THE BAYMEN OF
HOW THEY WRESTED BRITISH HONDURAS
FROM THE SPANIARDS
TOLD BY ONE OF THEM
AN BDZrID yB
E. W. WILLIAMS
ILLUSTRATED BY W. S. STAGE
THE SHELDON PRESS
NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.
WV YORB AND TORONTO : TIE MACMILLAN CO.
BELIZE IN 1794 AND BEFORE
ST. GEORGE'S CAY -
THE BANK -
THE DWELLERS OF THE POOL
VI THE FIGHT AT YALBAC
VII. ENTER DIEGO
VIII. MAGGIE'S RIDE
IX. JUANITA'S DEVOTION
X. IN EVIL HANDS
XI. THE PURSUIT
XI. IN THE RUINED CITY
XIL WAR RUMOURS
XIV. THE DIE IS CAST -
XV. THE BATTLE OF ST.
V.E THE LAST FIGHT -
MII. HOMEWARD BOUND
- 6 79
Mr grandson, Jack, has had the story of how we
beat the Spaniards at St. George's Cay retold, and
May, his elder sister, with the golden hair and the
eyes of her who was taken from me so long ago,
ifts an eager face to ask for the tale of San Pablo
and the wicked Spaniards, and the faithful negroes
Now, both are appeased, and have left -me with
my memories of bygone times, which come back so
*ividly that years fall from me, and I am almost
But I am seventy to-day, and have no time to lose
it 1 am ever to keep my promise to set down my
story which may interest my young folks, and their
children after them, when I am gone.
Simple as it is, it may perchance attract some
stray readers other than my descendants-even in
these piping times of peace, when the old fighting
spit of our race seems dying down in love of ease
and money making.
Nat that we despised the money, for we were
Sftafor the most part, we settlers who fought so
doealy for our rights and for our livelihood (which
was a goad one, I confess) that no Jack Spaniard
on all the Spanish Main could drive us out, though
they had many a good try.
England, busy enough elsewhere when our life or
death struggle came, sent us no help; no money or
troops, only a few arms from Jamaica, and one
little gun brig.
With these, and with the help of our own negroes,
than whom none fought more bravely, we beat off
the overwhelming odds the Spaniards brought
against us that September day of 1798, so beat
them that they never molested us again, and thus,
in our last fight, held for England what is now the
colony of British Honduras, the only one she holds
on the mainland of Central America north of the
British Honduras lies between 160 to 190 N., has
a coast line about 200oo miles in length, with an
average width of about fifty miles, and contains
nearly 7,000 square miles of some of the richest land
To the north it is bounded by Yucatan, the
southernmost province of Mexico, and to the west
and south, by the Republic of Guatemala.
Its deep alluvial soil produces cacao, coffee,
maize, and all tropical fruits in abundance, and in
its virgin forest, which cover so great an extent of
its territory, the finest hard woods known, and
unknown to commerce, flourish exceedingly.
But its chief products are, and I suppose will be
for many years to come, mahogany and log wood.
It was these which attracted the Scotsmen to
Honduras, and kept them there, despite all the
attacks of the Spaniards, for in the opening days
of my story the first was worth from 70 to 80
a ton, and the second from 35 to 40 a ton, and
fortunes were to be made by enterprising men not
too much troubled with nerves.
The history of British Honduras has never been
told, and I often wonder why someone with the
gift of bpokmaking has not taken it in hand, for
in the musty archives of some Government office
in England, there must be still extant records of
the brave deeds done in its primeval forests by the
hardy settlers, who, without help or even recognition
from home, fought their fights and won them.
In Belize, our chief settlement,we had but scanty
records, for such as there may have been were
destroyed, either by the Spaniards in their many
raids, or in the fires so frequent in that wooden town.
But from tradition handed down from father to
son, there is little doubt that the first discoverers
of its natural wealth, were a shipwrecked crew,
cast away about the year 1637, upon the reef which
guards the whole length of the coast from the
inroads of the Atlantic.
These men made their way back to Jamaica and
there, reporting what they had found on the Spanish
Main, got other adventurous spirits to join them in
the cutting of the mahogany and logwood, which
grew so abundantly on the banks of the rivers,
close to the seaboard, and which were more valuable
than any gold mine. Far away from any Spanish
settlement, and hidden in the depths of the forest,
our settlers carried on their enterprise unmolested
till 1677, in which year it is known they were doing
a considerable business with Jamaica.
Then the Spanish authorities awoke to the fact
that the hated heretics, Los Ingleses, had settled on
their coasts, and the order went forth that they
were to be expelled forthwith.
Probably they imagined it would be an easy
matter to drive out a few scattered wood-cutters,
trespassing on their lands, but they found it one of
the toughest tasks they ever undertook,
For considerably over a hundred years the struggle
went on with varying fortunes, and in the end it
was not the Spaniards but the settlers, who won, as
I have already told.
Here it is only bare justice to note that we could
not have won had we not been loyally and bravely
supported by our negroes, than whom there are no
better fighters if properly led by those they respect
and like. Our slaves were imported from Jamaica
at first, and, owing to the conditions under which they
worked in the forests, and to the constant attacks
of the Spaniards, were well and kindly treated.
Many of them received good wages for their work
and were enabled to purchase their freedom out of
Those who have the patience to read my story
will hear much of one of these, named Peter, whom
I was proud to call my friend as long as he lived,
for no braver, truer man ever breathed.
Many colonies have been won for England by her
brave soldiers and sailors, and others, as Australia,
have been occupied with no resistance from the
natives, but British Honduras is, I believe, the only
one in which a mere handful of settlers, without
help from home, wrested the lands from a powerful
foe and added them to the British Empire.
It is a gallant story, worth the telling if the
fitting historian could be found, if only that folks in
these degenerate days might better realize of what
tough fibre their forebears were made.
For me, Steven Forbes, the task is too great, for
I have no skill of penmanship, and can only tell
my simple tale, of what I saw and did, in my own
Now to my story:
THE BAYMEN OF
BELIZE IN 1794 AND BEFORE
How easy it is to tell a story to eager listeners, and
how hard for the unpractised hand to put it on
p, Steven Forbes, have been in many a tight fix
during my long and adventurous life, but never in
a tighter one than this, for I have promised to write
my story, and for the life of me, don't know where or
how to begin. They say the first plunge is the
orst, and I hope it is, for I take it with much
The youngsters say: Please do tell us the whole
story; every fight with the Spaniards, all about the
irds and beasts and fishes-' especially the fishes "
orders Jack, who is learning to throw a fly; and all
about the beautiful flowers that grew on the trees,
and the lovely butterflies and parrots and macaws."
SYou mustn t leave anything out," says May.
Alas II must disobey their orders, though I seldom
do, or I should have to fill volumes which no one
12 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
After due consideration, I shall make my starting
point the year 1794, for it was in that year, so
memorable to me, that our cousin, James McDonald,
and his family came out to us.
My father had been a farmer in Perthshire, as had
been his forefathers for generations before him,
and had come out to Belize ten years before my
story opens, and was even then what my countrymen
would call a warm man. Also in that year, for the
second time, he had been chosen President of the
Assembly, a body yearly elected by all the white
settlers, and in which was vested the power of life
and death, and the whole government of the settle-
My mother, my sister Annie, and I, came out
with him, but when five years had passed, he and
we suffered the irreparable loss of my mother, who
was taken from us.
My father, as President of the Assembly, had the
foremost position in the Settlement, and moreover,
from his sterling qualities, was held in highest
respect by all men. Was there any quarrel or
dispute between neighbours, Duncan Forbes was
called in to settle it. A man of peace, and of the
kindliest nature, it was his duty to organize the
defence against the Spaniards, and to lead us in our
fights, and well he did both duties.
The negroes and the Indians, who did us such
good service, trusted him implicitly, and followed
him wherever he led with dog-like devotion.
At this time, I, being then twenty-seven years
of age, had been his partner in business for three
years, and over and above our relations as father
and son, we were true friends and comrades.
Now when we arrived in the settlement in 1784, it
BELIZE IN 1794 AND BEFORE 13
was just recovering from a great disaster, which
befell it five years before, and nearly wiped it out
Until the Treaty of Versailles made between
England and Spain in 1763, the Spaniards had
steadfastly refused to regard our settlers as anything
abt trespassers, to be driven off as soon as might be.
By that instrument Spain then recognized their
right to cut wood within certain defined boundaries,
and undertook not to molest them in their lawful
oecapation so long as the two countries were at
psea. If war should be declared, the settlers were
tahve six months' notice before any attack, so
that they might remove themselves and their
property from the country, if they so desired. Of
coarse there had been many raids on isolated banks
aon the river subsequent to this treaty, but no
organized attack had been made-on any large scale by
the Spanish authorities.
Consequently the settlers were lulled into a false
security, in the belief that the Spaniards' undertak-
igg could be relied on. No scouting parties were
maintained either by land or sea, and no prepara-
tians mde for defending Belize, or St. George's
Cay, the island, ten miles to windward, which was
srea as a reserve store place and sanatorium.
lut a rude awakening awaited them, for early in
Lng England and Spain being then at war, without
he lightest warning, a strong Spanish force attacked
them both by sea and land, laid waste the Cay and
hbunt Blze. The settlers, being what they were,
fought-desperately, but unprepared and surprised
Iad no chance to save themselves. Many were
killed and these perhaps were more fortunate than
their comrades who, to the number of some hundreds,
14 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
were carried away prisoners to Yucatan and Cuba,
there to endure all the cruelties and barbarities of
Not a few died as they were being marched up
country in chains, and many more in the Spanish
prisons, so that only a remnant survived to be
released when the British Government, hearing of the
outrages committed, threatened reprisals, and forced
the Spaniards to let their captives go.
One would have thought that men, and women
too, who had endured such sufferings would have
been chary of putting themselves within reach of the
Spanish power again, but the logwood and mahogany
were still there to cut, and fortunes were still to be
made. So a good many of the survivors drifted
back, and being joined by new comrades like our-
selves, Belize in 1784 began to look up again-the
houses there and on St. George's Cay were rebuilt -
and business went on much the same as before.
I may add that other treaties, further defining our
rights, boundaries, etc., etc., were entered into
between the Mother Country and Spain, but we paid
little heed to them, and went about our business
as though they did not exist, always with a wary
eye to any movement of our enemies. Of these we
were promptly advised by our Indian friends, who,
besides being regularly subsidized by us, hated the
Spaniards with a hatred born of long years of oppres-
sion and wrong.
This is a long digression from my story, but it is
necessary for a proper understanding of subsequent
events, and especially of what took place in the
House of Assembly before the great fight of 1798.
Now in this year 1794, my father and I were
prospering greatly, for the logwood and mahogany
BELIZE IN 1794 AND BEFORE 15
that we cut on our banks "* of the Belize and Sibun
rivers, fetched big prices, and everything had gone
well with our shipments. Our house in Belize,
which my father called Drumspey after the old
Perthshire farm, was the best in the town. Set high
on Sapodilla posts, built of mahogany, and shingle
roofed, it stood close to the sea shore, and its deep
verandah, which ran the whole length of the first
floor, was shaded by creepers, such as the great
purple convolvulus, star jessamine and stephanotis,
which grew so luxuriantly that even the noonday
glare of the sun was softened and subdued.
That house, over which my sister Annie ruled with
a firm but gentle despotism, had been swept and
garnished: the floors so scrubbed and the paint
so polished that we poor menkind scarce dare to set
our feet on the one or brush against the other, for
now in this month of January we were expecting the
arrival of my father's cousin, James McDonald, and
his whole family, from whom we had parted ten
years ago in old Drumspey.
It was on the zoth day of that month, a day I
shall remember as long as life remains to me, that
Jake, at the first break of dawn came rushing up
the verandah steps. Maas Forbes I Maas Steev I
de' Lisa' do be come I he cried.
Out on to the verandah we ran. The sun had not
yt risen, but its beams were flooding the sky to the
zenith with the indescribable glory of the tropical
dawn. As we watched the scene which, however
often beheld, can never pall, the fiery disc of the sun
shot up over the Mangrove Cays, day had come,
and with it the good ship Eliza from Jamaica
rounded the southernmost point with all sails set
Local name for an Estate.
x6 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
to catch the rising sea breeze, and entered the
tortuous channel which leads to Belize.
In a few minutes, Jake and I were off in my sloop,
the Maggie, to intercept the Eliza before she
could anchor, and in half an hour ran alongside of
her, for by this time she had to shorten sail and
work her way cautiously down the narrow winding
channel marked out by beacon poles.
She hove to; a rope was thrown by my old friend
Captain McGarry, and presently I scrambled on
board to find the whole party assembled on deck.
Uncle James and Aunt Mary (for so Annie and I
had always called them) seemed little changed, but
the three boys, Jack, Bob and Sandy, had of course
grown out of mind.
As to Maggie, what shall I say ? She was like the
child of twelve I remembered so well, my little play-
mate, with the blue eyes and the golden hair, but
with an indefinable difference-a something that
made me almost afraid of her. She was friendly
enough, and greeted me, as did the rest, warmly,
yet I felt shy and awkward in her presence, though
I could not bear to leave it, and could scarce keep
my eyes off her. In fact, I suppose I had expected
to find the same romping playmate I had left behind,
and instead of that she was a woman, and a very
beautiful one too, and stood upon the dignity
that queenly position confers.
Uncle James and Aunt Mary naturally had much
to ask about us all, and what was happening in
Belize, whilst Maggie stood by listening, and the
boys skirmished round, all athirst for information
about the new land and the new life before them.
Happily their attention was partly disturbed
by the novelty of everything around. Now it was
BELIZE IN 1794 AND BEFORE 17
the great frigate-birds, circling, wheeling and poising
overhead, untiring denizens of the air that need no
rst, and next it was a flock of pelicans diving on
-NIw and then one of them would suddenly fold
his wings, shoot down with a tremendous splash,
and presently bob up with his pouch full of small
fish. On either side the narrow channel, the shoals
were painted by the newly risen sun in wondrous
c*lairs of dark purple and emerald green, and
ahead. f us the white houses of the settlement,
Ters~adowed by the great palm trees, grew very
near, and made a lovely foreground for the wondrous
Now we dropped anchor and my father and Annie
i~th awning *pitpan were alongside. On deck the
Mses clasped hands, and noted the outward changes
yearshad made in each, though they had in nought
diminished their friendship.
Maggie and Annie drew apart after the first warm
greetings, and had much to say in private, and it
struck me then with wonder, a wonder that has
wpar ~ten satisfied, why the women folk always
have a anch more to talk about than the men.
Perhaps they are quicker and brighter of intellect ?
Many a question my father asked about old friends
aI t.e t ld country, to which the Scotsman's heart
War turns with longing remembrance wherever he
nag- IM and long before they could be answered
fle~re alongside the wharf and presently seated
acraMshady verandah. There I noted that Maggie
at herself down by the side of my father, and was
making .geat friends with him-who could resist
*A big dug-out canoe with flat cads.
18 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
her ? Not he, at any rate, for before their renewed
acquaintance was many hours old, her hearty frank-
ness and sweetness won their way to his tender heart,
there to remain so long as those two should live.
