Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/44

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.
34
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ures, while from the prisoners themselves I learned much of the operation and results of these measures.

It will throw some light upon the character of the inhabitants of Fernando de Noronha to know how crime is looked upon by the common people in Brazil, and I can not better show this than by relating a bit of personal experience.

I had the misfortune at one time to wound a Brazilian laborer — in his dignity. He thereupon threatened to take my life, and was by no means careful to keep his resolutions to himself. As the carrying out of such a determination upon his part would have caused me much inconvenience, I called upon him in person, with the purpose, if possible, of dissuading him. I found that he did not look upon the condition of a criminal with dread at all. He told me frankly that, if he should succeed in carrying out his designs, he knew perfectly well what his career would be. " At present,^' said he, " I am obliged to work for a living ; if I am sent to jail, my living will be furnished me, and I shall have nothing to do. If you are dead, there will be no one to appear against me in the courts as my accuser, and in the course of a year or less I shall be set free, well rested, and with the reputation in the community of being a man of courage."

In this case I saw to it that he had the opportunity of enjoying the coveted otiuin cum dignitate in jail without having to commit a crime. But in a country where wrong-doing sets so lightly upon the conscience, and where it so frequently goes altogether unpun- ished, the criminal class is large, as we should expect, though through a lax administration of the laws but a small part of it ever reaches Fernando. I refer to this phase of the subject be- cause, in order to understand the class of people inhabiting Fer- nando de Noronha, it is necessary to know something of the source of supply.

The convict-island is visited once a month by a small steamer from Pernambuco. On one of the vessels I took passage, fur- nished with the usual and indispensable official letters of intro- duction from the President of the Province of Pernambuco ; and, after a voyage of two and a half days, anchored in front of the village in which the commandant or governor of the island lives. Arrived at the anchoring-ground — for there is no wharf or pier, and no small boats are allowed on the island — I could see upon the beach about seventy-five half -naked men tugging at a huge two- storied raft, trying to get it into the water. When this was launched, a large cable was secured on shore, and the great raft was paddled slowly in our direction, telling out the cable, the other end of which was finally made fast to the steamer.

The personal baggage, five or six newly arrived convicts with their guards, and myself and servant, were placed on the upper