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|Tik-Tok of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
|Page 4 of 5||
"Well, as for that," said the little girl, "I needn't see your face at all. Here's my plan: You stay in this dark passage, and we'll send away the nomes with their torches. Then you'll take off the handkerchief, and I--I'll kiss you."
"This is awfully kind of you, Betsy!" said Shaggy, gratefully.
"Well, it surely won't kill me," she replied; "and, if it makes you and your brother happy, I'm willing to take some chances."
So Kaliko ordered the torch-bearers to leave the passage, which they did by going through the rock opening. Queen Ann and her army also went out; but the others were so interested in Betsy's experiment that they remained grouped at the mouth of the passageway. When the big rock swung into place, closing tight the opening, they were left in total darkness.
"Now, then," called Betsy in a cheerful voice, "have you got that handkerchief off your face, Ugly?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Well, where are you, then?" she asked, reaching out her arms.
"Here," said he.
"You'll have to stoop down, you know."
He found her hands and clasping them in his own stooped until his face was near to that of the little girl. The others heard a clear, smacking kiss, and then Betsy exclaimed:
"There! I've done it, and it didn't hurt a bit!"
"Tell me, dear brother; is the charm broken?" asked Shaggy.
"I do not know," was the reply. "It may be, or it may not be. I cannot tell."
"Has anyone a match?" inquired Betsy.
"I have several," said Shaggy.
"Then let Ruggedo strike one of them and look at your brother's face, while we all turn our backs. Ruggedo made your brother ugly, so I guess he can stand the horror of looking at him, if the charm isn't broken."
Agreeing to this, Ruggedo took the match and lighted it. He gave one look and then blew out the match.
"Ugly as ever!" he said with a shudder. "So it wasn't the kiss of a Mortal Maid, after all."
"Let me try," proposed the Rose Princess, in her sweet voice. "I am a Mortal Maid who was once a Fairy. Perhaps my kiss will break the charm."
Files did not wholly approve of this, but he was too generous to interfere. So the Rose Princess felt her way through the darkness to Shaggy's brother and kissed him.
Ruggedo struck another match, while they all turned away.
"No," announced the former King; "that didn't break the charm, either. It must be the kiss of a Fairy that is required--or else my memory has failed me altogether."
"Polly," said Betsy, pleadingly, "won't you try?"
"Of course I will!" answered Polychrome, with a merry laugh. "I've never kissed a mortal man in all the thousands of years I have existed, but I'll do it to please our faithful Shaggy Man, whose unselfish affection for his ugly brother deserves to be rewarded."
Even as Polychrome was speaking she tripped lightly to the side of the Ugly One and quickly touched his cheek with her lips.
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|Tik-Tok of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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