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was his only child. The king promised to exert himself in the matter, and spoke to the queen. At first the queen refused, but afterwards consented, on condition that if, after some time, I still wished to return, I was to be allowed to do so. So I was taken home by my father and lived at home for several months-I cannot tell exactly how many months but it was less than a year; some six or eight months perhaps.
I was not so happy at home as I had been in the palace. My father was seldom with me, and my cousin was not kind, and the neighbours knew that I had killed my mother at my birth, miserable that I am, and so I longed to return. At length one day two Chuprassies came from Lucknow, and said the queen wanted to see me, and I was brought back to the court. She asked me if I wished to remain at home, or would prefer being her slave. I spoke as a child; I preferred the palace to our poor cottage, and I was not allowed to return to my father; nor did he come to reclaim me, wretched that I am: he loved me no longer.
Another year passed away, and the queen was kind, and a Moollah was appointed to teach us the Koran. We learned something of it, but we often bribed the Moollah to let us play in the courtyard where the fountains were, instead of being taught. There were six or eight of us, all about the same age— nine or ten years of age-some good some bad, some pretty some ugly, as the way of the world and of mankind is. We bribed the Moollah with money, or ornaments, or sweetmeats, or whatever we had. He was an old white-bearded man, we were slaves; what did he care whether we learned or not? But all we learned was Sheeah doctrine and Sheeah customs, and to this day I know no other. I was always a castaway. At length it was told the queen that we were not learning but playing, and she sent for us one day to hear what we could read and repeat, and we knew little or nothing. So the queen was angry, and sent to the Moollah to say her slaves were not learning, and next day the Moollah beat us all with a cane, and in the evening we went to the
queen and begged mercy and justice, and showed her the marks of the cane, and she said, 'Wah! wah! what trouble it is-it is not their fate to learn-let the Moollah be dismissed.' She was a kind queen and a good always.
It was shortly after the dismissal of the Moollah that news was brought of my father being on his death-bed, and the queen ordered me to be taken to see him. I suppose I was about ten years of age, but how can I tell exactly? Is it that all my life is written down in a book, that I should be able to tell exactly how old I was when each thing happened?
I found my father lying on his bed with closed eyes. I thought he was dead at first. But after a little, he opened his eyes and saw me and knew me. Many were there my cousin and others attending on him. He feebly lifted his arms to embrace me. I laid my head beside his head, and wept. Miserable that I was and am, I knew then that I had no mother, and my father was going, and I was to be a slave-an outcast from
my family and my religion-alone in the world, and unhappy always. But who shall avoid their fate? God gives to one happiness and to another misery, and who shall question it? I thought my father was trying to speak to me: perhaps he was, but he was weak, and his head turned from mine on the pillow, and they said 'He will sleep; so I arose, and took off my muslin head-dress, and covered his face with it, and sat near the door watching. Three or four hours passed away. My cousin and the others had gone; I was alone with my sleeping father, and I was very wretched, but my heart was too full for tears'; I could not cry. I was afraid and sad. At length they came enquiring one by one.
I said He sleeps,'
but they lifted the covering from his face, and said He is dead.'
I now knew what it was to be alone indeed. Born wretched, I have lived wretched. Such has been my fate. I was too stupefied for tears, and my former companions and playmates crowded round me, and watched me, and said, ' She does not cry;
do not the Sheeahs weep for dead fathers?' I was treated as an outcast; I deserved to be so treated. I was not fit to eat with my relatives, all good Soonnies; I was not allowed to sit on the same mat with them. I could not use the same vessels for cooking. I was a Sheeah, and I was glad to get back again to court, where all were Sheeahs, and where the queen was kind. rub the queen's feet, and to
I learned to
prepare her hookah, and I was as happy as so miserable and forlorn a creature as I can ever expect to be.
But I was married? yes, of course I was married. But God denied me children. What right had I to expect children, who had killed my mother at my birth? My marriage was thus. When I was fit to be married, the queen told me it was time, and I was nothing loath. The news was told that one of the queen's slave-girls was to be married, and many men came forward to offer. But the queen would have no Soonnies. At length a Sheeah, the son of a Sheeah, offered-Gholam Hussain by name.