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The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 10209

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The rain came down in torrents. Thunder pealed and crashed, and Hugh, a roaring in his head, his whole body shaking convulsively, lay on his face among the bushes. A hand seized his shoulder and instantly he came to himself. He started up and reached for the knife he had borrowed from Baptiste, then knew it was his half-brother who was speaking.

"Quick," Blaise whispered. "Follow me close."

The rain was lessening, the thunder peals were not so deafening. From the beach below came the sound of voices. With bitterness, Hugh realized that he and Blaise had delayed too long. The Indians had reached the one canoe and had discovered that the other was missing.

"They are going to get away. We must do something to stop Ohrante at least."

"Ohrante is stopped, I think," Blaise replied quietly. "I go to see." And he wriggled through the dripping bushes.

Hugh followed close on his younger brother's heels. Out from the shelter of the trees into the open space the two crawled. Where the fire had blazed there was now only smoke. A flash of lightning illuminated the spot. It seemed utterly deserted except for one motionless form. Without hesitation the brothers crept across the open, no longer single file, but side by side. The thing they had caught sight of when the lightning flashed, lay outstretched and partly hidden by the cloud of smoke from the quenched fire. As they drew near, there was another bright flash. There lay the giant figure of Ohrante the Mohawk, his head among the blackened embers, his broad chest battered to a shapeless mass by the sharp fore hooves of the frenzied moose. Hugh was glad that the flash of light lasted but an instant. The merciful darkness blotted out the horrible sight. He turned away sickened.

The report of a musket, another and another, shouts and yells and splashings, came from the channel between island and mainland.

"The men from the Grand Portage," cried Hugh. "They have come just in time. Not all of Ohrante's rascals will escape."

He ran down the open lane, Blaise after him. The flashes and reports, the shouts and cries, proved that a battle was on. The black shapes of canoes filled with men were distinguishable on the water. A pale flash of the now distant lightning revealed to the lads one craft close in shore. It contained but one man.

"Keneu," Hugh called.

The Indian had seen the boys. He swerved the canoe towards the line of low bushes at the foot of the gap, and Hugh and Blaise ran out into the water to step aboard. The yells and musket shots had ceased. The fight seemed to be over. But another canoe was coming in towards the island beach. Did that boat hold friends or enemies?

"Holá, Hugh Beaupré," a familiar voice called. "Where are you?"

"Here, Baptiste, all right, both of us," Hugh shouted in reply.

"Thank the good God," Baptiste ejaculated fervently.

The canoe came on and made a landing on the beach. Hugh, Blaise and Keneu beached their craft near by.

"Did you catch those fellows?" Hugh asked eagerly.

"We sunk their canoe and some are drowned. Others may have reached shore. The rest of our men have gone over there to search. But where is Ohrante? We have seen nothing of him. Is he still on this isle?"

"Yes, he is here," Hugh replied, a little shudder convulsing his body. "But Ohrante is no longer to be feared."

"He is dead? Who killed him? One of you?" Baptiste glanced quickly from one lad to the other.

"No, the victim he was torturing killed him."

"Another victim? What became of him? Did he escape?"

"He escaped. By now he is probably in safety."

"Good! Then we have--"

A shout from the top of the island interrupted Baptiste. The other men from the canoe, who had scattered to search for any of Ohrante's band who might be in hiding, had discovered the body. The boys and Baptiste went up to join them, and Hugh described what he had seen and how the Chief of Minong had come to his death.

"A frightful fate truly, but he brought it upon himself by torturing the beast," the Frenchman exclaimed. "But how was it they had a captive moose? Surely they did not bring it across from the Isle Royale?"

"No." It was Blaise who spoke. "Keneu says the men from the mainland brought the moose. Keneu saw the beast tied to a tree at their camp. It was a two year old and seemed tame. He thought it had been raised in captivity. They brought it to kill for a feast. Hugh and I saw it swim across behind their canoe."

"Ohrante had no human captive to torture." Hugh shuddered again, realizing that he himself had been the intended victim. "He had no man to practice his cruelty upon, so he used the animal. What a fiend the fellow was!"

