"I hope you're right, dear. I wouldn't want to bet on Zog's chances jes' yet, an' at the same time it would be riskin' money to bet on our chances. Seems to me it's a case of luck which wins."
"Don't worry, friend," said the Queen. "I have a plan to save us. Let us wait patiently until nightfall." They waited in the Rose Chamber a long time, talking earnestly together, but the brilliant light that flooded both the room and the great dome outside did not fade in the least. After several hours had passed away, the gong sounded and Tom Atto again appeared, followed by four slaves bearing many golden dishes upon silver trays. The friendly cook had prepared a fine dinner, and they were all glad to find that, whatever Zog intended to do to them, he had no intention of starving them. Perhaps the magician realized that Aquareine's fairy powers, if put to the test, would be able to provide food for her companions, but whatever his object may have been, their enemy had given them splendid rooms and plenty to eat.
"Isn't it nearly nighttime?" asked the Queen as Tom Atto spread the table with a cloth of woven seaweed and directed his men to place the dishes upon it.
"Night!" he exclaimed as if surprised. "There is no night here."
"Doesn't it ever get dark?" inquired Trot.
"Never. We know nothing of the passage of time or of day or night. The light always shines just as you see it now, and we sleep whenever we are tired and rise again as soon as we are rested."
"What causes the light?" Princess Clia asked.
"It's magic, your Highness," said the cook solemnly. "It's one of the curious things Zog is able to do. But you must remember all this place is a big cave in which the castle stands, so the light is never seen by anyone except those who live here."
"But why does Zog keep his light going all the time?" asked the Queen.
"I suppose it is because he himself never sleeps," replied Tom Atto. "They say the master hasn't slept for hundreds of years, not since Anko, the sea serpent, defeated him and drove him into this place."
They asked no more questions and began to eat their dinner in silence. Before long, Cap'n Joe came in to visit his brother and took a seat at the table with the prisoners. He proved a jolly fellow, and when he and Cap'n Bill talked about their boyhood days, the stories were so funny that everybody laughed and for a time forgot their worries.
When dinner was over, however, and Cap'n Joe had gone back to his work of sewing on buttons and the servants had carried away the dishes, the prisoners remembered their troubles and the fate that awaited them. "I am much disappointed," said the Queen, "to find there is no night here and that Zog never sleeps. It will make our escape more difficult. Yet we must make the attempt, and as we are tired and a great struggle is before us, it will be best for us to sleep and refresh ourselves."
They agreed to this, for the day had been long and adventurous, so Cap'n Bill kissed Trot and went in to the Peony Room, where he lay down upon his spongy couch and fell fast asleep. The mermaids and Trot followed this example, and I think none of them was much worried, after all, because they quickly sank into peaceful slumber and forgot all the dangers that threatened them.
THE QUEEN'S GOLDEN SWORD
"Goodness me!" exclaimed Trot, raising herself by a flirt of her pink-scaled tail and a wave of her fins, "isn't it dreadful hot here?"
The mermaids had risen at the same time, and Cap'n Bill came swimming in from the Peony Room in time to hear the little girl's speech.
"Hot!" echoed the sailor. "Why, I feel like the inside of a steam engine!"
The perspiration was rolling down his round, red face, and he took out his handkerchief and carefully wiped it away, waving his fish tail gently at the same time.
"What we need most in this room," said he, "is a fan."
"What's the trouble, do you s'pose?" inquired Trot.
"It is another trick of the monster Zog," answered the Queen calmly. "He has made the water in our rooms boiling hot, and if it could touch us, we would be well cooked by this time.