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Part 1 -

Nan glanced out the window for the millionth time that day. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't concentrate on what Mr. Newburn was saying and trying to teach them. Mr. Newburn was the new teacher at Plumfield. He had taken the job when Jo Riley had become pregnant with Teddy Benjamin Riley. Nick had been so excited when he had first found out that his wife was going to have his baby, and on the day Teddy was born, the Plumfield students had been betting on who would faint first - Nick or Jo.

A lot had changed in the last 4 years. Now most of the original students at Plumfield were getting ready to graduate, and new ones were just beginning.

The four of them, Dan, Bess, Nat, and herself were leaving on a two-night backpacking trip as soon as school was out for the day, and the chores were done. They had been planning this trip for weeks, and decided to go this weekend since they would all be moving after Friday's graduation party. They figured that it would probably be the last time that they would all be together in a long time.

Dan was going to explore the west like he had always dreamed. His train would leave at 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, and he wasn't sure where he'd end up. He talked about going to California, but also had idea's of seeing far-away places like South America, and Australia.

Bess had decided to take up painting, like her mother, and was doing well at it. Though her father sometimes wished she would go into singing, she was content. Her voice had changed and matured, and she had been given a few lessons from her Aunt Meg. She could now ‘sin like an angel' as her father often told her.

Nat had decided to study his music. It had been a tough decision to make because he loved writing his stories, but playing the violin always made him feel closer to his father. He was constantly getting lost in the music. He played for hours, and when he stopped he was amazed that so much time had gone by. He had hopes that someday one of his songs would be published.

And Nan was going to medical school. It was what she had always dreamed of doing, so it wasn't a hard decision to make. She would be the best female doctor the world would ever know . . .

"Nan? Nan!"

Nan looked up guiltily. "Yes, Mr. Newburn?"

All the younger students snickered in amusement. It wasn't often that one of the ‘older' kids got caught daydreaming.

He smiled at her distraction. "I asked if you could explain the short story we have just ready, but I see you have your mind on other things. You can read the story after school, and I expect a one page report on it on my desk Monday morning."

Nan groaned, but nodded, "Yes, sir."

"Now, Tommy-"

The boy sat up straight in his seat. "Yes, sir?"

"Could you explain the chapter to the class?"

"Uh, well actually, umm-"

"Is there anyone in this classroom that can explain what we just read?"

A young lady named Sarah raised her hand. "It was a story about a young boy who had just tragically lost his father in a horrible fire. It was this young son's feelings on what had happened."

"Thank you Sarah. Now, before I let you go for the weekend, I want you all to remember to read Chapter 2 of Treasure Island, and be ready to discuss it on Monday." He glanced around the room to make sure everyone was paying attention. "Class dismissed."

They all rose noisily to their feet and headed for the door. Dan stopped the other three right outside the door.

"Are you all packed?"

The others looked at each other and nodded.

"Who's going to pack the book?"

"What book?" Nat gave him a strange look.

"Treasure Island. I figure we can read the chapter around the campfire tonight."

They all burst out laughing.

"What?"

Nat tried to hide his smile. "Four years ago you would have been the last person to suggest that."

He shrugged, then smiled. "So who's got room?"

"I'll do it," Bess offered, "I think I've got some room left."

"Okay, great. When do you think you'll be ready to go?"

"All I have to do is fill some lamps and dust the parlor, then I'm ready to go."

Nat looked around as if searching for Nick. "I'm not sure what Nick needs us to do, Dan, but I'm sure he won't give us much since he knows we're leaving this afternoon."

Dan nodded in agreement. "What about you, Nan?"

She groaned, "I've got to clean the oven in the kitchen and read that stupid story."

"How long do you think it'll take you?"

"Probably an hour or so. But if someone came and read the story to me as I'm cleaning, it wouldn't take that long."

"I'll read it to you, Nan," Nat offered, "after I finish what Nick needs me to do."

"Or I could," Bess said, "I don't have that much to do."

"How about whoever finishes first reads it to her?" Dan broke in.

"Sounds good to me." Bess nodded.

"Okay, good. Thanks you guys." Nan grinned.

