The digging sounds were getting louder. They were sweet music to Nathan’s ears. He smiled at the four children gathered around his legs, his teeth gleaming in the lantern’s light. “They’re comin’ for us.”
The children cheered so loud Nathan feared both for his hearing and that the noise would bring still more of the cave down around them.
Quickly, he hushed their exuberance. “We need to hush so we can hear if they call, okay?”
“Okay, Mister Nathan,” Tom squeaked. “Will they be here soon?”
“As soon as they can be,” Nathan assured him. He sat down and gathered Tom – the youngest – into his lap. Jim, Nancy and Mark sat in a semicircle around his knees, the boys flanking the little girl.
“This is all your fault,” Jim hissed to Mark. “If you’d not run in here after that ball—“
“You were the one who threw it at the cave!” Mark shot back.
“Shut up, both of you!” Nancy snarled. “How it happened’s not ‘portant no more! It did, we’re here!”
Nathan smiled at her. “Thank you, Nancy. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Now -- any ideas on how we can pass the time?”
“STORY!” Tom piped up in Nathan’s ear. “Tell us a story!”
Wagging his finger in his ear, Nathan chuckled. “A story, huh? I don’t know – I’m not Ez or Josiah. They’re the storytellers…”
“PLEEEEEEEEASE?” all four whined.
“All right, all right!” Nathan laughed. “Let’s see, here… ah, I know!”
There’s a new thing back east called a circus. They’ve got all kinds of animals and people doing tricks.
Ezra says the huge tents are always white with a tassel on each corner. Inside these tents, crowds gather to watch act after act.
One of these acts was a sweet lady called Little Bird. Yes, she was an Indian – Seminole, to narrow it down. She had a gift to talk to animals, so she worked as an animal trainer.
Her special pride was the elephants. One elephant – named Sky – became her friend. She would tell Sky all her hopes and dreams and fears.
Little Bird didn’t know that she was being overheard. Another Seminole, an archer named Quiet Water, had accidentally listened in. He was so fascinated with what he heard from the normally silent woman, he kept going back and learning more about her.
Slowly, he began to befriend Little Bird. Slowly, they began to fall in love.
Suddenly, there was a great “THUD!” and light poured in, followed by Chris’s welcome bellow. “That’s it! We’re through! Nathan! Nate, can you hear me?”
“Yes!” Nathan called back, standing up. “We’re all five of us in here!”
Before he could finish, he heard Ezra’s half-frightened: “The children? How are—“
“They’re fine, Ezra!” Nathan laughed. “Few scratches, but nothing more than that!”
He didn’t even bother to hide the huge smile at Ezra’s relieved, “Oh, thank God…”
And it was into Ezra’s arms that Nathan lifted little Tom. Chris received Jim, and Vin Mark. Nathan found it somehow fitting that he lifted Nancy into Buck’s arms.
Nathan then waited patiently while the hole was widened. At last, he scrambled to freedom.
He was surprised to find all four children still there! “What--?”
Ezra shook his head. “They wouldn’t leave without you.”
Nathan smiled and knelt. He held out his arms and found all four swarming him seconds later. Laughing, Nathan hugged them all.
Nancy pulled back. “Finish the story, Mister Nathan!” The other three agreed heartily.
Nathan chuckled and settled back onto his heels. “Well…okay. What happened to Little Bird and Quiet Water was the same as what happens to every couple that are fated to be together.
“They were married and lived happily ever after.”
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