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King Joe

from The Sea Fairies





As they swam out of Anko's palace and the doll-faced fishes left
them, Aquareine asked:

"Would you rather go back to our mermaid home for a time and rest
yourselves or would you prefer to start for Giant's Cave at once?"

"I guess we'd better go back home," decided Trot. "To our own home,
I mean. We've been away quite a while, and King Anko seemed to think
it was best."

"Very well," replied the Queen. "Let us turn in this direction,
then."

"You can say goodbye to Merla for us," continued Trot. "She was very
nice to us, an' 'specially to Cap'n Bill."

"So she was, mate," agreed the sailor, "an' a prettier lady I never
knew, even if she is a mermaid, beggin' your pardon, ma'am."

"Are we going anywhere near Zog's castle?" asked the girl.

"Our way leads directly past the opening in the dome," said
Aquareine.

"Then let's stop and see what Sacho and the others are doing,"
suggested Trot. "They can't be slaves any longer, you know, 'cause
they haven't any master. I wonder if they're any happier than they
were before?"

"They seemed to be pretty happy as it was," remarked Cap'n Bill.

"It will do no harm to pay them a brief visit," said Princess Clia.
"All danger disappeared from the cavern with the destruction of
Zog."

"I really ought to say goodbye to Brother Joe," observed the sailor
man. "I won't see him again, you know, and I don't want to seem
unbrotherly."

"Very well," said the Queen, "we will reenter the cavern, for I,
too, am anxious to know what will be the fate of the poor slaves of
the magician."

When they came to the hole in the top of the dome, they dropped
through it and swam leisurely down toward the castle. The water was
clear and undisturbed and the silver castle looked very quiet and
peaceful under the radiant light that still filled the cavern. They
met no one at all, and passing around to the front of the building,
they reached the broad entrance and passed into the golden hall.

Here a strange scene met their eyes. All the slaves of Zog, hundreds
in number, were assembled in the room, while standing before the
throne formerly occupied by the wicked magician was the boy Sacho,
who was just beginning to make a speech to his fellow slaves. "At
one time or another," he said, "all of us were born upon the earth
and lived in the thin air, but now we are all living as the fishes
live, and our home is in the water of the ocean. One by one we have
come to this place, having been saved from drowning by Zog, the
Magician, and by him given power to exist in comfort under water.
The powerful master who made us his slaves has now passed away
forever, but we continue to live, and are unable to return to our
native land, where we would quickly perish. There is no one but us
to inherit Zog's possessions, and so it will be best for us to
remain in this fine castle and occupy ourselves as we have done
before, in providing for the comforts of the community. Only in
labor is happiness to be found, and we may as well labor for
ourselves as for others.

"But we must have a king. Not an evil, cruel master like Zog, but
one who will maintain order and issue laws for the benefit of all.
We will govern ourselves most happily by having a ruler, or head,
selected from among ourselves by popular vote. Therefore I ask you
to decide who shall be our king, for only one who is accepted by all
can sit in Zog's throne."

The slaves applauded this speech, but they seemed puzzled to make
the choice of a ruler. Finally the chief cook came forward and said,
"We all have our duties to perform and so cannot spend the time to
be king. But you, Sacho, who were Zog's own attendant, have now no
duties at all. So it will be best for you to rule us. What say you,
comrades? Shall we make Sacho king?"

"Yes, yes!" they all cried.

"But I do not wish to be king," replied Sacho. "A king is a useless
sort of person who merely issues orders for others to carry out. I
want to be busy and useful. Whoever is king will need a good
attendant as well as an officer who will see that his commands are
obeyed. I am used to such duties, having served Zog in this same
way."

"Who, then, has the time to rule over us?" asked Agga-Groo, the
goldsmith.

"It seems to me that Cap'n Joe is the proper person for king,"
replied Sacho. "His former duty was to sew buttons on Zog's
garments, so now he is out of a job and has plenty of time to be
king, for he can sew on his own buttons. What do you say, Cap'n
Joe?"

"Oh, I don't mind," agreed Cap'n Joe. "That is, if you all want me
to rule you."

"We do!" shouted the slaves, glad to find someone willing to take
the job.

"But I'll want a few pointers," continued Cap'n Bill's brother. "I
ain't used to this sort o' work, you know, an' if I ain't properly
posted I'm liable to make mistakes."

"Sacho will tell you," said Tom Atto encouragingly. "And now I must
go back to the kitchen and look after my dumplings, or you people
won't have any dinner today."

"Very well," announced Sacho. "I hereby proclaim Cap'n Joe elected
King of the Castle, which is the Enchanted Castle no longer. You may
all return to your work."

The slaves went away well contented, and the boy and Cap'n Joe now
came forward to greet their visitors. "We're on our way home,"
explained Cap'n Bill, "an' we don't expec' to travel this way again.
But it pleases me to know, Joe, that you're the king o' such a fine
castle, an' I'll rest easier now that you're well pervided for."

"Oh, I'm all right, Bill," returned Cap'n Joe. "It's an easy life
here, an' a peaceful one. I wish you were as well fixed."

"If ever you need friends, Sacho, or any assistance or counsel, come
to me," said the Mermaid Queen to the boy.

"Thank you, madam," he replied. "Now that Zog has gone, I am sure we
shall be very safe and contented. But I shall not forget to come to
you if we need you. We are not going to waste any time in anger or
revenge or evil deeds, so I believe we shall prosper from now on."

"I'm sure you will," declared Trot.

They now decided that they must continue their journey, and as
neither Sacho nor King Joe could ascend to the top of the dome
without swimming in the human way, which was slow and tedious work
for them, the goodbyes were said at the castle entrance, and the
four visitors started on their return. Trot took one last view of
the beautiful silver castle from the hole high up in the dome, which
was now open and unguarded, and the next moment she was in the broad
ocean again, swimming toward home beside her mermaid friends.





Next: Trot Lives To Tell The Tale

Previous: The Home Of The Ocean Monarch



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