THE SUN HAD set on the western margin of the river among the tangle of the forest.
The hermit boys had brought the cattle home, and sat round the fire to listen to the master, Gautama, when a strange boy came, and greeted him with fruits and flowers, and, bowing low at his feet, spoke in a bird- like voice-'Lord, I have come to thee to be taken into the path of the supreme Truth.
'My name is Satyakama.'
'Blessings be on thy head,' said the master.
'Of what clan art thou, my child? It is only fitting for a Brahmin to aspire to the highest wisdom.'
'Master,' answered the boy, I know not of what clan I am. I shall go and ask my mother.'
Thus saying, Satyakama took leave, and wading across the shallow stream, came back to his mother's but, which stood at the end of the sandy waste at the edge of the sleeping village.
The lamp burnt dimly in the room, and the mother stood at the door in the dark waiting for her son's return.
She clasped him to her bosom, kissed him on his hair, and asked him of his errand to the master.
'What is the name of my father, dear mother?' asked the boy.
'It is only fitting for a Brahmin to aspire to the highest wisdom, said Lord Gautama to me.'
The woman lowered her eyes, and spoke in a whisper.
'In my youth I was poor and had many masters. Thou didst come to thy mother Jabala's arms, my darling, who had no husband.'
The early rays of the sun glistened on the tree-tops of the forest hermitage.
The students, with their tangled hair still wet with their morning bath, sat under the ancient tree, before the master.
There came Satyakama.
He bowed low at the feet of the sage, and stood silent.
'Tell me,' the great teacher asked him, 'of what clan art thou?'
'My lord,' he answered, I know it not. My mother said when I asked her, "I had served many masters in my youth, and thou hadst come to thy mother Jabala's arms, who had no husband." '
There rose a murmur like the angry hum of bees disturbed in their hive; and the students muttered at the shameless insolence of that outcast.
Master Gautama rose from his seat, stretched out his arms, took the boy to his bosom, and said, 'Best of all Brahmins art thou, my child. Thou hast the noblest heritage of truth.'