My Friend Radovitch
I HAVE had many strange meetings — strange in place and attendant circumstance — in various and sundry odd corners of the world, but, everything considered, I am inclined to think my encounter with Radovitch, toward the end of last March, was of them all the strangest.
It was on the gorgeously flower-carpeted slope of a mountain-side in —but let that transpire in its proper place.
There had been hints of gathering activity in the marching troops on the roads, and I knew that some kind of a skirmish was on, from the scattering spatter of rifle-fire above and to my right; but that I had actually blundered in between the combatants was not evident until the staccato of a suddenly unmasked machine-gun broke out in the copse below. I did not hear the familiarly ingratiating swish of speeding bullets, and merely an occasional twitching in the oak-scrub told of a skirmishing soldier. But it was plain that, if the rifles were firing in the direction of the machine-gun, and the machine-gun was firing in the direction of the rifles, my shivering anatomy came pretty near to blocking a portion of the restricted little neck of atmosphere along which the interchanged pellets must make their way. One never learns it until he is under fire— especially rifle-fire — for the first time, but the faculty for taking cover is one of the few things in which the more or less degenerate human of the present day suffers least in comparison with that fine and self-sufficient animal, his primitive ancestor.
I hurdled neatly over a natural ‘entanglement’ of magenta-blossomed cactus, dove through a bosky tunnel in the gnarled oak-scrub, and landed comfortably in the matted mass of soft maiden-hair, where the water dripped from the side of a deep hole excavated by the village brickmakers in taking out clay. There was ample cover from anything but high-angle artillery-fire on either side; so, picking out a bed of lush grass with a cornflower and buttercup pillow, I stretched in luxurious ease to let the battle blow over.
The rifles spat back at the woodpecker drum of the machine-gun for a minute or two; then suddenly fell quiet and gave way to the crashing of underbrush and the chesty ’tween-the-teeth oaths that tell of charging men. Scatteringly, in ones and twos and threes, they began stumbling by above my head, now revealed by the quick silhouette of a set jaw and forward-flung shoulders and now by the glint of a bobbing bayonet, but mostly by those guttural swear-words which mark the earnest man on business bent. One of them, — a gaunt-eyed Serb in the faded horizon-blue uniform of a French poilu, — who passed near enough to the rim of my refuge to allow of a threequarters-length glimpse of him, carried a squawking golden-hued hen by the feathers of her hackle; and I was just reflecting how every other soldier that I had ever known would have put a period on that tell-tale racket by extending his grip around the wind-pipe, when Radovitch came down to join me. Not that he had anything of the ulterior intention of seeking cover which brought me there — quite the contrary, indeed. I saw him, running hard and low (as every good soldier goes in to grip with his foe), burst out of the thicket, saw him straighten up and try to swerve to the right as the hole suddenly yawned across his. path, and, finally, saw the quick tautening of the scaly yellow loop of earth-running aloeroot which deftly caught the toe of his shambling boot and defeated the manœuvre.
There was little of the fine finesse of my own soft landing in the whacking Jcerplump which completed the highdive executed by Radovitch after his contact with the aloe-root. His gun out-dove him and cut short its parabola with the bayonet spiking a fernfrond on the opposite bank; but his broad, bronzed Slavic face was the first part of Radovitch himself to reach the bottom, so that all the inertia of the bone and muscle in his firmly knit frame was exerted in driving the ivory crescent of the teeth of his back-bent lower jaw in a swift, rough gouge through the yielding turf.
He pulled himself together in a dazed sort of way, sat up, rubbed the grass out of his eyes, and kneaded gently the strained joints of his jaw to see that they were still swinging on their hinges. Reassured, he spat forth sputteringly asphodel and anemone and the rest of his mouthful of gouged flowerbed, completing the operation by running an index finger around between the lower teeth and lip, to remove lurking bits of earth and gravel.
There was something strangely familiar in that index-finger operation, and it was the sudden recollection that that was the identical way in which we used to get rid of the gridiron clods that had been forced under our football noseguards, which was reponsible for my fervent ejaculation of surprise. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it was probably something akin to ‘I’ll be blowed! ’
The look of dazed resentment on Radovitch’sgrass-and-dirt-stained face changed instantly to one of blank surprise, the poor strained jaw relaxed, and he turned on me a stare of openeyed wonder.
‘Where in ’ell’d you come from?’ he gasped finally; and then, ‘You speak English?’
When, ignoring the former query, I grinned acquiescence to the latter, he came back with, ‘Ain’t ’Merican, are you? Don’t know New York, do you?’
On my admission of guilt on both charges, he crawled over and gripped my hand crushingly in his grimy paw.
‘My name’s Radovitch. ’Merican citizen myself,’ he said proudly. ‘Took out my last papers just ’fore I came over to fight for Serbia. Went to school five years in New York when I was a kid. Ever been in Chicago?’
‘ Omaha ? ’
‘I worked in the stockyards in both burgs. Made good money, too. Never been in Jerome, Arizona, have you?’
‘Hit a drill all of a college vacation in the United Verde,’ I replied, with a touch of pride on my own part.
‘1 dumped slag in the smelter at twofifty per,’ said Radovitch. ‘Hot little old camp, Jerome; but, say,’ —with a climacteric pause, — ‘hain’t ever been in Aldridge, Montana, have you? Coal town up near the Yellowstone — fivesixty-five fare from Butte. I got a store there, and a half interest in a dancehall and the baseball grounds.’
Aldridge— the Yellowstone — Butte — those names conjured up thronging memories of a delectably renegade summer of semi-professional baseball that I had once played around among the mining-camps of Montana; and especially lurid were those that clustered about that little sport-mad ‘ coal town,’ straggling up its rugged mountain valley almost under the golden portals of the National Park.
‘You bet I have,’ I replied, speaking deliberately and confidently as one who has much knowledge in reserve. ‘Your dance-halls were as merry and bright as any I remember; but your ball-ground was also the rottenest. Did you own the half that took in the lake which occupied most of left field, or the half which included the cañon that sliced off the best part of right? I have to laugh yet when I think of the man with a boat you kept to paddle after the balls that went into the lake, and the bunch of kids scattered about the cañon to shivvy up the ones that went that way. It may interest you to know that I was first base on the Livingston team that gave Aldridge such a walloping on Miners’ Union Day of — ’
Bristling like a hedgehog, Radovitch reared up on both knees and shook his fists in my face as he roared excitedly, ‘Livingston never did lick Aldridge. Seen all the games myself. Guess I know. Trimmed ’em ten to eight in — ’
It was my turn to be indignant, but, keeping my temper with an effort, I only cut in icily with, ‘ I beg your pardon — but since it was my own threebagger— and off your imported “ pro.” pitcher from St. Paul at that — into the sage-brush in deep centre that started the procession; and since I cleaned up twenty-five dollars on the field sports (first in the broad-jump and shot-put, and second in the pole-vault) and picked three winners in the cocking main and two in the dog-fights,in all, close to a hundred dollars of the easiest money I ever annexed, — you ’ll have to admit that I have something to remember Aldridge Miners Union Day of 1907 by. Why—’
‘Ah, nineteen-seven,’ cried Radovitch, the hur. look in his face giving way to one of dawning comprehension; ‘that was two years before my time in Aldridge. Maybe you’re right about that year; but since I’ve lived there our nine has wiped up the valley with the best — ’
The uproar of two or three fresh machine-guns opening in unison drowned his voice at this juncture, and a few moments later a half-dozen rifles were poked over the rim of our refuge, while a gruff-voiced Serb corporal in the tunic of a British Tommy and the baggy breeches of a French Zouave informed us that we were his prisoners.
