“Highness,” said the woman, “it is impossible to keep cats out if they want to come in. She appeared at the window three times, and three times I put her downstairs. Then I gave in. It is no use quarrelling with cats.”
Meanwhile notice of Her Highness Dearest-Lady’s arrival had reached Kumran’s wife and she hastened to little Akbar’s prison room. But once more Dearest-Lady was bold and took the first word.
“I came to bid the boy farewell, content to trust him to thy kind care, my niece,” she said; “and also to leave with him this Rajput singer, who has the art of amusing the child—and other folk also. Roy! sing us one of thy tales, that the Princess may hear thee.”
And Roy, knowing his part, sang as he had never sung before. “I will sing of how the palm squirrels helped the Great Ram to find his wife, Sita the Peerless, whom the wicked Giant Ravana had carried off. We sing it to the squirrels when we feed them in our country. Perhaps Her Highness does not know what a palm squirrel is. It is tiny, tiny, no bigger than a rat, but it has a bushy tail and four dark stripes like finger marks down its goldy-coloured back. And it never does anything but play, is never anything but happy; and this is why”:
Then he smote the strings of the vina till they thrilled again, and began, his high voice warbling and carolling like a summer bird.
Pretty! are you there, my sweet,
In your leafy seat, where the branches meet?
Wasting all the sunny hours
Pulling down the mango flowers
With your dainty feet.
“Pretty, prettiest thing
yawning as you lie
Watching with glad eye, busy life go by.
Not the tiniest sense of duty
In your careless days, my beauty,
’Neath the cloudless sky.
Knowing no gainsays, so the story says,
Since the Great Ram loved and blessed you,
With his care-worn hand caressed you,
In the olden days.
“Then, when he was seeking
Sita, peerless maid,
By his foes dismayed, Ram, her lover, bade
All the beasts and birds and fishes
Leave their play to do his wishes,
Fight to give him aid.
“And the golden squirrel
sprang at his behest,
Nestled to his breast, first to join the quest.
But Great Ram’s grave eyes grew tender,
Smiled upon the warrior slender,
Braver than the rest!
“’Nay! thou art
too pretty! fearless little heart,
Thou should’st have no part in Strife’s bitter art;
Live to show man, worn and weary,
One blythe soul for ever cheery,
Free from sorrow’s smart.’
“Laid his kind hand
softly on its golden hair,
So palm squirrels bear, where Ram’s fingers were,
Four dark shadows on them, showing
Gladdest life must lose its glowing
From the touch of care.