CAP'N BILL suspected that these remarks were addressed to him, but he couldn't move just thenbecause the seat was across him, and a boy and girl were sprawling on the seat. As the MagicUmbrella was now as motionless as any ordinary umbrella might be, Button-Bright first releasedthe catch and closed it up, after which he unhooked the crooked handle from the rope and roseto his feet. Trot had managed by this time to stand up and she pulled the board off from Cap'nBill. All this time the shrill, excited voice was loudly complaining because the sailor was onhis feet, and Trot looked to see who was making the protest, while Cap'n Bill rolled over andgot on his hands and knees so he could pull his meat leg and his wooden leg into an uprightposition, which wasn't a very easy thing to do.
Button-Bright and Trot were staring with all their might at the queerest person they had everseen. They decided it must be a man, because he had two long legs, a body as round as a ball, aneck like an ostrich and a comical little head set on the top of it. But the most curious thingabout him was his skin, which was of a lovely sky-blue tint. His eyes were also sky-blue, andhis hair, which was trained straight up and ended in a curl at the top of his head, waslikewise blue in color and matched his skin and his eyes. He wore tight-fitting clothes made ofsky-blue silk, with a broad blue ruffle around his long neck, and on his breast glittered amagnificent jewel in the form of a star, set with splendid blue stones.
If the blue man astonished the travelers they were no less surprised by his surroundings, forlook where they might, everything they beheld was of the same blue color as the sky above. Theyseemed to have landed in a large garden, surrounded by a high wall of blue stone. The treeswere all blue, the grass was blue, the flowers were blue and even the pebbles in the paths wereblue. There were many handsomely carved benches and seats of blue wood scattered about thegarden, and near them stood a fountain, made of blue marble, which shot lovely sprays of bluewater into the blue air.
But the angry inhabitant of this blue place would not permit them to look around them in peace,for as soon as Cap'n Bill rolled off his toes he began dancing around in an excited way andsaying very disrespectful things of his visitors.
"You brutes! you apes! you miserable white-skinned creatures! How dare you come into my gardenand knock me on the head with that awful basket and then fall on my toes and cause me pain andsuffering? How dare you, I say? Don't you know you will be punished for your impudence? Don'tyou know the Boolooroo of the Blues will have revenge? I can have you patched for this insult,and I will—just as sure as I'm the Royal Boolooroo of Sky Island!"
"Oh, is this Sky Island, then?" asked Trot.
"Of course it's Sky Island. What else could it be? And I'm its Ruler—its King—its sole RoyalPotentate and Dictator. Behold in the Personage you have injured the Mighty Quitey RightyBoolooroo of the Blues!" Here he strutted around in a very pompous manner and wagged his littlehead contemptuously at them.
"Glad to meet you, sir," said Cap'n Bill. "I allus had a likin' for kings, bein' as they'resummat unusual. Please 'scuse me for a-sittin' on your royal toes, not knowin' as your toeswere there."
"I won't excuse you!" roared the Boolooroo. "But I'll punish you. You may depend upon that."
"Seems to me," said Trot, "you're actin' rather imperlite to strangers. If anyone comes to ourcountry to visit us, we always treat 'em decent."
" Your country!" exclaimed the Boolooroo, looking at them more carefully and seeming interestedin their appearance. "Where in the Sky did you come from, then, and where is your countrylocated?"
"We live on the Earth, when we're at home," replied the girl.
"The Earth? Nonsense! I've heard of the Earth, my child, but it isn't inhabited. No one canlive there because it's just a round, cold, barren ball of mud and water," declared theBlueskin.
"Oh, you're wrong about that," said Button-Bright.
"You surely are," added Cap'n Bill.
"Why, we live there ourselves," cried Trot.
"I don't believe it. I believe you are living in Sky Island, where you have no right to be,with your horrid white skins. And you've intruded into the private garden of the palace of theGreatly Stately Irately Boolooroo, which is a criminal offense; and you've bumped my head withyour basket and smashed my toes with your boards and bodies, which is a crime unparalleled inall the history of Sky Island! Aren't you sorry for yourselves?"
"I'm sorry for you," replied Trot, "'cause you don't seem to know the proper way to treatvisitors. But we won't stay long. We'll go home, pretty soon."
