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Lost Boy Finds Strange Cave in Forest, Hears Crying for Help from There

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Peter sat at the kitchen table and watched his oatmeal plop back into his bowl from his spoon. It had been another bad night for his baby sister, Lily, and his parents were arguing in the sitting room.

“We can’t go on like this,” Mom sobbed. “There has to be something we can do to help our little girl.”

“We can’t afford the treatment, Sharon! You know this,” Dad snapped.

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“Of course I do! But maybe there’s something else we can try. Mrs. Nelson next door suggested we ask Tom, you know that man who lives in the forest? The herbalist?”

Dad scoffed. “A herbalist, really? What will it be next, magic and mysticism? Our baby needs medical treatment, and unless your herbalist can give us a magic plant that grows money, he won’t be able to help Lily.”

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Lily started screaming again. Peter watched his mother hurry upstairs to her crib and thought about what he’d overheard. Peter often explored the forest and knew Mr. Tom as a kind elderly man. Was it true that he could help Lily? Peter wouldn’t rest until he found out.

Peter tucked two apples and a water bottle into his backpack and set off. It was a short walk from his home to the forest’s edge, where a dirt trail wound into the trees. Peter followed it until he reached an old tree stump that looked like a hand, then veered off between the trees.

Birds sang as they flew from tree to tree, but Peter’s thoughts were too heavy to notice them today. All he could think of was his baby sister. Lily had cried almost constantly since Mom and Dad came home with her. They’d told Peter she was sick, but he didn’t understand all the big words they used.

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All Peter knew was that Lily cried like being alive hurt her. He’d held her in his arms and tried to help her feel better, but it didn’t work. Nothing worked. Mom said Lily needed a special doctor from the city, but maybe Mr. Tom could make Lily feel better.

Peter was so focused on his thoughts that he didn’t notice the strange wailing sounds in the distance until he got close enough to hear the words being shouted:

“Help me!”

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“Hello,” Peter called out. “Where are you?”

“Help, somebody please help me!”

Peter jogged in the direction the cries were coming from. The forest was denser here and more dangerous. Steep gullies concealed by thick ferns crisscrossed the undergrowth, often ending in old sinkholes and caves.

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Peter slowed down and proceeded cautiously. He tried calling out to the person again, but it seemed they couldn’t hear him. He followed the sounds until they led him to a cave.

A tumble of moss-covered rocks and thick vegetation obscured the entrance. Peter approached it carefully and peered into the dark interior.

“Hello?” Peter called out. “Is somebody in there?”

“Yes! I’m stuck in here and I hurt my leg. Please help me.”

A flashlight lit up suddenly in the cave, and Peter saw a boy around the same age as him lying on the dirt-covered stone. His face was filthy, and his hands shook so much that the beam from the flashlight danced along the cave walls.

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“What happened?” Peter asked as he stepped over the rocks littering the cave entrance.

“I was hiking with my mom and I saw a puppy,” the boy replied.

“I ran after it and got lost. I thought it might’ve come into this cave, but I slipped while I was looking for it and hurt my ankle.”

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“What happened to the puppy?” Peter asked as he approached the boy.

The boy shrugged. “Please just help me get out of here.”

The boy let out a sharp cry of pain when Peter helped him to stand. Peter put his arm around the boy’s waist and helped him to limp to the cave entrance.

“Which direction did you come from?” Peter asked the boy.

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“I don’t know.” He looked around at the forest. “It all looks the same to me.”

Peter wasn’t sure what he should do next. The boy’s ankle was badly bruised and swollen, and there was no way he could limp all the way back to town. The forest was too big for them to wander around searching for his mom. That left only one option.

“I’m going to take you to a place nearby,” Peter said, leading the boy away from the cave. “A nice old man lives there and he’ll be able to help you.

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Peter quickly found the thin trail that wound between the trees to Mr. Tom’s cabin. It was slow going to follow the trail while also helping the boy, whose name was Cliff, but eventually, they reached the little clearing where Mr. Tom’s cabin stood.

Peter helped Cliff sit down on the porch and then went to knock on the door.

“Mr. Tom! Please open up, there’s a boy here who needs help.”

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The door flew open so suddenly that Peter lost his balance and fell against the wall. Firm but gentle hands helped him upright.

“I thought that was your voice, Peter,” Mr. Tom said. “Tell me about this boy who needs help.”

“He’s over here.” Peter pointed at Cliff.

“His ankle is hurt really bad and he got separated from his mom.”

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“You came to the right place.” Mr. Tom smiled kindly at the boys. “Let’s see what I can do for your ankle first, young man, and while I’m working, you can tell me where you last saw your mom.”

Peter sat quietly and watched Mr. Tom apply a bandage and ice pack to Cliff’s ankle. He nodded and asked a few questions as Cliff tried to explain where he had been hiking with his mom.

“I just don’t remember what the trail was called!” Cliff exclaimed.

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“Did you have a guide with you?” Mr. Tom asked.

Cliff nodded. “But I don’t remember what his name was.”

“That’s okay.” Mr. Tom stood slowly and walked to a desk in the corner of the room. “I have a radio here. I’ll send out a message that I’ve found you, and I’m sure your guide will it hear it on his radio.”

