Even Sergeant Major General was rendered speechless at this latest of many startling coincidences.
“Where did you get this?” asked Kirk Bill, piercing his lady love with a piercing gaze. (Not literally).
“I’ve had it all my life,” said Lady Larchmoor, quite oblivious to their consternation. “It was my Mother’s, and her Mother’s before that. Apparently it was given to her by a wise man in India, on her travels through the subcontinent.”
“A wise man?”
“Yes,” said the Lady, carelessly, “he was part of some cult or other, the tiger was a kind of god-figure to them. My grandmother did him a kindness, and so he gave her this charm and told her it would keep her safe. My love, please take it! I will rest easier on my divan knowing you have at least this small protection.”
Kirk Bill’s fist closed around the slender chain and once again he kissed his Lady’s hand. “I will.”
“Hurry home, my love! I shall embroider your name onto some handkerchiefs while you are away. Or perhaps work on something for my trousseau,” she added with a coquettish smile.
The two men returned to their respective abodes, packed quickly and made for the ports. A merchant vessel, the Dolores, was sailing for Mumbai on the morn and had two spare berths.
The Captain of the Dolores met them at the top of the gangplank. He was surprisingly young and slight for the captain of such a vessel, Sergeant Major General thought privately, who had always supposed that Captains were older, swarthy types. This tiddler looked barely out of short pants. Would he know the requisite number of daring sea shanties and ribald jokes? Also, he had what Sergeant Major General regarded as a pretentious moustache. He stroked his own rampant whiskers in unconscious pride. Kirk Bill preferred to go clean-shaven, of course; it would be a crime to obscure such a fine jaw.
“Welcome aboard the Dolores,” said the Captain, “I’m the Captain.”
“I say,” said Sergeant Major General, “nice ship you’ve got here.”
“She is a beauty,” said the Captain, beaming. “We’ve had her for three years now, since she was seized from the Spanish.”
“Capital!” cried Sergeant Major General, recalibrating his opinion of the Captain somewhat. Perhaps he was something of a bully trap. “Showing those Spaniards what-for! What was she called before?”
“Something quite outlandish,” the Captain laughed. “El ojo del tigre!”
Sergeant Major General was aware that Kirk Bill, beside him, had gone quite still. “What does that mean?” he asked.
“It translates, my dear friend,” Kirk Bill said quietly, “to – THE EYE OF THE TIGER”
TO BE CONTINUED