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AMONG THE SUGAR-CANES.

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E had some passengers on board the “Egmont,” bound from

Brisbane to the northern ports of the Colony, with whom I soon made friends after my custom. Imprimis, a couple of dogs chained up in the fore part of the ship; a nondescript, said to be a colley and of high repute with cattle, and a small black and tan. The bigger dog, as usual, took his troubles philosophically, and surveyed the surroundings, let them be rough or smooth, with big brown eyes that could not probably be other than placid. The toy dog, used, no doubt, to endless petting, yelped and pulled at his chain night and day, troubled at the absence of his young mistress, who lay very sick, with a pillow supporting her weary head, on one of the saloon skylights. Deserted by their owners, these passengers hailed my approach three or four times a day with boisterous delight. A couple of swans in a gigantic coop would return no demonstration of friendship, though, puzzled as they must have been under such circumstances, they suffered one to touch them. There are probably not a dozen white swans in all Queensland, and the novel appearance of these strangers was abundantly proved by the curiosity of a family of colonial boys and girls who now for the first time saw the birds which had previously existed for them in picture books only. These swans on the second night were deposited at Rockhampton safely, and the circumstance was thought worthy of special articles in the morning newspapers, welcoming them to the public gardens, and thanking the curator of the same for procuring them in Sydney and bringing them through so long a voyage successfully. On the lower deck I found other friends in three blood-horses and a couple of hacks, bred on the Clarence River, New South Wales, and destined for a northern station. Horses, even if they are not sea-sick, never seem to enjoy a sea voyage ; these were remarkably meek, if not depressed. The young stud horse had life enough left to nibble feebly at the tarpaulin manger under his nose, but he and his companions in misery had left their food untouched, and looked wofully like roysterers on the morrow of a hot revel. I think these fellow-voyagers are worthy of introduction here as living examples of the determination of the

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colonists, by extending the useful hand-in-hand with the beautiful, to make their adopted home, so far as in them lies, a copy of the old country.

On shore it had been hot. It was nearing the end of October, and summer had set in early, with promise of roasting weather, though shortly afterwards it changed its mind, and left for 1879-80 a season of coolness—the more enjoyable because it was out of all rule. At sea it was pleasant as yachting in the Solent in June when the sky is blue and the wind westerly. Along the shore, appearing as a hedge of clouds to the far left, as we headed north, the fiery serpents of heavy thunder storms were playing for two days, but the ocean and the islands out at sea were sunny and calm. It was an undesirable termination of such a voyage to arrive at Flat Top Island at two in the morning, and be transferred to a small tender, upon whose dewy decks we had to pass five hours under the glare of a moonlight which rendered caution in sleep necessary. The tide came at last, and then we steamed up the Pioneer river to the port of Mackay, which is contending at present with the drawback of a river curiously channelled and shallowed by sandbanks, and agitating for the Government-by cutting through the dunes at one point where there are but a few hundred yards between river and sea—to give it free access to the watery highway of the world at large.

Mackay is the metropolis of a great sugar-growing district. It was born of sugar, lives by it, and is a thriving specimen of a small colonial town. It is within the tropics and, being flat and bare, would be a very warm spot but for the trade winds which blow with blessed regularity during the summer. Even with this advantage, Mackay is not the town, nor is any second-rate colonial town, the place one would choose for a residence, without a special reason. If people in this quarter of the globe would plant shade trees as soon as the streets are laid out, and let an abundance of green foliage grow simultaneously with houses and wharves, all the conditions of life would be altered.

Upon the adjacent sugar plantations life is infinitely more enjoyable than in the town, and I could almost have fancied that a latent

а jealousy which I detected in the townspeople against the planters had something to do with this state of things. Be that as it may, the planters know how to reduce the discomforts of tropical life to a minimum, and in matters of comfort, and even luxury, are excelled by none and equalled by few classes in the colony.

It seemed strange for a time not to hear the ordinary conversation

and the drivers were invariably “boys"; and “boys” still would meet the eye in every nook and corner.

Three years ago I published an article in the Gentleman's Magazine, upon the Polynesian in Queensland, repudiating the idea that he was a slave, pointing out that he perfectly understood the nature of the contract which, according to law, he makes with his employers under the eye of a Government agent, and maintaining that he is contented, happy, and fairly dealt by. Close observation since and many visits to sugar plantations, great and small, have confirmed those opinions. The South Sea Islanders engage to serve for three years, and then are sent back to their islands in the Government labour schooner. From the moment of their engagement by the recruiting agent on the beach of their island homes to the moment when the boat lands them upon the same spot on their return, they are under the watchful protection of the Government and under the equally watchful eye of the European colonists who are hostile to Polynesian labour, and ready to pounce upon and magnify their ill-treatment. The accusation is indeed sometimes made that the Government evinces more anxiety for their welfare than for that of European immigrants. I have been amongst the Kanakas on board the newly arrived schooners, upon their plantations after they have settled down to their term of service, and in the Brisbane streets, when, dressed more sprucely than a white artisan, they have purchased their guns and axes, and et-ceteras, with their recently received wages on the eve of their departure, and my impression has always been that they are as happy a class as any in the colony, and more happy than the majority of white working men. They suffer from pulmonary complaints, and show a high rate of mortality, but still they are anxious to come, and numbers of them voluntarily remain after their contract has expired, or return a second and third time from the Islands.

