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The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 11397

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Hugh had expected to learn his fate that morning and had braced himself for the ordeal, but Ohrante paid no further attention to him. With six of his band the Iroquois left the camp. From where he sat propped against the birch trunk, Hugh could see the two canoes start up the bay. His wrists had been bound again and he was tied to the tree. The squat man and the ugly fellow with the scarlet head band, who had remained to guard the captive, evidently considered him so secure that he did not need close watching. Shortly after the canoe had disappeared, both men went off somewhere out of sight and hearing.

Now was his chance, thought Hugh, if he could only find some way to loose his bonds. He pulled and wriggled and twisted, but to no avail. His captors had done their work too well. His struggles only drew the knots tighter. He sank back inert and disheartened.

"Take heart."

The whisper was so low Hugh doubted his ears. He turned his head. Prone on the ground in the shadow of a willow lay a slim figure, the black head raised ever so little.


The head shook in warning. Wriggling like a snake, Blaise drew close.

"Untie me," Hugh breathed.

"No, not till night. The guards are too near. When all sleep, I will come again."

"That may be too late," Hugh protested.

"They will do nothing to-day. Ohrante wishes to take you to the mainland, and to-day the lake is rough. Keep a strong heart, my brother."

Blaise wriggled back to the shelter of the willows, and was gone without a sound. He was out of the way none too soon. The guttural voice of the squat man came to Hugh's ears. In a few moments both guards were back, carrying a birch basket of fish.

That day was even longer to Hugh than the preceding one. The sun climbed and descended so slowly it seemed almost to stand still. Though his guards left him alone several times, he neither saw nor heard anything more of Blaise. That did not worry Hugh. He knew that somewhere, not far away, his younger brother was hiding, awaiting the coming of darkness. The knowledge put new heart and spirit into the prisoner. If only the Indians did not capture Blaise, there was a good chance of getting away safely. Hugh felt sure that he did not need to fear violence from his captors just yet. Blaise had said that Ohrante meant to carry the prisoner to the mainland. The lad must have had some good reason for thinking that. Probably he had overheard the Indians' conversation. In this manner the captive, propped against the birch, in the thin shade of its foliage, speculated on the movements and plans of his captors and his rescuer. To speculate and plan was all he could do.

About the middle of the afternoon one of the canoes returned with Ohrante and two of his followers. The men who had remained behind prepared a meal of the fish they had brought in that morning, boiled in the big kettle. Hugh was given a portion and his hands were again untied that he might eat. His pleasure in the fresh lake trout was rather spoiled by its having been sweetened with maple sugar. He had grown well used to eating his meat and fish without salt, but he had not learned to enjoy the Indian custom of using sugar instead.

After the meal, Ohrante again approached the boy. For a few moments the big man stood looking down at him fixedly and in silence, and Hugh strove to meet the piercing gaze boldly. Presently the giant began to speak. His English was bad and interspersed with Indian words, at the meaning of which Hugh could only guess. His speech, as well as the boy could make it out, was something like this:

"White man, whether the tale you tell is true or false I know not. When I look at you I think of a white man I knew and hated and took revenge upon. Yet you are not like him. Your hair, your eyes are pale. It matters not. I hate all white men. White men are my enemies. When a white man falls into my hands I treat him as a great chief should treat his enemies." He paused to let the words sink in, his dark face hard as stone.

The impressiveness and dignity of the chief's deliberate address were rather spoiled in effect by his ridiculously weak and broken voice, like the changing tones of a boy, but Hugh could not fail to perceive the threat conveyed.

"You are mistaken, great chief," he replied quietly, using as a bit of flattery the title Ohrante had given himself. "The white men are not the enemies of the Indians. They wish the Indians no evil, only good. The white men know no reason why the peace between themselves and the Ojibwas should not last forever."

"Ojibwa!" Ohrante made a gesture of contempt. "The Ojibwa may be a slave of the white men if he wishes. I, Ohrante,"-he drew himself up a little straighter, keeping his fierce eyes on the boy's face to observe what effect the name had-"I, Ohrante, am no Ojibwa. I was born a Mohawk of the great six nations. Now I and my braves have taken another name, a name not for the white man's ears or lips, the name of the ancient race of warriors and giants who once lived on Minong, the blood of whose chiefs flows in my body. We will draw others to us, build up a strong nation, and drive the white men from all the lands about the great waters." He made a sweeping gesture with one long, big-muscled arm.

