As the hunter does not happen to be a Bheel with the privileges of nakedness conferred by a brown skin, this is perhaps the only practical alternative. If he went out to shoot in evening clothes, a crush hat, and a hansom cab, the chances are that he would make an example of himself and come to some untimely end. What would the Apollo Bundar say? What would the Bengali Baboo say? What would the sea-aye-ees say? Yes, our hunter affects coarse and snuffy clothes; they carry with them suggestions of hardship and roughing it; and his hat is umbrageous and old.
As to the man under the hat, he is an odd compound of vanity, sentiment, and generosity. He is as affected as a girl. Among other traits he affects reticence, and he will not tell me what the plans for the day are, or what khabbar[W] has been received. Knowing absolutely nothing, he moves about with a solemn and important air, [as if six months gone with a bandobast[X]]; and he says to me, “Don’t fret yourself my dear fellow; you’ll know all about it time enough. I have made arrangements.” Then he dissembles and talks of irrelevant topics transcendentally. This makes me feel such a poor pen-and-ink fellow, such a worm, such a [Famine-commissioner, such a] Political Agent!
With this discordant note still vibrating we go in to breakfast; and then, dear Vanity, he bucks with a quiet, stubborn determination that would fill an American editor or an Under-Secretary of State with despair. [His lies are really that awful (as the Press Commissioner would say) which you couldn’t tell as what he was joking, or inebriated, or drawing your leg.] He belongs to the twelve-foot-tiger school; so, perhaps, he can’t help it.
If the whole truth were told, he is a warm-hearted, generous, plucky fellow, with boundless vanity and a romantic vein of maudlin sentiment that seduces him from time to time into the gin-and-water corner of an Indian newspaper. Under the heading of “The Forest Ranger’s Lament,” or “The Old Shikarry’s Tale of Woe,” he hiccoughs his column of sickly lines (with St. Vitus’s dance in their feet), and then I believe he feels better. I have seen him do it; I have caught him in criminal conversation with a pen and a sheet of paper; bottle at hand—
quo, ceu fonte perenni,
Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis.
In appearance he is a very short man with a long black beard, a sunburnt face, and a clay pipe. He has shot battalions of tigers and speared squadrons of wild pig. He is universally loved, universally admired, and universally laughed at.
He is generous to a fault. All the young fellows for miles round owe him money. He would think there was something wrong if they did not borrow from him; and yet, somehow, I don’t think that he is very well off. There is nothing in his bungalow but guns, spears, and hunting trophies; he never goes home, and I have an idea that there is some heavy drain on his purse in the old country. But you should hear him troll a hunting song with his grand organ voice, and you would fancy him the richest man in the world, his note is so high and triumphant!