Was one of them this Master of the World, who had not been seen since he was reported from Lake Superior? Was this the mysterious "Terror" which had thus risen from the depths of Lake Erie?
"I was alone," said Wells. "Alone on the edge of the Creek. If you and your assistants, Mr. Strock had been there, we four against two, we would have been able to reach these men and seize them before they could have regained their boat and fled."
"Probably," I answered. "But were there no others on the boat with them? Still, if we had seized the two, we could at least have learned who they were."
"And above all," added Wells, "if one of them turned out to be the captain of the 'Terror!'"
"I have only one fear, Wells; this submarine, whether it is the one we seek or another, may have left the creek since your departure."
"We shall know about that in a few hours, now. Pray Heaven they are still there! Then when night comes?"
"But," I asked, "did you remain watching in the wood until night?"
"No; I left after an hour's watching, and rode straight for the telegraph station at Toledo. I reached there late at night and sent immediate word to Washington."
"That was night before last. Did you return yesterday to Black Rock Creek?"
"The submarine was still there?"
"In the same spot."
"And the two men?"
"The same two men. I judge that some accident had happened, and they came to this lonely spot to repair it."
"Probably so," said I. "Some damage which made it impossible for them to regain their usual hiding-place. If only they are still here!"
"I have reason to believe they will be, for quite a lot of stuff was taken out of the boat, and laid about upon the shore; and as well as I could discern from a distance they seemed to be working on board."
"Only the two men?"
"Only the two."
"But," protested I, "can two be sufficient to handle an apparatus of such speed, and of such intricacy, as to be at once automobile, boat and submarine?"
"I think not, Mr. Strock; but I only saw the same two. Several times they came to the edge of the little wood where I was hidden, and gathered sticks for a fire which they made upon the beach. The region is so uninhabited and the creek so hidden from the lake that they ran little danger of discovery. They seemed to know this."
"You would recognize them both again?"
"Perfectly. One was of middle size, vigorous, and quick of movement, heavily bearded. The other was smaller, but stocky and strong. Yesterday, as before, I left the wood about five o'clock and hurried back to Toledo. There I found a telegram from Mr. Ward, notifying me of your coming; and I awaited you at the station."
Summed up, then, the news amounted to this: For forty hours past a submarine, presumably the one we sought, had been hidden in Black Rock Creek, engaged in repairs. Probably these were absolutely necessary, and we should find the boat still there. As to how the "Terror" came to be in Lake Erie, Arthur Wells and I discussed that, and agreed that it was a very probable place for her. The last time she had been seen was on Lake Superior. From there to Lake Erie the machine could have come by the roads of Michigan, but since no one had remarked its passage and as both the police and the people were specially aroused and active in that portion of the country, it seemed more probable, that the "Terror" had come by water. There was a clear route through the chain of the Great Lakes and their rivers, by which in her character of a submarine she could easily proceed undiscovered.
And now, if the "Terror" had already left the creek, or if she escaped when we attempted to seize her, in what direction would she turn? In any case, there was little chance o following her. There were two torpedo-destroyers at the port of Buffalo, at the other extremity of Lake Erie. By treaty between the United States and Canada, there are no vessels of war whatever on the Great Lakes. These might, however, have been little launches belonging to the customs service.