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Amongst Black Black-







Very few pleasure trips more truly deserve the title than a run over to  

Rottnest Island in the Government     steamer Penguin, provided the weather   be only moderately fine. This is an indispensable condition, for the Pen- guin, although a very excellent boat in

most respects, has, a frisky habit of rolling and pitching which is in the

last degree disconcerting to those whose   internal arrangements are of the squeamish order. For much of this in-

convenience the invariable courtesy  

and kindness of Captain Morrison is a great compensation, and the passengers

show themselves grateful for his con-

siderate and unobtrusive kindness and

courtesy. Arrived at the island, one is struck at once by the Lilliputian nature of the scenery. There are lakes   and mountains, and trees, but the lakes are small, the mountains only a hundred feet or so high, and the trees stunted, and the result is that full

grown folk feel a little bit too big for the country. It is a curious fact that

in the earlier editions of Dean Swift's

"Gulliver's Travels" there are maps

purporting to give the position of the

remarkable countries that veracious   traveller visited, and , in these maps the latitudes and longitude of these imaginary landsare given, and that on

these maps the situation of Lilliput and ' Blefescu is just about'where Fremantle ' stands today ! This suggests that it is quite within the bounds of possibility' that Swift's idea of Lilliput may have been inspired by some ancient mariner'sr description of the dwarfed and stunted beauties of Rottnest, and it may suffice to say that the description of   the sceenery and productions of Lilliput apply with striking accuracy to the   natural features of Rottnest to-day. However, no more of the scenery ; it is worth seeing, and to be appreciated must be seen. The only pity is that it is not more easily accessible to the public, for a more charming health re- sort exists nowhere in the colony.

My principal concern in visiting the island was to see for myself the'con- dition of the various public institutions, which include the prison for black criminals, the reformatory for white boys, the pilot station, and the light- house. Dealing with


first, it is pretty evident that the late Penal Commission paid it but very scant attention. By the courtesy of   the superintendent, I was shown over the whole establishment, and I regret   to say that it impressed me far from   favorably. The prison buildings are in the form of an octagon, of which about six sides are occupied by cells opening on a common courtyard, the remaining two consisting of offices, kitchen, etc. In the kitchen there was nothing to complain of. "We were shown the bread, and meat, and soup, which were all of good quality, and plentiful. The bread was almost black, like the kind used by the lower classes of Russia, and made of " 20 per cent, flour." That is, I presume, flour con- taining 20 per cent, of pollard, sharps, and the like. It doesn't look very nice, but as the officers themselves con- sume it I take it that it must be

palatable and wholesome. Around the interior of the octagonal courtyard runs

a narrow verandah, with a boarded , floor, which boards look like as if they  

had not been scrubbed or washed for a

geological epoch. The cells are wretched little cubicles, apparently about 6ft. x 8ft. in extent, which are lighted only by a grating in the cell door, and one in the wall over it. The cubic air space must be very small not more than 300ft. I should think and in there, black prisoners sleep on the bare boards,- having a rug provided to cover them. Knowing that abor- igines do not greatly value civilised comforts, I was content to let this pass until I was informed by Dr. Hope that ,$he rule is to


I cannot say more than that I was horrified to hear it The air space is not an inch too much for one, and when three men are lying on the floor of these dens, with their blankets around them the heat must be stifling,

and locked in for a prolonged period with no sanitary accommodation but an open bucket, the condition of the atmosphere of the place in the morn- ing may be better imagined than de-

scribed. The walls are stained a dull

and dreadful yellow, the floors seem- ingly have never seen a bucket of water since Rottnest first emerged from the     sea, and as the niggers themselves are none too clean the building must necess-   sarily be the harbor of many


I. saw none, it is true, but if none exist then I can only say that the germs are missing a golden oppor-

tunity. There are two "recreation

rooms," which consist of bare, yellow walls, stone floors, and heeps of ashes, there being no scrap of furniture. Al- together I was impressed with the fact that the prison had


as if it were the intention of the  

authorities to make the native convicts at home by rendering the place as much like a black's camp as possible.

It will no doubt be argued that it is impossible to keep these people clean, but I venture to think that New  

Norcia experience proves the contrary. In any case it is the duty of the

Government to endeavor to teach these

savages some of the principles of civilisation, and not to leave them in a condition of barbarism, which is the more revolting for being harbored

within four walls. The state of the

prisoners themselves was quite in accordance with their environments.

A DIRTIER FROWSIER LOT   it would be hard to find in any nigger's

camp in the country. Their costume consists of a shirt and a pair of trousers, both filthy to the last degree. Why these garments cannot be washed, even occasionally - say once a month - I cannot understand. The hair and

beards of the men were matted and full of dirt--in short, the general condition

of the black convict is just a shade more repulsive and appalling than that

of the ordinary semi-domesticated bar-   barian, who loafs around our towns and wolfs a living out of the dustbins. of his white dispossessors. As for the men themselves, apart from their clothing and appearance, it is only doing them justice to' say that they

are a remarkable lot. One man was

pointed out to our party who had


On the whole he was proud of the attention he excited, and no doubt was quite a great gun amongst these sable

criminals. Several of the others were

murderers, and altogether there is a fine rich flavor of diabolical crime about the crowd, which, together with   their rags and filth, showed how thoroughly contact with Christianity civilises the blacks. We were next taken to see the hospital, which stands on a small hill a few yards away from the octagonal hell before described. This "hospital" consists of a brick building containing only one room, and at the time of my visit one patient. The same dirty yellow tint, giving evi-

dence of limewash having been used at   some remote period of the past, per- vaded the interior of the walls, and

was further embellished with dark

stains of some liquid, which might be anything, but which was suggestive of

something unnameable. There were two bunks in this pen, on one of which lay an old mattress, which had evi- dently seen better days, and was now wearing out its existence in a state of decrepitude which caused its straw interior to gape out and lend spots of yellow color to vary the monotony Of



