Lady Daphne had never got on well with her mother. Daphne was a Daddy’s girl. Her father was the Earl of Shrewsbury and in the British Colonial Service. She had spent an exciting childhood travelling with her parents to the outposts of Empire. At the age of fourteen all this changed. Worried that Daphne was becoming something of a wild child and wanting to further her education her parents packed off to boarding school in England.
She was enrolled at Cheltenham Ladies College in Gloucestershire where she spent the next four years. Daphne had always had a keen mind and a thirst for knowledge. Both of these attributes flourished in the academic atmospheres of one of the few schools for girls that valued such things. There was of course a period of adjustment. A couple of bullies needed to be sorted out with her fists and unwanted discipline had to be endured. After rather a rocky first year it all became well worthwhile. She had made several really good friends that she remained in contact with.
Daphne graduated as a cultured, stunningly beautiful young lady, with the world at her feet. Mother was delighted, for a change, and immediately arranged meetings with a series of eligible young men. Mother’s choice in men soon provoked a series of rows between them. Daphne was determined to find her own man when she was ready. She rejected suiters of good breeding and wealth just because they were idiots, something her mother never understood.
Daphne wanted to go to Singapore when her father was appointed Governor. Reluctantly her mother went along on one condition. If after two years Daphne had not found anyone, they would return to England. The next two years passed happily but far too quickly for Daphne. She enjoyed helping her father and getting her mother worried. She did not however object when the Countess insisted, they return to England. She had a cause to go to.
Once there Daphne virtually ignored high society and joined the suffragettes. Passionate about getting women the vote she soon became one of Emily Pankhurst’s bodyguards. Mother did not approve as she saw no need for women to be bothered by politics. When Daphne got arrested for assaulting a policeman during a demonstration mother was absolutely horrified. She decided it was time to get back to Singapore.
The first part of the journey was pleasant enough. They took a passenger liner to Calcutta. It was while in India that Daphne realised that her mother was up to something. The Countess was playing matchmaker, again. The journey to Singapore would be completed on a luxurious steam powered yacht, the SY Imperial. The son of the owner was on board and the Countess was determined that he was the man for Daphne.
Her daughter saw things very differently. She wanted a man that she could respect and fall in love with. Daphne’s first impression of Herbert Hill-Willis was of a stupid ferret faced weedy little man. From there her opinion of him dropped still further as Herbert tried to impress her with his family’s wealth. Unfortunately, in such a small ship he was impossible to avoid and he had a lot of trouble in taking no for an answer.
Five days into the nine-day voyage Daphne was standing by the rail on the front deck staring moodily out to sea. She had finally managed to discourage Herbert by threatening to punch his face in, only to have the ship’s first officer try to flirt with her. Lieutenant Rawlins had been keen on Daphne from the start of the voyage and had been waiting impatiently for Herbert to be dismissed. Now at last he felt safe trying his luck without risking his job. He was handsome, a perfect gentleman and so boring that Daphne was having trouble not yawning as he droned on about ships. She was coming to the conclusion that the captain was the only interesting man on board when her mind was changed by the sudden appearance of a handsome young stranger
The man was wearing rather dirty overalls, unbuttoned almost to the waist. This marked him as working class, but somehow the label just didn’t fit. He walked towards them with all the confidence of an aristocrat. He was looking straight at Daphne who according to her class should have ignored such a bold approach. Sensing her companion’s annoyance, she gave a gentle toss of her long dark hair and a welcoming smile. For such a man to ignore him while approaching a titled lady, like he was her social equal was absolutely intolerable to Rawlins. The obvious fact that she didn’t mind made it even worse.
“Get back to work. The crew are not permitted here,” the officer said angrily.
“Settle down mate, I’m not staying. I’ve just come to ask Daphne if she would like another bridge partner for tonight,” the man said cheerily.
The voice was calm and friendly, the smile warm and genuine. The young handsome face had a rugged charm about it that went well with the graceful movement of his well-muscled frame. The lady was intrigued by the offer, the first officer was infuriated.
“I am not your mate Taylor, I’m your superior officer. And kindly address Lady Daphne in the appropriate manner,” Rawlins blustered.
“He just did. If a man is playing bridge with me, I don’t expect him to use my title. Shall we say seven o’clock in the main salon, um, Mister Taylor?” Daphne said as she tried not to laugh at how uncomfortable the officer looked.
“I’ll be there Daphne, and it’s Bill,” he said in reply.