"How about we leave at 4 o'clock? That'll give everybody enough time for chores and we'll still have a couple hours of daylight to hike by."

They all agreed, then took off in their separate directions.

* * * * *

"It was one of the hardest year's of my life. I knew that my father loved me, and because of that, I promised myself to be the best I could be. Everything had changed; I had changed, but I would go on."

"That was sad." Nan's voice sounded hollow from inside the oven where she sat trying to get it clean.

Bess set the paper onto the table. "Yeah, it was."

"Who did you say wrote it?"

"Mr. Newburn knows this guy who it happened to, and convinced him to write his feelings onto paper."

Nan brought her head out of the stove to stare at Bess in surprise. "That story was true ?"

Bess just nodded.

"Wow." Her head disappeared again. "That makes it even sadder."

"Hey Bess, you finished quickly." Asia walked into the kitchen.

"Hi Asia, I didn't have that much to do. The new kids have practically taken over all the work."

Asia smiled, "Lucky for you. How's the oven coming, Nan?"

As she was bringing her head out of the small hole to reply, Nan hit it against the side of the oven. "Ow!"

"Are you okay?" Asia and Bess asked simultaneously.

"That hurts." She stated while rubbing the tender spot she had just hit. "Who was supposed to clean this last week?"

"Wasn't it Emil's turn?" Bess asked.

"No, he was sick, so that would have made it Tommy's turn." Asia replied.

"But wasn't he visiting his parents last week?"

"Uh-huh. No wonder it looked like nobody cleaned it. Nobody did." Nan muttered.

"Are you done yet Nan?" Dan asked as he and Nat walked into the room.

She glared at him.

"What?"

Bess smiled. "Nobody cleaned the oven last week so it was a mess."

"Oh. Sorry."

Nan sighed in relief, "I think I'm done, lets get out of here."

They smiled and headed upstairs to grab their backpacks.

* * * * *

"Do you have everything?" Jo asked as they came in to say goodbye.

"I think so." Dan smiled.

They all nodded, the excitement in their faces more than obvious.

"Be careful." Jo gave them each a hug, then stepped back and wiped the tears from her eyes. "You've all grown up so much."

They each gave her another hug, then headed for the door.

"Bess!" Jo called after them.

"Yes Aunt Jo?" She stopped in the hallway.

"Don't get hurt, or your mother will never forgive me."

Bess smiled, gave a little wave, and headed out the door.

Jo stepped back into the embrace of her husband. "It seems like only yesterday they were just arriving and getting into all kinds of mischief."

Nick kissed the top of her head gently, "Would you change anything if you had to do everything over again?"

Jo turned around and smiled, "Nope."

* * * * *

"We're going to climb that in two and a half days?" Bess asked skeptically.

"It's not as big as you think it is. Besides, we're not going all the way to the top." Dan grinned, "Are we ready?"

"Yeah. Lets Go!" Nan smiled and started hiking with Nat following close behind.

Bess glared at Dan for a second before following. "This had better be worth it, Dan."

His grin widened as he followed, "It will be something you'll never forget."


Part 2 -

"Can we stop for a minute?"

Dan groaned, "Again? Bess we stopped 10 minutes ago!"

"My pack is so heavy!"

Frustrated he grabbed her arm to stop her and started pulling it off her pack. "Give it to me."

"What are you doing?"

Nat and Nan stopped and watched them in amusement.

"Just give me your pack Bess!" He finally managed to get it off her back, so he swung it over his shoulder and began hiking away angrily.

Nat and Nan tried to hide their smiles as he passed by them, and continued up the mountain. Nan looked back at Bess and laughed aloud.

She was standing in the middle of the path with her mouth wide open in shock. Nan walked down to where she was, grabbed her arm and started to pull her up the path.

"Come on Bess, we can't stand around all day."

Bess finally closed her mouth and began walking. "I can't believe he just did that. All I wanted was a short rest, he didn't have to take my pack."

Nan looked at Nat and couldn't stop the grin that formed. He smiled back and they continued to follow Dan.

* * * * *

"How much farther do you think we need to go?" Nat asked after yawning.

Dan looked around, then pointed to a large tree up ahead. "There's a clearing to the left of that tree up there. We'll stop there for the night."

