William Caesar is a solidly built Eurasian 6-footer, with a head like a bust of a Roman senator. Known as Willie to all his friends in India, he is a veteran professional hunter in the employ of the Nawab Zaheer Yar Jung, an eminent Moslem prince. As head shikari, he arranges tiger shoots for the nawab and his guests.
"How many tigers have you shot?" I asked him when we first met, one morning in the city of Hyderabad. With the nawab's son and heir apparent, the Nawabzada Fazluddin Khan, I was going out to the Singaram forest block. A very large and famous tiger had ranged there for some time.
"Oh, very few, sir," Willie told me in his precise English. "Less than a score, I should say. Most of those were maneaters or declared cattle-lifters. But I've finished off many wounded tigers."
It was a revealing answer. A wounded tiger takes refuge in the thickest kind of jungle. Following him on foot into the cover that he chooses is a dangerous task, and in India the reigning princes pass this up for the same reason that generals do not lead bayonet charges. Under the code of sportsmen, the game belongs to the hunter who draws first blood. It was Willie's job, as the professional specialist, to go after the wounded tigers, but since these had been hit first by someone else, as Willie saw it they didn't count.
We moved into the camp that the young prince's staff had made ready and were fortunate enough to locate the big tiger on the very first day. With the help of a small army of native beaters he was driven from the cover. He came out fast, on a line that I didn't anticipate. As I squeezed the trigger on a shot that was hurried but not difficult, my swinging forearm bumped the rail of the machan, or shooting platform. I thought I had missed completely. The tiger raced past, a dozen feet to our right, and vanished into extremely dense jungle across a dry and narrow stream bed just behind us.
A few minutes later the prince and I found some drops of blood where the tiger had been when I fired. Willie soon joined us. "I'll not attempt to recover your tiger this evening, sir," he said. "In the morning I shall have a herd of buffaloes driven into the cover beyond the nullah [a dry watercourse]. They will let me know where the tiger is lying up. It will not be necessary for you to be there, sir."
"I want to be there," I told him.
"If you insist, sir," he said. "But I hope you understand the risk. There is something very noble about a tiger. I have never known a wounded one to charge without giving fair warning. At first he makes a purring sound, something like a distant airplane motor. After that he begins to growl. Then he roars and comes very fast. So when I hear the purring I hasten to the center of the most open space near by, and there I stand my ground. I wait until the tiger is within 10 yards, and then I shoot him down. If you are charged in the morning, sir, I'd suggest that you do the same."
We were back for the follow-up at sunrise. Some natives had already brought the herd of domestic water buffaloes. Willie said: "When the buffaloes first scent the tiger they grow excited. They mill about, but they must be driven in until the tiger lets us know just where he is. Then the buffaloes often stampede quite wildly. If that happens, sir, you must climb a tree, or get behind one where they cannot see you. The buffaloes can be even more dangerous than the tiger."
Keeping abreast, two or three paces apart, we followed the buffaloes into the heavy jungle. The tiger had never paused to lie down. In less than an hour we trailed him completely through the jungle strip and out into open grassland. He had been barely scratched, the bleeding had soon stopped, and he had left for parts unknown. But that bit of futile tracking had given me a closeup of Willie's superb jungle craft and the dangerous way he makes his living.