...chapter nine of Rinkitink in Oz...previous...next...
Now it so happened that on the morning of that same day when the Prince
of Pingaree suffered the loss of his priceless shoes, there chanced to pass
along the road that wound beside the royal palace a poor charcoal-burner
named Nikobob, who was about to return to his home in the forest.
Nikobob carried an ax and a bundle of torches over his shoulder and he
walked with his eyes to the ground, being deep in thought as to the strange
manner in which the powerful King Gos and his city had been conquered by a
boy Prince who had come from Pingaree.
Suddenly the charcoal-burner espied a shoe lying upon the ground, just
beyond the high wall of the palace and directly in his path. He picked it up
and, seeing it was a pretty shoe, although much too small for his own foot,
he put it in his pocket.
Soon after, on turning a corner of the wall, Nikobob came to a dust-heap
where, lying amidst a mass of rubbish, was another shoe -- the mate to the
one he had before found. This also he placed in his pocket, saying to
"I have now a fine pair of shoes for my daughter Zella, who will
be much pleased to find I have brought her a present from the city."
And while the charcoal-burner turned into the forest and trudged along
the path toward his home, Inga and Rinkitink were still searching for the
missing shoes. Of course, they could not know that Nikobob had found them,
nor did the honest man think he had taken anything more than a pair of
cast-off shoes which nobody wanted.
Nikobob had several miles to travel through the forest before he could
reach the little log cabin where his wife, as well as his little daughter
Zella, awaited his return, but he was used to long walks and tramped along
the path whistling cheerfully to beguile the time.
Few people, as I said before, ever passed through the dark and tangled
forests of Regos, except to go to the mines in the mountain beyond, for many
dangerous creatures lurked in the wild jungles, and King Gos never knew,
when he sent a messenger to the mines, whether he would reach there safely
The charcoal-burner, however, knew the wild forest well, and especially
this part of it lying between the city and his home. It was the favorite
haunt of the ferocious beast Choggenmugger, dreaded by every
dweller in the Island of Regos. Choggenmugger was so old that
everyone thought it must have been there since the world was made, and each
year of its life the huge scales that covered its body grew thicker and
harder and its jaws grew wider and its teeth grew sharper and its appetite
grew more keen than ever.
In former ages there had been many dragons in Regos, but
Choggenmugger was so fond of dragons that he had eaten all of them
long ago. There had also been great serpents and crocodiles in the
forest marshes, but all had gone to feed the hunger of Choggenmugger. The
people of Regos knew well there was no use opposing the Great Beast, so when
one unfortunately met with it he gave himself up for lost.
All this Nikobob knew well, but fortune had always favored him in his
journey through the forest, and although he had at times met many savage
beasts and fought them with his sharp ax, he had never to this day
encountered the terrible Choggenmugger. Indeed, he was not thinking of the
Great Beast at all as he walked along, but suddenly he heard a crashing of
broken trees and felt a trembling of the earth and saw the immense jaws of
Choggenmugger opening before him. Then Nikobob gave himself up for lost and
his heart almost ceased to beat.
He believed there was no way of escape. No one ever dared oppose
Choggenmugger. But Nikobob hated to die without showing the monster, in some
way, that he was eaten only under protest. So he raised his ax and brought
it down upon the red, protruding tongue of the monster -- and cut it clean
For a moment the charcoal-burner scarcely believed what his eyes saw, for
he knew nothing of the pearls he carried in his pocket or the magic power
they lent his arm. His success, however, encouraged him to strike again, and
this time the huge scaly jaw of Choggenmugger was severed in twain and the
beast howled in terrified rage.
Nikobob took off his coat, to give himself more freedom of action, and
then he earnestly renewed the attack. But now the ax seemed blunted by the
hard scales and made no impression upon them whatever. The creature advanced
with glaring, wicked eyes, and Nikobob seized his coat under his arm and
turned to flee.
That was foolish, for Choggenmugger could run like the wind. In a moment
it overtook the charcoal-burner and snapped its four rows of sharp teeth
together. But they did not touch Nikobob, because he still held the coat in
his grasp, close to his body, and in the coat pocket were Inga's shoes, and
in the points of the shoes were the magic pearls. Finding himself uninjured,
Nikobob put on his coat, again seized his ax, and in a short time had
chopped Choggenmugger into many small pieces -- a task that proved not only
easy but very agreeable.
