“Kitty not ’weady. Kitty not ’weady.”
Now, one night there was a great festival in the palace, and the Heir-to-Empire had to go and pay his respects, after the Indian manner on feast days, to his aunt and uncle. Then, when he returned, they sent him, after Indian wont, trays full of fruit and sugar-toffee made in the shape of animals, and a few pieces of muslin and stuffs to make new dresses for the party. In addition to this there was a trayful of supper, which came afterward, when daylight had gone, with the Princess Sultanum’s best compliments. At least so said the man who brought it; but he did not wait to be questioned, and disappeared so soon as Meroo had taken the tray from him.
But it was full of the most delicious dainties, including a bowl of sweet milk made with almonds and honey and rice meal for Baby Akbar.
Head-nurse, however, would not let him eat it. She was always afraid of the little lad being poisoned, so Meroo always cooked with his own hands everything the child ate. Therefore they gave it to Tumbu instead; for, having been brought up by shepherds, he loved milk, and he licked his lips after it and was soon sound asleep by the fire.
The lamb stewed with pistachio nuts and full of saffron looked, however, so delicious that after Meroo had tasted it and pronounced it quite safe, since all knew that saffron would not go with real poison, they set to work and finished the platter.
They were all as jolly as could be afterward, though the heat of the fire and their heavy supper made them sleepy; so Head-nurse, declaring it was far too cold in the inner room, dragged her bed and Foster-mother’s close to the fire, the others retired to the outer room, and before long they were all snoring away quite happily.
For if the supper had not truly been poisoned, it had been drugged. Drugged with sleep-bringing drugs.
So, as the firelight flickered over the room faintly, it showed Head-nurse’s face and Foster-mother’s face and even Tumbu’s black muzzle in a dead sleep that was almost unconsciousness. And in the outer room Foster-father snored, and even Roy’s keen, hawk-face lay like one dead. Only Baby Akbar tossed and turned in his comfortable nest between his two nurses.
Save for this, due to Head-nurse’s precaution in not allowing the Heir-to-Empire sweet milk for supper, all was as cruel brother Kumran’s agents had planned when they had sent the pretended messenger from the palace with the platter of delicacies. Even the sentry below was sleeping sound after his share of kid curry.
Thus, those who were on the roof waiting until the moon had set and they could without fear of discovery lower the young lad, who was to steal Baby Akbar, down to the window (through which, being slender, the thief could slip easily), felt that their task was almost done.