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 broach 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 over-much 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 thumb-nail
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.
``Nonsense,'' said Mrs. Packletide; ``it's a very old tiger. It couldn't
spring up here even if it wanted to.''
``If it's an old tiger I think you ought to get it cheaper. A thousand
rupees is a lot of money.''
Louisa Mebbin adopted a protective elder-sister attitude towards money
in general, irrespective of nationality or denomination. Her energetic
intervention had saved many a rouble from dissipating itself in tips in
some Moscow hotel, and francs and centimes clung to her instinctively under
circumstances which would have driven them headlong from less sympathetic
hands. Her speculations as to the market depreciation of tiger remnants
were cut short by the appearance on the scene of the animal itself. As
soon as it caught sight of the tethered goat it lay flat on the earth,
seemingly less from a desire to take advantage of all available cover than
for the purpose of snatching a short rest before commencing the grand attack.
``I believe it's ill,'' said Louisa Mebbin, loudly in Hindustani, for
the benefit of the village headman, who was in ambush in a neighbouring
``Hush!'' said Mrs. Packletide, and at that moment the tiger commenced
ambling towards his victim.
``Now, now!'' urged Miss Mebbin with some excitement; ``if he doesn't
touch the goat we needn't pay for it.'' (The bait was an extra.)
The rifle flashed out with a loud report, and the great tawny beast
sprang to one side and then rolled over in the stillness of death. In a
moment a crowd of excited natives had swarmed on to the scene, and their
shouting speedily carried the glad news to the village, where a thumping
of tom-toms took up the chorus of triumph. And their triumph and rejoicing
found a ready echo in the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that luncheon-party
in Curzon Street seemed immeasurably nearer.
It was Louisa Mebbin who drew attention to the fact that the goat was
in death-throes from a mortal bullet-wound, while no trace of the rifle's
deadly work could be found on the tiger. Evidently the wrong animal had
been hit, and the beast of prey had succumbed to heart-failure, caused
by the sudden report of the rifle, accelerated by senile decay. Mrs. Packletide
was pardonably annoyed at the discovery; but, at any rate, she was the
possessor of a dead tiger, and the villagers, anxious for their thousand
rupees, gladly connived at the fiction that she had shot the beast. And
Miss Mebbin was a paid companion. Therefore did Mrs. Packletide face the
cameras with a light heart, and her pictured fame reached from the pages
of the Texas Weekly Snapshot to the illustrated Monday supplement
of the Novoe Vremya. As for Loona Bimberton, she refused to look
at an illustrated paper for weeks, and her letter of thanks for the gift
of a tiger-claw brooch was a model of repressed emotions. The luncheon-party
she declined; there are limits beyond which repressed emotions become dangerous.
From Curzon Street the tiger-skin rug travelled down to the Manor House,
and was duly inspected and admired by the county, and it seemed a fitting
and appropriate thing when Mrs. Packletide went to the County Costume Ball
in the character of Diana. She refused to fall in, however, with Clovis's
tempting suggestion of a primeval dance party, at which every one should
wear the skins of beasts they had recently slain. ``I should be in rather
a Baby Bunting condition,'' confessed Clovis, ``with a miserable rabbit-skin
or two to wrap up in, but then,'' he added, with a rather malicious glance
at Diana's proportions, ``my figure is quite as good as that Russian dancing
``How amused every one would be if they knew what really happened,''
said Louisa Mebbin a few days after the ball.
``What do you mean?'' asked Mrs. Packletide quickly.
``How you shot the goat and frightened the tiger to death,'' said Miss
Mebbin, with her disagreeably pleasant laugh.
``No one would believe it,'' said Mrs. Packletide, her face changing
colour as rapidly as though it were going through a book of patterns before
``Loona Bimberton would,'' said Miss Mebbin. Mrs. Packletide's face
settled on an unbecoming shade of greenish white.
``You surely wouldn't give me away?'' she asked.
``I've seen a week-end cottage near Darking that I should rather like
to buy,'' said Miss Mebbin with seeming irrelevance. ``Six hundred and
eighty, freehold. Quite a bargain, only I don't happen to have the money.''
Louisa Mebbin's pretty week-end cottage, christened by her ``Les Fauves,''
and gay in summer-time with its garden borders of tiger-lilies, is the
wonder and admiration of her friends.
``It is a marvel how Louisa manages to do it,'' is the general verdict.
Mrs. Packletide indulges in no more big-game shooting.
``The incidental expenses are so heavy,'' she confides to inquiring
If you should have comments,
suggestions or problems to share with us, or if you want to share information
as mentioned above, please click on this text.
Back to Classic Short Stories
Please address your comments to
Gary Lindquist, email@example.com
Page format and design (obviously not the stories) are|
B&L Associates, Renton, Washington, U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified October 30, 1997.