Sec. i] ISLAM AKHUN AND HIS FORGERIES 509
complete, and my departure near at hand, I was anxious for a personal examination of that enterprising individual whose productions had engaged so much learned attention in Europe and India.
Pan Darin, to whom I confidentially communicated my wish to get hold of Islam Akhûn, readily granted his assistance. As an attempt on the part of Islam Akhun to abscond was by no means improbable, and as time was getting short, I took care to impress the Mandarin with the necessity for prompt and discreet action. Nor did he disappoint me in these respects ; for on the morning of April 25 Islam Akhun (see Fig. 71) was duly produced from Chira, where he had been practising as a ` I.Iakim' during the previous winter. He scarcely anticipated being ` wanted ' now, as when passing through Chira some three weeks before I had purposely refrained from making any inquiries about him. The Beg who escorted him brought also a motley collection of papers, which had been seized partly in Islam Akhiân's possession and partly in his Khotan house, and which on examination proved rather curious. They were sheets of artificially discoloured paper, covered with impressions of the same elaborate formulas in ` unknown characters ' that appeared in some of the last batches of ` ancient block-prints ' which had been sold in Kashgar 6. A manuscript leaf, also in ` unknown characters ', had evidently remained over from the earlier manufacture when the forger was still content to work by mere writing 6.
The examination of this versatile individual proved a protracted affair, and through two First ex-long days I felt as if breathing the atmosphere of an Indian judicial court. When first arraigned oa Î iat°n in my improvised ` Cutchery', Islam Akhun readily and with contrite mien confessed his guilt Akhim.
in having in 1898 obtained money from Badruddin Khan, the Afghan Ak-sakal, by a forged note purporting to be in Captain Deasy's handwriting 7. But in the matter of the ` old books'
he for a long time protested complete innocence. He pretended to have acted merely as the
Kashgar sale agent for certain persons at Khotan, since dead or absconded, who, rightly or wrongly, told him that they had picked them up in the desert. When he found how much
such old books ' were appreciated by Europeans he asked those persons to find more. This
they did ; whereupon he took their finds to Kashgar, &c. Now, he lamented, he was left
alone to bear the onus of the fraud—if such it was. Muhammad Tari, one of those who gave the ` books ', had previously run away to Yarkand ; Muhammad Siddiq, the Mulla, had absconded towards Ak-su ; and a third of the band had escaped from all trouble by dying.
It was a cleverly devised line of defence, and Islam Akhun clung to it with great consistency and with the wariness of a man who has had unpleasant experience of the ways of the law. I had thought it right to tell him from the first that I was not going to proceed against him at the Amban's Ya-mên in the matter of these happily ended forgeries ; for I was aware that such a step, in accordance with Chinese procedure, might at one stage or other lead to the application of some effective means of persuasion, i.e. torture. This, of course, I would not countenance ; nor could a confession as its eventual result be to me of any value. Whether it was from Islam Akhûn's reliance on these scruples of mine, or from his knowledge that direct evidence could not easily be produced within the short time available before my departure, two long cross-examinations, in the interval of which I had Islam Akhûn's wants hospitably looked to by my own men, failed to bring a solution. However, in the course of his long
Prolonged denials of guilt.
For a detailed description of those block-prints which had found their way into the collection formed at Calcutta, see Hoernle, Report on C.-A. ant., i. pp. 45-1 To, with Pls. V—XVIII.
6 See for specimens of these written productions, Hoernle, • Three further collections of ancient manuscripts,' in J.A.SB., 1897, pp. 25o sqq. with Pls. XI—XX.
7 See above, p. 102, note 14.