Foster-mother was beside him in a second, eager to snatch him up and cover him with kisses; but Baby Akbar wriggled himself from her hold. He had set himself a task and he meant to do it.
“Go way!” he said with determination. “Tumbu down. Get up again.”
So, calmly reaching round for the turban which lay beside him, which he evidently thought had tumbled down too, he clapped it on his head with both hands, rose to his feet and recommenced his forward lurch; a yard or two of the fringed turban, which had become unrolled, trailing behind him like a royal robe.
It was a quainter little figure than before, but nobody laughed now. They looked at each other, then at the child staggering along under the Prince’s plumed turban, then at Prince Askurry himself standing bareheaded before his nephew.
It was an ill omen. And yet as Head-nurse said proudly when they got back to the rooms that had been given them in a frowning bastion of the palace, Baby Akbar had once more scored off his uncle.
Indeed, she was so cock-a-hoop about it that she stickled for this, and she stickled for that until the attendants, who were at first inclined to be civil, began to look askance, and Foster-father had to bid her hold her tongue.
“Wise folk leave steel traps alone,” he said; “fiddling with them lets off the spring. Then—pouf!”
He shook his head significantly.
“Steel traps?” echoed Head-nurse sniffily, “who is talking of steel traps?”
“I am, woman!” replied Foster-father sternly. “I tell you this Kandahar is as a steel trap ready to snap on us at any moment.”
Head-nurse was silent, even though he also had ventured to call her “woman”; but she was beginning to learn that nine times out of ten Foster-father was right.
The winter settled in early that year, and with the passes of the hills blocked by snow, the caravans of laden camels which, in addition to merchandise of all sorts, brought news from the world to the east and the world to the west of mountain-clipped Kandahar, ceased to come into the big bazaar. And the cold kept most people at home, or shivering beside the glowing braziers set outside the shops. It was not the season for active work, and so Prince Askurry let it slip by without really making up his mind what he was to do with Baby Akbar. Meanwhile the child could live in the bastion of the palace, and play with his little cousins. Whether he was to be betrothed to Baby Amina or not could be decided in the spring; this was the time for rest and home comfort without fear of any disturbing, since none could cross the passes in winter.
Princess Sultanam, however, to whom in her seclusion winter and summer were much alike, grew fond of the little lad, and never ceased to urge on her husband the wisdom of so treating Prince Akbar, that should King Humayon by good luck—and he had a knack of being lucky—find himself again with an army at his back, his hands would be tied from revenge on the Court at Kabul.