Author of The Runaway in Oz, "Toyland", The Wonder City of Oz, etc.
Illustrated by the Author
Originally published in Boy's Life, December 1920.
The genial and bracing spring air had at last begun to bring the boys out into the open country after a long winter that had kept some of the younger Boy Scouts cooped up in their homes.
Jim Warren and Alex Rutherford were older boys who had continued their outdoor life all through the severe weather and were returning from a scout meeting when they were passed on the street by a rather tall, lanky boy.
He was dressed in a new well fitting khaki suit; he had a book under his arm and a preoccupied look on his face.
"Say, Alex, did you ever see a kid grow like that Gordon Kid?" said Jim, turning round to see him from the back.
"Is that the Gordon Kid?" drawled Alex. "I'd a passed him on the street without knowing him at all, he certainly is changed. He is the one that the other boys used to josh about being the runt, isn't he?" Both boys stood staring at the retreating figure. "And now, look at him," said Jim. "By Jingo, he's bigger than the scoutmaster; who'd have expected it?"
Jim and Alex were still staring when the Gordon Kid turned the corner.
Now to get back to the Gordon Kid himself, for that is where the whole story lies. He always was a queer dick of a quiet dreamer with ideas and inventions that often brought more adventure and ridicule than anything else on his head.
And because of his shortness he had been jibed, often severely, by the other boys of his patrol.
All this he took good-naturedly and usually managed to have enough to hand back to make him generally liked.
He had read more books than the other boys and often settled disputes from the store of information that he had tucked away. He was just the everyday sort of a boy, no different from the others, except the smart offensive type that are likely to pop up now and then.
It was a day or so after the previous Christmas that the incidents in this story occurred. Tom Gordon's mother had wanted to give Tom a new scout outfit and had asked his father to send it up for his Christmas present, but when it came and was tried on they found it was so big that Tom could not possibly use it.
The father, a tall good-looking man, only remarked that he knew the right size to get, and that he had been the same size as Tom when he was his age.
So the clothes were put away and nothing more was said, and Tom enjoyed the other gifts he received, notably a book of Irish Fairy Stories which he enjoyed more than his meals.
About this time he was getting tired of being bothered about his size and after some serious thinking, evolved an idea that he kept to himself and worked on all afternoon in the work shop.
That night, when he went to bed, he carried quietly upstairs a large bundle, which, when everyone else was asleep, he opened and spread on the bed.
An odd sort of harness he laid on the pillow. It was made of belts and rope and on the foot of the bed he put a pair of old shoes with ring-bolts securely screwed on the soles, then two flat irons and some more rope, and the Irish Fairy book he put on the chair beside the bed.
It wasn't long after this that he was in his pajamas and had slipped the belts over his shoulders and put on the shoes with the two irons tied to the ring-bolts with the rope, dangling about four inches from the floor.
He smiled to himself after a lot of adjusting of the ropes at the head of the bed where he tied himself fast and at the foot where he left plenty of free play.
The novelty of the situation made him grin.
Then he took up his book, read for a little while, and, becoming drowsy and feeling himself dozing off, put the book back on the chair, and shut out the electric light with a push button that he had under his pillow, and floated away in a sound sleep.
From then on everything changed for the Gordon Kid. A moment seemed years, and the few experiences that had occurred in his young life that had in any way been unusual seemed surging back, exaggerated and distorted with his whole small world turned upside down.
He sat up in bed, and his feet were free. Then he took up his book and tried to keep calm as he tried to read with the book on his knees.
But as he sat, the book began to grow larger until each page was three feet wide and seemed hollow, and way back in the distance there were trees growing and the wind seemed blowing up from the sea.
A faint whirring sounded far away and seemed to grow. The room was dark, except for the light that came from the pages of the book, but with the whirring the light grew brighter and Tom's hair tingled at the roots as he pushed the book to the floor and fairly gasped, now really frightened at the strangeness of it all.
