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As published in The Worker, Wagga, New South Wales, 16 December 1907

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Version Date: 2019-05-31
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

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Headpiece from The Worker, 16 December 1907

THE far-off beating of gongs, and the sharp cracking of fireworks, was heard beyond the outer reefs of Fanuti Island. Captain Hayes, leaning over the schooner's tail, listened curiously. Experience warned him that no mere kanaka festival was proceeding. The flashing of lights on the distant trade-house verandah suggested that a marriage feast or funeral was in progress at Tung War's, the rich island trader.

The schooner was anchored in 20 fathoms of reef-locked bay, awaiting her cargo of copra and shell. The trade and fortunes of Fanuti Island were controlled by Tung War, a native of Canton. His pearling schooners swarmed East and West, scouring the remotest lagoons for a mere bagful of shell, buying golden-edge and black-lip pearl at £50 a ton from impoverished native divers, and selling at £300 whenever the market was favourable. In the matter of screwing the last dollar from an investment, few American oil magnates could approach the big-brained Chinaman.

Glancing shoreward Hayes saw a boat put off from the trade- house pier. Ten minutes later a white-coated kanaka scrambled over the schooner's rail and passed a note to the buccaneer. The writing was crooked, almost childish. Hayes held it to the binnacle-light curiously; the scent of the paper amused him.

Captain Haye,

I very sorry to inform you I that my illustris master, Tung War, is dead to-day. I shall be glad for you to bear witness at once. There is other business. Me not very well.

King Lee.

Hayes threw a dollar to the bearer, slipped into the boat, and shoved off.

'This Tung War very rich, eh, Tommy?' he said to the kanaka.

The islander's black face seemed to open; the white teeth flashed in the darkness. 'Him worth one, two million dollars, Cap'n Hayes. He rich feller; by gar!'

Hayes looked depressed. 'This hoarding of wealth is wicked, Tommy. It poisons a man's mind, and burns holes in his nerves. And, by the way, Tommy, try and reduce that smile of yours; it's derned hard to see the shore-line while it's moving round your face.'

They landed at the narrow trade-house pier. Hayes sprang up the steps jauntily, and drove his boot at a kanaka in the act of igniting a snake-like coil of fireworks.

'Nuff to give a dead man jaw-ache,' said, sharply. 'Get out of my way, you gibbering man-ape.'

The figure of a small Chinaman appeared on the trade-house verandah, and as Hayes advanced he extended his hand cordially. The buccaneer nodded, and permitted his two fingers, to rest for a moment in the celestial's palm.

'Boss end up, eh, Mr. Lee? Die on his feet, or just in the old horizontal style?'

King Lee shrugged his small shoulders and led the way to a large room furnished after the manner of an Eastern potentate. In the centre stood a richly-upholstered bier, covered with hibiscus and jungle flowers. Stretched on it was the body of Tung War. His face was concealed by a veil of yellow gauze. There was small ceremony about Hayes. Nodding briskly, as though the dead man deserved recognition, he turned to the placid little Chinaman at his side.

'Gone at last, Mr. Lee. A fine, big thief of a man, too,' sighed Hayes. 'Still it's a poor world that can't jig along without a fat-fisted tyrant who ground a million Polynesians to dust.'

'You no likee Tung War?' King Lee spoke without looking up.

'Guess he never spared me when I came into his net.' Hayes turned a smile about a green cigar. 'Reckon if you ballasted his coffin with gold you couldn't get him into Heaven. Who's official assignee in the matter of his property?'

King Lee glanced swiftly at his questioner. 'I look after his money until his people come here.'

'Oh, a gunboat might fix it up,' laughed Hayes. 'I guess the island belongs to John. Bull; the flag's over the mission-house! Watch yourself, Mr. Lee. Don't play shinty with the dead man's dollars.'

The little Chinaman smiled. 'I sent for you, Captain Haye, on a matter of bizness. Tung War, my master, has a cousin at the Manhiki Island.'

Hayes nodded briefly; there was small fuel for his ambitious schemes in the Chinaman's announcement.

'I would ask you to takee Tung War to his cousin in Manhiki, Captain Haye. His name is Sing War. He will prepare the body for the long China voyage.'

'I savvy.' Hayes was aware of the value that every celestial sets upon his ancestor's bones. Year in, year out, big cargo tramps circled the earth claiming their dead from forgotten goldfields and mining centres. The Chinaman's veneration for his bones was a subject which caused Hayes infinite laughter.

