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ALBERT DORRINGTON

OUTCASTS OF CHRISTMAS ISLAND

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A "BULLY" HAYES STORY


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As published in The Worker, Wagga, NSW, Australia, 13 Dec 1906

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-08-09
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

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ABOUT CAPTAIN "BULLY" HAYES

"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



THE surf broke in white belts over the reefs of Vanua Island. The beaches of the inner lagoons were of dazzling whiteness where the tide flushed in with musical insistence.

A trade-house stood in a palm-fringed clearing, its wide verandah facing the ocean. A bearded man in a canvas suit lay in a hammock at the verandah end. From time to time his binoculars swept the horizon, revealing a whale-boat rigged with boom and foresail creeping slowly in.

Dimly he made out the figure of a man at the steering oar. In the bows sat a woman staring under her hand at the palm clad island ahead.

The bearded man whistled softly, wondering what manner of woman it was who ventured across the horizon in a kanaka-steered whale-boat. Later, when the boat entered the lagoon without mishap, he rose to meet his visitor as she stepped onto the beach with the air of a born sailor. He stood a little distance from her, his eyes shooting over her sea-drenched clothes and sunburnt face.

She was not more than 25, blue eyed, with a touch of gold in her wind-lashed hair. His throat grew dry as he regarded her. Her sudden appearance, the refinement of her manner and bearing, aroused his curiosity.

'You are Captain Hayes,' she began slowly. 'I must apologise for my hasty visit.'

Her quick eyes wandered towards the trade-house, and then to the bearded colossus standing in front of her.

'My name is Hargood.' She smiled pleasantly, and the slanting sun rays touched the gold wedding ring on her finger. 'Bessie Hargood to my friends,' she added. 'My husband was well-known in Sydney and Samoa.'

Hayes regarded her keenly. Her quiet laugh sounded strange in this silent sea-girt atoll. It was two years since he had looked upon a white woman's face, and the blood of kinship leaped from his heart and stayed like wine in his cheeks.

'Well?' His white teeth showed rough the rift in his black beard. 'Why did you come here, Mrs. Hargood? I am lonely man, and few respectable people dare to call on William Henry Hayes.'

'I came to ask your help, Captain Hayes,' she said very quickly. 'A white woman does not risk a two hundred miles sea journey in a whale-boat for pleasure or curiosity.'

'A lot of people are curious about me,' sighed the buccaneer. 'The Americans and English gunboats for instance.'

'Your reputation is better than you think, Captain Hayes. I have never heard a white woman speak ill of you.'

That's so.' The buccaneer nodded as if absently. 'I guess the ladies in Samoa and the Line islands found my talk clean as most mission boys.'

'Captain Hayes.' She seemed to break in on his words suddenly; 'I want your help.'

'Say the word, lady, and I'll listen to your reason.'

'I feel sure of it,' she continued. 'The fact is,'—her head dropped slightly—'eighteen of our boys died last month, and we want to leave the island immediately.'

'Eighteen deaths in a month!' The buccaneer drew away, slightly; a shadow wiped across his eyes. 'What—what—' his speech grew thick, his face whitened.

'Eighteen deaths,' she repeated sadly. 'It swept over us like a whirlwind.'

'It swept over you,' repeated Hayes suddenly. 'What do you mean?' The blood had left his face; sweat stood on his brow.

'Oh! It—it!' She wrung her hands tearfully. 'The pestilence—small-pox. We couldn't help it!' she cried, 'God knows how it came. Night and day we fought it on that desolate island. No doctors, no ministers, only Death with its sword, and the everlasting sea.'

She paced the white beach, sobbing quietly.

'I heard from a Navigator Islander that you were here at Vanua,' she went on, 'and so I came.'

Hayes remained staring at her.

'I've no immediate use for small-pox,' he said pensively. 'It's one of those things that drifts over the sea and strikes a man in the prime of his youth. What do you want to do?' he asked.

'Help my people to get away from the Island of Death,' she said quickly. 'Your schooner would carry us to Sydney. There are eight lives to be saved,' she added seriously.

Hayes was not easily moved or persuaded, but the woman's mission was terribly clear to him. In that year small-pox had swept from the Navigators to the Bismarck Archipelago with deadly effect, filling the island cemeteries with natives and whites alike.

Bessie Hargood's eyes grew limpid in their appeal for help. Hayes did not speak for a while. Then, turning, he begged her to take a little food after her weary voyage.

She followed him to the shade of the trade house verandah and accepted a chair. He touched a bell at her elbow. Swift upon it came a couple of white-clad natives, and at a word from Hayes they brought a table to the verandah.

In a few moments the cloth was laid; a silver tea urn and various kinds of cooked meats and fruit were placed before her. Without words the sea-weary woman sat beside the buccaneer and ate in a half-famished way of the white bread and fruits at her elbow. He assisted her occasionally, pouring out the tea, and addressing her only at intervals.

'A whale-boat isn't the place for a lady,' he said solemnly. 'Why didn't some of your men folk take the trip?'

'They were rather afraid of you, Captain,' she answered brightly. 'Some people imagine that you walk about with a gun, killing things at sight.' Her eyes sparkled as the food warmed and nourished her.

Dinner over, Hayes went aboard his schooner lying at anchor inside the lagoon, and with the help of his kanakas prepared her for the run to Christmas Island.

Towards evening, the schooner with Bessie Hargood and her servant aboard passed through the reef channel to the open Pacific. Hayes stood by the wheel whistling softly, his eyes fixed on the whitening seas that crowded over the distant reefs.


BESSIE Hargood remained in her cabin for two days, her kanaka servant carrying her food from the galley. On the fourth morning after leaving Vanua a hump of reef bulged across the horizon; then the hoarse booming of surf reached her below. Hastening on deck she met Hayes scanning a palm-fringed islet through his binoculars.

'If that's your island,' he said slowly, 'we'll fetch the lagoon on the eastern side, ma'am.'

At midday they were safely inside the reef entrance, within hailing distance of a tiny village, half hidden in a jungle of pandanus and tropic undergrowth. A bamboo thatched house stood near the beach, and as the schooner's anchor rumbled to the lagoon floor several white-clad figures hurried indoors. It seemed as though they feared the close scrutiny of Hayes' binoculars.

'Your people seem a bit frightened, ma'am!' The buccaneer turned to' his lady passenger inquiringly. 'What's the matter with them?'

'They are a bit shy of you, Captain Hayes,' she laughed. 'But they'll like you better on closer acquaintance.'

Save for the bamboo-thatched house the island appeared deserted. No sound of life was heard within the village. A deadly stillness hung over the woods and inlets; it was as though the pestilence had destroyed even the birds and sea fowls.

As the whale-boat put off from the schooner seven white-clad figures assembled on the house verandah and gaped at the buccaneer sitting in the stern. Bessie Hargood stood up in the bows waving her handkerchief.

The kanakas brought the boat well under the lee of the house. Hayes again fixed his glasses on the skulking white-clad figures in the verandah shade.

'Great Scott! they're Chinamen!' He glanced swiftly at the woman in the bows. 'You didn't tell me that your people were Chinese....'

The woman's lips grew dry at the sound of the big harsh voice.

'They are not common Chinamen,' she said hurriedly. 'Five of them are high-caste Manchus from the University of Pekin.' A flush of anger swept over the buccaneer as his eyes fell upon the slant-eyed crowd waiting on the verandah.

'I don't like chows on my schooner, ma'am,' he broke out, 'and I can't understand an Australian lady risking her life to get 'em off the island.'

The whale-boat grounded on the beach suddenly, and without answering Hayes, Bessie Hargood hurried ashore and half ran towards the house. The buccaneer's fury did not abate when the seven celestials marched with ghost-like solemnity to meet her. One by one they salaamed reverently, greeting her in their own language.

The mystery of it all unsettled Hayes. Here was a white lady, well-educated and refined, stranded on an island with seven Asiatics who treated her with veneration and religious regard.

