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    Chapter 43

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    Chapter 44
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    Hunger is the handmaid of genius
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    One day during our stay in Bombay there was a criminal trial of a most
    interesting sort, a terribly realistic chapter out of the "Arabian
    Nights," a strange mixture of simplicities and pieties and murderous
    practicalities, which brought back the forgotten days of Thuggee and made
    them live again; in fact, even made them believable. It was a case where
    a young girl had been assassinated for the sake of her trifling
    ornaments, things not worth a laborer's day's wages in America. This
    thing could have been done in many other countries, but hardly with the
    cold business-like depravity, absence of fear, absence of caution,
    destitution of the sense of horror, repentance, remorse, exhibited in
    this case. Elsewhere the murderer would have done his crime secretly, by
    night, and without witnesses; his fears would have allowed him no peace
    while the dead body was in his neighborhood; he would not have rested
    until he had gotten it safe out of the way and hidden as effectually as
    he could hide it. But this Indian murderer does his deed in the full
    light of day, cares nothing for the society of witnesses, is in no way
    incommoded by the presence of the corpse, takes his own time about
    disposing of it, and the whole party are so indifferent, so phlegmatic,
    that they take their regular sleep as if nothing was happening and no
    halters hanging over them; and these five bland people close the episode
    with a religious service. The thing reads like a Meadows-Taylor Thug-tale
    of half a century ago, as may be seen by the official report of the
    trial:

    "At the Mazagon Police Court yesterday, Superintendent Nolan again
    charged Tookaram Suntoo Savat Baya, woman, her daughter Krishni, and
    Gopal Yithoo Bhanayker, before Mr. Phiroze Hoshang Dastur, Fourth
    Presidency Magistrate, under sections 302 and 109 of the Code, with
    having on the night of the 30th of December last murdered a Hindoo
    girl named Cassi, aged 12, by strangulation, in the room of a chawl
    at Jakaria Bunder, on the Sewriroad, and also with aiding and
    abetting each other in the commission of the offense.

    "Mr. F. A. Little, Public Prosecutor, conducted the case on behalf
    of the Crown, the accused being undefended.

    "Mr. Little applied under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure
    Code to tender pardon to one of the accused, Krishni, woman, aged
    22, on her undertaking to make a true and full statement of facts
    under which the deceased girl Cassi was murdered.

    "The Magistrate having granted the Public Prosecutor's application,
    the accused Krishni went into the witness-box, and, on being
    examined by Mr. Little, made the following confession:--I am a
    mill-hand employed at the Jubilee Mill. I recollect the day
    (Tuesday); on which the body of the deceased Cassi was found.
    Previous to that I attended the mill for half a day, and then
    returned home at 3 in the afternoon, when I saw five persons in the
    house, viz.: the first accused Tookaram, who is my paramour, my
    mother, the second accused Baya, the accused Gopal, and two guests
    named Ramji Daji and Annaji Gungaram. Tookaram rented the room of
    the chawl situated at Jakaria Bunder-road from its owner,
    Girdharilal Radhakishan, and in that room I, my paramour, Tookaram,
    and his younger brother, Yesso Mahadhoo, live. Since his arrival in
    Bombay from his native country Yesso came and lived with us. When I
    returned from the mill on the afternoon of that day, I saw the two
    guests seated on a cot in the veranda, and a few minutes after the
    accused Gopal came and took his seat by their side, while I and my
    mother were seated inside the room. Tookaram, who had gone out to
    fetch some 'pan' and betelnuts, on his return home had brought the
    two guests with him. After returning home he gave them 'pan
    supari'. While they were eating it my mother came out of the room
    and inquired of one of the guests, Ramji, what had happened to his
    foot, when he replied that he had tried many remedies, but they had
    done him no good. My mother then took some rice in her hand and
    prophesied that the disease which Ramji was suffering from would not
    be cured until he returned to his native country. In the meantime
    the deceased Casi came from the direction of an out-house, and stood
    in front on the threshold of our room with a 'lota' in her hand.
    Tookaram then told his two guests to leave the room, and they then
    went up the steps towards the quarry. After the guests had gone
    away, Tookaram seized the deceased, who had come into the room, and
    he afterwards put a waistband around her, and tied her to a post
    which supports a loft. After doing this, he pressed the girl's
    throat, and, having tied her mouth with the 'dhotur' (now shown in
    Court), fastened it to the post. Having killed the girl, Tookaram
    removed her gold head ornament and a gold 'putlee', and also took
    charge of her 'lota'. Besides these two ornaments Cassi had on her
    person ear-studs a nose-ring, some silver toe-rings, two necklaces,
    a pair of silver anklets and bracelets. Tookaram afterwards tried
    to remove the silver amulets, the ear-studs, and the nose-ring; but
    he failed in his attempt. While he was doing so, I, my mother, and
    Gopal were present. After removing the two gold ornaments, he
    handed them over to Gopal, who was at the time standing near me.
    When he killed Cassi, Tookaram threatened to strangle me also if I
    informed any one of this. Gopal and myself were then standing at
    the door of our room, and we both were threatened by Tookaram. My
    mother, Baya, had seized the legs of the deceased at the time she
    was killed, and whilst she was being tied to the post. Cassi then
    made a noise. Tookaram and my mother took part in killing the girl.
    After the murder her body was wrapped up in a mattress and kept on
    the loft over the door of our room. When Cassi was strangled, the
    door of the room was fastened from the inside by Tookaram. This
    deed was committed shortly after my return home from work in the
    mill. Tookaram put the body of the deceased in the mattress, and,
    after it was left on the loft, he went to have his head shaved by a
    barber named Sambhoo Raghoo, who lives only one door away from me.
    My mother and myself then remained in the possession of the
    information. I was slapped and threatened by my paramour, Tookaram,
    and that was the only reason why I did not inform any one at that
    time. When I told Tookaram that I would give information of the
    occurrence, he slapped me. The accused Gopal was asked by Tookaram
    to go back to his room, and he did so, taking away with him the two
    gold ornaments and the 'lota'. Yesso Mahadhoo, a brother-in-law of
    Tookaram, came to the house and asked Taokaram why he was washing,
    the water-pipe being just opposite. Tookaram replied that he was
    washing his dhotur, as a fowl had polluted it. About 6 o'clock of
    the evening of that day my mother gave me three pice and asked me to
    buy a cocoanut, and I gave the money to Yessoo, who went and fetched
    a cocoanut and some betel leaves. When Yessoo and others were in
    the room I was bathing, and, after I finished my bath, my mother
    took the cocoanut and the betel leaves from Yessoo, and we five went
    to the sea. The party consisted of Tookaram, my mother, Yessoo,
    Tookaram's younger brother, and myself. On reaching the seashore,
    my mother made the offering to the sea, and prayed to be pardoned
    for what we had done. Before we went to the sea, some one came to
    inquire after the girl Cassi. The police and other people came to
    make these inquiries both before and after we left the house for the
    seashore. The police questioned my mother about the girl, and she
    replied that Cassi had come to her door, but had left. The next day
    the police questioned Tookaram, and he, too, gave a similar reply.
    This was said the same night when the search was made for the girl.
    After the offering was made to the sea, we partook of the cocoanut
    and returned home, when my mother gave me some food; but Tookaram
    did not partake of any food that night. After dinner I and my
    mother slept inside the room, and Tookaram slept on a cot near his
    brother-in-law, Yessoo Mahadhoo, just outside the door. That was
    not the usual place where Tookaram slept. He usually slept inside
    the room. The body of the deceased remained on the loft when I went
    to sleep. The room in which we slept was locked, and I heard that
    my paramour, Tookaram, was restless outside. About 3 o'clock the
    following morning Tookaram knocked at the door, when both myself and
    my mother opened it. He then told me to go to the steps leading to
    the quarry, and see if any one was about. Those steps lead to a
    stable, through which we go to the quarry at the back of the
    compound. When I got to the steps I saw no one there. Tookaram
    asked me if any one was there, and I replied that I could see no one
    about. He then took the body of the deceased from the loft, and
    having wrapped it up in his saree, asked me to accompany him to the
    steps of the quarry, and I did so. The 'saree' now produced here
    was the same. Besides the 'saree', there was also a 'cholee' on the
    body. He then carried the body in his arms, and went up the steps,
    through the stable, and then to the right hand towards a Sahib's
    bungalow, where Tookaram placed the body near a wall. All the time
    I and my mother were with him. When the body was taken down, Yessoo
    was lying on the cot. After depositing the body under the wall, we
    all returned home, and soon after 5 a.m. the police again came and
    took Tookaram away. About an hour after they returned and took me
    and my mother away. We were questioned about it, when I made a
    statement. Two hours later I was taken to the room, and I pointed
    out this waistband, the 'dhotur', the mattress, and the wooden post
    to Superintendent Nolan and Inspectors Roberts and Rashanali, in the
    presence of my mother and Tookaram. Tookaram killed the girl Cassi
    for her ornaments, which he wanted for the girl to whom he was
    shortly going to be married. The body was found in the same place
    where it was deposited by Tookaram."

