50 BALL-CARRIER AND THE BAD ONE
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 itóno, 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