STRONGER THAN FATE 307
could not live without her son, and was nearly as terrified at the idea of his becoming a soldier as she was at the thought of his being put in prison. But at length the king—determined to get the youth into his clutches— pacified her by promising her a pension large enough to keep her in comfort ; and Nur Mahomed, to his own great delight, was duly enrolled in the king's army.
As a soldier Nur Mahomed seemed to be in luck. He was rather surprised, but much pleased, to find that he was always one of those chosen when any difficult or dangerous enterprise was afoot; and, although he had the narrowest escapes on some occasions, still, the very desperateness of the situations in which he found himself gave him special chances of displaying his courage. And as he was also modest and generous, he became a favourite with his officers and his comrades.
Thus it was not very surprising that, before very long, he became enrolled amongst the picked men of the king's bodyguard. The fact is, that the king had hoped to have got him killed in some fight or another ; but, seeing that, on the contrary, he throve on hard knocks, he was now determined to try more direct and desperate methods.
One day, soon after Nur Mahomed had entered the bodyguard, he was selected to be one of the soldiers told off to escort the king through the city. The procession was marching on quite smoothly, when a man, armed with a dagger, rushed out of an alley straight towards the king. Nur Mahomed, who was the nearest of the guards, threw himself in the way, and received the stab that had been apparently intended for the king. Luckily the blow was a hurried one, and the dagger glanced on his breastbone, so that, although he received a severe wound, his youth and strength quickly got the better of it. The king was, of course, obliged to take some notice of this brave deed, and as a reward made him one of his own attendants.
After this the strange adventures the young man