“Then suppose you call it two thousand?”
“It won’t do.”
“Then I suppose I must make up my mind to remain a prisoner.”
“Five thousand dollars wouldn’t be much to a rich man like Pettigrew. We have inquired, and found out that he is worth at least a hundred thousand dollars. Five thousand is only a twentieth part of this sum.”
“You can do as you please, but you had better ask a reasonable amount if you expect to get it.”
“We don’t want advice. We shall manage things in our own way.”
Convinced that further discussion would be unavailing, Rodney relapsed into silence, but now his captors proceeded to unfold their plans.
One of them procured a bottle of ink, some paper and a pen, and set them on the table.
“Come up here, boy, and write to Mr. Pettigrew,” he said in a tone of authority.
“What shall I write?”
“Tell him that you are a prisoner, and that you will not be released unless he pays five thousand dollars.”
“I don’t want to write that. It will be the same as asking him to pay it for me.”
“That is what we mean him to understand.”
“I won’t write it.”
Rodney knew his danger, but he looked resolutely into the eyes of the men who held his life in their hands. His voice did not waver, for he was a manly and courageous boy.
“The boy’s got grit!” said one of the men to the other.
“Yes, but it won’t save him. Boy, are you going to write what I told you?”
“Are you not afraid that we will kill you?”
“You have power to do it.”
“Don’t you want to live?”
“Yes. Life is sweet to a boy of sixteen.”
“Then why don’t you write?”
“Because I think it would be taking a mean advantage of Mr. Pettigrew.”
“You are a fool. Roderick, what shall we do with him?”
“Tell him simply to write that he is in our hands.”
“Well thought of. Boy, will you do that?”
Rodney gave his consent for he was anxious that Mr. Pettigrew should know what had prevented him from coming home when he was expected.
“Very well, write! You will know what to say.”
Rodney drew the paper to him, and wrote as follows:
On my way home I was stopped by two men who have confined me in a cave, and won’t let me go unless a sum of money is paid for my ransom. I don’t know what to do. You will know better than I. Rodney Ropes.
His chief captor took the note and read it aloud.
“That will do,” he said. “Now he will believe us when we say that you are in our hands.”
He signed to Rodney to rise from the table and took his place. Drawing a pile of paper to him, he penned the following note: