At every few steps some of these would trip up the Captain and cause him to take a tumble, but as he had only five minutes' time in which to perform his errand, he would scramble to his feet again and dash along the path until a board or the basket tripped him up again.
They all watched him with interest until he had disappeared within the palace, when the King turned to his men and said:
"Release the prisoners. They are now quite safe, and cannot escape me."
So the men unwound the long cords that were twined around the bodies of our three friends, and set them free. These men seemed to be soldiers, although they bore no arms except the cords. Each cord had a weight at the end, and when the weight was skillfully thrown by a soldier, it wound the cord around anything in the twinkling of an eye and held fast until it was unwound again.
Trot decided these Blueskins must have stolen into the garden when summoned by the bells the Boolooroo had rung, but they had kept out of sight and crept up behind the bench on which our friends were seated until a signal from the king aroused them to action.
The little girl was greatly surprised by the suddenness of her capture, and so was Button-Bright. Cap'n Bill shook his head and said he was afeared they'd get into trouble. "Our mistake," he added, "was in stoppin' to eat our lunch. But it's too late now to cry over spilt milk."
"I don't mind, not much anyhow," asserted Trot bravely. "We're in no hurry to get back, are we, Button-Bright?"
"I'm not," said the boy. "If they hadn't taken the umbrella, I wouldn't care how long we stopped in this funny island. Do you think it's a fairy country, Trot?"
"Can't say, I'm sure," she answered. "I haven't seen anything here yet that reminds me of fairies, but Cap'n Bill said a floating island in the sky was sure to be a fairyland."
"I think so yet, mate," returned the sailor. "But there's all sorts o' fairies, I've heard. Some is good, an' some is bad, an' if all the Blueskins are like their Boolooroo, they can't be called fust-class."
"Don't let me hear any more impudence, prisoners!" called the Boolooroo sternly. "You are already condemned to severe punishment, and if I have any further trouble with you, you are liable to be patched."
"What's being patched?" inquired the girl.
The soldiers all laughed at this question, but the King did not reply. Just then a door in the palace opened and out trooped a group of girls. There were six of them, all gorgeously dressed in silken gowns with many puffs and tucks and ruffles and flounces and laces and ribbons, everything being in some shade of blue, grading from light blue to deep blue. Their blue hair was elaborately dressed and came to a point at the top of their heads. The girls approached in a line along the garden path, all walking with mincing steps and holding their chins high. Their skirts prevented their long legs from appearing as grotesque as did those of the men, but their necks were so thin and long that the ruffles around them only made them seem the more absurd.
"Ah," said the King with a frown, "here come the Six Snubnosed Princesses, the most beautiful and aristocratic ladies in Sky Island."
"They're snubnosed, all right," observed Trot, looking at the girls with much interest, "but I should think it would make 'em mad to call 'em that."
"Why?" asked the Boolooroo in surprise. "Is not a snub nose the highest mark of female beauty?"
"Is it?" asked the girl.
"Most certainly. In this favored island, which is the Center of the Universe, a snub nose is an evidence of high breeding which any lady would be proud to possess."
The Six Snubnosed Princesses now approached the fountain and stood in a row, staring with haughty looks at the strangers.
"Goodness me, your Majesty!" exclaimed the first. "What queer, dreadful-looking creatures are these? Where in all the Sky did they come from?"
"They say they came from the Earth, Cerulia," answered the Boolooroo.
"But that is impossible," said another Princess.