"I must be the strongest man in all the world!" thought the
charcoal-burner, as he proudly resumed his way, "for Choggenmugger has been
the terror of Regos since the world began, and I alone have been able to
destroy the beast. Yet it is singular that never before did I discover how
powerful a man I am."
He met no further adventure and at midday reached a little clearing in
the forest where stood his humble cabin.
"Great news! I have great news for you," he shouted, as his wife and
little daughter came to greet him. "King Gos has been conquered by a boy
Prince from the far island of Pingaree, and I have this day -- unaided --
destroyed Choggenmugger by the might of my strong arm.
This was, indeed, great news. They brought Nikobob into the house and set
him in an easy chair and made him tell everything he knew about the Prince
of Pingaree and the fat King of Gilgad, as well as the details of his
wonderful fight with mighty Choggenmugger.
"And now, my daughter," said the charcoalburner, when all his news had
been related for at least the third time, "here is a pretty present I have
brought you from the city."
With this he drew the shoes from the pocket of his coat and handed them
to Zella, who gave him a dozen kisses in payment and was much pleased with
her gift. The little girl had never worn shoes before, for her parents were
too poor to buy her such luxuries, so now the possession of these, which
were not much worn, filled the child's heart with joy. She admired the red
leather and the graceful curl of the pointed toes. When she tried them on
her feet, they fitted as well as if made for her.
All the afternoon, as she helped her mother with the housework, Zella
thought of her pretty shoes. They seemed more important to her than the
coming to Regos of the conquering Prince of Pingaree, or even the death of
When Zella and her mother were not working in the cabin, cooking or
sewing, they often searched the neighboring forest for honey which the wild
bees cleverly hid in hollow trees. The day after Nikobob's return, as they
were starting out after honey, Zella decided to put on her new shoes, as
they would keep the twigs that covered the ground from hurting her feet. She
was used to the twigs, of course, but what is the use of having nice,
comfortable shoes, if you do not wear them?
So she danced along, very happily, followed by her mother, and presently
they came to a tree in which was a deep hollow. Zella thrust her hand and
arm into the space and found that the tree was full of honey, so she began
to dig it out with a wooden paddle. Her mother, who held the pail, suddenly
cried in warning:
"Look out, Zella; the bees are coming!" and then the good woman ran fast
toward the house to escape.
Zella, however, had no more than time to turn her head when a thick
swarm of bees surrounded her, angry because they had caught her stealing
their honey and intent on stinging the girl as a punishment. She knew her
danger and expected to be badly injured by the multitude of stinging bees,
but to her surprise the little creatures were unable to fly close enough to
her to stick their dart-like stingers into her flesh. They swarmed about her
in a dark cloud, and their angry buzzing was terrible to hear, yet the
little girl remained unharmed.
When she realized this, Zella was no longer afraid but continued to ladle
out the honey until she had secured all that was in the tree. Then she
returned to the cabin, where her mother was weeping and bemoaning the fate
of her darling child, and the good woman was greatly astonished to find
Zella had escaped injury.
Again they went to the woods to search for honey, and although the mother
always ran away whenever the bees came near them, Zella paid no attention to
the creatures but kept at her work, so that before supper time came the
pails were again filled to overflowing with delicious honey.
"With such good fortune as we have had this day," said her mother, "we
shall soon gather enough honey for you to carry to Queen Cor." For
it seems the wicked Queen was very fond of honey and it had been Zella's
custom to go, once every year, to the City of Coregos, to carry the Queen a
supply of sweet honey for her table. Usually she had but one pail.
"But now," said Zella, "I shall be able to carry two pailsful to the
Queen, who will, I am sure, give me a good price for it."
"True," answered her mother, "and, as the boy Prince may take it into his
head to conquer Coregos, as well as Regos, I think it best for you to start
on your journey to Queen Cor tomorrow morning. Do you not agree with me,
Nikobob?" she added, turning to her husband, the charcoal-burner, who was
eating his supper.
"I agree with you," he replied. "If Zella must go to the City of Coregos,
she may as well start to-morrow morning."
...chapter nine of Rinkitink in Oz...previous...next...