Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Chapter Three: The Adventure of the Cavern in Whiteside Mountain >> Page 205

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription THE ADVENTURE OF THE CAVERN 205
The next day the "Cub" was gone again, saying nothing of his plans
or purposes.
It appears that he slept that night at the farmstead of old Stephen
Hoke, some twelve miles off, and near the noble "Whiteside" mountain,
beyond the beautiful Caroline Valley, a well-known and favorite summer
retreat for the low country gentry of the Carolinas.
It appears, further, that somehow the "Cub" had heard, or discovered,
that, at a great elevation, nearly at the top of the mountain, there was a
spacious cavern within it, which could only be reached by a narrow ledge
along one of the faces of the mountain, where it rises precipitously, a
sheer wall, a thousand or fifteen hundred feet above the valley.
This ledge formed a narrow pathway, almost its whole length, of little
more than four feet wide. None but the practiced hunter could traverse
this narrow ledge, and look down for a moment, without dizziness of that
insane sort of paroxysm which seizes upon the nerves of the timid, and
prompts the impulse to plunge headlong over the precipice. Even the
experienced mountaineer would find it prudent to step with caution as he
trod this path, and avoid casting his eyes over the awful gulf below.
But, with the sure and stealthy tread of the sleek-footed and subtle
beast whose token he bore, our "Cub of the Panther" had nerves of steel,
which no situation could shake, and a reckless courage which never lost
its head in moments of greatest emergency.
It was not, however, any simple feeling of curiosity, merely to try his
nerves along this ascent, or to explore the mysteries of this cavern; but he
had made the further discovery that this cavern was occupied by a great
she-bear, who, doubtless, harbored there a goodly brace of rough-coated
cubs. Shoot the bear, cut the throats of the cubs, and achieve the exploit
wholly by himself, was his ambitious desire. And to effect this, he kept
his secret.
He gained the foot of the mountain at an early hour one morning,
ascended the slope on one side, which permitted him to go on horseback
up to a certain height. Here, when he could use the horse no longer, he
explored the mountain on foot, rifle in hand, knife ready at his side, and
prepared for any chance encounter. At length, he discovered the obscure
entrance to that narrow ledge, leading along the precipice which con-
ducted to the cavern in which the bear was supposed to abide.
In this exploration, however, he had lost most of the day. The sun was
sloping rapidly to the west, and the work which he contemplated
required an early start. It was natural to suppose that, by this hour, the
bear had done feeding, and had returned back to her cubs.