I therefore recount how about eight o’clock on the previous evening I was walking along the edge of the lagoon, after Thomas Roch had passed me, going towards his laboratory, when I felt myself seized from behind; how having been gagged, bound, and blindfolded, I felt myself carried off and lowered into a hole with another person whom I thought I recognized from his groans as Thomas Roch; how I soon felt that I was on board a boat of some description and naturally concluded that it was the tug; how I felt it sink; how I felt a shock that threw me violently against the side, and how I felt myself suffocating and lost consciousness, since I remember nothing further.
Engineer Serko listens with profound attention, a stern look in his eyes and a frown on his brow; and yet he can have no reason that authorizes him to doubt my word.
“You claim that three men threw themselves upon you?” he asks.
“Yes. I thought they were some of your people, for I did not see them coming. Who were they?”
“Strangers, as you must have known from their language.”
“They did not utter a word!”
“Have you no idea as to their nationality?”
“Not the remotest.”
Do you know what were their intentions in entering the cavern?”
“I do not.”
“What is your opinion about it?”
“My opinion, Mr. Serko? I repeat I thought they were two or three of your pirates who had come to throw me into the lagoon by the Count d’Artigas’ orders, and that they were going to do the same thing to Thomas Roch. I supposed that having obtained his secrets—as you informed me was the case—you had no further use for him and were about to get rid of us both.”
“Is it possible, Mr. Hart, that you could have thought such a thing!” continued Serko in his sarcastic way.
“I did, until having been able to remove the bandage from my eyes, I perceived that I was in the tug.”
“It was not the tug, but a boat of the same kind that had got through the tunnel.”
“A submarine boat?” I ejaculate.
“Yes, and manned by persons whose mission was to kidnap you and Thomas Roch.”
“Kidnap us?” I echo, continuing to feign surprise.
“And,” adds Engineer Serko, “I want to know what you think about the matter.”
“What I think about it? Well, it appears to me that there is only one plausible explanation possible. If the secret of your retreat has not been betrayed—and I cannot conceive how you could have been betrayed or what imprudence you or yours could have committed—my opinion is that this submarine boat was exploring the bottom of the sea in this neighborhood, that she must have found her way into the tunnel, that she rose to the surface of the lagoon, that her crew, greatly surprised to find themselves inside an inhabited cavern, seized hold of the first persons they came across, Thomas Roch and myself, and others as well perhaps, for of course I do not know——”