Meantime the three boys had seized upon me as
their lawful prey, and were plying me with a flood
of questions about shooting.and fishing, and all the
birds, beasts and fishes that were to be found on the
land and in the seas and rivers. Jack, I noted, was
sedate and self-restrained, and whilst the younger
lads, Bob and Sandy, did most of the questioning,
was an attentive listener.
I was much given to shooting and fishing in those
far-off.days, and fortunately could fairly well answer
their eager enquiries, so when I told them of the fine
sport to be had striking" or harpooning about
the Mangrove Cays, plainly visible just across the
bay, Sandy fairly jumped with excitement.
Oh I Steve," he cried, you will take us out
some night soon," and I had to promise to do so,
and to take him and anyone else who cared to come
for a sail to St. George's Cay the next day.
It had now been settled by the powers that be,
that in a week's time the McDonalds should go up
to our bank on the Belize River, and from there
inspect the location we had selected for them, which
was only a few miles above Douglas.
Uncle James was eager to start work, and I believe,
had it not been that many preparations had to be
made, such as the purchase of stores and materials,
would have set off the very next day.
The elder McDonalds agreed they had had enough
of the sea to last for some little time, and declined
to join in the trip to the Cay, preferring to stay at
home and talk over the past and the future with my
IT.TZrE N 17n4 AND BEFORE z9
ifath., but Maggie said if there was room for her,
anl Sbe wouldn't be in the way, she would like to
"-Ot eaI I would have asked you before, only
1 thbagb t too might be tired of the sea; but
y~a TnIetMt expect there is much to see-only a
andy a pi some palm trees, a fort built for the
bensit of the Spaniards, and a graveyard, a very
:fac~ oe t t all laymen, for there sleep some of
It tas settled then that we young folks, all
ectW Annie, who would stay behind to mind the
ea~rs should start next morning as soon as the sun
sas trpd. after early coffee, trusting to Aunt
Chloe to gio as one of her notable fish breakfasts
So ea ed i~y ever memorable to me when my
agtgi me a back imo my life, there to dwell for
ST. GEORGE'S CAY
Bur I am forgetting that I hadn't given you any
description of Belize and its surroundings.
In the early days all the settlers lived in St.
George's Cay for safety, but as the population in-
creased that little spot grew too crowded and houses
were built on the low shore of the mainland, which
was almost level with the shallow sea.
The back land was nearly all mangrove swamp, so
that the extension of the town had to be filched
from the sea by the piling up of innumerable great
conk shells, nialhognny and logwd.j'._ chips, and mud
from the swamps.
The town in I794 contained about three hundred
whites, whose houses faced the sea, whilst in the
back streets was a considerable negro population.
On a tiny island close to the mouth of the southern
branch of the Belize River, which runs through the
town, was a fort mounting a few guns.
All down the coast, starting from the south of
Yucatan, and ru inning for nearly two hundred miles,
is a barrier reef at varying distances from the main-
land, sometimes no more than fifteen miles, but
at others thirty or forty, and all the sea inside is
comparatively shallow with here and there deep
water channels, and dotted about with picturesque-
ST. GEORGE'S CAY 21
lokang mangrove cars or islands, bush covered
to the water's edge, and which to the outwv.rd
eye are green and pleasant to look upon but inside
are nothing but swamp, the only denizens of which
are land-crabs, mosquitoes, and other devourers ol
SArot d these cays, and in between them, the
water is only a few feet deep, except where there
are-wide channels like the Grand Bogue opposite
BJl~S, through which good sized craft of light
dratgt can pass.
The prevailing wind is from the east, and coming
straight off the Atlantic is fresh and cool, and keeps
the swful sand flies in some subjection. \When the
ind comes off the land, bearing with it from the
Swamps an odour as of many tan yards, then they
uprise in their millions, and peace and comfort are
t roAh= farty yars agIo, and it a semds but
sterday The sun was barely half-an-hour high
Faen we got on board the sloop, and presently were
skimming over the sunlit sea, and with a fair wind
ay our.course straight through the Grand Bogus for
I was at the helm, and Maggie was beside me.
What mt e cou-I want ? The boys went forward,
nd swan were listening with deepest interest to the
va derfl tales told by Joe the black boy, about
tha big fih he had struck amongst the cays, and
'Wai V a&nt at fRt, M-am'e lsming ta.soae
in wtt~tig the scene, the green Mangrove Cay
ahad, the abilng dorys with their white sails gleam-
ing in the sun the great frigate-birds sailing
covered, the changing lights on the shoals, all
2a THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
were new to her, and her eyes sparkled with
excitement whilst I, poor foolish fellow, sat tongue-
I am not ashamed to confess that I was horribly
afraid of her; afraid of what she would think of me.
I fancy you will say, "What a foolish youth I"
And yet who can deny that worship and reverence
are the due of such as she ? Oh I happy youth, who
can gain the love her like can give! It is above
price, above wealth and honours, and all the world
holds. Bow down, then, and worship it with a
humble thankful heart, thou who art fortunate
enough to win it.
Presently she who read me better than an open
book, broke the silence with some trivial question
about the Cay, and I- found my tongue and could
talk fast enough.
The boys came aft and joined in the talk, and we
were a merry party till, all too soon, the sloop ran
alongside the bathing kraal opposite our house,
disturbing some half a dozen solemn-looking pelicans
digesting their morning meal of fish on the roof of
the bathing shed.
Old Sam, the caretaker and fisherman in ordinary
to the family, with his wife Aunt Chloe, met us at
the landing, and greeted the newcomers with the
kindly welcome of an old friend of the family, which
indeed he was.
I be reel glad to see lee'l Missie an' the young
Buckras (white men) and I hope dey 'joy demselves
at de Cay."
Aunt Chloe, fresh from her labours in the kitchen
preparing breakfast, and with her black clay pipe
in her mouth, added her greetings, and Maggie,
to whom they were addressed, said: "I'm sure
ST. GEORGE'S CAY 23
we shall, for everything is so beautiful and we must
be great friends."
With her winning smile she placed her little
dainty hand in their black paws, one after the
other, and made them henceforward her devoted
Old Sam was overwhelmed by the honour, but
Ant Chloe found her tongue, and said with evident
admiration: Oh f de lor I Missie, mee near see
Maggie laughed and said, "I hope you will see
me often, Aunt Chloe, for I hear you are a splendid
Come and let us put it to the proof," I said,
"for breakfast is ready, I know."
Ready it was, for old Sam had seen the Maggie
almost as soon as we started, and prepared accord-
ingly. Conk soup, fried fish, boiled fish, turtle fins
fresh from the sea, and washed down by such de-
lidou coffee as only Aunt Chloe could make. We
did full justice to her good fare, with the appetites
of youth sharpened by the sea breeze, and when we
had laisre to talk Maggie, who seemed much amused
by Annt Chloe, wanted to know all about her.
The old woman was as good as gold, but most
comical to look upon, being as broad as she was
long, dressed after the fashion of her kind in a loose
o without any waist, and a bright red cotton
ieeeftied over her grey wool.
I told themSam and his old woman had been given
their freedom by my father, for faithful service, and
were looked upon as friends of the family. Sam
had fought in several of the Spanish raids with great
kavery, and the old woman was quite a character
In her way,
24 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Whilst the boys went "crabbing" in his dory
with old Sam, Maggie and I strolled down the Cay
to where a clump of cocoa-nut palms looked down
on the quiet resting-places of some of the brave souls
who had gone to death in the many fights with the
Spaniards on the Cay, and elsewhere. The sea
breeze rustled through the great palm leaves, and
sounded in our ears as a whispering dirge for those
who slept below.
A hard-wood cross, carved with the name, age,
and date of death, marked each simple grave, kept
in order by old Sam's careful hands, and as she read
the inscriptions on the resting-places of young and
old, the tears came to Maggie's eyes, and a solemn
silence fell upon us both.-
Near the gates were three graves close together,
the centre one inscribed Andrew Mackie, aged 48,"
the left hand one, Robert Mackie, aged zi," the
right hand one Alexander Mackie, aged 23," and
all bore the date 19th February, 1779. Maggie
paused before them with bowed head for a moment
and then as we slowly left the little graveyard,
Oh, Steve, tell me how that poor man and his
two boys died. It was here when the Spaniards
surprised the Cay, wasn't it ? "
So I told her the story I had so often heard,
as we sat on an upturned dory on the beach, where
the only sounds that reached us were the whispering
of the palm leaves overhead, and the murmur of the
breakers on the distant reef.
The only warning the settlers had on Igth
February 1779, was given by an Indian runner but
two hours before the attack on Belize. It was late
in the afternoon when he arrived and all the Baymen
ST. GEORGE'S CAY 25
I thebtwn got to ams,. The confusion was great,
ibt -ther was no panic. Andrew Mackie and his
.two ms were in Blize, and his wile and daughter
wtre in bis house on tho Cay. The island was
defenceless, for it had no garrison, only some half-
doean wite men aid a few negro ), and the Span-
iards were-sme to attack it. Sending word to the
chiefmagistrate of the position, Mackie with the boys
ad three angtoes, one of whom was Peter Johnson,
got into sailtg dary, and made for the Cay, with
a fai breem. Peter, the only srvivor of the party,
says that Andrevrllaede for the two hours of that
sail, spoe never a word, b4 t sat with eyes fxed
a tihe Cay. Ho make me afraid,' said Peter,
Half way through the Grand Bou, firing was
heard on the Cay, now msoe tlirw miles distant.
What angnish of fear and -, iety the husband and
father enaredE for those who were dearer to him
tlan rife, no man may know, for though his face
grp st-rn and more set, he-stfl kept Aslence
"Ther fi feds, few as they wee, were making a
At of t for the firing still went on. Now, as they
lowered the.s and took to thei padres, being only
abimt half-mile from the west side of the Cay, a
Wtr light shot up on the mangrove bushes. The
Saniardtashad fired one of the hoamue nt MacIi's,
but close toit
Presently Peter, who steered, ran the dory
ttirou a arrow passage in the mangrove and the
ihola party being close ashore, waded through the
Salow water to the beach. Then for the fast time
Mackie spoke, ordering them in a whisper to look
t theffr pnimpns. and to follow hi noiselesaly
26 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
"Night had fallen, but the burning house lit
up the scene, and shewed them the raiders were
attacking the little fort at the northern end, for
none were near. Noiselessly they crept on till
they reached what had been Mackie's happy home.
In front of it lay his wife and daughter, dead in
each other's arms.
The negroes drew back, whilst for a brief space
the father and his sons knelt by their dead. Then
with a kiss, they took their last farewell on earth
of those they loved so well, and rose to vengeance.
Mackie now beckoned to Peter, and told him to
get back to the dory with his companions, for he and
the boys were going to try to break through the
Spaniards round the fort. Peter's only answer was,
'Where you go, Massa, 'dere we boy go too,' and
on they went to what was almost certain death.
Stealing along in the shade of the Mangrove
edge, they got within twenty yards of the fort, unseen
by the Spaniards, some of whom were trying to
break down the palisades, whilst the rest kept up
a hot fire on the defenders.
Mackie whispered orders to his little party
to fire a volley into the enemy when he raised his
musket, and then to follow him with their machetes.
The six muskets rang out like one, and the slugs
with which they were loaded did terrible execution
amongst the crowd. For a moment panic seized
the attackers, and before they knew what had
happened, Mackie and his party were among them,
machete in hand.
More than a dozen had fallen at the volley, and
how many they cut down with their machetes
Peter doesn't know, but says, 'Old Massa and the
young Buckra' were so furious in their onslaught
ST. GEORGE'S CAY 27
that the Spaniards gave way before them right and
"Even in his madness of vengeance, Mackie
knew this couldn't last, so he and the boys and
negroes now made for the fort, and were admitted
by the defenders, who numbered three whites and
four negroes still unwounded, and undaunted by the
number of their foes.
"The rest of the story is soon told. More and
more Spaniards landed from their schooners, till
presently there seemed to be hundreds of them pres-
sing round these doomed men behind their poor
wooden walls. Mackie and the boy Robert had
already fallen with four others, and of the seven
survivors all were wounded except Peter, who then
and ever since, has borne a charmed life. Their
ammunition was almost exhausted, and then these
seven threw open the sorely battered gate, and rushed
out, machete in hand, to sell their lives as dearly
as might be.
"The unequal fight couldn't last, and when all
the rest lay dead, the giant Peter burst through the
ring of foes, and with only a flesh wound on his left
arm, dashed into the thick mangrove swamp, and
there lay hidden.
For hours he remained there, and when quiet at
last fell upon the Cay, crept on till near the Mackie's
house, and thence carried the bodies of his mistress
and her daughter to the dory ; took them to the farm
an the Sibun River, and there buried them under a
spreading figtree near the house. There they rest
to this day."
Maggie had listened without a word, but sat with
clasped hands and bowed head, only now and then
lancing round with a shudder as though expecting
28 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
to see the fierce actors in the story appear on the now
peaceful spot. Then she turned to the quiet grave-
yard, and sighed: Poor souls, poor souls I And
Peter, I didn't know, Steve, there were such brave
good men as he amongst the negroes."
Now the boys' voices calling us broke up our talk,
and, as the afternoon was waning, it was time to
return; so all on board was the order, and the
sloop, with the same fair wind that brought her
out, ran back to Belize in double quick time.
iS nextt few weeks were busy ones, fully occupied
wth the hundred and one preparations for the
ramney up the Belize River to the McDorialds'
aew hank, and there was no time for any sport,
accept a nights striking.
Bob and Sandy, however, had found time te
pactise throwing their striking staffs out of the bows
4 their idoys, and had fairly mastered that diffi-
it art when a land wind set in, and I promised
4takse them out to the Cays for some striking. The
%Ulio Jack opined he would wait to see how they
g~Ot, but the other boys were wild with excitement.
'Th e-equipment comprises a fourteen inch staff, with
iiKnearlyas stout as a clothes line, a harpoon with
1iK y harp point, and nine barbs, and a bundle of
"'it" pmitwoTod for torches by which to see your
T, AThe ne is attached to the harpoon, and the
tt bi nto a hole at the end of the staff, whilst
t m:e after being bound round the bottom of
thgiste with wire, is taken up to the butt of the
thant;A there fastened with a double hall-hitch, so
Ot*t=fii youstrike a fish the harpoon comes free
aftu tf and you play it on the line, whilst you
I"Mse your staff.
"frS;lt s stands in the bow of his light dory
abtMneo about a hundred and fifty yards long
SO'aeiry cMoied down in front of him. In his
30 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
left hand he holds a torch of fat pine-wood. The
staff is poised over the right shoulder, and the line
runs through the full of the hand, to be grasped
the moment the fish is struck.
Striking '" is carried on in the shallow waters
round the Cays, and can only be done in calm weather,
for any ripple hides the fish.
The striker must be quick of eye and hand, and
throw directly he gets a clear sight of the fish,
which runs as soon as the light approaches too
The land wind held all day, so about 4 p.m. we
embarked on the sloop, towing the three dorys,
and taking with us three good paddlers to work them.
Slowly we drifted across the bay, before the dying
breeze which, as the sun went down, fell lighter and
lighter; and then dead calm. As Joe said, "It
do sim as do you pick de night Maas Sandy."
