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ALBERT DORRINGTON

THE KEEPER OF THE PEARLS

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A "BULLY" HAYES STORY


Ex Libris

Published in:
The Australian Town and Country Journal, 13 December 1905
(as by "Alba")
The Blue Book Magazine, October 1914
The Central Queensland Herald, Rockhampton, 5 February 1942

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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Illustration

The Blue Book Magazine, October 1914, with "The Keeper of the Pearls"


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



WONG FOO'S Island was three days east of the Navigators. Sailors who knew black-lip from golden-edge shell insisted that Foo was a born chemist, who had learned the trick of shaping pearls to his own design.

Thieves and jewel agents of sorts had visited Foo's island without profit. Yet in one year eight freak gems had left his hands for the sun of fifty thousand dollars! And each year his fame as a pearl-designer blew in loud gusts about the financially desperate men who haunt the quays of Sydney and San Francisco.

Captain William H. Hayes had just emerged from an unprofitable marine inquiry when the news of Wong Foo's latest achievement reached him.

His schooner Daphne was anchored off Dawes Point at the moment Foo's latest consignment of pearls was being shown in the windows of Meyer, Ganstein and Co., the Australian representatives of the big Hatton Garden and New York firm. The schooner had enough stores to carry her east of the Navigators, and Hayes figured out that by the time he reached Foo's trade house another parcel of gems would be ready for shipment.

"Boys," he said, stepping aboard from the dinghy, "there's a Chinaman with a head as big as a gasworks living east of Manihiki. They call him the Pearl Wizard, but between ourselves, he's just a low-down acid expert who tricks oysters into creating the right shape stones."

"Guess he isn't the first one," the mate growled from the dark of the open hold. "Knew a pearl-hatcher up in Thursday Island who tickled oysters with opium and strychnine until they delivered the goods properly. Name of Sing Lee. He had a face like a blamed tortoise, but he produced a thing they called the Eye of Cleopatra that was auctioned in Amsterdam for 17,000 dollars! Guess I never heard of your Chinaman, anyhow."

Hayes lit a cigar and peered down at the mate in the greasy hold.

"Your chow had a necklace of gunboats to decorate his interests, my son. You forget, too, that he was financed and guarded by various syndicates and gun-holders. My particular heathen depends for protection on a little brass Joss about the size of your nose. All the same, we'll get our anchor when you've sweetened ship a bit."

It was midnight when the Daphne cleared the Heads. Hayes spent the following day and many others over a big Admiralty chart that magnified ordinary island groups to the size of continents. He pin-marked and pencilled atolls and archipelago that bore no name until he had separated a particular pear-shaped speck from a cluster of sister reefs and coral pinnacles.

"We'll call it Last Chance Island," he said to the mate. "And if Foo happens to beat us at high thinking when we get him— well there isn't enough money in the locker to keep us out of gaol!"


A MOUNTAINOUS surf was running over the reef ends that gridironed the entrance to the lagoon. The atoll itself was like a huge saucer in the smother of in-breaking seas and dazzling beach sand.

The schooner raced like a frightened bird through the surf- whitened passage, Hayes gripping the wheel with the courage of his despair. The whirlwinds of water caught the schooner's keel, flinging her almost broadside on to a jagged line of submerged coral. The next moment she had responded to his swift appeal, and with a leap, that was almost human gained the still clear water of the lagoon.

The low rumble of the anchor chains brought a cloud of hawks wheeling over the schooner's yards-eager, hungry creatures, ravenously alert to seize the slightest morsel that fell from the pantry window.

The mate, standing near the rail, indicated a hut of palm logs, scarce visible through the distant jungle of lianas and terns. Ten seconds later a fat, sleepy-eyed Chinaman appeared at the door, a pair of old ship's glasses held to his eyes.

"Wong Foo, or his blamed understudy!" Hayes declared. "Looks as if we'd got him unawares!"

The Chinaman appeared to be addressing someone inside the hut. His gestures were rapid for one so heavy of movement; yet not for an instant did his face betray more than a suave curiosity at the schooner's unexpected entry into the lagoon.

