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ALBERT DORRINGTON

THE CHINESE CAT

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RGL e-Book Cover 2019

A "BULLY" HAYES STORY


Ex Libris

As published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, Sydney, 12 December 1906

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-08-16
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



CAPTAIN HAYES was loafing on the verandah of the Sourabaya Hotel, an unlit cigar in his mouth. A cable of black smoke lifted across the Straits; later, a bull-headed cargo tramp staggered across the sea-line, steering a southeast course for the island. Her sides were brown and rust-eaten where sun and sea had scoured the naked iron. She hooted her way from buoy to lightship, like a thing in dread of reefs and oyster banks.

The sudden clatter of her anchor chains startled Hayes.

"Looks as though the sea had punched her ugly nose," he muttered. "Rides like a sick man, steers like the drunken end of an iceberg. Guess she is in for a grease up."

Bully Hayes was not an inquisitive man. In sober moments he desired peace and quietness, with an occasional song and a well- vamped piano accompaniment. But the sight of a strange ship coming in from an unknown sea acted like magic on him. He watched her narrowly through his glasses for several minutes.

Shellers, black, brown, and white passed the hotel verandah. Each nodded a good day to the man who had made his name a terror from the Marquesas to the Marshalls.

"Big tramp out der, Cap'n Hayes," shouted a passing Dutchman. "She vas down from Rangoon, I hears. She haf no cargo, anyvays."

"She can load here with alligators and drunks," grinned Bully. "I'd like to fill her with pearl, and pawn her in Batavia. Bit uncanny," he added, "to see a big beast like her moving from sea to sea without a cargo. Maybe she's loaded with emigrants for Queensland."

Hayes lit his cigar, and watched a boat put off from the tramp to the island pier. Half an hour later her fat, red-faced skipper plunged along the Jetty, the roll of the sea in his gait, his eyes wandering from the sun-smitten beach to the hotel verandah. Halting at the pier-head, he addressed a beachcomber loafing near the rail.

"Seaman by the name of Hayes I'm after," he said, huskily. "Friend of mine; reckoned I'd find him at Thursday."

"He's up on the pub verandah," answered the beachcomber, lazily, "a-drinkin' of beer an' eatin' of Manila cheroots. Don't speak too loud when you shakes his 'and, Cap'n," advised the beachcomber.

"Aye, aye, sonny." The skipper of the tramp passed towards the hotel, and saluted Hayes deferentially.

"Cap'n James Hayes, I believe," he began slowly.

"Guess if my name was on a 10,000-dollar cheque just now, it wouldn't be worth much," laughed Bully. He stooped and shook hands genially with the little fat captain. "Hope you're not after my scalp," he said gently.

"My name's Clint," explained the other, huskily. "Come out of my way to deliver a parcel to you, consigned by a gentleman named Jim Lee of Chinese habits, living at a one-elephant seaport in the Bay of Bengal. Here's his letter, I'll moisten up while you read it."

Hayes took the letter mechanically. "Better drink with me, Captain Clint," he said hastily. "Guess you're thirst has a head on it if you're in from the Bay of Bengal. What's the Chow sent me in the package?" he asked, curiously.

Captain Clint wiped his hot face and grinned. "I ought to have told you at first that it was a live black cat, Cap'n Hayes. I was paid handsomely to deliver it to you at Thursday Island. If I missed you, I was to carry it to a person named Sam Lee, at Sydney."

"A black cat!" Hayes turned swiftly, a sneer on his lips. "I guess India isn't big enough to shelter a Chow who plays live cats on my wicket." He opened the Chinaman's letter morosely, and spelt through the crooked writing:


My der friend Bully Hayes,

I want you to do me one kind favour. Cheque inside letter for 200, payable to you In Sydney. You deliver my poor cat to my brother Sam, who is well known in Sydney. You will ask why I trouble to send one dam cat so far. Very easy explain. Me too sick to travel much these times. Cat belong to my dear mother in Hongkong, She die little while ago, and ask me to send cat to my brother in Sydney. You kindly deliver cat, Bully. I know you long time in Samoa. Hope you very well.

Jim Lee, Hydrapore.


Hayes scrutinised the cheque closely, and buttoned his white coat.

"I ought to tell you," he said to the waiting Clint, "that Jim Lee is an old friend of mine. Saved his bacon one night in Samoa when a black policeman was throttling him under the pier. By way of gratitude he pays me 200 to carry an old black cat to his brother in Sydney. Well"— Hayes laughed sharply— "I've carried pigs before today."

