Thug Or A Million Murders by Colonel James L. Sleeman Preface

CHAPTER I. A RELIGION OF MURDER

"NINE hundred and thirty-one murders!" repeated the judge in incredulous tones. "Surely you can never have been guilty of such a number?"

"Sahib," replied the benevolent looking native standing before him, in a quiet voice tinged with a note of pride, "there were many more, but I was so intrigued in luring them to destruction that I ceased counting when certain of my thousand victims!"

Were this fiction it would be extravagant, indeed unbelievable; but that it is fact must surely compel the most skilled and ruthless Chicagoan gun-man to feel the veriest amateur by comparison and to hand the palm for murder to the Thug of India.

The judge was Sleeman, the celebrated Thug-hunter, and the native on trial before him was the infamous Buhram, whose forty years of killing had left a record of nearly two victims a month throughout that period. Now under arrest, he had turned approver, or King's evidence, rather than face death himself, and his interrogator was engaged in the difficult task of wresting from him and others the centuries-old secrets of Thuggee--that mysterious hereditary system of murder which had blotted the escutcheon of India for over three hundred years.

Few people looking into that small court-house on that night in an Indian hot-weather could have appreciated the immense issues of life and death entrusted to that solitary Englishman, who had been responsible for exposing this vile religion and was now engaged in its suppression. Still fewer, looking at the mild and pleasant Thug on trial, could have realised that he was a member of an organised band of the craftiest assassins ever known, whose suppression was to prove a gigantic and dangerous task. There was, however, nothing suggestive of judge and accused on this occasion, for Sleeman was endeavouring to worm out the secrets of Thuggee rather than try a man for his life. The cross-examination, indeed, was in the nature of a conversation between two fishermen, one trying to convince the other that he had caught an abnormal sized fish. By this time the Thug appeared to Sleeman not so much a murderer, as a man brought up in a faith which regarded the killing of men as a legitimate sport, both praiseworthy and lucrative, and though he spared no effort to bring these murderers to the gallows, his feelings towards them were influenced by this point of view.

And so, in the stillness of that stifling court-house, the silence broken only by the soft swish of the lazy punkah, the destiny of millions of human lives was being determined, the net drawing closer and closer, around an organisation that had exacted such heavy toll of human life.

And if it were difficult to believe that the curtain was rising upon so hideous a drama, it would have been still harder to appreciate that this venerable native, with kindly face and white beard, had encompassed the death of a whole battalion of men, not by means of the ordinary weapons of assassination, but by the skilful use of the most harmless weapon in the world, the ruhmal, or strip of cloth, little bigger than a handkerchief. The use of this was not a question of choice but of decree, for by the laws of the Thugs' satanic faith no blood should be shed during the process of murder: in fact Thuggee could not have existed for so long a time had its followers used knives or daggers.

If the onlooker had hoped to find on the old Thug's countenance some signs of remorse for a life spent almost entirely in treacherous murder, he would have been doomed to disappointment, for the old man positively beamed with pride and reminiscent delight while the story of his ghastly past was drawn from him by skilful questioning, literally smacking his lips when recounting some particularly atrocious deed which had necessitated the exercise of great cunning and inhuman deceit.

"Do you never feel remorse for murdering in cold blood, and after the pretence of friendship, those whom you have beguiled into a false sense of security?" asked Sleeman, after one of these periods of obvious exultation.

"Certainly not!" replied Buhram. "Are not you yourself a shikari (hunter of big game), and do not you enjoy the thrill of the stalk, the pitting of your cunning against that of an animal, and are not you pleased at seeing it dead at your feet? So with the Thug who, indeed, regards the stalking of men as a higher form of sport. For you, sahib, have but the instincts of the wild beasts to overcome, whereas the Thug has to subdue the suspicions and fears of intelligent men and women, often heavily armed and guarded, and familiar with the knowledge that the roads are dangerous. In other words, game for our hunting is defended from all points save those of flattery and cunning. Cannot you imagine the pleasure of overcoming such protection during days of travel in their company, the joy in seeing suspicion change to friendship, until that wonderful moment arrives when the ruhmal completes the shikar-- this soft ruhmal, sahib,"--here the old man exhibited a strip of coarse yellow and white cloth, the. Thug colours, "which has terminated the existence of hundreds. Remorse, sahib? Never! Joy and elation, often!"

