"My story," commenced Mr. Morton, "is rather a remarkable one in some respects; and I cannot vouch for its being true. I shall call it 'The Wonderful Transformation.'
"Thomas Tubbs was a prosperous little tailor, and for forty years had been a resident of the town of Webbington, where he had been born and brought up. I have called him little, and you will agree with me when I say that, even in high-heeled boots, which he always wore, he measured only four feet and a half in height.
"In spite, however, of his undersize, Thomas had succeeded in winning the hand of a woman fifteen inches taller than himself. If this extra height had been divided equally between them, possibly they might have attracted less observation. As it was, when they walked to church, the top of the little tailor's beaver just about reached the shoulders of Mrs. Tubbs. Nevertheless, they managed to live very happily together, for the most part, though now and then, when Thomas was a little refractory, his better half would snatch him up bodily, and, carrying him to the cellar, lock him up there. Such little incidents only served to spice their domestic life, and were usually followed by a warm reconciliation.
"The happy pair had six children, all of whom took after their mother, and promised to be tall; the oldest boy, twelve years of age, being already taller than his father, or, rather, he would have been but for the tall hat and high-heeled boots.
"Mr. Tubbs was a tailor, as I have said. One day there came into his shop a man attired with extreme shabbiness. Thomas eyed him askance.
" 'Mr. Tubbs,' said the stranger, 'as you perceive, I am out at the elbows. I would like to get you to make me up a suit of clothes.'
" 'Ahem!' coughed Thomas, and glanced upward at a notice affixed to the door, 'Terms, Cash.'
"The stranger's eye followed the direction of Mr. Tubbs'. He smiled.
" 'I frankly confess,' he said, 'that I shall not be able to pay immediately, but, if I live, I will pay you within six months.'
" 'How am I to feel sure of that?' asked the tailor, hesitating.
" 'I pledge my word,' was the reply. 'You see, Mr. Tubbs, I have been sick for some time past, and that, of course, has used up my money. Now, thank Providence, I am well again, and ready to go to work. But I need clothes, as you see, before I have the ability to pay for them.'
" 'What's your name?' asked Thomas.
" 'Oswald Rudenheimer,' was the reply.
" 'A foreigner?'
" 'As you may suppose. Now, Mr. Tubbs, what do you say? Do you think you can trust me?'
"Thomas examined the face of his visitor. He looked honest, and the little tailor had a good deal of confidence in the excellence of human nature.
" 'I may be foolish,' he said at last, 'but I'll do it.'
" 'A thousand thanks!' said the stranger. 'You sha'n't repent of it.'
"The cloth was selected, and Thomas set to work. In three days the suit was finished, and Thomas sat in his shop waiting for his customer. At last he came, but what a change! He was splendidly dressed. The little tailor hardly recognized him.
" 'Mr. Tubbs,' said he, 'you're an honest man and a good fellow. You trusted me when I appeared penniless, but I deceived you. I am really one of the genii, of whom, perhaps, you have read, and lineally descended from those who guarded Solomon's seal. Instead of making you wait for your pay, I will recompense you on the spot, either in money or----'
" 'Or what? asked the astonished tailor.
" 'Or I will grant the first wish that may be formed in your mind. Now choose.'
"Thomas did not take long to choose. His charge would amount to but a few dollars, while he might wish for a million. He signified his decision.
" 'Perhaps you have chosen wisely,' said his visitor. 'But mind that you are careful about your wish. You may wish for something you don't want.'
" 'No fear of that,' said the tailor cheerfully.
" 'At any rate, I will come this way six months hence, and should you then wish to be released from the consequences of your wish, and to receive instead the money stipulated as the price of the suit, I will give you the chance.'
"Of course, Thomas did not object, though he considered it rather a foolish proposition.
"His visitor disappeared, and the tailor was left alone. He laid aside his work. How could a man be expected to work who had only to wish, and he could come into possession of more than he could earn in a hundred or even a thousand years?
" 'I might as well enjoy myself a little,' thought Mr. Tubbs. 'Let me see. I think there is a show in the village to-day. I'll go to it.'
"He accordingly slipped on his hat and went out, somewhat to the surprise of his wife, who concluded that her husband must be going out on business.
