The messenger scowled at the old man. “As you please,” he began blusteringly, “but those who disobey the King’s order may find their lives forfeit.”
“Mine is forfeit already to the child’s service,” replied Foster-father with spirit. “And without a token I stir not—Peace! woman,” he added to Head-nurse, who would fain have sided with the messenger, “and go fetch the Heir-to-Empire’s cap. That shall go as sign that he is his father’s vassal, to do what he is told when the order comes accredited. So take that as my answer to those who sent you, sir messenger!”
So despite Head-nurse’s protestations the man went off with nothing but the little gold-laced skull cap. And he had not to go far; only into a tent on the outskirts of the camp. For Foster-father’s suspicions had been correct, and he had been sent to try and entice the child by some of Prince Kumran’s partisans who, booted and spurred, and with a swift pacing camel for the child, were waiting eagerly for the return of their messenger.
Their faces fell as he flung the little cap upon the ground.
“The old fox is too wary,” he said. “We must get at the child some other way.”
One of the party took up the cap and fingered it, half idly. “He has a large-sized head for his years,” he remarked; “if it be full of brains, hereafter he may do well.”
Of course, the messenger never returned from King Humayon with the token; but Foster-father was a good-natured man and did not boast of his wisdom to Head-nurse, who, however, remained wonderfully meek and silent until at the end of a fortnight’s marching they saw, against the blue of the distant valley, the white domes of the town of Kandahar with the citadel rising above them. Then, with the chance of a court before her once more, she began chattering of ceremonials and titles and etiquettes.
“Praise be!” she shrilled in her high voice. “No more jiggettings and joggettings on camel back. I shall be on my own feet once more, and it shall not be my fault if His just dues are not given to the Great-in-Pomp——” etc., etc.
Foster-mother interrupted the string of titles. “So that they harm not the child,” she said, clasping her charge tight. She was always thinking of his safety, always alarmed for danger; but he, young Turk that he was, struggled from her arms and pointed to the hills they were leaving behind them.
“Dadda, Amma ’way ’way mountains,” he repeated once more; then added cheerfully, “Akka ’way, too.”
“It is a prophecy!” said Old Faithful, overhearing the remark. “Sure his grand-dad Baber—on whom be peace—had the gift, and this babe may have inherited it.”
“May have,” echoed Head-nurse indignantly. “He has inherited it, and has much of his own besides. Mark my words! if this child live—which Heaven grant—he will be the King of Kings! Not two summers old and he talks as one of three.”