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|Tik-Tok of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
A Bashful Brother
|Page 4 of 5||
Shaggy Man turned to the group surrounding him.
"What shall I do?" he asked in sorrowful tones. "I cannot leave my dear brother here, and he refuses to come out of that house and face us.
"I'll tell you," replied Betsy. "Let him put on a mask."
"The very idea I was seeking!" exclaimed Shaggy joyfully; and then he called out: "Brother, put a mask over your face, and then none of us can see what your features are like."
"I have no mask," answered the Ugly One.
"Look here," said Betsy; "he can use my handkerchief."
Shaggy looked at the little square of cloth and shook his head.
"It isn't big enough," he objected; "I'm sure it isn't big enough to hide a man's face. But he can use mine.
Saying this he took from his pocket his own handkerchief and went to the door of the hut.
"Here, my Brother," he called, "take this handkerchief and make a mask of it. I will also pass you my knife, so that you may cut holes for the eyes, and then you must tie it over your face."
The door slowly opened, just far enough for the Ugly One to thrust out his hand and take the handkerchief and the knife. Then it closed again.
"Don't forget a hole for your nose," cried Betsy. "You must breathe, you know."
For a time there was silence. Queen Ann and her army sat down upon the ground to rest. Betsy sat on Hank's back. Polychrome danced lightly up and down the jeweled paths while Files and the Princess wandered through the groves arm in arm. Tik-Tok, who never tired, stood motionless.
By and by a noise sounded from within the hut.
"Are you ready?" asked Shaggy.
"Yes, Brother," came the reply and the door was thrown open to allow the Ugly One to step forth.
Betsy might have laughed aloud had she not remembered how sensitive to ridicule Shaggy's brother was, for the handkerchief with which he had masked his features was a red one covered with big white polka dots. In this two holes had been cut--in front of the eyes--while two smaller ones before the nostrils allowed the man to breathe freely. The cloth was then tightly drawn over the Ugly One's face and knotted at the back of his neck.
He was dressed in clothes that had once been good, but now were sadly worn and frayed. His silk stockings had holes in them, and his shoes were stubtoed and needed blackening. "But what can you expect," whispered Betsy, "when the poor man has been a prisoner for so many years?"
Shaggy had darted forward, and embraced his newly found brother with both his arms. The brother also embraced Shaggy, who then led him forward and introduced him to all the assembled company.
"This is the new Nome King," he said when he came to Kaliko. "He is our friend, and has granted you your freedom."
"That is a kindly deed," replied Ugly in a sad voice, "but I dread to go back to the world in this direful condition. Unless I remain forever masked, my dreadful face would curdle all the milk and stop all the clocks."
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|Tik-Tok of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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