“The Princess and the Puma” Summary: O Henry Plot Synopsis

“The Princess and the Puma” is a short story by O. Henry about a man who has a chance to save a woman he’s interested in from a puma attack. Here’s a summary of “The Princess and the Puma”.

“The Princess and the Puma” Summary

Ben O’Donnell is known as “the Cattle King” on account of his 50,000 acres of land and numerous cattle. His daughter, Josefa, is beautiful and bold. She’s a crack shot and rides her pony over their large domain.

Ripley Givens, foreman on one of the ranches, sees her and wants to marry her. Returning late from some business one day, he stops at the White Horse Crossing to spend the night. While relaxing against a tree, he hears the angry wail of a Mexican lion.

Needing water for coffee, Ripley heads for the waterhole. Josefa O’Donnell is there, having a drink. Ten yards away from her, partly hidden in the bush, is a puma poised to pounce. Ripley’s gun is back at the tree. He yells and throws himself in front of the beast.

Ripley hears two faint cracks and the puma flattens him under its hundred pounds. He crawls out from under the motionless animal. He’s got a mouthful of dirt and a big bump on his head.

Josefa reloads her .38 after the easy shots with a teasing smile on her face. Ripley blew his chance to be a hero, embarrassing himself instead. He brushes off his injuries.

The Princess and the Puma SummaryO Henry Plot Synopsis
“The Princess and the Puma” Summary

Ripley mourns the loss of the puma, “Bill”, a camp pet for two years. He tried to save “Bill” but couldn’t. Of course, Josefa isn’t to blame—she had no way of knowing the animal was only playing. He maintains a straight face while Josefa questions his story.

Bill was chased out of camp by a puppy that bothered him. Josefa’s demeanor changes and she apologizes for killing the animal. She appreciates that Ripley risked his life to save his beloved pet. She extends her hand and asks forgiveness for shooting the poor beast. Ripley says he’ll explain the situation to the boys.

It’s twilight, so Ripley rides with Josefa back to the ranch-house. She reaches out to him at one point and they hold hands. She’s glad he’s there because it would be frightening to meet a truly vicious puma.

Ben O’Donnell invites Ripley to stay the night but he declines, having an early cattle-run tomorrow.

Before bed, Josefa tells her father she shot the Mexican lion that had been terrorizing the area, the one that killed Gonzalez. She recognized it from the piece of missing ear that Gonzalez cut with his machete.

I hope this summary of “The Princess and the Puma” by O. Henry was helpful.