"Thomas Tubbs wended his way to the marketplace. He pressed in among the people, a crowd of whom had already assembled to witness the show. I cannot tell you what the show was. I am only concerned in telling you what Thomas Tubbs saw and did; and, to tell the plain truth, he didn't see anything at all. He was wedged in among people a foot or two taller than himself. Now, it is not pleasant to hear all about you laughing heartily and not even catch a glimpse of what amuses them so much. Thomas Tubbs was human, and as curious as most people. just as a six-footer squeezed in front of him he could not help framing, in his vexation, this wish:
" 'Oh, dear! I wish I were ten feet high!'
"Luckless Thomas Tubbs! Never had he framed a more unfortunate wish. On the instant he shot up from an altitude of four feet six to ten feet. Fortunately his clothes expanded proportionally. So, instead of being below the medium height, he was raised more than four feet above it.
"Of course, his immediate neighbors became aware of the gigantic presence, though they did not at all recognize its identity with the little tailor, Thomas Tubbs.
"At once there was a shout of terror. The crowd scattered in all directions, forgetting the spectacle at which, the moment before, they had been laughing heartily, and the little tailor, no longer little, was left alone in the market-place.
" 'Good heavens!' he exclaimed in bewilderment, stretching out his brawny arm, nearly five feet in length, and staring at it in ludicrous astonishment, 'who'd have thought that I should ever be so tall?'
"To tell the truth, the little man--I mean Mr. Tubbs--at first rather enjoyed his new magnitude. He had experienced mortification so long on account of his diminutive stature, that he felt a little exhilarated at the idea of being able to look down on those to whom he had hitherto felt compelled to look up. It was rather awkward to have people afraid of him. As he turned to leave the square, for the exhibitor of the show had run off in the general panic, he could see people looking at him from third-story windows, and pointing at him with outstretched fingers and mouths agape.
" 'Really,' thought Thomas Tubbs, 'I never expected to be such an object of interest. I think I'll go home.'
"His house was a mile off, but so large were his strides that five minutes carried him to it.
"Now Mrs. Tubbs was busy putting the dinner on the table, and wondering why her husband did not make his appearance. She was fully determined to give him a scolding in case his delay was so great as to cause the dinner to cool. All at once she heard a bustle at the door. Looking into the entry, she saw a huge man endeavoring to make his entrance into the house. As the portal was only seven feet in height, it was not accomplished without a great deal of twisting and squirming. "Mrs. Tubbs turned pale.
" 'What are you trying to do, you monster?' she faltered.
" 'I have come home to dinner, Mary,' was the meek reply.
" 'Come home to dinner!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, aghast. 'Who in the name of wonder are you, you overgrown brute?'
" 'Who am I? asked the giant, smiling feebly, for he began to feel a little queer at this reception from the wife with whom he had lived for fifteen years. 'Ha! ha! don't you know your own husband--your Tommy?'
" 'My husband!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, astonished at the fellow's impudence. 'You, don't mean to say that you are my husband?'
" 'Of course I am,' said Thomas.
" 'Then,' said Mrs. Tubbs, 'I would have you know that my husband is a respectable little man, not half your size.'
" 'Oh, dear!' thought Thomas. 'Well, here's a kettle of fish; my own wife won't own me!'
" 'So I was,' he said aloud. 'I was only four feet six; but I've--I've grown.'
" 'Grown!' Mrs. Tubbs laughed hysterically. 'That's a likely story, when it's only an hour since my husband went into the street as short as ever. I only wish he'd come in, I do, to expose your imposition.'
" 'But I have grown, Mary,' said Tubbs piteously. 'I was out in the crowd, and I couldn't see what was going on, and so I wished I was ten feet high; and, before I knew it, I was as tall as I am now.'
" 'No doubt,' said Mrs. Tubbs incredulously, 'As to that, all I've got to say is, that you'd better wish yourself back again, as I sha'n't own you as my husband till you do!'
" 'Really,' thought Mr. Tubbs, 'this is dreadful! What can I do!'
"Just then one of his children ran into the room.
" 'Johnny, come to me,' said his father imploringly. 'Come to your father.'
" 'My father!' said Johnny, shying out of the room. 'You ain't my father. My father isn't as tall as a tree.'
" 'You see how absurd your claim is,' said Mrs. Tubbs. 'You'll oblige me by leaving the house directly.'
" 'Leave the house--my house!' said Tubbs.
