Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is the debut novel for grown ups by Jon-Jon, in his own classic adventure style and split into three volumes Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! was released on Sat 29th July 2017 (International Tiger Day).
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In an unforgiving jungle the question of Man vs Beast is about to be answered once and for all ...
Colonial India, a land that attracts hunters such as Charles, a man obsessed with killing the tiger that had long evaded him. With a team of friends and a skilled shikari he pursues his striped tormentor. But the King of Cats is no easy foe. As the jungle dances with war and world’s collide will the King of the Cats triumph or will man have his way?
The Thrill of the Chase
The Fallen and the Missing
The Great Tiger King
Set in Colonial times, this novel is written in my own 'classic adventure' style. Being a great fan of such adventure masters as H G Wells, Ian Fleming, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne & Robert Louis Stevenson I was thrilled when I hit upon the idea for Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! and realised that I had my own adventure story to tell.
The Tiger has been my favourite animal since I was a child. I remember always dreaming of having one as a pet. It was with great sadness that I grew up to realise how endangered these magnificent creatures are, I can only hope that people's eyes are opened to the wonder of these great cats and their right to exist among us.
The Tiger is endangered, three species have already been made extinct in the last eight decades alone. As a responsible author who is grateful for the wonder these awesome cats bring I have decided to donate from book sales to various tiger charities to aid the cause. Below you can find Charity of the month (which charity is currently being donated to), links to reputed tiger charities, and essential tiger tourist information.
Charity of the Month
The charity to receive donations this month is:
Tiger Time is a specialised campaign by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation aimed at saving tigers.A lover of art? Then why not purchase one of David's paintings he is arguably one of the greatest tiger painters that ever lived and the proceeds go to saving tigers as well.
Please please visit their site and sign their petition to end tiger trade once and for all!
Wanna see a wild Tiger?
If you want to see a tiger in the wild please please visit TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers) first. TOFT award a PUG rating to wildlife tourism spots that are active in conservation. This means that when you visit tigers and other animals they are protected, their habitats are being preserved and tourist operations are carried out responsibly.
Check out their website:
In case you did not know a tigers paw print is called a pugmark - hence PUG rating.
More Tiger Charities
Cant decide which one to support? Then support two or three or why not all of them?
Tiger Time is a specialised campaign by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation aimed at saving tigers.A lover of art? Then why not purchase one of David's paintings he is arguably one of the greatest tiger painters that ever lived and the proceeds go to saving tigers as well.
Please please visit their site and sign their petition to end tiger trade once and for all!
WILDLIFE PROTECTION SOCIETY of INDIA (WPSI).
This charity was founded by Belinda Wright OBE in 1994. It does outstanding conservation work and is thoroughly worthy of support. Not only that but you can also visit them to see tigers in the wild. Located in an official Tiger reserve to ensure both you and the cats are safe.
Please check out their website and their tourist facility Kipling Camp:
The World Wildlife Foundation probably needs no introduction. They have launched a stunning and ambitious 2xTigers campaign to double the population of wild tigers by 2022. You can become a Tiger Protector Today - Please Please visit their website and sign up.
Panthera speclaise in big cats as the name suggest and that includes tigers - All donations are currently being doubled by the Robertson foundation until $1 Million has been donated. So get on over there and make your money count today.
Tiger Awareness is a charity that aids some very important issues in tiger conservation including helping to compensate poor farmers who lose cattle to tigers, educating children to realise the importance of tigers and aid in offering people alternitve livlihoods to poaching. Please please visit their page and donate.
This novel excerpt is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the author, as allowed under terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights and those responsible maybe liable in law accordingly.
The moral right of Jon- Jon Jon S Jones to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988
Copyright © 2014 Jon (Jon-Jon) Jones
All Rights Reserved
Library of Congress Control Number
This novel excerpt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the authors imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Thrill of the Chase
The fan whirred noisily in the vacuous ceiling space. Eggshell painted walls adorned the large room that was laced with wicker furniture and tables that sported square glass hats. Exotic trees and plants littered this aerated bar area of the old colonial hotel.
A mixologist dressed in a white tuxedo stood firmly awaiting orders. There were not many people in the bar at this time of morning; an old English colonel sat there having morning tea with his longstanding wife.
Tea in this hotel was no ordinary business; brewed at a perfect temperature and for a precise amount of time in sterling silver teapots and fine bone china cups. It was made at your tableside from fresh leaves, strained through a filter and poured by a qualified server who had tea making mastered to an exact science.
The old Colonel and his wife sat there talking genially in their thin attire. Across the room a solitary man was sitting at a table by himself, but he was not drinking tea, he was drinking a fifteen-year-old whisky.
The man had on a traditional khaki uniform; he was of aristocratic appearance. His khaki pith helmet lay on one of the empty chairs. He was a tall, thin man, with a particularly large nose. His head easily showed the facial structure of his jaw and skull, his eyeballs were sunken in their sockets and the skin of his face pulled so tight that every feature was accentuated. Dark greyish hair receded creating a large visible forehead.