Still the whirring grew with the wind within the pages of the book, till, without a word, a flock of the funniest little men that Tom could possibly have imagined came flying up in circles and in the figure eight, about the room. They had little butterfly wings and bright green hats and coats with long tails that fluttered out behind.
Some had orange breeches and coats, others blue or red, in fact every color of the rainbow, and with it all was a dazzling brilliance everywhere. Many of the little men had short black wooden clubs and others were smoking little clay pipes. There were long noses and broad squat noses, many had bushy little whiskers that stuck out straight under their chins.
They settled themselves as comfortably as they could wherever they lit, over the top of the mirror, or like men at a base ball game in rows on top of the picture frames and the bureau.
Soon the foot of the bed was covered, then the floor was swarming and in all there were upward of nine hundred of these funny little creatures.
The very first little man to fly in, from the manner of command that he assumed, together with the length and breadth of his whiskers, and too, the size of his club, seemed to be their leader.
He took the seat on the top of the bed post, and sat with his legs crossed, calmly smoking a short black pipe, sending tiny clouds of smoke all around him while he waited for all his followers to settle down. Then, standing up, he pushed his hat on one side and deliberately knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and with his feet crossed, stood leaning on his club and looking at Tom.
"Good morning - or good evening, I mean," said Tom in a scared and husky voice.
Then all the little men burst into a roar of laughter and rocked and swayed, and held their sides like they feared they would burst.
But their leader seemed to resent what the scared boy had said and bristling up, shook his stick at Tom's head and started bellowing away at the top of his thin squeaky voice. "Mornin'! Mornin'! Now what do ye know about mornin'? Ye great big lunk-head you. Ye are trying to tell me something about the mornin'. Me that's been chased by the mornin' since the world began, hey? And with the days getting longer and the nights getting shorter."
Then he flew down from his perch and before Tom could wink the little ruffian had banged him a good smart wallop on the head.
"There's a puck of the knob to learn ye manners," he said, and flew back to his perch on the bedpost.
Now Tom was nearly dumbfounded with such manners, especially with the little man's objections to his manners, and he really meant to be polite in what he had said.
So he tried to explain. But try as he would, every single thing he said the little leader would twist into an affront and fly down and bang him again, taking the utmost care to strike always exactly in the same spot.
Now we know that scouts are polite, and should be patient but there are times when even a scout turns, and with every puck of the knob Tom Gordon bristled up himself. Though he was quiet he never lacked spirit. And when he thought this wild little man with his band of ruffians had ridiculed him and banged his head just a little too much, he gave one jump for the bed-post and tried to knock the little wild man off.
It would have been better if he had lain still, for in an instant the room was in utter darkness with all the little men buzzing around him belaboring him with their clubs while others jabbed him with sharp thorns they had concealed in their belts.
From the way they went about it together with the amount of merriment each successful attack afforded them, and there were many, Tom soon concluded they knew the game too well for him to make much headway against them, then he thought of the push button under the pillow and he made one dive for it and lit up the room again. With the pillow in his hands he began making frantic sweeps through the air in the hope of knocking over some of this swarm of little men, and perhaps clearing the room of them.
For hours and hours this turmoil kept up, with the little men having all the fun, Tom fanning the air and the fairy folk skimming out of the way with just enough time to exasperate Tom, and set the fairies almost into paroxysms of laughter at his failures.
Then about forty little fairy men gathered together and ripped the sheet from the bed and with a sudden twist they had it wound round Tom's neck and arms and down he went on the bed, all tied up and almost exhausted.
Little by little they quieted down, and the little king stood up to make a speech. He took off his hat, floundered around in the tails of his green coat till he found a tiny crown that he placed on the top of his tousled head. Then coming up close to Tom he jumped up on his chest and stood threateningly as he spoke to him.
"By this and by that, o' what I've seen of ye to-night I've one three halfs of a mind to put ye down as rough."
"Get out of here, or I'll yell and wake up everyone in the house," retorted Tom, almost beside himself.