Such were the tales heard day after day during the suppression of Thuggee, varying little in detail, and always characterised by a total lack of feeling for the wretched victims. And Buhram, however vile, was sincere in his belief that he had been engaged in work, not only pleasurable and profitable, but, in addition, productive of great merit in the hereafter. Buhram does not stand alone in his prowess as a Thug, for several others ran him close in Thuggee history: Ramzam, for example, with a total of 604, and Futty Khan, whose 508 victims in twenty-one years, as compared with Buhram's 931 in forty years, would have put him at the top of his profession had he not been captured.

In an age when tales of crime prove so attractive and bookstalls groan beneath a wealth of imaginary horrors, these true tales of Thuggee must surely appeal to those who prefer fact to fancy, and if the strange history of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is of interest, the actual dual personality of the Thug must surely be more so: that fiend in human form, luring his victims to their doom with soft speech and cunning artifice, committing the cold-blooded murder of every man he met, saint or sinner, rich or poor, blind or lame, during his annual holiday, and spending the remainder of the year as a public-spirited citizen of seeming respectability.

Thug, from the Sanskrit root Sthag, to conceal, is pronounced Tug, and Thuggee as Tuggee. It is a term often wrongly applied, particularly in the United States, to bandits or hold-up men, who do not attempt either concealment of their intention or strangulation. The Thug was a murderer by hereditary profession, who sincerely believed that he had a divine right to kill, and no other class of criminal possesses the right to call itself by that name. Certainly not the modern type, for, contemptible and horrible as the Thugs unquestionably were, it is certain that they would be loud in their expression of horror at the deeds of these despicable ruffians in Western countries. However unscrupulous and treacherous the Thugs were, one thing at least stands to their credit, that while they sometimes killed women--though contrary to their faith-- they never maltreated them beforehand. The taking of human life for the sheer lust of killing was the Thugs' main object: the plunder, however pleasant, being a secondary consideration. That robbery did not form the principal motive is clear from the fact that they made little effort to ascertain the wealth of those they put to death, and wretchedly poor men, their total worldly wealth less than sixpence, constantly appear in Thuggee records as having been added to the bag. The Thug, indeed, regarded his profession much in the same light as the sportsman: no motive was required for the murders they planned to commit; their prospective victims were unknown to them; and it mattered nothing whether they were Hindu or Mohammedan, for the Thugs had in their ranks members of both religions. All travellers were fish for their net, and they watched their growing toll of human life with exactly the same feeling of pride that the sportsman experiences when making his entries in a game book.

Here was no body of amateur assassins, driven to crime by force of circumstance, but men of seeming respectability and high intelligence, often occupying positions of importance and responsibility in their normal lives, secretly trained from boyhood to the highest degree of skill in strangulation. Each Thug had his particular job to do: to one fell the task of throwing the ruhmal around the victim's neck, to others the task of seizing arms and legs and giving those scientific wrenches and cruel blows at vital parts which ensured his being brought down at the psychological moment. These arts were continually practised by the Thug in his off-duty moments, fathers teaching sons this foul work with parental pride, until all engaged in a Thuggee expedition became so expert that they could strangle their victims with the maximum of adroitness and in the minimum of time. Their art was carried still further, for other Thugs were specially trained to bury and conceal the murdered bodies with such skill that the ground beneath which they rested appeared undisturbed. In the hey-day of the organisation, these experts could bury the body within half an hour, with such success that even the Thugs themselves could only find the graves later by reference to landmarks.

The histrionic sense of the Thug was highly developed, many being remarkably good actors, and if they detected the slightest suspicion on the part of travellers they were attempting to ingratiate- themselves with, they immediately departed and disappeared in another direction. No sooner were they out of sight, however, than messengers were sent to other gangs--for they quartered the ground like wolves--who caught up the travellers, primed with any information that the first Thugs had gleaned, and it was seldom that the quarry escaped death.