Joe took the stern of Sandy'scraft and Jake that
of Bob's. The staffs and lines and a good supply
of torches were placed in the dorys, and off we started
for different channels, having first agreed to return
to the sloop for supper at a shrill whistle from
myself, thrice repeated. Jack was strictly enjoined
to keep a light burning to guide us back, otherwise
it would be impossible to find the sloop.
As Jack stood on the deck and watched the start,
the three dorys vanished almost instantly in the
inky blackness of the night, though he could hear
the light plash of the paddles for some few minutes.
The next thing he saw were three bright lights
from the torches; three bright gleams against a
background of sombre Mangrove bush; then these
disappeared behind the Cay, and all was blackness
and darkness again.
Meanwhile the three strikers had each taken
separate channels leading through the ca,., and
their paddlers were gently and cautiously propelling
them with almost silent strokes over the black
This caution is most necessary, for the water is
only three or four feet deep, and if the paddle
strikes against the gunwale of the dory, or the
bottom of the sea, any fish that may be near darts
off at once.
The coast folk aver that the fish come to these
shallows to sleep at night, where their enemies the
big sharks cannot follow them. But whether it is
so, or whether fish ever sleep, who knows? Be
that as it may, they are certainly very much on the
alert in such places, as every striker knows.
Sandy, as may be imagined, was in a frantic
state of excitement as Joe and he parted company
from the others; and no wonder, for of all sports
in the world this is perhaps the most exciting, even
to-old hands at it.
The weirdness of the scene, the uncertainty of
what you may encounter, the chance that in the
very next moment you may be fast to a monster
a;f oo Ibs. weight, the eager peering into the patch
o-light thrown by the flickering torch for the first
moameent of a great fin or tail, all give a charm to
th1f sport that is indescribable.
So Sandy's heart beat fast, and in his eagerness
he fbrgpt his perilous position in the bow of a cranky
dory; hardly felt the hot pitch from the torch
which dropped upon his hand, when he held it up-
right instead of slanting, and only thought of the
eat possbilities that lay before him in the darkness
32 -THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Then his heart almost stopped beating, for there,
about six or seven yards ahead, he saw a great tail
slowly ruddering its owner preparatory to a run.
Now or never Sandy, for he will be off in a moment I
He held his breath, he set his teeth, and with all
his might he threw his staff straight at the great
side of the fish.
Great heavens I Could it be that he had struck
his first fish? "Yes 1 No I Yes I I've hit him,
Joe," yelled Sandy.
True enough he had struck, for the fish made one
great jump out of the water, and then ran the
line out of the bow like lightning.
Excitement is a bad thing for balance, as Sandy
found, for, before he could get a pull at the line,
he was floundering in the water up to his waist.
He clutched at the line, but couldn't hold the
fish, which was full of running, so by Joe's advice
he crawled back into the dory, and gave the line
a turn round the thwart, by which means he got
some control over his captive, and could give and
take a bit, whilst Joe lighted a fresh torch.
The first one had of course gone out when Sandy
took his plunge, and they were being towed about
in absolute darkness.
The fight went on for nearly half an hour, the
fish making sudden darts, after which Sandy would
get a pull on him, and haul in a bit of his line. Then
to Sandy's great joy he gave up the fight and was
towed alongside the dory. Joe came forward to
help in with the prize, and soon they had him in
the bottom of the dory, where the boy gave him
the coup de grdce with a short heavy club always
carried for the purpose.
Sandy was indeed in luck, for at his first throw
he had struck and killed a fine tarpum of 25 Ibs.
weight. This fish is in shape something like a
mackerel, but has very large hard scales, shiny like
mother-of-pearl, indeed, they are often polished
and made into bracelets and necklaces, with pretty
Tarpum, or tarpon, as they are sometimes called,
have been taken in the Bay of Honduras with the
harpoon, and on the coast of Florida with a rod and
line up to 2oo lbs. or more in weight. They are
one of the games of fish, and, moreover, most
Sandy would have danced for joy over his prize
if he had had room to do so, but remembering his
late plunge he sat as quietly as he could on the
thwart, whilst Joe, with some diffculty, cut the
harpoon out of the fish.
"Maas Sandy," said that youth, dis de beauti-
fullest fish what swim, and you 'trike him good
for true, I no do him better myself. See how de
harpoon hold," he added, "he never get away so
long as he no break de line."
So they rested and chatted for a short time, and
then Joe pushed the dory through a very narrow
passage where the mangroves met overhead, and
the darkness was, if possible, more intense than
ever. No.sooner had they entered than a deafening
clamour arose from all sides of them. Athwart the
narrow gleam of light thrown by the torch flitted
ghostly forms to disappear in an instant into the
They had unwittingly intruded into the sea birds'
rking place, and cranes of all sorts, egrets, pelicans,
rse-coloured spoonbills, and a host of others were
uttering a discordant protest against the disturbance
34 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
of their slumbers. Through they pushed as fast as
possible to escape' from the din, and soon emerged
into a wider channel, the noise as they advanced
gradually dying down behind them, till all was
Here Sandy had another throw, but missed clean,
to his great disgust, for after his first good fortune
he, boylike, thought he should never miss again.
Presently after this he saw a great flat brown
thing lying just ahead, with its side fins waving up
and down, and its long narrow tail beginning to
stir. It was perhaps three feet across, and pre-
sented a mark he could hardly miss, so he let drive
and hit the creature fairly in the middle of the
Now arose such a commotion as Sandy had never
seen, for the gieat side fins of the flat fish churned
up the water, and a track of foam was made like
that of oars pulled by hard stalwart rowers.
Out-ran the line nearly to its full length, and Joe,
fearful of a break, paddled hard to ease the strain.
The line, however, was stout and new, and held the
captive bravely, till at last the pace began to
slacken, to their great relief, and he came slowly
alongside when Joe laconically remarked ole
No sooner was he on board than Joe chopped off
the two sharp spines on his back with his machete,
for these are very venomous and cause a nasty wound
if perchance they prick you when the fish is flopping
about. Then he was clubbed as usual, and added
to the bag.
So the sport proceeded with varying fortune ; for
many fish were seen which cleared out, scared by
the light, without giving a shot, and many were
imsred, a was-natural, but as the night wore on
Sandy had made a fair bag for a beginner.
Besides the tarpum and the sting-ray, he had got
a barracouta and a couple of snook, and began to
tiUnk, a did Joe, that it was nearly time for Steve
to whistle them to supper.
So Joe turned the dory's head towards the bay,
and had not gone far before a faint whistle was
heard in the distance, a welcome sound to both
striker and paddler, who were now as keen to get
back to the sloop as they had been to set out.
Bob had done fairly well by this time, too, though
hislnck had not been so good as Sandy's.
He missed his first two fish', through being in
too great a hurry, and not waiting till he could see
them clearly. Then he got a fairly easy shot at
a bigfish, and struck him full in the back.
The line ran out to nearly its full length before
he could get a pull, whilst Jake paddled for his life
after the captive, which was big and strong.
Beh ld on like grim death, occasionally hauling
in a little line, and then having to give it out again,
till the inevitable happened, as it always must if
y$tr Iine holds, and the fish came slowly back to
Directly he came alongside, Jake gave one glance
at ftn and said, with great disgust in his tone:
"Mass Bob, h one 'otinlng ole sherk for true."
True enough ft was a shark about three feet long,
bat Bob didn't so much mind what he was so long
ashe hadgot him. They hauled him into the dory,
and Jake clubbed him and cut out the harpoon, and
then wanted. to hetve him overboard for the other
Iharik to eat, ButBJob wouldn't hear of this.
He said if h was a shark he was a fish, anyway,
36 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
and a big one too, and he was going to take him
to the sloop to show them he had struck some-
"Oh I Maas Bob," said Jake, de oder Buckra
laugh when dey see you 'trike sherk."
"Let them laugh," said Bob, "I don't care if
Bob, after a miss or two, then got a small Jew,
or June, fish, for they go by both names indiffer-
ently, about 2o lbs. in weight. This is a slow-
moving, heavy fish, that shows no fight, but is a
most excellent fish for the table, and often runs to
a great size. In shape it is like a very deep and
Now just before it was time to think of getting
back to the sloop a dire misfortune befell poor Bob,
to which the striking of a shark was as nothing.
He saw in the dim light an enormous sting-ray,
and, without one thought as to his size, or how he
could hold such a monster on his line, let drive.
As ill luck would have it, he hit him full in the
back, indeed he could hardly miss such a mark,
and away went the fish with a tremendous wake
of foam behind him.
Out ran the line to its full length, despite Jake's
frantic paddling, and then it snapped like pack
thread, and off went fish, harpoon, line and all
into the darkness of the night, and Bob was left
Bob was disconsolate enough at the loss of my
harpoon and line, especially as he had only himself
to blame for stupidly striking such a monster as
I never thought there were such things in the
sea as that, Jake," he said, sadly, they ought to
have warned us." But the only consolation he
got was the reply:
"You no see how big he was yo'self, Maas Bob ?
Then why you 'trike him ? "
All they could do now was to make for the sloop,
and as they paddled in that direction tley, too,
heard afar off the whistle, and hurried all they
could for supper.
As all three dorys came out of the channels into
the bay, one after the other, they all looked about
anxiously for the light on the sloop, that Jack was
to keep burning, but not a glimmer was to be
I blew my whistle long and loudly, but no answer
came from the Maggie. Then, guided by the
torchlight, the other two paddled up to me for
"Now," said I, "the next thing we have to do
is to find the sloop. It is evident that Jack is fast
asleep, and has let the lamp go out. Our only
chance is to get to the channel we first entered,
and from there take the bearing of where we think
she lies. But before we do that let's try kicking
up all the row we can, and perhaps we shall wake
him if he's anywhere near."
So I blew my whistle, and the other five screamed
at the top of their voices; then we listened, but
no answer came out of the darkness.
"Once more, boys, all together," and in despera-
tion we raised such a yell as would have awakened
the seven sleepers. Again we listened with straining
ears, when to our great relief a faint Holloa I"
came over the water, for we had at last aroused
Master Jack from his slumbers.
Jack now kept on shouting, and all three
38 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
dorys, guided by the sound, were quickly along.
Very soon the hands got a good fire burning on
the cooking box, and in a very few minutes fish
steaks were sizzling in the frying pan with a most
appetising odour. A big brew of coffee was made,
and a tot of rum served out to each of the hands.
While the cooking proceeded all the fish were
brought on board and duly admired, but by general
consent it was admitted that Sandy had got the
prize of the night.
Till the keen edge of appetite had been dulled,
little was said, but gradually the attack on the great
pile of fish between them slackened, and only Sandy,
with a power of eating a gourmand might envy,
seemed still unsatisfied. Presently even he could
eat no more, and supper was over.
Then pipes were filled and lighted, and the battles
of the night fought over again. It was now two
o'clock in the morning, and what with the sea air
and the hard work, drowsiness fell upon the whole
Soon they slept the sleep of the weary, and stirred
not till the first peep of dawn brought with it, as
it so often does in those latitudes, a welcome
breeze from the east, the forerunner of the rising
Oh I the delicious coolness and freshness of the
dawn-wind in those regions. How it brings life and
vigour to poor humanity, jaded by the burning heat
of the day, and the more depressing, because more
stifling, heat of the night.
That brief space of time, while the sky is lighted
up to the very zenith with the indescribable
glory of the dawn, is as full of pure and unalloyed
enjoyment as can be found on earth, and the soul
of the beholder is filled with an ecstasy unspeak-
Before the rising sea breeze the Maggie sped
quickly back to Belize, and the first night's
" striking" was over.
A FEw days after the striking" trip, everything
was ready for the journey up river.
My father had provided his friends with twenty
good negro "hands," and with them went, as
captain of the gang, a very trusty servant of his,
named William Lamb.
The pitpans, well loaded with provisions and
stores, not forgetting plenty of guns, and ammuni-
tion, lay ready at the wharf, and all our travellers
had to do was to say good-bye, and get them
Maggie and I strolled behind the rest of the party,
and as we neared the parting-place, I said:
Maggie, I will do all I can for your father and
the boys, and soon I shall hope to come back to
fetch you and your mother. I shall count the days
till I see you again. Will you ever think of me, I
wonder ? "
The girl flushed slightly.
"Of course I shall, Steve-you have been so
very kind to us all, and are we not the best of
Too much emphasis on friends'" I thought,
but to be that was better than nothing.
The farewells were said, and the pitpans started
THE BANK 41
on their long journey, whilst Aunt MA y and the
two girls stood and watched till they rounded the
To the newcomers the scene was a strange one,
for they were in a narrow, winding channel with
great mangi ove trees standing high up on either
side, on stilt-like roots, and nearly meeting overhead.
The atmosphere was close and oppressive with
the pungent reek of the swamp, which one of the
boys aptly described as like the smell of a tanyard.
Of life there was little to be seen, save an occa-
sional alligator that'flopped lazily off the mangrove
roots into the oozy stream, and sank like a stone;
or here and there a giant chocolate-and-white
kingfisher, that left his patient watch for fish to
lap slowly ahead, with much discordant scream-
ing, and settle again, only to repeat the performance
as the pitpans drew up to him once more.
When any drier land emerged, the great bluish-
grey land crabs stood, their big claws, a foot long,
outstretched, while with the little ones, they
shovelled into their mouths a seemingly enjoyable
breakfast of mud.
Strange, uncanny beasts they are, living in holes
in these gruesome swamps, and coming down to
the'eashore in countless thousands in the month
of August, for breeding purposes. When they
"walk," as the niggers call it, .they jostle each
other on the bush paths, and one hears the rattle
of their shells afar off.
After eight or nine mile; of this, the main river
was reached, broad and swift running, with lofty
forest growth and waving palms on either bank.
We kept close to the bank, for stiller water, and
M we neared a gravelly spit, I, with whom went
42 THE BAYMEN OF. BELIZE
Bob and Sandy, motioned the paddlers to go
Do you see that great brute of an alligator on
the spit ? "
The boys had their guns ready loaded with slugs,
but all they could make out was a great log of
"You'll see what it is presently, and when I
raise my hand, both of you fire together at his
On we crept noiselessly, and the victim slept,
unconscious of his danger.
Bob and Sandy held their breath, for now they
were within twenty yards, and saw plainly enough
what the log of wood was.
The alligator stirred slightly. Up went the signal
hand, and, with a report like one, off went both
The huge creature, it was nearly fifteen feet long,
gave one tremendous heave, then turned over on
its back, and lay thrashing up the sand with its
"Well done, boys I That brute will kill no more
"Duncan, my friend," said Uncle James, "if
there are any more like yon in the river, I shan't go
in it often."
"They seldom touch human beings, but I can't
say I like them myself."
Soon we halted under the shade of a spreading
fig tree, and tied the pitpans to the bank, in the
pleasant coolness of its far-reaching arms, for the
An hour's rest is taken, and then the untiring
paddlers get to work again, and with their steady
THE BANK 43
piwerl l stroke, drive the crafts against the strung
rom -st four miles an hour.
As they went, Sandy, who watched every yard
of the bank with eager eyes, caught sight of the
tail I mfgreat snake, wriggling in the high grass,
closf by them.
Be touched me, and pointed.
