Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Chapter Nine: The Panther in Pursuit >> Page 154

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 154 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
snatches of the old ballad she suddenly breaks off with a shriek, and
bounds headlong forward with a fresh impulse.
She hears in the distance a cry like that of a child, suffering from pain,
and crying faintly in its sleep.
That sound fills her soul with horror. She recognizes it; she knows
it but too well.
It is the cry of the voracious cougar, the American panther!
And he is following on her footsteps, with that stealthy, cat-like
tread with that unerring, hound-like instinct with that terribly fero-
cious appetite, which, without the courage and audacity of the tiger, yet
possesses all his greedy thirst for blood.
Her cry echoes that of the beast, as she bounds away, running with
what speed she may command, and crying ever as she runs:
"Mike, oh! Mike Baynam! save me! save me!"
And so shrieking and praying, she speeds from sight up up the
narrow gorge, which kept her in the one, the right direction.
And now she is lost to our sight and, after a space, a long, dark fig-
ure might be seen creeping steadily along the track which she has taken
moving with cat-like tread, and nose to the ground, lifting his head at
intervals, snuffing the air, and sending forth, with each discovery, that
child-like cry, which, when the hound hears, he shivers in every limb,
though crouching beside the camp fire, and at the feet of the hunter, or
in the security of his own kennel.
But the beast slowly travels forward. There are no tracks in the snow
which he can see, and he gathers the scent from the air. But as he goes
with the course of the wind, he snuffs the wind without profit.
Still he has the instinct of the cat; is subtle, singularly cautious, even
to timidity, when not goaded by famine, and his progress in pursuit is
ever slow. But he, too, passes out of sight at length, and disappears in
the very direction in which the wretched girl has gone.
And the snow falls more and more heavily, as the night wanes; and
the atmosphere thickens; and the wan light from the moon, herself
unseen, wears a bluish ghastliness; while all sounds of man and beast
equally cease; and silence over-spreads the land as if it were the very pall
of death.
There beyond! Beyond, where we cannot see; where we hear no
sounds, and yet we know what trembling creature goes onward with a
shriek and cry; and we know what a savage terror follows in dread pur-
suit, her footsteps.