THE RACE WITH THE FLOOD
 IT was a bright spring morning in May, 1864. There had
been much rain in Massachusetts. The ground was soaked
with moisture. The streams were full to the brink.
But overhead the sky was clear, and the sum shone warm
and bright upon the glad earth. The trees were
new-clad in their bright spring vesture, the orchards
were white with bloom. It was the happiest time of the
In the Hampshire hills that morning nearly everybody
was out of doors. The softness of the air, the beauty
of the landscape, the music of nature, called to young
and old to come out and enjoy life at its fullest. The
children were loitering on their way to school. The
men were in the fields getting ready for the spring
planting. The women were busy in their dooryards or in
their little flower gardens, here training a budding
vine or lifting up a fallen branch, there dropping a
seed or transplanting some favorite shrub.
 In the Williamsburg valley, life had never seemed
sweeter than on that quiet spring morning. But
suddenly a nameless thrill passed through the air. The
children paused in the middle of the road. The women
looked up and listened. The men stopped short in their
work and glanced inquiringly first at the river and
then at the green hills above them.
"What was that?" each asked the other.
Some thought it was a passing gust of wind among the
trees. Some said a rock had been suddenly loosened
from its place on the hillside. Others declared that
it was only the mountain brooks rushing down, with more
than their usual volume, to meet the roaring river.
"The river is wider than I ever saw it before," said
the miller, standing in his door; "and it seems to be
growing wider every minute."
Then a shouting was heard far up the road, and the
sound of galloping hoofs. The river roared louder and
louder, and each little brook seemed to be a torrent.
Every heart was filled with a feeling of terror.
Nearer and nearer came the sound of the galloping
horse, and far away,
 above the roar of the streams, you might have heard the
shrieking of women and the wild shouting of men.
And now down the narrow road the horse and his rider
comes. The horseman waves his arms wildly and shouts
as he rides.
"It is Collins Graves," say the wondering women.
Everybody in the valley knows him, plain young farmer
as he is; but nobody ever saw him ride as now.
His voice is hoarse with shouting. He points backward,
and then upward to the hills. He draws no rein, but
urges his panting steed right onward while he shouts,—
"The dam has burst! To the hills! To the hills for
He is gone as swiftly as he came, carrying the warning
to the farms and villages below. The roar of the great
flood is now distinctly heard. With shrieks and
shouts, men, women, and children hasten to climb the
hills; nor do they reach them a moment too soon.
A mighty wave comes sweeping down the valley like some
rearing monster. It carries everything
 before it. The mill, the bridge, the village, houses,
barns, cattle, all are ingulfed and swept away. But,
thanks to Collins Graves, the heroic horseman, the
children are all safe, high up on the hills, and safe
also are the women and the men. Safe, too, is the hero
himself, as he checks his steed on high ground at the
foot of the valley below which the flood can do no
"Thank God! The brave man's life is spared!
From Williamsburg town he nobly dared
To race with the flood and take the road
In front of the terrible swath it mowed.
For miles it thundered and crashed behind,
But he looked ahead with a steadfast mind;
'They must be warned!' was all he said,
As away on his terrible ride he sped.
"When heroes are called for, bring the crown
To this Yankee rider; send him down
On the stream of time with the Curtius old.
His deed as the Roman's was brave and bold,
And the tale can as noble a thrill awake,
For he offered his life for the people's sake."
—JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.
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