"Not until you have been punished!" exclaimed the Boolooroo, sternly. "You are my prisoners."
"Beg parding, your Majesty," said Cap'n Bill, "but you're takin' a good deal for granted. We'vetried to be friendly an' peaceable, an' we've 'poligized for hurtin' you; but if that don'tsatisfy you, you'll have to make the most of it. You may be the Boolooroo of the Blues, but youain't even a tin whistle to us, an' you can't skeer us for half a minute. I'm an ol' man,myself, but if you don't behave I'll spank you like I would a baby, an' it won't be any troubleat all to do it, thank'e. As a matter o' fact, we've captured your whole bloomin' blue island,
but we don't like the place very much, and I guess we'll give it back. It gives us theblues—don't it, Trot?—so as soon as we eat a bite o' lunch from our basket we'll sail awayagain."
"Sail away? How?" asked the Boolooroo.
"With the Magic Umbrel," said Cap'n Bill, pointing to the umbrella that Button-Bright washolding underneath his arm.
"Oh, ho! I see—I see," said the Boolooroo, nodding his funny head. "Go ahead, then, and eatyour lunch."
He retreated a little way to a marble seat beside the fountain, but watched the strangerscarefully. Cap'n Bill, feeling sure he had won the argument, whispered to the boy and girl thatthey must eat and get away as soon as possible, as this might prove a dangerous country forthem to remain in. Trot longed to see more of the strange blue island, and especially wanted toexplore the magnificent blue palace that adjoined the garden, and which had six hundred talltowers and turrets; but she felt that her old friend was wise in advising them to get awayquickly. So she opened the basket and they all three sat in a row on a stone bench and began toeat sandwiches and cake and pickles and cheese and all the good things that were packed in thelunch basket.
They were hungry from the long ride, and while they ate they kept their eyes busily employed inexamining all the queer things around them. The Boolooroo seemed quite the queerest ofanything, and Trot noticed that when he pulled the long curl that stuck up from the top of hishead a bell tinkled somewhere in the palace. He next pulled at the bottom of his right ear, andanother far-away bell tinkled; then he touched the end of his nose and still another bell wasfaintly heard. The Boolooroo said not a word while he was ringing the bells, and Trot wonderedif that was the way he amused himself. But now the frown died away from his face and wasreplaced by a look of satisfaction.
"Have you nearly finished?" he inquired.
"No," said Trot; "we've got to eat our apples yet."
"Apples—apples? What are apples?" he asked.
Trot took some from the basket.
"Have one?" she said. "They're awful good."
The Boolooroo advanced a step and took the apple, which he regarded with much curiosity.
"Guess they don't grow anywhere but on the Earth," remarked Cap'n Bill.
"Are they good to eat?" asked the Boolooroo.
"Try it and see," answered Trot, biting into an apple herself.
The Blueskin sat down on the end of their bench, next to Button-Bright, and began to eat hisapple. He seemed to like it, for he finished it in a hurry, and when it was gone he picked upthe Magic Umbrella.
"Let that alone!" said Button-Bright, making a grab for it. But the Boolooroo jerked it away inan instant and standing up he held the umbrella behind him and laughed aloud.
"Now, then," said he, "you can't get away until I'm willing to let you go. You are myprisoners."
"I guess not," returned Cap'n Bill, and reaching out one of his long arms, the sailormansuddenly grasped the Boolooroo around his long, thin neck and shook him until his whole bodyfluttered like a flag.
"Drop that umbrel—drop it!" yelled Cap'n Bill, and the Boolooroo quickly obeyed. The MagicUmbrella fell to the ground and Button-Bright promptly seized it. Then the sailor let go hishold and the King staggered to a seat, choking and coughing to get his breath back.
"I told you to let things alone," growled Cap'n Bill. "If you don't behave, your Majesty, thisBlue Island'll have to get another Boolooroo."
"Why?" asked the Blueskin.
"Because I'll prob'ly spoil you for a king, an' mebbe for anything else. Anyhow, you'll getbadly damaged if you try to interfere with us—an' that's a fact."
"Don't kill him, Cap'n Bill," said Trot, cheerfully.
"Kill me? Why, he couldn't do that," observed the King, who was trying to rearrange the rufflearound his neck. "Nothing can kill me."