"Yell wanst and I'll jam the pillow down your throat and then push it farther with me stick," snapped back the king as he swung his club close to Tom's nose.
"I know all about ye, wid yer secret of making yersilf taller, thinking it a disgrace to be small. Now look at me, do ye see anything to be ashamed of in me? Don't you answer me back but listen to me talking. I'm just peffik. I came here to-night wid the intention o' helping ye a little, but wid yer impidence and low behavior this very evening I have four or five halfs of a mind to make ye shorter than ye be now. Then how would ye feel gadding about wid your friends over the hills?'
"Who told you that?" asked Tom, slightly irritated and very much perplexed.
"Go way wid ye," bellowed the king, "don't talk back to me I tell you," and he made another pass with his club, this time so near to the boy's nose that he cold feel the wind of it, and with such exertion that he lost his balance slightly and his crown fell off. At this all the other fairies burst into a thunder of laughter at their chief, and he, turning on them, began chasing them all over the room, they upsetting the furniture in their haste to get out of his reach.
"Have ye no respect for your elders, I am asking ye?" yelled the king, buzzing back close to Tom.
"I'm squiffty towsind years older than you be, you two years old little pickle seed, impudenting me like that wid foolish questions."
"I'll be fifteen years old on my next birthday, and not two years old," replied the boy, "and I'm not any pickle seed either."
"Thunder and turf," howled the infuriated little leader of the fairy host. "Hey! Hey! and some more of your jibber jabber is it? Grow him, grow him! One leg at a time."
In an instant, without much trouble, the boy's left leg began to stretch and grow.
"Ye can have it a yard for every year you've lived, and if ye can't exist without some more of your yam jabbering at me, I'll make it twinty miles for each and every year."
All this was getting too much for poor Tom, and it almost made him sick when he saw his foot, very much enlarged, grow across the room, through the open door and out into the hall.
But he thought quietly to himself that when he was big all over he would be better able to squeeze the fairies into a corner, and perhaps gather them all in one hand, and he began to laugh to himself.
When the old fairy saw him smiling, he thought he must have made a big blunder somewhere and immediately ordered his men to let go, and back snapped the leg again to its proper length.
It was usually with teasing that these little fellows got most of their fun, and not often, unless trapped, would they resort to more severe measures.
Tom felt a little better now that he was back to his normal size and called to a little white and orange fairy to drop his tooth brush when he saw him polishing his shoes with it.
Then with a great shout they all began to dance and sing. The old king standing on Tom's chest was the heartiest of them all with a rhythmical swaying, now backward, then forward, their feet moving too fast for the eye to follow.
Every few seconds the king would give a yelp that changed the steps of the dance, then he would jump way up in the air and come down on the boy's chest exactly in time with the music.
Though he was tied up and could not reach to brush the king off his chest, Tom could talk; still he had found that was anything but a help in his present plight, especially when he found that every word he uttered brought nothing but an added flogging.
Then quick as a flash Tom thought of a plan, and leaning forward he just whispered so that only the little king could hear him.
"Old odd shoe, I think I have YOU now, I've read all about you and I think I know your tricks and what to do with you. You have had your fun and now I think I am going to have mine. I'll keep my eye on just you no matter what you do to me and I've got you."
The rollicking reckless jovial old buck of a king stopped dancing at once and for several seconds stood staring at Tom, all the bravado oozing out of his brogues, as he stood there speechless.
His little eyes blazed, then softened and his face became pinched and distressed as he turned to the boy.
"Now what would ye do to a poor old fairy man who thinks the world of ye? Mightn't ye at least tell me the time o' day it might be getting to be, for a poor old uneddicated fairy man?"
But the Gordon Kid had sense enough to keep his eye right on the king and never a word would he say, for as everyone knows the fairy man is in your power as long as you keep your eye on him.