The Countess of Shrewsbury was horrified when she heard that one of the ship’s stockers was going to be their fourth at bridge that night. She had to admit that he couldn’t possibly be a worst player than Herbert but was still far from happy. She was in the process of reprimanding her daughter when Bill walked in dressed in an expensive suit. The Countess stopped in mid-sentence and for a few seconds just stared at him.
“Oh my goodness. Where has he been hiding,” she said abuzz with excitement as she noticed he was coming towards them.
“In the engine room. He’s Bill Taylor our fourth for bridge tonight. Scrubs up pretty nice doesn’t he? Daphne said amused by her mother’s reaction.
“That darling is quite possibly the supreme understatement of all time. You failed to mention he is an absolute dreamboat,” she said ardently.
Daphne introduced them and all earlier objections were forgotten. Bill was from New Zealand that didn’t have the rigid class system of England. Just as Daphne had assumed, he didn’t normally shovel coal for a living. Bill had won a scholarship to study law at Otago University and had graduated about a year ago. Wanting to see more of the world before settling down Bill had travelled to London to see the sights and witness the Coronation of George V. While there he had run out of money and decided to work his passage home in stages as a stoker. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it.
Captain Horatio Hastings arrived as Bill was speaking and did not recognise him at first. He was rather shocked when he found out who he was but reserved judgement until they started playing cards. All three were soon delighted that Bill had replaced Herbert and not just because he was a much better player. Bridge is a great leveller of social and financial status. It also helped that Bill was a very interesting person to talk to. He had no problem with women working for a living and wanted to know if Daphne would be helping her father when she got back Singapore. She hoped so as she found politics fascinating. Bill understood this easily enough, but had a lot of trouble understanding why there was such resistance to women having the vote.
Women had been voting in New Zealand for the last twenty years. Bill was captivated by the way Daphne told of her adventures and asked if she had been hurt in the demonstration. Bill had reservations about the tactics used but made no objections that had not already been raised inside the organisation. He found nothing amusing about the incident or strange that Daphne knew how to defend herself. It was Herbert saying how ridiculous it was for women to vote or fight that had escalated an argument over bridge into a personal exchange of insults.
It was a very pleasant evening and much to Herbert’s annoyance they played again the following night. He was starting to feel unwanted in his own ship. He sought solace in a bottle. The four bridge players were looking forward to another evening when the captain had to call it off. There was a storm brewing and he thought it best they head for shelter.
Captain Horatio Hastings fought valiantly to save his ship, but it was not to be. The storm drove the SY Imperial viciously onto some submerged rocks. The yacht clung there precariously for a few moments before another massive wave drove them clear, leaving a hole in the hull. The crew did their best to plug the hole and the pumps tried to keep the water at bay. Unfortunately, all they could do was delay the inevitable.
The water started gaining on the pumps and eventually drowned them into silence. It was time to abandon ship. The storm was growing weaker but it would still be a rough trip in the lifeboat. Horatio mustered his crew and got the lifeboat well stocked with provisions. Rawlins had gone to get Herbert Hill-Willis but had found him drunk and refusing to leave his ship. The boat was crowded but there was room for one more.
Captain Hastings had already decided to go down with his ship. Forty-five years in the Royal Navy had created standards that were hard to break. Despite the owners’ son being a particularly unpleasant individual Horatio had no desire to take anyone with him. Leaving firm instructions with his lieutenant not to risk the lifeboat by waiting too long, Horatio set out to find the missing passenger. Herbert was passed out in the ship’s bar. Horatio rather enjoyed tipping a bucket of water over him, grabbing him by the collar and shaking him awake. The little man agreed to come but insisted on bringing all the liquor he could carry. By the time they got back on deck the lifeboat had gone.
Horatio wasn’t surprised. He had explained to Rawlins that his little personal boat could make it to the nearby coast of Sumatra. There were no more thoughts of going down with the ship, especially when he discovered that others had left the lifeboat.
“What are you still doing here Charles,” Horiatis said in dismay to his sixteen year old American grandson. .
“I jumped out when I saw they were going to leave without you. We can leave on your boat with Lady Daphne and Bill,” said Charles.
Horatio was about to ask where they had gone when they appeared, carrying a five-foot-long trunk. He had explained to Daphne earlier that there was no room in the lifeboat for it. There was even less room in the smaller boat. The captain’s experienced eye changed his mind. The leather exterior of the trunk was now covered with oilskins and had a life preserver tied to each side. It would float tethered to the boat and not get in the way. Bill produced a length of rope as Daphne confirmed that was the plan.
