“Shut her off! Shut her off!” yelled Frenchy excitedly.
But Torry was wiser than that. The water flattened out, and the whirling wheels bit into the road again. They did not skid, and the car remained upright. For the next half mile they ran through more than a foot of water; but it was plain the danger was over.
Near the river bank the water flooded the first floors of the houses in the suburbs of Seacove; but there was little other damage done at this distance from the dam.
As the water subsided from about them, however, Torry turned the machine around and headed up the road again.
“Yes, we’ll go back,” Whistler agreed. “Drive slowly, Torry. Maybe we can help somebody. I’m afraid there were some people who did not get away in time.”
They found enough to do, it was true, all that night. After getting back to the outskirts of Elmvale they could not drive the machine over the slime and mud in the roadway. There were deep washouts, too; and in some places the wreck of light buildings barred the way.
The Navy boys had done good service in warning the endangered people along one side of the river. Mr. Santley had done much more in sending the news of the broken dam broadcast by telephone. The girl at Central had stuck to her post while the water rose to the second floor of the telephone building, where the switchboard was situated.
Whistler and his three chums were carrying children to the high ground where it was dry, and packing bedding and blankets up to the “shipwrecked mess-mates,” as Frenchy called them, until dawn.
When the sun crept up and showed the wreckage in the valley, and particularly about Elmvale, it was enough to make one heartsick. The lower floors of all mills, and of the munition factory, were wrecked. Some of the buildings had fallen down.
Much machinery was destroyed. It would take months to repair the damage done to property by the flood. And there was a death list of twelve. That was the hardest to bear and the saddest result of the catastrophe.
Until the ruins around Elmvale were searched and the last body brought to light, little was said about the cause of the disaster. But the following evening Whistler and his chums were called to the office of the sheriff of the county to tell what they knew about the stranger, Blake, who had disappeared just before the dam burst.
He had been seen getting off the train at Elmvale that evening. But he had disappeared immediately after. He had not returned to the munition factory, where the manager, Mr. Santley, was waiting for him; nor had he been observed at all after leaving the railroad station.
Later it was proved that he had obtained his position at the factory by the aid of forged credentials. It was believed that he was rather a famous German inventor who had been living in the United States for some years. He had an almost uncanny knowledge of mechanics, as well as of chemistry.