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J H Ingraham
Lafitte The Pirate of the Gulf

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"A chief on land-an outlaw on the deep." "He left a Corsair's name to other times, Link'd with one virtue and a thousand crimes." Byron.



<p>PREFACE.</p><br />

The leading incidents upon which the present work is founded, are chiefly historical.


With the pages of history, however, we have had to do, only so far as they could be made subservient to our tale, which does not profess to be, exclusively a tale, or history, of the times to which it is referred, but of an individual in some degree connected with them.


Nor with the faithfulness of a biographer, have we portrayed the life of the personage whom we have taken for our hero. We have woven for our purpose a web of fact and fiction, unsolicitous to dye each thread with its own peculiar hue, to enable the curious reader thereby, the more readily to say which is which. But if he chooses to draw out either thread, to inspect it by itself, thinking thereby to judge better of the texture of the whole, we have only to say-the web is his own; and, that if his humour prompt him to break up the watch, the pieces may perhaps reward his curiosity, if they do not demonstrate his wisdom.


New-York, June, 1836.


- Blank Page. ]


BOOK I. BOYHOOD.


Childe Harold was he hight:-but whence his name And lineage long, it suits me not to say; Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame, And had been glorious in another day: But one sad losel soils a name for aye, However mighty in the olden time; Nor all that heralds rake from coffin'd clay, Nor florid prose, nor honied lines of rhyme, Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime. Oh, Love! what is it in this world of ours Which makes it fatal to be loved! The Childe departed from his father's halls. Byron.



<p>CHAPTER I.</p><br />

"Fame sometimes gives her votaries visions of their future destiny, while yet in early life. There is then a sort of sympathy created between their youthful aspirations and coming deeds-a reflection of the future upon the present."


-Edgworth.


AN EXILE'S HOME-RIVER SCENERY-AMBITIOUS MUSINGS.


In a secluded and richly-wooded amphitheatre, formed by a crescent of green-clad hills, among which the romantic Kennebeck wanders to the ocean, there stood, until within a recent period, the ruins of a stately mansion. Its blackened walls were enamelled with dark-green velvet moss, and mantled with creeping vines, as if Nature, with a gentle hand, had striven to conceal the devastations of ruthless Time.


Huge chimneys, terminating in fantastic turrets, heavy cornices, deep mouldings and panel-work, combined with the costly and elaborate architecture of the whole venerable structure, indicated a relic of that substantial age immediately subsequent to the revolutionary war:-an age, although then in its decline, as eminently characterised by moral and physical stability as the present by their opposites. That, was an age of iron-this, of tinsel.


At the period with which our tale is more intimately connected, the handsome edifice of which these melancholy ruins were both the monument and mausoleum, reared its lofty walls amid a grove of oaks, whose hoary bodies, and the majestic spread of their gnarled and giant limbs, while they told of their great age-numbered by centuries, not years-bore testimony to the dignity and grandeur of the primeval forest, of which they were alone the representatives. Here and there, among these sylvan patriarchs, glistened the silvery trunk of the classic beech, intermingled with the dark cone of the gloomy pine, and the tall, spiral poplar, swaying its graceful head in the breeze.


Beneath the thickly interlaced branches of these trees, and sloping gently to the pebbly shore of the river, lay, out-rolled, a lawn of the thickest verdure. Its green and quiet beauty was relieved and enlivened by half a score of ruminating, well-conditioned cows, standing or reclining in those luxurious attitudes indicative of comfort and repose, and a small flock of long-fleeced sheep, of a rare and valued breed, was dispersed in picturesque groups under the more venerable trees. A gracefully formed jennet, conjuring up visions of lovely woman, in velvet hat, nodding plumes and generous robes sweeping the earth, which the spirited animal beneath her disdains with his delicate hoofs-a beautiful, slender-limbed saddle-horse-and a brace of coal black ponies, with long tails and flowing manes, which are at once associated with boys and holidays-stood together in a social group beside a small but romantic lake in the midst of the wood. They were mutually reclining their heads upon one another's necks, each manifesting his sportive feelings, by occasionally fixing his large white teeth into the glossy hide of his neighbour.


This pellucid sheet of water was spanned by a fantastic bridge of tressel-work, suspended with the lightness of a spider's web, from one green bank to the other. It connected a broad gravelled avenue, which, commencing at the river, wound among the trees, yielding to the natural undulations of the grounds, and terminated at a spacious flight of steps leading to the piazza of the mansion, the two fronts of which were ornamented by a light colonnade of eight slender Ionic columns. Tall windows-hung with rich curtains of orange-coloured damask and snowy muslin, costly with deep broideries of oak leaves, large as the life, and curiously wrought with silken floss, in their autumn hues of green and yellow-extended quite to the floor of the piazza, and, defended by venetian blinds, served as the only entrances to the interior, from the front.


