Chapter XVII. A Town Afloat

"Is she going?" asked Uncle Daniel at last, after a wait of several minutes.

Daylight was there now; and was ever dawn more welcome in Meadow Brook!

"I'll go up to the pipes," volunteered John. "And I can see from there."

Now, the pipes were great water conduits, the immense black iron kind that are used for carrying water into cities from reservoirs. They were situated quite a way from the dam, but as it was daylight John could see the gates as he stood on the pipes that crossed above the pond.

Usually boys could walk across these pipes in safety, as they were far above the water, but the flood had raised the stream so that the water just reached the pipes, and John had to be careful.

"What's that?" he said, as he looked down the raging stream.

"Something lies across the dam!" he shouted to the anxious listeners.

This was enough. In another minute every man was on the pond bank.

"The big elm!" they shouted. "It has saved the dam!"

What a wonderful thing had happened! The giant elm tree that for so many, many years had stood on the edge of the stream, was in this great flood washed away, and as it crossed the dam it broke the force of the torrent, really making another waterfall.

"It is safe now!" exclaimed Uncle Daniel in surprise. "It was the tree we heard crash against the bank. The storm is broken at last, and that tree will hold where it is stuck until the force goes down. Then we can open the gates."

To think that the houses were safe again! That poor Mrs. Burns could come back to the old mill home once more!

"We must never have this risk again," said Mr. Mason to Uncle Daniel. "When the water goes down we will open the gates, then the next dry spell that comes when there is little water in the pond we will break that dam and let the water run through in a stream. If the mill people want water power they will have to get it some place where it will not endanger lives."

Uncle Daniel agreed with Mr. Mason, and as they were both town officials, it was quite likely what they said would be done in Meadow Brook.

"Hey, Bert and Harry!" called Tom Mason, as he and Jack Hopkins ran past the Bobbsey place on their way to see the dam. "Come on down and see the flood."

The boys did not wait for breakfast, but with a buttered roll in hand Harry and Bert joined the others and hurried off to the flood.

"Did the dam burst?" was the first question everybody asked along the way, and when told how the elm tree had saved it the people were greatly astonished.

"Look at this," called Tom, as they came to a turn in the road where the pond ran level with the fields. That was where it was only stream, and no embankment had been built around it.

"Look!" exclaimed Jack; "the water has come up clear across the road, and we can only pass by walking on the high board fence."

"Or get a boat," said Tom. "Let's go back to the turn and see if there's a boat tied anywhere."

"Here's Herolds'," called Harry, as they found the pretty little rowboat, used for pleasure by the summer cottagers, tied up to a tree.

"We'll just borrow that," said Jack, and then the four boys lifted the boat to that part of the road where the water ran.

"All get in, and I'll push off," said Harry, who had hip-boots on. The other three climbed in, then Harry gave a good push and scrambled over the edge himself.

"Think of rowing a boat in the middle of a street," said Bert. "That's the way they do in Naples," he added, "but I never expected to see such a thing in Meadow Brook."

The boys pushed along quite easily, as the water was deep enough to use oars in, and soon they had rounded the curve of the road and were in sight of the people looking at the dam.

"What an immense tree!" exclaimed Bert, as they left their boat and mounted the bank.

"That's what saved the dam!" said Harry. "Now Mrs. Burns can come back home again."

"But look there!" called Tom. "There goes Peter Burns' chicken house."

Sure enough, the henhouse had left its foundation and now toppled over into the stream.

It had been built below the falls, near the Burns house, and Peter had some valuable ducks and chickens in it.

"The chickens!" called Jack, as they ran along. "Get the boat, Harry, and we can save some."

The boys were dashing out now right in the stream, Jack and Tom being good oarsmen.

But the poor chickens! What an awful noise they made, as they tried to keep on the dry side of the floating house!

The ducks, of course, didn't mind it, but they added their queer quacking to the noise.

"We can never catch any of the chickens," said Harry. "We ought to have a rope and pull the house in."

"A rope," called Tom to the crowd on the shore. "Throw us a rope!"

Someone ran off and got one, and it was quickly thrown out to the boys in the boat.

"Push up closer," Tom told Harry and Bert, who had the oars now. Tom made a big loop on the rope and threw it toward the house. But it only landed over a chicken, and caused the frightened fowl to fly high up in the air and rest in a tree on the bank.

"Good!" cried the people on the edge. "One is safe, anyhow!"

Tom threw the rope again. This time it caught on a corner of the henhouse, and as he pulled the knot tight they had the floating house secure.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted the people.

By this time Mr. Mason and Uncle Daniel had reached the spot in their boat.

"Don't pull too hard!" called the men to the boys. "You'll upset your boat."

"Throw the line to us," added Uncle Daniel,

This the boys did, and as it was a long stretch of rope the men were able to get all the way in to shore with it before pulling at the house.

"Now we'll have a tug of war," said Mr. Mason.

"Wait for us!" cried the boys in the boat "We want to have a pull at that."

All this time the chickens were cackling and screeching, as the house in the water lunged from one side to the other. It was a large new coop and built of strong material that made it very heavy.

"Now," said Uncle Daniel, as the boys reached the shore and secured their boat, "all take a good hold."

Every inch of the rope that crossed the water's edge was soon covered with somebody's hand.

"All pull now!" called Mr. Mason, and with a jerk in came the floating house, chickens, ducks and all, and down went everybody that had pulled. The force of the jerk, of course, threw them all to the ground, but that was only fun and gave the boys a good chance to laugh.

Just as soon as the chickens reached the shore they scampered for home - some flying, some running, but all making a noise.

"We may as well finish the job," said Mr. Mason. "Tom, go hitch Sable up to the cart and we'll bring the henhouse back where it belongs."

By running across the fields that were on the highest part of the road Tom was able to get to his barn without a boat, and soon he returned with the cart and Sable.

It took all hands to get the henhouse on the cart, but this was finally done, and away went Sable up the road with the queer load after him in the dump cart.

"You had better put it up on the hill this time," Peter told them. "The water isn't gone down yet." So at last the chicken coop was settled, and not a hen was missing.

There were many sights to be seen about Meadow Brook that afternoon, and the boys enjoyed the flood, now that there was no longer any danger to life.

Bert caught a big salmon and a black-spotted lizard that had been flooded out from some dark place in the mountains, Harry found a pretty toy canoe that some smal1 boy had probably been playing with in the stream before the water rose, and Jack was kept busy towing in all kinds of stuff that had broken loose from barns along the pond.

Freddie had boots on, and was happy sailing his "ark" up and down the road. He insisted on Snoop taking a ride, but cats do not fancy water and the black kitten quickly hid himself up in the hay loft, out of Freddie's reach.

Little by little the water fell, until by the next afternoon there was no longer a river running through the roads. But there were plenty of wet places and enough of streams washing down the rain the gutters to give Freddie a fine canal to sail boats in.

Nan and Flossie had boats too which Bert and Harry made for them. In fact, all the girls along Meadow Brook road found something that would sail while the flood days lasted.

As it was still July the hot sun came down and dried things up pretty quickly, but many haymows were completely spoiled, as were summer vegetables that were too near the pond and came in for their share of the washout.

This loss, however, was nothing compared with what had been expected by the farmers, and all were satisfied that a kind Providence had saved the valley houses from complete destruction.