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The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil
Francois Pyrard de Laval
1611
translated into English in 1887 from the third French edition of 1619 by Albert Gray assisted by H.C.P. Bell

Vol.1 Chapter 7

Arrival of a lord bearing the king's commission to the island of Fehendhoo, who at length takes the author back with him.

I have above related our condition during the three months and a half following our shipwreck. Then arrived from the king's island a great lord named Hassan Takuru Kilege. The first who had been sent was the king's brother-in-law, and, as I subsequently heard, the king had learnt that he had not obeyed his orders, and had retained something from the ship for his own use, and was so enraged that he even boxed his ears, and never sent him again.

In his stead he sent one of the highest nobles of his court, whom he consulted on the most important affairs, having more confidence in him than in any other. His orders were to get out of the ship and to convey to the king all he could, chiefly some cannon, and the rest of the lead and iron, and also to make search for the silver which the islanders had received from us. He was assisted by another lord named Hussain Ranahamadi Kilege, who had authority over all ships, barques, boats, captains, and mariners, but not over soldiers; in short, he was chief of the marine, or, as we might call him, superintendent of the galleys and ships of the king, but not admiral.

Reception of high officials at Fehendhoo
On his arrival, he was received as it is the custom to receive the king's officers of high rank who come in his service. I have witnessed a reception of this kind. From a distance the barque or the boat (called 'odi') in which the lord is, makes a signal with a red flag, furls its sails, and casts anchor at a gun-shot from the island. Then the lord or chief man of the place sends to inquire who it is, and being informed, gives order for his reception, and goes out to meet him, accompanied by as many men and boats as are available, leaving only the 'katib' (island chief and prayer leader), with four or five of the 'muskulhin', or elders of the island.

The boats are laden some with coconuts, others with bananas, betel, and other fruits with which the island abounds, everything being arranged in baskets and white boxes made of coconut palm leaves. These are made for the occasion and are not used again; for these leaves are so common and the people so clever in making the baskets, that they never require to use them twice; they also make them so that one cannot get out the fruit or other things from within, without cutting them and breaking them up, and they are then cast aside. On presenting these, the lord of the island enters first and salutes the other, saying 'salaam aleicum', which is their common salutation; then stooping down, touches his feet with his right hand, which he then raises and puts on his own head, as if to mean that he would put his head under the other's feet. All the others in attendance do the same, and bring all the presents, two at a time, with a rod on their shoulders, at the middle of which the present is suspended. This salutation and present is called vedhun a Rowespou.

After this, the lord of the island makes his speech, and begs the visitor to land, and to do him the honour to take his lodging at the place prepared. Towards which he proceeds, accompanied by his host and his followers. As the great lord nears the island, the katib and the others who have remained behind are waiting on the strand, and come forward before the guest, wading in the sea up to their waists, and carrying each his cloth or turban on his left arm. This cloth is half silk and half cotton, very well woven, and coloured red, an ell and a half (nearly 4 feet) in length, and three-quarters of an ell in width.

Then the katib and his followers salute him in the customary way, and make a speech, offering him cloths and other presents which are courteously received and taken in charge by his attendants. That done, as soon as the lord desires to land, one of the chief katibs or muskulhin comes forward to offer his shoulder - a function much esteemed - and the other gets on his shoulders; and so, with a leg on each side, he rides him horse fashion to land and is there set down. Great care is taken that his feet do not get wet, for that they hold a great disgrace.

He is then conducted in great honour, accompanied by all the residents, to the lodging prepared for him and his suite. There the people salute him again and he talks with them for half an hour or so, and then all take their leave. Then they bring him a bath of lukewarm water, nicely prepared, and after that odorous oils to rub his body with, after the custom of the Indies. Next they gave him wine of coconut to drink, the finest and most tasty to be got, along with many portions of betel, very neatly served and supplied with all the requisite ingredients, which I shall describe in the proper place.

Thus refreshed and rested, he proceeds to the principal temple, which they call the Friday mosque. There he says his prayers for upwards of an hour, and then returns to his lodging where meanwhile his table has been prepared with all the delicacies of the country. While he is upon the island, all people of quality and means send him presents, such as savoury dishes, fruits and betel, neatly served and borne by the hands of women, with the greatest ceremony and honour possible. Not that he has not always his own kitchen and daily meals: sometimes, indeed, he neither eats nor tastes any of all these things that are brought; but such is the custom of all these islands.

