Ball-carrier And The Bad One





Far, far in the forest there were two little huts, and in each of

them lived a man who was a famous hunter, his wife, and three or four

children. Now the children were forbidden to play more than a short

distance from the door, as it was known that, away on the other side of

the wood near the great river, there dwelt a witch who had a magic ball

that she used as a means of stealing children.



Her plan was a very simple one, and had never yet failed. When she

wanted a child she just flung her ball in the direction of the child's

home, and however far off it might be, the ball was sure to reach it.

Then, as soon as the child saw it, the ball would begin rolling slowly

back to the witch, just keeping a little ahead of the child, so that he

always thought that he could catch it the next minute. But he never did,

and, what was more, his parents never saw him again.



Of course you must not suppose that all the fathers and mothers who

had lost children made no attempts to find them, but the forest was so

large, and the witch was so cunning in knowing exactly where they were

going to search, that it was very easy for her to keep out of the way.

Besides, there was always the chance that the children might have been

eaten by wolves, of which large herds roamed about in winter.



One day the old witch happened to want a little boy, so she threw

her ball in the direction of the hunters' huts. A child was standing

outside, shooting at a mark with his bow and arrows, but the moment he

saw the ball, which was made of glass whose blues and greens and whites,

all frosted over, kept changing one into the other, he flung down his

bow, and stooped to pick the ball up. But as he did so it began to roll

very gently downhill. The boy could not let it roll away, when it was so

close to him, so he gave chase. The ball seemed always within his grasp,

yet he could never catch it; it went quicker and quicker, and the boy

grew more and more excited. That time he almost touched it--no, he

missed it by a hair's breadth! Now, surely, if he gave a spring he

could get in front of it! He sprang forward, tripped and fell, and found

himself in the witch's house!



'Welcome! welcome! grandson!' said she; 'get up and rest yourself, for

you have had a long walk, and I am sure you must be tired!' So the boy

sat down, and ate some food which she gave him in a bowl. It was quite

different from anything he had tasted before, and he thought it was

delicious. When he had eaten up every bit, the witch asked him if he had

ever fasted.



'No,' replied the boy, 'at least I have been obliged to sometimes, but

never if there was any food to be had.'



'You will have to fast if you want the spirits to make you strong and

wise, and the sooner you begin the better.'



'Very well,' said the boy, 'what do I do first?'



'Lie down on those buffalo skins by the door of the hut,' answered she;

and the boy lay down, and the squirrels and little bears and the birds

came and talked to him.



At the end of ten days the old woman came to him with a bowl of the same

food that he had eaten before.



'Get up, my grandson, you have fasted long enough. Have the good spirits

visited you, and granted you the strength and wisdom that you desire?'



'Some of them have come, and have given me a portion of both,' answered

the boy, 'but many have stayed away from me.'



'Then,' said she, 'you must fast ten days more.'



So the boy lay down again on the buffalo skins, and fasted for ten days,

and at the end of that time he turned his face to the wall, and fasted

for twenty days longer. At length the witch called to him, and said:



'Come and eat something, my grandson.' At the sound of her voice the boy

got up and ate the food she gave him. When he had finished every scrap

she spoke as before: 'Tell me, my grandson, have not the good spirits

visited you all these many days that you have fasted?'



'Not all, grandmother,' answered he; 'there are still some who keep away

from me and say that I have not fasted long enough.'



'Then you must fast again,' replied the old woman, 'and go on fasting

till you receive the gifts of all the good spirits. Not one must be

missing.'



The boy said nothing, but lay down for the third time on the buffalo

skins, and fasted for twenty days more. And at the end of that time the

witch thought he was dead, his face was so white and his body so still.

But when she had fed him out of the bowl he grew stronger, and soon was

able to sit up.



'You have fasted a long time,' said she, 'longer than anyone ever fasted

before. Surely the good spirits must be satisfied now?'



'Yes, grandmother,' answered the boy, 'they have all come, and have

given me their gifts.'



This pleased the old woman so much that she brought him another basin of

food, and while he was eating it she talked to him, and this is what she

said: 'Far away, on the other side of the great river, is the home of

the Bad One. In his house is much gold, and what is more precious even

than the gold, a little bridge, which lengthens out when the Bad One

waves his hand, so that there is no river or sea that he cannot cross.

Now I want that bridge and some of the gold for myself, and that is the

reason that I have stolen so many boys by means of my ball. I have tried

to teach them how to gain the gifts of the good spirits, but none of

them would fast long enough, and at last I had to send them away

to perform simple, easy little tasks. But you have been strong and

faithful, and you can do this thing if you listen to what I tell you!

When you reach the river tie this ball to your foot, and it will take

you across--you cannot manage it in any other way. But do not be afraid;

trust to the ball, and you will be quite safe!'



The boy took the ball and put it in a bag. Then he made himself a club

and a bow, and some arrows which would fly further than anyone else's

arrows, because of the strength the good spirits had given him. They had

also bestowed on him the power of changing his shape, and had increased

the quickness of his eyes and ears so that nothing escaped him. And in

some way or other they made him understand that if he needed more help

they would give it to him.



When all these things were ready the boy bade farewell to the witch and

set out. He walked through the forest for several days without seeing

anyone but his friends the squirrels and the bears and the birds, but

though he stopped and spoke to them all, he was careful not to let them

know where he was going.



At last, after many days, he came to the river, and beyond it he noticed

a small hut standing on a hill which he guessed to be the home of the

Bad One. But the stream flowed so quickly that he could not see how he

was ever to cross it, and in order to test how swift the current really

was, he broke a branch from a tree and threw it in. It seemed hardly

to touch the water before it was carried away, and even his magic sight

could not follow it. He could not help feeling frightened, but he hated

giving up anything that he had once undertaken, and, fastening the ball

on his right foot, he ventured on the river. To his surprise he was

able to stand up; then a panic seized him, and he scrambled up the bank

again. In a minute or two he plucked up courage to go a little further

into the river, but again its width frightened him, and a second time he

turned back. However, he felt rather ashamed of his cowardice, as it was

quite clear that his ball could support him, and on his third trial he

got safely to the other side.



Once there he replaced the ball in the bag, and looked carefully round

him. The door of the Bad One's hut was open, and he saw that the ceiling

was supported by great wooden beams, from which hung the bags of gold

and the little bridge. He saw, too, the Bad One sitting in the midst of

his treasures eating his dinner, and drinking something out of a horn.

It was plain to the boy that he must invent some plan of getting the Bad

One out of the way, or else he would never be able to steal the gold or

the bridge.



What should he do? Give horrible shrieks as if he were in pain? But the

Bad One would not care whether he were murdered or not! Call him by his

name? But the Bad One was very cunning, and would suspect some trick. He

must try something better than that! Then suddenly an idea came to him,

and he gave a little jump of joy. 'Oh, how stupid of me not to think of

that before!' said he, and he wished with all his might that the Bad One

should become very hungry--so hungry that he could not wait a moment for

fresh food to be brought to him. And sure enough at that instant the

Bad One called out to his servant, 'You did not bring food that would

satisfy a sparrow Fetch some more at once, for I am perfectly starving.'

Then, without giving the woman time to go to the larder, he got up from

his chair, and rolled, staggering from hunger, towards the kitchen.



Directly the door had closed on the Bad One the boy ran in, pulled down

a bag of gold from the beam, and tucked it under his left arm. Next he

unhooked the little bridge and put it under his right. He did not try to

escape, as most boys of his age would have done, for the wisdom put into

his mind by the good spirits taught him that before he could reach the

river and make use of the bridge the Bad One would have tracked him by

his footsteps and been upon him. So, making himself very small and

thin, he hid himself behind a pile of buffalo skins in the corner, first

tearing a slit through one of them, so that he could see what was going

on.



He had hardly settled himself when the servant entered the room, and,

as she did so, the last bag of gold on the beam fell to the ground--for

they had begun to fall directly the boy had taken the first one. She

cried to her master that someone had stolen both the bag and the bridge,

and the Bad One rushed in, mad with anger, and bade her go and seek for

footsteps outside, that they might find out where the thief had gone. In

a few minutes she returned, saying that he must be in the house, as she

could not see any footsteps leading to the river, and began to move all

the furniture in the room, without discovering Ball Carrier.