The dinghy took Hayes ashore, leaving the mate and two of the crew on the beach to await his return. Strolling leisurely over the rough coral-strewn shingle, the buccaneer approached as one caressing each moment of life. What lay beyond the jungle line he could not guess; he was certain, however, that the atoll contained a dozen or more native divers armed with shell-knives and with maybe a rifle or two inside the dark woods on his left.

"I'm the head of a geological survey party," he announced briskly. "My name is Twickenham, and it pains me to record the fact, sir, that the sub-aqueous super-structure of this island is causing European diplomats much uneasiness and alarm!

"Twillicum," the Chinaman nodded pleasantly. "Welly glad to see you, sir."

"I was going to mention," Hayes went on genially, "that some of my assistants are coming ashore with shovels and picks to examine your stratas. We'll dig round your hut and inside it perhaps. One can never tell how these sub-glacial torrentiferous surfaces run," he added impressively.

A native boy, wearing a necklace of shark's teeth flitted from the rear of the hut into the dense shadow of the puraos beyond.

"Nicked!" Hayes swore softly under his breath, but without a sign of chagrin in his eyes.

"You welcome to dig up my house." the Chinaman assured him blandly. "Me welly intlested in jollogy, mistah Twillecum. You come in!"

Hayes followed into the hut with a suspicion that the native with the necklace had slipped away with the pearl hoard. The hut contained a single bunk and sleeping mats, together with an empty gin case that stood for a table. The buccaneer sniffed scornfully at the odours of stale fish and cooking that exuded from a little compound at the rear. He divined in a flash the hopelessness of his quest. To have shot the disappearing native would have been a deliberate act of murder that made no appeal to his rough nature. To acquire the pearl cache by force or cunning was his idea.

Sauntering into the open, he glanced back at the watchful Chinaman in the doorway. "I'm going to examine and report on the nature of your igneous subsoils, sir. Probably you'll tell me who the spring-heeled boy is who quitted the back door?"

The Chinaman's face was a study in sup-pressed scorn and derision. "That boy named Esanon," he grinned. "Him welly flikened of jollogists. Me no stop him run away!"

"There's one thing," Hayes declared, as he swung in the direction of the puraos, "he can't run far on this coop of an island, I'll get the beggar before sunset if he doesn't get me!"


THE thin belt of puraos screened the atoll from the south- eastern trade. The waters of the lagoon gleamed turquoise in the noon sun glare. The tide was racing out through the narrow entrance, revealing the naked sandbars and ridges of coral. Descending a narrow track that led to a basin like hollow on the right, Hayes came suddenly upon a strongly built, palm thatched trade house in the centre. At a glance he saw that the doors had been shut to prevent a too sudden entry. He scratched his head doubtfully.

"Johnny Shark necklace being in there," he muttered, "he isn't likely to come out unless I perpetrate a sudden conflagration. And a fire risk isn't good business when the pearls ain't insured!"

Strolling round the trade-house out of gunshot, Hayes became suddenly aware of a shark-tooth necklace moving delicately through the scrub on his right. Without sound the buccaneer had crossed the boulder-packed space, and in the turn of the track found himself eye to eye with the boy Esanon. Slowly, deliberately, the buccaneer covered him with his big navy revolver.

"Esanon," he said sorrowfully, "I want eight or nine little geological specimens you're carrying. I guess you know the meaning of this lump of steel in my hand?"

Esanon trembled violently, his brown hands thrust out as though to shield his face from a bullet. Hayes stepped nearer until the barrel of his weapon touched the boy's cheek.

"You took some pearls from your matter's hut just now. Where are they?"

Esanon sank to his knee, his fingers seeking to touch the white captain's feet. "They kill me if I speak of the oonati (pearls)." He indicated the trade house in the hollow. 'They are strong men and they have knives and guns, too, O Captain, I cannot speak here."

"Have you got the pearls?"

"I will tell where they are, O captain, but Esanon must go from the island to your ship. You must wait till the dark comes," he whispered in the vernacular, "or they will kill us both if we stay here—"

Something in the boy's horror stricken eyes warned Hayes of some instant peril.

Seizing Esanon's trembling wrist he re-turned swiftly to where the mate stood waiting by the dinghy.

"I will tell where they are, O captain, enough water to float the schooner. Without a word to the wide eyed expectant crew, Hayes led the quaking Esanon to his cabin and pushed him inside.

"You tell me all about it, my boy." Hayes spoke softly now, for he saw that Esanon could put the game in his hands if he chose. "How many pearls are there, and who's holding 'em at the present moment?

Esanon held up his right hand and one finger of his left. "Six little ones, O captain, and a seventh that is like jariski (the star of morning). It is the colour of milk and blood, and it is shaped like the dove that is painted in the mission house at Ponape."

"Another freak gem!" Hayes growled. Then, in a kindlier voice: "Who holds it, Esanon?"

The boy's frightened glance went to the open porthole for a moment before answering. "The blue shark has it now," he said with an effort. "It will not come back to this inside water until your ship has gone!"

Hayes almost glared at the boy.

"See here, Esanon," he snapped, "none of your witch doctor talk! Speak plain; there is a bullet in my gun for every little lie you tell!"

Esanon put out his hands desperately, while a shadow of terror crossed his shifting eyes.

"It is Wong Foo's shark, O captain, the big man-eater with the hammer nose. It comes into this lu-gan (lagoon) for the rich food my master gives it, once, twice, three times a month. Like the hungry pig, it has learned to come and go from its feeding place, O captain."

Hayes sat on the locker wiping the big drops from his brow. "But the pearls, Esanon," be demanded. "What has this hammer- nosed shark got to do with 'em?"

"The master, Wong Foo, is very wise, O captain. Many thieves and bad man come here to steal his pearls. No place is safe to hide them. One time he kept pigeons, and when the papalagi came in their ships to steal and rob, the master tied his pearls in silk to the pigeons' feet and let them go."

"Phew!" Hayes muttered. "That's the limit!"

"But the hawks and carrion birds killed the pigeons sometimes," Esanon went on. "And my master lost many pearls that fell into the sea. So he became very wise and made friends with the big man-eater shark," he added quickly.

"How does a man make friends with a man-eating shark, Esanon?" the buccaneer inquired with a touch of sarcasm. "I guess you can't fool me all the time!"

"The shark is like the pig," the boy insisted stubbornly. "It soon learns where it is being fed very regular. When the master ties a Tanna boy to the post that is driven deep far out in the lu-gan, the shark knows!"

Hayes caught his breath fiercely. "Does the master tie up people to a post in the lagoon, Esanon?"

"Only when he wishes the hammer-head to come into the lu- gan," the boy answered innocently. "Then the master keeps the shark in by placing logs across the naru-tal (passage). The hammer-head cannot go out until the logs are taken away, O captain."

"But what's the use of the beast when you have him inside the lagoon?" Hayes flung out, his face congested in fury and disappointment, for he suspected that the boy was merely beating time to allow his master some way of escape from the atoll. "The tide runs out and leaves your man-eater floundering in the mud. Where's the sense, I ask?"

Esanon clasped his hands and made signs in token of his own honesty and good faith. "The master is not afraid of the hammer- head, O captain. After the tide has gone out and it lies in the deep mud he fastens a ning-gar (copper wire) round the body where it grows narrow at the vani (tail). The master has the pearl divers, Amati, Oke and Sunda, to help him."

"No lies!" the buccaneer declared hoarsely, his big hand resting almost threateningly on the boy's shoulder, "or by the gods of your people I'll nail you little brown ears over my cabin door. Now tell me what it is that's fastened to the copper wire?"

"A metal tube!" Esanon chattered, his eyes bulging at the threat. "The pearls are kept inside."

"And you tell me," Hayes almost snarled, "that your master lets that hammerhead go out to sea with a blamed metal box fastened to it!"

"I have see it with my eyes!" Esanon quavered.

"And the master gets it into the lagoon again by offering it a live boy or man! Is that the yarn?"

Again Esanon assured him that it was so.

