Laura was listening to her father and her mother and Aunt Eliza and Uncle Peter talking about their big dog, Prince. Aunt Eliza went to get water, but her dog Prince bit the back of her nice blue dress. He ripped a hole in the dress and Aunt Eliza was so scared that she ran back to the house.
“Had he gone mad?” asked her mother.
“That's what I thought,” Aunt Eliza said. “I didn't know what to do. There I was, shut up in the house with the children and not daring to go out. We didn't have any water. I couldn't even get any snow to melt. Every time I opened the door a little, Prince acted like he would tear me to pieces.”
“How long did this go on?” her father asked.
“All day, until late in the afternoon,” Aunt Eliza said. “Peter had taken the gun, or I would have shot him.”
“Along late in the afternoon,” Uncle Peter said, “he got quiet and lay down in front of the door. Eliza thought he was asleep and she made up her mind to try to slip past him and get to the spring for some water.”
“So she opened the door very quietly, but of course he woke up right away. When he saw she had the water pail in her hand, he got up and walked ahead of her to the spring, just the same as usual. And there, all around the spring in the snow, were the fresh footprints of a huge wild cat, a panther.”
“The footprints were as big as my hand,” said Aunt Eliza.
“Yes,” Uncle Peter said, “he was big. His footprints were the biggest I have ever seen. He would have eaten Eliza, if Prince had let her go to the spring in the morning. I saw the footprints. He had been lying up in that big oak tree over the spring, waiting for some animal to come there for water. Undoubtedly he would have dropped down on her. Night was coming on, when she saw the footprints and she didn't waste any time getting back to the house with her pail of water. Prince followed close behind her, looking back to the river now and then.”
“I took him into the house with me,” Aunt Eliza said, “and we all stayed inside, until Peter came home. Now I understood not to be worried about my blue dress. This was really the story of Prince and the panther.”
“Did you get the panther?” her father asked Uncle Peter.
“No,” Uncle Peter said. “I took my gun and hunted all around the place, but I couldn't find him. I saw some more of his footprints. He'd gone on north, farther into the forest.”
Alice and Ella and Mary were all awake now. Laura put her head under the covers and whispered to Alice, “Weren’t you scared?”
Alice whispered back that she was scared, but Ella was more scared. And Ella whispered that she wasn’t scared at all.
“Well, anyway, you made more fuss about being thirsty,” Alice whispered.
The children lay there whispering about the dog Prince and the big panther until her mother said, “Charles, those children will never get to sleep unless you play for them.” So her father got out his fiddle to play music.
The room was still and warm and full of firelight. Mother's shadow, Aunt Eliza's and Uncle Peter's were big and moving on the walls in the firelight. Her father played songs on his fiddle. It sang songs like Money Musk, The Red Heifer, The Devil's Dream, and Arkansas Traveler. And Laura went to sleep while her father and the fiddle were both softly singing:
“My darling Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,
And I'll never see my darling anymore.”
Songs on Youtube:
The Devil's Dream
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 3: Venison
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 8: Winter
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
Chapter 3 - Part 1: Introduction (The Long Rifle)
Chapter 3 - Part 2: Making Bullets
Chapter 3 - Part 3: Cleaning the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 4: Loading the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 5: Where and Why to Keep a Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 6: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 1
Chapter 3 - Part 7: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 2
Chapter 4 - Part 1: Christmas in the Forest
Chapter 4 - Part 2: Making a Gift for his Wife
Chapter 4 - Part 3: Christmas is Coming
Chapter 4 - Part 4: Children Make Pictures in the Snow
Chapter 4 - Part 5: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 1 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 6: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 2 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 7: Prince & the Blue Dress (part 3 of 3)
Chapter 4 - Part 8: Christmas Morning
Chapter 4 - Part 9: Santa Claus Only Gives Presents to Children
Chapter 4 - Part 10: Breakfast, Dinner and Goodbye
by John Larrysson
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.
NOTE: This summer story will be published every Wednesday.
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