The house faced to the west, and commanded an extensive prospect of the river, sweeping boldly around the peninsula upon which it was situated, and forming at the distance of half a mile, and directly in front, a noble bend, remarkable for the extreme beauty of its curvature. Beyond, ascending to the horizon, as they retreated from the eye, spread cultivated farms, studded with low, black, farm-houses and huge barns; more remotely, dense black forests blended with the bases of a chain of low, blue mountains, known as the Monmouth hills, which, while they confined the prospect, constituted a magnificent back-ground to the picture.


At the north and south, the view was shut in by alternately cultivated or thickly-wooded hills and rocky eminences, retreating on either hand from the river in a semicircular from, to a little less than a mile in the rear, and enclosing the dwelling and grounds in a spacious vale or glen, which, also embraced on the western side by the curve of the river, presented an area nearly circular in its shape.


Political events in sunny France,-that great political index of this revolutionizing age-in which the proprietor of this lovely domain bore no ordinary share, compelled him to seek a land where he could cherish his liberal principles with safety, and educate his twin-sons to act their part honourably and with distinction on the theatre of life. And where should the expatriated old soldier bend his footsteps but to the shores of America? Daughter of Europe! Yet she opens her arms to receive her exiled children, with the affection of a young mother. Noble and glorious land! the errors of the old world shall be redeemed in thee-and, although the continents of the east have been enrolled, century after century, upon the scroll of history, yet their history is ended-thine only begun; and dark and guilty as are ITS pages, shall THINE be bright and pure!


Orphans from their birth, his sons never knew their mother. The hour which ushered them into existence ushered her spirit into heaven. Strangers to maternal love, and educated, since the exile of their stern parent, in almost monastic seclusion, they early attained an uncommon maturity of mind and firmness of character, combined with manly sentiments and a habit of thinking independently, early taught them by their father's example, and inculcated, cultivated, and wrought out to maturity by him, with untiring assiduity.


Their fifteenth birth-day arrived, and although in yearsthey numbered equally, both in mind, and person, and habits, they were wholly dissimilar. Achille, the eldest of the twins, had attained dignity of mind and manly beauty of person, far in advance of his years. Tall and finely proportioned, he was the youthful image of his noble father. Proud, aspiring and ambitious, with a spirit that spurned severity, but yielded to gentleness, he acted from impulse rather than from reflection or a sense of duty, while a mine of passions, never yet sprung, existed like a slumbering volcano in his bosom. It required but a spark to produce a conflagration that should feed upon and torture him like another Prometheus, or burn on, extinguishable only with life.


That spark was at length elicited by his brother, an amiable boy of a gentler nature, retiring in his habits, mild and quiet in disposition. The reverse of Achille, he was apparently as meek as his brother was spirited. The former resembled his father; but Henri represented his mother and all her gentler virtues. Not only did he represent the excellences of her heart and mind, but her lovely image was revived in his beautiful countenance; and, as year after year unfolded in his youthful face the more striking and perfect resemblance his graceful features bore to those of his deceased mother, the father recognized the features of the fair girl who had won his early affections, and whom, during the few short months he had owned her as a bride, he had worshipped with religious devotion.


Notwithstanding the contrarieties of character exhibited by the brothers, they grew up together, mutually interchanging all those amiable kindnesses which are the offspring of fraternal affection. Achille was the stronger, physically and intellectually, and unconsciously to the subject, exerted that wonderful influence over Henri which mind often asserts over mind. He was his guide in his studies, his leader in sports, his enticer into dangers, and his assistant in the thousand petty difficulties of childhood. He loved him with a sincere and devoted attachment, fervently reciprocated by his warm-hearted and unsophisticated brother. But their mutual affection was the principle which unites the vine and the oak. His brother's love was to Henri sufficient happiness, the stay of his clinging affections; and on the other hand, his kind and endearing attachment, by drawing out the kindlier feelings of his brother's sterner nature, rendered him better and happier.


The morning which ushered in their fifteenth birth-day was bright and cloudless-a more beautiful never dawned upon the earth. Could the tempter have chosen such a day to enter paradise? Yet on this day his presence was first felt in their peaceful home.


