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   Chapter 19 THE BAY OF MANITOS

The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 11077

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The night passed quietly, unbroken by any sound of beast, bird or man, until the crying of the gulls woke the sleepers in the fog-gray dawn. Chilled and stiff, they threw off their damp blankets and climbed out of the bateau. By dint of much patience and a quantity of finely shredded birch bark, a slow fire of damp wood was kindled, the flame growing brighter as the wood dried out.

After he had swallowed his last spoonful of corn, Hugh remarked, "If we are held here to-day, we must try for food of some kind. We haven't hunted or fished since we left the mainland, and our supplies are going fast."

Blaise nodded. "We need fire no shots to fish."

Fishing in the little pond did not appear promising. When the boys attempted to paddle through the passageway, they ran aground, and were forced to wait for the water to rise and float the boat. The same fluctuation they had noticed the day before was still going on. Luck did not prove good in the narrow channel, and they went on into the wider one between the long point and the row of islands. The fog was almost gone, though the sky was still gray. Would the weather permit a start for the mainland?

Turning to the northeast, they went the way they had come the preceding afternoon. As they approached the end of the last island, they realized that this was no time to attempt a crossing. Wind there was now, too much wind. It came from the northwest, and the lake, a deep green under the gray sky, was heaving with big waves, their tips touched with foam. The bateau would not sail against that wind. To try to paddle the heavily-laden boat across those waves would be the worst sort of folly.

Turning again, they went slowly back through the protected channel, Hugh wielding the blade while Blaise fished. Luck was still against them. Either there were no fish in the channel or they were not hungry. On beyond the entrance to the hiding place, the two paddled. Passing the abrupt end of an island, they came to a wider expanse of water. They were still sheltered by the high, wooded ridges to their right, where dark evergreens and bright-leaved birches rose in tiers. In the other direction, they could see, between scattered islands, the open lake to the horizon line. Misty blue hills in the distance ahead, beyond islands and forested shores, indicated another bay, longer and wider than the one the Otter had entered.

Blaise, who was paddling now, raised his blade and looked questioningly at Hugh. The latter answered the unspoken query. "I am for going on. We have seen no signs of human beings since that canoe, and we need fish."

Blaise nodded and dipped his paddle again. As they drew near a reef running out from the end of a small island, Hugh felt his line tighten. Fishing from the bateau was much less precarious than from a canoe. Without endangering the balance of the boat, Hugh hauled in his line quickly, swung in his fish, a lake trout of eight or ten pounds, and rapped it smartly on the head with his paddle handle. He then gave the line to Blaise and took another turn at the paddle. In less than ten minutes, Blaise had a pink-fleshed trout somewhat smaller than Hugh's.

Then luck deserted them again. Not another fish responded to the lure of the hook, though they paddled back and forth beside the reef several times. They went on along the little island and up the bay for another mile or more without a nibble. It was a wonderful place, that lonely bay, fascinating in its wild beauty. Down steep, densely wooded ridges, the deep green spires of the spruces and balsams, interspersed with paler, round-topped birches, descended in close ranks. Between the ridges, the clear, transparent water was edged with gray-green cedars, white-flowered mountain ashes, alders and other bushes, and dotted with wooded islands. Far beyond the head of the bay blue hills rose against the sky. The fishing, however, was disappointing, and paddling the bateau was tiresome work, so the lads turned back.

As they passed close to an island, the younger boy's quick eye caught a movement in a dogwood near the water. A long-legged hare went leaping across an opening.

"If we cannot get fish enough, we will eat rabbit," said the boy, turning the boat into a shallow curve in the shore of the little island. "I will set some snares. If we are delayed another day, we will come in the morning to take our catch."

Tying the boat to an overhanging cedar tree, the brothers went ashore. On the summit of the island, in the narrowest places along a sort of runway evidently frequented by hares, Blaise set several snares of cedar bark cord. While the younger brother was placing his last snare, Hugh returned to the boat. He startled a gull perched upon the prow, and the bird rose with a harsh cry of protest at being disturbed. Immediately the cry was repeated twice, a little more faintly each time. Hugh looked about for the birds that had answered. No other gulls were in sight. Then he realized that what he had heard was a double echo, unusually loud and clear. Forgetting caution he let out a loud, "Oh-O." It came back promptly, "Oh-o, o-o."

"Be quiet!" The words were hissed in a low voice, as Blaise leaped out from among the trees. "Canoes are coming. We must hide."

He darted back into the woods, Hugh following. Swiftly they made their way to the summit of the island. The growth was thin along the irregular rock lane. Blaise dropped down and crawled, Hugh after him. Lying flat in a patch of creeping bearberry, the you

nger lad raised his head a little. Hugh wriggled to his side, and, peeping through a serviceberry bush, looked out across the water.

The warning had been justified. Two canoes, several men in each, were coming up the bay. The nearest canoe was not too far away for Hugh to make out in the center a man who towered, tall and broad, above the others. The boy remembered the gigantic Indian outlined against the sky, as his canoe passed in the early dawn. He saw him again, standing motionless, with folded arms, in the red light of the fire.

Blaise, close beside him, whispered in his ear, "Ohrante himself. What shall we do?"

If the canoes came down the side of the island where the bateau was, discovery was inevitable. For a moment, Hugh's mind refused to work. A gull circled out over the water, screaming shrilly. Like a ray of light a plan flashed into the boy's head.

"Stay here," he whispered. "Keep still. Remember the 'Bay of Spirits.'"

Swiftly Hugh wriggled back and darted down through the woods to the spot where the bateau lay. He crouched behind an alder bush, drew a long breath, and sent a loud, shrill cry across the water. Immediately it was repeated once, twice, ringing back across the channel from the islands and steep shore beyond. Before the final echo had died away, he sent his voice forth again, this time in a hoarse bellow. Then, in rapid succession, he hooted like an owl, barked like a dog, howled like a wolf, whistled piercingly with two fingers in his mouth, imitated the mocking laughter of the loon, growled and roared and hissed and screamed in every manner he could devise and with all the power of his strong young lungs. The roughened and cracked tones of his voice, not yet through turning from boy's to man's, made his yells and howls and groans the more weird and demoniac. And each sound was repeated once and again, producing a veritable pandemonium of unearthly noises which seemed to come from every side.

Pausing to take breath, Hugh was himself startled by another voice, not an echo of his own, which rang out from somewhere above him, loud and shrill. It spoke words he did not understand, and no echo came back. A second time the voice cried out, still in the same strange language, but now Hugh recognized the names Ohrante and Minong and then, to his amazement, that of his own father Jean Beaupré. For an instant the lad almost believed that this was indeed a "Bay of Spirits." Who but a spirit could be calling the name of Jean Beaupré in this remote place? Who but Blaise, Beaupré's other son? It was Blaise of course, crying out in Ojibwa from up there at the top of the island. He had uttered some threat against Ohrante.

Suddenly recalling his own part in the game, Hugh sent out another hollow, threatening owl call, "Hoot-ti-toot, toot, hoot-toot!" The ghostly voices repeated it, once, twice. Then he wailed and roared and tried to scream like a lynx. He was in the midst of the maniacal loon laugh, when Blaise slipped through the trees to his side.

"They run away, my brother." The quick, flashing smile that marked him as Jean Beaupré's son crossed the boy's face. "They have turned their canoes and paddle full speed. The manitos you called up have frightened them away. For a moment, before I understood what you were about, those spirit cries frightened me also."

"And you frightened me," Hugh confessed frankly, "when you shouted from up there."

A grim expression replaced the lad's smile. "The farther canoe had turned, but the first still came on, with Ohrante urging his braves. Then I too played spirit! But let us go back and see if they still run away."

Hugh sent out another hoarse-voiced roar or two and Blaise added a war whoop and a very good imitation of the angry cat scream of a lynx. Then both slipped hurriedly through the trees to the top of the island and sought the spot where they had first watched the approaching canoes. The canoes were still visible, but farther away and moving rapidly down the bay.

"They think this a bay of demons," Hugh chuckled. "The echoes served us well. But what was it you said to them, Blaise?"

"I said, 'Beware! Come no farther or you die, every man!' They heard and held their paddles motionless. Then I said, 'Beware of the manitos of Minong, O Ohrante, murderer of our white son, Jean Beaupré.'"

"Blaise, I believe it was Ohrante who killed father."

"I know not. The thought came into my head that if he was the man he might be frightened if he heard that the manitos knew of the deed. And he was frightened."

"Did he order the canoe turned?"

"I heard no order. He sat quite still. He made no move to stay his men when they turned the canoe about. Ohrante is a bold man, yet he was frightened. That I know."

"Was it one of those canoes we saw yesterday, do you think?"

"It may be, but Ohrante was not in it. He is so big, far away though they were, we should have seen him."

"We couldn't have helped seeing him. I wonder if they came around the end of the long point. How could they in such a sea?"

"It may be that the waves have gone down out there. See how still the water is in here now."

"Then we can start for the mainland. We must go back. The canoes are out of sight."

"No, no, that would be folly. If they go straight out of this bay all will be well, but we know not where they go or how far or where they may lie in wait. No, no, Hugh, we have frightened them away from this spot, but we dare not leave it ourselves until darkness comes."

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