Authors: Willard Price
By Willard Price
Roger stared at the tiger. The tiger stared at Roger.
The tiger had just come out of the woods. It was so astonished to meet a human that it stood rooted to the spot. Roger was also rooted.
What an enormous animal 1 Roger had never before seen a cat of this size. Back in Africa, he had seen many lions and thought they were the kings of the cat world. But this huge beast seemed twice as large. Fourteen-year-old Roger was a big boy weighing one hundred and thirty pounds - this animal must weigh more than twice that.
What to do? He had no gun. He and his brother Hal, nineteen, and bigger than most men, were not in India to shoot wild animals - but to take them alive. But how could a boy take this monster alive?
It was more likely that the beast, standing there like a statue, would take Roger alive.
Roger had learned enough about wild animals to know that if he turned and ran, the great beast would be after him in a flash.
He had lived with wild animals all of his fourteen years. His father, John Hunt, had an animal farm on Long Island near New York. There he kept all sorts of wild creatures. John Hunt was an animal collector from whom the zoos could buy almost any creature they wanted, from elephant to mouse. He stayed in Long Island, while his two sons roamed abroad to find the game he needed. Hunt’s latest cable had read:
TIGERS. GREATEST OF THE WORLD’S CATS. CAREFUL. DON’T GET MAULED. BEST PLACE TO FIND THEM - INDIA, THE HIMALAYAS. ALSO WE COULD USE SNOW LEOPARD, HIMALAYAN BEAR, INDIAN ELEPHANT, RHINO, WILD BOAR, PANDA, SLOTH BEAR, GIR LION, WOLF, HYENA, SAMBAR, GAUR, WILD BUFFALO, HOODED COBRA. INVESTIGATE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. YOU’VE DONE FAMOUSLY. LOVE FROM YOUR MOTHER AND ME. JOHN HUNT.
And now - here was one of the animals their father wanted most, the tiger. Roger stood within ten feet of this prize, and could do nothing.
Suddenly he heard a pop. A dart whistled through the air and its point pierced the tiger’s flank. It carried a medicine that would go into the tiger’s arteries and make him go to sleep. Good old Hal - he had been on the job after all.
But the tiger hadn’t seen Hal. He thought the prick in his side was made by the boy in front of him. With a mighty roar he leaped towards Roger who at once took to his heels. Would the beast go to sleep before Roger became its breakfast?
Ha! A river! Roger rushed to the bank and dived in. He swam towards the other shore. He would fool this beast. He knew that most members of the cat family didn’t swim. The lions in Africa never swam. The tiger was a cat, and therefore couldn’t swim. Roger could almost laugh. After all, he had been pretty clever to think of this way of escape.
But what was that splashing behind him? He glanced back. He suddenly learned something about tigers. Tigers love water. They are expert swimmers. So expert that this tiger was gaining on him fast. A second more and it would grab him, force him under water, drown him, then drag him ashore and eat him.
He clambered up on the shore. A reception committee was waiting for him. Another tiger! Perhaps the mate of the first. Two tigers! That was just two tigers too many.
He slipped around the first tiger which had just come out of the river, shaking itself like a dog and showering him with water. Roger promptly dived in and swam back to the shore he had just left.
Hal stood on the bank. Also, four tiger cubs. And it occurred to Roger that the tiger who had faced him was not exactly a tiger, but a tigress, the mother of these cubs. So that was why the tigress had refused to run from him - she was defending her cubs, unseen in the bushes. Now the cubs were mewing anxiously as their mother chased Roger back where he had come from.
Hal pulled his brother out on to the bank. The tiger did not follow. Why? Because the sleep drug had taken effect. The beast gave up just short of the bank. Her head sank into the water. The cubs whined. In a moment their mother would drown.
Together, the boys pulled up the heavy head and rested it on the bank so that the animal, although asleep, could still breathe. The cubs at once crowded round, licking the river water from their mother’s face.
Father John Hunt wanted a tiger. Here was a beauty.
The truck,’ said Roger. ‘Bring back the truck.’
But Hal did not move.
