Your grandfather went to town one day and was late starting home. It was dark when he came riding his horse through the forest. It was so dark that he could hardly see the road and when he heard a panther scream he was frightened, because he had no gun.
The horse, with Grandfather on him, ran fast, because it was frightened, too. But it could not get away from the panther. The panther followed through the dark forest. It was a hungry panther and it ran as fast as the horse could run. It screamed now on this side of the road, now on the other side and it was always close behind him.
Grandfather urged the horse to run faster. The horse was running as fast as it possibly could and still the panther screamed close behind them.
Then Grandfather caught a glimpse of it, as it jumped from treetop to treetop, almost overhead.
It was a huge black panther, leaping through the air like Black Susan leaping on a mouse. It was many, many times bigger than Black Susan. It was so big that if it jumped on Grandfather it could kill him with its big, cutting claws and its long sharp teeth.
Grandfather, on his horse, was running away from it just as a mouse runs from a cat.
The panther did not scream any more. Grandfather did not see it any more. But he knew that it was coming, jumping after him in the dark forest behind him. The horse ran as fast as it could.
At last the horse ran up to Grandfather's house. Grandfather saw the panther jumping. Grandfather jumped off the horse. He ran through the door and closed it behind him. The panther landed on the horse's back, just where Grandfather had been.
The horse screamed with pain and ran. He was running away into the forest, with the panther riding on his back, ripping his back with its claws. But Grandfather grabbed his gun from the wall and got to the window, just in time to shoot the panther dead.
Grandfather said, "he would never again go into the forest without his gun."
When father told this story, Laura and Mary shivered and hugged closer to him. They were safe and comfortable on his knees, with his strong arms around them.
They liked to be there, before the warm fire, with Black Susan, the cat, purring beside the fire and the good dog Jack lying beside her. When they heard a wolf howl, Jack's head lifted and the hairs rose stiff along his back. But Laura and Mary listened to that lonely sound in the dark and the cold of the forest and they were not afraid.
They were safe and comfortable in their little wooden house, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat
Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter
Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night
Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book
Chapter 2 - Part 1: Winter Days and Winter Nights
Chapter 2 - Part 2: Jack Frost
Chapter 2 - Part 3: Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the Housework
Chapter 2 - Part 4: Churn on Thursday
Chapter 2 - Part 5: The Best Time of All
Chapter 2 - Part 6: Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and Sing
Chapter 2 - Part 7: Father Told Stories
Chapter 2 - Part 8 - The Story of Grandfather and the Panther
by John Larrysson
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.