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ALBERT DORRINGTON

SEA TIGERS
AN ISLAND STORY

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RGL e-Book Cover 2019©

A "BULLY" HAYES STORY


Ex Libris

Published in:
The Worker, Wagga, NSW, Australia, 21 Dec 1905

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-11-03
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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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 affairs of Captain Hayes were at a low ebb. The authorities at Noumea had compelled him, almost at the point of the bayonet, to pay a fine of $1000 for maliciously interfering with the Montmartre, a nickel ore tramp, while on her way to Sydney. Bully had boarded her under the impression that she was carrying bullion somewhere between decks. Finding nothing but loaded ore bags, he apologised briefly to the captain, and offered him his best cigar.

Once outside Noumea Harbor, Hayes tramped to and fro across his narrow poop with a certain wolfish energy that alarmed his first mate, a blue-eyed Swede, who had joined him a year before in the Carolines. With the money-chest at low ebb, Hayes was always bitter and unsociable; yet when fortune smiled he would sing a chanty in a loud, uneven voice, drink with anyone, and fling dollars to the kanakas at Erromango, or regale the hungry white beachcombers at Apia.

The Swede, standing under the poop, stared through a pair of night glasses across the dark water. Hayes leaned over the rail and watched him sourly.

'I guess if that Dutch gin ship of yours doesn't turn up we'll have to pawn the schooner at Thursday Island.'

'She must pass de Torres Light, cap'n. She must stand avay on the Flinders side ob de Three Sisters to make Espiritu Santo.'

The Swede had informed Bully a month before of the coming of the Dutch cargo tramp, loaded to her scuppers with Schiedam schnapps, bound for Espiritu Santo and all the trade islands in the South Pacific. BÍche-de-mer and American dollars may fluctuate in value, but a case of gin has a standard currency east of Thursday and Kerguelen.

Hayes was not easily tempted into committing acts of piracy, but in the matter of borrowing a cargo of schnapps or rum he was unscrupulous. He carried a white crew, mostly Boston and New Plymouth men, semi-desperadoes in their way, men with police court records who found it difficult to obtain a berth in any civilised port. When there was tough work and dollars in the air, Hayes never put his trust in kanaka crews, he preferred white men, good or bad.


ANOTHER day passed, and the following night showed them a low, wooded cape on the starboard quarter, a thin white light pierced the darkness ahead, then it vanished. Thirty seconds later, it appeared again, and lit up the ragged coast line.

'Big Barrier Light, cap'n!' shouted the Swede.

Bully lit a cigar. 'Might be a darned bonfire for all I know! You take a turn at the wheel, old man, and don't run my schooner into that graveyard on the starboard quarter.'

Bully stumbled below, yawning like a tiger released from its cage. The sound of surf reached the mate, a long booming noise that told of heavy seas plunging upon a low, flat shore. A tiny flame showed for a moment on the western horizon; it was like a coloured star at first, until it, began to roll and heave in the sea-way. The mate, staring from the narrow wheel-house, knew it for the port-light of an ocean tramp. He watched it keenly for an hour until it climbed over the horizon and bore in the schooner's direction.

Hayes came on deck rubbing his eyes.

'Show 'em a Chinese rocket, Mr. Christensen, and if they don't lay to quick and lively we'll put a twelve-pound stinkadore through their parlour window.'

The mate carried out the order smartly. One of the crew, a discharged American gunnery lieutenant, ran a small cannon for'ard and awaited orders. Hayes watched the effect of the mate's signals through his night-glass. He saw that the approaching vessel had eased off a few points and was slackening speed.

The crew stood about Hayes, eagerly awaiting the order to board her by foul or fair means.

'Now, my lads,' said Bully; 'I'm going aboard in the whaleboat. Lower her smartly, and I'll boot the man overboard who shows a bit of steel outside his shirt.'

Six men took their places silently in the newly-painted whaleboat. Bully lit a cigar, and regarded them critically.

'Well, my lads, some of you are good and some are bad. I can always see a big jail in the face of a bad man. I don't mind a bit of forgery in a man's past; I can forgive any crime but cowardice, and if there's one here to-night he'd better get out and walk. Savvy?'

'Aye, aye, cap'n.'

'Give way, my lads. I reckon this tramp we're after has got a hundred cases of square-face in her fore-hold.'

A stiff breeze was blowing from the nor'-nor'-west, and Hayes put the whaleboat round for the vessel's stern. As they drew near he scrutinized the big, dark hull that loomed ahead. Then he swore softly.

'Guess she ain't an island tramp! She's big enough lo hold a regiment of soldiers. She's a two-thousand tonner!

