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Page 288

PART IV - THE EAST
CHAPTER VI - THE EMPEROR BABUR

AT the time that Machiavelli was collecting materials for The Prince, a robber boy, sorely in need of advice, was scuttling over the highlands of Central Asia. His problem had already engaged the attention and sympathy of the Florentine ; there were too many kings about, and not enough kingdoms. Tamurlane and Gengis Khan (the boy was descended from both) had produced between them so numerous a progeny that a frightful congestion of royalties had resulted along the upper waters of the Jaxartes and the Oxus, and in Afghanistan. One could scarcely travel two miles witbout being held up by an Emperor. The boy-had inherited Ferghana, a scrubby domain at the extreme north of the fashionable world ; thinking Samarkand a suitable addition, he conquered it from an uncle when he was thirteen. Then Ferghana revolted, and while trying to subdue it he lost Samarkand, too, and was left with nothing at all. His affairs grew worse ; steal as he might, others stole quicker, and at eighteen his mother made him marry-a tedious episode. He thought of escaping to China, so hopeless was the block of uncles, and cousins, and aunts ; poisoned coffee and the fire-pencil thinned them out, but only for a moment ; up they sprang ; again he conquered, lost, conquered and lost for ever Ferghana and Samarkand. Not until he was twenty-one, and had taken to drink, did the true direction of his destiny appear ; moving southward, he annexed Kabul. Here the horizon expanded : the waters flow southward again from Kabul, out of the Asian continent into the Indian ; he followed them, he took Delhi, he founded the Moghul Empire, and then, not to spoil the perfect outline of his life, he died. Had Machiavelli ever heard of Babur ? Probably not. But if the news had come through, huw he would have delighted in a career that was not only successful, but artistic ! And if Babur had ever heard of Machiavelli, how gladly he would have summoned him and shown him a

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