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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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DROSE had returned to Leavenworth after a month at the hospital. He had been severely wounded at the battle of Wilson’s Creek at which Colonel Lyons had lost his life. It would be several months before he would be fit for duty again and so General Fremont, who had succeeded Lyons, had granted him a furlough.
He looked pitifully weak as he hobbled into the office where McCarthy greeted him warmly.
"Where is Bill?" he asked, after he had explained what had happened.
"He is due here tomorrow," was the reply. "He has been out on a special trip to Kearney for the colonel at the Fort."
With McCarthy’s help, Drose was comfortably lodged at Mrs. Lawson’s house where many of the boys had made it a point to stop whenever their sojourn at Leavenworth was for more than a few days.
Bill called on him the next day, almost immediately after his return. Drose had found that the trip to Leavenworth had used up almost all of his reserve strength and he found himself rather glad to comply with Mrs. Lawson's command that he stay in bed.
"They didn't take long to get you, did they?" asked Bill, after he had exchanged handclasps with the sick man. The boy felt a great affection for his wounded friend but covered it by the flippancy of his remark.
Drose grinned ruefully. He did not tell Bill just how and why he had been wounded. In that splendid charge of Captain Lyons in which the latter had lost his life, Drose had been close at his side. A sweeping whirlwind, he had created terrific havoc among the Confederates until a bullet had brought him down almost at the same instant that another shot had killed the captain.
Instead he briefly told of the battle and he was enthusiastic about the splendid courage of the captain and the hold the latter had had on his men.
"How are the rest of the boys?" Bill asked.
"Harrington called on me the last day I was at the hospital. He reported that Simpson, who had been made a corporal, was missing. He thought that he must be a prisoner as one of the soldiers claimed that he saw him captured."
"Is that all you could find out?" asked Bill anxiously.
"That is all. Harrington said he and Woods were going to try to find out definitely but he didn't know just how. If he did find out, he would let you know."
Bill studied the situation for a few minutes.
"I guess I'll talk it over with McCarthy," he decided as he got up to go. "I'll see you again, Drose."
But Bill found that McCarthy could offer very little in the line of suggestion as to what should be done.
"It’s the fortunes of war, my boy. You will find that Simpson himself, even though he hates the very idea of being confined at such time, will admit that it is pure hard luck and be willing to let it go at that, always with an eye, of course, to possible escape."
Bill realized that this must be so. And yet it was not in the nature of this boy to stand idly by, while friends were in need of help. He pondered over the matter for a few days, paying a number of calls in the meanwhile upon Drose, who was recovering but slowly.
Somehow, Bill did not hesitate to confide in the latter. And although Drose agreed with him and understood how he felt, he could offer very little advice and information. He explained the probable location of the enemy as well as that of the Union soldiers.
"Simpson, Woods and Harrington are under Colonel Sigel. When you find the latter two, they may have additional information. That is, if you are really planning to make that journey," added Drose.
"I can't see any other way out of it," the boy replied.
The next morning he reported at the office that he would be away for a week and possibly more. He did not tell either McCarthy or Majors of his plans, and they, schooled in the ethics of the West, did not inquire.
Bill had first thought of making his way directly to Confederate headquarters in Missouri, and seek information there. The only danger in that was the possibility of recognition by someone who knew him, a danger he was ready to risk.
At the last moment, however, he changed his mind. There was the chance that information had been secured by Harrington and Woods and so he decided that he would go directly to Colonel Sigel's headquarters.
The journey to Springfield, took more than two days. Drose had felt. sure that the next battle between the two armies would be fought there. No untoward incident happened to mark these two days.