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The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 10931

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Baptiste's canoe was large enough to accommodate Hugh and Blaise, and the party were up and away early. The lake was no longer rough, so they made good time through Wauswaugoning Bay and around the point to the Grand Portage. Though Baptiste had been employed, in one capacity or another, by the Old Northwest Company, he was under no contract. An independent spirited fellow, who came and went much as he pleased, he did not feel under any obligation to the Old Company and was not an ardent partisan of that organization, so he made no objection when Hugh proposed that they try the X Y post for help in their undertaking. The men of either company would be glad no doubt to lay hands on the rascally Iroquois but the X Y men's grievance was the stronger, since Ohrante had been in the employ of the Old Company when he committed his first crime. The white man he had slain was an independent trapper, affiliated with neither company, but Jean Beaupré had been under contract, for the one season at least, to the New Company. To learn that he too had come to his death through the Giant Mohawk would add fuel to the flame of the X Y men's anger.

Shunning the Old Company's dock, the party crossed the bay to the X Y landing. At the post Hugh and Blaise told as much of their story as was essential to prove that they had really encountered Ohrante, had learned his plans and knew where to lay hands on him. The time for the annual meeting of the New Northwest Company, still held at the Grand Portage post, was approaching. None of the partners or leading men had yet arrived, but most of the northmen, as the men who wintered inland west of the lake, were called, had come with their furs, and a considerable number of Indians were gathered at the post. The agent in charge could not leave, but in a very few minutes the boys had recruited a dozen men, half-breeds and Indians, with one white man, a Scotchman, to lead them.

It would not do to approach the Island of Torture in too great force. Hugh and Blaise, with Baptiste and the two Indians, were to go first, find out whether Ohrante's recruits had assembled and watch for the coming of the chief himself. The men from the Grand Portage, in two canoes, would start later. Hugh had a very simple plan, which promised to be effective, to prevent Ohrante from leaving his council island before the Grand Portage party arrived.

The plan of campaign arranged, the scouts got under way at once. As they rounded the high point to the south and west of the Grand Portage Bay, they noticed, coming from the open lake, a large canoe with only two men. It was headed straight for the land, but suddenly swung about and turned down shore. Blaise, who was second from the bow, raised his paddle for a moment, while he gazed intently at the other canoe.

Turning his head, he called back to Hugh and Baptiste, "Red Band! We must catch them. It is Red Band and I think Monga."

"Vite! Make speed!" ordered Baptiste. "We will separate those two from the rest of Ohrante's rascals."

He scarcely needed to give the command. Keneu, in the bow, had already quickened his powerful stroke. The others followed his lead and the five blades dipped and rose with vigorous, rapid rhythm. The Indians ahead did their best, bending to their paddles with desperate energy, but their canoe was fully as large as Baptiste's and they were two paddles to five. The pursuers gained steadily. They must certainly overtake the fugitives.

Suddenly the fleeing canoe swerved towards the land. Keneu saw in an instant what the two men were trying to do. They intended to beach their boat and take to the woods, trusting to lose their pursuers in the thick growth. The Indian bow-man gave a sharp order. Baptiste's canoe swung in towards shore. It must cut off the fugitives, get between them and the land. The shore was steep and rocky, and there was no good place to beach a boat. Yet so great was the panic of Monga and Red Band that they kept straight on. Despairing of escape by water, they were ready to smash their canoe on the rocks and take a chance of reaching land.

They did not even get near to the shore. In their panic haste, they failed to notice a warning ripple and eddy ahead. Their canoe struck full on the jagged edge of a rock just below the surface. The pursuers were close enough to hear the ripping sound, as the sharp rock tore a great gash in the thin bark. The water rushed in. Red Band sprang from the bow, but Monga remained where he was in the stern, the canoe settling under him.

The pursuers bent to their paddles and shot towards the wrecked boat. They reached the spot just as Monga was going down, but they did not intend to let him escape them by drowning. Keneu reached out a sinewy arm and seized the sinking man by the neck of his deerskin shirt, while the others threw their bodies the other way and backed water to hold the canoe steady and keep it off the sharp rock.

The sensation of going down in that cold water must have instilled in Monga a dread greater than his fear of capture, for he made no struggle to free himself. As if the fellow had been a fish too large to be landed, his captors passed him back from hand to hand until he came into the keeping of the other Indian in the stern. The captive could not be pulled aboard, so Manihik ordered him to hold to the rim. Kneeling face towards the stern, he held Monga by the shoulders, and towed him behind the canoe til

l Keneu found a landing place.

