Now, in the forests of the Island of Gee-Whiz are very many sorts of trees—palm trees, tall and stately, with parasols at their tops; juju trees, with rough, sticky sides and long, slender leaves; and strawberry trees, not in the least resembling our little creeping vines. There are also orange trees, with ripe yellow oranges, and trees with fruit resembling chocolate éclaires, all ready for eating, and other trees which bear fruit much like a charlotte russe. Besides these, there are many trees such as we all know—hickory, oak, and apple trees, and maple trees, from which maple sugar comes. It was, of course, from the sugar-maple tree that Zuzu had drawn the syrup for the Waffles; and that, of course, was the kind of tree into which the King should have cut with his little gold ax. But, being guided by this Wicked Fairy whom he could not see, the King was not aware of this. The truth is that, as he swung his ax and cut into the tree before him, it was not a maple tree at all, but a rubber tree. As he struck the trunk, to his great surprise, there gushed out not a pale, sticky syrup, but a fresh-looking liquid, which resembled milk.
“Bless my soul and body!” said the King. “That does not look right.”
“Oh, yes, it does,” whispered the Wicked Fairy in his ear.
“Eh? What?” said the King, still not knowing it was a Fairy. “Yes, I suppose this must be right. In any case, I will taste it and see.” So he held out his cup and caught it full of the rubber juice and drank a deep draft of it. To his great surprise, he began to feel very strange.
“Bless my soul and body!” exclaimed the King to himself. “This is most extraordinary. I must say that I feel strange, quite strange, I do indeed. Why, this is not in the least like the syrup I tasted yesterday morning. I wonder if I could have made a mistake.”
“Eh? What?” said the King. “Oh, yes, so it is, so it is. At first, it seemed to me that the syrup was not the same.”
“Take some more,” whispered the Wicked Fairy; and the King, still not knowing there was a Wicked Fairy there, did so, this time taking a deep draft.
“Bless my soul and body!” cried he this time. “I begin to feel very strange, very strange indeed. I feel really light-headed.”
He looked down at his shadow, but the shadow still was there, keeping time with every motion, so that he felt much comforted.
“My shadow is just the same,” said the King, “so everything must be all right. But, dear me, what is the matter with my leg?”
The King had, in stepping back from the tree, caught his foot between two roots, and now, instead of releasing his foot when he pulled at it, he saw, to his great surprise, that he was stretching his leg out to twice its natural length.
“Dear me!” he said, as he moved back and sat down on a log, looking in curiosity at his leg, which was now about ten or perhaps eleven feet long and much thinner than before. “Bless my soul and body! If I were not the King and quite wide-awake, I should say that something was happening to me, I should indeed. This impresses me as being most extraordinary. Where is my shadow?” He looked around and there was the shadow just the same, with its leg as long as his, which made the King again feel very much better.
“It does not hurt,” said the King, shaking his head; and the shadow also shook its head to show that it was not in any pain.
“Take another drink,” whispered the Wicked Fairy to the King.
“Well, if it does not hurt any,” said the King to himself, “and since the thing is so curious, I will take another sip of the syrup, I believe.” He did so, and this time his hand, which had rested on the tree, remained there when he went back to the log to sit down, his arm stretching out as long as his leg. This was very much to the King’s surprise. He gave a sharp jerk, and both arm and leg shortened as they flew back quite as though they had been fast to a strong rubber cord. At this the King perspired a trifle and moved away toward the other end of the log, looking down at his hand and foot as he did so. To his great surprise, as he sat down on the log, he felt himself gently bounce up again in the air, and this was repeated each time as he struck the log, so that it was some moments before he could really settle down. Even then he felt very touchy and insecure, so that he scarcely dared draw a long breath. Indeed, when at length he did draw a long breath, he found, to his great surprise, that his chest swelled out like a small balloon, so that he was more than three times as large around as he was before. He was much alarmed at this, but smiled again when he saw that his shadow was quite as large as himself.
“Bless my soul and body!” said the King to himself, “I wonder if they will know me now. This is what I call great good fortune! The truth is that I have always felt larger than I really looked, so I am very glad I cut into this tree and got a taste of something to make me grow to my real size. I have long looked for something of precisely this sort.”
“Why not get up and dance?” asked the Wicked Fairy in his ear.
“Eh? What?” said the King. “Dance? Oh, yes, I certainly am happy enough to dance at this new discovery. Indeed, my spirits have at no time felt more elastic than at the present moment. So, since there is nothing to prevent it, I think I will do a royal step or two to pass away the time before breakfast.”