Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 265

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Page 265

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription AFTERWORD 265
Sweetzer, the third servant, is the housekeeper and treacherous con-
fidante of Widow Fairleigh, apparently responsible for keeping her fully
informed about all the other servants, including Rose Carter. It is this old
woman who discovers Rose's fake wedding ring and her pregnancy.
Sweetzer searches Rose's clothing while the poor girl sleeps, but she is
unable to find the fraudulent marriage certificate sewn into the skirt.
Sweetzer has more luck intercepting the mail boy, Bennie, with Rose's let-
ter to her supposed husband, young Edward Fairleigh. Upon this revela-
tion, Rose produces the certificate, which the Widow Fairleigh snatches
and destroys. That night Rose runs away and dies the next morning. To
the Widow's credit, she does send Tom and Boston, presumably two
slaves, into the night looking for Rose. No other servants appear in the
episodes set in 1847-1850.
In the postwar story several servants are mentioned, including
Gabriella's Irish maid. Yet only one servant is identified as being a Negro,
Fairleigh's "body servant, Jared," whose main duties consist of carrying
Fairleigh's "capacious valise, ... bountifully supplied with . . . an ample
store of mountain rye, and the inevitable peach and honey." He returns
to the Lodge for clothing and dressings after Fairleigh is wounded in the
thigh and, while on this errand, apprises "the household, high and low"
of Fairleigh's drunken mishap. This servant may hold some opinions dis-
approving of his employer's actions, but unlike Hector in The Yemassee
or Tom in Woodcraft he has no opportunity to say so.
The point here is that manual work is done by the plain characters
both before and after the war and was apparently valued by Simms. Yet
Simms was ambivalent about whether work should be done by educated
or upper-class characters, especially females. Certainly Simms had
known hard work all his life and in 1868 was attempting to perform sub-
sistence farming with only family members and a few hired freedmen
to do the labor. Yet the duties required of Rose by Widow Fairleigh are
chores inappropriate in the author's mind for a young woman of Rose's
education, accomplishments, and aspirations. In addition to musical
performance, duties include domestic services, such as reading aloud,
sewing, knitting, and "doing up of the muslins," and clerk's duties, such
as writing to tenants, bookkeeping, accounting, and "other business mat-
ters." Widow Fairleigh's thinking of Rose as a possession surely denotes
in Simms's scheme that Rose has become enslaved by her own and her
mother's vanity. Miss Hall is pitied by the narrator for having been made
"a slave" from which "bondage" she "escapes" through marriage. Those
who have slaves are depicted as overbearing and materialistic a far cry