Whether the thing had. ever been washed was more than doubtful ; in   any case it looked to me so thoroughly

soiled that I doubt if even a self

respecting microbe would stay in it. However, microbes have no self-respect to speak of, and I doubt not that this object contained a large and flourishing population. On the other bunk and on another mattress, twin brother of the senile piece of upholstery mentioned, lay Cockroach,


whose specialty in the gentle art of killing lies in twisting the heads of black gins round till they either look one way and walk another, or die of the experiment. This amiable creature was lying fully clothed in shirt and  

trousers and the usual coat of dirt, wrapped in brown blankets which looked as disreputable as the walls and

mattresses. Around his neck was a

handkerchief which had once been   white, but which had caught the re- flection of Cockroach's complexion and was fast becoming as black as ebony. This also may possibly have seen the washtub, although. there was abso- lutely no evidence Of the fact. The floor of this delectable abode for the

sick was covered with dust and rub- bish, and taken by and large the build- ing is one in which I should not care   to lodge a dog, especially if I after-

wards intended to permit the dog to   enter into human companionship. Cockroach was suffering from some disease of the feet, and Dr. Hope

ordered some carbolic acid for them. I

thought the room needed the carbolic even more than the nigger. As for the stench, coming either from the

room or the blac, or both, it was simply

UNBEARABLY NAUSEATING   After this inspection we were more   than amply satisfied that the aboriginal prison at Rottnest was a perfect model

of all that such an establishment  

should not be. , I noticed everywhere a most plentiful lack of whitewash ex- cept on the exterior walls. Interiors as a rule were tinted   A LEPROUS YELLOW

deepening into browns and rich red, where liquids had been thrown or pro-

jected against them. Most of the  

ceilings were absolutely black with smoke and the floors beneath grey with the dust of months. To get some faint idea of what the place looks like, let the reader go into an old country house which has been inhabited

exclusively by goats for about three

years, and he will have an

experience in some respects approaching

to ours. There was no appearance or

odor of disinfectants in any part of the buildings and the smell of chloride of lime would have been as welcome as

Otto of Roses. And the charm of the

thing was that the offials seemed to take all this as a mattter of course, and really seem to consider that the establishment left nothing to be de-

sired. I cannot say that I blame them much for the state of things existing

here - they have evidently inherited

the whole system, and look upon it as

quite the natural and normal state of things in a native prison It was suggested that I should ex- press my opinion in the visitors' book,. but I declined. Eresh from such sights I had no desire to spread myself on

adjectives. I might have filled the book and introduced the wholesome   odor of sulphur into its pages.  


Yes, if I were Colonial Secretary, if only for a day, I should pay a visit to   Rottnest I should call all these

niggers into that octagonal yard and strip them of all their filthy habili-

ments. Then I should send them into

the stores and make them bring out their blankets and every scrap of rag about the place and make


of the lot in the middle of the yard. Then I should rig a pump and a length of hose, and hose the whole building out from top to bottom. Then I should issue enough new clothes to enable the men to leave the yard, and then I should set them to work digging lime- stone (which is very plentiful), which

I should burn and convert into limé

wash as rapidly as possible. Then the limewash .would be applied - vigorously until , the memory of those horrible walls and those black roofs, and dull, grey, blotchy floors were blotted Out

for ever. I should do the same te tike

hospital till it ceased to resemble a charnel house, and became in some de- gree fit for habitation. ? After that I

should insist that the first lesson to be

taught the blacks would be habits of cleanliness, and having done these thing I should return home with thé: assurance that I had done something to deserve my salary, and the. public con- fidence. And I would have the proud satisfaction of knowing that I had wiped a beastly blot off our boasted civilisation, and shown to the world that even a Forrest Minister can be

self-respecting when he is aroused.

And in all this too truthful tale I have :

not exaggerated one iota, or aught set down in malice, for to rae the whites oh the island are as utter strangers ; in fact, I am predisposed in their favor, for they are . most kind, cour- teous, and hospitable ; but no journal-  

ist or public man could be so blind to his duty as to ignore the disagreeable sights and smells of the establishment. Humanity has higher claims than hos- pitality, and my deliberate opinion is that Fremantle gaol in its worse days was a Paradise of Purity compared to the collection of noisome dens, dig- nified with the name of Convict Estab-   lishment on Rottnest Island.

Next week the Reformatory, the officers, and the pilot serrice, and other;  

Rottnest affairs will be dealt with.