He was in his late forties, lithe and energetic. He sat in the chair perfectly composed, enjoying his whisky with ice that had been shipped all the way from the Arctic. Even his posture seemed to read opulence. A bottle of the illustrious firewater was on the table and an ice bucket sat next to him like an obedient dog.
A kerfuffle roused his attention away from the relaxed state he was in. A party of three men entered the bar through the tall single pane glass doors that were all glass except for the wooden panels covering the bottom fifth. They talked noisily, one of the men surveyed the room with confidence and upon seeing the solitary drinker the man waved his finger and proceeded straight towards him.
‘Charles Northill, how the devil are you?’ Charles put down his whisky glass and stood to greet the party.
‘Gerald, always a pleasure.’ he said extending his hand. Gerald shook his hand. He was of a similar height to Charles but stockier, his face was not so gaunt, shocks of black hair peeked out from underneath a Panama style hat.
‘You know Robert don’t you Charles?’
‘Hello Robert, good to see you again,’ replied Charles to the fourth man, who was shorter and of medium build with brown parted hair. He sported a thin moustache. ‘We met the other week at a function; you are with the tea company aren’t you?’
‘Yes that is correct. Am I right in thinking that you were with them for a while?’
‘I was their security consultant for a period, yes.’
‘Your reputation proceeds you.’
‘All good I trust. So how did you and Gerald meet?’
‘At the Casino.’ replied Robert.
Charles rolled his eyes.
An athletic and muscular man with a florid face and ginger hair stepped forward. ‘George Stamford, always a pleasure.’ said Charles leaning in and shaking his hand.
‘I see you are celebrating Charles.’ said George.
‘Absolutely.’ said Charles clicking his fingers at the man behind the bar. ‘Three glasses please and be quick about it.’ the Barman did a shallow bow and motioned to someone else out of view.
‘Come, come, sit down gentlemen.’ Charles beckoned, waving his hand towards the empty seats. The three men sat down. ‘Please join me, I insist.’
‘Is that …’ Robert said leaning over and picking up the bottle ‘… that’s an old bottle of Black & White, good grief man.’
‘That is correct. I bought several cases years back, put them in storage and forgot to drink them, if it’s good enough for the king.’
‘King George drinks it?’ asked Robert
‘His father Edward certainly did.’ replied George
‘I insist that you help yourselves it is a glorious day and I am what you might say ‘on top of the world.’’ said Charles.
‘And your game!’ Gerald said.
Charles found this most amusing and leaning forward slapped Gerald on the shoulder. ‘Where is this damn waiter?’ Charles snapped, looking annoyed as he stared towards the bar.
‘He does like to celebrate in style which is why we insist on hearing good news immediately,’ said George. This comment created a small cacophony of laughter between Gerald and George.
‘So what is it that we are celebrating?’ asked Robert.
‘Ah finally.’ said Charles as the waiter appeared also wearing a white tux with a Turban adorning his head. ‘Really! You do not keep a man waiting when he has something to celebrate.’ Charles’ face began to redden slightly.
‘Apologies sir.’ said the waiter bowing slightly.
‘Well serve my good friends and we shall call the matter settled.’
The waiter put three fingers of the extravagant scotch into the crystal tumblers and using a pair of tongs dropped in a couple of large rocks of ice. After placing the drinks on ivory coasters, he bowed again and departed in silence.
‘Well gentlemen, the curiosity is most confounding, will you not speak?’
‘Yes of course I will, apologies Robert. I assumed you knew as Gerald and George did.’
‘You must forgive me if I seem obtuse for not enquiring prior to our arrival, but the excitement of our previous conversation commanded my mind somewhat. Albeit I was indeed told that you would be in a celebratory mood. Had a windfall or something old chap?’
‘Not quite, do you enjoy hunting and game Robert? I assume you do since the company you keep.’
‘Yes I do and I am aware that you are a keen hunter yourself.’ said Robert raising his foot up on to his knee.
‘Indeed I am.’ returned Charles topping up his glass with some ice and two fingers of Whisky.
‘He’s a fanatic.’ chimed in George returning his drink to the table.
‘Well, I am keen, yes.’
‘Keen, come, come Charles, you speak as if we do not know our quarry. I am convinced there are more animals hanging from your walls than there are roaming the jungle.’ said Gerald.
George and Robert laughed while Charles smiled gaily.
‘Alas the guilty has been found, but any man of character should enjoy a good hunt.’ retorted Charles.
‘Here, here,’ said Robert holding up his glass before having a sip.
‘So tell me Robert, what do you think the ultimate catch would be in these parts.’
‘An elephant?’ Robert replied.
‘An Elephant.’ they are big and clumsy. Where is the skill in that? I assure you it is not an elephant that has eluded me all these years.’ said Charles throwing his arms in the air.
