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Also Time runnin' into years--A thousand Places left be'ind; An' Men from both two 'emispheres Discussin' things of every kind; So much more near than I 'ad known, So much more great than I 'ad guessed--An' me, like all the rest, alone, But reachin' out to all the rest! --Kipling

"Uncle Cam, where is O'mie? I haven't seen him yet," I broke in upon the older men in the council. "Could anything have happened to him?"

The priest rose hurriedly.


"I have been hoping to see him every minute," he said. "Has anybody seen him this morning?"

A flurry followed. Everybody thought he had seen somebody else who had been with O'mie, but nobody, first hand, could report of him.

"Why, I thought he was with the boys," Cam Gentry exclaimed. "Nobody could keep track of nobody else last night."

"I thought I saw him this morning," said Dr. Hemingway. "But"--hesitatingly--"I do not believe I did either. I just had him in mind as I watched Henry Anderson's boys go by."

"All three of us are not equal to one O'mie," Clayton Anderson declared.

"What part of town did he have, Philip?" asked Le Claire.

"No part," I answered. "We had to take the boys that were out there under the oak."

Dr. Hemingway called a council at once, and all who knew anything of the missing boy reported. I could give what had been told to Aunt Candace and myself only in a general way, in order to shield Tell Mapleson. Cam had seen O'mie only a minute, just before midnight.

"He went racin' out draggin' somethin' after him, an' jumped over the porch railin' here," pointing to the north, "stid o' goin' down the steps. O'mie's double-geared lightin' for quickness anyhow, but last night he jist made lightnin' seem slow the way he got off the reservation an' into the street. It roused me up. I was half asleep settin' here waitin' to put them strangers to bed again. So I set up an' waited fur the boy to show up an' apologize fur his not bein' no quicker, when in comes Phil; an' ye all know the rest. I've not laid an eye on O'mie sence, but bein' short on range I took it he was here but out of sight. Oh, Lord!" Cam groaned, "can anything have happened to him?"

While Cam was speaking I noticed that Jean Pahusca who had been loafing about at the far side of the crowd, was standing behind Father Le Claire. No one could have told from his set, still face what his thoughts were just then.

The last one who had seen O'mie was Marjie.

"I had left the door open so I could find the way better," she said. "At the gate O'mie came running up. I thought he was a girl, for he had my cloak around him and the hood over his head. His face was very white.

"I supposed it was just the light behind me, made it look so, for he wasn't the least bit scared. He called to me twice. 'Don't hurry,' he said; 'I'm taking your cloak home.' Mrs. Judson shut the door just then, thinking I had gone on, and I ran home, but O'mie flew ahead of me. Just before I came around the corner I heard a horse start up and dash off to the river. I ran in to mother and shut the door."

"I met a horse down by the river as I ran to grandpa's after Bill. He was staying over there last night." It was Dave Mead who spoke. "I made a grab at the rein. I was crazy to think of such a thing, but--" Dave didn't say why he tried to stop the horse, for that would mean to repeat what Tell had told us, and we had to keep Tell's part to ourselves. "The horse knocked me twenty feet and tore off toward the river."

And then for the first time we noticed Dave Mead's right arm in a sling. Too much was asked of us in those hours for us to note the things that mark our common days.

"It put my shoulder out of place," Dave said simply. "Didn't get it in again for so long, it's pretty sore. I was too busy to think about it at first."

Dave Mead never put his right hand to his head again. And to-day, if the broad-shouldered, fine-looking American should meet you on the streets of Hong Kong, he would offer you his left hand. For hours he forgot himself to save others. It is his like that have filled Kansas and made her story a record of heroism like to the story of no other State in all the nation.

But as to O'mie we could find nothing. There was something strange and unusual about his returning the borrowed cloak at that late hour. The whole thing was so unlike O'mie.

"They've killed him and put him in the river," wailed Dollie Gentry.

"I'm afraid he's been foully dealt with. They suspected he knew too much," and Dr. Hemingway bowed his head in sorrow.

"He's run straight into a coil of them pisen Copperheads an' they've made way with him; an' to think we hadn't missed him," sobbed Cam in his chair.