Radovitch, with a sheepish grin on his face, threw up his hands with the classic cry of ‘ Kamerad! ’ and then, shambling over opposite his captors, coolly demanded that they toss down a box of cigarettes for him and his ‘ Merikansky’ friend.
‘Smashed mine when I fell,’ he explained, sauntering back and offering me a ‘Macedonia.’ ’You’d reckon we’d had about enough of fighting in Serbia, without these d-d sham fights while we’re supposed to be resting up here in Corfu. It may be all right for new recruits; but you’ll have to admit that two years of the kind of scrapping we ’ve been having is n’t going to have the effect of putting us on edge for playfighting like this. But never mind, we’ll be back to the real thing again in a month or two. Come on along down to the camp and meet my colonel. We were kids together in Frilep. NOW he’s in command of three thousand men and I’m only a corporal; but just the same, I could buy him out twenty times over.’
The bare outline of Radovitch’s story he told me that evening (after he had officially been ‘set free’ again), as I trudged beside him across the hills to his camp; but it was not until he obtained an afternoon’s leave three or four days later and took me for a stroll through the Serbian Relief Camp, that I learned that he had been one of that immortal band of heroes who, disdaining to take advantage of the open roads to the Adriatic or Macedonia after Belgrade fell, made their way to a mountain fastness in the heart of their own country, and stayed behind to wage such warfare as they could on the hated invader. What sort of a warfare this was — indeed, what sort of a warfare it is, for the band still survives, making up in an unquenchable spirit what it has lost in numbers — I then learned for the first time.
The mood to talk did not seize Radovitch until after he had led me to the summit of the hill behind the Relief Camp, from which lofty vantage the eye roved eastward across a purple strait to the snow-capped peaks of Epirus and Albania; westward to where what was once the Kaiser’s villa of Achilleon stood out sharply against the sombre green of the backbone ridge of the island; northward to where its twin castles flanked to right and left the white walls and red roofs of Corfu town; and southward to the dim outlines of Leukos and Cephalonia thinning in the violet haze of late afternoon. Below, on three sides, was the sea, with the storied isles of Ulysses bracing themselves against the flood-tide racing into the bay; above, a vault of cloudless sky, and roundabout, a thousand-year-old forest of gnarled olives.
It was the effect of all this, together with the sight of his friend from Serbia suffering from scurvy and an open bayonet-wound in the little tented hospital of the Relief Camp that we had just come from, which set Radovitch talking of things I had been vainly trying to draw him out upon ever since I met him. While the mood lasted, he seemed to need no other encouragement than the attentive listener so ready to hand; when it had passed, he was back in the mines of Montana again, deaf and blind to my every attempt to make him talk of Serbia and what had befallen him there.
The fragments of experience which I later managed to extract from him in the cafés of Saloniki consisted mostly of such odd bits as a corkscrew would drag from a reluctant cork.
‘If you thought that poor guy down at the hospital looked bad,’said Radovitch, lounging back on his elbow in the cool shade of a spreading old olive, ‘I wonder what you’d thought of me the day I hit the beach at Valona. I was a month further gone with scurvy than he is (so that the teeth were loose in my jaws and my flesh had lost so much of its “spring” that a touch would leave a dent in it), and in addition was just on the edge of lockjaw that came from walking on the point of a hobnail that had worked through the sole of one of my boots. The Italian doctors at Valona saved me from the lockjaw by pumping some kind of dope under my hide that stopped the action of the poison; but the scurvy I’ve been the last six months getting clear of. Fact is, I’m not all clear of it yet, for I find that I left a tooth behind up there where I bit the turf the other day. But my blood’s clean now, and in a month I’ll be as good as new; and so will that boy in the hospital after a decent rest. A Serb takes a lot of killing; if he did n’t, the nation would have died out a good many times in the last five hundred years.