'I don't want to make a hearse of my schooner, Mr. Lee,' he said, after a while. 'There's small profit in humping a dead Chow from one island to another. How much will you give?'

'Two hundred dollars.'

'I've been paid more for shifting empty bottles,' grunted Hayes. 'I deserve a squeeze from Tung's estate. He scraped me clean once or twice.'

'Two hundred an' fifty.' The little Chinaman bared his teeth slightly. 'The kanakas will do it for nothin'.

'The job's mine,' answered Hayes, sulkily. 'Put him aboard soon as you're ready. Tung War wasn't too fresh in life; guess he'll make himself heard before we reach Manhiki.'

AN hour later six kanaka boatmen heaved a lightly-made coffin aboard the schooner, and departed hurriedly. The natives had a secret fear of the big, white captain. The stories of his recent black-birding exploits were fresh in their minds, and as the schooner headed for the wide, coral-strewn passage they gave a shout that reached Hayes at the wheel.

'To fa!' he thundered, in response. 'Guess I'm the man you club to death in your dreams every night.'

Clearing the passage, he stood away for Manhiki, with a clear conscience and two hundred and fifty dollars in his pocket.

The setting moon died away over the horizon. A mist of stars trailed like a woven garment across the eastern sky. The schooner whined and creaked as the wind shrilled musically through the halyards. Calling to the mate to relieve him at the wheel, Hayes passed below and turned in immediately.

THE first mate, Bill Howe, had accompanied Hayes through many a soul-raising tea fight. Bill was without a single ambition; his one desire was to accompany his captain into some new adventure that savoured of hard blows and perilous seamanship. But when he saw the coffin holding the body of Tung War being brought aboard his disgust was tragic.

'I've steered pigs through cyclones,' he said to the deck hands; 'and took on more fighting than I could swaller—for the Cap'n's sake, an' now he's turned the schooner into a body- snatchin' hulk.'

'Why don't 'e supply us with some crÍpe, sir?' said one of the hands. 'I thought Cap'n Hayes was 'igh-class sailor; didn't think 'e'd go into the funeral business. Cats an' dead chows is poisonous.'

The mate eyed the speaker sharply.

'I don't want any free opinions aboard this schooner. If I express myself about the Cap'n's loose behaviour, I don't want the crew to encore.'

HOWE strolled below moodily, glancing at his watch occasionally, and keeping an ear on the captain's loud breathing. The mate was not a superstitious man; but as he prowled from the cabin to where Tung War lay he caught, from time to time, the sound of muffled blows, as though a fist were hammering at a loosely-nailed board. Then a voice that was almost a cry broke from the open hatch where Tung lay coffined on a pile of shell- bags. The mate felt his hair wildly, as though a voice had hailed him from the underworld.

In a few breathless moments he was beside Hayes' bunk, quivering, white-lipped.

'Cap'n, old Tung War's a-movin' in the hold. D'ye hear, cap'n?'

'What's that?'

Hayes was on his feet in an instant. Following the trembling mate upstairs, his roused ear caught the muffled sounds coming from the open hatch. Taking a lantern from the galley, he descended into the hold. The long, kanaka-built box was rocking violently on the shell bags. The voice of Tung War was faintly heard within.

'Wha' fo' you shut me in here, King Lee? You lemme out. You lemme out, quick!'

The mate handed a hammer and chisel to Hayes. In a flash the buccaneer had wrenched away the box lid and had lifted the Chinaman into a sitting position on the shell-bags.

'Now,' said Hayes, sullenly; 'what's the meaning of this guyver, Tung War? Didn't you enjoy being dead, or was the climate below a bit too sultry?'

'Me forget.' The big Chinaman wiped his face wearily with his silk-sleeved coat. 'Me want to get up an' go home,' he said, thickly. 'I soon get well.'

'Guess there's no getting well about it.' Hayes lit a cigar cheerfully and braced his big shoulders. 'You're on my books as one dead Chinaman, and dead you've got to be. I've no time to start forging new certificates. Just lie down again in your nice soft box. You'll have plenty of time to die between here and Manhiki. You're much better company dead, Tung War.'

A flat, weary smile stole over the big Chinaman's face. 'I know you, Cap'n Hayes,' he said, feebly. 'You likee make joke, eh? Me an' you be welly goo' flens bymby.'

'My word, we won't,' snapped the buccaneer. 'I guess you ain't forgot the time you squeezed me of my last dime down in Samoa, seven years ago. You put the British gunboat Thespis on my heels, too, after I burned the coffin-ship you asked me to sail in.'

