The Power of
Song by Nina Case
My Own Experience
Near the summit of a mountain in Pennsylvania is a small hamlet called
Honeyville, consisting of two log houses, two shanties, a rickety old barn,
and a small shed, surrounded by a few acres of cleared land. In one of
these houses lived a family of seven,?father, mother, three boys, and two
girls. They had recently moved from Michigan. The mother's health was poor,
and she longed to be out on the beautiful old mountain where she had spent
most of her childhood. Their household goods had arrived in Pennsylvania
just in time to be swept away by the great Johnstown flood of 1889.
The mother and her two little girls, Nina and Dot, were Christians, and
their voices were often lifted in praise to God as they sang from an old
hymn-book, one of their most cherished possessions.
One morning the mother sent Nina and Dot on an errand to their sister's
home three and one-half miles distant. The first two miles took them
through dense woods, while the rest of the way led past houses and through
small clearings. She charged them to start on their return home in time to
arrive before dark, as many wild beasts?bears, catamounts, and
occasionally a panther?were prowling around. These animals were hungry at
this time of the year; for they were getting ready to "hole up," or lie
down in some cozy cave or hole for their winter's nap.
The girls started off, merrily chasing each other along the way, and
arrived at their sister's in good time, and had a jolly romp with the baby.
After dinner the sister was so busy, and the children were so absorbed in
their play, that the time passed unheeded until the clock struck four. Then
the girls hurriedly started for home, in the hope that they might arrive
there before it grew very dark. The older sister watched until they
disappeared up the road, anxiously wishing some one was there to go with
Nina and Dot made good time until they entered the long stretch of woods,
when Nina said:?
"O, I know where there is such a large patch of wintergreen berries, right
by the road! Let's pick some for mama."
So they climbed over a few stones and logs, and, sure enough, the berries
were plentiful. They picked and talked, sometimes playing hide-and-seek
among the bushes. When they started on again, the sun was sinking low in
the west, and the trees were casting heavy shadows over the road, which
lengthened rapidly. When about half of the distance was covered, Dot began
to feel tired and afraid. Nina tried to cheer her, saying, "Over one more
long hill, and we shall be home." But now they could only see the sun
shining on the top of the trees on the hill.
They had often played trying to scare each other by one saying, "O, I see a
bear or a wolf up the road!" and pretending to be afraid. So Dot said:
"Let's scare each other. You try to scare me." Nina said, "All right."
Then, pointing up the road, she said, "O, look up the road by that black
stump! I see a?" She did not finish; for suddenly, from almost the very
spot where she had pointed, a large panther stepped out of the bushes,
turning his head first one way and then another. Then, as if seeing the
girls for the first time, he crouched down, and, crawling, sneaking along,
like a cat after a mouse, he moved toward them. The girls stopped and
looked at each other. Then Dot began to cry, and said, in a half-smothered
whisper, "O Nina, let's run!" But Nina thought of the long, dark, lonely
road behind, and knew that running was useless. Then, thinking of what she
had heard her father say about showing fear, she seized her little sister's
hand, and said: "No, let's pass it. God will help us." And she started up
the road toward the animal.
When the children moved, the panther stopped, and straightened himself up.
Then he crouched again, moving slowly, uneasily, toward them. When they had
nearly reached him, and Nina, who was nearest, saw his body almost rising
for the spring, there flashed through her mind the memory of hearing it
said that a wild beast would not attack any one who was singing. What
should she sing? In vain she tried to recall some song, but her mind seemed
a blank. In despair she looked up, and breathed a little prayer for help;
then, catching a glimpse of the last rays of the setting sun touching the
tops of the trees on the hill, she began the beautiful hymn,?
"There is sunlight on the hilltop,
There is sunlight on the sea."
Her sister joined in, and although their voices were faint and trembling at
first, by the time the children were opposite the panther, the words of the
song rang out sweet and clear on the evening air.
The panther stopped, and straightened himself to his height. His tail,
which had been lashing and switching, became quiet as he seemed to listen.
The girls passed on, hand in hand, never looking behind them. How sweet the
"O the sunlight! beautiful sunlight!
O the sunlight in the heart!"
sounded as they echoed and reechoed through the woods.
As the children neared the top of the hill, the rumbling of a wagon fell
upon their ears, so they knew that help was near, but still they sang. When
they gained the top, at the same time the wagon rattled up, for the first
time they turned and looked back, just in time to catch a last glimpse of
the panther as he disappeared into the woods.
The mother had looked often and anxiously down the road, and each time was
disappointed in not seeing the children coming. Finally she could wait no
longer, and started to meet them. When about half-way there, she heard the
"O the sunlight! beautiful sunlight!
O the sunlight in the heart!
Jesus' smile can banish sadness;
It is sunlight in the heart."
At first a happy smile of relief passed over her face; but it faded as she
listened. There was such an unearthly sweetness in the song, so strong and
clear, that it seemed like angels' music instead of her own little girls'.
The song ceased, and the children appeared over the hill. She saw their
white faces, and hurried toward them. When they saw her, how their little
feet flew! But it was some time before they could tell her what had
What a joyful season of worship they had that night, and what a meaning
that dear old hymn has had to them ever since!
A few days later, a party of organized hunters killed the panther that had
given the children such a fright. But the memory of that thrilling
experience will never fade from the mind of the writer, who was one of the
actors in it.