Sky Island

Page 15

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.

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