Fortunately my feet were a little in advance of my crutches, and while I looked and talked, holding my body motionless, I was planting my crutches and throwing my weight on my well foot. I heard the girl coming out of the house and knew the time had come. With all my strength I swung myself backward as he made the leap. His hot breath rushed into my face, his fiery eyes glared close to mine, but his chain was too short. Then I knew I had no mission for taming panthers. From the first I had feared that he would kill some child, and it was impossible to prevent them trooping to see him. After my own narrow escape I protested so strongly against keeping him, that my husband consented to sell him to a menagerie; but those which came were supplied with panthers, and, although he was a splendid specimen, full nine feet long, no sale was found for him.
That adventure supplied memory with a picture, which for long years breathed and never was absent. If it was not before me it was in some corner, and I knew Tom was crouched to spring on me; his fiery eyes glared, the tip of his tail wagged, and he was waiting, only waiting for me to move. Often when I woke at night, he was on my bed or in a corner of the room. He was hidden in fence corners and behind bushes on the roadside, and Mary’s little lamb was never half so faithful as my phantom panther.
My husband could not understand the fear I felt, nor realize the danger of keeping him. He enjoyed his own mastery over him, and with a box on the side of the head he made Tom whine and crouch like a spaniel. I have often wondered that in all the accounts I have ever read of lights with wild animals, no one ever planted a good fist-blow under the ear of his four-legged antagonist, and so stretch it out stiff to await his leisure in disposing of it.
WILLOWS BY THE WATER-COURSES.—AGE, 27.
Pennsylvania customs made it unmanly for a man or boy to aid any woman, even mother or wife, in any hard work with which farms abounded at that time. Dairy work, candle and sausage making were done by women, and any innovation was met with sneers. I stubbornly refused to yield altogether to a time-honored code, which required women to perform outdoor drudgery, often while men sat in the house, and soon had the sympathy of our own boys; for it was often impossible to obtain any domestic help, though Pittsburg “charitable” people supported hundreds of women in idleness who might have had homes and wages in farmhouses.
Much of the natural beauty of Swissvale had been destroyed by pioneer improvements, which I sought in some degree to replace. I loved the woods, and with my little grubbing-hoe transplanted many wild and beautiful things. This my mother-in-law did not approve, as her love for the beautiful was satisfied by a flower border in the garden. One day she said: