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went forth to seek the materials from whence he might lawfully rekindle the consecrated fire so precious to a Guebre.
It was midnight when Ibrahim began his walk towards a cemetry on the shore, seldom visited at this hour, except by wild dogs; but the superstition of his sect had made these animals holy in his imagination, and he saw them with the feelings of friendliness, excited by his belief, that a dog would preserve his soul from evil spirits if present when he closed his eyes for ever. Ibrahim neyer started till he saw a skeleton-hand stretched to snatch one of the bas. kets of provisions which had been scattered as usual, by his orders, for the wandering dogs.* Presently, from beneath the cocoa-nut tree which over-shadowed the entrance of the cemetry, he saw a meagre woman creep towards a little mound of leaves, on which a child was lying. She offered some of the boiled rice she had found in the baskets to its lips, but they could not open. The miserable mother held it to her breast an instant and dropped it on the earth again, as if then conscious of its death. She heard the howlings of the famished dogs, and throwing them the rest of the food, more anxious to preserve her infant's remains than herself, the pariah laid a few of the freshest leaves together, and seemed preparing a grave among the urns and obelisks that adorn the burying place, when she saw Ibrahim standing near her. Aware how horribly the profanation of such holy ground might be avenged on a wretched outcast, she fled with a dismal shriek among the entangled cocoa-trees, and the good Guebre took up the body, determining to give it the most sacred funeral rites in consecrated fire. Covered in his robe, he brought his prize to the chamber of his priestly office, and looking on it more stedfastly, perceived that it still lived. He had, according to the custom of his sect, only one wife, and she was childless. This infant boy justified the eastern proverb, which compares what is most lovely, to the loveliness of a child. An eastern poet would have compared its beauty as it lay in seeming death, to the Indian Cupid slain by Seeva. Ibrahim was skilled in medicinal science, and the weakness caused by famine was soon remedied. His wife consented to adopt the found. ling, whose shape and features gave no indication of that coarse. ness usually found in the offspring of pariahs; and the foster-father was careful to conceal whatever might raise a suspicion of its abe horred origin. His mansion was one of the most splendid in Bom. bay, and its gardens were now- made delightful to him by the gambols of his new favourite. These gardens were watered, as is cus. tomary in the east, by means of a cistern, whose wheel was kept in constant motion by a buffalo. Ibrahim walked one day under his canopy of plantain-trees, wreathed with yellow roses, and inhabited by crouds of singing-birds, and admired the freshness of his shrubs, till he perceived the cistern which supplied them was worked, not
* Perhaps this veneration for dogs is peculiar to Indian Guebres, because they have a tradition of their escape from shipwreck, caused by the barking of dogs, when they emigrated to India.
by a beast of burden, but by a female pariah. The human particles even in the Guebre's heart, were touched by this cruel spectacle; but his disgust was changed to surprise, when he heard that she had solicited the employment. He directed his superior servants to remove her to a detached apartment of his mansion, where several of her cast were busied in grinding rice, and performing the lower culinary offices. Chandela, as she was called, distinguished herself by the neatness of her labours; and it was soon remarked, that the rice-cakes she prepared for Ibrahim's adopted son, were her favourite tasks. The boy loved honey, and as no hives were near, his foster-father was surprised to see his breakfast-table regularly furnished with a small quantity. The poor cutcast had traced a bee, and lodged its nest among the moonflowers in his de licious garden, to supply an addition to his luxuries. She brought the delicate winged creature which most resembles the hummingbird, to build its house on the fan-leaf of the palmyra-tree for his adopted son's amusement, and spent hours in chasing away the tree-snake and cobra-nanilla from among the jasmine and scarlet mulberries, where he loved to play. Ibrahim was a learned and sincere Guebre, but he knew very little of human nature. He believed the fixed and deep contempt which his religion taught him for an outcast, was too strong to need defence; and had never guessed that men always begin to love whatever beautifies and enriches their felicity. As a parsee, he was privileged to take another wife, having no hope of progeny by the first; but the infamy attach. ed to a pariah, the utter ruin of his adopted son if his origin should be discovered, and his own high station, determined him either to resist, or banish the tempter.
