Friday, 3 October 2014

Sunday, 4th June, 1837

I received this week a letter from Kingscote on the island informing me that:
due to his eccentricities of manner and his unreliability of method, the Company has taken the decision to dispense with the services of John Menge, who has hitherto been employed in the position of Company Mineralogist. 
When we mention that in carrying out the duties of a mineralogist Mr Menge has left us uncertain as to what the duties of a mineralogist might really be, you will, I hope, appreciate the unusual nature of the position we take with regard to Mr Menge and our action in "letting him go". 
We are unsure as to what Mr Menge's future intentions might be, but he has our assurance that we wish him nothing but good in whatever in God's name it is that he thinks he is doing.
Yours etc
I should add that the letter was delivered to me at Government House by none other than Herr Johannes Menge himself, so I feel pretty confident that I can solve the mystery as to his future intentions.

Mad Menge has been loosed upon the mainland!

He has, he told me, been in the settlement for only three days and already has identified two diamond mines and a coal field - all, apparently, on South Terrace and within easy walking distance of his tent.

When I first read his reports on the mineral wealth of Kangaroo Island I was prepared to give the man the benefit of the doubt. However, when none of the gems and ores he anticipated eventuated it became clear to me that Menge was nutty as one of Widow Harvey's fruit cakes and he receives no benefit from me - I have no longer any doubts.

And soon, it would seem, he is to be joined by another just like him. The mind boggles that there might be two the same, but there we are it seems.

Herr Menge tells me that arriving soon in the colony from Sydney will a close and good friend of his: Augustus Schmidt, who.has recently returned from Canton where, Menge tells me - at length - that he has been bringing the light of Christian Knowledge to the oriental heathen. Though, Menge says, he has met with "limited success": the which I take to mean that he has been a dismal and utter failure!

I might presume that now he is coming here to our shores to fail at bringing the light of Christian Knowledge to our local natives. I really do not see what they might have done to deserve this.

I am at a loss to know whether to be sympathetic or celebratory at the news to hands that Advocate-General Mann has been ordered to his bed by Doctor Cotter because he has scurvy.

Assuming first that we can trust a diagnosis by Cut 'em Up Cotter (and this is an act of faith that even Charlie Howard might find hard to swallow) then this demonstrates two salient facts.

One - any colonist (and there have been many) who has referred to Mann as a "scurvy fellow" and thought they were using merely an illustrative figure of speech was in truth speaking more accurately than they knew.

Two - I can only assume that Mann has been negligent in his consumption of sauerkraut. If that is so then I can only think the better of him. I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with any man who refuses to eat the foul, salty, slimy stuff. I now hold the chap in higher regard than either Fisher or Gouger, which might not be saying much for him, since I hold those two at nought.

Lucrezia Harvey's daughter is now comfortably ensconced in Government house. A baby of less than a year old, named Harriet - "after me own firs name, ya rexcellency" as the Widow was kind enough to point out.

This came as a surprise as it had never occurred to me that Widow Harvey might actually have a first name. In point of fact I believe in the past I referred to her in writing as "Mrs W. Harvey" - the "W" standing for "Widow". But now it transpires that she has the mellifluous name of "Harriet Harvey". But I shall still think of her as Lucrezia, the Mad Poisoner.

When I remarked upon her giving the child the same name as herself she said simply, "I couldn't think of a better one," An extra ordinary lesson in how the mind works:  that this woman -  so devoted to flights of fancy in which ingredients the less imaginative, quite rightly as it proves,would consider incompatible are effortlessly combined in the most bizarre and hitherto unthought of ways to produce meals only the most foolhardy would treat as "food" - didn't have sufficient invention to think of a new name for her child. God God! in the short time I had the brat under my feet I have thought of several But it seems that the Widow, touched by the muse in her ability to produce slop, was left without gift in all else.

Mrs Hindmarsh asked her why she had hidden the baby away from us and she said that she thought that if we knew she had a child we might - to quote her - "terminimate her employ". I assured her that we would hardly throw her out in the street for having a child when we already turned a blind eye to the many other reasons she had given us to dispense with her service. At this she told me I was "a terrible tease" and threw her head back and laughed so hard that we were able to see all four of her teeth.

When I first came upon the baby I thought Mrs Harvey had left a lump of bread dough out to prove, so pale and dumpy was it. Mrs Hindmarsh has either entered her dotage or is deliberately trying to torment me as she follows me about the house, carrying the brat and saying - in a bedlamite tone - utterances such as: "Look at the big silly navy man!". When I found her using the official colonial seal as a teething ring I suggested that the child might play with its mother in the kitchen outhouse, but to no avail.

The child has not yet been weaned and no matter which room I enter in the house Widow Harvey seems to have got there first and flopped out her bosom in order to feed her child. "Don't worry, ya rexcellency." she shrieks, "I'm not in the least embarrassed!" Obviously - in fact, ostentatiously -not!

She has also told me, with reference to her feeding the child, that she was a dairy maid back home in England (caveat emptor at the term "maid" I think) and "now I'm like a big old cow!" To my horror she added "But at least I'm a good milker!"

Which does give rise to a terrible thought. Lately for suppers we have been served up many custards, possets, blanc-manges and junkets. So many milk dishes! Surely not.....

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