"Badk water, then haul in," was the whispered
order and the well-drilled crew, though in mortal
dread of snakes, like all negroes, brought the craft
SI stod up, took a paddle, and, with one blow
of ts edge, disabled the snake.
TMe moment it was struck, it let go another
sake about half its own size, which, no doubt, it
wasoing to make a meal of. Then from the grass
ds by, glided another big snake of the same
pee~ astthe maimed one.
Both were of the boa constrictor tribe, Wowla "
th nggers call them.
Warethey hunting in couples and going to share
the intended victim ?
alting the first night at a riverside bank, a few
m fiSmhrt of "Douglas," my father's logwood
work, we reached that place early the following
T'e& we found a prosperous, thriving settlement,
standing in a well-grassed clearing of some six
huained acres which, when it had first been taken
in and,-about ten years before, had been primeval
Or tihe high bank overlooking the river stood a
tomy, comfortable bush-house, palm-thatched, with
i A ref clay beaten hard till it was like cement.
Cke by was the block-house, or fort, iron roofed
44 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
and with walls of stout botan palm posts, plentifully
loopholed for musketry fire.
Beyond this was the long row of negro quarters;
tidy, neat-looking huts, of the same construction
as the master's, only smaller.
On the fine pasture which, save for the beautiful
Cohune palms and giant forest trees scattered about
it, might have been taken for an English meadow,
grazed many steers, cows, bulls, young stock and
horses, and mules for all the hands."
A pleasant enough place our friends found it,
and it gave them cheerful hope of what they might
do with their own bank in due time.
They selected working steers, cows, horses and
mules, which my father readily agreed to sell on
Then, as the sun fell low, we all sat down to an
excellent bush supper of stewed hickatee (fresh-
water turtle), roast gibnut (Paca is the natural
history name), and peccary; with good store of
fried and boiled plantains and fresh Johnny-cakes
for bread, no man should crave more toothsome
Supper ended, pipes were lighted, and Peter
Johnson, the foreman, was summoned to have a
glass of grog and to tell of some of his doings against
the Spaniards, if he could be induced to talk.
A notable character was Peter in those parts, and
a splendid specimen of his race.
Though a pure-bred negre and as black as your
hat, he was a goodly man to look upon; a giant in
stature, straight and powerful, with a face beaming
with good nature and good will.
His courage was well proven in many a tough
fight with the Spaniards, and for these and his
TTIE BANK 45
gen-al trustworthiness my father had, some years
ag, given him his freedom and treated him more
as a fdsnd than a servant.
He was a first-rate shot and, as a cattleman,
usurpassed; whilst the bush in which he lived,
with all its inhabitants, human and other, was as
an open book to him.
aw you come on, Peter? said his master.
"Sit you down; my friends here, who will be your
fries too for they know all about you, want to
hear tame of your stories."
e no know for talk, 'cept de Creole, Maas
Duanen, and de Buckra no understand him, I
Peter seated himself on the edge of a box in the
corner and twirled his palm hat in his hands, shame-
faced before so many Buckra.
The bottle of rum was passed and Peter's face
He took a good tot "; swallowed it neat with
a sigh of content, and then took a mouthful of
water just to wash it down or rather for manner's
sake, for raw spirit was no more to him than three-
-water grog to most of us.
The drink, though only a drop in the ocean of
Peter's capacity, loosened the springs of talk, and
Vhen' the conversation turned on logwood, he
I I Maas McDonald, you taak 'bout de wood,
'de de morest where you gwine, what never you
ee Youa no cut 'ur not in twenty year I "
Pm gld to hear it, Peter; you must come and
Diowrt us to-morrow. But how about the Spaniards
SVtalk so much of; are they going to trouble
46 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
'Paniar man allers baad Buckra for true, but I
no tink he bodder wid you yet awhile."
They're not fond of this part of the river then,
Peter ? I suppose they got a sickener last time
they came to see you ? laughed his master.
The big man laughed till he shook again.
Yes, ole' Massa, we fool dein badly dat time for
true; 'dey no come 'dis 'yer bank soon again."
Have another Cacho' and tell Mr. McDonald
the story," said his master.
Peter repeated the previous performance with the
rum and the water, and told the following story,
which is given in English and in a condensed form
for the readers' sake.
Peter had always made a point of keeping on the
most friendly terms with the indians for many miles
around, and they in return let him know the move-
ments of the Spaniards in the up-river settlements.
About a year before, a raiding party from the
Spanish town of San Pedro, had planned a night
attack on the bank, expecting to surprise it and
loot it at their ease.
But Peter's friends were on the alert and, creeping
through the bush, as only Indians can, gave him
timely warning, not only of the hour of attack but
of the very path the raiders were travelling by.
About half a mile from the bank was a wide, deep
and rocky creek, across which the path lay.
Peter dressed up six dummy men, with white
palm hats on their heads, and placed them behind
stones in the bed of the creek, whilst he, with a
dozen good men armed with guns well loaded with
slugs, took post amongst the rocks above.
The moon was young and, in the forest, objects
were difficult to make out except at close quarters.
TIHIE BANK 47
The Spanish leader halted his band of twenty on
the edge of the creek to reconnoitre.
He saw, as he thought, the enemy lying below,
behind the rocks, but he little dreamed that Peter's
gleaming eyes were watching him from above.
A whispered order was given, a volley was fired
t, the whole of the attacking party, and with a
wild yell, they rushed down, machete in hand, to
complete their work.
Peter shouted fire 1 and, like one, the thirteen
.charges of slugs were emptied into the Spaniards
at about ten yards range, and eight of them fell
dead in their tracks.
The rest, many of whom were wounded, turned
with screams of terror, and tried to scramble out of
the creek; but befordfhey could do so, Peter Mnd
his men were upon them with their machetes.
Of the whole party, only five survived to tell the
tale of Peter's ambush and how he had destroyed
them without losing a man.
The story ended, which Peter had told with much
dramatic force and action, Uncle James shook him
warmly by the hand and told him he was proud to
know so plucky and capable a man.
That valiant man partook of one more shot of
Bam, and then, with many bows an'l smiles, bade
them good-night, as proud and happy a man as
there was in all the settlement.
After this, as we lay in our comfortable hammocks,
talklingered for a while, but sleep fell upon us one
by aae, and all was still save the buzzing of the
MaOquitos outside the nets, and the insistent chant
ofthe dwarf owls in the great Bully tree near by,
that all night long utter their musical question,
"Who're you, who're you "
48 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
An early start was made next morning for the
new location, only ten miles up stream from Douglas,
and Peter, now almost as much devoted to the
McDonalds as to his old master, went with them
to show them round.
We found the Indians, sent by Peter, had put up
a hut on the riverside as a temporary shelter and
made a fair-sized clearing around it.
Rough enough it was, but would serve to keep
out the sun and rain till the house could be built.
About half a mile higher up stream, a narrow
neck of Cohune ridge ran back from the river bank,
which there stood some forty feet above its bed,
Following a picado or path, cut by the Indians.
on the ridge, the land presently began to trend
downwards; the Cohune palms, mahogany and the
other great forest trees, grew scarcer. The under-
growth of young palms, bamboos and trailing
creepers of all kinds, which had been so abundant,
ceased altogether, and they came out on a stretch
of shallow, stagnant water, covered with coarse,
wiry grass and dotted thickly with gnarled, twisted
trees, something like white thorns, only much
bigger, and bearing a small yellow blossom.
This was the precious logwood and, as Peter said,
in his enthusiasm:
Dere do be too much, Buckra I "
The further they went the thicker grew the trees.
Some stood up with low, spreading heads like white
thorns, others reared their nearly bare trunks thirty
or forty feet from the ground, and were five or six
feet in girth; and here and there the largest of all,
the giants of the swamp, had fallen prone, from
weight of years and wood, and lay deeply buried in
the mud and water.
THE BANK 40
In such a position this wonderful wood will
endure for centuries, its purple sap or dye improving
in quality asithe ages pass uver it.
It has been dug out eight or ten feet below the
surface of draie up swamps, where the slvwly
growing accretions of mary centuries must have
bried it, and been found perfectly good and sound.
Inexperienced as they were, the McDonalds soon
aw there wasenough logwood in this dismal swamp,
without reckosing the location Jack would presently
take up, between them and Douglas, to make their
fortunes; for the stuft was then worth t4o a ton
inthe English market, and not costly to get.
Having seen all this, James McDonald told my
father he was more than satisfied and would certainly
take up the location.
"Dtmcan, It n4ver forget the trouble you took
to gp us out here; man alive, why didn't I come
I am right glad you've come anyway, Janis,
a you'll never regret it."
That was -all that passed between them ; but it
nceant a lot, for both men were still of their t...nout.s
:uatnot given to nmuch talk.
Now we all left the low ground and, ack.1ndii
tle riE aganm:struck across it, back to t-he river
-Tamtlie.amp, acoupleof Indians cutting a picado "
-iW their matchets through the dense under-
Tief Cohunea iges are of the richest, deepest
leira and vegetable mRold, and the forest gtrowth
ty Ilo#tmw* is bewitching in its variety.
ha Cohmae palm is thirc in all stages, from the
a ;iltant just shooting is two green leaves from
-a. fth parsen nut to the great trm fity fhet in
50 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
height, with its spreading head overshadowing and
stunting the youngsters below.
Beside them and elbowing them for space, are the
" Palma real with its massive trunk, looking like
grey granite, and the graceful Botan" palm,
towering up a hundred feet on its slender stem and
overtopping, with its great plume of fan-shaped
leaves, the loftiest giants of the forest.
And they are giants too I Mahogany and cedar
(not our familiar tree), rosewood, sapodilla, axe-
master, ironwood, and a host more, unknown to
either fame or commerce, but beautiful and valuable,
could they be got to market.
As it is they grow and flourish and decay, and
fall and rot, to replenish the ground from which
Meanwhile, till they fulfil their destiny, they are
a wondrous sight to behold, with their huge trunks
standing up, buttressed by great spurs, and all their
outstretched arms draped, and hung, with lianas,
and vines and air-plants innumerable.
The undergrowth of saplings stand thick, struggling
desperately to reach the light, so far above their
heads, and so difficult to attain to.
'High overhead, on the tree tops, the vines and
lianas, down below like bare ropes, burst into
gorgeous blossoms of many hues.
No doubt the newcomers will soon tire of this
wondrous sight, and long to exchange it for the
heather-clad hills and green valleys of their native
land; but now it filled them with delight, which
seemed as though it could never pall.
TIur DWELLERS OF THE POOL
HEATED by their scramble through the bush, the
whole party sat down on the river bank, under the
shade of a giant figtree, that stretched its arms
far out over the stream, a perfect tent of Nature's
The cool, sparkling water rippled and danced and
sang over the shingly bars and sandy shallows,
and just below them was a lovely pool, some six
Who old resist its invitation to a bath ?
The youngsters stripped for a swim, and the
elders prepared to join them, but before taking his
header, my father, with a caution born of experience,
called np George Betty from the pitpan and said:
You know. George, if alligator no live here ? "
George looked at the projecting roots of the tree
"Berry like he do, Massa Duncan."
Thenhe fetched a long setting pole from the
pitpan, jampedinto the water, and drove his weapon
with vigorous thrusts into the cavity under the
Presently, with a terrible commotion, out flounced
an alligator, about seven feet along, and made off
ip stream as hard as he could go.
5s THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Betty was immensely diverted, and grinned all
over his face.
You no cause to be 'fraid now, Buckra; he no
come back here, not dis long time; he well frighted
Uncle James, who said he had no desire to bathe
with alligators, exhorted Betty to try further along
with his pole ; and when no more were found, the
whole party were presently diving and splashing and
enjoying the one great, unalloyed pleasure of the
Then came breakfast, hickatee, fresh caught fish,
and bush game. What better could even an epicure
desire, if he only had our appetites ?
In the cool of the evening we paddled down to
the location marked off for Jack, and found again
an abundance of logwood.
Jos6 Maria, the hunter, opined:
You no cut 'um, Maas John, not in ten years,
dough you cut ever so."
That unwelcome dweller under the bank at the
bathing place evidently weighed rather heavily on
Uncle James's mind, for on the way back he said
to George Betty:
Supposing that alligator comes back, can't you
catch him ? "
He no come, Buckra, but s'posing he do, I
make one tagle for him; den you see de fun, when
he swallow 'un."
A "tagle" is a piece of hard wood, about a
foot long, sharpened at both ends. The middle of
it is strongly bound with wire to a three-foot length
of steel chain.
A good length of stout rope is attached to the
TE- DWELLERS OF THE POOL 53
Oneifd at the tagle is turned up, and tied lightly
to the chain. with thread, and for bait a good lump
:of aal completely covers the stick. The apparatus
is then carefully placed in the water, near the
Whenr ssalswed the thread is digested with the
bait, and dirtly a strain is applied, the tagle
turns itaos-the brutes interior.
Then it is easy enough to haul him out, and, as
Jetty said, de fun begin."
That night Betty laid his tagle in the pool, but
with little hope of success.
Bob and Sandy were astir next morning, even
before any of the hands, haunted by the thought
of the allator and the bare possibility of catching
Thb rTed eoaut Betty and Jose, and went down
to thte rivt
Seity tooka hld of the rope and gently, inch by
iaCh, bhaed in the slack, whilst the boys watched
breatealy his every movement.
Asharp match was given, and then all was
frantic exyctement, boys and negroes all shouting'
with all thek might, for the alligator was caught
Out he rushed, to bolt up stream as before, but
all hands on the rope, with a turn round a tree, soon
checked him and, with a give and take, he was
Adwly-hauled up, till his head was out of water.
The noise brought the rest to us to the bank,
ld-I sent Joe to fetch a stout new rope from the
A afBeo was made and, with the aid of a" setting
pe passed ande the captive and hauled taut
in frost of his hind legs.
54 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Then all hands dragged him backwards out of the
water, and made him fast to a tree.
There Sandy quickly despatched him, with a
charge of slugs in the neck, and when stretched out,
he measured just eight feet in length.
Uncle James was immensely relieved at the
capture of his enemy, and at once presented Betty
with a dollar for the catch, for now, said he, I can
bathe in peace.
In this he was mistaken, for bathers in those
parts have other enemies than alligators, and perhaps
more dangerous ones.
The McDonald boys soon improved their bathing
place under the fig-tree, for they levelled the bank,
made a platform of sticks to stand on, and a bench
for their clothes.
From the platform a rough ladder descended into
the water, so that they could come out with clean
So the midday swim became a regular institution
with them all, though it must be admitted that Uncle
James never bobbed up in the pool without casting
a suspicious glance at his late enemy's residence.
On one of these occasions, Sandy, standing close to
the ladder, saw a small, bright-red head, peering
out of a hole beneath it, and just under water.
He touched me, and pointed it out.
Stand still and watch," I whispered, it's a
water snake, and he's after 'billum.' "
My father and Uncle James heard the whisper,
and they, too, looked where Sandy still pointed.
At first they could see nothing, but gradually,
almost imperceptibly, the snake's head emerged,
re&dy to dart at one of the "'billum or small min-
nows, swimming near, and they realized what it was.
THE DWELLERS OF THE POOL 55
Then they ayed not on the order of their
sgo'gm" but made a beeline for the bank, and
climbed ut.the muddy side, for the ladder was held
B -rthe aeemy, and not available for retreat.
