Dare quest the tiger, p.4
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       Dare Quest - The Tiger, p.4
 

           Brian Smith
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A pukka hero

  “By Jove!” Sir Percy said. “That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”

  “Colonel,” the raja called from his elephant. “You’re a pukka hero! We’ll have a feast to celebrate your heroic deed when we get back to my palace.”

  Everyone gathered around the tiger. Edward and Anthony sat on it pretending to ride, but to no avail.

  “Looks like we’ll have to do this on a live tiger,” Anthony said.

  The raja overheard him. “What? The young sahib wishes to sit on a live tiger?” he said and laughed.

  It was no laughing matter for the boys. This was the first time they had seen a live tiger and they had never realized how big and dangerous tigers were.

  “That’s quite a start to a good day’s hunting,” Colonel Thompson finally said. He was still shaken by the sudden attack and the narrow escape he had from death.

  “And right you are, my dear fellow,” Sir Percy said with a smile, “right you are.”

  The hunting party spent the rest of the day ‘bagging’ various other creatures big and small. The men were delighted and excited about every animal they shot dead, but Edward and Anthony did not share their enthusiasm. Killing a tiger with a spear when it attacked you was one thing and they respected Colonel Thompson for this, but sitting high up in a howdah and shooting animals from safety didn’t seem like hunting to them, it was more like gruesome butchery and they thought it decidedly cruel and unfair.

  4

  After several more days of hunting they entered the palace of the Raja of Karackpore. It was a splendid sight and his loyal subjects were in the streets to welcome them when they passed through the gates.

  That evening there was a huge feast in Karackpore. Everyone ate and drank, sang and danced and admired all the beautiful skins that the hunting party had returned with. Indian music played and nautch girls danced to entertain everyone. The two brothers were fascinated by everything. It was the first time they had heard the beautiful Indian music. They were both fond of music in general and always happy to experience something new. Watching the nautch girls dance in rhythm to the music was just such a new thing they liked.

  Nautch girls dancing

  Anthony and Edward were sitting together with the daughter of the raja, Princess Geetu. Geetu patiently explained the songs and dances to the boys. The festivities were a grand occasion and Geetu was glad the usual boredom of her life was interrupted by something special.

  “You see,” she said to the boys, “ this palace is my home. I’ve been here all my life and I can never leave it.”

  “Why not?” Anthony asked.

  “The raja, I mean my father, says it’s too dangerous outside. You boys are so lucky. You can go wherever you like and you’ve even been tiger hunting. It’s so exciting. I really wish I could go.”

  “Can’t you ask your dad?” Edward said.

  “That’s impossible,” Geetu replied. “He would never allow it. I would only make him angry by asking. But tell me about yourselves. I can’t go out so I like to hear everything about the world outside. Where are you from and what are you doing here?”

  The brothers looked at each other for a moment.

  “What is it?” Geetu asked impatiently.

  The boys nodded at each other. Geetu was like a friend and they decided to trust her. They told her the whole story about the dares, the magic that took them away, and how they had to fulfil each dare to be able to return home. Geetu kept questioning them about all their adventures, but they hadn’t even told her half when the feast ended and everyone retired to their chambers. Geetu was upset their time ended so quickly.

  “Tomorrow,” she said. “Tomorrow you must tell me everything!”

  The boys promised and were taken to their own chamber by one of the raja’s many servants.

  When they were shown to their chamber their eyes popped open in amazement. There were two enormous beds with mosquito nets hanging over them.

  “Wow!” the boys said.

  “Pukka beds for pukka sahibs,” the servant said with a smile. He left a lantern burning on a bedside table between the two beds and left.

  Anthony jumped on his bed. It was the biggest bed he’d ever seen.

  “Pukka bed, pukka bed,” he shouted excitedly. His excitement was infectious and Edward joined him. Jumping on the huge bed was the best fun they’d had on their adventure so far. In their excitement they didn’t realize how tired they were, but soon mother nature caught up with them. They lay down and fell asleep on one bed without even extinguishing the lantern whose flickering light still illuminated the wonderful room they were in. The walls were richly decorated in scenes from the hunt, from dances and many other things they didn’t know anything about. It was a mysterious world that was waiting for them to wake up to the next morning.