Robert sat there for a minute and stroked his thin moustache, ‘a tiger!’
‘Precisely Robert, and what a magnificent beast it is. I have been trying to get one for the past ten years and have finally succeeded. He will be a rug on my floor before the week is out, but I shall make sure he has pride of place so all our visitors may relish in my triumph.’
‘Congratulations my dear fellow how happy you must be.’
‘Happy, I could not contain myself old man. I tell you I was straight on the phone to George and Gerald-’
‘Yelping like a schoolboy he was.’ said George, enjoying the story.
‘I will excuse myself of vigorous expostulating on this occasion gentleman as it is every hunter’s dream to tackle the fiercest beasts, and a tiger is as cunning as it is fierce.’
‘So come on Charles give us the details as in your excitement last night all you said was that you had finally slew ‘the great cat.’
‘Outstanding whisky, great people, accompanied by an adventure of the grandest proportions – why ever not old chap.’ said Robert making himself comfortable.
‘Before I start, I am afraid I must insist that you indulge in the pleasure set before us.’ said Charles.
‘Really, I must protest Charles it is still well in the morning to let any inebriation take hold would be most irregular.’ remonstrated Gerald.
‘I agree with Gerald, Charles, but we will gladly listen to your most singular story.’ said George placing his half-empty drink upon the table as if his body language were betraying his true feelings on the matter.
‘Nonsense Gentlemen, another two fingers each that is all I ask. You might need it as I will be requesting your services this very day. We will not be sitting around like drunkards and dullards if I have anything to do with it.’
The three men looked at each other with curious eyes.
Charles had already started putting extra ice in all their glasses, the three men sat there dumbfounded at the insistence of their friend, their bemusement continued as the fine amber fire water doused the freshly laid frost ridden rocks.
‘We shall join you in this drink Charles for we count ourselves in good company but as fine as your intentions are any more drinks this morning would be an aberration.’ said Gerald in a resolute tone.
‘I can assure you gentleman that I am the arguments biggest advocate. I merely wish to enjoy this special occasion and prepare myself for the adventure ahead. Any more and I would spoil my own enjoyment and perhaps even endanger the success of my next enterprise.
If you are all ready then I will begin my symposium. I set off early yesterday morning, despite the elephant being a great tradition and its ability to reach most places, I ended up opting for the speed of a mechanical vehicle. Simply because if you know roughly where the tiger was last sighted and you get there rapidly, you will vastly increase your chances.
I know what you must think gentleman that once out of the vehicle it is anyone’s game, but as you shall see I am not one who fears easily. Not when I have so comprehensively mastered the rifle that I hold.
Anyway, there had been reports of some fresh tiger tracks about twenty miles to the east and, as George and Gerald will tell you Robert, I demand that I am informed immediately if any such evidence becomes apparent. I took my trusty manservant and a guide who I have regularly employed for some years and we set off. It was a clear morning yesterday and not ten minutes into the journey I saw vultures circling overhead, this I took for a good sign.
The guide as ever had been prolific in his investigations and he quickly determined the exact spot where the tiger had been last. Fortunately for us, the dirt track that he crossed was only a couple of miles in from the main road so the majority of the journey was made with considerable alacrity.
As we bumped along the dirt track the guide ordered my manservant to halt. The guide jumped out of the vehicle and started to inspect the track. It was not long before he came across some fresh paw prints and deduced, by whatever powers these remarkable men work by, that it was probably a couple of hours ago.
I remember sighing deeply as I was hoping he would say half an hour maybe even an hour. This extended the realistic range that I would have to cover to find my quarry. The guide was far from satisfied and started walking up the track. We let him continue walking and watched as he slowly plodded off. Just as he reached the horizon he gesticulated at us excitedly. I ordered that we drive up to him.
I leapt out of the Rolls to see what had the man so excitable.
‘Five minutes.’ he shouted.
‘Five minutes.’ he shouted again.
‘Five minutes?’ I asked as joy leapt across my face at the realisation of what he was showing me. There was fresh tiger tracks and they were only made five minutes ago. Overjoyed I ran straight to the car and got my hunting rifle.
‘The tiger must have come along here just before we appeared.’ the guide informed me. It was then that he got up and walked slowly to the edge of the tree line, he stood still for a moment and started sniffing, walking from tree to tree, bending down at each one.
‘Looking for scratch marks?’ enquired Robert, interrupting Charles’ monologue.
‘No.’ said Charles. Trying to remember where he was in his story. Robert noted Charles’ slight annoyance at his ill-timed heckle.
‘He was sniffing for scent?’
‘Exactly George, as I was saying he continued along the tree line when he suddenly threw his head up in disgust. He beckoned me over to the tree. Of course being an enthusiast when it comes to hunting I knew why he was calling me over so without instruction I leant over to inhale what I could. The smell was so repugnant that I nearly wretched. I thought I had had many close encounters with these ferocious felines, but the strength of that odour made me wonder whether I had been disillusioned all along.’