"Why not?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Because I haven't lived my six hundred years yet. Perhaps you don't know that every Blueskinin Sky Island lives exactly six hundred years from the time he is born."
"No; I didn't know that," admitted the sailor.
"It's a fact," said the King. "Nothing can kill us until we've lived to the last day of ourappointed lives. When the final minute is up, we die; but we're obliged to live all of the sixhundred years, whether we want to or not. So you needn't think of trying to kill anybody on SkyIsland. It can't be done."
"Never mind," said Cap'n Bill. "I'm no murderer, thank goodness, and I wouldn't kill you if Icould—much as you deserve it."
"But isn't six hundred years an awful long time to live?" questioned Trot.
"It seems like it, at first," replied the King, "but I notice that whenever any of my subjectsget near the end of their six hundred, they grow nervous and say the life is altogether tooshort."
"How long have you lived?" asked Button-Bright.
The King coughed again and turned a bit bluer.
"That is considered an impertinent question in Sky Island," he answered; "but I will say thatevery Boolooroo is elected to reign three hundred years, and I've reigned not quite—ahem!—twohundred."
"Are your kings elected, then?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Yes, of course; this is a Republic, you know. The people elect all their officers, from theKing down. Every man and every woman is a voter. The Boolooroo tells them whom to vote for, andif they don't obey they are severely punished. It's a fine system of government, and the onlything I object to is electing the Boolooroo for only three hundred years. It ought to be forlife. My successor has already been elected, but he can't reign for a hundred years to come."
"I think three hundred years is plenty long enough," said Trot. "It gives some one else achance to rule, an' I wouldn't be s'prised if the next king is a better one. Seems to me you'renot much of a Boolooroo."
"That," replied the King, indignantly, "is a matter of opinion. I like myself very much, but Ican't expect you to like me, because you're deformed and ignorant."
"I'm not!" cried Trot.
"Yes, you are. Your legs are too short and your neck is nothing at all. Your color is mostpeculiar, but there isn't a shade of blue about any of you, except the deep blue color of theclothes the old ape that choked me wears. Also, you are ignorant, because you know nothing ofSky Island, which is the Center of the Universe and the only place anyone would care to live."
"Don't listen to him, Trot," said Button-Bright; "he's an ignorant himself."
Cap'n Bill packed up the lunch basket. One end of the rope was still tied to the handle of thebasket and the other end to his swing seat, which lay on the ground before them.
"Well," said he, "let's go home. We've seen enough of this Blue Country and its Blue Boolooroo,I guess, an' it's a long journey back again."
"All right," agreed Trot, jumping up.
Button-Bright stood on the bench and held up the Magic Umbrella, so he could open it, and thesailor had just attached the ropes when a thin blue line shot out from behind them and in atwinkling wound itself around the umbrella. At the same instant another blue cord wound itselfaround the boy's body, and others caught Trot and Cap'n Bill in their coils, so that all hadtheir arms pinned fast to their sides and found themselves absolutely helpless.
THE Boolooroo was laughing and dancing around in front of them as if well pleased. For a momentthe prisoners could not imagine what had happened to them, but presently half a dozenBlueskins, resembling in shape and costume their ruler but less magnificently dressed, steppedin front of them and bowed low to the Boolooroo.
"Your orders, most Mighty, Flighty, Tight and Righty Monarch, have been obeyed," said theleader.
"Very well, Captain. Take that umbrella and carry it to my Royal Treasury. See that it issafely locked up. Here's the key, and if you don't return it to me within five minutes I'llhave you patched."
The Captain took the key and the Magic Umbrella and hastened away to the palace. Button-Brighthad already hooked the ropes to the elephant-trunk handle, so that when the Captain carriedaway the umbrella he dragged after him first the double seat, then Cap'n Bill's seat, which wasfastened to it, and finally the lunch-basket, which was attached to the lower seat. At everyfew steps some of these would trip up the Captain and cause him to take a tumble, but as he hadonly five minutes' time in which to perform his errand he would scramble to his feet again anddash along the path until a board or the basket tripped him again.
They all watched him with interest until he had disappeared within the palace, when the Kingturned to his men and said:
"Release the prisoners. They are now quite safe, and cannot escape me."
