"Save yourselves, lads!" he screamed. "Run to the woods!"
And suiting his action to his words, he tumbled down from the log pile, and darted up the hill-side toward the forest. The other men, hearing the wild rush and roar above them, lost no time in following his example. Only Bonnyboy, slow of comprehension as always, did not obey. Suddenly there flared up a wild resolution in his face. He pulled out his knife, cut the traces, and leaped upon the colt's back. Lashing the beast, and shouting at the top of his voice, he dashed down the hill-side at a break-neck pace.
"The dam is breaking!" he roared. "Run for the woods!"
He glanced anxiously behind him to see if the flood was overtaking him. A great cloud of spray was rising against the sky, and he heard the yells of men and the frenzied neighing of horses through the thunderous roar. But happily there was time. The dam was giving way gradually, and had not yet let loose the tremendous volume of death and desolation which it held enclosed within its frail timbers. The colt, catching the spirit of excitement in the air, flew like the wind, leaving farm after farm behind it, until it reached the village.
"The dam is breaking! Run for your lives!" cried Bonnyboy, with a rousing clarion yell which rose above all other poises; and up and down the valley the dread tidings spread like wildfire. In an instant all was in wildest commotion. Terrified mothers, with babes in their arms, came bursting out of the houses, and little girls, hugging kittens or cages with canary-birds, clung weeping to their skirts; shouting men, shrieking women, crying children, barking dogs, gusty showers sweeping from nowhere down upon the distracted fugitives, and above all the ominous, throbbing, pulsating roar as of a mighty chorus of cataracts. It came nearer and nearer. It filled the great vault of the sky with a rush as of colossal wing-beats. Then there came a deafening creaking and crashing; then a huge brownish-white rolling wall, upon which the moonlight gleamed for an instant, and then the very trump of doom--a writhing, brawling, weltering chaos of cattle, dogs, men, lumber, houses, barns, whirling and struggling upon the destroying flood.
It was the morning after the disaster. The sun rose red and threatening, circled with a ring of fiery mist. People encamped upon the hill-side greeted each other as on the morn of resurrection. For many were found among the living who were being mourned as dead. Mothers hugged their children with tearful joy, thanking God that they had been spared; and husbands who had heard through the night the agonized cries of their drowning wives, finding them at dawn safe and sound, felt as if they had recovered them from the very gates of death. When all were counted, it was ascertained that but very few of the villagers had been overtaken by the flood. The timely warning had enabled all to save themselves, except some who in their eagerness to rescue their goods had lingered too long. Impoverished most of them were by the loss of their houses and cattle. The calamity was indeed overwhelming. But when they considered how much greater the disaster would have been if the flood had come upon them unheralded, they felt that they had cause for gratitude in the midst of their sorrow. And who was it that brought the tidings that snatched them from the jaws of death? Well, nobody knew. He rode too fast. And each was too much startled by the message to take note of the messenger. But who could he possibly have been? An angel from Heaven, perhaps sent by God in His mercy. That was indeed more than likely. The belief was at once accepted that the rescuer was an angel from heaven. But just then a lumberman stepped forward who had worked at the mill and said: "It was Bonnyboy, Grim Carpenter's son. I saw him jump on his gray colt."
Bonnyboy, Grim Carpenter's son. It couldn't be possible. But the lumberman insisted that it was, and they had to believe him, though, of course, it was a disappointment. But where was Bonnyboy? He deserved thanks, surely. And, moreover, that gray colt was a valuable animal. It was to be hoped that it was not drowned.
The water had now subsided, though it yet overflowed the banks; so that trees, bent and splintered by the terrific force of the flood, grew far out in the river. The foul dams had all been swept away, and the tawny torrent ran again with tumultuous rapids in its old channel. Of the mills scarcely a vestige was left except slight cavities in the banks, and a few twisted beams clinging to the rocks where they had stood. The ruins of the village, with jagged chimneys and broken walls, loomed out of a half-inundated meadow, through which erratic currents were sweeping. Here and there lay a dead cow or dog, and in the branches of a maple-tree the carcasses of two sheep were entangled. In this marshy field a stooping figure was seen wading about, as if in search of something. The water broke about his knees, and sometimes reached up to his waist. He stood like one dazed, and stared into the brown swirling torrent. Now he poked something with his boat-hook, now bent down and purled some dead thing out of a copse of shrubbery in which it had been caught. The sun rose higher in the sky, and the red vapors were scattered. But still the old man trudged wearily about, with the stony stare in his eyes, searching for him whom he had lost. One company after another now descended from the hill-sides, and from the high-lying farms which had not been reached by the flood came wagons with provisions and clothes, and men and women eager and anxious to help. They shouted to the old man in the submerged field, and asked what he was looking for. But he only shook his head, as if he did not understand.