Chronicles of Clovis HTML version

Mrs. Packletide's Tiger
It was Mrs. Packletide's pleasure and intention that she should shoot a tiger. Not that the
lust to kill had suddenly descended on her, or that she felt that she would leave India safer
and more wholesome than she had found it, with one fraction less of wild beast per
million of inhabitants. The compelling motive for her sudden deviation towards the
footsteps of Nimrod was the fact that Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven
miles in an aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked of nothing else; only a personally
procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of Press photographs could successfully counter
that sort of thing. Mrs. Packletide had already arranged in her mind the lunch she would
give at her house in Curzon Street, ostensibly in Loona Bimberton's honour, with a tiger-
skin rug occupying most of the foreground and all of the conversation. She had also
already designed in her mind the tiger-claw brooch that she was going to give Loona
Bimberton on her next birthday. In a world that is supposed to be chiefly swayed by
hunger and by love Mrs. Packletide was an exception; her movements and motives were
largely governed by dislike of Loona Bimberton.
Circumstances proved propitious. Mrs. Packletide had offered a thousand rupees for the
opportunity of shooting a tiger without overmuch risk or exertion, and it so happened that
a neighbouring village could boast of being the favoured rendezvous of an animal of
respectable antecedents, which had been driven by the increasing infirmities of age to
abandon game-killing and confine its appetite to the smaller domestic animals. The
prospect of earning the thousand rupees had stimulated the sporting and commercial
instinct of the villagers; children were posted night and day on the outskirts of the local
jungle to head the tiger back in the unlikely event of his attempting to roam away to fresh
hunting-grounds, and the cheaper kinds of goats were left about with elaborate
carelessness to keep him satisfied with his present quarters. The one great anxiety was
lest he should die of old age before the date appointed for the memsahib's shoot. Mothers
carrying their babies home through the jungle after the day's work in the fields hushed
their singing lest they might curtail the restful sleep of the venerable herd-robber.
The great night duly arrived, moonlit and cloudless. A platform had been constructed in a
comfortable and conveniently placed tree, and thereon crouched Mrs. Packletide and her
paid companion, Miss Mebbin. A goat, gifted with a particularly persistent bleat, such as
even a partially deaf tiger might be reasonably expected to hear on a still night, was
tethered at the correct distance. With an accurately sighted rifle and a thumbnail pack of
patience cards the sportswoman awaited the coming of the quarry.
"I suppose we are in some danger?" said Miss Mebbin.
She was not actually nervous about the wild beast, but she had a morbid dread of
performing an atom more service than she had been paid for.