A rich merchant, for example, protected by an armed escort, would meet on his journey some seemingly poor men, who would ask permission to avail themselves of his protection. Being unarmed and few in number, this request would be granted and the party would proceed together for some days, the Thugs--for such they were--losing no opportunity of making themselves pleasant and useful, until the combined party journeyed together with a confidence born of friendship. Meanwhile other Thugs, apparent strangers, but actually of the same gang, would day by day be overtaken and allowed to join the party, this process being repeated until at last the genuine travellers were out-numbered. Then the opportunity would come when two or more Thugs stood unobtrusively behind each traveller, waiting for the signal to kill. This was usually "Tabac la ow" (Bring tobacco), whereupon the ruhmals were instantly thrown round the necks of the victims who were strangled so skilfully that they could neither escape nor fight for their lives. The bodies were then cut about to prevent swelling upon decomposition, which would raise the surface of the graves and so attract attention, and carefully buried at beles (permanent murder places) selected beforehand. These murders were planned with such forethought and accurate calculation that often these graves were prepared many days ahead. If there were people in the vicinity and it was dangerous to dig the graves in the open, the Thugs did not scruple to bury the bodies beneath their own tents, eating their food and sleeping on the soil without a qualm!

Many devices were adopted by the Thugs to make their murders easier, one favourite ruse being 'to feign sickness, the Thug selected for the part pretending to be taken violently ill. Others would attempt to succour him, but to no purpose--the pains growing increasingly severe. It was then pretended that a charm would restore him, and the doomed travellers were induced to sit around a pot of water, to uncover their necks, and to look up and count the number of stars. Having, in their superstitious folly, put themselves over so completely in the hands of the Thugs, the ruhmals were about their necks in a trice and they were strangled with dispatch. The Thug's repertoire of such tricks was extensive, and he rang the changes according to the type of victim he was after. The ruhmal with which the murders were committed was some thirty inches in length, with a knot formed at the double extremity and a slip knot eighteen inches from it, giving the Thug a firm hold. After the victim had been brought to the ground, the slip knot was loosened and the Thug then made another fold round the neck, put his foot against it, and drew the cloth tight--to quote the words of a Thug, "Just as if packing a bundle of straw."

In former times the Thugs declared that their goddess, Bhowani, relieved them of the trouble of burying their victims by devouring them herself; but, in order that they might not see her doing this--a nicety not quite in keeping with her legendary character--she had strictly enjoined them never to look back on leaving the scene of a murder. On one occasion, however, a novice of the fraternity disobeyed this rule, and, imitating Lot's wife, looked back and saw the goddess in the act of feasting upon a corpse, which embarrassed her exceedingly, and as a punishment she declared that she would no longer devour those whom the Thugs killed. This was a great blow and they appealed to her mercy, with the result that she graciously consented to present them with one of her teeth for a pick-axe, with which she ordered them in future to bury those whom they destroyed.

This was the legendary introduction of the sacred kodalee, which became the chief part of the ritual which preceded every Thuggee expedition. In shape like an adze, five pounds in weight and seven inches in length, it had one point, and was consecrated with special devotion, after which it was called a kussee and given into the charge of the shrewdest and keenest Thug of the gang. Its wooden handle was thrown away the moment its use was ended, in order that the axe could be carried in the waistbelt without being seen or creating suspicion. During a Thuggee expedition the pick-axe was buried at nightfall in a secure place, with its point facing the way the Thugs intended to go next day, and they believed that, if another place would give them better sport, the direction of the point would be found changed in the morning. Formerly this kussee was thrown into a well at night, and the Thugs firmly believed that it came up without human help when summoned on the following morning. Ridiculous as this sounds, Sleeman was often told with every evidence of sincere belief that they had seen the sacred pick-axe rise from a well of its own accord and come to the hand of its custodian. Some, indeed, stated that they had seen several pick-axes of different gangs rise from the same well simultaneously and go to their respective bearers! They further believed that the sound made by the kussee in digging graves Was never heard by anyone but a Thug: that it was more sacred than even Ganges water or the Koran: and that a Thug perjuring himself by taking a false oath upon it died within six days.

Over seventy years later the grandson of Sir William Sleeman conducted tests in India which resulted in the introduction to the British Army of the entrenching tool carried by troops during the Great War. By a curious coincidence, and unknown to him at the time, this tool was almost identical in character with the kussee of the Thug, and while the latter had helped in the murder of countless thousands of people, the former saved innumerable lives.

In dealing with the beliefs of Thugs we have fortunately the advantage of documentary proof in the shape of the actual evidence of Thugs themselves, just as it was recorded a hundred years ago. It would seem incredible, otherwise, that anyone could genuinely possess such fantastic faith; but that the Thug did so is made manifest in these, as witness the following authentic conversation between Sleeman and the Thug Nasir:

Sleeman:

"And you really believe that Bhowani sends you these signs to warn you of danger and guide you to your booty?"

Nasir:

"Can we--can anybody--doubt it? Did she not in former days, when our ancestors attended to rules, bury the bodies for us and save us the trouble, and remove every sign by which we could be traced?"

Sleeman:

"You have heard this from your fathers, who heard it from their fathers; but none of you have ever seen it, nor is it true."

Nasir:

"It is true, quite true; and though we have not seen this, we have all of us seen the sacred pick-axe spring in the morning from the well into which it had been thrown overnight, and come to the hands of the man who carried it at his call; nay, we have seen the pickaxes of different gangs all come up of themselves from the same well at the same time, and go to their several bearers."

Sleeman:

"Yes; and you have all seen the common jugglers by sleight of hand appear to turn pigeons into serpents, and serpents into rabbits, but all know that they do it by their skill, and not by the aid of any goddess. The man who carried your pick-axe is selected for his skill, and gains extra emoluments and distinction; and no doubt can, in the same manner, make it appear that the axe comes out of itself when he draws it out by his sleight of hand."

Nasir

(with great energy): "What! Shall not a hundred generations of Thugs be able to distinguish the tricks of man from the miracles of God? Is there not the difference of heaven and earth between them? Is not one a mere trick, and the other a miracle, witnessed by hundreds assembled at the same time?"

Sleeman:

"Sahib Khan, you are more sober than Nasir, have you ever seen it?"

Sahib Khan :

"On one expedition only. During an expedition that I made Imam Khan and his brother carried the pick-axes, and I heard them repeatedly in the morning call them from the well into which they had thrown them overnight, and I saw the pick-axes come out of themselves from the well, and fall into their aprons, which they held open thus" (here he described the mode).

Sleeman:

"And you never saw any of your own gangs do this?"

Sahib Khan:

"Never. I have Thugged for twenty years and never saw it."

Sleeman:

"How do you account for this?"

Sahib Khan:

"Merely by supposing that they attend more to omens and regulations than we do. Among us it is a rule never to kill women; but if a rich old woman is found, the gang sometimes get a man to strangle her by giving him an extra share of the booty, and inducing him to take the responsibility upon himself. We have sometimes killed other prohibited people, particularly those of low caste, whom we ought not even to have touched."

This admission is of interest, because the Thug invariably accepted their failure to observe the rules of their goddess as a reason for the downfall of Thuggee.

Sleeman:

"Does Mahomet, your prophet, anywhere sanction crimes like yours: the murder in cold blood of your fellow creatures for the sake of their money?"

Sahib Khan:

"No."

Sleeman:

"Does he not say that such crimes will be punished by God in the next world?"

Sahib Khan:

"Yes."

Sleeman:

"Then do you never feel any dread of punishment hereafter?"

Sahib Khan:

"Never; we never murder unless the omens are favourable; and we consider favourable omens as the mandates of the Deity."

Sleeman:

"What deity?"

Sahib Khan:

"Bhowani."

Sleeman:

"But Bhowani, you say, has no influence upon the welfare or otherwise of your soul hereafter?"

Sahib Khan:

"None, we believe, but she influences our fates in this world, and what she orders in this world, we believe that God will not punish in the next."

Sleeman:

"And you believe if you were to murder without the observance of the omens and regulations, you would be punished both in this world and the next, like other men?"

Sahib Khan:

"Certainly; no man's family ever survives a murder; it becomes extinct. A Thug who murders in this way loses the children he has, and is never blessed with more."

Sleeman:

"In the same way as if a Thug had murdered a Thug?"

Sahib Khan:

"Precisely; he cannot escape punishment."

Sleeman:

"And when you observe the omens and rules, you neither feel a dread of punishment here nor hereafter?"

Sahib Khan:

"Never."

Sleeman:

"And do you never feel sympathy for the persons murdered--never pity or compunction?"

Sahib Khan

(with great emphasis): "Never."

Sleeman:

"And when you see or hear a bad omen, you think it is the order of the deity not to kill the travellers you have with you, or are in pursuit of?"

Sahib Khan:

"Yes; it is the order not to kill them, and we dare not disobey."

Sleeman:

"Do your wives never reproach you with your deeds?"

Sahib Khan:

"In the South we never tell our wives what we do lest they should disclose our secrets."

Sleeman:

"And if you told them, would they not reproach you?"

Sahib Khan:

"Some would, and some--like those of other Thugs who do tell them--would quietly acquiesce."

Sleeman:

"And be as affectionate and dutiful as the wives of other men?"

Sahib Khan:

"The fidelity of the wives of Thugs is proverbial throughout India."

Sleeman:

"That is among Thugs?"

Sahib Khan:

"Yes."

Sleeman :

"And the fear of the ruhmal operates a little to produce this?"

Sahib Khan :

"Perhaps a little, but there have been very few instances of women killed for infidelity among us."

Now Nasir and Sahib Khan, the two approvers, proceed to give the opinion of the Thug regarding the possibility of Thuggee being suppressed, doubt having been expressed on this point at an earlier stage of the proceedings.

Sleeman:

"Do you think that Thuggee can ever be suppressed in the Deccan?"

Nasir: "I

think it never can."

Sahib Khan:

"I do not say it never can. I say only that the country is very large and in every one of the five districts there are hundreds of Thugs who are staunch to their oaths and attentive to their usages; that the country is everywhere intersected by the jurisdiction of native chiefs who cannot be easily persuaded to assist."

Nasir:

"Assist! (contemptuously). Why, when we go into their districts after a Thug, we are every instant in danger of our lives."

Here Nasir speaks as an approver, employed in giving away his brother Thugs, and somewhat sore at his former colleagues being so protected!

Sleeman:

"And you think that all these obstacles are not to be overcome?"

Nasir: "I

think not."

Sleeman:

"That is, you think an institution formed by Bhowani cannot be suppressed by the hand of man?"

Nasir:

"Certainly I think so."

Sleeman:

"But you think that no man is killed by man's killing? That all who are strangled are strangled in effect by God?"

Nasir:

"Certainly."

Sleeman :

"Then by whose killing have all the Thugs who have been hung at Saugor and Jubbulpore been killed?"

Nasir: ''

God's, of course.''

Sleeman:

"You think that we could never have caught and executed them but by the aid of God?"

Nasir:

"Certainly not."

Sleeman:

"Then you think that so far we have been assisted by God in what we have done?"

Nasir:

"Yes."

Sleeman:

"And you are satisfied that we should not have ventured to do what we have done unless we were assured that our God was working with us, or rather that we were the mere instruments in His hands?"

Nasir:

"Yes, I am."

Sleeman:

"Then do you not think that we may go on with the same assurance until the work we have in hand is done; until, in short, the system of Thuggee is suppressed?"

Nasir:

"God is almighty."

Sleeman :

"And there is but one God?"

Nasir:

"One God above all Gods."

Sleeman:

"And if that God above all Gods supports us, we shall succeed?"

Nasir:

"Certainly."

Sleeman:

"Then we are all satisfied that He is assisting us and, therefore, hope to succeed, even in the Deccan?"

Nasir:

"God only knows."

Sahib Khan:

"If God assists, you will succeed, but the country is large and favourable, and the gangs are numerous and well organised."

This interrogation took place before the operations for the suppression of Thuggee were half-way through, and it is obvious that these Thugs were very doubtful about the possibility of its complete destruction. And yet, such was the indomitable character of the small body of British officials charged with this duty, that within seven years of this date Thuggee had ceased to exist in India.

The next extract illustrates the Thug's idea of the sanctity of human life.

Sleeman:

"When you have a poor traveller with you, or a party of travellers who appear to have little property, and you hear or see a very good omen, do you not let them go in the hope that the virtue of the omen will guide you to better prey?"

Dorgha:

"Let them go--never, never" (with great emphasis).

Nasir:

"How could we let them go? Is not the omen the order from heaven to kill them, and would it not be disobedient to let them go? If we did not kill them, how should we ever get any more travellers?"

Feringeea:

"I, have known the experiment tried with good effect--I have known travellers who promised little, let go, and the virtue of the omen brought better."

Inaent:

"Yes, the virtue of the omen remains, and the traveller who has little should be let go, for you are sure to get a better."

Sahib Khan

(evidently a die-hard!): "Never, never! This is one of your Hindustanee heresies. You could never let him go without losing all the fruits of your expedition. You might get property, but it could never do you any good. No success could result from your disobedience."

Morlee:

"Certainly not! The travellers who are in our hands when we hear a good omen must never be let go, whether they promise little or much; the omen is unquestionably the order, as Nasir says."

Nasir:

"The idea of securing the goodwill of Bhowani by disobeying her order is quite monstrous. We Deccan Thugs do not understand how you got hold of it. Our ancestors were never guilty of such folly."

On reading through this to-day, the conversation might be that of members of a parish meeting discussing a rule connected with the village pump. And yet these mild, quiet, and venerable natives had between them encompassed the murder of thousands of inoffensive people.

After a murder the Thugs held a sacrificial feast of consecrated gur, unrefined sugar, which they believed not only increased their desire for Thuggee, but also made them callous to the suffering of their victims. It was a favourite saying of Thugs when standing their trial for life, that if anyone tasted this gur he would become a Thug for the rest of his life.

When Sleeman asked Feringeea, who had strangled a beautiful young woman, if he had not felt pity for her, he replied: "We all feel pity sometimes, but the gur of the sacrifice changes our nature. It would change the nature of a horse. Let any man once taste of that gur and he will be a Thug although he knows all the trades and has all the wealth in the world. I never wanted food: my mother's family were opulent, her relations high in office. I have been high in office myself and became so great a favourite wherever I went that I was sure of promotion; yet I was always miserable while absent from my gang, and obliged to return to Thuggee. My father made me taste of that fatal gur when I was yet a mere boy; and if I were to live a thousand years, I should never be. able to follow any other trade."

To attain to the office of strangler a Thug had to serve on several expeditions during which he acquired by slow degrees the requisite insensibility to finer feelings. At first a novice was almost always shocked or frightened, but after a time he lost all sympathy with the victims. Recruits were first employed as scouts (bykureeas), then as buriers of the dead (lughas), then as holders of limbs (shumseeas), and finally, if entirely satisfactory for such promotion, as stranglers (bhurtotes), the highest office of all. Like a good regiment, it was their system, their discipline and strictness of rules which enabled the Thug to hold out for so long a period. When a novice felt he had sufficient experience, he would beg the most experienced and reliable Thug of his gang to act as his gooroo and instruct him in the art of strangulation. If his request was granted, they then awaited a victim of not too great bodily strength for the first murder.

Although the law of Thuggee decreed that women should not be murdered, fear of discovery compelled the Thugs to break this law frequently, for few large parties of travellers consisted only of men, and to allow any possible witness to escape would have been a suicidal policy; but though many cases are on record where very young girls were saved and later married to Thugs, they were never maltreated. To quote Sleeman: "No Thug was ever known to offer insult, either in act or speech, to women whom they were about to murder." So even the callous, cold-blooded Thug set a higher standard in this respect than the youthful criminal of to-day!

The Thug was superstitious to a degree and believed that the wishes of Bhowani were expressed by the appearance or cries of certain animals and birds, from which they drew an omen and learnt her will. Ranging from jackals to lizards, from crows to cranes, so many and varied were the omens that a Thug's life during a murder expedition must have been one of continual anxiety.

The most astounding fact about the Thug is that, as a general rule, he was a good citizen and model husband, devoted to his family, and scrupulously straight when not on his expeditions, presenting a complexity of character utterly baffling to a student of psychology. It was, indeed, essential to the safety of their criminal operations that they should pass as peaceful citizens. Their opportunities were great, for communications in India were then both difficult and dangerous and vast amounts of treasure were carried long distances by road by disguised treasure-bearers or escorted by armed guards. A rich merchant and his attendants, for example, would leave Calcutta for Poona and would, in the normal course of events, remain unheard of until his return home, perhaps six months later. A month after leaving Calcutta the whole party might be murdered and the booty divided among the Thugs concerned, who then scattered. In such a case there was not the slightest fear of the murder becoming known until many months later, when for the first time, the disappearance of the party of travellers would be remarked. By the time suspicion was aroused and enquiries made, it would be almost impossible to discover where and when they had disappeared, for the Thugs responsible had long since returned to their seemingly respectable homes. Not only had they left no trace behind of their foul deed, but they concealed their trail by every art and craft, and with ill-gotten rupees bribed officials, police and villagers, in whose territory the murders had occurred, to maintain an air of stolid ignorance if enquiries were made.

It is not, therefore, extraordinary that Thuggee remained a mystery: rather, it is remarkable that it was ever brought to light and eventually suppressed, and it is small wonder that it continued to exist for over three hundred years. And it is but right when British rule in India is so unfairly challenged and so unworthily attacked, that the extinction of this ancient religion of murder should be represented as yet another jewel in the crown of Empire.

CHAPTER II. THE ORIGIN AND CUSTOMS OF THUGGEE