14. Levasseur's Heroics
It would be somewhere about ten o'clock on the following morning, a full hour before the
time appointed for sailing, when a canoe brought up alongside La Foudre, and a half-
caste Indian stepped out of her and went up the ladder. He was clad in drawers of hairy,
untanned hide, and a red blanket served him for a cloak. He was the bearer of a folded
scrap of paper for Captain Levasseur.
The Captain unfolded the letter, sadly soiled and crumpled by contact with the half-
caste's person. Its contents may be roughly translated thus:
"My well-beloved - I am in the Dutch brig Jongvrouw, which is about to sail. Resolved to
separate us for ever, my cruel father is sending me to Europe in my brother's charge. I
implore you, come to my rescue. Deliver me, my well-beloved hero! - Your desolated
Madeleine, who loves you."
The well-beloved hero was moved to the soul of him by that passionate appeal. His
scowling glance swept the bay for the Dutch brig, which he knew had been due to sail
for Amsterdam with a cargo of hides and tobacco.
She was nowhere to be seen among the shipping in that narrow, rock-bound harbour.
He roared out the question in his mind.
In answer the half-caste pointed out beyond the frothing surf that marked the position of
the reef constituting one of the stronghold's main defences. Away beyond it, a mile or so
distant, a sail was standing out to sea. "There she go," he said.
"There!" The Frenchman gazed and stared, his face growing white. The man's wicked
temper awoke, and turned to vent itself upon the messenger. "And where have you
been that you come here only now with this? Answer me!"
The half-caste shrank terrified before his fury. His explanation, if he had one, was
paralyzed by fear. Levasseur took him by the throat, shook him twice, snarling the while,
then hurled him into the scuppers. The man's head struck the gunwale as he fell, and he
lay there, quite still, a trickle of blood issuing from his mouth.
Levasseur dashed one hand against the other, as if dusting them.
"Heave that muck overboard," he ordered some of those who stood idling in the waist.
"Then up anchor, and let us after the Dutchman."
"Steady, Captain. What's that?" There was a restraining hand upon his shoulder, and
the broad face of his lieutenant Cahusac, a burly, callous Breton scoundrel, was stolidly