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|Ozma of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
The Yellow Hen
|Page 4 of 5||
Then she sat down and watched Billina, who was pick-pecking away with her sharp bill in the sand and gravel, which she scratched up and turned over with her strong claws.
"What are you doing?" asked Dorothy.
"Getting my breakfast, of course," murmured the hen, busily pecking away.
"What do you find?" inquired the girl, curiously.
"Oh, some fat red ants, and some sand-bugs, and once in a while a tiny crab. They are very sweet and nice, I assure you."
"How dreadful!" exclaimed Dorothy, in a shocked voice.
"What is dreadful?" asked the hen, lifting her head to gaze with one bright eye at her companion.
"Why, eating live things, and horrid bugs, and crawly ants. You ought to be 'SHAMED of yourself!"
"Goodness me!" returned the hen, in a puzzled tone; "how queer you are, Dorothy! Live things are much fresher and more wholesome than dead ones, and you humans eat all sorts of dead creatures."
"We don't!" said Dorothy.
"You do, indeed," answered Billina. "You eat lambs and sheep and cows and pigs and even chickens."
"But we cook 'em," said Dorothy, triumphantly.
"What difference does that make?"
"A good deal," said the girl, in a graver tone. "I can't just 'splain the diff'rence, but it's there. And, anyhow, we never eat such dreadful things as BUGS."
"But you eat the chickens that eat the bugs," retorted the yellow hen, with an odd cackle. "So you are just as bad as we chickens are."
This made Dorothy thoughtful. What Billina said was true enough, and it almost took away her appetite for breakfast. As for the yellow hen, she continued to peck away at the sand busily, and seemed quite contented with her bill-of-fare.
Finally, down near the water's edge, Billina stuck her bill deep into the sand, and then drew back and shivered.
"Ow!" she cried. "I struck metal, that time, and it nearly broke my beak."
"It prob'bly was a rock," said Dorothy, carelessly.
"Nonsense. I know a rock from metal, I guess," said the hen. "There's a different feel to it."
"But there couldn't be any metal on this wild, deserted seashore," persisted the girl. "Where's the place? I'll dig it up, and prove to you I'm right,"
Billina showed her the place where she had "stubbed her bill," as she expressed it, and Dorothy dug away the sand until she felt something hard. Then, thrusting in her hand, she pulled the thing out, and discovered it to be a large sized golden key--rather old, but still bright and of perfect shape.
"What did I tell you?" cried the hen, with a cackle of triumph. "Can I tell metal when I bump into it, or is the thing a rock?"
"It's metal, sure enough," answered the child, gazing thoughtfully at the curious thing she had found. "I think it is pure gold, and it must have lain hidden in the sand for a long time. How do you suppose it came there, Billina? And what do you suppose this mysterious key unlocks?"
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|Ozma of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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