Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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Based on a painting by William Turner (1796)

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First published in The Children's Newspaper, 9 July 1933

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-11-06

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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HARRY CAPELL came quickly into the little Camrock Hotel at High Harling. He was so light on his feet he seemed to be dancing rather than walking. His eyes fell upon another boy standing by a table in the office, and Harry stopped so short that his sister Kathleen, who was just behind, bumped into him.

"What's the matter?" she demanded, but Harry did not answer. He turned sharply to the left into the lounge.

Kathleen, following, was amazed at the expression on her brother's face. He looked utterly upset.

"I wish you'd tell me what is the matter," she said sharply. Kathleen Capell was a sweet-tempered girl and very fond of her brother, but his queer conduct naturally worried her.

"Didn't you see? That big lout by the table. It's Melrose."

"Melrose. Oh, you mean the boy you had a row with last term."

"Row! The fellow nearly got me sacked. Fancy running into him here! Did anyone ever dream of such luck?"

"He didn't look so bad," Kathleen said peaceably.

"You don't know him," Harry answered hotly. "Bumptious little beast! This will simply ruin our holiday."

"Speak for yourself," said Kathleen with spirit. "I'm going to enjoy myself. And don't be silly. You needn't have anything to do with him if you don't want to."

She went upstairs and Harry followed. Bill Melrose had left the lounge so the two boys did not meet.

After dinner Harry refused to sit in the lounge. He went off for a walk. Kathleen was annoyed. It looked as if this stupid feud was going to spoil her holiday. She was older than Harry and, though very fond of him, quite realised that his quick temper was apt to get him into trouble. She sat reading a magazine.

Someone turned on the gramophone and two or three couples began to dance. Suddenly a shadow loomed above her.

"Hope you won't think it cheek, but will you dance, Miss Capell?" came a slow, rather shy voice.

Kathleen looked up at Bill Melrose. He was the very opposite of Harry, big, slow, quiet-spoken. He looked to be immensely strong. Kathleen hesitated.

"Don't if you don't want to," Bill said. "I know your brother bars me, but—but I thought you might help me to straighten things out." Kathleen got up.

"Of course I'll dance. And I hope we can put things straight."

Bill was a bit heavy on his feet, but he danced carefully. Then he took Kathleen back and sat down beside her. "Has Harry told you about our row?" he asked.

Kathleen shook her head.

"He's got hold of the wrong end of the stick," Bill said. "Harry was giving a dormitory feast. Of course, that's against the rules, but there's no great harm in it and the prefects—I'm one—don't generally interfere. But this time they were making such a row that they were keeping the chaps in my dormitory awake. So I went in and told them to shut up.

"Harry got annoyed. You know he thinks he ought to be a prefect himself. He was pretty cheeky. He made me angry and I said I'd give him a licking if he didn't shut up. And just then old Doodle—that's our housemaster Mr. Macdonald—came in. Then the fat was in the fire. Doodle gave Harry 100 lines to learn and gated him for a week. Harry thinks it's all my fault."

"It was all your fault." Here was Harry himself. His face was white and his very blue eyes blazing, but he spoke in a low voice. "It was your fault, Melrose, and I think it's a mean trick trying to get round my sister."

Bill merely shrugged and walked away. Kathleen too got up and went to her room, where she locked the door. Harry went to bed that night angrier than ever.

A river ran past the hotel. It came out of the big Calderon Reservoir about five miles back in the hills, and there was good fishing in the lake. Harry was keen on fishing, and he and his sister had hired a boat for their fortnight's stay. But next morning Kathleen flatly refused to go fishing with Harry.

"Perhaps you'd rather go with Melrose," Harry retorted.

"Perhaps I should," Kathleen answered, so Harry went off by himself.

So things went on for three days, and by that time Harry and Kathleen were both getting desperate. Bill, though he said nothing, was not happy. He liked Kathleen and wanted to talk to her and take her boating, but could not risk an open row with Harry.

The fourth day dawned hot and still. Even on the lake, high as it was, there was hardly a ripple. Both boys were out again in their boats, taking advantage of every cat's-paw of breeze to cast their flies.

All day the air grew hotter and more sultry, and towards five it began to cloud up heavily. Fish don't rise in thunder weather, and Bill, who knew more about it than Harry, pulled ashore and got out his thermos of tea and some sandwiches. He meant to wait till the rain was over and take advantage of the evening rise.

The storm broke suddenly. It came with a furious gust of wind, and in a moment the surface of the lake was a mass of short, foam-capped waves. Bill saw Harry far out, pulling desperately to get back to the landing-place. But the wind was driving him down toward the dam at the east end.

"Silly ass!" growled Bill. "He'll smash up if he hits the dam."


SUDDENLY Bill sprang up. Harry had caught a crab and lost one oar. His boat was drifting swiftly toward the rocky end of the dam. There the boat would not only be smashed but Harry would probably be drowned. Bill sprang into his boat and drove her with powerful strokes down the lake.

With the wind behind him he travelled fast, but even so Harry was dangerously near the rocks when Bill reached him.

"Jump aboard!" he shouted. "We can't save the boat."

Another gust roared down, so fierce that it was all Bill could do to hold his boat. Harry had sense enough to know that his only chance was to obey Bill, but he was furious at having to accept a favour from him. He jumped nimbly aboard, and Bill set to pulling for the nearest spot where they could land.

The force of the wand was terrific; the big muscles on Bill's arms stood out like ropes as he exerted all his strength to keep off the rocks. As there were only two sculls Harry could not help. He had to sit in the stern and watch Bill struggle. He saw his own boat crash among the boulders, turn over and sink, and he knew for a certainty that he would have been drowned but for Bill's quick action and great strength.

