Authors: L. Frank Baum
Tags: #Young Readers, #Fantasy
Cap'n Bill suspected that these remarks were addressed to him, but he couldn't move just then because the seat was across him, and a boy and girl were sprawling on the seat. As the Magic Umbrella was now as motionless as any ordinary umbrella might be, Button–Bright first released the catch and closed it up, after which he unhooked the crooked handle from the rope and rose to his feet. Trot had managed by this time to stand up, and she pulled the board off from Cap'n Bill. All this time the shrill, excited voice was loudly complaining because the sailor was on his feet, and Trot looked to see who was making the protest, while Cap'n Bill rolled over and got on his hands and knees so he could pull his meat leg and his wooden leg into an upright position, 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 ever seen. They decided it must be a man because he had two long legs, a body as round as a ball, a neck like an ostrich, and a comical little head set on the top of it. But the most curious thing about him was his skin, which was of a lovely sky–blue tint. His eyes were also sky–blue, and his hair, which was trained straight up and ended in a curl at the top of his head, was likewise blue in color and matched his skin and his eyes. He wore tight–fitting clothes made of sky–blue silk, with a broad blue ruffle around his long neck, and on his breast glittered a magnificent 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, for look where they might, everything they beheld was of the same blue color as the sky above. They seemed to have landed in a large garden, surrounded by a high wall of blue stone. The trees were all blue, the grass was blue, the flowers were blue, and even the pebbles in the paths were blue. There were many handsomely carved benches and seats of blue wood scattered about the garden, and near them stood a fountain made of blue marble, which shot lovely sprays of blue water into the blue air.
But the angry inhabitants 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 and saying very disrespectful things of his visitors. "You brutes! You apes! You miserable, white–skinned creatures! How dare you come into my garden and knock me on the head with that awful basket and then fall on my toes and cause me pain and suffering? How dare you, I say? Don't you know you will be punished for your impudence? Don't you 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 Royal Potentate and Dictator. Behold in the Personage you have injured the Mighty Quitey Righty Boolooroo of the Blues!" Here he strutted around in a very pompous manner and wagged his little head contemptuously at them.
"Glad to meet you, sir," said Cap'n Bill. "I allus had a likin' for kings, bein' as they're summat unusual. Please "scuse me for a–sittin" on your royal toes, not knowin' as your toes were 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 our country to visit us, we always treat 'em decent."
"YOUR country!" exclaimed the Boolooroo, looking at them more carefully and seeming interested in their appearance. "Where in the Sky did you come from, then, and where is your country located?"
"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 can live there because it's just a round, cold, barren ball of mud and water," declared the Blueskin.
"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 the Greatly Stately Irately Boolooroo, which is a criminal offense. And you've bumped my head with your basket and smashed my toes with your boards and bodies, which is a crime unparalleled in all 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 treat visitors. 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've tried to be friendly and peaceable, an' we've "poligized for hurtin" you, but if that don't satisfy you, you'll have to make the most of it. You may be the Boolooroo of the Blues, but you ain'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 trouble at 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 the blues, don't it, Trot? So as soon as we eat a bite of lunch from our basket, we'll sail away again."
"Sail away? How?" asked the Boolooroo.
"With the Magic Umbrel," said Cap'n Bill, pointing to the umbrella that Button–Bright was holding underneath his arm.
"Oh, ho! I see, I see," said the Boolooroo, nodding his funny head. "Go ahead, then, and eat your lunch."
He retreated a little way to a marble seat beside the fountain, but watched the strangers carefully. Cap'n Bill, feeling sure he had won the argument, whispered to the boy and girl that they must eat and get away as soon as possible, as this might prove a dangerous country for them to remain in. Trot longed to see more of the strange blue island, and especially wanted to explore the magnificent blue palace that adjoined the garden and which had six hundred tall towers and turrets; but she felt that her old friend was wise in advising them to get away quickly. So she opened the basket, and they all three sat in a row on a stone bench and began to eat sandwiches and cake and pickles and cheese and all the good things that were packed in the lunch basket.
They were hungry from the long ride, and while they ate they kept their eyes busily employed in examining all the queer things around them. The Boolooroo seemed quite the queerest of anything, and Trot noticed that when he pulled the long curl that stuck up from the top of his head, a bell tinkled somewhere in the palace. He next pulled at the bottom of his right ear, and another faraway bell tinkled; then he touched the end of his nose, and still another bell was faintly heard. The Boolooroo said not a word while he was ringing the bells, and Trot wondered if that was the way he amused himself. But now the frown died away from his face and was replaced with 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 his apple. He seemed to like it, for he finished it in a hurry, and when it was gone he picked up the Magic Umbrella.
"Let that alone!" said Button–Bright, making a grab for it. But the Boolooroo jerked it away in an 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 my prisoners."
"I guess not," returned Cap'n Bill, and reaching out one of his long arms, the sailorman suddenly grasped the Boolooroo around his long, thin neck and shook him until his whole body fluttered like a flag. "Drop that umbrel. Drop it!" yelled Cap'n Bill, and the Boolooroo quickly obeyed. The Magic Umbrella fell to the ground, and Button–Bright promptly seized it. Then the sailor let go his hold 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, this Blue 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 get badly 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 ruffle around 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 Blueskin in 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 our appointed lives. When the final minute is up, we die; but we're obliged to live all of the six hundred years whether we want to or not. So you needn't think of trying to kill anybody on Sky Island. It can't be done.""