‘No,’ he said. This is not our tiger. Her cubs need her.’
Take the cubs too,’ Roger suggested.
Too young,’ Hal said. They would never stand the trip halfway round the world.’
Roger was disappointed. ‘Never mind,’ Hal said, ‘we’ll get our tiger yet. Let’s go back a bit -1 don’t want to be here when Her Majesty wakes up.’
From a retreat in the bushes they watched until the tigress came to and, with her cubs, walked home in safety.
One morning there was a knock on the door of the cabin where Hal and Roger lived.
Hal opened the’ door. A young man about his own age said, ‘Are you Hal Hunt?’
‘My name is Vic Stone.’
‘Come in. This is my brother, Roger.’ Vic shook hands.
‘Someone told me you fellows know a lot about animals. We’re going for a ride tonight. Would you both like to come along?’
Hal looked at Roger. Roger nodded. ‘Sure,’ Hal said. ‘Ifs a good time to see the animals. They come out on the road at night.’
‘Fine,’ said Vic, ‘just what we want. We’ll pick you up as soon as it gets dark.’
A Land-Rover - the big British car preferred by hunters -drove up after sunset. Vic had two companions, Jim and Harry. The five had plenty of room.
The Gir Forest wildlife sanctuary lies at the foot of the tallest mountains in the World - the Himalayas. The highest in the range is Mount Everest, twenty-nine thousand feet. These peaks were still bathed in sunshine, but the forest road had already become as dark as a tunnel. The car’s lights were turned on and a powerful spotlight which could be pointed this way and that to pick out any beast in the road or on either side.
‘Where are your rifles?’ Vic asked.
‘Rifles?’ Hal was puzzled. ‘I thought you knew. We never carry rifles.’
Vic stopped the car. ‘How do you expect to hunt without guns or knives? Don’t you have anything?’
‘Only this lasso.’ Closely looped, it hung from Hal’s shoulder. ‘We don’t kill animals. We take them alive.’
‘Isn’t that awfully dangerous?’
‘So-so,’ Hal said. ‘I’d better explain. Our father is an animal collector. He sends us out to get the animals, then keeps them on his wild-animal farm until some zoo wants to buy a tiger, leopard, elephant or whatever.’
Vic started the car. The beam of the spotlight roamed back and forth.
‘Look, a chital!’ cried Roger. The chital was India’s most beautiful deer. Both Jim and Harry shot at once. Jim misfired, Harry’s bullet took off the left side of the chital’s face and one eye, and smashed the skull. The injured beast leaped into the forest. Vic drove on.
‘Wait a minute,’ Hal shouted. ‘Aren’t you going to follow him up? You can’t wound an animal terribly and leave him to suffer. You have to put him out of his misery - track him down and kill him.’
Vic laughed. ‘What chance would we have of finding him in the woods?’
The next victim was a splendid Asiatic moose. It stood in the middle of the road staring at the lights of the oncoming car. It had an immense body supported on four rather slender legs. Its head was crowned by magnificent antlers.
Not knowing what was behind those lights, it charged the car at full speed. The crash did the car no harm but it ended the life of the moose. It slumped to the ground with a broken neck. Vic drove around it and went on. Hal felt
The next to be wiped out was a langur monkey.
‘You’ve killed your best friend,’ Hal said. That’s the monkey that gives you warning when any dangerous beast comes near. So you’ve not only killed your friend but you’ve made it likely that people who would have been warned by this monkey’s voice will die.’
‘Oh, cut the sermons, Hal. We’re just out to have a good time. Don’t louse it up. If you do we’ll not take you again.’
That’s okay with me.’ said Hal.
A wild water-buffalo loomed up ahead. What wonderful horns, eight feet across. Three shots rang out. The tough beast managed only to get to the side of the road before it lay down and died.
Then a splendid tiger.
‘Stop here,’ Hal said. ‘I want this one.’
He started to get out of the car.
‘You crazy idiot,’ cried Vic. ‘Stay in the car.’
‘Don’t shoot,’ Hal said. ‘No matter what he does.’
