The kidnapper-III – A short moral story about an ironic sense of justice

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While John lay gravely ill, Gwen had the unenviable task of looking after the two tiger cubs that were growing rapidly. John Junior and Judith, in a grand ceremony, named the cubs Bobby and Billy, names which hardly did much justice to the lovely creatures. Their school friends were forever visiting. They would sit with cubs, stroking, cuddling and squeezing them with the spontaneous show of love that all children manifest for animals.

One night when the twins had gone to bed, Gwen found the cubs unusually quit. She went out to check on them and found Bobby lying still and she realized he was dead. She was hardly surprised. He had been listless in the morning, but he had taken the evening bottle of milk and even lapped the soup, she had tried them on. For a long time she sat stroking Billy, felling helpless and tried; then she put her head down and cried. Nursing a delirious husband, coping with the twins and never-ending stream of friends, had all taken their toll.

When Doctor Chakravarty came to give John his penicillin shots, she told him what had happened. “I feel all this had been just so much wasted effort. John is ever so ill because of the mauling and now one of the cubs is dead. I’m sure we’ll lose the other one, too. I don’t think this milk is sufficiently nourishing.”

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The old doctor personally agreed with her, but he did not voice his fears. He could see that Gwen Upshon was much too tired and depressed. He advised, “Give the cub to a zoo, they will know how to look after it.”But Gwen was reluctant to do this without John’s consent; besides, she had no idea what the local authorities would say about the matter. It was possible they would take a dim view of someone who had tried to interfere with the wild life. Although Project Tiger was still a thing of the future and at this point of their mother could be constructed as an offence.

That very evening, however, John seemed a little better and Gwen, not wanting to put off Billy’s fate, decided to broach the subject. “John, we lost a cub last evening and I don’t want Billy to die. Let’s give him up to the zoo.”

John become so agitated that she dropped the subject, but when he was up and about two weeks later, she brought up Billy’s deteriorating health again. John continued to resist. Gwen nagged and Billy grew thinner and less playful although his novelty, as far as the school-children were concerned, never wore off. But Judith came to hate Billy because he tended to scratch her, sometimes even drawing blood. It was on one such occasion when she ran in crying, “Please, daddy, give him away. He scratches me so badly,” that John decided to capitulate.

Finally Billy was given away to a circus. John didn’t sell him as he had planned to do. In a vague way he was hoping that by being the loser he finally making amends.

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Billy remained with the circus for many years, touring all over India. When he was too old to perform he was released into a safari park which was a sanctuary for tiger. He would watch the vans filled with the tourists who came to gape and admire. Although he was old, he was still a fine-looking specimen, as his dead mother had been. The attendants fed the tiger well and at regular intervals

One day the attendants were late and feeding-time was past the stipulated hour. A van pulled up and a group of tourists sat watching and pointing at Billy who was sitting under a tree. John, grown quite old, but still full of fire, had brought his grandson, Judith’s three-year-old to the reserve park watch the tigers, those animals he loved and admired.

Billy’s stomach was growling, he looked at the van ant at a small creature waving its arms about. “Food,” through Billy, and with one bound he reached the van, which also happened to be the same color and type as the food van. Smashing the window he dragged the small boy out and raced off with him, leaving behind a stunned group of adults and a devastated John.

The kidnapped had finally himself become the kidnapper.

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P.A.Beddoe

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