Hayes stalked the narrow length of the hold jubilantly; the livid bullet-scar on his left check expanded grimly. Tung War looked dazed as he sat rigid on the shell-bags. Then he turned slowly to Hayes, and smiled weakly.

'My servant, King Lee, drug me, I think. He put poison into my coffee. Him wantee my money. I give you one hundred pounds, English money, Hayes, to take me home. What say, eh?'

Hayes stopped suddenly, and brought his eyes level with the Chinaman's.

'See here, old dry-as-hell; one hundred pounds won't buy me a week's champagne when I hit Noumea, it won't wet the beginnings of my thirst—you and your hundred pounds!' He snapped his fingers in Tung War's face, and climbed on deck cheerfully. Turning to the mate he addressed him sharply.

'Take old fireworks a bottle of brandy, and as much tucker as he can eat. Don't say I sent it. I suppose he's feeling a bit squiffy. Fancy little King Lee playing a game like this— with me in it, too!'

The mate hurried away to carry out the order. The deck hands gaped as he passed into the hold with food and brandy. A feeling of uneasiness and superstitious awe pervaded the schooner. The voice of the captain awoke the crew from a fit of brooding.

'Now, my lads, no whispering aboard this schooner. Deck-hose to the right, and smarten ship. You there, with the camel hump and the squint, stand by the main sheet, or I'll stiffen your spine with the butt end of an oar!'

CAPTAIN HAYES was a strong man, quick of speech, big-voiced, and fearless. In 1872, when the British and American gunboats surrounded him in Apia Harbour, his genial effrontery, his superb knack of holding men in check, won for him the admiration of both commanders. His affability and his dare-devil tricks made him a favourite with the assembled blue-jackets of both nations. But there were occasions....

The mate returned from the hold with a kindling eye; winking at the captain he pointed below.

'Says he'll buy out, Cap'n. He's feelin' as cheap as a bunch o' bananas.'

Hayes made no answer; he prowled across the narrow poop like a tiger about to lick its kill. 'He'll buy out, will he? By the holy fist I'll make him beg, too! These islands make a man pappy. Heat and square-face keep him on a level with the flies. But, now—' He shook himself savagely. 'This is my shot, and the bell is going to ring.'

Strolling forward to dropped into the hold casually, and found Tung War reclining on the shell-bags, a hurricane-lamp swinging from the beam overhead. The uncertain light cast a Dante-esque halo across the Chinaman's high cheek-bones and hanging jaw. In the shift of an eye Hayes saw that the bottle of brandy was more than half-consumed.

'How much, Cap'n Hayes?' The question left the Chinaman's lips like a drop of oil. 'You no play poker with my feelings, Hayes. I wantee go home. How much?'

'My dear friend,' said Hayes, gently. 'We must really make it £2000 English money. Anything above that would be risky; anything below, childish. Savyy?'

The Chinaman's lips moved. He did not speak.

'Understand me, Tung War,' continued the buccaneer; 'I use no threat, offer no violence, but—' He stooped and touched the mogul-like brow with his thumb; 'I'll carry you across the naked seas, between port and port, holding you fast until you whiten like old Vanderdecken, and cry for respite, and by God! I won't lay a finger on you!'

The Chinaman looked up and nodded.

'I pay.' His voice was husky, thick as though naked steel had touched his spine.

The buccaneer regarded him keenly. 'My officer will go ashore when we return to Fanuti. You will give him an order for the cash to be paid before we put ashore.' The Chinaman nodded again, sipped a glass of brandy, and fell into a heavy sleep.

Hayes sprang on deck and took the wheel.

'Ready about there!' he shouted. 'Stand by the main sheet, you there, with the camel hump. Boom tackle, Johnny Sands, and attend head sails?'

'Aye, aye, sir.'

'All clear forward?'

'All clear, sir.'

'Hard a lee!' thundered Hayes.

A few minutes later the schooner was racing before a seven- knot breeze on her way back to Fanuti. They entered the reef- strewn channel in the early dawn.

IT was high tide when Hayes dropped anchor within hailing distance of the narrow pier. The trade-house showed no signs of life. Tung War stood beside Hayes on the bridge, an ugly crease on his brow.

'Guess your understrapper, Mr. King Lee, will rejoice to see you again,' laughed the buccaneer. 'Bet he's put in the last ten hours counting your dollars, and preparing to scoot.'

'Yah!' The Chinaman seemed to hug his wrath. 'You wait.' His voice was brittle as glass.

'If a man drugged me,' said Hayes, cheerfully, 'I'd bend a gun barrel across his face. But you chinkies are a queer lot. King Lee will apologise, and you'll ask him to tea.'

