Sky Island

Page 36

She was a beautiful girl of about seventeen years of age, not fat like all the rest of the Pinkies but slender and well formed according to our own ideas of beauty. Her complexion was not a decided pink, but a soft, rosy tint not much deeper than that of Trot's skin. Instead of a silken gown furbelowed like all the others they had seen women wear in this land, Tourmaline was dressed in a severely plain robe of coarse pink cloth much resembling bedticking. Across her brow, however, was a band of rose gold, in the center of which was set a luminous pink jewel which gleamed more brilliantly than a diamond. It was her badge of office and seemed very incongruous when compared with her poor rainment and simple surroundings.

As they entered, the girl sighed and laid down her work. Her expression was patient and resigned as she faced her audience. "What is it, Coralie?" she asked the woman.

"Here are three strange people, Tourmaline," was the reply, "who say they have entered our country through the Fog Bank. They tell a queer story of an escape from the Blueskins, so I decided to bring them to you, that you may determine their fate."

The Queen gazed upon our friends with evident interest. She smiled--a little sadly--at Trot, seemed to approve Button-Bright's open, frank face, and was quite surprised because Cap'n Bill was so much bigger than her own people. "Are you a giant?" she asked the sailor in a soft, sweet voice.

"No, your Majesty," he replied, "I'm only--"

"Majesty!" she exclaimed, flushing a deeper pink. "Are you addressing that word to me?"

"O' course, ma'am," answered Cap'n Bill. "I'm told that's the proper way to speak to a Queen."

"Perhaps you are trying to ridicule me," she continued, regarding the sailor's face closely. "There is nothing majestic about me, as you know very well. Coralie, do you consider 'majesty' a proper word to use when addressing a Queen?" she added, appealing to the Pinky woman.

"By no means," was the prompt reply.

"What shall I call her, then?" inquired Cap'n Bill.

"Just Tourmaline. That is her name, and it is sufficient," said the woman.

"The Ruler of a country ought to be treated with great respec'," declared Trot a little indignantly, for she thought the pretty little queen was not being properly deferred to.

"Why?" asked Tourmaline curiously.

"Because the Ruler is the mos' 'risticratic person in any land," explained the little girl. "Even in America ever'body bows low to our President, an' the Blueskins are so 'fraid o' their Boolooroo that they tremble whenever they go near him."

"But surely that is all wrong," said Tourmaline gravely. "The Ruler is appointed to protect and serve the people, and here in the Pink Country I have the full power to carry out the laws. I even decree death when such a punishment is merited. Therefore I am a mere agent to direct the laws, which are the Will of the People, and am only a public servant obliged constantly to guard the welfare of my subjects."

"In that case," said Button-Bright, "you're entitled to the best there is to pay for your trouble. A powerful ruler ought to be rich and to live in a splendid palace. Your folks ought to treat you with great respect, as Trot says."

"Oh no," responded Tourmaline quickly. "That would indeed be very wrong. Too much should never be given to anyone. If, with my great power, conferred upon me by the people, I also possessed great wealth, I might be tempted to be cruel and overbearing. In that case my subjects would justly grow envious of my superior station. If I lived as luxuriously as my people do and had servants and costly gowns, the good Pinkies would say that their Queen had more than they themselves, and it would be true. No, our way is best. The Ruler, be it king or queen, has absolute power to rule, but no riches, no high station, no false adulation. The people have the wealth and honor, for it is their due. The Queen has nothing but the power to execute the laws, to adjust grievances and to compel order."

"What pays you, then, for all your bother?" asked Trot.

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