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The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 11074

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The small island was scarcely a half mile in circumference, and it did not take Hugh and Blaise long to explore it. Its only inhabitants appeared to be squirrels, hares and a few birds. Breakfast had been light, and by mid-afternoon the boys were very hungry. The lighting of a fire involved some risk, but they could not eat raw fish. On a bit of open rock at the extreme upper or southwest end of the island, they made a tiny blaze, taking care to keep the flame clear and almost smokeless, and broiled the fish over the coals. The meal put both in better spirits and helped them to await with more patience the coming of night.

The evening proved disappointing. The sun set behind black clouds that came up from the west. The water was calm, the air still and oppressive, and above the ridges lightning flashed. The prospect of making a start across the open lake was not good. Yet in one way the threatening weather served the lads well. The night was intensely dark. The lightning was too far away to illuminate land or water, and this black darkness furnished good cover. When they pushed off from the little island, they could see scarcely a boat's length ahead.

Close to the shores of the islands and the long point, they paddled, avoiding wide spaces, which were, even on this dark night, considerably lighter than the land-shadowed water. As he sat in the stern trying to dip and raise his paddle as noiselessly as his half-brother in the bow, Hugh felt that the very bay had somehow changed its character. That morning the place had seemed peaceful and beautiful, but to-night it had turned sinister and threatening. The low hanging, starless sky, the dark, wooded islands, the towering ridge, its topmost line of tree spires a black, jagged line against the pale flashes of lightning, the still, lifeless water, the intense silence broken only by the far-away rumble of thunder and the occasional high-pitched, squeaking cry of some night bird, all seemed instinct with menace. The boy felt that at any moment a swift canoe, with the gigantic figure of Ohrante towering in the bow, might dart out of some black shadow. Frankly Hugh was frightened, and he knew it. But the knowledge only made him set his teeth hard, gaze keenly and intently into the darkness about him and ply his paddle with the utmost care. What his half-brother's feelings were he could not guess. He only knew that Blaise was paddling steadily and silently.

In the thick darkness, the older boy was not quite sure of the way back to the hidden pond, but Blaise showed no doubt or hesitation. He found the channel between the point and the chain of islands, and warned Hugh just when to turn through the gap into the inner channel. When it came to feeling the way past the round islet and through the narrow passage, Hugh ceased paddling and trusted entirely to Blaise. The latter strained his eyes in the effort to see into the darkness, but so black was it on every hand that even he had to depend more on feeling with his paddle blade than on his sense of sight. It was partly luck that he succeeded in taking the boat through without worse accident than grating a rock. He did not attempt to cross the little pond, but ran the bateau up on the pebbles just beyond the entrance.

Hugh drew a long sigh of relief. They were back safe in the hidden pond near the cache of furs. The sense of menace that had oppressed him was suddenly lifted, and he felt an overpowering physical and mental weariness. Blaise must have had some similar feeling, for he had not a word to say as they climbed out of the bateau and pulled it farther up. In silence he lay down beside Hugh in the bottom of the boat. In spite of the rumbling of the thunder, and the flashing of the lightning, the two boys fell asleep immediately.

The storm passed around and no rain fell, but the sleepers were awakened towards dawn by a sharp change in the weather. The air had turned cold, wind rustled the trees, broken clouds were scudding across the sky uncovering clear patches. The morning dawned bright. The little pond was still, but it was impossible to tell what the weather might be outside. The only way to find out was to go see. Their adventure of the day before had made the boys more than ever anxious to get away from Isle Royale at the first possible moment. Yet the thought that Ohrante might be lurking somewhere near made them cautious. They hesitated to leave their hiding place until they were sure they could strike out across the lake. To load the furs and start out, only to be obliged to turn back, seemed a double risk.

"If the lake is rough it is likely that Ohrante and his band have not gone far," Blaise remarked. "They may be in this very bay."

"That does not follow," Hugh replied quickly and with better reasoning. "There was a long interval between the time when we saw them and the coming of the storm-clouds. Because the lake was rough in the morning is no sign it was rough all day. They must have come in here from somewhere, and we know that the wind changed. The water in the bay was as still as glass last night. Ohrante was surely well frightened and I have little doubt they made good speed away from the Bay of Spirits." Hugh was silent for a few moments. Then he asked abruptly, "What would happen if we should encounter Ohrante? He can't know what brought us here, and we have done him no harm. Why should he harm us when he has nothing against us?"

"He has this against us, that we are the sons of Jean Beaupré."


doesn't know we are."

