Книга Ozma of Oz. Содержание - 2. The Yellow Hen
“Why, I’ve got a ship of my own!” she thought, more amused than frightened at her sudden change of condition; and then, as the coop climbed up to the top of a big wave, she looked eagerly around for the ship from which she had been blown.
It was far, far away, by this time. Perhaps no one on board had yet missed her, or knew of her strange adventure. Down into a valley between the waves the coop swept her, and when she climbed another crest the ship looked like a toy boat, it was such a long way off. Soon it had entirely disappeared in the gloom, and then Dorothy gave a sigh of regret at parting with Uncle Henry and began to wonder what was going to happen to her next.
Just now she was tossing on the bosom of a big ocean, with nothing to keep her afloat but a miserable wooden hen-coop that had a plank bottom and slatted sides, through which the water constantly splashed and wetted her through to the skin! And there was nothing to eat when she became hungry – as she was sure to do before long – and no fresh water to drink and no dry clothes to put on.
“Well, I declare!” she exclaimed, with a laugh. “You’re in a pretty fix, Dorothy Gale, I can tell you! and I haven’t the least idea how you’re going to get out of it!”
As if to add to her troubles the night was now creeping on, and the gray clouds overhead changed to inky blackness. But the wind, as if satisfied at last with its mischievous pranks, stopped blowing this ocean and hurried away to another part of the world to blow something else; so that the waves, not being joggled any more, began to quiet down and behave themselves.
It was lucky for Dorothy, I think, that the storm subsided; otherwise, brave though she was, I fear she might have perished. Many children, in her place, would have wept and given way to despair; but because Dorothy had encountered so many adventures and come safely through them it did not occur to her at this time to be especially afraid. She was wet and uncomfortable, it is true; but, after sighing that one sigh I told you of, she managed to recall some of her customary cheerfulness and decided to patiently await whatever her fate might be.
By and by the black clouds rolled away and showed a blue sky overhead, with a silver moon shining sweetly in the middle of it and little stars winking merrily at Dorothy when she looked their way. The coop did not toss around any more, but rode the waves more gently – almost like a cradle rocking – so that the floor upon which Dorothy stood was no longer swept by water coming through the slats. Seeing this, and being quite exhausted by the excitement of the past few hours, the little girl decided that sleep would be the best thing to restore her strength and the easiest way in which she could pass the time. The floor was damp and she was herself wringing wet, but fortunately this was a warm climate and she did not feel at all cold.
So she sat down in a corner of the coop, leaned her back against the slats, nodded at the friendly stars before she closed her eyes, and was asleep in half a minute.
2. The Yellow Hen
A strange noise awoke Dorothy, who opened her eyes to find that day had dawned and the sun was shining brightly in a clear sky. She had been dreaming that she was back in Kansas again, and playing in the old barn-yard with the calves and pigs and chickens all around her; and at first, as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, she really imagined she was there.
“Kut-kut-kut, ka-daw-kut! Kut-kut-kut, ka-daw-kut!”
Ah; here again was the strange noise that had awakened her. Surely it was a hen cackling! But her wide-open eyes first saw, through the slats of the coop, the blue waves of the ocean, now calm and placid, and her thoughts flew back to the past night, so full of danger and discomfort. Also she began to remember that she was a waif of the storm, adrift upon a treacherous and unknown sea.
“Kut-kut-kut, ka-daw-w-w – kut!”
“What’s that?” cried Dorothy, starting to her feet.
“Why, I’ve just laid an egg, that’s all,” replied a small, but sharp and distinct voice, and looking around her the little girl discovered a yellow hen squatting in the opposite corner of the coop.
“Dear me!” she exclaimed, in surprise; “have YOU been here all night, too?”
“Of course,” answered the hen, fluttering her wings and yawning. “When the coop blew away from the ship I clung fast to this corner, with claws and beak, for I knew if I fell into the water I’d surely be drowned. Indeed, I nearly drowned, as it was, with all that water washing over me. I never was so wet before in my life!”
“Yes,” agreed Dorothy, “it was pretty wet, for a time, I know. But do you feel comfor’ble now?”
“Not very. The sun has helped to dry my feathers, as it has your dress, and I feel better since I laid my morning egg. But what’s to become of us, I should like to know, afloat on this big pond?”
“I’d like to know that, too,” said Dorothy. “But, tell me; how does it happen that you are able to talk? I thought hens could only cluck and cackle.”
“Why, as for that,” answered the yellow hen thoughtfully, “I’ve clucked and cackled all my life, and never spoken a word before this morning, that I can remember. But when you asked a question, a minute ago, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to answer you. So I spoke, and I seem to keep on speaking, just as you and other human beings do. Strange, isn’t it?”
“Very,” replied Dorothy. “If we were in the Land of Oz, I wouldn’t think it so queer, because many of the animals can talk in that fairy country. But out here in the ocean must be a good long way from Oz.”
“How is my grammar?” asked the yellow hen, anxiously. “Do I speak quite properly, in your judgment?”
“Yes,” said Dorothy, “you do very well, for a beginner.”
“I’m glad to know that,” continued the yellow hen, in a confidential tone; “because, if one is going to talk, it’s best to talk correctly. The red rooster has often said that my cluck and my cackle were quite perfect; and now it’s a comfort to know I am talking properly.”
“I’m beginning to get hungry,” remarked Dorothy. “It’s breakfast time; but there’s no breakfast.”
“You may have my egg,” said the yellow hen. “I don’t care for it, you know.”
“Don’t you want to hatch it?” asked the little girl, in surprise.
“No, indeed; I never care to hatch eggs unless I’ve a nice snug nest, in some quiet place, with a baker’s dozen of eggs under me. That’s thirteen, you know, and it’s a lucky number for hens. So you may as well eat this egg.”
“Oh, I couldn’t POSS’BLY eat it, unless it was cooked,” exclaimed Dorothy. “But I’m much obliged for your kindness, just the same.”
“Don’t mention it, my dear,” answered the hen, calmly, and began preening her feathers.
For a moment Dorothy stood looking out over the wide sea. She was still thinking of the egg, though; so presently she asked:
“Why do you lay eggs, when you don’t expect to hatch them?”
“It’s a habit I have,” replied the yellow hen. “It has always been my pride to lay a fresh egg every morning, except when I’m moulting. I never feel like having my morning cackle till the egg is properly laid, and without the chance to cackle I would not be happy.”
“It’s strange,” said the girl, reflectively; “but as I’m not a hen I can’t be ’spected to understand that.”
“Certainly not, my dear.”
Then Dorothy fell silent again. The yellow hen was some company, and a bit of comfort, too; but it was dreadfully lonely out on the big ocean, nevertheless.
After a time the hen flew up and perched upon the topmost slat of the coop, which was a little above Dorothy’s head when she was sitting upon the bottom, as she had been doing for some moments past.
“Why, we are not far from land!” exclaimed the hen.