Mrs. Packletide's Tiger
It was Mrs. Packletide's pleasure and intention that she should shoot a tiger. The compelling motive was the fact that Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked to nothing else; only a personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvestof Press photographs could suc-
cessfully 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. 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 gov-
erned 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 happened that a neighbouring village could boast of being the favoured rendezvous of an animal of respectable antecedents. 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 grat anxiety was lest he should die of old
age before the date appointed for the memsahib's shoot.
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 grifle 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
"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 oght 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 speculations as to the market do
preciation 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 tree.
"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 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 caarried the glad news to the village. And their triumph and rejoicing found a ready echo in the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that luncheon-party in Curzon Street seemed immeasurabely near-
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 th 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. As for Loona Bimberton, she refused to loot at an illustrated paper for
weeks. 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 it seemed a fitting and appropriate thing when Mrs. Packletide went to the County Costume Ball in the character of Diana.
"How amused everyone 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.
"Loona Bimberton would," said Miss Mebbin. Mrs. Packletide's settled on an unbecoming shade of greenish wite.
"You surely wouldn't give me away?" she asked.
"I've seen a weekênd-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 weekend-cottage, gay in summer-time with its garden borders of tiger-lilies, is the wonder and admiration of her friends.
"It is 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 friends.
(adapted from: H. H. Munro, Mrs. Packletide's Tiger in The Chronicles of Clovis)