NOW the terrible thing that happened was one which Foster-father might have expected, but for two things.
One was the sentry who walked up and down all night long below the high second-story windows of the central
room. He would be bound to see any attempt to gain an entrance through them, even if they were wide enough to
admit the entry of a grown man, which they were not.
The other was the fact that he, Old Faithful, Meroo and Roy all slept in the outer room, into which the only
door opened, so that any intruder would have to force an entrance over their bodies; for they slept with drawn
swords beside them.
So as the days passed on Foster-father's vigilance—though he knew that cruel brother Kumran's agents
were on the lookout for any opportunity of kidnapping the Heir-to-Empire—slackened somewhat, especially
when the afternoons drew in, the fire in the big hall was made up, the quilts put down and Baby Akbar,
surrounded by his admiring circle, listened to Roy's stories or tumbled about with his playmates, Tumbu, the
dog, and Down, the cat.
One day, however, Down did not appear until little
 Akbar was having his supper, and then she came in a great hurry out of a small archway by the big fireplace,
which led to a sort of cupboard in the masonry, where charcoal had been kept, gobbled up a plate of bread and
milk, and hurried in again as if she had to catch a train.
"She has had kittens," said Foster-mother; "I wonder if they are white or black."
"Black!" sniffed Head-nurse. "What else could they be in that hole? Have a care, woman! or the Heir-to-Empire
will be blacking himself, too. The archway is large enough for him to creep in, and Heaven only knows whither
it might lead."
"That is true," replied Foster-mother, alarmed, as she distracted the child's attention.
But in a day or two his quick ear caught the sound of a feeble mewing inside the arch, and, of course, he
wanted to know what it was. So he was told that kittens had to be kept quiet and that Down would be very vexed
if her kitten was disturbed; but that by-and-bye she would doubtless bring it out for him to see, and then, of
course, he could play with it. Now, Baby Akbar was always a reasonable little fellow, so he waited patiently;
though every night when he went to bed and Down came out for her supper, his little mouth would go down and he
would hold up his little hands and twiddle them round and say mournfully:
"Kitty not 'weady. Kitty not 'weady."
 Now, one night there was a great festival in the palace, and the Heir-to-Empire had to go and pay his
respects, after the Indian manner on feast days, to his aunt and uncle. Then, when he returned, they sent him,
after Indian wont, trays full of fruit and sugar-toffee made in the shape of animals, and a few pieces of
muslin and stuffs to make new dresses for the party. In addition to this there was a trayful of supper, which
came afterward, when daylight had gone, with the Princess Sultanum's best compliments. At least so said the
man who brought it; but he did not wait to be questioned, and disappeared so soon as Meroo had taken the tray
But it was full of the most delicious dainties, including a bowl of sweet milk made with almonds and honey and
rice meal for Baby Akbar.
Head-nurse, however, would not let him eat it. She was always afraid of the little lad being poisoned, so
Meroo always cooked with his own hands everything the child ate. Therefore they gave it to Tumbu instead; for,
having been brought up by shepherds, he loved milk, and he licked his lips after it and was soon sound asleep
by the fire.
The lamb stewed with pistachio nuts and full of saffron looked, however, so delicious that after Meroo had
tasted it and pronounced it quite safe, since all knew that saffron would not go with real poison, they set to
work and finished the platter.
 They were all as jolly as could be afterward, though the heat of the fire and their heavy supper made them
sleepy; so Head-nurse, declaring it was far too cold in the inner room, dragged her bed and Foster-mother's
close to the fire, the others retired to the outer room, and before long they were all snoring away quite
For if the supper had not truly been poisoned, it had been drugged. Drugged with sleep-bringing drugs.
So, as the firelight flickered over the room faintly, it showed Head-nurse's face and Foster-mother's face and
even Tumbu's black muzzle in a dead sleep that was almost unconsciousness. And in the outer room Foster-father
snored, and even Roy's keen, hawk-face lay like one dead. Only Baby Akbar tossed and turned in his comfortable
nest between his two nurses.
Save for this, due to Head-nurse's precaution in not allowing the Heir-to-Empire sweet milk for supper, all
was as cruel brother Kumran's agents had planned when they had sent the pretended messenger from the palace
with the platter of delicacies. Even the sentry below was sleeping sound after his share of kid curry.
Thus, those who were on the roof waiting until the moon had set and they could without fear of discovery lower
the young lad, who was to steal Baby Akbar, down to the window (through which, being slender,
 the thief could slip easily), felt that their task was almost done.
But they reckoned without a great white fluff which after a time showed itself at the entry to the charcoal
bunker, yawning and stretching and blinking its eyes. Head-nurse had been quite wrong in saying Down's kitten
must be black in that hole! Its mother, anyhow, was beautifully white, perhaps because Down was a sensible cat
and had only chosen the charcoal bunker because she had found a lot of old straw and a blanket tucked away in
its farther corner. Besides, as she only had one kitten, she could spend all her time in licking it and
cleaning it with her rough, red tongue, after the manner of cats. Anyhow, there it lay, right out of reach of
any one, a little bundle of white fluff, and Down was just beginning to feel that there were other things in
the world besides kittens. For instance, was that scratching on the roof, think you, a mouse? If so—?
