FictionForest

Chapter 16 – Purple, Green, and Gold

L. Frank BaumJul 19, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The yellow hen, stepping high and with an air of vast importance,
walked slowly over the rich velvet carpets of the splendid palace,
examining everything she met with her sharp little eyes.

Billina had a right to feel important; for she alone shared the Nome
King’s secret and knew how to tell the objects that were
transformations from those that had never been alive. She was very
sure that her guesses would be correct, but before she began to make
them she was curious to behold all the magnificence of this
underground palace, which was perhaps one of the most splendid and
beautiful places in any fairyland.

As she went through the rooms she counted the purple ornaments; and
although some were small and hidden in queer places, Billina spied
them all, and found the entire ten scattered about the various rooms.
The green ornaments she did not bother to count, for she thought she
could find them all when the time came.

Finally, having made a survey of the entire palace and enjoyed its
splendor, the yellow hen returned to one of the rooms where she had
noticed a large purple footstool. She placed a claw upon this and
said “Ev,” and at once the footstool vanished and a lovely lady, tall
and slender and most beautifully robed, stood before her.

The lady’s eyes were round with astonishment for a moment, for she
could not remember her transformation, nor imagine what had restored
her to life.

“Good morning, ma’am,” said Billina, in her sharp voice. “You’re
looking quite well, considering your age.”

“Who speaks?” demanded the Queen of Ev, drawing herself up proudly.

“Why, my name’s Bill, by rights,” answered the hen, who was now
perched upon the back of a chair; “although Dorothy has put scollops
on it and made it Billina. But the name doesn’t matter. I’ve saved
you from the Nome King, and you are a slave no longer.”

“Then I thank you for the gracious favor,” said the Queen, with a
graceful courtesy. “But, my children–tell me, I beg of you–where
are my children?” and she clasped her hands in anxious entreaty.

“Don’t worry,” advised Billina, pecking at a tiny bug that was
crawling over the chair back. “Just at present they are out of
mischief and perfectly safe, for they can’t even wiggle.”

“What mean you, O kindly stranger?” asked the Queen, striving to
repress her anxiety.

“They’re enchanted,” said Billina, “just as you have been–all, that
is, except the little fellow Dorothy picked out. And the chances are
that they have been good boys and girls for some time, because they
couldn’t help it.”

“Oh, my poor darlings!” cried the Queen, with a sob of anguish.

“Not at all,” returned the hen. “Don’t let their condition make you
unhappy, ma’am, because I’ll soon have them crowding ’round to bother
and worry you as naturally as ever. Come with me, if you please, and
I’ll show you how pretty they look.”

She flew down from her perch and walked into the next room, the Queen
following. As she passed a low table a small green grasshopper caught
her eye, and instantly Billina pounced upon it and snapped it up in
her sharp bill. For grasshoppers are a favorite food with hens, and
they usually must be caught quickly, before they can hop away. It
might easily have been the end of Ozma of Oz, had she been a real
grasshopper instead of an emerald one. But Billina found the
grasshopper hard and lifeless, and suspecting it was not good to eat
she quickly dropped it instead of letting it slide down her throat.

“I might have known better,” she muttered to herself, “for where there
is no grass there can be no live grasshoppers. This is probably one
of the King’s transformations.”

A moment later she approached one of the purple ornaments, and while
the Queen watched her curiously the hen broke the Nome King’s
enchantment and a sweet-faced girl, whose golden hair fell in a cloud
over her shoulders, stood beside them.

“Evanna!” cried the Queen, “my own Evanna!” and she clasped the girl
to her bosom and covered her face with kisses.

“That’s all right,” said Billina, contentedly. “Am I a good guesser,
Mr. Nome King? Well, I guess!”

Then she disenchanted another girl, whom the Queen addressed as
Evrose, and afterwards a boy named Evardo, who was older than his
brother Evring. Indeed, the yellow hen kept the good Queen exclaiming
and embracing for some time, until five Princesses and four Princes,
all looking very much alike except for the difference in size, stood
in a row beside their happy mother.