‘Whatever do you mean dear fellow?’ asked Gerald leaning forward to obtain his drink.
‘What I mean gentleman, is in all my years of what I deem to be ‘The Great Hunt’ I had smelt the Tiger’s markings and presumed I was close on their trail, but the very strength of this particular one made me wonder whether I ever had been that close at all.
It was at this point that the guide grabbed my arm to gain my full attention. He looked at me urgently.
‘Sir make sure your rifle is ready and you are prepared. These markings were made only minutes ago for all we know the beast could be watching us right now.’
I cocked my rifle and adjusted it so I could carry it in a ready to fire position. I then signalled the manservant to stay with the car and headed into the dense jungle, taking the lead I quietly crept forward, scanning the periphery as I did.
The guide followed me in which I allowed as he might be of some help, within a minute or two, I was proved right when he tapped me on the shoulder and silently gesticulated up in the trees. I immediately understood his alarm as tigers are capable climbers and they are sometimes found hiding in trees.
Proceeding with caution and confident that with two keen observers we should be able to find the elusive predator I marched slowly through foliage; aware that the beast could have gone only a few steps in any direction and disappeared from view. I have no idea what it was, perhaps some form of hunter’s instinct, but I veered to the left. I remember the foliage suddenly became rather hick and I grew concerned that we were creating the sounds of a tumultuous marching band.
I stepped slowly over a fallen log and pushed away some giant leaves and right in front of my eyes were two tigers laying side by side.’
‘Two!’ exclaimed George.
‘Yes, two my good friend and neither were shy of size either. They were a little way off as I had happened upon a small clearing. The great cats were camped straight across from me on the other side. I do not mind confessing to you that I was giddy with exhilaration and happiness. Desire filled me to relish the moment and after all these years savour the opportunity. I taunted myself that perhaps I could get closer to add a more personal and victorious touch, but my senses quickly returned when I realised that I had my dream right in front of my eyes and I could not risk losing it.
Holding up my rifle I aimed, but could not tell which was the larger as they were both big, even for Tigers. Wasting no more time I fired hitting one in the chest as it lay down, it tried to get up and run away but it couldn’t, it just collapsed, I think it died right then and there. The other one was gone before I could even get off another shot. But that did not phase me gentlemen. I fancy I shall never admit this again but I could even testify that a skip entered my gait as I traversed the long grass to my reward.
At last Gentleman I had hunted, stalked and killed my most prized quarry. I could live the rest of my life at ease knowing that I had achieved one of my most excitable and rewarding goals.
I did a quick look for the other cat but knew there was no point as it would have cleared the area with considerable immediacy.
‘What a splendid story.’ said Robert stroking his moustache with his index finger and thumb.
‘Here, here.’ said George, nodding his glass towards Charles.
‘Your most enjoyable hunting story yet Charles. You are to be congratulated upon what you have achieved.’ said Gerald.
‘Your words are most kind gentleman, but perhaps we should consider more what I’m about to achieve.’
‘About to achieve? Whatever do you mean old man?’ Gerald said, scratching his shin with his other foot.
‘You will recall earlier that I need or rather I would like to call upon your services on this very day. Indeed, in this very hour. The truth is that last night after the expensive Champagne and cigars I enjoyed with my guide and manservant, as I did not want to hinder yourselves at such a late hour you understand, I climbed into my bed and in my quasi-relaxed state an intruder crept into my mind and began to haunt me. It robbed me of my elation and I was vexed to realise so. It was the other tiger of course.’
‘Come, come Charles’ said Robert leaning forward and putting his drink down on the table. ‘This really will not do, you have just told the most extraordinary tale and you end it with a revelation like that. How many people have actually successfully set out to hunt a tiger and done so – nary there be such a man in this country I can tell you.’
‘Gentlemen, you waste your time on a worthless argument. I have been holding back a shameful secret from you. The tiger that I killed yesterday was the female and although it was still a joyous occasion it was not the pinnacle of a hunter’s career that I had hoped for. Why at that very second last night in bed I decided that I would find and kill this alpha male like any hunter would. He will be given pride of place along with his friend. Look at it this way; they will not be alone will they?’ Charles grinned and gave a little chuckle at his remark.
‘Do not let the male detract from your success the tigress is still a magnificent beast.’ said Gerald removing his hat and placing it in his lap.
‘My decision is already made, I must say I am surprised by your attitude Gerald, to the hunter the sex is everything you always want it to be the alpha male. Otherwise it could look like you went for the lesser competition.’ said Charles, awkwardly fidgeting in his seat.
‘Normally I would completely agree,’ said George, ‘but there is no shame when it comes to tigers. Especially ones the size of which you encountered. Myself and Gerald have both been to see your prize possession before we called on Robert to join our tryst.’
‘I have to say Charles, you will not be able not tell the difference when it is decorating your floor anyway. Why hunt another one? You have already achieved glory as you quite rightly pointed out at the beginning of your anecdote.’
