Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Chapter Nine: The Panther in Pursuit >> Page 153

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Page 153

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription THE PANTHER IN PURSUIT 153
going home to her mother; but if this had been her purpose, she lost her
way very soon, or was diverted from it by some caprice of mood, so nat-
ural to a temporary derangement of intellect. At first, she seems to have
pursued the route towards the farm-house of Mrs. Childs Miss Hall that
was but here she turned aside, and actually, whether consciously or not,
proceeded up the very heights, and along the very track taken some two
hours before by our two hunters.
She probably thought, if she might be supposed to think at all, that
it was more easy to reach the Lodge of Mattie Fuller, being three miles
nearer than that of her mother.
But why did she not seek shelter in the cabin of Mrs. Childs? It is just
possible that, having treated this lady with scorn in the day of her tri-
umph, her pride would not permit her to seek refuge in her dwelling. But
did she think of her pathway, with all that agony working in her soul?
It is doubtful.
What influence governed her movements, must for ever remain a
matter of mere conjecture. That she should take the route leading to the
house of Michael Baynam, may have been due to some one of these
unerring instincts of the heart, which prompt it rightly, though all the
brain be wild and erring "like sweet bells jangled, harsh and out of
tune.
She, no doubt, entertained a faith in the truth, honesty, and manhood
of Michael Baynam, which, however her affections may have wandered,
was never once shaken.
Enough that she took the path pursued by our hunters, and leading
up the long mountain slopes almost directly to their cottage.
For a long stretch she plied her way steadily forward. We have seen
that her beauty and grace did not impair the vigor of her frame, which
had been seasoned well by the bracing airs and the free exercise of moun-
tain life. But her situation was unfavorable to any long strain upon the
muscles, and the tradition extant among the mountaineers, described
her as falling down in several places, and occasionally, as she recovered,
staggering somewhat out of her path. That she frequently murmured her
sorrows, as she went, is also the tradition.
"How shall I dare to look upon my mother? Oh, God! it will kill me
when her eyes are fastened on me!"
Such is the chief burden of the mountain ballad.
And thus moaning, and sometimes, it is said, singing incoherently,
she sped along, though, at every step, she was more than ancle deep in
snow. And as she broods, yet goes, moans, yet sings, in short, broken