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   Chapter 30 THE FLIGHT FROM MINONG

The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 9798

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The canoe had gone by, but the boys did not abate their caution and watchfulness one whit, as they made their way back to the shore of the pond.

"That danger seems to be over," Hugh remarked, his voice still lowered to a whisper, as he came out of the woods near the boat. "Blaise, could you understand what those two said? Were you near enough to hear?"

"I was but a little way beyond you, my brother. I heard every word. There is bad blood between Monga and the young Iroquois. It was the Iroquois who wished to come up this way. They found the ashes of our fire at the end of that island out there. Monga thinks we went on across the mouth of this long bay. He wished to seek us in that direction, but when the Iroquois found the passage between these islands, he forced Monga to come up here first. He is sure now that we are not in here. So they go the way Monga wishes."

"Then we are safe from those three for some hours at least, but I wish we knew where Ohrante and the others are."

"Ohrante must hold Monga, and perhaps the Iroquois, to blame for your escape. If they take you not back, it will go hard with them. It may be that Ohrante has sent them to seek you and himself waits at the camp, or he may search in the other direction. Perhaps he will not come into this Bay of Manitos at all."

"Very likely he is glad of an excuse to stay out," returned Hugh with a grin. "Ohrante may be brave as a lion with other men, but I think he is not quite so bold with spirits."

"No man is," Blaise replied simply. "I am not sure that Ohrante is very brave. He is cruel and treacherous, but brave in the way our father was? No, I think he is not brave like that." The lad gave one of his characteristic French shrugs.

Hugh made no answer. He discounted his brother's opinion of Ohrante somewhat. Blaise was half Ojibwa, of the Algonquin stock, and the ancient hatred between Algonquin and Iroquois had not died out and probably never would die. The boy was naturally unwilling to admit any good qualities in the self-styled "Chief of Minong," half Mohawk by blood and wholly so by training. But Ohrante, thought Hugh, must have some unusual qualities, since, in spite of the ancient hate, he had attracted to his band Ojibwas as well as Iroquois.

"Yet, we know not," Blaise went on after a moment, "how near the others may be, or how soon Monga may return this way. We dare not venture out until darkness comes."

Sunset came at last and twilight. The last morsels of the maple sugar and the soaked corn made up the evening meal. Blaise slipped through the woods once more, and reported the outer bay and strait empty of all life except a pair of fish ducks. Then he and Hugh pushed off the bateau and crossed the pond. No more peaceful spot could be imagined. The still water reflected the motionless trees and the soft colors of the sky. From the woods came the clear, plaintive notes of a thrush.

Landing, the lads went directly to the old birch, and were relieved to find no signs that anyone had been near it. Blaise climbed the tree and let himself down into the hole. Hugh then followed him up, received the bales the younger boy handed him and lowered them to the ground. Squirrels or wood-mice had nibbled the outer wrappings, but had not penetrated to the pelts. When all the packages were out of the tree, the two carried them to the shore and stowed them in the boat. Once more they paddled across the lake and took the sail aboard. They did not set up the mast, as they wished to push the boat under the fallen cedar. Beaching the bateau close to the end of the barrier, they set to work to cut a way through.

They had only the one little axe, and Hugh wielded that, climbing out on the tree to reach the limbs he wished to cut. Blaise, standing in the shallow water, trimmed off smaller branches with his stout knife. Working with skill and speed, they soon had the lower limbs cleared away from the under side of the trunk. There appeared to be room enough to push the bateau through, but the water at that spot was very shallow. The boat grounded on the rock bottom. The lads unloaded most of the furs, and succeeded in dragging the lightened bateau over the shallows. Then they had to carry the bales through the woods, and reload. All this work they were forced to do as quietly as possible. The blows of the axe could not be muffled, but the two made no noise they could avoid. They did not dare light a torch, but the sky was clear and the northern twilight long. Darkness had settled down, however, by the time they were ready to leave their island of refuge.

In that sheltered place, they were unable to tell whether there was breeze enough to aid or hinder them, but they had made up their minds to leave the Bay of Spirits. If possible they would start for the mainland, by sail if they could, by paddle if they must. If the wind was so st

rong against them that they could not cross, they would go on in the other direction, and find some temporary hiding place farther from the camp of the Chief of Minong.

