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   Chapter 34 MONGA’S STORY

The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 11849

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


During the enforced wait for nightfall, Blaise put more questions to the Indian prisoner. Monga, anxious to ingratiate himself with his captors, talked freely.

Ohrante, the captive said, after his first crime, capture and escape, had fled with Monga and the other Ojibwa who had helped him to get away. At the lake shore they had come across two Iroquois hunters, the tall fellow with the malicious grin and another. When Ohrante proposed to take refuge on Minong, the Ojibwas held back. The Mohawk, however, told them a long story about how his mother, a captive among the Iroquois, had been a direct descendant of the ancient tribe or clan who had once lived on Minong and had mined copper there. Her ancestors had been chieftains of that powerful people, Ohrante asserted, and he himself was hereditary Chief of Minong. From his mother's people and also from his father, who was a Mohawk medicine man, the giant claimed to have inherited marvellous magic powers. He had further increased those powers by going through various mysterious experiences and ordeals. The manitos of Minong, he said, awaited his coming. He had had a dream, several moons before, in which the spirits, in the forms of birds and beasts, had appeared to him and begged him to come and rule over them. They would do his bidding and aid him to destroy his enemies and to become chief of all the tribes about the Upper Lakes. He would unite those tribes into a powerful nation and drive the white men from the country.

Persuaded by Ohrante's arguments, the four Indians accompanied him to Minong. Their first camp was made on the southwestern end of the island. There Ohrante and the two Ojibwas, secure from pursuit, remained while the others crossed again to the mainland and brought back more recruits, an Ojibwa, a Cree and another Iroquois hunter. The band of eight roamed about the western side of the island by land and water. Most of the winter they spent in a long, narrow bay, where, according to Monga, they found many pieces of copper. In the spring, in search of the wonders their chief had promised them, they reached the northeastern end of the island. Then came a hard storm of wind, rain and snow, accompanied by fog. Three days after the storm, when the waves had gone down, the band entered, for the first time, the bay west of the long point. There they found and captured Jean Beaupré and Black Thunder. It was evident from Monga's tale that he knew nothing of the hidden furs. Ohrante had accepted the story Jean Beaupré had told of having lost everything in the storm, when his bateau, driven out of its course, had been dashed into a rift in the rocks of the long point. Undoubtedly Beaupré must have had some warning of the approach of the Indians, for he had had time, as the boys knew, to secrete the furs. The fact that Black Thunder had suffered an injury to one leg, when the boat was wrecked, might account for the failure of the two to dodge the giant and his band.

When Monga finished this part of his story, Blaise turned from him to translate to Hugh.

"Ask him," the elder brother suggested, "if father knew he was on the Isle Royale."

Blaise put the question and translated the reply. "Monga says our father knew not where he was. The weather was thick and cloudy, there was no sun and it was not possible to see far. Our father thought he was somewhere on the mainland. Ohrante did not tell him where he was. The chief wished no man to know the hiding place. The prisoners were kept bound. They were given something cooked from leaves that made them sleep sound. Then they were put in the canoes and taken to the other end of the island. By night they were brought across to the Isle of Torture."

"That explains father's not telling you where he was wrecked. He had no idea he had been driven to Minong. But why did Ohrante bring his captives away over here? What was his motive? Can you find out?"

Again Blaise asked a question, listening gravely to the answer. "Monga says that he and Ohrante and the other Ojibwa camped on that little island they now call the Isle of Torture, when they first escaped from our father, and Ohrante dreamed that night that he had many white captives and put them to the torture one after another. Monga thinks it was because of that dream that the chief brought his captives over to that island."

"How did father escape?" Hugh questioned eagerly.

Again Blaise turned to Monga, and soon had the rest of the story. At the Torture Island, Ohrante had met with several recruits, who brought with them a supply of liquor stolen from some trading post. The torture of the two captives, Ohrante's part of the entertainment, was postponed until night. During the day the party feasted and drank. They consumed all of the liquor, which was full strength, not diluted with water as it usually was before being sold to the Indians. By night the whole band were lying about the island in a heavy stupor. Even the lookout, who had been stationed in a tree to give warning of the approach of danger, had come down to get his share.

When the band came to their senses next morning, they found the prisoners gone. The thongs with which they had been tied lay on the ground, one piece of rawhide having been worn through by being pulled across a sharp-edged bit of rock. A canoe was gone and another had a great hole in it, but a third boat, on the other side of the island, the prisoners had not found. Monga's Ojibwa comrade, the one who had helped Ohrante to escape justice, had been set to guard the captives. In a rage, Ohrante threatened the fellow with torture in their stead. The guard begged to be allowed to track the escaped prisoners, and the chief consented. A high wind had blown all night and the lake was rough, too rough for the fugitives to have travelled far by water. The channel between shore and island was protected from the wind, however, and

some of the band crossed and found the canoe the escaped prisoners had used. Black Thunder's lame leg prevented rapid travelling, and at the Devil Track River, the negligent guard and one of the Iroquois overtook the fugitives. Stealing quietly upon them, the Ojibwa attacked Jean Beaupré, the Iroquois, Black Thunder. Black Thunder struggled desperately, and the Iroquois was obliged to fight for his life. He slew Black Thunder, only to find his Ojibwa companion lying dead a little farther on. Jean Beaupré was gone.

