In the story, a man named Jenner Brading proposes to his girlfriend Irene Marlowe. Irene refuses and, when pressed for the reason, tells Brading that she cannot marry because she is insane. She then tells him about the tragic incident which, she believes, caused her to be born possessed.
"The Eyes of the Panther" is said to have inspired the Val Lewton short story "The Bagheeta" which was later turned into the movie Cat People (1942). The story was loosely adapted as an episode of the American television anthology series Nightmare Classics in 1989. A short film adaptation by Michael Barton played in festivals in 2007.
A middle-aged attorney named Jenner Brading sits on a bench with a young woman named Irene Marlowe. Irene is graceful and has disquieting gray-green eyes. Irene swears she loves Brading, but she refuses to marry him. Brading has asked her for her hand many times, and she has always said no without telling him why. Brading is now determined to find out the reason for her refusal. He keeps pressing her until she finally breaks down. Irene says she cannot marry him because she is insane. She then tells him the following story to explain herself.
Irene's father, Charles Marlowe, was a pioneer woodsman in his younger days. He lived in a log house in the forest with his wife and their baby girl. One midsummer day, Charles went out hunting even though his wife begged him to stay because of a bad dream she had had the night before. He was late in returning, and his wife fell asleep waiting. When she woke from a nightmare, the room was dark. She lifted the sleeping baby out of the cot and into her arms then, as she stood, saw in the open window two bright eyes of a panther. The panther, standing outside on hind legs with front paws on the window ledge, was looking in threateningly. Terrified, the wife slowly crouched down on the floor holding the baby tight and shielding her from the beast. The panther kept its eyes on the prey, and the woman waited frozen in fear for what was to come. Charles returned late at night and, finding the door locked, went around to the window. He thought he heard something move away into the forest but saw nothing. He climbed through the open window into the dark house. He lit the candle and found his wife cowering on the floor. She broke into a strange, crazed laughter and handed him their baby. The poor child had been smothered to death.
Irene tells Brading that she was born three months later, and her mother died in childbirth. She is convinced that she was born possessed because of the tragic circumstances. Brading recalls a recent report in the local newspaper about a panther which has been going around looking in at windows and frightening the residents. He begins to suspect that Irene, who has a morbid imagination and a strange fear of the night, actually has a mental disorder and, having heard about the panther, has developed delusions about it. He begins to question her gently but Irene refuses to talk and runs away into the wood. As he watches her disappear into the darkness, Brading catches a glimpse of shining eyes. Thinking that the panther may be on the prowl, he runs after Irene. He does not find the panther but sees Irene's skirt disappear safely into the door of her father's house.
Some time later, Brading is awakened in the night by a noise at the open window of his bedroom which faces the forest. In the darkness, he grabs his revolver which he keeps under his pillow. He sees two gleaming eyes appear at the bottom of the window. As the eyes slowly rise, Brading raises the gun and fires. There is a high-pitched scream, and Brading leaps out of bed and runs outside. A few men come running to meet him. They search around the house and find a bloody trail leading away from the window into the wood.
After the men leave, Brading follows the trail with a lantern and his pistol in search of the wounded panther. He comes to a small opening in the wood where he finds his victim — not a panther but the body of Irene Marlowe.
- ↑ The other three episodes of the short-lived anthology series Nightmare Classics are based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson,