It was the summer of 1897, and there was trouble in the Tarwater family. Grandfather Tarwater,* after remaining properly subdued and crushed for a quiet decade, had broken out again. This time it was the Klondike fever. His first and one unvarying symptom of such attacks was song. One Chant only he raised, though he remembered no more than the first stanza and but three lines of that. And the family knew his feet were itching and his brain was tingling with the old madness, when he lifted his hoarse-cracked voice, now falsetto-cracked, in:
Like Argus* of the ancient times,
We leave this modem Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
To shear the Golden Fleece.
Ten years earlier he had lifted the chant, sung to the air of the 'Doxology,' when afflicted with the fever to go goldmining in Patagonia.* The multitudinous family had sat upon him, but had had a hard time doing it. When all else had failed to shake his resolution, they had applied lawyers to him, with the threat of getting out guardianship papers and of confining him in the state asylum for the insane--which was reasonable for a man who had, a quarter of a century before, speculated away all but ten meager acres of a California principality, and who had displayed no better business acumen ever since.
The application of lawyers to John Tarwater was like the application of a mustard plaster. For, in his judgment, they were the gentry, more than any other, who had skinned him out of the broad Tarwater acres. So, at the time of his Patagonian fever, the very thought of so drastic a remedy was sufficient to cure him. He quickly demonstrated he was not crazy by shaking the fever from him and agreeing not to go to Patagonia.