On A shelving bank of dry sand baby Akbar
sitting up and rubbing his eyes Frontispiece
To face page
THE CHILD HAD SLIPPED IT ONTO HIS LITTLE FOREFINGER 62
So they both touched the
cold marble floor with their
warm little foreheads 98
Ahead of them, A shadow showed,
A shambling shadow!
Tumbu ... With A bound was off full tilt after it 126
“Ladies! Unveil!” 176
“I stay my hand while I count ten—no more” 198
Bismillah Al-la-hu Akbar!
These queer-looking, queer-sounding words, which in Arabic mean “thanks be to God,” were shrilled out at the very top of Head-nurse’s voice. Had she been in a room they would have filled it and echoed back from the walls; for she was a big, deep-chested woman. But she was only in a tent; a small tent, which had been pitched in a hurry in an out-of-the-way valley among the low hills that lead from the wide plains of India to Afghanistan. For Head-nurse’s master and mistress, King Humayon and Queen Humeeda, with their thirteen months’ old little son, Prince Akbar, were flying for their lives before their enemies. And these enemies were led by Humayon’s own brothers, Prince Kumran, Askurry and Hindal. It is a long story, and a sad story, too, how Humayon, so brave, so clever, so courteous, fell into misfortune by his own fault, and had to fly from his beautiful palaces at Delhi and wander for years, pursued like a hare, amid the sandy deserts and pathless plains of Western India. And now, as a last resource, his followers dwindled to a mere handful, he was making a desperate effort to escape over the Persian border and claim protection at the hands of Persia’s King.
So the poor tent was ragged and out at elbows, for all that it was made of costly Kashmir shawls, and that its poles were silver-gilt.
But Head-nurse’s “Thanks be to God!” came from a full heart.
“What is it? What is it?” called an anxious voice from behind the curtain which divided the tent in two.