So the men unwound the long cords that were twined around the bodies of our three friends, andset them free. These men seemed to be soldiers, although they bore no arms except the cords.Each cord had a weight at the end, and when the weight was skillfully thrown by a soldier itwound the cord around anything in the twinkling of an eye and held fast until it was unwoundagain.
Trot decided these Blueskins must have stolen into the garden when summoned by the bells theBoolooroo had rung, but they had kept out of sight and crept up behind the bench on which our
friends were seated, until a signal from the king aroused them to action.
The little girl was greatly surprised by the suddenness of her capture, and so was Button-Bright. Cap'n Bill shook his head and said he was afeared they'd get into trouble. "Ourmistake," he added, "was in stoppin' to eat our lunch. But it's too late now to cry over spiltmilk."
"I don't mind; not much, anyhow," asserted Trot, bravely. "We're in no hurry to get back; arewe, Button-Bright?"
"I'm not," said the boy. "If they hadn't taken the umbrella I wouldn't care how long we stoppedin this funny island. Do you think it's a fairy country, Trot?"
"Can't say, I'm sure," she answered. "I haven't seen anything here yet that reminds me offairies; but Cap'n Bill said a floating island in the sky was sure to be a fairyland."
"I think so yet, mate," returned the sailor. "But there's all sorts o' fairies, I've heard.Some is good, an' some is bad, an' if all the Blueskins are like their Boolooroo they can't becalled fust-class."
"Don't let me hear any more impudence, prisoners!" called the Boolooroo, sternly. "You arealready condemned to severe punishment, and if I have any further trouble with you, you areliable to be patched."
"What's being patched?" inquired the girl.
The soldiers all laughed at this question, but the King did not reply. Just then a door in thepalace opened and out trooped a group of girls. There were six of them, all gorgeously dressedin silken gowns with many puffs and tucks and ruffles and flounces and laces and ribbons,everything being in some shade of blue, grading from light blue to deep blue. Their blue hairwas elaborately dressed and came to a point at the top of their heads.
The girls approached in a line along the garden path, all walking with mincing steps andholding their chins high. Their skirts prevented their long legs from appearing as grotesque asdid those of the men, but their necks were so thin and long that the ruffles around them onlymade them seem the more absurd.
"Ah," said the King, with a frown, "here come the Six Snubnosed Princesses—the most beautifuland aristocratic ladies in Sky Island."
"They're snubnosed, all right," observed Trot, looking at the girls with much interest; "but Ishould think it would make 'em mad to call 'em that."
"Why?" asked the Boolooroo, in surprise. "Is not a snubnose the highest mark of female beauty?"
"Is it?" asked the girl.
"Most certainly. In this favored island, which is the Center of the Universe, a snubnose is anevidence of high breeding which any lady would be proud to possess."
The Six Snubnosed Princesses now approached the fountain and stood in a row, staring withhaughty looks at the strangers.
"Goodness me, your Majesty!" exclaimed the first; "what queer, dreadful-looking creatures arethese? Where in all the Sky did they come from?"
"They say they came from the Earth, Cerulia," answered the Boolooroo.
"But that is impossible," said another Princess. "Our scientists have proved that the Earth isnot inhabited."
"Your scientists'll have to guess again, then," said Trot.
"But how did they get to Sky Island?" inquired the third snubnosed one.
"By means of a Magic Umbrella, which I have captured and put away in my Treasure Chamber,"replied the Boolooroo.
"What will you do with the monsters, papa?" asked the fourth Princess.
"I haven't decided yet," said the Boolooroo. "They're curiosities, you see, and may serve toamuse us. But as they're only half civilized I shall make them my slaves."
"What are they good for? Can they do anything useful?" asked the fifth.
"We'll see," returned the King, impatiently. "I can't decide in a hurry. Give me time, Azure;give me time. If there's anything I hate it's a hurry."
"I've an idea, your Majesty," announced the sixth Snubnosed Princess, whose complexion wasrather darker than that of her sisters, "and it has come to me quite deliberately, without anyhurry at all. Let us take the little girl to be our maid—to wait upon us and amuse us whenwe're dull. All the other ladies of the court will be wild with envy, and if the child doesn'tprove of use to us we can keep her for a living pincushion."