The eldest celestial, with a flowing white beard, advanced and bowed courteously to Hayes, addressing him in good English.

'We are very glad to see you, Captain Hayes,' he said smoothly. 'The kanakas stole our schooner a month ago, and we are in a peculiar position.'

'I promised Mrs. Hargood that I'd carry her to Sydney, and I've just been telling her that I don't like Chinamen,' he said bluntly. 'Still,' he felt his beard thoughtfully, 'I don't mind your company if all is well and above board.'

'We are well as you see.' The big white-bearded Chinaman indicated the smiling row of celestials drawn up on the verandah. 'We have a little money, and we shall be glad to pay a reasonable amount for our passage to Sydney in your schooner.'

No time was lost in getting the Chinamen's belongings on board the schooner. Everything had been disinfected days before—a smell of burnt sulphur hung over their wardrobes and boxes. Punctually at six bells the whale-boat made its last trip from the island, bringing the seven Chinamen and one sandalwood box covered with a silk pall. Hayes stood by the gangway as they laid it on deck; stepping forward briskly he removed the silk coving inquisitively.

'What's in here?' he demanded huskily. 'I'm rather particular about my cargo just now.' He glanced at the long sandalwood box uneasily.

Bessie Hargood touched his hand gently. A look of unutterable sorrow was in her eyes.

'Captain Hayes, I ought to have told you that when my little boy Frank passed away a month ago—he died of fever, not small-pox. One of these gentlemen,' she indicated a smiling Chinaman standing near the gangway, 'undertook the process of embalming the little body.'

Hayes stood transfixed; his jaw hung suddenly; the creaking, of the schooner's yards broke the painful silence.

'Everyone belonging to me is dead,' she went on, 'husband and children, sister and friends. I am returning to Sydney a desolate woman, except for this last relic.'

She knelt by the little sandalwood box, her shoulders shaking with grief. The lid was made of glass and the face of a well-preserved child was visible inside. Hayes turned away, swiftly.

'Guess I'm not the man to stand between you and your little son,' he said thickly. Then, as if to shake the emotion from his voice, he roared out an order to the crew, and in half-an-hour the schooner was running before a stiff S.E. wind for Sydney Heads.

Shortly after midnight, the buccaneer's native boy, Tamasese, crept into his cabin and shook him stealthily. Hayes sat up in the bunk rubbing his eves.

'What is it?' he demanded huskily. 'Anything, wrong?'

'Nothing wrong much, Cap'n,' whispered the boy. 'Me go into Chinamen's quarters one while ago when they go sleep.'

'Take care,' grunted the buccaneer; 'they'll cut you in slices if they catch you fooling round their cabin.'

The boy grinned good humouredly. 'Me not frightened of one dam chow, cap'n. Me fancy that pretty box tied up in the silk shawl.'

'You inquisitive brat!' Hayes stretched out his hand half angrily; 'There's a dead child inside. Don't mess about with those things. If the woman hears about it she'll break her heart. Leave the box alone, Tamasese; it's sacred, you understand—one little child inside.'

'No dam fear, Cap'n!' chuckled the boy. 'Dead boy in um box only made of wax. Me break off one bit off his finger. See!'

Hayes sprang from his bunk and lit the swinging lamp overhead, then examined the broken wax finger in the boy's hand.

'What in thunder's their game?' he muttered. 'Where's the sense in hawking a wax dummy across the ocean?'

He sat on the edge of the bunk, staring at the broken finger. The Chinamen or the woman had evidently forgotten, in the hurry of departure, to secure the glass lid of the sandalwood box. The grinning face of Tamasese fairly shone in the lamp glow as he continued the story of his adventure.

'Me lift up the lid, Cap'n, an' feel one big heap of wool under the wax head. Then my fingers twist in an' out until I touch one little bag full of pearls, twenty or thirty all together!'

'Pearls!' Hayes leaned forward and caught the boy's wrist fiercely. 'By God, you've hit it, sonny! They've been working a big shell lagoon; they've been hanging on to the pearls with the idea of collecting a perfect set. I know what pearl matching is...'

