She was old, of course, for she was Babar the Brave’s elder sister; the sister to whom he had been devoted, who had always been to him also “his Dearest-One.” Now, when you come to think of it, boys and girls, that is a nice sort of fame to have—to remain for—let me see how many hundred years?—nearly four—Dearest-Lady, or Dearest-Gentleman to all the world.
This Dearest-Lady was, of course, the Heir-to-Empire’s grand-aunt, and the mere sound of her name was enough to calm Foster-father’s fears. Even Head-nurse, though she sniffed a little and said she had heard tell that the Khanzada Khanum was a trifle careless of ceremonials, was satisfied. There was no doubt that she was the Highest-Born-in-the-Land.
As for little Prince Akbar himself, he only opened his big, grave eyes widely when the tall white figure clasped him closely in its arms and kissed his hair softly.
“So like his grandfather,” she murmured, “so like! so like!—the very hands, the very feet—so strong, so shapely.” And both in turn felt the touch of the soft old lips. “And thou, too, small maiden,” she continued kindly, “welcome to one who has never yet let it be said in her hearing that God made women weaker than man! Thou shalt learn here to be proud thou wast born a girl. And you also, Nurse! Bring cooling sherbets, slaves, while she tells me all that has happened.”
Then she sat and listened while Head-nurse told the tale of what had happened, and her faded, gay, old face flashed and sparkled and grew grave by turns.
“But where is Tumbu?” she interrupted, “and where is Down? Bring them hither, slaves! Lo! I love all animals, as my dear brother did!”
And she laughed over their doings, and wept over Old Faithful’s death, while Bija and Mirak sat cuddled up close beside her, listening also and enjoying the tale of their own adventures as if they had happened to other children!
“Surely,” she said softly when Head-nurse ended, “my dearest brother—on whom be peace—must have protected them! Lo! Mirak! and Bija—for I shall call you naught else since they are sweet kindly names, better than fine sounding titles—this very afternoon ye shall come with me to the garden he loved, and where his earthly form lies at rest, and lay flowers on his grave for thanks. Since he loved flowers as he loved everything.”
So that evening, about an hour before sunset time, they were all carried in litters to the Garden of the New Year, about a mile beyond the city. It was a most peaceful, lovely spot, right up on the hillside with a splendid view from it of valley and mountain and river. A fresh bubbling spring ran through it, and beneath the Judas trees, whose leafless branches were flushed with pink blossoms, stretched great carpets of spring flowers.
“Pluck him yonder tulips, Mirak,” said Dearest-Lady with a smile. “He loved to count their kinds and those—as he wrote—are ’yellow, double, and scented like a rose’!”