"This morning at sky-break, he added in a whisper, "my master's canoe, with Amati steering, saw your ship very far away, three, four, five hours before you entered the naru-ta (passage). It was low tide, and the hammerhead was in the mud and sand at the far end of the lu-gan. It was then the master became afraid that you were some wicked papalagi come to steal the six pearls and the Star of Morning he had prepared for the German buyers. The divers held fast to the hammerhead with sinnet ropes while the master fastened the wire and tube very tight."

Hayes decided in a flash that the boy was lying. Controlling his anger he shook him by the shoulder roughly. And the hammer- head went out to sea with the pearls this morning, an hour or so before I came into the lagoon! Do you swear by that?"

Esanon crossed his breast, while his eyes showed signs of tears and reproach. "The captain can bring in the hammerhead to- night at full tide. He has only to do what the master does. I have spoken the truth!"


IT was quite dark when Hayes locked the cabin door, leaving Esanon inside. Going on the schooner's deck he called softly to the mate to lower the whaleboat. "Bring some rifles and a rope!" he added hoarsely. "We're going to interview Wong Foo."

A few minutes later the whaleboat, with six new Plymouth men at the oars, hit the shingles a few cables' length from the trade house in the hollow. A heavy surf was run-ring on the outer reefs, yet scarcely a breath of air moved the line of stiff- crested palms in the south.

A single lamp burned in the trade-house. Followed by the mate and four of the boat hands, Hayes approached and rapped softly at the heavy teak door.

A slight stir inside followed, and then the voice of Wong Foo.

"What you want, Twillecum?" he demanded sleepily. "Me got nothin' for you heah!"

"I've got a barrel of tar and a firestick if you don't open the door, Foo. Quick and lively now!"

There was a pattering of sandalled feet on the floor inside. The Chinaman's shadow slanted across the blinds for a moment before the door bolts were drawn. Hayes waited until the big yellow face appeared in the dimly-lit entrance before speaking.

"You are coming in our boat, Foo," he announced gently. "Make a fuss and you'll eat a bullet for every boy you fed old hammerhead with!"

The Chinaman's slant eyes glinted, while his huge frame seemed to palpitate with fury.

"My boy Esanon tell you one lie!" he rasped. "You come here an' say you one jolligist. Now you wantee my pearl. You no bluff me, Twillecum!" he added, defiantly.

"I'm going to see if there's truth in Esanon's shark story, Foo! And those black divers of yours can show up now if they feel entitled to a scrap, savvy!"

A sudden scurrying of feet within the tradehouse followed the buccaneer's statement. A moment later the door was slammed violently and bolted.

"Sounds as if fighting wasn't in their line!" Hayes commented jeeringly as he thrust the struggling Chinaman forward in the direction of the boat.

Rowing steadily across the lagoon the boat collided suddenly with a high post that stood gibbet-like in the swirling waters. Hayes gripped it with the boat-hook, while the mate made fast with the painter.

Wong Foo squirmed in his seat, the sweat of terror illumining his heavy features. The buccaneer observed him narrowly, a cigar flattened between his teeth.

"How many boys did you tie up to this post, Foo?" he inquired suavely. "The truth is going to help you some; a lie will only hurry the funeral. Speak up!"

The Chinaman humped his shoulders sullenly, then looked into the faces of the men beside him and shook his head. "Esanon make a fool of you!" he rasped. "I no tie li'lle boy up to post. No fear!"

Hayes considered a moment, then whispered to the mate. Without haste or violence the Chinaman was stretched in the thwarts, his arms and legs securely roped. With some difficulty he was heaved into the warm waters of the lagoon while deft hands gripped and lashed him to the upright stake.

The water rose slowly about the Chinaman's waist as the whaleboat drew off. It came with a crisp bubbling flow full of its own voice and the bitter taste of the ever-lasting outer seas. Foo's Mongolian eyes became rooted in their stare. Not once in the slow passing minutes did his glance lift a millrace through the lagoon passage.

