Dorothy's further quest proved unsuccessful; but after her first disappointment was over, the little girl was filled with joy and thankfulness to think that after all she had been able to save one member of the royal family of Ev, and could restore the little Prince to his sorrowing country. Now she might return to the terrible Nome King in safety, carrying with her the prize she had won in the person of the fair-haired boy.
So she retraced her steps until she found the entrance to the palace, and as she approached, the massive doors of rock opened of their own accord, allowing both Dorothy and Evring to pass the portals and enter the throne room.
15. Billina Frightens the Nome King
Now when Dorothy had entered the palace to make her guesses and the Scarecrow was 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 become a very neat ornament. Very neat, indeed."
"How about Dorothy?" the Scarecrow enquired.
"Oh, she will begin to guess, pretty soon," said the King, cheerfully. "And then she will join my collection, and it will be your turn."
The good Scarecrow was much distressed by the thought that his little friend was about to suffer the fate of Ozma and the rest of their party; but while he sat 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, as the 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 my egg."
"What! Laid an egg! In my throne room! How dare you do such a thing?" asked the King, in a voice of fury.
"I lay eggs wherever I happen to be," said the hen, ruffling her feathers and then 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 all my eggs are warranted strictly fresh and up to date. Poison, indeed!"
"You don't understand," retorted the little monarch, nervously. "Eggs belong only to the outside world--to the world on the earth's surface, where you came from. Here, in my underground kingdom, they are rank poison, as I said, and we Nomes can't bear them around."
"Well, you'll have to bear this one around," declared Billina; "for I've laid it."
"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 from the 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's eggs. There's one in my pocket now, that she laid yesterday."
Hearing this, the monarch hastened to put a good distance between himself and the Scarecrow, who was about to reach under the throne for the egg when the hen suddenly cried:
"What's wrong?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Don't take the egg unless the King will allow me to enter the palace and guess as the others have done," said Billina.
"Pshaw!" returned the King. "You're only a hen. How could you guess my enchantments?"
"I can try, I suppose," said Billina. "And, if I fail, you will have another ornament."
"A pretty ornament you'd make, wouldn't you?" growled the King. "But you shall have your way. It will properly punish you for daring to lay an egg in my presence. After the Scarecrow is enchanted you shall follow him into the palace. But how will you touch the objects?"
"With my claws," said the hen; "and I can speak the word 'Ev' as plainly as anyone.