"Never mind," said Cap'n Bill. "I'm no murderer, thank goodness, and I wouldn't kill you if I could, 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 subjects get near the end of their six hundred, they grow nervous and say the life is altogether too short."
"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 that every Boolooroo is elected to reign three hundred years, and I've reigned not quite—ahem!—two hundred."
"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 the King down. Every man and every woman is a voter. The Boolooroo tells them whom to vote for, and if they don't obey, they are severely punished. It's a fine system of government, and the only thing I object to is electing the Boolooroo for only three hundred years. It ought to be for life. 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 someone else a chance to rule, an' I wouldn't be s'prised if the next king is a better one. Seems to me you're not much of a Boolooroo."
"That," replied the King indignantly, "is a matter of opinion. I like myself very much, but I can'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 most peculiar, but there isn't a shade of blue about any of you, except the deep–blue color of the clothes the old ape that choked me wears. Also, you are ignorant because you know nothing of Sky 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 the basket, 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 the sailor had just attached the ropes when a thin blue line shot out from behind them and in a twinkling wound itself around the umbrella. At the same instant another blue cord wound itself around the boy's body, and others caught Trot and Cap'n Bill in their coils, so that all had their 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 moment the prisoners could not imagine what had happened to them, but presently half a dozen Blueskins, resembling in shape and costume their ruler but less magnificently dressed, stepped in front of them and bowed low to the Boolooroo.
"Your orders, most Mighty, Flighty, Tight and Righty Monarch, have been obeyed," said the leader.
"Very well, Captain. Take that umbrella and carry it to my Royal Treasury. See that it is safely locked up. Here's the key, and if you don't return it to me within five minutes, I'll have you patched."
The Captain took the key and the Magic Umbrella and hastened away to the palace. Button–Bright had already hooked the ropes to the elephant–trunk handle, so that when the Captain carried away the umbrella, he dragged after him first the double seat, then Cap'n Bill's seat, which was fastened to it, and finally the lunch–basket, which was attached to the lower seat. At every few steps some of these would trip up the Captain and cause him to take a tumble, but as he had only five minutes' time in which to perform his errand, he would scramble to his feet again and dash along the path until a board or the basket tripped him up again.
They all watched him with interest until he had disappeared within the palace, when the King turned 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, and set 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, it wound the cord around anything in the twinkling of an eye and held fast until it was unwound again.
Trot decided these Blueskins must have stolen into the garden when summoned by the bells the Boolooroo 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. "Our mistake," he added, "was in stoppin' to eat our lunch. But it's too late now to cry over spilt milk."
"I don't mind, not much anyhow," asserted Trot bravely. "We're in no hurry to get back, are we, Button–Bright?"
"I'm not," said the boy. "If they hadn't taken the umbrella, I wouldn't care how long we stopped in 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 of fairies, 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 be called fust–class."
"Don't let me hear any more impudence, prisoners!" called the Boolooroo sternly. "You are already condemned to severe punishment, and if I have any further trouble with you, you are liable 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 the palace opened and out trooped a group of girls. There were six of them, all gorgeously dressed in 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 hair was 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 and holding their chins high. Their skirts prevented their long legs from appearing as grotesque as did those of the men, but their necks were so thin and long that the ruffles around them only made them seem the more absurd.
"Ah," said the King with a frown, "here come the Six Snubnosed Princesses, the most beautiful and aristocratic ladies in Sky Island."
"They're snubnosed, all right," observed Trot, looking at the girls with much interest, "but I should think it would make 'em mad to call 'em that."
"Why?" asked the Boolooroo in surprise. "Is not a snub nose 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 snub nose is an evidence 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 with haughty looks at the strangers.
"Goodness me, your Majesty!" exclaimed the first. "What queer, dreadful–looking creatures are these? 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 is not 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 to amuse 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 was rather darker than that of her sisters, "and it has come to me quite deliberately, without any hurry at all. Let us take the little girl to be our maid—to wait upon us and amuse us when we're dull. All the other ladies of the court will be wild with envy, and if the child doesn't prove 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 present you to the Six Lovely Snubnosed Princesses, to be their slave. If you are good and obedient, you won'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't reasonable 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, old Moonface, 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 a number of long, blue ribbons. One he tied around Trot's waist and then attached to it six other ribbons. Each of the Six Snubnosed Princesses held the end of a ribbon, and then they turned and 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 the entrances to the Blue Palace.
"Now, then," said the Boolooroo. "I will instruct you two in your future duties. I shall make old 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 that suits 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 you may inquire of the palace servants, and perhaps the Royal Chef or the Major–domo will condescend to tell you. Take him to the servants' quarters, Captain Ultramarine, and give him a suit of the royal livery."
So Cap'n Bill was lad away by the chief of the soldiers, and when he had gone, the king said to Button–Bright, "You, slave, shall be the Royal Bootblue. Your duty will be to keep the boots and shoes of the royal 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 brushed this 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 him instructed in his duties, and the soldiers promptly obeyed and dragged Button–Bright away to the end of the palace where the servants lived.