And so they had, though it was a sore trial once more to the women to have nothing but guesswork to go upon.
“I wish I knew,” murmured poor Foster-mother mournfully, as she watched Baby Akbar, and Down, and the kitten, and Tumbu, all playing together before the fire.
But once more Baby Akbar was silent, and Down told nobody—unless it was Tumbu. Perhaps he did know, because he allowed Down’s kitten to play with his tail!
Winter passed to spring and spring to early summer, and yet no certain news came of King Humayon or Queen Humeeda. Foster-father almost gave up hope, yet he said little, though he took counsel with Old Faithful, and he in his turn consulted the old mountain chief, who at the assemblage had been the first to cry, “Long live the Heir-to-Empire.”
But the old man shook his head. The times were new, he said; very few people remembered, as he did, the old ways, the old Kings. But for the sake of Babar the brave they might always count on his sword and the sabres of fifty or more of his followers. So, if the worst came to the worst, they were welcome to an asylum in his eagle’s eyrie of a fortress, where at any rate they could all die together fighting for the King; and what more did any brave man want?
This was not much consolation to Foster-father, who felt that there was nothing to be done, save by every means in his power, to curry favour with the Princess Sultanum.
But, indeed, the little Heir-to-Empire made himself friends wherever he went; they could not help liking the frank little fellow who spoke to them so freely, with a certain grave dignity of his own. For by the time the peach gardens around Kandahar lay like clouds of pink and white about the old domed city, little Prince Akbar was in looks and ways a child of three or even four; so big and strong was he. He spoke perfectly in his childish way, with great emphasis and a curious, soft burr over his r’s and h’s. And he actually tried to wrestle with his cousin Ibrahim, who was, however, rather a puny boy, despite the fact that he was three years older than the little Heir-to-Empire.
But with Roy as playmate Akbar began all sorts of games. There was a high, walled peach garden not far from the bastion, where the little Prince used to be allowed to go; and there, during the long sunny hours, the Rajput lad, to whom such things were all curiously familiar, taught the child how to ride on Tumbu’s back, and how to hold a spear. Aye! and to take a tent peg, too; the peg being only a soft carrot stuck in the earth! But the great game was shooting with a bow and arrow, and in this, before spring passed to summer, the pupil was a match with his teacher except in strength; for, from the very beginning, Akbar showed himself steady and straight as a shot; so it is no wonder he grew up to be the