The mystery of Christmas Island began to grow clear to Hayes. The wax figure in the sandalwood box had been placed there with the object of keeping him from inspecting it too closely. It was undoubtedly a Chinaman's way of keeping his hoard sacred from thieving hands. They were certain that once Bessie Hargood convinced Hayes of the sacredness of the box and its contents, their store of pearls would remain Untouched during the voyage; The buccaneer knew instinctively that they feared him. His name had an ominous sound in the South Seas; and it was only the fear of death by disease or starvation that compelled them to travel in his schooners. He sat quite still in the cabin, staring at the boy Tamasese. He was certain that his celestial passengers were armed belt and heel. He had detected a look in their eyes that showed plainly they would fight like devils if he attempted to meddle with their property.

Bessie Hargood kept to her little stateroom, only appearing on deck at intervals when the weather was fine, and the sea smooth. As the days flew by and Sydney drew nearer, the thought of the pearls lying under the wax figure in the box disturbed the Captain's rest. He estimated their value at anything over 50,000 dollars, and the proximity of so much wealth filled him with a desire to annex the Chinamen's portion at least.


ON December 20th, Sydney Heads loomed through the morning mists. Bessie Hargood was on deck leaning over the rail thoughtfully. The Chinamen were below attending to their luggage as the schooner raced through the Heads.

Hayes, with a grin on his face, ran up a yellow flag suddenly as he steered for the quarantine grounds and let go his anchor.

The rattle of the chain was heard by the Chinamen below; in a flash they appeared on deck, their eyes glittering with excitement.

'Why you put up that yellow flag?' one of them demanded shrilly. 'That one dam fool thing to do.'

'Guess I'm only complying with the shipping laws,' answered Hayes. Christmas Island is scheduled as an infected port. This schooner must be inspected by a medical officer, the crew and passengers mustered aft and thoroughly examined before pratique is granted.'

Bessie Hargood approached him gently.

'We are free from infection, Captain Hayes, as you know. That yellow flag may cause us to be quarantined for several days.'

'I'm sorry, ma'am; but the people of New South Wales must be considered. Small-pox is not a disease to be trifled with.'

An hour later a Government Medical Officer swung aboard, and after a careful examination of the schooner warned Hayes not to leave his anchorage until further notice. The people of Sydney, he explained, were in no hurry to acquire confluent small-pox.

All that day the seven Chinamen fretted below, while Bessie Hargood gazed impatiently at the narrow stretch of water that separated her from the shore. Night came, and the dull boom, of surf breaking on South Head beat upon their ears.

Hayes smoked thoughtfully in his cabin listening to the slightest movement on deck. The rustling of a woman's dress reached him suddenly. Looking up he saw Bessie Hargood, standing; in the doorway. He nodded briefly, and waited for her to speak. The creaking of the schooner almost drowned her whispering voice.

'Captain Hayes,' she began, 'I am anxious to go ashore. My people are waiting for me. The weariness of the voyage, the inactivity is telling on my health.'

Hayes regarded her through his half shut eyes.

'Anything else ma'am?' he asked coldly.

'I want to go ashore,' she repeated tremulously; 'and, oh, Captain Hayes, I would like—' she paused, and for the first time during the voyage, broke into tears.

'Oh,' he said quietly.

'I would like to take my dead child with me; I could cover it with a silk shawl. It would be no trouble for me to carry.'

She sobbed quietly in the cabin doorway, while above on deck, could be heard the pad, pad, of the promenading Chinamen.'

'I don't know how it's to be done, ma'am,' he answered slowly. 'What do you propose?'

Her face lit up at the question; she steadied her voice before speaking.

'If you lowered a boat at midnight, one of the Chinamen could land me near Watson's Bay. He would then return to the schooner.'

The buccaneer sat up stiffly, a frown on his brow.

'I can't trust a quarantined Chinaman on the harbor with my boat, ma'am. The water police would bring you back for sure. Then ye'd smell gaol, ma'am. No,' he added suddenly, 'I don't quite see it, ma'am.'

