“Then the seventy clambered into one swing—so merry, so careless, their voices ring. And Rasalu stood in his shining array, as merry and careless as happy as they. He fastened the ropes to his mighty bow, and bent till it would no further go; then with a twang he loosed the string, and like an arrow the laden swing with its burden of seventy maidens fair, shot like an arrow into the air. Merry and careless with laugh and smile, up in the sky for many a mile; like a soaring bird in the distant blue, while merry and careless, and tall and true, Rasalu waited upon the plain, till the swing swung back to its place again. Then he out with his sword and laughed anew, ’Ye have had a fine ride, ye giggling crew; enough and to spare, so out with you there!’ Then he severed the ropes with one mighty sweep, and the seventy maidens fell in a heap; and some were broken and some were bruised, and the only one that was not ill-used was the youngest maid, for she did not drop till the very last, so she fell on top!”
And here Prince Akbar used always to laugh gravely and say: “Glad she didn’t tumble down really, for she was a nice little girl.”
One day when the peach blossoms had all floated away, leaving in their place grey-green fluffy ovals that by-and-bye would be luscious ripe fruits, Foster-father arrived in a great state of excitement just as Rasalu had finished swinging his Seventy Maidens.
“News, news!” he cried; “real news at last; and thank Heaven they are good! My master, the King, has not only secured shelter, but help, and hath written to his brother, Prince Askurry, advising him not to listen to ill advice, but to give in his allegiance at once, when all shall be forgotten. In token of which clemency he is sending to his still-dearly-beloved brother, Her Royal Highness the Princess Bakshee Bani Begum, that she may be a companion to her half-brother, the Heir-to-Empire.”
Prince Akbar, who was leaning on Roy’s breast, suddenly sat up. “Is that my sister?” he asked eagerly, “is she a nice little girl like Rasalu’s bride?”
Head-nurse laughed. “Nice enough I’ll warrant, though I never saw her; she has been since she was born, six years past, with her mother’s people; but so long as they send no fine ladies of nurses with her she is welcome.”
Little Prince Akbar stood up and stretched himself, and looked at Head-nurse critically.
“Akka will welcome her, and Akka will tell you to be her nurse, and Akka will swing her a great big swing.”
So far as he was concerned that settled the question; but up at the Court there were endless questionings of heart. Prince Askurry was, as ever, in two minds as to what he should do. Cruel brother Kumran, who was Governor at Kabul, pressed his advice to stand firm, to send the child to him, to let him show King Humayon that paid Persian troops could not stand up against Indian ones. But Princess Sultanum had