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The Iceberg Express (3)

2006-09-07 21:00

    Damages

    King Seaphus waited anxiously as the knocking on the castle door continued. "Billows and breakers," he exclaimed again, expectantly waiting for the visitor or visitors to be announced.

    Just as his impatience was nearly exhausted, a court page appeared escorting a Polar Bear and a Star Fish. Mary Louise at once recognized the former as the porter on the Iceberg Express. The visitors bowed respectfully to the King, and the little Star Fish winked one of his five small eyes at the Princess. The Polar Bear smiled at Mary Louise, but said nothing.

    "Well," exclaimed King Seaphus, after a brief silence, "you honor us by your presence, but, what do you want?"

    "I want redress," cried the Star Fish in a queer little gurgle.

    "You want what?" thundered the King, realizing now that his visitors were looking for damages on account of the accident. This naturally worried him, as he was a heavy stockholder in the Sea Bottom Subway.

    "One of my five fingers has been badly bruised," continued the Star Fish, "for which reason I shall sue for damages."

    "I have suffered internal injuries," said the Polar Bear, speaking up quickly, encouraged by the independent manner of the Star Fish.

    "Internal injuries!" laughed the King; "infernal fiddlesticks, I have heard that tune before!"

    "Your Highness," interposed the Star Fish, "my condition is quite serious. As I have but five fingers, to have one of them injured is far worse than to have one of my feet, for of the latter I have hundreds."

    The King looked at him inquiringly. Although he was Monarch of the Sea, perhaps he did not know that a Star Fish, while he has hundreds of little feet, has no legs at all. Even his feet do not move as ordinary feet do, one before the other; they can only cling like little suckers pulling him slowly along from place to place.

    "Neither am I like the everyday common fish. My mouth is in the center of my body, and I have a little scarlet-colored sieve through which I strain the sea-water. I couldn't think of swallowing sea-water with everything that might be floating in it."

    "Holy mackerel!" exclaimed the King, under his breath, "I'd better settle with this individual as quickly as possible. He'll drive me crazy if I don't, and maybe, cause me no end of trouble."

    "Your Royal Highness," began the Polar Bear, "I was hit by a large piece of ice in the chest."

    "In the ice-chest or in the ice-box?" inquired the King, his humor getting the better of his anger, for he could never let go by an opportunity to make a pun.

    "Your Royal Highness," interrupted the Star Fish, "I wish to state that I took this little trip for my health. My doctor told me I must go South. So I boarded at Cape Cod, intending to spend the summer in the mountains."

    "In the mountains!" roared King Seaphus. "You don't go to the seashore for the mountains! You should have gone inland to the White Mountains or the Catskills——those are well-known summer resorts."

    "May it please your Royal Highness," said the Star Fish, stroking his beautiful purple coat with on eof his five little finger, "I was bound for the Caribbean Sea, which is as full of mountains as New Hampshire and Vermont are. Of course, none of them have caps of snow like Mount Washington, for it's nice and warm in the Caribbean Sea; that's the reason I want to go there. But, if is wrecked, how am I to continue my journey?"

    "Sufferin' mackerel!" exclaimed King Seaphus; this time he uttered the words aloud and not under his breath, "Sufferin' mackerel! I'll see that you get there, if I have to charter a special train!"

    "But what about my finger?" asked the Star Fish.

    "Oh, I'll reimburse you for your ticket," exclaimed the King. "And now, what can I do for you?" he asked, turning to the Polar Bear.

    "Train Porters have very low wages," replied the Polar Bear.

    "Very well," answered King Seaphus, " I will see that yours are doubled," and he waved the two visitors away with a haughty gesture. The court page then escorted them to the door.

    "You heard what I said," cried the King, turning to the Prime Minister. "Now go to the General Manager of the Sea Bottom Subway and inform him of my wishes. Also that he must have an express ready to start for the Caribbean Sea tomorrow morning without fail."

    The Prime Minister bowed respectfully and departed.

    "Whew!" exclaimed the King, smiling at Mary Louise and his daughter as soon as the three were again alone, "if that Star Fish wasn't a walking encyclopedia! He had everything at his five finger-ends!"

    "I think I'll take the same train as the little Star Fish," said Mary Louise, "for I've never been to the Caribbean Sea and I think it must be a lovely place."

    "May I go with Mary Louise?" asked the Mermaid Princess.

    "Well, I don't see why not," answered her father, after a pause, "only you must get back inside of a fortnight, for your mother will be home by that time."

    "I must see that my mother-of-pearl trunk is packed," said the Princess. "Come with me, Mary Louise." Then curtseying to the King, they swam up the water stairway to the room of the little mermaid.

    The next morning found Mary Louise and the Mermaid Princess waiting anxiously at the station for the Iceberg Express. On the platform they recognized among the passengers their little friend, the Star Fish. In a few minutes the express thundered into the station. "Watch your step!" yelled the Polar Bear Porter as he helped Mary Louise and the Princess on board. Then with a rush and a roar started on its journey for the Mountains of the Sea!

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