The result is in the hands of Providence."
I was about to call our two men, when Wells again seized my arm. "Listen!" said he.
One of the men hailed the boat, and it drew close up to the rocks. We heard the Captain say to the two men ashore, "Everything is all right, up there?"
"There are still two bundles of wood left there?"
"Then one more trip will bring them all on board the 'Terror.'"
The "Terror!" It WAS she!
"Yes; just one more trip," answered one of the men.
"Good; then we will start off again at daybreak."
Were there then but three of them on board? The Captain, this Master of the World, and these two men?
Evidently they planned to take aboard the last of their wood. Then they would withdraw within their machine, and go to sleep. Would not that be the time to surprise them, before they could defend themselves?
Rather than to attempt to reach and capture the ship in face of this resolute Captain who was guarding it, Wells and I agreed that it was better to let his men return unassailed, and wait till they were all asleep.
It was now half an hour after ten. Steps were once more heard upon the shore. The man with a lantern and his companion, again remounted the ravine toward the woods. When they were safely beyond hearing, Wells went to warn our men, while I stole forward again to the very edge of the water.
The "Terror" lay at the end of a short cable. As well as I could judge, she was long and slim, shaped like a spindle, without chimney, without masts, without rigging, such a shape as had been described when she was seen on the coast of New England.
I returned to my place, with my men in the shelter of the ravine; and we looked to our revolvers, which might well prove of service.
Five minutes had passed since the men reached the woods, and we expected their return at any moment. After that, we must wait at least an hour before we made our attack; so that both the Captain and his comrades might be deep in sleep. It was important that they should have not a moment either to send their craft darting out upon the waters of Lake Erie, or to plunge it beneath the waves where we would have been entrapped with it.
In all my career I have never felt such impatience. It seemed to me that the two men must have been detained in the woods. Something had barred their return.
Suddenly a loud noise was heard, the tumult of run-away horses, galloping furiously along the shore!
They were our own, which, frightened, and perhaps neglected by the driver, had broken away from the clearing, and now came rushing along the bank.
At the same moment, the two men reappeared, and this time they were running with all speed. Doubtless they had discovered our encampment, and had at once suspected that there were police hidden in the woods. They realized that they were watched, they were followed, they would be seized. So they dashed recklessly down the ravine, and after loosening the cable, they would doubtless endeavor to leap aboard. The "Terror" would disappear with the speed of a meteor, and our attempt would be wholly defeated!
"Forward," I cried. And we scrambled down the sides of the ravine to cut off the retreat of the two men.
They saw us and, on the instant, throwing down their bundles, fired at us with revolvers, hitting John Hart in the leg.
We fired in our turn, but less successfully. The men neither fell nor faltered in their course. Reaching the edge of the creek, without stopping to unloose the cable, they plunged overboard, and in a moment were clinging to the deck of the "Terror."
Their captain, springing forward, revolver in hand, fired. The ball grazed Wells.
Nab Walker and I seizing the cable, pulled the black mass of the boat toward shore. Could they cut the rope in time to escape us ?
Suddenly the grappling-iron was torn violently from the rocks. One of its hooks caught in my belt, while Walker was knocked down by the flying cable. I was entangled by the iron and the rope and dragged forward --
The "Terror," driven by all the power of her engines, made a single bound and darted out across Black Rock Creek.