    The criminal side of the native has always been picturesque, always
    readable. The Thuggee and one or two other particularly outrageous
    features of it have been suppressed by the English, but there is enough
    of it left to keep it darkly interesting. One finds evidence of these
    survivals in the newspapers. Macaulay has a light-throwing passage upon
    this matter in his great historical sketch of Warren Hastings, where he
    is describing some effects which followed the temporary paralysis of
    Hastings' powerful government brought about by Sir Philip Francis and his
    party:

    "The natives considered Hastings as a fallen man; and they acted
    after their kind. Some of our readers may have seen, in India, a
    cloud of crows pecking a sick vulture to death--no bad type of what
    happens in that country as often as fortune deserts one who has been
    great and dreaded. In an instant all the sycophants, who had lately
    been ready to lie for him, to forge for him, to pander for him, to
    poison for him, hasten to purchase the favor of his victorious
    enemies by accusing him. An Indian government has only to let it be
    understood that it wishes a particular man to be ruined, and in
    twenty-four hours it will be furnished with grave charges, supported
    by depositions so full and circumstantial that any person
    unaccustomed to Asiatic mendacity would regard them as decisive. It
    is well if the signature of the destined victim is not counterfeited
    at the foot of some illegal compact, and if some treasonable paper
    is not slipped into a hiding-place in his house."

    That was nearly a century and a quarter ago. An article in one of the
    chief journals of India (the Pioneer) shows that in some respects the
    native of to-day is just what his ancestor was then. Here are niceties
    of so subtle and delicate a sort that they lift their breed of rascality
    to a place among the fine arts, and almost entitle it to respect:

    "The records of the Indian courts might certainly be relied upon to
    prove that swindlers as a class in the East come very close to, if
    they do not surpass, in brilliancy of execution and originality of
    design the most expert of their fraternity in Europe and America.
    India in especial is the home of forgery. There are some particular
    districts which are noted as marts for the finest specimens of the
    forger's handiwork. The business is carried on by firms who possess
    stores of stamped papers to suit every emergency. They habitually
    lay in a store of fresh stamped papers every year, and some of the
    older and more thriving houses can supply documents for the past
    forty years, bearing the proper water-mark and possessing the
    genuine appearance of age. Other districts have earned notoriety
    for skilled perjury, a pre-eminence that excites a respectful
    admiration when one thinks of the universal prevalence of the art,
    and persons desirous of succeeding in false suits are ready to pay
    handsomely to avail themselves of the services of these local
    experts as witnesses."

    Various instances illustrative of the methods of these swindlers are
    given. They exhibit deep cunning and total depravity on the part of the
    swindler and his pals, and more obtuseness on the part of the victim than
    one would expect to find in a country where suspicion of your neighbor
    must surely be one of the earliest things learned. The favorite subject
    is the young fool who has just come into a fortune and is trying to see
    how poor a use he can put it to. I will quote one example:

    "Sometimes another form of confidence trick is adopted, which is
    invariably successful. The particular pigeon is spotted, and, his
    acquaintance having been made, he is encouraged in every form of
    vice. When the friendship is thoroughly established, the swindler
    remarks to the young man that he has a brother who has asked him to
    lend him Rs.10,000. The swindler says he has the money and would
    lend it; but, as the borrower is his brother, he cannot charge
    interest. So he proposes that he should hand the dupe the money,
    and the latter should lend it to the swindler's brother, exacting a
    heavy pre-payment of interest which, it is pointed out, they may
    equally enjoy in dissipation. The dupe sees no objection, and on
    the appointed day receives Rs.7,000 from the swindler, which he
    hands over to the confederate. The latter is profuse in his thanks,
    and executes a promissory note for Rs.10,000, payable to bearer.
    The swindler allows the scheme to remain quiescent for a time, and
    then suggests that, as the money has not been repaid and as it would
    be unpleasant to sue his brother, it would be better to sell the
    note in the bazaar. The dupe hands the note over, for the money he
    advanced was not his, and, on being informed that it would be
    necessary to have his signature on the back so as to render the
    security negotiable, he signs without any hesitation. The swindler
    passes it on to confederates, and the latter employ a respectable
    firm of solicitors to ask the dupe if his signature is genuine. He
    admits it at once, and his fate is sealed. A suit is filed by a
    confederate against the dupe, two accomplices being made
    co-defendants. They admit their Signatures as indorsers, and the
    one swears he bought the note for value from the dupe. The latter
    has no defense, for no court would believe the apparently idle
    explanation of the manner in which he came to endorse the note."

