The Adventures of Akbar
Transcriber's Note: The following variant spellings used by the authorwere retained as printed: Babar/Baber, Sultanum/Sultanam, gray/grey, Allah/Alâh, meaowed/miaowed. Also,for this HTML version, illustrations have been moved to their relevant locationsin the text, though the original page references in the List of Illustrations have been preserved.)
THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR
Uniform with this Volume
Price 6/-net each
THE SECRET GARDEN, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of "The Shuttle,"etc., illustrated by Charles Robinson.
THE FOUR GARDENS, by "Handasyde," illustrated by Charles Robinson.
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, illustrated byArthur Rackham.
ÆSOP'S FABLES, translated by V. S. Vernon Jones, with an introduction byG. K. Chesterton, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
London: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
21, BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR
FLORA ANNIE STEEL
ILLUSTRATED BY BYAM SHAW
LONDON · WILLIAM HEINEMANN · 1913
All rights reserved
My thoughts would be so full of you, my sweet,
That dreaming half—I seemed to hear once more
Your little fingers fluttering at the door,
The pitter patter of your childish feet
In joyous rhythm cross the echoing floor.
And warm soft arms around my neck would twine,
As soft and warm the dream child on my knees,
Cuddling so close in clear young voice would tease
And tease and tease in mimicked glad young whine
For "Just one little story if you please."
Mostly I think to dream my dreaming true,
I'd conjure up long tales of lands afar
And days gone by that yet remembered are;
Shaping my stories with this end in view
To gain the verdict "Tell some more, Mamma."
Into my life the spirit of a child.
Thus one by one the weary hours flew
And page by page a little volume grew,
So—that my dreams with truth be reconciled,
Take it, my darling, it was writ for you.
None read the pages. Therefore at the end
Of this world's life I dedicate to two
Small boys—her sons—whose question'ng eyes of blue
Tell me that dreams of childhood never end
This book. So take it boys—'twas writ for you.
This book is written for all little lads and lasses, but especially forthe former, since it is the true—quite true—story of a little ladwho lived to be, perhaps, the greatest king this world has ever seen.
It is a strange, wild tale this of the adventures of Prince Akbar amongthe snowy mountains between Kandahâr and Kâbul, and though the names maybe a bit of a puzzle at first, as they will have to be learned by andbye in geography and history lessons, it might be as well to getfamiliar with them in a story-book; though, indeed, as everybody in itexcept Roy the Râjput, Meroo the cook boy; Tumbu, the dog; and Down, thecat (and these four may have been true, you know, though they have notbeen remembered) really lived, I don't know whether this book oughtn'tto be considered real history, and therefore
A LESSON BOOK
Anyhow, I hope you won't find it dull.
|THE FIRST VICTORY||11|
|THE ROYAL UMBRELLA||20|
|ON THE ROAD||39|
|THE NIGHT OF RECORD||88|
|A WINTER MARCH||100|
|SNOW AND ICE||109|
|OVER THE PASS||119|
|IN THE VALLEY||128|
|CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN||147|
|THE GARDEN OF GAMES||169|
|BETWIXT CUP AND LIP||178|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Bismillah Al-la-hu Akbar!
These queer-looking, queer-sounding words, which in Arabic mean "thanksbe to God," were shrilled out at the very top of Head-nurse's voice. Hadshe been in a room they would have filled it and echoed back from thewalls; for she was a big, deep-chested woman. But she was only in atent; a small tent, which had been pitched in a hurry in anout-of-the-way valley among the low hills that lead from the wide plainsof India to Afghanistan. For Head-nurse's master and mistress, KingHumâyon and Queen Humeeda, with their thirteen months' old little son,Prince Akbar, were flying for their lives before their enemies. Andthese enemies were led by Humâyon's own brothers, Prince Kumran, Askurryand Hindal. It is a long story, and a sad story, too, how Humâyon, sobrave, so clever, so courteous, fell into misfortune by his own fault,and had to fly from his beautiful palaces at Delhi and wander for years,pursued like a hare, amid the sandy deserts and pathless plains ofWestern India. And now, as a last resource, his followers dwindled to amere handful, he was making a[Pg 2] desperate effort to escape over thePersian border and claim protection at the hands of Persia's King.
So the poor tent was ragged and out at elbows, for all that it was madeof costly Kashmir shawls, and that its poles were silver-gilt.
But Head-nurse's "Thanks be to God!" came from a full heart.
