"You're a-makin' a sad mistake, for we're as harmless as doves; but seein' as you're suspicious, we'd better have it out with your Queen first as last."
Their clothing was quite dry by this time, although much wrinkled and discolored by the penetrating fog, so at once they prepared to follow the Pinkies. The two men walked on either side of them, holding the pointed sticks ready to jab them if they attempted to escape, and the two women followed in the rear, also armed with sharp sticks.
So the procession moved along the pretty roadways to the City, which they soon reached. There was a strong, high wall of pink marble around it, and they passed through a gate made of pink metal bars and found themselves in a most delightful and picturesque town. The houses were big and substantial, all round in shape, with domed roofs and circular windows and doorways. In all the place there was but one street--a circular one that started at the gate and wound like a corkscrew toward the center of the City. It was paved with pink marble, and between the street and the houses that lined both sides of it were gardens filled with pink flowers and pink grass lawns, which were shaded by pink trees and shrubbery.
As the Queen lived in the very center of the city, the captives were obliged to parade the entire length of this street, and that gave all the Pink Citizens a chance to have a good look at the strangers. The Pinkies were every one short and fat and gorgeously dressed in pink attire, and their faces indicated that they were contented and happy. They were much surprised at Cap'n Bill's great size and wooden leg--two very unusual things in their experience--and the old sailor frightened more than one Pink boy and girl and sent them scampering into the houses, where they viewed the passing procession from behind the window shutters in comparative safety. As for the grown people, many of them got out their sharp-pointed sticks to use as weapons in case the strangers attacked them or broke away from their guards. A few, more bold than the others, followed on at the tail of the procession, and so presently they all reached an open, circular place in the exact center of the Pink City.
TOURMALINE THE POVERTY QUEEN
The open space which they entered was paved with pink marble, and around it were two rows of large, pink statues, at least life-size and beautifully sculptured. All were set upon nicely carved pink pedestals. They were, of course, statues of Pinky men and women, and all had bands of pink metal around their foreheads, in the center of each band being a glistening pink jewel.
About the middle of the open space inside the statues, which appeared to be the public meeting place of the Pinkies, was a small, low house, domed like all the other houses but built of a coarse pink stone instead of the fine marble to be seen everywhere else. It had no ornamentation, being exceedingly plain in appearance. No banners floated from it; no flowers grew near it.
"Here," said one of their guides as the procession halted before the little stone building, "is the palace of Tourmaline, who is our Queen."
"What, that little cabin?" exclaimed Trot.
"Of course. Did you suppose a palace would be like one of our handsome residences?" asked the woman, evidently surprised.
"I thought it would be better," said the girl. "All the palaces I've seen were splendid."
"A splendid palace!" exclaimed one of the Pinkies, and then they looked at one another in amazement and seemed to doubt that their ears had heard aright.
"These intruders are very peculiar people," remarked a man in the crowd.
"They seem very ignorant, poor things!" said another in reply.
"Come!" commanded the woman who led the party. "You three must follow me to the presence of Tourmaline. The people must wait outside, for there is no room for them in the palace."
So they followed her through the low archway, and in a room beyond, very simply furnished, sat a young girl engaged in darning a pair of pink stockings.