'Tsh.' The Chinaman's face grew suddenly calm; there was no shadow of anger in his eyes, but Hayes, accustomed as he was to the workings of the celestial mind, felt that within Tung War lived a torrent of pent-up wrath.

Leaving the schooner in charge of the mate, Hayes went ashore in the dinghy, a note from Tung War in his pocket. He returned two hours later calm and unruffled, a satchel in his right hand bulging with American and English bank-notes. The big Chinaman awaited his return with cat-like patience.

'I must admit,' began Hayes, genially, 'that your understrapper, King Lee, faced the music like a gentleman. I told him that you were alive and putting on flesh as fast as a publican. You are at liberty to go ashore, sir,' he continued, politely. 'Just sign your magnificent name to this bit of paper, stating that William Henry Hayes, Esquire, of the South Seas, had nothing to do with the drugging and kidnapping of one Tung War, resident of Fanuti.'

AFTER he had gone Hayes prowled about the schooner aimlessly, his hands thrust deep in his pockets. There would be no more trade at Fanuti; yet even with his money chest filled he revolted against leaving port without a cargo. Secondly, he felt that he might meet Tung War later in the day to his own advantage. Also, King Lee might be eager to transfer himself and belongings to another island after his interview with his employer.

The morning grew hot. A flock of man-o-war hawks drowsed over the schooner's stern. The deck-hands loafed under a hastily- rigged awning, and yarned leisurely. There was no sound of life about the trade-house; a terrible stillness brooded over the palm-clad slopes; here and there a solitary native passed through the distant guava-patches near the mission-house. Throughout the hot noon the surf plunged over the white reefs with the sound of gun-wheels. Lounging aft, Hayes beheld a thin line of smoke shoot suddenly from the trade-house compound. He watched it curiously until the mate joined him.

'Funny-coloured smoke, Mr. Howe,' he said, suddenly. 'Got a greenery-yallery Grosvenor-gallery look about it.'

'Streaks to windward like acid-fumes.' The mate sniffed suspiciously. 'You never know what Tung War is messing with. These chows experiment with everything under the sun. P'raps he's in the whisky trade.'

'It doesn't smell like whisky,' growled Hayes. 'Seems to me as if he was boiling a lightning-rod in a pot of vitriol.'

The coppery fumes drifted seaward, and blew in streaks over the schooner's rail. Hayes darted below, coughing violently; for one moment he felt as though a streak of hot poison had entered his throat.

At moonrise a lamp appeared on the trade-house verandah. Through his night-glasses Hayes beheld the figure of Tung War gazing seaward. A few minutes later a boat put off from the jetty. It was manned by four natives and steered by the smiling white-coated kanaka. In the stern was a long, dark object, covered with a grass-woven mat.

Hayes stood by the gangway as they pulled alongside. A sling was lowered, and with a short heave the mat-covered object was drawn on deck. Hayes shrugged his shoulders as he eyed the funeral-like box underneath. A message in Chinese was pencilled on the lid. The mate scrutinised it closely. 'Blamed if I can make it out,' he said, hoarsely. 'What is it?'

'It's a Chinese legend.' Hayes spoke thickly, his face averted. 'It means that the man inside, according to his religious beliefs, is damned for all eternity.'

The mate replaced the grass mat over the box, half-reverently. 'King Lee, eh, Cap'n?'

'Guess so. Don't want to look either'.

Tung War didn't sleep on his wrath. There was no speech that night in forecastle or cabin.

Hayes sulked, while the crew glanced aft in the direction of the mat-covered box. 'Tung War is paying me off with one of his jokes.'

Hayes went to his cabin and helped himself to a stiff glass of rum.

'I'll give him an hour to explain matters. Guess I don't want King Lee for keeps.'

HALF an' hour later the mate entered the cabin; his face was pale, his knees moved as though a frost had bitten them.

'The Chinaman King Lee is dead, Cap'n,' he said, hoarsely.

'I'm aware of the fact,' grunted the buccaneer, impatiently. 'King Lee isn't the sort of man to pretend anything, and being dead he'll know how to make the best of things when he's born again.'

'But, Cap'n,' whimpered the mate. 'The face of King Lee is calm as a child's; his hands are over his breast like a man in a deep sleep. And—;'

Hayes looked at him sharply. 'And what?'

'Every bone has been taken from his body, sir.'

The buccaneer turned; his tongue clicked between his teeth. 'Bury him at eight bells,' he said.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Administered by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.