But behind Prince Askurry were others who did not remember; who were eager to kill and have done with Humayon and his son for ever.
And when they saw Prince Askurry pause, they were quick with advice.
“It is unwise to spare snakes’ spawn,” said one.
[Illustration: Prince Askurry ... strode ... into the tent.]
“The boy is father to the man,” said another. “He who is wise kills young rats as well as old ones.”
And still Prince Askurry paused while poor Head-nurse and Wet-nurse went sick with fear under their veils at what might be going to happen, and Old Faithful’s hand clasped the hilt of his sword tighter, since come what may he meant to strike one blow for his young master. But Roy’s keen eyes showed—as the peacock’s feather fan swept past them backwards and forwards—like a hawk’s as it hovers above a partridge. There was in them a defiance, a certainty that victory must come.
Suddenly a wicked laugh filled the tent. “Peace! brothers,” said a sneering voice, “Prince Askurry prefers to leave the snake to fight with his own son in the future.”
The taunt told. It was true! Better to scotch the snake now, than to leave it to be dangerous by and by; dangerous perhaps to his own little son who was but a few years older than Baby Akbar.
Prince Askurry strode forward drawn sword in hand; but whether he really meant to use it or not cannot be told, for a very strange thing happened. Baby Akbar had been listening to the fierce voices just as he had listened to the angry voices when Adam had refused to salute. And now he saw some one before him who appeared to have no intention—as Adam had no intention—of making his reverence; so, remembering the fine thing he had done when the latter had been naughty, up went the little hand again, and once more the loud, deep, baby voice said imperiously:
“Salute! Slave! salute!”
The words were barely uttered when by pure chance Prince Askurry’s foot caught in the ragged carpet, and——?
And down he came flat as a pancake on the floor in the very lowliest salute that ever was made!
The next moment, however, he sat up, half-stunned, and looked wrathfully at his little nephew.
But Baby Akbar’s honest open face was full of grieved sympathy.
“Poor, poor!” he said, shaking his quaintly crowned head, “tumbu down. Nanna kiss it, make it well.”
Prince Askurry sat stupidly staring for a moment or two. Then the memory of many a childish hurt cured by like gracious offer from his father came back to him, making his heart soft. He sprang to his feet and waved by his councillors to cruelty.
“Go, my lords!” he cried fiercely. “Go seek the King who is no true King if ye will, and kill him. But this boy goes with me to Kandahar; the stuff of which he is made counts for life, not for death.”
Then with a sudden generous impulse, for he was at heart his father’s son, he held the hilt of his drawn sword in token of vassalage for Baby Akbar to touch.