"He knows me. He has seen me more than once and knows me for the son of my father. Ohrante forgets not those he has seen."

"I didn't know he knew you. He can't know me. Probably he doesn't even know that father had another son. I'll go alone in the bateau, Blaise, down the channel, and see how the lake looks."

"No, no," Blaise objected. "You must not take such a risk. If you go out there, I will go too."

"That would spoil the whole plan. If Ohrante catches sight of you, it will be all up with both of us. He doesn't know me. If he glimpses me, he may even be afraid to show himself. He may think me one of a party of white men, and he is a fugitive from justice."

Blaise shook his head doubtfully.

"Well, at any rate," Hugh protested, "I shall have a better chance if you aren't with me. I don't believe I shall see anything of Ohrante or his men, but I run less risk alone. I will be cautious. I'll not expose myself more than I can help. Instead of going out along the point by water, I'll paddle across the channel and then take to the woods. I can climb to the top of the ridge, under cover all the way, and look out across the lake. It can't be very far up there. I shall be back in an hour. You must stay here and guard the furs."

The expression of the younger lad's face betrayed that he did not like this new plan much better than the first one, but he voiced no further objection.

Hugh pushed off the bateau, waved his hand to the sober-faced Blaise, and paddled through the narrow waterway and out of sight. After his brother had gone, Blaise picked his way along the shore of the pond and into the woods to the cache. He found no signs of disturbance around the old birch, and, climbing up, he looked down into the hollow. The rotten wood and dead leaves he and Hugh had strewn over the bark cover seemed undisturbed. Satisfied that the furs were safe, Blaise climbed down again. He was reminded though that Hugh still had the packet. He wished he had asked his elder brother to leave it behind.

The half-breed boy waited with the patience inherited from his Indian mother. But when the sun reached its highest point he began to wonder. Surely it could not take Hugh so long to cross to the point, climb to the top and return. From experience of untracked woods and rough ridges, Blaise knew the trip was probably a harder one than Hugh had imagined, but the latter was not inexperienced in rough going. Unless he had encountered extraordinary difficulties, had been obliged to go far around, or had become lost, he should have been back long before. The possibility that Hugh had become lost, Blaise dismissed from his mind at once. With the ridge ahead and the water behind him, only the very stupidest of men could have lost himself in daylight. That he had come to some crack or chasm he could not cross or some cliff he could not scale, and had been compelled to go far out of his way, was possible. Blaise had come to know Hugh's stubborn nature. If he had started to go to the top of the ridge, there he would go, if it was in the power of possibility.

There seemed to be nothing Blaise could do but wait. Even if he had thought it wise to follow his elder brother, he had no boat. Sunset came and still no Hugh. The lad felt he could delay action no longer.

The pond was in the interior of a small island. Blaise made up his mind to cross to the shore bordering on the channel that separated the island from the long point. Through the woods he took as direct a route as he could. The growth was thick, but there was still plenty of light. In a very few minutes he saw the gleam of water among the trees ahead. He slipped through cautiously, not to expose himself until he had taken observations. His body concealed by a thick alder bush, he looked across the strip of water, studying the opposite shore line.

The shore was in shadow now and the trees grew to the water. Letting his eyes travel along foot by foot, he caught sight of the thing he sought, a bit of weather-stained wood, not the trunk or branch of a dead tree, projecting a little way from the shadow of a cedar. That was the end of the bateau. Hugh had crossed the channel, had left his boat and gone into the woods.

Slipping between the bushes, Blaise glanced along his own side of the channel, then made his way quickly to the spot where a birch tree had toppled from its insecure hold into the water. With his sharp hatchet, the boy quickly severed the roots that were mooring the fallen tree to the shore. Then, with some difficulty, he succeeded in shoving the birch farther out into the channel and climbing on the trunk. His weight, as he sat astride the tree trunk between the branches, pulled it down a little, but the upper part of his body was well above water. The channel was deep, with some current, which caught the tree and floated it away from shore. Like most woods Indians and white voyageurs, Blaise was not skilled in swimming, but the water was calm and, as long as he clung to his strange craft, he was in no danger of drowning. Leaning forward, he cut off a branch to use as a paddle and with it was able to make slow headway across. He could not guide himself very well, and the current bore him down. He succeeded with his branch paddle in keeping the tree from turning around, however. It went ashore, the boughs catching in a bush that grew on the water's edge, some distance below the spot where the bateau was drawn up in the shelter of the leaning cedar.

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