The captain’s boat was only small but there was enough room for the five of them plus their personal possessions. There was no hope of reaching Singapore but the coast of Sumatra was within easy reach. They would be there by morning. They salvaged what they thought would be useful from the yacht and then pulled away in the boat to watch sadly as it slipped beneath the waves. There was still too much wind for the said so Bill stayed on the oars.
By dawn they were sailing along the deserted jungle clad coast of Sumatra. A couple of hours earlier the wind had dropped sufficiently for Horatio to give Bill and the oars a rest. As the morning sun lit the land the captain found they were approaching exactly what he was looking for. A sandy cove bordered by a fresh water stream. An ideal landing spot. Horatio woke the others, all of whom were very pleased to be within sight of land.
Horatio was confident they would easily be able to contact the Dutch authorities and be rescued. Charles who preferred to be called Chuck, thought it was the start of a exciting adventure. Daphne and Bill were relieved to be able to get away from Herbert who by this time was feeling seriously hung over and wanted somewhere to continue sleeping. After they had landed the others realised, he was of no use to anyone in his current state. He wasn’t interested in breakfast so they left him to it.
After the boat had been hauled up onto the beach Chuck went exploring. Daphne and Bill hauled in the trunk and unloaded the boat while Horatio got a fire started. Horatio was glad they had brought the trunk as the two oilskins would make excellent roofs for the little huts he planned to build. Daphne assured him that there were also plenty of useful items inside. Having unwrapped the trunk she opened it, but all the men could see was clothes. She took offence at their obvious disappointment.
“It is bad enough being shipwrecked, but for it to happen without a change of clothes would be completely intolerable” she said indignantly as she dug underneath the clothing to retrieve a useful looking hatchet.
Daphne used the hatchet to chop firewood as Horatio started to cook them all some breakfast. They did not realise it at the time but the four of them were being closely observed by a voluptuous scantily clad blonde and an ape. The blonde nodded with approval as Bill stripped off his shirt and started swinging the fireman’s axe to cut down a tree for shelter.
“Oh yes big man, we are going to get on just fine. When I get you alone, I will soon make you forget all about that overdressed wimp you came with,” the blonde said to herself as she strained to hear what was being said.
The jungle girl was supremely confident that any man would find her irresistible. Her outfit of tribal loincloth, knife belt, boar’s tusk necklace and scarf left little to the imagination. The scarf was long, narrow and of leopard skin. It went around her neck, crossed over her large breasts covering only the central region and was knotted at the back. This was all the clothing the jungle girl required and she gave a little snort of contempt at the amount of clothing Daphne had brought with her.
A smile crossed the blonde’s face as she gently caressed her spear and thought pleasant thoughts as to where she would like to stick it. These thoughts were interrupted by the ape who was getting excited about something. The jungle girl was straining to hear what was being said and shushed him without turning around. The ape tried again, grabbing the blonde by the arm. She responded by angrily pushing him away. Making little whimpering sounds he tried again, this time grabbing the jungle girl’s scarf and tugging at it. This untied the top which nearly came off as the girl turned, to find a teenage boy staring at her in all her bare breasted glory.
“Hi and thank you,” Chuck stammered.
The blonde smiled as she took her top completely off to straighten it out before casually putting it back on.
“I am Tiggre, Queen of the jungle. You may tell them about me but only tell the large man that he is the one that I want and what Tiggre wants Tiggre gets. If you are a good boy and do what I ask, I will make a man out of you before you leave,” Tiggre promised.
With that remark the blonde walked off and left the stunned teenager a lot happier about being shipwrecked. He ran down to the beach to tell the other castaways all about Tiggre. They all thought he was exaggerating, especially when he started describing the size of her boobs. This didn’t bother Chuck because as soon as he saw that bacon and eggs were available, he stopped arguing and started eating. After breakfast was cleared away it was time to start building the shelters.
Herbert had no interest in breakfast and woke just long enough to hear the part of Chuck’s story about breasts, before going back to sleep. Horatio and Bill started building a shelter while the others looked on. It was soon decided that Chuck should go back to exploring while Daphne unpacked her trunk. She got Bill’s help to carry it across the stream at the edge of the little beach and put it behind some trees. This would give her some privacy so she could get changed out of her wet dress. Bill returned to help Horatio cut palm fronds. They worked quietly for twenty minutes until the peace was shattered by the sounds of someone running through the jungle towards them. He was in a hurry and it soon became obvious why.
“Look out, I’ve got a tiger after me,” cried out Chuck in panic.
