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The Master of the World

Chapter 12. Black Rock Creek
Human nature is prone to illusions. Of course, there had been all along a probability that
the "Terror" had deserted the locality, even admitting that it was she Wells had seen the
previous day. If some damage to her triple system of locomotion had prevented her from
regaining either by land or by water her usual hiding-place, and obliged her to seek
refuge in Black Rock Creek, what ought we to conclude now upon finding her here no
longer? Obviously, that, having finished her repairs, she had continued on her way, and
was already far beyond the waters of Lake Erie.
But probable as this result had been from the first, we had more and more ignored it as
our trip proceeded. We had come to accept as a fact that we should meet the "Terror,"
that we should find her anchored at the base of the rocks where Wells had seen her.
And now what disappointment! I might even say, what despair! All our efforts gone for
nothing! Even if the "Terror" was still upon the lake, to find her, reach her and capture
her, was beyond our power, and it might as well be fully recognized beyond all human
We stood there, Wells and I, completely crushed, while John Hart and Nab Walker, no
less chagrined, went tramping along the banks of the Creek, seeking any trace that had
been left behind.
Posted there, at the mouth of the Creek, Wells and I exchanged scarcely a word. What
need was there of words to enable us to understand each other! After our eagerness and
our despair, we were now exhausted. Defeated in our well-planned attempt, we felt as
unwilling to abandon our campaign, as we were unable to continue it.
Nearly an hour slipped by. We could not resolve to leave the place. Our eyes still sought
to pierce the night. Sometimes a glimmer, due to the sparkle of the waters, trembled on
the surface of the lake. Then it vanished, and with it the foolish hope that it had roused.
Sometimes again, we thought we saw a shadow outlined against the dark, the silhouette
of an approaching boat. Yet again some eddies would swirl up at our feet, as if the Creek
had been stirred within its depths. These vain imaginings were dissipated one after the
other. They were but the illusions raised by our strained fancies.
At length our companions rejoined us. My first question was, "Nothing new?"
"Nothing," said John Hart.
"You have explored both banks of the Creek?"
"Yes," responded Nab Walker, "as far as the shallow water above; and we have not seen
even a vestige of the things which Mr. Wells saw laid on the shore."