Straight out through the quiet water of the narrower channel, shadowed by the black, wooded masses of the islands to right and left, they paddled. Darkness and still water made the shallows treacherous, but they had noted the channel on their way in that morning, and made their way out again without accident.

Suddenly Blaise in the bow gave a quick, low hiss. Hugh knew that the alarmed warning meant, not mere shallow water ahead, but some graver danger. He obeyed the signal and steered into the deep shadow of the island close by. The boat scraped the rocks and came to a stop. Looking out from the protecting gloom, across the moonlit lake, Hugh caught sight of the cause of his brother's alarm. A canoe, paddled swiftly, was crossing the open water beyond the islands, going north. Would it turn up the bay? Hugh sat motionless, his paddle handle gripped tightly. Then he drew a breath of relief. The canoe had not turned. It went straight on and disappeared from sight.

Hugh moved forward to speak to Blaise. "The fellows who were after us," he whispered, "going back to camp. They have given up the chase."

"I could make out but two men," Blaise replied.

"You couldn't be certain there weren't three," Hugh argued, "unless you can see much better at night than I can."

Blaise shook his head doubtfully. "The canoe was headed for the long point. They must be some of Ohrante's men."

"None of them was big enough to be Ohrante himself. We could see them well enough to make sure of that."

The brothers waited in the shadow for several minutes, then ventured on. As they came out from the shelter of the islands, a light southeast breeze, that barely rippled the water, struck them.

"A favorable enough wind, if we want to go direct to the Kaministikwia," remarked Hugh, "but do we?"

"It is at the Kaministikwia where we must sell the furs."

"But how about our revenge on Ohrante? Are we to let him meet those reinforcements at his Torture Island, and then go on capturing innocent people and putting them to death for his own pleasure? Ohrante is a menace to both white men and Ojibwas, Blaise."

"Yes, I know that," the younger lad replied slowly, "but what can you and I alone do against him and his band and the new braves who come to join him? I am as eager as you to see Ohrante destroyed. I long to avenge my father by doing the deed with my own hands, but we must plan cautiously. If we are over rash, we shall fail."

"What would you do then, Blaise?"

"I would go quickly to the Kaministikwia, leave the furs there, and find other men to go with us to the Isle of Torture."

"That will take a long time," Hugh objected. "We may be too late."

"Then we will cross to Minong again. We know where his camp is. Oh, we can find men eager to seek out Ohrante and his wolf pack wherever they may be, and destroy them like the wolves they are. The X Y agent will help us to raise a party. Ohrante was brought into this country by the Old Company. He is a skillful hunter and took to them many pelts."

"True. The New Company will be glad to help capture the fellow no doubt," Hugh agreed.

"But you and I, as our father's sons, will claim the right to deal with him." There was a hard, fierce note in the lad's voice. Jean Beaupré had not been a mild man, yet it was not so much the hot-tempered French father that spoke now in the son, as the fierce, implacable savage. Bitterly as Hugh hated the giant Mohawk, he sensed something different and alien in his half-brother's passion. Through the weeks of constant association with Blaise, Hugh had ceased ordinarily to think of him as Indian, but now, for the moment, he was not Blaise Beaupré, but Attekonse, Ojibwa. Yet it was the white boy who was the most impatient at the thought of delay in dealing with Ohrante.

The wind, however, had apparently settled the question. The breeze would carry the boat northwest to Thunder Bay, but would be more hindrance than help in going southwest to Grand Portage. In the lee of an island, the brothers raised their mast and ran up their sail. As they paddled out from shelter, the breeze caught the canvas and they were off across the lake.

Clouds had covered the moon, and it was too dark to sight Thunder Cape. The boys could do nothing but run before the wind and trust to it to carry them somewhere near their destination. At any rate they were leaving Minong and putting the miles between themselves and the cruel, self-appointed chief of the island. That wonderful and beautiful island, which the white men had appropriately called Royale, deserved a better king, and the first step in the right direction was to depose the present usurper, thought Hugh with grim humor.

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