He took his lasso from his shoulder. He walked towards the tiger, still a hundred feet off. The tiger was staring into the light as if hypnotised. Hal kept on walking, very quietly. Just outside the beam of the spotlight. The eyes of the beast were as green as traffic lights, but they did not mean ‘Go’. Hal moved without sound, trying not to step on any crackling twigs. He shortened the distance to fifty feet, then forty, then thirty. The tiger caught sight of him and roared. That roar seemed to shake the whole forest. But it did not shake Hal’s determination. He swung the lasso and let fly. It settled neatly over the tiger’s head and rested on his neck. Hal pulled it tight. A knot in the rope prevented it from getting too tight and choking the animal.
Then came the fireworks. Roar on roar. The tiger’s throat is ideally arranged for roaring. The tiger leaped, squirmed, threw his great weight about as he tried to snap the rope. It held fast because there was a core of steel in the centre of it. Then the tiger made a lunge, not towards Hal who was still in the shadows, but towards that greater enemy, the brightly lit car. Hal had already whipped the end of the rope round a tree and tied it fast. The line kept the tiger from reaching the car. Hal jumped in and away they went.
‘I’ll come back tomorrow and pick it up,’ Hal said.
There were two other kills by the bloodthirsty playboys.
Then Hal noticed that a car was coming up on them from behind. It went in front of the Land-Rover and stopped, blocking the road. Two men got out and came up to the driver’s side.
‘Get over,’ one said. ‘I’ll drive.’
‘Who are you?’ said Vic.
‘What do you want?’
‘Be patient. You’ll find out.’
Two hours later they rolled into a small town and drew up in front of the police station. The two policemen ushered them inside and lined them up in front of the sergeant -then reported to the officer what these rascals had done.
‘Boys,’ said the sergeant, ‘I hope you’ve had a good time -because you’re not going to have another. You’re going to have to pay a very heavy fine for what you have done. And you will be locked up until you pay it. You think you are the highest of the animals. You are the lowest. If the animals could tell you what they think of you I’m afraid the description would not be very complimentary. They would say that men like you are more dangerous than any of the so-called wild beasts. You are cruel and brutal and deserve what you are going to get.’
The three hoodlums were put in a cell but Hal and Roger held back.
‘Come on,’ said the sergeant. ‘Get in there.’
‘We don’t belong with these fellows,’ Hal said. ‘We are doing just what you are doing, trying to preserve the wildlife. We did no sHooting - you can see we have no guns. We are collecting some of your wonderful animals to send back to our country so that our people can enjoy them.’
‘But do you have any permit to do this?’
‘Yes,’ Hal said, drawing out a paper from his pocket. This is a permit signed by the Chief of Police in New Delhi.’
He handed it to the sergeant who looked at it critically,
screwing up his forehead. Hal noticed that he was looking at it upside down.
‘What language is this?’ demanded the sergeant.
‘It is in the two official languages of India - Hindi and English. You speak English very well, so you must be able to read it.’
‘I can speak it,’ said the sergeant, ‘But I never went to school so I can’t read it. I read only my own language. You understand of course that there are more than a thousand languages in India. You should have brought a permit in the language of the Gir country. I don’t know whether this permit is good or not.’
‘You can call up the Chief of Police in New Delhi and ask him. Give him our names - Hal Hunt and Roger Hunt.’
‘No,’ objected the sergeant. ‘Don’t you realise it is almost midnight? He won’t be in his office. He will be at home sound asleep. I’m afraid you will just have to stay with us until morning.’
He turned to the police. ‘Put these two in jail until morning. They are either very good men or very good liars. Don’t put them with the rest of those skunks.’
So Hal and Roger had the luxury of a cell of their own. Cockroaches and fleas ran over them aH night. When morning came they still had to wait until almost noon when the Chief of Police arrived at his office. Then, with a good report, they were released and without breakfast or lunch, and covered with the bites of insects, they hired a truck and two men, stopped to load a very sleepy tiger, and transported it to one of the many cages they had installed near their cabin for the wild animals they expected to obtain in the Gir Forest.