CHAPTER II-PORT WINE DUFF AND PIGEON-BREAST
D uff Green was a round, insincere, self-seeking, suave, smooth, porpoise-body of a personage, small of eye, hair age-streaked, a port wine voice, wide mouth, and nose of friendly hue. He had come to town the year before, poor and modest, and bartered himself into possession of the Telegraph , a leading journal of the capital. He prospered, and prosperity had swollen him. Nor was he without some tincture of shrewdness; for he owned the wit in the late elections to support the General, and now would wax pompous and come forward because of it. I did not like him, holding him selfish and withal weak; besides, his affable complacency offended me.
The General would defend Duff Green, although I am sure he had his measure from the start. The General, retorting to my charge of selfishness and vanity, would say: "Of course, Duff's selfish; that's why I enjoy him. I like selfish folk; they are easy to understand, easy to start or stop. One has but to bait his trap with their interest and, presto! there they are in the morning caught sharp and fast for his use. And again, your selfish folk are content with much less than will suffice your disinterested folk who truly love you." This was one of the General's efforts at sarcasm, and delivered with the sly flicker of a smile.
"But the smug vanity of Duff Green!" I would urge. "I could wish you half so tremendous as he deems himself."
"Fie! Major, fie!" would be the reply; "vanity is the powder in the gun, the impulse that sends the bullet home. It is the sails of the ship and the reason of motion to that hull of merit which might make no voyage without. Vanity has won more battles than patriotism; wanting vanity, Caesar would have crossed no Rubicon, and Napoleon would have begun, not ended, with Waterloo."
This fashion of bicker fell often forth between the General and myself; indeed, we were in frequent disagreement, he being one who, while holding notions of his own wisdom, was withal much imposed against by pretences on the false parts of men whom I saw through as through a ladder; and so I told him.
"Ah! excellent evening, Mr. President! excellent evening, Major-ah!" exclaimed Duff Green, his friendly nose aflame, and port wine tones, satisfied and unctuous. Coming forward, he took first the General's hand and then mine. For all the warmth of his countenance, his hand had the cold feel of a fish, and I did not, myself, insist on its retention beyond the plain limits of politeness. "Excellent evening, Mr. President," he repeated, glowing the while, in anticipation doubtless of public printing to come.
"You are not hard to suit for your evening, Duff," returned the General, whose fault it was to be on terms too common with many unworthy of the honor. "Now, I call this the scandalous evening of a scandalous day. I say 'scandalous' because muddy," explained the General.
In the talk to follow it developed that the purpose of Duff Green's visit was no more noble than to just wring future patronage from the General. Especially did our caller have his watery eye on the governorship of Florida, a post, for its palms and orange groves and flowers and summer seas, and mayhap the social life of St. Augustine-aristocratic, and still on Spanish stilts-much quested; and the reason of a deal of court paid the General by rich ones who, having money, hungered for an opening to its display. Duff Green even suggested, tentatively, the name of a certain wealthy thick-skull. He said the notable in hand was a prime friend of Calhoun; that his selection would be held vastly a compliment-a flower to his nose, indeed!-by the Vice-President.
"Why, sir!" observed the General, whose familiarity diminished as the place-hunting eagerness of the worthy Duff Green began to gain expression; "why, sir, the man you tell of lacks brains. It cannot be;