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Text - "Confessions of a Thug" Philip M. Taylor


The rest of the band, with the cart and laden bullocks, had proceeded some way before we overtook them. We passed through a thin jungle for some distance, emerging from which, we found ourselves on a wild, bare plain, here and there studded with straggling brushwood. We all collected together, and, lighting fires, the hooka passed round, and each one related his achievement, and gloried in the prospect of a speedy division of the booty we had acquired. To arrange our future proceedings was by no means an easy matter, as it was necessary to get past Bassim, where the Sahoukar had friends; and his cart and bullocks might possibly be recognized in the town. My father's advice was to travel till daylight, and then to withdraw to one side of the road, as far from observation as possible; to remain there as long as we could, and then to push on beyond Bassim. At this halt, too, there was to be a grand division of the spoil, at least, as much of it as could be divided; and Hoosein's party was to separate from us and pursue their road, in the best way they could, in the direction which has been pointed out to them. Accordingly we again started, and, after passing some villages, halted about sunrise at some distance from the road, near a grove of trees, in which there was a well of water. Before the men betook themselves to cooking their meal, after the march, they were all assembled; and the quantity of goor having been brought, the ceremony of the Tupounee was performed as I have before described. I was now entitled to a seat on the blanket with the other Bhuttotes--I was their equal! The ceremony ended, I untied the knot of my handkerchief, as directed by my father, and taking out the piece of silver, presented it, with some rupees, to my gooroo, touching his feet at the same time in reverence. This was the last of my ceremonies of initiation. I was a Bhuttote, had fairly killed my man, and held myself to be the equal of any of my associates. After this my father and Hoosein brought forth all the plunder of our late enterprise. It was magnificent: there was a good quantity of gold and silver in money, but the principal valuables were the jewels which the Sahoukar was taking to Hyderabad for sale, and the cloths and brocades on the bullocks--they were of the richest description. The distribution of these was a matter of great difficulty, and it was impossible to satisfy every one; besides, the pearls and diamonds would have lost a great deal of their value by being divided among the men. So it was agreed to share the ready money, cooking utensils, and other effects of the Sahoukar, also the least valuable cloths, into two equal portions as nearly as possible, in proportion to the number of men of each band; that my father was to have charge of the jewels, which he was to sell at Hyderabad to the best advantage, as also of the most valuable cloths; and that the proceeds of these were not to be divided until we again reached our place of rendezvous. The division of the ready money, upwards of three thousand five hundred rupees, gave to each man a considerable sum, enough, at any rate, to support him for some time,--the more especially as the share of the former booty was not nearly expended; for every man lived as frugally as possible, and all seemed intent upon vying with each other as to who should have the largest share at the general division. Nay, many even denied themselves the meanest luxuries, and it was not uncommon to see a man eating his cakes without ghee, or anything but pure water. Bhudrinath, however, one of the most skilful of the band, was a complete exception to what I have said. He was a short, stout, active fellow, a man who aspired to be a jemadar, and with some reason. I have mentioned him before as the bearer of the sacred pickaxe. He was one of the most enterprizing among us, and had conducted small expeditions, in which he had acquitted himself much to the satisfaction of those who had intrusted him with them. It was curious to see that man eat. He consumed every day that he could get it, two seers of flour made into cakes, a quarter of a seer of ghee (clarified butter), and a large pot of milk containing upwards of a seer. It seemed impossible that one man could demolish the pile of cakes when he had baked them and fairly sat down to eat them, but one by one they disappeared, accompanied by such draughts of water as would alone have filled any ordinary person. Towards the end of the pile, however, it was easy to see that his jaws could hardly perform their office; and it was almost painful to behold the distension of his stomach: he would stretch himself first on one side, then on the other; get up and stroke down the mass collected, apparently from his throat downwards, and again essay to finish what remained, and after many attempts he would sometimes succeed. Often have I seen two or more village dogs sit opposite to him, during the consumption of the mountain of cakes, looking wistfully at it, in the hope that a portion of each as he ate it might be thrown to them, watching and envying every mouthful as it passed into the apparently insatiable maw: but in vain! Sometimes Bhudrinath would divide the last two or three cakes between them, when every means of eating more had been tried and had failed; but it was oftener that desire of eating predominated. He would appear on the point of gratifying the dogs' expectations,--nay, would even break a piece off and hold it in his hand as if offering it: the dog would move towards him, but the coveted morsel disappeared as the rest had done, and he would return to his expectant station, to resume a watch which too often ended in disappointment. We often jeered him on his enormous consumption of food; but he used to declare that nothing under the daily allowance I have mentioned could satisfy him, or enable him to perform his duty. Our encampment broke up towards evening. Friends were seen embracing each other, and wishing mutual success; at length they all departed: we watched them over the brow of an eminence not far off, and then started ourselves. Leaving the beaten road to Bassim, we struck off into one to the left, and as it promised to lead to some large town we followed it, as well to avoid discovery as to court new adventures. By the light of a bright moon we travelled most of the night, passing through a dreary country, in many parts covered with jungle, and never entering a village save to ask the road, or to get fire to light our hookas. Indeed we were often repulsed in this. There appeared to be a general dread of robbers, and the walls and gates were usually manned by armed men, on the intimation of our approach being given by the dogs as we passed: but no questions were asked us, as to who we were or where we were going, although perhaps our numbers might have excited suspicion. In this manner, and without knowing where the road we had taken would lead us, we travelled for some days; and as we had purposely avoided the principal roads, it was not to be expected that we should meet with anything in the way of adventure, or with any travellers whom we could entice into our society. At last we came upon a broader road than that on which we had been travelling; and as we had left every danger from our late deed far behind us, we determined to follow it, in the hope that it would lead us towards Hyderabad, or some large village in its direction, from whence we could get upon a well-travelled road and carry on our vocation. As it was, we had gained a respectable booty even for a whole season; but scarcely two months had passed, and we could not afford to go on so far as Hyderabad in inactivity. The road led us on for some hours, till large mango groves, with here and there the white top of a Hindoo temple peeping over them, gave us intimation that we were approaching a place of consequence. It turned out to be the town of Oomerkhér, a wealthy place, surrounded with most luxuriant cultivation of wheat and other descriptions of grain.

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