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.
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.
"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
"Yes," agreed Dorothy, "it
was pretty wet, for a time, I
know. But do you feel comfor'ble
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
"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
"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.
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 pruning
For a moment Dorothy stood
looking out over the wide sea.
She was still thinking of the
egg, though; so presently she
"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
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
"Why, we are not far from land!" exclaimed
"Where? Where is it?" cried
Dorothy, jumping up in great
"Over there a little way," answered
the hen, nodding her head in
a certain direction. "We seem
to be drifting toward it, so
that before noon we ought to
find ourselves upon dry land
"I shall like that!" said
Dorothy, with a little sigh,
for her feet
and legs were still wetted now
and then by the sea-water that
came through the open slats.
"So shall I," answered her
companion. "There is nothing
in the world so miserable as
a wet hen."
The land, which they seemed
to be rapidly approaching, since
it grew more distinct every minute,
was quite beautiful as viewed
by the little girl in the floating
hen-coop. Next to the water was
a broad beach of white sand and
gravel, and farther back were
several rocky hills, while beyond
these appeared a strip of green
trees that marked the edge of
a forest. But there were no houses
to be seen, nor any sign of people
who might inhabit this unknown
"I hope we shall find something
to eat," said Dorothy, looking
eagerly at the pretty beach toward
which they drifted. "It's long
past breakfast time, now."
"I'm a trifle hungry, myself," declared
the yellow hen.
"Why don't you eat the egg?" asked
the child. "You don't need to
have your food cooked, as I do."
"Do you take me for a cannibal?" cried
the hen, indignantly. "I do not
know what I have said or done
that leads you to insult me!"
"I beg your pardon, I'm sure
Mrs.--Mrs.--by the way, may I
inquire your name, ma'am?" asked
the little girl.
"My name is Bill," said
the yellow hen, somewhat gruffly.
that's a boy's name."
does that make?"
"You're a lady
hen, aren't you?"
But when I was first hatched
out no one could
tell whether I was going to be
a hen or a rooster; so the little
boy at the farm where I was born
called me Bill, and made a pet
of me because I was the only
yellow chicken in the whole brood.
When I grew up, and he found
that I didn't crow and fight,
as all the roosters do, he did
not think to change my name,
and every creature in the barn-yard,
as well as the people in the
house, knew me as 'Bill.' So
Bill I've always been called,
and Bill is my name."
"But it's all wrong, you know," declared
Dorothy, earnestly; "and, if
you don't mind, I shall call
you 'Billina.' Putting the 'eena'
on the end makes it a girl's
name, you see."
"Oh, I don't mind it in the
least," returned the yellow hen. "It
doesn't matter at all what you
call me, so long as I know the
name means ME."
Billina. MY name is Dorothy
to my friends and Miss Gale to
strangers. You may call me Dorothy,
if you like. We're getting very
near the shore. Do you suppose
it is too deep for me to wade
the rest of the way?"
"Wait a few
minutes longer. The sunshine
is warm and pleasant,
and we are in no hurry."
"But my feet are all wet and
soggy," said the girl. "My dress
is dry enough, but I won't feel
real comfor'ble till I get my
She waited, however, as the
hen advised, and before long
the big wooden coop grated gently
on the sandy beach and the dangerous
voyage was over.
It did not take the castaways
long to reach the shore, you
may be sure. The yellow hen flew
to the sands at once, but Dorothy
had to climb over the high slats.
Still, for a country girl, that
was not much of a feat, and as
soon as she was safe ashore Dorothy
drew off her wet shoes and stockings
and spread them upon the sun-warmed
beach to dry.
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
"What are you doing?" asked
"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
with one bright eye at her companion.
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
"We don't!" said
"You do, indeed," answered
Billina. "You eat lambs and sheep
and cows and pigs and even chickens."
"But we cook 'em," said
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
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
broke my beak."
"It prob'bly was a rock," said
"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,"
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
"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?"
"I can't say," replied the
hen. "You ought to know more
about locks and keys than I do."
Dorothy glanced around. There
was no sign of any house in that
part of the country, and she
reasoned that every key must
fit a lock and every lock must
have a purpose. Perhaps the key
had been lost by somebody who
lived far away, but had wandered
on this very shore.
Musing on these things the
girl put the key in the pocket
of her dress and then slowly
drew on her shoes and stockings,
which the sun had fully dried.
"I b'lieve, Billina," she said, "I'll
have a look 'round, and see if
I can find some breakfast."