The forest in which Nikobob lived with his wife and daughter stood between th_ountains and the City of Regos, and a well-beaten path wound among the trees,
leading from the city to the mines. This path was used by the King'_essengers, and captured prisoners were also sent by this way from Regos t_ork in the underground caverns.
Nikobob had built his cabin more than a mile away from this path, that h_ight not be molested by the wild and lawless soldiers of King Gos, but th_amily of the charcoal-burner was surrounded by many creatures scarcely les_angerous to encounter, and often in the night they could hear savage animal_rowling and prowling about the cabin. Because Nikobob minded his own busines_nd never hunted the wild creatures to injure them, the beasts had come t_egard him as one of the natural dwellers in the forest and did not molest hi_r his family. Still Zella and her mother seldom wandered far from home,
except on such errands as carrying honey to Coregos, and at these time_ikobob cautioned them to be very careful.
So when Zella set out on her journey to Queen Cor, with the two pails of hone_n her hands, she was undertaking a dangerous adventure and there was n_ertainty that she would return safely to her loving parents. But they wer_oor, and Queen Cor's money, which they expected to receive for the honey,
would enable them to purchase many things that were needed; so it was deeme_est that Zella should go. She was a brave little girl and poor people ar_ften obliged to take chances that rich ones are spared.
A passing woodchopper had brought news to Nikobob's cabin that Queen Cor ha_ade a prisoner of the conquering Prince of Pingaree and that Gos and hi_arriors were again back in their city of Regos; but these struggles an_onquests were matters which, however interesting, did not concern the poo_harcoal- burner or his family. They were more anxious over the report tha_he warriors had become more reckless than ever before, and delighted i_nnoying all the common people; so Zella was told to keep away from the beate_ath as much as possible, that she might not encounter any of the King'_oldiers.
"When it is necessary to choose between the warriors and the wild beasts,"
said Nikobob, "the beasts will be found the more merciful."
The little girl had put on her best attire for the journey and her mothe_hrew a blue silk shawl over her head and shoulders. Upon her feet were th_retty red shoes her father had brought her from Regos. Thus prepared, sh_issed her parents good-bye and started out with a light heart, carrying th_ails of honey in either hand.
It was necessary for Zella to cross the path that led from the mines to th_ity, but once on the other side she was not likely to meet with anyone, fo_he had resolved to cut through the forest and so reach the bridge of boat_ithout entering the City of Regos, where she might be interrupted. For a_our or two she found the walking easy enough, but then the forest, which i_his part was unknown to her, became badly tangled. The trees were thicker an_reeping vines intertwined between them. She had to turn this way and that t_et through at all, and finally she came to a place where a network of vine_nd branches effectually barred her farther progress.
Zella was dismayed, at first, when she encountered this obstacle, but settin_own her pails she made an endeavor to push the branches aside. At her touc_hey parted as if by magic, breaking asunder like dried twigs, and she foun_he could pass freely. At another place a great log had fallen across her way,
but the little girl lifted it easily and cast it aside, although six ordinar_en could scarcely have moved it.
The child was somewhat worried at this evidence of a strength she ha_eretofore been ignorant that she possessed. In order to satisfy herself tha_t was no delusion, she tested her new-found power in many ways, finding tha_othing was too big nor too heavy for her to lift. And, naturally enough, th_irl gained courage from these experiments and became confident that she coul_rotect herself in any emergency. When, presently, a wild boar ran toward her,
grunting horribly and threatening her with its great tusks, she did not clim_ tree to escape, as she had always done before on meeting such creatures, bu_tood still and faced the boar. When it had come quite close and Zella sa_hat it could not injure her — a fact that astonished both the beast and th_irl — she suddenly reached down and seizing it by one ear threw the grea_east far off amongst the trees, where it fell headlong to the earth, gruntin_ouder than ever with surprise and fear.
The girl laughed merrily at this incident and, picking up her pails, resume_er journey through the forest. It is not recorded whether the wild boar tol_is adventure to the other beasts or they had happened to witness his defeat,
but certain it is that Zella was not again molested. A brown bear watched he_ass without making any movement in her direction and a great puma — a beas_uch dreaded by all men — crept out of her path as she approached, an_isappeared among the trees.
Thus everything favored the girl's journey and she made such good speed tha_y noon she emerged from the forest's edge and found she was quite near to th_ridge of boats that led to Coregos. This she crossed safely and withou_eeting any of the rude warriors she so greatly feared, and five minutes late_he daughter of the charcoal-burner was seeking admittance at the back door o_ueen Cor's palace.