The sugar plantation is a pretty and homely object of our scerery. The mills, with their lofty chimney stacks, are generally on the banks of a river whose dense scrub has been cleared. At a distance the crops display the lovely tints of a young corn-field, and the narrow patlıs give an air of occupation and industry which at once strikes the eye accustomed to the open forest or half-cleared farms. The plantation crops are always green and, whether in the form of ratoons or fully grown cane, are delightful to look upon.

The carts were shooting out their loads of canc fresh from the plantation as we arrived on a visit of inspection. The Queensland planters have always aimed to secure the best varieties of cane the world could ofter, utilising from time to time the experience of the

can be seen in other phases of colonial industry, and although they were the dark coffee-coloured figures of nearly nude South Sea Islanders, the picture would not have been half so bright without them.

Two or three days spent amongst the sugar-canes and amidst the operations of a plantation, put me in possession of a bewildering amount of information about sugar-growing, taught me its immense importance to Queensland, and produced in my mind the feeling that it would be an excellent thing in many ways to be the proprietor of one of these Pioneer river estates, and have around me willing, laughing “boys” to anticipate my wishes and reduce the necessity for exertion to the lowest point. It may have been a fortunate thing for me that I had not at that period a loose fifty thousand pounds to invest in the purchase of a certain eligible estate and mill which might perhaps have been obtained for that sum, for the quiet rides through the cane, the sport (of which I shall have something to say presently), and the conviction forced upon me by cross-examination and calculation that some of the mills were crushing-out gold, would have been temptation irresistible. But the sugar-planter has his bad seasons, and I was well aware that the Queensland men had suffered pretty smartly in previous years, and that some of them were in the hands of the banks, and only now saw a prospect of release clearly before them. That sugar production will be one of the greatest of industries in the future of Queensland it is impossible to doubt.

The Kanakas seemed to swarm in and around the mill. Their costume was simple and easily adjusted, being nothing but a scanty loincloth. It was so scanty and so tightly stowed away that until you were at close quarters they seemed to be in a state of nature. Their sleek bodies glistened with a warm coppery tint, and they worked under the blazing sun with no other head-covering than their woolly pates. As for condition, they were models of fulness and firmness of flesh, and some of them quite ran to aldermanic proportions in the article of paunch. As a rule, the Polynesians are small, but I noticed some half-dozen upon the plantation splendidly proportioned, and displaying ropes of magnificent muscle. The women —there were three-wore a gown of gaily patterned print, and they worked steadily at some of the lighter forms of labour. In the fields, and upon the heaps of refuse in the yard, the Kanakas chatted gaily as they worked, but at their stations in the mill the business went on without a word and without a hitch. Carts, drawn by stout horses, came from divers directions with loads of newly cut cane,

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and the drivers were invariably “boys"; and “boys" still would meet the eye in every nook and corner.

Three years ago I published an article in the Gentleman's Magazine, upon the Polynesian in Queensland, repudiating the idea that he was a slave, pointing out that he perfectly understood the nature of the contract which, according to law, he makes with his employers under the eye of a Government agent, and maintaining that he is contented, happy, and fairly dealt by. Close observation since and many visits to sugar plantations, great and small, have confirmed those opinions. The South Sea Islanders engage to serve for three years, and then are sent back to their islands in the Government labour schooner. From the moment of their engagement by the recruiting agent on the beach of their island homes to the moment when the boat lands them upon the same spot on their return, they are under the watchful protection of the Government and under the equally watchful eye of the European colonists who are hostile to Polynesian labour, and ready to pounce upon and magnify their ill-treatment. The accusation is indeed sometimes made that the Government evinces more anxiety for their welfare than for that of European immigrants. I have been amongst the Kanakas on board the newly arrived schooners, upon their plantations after they have settled down to their term of service, and in the Brisbane streets, when, dressed more sprucely than a white artisan, they have purchased their guns and axes, and et ceteras, with

their recently received wages on the eve of their departure, and my impression has always been that they are as happy a class as any in the colony, and more happy than the majority of white working men. They suffer from pulmonary complaints, and show a high rate of mortality, but still they are anxious to come, and numbers of them voluntarily remain after their contract has expired, or return a second and third time from the Islands.

The sugar plantation is a pretty and homely object of our scenery. The mills, with their lofty chimney stacks, are generally on the banks of a river whose dense scrub has been cleared. At a distance the crops display the lovely tints of a young corn-field, and the narrow patlıs give an air of occupation and industry which at once strikes the eye accustomed to the open forest or half-cleared firms. The plantation crops are always green and, whether in the form of ratoons or fully grown cane, are delightful to look upon.

The carts were shooting out their loads of cane fresh from the plantation as we arrived on a visit of inspection. The Queensland planters have always aimed to secure the best varieties of cane the world could offer, utilising from time to time the experience of the

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