Red Band had disappeared. Blaise, who had watched, felt sure Monga's companion had not reached shore. He had gone down and had not come up. Either he was unable to swim or had struck his head on a rock. Whatever had happened, there was no sign of him.

When shallow water was reached, Manihik took good care that his dripping prisoner should not escape. Monga was towed ashore and his wrists and ankles bound with rawhide rope. He said not a word, his broad face sullen and set.

Not until Blaise had asked him several questions in Ojibwa, did the captive deign to speak. Even then he answered with reluctance, a word or two at a time in sullen grunts. Then a question suddenly loosed his tongue, and he poured out a torrent of guttural speech. The other two Indians and Baptiste, who understood a little Ojibwa, listened intently, but Hugh could make out no word, except the names Ohrante and Minong.

When Monga paused, Blaise, his hazel eyes shining, turned to his brother. "We have not so many enemies to oppose us as we thought. Ohrante has only five of his old men left. The young Iroquois who captured you is dead."

"That fellow dead?" Hugh exclaimed. "Are you sure Monga isn't lying?"

"He speaks the truth, I am certain," Blaise replied confidently. "When Ohrante found you had escaped, he was in a great rage. He held the young Iroquois, Monga and Red Band to blame, and threatened all three with death, unless they found you and brought you back. Because the small canoe was gone, they believed you had escaped by water. We hoped the empty canoe might drift up the bay, but they found it not. The Iroquois thought you might have gone into the Bay of Manitos. Monga had no wish to go there. He was afraid of the giant manitos, he says, but he was desperate and at last agreed. They found our fire on the stones at the end of that island. Monga believed you had crossed the mouth of the bay and had gone on the other side of Minong, but the Iroquois wished to go up the narrow channel. They went up the channel, as we know, to what they believed to be the end. The shallow water and the fallen cedar deceived them. So they turned back and went on across the mouth of the Bay of Manitos."

"What were Ohrante and the others doing all that time?"

"They searched the western side of Minong. Monga says Ohrante would not go into the Bay of Manitos himself."

"Then he evidently didn't suspect our trick."

"No, but I think perhaps the young Iroquois suspected, and that was why he wished to search the bay." Blaise went on with his tale. "Monga and Red Band were in despair when they could not find you. They proposed that the three of them should run away to the mainland, but the Iroquois was too proud to be a coward. He wished to go on with the search or go back to take the punishment. So Monga pretended he could see the end of a canoe among the trees on an island. They landed, and Monga and Red Band murdered the Iroquois and left him there. Then they started for the mainland."

"They were the ones we saw when we were going out of the bay."

"Yes, they went around the long point, past that bay, and along the northwest side of Minong, but the wind came up and they could not cross. This morning they have crossed over."

"We should have nothing further to fear from Monga then, even if we had not captured him."

Blaise shrugged contemptuously. "Monga is a coward and a fool. He says he was angry because the traders sold him a bad musket. It exploded when he tried to fire it and blew off his little finger. So he joined the Mohawk wolf who boasted that he would drive the white men away. Monga thought Ohrante was a great chief and a powerful medicine man, but when he proposed to go to Minong, Monga was afraid. Then Ohrante told him that Minong was a wonderful place where they would grow rich and mighty and have everything they wished. He said he was such a great medicine man that the spirits of the island would do his bidding."

"And they didn't," put in Hugh with a grin.

The swift, flashing smile like his father's crossed the younger boy's face. "Monga was disappointed to find Minong little different from the mainland. When he heard the spirits threatening Ohrante and saw the chief frightened, he began to lose faith in him. You escaped, and Ohrante's medicine was not strong enough to find you and bring you back. He would not even go to the Bay of Manitos to seek you. So Monga knew the Chief of Minong was just a man like other men. He has run away and wants no more of Ohrante."

"Just the same I think we had better keep an eye on him," Hugh decided. "We'll take him with us."

Blaise nodded. "There is still much Monga has not told us," he replied.

It was finally settled that Baptiste and the two Indians should take the prisoner with them, while Hugh and Blaise went on ahead in the captured canoe. It was their plan to approach the Island of Torture under cover of darkness. Conditions being good, the two boys paddled steadily. Late in the afternoon they paused for a meal. They had not many more miles to go, and would wait until nightfall. Before they had finished their supper, Baptiste's canoe came in sight. Monga had expressed willingness to wield a paddle, but Baptiste did not trust him. The "Loon" rode as a compulsory passenger, wrists and ankles still bound. At Hugh's signal, Baptiste ran in to shore to wait with the others for darkness.

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