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ALBERT DORRINGTON

THE PRAYING WHEEL

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2019

A "BULLY" HAYES STORY


Ex Libris

Published in:
The Passing Show, 13 June 1936
The Sydney Mail, 2 December 1936

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-11-07
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author


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



HIGH tide with a mountainous surf plunging over the outer reefs of Vanua Island. A tradehouse stood on the cleared rim of the lagoon beach which fronted the open Pacific. A seaman in a white canvas suit sprawled in a chair on the verandah end. Occasionally he rose and stared through a pair of binoculars at a tiny rag of sail that staggered over the knife-edge of skyline. Dimly he made out the lines of a shrouded figure at the helm. In the forepart a woman crouched, her face towards the palm-dotted islands in the south.

The sailor in the canvas suit whistled softly, wondering what mischance had driven the pair to venture alone on the open Pacific.

Later, when the sun-warped boat entered the lagoon, he moved to the strip of beach to welcome his foolhardy visitors. The boat crashed high and dry into the soft warm sand. The woman in the forepart clambered ashore, the mists of the ocean solitudes in her half-fainting eyes. With the feel of hard coral under her dainty feet, she steadied herself as the big man in white canvas confronted her.

'We're sorry to invade your territory, sir,' she began with painful deliberation, her glance wandering from his powerful frame to the wide-verandahed tradehouse within the pandanus belt. 'My name is Branscombe. My husband ran a store in Levuka until calamity overtook us.'

The shrewd eyes of the big man in white went over her and settled on the half-shrouded figure seated in the stern of the boat. A pair of dark sun-glasses protected his eyes from the intolerable glare of the reefs. He was not more than twenty. The vestments he wore belonged to a Chinese religious fraternity, a Buddhist monk in all probability. A torn mariner's chart lay at his feet. It was evident that the brief passage through the reef had unnerved him.

'Why didn't you make Dine Island instead of coming here?' the big seaman questioned. 'It's two days nearer Levuka. I wouldn't trust myself on a duck pond in that shell of yours.'

It was two years since he had looked at the face of a white woman. The very sound of her voice invested his sea-girt atoll with a new sense of homeliness and charm. He had never heard of the Branscombes at Levuka.

Then his fine eyes narrowed suddenly. 'I may tell you, Mrs. Branscombe, that you've called on a particular kind of ruffian an' outlaw. My name is Hayes—Bully Hayes, if you like. My only visitors are the foreign gunboats. And I'm wondering why you came?'


SHE was young, with a touch of fire in her wind-lashed hair. The scour of the driving seas was on her finely cut clothes. Overwhelmed by a sense of her own misfortunes, she appeared not to notice the big man's reference to his character and standing.

'I have come to beg your help, Captain Hayes. Last month my husband and eight natives perished in his schooner off Hurricane Point. Everything went with them—money, stores, and cargo. Nothing was insured. The tradehouse was in debt. I was left penniless.'

She paced the narrow strip of beach in an agony of doubt and uncertainty. The buccaneer's stiff bearing relaxed, although his restless eyes wandered again to the shrouded figure seated in the stern of the boat.

She followed his bleak questioning stare and hastened to explain.

'That is Doctor Lin Toy, my husband's dearest friend. He is a student of philosophy from the University of Peking.'

'Proud to meet him,' Hayes declared with sudden warmth. 'He's welcome to stretch his legs here, anyway.'

He beckoned the silent figure in the boat.

'Come, along, Doc, I guess you're feeling cramped after your long trip!'

Doctor Lin Toy stood up and with an effort that revealed his weariness of body clambered from the boat. Stooping to the thwarts, he dragged a piece of tattered sail from a churn-shaped object and with difficulty hauled it to the beach. The buccaneer watched critically.

'One of those machines you make cheese with, eh, Doc?'

Lin Toy straightened his shoulders, a wan smile on his sea- burnt face. 'It is a praying-wheel I rescued from a fire in our little temple in Levuka. If fortune favours I intend offering it to one of our chief priests in Sydney. It belonged originally to the Buddhist shrine at the Yamen Gate, Hankow. It will be treasured by my countrymen in Sydney.'

'Sure it will,' the buccaneer agreed as he led the way to the house. 'But I'm game to bet, Doc, that a bit of roast chicken and pork will make you feel chippier than all the praying-wheels from here to Hullabulloo.'


HAYES was not without imagination. He knew what this boy student had endured during his three days' vigil at the helm of his frail craft, days of burning sun and drenching nights, with the shadows of man-eating sharks plunging and gliding under the keel of the boat. His square-rigged brig, Leonora, was visible from the northern end of the tradehouse verandah.