‘Why hunt another Robert? Why hunt another? When a man goes to war does he just seek one medal, of course not, he continues and this is the same thing. When that tiger ran off he challenged me and mark my words sir I will sell his bones and keep his skin.’ said Charles, staring incredulously at Robert whilst leaning forward as if the question had greatly affronted him.
‘Control your fiery iniquities Charles; it will not do.’ said George.
‘Yes … well … excuse me … but never question a hunter on why he does what he does, it is his instinct and there is nothing more than that in the man.’
‘Well said.’ said Gerald clapping his hands, ‘although I fear you put even the most ardent hunter to shame.’
‘So do you accept my invitation gentlemen?’
‘By Jove, you want us to join you on the hunt?’ said Robert.
‘Of course I do. Will you not all join me?’ Charles looked and smiled at Robert. Robert nodded at him having realised Charles was as hot and interchangeable as the liquor he had been drinking.
‘You know me old sport, where there is adventure there is always George Stamford.’
‘You need not ask me Charles you should know that by now.’ said Gerald.
‘And I will certainly come.’ said Robert sitting up in his seat.
‘Excellent, then the matter is sorted gentlemen, we shall set out shortly, please finish your drinks first as this should provide enough spirit of adventure to be getting on with.’
‘How will you know that it is the right tiger?’ said Robert really savouring the whisky.
‘Outstanding Master Robert, we will make a hunter out of you yet. There was a detail I omitted from my earlier report. One of the tigers had a long gash down the front of his leg, nothing to impede it, superficial, but easily visible in its current state due to the flesh still being exposed. It must have been done recently and fortunately for me it was the one who escaped who bore it.’
‘Excellent spot Charles, that is a useful bit of knowledge.’ said Gerald.
‘Yes, I thought so as well. I was so distracted by my prize kill that before the dream last night I did not even think of going back out for the male tiger. I must say I am glad that he paid me a visit; lest he get away. There is one condition to my request.’
‘Oh what is that?’ said George scratching his ginger hair.
‘That I be the man who kills the beast of course.’
‘Why, should a man steal your honour in such a fashion I would shoot him myself.’
‘Thank you Robert, most kind.’
‘We will not even hunt; just observe. Again I am surprised you should even ask such a question.’ said George.
‘I confess to you all that this great panthera tigris has me in a tither but before the day is out he will be mine.’ Charles stood up alarmingly quick. Robert tensed for a second for he was not used to his quick actions, Charles held up his glass.
They all stood up and held their glasses in the air as if to create some four ring symbolic logo.
‘To the tiger.’ said George.
‘To the hunt.’ said Gerald.
‘To the kill.’ said Robert.
‘To the thrill of the chase.’ said Charles and as soon as he did their glasses all clinked and the four men downed the last of their drinks.
The men were all appropriately attired with comfortable hard wearing trousers and shirts adorned with pockets. They wore tough jungle boots on their feet.
‘I rather suspect you had some pre-eminent inclinations.’ said Charles as the party walked through the double doors straight into a wall of heat.
‘Charles, we know your proclivities too well, myself and George do anyway and I’m sure Robert is a quick study.’
The party were surprised to find the vehicle waiting with Charles’ guide and manservant already aboard. It was a customized, dark green Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The back end of the car had been extended out to create an extra row of seats and the wheels were slightly larger. Boxes and packs were strapped to the over-hanging shelf that was bolted to the rear end of the vehicle. The tyres looked more suited to a tractor this set the carriage higher above the ground than usual.
Hunting could be a dangerous prospect. In a land where even plants and insects could kill preparation was vital.
The manservant was in the driving seat. They driver and guide were both Indian. The driver was a tall bearded man wearing a dark red turban whilst the guide was a clear-skinned man in his thirties. His hair shone jet black and was brushed to the side with surprising precision.
‘I think it would be suggestible for me to get some of my small arms to bring with us strictly as a safety precaution.’ said George.
‘No need gentlemen.’ I have ensured that the car is fully stocked we have plenty of munitions including rifles, pistols and the back is stocked with all manner of supplies including food and drink.’ said Charles as he nodded to the guide who immediately disembarked and presented four gun belts out of a canvas bag. The four men took them with alacrity; it was then they were handed a six shot revolver each with a box of bullets.
‘Careful, the guns are already loaded.’
‘Excellent.’ said Gerald snapping his barrel shut.
To their surprise the guide then pulled out four hunting knives and handed them over. It was only then they realised that there was a sheath on the other side of the belt.
‘Just had these hunting belts shipped over the other day and I thought it would be a good time to give them a trial.’ said Charles, slotting the blade in its sheath. He climbed aboard and placed a small box of bullets in a perfectly fitting pouch on the belt which the others duly noted and copied his actions. He sat behind the guide who had returned to the front passenger seat.
George climbed in and sat next to him and then Gerald climbed in behind Charles with Robert sitting behind George.