'But he must be here somewhere,' she said to herself, examining for the

second time the pile of buffalo skins; and Ball-Carrier, knowing that he

could not possibly escape now, hastily wished that the Bad One should be

unable to eat any more food at present.



'Ah, there is a slit in this one,' cried the servant, shaking the skin;

'and here he is.' And she pulled out Ball-Carrier, looking so lean and

small that he would hardly have made a mouthful for a sparrow.



'Was it you who took my gold and bridge?' asked the Bad One.



'Yes,' answered Ball-Carrier, 'it was I who took them.'



The Bad One made a sign to the woman, who inquired where he had hidden

them. He lifted his left arm where the gold was, and she picked up a

knife and scraped his skin so that no gold should be left sticking to

it.



'What have you done with the bridge?' said she. And he lifted his right

arm, from which she took the bridge, while the Bad One looked on, well

pleased. 'Be sure that he does not run away,' chuckled he. 'Boil some

water, and get him ready for cooking, while I go and invite my friends

the water-demons to the feast.'



The woman seized Ball-Carrier between her finger and thumb, and was

going to carry him to the kitchen, when the boy spoke:



'I am very lean and small now,' he said, 'hardly worth the trouble of

cooking; but if you were to keep me two days, and gave me plenty of

food, I should get big and fat. As it is, your friends the water-demons

would think you meant to laugh at them, when they found that I was the

feast.'



'Well, perhaps you are right,' answered the Bad One; 'I will keep you

for two days.' And he went out to visit the water-demons.



Meanwhile the servant, whose name was Lung Woman, led him into a little

shed, and chained him up to a ring in the wall. But food was given

him every hour, and at the end of two days he was as fat and big as a

Christmas turkey, and could hardly move his head from one side to the

other.



'He will do now,' said the Bad One, who came constantly to see how he

was getting on. 'I shall go and tell the water-demons that we expect

them to dinner to-night. Put the kettle on the fire, but be sure on no

account to taste the broth.'



Lung-Woman lost no time in obeying her orders. She built up the fire,

which had got very low, filled the kettle with water, and passing a

rope which hung from the ceiling through the handle, swung it over

the flames. Then she brought in Ball-Carrier, who, seeing all these

preparations, wished that as long as he was in the kettle the water

might not really boil, though it would hiss and bubble, and also, that

the spirits would turn the water into fat.



The kettle soon began to sing and bubble, and Ball Carrier was lifted

in. Very soon the fat which was to make the sauce rose to the surface,

and Ball-Carrier, who was bobbing about from one side to the other,

called out that Lung-Woman had better taste the broth, as he though that

some salt should be added to it. The servant knew quite well that her

master had forbidden her to do any thing of the kind, but when once

the idea was put into her head, she found the smell from the kettle so

delicious that she unhooked a long ladle from the wall and plunged it

into the kettle.



'You will spill it all, if you stand so far off,' said the boy; 'why

don't you come a little nearer?' And as she did so he cried to the

spirits to give him back his usual size and strength and to make the

water scalding hot Then he gave the kettle a kick, which upset all the

boiling water upon her, and jumping over her body he seized once more

the gold and the bridge, picked up his club and bow and arrows, and

after setting fire to the Bad One's hut, ran down to the river, which he

crossed safely by the help of the bridge.



The hut, which was made of wood, was burned to the ground before the Bad

One came back with a large crowd of water-demons. There was not a sign

of anyone or anything, so he started for the river, where he saw Ball

Carrier sitting quietly on the other side. Then the Bad One knew what

had happened, and after telling the water demons that there would be no

feast after all, he called to Ball-Carrier, who was eating an apple.



'I know your name now,' he said, 'and as you have ruined me, and I am

not rich any more, will you take me as your servant?'



'Yes, I will, though you have tried to kill me,' answered Ball-Carrier,

throwing the bridge across the water as he spoke. But when the Bad One

was in the midst of the stream, the boy wished it to become small; and

the Bad One fell into the water and was drowned, and the world was rid

of him.





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