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SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF THUGS.
On a fine bright November morning, at the edge of a ravine, screened from the view of the public road by a few trees and tangled bushes, were two athletic young men, sitting by the brink of a newly dug grave, engaged in conversation, and directing frequent and eager glances towards a bye-path leading to the village of Pahlee, near Rewah. One of them suddenly exclaimed, " I see them coming, but unsuccessful I fear; so we must be quick, and fill up this hole, as its intended inmate has escaped for the present. I suppose he has taken the alarm, but what is the use of his flying from his fate—to-day, or to-morrow, he must be ours.” “ Yes," replied his associate,“ but we should take care that he does not raise an alarm, for Suleemun' Sahib has given strict orders to apprehend all of us that can be laid hold of, and he has some jadoo or other in discovering us---curse the Feringees !3" " True," said the other, " these Kaffirs“ begin to be too knowing even for us, and deprive us of our lawful gains. I think though, that Buhadur ought to have been more prudent, than to share that gold bangle which we took from the traveller, who prayed so very hard for his life three days ago. I saw this old fellow, who has just got off, looking hard at it, and I suspect the sight of it put him on his guard.” By this time the rest of the gang, (30 in number,) had come up, and were immediately assailed, by the two, with inquiries as to how their prey had escaped, when they were informed that he had accidentally joined some horsemen on the road; but that he had stopped at the village of Oomree, not very far distant, and they would be sure of him next morning. After this, the whole gang commenced preparing their day's meal, by dressing a stray goat which they had seized in a field. About two hours before day-break, next morning, three of the gang left their brethren, and passing the village where their victim was, proceeded about five miles farther on the road which it was certain he would take in the morning, and concealed themselves in some jungle close by, one keeping strict watch, until the poor traveller reached the spot, when they sprung upon him, and in a few seconds he was strangled with the waistband of one of them, which he had ready loose in his hand;—the body was carried to a
short distance and buried in the grave which they had previously begun to dig. A few dry sticks were gathered, and a fire lighted over the spot, whose ashes soon concealed all appearance of the newly turned up earth. They then proceeded to examine his garments, and saddle bags, in which they found thirty-five Rupees, a Hoondee", which they immediately burned, and a few brass pots and pans--the pony on which the poor man rode was turned loose into the jungles, as it was somewhat remarkable in its colour and appearance, and the murderers coolly commenced smoking whilst awaiting the arrival of their companions. These shortly afterwards reached the place, and after complimenting the three, upon the quick and scientific manner in which they had dispatched their victim, the leader of the gang, Heera, informed them that he had, himself, been into the village of Pahlee, and obtained some intelligence of a party worth attacking, who were expected that day at Pahlee, consisting of two Muhajuns", brothers, one of them with his wife and two children, and altogether three servants, proceeding to Hindoostan. Upon this it was resolved to accomplish their purpose at night, and by stratagem, on account of the strength of the party, as the two Muhajuns and their servants were well armed. Their plan was quickly arranged. Heera and six more of them, contrived to be overtaken by the Muhajuns on their next day's march, and, as common travellers, entered into conversation with them, relating dreadful tales of the Thugs who were roaming about the country; and making their fears, on this account, an excuse for seeking the protection of the Muhajun's company. Conversing thus, they proceeded in a body to their halting place at Rewah, which they reached about 3 o'clock, and encar ped in a large Mangoe Tope near a small river, about 500 yards from the town. They then went to the bazar and made their necessary purchases of grain and greens, for their evening meal. Just before sunset, they were joined by
the rest of the gang, pretending to be perfect strangers, going to the Deccan®, who also put up at the same spot, and began preparing their repast. About 8 o'clock at night, Heera, and his six companions entered into conversation with the two Muhajuns, and commenced smoking and enjoying themselves. They soon got out a couple of Dhols', and began singing, which brought the rest of the party near them, apparently to listen. Eight of the last arrived had, in the mean time, their waistbands' twisted a little, and also slightly wetted, some holding them in their hands, and others with them carelessly thrown over their shoulders in the common way—the songs seemed to please all-smoking, drumming, and singing, went on until a late hour, when Heera, taking up his hookah, called out, in a loud voice, to one of his party, “ Baee"! Tumbakoo lao”—in one instant the bands were round the necks of the poor unsuspecting victims, one man holding the hands of each, whilst two others pulled at each end of the band—they were all dead in less than two minutes. One of the gang, a novice, wanted to interfere and save the children, but Heera sharply reprimanded him for his folly, adding that it was a positive rule with them never to spare any of a party whom they wanted to rob, not even an infant at the breast. Whilst this tragedy was acting, the Dhols kept sounding, and
the singing went on as usual, nor did the noise cease till one large grave had been got ready at a little distance, to which the bodies were carried, and, at the edge of it, stabbed in various places, to prevent their swelling as they would otherwise do. They were then closely packed into the grave, and the earth beaten down and strewed with ashes. When the whole dreadful scene was finished, the party betook themselves to rest, and at day-break were proceeding in a westerly direction. Some of the town's people, who had got up very early, were expressing their surprise to each other at the Muhajuns having left the place so soon, particularly as they had mentioned their intention in the bazar, the evening before, of halting next day, for the market, and purchasing some few necessaries they required :-however the natives, with their usual apathy, thought no more of the matter till the forenoon, when a party of horsemen came to the place and made most particular inquiries if a number of travellers, suspected to be Thugs, had not appeared there ;--the Kotwal" was immediately summoned, and told the Jemadar commanding the party about the unexpected disappearance of the Muhajuns, after their having expressed their intention of halting a day, and that the men who accompanied them appeared to be poor travellers, without arms of any description, adding that the Muhajuns were returning to Hindoostan, and would, no doubt, be found at the next stage. The horsemen immediately went in the direction pointed out in quest of the Muhajuns, but finding no traces of the travellers, they returned to Rewah, and then proceeded for three days in a westerly direction, towards Saugor, when about noon, on the next day, at a small hamlet, they got intelligence of a large party of travellers having passed early in the morning with three ponies, answering to the description of those belonging to the Muhajuns. Upon this not a moment was lost in pursuing the fugitives, and after going on about ten miles farther, they came unexpectedly upon the Thugs, who were quietly cooking their food—the Jemadar aware that any sudden movement on his part, would alarm and put them to instant flight, began talking to them, saying, that he was searching for smuggled opium, declared that their ponies being well loaded, had a suspicious appearance, and added that he must take them to the nearest civil authority to be examined, they loudly protested their innocence of this alleged crime; but their fears of being thought Thugs having been thus cunningly allayed, they consented to go quietly. The horsemen then surrounded and watched them, and next morning all moved on in the direction of Jubulpore. Heera, in spite of all the Jemadar said about suspecting them of smuggling opium, still had his doubts, which were much increased by his observing two of the horsemen conversing with great earnestness, and frequently looking at the Muhajuns' ponies ;-he therefore made up his mind that that Shytan", Suleemun Sahib, must be at the bottom of the affair, and resolved to lose no time in effecting his escape. About 12 o'clock mid-day a halt was made, to rest and water the horses, and refresh the people, at a nullah; he entered into conversation with the Jemadar, and then deliberately taking up a lota, went, in company with a few more of his companions, under the surveillance of a couple of mounted suwars", to