Page:Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay.djvu/32

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11
CEDAR SAWYERS.

itself. These men are generally convicts, who have become free by servitude; they live in pairs in the dense dark brushes; their habitation being merely a few sheets of bark temporarily piled together, as they are continually moving in search of fresh cedar. Here they live exposed to the myriads of noxious insects with which the brush abounds, whilst not a breath of air can reach them through the entangled mass of surrounding vegetation.—The cedar dealers furnish them from time to time with salt provisions, flour, tea, and sugar; and every three or four months the sawyers travel down to the cedar dealers, who live at the mouths of the rivers, for a settlement of their accounts. As these latter individuals are not remarkable for delicate scruples of conscience, they generally settle the balance due to the sawyers in a very summary way. They take care to have a good assortment of clothing, tobacco, &c. in their huts, with which they furnish the sawyers at an advance of about three hundred per cent, on the Sidney prices: this, with a cask or so of rum and wine, to enable the sawyers to have a fortnight's drinking bout, generally balances their accounts. The scenes I have witnessed at. the MacLeay river, on these occasions, surpass all description. Men and women, (for many of the sawyers have wives), lying day and night on the bare grass in a state of intoxication, and only recovering to renew their orgies; casks broken in, and the contents passed round in buckets; men fighting;