Tik-Tok of Oz
22. Kindly Kisses
"Won't you be dreadful sorry to leave this lovely place?" Betsy asked the Ugly One.
"No, indeed," said he. "Jewels and gold are cold and heartless things, and I am sure I
would presently have died of loneliness had I not found the natural forest at the edge of
the artificial one. Anyhow, without these real trees I should soon have starved to death."
Betsy looked around at the quaint trees.
"I don't just understand that," she admitted. "What could you find to eat here."
"The best food in the world," Ugly answered. "Do you see that grove at your left?" he
added, pointing it out; "well, such trees as those do not grow in your country, or in any
other place but this cavern. I have named them 'Hotel Trees,' because they bear a certain
kind of table d'hote fruit called 'Three-Course Nuts.' "
"That's funny!" said Betsy. "What are the 'Three-Course Nuts' like?"
"Something like cocoanuts, to look at," explained the Ugly One. "All you have to do is to
pick one of them and then sit down and eat your dinner. You first unscrew the top part
and find a cupfull of good soup. After you've eaten that, you unscrew the middle part and
find a hollow filled with meat and potatoes, vegetables and a fine salad. Eat that, and
unscrew the next section, and you come to the dessert in the bottom of the nut. That is,
pie and cake, cheese and crackers, and nuts and raisins. The Three-Course Nuts are not
all exactly alike in flavor or in contents, but they are all good and in each one may be
found a complete three-course dinner."
"But how about breakfasts?" inquired Betsy.
"Why, there are Breakfast Trees for that, which grow over there at the right. They bear
nuts, like the others, only the nuts contain coffee or chocolate, instead of soup; oatmeal
instead of meat-and-potatoes, and fruits instead of dessert. Sad as has been my life in this
wonderful prison, I must admit that no one could live more luxuriously in the best hotel
in the world than I have lived here; but I will be glad to get into the open air again and
see the good old sun and the silvery moon and the soft green grass and the flowers that
are kissed by the morning dew. Ah, how much more lovely are those blessed things than
the glitter of gems or the cold gleam of gold!"
"Of course," said Betsy. "I once knew a little boy who wanted to catch the measles,
because all the little boys in his neighborhood but him had 'em, and he was really
unhappy 'cause he couldn't catch 'em, try as he would. So I'm pretty certain that the things
we want, and can't have, are not good for us. Isn't that true, Shaggy?"
"Not always, my dear," he gravely replied. "If we didn't want anything, we would never
get anything, good or bad. I think our longings are natural, and if we act as nature
prompts us we can't go far wrong."
"For my part," said Queen Ann, "I think the world would be a dreary place without the
gold and jewels."