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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 8

Arrival of the author at the island of Male', where he salutes the king. - The putting to death of four Frenchmen for attempting to escape. - Arrival of Pyrard's other companions, and the reasons which prevented the king from sending them to Sumatra.

At nightfall, we reached a little island called Makunudhoo in Male' atoll, belonging to the general of the galleys, where we slept: for it is their custom never to sail by night. On the following morning, when it was time to go on board, the lord told me we were within fifteen or sixteen leagues of Male', where the king was, and that he would not dare to take my companion, not knowing whether it would be agreeable to the king, and that he proposed to leave him there for some days until he should have spoken with the king about fetching him; that he was sure it would be well with him, and that he had given orders to that end.

Pyrard at Male'
We arrived at length at Male', where, on landing, he went at once to salute the king and render an account of his journey, bidding one of his people conduct me to his house. He did not omit, among other matters, to speak about me, the immediate consequence of which was that I was sent for by command of the king. At the palace, I remained about three hours in waiting. In the evening, I was introduced into a court where the king had come out to see all that had been brought in the last voyage from our vessel - i.e. the cannon, balls, arms and other implements of war and navigation, which had been brought to his magazine there.

I was bidden to approach, and then I saluted the king in the language and in the mode of the country - which I had carefully studied the moment I was admitted, and had been particularly instructed in beforehand. This pleased him and induced him to inquire of me the uses of some of the things brought from the ship, which he did not know; these I explained to him, expressing myself as best I could. It being now night, he bade the lord who had brought me to give me lodging and entertainment, and me to come every day to see him along with the other courtiers. This done, we retired.

On the following days, I was entirely occupied in attendance upon the king, in answering all his questions concerning the manners and customs of the people of Europe and of our France, the dress, arms, and estate of the kings, of whom he made particular inquiry. While I discoursed upon the greatness of the kingdom of France, of the generosity of its nobles and their dexterity in arms, he said he was surprised that they had not conquered the Indies, and had left it to the Portuguese, who had given him to understand that their king was the greatest and most powerful of all the christian kings.

The king also let me see the queens, his wives, who in like manner kept me many days replying to their inquiries, being especially curious to hear of the figures, dress, manners, marriages, and customs of the ladies of France; and often they sent for me without the king's knowledge, a thing not allowed in the case of others. As I have already said, fifteen or sixteen of our people had already been brought to the island of Male' where the king dwells. When I arrived there I found no more than three - two Dutch (Dutch), and a Frenchman who was in the last stage of sickness and died eight days after.

Portuguese ship from Cochin
At first, when our people came there, a Portuguese ship of 400 tons was at anchor in the roads, having come from Cochin with a full cargo of rice, to take away 'boli' or cowrie shells, to Bengal, where they are in great demand. The captain and merchant were mestifs (mixed Indian/Portuguese parents), the others Indian christians, and all dressed in Portuguese fashion. They showed much enmity towards our men, and spoke evilly of us to the king, who believed them; and this was in part the cause why we were not so well treated as we had been. They asked the king to let them take us all to Cochin, whereto he consented - in fact, asking our captain and chief clerk if they wished to go, and telling them that they might. They made reply, with all the others who were present, that they would rather die than go.

In truth, they had good reason to fear them, as it was not to do us any good, nor for our advantage, that they wished to take us; so our men trusted always that the king would send them in a barque to Acheh in Sumatra, as he had promised. Soon after, the captain and chief clerk died; the others followed one by one, worn out by the fatigue they had already endured, and by the bad climate and water of that island, which make it impossible for most foreigners to live there.

Moreover, when the news came to the king of the escape of the mate and the other men from Fulhadhoo, he was so enraged, that he swore a solemn oath that he would not let one of us go. I was assured by several of the lords that otherwise he would have provided us with a barque, as we desired.

Four crew attempt escape from Male'
The pilot (an Englishman), hearing this resolution, which confined him for life to these islands, designed to get a barque and escape, like his friends of Fulhadhoo. To this end he conspired with three of our sailors, and hid in a wood all that was required. Their design was discovered by the islanders, who had remarked their goings to and fro the wood by the shore, and played spies over them. They then gave information to the six elders, called muskulhin, who rule the highest affairs of state, and they in turn informed the king.

