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Published in:
The Pall Mall Magazine, October 1908
The Sun, Kalgoorlie, West Australia, 29 May 1910
(as "A Chest of Chinese Gold")
Short Stories, April 1912

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-09-17
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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The Pall Mall Magazine, October 1908, with "Off the Great Barrier Reef"


"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

THERE was a sound of lapping water on the seaward side of the trade-house. The stiff, spike-crested palms seemed to pierce the blue span of sky overhead. In the east lay Espiritu Santo, with its innumerable jungle-screened inlets and sloping hills. The lip of a young moon glinted with tropic brightness over the distant headland.

The trade-house verandah was in darkness. A white-coated German, heat-fretted and lazy, rolled in the hammock, and watched a big-beamed lugger crawl to her moorings across the bay.

"Chow at the helm. Brings his craft up to a three-knot breeze as though he was sparring with an old-man cyclone."

Captain William Hayes moves from the deep verandah shade and glanced seawards through his night-glasses. "Jimmy Ah Lee chasing trepang and bÍche-de-mer. Wonder if he ever goes to sleep?"


Captain William Hayes glanced seawards through his night-glasses.

"Der Chows haf der luck of mules," grunted the German.

"I used to laugh at Chinkies once," said Hayes, thoughtfully. "But now I'd sooner skin a live wolf than meddle with a Chinese pigtail on the high seas."

"Dey haf no more brains dan monkeys. Dey was shoost a nation off flies crawlin' about der East. I vud sooner admire your skinned wolf, anyway, Hayes."

Hayes licked a big green cigar and padded uneasily up and down the wide verandah. "Up in Swatow nine years ago, they sold me a cargo of golden-tip Pekoe for six hundred dollars. After I broke all sailing records to land it in Sydney I found that they'd loaded me with dried dog-weed and warehouse refuse. Fancy me tearing south to hit the market with a cargo of pig-mash and plantation litter!"

A big-shouldered, lion-footed adventurer was Captain William Hayes. In his younger days he had bartered human lives for pearls and dollars. As a navigator he towered above Teach, Ross Lewin and other island blackguards. In his worst moments Hayes was always ready to laugh at his own blunders. He eluded gunboats and commissions of inquiry with the ease and diplomacy of a sultan. At a pinch he could pose as a cultured diplomat, even in the presence of British and American consuls. From Manikiki to the Line the sound of his name uttered suddenly on an island beach brought men, rifle in hand, to their trade-house palisades.

"I've had a hard life," he continued slowly, "fighting kanakas and keeping dirty little island kings in their places. There was a time when I'd have kicked the linch-pins from the wheels of a Juggernaut car to upset a rival. And there were times when things used to hit back. Women put me away, and the gunboat dudes treated me like a dog whenever I hurt a black man's feelings."

"Hayes, Hayes, you vas a bad man!"

The German sat up in the hammock and regarded the buccaneer closely. "I haf seen you drunk, and you—you—"

"Don't say it, Schultz," growled Hayes. "I've stood knee-deep in wine I admit; I've bluffed big-headed consuls and licked what I couldn't eat. The grandest bluff I ever put up was my scheme for stopping the Ning Po, a China steamer bound from Brisbane to Shanghai, carrying two thousand ounces of gold in her bullion-room."

"Yah! You vill bump der yard-arm some day, Billy. You haf no belief in der size of tings."

"Guess the hemp isn't spun, that will hoist me," grinned the buccaneer.

"I had a smart schooner once, and a nice lot of white lads lying idle on the beach at Mount Eames Island, 27 miles nor'-east of Thursday, between Long Reef and Nine-Pin Rock. Collecting copra and hunting kanakas had made us tired. And a crew that sails under me for a year is good enough to swap curses with anything that floats. Black crews are no good at a pinch. Strike a match in their faces on a dark night, and they fold up at the knees.

"Well, we settled it among ourselves that the Ning Po, with her big gold-box, was ours the moment she showed her black funnel ten miles east of the Barrier Light.

"I've helped myself to loose cargoes of trade from the Straits to the Marquesas, but my mouth grew hot and my heart danced the night we waited for the China-bound steamer. She carried gold won from Australian soil, stuff that had been dollied out of the Fraser Creek beds and Gulf mining camps: it was going to fatten the Chinese banks at Hong Kong and Shanghai.

"She was a two-thousand-tonner, with a nose like a plunging bison. She carried a coolie crew and four white officers. Her steel-clamped vault was between bunkers and store-room. It was guarded night and day by a gang of yellow dogs armed belt and fist. I guess a Chinaman can nurse his gold like a bull-dog hugging a bone—when it's worth while.

"The night was black enough to hide a crow. It was a night to help a poor man like me into a nice white gaol or a Chinese saving bank. Most of us had starved in Sydney at some time or other. And as we lay for'ard, my mate, Bill Howe, reckoned that each man ought to come out of the affair with ten thousand dollars to his credit.

"It was past midnight when we sighted her. She was standing well away from the Barrier, like a thing afraid, fuming and hooting from light to light. Funny how these Chinese transports squeal in the dark—you'd think the blamed sea wasn't wider than a racecourse.

"We carried a long-range American cannon for'ard, one I'd picked up from a Chilian slave-agent in Samoa. But Howe looked after the ammunition and the loading, and he sent a shot across the Chinaman's bows as though he was shooting for a box of cigars. I signalled that we'd put a mustard plaster on her water- line if she didn't heave-to quick and lively.

"She hove-to, coughing and swearing like an old woman with a cold in her head. I measured her fore-and-aft with my night glasses, and I could almost smell the dirty decks. I'd seen cow- boats with cleaner spaces abaft their funnels. There was a crowd of Chinese merchants and diggers aboard; they heaved up from below in a simultaneous bundle, and they stood on each other's feet trying to get a look at us.

"We pulled towards 'em in the whale boat. There were eight of us carrying revolvers seated for'ard. Some of us had been fighting Chows since we were boys. It is a far better game than fighting poor policemen and tearing valuable uniforms.

"'Steady, boys!' I said, as we pulled under her black, sweating side. She heaved and rolled above us like a hot thing with burning eyes. Funny how some ships glower at you! We felt her uneasy breathing; and we heard the stammer of her engines as the seas swung us under her port-rail.

"'What ship?' says I, hailing her smartly. Two of the lads steadied the whale-boat to keep us from smashing against her ribs.

"A long, melon-faced Chinky looked at me over the side, then another and another, until the steamer's rail was alive with pigtails and squint-eyed Mongolians. The little white skipper, his face puffy with indigestion and whisky, threw his patent lantern on us. I saw his hand shake, and I knew that the bulge in his eyes spelt funk.

"'It's that infernal Hayes!' he shouted to an officer. 'What the blazes is he after?'

"'See here, Cap'n Shypoo,' says I, briskly, 'no personalities, or I'll brighten the cabin fittings with your bald head. Savvy?'

"My word, he did. I guess the name of Hayes was as good as a charge of grape-shot in those unpoliced waters. The compass-light showed me his blithering face as he climbed down from the bridge, wild-eyed and clawing the air.

"'Hayes,' says he, 'don't be an ass. I know you mean mischief —anything short of murder. What is it?' he asks. 'Mail bags?'

"'No,' says I. 'Bullion-sacks—two thousand ounces or thereabouts. Hope you didn't think I was after the saloon ducks.'

"When a man turns away his face I know his knees are giving in, and his heart is trying to climb out of the front window. I've always taken credit for shooting away explanations. It's part of my business; and the cargo skippers trading between Sud Est and Thursday have good memories. As aforesaid, Captain Shypoo climbed down in a bundle.

"He looked down at me like a sick spaniel. 'Hayes,' says he, 'I've heard that you never did a scurvy act in the presence of ladies. We have several on board, travelling with their fathers and husbands, to Shanghai. Now, Bully, I ask you not to turn my steamer into a bear pit. Are you going to play buccaneer or white man?'

"Guess he had me in a soft place if he'd only known. I was never game to hold up a banana punt if a skirt of a woman showed itself. Still, I told myself they might be Chinese ladies, he had aboard, and Chinese ladies never let down their hair on a question of barratry or spirit-rapping. So I adjusted my voice and gave him my second-best yell.

"'Don't want to interfere with your passengers. I don't want to stand clawing your greasy hull, sir. We're in a hurry, and if you can't make up your mind about the gold box we'll whistle it down with a five-inch shell.'

"It struck me that while we palavered over the rail, the Chows were holding a private meeting aft. They were explaining in their own lingo that I was a bad man with a string of buccaneers at my heels. I don't like Chinese when they rush together— they're as cute as the end of a lightning rod.

"'Hurry up!' says I. 'My ship is riding on your quarter. Just chase your feet into the bullion-room and sling down the box, or I'll put a shell under your propeller.'

"The skipper was a piebald man, smitten with ague and loaded with Chinese habits. He squealed at me and threatened; then when he'd used up his rage he floated into hyperbole and collapsed. 'Hayes,' says he, 'this is a hanging matter. Piracy, by Heaven! I'll have a warship on your heels in less than a week.'

"The Chows ran to the side and stared at us again. One of them, a fellow with an evil squint, spoke for the others. 'Hayes, you welly bad man,' says he. 'Wha fo' you want our money?'

