Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Book Fourth / Chapter One: Twelve Years of the Life of ''The Cub'' >> Page 194

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 194 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
roused to passion by opposition, and possessed of a sharp and acrimo-
nious wit, which, at such times, was unscrupulously exercised. She had
also a fund of humor, was keenly alive to the ludicrous, and made her-
self merry at the expense of her rustic visitors, without caring to con-
ceal her contempt or scorn. She very soon made herself unpopular with
many of the old associates of the family, being usually at some pains to
expose and jest upon their provincialisms. She treated her mother-in-
law, the stately dowager, with just as little reverence as any of her guests,
and sharp quarrels followed, from which Fairleigh usually fled, leaving
the two women to fight it out as they might; or he took sides with his wife
against the mother; a course which usually drove the latter to the privacy
of her own chamber.
She, however, had still a power in reserve which effectually kept them
from banishing her to the garret as so much worn out furniture. She held
the purse-strings, and these were contracted or expanded, just in degree
as the young people exhibited deference or insubordination. Not that she
was at all liberal even in her expansions. With age had come increase of
avarice and cunning. Her two most distinguishing traits had given her
a capacity for resistance, which invariably secured her temporary ascen-
dancy after every several quarrel.
Age had told, in twelve years, very heavily upon the stately lady. We
doubt if conscience had anything to do with the premature decay which
had possessed her frame. Conscience is a thing of education wholly, and
we shape it precisely as we do our morals by training. We can make it
as tough and callous as that of the Seminole warrior, in whose death-
song you hear the howl of exultation over the scalps of mothers and
babes, as well as warriors, which hang from his cabin rafters. Vexing pas-
sions, peevish strifes, a perpetual defeat in the search after pleasure
to these, rather than any workings of conscience, we may ascribe that
palsied, withered frame, that gray hair, those sallow, hollow cheeks, the
caving in of the lips, with but a few snags of teeth within, mocking their
former uses at every summons to the table.
Scarcely less striking were the changes which twelve years had made
in the son. From being a graceful and slender youth at twenty, he had
grown pursy and inclining to corpulence at thirty-two. He had become
a voluptuary, a gross feeder, and habitual drinker. From his initiation,
upon "peach and honey," he had passed with rapid strides to the enjoy-
ment of heavy potations of "mountain dew," taken in puris naturalibus.
He sate long at the table with his friend Bulkley, and some other bon