"Oh! Ah! That will be fine!" cried all the other five, and the Boolooroo said:
"Very well, Indigo; it shall be as you desire." Then he turned to Trot and added: "I presentyou to the Six Lovely Snubnosed Princesses, to be their slave. If you are good and obedient youwon't get your ears boxed oftener than once an hour."
"I won't be anybody's slave," protested Trot. "I don't like these snubnosed, fussy females an'I won't have anything to do with 'em."
"How impudent!" cried Cerulia.
"How vulgar!" cried Turquoise.
"How unladylike!" cried Sapphire.
"How silly!" cried Azure.
"How absurd!" cried Cobalt.
"How wicked!" cried Indigo. And then all six held up their hands as if horrified.
The Boolooroo laughed.
"You'll know how to bring her to time, I imagine," he remarked, "and if the girl isn'treasonable and obedient, send her to me and I'll have her patched. Now, then, take her away."
But Trot was obstinate and wouldn't budge a step.
"Keep us together, your Majesty," begged Cap'n Bill. "If we're to be slaves, don't separate us,but make us all the same kind o' slaves."
"I shall do what pleases me," declared the Boolooroo, angrily. "Don't try to dictate, oldMoonface, for there's only one Royal Will in Sky Island, and that's my own."
He then gave a command to a soldier, who hastened away to the palace and soon returned with anumber of long blue ribbons. One he tied around Trot's waist and then attached to it six otherribbons. Each of the Six Snubnosed Princesses held the end of a ribbon, and then they turnedand marched haughtily away to the palace, dragging the little girl after them.
"Don't worry, Trot," cried Button-Bright; "we'll get you out of this trouble pretty soon."
"Trust to us, mate," added Cap'n Bill; "we'll manage to take care o' you."
"Oh, I'm all right," answered Trot, with fine courage; "I'm not afraid of these gawkies."
But the princesses pulled her after them and soon they had all disappeared into one of theentrances to the Blue Palace.
"Now, then," said the Boolooroo, "I will instruct you two in your future duties. I shall makeold Moonface—"
"My name's Cap'n Bill Weedles," interrupted the sailor.
"I don't care what your name is; I shall call you old Moonface," replied the king, "for thatsuits you quite well. I shall appoint you the Royal Nectar Mixer to the Court of Sky Island,and if you don't mix our nectar properly I'll have you patched.
"How do you mix it?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"I don't mix it; it's not the Boolooroo's place to mix nectar," was the stern reply. "But youmay inquire of the palace servants and perhaps the Royal Chef or the Majordomo will condescendto tell you. Take him to the servants' quarters, Captain Ultramarine, and give him a suit ofthe royal livery."
So Cap'n Bill was led away by the chief of the soldiers, and when he had gone the king said toButton-Bright:
"You, slave, shall be the Royal Bootblue. Your duty will be to keep the boots and shoes of theroyal family nicely polished with blue."
"I don't know how," answered Button-Bright, surlily.
"You'll soon learn. The Royal Steward will supply you with blue paste, and when you've brushedthis on our shoes you must shine them with Q-rays of Moonshine. Do you understand?"
"No," said Button-Bright.
Then the Boolooroo told one of the soldiers to take the boy to the shoeblue den and have himinstructed in his duties, and the soldier promptly obeyed and dragged Button-Bright away to theend of the palace where the servants lived.
THE Royal Palace was certainly a magnificent building, with large and lofty rooms and superbfurnishings, all being in shades of blue. The soldier and the boy passed through several broadcorridors and then came to a big hall where many servants were congregated. These were staringin bewilderment at Cap'n Bill, who had been introduced to them by Captain Ultramarine. Now theyturned in no less surprise to examine the boy, and their looks expressed not only astonishmentbut dislike.
The servants were all richly attired in blue silk liveries and they seemed disposed to resentthe fact that these strangers had been added to their ranks. They scowled and muttered andbehaved in a very unfriendly way, even after Captain Ultramarine had explained that thenewcomers were merely base slaves, and not to be classed with the free royal servants of thepalace.