Torture of the islanders
This lord having arrived in this fashion and all these ceremonies being ended, he straight away executed his commission at the ship, and when that was done he went to the island of Fulhadhoo, where he made inquiry for those who had had money from our vessel; and to get hold of it, he arrested all the inhabitants of the island and had them beaten, even the women, to see if they would confess. Then he had their thumbs put into cleft sticks, squeezed and bound with iron clasps, to the end that by this pain they might be constrained to admit the truth, as, in fact, they did, and gave up the money; but not all, for the king's people could not discover the full quantity. They also made accusation against those of other islands, to which the king's people were at once sent. In fine, the greater part of those who had touched our money were obliged to give it up, and for a year or two someone was always being discovered in possession of some that had been concealed till then. Even the soldiers who were left there on guard were convicted of it. The people of Fehendhoo were in no trouble, for we exculpated them; and on that account they always liked me, and sent me presents while I was there; and it was proved that they had taken nothing of us. All these things happened in fifteen days during which the king's commissioner sojourned at Fehendhoo, Fulhadhoo, and the neighbouring islands, sometimes at one and sometimes at another, executing the king's commission.

The lord of Fehendhoo and the katib, as well as the people who took a liking to me, presented me to him, and strongly recommended me, all thinking that I was some great lord from Europe; and I did not correct their opinion, seeing that it served me. Owing to this recommendation, the lord sent from the king took me into his friendship, as well as because he saw that I already knew enough of their language to express myself and to make myself understood a little, and that I was taking pains to learn it every day. I have remarked that nothing served me so much, or so conciliated the goodwill of the people, the lords, and even of the king, as to have a knowledge of their language and that was the reason why I was always preferred to my companions and more esteemed than they.

And so, while he was in those parts, he always desired that I should accompany him and be near him, whether in his boat at the place of the wreck, or at the other islands. Among others, he took me to a little island called Thulhaadhoo, distant ten leagues, where he had gone to see one of his wives, and he had the greatest pleasure in my conversation. Also, it was on account of this affection that my companions and I were in no want, being better treated out of consideration for him. The day before he returned, he asked me if I would like to go with him to Male' where the king lives. I told him that I had long desired it. I had, nevertheless, some fear lest he should change his mind, and on the morrow I never went out of his sight; so, when he was ready to start, one of the soldiers of his suite took him on his shoulders, as the custom is, and bore him through the sea to his barque: from there he called me and got me on board. I was vastly pleased to go; but I was also sad at thus leaving my two companions at Fehendhoo and those at Fulhadhoo, of whom only four now remained surviving their great calamities.

They all, on seeing me depart without them, wept piteously. The lord, perceiving this, asked me, as their interpreter, what caused them to weep; and having the reason of their affliction explained to him, he bade me console them and tell them from him not to be troubled; that the king would send and fetch them soon; that he himself was desirous of satisfying them, but that he dared not do so without the express command of the king. That did not console them much, seeing that I was going and they were remaining; so that they continued, or rather increased, their tears and lamentations.

This distressed me, though I dared not show it, for I had already learnt the humour of the natives on this point, which is that they cannot tolerate in their presence sad and melancholy persons or dreamers, saying that such persons are plotting some treason or mischief in their minds. So one who wishes to be well received among them must be happy and joyous, must laugh and sing if he can, although without occasion or desire, nay, though the contrary be the case. I restrained myself as much as I could, but he, being a man of intelligence, saw well through my disguise the sorrow I bore at my heart. Then he pressed me to tell him what troubled me; this I did, and confessed frankly that besides my sorrow at leaving my companions and seeing them weep, mourning their condition and the misery they would have to endure, even as they had already suffered, I had, said I, a more particular cause of grief, namely, that one of my two companions at Fehendhoo and I had, from the day of our coming on board in France, made mutual profession of the warmest friendship; that I had always helped him and he me, in a greater degree than the others, and I could not but confess the great grief I had at parting with him; that, acknowledging the kindness for which I was under daily increasing obligation to him (the lord), that emboldened me to beg him on this occasion to have regard to my affliction and to give me the satisfaction of taking this man along with us, and to be merciful to those who remained.

This speech, and my countenance bedewed with tears, which my extreme sorrow drew forth against my will, affected the lord whom I ever found in the highest degree kindly and merciful, as well as generous and magnanimous; so much so, that I venture to assert that in disposition and good manners he would yield to no gentlemen of Europe. He at once spoke privily with the other lord, the superintendent of the king's galleys and ships of whom I have spoken, and to the other chief men who were about him, and after consulting with them he told me that to please me he would gratify him, and forthwith caused the man to embark whom I indicated. As for the five who remained, he gave orders that they should be separated, and that they should be placed one in each of the neighbouring islands, enjoining the chiefs and more important inhabitants there present at his departure to treat them humanely, and to take care that they should be in no distress, and to feed them at the public expense until they should receive the king's command to send them. Then I bade goodbye to my companions, more easy in mind than before, even as they too were, praying me to keep them in remembrance, that so they might not remain long in these little islands separated one from another.

That done, we set sail and made way for the rest of the day.




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