The whitewashed residence of the former Dutch Governor on the island of Banda has some classical architectural features. From the golden lions mounted on the entrance gates, to the now defunct fountain on the lawn in the forecourt, to the elegant simplicity of the four columns on the terrace and the symmetry of its shuttered doors and windows. Inside the building it’s tiled floors and high ceilings tell of a by-gone splendor.
However, one of the front windows tells a tragic story.
Etched on a glass window pane using a diamond ring, are the last word of Charles Rumpley, believed to have been a minor colonial official. Words written on 1 September 1831, words which if they had been written on paper would have been forgotten in the intervening 180 years, but words which still resonate today in his desperate cry to be reunited with his family:
Quand viendra t’il le temps que formera mon bonheur?
Quand frappera la cloche qui va sonner l’heure,
Le moment que je reverai les bords de ma Patrie,
Le soin de ma famille que j’aime et que je benis?
When will come the time that will form my happiness?
When will the bell strike the hour,
The moment I will see again the shores of my country,
The bosom of my family that I love and bless?
What his fateful words tell us is that, isolated in the middle of the vast Banda Sea, cut off from his family and with no prospect of any immediate return to Europe, what could seem like a tropical paradise to one person can be a personal hell to another.
For after writing these words, Charles Rumpley took his own life.