He ran down the beach with the tiger gaining on him with every stride. When it had closed to within range the big cat sprang only to shudder in mid-air as a high-powered hunting rifle roared from the surrounding trees. The impetus of the leap carried the tiger on to the boy’s back but the bullet had hit a vital spot. The big cat was dead before they hit the ground. Bill ran over to help Chuck get out from under the tiger’s body while Herbert’s eyes were drawn to the direction that the shot had come from.
He had been asleep behind a palm tree when the gun’s roar had woken him. From ground level the first thing he saw was the shooter’s boots. They went half way to the knee, were of finely crafted leather, the right one had a sheathed knife strapped to it and they had tight fitting slacks tucked into them. The tightness of the olive-green slacks showed off shapely feminine legs and nicely rounded hips to good advantage. A smart man would have noticed that these lovely curves had danger signs on them. There was a holstered pistol on the right hip, a sheathed curved knife on the left and she was carrying the rifle that had already introduced itself. Herbert however was not that smart and was far more interested in her magnificent upper body. It was clad in a fawn coloured silk shirt, the snugness of which emphasised the slimness of her waist while the deep narrow V showed off a glorious pair of full firm pleasure domes. The whole effect was topped off by an Aussie bush hat that shaded a face that Herbert’s eyes barely glanced at. They drifted back down to the cleavage. Standing up gave Herbert a better view and he noticed with glee that the huntress wore nothing under her shirt to impede the enticing natural jiggle of her superb breasts as she approached. He dimly remembered Chuck saying something about a gorgeous jungle girl. Who else could it be?
“It is true what they say; that it is darkest before the dawn,” announced Herbert in a loud theatrical voice.
“Cut off from civilisation and in mortal danger we are suddenly rescued by a breathtakingly beautiful safari guide. Oh my goddess; prey tell me your name so that I may worship you,” he continued.
“It’s Daphne you idiot,” replied the huntress. “Something you could have worked out for yourself it you had bothered to look at my face.”
Daphne was not amused and had planned to say more, but howls of laughter from Bill and Chuck distracted her.
“Haven’t you two got anything to say on the situation, or are you just going to sit there and cackle,” she snapped.
The words, the angry tone of her voice and the ominous click clack of the rifle’s bolt combined to bring the laughter to an end.
“I’m sorry Daphne. Thank you for saving my life and I think you look absolutely stunning,” Chuck answered with a sheepish grin.
“I agree with him. I love your outfit, the way you fill it to perfection and your weapons,” continued Bill. “Who have we declared war on?”
With his prompting and enthusiastic encouragement from Chuck and Horatio Daphne went through her armament. The hunting rifle she carried was an English bolt-action custom-made Holland and Holland that fired the recently released .375 H&H cartridge. The pistol was a German 7.63mm Mauser 1898 automatic sometimes known as a “Broomhandle”. This she carried for personal protection and for hunting smaller game. The larger of her two knives was a kukri, the curved heavy bladed fighting knife of the Gurkhas. Weighted mainly as a chopping weapon it could also be thrust effectively. Used as a small machete it was useful for clearing undergrowth, chopping wood and opening coconuts. The medium sized utility Bowie knife strapped to Daphne’s right boot was balanced by a sheathed sharpening steel in her left.
Bill had done some hunting with a Lee-Enfield .303 but had never used anything as powerful as Daphne rifle. Horatio had his Webley .455 revolver with him but freely admitted it wouldn’t be much use for hunting. He had done less hunting than Bill but knew more about guns as his family did a lot of shooting. He had fired bigger and more powerful rifles, but only ones that were single shot or double barrelled. He was impressed that such firepower could be contained in a medium calibre weapon with a four-round magazine. Chuck was more interested in the pistol, especially when he heard it had a ten-round magazine
He eagerly accepting the offer of a couple practice shots at a suitable target. Daphne demonstrated how the wooden holster and gun fitted together to make an effective carbine. She explained how this improved the accuracy and then handed it over to Chuck. He put some shells on a piece of driftwood and happily blasted them away.
Bill congratulated Chuck on his fine shooting and asked Daphne if she would let him try out the rifle for size. She agreed and pointed out a suitable tree some distance away and nominated a branch for Bill to aim at. The bullet blew it in half to Bill’s great satisfaction. Daphne was also pleased as she now knew that if they had to separate either of her guns could be left in good hands.
The discussion about the weapons had left Herbert feeling very left out. He had been quietly fuming since Daphne’s put down and was trying to think of a way of getting back in favour. It was obvious that she had chosen to dress in such a provocative manner purely for Bill’s benefit. The way that Daphne had reacted to Chuck’s description of Tiggre both surprised and infuriated Herbert. Bill obviously appreciated the effort and she enjoyed the attention and flirting playfully with him. Herbert tried to swallow his pride and nearly choked on it. He was getting sick of the talk about guns and decided to try and change the subject.
