Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

cess.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

other of the troubles. How Mr. Mac-| have stayed with Mr. Bustle. The canes gregor told one field from another I could are planted in rows about six feet apart; not tell (they are all exact parallelo- the space between is called the bank; grams, and look as like as peas in a pod), each alternate bank had had a gutter cut but he did, and talked learnedly to Mr. through it about two feet wide and a foot Bustle about each,—what No. 46 gave and a half deep called a drill, on the other last year, what it was expected to give was a heap of dead leaves and dry grass this, the manure used, the work done, and called a trash bank. The canes were like how a "gall or barren part had been snakes crawling and matted all over the treated with lime and the results. The surface. They were full-grown and about fields have no names - they are all num- twelve feet long, the leafy end being fully bered. I heard of drills and forking banks, seven feet high above the ground. Mr. and I know not what else. All the culti Macgregor walked on most coolly, sepavation is by hand. Agricultural imple- rating the canes with his stick and always ments cannot be reconciled with the open stepping over the trash banks and drills. drains. Many attempts have been made I floundered after, treading on the slipto introduce subsoil drainage and steam pery canes, and falling in the drills, which cultivation, but though a few estates still seemed specially designed to trip me up. keep to it as a rule it has not been a suc- I dreaded stepping into these trash banks - every story I had ever heard of gigantic snakes, ferocious alligators, and venomous insects rising to my mind. Mr. Macgregor told me that I had nothing to fear, that the fields were far too often worked to harbor any vermin more dangerous than a rat, but I had my own opinion. The sun poured down and not a breath of wind penetrated the jungle. The unwonted exercise made me perspire at every pore, and in spite of my firm resolve not to give in, I soon was obliged to stop and suggest that Mr. Bustle would be tired of waiting. I scrambled back and could hear every pulse beating in my ears. I felt hot and thirsty and would have given very much for a glass of rain water clear and iced. I had on my way noticed that the people drank the black water of the canal, a tumbler of which looks like weak brandy and water or tea, and I had wondered how they could swallow it. Somehow it did not seem so impossible now and I asked if it were wholesome. Mr. Bustle said that it was slightly laxative to those unaccustomed to its use, that the color was due to vegetable matter, and the end was that I took a long delicious draught from the skillet of the water-carrier, and never have I tasted any wine more like nectar than was the draught of lukewarm and not too clean water.

We rode three miles along the dam, passing the various gangs at work. Here were a lot of coolie women and the weaker men weeding; they seemed very merry, and all shouted a "salaam " and a remark that there was "too much grass.' I thought of the sun blazing then, what would it be at noon! Mr. Bustle told me that he had never heard a coolie complain of heat, but that in wet weather they all complain of cold. Most of the coolies come from the plains of India, and though there the nights are cooler, especially in the cool season, than in Demerara, the sun is very much hotter and there is not the same strong breeze to temper the heat. We pass a field of "high canes," and a gang of black women are stripping off the dead cane leaves, technically called thrashing. "Now," says Mr. Macgregor, "if you want to feel that you are in the tropics, come with me. We dismount and give our mules in charge of a water-carrier, a boy, and cross the canal in a float. Mr. Bustle declines to accompany us and says he will wait till we return. We climb up a slippery bank, and I, to save myself from falling, lay hold of a cane, and find that the edges of the leaves are serrated and that I have given my hand a long cut just through the skin which smarts atrociously; but worse than that, We remounted our steeds and passed the part of the leaf which is attached to more fields; in some black men were cutthe cane is covered with a sort of fur, ting canes, dressed as a rule in singlet and the ends quite sharp, and my fingers are trousers. No laborers ever wear covercovered. Mr. Macgregor only laughs, ing to their feet while at work. Some of and says I want the knack of walking these singlets were in such utter tatters through high canes. He cuts a piece of that I wondered whether they were worn cane and advises me to rub my fingers for warmth, decency, or ornament. with the damp end, saying that "nothing is better for extracting cane pimpler.' I then start, and find that I had better

In

other fields were the coolie shovel-men digging those same abominable drills, further on some were forking the banks,

have their choice either to stop grinding just when the canes are ripe and the weather favorable or to take sea water into the trenches, which injures the cultivation and damages the boilers and machinery.

