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Published in The Pall Mall Magazine, February 1908
Reprinted in The Red Book Magazine, May 1908

Current version printed in The Daily News, Perth, WA, 2 April 1908

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-06-14
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

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"BULLY" HAYES was a notorious American-born "blackbirder" who flourished in the 1860 and 1870s, and was murdered in 1877. He arrived in Australia in 1857 as a ships' captain, where he began a career as a fraudster and opportunist. Bankrupted in Western Australia after a "long firm" fraud, he joined the gold rush to Otago, New Zealand. He seems to have married around four times without the formality of a divorce from any of his wives.

He was soon back in another ship, whose co-owner mysteriously vanished at sea, leaving Hayes sole owner; and he joined the "blackbirding" trade, where Pacific islanders were coerced, or bribed, and then shipped to the Queensland canefields as indentured labourers. After a number of wild escapades, and several arrests and imprisonments, he was shot and killed by ship's cook, Peter Radek.

So notorious was "Bully" Hayes, and so apt his nickname, (he was a big, violent, overbearing and brutal man) that Radek was not charged; he was indeed hailed a hero.

Dorrington wrote a number of amusing and entirely fictitious short stories about Hayes. Australian author Louis Becke, who sailed with Hayes, also wrote about him.

Terry Walker

'ONE of my divers missing!'

Captain Hayes stooped over the lugger's side and peered under the steps, where Io San and Kusima Shani were preparing to descend again into the shoal water of the Vanderdecken Bank.

'Where's Sushi Ma this morning?' he called out.

Io San shook water from his hair and ears; his chest and biceps were grid-ironed with scars where the jagged reef-points caught him in his descent.

'Sushi Ma not here to-day,' he answered sullenly. 'Gone ashore long ago last night. Big thief Sushi. No damn good!'

Scattering weeds and shell-litter from his basket, he dropped like a plummet into the fretting shoal-water. A few bubbles trailed white as blisters where his plug-shaped body moved over the oyster swathes below.

Hayes watched the diver's lightning movement as he plucked and scooped the golden-edge shell from the shallow floor of the bank. All round on the spongy beds of coral the scattered trepang lay like black cucumber. The long fine sea-grass moved and swayed under the diver's feet, where the endless lanes of coral shut out the questing barramundi and the shark.

With a fish-like motion of the body the diver swept to the surface, a half filled basket of shell under his arm.

Hayes turned towards the little township that seemed to straddle over the hummock-ridden sky-line. It was composed of kanaka hovels, and boasted a Chinese bank. Around him on every side were pearling luggers and bÍche-de-mer schooners. The surface of the bay seemed alive with the bobbing heads of sleek-bodied Japanese divers. The loud rattle of knives reached him, accompanied by the squalling voices of the shell-openers employed on the big store-ship anchored within a cable's length of the fleet.

It was seldom that a 'skin,' or swimming diver, deserted, for although Captain Hayes was an iron-fisted disciplinarian, he was a liberal master, and generous to a fault in the matter of feeding and berthing his crews of Rotumah men and Japanese divers. Sushi Ma, the missing diver, had been twice charged with theft of pearl, and acquitted by a hastily-formed tribunal of lugger captains on the usual plea of insufficient evidence. And as Hayes glanced from fleet to skyline he meditated swiftly upon the cause of Sushi's desertion, until it became clear to him that the little brown man was playing thief on a larger scale than usual.

The buccaneer's meditations were of a brief and hurried nature. Slipping into a dinghy he pushed off from the steps and rowed leisurely to the pier, situated at the head of an evil-smelling creek known as Deliverance Inlet. Once ashore he strolled thoughtfully down the crooked front street that zig-zagged through interminable sandhills. A few spindly trees cast ominous blots of shadows across the ant-pitted road. Small groups of Kiwais and bÍche de mer fishers loafed in the doorways of the kanaka boarding-houses, watching the well-known figure of the man who had held a French gunboat in check only six months before.

From a word gathered here and there, as he strolled through the township, the buccaneer was certain that something unusual had happened among the wealthy Chinese pearl buyers.