The Princesses were named, Evanna, Evrose, Evella, Evirene and Evedna,
while the Princes were Evrob, Evington, Evardo and Evroland. Of these
Evardo was the eldest and would inherit his father’s throne and be
crowned King of Ev when he returned to his own country. He was a
grave and quiet youth, and would doubtless rule his people wisely and
with justice.

Billina, having restored all of the royal family of Ev to their proper
forms, now began to select the green ornaments which were the
transformations of the people of Oz. She had little trouble in
finding these, and before long all the twenty-six officers, as well as
the private, were gathered around the yellow hen, joyfully
congratulating her upon their release. The thirty-seven people who
were now alive in the rooms of the palace knew very well that they
owed their freedom to the cleverness of the yellow hen, and they were
earnest in thanking her for saving them from the magic of the Nome King.

“Now,” said Billina, “I must find Ozma. She is sure to be here,
somewhere, and of course she is green, being from Oz. So look around,
you stupid soldiers, and help me in my search.”

For a while, however, they could discover nothing more that was green.
But the Queen, who had kissed all her nine children once more and
could now find time to take an interest in what was going on, said to
the hen:

“Mayhap, my gentle friend, it is the grasshopper whom you seek.”

“Of course it’s the grasshopper!” exclaimed Billina. “I declare, I’m
nearly as stupid as these brave soldiers. Wait here for me, and I’ll
go back and get it.”

So she went into the room where she had seen the grasshopper, and
presently Ozma of Oz, as lovely and dainty as ever, entered and
approached the Queen of Ev, greeting her as one high born princess
greets another.

“But where are my friends, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman?” asked
the girl Ruler, when these courtesies had been exchanged.

“I’ll hunt them up,” replied Billina. “The Scarecrow is solid gold,
and so is Tiktok; but I don’t exactly know what the Tin Woodman is,
because the Nome King said he had been transformed into something funny.”

Ozma eagerly assisted the hen in her quest, and soon the Scarecrow and
the machine man, being ornaments of shining gold, were discovered and
restored to their accustomed forms. But, search as they might, in no
place could they find a funny ornament that might be the
transformation of the Tin Woodman.

“Only one thing can be done,” said Ozma, at last, “and that is to
return to the Nome King and oblige him to tell us what has become of
our friend.”

“Perhaps he won’t,” suggested Billina.

“He must,” returned Ozma, firmly. “The King has not treated us
honestly, for under the mask of fairness and good nature he entrapped
us all, and we would have been forever enchanted had not our wise and
clever friend, the yellow hen, found a way to save us.”

“The King is a villain,” declared the Scarecrow.

“His laugh is worse than another man’s frown,” said the private, with
a shudder.

“I thought he was hon-est, but I was mis-tak-en,” remarked Tiktok.
“My thoughts are us-u-al-ly cor-rect, but it is Smith & Tin-ker’s
fault if they some-times go wrong or do not work prop-er-ly.”

“Smith & Tinker made a very good job of you,” said Ozma, kindly. “I
do not think they should be blamed if you are not quite perfect.”

“Thank you,” replied Tiktok.

“Then,” said Billina, in her brisk little voice, “let us all go back
to the Nome King, and see what he has to say for himself.”

So they started for the entrance, Ozma going first, with the Queen and
her train of little Princes and Princesses following. Then came
Tiktok, and the Scarecrow with Billina perched upon his straw-stuffed
shoulder. The twenty-seven officers and the private brought up the rear.

As they reached the hall the doors flew open before them; but then
they all stopped and stared into the domed cavern with faces of
astonishment and dismay. For the room was filled with the mail-clad
warriors of the Nome King, rank after rank standing in orderly array.
The electric lights upon their brows gleamed brightly, their
battle-axes were poised as if to strike down their foes; yet they
remained motionless as statues, awaiting the word of command.

And in the center of this terrible army sat the little King upon his
throne of rock. But he neither smiled nor laughed. Instead, his face
was distorted with rage, and most dreadful to behold.

 

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