Mrs. Packletide longs to shoot a tiger in India. Her exotic fancy arises from her desperate need to best Loona Bimberton’s recent flight with an Algerian aviator, and “only a personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of press photographs could successfully counter that sort of thing.” Mrs. Packletide already dreams of the admiration she will gain from her London peers when she returns home with such a tale and trophy—even better is the personal satisfaction that stealing the limelight from her ultimate rival Bimberton will bring. In fact, Mrs. Packletide plans to brazenly rub her feat in her rival’s face by throwing a lunch party in Bimberton’s honor with the tiger-skin in pride of display, followed by the act of gifting Bimberton a tiger-claw brooch.
Mrs. Packletide offers a thousand rupees for the rights to shoot a tiger in India “without overmuch risk or exertion.” Luckily, a village has just the opportunity, offering a hunting experience in which Mrs. Packletide can shoot an elderly, almost-tame tiger from the comfort of the village outskirts. The villagers work hard to ensure the tiger is kept within the village boundaries until Mrs. Packletide arrives for the big shoot. The tiger is so feeble, and likely unwell, that the villagers are relieved the animal stays alive until Mrs. Packletide’s arrival. Louisa Mebbin, Mrs. Packletide’s long-time paid companion, accompanies her for the hunt and comments loudly to the village headman about the outrageous expense Mrs. Packletide is paying for the unimpressive big-game experience. The two wait for the tiger to approach a bleating goat that is tied up as bait, both relaxing in the comfort of a tree platform.
When the tiger appears and notices the goat, it lies down in fatigue before slowly ambling towards its victim. Miss Mebbin, always the penny pincher, urges Mrs. Packletide to shoot the tiger before it eats the bait so that they don’t have to pay extra money for the goat. Subsequently, when a great shot rings out from Mrs. Packletide’s rifle, the tiger jumps sideways before rolling over, dead. Mrs. Packletide and the villagers are carried away with glee at the successful shot.
It is Louisa Mebbin who realizes that Mrs. Packletide has accidentally and fatally shot the goat instead of the tiger. It seems the elderly tiger has died in fright at the sound of the rifle’s loud discharge. Although annoyed, Mrs. Packletide is happy to pose for trophy photographs as she pretends she has successfully shot the big cat. She is content in the knowledge that the villagers and Miss Mebbin will play along with her deception due to the money she is paying both parties.
Photos of Mrs. Packletide and her dead tiger reach newspapers as far abroad as America and Russia, while at home in London she enjoys the attention of her exploits by hosting a high-society lunch party and gifting Loona Bimberton a tiger-claw brooch as planned. The tiger-skin travels between London houses as it is “duly inspected and admired by the county.” Mrs. Packletide takes her farcical deed even further by attending a fancy-dress ball as Diana, the Greek goddess of the hunt. She draws the line at fellow socialite Clovis’ suggestion that she hold a “primeval dance party” in which “everyone should wear the skins of beasts they had recently slain.”
A few days later, Mrs. Packletide is horrified by Louisa Mebbin’s unexpected threat to expose the truth of their hunt in India. Miss Mebbin successfully blackmails Mrs. Packletide into buying her a weekend cottage near Dorking for six hundred and eighty pounds. Miss Mebbin names the cottage “Les Fauvres” and plants tiger-lilies around its borders; the property is the envy of all her friends. The story concludes with Mrs. Packletide’s acknowledgement to her London peers that she no longer undertakes big-game hunting because “the incidental expenses are so heavy.”