Not one of Ohrante's band was found on the island. The sudden fall of their chief had so appalled them that they had fled, every man of them, to the beach and had crowded into the one remaining canoe. The explanation of Ohrante's fate was clear. The lightning had struck the top of the tall birch. The young moose, already wild with pain and fright, was driven to utter frenzy by the crash and sh

ock. It had burst its bonds and plunged straight at its nearest tormentor, knocking him into the fire, stamping upon his body with its sharp hooves, and then dashing for the lake and freedom. A terrible revenge the crotch horn had taken.

Hugh's plan had been to sink one canoe and steal the other, leaving the Chief of Minong and his followers marooned on the little island. He had hoped that the loss of the boats would not be discovered before morning. Then the besieging party could demand the surrender of Ohrante, promising his followers, if necessary, that they should go free if they would deliver up their chief. Even if they refused, there seemed no chance for Ohrante to get away. Before he could build canoes, the attacking party could easily raise a force sufficient to rush the island. If members of the band should attempt to swim the channel or cross it on a raft, they would be at the mercy of the besiegers. Sooner or later the giant and his men would be compelled to yield.

In accordance with this plan, the boys had set out to make away with Ohrante's canoes. When ample time to carry out the man?uvre had passed, and they did not return, Baptiste had grown anxious. The sounds of the war dance and the bellows of the captive moose, carrying across the water, had increased his alarm. The men from the Grand Portage arriving just before the storm broke, Baptiste signalled them and they held themselves in readiness to go to the rescue of the lads. The watchers saw the lightning strike the island. They heard the tumult as the frightened Indians, believing some supernatural power had intervened to destroy their chief, fled to the beach. At once Baptiste's men, regardless of the storm, started for the island. A flash of lightning showed them a canoe crossing to the mainland. Attack followed and the canoe was sunk or overturned. One boat of the attacking party put into shore to cut off the flight of any of the band who might succeed in reaching land. The other turned to the island.

When the whole force came together at dawn, they had taken two prisoners and had found the dead bodies of two other Indians besides Ohrante. The Mohawk had brought but three men with him and four others had joined him at the island. Three were therefore unaccounted for. They might have been drowned or they might have escaped. The important thing was that Ohrante was dead and his band broken up.

The headlong flight of the great chief's followers was explained by one of the prisoners. The Indians had believed the giant Iroquois invincible. He had the reputation, as Monga had said, of being a medicine man or magician of great powers. He claimed to have had, in early youth, a dream in which it was revealed to him that no human hand would ever strike him down. The dream explained the boldness and rashness of his behavior. It also threw light on his fear of powers not human. Suddenly he was felled, not by human hand indeed, but by the dreadful thunder bird and the hooves of a beast which surely must be a spirit in disguise. The invincible was vanquished and his followers were panic stricken. The three men Ohrante had brought from Minong led the flight. They had seen and heard the threatening manifestations of Nanibozho, Kepoochikan and their attendant manitos on that island. Two of the band, the captive said, had been left on Minong to guard the camp. Of them neither Hugh nor Blaise ever heard again. Whether the Indians remained on the island or whether after a time they returned to the mainland and learned of Ohrante's death, the lads never knew.

With the fate of the giant Mohawk all the attacking party were well satisfied except Blaise. He was so glum and silent that Hugh could not understand what had come over the lad. After their return to the Grand Portage, Blaise opened his heart.

"I wished to kill our father's enemy with my own hands," he confessed to Hugh. "It was the duty of you or me to avenge him, and I wished for the honor. You saw not in the darkness that I took my musket with me. When we crept in the water below that open place, I carried the musket on my back not to wet it. And then when I knelt among the trees and he stood there with his arms folded, I had him in good range. But, my brother, I could not shoot. It was not that I feared for myself or you. No, I felt no fear. I could not shoot him unarmed and with no chance to fight for his life. I am a fool, a coward, a disgrace to the Ojibwa nation."

"No, no, you are nothing of the kind," Hugh cried indignantly. "There is no braver lad anywhere. You are no coward, you are a white man, Blaise, and an honorable one. That is why you couldn't shoot Ohrante in the back from ambush. I know there are white men who do such things and feel no shame. But would father have done it, do you think? Would he?"

A little anxiously, Hugh waited for the answer. He had known his father so little, and Jean Beaupré had lived long among savages. The reply came at last, slowly and thoughtfully.

"No," said the younger son, "no, our father would never have shot a man in the back."

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