All silently and quickly the other fairies flew back into the book again and Tom knew they must be the DUINE SIGHE of which he had heard and read, and the little fellow that he had now under the spell of his eye was no other than the famous LEATH BHROG LEPRECHAUN who each night leads the fairy host from the legends of the good people in Ireland around the world for exercise and recreation. They will pester anyone they meet, yet with the same high spirit would do him a great favor. Leath Bhrog at last sat down on his little green hat and dusting off his crown slipped it back in his pocket.
Then, unconcerned like, he turned to the boy again, "Hey, hey. So it's that way the wind blows is it? Be done with this business now or you'll find there is both wood and stick in me fist that I'll be offering to you pretty soon."
Not a word did the boy say in reply, but as the old villain of a king crept up close to his nose and swung back his club with his face turned away Tom slipped his arm loose and caught the old leprechaun by the leg. He let a screech that might have been heard in three townlands if anyone had been awake, but luckily they were not.
"Thunder and turf, don't put me down. Thunder and turf, don't put me down," he howled. "Paustha, paustha! let me go. Ye win, I'll grant ye, but let me go."
But the boy still held on, knowing that if he so much as winked his captive would vanish.
"Yes, old shoe, you have found out my secret, I did want to grow and that is the reason that I was using those weights to help me, and now you have come with your men and spoiled it all for me. So I'm going to keep you here till sunrise or maybe you will do what I ask you to do now."
"Sure and I'll do ennytin' you want, but ye must have a lot more faith in me," said the leprechaun, for he was a little uneasy lest he be caught by the dawn, which would, he knew, be an everlasting embarrassment to him when he returned to the fairy-fort.
"Anny way, boy, ye have me head and pluck in the holler o' your hand, and I don't think you'll find me a very bad sort, aside from me boisterings and me strong humorousness. Have ye got the pluck inside of ye to take the chanst to try me out to suit yourself?"
"Yes, I think I will," said Tom soberly, and shut his eyes. When he opened them again, there stood the old fairy grinning up in his face.
"Now I think we understand each other better," said the king, as he polished his green silk hat on the sleeve of his coat. "And do you mind if I call you Tommy? Now, I really do like ye, and would be willin' to help ye in yer distress, if ye will let me know beforehand when the mornin' is about to break, for I must be on me way by then," mused on the king, now thoroughly at his ease with Tom.
"Now don't let the length of your legs bother ye any more, for ye have me promise to attend to that business for ye. Ye're only just wantin' to be he-sized I'm thinkin' ain't it?
"Whist Tommy, and have ye some more additional pluck to leave your troubles wid me intirely?" he whispered musingly, while he dusted his wings very carefully, then lit his pipe and with a nod of his fuzzy head dashed headlong into the book, glad to be free again.
The Gordon Kid awoke and it was morning. He examined his left foot very carefully, it looked all right to him as he took off the shoes and the shoulder braces and stood up. "Whew, I feel stiff and sore, and from the treatment of last night I guess, and I don't think I had better wear this any more."
He rubbed his back and it too felt sore in spots. "That was some night, believe me," he said to himself and went down to breakfast.
From that day Tom began to grow.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 4, 1918.
The Forgetful Poet is at camp. I'm afraid the poor fellow is having a hard time. He's more used to talking than walking and to saying things than doing them.
I'm running on a schedule here
And doing things on time.
I have to be in place, just like
The last word in a ------?
6:45 when I am just
Beginning to sleep sound,
An old horn toots, I grab my boots
And jump up with a ------?
And prance out in the chilly wind
To wash, and 'fore I'm done,
The horn it toots me up a hill -
I take it on the ------?
And when the set-up drill is done
I breakfast like a king.
But sure as I'm a-restin' up
Some other bell will ------?
I'm runnin' here and runnin' there
And always out o' puff.
I spend the day somehow, someway.
I'm burned as brown as ------?
Last week's answers were:
1, horsefly; 2, sea horse; 3, star fish; 4, sunfish; 5, treetoad; 6, moonshine; 7, greensward.
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2008 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.