A Cingalee girl, with dorian flowers in her hair, tittered softly as he passed. A half-drunken sailor blundered from a near shanty and gaped owlishly at the buccaneer. Hayes caught him by the sleeve gently and swung him round.

'I'll give you a case of gin for that smile of yours, Jimmy,' he said huskily. 'Where's Sushi Ma?'

The sailor, an old shell-opener from one of the Dutch Arab Company's boats, hiccupped noisily, and glanced over his shoulder at the black shanty-keeper watching him from inside.

'You've been robbed, Hayes,' he said, in a smothered whisper, 'Sushi—hic—sold big pearl he picked up on your bank. Not a blister pearl—hic—onderstan'; not baroque either; just a fair hummer, an' half the chows—hic&— are in the deal.'

'The chows are all right,' said, the buccaneer lazily. 'How much did Sushi get for it, anyhow?

'The yellow banks opened—hic —their safes to buy it,' chuckled the sailor. 'It's the loveliest freak gem y'ever set eyes on!'

'You saw it then?'

'Through the bank window—hic&— yesterday. Eight chows were lickin' n'—hic—breathin' over it. Loveliest gem y'ever saw! They've christened it the Three Planets. Best thing, found in the Straits since the Little Coronet was lifted—hic—off the Aroes reef.'

Hayes shrugged his shoulders wearily, but his eyes leaped across, the crooked line of bamboo-thatched verandahs and gambling-dens that hedged in the Chinese bank at Deliverance.

Nodding absently to the sailor, he strode down the road whistling softly. He was not concerned with the whereabouts of Sushi Ma, he was merely anxious to confront a Chinese bank proprietor named Willy Ah King, whose reputation as an illicit pearl-buyer had travelled from Van Diemen's Gulf to the Batavian fisheries. As a receiver of stolen gems Willy Ah King had baffled every attempt on the part of the Territorian police to convict him.

His agents cruised in their big sampans from Sud Est to Thursday Island, and no pearling lugger was safe from their heathen blandishments and sleight-of-hand thefts. Despite every precaution to guard their luggers against these Chinese marauders, the fleet owners were compelled to admit that the finest pearls found on the banks passed mysteriously into the hands of Willy Ah King. The pearl companies fretted and bided their time, hoping some day to catch his agents within shooting distance of their luggers.

Hayes had put all his capital into the six luggers working the shell-strewn floor of the Vanderdecken Bank, where the narrow swathes of golden-edge and silver-lip pearl glittered among the coral and trepang beds. And from time to time he learned, in a roundabout way, how the fruits of his labours were being filched from under his eyes.

The Chinaman is the craftiest law evader within the Gulf. His mind is an abyss of unfathomable schemes and untraceable larcenies. The habits and movements of the white criminal may be part foreseen or anticipated, but to the average investigator the brain of the Mongolian is a jungle and a blank. The most expert detectives in Australia have grown morose and senile in their efforts to unravel the innumerable problems connected with Chinese frauds.

The bank at Deliverance Inlet was managed by Willy Ah King and his mysterious Australian wife. It was built of iron, and its dark corridors were lined with hessian and old canvas sails. There were pak-a-pau and fan-tan rooms, where few white men had ever entered. Pearls were gambled and fought for, but no one ever guessed how Willy Ah King transported his ill-gotten gems from Deliverance Inlet to Booby Island. His private schooner had often been boarded by water-police, and thoroughly searched, the bank had been similarly ransacked from strong-room to chimney, yet no more pearl had been found than would cover the head of a writing pencil.

Hayes entered the bank in time to see a pigtailed head vanish behind a beetle covered screen. A pair of slant eyes seemed to burn suddenly through the uplifting tobacco smoke.

'What you want, Hayes? Wha' fo' you come here?'

Willy Ah King heaved his eighteen-stone bulk into the narrow passage and blinked innocently. 'Me welly busy now. You come to-mollow.'

'Guess there'll be no to-morrow for you, King, if I'm kept waiting,' snapped the buccaneer. 'Don't play your to-morrow on me. I've got a nickel plated bullet that will cut a hole in your to-morrow. Savvy?'

