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Chapter 15 Billina Frightens the Nome King

  • 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:
  • "Very good!"
  • "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:
  • "Kut, kut, kut—ka-daw-kutt! Kut, kut, kut—ka-daw-kutt!"
  • 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:
  • "Stop!"
  • "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."