" 'If you don't, I'll call in the neighbors,' said the courageous woman.
" 'I don't believe they'd dare to come,' said Tubbs, smiling queerly at the recollection of what a sensation his appearance had made.
" 'Won't you go?'
" 'At least you'll let me have some dinner. I am 'most famished.'
" 'Dinner!" said Mrs. Tubbs, hesitating. 'I don't think there's enough in the house. However, you can sit down to the table.'
"Tubbs attempted to sit down on a chair, but his weight was so great that it was crushed beneath him. Finally, he was compelled to sit on the floor, and even then his stature was such that his head rose to the height of six feet.
"What an enormous appetite he had, too! The viands on the table seemed nothing. He at first supplied his plate with the usual quantity; but as the extent of his appetite became revealed to him, he was forced to make away with everything on the table. Even then he was hungry.
" 'Well, I declare,' thought Mrs. Tubbs, in amazement, 'it does take an immense quantity to keep him alive!'
"Tubbs rose from the table, and, in doing so, hit his head a smart whack against the ceiling. Before leaving the house he turned to make a last appeal to his wife, who, he could not help seeing, was anxious to have him go.
" 'Won't you own me, Mary?' he asked. 'It isn't my fault that I am so big.'
" 'Own you!' exclaimed his wife. 'I wouldn't own you for a mint of money. You'd eat me out of house and home in less than a week.'
" 'I don't know but I should,' said Mr. Tubbs mournfully. 'I don't see what gives me such an appetite. I'm hungry now.'
" 'Hungry, after you've eaten enough for six!' exclaimed his wife, aghast. 'Well, I never!'
" 'Then you won't let me stay, Mary?'
" 'No, no.'
"With slow and sad strides Thomas Tubbs left the house. The world seemed dark enough to the poor fellow. Not only was he disowned by his wife and children, but he could not tell how he should ever earn enough to keep him alive, with the frightful appetite which he now possessed. 'I don't know,' he thought, 'but the best way is to drown myself at once.' So he walked to the river, but found it was not deep enough to drown him.
"As he emerged from the river uncomfortably wet, he saw a man timidly approaching him. It proved to be the manager of the show.
" 'Hello!' said he hesitatingly.
" 'Hello!' returned Tubbs disconsolately.
" 'Would you like to enter into a business engagement with me?'
" 'Of what sort?' asked Tubbs, brightening up.
" 'To be exhibited,' was the reply. 'You're the largest man living in the world. We could make a pretty penny together.'
"Tubbs was glad enough to accept this proposition, which came to him like a plank to a drowning man. Accordingly an agreement was made that, after deducting expenses, he should share profits with the manager.
"It proved to be a great success. From all quarters people flocked to see the great prodigy, the wonder of the world, as he was described in huge posters. Scientific men wrote learned papers in which they strove to explain his extraordinary height, and, as might be expected, no two assigned the same cause.
"At the end of six months Tubbs had five thousand dollars as his share of the profits. But after all he was far from happy. He missed the society of his wife and children, and shed many tears over his separation from them.
"At the end of six months his singular customer again made his appearance.
" 'It seems to me you've altered some since I last saw you,' he said, with a smile.
" 'Yes,' said Tubbs dolefully.
" 'You don't like the change, I judge?'
" 'No,' said Tubbs. 'It separates me from my wife and children, and that makes me unhappy.'
" 'Would you like to be changed back again!'
" 'Gladly,' was the reply.
"Presto! the wonderful giant was changed back into the little tailor. No sooner was this effected than he returned post-haste to Webbington. His wife received him with open arms.
" 'Oh, Thomas,' she exclaimed, 'how could you leave us so? On the day of your disappearance a huge brute of a man came here and pretended to be you, but I soon sent him away.'
"Thomas wisely said nothing, but displayed his five thousand dollars. There was great joy in the little dwelling. Thomas Tubbs at once took a larger shop, and grew every year in wealth and public esteem. The only way in which he did not grow was in stature; but his six months' experience as a giant had cured him of any wish of that sort. The last I heard of him was his election to the legislature."
"That's a bully story," said Charlie, using a word which he had heard from older boys. "I wish I was a great tall giant."
"What would you do if you were, Charlie?"
"I'd go and fight the rebels," said Charlie manfully.