He paused only a moment to scan her as she rolled in the wash from the incoming tide. The lagoon was shut in from the ocean breakers by glittering walls of coral. Flocks of surf-birds planed over the vessel's yards. One or two figures were visible in her waist. The sound of a sea-chanty drifted across the lagoon.

Hayes beamed contentedly.

'Those boys of mine are the happiest in the 'pelago,' he told his visitors. 'They're diving for shell just now. Pearl is fetching big prices in Sydney.'

Mrs. Branscombe stared longingly at the brig's snow-white deck, the neatly stowed top hamper that needed only a brief trimming to put her in seagoing shape. Inside the spacious dining-room of the tradehouse there was rest and comfort for the two weary voyagers.

It was not the first time that Bully Hayes had proved himself a better host than a man-killer. Under his roof a woman was as safe as a cloistered nun. Roast chicken and soup, bread, and wine appeared at the second clapping of his hands. His Chinese cook, Jim Ling, was the best in the islands. The two visitors ate like famished penguins, while Hayes drank in the shimmering loveliness of the bent head of his lady visitor. Blondes were as rare as amethysts among South Sea beauties. Brunettes, he told himself, were as plentiful as coconuts and just as hard.

'It's good to be alive!' he exclaimed genially. 'I've ate here alone for a hundred nights with only my ugly shadow on the wall!'


THE pensive eyes of Mrs. Branscombe went through him. She knew he had killed men and laid islands waste when the grim beast of plunder took possession of him. Yet never in her life had she felt more secure than when he raised his wineglass to toast and pay homage in her hour of misfortune.

After the meal Doctor Lin Toy drew a sheet of thick waxed paper from a pocket in his monkish cloak and wrote on it slowly with a fine pencil. The buccaneer watched closely until Mrs. Branscombe offered an explanation.

'A mere act of courtesy, Captain Hayes. He is invoking a blessing on you and your house.'

'Who gets the note, ma'am?'

'It will go into the praying-wheel, in the hope that the attentions of his spiritual ancestors will be drawn to you.'

The buccaneer sat silent in his chair for a space. 'You mean that he will put it in the wheel and then wind it up, ma'am?'

She nodded.

'The praying-wheel saved us in storm and stress, Captain Hayes. It will save you too, if you will only have patience. The spirit of Doctor Lin Toy is as chaste as the morning star.'

Hayes knew more of the morning star than he knew about Chinese praying-wheels. A man had to get used to Chinamen and their ways. And the Doctor seemed a rather inoffensive chap. What next?

The question was soon answered. Mrs. Branscombe had to reach Sydney. Her father was a wealthy wool broker who would gladly pay Captain Hayes 150 if he landed her safely at Farm Cove or Dawes Point.

In spite of his temporary pearling operations, the offer of 150 for a passage to Sydney was tempting. For an hour or more he considered it in all its bearings on his past and present, and then decided to risk the trip. At sunset they went aboard the Leonora, and within a few hours were heading for the open Pacific.


IT was a slow, uneventful voyage to Port Jackson. Mrs. Branscombe kept to her cabin amidships, or sat for a brief spell under the for'ard sun-awnings while Hayes and the men in the foretop kept a sharp lookout for prowling gunboats of the Thespis and Daphne class. Their commanders were commissioned to intercept the square-rigged Leonora and escort her to the nearest Queensland port, where Hayes was due for an inquiry into his last raid on the beaches of Malicolo, which had resulted in the kidnapping of sixty 'boys' for the Bundaberg sugar plantations.

Doctor Lin Toy filled in the days poring over an ancient vellum-bound manuscript that dealt with various aspects of the Confucian philosophy. The praying-wheel had been installed in his cabin. The mate, Emery, who slept in the adjoining cubicle, complained of the constant shuffling of the prayers in and out of the wheel. The Doc was trying to do good, no doubt, but it would take an eighty-ton flying-wheel to put the skipper right with any kind of a recording angel.

A hot westerly was blowing off the Heads when the Leonora entered Sydney Harbour. Running past the various landmarks, Hayes made fast to a buoy in Farm Cove. Mrs. Branscombe was ready at the rail, with Doctor Lin Toy beside her. She held out her hand to the buccaneer.

'Good-bye, Captain Hayes. You have saved me from misery and hardships.' She stepped lightly down the gangway to the dinghy waiting below.

Doctor Lin Toy hesitated with his hand on the buccaneer's arm.

