Книга Ozma of Oz. Содержание - 15. Billina Frightens the Nome King
So all she could do was to accept the hopeless task set her, and make her guesses and abide by the result.
“It can’t hurt very much,” she thought, “for I haven’t heard any of them scream or cry out – not even the poor officers. Dear me! I wonder if Uncle Henry or Aunt Em will ever know I have become an orn’ment in the Nome King’s palace, and must stand forever and ever in one place and look pretty – ‘cept when I’m moved to be dusted. It isn’t the way I thought I’d turn out, at all; but I s’pose it can’t be helped.”
She walked through all the rooms once more, and examined with care all the objects they contained; but there were so many, they bewildered her, and she decided, after all, as Ozma had done, that it could be only guess work at the best, and that the chances were much against her guessing aright.
Timidly she touched an alabaster bowl and said: “Ev.”
“That’s one failure, anyhow,” she thought. “But how am I to know which thing is enchanted, and which is not?”
Next she touched the image of a purple kitten that stood on the corner of a mantel, and as she pronounced the word “Ev” the kitten disappeared, and a pretty, fair-haired boy stood beside her. At the same time a bell rang somewhere in the distance, and as Dorothy started back, partly in surprise and partly in joy, the little one exclaimed:
“Where am I? And who are you? And what has happened to me?”
“Well, I declare!” said Dorothy. “I’ve really done it.”
“Done what?” asked the boy.
“Saved myself from being an ornament,” replied the girl, with a laugh, “and saved you from being forever a purple kitten.”
“A purple kitten?” he repeated. “There IS no such thing.”
“I know,” she answered. “But there was, a minute ago. Don’t you remember standing on a corner of the mantel?”
“Of course not. I am a Prince of Ev, and my name is Evring,” the little one announced, proudly. “But my father, the King, sold my mother and all her children to the cruel ruler of the Nomes, and after that I remember nothing at all.”
“A purple kitten can’t be ’spected to remember, Evring,” said Dorothy. “But now you are yourself again, and I’m going to try to save some of your brothers and sisters, and perhaps your mother, as well. So come with me.”
She seized the child’s hand and eagerly hurried here and there, trying to decide which object to choose next. The third guess was another failure, and so was the fourth and the fifth.
Little Evring could not imagine what she was doing, but he trotted along beside her very willingly, for he liked the new companion he had found.
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. 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.”