"How are you doing?" Nat asked again.

He just shrugged and continued walking.

Bess sighed, she had tried to convince him many times to give her back her pack, but he just ignored her. Nan and Nat had started complaining about how heavy their packs were starting to feel, and Dan was carrying double. He hadn't said a word about it, but Bess could tell he was in pain. "Dan-"

"Don't ask, Bess."

Nan gave her an uneasy glance bud didn't say a word. Bess had no choice but to just keep walking.

"Right there?" Nat questioned.

"Look okay to you?"

"Yeah."

"Then this is where we'll spend the night."

"Oh thank goodness." Nan sighed in relief and let her pack drop to the ground. "That feels so good."

Nat grinned and dropped his next to hers. He stretched his shoulders and groaned. "I thought I packed light!"

Dan set his two bags down and tried to stretch out the kinks. "Oww!" He muttered to himself, before turning to the rest of the group. "We need to get some wood for a fine and get it going before the sun goes down. Who's cooking tonight?"

"I will." Bess offered.

"Okay, I'll go find wood. Tomorrow night Nat and Nan can do it."

"Dan, don't you think you should rest for a minute?"

"I'll rest after I get the wood."

"I can do that!"

"You're cooking."

"Oh, so just because I'm cooking that means I can't get wood too?"

"Bess-"

"You've been carrying my pack and yours all afternoon. The last I can do is collect the wood and make dinner. So sit down, and relax." She stepped over to him, daring him to disagree.

"I'm fine, Bess-"

"Sit down!" She commanded, putting her hands on her hips. "I mean it, Dan."

He sighed, but finally sat down.

"Thank you. I'll be back in a couple of minutes."

Nan watched her walk away then shook her head thoughtfully.

"What?" Nat asked while rubbing his shoulders.

"I didn't think she still had it in her."

Nat looked at her strangely, then glanced at Dan who was trying to hide a smile. Finally, he could hold it back no longer and started laughing. Soon all three of them were laughing hysterically until their sides hurt.

"What's going on?"

They looked up at Bess and laughed harder.

"Nothing, Bess. Nothing," Nan finally managed to get out.

She looked at them curiously, but didn't push the issue. She knelt to clear a spot for a fire, "Who's got the matches?"

"I've got them." Nat searched through his pack until he finally found them. "Here."

She smiled briefly at him, then started the fire.

An hour later dinner was done and they ate it hungrily.

"This is good Bess."

"Tomorrow all we get is canned food. Everything else would have spoiled overnight."

They all nodded, and Dan threw another log on the fire. "Where's the book?"

Bess grabbed her bag and shifted through it's contents. "It's right here."

"Who's going to read first?"

"Here, let me." Nat took the book, and began reading aloud. "'It was not very long after this that there occurred the first of mysterious events . . ." He continued to read for a while and then said, "You're turn, Bess."

"Okay." She read a portion of the story and then looked up.

"I'll read next." Dan mumbled after stifling a yawn.

As she handed him the book he had to lean for it, and groaned, hoping she wouldn't notice.

"Are you okay?"

She noticed. "I'm fine."

Her eyes narrowed, "Sure you are."

He ignored her and started to read. ". . . For a long time, though I certainly did my best . . ." After a while he handed the book to Nan.

Nan took it and said, "You didn't leave me much."

"Sorry." Dan smiled.

She finished the chapter and closed the book. "That's the end of Chapter 2."

Nat yawned. "Good thing too. I'm tired."

"So is everybody ready for bed?" Dan yawned.

They all agreed, and got into their bedrolls.

After a minute, Nan sat back up.

"Psst . . . hey Nat!" She whispered.

"What?" He whispered back.

"Do you remember any of Chapter 2?"

"Not really. Why? Do you?"

She yawned and laid back down, "Not a word."

Nat turned his head into his pillow so that he wouldn't wake anyone as he laughed.

* * * * *

Dan tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position. Everything hurt and he groaned as a particularly sore shoulder hit the hard ground beneath him. He finally decided that since he obviously wouldn't be able to get any sleep, he might as well get up.

He went over to the fire and stared at it. He was so tired, but was too sore to sleep.

All of a sudden he heard something behind him. He turned around quickly not sure of what he'd find. . .

* * * * *

Bess listened to Dan toss and groan and gelt guilty. ‘I shouldn't have complained so much. I should have just carried my pack and not have muttered a word. But why does he have to be so stubborn?"

She realized Dan hadn't made any noise in the last couple of minutes so she slowly opened her eyes hoping to find him asleep. Instead she saw him sitting by the fire, looking like he was deep in thought.

Slowly she got up, careful not to wake Nan. She walked quietly to where he sat, when suddenly he spun around.

"It's just me."

"Why are you still up Bess? Are you okay?"

"I was just going to ask you the same question."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm fine.

Raising her eyebrows, Bess said, "So why are you still awake?"

"No reason."

That hadn't worked, so she tried a different approach. "You look tired."

He replied without thinking. "I am tired."

"So why don't you go to sleep?"

He glared at the fire but didn't answer.

"Why don't you tell me just how sore you are?" Nothing else had worked so maybe he would respond to the direct approach.

"You want to know how sore I am? Fine. My arms hurt, my shoulders hurt, my legs hurt, my feet hurt. I ache all over!"

She glanced at the other two to make sure they hadn't been awakened by his outburst. "Well, I'm not going to do anything about your feet, but I might be able to help your shoulders."

He looked up confused. "What?"


Part 3 -

Bess smiled and stood up. She walked around behind him and gently started massaging his shoulders. "Relax Dan."

He was starting to feel better when she hit a really sore muscle. "Ow!"

She lifted her hands for a minute. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Keep going." He grinned when she started up again.

"Does it feel better?"

"You know, I think it does."

She smiled, then yawned, "Good. I'm going to bed."

As she was walking away he grabbed her hand. "Thanks Bess."

She smiled again, then walked back to her bedroll and fell asleep almost instantly.

Dan stretched as he walked to his bedroll and laid down. It took a couple of minutes, but he finally fell asleep.

* * * * *

"Hey Dan, wake up!"

"Mm-mm."

"Dan!"

Dan slowly opened his eyes to see Nat grinning at him. "What Nat?"

"Bess and Nan have breakfast ready. Lets eat."

He got up slowly and staggered over to the fire.

"Hungry?" Nan asked with a smile.

He nodded slowly, then eagerly grabbed his plate.

Halfway through breakfast it started raining. Dan looked up, then looked around to see everyone else's reactions. Nat spoke first. "Do you think we should keep going? What if it's like that storm we had 5 years ago when Mrs. Jo was lost?"

"That was in the middle of winter, Nat. It was a blizzard." Nan reminded him.

Dan looked around. "Lets take a vote. Who wants to go on, and who wants to head for Plumfield?"

"I don't think it will last that long, so we should keep going." Nan voiced.

Nat shrugged. "We have storms all the time in June, so I guess it's all right to go on."

Dan looked at Bess with raised eyebrows.

"I didn't hike up this far not to make it all the way. I say we keep going."

Dan smiled. "Then it's unanimous. Lets go."

They finished breakfast, packed their bags, and were ready to go. Then minutes later they were on their way and it stopped raining.

"See, I told you it wouldn't last." Nan hit Nat lightly on the shoulder.

He just shook his head and smiled.

"How much farther do you think we have to go?" Bess asked, readjusting her pack.

"Probably about a mile. Do you need a break?" Dan asked cautiously. He didn't want to mess up like yesterday.

They had left most of their stuff back at the camp, only taking along food for lunch.

"No, I'm okay." Bess had vowed not to complain today, she didn't want a repeat of yesterday either.

"Are you sure?"

"Mm-hmm." She smiled brightly. "Really Dan, I'm okay. I was just wondering."

He nodded to show he understood, then resumed his steady pace.

* * * * *

"We're almost there."

"That's what you said 10 minutes ago." Nan muttered.

"Well then, we're a little closer aren't we?" Dan replied.

"Where are we going Dan? I don't think you've ever told us." Bess broke in to stop them from fighting.

"Well I guess we're close enough now. It's this little meadow with a stream running through it-"

"We came all this way for a meadow?" Nan groaned.