    There is only one India! It is the only country that has a monopoly of
    grand and imposing specialties. When another country has a remarkable
    thing, it cannot have it all to itself--some other country has a
    duplicate. But India--that is different. Its marvels are its own; the
    patents cannot be infringed; imitations are not possible. And think of
    the size of them, the majesty of them, the weird and outlandish character
    of the most of them!

    There is the Plague, the Black Death: India invented it; India is the
    cradle of that mighty birth.

    The Car of Juggernaut was India's invention.

    So was the Suttee; and within the time of men still living eight hundred
    widows willingly, and, in fact, rejoicingly, burned themselves to death
    on the bodies of their dead husbands in a single year. Eight hundred
    would do it this year if the British government would let them.

    Famine is India's specialty. Elsewhere famines are inconsequential
    incidents--in India they are devastating cataclysms; in one case they
    annihilate hundreds; in the other, millions.

    India had 2,000,000 gods, and worships them all. In religion all other
    countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.

    With her everything is on a giant scale--even her poverty; no other
    country can show anything to compare with it. And she has been used to
    wealth on so vast a scale that she has to shorten to single words the
    expressions describing great sums. She describes 100,000 with one word
    --a 'lahk'; she describes ten millions with one word--a 'crore'.

    In the bowels of the granite mountains she has patiently carved out
    dozens of vast temples, and made them glorious with sculptured colonnades
    and stately groups of statuary, and has adorned the eternal walls with
    noble paintings. She has built fortresses of such magnitude that the
    show-strongholds of the rest of the world are but modest little things by
    comparison; palaces that are wonders for rarity of materials, delicacy
    and beauty of workmanship, and for cost; and one tomb which men go around
    the globe to see. It takes eighty nations, speaking eighty languages, to
    people her, and they number three hundred millions.

    On top of all this she is the mother and home of that wonder of wonders
    caste--and of that mystery of mysteries, the satanic brotherhood of the
    Thugs.

    India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She
    had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material
    wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she
    had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soil. It would seem as if she
    should have kept the lead, and should be to-day not the meek dependent of
    an alien master, but mistress of the world, and delivering law and
    command to every tribe and nation in it. But, in truth, there was never
    any possibility of such supremacy for her. If there had been but one
    India and one language--but there were eighty of them! Where there are
    eighty nations and several hundred governments, fighting and quarreling
    must be the common business of life; unity of purpose and policy are
    impossible; out of such elements supremacy in the world cannot come.
    Even caste itself could have had the defeating effect of a multiplicity
    of tongues, no doubt; for it separates a people into layers, and layers,
    and still other layers, that have no community of feeling with each
    other; and in such a condition of things as that, patriotism can have no
    healthy growth.

    It was the division of the country into so many States and nations that
    made Thuggee possible and prosperous. It is difficult to realize the
    situation. But perhaps one may approximate it by imagining the States of
    our Union peopled by separate nations, speaking separate languages, with
    guards and custom-houses strung along all frontiers, plenty of
    interruptions for travelers and traders, interpreters able to handle all
    the languages very rare or non-existent, and a few wars always going on
    here and there and yonder as a further embarrassment to commerce and
    excursioning. It would make intercommunication in a measure ungeneral.
    India had eighty languages, and more custom-houses than cats. No clever
    man with the instinct of a highway robber could fail to notice what a
    chance for business was here offered. India was full of clever men with
    the highwayman instinct, and so, quite naturally, the brotherhood of the
    Thugs came into being to meet the long-felt want.

    How long ago that was nobody knows-centuries, it is supposed. One of the
    chiefest wonders connected with it was the success with which it kept its
    secret. The English trader did business in India two hundred years and
    more before he ever heard of it; and yet it was assassinating its
    thousands all around him every year, the whole time.
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