“What else do you have in the trunk apart from clothes and weapons Daphne,” Herbert asked.
“There are a few other things in there. Binoculars, a camera, water bottle, a flint kit for starting fires and a few books,” Daphne replied.
Herbert gave a deep sigh of relief. For the first time since landing something had gone right. They had a camera with them which meant he was back in the game. His claims to be an expert photographer were an exaggeration but not by so much that a novice like Daphne was likely to catch him out. Daphne was reluctant at first but when Horatio, Bill and Chuck added their support she agreed to pose by the tiger. She went with Herbert to get the camera thinking that all was well with him now that he was able to make a contribution. Daphne didn’t realise that a sinister motive lurked behind her countryman’s actions. Herbert had noticed enviously the way that Daphne and Bill looked at each other. He was sure that if he could lull them into a false sense of security, he would be able to photograph them in a compromising situation. Pretending that he was not one to hold a grudge he took a number of shots of Daphne and the dead tiger before including the others in phorographs.
They didn’t spend long over the photo shoot and discussion moved on to what to do next. With plenty of fresh water available the next priorities were food and shelter. Daphne was keen to have a look around by herself and bring back something for dinner. The tiger showed signs of being wounded so there was a good chance that hunting parties frequented the area. Although she had plenty of hunting experience the privileged English lady knew nothing about building shelters. There had always been servants and bearers around to do that sort of thing while on safari. Having checked that they planned to build two huts she was happy to leave that to Bill and Horatio. Bill had the axe for heavy work and the hatchet would deal with the fronds that the huts would need for walls.
Daphne planned to leave her rifle behind so the men could protect themselves against unwanted visitors. The Mauser would give her all the protection she needed as well as providing dinner. With its rapid rate of fire the young huntress was confident of success and had no fears for her own safety. She had been brought up in British colonial Malaya and knew the jungle well. Before she left however there was a dispute she had to settle. What would they do with the dead tiger?
Daphne had no interest in keeping any part of it. The thought of cutting off its head and mounting it on a wall was not an option. Her only concern was that the carcass was gone when she got back from hunting as the meat would attract unwanted scavengers. Nobody had any objection to that but both Herbert and Chuck wanted the skin as a souvenir. Horatio had no interest in the skin and Bill could think of more important things to worry about. He walked over to where Daphne was standing. He made a gesture towards to the trees at the edge of the beach.
“Yes I know, we are being watched. I’ll investigate on my way out,” Daphne said quietly.
“Do you want me to come with you,” suggested Bill.
“No most definitely not. I’ve got a pretty good idea who she is and you’ve got far too much to do here,” answered Daphne firmly.
The way she said it sent a tingle of excitement through the young New Zealander. There was a steely edge on her voice and her hands gripped her shirt at the waist as Daphne thrust her chest out to widen her cleavage. Bill got the message loud and clear. She hated the thought of him frolicking in the jungle with a voluptuous scantily clad blonde. If it was a rival female that was watching she had better be careful. Daphne had just declared her interest in Bill. Forget the title, I am woman and I am dangerous. Bill was about to tease her about this when Herbert and Chuck came over wanting Daphne to settle their dispute. Since she had shot the tiger it was her property and they had agreed to let her decide who got the skin.
“Herbert, do you know how to skin a tiger,” Daphne asked.
His expression of dumbfounded amazement that anyone would ask him such a stupid question was quite comical and all the answer that the huntress required.
“How about you Chuck. Got any experience with skinning animals,’ Daphne continued.
“Yes I have. Even did a cougar a while ago. A tiger won’t be a problem if you loan me those,” he said as he gestured towards the Bowie knife and steel.
“That’s good enough for me it’s all yours. Better get to it we don’t want the meat lying around for long,” she suggested.
Chuck thanked her for the skin and happily went to work. Daphne ignored Herbert’s objections and told him to help Bill set up the camp while she was out hunting for dinner. The Englishman started to sulk but when he realised that not only was he expected to work but take orders from a mere stoker, he got really upset. Herbert started to protest and suggested that he should accompany Daphne into the jungle. She wasn’t interested and had already gone by the time he had finished trading insults with Bill.
To be continued
The card game my characters play is Auction Bridge not the modern game of Contract Bridge. Contract developed from Auction and involves much more complicated bidding systems. The card play in both games is the same.