"I'll take receipt of delivery and the aforementioned drinks," said Clint. "Then I'll move back to Batavia."


HAYES' 150-ton schooner was rubbing her sea-worn shoulders against the pier. Four Kanakas and the mate (Bill Howe) were loafing uncertainly about the dock. For some weeks past business had been quiet with Bully, and since his last dispute with the authorities at Noumea had ended in a bayonet thrust that hurt him badly—he had fired upon a white-helmeted surveillant, at the Quai de la Transportation—he had decided to live the life of a respectable trader in future.

A Manila boy walked down the jetty, carrying a small cage on his shoulder. Calling to Hayes' mate he handed it aboard the schooner carefully.

Bill Howe glared at the ticket nailed to the cage, and then at the black moon-eyed cat asleep Inside.

"Always thought Bully was a bit daft," he said, sourly. "He'll be shipping cargoes of white rats next."


Illustration

"Always thought Bully was a bit daft," he said, sourly.


"Hold your tongue, Mr. Howe."

Hayes stepped aboard half-stealthily, and the loafing kanakas bounded from his treacherous boot ends. "I'd carry a consignment of wild dogs and emus, If it paid," he said to the sulking mate. "Business up here is dead, anyhow. We'll clear for Sydney as soon as my white shirts come aboard. Seems to me, Bill," he added, looking hard at the mate, "that white shirts don't blow on your line these times."

The listening Kanakas broke into loud laughter. Hayes turned swiftly, and spat away his cigar.

"Pass a hose over the deck, you skulking man-eaters, and keep a dry space round that cat, d'ye hear?" As the water swished over the deck he watched them closely. "If I hear the cat sneeze through getting its feet wet, I'll sew a cargo of buttons down your ugly backs," he shouted.

Night found the schooner running towards the outside reefs before a stiff nor'-easter. Hayes, with a bottle of square-face beside him, was brooding over a chart in his cabin.

The mate peeped in at the door, hurriedly; Ms face was deadly pale, his knees trembled violently. "Cap'n," he whispered, "there's somethin' movin' about the schooner, somethin' with a heye that looks clean through ye. It's the heye of a ghost, cap'n."

Hayes looked up from the chart quickly, and frowned. "Get on with your work, my lad, and don't fill the schooner with ghost yarns, or those Kanakas of mine will be jumping overboard. Try an onion before you turn in. It will keep the ghost at a distance."

"Cap'n," quavered the mate, "there's a heye sittin' on the schooner's rail; a white heye with a face behind it."

Pushing the mate aside, Bully stepped on deck, and halted stiffly. Then he crouched low, while his hair stiffened, and his throat grow dry as a sand-pit.

A squat shape was clinging to the schooner's rail. It's face was lit up by a moon-like nimbus, that glowed alternately, emitting yolks of amber flame. Hayes lifted his pistol hand as the thing snarled, and leaped across the deck.

"The Chinese cat!" he snapped. "How did it get out?" He wiped the sweat from his brow hurriedly. "How—"

A Kanaka sprang in the air suddenly, and bolted screaming below. Hayes knelt on the deck, his pistol half raised, and waited. He was not a superstitious man, but the sight of the cat, with the burning face, almost unnerved him.

"Don't want any jadoo cats on my schooner," he said, savagely. "I guess the whisky I drink will supply me with all the faces I want to see."


THE cat was not seen again that night, but the following day Hayes came upon it sleeping under a piece of tarpaulin near the pantry. He regarded it curiously, and called the mate. The strange, flat head rested with tigerish stealth on its near forepaw, its long, silken hair glinted in the sun-rays. Hayes bent nearer to examine, the hidden claws in the heavily-padded foot, and it awoke suddenly, and blinked feebly at the buccaneer.

"Guess it's only a common tabby after all," he laughed. "We'll let the brute rip. There are one or two old men rats below that want eating out. Poor old puss!" He stooped to stroke its silken back gently. In a flash its claws shot out— a tiny blood mark stayed on his hand.

"T'sh!" He wiped it uneasily. "I'd sooner be bitten by a snake than bled by a cat," he snapped.

Few men would have cared to call Hayes a coward, but if his South Sea enemies could have watched him on his trip to Sydney, shivering by night at sight of the fiery face that watched him from the yards, his reputation as a man-fighter and buccaneer would have suffered considerably.

But Hayes brought the schooner into Port Jackson in holiday style. The cat had been captured and caged after days of endless watching and finesse. It was a still sultry night as they entered the Heads. An occasional fishing boat swung past the schooner, as she edged to her old moorings at Dawes Point.

