King Bud and Princess Fluff were leading very happy and peaceful lives in their beautiful palace. All wars and dangers seemed at an end, and there was nothing to disturb their content. All the gold that was needed the royal pursebearer was able to supply from his overflowing purse. The gigantic General Tollydob became famous throughout the world, and no nation dared attack the army of Noland. The talking dog of old Tallydab made everyone wonder, and people came many miles to see Ruffles and hear him speak. It was said that all this good fortune had been brought to Noland by the pretty Princess Fluff, who was a favorite of the fairies, and the people loved her on this account as well as for her bright and sunny disposition.
King Bud caused his subjects some little anxiety, to be sure, for they never could tell what he was liable to do next, except that he was sure to do something unexpected. But much is forgiven a king, and if Bud made some pompous old noble-man stand on his head to amuse a mob of people, he would give him a good dinner afterward and fill his purse with gold to make up for the indignity. Fluff often reproved her brother for such pranks, but Bud's soul was flooded with mischief, and it was hard for him to resist letting a little of the surplus escape now and then.
After all, the people were fairly content and prosperous, and no one was at all prepared for the disaster soon to overtake them. One day, while King Bud was playing at ball with some of his courtiers on a field outside the city gates, the first warning of trouble reached him. Bud had batted a ball high into the air, and while looking upward for it to descend, he saw another ball bound from the plain at the top of the North Mountains, fly into the air, and then sink gradually toward him. As it approached, it grew bigger and bigger until it assumed mammoth proportions, and then, while the courtiers screamed in terror, the great ball struck the field near them, bounced high into the air, and came down directly upon the sharp point of one of the palace towers, where it stuck fast with a yell that sounded almost human.
For some moments Bud and his companions were motionless through surprise and fear, then they rushed into the city and stood among the crowd of people which had congregated at the foot of the tower to stare at the big ball impaled upon its point. Once in a while, two arms, two short legs and head would dart out from the ball and wiggle frantically, and then the yell would be repeated and the head and limbs withdrawn swiftly into the ball.
It was all so curious that the people were justified in staring at it in amazement, for certainly no one had ever seen or heard of a Roly-Rogue before, or even known such a creature existed. Finally, as no one else could reach the steeple-top, Aunt Rivette flew into the air and circled slowly around the ball. When next its head was thrust out, she called, "Are you a mud turtle or a man?"
"I'll show you which if I get hold of you," answered the Roly-Rogue fiercely.
"Where did you come from?" asked Aunt Rivette, taking care the wiggling arms did not grab her.
"That is none of your business," said the Roly-Rogue. "But I didn't intend to come, that you may depend upon."
"Are you hurt?" she inquired, seeing that the struggles of the creature made him spin around upon the steeple point like a windmill.
"No, I'm not hurt at all," declared the Roly-Rogue, "but I'd like to know how to get down."
"What would you do if we helped you to get free?" asked Aunt Rivette.
"I'd fight every one of those idiots who are laughing at me down there!" said the creature, its eyes flashing wickedly.
"Then you'd best stay where you are," returned old Rivette, who flew back to earth again to tell Bud what the Roly-Rogue had said.
"I believe that is the best place for him," said Bud, "so we'll let him stay where he is. He's not very ornamental, I must say, but he's very safe up there on top of the steeple."
"We might have him gilded," proposed the old woman, "and then he'd look better."
"I'll think it over," said the king, and he went away to finish his ball game.
The people talked and wondered about the queer creature on the steeple, but no one could say where it came from or what it was; they were naturally much puzzled. The next day was bright with sunshine, so early in the forenoon Bud and Fluff had the royal cook fill their baskets with good things to eat and set out to picnic on the bank of the river that separated Noland from the kingdom of Ix. They rode ponies to reach the river sooner than by walking, and their only companions were Tallydab, the lord high steward, and his talking dog Ruffles.
It was after this picnic party had passed over the mountain and were securely hidden from anyone in the city of Nole that the ruler of the Roly-Rogues and his thousands of followers hurled themselves down from their land above the clouds and began bounding toward the plain below.
The people first heard a roar that sounded like distant thunder, and when they looked toward the North Mountains they saw the air black with tiny bouncing balls that seemed to drop from the drifting clouds which always had obscured the highest peak. But although appearing small when first seen, these balls grew rapidly larger as they came nearer, and then, with sharp reports like pistol shots, they began dropping upon the plain by dozens and hundreds and then thousands.
As soon as they touched the ground, they bounded upward again, like rubber balls the children throw upon the floor, but each bound was less violent than the one preceding it, until finally within the streets of the city and upon all the fields surrounding it lay the thousands of Roly-Rogues that had fallen from the mountain peak.
At first they lay still, as if stunned by their swift journey and collision with the hard earth, but after a few seconds they recovered, thrust out their heads and limbs, and scrambled upon their flat feet. Then the savage Roly-Rogues uttered hoarse shouts of joy, for they were safely arrived at the city they had seen from afar, and the audacious adventure was a success.