George Streynsham Master.

The Century, Volume 19 online

. (page 41 of 160)
Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 41 of 160)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" I supposed so, too,"said Bernard. " But
I have got over it"

Gordon turned away, looking up the
great avenue into the crowd. Then turning
back, he said —



Digitized by



QiOo^z



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL,



225



" I am very much surprised."

" And you are not pleased ! "

Gordon fixed his eyes on the ground a
moment.

" I congratulate you on your engage-
ment," he said at last, looking up with a
face that seemed to Bernard hard and un-
natural.

** It is very good of you to say that, but
of course you can't like it ! I was sure you
wouldn't like it. But what could I do ? I
fell in love with her, and I couldn't run
away simply to spare you a surprise. My
dear Gordon," Bernard added, "you will
get used to it."

" Very likely," said Gordon, dryly. " But
you must give me time."

" As long as you like ! "

Gordon stood for a moment again staring
down at the ground.

" Very well, then, I will take my time,"
he said. " Good-bye! "



And he turned away, as if to walk off
alone.

" Where are you going ? " asked Bernard,
stopping him.

" I don't know — to the hotel, anywhere.
To try to get used to what you have told me."

" Don't try too hard ; it will come of
itself," said Bernard.

" We shaU see ! "

And Gordon turned away again.

" Do you prefer to go alone ? "

" Very much — if you will excuse me ! "

" I have asked you to excuse a greater
want of ceremony ! " said Bernard, smiling.

" I have not done so yet ! " Gordon re-
joined; and marching off, he mingled with
the crowd.

Bernard watched him till he lost sight
of him, and then, dropping into the first
empty chair that he saw near him, he sat
and reflected that his friend liked it quite as
little as he had feared.



(To be concluded.)



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL.



COFFEE BKRRIBS ON THE TREE.



In 1878, Brazil exported more than five
hundred million pounds of coffee ; a large
proportion of this went to the United States.
Coffee is the principal product of Brazil, and
the coffee tax constitutes a great share of
the government revenue.

My exploration of the coffee industry
began on the hills around Entre Rios, away
back of the Organ Mountains. Here the
scenery is quiet; the woods, for the most
part, have been cut away; good, hard roads
wind through the valleys, and the river
is ^>anned at intervals by stout bridges.
Vol. Xfx.— 17.



The landscape is purpled with the breath
of summer. There, in the swampy ground,
the forest is wild and luxuriant yet, with
palm-trees and festooned llianas. On either
side of the road there are coffee planta-
tions, stretching up the hill-sides. Some of
them are dark green, like the green of trail-
ing myrtles; these are strong bearing fields,
five or six years old. Others, the worn-
out grounds, are full of dead branches,
with only two or three green shoots about
each root. Others again have just been
planted, and the long rows of young trees



Digitized by



QiOo^z



226



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL,



COPFBK PLANTATION IN SOUTHERN BRAZIL.



are conspicuous over the neatiy weeded
surface. The air is full of a perfume like
jessamine, wafted from the thick- blooming
trees. The dazed insects go reveling in it,
dive deep to the honey cups, come out
staggering with their strong draught, and
tumble over the branches in shameless
inebriety.

Carl and I enjoy it all. Carl is my Ger-
man friend, and we have come up from
Rio to study the coffee plantations. He
is mounted on a bony horse ; I bestride a
most disreputable kicking mule ; behind us
rides our half-breed guide, Jos^. Iron-shod
hoofs rattle merrily; the sorry beasts take
new life out here on the breezy slopes.
Over the purple hills we ride; past white-
washed farm-houses and little country
stores; down through shady ravines among
the tree ferns and great glossy philoden-
drons ; catching glimpses of virgin forest in
the valleys; passing mile after mile of coffee-
fields on the uplands.

And now a row of cocoa-nut palms
comes in sight, and a cluster of roofs in a
great walled space, like a prison yard. We
draw rein at the folding door. An old negro
comes up with bowed head and straw hat
held humbly against his breast He swings
the door open for us, and we clatter up the
gravel walk to the proprietor's mansion. It



is a large, low building, tile roofed ^d kal-
somined with some Tight tint; there is a
shady piazza, and a few flowering shrubs
grow in little inclosed spaces before it;
beyond this, we see no attempt at orna-
ment In fixjnt of the house, there in an
immense smooth pavement of concrete, oc-
cupying half an acre or more, and with a
low wall around it ; this is the terreiro^ on
which coffee is dried. Beyond, are the
various mills and workshops, and the negro
quarters, opening toward the master's house;
there may be twenty buildings in the cluster,
— all neat and substantial, but as unpictur-
esque as possible.

" Come in, come in, gentlemen," cries

Senhor S , meeting us at the steps and

shaking hands with us as we alight S—
is a big, burly fellow, rosy, like an English-
man, and not at all ceremonious. We are
invited to seat ourselves on the piazza,
while he reads our letters. We explain that
we wish to remain for a few days, that we
may study plantation life more closely.

" Bns ndo f Why not ? A room shall
be prepared at once. Meanwhile, let us
breakfast"

As our host is a bachelor, there are no
introductions. The breakfast — a very good
on^ — is discussed amid much pleasant con-
versation. Two or three ne^ servants



Digitized by



Google



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL,



227



stand behind our chairs, but, like most
Brazilian house-servants, they serve more
for show than for use. The dining-room
is large and bare. At one side there is a
writing-desk, with a few books, mostly agri-
cultural manuals and government reports —
Portuguese and French. Two or three un-
artistic pictures adorn the walls; the furni-
ture is solid and angular, and badly
matched. Retiring to the parlor to smoke
our cigarettes, we find that apartment very
little better. There is a piano, of course ;
the furniture is rich, but tasteless, and is
set at right angles. There is not a single
book in the room, and, save the agricultural
treatises, none in the house. Our host was
expensively educated in Europe, and he is
naturally intelligent and progressive; but,
like many other Brazilian planters, he is
entirely absorbed in his plantations. Be-
yond the coffee- trees, and the slaves, and
the milreis that he may gain firom them, he
has very little interest in the world and its
doings.

He discourses of the plantation and the
improvements that he is introducing. This
was one of the old-time estates that had
fallen into negligence and decay. Senhor



apparently worn-out land. There are 4,000
acres in the estate, 2,200 of which are under
cultivation. The rest is virgin forest. The
fields count 400,000 bearing coffee- trees, and
our host is just planting as many more.
Large plots also are appropriated to com,
beans, etc., wherewith the two hundred
slaves are fed.

In southern Brazil, a coffee-field seldom
lasts more than thirty years. The planta-
tions are made on the fertile hill-sides,
where the forest has been growing thick
and strong. But the soil here is never
deep — six or eight inches of mold at the ut-
most. In the tropics there are no long
winters with mats of dead vegetable matter
rotting under the snow. The leaves fall
singly, and dry up until they break into
dust; logs and decaying branches in the
shady woods are carried away by white
ants and beetles; hence the mold bed in-
creases very slowly; in twenty-five or thirty
years, the strong-growing coffee-trees eat it
all up. Most planters simply cut down the
forest and leave the trees to dry in the sun
for six or eight weeks, when they are

burned. S , more provident, lets the

logs rot where they lie, which they do in a



THE VIVBIRO.



S has brought yomg vigor and driving

management to it. He has abandoned the
old tracks, introduced new machinery and
new ideas, and his neighbors are astonished
to see the wonderful results obtained firom



year or two ; in the open sunlight they are
saved from insects, and the ground receives
a large accession to its strength.

Back of the house there are two yards or
small fields, four acres, perhaps, together.



Digitized by



QiOo^z



228



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL,



THB PULPING-MACMINR.



The ground is covered with earthen pots
set close together, only leaving little path-
ways at intervals. Each of the two hun-
dred thousand pots contains a thriving
young coffee-plant The ground forms a
gentle slope, and water is constantly run-
ning over it, so that it is always soaked.
The pots, through orifices at the bottoms,
draw up enough of this water to keep the
roots moistened. The young plants are
protected from the sim by mat screens
stretched on poles above the ground.

This is a costly system. Most of the
planters take root shoots at random from
the old fields and set them at once into

unprepared ground. Sr. S 's experiment

has cost him probably $20,000; the pots
alone cost $11,000. But he will make at
least $50,000 by the operation. In the first
place, he gains a good year in the start that
he gives to these young plants. Then they
are not put back in the transplanting ; the
pots are simply inverted and the roots come
out with the earth. They are set into mold
or compost which has been prepared in deep
holes. The tender rootlets catch hold of
this at once, and in a day or two the plant
is growing as well as ever.

The nurslings come from selected seeds

of half a dozen varieties. Sr. S has

them planted at first in small pots. A dozen
slaves are engaged transplanting the six inch
' 'eh shoot*; to larger pots. Little tired-



looking children carry them about on their
shoulders, working on as steadily as the old

ones, for they are well trained. Sr. S

wants to make his plants last fifty years, so
he is careful and tender with them. The
little blacks will be fi:ee in 1892, so his pol-
icy is to get as much work as possible from
them whUe he can.

The plants are set in rows, about ten feet
apart. They grow, and thrive, and are
happy, out on the hill-side. Warm sunshine
caresses the leaves; generous rains feed
the tender roots; the ground is kept firee
fi*om intruding weeds and bushes, and
the planter waits for his harvest. After
four years, the trees are six feet high and
begin to bear. By the sixth year, the crops
are very large, — three or even four pounds
per tree at times. Meanwhile, com and
mandioca are planted between the rows.
Often in a new plantation the expenses are
nearly covered by these subsidiary crops.

In this month of November only a few
of the slaves are in the new fields. Novem-
ber is the principal gathering month, and
almost the whole force must be at work in
the bearing orchards. From sunrise to sun-
set, men, women, and children are gather-
ing the berries in baskets, working silently
and steadily under the overseer's eye.
Every day, each slave gathers on the aver-
age berries enough to produce fifty i)Ounds
of dried coffee. The pickings are col-



Digitized by



QiOo^z



be prepared for the market. And now let
us consider the processes of preparing it.

The coffee-berry is a little larger than a
cranberry, and something like one in ap-
pearance. Each of the two seeds is envel-
oped in a delicate membrane, the perga-
minko. This being strongly adherent can
only be rembved by strong nib-

i_: 1 *.!-_ 1 :_ J

(



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL, 229

e casca^ which, in turn, is
\ thin white pulp and outer
the berry. Nearly all the
?paration seek, first, the re-
tuter pulp by maceration in
water; second, the drying
of the seeds with their cov-
erings; third, the removal
of the several coverings
after they are dry. To
these three processes is
sometimes added a fourth,
by which the seeds are
sorted according to their
forms and sizes.

On the hill-side above
the mills, there is a ce-
ment-lined trough, through
which a strong stream of
water is running. This
water has been carefully
cleansed by a series of
piciciNG coFFEB. straitters, and the trough

is covered to keep out



rubbish. Through a funnel-shaped opening,
the coffee berries are thrown into the stream,
which carries them down with it to a large
vat; fi-om the bottom of this vat, a pipe
draws oflf the heavier berries to the pulp-
ing machine (despolpadar)^ while the lighter
and almost valueless ones are floated off



STKAM UKYING-MACHINK.



Digitized by



QiOo^z



230



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL.



with the surface water to another pipe. The
pulping machine is simply a revolving iron
cylinder, set with teeth and covered on
one side by a curved sheet of metal against
which it impinges as it turns. The berries,
carried to the cylinder with the stream
of water, are crushed between it and the
cover and the pulp is thus loosened. Pass-
ing from the pulping machine to a vat
beyond, the water is kept in constant motion
by a rapidly revolving wheel ; by this means
the pulp is thoroughly washed off and car-
ried away with the water, while the heavier
seeds sink to the bottom ; thence they are
carried to a strainer which drains off the
water and leaves the seeds ready for the
next stage.
•Thus far the process employed on Sr.

S 's plantation is similar m principle to

that seen elsewhere ; the tanks and troughs
are indeed more elaborate in their arrange-
ment, and hence the outer pulp is washed
away more thoroughly. The seeds are still
inclosed, two together, in the outer and
inner shells.

The next process — that of drying — is
effected in two different ways. Both of
these are employed on this plantation.
The great cement-covered pavement in
front of tiie house is the terreiro^ used in the
old process ; the seeds are simply spread out
on it and allowed to dry in the sun. About
sixty days are required for this. Meanwhile
the seeds must be raked over and turned
during the day and gathered into piles and
covered at night, or before rains. When a
sudden shower comes up, the terreiro is
picturesque with moviug figures of slaves,
employed in this work; for the rest, it is un-
picturesque enough, like everything else
about a coffee plantation except the ne-
groes.

Sr. S , ever ready to avail himself of

all modem improvements, is adopting the
new system of drying by steam. Back of
the house there is a long, low building,
which one hesitates to enter on account of
its sweltering heat; within, a light vapor
floats about the roof and is carried away
through openings under the eaves. We see
rows of great zinc -covered tables with raised
edges, and steam-pipes running beneath
them; little clouds come from the drying
coffee on these tables ; one or two negroes
move about, stirring the seeds liere and
there, and removing them as they are dried.
This steam process is likely to supplant the
old system entirely, for by it the coffee is dried
roughly in a few hours, and the long de-



lay of the terreiro is done away with, while
tiie product is much improved in quality.
Against the expense of the drying machine,
which is not very great, is also to be set the




DIAGRAM OP A COFFBU ENCBNHO.

absolute saving of labor ; three, or at most
four, workmen will attend to twenty tables,
which are quite enough for the largest plan-
tation ; the coffee runs no danger of injury
by rains, and, the process being a constant
and rapid one, there is no accumulation of
half-prepared seeds.

The coffee grains are still inclosed in
their inner and outer shells, now dry and
somewhat brittle. The removal of these is
effected by a much more complicated and
expensive process. The first impression

produced by Sr. S *s mill-house is one of

utter confusion. It is a large, substantial
building, such as might be used for a fan-
ning-mill in the United States. The floor
and two galleries above it are occupied by a
series of complicated mechanisms ; some of
them like threshing machines, some like
fanning-mills, some like nothing at all that
a Northern reader is familiar with — all in
motion with a constant clatter and grind-
ing and pounding, by which, somehow,
nicely cleaned coffee grains are evolved
fi-om the dirty-looking, nut-like shells that
come from the drying tables. You think
that so small a result might have been ob-
tained by a less complicated and expensive
apparatus. There are, indeed, less formi-
dable mills, in which the work is done by two
or three machines; these are found on
smaller plantations, where the planter is
satisfied with a mediocre product, and only
a few hundred or thousand arrobas (thirty-
two poimds each) of coffee are prepared

each year. But Sr. S *s plantation turns

out annually from sixteen to eighteen
thousand arrobas, and in a few years the
yield will be greatly increased ; his mills
must shell and clean all this in two or three



Digitized by



Google



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL.



231



months. The large number of machines
secures not only greater nicety in the result,
but a far greater amount of work in a given
time. The thirty thousand dollars expended
on the mill-house and mills was wisely laid
out ; all the great coflfee planters are adopt-
ing these improved machines, most of which
are of American invention and make. Many
of the smaU proprietors bring their coffee to
the large oigenhos, as a Northern farmer
brings his grist to the miller.

A machine described is as uninteresting
as a machine before the eyes is attractive.
Carl and I spend half a day in studying the
mill-house, but it will be better to epitomize
the process here in a rough diagram.

The dried coffee nuts are brought to the
mill-house in baskets, and deposited in a
bin, a. Thence they are carried by a band
elevator, ^, to the ventilator, c, where sticks
and rubbish are sifted out and the dust is
fanned away. Now the coffee passes down
through the tube d to another elevator, ^,
which carries it to the sheller (descascador)^
/j where the outer and inner shells (casco^
casquinho) are crushed by revolving toothed
cylinders. The grains and broken shells pass
through a pipe, g^ to the ventilator, A, where
the shells are sifted and fanned away ; the
unbroken nuts are separated on a sieve, and
passed by the pipe, /, back to the elevator,
e^ and so again to the sheller; the shells
and rubbish fall into a bin, /, from which



they are removed for manure; the coffee
grains fall into the pipe, k^ and are carried
by the elevator, /, to the separator, m. This
separator is composed of a pair of hollow
revolving copper cylinders, pierced with



PICKING OVER COFFKB.



holes of different sizes and shapes ; the cof-
fee grains, dropped into the cylinders, fall
through these holes, and are assorted by
them into large and small, flat and round,
errains. which nass into different bins, n^ Oyp,

» fine
inho),
with
1 and
)in, r,
fee is
efully
hand,
^con-
cks.
) ma-
re the
th of
years



COFFBB-SHBLLBR (OLD STYLE).



Digitized by



QoO^Qi



232



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL.



of study. Time was when the shells were
broken in great wooden mortars, with
immense labor; and even now on a great
proportion of the plantations, the work is
done in larger mortars with great metal-



moved, partiy by a turbine wheel, but prin-
cipally by a large steam-eneine, which Sr.

S- shows us with pardonable pride.

From the machine house he takes us to his
stock-yard, which, though an entirely sub-



SUNDAY MORNING.



shod pesdes, moved by steam or water
power. In place of the ventilators also,
one sees shallow hand-sieves, which the ne-
gro women use with wonderful dexterity, sep-
arating the fine dust, and tossing out the
shells with a peculiar twist of the hands.

A large plantation, like that of Sr. S

is a httle world in itself; there are smithies
and workshops, machines for preparing
mandioca, a saw-mill, a corn-mill, a sugar-
cane mill, and a still where the cane-juice
is made into rum. At one end of the
inclosure there is a brick-kiln, and near
by a pottery, where most of the pots in

the viveiro were



CUTTING CANB*STALKS FOR TUB CATTLB.



sidiary business, is by no means insignificant^
there are eighty-five oxen and nearly thirty-
mules, a hundred swine and fifty sheep, with
innumerable turkeys, fowls, guinea-hens and
pigeons. To crown all, there is a Zebu ox
from India, which Sr. S- — bought in Paris,
and imported for experiment

Picturesque groups of washerwomen
gather about the great stone basin, where
their work is done. Every morning we hear
the clatter of a chopping machine cutting
up sweet cane-tops for the cattle. In the
kitchen, the slave rations are prepared in
great ketties and ovens. Here a blacksmith
is busy at his forge ; there a carpenter is
wing. Among all we do
legro, for even the white-
aarians are employed, in
, or other light work, and
y except the merest babies,
must go to the fields
with the rest. On Sun-
day, a few of the weak-
est gather about the
quarters and indulge in
something like recrea-
tion.

The negroes are kept
under a rigid surveil-
lance, and the work is
regulated as by machin-
ery. At four o'clock in
the morning all hands
are called out to sing
prayers, after which
they file oflf to their
work. At six, coffee is
given to them ; at nine.



Digitized by



QiOo^z



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL.



233



they breakfast on jerked beef, mandioca
meal, beans, and corn-cake; at noon, they
receive a small dram of rum ; at four o'clock,
they get their dinner, precisely like the break-
fast, and, like that, served in the fields, with
the slightest possible intermission from work.
At seven, the files move wearily back to the
Iiouse, and draw up before tli€ overseer or
master, to the sound of a bugle from the tri-
pod at one side ; a bright fire half illumines,



policy he treats him well, as he would his
horse; he does not wish to diminish the
value of his property. But if the slave is to
be freed in ten or fifteen or twenty years,
the policy of the master is to get as much
service as possible out of him. A young,
able-bodied negro, even if he is overworked
and cruelly treated, may reasonably be ex-
pected to last twenty years; humane masters
may look beyond that and treat their slaves



ROAD NBAR BNTRB KIOS.



half conceals, the dark figures, sending flashes
over the walls beyond and casting long
shadows on the ground. The tools are
deposited in a store-house and locked up ;
two or three of the crowd, perhaps, advance
timidly to make requests of the master;
then 2dl are dispersed to household and mill
work until nine o'clock ; finally, tiie men and
women are locked up in separate quarters,
and left to sleep seven hours, to prepare for
the seventeen hours of almost uninterrupted
labor on the succeeding day. Some masters,
of course, work their slaves with more hu-
manity. On Sunday there is a nominal hol-
iday, which practically amounts to three or
four hours of rest ; none of the saint days
are celebrated here, and even Christmas is
passed unnoticed.

The Brazilian system of gradual emanci-
pation, however wise it may be in some
respects, brings with it an inevitable evil.
If a man has unrestrained control of his
slave as long as the latter may live, firom



well, but the majority see the matter simply
in a business light. If a man is foolish
enough to let his horse for five years, he
must expect to get back a poor, broken-
down animal. Yet he who hires the horse
or the slave may be rather blinded than
naturally cruel, — blinded by that thickest of
all bandages, business.

All through the provinces of Rio de Ja-
neiro and Sao Paulo are scattered great plan-
tations like this of Sr. S ; some, indeed,

are even larger, embracing a million trees or
more, and employing many hundred slaves.
Small plantations are numerous ; but many
of them are deeply in debt, and their suc-
cess is altogether problematical. A vast
share of the profits of coffee-planting is
absorbed by the large proprietors, who, with
two or three hundred slaves and scores of
labor-saving machines, can easily outstrip
their poorer neighbors. The present finan-
cial system of Brazil encourages the rich
planter and retards the poor one. There is



Digitized by



QiOo^z



234



COFFEE CULTURE IN BRAZIL,



no land-tax; the best coffee-lands are all
taken up by capitalists, who hold them for
years uncultivated. Eventually, with the



Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 41 of 160)