I never before realized the absurd fears of the possible over-population of this globe, at least for very very long. Here were we three men. To the north was a thin line of cottages between us and the ocean, to the south was the whole enormous interior of South America, almost uninhabited; just a few huts sprinkled sparsely on the banks of the rivers, the land between river and river empty.

I had expected to see all sorts of life in this savannah; I had often heard of the teeming animal life of the tropics. But if there was any animal life, it managed most successfully to hide itself. I saw

on which by-and-by the "trash" would be laid, forking it just as a gardener does a potato-patch in an English kitchen garden. We passed a few saddled mules on the dam, the riders of which were the overseers at that time in the fields either seeing that the work was honestly performed in accordance with the orders given, or entering the names of each laborer and the amount of work done. I was astonished when I heard that many an overseer has to walk about two miles through those odious high canes and take down all the work before breakfast. "It is very unpleasant in wet weather," says Mr. Macgregor, "the land is so slippery and clings to one's boots, and the wet softens the skin and renders it liable to be cut by the cane-blades." The name is appropriate, and I quite believe Mr. Macgregor's statement. At length we reach the back dam and find a watch-house sur-nothing except a very few small birds. rounded by cocoanut trees, at which I, again thirsty, cast longing eyes. The manager calls the watchman, who brings me a green nut full of the cool, clear water, which the English call, from some unknown reason, cocoanut milk. There is no flesh in these young unripe nuts, only a little jelly lining; all the inside is full of this water. I notice that neither of my companions appears either hot or thirsty, and am told that drinking is merely a matter of habit. "Drinking before breakfast destroys the appetite," says Mr. Bustle. I wished it would destroy mine. Here we were, at about Io A. M., miles from a house, and I was ravenous. I had eaten nothing but a small biscuit since my dinner at 7 P.M. on the previous evening. I had been a drive, a railway journey, a drive and a ride, besides a scramble among those delicious high canes, and I should have liked breakfast at my usual hour, 9 A.M. It never seemed to enter the heads of my companions that we were late. The back dam is a wall of earth raised to the height of about ten feet above mean tide level; on one side is the estate, on the other a great savannah growing rank "razor grass,” a sort of first cousin to the cane, a coarse sort of fern, and that is all. At the time I speak of it was covered with water about two feet deep. This water seems a great trouble. It is a source of danger in wet weather. If the back dam burst the whole cultivation would be in danger of being swamped. In dry weather it disappears, and then the estates are at their wits' end to know how to get sufficient water to fill their naviga. tion trenches, and in very dry years they

A great green plain, with here and there a clump of wild palms, and on the far horizon à line of low bush that is what I saw. We rode along the back dam till we came to the side-line dam, which divides Nonsuch from the neighboring village of Wilberforce, so called in gratitude to the great abolitionist. Down this we rode, seeing on one side the same cane-fields highly cultivated, neat and orderly, on the other a miserable sight, a few plantain-trees struggling with the choking grass, a few fruit-trees half strangled with parasitic vines, neglect, laziness, and want of thrift visible throughout. About halfway along the dam was much wider, and I was told that when the estates were first laid out, the dams dividing them were very wide, so that if a second row of estates should be established, the dams would serve as roads, and also enable trenches to be dug to drain the "second depth" estates.

[ocr errors]

On this dam a lot of "free," or unindentured, coolies had squatted. They are great hands at building houses or huts, which grow up like the palace of Aladdin, in a single night. By the way, it seemed so strange to see real people with " Arabian Nights names. To have Aladdin (here pronounced Al-a-deen) as groom, and Saladin (Sal-a-deen) as driver; with Mohammeds and Ismaels all about, like a mixture of fairy tales and the Old Testament. These houses are made of spars put close together, the walls and floor are daubed with a mixture of mud and cowdung, laid on like cement, which is said to keep away insects, they are thatched with the leaves of palm-trees, and are preferred

to the neat white pine-board cottages, | out for about a hundred yards at right anwith shingled roofs, provided by the es- gles to the dam; outside the dam is also tates. The coolies like them because they packed a quantity of bush. But these are said to be warm at night and cool in precautions cost a frightful amount of the day, but I fancy the real reason is, money and trouble, and a rough high because their native huts in India are very spring tide would often in a few hours demuch the same. They have a room nearly stroy and carry away any amount of work. in darkness, lighted by a window that is The waves rocked the groynes till the an opening with a wooden flap; a door timbers, driven deep in the mud, rocked on the leeward side opens into the gal- like gigantic loose teeth, and the water lery, the eaves of which descend to within carried away the mud thus stirred up. All three feet of the ground, and the coolies other means being ineffectual, it was restoop on entering or leaving, till they look solved to protect the dam with stone. like foxes coming from a hole. In these This may be done in two ways; either by galleries were women, some engaged in facing the dam with stone, or by running fanning rice, or in pouring rice from one a stone dam outside of and parallel to straw shovel to another, the wind carrying the earth dam. All the stone has to away the dust. Some were cooking, some be imported either from other lands or nursing their children, some engaged from the penal settlement up the River openly in certain mysteries of the toilette Mazzaruni. In either case it is very exwhich in more civilized countries would pensive, and Mazzaruni stone being grannot be performed in public. The children ite, and very heavy, a great many tons were everywhere, and all set up a shout make a very little show. At first the of Miming, miming! like a sort of chant. stone was just tumbled out of the vessels They were engaged in caning a toy tad- (generally flat-bottomed square punts, with jah, and playing at the Hosein feast. One one mast), but it sank in the mud, and had carried the pagoda, made of mud, the rest to find or make a foundation, so that more beat old paraffin oil-tins as drums, and stone was below the mud than above. two little chubby rascals were playing at Then the stone was put on bush matsword-exercise with sticks. tresses, and this plan has been found most economical and effective.

By this time it was after eleven, and we turned homewards and rode up the middle-walk dam at a rattling canter to the manager's house. When we arrived I could scarcely crawl up the steps, I was so stiff.

"Swizzles, sharp!" cries Mr. Macgregor, "and ring the breakfast bell."

The boy soon brought in three small tumblers full of a pink liquid with a foaming head, iced perfectly. The swizzle proved to be a most delicious drink.

We rode past these huts, and came to the breezy pasture, low Bahama grass dotted with cattle, the line of the railway embankment (or dam) in front, and behind that the sea-dam, marked by a dense bush of cunida, a sort of mangrove. This bush failed towards the east, and Mr. Macgregor informed us that he wanted us to inspect his sea-defences, and we cantered briskly down to the sea-dam. This is a broad embankment of earth running the whole façade of the estate. On the inner side is a large trench, from which the earth was dug to make the dam, on the We had hardly finished it when the other a flat glistening plain of mud, cov- overseers came up the stairs, five strong ered only at high water. Where we were young men, all sunburnt and healthy-lookthe sea had made encroachments, and hading, the palest being the overseer in charge dug channels and holes in the mud, and a lot of money had been spent on the seadefences. The dam had been paled off that is, protected on the seaward side by posts of green heart and planks driven deep, and braced with piles on the land side, and cross timbers. Mr. Macgregor told me how groynes had been run out, that is, a sort of wooden wall made of piles and planks driven into the mud so as to break the force of the waves and protect the dam. Some are made of bush, that is, mattresses of black logs or guava bushes are made and pinned down with spars and posts. These groynes are run

of the buildings. Introductions and handshakings having been duly performed, we went into the dining-room and sat down to a Demerara breakfast. The breakfast consisted of salt cod-fish with egg sauce, potatoes, cassava, and plantains, followed by curried fowl, cold salt beef, and a stew, and ending with tea, bread and butter, this last being I suppose a kind of commemoration of the English breakfast. Breakfast is the chief meal of the day with the planters. After having done thorough justice to it, we all went out for a smoke in the cool gallery or verandah. Cool as it was in the shade, there was a terrible glare