'Please accept this as a token of my gratitude,' he said, slipping a narrow sheet of heavily glazed paper into the other's hand. It was a piece of the paper on which he wrote his prayers! Hayes was too dumbfounded to reply.

Anger, amusement shook him as he watched the Doctor clamber into the boat beside Mrs. Branscombe. The young philosopher waved from the stern.

'Thanks for the prayer!' Hayes bellowed from the rail. Lin Toy's answer was scarce audible above the stroke of the oars as the boat shot away.

'Wash it in warm water and dry it in the sun,' he advised.

'Mad as a hatter!' the buccaneer choked, carrying the paper into his cabin, away from the silent sniggers of the crew.


DAY broke in warm splendour. Flocks of gulls hung about the Leonora's galley as Hayes, after a sleepless night, carried Lin Toy's gift of praying paper on deck, where he soaked it in a pan of warm water from the cook's stove. With the craft of a gold-fossicker washing pay-dirt he swirled the water over and around the paper before stretching it in the hot sun to dry.

Of course, Lin Toy was crazy, he reflected, watching the steam rising from the tightly stretched strip of thick paper. But even fools had to be listened to at times.

A grey scum became visible on the surface of the paper, that blistered and raised itself with the crackling sound of goldbeater's skin. Through this sudden transparency the face of a stiff-haired man with whiskers became suddenly visible in the left-hand corner of the under-strip of paper. Beneath the whiskers was the printed legend:


New York Trust and Banking Corporation.
Pay Bearer Ten Thousand Dollars.
Waldo Fiske.


With ineffable care and precision Hayes flattened the dollar bill on the rail of the wheelhouse until every wrinkle and crease disappeared in the warm rays of the sun.


A POLICE launch slipped alongside the Leonora. A couple of men and a detective-sergeant squatted in her brass-railed stern. The sergeant hailed the buccaneer cheerfully.

'Hello, Bully! You're a stranger in these parts! What have you been doing lately?'

Before answering Hayes threw a handful of choice cheroots into the hands of the nearest officer.

'Doing!' he guffawed at last. 'I've just finished washing the face of a bank president.'

'I guess some of 'em need a wash, Bully. But joking apart,' the sergeant went on, 'you don't happen to have seen a couple of wild geese from Batavia down your way?'

'Geese?' The buccaneer's smiling face was visible through the fumes of Manila smoke. 'Give 'em a name, Briscoe?'

'Barney O'Shea and his pal Kitty Molloy.'

'Tell me some more, Briscoe? I'm a bad guesser.'

The sergeant's eye went over the trim decks of the brig, the mask-like faces of the crew gathered in the waist. Then:

'The Department's got an idea, Bully, that the two birds flew here on this hooker of yours. O'Shea worked in the American bank at Batavia until he got the run of the safes. Kitty worked with him from outside. Last October he vamoosed with half a million dollars' worth of bills and exchequer bonds.'

'Ain't the bills numbered?' Hayes demanded from the brig's rail, his fingers caressing the ten-thousand-dollar note in his trousers pocket.

'It was O'Shea's job to number them,' the sergeant told him. 'But the numbers in the book are all wrong. All the ships from Sydney to Shanghai have been gone over, and no sign of 'em. They couldn't have joshed through the ports up north with all those bills on 'em?' the sergeant hazarded.

'Chinky ports are easy, Briscoe.'

'Are they? You can't hide bills behind mirrors and in double- bottomed bags, Bully, when you're running through the Chink Customs. They'd pick out a stolen dollar if you hid it in the eye of a needle. Can't you give us a tip?'

'Just a little one, Briscoe. I brought a young Chinese student and his lady companion from my place and dropped 'em here last night. His little pigtail was made of horsehair.'

'Any baggage?'

'An old praying-wheel.'

The sergeant blinked thoughtfully. Then his eyes sharpened to a glare of dismay. 'You let 'em go?' he bellowed.

'Sure I let 'em go. Anyway, they left the old praying-wheel behind.'

The sergeant swore under his breath. 'A praying wheel's about the only piece of furniture these northern Customs would leave alone. Did you squint into it?'

'It was as full of prayers as a Mormon Sunday. Believe me, Briscoe, I never interfere with a man's private beliefs.'

The men in the police boat consulted in low tones. The geese had flown and there was no charge against Hayes pending in Sydney.

'Good-bye, Bully!' the sergeant snorted as the launch sped away. 'I hope they left you something?'

'Just an old bloke with a pair of whiskers,' the buccaneer sent after him. 'I'll now finish washing his face.'

'Always thought Bully was a bit nutty,' the sergeant growled.


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.