One of those present, however, showed no especial enmity to Button-Bright and Cap'n Bill, andthis Blueskin attracted the boy's notice because his appearance was so strange. He looked as ifhe were made of two separate men, each cut through the middle and then joined together, half ofone to half of the other. One side of his blue hair was curly and the other half straight; oneear was big and stuck out from the side of his head, while the other ear was small and flat;one eye was half shut and twinkling while the other was big and staring; his nose was thin onone side and flat on the other, while one side of his mouth curled up and the other down.Button-Bright also noticed that he limped as he walked, because one leg was a trifle longerthan the other, and that one hand was delicate and slender and the other thick and hardened byuse.
"Don't stare at him," a voice whispered in the boy's ear; "the poor fellow has been patched,that's all."
Button-Bright turned to see who had spoken and found by his side a tall young Blueskin with ablue-gold chain around his neck. He was quite the best looking person the boy had seen in SkyIsland and he spoke in a pleasant way and seemed quite friendly. But the two-sided man hadoverheard the remark and he now stepped forward and said, in a careless tone:
"Never mind; it's no disgrace to be patched in a country ruled by such a cruel Boolooroo as wehave. Let the boy look at me, if he wants to; I'm not pretty, but that's not my fault. Blamethe Boolooroo."
"I—I'm glad to meet you, sir," stammered Button-Bright. "What is your name, please?"
"I'm now named Jimfred Jonesjinks, and my partner is called Fredjim Jinksjones. He's busy atpresent guarding the Treasure Chamber, but I'll introduce you to him when he comes back. We'vehad the misfortune to be patched, you know."
"What is being patched?" asked the boy.
"They cut two of us in halves and mismatch the halves—half of one to half of the other, youknow—and then the other two halves are patched together. It destroys our individuality andmakes us complex creatures, so it's the worst punishment than can be inflicted in Sky Island."
"Oh," said Button-Bright, alarmed at such dreadful butchery; "doesn't it hurt?"
"No; it doesn't hurt," replied Jimfred, "but it makes one frightfully nervous. They stand youunder a big knife, which drops and slices you neatly in two—exactly in the middle. Then theymatch half of you to another person who has likewise been sliced—and there you are, patched tosomeone you don't care about and haven't much interest in. If your half wants to do something,the other half is likely to want to do something different, and the funny part of it is youdon't quite know which is your half and which is the other half. It's a terrible punishment,and in a country where one can't die or be killed until he has lived his six hundred years, tobe patched is a great misfortune."
"I'm sure it is," said Button-Bright, earnestly. "But can't you ever get—get— un -patched
"If the Boolooroo would consent, I think it could be done," Jimfred replied; "but he never willconsent. This is about the meanest Boolooroo who ever ruled this land, and he was the first toinvent patching people as a punishment. I think we will all be glad when his three hundredyears of rule are ended."
"When will that be?" inquired the boy.
"Hush-sh-sh!" cried everyone, in a chorus, and they all looked over their shoulders as iffrightened by the question. The officer with the blue-gold chain pulled Button-Bright's sleeveand whispered:
"Follow me, please." And then he beckoned to Cap'n Bill and led the two slaves to another room,where they were alone.
"I must instruct you in your duties," said he, when they were all comfortably seated in cosychairs with blue cushions. "You must learn how to obey the Boolooroo's commands, so he won'tbecome angry and have you patched."
"How could he patch us ?" asked the sailorman, curiously.
"Oh, he'd just slice you all in halves and then patch half of the boy to half of the girl, andthe other half to half of you, and the other half of you to the other half of the girl. See?"
"Can't say I do," said Cap'n Bill, much bewildered. "It's a reg'lar mix-up."
"That's what it's meant to be," explained the young officer.
"An' seein' as we're Earth folks, an' not natives of Sky Island, I've an idea the slicingmachine would about end us, without bein' patched," continued the sailor.
"Oh," said Button-Bright; "so it would."
"While you are in this country you can't die till you've lived six hundred years," declared theofficer.
"Oh," said Button-Bright; "that's different, of course. But who are you, please?"
"My name is Ghip-Ghi-siz-zle. Can you remember it?"
"I can 'member the 'sizzle,'" said the boy; "but I'm 'fraid the Gwip—Grip—Glip——"
"Ghip-Ghi-siz-zle," repeated the officer, slowly. "I want you to remember my name, because ifyou are going to live here you are sure to hear of me a great many times. Can you keep asecret?"