Father Le Claire gripped his hands, and his face grew as expressionless as the Indian's behind him. It dawned upon us now that O'mie was lost, there was no knowing how. O'mie, who belonged to the town and was loved as few orphan boys are loved. Oh, any of us would have suffered for him, and to think that he should be made the victim of rebel hate, that the blow should fall on him who had given no offence. All his manliness, his abounding kindness, his sunny smile and joy in living, swept up in memory in the instant. Instinctively the boys drew near to one another, and there came back to me the memory of that pathetic look in his eyes as we talked of our troubles down in the tavern stables two nights before: "Whoiver it's laid on to suffer," I could almost hear him saying it. And then I did hear his voice, low and clear, a faint call again, as I had heard it before.

"Phil, oh Phil, come!"

It shot through my brain like an arrow. I turned and seized Le Claire by the hand.

"O'mie's not dead," I cried. "He's alive somewhere, and I'm going to find him."

"You bet your life he'th not dead," Bud Anderson echoed me. "Come on."

The boys with Le Claire started in a body through the crowd; a shout went up, a sudden determination that O'mie must be alive seemed to possess Springvale.

"Stay with Cam and Dollie," Le Claire turned Dr. Hemingway back with a word. "They need you now. We can do all that can be done."

He strode ahead of us; a stalwart leader of men he would make in any fray. It flashed into my mind that it was not the Kiowa Indian blood that made Jean Pahusca seem so stately and strong as he strode down the streets of Springvale. A red blanket over Le Claire's broad shoulders would have deceived us into thinking it was the Indian brave leading on before us.

The river was falling rapidly, and the banks were slimy. Fingal's Creek was almost at its usual level and the silt was crusting along its bedraggled borders. Just above where it empties into the Neosho we noted a freshly broken embankment as though some weight had crushed over the side and carried a portion of the bank with it. Puddles of water and black mud filled the little hollows everywhere. Into one of these I stepped as we were eagerly searching for a trace of the lost boy. My foot stuck to something soft like a garment in the puddle. I kicked it out, and a jet button shone in the ooze. I stooped and lifted the grimy thing. It was Marjie's cloak.

"This is the last of O'mie," Dave Mead spoke reverently.

"Here's where they pushed him in," said John Anderson pointing to the break in the bank.

There was a buzzing in my ears, and the sunlight on the river was dancing in ten thousand hideous curls and twists. The last of O'mie, until maybe, a bloated sodden body might be found half buried in some flood-wrought sand-bar. The May morning was a mockery, and every green growing leaf seemed to be using the life force that should be in him.

"Yes, there's where he went in." It was Father Le Claire's voice now, "but he fought hard for his life."

"Yeth, and by George, yonder'th where he come out. Thee that thaplin' on the bank? It'th thplit, but it didn't break; an' that bank'th brokener'n thith."

Oh, blessed Bud! His tow head will always wear a crown to me.

On the farther bank a struggle had wrenched the young trees and shrubs away and a slide of slime marked where the victim of the waters had fought for life. We knew how to swim, and we crossed the swollen creek in a rush. But here all trace disappeared. Something or somebody had climbed the bank. A horse's hoofs showed in the mud, but on the ground beyond the horse's feet had not seemed to leave a track. The cruel ruffians must have pushed him back when he tried to gain the bank here. We hunted and hunted, but to no avail. No other mark of O'mie's having passed beyond the creek could be found.

It was nearly sunset before we came back to town. Not a mouthful had been eaten, and with the tenseness of the night's excitement stretching every nerve, the loss of sleep, the constant searching, and the heaviness of despair, mud-stained, wearied, and haggard, we dragged ourselves to the tavern again. Other searchers had been going in different directions. In one of these parties, useful, quick and wisely counselling, was Jean Pahusca. His companions were loud in their praise of his efforts. The Red Range neighborhood had received the word at noon and turned out in a mass, women and children joining in the quest. But it was all in vain. Wild theories filled the air, stories of strangers struggling with somebody in the dark; the sound of screams and of some one running away. But none of these stories could be substantiated. And all the while what Tell Mapleson had said to Aunt Candace and me when he came to warn us, kept repeating itself to me. "They're awful against O'mie. They think he knows too much."