of sunshine out in front of us, and loung- | naces. We next went to the clarifier-loft, ing and smoking in my easy chair I felt a pleasant dreaminess, and thought that I never before understood as I did then the poem of "The Lotos-eaters " and the land where it was always afternoon. There we sat smoking and chatting, some of us even dozing a little, till near two o'clock, when Mr. Macgregor called the boy, who brought us three tumblers of iced lemonade, made of lime-juice, sugar, and water, one of the nicest drinks for a hot climate that have ever been devised, fresh limes have a bouquet that no lemon has, still less does preserved lime-juice give any idea of it. Then we walked off to take a turn through the buildings. On reaching them the first thing I noticed was the row of cane punts in the water-way-long, narrow, flat-bottomed boats, holding about three tons each, with plenty of water (that is, about three feet); a mule will tow four of these at the rate of about a mile an hour. These punts lie alongside the canecarrier, which is two endless chains with wooden slats fastened on them. Men in the punts throw the canes into the carrier, which moves by machinery, carrying the canes on it into the buildings. It takes about fifteen tons of cane to make a ton of sugar, and about one man is allowed for each ton made a day, so that each man lifts about fifteen tons of cane breast high every day. The canes are carried to the mill, which has three rollers, two below and one above, which grind them. The mangled canes are called megass. At Nonsuch this megass falls into another carrier, which carries it to another mill alongside of the first. This second mill has also a cane-carrier, so that in case of any accident to the first this can grind canes. The megass is automatically spread on the rollers of this mill, which is as powerful as the first, and this again squeezes it. I was told that on many estates the megass is steamed and sprinkled with hot water on its way from the first to the second mill (a process called maceration, introduced by Mr. Russell, of Leonora). I was also told that the first mill expressed on an average sixty-eight per cent. of the weight of the canes, and the second mill seven per cent. more, making a total of seventy-five per cent. The megass, after this second crushing, falls on another carrier, which conveys it direct to the furnaces where it is burnt at once.

in which were boxes constructed to hold seven hundred and fifty gallons each. The juice is pumped into them through a juiceheater, which last is a cylinder full of steam, through tubes in which the juice passes. In the clarifiers the juice is treated with the lime necessary to counteract its acidity. The lime is quicklime mixed with water to the consistency of cream. Many attempts have been made to defecate the cane-juice by galvanic action, which, it was hoped, would supersede lime, and although partial success has attended laboratory experiments, yet lime is still universally used in factories. The cane-juice enters the clarifiers a turbid stream, but on being treated with lime and subsided, it leaves the clarifiers quite clear-looking, something like beer. It is then sub. jected to the fumes of burning sulphur, which bleach out the natural green tint of the juice. It then enters a battery, or several vessels heated with steam, where it is quickly boiled. This is done to coagulate the albumen which rises as scum,. and supersedes the old-fashioned copper wall. The men doing these various op erations were mostly coolies, with a few black supervisors. I was told that men educated in European sugar refineries are not a great success; they never seem to learn that they have not a mixture of sugar and water to deal with, as at home, but the juice of a plant which consists of sugar, water, and many other component parts.

Formerly, and still on many estates, this megass used to be packed in large buildings called logies to dry, whence it was carried on women's heads to the fur

Besides, Europeans out in Demerara are as it were exotics, and have to be treated as such, and exotics are always expensive.

On old-fashioned estates, instead of a steam battery a copper wall is used, heated by the flames of burning megass. This, as already stated, is a row of caldrons with a flue below. On very old-fashioned estates and in the West Indian Islands the whole process is finished on this wall, the juice being boiled to a thick, treacle-like fluid, which on cooling crystallizes. At Nonsuch the juice is only boiled in the open for a short time till it ceases to throw up scum, it then passes into certain vessels where it is allowed to subside, and after that enters the triple effet, a complicated arrangement of three large vessels which are heated by steam. There is an engine attached which produces a vacuum in vessel No. 3, the steam from the juice boiling in the vessel being condensed in a separate vessel, with a jet of cold water which is removed by pumps. The steam

which were returned up a similar plank with one good shove. This plan has answered so well that no more scientific one has ever been substituted.