Dan ignored her, "It has a waterfall at the top, and Mr. Owens said that in the spring it would have flowers everywhere."

"Was Mr. Owens the one who showed it to you?" Nat asked.

"Yeah. This is where we came in January when we went on that hike."

"I'm sure it will be lovely, no matter how far we have to walk." Bess smiled.

Nan scowled. "I just hope we get there soon."

Dan stopped suddenly, and they all turned to face him.

"What is it Dan?" Nat asked.

"It's right there."

They all spun around to fact the scene before them. The sun was just beginning to come out of the clouds and the first few rays of sunshine hit the meadow making it even more beautiful. The meadow was filled with flowers of every color, especially around the stream that flowed swiftly through the grass and disappeared into the trees.

They began to walk slowly toward the stream.

"Does it have a name? The meadow?"

"Not really." Dan replied. "I guess we could name it if you wanted to."

"I don't think there are any names to describe it." Nan said in awe.

"Come on." Dan walked over tot he stream, then started following it up.

The didn't have to walk very far before they could hear the sound of water falling onto rocks.

"Is that the waterfall?"

"Uh-huh." He pointed. "There it is."

Everyone looked up and gazed at the amazing site. The water cascaded down the rocks into a tiny pool at the bottom before heading down the stream.

"It's beautiful." Bess murmured.

"Come on," Dan motioned for everyone to follow. "I know the perfect place to eat lunch."

* * * * *

They sat on rocks as they ate lunch and discussed their graduation.

"It's unbelievable that we've made it so far. It' seems like yesterday we came to Plumfield, and now we're graduating." Dan said, "I used to think this day would never arrive."

"You always wanted to go exploring." Bess smiled, "now you'll have your chance."

"Yeah Dan, where are you gonna go? California?" Nan raised her eyebrows comically.

He laughed. "Yeah, probably. I'd like to go to South America but for some reason I doubt I'll ever get there. I can't wait to see California and the Pacific Ocean, and the huge redwood trees. I guess it's what I've always wanted to do."

"And now you'll be doing it." Nat blinked away the tears that were threatening to fill his eyes.

"What are you going to do, Nat?"

"Well I got accepted to the conservatory in Boston, so I've decided that's what I'm going to do."

"You're father would be proud, Nat." Nan murmured.

"You're going to medical school, right Nan?

"Well, I'm going to try." She laughed, "I still haven't heard whether or not I've been accepted. I'm getting a little worried about that."

"They'd be a fool not to accept you, Nan." Bess stated forcefully.

"And you're going to be our master painter, Bess! People will come from miles around just to see your paintings."

They all laughed.

"I hope so." She grinned, "I'm not sure where I'm going yet, but there are a couple of school's that have accepted me."

"Yeah like 5" Nan muttered, pretending to be annoyed. Then she smiled to show she didn't mean anything by it.

They sat in silence for a couple minutes listening to the sounds around the waterfall.

Bess broke the silence by asking softly, "Do you think we'll ever see each other again?"

"I'm sure we'll see each other again, just not all at the same time." Dan muttered.

Nan thought for a minute before looking up excitedly. "What if we promised we would?"

"What?" They all looked at her in confusion.

"We make a promise, right now, that we'll meet back at Plumfield in two years!"

Bess smiled slowly, "That way we'd be sure to meet again."

"Exactly!" Nan jumped to her feet and began pacing. "We could meet in the summer, that way I'd be sure to be done with school. Maybe in July! That way we could stay the whole month to visit!"

Dan looked at Nat thoughtfully.

"It would work, Dan." Nat smiled.

He nodded, "Yeah, I think it would."

"I'll start!" Said Bess, wanting to be the first. "I promise to meet back at Plumfield two years from now, - in July."

Nat broke in, "I promise to be at Plumfield in July, two years from now."

Nan sat back down, "I promise that I will be at Plumfield two years from July."

Dan hesitated to the worry of the others, before slowly saying, "I promise to return to Plumfield, 2 years from now, to meet again with my friends who I will never forget."

They all looked around, trying to hold back tears, when Nat finally said, "Not what?"

Then they all laughed.