The vessel had hove to, and Hayes steered the whaleboat under her stern. A large head appeared over the side suddenly; a voice with a foreign accent addressed them politely:

'Are you a gunboat?'

Bully gritted his teeth. 'We're all gun,' he rapped out savagely. 'And I guess if you're a gentleman you won't keep us bumming about here on a dark squally night.'

A couple of rope ladders were passed over the side. Bully, with four of his crew, swarmed over the rail like cats. They were confronted almost immediately by a big-headed, square-shouldered Hollander, who regarded Hayes solemnly.

'Vat vos your pizness, gentlemens? I vas at your service.'

He bowed stiffly, and the flesh on his fat face rolled and trembled.

Bully's eyes wandered over the ship; in a flash he summed up the lascar crew loafing in the alleyway or squatting unconcerned near the hatches.

'What ship is this?' he demanded.

'De Frankfort from Hamburg to Sydney. We haf a cargo of pianos en machinery. Nodin' else vort mention.'

'Pig-iron and pianos! Guess I don't want any music to-night, ' thanks, Mr. What's-your-name. How much square-face do you happen to be carrying? Quick and lively now, and don't waste my time.'

The Dutch captain eyed him suspiciously. 'You vas not a man- o'-war,' he said slowly.

'My son,' Bully swung upon him menacingly; 'you'll get all the war you want in five minutes if you waste my time.'

Bully walked for'ard inquisitively, kicking a lascar sailor out of his way as he approached the hatch. Two huge square boxes stood in the centre of the deck; they were covered with tarpaulin. Hayes regarded them curiously.

The Dutch captain followed him closely. 'You moost not touch dose boxes,' he said nervously, 'or you get hurt, mein friendt.'

Bully affected surprise.

'I just want to see the kind of boodle stowed underneath the tarpaulin, Dutchy. My name is Hayes, and if you don't like it you can write a better one on my forehead if you're able. Savvy?'

He made a swift sign to his men. In a flash the big tarpaulin sheet was hauled to the deck. The next instant Bully leaped three feet in the air, his revolver in a dead line with a pair of eyeballs that flamed at him from behind the cage bars.

The Dutch captain chuckled softly, a ripple of laughter went over the ship.

Hayes did not move. 'What's the name of the beast in that cage?' he demanded.

'It vas a Bengal tiger, Captain Hayes. I vas carryin' id to de zoological beobles at Melbourne. He nearly haf you dot time.'

The big tiger watched them through the cage bars; then it crouched to the floor, emitting a tremulous snarl.

'Guess it nearly ran into my gun,' grunted Hayes. 'Hold up the lantern, please.'

One of the crew brought a light to the cage-front, while Hayes admired the brute's sleek coat and tremendous jaws. Turning to the Dutch captain he addressed him sharply:

'See here, Mister What's-your-name, I'm after gin, and you haven't any. I'm not going to loot your old ship; you're not the person we're after.'

'Vell, leafe mein ship,' growled, the Dutchman.

'In my own time, and without your assistance,' says Hayes. 'Now listen, Dutchy, and be civil, or my lads will put a shot under your water-line.'

The Dutch captain shrugged his shoulders. 'Your name vas Hayes. Dot vas enough for me. I do not vant murder on' mein' sheep to-nide.'

'I'll serve it up in two colours if you waste my time.' Bully pointed to where the schooner lay.

'Take your ship alongside my schooner, and I'll borrow your Bengal tiger. You've a good cargo derrick; you can lower the beast, cage and all, to the deck.'

'De beast vas insured. 'En' I vas' not responsible for pirates.'

'A real pirate would have hanged you first, Dutchy, and ate the tiger, stripes and all, afterwards.'

At midnight, the steamer's derrick lowered the large cage with great care on to the schooner's deck. Bully superintended the work critically, and as the derrick chain rattled back he held up his hand.

'Just pass some spare meat over, sonnies, and I'll let you go. I can't feed Mr. Bengal on sea biscuits.'


IT was a clear hot night when the schooner entered Apia harbor. Lights winked from the hills; window panes of orange and purple showed through the distant palms. Giving the lightship a wide berth, Bully swung her under the dark shelter of the wooded headland, almost touching the cannon-flanked sides of an American man-o'-war.

Hayes, in a dark uniform, leaned over the schooner's rail and hung a small light on the starboard quarter. An hour later a couple of Samoans rowed, towards the schooner and whistled softly.

'That you, Maleto?'

Hayes leaned forward and heaved the lamp aboard. One of the Samoans, a thick-set follow with large teeth, addressed Bully Hayes for ten minutes in the vernacular.