"'Don't want your squeaks, anyhow,' I said, hotly. 'If you serve up any Canton bluff I'll present the crowd of you with a raft and a cask of water!'

"That sent 'em in a heap to the stateroom, where the captain was hiding his face in a brandy squash. They asked him to turn a steam-pipe on us and skin us alive. But the mention of my name had put him in a funk. He came on deck and consulted a pig- whiskered mandarin, who wore the order of the peacock and the gilt button on his sleeve.

"The night was black enough for any devilry. You could have hit a man without seeing his face. And the seas rolled us in and out, threatening to stave us in against the Ning Po's sides."

We waited six minutes while Pig-whiskers and the skipper hurried down to the vault-room to unlock and wheel the blamed bullion on deck. Things began to feel as nice as a free concert. There's nothing like a bit of gun-skite to steady a loose gang of rat-headed Chows.

"The skipper yelled a Chinese word from below, and then came the rattle and jolt of a steam-driven winch. 'They're going to lower the stuff in a box,' says Bill Howe, in a whisper. 'I reckon two thousand ounces of dust ought to weigh close on half a ton, cap'n—.'

"Bill was never much good at figures; he couldn't reckon the price of three drinks and a dog-license at a pinch. Still I allowed that the gold was heavier than a hod of bricks.

"Fore and aft the big steamer was as quiet as a church. Her engines seemed to breathe and strain, like a hound on a leash. The Chows had scampered below to wallop their joss and call me bad names. I guess it twisted their heart-strings to see their gold being heaved over the side.

"'Some men sweat and groan trying to make a hundred dollars,' says I to the lads beside me, 'but it takes a man like me to get it hoisted into your pockets with a donkey engine.'

"From the boat to derrick-chain was thirty feet, and as it swung over us I could almost see the bullion tank, bolted with steel and copper-fastened, descending towards us.

"'Stand by!' roared a voice from the winch; 'and hold her when she touches.'

"The bullion tank was hanging fifteen feet above us, and there wasn't the ghost of a light on our quarter to show us its exact bearings. We knew it was swinging in the air like a pendulum, in and out, in and out, until it hung level with the Ning Po's rail.

"'All ready?' shouts the winch-man. 'Aye, aye,' says I. 'Lower away, my lad. Heave ho for the yellow man's gold.'

"'Heave ho!' sang the lads beside me. Bill Howe groped for the hurricane-lamp while we stood up to steady the swinging tank. I was taller than the others, and my head was nearer to it by half a foot than the mate's. As I reached up something seemed to get into my throat like the taste of hot poison. Down came the black tank, long as a baker's trough and oozing water. Only a Chinaman or a devil could have planned what happened afterwards. 'Back water for your lives!' I roared. 'Back water!' No one heard me in the unholy crash that followed.... And the thing struck us like a live comet, whipping us to match-wood as it fell.

"Guess I know the musky smell of a Queensland alligator when it breathes over me in the water. The Chows had upset the tank and spilled a big saurian on top of us.


The Chows had upset the tank and spilled a big saurian on top of us.

I awoke in the water, my hands gripping a piece of smashed whale-boat. I heard the beast grunt and snap its jaws when it struck the boat. The tank was hoisted back to the steamer just as the alligator turned its snout shoreward and disappeared.


The Chows had upset the tank and spilled a big saurian on top of us.

"Eighty Chows sprang to the rail, dancing like fanatics at sight of our broken boat and the crew struggling below. The skipper jumped to the bridge and rang full steam ahead, leaving us astern half-blinded by the wash of the big propeller.


"Eighty Chows sprang to the rail, dancing like fanatics."

"I heard afterwards that a show-man was taking his live alligator and tank to Hong Kong when we bailed up the Ning Po. The Chows gave him a thousand dollars for the use of his blamed reptile. They said it was a nice Christmas-box for a man like me."

Captain Hayes leaned over the verandah rail and smoked reflectively.

"No," he said to the German, "I never afterwards met the skipper of the Ning Po. He faded out of this life on an overdose of opium, up in Shanghai, last year. There's nothing to prevent me congratulating the alligator showman when we meet, though. I admire presence of mind. But I'd like to tell that showman—with my heel on his neck—that we accepted delivery of his bull 'gator.

"I intend to be a better man in future, Schultz; and if you want a reliable navigator to hustle around the islands or boss a pearl lugger, I'll show you my certificate."

With a boisterous "Good-night" to the heat-fretted German in the hammock, Hayes swung from the trade-house to where his boat lay at the pier end. Later, his voice sounded across the bay—a roaring bass that seemed to shatter the tropic silence.

"We heard the Chinkies prattle way up in China Town,
We heard the hawse-chains rattle that let the anchor down."

"Dot was a strange fellow, anyhow," grunted the German, and went to sleep.


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.