"What is it? What is it?" called an anxious voice from behind thecurtain which divided the tent in two.
"What?" echoed Head-nurse in high glee. "Only this: His ImperialHighness, Prince Akbar, the Admired-of-the-World, the Source-of-Dignity,the Most-Magnificent-Person-of-the-Period—" She went on, after herwont, rolling out all the titles that belonged of right to the littlePrince, until the soft, anxious voice lost patience and called again,"Have done—have done; what is it? Heaven save he hath not been indanger."
Head-nurse, stopped in her flow of fine words, sniffed contemptuously."Danger! with me to guard him? No! 'Tis that the High-in-Pomp hath cuthis first real back tooth! He can eat meat! He has come to man's estate!He is no longer dependent upon milk diet." Here she gave a witheringglance at the gentle looking woman who was Baby Akbar's wet-nurse, who,truth to tell, was looking just a little sad at the thought that hernursling would soon leave her consoling arms.[Pg 3]
"Heavens!" exclaimed the voice from within, "say you so?" And the nextinstant the curtain parted, and there was Queen Humeeda, Baby Akbar'smother, all smiling and eager.
Now, if you want to know what she was like, you must just think of yourown dearest dear mummie. At least that was what she seemed to littlePrince Akbar, who, at the sight of her, held out his little fat arms andcrowed, "Amma! Amma!" Now, this, you will observe, is only English"Ma-Ma" arranged differently; from which you may guess that English andIndian children are really very much alike.
And Queen Humeeda took the child and kissed him and hugged him just asany English mother would have done. Head-nurse, however, was not a bitsatisfied with this display of affection. That would have been theportion of any ordinary child, and Baby Akbar was more than that: he wasthe heir apparent to the throne of India! If he had only been in thepalaces that belonged to him, instead of in a miserable tent, therewould have been ceremonials and festivities and fireworks over thiscutting of a tooth! Aye! Certainly fireworks. But how could one keepup court etiquette when royalty was flying for its life? Impossible!Why, even her determination that, come what might, a royal umbrella mustbe held over the blessed infant during their perilous journeys had verynearly led to his being captured![Pg 4]
Despite this recollection, as she listened impatiently to the cooingsand gurglings, she turned over in her mind what she could do tocommemorate the occasion. And when pretty Queen Humeeda (thinking of herhusband, the king, who, with his few followers, had ridden off to see ifa neighboring chief would help them) said, "This will be joyful newswherewith to cheer my lord on his return," Head-nurse's irritation foundvoice.
"That is all very well," she cried. "So it would be to anycommon father of any common child, Your Royal Highness! This oneis the Admired-of-the-Whole-World, the Source-of-Dignity, theMost-Magnificent-Person-of-the-Period——"
And she went on rolling out queer guttural Arabic titles tillFoster-mother implored her to be silent or she would frighten the child.Could she not see the look on the darling's face?
For Baby Akbar was indeed listening to something with his little fingerup to command attention. But it was not to Head-nurse's thunderings, butto the first long, low growl of a coming storm that outside themiserable tent was turning the distant hills to purple and darkening thefast-fading daylight.
"Frighten?" echoed Head-nurse in derision. "The son of Humâyon theheroic, the grandson of Baber the brave could never be frightened atanything!"
And in truth the little lad was not a bit afraid, even[Pg 5] when a distantflash of lightning glimmered through the dusk.
"Heavens!" cried gentle Queen Humeeda, "his Majesty will be drenched tothe skin ere he returns." She was a brave woman, but the long, longstrain of daily, hourly danger was beginning to tell on her health, andthe knowledge that even this coming storm was against them brought thetears to her eyes.
"Nay! Nay! my royal mistress," fussed Head-nurse, who, in spite of herlove of pomp, was a kind-hearted, good woman, "this must not be on suchan auspicious day. It must be celebrated otherwise, and for all we areso poor, we can yet have ceremonial. When the child was born were we notin direst danger? Such danger that all his royal father could do inhonor of the glad event was to break a musk-bag before his faithfulfollowers as sign that the birth of an heir to empire would diffuseitself like perfume through the whole world? Even so now, and if Icannot devise some ceremony, then am I no Head-nurse!"
So saying she began to bustle around, and ere long even poor, unhappyQueen Humeeda began to take an interest in the proceedings.
A mule trunk, after being ransacked for useful odds and ends, was put ina corner and covered with a worn satin quilt. This must do for a throne.And a strip of red muslin wound about the little gold-embroidered skullcap