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   Chapter 37 THE PACKET IS OPENED

The Radio Detectives By A. Hyatt Verrill Characters: 26149

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


With eager curiosity Hugh Beaupré sat watching Monsieur Dubois unwrap the mysterious packet. The adventurous journey was over. The ex-members of Ohrante's band, including Monga, had been turned over to the fur companies to be dealt with. The pelts had been safely delivered to the New Northwest Company at the Kaministikwia, Jean Beaupré's small debt cancelled, and the rest of the price paid divided between the two boys. The furs had proved of fine quality, and Hugh was well satisfied with his share. He had been given a draft on the company's bankers in Montreal, who had paid him in gold. Blaise had chosen to take his half in winter supplies, and, with Hugh and Baptiste to back him, had won the respect of the company's clerk as a shrewd bargainer. At the Kaministikwia, the younger boy had found his mother with a party of her people, and Hugh, less reluctant than at the beginning of his journey, had made her acquaintance. Regretfully parting with Blaise, the elder brother had joined the great canoe fleet returning with the furs. He was able to qualify as a canoeman, and he had remained with the fleet during the whole trip to Montreal. Of that interesting but strenuous journey there is no space to tell here.

One of the lad's first acts after reaching the city had been to seek out Monsieur Dubois. Dubois proved to be a prominent man among the French people of Montreal, and Hugh had found him without difficulty. After explaining how he had come by the packet, the lad had placed it in the Frenchman's hands. He had learned from this thin, grave, white-haired man that he, René Dubois, had lived in the Indian country for many years. During the first months of Jean Beaupré's life in the wild Superior region, Dubois, though considerably older, had been the friend and companion of Hugh's father. When an inheritance had come to him, the elder man had been called back to Montreal, where he had since lived. Beaupré, on his infrequent returns to civilization, had made brief calls on his old comrade, but they had no common business interests and had never corresponded. Monsieur Dubois was, therefore, at a loss to understand why Hugh's father had been so anxious that this packet should reach him.

He undid the outer wrapping, glanced at his own name on the bark label, cut the cord, broke the seals and removed the doeskin. Several thin white sheets of birch bark covered with fine writing in the faint, muddy, home-made ink, and a small, flat object wrapped in another thin cover of doeskin, were all the packet contained. When his fingers closed on the object within the skin cover, the man's face paled, then flushed. His hands trembled as he removed the wrapping. For several moments he sat staring at the little disk of yellow metal, turning it over and over in his fingers. Why it should affect Monsieur Dubois so strongly Hugh could not imagine. It was obvious that the white-haired man was trying to control some strong emotion. Without a word to the boy, he laid the disk down, and Hugh could see that it was a gold coin. Taking the bark sheets from the table where he had laid them, Dubois scanned them rapidly, then turned again to the beginning and read them slowly and intently. When he raised his eyes, Hugh was surprised to see that they were glistening with tears. His voice trembled as he spoke.

"You cannot know, Hugh Beaupré, what a great service you have done me. It is impossible that I can ever repay you. You do not understand, you cannot, until I explain. But first I would ask you a question or two, if you will pardon me."

"Of course," replied Hugh wonderingly. "I shall be glad to answer anything that I can, Monsieur Dubois."

"Well then, about that half-brother of yours, what sort of a lad is he?"

"As fine a lad as you will find anywhere, Monsieur," Hugh answered promptly. "When I first received his letter, I was prejudiced against him, I admit." He flushed and hesitated.

Dubois nodded understandingly. "But now?" he questioned.

"Now I love him as if he were my whole brother," Hugh said warmly. "We went through much together, he saved me from a horrible fate, and I learned to know him well. A finer, truer-hearted fellow than Blaise never existed."

Again Dubois nodded, apparently well satisfied. "And his mother?"

"I was surprised at his mother," Hugh replied with equal frankness. "She is Indian, of course, but without doubt a superior sort of Indian. For one thing she was clean and neatly dressed. She is very good-looking too, her voice is sweet, her manner quiet, and she certainly treated me kindly. She loves Blaise dearly, and,-I think-she really loved my father."

Once more Monsieur Dubois nodded, a light of pleasure in his dark eyes. "I asked," he said abruptly, "because, you see, she is my daughter."

"Your daughter? But she is an Indian!"

"Only half Indian, but no wonder you are surprised. I will explain."

Monsieur Dubois then told the wondering boy how, about thirty-eight years before, when he was still a young man, he had taken to the woods. It was in the period between the conquest of Canada by the English and the outbreak of the American Revolution, long before the formation of the Northwest Fur Company, when the fur traders in the Upper Lakes region were practically all French Canadians and free lances, each doing business for himself. In due time, René Dubois, like most of the others, had married an Indian girl. A daughter was born to them, a pretty baby who had found a very warm spot in the heart of her adventurous father. Before she was two years old, however, he lost her. He had left his wife and child at an Indian village near the south shore of Lake Superior, while he went on one of his trading trips. On his return he found the place deserted, the signs plain that it had been raided by some unfriendly band. There was no law in the Indian country, and in that period, shortly after the so-called French and Indian War, when the Algonquin Indians had sided with the French and the Iroquoian with the English, conditions were more than usually unstable. For years Dubois tried to trace his wife and daughter or learn their fate, but never succeeded.

