The story so far: Hank Reese and his friend Bill Todd follow Tobe Turner into Sand Cave, hoping to catch him chipping off mineral specimens to sell. But Tobe blocks the entrance to a narrow passageway behind them, trapping Hank and Bill in the cave.
We’ll take the other way out,’ Bill said calmly. ‘Come on.’
Hank almost asked, ‘What if there is no other way out?’ but he bit his tongue and followed his friend back down the tight passage they had just explored.
They both felt a little better when they reached the larger tunnel and could stand up.
‘Mean as Tobe Turner is, I never thought he’d do a thing like that,’ Bill remarked.
‘I don’t believe he would let us die in here,’ Hank said slowly. ‘He might come back and move that rock later on. He probably just wanted to give us a good scare.’
‘Well, he’s succeeded, as far as I’m concerned,’ Bill said.
The passageway curved ahead of them, seemingly endless. The teens noticed that the floor was getting wetter, and they were extra-careful not to slip. Then they heard water running.
‘The stream!’ Hank cried, and stepped up his pace. ‘Probably this route joins the main tunnel and goes beside the underground river.’
Several more curves, and they entered another tunnel. Ahead of them the water sounded louder than ever.
‘There’s a light!’ Bill said. ‘Someone’s up ahead.’
They broke into a careful run. ‘Hey, Tobe, we’ve got you now!’ Hank yelled as he recognized the figure. So this passage does join the original one, Hank thought exultantly.
Tobe heard them, turned and looked at them briefly, and then began to run. His light wavered and flickered on the rock walls.
‘Careful, don’t slip,’ Bill warned Hank, who slowed down. But not Tobe. He ran faster, turned a corner, and was out of their sight.
Then a scream split the silence of the cave. Hank and Bill rounded the corner. All they saw ahead of them were the rushing waters of the underground stream. Tobe Turner had disappeared!
They skidded to a stop. Bill yelled, ‘There he is!’
Tobe was in the water. As his head broke the surface,
he screamed again, then was swept away by the current.
Hank would have prayed for help if he’d had time, but then perhaps his whole being was one large prayer. He knew only that they needed help’lots of it’if they were to rescue the drowning teen.
He ran along the bank of the stream for a short distance. Then the passageway widened into a large room, and the stream made its way across the far side of it. Hank hesitated for a moment. Then Bill was at his side, a coil of rope in his hand.
‘Cut across! We can beat Tobe to the bend!’
One glance showed Hank the wisdom of Bill’s suggestion. The two teens streaked across the cave’s uneven floor, hoping to reach the curve of the river on the far side of the room before the current carried Tobe there.
At the edge of the stream Hank stopped and then worked quickly with the rope. They tied one end of it around Hank’s waist (he muttered, ‘I’m the best swimmer,’ and Bill didn’t argue); they snagged it around a jutting rock; and then Bill wound the other end about his waist and braced himself.
They were not a moment too soon. At first Hank feared that Tobe had been swept on past their vantage point, but then he saw Tobe surface a few feet from them, his arms flailing, his face greenish-white in the glare of Bill’s flashlight.
Hank plunged into the water. It was deep and icy cold, and he couldn’t touch bottom. The stream was about eight feet wide at the bend. He swam strongly, praying he could reach Tobe.
Once he grabbed for Tobe and missed. Then he forced himself forward desperately in a mighty lunge and caught the other boy by the arm.
Tobe fought him. By this time he had lost all reason, all sense of direction, and Hank thought surely Tobe would be torn from his grasp. But Hank hung on, and then he felt the grip of the rope tighten about his waist and knew Bill was pulling them to the bank.
Hank lay panting on the hard rock floor while Bill systematically worked over Tobe until he gasped and spluttered. Then all three of them lay exhausted, breathing deeply as they tried to recover.
When Tobe could finally speak, his first words were
‘I’I don’t know what to say.’ His face was shamed, and he couldn’t look straight at the others. He stammered, ‘I’I really wasn’t trying to kill you. I knew you could get out this end of the tunnel. I just wanted to scare you when I blocked it.’
He raised his face and looked directly into Hank’s eyes.
‘After all I’ve done to you, after the way your folks and mine have always hated one another, why would you come after me? Why would you risk your life to save mine?’
Hank hesitated. There was only one answer to that question, but before he could say it, Tobe said it for him. ‘Because you’re a Christian’is that it?’
Both Hank and Bill nodded.
Hank said quietly, ‘I couldn’t do anything else.’
Tobe was quiet for several minutes, and neither of the other guys spoke. Finally Tobe got to his feet, shuffled over to Hank, and held out his hand.
‘Let’s shake,’ he said gruffly. ‘All I can say’is’thanks. Things are going to be a lot different with me from now on.’
For the first time in a hundred years a Reese and a Turner clasped hands in friendship.
Written by Kay Warwick
Illustrated by Mark Texiera