Charles tapped his manservant on the shoulder and they set off down the road. The effects of the whisky were evident for the men were in high spirits and eagerly trying to outdo each other with stories of hunting and adventure.
The heat was stifling but the breeze of the journey soon cooled them down. The guide and the manservant joined the conversation primarily at a prompting from Charles.
‘So how did you get into hunting Charles?’ asked Robert leaning forward and shouting from the back seat.
‘It goes back to your childhood doesn’t it, Charles.’ said Gerald with a smile on his face.
‘Confound you Gerald, shouting a man’s business about like that, have you no sensibility man.’ Charles said, his face florid.
Gerald chuckled at his deliberate remark; a smile crossed George’s face too.
‘Oh damn you both I will have to tell him now. You know I do not like discussing such things.’ said Charles.
‘Apologies Charles, I meant not to cause any discontent between you all.’ Robert replied leaning forward and putting his hand on Charles’ shoulder.
‘Don’t be so foolish Robert you were not to know.’ Charles said as he threw a suspicious glance toward Gerald and George.
‘No good looking at us old sport.’ said George with a semi-serious look on his face.
‘I grew up on a country estate deep in rural England. My father, a stern Victorian man was an ardent hunter in his own right. Such was his passion that he forced it on to me and my brother-’
‘And you took to it right away?’ interrupted Robert.
‘Really man, what is wrong with you, do you want to hear this story or not?’
‘Yes of course I do.’ replied Robert clearing his throat.
‘As I was saying hunting was forced upon us as a requirement and not just for food, which was sometimes provided for by our gains, but also for status.
You are quite mistaken by your assumption Robert as it was my brother Henry who was quick on the uptake. I had no such desire believe it or not. Of course this was not to be tolerated and every time my father and brother went shooting I was to accompany them.’
‘I think a lot of us had fathers like that in one way or another.’ said George.
‘Yes quite.’ added Gerald.
‘My brother and I shared the usual sibling rivalry, but the balance of favour always tipped toward him and even when I did upend my brother through some feat of victory it was inevitably hunting that mattered most with my father.
I remember once gloating that I had a better mark than my brother for a school report as he had done to me on numerous occasions. Just as I felt that at last I had gained the upper hand my father remarked ‘Well done, but let’s not forget your brother is going to become a damn fine hunter.’
This grieved my young mind considerably as my brother usually bested me at most things and he never held back in his gloating and taunting. Hunting was always the card up his sleeve that swayed my father’s approval. It goes without saying that if by any chance my father forgot to bring it up my sibling would not.
Ironically, the one subject I excelled in was nature. It was not the countryside that had no interest for me it was just the hunt. Nature and art were always on my mind and I learned to track animals in order to watch or draw them. My mother had noticed this but my father and brother were too pre-occupied to register my budding talent.
The thought of hunting to impress my father began to thrash around in my head like an eagle trapped in a cage. It was a winter’s morning when things finally changed, we had been hunting and Reginald had shot three rabbits to my none. I was without interest as the plummeting temperature had me too distracted, but my brother gloated and gloated and rather than remonstrating with him my father picked him up and held him aloft like a trophy. In that very minute something in me snapped gentlemen and I vowed to become the best hunter a man could become.
The very next time we went out the onset of spring was just beginning. I was determined, full of concentration and all the things I had learned while trying to watch and draw wildlife in my younger years came to together in some sort of epiphany. As we embarked on the hunt I watched and saw, walked and found, shot and hit.
I swear I shot almost everything on an Englishman’s hunting menu that day.’
‘What on earth did your father say?’ asked Gerald.
‘I remember him looking at me after comparing our quarries and bursting out laughing telling me that he always knew there was something special in me. Then he held me up high. There was no shortage of gloating in me that day I can tell you.’
Everyone in the Rolls Royce laughed including the guide and driver in the front of the vehicle.
‘Please continue I am rather enjoying the story.’ said the driver.
‘I confess I am also embroiled in your childhood tale Charles.’ said Robert.
‘After that my progress was rapid, it seems I could just hunt, my skills rapidly became that of my Fathers and soon surpassed them. I studied it every moment, but it was built on an early and solid foundation and I still believe to this day that that has always given me the edge.
The next thing you know my father was showing me off at country fairs and tournaments. I was in the newspaper and as my trophy cabinet filled I gloated all the more.’ Charles sighed deeply. ‘It wasn’t until adulthood that I finally relented my torturous and vengeful diatribes upon my sibling.’
Charles had stopped talking but there was silence in the vehicle with everyone on tenterhooks. With a stoical expression Charles continued.
‘Many years after that my brother and I discussed it, to my astonishment he apologised to me stating that he did not realise how cruel he had been until it was visited upon himself. Albeit it grated him after a while that I would not cease he said he was - in the end nevertheless grateful.’
‘So you ended up the favourite son then?’
