The crowd outside, pale green, sage green, emerald green, leaf green, were hushed to silence, waiting; but from every thicket of rose and jasmine a chorus of singing birds, deftly concealed in cages behind the leaves, filled the air as Humayon and his little son advanced to take their places. The king was dressed in green also, a fine figure in royal robes embroidered with a thousand allegorical designs. He took his seat on a golden throne.
And little Prince Akbar!
He was the one spot of colour! He was the flower
of the whole garden!
Dressed in rose satin of various shades, he looked indeed what
Head-nurse had called him fondly, thus adding to her string of titles,
“The Rose of the World.”
And now the great moment approaches! The little fellow takes his stand fearlessly below his father; before him the semicircle of green veiled ladies; a hundred in the first row, a hundred in the second row, a hundred in the third row.
But little Akbar’s eyes as he stands there do not wander from row to row. To tell the truth, his eyes are not open at all! He has them fast closed; for so, he knows, he can see his mother.
“Ladies! Unveil!” comes the king’s voice. It sounds a little anxious.
[Illustration: “Ladies! unveil!”]
There is a rustling of silks and satins, a faint swishing of gauze and muslins, and three hundred faces flash out, like flowers against leaves, from their green draperies.
Which is Queen Humeeda’s?
For an instant the child stands silent, his lips trembling, his face flushing. Then his eyes open and he sees something.
What is it?
Is one face less smiling than another?
Where is it? In the first row, or the second row, or the third row?
What matter? There is a glad cry of——
“Amma-jan! My Amma-jan. There you are!” And a little flying figure in rose-coloured satin has dashed across the floor to fling itself into the arms of—Queen Humeeda.
Little Akbar has found his own darlingest mother, and there is not a dry eye in the whole assemblage.
BETWIXT CUP AND LIP
Now it may indeed seem that all our little Heir-to-Empire’s troubles were over; but there is still somewhat to tell of our young hero. To begin with, Queen Humeeda was a wise woman, and she saw that it was not good for the little lad to be always at play. She knew that as a King’s son in the East, he would have small time after he was ten for schooling, and as he was now close on four that did not leave many years for teaching.
So a tutor was found for him; but it is to be feared that he was by no means an industrious scholar. Indeed, we hear of such dreadful things as playing truant, so that when a day was fixed for an examination by learned men as to how the Heir-to-Empire was getting on with his studies, “at the master moment it was found that the scholar, having attired himself for sport, had disappeared!” Then his first tutor was dismissed because he encouraged his pupil in pigeon flying, and we read of his applying his thoughts more to dog-fancying and Arab horses than to his books. Still he did learn one thing, and a good thing, too.