Early the next morning the search was renewed, but at nightfall no further trace of the lost boy had been discovered. On the second evening, when we gathered at the Cambridge House, Dr. Hemingway urged us to take a little rest, and asked that we come later to a prayer meeting in the church.

"O'mie is our one sacrifice beside the dear little babe of Judson's. All the rest of us have been spared to life, and our homes have been protected. We must look to the Lord for comfort now, and thank Him for His goodness to us."

Then the Rev. Mr. Dodd spoke sneeringly:

"You've made a big ado for two days about a little coward who cut and run at the first sound of danger. Disguised himself like a girl to do it. He will come sneaking in fast enough when he finds the danger is over. A lot of us around town are too wise to be deceived. The Lord did save us," how piously he spoke, "but we should not disgrace ourselves."

He got no further. I had been leaning limply against the veranda post, for even my strength was giving way, more under the mental strain than the physical tax. But at the preacher's words all the blood of my fighting ancestry took fire. There was a Baronet with Cromwell's Ironsides, the regiment that was never defeated in battle. There was a Baronet color-bearer at Bunker Hill and later at Saratoga, and it was a Baronet who waited till the last boat crossed the Delaware when Washington led his forces to safety. There were Baronets with Perry on Lake Erie, and at that moment my father was fighting for the life of a nation. I cleared the space between us at a bound, and catching the Reverend Dodd by throat and thigh, I lifted him clear of the railing and flung him sprawling on the blue-grass.

"If you ever say another word against O'mie I'll break your neck," I cried, as he landed.

Father Le Claire was beside him at once.

"He's killed me," groaned Dodd.

"Then he ought to bury his dead," Dr. Hemingway said coldly, which was the only time the good old man was ever known to speak unkindly to any one among us.

The fallen preacher gathered himself together and slipped away.

Dollie Gentry had a royal supper for everybody that night. Jean Pahusca sat by Father Le Claire with us at the long table in the dining-room. Again my conscience, which upbraided me for doubting him, and my instinct, which warned me to beware of him, had their battle within me.

"I just had to do something or I'd have jumped into the Neosho myself," Dollie explained in apology for the abundant meal, as if cooking were too worldly for that grave time. "I know now," she said, "how that poor woman felt whose little boy was took by the Kiowas years ago out on the West Prairie. They said she did jump into the river. Anyhow, she disappeared."

"Did you know her or her husband?" Father Le Claire asked quietly.

"Yes, in a way," Dollie replied. "He was a big, fine-looking man built some like you, an' dark. He was a Frenchman. She was a little, small-boned woman. I saw her in the 'Last Chance' store the day she got here from the East. She was fair and had red hair, I should say; but they said the woman that drowned herself was a black-haired French woman. She didn't look French to me. She lived in that little cabin up around the bend toward Red Range, poor dear! That cabin's always been haunted, they say."

"Was she never heard of again?" the priest went on. We thought he was keeping Dollie's mind off O'mie.

"Ner him neither. He cut out west toward Santy Fee with some Mexican traders goin' home from Westport. I heard he left 'em at Pawnee Rock, where they had a regular battle with the Kiowas; some thought he might have been killed by the Kiowas, and others by the Mexicans. Anyhow, he never was heard of in Springvale no more."

"Mrs. Gentry," Le Claire asked abruptly, "where did you find O'mie?"

"Why, we've had him so long I forget we never hadn't him." Dollie seemed confused, for O'mie was a part of her life. "He was brought up here from the South by a missionary. Seems to me he found the little feller (he was only five years old) trudgin' off alone, an' sayin' he wouldn't stay at the Mission 'cause there was Injuns there. Said the Injuns killed his father, an' he kicked an' squalled till the missionary just brought him up here. He was on his way to St. Mary's, up on the Kaw, an' he was takin' the little one on with him. He stopped here with O'mie an' the little feller was hungry--"

"And you fed him; naked, and you clothed him," the priest added reverently.

