Mother chose that propitious moment to announce, "Did you know our neighbors saw two panthers yesterday near our cottage?"
"Oh?" I whispered in alarm, not wishing to alert any wild beast lurking in the shadows of the bushes along the khud.
We hurried along in silence as fast as we dared, tracing the dim outline of the path with our eyes. Suddenly, we heard a noise ahead. Alarmed, we stopped cold. A dark figure shaped exactly like a panther poised just feet away, crouched for attack. Helplessly, we froze, not even breathing, as if that would somehow deliver us from our sure doom. We had not even a twig for defense.
After a long minute's silence, Mother bravely inched forward. "It's just a bush," she announced. Relieved, we proceeded a few feet forward. All at once a noise much like a panther licking its jaws emanated unmistakably from beyond the bush. It was coming toward us! Again, we stood paralyzed, our hearts pounding so hard, they ached. Now, only a few feet ahead, the huge animal lifted its head to eye us, measuring the distance of his target. Then the bell around its neck clanged...and the gentle cow let us pass uncontested. [From Marilyn]