In a few moments the explosion came. Will heard the beams in the gorge tumbling as the dam gave way, and the water behind was freed.
Away it went, washing and pounding down the narrow ravine, toward the low bottom.
The fire-fighters heard the explosion and paused, wondering, to listen. The next instant the roar of the water came to their ears, and the tremble caused by logs and boulders rolling with the flood was felt. Then every man understood what was done, for they had been log-drivers all their lives, and knew the signs of a loosed sluicegate or of a broken jam.
They climbed the steep bank toward the buildings, to be above the flood-line, yelling warnings that were half-cheers.
In a few moments the water was below the mouth of the gorge, and then it rushed over the low west bank of the brook and spread out on the wide flat where the fire was raging. For a minute clouds of steam and loud hissing marked the progress of the wave, and then the brush-heaps from edge to edge of the valley bottom were covered and the fire was drowned.
The fires left in the trees above the high-water mark and the flames back on the ridge still thrust and flared, but were unable to cross the wide, wet flood-belt. The settlement and the "big woods" beyond were saved.
Sol Cardin reached the settlement on the following day, and heard the story of the fire. In response to an offer from Will, he replied:
"No, my boy, you needn't pay for the dam by working or anything else. I'm in debt to you for saving my timber above the settlement, instead." Then he added, in a quiet way characteristic of him, "It seems a pity if wit like yours doesn't get its full growth."