Part 4 -

"We should probably head back to camp." Dan said, standing up to gather their trash.

"Already? I feel like we've just gotten here." Nan grumbled.

"It looks like it's going to rain again." Nat observed staring at the clouds.

"Wonderful!" Bess muttered sarcastically. "Just what I wanted."

"It's better than having it get too hot." Dan told her, swinging his pack onto his shoulders. "Lets get going."

"Come on Bess. A little water never hurt anyone." Nan smiled.

Then it started to rain.

10 minutes later it was still raining and they were soaked.

"This was not a good idea." Bess groaned as her shoes started squishing and water oozed between her toes.

It began raining so hard that they couldn't see more than 3 inches in front of them.

Suddenly Bess felt somebody grab her arm and she let out a startled shriek.

"It's just me, Bess." Dan shouted loudly pulling her under a tree. "We should be safer here!"

"What if there's lightning?"

"We'll have to take that risk."

"Where's Nan and Nat?" She was practically yelling just to be heard over the rain.

"I think they're under a tree on the other side of the path."

"What?" What was he doing, whispering?

He yelled louder, "I think they're on the other side of the path!"

"You think ?"

He shrugged then paused listening for a second. "Do you hear something?"

"What?" She screamed.

"Do. You. Hear. Something?"

"Yeah, the rain!"

"No, besides that. It sounds like-" He stared up the path in horror.

"What is it?" She turned around to look.

"Run!"

"What?"

"Run!"

* * * * *

"Do you think it'll stop soon?" Nan shouted.

"I hope so." Came Nat's loud reply.

"Where are Dan and Bess?"

"The other side of the path."

Nan nodded and shook the hair out of her eyes. She squinted into the distance then laughed humorlessly. "I can't even see the path."

Nat looked at her and laughed. "Nan, the path is," he pointed in the other direction, "over there."

She glared at him for a minute before peering the other direction. A couple seconds later she straightened and shrugged. "I still can't see it."

Nat didn't say anything but his grin got wider.

"Don't tell me that was the wrong direction." She put her hands on her hips in mock anger.

"No," he laughed, "that was the right place."

She looked disbelieving for a second before slowly smiling. A second later the smile faded as she started listening intently.

"What is it, Nan?"

Nan didn't reply and Nat was about to repeat himself louder when she looked over at him.

"Don't you hear it?

"Hear what?" Nat looked confused.

"It sounds like something is rushing towards us." Her eyes got wide as she realized what it was. "Nat!"

"What?"

She looked horrified. "It's a mudslide!"

* * * * *

Bess and Dan were running blindly through the woods tripping over fallen branches, and rocks. Bess still didn't know what she was running from, but from the frightened look Dan kept giving her she knew it must be pretty bad.

She was out of breath, soaking wet, and tired but still managed to keep running from whatever it was that was chasing them. She stumbled over a tree stump and Dan roughly pulled her to her feet.

"Dan, I can't-"

"Come on Bess. You've gotta keep running." Dan looked backwards, then grabbed her arm and started running again.

They ran for another few minutes until Dan spotted a large rock. "Come on, we're going to climb it."

"Climb that?"

"Uh-huh." He looked for the best way up. "Right here. You go first."

She muttered something unintelligible but started climbing. The rocks were slippery and she still couldn't see very well, but she kept climbing."

"Are you at the top?" Dan called as he started climbing.

She stumbled over the edge as the rain started to slow. "Yes."

He quickly scaled the rock to the top and dropped onto the ground wearily.

"Dan, why were we running?" Bess asked, in between gulps of air.

"We were running from that." Dan nodded his head up the hill.

Bess gasped as a wall of mud floated towards them.

"Do you think we're high enough?"

"Yeah we're high enough. I'm just worried about Nat and Nan."

Bess looked at him in shock as her eyes got big. Then she stared back at the mud as it began hitting around the rock.

* * * * *

Nat gaped at her for a minute before turning and running downwards. He turned long enough to make sure Nan was behind him, but kept running.

"Nat, we're never going to be able to out run it!" Nan yelled running anyway.

"We've gotta find a way to get on top of it or we'll never survive!"