of the juice boiling in No. 2 is the steam | which boils the juice in No. 3, and the steam of the juice boiling in No. I is the steam that boils No. 2. The clear juice, now called liquor, is admitted to No. 1, The molasses from this sugar is treated after boiling a time it is passed to No. 2, according to the markets. When deep then to No. 3, from which it passes to the yellow sugar is in fashion, a certain vacuum pan. The triple effet is not emp-amount is reboiled to color the syrup tied, it is always being filled up, and the sugar. When low sugar is selling well, it juice as it were passes through it. The is boiled into a second sugar, called movacuum pan is slightly different, the vacuum is very high and it is charged from time to time with the syrup from the triple effet till it is full of sugar, then it is emptied or half-emptied. The vacuum is produced by the aid of a condenser, into which a jet of water is thrown which is removed by powerful pumps. The object of boiling in vacuum is to evaporate with the lowest possible heat, and also to produce the largest possible crystal, when large-grained sugar is in request. When in the vacuum pan the sugar is colored. Some estates use sulphuric acid, but as that destroys a certain amount of sugar many use a dye called bloomer, the exact composition of which is kept secret by the patentees. This colors the sugar yel-mented, it is distilled into rum. low.

The vacuum pan is emptied into coolers, from whence the masse cuite, as it is called, is carried to the centrifugals. As the names show, many of these apparatuses were invented by the French.

Nonsuch has six centrifugals; three are Weston's patent hanging centrifugals, and three are old-fashioned ones. The first are used for the first sugar, the latter for molasses sugar.

It was a pleasure to see the rapid way in which the Chinese worked at curing sugar. The Weston's machines spin at an enormous speed, and, the molasses indriven by centrifugal force through the holes in the lining of the baskets, in a few seconds leave the sugar dry and ready for the broker's sample-table and the grocer's

counter.

Mr. Macgregor said that when these centrifugals were first erected, there was much attention given to the best way of getting the masse cuite from the pan to the centrifugals, or rather to the pug-mill which stirs up the masse cuite before it flows to the centrifugals.

Neither he nor Mr. Spofforth had thought of a good way, and in the mean time they expected that the Chinese would carry it. As soon as the Chinese came, they rigged up a slippery green-heart plank, with ridges at the edges, and down this slid the buckets full of masse cuite,

lasses sugar, which is something like the old Muscovado sugar. When sugar is low and rum sells well, the whole is sent to the distillery. All the skimmings, subsidings, etc., are collected in a vessel, where they are boiled up with steam and then forced by a pump into a filter press; the filtered juice comes away quite clear, the dirt is left, when the press is opened, dry and hard, like oil-meal cake, and even that is sometimes washed by having water passed through the filter presses after the subsidings. Even this is not wasted, being mixed with lime and sent as manure to the field. The molasses is mixed with water, and pumped into large vats in the "liquor loft," where, after it has duly fer

Rum and molasses are called the "offal crop," and it is not a feather in a manager's cap to make much of it. When low-class sugars sell well, and the molasses is reboiled, but very little is made, and the advocates of galvanism predict that the use of that agent instead of lime will one day still further reduce it. The presence of the ferment in cane-juice, and the climate, always favoring fermentation, are difficulties that attend the making of cane sugar as compared with beet; beet is treated in a colder climate, and is naturally less disposed to fermentation. Another trouble is, that canes will not keep well after they are cut, and this makes any accident in the factory result in great loss, the reserve of canes cut always deteriorating rapidly, and if the accident takes long to repair, the canes are liable to be utterly spoilt.

The Nonsuch buildings are about the best in Demerara. About two years previous to my visit, a thief, attempting to steal rum from the rum store, set fire by carelessness to the rum, and the whole of the buildings were utterly destroyed. This was regarded at the time as a great misfortune, but now Nonsuch has a fine set of works, beautifully arranged, anc worked with very few hands, instead of as is unfortunately too often the case with West Indian factories, a mass of machin ery heaped together on no plan, one part

« ElőzőTovább »