One morning, while the steamer lay in the harbor of Port au Prince, little Blue Ribbon ran into the breakfast hall. Breathlessly she approached the table.
"Isn't Momma here yet?"
No, Momma was still in her cabin, but the officers and other passengers welcomed Blue Ribbon into their midst. Never had any woman been so welcome aboard the "President" as this carefree six-year old; if she drank from a man's cup, he was lucky all through the day. She always wore a tiny white dress, and a little blue bow kissed her golden locks. Each day she was asked a hundred times, "Why are you called Blue Ribbon?" Then she would reply, laughing, "So that I may always be found if I stray!" But she never strayed, even when she went out through the streets of every strange port. She was an elflike child, clever as a little animal.
None of those at the table could hold her. She came around to climb into the Captain's lap. The sturdy Frisian laughed; Blue Ribbon always favored him, and this was one of his proudest accomplishments. "Dunk!" she cried, and soaked her biscuit in his tea cup.
"Where were you earlier today?" the Captain asked. "Oh, oh," said the child, and her blue eyes laughed, brighter than the ribbon in her hair. "Mother must go with me! You must all come! We are in Fairyland!"
"Fairyland? Haiti?" exclaimed the captain. Blue Ribbon laughed.
"I don't care what this land is called — but it is Fairyland! I have seen it myself — wonderful monsters that sit on the bridge to the marketplace. One has hands big as a cow and the one beside him has a head as big as two cows! One has a scaly skin, like a crocodile — oh, they are more fine and wonderful than in my storybook! Will you come with me, Captain?"
Then she ran to the fair woman who had just entered the dining room. "Momma, quick, drink your tea! Hurry, hurry! You must come with me, Momma: We are in Fairyland."
They all went with her, even the chief engineer. He had little time, and had not been at breakfast, something was out of tune in his machines and he had to repair them while the ship lay in harbor. But Blue Ribbon favored him tremendously since he made beautiful carvings in tortoiseshell. And since little Blue Ribbon was truly captain of the ship, he had to go along with her, too.
"I will even work through the night," he said to the Captain.
Blue Ribbon heard this and nodded earnestly: "Yes, do that. I sleep then."
Blue Ribbon led and she hurried through the filthy harbor streets, followed by the stares of curious Negroes who peered from doors and windows. They all leapt the wide gutters and Blue Ribbon laughed merrily when the doctor slipped and dirty water sprayed his white suit. She went further, between the wretched stalls of the market, where the earsplitting cries of the Negroes echoed.
"See, see! There they are! Oh, the lovely monsters!" Blue Ribbon tore herself free from her mother's grip and rushed to the little stone bridge that lead over a dry stream. "Come, come quickly. See the wonderful creatures, the beautiful monsters!" She clapped her hands with joy and ran with quick steps through the hot dust.
There were beggars there; a ghastly exhibit provided by the hospital. The natives passed on heedlessly, but no stranger could pass by without pity loosening his purse-strings. This was calculated. It was figured so: the simple shock of the sight should produce at least a quarter and some lady, perhaps recently plagued by seasickness, might give a dollar.
"Oh, look, Momma; the one with the scaly skin. Isn't he fine?"
She pointed to a Negro with a hideous devouring fungus disfiguring his entire body. It was greenish yellow, and the virulent growths hung in triangular folds over his skin.
"And there, Captain, see there! So funny! He has a buffalo's head! The skin on his head has overgrown the rest of him!" Blue Ribbon rapped the hand of an enormous black man with her parasol. He suffered from horribly advanced elephantiasis and his head was swollen like some monstrous gourd. Long, feltlike shocks of shaggy, wooly hair hung down on all sides of him. The Captain drew the child back, but she pulled away from him, almost shaking with her excitement, and went on to another of them.
"Oh, dear Captain, have you ever seen such a hand? Tell me, isn't it a wonder — wonderfully fine!" Blue Ribbon beamed with enthusiasm; she lowered herself down beside the beggar whose two hands were swollen grotesquely with elephantiasis.
"Momma, Momma, look here! Each of his fingers is thicker and longer than my whole arm! Oh, Momma, when may I have such pretty hands?" And she laid her little hand in the outstretched hand of the Negro, where it lay, like a tiny, white mouse against the diseased brown nesh.
The fair woman screamed, weakened with terror, and fell into the arms of the engineer. They all gathered around her; the doctor soaked his handkerchief with cologne and laid it on her forehead. Blue Ribbon looked in her mother's packet and found a scent bottle, and held it under her nose. Big tears dropped from her blue eyes onto her mother's face.
"Beloved Momma, wake up! Please, please, please! Oh, wake quickly, Momma, so I can show you all the wonderful creatures! You cannot sleep now, Momma, we are in Fairyland!"