She looked up, then backwards at the mud. "Climb a tree Nat. We've gotta find a tree!"

He stopped running and looked around. "Over here!"

She ran for him. "Don't wait for me Nat. Climb!"

He grabbed the branch and started pulling himself up. He felt a sharp pain in his hand but didn't stop to investigate it.

"Hurry up Nat!" Nan yelled in a near panic.

He had just moved his foot off the bottom branch when her hand shot up to grab it. The branches scratched her on the way up, but she didn't pay any attention to them. They climbed as high as they could then watched and waited for the mud to hit.

It hit. Hard. Nan hadn't gotten a good grip on the tree and as the mud hit it and caused the tree to start jerking, she lost her footing. He slowly climbed to where she was and grabbed her arm.

She looked below her at the rushing med, then back at Nat. "Don't let go."

"I won't." He promised.

She slipped a little more. "Nat!"

"Don't worry. I've got you."

Nan bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out in terror, and forced herself not to look down. "Are you going to pull me back u , t?"

"Oh, yeah," Nat smiled in spite of the situation. "I forgot."

He quickly pulled her back into the tree and she glared at him while muttering sarcastically, "I forgot."

"Sorry Nan." He hid the smile. "You know, someday we're going to be laughing about this."

"Right," she laughed humorlessly. "Laughing about how we wore ourselves out trying to get to a waterfall , getting soaking wet and muddy from running away from a mudslide, and almost killing ourselves! Sure, we'll be laughing."

He just shrugged and looked at the sky, "At least the rain has slowed."

"Thank heaven for small favors." She muttered.

A couple minutes later, Nat broke the silence. "Nan?"

"What?"

"Why have you been in such a bad mood?"

Nan sighed. "Look, I didn't mean to take it all out on you. I guess I hit my head harder than I thought while cleaning the stove. I'm just worried."

"About what?"

"That I won't be accepted to any medical schools. Or that I will be accepted and I'll fail."

Nat looked at her and was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "Hey, it'll be okay. You'll get accepted and you'll do great."

Nan blinked away her tears and smiled slightly. "Thanks Nat. I think I needed to hear that."

"Anytime."


Part 5 -

"How did you know?"

Dan spun around in surprise. "How did I know, what?"

"That the mudslide was coming? We got a really good head start, so I know you couldn't have seen it."

"The animals were running. I figured that if they were scared, we should be too."

Bess smiled slightly. "Did Mr. Owens teach you that?"

"It's common sense, Bess."

She raised her eyebrows, and he sighed. "Yes Mrs. Owens taught it to me."

Bess turned her head so he couldn't see her smile and changed the subject. "How soon do you think we can get down from here?"

"We should probably wait a couple of hours but I'm not really sure."

"I hope Nan and Nat are okay." Bess whispered and for a second Dan wondered if she had even said anything.

"I'm sure they saw it and ran."

Bess sighed. "I hope so."

' * * * * *

A couple hours later Nat and Nan climbed carefully out of the tree and dropped down into the mud.

"Where do you think Dan and Bess are?" Nat asked tromping through the mud.

"Hopefully the same place we were. In a tree." Nan looked at the ground in disgust.

"Do you think they're okay?"

Nan noticed the worry in his voice and tried to smile, "I'm sure they are Nat, . . . we've just gotta find them."

* * * * *

"Jo! . . Jo!" Amy came running into the house screaming.

Jo came into the hallway. "What Amy?"

"There's been a mudslide."

"What?" Jo looked confused.

Amy started crying. "A mudslide Jo! My baby -"

She finally understood. "I'll get Nick."

* * * * *

"Can you believe it Laurie? Look at all this mud!" Nick jumped off his horse and tied it to a tree.

Laurie jumped down next to him. "And it had to happen this week."

"It's unbelievable." Nick looked around att he damage and shook his head. The students were like kids to him and if anything had happened to them he would never forgive himself. "Come on, lets go."

A couple minutes later they were covered in mud and Laurie gave Nick a sideways glance. "What if the children didn't see this coming?"

"I don't even want to think about it."

* * * * *

Dan jumped to the ground, then helped Bess down. She lifted her skirts high so that they wouldn't drag in the mud and looked around.

