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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/47

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37
THE CONVICT-ISLAND OF BRAZIL.

The amusements of the inhabitants were cock-fighting and kino. I suggested to the commandant that cock-fighting was a degrading pastime for his protégés (I did not mention kino, because that was the favorite amusement in his own house). His reply was: "I know it isn't good; but then—"

Often in private conversation these men would discourse to me upon the moral and social condition of their companions. On such occasions I frequently heard such expressions as these: "You must look out for Fulano." "Some people have no consciences." "The Lord deliver us from a convict!" "These convicts are a bad set, I tell you!"

Society was as varied among these men as in other parts of the world. There were all classes and grades, though they all met on the common level of crime. Social distinctions among them were based upon money first, and second, other things being equal, upon the nature of the crime committed, certain crimes being regarded as indicative of courageous manhood.

While about my work one day, my attention was attracted by a young man who was posing near by and disdainfully watching me. He was not more than twenty years of age, good-looking, and well dressed. A fine felt hat sat jauntily upon the side of his head, and he wore a blue cloak, the bright red lining of which he displayed to good advantage by tossing it back over his shoulder, I saw that he was a type, drew him into conversation, and finally asked him for what he was sent to Fernando. Bridling up and throwing back his shoulders, he struck his left breast with his right hand closed, as if upon a dagger, and exclaimed proudly, "Mor-r-rte!" (murder).

Many of the prisoners were known among themselves by what seemed to be very odd names, and I learned that they were nicknames taken from some circumstance connected with the crimes they were expiating. Sometimes there was a ghastly sort of humor about these names. One, who had murdered a priest, was called "O Padre," the priest; another, who had murdered a man for his money and had found but half a pataca upon him, was called "Meia Pataca," half a pataca, about sixteen cents; another, for a similar reason, was called "Quatro Vintens," four cents.

These are simply instances of how the minds of these people dwelt constantly upon crime, how they admired crime, and conse-

    system is there spoken of as "almost unique in its excellence," and a convict of seventeen years' standing is called "our dear old guide." The great number of verbal errors in the article lead one to conclude that its author knows little or nothing of the Portuguese language, without the easy command of which he could get no clear insight into the working of the convict system. He states also that one of the prisoners was flogged during his short visit. Flogging continues, therefore, in spite of the order of the Minister of Justice made in 1879 and referred to above.