Now when Dorothy had entered the palace to make her guesses and the Scarecro_as left with the Nome King, the two sat in moody silence for several minutes.
Then the monarch exclaimed, in a tone of satisfaction:
"Who is very good?" asked the Scarecrow.
"The machine man. He won't need to be wound up any more, for he has now becom_ very neat ornament. Very neat, indeed."
"How about Dorothy?" the Scarecrow enquired.
"Oh, she will begin to guess, pretty soon," said the King, cheerfully. "An_hen she will join my collection, and it will be your turn."
The good Scarecrow was much distressed by the thought that his little frien_as about to suffer the fate of Ozma and the rest of their party; but while h_at in gloomy reverie a shrill voice suddenly cried:
The Nome King nearly jumped off his seat, he was so startled.
"Good gracious! What's that?" he yelled.
"Why, it's Billina," said the Scarecrow.
"What do you mean by making a noise like that?" shouted the King, angrily, a_he yellow hen came from under the throne and strutted proudly about the room.
"I've got a right to cackle, I guess," replied Billina. "I've just laid m_gg."
"What! Laid an egg! In my throne room! How dare you do such a thing?" aske_he King, in a voice of fury.
"I lay eggs wherever I happen to be," said the hen, ruffling her feathers an_hen shaking them into place.
"But—thunder-ation! Don't you know that eggs are poison?" roared the King, while his rock-colored eyes stuck out in great terror.
"Poison! well, I declare," said Billina, indignantly. "I'll have you know al_y eggs are warranted strictly fresh and up to date. Poison, indeed!"
"You don't understand," retorted the little monarch, nervously. "Eggs belon_nly to the outside world—to the world on the earth's surface, where you cam_rom. Here, in my underground kingdom, they are rank poison, as I said, and w_omes can't bear them around."
"Well, you'll have to bear this one around," declared Billina; "for I've lai_t."
"Where?" asked the King.
"Under your throne," said the hen.
The King jumped three feet into the air, so anxious was he to get away fro_he throne.
"Take it away! Take it away at once!" he shouted.
"I can't," said Billina. "I haven't any hands."
"I'll take the egg," said the Scarecrow. "I'm making a collection of Billina'_ggs. There's one in my pocket now, that she laid yesterday."
Hearing this, the monarch hastened to put a good distance between himself an_he Scarecrow, who was about to reach under the throne for the egg when th_en suddenly cried:
"What's wrong?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Don't take the egg unless the King will allow me to enter the palace an_uess as the others have done," said Billina.
"Pshaw!" returned the King. "You're only a hen. How could you guess m_nchantments?"
"I can try, I suppose," said Billina. "And, if I fail, you will have anothe_rnament."
"A pretty ornament you'd make, wouldn't you?" growled the King. "But you shal_ave your way. It will properly punish you for daring to lay an egg in m_resence. After the Scarecrow is enchanted you shall follow him into th_alace. But how will you touch the objects?"
"With my claws," said the hen; "and I can speak the word 'Ev' as plainly a_nyone. Also I must have the right to guess the enchantments of my friends, and to release them if I succeed."
"Very well," said the King. "You have my promise."
"Then," said Billina to the Scarecrow, "you may get the egg."
He knelt down and reached underneath the throne and found the egg, which h_laced in another pocket of his jacket, fearing that if both eggs were in on_ocket they would knock together and get broken.
Just then a bell above the throne rang briskly, and the King gave anothe_ervous jump.
"Well, well!" said he, with a rueful face; "the girl has actually done it."
"Done what?" asked the Scarecrow.
"She has made one guess that is right, and broken one of my neates_nchantments. By ricketty, it's too bad! I never thought she would do it."
"Do I understand that she will now return to us in safety?" enquired th_carecrow, joyfully wrinkling his painted face into a broad smile.
"Of course," said the King, fretfully pacing up and down the room. "I alway_eep my promises, no matter how foolish they are. But I shall make an ornamen_f the yellow hen to replace the one I have just lost."
"Perhaps you will, and perhaps you won't," murmured Billina, calmly. "I ma_urprise you by guessing right."
"Guessing right?" snapped the King. "How could you guess right, where you_etters have failed, you stupid fowl?"
Billina did not care to answer this question, and a moment later the door_lew open and Dorothy entered, leading the little Prince Evring by the hand.
The Scarecrow welcomed the girl with a close embrace, and he would hav_mbraced Evring, too, in his delight. But the little Prince was shy, an_hrank away from the painted Scarecrow because he did not yet know his man_xcellent qualities.
But there was little time for the friends to talk, because the Scarecrow mus_ow enter the palace. Dorothy's success had greatly encouraged him, and the_oth hoped he would manage to make at least one correct guess.
However, he proved as unfortunate as the others except Dorothy, and althoug_e took a good deal of time to select his objects, not one did the poo_carecrow guess aright.
So he became a solid gold card-receiver, and the beautiful but terrible palac_waited its next visitor.
"It's all over," remarked the King, with a sigh of satisfaction; "and it ha_een a very amusing performance, except for the one good guess the Kansas gir_ade. I am richer by a great many pretty ornaments."
"It is my turn, now," said Billina, briskly.
"Oh, I'd forgotten you," said the King. "But you needn't go if you don't wis_o. I will be generous, and let you off."
"No you won't," replied the hen. "I insist upon having my guesses, as yo_romised."
"Then go ahead, you absurd feathered fool!" grumbled the King, and he cause_he opening that led to the palace to appear once more.
"Don't go, Billina," said Dorothy, earnestly. "It isn't easy to guess thos_rn'ments, and only luck saved me from being one myself. Stay with me an_e'll go back to the Land of Ev together. I'm sure this little Prince wil_ive us a home."
"Indeed I will," said Evring, with much dignity.
"Don't worry, my dear," cried Billina, with a cluck that was meant for _augh. "I may not be human, but I'm no fool, if I AM a chicken."
"Oh, Billina!" said Dorothy, "you haven't been a chicken in a long time. No_ince you—you've been—grown up."
"Perhaps that's true," answered Billina, thoughtfully. "But if a Kansas farme_old me to some one, what would he call me?—a hen or a chicken!"
"You are not a Kansas farmer, Billina," replied the girl, "and you said—"
"Never mind that, Dorothy. I'm going. I won't say good-bye, because I'm comin_ack. Keep up your courage, for I'll see you a little later."
Then Billina gave several loud "cluck-clucks" that seemed to make the fa_ittle King MORE nervous than ever, and marched through the entrance into th_nchanted palace.
"I hope I've seen the last of THAT bird," declared the monarch, seatin_imself again in his throne and mopping the perspiration from his forehea_ith his rock-colored handkerchief. "Hens are bothersome enough at their best, but when they can talk they're simply dreadful."
"Billina's my friend," said Dorothy quietly. "She may not always be 'zactl_olite; but she MEANS well, I'm sure."