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Static crackled and whined when Mr. Tom turned the radio on. “Don’t you worry, Cliff. I’m sure your Mom will be here to pick you up in no time.”

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Mr. Tom spoke into the radio, broadcasting a message that Cliff was safe with him but had injured his ankle. Almost immediately, a man replied.

“Copy that. We’re on our way right now.”

Peter moved closer to look at Cliff’s bandaged ankle. “Mr. Tom, can I ask you a question?”

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“Sure, Peter, what’s on your mind?” Mr. Tom sat in an armchair across from the two boys.

“My mom said you’re a herbalist; that’s a type of doctor, isn’t it? So why didn’t you put any special creams or things on Cliff’s ankle?”

Mr. Tom chuckled.

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“Well, being a herbalist isn’t quite the same as being a doctor, Peter. I could give Cliff a poultice to help with the swelling and bruising, but he still needs to see a medical professional in case he needs X-rays and such. Understand?”

“I think so.” Peter looked down at his hands. “But what about sicknesses, Mr. Tom? Can you make sick people better?”

“That depends. You sure have a lot of questions today, Peter. What’s prompted all this curiosity?”

“My baby sister is very sick,” Peter replied. “Mom says she needs a special doctor, but I also heard her telling Dad that our neighbor told her to bring Lily to see you, Mr. Tom. So I came out here today to ask if you can help my baby sister.”

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Mr. Tom frowned at Peter. “I could take a look if it’ll help you feel better, but there are some illnesses I can’t treat, Peter, and I need you to remember that. Herbalism has helped people stay healthy for centuries but there’s things it can’t do that modern medicine can.”

“I understand, Mr. Tom, but please try!” Peter pressed his hands together. “I can’t bear to hear Lily crying anymore. She sounds so sad and sore.”

Mr. Tom put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “You’re a good big brother, Peter, but let’s help Cliff first, then we can discuss your little sister.”

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Peter glanced at the other boy, who seemed embarrassed to be there now. Peter sniffed. He didn’t care what this strange boy thought of him; all he wanted was to help Lily.

There was a knock at the door. Mr. Tom went to open it and immediately gasped.

“It’s you!” Mr. Tom shouted. “What are you doing in this forest?”

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“You’re a fan, huh?” The lady at the door blushed and stepped inside “I needed a holiday so I decided to visit the caves in this area with my son. Where is he?”

“Over here, Mom.” Cliff tried to stand but immediately sat down again with a grimace of pain.

“You foolish boy!” The woman hurried to Cliff’s side and hugged him. “I was so worried when I couldn’t find you. What on earth were you thinking, running off by yourself, Cliff?”

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While Cliff and his mom were talking, Mr. Tom sidled up to Peter and poked his side gently.

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“Don’t you want to ask her for her autograph?”

Mr. Tom whispered: “It might seem a bit odd coming from an old man like me, but you…I’m sure she’d gladly sign something for you.”

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“Uh, okay,” Peter replied.

He looked back at Cliff’s mom. She must be somebody famous or important, but Peter didn’t recognize her.

When she’d finished fussing over her son, Peter asked Cliff’s mom for an autograph and presented her with the notebook and pen Mr. Tom had given him for this purpose.

“Of course! It’s the very least I can do after you helped Cliff,” she said with a big smile. “I’ll also make sure to give you a shout-out at my next performance.”

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“Mom, you’re being embarrassing,” Cliff groaned.

Cliff and his mom left soon afterward. Three big, black SUVs with tinted windows pulled up the dirt road leading to Mr. Tom’s cabin to collect them, and they sped off toward town in a cloud of dust.

“I can’t believe I got to meet my favorite singer right here in the forest where I live,” Mr. Tom said. “But now I suppose I should make good on my promise to you, Peter. I’ll drive you back home and, if your parents agree, I’ll take a look at your baby sister, okay?”

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“Thank you, Mr. Tom!”

A few hours later, Peter stood over Lily’s crib and watched his baby sister sleep. A slightly floral scent permeated the air around her crib from the little bottle of oil Mr. Tom had suggested Mom drip onto Lily’s bedding.

“I’m sorry I can’t do more for you,” Mr. Tom had said. “But this should at least help your little girl to get some rest.”

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Those words had replayed in Peter’s mind ever since Mr. Tom left.

Peter had hoped Mr. Tom would cure Lily, but all his hopes had been for nothing. Peter wiped his eyes on his sleeve and took one last look at Lily before slipping from the nursery and climbing into his bed.

The following morning, Peter was woken by a scream. He rushed downstairs and found his parents dancing joyfully before the open front door.

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“What’s going on?” Peter asked.

“Oh, Peter!” Mom rushed to hug him and lifted him in the air. “You brave, kind boy! Your good deed has saved your sister!”

Mom set him down and showed him a letter. “This is from a lady you helped yesterday when her son was injured. It says here that Tom went to see her boy at the hospital after he left here yesterday and told her about Lily’s illness.”

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Mom sniffed and wiped a tear from her eye. “She’s offered to pay for Lily’s treatment, Peter! We’ll be able to take her to the specialist so she can get better, and it’s all thanks to you.”

What can we learn from this story?

  • Kindness is always repaid. When you do good things for others and approach life with an attitude of kindness, people will gladly do good things for you in return.
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