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The Golden Fleece, a romance   By: (1846-1934)

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A Romance

By Julian Hawthorne


The professor crossed one long, lean leg over the other, and punched down the ashes in his pipe bowl with the square tip of his middle finger. The thermometer on the shady veranda marked eighty seven degrees of heat, and nature wooed the soul to languor and revery; but nothing could abate the energy of this bony sage.

"They talk about their Atlantises, their submerged continents!" he exclaimed, with a sniff through his wide, hairy nostrils. "Why, Trednoke, do you realize that we are living literally at the bottom of a Mesozoic at any rate, Cenozoic sea?"

The gentleman thus indignantly addressed contemplated his questioner with the serenity of one conscious of freedom from geologic responsibility. He was a man of about the professor's age, say, sixty years, but not like him in appearance. His figure was stately and massive, that of one who in his youth must have possessed vast physical strength, rigidly developed and disciplined. Well set upon his broad shoulders was a noble head, crowned with gray, wavy hair; the eyes and eyebrows were black and powerful, but the expression was kindly and humorous. His moustache and the Roman convexity of his chin would have confirmed your conviction that he was a retired warrior; in which you would have been correct, for General Trednoke always appeared what he was, both outwardly and inwardly. His great frame, clad in white linen, was comfortably disposed in a Japanese straw arm chair; yet there was a soldierly poise in his attitude. He was smoking a large and excellent cigar; and a cup of coffee, with a tiny glass of cognac beside it, stood on a mahogany stand at his elbow.

"Do you remember, Meschines, the time I licked you at school?" he inquired, in a tone of pleasant reminiscence.

"I can't say I do. What's more, I venture to challenge your statement. And though you are a hundred pounds the better of me in weight, and a West Point graduate, I will wager my pipe (which is worth its weight in diamonds) against that old woollen shirt of Montezuma's that you showed me yesterday, that I can lick you to day, and forget all about it before bedtime!"

"Well, I guess you could," returned the general, with a little chuckle, "even if I hadn't that Mexican bullet in my leg. But you couldn't, forty five years ago, though you tried, and though I was a year younger than you, and weighed five pounds less. Come, now: you don't mean to say you've forgotten Susan Brown!"

"Oh ah hah! Susan Brown! Well, I declare! And what brought her into your head, I should like to know?"

"Why, after breaking your heart first, and then mine, I lost sight of her, and I don't think I have seen her since. But it appears she was married to a fellow named Parsloe."

"Don't fancy that name!" observed the professor, wagging his head and frowning. "Has a mean sound to it. But what of it?"

"Well, she died, rest her soul! and Parsloe too. But they had a daughter, and she survives them."

"And resembles her mother, eh? No, Trednoke, the time for that sort of thing has gone by with me. Susan might have had me, five and forty years ago; but I can't undertake to revive my passion for the benefit of Mrs. Parsloe's daughter. Besides, I'm too busy to think of marriage, and not not old enough!"

At this tour de force, the general laughed softly, and finished his coffee. An old Indian, somewhat remarkable in appearance, with shaggy white hair hanging down on his shoulders, stepped forward from the room where he had been waiting, and removed the cup.

"No letters yet, Kamaiakan?" asked the general, in Spanish.

"In a few minutes, general," the other replied. "Pablo has just come in sight over the hill. There were several errands."

"Muy buen! I was going to say, Meschines, her father and mother left the girl poor, and she, being, apparently, clever and energetic, took to "

"I know!" the professor interrupted. "They all do it, when they are clever and energetic, and that's the end of them! School teaching!"

"Not at all," returned General Trednoke... Continue reading book >>

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