‘Not quite, my brother stayed close to my father as hunting ever increasingly took me to faraway lands. It was my brother who stood beside him in his frail age. We had seemingly grown apart but my father’s death brought us together again. It was only after we had put that great man in the ground that my brother told me father had repented to him. My father went on to explain that despite his foolish bragging he never thought one better than the other; he was just eager for us to succeed.’
Silence hung in the vehicle and despite the refreshing breeze and the bumpiness of the road the atmosphere was somehow still.
‘It’s funny, sometimes the thing that is meant to help is what hurts us the most.’ said George leaning forward speaking quietly.
‘Well you’re certainly an outstanding Shikari now old chap.’ said Gerald with a smile.
‘Well that’s enough of this nonsense. Driver, are we there yet? What is taking so bloody long?’ said Charles.
Their voices were often raised as the noise of the motor car competed against them, traffic was not really issue in this part of the world, most roads were dirt tracks and only distinguished by varying grades of bumps and drivability.
The Silver Ghost finally turned off the dirt road and onto the even bumpier track where Charles had encountered the tigers the previous day.
‘Stop where we did yesterday.’ said Charles.
‘Yes Sir,’ said the driver without taking his eye off the road.
The guide suddenly shouted stop.
‘What is it?’
‘Look at the trees.’
‘Good God, he’s right. The scratch marks. Look at the size of them.’
‘Scratch marks?’ enquired Robert.
‘Yes, they were made a by a tiger and a huge one as well by the look of it.’ added George.
‘Come on. Time to learn gentlemen.’ said Charles informing the driver to stay with the car at all times as there were a lot of supplies on there that needed guarding.
‘Yes sir, you can depend on me.’ the driver replied.
They approached the trees and Robert gasped as he saw the size of the claws that had easily slashed open the tree.
‘Are you sure we’re not hunting a dinosaur?’ asked Robert stepping back from the tree slightly.
‘Not a dinosaur but it sure is a bloody big cat.’ said Charles laughing loudly. The others joined in with the exception of the guide who just smiled at the camaraderie.
‘I would say it’s a very large male, it passed not that long ago may be an hour or so, maybe less, and it was headed along the roadside in the direction we are headed.’
They walked along the grass following the giant claw marks straddled across the large trees. The driver started the engine and followed along the road at a slow pace.
Charles suddenly burst into an urgent stride.
‘Here gentlemen, here is the tree where the scent was, that is right isn’t it?’
‘Yes Sir, that is the tree.’ the guide said pulling out a canteen of water and drinking from it.
‘What do you think? Shall we get straight into the hunt?’
‘That would not be a very good idea we are in the heat of the day and the tiger will be sleeping.’ the guide said.
‘He is right you know Charles.’
‘He had ought to be that is what he is being paid for. But while the tiger is resting he will not be getting further away from us.’ replied Charles.
‘That is true, as long as we head in the right direction.’ said Robert.
‘What do you think Gerald?’
Gerald took off his straw panama hat and wiped his forehead, his black hair shone in the sun, the air was filled with the sounds of the jungle and heat lines danced on the horizon. ‘I think we should check the area where the tigers were yesterday. This should enable us to think about where and when to start tracking.’
‘Yes perhaps you are right but I cannot bear the thought of not hunting down that cat.’
‘Patience Charles, I tell you man, you are already starting to become obsessed and it cannot lead to anything good.’ said George.
‘Pah, I just want what should be mine.’ said Charles flicking his hand. ‘Come, let me show you where I slew its friend yesterday.’
‘Would you like me to arrange some refreshment for when you get back sir.’ said the driver silently appearing.
‘I say you have quite the skill of sneaking up.’ said George.
‘One should always move with grace sir.’ the driver replied stoically.
‘Yes why not, we shall go and investigate and then return for some luncheon but until then we hunt with vigour.’ Charles said.
‘Very good sir.’ said the driver offering a shallow bow and returning to the vehicle.
Gerald looked round at George and Robert and then back to Charles. ‘Sounds like a good plan to us old man.’
‘Excellent, follow me.’ Charles said stepping confidently into the jungle. They pushed their way through the foliage until they reached the place at the edge of the clearing.
‘This is where I was standing and you see across there near that fallen tree that was where the tigers were; they must have thought they were safe.’ said Charles chuckling to himself.
‘Look, you can see the blood from where we dragged the carcass back through.’ said the guide pointing to some flattened grass that was stained with blood.
‘It must have been a good shot from here to fell it in one Charles.’ said Robert putting his hand over his eyes to see across the small plain.
‘I would have said so as well, thank you Robert.’ said Charles pulling out a handkerchief and mopping his brow.’
‘Shall we go and see the exact spot.’ said Gerald.
‘Why of course we will old boy. Do follow.’ Charles said looking round and noticing that the guide was distracted by the shrubbery.
‘Are you coming?’ Charles asked. The guide looked straight up at him. ‘Yes … let us proceed.’
The party walked through the tall grass to the spot where the tigers had been laying. There was still blood on the floor and you could see where the corpse had been dragged out the day previous.