"And now," he concluded, his voice again trembling with feeling, "you bring me proof that my daughter still lives, that she was the wife of my friend, and that in his son and hers I have a grandson and an heir." Monsieur Dubois took up the gold coin and handed it to Hugh. One face had been filed smooth and on it, cut with some crude tool, were the outlines of a coat-of-arms. "I did that myself," Dubois explained. "It is the arms of my family. When the child was born, I made that and hung it about her neck on a sinew cord."

"And Blaise's mother still had it?" exclaimed Hugh.

"No, she had lost it, but your father recovered it. Read the letter yourself." He handed Hugh the bark sheets.

It was an amazing letter. Jean Beaupré merely mentioned how he had found the Indian girl a captive among the Sioux, had bought her, taken her away and married her. No doubt he had told all this to Dubois before. Beaupré had not had the slightest suspicion that his wife was other than she believed herself to be, a full-blooded Ojibwa. She had been brought up by an Ojibwa couple, but in a Sioux raid her supposed father and mother had been killed and she had been captured. Nearly two years before the writing of the letter, Beaupré had happened to receive a gold coin for some service rendered an official of the Northwest Company. His wife had examined the coin with interest, and had said that she herself had once had one nearly like it, the same on one side, she said, but different on the other. She had always worn it on a cord around her neck, but when she was captured, a Sioux squaw had taken it from her. At first Beaupré thought that the thing she had possessed had been one of the little medals sometimes given by a priest to a baptized child, but she had insisted that one side of her medal had been like the coin. Then he remembered that his old comrade Dubois had told of the coin, bearing his coat-of-arms, worn by his baby daughter. Jean Beaupré said nothing of his suspicions to his wife, but he resolved to find out, if he could, whether she was really the daughter of René Dubois. On this quest, he twice visited the Sioux country west of the Mississippi. The autumn before the opening of this story, he learned of the whereabouts of the very band that had held his wife a captive. After sending, by an Indian messenger, a letter to Hugh at the Sault, asking the boy to wait there until his father joined him in the spring, Beaupré left at once for the interior. He was fortunate enough to find the Sioux band and the chief from whom he had bought the captive more than fifteen years before. The chief, judiciously bribed and threatened, had sought for the medal and had found it in the possession of a young girl who said her mother had given it to her. When Beaupré questioned the old squaw, she admitted that she had taken the coin from the neck of an Ojibwa captive years before. How the Ojibwa couple who had brought the girl up had come by her, Beaupré was unable to find out, but he had no doubt that she was really the daughter of René Dubois. He resolved to send the proof of his wife's parentage to Montreal by his elder son, if Hugh had really come to the Sault and had waited there. If Hugh was not there, the elder Beaupré would go to the city himself. It was plain that he had not received either of the letters Hugh had sent after him, nor had Hugh ever got the one his father had written him. Fearing that if any accident should happen to him, the coin and the story might never reach his old comrade, Beaupré had written down the tale and prepared the packet. Even in his dying condition he remembered it and told Blaise to go get it. Evidently, when he discovered he was in danger of falling into Ohrante's hands, he had feared to keep the packet with him, so had hidden it with the furs. If he escaped the giant, he could return for both furs and packet, but if the coin came into Ohrante's possession it would be lost forever. The letter, however, said nothing of all that. It had undoubtedly been written before Beaupré set out on his home journey.

With deep emotion Hugh deciphered the fine, faint writing on the bark sheets. He was glad from the bottom of his heart that he and Blaise had been able to recover the packet and deliver it to the man to whom it meant so much. If Hugh had had any dreams of some strange fortune coming to himself through the packet, he forgot them when Monsieur Dubois began to speak again.

"I shall go to the Kaministikwia at once, if I can find means of reaching there this autumn. At least I shall go as far as I can and finish the journey in the spring. Wherever my daughter and my grandson are, I will seek them out. I have no other heirs and Blaise, my grandson, shall take the place of a son. I will bring them back to Montreal, or, if that does not seem best, I will remain in the upper country with them. Whether my grandson chooses to live his life in civilization or in the wilderness, I can provide him with the means to make that life both successful and useful."

The elder brother's heart was glowing with happiness. He knew that his own mother's people would help him to a start in life, and now his younger brother, his half-breed,-no, quarter-breed-brother Blaise would have a chance too. Hugh had no doubt that Blaise Beaupré would make the most of his opportunities.

It only remains to say that when René Dubois saw the mother of Blaise, her resemblance to himself and to her own mother thoroughly convinced him that there had been no mistake. He more than fulfilled to both his daughter and his grandson the promises Hugh had heard him make.

THE END

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Their ship and companions perished in tempest at sea, the boys are adrift in a small open boat when they spy a ship. Such a strange vessel!-no hand guiding it, no soul on board,-a derelict

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Telling of a mutiny, and how two youngsters were unwillingly involved in one of the weirdest of treasure hunts,-and-"THE GOLDEN FETISH."

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The Canadian Northwest police has the reputation of always getting their man, and Sergeant Dick upholds the tradition in a story of great adventure.

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A sequel to Sergeant Dick, with the Carcajou proving his worth in a series of adventures that will hold the interest of any boy.

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Transcriber's Notes

Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text-this e-text is public domain in the country of publication.

Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and dialect unchanged.

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