15. The Ransom
In the glory of the following morning, sparkling and clear after the storm, with an
invigorating, briny tang in the air from the salt-ponds on the south of the island, a
curious scene was played on the beach of the Virgen Magra, at the foot of a ridge of
bleached dunes, beside the spread of sail from which Levasseur had improvised a tent.
Enthroned upon an empty cask sat the French filibuster to transact important business:
the business of making himself safe with the Governor of Tortuga.
A guard of honour of a half-dozen officers hung about him; five of them were rude
boucan-hunters, in stained jerkins and leather breeches; the sixth was Cahusac. Before
him, guarded by two half-naked negroes, stood young d'Ogeron, in frilled shirt and satin
small-clothes and fine shoes of Cordovan leather. He was stripped of doublet, and his
hands were tied behind him. The young gentleman's comely face was haggard. Near at
hand, and also under guard, but unpinioned, mademoiselle his sister sat hunched upon
a hillock of sand. She was very pale, and it was in vain that she sought to veil in a mask
of arrogance the fears by which she was assailed.
Levasseur addressed himself to M. d'Ogeron. He spoke at long length. In the end -
"I trust, monsieur," said he, with mock suavity, "that I have made myself quite clear. So
that there may be no misunderstandings, I will recapitulate. Your ransom is fixed at
twenty thousand pieces of eight, and you shall have liberty on parole to go to Tortuga to
collect it. In fact, I shall provide the means to convey you thither, and you shall have a
month in which to come and go. Meanwhile, your sister remains with me as a hostage.
Your father should not consider such a sum excessive as the price of his son's liberty
and to provide a dowry for his daughter. Indeed, if anything, I am too modest, pardi! M.
d'Ogeron is reputed a wealthy man."
M. d'Ogeron the younger raised his head and looked the Captain boldly in the face.
"I refuse - utterly and absolutely, do you understand? So do your worst, and be damned
for a filthy pirate without decency and without honour."
"But what words!" laughed Levasseur. "What heat and what foolishness! You have not
considered the alternative. When you do, you will not persist in your refusal. You will not
do that in any case. We have spurs for the reluctant. And I warn you against giving me
your parole under stress, and afterwards playing me false. I shall know how to find and
punish you. Meanwhile, remember your sister's honour is in pawn to me. Should you
forget to return with the dowry, you will not consider it unreasonable that I forget to