"Which way should we go?"

"We should try to find the path."

"In this mud?" Bess looked at him in question. "How are we supposed to do find it?"

Dan gave a wry chuckle. "I have no idea, but unless you have any brilliant ideas -"

"Why don't we just head down the mountain towards Plumfield? I'm sure that's what Nan and Nat would do!"

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you're sure ?"

She smiled, then started walking down the mountain leaving him no choice but to follow.

* * * * *

"You're favoring your hand."

Nat looked up in surprise. "What?"

"Why are you favoring your right hand?"

He looked down and was surprised to see that it was bleeding. "I guess I hurt myself."

"Let me see it." Nan grabbed his hand and began inspecting it. "It doesn't look too bad, but it needs to be washed and it should probably be wrapped. Does it hurt?"

"A little."

Nan smiled sympathetically. "When did it happen?"

Nat shook his head, "I'm not really sure. I think it happened when I was climbing the tree."

Nan nodded, then changing the subject, she looked around and asked, "Which way should we go?"

"Why don't we try to head back to Plumfield? That's what Dan and Bess will probably be doing."

"If they're alive." Nan muttered softly.

"What?"

"Nothing."

* * * * *

"Are we still on the path?" Laurie asked trying to ignore the aching pain in his feet.

"I'm not sure." Nick replied as he kept hiking up. "If we miss them, we'll just have to double back and try a different route."

"How far do you think we've hiked?"

"Probably only a couple of miles. The mud is slowing us down."

Laurie nodded, the opened his mouth to ask another question when he tripped and fell.

"Laurie! You okay?"

"Yeah, I just . . I tripped over something -" He stopped when he realized what it was. The pack was muddy, and the straps were broken. "Nick -"

Nick saw the pack and hesitated. "Is it their's?"

Laurie opened it slowly, then fought back tears as he brought out a ruined book. "It's their's."

"Treasure Island?"

Laurie nodded.

"I'm sure they're okay." Nick said determinedly. "We just gotta find them."

* * * * *

"How far do you think we've gone?" Bess asked from where she sat resting.

"Probably not far. The mud is making it hard to walk."

She sighed.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, just tired."

"Come on. Lets get going. Mrs. Jo is going to be worried."

She sighed again but stood up. "Okay, lets go."

20 minutes later, and much dirtier, Bess needed another break. "Dan? Can we stop for a minute?"

Dan looked over at her and was about to say something sharp, but quickly caught himself and just nodded. "Yeah."

"Thank you." She sat down and stretched her arms and legs. "I feel like I've walked forever. Even yesterday wasn't as bad as -"

"Shh . ." Dan suddenly broke in. He looked into the distance listening.

"What -"

"Nick! Nick! Mr. Laurie!" He shot to his feet and waved his arms frantically.

"Dan! Bess!" Nick yelled back happily as Dan and Bess ran to them. Bess threw her arms around her father.

Suddenly a voice yelled out from the other direction. "Nick!"

* * * * *

"You need a break?" Nat asked cautiously, not wanting to get her mad.

Nan had stopped worrying a long time ago about protecting her ‘tomboy' status. "Yeah. You?"

"Uh-huh." They had no sooner sat down when they heard someone call out for Nick. They both jumped to their feet then looked at each other nervously. Were they imagining things, or had they really heard something?"

Then the shout came again, and a reply was heard. They smiled at each other and ran for the voices.

"Nick!" Nat yelled as they ran.

"Wait for us!" Nan yelled as they ran around trees and suddenly spotted them.

Nick, Laurie, Dan, and Bess all turned in surprise and watched as the came running. As they approached, Bess stepped forward a couple of steps and she and Nan hugged tightly. "We we're so worried!"

Nan quickly blinked away the tears as she embraces her best friend. "So were we!"

Meanwhile, Dan and Nat hugged briefly then stepped back wearily.

"Thank goodness you're okay." Dan looked tired, but happy.

Nat smiled at him, "Same to you. Were you worried?"

They all looked at him.

"Of course not!"

Nick laughed, then jerked his thumb back the way he had come. "Come on. Let's go home."

The End!


Growing Up Is Hard To Do
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