Once or twice in the long night his head fell forward as though listening to the thunderbolts of surf on the far-off atolls. Then his glance went out to a white wedge of phosphorescence that appeared like a lantern flash at the mouth of the channel.

A soft, indistinct word escaped him. For an instant he fought with maniac strength to free his wrists and ankles from the post, only to drive the lashings deeper into his soft flesh. Then from the darkness of the distant reefs a voice boomed across the water.

"Look out, Foo! Keep your chin up!"

The Chinaman's glance went out again to the white wedge of light trailing indolently in the blue underflow. It cut here and there with the precision of a torpedo scout, its huge length remaining inert as it gained the lagoon centre, as though the Chinamen's shadow had disconcerted It. Swerving it flashed nearer, and again stopped a fathom length from the pig tailed head with the bulging eyes.

The whaleboat shot suddenly across the trail of phosphorus. Hayes grunted softly as the barrel of his Winchester slanted into view. The wedge of phosphorus receded, and then with incredible swiftness turned and shot with open jaws at the wide-eyed Celestial.

Hayes fired twice in quick succession as the grey-bellied monster flashed by. A sudden silence followed, and then a terrific threshing of water where the hammerhead shark gyrated to the surface. Ten seconds later it was floating idly within a few feet of the post.

Driving the boat-hook into its still throbbing flesh, they towed and beached the huge carcase with the craft of fishermen. In the half light Hayes discerned a band of copper wire attached to its tapering length. His knife slashed it loose, and with a grunt of satisfaction broke away a small metal cylinder fastened to a finger ring at the end.

"Leave Foo where he is!" Hayes commanded, the cylinder held tight in his palm. "The kanaka divers will fetch him at day break. I want to get aboard my schooner and apologise for calling little Esanon a liar!"

Esanon was brought on deck and stood before Hayes, a look of expectation sharpening his clear cut features. His lips twitched strangely at sight of the metal tube.

"See here, sonny!" the buccaneer began, with a hearty laugh. "Everything's turned out as you said. The only thing that puzzles me is how to open the box. It's sealed up both ends, and I don't want it rough handled for many years. Can you open it?"

Esanon took the cylinder, examined it by the binnacle light, and then with a sudden twist in the centre opened it. Six grains of Indian corn trickled into the buccaneer's waiting palm!

A snarl of rage and disgust filled the schooner. The mate caught the boy in a savage grip and bore him to the rail.

"You're part of the whole blamed fraud!" he thundered. "You lying little beast!"

Raising him in a baresark grip the mate flung him over the rail. Esanon struck the water with his feet, rose swiftly, and looked back at the angry faces peering at him from the schooner's side. A moment later he ducked to avoid impact with the metal cylinder flung at his head by the mortified Hayes.

"I'd give the little beggar a bullet only I'm not sure whether he's a fraud or not! The buccaneer walked aft wiping his perspiring brow.

Esanon rose to the surface, drew breath warily, and dived. Thirty seconds later he re-appeared a few yards from the beach, the metal cylinder clutched in his fingers. Crawling to the shelter of the puraos he sat down and drew a verdigris-covered pin from the false bottom of the cylinder.

A single pearl of matchless orient and shape fell into his palm. There were no others.


AT dawn the schooner made for the reef entrance, Hayes at the wheel. His scowling eye turned for a moment from his survey of the whitening breakers outside to a plug-shaped object squatting on a reef and a cable's length ahead.

"It's Esanon!" he called out to the mate. "What's he after?"

Esanon stood up suddenly, his arms flung out in a last appeal. "You no leave me here, O captain! My master who deceived me will kill me when you are gone!"

Hayes swore under his breath.

"What do you want?" he bellowed. "I can't waste my life in the blighted hole!"

Esanon spread out his hands in frantic haste as the schooner moved to the passage. "My mother lives at Honolulu, O captain. It you take me to Latanga, in the Navigators, I may get there by another ship. I am a sailor and a very good cook. And there is my mother!"

Hayes turned a scowling face to the mate standing near the cuddy door.

"Get the dinghy. We can do with a blamed cook. And I guess his old hay-bag of a mother will be glad to see him!"

She was.


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.