Hayes was eager to be rid of his feline passenger, and he promised himself a new outfit as soon as Jim Lee's cheque had been cashed.

"You'd better take puss ashore in the dinghy, Mr. Howe," he said to the mate. "Anyone will show you Sam's shop. Don't drop the derned animal overboard, or something might happen at the bank, when I'm cashing the cheque."

"Aye, aye, cap'n." Holding the cage at arm's length, the mate stepped into the dinghy, and pulled swiftly towards the Quay. Hayes gave a grunt of relief as the boat vanished in the maze of light and moving craft.

At that time the police had no specific charge against him, and he whistled cheerfully as he leaned over the rail, and counted the steeple-like masts silhouetted against the sky.

A small boat shot alongside suddenly, and the voice of an old Queensland trader hailed him from the port side.

"Good-night, Captain Hayes! Anybody aboard?"

Bully peered into the darkness, and saw a sharp-faced man in white duck clothes looking up at him. There was no one else in the boat.

"Hulloa, Hanks! Met you in Bundaberg, didn't I? H'm, your face comes back like a dream full of sugarcane and Kanakas. How's the missus and kids, Hanks?"

"Well enough, Bully. I'm glad you're here," answered Hanks unsteadily. "Been keeping a sharp look-out for you the last week."

"Your face is sharp enough to wear the edge off a lightning conductor," laughed Bully. "Don't worry over your debts, man. Brighten up, and be friends with the bailiff."

Hanks waved a hand Impatiently. "No time to Joke, Hayes. Is the cat all right? I got the tip from Calcutta."

"Ah!" Bully, leaned with studied elegance against the schooner rail. "You got the tip, eh? What might the tip be, Mr. Hanks?" he asked carelessly.

Hanks placed his hand against the schooner's side, and breathed excitedly. "Hayes," his voice was a sharp whisper now, "It's the biggest thing that ever jumped from a Chinaman's brain. The Calcutta native papers blew the gaff two months ago. I heard the news from a Lascar seaman on the P. and O. wharf. There isn't a man in India or Australia besides Jim Lee who knows a word about the cat." Hanks glanced appealingly to Hayes. "Before I say more, tell me if the cat is all right."

"Look here, my son," said Bully, sharply. "Don't come catting me on a dark night. I'm as nasty as the business end of a pig boat. Speak out and don't wear the paint off my clean schooner, sir."

"Is the cat aboard, Cap'n?"

"No; I sent it to its owner an hour ago."

"Yah!" The man in the boat sat back gritting with rage. "Another chance gone."

"Speak out!" thundered Hayes. "What are you jabbering over?"

The man in the boat was seized with a violent fit of coughing. A minute passed, then he sat up, his eyes shining like points of fire.

"Indian native papers reported in June this year the theft of the White Mogul diamond from the temple at Hydrapore by a Chinaman named Jim Lee, late of Sydney and Samoa," began Hanks.

"Fire away," said Hayes sullenly. "Didn't think Jim was smart enough to steal a dead prawn."

"He was arrested," continued Hanks, "but there was no evidence to convict him, and he was released. A dose watch was kept on his movements day and night. He lived in a hut under the fort gate on the Surimpur-road, within a stone's throw of the temple. He had no relatives in India, no friends— nothing but that one- eyed Chinese oat."

"Two-eyed cat," corrected Hayes. "Stick to facts, Hanks!" he said, harshly.

"One eye, Cap'n, as you shall hear," continued Hanks. "Jim Lee, as you know, made a living stuffing birds and animals, and a clever worker he was at the game. The big diamond went missing from the temple on June 20, but the priests kept the news dark for five days, hoping to trap the Chinaman when he attempted to pass the jewel on. No one had seen him enter the temple, but he might have got in disguised as a low-caste Jat or Jain. A priest had been stabbed on the night of the robbery, but before dying he had scrawled a half-decipherable message on the temple wall, which pointed to the Chinaman as being the thief. Where had he hidden it? The priests visited him at night, tied him to the floor, and fire-spitted him, but he shut his mouth, and bore it without a squeal. After that they watched him like dogs, ready to strangle him the moment he attempted to pass on the White Mogul diamond by hand or post. And the Indian guide books value that bit of glass at something like 50,000, Cap'n Hayes."

"The cat, the cat!" grunted Bully, impatiently. "Spit it out, or shut up."

