Circus midget Little Tom Little is the king of midgets, loved by crowds and carnival folk alike. Only he doesn't just want to be a bigger circus star, he wants to be just like the circus' tall and imposing leader.
Trouble begins the moment that a set of ancient books containing the secret of switching bodies finds its way into Tom Little's tiny hands. When he magically trades his small frame with that of the circus chief, he finds himself in a giant-sized heap of trouble--his craving for height has landed him smack in the center ring surrounded by forty savage cats!
FITTINGLY, it was a dark and blustery night when the Professor died. The summer storm had come yelling in
from a scorching afternoon to tear at canvas and yank out stakes and stab bright fury at the big top. The rain bucketed down with a shock of coldness and then settled to a ceaseless cannonading which, after seven hours, had turned the lot into a swamp so tenacious that not even the rubber mules could budge the wagons. Banners wept from their staffs; lot lice shivered in scant cover; somewhere a big cat, excited by the tropical aspect of the storm, moaned and paced in his cage. And although a waxen yellowness was already upon his face and his skin was falling away from his bones, the Professor managed an evil smile. He was waiting, hanging on and waiting. For he had sent half an hour since for Little Tom Little, king of the midgets. And as he waited, his thoughts roamed over the past, the better to savor what he was about to do.
The Professor was the gypsy camp's bird of bad omen. Whence he had come, no man knew, but with him had come a chain of disaster. Tall and bony, he had always been more a cadaver than a man; his scummed eyes hid behind thick, dark lids; his hands seemed always ready to throttle a victim; his black hair was matted about his face, just as his clothes were matted about his form.
He had come as a mitt reader. Mrs. Johnson had not wanted to take him but, boss of the show though she was, she had not been able to refuse him. Hermann Schmidt, ringmaster and governor de facto, powerful figure though he was, had been unable to resist the eerie command of those eyes. And the man had become "The Professor" to the gypsy camp, and Yogi Matto to the chumps.
There had been uneasy speculation about him for weeks, for the breaks had been many--and all bad. But men were afraid of him and said nothing. As though finding flavor in his tidings, he had accurately forecast each and every disaster, even to this storm which had kept the crowds away tonight. And, weirdly, he had forecast, again with relish, his own death. Some had said he was a Russian, but then a Hindu had come out of the crowd and the two had spoken in the Hindu's tongue. And when they had dubbed him as being from India, they found that he spoke Chinese and Turkish as well. A razorback had once seen the insides of his trunks and had pronounced their heaviness occasioned by fully a hundred books of ancient aspect, filled with mysterious signs and incantations.
That the Professor did possess some remarkable power was apparent to all. For no matter how much anger might be vented against him for driving clients into hysteria with his evil forebodings of their future and thus hurting the show, no man had ever been able to approach those eyes.
No man, that is, but Little Tom Little.