But alas! The Heir-to-Empire was wilful, like all Eastern Princelings, and he shrieked to match at the suggestion. So there arose such a hubbub, which was only calmed by Baby Akbar being allowed to do as he chose.
“Poor! Poor!” he said as his little hand touched the sharp prickles and no one found out, till Foster-mother came to put him to bed, that he really did scratch himself. There was quite a little runnel of blood on the palm; but Akbar, even when he was a baby, was proud. He knew how to bear discomfort and punishment when it was his own fault.
They were all rather merry that night, for they had roast porcupine stuffed with pistachio nuts for supper. And afterward Roy sat by Baby Akbar’s pile of quilts and sang him to sleep with this royal lullaby:
You are always King;
Always wear a crown,
Though you tumble down;
Call each thing your own,
Find each lap a throne;
Dearest, sweetest King,
When the child had fallen asleep Roy sat at the door of the tent and looked at the stars, which shone, as they do in the East, all colours, like jewels in the velvety sky. They seemed so far away, but not farther than he seemed to be from himself. For Roy’s head had been dreadfully confused by that sunstroke in the desert. Only that morning something had seemed to come back to him in a flash, and he had so far forgotten he was only a page boy as to call the little Heir-to-Empire “Brother,” but Head-nurse’s cuff had brought him back to reality in double quick time. And as he sat there in the dark he saw a man creeping stealthily to the tent. He was on his feet in a moment challenging him.
“Hush!” whispered the newcomer, “I bring a message from King Humayon. I must see Foster-father at once.”
The good man was already between the quilts, but he got up quickly, and when he had heard the message he sent for Head-nurse and Foster-mother and Old Faithful, for he felt that a most momentous decision had to be made. Yet the message was a very simple one. Those in charge of the child were to creep away that very night with the messenger, who would guide them in safety to King Humayon, who had found help and shelter in Persia.
Head-nurse and Foster-mother wept tears of joy at the glad news, and proposed at once that they should wrap the child in a blanket and start. But Foster-father was more wary.
“You come as a thief in the darkness,” he said. “Where is your token from the king, that I may know who you are?”
But there was no token.
“Then the child stays where he is,” asserted Foster-father boldly. “Am I not right oh! Faithful?”
“Assuredly my lord is right. Who knows but this man may be an emissary of those who would wile away the little lad from his uncle, Prince Askurry’s protection. His other uncle, Kumran, is not so kind.”