Led by Charles they walked straight into the area.
‘Really, please gentlemen, you employ me to do a job.’ said the guide throwing his hands in the air.
‘Quite right, apologies my good man.’ said Charles beckoning everyone back out of the spot.
‘I am surprised that tigers are brave enough to venture on the paths and roads.’ said Robert still looking at the grisly scene.
‘Why? They are just like humans in that respect they will always take the easiest route; if there is a path they’ll use it.’ said George.
‘Fascinating.’ replied Robert.
‘I’ll show you fascinating soon enough.’ said Charles looking at the scene with a smile on his face.
The party were surrounding the scene from the edge of the miniature meadow. It was like a little den with a fallen tree acting like a back wall, against the dense jungle. The guide looked at the four men with a concerned look on his face.
‘It has been back.’
‘When?’ said Charles startled.
‘Within the hour.’ said the guide. ‘Look at the pugmark.’
In a little clearing of loose dust was a large pug mark.
‘By Jove, you’re right.’ said Charles. ‘I’d say under an hour old sport they are fresh.’
‘It is most curious, but back where you took the shot there were some fresh tracks but I couldn’t be sure that it was a tiger.’ said the guide down on one knee in the vegetation.
‘But it could have been?’ asked Gerald.
‘Easily.’ said the Guide.
‘So why didn’t you ask me?’ demanded Charles hotly.
‘Don’t know, sorry sir I guess I didn’t want to be wrong.’
‘Well don’t think that again, confounded idiot, this thing is huge, possibly the largest cat ever seen and I do not want to miss out on it, do you understand?’
The guide put his head down slightly as if to show submission, ‘apologies it won’t happen again.’
Suddenly a shot rang out.
The party all looked at each other for a second in a state of mumchance.
‘The Rolls.’ cried Charles. They all started running through the grass as fast they could. Charles led the pack with the guide right behind him. The tall grass whipped their trousers as they raced through it.
George and Gerald watched as Charles and the guide disappeared into the verdant undergrowth and then Robert watched as George and Gerald did the same.
Robert pulled his gun out of the holster and continued running at full speed trying to catch up to the others, he was soon under the dark canopy and smashing his way through leaves that was almost as big as him. His foot hit something hard and he went flying through the air. Landing in the dirt, he got up and realised he had dropped his gun.
Charles maintained the lead as he emerged from the canopy and the sunlight hit his face full on, he was temporarily blinded, when his sight was restored what he saw stopped him in his tracks.
He stood there dumbfounded at the scene that lay before him. The guide popped out of the jungle next and as they walked slowly forward Gerald and George joined them too.
‘Good God!’ said George. ‘It can’t be.’
‘I’m afraid it is.’ said the Guide.
There laying half on the ground with his back resting on the side of the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was the driver, he was dead, his throat had been ripped out.
‘Who has committed this travesty? He will hang by sunset, I swear it.’ said Gerald pulling out his revolver and scanning the area.
‘It’s not a who, but a what?’ said Charles looking to the Guide for confirmation of his thoughts.
The guide nodded knowingly, ‘It was a tiger.’
‘No it was the Tiger I came here to hunt.’ said Charles bitterly.
‘You can’t be sure of that.’ said George drinking some water for the shock had made his throat dry.
‘The hypothesis would make sense, the fresh tracks indicate that a tiger came from yesterday’s scene and headed this way, they are very territorial so it would be quite a coincidence if it was not the same creature.’ said the Guide albeit somewhat reluctantly.
‘It was him alright. I feel in it my bones not that I need to.’ said Charles walking around the back of the car and finding fresh pugmarks in the dirt. ‘Look at these pugmarks, all the ones we have seen today have been from the same cat, look at the size of them, I have never seen pug marks so big. I fear you are right this cannot be co-incidence.’ Charles pulled the cork out of a whisky bottle and drank a large gulp, ‘this is no time for water.’ he said.
‘And look, why didn’t it take any of the food that he had started getting out?’ said George looking at the food parcels scattered on the floor during the mayhem.
‘And why didn’t he drag the body off? We all know how easily a tiger can carry off a man.’ said the Guide
‘It looks like we have a man-eater.’ said Charles cocking his rifle.
‘Don’t be so ridiculous Charles,’ said George. ‘You know they only attack for food and rarely turn man eater even if they have killed two or even three people.’
‘What about the gunshot it could have scared it off.’ suggested the guide.
‘It is plausible, plenty of men have shot at tigers and still had them come.’ said Gerald stroking his chin, ‘Plenty of my friends have been shikaris.’
‘Well there is no point on us speculating. I want to see the beast a hunter’s instinct tells me it is the mate that I seek.’ said Charles eventually passing the bottle of whisky to George.
George took a swig as did Gerald and the Guide, the Guide then gave the bottle back to George. ‘What about you Rob … Great Scott, Where is Robert?’ cried George.
To Be Continued ...