The laughter of the boys, and the noise of the
ffight- shared the snake, and it drew in its head;
then made a sudden dart, and was gone like a
fit the twenty good negro hands we had brought
and a; strog gang of Indians hired by Peter, the
aioseibfldA g and the clearing of the bush went on
Ti;wegroes of Honduras are amongst the finest
voodmnn in the world and to watch them standing
ith. their bare feet on a frail staging of poles,
-soam ten feet high, s. as to cut above the spurs
xtth tees swingmg their axes as freely as though
Stheii grid, is a sight worth seeing.
The -i considerable art too, in clearing forest
1a~sdr-ithe trees must, by cutting here, and con-
thring there, be made to fall in a heap tog-thcr,
ai much as possible so they may burn well when
the time comes.
Sothicmminng woodmf a carefully examines each
hfrestgian to see how the weights of the head and
ani arms hang.
Th=e having ascertained this, he goes ahead
iafp~ rtly cut through the trees in his path.
Whan this is. every done, what an awesome
it is to watch such a giant sway and fall,
_-i idespread rsnin his train, bringing down with
a perdapa dozen lessr kings of the forest in his
Wat an inde idbaf sonmd is made by the
ftli o at tres if masses I
56 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
First a crack, then a rending tear, next a crash I
crash crash I rising to a roar, then a sudden
silence of death.
So the destruction proceeds, until in time, where
the dense forest stood, an open, smiling meadow
appears, and garden grounds and orchards flourish
and yield their fruits, and man has all that should
content him to his hand, if only the divine discon-
tent of his nature would let him be at rest.
The young McDonalds took their part in the
clearing, working manfully and learning with practice
to become expert axemen.
They mastered the art of paddling, and steering
a dory, or a pitpan, too, and were quite at home on
So one evening, as they sat under the favourite
figtree, they called up George Betty and Jos6 Maria,
the mighty hunters and fishermen, to suggest a
hickatee striking expedition for next morning.
De hickatee," said Betty, who was the leader
and spokesman of the two friends, be no so plenty
now as in de dry wedder time. Den we catch them
too much in the net. Dat no so, Jos6 ? "
Jose, a man offew words, nodded and grinned.
"All de same," went on Betty, we can cart
you in de dory, soon, soon de mainn, Buckra,
and dis boy Jos6, he dive, and me can 'trike, and
wid de blessun, we get one, one."*
It will be noted that Master Betty had allotted
the hard work to his friend Jose, for diving after a
big strong hickatee is no child's play, whilst striking
is easy enough.
All the same we can take you in the dorys early in the
morning, gentlemen, and Joe6 can dive, and I can strike,
and by the blessing of Providence, we'll get a few.'t
TE IT W LERS Of THE POOL 57
Byt"e time the beautiful tropical dawning showed
its Brs glima of light, the dorys wer under
The sun was w-ll behind the hill-, and a!s y-t his
heat had not fdissipatcd the sweet scunts of the
riktdS and flowering vines that clustered thick on
thlrveiangini trees, and perfumed all the air.
. The.lght miht fill hungin fairy-like curtain over
the broad river; the last belated night heron~ and
it jion wereifting away to the darkness of the
lorst, and the bPts to their caves, and all day-loving
birds and beasts were l1. ginning to stir and stretch
themaives towards the light.
Tlteittle swalows (more like sand-martins than
*;a I:twittered the old familiar chirp from the arms
f.tlhe trees, twhre they hung low over the water,
:te ylow-brasted Qu'est-ce qu'il dit peeoped
frtnt t his pduloius nest, almost tua'lhing the
steam, wherein, hung from thirinest tendril uf vine,
h6 wad his family slept secure from snakes and
.lirds, ahd all such creeping foes,
K~ngfimsrs. Lig and little, perched and dived and
ftted 'n, iIh their harsh tdiaLrdant cries; a
deecratian of itie sweet, st~llnss.
BIt now d tiWs niglh a louder and still harsher
sMC ior high overhead passes a great flock of
e rn pIrrota on its way to some favourite feeding
c aand close Uhind them follows a bunch of
f ir ot great red macaws, screaming as they
Now fhe dorys, -jiding on, with nearly noiseless
padde (hfr the bickatce are very wary), pass a
va~tsem of iid greenery that drapes the water-
~de tire frm t to bottom, and is starred with
lrey urple-snvolvulus blossonoms. The glorious
58 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
great white ones, that blow only at night, and fill
the air with almost too luscious a fragrance, are closed
now, or what a contrast they would have made I
High overhead, no bigger than your hand, wheels
and sails the ever watchful John Crow (or vul-
ture), searching anxiously for his breakfast; and if
haply death has entered into this earthly paradise
under shadow of the night, he will soon be at the
funeral, for nothing escapes his piercing eyes.
But all this time we are almost forgetting the
object of the trip, which was to catch hickatee, if
we might by the blessun."
One on each side of the river then, creeping and
gliding as close as possible to the overhanging
arches of the trees, went the dorys, Betty standing
in the bow of one, with hi slight bamboo staff poised
over his shoulder, and Jose, as naked as he was
born, in the other.
Minutes passed like hours; no sign of a hickatee
was seen, and the barometer of hope fell very low
But presently all was excitement; for Betty, the
keen-eyed, spotted the smallest bit of a dark nose
showing on the water and, as it was nearer to Jos6,
pointed it out to him with his staff.
He saw it directly and, motioning to Joe to steer
gently out into the stream, gathered himself together
for the dive.
The cranky dory rocked and swayed, whilst its
passengers sat as tight as they could, fearing a cap-
Nearer they drew to the little dark spot, which kept
gently bubbling, unconscious of danger.
Suddenly, with a warning wave of the hand, over
THE DWELLERS OF THE POOL 59
As the craft ceased to rock, the boys stood up
and watched the queer sub-aqueous race.
Away went the hickatee down stream, for dear life,
and after him went Jose, rapidly gaining on the
He was an old hand at the game, and a wonder-
fully strong swimmer, so the race didn't last more
.than twelve or fifteen yards ; then the lii'Lk.il6.- wa'
caught by a flipper, turned on its back, and hoisted
into the dory.
He proved to be a fair-sized one, of about twenty
pounds weight, and was heartily welcomed on
"De nex' tun' mus' be for me one," said Betty,
Imt he was wrong, for almost before Jos6 had quite
:ot his wind, another hickatcc showed in front of
This time the fugitive wisely took up stream, and
there, for a time, he had rather the best of it.
Jo96 kept down manfully for about 25 yards, but
just as he was almost within touch had to come up
-and blow. The dory was close alongside, and Jos'
I~eld on to rest, whilst Joe paddled for his life after
bth hickatee, and the others followed his chain in
Presently he too could keep down no longer, but
amust cme up for air.
Down went Josd again as fresh as paint, whilst
Hls victim was visibly slowing.
Now the end soon came, for in two or three
d4umn strokes he was within reach of the elusive
fpper, which then was grasped, and its owner
tnmed ignominiously over.
Not quite so large as the first one, he was still a
vry welcome addition to any self-respecting larder.
6o THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
So far Jose had done remarkably well, for he had
won his first two courses in grand style, the last one
a rather difficult one too, and all were loud in his
Betty consequently was as jealous as he could'be,
for the chief note of the negro character is conceit,
which naturally engenders jealousy, So he said to
Jose, who was meekly enjoying his honours, and
with some emphasis:
It my tun' nex' for true."
Joso, being under subjection, regarded this as an
order to let Betty have next shot, so when another
bubbling dark nose showed itself, he made no move
to dive, but allowed Jake to paddle over to it.
Striking hickatee by daylight is far easier than
striking fish by torchlight, in fact, there is no great
art in it, for the mark is an easy one, and you can
generally get within fairly close range. What it
does require is a very sharp harpoon, and that it
should be thrown with great force, else it may
glance off the hard shell.
Jos6 then threw with all his force from a distance
of about five yards, and drove the harpoon well home
into the middle of the shell. That being done, there
was no escape for the unlucky hickatee, who was
speedily dragged into the dory and despatched.
Now they turned their dorys' heads down stream,
and were speedily at the bank.
THE FIGHT AT Y.i!BAC
T'Ea -idu~ went on apace; the house was -r'arly
hmished and a fort of stout botan posts, set end
Was in the ground, and well looped-holed for
ai tryi fire, erected hard by on the high bank
Itpotitan was an excellent one, commanding
-sit-diflte p-age through the rapids just opposite
to it and which could be swept by the fire from its
fioef w itB sheet iron, there was no fear of the
Spaniard setting fire to it with lighted arrows;
' iatv~is trick of theirs, when roofs were of
c cow ed way led from the house to the fort,
aftht tre~tt was secure in case of a sudden attack.
WT~itFefe Johnson to help them, and his Indian
I~end keeping a good look-out for Spanish move-
maen4 we-thought we might safely leave our friends
tt-* e own devices, and go back to Belize to look
i~titar own affairs.
Sitktasettaed we should leave them the middle
of the toi week.
ThBle ai lads had been longing for a day's
tini^g i~Sh myself, but as there was so much
O~tflO ad said nothing about it.
62 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Great was their joy then when I proposed the very
thing they longed for.
Now, boys, we shan't have many more days
together this time, so, if your father don't mind,
I vote we have a day's hunting on Monday.
Mind you, it isn't wasting time either, for if we
have any luck, we ought to get plenty of peccary and
warry ; anyway we are sure of gibnut and currassow ;
all good meat to feed the hands on. What say you,
Uncle James ? "
"I say yes, by all means, for I know the boys
have been pining for this, though they have said
Saturday evening was spent in preparation;
cleaning guns, filling powder flasks and shot bags,'
etc., etc., whilst I told my cousins what sport they
might probably meet with.
Gibnut or paca, is the commonest animal in these
forest lands. In appearance it is like a glorified
guinea pig, but runs up to thirty or forty pounds in
weight, and is brown in colour, with three lines
of white along its sides.
It lives in holes in fallen trees or in rocks; and
when bolted goes at a tremendous pace, always
making for water, in which it swims and dives in
a marvellous manner.
Peccary, or small wild pigs, travel in bunches of
three or four, and are very sporting little animals.
Hunted with dogs that know their business,
they run till they are blown, and then set up with
their backs against a tree or rock.
Woe betide the dog rash enough to charge ir on
them in such a position, for their short tusks are sharp
as razors, and they know how to use them.
Warry are wild pigs too, but a size or twolarger
TEE FICGHT AT YALBAC 63
thanthe pec~ry They go about in droves of frLom
ifty to a hunmdrd, and are generally found along the
Jagar, and pum are plentiful enough, especially
the f taer, utl b.th are hard to find in such thick
acwerts; moreowr they are n, cturnal in their habits,
usaly lying-p by day in cavus.
If fnad they are easy enough to kill, for when
run:by dogs tkhey variably tree.
Of birds which may be called game the most
common ar -the currassow, the qualm and the
tinnamoo, or partridge, as he is locally called.
The f st is a beautiful creature, the size of a hen
turkey The cack is black on his back and wings,
nd sn g-whife unmdrneath, whilst on his beak he
has a large bright yellow comb. and on his head a
black crest, .lk a hearse plume.
te hlen is lad in sober brown, and both are
The qualm i a sie smaller, a speckled brown in
Thetinnamoias about twice the size of a partridge,
and .ssitiafy a ground bird, though it will
ecaiminally tree. Always found in thick bush, and
almnnst qtik on the wing as a woodcock, it wants
a q Ick shot tno k~ him. Its eggs, of which it lays
thle, ar heipgsparrow blue, and nearly round
The Hondu.rai m turkey is also found. He is the
met 'beautifM f hs sfpcies; the feathers on his
back -ad win buinsg shot with a lovely golden-
,tfg dbrow~a an t ead adorned with a go:.r-:.ous
attlI, uth;s an extremely shy bird, and not
Vfygadneai,: ad a small red antelope, are also
64 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
to be found in the bush, but their favourite habitat
is the pine-ridge or open country, covered with
coarse grass and dotted with clumps of pines, live-
oak, and palmetto scrub.
Sunday was kept as a holiday; no work being
done, though the hands were free to amuse them-
selves in any way they liked.
Service was held under the canopy of the great
fig tree, a glorious temple, not made by hands.
My father and Uncle James, though Presbyterians,
had not the gift of extempore prayer, so took
turns to read the Church of England service, and
a chapter from the Bible. A few hymns were sung,
in which the negroes heartily joined, and so an
That evening we discussed what name should be
given to the new bank, and finally fixed on Scot-
land," which title it bears to this day.
What the youngsters will say, I hardly like to
think, but I am not going to tell in detail what
sport we had in the bush that day. It would
take too long in the telling, and I must get on
with my story, lest its length should weary even
Suffice it to say that we started at daybreak with
three trusty hunters, and the boyJoe leading a pony
loaded with calabashes of water and cooking pots.
As the negroes say, Night catch we before we got
back, but we brought with us a pretty good bag, one
antelope, three peccary, two gibnut, three carrassow,
one bushdog, and crowning joy to Sandy who shot
him, a fine jaguar. The three boys became, in due
time, mighty hunters, but I don't think they ever
forgot that first day's sport in the bush.
By the middle of the week, we departed on our
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 65
setar to Befihe, going dosn the river to Douglas
anAdnf g thence the rest tf the rway.
We atok with us the best pony on te Bank, a
present tan" UnleI D mcan for Maggie, and I ed
Thetiafrant of questions, as to the welfare of those
I&~ in and as to the new Bank, and= a boa t
ik, haing been aasmeed, MXggie was taken to see
Usirrny anad eli in love with him at first sight,
1~id Ibvas a beauty, and as good as he looked,
A ea&ittBen grey, standing thirteen hands,
Iampl' was built like a miniature race-horse,
med ae of the best ponies ever bred in British
Sf hiAs new owner, was wild with delight;
idkt4e e Dncan and said he was a dear; then
beand oa me.
'"Ta so g ad you like him, for Dumple is almost
P Aqn engj, even for you, Maggie. I broke him
seL s art faster than any pony of his size in
i~i and as gentle, and affectionate as a
-"Tilmm-him already, Steve, and it was so very
fi t ef yoa to bring him down for me yourself."
"fTI me, too, a little," seemed likely to be my
alt_ -tterace so Maggie turned the subject by
i4ruh-'ttninsM to when she and her mother could
p -ad 8aiWn the others at Scotland."
t-w WcMb Itmald, hearing this, drew near; she was
siiictnsto know the answer as the girl, for she
AiiV&tbeta been so long separated from her
fiM all their wedded life.
tWraswntlafhr who answered:
"t .Bm yor both want to get up to those folks,
f0 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
and I don't know which is the worse of the two
tv you; I almost think it's you, Mary, from the
looks of you. But you've both got to be patient, for
a bit longer."
"In about a month's time, I should say, they'll
be ready for you, and by the beginning of April,
the country will be nice and dry for you to get
I won't wait so long as that, Uncle Duncan,"
said the wilful one; but her gentle mother only
sighed, and tried to look resigned.
If they don't come down to see us before that,
I shall set off on Dumple, and go to them."
That you can't do, my lass, for you don't know
the road," said my father.
"Perhaps I can find- a guide though, Uncle
Duncan ? "
May I be your guide ? I whispered.
But Maggie only frowned, and shook her head.
A month seemed so long to both mother and
daughter, and they were so disappointed that
Duncan had to tell them it was just possible James
McDonald and one of the boys might come down
before that, if things went right at the Bank.
It was more than two months before they saw
those so dear to them again : a time of dread anxiety
to them, and to many wives and mothers in the
We had left Scotland" but a fortnight, when, at
daybreak one morning, Peter Johnson came riding
into the Bank in hot haste, and from his face it was
plain to see he was the bearer of bad news.
Briefly he told his tale, and it was alarming enough
to the little band of settlers.
Two of his trusty Indian scouts had come in to
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 67
Douglas, and reported that a strongtfore of Spaniards
had been collected at Peten (inw in the Republic of
Guatemala), and w\ a riiat.-ing to the Cayo, on the
It was believed to be over live hundred strong,
and was commanded by Colonel -Mmanu Garcia,
who had vowed to 'rn and destroy every settle-
ment on the river, sad drive the 'British into the
Well, Peter, this is bad enough truly; tell me
what you have don."
"I sent word to ass Dtncan at Belize, one time,
Maas'James and I rder all de hands at Douglas to
come dis Bank, betain it be de 'trongost, Dey
come soon, soon, anddfy bring all de provision and
de powder and de sot, &ad de guns, wid 'urn."
Peter had also sent word to all the Banks down the
river, as far as the boom, and across to the Sibun
river, warning tht settlers of their danger and
suggesting they should concentrate at "Scotland," to
meet the attack.
Further, he had other Indian scouts out, who would
give due notice of the Spaniards' movements.
He had done all tat was possible for the moment,
and, as James McDonald said, all that remained was
to make the Bank as strong as possible, before the
Dey no come too soon, Buclra," said Peter,
dem 'paniar man mh -Trry derself; dey do nothing
day day, 'cepting dte1iuan put 'um off till mariana "
(to-morrow), which~d- red that Peter was well up to
the ways of the enwty.
All the same, Jamas MeDonald set all hands to
work immediately in an earth work, which he threw
up fifty yards in front of the house and fort, and
68 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
encircling both with a deep ditch on the outer
He and Peter also marked out another work on
the river bank, extending from the fort up stream
about seventy-five yards.
When these were finished the position would be
very strong and with the force they knew would
-come up from Belize and the neighboring Banks,
they had no doubt they could give a good account
of the Spaniards-only would they have time
enough given them ?
Peter was clear that the enemy could not be upon
them before a week, or may be, ten days, as the
greater part of the force was marching on foot, the
remainder coming down the river from the Cayo in
pitpans and dorys.
Peter was a host in himself; all that day he worked
with the other hands, encouraging and cheering them
on in a wonderful way, till all were as eager as himself
for a brush with the Spaniards.
At night James McDonald made him come in to
supper, and thereafter Peter, when his tongue was
loosened by a glass or two of grog, announced what
he would do, if he were the Buckra" in com-
He said Scotland was a very strong place, and a
good one for the fight, but he knew a better one,
about fifteen or twenty miles up the river, on the
Yalbac Creek, which the Spaniards must cross on
their way down, but he added:
It no good for talk, wait till Maas Duncan come,
and hearie what he say. He be here to-morrow
befo' de sun be so (pointing to the zenith.) He
be de man for fight, and Maas Steve, hi 1 he luve
him too much I"
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 69
There was bustle in Belize, and all down the river,
and over on the Sibun, when the news arrived, but
there was no panic.
Indeed every man, black and white, able to bear
arms, was eager for the fight.
The survivors of the treacherous attack by the
Spaniards on St. George's Cay, and Belize, twelve
years before, when the settlement had been almost
destroyed, and many prisoners carried off, had bitter
.wrongs and cruelties to avenge.
The new comers, since that catastrophe, had been
harassed and hindered in their lawful occupation
of wood-cutting, treaties to the contrary notwith-
Now, if the news was true, and the Spaniards were
really coming down the river, they would meet
them in fair fight, and what Britisher could doubt
the result ?
Duncan Forbes who, as Senior Magistrate, took
command, received Peter's message by midday; by
tybreak next morning he had mustered his forces,
Aghty white men, and one hundred and forty negroes.
Terribly few in number, but all good fighting men.
There was no time to summon the settlers, and
-their negroes, from the Northern Coast and rivers,
and he must do the best he could with his little band.
He could reckon on about forty more white men,
and one hundred and fifty more negroes from the
Belize and Sibun rivers, so that his total force would
be about one hundred and twenty whites, and three
Quite enough, had they been all properly armed
with muskets, but, unfortunately, he could only
muster enough of them to arm all the whites, and
about half the ngroes; so that the rest would have
70 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
to do the best they could with lances made from the,
hard, slender palms, which, since the day they
proved such formidable weapons in the stalwart;
negroes' hands, have gone by the name of poke
and-do-boy palms." -
The rations of the negro hands consists of pork
and flour, or dough; hence the name.
Before the sun was an hour high, over the Man-
grove Cays, Duncan was on the road to Scotland,"
and with him went sixty mounted settlers.
The remaining twenty white men, and the negroes
had already started on their long paddle up stream,
in all the pitpans and dorys of the settlement, and
with them I went in command.
It was a smart piece of work to get his men off
so quickly, but all were keen and eager for the
fight, and my father was an able organizer, and born
commander of men.
By two o'clock that afternoon he rode into the
Bank, to the great relief of James McDonald and
Peter, who beamed all over his face at sight of his
master, and said:
Hi 1 Maas James, I no tell you he come one
time ? Now we go beat dem 'paniar man for true 1 ""
No time was lost in greeting, but the defensive
works, now nearly completed, were highly approved,
after close inspection by the commander.
Then, after a brief rest, a council of war wau;
held, at which all the leading settlers were present,
with Peter Johnson in attendance on his master.
It was the general opinion that the Bank, with ita
earth works, was the best place to meet the attack.
Then James McDonald spoke:
I am but a newcomer, amongst so many men of
greater experience than myself, and it ill become
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 71
-M to express an opinion, but Peter Johnson here
has a plan you ought to hear before deciding."
Peter, before so many "Buckra" was shame-
a14e, but, encouraged by his master, spoke to this
Th Spianards' intention, he had reason to believe,
Iv to march to the ford on the river, just below
Orange Walk; there to cross to the left descetiding
bank, and keeping touch with their flotilla of pitpans
and dory, to destroy all the logwood banks and
'ettflemnts down the river.
In doing this, they must cross the Yalbac Creek
per its junction with the river, and that was the
:w~ place on all the road for an ambush.
Father, he expected every hour, the arrival of
hiOfc his Indian scouts, with the latest news of the
Not a word was said till Peter had finished, then
my father spoke.
I know the place well, every inch of it, and
htar is right; there is no better spot for the fight
fI al the settlement, and, if we can catch our
S!iards there, we will give them such a lesson as
hy will remember for many a long day."
Dei n Indian man no be long now, Buckra," said
By sundown one of the scouts came in with most
The Spanish force was at the Cayo, and would
Ma~rf t-mioming by the road indicated previously.
twaUs aigompanied by twenty pitpans and many
M, I of armed men, with plenty of pro-
Manhing slowly, after the manner of Spaniards,
iolid- halt the first night at Duck run, and the
72 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
second night at San Estevan, three miles this side-
of Yalbac Creek.
Several more scouts were on the watch, who
would report the enemy's movements at short
These Indians they all knew could be trusted,
for they hated their Spanish oppressors with a deadly
hatred, born of long years of brutal ill-treatmerlt.
At Yalbac Creek then the fight would be, by
general consent of all the leaders, and the commander
made his dispositions accordingly.
The Spaniards would arrive on the scene on the.-
second evening from then, probably not much before
The next day, therefore, he marched out with the
bulk of his force, leaving only a reserve of five of the
settlers, and forty negroes, to hold the Bank.
The river force from Belize had arrived, and was
ordered to proceed without delay to the creek's
mouth, which it would reach the following evening.
It is necessary briefly to describe the position on
the creek which the settlers would occupy.
On the Cayo side, the road, a mud track, deep and
sticky from the rains, was closed in by low hills,
boulder strewn, and covered with bush, for five
The banks of the creek were low and swampy for
about fifty yards on either side of the ford; the
bed of the narrow stream was deep mud.
On the other side, the track rose abruptly from
the swampy ground into a narrow, rocky defile, sht:
in onboth sides by densely wooded hills.
About a hundred yards from its mouth, the creek
bent sharply to the right, and then as sharply to
the left, so that any craft, lying between the bends
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 73
would be invble from eithe the river, or the
Truly an ideal place for an ambush, especially
if the enemy td B tacked were shiftless, careless
Spaniards, over confident withal of beating an ill-
armed, undisciplined band rf settlers.
Peter, under orders from his master, had taken
steps to mislead them too, for he sent back Luis
Chuc, the scout, t present himself at the Spanish
Camp with the news that "Los Inglosess" had
fortified the Bank at Scotland," and would make
a big fight there.
Having collected his' whole force at the creek,
my father disposed them as follows:
Eighty settlesaad one hundred negroes, all armed
with muskets, wt posted in the bush along the defile.
Fifteen white men and one hundred negroes, the
latter armed %dth lances and machetes, took post
on the Cayo sii of the creek, well hidden in the
My father took ammrand of the party in the defile,
and with him were James McDonald and his boys.
David Ramsey, the next Senior Magistrate, well
tried in many a tough fight with the Spaniards,
was in charge of the poke-and-do-boys;" and with
him went stalwart Peter, as Lieutenant.
The plan was to let the Spaniards pass the creek
unmolested and, when in the narrow defile, to open
sn them with a withering .ire of slugs at close range.
If, as was most probable, they were thrown into
confusion, and beat a hasty retreat, the lance men,
aided by musketry & would charge the rable,
and complete the rout
I, with twenty whites and fifty negroes, of whom
Waly half were armed wkhmuerets, was posted, with
74 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
my pitpans, behind the first bend in the creek, with
orders to let the Spanish flotilla pass; then to sally
forth and cut off its retreat.
The success of the plan depended on the absolute
silence of all hands, and their strict attention to
orders. This was not easy to enforce, with excitable
My father, therefore, himself posted every man
in the spot he was to occupy in the ambuscade,
enjoining each one individually that no one was to
move,, or fire a shot, till he gave the. signal, by one
On the Cayo side, none must stir till the Spaniards
had recrossed the creek.
You no be feared, Maas Duncan," said Peter,
"No nigger dis side wink he eye, till I gib de wurd 1"
Next day scouts arrived hourly almost; creeping
through the bush, ahead of the Spaniards, keeping
touch with their movements, unseen and unknown
Now they had marched from Duck Run two house
after sunrise, late as usual; now they had halted
for the midday rest, half-way to Yalbac, which they
couldn't reach till after sunset.
The excitement grew in intensity, as messenger
after messenger arrived; and when the last scout
came in, and said the enemy was but two mile
behind him, seemingly nigh spent by the weary
march through the deep mud, was almost uncmn-
Then the Commander, with stern set face, went
round the posts for the last time, repeating his orders
and enjoining obedience to them, under pain of
The sun fell low in the west; the breer had'
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 75
fallen with the-ettingsmn, and silence reigned in that
seemingly peaceful spot-silence so deep that
presetly the night-fars began to flit about the path,
with their noiseless, ghost-like flight, and plaintive
cy. The- dwarf owls, in the hollow trees close by,
began to stiria the.twilight; who are you, who are
ysP they said.
As twilight, so brief in those regions, began to
lade into darkness, the night birds' voices were
hushed; for now approached the sound of many
feet, mingled with talk, and laughter, and oaths,
tlad and deep, for the passage of the creek was
bad, and horses floundered through with difficulty.
But camp was near, the weary march was almost
. over-n the morrow, Los Ingleses' would be an
eay prey, and there was plunder to be had, almost
fa the-asking. To-night they would rest, and eat,
and drink, and sleep.
So they came on, in foolhardy confidence, no
advance guard sent out, no flanking parties used,
and were delivered as a prey unto their enemies.
They entered the defile, all unconscious of the
gleamig eyes that watched them, in the fast fading
lght, and the fingers that clutched the triggers
The shrill sgnal whistle sounds load and long.
The startled Spaniards paused and listened, in
wonder and alarm.
It ceased but before the last note died away into
lelnce, terra and dismay fell upon them.
The muskets- of their unseen foes hailed death
and destruction upon them.
The road was almost blocked with dead and dying
Those still unwounded in the front turned back;
76 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
those in the rear pressed on, and confusion reigned
Colonel Garcia was amongst the first to fall, and
many of his officers fell with him.
Such of the Spaniards as had their pieces ready,
opened fire on the bush, but with little result -o
such good cover.
Now, while some cried 'on,' and others back,"
and all order was lost, the settlers, and their brave
Blacks, with the battle fever hot upon them, charged
out of the semi-darkness with one wild yell, machete
For a brief space, a desperate hand-to-hand light
ensued, for the Spaniards, surprised and trapped
as they were, fought bravely.
But the onslaught was too fierce, and they were
too broken to resist for long.
Then they turned, and fled, to find safety beyond
the Creek, hard pressed by their eager foes.
Many fell under the machetes of the stalwart
negroes, and a good many more surrendered,
seeing all was lost, but a disordered rabble of smBe
three hundred, or more, staggered through the
crossing, and reached the drier ground.
There one of the officers tried to rally his men,
and stay the rout.
For a moment he succeeded, then again all was
terror and confusion, for with a volley from the
fifteen muskets, an appalling yell greeted their
ears, and David Ramsay and Peter, and their men
charged out of the darkness, and were in their midst
Thrust at by the sharp lances, hacked by the
machetes, disordered and broken, they fledainl pe-
less rout, and Peter and his men followed :fter,
till even they were wearied of slaying.
THE FIGHT AT YALBAC 77
It was midnight before they returned to camp,
with broken lances aiid rl.n,.1 rr:.l machetes.
But now I must britly teIl of the doings of the
The Spanishflotilla, ke Ing touch with the land
force, had barely pascsl the creek's mouth when the
whistle was hard, loud and clear in the stillness.
It gave the signal for the move, and like one, the
Spaddles flaedmin the water.
Into the riv e dashed the craft, just behind the
astonished4paniards, formed line across, and poured
into their crowded ranks twenty-five barrels of
So sudden and unexpected was the onset that,
at first, seste a shot was fired by the other side,
and before they could recover from their confusion,
we were boarding them, machete in hand.
By this ime, the settlers had reloaded, and gave
the more distant Spaniards another volley.
The fieere sad sudden attack, and the unexpected
sound of desperate fighting in the bush, demoralized
the Spaniards, whose crafts were cumbered by many
dead and wounded.
Still, they made a stout resistance for a time, and,
surprised as they were, fought like wild cats.
The pitpans, and .'.r'y, frail crafts at the best of
times, swayed.and rocked, and upset; but still the
conflict went on in the water, and some foes sank,
locked in each other's arms, to rise no more.
Whilst tIB was going on, the fight had ended.
The Spaniards had lost twenty killed and many
wounded. Of the reniaind.r, some thirty sur-
rendered, :bt: a good many got ashore and dis-
appeared in the forest.
The settlera swing to the suddenness of this attack,
78 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
had comparatively few casualties, for they lost on
the river only four killed and six wounded.
The Spanish force was nearly annihilated, and
those who survived straggled back to the Cayo,
broken and discomfited.
So ended the Battle of Yalbac ; a notable achieve-
ment for the settlers, who won the fight through the
generalship of their leader, and the steadiness and
pluck of their poke-and-do-boys."
WHZf the victors in this well-fought fight, weary of
the pursuit, straggled back to camp, in the pitch-
darkness of the forest night, a muster was held soon
Only some thirty in all, and these mostly negroes,
wer absent, besides the few known to be either
kied or wounded; but amongst these missing
ere Bob and Sandy McDonald.
Jack had been with them when the pursuit began,
lift had lost sight of them in the darkness and
wofusion, some two or three miles beyond the
Peter had still later news of them, for they had
ten -with him when he and a few men, mostly
negrom, had charged what he believed to be the
lst stand made by a party of Spaniards.
Ie was pretty sure they had come to no harm,
ar when he lost sight of them, the fighting was
Almat done, and the pursuit nearly over.
Peter was loud in their praise.
Intsee young Buckra fight like dem I Hi I dey
m' same as Mas Steve."
Their father and the rest were in great trouble,
'lUothing could be done till daylight came.
Meanwhile there were the wounded to be cared
So THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
for, and food and drink to be served out to the whole,
so the hours of darkness were busy ones.
Fortunately few of the wounds were dangerous,
being chiefly machete cuts got in the hand-to-hand
Peter himself, who had been foremost in the
running fight, had a nasty cut across his left hand
and a smashing blow from the butt-end of a
musket on his head. Of the latter he took but
small account, his head being the least vulnerable
part of his body.
With the first gleam of light, search parties were
sent to bury the dead, and to find the missing.
Peter, who knew the bush like a book, went out
with a party of Indians, specially to look for the
In a couple of hours he returned in triumph,
bringing the lost ones with him.
In a sorry plight they both were; mired from
head to foot, bloodstained, weary and wounded,
but still full of pluck.
Great was the joy at their return, and now a
mounted messenger was sent off to Belize, to bear
the good tidings of the great victory, to report to the
anxious watchers the safety of all our friends, and tell
of those who, alas would return no more.
When their hurts had been properly attended to
and they were rested, Bob and Sandy told thar
adventures as follows:
When they got separated from Peter, they keqt
on after the retreating Spaniards, with two of the
negroes who had been very prominent in the fight,
Bill Wallace and Jack Peebles.
Suddenly, in the darkness, the tables were turned
on them, for they found themselves attacked by
ENTER DIEGO 81
:bout a dozen Spaniards who, hearing only a few
footsteps in pursuit, had turned at bay.
On the edge of the road stood a vast ceiba tree,
-and the little band fell back on it, to avoid being
Sl Wallace, a giant in size and strength, swung
is: clubbed musket with deadly effect and felled
a couple of Spaniards, rash enough to come within
Jack Peebles fought in the same fashion, but the
boys were only armed with machetes.
Tar a few minutes the two negroes kept the foe
at arms'length ; then the latter made a feint, dodged
the muskets and closed in.
It was desperate work in the black darkness, and
nr neknew quite what took place.
With their backs to the tree, all four fought on,
determined to sell their lives dearly.
Sandy had just cut down a Spaniard, who had
lunged at him and missed, when another felled him
to the ground, with a blow that broke his right
'Bob turned to help his brother, when he too went
down, with a machete slash across his cheek.
The two negroes stood over the fallen-youngsters,
tritth their clubbed muskets, but they could not hope
to defend them long.
Sandy was quite disabled. Bob staggered to
his feet, full of fight still, but dazed from his
Wallace and Peebles bled freely from machete cuts,
butstill fought on, and no one thought of surrender.
Indeed -it is doubtful if the infuriated Spaniards,
mvage from their heavy losses, would have given
than quarteahad they sought it.
Ba THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Death was very nigh; even at their very doors,
when hope revived and life seemed possible.
Round the corner of the road flashed the light of
torches, and at a run came a party of a dozen
negroes, led by two Indians with the lights.
The Spaniards didn't wait for the attack, but-
fled at once, leaving four dead behind them.
The rescue party never stopped, but kept on after
the fleeing foe.
Wallace and Peebles hurriedly told the -boys to
make their way back to the camp.
We kill dem 'paniar men, ebbery one, Buckra',"
. With that the two negroes vanished into the dark-
ness, and the boys were left alone.
Sandy helped Bob, as best he could, to ,bind uip
his wound, with a bandage torn from his shirt
then, in woeful plight, they set out to find their way
back to the creek.
XLight they had none, and in the inky blackI n
of the night, wandered into a branch road to their
left, which leads to the north.
For a time they kept on, thinking they must
be getting near camp.
At last they realized that they were lost, =ar
wisely sat down on a fallen log, to await the light
There they had been found by Diego and Pabl
Bustamente, Mestizos from Rock Dondo, whoi had
given them food and drink, and were bringing them
back to camp, mounted on their horses, when Peter
had met them.
Great as was the relief to the anxiety of thsE
friends, and grateful as they were to the Mcstloe
for their help in time of need, my father, who.kre~
Diego well, and not very favourably, regarded the
ENTER DIEGO 83
with much suspicion, and closely questioned them
as to whence they came and what they were doing
in the neighbourhood of the fight.
Their story was straightforward enough.
They were returning from the New River, where
they had been selling horses, and knew nothing of
the raid of the Spaniards.
It wasn't the truth, but sounded like it, and it
had to be accepted for the moment.
Peter was for shooting both of them, there and
then, as spies for the Spaniards, which he knew they
were, though he couldn't prove it.
Bat his master sternly forbade him to touch them,
andihe dared not disobey.
As we shall see, it would have been well for all of
s if he had killed the pair of treacherous scoundrels.
Diego Bustamente was as finished a scoundrel
as even Central America could produce. He was
now about thirty years of age, but with a past behind
him that might have done credit to a villain of
twice his years.
A native of Merida, in the province of Yucatan,
his crimes, which included highway robbery, mur-
der and sacrilege, had made even that borderland
too hot to hold him, and he had moved south into
the settlement of Belize, some two years before the
opening of our story.
He had taken up his abode with his brother, his
wife and sister Juanita, at Rock Dondo, a small
Indian village, some ten miles above Scotland."
There he lorded it over the simple inhabitants,
making them cultivate his milpas, and tend his
cattle; or when too lazy to do so himself, hunt game
or catch fish for him.
Ostensibly they were rancheros, small farmers and
84 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
cattle raisers, but their real business was to act as
spies on the British settlers for the Governor-
General of Yucatan, in whose pay they were.
In furtherance of this object, they were often up
and down the river, trading corn, hickatee, deer-
skins and such like, in Belize.
Though the magistrates had their suspicions
about them, they could get no evidence against
them, and without it they were too just to treat
them as they in truth deserved. Only they
charged Peter Johnson to keep a watchful eye on
their movements, and report their doings.
He, who hated the whole race with a more than
pious hatred, willingly promised this, but added
one last request that he might be allowed to kill
them one time and be done with them; but
being denied that pleasure, allowed them to live
till, as we shall see, retribution at last overtook
So the brothers Bustamente, well entertained and
generously rewarded for their help to Bob and
Sandy, departed with many protestations of grati-
tude, loyalty and devotion to los Sefiores Ingleses,'
and were forgotten for the time being.
My father retired with his forces to Scotland,"
and there, the country having been well scoured to
make sure that the remnant of the Spaniards had
finally disappeared, broke it up, and dismissed the
component parts each to their own banks or settle-
Things rapidly settled down on the river, and
business soon went on as usual, for Spanish raids,
even so threatening a one as this, were too frequent
to make much impression on the hardy settlers.
We stayed on at the Bank for a week, and then
ENTER DIEGO 85
departed to Belize, taking with us the good news
that Bob and Sandy were fast r.' :v rirnz. and
would probably follow us with their father in
another week's time.
Yauth and good constitutions are wonderful
doctors and with their aid, the boys progressed so
fast that within the agreed time the three were
ourneying down the river in a roomy, comfortable
Jack was left behind to look after the Bank, and
superintend the work.
I well remember the reception the people gave
my dear father at Belize on his return frum Y'lbalc,
and the little town was still in great excitement
when the McDonalds arrived.
The leading settlers and nearly all the negroes in
the place met them at the qIii'.i.1.. and escorted
them to our house in triumph, to the great surprise
.of the youngsters; who never dreamed that they
had done anything Out of the way.
The boys were made such a fuss with by lthir
mother and sister, and by their cousin Annie, that
Sandy, in private, told Bob he thought it a jllY
good thing they had been wounded," to which
Bob somewhat ruefully agreed, for he had got a
scar that would last him his lifetime.
Maggie, though very gracious and gentle to me,
contrived, with the waywardness of her sex, to
keep me from iitt. ;iij the words she really 1..n: d
to hear and I to speak.
So a month passed away in peace and content in
Now the month of April was well advanced ; it
was the height of dry-weather time ; the boys
had quite recovered their hurts; the house at
86 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
" Scotland" was ready for them, and Maggie was
wild to see it.
So it was settled that the McDonald family should
go up at once, the elders and Sandy, whose arm
was still in a sling, in a pitpan, whilst Maggie and
my sister Annie would ride up with Bob and myself
Jack, left to himself at Scotland," found plenty
of occupation looking after the logwood cutting
and the bringing out to the riverside what was cut.
Then there was the cabbage-palm, for the flooring
of the bark-logs," or rafts, and the Warruma
poles for their sides to be got ready.
For logwood is as heavy as granite, and can only
be carried down the river in great crate-like rafts
which the folk out there call bark-logs."
It .was not all work, however, with Master Jack,
for now and then he would have a day's hunting
or fishing with Betty and Jos6, or even the re-
doubtable Peter himself, who was often over at the
Bank, and was a great help to the young fellow in
On one of these expeditions, by Betty's advice,
he hunted the Broken-Ridge at the back of Rock
Dondo for a change, and on their way passed through
So it came about that Jack, the seeming stolid and
unimpressionable youth, met Juanita Bustamente,
Diego's lovely sister, for the first time, with tragic
results to both of them.
Arrived at Rock Dondo, they found Diego swing,
ing in a hammock before his door, whilst his wife
Dolores and his sister Juanita were preparing a
savoury breakfast of stewed hickatee and nicely
browned tortillas, or thin cakes of crushed malza:
ENTER DIEGO 87
than which, served smoking hot, few eatables are
more acceptable to hungry humanity.
Diego appeared delighted to see his visitor, and,
using the common Spanish phrase, assured him that
"la casa es suya "-the house is yours-and pressed
him to join their meal.
Jack was hungry; the odour of cooking was
enticing, and he readily accepted the invitation.
Now whilst the women folks were busy with their
preparations for the meal, to which they added a
pot of excellent coffee in honour of their visitor,
the yoing man watched Juanita with ever-growing
Both women were of the true Mestiza type, which
signifies they were amongst the prettiest of Eve's
daughters; or, rather, one of them had been, for
Dolores had lived with the ruffian Diego five
years, and at twenty-five had only the remains of
The scared and hunted look in her large dark eyes,
and her cringing attitude before her husband, like
a dog that expects a blow, were eloquent of her
life's history and of his character.
Juanita, the sister, was just seventeen, and in
the first blush of her Southern beauty.
Her slight and supple figure was graceful in all
its movements, and she had the usual perfect oval
face, and olive complexion, lit up by the bright
blood that mantled so swiftly to her cheeks when
anything moved her.
Her eyes were large and dark and liquid, fringed
and veiled by the deepest lashes till they were raised
to fash for a moment on the dazzled beholder.
Her hair, jet black and abundant, gathered in by
a pink ribbon, fell below her taper waist, and her
88 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
pearly teeth shone white and gleaming between her
bright, saucy lips.
Altogether she was such a vision of loveliness as
our poor friend Jack had never seen, or dreamed of,
She spoke no word of English, and he only a word
or two of Spanish, so their conversation was limited ;
but he followed her with his eyes as she moved about
the hut; and she would now and then raise those
glorious lashes and smile upon him with those
wondrous eyes till he forgot all about the hunting,
and would have stayed where he was the rest of the
But Betty and Jose, thinking more of hunting
than of female beauty, urged that it was time to
start. So, at last, the adios were said, and one
soft pressure of the hand was given, and then they
parted; but not for long, for the vision of Juanita
haunted our staid Jack day and night, and he could
not break the spell her beauty had cast upon him.
He had sense enough, in his cooler moments to
know that no good could come of any love passages
between himself and Juanita.
Then he would resolve to see her no more. But
Juanita was his first passion, and the thought of
her gentle beauty and winning smile swept away
his resolution like a flood.
So in a day or two he was back in Rock Dondo
on some errand which made sufficient excuse for
Again he was invited to join the family at their
meal, and accepted with a muchas gracias that
nearly exhausted his small stock of Spanish.
Juapita looked shyly up at him from her work
with a flash of gladness in her eyes, and though al
ENTER DIEGO 89
she said was, Buenos dias, Senor," her evident
pleasure at seeing him again enslaved poor Jack.
more than ever.
Diego was really very pleased to see Jack, and
noted with much satisfaction his growing infatuation
for his sister, since it suited his own nefarious ends.
After breakfast Diego took himself off on some
matter of business; but Jack lingered on the rest
of the morning, with Dolores and Juanita, to improve
He did indeed pick up some additions to his
vocabulary, and learned, with much difficulty and
a good deal of merriment over their mutual mistakes,
that Juanita was often on the river in her dory, and
muoh given to fishing.
His tastes were the same-he would meet her in
his dory, and they would fish together.
Presently he mounted his pony; adios was
aid, with many a backward, lingering glance. She
waved her hand; Vaya to con Dios (the touching
Spanish farewell: "May God go with you ") she
answered, and so they parted for the second
After this Jack ceased to struggle against his fate,
and they met almost every day, generally on the
Then they would tie their dorys under the shade
of some spreading giant of the forest, and he would
take his lesson in Spanish from the girl's bright lips;
while she would try to learn a little English, and
made most entrancing mistakes in that most difficult
language; and they were as happy as two children
in the delightful present, careless of what the future
All this time Jack treated the girl with all courtesy,
go THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
and with a tender respect she had never seen offered
by any man to one of her sex before.
So she came to love him with all the intensity of
her warm southern nature, and would have been his
slave, or'would have laid down her life for him if
Poor lovers I The spring-time of their happiness
was a short one, but full of joy and gladness whilst
Only. one thought troubled poor Jack's soul at
times: how should he break to his father and
mother the news that he meant to make Juanita, a
Papist, and the sister of Diego Bustamente, his
For that he had fully made up his mind to do
in any event; and the time for telling them was
They were expected at the Bank the very next
day, and Jack braced himself for the ordeal, which
it must be admitted, he rather dreaded.
THn day following the departure of the pitpan,
Maggie, Annie, and their escort were astir betimes,
and set off on our long ride in the highest spirits.
