Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/219

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191
THE STORY OF A FAILURE.

about the year 1860, and obtained the sanction of the French governor for the purchase of a very large property, to which he gave the name of Terre Eugénie, and at once commenced every species of improvement. First-class roads, high cultivation, hotels which never paid, because of the princely hospitality freely offered to all comers in his own splendid country-house;—these, with his genial friendliness and good fellowship, naturally made him the most popular man in Tahiti, and one whose praises have been sung by all travellers. To work the estates he imported about 1000 Chinamen, and 300 "foreign labour" from the Central Pacific and the Hervey Isles; and to those he is said to have been a kind master, caring for them in sickness as in health, by the provision of good hospitals.

Of course there were not lacking enemies who grudged Mr Stewart his apparent success, and many were the virulent attacks made upon him by other settlers in the group. Specimens of very inferior cotton were circulated in Europe, purporting to be samples of the finest growth of Atiamano; and sensational paragraphs appeared in various American papers, describing the infamous cruel ties of which he and his overseers were declared guilty towards their wretched labourers. So damaging were these attacks, that Mr Stewart demanded a public inquiry, which was granted by the French Governor, when all these accusations were proved to be iniquitous libels. The little army of 1300 workmen were found to be unusually healthy and happy; and the only serious complaint made to the commissioners was by the Chinamen, who considered it most unfair of Mr Stewart to object to their committing suicide by hanging, as the easiest way of paying their gambling debts!

This cloud of aspersions having been effectually disproved, everything looked fair on the surface till, in an evil day, the shareholders began to take alarm. No title-deeds were forthcoming. All capital had evaporated utterly, and in 1874 the luckless manager died miserably, and the great bubble burst. Now the whole place is falling to ruin, and a more miserable sight I have rarely seen. A certain number of the Chinamen still remain—