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 he placed in another pocket of his jacket, fearing that if both eggs were in one pocket they would knock together and get broken.
Just then a bell above the throne rang briskly, and the King gave another nervous 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 neatest enchantments. 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 the Scarecrow, joyfully wrinkling his painted face into a broad smile.
"Of course," said the King, fretfully pacing up and down the room. "I always keep my promises, no matter how foolish they are. But I shall make an ornament of the yellow hen to replace the one I have just lost."
"Perhaps you will, and perhaps you won't," murmured Billina, calmly. "I may surprise you by guessing right."
"Guessing right?" snapped the King. "How could you guess right, where your betters have failed, you stupid fowl?"
Billina did not care to answer this question, and a moment later the doors flew open and Dorothy entered, leading the little Prince Evring by the hand.
The Scarecrow welcomed the girl with a close embrace, and he would have embraced Evring, too, in his delight. But the little Prince was shy, and shrank away from the painted Scarecrow because he did not yet know his many excellent qualities.
But there was little time for the friends to talk, because the Scarecrow must now enter the palace. Dorothy's success had greatly encouraged him, and they both hoped he would manage to make at least one correct guess.
However, he proved as unfortunate as the others except Dorothy, and although he took a good deal of time to select his objects, not one did the poor Scarecrow guess aright.
So he became a solid gold card-receiver, and the beautiful but terrible palace awaited its next visitor.
"It's all over," remarked the King, with a sigh of satisfaction; "and it has been a very amusing performance, except for the one good guess the Kansas girl made. 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 wish to. I will be generous, and let you off."
"No you won't," replied the hen. "I insist upon having my guesses, as you promised."
"Then go ahead, you absurd feathered fool!" grumbled the King, and he caused the opening that led to the palace to appear once more.
"Don't go, Billina," said Dorothy, earnestly. "It isn't easy to guess those orn'ments, and only luck saved me from being one myself. Stay with me and we'll go back to the Land of Ev together. I'm sure this little Prince will give 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 a laugh. "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. Not since you--you've been--grown up."
"Perhaps that's true," answered Billina, thoughtfully. "But if a Kansas farmer sold 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 coming back. Keep up your courage, for I'll see you a little later."
Then Billina gave several loud "cluck-clucks" that seemed to make the fat little King MORE nervous than ever, and marched through the entrance into the enchanted palace.
"I hope I've seen the last of THAT bird," declared the monarch, seating himself again in his throne and mopping the perspiration from his forehead with his rock-colored handkerchief.