The Iroquois tried to follow Beaupré, but, being himself wounded, fell fainting from loss of blood. Monga and another of the band, sent after the two by Ohrante, found the Iroquois unable to travel without help. It was Monga who had kindled the cooking fire, the remains of which Hugh had found. Blaise spoke of finding the blood-stained tunic and Monga said that the Iroquois had stripped it from Black Thunder, but Monga and the other Indian would not let him carry the shirt away for fear of the vengeance of the thunder bird pictured upon it. The three returned to the Island of Torture without attempting to follow Beaupré farther. When the lake calmed, two of the band took the winter catch of furs to the Grand Portage and exchanged them for supplies. Then the whole party returned to Minong, living for some time at the southern end. In a later raid they captured the unfortunate Indian, Ohrante's personal enemy, whom the boys had seen being tortured. One of the chief's men was killed in the encounter, another deserted and several were left on the mainland to obtain recruits.

The rest went back to Minong and travelled to the northern end again. In the bay west of the long, high point, they found the spot the crew of the Otter had cleared, and built their wigwams there. The discovery that someone else had visited the place made Ohrante a bit uneasy, and he kept a lookout stationed on the high ridge. When the Beaupré brothers reached the point, all of the band except two happened to be away on a hunting trip. The two guards, neglectful of lookout duty, had failed to see the lads approach. It must have been one of them who had fired the shot that aroused the boys at dawn. Ohrante and one canoe of the hunting party returned that very day. The call that had so startled Hugh, when he was about to open the packet, was a signal from one of the camp guards to the returning chief. Luckily for the brothers they were well hidden in the pit, and Ohrante and his men were back at their camp long before the two lads reached theirs. The other canoe of hunters did not return until the following day. Luck had been poor, and Monga proposed to his companions that they round the long, high point and look for game on the other side. They were headed towards the rocky tip, when, suddenly, before their astonished eyes, a giant form appeared on the open rocks. The giant turned, looked straight at the canoe, then seemed to sink into the ground. Just as he vanished, however, a second giant, even taller than the first, loomed up. Monga and his comrades turned and fled. Monga looked back once, just in time to see one of the giants spring up out of the rocks, he said. The frightened Indians took refuge beyond the low point on the other side of the bay, and stayed there until the fog came in, before daring to venture to camp. They told Ohrante of seeing Nanibozho and Kepoochikan on the end of the long point, but he, to strengthen his followers' belief in his magical powers, insisted next day on rounding the point. In the Bay of Manitos, the Chief of Minong had the scare of his life.

Darkness had come by the time Blaise had learned all this from the prisoner and had translated it to Hugh and Baptiste. It was time to make a start. Monga was left behind, and to prevent his crying out or attracting attention in any way, he was gagged and tied to a tree. Then the others embarked in Baptiste's canoe. The weather favored them. The night was dark, not a ray of moonlight penetrating the thick clouds. Only a light breeze rippled the water and the air was unusually warm.

Noiselessly, through the deepest shadows, the canoe approached the Island of Torture. From the upper end, the black mass appeared to be quite deserted. No gleam of fire shone through the trees. As the canoe slipped along close to the mainland, however, the flickering light of a small fire appeared ahead. That fire was not on the island, but on the mainland opposite. Swerving in to shore, the canoe was brought to a stop, its prow just touching a bit of beach. Without speaking a word, and making scarcely a sound, the five stepped out, deposited the boat upon the pebbles and gathered around it in a knot.

Keneu, his mouth close to the half-breed boy's ear, whispered a word or two. Blaise nodded, and in an instant the Indian was gone into the darkness. Blaise turned to Hugh and explained in the softest of whispers: "Keneu goes to learn who they are."

Silent, almost motionless, the rest of the party remained standing on the bit of beach in the thick darkness of the sheltering bushes. Hugh's eyes were fastened on the black, silent island across the narrow channel. Had Ohrante changed his plans? He felt his younger brother's hand on his arm, and turned about. He could just distinguish a low, hissing sound, which he realized was the Indian making his report to Blaise.

The sound ceased and the boy's lips were at Hugh's ear. "There are four men camping there. One is an Iroquois. They wait for Ohrante to come. Then they go to the island."

"He hasn't come yet, then?" Hugh whispered back.

"No, these are new men except the Iroquois. They come to join Ohrante. They have liquor, but the Iroquois will not let them drink until the chief comes."

"Then the only thing we can do is wait."

"That is all. We can watch the island from here. When Ohrante comes we shall know it."

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