‘Scurvy was one of our worst troubles, and is yet for that matter; for the Serb was a good deal of a vegetarian in peace-time, while in war, ’specially when you’re more or less besieged, or even when your communications are bad, fresh vegetables are the one kind of provender hardest to keep in stock. That’s why scurvy keeps cropping up in the new Serb army even to-day. It’s being better fed than it ever was, but there is n’t yet enough “greens” in the ration. For us in the mountains, pretty well ringed by the Austrians, the lack of vegetables and the scurvy it brought on was about our one worst trouble in our first winter.’
‘How did your band get together in the first place?’ I interposed; ‘and what sort of men was it made up of? Was there some kind of organization before the retreat, or did you simply drift together afterwards?’
‘It must have been mostly “drift,” ’ replied Radovitch. ‘Probably the government and our generals knew we’d have to give way when the Austrians and Bulgars together came at us, but none of the rest of us ever dreamed we could n’t wallop the whole bunch. So I don’t think there is much truth in the yarn about the band of “blood brothers” that had been formed in advance. We were about evenly made up at the start, of men who would n’t leave the country and men who could n’t leave the country. The first were mostly mountain men of the region we went to. There were a lot of ex-brigands among them, and most of them had been fighting the Turk, or the Bulgar, or the government, or each other, all their lives. It was to the way these fellows knew the country, and how to live off it and fight in it, that we owed most of our success. The rest of us were all sorts of odds and ends who had fallen out of the retreat, but had still been able to keep out of enemy hands. To take my own case — I had stayed behind to try and reach my wife and fetch her out with me, and so lost so much time that the way was closed when I finally gave up hunting for her.’
‘And did you never find your wife?’ I asked.
‘Never seen her since I left her at Uskub when I went to the front in the first year of the war; but I left her with plenty of money, and not long ago I had a letter smuggled out to me in which she said that a rich Turk in her home town — an old boy who had been a good friend of my father and who loaned me the money I went to America on — had given her shelter in his home, and that she was getting on O.K. She’s a dead game little sport, the wife (what do you think of her following me across from the U.S.A. when she knew I was going off to fight as soon as I hit Serbia?), and she ’ll come through it all right if any one can. Sure [answering my query] she’s a Serb. Knew her when I was a kid, and she came across to Montana to marry me. You ought to see her drive our old Ford down the Aldridge grade.’
I manoeuvred Radovitch away from the wife and Aldridge with an adroit question or two, and he resumed his story.
‘At first this particular mountain region, which later became our stronghold and is now the only part of Old Serbia in which the enemy has never set foot, was only a refuge, and for a few weeks we were pretty hard put to find enough to live on. It was touch and go for food all the first winter, and we lived mostly by night raids on straggling Austrian supply-trains. But before long we rounded up enough sheep and goats to keep us going, and in the spring got one of the little mountain valleys under cultivation. Since last summer — except for vegetables, which we had no luck with — food was one of our least troubles.
‘We had plenty of rifles from the first. A Serb will drop his clothes before he will his gun, as you will find if you ever see our army in action where a river has to be forded. Many a man straggled in to us without pants or shirt, but never a one that I ever heard of without his rifle. We were also tolerably well fixed for cartridges, because a man don’t use one in raiding or fighting from ambush to a hundred he pots off in the trenches. We always managed to have enough for our own regular army rifles, and after we got well started raiding, Austrian rifles and munition came in faster than we ever had use for them. We could have done with an extra machine-gun or two before we had our stone-rolling defense organized, and before the Austrians had learned that it did n’t pay to try and crawl in and pull us out of our holes. But before the winter was over we had enough spare “spit-firers” so that we didn’t mind risking the loss of one or two by taking them along on raiding parties.
‘The lay of the mountains made the whole mesa just one big natural fort, and I miss my guess if in all the world there’s another place of the same kind so easy to defend and so hard to attack. The mountains are steeper and rockier than that main range of Albania you see across there against the sky, and that’s going some. I never struck anything half so rough in all the summers I put in prospecting in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Only one of the passes had a cart-road up to it, and only three had mule-trails. There were two or three other places where a man could scramble up by using his hands, but everywhere else he would have to have ropes and scaling ladders.