'If money will tempt you—' she began.

'It won't,' he snapped. 'I'm not going to trust my liberty in the hands of a Chinaman, ma'am. But,' he glanced at her swiftly. 'I'll take you ashore in the boat myself if you like. Guess I know more about dodging water police than your Chinamen.'

She caught her breath like a sick woman. It was as though his sudden proposition had frightened her.

'I—I—' she gasped.

'I don't see your objection,' he said gruffly. 'This is my schooner; I'm master here. You can accept my offer or leave it, ma'am.'

'I must ask their permission first. We are a kind of a syndicate,' she said coldly, 'and we prefer to consult each other in all things. Since my husband died on Christmas Island I've had to take his place in business matters.

She passed on deck, and there was a hurried consultation among the restless Chinamen. Half an hour later she returned to Hayes' cabin.

'Well?' He regarded her quizzingly.

'I am ready to go ashore if you will take me,' she said quietly.

Without speaking Hayes followed her on deck, and in the darkness a boat was lowered from the starboard side of the schooner. It was a calm, windless night, and the boat heaved gently as she stepped into it. Next came the sandalwood box, which was placed at the woman's feet in the boat's stern. Hayes ran his eye over the quiet harbor to where the pilot steamer lay at anchor under the lee of the South Head'. Then he softly took his place at the oars.

A white strip of beach across the dark water caught his eye. He pulled towards it leisurely, his thoughts shaping themselves swiftly as he rowed.

Bessie Hargood sat still with the sandalwood box at her feet. She did not speak or meet his glance as the boat drew near the beach. He had no intention of parting with the sandalwood box without extracting the Chinamen's share of the pearls. He felt quite willing to allow her half of the treasure; there was no need to rob her mercilessly.

'Steady ma'am,' he whispered, as the boat bumped heavily on the beach. 'I'll give you a hand with the box.'

Raising it lightly from the stern he bore it ashore, and stooped to place it on the sand. Then he glanced up as though something had touched his spine. Her right hand pointed towards him and he caught the gleam of a revolver barrel covering him wickedly.

She stood half-a-dozen paces from him, her eyes shining strangely; her mouth shut tight as a steel trap.

'Walk back to the boat, Captain Hayes. If you move a hand or turn, I'll shoot you without mercy.'

There was a peculiar softness in her voice; a tremulous courage that was without haste or hysteria. The buccaneer, without turning, walked to the boat swearing softly. She followed to the water's edge watching him narrowly.

'Push off,' she commanded, 'and if you let go the oars I'll show you how a woman can hit a buccaneer at fifty yards.'

Hayes made no reply as he pulled away from the revolver. Then he saw her stoop and vanish swiftly into the scrub.

A dozen strokes brought him ashore again, furious at being held up so simply. Leaping from the boat he blundered after her into the thick coast scrub. But Hayes was an inexperienced bushman; stones and creepers tripped him as he ran. Panting with exertion he listened and waited, but the silence of desolation was upon everything.

The overturned sandalwood box lay on the beach, the wax face of the figure [words missing]. [Hayes] stooped and examined it carefully, but the pearls had vanished.

It occurred to him now that the box had been brought ashore as a blind; it had given her an opportunity to cover him with her revolver the moment he stooped to place it on the beach.

Returning to the schooner he discovered that the Chinamen had decamped in the whale-boat, taking their valuables with them. Two days later the boat was found near Clontarf. The misadventure compelled him to put to sea before dawn to escape a marine inquiry.


TWO years afterwards, at Vanua, he received a letter from Bessie Hargood. The writing was beautifully clear:


Dear Captain Hayes,

I'm afraid we treated you rather badly. You must not forget that you bear a bad name throughout the Pacific, and we had to play possum with our pearls. If you had turned on me the night I covered you with my revolver, I would have dropped it or fainted; but you didn't.

Affectionately

Bessie Hargood.


Inside the letter were four twenty pound notes.

'Well, I'm damned!' said Hayes.


THE END


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.