Now, Askurry was no fool; he saw that, for the present at any rate, until Humayon’s fate was decided, it would be wiser to be kind; so he decided that when he held the New Year’s assemblage he would present the little prince in due form to the chiefs and nobles.
Head-nurse was almost crazy with delight at the very idea. She and Foster-mother sent all their jewels to the goldsmith to be made up into suitable ornaments for Baby Akbar, and they ransacked the shops for odd scraps of brocade with which to make him the finest of fine state robes.
And on the eventful day they began the child’s toilette early, pressing Roy the Rajput into service as tire-woman to hold the ointments, and scents, and what not, that they deemed necessary for the due dressing of a Prince.
So that it rather dashed their spirits when Foster-father came in with a sober face and the news that a man had come into the bazaar bringing bad tidings of the King and Queen. They had, he said, been lost in the snow; but whether this was true or not, who could tell?
“Then what is the use of worrying?” snapped Head-nurse, who was too much occupied in making her charge beautiful to think of other things. “Lo! Foster-father, evil is never lost on the road. It arrives sooner or later, so why watch for it at the door?”
“That is true,” replied Foster-father, “but mark my words, all depends on good news. If that comes, the child is safe; if evil—then God help him!”
Roy, who, Baby Akbar being nearly dressed, was now holding the pot of lamp-black and oil with which Head-nurse, after the Indian custom, would put a finishing touch to her work by smearing a big black smut on the child’s forehead, lest he should be too sweet and so attract an envious, evil eye, looked up at the words, his face full of light and remembrance.
“God does help true kingship,” he said proudly. “Mother used to say so, and that is why she was never afraid—” He paused and the light in his face faded. “I—I don’t remember any more,” he added apologetically.
“Remembrance or no,” snapped Head-nurse, “hold the pot straight, boy, or thou wilt spill it over the Mighty-in-Pomp, the Admired-of-the-World,” etc.
But Foster-father looked at Old Faithful and laid his hand kindly on Roy’s shoulder. “It matters not, Roy! It is there within thee, all the same. And ’twill come back some day, never fear. And I for one,” he added aside to the old trooper, “should not wonder at much; for the lad’s manners are ever above his present station.”
Old Faithful shook his head wisely. “’Tis not the boy’s manners, friend,” he said, “but his breed. A man may compass manners for himself, but not that his father should have had them also.”
By this time the black smear was on Baby Akbar’s forehead, and despite the smudge, he looked a very fine little fellow indeed. So much so that quite a murmur of delighted admiration ran round the assemblage when Askurry appeared, leading him by the hand; for he had quickly learned to run about and was now quite steady on his legs.