Bill won to shore just as the rain swept up. There was a blaze of lightning, a deafening peal of thunder, then across the lake came such a downpour as neither boy had ever seen. Luckily there was an old shed near by and they dashed into it. Next moment the whole scene was blotted out.

"Thanks. Thanks very much," Harry said to his companion, but he spoke so stiffly that Bill was not appeased.

"Don't bother to thank me," he retorted. "I'd do as much for anyone."

Harry bit his lip, and the two sat in silence while the rain roared down with tropical fury. Neither thought it could last, but at the end of an hour it was coming down as hard as ever and waterfalls were pouring down the hills in every direction.

Another hour passed and still it streamed. It was near sunset and the clouds so thick it was twilight. Both could see that the lake had risen a matter of three feet. At last Bill got up.

"I'm going home," he said briefly. He went to the boat and got his rod and creel, and Harry followed. Still without speaking, they took the path which led past the end of the dam and down by the river. Reaching the dam, they saw that the water was coming over the top and thundering in a mass of foam into the swollen river. It was a wonderful sight. Bill pulled up.

"Those sluice gates ought to be open," he said. He went closer and gazed at the dam. When he turned to Harry his face was anxious. "Isn't that a crack?" he asked.

Harry saw that there was a crevice in the top of the dam. Already the water was squirting through it.

"You're right," he said. "I say, it'll be a pretty mess if it bursts."

"Mess," replied Bill grimly. "It will wipe out everything for miles." He started. "The hotel!" he exclaimed. "It will hit that too. It's only about 20 feet above the river."

Harry went white. "Kathleen's there," he muttered.

"And my mother," said Bill.

"Bill," said Harry harshly, "can't we raise the sluice?"

Bill shook his head. "No, it's padlocked. Verne, the bailiff, has the key."

"Where does he live?"

"Crag Cottage. It's that little place on a sort of ledge at the side of the road, about a mile before you reach the hotel."

"Four miles," Harry said, in a low, strained voice. He tore off his coat.

"What are you going to do?" Bill asked.

"Run for it," Harry answered briefly.

"It's downhill. I can do it in less than half an hour."

Harry raced down the steep, winding road. In the previous spring he had won the mile race at St Osyth's, but four miles was a far stiffer task. And the rain made it still harder. In many places regular torrents ran across the road, cutting the surface badly. To his left was the constant thunder of the ever-rising river, and in his mind sheer terror that the dam might break before he could reach his destination.

He gained the first milestone in just over five minutes. But now he found himself breathing hard and forced himself to check a little, for otherwise he knew he would never do it. Another mile and he pulled up short, for a mass of rock had fallen from the bluff above and blocked the road. And among the boulders was a smashed motorcycle, and at the side of the road a man lying flat on the soaked grass. He beckoned feebly.

"I'm Verne," he said. "Started when the storm broke. Ran into this and broke my leg. How's the dam?"

"Cracking. I was coming for help."

A spasm of terror twitched Verne's face.

"Cracking! If it goes it will take out the whole valley. There'll be scores of lives lost." He pulled out a key.

"Do you know how to open the sluice?"


"Then run—run for all you're worth. You may be in time."

"But you?"

"Never mind me. I can stick it."

Harry waited no longer. He took the key and ran. It was uphill now and he had already done two miles at top speed. Before he was halfway back his legs felt like lead. But the thought of that crack drove him. He seemed to see it widening each moment. He drove himself desperately.

His lungs felt as if they would burst as at last he sighted the dam. He reached the end and clung to a rock, so dizzy he could hardly see.

Suddenly Bill's boat came racing up. The keel grated on the shingle below him.

"The key," Harry said hoarsely. Bill snatched it, then snatched Harry too—bundled him into the boat, and pulled with mighty strokes for the other end of the dam. The few moments' rest gave Harry time to get his breath, and when they reached the sluice he scrambled out after Bill.

The top of the wall was scattered with fragments of stone where Bill had been vainly trying to break off the padlock, but now the key turned at once in the well-oiled lock. Bill flung off the chain and put his weight on the windlass lever. Harry helped, and presently up came the great sluice gate.

Water spurted out beneath it in a foaming mass. The boys kept on turning until the great steel leaf was fully lifted. Then both dropped down upon the streaming masonry and drew long panting breaths. The rain had ceased and pale blue sky showed in the west. For a long time they sat silent, then Harry spoke.

"She isn't rising any more," he said quietly. "Do you think she's safe, Bill?"

"Yes, thanks to you," said Bill gruffly. "But how you got back with the key in less than half an hour beats me."

Harry explained. "So you see I only had four miles in all," he ended.

"Enough too. I couldn't have begun to do it."

"Any more than I could have pulled that boat in the storm," returned Harry.

"Rats!" was Bill's impolite reply. He got up.

"Suppose we go and help that poor chap with the broken leg?" he suggested.

"Right," said Harry. But there was no need, for just then a car came roaring up the hill, and in it the engineer in charge of the dam. He was followed by a lorry with a party of workmen.

The engineer said all sorts of nice things to the boys and told them that his man should drive them back. The two strolled into the hotel arm-in-arm, and Kathleen, who had been waiting anxiously, nearly fainted with surprise. But she had the good sense not to ask a single question. She had her reward when Bill danced with her all the evening, and both boys insisted on her coming fishing with them next day.

The three had a really jolly holiday.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.