Hapgood, still running, had climbed up the steep right bank, had run almost into the men’s camp, had turned suddenly and dashed back down the bank, to run across the creek and climb the farther side. Conniston and Argyl as they fled from the threatened dam could see him as he clambered upward, could see the loose stones and dirt set sliding, rattling from under his hurrying feet and clawing hands.
Then came the thundering roar of the explosion. The great dam, the citadel of all hopes of success, tottered like a stone wall smitten with a thousand battering-rams, tottered and shook to its foundations. And then, as a dozen explosions merged into one, the whole thing leaped skyward, as though hurled aloft from some Titan’s sling, and, leaping, burst asunder, flying in a thousand directions, raining rock and mortar far and wide along the slopes of the mountains. And Conniston, dragging Argyl after him, cried out brokenly. Upon the dam he had toiled for weeks, and now there was no one stone left of it! And the first day of October was but five days off.
“Look!” Argyl was clinging to him wildly, her arm trembling as it pointed. “Look! Oh, God!”
She did not point toward the dam. Her quivering finger found out a moving figure far below it in the creek-bed. It was Hapgood. The explosion which had demolished the work of weary weeks had shaken the ground under his flying feet so that the loose soil no longer held him. He had cried out aloud, had fought and clawed, had even bit with blackened teeth into the steep bank. And it mocked him and slipped away from him and hurled him, bruised and cut, to the bottom of the canon.
Even as Conniston looked the freed waters which had chafed in the great dam leaped forward, a monster river of churning white water and whirling debris, and like a live thing, wrathful, vengeful, was charging downward through the steep ravine. Hapgood had heard. They had seen his white face turned for an instant over his shoulder. And then his shriek rose high above the thunder of waters as he ran from the merciless thing which his own hands had unchained.
They saw his one hope; saw that he, too, had seen it. With the water hurling itself almost upon him, he gained the bank ten feet farther downstream, where the sides were more gently sloping. They saw him climb to a little shelf of rock a yard above the bottom of the creek. They saw his hands thrust out above his head, grasping at the root of a stunted tree. One more second—
But the fates did not grant the one single second. The churning, frothing, angry maelstrom had caught at his legs, whipping them from under him. They heard his shriek again, throbbing with terror, vibrant with a fear which was worse than despair. They saw his face, white and horrible, as he glanced again for a moment at the thing behind him. And then the swirling water leaped up at him, snarling like some mighty beast, and clutched at his throat, at his hands, and flung him like a thing of no weight far down into its own tumultuous bosom. For a moment they saw his arms, then they saw his hands clutching at the foam-flecked face of the water—and then even the hands disappeared.