Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 257

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Page 257

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription AFTERWORD 257
highly sensitive, sensible, and comic throughout. It is she who recognizes
that "Mike Baynam will make [Rose] the best husband in the world"; and
had her pretentious sister Widow Carter and the haughty niece heeded her,
they would have lived many happy years. When Mike brings the family a
fat buck and the Widow insists that she pay for it, Aunt Betsy fears that
Mike will be insulted if he overhears the harangue. Finally she ends the
interview, mumbling to herself, "What fools some women air, and partick-
ilarly them as has, besides the narves and the rheumatism, them two worser
ailments, the wanity of big ideas, and no meat in the meat-house, and
mighty little corn in the crib!"
Her constant wrangling with her sister, a woman of fine words and
few ideas, shows Betsy's homespun humor at its best. She displays little
difficulty in communication, in spite of her ignorance and scorn of
"redickalous fool talk . . . out of dictionary books." Her common sense
expresses itself in the delightful country idiom, such as "How we mounts
and flies, like the wing of a turkey buzzard." Although she is contemp-
tuous of airs and "wanities" and mocks her sister and the condescending
Mrs. Fairleigh, she is never bitter. In the realistic portrayal of Aunt Betsy
and the other rustics, Simms approaches his own best work.
Simms is generally accurate with the transcription of the mountain
dialect. While it may be possible that he was trying to distinguish between
the pronunciations of various characters and circumstances, it is more
likely that such spellings as "redickalous,""ridickilous," and "redickilous"
reveal a simple inconsistency in Simms's attempt at phonetic orthogra-
phy or in the various compositors' ability to read Simms's writing. He is
consistent in his distinction between the rustics and the other characters
in the book. The widows, Rose Carter, and the "nabobs" of Fairleigh Lodge
are pretentious in their language, while the simple hunters and farmers
and Aunt Betsy employ highly picturesque figures of speech, dialect pro-
nunications, and any number of "vulgar" terms like "pop the question"
and "argufying." Though "Mike could swear at times," the rustic hero is
correct, characterized by neither the country idiom, mispronunication,
nor incorrect grammar. Of course, this use of dialect cannot be divorced
from Simms's excellent depiction of the rustic personality.
Sam Fuller, brother-in-law of Mike Baynam, is a carefully trained
(though not a "born") hunter, "possess[ing] a certain dry vein of
humour." On one occasion he was accosted by the Widow Fairleigh near
her lands: "Look here, my good man! ... I will have no hunters tres-
passing upon my grounds, let me tell you! . . . I give you and your com-
rade warning, from this moment, if I find you trespassing, mark me, I'll