"Poor O'mie!" and Dollie made a dive for the kitchen to weep out her grief alone.

It seemed to settle upon Springvale that O'mie was lost; had been overcome in some way by the murderous raiders who had infested our town.

In sheer weariness and hopelessness I fell on my bed, that night, and sleep, the "sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care," fell upon me. Just at daybreak I woke with a start. I had not dreamed once all night, but now, wide awake, with my face to the open east window where the rose tint of a grand new day was deepening into purple on the horizon's edge, feeling and knowing everything perfectly, I saw O'mie's face before me, white and drawn with pain, but gloriously brave. And his pleading voice, "Phil, ye'll come soon, won't ye?" sounded low and clear in my ears.

I sprang up and dressed myself. I was so sure of O'mie, I could hardly wait to begin another search. Something seemed to impel me to speed. "He won't last long," was a vague, persistent thought that haunted me.

"What is it, Phil?" my aunt called as I passed her door.

"Aunt Candace, it's O'mie. He's not dead yet, I'm sure. But I must go at once and hunt again."

"Where will you go now?" she queried.

"I don't know. I'm just being led," I replied.

"Phil," Aunt Candace was at the door now, "have you thought of the Hermit's Cave?"

Her words went through me like a sword-thrust.

"Why, why,--oh, Aunt Candace, let me think a minute."

"I've been thinking for twelve hours," said my aunt. "Until you try that place don't give up the hunt."

"But I don't know how to get there."

"Then make a way. You are not less able to do impossible things than the Pilgrim Fathers were. If you ever find O'mie it will be in that place. I feel it, I can't say why. But, Phil, you will need the boys and Father Le Claire. Take time to get breakfast and get yourself together. You will need all your energy. Don't squander it the first thing."

Dear Aunt Candace! This many a year has her grave been green in the Springvale cemetery, but greener still is her memory in the hearts of those who knew her. She had what the scholars of to-day strive to possess--the power of poise.

I ate my breakfast as calmly as I could, and before I left home Aunt Candace made me read the Ninety-first Psalm. Then she kissed me good-bye and bade me God-speed. Something kept telling me to hurry, hurry, as I tried to be deliberate, and quickened my thought and my step. At the tavern Cam Gentry met us.

"It ain't no use to try, boys, O'mie's down in the river where the cussed Copperheads put him; but you're good to keep tryin'." He sat down in a helpless resignation, so unlike his natural buoyant spirit it was hard to believe that this was the same Cam we had always known.

"Judson's baby's to be buried to-day, but we can't even bury O'mie. Oh, it's cruel hard." Cam groaned in his chair.

The dew had not ceased to glitter, and the sun was hardly more than risen when Father Le Claire and the crowd of boys, reinforced now by Tell Mapleson and Jim Conlow, started bravely out, determined to find the boy who had been missing for what seemed ages to us.

"If we find O'mie, we'll send word by the fastest runner, and you must ring the church bell," Le Claire arranged with Cam. "All the town can have the word at once then."

"We'll go to the Hermit's Cave first," I announced.

The company agreed, but only Bud Anderson seemed to feel as I did. To the others it was a wasted bit of heroism, for if none of us had yet found the way to this retreat, why should we look for O'mie there? So the boys argued as we hurried to the river. The Neosho was inside its banks again, but, deep and swift and muddy, it swept silently by us who longed to know its secrets.

"Philip, why do you consider the cave possible?" Le Claire asked as we followed the river towards the cliff.

"Aunt Candace says so," I replied.

"Well, it's worth the trial if only to prove a woman's intuition--or whim," he said quietly.

The same old cliff confronted us, although the many uprooted trees showed a jagged outcrop this side the sheer wall. We looked up helplessly at the height. It seemed foolish to think of O'mie being in that inaccessible spot.

"If he is up there," Dave Mead urged, "and we can get to him, it will be to put him alongside Judson's baby this afternoon."

All the other boys were for turning back and hunting about Fingal's Creek again, all except Bud. Such a pink and white boy he was, with a dimple in each cheek and a blowsy tow head.

