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 succumbled 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 country, and it seemed a fitting and appropriate thing when Mrs Packletide went to the Country 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 boy’s.’

‘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 post-time.

‘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 Dorking 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 tigerlilies, 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 friends.

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