‘ At every one of the passes — including the one of the cart-road-a half dozen good rock-rollers, with plenty of “ammunition,” could put the kibosh on an army, and you may bet we saw to it that there was no shortage of pebbles on hand. For the first week or two my lingers were worn pretty near to the bone from handling rocks. The only way the Austrians could have got the best of us, once we had made ourselves at home, would have been with not less than a dozen regiments of their Kaiser Jägers, mountain batteries and all; but by the time this fact sunk into them the Italians were keeping them so busy that they probably figured they could n’t spare any such number of Alpine troops for sideshows. Anyhow, they never even gave us a good run for our money in the way of attacks, though of course some of the raiding parties came in for pretty bad punishings every now and then.
‘ Dynamite was the one thing we felt the need of more than anything else, and yet, perhaps the one big thing we did would n’t have been half so big (and maybe it would have failed complete) if we’d had the powder to go about the job the way we planned to do it in the first place. Did you ever hear what happened to the Austrian force that was camped in the-Valley last spring?’
‘I remember reading one of their bulletins,’ I replied, ‘which admitted losing a battalion or two in a flood in that region. But that was due to “natural causes,” wasn’t it? Did n’t a broken dam have something to do with it?’
‘Natural causes and a busted dam did have something to do with it,’ said Radovitch with a grin; ‘ but nature in this case had some active assistance, and that was where we came in. It wasn’t just a battalion that went down stream, either; it was more like two of their big regiments — the whole of the main force they had shivvied together to bottle us up with. It was the best thing we did by a mile; and, as I told you, it would n’t have been half the clean-up it was if we ’d had in the first place the powder to do it in the “regular way.” If we had had the powder, we’d never have given Providence a chance, and, believe me, it was nothing but Providence that could have worked things round the way they finally came out.
‘You see, it was this way,’ went on Radovitch, settling back comfortably and smiling the pleased smile of reminiscence that sits on the face of a man who recalls events in which he has taken keen pride and enjoyment. ‘The most open approach to our mountain country was by the gorge up which ran the cart-road. There was a good-sized area of watershed draining out this way, so that the little river running through the gorge was a pretty powerful stream, even in low water — a good bit bigger than the old Firehole in Yellowstone Park. This river flowed out of the main mass of the mountains into a fine bowl of an uplands valley, and then on out of that, through a rough range of foothills, into another gorge. At the head of this last gorge is a natural site to store water, and there — as a project of an old government reclamation scheme that had been held up half way for lack of money to go on with — a high dam had been built, which backed up a deep, narrow lake four or five miles long.
‘The Austrians had a small force in the little village in the valley of the lake, and patrolled four or five miles of the cart-road into the mountains; but the main lot of them were camped below the second gorge in an open triangle-shaped valley that ran up from the plain to the foothills. It was a good safe, healthy, well-drained camp, well above the top marks of spring high water. The only threat to it was the lake behind the dam in the valley above, but — unluckily for them — they did n’t know all the facts about that dam.
‘The truth was that the dam was built to hold up a lake half again as deep as the one then there; but poor engineering and scamp contracting combined to make it too weak to stand the pressure up to the level intended. The English engineer who came to inspect it put a mark about two thirds of the way up, and warned that it would n’t be safe ever to let the water rise above that height. As a precaution, it had been the custom every February or March, before the spring thaw came, to drain off the water of the lake during the month or two before the runoff was the greatest, so that there was plenty of margin against the floods shoving up the level above the dangerpoint. The Austrians were good enough engineers to know that it was a bum dam, but they did n’t seem to have the sense to start lowering the water level before the spring freshets set in.