  They were treated to a sumptuous breakfast in bed when they woke up the following morning.

  “Wow,” Edward said. “I wish we could have this every day.”

  Anthony nodded. He eyed the delightful fruits and many other things in front of him in delight. It was the first time he had ever had breakfast in bed and he was determined to make the most of it.

  When the two brothers came down from their room poor Geetu was already waiting for them impatiently. The exciting stories Edward and Anthony had to tell were the most wonderful thing she’d ever heard of. She was the first to wake up in the palace that morning, before the first light of the day, before dawn and before the servants who had to prepare breakfast. She had clapped her hands to rouse her sleepy servants and couldn’t gulp down her breakfast fast enough. All to no avail. Edward and Anthony slept very tightly in their comfortable bed and were in no hurry at all to wake up. And when they did wake up they spent a long time over the biggest and most exquisite breakfast they had ever enjoyed. Of all the many people in the raja’s palace they were the last to come out of their room.

  “Where have you been sooo long?” Geetu cried when she saw them at last. “I’ve been waiting for you for ages.”

  “But it’s still early in the morning,” the boys protested.

  “Morning was three hours ago, but come now. I’ll take you to my secret room where nobody will disturb us.”

  Secret room sounded intriguing and the boys happily followed Geetu through the palace. In daylight they could for the first time appreciate its richness and opulence. There were huge paintings on the walls and many busts and statues adorned the many halls and rooms. Higher up on the walls were hunting trophies such as tiger skins, elephant tusks and all sorts of heads of their hapless victims. There were also swords, knives and guns of all kinds. The boys felt like they were walking through a museum. Most amazing were door handles which were made of solid gold. When they reached the raja’s library Princess Geetu carefully looked around to make sure no one was in sight. When she was sure they were alone she stepped up to a statue standing in a corner. She poked her finger in the right eye and pushed. Some of the bookshelves swung back to reveal a doorway. They stepped through the door and Geetu turned a lever on the other side to make the door close again. They were in a long corridor. It stood in marked contrast to all the opulence of the palace. The corridor was grey, dimly lit and narrow. The walls were bare and there was nothing to see. Narrow slits high up in the walls were the only source of light.

  Geetu grinned. “Come, we’re almost there.”

  She hurried along the corridor, took a few turns and then stopped in front of a wall.

  The boys looked surprised.

  “This is it?” they said incredulously.

  Geetu laughed and didn’t answer. The wall was made of square blocks of masonry. One of the blocks looked cleaner than the rest. She put her hand against it and pushed. A narrow opening appeared as the wall swung back and the children entered Geetu’s secret room. It was totally different from the palace and the boys were surprised.

  Geetu smiled. “Do you like it?” she asked eagerly.

  The room was f
urnished with a curious mixture of Indian and European things. There was a cosy red sofa in one corner and a gramophone standing on an English tea table next to it. A large collection of gramophone records stood in a special cabinet. There were pictures on the walls depicting famous places and sceneries from around the world and in a bookcase the princess had her very own collection of English and Latin books.

  “Wow!” Edward said. “This is great. I wish I had a secret room too.”

  Geetu happily put a record on the gramophone and wound it up. The enchanting tune of an Italian aria filled the room.

  “Please, be my guests,” Geetu smiled and gestured to the sofa.

  While the boys sat down on what had to be the softest and most comfortable sofa in the world Geetu opened a cabinet and took out some fruit and drinks.

  The children sat down together eating and drinking while Geetu questioned the boys about every single adventure they’d ever had, where they were from and what their life was like. She couldn’t get enough of it and asked to hear some stories she liked best told several times.

  At long last the boys didn’t know what else they could tell her. They’d spent hours in the secret room and were getting a bit restless and hungry.

  “So you need to ride a tiger,” Geetu said thoughtfully.

  Anthony nodded. “Can you help us?”

  “Maybe,” she said. “I know of someone who has knowledge in these matters.

  5

  Edward and
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