"Will you stay with me, Bud, till I get up there?" I asked him.

"Yeth thir! or down there. Let'th go round an' try the other thide."

"Well, I guess we'll all stay with Phil, you cottontop," Tell Mapleson put in.

We all began to circle round the bluff to get beyond this steep, forbidding wall. Our plan was to go down the river beyond the cave, and try to climb up from that point. Crossing along by the edge of the bluff we passed the steepest part and were coming again to where the treetops and bushes that clung to the side of the high wall reached above the crest, as they do across the street from my own home. Just ahead of us, as we hurried, I caught sight of a flat slab of the shelving rock slipped aside and barely balancing on the edge, one end of it bending down the treetops as if newly slid into that place. All about the stone the thin sod of the bluff's top was cut and trampled as if a struggle had been there. We examined it carefully. A horse's tracks were plainly to be seen.

"Something happened here," Le Claire said. "Looks like a horse had been urged up to the very edge and had kept pulling back."

"And that stone is just slipped from its place," Clayton Anderson declared. "Something has happened here since the rains."

As we came to the edge, we saw a pile of earth recently scraped from the stone outcrop above.

"Somebody or something went over here not long ago," I cried.

"Look out, Phil," Bill Mead called, "or somebody else will follow somebody before 'em--"

Bill's warning came too late. I had stepped on the balanced slab. It tipped and went over the side with a crash. I caught at the edge and missed it, but the effort threw me toward the cliff and I slid twenty feet. The bushes seemed to part as by a well-made opening and I caught a strong limb, and gained my balance. I looked back at the way I had come. And then I gave a great shout. The anxious faces peering down at me changed a little.

"What is it?" came the query.

I pointed upward.

"The nicest set of hand-holds and steps clear up," I called. "You can't see for the shelf. But right under there where Bud's head is, is the best place to get a grip and there's a foothold all the way down." I stared up again. "There's a rope fastened right under there. Bend over, Bud, careful, and you'll find it. It will let you over to the steps. Swing in on it."

In truth, a set of points for hand and foot partly natural, partly cut there, rude but safe enough for boy climbers like ourselves, led down to my tree lodge.

"And what's below you?" shouted Tell.

"Another tree like this. I don't know how far down if you jump right," I answered back.

"Well, jump right, for I'm nekth. Ever thee a tow-headed flying thquirrel?" And Bud was shinning down over the edge clawing tightly the stone points of vantage.

Many a time in these sixty years have I seen a difficult and dreaded way grow suddenly easy when the time came to travel it. When we were only boys idling away the long summer afternoons the cliff was always impossible. We had rarely tried the downward route, and from below with the river, always dangerously deep and swift, at the base, our exploring had brought failure. That hand-hold of leather thongs, braided into a rope and fastened securely under the ledge out of sight from above, gave the one who knew how the easy passage to the points of rock. Then for nearly a hundred feet zigzagging up stream by leaping cautiously to the right place, by clinging and swinging, the way opened before us. I took the first twenty feet at a slide. The others caught the leather rope, testing to see if it was securely fastened. Its two ends were tied around the deeply grooved stone.

Father Le Claire and Jim Conlow stayed at the top. The one to help us back again; the other, as the swiftest-footed boy among us, to run to town with any message needful to be sent. The rest of us, taking all manner of fearful risks, crashed down over the side of that bluff in headlong haste.

The Hermit's Cave opened on a narrow ledge such as runs below the "Rockport" point, where Marjie and I used to play, off Cliff Street. We reached this ledge at last, hot and breathless, hardly able to realize that we were really here in the place that had baffled us so long. It was an almost inaccessible climb to the crest above us, and the cliff had to be taken at an angle even then. I believe any one accustomed only to the prairie would never have dared to try it.

The Hermit's Cave was merely a deep recess under the overhanging shelf. It penetrated far enough to offer a retreat from the weather. The thick tangle of vines before it so concealed the place that it was difficult to find it at first. Just beyond it the rock projected over the line of wall and overhung the river. It was on this point that the old Hermit had been wont to sit, and from which tradition says he fell to his doom. It was here we had seen Jean Pahusca on that hot August afternoon the summer before. How long ago all that seemed now as the memory of it flashed up in my mind, and I recalled O'mie's quiet boast, "If he can get up there, so can I!"