Illustration

"There was no chance of the Chow sneaking out of India alive with the stone," continued Hanks. "Transmission by letter or friend was out of the question. The priests had him set night and day. The fakirs in the bazaars knew him for a temple breaker. Everyone in Hydrapore watched and waited. It takes a Hindu to deal with a Chow; but they get left some times.

"One night Jim Lee strolled down to the wharf where Captain Clint's vessel was loading cargo for Batavia. He knew Clint slightly, and, as he stepped aboard, it was noticed by the native who followed him, that a black cat ran beside him, and stayed aboard. Clint passed the animal to you at Thursday. You know the rest," said Hanks quickly.

"Guess I don't!" snapped Hayes peevishly. "Where is the diamond? And what had the cat to do with it anyhow?"

Hanks pressed his brow with both hand's as though his thoughts were beginning to swim and dance through his head.

"Great Scott!" he shouted hoarsely. "I mistook you for a needle-pointed buccaneer. Hayes, Hayes," he said wearily, "why did you let the cat leave this schooner? The Chinaman Jim Lee coated the big diamond with cat's-eye enamel, and set it with the skill of a specialist into the cat's empty socket—just as you'd set an ordinary bit of glass into the head of a man or woman. Then he passed pussy on from one friend to another. See!"

Hayes made no answer. In a flash he was beside Hanks in the boat, his revolver bulging from his breast pocket. "Pull," he said fiercely; "we'll have another peep at the Chinese cat."


AFTERWARDS Hayes only remembered the rush of water as the boat sped to the landing steps. All his life he had fought and connived to grip fortune by the heel, only to discover that a bigger brained man was needed. More often than not he was the tool of unscrupulous traders, Chinamen, Island chiefs, and lying Germans. They used him, as he had learned to use others, for their own profit and convenience.

"For Heaven's sake, Hayes, don't make a scene in the streets of Sydney," gasped Hanks. "If the cat is in the Chinaman's house you can easily get it."

"But Sam Lee will know all about the diamond," snarled Bully.

"Not yet. The Chow in India would hardly blather the thing through the post when it might get read by sharp-eyed babus. But it won't be long arriving, you bet!"

Both men turned from well-lit street into a side lane. A drunken larrikin was singing with his back in the doorway of a Chinaman's shop The door was closed. Hayes looked at the name written over the window, and nodded to his companion.

"The shop," he said quietly, and knocked at the door. It was opened almost instantly by an 18-stone Chinaman, who grinned affably at the two white men.

"Good evening, Sam Lee," began Hayes. "How are the police treating you lately?"

The Chinaman wagged his head with sudden despondence. "Things welly quiet; nothing do anywhere. Wha' you want?" he asked politely.

"Fact is," said Hayes, "I sent my mate here with a black cat about two hours ago. I'm a bit anxious about him. Drinks like a fish. I s'pose—" Bully looked hard at the Chinaman. "I s'pose he delivered your cat all right?"

The Chinaman raised his head suddenly; his dull eyes sparkled. "Sailor man bring welly ni' cat to me from my blother Jim. Me welly fond of ni' cat," he said.

"One of the loveliest cats I ever saw!" cried Bully enthusiastically. "Skin as soft as a peach, eyes like a girl's. I hope," he said in a loud pleasant voice, "I hope you ain't going to lose it."

The Chinaman remained rigid in the doorway, smileless as an image. A faint light came into his dozing eyes. "Cat run into back yard lille while ago. Me feed him all li'; him come back again bymby. Goo' ni!" Nodding absently, he closed the door softly.

Hayes almost bounded into the back lane, revolver in hand. It was a noisome rear entrance, overhung with rickety bedroom verandahs and littered with ash tubs. Turning sharply, Hayes looked up and held his breath. Perched on the wall above was the cat, its big black body nestling close to the wall.

"If it falls inside the Chow's yard we can smash open the gate."

Hayes, with a buccaneer's prayer on his lips, fired.

The black-whiskered face snarled at him for a moment, and clung like a limpet to the wall. At the second shot it pitched down almost at his feet. He stooped, glanced swiftly at its moon- shaped face, and dropped it.

"Gone!" cried his companion bitterly. "Gone, gone!"

A light appeared suddenly at the back window; the face of the Chinaman showed through the blind. Hayes picked up the black cat and flung it with terrific force through the window.


Illustration

Hayes flung the black cat with terrific force through the window.


Hayes remained silent for a moment. "Up to me to get licked this time," he said, hoarsely. "The Chows were always a bit too big in the head for me."

Both men heard the sound of door bolts being shot home, and swift upon it the loud laugh of a Chinaman.


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.