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   Chapter 27 WHAT BLAISE OVERHEARD

The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 7807

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Far from the Indian camp and well hidden, the brothers could risk conversation. Instinctively they kept their voices low. Hugh was curious to learn how Blaise had crossed from the pond in the small island to the long point, and Blaise equally eager to hear how Hugh had fallen into Ohrante's hands. Seated on moss patches in the rock opening, they satisfied each other's curiosity on those points. Then Blaise went on to tell how he had tracked his elder brother. When he had smelled smoke he had known he must be near a camp.

"I heard the rippling of water," the boy said in his soft singsong. "Then I caught the sound of men's voices. I left the trail and crept towards the water. I peeped through the alders and saw the lake and the beach. Canoes lay on the pebbles, but no man was in sight. I wished to find out if you were in the camp. So I went back into the woods and crawled towards the voices. I crept from tree to tree and bush to bush, and found myself behind a wigwam. I lay flat and tried to peep around it, but a clump of willows was in the way, and I could see nothing. I crawled like a snake for the willows. I looked through them and saw you, my brother, bound to the birch. My heart gave a leap when I saw you unharmed and knew there was yet time to steal you away. I saw Ohrante too. He sat by the fire and ate. He turned his head, and I feared his sharp eyes might find me through the willows, so I crept away. I went back into the woods and hid not far from the trail. The Iroquois I had seen on the trail returned. Crawling nearer the camp again, I heard him talk to Ohrante, but I could not understand, for he spoke the Iroquois language. I saw no way to get you away before nightfall, and I feared they might carry you off somewhere in a canoe where I could not follow.

"Back to the beach I went and hid myself in the alders near the big canoes. I saw Ohrante and six others go away. By their moccasins I knew that two were Iroquois, the others Ojibwas and Crees. A small canoe was left on the beach. When Ohrante had been gone a while, I heard voices, and two more men came along the shore from the camp. One carried a net of cedar cord. He had an ugly face and a red band around his head. The other, a short, strong man, I knew at once. He is Monga, an Ojibwa, one of the two who helped Ohrante to escape. The two sat down on the sand just below where I was hidden, and I crawled nearer to listen to what they said as they mended their net. They spoke Ojibwa. Red Band has not been with Ohrante long. He asked what the chief would do with the white captive. Monga,-his name means the loon,-answered that Ohrante would take the white man to the mainland, to the Isle of Torture, but they could not start to-day because the wind was too strong and the lake too rough. Red Band was not pleased. He said he wished the chief would let the white men alone until his people were stronger. Monga said that Ohrante hated all white men. When the trader Beaupré escaped his vengeance--"

"What?" interrupted Hugh. "He said 'the trader Beaupré'?"

"Yes. When the trader Beaupré escaped Ohrante's vengeance, the chief swore to kill every white man who fell into his hands."

"But what did he mean by father's escaping Ohrante's vengeance?"

"It was as we thought," Blaise replied, his voice low and tense. "It was Ohrante who brought our father to his death. Red Band said it was true that Beaupré escaped, but in his escape he received his death wound."

"That explains what we found at the Devil Track River."

"Yes. From what they said it seems that our father and Black Thunder both fell into Ohrante's hands. In some way they escaped, but they were overtaken at the River of Devil Tracks. They fought and our father got away again, but sorely wounded. That is the way I put together the things I heard the two men say."

"How comes it then that the bateau and furs a

re here on Isle Royale? Did Ohrante bring them here?"

"I think Ohrante knows nothing of the furs. When we first saw him here I thought he had come to Minong to seek the furs, but no, this is not the first time he has been here. His braves call him 'Chief of Minong.' I think he fled here, he and Monga and the other man who helped him, when he escaped from our father and the Ojibwas. I know not when the rest of the band joined him, but I believe Ohrante and those two were living somewhere on this island when white men and red sought them and could not find them. This I know, here on Minong Ohrante captured our father and Black Thunder. Monga said it was strange that two white men had been found here, where no man was believed to come. Both Jean Beaupré and the new white captive pretended to be only traders, he said, and told tales of how they were driven here by storm and wrecked on the rocks. The chief believed Beaupré's story, but now that this other white man came with the same tale, Ohrante began to doubt. He thought perhaps they came to spy on him."

"I feared Ohrante did not believe me," Hugh confessed, "but it made little difference what story I told. He says he hates all white men and intends to destroy them and drive them out of this country. He thinks he is destined to be some sort of king over this part of the world. Did those two say more of father?"

"No, their net was finished and they went out in the little canoe. At once I sought you, my brother, but I dared not cut your bonds. The two were only a little way out in the bay. Later I listened to them talk again. I could not get the meaning of all they said, but I think Ohrante intends to hold a council on that island where he tortures his prisoners. I am sure that others are to meet him there to join his band."

"And he was reserving me to be put to death by torture as a sort of entertainment for his new adherents, I suppose," Hugh muttered grimly. "That is not the part in the performance I should choose to play. Perhaps I can find some other part more to my liking." A daring suggestion had come into his mind as Blaise told of the council on the "Island of Torture." "Did you learn when the meeting was to be?" Hugh asked abruptly.

"It is to be soon, I think. They wait only for safe weather to make the crossing."

Hugh was silent in frowning thought. When he spoke, it was not of the council. "It is plain to see what happened," he said musingly. "The storm bore father and his comrade here to this island. Their boat was driven into that crack in the rocks and wrecked. Ohrante came upon them, took them captive and carried them to the mainland. Father must have had some warning, though, for he hid the pelts and the packet. I wonder, Blaise, if, when he was first wrecked, he put the furs up on that rock shelf to keep them dry and safe. Then, afterwards, when he learned Ohrante was near, he moved the bales to a more secret spot farther from the wreck."

Blaise nodded. "It may be," was all he said.

"We were right all the time," Hugh added, "in believing that Ohrante had something to do with father's death."

"I felt in my heart that Ohrante was the guilty one," the younger lad replied simply.

"Yet of course it may not have been Ohrante himself who gave father his death blow," Hugh mused.

Blaise waved away his brother's reasoning with a gesture. "It matters not whether Ohrante himself or one of his men struck the blow. It is not the knife that we punish when a murder is committed, but the man who wields the knife. Ohrante is that man. It was he who captured our father, who would have put him to the torture, who caused his death."

"And Ohrante shall pay for it," Hugh broke in passionately. "He shall pay soon if we can but reach the mainland in time. The sky is lighter, Blaise," he added, looking up above the surrounding tree tops. "We must be moving."

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