'Do not come ashore, O captain! There is a law-writ awaiting thee here in Apia. They have waited long for your coming. It is a matter of debt, O Captain! A bailiff awaits thee night and day on man-o'-war steps. Beware of the sea-bailiff, O captain! He will nail the law-writ to your mast, and defy you to leave port until the money matter has been settled. If there is no money in your locker, O captain, he will sell your schooner under the hammer.'

The Samoan sat back in the boat, and bowed his head. Bully reflected a moment, then threw him some money, and told him to depart. After the boat had gone he sat down and smoked silently.

'I guess the bailiff's name is McIvers, the big half-caste from the Solomons. He shot a white man up there in the sixties for stealing a bottle of square-face. And McIvers wants to come and nail a writ on my schooner! Guess he'd travel 20 miles on an ice-blast to sell up a blind asylum.'

Hayes sat back and laughed hoarsely. 'I reckon the firm that sooled him on to me will soon be short of a bailiff.'

It was still dark when, Hayes and the crew crowded into the whaleboat suddenly and rowed ashore. They landed silently, at man-o'-war steps, unarmed and smartly dressed. As they passed up the landing stage, a big half-caste with shining, eyes came from behind a wall and tapped Bully's shoulder.

'Good-night, cap'n! I'll trouble you to put me aboard your schooner. There's a matter of £300 to be settled before you leave Apia. I am the agent for Burke and Richards, ship chandlers and traders.'

Hayes shrugged his shoulders. 'Guess I'm not interfering with you in the execution of your duty, Mr. Mac,' he said politely. 'You can raffle the darned schooner, or give the scow away to your relations if you like.'

The bailiff grinned; his big saffron-coloured face was full of smiles. 'You had a good trip, cap'n?' he said softly.

'What you'd call fair to middling, answered Hayes thoughtfully. 'There's a valuable consignment of peanuts in the fore hold—don't eat too many—and there's a Borneo princess locked in the fore-cabin. Don't upset the perfume or spoil her temper when you climb aboard. She can hit a man with a knife at twenty paces.'

'How much cash, Cap'n?'

The sea-bailiff took out a note-book as though to make an inventory.

'Oh, we always put it in a bag and let it down with the anchor,' laughed the buccaneer.

The bailiff danced nimbly down the stops and clambered into the schooner's whaleboat.

'No you don't!' Bully leaped after, him, caught him neck and waist, and threw him ashore,

'Be a bailiff in your own canoe, Mister Mac. I don't want any half-bred vermin in my clean boat. Hoosht!'

The half-cast staggered to his feet, his white teeth bared, his black blood spinning savagely through his head. He was known throughout the islands as the craftiest fighter between Honolulu and Sydney. There was not much space on the narrow pier for in and out punching, and as the big half-caste bailiff sprang back a small broad-bladed knife showed for a moment in his half-shut fist.

'Drop it!' shouted the crowd. In a flash they were around him, but Hayes snarled them into silence.

'I'll allow him his fist and knife. Guess I'm white enough to belt hailstones out of the best nigger born of a kanaka woman.'

It has been said that Bully Hayes never turned his back on a square fight. It may be safely stated that he often ventured where professional pugilists would have sat down to consider the job. The fight began and was over in thirty seconds. Bully's square-toed boot met the half-caste's projecting shin, the knife flashed up and back twice, Hayes ducked, and send in his right with a smash on the saffron-coloured throat.

When the bailiff stood up there was a look in his eyes that one sees in the pictures of devils and half-castes. Bully regarded him good-humouredly, and then offered him a big cigar.

'Now, my son, hire a boat. You'll get one for half a dollar. Don't put yourself in a white man's place, in future.'

Five minutes later he watched the bailiff rowing slowly from Matautu Point towards the schooner lying at anchor. Hayes afterwards produced a dozen witnesses to prove that the half- caste had gone aboard of his own free will. When asked why a live tiger had been released from its cage to roam about the schooner's deck, Hayes replied that it must have broken loose after the crew had gone ashore.

A couple of native police searched the schooner thoroughly, but neither tiger nor bailiff were seen afterwards.


ONE Christmas Eve in Sydney Bully explained the mystery to a crowd of sailors at the old Black Dog Inn.

'You see, sonnies, it's this way. The tiger was a nervous beast, and when black Mac climbed over the schooner's rail he took him in, boots and all. Then about an hour after, I should say, the tiger reckoned that life wasn't worth living, and jumped overboard. You couldn't expect a highly-strung beast to set down and calmly digest a black bailiff,' 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.