It was some time before a faint sigh, a quiver of the eyelids told that Roy was once more coming back to the world; but after that it was not long before he could sit up and tell them what had happened.
He had managed to evade the eyes of the troopers, and had arrived at the serai just after the startled party had left it; had followed on their traces until he had lost his way. In despair he had been stumbling along aimlessly when Tumbu had suddenly appeared. Following his lead, he had struggled on, gradually benumbed by cold, until at last his feet had failed him, and he remembered no more.
“Tumbu wanted Roy!” said little Prince Akbar gravely. “I told you he wanted something.”
And Tumbu, hearing his name, roused his furry head from his furry paws and looked at his young master with his sharp, beady, black eyes, as who should say:
“Of course I did, because I knew you wanted him.”
SNOW AND ICE
The Captain of the Escort was not over pleased to find Roy when he came in the next morning, and said curtly that the boy, having found his way on foot, must make it on foot, and that none should wait for him. To this the Rajput lad made no demur. His long limbs on that hilly country were more than an equal even for Horse-chestnut’s climbing powers, and the cold was so intense that it was a relief not to sit still on horseback. So he raced on ahead with Tumbu or held by Horse-chestnut’s stirrup, and, as he ran, told stories to amuse the Heir-to-Empire; for neither of the nurses was in a fit state to do more than sit tight, tied by leathern belts to the troopers behind whom they rode.
About sunset time they arrived at a lonely shed at the beginning of the highest bit of the main road, which they were now obliged to take, as there was no other way over the mountains ahead of them. Here, at the end—as poor Head-nurse wailed—of the habitable world, the Captain of the Escort had expected to find the remainder of his men; but they were not there, and as his provisions were running short, he could not go on till they did arrive. So, in an ill humor, he ordered a halt, and the whole outwearied party hastily cooked themselves a meagre supper and lay down in hot haste for rest at last. And rest they had, for that night the snow, which had been threatening, began to fall, and by daylight a good nine inches lay on the ground. The children, who had never seen such thick snow before, were delighted; but Foster-father looked fearfully at the passes before them, while the Captain of the Escort fumed and fretted at the non-arrival of his men. Unless they came soon, he said, if more snow fell, the pass immediately in front of them might be closed for days. Not that there seemed much likelihood of further storm, for the sky was blue as blue, the air, though keen, pleasant. About noon, there being still no sign