She passed to the fire. It was warm and nice; just the very place for a kitten's first look at the world, and
there were no troublesome people about; not but what she was anxious to show her kitten to Baby Akbar. But who
knew if horrid Head-nurse might not try to catch it? But Head-nurse was asleep. Down whisked her tail,
disappeared through the archway, and reappeared again gingerly, carrying the kitten in her mouth. It sprawled
in the firelight and mewed piteously. And there was that
 scratching on the roof again . . . really, kittens were a bore when one wanted to mouse. . . .
So far it is easy to follow Down's thoughts. What came next is more difficult. No one can say whether the cat
had really any notion that danger to her young master was abroad, or whether she only wanted to
show him her kitten, or whether she wanted it taken care of—for Persian cats, if they kill a rat at
night, have often been known to jump on their master's bed and insist on his taking custody of their prize
lest it should somehow come to life again if they left it alone—only this was certain, Baby Akbar woke
with a rough, red tongue licking his nose, and there, on the quilt, was Down beside the fluffiest, darlingest
little kitten that ever was!
He made a grab at it with his little fat hands. Whether this frightened its anxious mother or whether Down
really had a purpose in view, who can say? Only this is sure: she was off the bed in a second, Miss Kitten in
her mouth. A minute afterward Baby Akbar was off it also with a little crow of delight. But the drugged nurses
did not stir; they were away in the Land of Dreams. And hark! what was that curious noise outside the window,
as if something was slipping down the wall? Perhaps it was that that frightened Down once more;
for just as Baby Akbar's hand reached out to lay hold of the kitten, which she had set down by the fire, Down
snatched it up again and
 was off with it back to the charcoal bunker, with Baby Akbar after her, his face full of solemn resolve. He
meant to play with that kitty.
And play with her he did. At least, after he disappeared down the archway by the fireplace he did not come out
again. Only Down reappeared and seated herself at the entrance, her ears cocked, her eyes fixed on the window.
For something very funny had happened there, which, though the flicker of the fire had died down, she could
see with her cat's eyes.
A lad had slipped in, carrying the end of a rope, to which was attached a network bag. And now, since it was
dark, he was striking a light. A feeble little glimmer, but sufficient to show the two sleeping nurses and the
comfy little nest of quilts between them. But it was empty!
The boy seemed puzzled, and went into the inner room, only to return without what he sought. Then he stole
into the outer room, but came back softly with a puzzled look on his face. Then he began to peer about him on
the floor, and in the corners, holding the feeble light in front of him. Whereupon Down, apparently to satisfy
herself that her kitten really was safe in the corner of the charcoal bunker where she had left it, retreated
for a moment, so that as the searcher came round he saw nothing but the low, round arch. The next he gave a
stifled yell, for
 something white that was all claws leaped right in his face, over he went and out went his light.
"I look no more," he said, shivering as, after five minutes' hasty retreat, he stood on the roof among those
who had sent him down. "Let some one else go; but I tell you the child is not there."
But one of the crafty, cruel men had sharp wits. "Could he have crept into the charcoal bunker?" he suggested,
and the faces round him lit up. But the lad's remained sullen, as he wiped the blood from Down's scratches.
"Mayhap," he said. "But I go not near that cat again!"
So, as no one else was small enough to slip through the narrow slits of windows, the conspirators could only
curse their bad luck.
Thus it came to pass that the hours passed by without further attempt at baby-theft, while Foster-father
snored and Head-nurse dreamed the most heavenly dreams of wonderful court ceremonials, and all the others were
wrapped in the profoundest slumbers.
But they all woke at last, and once more there was the most terrible hullabaloo until Foster-mother
recollected the kitten in the charcoal bunker. Whereupon every one in turn flattened themselves on the floor
and reached in, and Roy actually got his head and one shoulder in; but no one could feel anything or find
 out how big it was or anything about it. Whereupon the two women began mutual recriminations and the men stood
helpless, when suddenly Down appeared with the kitten in her mouth, and Baby Akbar, who had evidently been
comfortably asleep on the blanket amid the straw, came crawling after his new pet.
"So far so good!" said Foster-father, who, noticing a fallen piece of mortar at the window-sill, had been
carefully examining certain signs and scratches both without and within, "but if I be not much mistaken, some
one hath been through here this night. And that we were all drugged ye must know if the inside of your mouths
be like mine! So we have to thank Heaven and the cat for an escape!"
And so they had, though it was a sore trial once more to the women to have nothing but guesswork to go upon.
"I wish I knew," murmured poor Foster-mother mournfully, as she watched Baby Akbar, and Down, and the kitten,
and Tumbu, all playing together before the fire.
But once more Baby Akbar was silent, and Down told nobody—unless it was Tumbu. Perhaps he
did know, because he allowed Down's kitten to play with his tail!