Hugh could scarcely believe his ears. The giant Indian must be insane to be the victim of such an illusion of greatness. Hugh knew nothing of any ancient race upon Minong, although Baptiste had told him that the Indians, in days gone by, were supposed to have come to the island from time to time for copper. For all he knew, Ohrante might be a direct descendant of those old miners, but his speech

was none the less absurd. Its vanity and pomposity were in such violent contrast to the weak, nasal voice in which it was uttered that the boy forgot his own peril in his desire to laugh. He controlled himself and for a few moments made no answer. Ohrante also remained silent. As the two gazed into one another's eyes, a daring idea entered the lad's head. Ohrante's talk of the ancient race of warriors and giants recalled the tales told by Baptiste and Blaise and the trick he and his brother had already played upon the big Mohawk.

"You speak," Hugh said, "of the ancient race who once lived on this island. I have heard that the inhabitants of Minong were not human at all, but were, and indeed still are, spirits and fiends and frightful creatures unlike man or beast. Once I laughed at those tales, but now that I am on Minong, I laugh no more. I myself have seen and heard strange things on this island. If I were not a good Christian, I should be sore afraid of this enchanted land. Have you seen or heard aught of those strange beings, great chief?"

Hugh's eyes were fastened on Ohrante. When he mentioned the spirits and fiends he noticed a slight change in the huge man's face. As the boy went on, Ohrante's composure was so far shaken that he drew a quick breath and one of his big hands clenched with a convulsive movement. Hugh was pleased with his strategy. He had found the giant's weak spot. Brave he might be in contact with his fellow men, but of unearthly beings he was superstitiously afraid. Hugh feigned not to notice, and in a moment Ohrante had covered his agitation with a show of indifference.

"No, white man," he lied proudly, "I have heard nothing and I fear nothing." Then he changed the subject. "When the waves go down in the lake out there, we leave Minong. We go to the place of vengeance, where Ohrante puts all his prisoners to death. On the Island of Torture both white men and Ojibwas may find the signs and learn how the Chief of Minong takes vengeance on his enemies. Prepare for the torture, white man, for not even your white God can save you." And turning, the big chief strode away.

"Yet I think He will save me," Hugh said to himself, "through my brother Blaise."

It was after sundown when the other canoe returned, with the four remaining members of the band. They brought with them a quantity of moose meat, the best parts of a young animal. Immediately the kettle was swung over the fire. The odor of the cooking meat was tempting to Hugh's nostrils, but he was not offered any. His captors evidently considered that he had had sufficient food for that day. The whole band feasted on moose, and the camp did not become quiet until much later than on the previous night.

Hugh was left tied to the tree, his wrists and ankles bound. No one took enough pity on him to throw a blanket over him. This time it was the squat man who lay down by the fire. He must have been very sure the prisoner could not get away. Moreover the enormous amount of meat he had eaten made the man especially drowsy. His loud breathing soon proved that he was sleeping soundly.

Under the birch tree, beyond the light of the flickering fire, Hugh lay, tense and anxious. He heard the snores of his guard, and other sounds of heavy slumbering from the larger wigwam. Why did not Blaise come? Except the breathing of the sleeping Indians and the low ripple of the water on the beach, not a sound broke the silence of the night. Every sense on the alert, Hugh waited through the long minutes. It seemed to him hours must have passed since the guard lay down by the fire.

What was that rustle in the willows? It was the slightest of sounds, but his ear caught it. Was it only a rabbit? He felt a touch on the rope that bound him to the tree, then a sharp jerk. The rope sagged down. Fingers grasped his shoulder and sent a shiver of excitement through his body. A hand slipped swiftly down his left arm, something cold touched his wrists, slipped between them. There was another little jerk, and his arms were free. His numb hands dropped to the ground, began to tingle. He did not dare to try to raise himself to a sitting position for fear of making a noise. Then his ankles fell apart, and he knew that bond had been cut also. Yet, motionless, he waited for orders.

The hand touched his shoulder again. Lips brushed his ear, as a voice whispered in the softest of hisses, "Roll over and follow."

Hugh obeyed unquestioningly. As he rolled over, he realized that the cord was still attached to his left wrist. There came a gentle pull, and he understood. Blaise had hold of the cord. This was his method of guiding his brother. Hugh attempted to crawl forward, but his legs and feet were so numb he found progress difficult. They dragged like logs. He could not move them lightly and noiselessly, yet he must go noiselessly to escape.

The cord on his wrist slackened. Blaise had sensed the difficulty. His shoulder brushed Hugh as he crawled back to the latter's side. In a moment he was silently but vigorously rubbing and kneading Hugh's calves, ankles and feet. Hot prickles of feeling began to course through the numb legs. After a few moments of stinging pain, the blood was running normally again, and the numbness was gone. Still the wigwams remained silent and the squat Indian by the fire snored on. An Indian in his wild state is commonly supposed to sleep lightly and wake at the slightest sound, and so he does if he is where there may be danger, and has not eaten or drunk too much. The Indian is human, however. A full and hearty meal, accompanied by a sense of security, can cause him to sleep as soundly as any well fed white man.

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