‘Of course we did n’t have to set up nights to figure what a break in the dam — if only it came sudden enough — would do to the main Austrian camp; but the contriving of ways and means to bring about that “sudden break" seemed to have us guessing from the first. The simple and natural thing would have been to try and work down a couple of raiding parties on either side of the lake, rush the guards at the dam with knives (as we did later at the bridge I told you of), plant two or three charges of dynamite, touch off the fuses, and beat it back to the hills. If we’d had enough powder, probably that’s the thing we’d have tried, but with what success it’s hard to say. The chances against anything like a ‘clean job’ were anywhere from ten to fifty to one.
‘But the hundred or so sticks of forty-per-cent “giant” we had in stock were out of the question to tackle the job with, and so no move was made that might have stirred the enemy’s suspicions of what we had in pickle for him. So, far from taking any precautions as the flood season approached, he only let the water go on rising in the lake and extended the main camp a hundred yards nearer the river. We talked over a hundred plans in the long winter nights, but it was not till the snow began to turn slushy at noonday, along toward the middle of March, that we hit on one that seemed to promise a chance of success.’
‘ We had been hoping all along that the Austrians might let the water go on piling up behind the dam until it gave way; but it was not till one day when our scouts brought word that the gates had now been opened, with the evident intention of holding the lake at a level which they figured at about ten feet above the danger-point, that it occurred to us that we might do something to help the good work along. Nobody ever recalled afterwards whose idea it was, but a dozen of us — officers and men together, in the Serbian fashion — suddenly found ourselves waving our arms and getting red in the face discussing a plan for building a little dam of our own, backing up as big a lakeful of water behind it as we could, and then turning it loose on the big lake below at the crest of the spring floods. If any of us had had any engineering sense we’d have known that, with no tools but a few axes and spades, and no materials but what nature had put there, we could n’t build a dam in a year big enough to be of any use, let alone in a month. But having no sense to speak of in things of that kind, we went ahead with the job, and, with the luck of fools, pulled it off.
‘Upwards of five hundred husky Serbs can do a deal of work; but it did n’t take more than three days of logrolling and rock-packing to show that
— even at the gait we were hitting it
— that hundred-yard-long, thirty-foothigh dam would n’t be finished before the next season, and that, even if we did get it done some time, the stuff we were putting in it was too loose to stop water. It was at this stage of things that I had my big idea. I had worked in hydraulic mines in the West, and while we had nothing to rig up a pipe and nozzle from, there was a chance to divert a little mountain torrent that came tumbling down from the snows only a few yards below our dam site. Why not, I suggested, build up only a narrow crib of boulders and pine logs to act as a barrier, and then bring over this little torrent, — it was flowing about a hundred miner’s inches at this time,— and let it sluice down the loose “conglomerate” from the fourhundred-foot-high cliff through which it flowed? Because no one had anything else to offer, we decided to try t he thing.
‘We used up a good half of our poor little store of powder in making the cut to bring over the stream, but the job was mostly easy digging and we finished it in three days. My young “hydraulic” sure tore down a lot of rock and gravel; but, as we could n’t rig up anything to confine it properly, it only spread out in a big “fan,” which, in turn, was sluiced away by the river. That stumped us for fair, and when on top of it a big storm came on, bringing down a flood that washed away all our cribbing, we chucked up in disgust our project of “harnessing nature” against the Austrian, and began to plan raids again.
‘All that night it rained cats and dogs, and when I looked out of my hut the next morning the river was over its banks and humping it like a locoed mustang. But the funny thing was that the cascade from the little stream we had diverted seemed to have disappeared. At first I thought it had bucked its way back into its old channel, but when I went down to look, I found that it had been “swallowed” up by the cliff. Five times as big as on the night before, it came tumbling down over an up-ended stratum of slate — to disappear in a foamy yellow-white spout into a deep crack it had sluiced into the soft conglomerate. At the bottom of the cliff it came boiling out from under the angling slate-layer in a stream that looked to be about equal parts of gravel and water. My baby hydraulic had evidently undermined a sloping section of the cliff for a hundred feet or more, and only the tough slate stratum was staving off a big cave-in. How big a cave-in it was going to be, and what it was going to lead to, I never so much as guessed.
