Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/16

This page has been validated.
10
THE GULF.

master of Tamaulipas, jealous and suspicious of every man on board. One personage, however, was too striking not to be singled out.

A tall athletic figure, with strongly marked features; a countenance roughened with the signs of long addiction to a life of passion and adventure; shabby travel-worn habiliments, and a slouched hat, under which he could, when occasion suited, throw his changeful features into shadows, indicated the bravo, soi disant Monsieur le Marquis de Maison Rouge, of the ancient and noble house of Maison Rouge de Perpignan. According to his own account, he had been born and bred in Louisiana, and had been cheated of some hundred thousand million acres of fat and fertile land in that state, his lawful patrimony. He had been compelled by a stern and uncivil guardian to study civil engineering, and, according to his own testimony, with considerable success. Subsequently he had been taken prisoner by the English, when acting as sentinel in the marshes, at the time of the attack upon New Orleans. Whether his brain or his morals had become unsettled by a knock on the head from the butt end of a musket, which he had received on this occasion, and had not yet digested, I cannot say; but it was evident that he had never acted like a man of education, breeding, or noble birth since. He had adopted the creed of Sardanapalus; and at New Orleans, in the Attakapas, at the Havanna, in the islands, and on the main, had led, for years, a shameless life of sin and crime. As he acquired gold, he spent it in brawls and violence. His person bore the marks of the cutting and stabbing frays in which he had often been an actor, and not unfrequently a victim. Now, penniless, he was going to Mexico, to make his fortune in some wild speculation, in reference to which he could point out neither the means by which it was to be set on foot, nor the ultimate ends which were to be gained. When not excited, he was good tempered, and his voice was one of the most musical I ever heard. When conversing, which he did at times most agreeably and well, you could hardly believe that those bland tones were the production of such a stormy