He made a thousand wise resolutions, and kept them all till he heard Chandela's voice again. Ibrahim's wife, married in her seventh year, and deprived of any mo. tive to improve, was as indolently insipid as the ladies of a Bombay harem are usually found. Plaiting coloured threads, embroidering, making pastry, and chewing betel, had composed the history of her whole life, except when she awakened herself sufficiently to paint her eyebrows, and load the hem's of her ears with jewels. When the roots of her hair, the palms of her hands, the soles of her feet, and the tips of her nails, were tinged with red, and her nose had its appropriate jewel, she was considered a parsee-beauty of the first class, and by none more undoubtingly than herself. Therefore she looked with very contemptuous eyes on Chandela; but in the dulness of a life, which like Mahomet's angels was composed only of sweetmeats, it was really some amusement to be jealous. Little Ahmed, as the adopted boy was called, had so much love for the poor pariah, that no rebuke could prevent him from stealing among the remote shrubberies, or into the hut where she ground rice, to teach her all he learnt from the handmaids of the haram. She was soon able to play on his guitar, to thread beads, ar.d above all to read the beautiful maxims ascribed to Chee, the Confucius of the parsees. Ibrahim's wife saw her new talents with
affected pleasure, and asked her to sing for her amusement. Chandela complied with a voice of such sweetness, that she might have been mistaken for one of the female deities of music worshipped in the east, and was recompensed by a present of flowers and paung. The latter, consisting of chunam and betel-nut, wrapped in the leaf of an aromatic plant, is a compliment implying distinguished kindness, and cannot be refused without the highest af. front. Chandela placed it on her forehead, and had opened her lips to receive its contents, when the playful boy snatched and attempted to taste them. The outcast uttered a scream of terror, and seizing the poisoned gift from her son's hand, swallowed the whole. -Ibrahim saw and understood this touching scene, He had read the purpose of his wife's malignant jealousy in her large stag eyes; and well aware that the sweetmeat she had poisoned had been exchanged by his own hand for a harmless mixture of ghee, poppyseeds, and sugar, left his house immediately to execute his own project. In the nearest bazaar lived a barber, whose gup nr newsshop was famous for good story-tellers and audacious buffoons. At that hour of night which brings the greatest troop of listeners to such shops, a new assistant appeared in this noted barber's, and the first customer who presented his head to be shaven was a plump merchant of great weight in the panchait or village council of parsees. The new operator bowed with profound reverence three times, and made a long pause before he began his functions with a gravity so strange as to provoke a question. 'Sir,' said the buf. foon-barber, ' I was thinking of Chreeshna's cream-pot and butterball;* and also I am trying to recollect how many ton may pass through the cleft of the penitent's rock.' Thou art but a lean fel. low,' returned the merchant rather angrily, ' but if thou wert measured by the weight of thy sins, I reckon nothing less than a Jag. ger-naut's bridge would let thee pass.' 'Truly,' said the barber sighing,' my neigbour, the rich merchant Ibrahim, is no fatter than I, yet he has marvellous need of a wide hole to 'creep through, if his sins are to be counted by inches and packed round him.' The honest merchant opened his eyes and ears with the avarice of curiosity at this hint, and sat with his new shaven head bare more than an hour, while the barber arrived, after a prodigious preamble, at the best part of his story. If your worshipful excellence will promise not to call me as a witness before the parsee council, you shall hear a most strange secret. _Ibrahim has corrupted his conscience with running among the English rajahs, who wear scarlet bajees and black fans; and making mockery of our brachmins, has taken a pariah into his garden-house to be his second wife.' The president of the parsee council uplifted his eyes, and a tailor dropped the scissors he was exercising with his toes, to attend more precisely. Not content with this,'continued the barber, ' which we Hindoos should think deserving a thousand bastinadoes, he has taken his first poor wife by force from the muslin-chamber, and compelled her to wear the old garments of the pariah, to draw water and carry pitchers, while the outcast wears pearls over her forehead, dips her hair in rose water, and calls herself Ibrahim's first wife.'-Friend,' said the merchant, when your prophet Veeshnu churned the sea, he brought forth seven things; a sun, a moon, an elephant, a physician, a horse, a cup of good liquor, and a woman, and in my secret opinion, two of these seven might have been spared.' Not the elephant,' returned the barber with imposing gravity, ‘for he resembles a most honourable gentleman; but there is no need of a physician with a cup of good wine; and the woman and the moon together are enough to make any man mad.' The large counsellor smiled with exquisite complacency, and de-, parted to tell all he had heard of his neighbour.
* A large cistern and round fragment of rock are celebrated by these names at Mahaballipooram, near Arjoon. In Boinbay there is a cloven rock through which penitents of all sizes endeavour to pass as a purgatory.
Before the next eve, as he expected, Ibrahim was summoned by the council of his sect to answer for his offences, and surprised them by making no defence. As chief dustoor of the parsees, no heavy penance was required of him, except a fine of six thousand rupees, especially as he consented to re-establish justice in his household. Proper messengers accompanied him home* to enforce it; and his wife, notwithstanding her shrieks and resistance, was compelled to assume the garments of a pariah. It was in vain she reproached him with his infidelities and treasons; the good parsees assured her the whole truth of her real station was now confessed by Ibrahim himself; and Chandela's meek amazement when desired to put on her rival's rich attire, was ascribed to the stupifying effects of some malignant drug. The poisoned betel-mut which had been prepared for her, and which was found by Ibraham's contrivance in his jealous lady's chamber, seemed to confirm this supposition; and the influence of magic is still so firmly believed by modern parsees, that no one would have doubted even a transfer of shapes and features. At least, none presumed to contradict the high dustoor; and he had the pleasure of elevating the pariah to his side, while his angry and revengeful wife suffered due punishment in the drudgery and degradation of an outcast. But she suffered them only a few days: her kinsmen lived in the island of Ceylon, and she fled in the night, as it was supposed, to seek their protection.
This lady's flight, as Ibrahim had sufficient sense to seek no second addition to his harem, placed him in perfect peace with his new wife. She was, indeed, one of those gentle creatures to whom the Hindoo scripture has assigned the first place in Heaven, and her husband's affections remained constant to her without aid from the emerald, the ruby, or any of the amulets to which the poetic
* The Guebres make no scruple at admitting men into the apartments of their women, who enjoy more liberty than other sects, though very little more education,
superstition of India has given power.
Their adopted boy grew in loveliness; and at his eighth year was betrothed, according to the custom of the parsees, to a little bride some months younger. This festival, always sumptuous in Bombay, was celebrated with the pomp proportioned to Ibrahim's wealth and rank. The palanquin of these young sacrifices to the deity of marriage, shone with gold brocade and wreaths of jewels, as it passed through streets carpeted and canopied with embroidered cloth, towards gardens, whose superb trees resembled pyramids of light. But though the sagest astrologers had been consulted, and the happiest aspect of the stars observed, a fatal interruption awaited them. At the entrance of a bazaar richly illuminated by Ibrahim's order, where crouds of all ranks were feasted with sherbet and confectionary, among booths filled with musicians and tumblers, a squalid woman suddenly sprung into the street, exclaiming, My son!-give me my son!'- The procession stopped in consternation, more caused by the poll:ition of the outcast's touch, than by her incredible claim; and Ibrahim, startled by the shrill tones of a voice he remembered too well, perceived his discarded wife in the dress of a pariah. He instantly conceived the extent of her revengeful pur. pose, but it was too late to defeat her. Availing herself of his own stratagem, Bomanjee uttered dismal lamentations, and tearing asunder the rich curtains behind which the boy sat loaded with chains of pearl, attempted to grasp him in her arms. The father of the infant bride, thunder-struck at this base blot on the bridegroom's origin, demanded a pause in the nuptial rites, till the truth could be made manifest. Seeing Ibrahim pale, trembling, and unable to answer, he snatched his adopted son from the palanquin, and ad. vanced to throw him into the embrace of his pretended mother, when Chandela, leaping from her husband's, caught her son from his arms, repeating, I am the outcast-he is mine.'
Notwithstanding the horror of Hindoos at that execrated name, the spectators were silenced by the sacred agony of a mother, and by their eager curiosity to see the rival claims decided. Ibrahim entangled in his own devices, could not recant what he had confessed before his brother counsellors; he could not deny that he had called Bomanjee an outcast, and that young Ahmed was a stranger's son. All that seemed doubtful now was, to which of these unhappy women the disputed boy should be assigned; and the poblest parsees agreed it should be left to his decision. Bomanjee's eyes glared with malignant joy; for in the days of her splendor she had often loaded him with fruits and garlands of flowers; but he had not forgot the patient cares, the secret caresses, and constant love of his true mother, as he sprang
into her arms. She hid her face on his; and dropping the rich mantle she had worn as Ibrahim's wife, stole one sorrowful glance at her husband, and departed among the darkest trees. No one presumed to arrest or follow hier steps. A kind of surprise, such as results from some unexp. Cied gleam of brilliant light, had been excited even among