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|Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz||L. Frank Baum|
The Den of the Dragonettes
|Page 3 of 4||
"What's that?" asked Dorothy, gazing fearfully at the great scaley head, the yawning mouth and the big eyes.
"Young dragons, of course; but we are not allowed to call ourselves real dragons until we get our full growth," was the reply. "The big dragons are very proud, and don't think children amount to much; but mother says that some day we will all be very powerful and important."
"Where is your mother?" asked the Wizard, anxiously looking around.
"She has gone up to the top of the earth to hunt for our dinner. If she has good luck she will bring us an elephant, or a brace of rhinoceri, or perhaps a few dozen people to stay our hunger."
"Oh; are you hungry?" enquired Dorothy, drawing back.
"Very," said the dragonette, snapping its jaws.
"And--and--do you eat people?"
"To be sure, when we can get them. But they've been very scarce for a few years and we usually have to be content with elephants or buffaloes," answered the creature, in a regretful tone.
"How old are you?" enquired Zeb, who stared at the yellow eyes as if fascinated.
"Quite young, I grieve to say; and all of my brothers and sisters that you see here are practically my own age. If I remember rightly, we were sixty-six years old the day before yesterday."
"But that isn't young!" cried Dorothy, in amazement.
"No?" drawled the dragonette; "it seems to me very babyish."
"How old is your mother?" asked the girl.
"Mother's about two thousand years old; but she carelessly lost track of her age a few centuries ago and skipped several hundreds. She's a little fussy, you know, and afraid of growing old, being a widow and still in her prime."
"I should think she would be," agreed Dorothy. Then, after a moment's thought, she asked: "Are we friends or enemies? I mean, will you be good to us, or do you intend to eat us?"
"As for that, we dragonettes would love to eat you, my child; but unfortunately mother has tied all our tails around the rocks at the back of our individual caves, so that we can not crawl out to get you. If you choose to come nearer we will make a mouthful of you in a wink; but unless you do you will remain quite safe."
There was a regretful accent in the creature's voice, and at the words all the other dragonettes sighed dismally.
Dorothy felt relieved. Presently she asked:
"Why did your mother tie your tails?"
"Oh, she is sometimes gone for several weeks on her hunting trips, and if we were not tied we would crawl all over the mountain and fight with each other and get into a lot of mischief. Mother usually knows what she is about, but she made a mistake this time; for you are sure to escape us unless you come too near, and you probably won't do that."
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|Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
L. Frank Baum
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