I was a careless boy that day. I felt myself a man now, with human destiny resting on my shoulders. As we came to this rocky projection I was leading the file of cliff-climbers. The cave was concealed by the greenery. I stared about and then I called, "O'mie! O'mie!"

Faintly, just beside me, came the reply: "Phil, you 've come? Thank God!"

I tore through the bushes and vines into the deep recess. The dimness blinded me at first. What I saw when the glare left my eyes was O'mie stretched on the bare stones, bound hand and foot. His eyes were burning like stars in the gloom. His face was white and drawn with suffering, but he looked up bravely and smiled upon me as I bent over him to lift him. Before I could speak, Bud had cut the bands and freed him. He could not move, and I lifted him like a child in my strong arms.

"Is the town safe?" he asked feebly.

"Yes, now we've found you," Dave Mead replied.

"How did you get here, O'mie?" Clayton Anderson asked.

But O'mie, lying limply in my arms, murmured deliriously of the ladder by the shop, and wondered feebly if it could reach from the river up to the Hermit's Cave. Then his head fell forward and he lay as one dead on my knee.

A year before we would have been a noisy crew that worked our way to this all but inaccessible place, and we would have filled the valley with whoops of surprise at finding anything in the cavern. To-day we hardly spoke as we carried O'mie out into the light. He shivered a little, though still unconscious, and then I felt the hot fever begin to pulse throughout his body.

Dave Mead was half way up the cliff to Father Le Claire. Out on the point John Anderson waved, to the crest above, the simple message, "We've found him."

Bud dived into the cavern and brought out an empty jug, relic of Jean Pahusca's habitation there.

"What he needth ith water," Bud declared. "I'll bet he'th not had a drop for two dayth."

"How can you get some, Bud? We can't reach the river from here," I said.

"Bah! all mud, anyhow. I'll climb till I find a thpring. They're all around in the rockth. The Lord give Motheth water. I'll hunt till He thoweth me where it ith."

Bud put off in the bushes. Presently his tow head bobbed through the greenery again and a jug dripping full of cool water was in his hands.

"Thame leadin' that brought uth here done it," he lisped, moistening O'mie's lips with the precious liquid.

Bud had a quaint use of Bible reference, although he disclaimed Dr. Hemingway's estimate of him as the best scholar in the Presbyterian Sunday-school.

It seemed hours before relief came. I held O'mie all that time, hoping that the gracious May sunshine might win him to us again, but his delirium increased. He did not know any of us, but babbled of strange things.

At length many shouts overhead told us that half of Springvale was above us, and a rude sort of hammock was being lowered. "It's the best we can do," shouted Father Le Claire. "Tie him in and we'll pull him up."

It was rough handling even with the tenderest of care, and a very dangerous feat as well. I watched those above draw up O'mie's body and I was the last to leave the cave. As I turned to go, by merest chance, my eye caught sight of a knife handle protruding from a crevice in the rock. I picked it up. It was the short knife Jean Pahusca always wore at his belt. As I looked closely, I saw cut in script letters across the steel blade the name, _Jean Le Claire_.

I put the thing in my pocket and soon overtook the other boys, who were leaping and clinging on their way to the crest.

That night Kansas was swept across by the very worst storm I have known in all these sixty years. It lifted above the town and spared the beautiful oak grove in the bottom lands beside us. Further down it swept the valley clean, and the bluff about the cave had not one shrub on its rough sides. The lightning, too, played strange pranks. The thunderbolts shattered trees and rocks, up-rooting the one and rending and tumbling the other in huge masses of debris upon the valley. It broke even the rough way we had traversed to the Hermit's Cave, and a great heap of fallen stone now shut the cavern in like a rock tomb. Where O'mie had lain was sealed to the world, and it was a full quarter of a century before a path was made along that dangerous cliff-side again.