Half a mile was small leeway; the flood would pour down upon the village and the mills in two or three minutes. But the Navy boys in the big car were flying over the road at a forty-mile-an-hour pace.
They could have easily escaped to the high ground on one side or the other of the valley. There were many small farms down this river road, however, and although the valley widened a good deal before the outskirts of Seacove were reached, the flood might do a deal of damage in the lower town unless the people there were warned.
At least, the automobile and its occupants made noise enough as they flew along to arouse most people along the way to the menacing peril. The explosion followed by the bursting of the dam had, in any case, shaken the valley to the very sea itself.
They saw men, women and children run screaming from their houses and mount through the fields toward the hilltops. Behind, the roar of the waters was like a high wind. In a moment all the lights in Elmvale went out.
“The powerhouse has gone!” shrieked Frenchy, when he saw this.
“And everything else, I guess!” quavered Ikey, clinging to the back of the automobile seat and hoarse from shouting.
Dim as the light from the stars and the moon was, they could see the front of the wave of released water. When it struck the big mill buildings at Elmvale the foamy water sprang up in geysers.
Several of the big buildings went down under the impact of the flood. The smaller hovels were swept off their foundations. Those people who had not escaped from the middle of the village must be overcome by the sweep of the flood.
Below the Main Street bridge in Elmvale, the channel of the river was much wider than above the bridge. It was navigable for small vessels, too, from Seacove to that point.
Schooners and barges moored to the docks below the bridge were cast up on the crest of the flood, their hawsers snapped like packthread, and they were whirled away, some to be cast later far back from the established bank of the stream.
It was tidewater below the bridge, and fortunately it was low tide. The channel of the river, therefore, could take the greater bulk of the flood, and the valley widening so quickly, the depth of the outflow of the dam was much decreased directly below the wrecked hamlet.
The rushing automobile was two-thirds of the way to Seacove in five minutes. Then the advance wave of the flood caught them.
They saw the saplings along the bank of the stream bend and snap under the force of the water. Some were uprooted. Chicken houses and other small structures were snatched from their places and flung wildly along with the charging water.
With a roar and a cloud of spray the water surged around the automobile on the road. Running, as the car was, at top speed, the flood picked it up and drove it forward even more swiftly for several rods.