Careful observation was made of the carriage of these four, and on the night on which they were to embark they were taken in the act by the soldiers, who put their feet in irons. Two days afterwards the soldiers took them in boats, feigning to take them to some other island; and when they were upon the sea they cut off their heads with blows of the 'katu' (machete), which is made like a large bill-hook of this country, and of excellent steel, well-polished and highly worked: it comes from the Malabar coast, and cuts exceedingly well. They felled them by many blows; and one who dealt only one blow was esteemed no good soldier of the king. Thus do they always when they execute their king's orders, and so would they to their near relative even their own brothers, to testify their zeal in the king's service.

So, when the king likes anyone, all the world likes him; and if the king wishes one ill, all the world hates him, and no one associates with him, nor even looks at him. The four corpses were flung into the sea. After all, it is no wonder that the king was enraged at these attempts to escape on the part of our men, for it is high treason to steal a barque or boat and to depart beyond the realm: that may not be done without passport, and a special and precise permit of the king, even though the boat were one's own. Without that, it is death and unpardonable, and no one need hope for the king's mercy if convicted. This crime is called 'odi gengosfu', or 'taking away the boat'.

I heard this sad news, and that of the natural death of our other comrades, as soon as I arrived at Male' where the Cochin ship still was; it took away the greater part of the equipment of our vessel, which the king sold to it, consisting chiefly of things he could not use. At the same time, one of the king's pilots told me that the twelve of Fulhadhoo who escaped with the mate of our ship had arrived at Quilon, on the Indian coast, and had been put in irons on a Portuguese galley where he had seen them, and would be taken to Goa.

Map of India in 1605



I was then one of three at the island of Male', along with the two Dutch. I petitioned the king to send for my comrade who had been left on the way at the island of Makunudhoo, which he did at once, and we were only parted from one another for ten days; thus we mustered four, he, I, and the two Dutch. Two months afterwards, I managed to get the five brought who were left scattered among the little islands near the scene of the wreck; this done, we numbered nine, four Frenchmen and five Dutch, all kindly treated by the king and his lords.

But we had no good understanding among us, and this was due to the Dutch, who all five held themselves apart from us, and ever through interpreters spoke evil of us to the lords and to the people. The cause of this discord was that they were jealous of seeing me more courteously received than they were, and well liked and esteemed by the king, always at his side, and in consequence graciously entreated by the nobles. Thus they persuaded themselves that my three French companions were more welcome than they, and that I favoured these more than themselves, who were strangers to me. Nay more, because I spoke the Maldive language with some facility, while they understood it not at all, they imagined that I spoke evil of them, and that I was the cause of their being less at their ease: yet verily the truth was far otherwise.

The king's oath in his anger was the cause why his promise to give us a barque was not carried out; and, moreover, all our people were dead, saving nine; so there was no glimpse of hope that we should ever leave the place. This was a grievous affliction for us to think of, and we sought consolation of God and of each other. I have mentioned the reason given by the king for not treating us with courtesy; for, in truth, in the case of all the other ships which were in like manner wrecked during my sojourn there, he gave the men the means of departing, retaining only the money and merchandise.

But, besides the reasons mentioned, I have thought that he had yet another, namely, the money which had disappeared, which one may say was the chiefest cause of misfortune, and of the death of the greater part of our crew; inasmuch as the king, being informed that some money was taken from the ship, and imagining that what our folk had concealed was a large sum, perhaps as large as that he found in the ship, he would not that this money should go out of his country; and while he searched for more than he had, most of our men died.

I believe that, coming after that, the escape of the mate and the attempt of the pilot nettled him still more. It had been proposed not to take any of the silver at all, or to convey it all to the king, like the piece of scarlet. On one occasion, he told me plainly that my companions had concealed the silver, and had made him a present of the piece of scarlet only because they could not hide it like money, and that they had all acted wrongfully in that matter, and were unworthy of his favour.




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