teeth blackened from the use of betel, wearing his hair after the Siamese fashion, the head shaved excepting a small tuft upon the crown ; upon the lip was a thin moustache ; and he was dressed in a white linen jacket, with gold buttons, and a silk panoung, his feet were bare, and around his neck was a fine gold watch chain, upon which were strung some rings, one or two of them set with very large diamonds. Upon the table was a most elegant and valuable set of frosted and engraved gold vase. Betel and tobacco boxes, cigar-holders, bottles, and pomade boxes ; some large atlas and superbly bound albums, two volumes of a pictorial history of England, a red cloth military cap very heavily embroidered with gold thread, and some curiosities. I conversed with the King, through the interpreter, for upwards of an hour, principally concerning Burma and Siam, through the subjects of Panompin of and Cambodia were also introduced.
Page 109
The palace is but just completed. It was planned and its erection was superintended by a French architect, but it was built throughout by Cambodian workmen. The construction and furnishing is thoroughly European in nearly every part. Entering at the grand central door, the hall leads direct to the reception room, and this opens into the parlour. Upon the right of these rooms is the dining room, and upon the left the Library, staircase, and billiard-room – Billiards ? Yes, verily, and the King of Cambodia plays a ‘good safe game’.

Page 110, 111
The Library, which is furnished in green throughout ; the walls were covered with green paper ; the Brussels carpet was of a dark green, and the leather-seated and backed chains were large maps of the different continents of the world and fine engravings of Napoleon III. In one corner was a glass case, containing a small collection of books upon general literature in the French language, uniformly bound in red morocco, with the King’s arms stamped upon their covers. In another corner was a large geographical globe and some portfolios of maps and charts, and in another a black walnut writing-desk, with proper materiel. A magnificent bronze clock adorned the mantelpiece, and upon the centre table, besides large piles of books and a student’s lamp, were two marble statuettes – busts, the one of (wonders will never cease) Goethe and the other of Schiller. The King seemed to take much pride in calling attention to various articles in the room, though he probably understood their uses or applications less than the contents of any other room of the palace.
Then we all went up to the observatory, where a small telescope is mounted and stepping out upon the roof enjoyed an excellent view of the river and adjacent country ; but little of the city, however, could be seen, owing to the dense vegetation. An iron ladder leads to a small.
Still the King deserves great credit for the remarkable energy, his adoption of European ideas and notions ; notwithstanding he is said in despise his subjects now he no longer fears them, to mock at Buddha when he is the mood ; and to tread under foot the ancient etiquette.
Page 113

Early on one morning of my stay at Panompin, Mariano, the interpreter, called to offer his service for a visit to some of the public and royal building within the palace enclosure. We first looked in at some of the machine shops, where, with French overseers natives were working a saw-mill and a brass turning-lathe, and where there were forges for making metal vessels and musical instruments. Directly before the Palace building is the private office of the King, a handsomely furnished little room where His Majesty receives all visitors on business, behind it are the reception halls, to process of erection and nearly completed. These buildings, built of brick, with tiled roof and gaily ornamented in the Siamese style, are quite imposing.
The ambassadors’ grand audience hall is a room a hundred feet in length, forty in width, and thirty in height, and extending through its entire length, are two rows of massive square pillars ; the ceiling is to be finished in blue and gold. Not for from this magnificent building is the supreme court – a sala open upon three sides, and having at one end, for the King’s use, an elegant sofa, attached to which was a patent breech-loading riffle and a Cambodian spear, to be used by His Majesty in case of emergency or necessity for self-protection. There exists what is called ‘ a board of judges,’ but no case of importance can be tried without the presence of the King, from whose decision there is no appeal. Near and parallel to the supreme court is the royal theatre – a large shed open upon three sides, the floor covered with mats, and with a miserably painted scene at one end, though it is not here that plays are performed, as with us, a narrow gallery just beneath the roof being reserved for the ladies of the harem.
There are several small brick houses within the palace enclosure – the residences of princes, brothers of the King, and some of the higher nobles. In the barracks were about two hundred stand of arms- breech-loaders with sword-bayonets attached. In the King stables there were three carriages – a barouche, a rockaway, and a buggy – not in very good repair – and a dozen of more horses. Among the latter were two beautiful grey, presented by H.I.M. Napoleon III. It is seldom that the king rides out owing to the very important desideratum of properly constructed roads.
Pages 114, 115, 116
His Majesty was very sorry to hear ‘the foreigner’ did not intend ‘to remain for the fête , hoped he had enjoyed himself in Panompin, and said he would now present him a little souvenir . Thereupon the King sent for his keys, and opening a huge iron safe standing in a corner of the hall, took therefrom an extremely pretty gold pomade- box , and handed it to me wrapped in a piece of note-paper. This box was made by native workmen from native gold, pure and stained red, in the shape of a Cambodian pumpkin, the top of which was carved in a cluster of leaves, and the end of the broken (purposely) stem of which contained an uncut topaz. Its workmanship – the engraving embossing, and filigree – would delight the eye as well as puzzle the head (to know how so barbarous a people could produce such elegant work) of many of western gold artificer.

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