Paladin is at the lobby of the Carleton when a man approaches him and reaches into his jacket. Paladin draws a hidden derringer, but the man takes out a business card and introduces himself as J. Hawkins of London, with the Empire Detective Agency. Once he confirms that Paladin is who he claims, Hawkins says that he's been tracking him from Calcutta. He hands Paladin an envelope and leaves, and the gunslinger opens it. Inside is a bank draft for $1,000 and a message from John Ellsworth, asking Paladin to come to Argus, Texas, to kill a tiger before it kills Ellsworth. Hey Boy sees the letter and warns that tigers carry devils, but Paladin tells him that he's going.
Paladin arrives at Argus and goes to Ellsworth's estate. Ellsworth's servant, Pahndu, comes out with a gun and captures Paladin, but is surprised and pleased when Paladin greets him in Hindi. Pahndu recognizes Paladin and explains that he lived in the village where Paladin visited many years ago, when the hunter disposed of a man-eating tiger. The servant recommended Paladin to Ellsworth, and explains that a tiger is stalking Ellsworth and that Paladin is there to kill it.
Paladin finally gets the chatty Pahndu to take him to Ellsworth, who explains that he hired the detective agency to track down Paladin across the world. He wants to buy Paladin's services and won't take no for an answer. Ellsworth then summons Pahndu and his other servant, a Hindu girl named Lahri. The millionaire enjoys tormenting his servants by keeping them in his employ and separated, even though he knows that they are in love. When a cat comes in through the window, Ellsworth jumps in fright and tells Pahndu to kill it, but Paladin stops the servant and sends the servants away.
Ellsworth, favoring his gout-ridden leg, starts to rail at Paladin, but Paladin tells the man to sit down. He puts it bluntly that he can't stand Ellsworth, but that he is interested in the Bengali Tiger Curse. Paladin knows of the curse, which causes its victim to become obsessed with tigers until he sees them everywhere. Finally the tiger appears and kills the victim. Ellsworth admits that he's fled to the States to avoid the curse that was put on him in India. When Paladin wonders why he was cursed, Ellsworth prevaricates at first but finally admits that he was tiger-hunting in India but left his prey wounded but alive because he was afraid. It became a man-eater as a result, killing a hundred natives, and the survivors held Ellsworth responsible and cursed him.
Another cat strolls in and Paladin takes pleasure in watching Ellsworth flinch, and reminding him that part of the Tiger Curse is that cats visit the victim. Ellsworth storms up to it but it leaps at him and scratches him. The servants run in and tend to their master's wounds. Ellsworth insists that what is important is his misery, not the natives that died and the curse, and that Paladin should focus on him. Paladin says that he hasn't decided to help Ellsworth, and Ellsworth tells Lahri to bring a Hindu prophecy deck. The millionaire explains that that there is only one tiger card in the deck of cards, and then shuffles and randomly draws the tiger card from it.
That night, Paladin watches over Ellsworth. They play chess and Paladin wins. When Ellsworth complains, Paladin demands another $1,000 for the "pleasure " of the man's company. Ellsworth reluctantly writes the check while Paladin examines the prophecy deck. He asks if Lahri always shuffles the cards, and Ellsworth admits that he's considered the possibility that his servant is tormenting him. Paladin shuffles the cards and offers them to Ellsworth, and he draws an elephant. The millionaire is relieved... until he discovers the tiger card stuck to the back of it. They hear a cat-like screech outside and Paladin goes to investigate, only to find nothing. He suggests that it was a mountain lion in the nearby hills but Ellsworth doesn't believe him and pays the gunslinger the additional $1,000.
The next morning, Paladin and Pahndu check the grounds. Pahndu admits that he hates his master, who encourages love between him and Lahri but keeps them apart by counting on their honor to remain separate. Paladin suggests that Pahndu might have created the curse to get revenge and the servant takes offense. When the two men go into town, several local men insult Pahndu. Paladin prepares to fight them, but Pahndu sees a circus poster announcing an upcoming show, including a tiger act. Pahndu runs away and one of the men insults him. Paladin decks the man and then goes after the servant.
Back at the estate, Pahndu tells Paladin that Ellsworth has ridden out of town to avoid the tiger and is heading for Humboldt. The poster says that the circus is in Humboldt, and Paladin rides after him. As he goes down the road, Paladin runs into two men repairing their circus wagon. It turned over, releasing several animals. They tell Paladin that Ellsworth rode by and ignored their warning, and Paladin continues on.
As Ellsworth rides through the forest, he sees something moving in the bushes. He tries to ride away but his horse panics, throws him, and runs off. The circus tiger emerges from the bushes and advances on Ellsworth, who climbs up a hill to get away.
Paladin is searching for Ellsworth and finds tiger tracks. He follows them back to the wagon, where the tiger trainer has recaptured it. Paladin talks to the trainer, who explains that the tiger, Johnny is old and toothless, and couldn't hurt anyone. Amused, Paladin calls to Ellsworth and hears the man's scream. The three men go to investigate and discover that Ellsworth fell off the hill and fell to his death. The circus men offer to take the body to Argus, and Paladin says that he has an appointment in Argus as well. He plans to buy boat tickets for a newly-wedded couple that he knows. The trainer comments on the irony of one man dying and another man marrying at the same time, and Paladin says that some men know only too well what their next appointment will be.