Cruise of the Little Dipper Page 14

The Nautilus ships have deep, deep holds with many little cabins in them. When he shouted, a whole troop of fairy sailors came popping out to see who had called to them.

“Heigh-ho!” they replied.

“Where are you going?” asked Birdling.

“To the Fairy Islands.”

“Take me along?”

“With pleasure,” said the fairies. “Who are you? ’

“I’m Birdling, and the Shrimps are my crew.”

The Little Dipper was surrounded by the ships of pearl, and as the sea was quiet and the wind very low they could talk from deck to deck. The oldest one of the fairy captains was a Brownie named Trick. He was seven hundred years old, and knew about everything from the North Pole to the great Antarctic.

“We are going to the Fairy Islands with a cargo of ants’-eggs,” he told Birdling, “Our King likes to eat them poached, or fried, or scrambled, on his breakfast toast. We would do anything to cheer up the King.”

“Why does the King need cheering up?” Birdling inquired sympathetically. “I thought Kings were always happy.”

“Oh no, no, no, our Fairy King is very unhappy. His little son has been kidnapped by Shag.”

“Who is Shag?”

Trick shook his head and rolled his eyes at Birdling’s ignorance.