"The slicing and patching proves it, and so do lots of other things."
"Now then," said Ghip-Ghisizzle, "let us talk over your duties. It seems you must mix the royal nectar, Cap'n Bill. Do you know how to do that?"
"I'm free to say as I don't, friend Sizzle."
"The Boolooroo is very particular about his nectar. I think he has given you this job so he can find fault with you and have you punished. But we will fool him. You are strangers here, and I don't want you imposed upon. I'll send Tiggle to the royal pantry and keep him there to mix the nectar. Then when the Boolooroo or the Queen or any of the Snubnosed Princesses call for a drink, you can carry it to them and it will be sure to suit them."
"Thank'e sir," said Cap'n Bill. "That's real kind of you."
"Your job, Button-Bright, is easier," continued Ghip-Ghisizzle.
"I'm no bootblack," declared the boy. "The Boolooroo has no right to make me do his dirty work."
"You're a slave," the officer reminded him, "and a slave must obey."
"Why?" asked Button-Bright.
"Because he can't help himself. No slave ever wants to obey, but he just has to. And it isn't dirty work at all. You don't black the royal boots and shoes, you merely blue them with a finely perfumed blue paste. Then you shine them neatly and your task is done. You will not be humiliated by becoming a bootblack. You'll be a bootblue."
"Oh," said Button-Bright. "I don't see much difference, but perhaps it's a little more respectable."
"Yes, the Royal Bootblue is considered a high official in Sky Island. You do your work at evening or early morning, and the rest of the day you are at liberty to do as you please."
"It won't last long, Button-Bright," said Cap'n Bill consolingly. "Somethin's bound to happen pretty soon, you know."
"I think so myself," answered the boy.
"And now," remarked Ghip-Ghisizzle, "since you understand your new duties, perhaps you'd like to walk out with me and see the Blue City and the glorious Blue Country of Sky Island."
"We would that!" cried Cap'n Bill promptly.
So they accompanied their new friend through a maze of passages--for the palace was very big--and then through a high, arched portal into the streets of the City. So rapid had been their descent when the umbrella landed them in the royal garden that they had not even caught a glimpse of the Blue City, so now they gazed with wonder and interest at the splendid sights that met their eyes.
THE BLUE CITY
The Blue City was quite extensive, and consisted of many broad streets paved with blue marble and lined with splendid buildings of the same beautiful material. There were houses and castles and shops for the merchants, and all were prettily designed and had many slender spires and imposing turrets that rose far into the blue air. Everything was blue here, just as was everything in the Royal Palace and gardens, and a blue haze overhung all the city.
"Doesn't the sun ever shine?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Not in the blue part of Sky Island," replied Ghip-Ghisizzle. "The moon shines here every night, but we never see the sun. I am told, however, that on the other half of the Island--which I have never seen--the sun shines brightly but there is no moon at all."
"Oh," said Button-Bright. "Is there another half to Sky Island?'
"Yes, a dreadful place called the Pink Country. I'm told everything there is pink instead of blue. A fearful place it must be, indeed!" said the Blueskin with a shudder.
"I dunno 'bout that," remarked Cap'n Bill. "That Pink Country sounds kind o' cheerful to me. Is your Blue Country very big?"
"It is immense," was the proud reply. "This enormous city extends a half mile in all directions from the center, and the country outside the City is fully a half-mile further in extent. That's very big, isn't it?"
"Not very," replied Cap'n Bill with a smile. "We've cities on the Earth ten times bigger, an' then some big besides. We'd call this a small town in our country."
"Our Country is thousands of miles wide and thousands of miles long--it's the great United States of America!" added the boy earnestly.