‘The warm rain kept plugging down all day and was still pelting hard when I went to sleep that night. Toward morning I was waked up with a roar a hundred times louder than any snowslide I ever heard, and then came a jar that rocked the whole valley. I felt sure a piece of the cliff had come down, but did n’t have the least hunch that anything like w hat the first daylight showed up had come off. The first thing I saw as the dark slacked off was the shimmer of a flat stretch of water in the bottom of the valley, a lake— just as if it had been dropped from the sky — right where we’d been trying to start one ourselves.
‘The cliff had broken back a couple of hundred feet or more, all the way to the top, and in failing had piled up clear across the head of the gorge. On the near side it was about a hundred and fifty feet high; on the further side something like sixty.
‘With the rain still pouring pitchforks and the snow melting all over the mountains, water was coming down at a rate that had the lake rising at the rate of two feet an hour all morning, and better than half that speed even when it began to spread out over the valley floor in the afternoon. The storm kept right on for three days. The second morning there was twenty-five feet of water at the dam, on the third forty feet, and on the fourth near to fifty. The lake by this time was both bigger and deeper than the one we’d planned to make ourselves.
‘By good luck the stream ramping down from the mountains into the gorge below the slide kept two or three times its average flow in the river, and so the Austrians — who did n’t know its habits very well — failed to notice that anything unusual had come off up stream. Our scouts reported that the water in the lower lake had not risen much, and that it seemed to stand at about fifteen feet above the dangermark. The Austrians, they said, did not appear to be paying any more attention to the dam than usual.
‘We were hoping that the storm would hold until enough water was backed up to bust the dam on its own; but when it began to clear on the fourth day, it was plain the best way out of it was to give the thing a push on our own account. We did n’t have a hundredth of enough “giant” to do the job, so had to rig the best make-shift we could by turning the still husky stream of my hydraulic right along the sloping top of the slide and off down into the gorge.
‘ It was about midday when we set it sluicing, and all afternoon it licked off the loose earth as if it was sugar. By dark half the near end of the slide had slushed away, and the wall that still held was beginning to bulge and cave with the seep forced through from the other side. Half an hour later our pitch-pine torches showed the water bubbling through all the way along, and we knew it was time for us to clear out. It was none too soon either, for the last man was just out of the way, when a heavy sort of rolling-grind started, and then — whouf! — out she went.
‘I’ve been in “ Yankee Jim’s" Cañon of the Yellowstone when the flood behind the break-up of the ice-jam in the lake came down, but that was a mere rat-a-tat to the roar that sounded now. The mountains themselves were shaking, and the movement started the “hanging” snow-slides all the way down the gorge. It must have been a racket like that when the world was made. The lake was drained of all but mud in ten minutes, and it must have been about twice that long before a new sound broke in — a roar so deep that it seemed almost to be a rumbling from under the earth. But we knew that it was the big dam going — that our work was done for that night.
‘The next morning at daybreak every man in shape to stand the climb over a mountain path we knew — the road down the gorge had been scoured out clean — dropped down from three sides on the little Austrian force in the village where the dam had been, and killed or captured the whole bunch. Then we pushed on to the top of the foothills looking down to the plain. Where the main Austrian camp had been was a slither of smooth mud dotted with the stumps of snappedoff trees, and just that, and no more, was all we could see as far as our eyes could reach.
‘And just so,’ cried Radovitch, leaping to his feet and shaking a fist toward the serrated sky-line to the northeast, beyond which ran the roads to Monastir and Prilep and Uskub, ‘just so, when the time comes, will the whole - -herd of the swine be swept out of Serbia!’