Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 264

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Page 264

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 264 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
reflected in the servants. For the first time, Simms finds black slaves
"politically incorrect" and is unwilling to give them speaking parts.
Instead, in the postbellum novel, Simms features only white females as
servants, depicting them as exploited, yet fully capable in some cases of
being mean-spirited exploiters themselves.
In spite of some comfort and much pretension in the antebellum
Rosedale Cottage, Aunt Betsy apparently does, or at least supervises, all
the work there: the narrator says she is "the housekeeper, who looked to
the kitchen, the house cleaning, the meat curing, the sausage making; in
brief, to all the drudgery of farm and cottage." The Carter family is assisted
in 1847 by a young share-farmer named Jupe, a black woman who is cook
and washerwoman, and a twelve-year-old black girl. Nothing more is said
of them. In contrast, Widow Fairleigh boasts that she owns "twenty thou-
sand acres of the best lands in North Carolina, two hundred slaves, seven
hundred head of cattle, and all things of the plantation," and she rides
in a carriage with a driver. Still, she needs Rose to entertain her by read-
ing, singing, and playing the piano, a role with duties never before
required of a white woman in a Simms novel.
When Widow Fairleigh attempts to secure an unpaid traveling com-
panion, she suggests that she will "pay all expenses of Rose ... [and] a lib-
eral allowance —a salary." Rose's mother declares, however, that she "can
take no salary, . . . only another name for wages!" Widow Fairleigh pro-
claims that her use of the word "salary" was "a mere inadvertence." Thus,
the greed and mean spirit of the Widow Fairleigh and the vanity and
conceit of the Widow Carter conspire to make a virtual slave of Rose
Carter, leading to her betrayal and death. The narrator states, in fact, that
the Widow Fairleigh "contemplated the acquisition of a servant," and
Simms is no doubt being ironic when the narrator refers to Rose as an
"inmate of Fairleigh Lodge."
Rose's predecessor, Miss Hall, had been companion to the Widow
Fairleigh for five years prior to 1847, and the Widow had, to quote the
narrator, "made the poor girl a slave; giving her small compensation and
exacting all manner of service, which left her but little repose or leisure.
From this bondage Miss Hall was about to escape. She was about to
marry." When the Widow Carter insists that "Rose Carter can take no
salary ... [ s ] he is no hireling, no servant, no housekeeper, no governess,"
she is giving not selling her child into slavery. Simms did not do this
inadvertently: He was completely aware of his point that the hireling was
nothing more than a wage slave, and one of the points he drove home
was that bad mistresses oppress slaves and companions alike.