He could admire them, though he did not seem in the least ashamed of having yet once more turned his coat; for he was again on Kumran’s side.
How time passed none of the prisoners cared to count. But one day the sudden roar of a great gun told them that the city was once more besieged. In truth, Humayon hearing, while still on his bed of sickness, the fatal news of Shurruf Khan’s treachery, had strained every nerve, ill as he was, to come to the rescue of his little son. It was midwinter, the passes were blocked with snow, he and his troops had to meet endless hardships; but at last they were before Kabul once more. Camped on the Arkaban hill, opposite the Iron Gate, the artillery were brought into position, the first shot fired.
It would take too long to follow all the varied incidents of the siege. But one thing was constant. Night after night recruits from inside the town managed to scale the walls and join King Humayon’s forces. They were getting tired of Kumran, who, unable to satisfy his cruelty on the little Heir-to-Empire, vented it on all and sundry. And day by day as the number of the besieged dwindled, bit after bit of the town fell into the besiegers’ hands, until at last only the Bala Hissar remained. But the Bala Hissar is a town in itself, and many a time has it withstood a siege successfully.
Now, however, it was near to the death. There could be no more talk or thought of escape. Kumran, ever half-hearted, tried it one night and failed, losing many followers in the attempt.
After that his face hardened. He went about dreaming of revenge—revenge on Humayon, even revenge on Dearest-Lady, who had tied his hands.
“Till I return!”
No! Dead folks can never return to the worldly. Even their memory comes seldom, save to the pure in heart.
And one night he hit on a plan. The fort was almost at its last gasp. All day Sumbal Khan, Humayon’s famous artillery general, had been pounding away at the Iron Gate with deadly aim. A few more well-sent shots would leave the bastion crumbling, and then——
Then would come the assault through the breach, and Kumran knew he could not face it. His force was too small.
So about midnight the door of Akbar’s prison room was opened and Kumran with a few armed men stood within.
Roy, startled from a doze, was on his feet in a second.
“What want ye?” he challenged fiercely.
“Let the Hindoo fool alone,” said Kumran to those who would have seized on the Rajput lad. “All we want is the child. Take him, slaves, and be quick about it.”
Ere the words were out of his mouth a stalwart man bent to lift the sleeping Heir-to-Empire. Roy’s sword flashed the same second, but, held back by sneering men, he was helpless.
“What want ye with him? I say, what want ye with him?” panted the poor lad as he struggled madly.