Achille was standing in the south window of his father's library, which opened upon the piazza, his person half-concealed by the rich drapery, gazing out upon the limpid river as it glided silently past, bearing upon its waveless bosom the single-masted sloop with its huge mainsail, the more graceful and bird-like schooner, her white canvass extended on either side like wings, the lofty, square-rigged merchantman, and swan-like sail-boat; their sails flashing back the morning sun, or changing to a dark hue as they moved in the black shadows thrown from overhanging cliffs.


The green meadows beyond the river, sprinkled with flocks, faded into the blue haze which floated around the distant hills. The air was alive with melody from a myriad of glad birds, climbing the rosy skies, and emulating the poised lark thrilling forth his matin-song to the rising sun. There was a charm of beauty, peace and rural happiness thrown over nature. Her works breathed inspiration, and spoke that morning in the sweetest accents to his heart. But he heeded not her language. A voice, softer-toned and more eloquent pleaded to his soul. It was the voice of ambition. Of boyish ambition it is true, but still ambition in her loftiest mood. In years but a boy, the sterner spirit of a man dwelt in the swelling bosom of the youthful aspirant. Visions of the unveiled future, wherein appeared pageants of conquering armies, thrones, and scenes of vast dominion flcated before his youthful imagination; and in the leader of the armies, the occupant of the thrones, the controller of empires, he recognized HIMSELF!



<p>CHAPTER II.</p><br />

"The love or hatred of brothers and sisters, is more intense than the love or hatred existing between any other persons of the same sexes. Probably, nothing so frequently causes divisions between those whom nature has blessed with the holy relationship of brother and sister, perhaps that it may be the depository of pure affection, as an unequal distribution of the affection of parents."


-H. More.


AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN FATHER AND SON-A CATASTROPHE-REMORSE.


"Achille!"


The young aspirant started from the contemplation of scenes of triumph and empire, carnage and blood-the last too soon to be realized-and beheld his father standing by his side, who had entered the library and approached him unperceived. Seating himself in the recess of the window he motioned his son to a chair, placed opposite to his own. The bearing of the veteran exile, was at all times in the highest degree dignified and imposing. His was the brow, eye, and presence to command respect and receive homage.


The affection of Achille towards his father was not unmingled with sentiments of fear. But he was the only being before whom the proud eye of the boy quailed!


That his father loved him he had never doubted. He knew that he was proud of him, "his noble, fearless boy," as he would term him, while parting the dark clustering locks from his handsome forehead, after he had performed some daring feat of boyhood. But when he spoke to Henri, the gratified and proud expression of his eye softened under the influence of a milder feeling, and his smile would fade into a sweet but melancholy expression; nor would Achille have exchanged his inspiring language to him, "his daring boy!" for the kind tone, and manner he involuntarily assumed when he would say, "Henri, my beloved child, come and amuse me with your prattle!"-nor would the tearful eye, as he gazed down into the upturned face of the amiable boy, have pleased his wild spirit like the enkindling glance of that admiring eye, when turned upon him in paternal pride. Achille translated his glance of pride into an expression of love, and sympathized with one so evidently regarded with an air of sorrow, if not pity, as his brother. If he gave the subject a moment's reflection it resulted in the flattering conviction that he himself was the favourite son.


But on the morning which introduces him to our notice, he had to learn too painfully, that Henri was the favourite child of the old soldier's affection, and that so far from loving him but a little less, he loved him not. That look of affection which he had translated as an expression of compassion for the gentler nature of his brother, he had to learn was an expression of the intensest parental affection. In his brother, his father worshiped the image of his departed wife, and all his affection for her, which the cold hand of death had withered in its beauty and bloom, was renewed in his beloved Henri. He was doubly loved-for his mother and for himself- and there remained for Achille, so the sensitive and high spirited boy learned that day,-no place in the affections of his sole surviving parent.


His father being seated, addressed him:


"Achille, you are now of an age to enter the university, for admission to which the nature and extent of your studies eminently qualify you. In a few days the annual examination of candidates will take place, and in the interval you can select and arrange a library for your room, and collect what other conveniences you may require. You will leave in the first packet that passes down the river."


This was a delightful announcement to the subject of it, and not wholly unexpected. To the university, that world in miniature, he had long looked forward with pleasurable anticipations. It was a field of action, at least, and he panted to enter upon it.


The two brothers had both prepared for admission into the same class, and he inquired if Henri was to accompany him.


"He is not," replied the father, coldly and firmly.


"He is certainly prepared, sir!"


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