Maggie, especially, was just wild with excitement,
and Dumple was as light-hearted as his mistress;
so off she went at a gallop.
Full of mischief as a kitten, she would let me
almost catch up with her, then with a saucy laugh
and a wave of her hand, dart off again.
Presently they came to the swampy road leading
through mangrove, five miles to the ferry over the
Belize river, and Maggie had perforce to moderate
her pace, for the road was bad and they could only
travel at a foot's pace in single file.
Beyond the haulover," as it is called, they kept
the river bank for three miles then out on to the
These" pine ridges cover an immense extent of
country, in the settlement. There is so great a
saineness about them all and the roads, or rather
narrow tracks, that cross them, are so ill defined
that the inexperienced traveller is very apt to
lose his way.
The ground, which is very gently undulating, is
covered with coarse wiry grass, much like the
g2 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
tussocky rushes one sees on marshy lands in this
country. Everywhere there are scattered clumps
of pine trees, live oaks and palmetto bushes, with
here and there a calabash tree with its great globular
fruit growing out from a short stalk on the main
Reedy-margined shallow lagoons abound, so there
is no lack of water; a great blessing to the traveller
in so thirsty a climate.
Till we emerged on this open country, we had
not had much opportunity for talk, having enough
to do to steer our ponies through the quagmires
they dignify with the name of roads in that
All this part of the journey, I, with a beating
heart, had been summoning up what little courage
I possessed to put to Maggie the momentous ques-
tion, which I must get answered that day.
But how to put it ? That fairly puzzled me.
Maggie, though she knew what was coming, was
in one of her mischievous moods.
So when we came out on the firm hard ground,
and open country, she gave Dumple the rein, and
crying: "Now then for a gallop," set off at the
top of her pony's speed, and soon forged ahead.
It was all I could do to keep her in view; but
fortunately her mood quickly changed, and she
pulled up into a canter.
"Why, Steve," she cried, how slow you are,
I thought you would soon catch me and Dumple t "
"You and Dumple are too quick for me, and
please my dear Maggie don't gallop off like that
again, for you might get lost on this pine ridge
if you get out of sight, and that would be too dreadful
to think of."
MAGGIE'S RIDE 93
Now or fellow travellers caught us up, and passed
ahead, Annie saying:
"What a harum-scarum you are, Maggie. Bob
andl ill give you a lead now, and set a more sober
She knew the road quite well, having often ridden
u pta Douglas before, so there was no fear of her
Losing her way.
On we jogged under the hot sun, keeping a respect-
ful distance behind our leaders.
Gradualy a silence fell upon us, for even the
wayward Maggie was hushed for a time by the
knowledge of what was in my mind, and the thought
sf all it meant to her and to our future lives.
Those who have passed through the dread ordeal
a;memerged into quiet wedded happiness may smile
at my fears, forgetting, after long years, what they
had gone through themselves.
But all the same, to a man with a due sense of his
own Imperfections and shortcomings, it is an ordeal
not to be made light of.
The silence deepened, and grew awkward. It was
hi*who broke it after all.
"'Why, Steve, how grave, and silent you are this
"Tam silent, M.Li!'., because I have that to say
H ar to put into words; yet I must speak, whatever
In tis crisiskof her fate, her sens of the ridiculous
W'a strong on her. Almost she laughed, but only a
nile lurked in her eyes.
"Maggie, my darling, I have loved you with all
my soul since the day I saw you land at Belize,
Can y.alove such as I am, if only a little, and will
you b my wife ? "
94 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
At once she placed her little hand in mine, frankly
and fearlessly, as we rode side by side, and answered
I love you too, Steve, with all my heart, and
gladly will I be your wife-and I will try to be
worthy of such great love as yours."
What we did and said thereafter will not be
chronicled, but earth and sky, and all our surround-
ings, were transformed for us in the day spring of
Bob and Annie waited for us presently under the
shade of a clump of pines, close to a spring of cool
water, and brought us back to earth by reminding
us it was time to halt and have breakfast.
Then I took Bob aside, and Maggie, Annie, and
each told their tale of happiness to sympathetic
Arrived at Douglas, we found the passengers by
the pitpan awaiting us, and when we told our news,
or rather when I broke to the father and mother
what I had done, was delighted to find how warmly
I was welcomed into the nearer relationship.
The father grasped me warmly by the hand,
and declared there was no man ift the world he would
more gladly give his darling to.
The mother, with tearful smiles kissed us both,
and held our hands, and blessed us fervently, and
Now, Steve, my dear, I have another son."
But Maggie followed her mother into the inner
room, and there the two women cried together, then
smiled, and cried again; then presently came back
with Maggie's arm encircling her mother in a close
embrace, happy and contented.
It was indeed a happy party at Douglas that
MAGGIE'S RIDE 95
night, and much they talked of the future plans of
the young folks, who it was settled were to make
their home for most of the year at Douglas, if my
No fear of his not agreeing to that, father would
do anything to please Maggie, and will know she
will want to be near her own folks."
Jack welcomed the riding party next morning
at Scotland," and was as much pleased as all the
rest at our news.
His own affairs weighed rather heavily on his
mind and made him more silent than usual. He
knew he must soon tell his father and mother about
Juanita, and he was more than doubtful how they
would take it. But take it as they might, he had
no intention of giving her up. -That was more than
he could do, even for them.
Maggie was wild with excitement at all the new
things she had to see, and delighted with everything
at the Bank.
Oh I Steve," she cried, Uncle Duncan and you
have chosen a beautiful place for us, and how could
you dare to try to keep us down in Belize ? "
Presently the pitpan arrived with its passengers,
and. Aunt Mary was as pleased with everything
as Maggie had been.
The house was pronounced far better than either
expected to find it, and William Lamb, who came
to pay his respects to the Mistress and Missie,"
was told how clever he was to build it so nicely.
Maggie thought the only thing they wanted to
make it perfect was a verandah overlooking the
river, with a trellis-work to grow creepers tp.
"Father dear," she cried, "do you think now
William could do it ? "
96 THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
William appealed to, said he could manage it
easily enough, and would begin as soon as they
That settled, they all took a stroll round the
Bank, and inspected the site for the garden which
was already fenced in.
Maggie and her mother took the greatest interest
in this, which they claimed as their special depart-
ment, stipulating that a corner should be set apart
Won't we make it look lovely, mother dear,"
cried Maggie, you shall be head gardener, and I'll
be your assistant, and we'll make Steve and the
boys hunt round and get us every creeper and flower
that grows in the country-and they must get us
every sort of orchid there is, and we'll put them on
that plum tree behind the house, and make it one
mass of bloom."
Which was done hereafter; and the verandah
too, became a bower of Vanilla vines, with their
exquisitely scented pods ; passion flowers of all sorts
and sizes; bougainvillas; jessamines and convol-
vuli, both purple and white; all of which, tended
by loving hands, flourished exceedingly.
Now Maggie turned to Jack, wanting to know
what he had been doing all by himself.
Hadn't he found it very dull, poor fellow; and
hadn't he missed even her chatter, having no one
else to talk to ?
Jack, feeling guilty, and looking somewhat sheep-
ish, answered as best he might, that he had missed
them all very much, but that, as they could see, he
had been hard at work and that had kept him from
Sandy and Bob wanted to know what sport he had
MAGGIE'S RIDE 97
had, and he told them all about it; but said nothing
about RoKe Dondo:
Then his father asked !hi if lh had st ;n anyt-ing
of Diego Bustamente.
Yes, he had seen hi- ,vcrml ti'ies, and the man
seemed civil and friendly enough.
But he made up his miind to make a clean breast
of it to: his mother at the first opportunity.
So next morning he drew her aside, and told her
all his tale, simply and straight fovrardlv.
How.he had met Juanita and grown to love her
and her gentle winning ways.
How-he had strum.lkd against it, fearing she and
his father would disapprove, but in vain, for now he
loved her with his whole heart.
"And mother duar, you will love hur too, once
you know her;, for she is like yourself, loving and
gentle, tender and true."
That her sober Jack could fall suddenly in love
like thb sad with a half Spanish girl of more, than
doubtful connection, was a revelation to his mother.
My dear boy, if you are sure of your own mind,
and if you really love this poor child with all your
heart, and if she is really what you think,,. will
-welcome her for your sake and for hers, and make
her, asiar as I can, one of us. But I must see her,
and judge for myself."
Withthat our friend Jack rusted mightily content,
.for he: new his mother, and thought he knew
Janita, -and believed the two would soon be fast
Uncle James when told the news was greatly
lpset, buti-eing a sensible man, recognized it was no
'gao takin a high hand with a boy like Jack.
SSe aA eisaid was:
98 THE BAYMEN OFBELIZE
"You have astonished me, and your mother
too, my boy; but I'm not going to make any fuss
about it. All I ask is this: let your mother see the
girl as soon as you can; bring her here. Women-
folk understand each other, and she and Maggie
will soon know all about her; are you content to
abide by what I say ? "
Jack's faith in his mother and in Juanita was
firm, so after a moment's hesitation he answered:
Yes, father, that's a bargain between us. If
mother doesn't agree I'll never ask you to receive
Juanita as my wife, but I can't give her up, not
even for you and my mother. It sounds foolish,
after that, to say I would do anything else for you, or
either of you, but it's true."
So Jack, when this was settled, rode off to Rock
Dondo to invite Juanita to pay a visit to his father
At first she declared she dared not do it; she had
never seen so many white people as there were at
" Scotland," and she knew they would all hate ha
for daring to love their Jack, but that, she said
with a sigh and a soft appealing look, she couldn't
Then she flung her arms about his neck, and cdun
to him, and said she loved him more than life,:and
finally would go anywhere and do anything Ug
Oh I Jack," she cried, "I shall be frighteniff
and I can't help it, and they will think me- s
When Diego heard how matters stood he wa
delighted, not at the idea of Jack marrying Ii
sister, for he didn't care a straw whether he did or
not, but because he thought this engagement wo~l
MAGGIE'S RIDE 99
further his plans against the McDonalds by putting
them offthleir guard.
So he told Jack, with every appearance of sincerity,
that he ws most proud and pleased to know that
he wan1S to marry his sister; that for his part
he was always at his service, and the service of his
father; and that anything and everything he
possessed they might regard as theirs.
To Juanita he said that, of course, she must go
to the McDonalds at once, since they had honoured
her so highly as to invite her to their house; that
he himself was going down the river on the following
day, to a Bank below "Scotland," and would take
Jack took in and believed the smooth villain's
soft speeches, but then he was deeply in love with
the said villain's sister, so there was some excuse for
him. Moreover, honest Jack could not realize that
such a treacherous scoundrel as Diego existed outside
the realms of melodrama.
But if he could have done so, his ride home that
night would not have been a pleasant one.
Not being a seer, he was happy enough in the
thought that Juanita and his mother would meet so
soon; for he never doubted the result of that
When Peter Johnson heard of Jack's doings he
was much alarmed; for he deeply mistrusted Diego,
and more than ever when he appeared friendly.
He came over specially to warn James McDonald
to be on his guard.
"You no trus that 'paniar man, not 'tall 'tall,
Mass James. He berry baad for true, an' de gooder
he seem, 'de wuss he be."
SBut Uncle James, unfortunately, only laughed at
zoo THE BAYMEN OF BELIZE
Peter's fears and suspicions, thinking they were
born of his intense hatred of all "'paniar men;"
But Peter was right, and he was wrong.
When the next day Diego and his sister arrived
at the Bank in the dory, only Jack and his mother
went down to the landing to meet then, lest the
poor child should be scared at the sight of many
She was shy enough, poor little thing, and stood
with downcast eyes and trembling looks till Mary
McDonald, who took to her at first sight, grasped
both her hands in hers, and kissed her on each
cheek, and bade her welcome.
Juanita hardly understood a word she said, but
the tone of her voice and the kindly smile on the
sweet motherly face, that beamed upon her when she
raised her eyes were enough.
At once she fell upon her knees, and kissed her
hands before Aunt Mary could raise her, and cried:
Oh I Jack, your mother is good like you, and I
love her too."
Then her humble little pataque patacaa, wicker
basket) with all her poor little belongings, was
carried by Joe up to the house, and she was intro-
duced to Maggie, who spoke a few words of Spanish,
and the three talked together as best they could
and grew quite friendly.
Meanwhile James McDonald and the rest were
entertaining Diego with all hospitality.
They showed him round the Bank, and he saw
the fort; taking mental notes of all he saw, though
his hosts little dreamed of what was passing in his
Then Jack took his father in to see Juanita, and
the meeting was embarrassing to both at first ; far
MAGGIE'S RIDE 101
:stIhis insular and religious prejudices were up in
aims against his son's choice.
Very soon though, he too, fell under the spell of
her grace and beauty, and Master Jack's battle was
more than half won already.
:That day at breakfast, Diego saw Maggie for the
i t:time; a fatal meeting for himself, as it turned
Presently, after breakfast, he departed on his
*-dwnward journey, to our great relief, but said he
wuldd call on his way back in two days' time to
see if Juanita was ready to return home.
He left with many protestations of friendship on
hislips, but with black treachery in his heart; for
ths sight of Maggie had put into his head another
villainy, in addition to that he was already plotting.
JUANITA did not return with Diego, for her new-
made friends insisted she must stay at least another
Soon her shyness wore off, and, before they knew
it, she had crept into the hearts of the whole
Their kindness, the atmosphere of mutual affection
in which they all lived, and the simple courtesies of
household life which she saw for the first time,
opened up a vista of happiness and peace, undreamed
Under these influences her naturally sweet nature
expanded and developed as a flower in the warmth
and brightness of the sun.
So Jack's path of love was smoothed for him;
for his mother and Maggie pronounced wholly in
favour of Juanita, and his father declared he was
ready to welcome her as a daughter.
The brothers were enthusiastic about her, for she
was pleased with, and grateful for, any little service
they rendered her, always smiling and content, bhe
cause, for the first time in her brief life, she was
They rode with her, and fished with her, and it
was a revelation to them to see how she could
JUANITA'S DEVOTION 1o3
manage a horse, and paddle a dory, to both of which
she was to the manner born.
So passed a fortnight away without anything
being heard of or from Diego.
Then came an Indian peon of his from Rock
Dondo, with a message for Juanita that she must
return at once, as Dolores was very ill and wanted
Jack was away at the time, but so urgent was the
message that she dared not wait, even to say good-
bye to him.
So, with much regret on the part of the whole
family, and with a pressing invitation to return as
soon as she could, she went.
And so they parted, only to meet again once
more, for one brief hour, on this side of the
When Jack returned and found Juanita gone,
he set off for Rock Dondo in hot haste, to say
good-bye to her, and to see whether Dolores was
really ill, for his suspicions of Diego had been
Aroused by Peter's constant harping on his
He found Dolores really ill, with a bad attack of
fever, and for the next fortnight Juanita was unable
to leave her.
At the end of that time she could spare her nurse,
and it was settled that Juanita should return to
" Scotland in two days' time; Diego volunteering
as before, to bring her down in his 'dory.
So her lover bade her good-bye for that short
parting, nor dreamed that the dread farewell we all
must say was so near at hand.
At the Bank all were lulled into false security,
mainly on account of Jack's betrothal to Diego's