Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday, 2nd April, 1837

Difficult as it is to imagine, but the Marines sunk to new lows this past week.

For some weeks now I have been aware that there has been resentment simmering between them and William Williams, the part time policeman appointed by Gilbert. Their feeling was that Gilbert and Williams (or "Billy Bill" as they refer to him) were encroaching on the Marines' duties and responsibilities.

Sergeant Strugnell told me that: "It's us that's meant to be the peacekeepers, sir. Not some popinjay with a pea shooter and a letter opener." The which curious allusion referred to the pistols and swords conferred upon Williams by Gilbert upon his taking the job on. I did point out to the sergeant that most disturbances of the peace in the Colony seemed to be caused, not rectified, by his Marines, but he replied that people needed to make allowances for their youth. "They have spirit, sir"

Indeed they do - bottle after bottle of it.

But when Gilbert appointed young Bob Hill to the post of Assistant High Constable, the Marines could scarce contain themselves in their derision of "Bill and the Hill".

Things came to a head earlier this week when several Marines, emboldened by brandy and the encouragement of the equally shickered Coromandel escapees they were guarding, set off to determine the matter once and for all.

Unfortunately for Hill and Williams it happened to be the one day on their monthly schedule that they were on duty together and the Marines found them at the Paddy will Linger Lagoon giving people the benefit of their impersonation of comedy policemen. "'Ello 'ello. What's all this then?"

Of course a fight soon broke out, though not between the Constabulary and the Military. It appears that the Marines disagreed between themselves as to whether Hill or Williams was the bigger son of a bitch's bastard and fell to work pugilising each other to prove their point.

At this point Williams made the stupid error of trying to intervene.

I don't blame him, but I do point out that a more experienced man might well have stood back and allowed the situation to resolve itself as the Marines pummeled each other into unconsciousness.

But intervene he did and, as a result, I cannot help but feel that much of the responsibility for what happened is his alone.

It seems that he began by foolishly blowing a whistle, thus attracting the attention of the Marines. Fortunately the whistle was on a lanyard, which gave the surgeon who later pulled the thing out something to grip.

Having attracted the attention of the brutes Williams and Hill did not take the obvious course of action and run like hell. Instead they attempted to subdue the Marines and place them under arrest, with the result that Williams received a black eye and was then folded up like a Bavarian pretzel; Hill was knocked unconscious from a blow to the head with a handy cast iron skillet and a perfectly good whistle on a lanyard was nearly lost for good.

In fact, if it hadn't have been for the intervention of Charlie Mann, Advocate General and welter weight champion, the whole thing could have turned particularly ugly.

Mann flattened the Marines with one or two swipes, gathered them up under his arm and returned them to the shore. They have now joined the Coromandel prisoners they were meant to be guarding for a short stay on the other side of the bars.

Once Hill could remember his name he promptly resigned from the position of Assistant Constable, saying that when he signed on he had thought the job was to be mainly ceremonial.

Williams has been unfolded and is due to return to solid food shortly.

Still, there's always a silver lining. Several witnesses have reported that they have never heard a sound quite so lovely as the muffled, melancholy tone of the whistle, which sounded each time Williams broke wind.

A most strange occurrence this week, when it was discovered that the topsail from the Buffalo had disappeared during the night.

Things like a topsail don't just vanish by themselves and so I can only conclude that it was, in point of fact, stolen.

My daughter Susan has told me that she suspects it was stolen by thieves, so clearly the mystery is as good as solved with her on the case.

But I cannot work out how it was done. A topsail weighs a goodly sum as any AB who has had to hoist one aloft will tell you. So I cannot help but think it was the work of two or even three interlopers. And then, having got the thing off the Buffalo they then had to get it ashore. And all the while they had to go about their nefarious deed while several marines, several of the Buffalo crew (the rest live ashore), the Coromandel prisoners (Jeffcott hears their case on Tuesday) and my family and me all slept undisturbed,

Now I admit, the Marines couldn't spot a turd in taffeta, the crew were almost certainly in a drunken stupour and the prisoners probably lent a hand. But Mrs Hindmarsh can hear a Marine slip loose a silent fart when she is at the far end of the ship in order to admonish him, so how the thieves managed to lug a sail over the side without her hearing I do not know.

And then, having acquired this great wad of coarse canvas there remains the question "Why?" A great lump of weather worn canvas... why would anyone want it? Once again Susan had the answer. "Perhaps the thieves wanted to make curtains."

Tis mystery all - both the topsail and the way my daughter thinks.

We finally prepare to say farewell to the Buffalo this week. I will sign command over to Captain Wood at the end of the month and this week we headed ashore to find the house the Marines have built for my family and me on the shores of the lagoon.

For the past few weeks the Buffalo crew and the Marines have been engaged, whenever there was a free moment in their busy daily programme, (a jest!) in moving furniture and effects belonging to me from the ship to the shore.

It would seem that at no point when building our new residence did they considered that the furniture might need to go inside the house and still leave room for people.

What they have given us is one large room and an outhouse, built of wood, reeds, wooden packing cases and drift wood, all plastered with mud. From what I can see they piled all our furniture and effects together and then constructed (I use the term loosely) the walls around them. How else to explain the irregular shape of the floor plan and crazy angles of the walls? Certainly we will need to pull the walls down in order to move our furnishings out when the time comes.

Since we are unable to move the furniture without tearing down the building, we have had to do the best we can as to find places to sleep and to live.

The girls have set up a boudoir inside the Linen Press and young Johnny has found a bedroom inside the pianoforte. The strings, he says form a quite comfortable mattress.

Mrs Hindmarsh and I have found our bed, but it has the dining room table siting on it. However, but by draping a mosquito net over the table we have created something like a four poster bed. As long as one does not roll over too quickly in bed and hit the table's central wooden pillar it is quite comfortable. And the central pillar does form a barrier between Mrs Hindmarsh and myself, so we both feel reassured.

There are no cooking and washing facilities, so Widow Harvey has had to do all the meals outside; the which, no doubt, will suffice during the Summer, but if the winter months prove rainy then she will have a damp time of it. I refuse to have the mad poisoner sleep in here with us. She would need to sleep in the sideboard for one thing and the thought of sharing a bedroom her does not allure me. As a result she is currently sleeping in the outhouse which naturally brings other problems to the fore when one of us wishes to avail themselves of the facilities.

But seriously, if this is the job the Marines do of the "temporary residence", then God's bollocks, what sort of hatchet job will they make of Government House?

Of course the Marines came to me to ask what I thought of their work in building for me and they looked at me like  a little puppy that had bought back a dead rat and laid it at my feet and expected a "well done". Of course I should have given them the dressing down of a lifetime. but really, they looked at me with such innocent stupidity that I had to let it go.

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