Ghip-Ghisizzle seemed astonished. He was silent a moment, and then he said, "Here in Sky Island we prize truthfulness very highly. Our Boolooroo is not very truthful, I admit, for he is trying to misrepresent the length of his reign, but our people as a rule speak only the truth."
"So do we," asserted Cap'n Bill. "What Button-Bright said is the honest truth, every word of it."
"But we have been led to believe that Sky Island is the greatest country in the universe--meaning, of course, our half of it, the Blue Country."
"It may be for you, perhaps," the sailor stated politely. "An' I don't imagine any island floatin' in the sky is any bigger. But the Universe is a big place, an' you can't be sure of what's in it till you've traveled like we have."
"Perhaps you are right," mused the Blueskin, but he still seemed to doubt them.
"Is the Pink side of Sky Island bigger than the Blue side?" asked Button-Bright.
"No, it is supposed to be the same size," was the reply.
"Then why haven't you ever been there? Seems to me you could walk across the whole island in an hour," said the boy.
"The two parts are separated by an impassable barrier," answered Ghip-Ghisizzle. "Between them lies the Great Fog Bank."
"A fog bank? Why, that's no barrier!" exclaimed Cap'n Bill.
"It is indeed," returned the Blueskin. "The Fog Bank is so thick and heavy that it blinds one, and if once you got into the Bank, you might wander forever and not find your way out again. Also, it is full of dampness that wets your clothes and your hair until you become miserable. It is furthermore said that those who enter the Fog Bank forfeit the six hundred years allowed them to live and are liable to die at any time. Here we do not die, you know; we merely pass away."
"How's that?" asked the sailor. "Isn't 'pass'n' away' jus' the same as dyin'?"
"No indeed. When our six hundred years are ended, we march into the Great Blue Grotto, through the Arch of Phinis, and are never seen again."
"That's queer," said Button-Bright. "What would happen if you didn't march through the Arch?"
"I do not know, for no one has ever refused to do so. It is the Law, and we all obey it."
"It saves funeral expenses, anyhow," remarked Cap'n Bill. "Where is this Arch?"
"Just outside the gates of the City. There is a mountain in the center of the Blue land, and the entrance to the Great Blue Grotto is at the foot of the mountain. According to our figures, the Boolooroo ought to march into this Grotto a hundred years from next Thursday, but he is trying to steal a hundred years and so perhaps he won't enter the Arch of Phinis. Therefore, if you will please be patient for about a hundred years, you will discover what happens to one who breaks the Law."
"Thank'e," remarked Cap'n Bill. "I don't expect to be very curious a hundred years from now."
"Nor I," added Button-Bright, laughing at the whimsical speech. "But I don't see how the Boolooroo is able to fool you all. Can't any of you remember two or three hundred years back when he first began to rule?"
"No," said Ghip-Ghisizzle, "that's a long time to remember, and we Blueskins try to forget all we can, especially whatever is unpleasant. Those who remember are usually the unhappy ones; only those able to forget find the most joy in life."
During this conversation they had been walking along the streets of the Blue City, where many of the Blueskin inhabitants stopped to gaze wonderingly at the sailor and the boy, whose strange appearance surprised them. They were a nervous, restless people, and their egg-shaped heads, set on the ends of long, thin necks, seemed so grotesque to the strangers that they could scarcely forbear laughing at them. The bodies of these people were short and round and their legs exceptionally long, so when a Blueskin walked, he covered twice as much ground at one step as Cap'n Bill or Button-Bright did. The women seemed just as repellent as the men, and Button-Bright began to understand that the Six Snubnosed Princesses were, after all, rather better looking than most of the females of the Blue Country and so had a certain right to be proud and haughty.