UT THE YOUNGSTER started on his expedition; he took with him the bag of food, a crooked, twisted block of a fir tree, an axe, a wedge, and some chips of the fir root, and the small pauper boy at the palace.
When he came to the sound, he found the river full of ice, and the current ran as strong as in a waterfall; but he stuck his legs to the bottom of the river and waded until he got safe across.
When he had warmed himself and had something to eat, he wanted to go to sleep; but before long he heard such a terrible noise, as if they were turning the castle upside down. The door burst wide open, and he saw nothing but a gaping jaw extending from the threshold up to the lintel.
"There is a mouthful for you," said the youngster and threw the pauper boy into the swallow: "taste that! But let me see now who you are! Perhaps you are an old acquaintance?"
And so it was; it was the devil who was about again.
They began to play cards, for the devil wanted to try and win back some of the ground-rent which the youngster had got out of his mother by threats, when he was sent by the king to collect it; but the youngster was always the fortunate one, for he put a cross on the back of all the good cards, and when he had won all the money which the devil had upon him, the devil had to pay him out of the gold and silver which was in the castle.
Suddenly the fire went out, so they could not tell the one card from the other.
"We must chop some wood now," said the youngster, who drove the axe into the fir block, and forced the wedge in; but the twisted, knotty block would not split, although the youngster worked as hard as he could with the axe.
"They say you are strong," he said to the devil; "just spit on your hands, stick your claws in, and tear away, and let me see what you are made of."
The devil did so, and put both his fists into the split and pulled as hard as he could, when the youngster suddenly struck the wedge out, and the devil stuck fast in the block and the youngster let him also have a taste of the butt end of his axe on his back. The devil begged and prayed so nicely to be let loose, but the youngster would not listen to anything of the kind unless he promised that he would never come there any more and create any disturbance. He also had to promise that he would build a bridge over the sound, so that people could pass over it at all times of the year, and it should be ready when the ice was gone.
"They are very hard conditions," said the devil; but there was no other way out of it—if the devil wanted to be set free, he would have to promise it. He bargained, however, that he should have the first soul that went across the bridge. That was to be the toll.
Yes, he should have that, said the youngster. So the devil was let loose, and he started home. But the youngster lay down to sleep, and slept till far into the day.
When the king came to see if he was cut and chopped into small pieces, he had to wade through all the money before he came to his bedside. There was money in heaps and in bags which reached far up the wall, and the youngster lay in bed asleep and snoring hard.
"Lord help me and my daughter," said the king when he saw that the youngster was alive. Well, all was good and well done, that no one could deny; but there was no hurry talking of the wedding before the bridge was ready.
One day the bridge stood ready, and the devil was there waiting for the toll which he had bargained for.
The youngster wanted the king to go with him and try the bridge, but the king had no mind to do it. So he mounted a horse himself, and put the fat dairy-maid in the palace on the pommel in front of him; she looked almost like a big fir block, and so he rode over the bridge, which thundered under the horse's feet.
"Where is the toll? Where have you got the soul?" cried the devil.
"Why, inside this fir block," said the youngster; "if you want it you will have to spit in your hands and take it."
"No, many thanks! If she does not come to me, I am sure I shan't take her," said the devil. "You got me once into a pinch, and I'll take care you don't get me into another," and with that he flew straight home to his old mother, and since that time he has never been heard or seen thereabouts.
The youngster went home to the palace and asked for the reward the king had promised him, and when the king wanted to get out of it, and would not stick to what he had promised, the youngster said it was best he got a good bag of food ready for him and he would take his reward himself.
Yes, the king would see to that, and when the bag was ready the youngster asked the king to come outside the door. The youngster then gave the king such a kick, which sent him flying up in the air. The bag he threw after him that he might not be without food; and if he has not come down again by this he is floating about with his bag between heaven and earth to this very day.