'You welly funny man, Hayes,' smiled the big Chinaman. 'You talkee shoot shoot. Me welly tired. Me no savvy anything.'

'I've been robbed, of a three-planet gem, King.' Hayes spoke smoothly, and his eyes fell instinctively on the kris-like knife snuggling in the folds of the silken slanderdang. 'I want you to make up your mind about returning it. I'll give you till four o'clock this evening, and if the pearl isn't aboard my lugger where it belongs—'

'What you do then?' grinned the Celestial placidly.

'Guess you'll know when my heel is on your face, King. I'll give you time to warn your committee of monkey-headed swindlers. I'll allow you most of the afternoon to discuss honest finance.'

'To-mollow, Hayes—to-mollow. You welly excited.'

The Chinaman wagged his head like a spring-fitted image as the buccaneer picked his way out of the unlit passage.

The bank reeked of opium fumes. In the sweating darkness of the back rooms gangs of Filipinos and Burghis men sprawled in grotesque attitudes. Some lay with knees up-drawn and eyes staring at the bamboo rafters overhead, others crouched face down on their mats as though someone had flung them from a great height, and above all came the low slavering sound of opium pipes.

From every loophole and shutter a Mongolian face watched him as he swung down the hot, ant-pitted road. At the wharf jetty he paused near an ill-kept house with broken shutters, and listened. A voice had hailed him from within, and he waited somewhat impatiently for it to repeat itself.

In the silence he heard the shrilling wail of a Chinese fiddler that throbbed like a maddened nerve. Swearing softly, he moved on, but the voice reached him before he had proceeded a dozen yards. 'Follow the man with the falcon, Hayes.'

The buccaneer stared at the broken windows of the house as though expecting to see the face of the speaker. A door slammed suddenly upstairs: the sound of slippered feet hurrying along the passage reached him. An other door closed more violently than the first, leaving him to gape at the empty house front. The voice was strange to him, and he was inclined to think that the gang of Chinese pearl thieves were trying to fool and bewilder him.

'Follow the man with the falcon,' he muttered. 'Guess I'll be following some of their funerals if they don't brighten up their honesty.'

Stepping into the dinghy he pulled slowly across the bay to where the luggers rolled and sweltered abeam of the Vanderdecken Bank. Swarms of gulls and man-o'-war hawks fed ravenously in the oily backwash where the careless shell-openers had flung their rotting heaps of burley from the deck of the big store-schooner. Resting on his oars, Hayes scanned the half-moon-shaped bay, the dazzling expanse of white beach that stretched to the jungled promontory in the north.

The low thunder of surf on the outer reefs broke sullenly across the bay; a white sail flitted, and hung for a moment against the sombre, green of the wooded headland. The boat was evidently in the hands of an inexperienced sailor, and threatened to capsize as the sudden gusts of wind drove it beachward half- full of water.

'Chinaman taking a holiday,' muttered Hayes. 'Ought to be at home washing clothes instead of piling himself on a sand-bar.'

The next moment he half rose in the dinghy, smothering an exclamation of surprise.

Driven ashore by the sudden change of wind, the Chinaman scrambled from the thwarts, his left arm raised as he floundered through the surf, the waves beating about his hips and shoulders. Pulling closer inshore, and, keeping well within the shelter of the man groves, the buccaneer tied the dinghy to an outspreading root, and walked to a point overlooking the beach. The Chinaman was now squatting in the soft white sand, his face towards Deliverance Inlet. Perched on his left arm was a full-grown falcon; a hood was drawn over its head, and from time to time the Chinaman's finger wandered gently over its sleek feathers and knife-like talons.

In a flash the buccaneer recalled the mysterious instructions which had come from the house with the broken shutters. Strolling from the mangrove shade he wheeled suddenly upon the unsuspecting. Celestial. The Chinaman rose with a cry, and tried to regain the overturned sailing-boat. Hayes caught him wrist and throat, and flung him stammering, on the sand-heap. The falcon hopped to the beach, fluttering its wings aimlessly.

'There's nothing to run away for, John.' The buccaneer regarded him leisurely. 'What are you doing here with that bird?'

The Chinaman trembled violently at sight of the white man with the flashing teeth and sombre eyes. Clutching the falcon nervously, he shook himself into an upright attitude.

'Me came here to hunt little birds,' he chattered. 'Me catchee teal an' duck, plenty teal over there.' He pointed to a reed choked lagoon beyond the illimitable range of ant-hills in the north.

'Never heard of a falcon being used, to hunt teal,' said Hayes suspiciously.

'Welly much likee teal. Me catchee lille black duck, too.'

The Chinaman's fingers strayed over the bird's muscular shoulders and hood; his small, slant eyes glanced at the sky from time to time.'

'You are telling lies, John.' The buccaneer lit a cigar thoughtfully. 'Do you know me?' he asked softly.

'You Cap'n Bully Hayes from pearling-lugger,' half-whispered the other. My father know you welly well. Him say you welly nice man.'

'Nice! of course I'm nice!' said, the buccaneer ponderingly. 'I've been nice to all Chinamen since I was a little boy. But you're lying about that falcon. Didn't your father tell you what I once did to a man who told me lies?'

'You beat him welly much, eh, Cap'n?' The Chinaman wriggled uncomfortably, and his lips grew dry with fear.

'No, I didn't beat him,' Hayes spoke with a touch of remorse in his voice. 'Circumstances compelled me to light him up at both ends with a pair of tar-barrels.'

'You no lightee me up with a tar barrel, Cap'n Hayes. Wha' fo' you wantee make me go on fire? Me likee you.'

'I like you, too, John,' sighed the buccaneer; 'but, much as I like you, I shall have to send up your temperature a few hundred degrees unless you climb down to honest facts. Be honest, and avoid tar-barrels,' he added sombrely.

The Chinaman fell on his knees before the scowling, white man. 'You no burn me up. Me give you falcon to catchee um pigeon.'

'Oh, the falcon catches pigeons!'

Hayes gaped a little, then, stooping, he shook the stammering Celestial by the throat.

'Who sent you here to catch pigeons? Quick, or I'll squeeze out your lying tongue!'

'My master, Wong Chat, send me over to kill um pigeon belonging to Willy Ah King.' The Chinaman caught his breath fiercely, and bent his head. 'Him say Willy Ah King's pigeon cally letters to pearl-buyers at Booby Island. He want me to get letter welly quick.'

The buccaneer whistled softly; a though flashed through his mind that left him cold-eyed and doubtful.

'Sit here,' he said to the quivering Celestial, 'and carry out your master's instructions. And don't move towards that boat until I give you the word.'

The Chinaman squatted in the sand, obediently holding the falcon at arm's length, while his eyes scanned the far off hills that shut out the squalid township from view. Hayes strode up and down the beach, heavy-browed and brooding, halting at times to watch the land-crabs scuttling over the reef ends and bars. Occasionally his eye sought the naked hummocks at the head of Deliverance Inlet where the smoke of the town hung sullenly along the skyline.

A sudden shout took him sharply to the water's edge. The Chinaman was pointing to a bird-like speck that rose from the distant hummocks and floated swiftly across the bay..

'That Willy Ah King's pigeon! Him fly over here byemby to Booby Island!'

The China man danced excitedly in the sand, his eyes glinting strangely. 'Guess you ought to know how to fly your falcon!' cried Hayes. 'Keep your head, and don't get rattled.'

Running to the edge of the peninsular, the Celestial drew the hood from the falcon's head, halting for a moment as though gauging the height and velocity of the pigeon's flight as it drew nearer.

The buccaneer followed his movements closely until the released falcon swooped upward with the speed of an eagle.

For thirty seconds he gazed in amazement at the up-wheeling bird, his blood tingling with excitement.

The pigeon appeared to remain stationary in mid-air, as though aware of its enemy's presence. Then it swooped downwards in wild fluttering curves toward the cover of the sheltering bush. With scarce moving pinions the falcon poised itself like a dark ball over the down-fluttering bird, then, with the swiftness of a bullet, flashed upon its quarry. A few feathers scattered overhead as the stricken bird fell with in a few yards of the waiting Celestial.

Running forward, he unfastened a small roll of paper from the foot of the bird, and presented it timorously to Hayes. Unrolling it curiously, the buccaneer saw that it was covered with Chinese characters very much smeared and traced in red ink.

Eight years spent among the Mongolian traders of the South Pacific had taught him something of the Chinese language; a glance at the ink-blurred letter revealed its contents. It was addressed to Min Yik, a wealthy pearl buyer at Booby Island, and ran: —

Most Honoured Sir,

Our presence growing small at mention of your illustrious name. We beg, to approach you at this period of, the moon with great news. We are in possession of a very fine lustrous pearl—a sister to the stars and a cousin to our own magnificent sun. It, was brought to us by a wretched diver, by name of Sushi Ma—a poor Japanese dog unworthy of our Imperial connection. I cannot describe the gem we bought from him; he accepted five hundred Chilian dollars, and departed. It is a peculiar pearl of great orient and milkiness, and is composed of one large planet-gem surrounded by three satellite pearls. It is undoubtedly a freak, and will appeal to the eyes of many barbarian kings and ladies—or dealers in Amsterdam and Hatton Garden, With many salutations, I am hastening to despatch it to your keeping in the usual way. I have been bothered by a dog named Hayes; and the Territorian police are watching all the roads and exits from Deliverance Inlet: All Chinamen are searched.

Willy Ah King.

Hayes swore impatiently as he pocketed the note, and stared at the Chinaman endeavouring to place the hood over the head of the fluttering falcon. He was suddenly conscious of his own inability to cope with the gang of unscrupulous Mongolians who F carrier pigeons to transport messages and illicit pearls from one port to another. It occurred to him that the missing pearl might at that moment be passing through space per medium of a fast-flying pigeon.

He turned to the Chinaman hastily.

'Your master sent you here to catch Willy King's bird, thinking it was carrying a valuable pearl, I suppose?'

The Celestial smiled faintly. 'My master watch Willy King train pigeon evely day from top of the bank. Byemby he think pigeon cally allee pearl away to Booby Island. Then my master, Wong Chat, buy falcon flom circus man five, six months ago, an' we teach um ebly day kill urn bird an fowl.'

'You trained the falcon to catch birds in the air,' nodded the buccaneer. 'Chinaman cut Chinaman, eh? What are you going to do next?'

'My master tell me to wait till one, two, three pigeon fly over. Me wait to-day, to-mollow, long time yet. Me not in welly great hurry, Cap'n.'

'Phew!' The buccaneer regarded the Chinaman's immobile face, the lustreless slant eyes and stooping shoulders half- curiously.

'You think that the big pearl will come this way if you wait long enough?' he asked quietly.

'Me welly sure. Pearl come along in one lille while, Willy King clevvah man. My master welly smart, too.'

Hayes lit his second cigar reflectively, and wondered how many of the lugger captains had been victimised by the gang of illicit merchants, controlled by a pigeon-flying expert named Willy King. The buccaneer was in no hurry to acquire riches, but his muscles leaped at thought of his hard won treasure slipping into the hands of the slant-eyed robbers. The missing pearl was his exclusive property, and its value could only be judged by Willy King's letter to the gem merchant at Booby Island.

From his position on the wooded headland he could easily watch the flight of a trained pigeon passing from Deliverance Inlet; and unless the bird made a wide detour, he was certain that the falcon would bring down the Three Planet Pearl the moment Willy King's carrier came within striking distance.

The prospect improved Hayes' temper. He was now prepared to stay on the headland until the pearl-carrying pigeon was released from the bank at Deliverance Inlet. Only a Chinaman's brain could have evolved such a scheme. He laughed silently as he padded up and down the surf-fretted beach, scanning the wide bay from east to west; while the Chinaman caressed the impatient falcon with both hands.

Through the hot stillness came the sound of the divers and shell openers at their work; from time to time a flock of gulls settled in a thrashing cloud on the red hump of the Vanderdecken Bank. The buccaneer was conscious of a white-painted skiff moving from the luggers towards the promontory.

A kanaka, wearing a wide-brimmed Panama was at the oars; a lady sat in the stern dressed in a yellow sarong, and carrying a white, umbrella. The skiff appeared to have been circling the small fleet of luggers as though its occupants were interested in the work of the Japanese divers. Approaching the beach swiftly, it ran ashore under the lee of a narrow sand-spit.

Hayes noted that the lady was examining him carefully through a pair of silver-plated binoculars. Addressing a few words to the kanaka she approached smilingly, and halted within a dozen paces. Hayes bowed slightly, and waited for her to speak.

'I have been watching the pearl divers at work,' she began almost breathlessly. 'It seems incredible that men can swim under water and collect shells in their baskets.'

'It is remarkable,' answered Hayes somewhat coldly. 'The shells are often hidden in a jungle of sea-grass and coral, and there are times when they are discovered inside the roof of a diver's mouth,' he added bitterly.

'It would be interesting to study the methods of these pearl- thieves. I have heard that the Chinese buyers are quite unscrupulous.'

She spoke eagerly, and her eyes seemed to float in a nimbus of liquid violet as she glanced at the buccaneer. The tropic sun had turned her creamy skin to a delicate olive, and Hayes told himself that she was twenty-three, and dangerously pretty.

'The Chinese are perfect gourmands when it comes to eating gems,' he answered lazily. 'I generally argue with a pearl-thief along the barrel of a rifle,' he drawled; 'it saves thinking.'

She laughed somewhat immoderately at his words, and stroked the beach sand with the point of her umbrella. She was of medium height, and her semi-European clothes were expensively made. Hayes decided that she was the wife of some prosperous, trader or Government official stationed at Thursday Island.

Calling to her kanaka servant, she indicated a spot on the beach where she intended to rest for a while. A hamper was brought from the skiff and opened, wine and food spread on a snow-white cloth by the violet-eyed woman, who laughed at the buccaneer's unaccountable impatience.

'Come and picnic on the sands. I have some excellent claret and cold chicken.'

She regarded him quizzingly as he tramped up and down the beach. Hayes desired to be left alone, and the voice of the woman broke harshly upon his thoughts. Still, he had no wish to play the part of a boor, and he found himself, after a while, seated on the beach, staring moodily at a bottle of claret.

'You must not think me bold or curious,' she said frankly. 'At present I am suffering from overdoses of loneliness and nerve trouble. It is fully a month since I saw a woman of my own colour and nationality.'

The buccaneer almost forgot his own mission in the glamour of her swift running, conversation. He knew that many brave little Australian women became female Crusoes for their husbands' sake, and lived out their lives on lonely atolls and trading stations, until madness or pestilence brought them the order of release.

Yet through her well-conducted chatter he divined a certain uneasiness of manner, as though great things hung on the balance of a word. Behind her, alert and obedient, stood the big-chested kanaka servant, watching him with sombre eyes.

A sudden movement in the rear startled him. The Chinaman had run to the water's edge, and was pointing excitedly towards Deliverance Inlet, where a brown speck fluttered and rose in a straight line towards the peninsula.

'Me catchee pigeon this one time, Cap'n', he said gleefully. 'Waitee one lille while till um cross the water.'

Hayes sprang to his feet, and discovered that the lady in the yellow sarong had raised the hooded falcon from the beach, where the excited Chinaman had left it.

The bird, unused to being handled so familiarly, struck sharply with its talons at the hand that clutched it. With a suppressed cry she flung the clawing falcon into the surf beside her. The kanaka, standing by the skiff, leaped forward at the sight of her blood-stained wrist and smote fiercely at the struggling bird with the blade of an oar. Battered and half- submerged it lay with its wings outstretched on the surface of the incoming tide. Stifling an oath, Hayes hurled the kanaka aside and raised the half-drowned bird from the water. It shivered in his hands, stunned and bewildered, as though the oar- blade had broken its wings. Hereat the Chinaman danced frantically, pointing skyward to where the swift-moving pigeon was already passing over their heads.

'Why you hurt my falcon?' he screamed. 'Why you come heah an' killee my plitty bird? Wha' fo'? wha' fo'?' he demanded wrathfully.

The woman wiped her blood smeared wrist carefully, and turned apologetically to Hayes. 'I did not think the falcon would strike me. And I am so very fond of birds.' Slowly, almost accidentally, it seemed, she raised her eyes and followed the fast disappearing pigeon and it vanished beyond the forest of mangroves.

Hayes made no response as he swung along the beach, full of rage against what seemed to him an over whelming touch of ill- fortune. When he returned to the weeping Chinaman he saw with relief that the lady had departed in her skiff. Watching her for a moment, he fancied that she was laughing boisterously under her big white umbrella.

'No good to stay here, longer.'

He turned to the Chinaman, and stared sullenly at the limp, water-draggled falcon in his hands.

'We've been licked badly,' he added, as he strolled towards the dinghy. 'And blamed if I could prevent it, either!'

A few minutes later he gained the lugger's side, and clambered aboard with his half-smoked cigar fuming between his teeth.

His first mate, Howe, met him near the cuddy, a pair of glasses bulging from his pocket, which hinted that he had been a witness to the little comedy enacted on the beach.

'Been picnicking with Willy King's wife, Cap'n,' he began deferentially. 'Could see you from here quite easily. She's been cruisin' about the fleet all the mornin'.'

Hayes gaped for a moment, and spat away his cigar in disgust.

'That woman Willy King's wife! What in thunder was she doing round here?'

'After pearls, I reckon Cap'n. She's the worst blarneyer in the Gulf. She'd have stopped here all day if that hawk hadn't chased the pigeon. She was talkin' to one of the divers at the time, when she suddenly looked up an' spotted some feathers flyin'. She nearly jumped out of the skiff. I heard her tell the kanaka to pull for his life, and see what was happening on the beach.'

'The Chinaman with the hawk didn't know her, anyway,' growled Hayes. 'And he knows more about Willy King than most men.'

'The rich chinkies don't have their wives on view in these parts,' answered the mate huskily. 'Mrs. Willy lives in a red- and-white bungalow at Thursday Island most of her time. Reckon there aren't ten people in the Straits who know she's a Chinaman's wife.'

The buccaneer sat on an empty shell case and nursed his chin. It occurred to him that she was now on her way to Deliverance Inlet to report how she had broken up the cleverly arranged falcon attack upon the 'carriers.'

The mate swept a heap of shell litter into the scuppers, glanced furtively at the sky, and then at the heavy-browed buccaneer.

'Somebody's been flying pigeons over here all the morning,' he broke in gloomily. 'Here comes another!' he cried, nodding towards a brown object that lifted from the violet haze beyond Deliverance Inlet.

The buccaneer almost leapt to his feet and gazed at the low- flying pigeon that moved swiftly through the blinding sun-glare overhead. Darting below, he appeared a few seconds later, a fowling-piece in his hand, his lips twitching strangely. Leaning over the rail he waited until the bird cleared the eastern edge of the bank, and fired twice in succession. The pigeon twitched down, striking a sandy slope where the tide swept in between jagged pinnacles of reef.

'Pigeon number three—and three's my lucky number!'

Hayes pushed off from the steps in the dinghy, and guided it through the treacherous lanes of coral. Snatching up the bird he almost tore away a tiny parcel secured with a strong silk thread to its foot. Opening it he beheld a triplet of pearls clustered round a planet gem of matchless lustre.

He returned to the lugger silently, and without a word to the gaping mate passed to his cabin. Later, the mate paused near the stairhead, and listened to the chuckling noises that came from below.

'Mad as a hare!' he muttered. 'Just been and risked the only boat we've got to pick up a blamed two-penny bird from a razor- back shoal. Skipper's gone daft,' he whispered to one of the divers as the pealing laughter reached him from the buccaneer's cabin.

THAT night, when the pearling fleet wore to its moorings at Deliverance Inlet, it was discovered that the Chinese bank had closed and barred its doors. Seven of its directors had resigned and through the long hot night the voice of Mrs. Willy King was heard expostulating with her Mongolian husband.

A message had been received from Booby Island stating that the third pigeon had not arrived!


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